Job Chapter 11: Zophar rails against Job

Mar 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Job, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Job Chapter 11: Zophar rails against Job

Job 11:1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

Job 11:2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?

Zophar spoke strong words against Job.

Comment: Zophar was the youngest of the three comforters because he was the last to speak. Also, he had less modesty and prudence in his speech.

Reply: It is true that his remarks were cruder. Yes, deference was given with regard to age, the only exception being that a position of authority took precedence over age.

Comment: According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, the name Zophar means “rough” or “hairy,” and his speech was the same.

Reply: Yes, and Zophar can also mean “chirper.” At present, it is difficult to pin down a definitive meaning of the name and especially the history of “Naamathite.” The reason for this particularity of name and location is that when the Kingdom is established and this generation comes forth from the tomb, the people will be astounded to realize how the detail in Holy Writ matches the reality. The result will be more reverential awe of the knowledge of God and the providential protection of this historical record and its accuracy. People of all generations who  belittle the Word in the present life will be humbled in the Kingdom.

Comment: Although the Book of Proverbs had not yet been written, Zophar used the principle of Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” However, this principle did not apply to Job, for Zophar was wrongly accusing him.

Reply: Yes, even though the saying was not recorded by Solomon until years later, it was recognized as a fact. A fool is known by the multitude of his words—and usually by the emptiness of those words! What about the long-winded speech of Eliphaz? Prejudice makes one inconsistent in his reasoning and judging. Sometimes when a person talks too much without substance, another individual will indicate that fact by making a mouth with the thumb and fingers of his right hand and then silently moving them repeatedly open and closed.

Job 11:3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?

This verse is even stronger. Zophar was saying, “Your protestations of innocence are lies.”

Comment: According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated “lies” can also mean “a brag.”

Job 11:4 For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.

In quoting an excerpt of a previous remark of Job, Zophar gave an improper slant and criticized Job.

Comment: It sounds as if Zophar did not have any sympathy for Job’s situation. Instead of considering Job’s character and past, which manifested an upright life, he entered right into the attitude of the previous two speakers.

Reply: Of the three comforters, Zophar seemed to have the least empathy. No allowance was made for Job’s suffering and loss. How strange that all three comforters lectured Job! When they come forth from the tomb, they will be embarrassed, for they themselves were guilty of speaking a multitude of unprofitable words.

Job 11:5 But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;

Zophar was coming up to a climax. In verse 4, he quoted Job’s prayer beseeching God for an answer as to why he was having this experience: “I am clean in thine eyes.” But then Zophar gave the blunt comment of verse 5. In other words, “Oh that God, whom you just prayed to, might speak and let you know the true facts.” The comforter was a tormentor.

Job 11:6 And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.

Zophar was implying that he knew the secrets of wisdom. He was praising God in one sense, but the motive was to justify and give strength to his criticism of Job. “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.” How cruel!

Comment: With all that Job was suffering, Zophar did not think it was enough.

Comment: Zophar did not know what Job’s iniquities were, so he was talking out of the side of his mouth.

Comment: Jesus gave the example of the Pharisee who prayed and said, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11). Zophar’s attitude was like that of the Pharisee.

Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?

Job 11:8 It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?

Zophar was implying that Job’s depth of understanding was relatively shallow. Earlier Job had talked on sublime thoughts (about the Pleiades, Orion, and Arcturus). Although Zophar probably subconsciously realized that these statements were superior to his own, he was saying that Job was speaking more intellectually than was warranted because he did not have depth of understanding. Actually, Zophar was questioning Job’s motives. Job was known for having an unusual ability to judge and thus help many people of all classes, but Zophar’s blunt statements were scotching Job’s reputation. In reality, Zophar was unworthy to judge someone of Job’s stature.

Comment: We can apply this principle about understanding the motives of others to Christians in the Gospel Age. Generally speaking, the Great Company does not really understand the motives of the Little Flock.

Reply: That is true. While the three comforters do not represent the Great Company, the Great Company thinking is the thinking of others as well, so the principle certainly applies.

Comment: One Bible commentator suggested that of the so-called comforters, Zophar had the least substance in his argument. Plain and simple, he was saying Job was wrong.

Reply: Zophar did not weigh the facts of the situation, whereas a judge should accurately consider both pro and con as much as possible. Otherwise, judgment is perverted.

Job 11:9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.

Of course this statement is true, but like Zophar, many people utter similar statements without giving much thought to their words. For instance, when the Apostle Paul spoke about the height and depth of the wisdom of God, his words were far more meaningful than those of someone with no substance. Zophar’s comments reveal his character to some extent.

Job 11:10 If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?

“If he [God] cut off, … shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?” The tenor of Zophar’s comments was somewhat coarse, although he was trying to make his words sound better than his thinking would warrant. Clues later on will show that the Heavenly Father was listening to all of these back-and-forth conversations between Job and the comforters. By the time the three finished with Job and then Elihu spoke, the situation was almost as if the Heavenly Father could not contain Himself, and He revealed Himself not only to Job but also to Elihu and the three comforters by speaking at length to enlighten them as to their real nothingness. He honored Job in another way, as we will see in a late chapter.

Q: Is the Revised Standard Version better for verse 10: “If he passes through, and imprisons, and calls to judgment, who can hinder him?”

A: The selection of a jury seems to be implied, so that wording sounds reasonable and could be superior. Certainly that thought can be gathered from the Hebrew. Different scholars have admitted that many statements in the Book of Job have an official lawyer tone they cannot fully understand. One who lived back there could give these Hebrew words a slightly more distinct meaning than we can grasp through an English translation.

Q: Was Zophar going so far as to imply the following? “God has appointed the three of us to come here and deliver this message to you, Job. Our counsel is sanctioned by the Lord.”

A: Yes, he was more or less taking the tone of Eliphaz in a prior comment, where he, as the first of the three to speak, said, “We [meaning the three of us] have judged this matter already” (Job 4:2 paraphrase).

Job 11:11 For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?

Zophar had nothing favorable to say about Job. He wanted Job to bare his soul before God, and of course the other two comforters wanted to know the details as well. Zophar was saying Job was a vain man in whom God saw wickedness, but he did not know what that wickedness was. Zophar implied that the more Job talked, the deeper he was digging his own grave. With the permission of evil not being understood, the three were sure Job was suffering because of something he had done. As we proceed, we will see from Job’s statements that eventually he understood, little by little, more and more of the reason for the permission of evil.

Job 11:12 For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.

“For vain man would be wise.” Zophar was saying, “While you may be a vain person, Job, you can change the situation. All you have to do is to confess to God, and then your vanity will become wisdom. Confession is the wise course to pursue. Instead of incessantly maintaining your integrity before us, if you admit to God the true situation that you are at fault, your vanity can be changed into wisdom.” In counseling Job what to do, Zophar was implying that Job’s statements were on the level of a jackass, that they were the braying of a wild jackass.

It is interesting that in long conversations with different parties, certain words go into the memory bank and then come up from time to time regardless of who made the original statements. Here Zophar repeated, or reused, terms stated earlier in another way (Job 6:5).

Another example of the recurrence of previous statements was Job’s reference to the dream of Eliphaz (Job 9:11). Thus statements, whether they were for or against someone else, are sometimes reused in another way to further an argument.

Job 11:13 If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;

Here Zophar was counseling Job what to do and how to pray. On occasion, Moses lifted his hands in praying. A raising of hands sometimes occurs today in prayer groups. If natural, it is not wrong in principle, but hands are often raised by those in an emotional fervor. Sometimes an entire audience will raise their hands and wave them back and forth, demanding cognition of their involvement in the theme being considered at the time. Bending the knee, falling down prone, and/or raising the hands in accompaniment with prayer is a natural mode and in most cases represents great sincerity. However, emotionalism can imitate this reaction in a false type of reverence.

Comment: If the situation were different, some good advice was sprinkled in with bad advice.  When we give advice to brethren, we need to be careful that it is scriptural, not emotional. What we say should not be based on our feelings and what we think is good advice.

Reply: Yes. In this case, it is obvious that Zophar misjudged Job and considered him both physically and morally decrepit in God’s sight. He was saying, “God is merciful. Give my counsel some consideration. Prepare yourself and you will be startled with the results.” Zophar was echoing the earlier reasoning of Eliphaz but presenting it in a more abrupt fashion.

Job 11:14 If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.

Zophar really meant, “Since iniquity be in thine hand.” What is the thought of “tabernacles” (plural)?

Comment: Perhaps the plural term refers not only to Job’s house but also to the dwelling places of his children, for earlier the comforters had accused Job of suffering partly because of sins his sons had committed.

Reply: That explanation sounds reasonable.

Job 11:15 For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:

Zophar was certainly assuming the role of being Job’s superior. Not only was he critical, but also his bragging indicated that he looked upon Job as being inferior to himself.

Job 11:16 Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:

Job 11:17 And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.

Job 11:18 And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.

Job 11:19 Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.

Verses 16-19 are rather remarkable considering the character of Zophar, as revealed in his statements thus far and what he will yet say. It is almost as though the Holy Spirit was forcing out of his lips words of truth and a prediction. Jesus said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Matt. 21:16). Of course Zophar did not have the purity of a “babe,” but out of the mouth of fools sometimes come statements of truth.

Q: The thoughts of verse 19 are incorporated into Psalm 23:2-4. Were these conventional or wise sayings that were passed down, or did Zophar originate the statements?

A: We cannot say one way or the other, for we are given only a portion of history. One thing does stand out, however. We have the benefit of knowing the end of the matter, and hindsight is usually much clearer than foresight. We can see that there was a happy ending to Job’s experience. Zophar could predict Job’s future, but he predicated that future on whether Job would prepare his heart and turn to God. The thoughts could be Zophar’s own thinking, but it is strange that they were stated so wonderfully about noonday and the brightness of morning.

Comment: In a previous series of discourses on the Book of Job, the following comments were made: “What a foolish statement! Zophar said Job should forget his sufferings in the midst of the severe experience itself. Afterward that would be possible, but how could Job forget when he was in pain from head to foot? A Christian who is seriously afflicted with pain and disease has difficulty even uttering an intelligent prayer with proper decorum. The mind is confused in such a circumstance, but Zophar was saying, ‘You would not be in this situation unless you had sinned.’”

Q: Was not Zophar continuing to say, “Once you have put the iniquity behind you, then you will be able to forget your misery like water that has passed by”?

A: We can reason either way. Certainly Job was suffering. Zophar was mindless and cruel in his badgering of Job, and he was more severe than the other two comforters. Remember, Job had  one experience after another. It is unbelievable that the comforters could reason with Job and expect him, in his misery, to have a clear mind to present his case in a dispassionate, judicial manner as though nothing were wrong when he was weak and suffering greatly. The three were intent on being counselors.

There is a lesson here from another standpoint. The principle seems to exist in human society that subconsciously all want to be a “doctor” and a “teacher.” People are not in a learning mode except when it benefits them. Of course it is proper for Christians to think of future blessings and honors because God has encouraged such thinking by the promises He has given in His Word for those who are faithful unto death. But to try to be physicians and teachers on a large scale down here in the present life without proper direction from the Almighty—going by our own instincts—puts us on dangerous shoals. Giving instruction and advice to others should be done only to a very limited extent.

The Book of Job is very searching in regard to the human makeup. It is extraordinary that God has preserved this book with all of its comments so that we can reason on it.

“Thou shalt take thy rest in safety” (verse 18). In giving a little prophecy, as it were, Zophar said that Job would take his “rest in safety” if he turned to God. At the end of the Book of Job is a brief synopsis of how his life turned around. Not only did he have a happy future, but many looked to him for advice—even more than previously.

Job 11:20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.

When do the “eyes of the wicked” fail? Actually, many wicked people prosper with wealth, popularity, and/or power and then die peaceful deaths. The Scriptures tell us that what a man sows, that he shall reap—whether or not he is a Christian. Those who do not get the reaping in the present life will get it in the future life either when they are resuscitated or when they receive a spirit life, immortality, or a reward as an Ancient Worthy. In other words, there are many instances when Zophar’s statement is not true as regards the present life. An example is when people, even wicked people, die with confidence of a heavenly reward, even though they may have done great injury to God’s people. We cannot judge people, but we do know that being wicked does not mean one will suffer more than another in the present life. In fact, the case might be just the opposite. However, Zophar’s statement is true as regards the future life.

Comment: In the previous treatment of Job, the thought presented was a little different. Zophar’s comment was paraphrased to say, “Job, if you continue on in your wickedness and do not heed my counsel, then your hope of salvation will be about as solid as the giving up of a belch of wind. That is how solid your hope is under your present condition because you have not really prayed earnestly to God and confessed your guilt. Not only is your salvation like a belch of wind, but also your destiny is hopeless. [Note: Giving up the ghost does not mean dying in this context.]”

Reply: That explanation sounds better. When we are in the mood and are quiet and do not have any interruptions, we can think a little more coherently than in a question-and-answer mode. However, the present type of study is beneficial in other ways. When the discourse method is compared with the question-and-answer mode of study, the latter is helpful, as the Scriptures indicate: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6). In short, the earlier thought sounds more reasonable for verse 20.

Comment: The King James margin gives the thought of a breath of wind.

What is “hope”? Many wicked people die with an unfounded hope. To understand what “hope” means from a scriptural New Testament angle is quite different from wishful thinking. Many are convinced they will be one of the Little Flock, even on their deathbed, but that is not necessarily the case. One’s salvation has to be left in the hands of God. In the final analysis, He is the One who determines salvation. Many people confuse strong wishful thinking with hope. The Apostle Paul had true hope when he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8). His hope was based on a review of his life and knowing, like Job, the integrity of his soul. In knowing that his life matched his conviction, he felt confident in having achieved a crown. Even though Jesus was at an extremely low point on the Cross, he died with confidence, crying out triumphantly, “It is finished!” Not only did he mean that his sacrifice was complete, but also he died with a conviction of victory. But even if we make our calling and election sure, there is no guarantee that any of us will die with that confidence. In many cases, that is true, however, and true hope “fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 1:4). True faith and hope bring the Godlike, principled love that is taught in the Scriptures.

(2001-2003 Study)

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