Soli Deo Gloria

Job 20 – (2) Zophar Answers: “The Wicked Will Suffer”

Zophar the Naamathite answered and said; therefore his thoughts answer him because of his haste. He feels insulted by Job and out of Zophar’s understanding a spirit answers him. He asks Job if he knows that from the beginning that man was placed on earth that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless is for a moment. If the wicked/godless is as high as the heavens he will eternally perish like his dung and people will ask where he (the wicked/godless) is. He (the wicked/godless) will fly away like a dream and not be found, chased away like a night vision. No one will see him anymore. The wicked/godless’ children will seek the favor of the poor, and his hands will give back his wealth. His bones are full of youthful vigor, but it will lie down with him in the dust. Evil is sweet in his mouth, but he hides it under his tongue. His food is turned in his stomach as venom of cobras. He swallows riches and vomits them up again by God’s casting. The wicked/godless will suck the poison of cobras, vipers’ tongue will kill him. The wicked/godless will not look upon the rivers flowing with honey and curds. He won’t keep the fruit from his toil, profit from trading, and get no enjoyment. The wicked/godless has crushed and abandoned the poor, seizing a house that he did not build. Because the wicked/godless has no contentment he won’t let any of his delights escape him. There was nothing left he had not eaten, therefore his prosperity won’t endure. In the fullness of his sufficiency the wicked/ godless will be in distress, the hand of all in misery will come against him. God will send his burning anger against him raining it on his body. He will flee from weapons, the arrow comes out of his body, the point out of his gallbladder; terrors come upon him. Darkness is laid up for the wicked/godless’s treasures, fire not fanned will devour him, what is left in his tent will be consumed. The heavens will reveal his guilt, the earth will rise up against him. His possessions will be carried away in the day of God’s wrath. The wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God. 

This is the last time Zophar speaks. He seems to be present later when Elihu rebukes the three friends (Job 32) and then again at the end when God rebukes the three friends (Job 42). Zophar’s rhetoric is horrible. He never directly says that Job is the wicked/godless that he keeps talking about in this text. Zophar seems to leave the question open as to what exactly Job has done to deserve what has happened in his suffering. That said, by the common result of the wicked/godless that he describes over and over with Job’s suffering Zophar is implying that Job is in the same camp as the wicked/godless. Zophar is doing exactly what Job warned about at the end of Job 19:28-29 that would be judged and punished with wrath – namely, bearing false witness. Be careful what you think about others and why they experience what they face. Be careful what you say about others. Have you ever thought a similar thought to Job 20:19 about someone who is down and out, “For he (wicked/godless) has crushed and abandoned the poor; he has seized a house that he did not build.” Don’t misunderstand, suffering is never a justification to harm the poor, or to steal what doesn’t belong to them. But, to claim that a person or even a group of people are suffering because they have done these things when they haven’t is bearing false witness. Beware of demonizing those who are suffering and making accusations against people who ought to be objects of our mercy and compassion more than of our short-sighted criticisms. Some of what Zophar is saying is true, but it’s not true about Job, therefore in this exchange the implication that Job fits a simplistic conception of the retribution principle is false.



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