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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 11

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The First Speech of Zophar

A. Zophar criticizes Job for his complaining.

1. (Job 11:1-6) Zophar tells Job that he actually deserves far worse from God.

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:
"Should not the multitude of words be answered?
And should a man full of talk be vindicated?
Should your empty talk make men hold their peace?
And when you mock, should no one rebuke you?
For you have said,
'My doctrine is pure,
And I am clean in your eyes.'
But oh, that God would speak,
And open His lips against you,
That He would show you the secrets of wisdom!
For they would double your prudence.
Know therefore that God exacts from you
Less than your iniquity deserves."

a. Zophar the Naamathite: This friend of Job's speaks the least of them all (only here and in Job 20), but perhaps he speaks the most arrogantly and confrontationally to Job. "Zophar was a severe man. Like Bildad he lacked compassion and was ruthlessly judgmental." (Smick)

i. "He is the most inveterate of Job's accusers, and generally speaks without feeling or pity. In sour godliness he excelled all the rest. This chapter and the twentieth comprehends all that he said. He was too crooked to speak much in measured verse." (Clarke)

b. Should a man full of talk be vindicated? Zophar had enough of Job's protests to innocence. In his mind, all of Job's eloquent complaining shows him to be nothing more than a man full of talk, one who should not be vindicated. Therefore, Zophar will continue with a rebuke of Job (when you mock, should no one rebuke you?).

i. We sense that Job's friends are losing patience with him. In a remarkable display of friendship they sat with him for seven silent days (Job 2:13). They only spoke in response to Job's agonizing as recorded in Job chapter 3. Then they tried to help Job see that it must be some sin on his part that has prompted this great calamity in his life, but Job refused to see it. The more they insisted and the more Job stubbornly denied it, the more frustrated they became.

ii. "Clearly the discussion is heating up. It may be in Zophar's nature to be caustic and abrupt, or it may just be that things have reached such an impasse that all the friends are now prepared to level direct accusations at Job." (Mason)

iii. "Job's bewilderment and his outbursts are natural; in them we find his humanity, and our own. Zophar detaches the words from the man, and hears them only as babble and mockery." (Andersen)

c. For you have said, "My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in your eyes": Zophar did not truthfully represent Job's words here. Job did not claim to be pure and clean, as if he were sinless and perfect; but in fairness to Zophar, we must say that Job claimed to be in the right and this was virtually a claim to be pure and clean in this matter.

i. Job knew there was no special or specific sin on his part behind the loss of his children, his health, his servants, and his material wealth (Job 7:20). Even so, Job knew that he was a sinner in a general sense and could not be considered righteous compared to God.

- Therefore my words have been rash (Job 6:3)
- Why then do You not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? (Job 7:21)
- How can a man be righteous before God? (Job 9:2)
- Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse. (Job 19:20)
- I know that You will not hold me innocent (Job 9:28)

ii. Therefore, we understand Job's claims to be blameless (Job 9:21-22) to refer to the fact that there was indeed no special or particular sin on his part that prompted his great suffering. Indeed, even God recognized Job as blameless in this sense (Job 1:1, 1:8, and 2:3).

d. Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves: In the thinking of Zophar, not only was Job wrong to claim to be either pure or clean, he was actually so guilty before God to deserve far worse than he had suffered.

i. Zophar here sounds like a man who has carefully studied a particular theological idea (especially in Reformed Theology) known as total depravity. In this idea, the sinfulness of man ? both inherited from Adam and actually practiced by the individual - is so great that one could say regarding every suffering of life, "know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves."

ii. Bradley captures the idea of Zophar: " 'So far from being unjust and cruel, God has spared thee the full measure of thy deserts.' He puts forward, that is, for the first time in its naked force, the full and logical conclusion of the creed which he and his friends held as an essential tenet of their faith."

iii. Unfortunately, Zophar is among the miserable comforters (Job 16:2) who were actually quite wrong in their analysis and advice (Job 42:7). Whatever the merits of the theological idea of total depravity, it did not speak to Job's circumstance at all.

2. (Job 11:7-12) Zophar teaches Job theology.

"Can you search out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than heaven; what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol; what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth
And broader than the sea."

"If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment,
Then who can hinder Him?
For He knows deceitful men;
He sees wickedness also.
Will He not then consider it?
For an empty-headed man will be wise,
When a wild donkey's colt is born a man."

a. Can you search out the deep things of God? After instructing Job in the doctrine of total depravity, Zophar went on to teach Job about the transcendence of God. Therefore, in Zophar's thinking, Job was wrong to question God.

b. Who can hinder him? The next lesson in Zophar's theology was the sovereignty of God. Zophar believed that the best thing Job could do was to accept his punishment from God instead of protesting the injustice of it. In Zophar's mind, Job's punishment was just and God was actually giving Job less than he deserved.

c. He knows deceitful men; he sees wickedness also. Will He not then consider it? Zophar here implied that what Job wanted was for God to turn His head aside from justice. Zophar wanted Job to know that it was wrong - and wicked - to wish that God would not consider the deceit and wickedness of man; in this case, Job's deceit and wickedness.

d. For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey's colt is born a man: Here, Zophar simply called Job stupid. He associated him with the empty-headed man, who will be wise as soon as wild donkeys start giving birth to human beings.

i. "The sharpness of his sarcasm is demonstrated in Job 11:12. Zophar labeled Job a witless, empty-headed man with as much chance to become wise as a wild donkey has to be born tame." (Smick)

ii. For Zophar - as with others who share his basic theological perspective - there was no mystery in Job's situation at all. God was sovereign, God was just, Job was a sinner, and therefore he should be thankful that he wasn't worse off.

iii. Bradley captures the idea of Zophar well: "Wherever there is suffering, there is sin, real and tangible sin, proportioned to that suffering. God governs the world by rewards and punishments, and those rewards and punishments are distributed here below with an unerring justice. It follows therefore that this Job, this seeming Saint, is really a man full of heinous sin."

B. Zophar's advice to Job.

1. (Job 11:13-19) Zophar calls upon Job to repent.

"If you would prepare your heart,
And stretch out your hands toward Him;
If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away,
And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents;
Then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear;
Because you would forget your misery,
And remember it as waters that have passed away,
And your life would be brighter than noonday.
Though you were dark, you would be like the morning.
And you would be secure, because there is hope;
Yes, you would dig around you, and take your rest in safety.
You would also lie down, and no one would make you afraid;
Yes, many would court your favor."

a. If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away: Given Zophar's theological understanding of Job's situation, the answer is easy. Job should simply repent and seek the mercy and goodness of God.

i. Trapp on stretch out your hands toward Him: "Hebrew, And spread thy palms to him: so in prayer for pardon of sin and power against sin; for this prayer-gesture, wherein God's people come for mercy, as beggars do an alms; or as me beg quarter for their lives with hands held up; or, lastly, as he that is fallen into a ditch, or deep pit, and cannot get out, lifteth up his hands and crieth out for help."

b. Because you would forget your misery, and remember it as waters that have passed away: This is what Job longed for; to be so restored and blessed again that he would forget all this ever happened to him. Zophar said - falsely - that this could be Job's portion if he would only repent of the great sins that brought this disaster upon him.

i. Though Zophar was wrong in understanding the cause, he did know what the cure would look like - to be able to forget your misery, and remember it as the waters that have passed away.

ii. "We seem to lie all broken in pieces, with our thoughts like a case of knives cutting into our spirit; and we say to ourselves, 'We never shall forget this terrible experience.' And yet, by-and-by, God turns towards us the palm of his hand, and we see that it is full of mercy, we are restored to health, or uplifted from depression of spirit, and we wonder that we ever made so much of our former suffering or depression." (Spurgeon)

iii. "We remember it no more, except as a thing that has passed and gone, to be recollected with gratitude that we have been delivered from it, but not to be remembered so as to leave any scar upon our spirit, or to cause us any painful reflection whatsoever. 'Thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away.'" (Spurgeon)

c. Your life would be brighter than noonday … no one would make you afraid; yes, many would court your favor: Zophar encouraged Job to confess and repent of his sin by showing him how God would bless and honor him, restoring him to a bright, confident, admired life once again.

2. (Job 11:20) Zophar warns and rebukes Job.

"But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
And they shall not escape,
And their hope; loss of life!"

a. The eyes of the wicked will fail, and they shall not escape: Zophar here encouraged Job to confess and repent by warning him of the consequences if he did not. Surely, he would not escape a greater display of God's displeasure.

b. Their hope; loss of life! Zophar here rebuked Job's prior frustrated preference for death instead of his present miserable state (Job 3:16-17; 6:8-9). He associated Job with the wicked whose eyes shall fail and who shall not escape.

i. There is indeed much to admire in the theology and philosophy of Zophar and Job's friends. They say much that is generally true and valuable, and it is - in general - backed by the wisdom of the ancients. They believed in God's power and His absolute righteousness. They also believed that God would forgive a sinner and take him back into favor if the sinner responded correctly to the punishment God appointed.

ii. Nevertheless, the application of this creed - these deeply held believes about how life and God and the universe work - was completely wrong in Job's situation. The reasons for his calamity were completely out of the conception of Job's friends, though they were confident that they understood the situation completely.

iii. "They misapplied the most precious truths and the most edifying of doctrines; turned wholesome food to poison; pressed upon their friend those half-truths, which are sometimes the worst of untruths." (Bradley)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 10 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 12 Next Chapter →
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