Job 20


‘Then Zophar the Naamathite replied: “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonours me, and my understanding inspires me to reply. “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night. The eye that saw him will not see him again; his place will look on him no more. His children must make amends to the poor; his own hands must give back his wealth. The youthful vigour that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust. “Though evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue, though he cannot bear to let it go and lets it linger in his mouth, yet his food will turn sour in his stomach; it will become the venom of serpents within him. He will spit out the riches he swallowed; God will make his stomach vomit them up. He will suck the poison of serpents; the fangs of an adder will kill him. He will not enjoy the streams, the rivers flowing with honey and cream. What he toiled for he must give back uneaten; he will not enjoy the profit from his trading. For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute; he has seized houses he did not build. “Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure. Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure. In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him; the full force of misery will come upon him. When he has filled his belly, God will vent his burning anger against him and rain down his blows on him. Though he flees from an iron weapon, a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him. He pulls it out of his back, the gleaming point out of his liver. Terrors will come over him; total darkness lies in wait for his treasures. A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent. The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him. A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath. Such is the fate God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God.” Job 20:1-29

Zophar’s Response

It appears that Zophar finds that Job’s words are rather insulting and degrading. It’s clear that he thought that Job was still lying because Job didn’t listen to the truth, well, the truth, as far as Zophar’s truth is concerned.

He didn’t like being called an ignorant beast, Job 12:7, or one who spoke with empty words, Job 16:3, hence why he couldn’t keep silent anymore.

He makes the same argument as Bildad did earlier, that is, Job needs to go back to the age-old timeless truths, which apparently Job has forgotten. Zophar is convinced these points are universally and unalterably true.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Zophar, therefore, assumes his old ground and retracts nothing of what he had said. Like many of his own complexion in the present day, he was determined to believe that his judgment was infallible and that he could not err.’

Zophar appears to be reciting to Job the wisdom of the fathers and his presentation is divided as follows.

1. The wicked prosper only briefly, Job 20:5-11.

2. God’s delayed punishment is only to teach the wicked a lesson, Job 20:12-19.

3. God will eventually deal justly with the wicked man, Job 20:20-29.

Zophar says the triumphing of the wicked is short. He appears to think of the possibility that the wicked might do well for a short time, but God will certainly not allow him to prosper for long.

He says, while evil tastes good for a while, God will sour the sweet taste, making the consumer vomit. When they die, they take nothing with them, they partake of the delicacies of food, but it becomes as venom to their bodies.

Even though the wicked man has an abundance, he is always wanting more. He is never satisfied with what he has. However, this constant craving will create many enemies who, because he oppressed them, will come after revenge.

Earlier, Job asked for the heavens and earth to bear witness to his innocence, Job 16:18ff, here, Zophar says, they will speak and they will probably condemn you.

Zophar more or less says that the wicked will eventually lose all they have accumulated and because Job has lost all he has amassed, he must be wicked. God allowed Job to prosper only for a time.

The wealthy person may acquire a lot of wealth, but they can’t enjoy it because they know that they acquired it through the hard work of the poor, or even by taking advantage of the poor.

The wicked person may oppress to the point that people take up arms against him. The wicked person is cast into outer darkness and consumed in a fire that is not made by man, Matthew 25:41 / Revelation 20:11-15.

Andersen, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The phrase ‘and his goods will flow away’ is revealing, showing that Zophar focused almost entirely on the material aspect of Job’s troubles, and virtually ignored the spiritual dynamic. ‘He sees the carrying off of ‘possessions’, Job 20:28, as a judgment. The loss of fellowship with God, in this life or after it, does not strike him as a far worse fate. Yet it is precisely this loss that fills Job’s mind with horror and this need that arouses his most desperate longings.’

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This conclusion is similar to that which Bildad drew at the close of his speech, Job 18:21. Zophar intended, undoubtedly, that Job should apply it to himself, and that he should draw the inference, that one who had been treated in this manner, must be a wicked man.’

One of the saddest parts of Zophar’s words is his lack of compassion for any sinner. He demonstrates no belief or hope that the wicked might turn back to God in repentance and regain His blessing. Thus, like Bildad, Zophar’s merciless judgment will equally kindle the wrath of God, Job 42.

Go To Job 21