Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
Job 11:1-20. First Speech of Zophar.
Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?
2. Zophar assails Job for his empty words, and indirectly, the two friends, for their weak reply. Taciturnity is highly prized among Orientals (Pr 10:8, 19).
Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
3. lies—rather, "vain boasting" (Isa 16:6; Jer 48:30). The "men" is emphatic; men of sense; in antithesis to "vain boasting."
mockest—upbraidest God by complaints, "shall no man make thee ashamed?"
For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
4. doctrine—purposely used of Job's speeches, which sounded like lessons of doctrine (De 32:2; Pr 4:2).
thine—addressed to God. Job had maintained his sincerity against his friends suspicions, not faultlessness.
But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;
And that he would shew 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.
6. to that which is!—Rather, "they are double to [man's] wisdom" [Michaelis]. So the Hebrew is rendered (Pr 2:7). God's ways, which you arraign, if you were shown their secret wisdom, would be seen vastly to exceed that of men, including yours (1Co 1:25).
exacteth—Rather, "God consigns to oblivion in thy favor much of thy guilt."
Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
7. Rather, "Penetrate to the perfections of the Almighty" (Job 9:10; Ps 139:6).
It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
8. It—the "wisdom" of God (Job 11:6). The abruptness of the Hebrew is forcible: "The heights of heaven! What canst thou do" (as to attaining to them with thy gaze, Ps 139:8)?
know—namely, of His perfections.
The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?
10. cut off—Rather, as in Job 9:11, "pass over," as a storm; namely, rush upon in anger.
shut up—in prison, with a view to trial.
gather together—the parties for judgment: hold a judicial assembly; to pass sentence on the prisoners.
For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
11. (Ps 94:11).
consider—so as to punish it. Rather, from the connection, Job 11:6, "He seeth wickedness also, which man does not perceive"; literally, "But no (other, save He) perceiveth it" [Umbreit]. God's "wisdom" (Job 11:6), detects sin where Job's human eye cannot reach (Job 11:8), so as to see any.
For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
would be—"wants to consider himself wise"; opposed to God's "wisdom" (see on Job 11:11); refuses to see sin, where God sees it (Ro 1:22).
wild ass's colt—a proverb for untamed wildness (Job 39:5, 8; Jer 2:24; Ge 16:12; Hebrew, "a wild-ass man"). Man wishes to appear wisely obedient to his Lord, whereas he is, from his birth, unsubdued in spirit.
If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
13. The apodosis to the "If" is at Job 11:15. The preparation of the heart is to be obtained (Pr 16:1) by stretching out the hands in prayer for it (Ps 10:17; 1Ch 29:18).
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
14. Rather, "if thou wilt put far away the iniquity in thine hand" (as Zaccheus did, Lu 19:8). The apodosis or conclusion is at Job 11:15, "then shalt thou," &c.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
15. Zophar refers to Job's own words (Job 10:15), "yet will I not lift up my head," even though righteous. Zophar declares, if Job will follow his advice, he may "lift up his face."
steadfast—literally, "run fast together," like metals which become firm and hard by fusion. The sinner on the contrary is wavering.
Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:
16. Just as when the stream runs dry (Job 6:17), the danger threatened by its wild waves is forgotten (Isa 65:16) [Umbreit].
And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.
17. age—days of life.
the noon-day—namely, of thy former prosperity; which, in the poet's image, had gone on increasing, until it reached its height, as the sun rises higher and higher until it reaches the meridian (Pr 4:18).
shine forth—rather, "though now in darkness, thou shall be as the morning"; or, "thy darkness (if any dark shade should arise on thee, it) shall be as the morning" (only the dullness of morning twilight, not nocturnal darkness) [Umbreit].
And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
18. The experience of thy life will teach thee there is hope for man in every trial.
dig—namely, wells; the chief necessity in the East. Better, "though now ashamed (Ro 5:5, opposed to the previous 'hope'), thou shalt then rest safely" [Gesenius];
Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.
19. (Ps 4:8; Pr 3:24; Isa 14:30); oriental images of prosperity.
make suit—literally, "stroke thy face," "caress thee" (Pr 19:6).
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.
20. A warning to Job, if he would not turn to God.
The wicked—that is, obdurate sinners.
eyes … fail—that is, in vain look for relief (De 28:65). Zophar implies Job's only hope of relief is in a change of heart.
they shall not escape—literally, "every refuge shall vanish from them."
giving up of the ghost—Their hope shall leave them as the breath does the body (Pr 11:7).