William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,Job Chapter 11
We must carefully remember that, although the Book of Job is inspired, it would be a great mistake to concede that the speeches are inspired. Certainly Satan's words were not inspired, and they are recorded there; and it is part of the profit of the Book that we have the mistakes of the speakers. Every one of the three friends was very much mistaken in what he said, and Job himself also. It is only when we come to Elihu that we get the mind of God as far as a man is inspired, and then we have Jehovah's own word clearing up all the difficulty.
This is very important, because there is a kind of hazy idea that seeing they are found in the Bible the speeches of different people are also inspired. The Book is inspired to begin with; but we have to judge of the utterances, say of king Saul, or even of David, whether what they said was so or not, for it is not that everything which they said in their daily life was inspired. It might be more or less true; it might be sometimes really and absolutely true; but that is all a question of searching and comparing scripture with scripture. Then it comes direct from God or from a prophet, or from an apostle - the inspired writing - all that is absolutely the word of God. But not so where we have a historic scene - whether it is in Samuel, Kings or Chronicles, or whether it is in the Book of Job, where we have actual conversations given us by the Spirit of God - it would be quite a mistake to imagine that, because God gives us the speeches, therefore the speeches represent His mind.
It is perfectly plain from the solution at the end of the Book that they did not represent His mind. Now take this man Zophar - a great deal that he says is very true, but it does not apply to the purpose. It was all misused. It was based upon the assumption that whatever God allows now is really the judgment of God. But that is not the case. The devil now is the ruler; he is the one that actuates men. The spirit of evil works in the sons of disobedience, and everything is now out of course. Therefore to reason from things as they are now is to be guilty of a very great mistake. In short, it is to put what happens now into the place which the judgment of the Lord will have by and by before the throne. Then there will be the mind of God pronounced upon all our words and all our ways; but the present time is a state of confusion, and men are not at all as they ought to be, and even. God's children are very far from being as they will be. Everything is now imperfect and short of the mind of God. And still more, all the things that take place on earth are a mass of confusion, and judgment has not yet returned to righteousness. Judgment will never return to righteousness till the Lord sits upon His throne. Now, there is judgment in the hands of people who are themselves as bad criminals very often as the men whom they transport or hang. They might be thoroughly wicked men, and enemies of God in the most frightful manner; still, bad as they may be personally, they are very often honest in carrying out the law of the land fairly.
We all know that there may be sad mistakes in point of judgment; but the day is coming when judgment will return to righteousness. They have not got righteousness to return to - they are simply unrighteous men; and it is remarkable that the apostle Paul brands the judges of the law in his day as being unjust (1 Corinthians 6:1). Yet for all that God employed them. There were magistrates; there were judges; and God called them unjust when it was a question of His own people who had a far higher character of righteousness as their standard. They knew Christ; and all these things that these Corinthians were going to law about ought to have been settled among themselves - in the presence of them all. They were therefore exceedingly wrong in going on like the world. The world must go to the law-court. What could they do? They could not settle things themselves. They have not got the authority the court has. They go there, and on the whole they get their questions fairly well settled. But the children of God have quite another tribunal; and the apostle says it is so easy to settle these matters of an outward kind that the very least in the church might be asked to do it. He did not, of course, mean that the least in the church are the proper people to settle it, but it is a stigma upon their going before the world; and, of course, the most proper in the assembly are the people that ought to look into these things; those that have most experience and weight. It is merely the apostle putting shame upon the worldly spirit of the age. Here we are in a world where we are all apt to make mistakes; through ignorance sometimes, and very often through will of one kind or another that blinds us; but the mercy of God watches over all.
So here we find Zophar taking it all into his own hands. Why, if he had been a divine person, he could not have spoken more authoritatively. It was perfectly plain to him that Job was a bad man, and that he was a very vain man who liked to hear himself talk, and that he had no regard for other people, for there he was abusing them. In short, it is a very bad speech this of Zophar, most disrespectful to Job, and proud and haughty on his own part; and the more so as he was the youngest of the three, and consequently the one least capable. "Should not the multitude of words" - that is all he would allow on Job's part - "be answered, and should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies - "think how far he went - "Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest" - that was all he considered it - "shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes." Now Job had never said either. He had never said that his doctrine was pure. What he said was, that he held to God and to His ways. And what he said about his conduct was that he was not a hypocrite. He acknowledged that he might have sinned in some way unknown to himself that accounted for all this terrible storm of affliction that bore his soul down to the dust. And that was his difficulty; he did not know quite. He believed that he had been walking with a good conscience before God; and they were not able to say anything - they could bring nothing against him. All said alike, and judged him in a most severe and unmerciful manner. So he asked that God would speak. Well, God did speak; and when God spoke it was not to the honour of Zophar, nor of Bildad, nor of Eliphaz even - here very much more quiet and calm of spirit than Zophar. But for all that it was owing to the intercession of Job that the anger of the Lord did not fall upon those three men. It might have been their death had it not been for the intercession of Job.
Zophar says some things that are very excellent - properly applied. He says, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" Well, nobody can; God must reveal Himself. "Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" Only if God speaks. "The measure thereof is longer than the earth" - certainly, and that was a very insufficient measure - the earth - "and broader than the sea." He might have taken in all the universe. "If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?" There is no doubt about His power, no limit to it. "For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also." All these are insinuations against Job. "Will he not then consider it? For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt." Well, no doubt. That is man's condition now through the fall, that sometimes his acts can only be compared to those of a beast - uncontrollable, like a wild ass - or even to those of a savage beast, that consumes and destroys before it, like a lion or a bear. Man is capable of doing all these things. "If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands towards him." Now there, was excellent advice. That was just what Job did require - to wait upon God till God gave him the answer, as to how it was that all this had come upon him. But Zophar's notion was all wrong.
"If iniquity be in thine hand" - that was not what it was; it was not a question of iniquity, but of God dealing with Job's satisfaction with himself. Job was a truly pious, God-fearing man; but he had a high idea of his own character. That is what no soul ought ever to allow. It is altogether wrong for a person to rest in himself, no matter how unblemished he may be, no matter how he may truly wait upon God day by day. There is no rest in any creature, least of all in ourselves. It was One that was coming. And now there is One that is come, so that we have the understanding of "Him that is true." But in Job's day he evidently did not understand all this. "For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear," and so Zophar pursues down to the end of the chapter in very proper language. But his thought was all wrong, because he supposed there was some great wickedness unseen and unknown. Why then did he suppose it, if it was not seen and known?
We have the most remarkable instance of the opposite of this in the New Testament. One of the twelve was a dishonest man, and was about to betray the Lord Jesus. The Lord, who knew it perfectly, never brought it out in such a way as to act upon the consciences of the eleven. He allowed it to go on to the very last, and it was only when the dishonest one had passed out of their hands, and was himself on the way to death - and death by his own hands, as well as the death of the Lord by the hands of the Jews and Gentiles - that then the Lord no longer allowed it. If the Lord had meant them to judge Judas He would have made it manifest before. But He meant on the contrary that if he had made it manifest before, Scripture would not have been fulfilled. Scripture had declared that that man was the man to betray the Lord, and therefore it must go on to the end - to the betrayal. The Lord would not therefore open out the wickedness of Judas until it was before all the world.
Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?
Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
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.
Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
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?
For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:
And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.
And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.
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.