Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
Verses 1-20. - Zophar, the Naamathite, the third of Job's comforters (Job 2:11), and probably the youngest of them, now at last takes the word, and delivers an angry and violent speech. He begins by accusing Job of having spoken at undue length, and at the same time, boastfully and mockingly (vers. 2-4). He then expresses a wish that God would take Job at his word, and really answer him, since he is sure that the result would be to show that Job had been punished much less than he. deserved to be (vers. 5, 6). Job's complaints against the justice of God's dealings he meets by an assertion of God's unsearchableness and perfect wisdom, which he contrasts with the folly of man (ver. 7-12). Finally, he suggests that a stricken man, being guilty, should humble himself, put away his iniquity, and turn to God, in which ease he may expect a restoration to favour. Otherwise, he has only to look for wretchedness, failure, and despair (vers. 18-20). Verse 1. - Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said (see the comment on Job 2:11).
Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?
Verse 2. - Should not the multitude of words be answered? A "multitude of words" is often reproved in Scripture, and taken as a sign of either folly (Ecclesiastes 5:8) or sin (Proverbs 10:19). Job had certainly been somewhat unduly verbose, and laid himself open to the taunt here launched against him; but neither had brevity been studied by his other friends in their previous answers (ch. 4, 5, and 8.), nor is it greatly studied by Zophar here. And should a man full of talk be justified? literally, a man of lips which may mean either "a great talker" or "a man who makes many professions." There is a widespread prejudice against a great orator, and a widespread notion that a good cause does net need many words.
Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
Verse 3. - Should thy lies make men hold their peace? or, thy boastings (see the Revised Version; and comp. Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah 48:30). Zophar probably refers to such passages as Job 9:20, 35; Job 10:7, 15, where Job might seem to have justified himself altogether. And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed I It is not quite easy to see what in Job's speeches up to this point could be regarded as "mocking." But perhaps Zophar would have thus characterized the following passages: Job 6:13, 14, 25-27; Job 7:12; Job 9:22-24.
For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
Verse 4. - For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure. Job had certainly not said this in so many words. In fact, he had not spoken of his "doctrine" (לקח), nor had he called either his doctrine or his conduct absolutely pure (ז). But, no doubt, he had maintained, in a certain sense, his innocency; not, indeed, his entire freedom from sin or guilt, but his honest endeavour to serve God and lead a good life. This was the real point disputed between him and his "comforters;" they argued, from his sufferings, that he must be a "chief sinner;" he maintained, from the testimony of his conscience, that he was free from all heinous sins. And I am clean in thine eyes (see above, Job 9:30; Job 10:7).
But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;
Verse 5. - But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee! "Oh that God would do," i.e. "what thou hast challenged him to do" - show thee wherein he contends with thee! (comp. Job 10:2). Then how would thy reasonings be confuted, and thy boastings be brought low!
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.
Verse 6. - And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom! In God are "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid away" (ἀπόκρυφοι Colossians 2:3). Zophar wishes that he would reveal to Job this wisdom, or a portion of it, as, in that case, all his pride and self-confidence would be confounded and fall away. That they are double to that which is! This phrase is very obscure. Some translate, "For he (i.e. God) is twice as wise as thou;" others, "That it (i.e. wisdom) is manifold in effectual working;" others, again, "That they (i.e. the treasures of wisdom) are double (or manifold) in substance." Perhaps this last rendering is to be preferred. The treasures of wisdom that are hid away in God have many depths, secret and unexplored; they "lie, as it were, fold over fold, in unexpected complexities, defying the shallow and unscrutinizing gaze" (Professor Stanley Leathes). If they were revealed to Job, they would astonish, confound, silence, him. Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth. "Be sure," i.e., "that God, so far from inflicting on thee a more severe punishment than thou deservest, in reality excuses much of thy guilt, and punishes thee less than is thy due." This is Zophar's conclusion from his general knowledge of God's dealings with man (comp. Ezra 9:13).
Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
Verse 7. - Canst thou by searching find out God? literally, Canst thou attain to the searching out of God? Canst thou suppose, that is, that, whatever thy wisdom, learning, subtlety, sagacity, power of insight, thou wilt be able to search out and fully know the character, attributes, modes of thought and action, of the Most High? No. In one sense, all men do well to profess them. selves "Agnostics" - not that they can know nothing of God, but that they can never know him fully, never exhaust the knowledge of him. As the apostle says, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God l how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" (Romans 11:33, 34). Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? rather. Canst thou attain to the perfection of the Almighty? understand, i.e., his inconceivable perfectness.
It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
Verse 8. - It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? literally, heights of the heavens; what canst thou do? But the meaning is probably that expressed in the Authorized Version. God's perfectness is unattainable by man's thought, as the heights of the heavens are by his feet. Deeper than hell; literally, than Sheol, or the receptacle of the dead (see the comment on Job 10:21). St. Paul speaks of the "deep things," or rather, "the depths" (τὰ βάθη) of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). What canst thou know? How small a part of the Divine nature can any man thoroughly comprehend and know!
The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
Verse 9. - The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. Zophar's metaphors are drawn from the objects which, to his mind, exceed in extent all others. "The earth" and "the sea" represent to him the illimitable.
If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?
Verse 10. - If he cut off; rather, if he advance (comp. Job 9:11). And shut up; or, imprison. Or gather together; rather, and call to judgment (see the Revised Version). If God, that is, advance against a man in hostile fashion, seize and imprison him, and then call him to judgment, what is to be said or done? who can interfere with him? Matters must take their course. There is no ground for complaint It is simply God's mode of administering justice on the earth. Who can hinder him? literally, who can turn him sway? i.e. interfere with his action, interrupt it, divert it.
For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
Verse 11. - For he knoweth vain men. God is justified in these his judgments, even though he does not implead the man or bring him to account, or hear what he has got to say (Job 9:39), since he intuitively and at once "knoweth vain men;" sooth, that is, into the ground of the heart, and recognizes vanity, pretence, false seeming, so that he can judge infallibly without the forensic apparatus wherewith human tribunals are rightly surrounded, on account of the weakness and fallibility of human judges. He sooth wickedness also. If God can detect in a moment vanity, pretence, false seeming, much more can he detect actual wickedness; which Zophar assumes to have been detected in Job's case. Will he not then consider it? rather, even though he consider it not (see the Revised Version). God does not need to pause and ponder and "consider" each case. He knows, without any such lengthened consideration, whether a man is true to him or not.
For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
Verse 12. - For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt; rather, and a vain man may get understanding, and the colt of a wild ass become a than (compare the Revised Version, marginal rendering). Zophar seems to mean that, through Divine discipline, such as that described in ver. 10, a vain, foolish, puffed-up man may be reclaimed and become a man of understanding - a stubborn and untamed one, wild as the colt of a wild ass, grow into a real man, i.e. acquire sense and discretion. If this is the meaning, undoubtedly Job is glanced at (so Schultens, Dillmann, and Canon Cook).
If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
Verse 13. - If thou prepare thine heart. Having indicated God's righteousness by these general remarks (vers. 7-12), and implied that Job's complaints are vain and futile, Zophar, in conclusion, addresses Job once more directly: "If thou (אתּה) prepare thine heart," cleanse it, that is, of all defilement, direct it, and set it straight (see Psalm 78:8) before God, then such and such results (set forth in vers. 15-19) will follow. And stretch out thine hands toward him. The outward act of worship must follow the inward movement of the heart, for the turning to God to be complete.
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
Verse 14. - If iniquity be in thine hand. Zophar assumes this to be probable, nay, almost certain. He has already told Job that God has exacted from him less than his iniquity (און, the same word) deserves (ver. 6). Conformably with this view, he now suggests that it would not do for Job to stretch out to God in prayer a hand full of iniquity, and that therefore, previously to making his supplication, he would do well to lay his iniquity aside. In a general way, the advice is excellent; but it was insulting to Job, who denied that he had any definite act of sin on his conscience. Put it far away; i.e. repent of it, confess it to God; if the case admits of it, make reparation or restitution. And let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles; or, in thy tents. The insinuation seems to be that Job is a robber chief, and that his tent and the tents of his followers are full of ill-gotten spoils, the fruit of his raids upon the defenceless.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
Verse 15. - For then; rather, surely then (see the Revised Version). Shalt thou lift up thy face without spot. At present, Zophar implies, he could not do so. The stain of many sins was on him (vers. 6, 11, 14). Yea, thou shalt be steadfast; literally, molten - perhaps "pure as refined metal" (see Isaiah 1:25), perhaps "bright as a metallic mass." And shalt not fear. "Shalt be freed," i.e.," from all the fears that disturb thee now" (see Job 3:26; Job 6:4; Job 7:14; Job 9:28, etc.).
Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:
Verse 16. - Because thou shalt forget thy misery. All thy past misery shall be clean swept away from thy remembrance, because of the happy condition whereto thou shalt be raised (see vers. 18, 19). "Sorrow's memory" is not always "a sorrow still." And remember it as waters that pass away; i.e. remember it no more than a man remembers the shower that has passed away or the pool that is dried up.
And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.
Verse 17. - And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; literally, shall arise above the noonday; i.e. "exceed it in splendour." Instead of the "thick darkness" to which Job is looking forward (Job 10:21, 22), he shall bask in a light brighter than that of the sun at noon. Thou shalt shine forth. The Hebrew cannot possibly bear this meaning. The uncommon word used is allied with עֵיפָה, "obscurity," and, if a verb, should mean "thou shalt be obscure," rather than "thou shalt shine forth." But it is perhaps a substantive, meaning "darkness;" and the translation of the Revised Version is perhaps correct: "Though there be darkness." Thou shalt be as the morning. "Thy light," as Professor Lee explains, "shall gradually rise and expand itself far and wide." It shall dispel the darkness, and take its place," shining more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).
And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
Verse 18. - And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope. Job, entering on this second period of prosperity, would be and feel secure; safe, i.e. from any return of calamity, because hope would once more animate him and be his predominant feeling. No doubt "hope springs eternal in the human breast;" and when Job's prosperity was actually restored (Job 42:12-16), these anticipations had their fulfilment; but, as uttered by Zophar, there is a ring of insincerity about them, and we cannot but feel that his object in expatiating at length on the details of Job's coming happiness is not to console and encourage his friend, but rather to annoy and exasperate him, since the entire basis on which he builds is the assumption of Job's heinous guilt (vers. 3, 6, 11, 14), and the prosperity which he promises is to follow upon an acknowledgment of guilt and a putting sway of iniquity (vers. 13, 14), which he knew that Job wholly repudiated. Yea, thou shalt dig about thee. So Schultens, who understands it to mean that Job shall dig a moat around his habitation, to make himself perfectly secure. The verb has, however, two other meanings - "to investigate" or "search out," and "to blush;" and it is taken here in each of these meanings by some critics. Our Revisers translate, "Yea, thou shalt search about thee;" and so Canon Cook and Professor Stanley Loathes. Rosenmuller, on the other hand, and Professor Lee render the words by "Though thou shouldst blush," or "be ashamed." It is difficult to decide between such high authorities; but the fast that Job uses the verb in the sense of "search," "look after," in Job 39:29, and does not elsewhere use it in either of the other senses, should incline us to accept the rendering of the Revised Version. And thou shalt take thy rest in safety; or, securely; i.e. with a sense of being in perfect security.
Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.
Verse 19. - Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; i.e. there shall be no more raids on the part of Sabeans (Job 1:15) or Chaldeans (Job 1:17) to affright and injure thee. Yea, many shall make suit unto thee. On the contrary, thy aid shall be invoked, thy interference on their behalf prayed for, by many.
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.
Verse 20. - Had Zophar ended with ver. 19 Job might possibly have taken some comfort from his speech, holding out, as it did, a hope of restoration to God's favour and a return to happiness. But, as if to accentuate the unfavourable view which he takes of Job's conduct and character, he will not end with words of good omen, but appends a passage which has a ring of malice, menace, and condemnation. But the eyes of the wicked shall fail; or, waste away grew weary, i.e. of looking for a help that does not come, and a deliverer who does not make his appearance. And they shall not escape; literally, their refuge is perished from them. And their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost; rather, shall be the giving up of the ghost. They shall have no other hope but death - a manifest allusion to Job's repeated declarations that he looks for death, longs for it, and has no expectation of any other deliverance (see Job 3:21, 22; Job 6:7, 8; Job 7:15; Job 10:1, 18. etc.). Such, says Zophar, is always the final condition of the wicked.