New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 11:1 Then Zophar the Naamathite responded- He comes over as angry and arrogant, as if he really hates Job. He doesn't specifically answer Job's arguments nor even cite them very much. I noted on Job 1:6 that Job's "friends" appear to become associated with the actual actions of the "Satan", and Zophar's anger with Job would confirm that conclusion.

Job 11:2 Shouldn’t the multitude of words be answered? Should a man full of talk be justified?-
The idea may be that Job was wrong to justify his much talking by saying that it was inevitable because of the greatness of his suffering; see on Job 10:1. Job was not to assume that his wild talking was simply not culpable, just because he was suffering and depressed. And again, there is some abiding truth in that. And God finally demonstrates that Job is "justified" by grace, and not by his words.

Job 11:3 Should your boastings make men hold their peace? When you mock, shall no man make you ashamed?-
LXX "Be not a speaker of many words", alluded to by James when he urges is not to be "many teachers" (James 3:1). See on Job 10:1. The friends mix elements of truth (as noted on :2) with unreasonable exaggeration of Job's weaknesses and positions. He has not so far come over as 'mocking', but that was how Job was perceived by the friends; just as our holding of alternative positions can be wrongly read as 'boasting' and 'mocking'.

Job 11:4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure. I am clean in Your eyes’-
As noted on :1, Zophar attacks Job according to Zophar's own perceptions of him, the image of "Job" he had developed in his mind, rather than reality. As noted on :1, unlike Eliphaz he doesn't actually engage with what Job says. And he is typical of many who engage in supposed 'dialogue' today. Job has only said that even if he were to cleanse himself (implying he felt unclean), then God would not accept him (Job 9:30). The friends begin with the suspicion that Job is being judged for sin; and so their wrong theological position [that sin brings immediate Divine judgment and loss of previous blessing] leads them to interpersonal problems, and an overall negative view of their brother Job, seeking to perceive fault in everything he said or had ever done.

Job 11:5 But oh that God would speak, and open His lips against you-
In the end, all the participants in the dialogue get what they ask for- God's open revelation. But it was not what any of them expected. And the opening of God's lips was against the friends, and not against Job.

Job 11:6 that He would show you the secrets of wisdom! For true wisdom has two sides-
This was finally true for them all. Both Job and the friends say many true things, but they fail to see there was 'another side' to those truths; just as so many do today.

Know therefore that God exacts of you less than your iniquity deserves- Connecting with how Ezra confesses that the exiles and all Judah had been punished less than their sins deserved (Ezra 9:13). Zophar likely implies that Job's huge sins (reflected in his massive judgments) really deserved death, and the fact Job was still alive meant that he was being punished less than deserved. And so it was with Judah. God had not destroyed them as a people, He had not taken their collective life; and this meant that they were being punished less than their sins deserved. And yet they, like Job, considered they were being punished and judged disproportionately. The resolution of that was in accepting their sins and the justice and grace of God's judgment of them, as Job finally did at the end.

Job 11:7 Can you fathom the mystery of God?-
This again is true so far as it stands, but Zophar uses this truth wrongly. He implies that any attempt to understand God's ways was therefore wrong; and yet he dogmatically proceeds with his own attempts to fathom the mystery of God. Paul has this verse in mind in Rom. 11:33, where he declares that the "mystery of God" (Rom. 11:25) is in His saving grace which cannot be fathomed by us. And that was the declaration of the "mystery of God" which is finally made at the end of the book of Job.

Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty?- Job sought to "probe" (AV "find out") the Almighty (Job 23:3; 28:12), whereas Elihu appears to agree with Zophar that "the Almighty" cannot be 'found out' (Job 11:7; 37:23). God's own appearance at the end is perhaps an answer to this. He cannot be 'found out' by intellectual argument or personal righteousness. Instead, He 'finds out' people and saves them by grace. Paul expresses the same idea when he writes that it is not so much a case of man 'knowing God', but rather of being "known of God" by grace (Gal. 4:9).       

Job 11:8 They are high as heaven. What can you do? They are deeper than Sheol. What can you know?-
As discussed on :7, it is indeed true that we cannot "know" God by intellectual argument or personal righteousness. And that lesson abides. And yet on the other hand, 'knowing' God in the Hebraic sense of 'having a relationship with' is absolutely possible, and is what God seeks with men. However it is possible that Zophar uses the idea of 'heaven and sheol' as it is used in the only other two Biblical occurrences of the phrase (Ps. 139:8; Am. 9:2)- where it means that one cannot escape God by going above heaven or deeper than sheol. Jonah, representative of the exiles, tried to do this and failed. 

Job 11:9 Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea-
God's ways are further or longer than the eretz, a word often used specifically of the land promised to Abraham. There is the hint here that the final wisdom of God was connected with a plan of global salvation, and was not limited to any single territory. This had special relevance to the captives in Babylon and Assyria, some of them now outside the eretz; and it also speaks to their tendency towards racial elitism, as if Israel were the only people God was willing to have relationship with. The prophets therefore speak of the restored people of God as being multiethnic, and His kingdom as universal and not any longer only based in the eretz of Israel.

Job 11:10 If He passes by, or confines-
"Confines" is the word used of the shutting up or confining of the exiles in captivity (Jer. 13:19; Lam. 2:7; Am. 6:8).

Or convenes a court, then who can oppose Him?- This again has abiding truth- because we cannot simply get out of our relationship with God by as it were not turning up in court.

The dramatic story of Job thrice uses the same phrase as in Is. 43:13, concluding that "who can hinder...?" God's way (Job 9:12; 11:10; 23:13). The exiles were to understand that no human opposition or discouragement can turn back or hinder God's purpose to save His people, even if they are as Job in suffering. His saving and restorative purpose will not be hindered, if we wish to identify with it.

Job 11:11 For He knows false men. He sees iniquity also, even though He doesn’t consider it-
AV "will He not then consider it?", as if God is aware of all sin, and will "consider" it in judgment. Zophar and the friends seem to think that this judgment is going on in Job's life, whereas Job is correctly driven to understand that judgment must be yet future.

Job 11:12 An empty-headed man becomes wise when a man is born as a wild donkey’s colt-
The idea seems to be that a  stubborn and untamed man like Job, similar to a wild donkey's colt, can still become wise- if he repents (:13). Zophar is misreading Job, but he is correct to understand the true wisdom as being in repentance. Job's vain search for wisdom in Job 28 finally comes to an end when he repents and thereby 'finds' God. Even wrong argumentation and false accusation can be used by God to bring us closer to His truth, through the process of our working it through and rejecting it.

Job 11:13 If you set your heart aright, stretch out your hands toward Him-
As noted on :4, Zophar's wrong theology [his assumption that Job must have sinned to be suffering as he now was] led him to judge the state of Job's heart, as being not "set aright". And it is exactly this wrongful judgment of human hearts which arises from an insistence in believing that we can attach meaning to event in the lives of others; and this is effectively to play God.

Job 11:14 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away. Don’t let unrighteousness dwell in your tents-
Clearly an oblique reference to the family "tents" of Job having been smitten because of the unrighteousness there. Job's children were indeed sinners, it would appear. For they were struck down by "the fire of God". But Zophar is reasoning that one man, Job, can be responsible for the sins of his family. But God works with individuals, and all Job's regular sacrifices for the sins of his children were revealed as irrelevant. For God deals with individuals.

Job 11:15 Surely then you shall lift up your face without spot; yes, you shall be steadfast, and shall not fear-
Zophar possibly recognized that Job was like Cain in that his countenance had fallen and he was so angry, although also fearful of God (Gen. 4:5); Job has already seen himself as Cain (Job 10:14). See on Job 13:27; 16:17,18; 31:39. Job has argued that even if he were righteous, still he could not lift up his face without spot and without fear. Zophar fails to realize that it was quite possible for Job to be personally righteous, and yet to experience all the sufferings and feelings of the sinful, condemned people of God. The idea of being "without spot" before God is picked up in the New Testament. We can be like this (Eph. 5:27; 2 Pet. 3:14) but only "in His sight", because the righteousness of His spotless Son has been imputed to us by grace through faith (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19).

Job 11:16 for you shall forget your misery. You shall remember it as waters that are passed away-
The exiles likewise could be restored so that their sufferings were seen as the waters of Noah which had passed away (Is. 54:9), and would forget the days of their misery. "Misery" is the word translated "travail" regarding the sufferings of the suffering servant (Is. 53:11). That figure is undoubtedly based upon Job as prototype.

Job 11:17 Life shall be clearer than the noonday. Though there is darkness, it shall be as the morning-
Again, there is some level of truth in all this. This is what repentance could lead to. And the language is exactly that of the joyful dawn which could have come for the exiles, brought forth out of the darkness of captivity in Babylon. Job experienced this in his restoration, but the exiles failed to follow his path.

Job 11:18 You shall be secure, because there is hope. Yes, you shall search, and shall take your rest in safety-
Again, the language of the restoration prophets concerning the lying down of the returned exiles in safety with none making them afraid (Is. 14:30; Hos. 2:18).

Job 11:19 Also you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid-
Exactly the language of how Judah could be restored, if they repented and accepted the new covenant (Ez. 34:14,15; Jer. 33:12).

Yes, many shall court your favour- LXX "and many shall charge, and make supplication to thee", the language of later Isaiah of how the tables would turn and the Gentiles would make supplication to the restored exiles.

Job 11:20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail-
Perhaps Job's health issues included failing eyesight. For here when Zophar speaks of the fate of the wicked, he has Job in view. The very language of the curses to come upon Israel for breaking covenant (Lev. 26:16), experienced by them at the Babylonian invasion (Lam. 2:11; 4:17). The suffering servant experienced this (Ps. 69:3 s.w.) as did Job, sharing in the judgment of the condemned although not personally sinning.

They shall have no way to flee- The judgment upon Judah (s.w. Jer. 25:35; Am. 2:14).

Their hope shall be the giving up of the spirit- This was what Job so hoped for, and Zophar has Job in view all through his description of the death of the wicked. As demonstrated earlier in this verse, the condemnation of the wicked did indeed happen to God's people, and Job experienced it, whilst being personally innocent. This is the exact situation with the Lord Jesus. He who will dispense condemnation does in fact know what condemnation feels like, because He so identified with condemned humanity.