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Zophar in the 21st Century (2) (Job 20)

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CHAPTER 20 Dec. 16 
Zophar’s Second Speech
Then Zophar the Naamathite answered, 2Therefore do my thoughts make me answer, even by reason of my haste that is in me. 3I have heard the reproof which seeks to shame me. The spirit of my understanding makes me answer. 4Don’t you know this from old time, since man was placed on earth, 5that the triumphing of the wicked is short, the joy of the godless but for a moment? 6Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, 7yet he shall perish forever like his own dung. Those who have seen him shall say, ‘Where is he?’. 8He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found. Yes, he shall be chased away like a vision of the night. 9The eye which saw him shall see him no more, neither shall his place any more see him. 10His children shall seek the favour of the poor. His hands shall give back his wealth. 11His bones are full of his youth, but youth shall lie down with him in the dust. 12Though wickedness is sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, 13though he spare it, and will not let it go, but keep it still within his mouth; 14yet his food in his bowels is churned. It is cobra venom within him. 15He has swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again. God will cast them out of his belly. 16He shall suck cobra venom. The viper’s tongue shall kill him. 17He shall not look at the rivers, the flowing streams of honey and butter. 18That for which he laboured he shall restore, and shall not swallow it down. According to the substance that he has gotten, he shall not rejoice. 19For he has oppressed and forsaken the poor. He has violently taken away a house, and he shall not build it up. 20Because he knew no quietness within him, he shall not save anything of that in which he delights. 21There was nothing left that he didn’t devour, therefore his prosperity shall not endure. 22In the fullness of his sufficiency, distress shall overtake him. The hand of each one who is in misery shall come on him. 23When he is about to fill his belly, God will cast the fierceness of His wrath upon him. It will rain on him while he is eating. 24He shall flee from the iron weapon. The bronze arrow shall strike him through. 25He draws it forth, and it comes out of his body. Yes, the glittering point comes out of his liver. Terrors are upon him. 26All darkness is laid up for his treasures. An unfanned fire shall devour him. It shall consume that which is left in his tent. 27The heavens shall reveal his iniquity. The earth shall rise up against him. 28The increase of his house shall depart. They shall rush away in the day of His wrath. 29This is the portion of a wicked man from God, the heritage appointed to him by God.


20:19 Job denies doing these things; if he had, it’s unlikely that God would describe his earlier life in such positive terms (1:2). Zophar was once Job’s friend, but he now speaks with a seething anger against him and claims all kind of false things against Job- which as his “friend” he surely knew weren’t true. This radical change was related to Zophar’s false understanding that suffering always comes as a result of sin. He became convinced Job was a sinner, and when he couldn’t prove that, he simply fabricated things in his mind and then became persuaded they were true. If Zophar had to admit that Job was righteous, then he would have to revise his view of suffering; admit he had been wrong; and be prepared to accept that suffering may strike him too, despite his own apparent righteousness. And it would seem that his jealousy at Job’s wealth was then vented out. He felt that if Job was a sinner, then he could treat him in a less than human way. Fear of revising ones’ own understandings, admission of being wrong forced upon people by others’ experiences, dashed expectations and false assumptions can lead to this kind of seething hatred and false accusation, and is the root of much relationship breakdown today.