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Zophar Speaks: Wickedness Receives Just Retribution


Then Zophar the Naamathite answered:


“Pay attention! My thoughts urge me to answer,

because of the agitation within me.


I hear censure that insults me,

and a spirit beyond my understanding answers me.


Do you not know this from of old,

ever since mortals were placed on earth,


that the exulting of the wicked is short,

and the joy of the godless is but for a moment?


Even though they mount up high as the heavens,

and their head reaches to the clouds,


they will perish forever like their own dung;

those who have seen them will say, ‘Where are they?’


They will fly away like a dream, and not be found;

they will be chased away like a vision of the night.


The eye that saw them will see them no more,

nor will their place behold them any longer.


Their children will seek the favor of the poor,

and their hands will give back their wealth.


Their bodies, once full of youth,

will lie down in the dust with them.



“Though wickedness is sweet in their mouth,

though they hide it under their tongues,


though they are loath to let it go,

and hold it in their mouths,


yet their food is turned in their stomachs;

it is the venom of asps within them.


They swallow down riches and vomit them up again;

God casts them out of their bellies.


They will suck the poison of asps;

the tongue of a viper will kill them.


They will not look on the rivers,

the streams flowing with honey and curds.


They will give back the fruit of their toil,

and will not swallow it down;

from the profit of their trading

they will get no enjoyment.


For they have crushed and abandoned the poor,

they have seized a house that they did not build.



“They knew no quiet in their bellies;

in their greed they let nothing escape.


There was nothing left after they had eaten;

therefore their prosperity will not endure.


In full sufficiency they will be in distress;

all the force of misery will come upon them.


To fill their belly to the full

God will send his fierce anger into them,

and rain it upon them as their food.


They will flee from an iron weapon;

a bronze arrow will strike them through.


It is drawn forth and comes out of their body,

and the glittering point comes out of their gall;

terrors come upon them.


Utter darkness is laid up for their treasures;

a fire fanned by no one will devour them;

what is left in their tent will be consumed.


The heavens will reveal their iniquity,

and the earth will rise up against them.


The possessions of their house will be carried away,

dragged off in the day of God’s wrath.


This is the portion of the wicked from God,

the heritage decreed for them by God.”


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Job 20:1-29. Reply of Zophar.

2. Therefore—Rather, the more excited I feel by Job's speech, the more for that very reason shall my reply be supplied by my calm consideration. Literally, "Notwithstanding; my calm thoughts (as in Job 4:13) shall furnish my answer, because of the excitement (haste) within me" [Umbreit].

3. check of my reproach—that is, the castigation intended as a reproach (literally, "shame") to me.

spirit of … understanding—my rational spirit; answering to "calm thoughts" (Job 20:2). In spite of thy reproach urging me to "hastiness." I will answer in calm reason.

5. the hypocrite—literally, "the ungodly" (Ps 37:35, 36).

6. (Isa 14:13; Ob 3, 4).

7. dung—in contrast to the haughtiness of the sinner (Job 20:6); this strong term expresses disgust and the lowest degradation (Ps 83:10; 1Ki 14:10).

8. (Ps 73:20).

9. Rather "the eye followeth him, but can discern him no more." A sharp-looking is meant (Job 28:7; Job 7:10).

10. seek to please—"Atone to the poor" (by restoring the property of which they had been robbed by the father) [De Wette]. Better than English Version, "The children" are reduced to the humiliating condition of "seeking the favor of those very poor," whom the father had oppressed. But Umbreit translates as Margin.

his hands—rather, "their (the children's) hands."

their goods—the goods of the poor. Righteous retribution! (Ex 20:5).

11. (Ps 25:7), so Vulgate. Gesenius has "full of youth"; namely, in the fulness of his youthful strength he shall be laid in the dust. But "bones" plainly alludes to Job's disease, probably to Job's own words (Job 19:20). Umbreit translates, "full of his secret sins," as in Ps 90:8; his secret guilt in his time of seeming righteousness, like secret poison, at last lays him in the dust. The English Version is best. Zophar alludes to Job's own words (Job 17:16).

with him—His sin had so pervaded his nature that it accompanies him to the grave: for eternity the sinner cannot get rid of it (Re 22:11).

12. be—"taste sweet." Sin's fascination is like poison sweet to the taste, but at last deadly to the vital organs (Pr 20:17; Job 9:17, 18).

hide … tongue—seek to prolong the enjoyment by keeping the sweet morsel long in the mouth (so Job 20:13).

14. turnedHebrew denotes a total change into a disagreeable contrary (Jer 2:21; compare Re 10:9, 10).

gall—in which the poison of the asp was thought to lie. It rather is contained in a sack in the mouth. Scripture uses popular language, where no moral truth is thereby endangered.

15. He is forced to disgorge his ill-gotten wealth.

16. shall suck—It shall turn out that he has sucked the poison, &c.

17. floods—literally, "stream of floods," plentiful streams flowing with milk, &c. (Job 29:6; Ex 3:17). Honey and butter are more fluid in the East than with us and are poured out from jars. These "rivers" or water brooks are in the sultry East emblems of prosperity.

18. Image from food which is taken away from one before he can swallow it.

restitution—(So Pr 6:31). The parallelism favors the English Version rather than the translation of Gesenius, "As a possession to be restored in which he rejoices not."

he shall not rejoice—His enjoyment of his ill-gotten gains shall then be at an end (Job 20:5).

19. oppressed—whereas he ought to have espoused their cause (2Ch 16:10).

forsaken—left helpless.

house—thus leaving the poor without shelter (Isa 5:8; Mic 2:2).

20. Umbreit translates, "His inward parts know no rest" from desires.

his belly—that is, peace inwardly.

not save—literally, "not escape with that which," &c., alluding to Job's having been stripped of his all.

21. look for—rather, "because his goods," that is, prosperity shall have no endurance.

22. shall be—rather, "he is (feeleth) straitened." The next clause explains in what respect.

wicked—Rather, "the whole hand of the miserable (whom he had oppressed) cometh upon him"; namely, the sense of his having oppressed the poor, now in turn comes with all its power (hand) on him. This caused his "straitened" feeling even in prosperity.

23. Rather, "God shall cast (may God send) [Umbreit] upon him the fury of His wrath to fill his belly!"

while … eating—rather, "shall rain it upon him for his food!" Fiery rain, that is, lightning (Ps 11:6; alluding to Job's misfortune, Job 1:16). The force of the image is felt by picturing to one's self the opposite nature of a refreshing rain in the desert (Ex 16:4; Ps 68:9).

24. steel—rather, "brass." While the wicked flees from one danger, he falls into a greater one from an opposite quarter [Umbreit].

25. It is drawn—Rather, "He (God) draweth (the sword, Jos 5:13) and (no sooner has He done so, than) it cometh out of (that is, passes right through) the (sinner's) body" (De 32:41, 42; Eze 21:9, 10). The glittering sword is a happy image for lightning.

gall—that is, his life (Job 16:13). "Inflicts a deadly wound."

terrors—Zophar repeats Bildad's words (Job 17:11; Ps 88:16; 55:4).

26. All darkness—that is, every calamity that befalls the wicked shall be hid (in store for him) in His (God's) secret places, or treasures (Jude 13; De 32:34).

not blown—not kindled by man's hands, but by God's (Isa 30:33; the Septuagint in the Alexandrian Manuscript reads "unquenchable fire," Mt 3:12). Tact is shown by the friends in not expressly mentioning, but alluding under color of general cases, to Job's calamities; here (Job 1:16) Umbreit explains it, wickedness, is a "self-igniting fire"; in it lie the principles of destruction.

ill … tabernacle—Every trace of the sinner must be obliterated (Job 18:15).

27. All creation is at enmity with him, and proclaims his guilt, which he would fain conceal.

28. increase—prosperity. Ill got—ill gone.

flow away—like waters that run dry in summer; using Job's own metaphor against himself (Job 6:15-17; 2Sa 14:14; Mic 1:4).

his wrath—God's.

29. appointed—not as a matter of chance, but by the divine "decree" (Margin) and settled principle.