Notes on Job 11-14

Job 11‑14  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 6
First Discourse Of Zophar.
The third speaker now advances, who manifests the least knowledge of himself or consideration for Job, and therefore yields forthwith to a more violent tone of censure.
And Zophar, the Naamathite, answered and said,
Shall not the multitude of words be answered?
And shall a man of lips be justified?
Thy babbling puts men to silence:
And thou mockest, and no one saith, Shame!
And thou art to say, My doctrine [is] pure,
And I am clean in Thine eyes!
But O that God would indeed speak,
And open His lips against thee,
And make known to thee the secrets of wisdom;
That they are doubled by inspection,
And God remitteth to thee of thine iniquity.
Canst thou, searching, find out God?
Canst thou the Almighty find out to perfection?
Heights of heaven, what canst thou do?
Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?
Longer than the earth [is] its measure,
And broader than the sea.
If He pass by, and arrest,
And gather together, who can hinder Him?
For He knoweth men of vanity,
And seeth wickedness without considering [it].
But empty man would be wise,
Yet is man born a wild ass's colt.
If thou direct thy heart,
And spread out thy hands to Him;
If iniquity [be] in thy hand, put it far away,
And let not evil dwell in thy tents;
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot,
And shalt be steadfast without fearing.
For thou shalt forget trouble,
Shalt remember [it] as waters passed away;
And the future shall arise brighter than noonday;
Thou shalt Soar—shalt be as the morning.
And thou shalt trust, because there is hope,
And thou shalt search, thou shalt rest securely,
And thou shalt lie down, and none shall cause trembling,
And many shall caress thy face.
But the eyes of the wicked waste,
And refuge vanisheth away from them,
And their hope [is] a breathing out of the soul.
Thus Zophar gives Job credit for nothing beyond a multitude of words and idle talk. The unanswerable grounds against their hypothesis of strict present retribution were to him only babbling, and the bold affirmation that the wicked are allowed of God to prosper in this world seemed but a mockery of those who really could not answer, whatever their replies. He yields to great irritation because of Job's assertion of his soundness in the faith and in his life, and only desired that God would speak as Job had so boldly challenged, as little as any expecting that interposition which He was about to vouchsafe, not only for them, but for our sakes. Zophar had not a doubt what the sentence would be. He had not learned that we should not judge, lest we be judged, and that our judgments do really judge ourselves: if solid and gracious, proving that we dwell in God, as dwelling in love, and walking according to light; if harsh, in the like degree manifesting how far we are governed by thoughts and feelings which have no source higher than self. Job would find that the secrets of wisdom are doubled by looking in, and that God did not exact of him what his iniquity deserved. He held to the gravest fears of his friend.
Next, Zophar descants grandly on the absolute and infinite perfection of God. The heights of heaven, the depths of hell, the length of the earth, the breadth of the sea, fail to measure His wisdom. How disastrous for man to stand before Him, were He to institute proceedings, as Job had so rashly challenged. How soon he would find out the folly of his wisdom, let his heart vie in obstinacy with that of a wild ass!
Finally, Zophar exhorts to supplication and repentance as the only door of escape for Job, but a sure opening into a bright and prosperous and secure life, if he would avoid the inevitable doom of the wicked.
Chapters 12-14.
The Answer of Job
And Job answered, and said,
Truly ye [are] the people,
And wisdom shall die with you.
But I have a heart as well as you,
I do not sink beneath you:
And with whom [are] not such things as these?
A mockery to his neighbors am I,
One calling on God, and He heard him:
The just, upright, one a mockery!
For misfortune scorn,1 in the thoughts of the secure,
[Is] ready, for those that slide with the feet.
To the spoilers are the tents at peace,
And those who provoke God have security—
He who causes God to enter into his hand.
But ask now even the beasts—they can teach thee—
And the fowl of the heavens, and it will declare to thee,
Or think on the earth, and it shall teach thee,
And fishes of the sea shall tell out to thee:
Who doth not know by all these
That the hand of Jehovah hath done this?
In whose hand [is] the soul of every living thing,
And the spirit of all flesh of men?
Doth not the ear try words,
As the palate tasteth food for itself?
Among the aged is wisdom,
And length of days is understanding.
With Him [are] wisdom and might,
He hath counsel and understanding.
He breaketh down, and it is not built up.
He shutteth up on man, and it is not opened.
Lo, He restraineth the waters, and they dry up;
And He sendeth them forth, and they overturn the land.
With Him [are] strength and wisdom,
His the deceived and the deceiver,
Leading counselors away spoiled,
And judges He maketh foolish;
The hand of kings He looseth,
And bindeth a girdle on their loins.
He leadeth priests, away spoiled,
And overthroweth the strong.
He removeth the lips of the trusted,
And taketh away the tact of the aged.
He poureth contempt upon princes,
And looseth the girdle of the mighty.
He discovereth deep things out of darkness,
And bringeth out to light death-shade.
He magnifieth nations, and destroyeth them,
He leadeth out nations, and leadeth them in.
He taketh away the heart
Of the chief of the people of the land,
And He causeth them to wander
In a wilderness—no way.
They grope in the dark without light,
And He maketh them wander as a drunkard.
Chapter 13
Lo, mine eye hath seen all,
Mine ear hath heard and understood.
What ye know, I know also,
I do not sink beneath you.
But I will speak to the Almighty,
And I desire to plead with God;
But ye [are] forgers of lies,
Physicians of no value [are] ye all.
O that ye would altogether be silent,
And it would become your wisdom.
Hear now my reproof,
And attend to the pleadings of my lips.
For God do ye speak wickedly,
And for Him do ye talk deceit?
Will ye lift up His countenance?
Will ye contend for God?
Is it well that He should search you out?
Or deceive ye Him, as one man deceiveth another?
He will surely reprove you, if ye secretly accept persons.
Doth not His excellency terrify you,
And His dread fall upon you?
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes,
Your bulwarks, bulwarks of clay
Be silent from me, and I speak;
And let pass over me what [will].
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth?
And put my life in my hand?
Lo, He will slay me, yet will I trust Him;2
But my ways to His face I will argue.
This also will be my salvation,
That no polluted one shall come before Him.
Hear, O hear, my declaration
And my utterances with your ears.
Lo, now, I have ordered my cause,
I know that I shall be justified.
Who is he [that] will contend with me?
Then indeed I would be silent, and expire.
Only two things do not Thou to me:
Then will I not hide myself from Thee.
Thy hand put far off from me,
And let not Thy terror terrify me.
Then call Thou, and I will answer,
Or let me speak, and answer Thou me.
How many my iniquities and sins!
My transgression and my sin make me know.
Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face,
And regardest me as an enemy to Thee?
Wilt Thou terrify a driven leaf,
And wilt Thou pursue dry stubble?
For Thou writest for me bitter things,
And makest me inherit the iniquities of my youth;
And puttest my feet in the stocks,
And watchest all my paths,
On the soles of my feet Thou outtest;
And he as a rotten thing consumeth,
As a garment which the moth hath eaten.
Chapter 14.
Man, born of woman,
Is of few days, and full of trouble,
Cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down,
And he fleeth as a shadow, and abideth not,
And on such an one Thou openest Thine eyes!
And me dost Thou bring into judgment with Thee?
Who giveth a clean out of an unclean thing?
Not one!
If his days are determined,
The number of his months with Thee,
Thou hart set his bound which he shall not pass.
Look away from him that he may rest,
That he may enjoy as a hireling his day.
For there is hope for a tree if it be cut down,
That it will shoot again, and its sprout fail not,
Though its root wax old in the earth,
And its stump die in the dust:
Through the scent of water it flourisheth,
And putteth forth like a young plant.
But man dieth, and is prostrate,
And man expireth, and where is he?
Waters roll away from a sea,
And the stream becometh waste and dry,
So man lieth down, and riseth not:
Till the heavens be no more, they wake not,
Nor are roused out of their sleep.
Ah that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol,
Hide me till the turning of Thine anger,
Appoint me a set time, and then remember me!
If a man die, shall he live?
All the days of my warfare would I wait
Till my exchange should come.
Thou wouldest call, and I would answer Thee:
After the work of Thine hands Thou yearnest.
But now Thou numberest my steps:
Watchest Thou not over my sins?
My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And thou sewest up mine iniquity.
And yet a falling mountain decayeth,
And a rock is removed from its place,
Waters wear away stones,
Its floodings sweep away the soil of the earth,
And Thou destroyest the hope of man,
To the last Thou overpowerest him, and he goeth;
Thou changest his face, and sendest him away.
His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not;
And they are abased, and he perceiveth it not;
But his flesh in him hath pain, and his soul in him mourneth.
Thus the sufferer is provoked to treat the language of his friends, especially Zophar's, with sarcasm, and to defend his own ground as sounder than theirs. He feels how empty were their truisms as applied to his peculiar case, and how his rejection of them was driving themselves to the harshest judgment of his trials. It was an upturning of all right that he should be a jeer to his friends—one that called on God, and was heard by Him, just and upright, yet mocked! But it was the world's way, dwelling at ease themselves, to have scorn ready for the unfortunate, a fresh shove for such as have begun to slide; or, if the alternative be right, they may be glad in their hour of trouble of a lantern despised when all seems easy. But Job reiterates with boldness his counter-proposition, that in the world as it is, not the pious but the rapacious have safe tabernacles, and that none enjoy for the time more security than those that provoke God, who nevertheless seems to fling blessings without stint into their hand. They might argue as they pleased, but facts were opposed everywhere; even in the animal kingdom a similar principle reigns. The beasts, the birds, the fishes, tell the same tale, and Jehovah's hand has done this. (Compare Isa. 41:2020That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20).)
Yes, the mystery of God's permission of evil remains. The mystery of His will is another thing, revealed now, not then, and only to be manifested at the coming of the Lord, when all things shall be gathered in one under His Headship. (Eph. 1:9, 109Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:9‑10).) It is not yet the time to order all as the expression of His will, though He is the maker and sovereign disposer of all. Undoubtedly experience has its place, as each has his own measure of discrimination which should profit by length of days; but there are no laws discoverable or possible to bind God, in whom alone is perfect wisdom and power in providence. There are laws which He has imprinted on all above our eyes and below our feet, and around us; but the highest, truest law of all, if law it should be called, is that God is free, not bound, to act, free to act as and when He will. So He acts with man as with the elements, with the more and the less wicked, with counselors, and judges, and kings, with priests, and heroes, and senators, with whole nations, reduced or aggrandized, with their chiefs infatuated to utter ruin. God is sovereign.
Such was the result of Job's observations, and they could not deny its justice. But he preferred having to do with God, as to his sorrows, rather than with such sophists as they had shown themselves to be—worthless physicians, quacks, to whom he would prescribe silence, which might pass for wisdom. They had assumed to speak for God, but was it right to speak dishonestly or presumptuously? God did not want their favor any more than their fallacies. When their time came to he searched out, they would adopt very different language. Their zeal for God was according to neither knowledge nor conscience; and their confusion and dread must result from His intervention, as the issue proved. Their apothegms were of ashes, their bulwarks (hardly “bodies,” as in English Version) of clay: fresh reason why they should hold their peace, and leave him to have all out with God, desperate as it might seem, and come what would. But His slaying him was not what he dreaded; his conscience was good, and he would defend his ways before Him. That no hypocrite, none polluted, comes into His presence was a pledge of salvation to him, not a source of dismay. He calls attention to his demand earnestly and forcibly, assured of his innocence, and not refusing to die if deserving it; but he deprecates two things before the decision of the cause: first, that God would remove His hand from him; and, secondly, that He crush him not with His majesty. He desired to know what the iniquities were, why God hid His face and dealt so bitterly with him, that his body was perishing under the utmost pain and ignominy.
This leads him to a more general view of man's sad and frail estate, but still expressly with his own case before his eyes. (Chap. 14:8.) If the fountain were corrupt, one need not wonder at the foulness of its stream. Since his brief allotted space is all in God's hands, why not look away, and give him a little respite, that he may enjoy as a hireling his day? And the more, as life on earth closes for man hopelessly, though a tree cut down may sprout again, while, like waters that fail and dry up, man lies down, and rises no more while the heavens abide. He speaks of “man” for this world, and nothing can really be conceived more exact. It was not the time or place to introduce the special blessedness of the first resurrection, which we shall find has its echo elsewhere in this book. Every scripture is given by inspiration, and consistent with every other.
Job then returns to the expression of his desire that God would secrete him in the grave till His anger was turned away, appoint him a time, and then remember him. If a man die, shall he live? Job was the very reverse of a skeptic. He looks for his time of renovation or exchange, and does not doubt at bottom God's yearning after the work of His hands. Man is surely to live again; spirit, and soul, and body, he will be renewed. But this contrast which he believes throws him back on the, to him, inexplicable trials he was experiencing, and he yields to a fresh torrent of feeling as he dwells on the ruin of man under the eye and hand of God, so completely that, whether his son comes to honor or nothingness, he is none the wiser, the only thing known being his own pain outwardly and inwardly.
1. Or, a lantern, contemptible in, &c.
2. Or, according to the Ketib, I have no hope, or I will not wait. Others contend that the Keri means until I am slain, I wait; or, I wait for Him that He may slay me.