Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
Verses 1-29. - Zophar's second speech is even more harsh than his first (ch. 11.). He adds coarseness and rudeness to his former vehement hostility (vers. 7, 15). His whole discourse is a covert denunciation of Job as a wicked man and a hypocrite (vers. 5, 12, 19, 29), deservedly punished by God for a life of crime. He ends by prophesying Job's violent death, the destruction of his house, and the rising up of heaven and earth in witness against him (vers. 24-28). Verses 1, 2. - Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer. Zophar "has heard the check of his reproach" (ver. 3), i.e. the reproach contained in the last words of Job in the preceding chapter. Therefore his thoughts rise up within him, and com-psi him to make a reply. He cannot allow Job to shift the onus of guilt and the menace of punishment on his friends, when it is he, Job, that is the guilty person, over whom the judgments of God impend. And for this I make haste; rather, and because of my haste that is within me (see the Revised Version); i.e. "because I am of a hasty and impetuous temperament."
Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.
I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.
Verse 3. - I have heard the check of my reproach; or, the reproof which putteth me to shame (Revised Version). Some suppose an allusion to Job 19:2, 3; but it is better to regard Zophar as enraged by vers. 28, 29 of Job 19. And the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer. This claim is not quite consistent with the acknowledgment of hastiness in ver. 2. But it is no unusual thing for an impetuous and hasty man to declare that he speaks from the dictates of pure dispassionate reason.
Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth,
Verse 4. - Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth? These words scarcely "imply cognizance of the record (of the creation of man) in Genesis," as Canon Cook suggests; but they do imply belief in a creation of man, not an evolution; and in the existence of a continuous tradition, extending from that time to Job's. The passage is among those which make for the high antiquity of the book.
That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?
Verse 5. - That the triumphing of the wicked is short (comp. Psalm 37:35, 36; Psalm 51:1-5; Psalm 73:17-19, etc.). This is one of the main points of dispute between Job and his opponents. It has been previously maintained by Eliphaz (Job 4:8-11; Job 5:3-5; Job 15:21, 29) and by Bildad (Job 8:11-19), as it is now by Zophar, and may be regarded as the traditional belief of the time, which scarcely any ventured to question. His own observation, however, has convinced Job that the fact is otherwise. He has seen the wicked "live, become old, and remain mighty in power" (Job 21:7); he has seen them "spend their days in wealth," and die quietly, as "in a moment" (Job 21:13). In Job 24:2-24 he seems to argue that this is the general, if not universal, lot of such persons. Later on, however, in Job 27:13-23, he retracts this view, or, at any rate, greatly modifies it, admitting that usually retribution does even in this life overtake the wicked. And this seems to be the general sentiment of mankind.
"Raro antecedentem scelestum,
Deseruit pede poena claudlo."
(Horace, 'Od.,' 3:2, ll. 31, 32.) There remains, however, the question whether the triumphing of the wicked can fairly be considered "short," and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. When we consider the lives of Dionysius the elder, Sylla, Marius, Tiberius, Louis XIV., Napoleon, it is difficult to answer this question in the affirmative.
Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;
Verse 6. - Though his excellency mount up to the heavens. "Though he reach," i.e., "the highest pitch of prosperity" (comp. Psalm 73:9). And his head reach unto the clouds (comp. Daniel 4:22, "Thou, O king, art grown and become strong: and thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven").
Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?
Verse 7.- Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung. Some understand "his own dung-heap," regarding the "ashes" of Job 2:8 as, in reality, a heap of refuse of all kinds; but it is simple
He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.
Verse 8. - He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found; i.e. "as a dream flies, when one awaketh" (see Psalm 73:20; Isaiah 29:7, 8). Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. A "vision of the night" is perhaps something more than a "dream;" but it is equally fugitive, equally unstable-with morning it wholly vanishes away.
The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.
Verse 9. - The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; or, the eye which scanned him. The verb used (שָׁזַך) is a rare one, occurring only here, in Job 28:7, and in Song of Solomon 1:6. In the former passage it is used of a falcon, in the latter of the sun. Neither shall his place any more behold him (comp. Psalm 103:16, "The place thereof shall know it no more").
His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.
Verse 10. - His children shall seek to please the poor. Another rendering is, "The poor shall oppress his children," since the meaning of the verb יְרַצּוּ is doubtful. But the translation of the Authorized Version seems preferable. His children will curry favour with the poor, either by making restitution to them on account of their father's injuries, or simply because they are friendless, and desire to ingratiate themselves with some one. And his hands shall restore their goods (comp. vers. 15 and 18). He himself will be so crushed and broken in spirit that he will give back with his own hands the goods whereof he has deprived the poor. The restitution, i.e., will be made, in many cases, not by the oppressor's children, but by the oppressor himself.
His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.
Verse 11. - His bones are full of the sin of his youth; literally, his bones are full of his youth; i.e. lusty and strong, full of youthful vigour. There is no sign of weakness or decay about them. Yet they shall lie down with him in the dust. A little while, and these vigorous bones, this entire body, so full of life and youth, shall be lying with the man himself, with all that constitutes his personality, in the dust of death (comp. vers. 24, 25).
Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue;
Verses 12, 13. - Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth; i.e. though the wicked man delight in his wickedness, and gloat over it, and keep the thought of it in his mind, as a gourmand keeps, so long as he can, a delicious taste in his mouth; though he, as it were, hide it under his tongue, in order not to let it escape him; though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth, yet, notwithstanding all this, disgust and nausea arrive in course of time (see the next two verses). It is, perhaps, the most surprising among the phenomena of wickedness that men can gloat over it, voluntarily recur to it, make a boast of it, recount signal instances of it to their friends, and seem to find a satisfaction in the recollection. One would have expected that shame and self-disapproval and fear of retribution would have led them to dismiss their wicked acts from their thoughts as soon as possible. But certainly the fact is otherwise.
Though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:
Yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.
Verse 14. - Yet his meat in his bowels is turned. Still, a time comes when the self-complacency of the wicked man is shaken. He experiences a failure of health or spirits. Then, suddenly, it is as if the meat that he has swallowed had been turned to poison in his bowels, as if the gall of asps were within him. Compare what Bishop Butler says of the sudden waking up of a man's conscience ('Analogy,' pt. 1. ch. 2. p. 52). The ancients seem to have known that the poison of serpents was a strong acid, and therefore supposed that it was secreted by the gallbladder (see Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 11:37).
He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.
Verse 15. - He hath swallowed down riches and he shall vomit them up again. The wicked man shall be made to disgorge his ill-gotten gains. Either fear, or remorse, or a judicial sentence will force him to make restitution (see ver. 10). God shall cast them out of his belly. Whatever is the immediate motive of the restitution: it will really be God's doing. He will cause the fear, or the remorse, or bring about the judicial sentence.
He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him.
Verse 16. - He shall suck the poison of asps. Probably Zophar does not affix any very distinct meaning to his threats. He is content to utter a series of fierce-sounding but vague menaces, which he knows that Job will regard as launched against himself, and does not care whether they are taken metaphorically or literally. Job will be equally distressed in either ease. The viper's tongue shall slay him. It is really the viper's tooth, and not his tongue, that slays; but Zophar is not, any more than Job (Job 27:18), an accomplished naturalist.
He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.
Verse 17. - He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks. The wicked man shall suffer, not only positive pains, but what casuists call the peens damni, or "penalty of loss" - deprivation, in other words, of blessings which he would naturally have enjoyed but for his wickedness. Zophar here threatens him with the Joss of those paradisiacal delights which the Orientals associated with water in all its forms, whether as פּלגות, or "rills derived from larger streams," or as כהרי, "rivers," or as כחלי, "brooks" or "torrents," now strong and impetuous, now reduced to a mere thread These are said poetically to flow with honey and butter, not, of course, in any literal sense, such as Ovid may have meant, when, in describing the golden age, he said -
"Flumina jam lactis, jam fiumina nectaris ibant;"
(Metaph.,' 1:111.) but as fertilizing the land through which they ran, and so causing it to abound with bees and cattle, whence would be derived butter and honey. Compare the terms in which Canaan was described to the Israelites (Exodus 3:8, 17; Exodus 13:5; Deuteronomy 26:9, 15, etc.).
That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down: according to his substance shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice therein.
Verse 18. - That which he laboured for he shall restore. Even that which he gets by his own honest labour he shall have to part with and give up. He shall not swallow it down; i.e. "shall not absorb it, and make it his own." According to his substance shall the restitution be. So Schultens, Professor Lee, and Dr. Stanley Leathes, who understand Zophar as asserting that, in order to compensate those whom he has robbed, the wicked man will have to make over to them all the wealth that is honestly his Others translate, "According to the substance that he hath gotten, he shall not rejoice" (see the Revised Version, and the commentaries of Ewald, Delitzsch, and Dillmann).
Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;
Verse 19. - Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor. These charges are now for the first time insinuated against Job; later on, they are openly brought by Eliphaz (Job 22:5-9). Job denies them categorically in Job 29:11-17. They seem to have been pure calumnies, without an atom of foundation. Because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not. Another calumny, doubtless. Something like it was insinuated by Eliphaz in Job 15:28.
Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.
Verse 20. - Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly; rather, became he knew no quietness in his belly or within him (see the Revised Version); i.e. because his greed and his rapacity were insatiable - he was never at rest, but continually oppressed and plundered the poor more and more (see the comment on ver. 19). He shall not save of that which he desired; or, he shall not save aught of that wherein he delighteth (see the Revised Version). For his oppression, for his violence, for his insatiable greed, he shall be punished by retaining nothing of all those delightful things which he had laid up for himself during the time that he was powerful and prosperous
There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods.
Verse 21. - There shall none of his meat be left; rather, there was nothing left that he detoured not, or nothing remained over from his eating (Schultens). Scarcely intended literally, as Canon Cook supposes. Rather said in reference to the wicked man's persistent oppression and robbery of the poor, the needy, and the powerless (comp. vers. 19, 20; and note our Lord's words, "Ye devour widows' houses," Matthew 23:14). Therefore shall no man look for his goods. This is an impossible rendering. Translate, with Rosenmuller, Canon Cook, Stanley Leathes, and our Revisers, therefore his prosperity shall not endure. In other words, a Nemesis shall overtake him. For his oppression and cruelty he shall be visited by the Divine auger; a sudden end shall be made of his prosperity, and he shall fall into penury and misfortune. Covert allusion is, no doubt, intended to Job's sudden loss of his extraordinary prosperity by the series of calamities so graphically portrayed in Job 1:13-19.
In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.
Verse 22. - In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits. Even while his wealth and prosperity remain, he shall find himself in difficulties, since every hand of the wicked (or rather, the hand of every one that is wretched) shall come upon him; i.e. all those who are poor and miserable, especially such as he has made poor and miserable, shall turn against him, and vex him.
When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.
Verse 23. - When he is about to fill his belly (comp. vers. 12-18); i.e. "when he is on the point of making some fresh attack upon the weak and defenceless." God shall east the fury of his wrath upon him (comp. Psalm 78:30, 31, where a far less harmful lust is noted as having brought down the Divine vengeance). And shall rain it upon him while he is eating; or, as his food (comp. Psalm 11:6, "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup").
He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.
Verse 24. - He shall flee from the iron weapon. This is no indication of the late authorship of Job. Iron was in use in Egypt at a very early date. A thin plate of it was found by Colonel Howard Vyse embedded in the masonry of the great pyramid; and iron implements and ornaments, iron spear-heads, iron sickles, iron gimlets, iron keys, iron bracelets, iron wire, have been found in the early tombs not infrequently (see the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 505). That they are not more common is accounted for by the rapid oxidization of iron by exposure to the air, and its rapid decay in the nitrous soil of Egypt. The inhabitants of South-Western Asia were at no time much behind the Egyptians in their knowledge of the useful arts: and iron appears as a well-known metal in the Jewish Scriptures from the time of the Exodus (see Numbers 35:16; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 8:9; Deuteronomy 28:23; Joshua 8:31). It is true that the principal weapons of war continued to be made ordinarily of bronze, both in South-Western Asia and in Egypt, till a comparatively late period; but Zophar may mean to assign to the slayer of the wicked man weapons of a superior character. And the bow of steel shall strike him through. It is uncertain whether steel was known in the ancient world. But, whether or no, "steel" is not meant here. The word used in the original is nehushtah, which undoubtedly means either "copper" or "bronze." As copper would be too soft a material for a bow, we may assume bronze to be intended. The bronze used in Egypt was extremely elastic, and there would have been little difficulty in fashioning bows of it (on the existence of such bows, see 2 Samuel 26:5; Psalm 18:34).
It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors are upon him.
Verse 25. - It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; rather, he draweth it forth and it cometh out of his body (see the Revised Version). The stricken man draws the arrow from his flesh, the natural action of every one so wounded. If the arrow was simply tipped with a smooth iron point, it would be easy to withdraw it; but a barbed arrow could only be cut out. Yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall; rather, the glittering point. The arrow is supposed to have pierced the gall-bladder, and to be drawn forth from it. There would be little chance of recovery in such a case. Hence terrors are upon him.
All darkness shall be hid in his secret places: a fire not blown shall consume him; it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle.
Verse 26. - All darkness shall be hid in his secret places; literally, all darkness is reserved for his treasures' which some understand of his hidden earthly treasures, which no one shall ever find - some of the retribution laid up for him by God, which will be such darkness as Job describes in Job 10:21, 22. A fire not blown shall consume him; i.e. "a fire lighted by no human hands," probably lightning or brimstone from heaven (Job his tent, i.e. in his dwelling. His wife, his children, if he has any, and his domestics, shall be involved in the general ruin.
The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.
Verse 27. - The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him. This is Zophar's reply to the appeal which Job made (in Job 16:18, 19) to heaven and earth to bear their witness in his favour. Heaven, he says, instead of testifying to his innocence, will one day, when the books are opened (Revelation 20:12), "reveal his iniquity;" and earth, instead of echoing his cry, will "rise up" in indignation "against him." He will have none either in heaven or earth to take his part, or give any testimony in his favour.
The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath.
Verse 28. - The increase of his house shall depart. "The increase of his house" may be either his children and descendants; or his substance - that which he has accumulated. In the former case, the departure spoken of may be either death (see ver. 26), or carrying into captivity; in the latter, general rapine and destruction. And his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath. It seems to be necessary to supply some such nominative as "his goods," or "his treasure," צפוניו (see ver. 26). These shall "flow away," i.e. melt and disappear, "in the day of his wrath," i.e. the day when wrath comes upon him.
This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
Verse 29. - This is the portion of a wicked man from God; i.e. the lot, or possession of a wicked man - that which God makes over to him as his own in the last resort, and which is all that he has to look for. In other words, it is the heritage appointed unto him by God (comp. Job 27:13). As to some God, at the last, will assign an inheritance of good, so to others he will appoint an inheritance of evil