Humble Yourselves Beneath the Mighty Hand of God
Job 11:1-20
Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,…

Zophar, the youngest of the friends, now comes forward once more to beat down the complaint of Job with the old arguments and commonplaces. To support his words, he does not appeal to a vision like Eliphaz, nor rely on the wisdom of the ancients like Bildad, but depends on his own understanding and zealous though narrow instinct for God. His whole speech is an example of the beauty and, at the same time, the defect of religious zeal. In anxiety for God's honour he forgets to be considerate of his fellow-man. The general contents of the speech may be characterized as the rebuke of human ignorance.

I. INDIGNANT DENUNCIATION OF HUMAN COMPLIANT. (Vers. 1-4.) He terms Job's outpourings a "torrent of words," "vain talk," and impious "mockery," a scoffing; and Job himself is an idle "prater." Further, he stoutly sums up all Job's speeches as meaning shortly this: "My teaching is pure, and I am guiltless in God's eyes." Job, in fact, has stepped quite out of his place, in Zophar's opinion, laying down principles and doctrines instead of meekly and penitently suffering in silence. It is an unjust view, manifestly; and we should be warned against the danger, in pleading for God, of being unjust and unfair, hard and uncharitable, to our fellow-man. To fetter the tongue, to attempt to lay fetters on the free course of the mind, especially in its moment of sorrow, may be to inflict a cruel injury on a sensitive heart.

II. WISH FOR GOD'S APPEARANCE. (Vers. 5, 6.) He desires that God in the fulness of his revelation, in the complete disclosure of knowledge and truth, may convince Job how "doubly strong" is Wisdom in her nature and penetrating power (ver. 6). Here would Job learn that, so far from being unjustly punished, God has rather passed by much of his guilt, and punishes him far less than he deserves. Here two defects are contrasted.

1. Half-knowledge of God. This according, to Zophar, is Job's condition. He has but a partial understanding of God; and the little that he sees he misapplies, and so is led into perplexity and passion. Zophar, assuming guilt in Job, deems, and wrongly, that Job is tempted to think only of his innocence, and to overlook his great and hidden sins. In the end (ch. 38.), when God does manifest himself, Job does recognize that he is but a half-knower, but not that he is a hypocrite.

2. But there is, on the other hand, the assumption of knowledge on the part of the rebuking speaker which is not less a fault. This is, indeed, the error of all the friends, and it awaits the Divine answer. In seeking to remove the mote from Job's eye, they are unconscious of the beam in their own. These differences may be reconciled if we bear in mind the great saying of St. Paul, that we see but in part, and know but in part, and that all perplexities are solved by an absolute faith in the Divine love. We see again and again illustrated in Divine things the truth that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

III. CHALLENGE TO HUMAN IGNORANCE: THE UNSEARCHABLENESS OF GOD. (Vers. 7-9.) All measures of vastness, all ideas of infinity, are called in to impress this thought. The might and the wisdom of God are high as the unscalable heaven, deep as the dark lower world (comp. Job 22:12; Job 26:6). The infinity of God embraces the whole earth, and reaches beyond; it is longer than the firm land, broader than the broad sea, so that before it there is nothing too lofty, too obscure, too remote. It is the fixed thought-embrace of the universe. Will mortal man, then, be guilty of the folly of quarrelling with God's wisdom and power, and so incur the full weight of his judgment? Rather let him be dumb, and open not his mouth, and say, "Thou hast done it."

IV. HUMAN IGNORANCE CONVICTED AND ABASHED BEFORE THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. (Vers. 10-12.) If God holds judgment with this supreme wisdom and power, then plainly man, be he never so stupid and obstinately ignorant of his guilt, must forthwith become conscious of it; and though he were furious and wild as a wild ass (comp. Job 39:5, 8), he must be subdued by that omnipotent power into tameness and docility. "The wild ass is now born as a man," converted by the terror of that moment of judgment. So speaks Zophar with caustic rebuke of what he considers the contumacy of Job. He seems to turn the language of Job, in Job 9:11, et seq to his own purpose. Thus the arrival of the Judge to execute judgment is in the rush of a rapid storm (ver. 10). He "passes bye" and thereupon follows the "shutting-up" or arrest of the accused, that he may not escape during the judgment; and then the "gathering together" of the people to hear the judgment.

V. WORDS OF HOPE AND PROMISE. (Vers. 13-20.) Severe as are the speeches of the three friends, they yet have a clear apprehension of the eternal gospel of God's mercy, and insist on the unfailing hope set before the true penitent in that gospel-1. Conditions.

(1) (Ver. 13.) The "direction," or "preparation," or setting straight, of the heart. This is the first thing. Crooked feelings, perverted principles, must be rectified. There must be sincere penitence. Happiness does not begin with the outward life to pass into the inward; the process is the reverse. And the restoration must be in the same order. If the inward life be purified, the outward will flow into peace.

(2) Along with this there must be the "spreading forth of the hands to God;" in other words, true prayer. The symbol is put for the thing signified, the rite for the reality. Very significant and beautiful was the Hebrew attitude of prayer. It expressed longing, urgency, the effort of the soul to seize and hold fast the unseen power and grace in time of need.

(3) (Ver. 14.) There must be the removal of all previous iniquity from the home as well as the heart. Every vestige and association of it must be swept away - all that might remind the soul of forbidden pleasures, and tempt it into renewal of its sin. It might be well for a man in the endeavour to make his repentance thorough and sincere, and might help his mind to form new associations, to renew the face of his dwelling from top to bottom, and cast out all articles of furniture, pictures, utensils, etc., that might bring up the thought of former evil. For some minds it would at least be a wholesome discipline. At all events, let nothing be left undone to cleanse the heart, the imagination, the inward chambers of the soul, in preparation for the coming of the gracious renewing, consecrating presence of the Divine Guest.

2. The consequences of return to God.

(1) Courage (ver. 15), fresh, calm, and strong. Referring to Job's complaint (Job 10:15) that he is compelled to bow his head in ignominy before the unworthy, his friend declares that he will be enabled to lift it up in the face of day. How serene the face, how clear the glance, how assured the step of the man who has no coward secret of ill in his heart, who by confession and repentance has made the mighty God his Friend!

(2) Oblivion of sorrow. (Ver. 16.) Is memory on the whole a greater blessing or torment? Alas! Job has lately found it to be the latter. The "remembering happier things" has proved his "crown of sorrow." Like a returning tide, it has cast his wrecked treasures at his feet. But on the turning of his heart to God these bitter memories shall be carried away, as on a flowing stream, till they pass out of sight and disappear. Thank God that we can remember; but thank God, too, that we can forget!

(3) A season of brightness. (Ver. 17.) Even if the darkness come, it will be comparatively light like the morning-exactly opposite to Job 10:22. For there is no darkness to him who has God as the Guest of his soul.

(4) Rest unbroken by danger (vers. 18, 19); cheerful hope in toil; the respect and homage of friends and suitors. For there is something magnetic in piety and goodness; it seems a kind of amber which attracts to itself. Such will be, ever are, the fruits of a heart free from guile, and at peace with God. Zophar's enthusiastic picture is fitted to kindle a love of virtue and piety; but its exclusion of the facts and relations of life renders it but partially true, like the maxims of his two friends. We must be content to feel that there is a truth, and a very deep and Divine truth, in this sequence, without denying that there are complications of this truth with others, as in the case of Job, which God and eternity can alone unravel.


1. The languor of vain longing. Their eyes waste and consume with watching and tears for a dawn that never comes (comp. Psalm 6:7).

2. Escape from the prima of their woe is denied.

3. Hope and life are together extinguished. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

WEB: Then Zophar, the Naamathite, answered,

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