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Zophar responds according to his "spirit of understanding"

Job 20

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered, 
"Therefore my disquieting thoughts make me respond,
         Even because of my inward agitation. 
"I listened to the reproof which insults me,
         And the spirit of my understanding makes me answer.
Job 20:1-3

Job's last speech has filled Zophar with indignation. While he is insulted that Job charged them with having no shame that they had wronged him with their insults, he is greatly angered that Job dare think that God will condemn them for trying to convince Job of his great sin and his need to repent (see Job 19:28-29). After-all, Zophar believes he has a "spirit of understanding" and with such knowledge and wisdom he can't be wrong!

The rest of chapter 20 is Zophar's description of how the wicked mistreat the poor and take what isn't their's. The wicked's materialistic greed will soon be "vomited out" as God will not allow him to prosper. Not only will the wicked lose what he gained, but he will die an early death.  

"This is the wicked man's portion from God,
 Even the heritage decreed to him by God."
All of what Zophar said would be fine if he were speaking of wicked men in general, but most likely he is referring to Job and charging Job with mistreating the poor and taking from others that which didn't belong to him. Zophar, once again, with a total lack of compassion (not to mention understanding), points his accusing finger at Job that he is being punished by God for his great wickedness.

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 The Prosperity of the Wicked - Job 21

Job responds to Zophar's inconsistencies concerning the wicked man.

Up until this time, while Job has made some response to the friend's accusations about him, his main focus in his speeches have been that of his lack of comfort from his friends and others, and especially his unanswered questions directed to God. Now, in chapter 21, Job addresses the argument from the three men, especially Zophar that the wicked prosper only a short time before they are destroyed. This self-declared wisdom had the underlying meaning that Job must be very wicked to have his life destroyed to this degree. Job is not going to focus on himself in his response, but rather the inconsistency and lack of wisdom Zophar spoke in regards that the wicked never prosper.

21:1-6

"Listen carefully to my speech, and let this be your consolation. Bear with me that I may speak, and after I have spoken, keep mocking."

While the friends had not given Job the comfort he needed, Job tells them if they will listen he will comfort them with truth. Job is not fooled for a minute that he is going to convince these men with truth as he knows their heart and is prepared for continual mocking when he is finished.

"As for me, is my complaint against man? And if it were, why should I not be impatient?"

Job has never come to man to find wisdom, nor has he asked his friends to explain his suffering; his complaints and questions have been directed to God, knowing God's wisdom and rule over creation. All Job wanted from his friends was some friendly comfort, but rather than consolation he received reproof and condemnation in their mistaken "wisdom." From the beginning his friends had reproved his complaints and impatience and now Job tells them that, under the circumstance, why shouldn't he be impatient. He wanted answers from God. He tells the men to quit talking and look at him - even he is horrified in the way God has dealt with him. (Remember, Job doesn't know what we know.)

As we continue with the chapter we need to remember the friend's reasoning and reproof to Job:

  1. The wicked do not prosper; their prosperity will be taken away.
  2. Job, your prosperity was taken away.
  3. Job, you are wicked and need to repent. 

The Prosperity of the Wicked

Job understands his friend's insinuations about him; he knows they believe he is wicked because of the great calamities in his life. Rather than argue his righteousness, he now argues the point that sometimes the wicked do indeed prosper in this life. All these men had to do is ask those who travel and have seen much in this world (see vs 29); these travelers can point out the friend's inconsistencies and tell of many wicked men who have remain prosperous in this earthly life. And, indeed, we can witness this today.

In verses 7-13 Job describes the prosperity that the wicked sometimes have in this life:

  • They live to old age.
  • Become powerful.
  • They live to see their descendants.
  • They are safe in their houses and God does not chastise them (in this life).
  • Their animals bear many offspring.
  • They and their families enjoy life.
  • They are wealthy and when it comes time for death, they go immediately without lingering in pain.

All these blessings happen to men who:

  • Tell God to depart from them, for they do not desire to know God and His teachings.
  • Say, "Who is God that we should serve Him and what profit is there to pray to Him? (vss 14-15)

Is Prosperity the Barometer in Which We Can Measure Righteousness?

While Job may be overstating the prosperity of the wicked, he is not trying to prove that every wicked man has a long life free from problems and cares. Job is stating the inconsistency Zophar and the other two stated that no wicked man prospers in this life. In Job's argument to he contrary he points out (vss 16-33):

  • The wicked are allowed by God to prosper.
  • While the wicked sometimes do prosper, Job recognizes in his righteousness he does not. This isn't said in complaint, but rather a point of truth; good things may happen to the wicked and bad things may happen to the righteous.
  • Job asked how often are the wicked destroyed on this earth, making the point that there is no universal law that all wicked men will be destroyed in this life. If the 3 men are going to argue their point that Job is wicked because the wicked are destroyed, then they must be consistent and agree that all wicked are destroyed. Job knows they can't make a universal statement that all wicked men are destroyed because all they have to do is look around and they will see how some wicked men do indeed prosper up until their death.
  • Job anticipates the men may argue that God waits and takes His wrath out on the wicked man's children, so the children will receive the destruction their wicked father deserved. Job argues that if all wicked are destroyed then may God destroy them while they are alive and not put the destruction on their children, as the wicked man will not care what happens to his family after his death. Job is just saying this for their benefit based on the presumptions the men may make.
  • Can any of us teach God knowledge and the way of the world since He is the judge. Who are we to say what God does and doesn't do when we have no proof, nor do we have the power and wisdom of God. After all mankind in his wickedness and righteousness may die at a young age, full and prosperous or he may die in poverty and want. All men will die, no matter their prosperity and all will lie in dust, eaten by worms.
  • Job lets the men know he understands their thoughts concerning him and their belief that he is a wicked man destroyed by God. He points out that the travelers have witnessed the truths Job has pointed out that the wicked often prosper, therefore, the argument that Job is wicked because he was destroyed doesn't bear weight. You can not prove a man's wickedness, nor righteousness by his prosperity or lack thereof.
  • He points out the death of the prosperous wicked is also sweet as he has not been repaid in life for his wickedness and in death his grave is watched over. Many wicked died in this manner before him and many will die after him.

Job concludes with asking the men why do they think they are comforting Job with empty, false answers that do not contain truth.

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Job's "Great Wickedness" as Described by Eliphaz

Job 22

Eliphaz accused Job of having "great wickedness" and "iniquity without end." He then lists a number of evil things Job had done, or rather he lied about a number of things, having no proof whatsoever.

He accused Job of:

  • Taking pledges from his brother for no reason. According to Mosaic law, if one takes another's garment for a pledge it had to be returned before night, Exodus 22 26. No one could take another's millstone in pledge as that was his living, Deu. 24 6. No one could take a widow's garment as a pledge, Deu. 24;17. Eliphaz accused Job of taking pledges for no reason and leaving the person out in the cold.
  • He stripped the naked of his clothing.
  • He did not give the weary water to drink.
  • He withheld bread from the hungry.
  • He sent widows away empty.
  • He crushed the orphans.

Eliphaz is not just mistaken, he is wrong, sinfully wrong. In fact, these accusations are lies and in order to prove his point that Job's trials are punishments from God, he resorts to lying because he has no proof whatsoever Job is a wicked man.

It's interesting to read of Eliphaz's description of Job when they first began their conversation in Job 4;3-4, "Surely you have instructed many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees." Eliphaz's frustration with Job's lack of confession and lack of repentance, as well as Job not heeding his wisdom, brought Eliphaz to the point of angry disgust at a man who refused to act upon his words. Thus Eliphaz resorts to false accusations and excuses himself for doing so.

Again in verses 21-30 Eliphaz exhorts Job to return to God and be at peace.

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Job 23

Job still seeks the judgment seat of God in order to plead his case before God. Job is confident God would hear him, understand him, and vindicate him. Job knows that after God's testing of him, he would come forth as refined gold (vs. 10). As Job has been accused by the three men of great wickedness, his confidence in his righteousness is unwavering as he states in verses 11 and 12: "My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than necessary food."

However, Job continues with thoughts that God is "unique" or of one mind and unchangable; He does what He pleases. When Job considers this, He is terrified of God for why did God not cut him off rather than have him suffer so. Why was he not shielded from such darkness.


"I have treasured the words of His mouth more than necessary food."


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Job 24

Where is God's Justice When the Wicked Prosper on This Earth?

Vss. 1: “Since times are not hidden from the Almighty,
 Why do those who know Him see not His days?"

Since God can see all man's way, why doesn't man see his judgments on the earth?

Vss. 2-11: Job proceeds with a description of the ways of the wicked:

They remove landmarks, seize flocks violently, take advantage of the orphans and widows, mistreat the poor and needy to where they must go off into the desert to hide. The poor must search for food in the wilderness for their families and spend the night there without proper protection from the cold and rain. They work for the wicked, yet the wicked have no concern for their welfare.

Vs. 12: The oppressed groan and cry out for justice, but God is silent.

Vss. 13-17: The wicked rebel against the light. They are murderers, killing the poor and needy. They are adulterers waiting for the night so no one will see them. They are thieves who mark houses in the daytime to break into at night. In the daytime they live in fear of being recognized.

Vss. 18-21: The wicked should be cursed and in the end they will be. The grave will consume them and they will be remembered no more. The wicked had preyed on women who no man to protect her and while the wicked seem to prosper, God sees, God knows, and they will be brought low.

Vs. 25: Job challenges his friends to prove him wrong concerning what he had just said about the wicked. His friends had previously stated all the terrible things that happen to the wicked (with the idea Job was one of these wicked). Job argued the wicked do prosper in this life, although they will be brought low in death. Job had observed this and he dared his friends to prove him wrong.

While there was some truth in both the friend's speeches as well as Job's, there was also mistakes in that not all the wicked prosper and not all the wicked are severely punished on this earth. The truth that exist is the fact Job is not wicked and his trials were not the result from living a wicked life, nor were they a punishment from God.