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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Job 20

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.

Therefore - 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 ( sª`ipay (H5587), as in Job 4:13) shall furnish my answer, because of the excitement (haste) within me' (Umbreit). But the English version is good sense: "Therefore my thoughts cause me to answer (literally, answer for me: supply me with an answer), and for this I make haste" (literally, my haste is in me) - namely, (because) "I have heard the check," etc. (Job 20:3).

Verse 3

I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.

Check of my reproach - i:e., the castigation intended as a reproach (literally, shame) to me (Job 19:29).

And - rather, 'but.'

Spirit of ... understanding - literally, 'the spirit from my 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.

Verse 4

Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth,

Knowest thou not? From thy way of behaving, one would think thou didst not know.

Verse 5

That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?

Hypocrite - literally, the ungodly (Psalms 37:35-36).

Verse 6

Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;

(Isaiah 14:13).

Verse 7

Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?

Dung - in contrast to the haughtiness of the sinner (Job 20:6); this strong term expresses disgust and the lowest degradation (Psalms 83:10; 1 Kings 14:10).

Verse 8

He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.

Fly away - (Psalms 90:10 ) as a dream - (Isaiah 29:7; Psalms 73:20). Fly away - (Psalms 90:10 ) as a dream - (Isaiah 29:7; Psalms 73:20).

Verse 9

The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.

'The eye followeth him, but can discern him no more' (Psalms 103:16). A sharp looking is meant (Job 28:7; cf. Job 7:10). (Umbreit.)

Verse 10

His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.

Seek to please - `atone to the poor' (by restoring the property of which they been robbed by the father) (DeWette). "The children" are reduced to the humiliating condition of 'seeking the favour of those very poor' whom the father had oppressed. [ Yªratsuw (H7521) is taken by the English version from raatsaah (H7521), to delight, or please; but by Maurer and Umbreit, from raatsats (H7533) to break, or oppress as margin; and so the old versions.] 'The poor shall oppress his sons:' the very poor who had been reduced to want by the oppression of the father.

His hands - rather, their (the children's) hands.

Their goods - the goods of the poor. Righteous retribution! (Exodus 20:5.)

Verse 11

His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.

(Psalms 25:7); so the Vulgate. Gesenius has 'full of youth'-namely, in the fullness of his youthful strength he shall be laid in the dust. But "bones" plainly alludes to Job's diseases, probably to Job's own words (Job 19:20). Umbreit translates [`ªluwmaaw], instead, of "youth," 'full of his secret sins.' as in Psalms 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), "Our rest together is in the dust."

With him. His sin had so pervaded his nature that it accompanies him to the grave: for eternity the sinner cannot get 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 (Revelation 22:11).

Verse 12

Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue;

Be - `taste sweet.' Sin's fascination is like poison, sweet to the taste, but at last deadly to the vital organs (Proverbs 20:17, "Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterward his mouth shall be filled with gravel." Proverbs 9:17-18).

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

Verse 13

Though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:

Forsake it not - does not let it go from his mouth down his throat, so as the longer to enjoy its sweet relish.

Verse 14

Yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.

Turned - changed into poison. The Hebrew denotes a total change into a disagreeable contrary (Jeremiah 2:21; cf. Revelation 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.

Verse 15

He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly. He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.

He is forced to disgorge his ill-gotten wealth.

Verse 16

He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him.

Shall suck - it shall turn out that he has sucked the poison, etc.

Verse 17

He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.

The wicked is not allowed to have the enjoyment of the overflowing abundance of goods which he has accumulated.

Floods - literally, streams of floods; plentiful streams flowing with milk, etc. (Job 29:6; Exodus 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.

Verse 18

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.

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

Restitution - (so Proverbs 6:31.). The parallelism favours the English version "according to his substance, so shall be his restitution'-literally, 'according to the substance of his recompence' or restitution), 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).

Verse 19

Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;

Oppressed - whereas he ought to have espoused their cause (2 Chronicles 16:10).

Forsaken - left helpless.

House. Thus leaving, the poor without shelter, (Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:2, "take by violence houses").

Verse 20

Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.

Shall not - rather, 'For he knows (or knew) no quietness' or rest from desires.

In his belly - i:e., inwardly.

Not save - literally, 'not escape with that which he desired'-namely, with his much-prized wealth. Alluding to Job's having been stripped of his all.

Verse 21

There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods.

There shall none of his meat be left. Maurer translates 'Nothing was left to his voracity' - i:e., nothing escaped his voracity. The English version gives good sense-literally, 'Nothing shall be left for his meat.'

Look for - rather, because his goods, i:e., prosperity, shall have no endurance [ yachiyl (H2342)].

Verse 22

In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.

Shall be - rather, 'he is (feeleth) straitened' (Umbreit). The next clause explains in what respect. The English version is good sense: 'In the fullness, of him abundance he shall be reduced to straits.'

Wicked - rather, 'the whole hand of the miserable [ `aameel (H6001)] (whom he had oppressed) cometh upon him;' namely, the sense of his having oppressed the poor, now in turn comes with all its power (hands) on him (Job 15:21). This causes his 'straitened' feeling even in prosperity (Umbreit). Or 'every head of those made miserable by him shall come upon him:' they all shall literally attack him to take revenge.

Verse 23

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.

Rather, 'God shall cast (may God send) (Umbreit) upon him the fury of His wrath to fill his belly!' i:e., to satisfy his insatiable covetousness.

While eating - rather 'shall rain it upon him for his food!' Fiery rain - i:e., lightning (Psalms 11:6; alluding to John 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 (Exodus 16:4; Psalms 68:9). His craving appetite, never satisfied, shall at least get enough of the kind of food which God shall send-fiery judgments rained upon him.

Verse 24

He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.

Steel - rather, 'brass' [ nªchuwshaah (H5154)]. Whilst the wicked flees from one danger, he falls into a greater one from an opposite quarter (Umbreit).

Verse 25

It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors are upon him.

It is drawn - literally, 'He (God) draweth (the sword, Joshua 5:13), and (no sooner has He done so, than) it cometh out of (i:e., passes right through) the (sinner's) body' (Deuteronomy 32:41-42; Ezekiel 21:9-10). 'The glittering sword' is in the Hebrew "lightning" [ baaraaq (H1300)].

Gall - i:e., his life (Job 16:13) 'inflicts a deadly wound.'

Terrors - the terrors of death, which with horror he perceives approaching through the deadly wound. Zophar repeats Bildad's words (Job 18:11; Psalms 88:16; Psalms 55:4).

Verse 26

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.

All darkness - i:e., every calamity that befalls the wicked shall be hid (in store for him) in His (God's secret places or treasures, Jude 1:13; Deut. 33:34 ). Maurer, not so well, takes it, 'in the sinner's secret treasures.'

Not blown - not kindled by man's hands, but by God's (Isaiah 30:33; Isaiah 33:11-14; the Septuagint, in Alexandrian manuscript, read 'unquenchable fire;' Matthew 3:12). Tact is shown by the friends in not expressly mentioning, but alluding, under colour 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).

Verse 27

The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.

All creation is at enmity with him, and proclaims his guilt, which he would fain conceal. He alludes to Job's own words (Job 16:18-19), in which he appealed to heaven and earth to attest his innocence.

Verse 28

The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath.

Increase - prosperity. Ill gotten-ill gone.

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

His wrath - God's.

Verse 29

This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.

Appointed - not as a matter of chance, but by the divine 'decree' (margin) and settled principle (cf. Job 18:21).


(1) When reproached by others, we need the more to take heed to our spirit, that we do not reply in hastiness, but in accordance with the calm dictates of reason (Job 20:2-3). We do not lose but gain weight by controlling our natural tempers; because the very term 'passion' implies that he who gives way to it is passive, acted on, instead of being capable of acting on others.

(2) The ungodly may seem to triumph for a time, but their triumph is of short-lived duration (Job 20:5-7). Hypocrisy is a losing game. It affords but a sorry satisfaction for the time that a man should be thought to be that which he knows in his heart he is not; and the mask is soon, and for ever, to be stripped off, and the hypocrite's naked deformity to be exposed before angels, men, and devils. The very height of the sinner's previous elevation only enhances the depth of his ignominious fall at last. All else, except solid piety, is like a vanishing dream. The place of the sinner who is most brilliantly prosperous now shall soon know him no more.

(3) Even in this world God's moral government for the most part causes the transgressor to suffer retribution in kind. "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). Sometimes the children (Job 20:10) of the oppressor have been fain to win the favour of those very poor whom their father had robbed. "The sin of his youth" (Job 20:11) often haunts his conscience with guilty remembrances, destroying all peace, and often leaves seeds of disease in the bodily constitution which remain with him for life. However sweet a man's pleasant sins be to him at the time, and however long he tries to prolong the enjoyment of them (Job 20:12-15), yet, presently, bitterness and death are the fatal result. Even in the midst of his affluence he is deprived of the enjoyment of it. He knows no inward rest amidst his plenty, and he shall ere long have to disgorge his ill-gotten wealth (Job 20:15; Job 20:18-20). He feels as though he were in straits amidst abundance (Job 20:22); and is continually fearing that the whole force for those whom he has reduced to misery shall suddenly attack him. His insatiable appetite shall at last receive at God's hands a shower of fiery wrath more than enough to fill him to the full (Job 20:23). God's glittering sword shall pierce him in an instant. Heaven and earth are against him. Where, then, can he flee to? Oh how sweet to the believer to know that he "is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24), and that God's anger is turned away (Isaiah 12:1) forever from him!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-20.html. 1871-8.
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