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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 11

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-6

Zophar Speaks (11:1-20)

You Are Getting Less Than You Deserve (11:1-6)

The tenor of Zophar’s first speech is noticeably different from those of Eliphaz and Bildad. Again this may be due to the way the author conceived of the character of the man, but more likely it is a device to indicate the mounting tension of the discussion (compare 8:2). Zophar speaks in more direct and unambiguous terms than the other two, and does not hesitate to make the specific charge of Job’s sinfulness.

In the same way the opening words are stronger than those of Eliphaz, and even those of Bildad. Zophar speaks of Job as a man "full of talk," or literally "a man of lips," intimating that his words are not sincere. He regards his speech as "babble" and, worse, a mockery of God. The definite charge appears at verse 4. The first half is not a direct quotation but a rough summary of the direction of Job’s thought. The second half recalls Job’s affirmations in Job 9:21 and Job 10:7. His claim to be "clean" is the mockery which Zophar attacks, for he, like the others, insists on carrying on the discussion solely in terms of man’s absolute righteousness.

Job has expressed his longing to speak to God and so present his case, although he knows the difficulty of such an enterprise (Job 9:3; Job 9:15-16). Zophar in turn wishes that God would speak to Job, in which case Job would find out far more than he bargained for. Specifically he would learn the "secrets of wisdom" which, in Zophar’s viewpoint, would not be some kind of esoteric knowledge but the catalogue of Job’s sins which God alone knew. This becomes clear when Zophar brings his charge to its point in the last line of verse 6.

Verses 7-12

It Is Useless to Try to Understand God (11:7-12)

Implicit in Job’s complaints was the desire to understand his own case and, indeed, the general purpose and action of God. That this is possible Zophar categorically denies. In a passage of great beauty and, it must be admitted, of fundamental truth, he dwells on the impossibility of man’s knowing the "deep things of God" or "the limit of the Almighty." Zophar knows that a complete definition of God would be the end of God. In verse 10 there is a reminiscence of Job’s words in Job 9:12. Where Job makes the remark in bitterness, as an example of the indiscriminate operations of God, Zophar quotes it with apparent approval as an example of God’s unsearchable nature and power. That he is indiscriminate, however, he denies, for God "knows worthless men" and does not ignore iniquity.

The natural effect of such a view of God, if completely unmodified, would be to abrogate the search for wisdom of any kind and to retire into agnosticism, an effect which Zophar comes close to expressing in verse 12. The Hebrew here is difficult, but the Revised Standard Version is probably right in understanding this as a statement of the utter impossibility that a stupid man (Job) should ever attain wisdom (see also 12:3).

Verses 13-20

You Need to Set Your Heart Aright (11:13-20)

Where then is wisdom? In Zophar’s theology it is simply in submission, even if it be submission to unreason, and in repentance, even if there be no known sin. He counsels Job to give up the search for knowledge of God and to give himself to practical amendment of his own ways. In common with the others (Job 5:17-27; Job 8:20-22), but with even greater beauty, Zophar describes the happy issue which will come to Job when he thus submits. Particularly noticeable are Zophar’s promising words, "There is hope" (vs. 18). In Job 7:6 Job has denied that he has hope, and to that denial he will return in Job 14:7 and Job 17:15-16. In some sense Zophar’s words are prophetic, although they are insufficiently grounded. He promised the right thing for the wrong reason. The only ground of hope for Job was God himself, but it could not be the absent and unknowable God of the friends.

In the end, in keeping with the generally intense flavor of his speech, Zophar warns Job of the alternative. The wicked have no way out, and their only "hope" is death.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 11". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-11.html.
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