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Bible Commentaries
Job 20

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary


Job Chapter 20

Job 20:1 "Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,"

Job 20:2 "Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for [this] I make haste." You would have thought that there would be no reply to the statement Job made in the last chapter. He obviously believed, and even expressed it with his mouth. It appears, that Zophar did not hear what Job said. If he did hear, he did not believe Job was telling the truth.

Job 20:3 "I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer." Job had reproved him along with his other friends. Zophar thought he was compelled to answer.

Job 20:4 "Knowest thou [not] this of old, since man was placed upon earth,"

Job 20:5 "That the triumphing of the wicked [is] short, and the joy of the hypocrite [but] for a moment?" Zophar implied that there had been a tradition set in the beginning, that the wicked would not triumph for long. He believed Job was a hypocrite.

Job 20:6 "Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;"

Job 20:7 "[Yet] he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where [is] he?" Job had reached a very high position of prosperity before all of the calamity came upon him. It appears, that Zophar was jealous of that high esteem, and had hoped that Job would fall. It did not matter how highly he was thought of, Zophar said he would fall as low as Job had, sitting in the heap of ashes. He said he would fall so low that no one could find him. Some might ask, where had he gone.

Job 20:8 "He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night." He was speaking, here, of a dream not being real, and it being gone when morning came. A vision is very similar. He said Job would vanish, as if he had not been there in the first place.

Job 20:9 "The eye also [which] saw him shall [see him] no more; neither shall his place any more behold him." This was a threat to Job, that he would die and not be seen anymore of his people.

Job 20:10 "His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods." Job’s children were dead, so this was a useless threat from Zophar.

Job 20:11 "His bones are full [of the sin] of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust." It is so interesting, to me, that Zophar and Job’s other so-called friends kept speaking of Job’s sins in general, but not specifically. They did not specifically know of the sins they spoke of themselves. Now, Zophar was trying to reach back to Job’s youth for sins that he committed. Job had long since been forgiven for those sins.

Job 20:12 "Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, [though] he hide it under his tongue;"

Job 20:13 "[Though] he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:" This was speaking of the sweetness of sin. It was, also, saying that Job had not only tasted of sin and found it sweet, but had actually savoured the sin, and bragged to his friends about it.

Job 20:14 "[Yet] his meat in his bowels is turned, [it is] the gall of asps within him." This was speaking of the sin being sweet in the mouth, and bitter in the stomach and bowels. This was speaking of a man {supposedly Job} who had sinned, and later found the sin had been poison to his body.

Job 20:15 "He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly." It appears, to me, that Zophar and Job’s other friends had been jealous of Job’s riches, and they were very pleased, now, that those riches had been taken away. They believed that God had taken them from Job.

Job 20:16 "He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper’s tongue shall slay him." Zophar was trying to crush the spirit of Job with all the violent threats he put forth. The threats were of a general nature, but Job knew they were pointed to him.

Job 20:17 "He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter." The wicked man not only will suffer pain for the sins he committed, but will miss much of the beauty in the world, because he will die early.

Job 20:18 "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]." This was saying that the evil man would not even get to enjoy the things he had worked to get. Zophar said even that would be taken away from him. Zophar said that Job would have to give of his substance to those he had taken from in the past.

Job 20:19 "Because he hath oppressed [and] hath forsaken the poor; [because] he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;" Zophar was listing sins that could have been the ones that Job had committed, as if Job had definitely committed them. He said that he had oppressed the poor, and taken their house away from them.

Job 20:20 "Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired." This appears to be saying, that Job hungered more and more for the things that belonged to the poor. He was never satisfied. Zophar had made up that lie, so he added to it that Job would not be able to keep it, because he had gotten it by deceit.

Job 20:21 "There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods." Zophar said that God would take all of it away from him, so he would have nothing left for other men to take.

Job 20:22 "In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him." Zophar said that even while he was still wealthy, he would have no sufficiency, because the other wicked people would come and take what he had.

Job 20:23 "[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." He said that God attacked Job, before he could go out and oppress any more poor. Zophar said that God would rain down fire and brimstone upon Job for the evil he had done.

Job 20:24 "He shall flee from the iron weapon, [and] the bow of steel shall strike him through." These weapons turned against the evil man were of great strength. Of course, Job had not taken flight anywhere, so this again, was an untrue statement.

Job 20:25 "It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors [are] upon him." This was speaking of the bow being drawn, as if it were prepared to shoot through the evil man. This was speaking of a fatal wound to the gallbladder of the wicked man.

Job 20:26 "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." This darkness represented total separation from the Light of God. The fire mentioned, here, was not a fire that man had started. It was, possibly, speaking of the fire of hell. In the case of Job, his wife was left and some of his servants. Zophar said it would not go well with them, because they were living in Job’s house.

Job 20:27 "The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him." Job had asked for heaven and earth to witness for him. Zophar was saying that heaven and earth would be opposed to Job. He was trying to offset everything that Job had said.

Job 20:28 "The increase of his house shall depart, [and his goods] shall flow away in the day of his wrath." This was speaking after the fact. Job’s children were already dead. There would be no increase of Job, except for a miracle of God. Job’s goods had been taken in battle, as well.

Job 20:29 "This [is] the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God." Zophar was summarizing the things he had said in the last few verses that he thought would come to Job. He thought Job to be a very wicked man. The wicked man had no heritage. The thing Zophar was wrong about, was who the wicked man was.

Job 20 Questions

1. Who answered Job in this chapter?

2. I have heard the _________ of my reproach.

3. What did Zophar say had been since the beginning of the earth?

4. Zophar believed Job was a ____________.

5. Why had Zophar spoken so harshly, in Job 20:6-7, to Job?

6. The quickness of his departure is compared to what in verse 8? 7. What was Job 20:9 a threat of?

8. What sins of Job did Zophar bring up in Job 20:11?

9. Job 20:12 was speaking of the sweetness of ______. 10. What had he done with his riches?

11. What were some of the things the wicked man would not live to see?

12. Why would the wicked man not get to enjoy what he had worked for?

13. The iron weapon, in Job 20:24, was speaking of what?

14. What was the gall speaking of in Job 20:25?

15. What was the fire in Job 20:26?

16. Who was left in Job’s house?

17. Why did Zophar speak of heaven and earth in Job 20:27?

18. The increase of Job would have been his _________.

19. They were ______ at the time Zophar said this.

20. What was Zophar’s opinion of Job?

Verses 1-5

Job 20:1-5


Job 20



We reject the viewpoint of commentators who speak of Zophar’s "eloquent" sermon on the fate of the wicked. No speech is either honest or truthful that is designed to destroy a true servant of God; and, in our evaluation of Zophar’s crude and insulting speech, we must take into account his purpose, namely, that of forcing an innocent man to repent of sins he had not committed.

Yes, Zophar in this speech described the fate of the wicked; but like every evil philosophy it was only partially founded in truth: (1) Zophar’s description of what often happened to wicked men appeared here as a description of what always, invariably, and without exception happened! (2) Zophar’s description was purely materialistic. This earthly life, to Zophar, was all there is. There was no understanding or allowance whatever for ultimate rewards or punishments. (3) To Zophar, no wicked man had any hope whatever. He had no conception whatever of the universal wickedness of mankind; and to him, the righteous were the wealthy and prosperous people, and the wicked were those in poverty or suffering. (4) Many of his most dogmatic assertions were blatant falsehoods, as for example, (a) that the wicked die early (Job 20:11), and (b) that gains shall be removed from the wicked in this life (Job 20:15). Zophar’s speech was fully in keeping with the evil design of Satan.

Rawlinson’s excellent summary of Zophar’s diatribe is as follows:

"This second speech is even worse than his first (Job 11). Coarseness and rudeness are added to his former hostility (Job 20:7; Job 20:15). His whole discourse is a covert denunciation of Job as a wicked hypocrite (Job 20:5; Job 20:12; Job 20:19; Job 20:29), who is receiving only the punishment he deserves for a life of crime. He concludes by prophesying Job’s violent death, the destruction of his house, and the rising up of heaven and earth as witnesses against him.”

Of course, these lying prophecies should be added to the roster of Zophar’s falsehoods.

Job 20:1-5


"Then answered Zophar the

Naamathite, and said,

Therefore do my thoughts give answer to me,

Even by reason of my haste that is in me.

I have heard the reproof that putteth me to shame;

And the spirit of my understanding answereth me.

Knowest thou not this of old time,

Since man was placed upon earth,

That the triumphing of the wicked is short,

And the joy of the godless but for a moment?"

"By reason of my haste that is in me" (Job 20:2). Matthew Henry noted that, "It seems here that Zophar broke in upon Job and began abruptly." Zophar, as the willing instrument of Satan here, was greatly displeased with the Divine Message Job was in the process of speaking, a message of the Redeemer for all mankind, a message delivered "by the direct inspiration of God," a message concerning which Job entertained no doubt or uncertainty whatever. He did not say, "I hope," or "I think," and not even that "I believe," but that, "I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth."

It seems incredible that Zophar could have rudely butted in and concluded Job’s inspired words. Zophar was insensitive to all that Job said. He was like those West Texas buzzards that sail with obscene wings above flower fields and gardens searching for and finding only some rotting carcass on a hillside. Zophar passed over, with out even hearing it, one of the sublimest promises in the Word of God, only to compare Job to the dunghill on which he sat. God pity the Zophars of our own generation.

"Knowest thou not this of old time" (Job 20:4)? "This is a mocking question." It is the equivalent of, "What a fool you are not to know what everybody else has known for ages’!

"The triumphing of the wicked is short" (Job 20:5). "He is sure that the wicked does not keep his property very long; such a thing has never happened in the range of human experience." Had Zophar never heard of Cain? This, of course, is another of Zophar’s falsehoods.

E.M. Zerr:

Job 20:1-2. Zophar’s second turn to speak came next. It will be well to state again the position of the friends in the discussion. They claimed that God never afflicted a man except as a punishment for some sin. Since Job was afflicted it meant that he had sinned and should make full amends for it in order to be restored to health. Job did not claim to be absolutely perfect, but he did deny that his affliction was a special punishment from God since all classes of men were known to have afflictions. In this discussion the friends stated some truths but they had no bearing on the issue being considered. In this paragraph Zophar stated his reasons for speaking again, that his thoughts drove him to it.

Job 20:3. Check of my reproach means that Job had reproached Zophar by checking his thoughts; for that reason he just had to speak again.

Job 20:4-5. Job would readily have agreed to the statement about the wicked man’s triumphs. Therefore, there was no point made on the discussion at hand.

Verses 6-11

Job 20:6-11

Job 20:6-11


"Though his height mount up to the heavens,

And his head reach unto the clouds;

Yet he shall perish forever like his own dung:

They that have seen him shall say, Where is he?

He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found:

Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.

The eye which saw him shall see him no more;

Neither shall his place any more behold him.

His children shall seek the favor of the poor,

And his hands shall give back his wealth.

His bones are full of his youth,

But it shall lie down with him in the dust."

"Though his height mount up to heaven" (Job 20:6). It is pride which Zophar mentioned here. "His words against pride are not altogether false; "It is his application of them to Job that was sinful." It is the wickedness of Zophar’s view that the present world is "all there is," and that it is "all there’s ever going to be" that marks him as an agent of the devil here.

"His children shall seek the favor of the poor" (Job 20:10), etc. "This picture of destitution may include the thought of poetic justice: his children will have to beg from the poor who begged in vain from their father." This view, it would seem to this writer, is a little far-fetched; but a number of scholars have suggested it.

E.M. Zerr:

Job 20:6-7. The shameful humiliation of the man who was proud of his apparent successes is the subject of this paragraph.

Job 20:8-9. These figures of speech describe the final downfall of the man who attains greatness in an unrighteous manner. He will become practically invisible because even the place he once occupied will be vacant.

Job 20:10. According to the translation in the margin of the Bible this verse means the children will become victims of other people. That is correct, for it was to be a condition unfavorable to this evil man.

Job 20:11. In this place Zophar even intimated that Job was being punished for sins committed in the days of his youth.

Verses 12-19

Job 20:12-19

Job 20:12-19

"Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth,

Though he hide it under his tongue,

Though he spare it, and will not let it go,

But keep it still within his mouth;

Yet his food in his bowels is turned,

It is the gall of asps within him.

He hath swallowed down riches, and he

shall vomit them up again;

God will cast them out of his belly.

He shall suck the poison of asps;

The viper’s tongue shall slay him.

He shall not look upon the rivers,

The flowing streams of honey and butter.

That which he labored for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down;

According to the substance which he hath gotten, he shall not rejoice.

For he hath oppressed and forsaken the poor;

He hath violently taken away a house, and he shall not build it up."

"Sweet in his mouth ... gall within him" (Job 20:12; Job 20:14). The fruit of evil is not nearly so dramatic and sudden as Zophar stated here. In some instances, the reward of evil will not occur in this life at all, but in the life to come. The thing that Zophar was driving at here was that of denouncing Job, whose disasters indeed came suddenly.

"The viper’s tongue shall slay him" (Job 20:16). Like much of the rest of Zophar’s tirade, this had no relation whatever to truth. It was not the viper’s tongue that killed people; it was its fangs loaded with venom.

"He hath oppressed and forsaken the poor" (Job 20:19). Zophar, of course, means that this is what Job has done. "Job is the culprit upon whom God is wreaking vengeance because of his oppressing the poor." That, of course, is exactly what Zophar was saying here.

"He hath violently taken away a house, and he shall not build it up" (Job 20:19). From the marginal reference here, we learn that the meaning of the last clause is, "He hath not built it up." He took a house that was not his, a house he had not built. Zophar here was brutally charging Job with all kinds of sins, without any evidence whatever; he was multiplying his allegations in the hope of hitting something that might have been true.

E.M. Zerr:

Job 20:12-15. This paragraph claims that the sins of Job may have brought him pleasure while committing them, but that afterward they would turn against him. Such was the argument Zophar was making regarding the experiences of Job.

Job 20:16. A man might suck the poison of asps and not realize that anything objectionable would result. Afterwards the effects of the poison would show up in some form, just as the effects of Job’s sins were manifesting themselves in his afflictions.

Job 20:17. The desirable things the wicked man looked for will be denied him; he will not get to see them to enjoy them.

Job 20:18. Shall he restore means he shall not get to keep the fruits of his labor. Instead of retaining the things for his own use, others will possess them.

Job 20:19-20. A glance at the statements of God as to the righteousness of Job (Job 1:8) will show this paragraph to be a false accusation.

Verses 20-29

Job 20:20-29

Job 20:20-29


"Because he knew no quietness within him,

He shall not save aught of that wherein he delighteth.

There was nothing left that he devoured not;

Therefore his prosperity shall not endure.

In the fullness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits:

The hand of everyone that is in misery shall come upon him.

When he is about to fill his belly,

God will cast the fierceness of his wrath upon him,

And will rain it upon him while he is eating.

He shall flee from the iron weapon,

And the bow of brass shall strike him through.

He draweth it forth, and it cometh out of his body;

Yea, the glittering point cometh out of his gall:

Terrors are upon him.

All darkness is laid up for his treasures:

Afire not blown by man shall devour him;

It shall consume that which is left in his tent.

The heavens shall reveal his iniquity,

And the earth shall rise up against him.

The increase of his house shall depart;

His goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath.

This is the portion of a wicked man from God,

And the heritage appointed unto him by God."

"He draweth it forth" (Job 20:25). The reference is to an arrow, the projectile discharged by the bow. The picture is that of a fatal wound.

"The heavens shall reveal his iniquity" (Job 20:27). "This is a direct contradiction of the great hope expressed by Job in Job 19:25; and this serves here, in case there should have been any doubt in Job’s mind, to identify Job as the `wicked man’ Zophar is talking about throughout this chapter."

It is most significant that Zophar contradicted Job 19:25. That "great hope" as Kline called it, was far more than a "hope." It was a confident assurance expressed in the boldest and most dogmatic terms, "I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER L1VETH" Satan’s anger and savage hatred at once appeared in Zophar’s lying interruption.

Zophar’s speech was satanic, oriented absolutely against all truth. "His speech contains no hint that the wicked might repent, make amends, and again be restored to God’s favor."

E.M. Zerr:

Job 20:19-20. A glance at the statements of God as to the righteousness of Job (Ch. 1:8) will show this paragraph to be a false accusation.

Job 20:21-22. Just at the time when Job was the most prosperous it was all taken from him. All of this was a true statement but it was not for the reason that Zophar was contending it to have been.

Job 20:23-24. This passage shows a false claim. Job did not "flee" from the condition in the sense of resenting it. Instead, his attitude was indicated by the wonderful expression found in Ch. 13:15.

Job 20:25. This verse was supposed to describe Job as being like a man who ran from a weapon but who was overtaken by it. That was another false claim although the affliction had been great enough to be compared to the worst of weapons.

Job 20:26. Fire not blown means a weak fire, one not fanned into a strong blaze. Even such a weak fire would consume Job because he was unworthy to survive. The last of the verse means that any who might wish to remain with Job would be brought down.

Job 20:27-29. There is nothing new in this paragraph. It repeats the same line so often let out before and describes the lot of any man who would disobey God.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 20". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/job-20.html.
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