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Bible Commentaries
Job 20

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2484. B.C. 1520.

Zophar, after a short preface, asserts, that the prosperity of the wicked is short, and his ruin sure, Job 20:1-9 . He describes his misery in many particulars, Job 20:10-29 .

Verse 1

Job 20:1. Then answered Zophar Here Zophar, although he had nothing new to advance, hastily interrupts Job, being extremely provoked by his threatening them with the judgments of God, and in his speech appears to be hurried by his passion beyond all bounds. He tells him it is in vain to tax their suspicions with unkindness; for it was of public notoriety, agreeable to the universal experience of mankind, ever since the creation, that suffering was the portion of the wicked. He then, under colour of describing the wicked man, and his destiny, charges Job with the most enormous crimes, and marks him out as a person in whom God had given an example of the justice of his providence; and concludes with a plain intimation, that he was thoroughly persuaded that Job was that very wicked man, that oppressor of the poor, which they had from the beginning suspected him to be.

Verse 2

Job 20:2. Therefore For this thy severe sentence; do my thoughts cause me to answer I thought to have troubled myself and thee with no further discourses, but these words of thine make my former thoughts to return again, and so provoke me, that I am not able any longer to forbear speaking.

Verse 3

Job 20:3. I have heard Or, Shall I hear? Namely, with patience, and without a reply? Who can endure it? The check of my reproach That is, thy shameful and opprobrious reproofs of us, as if we, and all thy friends, were void of all humanity and natural affection toward thee, and were haters and persecutors of thee; and as if we were guilty of very heinous crimes, and might expect God’s vengeance upon us. And the spirit of my understanding That is, my soul or mind, causeth me to answer Constraineth me to speak. Or, the words רוח מבינתי , ruach mibbinathi, may be rendered, my spirit, or mind, because of my understanding, that is, out of, or because of, that certain knowledge which I have of this matter from consideration and experience. I speak not from passion, but from certain knowledge.

Verses 4-5

Job 20:4-5. Knowest thou not this Which I am now about to say; of old From the experience of all former ages; since man was placed upon the earth Since the world was made, and there were any men to observe God’s government of it; that the triumphing of the wicked is short Hebrew, מקרוב , mikarob, is from near, that is, from, or for a little time; they have not long enjoyed it, and it will shortly vanish. And the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment This he adds by way of reflection upon Job, who, though he cleared himself of gross wickedness, yet, he judged, was guilty of deep hypocrisy.

Verses 6-9

Job 20:6-9. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens Though he be advanced to great dignity and authority in the world. He shall perish like his own dung Which men cast away with contempt and abhorrence. They who have seen him With admiration at his felicity; shall say, Where is he? He is nowhere to be found; he is utterly gone and lost. He shall fly away as a dream Which, for the present, affects the fancy, but hath nothing solid or permanent in it, for as soon as a man awakes all vanishes, and the remembrance of it is quickly lost. Neither shall his place any more behold him That is, it shall not acknowledge or contain him. A figure called prosopopœia, as Job 7:10. Or, neither shall it (that is, the eye, last mentioned) behold him any more in his place.

Verse 10

Job 20:10. His children shall seek to please the poor Either, 1st, To get some small relief from them in their extreme necessity. Or, rather, 2d, Lest they should revenge themselves on them for the great and many injuries which their father did them, or should seek to the magistrate for reparation. His hands shall restore their goods By the sentence of the judge, to whom the oppressed poor will appeal, notwithstanding all the endeavours of their oppressors to dissuade them from so doing.

Verse 11

Job 20:11. His bones That is, his whole body, even the strongest parts of it; are full of the sin of his youth Of the punishment of it. He shall feel the sad effects of his youthful sins in his riper years, as riotous sinners commonly do. Which shall lie down with him in the dust He shall carry his diseases and pains, brought upon him by his sins, to the grave: or, rather, they will carry him thither, and prove the causes of his immature death; and the very putrefying of his body in the grave is to him the effect of sin, so that his iniquity is upon his bones even there.

Verses 12-14

Job 20:12-14. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth Though it greatly please him while he is committing it; though he hide it under his tongue As an epicure doth a sweet morsel, which he keeps and rolls about his mouth, that he may longer enjoy the pleasure of it. Though he be highly pleased with the gratification of his lusts, and cleave to his sinful pleasures in hearty love, resolving to hold them fast, and improve them to the greatest delight and advantage; though he spare it Will not part with his sin, but gratifies and obeys his sinful inclinations, instead of subduing and mortifying them; but keeps it still within his mouth That he may enjoy all the sweetness of it. Yet his meat in his bowels is turned From sweet to bitter; it is the gall of asps within him Exceeding bitter and pernicious. Gall is most bitter; the gall of serpents is full of poison; and the poison of asps is most dangerous, and, within a few hours, kills without remedy.

Verses 15-16

Job 20:15-16. He hath swallowed down riches He hath got possession of them, and thought them to be as much his own as the meat he had eaten. But he is deceived. He shall vomit them up again Shall be compelled to restore them: his own conscience perhaps may make him so uneasy in the keeping of what he has gotten, that, for the quiet of his own mind, he shall make restitution, and that not with the pleasure of a virtue, but with the utmost reluctancy, like the pain produced by an emetic. God shall cast them out of his belly If he do not himself voluntarily refund what he has violently taken away, God, by his providence, shall force him to do it, and bring it about, one way or other, that his ill-gotten goods shall return to their right owners. If man’s hand cannot reach him, God shall find him out. He shall suck the poison of asps What he sucked so sweetly, and with so much pleasure, shall, in the issue, prove most ungrateful and destructive, as the poison, or head (for the Hebrew ראשׁ , rosh, signifies both, and the poison lies in the head) of asps would be to one that sucked it. Such is sin; such especially will all unlawful gains be. The fawning tongue will prove the viper’s tongue. All the charming graces that are thought to be in sin will turn, when the conscience is awakened, into so many raging furies.

Verse 17

Job 20:17. He shall not see the rivers, the floods, &c. “He shall not see them with any pleasure. The most delightful things of this world, and the greatest affluence and plenty of them, shall afford him no enjoyment.” Dodd. Or, rather, he speaks metaphorically, and means, he shall not enjoy that abundant satisfaction and comfort, which he promised himself from his great riches, or which good men, through God’s blessing, commonly enjoy.

Verse 18

Job 20:18. That which he laboured for shall he restore Expressed in Hebrew by only two words, משׁיב יגע , meshib jagang, literally, restituens laborem, restoring labor: that is, the goods which were gotten with labour, that of others, or his own. It may refer either to the goods of others, of which he had obtained possession, not without pains and difficulty; or to his own goods, honestly gotten by the sweat of his brow. And this may be intended as an aggravation of his misery, that he is compelled, not only to restore other men’s goods, which were in his hands, but to part with his own also, to make reparation for damages. And shall not swallow it down So as to hold it: he shall not possess it long, nor to any important purpose. According to his substance shall the restitution be That is, he shall be forced to part with all his property to make compensation for his wrongs. And he shall not rejoice therein He shall not enjoy what he had gotten, because it shall be taken from him. Houbigant’s translation of this verse is, He shall restore what he gained by his labour, and shall not consume it. His merchandise was abundant, but he shall not enjoy it.

Verse 19

Job 20:19. Because he hath oppressed and forsaken the poor By his oppression he brought men to utter poverty, and then forsook them in that destitute state, affording them no mercy nor help. Or, the meaning is, He made some poor by his oppressions, and others, that were poor, he suffered to perish for want of that relief which he might have afforded them. He hath violently taken away a house, &c. Namely, for his own use; which he builded not Which was none of his.

Verse 20

Job 20:20. Surely he shall not feel quietness, &c. He shall have no peace nor satisfaction in his mind, in all his gains, partly because of his perpetual fears and expectations of the wrath of God and man, which his guilty conscience assures him he deserves, and partly because they shall be speedily taken away from him. He shall not save of that which he desired That is, any part of his good and desirable things, but he shall forfeit and lose them all.

Verses 21-22

Job 20:21-22. There shall none of his meat be left, &c. For his future use; but he shall be stripped of all, which being publicly known, none of his kindred or friends shall trouble themselves to seek for any relics of his estate. But the Hebrew, אין שׁריד לאכלו , een shorid leachlo, rather means, There shall none be left for his meat, that is, he shall leave no heir who shall possess or enjoy his goods. In the fulness of his sufficiency, &c. In the height of his prosperity he shall be distressed. Every hand of the wicked shall be upon him So his wickedness shall be punished by those as wicked as himself.

Verse 23

Job 20:23. When he is about to fill his belly That is, when he has enough to satisfy all his appetites, and shall design to indulge them in the pleasurable enjoyment of all his gains, and to spend his days in sensuality; God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him Some dreadful and destructive judgment. And shall rain it upon him This phrase denotes both the author of his plagues, God, and the nature and quality of them, that they shall come upon him like rain, with great vehemence, so that he cannot prevent or avoid them; while he is eating As it fell upon thy sons, Job 1:18-19.

Verses 24-25

Job 20:24-25. He shall flee from the iron weapon That is, from the sword or spear; and so shall think himself out of danger. The bow of steel Which is of great strength, and therefore sendeth forth the arrow with greater force; shall strike him through Shall mortally wound him. He shall flee from one danger, but another, still greater, shall overtake him. It is drawn Namely, the arrow which had entered into his body, and now is drawn out of it, either by himself or some other person. Yea, the glittering sword Hebrew, וברק , ubarak, literally, the lightning, and thence a glittering weapon, the bright sword, or spear; as Deuteronomy 32:41. By this it is implied he was doubly wounded, first with the arrow, and then with the sword or spear: cometh out of his gall Into which it had entered, and wherewith it was coloured. This shows that the wound was both deep and deadly, as wounds are in that part. It is probable he mentions this in reference to a similar expression of Job 16:13. Terrors are upon him Namely, the terrors of death; because he perceives, by the tincture of his gall upon the weapon, that his wound is incurable. Or horrors of conscience, because he cannot live, and dare not die.

Verse 26

Job 20:26. All darkness All sorts of miseries, of soul, and body, and estate; shall be hid Or laid up by God for him. They are reserved and treasured up for him, and kept as in a sure place, and shall infallibly overtake him: in his secret places In those places where he confidently hoped to hide and secure himself from all evils and enemies; yet even there God shall find him out. A fire not blown By man, but kindled by God himself; shall consume or destroy him He thinks, by his might and violence, to secure himself from men; but God, by his own immediate hand, or in some unknown and unexpected manner, will find him out. It may be understood of the fire of hell; see Isaiah 30:33. It shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle With his family, or posterity, who shall inherit his curse, as well as his estate. Heath translates this verse, All manner of calamity is laid up in store for him: an unquenchable fire shall consume him: it shall devour all that remaineth in his stead.

Verses 27-28

Job 20:27-28. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity God shall be a swift witness against him by extraordinary judgments; still he reflects upon Job’s case, and the fire from heaven. And the earth shall rise up against him All creatures upon earth shall conspire to destroy him. If the God of heaven and earth be his enemy, neither heaven nor earth will show him any kindness, but all the hosts of both are, and will be, at war with him. The increase of his house יבול , jebul, proventus, his income, revenue, or his estate got by the labour, and employed for the use of his family; shall depart Shall be lost or taken away from him: shall flow away Like waters, swiftly and strongly, and so as to return no more: in the day of his wrath That is, of God’s wrath; when God shall come to execute judgment upon him. The abundance of his house, Heath renders it, shall roll away like the torrents in the day of his fury.

Verse 29

Job 20:29. This is the portion of the wicked man from God Allotted to him, designed for him, as his portion: and he will have it for a perpetuity; it is what he must abide by. And the heritage appointed unto him by God Hebrew, נחלת אמרו , nachalath imro, the heritage of his word; that is, appointed by the word or sentence of God; and termed a heritage, to signify the stability and assurance of it; that it is as firm and certain to him as an inheritance to the right heir; and in opposition to that inheritance which he had gotten by fraud and violence. Though impenitent sinners do not always fall under such temporal judgments as are here described, and in that Zophar was mistaken; yet the wrath of God abides upon them: and they are made miserable by spiritual judgments, which are much worse; their consciences being either, on the one hand, a terror to them, and then they are in continual amazement; or, on the other hand, seared and silenced, and then they are given up to a reprobate mind, and bound over to eternal ruin. “Never was any doctrine better explained,” says Henry, “nor worse applied, than this here by Zophar: who intended by all this to prove Job to be a hypocrite. Let us receive the good explication, and make a better application, for warning to ourselves to stand in awe and not to sin.”

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 20". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/job-20.html. 1857.
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