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Zophar reproves Job for justifying himself: he declares God's wisdom to be unsearchable; but that it would be well with Job, if he would repent.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 11:1. Then answered Zophar— Zophar, highly provoked that Job should dare to call in question a maxim so universally assented to as that urged by his friends, immediately charges him home with secret wickedness. He tells him, that he makes not the least doubt, were the real state of his heart laid open, it would be found that God had dealt very gently with him; Job 11:2-7. That he was highly blame-worthy for pretending to fathom the depths of divine Providence, a talk to which he was utterly unequal; that, however his wickedness might be concealed from men, yet it was open and bare to God's all-seeing eye. Could he, then, imagine that God would not punish the wickedness that he saw? Job 11:7-11. That it would surely be far more becoming in him to submit, and give glory to God, by making an ample confession and full restitution: in that case, indeed, he might hope for a return of God's goodness to him; but the way he was in at present was the common road of the wicked, whose only hope was annihilation; Job 11:12-20. Heath.
Job 11:2. Should not the multitude of words be answered?— The three friends of Job, though they all agree in persecuting him, yet differ somewhat in their character. The speeches of Eliphaz appear artful and insinuating; those of Bildad, grave and mild; of Zophar, fierce and violent: the two former had observed some decorum in their reprehensions of Job; the zeal of the last transports him beyond all bounds: Should not the multitude, &c. to the end of Job 11:6. Strange rashness and presumption! thus to pronounce upon a point of which he could not possibly be a judge. But it happened here, as usual, that this speaker, who sets out with the greatest heat, is the first whose arguments are spent. For, after this vehement speech, he makes but one reply, and it is over with him. See on chap. 25: and Peters.
Job 11:4. Thou hast said, my doctrine is pure— The Hebrew signifies my way of life, my morals, or conduct. Mr. Chappelow rightly observes, that this phrase is the same as is made use of by St. Paul, Acts 26:4. Η'βιωσις μου, my way of life.
Job 11:5. Open his lips against thee— The purpose of this wish is, that Job might be openly convicted of that wickedness of which they all concluded he must have been guilty, to draw down the wrath of God upon him to such an extraordinary degree.
Job 11:6. That he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom— That he would even tell thee to thy face the secrets of thy craftiness; for they are double to thy real worth. Know, therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity. Heath. It is plain that the thing to be discovered was the wickedness of Job, which had hitherto, in the judgment of these friends, been covered by his hypocrisy; and, in truth, there was little reason to lay open the hidden treasures of God's wisdom to demonstrate this. Supposing Job (as they did) to be really a hypocrite, there was no more to do than to strip off the disguise, and his wickedness would at once appear: and this is what Zophar wishes to be done.
Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God?— Canst thou penetrate into the secrets or depths of God? Canst thou fathom the immensity of the Almighty? Houbigant and Heath.
Job 11:8. It is as high as heaven— The universe was divided by the ancient Hebrews into the upper and the lower, the visible and invisible hemisphere; the one they call שׁמים shamaiim, or heaven; the other שׁאול sheol, which we have no English word to express: these two are opposed to each other in Scripture for height and depth, as in this verse and Psalms 139:8. Again, heaven was considered by them as the habitation of God and his holy angels; שׁאול sheol as the region of departed souls; and the surface of the earth, lying in the middle betwixt both, as the habitation of the sons of men, during their short continuance in this life. As little philosophical as this may seem, the division is simple and natural; and we are not further concerned with it in a philosophical, but in a theological view; as it shews the belief of the ancients under the Old Testament, that the soul subsists after death in a certain place and state. See Psalms 16:10. Isa 14:9 and Peters, p. 319 where a complete investigation of the meaning of the word שׁאול sheol will be found. Houbigant renders it, He is as high; and in Job 11:9 the measure of him, &c.
Job 11:10. If he cut off, and shut up— If, by a change of things, he shall confine this man to his house, or grant that man to appear in public, who shall hinder him? I have expressed the matter rather paraphrastically for the sake of greater perspicuity. Zophar hints that Job himself had experienced a change to adversity from prosperity, and was confined to his house by a disease after he had been conversant in the public assemblies of men with the greatest honour. Houbigant.
Job 11:12. For vain man would be wise— A man who hath understanding will become wise; but he who is as the wild ass hath no prudence. So Houbigant translates the verse; and he adds, that Zophar here means to say, that a man of a good disposition, if he sins at any time, will become wiser from thence; while, on the contrary, they who are like the wild ass in ferocity, will persevere in their blindness and folly: intending hereby to draw Job from that savageness which he supposes to be in him, to meekness, and an application to God for pardon. Though Schultens varies a little in his version, yet he gives nearly the same interpretation. The next verse seems properly to connect with the former in this view; If thou therefore, no longer like such a wild ungovernable colt, but like a wise man, wilt prepare thine heart, &c. If (Job 11:14.) thou wilt cast iniquity from thine hands, that wickedness may not dwell in thy tabernacle; Job 11:15. Surely then thou shalt lift up thy face, &c.
Job 11:17. Thine age shall be clearer than the noon-day— Thy continuance in this life shall be as the noon-day; thy darkness or thy present obscurity itself as the morning light. Houbigant and Schultens.
Job 11:18. And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope— Thou shalt also be confident, because hope shall be with thee: thou shalt dig securely; thou shalt have a quiet habitation. Thou shalt dig securely alludes to the custom of the eastern people, who pitched their tents near wells for the conveniency of water for their cattle; a matter of the utmost consequence to them, and therefore very apt to raise disputes among them; as may be seen in the histories of Abraham and Isaac. Heath. Schultens understands it of digging up a fosse or moat round his house for the defence of his family; observing that the writer finely alludes to that torrent of evils and vehement flood of waters by which the tabernacle of Job had been carried away, and from which they would be safely preserved by means of this moat. So that, in the word digging, you have, what might scarcely be expected, a most noble metaphor, which opens a wide field for meditation.
Job 11:20. The eyes of the wicked shall fail— i.e. "Their hope shall be deferred and utterly disappointed." The latter clause נפשׁ מפח ותקותם מנהם אבד ומנוס umanos abad minnehem, vethikvatham mappach napesh, is literally, flight perisheth from them, and their hope, the expiation of life. There is the utmost virulence in this conclusion. Job had expressed his earnest desire that God would put an end to his life: this Zophar objects against him, as a certain proof his being a bad man; supposing it to proceed from a consciousness of guilt, which would not permit him to hope for any favour from God. Heath.
REFLECTIONS.—With eyes sparkling with indignation, at seeing all the former arguments slighted and ineffectual, Zophar, the third, replies.
1. He opens his speech with much insolence and abuse. Far from admitting any part of Job's vindication of himself to be either true or pertinent, he treats him as a mere babbler, who pretended by a multitude of words to make a shew of wisdom; gives the lie to his assertions of his integrity, and brands him as mocking God in such appeals to his omniscience. Note; (1.) Controversy of every kind usually produces unbecoming warmth; but, in religious controversy, to be abusive and passionate is, though too common, particularly indecent and sinful. (2.) When there is a disposition to find fault, the most inoffensive words, the most reasonable discourse, will afford a handle for malevolence. (3.) We need not account it strange to be treated unmercifully, when we see so good a man thus abused by his nearest friends. (4.) Though some may be so rude as to give us the lie, and others so wicked as to brand those with meanness who do not shew their resentment, the grace of God teaches a different lesson, and bids us overcome evil with good.
2. Zophar had called Job liar, and, lo! his first charge against him appears to be itself a falsehood; so sure it is, that the first to give the lie is usually the most guilty, and abuse is a sad symptom of a bad cause. Job had maintained his integrity; but had acknowledged withal, that, though no hypocrite, or wicked man, he was a sinner, and therefore in God's sight worthy of condemnation.
3. He wishes God to take up the controversy, since their arguments seemed fruitless, concluding that he must be on their side; though, alas! they who most solemnly appeal to him are often very far from being most in the right. Of two things Zophar wished God to convince Job 1:0. The unsearchable depths of his wisdom, that they are double to that which is in man, who shews only his own weakness and wickedness when he attempts to arraign what he cannot comprehend. 2. The unexceptionable equity of his procedure; far from exacting more than our iniquity deserves, his chastisements are less than our provocations. Note; (1.) Men may speak great truths, though they may draw very wrong inferences from them. (2.) A sense of our own blindness should ever make us silent under God's afflictive dispensations; though we know not how, there is wisdom, yea, and mercy in them. (3.) It is certain, that every man, while he is out of hell, has less than his iniquities deserve; and has cause, therefore, to praise God for his mercy, and cheerfully to submit to whatever burden is laid upon him.
2nd, In our present fallen state we can comprehend so little either of the Divine perfections or providence, that to pretend to find fault with them were the extreme of arrogance and folly. Zophar here,
1. Displays God's incomprehensibility, sovereignty, and omniscience, as arguments to silence Job's plea before him. His infinite perfections are beyond our most enlarged and persevering researches; the more we labour to comprehend his immensity, eternity, &c. the more shall we be lost in the contemplation, and forced to cry, O the depth, &c. Romans 11:33. His Sovereignty who shall control: if he cut off by death and judgments, or make a change in his dealings with any person or family, (as in Job's case) yea, should he reduce to its primitive nothing the whole created universe, who can say unto him, What dost thou? not that God, to display his sovereignty, makes his creatures miserable: infinite wisdom and justice mark all his ways. He knoweth vain men, he seeth wickedness; however closely covered or concealed, he detects the vain pretence; Will he not then consider it? yes, and visit such persons with the judgments which they have provoked. Note; (1.) Every view of the divine perfections should humble us before God. (2.) From him nothing is hidden: how should this consideration engage our watchfulness against the most secret desire of evil within our hearts!
2. He represents man as vain in his imaginations, affecting to be wise, though born stupid as the wild ass's colt, and like that animal stubborn and untractable. Note; (1.) Man is by nature proud, and wise in his own conceits; ever since the first man, by affecting forbidden wisdom, fell, all his posterity have imitated his sin. (2.) Pride ever makes a man untractable; they who have a high opinion of themselves are usually above advice.
3rdly, Zophar concludes his speech with sound advice; but evidently intimates his conviction that Job's afflictions proceed from his secret sins, which, if not parted with, must provoke his utter ruin.
1. His advice is, to prepare his heart by serious reflection, and, setting before himself the humbling views of his sin, to stretch out his hands in penitent prayer for mercy, to put away iniquity from his hand, allowed sin, and to purge out wickedness from his tabernacles, which he seems to intimate he had allowed or connived at. Note; The sins of his houshold are chargeable on the negligent master, and God will more or less require them at his hands.
2. He supports his counsel by a variety of considerations evincing the comfort that would accrue to Job from following it: For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot before God and man, who would regard him with favour; thou shalt be steadfast, fixed in prosperity, and shalt not fear such aweful changes as of late he had beheld. Because thou shalt forget thy misery; the comforts restored will obliterate the remembrance of past calamities; and remember it as waters that pass away; if they are reflected upon, they will vanish as the brook dried up in summer; and thine age shall be clearer than the noon-day, thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning; though clouds and darkness of affliction had covered him, these in his age should be dispelled; comfort and joy, as the light at noon, should cheer his future day, and his evening sun shine bright as the splendour of the morning. And thou shalt be secure, confident in the mercy of God, because there is hope of God's returning favour. Yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and fix a durable mansion, or find wells of water for his cattle, or be secured as in an intrenchment; and thou shalt take thy rest in safety, no danger being near to terrify or disturb: thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit to thee; thou shalt be more honoured and courted than now thou art slighted and despised. Note; (1.) When we have returned to God in faith and humble prayer, we may be confident of his favour. (2.) If God establishes us, we need not fear what all the powers of evil can do against us.
3. He describes the miserable end of the ungodly: The eyes of the wicked shall fail, while looking after relief in vain, and they shall not escape from the hand of God's judgments, and their hope shall be desperate, and the disappointment terrible, as the giving up of the ghost. And such he seems to insinuate would be Job's case, if, rejecting the admonitions of his friends, he continued proudly and falsely to vindicate himself, while his sins remained. Note; (1.) If not before, in death at least, the vain confidence of the wicked and self-righteous expires. (2.) There is no escaping God's judgments; they who will not turn must burn.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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