Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Zophar Strikes Back

In Job 20, Zophar hits back, saying “Listen, I’ll answer your insult with wisdom: the wicked are only smug momentarily. Zophar feels he must respond and he blasts Job. This is the last response of the friends in the second round of the discussion.

Notice two things here. 

First, Job has said in chapter 17 that God had closed their minds to understand 917:4). Now he says, his understanding forces him to respond. This is an answer given in pride.

Second, Notice that he continues to work within the same categories. In 4-11, he holds up the brief prosperity of the wicked. He says, the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment…Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?  The eye that saw him will see him no more, nor will his place any more behold him…his hands will give back his wealth…His bones are full of his youthful vigor, but it will lie down with him in the dust.

He goes on to speak of the impoverishment of the wicked, how everything goes wrong in 12-19. “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth ,yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of cobras within him... He will give back the fruit of his toil and will not swallow it down; from the profit of his trading he will get no enjoyment. Zophar says, in essence, this is why everything is going wrong. You’re wicked.

Then, once again, he holds up the anger of God against the wicked. “God will send his burning anger against him and rain it upon him into his body. He will flee from an iron weapon; a bronze arrow will strike him through. It is drawn forth and comes out of his body; the glittering point comes out of his gallbladder; terrors come upon him…The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God's wrath. This is the wicked man's portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.” Zophar is saying Job is a selfish profiteer who has heartlessly tyrannized the poor, and now God is giving him what he deserved. 

Once again, we find ourselves says, right, but wrong. He’s not wrong in saying generally, this is the fate of the wicked, and yet, he’s once again wrongly applying it to Job. There is nothing new here. The wheels are spinning, and he’s getting nowhere, he’s stuck in his categories. Roy Zuck notes that Zophar “in his philosophical shortsightedness made no allowance far a person being afflicted or any reason other than retribution for sin. In his stubborn invective, he flared at Job with venomous words, like the poisonous snake he spoke about.

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