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The Job debate;- Zophar and Job

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posted on Oct, 20 2017 @ 05:01 PM
On the face of it, the book of Job is about the troubles of one man.
Of course we understand him as a representative. We regard the story as a debate about the origins of human troubles.
Strictly speaking, why bad things happen to good people instead of being limited to bad people.

The troubles of Job were described in the first two chapters.
Job feels a sense of grievance, arising out of them, which will develop into what amounts to a lawsuit against God.
Like any other lawsuit, this case begins with a plaintiff’s complaint (ch3).
Since God is not offering an immediate response, the “comforters” who are sitting with Job begin putting forward their own counter-arguments.
Eliphaz and Bildad have spoken already, leaving Zophar to come last.

Zophar, first speech

He describes the speeches of Job as “a multitude of words” and “babble”.
They ought to be answered, because otherwise Job will seem to have won the argument (vh11 vv1-2).

“You say ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes’” (v3).
He gets this from Job’s declaration “I am blameless”.
He appeals to the wisdom of God, which must be superior to any man’s wisdom.
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol- what can you know?” (vv7-8).
This means that his judgement of righteousness and unrighteousness must also be superior.
“If he calls to judgement, who can hinder him?” (v10)
Job needs to understand that “God exacts of you less than your guilt requires” (v6).
That is, God’s wisdom sees in everyone enough guilt to justify more punishment than they receive.

Therefore he recommends that Job should repent and seek God.
“If you set your heart aright… If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away” (vv13-14).
Then his miseries will vanish into the past, “as waters that have passed away”, and God will give him every blessing.
“You will lift up your face without blemish… Your life will be brighter than the noonday… you will be protected and take your rest in safety… and none will make you afraid” (vv15-19)
In contrast, the wicked will fail;
“All way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last”.
In other words, the wicked will receive exactly what Job has been describing as his own experience.

Job’s response

Job reacts with resounding sarcasm;
“No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you” (ch12 v2).
He may not match the wisdom of God, but he won’t accept that Zophar’s understanding, at least, is any better than his own.

First, a reminder of the facts of the case.
On the one hand, he himself, a just and blameless man, who had been able to call on God and get an answer (in the form of prosperity) is now a laughing-stock because of his misfortunes.
On the other hand, robbers and idolaters can live in peace and security, which belongs to the blameless (vv4-6).

Then he launches into his own praise of the wisdom of God.
All the beasts of the world know what God has done; “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (v10).
His might is another aspect of his wisdom.
“If he tears down, none can rebuild…
If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
If he sends them out, they overwhelm the land”.
And we can see how his might humbles all forms of human power, the power of kings and priests and counsellors.
“He makes nations great and he destroys them… He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless waste” (vv13-25).

So Zophar must not think Job’s grievance stems from a failure to understand God’s wisdom.
In fact his own description of God’s wisdom was shallow, in comparison.

Now Job intends to resume addressing God directly
“I desire to argue my case with God” (ch13 v3).
For Job’s critics are not tackling the fundamental issues
They cannot, because their eagerness to defend God undermines their honesty.
“You whitewash with lies… You speak deceitfully for him”.
That’s an offence in itself, for which God will surely rebuke them (vv4-12).

Therefore Job will brace himself to take his life in his hands and stand up to face God.
Not exactly “man to man”, but certainly “mano a mano”.
“Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope;
Yet I will defend my ways to his face” (v15).
He does feel hope, nevertheless, when he reflects upon his own righteousness.
“This will be my salvation, that a godless man shall not come before him” (v16).
He tells his friends to listen carefully to what he is about to say;
“Behold, I have prepared my [legal] case; I know that I shall be vindicated” (v18).

He opens that speech with a challenge;
“Who is there that will contend with me?” (v19)
The plaintiff demands that the defendant come into the court, so that the case can be heard.
“For then I would be silent and die”.
He would be satisfied with this chance to present his vindication, even if it was the last thing he did.
But he has two requests to make, before he can continue.
Let God “withdraw his hand”, so that the plaintiff can speak freely without dread.
And let God consent to take part in the discussion, either opening the debate by calling to Job, or responding once Job has spoken (vv20-22).

Those conditions being understood, Job has a question which he wants God to answer.
He wants to know exactly what charges God is holding against him.
“How many are my iniquities and my sins?”
In other words, he wants to know the full reason for God’s hostile treatment;
“Why dost thou hide thy face and count me as thine enemy?...
For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me inherit the iniquities of my youth” (vv23-26).

Then Job shifts away from maintaining his righteousness, and returns to a different kind of argument.
Granted that men are sinful, why bother punishing them for their sins?
“Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (ch14 v1).
Since his life is so short, why not leave him alone to enjoy what time he’s got?
“And dost thou open thy eyes on such a one and bring him into judgement with thee?”
He will never be free from sin, since you cannot “bring a clean thing out of an unclean”.
So why not “look away from him, and desist, that he may enjoy, like a hireling, his day” (vv3-6).

Man gets no second chance at life.
He is not like a tree, which can send out new shoots from a cut stump.
He is more like a lake or river, which dries up without getting fresh supplies.
“So man lies down and will not rise again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake, or be roused out of his sleep” (vv7-12).

This thought prompts a radical and imaginative solution to Job’s basic problem.
“Oh that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol, that thou wouldst conceal me until thy wrath be past” (v13).
Let death be temporary, as a refuge from judgement.
Then, when the time of judgement was over, God could “remember” Job and bring him back to life.
“All the days of my service [in Sheol] I would wait until my release should come.
Thou wouldest call and I would answer thee; thou wouldest long for the work of thy hands” (vv14-15).
Job would then be starting again with a clean sheet.
“Thou wouldest not keep watch over my sin.
My transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and thou wouldest cover over my iniquity” (vv15-17).
The fear of judgement would be a thing of the past.
But instead, as far as Job knows, death is final.

posted on Oct, 20 2017 @ 05:02 PM
“I am a laughing stock to my friends; I, who called upon God and he answered me…
The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.”

I have suggested, in other threads, that Job also represents the defeated nation of Israel, taken into exile.
In that case, the above words are depicting the shame of a people who have lost everything that gave them a sense of value as a nation.
Before the catastrophe, they were secure in their place in the world and their knowledge of God.
Now they feel themselves to be a laughing-stock to the rest of the world, and especially to the Babylonians, those unjust robbers and idolaters.
In the angel’s complaint of Zechariah ch1, there still remains a sense that the nation has been placed at a disadvantage, that the other nations are ”at ease” at their expense.

posted on Oct, 20 2017 @ 05:04 PM
Which side of the debate appears to be making the best case?


Job’s complaint

Ch3) I curse the day I was born.
Because it did not cut my life short and so protect me from the troubles of life.
Why did I not die at birth? (vv10-11)
Why is life given (or why does life continue to be given) to the man in misery who longs for death? (vv20-21)

Eliphaz (1)

Ch4) His understanding of Job’s complaint;
While Job was able to encourage others when they were in trouble, he fails to apply his own advice when the troubles fall upon himself. He has become impatient.
Job believes that his fear of God and his integrity should be enough to protect him from trouble. (vv5-6)

Based on observation;
Those who work with iniquity and cause trouble perish at the hands of God.
Those who are innocent and upright are safe. (vv7-8)
Based on direct vision from God;
NO man can be righteous before God, who finds nothing free from fault. (v17)

Ch5) Observation confirms this.
We see that people reject God and therefore suffer. (v3)
So trouble is natural to our lives (vv6-7).
The answer is to trust in God entirely (v8).
The result of this trust will be protection and security (v26).


Ch6) Restates the heaviness of his vexations.
The terrors of God are arrayed against him (vv1-4).
Restates that in the circumstances he would prefer death (vv8-10).

Eliphaz and the others have been unsympathetic.
He challenges them to specify what was wrong with his remarks.
He will tell them the truth, because his vindication is at stake (v29).
Ch7) His case is the case of men in general (v1).

The reason why he has no fear about addressing God directly;
His life is short, and once he reaches Sheol he will never return (vv7-10).
Therefore he has nothing to lose from speaking his mind.

The root of the problem is that God is paying him too much attention.
As a result, his transgressions are always being noticed, and consequently getting punished (v17).
Why should God not break this chain simply by pardoning his transgressions? (vv20-21)

Bildad (1)

Ch8) God does not pervert justice.
So Job’s children must have been penalised for their own sin (v4)
Job himself should make supplication to God.
If he is pure and upright, God will rouse himself to take action on Job’s behalf (vv5-7)

For this is the wisdom which has been handed down from bygone ages;
On the one hand, the hope of the godless shall perish (v13).
On the other hand, God will not reject a blameless man (v20).


Ch9) He knows that “it is so” (v1);
(That is, God will not, in principle, reject a blameless man.
So if a blameless man like Job finds himself rejected anyway, that needs to be put right.)

But how can a man establish himself as just before God?
The problem is that the overwhelming power of God sets him beyond contradiction (vv2-3).
How can Job, as an innocent man, plead his cause under those conditions? (vv15-17)
What power can compel God to give an account of what he does? (v19)

Even though Job is blameless, he would be forced to condemn himself out of his own mouth (v20).
But he loathes his life, so he is not afraid to say;
1. He himself is blameless
2. God destroys both the blameless and the wicked
However, these issues cannot be discussed fairly, because God will not meet him on equal terms, laying aside his dread power (vv32-35).

Ch10) Again he asks, why should God pursue his transgressions quite so diligently? (v17)
Again he asks; why was he allowed to enter the world, to experience these troubles? (v18)
But if he must live, why cannot he be allowed to live his short life in peace?

edit on 20-10-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 21 2017 @ 06:59 PM
If Job only knew of the promise of the coming Messiah, the promise of eternal life with Christ, what Gods plans were beyond this life, he didn't as I understand
Interesting how Job didn't believe in an eternal hell as well...

Great piece Dis, I await patiently

posted on Oct, 22 2017 @ 02:02 AM
a reply to: Raggedyman
He appears to be groping towards ideas like that as a potential solution to his problem. Nobody tells him, so he tries to work it out for himself.
He takes it for granted (we see in earlier chapters) that Sheol will be a time of endless rest, and looks forward to it for that reason.

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