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Bible Commentaries
Job 20

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-3

Zophar’s anger 20:1-3

"Therefore" (Job 20:2) must refer to what Job had said. Job had previously asked why his friends answered him (Job 16:3). Zophar replied that the spirit of his understanding made him answer (Job 20:3 b).

"This phrase means both that Zophar’s spirit is compelling him to respond to Job (c. Job 32:18) and that his words come from reasoned insight (cf. Fohrer)." [Note: Ibid., p. 300.]

Again he seems to be claiming innate, instinctive knowledge (cf. ch. 11).

Verses 1-29

5. Zophar’s second speech ch. 20

This speech must have hurt Job more than any that his friends had presented so far. Zophar was brutal in his attack. He continued the theme of the fate of the wicked that Eliphaz and Bildad had emphasized. However, whereas Eliphaz stressed the distress of the wicked and Bildad their trapped position, Zophar elaborated on the fact that wicked people lose their wealth. He had nothing new to say, but he said it passionately.

"Zophar is deeply disturbed by Job’s accusations that the friends are increasing his torment and that God is the source of his present affliction. But unfortunately he does not know how to comfort Job. Neither does he know how to address the issues Job has raised. After a brief rebuke of Job he delivers a long discourse on a single topic-the certain evil fate of every evildoer. He is indirectly rejecting Job’s assertion that God will appear as his Redeemer to vindicate him. He counters Job’s statement of confidence by saying that the heavens and the earth will stand as witnesses against the evildoer, even against Job. In his view Job’s hope is false, and it is deluding him." [Note: Hartley, p. 299.]

Verses 4-11

The brief prosperity of the wicked 20:4-11

Zophar reminded Job that everyone knew the wicked only prosper for a short time (cf. Job 15:29). Job 20:5 is his thesis statement. The description of the wicked that Zophar proceeded to draw fit Job very well, and it must have wounded him deeply. The life of the wicked is brief (Job 20:4-11), their pleasure is temporary (Job 20:12-19), and their death is painful (Job 20:20-29). [Note: Wiersbe, pp. 42-44.]

Verses 12-19

The certain punishment of sin 20:12-19

Job 20:16 pictures the wicked eating his delicacies but finding that they have turned to poison in his stomach and are killing him (Job 20:14).

"Sin tastes good in the mouth but creates terrible cramps and nausea in the stomach (Job 20:12-14)." [Note: Merrill, p. 387.]

Ancient Near Easterners considered honey (often date syrup) and curds (the part of milk from which cheese comes) delicacies (cf. Judges 5:25).

Verses 20-29

God’s swift judgment of the wicked 20:20-29

Zophar explained that while the wicked greedily fill their own bellies, God sends His anger into their bowels (Job 20:23). In other words, the poor health that accompanies overindulgence is God’s instrument of judgment on the wealthy wicked. If God does not punish him this way, he will still not escape, because God will catch him some other way (Job 20:24-25; cf. Job 16:13). After he died, God would burn up his possessions and family in judgment as He already had done in Job’s case (Job 20:26; cf. ch. 1). Rather than anticipating divine vindication on the earth, Job should expect God to reveal his iniquity and the earth to rise up against him (Job 20:27; cf. Job 16:18-19).

Was Zophar correct in his assessment of the wicked person’s fate? He was correct in saying that God judges sin, but he was wrong in claiming that God’s judgment always takes place during our earthly lifetime. He was also inaccurate in saying that Job was the type of person he described.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 20". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-20.html. 2012.
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