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Bible Commentaries
Job 11

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-20

III. Zophar and Job: Chaps. 11–14

A.—Zophar’s violent arraignment of Job, as one who needs in penitence to submit himself to the all-seeing and righteous God:

Job 11:0

1. Expression of the desire that the Omniscient One would appear to convince Job of his guilt

Job 11:2-6

1          Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said:

2     Should not the multitude of words be answered?

and should a man full of talk be justified?

3     Should thy lies make men hold their peace?

and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?

4     For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure,

and I am clean in Thine eyes.

5     But oh that God would speak,

and open His lips against thee;

6     and that He would show thee the secrets of wisdom,

that they are double to that which is!

Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.

2. Admonitory description of the impossibility of contending against God’s omniscience, which charges every man with sin:

Job 11:7-12

7     Canst thou by searching find out God?

canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?

8     It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do?

deeper than hell, what canst thou know?

9     The measure thereof is longer than the earth,

and broader than the sea.

10     If He cut off, and shut up,

or gather together, then who can hinder Him?

11     For He knoweth vain men;

He seeth wickedness also; will He not then consider it?

12     For vain man would be wise,

though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.

3. The truly penitent has in prospect the restoration of his prosperity; for the wicked, however, there remains no hope:

Job 11:13-20

13     If thou prepare thine heart,

and stretch out thine hands toward Him;

14     if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away,

and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.

15     For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot;

yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear.

16     Because thou shalt forget thy misery,

and remember it as waters that pass away;

17     and thine age shall be clearer than the noonday;

thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.

18     And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope;

yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.

19     Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid;

yea, many shall make suit unto thee.

20     But the eyes of the wicked shall fail,

and they shall not escape,
and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.


The comparative violence of this new arraignment of Job is to be explained by the fact that he in his last discourse had positively maintained his innocence, and had accused God quite openly and directly of injustice. Zophar, the youngest and the least considerate of the three friends, opposes him on this head with the declaration that God the All-wise and All-seeing, would observe in him, as in all men, enough of sin to justify the stern infliction of punishment on him (Job 11:6). He indeed gives direct expression to the thought that the suffering which Job endured was well-deserved punishment for sin (Job 11:11), that sincere repentance was required of him (Job 11:14), and that on condition of such repentance could he hope for restoration to his former prosperity, that in any other case the sad doom of the wicked would surely be before him (Job 11:20). [“In his first appearance he is hot, and eager, and peremptory, but widely more gentle and less coarse than hereafter. Eliphaz brings forward his earnest exhortation, overawed by its divine majesty, and trembling when he recollects how he received from heaven the truth which he utters for Job’s advantage. Bildad reposes not on revelation, but on the human consciousness. Zophar, the private dogmatist, and as such—having nothing to fall back on with dignity—the hottest and most intolerant, has only his own ‘of course,’ ‘it cannot but be,’ with which to silence his obstinate adversary.” Davidson.] His discourse falls into three divisions: 1. The expression of a desire for such a declaration from the All-wise God as would convince Job of his guilt (Job 11:2-6); 2. A description intended to warn Job of God’s exalted knowledge, by virtue of which He charges on every man his sins (Job 11:7-12); 3. An inculcation of the necessity of repentance as the only condition of recovering his former prosperity (Job 11:13-20). Parts 1 and 2 are Double Strophes, consisting of small strophes of three or two verses each. Part 3 contains three such shorter strophes or groups of verses.

2. First Division, or Double Strophe. The expression of the desire that the Omniscient One would appear to convince Job of his guilt (Job 11:2-6).

First Strophe: Job 11:2-4. A censure of the high-flown and impenitent discourse of Job.

Job 11:2. Shall the multitude of words (רֹב דְּבָרִים, as in Proverbs 10:19; Ecclesiastes 5:2) remain unanswered, or shall a babbler (lit. “man of lips,” אִישׁ שְׂכָתַיִם, to be distinguished from אִישׁ דְּבָרִים, “a man of words,” i.e., an eloquent speaker, Exodus 4:10) be in the right?—יִצְדַּק, literally “to be justified, to be declared in the right,” to wit, by allowing him the last word. The beginning of the discourse resembles that of Bildad, Job 8:2. At the game time there may be detected a slight tone of apology, that the speaker undertakes to say any thing, notwithstanding his youth. [“If Zophar’s name, which signifies chirper or chatterer, was expressive of his character, these words might have been applied to himself.” Wordsworth.]

Job 11:3. Shall thy vain talk (בַּדִּים from בדד, βαττολογεῖν) [E. V.: too strong, “lies,” rather chatter, idle babbling] put men (מְתִים, archaic expression for אדם or אנשים [“like other archaisms, e.g., תֵּבֵל, always without the article.” Del.], comp. Job 11:11; Job 19:19; Job 22:15, etc.) to silence, so that thou mockest [“God (Hirzel); better Rosenmüller: nos et Deum.” Del.], without any one putting thee to shame?viz., by refuting thee.—The fut. consec.וַתִּלְעַג, as also ותאמר at the beginning of the following verse, denotes that into which Job might be betrayed by men’s silence. It bears, therefore, since the principal verb יַחֲרִישׁוּ continues the question of the preceding verse, a modal impress: “so that thou darest to mock and to say,” etc. (so correctly Umbreit, Hirzel, Vaihinger, Hahn, Delitzsch, etc., while Ewald, Stickel, Dillmann [Carey], etc. remove altogether the interrogative character of our verse, and make it to consist of two co-ordinate affirmative clauses.

Job 11:4. My doctrine is pure.—לֶקַח, in the Book of Job occurring only here, very common, however, in Proverbs (comp. also Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 29:24), signifies not a mere “assumption,” or “opinion” (Hahn), but something appropriated from tradition, a truth taught in accordance with tradition, especially in respect to moral conduct, therefore, in brief, moral teaching, or doctrine in general. With regard, therefore, to this his doctrine, the substance of his moral axioms and rules of living, Zophar reproaches Job with maintaining (or rather he says that he would maintain, if encouraged by the silence of others): “it is pure,” i.e., it is immaculate and infallible (זַךְ as in Job 8:6; Job 33:9; Proverbs 16:2, etc.). And yet more than this: even against God would he maintain that “he was pure in His eyes” (comp. Job 9:21; Job 10:7). He would therefore, in addition to the purity of his principles, maintain also that of his life, a result which seems to Zophar the height of absurdity, and which seems to him to mock every holy ordinance of God.

Second Strophe: Job 11:5-6. Expression of the wish that God Himself might personally interpose to punish Job’s arrogant falsehoods.

Job 11:5. But oh that Eloah would speak and open His lips against thee.—After מי יִתֵּן here follows first the Infinitive (as in Exodus 16:3); then, however, in b, and in the following verse Imperfects: comp. Gesen. § 136, 2. [The subject of the Inf. is emphatically placed before it. “Oh, that Eloah would speak!” See Ewald, § 329, c.] A forcible וְאוּלָם (verum enim vero) introduces the whole optative clause and puts it, in a measure, in opposition to the wish that God might come, previously uttered by Job himself (Job 9:34 seq.), thus: verily, would He but come, there would be an immediate end to thy boasting.

Job 11:6. And make known to thee the secrets of His wisdom, that it is twofold in true knowledge.—תּוּשִׁיָּה in a somewhat different sense from that found above in Job 5:12; Job 6:13; here in a more theoretic (scientific) sense. כִּפְלַיִם, lit. that which is doubled, i.e., in general that which is much greater than something else, which far surpasses it [hence “manifold” would, according to our mode of expression, be more exact than “twofold.” The explanation of some that the word is used here by way of comparison, as though the meaning were that “God’s wisdom is double thine,” or “twice as great as thou canst imagine,” is inadequate. The word is absolute, and although dual in form, is to us plural, or intensive in meaning=God’s wisdom is fold upon fold! how then canst thou presume to judge it, as though able to see through it? For this intensive use of the dual comp. צָחֳרַיִם, Job 11:17, lit. “double brightness,” i.e., the superlative brightness of noonday.—E.]. Comp. Isaiah 40:2. The subj. of כפלים, viz., היא referring back to חכמה, is here omitted, because it is identical with the obj. of the principal clause; comp. Genesis 2:4; Isaiah 3:10 (Ewald, § 336, b). [E. V. here—“that they are double to that which is”—is scarcely intelligible.] So must thou know [וְרַע, Imperat. consec., presenting the necessary consequence of the fulfilment of that wish; comp. Ewald, § 347, a) [Delitzsch; “Instead of saying: then thou wouldst perceive, Zophar, realizing in his mind that which he has just wished, says imperiously וְדַע”] that Eloah remits to thee of thy guilti.e., leaves much of it out of the account against thee, lets it go unpunished. The מִן in מֵעֲוֹנְךָ is accordingly partitive, to be expressed by “somewhat of, much of,” הִשָּׁה, lit. to bring into forgetfulness, oblivioni dare, a causative Hiphil, occurring elsewhere in the O. T. only in Job 39:17.

3. Second Division, or Double Strophe: Describing, with an admonitory purpose, the impossibility of contending against God’s omniscience, which charges every man with sin, Job 11:7-12.

First Strophe: Job 11:7-9. [God’s wisdom unsearchable.]

Job 11:7. Canst thou reach the depths [in the Germ.: den Grund erreichen: lit. to reach the bottom] in Eloah, or penetrate to the uttermost parts [zum Aeussersten hinandringen] in the Almighty?—חֵקֶר, “search” (Job 8:8), is used here sensu objectivo=that which is to be searched, the ground of any thing (so in Job 38:16); here, therefore, the hidden depth [ground, basis] of the divine nature. תַּכְלִית, on the contrary, denotes “the finishing, the terminus,” i.e., the end, the extremity of the same divine nature [Wordsworth: “canst thou arrive at the limit of God? Canst thou attain to the horizon of the Almighty?”] (comp. Job 26:10; Job 28:3; Psalms 139:22; Nehemiah 3:21). The first question accordingly describes God as unfathomable, the second as illimitable or immeasurable; the former conveys the notion of absolute mystery, the latter that of absolute greatness and incomprehensibility. [“The nature of God may be sought after, but cannot be found out; and the end of God is unattainable, for He is both: the Perfect One, absolutus; and the Endless One, infinitus.” Del.] Many moderns, after Eichhorn (e.g., John Pye Smith: The Scripture Testimony of the Messiah, 6 Ed., Vol. I. 11; Vol. II. 240) [also E. V.] take חקר in the active sense of searching or discovering, and תכלית in the sense of perfection. This, however, yields for both members a less suitable sense, and assigns to תכלית a signification which it can nowhere be proved to have. [Conant and others (so also E. V.) regard the clause עד־תכלית as adverbial: “Canst thou find out the Almighty to a perfection?” i.e., to a perfect comprehension of Him. Neither of Conant’s reasons for this rendering is valid. (1) The parallelism does not favor it, but contrariwise. חֵקֶו אֱל׳ finds its parallel in תַּכְ׳ שַׁ׳; the former belonging to the category of depth, the latter to that of length, which accounts for the preposition עַד. (2) The accentuation does not favor it, but the reverse. Munach puts שַׁדַּי in precisely the same connection with the final verb in this member, as אֱלוֹהַּ in the former member.—E.]

Job 11:8. Heights of heaven: to wit, are the distances which lie between our perception and the “extremity” of the Almighty, the dimensions with which we seek to measure His infinitude. Hence the question, vividly annexed to this exclamation—what canst thou do?—emphasizing the helplessness and powerlessness of man over against that which is immeasurable. To this corresponds the second member:—deeper than the underworld (are the hidden depths, the grounds of the Godhead, or of the Divine Wisdom)—what knowest thou? what can thy knowledge do in view of such depths? In so far as the phrase “heights of heaven” points back to the idea of the תּכלית, while the phrase “deeper than the underworld” points to that of the חקר, the position of the two members of this verse seems to be inverted as regards those of the ver. preceding. It is to be observed that the ruling idea here, as well as in the following verse, is throughout that of the Divine wisdom (omniscience), or the Divine nature on the side of wisdom and intellectual perfection, as the connection of the passage with Job 11:6 clearly shows.

Job 11:9. Longer than the earth is its measure, and broader is it than the sea:viz. the Divine wisdom, the immeasurableness of which is here described according to all the four dimensions, according to the height and depth, and also according to the length and breadth, as in Ephesians 3:18 these same four dimensions are used in describing the absoluteness of the love of God in Christ. Our translation: “longer than the earth is its [lit. her] measure,” rests on the reading מִדָּחּ with He mappiq, which is to be regarded as an abbreviated feminine form for מִדָּתָהּ (comp. Job 5:13, עָרְמָם for עָרְמָתָם: also Zechariah 4:2, etc.). The Masorah, indeed, favors מִדָּה, with He raphatum, with which reading the word would be the Accus. of nearer definition (“according to its measure, in measure”). But the separation between the Accus. of relation and its ruling word produced by a word intervening, would give here, where היא is omitted, a somewhat harsh construction, to which the simpler rendering given above is to be preferred.

Second Strophe: Job 11:10-12. [The judicial intervention of God supposed.]

Job 11:10. If He passes by [יחלף, as in Job 9:11; E. V. incorrectly “cut off”], and arrests, and calls to judgment (lit. summons an assembly, implying that the process of a trial was public, and the verdict rendered and executed by the assembled people: comp. Ezekiel 16:40; Ezekiel 23:46; 1 Kings 21:9). [“One might almost imagine that Zophar looks upon himself and the other two friends as forming such an ‘assembly:’ they cannot justify him in opposition to God, since He accounts him guilty.” Del.]—Who will oppose Him? present a protest in behalf of the accused as though he were not guilty. Comp. in general Job 9:11-12, which description of Job’s Zophar here reproduces in part word for word, but with quite another purpose, viz. to defend, not to condemn or assail God’s justice [“וּמִיvav apod. with fine effect—who, as you say (Job 9:12) would?” Dav.].

Job 11:11. For He [emphatic, הוּא; whether others know it, or not] knows evil men (מְתֵי שָׁוְא, lit. “men of vanity, of falsehood,” [“people who hypocritically disguise their moral nothingness.” Del.], as in Psalms 26:4; comp. also Job 22:15), and sees wickedness without considering it:i.e. without watching it with strenuous and anxious strictness (comp. Job 34:23), the moral qualities of His creatures being at every moment unveiled to His omniscience. [“Finely magnifying the Divine Insight, which is omniscient, and is so without effort.” Dav.] This is the only rendering of וְלֹא יִתְבּוֹנָן which accords with the context (comp. already Aben Ezra; non opus habet, ut diu consideret; among moderns Hirzel, Dillm., Del., etc.). Far less natural are the explanations of Ewald: “without his (the wicked) observing it;” of Umbreit, Stickel, Hahn: “without his (the wicked) being observed;” of Schlottman: “and (sees) him who observes not, who is without understanding.”

Job 11:12. So must (even) a witless man acquire wisdom, and a wild ass’s foal be born over a man.—This interpretation, which is the one substantially adopted by Piscator, Umbreit, Ewald, Schlottm., Vaih., Heiligst., Dillmann [Renan, Hengst., Wordsworth], and generally by most moderns, is the most suitable among the numerous interpretations of this difficult verse. The connection by the וְ with the verse preceding, shows that this verse should indicate what effect the judicial intervention of the Omniscient God ought to have on man, even though he be a stubborn sinner and devoid of understanding.—אִישׁ נָבוּב, lit. a man bored through, i.e. a hollow man, hence one void of understanding, a man without intellectual and moral substance; comp. the phrase מְתֵי שָׁוְא.—Again, עַיִר פֶּרֶא (of which פֶּרֶא is in apposition, not in the genitive), signifies lit. “a foal, a wild ass, i.e., a wild-ass-foal (comp. the phrase פֶּרֶא אָדָם, used in almost the same sense of untamed wildness in Genesis 16:12).—Both these expressions, as well as those of the preceding verse, are chosen not without reference to the conduct of Job, who seems to Zophar to be an obstinate fool (comp. Job 2:10); although not pointed directly at him, they inflict on him a sensible cut [see Job 12:3, where with evident reference to the יִלָּבֵב of this passage, Job with indignant scorn says גַּמ־לִי לֵבָב כּ׳—E.], and they at the same time facilitate the transition to the following admonitions. Observe also the intentional and witty paronomasia [both of sound and sense] between נָבוּב and יִלָּבֵב: the empty man is to be made a man of substance [der Hohlkopf soll beherzt gemacht), the void in his head is to be filled up as it were by a new heart. [Observe in addition the assonance of the closing words of each member, יִלָּבֵב and יִוּלֵד.—Davidson adopts essentially the same construction of terms and clauses as that given here, but gives to the verse a different tone. Instead of regarding it as a grave declaration of what should be the result of the judicial intervention of God, he regards it as a sarcastic denial of wisdom to man:—“But a witless man would be wise, and a wild ass colt be a born man! a man who is a fool would arrogate wisdom to himself, and though a wild ass colt, he would claim humanity.” This, however, would be a tone of remark entirely out of harmony with what precedes, and with what follows. Davidson characterizes the interpretation adopted above as “excessively artificial and unhebraistic in construction:” a strange charge surely to come from one who adopts the very same construction, except that he gives it a different coloring. Equally wide of the mark is the objection that Job himself did not exhibit the result which Zophar here says ought or might be expected to follow.—Hengstenberg remarks on the contents of the verse according to our interpretation: “We have here the first passage of Scripture which speaks of a regeneration.”—E.] The following varying explanations are to be rejected as being in part against the connection, in part too harsh, or grammatically inadmissible. 1. “An empty man is without heart,” i.e. without understanding, etc. (Gesenius, Olshausen), [Conant, Noyes, Merx, Rodwell.—Against this it may be argued that such a privative use of Niphal is unexampled in Hebrew, and especially as Dillmann urges, that the sentiment thus expressed is self-evident and trite, and takes away the whole force of the paronomasia].—2. “But man, like a hollow pate, has he understanding,” etc. (Hirzel). [“Violates the accentuation, and produces an affected witticism.” Del.]—3. “Man is—at his birth—as one empty furnished with a heart,” i.e. he receives an empty undiscerning heart (Hupfeld). [Opposed to the future verbs, and to the correlation of נבוב and ילבב].—4. “Ignorant man flares up, or becomes insolent, etc.” (Vulgate, Stickel, Welte [Carey], etc. [Does not bring out the proper antithesis between נבוב and ילבב. Why should the man of whom it is affirmed that he has a bold defiant heart, be described as נָבוּב? This meaning is, moreover, less suitable to the connection. See remarks below at the end of the verse.—The same objections apply to] 5. “An empty man becomes stubborn” (Böttcher).—6. “Before an empty head gains a heart (understanding), a wild ass’s foal will be born again a man” (Rosenm., Hahn, Del., Kamphausen, etc.)

[In determining the meaning of this difficult expression the following considerations should have controlling weight. (1) The evident antithesis of נבוב and ילבב. Now as נבוב can be referred only to man in his sinful hollowness, emptiness, ילבב must describe the opposite, or man as endowed with a heart to understand, appreciate, and profit by God’s dealings. (2) The assonance of יִלָּבֵב and יִוָּלֵד, as well as the striking homogeneousness of thought between the two terms, the one describing the process of endowing man with לֵב, the distinguishing characteristic of manhood, the other the process of becoming a man, being born, here being born again a man, suggests that the verse is most probably a synonymous parallelism, the same essential thought being repeated in both members. (3) The gravity of the connection forbids our regarding the verse as simply a piece of witty irony. The verses preceding are a solemn description of God’s procedure against man in judgment; the verses following a solemn appeal to Job to repent and return to God. This verse in like manner is far more likely to be a grave earnest affirmation of truth than the opposite. (4) The practical drift of the connection makes it probable that the verse is not a description of the sinner in his perversity, but in the possibilities of his restoration. As the result of God’s severe disciplinary processes “empty man may or should be filled with a heart, and a wild ass’s foal may or should be born over a man.” This being the case, if thou direct thine heart, etc., thou shalt lift up thy face without spot, etc. Thus understood, it will be seen that the verse furnishes a suitable sequel to Job 11:10-11, and a suitable preparation to Job 11:13 seq.—(5) It seems exceedingly probable to say the least, that Job’s language in Job 12:3 a is his direct reply to the implied reproach in this verse. There he claims that he hasלבב as well as the friends, a claim which is most satisfactorily explained by supposing that he was stung to make it by understanding Zophar’s language here to imply that he needed to be put in possession of לבב.—E.].

4. Third Division: An admonition to repentance and conversion as the only means by which Job can recover his former prosperity, and escape the terrible doom of the wicked: Job 11:13-20.

First Strophe: Job 11:13-15. A period, consisting of Job 11:13 as hypothetical antecedent, Job 11:15 as consequent, and Job 11:14 as a regularly constructed parenthesis.

Job 11:13. (But) if thou direct thy heart (prepare it, bring it into a proper condition, not: “give it the right direction towards God,” Del. and others; nor again: “establish it,” Hirzel [“not pertinent, because Zophar has not in his mind so much perseverance in godliness as a return to it,” Dav.]), and spread forth thy hands unto Him, viz., in prayer and penitent supplication for mercy; comp. Job 8:5, and for the same phrase פרשׂ כפים, manus supinas (palmas) extendere, comp. Exodus 9:29; Exodus 9:33; 1 Kings 8:22; Isaiah 1:15.

Job 11:14. If iniquity is in thy hand, put it far away, and let not evil dwell in thy tents (comp. Job 5:24); this being the antecedent condition of the success of Job’s prayer according to Zophar’s mode of thinking, which indeed is not in itself a theory of legality or work-righteousness (comp. Psalms 34:13(12) seq.; 1 Peter 3:10; Isaiah 1:15 seq.), but which in the present case does nevertheless proceed from a narrow judgment, and is excessively offensive to Job.

Job 11:15. Surely, then thou shalt lift up thy face (comp. on Job 10:15) without spot:i.e., “without consciousness of guilt, and without any outward sign of the same cleaving to thee,” (Dillm.) מִן lit. “away from,” here equivalent to “without,” comp. Job 19:26; Job 21:9; 2 Samuel 1:22; Proverbs 20:3; and shalt be steadfast without fearing; shalt be firmly fixed in thy new prosperity, without having to fear any further judgments of God.—מֻצָּק, Part. Hoph. of יצק, lit. fused into solidity, quasi ex ære fusus (comp. 1 Kings 7:16. [“We must not lose the fine idea of one state arising out of another, a state of fluidity מָם Job 6:14) passing over into solidity; playing on Job’s past and future.” Dav.].

Second Strophe: Job 11:16, Job 11:17. Continuation of the promise of well-being to the penitent.

Job 11:16. For thou shalt forget trouble, shalt remember it as waters that have passed away: as something therefore that is never to come back, that has disappeared forever. [“When we think of water that has flowed away, we think of it as something which does not return, or rather we think no more about it at all, for with its disappearance even the remembrance of it is gone.” Dillmann]. The pronoun here is emphatic: “for thou thyself wilt forget trouble, thou and none other, no stranger (comp. Job 19:27) [or, as Davidson: “thou, unlike others, who escape calamity, but are haunted by its memory;” or, as Hengst: “thou, who just now canst think no other thought than of thy suffering”]: giving “an emphasis to the personal application of this peroration,” which would be lost if, with the Pesh. and Hirzel, כּי אַתָּה were changed to כִּי עַתָּה.

Job 11:17. And brighter than the glory of noon (צהרים, as in Job 5:14 b) arises (for thee) the future. חֶלֶד, lit. that which creeps along slowly, which passes by unobserved (from חלד, to glide) hence time in general, either in the sense of the world, that which is temporal, αἰών (Psalms 17:14; comp. Hupfeld on the passage, Psalms 49:2); or in the sense of life, lifetime, future, as here and in Psalms 39:6 (5); Psalms 89:48 (47), etc. [“יָקּוּם, an exquisite image, lift itself up, disentangle itself from the accumulated, crushing darkness of the present, increasing in brilliancy ever as it disengages itself.” Dav.]. For מִן in מצהרים, (with “brighter” to be supplied) comp. Micah 7:4.—Should it be dark, it will be as the morning;i.e., if any darkness should come, if dark adversity should befall thee (תָּעֻפָה, 3d Pers. Fem., with neut. signification: not 2d Pers., “shouldest thou become dark,” as Schlottm. would explain) it will then ever be as bright as on a clear morning: evidently an intentional reversal of the gloomy picture of his future in Job 10:22, which Job had himself drawn. [“His climax there was that his daylight should be as darkness; Zophar’s promise is that his darkness shall he daylight.” Dav.—Gesenius (in Thes.) Ewald, Conant, etc., prefer taking תעפה as a noun, “darkness,” written תְּעֻפָה, or תְּעוּפָה, as found in a few MSS., and as read by the Syr. and Chald.—Bernard, Hengstenberg, and others render the verb—“thou shalt fly up,” i.e., soar out of the depths of thy misery to the heights of prosperity; a rendering which destroys the antithesis between this verse and Job 10:22.—E. V.: “thou shalt shine forth” seems to be a paraphrase of this last rendering, suggested perhaps by the frequent comparison of the beams of light to the wings of a bird.—E.]

Third Strophe: Job 11:18-20. Conclusion of the promise of prosperity, with an admonitory reference to the joyless end of the wicked.

Job 11:18. And thou hast (thou shalt have, Perf. consec.) confidence, because there is [יֵשׁ, “with the force of a real and lasting existence,” Del.] hope (for thee, comp. Job 14:7, also the opposite of this hopeful condition, described above in Job 7:6); and thou shalt search about (to ascertain, viz., whether all that pertains to thy household is in a state of order and security; comp. Job 5:24 b), shalt lie down securely, viz., for sleep; comp. Ps. 4:9 (Psalms 4:8). חָפַר here certainly “to spy out,” as in Job 39:21; Job 39:29; not “to blush (חָפֵר), to be ashamed,” as though וְחָפַרְתָּ were a concessive antecedent clause: “and even shouldest thou be put to shame (in thy confidence), thou canst still lie down in peace,” Rosenm., Hirzel, [Carey], an unsuitable weakening of the sense, which is at variance with the remainder of the bright promises contained in these verses. [“Against this conditional sense is the affirmative use of the corresponding form in the parallel member.” Con. “It is inadmissible, since it introduces a sadness into the promise.” Del.]. The rendering of Hengstenberg is altogether too artificial: “and thou hast dug,” i.e., dug a trench for protection around thy house [and so E. V.—“thou shalt dig about thee”], a sense which the reference to Job 3:21; Job 39:21 is scarcely sufficient to justify.

Job 11:19. Thou liest down without any one making thee afraid; as peacefully and securely, that is, as the beast, or the cattle, which no foe terrifies; comp. Genesis 49:9; Isaiah 17:2.—Yea, many shall seek thy favor, lit. stroke, or caress thy face (Del. “thy cheeks”) flatter thee; comp. Proverbs 19:6; Psalms 45:13 (12). Instead of being despised, and covered with ignominy, (Job 10:15) thou shalt be highly honored, and greatly courted.

Job 11:20. But the eyes of the wicked waste away, in vainly looking for help, in unsatisfied yearning for good (comp. Job 17:5) and every refuge vanishes from them; lit. “away from them,” מִנְּהֶם poet. for מֵהֵם; and their hope is the breathing out of the soul;i.e., all that they have still to hope for is the breathing out of their soul (comp. נָפַח נֶפֶשׁ, Job 31:39; Jeremiah 15:9), hence the giving up of the ghost, death (not a state where their desires will remain eternally unfulfilled, as Delitzsch explains.) [“Zophar here makes use of the choicest expressions of the style of the prophetic Psalms,” Delitzsch. “If we compare with each other the closing words of the three friends, Job 5:26 sq; Job 8:22 b; Job 11:20, the advance, which each makes beyond his predecessor, is unmistakable.” Dillmann.]


1. This first discourse of Zophar’s resembles that of Eliphaz, and still more that of Bildad, both in respect of the rebuke with which it begins (“who can hear such words in silence?” etc.) and in respect of the union of promise and warning at the close. It proceeds from the same theological and ethical premises as those of the two previous speakers, in so far as it puts God’s absolute perfection and exaltation (here more particularly on the intellectual side, the illimitability of His knowledge and His wisdom) in solemn and emphatic contrast with the short-sighted limitation of man, and thence derives man’s obligation in all circumstances to draw nigh to God as a penitent, and to confess himself before Him as guilty and deserving of punishment. Not less does it resemble those two preceding arraignments of Job in respect of form, in the strength of its expressions, in the poetic loftiness and figurative richness of its descriptions, qualities which shine forth with especial brilliancy in the passage where the Divine wisdom is described as being high as heaven, deep as hell, long as the earth, and broad as the sea (Job 11:7-9). Moreover the comparatively correct orthodoxy of its positions and arguments, the absence of everything that would decidedly contradict the doctrinal and ethical tradition of pious Old Testament worshippers of Jehovah (worshippers of Eloah), the circumstance that nowhere is there even any excessive work-righteousness and legal harshness visible (particularly not in Job 11:14)—all this exhibits Zophar to us as a kindred soul with Eliphaz and Bildad, and his stand-point as most intimately related to theirs.

2. That, however, which marks the difference between this discourse, as to its contents and tendency, and those of the two former speakers—a difference, too, which is not to the advantage of the speaker—is its tone, which is immeasurably more violent. Its attack on the sorely tried sufferer, who so greatly needed a merciful and tender treatment, is harsher, more pointed and personal. At the very beginning (Job 11:2-3) the bitter charge is hurled at his head that his speech was “a torrent of words” and “empty talk.” To the expression “an empty pate,” which is here applied to him, is added in Job 11:11-12 a description of vain, hollow-pated, stubborn people (who are like the wild ass), which points with unmistakable significance to Job. And in the closing passage (Job 11:20), which points out the hopeless destruction of the wicked, there is no trace of the delicacy and urbanity of his two predecessors, at the close of whose discourses, the tone of promise altogether predominates over that of threats and warnings. The discourse at this very point shows a decidedly perceptible advance beyond the two which precede towards inconsiderate harshness. “Eliphaz barely appended a slight warning; Bildad briefly blends it with his promise by way of contrast; Zophar adds a verse which already looks like the advanced picket of an army of similar harsh menaces in chs. 15, 18, 20” (Ewald). Again, the exceedingly personal and unqualified way in which Zophar in Job 11:6 reproaches Job with his guilt, and suggests that there must be not a little of it that is overlooked by God, as well as the not less personal and humiliating demand that he should repent and renounce all unrighteousness as a conditio sine qua non of his restoration to divine favor (Job 11:13 seq.) exhibit a certain advance on the part of this speaker beyond the stand-point of the two former. Instead of reckoning himself as belonging to those who need repentance and purification, as Eliphaz does very distinctly, and Bildad also, at least to some extent, Zophar, when he reminds Job of the duty of acknowledging his sins and repenting of them, speaks only in the second person. He thus sets himself up before him as a rigid censor and accuser, and assumes the character of an advocate of God, who himself needs no correction. As a consequence all that he says in the way of positive instruction, or produces out of the store of his monotheistic Chokmah-tradition, loses for Job its proper moral value and its determining power. Even the description of the abysmal vastness and unsearchableness of the Divine nature and intelligence in Job 11:7 seq., grand as it is in itself, must seem cold to Job, and pass away without leaving any impression on him; for no softening ray of heartfelt brotherly love, and of a humble realization of grace falls on this magnificent picture of the Divine omniscience and wisdom. That picture can and should in truth produce only terror and trembling; for in whichever of the four directions we turn, whether toward the heights of heaven, or the depths of hell, or the lengths of the earth, or the breadths of the sea, nowhere do we discover any bridge hospitably inviting and facilitating our advance. We find no experience, not even a presentiment of the love-power of Christ’s cross, which fills and pervades the abysmal depths of the divine nature. There is to be found as yet no trace of that knowledge of God, which Paul in Ephesians 3:18 describes as a “comprehending … what is the breadth and the length and the depth and the height:” a comprehension which indeed belongs only to the “saints” of the New Dispensation, which is produced only by the cross of the Redeemer as the solution of all contradictions (comp. also Ephesians 4:8-10), and which can be acquired and appropriated only at the feet of the Crucified One.1 The deficiency in this knowledge of God, which Zophar here exhibits is indeed on his part essentially not criminal, resting as it does on the fact that neither to him, nor to his associates, nor to Job himself, had the mystery of justification by faith been openly revealed as yet (comp. Brentius: “Zophar and the other friends of Job seem to be entirely ignorant of what the Gospel and faith in God’s promise can effect; they argue against Job as though no one could ever be justified before God by faith”), and that as to his general position he belonged to that immature and imperfect stage of development in the education of the human race, when it was impossible as yet to advance beyond a rigid contra-position of the Godhead and the creature. He must, however, be to the last charged with criminal and guilty conduct in this, that he uses his insight into that heavenly immeasurable superiority of the Divine knowledge over the human (or, which is the same thing: his doctrine that the divine wisdom represents all men as sinful and foolish) with merciless severity against Job, deeply wounding him with it as with a sword, without making even a single attempt to soften the application, or to use this two-edged weapon in a considerate and conciliatory spirit.

3. It is easy to see accordingly what in Zophar’s discourse must be censured as one-sided and unfriendly, and what on the other hand remains as really beautiful and valuable religious and moral truth. The latter is limited essentially to the inspired eulogy of the Divine wisdom and omniscience in Job 11:7 seq.,—a description which in power and beauty is not, indeed, equal to that presented in the introductory part of Psalms 139:0., but which furnishes nevertheless one of the most note-worthy Old Testament parallels of that passage. It is in the more detailed exhibition of the individual beauties and profound truths of this eulogy of Divine wisdom that we are principally to find the


Suggestions of this Discourse.—It is neither necessary nor advisable to subdivide it in thus treating it. For as Job 11:2-5 are simply introductory to the main theme, so Job 11:13-20 show how the wisdom of the Most High, incomprehensible in itself, and His omniscience, can alone become comprehensible to man, thus furnishing the basis for the practical and hortatory part, in which every homily on such a theme as the present one must find its issue. The whole is to be left in its organic connection. The following hints however may serve for the treatment of particular passages.

Job 11:7. Œcolampadius: By the four greatest dimensions of the greatest things the idea of supreme perfection is conveyed.… Wisdom is higher than the heaven, deeper than hell, broader than the sea, and longer than the earth, for its greatness is not included within all of these. For the heaven of the heavens cannot contain Thee, says Solomon in his prayer (1 Kings 8:27).—Cocceius: It is no longer necessary that we should wish for one who might either ascend to heaven, or descend to hell or depart beyond the sea. In Christ we have One who came from heaven, who returned from hell, who measures the earth and the sea with a span. In Him all things are open and clear to us.—Starke: If man is not capable of searching out so many things in nature, how much less can he with his narrow understanding comprehend God’s nature, and His wise government (Wis 9:16)!—Hengstenberg (on Job 11:10 seq ): It is here that we first see quite clearly in what respect Zophar asserts the claims of the Divine wisdom against Job, as being that, namely, by virtue of which God penetrates the depths of the human heart and life, which to man himself are utterly inaccessible and hidden. He in rendering His judgment has all facts and data at His control, whereas to man only a small part is accessible.

Job 11:13 seq. Cocceius: As there was impudence in the Pharisee’s lifting up of his hands (Luke 18:11 seq.), so there is deception in the hypocrite’s beating of the breast. These gestures easily degenerate. The best prayers are those which make the least noise, and which are poured out in the secret recesses of the heart to Him who seeth in secret, and rewardeth openly, who is the “Hearer of the heart, not of the voice,” as Cyprian says.—Starke: True penitence and believing prayer are the means by which calamity is warded off, and prosperity and blessing procured (Jdt 8:12 seq.) With true repentance, however, there must be associated (as in the case of Zacchæus, Luke 19:8) an earnest purpose to reform the life.

Job 11:15 seq. Brentius: What therefore shall be to the man who directs his own heart, who stretches out his hands toward God, and who purges his works of sin? He dares to lift up his face before God, without spot, without crime; for if conscience, sin, or Satan should accuse us it is God who justifies; it is Christ who died and rose again, and the Christian shall rise together with Him.… All these promises are fulfilled in the Church, in which by faith tears are wiped away, and mourning disappears (Revelation 21:4); the body indeed suffers pain, but the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Job 11:20. Starke: The Divine threatenings are to be applied to the soul that rests in careless security, but not to the soul that is tried with temptation and anguish (2 Thess. 5:14).—Hengstenberg; Job had spoken of death as his only hope. Very true, says Zophar, it is the only hope, if thou remainest as thou art! Zophar is quite right in making all Job’s hope, and all his salvation depend on his knowing himself as a sinner. His error begins only when he comes to determine more particularly the way and mode of recognizing sin, when—that is—he treats sinners and transgressors as convertible terms. In his sense Job could not acknowledge himself a sinner.


[1]It is a favorite thought of many of the Church Fathers that the Cross of Christ is a power which mediates and reconciles the discords and oppositions between all parts of the universe (as though accordingly it sent its roots down into the under-world, its head up into heaven, while with both arms it lovingly embraced the broad expanse of earth and air). This thought is elaborated for the most part in connection with Ephesians 3:18 (Job 4:8-10), but occasionally also with reference to Job 11:8-9. So by Basil the Great (comm. on Isaiah 2:0); by Gregory of Nyssa (Catech. Magna, c. 32); by Rufinus (Expositio Symb. Apostolici); by Coel. Sedulius (Mirabilia Div. V. 297, 54); by John of Damascus (De fide orthod. iv. 12), etc. The same may be said of many modern mystics and theosophists, such as Baader, St. Martin. Görres, J. F. v. Meyer. Comp. especially the last named’s “Blütter f. hohere Wahrheit,” Vol. VIII., page 145 seq.: “The Cross points upward and downward, to the right and to the left; this fourfold direction designates the All, on which and from which its influence acts. Its head uplifts itself to the throne of God, and its root reaches down to hell. Its arms stretch out from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, from pole to pole. In it heaven and earth are united, in it appeased; in it things which are most strongly opposed are reconciled and made one.” Comp. also the remarks of Œcolampadius, Cocceius, etc., cited below [Homiletical and Practical].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 11". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/job-11.html. 1857-84.
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