Job’s Response to Zophar: Job Ch 12-14
Then Job responded,
2 “Truly then you are the people,
And with you wisdom will die!
3 “But I have intelligence as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
And who does not know such things as these?
Job is telling his friends that he is perfectly aware of causes for judgment and consequences of sin. Job is stating that it is perfectly obvious that God judges the unjust.
4 “I am a joke to my friends,
The one who called on God and He answered him;
The just and blameless man is a joke.
5 “He who is at ease holds calamity in contempt,
As prepared for those whose feet slip.
6 “The tents of the destroyers prosper,
And those who provoke God are secure,
Whom God brings into their power.
In chapter 10, Job had begun to call out to God as advised by Eliphaz and Bildad, immediately Zophar steps in with a judgment. Job is saying that his friends have no respect for him.
Another very true point Job makes is that it is hard to truly enter into the situation of another person who is going through a great time of stress when you haven’t experience it yourself. When you are “at ease,” it is hard to imagine what the other person is going through.
Job is also pointing out that they are operating under the mistaken assumption that only those who have done wrong suffer, that calamity is only for those “whose feet slip.” Job asserts that sometimes those who do wrong do actually prosper, whether a person stands or falls is under God’s power.
It reminds me of what an ER doctor in California said in a post about the severely sick COVID patients that he is seeing.
There is a tendency to distance ourselves from the sick and unfortunate, because it’s a disturbing thought that, through no fault of our own, we could end up like them. Working in the medical field and seeing horrible things happen to people who have done nothing to invite them (although what could most of us actually do to deserve cancer?) is an unpleasant but effective way of understanding how vulnerable we all are, just by being alive. The lowest energy state around us is death. Our bodies are fighting every day to stay away from that.
This is something that I am trying very hard to remember right now, to empathize with a person’s situation regardless of what I think the circumstances are or how they got there.
Let me tell you, it’s hard. I’m sitting in the middle of a city on fire with Delta, where we have the largest medical center in the world, and yet there isn’t an ICU bed to be found and people are waiting for days to be admitted. It’s hard when people are outraged that there isn’t a bed or adequate treatment when their particular person has COVID … even though they won’t admit it’s COVID … but those same people weren’t concerned about their part in creating a situation where our hospitals are overrun or how they were affecting the people around them. It’s hard when they weren’t and still aren’t. They still won’t acknowledge that at this point we are in an entirely human created disaster. Our collective actions brought us to this point. It didn’t have to be this way.
It’s really, really hard.
But I keep reminding myself … don’t be Zophar. I don’t know the whole situation and even if they did bring their current predicament on themselves, we are still supposed to pray for mercy. None of us deserve God’s grace.
7 “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
8 “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
9 “Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
11 “Does not the ear test words,
As the palate tastes its food?
12 “Wisdom is with aged men,
With long life is understanding.
Job acknowledges that nothing happens outside of the power of God.
13 “With Him are wisdom and might;
To Him belong counsel and understanding.
14 “Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt;
He imprisons a man, and there can be no release.
15 “Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up;
And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth.
16 “With Him are strength and sound wisdom,
The misled and the misleader belong to Him.
17 “He makes counselors walk barefoot
And makes fools of judges.
18 “He loosens the bond of kings
And binds their loins with a girdle.
19 “He makes priests walk barefoot
And overthrows the secure ones.
20 “He deprives the trusted ones of speech
And takes away the discernment of the elders.
21 “He pours contempt on nobles
And loosens the belt of the strong.
22 “He reveals mysteries from the darkness
And brings the deep darkness into light.
23 “He makes the nations great, then destroys them;
He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.
24 “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people
And makes them wander in a pathless waste.
25 “They grope in darkness with no light,
And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.
In this last part of chapter 12, Job highlights the control of God over the affairs of men. We often thing we have things under control, and the more resources and more power we have, the more likely we fall into that error. Anyone who thinks they are secure against being held accountable for their actions is just waiting for a seemingly insignificant act of God to take them down.
“Behold, my eye has seen all this,
My ear has heard and understood it.
2 “What you know I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
Job is aware of all the things that his friends have asserted about the character and nature of God.
3 “But I would speak to the Almighty,
And I desire to argue with God.
4 “But you smear with lies;
You are all worthless physicians.
5 “O that you would be completely silent,
And that it would become your wisdom!
6 “Please hear my argument
And listen to the contentions of my lips.
7 “Will you speak what is unjust for God,
And speak what is deceitful for Him?
8 “Will you show partiality for Him?
Will you contend for God?
9 “Will it be well when He examines you?
Or will you deceive Him as one deceives a man?
10 “He will surely reprove you
If you secretly show partiality.
11 “Will not His majesty terrify you,
And the dread of Him fall on you?
12 “Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes,
Your defenses are defenses of clay.
Job’s friends are claiming to speak for God and instruct Job about him, but Job points out that God knows all secret motives.
13 “Be silent before me so that I may speak;
Then let come on me what may.
14 “Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
And put my life in my hands?
15 “Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
Job knows that God is perfectly righteous and perfectly just, and that God alone is the only one who can judge. Job puts his hope in God alone and trusts in his mercy.
16 “This also will be my salvation,
For a godless man may not come before His presence.
17 “Listen carefully to my speech,
And let my declaration fill your ears.
18 “Behold now, I have prepared my case;
I know that I will be vindicated.
19 “Who will contend with me?
For then I would be silent and die.
Again, Job recognizes that one must come before God in righteousness and humility. He is confident that, as God is just, he will be vindicated.
20 “Only two things do not do to me,
Then I will not hide from Your face:
21 Remove Your hand from me,
And let not the dread of You terrify me.
22 “Then call, and I will answer;
Or let me speak, then reply to me.
Even in approaching God with his request, Job rests throws himself on God’s mercy. He asks God for the confidence to approach him.
23 “How many are my iniquities and sins?
Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.
24 “Why do You hide Your face
And consider me Your enemy?
25 “Will You cause a driven leaf to tremble?
Or will You pursue the dry chaff?
26 “For You write bitter things against me
And make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.
27 “You put my feet in the stocks
And watch all my paths;
You set a limit for the soles of my feet,
28 While I am decaying like a rotten thing,
Like a garment that is moth-eaten.
Job asks God to reveal any unknown sins .. He is ready to repent if they are made known. Job reminds God that he is putting his entire confidence in Him. Job continues his petition in chapter 14.
“Man, who is born of woman,
Is short-lived and full of turmoil.
2 “Like a flower he comes forth and withers.
He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.
3 “You also open Your eyes on him
And bring him into judgment with Yourself.
4 “Who can make the clean out of the unclean?
5 “Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with You;
And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.
6 “Turn Your gaze from him that he may rest,
Until he fulfills his day like a hired man.
Like Solomon, Job reflects on the shortness of life. In response to Zophar’s advice to make himself clean, Job asks, “Who can make the clean out of the unclean?” We cannot make ourself right.
7 “For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.
8 “Though its roots grow old in the ground
And its stump dies in the dry soil,
9 At the scent of water it will flourish
And put forth sprigs like a plant.
10 “But man dies and lies prostrate.
Man expires, and where is he?
11 “As water evaporates from the sea,
And a river becomes parched and dried up,
12 So man lies down and does not rise.
Until the heavens are no longer,
He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.
I think we see here again that reincarnation is not something Job believes in or hopes for. While the same tree will regenerate, Job states that man is not like that. However, we do see that he does have hope in the resurrection when “the heavens are no longer” when he will be “aroused out of his sleep.” (Isaiah 65:17-19, Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 21:1-5)
13 “Oh that You would hide me in Sheol,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You,
That You would set a limit for me and remember me!
14 “If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my struggle I will wait
Until my change comes.
15 “You will call, and I will answer You;
You will long for the work of Your hands.
16 “For now You number my steps,
You do not observe my sin.
17 “My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And You wrap up my iniquity.
Even after death, when Job is “hidden in Sheol,” he will still put his trust in God and has confidence that God will return Job to him after death. The days of his life are known to God and Job recognizes that life on this earth is a struggle, but he puts his ultimate end hope in God when his “change comes.”
Finally, Job puts his trust in God rather than himself to make himself right. He ask God not to “observe his sin” and to “seal up” his transgression in a bag.
18 “But the falling mountain crumbles away,
And the rock moves from its place;
19 Water wears away stones,
Its torrents wash away the dust of the earth;
So You destroy man’s hope.
20 “You forever overpower him and he departs;
You change his appearance and send him away.
21 “His sons achieve honor, but he does not know it;
Or they become insignificant, but he does not perceive it.
22 “But his body pains him,
And he mourns only for himself.”
It’s interesting that Job goes from the confidence in God and assurance in that final hope, but ends on a down note reflecting on the futility of life … even in his descendants. He notes that whether his children succeed or “become insignificant,” in the end he won’t know it.
I wonder if this is Job recognizing that in his mourning for his lost children that he is really mourning his own pain rather than for them?
We are just a quarter of the way through the Book of Job and there is much more dialogue between Job’s friends and much more of a spiritual and emotional journey for Job to take. But so far we do see that Job has begun to step out of that dark night of the soul when he could not see past his own pain and to look up to God for help.
This is an example of our own spiritual journey. We don’t, and won’t, always feel that close connection and see the path clearly through the darkness. But we are to keep stepping forward, drawing nearer to God. Sometimes what aids us on that journey is the comfort of friends. Sometimes what propels us forward is the poking and prodding of what may be annoying words of those same friends.
In chapter 3, Job almost seemed resigned to his fate. His friends gave some good words, but it was the words where they were off and misjudged him that fired Job up and burned away his passivity.
This Bible study is part of A Study of Job (2021)
 Stefan Richter, (@zephulos) “Half the patients I now see for Covid infections in the ICU are now younger than I am, some in their early 20s.,” Facebook, August 9, 2021, 6:20 pm, https://www.facebook.com/zephulos/posts/10115288000441383