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Job 20 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Ch. 20. Zophar’s Second Speech

Zophar breaks in upon the close of Job’s speech with a fiery haste and passionateness not quite easy to account for. No doubt Job had spoken of his friends as persecuting him and devouring his flesh. Then he had turned away from them and appealed to posterity against them (ch. Job 19:23 seq.). And finally he had threatened them with the sword and judgment of God (ch. Job 19:29). These and former reproaches (ch. Job 17:4) may rankle in Zophar’s breast, and he may not have forgotten the sarcastic treatment which Job gave his first speech. Perhaps, however, his irritation is due less to personal than to moral reasons. Job’s last speech was certainly ill to understand, as it has been found ever since. He had accused God of “wronging” him and being his enemy and with bringing him though innocent to the grave. And yet he had affirmed that he knew that God would vindicate his right after his death, and that he should see Him with his eyes in peace. In all this there seems to Zophar a lack of common understanding. Hence he draws an answer to it out of the “spirit” and “understanding” within himself ( Job 20:3). Cf. Elihu’s references to his “spirit,” ch. Job 32:8.

Bildad (ch. 18) had enlarged upon the certainty of the sinner’s downfall from the moral order in the world and the moral sense in men, which rose up against wickedness. Zophar’s point is slightly different, it is the brevity of the wicked man’s prosperity, which arises from the fact that wickedness brings about its own retribution sin, sweet in the mouth, turns into the poison of asps in the belly.

The Gods are just, and of our pleasant vices

Make instruments to scourge us.

He illustrates this theme by drawing the picture of a rapacious, oppressive man of power suddenly brought to destruction and destitution in the midst of his days, with the hand of every one that is wretched against him, and forced to disgorge that which he had greedily swallowed. Job may understand that the fable is narrated of him. Zophar is too much of the “plain blunt man”; his meaning is so transparent that he commits himself and his friends into his adversary’s hands.

One general idea pervades the speech, the brevity of the wicked man’s prosperity.

Job 20:2-3. Zophar, in a brief preface, acknowledges that he is roused.

Job 20:4-11. This is because of Job’s reproaches, and because he seems unaware of the acknowledged principle that the triumphing of the wicked is brief.

Job 20:12-22. Sin brings its own retribution after the manner of a man’s evil doings so is his chastisement.

Job 20:23-29. God sates at last with his judgments the sinner’s insatiable greed for wrong-doing.

Ch. 20. The prosperity of the wicked is brief; sin, sweet in the mouth, becomes the poison of asps in the belly

Consult other comments:

Job 20:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Job 20:0 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Job 20:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Job 20:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Job 20:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Job 20:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges