Zophar's First Speech
Thus far in the book of Job, the great patriarch has suffered immensely and had opportunity to speak several times. He has also been addressed by Eliphaz and Bildad. When each friend speaks for the first time, Job likely has some ray of hope that this man will see his view. Unfortunately for Job, his third friend, Zophar, also attacks him harshly:
"Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: 'Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be vindicated? Should your empty talk make men hold their peace? And when you mock, should no one rebuke you? For you have said, "My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in your eyes." But oh, that God would speak, and open His lips against you, that He would show you the secrets of wisdom! For they would double your prudence. Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves" (Job 11:1-6).

With friends like Zophar, who needs enemies? Zophar is brutal in his treatment of Job. It would appear that his anger had been building while listening to Job speak. He first implies Job is an arrogant windbag and a mocker of God with his words (cf. 11:2,3). Then, he accuses him of being self-righteous (cf. 11:4-6). Clearly, Zophar believes Job is compounding his problem with his many words. Had Job simply kept his mouth shut and admitted sin, Zophar believes Job would have been forgiven and healed by now. But, from his viewpoint, Job hasn't yet received all the suffering he deserves! The callousness of such a statement is appalling! Here is a man who has lost his children, all his possessions, his health, and is sitting in an ash heap, yet Zophar thinks he hasn't suffered enough! This type of language is the epitome of cruelty.

Like Job, Zophar also desires God's intervention--but for a different reason! We would be wise to remember, however, that when God does act on this matter, He spoke strongly against the friends (cf. 42:7,8).

Zophar continues in Job 11:7,8 - "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven--what can you do? Deeper than Sheol--what can you know?" His words here are beautifully accurate, but his application to Job is erroneous! Job knows this and has not suggested that his ways approach God's. Zophar's ad hominem attack is unfounded.

"If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, then who can hinder Him?" (11:10). Zophar proclaims God's sovereignty. He does what He does, and everything He does is right!

Zophar calls Job an idiot in 11:12 - "For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey's colt is born a man." Job, you'll never be intelligent!

Job 11:13-15 records a powerful "if-then" lesson - "If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast and not fear." Zophar implies that Job has directed his heart the wrong way and that he needs to repent and pray to God (i.e., "stretch out your hands toward Him"). He believes Job has allowed wickedness to come into his life. Again, the problem here is in the application to Job. He would gladly repent and reform his conduct if he knew of a sin that he had not turned from. Zophar's theology is too simplistic for Job's circumstances--people often suffer for reasons other than their own sins!

Zophar concludes his first speech by making a hateful accusation - "But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope--loss of life!" (11:20). Job had frequently stated his longing for death in his condition (e.g., 6:9). Zophar turns that wish against him, maintaining that such was the hope of the wicked!