An illustration of Job and his friends of by a medieval painter.

The First Controversy: Zophar Continues the Argument

Job 11-14

Highlights From this Passage

  • Zophar reprehends Job unjustly.
  • Job accuses his friends of ignorance.
  • Job declares God’s might and power.
  • Only God can change the course of events.
  • Job compares his knowledge with his friends.
  • Job prays to God and asks God not to handle him harshly.
  • Job describes the condition of life.


Then Zophar, the Naamathite, answered,

“Shouldn’t the multitude of words be answered?
    Should a man full of talk be justified?
Should your boastings make men hold their peace?
    When you mock, will no man make you ashamed?
For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure.
    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 true wisdom has two sides.
    Know therefore that God exacts of you less than your iniquity deserves.

“Can you fathom the mystery of God?
    Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are high as heaven. What can you do?
    They are deeper than Sheol. What can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth,
    and broader than the sea.
If he passes by, or confines,
    or convenes a court, then who can oppose him?
For he knows false men.
    He sees iniquity also, even though he doesn’t consider it.
An empty-headed man becomes wise
    when a man is born as a wild donkey’s colt.

“If you set your heart aright,
    stretch out your hands toward him.
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away.
    Don’t let unrighteousness dwell in your tents.
Surely then you will lift up your face without spot;
    Yes, you will be steadfast, and will not fear:
for you will forget your misery.
    You will remember it like waters that have passed away.
Life will be clearer than the noonday.
    Though there is darkness, it will be as the morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope.
    Yes, you will search, and will take your rest in safety.
Also you will lie down, and no one will make you afraid.
    Yes, many will court your favor.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail.
    They will have no way to flee.
    Their hope will be the giving up of the spirit.”

Then Job answered,

“No doubt, but you are the people,
    and wisdom will die with you.
But I have understanding as well as you;
    I am not inferior to you.
    Yes, who doesn’t know such things as these?
I am like one who is a joke to his neighbor,
    I, who called on God, and he answered.
    The just, the blameless man is a joke.
In the thought of him who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune.
    It is ready for them whose foot slips.
The tents of robbers prosper.
    Those who provoke God are secure,
    who carry their god in their hands.

“But ask the animals, now, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you.
    The fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who doesn’t know that in all these,
    Yahweh’s hand has done this,
in whose hand is the life of every living thing,
    and the breath of all mankind?
Doesn’t the ear try words,
    even as the palate tastes its food?
With aged men is wisdom,
    in length of days understanding.

“With God is wisdom and might.
    He has counsel and understanding.
Behold, he breaks down, and it can’t be built again.
    He imprisons a man, and there can be no release.
Behold, he withholds the waters, and they dry up.
    Again, he sends them out, and they overturn the earth.
With him is strength and wisdom.
    The deceived and the deceiver are his.
He leads counselors away stripped.
    He makes judges fools.
He loosens the bond of kings.
    He binds their waist with a belt.
He leads priests away stripped,
    and overthrows the mighty.
He removes the speech of those who are trusted,
    and takes away the understanding of the elders.
He pours contempt on princes,
    and loosens the belt of the strong.
He uncovers deep things out of darkness,
    and brings out to light the shadow of death.
He increases the nations, and he destroys them.
    He enlarges the nations, and he leads them captive.
He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth,
    and causes them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.
They grope in the dark without light.
    He makes them stagger like a drunken man.

“Behold, my eye has seen all this.
    My ear has heard and understood it.
What you know, I know also.
    I am not inferior to you.

“Surely I would speak to the Almighty.
    I desire to reason with God.
But you are forgers of lies.
    You are all physicians of no value.
Oh that you would be completely silent!
    Then you would be wise.
Hear now my reasoning.
    Listen to the pleadings of my lips.
Will you speak unrighteously for God,
    and talk deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality to him?
    Will you contend for God?
Is it good that he should search you out?
    Or as one deceives a man, will you deceive him?
He will surely reprove you
    if you secretly show partiality.
Shall not his majesty make you afraid,
    and his dread fall on you?
Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes.
    Your defenses are defenses of clay.

“Be silent!
    Leave me alone, that I may speak.
    Let come on me what will.
Why should I take my flesh in my teeth,
    and put my life in my hand?
Behold, he will kill me.
    I have no hope.
    Nevertheless, I will maintain my ways before him.
This also will be my salvation,
    that a godless man will not come before him.
Listen carefully to my speech.
    Let my declaration be in your ears.
See now, I have set my cause in order.
    I know that I am righteous.
Who is he who will contend with me?
    For then would I hold my peace and give up the spirit.

“Only don’t do two things to me,
    then I will not hide myself from your face:
withdraw your hand far from me,
    and don’t let your terror make me afraid.
Then call, and I will answer,
    or let me speak, and you answer me.
How many are my iniquities and sins?
    Make me know my disobedience and my sin.
Why do you hide your face,
    and consider me your enemy?
Will you harass a driven leaf?
    Will you pursue the dry stubble?
For you write bitter things against me,
    and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth:
You also put my feet in the stocks,
    and mark all my paths.
    You set a bound to the soles of my feet,
though I am decaying like a rotten thing,
    like a garment that is moth-eaten.

“Man, who is born of a woman,
    is of few days, and full of trouble.
He grows up like a flower, and is cut down.
    He also flees like a shadow, and doesn’t continue.
Do you open your eyes on such a one,
    and bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
    Not one.
    Seeing his days are determined,
    the number of his months is with you,
    and you have appointed his bounds that he can’t pass;
Look away from him, that he may rest,
    until he accomplishes, as a hireling, his day.

“For there is hope for a tree if it is cut down,
    that it will sprout again,
    that the tender branch of it will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth,
    and its stock dies in the ground,
yet through the scent of water it will bud,
    and sprout boughs like a plant.
But man dies, and is laid low.
    Yes, man gives up the spirit, and where is he?
As the waters fail from the sea,
    and the river wastes and dries up,
so man lies down and doesn’t rise.
    Until the heavens are no more, they will not awake,
    nor be roused out of their sleep.

“Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
    that you would keep me secret until your wrath is past,
    that you would appoint me a set time and remember me!
If a man dies, will he live again?
    I would wait all the days of my warfare,
    until my release should come.
You would call, and I would answer you.
    You would have a desire for the work of your hands.
But now you count my steps.
    Don’t you watch over my sin?
My disobedience is sealed up in a bag.
    You fasten up my iniquity.

“But the mountain falling comes to nothing.
    The rock is removed out of its place;
The waters wear the stones.
    The torrents of it wash away the dust of the earth.
    So you destroy the hope of man.
You forever prevail against him, and he departs.
    You change his face, and send him away.
His sons come to honor, and he doesn’t know it.
    They are brought low, but he doesn’t perceive it of them.
But his flesh on him has pain,
    and his soul within him mourns.”

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