A painting of Job and his friends by Ilya Repin.

The Second Controversy: Zophar Continues the Argument

Job 20-21

Highlights From This Passage

  • Zophar says that destruction awaits the wicked.
  • Job says that even the wicked are prosperous.


Then Zophar the Naamathite answered,

“Therefore my thoughts answer me,
    even by reason of my haste that is in me.
I have heard the reproof which puts me to shame.
    The spirit of my understanding answers me.
Don’t you know this from old time,
    since man was placed on earth,
that the triumphing of the wicked is short,
    the joy of the godless but for a moment?
Though his height mount up to the heavens,
    and his head reach to the clouds,
yet he will perish forever like his own dung.
    Those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
He will fly away as a dream, and will not be found.
    Yes, he will be chased away like a vision of the night.
The eye which saw him will see him no more,
    neither will his place see him any more.
His children will seek the favor of the poor.
    His hands will give back his wealth.
His bones are full of his youth,
    but youth will lie down with him in the dust.

“Though wickedness is sweet in his mouth,
    though he hide it under his tongue,
though he spare it, and will not let it go,
    but keep it still within his mouth;
yet his food in his bowels is turned.
    It is cobra venom within him.
He has swallowed down riches, and he will vomit them up again.
    God will cast them out of his belly.
He will suck cobra venom.
    The viper’s tongue will kill him.
He will not look at the rivers,
    the flowing streams of honey and butter.
He will restore that for which he labored, and will not swallow it down.
    He will not rejoice according to the substance that he has gotten.
For he has oppressed and forsaken the poor.
    He has violently taken away a house, and he will not build it up.

“Because he knew no quietness within him,
    he will not save anything of that in which he delights.
There was nothing left that he didn’t devour,
    therefore his prosperity will not endure.
In the fullness of his sufficiency, distress will overtake him.
    The hand of everyone who is in misery will come on him.
When he is about to fill his belly, God will cast the fierceness of his wrath on him.
    It will rain on him while he is eating.
He will flee from the iron weapon.
    The bronze arrow will strike him through.
He draws it out, and it comes out of his body.
    Yes, the glittering point comes out of his liver.
    Terrors are on him.
All darkness is laid up for his treasures.
    An unfanned fire will devour him.
    It will consume that which is left in his tent.
The heavens will reveal his iniquity.
    The earth will rise up against him.
The increase of his house will depart.
    They will rush away in the day of his wrath.
This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
    the heritage appointed to him by God.”

Then Job answered,

“Listen diligently to my speech.
    Let this be your consolation.
Allow me, and I also will speak;
    After I have spoken, mock on.
As for me, is my complaint to man?
    Why shouldn’t I be impatient?
Look at me, and be astonished.
    Lay your hand on your mouth.
When I remember, I am troubled.
    Horror takes hold of my flesh.

“Why do the wicked live,
    become old, yes, and grow mighty in power?
Their child is established with them in their sight,
    their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear,
    neither is the rod of God upon them.
Their bulls breed without fail.
    Their cows calve, and don’t miscarry.
They send out their little ones like a flock.
    Their children dance.
They sing to the tambourine and harp,
    and rejoice at the sound of the pipe.
They spend their days in prosperity.
    In an instant they go down to Sheol.
They tell God, ‘Depart from us,
    for we don’t want to know about your ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
    What profit should we have, if we pray to him?’
Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand.
    The counsel of the wicked is far from me.

“How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out,
    that their calamity comes on them,
    that God distributes sorrows in his anger?
How often is it that they are as stubble before the wind,
    as chaff that the storm carries away?
You say, ‘God lays up his iniquity for his children.’
    Let him recompense it to himself, that he may know it.
Let his own eyes see his destruction.
    Let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what does he care for his house after him,
    when the number of his months is cut off?

“Shall any teach God knowledge,
    since he judges those who are high?
One dies in his full strength,
    being wholly at ease and quiet.
His pails are full of milk.
    The marrow of his bones is moistened.
Another dies in bitterness of soul,
    and never tastes of good.
They lie down alike in the dust.
    The worm covers them.

“Behold, I know your thoughts,
    the plans with which you would wrong me.
For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
    Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’
Haven’t you asked wayfaring men?
    Don’t you know their evidences,
that the evil man is reserved to the day of calamity,
    That they are led out to the day of wrath?
Who will declare his way to his face?
    Who will repay him what he has done?
Yet he will be borne to the grave.
    Men will keep watch over the tomb.
The clods of the valley will be sweet to him.
    All men will draw after him,
    as there were innumerable before him.
So how can you comfort me with nonsense,
    because in your answers there remains only falsehood?”

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