Job 20 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Job 20
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

(1) Then answered Zophar.—Zophar retorts with yet greater vehemence than before, and assumes a more ornate and elaborate style, still reiterating the former burden of the speedy doom of the wicked man.

Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.
(2) Therefore.—That is, because of the eagerness that is in him. His spirit is stirred in him, and impels him to reply.

I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.
(3) I have heard the check of my reproach.—Rather, I have heard, or, I hear the reproof of my shame: that is, a reproof that puts me to shame, or is intended to do so.

The spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.—Or, more literally, Out of my understanding my spirit answereth me, or causeth me to answer. He professes to be moved by an impulse within, which he cannot but obey.

Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth,
That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?
(5) The triumphing of the wicked is short.—He affirms that the destruction of the wicked is not only certain, but speedy. (Comp. Psalm 103:16 and Job 7:8; Job 7:10.)

Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;
Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?
He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.
The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.
His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.
(10) His children shall seek to please the poor.—That is, shall seek their favour by making good what had been taken from them, or otherwise; or it may be rendered, the poor shall oppress his children.

His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.
(11) His bones are full of the sin of his youth.—Rather, of his youth, or youthful vigour, as in Job 33:25 : “He shall return to the days of his youth,” and Psalm 89:46 : “The days of his youth hast thou shortened.” “Though he is in the full vigour of life, yet it shall lie down with him in the dust.”

Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue;
(12) Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth.—He draws a picture of the wicked man after the pattern of a gourmand or glutton, which, if it were intended to apply to Job, was a fresh instance of heartless cruelty, as well as of an entire want of discernment of character, and of unfitness for the office of judge he was so ready to assume. It is possible that the reproach here aimed at Job was that of inordinate love of riches, which Zophar extracts from the bare fact of his having been a wealthy man.

Though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:
Yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.
He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.
He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him.
He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.
(17) The brooks of honey and butter.—He uses language which might lead one to suppose he was familiar with the promise of Canaan, except that, as the phrase is not precisely identical it may perhaps rather show a community of proverbial language, and that the land flowing with milk and honey may have been an expression in use, and not one original with the Pentateuch.

That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down: according to his substance shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice therein.
(18) That which he laboured for shall he restore . . .—The latter part of this verse is probably right; but it may be, “According to the substance that he hath gotten he shall not rejoice.”

Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;
(19) Because he hath oppressed and forsaken . . .—For these insinuations there was not a vestige of ground, but Job formally rebuts them in Job 31

Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.
(20) Quietness in his belly.—“Because he knew no quietness within him, (Comp. Isaiah 57:20-21.) he shall not save ought of that which he desireth.”

There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods.
(21) There shall none of his meat be left.—Rather, There was nothing left that he devoured not, therefore his prosperity shall not endure.

In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.
(22) The hand of every one that is in misery shall come upon him: i.e., in retaliation, or possibly, but less probably, every blow of a miserable man, which can render a man miserable, shall come upon him.

When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.
He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.
(24) He shall flee from the iron weapon, and.—That is, if he escaped one mischance, another should overtake him.

It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors are upon him.
(25) Yea, terrors overtake him.—Even when he has escaped a second and a third calamity, terrors shall still be upon him. This was all perfectly true in a sense, yea, even a truism, but it was utterly false in its application to Job himself.

All darkness shall be hid in his secret places: a fire not blown shall consume him; it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle.
(26) All darkness shall be hid in his secret places.—Rather, All darkness, every kind of disaster, is laid up for his secret treasures.

A fire not blown.—By human hands, &c.

The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.
(27) The heaven shall reveal his iniquity.—All nature shall combine to bring about his ruin, which is, in fact, decreed by God. We here take leave of Zophar, who does not reply again; he has exhausted himself, notwithstanding Job 20:2.

The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath.
This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
Courtesy of Open Bible