1 ¶ Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, 2 Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste. 3 I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer. 4 Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, 5 That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? 6 Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; 7 Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? 8 He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. 9 The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.
It is not uncommon for people to assume that a person who suffers must be a bad person. In today’s pseudo-secular world (everyone is religious, especially if Self is their god) people talk about the Hindu concept of Karma, popularly considered the fate or result of one’s actions being based on what one has done, whether it be good or bad, rather than just a consequence of being alive.
When Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake it was assumed by the barbarous inhabitants of Malta that he must have been some evil person until it was realized that he wasn’t affected by the venom of the snake.
Acts 28:4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
Jesus corrected His own followers who wanted to know whose sin had caused blindness.
John 9:1 ¶ And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (Thank you, Deryl, for reminding me of these verses in John).
Here, Zophar acts like he wasn’t even listening to Job’s talk but was like some of you who, while you pretend to be politely listening to someone, are actually just thinking about the next thing you want to say.
I get the impression that Zophar is interrupting Job; he is such a hurry to say what he’s got on his mind. He says he’s heard what Job had to say and he’s got a comeback. He refers to the, “spirit of my understanding,” like the church-lady who doesn’t know why a child got cancer but says they just know in their spirit that it was because the child was rebellious against their parents.
Zophar explains that as long as men have lived on the earth, were, “placed upon earth,” the victories of the wicked and hypocrites have been short-lived. The implication is again that Job is among them and his suffering proves it. What a self-righteous fundamentalist Zophar is! Of course, he could also be a neo-pagan, earth-worshipping modernist saying, “what goes around comes around, man.” He could be a sarcastic, rock and roll music worshipping, libertine saying in smart-aleck fashion to Job about his presumed wickedness, “how’s that working out for you, dude?” They all have the same self-righteous, know-it-all mindset.
But what Zophar says about the wicked does have it element of truth, just misapplied. Verse 6 reminds me of Lucifer’s pride and fall (Lucifer and Satan are the same person, as those names are also titles, Light-bearer and Adversary, respectively.)
Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
In 7-9 Zophar, rather vulgarly, as in, “perish for ever like his own dung,” speaks of how the person of the wicked will disappear. This parallels what Job said about himself in 7:6-8. By saying this in this way Zophar again links Job’s presumed wickedness to his sufferings. Zophar’s argument is misleading because all of us face this fate, regardless of whether we are wicked or not. Solomon saw it differently in his tedious march toward the truth.
Ecclesiastes 7:15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
Earlier on, Solomon was so pessimistic he couldn’t even see any difference between an animal and a man’s fate or value.
Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
So, Zophar is insisting that the wicked will come to nothing. In his worldview bad people are always punished and good people rewarded in this life. We know from history, from our own experience, and from the Bible’s record this is not necessarily the case in this life. But, Zophar is not finished yet with his attack on Job’s character.