Verses 1–9

Here, I. Zophar begins very passionately, and seems to be in a great heat at what Job had said. Being resolved to condemn Job for a bad man, he was much displeased that he talked so like a good man, and, as it should seem, broke in upon him, and began abruptly (Job 20:2): Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer. He takes no notice of what Job had said to move their pity, or to evidence his own integrity, but fastens upon the reproof he gave them in the close of his discourse, counts that a reproach, and thinks himself therefore obliged to answer, because Job had bidden them be afraid of the sword, that he might not seem to be frightened by his menaces. The best counsel is too often ill taken from an antagonist, and therefore usually may be well spared. Zophar seemed more in haste to speak than became a wise man; but he excuses his haste with two things:—1. That Job had given him strong provocation (Job 20:3): “I have heard the check of my reproach, and cannot bear to hear it any longer.” Job’s friends, I doubt, had spirits too high to deal with a man in his low condition; and high spirits are impatient of contradiction, and think themselves affronted if all about them do not say as they say; they cannot bear a check but they call it the check of their reproach, and then they are bound in honour to return it, if not to draw upon him that gave it. 2. That his own heart gave him a strong instigation. His thoughts caused him to answer (Job 20:2), for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; but he fathers the instigation (Job 20:3) upon the spirit of his understanding: that indeed should cause us to answer; we should rightly apprehend a thing and duly consider it before we speak of it; but whether it did so here or no is a question. Men often mistake the dictates of their passion for the dictates of their reason, and therefore think they do well to be angry.

II. Zophar proceeds very plainly to show the ruin and destruction of wicked people, insinuating that because Job was destroyed and ruined he was certainly a wicked man and a hypocrite. Observe,

1. How this doctrine is introduced, Job 20:4; where he appeals, (1.) To Job’s own knowledge and conviction: “Knowest thou not this? Canst thou be ignorant of a truth so plain? Or canst thou doubt of a truth which has been confirmed by the suffrages of all mankind?” Those know little who do not know that the wages of sin is death. (2.) To the experience of all ages. It was known of old, since man was placed upon the earth; that is, ever since man was made he has had this truth written in his heart, that the sin of sinners will be their ruin; and ever since there were instances of wickedness (which there were soon after man was placed on the earth) there were instances of the punishments of it, witness the exclusions of Adam and Cain. When sin entered into the world death entered with it: all the world knows that evil pursues sinners, whom vengeance suffers not to live (Acts 28:4), and subscribes to that (Isa. 3:11), Woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with him, sooner or later.

2. How it is laid down (Job 20:5): The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Observe, (1.) He asserts the misery, not only of those who are openly wicked and profane, but of hypocrites, who secretly practice wickedness under a show and profession of religion, because such a wicked man he looked upon Job to be; and it is true that a form of godliness, if it be made use of for a cloak of maliciousness, does but make bad worse. Dissembled piety is double iniquity, and the ruin that attends it will be accordingly. The hottest place in hell will be the portion of hypocrites, as our Saviour intimates, Matt. 24:51. (2.) He grants that wicked men may for a time prosper, may be secure and easy, and very merry. You may see them in triumph and joy, triumphing and rejoicing in their wealth and power, their grandeur and success, triumphing and rejoicing over their poor honest neighbours whom they vex and oppress: they feel no evil, they fear none. Job’s friends were loth to own, at first, that wicked people might prosper at all (Job 4:9), until Job proved it plainly (Job 9:24; 12:6), and now Zophar yields it; but, (3.) He lays it down for a certain truth that they will not prosper long. Their joy is but for a moment, and will quickly end in endless sorrow. Though he be ever so great, and rich, and jovial, the hypocrite will be humbled, and mortified, and made miserable.

3. How it is illustrated, Job 20:6-9. (1.) He supposes his prosperity to be very high, as high as you can imagine, Job 20:6. It is not his wisdom and virtue, but his worldly wealth or greatness, that he accounts his excellency, and values himself upon. We will suppose that to mount up to the heavens, and, since his spirit always rises with his condition, you may suppose that with it his head reaches to the clouds. He is every way advanced; the world has done the utmost it can for him. He looks down upon all about him with disdain, while they look up to him with admiration, envy, or fear. We will suppose him to bid fair for a universal monarchy. And, though he cannot but have made himself many enemies before he arrived to this pitch of prosperity, yet he thinks himself as much out of the reach of their darts as if he were in the clouds. (2.) He is confident that his ruin will accordingly be very great, and his fall the more dreadful for his having risen so high: He shall perish for ever, Job 20:7. His pride and security were the certain presages of his misery. This will certainly be true of all impenitent sinners in the other world; they shall be undone, for ever undone. But Zophar means his ruin in this world; and indeed sometimes notorious sinners are remarkably cut off by present judgments; they have reason enough to fear what Zophar here threatens even the triumphant sinner with. [1.] A shameful destruction: He shall perish like his own dung or dunghill, so loathsome is he to God and all good men, and so willing will the world be to part with him, Ps. 119:119; Isa. 66:24. [2.] A surprising destruction. He will be brought into desolation in a moment (Ps. 73:19), so that those about him, that saw him but just now, will ask, “Where is he? Could he that made so great a figure vanish and expire so suddenly?” [3.] A swift destruction, Job 20:8. He shall fly away upon the wings of his own terrors, and be chased away by the just imprecations of all about him, who would gladly get rid of him. [4.] An utter destruction. It will be total; he shall go away like a dream, or vision of the night, which was a mere phantasm, and, whatever in it pleased the fancy, it is quite gone, and nothing of it remains but what serves us to laugh at the folly of. It will be final (Job 20:9): The eye that saw him, and was ready to adore him, shall see him no more, and the place he filled shall no more behold him, having given him an eternal farewell when he went to his own place, as Judas, Acts 1:25.