Add parallel Print Page Options

Zophar’s First Speech to Job[a]

11 Then Zophar the Naamathite spoke up and said:

“Should not this[b] abundance of words be answered,[c]
or should this[d] talkative man[e]
be vindicated?[f]
Should people remain silent[g] at your idle talk,[h]
and should no one rebuke[i] you when you mock?[j]
For you have said, ‘My teaching[k] is flawless,
and I am pure in your sight.’
But if only God would speak,[l]
if only he would open his lips against you,[m]
and reveal to you the secrets of wisdom—
for true wisdom has two sides[n]
so that you would know[o]
that God has forgiven some of your sins.[p]
“Can you discover[q] the essence[r] of God?

Can you find out[s] the perfection of the Almighty?[t]
It is higher[u] than the heavens—what can you do?
It is deeper than Sheol[v]—what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth,
and broader than the sea.
10 If he comes by[w] and confines[x] you[y]
and convenes a court,[z]
then who can prevent[aa] him?
11 For he[ab] knows deceitful[ac] men;
when he sees evil, will he not[ad] consider it?[ae]
12 But an empty man will become wise,
when a wild donkey’s colt is born a human being.[af]
13 “As for you,[ag] if you prove faithful,[ah]

and if[ai] you stretch out your hands toward him,[aj]
14 if[ak] iniquity is in your hand—put it far away,[al]
and do not let evil reside in your tents.
15 For[am] then you will lift up your face
without[an] blemish;[ao]
you will be securely established[ap]
and will not fear.
16 For you[aq] will forget your trouble;[ar]
you will remember it
like water that[as] has flowed away.
17 And life[at] will be brighter[au] than the noonday;
though there be darkness,[av]
it will be like the morning.
18 And you will be secure, because there is hope;
you will be protected[aw]
and will take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down with[ax] no one to make you afraid,
and many will seek your favor.[ay]
20 But the eyes of the wicked fail,[az]
and escape[ba] eludes them;
their one hope[bb] is to breathe their last.”[bc]


  1. Job 11:1 sn Zophar begins with a strong rebuke of Job with a wish that God would speak (2-6); he then reflects for a few verses on the unsearchable wisdom of God (7-12); and finally, he advises Job that the way to restoration is repentance (13-20).
  2. Job 11:2 tc The LXX, Targum Job, Symmachus, and Vulgate all assume that the vocalization of רֹב (rov, “abundance”) should be רַב (rav, “great”): “great of words.” This would then mean “one who is abundant of words,” meaning, “a man of many words,” and make a closer parallel to the second half. But the MT makes good sense as it There is no article or demonstrative with the word; it has been added here simply to make a smoother connection between the chapters.
  3. Job 11:2 tn The Niphal verb יֵעָנֶה (yeʿaneh, “he answered”) would normally require a personal subject, but “abundance” functions as the subject in this sentence. The nuance of the imperfect is obligatory.
  4. Job 11:2 tn The word is supplied here also for clarification.
  5. Job 11:2 tn The bound construction “man of lips” means “a boaster” or “proud talker” (attributive genitive; and see GKC 417 §128.t). Zophar is saying that Job pours out this stream of words, but he is still not right.
  6. Job 11:2 tn The word is literally “be right, righteous.” The idea of being right has appeared before for this word (cf. 9:15). The point here is that just because Job talks a lot does not mean he is right or will be shown to be right through it all.
  7. Job 11:3 tn This Hiphil verb comes from the stative root חָרַשׁ (kharash, “to be silent/deaf”). As typical of stative roots in the Hiphil it means to act in the character of the state described by the root (its basic meaning expressed in the Qal stem). Most translations (e.g. KJV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, ESV) treat the verb as if it were a dynamic root and translate causatively, e.g. “will your boasts put men to silence?” HALOT classifies most Hiphils of this root correctly with meanings like “to keep silent, to fall silent, pretend to be deaf,” but makes the mistake of including a causative “reduce to silence” for this verse (HALOT 358 s.v. II חרשׁ). Like the two preceding lines, the first noun of this line (בַּד, bad, “loose talk, boasting”) is the object of the verb, while the interrogative continues to be implied from 11:2a. Recognizing this, the subject of the verb is “people” and the verb behaves normally and uniformly in all of its Hiphil occurrences.
  8. Job 11:3 tn The word means “chatter, pratings, boastings” (see Isa 16:6; Jer 48:30).
  9. Job 11:3 tn The form מַכְלִם (makhlim, “humiliating, mocking”) is the Hiphil participle. The verb כָּלַם (kalam) has the meaning “cover with shame, insult” (Job 20:3).
  10. Job 11:3 tn The construction shows the participle to be in the circumstantial clause: “will you mock—and [with] no one rebuking.”
  11. Job 11:4 tn The word translated “teaching” is related etymologically to the Hebrew word “receive,” but that does not restrict the teaching to what is received.
  12. Job 11:5 tn The wish formula מִי־יִתֵּן (mi yitten, “who will give”; see GKC 477 §151.b) is followed here by an infinitive (Exod 16:3; 2 Sam 19:1).
  13. Job 11:5 sn Job had expressed his eagerness to challenge God; Zophar here wishes that God would take up that challenge.
  14. Job 11:6 tn The text seems to be saying “that it [wisdom] is double in understanding.” The point is that it is different than Job conceived it—it far exceeded all perception. But some commentators have thought this still too difficult, and so have replaced the word כִפְלַיִם (khiflayim, “two sides”) with כִפְלָאִים (khiflaʾim, “like wonders,” or, more simply, “wonders” without the preposition). But it is still a little strange to talk about God’s wisdom being like wonders. Others have had more radical changes in the text; J. J. Slotki has “for sound wisdom is his. And know that double [punishment] shall God exact of you” (“Job 11:6, ” VT 35 [1985]: 229-30).
  15. Job 11:6 tn The verb is the imperative with a ו (vav). Following the jussive, this clause would be subordinated to the preceding (see GKC 325 §110.i).
  16. Job 11:6 tn Heb “God causes to be forgotten for you part of your iniquity.” The meaning is that God was exacting less punishment from Job than Job deserved, for Job could not remember all his sins. This statement is fitting for Zophar, who is the cruelest of Job’s friends (see H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 88). Others in an attempt to improve the text make too many unwarranted changes. Some would read יִשְׁאָלְךָ (yishʾalekha, “he asks of you”) instead of יַשֶּׂה לְךָ (yasseh lekha, “he causes to be forgotten for you”). This would mean that God demands an account of Job’s sin. But, as D. J. A. Clines says, this change is weak and needless (Job [WBC], 254-55).
  17. Job 11:7 tn The verb is מָצָא (matsaʾ, “to find; to discover”). Here it should be given the nuance of potential imperfect. In the rhetorical question it is affirming that Job cannot find out the essence of God.
  18. Job 11:7 tn The word means “search; investigation,” but it here means what is discovered in the search (so a metonymy of cause for the effect).
  19. Job 11:7 tn The same verb is now found in the second half of the verse, with a slightly different sense—“attain, reach.” A. R. Ceresko notes this as an example of antanaclasis (repetition of a word with a slightly different sense—“find/attain”). See “The Function of Antanaclasis in Hebrew Poetry,” CBQ 44 (1982): 560-61.
  20. Job 11:7 tn The abstract תַּכְלִית (takhlit) from כָּלָה (kalah, “to be complete; to be perfect”) may mean the end or limit of something, perhaps to perfection. So the NIV has “can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” The LXX has: “have you come to the end of that which the Almighty has made?”
  21. Job 11:8 tn The Hebrew says “heights of heaven, what can you do?” A. B. Davidson suggested this was an exclamation and should be left that way. But most commentators will repoint גָּבְהֵי שָׁמַיִם (govhe shamayim, “heights of heaven”) to גְּבֹהָה מִשָּׁמַיִם (gevohah mishamayim, “higher than the heavens”) to match the parallel expression. The LXX may have rearranged the text: “heaven is high.”
  22. Job 11:8 tn Or “deeper than hell.” The word “Sheol” always poses problems for translation. Here because it is the opposite of heaven in this merism, “hell” would be a legitimate translation. It refers to the realm of the dead—the grave and beyond. The language is excessive, but the point is that God’s wisdom is immeasurable—and Job is powerless before it.
  23. Job 11:10 tn The verb יַחֲלֹף (yakhalof) is literally “passes by/through” (NIV “comes along” in the sense of “if it should so happen”). Many accept the emendation to יַחְתֹּף (yakhtof, “he seizes,” cf. Gordis, Driver), but there is not much support for these.
  24. Job 11:10 tn The verb is the Hiphil of סָגַר (sagar, “to close; to shut”) and so here in this context it probably means something like “to shut in; to confine.” But this is a difficult meaning, and the sentence is cryptic. E. Dhorme (Job, 162) thinks this word and the next have to be antithetical, and so he suggests from a meaning “to keep confined” the idea of keeping a matter secret; and with the next verb, “to convene an assembly,” he offers “to divulge it.”
  25. Job 11:10 tn The pronoun “you” is not in the Hebrew text but has been supplied in the translation.
  26. Job 11:10 tn The denominative Hiphil of קָהָל (qahal, “an assembly”) has the idea of “to convene an assembly.” In this context there would be the legal sense of convening a court, i.e., calling Job to account (D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 255). See E. Ullendorff, “The Meaning of QHLT,” VT 12 (1962): 215; he defines the verb also as “argue, rebuke.”
  27. Job 11:10 tn The verb means “turn him back.” Zophar uses Job’s own words (see 9:12).
  28. Job 11:11 tn The pronoun is emphatic. Zophar implies that God indeed knows Job’s sin even if Job does not.
  29. Job 11:11 tn The expression is literally “men of emptiness” (see Ps 26:4). These are false men, for שָׁוְא (shavʾ) can mean “vain, empty, or false, deceitful.”
  30. Job 11:11 tn E. Dhorme (Job, 162) reads the prepositional phrase “to him” rather than the negative; he translates the line as “he sees iniquity and observes it closely.”
  31. Job 11:11 tn Some commentators do not take this last clause as a question, but simply as a statement, namely, that when God sees evil he does not need to ponder or consider it—he knows it instantly. In that case it would be a circumstantial clause: “without considering it.” D. J. A. Clines lists quite an array of other interpretations for the line (Job [WBC], 255); for example, “and he is himself unobserved”; taking the word לֹא (loʾ) as an emphatic; taking the negative as a noun, “considering them as nothing”; and others that change the verb to “they do not understand it.” But none of these are compelling; they offer no major improvement.
  32. Job 11:12 tn As A. B. Davidson (Job, 84) says, the one thing will happen when the other happens—which is never. The word “empty” (נָבוּב, navuv) means “hollow; witless,” and “become wise” (יִלָּבֵב, yillavev) is “will get heart” (not to “lack heart” as Driver suggested). Many commentators do not like the last line of the verse, and so offer even more emendations. E. F. Sutcliffe wanted to change פֶּרֶא (pereʾ, “donkey”) to פֶּרֶד (pered, “stallion”), rendering “a witless wight may get wit when a mule is born a stallion” (“Notes on Job, textual and exegetical,” Bib 30 [1949]: 70-71). Others approached the verse by changing the verb from יִוָּלֵד (yivvaled, “is born”) to יִלָּמֵד (yillamed, “is taught”), resulting in “a hollow man may get understanding, and a wild donkey’s colt may be taught [= tamed]” (cf. NAB).
  33. Job 11:13 tn The pronoun is emphatic, designed to put Job in a different class than the hollow men—at least to raise the possibility of his being in a different class.
  34. Job 11:13 tn The Hebrew uses the perfect of כּוּן (kun, “establish”) with the object “your heart.” The verb can be translated “prepare, fix, make firm” your heart. To fix the heart is to make it faithful and constant, the heart being the seat of the will and emotions. The use of the perfect here does not refer to the past, but should be given a future perfect sense—if you shall have fixed your heart, i.e., prove faithful. Job would have to make his heart secure, so that he was no longer driven about by differing views.
  35. Job 11:13 tn This half-verse is part of the protasis and not, as in the RSV, the apodosis to the first half. The series of “if” clauses will continue through these verses until v. 15.
  36. Job 11:13 sn This is the posture of prayer (see Isa 1:15). The expression means “spread out your palms,” probably meaning that the one praying would fall to his knees, put his forehead to the ground, and spread out his hands in front of him on the ground.
  37. Job 11:14 tn Verse 14 should be taken as a parenthesis and not a continuation of the protasis, because it does not fit with v. 13 in that way (D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 256).
  38. Job 11:14 tn Many commentators follow the Vulgate and read the line “if you put away the sin that is in your hand.” They do this because the imperative comes between the protasis (v. 13) and the apodosis (v. 15) and does not appear to be clearly part of the protasis. The idea is close to the MT, but the MT is much more forceful—if you find sin in your hand, get rid of it.
  39. Job 11:15 tn The absolute certainty of the statement is communicated with the addition of כִּי (ki). See GKC 498 §
  40. Job 11:15 tn For this use of the preposition מִן (min) see GKC 382 §119.w.
  41. Job 11:15 tn The word “lift up” is chosen to recall Job’s statement that he could not lift up his head (10:15); the words “without spot” recall his words “filled with shame.” The sentence here says that he will lift up his face in innocence and show no signs of God’s anger on him.
  42. Job 11:15 tn The form מֻצָק (mutsaq) is a Hophal participle from יָצַק (yatsaq, “to pour”). The idea is that of metal being melted down and then poured to make a statue, and so hard, firm, solid. The LXX reads the verse, “for thus your face shall shine again, like pure water, and you shall divest yourself of uncleanness, and shall not fear.”
  43. Job 11:16 tn For a second time (see v. 13) Zophar employs the emphatic personal pronoun. Could he be providing a gentle reminder that Job might have forgotten the sin that has brought this trouble? After all, there will come a time when Job will not remember this time of trial.
  44. Job 11:16 sn It is interesting to note in the book that the resolution of Job’s trouble did not come in the way that Zophar prescribed it.
  45. Job 11:16 tn The perfect verb forms an abbreviated relative clause (without the pronoun) modifying “water.”
  46. Job 11:17 tn Some translations add the pronoun to make it specifically related to Job (“your life”), but this is not necessary. The word used here has the nuance of lasting life.
  47. Job 11:17 tn Heb “and more than the noonday life will arise.” The present translation is an interpretation in the context. The connotation of “arise” in comparison with the noonday, and in contrast with the darkness, supports the interpretation.
  48. Job 11:17 tn The form in the MT is the 3fsg imperfect verb, “[though] it be dark.” Most commentators revocalize the word to make it a noun (תְּעֻפָה, teʿufah), giving the meaning “the darkness [of your life] will be like the morning.” The contrast is with Job 10:22; here the darkness will shine like the morning.
  49. Job 11:18 tn The Hebrew verb means “to dig,” but this does not provide a good meaning for the verse. A. B. Davidson offers an interpretation of “search,” suggesting that before retiring at night Job would search and find everything in order. Some offer a better solution, namely, redefining the word on the basis of Arabic hafara, “to protect” and repointing it to וְחֻפַרְתָּ (vekhufarta, “you will be protected”). Other attempts to make sense of the line have involved the same process, but they are less convincing (for some of the more plausible proposals, see D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 257).
  50. Job 11:19 tn The clause that reads “and there is no one making you afraid,” is functioning circumstantially here (see 5:4; 10:7).
  51. Job 11:19 tn Heb “they will stroke your face,” a picture drawn from the domestic scene of a child stroking the face of the parent. The verb is a Piel, meaning “stroke, make soft.” It is used in the Bible of seeking favor from God (supplication), but it may on the human level also mean seeking to sway people by flattery. See further D. R. Ap-Thomas, “Notes on Some Terms Relating to Prayer,” VT 6 (1956): 225-41.
  52. Job 11:20 tn The verb כָּלָה (kalah) means “to fail, cease, fade away.” The fading of the eyes, i.e., loss of sight, loss of life’s vitality, indicates imminent death.
  53. Job 11:20 tn Heb “a place of escape” (with this noun pattern). There is no place to escape to because they all perish.
  54. Job 11:20 tn The word is to be interpreted as a metonymy; it represents what is hoped for.
  55. Job 11:20 tn Heb “the breathing out of the soul”; cf. KJV, ASV “the giving up of the ghost.” The line is simply saying that the brightest hope that the wicked have is death.