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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 13–20
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Verses 13–20

Zophar, as the other two, here encourages Job to hope for better times if he would but come to a better temper.

I. He gives him good counsel (Job 11:13, 14), as Eliphaz did (Job 5:8), and Bildad, Job 8:5. He would have him repent and return to God. Observe the steps of that return. 1. He must look within, and get his mind changed and the tree made good. He must prepare his heart; there the work of conversion and reformation must begin. The heart that wandered from God must be reduced—that was defiled with sin and put into disorder must be cleansed and put in order again—that was wavering and unfixed must be settled and established; so the word here signifies. The heart is then prepared to seek God when it is determined and fully resolved to make a business of it and to go through with it. 2. He must look up, and stretch out his hands towards God, that is, must stir up himself to take hold on God, must pray to him with earnestness and importunity, striving in prayer, and with expectation to receive mercy and grace from him. To give the hand to the Lord signifies to yield ourselves to him and to covenant with him, 2 Chron. 30:8. This Job must do, and, for the doing of it, must prepare his heart. Job had prayed, but Zophar would have him to pray in a better manner, not as an appellant, but as a petitioner and humble suppliant. 3. He must amend what was amiss in his own conversation, else his prayers would be ineffectual (Job 11:14): “If iniquity be in thy hand (that is, if there be any sin which thou dost yet live in the practice of) put it far away, forsake it with detestation and a holy indignation, stedfastly resolving not to return to it, nor ever to have any thing more to do with it. Ezek. 18:31; Hos. 14:9; Isa. 30:22. If any of the gains of iniquity, any goods gotten by fraud or oppression, be in thy hand, make restitution thereof” (as Zaccheus, Luke 19:8), “and shake thy hands from holding them,” Isa. 33:15. The guilt of sin is not removed if the gain of sin be not restored. 4. He must do his utmost to reform his family too: “Let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles; let not thy house harbour or shelter any wicked persons, any wicked practices, or any wealth gotten by wickedness.” He suspected that Job’s great household had been ill-governed, and that, where there were many, there were many wicked, and the ruin of his family was the punishment of the wickedness of it; and therefore, if he expected God should return to him, he must reform what was amiss there, and, though wickedness might come into his tabernacles, he must not suffer it to dwell there, Ps. 101:3-8

II. He assures him of comfort if he took this counsel, Job 11:15-20 If he would repent and reform, he should, without doubt, be easy and happy, and all would be well. Perhaps Zophar might insinuate that, unless God did speedily make such a change as this in his condition, he and his friends would be confirmed in their opinion of him as a hypocrite and a dissembler with God. A great truth, however, is conveyed, That, the work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever, Isa. 32:17. Those that sincerely turn to God may expect,

1. A holy confidence towards God: “Then shalt thou lift up thy face towards heaven without spot; thou mayest come boldly to the throne of grace, and not with that terror and amazement expressed,” Job 9:34. If our hearts condemn us not for hypocrisy and impenitency, then have we confidence in our approaches to God and expectations from him, 1 John 3:21. If we are looked upon in the face of the anointed, our faces, that were dejected, may be lifted up—that were polluted, being washed with the blood of Christ, may be lifted up without spot. We may draw near in full assurance of faith when we are sprinkled from an evil conscience, Heb. 10:22. Some understand this of the clearing up of his credit before men, Ps. 37:6. If we make our peace with God, we may with cheerfulness look our friends in the face.

2. A holy composedness in themselves: Thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear, not be afraid of evil tidings, thy heart being fixed, Ps. 112:7. Job was now full of confusion (Job 10:15), while he looked upon God as his enemy and quarrelled with him; but Zophar assures him that, if he would submit and humble himself, his mind would be composed, and he would be freed from those frightful apprehensions he had of God, which put him into such an agitation. The less we are frightened the more we are fixed, and consequently the more fit we are for our services and for our sufferings.

3. A comfortable reflection upon their past troubles (Job 11:16): “Thou shalt forget thy misery, as the mother forgets her travailing pains, for joy that the child is born; thou shalt be perfectly freed from the impressions it makes upon thee, and thou shalt remember it as waters that pass away, or are poured out of a vessel, which leave no taste or tincture behind them, as other liquors do. The wounds of thy present affliction shall be perfectly healed, not only without a remaining scar, but without a remaining pain.” Job had endeavoured to forget his complaint (Job 9:27), but found he could not; his soul had still in remembrance the wormwood and the gall: but here Zophar puts him in a way to forget it; let him by faith and prayer bring his griefs and cares to God, an leave them with him, and then he shall forget them. Where sin sits heavily affliction sits lightly. If we duly remember our sins, we shall, in comparison with them, forget our misery, much more if we obtain the comfort of a sealed pardon and a settled peace. He whose iniquity is forgiven shall not say, I am sick, but shall forget his sickness, Isa. 33:24.

4. A comfortable prospect of their future peace. This Zophar here thinks to please Job with, in answer to the many despairing expressions he had used, as if it were to no purpose for him to hope ever to see good days again in this world: “Yea, but thou mayest” (says Zophar) “and good nights too.” A blessed change he here puts him in hopes of.

(1.) That though now his light was eclipsed it should shine out again, and more brightly than ever (Job 11:17),—that even his setting sun should out-shine his noon-day sun, and his evening be fair and clear as the morning, in respect both of honour and pleasure.—that his light should shine out of obscurity (Isa. 58:10), and the thick and dark cloud, from behind which his sun should break forth, would serve as a foil to its lustre,—that it should shine even in old age, and those evil days should be good days to him. Note, Those that truly turn to God then begin to shine forth; their path is as the shining light which increases, the period of their day will be the perfection of it, and their evening to this world will be their morning to a better.

(2.) That, though now he was in a continual fear and terror, he should live in a holy rest and security, and find himself continually safe a 1552 nd easy (Job 11:18): Thou shalt be secure, because there is hope. Note, Those who have a good hope, through grace, in God, and of heaven, are certainly safe, and have reason to be secure, how difficult soever the times are through which they pass in this world. He that walks uprightly may thus walk surely, because, though there are trouble and danger, yet there is hope that all will be well at last. Hope is an anchor of the soul, Heb. 6:19. “Thou shalt dig about thee,” that is, “Thou shalt be as safe as an army in its entrenchments.” Those that submit to God’s government shall be taken under his protection, and then they are safe both day and night. [1.] By day, when they employ themselves abroad: “Thou shalt dig in safety, thou and thy servants for thee, and not be again set upon by the plunderers, who fell upon thy servants at plough,” Job 1:14, 15. It is no part of the promised prosperity that he should live in idleness, but that he should have a calling and follow it, and, when he was about the business of it, should be under the divine protection. Thou shalt dig and be safe, not rob and be safe, revel and be safe. The way of duty is the way of safety. [2.] By night, when they repose themselves at home: Thou shalt take thy rest (and the sleep of the labouring man is sweet) in safety, notwithstanding the dangers of the darkness. The pillar of cloud by day shall be a pillar of fire by night: “Thou shalt lie down (Job 11:19), not forced to wander where there is no place to lay thy head on, nor forced to watch and sit up in expectation of assaults; but thou shalt go to bed at bedtime, and not only shall non hurt thee, but none shall make thee afraid nor so much as give thee an alarm.” Note, It is a great mercy to have quiet nights and undisturbed sleeps; those say so that are within the hearing of the noise of war. And the way to be quiet is to seek unto God and keep ourselves in his love. Nothing needs make those afraid who return to God as their rest and take him for their habitation.

(3.) That, though now he was slighted, yet he should be courted: “Many shall make suit to thee, and think it their interest to secure thy friendship.” Suit is made to those that are eminently wise or reputed to be so, that are very rich or in power. Zophar knew Job so well that he foresaw that, how low soever this present ebb was, if once the tide turned, it would flow as high as ever; and he would be again the darling of his country. Those that rightly make suit to God will probably see the day when others will make suit to them, as the foolish virgins to the wise, Give us of your oil.

III. Zophar concludes with a brief account of the doom of wicked people (Job 11:20): But the eyes of the wicked shall fail. It should seem, he suspected that Job would not take his counsel, and here tells him what would then come of it, setting death as well as life before him. See what will become of those who persist in their wickedness, and will not be reformed. 1. They shall not reach the good they flatter themselves with the hopes of in this world and in the other. Disappointments will be their doom, their shame, their endless torment. Their eyes shall fail with expecting that which will never come. When a wicked man dies his expectation perishes, Prov. 11:7. Their hope shall be as a puff of breath (margin), vanished and gone past recall. Or their hope will perish and expire as a man does when he gives up the ghost; it will fail them when they have most need of it and when they expected the accomplishment of it; it will die away, and leave them in utter confusion. 2. They shall not avoid the evil which sometimes they frighten themselves with the apprehensions of. They shall not escape the execution of the sentence passed upon them, can neither out-brave it nor outrun it. Those that will not fly to God will find it in vain to think of flying from him.