In last week’s post about The Book of Job (chapter 19), I mentioned how Job claimed he’d been falsely accused. He expressed disappointment with his friends for their unfairness toward him. In the final verses of the chapter, he also warns them not to condemn him suggesting they may be caught one day in the same situation. His frustration and perceived unfriendliness isn’t going to bring out the best in his friends. Hurt feelings are increasing.
This week’s post won’t be an improvement from the last chapter’s angst, because Job’s friend, Zophar, isn’t likely to turn the other cheek. He’s aggravated now, upset by Job’s warning at the end of Job 19. The narrative in chapter 20 reflects this is no longer hey-I’m-your-friend, how-can-I-help. The discussion has turned into we-knew-all-along-you-were-wicked, now-we’re-going-to-tell-you-what-we-really-think!
Zophar unloads! How dare Job accuse his friends of using pretext as the basis for accusation! What they perceive as Job’s holier-than-thou attitude is what has gotten him into this hot water with the Almighty, doncha’ know!
“Good friend” that Zophar claims to be, he’s no longer sympathetic or willing to hold back. He’s going to lay out his disgust with Job and this chapter is full of bile. Even so, I found it amusing because Zophar responds so haughtily, both barrels blasting a hasty rebuttal to Job’s earlier comments.
In the first verses of the chapter, Zophar is huffy and sputtering, almost gasping his dismay! Verse 2, he admits to the haste with which he speaks, but he justifies his quick response as totally necessary. (It’s as if Zophar is saying there’s no time for measured words … Job’s insults must be addressed instantly.)
Zophar’s speech reflects an incorrect view of suffering and God’s role in it. He equates suffering with sin. In his mind, he’s accepted the notion that Job is suffering solely because he has sinned. By extension, this reflects Zophar’s mistaken belief that God the Creator is nothing more than an impatient judge intent on zapping people who don’t keep to the rigid, straight and narrow path. You sin, you suffer, sucker!
The first half of the chapter 20 is a lengthy (but irrelevant) recitation about how the evil/godless man may appear for the moment to prosper – may even seem triumphant – before judgment inevitably descends on him. As the chapter continues, Zophar illustrates his point of view by citing the fearsome cobra to describe what destruction for Job might entail.
The only actual charge of wrongdoing Zophar can pull out of his hat is that Job has oppressed the poor and seized property he hadn’t built. The text doesn’t make clear that this is a legitimate charge, but Zophar raises it without reluctance.
In the rest of the chapter, it’s clear Zophar is actually the one spewing venom against his friend and it seems he can’t help himself as he calls down doom on his friend. The sonnet below reflects Zophar’s inability to be do anything but rub salt in Job’s wounds. Poor Job.