What kind of a man is this Zophar, the last of Job’s three friends? We met Eliphaz, the high Brahmin of orthodoxy who bolted into the spirit realm when he needed extra fire power (4:12-17) in presenting the prosecution’s case. We met Bomber Bil who earned The Most Caustic Statement of the Book award for “Your children sinned, so God killed them” (8:4).
What will Zophar say? Something like “I am sorry your children are gone,” or “Your boils must be very painful” would have been nice. Instead, he applied his hard-boiled, loveless theology that had all the appeal of a freezing rain in January in northern Minnesota.
Not to be outdone by others in Job-bashing, Zophar opened with, “You talk too much.” Too much lip is the literal Hebrew (v. 2). True to his fallen, sinful nature, Zophar felt duty-bound to correct Job. He didn’t want to be silent, lest Job interpret that as agreement. Proverbs 26:4 would have counseled Zophar to not answer. Woe to the person who thinks he must address every subject that comes up. Most of the time, no one asks us, and we don’t have to be an authority on every subject.
Zophar equated his own words and views with God’s, so to disagree with him was to disagree with God (v. 3). Zophar thought Job’s words reduced his own intellectual stature and net worth. “Will no one rebuke you when you mock” (v. 3)?
And he thought Job was trying to present himself as innocent when he was actually guilty. If Job was a godly man and correct in his conclusions, this negated Zophar’s belief that suffering was the direct result of sin. So either Zophar’s cherished, comfortable theology was wrong, or Job was sinning even though he presented himself as innocent. Because of his vested interest in maintaining the status quo, he decided Job was sinning on the sly. Otherwise, Job’s suffering presented a serious flaw and un-planned for contingency in Zophar’s world-and-life view. Not being able to account for Job’s situation threatened Zophar.
“Job, you can no more become wise than a wild donkey can give birth to a man” (v. 12).
“If you confess, Job, God will change everything. But the eyes of wicked people [like you, Job] will fail, and their hope will become a dying gasp” (v. 20).
These are two zingers from Zophar. Instead of showing off wisdom, they parade his insecurity and the smallness of his world. Do the Zophars of the world get away with their smug, comfortable, self-justifying theology? Yes. But only temporarily.