Job 11:1-20

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Zophar the Naamathite or, according to the Septuagint, the “Minaean” responded to Job. The Minaeans were an Arab people that may have descended from one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah. Earlier (2:11), the Septuagint referred to Zophar as “king of the Minaeans.” (11:1)

Zophar insinuated Job had spoken an abundance of words that were directed against God. This prompted him to raise the rhetorical question, “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and should a man of lips be considered righteous?” The reference to a “man of lips” being regarded as righteous implies that mere talk or self-evaluation does not prove one is in the right. (11:2; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

In the extant Hebrew text, Zophar’s expressions suggest that he considered the words of Job as mere chatter and as mockery of God. The comments of Zophar could be understood to mean that Job’s words may have been intended to silence men but that he should be put to shame for mocking. Translators have variously rendered the text. “Should your babble put others to silence, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?” (NRSV) “Is your endless talk to reduce others to silence? When you speak irreverently, is no one to take you to task?” (REB) “Do you think your talking strikes people dumb, will you jeer with no one to refute you?” (NJB) “Your prattle may silence men; you may mock without being rebuked.” (Tanakh [NJPS]) The Septuagint rendering expresses Zophar’s words as admonition to Job. “Do not be abundant in words” or talkative, “for no one is contending with you.” (11:3)

Zophar spoke of Job as saying that his “instruction” was “pure” or that the thoughts he expressed were right or sound. According to the Septuagint, he admonished Job not to say, “I am pure in works,” doing what is right, “and blameless before him [God].” In the extant Hebrew text, the words Zophar ascribed to Job with reference to God are, “I am clean in your eyes.” (11:4)

Believing that Job’s suffering had resulted from his grave sin, Zophar maintained that, if only God were to speak and “open [his] lips” or express himself to Job, he would reveal to him the error of his ways. (11:5; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Zophar reasoned that, if God were to speak to Job, he would tell him the “secrets of wisdom.” This could signify that the Almighty would reveal to Job just how limited his understanding was. The next Hebrew phrase is obscure. Literally, it may be translated, “for double in success.” This could mean that the concealed things of wisdom, when revealed, would lead to success far beyond expectations for those who acted in harmony therewith. Another possibility is that the reference to “double” indicates that there are two sides to wisdom — the revealed and the hidden — and both lead to success. The renderings of translations vary. “For true wisdom has two sides.” (NIV) “For wisdom is many-sided.” (NRSV) “The secrets of wisdom are twice as effective.” (NAB) “For wonderful are its [wisdom’s] achievements!” (REB) The secrets of wisdom “put all cleverness to shame.” (NJB) According to the Septuagint, God would declare to Job the “power of wisdom,” for it would be “double” to his. Another possible significance is that God would be manifest as being “double” as wise as, or exceedingly wiser than, Job. (11:6)

Zophar had concluded that Job’s suffering was the direct result of his godless conduct and, therefore, he said to him, “And know” or recognize that God has “forgotten” or overlooked part of “your guilt.” In this way, Zophar implied that Job’s distress was not as great as he actually merited. According to the Septuagint, the divine disclosure of wisdom would make Job know or recognize that the calamities that had befallen him from the Lord were what his sinning deserved. (11:6)

To emphasize that Job’s knowledge was far from complete, Zophar raised the question, “Can you find out the searched-out thing of God, or can you find out to the limit of the Almighty?” This question indicated that all that God had searched out — his deep things — were far beyond anyone’s comprehension. No one could come anywhere close to the “limit” of the Almighty’s unfathomable wisdom. (11:7)

The Septuagint rendering represents Zophar as asking Job, “Can you find the trace of the Lord, or have you reached the last things” or the limits “that the Almighty has made?” This question suggests that Job’s knowledge of God was so meager that he could not discover even a trace of him, and there was no way for Job to reach the “last things,” or the things that were the farthest away, that the Almighty had made or the limits that he had set. (11:7)

Zophar referred to the “limit of the Almighty” or his matchless wisdom as being like the “heights of heaven” and “deep as Sheol” or the realm of the dead. This “limit” was higher and lower than anything Job could possibly know. To contrast the “limit of the Almighty” with the limitations of Job’s capacity for doing and knowing things, Zophar followed up each description with a question. “What can you do?” “What can you know?” In the Septuagint, the focus is on the impossibility of Job’s reaching the limits of what the Almighty has made or done. “Heaven [is] high, and what will you do? But deep [as] the things in Hades; what do you know?” (11:8)

According to the words of Zophar regarding the “limit of the Almighty,” its “measure” is “long beyond the land [earth] and wide beyond the sea.” (11:9)

Zophar indicated that the Almighty exercises complete control over everything and that no one can stop him from accomplishing his purpose. If “he passes through,” “confines” or detains, or “summons” (calls for an assembly or summons for judgment), “who can hinder him?” The implied answer is, No one. In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed somewhat differently. If the Almighty were to “overthrow everything,” no one would challengingly say to him, “What did you do?” (11:10)

With continued focus on Job as being afflicted because of his transgressions, Zophar said that God “knows men of worthlessness” or men who are deceptive in word and deed. According to the Septuagint, God “knows the works of the lawless ones.” “And,” Zophar is quoted as continuing, “he sees iniquity, and does he not discern?” This could mean that God recognizes wrongdoing for what it is and will punish it. The Hebrew word for “discern” (bin) may also be rendered “consider.” Therefore, the phrase which includes this verb could mean that God, when seeing iniquity, does not need to consider it or to evaluate it. The Septuagint represents Zophar as referring to God as knowing wrongs (literally, “things that are out of place”) and not overlooking them. (11:11)

In Zophar’s view, an “empty” or “hollow man,” one who is seriously lacking in sound judgment, would not “gain heart” or come to have good sense. The Hebrew text could be understood to mean that this would be as inconceivable as for a wild ass or onager to give birth to a man. (11:12; see the Notes section.)

Zophar admonished Job to change his ways, telling him that, “if you firm up your heart,” or set your inmost self aright (“have set [or made] your heart pure” [LXX]), and “stretch out your hand” (“raise your hands” [LXX]) in supplication to God, a reversal of the distressing circumstances would occur. (11:13)

Continuing his exhortation, Zophar told Job that his situation would improve if he were to put the iniquity (“something lawless” [LXX]) in his hand far away from him and did not let wickedness (“injustice” [LXX]) reside in his tents or his habitation. (11:14)

Zophar had concluded that, if Job heeded his admonition, he would be able to “lift up” his “face without blemish” or hold up his head unashamedly as a man without any moral defect. Job would also be “established” (literally, “poured out” or “cast”) in a secure position. He would not be in fear. According to the Septuagint, Job’s “face” would shine “like clean water.” He would “strip off filth” or impurity, and “by no means” would he be afraid. In the Greek text, the emphatic sense of the expression “by no means” is conveyed by two words for “not.” (11:15)

At this point, the words of Zophar focus on what he considered would change for Job if he heeded his exhortation. Job would forget his “trouble” or suffering. He would “remember” it like “waters that have passed on” or flowed away. According to the Septuagint, Job would “forget trouble like a wave passing by,” and he would “not be terrified.” The former affliction would prove to be a faint, distant memory. (11:16)

Zophar’s words could be understood to mean that, for the repentant Job, the gloom associated with past suffering would be transformed into a life of greater brightness than that of a sunny day at noon. So bright would his day be that “darkness” could be likened to “morning” or the dawning of a new day. (11:17; see the Notes section.)

If Job took his admonition to heart, Zophar asserted that he would be secure, for he would be in possession of “hope” (one that would be fulfilled). He would “look around” (probably implying that he would see nothing that would give rise to anxiety), and he would “lie down” to sleep as one being in a state of “security.” The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that Job would be confident, for there would be “hope” for him. “From anxiety and care,” “peace” would dawn for him. Worries and concerns would give way to an inner calm and a sense of security and well-being. (11:18)

Zophar envisioned the future of Job (provided he acted on his admonition) to be peaceful. He would lie down to rest, with nothing making him afraid. Many would entreat him (literally, “his face”), desiring to have his favor. The Septuagint indicates that Job would be at rest, with no one fighting against him. Changing their attitude, many would entreat him. (11:19)

Zophar concluded with an implied warning to Job if he disregarded his words. “The eyes of wicked ones will fail.” As if struck blind, they would be unable to find a way out of their distressing situation. Any “escape” from calamity would “vanish for them.” Their hope would come to nothingness, with only death in view. Zophar is quoted as referring to “their hope” as a “breathing out of soul,” which expression could denote the “breathing out of life,” “exhaling the last breath,” or “dying.” (11:20; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)


In verse 2 of the Septuagint, Zophar is represented as admonishing Job to listen to his response. “The one saying many things also should listen in turn.” Then follows the rhetorical question, “Or does even the eloquent one [the one speaking many words] think he is righteous” or right? The concluding phrase differs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “Blessed is the short-lived one born of a woman.” These words suggest that a good short life is a blessing.

In relation to verse 4, verse 5 in the Septuagint represents Zophar as saying that, if Job claimed to be pure in his deeds and “blameless before him,” how would it be possible for the Lord to speak to him? Printed texts of the Septuagint conclude verse 5 with the phrase, “and he will open his lips with you.” In the third century CE, this phrase was not contained in the Septuagint text available to Origen. He added it from the version of Theodotion and marked it accordingly.

In verse 12, the phrase that includes the reference to the “wild ass” or onager is obscure. Literally translated, the words are, “and donkey — wild ass — man is born.” To convey an understandable significance, words need to be added, and translators vary considerably in their interpretive renderings. “Will empty man then gain understanding, and the wild jackass be made docile?” (NAB) “Hence empty-headed people would do well to study sense and people who behave like wild donkeys to let themselves be tamed.” (NJB) “But it is easier to tame a wild donkey than to make a fool wise.” (CEV) “Stupid people will start being wise when wild donkeys are born tame.” (GNT, Second Edition) “A fool cannot become wise any more than a wild donkey can be born tame.” (NCV)

The rendering of verse 12 in the Septuagint is unusual and bears little resemblance to the extant Hebrew text. “But otherwise a man swims with words, but a mortal born of a woman is like a donkey of the desert [a wild ass or onager].” One conjecture is that the Greek word for “swims” (néchetai) should read enéchetai), meaning “caught” or “entangled.” This would indicate that a man is caught by his own words, his untruthful words. The emendation, however, still does not explain how a man could be like an onager.

When literally translated according to the basic significance (“And from noonday will arise duration”), the words at the beginning of verse 17 do not convey a comprehensible thought. For this reason, footnotes in a number of translations indicate that there is uncertainty about the meaning of the initial phrase.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 17 differs from the extant Hebrew text. With reference to Job, it says, “Your prayer [will be] like the morning star [Venus]; and from midday, life will arise to you.” Perhaps the thought is that Job’s prayer would reflect the joy and gratitude associated with the dawning of a new day and that his life would be free from distressing gloom as if it had its source in the brightest part of a sunny day.

With seeming reference to those who were hostile to Job, verse 20 in the Septuagint says, “But deliverance will leave them, for their hope [is] destruction, and the eyes of impious ones will melt away.” What these individuals hoped for would not materialize, but destruction or ruin would await them. Their eyes would never see good, as they would waste away.