John T. Willis

Monday, October 12, 2009

Breath Savers--Zophar's Second Speech--Job 20

I use breath savers to keep my mouth fresh. How about YOU? Evidently, people used breath savers in ancient times, because Zophar refers to this practice in his second speech, as you will see [for those of you who do not know me very well--this IS a joke!!!].

As we continue our journey through the Book of Job, we come to Zophar's second speech recorded in Job 20. There is nothing new in this speech. Zophar and his friends cling tenaciously to their ONE ARGUMENT: All righteous people prosper and all wicked people suffer--with an emphasis on the latter. It is really impossible to divide this speech into parts, so let us simply follow the text. Job 20.

A. Zophar begins by complaining that Job has agitated and insulted Zophar. BUT, Zophar claims that "a spirit beyond my understanding answers me." Verses 1-3. This claim is very similar to Eliphaz's "dream" or "vision" in Job 4:12-16.

B. Zophar asserts that people have always known that the prosperity of the wicked IS SHORT. Zophar does not claim that wicked people never prosper at all. But Zophar does claim that the wicked prosper only for a very short time. The wicked will perish like a dream or a vision that appears for a short of time during the night, and then vanishes. Their bodies will lie down in the dust. Verses 4-11.

C. Zophar declares that wickedness is like a breath saver: it is sweet in the mouth, but soon the breath saver dissolves and their food is turned in the stomachs of the wicked. The wicked use dishonest means of gaining profit, but they receive no enjoyment from this. The wicked crush the poor, they seize the house of helpless victims, but God casts their riches out of their bellies. Verses 12-19.

D. The wicked are greedy, but God sends fierce anger against them, and they receive distress and miserty. Zophar presents a striking figure: the wicked flee from an iron weapon, but a bronze arrow will strike them through. God punishes the wicked, and the wicked have no way to escape. [A similar figure occurs in Amos 5:18-20]. "Terrors" are all around the wicked. The heavens and the earth rise up against the wicked, and the possessions of the wicked will be carried away in the day of God's wrath. Verses 20-28.

E. Zophar ends this speech with his summary conclusion:
"This is the portion of the wicked from God,
the heritage decreed for them by God."

Many people hold the view of Zophar and his two friends. BUT, there are many problems with such a view. Look around YOU. Do you know any wicked people who are prospering? Do you know any righteous people who are suffering? Is unvarying recompense correct? Is it biblical? Is this the way life works? What do YOU think? What are YOUR insights? Share your thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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