Job 20


Zophar answers Job, and largely details the wretchedness of

the wicked and the hypocrite; shows that the rejoicing of

such is short and transitory, 1-9.

That he is punished in his family and in his person, 10-14.

That he shall be stripped of his ill-gotten wealth, and shall

be in misery, though in the midst of affluence, 15-23.

He shall at last die a violent death, and his family and

property be finally destroyed, 24-29.


Verse 2. Therefore do my thoughts] It has already been observed

that Zophar was the most inveterate of all Job's enemies, for we

really must cease to call them friends. He sets no bounds to his

invective, and outrages every rule of charity. A man of such a

bitter spirit must have been, in general, very unhappy. With him

Job is, by insinuation, every thing that is base, vile, and

hypocritical. Mr. Good translates this verse thus: "Whither would

my tumult transport me? And how far my agitation within me?" This

is all the modesty that appears in Zophar's discourse. He

acknowledges that he is pressed by the impetuosity of his spirit

to reply to Job's self-vindication. The original is variously

translated, but the sense is as above.

For this I make haste.] ubaabur chushi bi,

there is sensibility in me, and my feelings provoke me to reply.

Verse 3. I have heard the check of my reproach] Some suppose

that Zophar quotes the words of Job, and that some words should be

supplied to indicate this meaning; e.g., "I have heard (sayest

thou) the check or charge of my reproach?" Or it may refer to what

Job says of Zophar and his companions, Job 19:2, 3:

How long will ye vex may soul-these ten times have ye reproached

me. Zophar therefore assumes his old ground, and retracts nothing

of what he had said. Like many of his own complexion in the

present day, he was determined to believe that his judgment was

infallible, and that he could not err.

Verse 4. Knowest thou not this of old] This is a maxim as

ancient as the world; it began with the first man: A wicked man

shall triumph but a short time; God will destroy the proud doer.

Since man was placed upon earth] Literally, since ADAM was

placed on the earth; that is, since the fall, wickedness and

hypocrisy have existed; but they have never triumphed long. Thou

hast lately been expressing confidence in reference to a general

judgment; but such is thy character, that thou hast little reason

to anticipate with any joy the decisions of that day.

Verse 6. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens] Probably

referring to the original state of Adam, of whose fall he appears

to have spoken, Job 20:4. He was created in the

image of God; but by his sin against his Maker he fell into

wretchedness, misery, death, and destruction.

Verse 7. He shall perish for ever] He is dust, and shall return

to the dust from which he was taken. Zophar here hints his

disbelief in that doctrine, the resurrection of the body, which

Job had so solemnly asserted in the preceding chapter. Or he might

have been like some in the present day, who believe that the

wicked shall be annihilated, and the bodies of the righteous only

be raised from the dead; but I know of no scripture by which such

a doctrine is confirmed.

Like his own dung] His reputation shall be abominable, and his

putrid carcass shall resemble his own excrement. A speech that

partakes as much of the malevolence as of the asperity of Zophar's


Verse 8. He shall fly away as a dream] Instead of rising again

from corruption, as thou hast asserted, (Job 19:26,) with a new

body, his flesh shall rot in the earth, and his spirit be

dissipated like a vapour; and, like a vision of the night, nothing

shall remain but the bare impression that such a creature had once

existed, but shall appear no more for ever.

Verse 10. His children shall seek to please the poor] They shall

be reduced to the lowest degree of poverty and want, so as to be

obliged to become servants to the poor. Cursed be Ham, a servant

of servants shall he be. There are cases where the poor actually

serve the poor; and this is the lowest or most abject state of


His hands shall restore their goods.] He shall be obliged to

restore the goods that he has taken by violence.

Mr. Good translates: His branches shall be involved in his

iniquity; i.e., his children shall suffer on his account. "His own

hands shall render to himself the evil that he has done to

others."-Calmet. The clause is variously translated.

Verse 11. His bones are full of the sin of his youth] Our

translators have followed the VULGATE, Ossa ejus implebuntur

vitiis adolescentiae ejus; "his bones shall be filled with the

sins of his youth." The SYRIAC and ARABIC have, his bones are full

of marrow; and the TARGUM is to the same sense. At first view it

might appear that Zophar refers to those infirmities in old age,

which are the consequences of youthful vices and irregularities.

alumau, which we translate his youth, may be rendered his

hidden things; as if he had said, his secret vices bring down his

strength to the dust. For this rendering Rosenmuller contends, and

several other German critics. Mr. Good contends for the same.

Verse 12. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth] This seems to

refer to the secret sins mentioned above.

Hide it under his tongue] This and the four following verses

contain an allegory; and the reference is to a man who, instead of

taking wholesome food, takes what is poisonous, and is so

delighted with it because it is sweet, that he rolls it under his

tongue, and will scarcely let it down into his stomach, he is so

delighted with the taste; "he spares it, and forsakes it not, but

keeps it still within his mouth," Job 20:13. "But when he

swallows it, it is turned to the gall of asps within him,"

Job 20:14, which shall corrode and torture his bowels.

Verse 15. He shall vomit them up again] This is also an allusion

to an effect of most ordinary poisons; they occasion a nausea, and

often excruciating vomiting; nature striving to eject what it

knows, if retained, will be its bane.

Verse 16. He shall suck the poison of asps] That delicious

morsel, that secret, easily-besetting sin, so palatable, and so

pleasurable, shall act on the life of his soul, as the poison of

asps would do on the life of his body.

The poison is called the gall of asps, it being anciently

supposed that the poison of serpents consists in their gall, which

is thought to be copiously exuded when those animals are enraged;

as it has been often seen that their bite is not poisonous when

they are not angry. Pliny, in speaking of the various parts of

animals, Hist. Nat. lib. xi., c. 37, states, from this

circumstance, that in the gall, the poison of serpents consists;

ne quis miretur id (fel) venenum esse serpentum. And in lib.

xxviii., c. 9, he ranks the gall of horses among the poisons:

Damnatur (fel) equinum tantum inter venena. We see, therefore,

that the gall was considered to be the source whence the poison of

serpents was generated, not only in Arabia, but also in Italy.

Verse 17. He shall not see the rivers] Mr. Good has the

following judicious note on this passage: "Honey and butter are

the common results of a rich, well-watered pasturage, offering a

perpetual banquet of grass to kine, and of nectar to bees; and

thus loading the possessor with the most luscious luxuries of

pastoral life, peculiarly so before the discovery of the means of

obtaining sugar. The expression appears to have been proverbial;

and is certainly used here to denote a very high degree of

temporal prosperity." See also Job 29:6. To the Hebrews such

expressions were quite familiar. See Ex 3:8; 13:5; 33:3;

2Ki 18:32; De 31:20, and elsewhere.

The Greek and Roman writers abound in such images.

Milk and honey were such delicacies with the ancients, that

Pindar compares his song to them for its smoothness and








PIND. Nem. iii., ver. 133.

"Hail, friend! to thee I tune my song;

For thee its mingled sweets prepare;

Mellifluous accents pour along;

Verse, pure as milk, to thee I bear;

On all thy actions falls the dew of praise;

Pierian draughts thy thirst of fame assuage,

And breathing flutes thy songs of triumph raise."

J. B. C.

Qui te, Pollio, amat, veniat, quo te quoque gaudet;

Mella fluant illi, ferat et rubus asper amomum.

VIRG. Ecl. iii., ver. 88.

"Who Pollio loves, and who his muse admires;

Let Pollio's fortune crown his full desires

Let myrrh, instead of thorn, his fences fill;

And showers of honey from his oaks distil!"


OVID, describing the golden age, employs the same image:-

Flumina jam lactis, jam flumina nectaris ibant;

Flavaque de viridi stillabant ilice mella.

Metam. lib. i., ver. 3.

"Floods were with milk, and floods with nectar, fill'd;

And honey from the sweating oak distill'd."


HORACE employs a similar image in nearly the same words:-

Mella cava manant ex ilice, montibus altis;

Levis crepante lympha desilit pede.

Epod. xvi., ver. 46.

"From hollow oaks, where honey'd streams distil,

And bounds with noisy foot the pebbled rill."


Job employs the same metaphor, Job 29:6:-

When I washed my steps with butter,

And the rock poured out to me rivers of oil.

Isaiah, also, Isa 7:22, uses the same when describing the

produce of a heifer and two ewes:-

From the plenty of milk that they shall produce,

He shall eat butter: butter and honey shall he eat,

Whosoever is left in the midst of the land.

And Joel, Joe 3:18:-

And it shall come to pass in that day,

The mountains shall drop down new wine,

And the hills shall flow with milk;

And all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters.

These expressions denote fertility and abundance; and are often

employed to point out the excellence of the promised land, which

is frequently denominated a land flowing with milk and honey: and

even the superior blessings of the Gospel are thus characterized,

Isa 51:1.

Verse 18. That which he laboureth for shall he restore] I prefer

here the reading of the Arabic, which is also supported by the

Syriac, and is much nearer to the Hebrew text than the common

version. He shall return to labour, but he shall not eat; he shall

toil, and not be permitted to enjoy the fruit of his labour. The

whole of this verse Mr. Good thus translates:-

"To labour shall he return, but he shall not eat.

A dearth his recompense: yea, nothing shall he taste."

It may be inquired how Mr. Good arrives at this meaning. It is by

considering the word yaalos, which we translate he shall

rejoice, as the Arabic [Arabic] alasa, "he ate, drank, tasted;"

and the word kehil, which we make a compound word, keeheyl,

"according to substance," to be the pure Arabic word [Arabic]

kahala, "it was fruitless," applied to a year of dearth: hence

kahlan, "a barren year." Conceiving these two to be pure Arabic

words, for which he seems to have sufficient authority, he renders

temuratho, his recompense, as in Job 15:31, and not

restitution, as here.

The general meaning is, He shall labour and toil, but shall not

reap, for God shall send on his land blasting and mildew.

Houbigant translates the verse thus: Reddet labore partum; neque

id absumet; copiosae fuerunt mercaturae ejus, sed illis non

fruetur. "He shall restore what he gained by labour, nor shall he

consume it; his merchandises were abundant, but he shall not enjoy

them." O, how doctors disagree! Old Coverdale gives a good sense,

which is no unfrequent thing with this venerable translator:-

But laboure shal he, and yet have nothinge to eate; great

travayle shal he make for riches, but he shal not enjoye them.

Verse 19. He hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor]

Literally, He hath broken in pieces the forsaken of the poor;

ki ritstsats azab dallim. The poor have fled from

famine, and left their children behind them; and this hard-hearted

wretch, meaning Job all the while, has suffered them to perish,

when he might have saved them alive.

He hath violently taken away a house which he builded not] Or

rather, He hath thrown down a house, and hath not rebuilt it. By

neglecting or destroying the forsaken orphans of the poor,

mentioned above, he has destroyed a house, (a family,) while he

might, by helping the wretched, have preserved the family from

becoming extinct.

Verse 20. Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly] I

have already remarked that the word beten, which we translate

belly, often means in the sacred Scriptures the whole of the

human trunk; the regions of the thorax and abdomen, with their

contents; the heart, lungs, liver, &c., and consequently all the

thoughts, purposes, and inclinations of the mind, of which those

viscera were supposed to be the functionaries. The meaning seems

to be, "He shall never be satisfied; he shall have an endless

desire after secular good, and shall never be able to obtain what

he covets."

Verse 21. There shall none of his meat be left] Coverdale

translates thus: He devoured so gredily, that he left nothinge

behynde, therefore his goodes shal not prospere. He shall be

stripped of every thing.

Verse 22. In the fullness of his sufficiency he shall be in

straits] This is a fine saying, and few of the menders of Job's

text have been able to improve the version. It is literally true

of every great, rich, wicked man; he has no God, and anxieties and

perplexities torment him, notwithstanding he has his portion in

this life.

Every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.] All kinds of

misery shall be his portion. Coverdale translates: Though he had

plenteousnesse of every thinge, yet was he poore; and, therefore,

he is but a wretch on every syde.

Verse 23. When he is about to fill his belly] Here seems a plain

allusion to the lustings of the children of Israel in the desert.

God showered down quails upon them, and showered down his wrath

while the flesh was in their mouth. The allusion is too plain to

be mistaken; and this gives some countenance to the bishop of

Killala's version of the 20th verse, Job 20:20:-

"Because he acknowledged not the quail in his stomach,

In the midst of his delight he shall not escape."

That , which we translate quietness, means a quail, also the

history of the Hebrews' lustings, Ex 16:2-11, and Nu 11:31-35,

sufficiently proves. Let the reader mark all the expressions here,

Job 20:20-23, and compare them with Nu 11:31-35, and he will

probably be of opinion that Zophar has that history immediately in

view, which speaks of the Hebrews' murmurings for bread and flesh,

and the miraculous showers of manna and quails, and the

judgments that fell on them for their murmurings. Let us compare a

few passages:-

Ver. 20. He shall not feel quietness] selav, the quail.

"He shall not save of that which he desired."

Ver. 21: There shall none of his meat be left.] Ex 16:19:

"Let no man leave of it till the morning."

Ver. 22. In the fulness of his sufficiency, he shall be in

straits.] Ex 16:20: "But some of them left of it until the

morning, and it bred worms and stank."

Ver. 23. When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the

fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is

eating.] Nu 11:33: "And while the flesh was yet between their

teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled

against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very

great plague." Ps 78:26-30: "He rained flesh upon them as dust,

and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: so they did eat

and were filled-but, while the meat was in their mouth, the wrath

of God came upon them," &c. These show to what Zophar refers.

Verse 24. He shall flee from the iron weapon] Or, "Though he

should flee from the iron armour, the brazen bow should strike him

through." So that yf he fle the yron weapens, he shal be shott

with the stele bow.-Coverdale. That is, he shall most certainly

perish: all kinds of deaths await him.

Verse 25. It is drawn, and cometh out] This refers to archery:

The arrow is drawn out of the sheaf or quiver, and discharged from

the bow against its mark, and pierces the vitals, and passes

through the body. So Coverdale.-The arowe shal be taken forth, and

go out at his backe.

Verse 26. A fire not blown shall consume him] As Zophar is here

showing that the wicked cannot escape from the Divine judgments;

so he points out the different instruments which God employs for

their destruction. The wrath of God-any secret or supernatural

curse. The iron weapon-the spear or such like. The bow, and its

swift-flying arrow. Darkness-deep horror and perplexity. A fire

not blown-a supernatural fire; lightning: such as fell on Korah,

and his company, to whose destruction there is probably here an

allusion: hence the words, It shall go ill with him who is left in

his tabernacle. "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Separate

yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them

in a moment. Get ye up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan,

and Abiram. Depart from the tents of these wicked men. There came

out a fire from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty

men that offered incense;" Nu 16:20, &c.

Verse 27. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth

shall rise up against him.] Another allusion, if I mistake not, to

the destruction of Korah and his company. The heaven revealed

their iniquity; God declared out of heaven his judgment of their

rebellion. "And the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the

congregation;" Nu 16:20, &c. And then

the earth rose up against them. "The ground clave asunder that

was under them, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them

up; and they went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed

upon them;" Nu 16:31-33.

Verse 28. The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods

shall flow away in the day of his wrath.] A farther allusion to

the punishment of the rebellious company of Korah, who not only

perished themselves, but their houses also, and their goods.

Nu 16:32.

These examples were all in point, on the ground assumed by

Zophar; and such well-attested facts would not be passed over by

him, had he known the record of them; and that he did know it,

alludes to it, and quotes the very circumstances, is more than


Verse 29. This is the portion] As God has dealt with the

murmuring Israelites, and with the rebellious sons of Korah, so

will he deal with those who murmur against the dispensations of

his providence, and rebel against his authority. Instead of an

earthly portion, and an ecclesiastical heritage, such as Korah,

Dathan, and Abiram sought; they shall have fire from God to scorch

them, and the earth to swallow them up.

Dr. Stock, bishop of Killala, who has noticed the allusion to

the quails, and for which he has been most unmeritedly ridiculed,

gives us the following note on the passage:-

"Here I apprehend is a fresh example of the known usage of

Hebrew poets, in adorning their compositions by allusions to facts

in the history of their own people. It has escaped all the

interpreters; and it is the more important, because it fixes the

date of this poem, so far as to prove its having been composed

subsequently to the transgression of Israel, at Kibroth

Hattaavah, recorded in Nu 11:33, 34. Because the wicked

acknowledges not the quail, that is, the meat with which God has

filled his stomach; but, like the ungrateful Israelites, crammed,

and blasphemed his feeder, as Milton finely expresses it, he shall

experience the same punishment with them, and be cut off in the

midst of his enjoyment, as Moses tells us the people were who


If I mistake not, I have added considerable strength to the

prelate's reasoning, by showing that there is a reference also to

the history of the manna, and to that which details the rebellion

of Korah and his company; and if so, (and they may dispute who

please,) it is a proof that the Book of Job is not so old as, much

less older than, the Pentateuch, as some have endeavoured to

prove, but with no evidence of success, at least to my mind: a

point which never has been, and I am certain never can be, proved;

which has multitudes of presumptions against it, and not one clear

incontestable fact for it. Mr. Good has done more in this case

than any of his predecessors, and yet Mr. Good has failed; no

wonder then that others, unmerciful criticisers of the bishop of

Killala, have failed also, who had not a tenth part of Mr. Good's

learning, nor one-hundredth part of his critical acumen.

It is, however, strange that men cannot suffer others to differ

from them on a subject of confessed difficulty and comparatively

little importance, without raising up the cry of heresy against

them, and treating them with superciliousness and contempt! These

should know, if they are clergymen, whether dignified or not,

that such conduct ill becomes the sacerdotal character; and that

ante barbam docet senes cannot be always spoken to the teacher's


As a good story is not the worse for being twice told, the

following lines from a clergyman, who, for his humility and piety,

was as much an honour to his vocation as he was to human nature,

may not be amiss, in point of advice to all Warburtonian spirits:-

"Be calm in arguing, for fierceness makes

Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.

Why should I feel another man's mistakes

More than his sickness or his poverty?

In love I should: but anger is not love

Nor wisdom neither; therefore, gently move.

Calmness is great advantage: he that lets

Another chafe, may warm him at his fire,

Mark all his wanderings, and enjoy his frets;

As cunning fencers suffer heat to tire.

Truth dwells not in the clouds: the bow that's there

Doth often aim at, never hit, the sphere."


Dr. Stock's work on the Book of Job will stand honourably on the

same shelf with the best on this difficult subject.

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