Job 20

The Word Made Fresh

1Then Zophar the Naamathite responded to Job: 2“Now I’m upset, and I have to respond. 3I’m insulted by your rebuke, and something is urging me to answer you. 4Ever since human beings have been placed on earth it has been understood 5that the celebrations of evil people are brief, and those who are godless can experience joy for only a moment. 6Their pride may soar to the heavens and their heads may be in the clouds, 7but they will cease to exist like their own dung, and those who knew them will wonder whatever became of them. 8They will float away like a dream, and never be seen again. They will disappear like a fleeting vision in the night. 9Those who saw them will see them no more and they will not be seen in their place again. 10Then their children will ask the poor for help as they lose their wealth, 11and their own bodies, once filled with the vigor of youth, will lie in the ground.

12“And even though evil tastes so sweet to them and they hide it like they would hide stolen candy under their tongues 13and hide it in their mouths and refuse to give it up, 14it will turn sour in their stomachs like snake venom inside them. 15They gulp down wealth and then puke it up again – God rips it out of their bellies. 16They will swallow the poison of asps; they will die from the bite of the adder. 17They will not see the rivers, the streams that flow with milk and honey. 18They will never get to enjoy the fruit of their labors or the profits from their trading, 19because of the way they have treated the poor, seizing houses they didn’t build.

20“Their appetite gives them no rest; they won’t let anything out of their hands because of their greed. 21They eat everything up, but their prosperity will not last. 22They’ll have everything they need and still not be happy. 23Instead, their bellies will be filled with God’s anger raining down on them. 24If they escape weapons made of iron, then those made of bronze will go right through them 25and come out their backs, the spearheads smeared with their entrails, and they will be terrified. 26Their wealth will sink in darkness, and be consumed by fire that no one has kindled, and what is left of their homes will be destroyed. 27The sky above will reveal their guilt, and the ground itself will rise against them. 28Everything they own will be carried off on the day of God’s anger. 29This is the inheritance God has decreed for them.”


1-11: Zophar is insulted! He can’t believe Job continues to defend his innocence. Doesn’t Job know that no matter how rich, how powerful, how popular, how exalted the wicked may become it is short-lived, and they eventually perish like their own dung – which is a curious figure of speech since dung is not alive in the first place. Maybe that’s his point. The wicked come and go, he says, and nobody remembers them. Their children are poorer than the poor, he says.

12-19: Zophar continues the same track, imagining fantastic and unsurvivable suffering for the wicked.

20-29: Their greed eventually overtakes them, he avers. Some of the metaphors he uses in the last few verses seem to indicate that he suspects that sooner or later the wicked become victims of other wicked people.


Zophar presents a strong case against wickedness. Would that it was true! Too often the wicked get away with their wickedness, and their punishment must await the life to come. Job will counter with this in the next chapter.