Job 20


1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed.
3 I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply.
4 “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind[a] was placed on the earth,
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
6 Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds,
7 he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will not see him again; his place will look on him no more.
10 His children must make amends to the poor; his own hands must give back his wealth.
11 The youthful vigor that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust.
12 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he cannot bear to let it go and lets it linger in his mouth,
14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach; it will become the venom of serpents within him.
15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed; God will make his stomach vomit them up.
16 He will suck the poison of serpents; the fangs of an adder will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams, the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten; he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute; he has seized houses he did not build.
20 “Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure.
21 Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him; the full force of misery will come upon him.
23 When he has filled his belly, God will vent his burning anger against him and rain down his blows on him.
24 Though he flees from an iron weapon, a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
25 He pulls it out of his back, the gleaming point out of his liver. Terrors will come over him;
26 total darkness lies in wait for his treasures. A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent.
27 The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him.
28 A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters[b] on the day of God’s wrath.
29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God.”

Job 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

Zophar speaks of the short joy of the wicked. (1-9) The ruin of the wicked. (10-22) The portion of the wicked. (23-29)

Verses 1-9 Zophar's discourse is upon the certain misery of the wicked. The triumph of the wicked and the joy of the hypocrite are fleeting. The pleasures and gains of sin bring disease and pain; they end in remorse, anguish, and ruin. Dissembled piety is double iniquity, and the ruin that attends it will be accordingly.

Verses 10-22 The miserable condition of the wicked man in this world is fully set forth. The lusts of the flesh are here called the sins of his youth. His hiding it and keeping it under his tongue, denotes concealment of his beloved lust, and delight therein. But He who knows what is in the heart, knows what is under the tongue, and will discover it. The love of the world, and of the wealth of it, also is wickedness, and man sets his heart upon these. Also violence and injustice, these sins bring God's judgments upon nations and families. Observe the punishment of the wicked man for these things. Sin is turned into gall, than which nothing is more bitter; it will prove to him poison; so will all unlawful gains be. In his fulness he shall be in straits, through the anxieties of his own mind. To be led by the sanctifying grace of God to restore what was unjustly gotten, as Zaccheus was, is a great mercy. But to be forced to restore by the horrors of a despairing conscience, as Judas was, has no benefit and comfort attending it.

Verses 23-29 Zophar, having described the vexations which attend wicked practices, shows their ruin from God's wrath. There is no fence against this, but in Christ, who is the only Covert from the storm and tempest, ( Isaiah 32:2 ) . Zophar concludes, "This is the portion of a wicked man from God;" it is allotted him. Never was any doctrine better explained, or worse applied, than this by Zophar, who intended to prove Job a hypocrite. Let us receive the good explanation, and make a better application, for warning to ourselves, to stand in awe and sin not. One view of Jesus, directed by the Holy Spirit, and by him suitably impressed upon our souls, will quell a thousand carnal reasonings about the suffering of the faithful.

Cross References 59

  • 1. S Job 2:11
  • 2. Psalms 42:5; Lamentations 1:20
  • 3. Job 19:3
  • 4. Deuteronomy 4:32; S Deuteronomy 32:7
  • 5. Psalms 94:3
  • 6. S Job 8:13
  • 7. S Job 8:12; Psalms 37:35-36; Psalms 73:19
  • 8. Job 33:17; Isaiah 16:6
  • 9. S Genesis 11:4
  • 10. Isaiah 14:13-14; Obadiah 1:3-4
  • 11. S Job 4:20
  • 12. S Job 7:8; S Job 14:20; Job 7:10; Job 8:18
  • 13. Psalms 73:20; Ecclesiastes 5:3
  • 14. Psalms 90:10; Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Job 27:21-23
  • 15. S Job 18:11; Job 18:18
  • 16. Job 27:20; Job 34:20; Psalms 90:5; Isaiah 17:14; Isaiah 29:7
  • 17. S Job 7:8
  • 18. S Job 5:4
  • 19. ver 15,18,20; S Job 3:15; Job 31:8; Job 27:16-17
  • 20. S Job 13:26
  • 21. Job 21:24
  • 22. S Job 17:16; Job 21:26
  • 23. S Job 15:16
  • 24. Psalms 10:7; Psalms 140:3
  • 25. S Numbers 11:18-20
  • 26. Proverbs 20:17; Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 4:18; Revelation 10:9
  • 27. S Numbers 21:6
  • 28. S ver 10
  • 29. S Leviticus 18:25
  • 30. S Deuteronomy 32:32
  • 31. Deuteronomy 32:24
  • 32. Psalms 36:8
  • 33. Deuteronomy 32:13
  • 34. Deuteronomy 32:14; Job 29:6
  • 35. S ver 10; S Job 5:5
  • 36. Psalms 109:11
  • 37. S Job 5:16; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 94:6; Psalms 109:16
  • 38. S Deuteronomy 15:11; Deuteronomy 24:14; Job 24:4,14; Job 35:9; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 28:28; Amos 8:4
  • 39. Isaiah 5:8
  • 40. Ecclesiastes 5:12-14
  • 41. S ver 10; Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:18; Luke 12:15
  • 42. S Job 7:8; Job 15:29
  • 43. S Judges 2:15; Luke 12:16-20
  • 44. ver 29; Job 21:17,30; Job 31:2-3
  • 45. S Numbers 11:18-20
  • 46. Lamentations 4:11; Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 6:12
  • 47. ver 14; Psalms 78:30-31
  • 48. Isaiah 24:18; Jeremiah 46:21; Jeremiah 48:44; Amos 5:19
  • 49. S Job 15:22
  • 50. S Job 18:11
  • 51. S Job 15:21; Psalms 88:15-16; Job 16:13
  • 52. S Job 5:14; Job 18:18
  • 53. S Job 1:16
  • 54. Job 15:34; Job 26:6; Job 28:22; Job 31:12; Psalms 21:9
  • 55. S Job 18:15
  • 56. S Deuteronomy 31:28
  • 57. Deuteronomy 28:31; Matthew 7:26-27
  • 58. ver 29; Numbers 14:28-32; Job 21:17,20,30; Job 40:11; Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 24:18; Isaiah 51:17; Amos 5:18; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6
  • 59. S ver 22; S Job 15:20; Job 22:5; Job 31:2; Job 36:17; Jeremiah 13:25; Revelation 21:8; Job 27:13

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or "Adam"
  • [b]. Or "The possessions in his house will be carried off," / "washed away"

Chapter Summary


Zophar and his friends, not satisfied with Job's confession of faith, he in his turn replies, and in his preface gives his reasons why he made any answer at all, and was so quick in it, Job 20:1-3; and appeals to Job for the truth of an old established maxim, that the prosperity of wicked men and hypocrites is very short lived, Job 20:4,5; and the short enjoyment of their happiness is described by several elegant figures and similes, Job 20:6-9; such a wicked man being obliged, in his lifetime, to restore his ill gotten goods, and at death to lie down with the sins of his youth, Job 20:10,11; his sin in getting riches, the disquietude of his mind in retaining them, and his being forced to make restitution, are very beautifully expressed by the simile of a sweet morsel kept in the mouth, and turned to the gall of asps in the bowels, and then vomited up, Job 20:12-16; the disappointment he shall have, the indigent and strait circumstances he shall be brought into, and the restitution he shall be obliged to make for the oppression of the poor, and the uneasiness he shall feel in his own breast, are set forth in a very strong light, Job 20:17-22; and it is suggested, that not only the hand of wicked men should be upon him, but the wrath of God also, which should seize on him suddenly and secretly, and would be inevitable, he not being able to make his escape from it, and which would issue in the utter destruction of him and his in this world, and that to come, Job 20:23-28. And the chapter is, concluded with this observation, that such as before described is the appointed portion and heritage of a wicked man from God, Job 20:29.

Job 20 Commentaries

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