Job asks, Why do the wicked prosper?

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Job Prosper

Wednesday 2/28/24

Title: Job asks, Why do the wicked prosper?

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Job asks, Why do the wicked prosper?

Zophar argues that the wicked Will suffer

Job 20:1-29, 

“(1) Then Zophar the Naamathite answered:  

(2)  “This is why my troubled thoughts bring me back – because of my feelings within me. (3) When I hear a reproof that dishonors me, then my understanding prompts me to answer. 

(4)  “Surely you know that it has been from old, ever since humankind was placed on the earth,  (5)  that the elation of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.  

(6)  Even though his stature reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds,  (7)  he will perish forever, like his own excrement; 

those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’  

(8)  Like a dream he flies away, never again to be found, and like a vision of the night he is put to flight.  

(9)  People who had seen him will not see him again, and the place where he was will recognize him no longer.  (10)  His sons must recompense the poor; his own hands must return his wealth.  (11)  His bones were full of his youthful vigor, but that vigor will lie down with him in the dust.  

(12)  “If evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue,  (13)  if he retains it for himself and does not let it go, and holds it fast in his mouth,  (14)  his food is turned sour in his stomach; it becomes the venom of serpents within him.  

(15)  The wealth that he consumed he vomits up, God will make him throw it out of his stomach.  

(16)  He sucks the poison of serpents; the fangs of a viper kill him.  

(17)  He will not look on the streams, the rivers, which are the torrents of honey and butter.” 

These were symbols of abundance and wealth at the time. It was a minor adaptation of this which God used to describe the promised land. 

A land flowing with milk and honey”.

When used of the promised land it was not to be taken literally, though it most certainly could have been. It was to indicate a land of abundance.

Many believe that honey was forbidden to Jews because Bees are among the list of unclean insects which cannot be eaten. The law was against the consumption of the insect, not any product produced by it.

There are MULTIPLE examples of honey being used by Jewish people in the Bible. Most notably John the Baptist is said to have exclusively eaten Locusts and wild honey.

“(18)  He gives back the ill-gotten gain without assimilating it; he will not enjoy the wealth from his commerce.  (19)  For he has oppressed the poor and abandoned them; he has seized a house which he did not build.  (20)  For he knows no satisfaction in his appetite; he does not let anything he desires escape.  

(21)  “Nothing is left for him to devour; that is why his prosperity does not last.  (22)  In the fullness of his sufficiency, distress overtakes him. The full force of misery will come upon him.  

(23)  “While he is filling his belly, God sends his burning anger against him, and rains down his blows upon him.  

(24)  If he flees from an iron weapon, then an arrow from a bronze bow pierces him.  (25)  When he pulls it out and it comes out of his back, the gleaming point out of his liver, terrors come over him.  

(26)  Total darkness waits to receive his treasures; a fire which has not been kindled will consume him and devour what is left in his tent.  

(27)  The heavens reveal his iniquity; the earth rises up against him.  (28)  A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.  

(29)  Such is the lot God allots the wicked, and the heritage of his appointment from God.”

Some of the entries on this chapter from commentators, in my opinion, would fit well in scripture following this chapter. They see it their duty to point out everything they believe Job’s friends are saying wrong, but I can see nothing incorrect in Zophar’s words.

Yes it is true that these things do not ALWAYS happen to a wicked man in this life, BUT it does happen a lot which is attested to in other scriptures. I will address this after we read Job’s reply which on the surface contradicts Zophar, it too is largely in step with the scriptures on the life of the wicked. 

Job argues that the wicked Do prosper

Job 21:1-34, 

“(1) Then Job answered:  

(2)  “Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you offer me.  (3)  Bear with me and I will speak, and after I have spoken you may mock.  

(4)  Is my complaint against a man? If so, why should I not be impatient?  

(5)  Look at me and be appalled; put your hands over your mouths.  (6)  For, when I think about this, I am terrified and my body feels a shudder.  

(7)  “Why do the wicked go on living, grow old, even increase in power?  

(8)  Their children are firmly established in their presence, their offspring before their eyes.  (9)  Their houses are safe and without fear; and no rod of punishment from God is upon them.  

(10)  Their bulls breed without fail; their cows calve and do not miscarry.  (11)  They allow their children to run like a flock; their little ones dance about.  (12)  They sing to the accompaniment of tambourine and harp, and make merry to the sound of the flute.  

(13)  They live out their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.  

(14)  So they say to God, ‘Turn away from us! We do not want to know your ways.  (15)  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain if we were to pray to him?’  

(16)  But their prosperity is not their own doing. The counsel of the wicked is far from me! 

(17)  “How often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished? 

How often does their misfortune come upon them? 

How often does God apportion pain to them in his anger?  

(18)  How often are they like straw before the wind, and like chaff swept away by a whirlwind?”

These questions are rhetorical and intended to solicit a negative response.

“(19)  You may say, ‘God stores up a man’s punishment for his children!’ Instead let Him repay the man himself so that he may be humbled!  

(20)  Let his own eyes see his destruction; let him drink of the anger of the Almighty.  

(21)  For what is his interest in his home after his death, when the number of his months has been broken off?”

While I think we all can sympathize with Job in this view, nevertheless the other is at least represented in scripture. Both David and Jeroboam lost their child due to the sins of their fathers. The scriptures are VERY clear on this.

That is why it was quite reasonable for the disciples to ask Jesus regarding the man born blind if that was so due to the sin of his parents.

“(22)  Can anyone teach God knowledge, since He judges those that are on high?  

(23)  “One man dies in his full vigor, completely secure and prosperous,  (24)  his body well nourished, and the marrow of his bones moist.  (25)  And another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having tasted anything good.  

(26)  Together they lie down in the dust, and worms cover over them both.  

(27)  “Yes, I know what you are thinking, the schemes by which you would wrong me.  (28)  For you say, ‘Where now is the nobleman’s house, and where are the tents in which the wicked lived?’  

(29)  Have you never questioned those who travel the roads? 

Do you not recognize their accounts –  (30)  that the evil man is spared from the day of his misfortune, that he is delivered from the day of God’s wrath?  

(31)  No one denounces his conduct to his face; no one repays him for what he has done.  (32)  And when he is carried to the tombs, and watch is kept over the funeral mound,  (33)  The clods of the torrent valley are sweet to him; behind him everybody follows in procession, and before him goes a countless throng.  

(34)  So how can you console me with your futile words? 

Nothing is left of your answers but deception!”

Again Job is responding in anger and frustration so his words are more bitter than they have any call to be based upon the tenants of the argument alone.

We need only turn to Psalm 73 to answer both of these men. In this chapter is repeated several of the same thoughts of both Zophar AND Job

The sad thing is that some of the commentators who ardently disagree with Zophar’s  words in Job chapter 20, agree with those same thoughts when stated in Psalm 73 or Luke 12:13-21. This tells me that they only disagree with Job’s friends because they are Job’s friends – not because what they said was wrong.

So let’s turn to Psalm 73 and see if we can’t identify many of the points of these two men in this Psalm of Asaph brought into harmony with each other.

The first part of this psalm has much in accord with Job’s words…

Psalm 73:1-28,

“(1) Certainly God is good to Israel, and to those whose motives are pure!  

(2)  But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me.  (3)  For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.  

(4)  For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well-fed.  

(5)  They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do.  (6)  Arrogance is their necklace, and violence covers them like clothing.  

(7)  Their prosperity causes them to do wrong; their thoughts are sinful.  

(8)  They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence.  

(9)  They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.  

(10)  Therefore they have more than enough food to eat, and even suck up the water of the sea.  

(11)  They say, “How does God know what we do? Is the Most High aware of what goes on?”  

(12)  Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.  

(13)  I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure and maintained a pure lifestyle.  

(14)  I suffer all day long, and am punished every morning.”  

(15)  If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed Your people.  (16)  When I tried to make sense of this, it was troubling to me.  

(17)  Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple, and understood the destiny of the wicked.”

The second part of this psalm has much in accord with Zophar’s words…

“(18)  Surely you put them in slippery places; you bring them down to ruin.  

(19)  How desolate they become in a mere moment! Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!  

(20)  They are like a dream after one wakes up. O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.

(21)  Yes, my spirit was bitter, and my insides felt sharp pain.  

(22)  I was ignorant and lacked insight; I was as senseless as an animal before you.  (23)  But I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  (24)  You guide me by your wise advice, and then you will lead me to a position of honor.  

(25)  Whom do I have in heaven but you? I desire no one but you on earth.  (26)  My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.  

(27)  Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.  (28)  But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done.”

Eliphaz Speaks: Job’s Wickedness Is Great

Job 22:1-30, 

“(1) Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:  

(2)  “Is it to God that a strong man is of benefit? 

Is it to Him that even a wise man is profitable?  

(3)  Is it of any special benefit to the Almighty that you should be righteous, or is it any gain to Him that you make your ways blameless?  

(4)  Is it because of your piety that He rebukes you and goes to judgment with you?  (5)  Is not your wickedness great and is there no end to your iniquity?  

(6)  “For you took pledges from your brothers for no reason, and you stripped the clothing from the naked.  (7)  You gave the weary no water to drink and from the hungry you withheld food.  

(8)  Although you were a powerful man, owning land, an honored man living on it,  (9)  you sent widows away empty-handed, and the arms of the orphans you crushed.  

(10)  That is why snares surround you, and why sudden fear terrifies you,  (11)  why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.  

(12)  “Is not God on high in heaven? And see the lofty stars, how high they are!  

(13)  But you have said, ‘What does God know? Does He judge through such deep darkness?  (14)  Thick clouds are a veil for Him, so He does not see us, as He goes back and forth in the vault of heaven.’  

(15)  Will you keep to the old path that evil men have walked –  (16)  men who were carried off before their time, when the flood was poured out on their foundations?  

(17)  They were saying to God, ‘Turn away from us,’ and ‘What can the Almighty do to us?’  (18)  But it was He Who filled their houses with good things – yet the counsel of the wicked was far from me.” 

Here Eliphaz is quoting from Job’s words and using them back against him. In the last chapter verses 13-16, Job had said,

(13)  They live out their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.  

(14)  So they say to God, ‘Turn away from us! We do not want to know your ways.  (15)  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain if we were to pray to him?’  

(16)  But their prosperity is not their own doing. The counsel of the wicked is far from me!”

So Eliphaz says such were the words of the wicked generation of the flood. Then he somewhat sarcastically recites Job’s words of counsel from the wicked is actually far from him rather than far from Job.

“(19)  The righteous see their destruction and rejoice; the innocent mock them scornfully, saying,  (20)  ‘Surely our enemies are destroyed, and fire consumes their wealth.’  

(21)  “Reconcile yourself with God, and be at peace with Him; in this way your prosperity will be good.  

(22)  Accept instruction from His mouth and store up His words in your heart.  

(23)  If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; if you remove wicked behavior far from your tent,  (24)  and throw your gold in the dust – your gold of Ophir among the rocks in the ravines –  (25)  then the Almighty Himself will be your gold, and the choicest silver for you.  

(26)  Surely then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and will lift up your face toward God.  (27)  You will pray to Him and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to Him.  

(28)  Whatever you decide on a matter, it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.  

(29)  When people are brought low and you say ‘Lift them up!’ then He will save the downcast;  (30)  He will deliver even someone who is not innocent, who will escape through the cleanness of your hands.”

Obviously Eliphaz is attributing things to Job, for which he had no proof. Where Eliphaz acquired such notions is anyone’s guess. It may be extrapolated from his circumstances, it may be hearsay from passers by who scorned Job in his misery – who knows!? One thing is for sure, he did not get it from eye witness, for Job could not have been this sort of man and still have been regarded by God as blameless and upright. So we know that where Eliphaz claims Job showed no pity to the needy, the thirsty and the widows, even to the point of mistreating their children is without basis.  


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!