"God Exacts From You Less Than Your Iniquity Deserves" (Job 11) March 5-6
Zophar the Naamathite is even more tactless and insensitive than Bildad. Obviously incensed at what Job has said, seeing it as a mockery of the truth, Zophar decides he needs to really "let Job have it." And why not? For in Zophar's misapplied theology, Job must be one of the greatest sinners ever.
In verse 4, Zophar seems to exaggerate what Job has said about his innocence, as the book does not record Job as having said that his doctrine—that is, his teaching—is pure. However, it may be that Job has said or implied this in the past and now Zophar sees it all as utter pretense and hypocrisy.
In fact, Zophar remarks that if God were to give testimony, it would reveal Job to be a worse sinner than even his suffering demonstrates. The New International Version translates the end of verse 6 as "Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin." The Expositor's Bible Commentary says that it reads literally as "God has forgotten for you some of your sin" and that it could, according to an Aramaic reading, mean "God has made (allowed) you to forget" (footnote on verse 6). The point Zophar is making is that Job doesn't know how sinful he really is—that he deserves worse punishment than he is receiving. Perhaps the implication is that Job deserves to die and it is only God's mercy that preserves him.
The irony here is that there is some truth in what Zophar is saying. All of us deserve death for even the smallest of sinful thoughts and attitudes we have ever had. God is under no obligation to keep us from the worst pain and suffering. It is through God's mercy that humanity is not destroyed for its constant sin. And it is through His grace that His servants are preserved despite their stumbling. Job will actually discover at the end of the book that his own righteousness is nowhere close to what God truly requires to have a relationship with Him. Yet Zophar means none of this. He views Job's suffering as punishment for major sins in his life, yet with God mercifully pulling some punches.
The Nelson Study Bible notes on verses 7-9: "When Zophar interrogates Job about the impossibility of comprehending the deep things of God, he employs for search out the same term Job used to describe God's wonders as beyond 'finding out' (9:10). Thus Zophar may be trying to turn Job's words against him by saying that Job's actions are inconsistent with his theology. Since these verses anticipate portions of the Lord's speeches [later in the book] (see 38:16-18, 34-38), Zophar's doctrine is correct, but the application is wrong. Biblical truth misapplied perverts the intent of the Scriptures and misleads. [Moreover] sound doctrine without love does not please the Lord."
Zophar is harshly accusatory of Job. The statement in verse 11 regarding God knowing deceitful men is no doubt meant to imply that Job was such a person—either that he was intentionally hiding his sin or that, in the deceitfulness of his heart, he was not admitting his sin to himself. And "as a retort to Job's rhetorical question (6:5) in which he compared his own cries to the braying of the 'wild donkey,' Zophar employs what may be a proverbial statement about the wild donkey...[possibly] implying that Job's 'empty talk' indicates that he is empty headed ([Job 11] vv. 3, 12)" (note on verses 10-12).
As The Bible Reader's Companion explains in its summary of chapters 11-14, here is the solution Zophar gives in his irrelevant sermonizing: "The paraphrase: 'Be devoted to the Lord. Pray. Stop sinning. Then everything will be fine ([Job 11] vv. 13-16). What a dagger in the heart of a man who has been devoted to God, but is suffering anyway! And what pain Zophar's description of divine blessing must have caused (vv. 17-20). This is exactly what Job's life was like—and all has been lost, in spite of the fact that Job is not at fault!"