Zophar the Naamathite is first mentioned in Job 2:11 as one of three friends who arrive to comfort Job after they heard of the bad things that had happened to him. Verses 12–13 show their response to his distress: “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
After Eliphaz and Bildad, Zophar spoke third in offering advice to Job. Zophar’s speech begins in chapter 11. Giving the strongest of the three initial speeches, Zophar declares that Job deserved even worse than what he got. In verse 6, he states, “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (ESV). Job responds in chapter 12 that it was the Lord who brought this suffering upon him, and in chapter 13 maintains his innocence: “I know I will be vindicated” (Job 13:18).
Zophar’s second speech (in Job 20) focuses on the theme that the one who commits wickedness will suffer for it. In his words, “A flood will carry off his house, / rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath. / Such is the fate God allots the wicked, / the heritage appointed for them by God” (Job 20:28–29). In Job 21, Job answers that God, for some reason, does allow the wicked to prosper: “They spend their years in prosperity / and go down to the grave in peace” (Job 21:13). Zophar’s assessment of Job’s condition was not accurate, because Job had done nothing wrong and was suffering, while others who did evil lived “safe and free from fear” (verse 9).
Job’s other two friends each give three speeches, but Zophar gives only two. Following Job’s extended defense after Bildad’s third speech, a fourth man, Elihu, speaks up (Job 32). Elihu’s two concerns are expressed in Job 32:2–3: “He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong” (ESV).
In the end, Zophar is rebuked by God along with his two friends: “My anger burns against you . . . for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Zophar last appears in verse 9, where we find him offering the sacrifices God had required: “So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them.” Despite his bad advice and his inaccurate portrayal of God, Zophar repented when rebuked by God and was forgiven.
Zophar and his friends serve as an example of how people often view suffering from a human perspective that overlooks God’s divine plan. While it is true that those who do wrong often suffer, God also allows suffering for other reasons often unknown to us at the time. Instead of assuming all suffering is due to a person’s wrongdoing, we should examine our own lives before the Lord and see how we can live for Him during times of struggle (James 5:11), knowing that suffering can serve as part of His sovereign plan.