I’m sure you heard the childhood chorus, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” The bible teaches us that this is simply not true. It might be true in that words won’t cut or bruise my body, but words can hurt us deeply. The pain of words can be just as real and sometimes deeper and harder to heal than the physical pains we suffer. An early Davidic psalm reads: “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear” (Ps 64:3, 4). Words can heal. Words can wound. Words can inspire and words can devastate.

Zophar’s words must devastate Job. He said harsh, painful things in response to Job’s cry of pain. First he calls Job’s struggle with reconciling God’s goodness and his pain, “Babble.” In other words, Job is simply stupid and needs to be rebuked. He also tells Job that “…God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” You are so wicked, Job, that all that you have suffered isn’t enough. God should give you more!  Job, you don’t even have the sense to see that. Then he says, “But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!” In other words, you are a Jackass, Job. And there is no hope for you ever changing.

We know that Satan is behind Job’s suffering. It must include the words of Job’s friends here. I can’t imagine anything more painful than to be so deeply surrounded by personal misery and have so called friends attempt to rationalize with me and call me stupid.

An old preaching cliché is “afflict the comfortable but comfort the afflicted.” Zophar afflicts the afflicted.  I suppose I’ve done my share of that. The take away for me from this text is to be careful not to use words that hurt others, especially when they are already hurting.


“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)