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Job 11-14 – Who is the empty-headed man?

When I was younger, there were a number of funny responses you could say to a friend. One that still makes me laugh is, “That’s what I said, lemon head.” The little rhyming rejoinder is a little jab that makes you wonder what a lemon head is and if you are one. In today’s chapters, someone uses a similar saying, but this time it is “an empty-headed man.” That doesn’t sound very nice, now does it? If you are an empty-headed person your speech or actions are displaying a lack of brains.

  1. The conversation between Zophar and Job (Job 11-14)

    Once again, one of Job’s friends thinks he has Job’s situation figured out. And once he has stated his concerns, Job responds to him and then to God. As we look through the chapter, note how many good things are said and then try to determine whether they are correctly applied.

    Zophar accused Job and pled with him (Job 11:1-20).

    “Zohar retorted viciously to Job for claiming to be innocent and for accusing God of malpractice.”1 He claimed that Job’s speech was empty talk (11:3) that needed to be addressed. Job had claimed to be pure and clean (11:4) but Zophar “knew” that God was not giving him what he deserved for his iniquity (11:6). He also knew that God knows our wickedness and responds in a way that we can’t hinder (11:10). So Job was an empty-headed person to respond the way he had (11:12). “The chances of Job’s becoming wise were no greater than the possibility of a wild donkey … giving birth to a man!”1 Toward the end of his speech, Zophar seems to settle down and show concern for Job by pleading with him to prepare his heart (11:13), put away his sin (11:14), and seek God’s solution to his problems. “Zophar is saying, ‘If you would just deal with the sin that is in your life and quit fighting it, God would hear and answer your prayers and restore you.”3 But if Job would not, Zophar told him he could not escape God’s judgment (11:20).

    Job was not happy with Zophar (Job 12:1-13:19).

    After being accused of being empty-headed, Job accused Zophar of thinking he was the only wise person left on earth (12:2). He told him that what he had said was known by everyone (12:3). But to Job, it seemed that God was now helping the wicked (12:6) and harming him. Job further pointed out the fact that birds, beasts, and fish knew how to discern what was happening (12:7-8). (He said this after Zophar has mentioned the stupid donkey.2) If God holds back the rain, it will become dry and if he pours out the water, there will be a flood (12:15). From Job’s perspective, it was clear to see that God builds up kingdoms and then tears them down (12:23).

    Job wished that God would let him speak (13:3) and that his friends would leave him alone (13:4-5). They should be wary of speaking such things for God (13:7) because God could confront (13:9) and rebuke them (13:10). Despite their unhelpful “help” and this desire to defend himself, Job was still trusting in the Lord (13:15). God alone was his salvation (13:16).

    Job poured out his heart to God (Job 13:20-14:22).

    Job prayed that God would remove his hand from him (13:21) and that He would respond to him (13:22). But, as McGee notes, “he is telling God what to do. … Job tried to tell God how He should handle his situation.”4 He couldn’t figure out what sins he had committed (13:23). At this point, his life was like a shadow that would soon disappear (14:2) so why would God do this to him? His circumstances were so severe that he longed for the grave (14:13). He knew that God had covered his sins (14:17) but he was still feeling hopeless (14:19).

  2. The lessons from their conversation

    In Zophar’s speech, he mentioned an empty-headed man. After reading these four chapters, who was the empty-headed man? Zophar seemed to think it was Job. He equated Job’s suffering with earned judgment. To him, God never allows godly people to suffer, so this suffering must be a judgment from God for Job’s undisclosed sin. But Job seemed to send the accusation back at Zophar. He was unaware of any unconfessed sin that God would be judging him for. To him, he didn’t deserve the “judgment” he was receiving, presumably, from God.

    As you read the conversation between Zophar and Job, they both seem to be speaking with both wisdom and ignorance. Zophar’s speech was actually pretty good. He was a friend confronting his friend about what he considered to be ungodly speech. He wanted Job to repent and to be restored by God. This is good and what a friend should do. However, He wasn’t right about Job’s situation. He should have held back his accusations until he had all the information. Job’s speech was also pretty good. His trust in the Lord was still there but his frustration was growing. There were too many questions on his mind and it didn’t seem right. Why wouldn’t God answer him?


“These first speeches by Job’s companions offered no comfort. Though their generalities about God’s goodness, justice, and wisdom were true, their cruel charge that Job repent of some hidden sin missed the mark. They failed to see that God sometimes has other reasons for human suffering.”1

How should we respond to what happened here?

1. Don’t be quick to judge. Zophar quickly jumped on the band wagon of accusing Job of something he hadn’t done. It is easy to make assumptions based on circumstances instead of facts.

2. Be gentle with others. Zophar’s vitriolic speech wasn’t a good idea. While there are times when God’s servants have used sarcasm against evil-doers, this was a spiritual brother. Instead of helping him make his point, it made Job angry. Be gentle.

3. Trust the Lord while you wait. Job still didn’t understand why he was going through his suffering. But he still voiced his trust in the Lord. It must have been hard to do that. But God is trustworthy as we have seen throughout the Bible and will see at the end of this book.

4. Remember who is ultimately in charge. Job was getting awfully close to demanding things from God. His pain must have contributed to his boldness. Let’s just remember who we are and who God is. Let him be God.


1 Zuck 733.
2 Zuck 734.
3 McGee 609.
4 McGee 612.


McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol II: Joshua through Psalms, Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1982, pp. 607-613.

Zuck, Roy B., “Job” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, pp. 733-36.