Job
Introduction 1-2 Bildad Blames Job 3-7 Is God Unrighteous? 8-10 The Light of the Past 11-19 The Day of the Wicked 20-22 Divine Retribution for the Righteous
Introduction

Bildad’s first speech contains some important (negative) lessons about human nature in general and about the qualities of counsellors in particular. Bildad hears Job’s words with his ears, but he does not listen with his heart. Bildad’s attitude should be seen in the light of Job’s begging for pity in Job 6. All people need pity in most everyday situations, how much more Job in his exceptional suffering. Repeatedly Job calls himself helpless (Job 6:1313“Is it that my help is not within me,
And that deliverance is driven from me?
) and desperate (Job 6:14,2614“For the despairing man [there should be] kindness from his friend;
So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.
26“Do you intend to reprove [my] words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?
), a man who needs the pity of his friends.

Anyone who curses his birthday and prefers death to life needs help. His three friends have come to that end, but it does not come to anything. Job, by their attitude, sees them more as part of his problem than as those who offer a solution.

It is almost unbelievable that his friend Bildad answers him so insensitive. There is not only indifference to Job’s condition, but also a certain arrogance. For example, he suggests that Job’s children have received what they deserved (verse 44“If your sons sinned against Him,
Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.
) and that Job is on his way to suffer the same fate (verse 55“If you would seek God
And implore the compassion of the Almighty,
). The lesson to be learned is that there are such people in the world. They do their ‘non-service’ to people under the guise that they are special friends of God. And we are no better by nature. If the Lord does not keep us, we, like Bildad, can be businesslike, sharp and arrogant towards those who are in great need.

The lessons we learn from Job’s friends about help are negative, but the three friends are not equal. There is a difference between them. The book proposes three helpers instead of one, because each of them has their own approach of and message for Job. Eliphaz does start with some sense of Job’s need, but later he also loses his patience (Job 22). The other two are more distant and are above him. None of them is able to accept Job unconditionally.

Certainly, Job is a persistent ‘patient’, but they are incapable of being involved with him. Their advice will be well-intentioned, but has the effect of making Job even more persistent towards them and offering them more and more resistance. Undoubtedly much of the problem is their academic insistence on the point of view – which they refuse to change – that sin causes suffering, and vice versa that suffering proves that there is sin.

An important lesson to be learned from this book is that counselors, those who provide pastoral care, should not sit in an ivory tower. They should be able to listen, get involved and respect the sincerity of the personality of the person they are trying to help. They should also always keep in mind that they may not have a full understanding of the nature of the problem. Again, our understanding is limited and our knowing is in part and therefore imperfect (1Cor 13:99For we know in part and we prophesy in part;).


Bildad Blames Job

1Then Bildad the Shuhite answered,
2“How long will you say these things,
And the words of your mouth be a mighty wind?

Bildad, the Shuhite – probably a descendant of Shuah, a son of Abraham (Gen 25:1-21Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.2She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah.) – takes the word to answer Job (verse 11Then Bildad the Shuhite answered,
). He assumes the same basic idea as Eliphaz, only his tone is harsher and sharper. Eliphaz begins questioning (Job 4:22“If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient?
But who can refrain from speaking?
), but Bildad immediately takes a condemning attitude (verse 22“How long will you say these things,
And the words of your mouth be a mighty wind?
). He is fully committed to what Job has answered Eliphaz and wants to silence him immediately. Job experiences God as an adversary and Bildad wants to defend the righteousness of God. Maybe that is the reason for his fierceness and sharp tone.

How long does Job intend to keep proclaiming such nonsense? Let him stop that right now. His words are nothing at all. He has complained that the three friends regard his words as wind, i.e. as meaning nothing (Job 6:2626“Do you intend to reprove [my] words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?
). Bildad reinforces this assessment and now calls Job’s’ words “a mighty wind”. With this he says that Job’s words are not only nothing, “wind”, but that they are also blown-up, “great” (cf. Job 15:22“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge
And fill himself with the east wind?
). Bildad judges Job’s cry of distress as, what we would say, “all bells and whistles and zero utility”.


Is God Unrighteous?

3“Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?
4“If your sons sinned against Him,
Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.
5“If you would seek God
And implore the compassion of the Almighty,
6If you are pure and upright,
Surely now He would rouse Himself for you
And restore your righteous estate.
7“Though your beginning was insignificant,

Job should listen carefully, Bildad seems to say. To awaken Job, Bildad opens his argument in questioning form with a theological truth that stands like a house (verse 33“Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?
). It seems as if he is quoting his ancestor Abraham (Gen 18:2525Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are [treated] alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”). Of course, God does not pervert justice and the Almighty does not pervert what is right. So, Job, what happens to you is nothing but that God’s justice has its course and that the Almighty exercises His righteousness, and that is because you have sinned.

In verse 44“If your sons sinned against Him,
Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.
, Bildad even suggests that Job’s children are to blame for their own sins (cf. Psa 55:24). This reproach must be heartbreaking for the feelings of a father who has found no evidence of such wickedness in his children and who has carefully guarded their spiritual well-being (Job 1:55When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings [according to] the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.). It is as if Bildad says to him: ‘Your prayers have been useless. God was not willing to save your children.’

‘By the way,’ Bildad continues, ‘you yourself will do well to seek God seriously and implore the Almighty for compassion’ (verse 55“If you would seek God
And implore the compassion of the Almighty,
). This is what Eliphaz has already advised Job to do (Job 5:88“But as for me, I would seek God,
And I would place my cause before God;
). Seeking God is a good advice. Who will deny it? But in this case the clear assumption in this advice is that Job himself has also sinned. The Lord Jesus speaks differently about cause and effect in response to disasters that affect people than Bildad does and perhaps we too do (Lk 13:1-51Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.2And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were [greater] sinners than all [other] Galileans because they suffered this [fate]?3I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.4Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were [worse] culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?5I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”).

Apart from the fact that Job must seek God and implore the Almighty for compassion, according to Bildad Job must also become “pure and upright” (verse 66If you are pure and upright,
Surely now He would rouse Himself for you
And restore your righteous estate.
). Here too we hear the undertone of the accusation that Job is not. Bildad reasons from the situation of Job. Job has always pretended to be pure and upright, but that has all been hypocrisy. This can clearly be deduced from the disasters God has brought upon him. With his assessment, but above all condemnation, of Job, Bildad goes against the testimony God has given of Job (Job 1:1,81There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.8The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”; 2:33The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”). Man who judges only by what he perceives with his eyes (1Sam 16:77But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God [sees] not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”) always comes into conflict with God’s judgment.

Bildad continues to reason and promises Job that God will certainly “rouse Himself” for his sake when he ‘repents’. By this he means that God will again become active for his benefit and will commit Himself for his good. Now it is as if God has taken His hands off Job and is not paying attention to him. But if Job shows that he has learned his lesson – but the lesson that Bildad teaches him, of course – that will change.

According to Bildad’s logic, God will “restore your righteous estate”. This implies the assumption that Job’s house had become a house of wickedness. The former prosperity will return there when Job repents. His children and servants will live in peace and he will once again be rich in cattle. In fact, what he had – and Job was one of the richest people in the East (Job 1:33His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.) – will seem small and insignificant compared to what he will receive (verse 77“Though your beginning was insignificant,).

What Bildad says will indeed be fulfilled (Job 42:1212The LORD blessed the latter [days] of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys.), but in a very different way than he indicates. The reasoning of Bildad is based on the idea of achievement and quid pro quo. Job will not be blessed for his integrity, nor will he be blessed for a confession of supposed evil. He will be blessed, not because he has earned it, but because God gives it to him in grace.


The Light of the Past

8“Please inquire of past generations,
And consider the things searched out by their fathers.
9“For we are [only] of yesterday and know nothing,
Because our days on earth are as a shadow.
10“Will they not teach you [and] tell you,
And bring forth words from their minds?

While Eliphaz appeals to his own experience, Bildad relies on tradition. His claims come from wisdom of the past, from the traditions of the fathers (verse 88“Please inquire of past generations,
And consider the things searched out by their fathers.
). You can read about this in their stories and sayings. Then Job will see that his arguments are correct, because that is how it worked in the past. A man lives too short to acquire wisdom, and so he must rely on the wisdom of the ancestors.

At least, that is Bildad’s interpretation. His thesis is that the collected and handed down insights of the ancestors teaches what he claims. Only a fool will argue against that. Then you get all previous generations against you. Surely you don’t want to know any better than all those people who have gone before you, do you? They all say that the righteous in this life will be rewarded and the wicked will have disasters over him.

Let us not imagine anything, Bildad says, because “we are [only] of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow” (verse 99“For we are [only] of yesterday and know nothing,
Because our days on earth are as a shadow.
). We just showed up and from the beginning we are a diminishing matter (cf. 1Chr 29:1515For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.). Before we know it, we have disappeared from the world stage again. What will we be able to observe in that short period of time in order to come to a well-founded conclusion? We shouldn’t think that in our short human lives we can take a different view of history, let alone rewrite it.

No, just listen to what the generations before us have been through. If you take their teaching to heart and let it speak to you, you will receive wisdom and speak as they did (verse 1010“Will they not teach you [and] tell you,
And bring forth words from their minds?
). You will not be stubbornly holding on to your own views about the disasters that have struck you, but will join their findings.

With his appeal to tradition Bildad completely misses the point. Life is indeed too short to come to an understanding in your own strength. The ancestors may indeed have acquired certain wisdom. Nevertheless, in order to get to know God’s thoughts, we must not turn to the past, but to God and His Word (1Cor 2:9-109but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And [which] have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”10For to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.). History teaches that a one-sided and exaggerated admiration for what ‘the ancestors’ have thought and learned has always hindered God’s work. No matter how much blessing there is in a spiritual inheritance, we learn to understand the truth only from the Word of God and through practicing fellowship with Him ourselves.

God sometimes wants to bring old, forgotten truths back to the attention of His own at a given time. He wants to put in the right light other truths that are known, but applied one-sidedly and pushed forward too much. But when human statements, however beautiful and true they may be, are placed between God’s living and powerful Word and the believer, they only create obstacles to the workings of the Spirit.


The Day of the Wicked

11“Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh?
Can the rushes grow without water?
12“While it is still green [and] not cut down,
Yet it withers before any [other] plant.
13“So are the paths of all who forget God;
And the hope of the godless will perish,
14Whose confidence is fragile,
And whose trust a spider’s web.
15“He trusts in his house, but it does not stand;
He holds fast to it, but it does not endure.
16“He thrives before the sun,
And his shoots spread out over his garden.
17“His roots wrap around a rock pile,
He grasps a house of stones.
18“If he is removed from his place,
Then it will deny him, [saying], ‘I never saw you.’
19“Behold, this is the joy of His way;
And out of the dust others will spring.

Bildad supports his account of cause and effect with an example from nature. He also connects to his reference to previous generations and the brevity of their existence. The wisdom of the past has already seen that no papyrus grow where there is no marsh and that rushes does not grow without water (verse 1111“Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh?
Can the rushes grow without water?
). Job knows as well as he and previous generations that this is so.

It is also clear how short-lived rushes is when there is no water (verse 1212“While it is still green [and] not cut down,
Yet it withers before any [other] plant.
). If it isn’t cut down, it won’t last long. Bildad then applies this to “the paths of all who forget God” and “the hope of the godless” (verse 1313“So are the paths of all who forget God;
And the hope of the godless will perish,
). He also seems to deepen this application from the wisdom of previous generations. He only wants to say that he is not saying anything new and that Job should take this into account.

In the past it has always been the case that he who is rooted in God has prosperity and that he who acts and walks without involving God has only a brief life. He who forgets God can also forget his hope of blessing, just as rushes does not have to count on growing if there is no water. The godless is he who thinks he is receiving God’s blessing, while simply ignoring God in his activities. In veiled terms, Bildad Job is a godless. To him, the suffering of Job is proof that Job has forgotten God. This is a very low insinuation towards a sincere man immersed in misery.

He who forgets God and is punished by Him for it, has a confidence that turns out to be fragile (verse 1414Whose confidence is fragile,
And whose trust a spider’s web.
). Job, Bildad says again in veiled terms, put his confidence in his sincerity and believed that God would bless him. But this trust turns out to have the power of a spider’s web, so no power at all. When a storm comes, the spider tries to hold all the threads of his cobwebs, his spun house, together, but the wind blows his house away. It is foolish to assume that cobwebs offer any protection against a storm (cf. Isa 59:66Their webs will not become clothing,
Nor will they cover themselves with their works;
Their works are works of iniquity,
And an act of violence is in their hands.
).

“Spider web” is in Hebrew ‘house of a spider’. This leads Bildad to move on to the house of the one who forgets God (verse 1515“He trusts in his house, but it does not stand;
He holds fast to it, but it does not endure.
). Such a person may well think that his house is his strength, but he will be very much mistaken about it. His spider’s house offers him no security; if he wants to hold fast to it, it collapses.

Surely Job must recognize this picture? Isn’t that how it went with him and his house? With all his true words, Bildad completely misses the point by presenting everything he says to Job. He paints Job as someone who has forgotten God and therefore has nothing left of everything he used to rely on. According to Bildad Job is a hypocrite. All his uprightness he has always played. Such uprightness is like a cobweb and offers no protection when a storm rages over his life. Surely this is evident from his current situation.

Bildad still compares Job with a sap-rich plant that “shivers before the sun” (verse 1616“He thrives before the sun,
And his shoots spread out over his garden.
). This looks at the situation of prosperity in which Job used to live. “His shoots” represent Job’s children. But because of the stony ground the plant does not shoot a root (verse 1717“His roots wrap around a rock pile,
He grasps a house of stones.
; cf. Mt 13:55Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil., 20-21). A storm easily tears the plant away from its place (verse 1818“If he is removed from his place,
Then it will deny him, [saying], ‘I never saw you.’
). There is nothing left of that ‘sap-rich plant’; it looks as if it has never been there (Psa 37:35-3635I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
). In Job’s present situation, nothing reminds one of his former prosperity.

In verse 1919“Behold, this is the joy of His way;
And out of the dust others will spring.
Bildad says with some sarcasm what he meant by the preceding equations. The joy of someone who has known a great deal of prosperity and has become famous for it is only of short duration. That is the fate of all hypocrites. He has been there for a while and then he disappears from the earth and also from memory. In his place others will emerge from the dust and take his place. Nobody thinks about him anymore, everything revolves around these newcomers now.


Divine Retribution for the Righteous

20“Lo, God will not reject [a man of] integrity,
Nor will He support the evildoers.
21“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
And your lips with shouting.
22“Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
And the tent of the wicked will be no longer.”

Bildad returns to the direct attack on Job. With the call “behold” he asks Job’s attention (verse 2020“Lo, God will not reject [a man of] integrity,
Nor will He support the evildoers.
). He tells him that God does not reject “[a man of] integrity”. A man of integrity means someone with a clean conscience, someone who is ‘innocent’. Bildad says here that God does not reject an innocent person. The underlying accusation is again that Job is rejected by God and that Job is not upright or innocent. Bildad is again grossly mistaken. For he does not look at Job the way God looks at him, for God has said of him that he is upright (Job 1:1,81There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.8The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”; 2:33The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”).

Nor is Job an ‘evildoer’, as Bildad supposes. Indeed, God does not “support the evildoers” to help them, which He does to His own. Bildad does not know it, but God has also given the clear testimony of Job that he turns away from evil (Job 1:1,81There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.8The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”; 2:33The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”). If a man is unaware of God’s view of a person or a thing, he always comes to wrong conclusions. Whoever takes into account that only God has complete knowledge of a person or a thing, will be cautious and reluctant in his judgment of another.

At the end of his first speech Bildad has another promise for Job (verse 2121“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
And your lips with shouting.
). It is a promise that follows everything he said before. It means that God will make Job laugh again when he has converted from his wrong way. Job’s enemies will then be finished and even gone (verse 2222“Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
And the tent of the wicked will be no longer.”
). Job may count on inner satisfaction and outer peace and security.

What Bildad says is nothing but a businesslike enumeration of cause and effect. This line of reasoning characterizes the three friends. There is not a trace of compassion and comfort for Job in it.


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