THE DESTINY OF THE WICKED CANNOT BE THE DESTINY OF THE RIGHTEOUS
David Clines: The strophes may be outlined thus:
2–4 (3 lines) address to Job
5–7 (3 lines) the end of the wicked
8–10 (3 lines) he is trapped
11–14 (4 lines) he is brought to the underworld
15–17 (3 lines) on earth memory of him perishes
18–21 (4 lines) his story recapitulated; appraisals
John Hartley: Bildad takes up the task of instructing Job for the second time. His speech is developed quite simply in two sections: a complaint against Job (vv. 2–4), and a discourse on the terrible fate of the wicked (vv. 5–21). Obviously provoked by Job’s words and his manner, Bildad delivers a passionate oration on the terrors that await the evildoer. Whereas in his former speech he emphasized the possibility that Job might have a bright future, because the righteous are blessed, he now details the horrid fate that befalls the ungodly. He paints a bleak picture without a single bright stroke. He offers Job no hope, for he wants to persuade him that his questioning God is wrong and will have dire consequences.
Tremper Longman: Bildad’s speech implies that the life of wicked people can seem good on the surface. However, there are all kinds of dangers that lurk below the surface and will ultimately catch up with them. Right now their life may be well lit (vv. 5–6), but that light will ultimately be extinguished. In the present they may have strength, but ultimately they will become cramped and weakened (vv. 7, 13). Their life journey may seem unencumbered now, but there are traps, nooses, and ropes ready to grab them away. Furthermore, no one will remember them. There are no offspring to preserve their memory.
Derek Kidner: Bildad has expressed his verdict and passed his judgement: Job is wicked and is even now paying the consequences. Bildad has espoused once again his view of immediate retribution: that the wicked suffer for their crimes against God and humanity here and now. It is simplistic and naïve. One wonders if Bildad had ever seen what he was recounting. The wicked are not forgotten: we still talk of Sodom and Gomorrah to this day! Bildad’s worldview is the stuff of fantasy. He was shaken by Job. It wasn’t only what Job had said that unnerved him; it was the nagging thought that he knew that Job was a righteous man.
Bildad appears so to overplay his hand that one suspects he is arguing from desperation rather than conviction. Everything Job stands for is an affront to his theological system. He is clearly shaken by it. And his only defence is to entrench himself in a view that, one suspects, even he does not fully believe in any more. No one in his right mind would argue the way Bildad does, and one gets the impression that here is a man more intent on keeping his own convictions intact than on offering genuine help and understanding to a friend in desperate need. Sometimes we have to be prepared to admit that we are wrong. At the very least we should have the courage to admit that we just may be mistaken.
“Then Bildad the Shuhite responded,”
I. (:2-4) COMPLAINT AGAINST JOB
A. (:2) Your Words Escalate the Conflict
“How long will you hunt for words?
Show understanding and then we can talk.”
John Hartley: Annoyed and insulted by Job’s words, Bildad asks Job how long it will be before he quits speaking. This question is a stiff rebuke, for a wise man was known for controlling his rhetoric and for his ability to address each situation with precise language. Thus Bildad feels that Job’s verbosity reveals his guilt. Also, in his opinion Job is complicating his plight by his much speaking. Therefore, he enjoins Job to be sensible, i.e., to display some basic wisdom, in order that his friends can speak to him.
David Clines: Job had begun his last speech with a complaint against the inefficacy of words, and had called for an end to “windy words” without substance (16:3). Bildad on the contrary has much to fear from words; for Job’s words threaten to upset his notions of universal order. His is a more nervous response than Eliphaz’s, who had merely reprimanded Job for unprofessional behavior, that is. uttering “tempestuous” words unbecoming to a sage (15:2).
B. (:3) Your Lack of Respect Demeans Us
“Why are we regarded as beasts,
As stupid in your eyes?”
John Hartley: Bildad reproaches Job specifically for speaking down to the friends. Job’s attitude makes Bildad feel that he and his companions are being regarded as cattle, very dumb (cf. Ps. 73:22). Thus he rejects Job’s assertion that if their places were reversed he could compose speeches as good as those of his friends, but that his words would offer more comfort (Job 16:4–5). And he is unnerved by Job’s statement that he cannot find a wise man among the friends (17:10).
Francis Andersen: Bildad is more concerned for his own reputation than for meeting Job’s need. Of course, Job has asked for this with his derogatory remarks (e.g. 12:2; 17:10). But Bildad continues to do what Job has rightly complained about; he kicks a man when he is down (6:14, 21; 12:4; 13:4; 16:2).
Albert Barnes: the general idea is, that Job had not treated their views with the attention which they deserved, but had regarded them as unworthy of notice.
C. (:4) Your Inflated View of Your Self-Importance Causes You to Angrily Hurt Yourself
“O you who tear yourself in your anger—
For your sake is the earth to be abandoned,
Or the rock to be moved from its place?”
John Hartley: He judges that much of Job’s agony comes from his chafing against God’s discipline. Such resistance is futile and only creates greater discomfort for the one afflicted. Bildad is countering Job’s complaint that “[God] has torn me in his wrath and hated me” (16:9). The truth is that it is Job, not God, who is the mad, raving animal.
Bildad then asks Job if for his own benefit he actually expects God either to cause the world to be forsaken or to move a boulder from its place. A forsaken land is a territory that has been devastated either by enemy troops or by a natural catastrophe. A boulder moved from its place suggests an earthquake (14:18). With this question Bildad takes up Job’s words in 14:18 about God’s power that both changes the landscape and destroys a person’s hope (cf. also 9:5–6). For Bildad the moral order is so integrally related to the natural order that asking for a change in the moral law—Job asking God to acquit him without his repenting—is the same as asking for a remarkable event in nature. But it is beyond his imagination that God would so alter the universe to redeem one man. Bildad thus believes that Job’s line of reasoning brings him to the brink of arrogant insanity.
David Clines: If the retributive order of the moral universe is abandoned, as Job demands it should be for his sake, the cosmic order of stability goes with it. It is not that there is a mere analogy between the cosmic order and the moral order; it is rather that the moral principle of retribution is an organic part of the world order. Job’s assault on retribution for his own sake, i.e., so that his claim to innocence may be sustained, is an assault on cosmos and an invitation for chaos to invade. Without a justice guaranteed by heaven the foundations of the earth tremble (Alonso Schökel, quoting Ps 82:5; cf. 11:3).
Francis Andersen: A speaker who has run out of ideas can always resort to satire. No pastor mocks a sufferer by throwing his own words back at him. Yet this is what Bildad does. In 16:9 Job had identified God as his torturer, tearing him to pieces. Bildad replies that it is Job (assuming, with most interpreters, that the words are vocative) who is tearing himself to pieces by his needless rage. In 14:18, Job spoke plaintively of the erosion of the most solid cliff. Bildad jibes, ‘Do you want the whole universe to be reconstructed to suit you?’
Elmer Smick: He resents Job’s attitude toward them as belittling and accuses Job of being irrationally self-centered. The world is going to remain the same no matter how much Job rants against the order of things (v.4; for the second colon compare the image found at 14:18).
Albert Barnes: A reproof of his pride and arrogance. “Shall everything be made to give way for you? Are you the only man in the world and of so much importance, that the earth is to be made vacant for you to dwell in? Are the interests of all others to be sacrificed for you, and is everything else to give place for you? Are all the laws of God’s government to be made to yield rather than that you should be punished?”
II. (:5-21) TERRIBLE FATE OF THE WICKED
Francis Andersen: According to Bildad, the moral order, which Job is overturning, is as fixed as the earth and the hills. The fate of the wicked equally follows a strict law. Bildad recites a long poem about the troubles that overtake evil men. There is a touch of extravagance; what the argument lacks in substance it makes up for with rhetoric. It is also ironical that in the end Job will rediscover God’s justice by contemplating his works in nature. Here a bunch of incongruous images is assembled in five or six distinct poems: darkness (verses 5ff.), hunting (8ff.), illness (11ff.), brigandage (14), drought (16), childlessness (17ff.).
Warren Wiersbe: In this address [on the Terrors of Death], Bildad painted four vivid pictures of the death of the wicked.
– A light put out (:5-6). Light is associated with life just as darkness is associated with death. . . The picture here is that of a lamp hanging in a tent and a fire smoldering in a fire pot.
– A traveler trapped (:7-10). Bildad used six different words to describe the dangers people face when they try to run away from death:
o a net – spread across the path to catch him
o a snare – branches covering a deep pit
o a trap – a “gin” (snare) with a noose that springs when touched; he is caught by the heel
o a robber – another pitfall
o a snare – a noose hidden on the ground
o a trap – any device that catches prey.
No matter what schemes the traveler invents, he cannot escape the traps; and the more he tries, the weaker he becomes (18:7). Darkness and danger surround him, and there is no hope.
– A criminal pursued (:11-15). Terror frightens him, calamity eats away at his strength, and disaster waits for him to fall (vv. 11-12, NJV). . .
The frightened criminal gets weaker and weaker but still tries to keep going. If he goes back to his tent to hide, the pursuers find him, arrest him, drag him out, and take him to the king of terrors. They take everything out of his tent, burn the tent, and then scatter sulfur over the ashes. The end of that man is fire and brimstone!
– A tree rooted up (:16-21). Sometimes death is not as dramatic and sudden as the arresting of a criminal. Death may be gradual, like the dying of a tree. The roots dry up, the branches start to wither, and the dead branches are cut off one by one. Soon the tree is completely dead, and men chop it down.
A. (:5-7) Degeneration
1. (:5-6) Degeneration from Light and Life to Darkness and Death
“Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,
And the flame of his fire gives no light.
6 The light in his tent is darkened,
And his lamp goes out above him.”
John Hartley: Taking issue with Job’s questioning of God’s just rule, Bildad affirms that retribution against the wicked is operative in the present. He defends this truth by quoting two proverbs. The first one (v. 5) presents a general truth, as indicated by the use of plural forms. It says the light of the wicked is extinguished. This proverb is similar to Prov. 13:9: “The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out” (cf. Prov. 20:20; 24:20). Even though the wicked may be able to kindle a brilliant fame (šeḇîḇ ʾēš), it will not continue to burn before the strong winds of God’s judgment.
The second proverb speaks about a sheikh’s lamp (v. 6). The light inside the sheikh’s tent, his most private abode, grows dark. When this lamp is lit, it signifies that all is well in the chief’s household. But now the very lamp that hangs above his head is extinguished. Darkness totally enshrouds his tent. The doctrine of retribution is often illustrated by the metaphors of light and darkness. Light is symbolic of life (3:20), wealth (22:28), and happiness; conversely, darkness represents loss (15:30), sadness, and death (3:5). This proverb means that the fate that befalls a wicked person darkens every corner of his life. He cannot see any ray of hope penetrating this darkness. Perhaps by shifting from the plural forms in v. 5 to the singular forms in v. 6 Bildad is making an application indirectly, subtly, to Job.
2. (:7) Degeneration from Vigor to Constraint
“His vigorous stride is shortened,
And his own scheme brings him down.”
John Hartley: Bildad pictures a wicked person’s life as a journey that is unexpectedly halted. Each traveler takes strides appropriate to the path he treads (cf. Prov. 4:10–27). The one who starts down the path of evil begins with long, vigorous strides. His strides are lengthened by great successes: the greater each success, the longer his strides become. Because his way is easy, the wicked person at first appears to be making swift progress. But soon his vigor wanes, his stride is shortened (ṣārar). He trips over his own grandiose plans, stumbles, and falls. This picture teaches that no wicked person can enjoy prosperity for a great length of time. Neither his strength nor his subtle planning will sustain him indefinitely.
David Clines: The image is primarily of decay and an ultimate laying low, like the image of the extinguishing of lamp and fire in vv 5–6.
Tremper Longman: We should note that v. 7b attributes their failure to their own advice. They hurt themselves, in other words. Their own advice leads to all kinds of threats as they walk the path of life.
B. (:8-10) Detention – Snared in a Variety of Traps
“For he is thrown into the net by his own feet,
And he steps on the webbing.
9 A snare seizes him by the heel,
And a trap snaps shut on him.
10 A noose for him is hidden in the ground,
And a trap for him on the path.”
Albert Barnes: vs. 8 — He is caught in his own tricks, as if he had spread a net or dug a pitfall for another, and had fallen into it himself. The meaning is, that he would bring ruin upon himself while he was plotting the rain of others; see Psalms 9:16, “The wicked is snared by the work of his own hands;”. . . The phrase “by his own feet” here means, that he walks there himself. He is not led or driven by others, but he goes himself into the net. Wild animals are sometimes driven, but he walks along of his own accord into the net, and has no one to blame but himself.
John Hartley: Bildad illustrates the fact that a wicked person is sure to stumble on the path he is taking by enumerating the many traps that are set to ensnare him. He uses six different words for trapping devices. Such a person’s path is dotted with many traps, like a present-day minefield. While a wicked person is traveling on his road to success, his head raised proudly, his foot will unsuspectingly trip a hidden snare, and he will be caught. A clever person may escape one or more snares, but his path is so lined with traps that it is inevitable that he will trigger one of them. It is impossible for any wicked person to escape the heavenly trapper.
David Clines: The whole issue in this topos is that the wicked is set on a collision course with death; it is not that he is taken in the snares he has set for others (Fohrer, Habel), nor that he and not God is the cause of his own downfall (Terrien), nor that “the world is full of traps to catch the feet that stray from the right path” (Peake), but rather that “all things hasten on his ruin; the moral order of the world is such that wherever he moves or touches upon it it becomes a snare to seize him” (Davidson). The imagery is drawn not from the heroic hunting of big game, like lions and wild oxen, such as is depicted in Mesopotamia and Egypt, but from the devices used by ordinary people for the snaring of game, especially birds.
C. (:11-14) Dread
“All around terrors frighten him,
And harry him at every step.
12 His strength is famished,
And calamity is ready at his side.
13 His skin is devoured by disease,
The first-born of death devours his limbs.
14 He is torn from the security of his tent,
And they march him before the king of terrors.”
David Clines: vs. 12 — Calamity and disaster are perhaps pictured as two of the “terrors” that surround the wicked man; just like the terrors that actively affrighted and harried him in v 11, they are represented as wild animals that actively hunger to take him in their maw, or alternatively wait only for the moment when they can overcome him with least resistance, the moment when he stumbles.
Vs. 13 — This is more a picture of death than of illness. It is not a matter of “Death’s First-Born gnaw[ing] his limbs” (JB) or “eat[ing] away parts of his skin” (NIV), but of the total devastation wreaked upon the body of the wicked by death. The focus is not a gradual process of decaying disease (e.g., “eats away”) but on the overwhelming result (“consumes”). Not all wicked people die of lingering illnesses, of course, and Bildad does not want to maintain they do; whatever the specific cause, the result is the same; the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out (v 5).
Vs. 14 — The “tent” has a multiple metaphoric significance: it is the man’s shelter, if not exactly his castle, where he has a right to feel secure; it is his own property, where he has a right to invite his own guests (cf. 11:14) and turn away unwelcome visitors like these emissaries of Death; it is the symbol of his well-being and of the security of his existence. (It is not here a symbol of his body from which he is wrested, as against Andersen.) The tent is the security.
Albert Barnes: vs. 13 — The “first-born” is usually spoken of as distinguished for vigor and strength; Genesis 49:3, “Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength;” and the idea conveyed here by the “first-born of death” is the most fearful and destructive disease that death has ever engendered; compare Milton’s description of the progeny of sin, in Paradise Los. Diseases are called “the sons or children of death” by the Arabs, (see Schultens in loc.,) as being begotten by it.
Vs. 14 — Death is a fearful monarch. All dread him. He presides in regions of chilliness and gloom. All fear to enter those dark regions where he dwells and reigns, and an involuntary shudder seizes the soul on approaching the confines of his kingdom. Yet all must be brought there; and though man dreads the interview with that fearful king, there is no release. The monarch reigns from age to age – reigns over all. There is but one way in which he will cease to appear as a terrific king. – It is by confidence in Him who came to destroy death; that great Redeemer who has taken away his “sting,” and who can enable man to look with calmness and peace even on the chilly regions where he reigns. The idea here is not precisely that of the Roman and Grecian mythologists, of a terrific king, like Rhadamanthus, presiding over the regions of the dead but it is of death personified – of death represented as a king fitted to inspire awe and terror.
John Hartley: vs. 14 — The wicked man is torn from his secure tent. His tent had been the center of his security. There he felt safe from any harm. But he is forcefully removed from his dwelling place and marched off to the king of terrors, the prince of the dead.13 Such a monarch was believed to reign over the subterranean region that housed the souls of the dead and the demons of plague and terror.
D. (:15-17) Desolation
“There dwells in his tent nothing of his;
Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.
16 His roots are dried below,
And his branch is cut off above.
17 Memory of him perishes from the earth,
And he has no name abroad.”
Albert Barnes: vs. 15 – “Brimstone” — The only thing necessarily implied in the language before us is, that sulphur, the emblem of desolation, would be scattered on his dwelling, and that his dwelling would be wholly desolate.
John Hartley: vs. 17 — The memory of the wicked person vanishes from the earth. The memory of a person perpetuates his existence on earth after death. Therefore, to leave behind a good reputation is a blessing. As Prov. 10:7 says: “The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” A blessed memory was the prize of the righteous. It spread abroad even after their death. But the wicked has no name in the land after his death. The removal of this person’s name means he is completely forgotten, making the judgment against him full.
Francis Andersen: Bildad has listed the things most dreaded by an Israelite in life and in death as the tokens of rejection by God. Such events distinguish the godless from the good, and serve as warnings to the rest (verse 20).
E. (:18-21) Death and Extinction
“He is driven from light into darkness,
And chased from the inhabited world.
19 He has no offspring or posterity among his people,
Nor any survivor where he sojourned.
20 Those in the west are appalled at his fate,
And those in the east are seized with horror.
21 Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,
And this is the place of him who does not know God.”
John Hartley: vs. 21 — Bildad closes with a summary statement, marked off by the particle ʾaḵ, “surely.” An evil man, i.e., a person who knew not God, will be imprisoned in a dreadful dwelling. “Not to know God” means to have no fellowship with God, either because a person has willfully broken his relationship with God or because he has refused to enter into covenant with God. In death that person will never again experience God’s enriching grace, for his abode will be in a chaotic place devoid of light. Sadly there is no escape from his punishment.
Tremper Longman: Verse 20, however, suggests that a type of remembrance will persist, but not the type that anyone would ever desire. Everywhere (west and east) will be horrified by their fate. But, as Bildad concludes in v. 21, that is exactly what one expects from the guilty, from those who do not know God.
Albert Barnes: The conclusion or sum of the whole matter. The meaning is, that the habitations of all that knew not God would be desolate – a declaration which Job could not but regard as aimed at himself; compare Job 20:29. This is the close of this harsh and severe speech. It is no wonder that Job should feel it keenly, and that he “did” feel it is apparent from the following chapter. A string of proverbs has been presented, having the appearance of proof, and as the result of the long observation of the course of events, evidently bearing on his circumstances, and so much in point that he could not well deny their pertinency to his condition. He was stung to the quick, and gave vent to his agonized feelings in the following chapter.