INSIGNIFICANT MAN SHOULD FORGET ABOUT SEEKING VINDICATION AND PURITY FROM THE MAJESTIC GOD WHO REIGNS ABOVE
John Hartley: Thus Bildad, in quoting from the hymns of the congregation, impugns Job’s speculation that a human being could even attempt to enter into litigation with God. He is seeking to show Job that his hope of defending his own integrity is absurd in the light of God’s absolute holiness. He is also denouncing Job’s bold accusation that God does not keep times of judgment.
Elmer Smick: Most modern scholars have lengthened this short speech by including 26:5-14, but there is no obvious reason why this should be done. The theme is similar but not the same.
David Guzik: Yet while acknowledging some difficulties in the text, it is better to simply see the brevity of this final statement from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to reflect the fact that the debate is running out of fuel and starts a transition to a different stage of the book.
Thomas Constable: Bildad seems to have abandoned the earlier theme of the wicked person’s fate, because of what Job had just pointed out. Instead, he merely emphasized the sinfulness and insignificance of all people, and God’s greatness. Perhaps he hoped Job would admit to being a sinner, since the whole human race is unclean. He felt Job was absurd in thinking that he could argue before God.
Derek Kidner: It is a hymn of praise, a brief doxology, extolling the majesty of God in comparison to the sinfulness of man. “The speech is reverent but irrelevant.”[Meredith Kline] For Bildad, man’s insignificance cannot possibly occupy the attention of such a sovereign God. But for Job, God’s very omniscience – his boundless capacity for knowledge – implies that he can, and does, give man his individual attention. Bildad and Job are worlds apart.
E.S.P. Heavenor: When the mightiest heavenly bodies must tremble before Him, subdued and convicted, how can insignificant and corrupt man hope to look up, unafraid of what the light may disclose? Cf. 4:17ff. and 15:14ff.
Tremper Longman: In his attempt to puncture what he perceives as Job’s self-righteousness, Bildad argues that humans are maggots, even worms. He hopes that Job will apply this general truth to himself and recognize that he is not in a position to challenge God.
By comparing humans to maggots and worms, Bildad is emphasizing that humans are corrupting and corrupted. Maggots and worms spoil the things that they consume, whether the manna in the wilderness (Exod. 16:20, 24) or dead bodies (Isa. 14:11). Their association with the grave and with dead bodies also highlights the fragility and temporariness of life.
Is Bildad’s maggot theology correct in general and in its application to Job? Indeed, if it is not applicable to Job, then it is not applicable to humans as a whole. If the Bible is clear about anything, it is clear that humans were not created as worms or maggots. Genesis 1–2 emphasizes the dignity of humans in the way it depicts their creation on the last day, after everything else has been set in place. That Adam was created from the dust of the ground and the breath of God, while acknowledging his creaturely status, also indicates a special and dignified relationship to God. Most important, of course, is that humans are created in the image of God. In other words, they reflect the divine glory like the moon reflects the light of the sun.
If the Bible is clear about anything, however, it is that humans have marred their dignified status by their rebellion against God. The harmony that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God, each other, and creation was lost through their sin. In other words, humans, through their willful acts, can reduce themselves to maggot-like status. In Isa. 41:14 God calls sinful Israel “you worm.” But note that God also presents himself as the redeemer of worm-like Israel.
A. P. Davidson: Bildad does not appear to touch Job’s argument as to God’s rule of the world. He only seeks to subdue the immeasurable arrogance of Job in thinking that he would be found guiltless if placed before the judgment-seat of God (ch. Xxiii.3-7), and in challenging he rectitude of God’s rule of the world. With this view he contrasts the exalted Majesty of God and His universal power, which the countless hosts on high obey, and the purity of God in whose eyes the moon is dark and the stars are not pure, with the littleness and the earthly nature of man – who is a worm.
Charles Swindoll: This represents Bildad’s last shot. He speaks first of God’s power and greatness and then of God’s justice and man’s sinfulness. In so many words he is telling Job that God is all light, and he is all darkness, and that’s why he’s suffering. His two concluding analogies “maggot” and “worm” pretty much wrap things up.
(:1) PROLOGUE – RESPONSE OF BILDAD
“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered,”
I. (:2-3) THE MAJESTIC GOD REIGNS ABOVE
A. (:2) Establishes Peace While Exercising Dominion
1. Exercises Dominion
“Dominion and awe belong to Him”
Albert Barnes: That is, God has a right to rule, and he ought to be regarded with reverence. The object of Bildad is to show that He is so great and glorious that it is impossible that man should be regarded as pure in his sight. He begins, therefore, by saying, that he is a Sovereign; that he is clothed with majesty, and that he is worthy of profound veneration.
Joseph Benson: Absolute and sovereign power over all persons and things, so that it is both rebellion and madness to contend with him; and terror, which justly makes him dreadful to all men, and especially to all that undertake to dispute with him. In other words, awful majesty and infinite knowledge are his, whereby he is much better acquainted with men’s hearts and ways than they are themselves, and sees much sin in them, which themselves do not discover; and to him belong also exact purity and justice, which render him formidable to sinners. These are with him whom thou challengest; with him who is not lightly and irreverently to be named, much less to be contended with; and therefore it is thy duty to humble thyself before him, and quietly and modestly to submit thyself and thy cause to his pleasure.
2. Establishes Peace
“Who establishes peace in His heights.”
George Barton: Bildad’s opening words are a reply to Job’s charge in the preceding chapter that God encourages and protects crime. Bildad declares that God has not only power (dominion), but suggests that he so exercises it as to produce reverence and fear. He maketh peace in the high places. So far from countenancing crime, God is the establisher of peace, Bildad asserts.
John Hartley: Bildad lauds God’s sovereign power. From his heights God reigns over the entire world. He is so awesome in holiness that people stand in dread of him. Even in heaven there is no force that would dare challenge his rule, for his dominion is too great. Having complete authority, he makes peace [šālôm] in his heights, his place of abode. . . If there are no powers in opposition to God in heaven, certainly there are none on earth. Through this line of reasoning Bildad categorically rejects Job’s lament that there are numerous cases of injustice on earth (24:1–17). The truth is that God rules supreme over all creatures in heaven and on earth (cf. Jer. 33:9).
Tremper Longman: Verses 2–3 assert that God is uniquely powerful. He is the ultimate ruler, who establishes peace because of his power and numberless troops (presumably a reference to his heavenly army). He is sovereign over all, so that his light (“the sun”) rises on all creatures.
David Thompson: It would appear that Bildad is saying to Job, since God sovereignly controls all of the tranquility that exists in heaven, so also He can work out His perfect will on earth in a person’s life and if Job was right with God, things would be peaceful and tranquil for him.
B. (:3) Enlightens All While Commanding Innumerable Forces
1. Commands Innumerable Forces
“Is there any number to His troops?”
John Hartley: The heavenly hosts constitute God’s troops or armies (geḏûḏāyw). All of them are obedient to his command and serve to ensure his peaceful rule. The rhetorical question claims that his troops are so numerous that they are beyond counting. The opposite expression—that something can be numbered—means that it is limited and insignificant.
2. Enlightens All
“And upon whom does His light not rise?”
John Hartley: Further, God’s gracious, universal rule is affirmed through the image of light. Light shines everywhere, bringing warmth, joy, and life. God, the source of light, empowers life and sustains all his creatures, for there is none on whom his light does not rise.
Albert Barnes: This is designed evidently to show the majesty and glory of God. It refers probably to the light of the sun, as the light which he creates and commands. The idea is, that it pervades all things; that, as controlled by him, it penetrates all places, and flows over all worlds. The image is a striking and sublime one, and nothing is better fitted to show the majesty and glory of God.
II. (:4) VINDICATION AND PURITY CANNOT BE ATTAINED BY SINFUL MAN
A. No Possibility of Vindication before God
“How then can a man be just with God?”
B. No Possibility of Purity before God
“Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?”
David Guzik: The purpose of these questions seems to be to cause Job to understand that he is a sinner just like all, making it easier for him to confess and repent.
III. (:5-6) MAN IS FAR LESS SIGNIFICANT THAN THE MOON AND STARS WHICH HAVE NO BRIGHTNESS OR PURITY BEFORE GOD
A. (:5) Moon and Stars Pale before God’s Glorious Presence
“If even the moon has no brightness
And the stars are not pure in His sight,”
John Hartley: Bildad defends God’s way of governing the world by saying that nothing except God himself is pure or flawless. The moon, which shines brightly enough in the Middle East for a traveler to find his way across the steppe at night, is not bright in God’s judgment. And the stars are not pure [zāḵaḵ] in his sight. Even though the moon and the stars, members of God’s heavenly army, appear so bright to mankind, they have no innate purity that gives them any position with God. They too must serve him out of contrition and unworthiness. If this is true of these marvelous heavenly bodies, how much more is it true of mankind.
B. (:6) Man’s Standing Compared to Lowly Maggots and Worms
“How much less man, that maggot,
And the son of man, that worm!”
John Hartley: The concluding hymnic line emphasizes human frailty and moral ineptitude. A human being is but a maggot (rimmâ) and a worm (tôlēʿâ). These terms symbolize a wretched, lowly existence, and they have the smell of death about them. Also, the words man (ʾĕnôš) and son of man (ben-ʾāḏām) bear the note of human weakness and earthiness. Illness and loss make a person’s life so wretched that he feels like a maggot, and he can look forward only to the grave, where he will be consumed by worms (cf. Isa. 14:11).