THE RIGID TRADITIONALIST REMAINS ROOTED IN RETRIBUTION THEOLOGY
Thomas Constable: Bildad agreed with Eliphaz that God was paying Job back for some sin he had committed, and he believed God would show Job mercy if he confessed that sin. However, Bildad built his conclusions on a slightly different foundation. Eliphaz argued from his own personal experience and observations (4:8, 12-21; 5:3) and those of his contemporaries (5:27). Bildad cited a more reliable authority: the experience of past generations that had come down through years of tradition (8:8-10). He was a traditionalist whereas Eliphaz was an existentialist.
Francis Andersen: Bildad is objective and analytical in his speech about God and man. As a result he is a neat but superficial thinker. He is a moralist, and in his simple theology everything can be explained in terms of two kinds of men—the blameless (tam, verse 20a; used of Job in 1:1) and the secretly wicked (hanep, verse 13b). Outwardly the same, God distinguishes them by prospering the one and destroying the other.
Roy Zuck: Bildad’s harsh words included another heartless hint at Job’s losses. The antagonist’s attempt to defend God’s justice only intensified Job’s frustration about the Lord’s apparent injustice. Since the sufferer had not sinned, the counselor’s words were wasted.
Tremper Longman: Bildad is the second of the three friends to speak to Job. His speech is short but to the point. After upbraiding Job for even attempting to defend himself (v. 2), he then defends God’s actions as just by saying that Job’s children must have deserved their fate (vv. 3–4). However, for Job there is still hope because he, as opposed to his children, is still alive. Verses 5–7 appeal to Job to turn to God, presumably to repent. If he does so, then he will be restored. His source of authority for his position is the “former generations,” those who were alive before them (vv. 8–10). They will attest that the godless, if they thrive at all, will do so only temporarily. In the final analysis, the godly thrive and the godless suffer (vv. 11–22).
Charles Swindoll: Following Job’s vulnerable and honest response, Eliphaz stepped back. Next in the “tag team match” of philosophers is a man named Bildad. If you think Eliphaz was offensive, just wait until you meet Bildad. Talk about a human porcupine. . . along comes a second friend, a little younger than Eliphaz, with this insulting remark: “You’re a bag of wind, Job.”
Three Lines of Argument:
– First, The Character of Job (:3-7) (“Look Up, Job!”)
– Second, The Wisdom of the Past (:8-10) (“Look Back, Job!”)
– Third, The Evidence of Nature (:11-19) (“Look Around, Job!”)
– Concluding Comments (:20-22)
(:1) PROLOGUE – BILDAD’S FIRST SPEECH
“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered,”
I. (:2-7) RETRIBUTION THEOLOGY OFFERS JOB A PATH BACK TO PROSPERITY
A. (:2-4) Rebuke of Job’s Claim of Innocence
1. (:2) Your Complaints Lack Substance
“How long will you say these things,
And the words of your mouth be a mighty wind?”
David Guzik: Bildad was quick to rebuke Job for his strong words, but he did not stop to consider why Job spoke this way. He heard Job’s words, but did not consider his pain.
Robert Alden: Bildad escalated the confrontational nature of the debate with this opening, unsympathetic, accusatory salvo.
David Clines: In describing Job’s words as a “mighty wind,” Bildad is not mocking their emptiness, as most suggest (contrast “words of wind,” 16:3), but recognizing them as tempestuous and devastating (cf. “mighty waters,” Isa 17:12; 28:2). They threaten to uproot cherished beliefs (Peake); they make assault upon heaven. Bildad is shocked, not sardonic.
Tremper Longman: Verse 2b charges Job with bluster. He speaks many words but says nothing of substance. The wind is something that can be felt but not seen or grasped. That he characterizes his speech as a “strong” wind could point to passion or volume or probably both.
2. (:3) Your Complaints Attack the Justice of God
“Does God pervert justice
Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?”
David Clines: The rhetorical question conveys Bildad’s surprise and dismay: How could it ever be thought that the Almighty (“God” and “the Almighty” are in emphatic position in the sentence) could “pervert” the right ordering of the world? The moral universe, in Bildad’s theology, is founded upon the principle of retribution; any deviation from that would be injustice, and “God and injustice are mutually incompatible terms” (Rowley). Job’s protestation of innocence (6:10c) and complaint at God’s arbitrary and disproportionate treatment of him (7:12, 17–18, 20) have implicitly charged God with injustice; and even though Job is concerned only with his own case, the whole principle is called into question. Bildad feels his theology endangered, but fails to see it is Job—his integrity, self-esteem, and personhood—that is in danger (cf. Fohrer).
3. (:4) Your Sons Must Have Sinned for Them to be Killed
“If your sons sinned against Him,
Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.”
David Clines: This first strophe of Bildad’s speech contains its essential point; vv 4–5 are the nodal sentences of the whole. Job’s children have sinned; therefore they have been struck dead. Job himself may be innocent; if he is he will be rewarded. The doctrine of retribution is the sole and sufficient explanation of human fortune. . .
The doctrine of retribution is so fundamental to his world-view that he has actually perceived the death of Job’s sons and daughters as God’s punishment; he does not know he is deceiving himself, he does not know how to distinguish between perception and inference, he does not acknowledge that to deny the universal applicability of retribution is not to deny the righteousness of God (v 3).
Derek Kidner: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!
A rigid application of a truth, which prevents the possibility of exceptions, or broader analyses of the situation, is a dangerous and cruel line to take. Bildad is a man who has got hold of half of the truth and has made it into the whole truth. It is always a mistake to do that, and always damaging.
B. (:5-7) Repentance Offers Hope of Restoration
1. (:5) Seek God’s Compassion
“If you would seek God
And implore the compassion of the Almighty,”
David Clines: Job, unlike his sons and daughters, is still alive; as yet therefore there is no evidence that he has sinned irremediably against God. The emphatic “you” (vv 5, 6) stresses the difference between him and his children. Hope need not be lost if he fulfills two conditions: devout prayer and a blameless life (v 6a). The justice of God (v 3) can then be displayed in a positive light.
2. (:6) Straighten Out Your Life
“If you are pure and upright,
Surely now He would rouse Himself for you
And restore your righteous estate.”
David Thompson: It all sounds so good, so logical, so heavenly, but it is all a lie from hell. Job is not hit with this trouble because of his sin, but because of his faithfulness. He is being attacked by Satan because he is a faithful man of God.
3. (:7) Success and Prosperity Will Follow
“Though your beginning was insignificant,
Yet your end will increase greatly.”
John Hartley: Bildad seeks to motivate Job to seek God. He is stating here the positive side of retribution: righteous behavior is rewarded with prosperity. your beginning (rēʾšiṯ) refers to the first stage of Job’s prosperity, and your future (ʾaḥarîṯ) refers to the last and final segment of his life, beginning with his restoration. These two terms together encompass the totality of his life. Even though Job has lost everything, he will receive a restoration that will far surpass his former greatness. Through Bildad’s words the author is hinting at Job’s restoration as unfolded in the epilogue (42:10–17). In a few places, the author uses the speeches of the friends to allude to the outcome and thus to heighten the contrast between their pious platitudes and the reality of God’s treatment of Job, his faithful servant. The friends will be caught by surprise at the fulfillment of their promises without Job’s following the conditions they recommend.
II. (:8-19) EVIDENCE FOR GOD’S JUSTICE IN RETRIBUTION THEOLOGY
A. (:8-10) Argument from Tradition – The Teaching of the Fathers
1. (:8) History Teaches Abiding Lessons
“Please inquire of past generations,
And consider the things searched out by their fathers.”
2. (:9) Our Stay on Earth is Very Short
“For we are only of yesterday and know nothing,
Because our days on earth are as a shadow.”
Tremper Longman: The fathers’ wisdom contrasts with those who are alive at present (v. 9). The present generation is not deep in experience. Today we use the expression “That is so yesterday” to claim that something is obsolete. When Bildad says “We are yesterday,” he suggests that there is no significant lived experience behind advice without the precedent of previous generations.
3. (:10) Wisdom Found in the Lessons of History
“Will they not teach you and tell you,
And bring forth words from their minds?”
Warren Wiersbe: To be sure, we can today learn from the past, but the past must be a rudder to guide us into the future and not an anchor to hold us back. The fact that something was said years ago is no guarantee that it is right. The past contains as much folly as wisdom.
David Clines: Bildad’s respect for the wisdom of the past is admirable, as is his conviction that God does not pervert justice (v 3). It is because he allows the doctrine of retribution to fill the whole horizon both of human wisdom and divine justice that he is both unappealing and unconvincing, and because he insists on absolutizing the doctrine that he must be both unjust and unkind to Job.
John Hartley: If Job is to find restoration, he must cease challenging honored doctrines on the basis of his own experience and develop a listening attitude to the honored teachings of the fathers.
B. (:11-19) Argument from Nature – 3 Analogies
1. (:11-12) Papyrus Plant Analogy – Withering Proves Lack of Water
“Can the papyrus grow up without marsh?
Can the rushes grow without water?
12 “While it is still green and not cut down,
Yet it withers before any other plant.”
Robert Alden: Bildad’s point in citing this proverb was that certain conditions must prevail in order for specific results to follow. A second lesson from these swamp grasses is that they are short-lived (8:12). They seem to die in midlife and for no cause. On this point too Bildad was subtly making an application to Job.
David Guzik: Bildad used the example of the growing papyrus to illustrate two things.
– First, it shows the principle of cause and effect, because the water causes it to grow.
– Second, it is a fragile growth that withers before any other plant.
David Thompson: Multiple Illustrations:
1) The illustration from the plant world. 8:11-13
The illustration here is that plants grow as long as there is water, but as soon as water is removed, the plant is scorched and it withers. Bildad’s point is, as long as Job was being refreshed by God, everything in his life was fine; but now that he has forgotten about God and sinned against God, his life is scorched and he is withering away.
2) The illustration from the insect world. 8:14
Bildad’s point here is that Job is a godless man, so his confidence that he is right with God is as fragile as a spider’s web. His confidence is unsupported and unreliable. In other words, Job really doesn’t have any solid hope or confidence for deliverance.
3) The illustration from the building world. 8:15
Job had lost all his possessions. Bildad piously refers to not trusting in a house. Since Bildad has lost nothing, it was so easy for him to talk about the fact that any person who puts their trust in a house or holds tightly to their possessions is trusting in the wrong things.
4) The illustration from the vine world. 8:16-18
A vine thrives in the heat of the sun. It spreads out and wraps itself around rocks and houses. But if the vine is pulled up by the roots, it dries up and the spot ends up denying that a vine ever existed. When a vine is pulled out at the roots, it soon withers and you cannot even tell a vine was ever there. Bildad is saying that Job had once been like a fruitful vine that increased in all areas and directions, but now that he had sin in his life and had been uprooted by a scorching judgment of God, he was nothing anymore. It was like he had never existed.
2. (:13-15) Spider’s Web Analogy – False Confidence is Fragile and Inadequate
“So are the paths of all who forget God,
And the hope of the godless will perish,
14 Whose 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.”
Poole: A spider’s web; which though it be formed with great art and industry, and may do much mischief to others, yet is most slender and feeble, and easily swept down or pulled in pieces, and unable to defend the spider that made it.
David Clines: it is better to see the image of the spider’s “house” continuing through this verse (as NIV). It is then self-evident why any confidence on the part of the godless man is disastrously misplaced.
Roy Zuck: Anything such a person may depend on for hope – such as Job’s alleged innocence – is as useless and inadequate as leaning on a spider’s web.
3. (:16-19) Garden Plant Analogy – Inadequate Root System Produces Only Temporary Results
“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.”
Trevor Longman: The metaphor illustrates the ephemeral nature of the success of the wicked.
Derek Kidner: This gourd (or “vine”) leave no roots once it dies. No tell-tale shoots will appear to remind us that it once existed. Bildad is now making his most cruel attack of all. Job had made the plaintive remark at the close of chapter 7 that God would miss him when he was gone. It was his parting host in an attempt to shame the Almighty into treating him better! Bildad cruelly suggests that once he dies, no one will recall his existence – not even God! What faith Job had is systematically attacked.
Thomas Constable: The illustration of the water plant (vv. 11-13) emphasized the fact that in Bildad’s view, Job had abandoned God, the source of his blessing (cf. 1:1, 8). Bildad advised his friend not to forget God. The spider’s web analogy (vv. 14-15) implied that Job was depending on his possessions rather than God for his security. The allusion to the garden plant (vv. 16-19) compared Job to an uprooted bush that others would replace.
John Hartley: Similarly a wicked person prospers, becoming so deeply rooted in his sphere of influence that it appears that no one can uproot him. But God, at will, forcibly removes him, so that his place, i.e., his estate, which supported his prosperity, disowns him. Thus the fabulous success this wicked person enjoys is illusory and quickly comes to an end.
III. (:20-22) CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION – RETRIBUTION THEOLOGY WILL YIELD FUTURE BLESSING TO THE MAN OF INTEGRITY
A. (:20) God Only Blesses Integrity
“Lo, God will not reject a man of integrity,
Nor will He support the evildoers.”
David Clines: To these images of the fate of the wicked is appended now a scene depicting the fate of the innocent, Job himself included. The positive side of the doctrine of retribution is, despite his concentration on the fate of the godless, not ignored by Bildad. Even so, he must begin this brief upbeat movement with a generalizing proverb-like utterance that yet again states the principle in both its positive and negative forms.
John Hartley: The conclusion of the whole matter as taught by the fathers and seen in the ways of nature is that God never reverses the laws of retribution. He never perverts justice. Bildad emphasizes this conclusion through use of litotes, the negation of the contrary: God does not reject the blameless (tām). They will never experience enduring punishment. Conversely, God does not strengthen the hand of evildoers (merēʿîm). This means that God does not give the wicked special strength to face difficulties. He does not make them prosperous. Should the wicked rise to power, their success is brief and their fall is certain. On the other hand, it is implied that should the righteous experience hardship, God will come to their rescue. Bildad is vigorously objecting to Job’s lamenting. He totally rejects Job’s fear that God despises the blameless. This may be another instance where the author has a comforter anticipate what Job is going to ponder (cf. 9:20–22).
B. (:21) God Can Provide Abundant Joy
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
And your lips with shouting.”
C. (:22) God Can Shame and Subdue Your Enemies
“Those who hate you will be clothed with shame;
And the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Francis Andersen: Those who trust the Lord are like a flourishing plantation beside the irrigation channels (Ps. 1:3, reading collectives). The person who trusts in himself is like a stunted desert shrub (Jer. 17:6). The jubilation of the blameless man (verse 20) will be enhanced by an additional proof of God’s favour, the humiliation of his enemies (22).
David Thompson: There are four innuendoes Bildad makes about God and Job:
#1 – God will be happy to replace Job. 8:19
Look what Bildad says to Job here–toppling you Job, brings God joy. God finds joy in ruining one man and raising up another. Bildad apparently doesn’t know much about the character of God. God never finds joy in destroying a sinner, He finds joy in saving a sinner.
#2 – God will not reject a man of integrity. 8:20a
Bildad’s implication is that Job was rejected by God because he was not a man of integrity.
#3 – God will not support the evildoer. 8:20b
Bildad’s implication is that Job is not receiving any support from God because he is an evildoer.
#4 – God will turn things around for Job if he will repent. 8:21-22
The implication here is that God could make Job laugh again; God could turn things around for Job if he would just turn from his wickedness and turn to God.