In this chapter Bildad’s second speech follows. In it he too is sharper in his assessment of Job than in his first speech. He neither advises nor counsels Job, but merely charges against him accusation on accusation. His condemnation of Job is razor-sharp. His approach has not changed. He follows the pattern of his friends. This means that he continues to accuse Job of sins as the cause of his suffering according to the reasoning:
1. Evil people are punished by God.
2. Job is punished by God.
3. Job must be an evil man.
With his analysis of Job’s situation, Bildad proves once again that he is totally incapable of understanding any of the questions that torment Job. Job has rightly spoken of “sorry comforters” (Job 16:2). Bildad is simply on a completely different wavelength. We hear from God’s mouth at the end of this book that he is completely wrong with his judgment and condemnation.
From the certainty with which Bildad speaks, we have to learn that in our most established beliefs we may be completely wrong. We are just as responsible for our beliefs as we are for our words and actions. The only one who can give us the right thoughts and pure feelings is God. He alone can give wisdom and strength to properly deal with our beliefs toward others.
1 - 3 New Reproaches
1 Then Bildad the Shuhite responded,
2 “How long will you hunt for words?
Show understanding and then we can talk.
3 “Why are we regarded as beasts,
As stupid in your eyes?
When Job has finished his reaction to Eliphaz’s second speech, Bildad takes the floor for the second time (verse 1). Again he has heard so much from Job’s mouth, which is contrary to his theology, that he cannot keep his mouth shut and has to answer Job. He begins by accusing Job of continuing to oppose the arguments of his friends (verse 2). They have come to give him an insight into the cause of his suffering. If he now acknowledges this, they can continue to speak.
With this Bildad says that there is really no point in continuing to talk to Job if he sticks to his stubborn view of his situation. Nevertheless, he does not wait for Job’s reaction and continues his sharp argument imperturbably. Bildad is blind to the fact that in reality it is exactly the other way around. He and his friends don’t want to admit how stubborn they are. Their increasingly severe accusations are the result of not getting a grip on Job. The fact that he addresses Job in the plural (“you”) means that he sees in Job the representative of a certain class of people who question the position of the friends.
The reproach to Job that he considers the friends to be stupid, mindless beasts (verse 3) shows hurt pride. Job takes an attitude in their eyes that he does not even want to touch them, as if they were unclean. Bildad and his friends feel very offended by Job’s reaction. He pays no attention at all to their vision. They came with all their wisdom and intellect to help Job understand his situation, and now Job dares to portray them as stupid “beasts”. People who have a high opinion of themselves feel very hurt when others do not acknowledge this. They will not come to their senses and humiliate themselves, but humiliate the other.
4 - 7 The Certain Destiny of the Evil One
4 “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?
5 “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.
7 “His vigorous stride is shortened,
And his own scheme brings him down.
With the remark that Job ‘tears himself in his anger’, Bildad throws before his feet that he is out of his mind, that he talks like a madman, like someone who does not know what he is saying (verse 4). Job has claimed that God is tearing him (Job 16:9). No, says Bildad, you do that yourself, God does not. Everyone and everything has to give way to the statements of Job. Everyone can disappear and what is a symbol of steadfastness can be moved, but the thinking of Job is stuck. We would say: even if everyone stands upside down, Job does not change his mind and holds on to it rigidly.
Bildad’s way of arguing proves nothing more than the weakness of his own arguments. What Bildad says has nothing to do with the content. Someone who cannot convince his opponent, but does not want to acknowledge his loss, will accuse the other of total immobility. He gets irritated by it and accuses the other person of being ‘inflexible’ in his opinions, that he is ‘stuck’ in his opinion, that he ‘doesn’t want to be open’ to other insights and so on.
Well Job, Bildad continues his speech and repeats his argument as a teacher to a student who is slow in understanding, you can be sure that “the light of the wicked goes out” (verse 5; Job 21:17). By this he means that Job may well think that he has the light, that he can judge his situation well, but that his light will be extinguished, for he is a wicked man. Even the flame of his fire will no longer shine, which means that his house will be uninhabited. For Bildad it is clear from God’s judgments about Job and his statements about them that Job is a hypocrite and a sinner.
The light that he had over his life, through which he could see everything in its proper meaning, has been darkened (verse 6). Job can no longer see how things really are, because his mind is darkened, Bildad judges. By “his lamp” can be meant the spirit of a human being (Pro 20:27). When a person dies, his spirit does not die, but he can no longer let his light shine over the things of this life. On the day his spirit leaves him, “in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psa 146:4).
As long as Job is still alive, he can no longer make the vigorous strides of the past (verse 7). He is hindered in this by his troubles and sicknesses that have come upon him because of his sins. What he has recommended to others has become his trap. He perishes in his own counsel. His counsel was to sin for the purpose of prosperity. But that counsel has become his downfall.
8 - 10 Walked into the Trap
8 “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.
Bildad expands on the retribution that is the part of the wicked. In the verses 8-10 he uses the illustration of a trap to catch wild animals. He applies this to the entanglement of an evil person, with whom he means none other than Job. The idea is that whoever is out to do bad things will have to bear the consequences. It is the law that wherever a wicked person goes, he will eventually become entangled in death. “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal 6:7b).
One who is hindered in his walk by his sins (verse 7) will not get far either. He is stopped because he is thrown into a net (verse 8). He does not realize that he is walking over a trap over which a webbing has been laid. When he walks over it, he sinks through the webbing and ends up in the trap. Here it is emphasized that he chooses this path himself, so he chooses his own downfall.
In verse 9 the emphasis is placed on the suddenness of his downfall. Suddenly he is stopped in his walk because a snare grabs him by the heel. He can no longer move a step. The situation overtakes and overwhelms him, without him being able to free himself from it. He didn’t foresee it, didn’t take it into account.
In verse 10 it is more about the inevitable. Someone who goes the way of sin inevitably faces a noose and a trap hidden from him. They lie there especially for him who goes a way of sin. He will be ensnared and captured by them. This fate afflicts everyone who goes the way of sin. Job must know that he is in misery like a trap because he has gone the way of sin.
11 - 15 Terror, Sickness and Death
11 “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 firstborn of death devours his limbs.
14 “He is torn from the security of his tent,
And they march him before the king of terrors.
15 “There dwells in his tent nothing of his;
Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.
Bildad continues his description of the fate which, in his opinion, afflicts the villain whose description clearly points to Job. The villain is surrounded by horror, which constantly frightens him (verse 11). He is skittish and lets himself be chased away by it. This consumes his strength, without having food to strengthen him (verse 12). Hunger torments him. Right next to him, “at his side”, “the calamity” is ready to charge him. The calamity is described as a person, as if it were a companion, someone who accompanies Job, but then as a kind of vulture, waiting for him to succumb in order to enjoy the meal.
“The firstborn of death” means the most powerful of death (verse 13; cf. Psa 78:51; Gen 49:3). With this, Bildad says that Job has been beaten with the most terrible and devastating diseases that death has ever used to make a man his prey. These diseases tear the skin of Job to pieces and consume his limbs. In his painting of the fate of the wicked, we see a word artist in Bildad. However, his choice of words also shows a cruelty that is hard to surpass, to say all this as a satirical weapon against the intensely and innocently suffering Job.
And he hasn’t finished speaking yet. The sins he assumes with Job are the cause that his confidence in a happy home life has been torn away (verse 14). It was a false trust, for there were hidden sins. That is why he is now on his way to death, by Bildad, again with great rhetoric, called “the king of terrors”. That may be so for Bildad, but for Job death does not mean terror, as we have seen before. For us, too, the fear of death has been taken away, because the Lord Jesus has rendered “powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).
Where Job lived, now dwells something else (verse 15). We can think of hunger, poverty and other things that did not belong to him when he lived there in prosperity and well-being. His dwelling will remain an uninhabitable place for people. Brimstone is scattered on his habitation. It is an eternal condemnation, just as it came upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Deu 29:23; Gen 19:24).
16 - 20 Root and Branch Perish
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.
18 “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.
In these verses Bildad describes the overthrow of the evildoer’s family. He compares him to a tree with roots and branches (verse 16; cf. Psa 37:35-36). Job is a tree that has no possibility of growth – its roots dry out – and from which is cut off what has come forth. The roots and branches point to the prosperity, happiness, and children of the wicked. All that will perish, from head to toe.
No one will think of the evildoer anymore (verse 17). Everyone is happy to be rid of him and wants to forget him as soon as possible. For people who have done much good for society, sometimes a memorial is erected. This will not be the case for Job. His name will never be mentioned again. How much Bildad was wrong about this, is clear to us. The name of Job lives on and is one of the most famous names from antiquity.
From verse 18 onwards it is no longer about the family and attributes of the wicked, but about the wicked self. Bildad predicts that the wicked, and he clearly means Job, will be driven from the light into darkness (verse 18). No one wants to have anything to do with him. He is even chased from the inhabited world. No one grants him a place on it anymore. That is to say, they will chase him into the darkness of death.
Then there is the allusion of Bildad which he makes again to the death of Job’s children (verse 19; Job 8:4). Job will be childless and therefore will have no heir or successor. His house will be empty, for everyone has died. We can hardly imagine how great the tragedy was for a man in those days not to have an heir. It probably escapes us that this remark must have penetrated Job through marrow and bone and cut him deep in his soul.
The day of Job’s downfall will cause great turmoil among all those “who come after” (the literal translation of “those in the west”) him, that will be the coming generations, and also among those “who have gone before” (the literal translation of “those in the east), the elderly, his contemporaries (verse 20). They will wonder horrified and terrified how such a prosperous and wealthy man could fall into such extreme poverty.
21 Bildad’s Conclusion
21 “Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,
And this is the place of him who does not know God.”
Bildad ends in style, his style to be precise. His whole second speech is mercilessly harsh. In his first speech (Job 8) he hinted that Job may not have belonged to the wicked. But this second speech leaves no doubt about that. He is “sure” that all the mischief he has spoken about will strike the wicked (read: Job).
Then follows a further description of the wicked. The wicked, that is to say Job is that man. He is someone who “does not know God”. The fact that his house has been wiped out is proof of this. What has happened to him only happens to someone who does not know God, who has no connection with Him.
This again shows the short-sightedness of Bildad and his two friends. They pretend that every wicked person will come across what Bildad has put forward in this chapter. But that is not true. Everybody sees that there are wicked people who are prosperous and that there are righteous people who are suffering.
This short-sightedness is the result of a one-sided view on God. God is indeed righteous. But not every sin is rewarded already on earth, and not every good deed is rewarded already on earth. If we don’t have an eye for that, we have and give the wrong impression of God. The friends are a cautionary example for us not to form a simplistic idea about God and then apply it to all kinds of situations. God is much greater than we can comprehend with our intellect.