Job Chapter 8: Bildad Offers His Comfort (?)

Jan 19th, 2010 | By | Category: Job, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Job Chapter 8: Bildad Offers His Comfort (?)

Job 8:1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,

Eliphaz was the first comforter to speak. Now it was Bildad’s turn, and later Zophar would speak. In the literal translation for chapter 6, which has been glossed over, Job referred to their casting of lots with regard to setting a snare, or trap, for him. The thought of a “snare” does come through but not the thought of casting lots. Evidently, Bildad became the next speaker through the casting of lots. Eliphaz was naturally the first speaker because he was the firstborn of Esau, and the other two comforters did not have such an impressive background. Perhaps, also, Eliphaz was the oldest of the three. According to Mideastern courtesy, the three had waited for Job to speak first after the seven-day period of silence. Now Bildad would start his examination of Job.

Comment: Scofield made an interesting comment, as follows: “Eliphaz is a religious dogmatist, whose dogmatism rests upon a mysterious and remarkable experience. Did a spirit ever pass before Job’s face? Did Job’s hair of his flesh ever stand up? Then let him be meek while one so superior as Eliphaz declares the causes of his misfortunes. Eliphaz says many true things, as do the others, and often rises into eloquence, but he remains hard and cruel, a dogmatist who must be heard because of one remarkable experience.”

Reply: Yes, Eliphaz made a lot of the dream he had, as if it gave him authority. But of the three, he was also given more significance because of his lineage and his age.

Job 8:2 How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?

In listening to the conversation of both Job and Eliphaz, Bildad now had his list of grievances, starting in verse 2, against the comments Job had just made.

“How long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?” Bildad accused Job of being a bag of wind, but his criticism was not new, for Eliphaz had more or less said the same thing. In subsequent verses also, Bildad did not bring up anything radically new in his reasoning, but he spoke more tersely than Eliphaz. A “strong wind” is a damaging wind.

Job 8:3 Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

Bildad falsely accused Job of criticizing God for being unjust in His providence toward him. The answer to Bildad’s two rhetorical questions was to be “Certainly not!”; that is, “God does not pervert judgment or justice as you, Job, seem to imply.”

Comment: This reasoning has been carried over to the present day. Some Christians have the philosophy, or thinking, that if one is not prospering or doing well, something is wrong with his spiritual relationship with God. Such a premise or conclusion is hurtful today just like the words of Job’s supposed comforters back there.

Reply: Yes, and to a certain extent, that point is brought up in verse 6.

Job 8:4 If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;

Comment: “If” really means “since.” Bildad was saying, “Since your children sinned against God, they deserved to die.”

Reply: The same theme—namely, “If you do something wrong, you will get punished in God’s providence”—seems to permeate the message. As the Apostle Peter pointed out, godly people suffer for two reasons: for their own mistakes and for educational purposes, testing, and proving (1 Pet. 2:19,20).

The three comforters felt that Job’s children must have sinned for them to lose their lives. The last half of verse 4 shows they were convinced the children had sinned because they were punished at the very spot where the frivolity (excess drinking, partying, etc.) had occurred. The fact they were visited with such a radical judgment was proof in the comforters’ minds. They judged Job the same way—that he, too, must have sinned because he was in such a deplorable situation. What a trial for Job to experience!

Job 8:5 If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;

Bildad was implying that since the children had received death as a judgment, Job should now make supplication to the Almighty for himself. He was saying in effect, “Job, it would be advisable for you to go to God in prayer and supplication to ask for forgiveness for yourself.”

Job 8:6 If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.

Bildad continued, “If thou wert pure and upright.” In Job 1:1, God Himself declared Job to be “perfect and upright,” but the three comforters did not know that. Bildad was saying, “If you were pure and just, this circumstance would be temporary. The fact that the circumstance is lasting some time proves you are guilty.” Job’s grievance was that he wanted to know why he was suffering, and he had been asking God audibly in the presence of the three comforters.

Bildad said, “Job, if you were right, and if you took the steps of prayer and supplication to inquire of God concerning your mistake, He would answer your request. You would get an immediate response and come back into His favor. But because you are not following these steps, there is silence, and you are not getting an answer to your questions.” This advice was obvious to the three comforters as they observed Job and the providences that were happening to him.

Starting in verse 2, Bildad was going through a mental list of objections that developed as he listened to the conversation taking place between Eliphaz and Job. He uttered the objections, one after the other: Job’s words were like strong wind, he perverted the judgment of God, his children died because they had sinned, and if Job was pure, he should seek God and ask for forgiveness. The objections of Bildad and Eliphaz were similar, but Bildad expressed them in a terser fashion, whereas Eliphaz was a little gentler.

Comment: Much of what the three criticized Job for was the very reason the Lord, in a special way, favored Job. For example, they questioned his righteousness, yet God commended Job as being one of the only three who, by their own righteousness, would be saved (Ezek. 14:14,20).

Reply: The prologue to the Book of Job mentions that he was the greatest man in the East not only in wealth and judgment but also in being “perfect and upright” (Job 1:1).

Comment: The three told Job to commit his cause to God, and that is exactly what he did in a very real way. They questioned his righteousness, yet the Lord identified him as righteous.

Reply: Because the comforters could not read Job’s heart and they were puzzled, their words should have been few. If, on the one hand, they had had a right heart condition, they would have been equally perplexed with Job, but on the other hand, their culture taught that God punishes the wicked and prospers the righteous. Therefore, it was difficult for them not to react as they did.

Comment: We assume Job was older when this experience came upon him. Since the comforters knew of his past, they assumed that previously he was righteous and now, all of a sudden, he had committed a heinous sin. Thus they were prejudiced because of his prosperous past versus the sudden calamity, and they felt conclusively that he had sinned.

Reply: Yes, the three comforters knew of Job’s unusual past. The arguments of Eliphaz and Bildad were that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, so, according to their reasoning, Job must have been righteous in the past when he prospered. Now the logical questions was, “What did you do that caused a change in your situation?”

The three were familiar with Job’s past, but in their present judgment of him, they overspoke in what they did not know, making criticisms that were negative and unwarranted. They should have been much gentler in making inquiry and not have rendered hasty judgments. We can see the problem that existed and what a trial it was for Job. Neither he nor the comforters knew the reason for his sufferings, but they commented anyway. The comforters should have been much more delicate in their handling of Job. Lacking empathy, they did not commiserate deeply enough with his situation. Had they done so, their comments and inquiries would have been much more carefully couched.

Comment: It is hard to understand how friends could be so pitiless and merciless in their comments. They could see the poor man and what he was suffering.

Reply: Job’s experience helps us see how people in the nominal Church view the brotherhood and make judgments. Because of the culture they were raised in, they think they are in the truth, and they make judgments accordingly. Of course we feel the same way, and this attitude influences our judgment and thinking about others. We can understand a little better because of the Holy Spirit, and in addition, we were earthly before we consecrated. Therefore, we have two kinds of savvy, or understanding: (1) Our experience before consecration helps us to understand thinking and behavioral conduct. (2) Being consecrated, we have more behind us in considering different practices, doctrines, and behavior than those in the nominal system who are not Spirit-begotten. Only a small minority in the nominal system really have the Holy Spirit. Because there is a mixture, with many unclean birds, as it were, the thinking is much like that of the three comforters. In effect, then, Job’s three comforters represent the thinking of nominal Christians toward the truly consecrated, and Elihu represents the thinking of the Great Company. The experience of Job himself pictures that of The Christ. The Book of Job is very thought-provoking.

Job 8:7 Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

If we condense verses 7-10, Bildad was telling Job to look back to the forefathers. “What I am saying to you, Job, is the wisdom of the past, which we have been taught.” However, traditional wisdom is not necessarily true. Each axiom or fact has to be examined to see if it is true. Bildad was saying, “We have been cultured and taught that God rewards the righteous and that judgment comes on the wicked.” There is a measure of truth in that statement, for as a general rule, those who lead a righteous, pure, ennobling life do prosper but not necessarily.

There are many exceptions where righteous people suffer.

Comment: Ultimately we see that Job did prosper—and more than previously—but the permission of evil was not understood.

Reply: That was the basic problem until Moses came. The Book of Deuteronomy brings out the point that God proved the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings to see if they loved Him with all their heart (Deut. 8:2,16). This remarkable change of thinking, which permeates the Book of Deuteronomy to quite an extent, took place when the Pentateuch came on the scene. Job lived before this information was made available, whereas the Israelites were cultured and indoctrinated with the wisdom of the first five books of the Bible. Job did not have access to that understanding and knowledge, but with what little information was available, he excelled exceedingly. Later chapters show that he was almost like Solomon in many of his observations. “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” Was Bildad saying that Job’s beginning was small?

Comment: Bildad was saying that if Job had been faithful, his greatness and his material possessions would have grown and grown instead of being reversed.

Q: Was Bildad just continuing on from verse 6 and saying that Job was now small? If Job would admit his wrong, he would greatly increase, and prosperity would be his latter end.

A: That observation may be correct, but then the verb tense would have to change from “was” to “is”: “Though thy beginning is [now] small.” If the Hebrew verb is present tense, the thought would be, “Though now you are brought down to nothing, yet if you take the proper steps, things will change not only for good but also for greater good—and maybe to what you had originally.” Otherwise, as the King James is written, the thought would be, “Job, if you had been faithful, your greatness would have kept increasing. Your small beginning would have blossomed out into greatness.”

Comment: Even if the verb is past tense, if we were talking to someone about current circumstances, we might project into the future and say, “Even though you started out with nothing, you could end up with quite a bit.”

Reply: That explanation is certainly to be considered. In any event, some of Bildad’s statements were almost prophetic, for Job did greatly increase.

Job 8:8 For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:

Q: Since Job apparently lived between Joseph and Moses, who are the “fathers”?

Q: The NIV reads, “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned.” Was Bildad saying, “Go to the older ones, who have more experience and information”?

A: Of the three comforters and Job, Eliphaz seems to have been the oldest—even though Job himself was old at this time. Bildad’s comment was directing Job to Eliphaz, among others.

Bildad was telling Job to seek the advice of others. Many think there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, but that is not necessarily true. Even with a multitude of counselors, wrong advice can be given, as shown in 1 and 2 Kings. It is nice to think that in a democratic society, one gets more wisdom, but some individuals have more understanding than a multitude of others. We are products of our own environment, whether we realize it or not, and the Lord certainly knows what the true situation is. Bildad wanted Job to inquire of the old-timers. The majority of statements that have been handed down over generations—perhaps over thousands of years—are very sound. In Job’s instance, the judgment of the three was wrong.

Job 8:9 (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)

This comment of Bildad is true, as testified in Proverbs, Psalms, and other places. If the three comforters had measured their lives, which were 200 years at the most, against those of the first dispensation, when Adam lived 930 years and Methuselah was 969, for example, they would have known that the human race was degenerating with briefer life spans.

Job 8:10 Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?

We appreciate the sentiments of hymns because we realize that past Christians wrote them based on their experiences and the feelings of their heart. Some hymns beautifully express our own sentiments, and we can learn a lot from hymns. However, we have to be careful of incorrect sentiments. The same is true of people who write and make wise utterances from a worldly standpoint. We appreciate many statements of people of the past, whether Christians or worldly people, who wrote with a desire to preserve for posterity some gem thoughts they had learned from a lifetime of experience. That is what Bildad was saying. “Shall not they [the fathers of the past] teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words [wisdom] out of their heart?”

Job 8:11 Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?

The Revised Standard Version reads, “Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water?” The obvious answer to both questions is no. The “flag” is the top of the reed, more commonly called cattails.

Job 8:12 Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.

Generally speaking, even when reeds have water, they are a brownish rust color, giving an appearance of deadness. In trying to draw a lesson, Bildad was straining for something in nature to prove his argument in regard to Job’s situation. From Bildad’s standpoint, Job’s claim of innocency, like the reed, belied the fact that he was at fault.

Job 8:13 So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish:

In verses 11-13, Bildad was saying, “Reeds that grow in marsh areas are abundant and green, but at a certain time, for some mysterious reason, they turn brown and wither—and not because a sickle has been put to them. They simply perish. Reeds are an example in nature of those who appear to worship God in their greenness but are really forgetting Him. Hence they are mystically, invisibly, cut off by God. Such are the paths of all who forget God and are hypocrites.”

Comment: Then in comparing Job to the reed in nature, Bildad was calling him a hypocrite, that is, one whose conduct, character, and truthfulness do not match his profession.

Reply: Based on his observations of nature, Bildad reasoned, “The reed fits your situation, Job.

In spite of your profession of innocence, you have forgotten God, and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” Of course Job was bemoaning his circumstance, but the comforters took his mournful state and his anguish of spirit as evidences that God’s favor had departed from him. They reasoned that if God’s favor were with him, he would not be in his present condition. As far as they were concerned, the prima facie evidence was his situation and bodily appearance.

Therefore, Bildad likened Job to a reed that withers.

However, when cattails are put in a jar without water, they last for a long time. The point is that Bildad was drawing too much of a conclusion from the reed. He was trying to find something to prove to Job that his professions did not match his outward appearance and condition, as well as his inner emotions and expressions of perplexity and anguish—and even, at times, his questioning of God’s motive.

Job 8:14 Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web.

According to Bildad, the very fact Job was in a down period indicated not only that he had forgotten God but that he was a hypocrite whose hope was cut off and whose trust was as a spider’s web. Bildad’s thought of a “spider’s web” can be applied either of two ways: (1) Job’s trust in God was not stable. (2) From God’s standpoint, Job was wavering and in a precarious mode of destruction.

Job 8:15 He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.

Bildad was talking about the fragility of a spider’s web and the lack of real support. From a mathematical perspective, a web is extremely strong, as well as flexible, but from a human perspective, it can be broken very easily.

In short, Bildad was saying that the arguments and statements Job was making in his own defense were untenable, for they did not match the manifestation of his inner emotions and his physical state. Both the inner and the outer man of Job, as far as Bildad was concerned, did not square with the protestations of innocence. “Job, you have some nerve to question God about these matters!” He was trying to show that Job was at fault.

This was Bildad’s first speech. With his second speech, we will see a strangeness in his reasoning, which went back and forth.

Job 8:16 He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.

Comment: According to Bildad, Job had been prosperous and in good physical condition, but calamities came as a result of disobedience.

Reply: That seems to be the thought, although Bildad’s reasoning and remarks are harder to understand than Job’s. It is easier to follow Job’s reasoning with the many examples he used pertaining to the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. With the comforters, we have to try to fathom their motivation, and their examples did not always square with the situation.

Job 8:17 His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.

Bildad was still talking about the reed, and specifically about its roots.

Comment: Previously Job was prosperous, but then as he supposedly turned away from God and sinned, it was like the roots of a plant looking for water in a pile of stones. The roots did not find the nourishment they needed, so the plant withered.

Reply: Yes, that seems to be Bildad’s thought, but it destroyed his earlier reasoning. There was an incongruity in his reasoning. For example, it is like saying that the image has been smitten and is being ground to powder, yet the nominal Church will come back into great power for one hour. When an individual reasons along one line in one place and along another line in another place, the two do not harmonize because one line of reasoning is at fault. Here the heap of stones showed a lack of water, yet earlier Bildad said the reed withers while it is yet green and has water.

Comment: In other words, in verse 12, Bildad said, “While the reed is yet green and not cut down, it withers before any other herb,” and then in verse 16, he said that when the sun should be scorching the reed, it was shooting forth, or growing. His logic was twisted.

Reply: Yes. If we were listening to a discourse, for instance, and the speaker did not have his reasoning straight to start with, we would find incongruities.

Job 8:18 If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.

Now Bildad struck out in a different vein. With the three comforters and Job all thinking he was going to die, Bildad seemed to be saying to Job, “In spite of your previous reputation as the greatest man in the East, when you perish, you will soon be forgotten. The memory of your prior existence and good works will mean nothing. Instead people will think of your latter experience. Posterity will not remember you because of the departure of God’s favor.”

Bildad was almost saying, “It would have been better had you not been born.”

Job 8:19 Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.

Q: In verses 19-22, was Bildad trying to end his comments on an up note?

A: Yes, but that up note was rather meaningless after all of Bildad’s negative remarks. He was saying, “If your statement about the integrity of your soul is correct, then you can expect restitution and a return to your former circumstance.”

Job never said he was entirely innocent. The nature of his argument was that to the best of his ability, his pursuit through life was to live according to his conscience toward God. He knew that his purpose was unwavering in serving the Lord, and then sudden unexplainable catastrophe had come upon him. Job never said he was inherently perfect, but his intentions were steadfast. He said he was anything but a hypocrite, for both he and the Lord knew what he had been thinking. Later he will be vindicated along that line.

Bildad was saying, “If your statements are correct, then your future will be grand. The Lord will extend His favor to you.” Bildad was giving almost a spider’s web of encouragement here. He was holding out what he did not feel was a reality, but if Job was correct, his circumstances would be restored. Later, when Job was vindicated, Bildad and the other two comforters had to confess to him before they would be restored to favor.

Job 8:20 Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:

Job 8:21 Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.

Job 8:22 They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwellingplace of the wicked shall come to nought.

Remarkably, and contrary to his real intent, Bildad was uttering a prophecy in verses 20-22 that did come true for Job. Although Bildad used different illustrations, his reasoning was basically the same as that of Eliphaz.

(2001-2003 Study)

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