Notes on Job 18-19

Job 18‑19  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Bildad's Second Discourse
Bildad, who is ever brief, retorts on the copious and impassioned answers of Job, not only as contemptuous towards his friends, but as altogether vain in the effort to justify himself, while evidently an object of divine displeasure and judgment for concealed evil. Did he alone constitute an exception to the invariably righteous government of God? If not, why such a volume of words, and why such vehement invectives? Divine judgment, however, would take his way none the less surely and awfully for universal warning.
And Bildad the Shuhite answered and said,
How long will ye make a hunt for1 words?
Consider, and afterward we will speak.
Why are we accounted as cattle,
Stopped up [that is, stupid] in your eyes?
He teareth his soul in his anger:
Shall the earth be forsaken for thee,
And shall a rock be removed out of its place?
Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out,
And the flame of his fire shall not shine.
The light in his tabernacle shall be dark,
And his lamp shall be put out with him.
The steps of his strength shall be straitened,
And his own counsel shall cast him down.
For by his feet is he driven into a net,
And he walketh over the meshes;
The trap seizeth on his heel;
The snare prevaileth over him;
His cord [is] hidden in the earth,
And his trap upon the pathway.
Terrors shall terrify him around,
And scare him at his footsteps.
His calamity2 [is] hungry,
And destruction [is] ready at his side.
The first-born of death devoureth the parts of his skin—
Devoureth his parts.
His confidence shall be torn out of his tent,
And shall march him off to the king of terrors;
There shall dwell in his tent what [is] not his;
On his dwelling shall sulfur be scattered.
Beneath, his roots shall be dried up,
And above, his branch shall he cut off.
His memorial shall perish from the earth,
And he shall have no name on the plain.
They shall drive him from light into darkness,
And shall chase him from the world.
No shoot nor sprout shall he have among his people,
And no escaped one in his dwellings.
At his day they of the west will be astonished,
And they of the east take fright.
Surely so the dwellings of the wicked,
And this the place of [him that] knoweth not God.
Thus keenly does Bildad cleave to his severe impression of Job's state before God, formed by the (to him) irresistible evidence of divine judgments, which had swept away all his prosperity, his family, his health, and left him a prey to agonizing sorrows and conflicts in his soul. How could any reasonable man question more than he that God had a controversy with Job, who was suffering only as he deserved, as surely as God is just? He therefore felt no small vexation at the continuance of a controversy when the case was really and unanswerably plain. It was only Job's contemptuous self-assurance that could evade for a moment the force of their reasoning. Let Job be as violently restive as he may, he will find out in the end that, as they are not to be counted cattle for stupidity, so the moral government of God is as immovable as the course of the earth, or the stubborn rock. What a man sows he reaps: if evil, ruin; if good, blessing. But of the latter Bildad has not a word to say. Did he know what grace works through faith? Faith can not only remove the rock, but cast a mountain into the sea.
Of this Bildad knew little or nothing. He only thinks of the deep wickedness, whatever the fair outside, which had drawn down on Job such unparalleled misery from God. So, in forcible figures, he sets out the extinction of all light in the ungodly, when the flame of his fire should shine no more, and the lamp over him should go out. No effects should extricate, but rather involve him more; and not rashness, but his own counsel, plunge him in utter ruin. No craft avails, but ensnares, him that trusts himself instead of God; and hence his own feet send him into the net, and he walks over the meshes, heedless of what is underneath. The trap, the snare, the cord, meet him wherever he turns; terrors alarm him on every aide, and dog his footsteps. His calamity, instead of being satiated, is hungry for more; and destruction, or a heavy load of suffering, is at his side, ready to weigh him down. Deadly disease—death's firstborn—is already devouring the parts of his skin—devouring, more than the skin, the parts themselves. In short, all that makes his tent bright, in the present or in prospect, is torn out, and he has to march off to the king of terrors.
Nor does the blast of God stop with the evil-doer; but, extending far and long beyond himself, it hangs over his memory, and pursues his descendants. Hence there dwells in his tent that which shall not be his own, and over his habitation sulfur is scattered. Nothing but withers above ground, and all underneath dries away. Neither in the settled parts of the earth does his memorial stand, nor has he a name in the wilderness, but he is an outlaw from the habitable world, consigned from light to darkness, with no sprout nor shoot remaining among his people, not one escaped in his dwellings. The desolation is complete; so much so, that they of the west are astounded on account of his day, and they of the east take fright; unless, with some ancients and moderns, we take these words as descriptions, not of place, but time, and so understand “posterity” and “ancestors.” But it is hard to see how “ancestors” could be horrified, though we can readily think of “posterity” being astonished. Bildad concludes his answer with the assurance that only thus does it befall the dwellings of the wicked, and thus the place of him that knows not God. The application, in his mind, is as obvious as it is mistaken; the abstract truth abides, and has its own just place.
Chapter 19
The Answer of Job
None can wonder that the strong language was extremely wounding to him whose integrity was not only questioned, but regarded as the cover of mere godless hypocrisy, and his sufferings as the precursor of a destruction without remedy. His rejoinder shows, however, that if Job felt the solemn warning to be not only beside the mark, but impertinent and cruel, he rises completely above the atmosphere of his self-constituted judges, owns the hand of God in all his sorrows without reserve, looks for final vindication, and most gravely admonishes those who misjudged him.
And Job answered and said,
How long will ye vex my soul,
And crush me to pieces with words?
These ten times ye reproach me,
And are not ashamed to stun me;
And, after all, if I have erred,
With me doth mine error lodge.
If indeed ye boast against me,
And argue my reproach against me,
Know now that God hath wrested me,
And compassed me round with His net.
Lo, I cry of violence, and am not heard,
I call out, but [there is] no justice.
He hath hedged my way that I cannot pass,
And hath set darkness on my paths.
He hath stripped me of my glory,
And hath taken the crown of my head.
He ruineth me on every side, and I am going;
And my hope He uprooteth like a tree.
He kindleth His anger against me,
And He regardeth me as His enemies.
His troops come together, and heap up their way against me,
And encamp round about my tabernacle.
My brethren He put far away from me,
And mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.
My kinsmen have ceased, and my confidants have forgotten me.
Guests of my house, and, my maid, count me a stranger,
A foreigner I am become in their eyes.
I call to my servant, but he answereth not;
With my mouth I make supplication to him.
My breath is strange to my wife,
And my entreaties for the children of my body.
Even youngsters despise me; I rise, and they speak of me.
All my intimates abhorred me, and those I loved turned against me.
My bone cleaveth to my skin and my flesh;
And I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.
Pity me, pity me, O ye, my friends,
For the hand of God hath stricken me.
Why do ye persecute me as God,
And are ye not satisfied with my flesh?
O3 that my words were but written!
O4 that they were but inscribed in a5 book!
With a pen of iron and lead,
Graven in a rock forever
And I know my Redeemer liveth,
And later he shall stand up on the earth;
And after my skin this is torn in pieces,
Yet from my flesh shall I see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And mine eyes shall behold, and not a stranger:
My reins consume in mine inwards.
If ye say, How shall we persecute him,
And the root of the matter is found in him?
Fear for yourselves before the sword,
For there is wrath, crimes of the sword;
That ye may know [there is] a judgment.
Thus does Job deprecate the persistent suspicion which pursues him, spite of his solemn protestations of innocence. If it were indeed a chastisement of evil, it was his own affair. But he would meet their thought, and frankly acknowledge that his trouble did come from God. It was He who had hurled him down, and compassed him in inextricable toils. It was He who refused to listen to his cry, and gave no ear to his appeals. It was Eloah who had hedged up his way that he could not escape, covered his path with darkness, stripped him of honor, and taken the crown from off his head, crushing him on every side, so that he was going, and uprooting even his hope. It was He whose anger burned against him, and who counted him as of His foes, massing His troops, and rearing mounds against him, and encamping right around. Nor this only: it was He who embittered his social circle, and the privacy of home; his brethren removed, his acquaintance estranged, his kinsmen failed, his familiars oblivious; his sojourners, his maid, counting him a stranger, an alien; his servant called in vain, though supplicated abjectly; himself an object of aversion to his wife, even when yearning after those nearest to him. The very youngsters despised him, and if he rose, spoke at him, instead of paying any respect; all his intimates loathed him, and those he loved were turned against him. For indeed he was emaciation personally, escaped with nothing but the skin of his teeth.
But he once more appeals to their compassion in presence of such ruin and misery, and the more because he owned it to be the hand of Eloah; and he asks why they should follow him up like God, and not be satisfied with his flesh. Then does the truth of God's intervention at the end flash so brightly before his soul that he wishes his words written, inscribed in the book, nay, graved with a pen of iron and with lead on a rook forever. And no wonder. He knows his Kinsman-Redeemer lives, and, the Last One, shall stand on the dust; and, no matter what the ravages of this mortal, from his flesh he shall see Eloah—see Him for himself, his eyes seeing Him, and not a stranger; so that his reins within pine for it now. Hence he admonishes his friends, if they persecuted and sought to fasten on him a moral cause for his woes, to dread an avenging sword for themselves. For if that be the day of resurrection power, it will be also one of retributive dealing and wrath, when the sins that escape man await God's sword. There will be no mistake then as to judgment.
1. Or, an end to.
2. The Peschito, followed by not a few moderns, has here calamity, and certainly this sense seems easier. The Vulgate, Authorized Version, and many critics, have “strength."
3. Literally, who will grant...
4. See note above.
5. Literally, the.