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BILDAD’S FIRST SPEECH
Bildad less courteous and considerate of Job’s feelings than even Eliphaz. Commences with an unfeeling reflection on his speech. Pursues the same line of argument and address as his predecessor—
(1) God is righteous—punishing the bad, and rewarding those who seek and serve Him;
(2) Job exhorted to prove the latter by sincere repentance and prayer;
(3) The prosperity of the wicked short-lived, and sure to end in ruin: the end of the righteous certain joy and triumph.
I. Bildad’s Introduction (Job 8:2).
A harsh censure on Job’s speech—
(1) For its length. “How long wilt thou speak,” &c. Had listened to Job with impatience. Due to every man to hear him patiently, especially a man in affliction;
(2) For its matter. “How long wilt thou speak these things?” Uttered with contempt—these worthless and wicked sentiments;
(3) For its vehemence. “And the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind”—recklessly bearing down all before thee, human and Divine. Intensely unfeeling thus to attack the words of a man in such deep distress. Faultiness in another’s speech no excuse for unfeelingness in our own. Job’s speech not more destitute of sobriety than Bildad’s is of sympathy. Difficult even under the Gospel to have our “speech always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Christians so to speak as to “minister grace to the hearer,” and bring glory to God. Bildad’s censure not without use to preachers. Suggests care as to—
(1) The length;
(2) The matter;
(3) The manner of their discourses. Preachers to avoid—
(2) Unsound or unprofitable matter;
(3) A vehement and boisterous delivery.
II. Bildad strongly asserts the Divine righteousness (Job 8:3).
“Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?” This apparently implied in Job’s complaints. God essentially righteous. Incapable of injustice towards His creatures. As “the Almighty,” He is beyond any temptation to act unjustly. The Judge of all the earth cannot but do right (Genesis 18:25). Severe complaints like Job’s, a reflection on God’s justice. God is righteous.
1. In punishing sin. The reference in Bildad’s mind both to Job’s affliction and his children’s death. Cruelly treats the latter as a probable, if not certain, instance of Divine justice (Job 8:4).—“If (or, ‘since’) thy children have sinned against Him, and He have cast them away for (margin, ‘in the hand of) their transgression,” making their sin in immoderate feasting to be its own punishment, &c. An erroneous as well as unfeeling application of the general truth.
(1) Job’s children had sinned, out not above all men that dwelt in the land of Uz;
(2) Their sin was not the occasion of their death. No injustice on God’s part, however, either to Job or his children, in allowing the calamity. Sufficient sin in each to merit more than any earthly affliction (Lamentations 3:39). Death, in the case of believers’ children, their removal to a better state. To the parents, overruled for their elevation to a higher spiritual life. Bildad’s error in regarding earth as the sphere of God’s retributive justice. General tendency to view calamity as the righteous punishment of sinful conduct. The tower in Siloam. The error reproved by Jesus (Luke 13:1-5). The unjust reserved to the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2:9). The present life rather the time of forbearance and mercy (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15). Many apparent anomalies in the Divine procedure. Examples: Abel’s murder, and Cain’s long and prosperous life. A future state necessary to clear up these anomalies, and fully display the righteousness of God.
2. In rewarding those who seek and serve Him (Job 8:5).—“If thou” (emphatic, thou who art still spared) “wouldst seek unto God betimes (repair to Him earnestly and at once), and make, &c., if thou wert pure [in thy heart and motive] and upright I in thy profession and practice while so doing]; surely now [even in thy extreme misery] He would awake for thee” (and come quickly to thy help). The error and sting in all this, the supposition that Job had been a wicked man and a hypocrite. The sentiment in itself true and profitable.
(1) God the only help and refuge in trouble (Psalms 46:1.)
(2) The duty and interest of all in trouble to betake themselves to Him.
(3) This to be attended to “betimes,” at once, and with all earnestness.
(4) Supplication to be made to Him for pardon, deliverance, and grace (Lamentations 3:41).
(5) This to be done in sincerity and uprightness, with a renouncing of all sin (Psalms 66:18).
(6) The result a certain and speedy interposition in our behalf.
A twofold promise held out:
1. A peaceful and prosperous habitation;
2. A large increase in worldly possessions (Job 8:7). “He would make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous,” (or, “would restore thy then righteous habitation, and endow it with perfect felicity”). Temporal blessing promised as the expression of the Divine favour. An insinuation that Job’s dwelling had not formerly been a righteous one. Two great mercies indicated m this promise.
(1) A pious home; a home where—(i.) God is daily and duly acknowledged and worshipped; (ii.). The members of the family live in love towards each other; (iii.) All the duties of morality and religion are carefully attended to. Such a dwelling contrasted with the “tents of wickedness” (Psalms 84:11).
(2) A peaceful and prosperous home; where—(i.) The inmates are at peace with God and with one another; (ii.) God prospers their honest endeavours to obtain a competent livelihood; (iii.) They are preserved from domestic troubles; (iv.) All the inmates are the pardoned and accepted children of God. A pious home usually a peaceful and prosperous one. There God commands his blessing (Psalms 133:3). The ark brought a blessing with it into Obededom’s house (2 Samuel 6:10-11). The voice of rejoicing and salvation in the tabernacles of the righteous (Psalms 118:15). A peaceful habitation a new covenant blessing (Isaiah 32:18). The dove of Divine peace hovers over the altar of domestic worship.
III. Bildad refers Job to the Fathers for instruction (Job 8:8).
“Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers,”—to the examination of the records of those still further distant, as Noah, Shem, &c. The reason given: “For we (the present generation as compared with the past, or viewed as single individuals) are but of yesterday and know nothing” (—have comparatively little knowledge and experience of God’s dealings with men); “because our days upon earth (as mere individuals, or as compared with those of our ancestors), are a shadow. Shall they not teach thee and tell thee [how God acts towards men in this world], and utter words out of their heart,”—well-pondered sayings as the result of their careful observation and reflection? Knowledge in the earlier period of the world rather the results of observation. These embodied in poetical and proverbial sayings. Such sayings existed either as written records or as traditional poetry. Especially valued by the Arabs, and still esteemed by them as the strongest testimonies. Mostly, however, the productions only of human wisdom, and to be distinguished from Divine revelation. Amongst them were the utterances of inspired men, as that of Enoch (Jude 1:14.).
Such traditions to be received with deference and respect, but not as of binding authority. Their authority that of the arguments which support them. Men always fallible, except as inspired by God to deliver truth. The fathers of the race and the fathers of the Church in the same category. Their wisdom and experience neither to be disregarded nor implicitly received. Increased light obtained with the advance of ages and the increase of experience. The wisdom and experience of each generation to be valued as a contribution to that of its successors. Opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making [Milton]. It is only the weak who, at each epoch, believe mankind to have arrived at the culminating point of their progressive march [Humboldt]. The famous test of ecclesiastical tradition a safe one, if it could be found,—what has been taught by all, taught always, and taught everywhere. The longevity of the earlier ages favourable for wider observation. In the time of Job, human life reduced to about 200 years. Noah lived to be 950; Arphaxad, his grandson, only 438; Peleg, the great-grandson of Arphaxad, 239; Serug, Peleg’s grandson, probably about the time of Job, 230; Terah, Serug’s grandson and the father of Abraham, 205. The change apparent and striking to those living at the time. Hence Bildad’s acknowledgment—
Human Life a Shadow
Time measured at that time by the shadow projected by the index of a dial, a spear stuck in the ground, &c. Man’s life but a solar day,—as the shadow fleeting along the dial-plate. Life mercifully reduced in consequence of sin. A long, vigorous life-time more favourable to the development of human depravity. “The heart never grows better by age: I fear, worse,—always harder” [Lord Chesterfield]. Great longevity only gives occasion to the godly for David’s lament (Psalms 120:5-6). The present extent of human life long enough for a child of God to be kept from home (2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Life, as a “shadow,” calls for—
(1) Diligence in the improvement of it. Momentous issues hang on the fleeting shadow. Eternal interests demand despatch.
(2) A loose hold of things of time. Like life itself, “all here is shadow, all beyond is substance.” Foolish to set the heart on a shadow. “He builds too low who builds beneath the skies.”
(3) A proper estimate to be made of the troubles and joys, the possessions and pursuits, of the present life.
(4) Earnestness in securing a solid And lasting happiness beyond the grave.
IV. Quotation from the ancients (Job 8:11-19). Exhibits:
1. The temporary prosperity of the ungodly. Compared—
(1) To the paper-reed of Egypt, and the flag of the marsh or grass of the meadow (Job 8:11). “Can the rush (or ‘papyrus’) grow up without mire? Can the flag (‘marsh-plant,’ or ‘grass of the meadow,’—same word wrongly translated ‘meadow’ in Genesis 41:2.) grow without water?” The papyrus of the Nile formerly used in the manufacture of garments, shoes, baskets, boats, and paper, whence our English word. The papyrus probably employed by the Jews of Alexandria for writing on while translating the Old Testament into Greek, having used this very word in the place of our “rush.” Now only found in marshes of the White Nile in Nubia, and in one or two spots in Palestine. Such plants capable of receiving a large supply of water which they require for their nourishment. Grow tall and luxuriant while the water is supplied; but speedily die when that supply is withdrawn. Picture of worldly men who have no living principle of enduring prosperity within themselves, either in the love of God in them, or the blessing of God on them. Their prosperity only from favourable circumstances, which may at any time come to an end. Contrast Human with Joseph, both attaining to the highest prosperity.
(2) To a spider’s web, constructed with the greatest care, and expected to prove a lasting support to its possessor, but which the slightest accident may disturb and destroy (Job 8:14). “Whose trust (his riches, &c. in which he trusts) shall be a spider’s web”—as unsubstantial and as certain speedily to perish. “The spider’s most attenuated thread is cord, is cable,” compared to such prosperity and trust.
(3) To a luxuriant garden-tree, growing near a fountain and striking its numerous roots into the rocky bed on which it stands, open to the sun, and with every advantage of soil and situation (Job 8:16-17). “He is green (or moist) before the sun (enjoying the warm and genial influence of its rays), and his branch shooteth forth in his garden: his roots are wrapped about the heap (or fountain), and seeth the place of stones” (enjoys the benefit of rocky strata for its support). A still more striking picture of the prosperous ungodly than the tall and luxuriant marsh-plant. Compare Psalms 37:35.
2. The certain and speedy termination of that prosperity.
(1) The papyrus or marsh-plant suddenly withers from want of the required supply of water (Job 8:12). “Whilst it is yet in its greenness (promising long continuance), and not cut down (—without any hand applied to pluck or cut it down), it withereth before any other herb” (suddenly decays without giving notice of the approaching change, while other plants less dependent on a large supply of moisture continue to live). Soon ripe, soon rotten. The prosperity of the ungodly a Jonah’s gourd.
(2) The spider’s web, on which he depends for his support, speedily perishes by accident or the broom (Job 8:15). “He (the spider, or the ungodly whom he represents) shall lean on his house (on his web, or the riches, family, &c, of the worldly figured by it), but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast (or, lay hold of it—for its preservation, or rather for his own support), but it shall not endure.” “Time destroys the well-built house as well as the spider’s web” [Arab Proverb]. The prosperity and bliss of the worldly man perishes like that flimsy web. It is well if, like that web also, it does not bury its possessor in its ruins.
(3) The luxuriant tree, spreading abroad its roots and branches, is suddenly struck by lightning or whirlwind, and at once becomes a leafless skeleton, or is laid prostrate on its native soil (Job 8:18). “If he destroy him (or, ‘if he [or it] be destroyed’—Heb. ‘swallowed up’) from his place, then it shall deny him, saying: I have not seen thee”—the place where it stood is forgotten. The application given by the Psalmist: “He (the wicked) passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (Psalms 37:36). History full of such instances. Haman, instead of parading on the monarch’s horse, is left hanging on a felon’s gallows. When the Messenians saw the renowned Philopœmon stripped and dragged along with his hands ignominiously bound behind his back, “they wept, and contemned all human greatness as a faithless support, as vanity and nothing” [Plutarch]. The Emperor Vitellius was driven through the streets of Rome naked, and then thrown into the Tiber.
“O mighty Cæsar! dost thou lie so low!
Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
Shrunk to this little measure?”
3. The application (Job 8:13). “So are life paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”
Forgetfulness of God
Those “who forget God” placed in the same class with the “hypocrite,” or rather the “profane,” or “wicked.” Enough to characterize a man as wicked, that he “forgets God” (So Psalms 9:17; Psalms 10:4). To forget God is—
(1) Not to think of Him;
(2) Not to thank Him;
(3) Not to serve and obey Him. It is to forget—
(1) His presence;
(2) His Providence;
(3) His precepts. Forgetfulness of another implies—
(1) Want of love;
(2) Want of respect. Men feel wounded on being forgotten by those whom they love, and on whose love they have a claim. Observe—
1. Forgetfulness of God is the root and essence of all sin. It is to ignore, and, as far as we are able, to annihilate, Him from His own universe. It is to treat Him as though there were no such Being. The fool hath said in his heart, “No God” (Psalms 14:1). To “remember” God equivalent to loving and serving Him (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 64:5).
2. To forget God is to forget Him who possesses all claims to our remembrance;—
(1) From what He is in Himself;
(2) From what He is and has been to us. God is—
(1) The Being who is the Source and Centre of all possible excellence and loveliness;
(2) Our Creator and Father;
(3) Our Preserver from moment to moment;
(4) Our Provider;
(5) Our Protector;
(6) Our Deliverer from trouble and danger;
(7) Our Benefactor and best Friend;
(8) In Christ our Redeemer and Saviour from sin and all its direful consequences.
3. In forgetting God we give our thoughts and hearts to the world, which has no attraction but what it derives from Him, and which can neither satisfy nor sace us. To forget God, therefore, is both ingratitude, robbery, and idolatry. It is to rob Him of His honour as well as ourselves of peace.
4. To remember God is to elevate, ennoble, and purify ourselves.
V. Conclusion of Bildad’s Speech (Job 8:20-22). Perhaps another of the sayings of the ancients. Same general subject—God’s dealings with the righteous and the wicked. Intended, like parts of the speech of Eliphaz, either for consolation or conviction, or perhaps both. Contains—
1. Comfort for the godly under trial (Job 8:20). “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man” (see chap. Job 1:1). Hence, comfort for Job, if such. This, however, still to be proved. A. righteous man may be cast down, but not cast away (Psalms 94:14; 2 Corinthians 6:9). Hence the difficulty to Job’s friends in judging of his character. For the present, to all appearance, he was cast away. Himself, his family, and his fortunes, apparently a total wreck. The question therefore natural—Has Job been what he appeared? Or has he at length in his prosperity turned his back upon God? The Divine rule—“If thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Job himself conscious this was not his case: but this uncertain to the others. A truly good man proved lo be such by continuing good. Care to be taken not only to begin, but to persevere in well-doing. Not to prove a castaway, Paul kept his body under (1 Corinthians 9:27). (Job 8:21). “Till (or, ‘while’—connecting with Job 8:22) he shall fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing” (margin, “shouting for joy.”) “Till,” &c., implies continuance in well doing and well-suffering. In due time we reap, if we faint not. Sowing in tears, we reap in joy. The “shouting” of victory crowns the well-fought battle. That “shouting” one—
(1) of joy. “The ransomed of the Lord return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy on their heads” (Isaiah 35:10).
(2) Of praise. “Salvation to our God that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory” (Psalms 115:1).
2. Warning to the ungodly (Job 8:20). “Neither will he help the evil-doers.”—Margin, “take the ungodly by the hand,” or, “take hold of their hand,”—i.e., with the view of helping and countenancing them. An unkind out for poor Job, who seemed far enough from Divine help. So little can man know either love or hatred from that which s before him (Ecclesiastes 9:1). Now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds (ch. Job 37:21). “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.” A solemn truth in the words of Bildad. The help which the ungodly receive is not God’s help. Divine help the privilege of the godly (Psalms 63:7; Acts 26:22). To enjoy God’s help we must employ ourselves in God’s service (Job 8:22).—“They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame (as Psalms 35:26; Psalms 109:29; Psalms 132:18). The ungodly, however prosperous for a time, condemned to shame. Shame the natural fruit of sin (Romans 6:21). Shame and contempt the characteristic and doom of the risen ungodly (Daniel 12:2). “Shame” experienced—
(1) That they madly threw away their souls for the pleasures of sin;
(2) That those whom they hated and despised they now see crowned with joy and victory;
(3) That they so basely fought against the God that made them.—“And the dwelling-place (Heb. ‘tent,’ as Psalms 84:11) of the wicked shall come to nought,”—as a tent when struck leaves no trace of it behind. The “tent” of the ungodly may be a rich pavilion, but its doom is written. Sin brings families as well as individuals to certain ruin.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27