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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Job 18

Verses 1-21

Job 18:1-21

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite.

The danger of denouncing wickedness

How wonderfully well the three comforters painted the portrait of wickedness! Nothing can be added to their delineation of sin. Every touch is the touch of a master. If you would see what wickedness is, read the speeches which are delivered in the Book of Job. Nothing can be added to their grim truthfulness. But there is a great danger about this; there is a danger that men may make a trade of denouncing wickedness. There is also a danger that men may fall into a mere habit of making prayers. This is the difficulty of all organised and official spiritual life. It is a danger which we cannot set aside; it is, indeed, a peril we can hardly modify; but there is a horrible danger in having to read the Bible at an appointed hour, to offer a prayer at a given stroke of the clock, and to assemble for worship upon a public holiday, But all this seems to be unavoidable; the very spirit of order requires it; there must be some law of consent and fellowship, otherwise public worship would be impossible; but consider the tremendous effect upon the man who has to conduct that worship! It is a terrible thing to have to denounce sin every Sunday twice at least; it is enough to ruin the soul to be called upon to utter holy words at mechanical periods. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The second discourse of Bildad

We may look at the words of Bildad in this chapter in two aspects: as representing the reprehensible in conduct, and the retributive in destiny.

The reprehensible in conduct. There are four things implied in the second, third, and fourth verses, which must be regarded as elements of evil.

1. There is wordiness. “How long will it be ere ye make an end of words?” Job had spoken much. Wordiness implies superficiality. Copiousness of speech is seldom retold in connection with profundity of thought. But it promotes, as well as implies, infertility of thought. The man of fluent utterance gets on so well without thinking, that he loses the habit of reflection. Nor is it less an evil to the hearer. The wordy man wastes their precious time, exhausts their patience, and often irritates his auditors.

2. There is unthoughtfulness. “Mark, and afterwards we will speak.” He insinuates that Job had spoken without thought or intelligence, and calls upon him to deliberate before he speaks. Unthoughtfulness is an evil of no small magnitude.

3. There is contemptuousness. “Wherefore are we counted as beasts, and reputed vile in your sight?” Job had said in the preceding chapter, “Thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt them.” Bildad perhaps refers to this, and insinuates that Job had treated him and those who were on his side as the beasts of the field--“senseless and polluted.” Contempt for men is an evil: it is a moral wrong.

4. There is rage. “He teareth himself in his anger.” Bildad means to indicate that Job was in a paroxysm of fury, that he had thrown aside the reins of reason, and that he was borne on the whirlwind of exasperated passion. Hence he administers reproof: “Shall the earth be forsaken for thee?” As if he had said, Thou speakest as if everything and everybody must give way to thee; as if the interests of all others must yield to thee; and that thou must have the whole world to thyself, and all of us must clear off. “Shall the rock be removed out of his place?” As if he had said, It would seem from thy reckless speech that thou wouldest have the most immutable things in nature to suit thy comfort and convenience. Rage is bad. When man gives way to temper he dishonours his nature, he imperils his well-being, he wars with God and the order of the universe. Now we are far enough from justifying Bildad in charging these evils upon Job; albeit he was right in treating them as evils.

The retributive is destiny. What are the retributive calamities that pursue and overtake the sinner?

1. Desolation. “The light of the wicked shall be put out.” Light, by the Orientals, was ever used as the emblem of prosperity. The extinction of the light therefore is an image of utter desolation. Sin evermore makes desolate.

2. Embarrassment. “The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own council shall cast him down,” etc. In every step of the sinner’s path it may be said “the snare is laid for him in the ground, and a trap for him by the way.” Truly the wicked is snared by the work of his own hands.

3. Alarms. “Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him to his feet,” etc. (verses 11-14). Fear is at once the offspring and avenger of sin. The guilty conscience peoples the whole sphere of life with the grim emissaries of retribution. Fear is one of hell’s most tormenting fiends.

4. Destruction. “It shall dwell in his tabernacle because it is none of his,” etc. (verses 15-21). His home will be gone; his tabernacle will be “none of his” any longer. His memory will be gone. “His remembrance shall perish from the earth.” Once his name was heard in the street, pronounced perhaps often in the day by merchant, manufacturer, clerk, etc., but it has passed away from all tongues. His presence will be gone. “He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.” His progeny will be gone. He shall neither have son nor nephew among his people. His nearest relations will soon follow him to the grave, and none will appear to make mention of his name. Suffering must follow sin, as certain as season follows season. Hell is bound by chains stronger than those that bind the planets to the sun. (Homilist.)

Verse 4

Job 18:4

Shall the earth be forsaken for thee?

The folly of discontent

Some of Job’s friends said to him, “Shall the earth be forsaken for thee, and shall the rock be removed out of its place?” So I may say to every discontented, impatient heart, “What! shall the providence of God change its course for thee? Dost thou think it such a weak thing that, because it does not please thee, it must alter its course? Be thou content, or not content, the providence of God will go on.” When you are in a ship at sea that has all her sails spread with a full gale of wind, and swiftly sailing, can you make it still by running up and down in the ship? No more can you make the providence of God change its course with your fretting; it will go on with power, do what thou canst. (J. Burroughs.)

Verses 5-6

Job 18:5-6

The light of the wicked shall be put out.

--The reference is to a lamp that was suspended from the ceiling. The Arabians are fond of this image. Thus they say, “Bad fortune has extinguished my lamp.” Of a man whose hopes are remarkably blasted, they say, “He is like a lamp which is immediately extinguished if you let it sink in the oil” (see Schultens). The putting out of the lamp is to the Orientals an image of utter desolation. It is the universal custom to have a light burning in their houses at night. “The houses of Egypt in modern times are never without lights; they burn lamps all the night long, and in every occupied apartment. So requisite to the comfort of a family is this custom reckoned, and so imperious is the power which it exercises, that the poorest people would rather retrench part of their food than neglect it.”--Paxton. It is not improbable that this custom prevailed in former times in Arabia, as it now does in Egypt; and this consideration will give increased beauty and force to the passage. (Albert Barnes.)

Three sorts of light

Moral, spiritual, civil.

1. Moral light is the light of wisdom, prudence, and understanding. In this sense some Rabbins understand the text; as if he had said, the wicked man shall be made a very fool, destitute of wit, reason, understanding, and ability to judge or know what evil is upon him, or what is good for him. The spirit of counsel shall be taken from him. That is a sore judgment.

2. There is spiritual light, and that is double. The light of the knowledge of God, and the light of comfort from God. The knowledge we receive from God is light; and the joy we receive from God is light. Some interpret the peace of this spiritual light. Though a wicked man, an hypocrite, hath a great measure of this light, yet his light shall be put out, as Christ threatens (Matthew 13:12).

3. A civil light: that is, the light of outward prosperity. And so these words are a gradation, teaching us that, not only whatsoever a carnal man reckons his greatest splendour, but what he calls his smallest ray of temporal blessedness, shall be wrapt in darkness and obscurity. Outward prosperity may be called “light” upon a threefold consideration.

(1) Because as light refresheth and cheereth the spirits, so doth outward prosperity and the presence of worldly accommodations.

(2) Light helps us on in our work; no man can work until he have either the natural light of the sun and fire, or some artificial light. Prosperity and peace carry us on in our worldly affairs.

3. Light makes us conspicuous: we are seen what we are in the light. Thus outward prosperity makes men appear. Poverty joins with obscurity. (Joseph Caryl.)

The light shall be dark in his tabernacle.

A plea for the idiot

The text is part of Bildad’s description of a wicked man. The description might, however, be adapted to represent weakness and deficiency, as well as wickedness. Those who are of radically weak understanding may be spoken of thus: “The light shall be dark in his tabernacle.” There is a four-fold light in our nature, placed there by our Creator, the Father of our spirits--the light of the understanding, the light of the judgment, the light of the conscience (including the whole moral sense), and the light of the religious sensibility, This light may be diminished, nay, even extinguished, by wickedness. Sin reduces the natural light within us, and continuous sinning involves constant decrease in that light. Sins in the body and sins against the body lessen the light of the understanding, and reduce the power of mental conception, and the power of thought. All sin perverts the judgment, sears the conscience, and blunts the moral sense. By continuing in sin there is a hardening process carried on, so that sin is at length committed without fear, or remorse, or regret. All sin tends to destroy faith in God, and to stop intercourse with God. The whole tendency of sin is to reduce the light within him. But there is a Deliverer from this position; there is a Saviour from this condition There is, in some cases, a natural deficiency of the light of which we have been speaking--a natural defect in conscience, understanding, judgment, and religious sensibility--a deep and radical defect. This is idiocy. “The light is dark in the tabernacle.” What can be done in such cases? Five things.

1. Whatever latent capacity is possessed may be developed--power of observation, and of speech, power of attention and acquisition, power of thought and feeling, power of skill and labour, moral and religious power. The idiot is not a broken vessel, but an unfilled vessel; not a broken candlestick, but a candlestick with a feeble lamp.

2. The external condition may be made comfortable and pleasant, and favourable to the idiot’s improvement. The dwelling may be made wholesome and attractive, and may present objects to the eye which shall call out the imagination, and evoke healthy sentiment and feeling.

3. All the energy of the body and of the spirit which is manifested may be directed into the channels of usefulness.

4. The almost insupportable burden of providing for an idiot child in the family whose means are scanty and insufficient may be shared or entirely borne by Christian benevolence.

5. A refuge from observation, and mockery, and injudicious treatment, and from ill-treatment, may be provided for idiots who are not poor. On all grounds it is most undesirable for those who are distinctly idiotic to live with those whose condition is sound. Consider the claims of idiots upon us Christians. The birth of idiots is a great mystery. It is one of the mysteries that would crush us if we did not look up. Way does God permit and inflict idiocy? It cannot come from malevolence in God. All we can say is, God willeth, and it must be right. Children smitten through their parents have a strong claim--the strongest possible claim--upon Christian benevolence. We may not be kept back from providing for the idiot by the fact that the affliction is sometimes directly traceable to sin in the parents and other ancestors. (Samuel Martin, M. A.)

Verse 12

Job 18:12

His strength shall be hunger-bitten.

The hunger-biter

A curse which will be fulfilled upon the ungodly. It is not said that they are hunger-bitten, but that their strength is so; and if their strength is hunger-bitten, what must their weakness be? When a man’s strength is bitten with hunger, what a hunger must be raging throughout the whole of his nature! A large proportion of men make their gold to be their strength, their castle, and high tower. But every ungodly man ought to know that riches are not forever, and often they take to themselves wings and flee away. If this hunger does not come upon the ungodly man during the former part of his life, it will come to him at the close of it.

The kind of discipline through which God puts the self-righteous when He means to save them. Many people are very religious, but are not saved. When God means to save a man, the hunger of the heart comes in and devours all his boasted excellence. Some are very satisfied because, in addition to a commendable life they have performed certain ceremonies to which they impute great sanctity. May your strength be hunger-bitten if you are resting in anything which is external and unspiritual.

There are many of God’s servants whose strength is lamentably hunger-bitten. They may be hunger-bitten through not feeding upon the Word of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 14

Job 18:14

His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.

The confidence of the wicked

The world understands by the word “wicked” one who offends against the law of conscience,--one who breaks the second table of the law, the only table which it thinks important. Scripture means by it one who violates his relationship to God,--who transgresses the first table of the law. The term “wicked” has much more reference to the state of their hearts towards God than their state before man. Bildad shows the effects of wickedness.

On the wicked man himself (Job 18:7-8). The great point in these verses is the certainty with which he brings misery upon himself. His very sins are made his chastisement.

On his family (Job 18:6). “The light shall be darkened in his tabernacle.” In some Eastern countries a lamp is suspended from the ceiling of each room, and kept burning all the night, so that the house is full of light. And so, in the dwellings of the godly, there is light--the light of God’s presence. But in the dwellings of the ungodly there is no such light, and no blessing. And with the absence of this there is also, very often, the absence of family union and love. Very different is the Christian’s confidence. It rests upon a faithful and unchanging Saviour. Its roots strike deep into the everlasting hills. (George Wagner.)

It shall bring him to the king of terrors.

Death is terrible

Under a threefold consideration.

1. If we consider the antecedents, the forerunners or harbingers of death, which are pains, sicknesses, and diseases.

2. If we consider the nature of death. What is death? Death is a disunion; all disunions are troublesome, and some are terrible. Those are most terrible which rend that from us which is nearest to us. Death is also a privation, and a total privation. Death is such a privation, as from which there can be no return to nature.

3. In regard of the consequents. Rottenness and corruption consume the dead, and darkness covers them in the grave. We may ranks a threefold gradation of the terribleness of death.

(1) To a godly man, when his spiritual state is unsettled.

(2) When his worldly estate is well settled, when he hath deeply engaged in the creature, and his earthly mountain apparently stands strong.

(3) Death is most terrible to those who, though they have the knowledge of God, and outwardly profess the Gospel of Christ, yet walk contrary to it. It should be our study, as it is our wisdom, to make this “king of terrors” a kind of “king of comfort” to us. Many believers have attained to this.

A believer moves on these principles.

1. That death cannot break the bond of the covenant between God and us.

2. Death may break the union between the soul and the body, but it cannot break the union between the soul and Christ. This outlives death.

3. The apostle asserts that the sting of death is out.

4. Scripture calls death a sleep or rest.

5. Death puts a period to our earthly sorrows, and we have no reason to be sorry for that.

6. It is called a “going to God,” in whom we shall have an eternal enjoyment.

7. It is a dying to live, as well as a dying from life. (Joseph Caryl.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 18". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.