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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Job 8

 

 


Verses 1-7

JOB 8

BILDAD'S FIRST SPEECH:

BLUNT BLUSTERY BILDAD THINKS HE KNOWS THE ANSWER;

HIS BRUTAL; DISCOURTEOUS BEGINNING

Job 8:1-7

"Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,

How long wilt thou speak these things?

And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a mighty wind?

Doth God pervert justice?

Or doth the Almighty pervert righteousness?

If thy children have sinned against him,

And he hath delivered them into the hand of their transgression;

If thou wouldest seek diligently unto God,

And make thy supplication unto the Almighty;

If thou wert pure and upright:

Surely now he would awake for thee,

And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.

And though thy beginning was small,

Yet thy latter end would greatly increase."

To paraphrase Bildad's words: "You old bag of wind, how wrong you are! Doesn't God know enough to give you just what you deserve? Your children sinned, and look what happened to them; but if you will just repent and turn to God he will yet richly bless you!

"This speech of Bildad's was inconsiderate, unfeeling and discourteous."[1] "He insists that God is just; and that Job's troubles are evidence of his wickedness, and that if he would only turn to God, all would be well again."[2] As Matthew Henry observed, "Job's friends, like the messengers of his disasters, followed each other in rapid succession, the messengers with evil tidings, and his friends with harsh censures, perhaps both the messengers and the friends being unaware of how effectively they fitted into the design of Satan. The messengers were calculated to drive Job from his integrity; and the friends, chosen by the evil one, sought to drive him from the comfort of that integrity."[3]

A comparison of the speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad reveals that there was a progression. "Eliphaz, at first, was gentle and considerate, but Bildad was abrupt and harsh."[4]

"Bildad's conviction that righteous living inevitably leads to prosperity is by no means obsolete."[5] This writer once attended the funeral of a well-known popular Sheriff in Burkburnet, Texas. He lost his life, trying to save the lives of others when, during a Red River flood, he crossed the threatened bridge to close the Oklahoma entrance. On the way back, he was swept away when 169' feet of the bridge collapsed. In the conversations heard at the funeral, one said, "Well, I thought he was a good man; but evidently he was evil. Look what God did to him"!

Yes, as Bildad insisted in this speech, "This is the wisdom of the fathers" (Job 8:8); but how wrong it is! In our sin-cursed world, headed on a collision course with disaster, in outright rebellion against God, worshipping not the God of all grace, but the god of this world - Yes, in this world it is often, far too often, that it is the wicked who prosper, and the righteous who suffer. From the days of Abel who was slain because his deeds were righteous (1 John 3:12) to the Christian woman who lost her job this week because she refused to participate in the immorality and drunkenness of her contemporaries, the total experience of the human race denies the glib theology of Job's friends.

This age-old error is today prevalent in our own country. Hesser explained why. In the days of the great English writer Chaucer, "The ideal man was presented as the poor man; and the rich religious leaders of Medieval times were severely attacked in Canterbury Tales; but John Calvin taught that God would not justify reprobates by giving them prosperity. Successful business men were therefore honored as God's elect. When the Calvinistic Puritans settled America, they brought with them this evil doctrine, along with other Calvinistic errors."[6] The near-universal habit of churches in choosing successful business men as their ruling committee reveals the influence of that old theology.

"If thy children have sinned against him (God)" (Job 8:4). Barnes wrote that the word "if," as used here means "since";[7] and James James Moffatt's translation of the Bible, 1929, agreed with this, rendering the passage, "Though your children sinned against him."[8]

Pope identified this verse as an important witness to the unity of the Book of Job: "This verse connects the Dialogue and the Prologue, indicating that the two are not independent compositions."[9]

Kelly properly noted that, "One purpose of the Book of Job is to challenge the mechanical view of life,"[10] represented by Bildad's speech. In Bildad's view, the rich and prosperous people are the saints of God, and the poor, distressed and suffering people are the wicked. The stupidity of that view is matched only by that of the people who accept it.

Of course, God blesses his children; but their sufferings are inevitable because our whole human family, in the greatest extent, are dominated and controlled by that Evil One whom our progenitors chose to obey, rather than the Lord. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"! Luke's account of this beatitude is, "Blessed are ye poor"!


Verses 8-10

BILDAD QUOTES THE FATHERS AS ENDORSING HIS WORDS

"For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age,

And apply thyself to that which their fathers have searched out

(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing,

Because our days on earth are a shadow);

Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee,

And utter words out of their heart?"

"Inquire ... of the former age ... that which ... fathers have searched out" (8). "Back to the fathers, they say, back to antiquity; but there is no guarantee that they will not select the follies of the past instead of its wisdom."[11] Bildad was correct in one thing, namely, that the wisdom of the world in his day harmonized exactly with what he was saying. "Much of the Mesopotamian Wisdom Literature is in accord with Bildad's doctrine."[12] Anderson wrote that one of the purposes of the Book of Job is to challenge and repudiate, "The unthinking acceptance of such traditions."[13]


Verses 11-15

BILDAD SPEAKS OF JOB AS ONE WHO FORGETS GOD

"Can the rush grow up without mire?

Can the flag grow without water?

Whilst it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down,

It withereth before any other herb.

So are the paths of all that forget God;

And the hope of the godless man shall perish.

Whose confidence shall break in sunder,

And whose trust is a spider's web.

He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand:

He shall hold fast thereby, but it shall not endure."

"They perish before any other herb" (Job 8:12). Bildad, in this passage, appeals to the suddenness with which the rushes that grow in the marsh or edge of the river wither if their water supply fails. This is only a thinly veiled allusion to the suddenness of those disasters that came to Job; and he brutally applied his illustration to Job, affirming that, "So it happens to the godless man, and the man that forgets God" (Job 7:13).

"Whose trust is a spider's web" (Job 8:14). What Bildad says here, applying it to Job, of course, is that, "The hope of the ungodly man is as insubstantial as a spider's web."[14] In these words, Bildad sees the false hope, (as he thinks Job's hope is false) as something that Job has produced within himself, just as a spider's web is spun from that which comes out of the spider's body.[15] This is actually a very accurate picture of false hope; but it had no application whatever to Job.


Verses 16-19

BILDAD IRONICALLY DESCRIBES THE GODLESS MAN'S JOY

"He is green before the sun,

And his shoots go forth over his garden.

His roots are wrapped about the stone heap,

He beholdeth the place of stones.

If he be destroyed from his place,

Then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.

Behold, this is the joy of his way;

And out of the earth shall others spring."

"He is green before the sun" (Job 8:16). This is a reference to Job in the days of his prosperity. Then Bildad went on to speak of, "the place of stones," Job's rocky road, (Job 8:17), and of his being "destroyed" and "denied" (Job 8:18), adding sarcastically and ironically, "This is the joy" of the way Job was going! We are grateful to Samuel Terrien for his word that, "Behold, this is the joy of his way, should be interpreted ironically."[16]

All of the Commentators have mentioned the difficulty of the text in these verses, some of it "making little sense";[17] but we have commented on the words as they stand in our version.


Verses 20-22

BILDAD'S FINAL THRUST AT JOB

"Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man,

Neither will he uphold the evil-doers.

He will yet fill thy mouth with laughter,

And thy lips with shouting.

They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame;

And the tent of the wicked shall be no more."

"God will not cast away a perfect man" (Job 8:20). Bildad's assertion here makes him the precursor of those who mocked Jesus on the Cross using this same logic: `He trusts in God; let God deliver him' (Matthew 27:43)."[18]

"Neither will he uphold the evil-doers" (Job 8:20). The Anchor Bible translates this, "Nor grasp the hand of evil doers." However, that does not alter the meaning.

"He will yet fill thy mouth with laughter" (Job 8:21). This should be interpreted in the light of those tremendous Ifs that stand at the head of the chapter. Bildad means that all of this joy and laughter will come to Job, only IF he will repent, confess his wickedness, and pray to God.

"Bildad's tragic mistake lay in this, that he thought his commonplace utterances were sufficient to explain all the mysteries of life."[19] "When we know about the sufferings of Jesus, our despair and perplexity can never approach that which befell Job."[20]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 8:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/job-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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