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Bible Commentaries
Job 18

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-21


Bildad the bitterest and most hostile of the three friends. No speech as yet so insolent and provoking. Full of fiery scathing denunciation against—the wicked—intending, of course, its application to Job, without even the exhortation or promise to repentance.

I. His introduction. Contains only angry and vehement reproof. Reproves Job—

1. For his loquacity and captiousness (Job 18:2). “How long will it be are ye make an end of words (or how long will ye lay snares for words?) mark (Heb. ‘understand,’ i.e., consider, viz., our arguments; perhaps, ‘be temperate,’ or. ‘speak clearly’), and afterwards we will speak” (or, “that afterwards we may speak”). Bildad’s language and tone not only passionate but contemptuous. “How long will ye,” &c., instead of “thou.” A great part of wisdom is to govern one’s temper. “A fool’s wrath is presently known; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” “Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Yet a wise man, from the weakness of human nature, may allow himself to be surprised into angry and contemptuous words. True wisdom characterized by meekness and gentleness—“meekness of wisdom.” The tongue and temper never more in need of a bridle than in a controversy. Easy to lose a religious spirit in a religions dispute. Christ, incarnate wisdom, a model in controversy—calm, patient, loving; always “meek and lowly;” reviled, without reviling again. Bildad impatient of Job’s reproof and depreciatory remarks in reference to his and his friends’ speeches. Represents Job as only catching at words; as like those Jews who “lay in wait for Jesus, seeking to catch something out of His mouth, and to entangle Him in His talk.” Observe—

(1) Passion is seldom truthful.

(2) Loss of temper generally proves weakness in argument. Consciousness of truth gives calmness in dispute. To bully an opponent is to confess yourself beaten.

(3) Patience and courtesy always due to an adversary.

2. For his pride and contempt (Job 18:3). “Wherefore are we counted as beasts (ignorant and brutish), and reputed vile in your sight?” Too much ground given in Job’s language for Bildad’s reproof. His spirit broken by trouble, and exasperated by their unfeeling, unjust, and deceitful conduct, Job had treated his friends with too much severity and contempt. Bildad particularly stung by Job’s contemptuous language in ch. Job 17:4; Job 17:10. Observe—

(1) “Grievous wordsto be avoided, as always stirring up anger. In controversy, hard things apt to be said, and to be made harder than they are.

(2) Mans moral as well as physical ‘goodliness as the flower of the field.’ Job not always able to answer with the “meekness of wisdom,” as in ch. Job 2:10.

3. For his passion (Job 18:4). “He teareth himself (or, ‘he that teareth himself,’ or, ‘thou that tearest thyself’) in his anger.” Job represented as a raging maniac. Probably too much foundation for the remark. Anger, according to a heathen sage, a short madness. Job’s appearance and demeanour probably that of a man not only deeply distressed but greatly excited. “Oppression maketh a wise man mad.” Arabs usually grave, solemn, unperturbed; yet capable of great excitement. Held highly discreditable for a good man to allow himself to be in a passion. Passion always injurious to the subject of it, both spiritually and physically. “He teareth himself in his anger;” Heb., “he teareth his soul.” Wrathful dispositions, says a Greek poet, are justly most painful to the parties themselves. “Wrath killeth the foolish man” (ch. Job 5:2).

4. For his self-conceit. “Shall the earth be forsaken for thee? and shall the rock be removed out of his place?” More bitter words. Cruel and unfeeling as addressed to a crushed and afflicted man. Proverbial expressions with the Arabs in reproving pride and arrogance. Reference to Job’s wish for a trial of his case by God, and his complaint of undue severity. Seemed as if he expected some special dispensation in his favour. The government of the world not to be abandoned for the sake of any individual’s concerns. The Almighty not to go out of the way of his usual procedure to meet any man’s wishes. The course of nature and the principles of the Divine government not to be arrested for any one’s special accommodation. For any to think so implies vain conceit of his own importance. Yet Job’s wish and complaint excusable. His circumstances peculiar. His treatment not in accordance with God’s ordinary procedure, and with the consciousness of his own character. Bildad’s questions founded in ignorance. Unnecessary for God to neglect the government of the universe, or contravene the course of nature, in order to attend to the concerns of an individual. Such attention a part of that government. The fall of a sparrow, as well as of an empire, included in God’s providence. Numbers the hairs of our head equally with the stars of the firmanent. Man, in ignorance or forgetfulness, transfers his own weakness and limitation to God’s Almightiness and infinity. The Divine government based on unchanging principles. Judgment and justice the habitation of God’s throne. Impossible and unnecessary to depart from these principles to meet any particular case. “God is a rock—His work is perfect; a God of truth and without iniquity.” God Himself, and the principles of His government, an immovable rock. His own unchangeableness, and that of His “immortal government,” the foundation of His people’s confidence.

II. Body of the Speech. Describes the experience and fate of the wicked (Job 18:5-20).

A favourite subject with these wise men in their dealing with Job. The object to terrify him into a penitent acknowledgment of guilt and supplication for forgiveness. The description meant to depict Job’s circumstances, and so to suggest, if not prove, his guilt. This and those similar ones in ch. Job 8:11-22, and ch. Job 15:20-25, probably recitations from the ancients, or the productions of the inspired poet, the author of the book. Extemporary versification, however, a highly valued accomplishment among Arab poets and philosophers. The object of Satan in these horrifying descriptions to irritate Job to cast off his religion in despair, as of no use to him. The class described—that of hardened transgressors, secret or open, who had enriched themselves by oppression or abused their power to the injury of others—men who neither feared God nor regarded men.—Job notoriously the reverse. Hence the mystery. The solution, according to the friends, in the secret iniquity of his heart and life. Job himself, conscious of his integrity, perplexed and distressed, and longing for a Divine explanation which should vindicate his character. Hence his occasional excitement and apparently extravagant language. Had to fight against appearances, manifest facts, and popular belief, or to confess himself a bad man. His outward and inward experience seldom, if ever, found except in notorious transgressors. Probably more frequent then than now. The following a highly-wrought picture, full of tragically sublime poetry. One image of horror followed by another still more terrific. The description that of a guilty man chased by the avenging justice of God—the Furies of the Greeks. The elements in the description—

1. Great reverse in circumstances (Job 18:5). “Yea (notwithstanding your complaint; or ‘also,’ take another description of the fate of the ungodly), the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark (or flame) of his fire shall not shine.” Perhaps more than a mere figure for the extinction of his prosperity and affluence. Probable allusion to the practice of rich Arabs kindling, towards evening, a fire in the neighbourhood of their dwelling, to invite and direct travellers to their hospitality. Such fires the glory of a wealthy Arab. Mark of the deepest adversity when no longer sustained. A frequent allusion in Arab poetry—

“Now by deepest want opprest;
Though once my hospitable light
Was blest by travellers at night.”—


Job’s fires of hospitality also now extinguished. (Job 18:6).—“The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle (or lamp) shall be put out with him” (or “over him;” Arab houses and tents always having a lamp burning during the night, that of the principal apartment hanging from the ceiling or from the centre of the tent; hence the lamp a figure for prosperity and happiness, its extinction indicating utter desolation). Death and misfortune darken the dwelling. Job’s present bitter experience. The experience of most at times. Only Jehovah himself an “an everlasting light.” Is so to His people, even in the midst of trouble. “When I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8).

2. Removal of power and dignity (Job 18:7). “The steps of His strength (his steps formerly strong, as of a man in full health, prosperity, and power) shall be straitened” (confined as of a man in chains or imprisonment, or suffering from personal affliction). Image taken from a noble lion caught in the toils, and now lying prostrate. Picture of the contrast between Job’s former and present condition. For his former “steps” see ch. Job 29:6-7. Now lying on an ash-heap. Steps of strength soon changed into the feebleness of disease. Plans the most likely to succeed often, in Divine providence, impeded and rendered abortive. The misfortune of the wicked referred to their own sin as the cause. “His own counsel shall cast him down.” The lion caught in the toil when wandering about for prey. The wicked “snared in the work of their own hands.” Pharaoh’s counsel against Israel his own destruction. Cruel thrust at Job as a secret transgressor now caught in the midst of his ill-gotten gains.

3. Sudden and accumulated calamity (Job 18:8). “He is cast into a net by his own feet. (entangled with his feet in a net); he walketh upon a snare (walks unconsciously into a pit fall). The gin (or trap) shall take him by the heel, and the robber shall prevail against him (or, ‘the snare lays hold upon him,’ so that he is unable to escape). The snare (or cord) is laid (or hidden) in the ground for him, and a trap for him in the way.” Image of a wild beast caught by the various stratagems of the hunter. Men’s calamities, especially those of the impenitent transgressor, often sudden. “As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time when it falleth suddenly upon them (Ecclesiastes 9:12; see also Luke 21:34-35, and 1 Thessalonians 5:3). The worst troubles those which come unforeseen. Job’s actual circumstances. Overtaken by sudden calamities in the very heyday of his prosperity. Variety of expression in the text to indicate the certainity and terribleness of the doom. “He who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare” (Isaiah 24:17-18).

5. Inward terrors (Job 18:11). “Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him to his feet.” The terrors of an awakened and alarmed conscience among the consequences of persistent sin. Such terrors known in every land as overtaking the secret or notorious transgressors. “Who intent on evil ways will be able to defend his mind against the darts of conscience?” [Sophocles]. God’s scourge in the sinner’s own bosom. No rest or peace under its lashes. Attempts made to escape these “terrors,” but in vain. All flight ineffectual except flight through the cross. The terrors of conscience only quenched in the atoning blood of Christ. Job distressed at present by the “terrors of God,” but not those of an evil conscience (ch. Job 6:4).

6. Dreadful disease (Job 18:12-13). “His strength shall be hunger-bitten (famished; or, ‘his disease shall be voracious’), and destruction shall be ready at his side (or, ‘prepared for his side,’ or body,—ready to devour him). It shall devour the strength of his skin (the firm members of his body); even the first-born of death (one of the most dreadful of mortal diseases) shall devour his strength” (or, “prey upon his powerful limbs.”) Disease, with its feebleness and emaciation, personified as the executioner of Divine vengeance—the hungry hound of justice. Disease the result of sin; and often inflicted as a chastisement on the good and a punishment on the bad. Herod, the persecutor, seized and devoured by one of these dogs of vengeance in the midst of his pride and splendour (Acts 12:21-23). Job’s terrible disease also, a “first-born of death,” to all appearance, and in the thought of his three friends, preying on him as a guilty transgressor. No creature, animate or inanimate, but may be made the instrument of Divine justice in punishing obstinate and impenitent offenders. Creatures, animal or vegetable, invisible to the naked eye, often the cause of most dreadful diseases. Cholera and the plague among the “first-born of death.”

7. Utter want and desolation (Job 18:14-15). “His confidence (whatever he trusted in—wealth, power, family) shall be rooted out of his tabernacle (utterly, violently, and for ever removed, as a tree torn up by the roots), and it shall bring him to the king of terrors (or, ‘terrors like a king shall urge him forward’). It (the terror or desolation) shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his; brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation” (as that of a man lying under Divine wrath, or as a place doomed to a perpetual curse; made, like the Cities of the Plain, a monument of Divine vengeance). “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit (Proverbs 18:11). This implied to have been Job’s case. Expressly denied, however, by him (ch. Job 31:24). Such confidence to be rooted out, as his now appeared to be. Chaldeans, Sabeans, and the fire of God had left only a single servant to carry the tale. Terror and desolation, like a victorious and relentless general, had marched him out of his strong city, to sit like a captive among the ashes. Observe—

(1) “Riches profit not in the day of wrath.” A man’s house is his castle, but is unable to hold out against the judgments of God. Chaldeans and Sabeans only God’s instruments in stripping a man of his ill-gotten wealth, and sending him out of a dwelling to which he has no just right.

(2) Alas for him of whom it is to be said: “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches” (Psalms 52:7). The lightning that strikes down his cattle as truly God’s messenger as the brimstone that was scattered on the houses of Sodom and Gomorrha.

(2) Death emphatically a “king of terrors” to the impenitent. The terrors of death only to be dissipated by faith in Him who “through death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and delivered them, who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

8. Ruin of family and estate (Job 18:16-19). “His roots shall be dried up beneath (as under the influence of a mighty curse), and above his branch shall be cut off.” His property and family alike annihilated by divine judgments. The narrative in Chap. 1, a mournful commentary on this verse. Job’s case apparently the doom of the wicked; destroyed “root and branch” (Malachi 4:1). “He shall be driven from light into darkness (violently driven away out of life and luxury into death and despair), and chased out of the world (as a malefactor not fit to live). He shall neither have son nor nephew (or progeny) among his people, nor any remaining in his dwellings (either as relations to inherit his estate, or dependents who had been supported by his bounty). His remembrance shall perish from the earth (or the land), and he shall have no name in the street” (in the places of concourse in the city, or in the fields among shepherds and husbandmen). The great desire among the godless rich to make themselves a name, and perpetuate their memory and their family in the world. “They call their lands after their own names” (Psalms 49:11). But “the memory of the wicked shall rot.” Only the righteous are worthy to be, and shall be, “held in everlasting remembrance.” Job formerly the greatest man in the East, and his praise in everybody’s mouth. Now likely soon to be forgotten, and his name never to be mentioned but with a shudder. So his friends thought. But Job was not a wicked man, and a different fate awaited him. His patience and piety have diffused a fragrance throughout the world. His name one of the brightest constellations in the firmament of Holy Scripture.

9. An astonishment and horror to contentpories and posterity (Job 18:20). “They that come after him (succeeding generations, or ‘those in western regions’) shall be astonished at his day (his history, and the awful fate that overtook him), as they that went before (his contempories, or ‘those in eastern regions’), were affrighted.” Men in opposite quarters of the world, and even future generations should be struck with horror at his secret or open wickedness, and the terrible doom that followed it. Sufficiently harrowing to poor Job, who might see his present experience pourtrayed in the description. His calamities already a cause of astonishment and horror, as they have been in all ages—

(1) For their terribleness and extent;
(2) Their unlikeliness to happen to such a man;
(3) Their suddenness;
(4) The rapidity with which they followed each other;
(5) Their singularity and unusualness;
(6) Their contrast with his former prosperity;
(7) The mark they bore of the Divine anger, notwithstanding his pious and upright character. Job already a byword by his own confession. Awful prospect of what would be the case hereafter, unless God vindicated his character in time. Oppression in all this description sufficient to drive a wise man mad. Observe—(i.) Satan terribly skilful in the means he employs to allure a man to his ruin, or goad him to despair. (ii.) Blessed proof of the reality of religion, that Job, notwithstanding all this, still held fast his integrity. (iii.) God’s thoughts in regard to his people not as man’s thoughts. Job’s sufferings have thrown around his name a halo of imperishable glory, while man thought they would only surround it with horror.

III. Conclusion of the speech

Bildad clenches the terrible description with an emphatic application, by which Job was to appropriate it to himself, or at least to take warning from it. “Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God.” This with Job’s desolate dwelling before his eyes! Not always true, however, in this life. Bad men not always haunted with terrors and tracked with misfortunes in this world. All the worse, however, if the vengeance is deferred to another. Awful picture presented in this description, of the experience awaiting the impenitent transgressor in a future state. The New Testament, as well as the Old, declares that “God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Righteous vengeance to overtake all that “know not God, and obey not the Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ.” To sin wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth is to bring down a fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.
Bildad’s vehemence, however, overshot itself. His closing sentence such as unintentionally to bring consolation rather than despair. Conscience could whisper,—Thou art not the man. Job neither wicked nor one who knew not God. This certain to himself, though perhaps more than doubtful to his vehement assailant. Observe:—

(1) Certainty as to our character and standing needful to bear up against Satan’s terrible blasts. The scathing storm of Bildad’s fiery denunciations Keenly felt, but Job conscious he was a child and servant of God.

(2) Blessed to be able, amidst Satanic buffetings, still to cling to God as a Father.

(3) The believer safe even in the pelting of the most pitiless storm. The righteous in Christ is an ‘everlasting foundation,’ which floods of temptations and hellish assaults are unable to sweep away. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. That name blessedly known to Job (ch. Job 19:25). Is it so to the reader?

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 18". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/job-18.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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