Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 18

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-21


Job 18:1-21

Bildad's second speech is no improvement upon his first (Job 8:1-22.). He has evidently been exceedingly nettled by Job's contemptuous words concerning his "comforters" (Job 16:2, Job 16:11; Job 17:10); and aims at nothing but venting his anger, and terrifying Job by a series of denunciations and threats. Job has become to him "the wicked man" (verses 5, 21), an embodiment of all that is evil, and one "that knoweth not God." No punishment is too severe for him.

Job 18:1, Job 18:2

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, How long will it be ere ye make an end of words? (So Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Welte, Merx, Lee, and Canon Cook.) Others render, "How long will ye lay snares for words?" which is a possible translation, but does not give a very good sense. Bildad, a tolerably concise speaker himself (see Job 8:2-22; Job 25:2-6), is impatient at the length of Job's replies. He had already, in his former speech (Job 8:2), reproached Job with his prolixity; now he repeats the charge. The employment of the second person plural in this and the following verses is not very easily accounted for. Bildad can scarcely mean to blame his friend Eliphaz. Perhaps he regards Job as having supporters among the lookers-on, of whom there may have been several besides Elihu (Job 32:2). Mark; rather, consider; i.e. think a little, instead of talking. And afterwards we will speak. Then, calmly and without hurry, we will proceed to reply to what you have said.

Job 18:3

Wherefore are we counted as beasts? The allusion is probably to Job 16:10, where Job spoke of his "comforters" as "gaping upon him with their mouths." And reputed vile in your sight! or, reckoned unclean. Job had spoken of his "miserable comforters" as "ungodly and wicked" (Job 16:11), without wisdom (Job 17:10) and without understanding (Job 17:4). But he had not said that they were "unclean." Bildad, therefore, misrepresents him.

Job 18:4

He teareth himself in his anger. The Hebrew idiom, which allows of rapid transitions from the second to the third person, and vice versa, cannot be transferred without harshness to our modern speech. Our Revisers have given the true force of the original by discarding the third person, and translating, "Thou that tearest thyself in thine anger." There is probably an allusion to Job 16:9, where Job had represented God as "tearing him in his wrath." Bildad says it is not God who tests him—he tears himself. Shall the earth be forsaken for thee? i.e. "Shall the course of the world be altered to meet thy wishes, to suit thy case?" Job had wished for all manner of impossible things (Job 3:3-6; Job 9:32-35; Job 13:21, Job 13:22; Job 16:21; Job 17:3). Bildad's reproach is thus not wholly unjust. But he makes no allowance for the wild utter-shoes of one who is half distraught. And shall the rock be removed out of his place? Shall that which is most solid and firm give way, and alter its nature?

Job 18:5-21

Bildad, from this point, turns wholly to denunciation. He strings together a long series of menaces—probably ancient saws, drawn from "the wisdom of the Beni Kedem" (1 Kings 4:30), and descriptive of the wretched fate of the wicked man, with whom he identifies Job.

Job 18:5

Yes, the light of the wicked shall be put out. Whatever the wicked man may at any time have acquired of splendour, glory, honour, wealth, or prosperity, shall be taken from him, and as it were extinguished. And the spark of his fire shall not shine. Not a single trace of his splendour, not a spark, not a glimmer, shall remain.

Job 18:6

The light shall be dark in his tabernacle. This is not, as Rosenmuller asserts, a mere repetition of the thought contained in the preceding verse with a change of terms, and a variation of metaphor. It is a denunciation of woe to the whole house of the ungodly man, not to himself only. As Schultens says, "Lumen ob-tenebratum in tentorio est fortuna domus extincta." And his candle shall be put out with him; rather, as in the Revised Version, his!amp above him shall be put out; i.e. the lamp which swings above him in his tent, or in his chamber, shall be extinguished. Darkness shall fall upon the whole house of the wicked man.

Job 18:7

The steps of his strength shall he straitened. In the time of his prosperity the wicked man had a wide sphere within which to exercise his activity, and strode hither and thither at his pleasure. When punishment falls on him, his "steps will be straitened," i.e. his sphere narrowed, his activity cramped, his powers "cabined, cribbed, confined." And his own counsel shall cast him down (see Job 5:13; and comp. Psalms 7:14,-16; Psalms 9:16; Psalms 10:2; Hosea 10:6).

Job 18:8

For he is cast into a net by his own feet. He walks of his own accord into a snare, not necessarily into one that he has himself set for others, as in Psalms 7:15; Psalms 9:15; Psalms 35:8; Psalms 57:6; and Proverbs 26:27; but either into one of his own setting, or into one laid for him by others (see Proverbs 26:10). And he walketh upon a snare. A mere repetition of the idea expressed in the preceding hemistich.

Job 18:9

The gin shall take him by the heel, and the robber (rather, the man-trap) shall prevail against him. Fifty years ago man-traps were commonly set at night in gardens and orchards in this country, which held intending thieves until the proprietor came and took them before a magistrate in the morning. (On the employment of such traps in antiquity, see Herod; 2:121. § 2.)

Job 18:10

The snare is laid for him in the ground, and a trap for him in the way; or, the noose is hid for him in the ground (see the Revised Version). Six different kinds of traps or snares are mentioned, "the speaker heaping together every word that he can find descriptive of the art of snaring." The art had been well studied by the Egyptians long before the age of Job, and a great variety of contrivances for capturing both beasts and birds are represented on the very early monuments. We may conclude from this passage that it had also been brought to an advanced stage of excellence in Syria and Arabia.

Job 18:11

Terrors shall make him afraid on every side. Vague fears, panic terrors, no longer subjective, but to his bewildered brain objective, shall seem to menace the wicked man on every side, and shall affright him continually. There is an allusion, doubtless, to what Job has said of the gloomy and terrifying thoughts which come over him from time to time (Job 3:25; Job 7:14; Job 9:28; Job 13:21) and fill him with consternation. And shall drive him to his feet; rather, shall chase him at his heels (see the Revised Version). Like a pack of hounds, or wolves, or jackals. Jackals are common in Palestine and the adjacent countries. They hunt in lacks, and generally run down their prey; but do not, unless hard pressed by hunger, attack men.

Job 18:12

His strength shall be hunger-bitten. (So Dillmann, Cook, and the Revised Version.) To the other sufferings of the wicked man shall be added the pangs of hunger. His bodily strength shall disappear, as destitution and famine come upon him. And destruction shall be ready at his side. Ready to seize on him at any moment. Some translate, "ready for his halting" i.e. ready to seize on him in ease of his tripping or halting (so the Revised Version).

Job 18:13

It shall devour the strength of his skin; literally, the bars of his skin, by which some understand "the muscles," some "the members," of his body. The general meaning is plain, that destruction shall always be close to him, and shall ultimately make him its own. Even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength. By "the firstborn of death" is probably intended, either some wasting disease generally, or perhaps the special disease from which Job is suffering.

Job 18:14

His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle; rather, he shall be rooted out of his tabernacle (or, tent), which is his confidence, or wherein he trusteth; i.e. he shall be torn from the home, where he thought himself secure as in a stronghold. And it shall bring him; rather, one shall bring him, or, he shall be brought. To the king of terrors. Probably death, rather than Satan, is intended. None of Job's "comforters" seems to have had any conception of Satan as a personal being, nor even Job himself. It is only the author. or arranger, of the book who recognizes the personality and power of the prince of darkness.

Job 18:15

It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his; either, it (i.e. terror) shall dwell in his tabernacle, which is no longer his; or, they shall dwell in his tabernacle that are none of his; i.e. strangers shall inhabit the place where he dwelt heretofore (compare the Revised Version). Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation. As God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24), so shall brimstone be scattered upon his habitation to ruin and destroy it (comp. Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalms 11:6).

Job 18:16

His roots shall be dried up beneath. He shall be like a tree whose roots no moisture reaches, and which, therefore, withers and dries up (comp. Job 14:8, Job 14:9; Job 29:19). And above shall his branch be cut off; or, be withered (comp. Job 14:2, where the same verb is used).

Job 18:17

His remembrance shall perish from the earth (comp. Psalms 34:16; Psalms 109:13). This is always spoken of in Scripture as a great calamity, one of the greatest that can befall a man. It was felt as such, not only by the Jews, but by the Semitic people generally, whose earnest desire to perpetuate their memory is shown by the elaborate monuments and lengthy inscriptions which they set up in so many places. Arabian poetry, no less than Jewish, is penetrated by the idea. In one point of view it may seem a vulgar ambition; but, in another, it is a pathetic craving alter that continuance which the spirit of man naturally desires, but of which it has, apart from revelation, no assurance. And he shall have no name in the street; or, in the world without (comp. Job 5:10).

Job 18:18

He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world (comp. Job 10:21, Job 10:22; Job 17:16). What Job represents as a welcome retreat, whither he would gladly withdraw himself, Bildad depicts as a banishment, into which he will be driven on account of his sins.

Job 18:19

He shall neither have son nor nephew among his people; rather, nor grandson; i.e. "his posterity shall be clean put out" (Psalms 109:14). Nor any remaining in his dwellings; rather, in the places where he sojourned (compare the Revised Version, which gives "in his sojournings"). It is implied that the wicked man shall be a vagabond, without a home, sojourning now here, now there, for a short time. Neither among his own people, nor in these places of his temporary abode, shall he leave any descendant. Bildad probably intends to glance at the destruction of Job's children (Job 1:19).

Job 18:20

They that come after him shall be astonied at his day; i.e. "at the time of his visitation" (comp. Psalms 37:13, "The Lord shall laugh at him, for he seeth that his day is coming;" and Psalms 137:7, "Remember the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem," i.e. the day of its overthrow). As they that went before were affrighted. His fate shall alarm equally his contemporaries and his successors, at possibly "the dwellers in the West and the dwellers in the East"

Job 18:21

Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked. "Such as I have described is the general condition and manner of life of the man who is wicked." and this is the place (or, position) of him that knoweth not God. The singular number used both in this clause and the preceding indicates that the whole series of denunciations (Job 18:5-21) is levelled against an individual—viz. Job.


Job 18:1-21

Bildad to Job: an Arabian orator's discourse.

I. THE FAULTY INTRODUCTION. Bildad possessed at least three qualifications indispensable to successful speaking—fervid imagination, glowing eloquence, and vehement passion. He was characterized also by three fatal defects—want of calmness, or self-containment, want of prudence, and want of sympathetic tenderness. Being destitute of these, he blundered like an inexperienced amateur, starting out on his oration in a hurricane of passion and ill humour, planting daggers in the breast he hoped to win by his eloquence, and forfeiting, by the very keenness of his invective, all possibility of effecting good impressions by his words. He impeached Job of:

1. Senseless verbosity. Of speaking at an undue length; of talking for talking's sake; of hunting after words in order to overwhelm his opponents; of speaking without consideration, talking when he ought to have been thinking, making words do duty for ideas; of speaking instead of listening to his betters (verse 2). The first is the error of the facile-tongued; the second, of the shallow-pated; the third, of the conceited egotist. If Job sinned in either of these respects, he was not undeserving of reproof, much more if he erred in all. But Bildad, whose genius was not original, was probably moved to use the language of censure as much by a desire to imitate Eliphaz (Job 15:2), or to retort upon Job (Job 16:3), as by strong repugnance to the patriarch's offence.

2. Unjustifiable contempt. Job had accused the friends of lacking spiritual discernment (Job 7:4). Bildad interpreted the charge to mean that Job regarded them as brute beasts, devoid of sense and reason (verse 3). If Job did so, he was guilty of altogether unwarranted depreciation of his fellows. That nature, which God made only a little short of Divinity (Psalms 8:5; Hebrews 2:6), must for ever be parted by a wide gulf from the irrational creation. Only when men voluntarily extinguish all spiritual susceptibility by continuance in sin can they be legitimately compared to the beasts that perish (Psalms 49:12, Psalms 49:20). This the friends had not done; and it is certain Job had not called them beasts. But, being men of a high spirit, they were quick to take offence.

3. Self-devouring rage. An old insinuation of Eliphaz's reproduced (Job 5:2), with a specific allusion to Job's language charging God with tearing him in his anger (Job 16:9), in contradistinction to which Bildad averred that Job tore himself, literally, "his soul," in his anger (verse 4), meaning that the patriarch's misery was the fruit of his own frantic and excited behaviour, which again was the immediate result of his soul's fretful and wrathful resentment against God's providential inflictions. That Job's behaviour under his unparalleled calamities was not perfect, is obvious; that his impatience was such as to call for censure from men, may be doubted (James 5:11). Yet Bildad's reproach suggests that while all "anger is a short madness," it is supreme insanity to fume and fret at the Divine dispensations, and that the most miserable man on earth must surely be he whose soul swells with rage against God because of his paternal chastisements.

4. Egotistical presumption. In the judgment of Bildad, Job appeared to imagine that the Divine Law, which connected suffering with sin, should in his case be suspended; but that, Bildad assured the patriarch, would be as likely to occur as that, in order to oblige him, the earth which God had appointed for man's habitation should become tenantless, or the rock which Heaven's ordinance has rendered fixed and immovable should be suddenly transported from its place (verse 4). The reign of law in the material universe, and the fore-ordination of events in human history, have been frequently employed exactly as they are here used by Bildad, viz. to demonstrate the non-credibility of miracles, the inefficacy of prayer, the impossibility of such a thing as a special providence, and the intolerable arrogance of a being so mean and insignificant as man imagining that in any of the ways implied in these doctrines God would, in his behalf, interfere with the established order of things. But it h; no presumption to believe in what Scripture teaches—the possibility of miracles (Matthew 19:26), the efficacy of prayer (Psalms 65:2; Matthew 7:7; James 1:5), the reality of a special providence (Psalms 40:17; Matthew 10:30); since the first can be proved by adequate testimony, while the second and third are supported and confirmed by the inner witness of conscience. Even the case pronounced by Bildad to be impossible, viz. the suspension of the moral law of retribution, has come to pass. The salvation of man through the cross of Jesus Christ attests the fallacy of Bildad's fundamental assumption. And now Bildad, having proceeded thus far with his oration, for any good he was likely to do to Job, might and should have prudently relapsed into silence. Nevertheless, he preached an eloquent discourse.

II. THE LOFTY THEME. The subject descanted on by Bildad was the inevitable retribution which sooner or later overtook the wicked. Set forth under an emblem familiar to Oriental poetry, viz. the extinction of the fire in a dwelling, and of the lamp depending from the roof of a tent (verses 5, 6), it was depicted as:

1. Delayed. The evil-doer was not arrested by the hand of Providence the moment he set forth on his career, but was allowed for a season to thrive by his ungodliness, to amass wealth, acquire power, and secure friends, to become the head of a family or the chief of a clan, and to possess a tent, or rather a circle of tents, with his own commodious, well-furnished, richly ornamented, brilliantly lighted tabernacle in the midst. So Eliphaz saw the foolish taking root (Job 5:3), and David beheld the wicked spreading like a green bay tree (Psalms 37:35), and Asaph witnessed the ungodly prospering until at last they were suddenly overwhelmed (Psalms 73:13).

2. Certain. Nevertheless, i.e. notwithstanding all contrary appearances, the sinner's own security, his determination to resist or evade the pursuing Nemesis, his fierce resentment when the hand of the destroyer should apprehend him, "the light of the wicked should be put out." Not absolutely and universally true of their terrestrial career, it is yet positively sure that the prosperity of the ungodly shall decline, if not on earth, at least in the future world.

3. Complete. The glow upon the sinner's hearth and the lamp from his roof should be equally extinguished. The light in which he sunned himself, i.e. his personal comfort and happiness, and the light in which he shone to others, i.e. his greatness and glory, should alike fade and become dark. Sometimes such experience is the lot of God's people, as the case of Job testifies. Happy they to whom Jehovah is an everlasting Light (Isaiah 60:19), and who, when they sit in temporal darkness, can rejoice in his cheering beams (Micah 7:8).

III. THE BRILLIANT ILLUSTRATION. The wicked man's career, from the moment of his apprehension by misfortune till the hour of his complete destruction, was next represented in a series of graphic pictures. In these he appears as:

1. Snared by calamity. (Verses 7-10.)

(1) Unexpectedly; when, at the height of prosperity, in the fulness of pride, and conscious of strength, he stalks forth with giant strides to execute the wicked counsels he has formed (Job 5:3; Ecclesiastes 9:12; Luke 21:34, Luke 21:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

(2) Willingly; as if disdainfully defiant of every attempt to arrest his career, marching deliberately into the toffs, so that practically "his own counsel casts him down," and "his own feet thrust him into a net" A melancholy example of that "vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself and falls on the other side;" of that self avenging Nemesis which slumbers in the bosom of every sin, but especially of a great sin; of that terrible infatuation which sometimes seizes on the souls of wicked men, and impels them, with stupid blindness to, or reckless disregard of, consequences, forward to their own destruction.

(3) Effectually; the gin taking him by the heel, and the noose holding him fast, so that first his proud steps become straitened, and finally himself is cast down.

(4) Inevitably; the snare that is to arrest him lying already in the ground and only waiting his arrival, the import of which seems to be that the moment a transgressor enters on his evil path he starts upon a road that must sooner or later conduct him to ruin.

2. Haunted by terrors. (Verses 11, 12.) The evil conscience that he carries in his bosom, though long slumbering, at last awakes, inspires him with fearful forebodings of impending disaster, peoples all the atmosphere around him with ghostly apparitions which dog his footsteps, summons up before his startled vision, well-nigh every moment of his wretched existence, spectral shadows of coming woe, which paralyze his strength and utterly unman his wicked soul. (Cf. Eliphaz's picture of a guilty conscience (Job 15:21), of which Bildad's appears to be an echo and imitation.)

3. Arrested by disease. (Verses 13, 14.) (On the expression, "the firstborn of death," see Exposition.) The obvious allusion is to such a malady as Job's leprosy, which, when it apprehends a sinner,

(1) devours the strength (or bars) of his skin, i.e. consumes either the members of the body (Delitzsch), or" the muscles which are to the skin what bars are to a gate, or those passages and orifices, those inlets and outlets of the body, at which many forms of disease first display their presence and power (Cox);

(2) ejects him from his house, causing him who formerly sat in confident security within his tent to remove, as under the ban of Divine displeasure, from the presence and habitations of his fellow-men; and

(3) conducts him to the king of terrors, which death must ever be to the ungodly and impenitent, though to them who believe in Christ, who hath conquered death, its character and aspect are completely changed (1 Corinthians 15:55; Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15).

4. Overwhelmed with destruction. (Verses 15-17.) And this in three particulars:

(1) the desolation of his homestead, which, being doomed, like Jericho, to remain ununhbited, is henceforth tenanted by "creatures and things strange to the deceased rich man, such as jackals and nettles" (Delitzisch), or haunted ever afterwards by ghostly terrors (Cox)—a thought which Bildad again copies from the preceeding speech of Eliphaz.

(2) the extirpation of his family, even to its utter destruction, root and branch, so that neither he, the root, shall remain, nor any of the branches, his offspring, shall survive (verses 16, 19)—"the most terrible calamity that can happen to a Semite" (Wetstein, quoted by Delitzsch);

(3) the extinction of his memory, the complete perishing of all remembrance of him, so that his name is never mentioned in the land or on the street (Proverbs 2:22; Proverbs 10:7; Psalms 34:16)—a pitiable doom for those to contemplate who have no hope of any immortality beyond the posthumous renown which their great power, extensive fame, or notorious wickedness may enable them to secure, though a comparatively small deprivation for them whose names are registered in heaven, and will be held in everlasting remembrance by God even if they should be forgotten by man.

5. Thrust into darkness. (Verse 18.) Chased from the world as unfit to live longer on the earth (Proverbs 14:32), as afterwards, though falsely, Christ (Luke 23:18) and St. Paul (Acts 22:22); driven away from the light of day into the darkness of death, from the light of prosperity into the darkness of misfortune, from the light of happiness into the darkness of misery—a terribly true picture of the fate of the impenitent.

6. Loaded with infamy. (Verse 20.) Transformed into an object of horror and amazement to

(1) the people of all lands—"those who dwell in the East and those who dwell in the West" (Delitzsch); and

(2) the people of all times—"them that come after," i.e. posterity, and "them that went before," i.e. the wicked man's contemporaries. In this sense "the evil that men do lives after them," and "some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment, and some men they follow after" (1 Timothy 5:24). The language of Bildad is true of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:6), Balsam (2 Peter 2:15, 2 Peter 2:16), Judas (Acts 1:18), and transgressors of a like order.

IV. THE MISTAKEN APPLICATION. That Job was the subject of Bildad's sombre sketch is apparent from the portrait of Job's character prefixed by the speaker to his dismal harangue, the resemblance in many points of Bildad's imaginary picture to the actual history of the patriarch, and the sharp incisive manner in which the moral of his tale is pointed out (verse 21). Yet the preacher completely misdirected his discourse. For:

1. The character he portrayed did not belong to Job. Job was not a wicked man, and a man that knew not God, as Bildad was perfectly aware; but, as Job contended, and God himself allowed, "a perfect man and an upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil."

2. The sermon he preached did not apply to Job. Even of wicked men it was not always and universally true that retribution overtook them on account of their misdeeds. But of Job it was wholly incorrect that he was suffering for his sins.

3. The future he predicted was not experienced by Job. In part it seemed to be, but in its principal ingredients it was not. He was cast down from his prosperity, but he was not chased out of the world. The light was for a season extinguished in his dwelling, but it was afterward rekindled with greater brilliancy than before. His homestead was ruined, but not cursed, being afterwards re-erected and blessed. His first family was taken from him, but a second was bestowed. His name was not consigned to infamy, but has been crowned with everlasting renown.


1. That no preacher should carry personalities to the pulpit.

2. That a great text should, if possible, be followed by a great sermon.

3. That an orator should study to be true rather than brilliant in his illustrations.

4. That discourses otherwise good are sometimes delivered to the wrong hearers.

5. That the predictions of angry prophets are seldom fulfilled.


Job 18:1-21

Renewed rebukes and warnings.

Bildad again replies, mentioning that the passionate outbreaks of Job are useless. He holds fast to his original principle, that, according to the Law of God, the hardened sinner will suddenly meet his doom. And some secret sin, he persists, must be the cause of the present suffering.

I. INTRODUCTION: DENUNCIATION OF JOB AS A FOOLISH AND VIOLENT SPEAKER. (Verses 1-4.) He is one who "hunts after words." Let him be truly sensible and rational, begs this confident Pharisaic preacher. "Why do you treat us as stupid beasts? ' he indignantly expostulates. "You tear yourself to pieces in your anger, and think yourself lacerated by God" (comp. Job 7:16). Does Job exact the earth to be depopulated and rocks to be removed for his sake? Bildad thinks that Job's repeated assertion of his innocence aims at the subversion of the moral order of the world—the holy order given by God (comp. Romans 3:5, Romans 3:6). It is a grand thought, though misapplied by the speaker. The order of God, alike in nature and the human spirit, is unchangeable, and admits of no exception. But this order is not to be misunderstood by drawing conclusions from the outward to the inward life. Where the higher, the spiritual, is concerned, reason, Scripture, and conscience, rather than any outward tokens, must decide the truth.

II. DESCRIPTION OF THE DREADFUL DOOM OF THE HARDENED SINNER. (Verses 5-21.) Most solemn and pathetic; a masterpiece of dramatic representation. A series of striking figures is made to pass before the eye of imagination.

1. The light of the wicked is put out; no flame leaps from his fire, no cheerful lamp hangs from his tent-roof. This is a favourite image (Job 21:17; Job 29:3; Psalms 18:28; Proverbs 13:9). The Arabs say, "Fate has put out my lamp" (verses 5, 6).

2. Another figure: his steps are hemmed in—current in the East—and his own counsel overthrows him (verse 7).

3. Again, the figure of the nets and snares and pitfalls, by which he meets his ruin (verses 8-10). Terrible thoughts and dread events throng around him, and pursue him, like the Erinnyes of the Greek mythology—messengers from God to disquiet his guilty soul (verse 11).

4. Disaster and ruin are personified in the poetic description. The one has an eager hunger for him; the other stands ready, like an armed foe, to cast him down (verse 12).


1. His disease—the terrible elephantiasis—the "first-born of death," devours him piecemeal (verse 13).

2. Expelled from his secure abode, he advances into the power of the "king of terrors" (verse 14). He dwells in the tent of another, while brimstone from heaven desolates his former habitation (comp. Job 15:34; Deuteronomy 29:22, Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalms 11:6). This, it is said, is still at the present day the most dreadful of images to the mind of the Semitic peoples—the desolation of the home (verse 15).

3. Another figure: he is like a tree, withered at the root, and topped above (verse 16). An imprecation was written on the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar, "Let him have neither roots below nor branches above]" (comp. Isaiah 5:24; Amos 2:9).

4. His memory passes away from the land, and his name is known over the wide steppe no more (verse 17; comp. Job 13:12). He is thrust out of the light of life and happiness into the darkness of calamity and death, and is hunted from the round habitable earth (verse 18). No scion nor shoot springs from him among the people; none escaped from his utter ruin in his dwellings (verse 19).

5. An awful impression is felt by all, in East and West alike, who contemplate so dreadful a doom. "Thus," concludes Bildad, "it befalleth the dwellings of the unrighteous, and the place of him that knew not—recognized and honoured not—God" (verses 20, 21).

Detaching this address from its inappropriate application to the sufferer, it is in itself a noble piece of warning and exhortation. Letus gather from it a few lessons.

1. The curse of the wicked is the extinction of the light of God, who is the Light and Brightness of the righteous (verses 5, sqq.; Psalms 36:9, Psalms 36:10; Psalms 119:105). The light, again, may be taken as a figure for the clear knowledge of man's destiny, a clear consciousness in the whole life (Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23). Then the light in the tent enhances the figure, and beautifully points to this clear consciousness in the daily relations of the house.

2. (Verses 17, sqq.) The memory a man leaves behind is not of so much consequence as the consciousness in life of being known to God. There are many true and hidden ones in the world, whose deeds are done in secret for God's sake (John 3:21); and many godless ones, who make so great a stir and noise in the world that they are talked of after they are gone. It is a peculiar blessing to the child of God if he be made an example to any, and after his death a sweet savour ascends from his life to God's praise (Proverbs 10:7).

3. The repeated descriptions of the doom of the ungodly are intended to quell our envy at the sight of unhallowed prospering, and direct our thoughts to the inward, the only real life. How can we judge whether any one is a true fearer of God? Not from his religious observances, not from the external fortunes which befall him, not from his individual good works; but from the faith which he owns, from the whole direction of his life to the Divine, from the frame of mind in which he dies (Psalms 73:17, Psalms 73:19, etc.; Wohlfarth).—J.


Job 18:5-14

The fruits of impiety.

Again Bildad speaks. He is not the sufferer, hut the judge. Be who came as a comforter utters but miserable words in the ears of the afflicted one. His words are true in themselves, but wrongly applied. Justly he describes the fruits of impiety.

I. To THE IMPIOUS THE LIGHT OF PROSPERITY IS EXCHANGED FOR THE DARKNESS OF MISFORTUNE. His "lamp is put out." Sorrowfulness, sooner or later, overtakes him. For a time he is in great prosperity; but his sin finds him out. The ill-gotten gain of ungodliness has no blessing upon it, but a withering curse. Sooner or later the heyday of wicked rejoicing is exchanged for the blackness of dark night. Universal experience affirms this. It is a just punishment of wrong, and a warning to the tempted; while it admonishes the obedient, and declares "there is a God that judgeth in the earth."

II. THE EVILLY FORMED PURPOSE OF IMPIETY FAILS. His "steps are straitened," how strong soever they may seem to be. Even his very counsel itself shall be a stumbling-block to cast the wicked down. The hope cherished without God must be disappointed; the selfish design is itself a trap for the feet of the ungodly.

III. IMPIETY ENTANGLES IN DIFFICULTIES. "The snare is laid for him in the ground." The whole kingdom of right and truth is against him. Judgment waits on his steps. Sooner or later his feet will be in "the trap" that is laid "for him in the way." His course is not a plain, direct, clear course. His motives are confused. He hedges himself with difficulties. One wrong exposes him to another. At last "the gin takes him by the heel"

IV. IMPIETY EXCITES TO FEAR AND DREAD. "Terrors make him afraid on every side." The awakened conscience makes a coward of him. He fears the rustling of the leaf. Judgment is passed in the secret chambers of his soul. He cannot escape.

V. IMPIETY WASTES THE STRENGTH AND BRINGS THE LIFE DOWN TO DESTRUCTION. Sin is the transgression of law. Laws of life cannot be broken without the health failing. An impious spirit, unruled and uncontrolled by righteous principle, will pursue evil and dangerous courses, will yield to evil habits, and the strength of the life will be undermined. Then "the firstborn of death shall devour his strength." He becomes the prey of. destruction. He is brought "to the king of terrors." Thus the course of impiety ends in ignominy, shame, and destruction. "This is the portion of their cup." Darkness, difficulty, fear, wasted purpose and wasted strength finally issuing in death, are the inevitable fruits of impiety.—R.G.

Job 18:15

The home of the wicked insecure.

The blessing of the Lord is upon "the habitation of the just." This is the reward of righteousness. But the Divine judgment against the wicked is shown in permitting his house to become desolate. One of the oft-repeated promises to Israel is the blessing of the Lord upon the habitation. But "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked." The practice of iniquity tends to destruction. It has no element of stability in it. The habitation of the wicked is insecure because—

I. IT LACKS THE DEFENCE OF RIGHT PRINCIPLES. The righteousness which exalteth a nation establishes a house. On the health, the pursuits, the habits, the business, the family, right principles exert a beneficent influence. The absence of them is the precursor of evil of all kinds. The wall is broken down; protection is wanting. The home is a prey to evil.

II. IT LACKS THE PROMISE OF THE DIVINE PROTECTION AND BLESSING. It is as a field unwatered. There is no spring of hope within it. In the blessing of the Lord lies hidden the secret germ of all true prosperity, and all safety and permanence. Where that blessing is not, the house is as a tender plant unsheltered beneath a scorching sups. The Divine providence cannot be expected to work for the promotion of ends directly contrary to its own. The whole world, with its innumerable laws and its wise administration, is on the side of right, on the side of virtue and goodness. The blessing of the Lord, which makes the field to be fruitful, makes the abode of the righteous to be an abode of safety, of peace, and of blessing. The home of wickedness has none of these things.

III. The home of the wicked finds NO ENCOURAGEMENT TO ITS PROSPERITY IN THE GOOD WILL OF MEN AROUND. The evil companions are not trustworthy. They turn aside as a deceitful bow. They are as likely to rejoice and make sport out of their companion's downfall as to pity him under it; while the ungodly, having separated himself from the righteous, can find no sympathetic spirit amongst them. That the home of evil should be broken up is rather a cause of rejoicing, for it is the putting aside a cause of evil. This is the portion of the man that maketh not God his trust. He fights against his own best interests. He forsakes the only true and safe way. He puts himself in opposition to the great forces of righteousness which ever in the end prevail. He links his interests with that on which the withering curse of God rests, and "brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation." "His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off."—R.G.

Job 18:16-21

The curse upon the family of the wicked.

The permanent continuance of the family was one of the most coveted blessings of Eastern nations. Very deeply was this embedded in the minds of the peoples. It was, therefore, a signal curse of God to cut off the remembrance of a family from the earth. With cruel error Bildad points to the cutting off of Job's family—at least, such is the presumption, otherwise his words are inappropriate here—and he seems to charge upon Job the sin of which the punishment was to be found in the death of his children. That Bildad states a true principle of Divine retribution all agree; his error was in its application. The cutting off the family of the ungodly is—

I. A PRINCIPLE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT AGAINST EVIL-DOING. It is frequently announced in Holy Scripture. God, the jealous God, visits "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." It is part of his holy and wise and just retribution. As he blesses the sons of the faithful for their fathers' sakes, so he visits upon the children the offences of their fathers. The evil-doer withers as a plant without water. "His roots shall be dried up beneath." Therefore his branches spread not; but they are "cut off." The remembrance of him perishes from the earth, and his name from the street (verse 17). He dies away without descendant and without remembrance.

II. This judgment is seen to be A NATIONAL CONSEQUENCE OF WRONG-DOING. For evil is visited in various ways by the avenging Nemesis that hovers over all life. Evil undermines the health; it tends to habits and pursuits which are destructive of the peace arid security and progress of home. It puts man in conflict with his neighbour, and so men drive the evil-doer "from light into darkness." He is "chased out of the world." Even should his posterity be perpetuated, it is lost to sight. It sinks down in the world till it sinks out of view.

III. This judgment STANDS IN DIRECT CONTRAST TO THE LOT OF THE RIGHTEOUS—the man who knoweth God. Over his house is the Divine protection. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." The blessing of God rests upon the home and the doings of the righteous. Even though chastisement and calamity may fall upon him, they do not destroy him; rather, he, as a pruned tree, groweth the more and more fruitful God's promise is unto the good, and unto their children after them. The family of the good man has the advantage Of a holy example. They are screened from a thousand perils, while innumerable blessings descend upon them in response to the prayer of faith. This will in the end be proved to be true of Job.

IV. These judgments STAND AS A WARNING TO ALL PARENTS. They make the duty of parental piety more and more obvious. They illustrate the solemn responsibility of heads of houses, since their doings descend in their effects upon their children. They owe it to their offspring that they so live as rightly and beneficently to affect their lives. The blessing of God which rests upon the just, and the curse and condemnation of God upon the evil, are warnings to all. Upon those the eye of God rests, but upon these the curse of God. The abodes of wickedness, over which no blessing from on high hovers, are abodes of death and destruction. "Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God."—R.G.


Job 18:4

The individual need and the universal order.

Bildad accuses Job of being unreasonable in expecting that the universal order should bend to suit a man's individual need. He suggests a common difficulty in regard to the harmony between the particular and the general in the dispensations of Providence.

I. THE INDIVIDUAL MAN IS TEMPTED TO THINK SUPREMELY OF HIS OWN NEED. We are all naturally self-centred, and trouble magnifies our sense of personality and peculiarity. Thus it comes about that each person is inclined to feel his own wants as of paramount importance, and to expect that the whole order of things must shape itself to meet his requirements. If that is not the case, and the world goes on in its large way, treating him as but a unit among the millions, a drop in the ocean of humanity, he feels himself slighted and wronged. A more reasonable view of the whole of God's world and its interests should remove this foolish notion; but it can only be conquered when its moral character is attacked, and selfishness is made to give place to love.

II. GOD GOVERNS THE WORLD FOR THE GOOD OF THE WHOLE CREATION. We cannot judge of it till we can take a large and fair view of the wide field. The shadow which makes a corner look gloomy by itself is necessary for the completion of the whole picture. God-is not partial, selecting one for favour and neglecting a multitude. He is not like the aristocratic Roman, who looked down with scornful indifference on the ignoble plebs. There is nothing so democratic as nature. Here all alike are under exactly the same laws. As the great ship ploughs her way through the ocean, though children are crying and women are ill, the watch calls out his cheery word, "All's well!" for the vessel is going right in spite of these individual distresses.

III. THE GENERAL CONSTITUTION OF THE WORLD CANNOT BE UPSET TO SUIT INDIVIDUAL NEEDS. Should the earth be depopulated for the sake of one man's convenience? That is Bildad's extravagant way of putting the thought; but the extravagance is only a magnifying of an idea which is foolish even within the smallest dimensions. That a man should ever expect a rock to move out of his path is absurd. As the massive rock will not stir, and as the traveller must either climb over it or go round it, so the course of nature generally will not budge before man's will. He may dash himself against it, but the results will only be bruises and pain. As God has made all things well, and as the laws of nature make for life and welfare, it is a matter of profound thankfulness that foolish, selfish men cannot set them aside.

IV. THE INDIVIDUAL MAN IS HELPED THROUGH THE GENERAL COURSE OF THE WHOLE WORLD. There is a special providence. God does not deal with masses, but with men. The very hairs of our head are all numbered. It is in accordance with God's perfect mind that he should so govern the whole that the result should be good for each. We have to learn to take our places in the great family of God with humility and sympathy for our brethren. Then we shall see that the rules of the household, which cannot be set aside to suit our whims and capricious fancies, are really good for us. It is better the rock should not be carried away. We are trained and strengthened by having to overcome the difficulty. Finally, it is in accordance with these principles that—through his atonement which magnifies the Law and makes it honourable—Christ brings a salvation for each soul which does not disarrange the general course of God's government of the universe.—W.F.A

Job 18:5, Job 18:6

The light extinguished.

This is a favourite idea of Bildad's, that occurs more than once in his harangue (e.g. Job 18:18). As usual, we may here follow the imagery of the Shuhite without applying it to Job. Wickedness extinguishes light.

I. THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE. Bad men may be learned and good men may be ignorant in regard to the knowledge of the schools and the world. But there is a deeper knowledge from which sin excludes, a light to which wickedness simply blinds the eye.

1. The knowledge of God. Spiritual knowledge depends on sympathy. But God is holy. Therefore the unholy, being out of sympathy with him, cannot understand his thoughts or his ways.

2. The knowledge of goodness. The wicked life is spent in a state of ignorance concerning the very nature of the Christian life. No one knows what that better life is till he has tried to live it.

3. The knowledge of the largest truth. Sin degrades and narrows the soul. It shuts off that wide, comprehensive vision which is only possible when passion and lust and all dark experiences are removed.

II. THE LIGHT OF LOVE. All sin is selfishness. The wicked man degrades the very name of love. Its true meaning is quite unknown to him; or if it dawn upon him in his better moments, as when he takes his little child upon his knee and looks into its innocent eyes, it is like a light from a far-off world, which only makes the foul darkness of the regions his soul inhabits the more visible to his startled apprehension.

III. THE LIGHT OF JOY. There is a mad pleasure in sin, and for a while it seems to fulfil its deceitful promises. But it is not long before its dupe discovers his folly, and finds that his so-called pleasure is a mockery. Of real unalloyed gladness he has none. There are bitter dregs at the bottom of the cup of self-indulgent pleasure which he drinks so greedily. All that he delights in is superficial, transient, unreal. When he has made the most of it, it leaves the deeper hunger of his soul unsatisfied.

IV. THE LIGHT OF LIFE. Light vitalizes; darkness is akin to death. The sinful soul is on the road to the gates of darkness, through which the road loads to the dreadful death which is its rightful wages. Already much of the light of life has faded away, and dim shadows as from the tomb hover about the career of wickedness. He who has chosen sin for his inheritance has chosen a sunless territory overshadowed by the dark wings of death.

V. THE LIGHT OF GOD'S FAVOUR. When God lifts up his countenance upon any one, his light shines forth; for God is Light (1 John 1:5). But the wickedness that offends the Law of God necessarily removes the light of his favour. A certain temporary prosperity may remain, so that the foolish sinner may think himself a favourite of fortune. But there is no grace of God in it; and even in the glaring brightness of its immediate presence it is possible to see the meretricious tinsel, which is very different from the true glory of God's goodness.—W.F.A.

Job 18:8-10

The sinner entrapped by his own feet.

According to Bildad's representation, the wicked man needs no huntsman to run him to earth. His own fatuous course will lead him to ruin. his own foolish feet walk into the snare.

I. THE READY SNARE. "The snare is laid for him in the ground."

1. Its author. It is laid for him. He does not make and set it; he does not know where it is. If he knew, of course he would avoid it. He does not even think of its existence. Were he to do so, he would be on his guard. Another has laid the snare. Man has a great enemy, watching to pounce on him—a robber of souls, who sets traps and gins for the unwary. Let us be on our guard. Like the Pilgrim, we are on the enchanter's ground; this earth has become our foe's territory.

2. Its character. A snare is a hidden device. The net is set among the bushes, the wires are hidden by the grass. Men are deluded into ruin. Deceitful appearances lure them to destruction.

3. Its condition. The snare is already laid. If we are not ready to meet our foe, he is ready for us. No one can accuse Satan of dilatoriness. He is beforehand with his schemes. He was prepared to entrap the first man. The snare was ready almost as soon as Eden was planted.

4. Its position. "In the way."

(1) The bad man's way. This is its most usual place. The snares are most numerous on the broad road.

(2) The common way. The snares are also to be found on the narrow way that leads to life. The Christian is not out of danger. Bunyan's enchanted ground lay right in the road to the Celestial City. We do not escape the dangers of temptation by becoming Christians.

II. THE UNWARY FEET. The wicked man walks straight into the snare. Here is the difference between this man and the good man. There are snares about the path of the man of God; but a Divine light reveals them, and a Divine hand draws him back from his great peril. It is otherwise with the godless man. Note the reasons why his feet go straight for the snare.

1. Darkness. His light is put out (Job 18:5). If he started with a lantern, the foul atmosphere through which he has travelled has extinguished it. Now that he needs it in the place of peril, it is but a useless impediment.

2. Desertion of God. We are too blind to see all the snares that are set for our feet, but we may have the help of an unerring Guide. The sinner rejects the heavenly Guide. In proud independence he prefers to go alone.

3. Proneness to coil. The sinner sees a fascination in the region of the snare. Perhaps it is set in a bed of flowers, or in an orchard of fruit. It may be that some pleasant shady dell conceals it, or possibly it is hidden by a mossy couch that invites repose. At all events, it is most deceptive and powerful where sin most abounds.

4. Destiny. A sort of fatality dogs the footsteps of the sinner. Start how he may, he is sure to direct his feet at last straight for the snare. He is like one mesmerized. He can but walk into the net. The hideous explanation of his fascination for ruin is that he is no longer his own master. He has made himself the slave of Satan. Yet even he may find safety in the mighty deliverance of the Christ who came to destroy the works of the devil.—W.F.A.

Job 18:14

The king of terrors.

Men regard death as the king of terrors. Let us consider first the grounds of this notion, and then how it may be dispelled.

I. LET US CONSIDER WHY DEATH IS REGARDED AS THE KING OF TERRORS. Men instinctively think of death as "the grisly terror."

"I fled, and cried out, 'Death!'
Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed
From all her caves, and back resounded, 'Death!'"

1. It is opposed to the natural love of life. "All that a man hath win he give for his life." Therefore death appears as his enemy. Every living creature shuns it. The fear of it makes a tragedy of the chase.

2. It is irresistible. A veritable monarch. We may maintain a state of siege for a time, but we know we must all capitulate at last. When death storms the citadel in real earnest, no power can keep it out.

3. Its territory is unknown. The mystery of death adds to its terrors. If we saw more we might fear less. We launch our vessel on a dark sea, not knowing what surges beat on the further shore.

4. It comes in pain. We often say that the worst is over with the poor sufferer before the end has come. The bitterness of death has passed before death itself has been reached. Still there is suffering at the end of most lives, and we instinctively shrink from this. We cannot bring ourselves to face the thought of the death-struggle.

5. It takes us from all the light and joy of earth. The natural love of life is confirmed by experience. To die is "to lie in cold obstruction." All the sunshine and flowers of this fair world are gone, all the sweetness of companionship with the loved on earth. The soul is severed from its earthly delights.

6. It comes to each singly. Each soul must venture alone into the dread unknown.

7. It ushers us into future judgment. "After death the judgment" The sinner who dares not give an account of himself before God dreads to hear the summons from the messenger of the unseen. "The sting of death is sin."

II. LET US SEE HOW DEATH CAN BE SOBBED OF ITS TERRORS. Christ dethrones the king of terrors, and wrests his dark kingdom away, flooding it with the light of his grace. The Christian can do more than the Roman hero and the Stoic philosopher who had learnt to me, t death "with an equal mind." He can say, "To me … to die is gain."

1. Christ removes the causes of the fear of death. He does not lull the fear as with an opiate, He dissipates it by abolishing its source, as one dissipates a malarious fog by draining the marsh from which it rises. He goes to the root by conquering sin, which is the most fundamental cause of the terror of death. Bringing pardon for past sin, he dispels the alarm of future judgment; and bringing purification of soul, he removes the indwelling sin that always shrinks from death as the foe of man. Then Christ helps us to face the pain, the darkness, and the mystery of death, by assuring us of his own supporting presence: "It is I; be not afraid."

2. Christ throws light on the region beyond death. He would not have us fix our attention on death. That is but a transient experience. At the worst it is a dark door to be passed through. The Christian will never dwell in the kingdom of death. To him death is

"That golden key
That open the palace of eternity."

There is a triumph over death for those who, sleeping in Christ, wake to the life eternal. For them the king of terrors has ceased to be. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26).—W.F.A.

Job 18:16

Root and branch.

Bildad dwells upon his favourite topic of the withering doom of the wicked. It is complete—root and branch are destroyed. A truth again, though inapplicable to Job.

I. THE ROOTS DRIED UP. The roots stand for the sources of life and strength. Roots nourish the tree and hold it in its place. If they fail, all else must perish.

1. The roots are out of sight. The most important things are not the most prominent. The secret springs of toe soul are of vital interest. All that is visible to the eye may be untouched; yet if the hidden roots of our being fail we must be utterly undone.

2. The roots depend on nourishment. They are dried up for lack of moisture in the soil. There may be no defect in the roots; yet if the soil is drained dry they cannot perform their natural function of nourishing the soul. We are all dependent on what is outside us, in soul as well as in body. If the food of the soul is withdrawn, if the water of life no longer flows near to the roots of our spiritual being, no vigour of constitution, no inherent personal life, can survive.

3. The waters may fail. The course of the river may be deflected, or there may be a season of drought. We have nothing in ourselves or in the constitution of things to guarantee a continuance of supply in this case of our deepest wants. We have no right to that supply, no claim on the grace of God. The hand that gives may withhold. Therefore our continued prosperity depends absolutely on God's continued favour. The insolent and rebellious independence that forfeits God's grace withers the roots of the soul.

II. THE BRANCH CUT OFF. The branch stands for the external growth. It is seen by all, snowed with blossoms and freshening with new green in the spring, or laden with luscious fruit in the autumn. When the root is dried up, leaves and fruit wither on the branch. But a more untimely fate may overtake it. It may be severed from the tree. Perhaps it is too stout and tough to be torn off in the gale, but it cannot resist the woodman's axe.

1. The branch is cut off by an external calamity. This is what had happened to Job. His prosperity was suddenly wrenched away from him. The family into which his life had branched out was smitten; this branch was cut off from the parent stem. What we most love, rejoice in, and pride ourselves upon may be removed by the hand of death, or by some misfortune of life.

2. The cutting off of the branch may not be an unmitigated evil. It may be a pruning process. The tree may be running to wood rather than producing fruit. Mere growth of wealth and external prosperity may be taking the place of fruit-bearing in regard to the real good of life. Then it is to be observed that pruning a tree is not felling it. Though the branch is cut off, the trunk is left, and the life of the tree will yet be seen in a new and healthier growth. We must not despair at external disaster. If the life of God is in us, we shall survive it, and even triumph over it.

3. The most fatal condition is when the dying of the roots goes with the cutting off of the branch. If the internal resources are dried up when external calamity falls upon us, our condition is desperate. There is then nothing to fall back upon. External ruin only crowns and completes internal decay.

CONCLUSION. The gospel of Christ is as deep-searching and as far-reaching as the evil of in. It saves roots and branches, giving life to the soul, and also a Divine growth and prosperity.—W.F.A.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 18". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/job-18.html. 1897.
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