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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Job 8

 

 

Verses 1-22

II. Bildad and Job: Chaps8–10

A.—Bildad’s rebuke: Man must not charge God with unrighteousness as Job has done, for God never does that which is unjust:

Job 8

1. Censure of Job on account of his unjust accusation against God:

Job 8:2-7

1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said:

2 How long wilt thou speak these things?

and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?

3 Doth God pervert judgment?

or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

4 If thy children have sinned against Him,

and He have cast them away for their transgression;

5 If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes,

and make thy supplication to the Almighty;

6 if thou wert pure and upright,

surely now He would awake for thee,

and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.

7 Though thy beginning was small,

yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

2. Reference to the wise teachings of the ancients in respect to the merited end of those who forget God:

Job 8:8-19

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

and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:

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

because our days upon earth are a shadow):

10 Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee,

and utter words out of their heart?

11 “Can the rush grow up without mire?

can the flag grow without water?

12 Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down,

it withereth before any other herb.

13 So are the paths of all that forget God,

and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish:

14 Whose hope shall be cut off,

and whose trust shall be a spider’s web.

15 He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand;

he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.

16 He is green before the sun,

and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.

17 His roots are wrapt about the heap,

and seeth the place of stones.

18 If He destroy him from his place,

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

19 Behold, this is the joy of his way,

and out of the earth shall others grow.”

3. A softened application of these teachings to the case of Job:

Job 8:20-22

20 Behold, God will not cast away a perfect Prayer of Manasseh,

neither will He help the evil doers:

21 Till He fill thy mouth with laughing,

and thy lips with rejoicing.

22 They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame;

and the dwelling-place of the wicked shall come to nought.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The aspect which this first discourse of Bildad’s presents to us is far from being particularly controversial or violent, such as would correspond to the conjectural signification of the name בלדד, = “son of strife” (see on Job 2:11). It attaches itself to the conclusion of the preceding discourse of Job, in that it at once proceeds to show how entirely unjust is Job’s conduct in accusing God of a want of compassion, and of despotic harshness, whereas God in determining the lot of mankind never acts otherwise than justly ( Job 8:2-7). He then illustrates and supports the proposition that God causes an evil and sudden end to overtake those who apostatize from him by certain wise proverbial sayings of the ancients ( Job 8:8-19). He closes by prominently setting forth the twofold activity of the retributive justice of God (vers, 20–22), a conclusion which is so far conciliatory in its tendency in that it gives stronger expression to the hope that Job, through repenting of his sin, would experience the justice of God rewarding him, than to the fear of the opposite, or a warning of the consequences of his impenitence. [“It is to be specially noted in this connection B. makes no reply to the harsh personal reproaches of Job 6:14-27, but confines himself to the subject-matter.” Dillmann]. Of the three divisions of the discourse, which are somewhat unequal in length, the first comprises 2 strophes, the second4, the third1, each of three verses.

2. First Division: Rebuke of Job’s unjust accusation of God, as though He were unmerciful and unjust towards him, Job 8:2-7.

First Strophe: [The certainty that retributive justice will punish the sinner].

[The word is peculiar to the book of Job and Isaiah].

Job 8:3. Will God pervert the right, or the Almighty pervert justice?i.e., canst thou think for thy part that, etc.? Canst thou in sober earnest accuse God of injustice? “Observe the repetition of the verb יְעַוֵּת, on which there rests an emphasis which for Job was particularly stinging.” Umbreit. [Davidson, e.g., more correctly on the whole perhaps: “the repetition of pervert shows that it is not the emphatic word, while the variation of the divine names, as well as their position at the head of the clauses, throws the emphasis on the Divine Being—will God, etc.” The distinction between מִשְׁפָּט and צֶדֶךְ is substantially that already given by Schultens: the former designates the justice of God as embodied in Acts, actio judicandi; the latter as a principle or rule in the Divine mind.—E.].

Job 8:4. If thy children have sinned against him.—Only to spare Job’s feelings Bildad avoids saying: “because thy children have sinned,” and so leaves it apparently uncertain whether this formed the ground of the Divine decree concerning their fate—but only apparently, since he clearly regarded this decree as a punishment for their sins, as the conclusion proves. [Conant thinks this hypothetical use of אִם to be “not at all in the spirit of Bildad.” He takes it to be concessive—“though thy sons have sinned against Him, and He hath given them, etc., if thou thyself wouldest seek God, etc.” To which it may be objected: (1) This makes the protasis needlessly long. (2) It destroys the evident contrast between verses 4 and Job 5 : between the hypothetical proposition concerning the children’s sin in the former, and the conclusion therefrom, and the similar hypothetical proposition concerning Job’s repentance in the latter, and the conclusion therefrom in Job 8:6-7.—אִם is undoubtedly used in the same way in both propositions, and if conditional in the latter, is conditional also in the former. At the same time it does not seem that Bildad uses אִם in the former case out of any particular consideration for Job’s feelings. He uses it apparently in its purely logical sense, and this, too, with an assumption of the truth of the supposition which makes itself felt throughout the entire verse.—E.]—Then hath he given them over into the hand of their transgression. וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם, lit, “then hath He let them go into the hand, (i.e., into the power) of their transgression,” subjected them to the influence of their guilt. [“An expression of fearful energy” (Dav.) implying the self-retaliatory power of sin, the certainty that the moral order of the universe, enforced by the Divine will, will punish the transgressor.—E.] Comp. Job 9:24; Judges 4:9; 1 Samuel 23:20.—Concerning the retrospective reference of the verse to Job 1:19, come. Introd, § 8, No3.

Second Strophe: [The certainty that retributive justice will reward Job, if pure.]

Job 8:5. But if thou seekest earnestly unto God.—שִׁחַר אֶל־אֵל, constr. prægnans, as above Job 5:8 : דָּרַשׁ אֶל־אֵל, to sue God for anything, to turn oneself to Him with earnest entreaty. אַתָּה, thou, puts Job in emphatic contrast with his children ( Job 8:4 a), as one who still has time to repent and to be reconciled, as the condition of the restoration of his prosperity. [And makest supplication to the Almighty.—Davidson calls attention to the “fine force of reflex Hithp, seek to make God gracious to oneself.” Observe also in this verse as in Job 8:3 the use in parallel clauses of El and Shaddai, the names most suggestive of God’s power to uphold the moral order of the universe, thus using the terror of the Lord to persuade Job.—E.]

Job 8:6. If thou art pure and upright.—This new conditional clause is not co-ordinate with the preceding, but subordinate to it: “provided, namely, thou art really pure and upright, if it be really the case that thou,” etc.Surely then He will awake for thee.—כִי עַתָּה, “surely then, verily then,” emphatic introduction of the conclusion, as in Job 13:18.—יָעִיר עָלֶיךָ, He will awake, arouse Himself for thee (comp. Psalm 35:23), namely, for thy protection and deliverance; not: He will watch over thee, take thee under His care (Hirzel, Delitzsch [Dav, Renan, Merx] etc.), which would be altogether at variance, with the usual signification of the verb העיר. And restoreיְשַׁלֵּם, in integram restituet; the LXX. correctly: καὶ αποκαταστήσει) the habitation of thy righteousness, i.e., the habitation where thou, as a righteous Prayer of Manasseh, dost dwell and enjoy the fruits of thy righteousness (Dillmann).—On נוה see on Job 5:3.

Job 8:7. And if thy beginning was small thy end shall be exceeding great.—In addition to the restoration of his former prosperity he promises him something new and yet more glorious, an unconscious prophecy of that which in the end actually came to pass ( Job 42:12), exactly like the promise of prosperity in the latter part of Eliphaz’s discourse: Job 5:8 sq. וְאַחֲרִיתְךָ יִשְׂגֶה מְאֹד, lit, “and thy last end (thy latter estate, in contrast with רֵאשִׁיתְךָ, thy former estate, thy prosperity in the beginning) will flourish greatly.” אַחֲרִית is here exceptionally and ad sensum construed as masculine; hence the form יִשְׂגֶּה (comp. Ewald, § 174 e), instead of which Olshausen unnecessarily proposes to read יַשְׂגֶּה, with אֵל as subject.

3. Second Division: A reference to the wise teachings of the ancients touching the merited end of those who forget God. [“In respect of its artistic, flowery, and yet concise style” (as well as in respect of the searching practical character of its contents), “this passage forms the climax of the whole discourse.” Ewald.]

First Strophe: Job 8:8-10. Praise of the wisdom of the ancients, by way of introduction to the express testimonies of that wisdom which follows.

Job 8:8. Inquire, I pray, of the former generation.—As to the challenge in general, compare Deuteronomy 32:7. For שׁאל with לְ, see 2 Kings 8:6; for the orthographical form רִישׁוֹן instead of רִאשׁוֹן, see below, Job 39:9 (רים instead of ראם). Whether the indefinite expression דּוֹר רִישׁוֹן be rendered by the singular, as above, or by the plural—“former generations”—is a matter of indifference. In any case no particular generation of the past is intended, as appears, also from the following expression—“their fathers,” (i.e., the fathers of those former generations).—And give heed to the research of their fathers:i.e., to that which their fathers had investigated and learned to the experimental wisdom therefore of the fathers reaching back into the remotest antiquity.—חֵקֶר, research ( Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 34:24), here in the sense of the object, or the results of research, that which is searched out. With וְכוֹנֵן supply לִבְּךָ, which is elsewhere put in connection with the Hiphil. Olshausen’s emendation בּוֹנֵן, suggested by Deuteronomy 32:10, is unnecessary.

Job 8:9. For we are of yesterday, and know nothing.—This is the reason why we should hold to the tradition of the ancients. Lit, “we are yesterday,” i.e., of, or belonging to yesterday (אַנְשֵׁי תְמוֹל = תְּמוֹל, Ewald, § 296, d). The stress here laid on the ephemeral character of the present generation is then in the second member illustrated and strengthened by the figure of a shadow (צֵל); comp. Job 14:2; Psalm 102:12 (11); Psalm 109:23; Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 8:13, also the Greek phrase σκιᾶς ὄνας ἄνθρωπος (Pindar, Pyth8, 99; comp. Sophocles, Aj126, 1236; Ant. 1155; Euripides, Med. 1224, etc.) This fact, that the life of men is so perishable and short is the reason for the demand here made that we should apply ourselves to the wisdom of the ancients, the term of a single human life being insufficient to fathom the eternal laws which rule the universe; to ascertain these we must consult the collective experience of humanity throughout the past. There is no specific proof that the author here had in mind the remote generations of the primeval world, to wit, the macrobiotic races of the ante-diluvian period.

Job 8:10. Will not they teach thee [הֵם emphatic], say to thee [אָמַר, “say,” rather than דבר “speak,” because their words are cited in the verses following], and bring forth words out of their heart?—The heart is mentioned here as the seat of understanding and reflection, in contrast with Job’s expressions, as the mere empty products of the lips ( Job 8:2; Job 11:2; Job 15:3, etc.; comp. אִישׁ לֵבָב ( Job 34:10; Job 34:34), “a man of heart,” i.e., of understanding. In regard to יוֹצִיאוּ, proment, proferent (Vulg.), comp. Matthew 13:52.

Second Strophe: Job 8:11-13. First specimen, as reported by Bildad, of the wise teachings of the ancients, not indeed cited verbally, but still reproduced freely, and in exact accordance with the sense. [This introduction of the proverbial wisdom of antiquity in Bildad’s discourse is a masterly stroke of art, worthy of especial note (1) Because of the new and interesting element which it contributes to the rhetorical variety of the book. (2). Because of its significance as a feature in our author’s dramatic portraiture of character, Bildad being here presented to us as the disciple of tradition, the “proverbial philosopher,” in contrast with the more mystically inclined Eliphaz, and the more dogmatic and self-assertive Zophar. (3). Because of the contribution thus furnished to the material of the book, to the discussion of its great problem, Bildad here furnishing to this discussion the voice of tradition, even as Eliphaz had furnished the voice of the supernatural world. See below Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks, No1.—E.].

Job 8:11. Does the rush grow up without mire [or, except in the marsh]?—גֹמֶא, according to the Hebr. etymology from גמא, to swallow, absorb, fistula bibere (comp. Job 39:24; Genesis 24:17), but also at the same time an Egyptian word (Copt, kam, cham, reed), denotes here, as in Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 35:7, the Egyptian papyrus reed, which grows in the marshes of the Nile, but which, according to Theophrast, grows also in Palestine, the papyrus-shrub (Cyperus papyrus L.). The mention of this Egyptian product does not constitute a conclusive argument for the composition of the poem in Egypt, or by a poet of Egyptian origin, and all the less that Bildad is here only quoting the words of another and an older sage. Comp. Introd. § 7, c. [“Bildad likens the deceitful ground on which the prosperity of the godless stands to the dry ground on which, only for a time, the papyrus or reed finds water, and grows up rapidly; shooting up quickly, it withers as quickly; as the papyrus plant, if it has no perpetual water, though the finest of grasses, withers off when most luxuriantly green, before it attains maturity.” Delitzsch; see also Smith’s Bib. Dic, Art. “Reed”]. Does the reed-grass thrive without water?אָחוּ reads in the Egyptian Greek of the LXX. ( Isaiah 19:7), and of the Book of Sirach ( Job 40:16) ἄχι, and, as Jerome learned from the Egyptians, signifies in their language omne quod in palude virens nascitur, hence the grass of the Nile-marshes, seed-grass, Nile-grass (Copt. ake, oke = calamus, juncus). Instead of בְּלֹא of the first member, we have here בְּלִי, in the sense of “without;” for the former comp. Job 30:28; for the latter Job 24:10; Job 31:39; Job 33:9, etc. [בלי is properly constr. st. of noun, failure, lack.] Of the two synonymous verbs, יִגְאֶה in the first member signifies a “shooting up on high,” an expression suitable to the size of the papyrus, which grows to the height of ten feet; וִשְׂגֶא (another form of יִשְׂגֶּה, Job 8:7; comp. Gesen. § 75, Rem21 [§ 74, Rem22]), in the second member, a luxuriant out-spreading growth, an expression suitable to the nature of the marsh-grass.

Job 8:12. While yet (it is) in its greenness ( Song of Solomon 6:11) is not cut down: lit. “is not to be mowed down, not to be cut down,” a circumstantial clause [“a proper Imperf, in a state of not cut, un-cut.” Dav.] comp. Ewald. § 341, b.—Then, sooner than all grass must it dry up: because, namely, the condition of its existence, water, is all at once withdrawn, so that now it decays and withers sooner than common grass. As parallels in thought, comp. Job 5:3; Matthew 6:30.

Job 8:13. So are the ways of all who forget God.—A closing application of the comparison precisely similar to that in Proverbs 1:19, where also the expression “ways” is used of what happens to men, their fate (comp. also Psalm 1:6; Job 23:10; Wisdom of Solomon 5:7, and often). For שֹׁכְחֵי אֵל as a synonym of רשעים, the ungodly, comp. e.g. Psalm 9:18 (17); Psalm 50:22. And the hope of the ungodly perisheth: comp. Proverbs 10:28. חָנֵף as in Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 20:5, and often. [In all these passages, and whereever the word occurs, the Eng. Ver. renders חָנֵף “hypocrite,” which is altogether incorrect, the idea of dissimulation not, belonging to the word at all. This rendering is the more strange, seeing that the cognate verb is always correctly rendered to be polluted, profane, corrupt, etc.—E.] Dillmann correctly calls attention to the fact that the figure of the reeds and grass of the marshes perishing by the sudden drying up of the water is intended to illustrate, not the judgment which will visit those who have always been ungodly, but only those who were at one time righteous, and therefore prosperous, but who afterwards fall away from God. In so far the description conveys a somewhat different thought from that in Job 5:3.

Third and Fourth Strophes: Job 8:14-19. A further description of the judgment of God upon the wicked, founded on the proverbial wisdom of the ancients.

Job 8:14. He whose confidence is cut asunder.—אֲשֶׁר as in Job 5:5, an independent rel. pron, connecting the verse with what goes before; not a causal particle: quippe, quoniam (Del.). יָקוֹט is hardly a substantive, either of the signification “gourd” (Reiske, Hahn) or “gossamer” (Saadia, in Ewald-Dukes, Beiträge zur Gesch. der ält. Auslegung, I, 89). [Fürst and Hengstenberg prefer regarding it as a noun, meaning “that which is to be rejected.”] Both as to the form and substance of the word, the only justifiable construction of it is as a Kal Imperf, deriving it either from קוץ=קוט,fastidire (Vulg. and many of the ancients, also Schultens), or with the Pesh, Chald, Kimchi, Rosenm, Gesen, and most of the moderns, from a verb קצץ=) קטט), “to cut oft” ( Hebrews, whose hope is cut off, cujus spes succiditur); or, which may be still more correct, from קוט, not elsewhere to be met with, and meaning “to cut, to be brittle, to break asunder,” and so treating it as an intransitive verb, rather than as Kal Imperf. with a passive signification [comp. Ewald, § 138, b].—And his trust is a spider’s house:i.e. that in which he trusts (מִבְטָחוּ, sensu obj., of the object of the trust), proves itself to be as perishable as a spider’s web, which the slightest touch, or a mere puff of wind can destroy. For this figure comp. Isaiah 59:5, also the Koran, Sur2940, and the Arabic proverb quoted by Schultens, Umbreit, etc.: “Time destroys the wall of the skillfully built castle, even as the house of the spider is destroyed.”

[But it stands not; he holds fast to it, but it endures not. There is a certain gradation of thought in the verse. The ungodly first leans, stays himself on his house, but it gives way beneath him; finding this to be the case, feeling his trust giving way beneath him, he strengthens his hold on it (יַחְזִיק), grasps it with all his might, as a sinking man seizes violently on anything within his reach; but in vain! He and his hope all tumble to ruin together.—E.]

Job 8:16 sq. After thus dwelling briefly ( Job 8:14-15) on the comparison of a falling house, the description now returns to the previous figure derived from the vegetable kingdom. For the marsh-reed, however, there is substituted the climbing plant, with its high and luxuriant growth; and the comparison is so presented that between the figure and the thing figured there is no sharp line of distinction observed, but each blends with the other.

Job 8:16. Green is he (the חָנֵף of Job 8:13, who is here conceived of as a climbing plant) in the sunshine: in the same heat which causes other plants to wither.—And his sprouts run over his garden (יוֹנַקְתּוֹ [“his suckers”] as in Job 14:7; Job 15:30): i.e. the whole garden in which Hebrews, this luxuriantly growing, creeping plant, is placed, is filled and over-run with his root-sprouts which cling to all about them.

Job 8:17. His roots entwine themselves (lit. are entwined) over heaps of stone; he looks upon a house of stone: in the sense, that Isaiah, that having grown up on it, he eagerly clings to it, as to a firm support. [“On יחזה Cocceius remarks: non timet locum lapidosum, sed imperterritus videt. He gazes on it boldly and confidently, with the purpose of making his home in it.” Hengst.] By this is naturally to be understood a real stone house, its walls being of this material (comp. Genesis 49:22, according to the correct explanation of modern commentators), not anything figurative: e.g. the solid structure of his fortune, as Delitzsch explains it. Several modern commentators (Böttcher, Ewald, Stickel, Fürst, Dillmann) take בֵּין=בֵּית (as in Proverbs 8:2), hence in the sense of “between, in the midst of,” and חזה, according to its primary signification, in the sense of: “to pierce through, to split between;” hence: “to pierce through between the stones,” viz. with its roots. Possible, but perhaps too artificial. [The LXX. translate: ἐν μέσῳ χαλίκων ζήσεται, taking בית in the sense of בין, and evidently reading or substituting יחיה for יחזה. Gesenius regards חזה here as a bold metaphor, seeing the stones, for feeling them with the roots. Noyes and Renan regard the expression as describing the depth at which the plant takes root. The latter’s rendering is: “His roots are intertwined at the rock; he touches the region of the granite.” Wordsworth’s comment is interesting: “He surveyeth a house of stones; he is like a tree which seems firmly rooted in a heap of stones, and looks down, as it were, with a domineering aspect, and a proud consciousness of strength on a house of stone, in which he appears to be firmly built, as in a marble palace; and yet he will soon be withered and rooted up, and vanish from the face of the earth.—Observe the order of the comparison. The sinner had been first likened to a plant of papyrus or reed-grass, with its tall green stem and flowery tuft flourishing in the watery slime, but suddenly withered, when the soil in which it is set is dried up: he is next compared to a shrub sprouting with fresh leaves, and shooting forth its luxuriant branches, mantling over the wall of the garden; and lastly he is likened to something still more robust, to a tree striking its roots downwards into a cairn of stones, and looking down with proud confidence on its house of rock, and seeming to defy the storm.” We scarcely seem justified, however, in assuming a different plant or tree to be intended in Job 8:17 from that described in Job 8:16.—Conant thinks that “the explanation long ago given by Olympiodorus is the true one; viz. that the wicked is here likened to a plant springing up in a stony soil, and perishing for lack of depth of earth:” to which Davidson justly replies that “the stones assist, not impede the growth of this kind of plants, and Job 8:17 is still occupied with the detail of the luxuriance of the plant.”—We are thus led back to the view of Zöckler, Schlottm, Hengst, etc., as on the whole the simplest and best; that both verses describe the same plant, Job 8:16 as overrunning the garden with its creepers, Job 8:17 as clinging stoutly to its house of stone.—E.]

Job 8:18. If He destroys it from its place.—The subj. in יְבַלְּעֶנּוּ (comp. the same verb in Job 2:3) is either to be left indefinite: “if one destroys him from his place [as if he is destroyed],” Umbreit, etc.; or, which is better suited to the poet’s whole style and mode of thought, God is to be understood as the subject. On the contrary, in the second member: It shall deny him: I have never seen thee], the subject to be supplied with the verb is unquestionably: “his place” (מְקוֹמו). It is a highly poetical conception which is here presented: the native ground, or the place of growth of an uprooted tree, i.e. of a transgressor cast down from the height of his prosperity, being, as it were, ashamed of him, denying him and refusing to know anything more of him.

Job 8:19. Behold this is the joy [ironically said] of his way:i.e. so does it end, his pretended joyful way of living (comp. on Job 8:13); so sudden, calamitous is the end of his course. And out of the dust shall others sprout up.—“Others” (אַחֵר collect, comp. Ewald, § 319, a), i.e. other men blessed with external prosperity, whose happiness will either prove more enduring, or, in case’ they too fall away from God, will as surely crumble away as his.

Third Division and Fifth Strophe: Application of the wisdom of the ancients, as just cited, to the case of Job: [The picture just given suggested a solemn warning to Job to beware of incurring such a fate. Bildad, however, instead of giving to the application this minatory turn, uses a milder and more conciliatory tone, encouraging Job to repentance, by promises of the divine favor.—E.]

Job 8:20. Behold, God despiseth not the pious Prayer of Manasseh, and grasps not the hand of evil-doers:i.e. in order to help and support them; comp. Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 42:6; Psalm 73:23; as also the figurative expansion of this truth just given Job 8:12 sq.

[Expanding, with personal application, the thought of Job 8:20 a].—While He will fill thy mouth with laughter, and thy lips with rejoicing.—Delitzsch (referring to Job 1:18; Psalm 141:10) rightly interprets עַד at the beginning of this verse in the sense of “while,” and takes the whole verse as the protasis of which Job 8:22 is the apodosis. Others take עַד in the less suitable sense of “yea even” (Umbreit), or amend to עֹד, “yet,” comparing the passage with Psalm 42:6 (Cocceius, Honbigant, Böttcher, Ewald, Stickel, Dillmann). For the expression: “to fill any one’s mouth with laughter,” comp. Psalm 126:2; for the text יְמַלֵּה, instead of יְמַלֵּא (the case being accordingly the reverse of that in Job 8:11, b), comp. Gesenius, § 75 [§ 74], 21, b.

[Expansion of20b, with personal application to Job’s enemies.]—They that hate thee shall be clothed in shame: the same comparison in Psalm 35:26; Psalm 109:29; Psalm 132:18. Observe how persuasive and conciliatory in this conclusion of Bildad’s discourse, in that he wishes for the “haters” of Job the worst fate, the portion of the ungodly; thus unmistakably separating himself and his friends from that class, and placing himself decidedly on the side of Job.—And the tent of the wicked—it is no more.—For the use of the term “tent” as a concrete expression for the totality of well-being, comp. Job 5:24. Altogether too artificial is the explanation of Dillmann and others, denying the identity of the “wicked” with the “haters” in the first member, thus rendering the ו at the beginning of this member adversatively: “but the tent of the wicked is no more,” as though Psalm 1:6 were a parallel passage, and the whole discourse of Bildad, notwithstanding the milder tone assumed in the last strophe, should still close with a warning or a threat. That this is in truth the case, only indirectly (i.e. in so far as the whole of Job 8:22 dwells on the miserable lot of the wicked, without recurring to the description of Job’s prosperity, and closing with that), see in the Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks, No3.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

The similarity of this first discourse of Bildad to that of Eliphaz is so marked that it can almost be termed an abbreviated repetition, differing considerably in the application of several particulars, of that with which Eliphaz had already charged Job. The same censorious introduction and the same mitigating and conciliatory close! And in the body of the discourse the same exhortation to betake himself to God in penitence and in prayer for help, with the accompanying promise of salvation (comp. Job 8:5 seq. with Job 5:8 seq.); the same figurative vesture frequently for one and the same truth, as, in particular, the description, twice occurring ( Job 8:12 and Job 8:18), of the sudden withering and perishing of a plant of luxuriant growth, an unmistakable copy of the description first given by Eliphaz in Job 5:3 seq. Another noteworthy point of similarity between the two discourses is that Eliphaz, in order more vividly to set forth and more forcibly to emphasize the central thought which he inculcates, presents the same in the form of a divine revelation brought to him mysteriously by night, while Bildad seeks to accomplish the same result by introducing the ancient teachers of wisdom as speaking, in place of himself (comp. Job 8:8 seq. with Job 4:12 seq.). In this citation from the traditional Chokmah he gives a free reproduction of the same, in like manner as Eliphaz in his account of the vision had furnished an ideal, poetic picture. [“It was a hard stroke on Job to see not only his friends of the present, but all good and wise men of the past, marshalled against him; and tremendous must have been his force of conscience to resist and drive from the field such outnumbering odds.” Davidson. “It is a very important point which Bildad here makes. There is no surer way of falling into error than for one individual or one age wilfully and proudly to cut loose from its connection with the whole, and to resolve to be wise independently and alone. That is historical rationalism, of which that which is commonly called rationalism is but one species. The witness of tradition indeed is to be received cum grano salis—and at this point the friends are at fault. Something more is required than a correct understanding; the truth transmitted by historic tradition always has aspects which have not yet been completely developed; it is not enough to bring forward the whole—we must also, when new problems present themselves, be prepared to build up the New on the basis of the Old. That was the point where Elihu had the advantage over the friends.” Hengstenberg.] It seems accordingly as though the poet had purposed to put Bildad forward as simply an imitator of Eliphaz, destitute of independence, and to present his continuation of the discussion of the latter as a weaker reproduction of the same, his object being thus to cast into the shade and to subordinate the spiritual significance of the friends and their position as compared with that of Job.

2. At the same time, however, this discourse is not wanting in new thoughts, which show that it aims to attack Job from another side than that chosen by his former critic. Eliphaz had argued against Job from the doctrine, derived from experience, of the absolute universality of human sinfulness. Bildad strenuously maintains against him the inexorable justice of God, who does not let the sinner go unpunished, nor the righteous unrewarded. His fundamental thought is presented in Job 8:3 : “Will God pervert the right, or the Almighty pervert justice?” or, as it is somewhat differently conceived, and with a particular application to Job’s case in Job 8:20 : “Behold, God does not spurn the godly, nor take fast hold of (lend support to) the hand of evil-doers.” The entire discourse is devoted to the discussion of this proposition, that the immutability of God’s justice (His justitia judicialis, tam remuneratoria quam punitiva) is demonstrated alike in its treatment of the evil and of the godly. Every part of the discourse aims to establish this—the admonitory reference to the punishment inflicted on Job’s children ( Job 8:4), the exhortation to him to beseech God for help and reconciliation ( Job 8:5 seq.), the striking illustrations given of the perishableness of the prosperity of him who forgets God ( Job 8:11 seq.), and the concluding promise of happiness to him, if (as Bildad hopefully assumes he will do) he will repent and return to God ( Job 8:21 seq.). Like Eliphaz, or indeed in still higher measure than Hebrews, Bildad seems, in all that he says on these points, to establish himself entirely on the truth. There seems to be scarcely any thing in his words unscriptural, partial, or at all censurable. On the objective side, that which relates to the righteousness of God’s treatment, his words seem as Little liable to the charge of a one-sided narrowness, as on the subjective side, or that which sums up the case for Job, they are liable to that of inconsiderateness or unloving harshness.

3. That this, however, is only on the surface is evident from the painful venomous dart which at the very beginning almost of his discourse he aims at the heart of Job in the harsh judgment which he pronounces on his children, in the assertion, hypothetic indeed in form, but direct in its application, that their sudden death was the consequence of their sin, the merited punishment of their crime. At the bottom of this assertion there lies unquestionably a one-sidedly harsh, gross and external representation of the nature and operations of God’s retributive justice. He is evidently entangled in the short-sighted doctrine of retribution which prevailed in antiquity, both within the theocracy, and in general in the monotheistic oriental world. He imagines that he is able, by means of the common-places formally stated in Job 8:2; Job 8:20 to solve all the riddles of life. Hence the self-righteous, Pharisaic condition to which he subjects the saving efficacy of Job’s penitent supplication to God: “if thou (i.e., provided thou) art pure and righteous” ( Job 8:6)—back of which we see clearly enough the implied thought: if thou art not righteous, all thy praying and beseeching is of no avail! Hence still further the malicious indirect attack on Job which is conveyed by the wise teachings of the ancients ( Job 8:11 seq.) respecting the sudden destruction of the man who forgets God! It would seem as though by these descriptions of the sudden withering and perishing of the Nile-reed, and of the destruction and uprooting of the thriving climbing-plant, Job’s fall from the height of his former prosperity was pictured. We can imagine that it is in Bildad’s thought to exclaim to his friend, like Daniel to king Nebuchadnezzar, “The tree … it is thou, O king!” ( Daniel 4:17, 20] seq.). Even the practical application at the close of the discourse, with its prediction of prosperity, has imparted to it by all this a flavor of bitterness to him who is addressed, especially seeing that the last words of the speaker dwell on the certain destruction, and the inevitable punishment, which the wicked incur, as though the stern moralizer must perforce repeatedly relapse out of the tone of promise into that of censure and menace (comp. on Job 8:22). The fundamental error in Bildad’s argument lies in a rigidly legal interpretation of the idea of. justice, unmodified by a single softening ray from an evangelical experience of Salvation and of the merciful love of God as Father—a representation of the nature of divine justice which is directly opposed to the proper sense of צְדָקָה,צֶדֶק (terms which denote the divine activity only as conditioned and ruled by God’s holiness, or holy love). It is by this error that all that is harsh and one-sided in his discourse is to be explained. He knows nothing of a God disciplining and proving men in love, as a father his children. All human suffering he regards as simply and solely an infliction of God’s retributive justice, which begins to punish when man turns away from God, and abates the suffering only when he returns to him again. “If Bildad had represented Job’s suffering as a chastisement of divine love, which was to humble him in order the more to exalt him, Job would then have been constrained to humble himself, although Bildad might not have been altogether in the right. But Bildad, still further than Eliphaz from weakening the erroneous supposition of a hostile God which had taken possession of Job’s mind, represents God’s justice, to which he attributes the death of his children, instead of His love, as the hand under which Job is to humble himself. Thereby the comfort which Job’s friend offers to him becomes a torture, and his trial is made still greater; for his conscience does not accuse him of any sins for which he should now have an angry instead of a gracious God.” (Del.)

4. Notwithstanding these one-sided and erroneous characteristics, the present discourse furnishes to the practical expositors something more than material for criticism from the stand-point of the New Testament faith and religious consciousness. What it says in vindication of the righteous dealings of God, is in itself considered, and especially in contrast with Job’s unseemly and passionate complaints, well grounded and unassailable. We might just as well find a difficulty with descriptions of the righteous administration of the world similar to this, such as are found in the Psalm ( Psalm 1; Psalm 7; Psalm 18:21, 20] seq.; Psalm 34:13, 12] seq.), and find in them nothing but expressions of religious perversity, and of an unevangelical way of thinking and acting; and yet such a view of those expressions, occurring as they do in quite another connection, would be entirely without foundation. The poetic beauty, moreover, of the illustrations of the miserable lot of the wicked in Job 8:11 seq. would lose all value if we were to apply this one-sided critical standard to the discourse, and to consider it only as the expression of a disposition of hypocritical work-righteousness. This the homiletic expositor is evidently not bound to do. Besides those one-sided and harsh features of the discourse, he may and should give prominence also to that which is eternally true and beautiful in it, as an inspired eulogy of the righteous intervention of the Godhead in the destinies of mankind. And—a point which in particular is not to be overlooked—he must bear in mind that, as is shown by the wise sayings of the ancients, quoted by Bildad from a gray antiquity, the knowledge which experience brings of God’s retributive justice as visibly exercised in this world was possessed by the pious of our race even in the earliest times; and still further—that for this knowledge of God’s holy and righteous ordering of the world—a knowledge which is deeply impressed on the universal consciousness of mankind, and which is kept fresh and vivid by great historical examples, such as the histories of Noah and his contemporaries, of Abraham and Lot, of Joseph, Moses, Korah, Balaam, etc.—the only foundation which can be assumed as underlying all else is a positive original revelation in the beginning of humanity’s history.—And this is what determines the value and applicability of the following selections from practical exegetes of the past, which are here given as

Homiletic and Practical Remarks on Single Passages

Job 8:3; Job 8:8. Brentius: Such as do not understand the glory of God’s Gospel, but are unwisely carried away by zeal for the Law, say: the way of the Lord is not just, because He forgets the wickedness of him who repents, and the goodness of him who relapses into sin—whereas, according to what is decreed in the Law, evil is to be punished and good rewarded. But they hear it said again: I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, saith the Lord God; return ye, and live, and all your sins shall be forgotten.—Zeltner: Nothing is easier or more common with the world than by a precipitate judgment to sin against one’s neighbor in respect to his misfortunes, especially when believers are concerned.… Although God visits the iniquity of fathers on their children, the calamities which befall pious children are nevertheless no proof that they or their parents have sinned ( John 9:3).

Job 8:8 seq. Cocceius: There is no doubt but that fathers ought to transmit the revelations which they have received from God to their children and to other men; and that, moreover, through God’s blessing, the truth has been preserved for a time among some through such tradition; although the conjecture is not improbable that our fathers (from the time of Moses on) delivered much to writing.—Brentius: Our life, as its origin was most recent, so is its end most swift; so that some one has well said: Man is a bubble, which having suddenly arisen on the face of the water, soon perishes. Seeing then that our life is most short, prudence in the management of affairs should be learned from those who are older, and from our ancestors; for the authority of the aged is sacred and venerable.

Job 8:11-19. Starke (according to the Weim. Bib.): The hope of hypocrites is perishable; for it is founded not on God, but only on that which is temporal and perishable ( Psalm 37:35 seq.; Psalm 49:12; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17).—Wohlfarth: The prosperity of the ungodly is only apparent: so teaches the wisdom of the ancients, so preaches the Holy Scripture, so testifies experience, so proves the nature of things. For the happiness of sin is neither real, nor satisfactory, nor enduring. The peace which makes us truly happy is not dependent on external possessions.—Vict. Andreae: The wise proverbs of antiquity, to which Bildad (with affected humility) refers Job, are intended to teach the latter that as there are no reeds without a marsh, so also Job’s calamity in strict propriety could proceed only out of his great wickedness; wherefore Job must not wonder at it; nay, his confidence in his good conscience would be a treacherous support, as he will soon enough find to his cost.

Job 8:20 seq. Brentius: Although the ungodly may seem to flourish and to be blessed in this world, they are nevertheless exposed to the curse, which in its own time is revealed. And as the ungodly now behold the afflictions of the godly in this world with the greatest rejoicing of soul, so again in God’s judgment day they will be the laughing-stock of all creatures, and will be confounded before them: Isaiah 66—Cocceius (on Job 8:20): From hence it is apparent that it happens to the ungodly as to the papyrus and sedge; to the godly as to an herb that is transplanted. The justice of God cannot therefore be accused, as though it would not reward each one according to his way of living. For although the papyrus and the grass are attached to the water, they do nevertheless dry up. And although a good herb may be dug out, it is nevertheless planted anew elsewhere with a great increase of fertility and utility. A measure of happiness for the ungodly does not dishonor God’s justice; trusting in their happiness they are brought to shame and confusion; neither is it dishonored by the affliction of the righteous, which is for their good.—Zeltner: Just as the suffering of the godly is no proof that they have been rejected by God, so also the brilliant prosperity of the ungodly is no proof that they are in God’s favor. But God permits such things to happen in order to test His people’s patience, faith and hope, and, at the right time, to save them and make them happy forever. Therefore, my Christian brother, continue pious, and keep in the right ( Psalm 37:37).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 8:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/job-8.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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