8 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
4 When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
5 But if you will seek God earnestly
and plead with the Almighty,
6 if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your prosperous state.
7 Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.
8 “Ask the former generation
and find out what their ancestors learned,
9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
Eliphaz does not respond to Job’s reply, instead Bildad enters the discussion and immediately questions his parenting of his seemingly wayward children. He wastes no time getting to the heart of his argument. He accuses Job of being full of hot air (“like a strong wind,” verse 2). If Job is to be exonerated, then God would be unjust, and that cannot be (verse 3).
Eliphaz had talked about his strange experience with a spirit. His ideas were new ideas. But Bildad’s ideas were traditional ideas.
This is almost a parody of how theology develops. Tradition is not always correct and so we get a pendulum swing into a completely new direction which can also be way off the mark. It’s also how most progressive thinking develops with things that we don’t fully understand. Something no longer fits our worldview because some evidence contradicts what we believe so there is a knee jerk reaction. Our thinking shifts from evolutionary to revolutionary.
We can then be presented with a situation are those holding to the tradition even though it doesn’t quite fit anymore and those who reject the tradition and suddenly throw out the baby with the bathwater. They start to present new ideas without properly testing them or thinking them through. I would definitely be in this camp but I know that I need people around me in the first camp that can anchor me in what is known otherwise I can be off with the daisies. What is needed in these kind of situations is objectiveness, humility and the pursuit of mutual understanding of the real issues or gaps of information. Assumptions are dangerous and can escalate to conflict very quickly.~
This happens in science, politics, theology, corporate culture, church culture and all kinds of situations. We have seen this polarity in our church, we have seen it in politics with Brexit and Trump in America.
Such extreme responses are rarely carefully considered but rather emotional responses usually driven by fear and we are divided often into two camps. The old worked for me so I need to hold onto it no matter what the evidence suggests or the old didn’t work for me and there is no way I am going back to it … the world is my oyster I need to think beyond this.
Anyway, these are mere observational side points. Let’s get back to the story…
The conversation now escalates, Job’s drama has sparked an emotive response from Bildad who is sorry that Job had even spoken and would prefer to listen to something that had more meaning, like the sound of the wind!!
Rather than offering a theological theory as Eliphaz had done, “Bildad” saw things in a much more black and white fashion. He bluntly attacked Job’s character.
Job knew about his children’s behaviour (Job 1:4-5). Bildad took Job’s claims for innocence and applied them to a simplistic notion of retribution. He concluded that Job was accusing God of injustice when God must be meting out justice to Job.
In effect he was saying that Job, his sons and daughters must have deserved what is coming to them, as God’s justice is without error. This of course was a shallow judgment on the situation that lacked the broader spiritual perspective.
Bildad advised Job to pray. This is always good advice (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but would have perhaps been received as condescending on the back of such an accusation.
We read in verses 8-10 that Bildad harked back to words handed down by spiritual ancestors who taught the same principle – that where there is suffering, there must be sin.
Tradition is not necessarily correct. The past is perhaps best viewed as a rudder to guide rather than an anchor to secure a position. The old school like to use it as an anchor which may hold the position or may keep you going round in circles with tidal or wind movement and the new school usually dispense with the rudder as well as the anchor which of course leaves you vulnerable to every wind and tide. This is what we have seen in the past 14 years of our own church history.
Bildad reminds Job “for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.” (Compare Job 14:2; Psalm 102:11; Isaiah 40:6).
This is a deep truth of our transience, our days really are brief and fleeting that they can scarcely be called a reality. This is all the more poignant knowing that Job was most likely from the patriarchal period where longevity of life went into the hundreds of years. He lived a further 140 years after his fortunes were restored (Job 42:10-17).
Bildad believed that he had made errors that could have been avoided, had he studied his ancestors and listened to their wisdom.
11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
12 While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
14 What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider’s web.
15 They lean on the web, but it gives way;
they cling to it, but it does not hold.
16 They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;
17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.
18 But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, ‘I never saw you.’
19 Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.
Bildad explained his ideas with three stories that supported his simple logic of cause and effect. These are all illustrations from nature.
· The first story is about plants that grow near the river (verses 11-13). Without water, such plants die quickly. Such plants are like people who do not obey God. They forget that their lives are God’s gift (John 1:4).
In a spiritual sense, this is telling Job to draw water from his roots. Water in this particular sense, would be his relationship with God.
It grows and flourishes in a rich greenness up to a certain point; if no one touches it. But the water fails from the root, and it fades, collapses, and is gone.
“It withers before any other herb”: The ground may be all green around it with ordinary grass and other herbs, since they only need a little moisture , but the water-plant will collapse unless it has its full supply.
This was speaking of a time when it had grown to its greatest height. When the land dried up where it was planted, it quickly died. At the peak of the greatness of Job, this terrible calamity had come. He was accused of forgetting his source.
· The second story is about a spider’s web (verses 14-15). A web might seem to be strong but it is fragile. People who forget God may seem to be strong. But they are leaning on a spiders web. So their lives are weak. Jesus said that such people’s lives are like buildings without a proper foundation (Matthew 7:24-27).
A spiders web is formed with great art and industry, and may be a snare for it’s prey but it is fragile, and easily swept down, or pulled to pieces, and unable to defend the spider that made it. The application is obvious.
He was accusing Job of building upon something other than God. He was actually accusing Job of building on shifting sand.
· The last story is about a plant in a garden (verses 16-19). This plant has everything that it needs. So it grows well. Then the gardener removes the plant. He leaves the plant to die. This story was rather like Job’s life. Formerly Job had been successful. But now, like the plant, Job was dying. The plant was like a man who does not obey God. Job’s prayer (Job 7:12-2) caused Bildad to think that Job was turning away from God.
The hypocrite, or ungodly man (verse 13), is as a rapidly growing plant, which shoots up at sunrise with a wealth of greenery, spreading itself over a whole garden, and even sending a beautiful spray of colour to look at, and full, apparently, of life and vigour.
He was alluding to the prosperity of Job, which was well known by everyone. He was prospering in every way. It was visible and splendid.
Then suddenly it’s place remembers it no more. He shall be so utterly crushed and destroyed, that there shall be no footstep, nor name, nor memorial of him left there.
This was speaking of the sudden calamity that came upon Job, just as this plant was suddenly uprooted.
A fresh crop of weeds always springs up in the place of those torn up. Each plant lives for a short time, and then another takes its place. That was what Bildad was saying here. Job would be replaced by another person. He will be forgotten. Bildad’s attempt to sermonize was insensitive, Job’s problem was not a hypocritical relationship with God. Pious words and spiritualizing only cause further damage. True friends seek to understand rather that condemn. There is no condemnation in Christ.
20 “Surely God does not reject one who is blameless
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more.”
Bildad held out the possibility of restoration to Job, but it must have been cold comfort after the wave of insults.
Bildad was sure that God is fair. He offered religiously simplistic and condescending advice even if it was technically correct. Job should do the right things. God would rescue Job.
If Job was a righteous man, God would not cast him away. God would once again fill his mouth with laughter, and his lips would rejoice.
Verse 22 is similar to Psalm 132:18. The idea that Job’s repentance would silence his enemies and those in judgment of him. Bildad closes on these words.