The Book of Job - Lesson 12

Bildad Speaks (Job 8.1-22)

Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 12
Watching Now
Bildad Speaks (Job 8.1-22)

I. Structure

II. Direct Rebuke and Admonition

III. A Conservative Appeal

IV. Metaphors of God's Justice

  • When you see what you would describe as evil and injustice in the world, how does that affect your view of God? When someone is suffering, do you assume that it’s because they are getting what they deserve? This lecture gives you an overview of book of Job by describing his situation, how he interacts with his friends and God, and what we can learn about how God is managing the world.

  • Because there is nothing specific in the text that tells you when the book of Job was written, the sections in Job that allude to other passages of scripture give you some helpful clues. The structure of the book of Job focuses your attention on the main subject of the book which is God’s wisdom.

  • Other cultures in the ancient near east created literature with themes that are similar to the book of Job. The book of Job is unique because of his character and the answer that the book provides for the situation he is in.

  • Job is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. It covers more “advanced” topics than Proverbs and uses a variety of literary genres and allusions to other Biblical passages to explain and illustrate profound truths about God’s nature and his involvement in the world.

  • There is limited information in the book of Job about its geographical and historical background. However, it can be helpful to understand general information about the geography and history of the area to give you a context for reading and studying the book of Job. The author of the book of Job was a Hebrew poet who had an extensive vocabulary. Being uncertain about history and geography is good because the message is timeless.

  • Job contains literary elements that are similar to what you find in other Biblical books that are Apocalyptic. These elements include depictions of events in heaven and on earth, the emphasis on specific numbers and persevering in your faith in God, the references to mythological animals and God’s supernatural control of all events. 

  • Satan appears before God with an accusation against Job. Even though Job is described as, “upright and blameless,” Satan accuses Job of serving God only because Job is prosperous. God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions, children and health. The remainder of the book is the dialogue of Job and his friends attempting to determine why this is happening.

  • Job curses the day he was born. When you carefully examine what he is saying, you realize that it is more intense than just saying that he wished he had never lived.

  • Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

  • Eliphaz considers the message of the, “night spirit” a revelation from God. However, at it’s core, this message is inconsistent with God’s attitude toward Job, and creation in general.

  • Job’s theological worldview has fallen apart because he knows he doesn’t deserve to suffer. Eliphaz calls Job to repent. Job responds questioning why he is suffering, because according to his worldview, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.   

  • Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

  • When Job’s friends describe God as all powerful in an attempt to comfort Job, he becomes terrified because he sees God as causing his suffering and there is nothing that can stop it.

  • Zophar assumes that Job is being punished because he sinned and accuses him of mocking God. Job's three friends move from tactful suggestions to open hostility. As Job is searching for answers, he becomes disappointed in his friends.

  • Job agrees with his friends that God is causing his suffering, but disagrees with them about why it’s happening. Job believes that God will eventually vindicate him.

  • Eliphaz appeals to the night spirit and the tradition of the elders to tell Job that he is a babbling and blaspheming fool.

  • Job begins by criticizing what his friends are saying to him and then professes his faith in God. Bildad responds harshly to Job.

  • Even though Job’s friends have criticized him, he has grown in his faith in God. Job is worn out and begs for compassion. When he gets nothing but contempt and hostility instead, he confesses his faith and hope in God. The messianic theology of Job is different from any other book of the Bible.  

  • Zophar uses metaphors that are found in other passages of scripture as well as Job’s own words to accuse Job of being wicked. However, Zophar made a serious error, which we need to avoid in our lives.

  • Job continues to wrestle with the presence of evil in the world and the apparent injustice of God. 

  • Eliphaz attacks Job as being wicked by twisting the meaning of what Job has said previously. The irony is that Job will be reconciled to God and will pray for Eliphaz.

  • Job wants to lay out his case before God by claiming his innocence. Job says that God is hidden and does as he chooses, but that God neither judges the guilty nor helps the righteous. Bildad responds by contrasting God’s holiness and human lowliness.

  • Job sarcastically thanks the friends for their wise words, which he doesn’t think were wise at all.

  • This is a poem about wisdom that divides the content of the book and points to a deep truth. It is inserted by the author of the book and is not attributed to Job or the friends.

  • The crisis that Job is experiencing is not just the material losses and physical suffering, but also his crisis of faith. He thought he understood what his relationship with God is all about but he feels that God has abandoned him for no apparent reason. Job laments the pain he feels from being disgraced and humiliated.

  • This is the last major statement that Job makes, other than his responses to God that come later. Job is taking a series of oaths that he has not committed any of the sins he mentions. The Bible is distinctive in declaring that all people are created equally, in the image of God. In ancient cultures, some people intrinsically have more value than others because of heritage, wealth, gender, race, etc. God looks on everyone impartially.  

  • Elihu is not mentioned either before or after his speech. He claims to be perfect in knowledge. Elihu thinks that the other three did not convince Job because they did not give a satisfactory answer, but Elihu ends up repeating what they have already said. He thinks that the doctrine of retribution is the answer to Job’s situation. Elihu is a warning to us that we don’t have all the answers.

  • The questions of the book of Job are, “How does God address the problem of evil and why do we serve God? God created a world that is stable and not chaotic. Where there was chaos, God brought in light, shape and beauty. Chaotic forces are necessary for life and God controls them.

  • People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in constant fear of the chaos, danger, ferocity of nature and they valued subduing, controlling and pushing back nature. Wilderness was something to be tamed and pushed back by civilization. In the Gilgamesh epic poem, Enkidu is transformed into a civilized man who protects the domestic animals from the wild animals. In Egypt, there were gods of the Black Land and gods of the Red Land. God sees everything in the world as entirely under his control.

  • God’s care for the animals and how this relates to the problem of Job. All of the things that we see as chaos, and out of control depend on God and thrive because he provides for them and things that he manages and glories in. God describes nature as good, unlike the night spirit that describes it with contempt and loathing. God knows how to manage the chaotic elements of creation.

  • The societies of the Ancient Near East had a high concept of justice. It was the duty of the rulers to uphold justice and protect the powerless. If you are a man who leads, you need to make sure that evil is held in check. Listen to people who come to you with a grievance. God is asking Job if he comprehends what it means to bring justice to the world. It involves both power and wisdom.

  • Behemoth is the plural form of a Hebrew word that refers to animals in general also specifically to wild animals. In Job, it’s also used as a metaphor representing the composite forces of the powers of the earth that are against God.

  • Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

  • Job 41 describes Leviathan. Leviathan is not a natural animal like a crocodile. Sometimes Leviathan refers to a large sea creature, and sometimes death, chaos and the embodiment of evil. Satan is present at the first of the book but he is never mentioned again. In order for God to deal with evil in the world, he must defeat Leviathan.

  • Leviathan is a ferocious creature that no human can subdue. God is saying that he is willing to oppose Leviathan and  is not frightened of Leviathan or intimidated by his boasting. God is the one who will defeat this enemy who seems unbeatable to humans. God tells Job that he will deal with Leviathan but God doesn’t tell him how he will do it. Job embraced God’s answer even though Job didn’t know how God would deal with evil.

  • Job announces that he has changed his outlook on evil, God’s governance of the world and his own suffering. Job knew that God is all-powerful. Now Job knows something more about how God uses his power. Should God be merciful to people who will still be evil? Eschatological is an event that can only happen by a work of God. Emergence of divine power within the historical context. Job admits that he didn’t understand the complexity that is involved in God conquering evil. God forgives Job’s three friends because Job interceded for them. God is showing his approval with job by publicly restoring him.

  • Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

  • Job mentions composite animals similar to those described in other apocalyptic passages. Job had faith that God would do a work of salvation but didn’t understand everything that Jesus would do. There is a hidden plan of God to redeem people and conquer evil that is a major theme in apocryphal books and also in Job.

  • Job tells us about the heavenly mediator. Prior to his afflictions, Job’s life was almost god-like because he was relatively free of suffering. Job through his affliction, faces the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race. Even though some people commit evil and violent acts, Job describes them in pitiful terms.

  • Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

If God is good and powerful, why do you see suffering in the world? Why do you serve God even when you experience suffering? How do you respond to others when they ask these questions? How have you answered them for yourself? These are such important questions that the entire book of Job is devoted discussing only these issues in the context of the perspective of the experiences of one person. 

The theme of the book of Job is timeless and singular. There are clues about its geographical and historical setting but nothing in the book itself that identifies the place or time of its writing. However, the setting is irrelevant because the questions that are addressed in the Book of Job are ones that people have asked in all cultures, throughout time. It would be distracting and even limiting to frame the dialogue in a specific time or culture. There are enough clues in the text to give you a general idea of the culture and time it was written in to help you understand the logic and metaphors used by the main characters in their dialogue. 

The complete book of Job is composed of the dialogue of Job, his friends and God regarding the issues of God's goodness, his power, and evil in the world. No historical events. No other personal, corporate or theological issues. Since these questions are central to your understanding of God's character and how he works in the world around us throughout history, the book of Job compels you to consider this question deeply and exhaustively. The point is that by the end of the book, you can understand and articulate who God is and how he works in your life and in the world. 

The value of this class is that Dr. Garrett helps you understand what the text means, the historical and theological implications, and how you apply it to your life. Dr. Garrett's knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the Hebrew language and background in Ancient Near Eastern history and culture inform his insights into the message of the book and what it means to you. He is skilled at explaining technical linguistic and theological issues in a way that helps you comprehend them and see how they apply to your life. Whether you are just beginning in your study of the Bible or you have had training at an advanced academic level, studying the Book of Job with Dr. Garrett has the potential change the way you understand God and also how you live each day. 

Recommended Books

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

This Student's Guide is for the class on The Book of Job in BiblicalTraining.org. It contains the outlines to the lectures, a summary of each point, and reflection...

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide


The three friends of Job are Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Eliphaz has given his first response and now Bildad will speak in chapter 8.

I. Structure

As you can see, the outline is pretty simple.

II. Direct Rebuke and Admonition

So let’s consider what he has to say. Starting with chapter 8, verses 2-7: “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. Does God pervert justice? Does The Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against Him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with The Almighty; if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. Your beginning will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”

Well, Bildad has taken it a step beyond what Eliphaz said. If you will remember, when Eliphaz began his speech he was extremely tactful. “If I speak, will you
listen? Would you listen to the words of a friend?” And he slowly gets into it. He does accuse Job of some pretty severe sins, but he does it slowly and tactfully and then finally says, “Job, I really think there must be something you have to repent of.”

Bildad hits him with a frontal assault. He says, “First of all, Job, you’re a blasphemer. You have blasphemed God by saying he perverts justice.” A little
more accurately, what Job has said is, he doesn’t understand what is going on. He is totally confused and dismayed by what has happened to him. It has led him to say some fairly harsh things, but he did not say that God is fundamentally unjust. So Bildad has gone a little bit beyond what Job has really said and accused him of saying things he did not say.

It becomes especially harsh in verse 4: “When your children sinned against Him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” This is a man who just lost 10 children, seven sons, three daughters, they all got killed violently. His friends came and said, “Well, you know, your kids were sinners, and that is why God killed them all, so just accept it.” That is a pretty cruel, harsh thing to say and that is where Bildad is now in the speech.

We have to understand again, not everything the friends say is wrong, They will say a lot of true things about God and his justice and his management of the world; but they cannot answer Job’s complaint, the fact that Job does not deserve what has happened to him. And in their frustration they become more and more angry, more and more bitter; and in their anger they will say things that are not only totally harsh, but things that are untrue, just flat out untrue about him. So we see it beginning here with Bildad. “Your children were just sinners, so God killed them all, so just accept it.”

With verse 5, then, he gets into his admonition: “Seek God. Plead with him. If you are pure enough, everything will work out well for you and you will become rich again, in fact, richer than you ever were. Your future will be wonderful and prosperous.”

We will see many times, there is a lot of irony in what the friends say; because in fact at the end of the story, Job will be reconciled with God and Job will become very prosperous and rich. However, it will not be the way Bildad figures. It will not be Job repenting of some imaginary sin; it will be Job coming to understand the ways of God. Bildad himself will be condemned by God for what he has said. So the irony is, there is a lot of truth in what he says, but not the way he thinks it will be.

III. A Conservative Appeal

He then comes to talk about his conservative appeal, as I call it. “Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their
understanding?” An appeal to the elders. This is very traditional, ancient Near Eastern wisdom. We have received truth and understanding. We know how the world works because of what our elders have taught us. They are our authority. They are our source of truth. These are truths we have held onto for generations and we should not likely overthrow them.

This is what you could call the basic conservative mindset. It is the idea that there are certain truths about the human race, certain truths about God, certain truths about behavior, right and wrong that have been handed down from generation to generation and we should hold onto these truths and we should not let go of them. In effect, this is the heart of conservative thinking, that there is a lot of truth to be held onto from the past and we should not throw it away. Is this wrong? No, it is not wrong. There is a great deal of truth in it. Obviously, the elders, our parents, our grandparents have learned many hard lessons and they have passed these things down to us. The whole human race has learned many hard lessons and they have passed these truths down to us. We are foolish to neglect them and throw them away. Then, what is the problem?

The problem is again, he is misapplying a truth. We say this over and over. The truth of the doctrine of retribution that he is applying to Job, does not apply. And of course, there is also the possibility of learning something we didn’t know before; of having to wrestle with a problem that our ancestors did not wrestle with or that they never really resolved. Sometimes people do learn new things. They do encounter new issues and they have to work through those issues.

This is a case again where something that is right and true has been taken by the three friends and has been misused and is discouraging, in fact, to the
conservative mindset because ultimately Bildad is wrong. But we should not think that his basic ideal of conservative thinking is wrong, but that he has misapplied it and not fully worked through the issues.

IV. Metaphors of God’s Justice

We then come to Bildad’s metaphors of God’s justice in verses 11-18. “Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water while
still growing and uncut? They wither more quickly than grass. Such is the destiny of all who forget God. So perishes the hope of the godless.” Let’s pause right there. This is a straightforward metaphor, right? The papyrus and the various marsh plants only grow where there is water. If a lake or a pond dries up, then all the marsh plants in it are going to die. That is a straightforward truth; and he says that God is the water in whom we all grow. God is the source of our life; and if we are cut off from Him, if we turn from God, we will die. Is that true? Well, of course it is true. But again, in Job’s case it does not apply.

Moving on, he says, verse 14: “What they trust in is fragile, what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives away. They cling to it, but it does not hold. They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine, spreading its roots over a garden. It entwines its roots around a pile of rocks and looks for a place among the stones; but when it is torn from its spot, the place disowns it and says ‘I never saw you.’ Surely its life withers away and from the soil other plants grow.”

Let’s pause right there. He has two metaphors here basically. Metaphor of a spider web, and that is the idea that all the ideologies people trust in besides God, fail. Whatever theory of life, whatever political theory you are holding to, it will fail ultimately. The only thing that is reliable is God. Is that true? Well, yes, it is definitely true! Once again, the issue is, Job has not abandoned God, so it doesn’t apply.

The interesting thing, though, in verse 16 and following is the metaphor of the plant or the tree, the growing tree. This is a very familiar metaphor in the Bible. Most of you, I am sure, know it from Psalm 1.

Psalm 1, we can look at this really quickly: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night.” Verse 3: ”That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither. Whatever they do prospers.”

So this is the metaphor of the tree from Psalm 1. It is also used in the book of Jeremiah chapter 17, verses 5-8. It is a standard Biblical metaphor for the life of the righteous. We are like a tree with roots that go down into a reliable source of water. No matter how bad things get, even if there is a drought everywhere else, that tree will thrive, it will survive because it is rooted in streams of water that don’t dry up. So also those who are rooted in God don’t dry up and they bear fruit from God in season, their leaves do not wither.

So Bildad has taken a familiar metaphor from the Bible. He has essentially correctly described it. Those who are rooted in God thrive; those who are not rooted in God perish. Again, all we need to say here is, Job has not abandoned God. It does not apply in his case. But Bildad, again, is giving an answer that does not help.

So he concludes, verse 20 and following: “Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthen the hands of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Your enemies will be clothed in shame and the tents of the wicked will be no more.”

That is certainly correct. God does watch over his own and ultimately God does punish the evil. But of course, the problem is, it is made to be too automatic a process; as if every day, everybody is just saying, “The wicked fall and the righteous thrive” when we know life is a lot more complex than that; that often righteous people suffer terribly for no clear reason and wicked people thrive for no clear reason. And that is something Job will come back and throw in their faces.

A great deal of what Bildad has said is correct; but a great deal of it is misapplied and to some degree, Bildad in his anger and his frustration has become very harsh and very cruel, accusing Job’s children of having deserved the violent deaths that came to them.

So Bildad’s speech is straightforward. When we come back, we will look at Job’s answer and see how Job deals with all that Bildad has said.