Lecture 17: Job and Bildad speak
Course: The Book of Job
Lecture: Job and Bildad speak
In our last lecture we looked at Eliphaz and saw his complaints against Job and how bitter he had become towards Job. Today we are going to look at the speeches of Job and then of Bildad. First, Job chapter 16 and 17 and then Bildad in chapter 18.
We will begin by looking at the structure of Job’s speech and this is another chiastic structure. Remember, that is the structure in which the second half parallels the first half, but in reverse order. So the simplest chiastic structure would be A-B, B-A in which B-A reverses the order obviously of A-B. In this particular chiastic structure, we have A) speech of the friends and speech of Job, 16:1-6. This is paralleled by A-prime, speech of the friends and speech of Job in 17:10-16. We then have B, men and God against Job, enemies surround him, 16:7-14. And B-prime, mockers, God and men against Job, the righteous are appalled, 17:2-9. Then C, Job in lamentation, 16:15-17. And C-prime, Job is ready to die, 16:22 to 17:1. In the middle of it all, as a kind of pivot to the whole passage, Job’s confession of faith, 16:18-21.
I. Speeches of Job and his Friends
So let’s look at what he has and we will look at each of the parallel parts together. We are going to look first at A and A-prime, which compares the speech of Job to the speech of the friends.
Verse 16:1-6: Job says, “I have heard many things like these. You are miserable comforters, all of you. Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you if you were in my place. I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief. Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away.”
Notice here how he compares the speech of the friends to what he says he would say if he were in their place. What are they doing? They are arguing with him incessantly. There is really no point at this point of the discussion for them to go on because they both made their points. Job has made it completely clear that he does not believe he has sinned and that he does not deserve what has happened to him; and he doesn’t know what God is up to; whereas the three friends have repeatedly said, “Obviously you’re a terrible sinner; obviously you need to repent” and they won’t let it go.
Previously Job just wished they would be quiet and he basically is saying the same thing again. If they refuse to say anything helpful, just shut up! Job, though, says that if I were in your place, I would at least try to comfort you. If Job knew that his friend was suffering through no fault of his own, that he hadn’t done anything wrong, Job insists that he would try to at least speak kind words, not throw salt on the wound. So he accuses the friends in their speech of being cruel and harsh.
We then look at the end of the speech, A-prime, where we again look at the speech of the friends and of Job, 17:10-16: “But come on, all of you, try again! I
will not find a wise man among you. My days have passed, my plans are shattered, yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness, ‘Light is near.’ If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness, if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me? Will it go down to the gates of death? Will we descend together into dust?”
First of all, Job comes back to the friends and he says, “Alright, keep up your arguing.” We’ve seen already he does not understand why they keep arguing. We have seen already he calls them then to be quiet. But now when he says, “Come on, try again, argue with me again” he basically is saying, “I’m not going to believe anything you say, I’m not going to be persuaded by what you say, but obviously you want to talk more, so go ahead and do it.”
Then he talks about what he would say and it is a little different from what he did previously. Previously, of course, he said, “I would speak compassionately to you,” but now he speaks of his own situation and he says, “Alright, my body is ruined; I know I don’t have long to live; I am sure to die pretty soon. If I just accept this fact and say to the corruption, ‘You are my father’ and the worm, ‘My mother.’ What then does that mean?’”
What does he mean when he says, “If I just say to corruption, ‘You are my father’?” It means that if I accept death, if I just give up, if I just say, “Okay, I am
going to die, I might as well live with it until the moment that I pass away. I might as well stop fighting it and just say, ‘Alright, death, whenever you want to come, I’m ready to receive you’.” Then he asks, “Where would be my hope?”
Job is again on a pilgrimage of faith. He is growing in his understanding of God and the ways of God, even as the friends are becoming more heretical and more hostile. Job realizes that you know, I can’t really just give up and want to die; even though Job himself earlier has said that is what he would do. He now is recognizing that if he is going to have any hope in vindication, any hope that someday he will be proven right, he cannot just give in to despair and accept death as the ultimate, final end. So at this end of the structure of the text, he is speaking of a concept that will become much more powerful in Job, the hope of resurrection.
II. God and Enemies Against Job: Enemies Surround Him and Righteous Appalled
Then we look at B and B-prime. God and men against Job; enemies surround him. We start with 16:7-14: “Surely, God, you’ve worn me out; you have devastated my entire household. You have shriveled me up and it has become a witness. My gauntness rises up and testifies against me. God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me. My opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.”
By the way, notice here how Job has again reflected a little on the prior speech of the friends. Eliphaz had spoken of Job as someone whose face was covered with fat and who had thick bulges around his waist. Job says of himself, “You have shriveled me up.” He conceives of himself as completely dried out. He moves on: “People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me. God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall to the ground. Again and again he bursts upon me and rushes at me like a warrior.”
So what is Job saying in this part of the passage? Basically it is pretty straightforward. He is saying God is attacking him ruthlessly and he compares God
to a warrior who is unleashing all of his weapons against his enemy. He shoots arrows; he strikes him on the face; he lays him low; he beats him again and again; he attacks him relentlessly.
This is pretty straightforward. Job has suffered a great deal and now he is mourning and lamenting over what he has suffered. But what he says about the
outsiders is interesting. Verse 10: “People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn; they unite together against me.” It is not just that God is against him. It is not even that just the three friends are against him. He perceives the mob to be against him. All of the people who knew him have turned against him. People are rejoicing in his fall and rejoicing in his sorrow. This has become another source of pain to him.
This will be contrasted with what we see in the opposite text, B-prime, which again speaks of mockers and men against God, but also of the righteous being appalled, 17:2-9: “Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell on their hostility. Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me? You have closed their minds to understanding; therefore you will not let them triumph. If anyone denounces their friend for reward, the eyes of their children will fail. God has made me a byword to everyone, a man in whose face people spit. My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow. The upright are appalled at this; the innocent are aroused against the ungodly. Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.”
Job again speaks of his suffering, but this time he speaks of a whole variety of viewpoints on his suffering. First, he says, verse 2: “Mockers surround me.” So again he speaks of the mob, people who just look at him and they are happy that this rich man has fallen and they are rejoicing that he has been brought low. But then he speaks of the three friends, but he does it in an unusual way. He tells God that he thinks God has closed their minds to understanding. The three friends have been unable to come to terms with Job’s dilemma and unable to think clearly about the meaning of the problem. Their minds have been closed; and therefore Job says, “You will not let them triumph.” Of course, this is true. At the end, God will vindicate Job, he will condemn the three.
Again, verse 6 and 7, Job is suffering and he is a byword to everyone. The mob is mocking him. Then in verse 8 and 9 he speaks of one other group of people; and this is the righteous. The righteous are appalled. They are astonished at what they see. Nevertheless, according to verse 9, they will hold to their righteousness.
What Job is seeing is how people perceive his suffering. He understands that there is a mob out there that are just laughing and jeering and happy to see him fall. He understands that there are the three friends, who do not really understand what is going on and will stand condemned before God. But there are also the righteous. The righteous look at this and they are troubled, they are appalled. They don’t know what is going on, just as Job does not know what is going on; yet they will adhere to their righteousness. This is a direct contradiction to something Eliphaz says. Eliphaz says, “You put a stumbling block before the people, so that they are no longer devout; they no longer serve God.” Whereas Job is saying, “No, what I am experiencing is going to trouble them, they are going to be very disturbed; but it will not turn them from the faith.”
It is a characteristic of this kind of literature that where there are these profound enigmas, the righteous may not understand it all, but they persevere and they gain something from what they see and they grow in the experience. For example, the book of Hosea, which is a very enigmatic book, ends with the claim that the righteous will look upon these things and understand them, but fools will stumble in them.
That is what Job is saying. People who are truly righteous will recognize that there is a big problem here; but they will not for that reason turn away from God and from their righteousness.
III. Job Laments His Situation
Then we have Job simply lamenting his fate, verses 15-17, C: “I have sewed sackcloth over my skin and buried my brow in the dust. My face is red with
weeping. Dark shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure.” Notice here, he is simply re-affirming that he is innocent, but he is in deep pain and is mourning. In C-prime he says he is ready to die in 16:22 to 17:1: “Only a few years will pass before I take the path of no return. My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me. Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell on their hostility.”
He knows that his suffering is unrelenting and he expects to soon die. But we do need to remember what he says at the end of the passage, that it is really not right for him to just give up and embrace death and embrace kind of his body coming to an end. Rather, he knows that he must in some way cling to life, so that he may be vindicated by God.
IV. Job’s Confession of Faith
This is where Job is at this point in the narrative; and we have looked through all parts of the passage except the very central passage, which is his confession of faith, D, verses 18-21, which reads: “O earth, cover not my blood; let my cry find no resting place! For behold, my witness is in heaven and he who testifies for me is on high. My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God; that he would argue the case of a man with God as a son of man does with his neighbors.”
What we have here is a remarkable step in Job’s pilgrimage. He has gone from absolute despair, to just kind of imagining that there could be an intercessor
between himself and God. Now he absolutely confesses that he has an intercessor between himself and God. He says, “My witness is in heaven, the One who testifies for me.” His close friends may mock him and turn away from him, but this intercessor will stand before God and speak to him as a man does with his neighbor. So Job in his pilgrimage of faith and his growth of faith is now convinced that there has to be an intercessor between God and people. This is an amazing transformation in his thinking.
I think it is clear to us all that this is what is answered in the Christian Faith, that we do have a great high priest who stands for us before God, living forever to make intercession for us. He stands before us as one who is man and who knows what it is to be mortal and weak; and yet he also can speak to God as an equal, as a man speaks to his neighbor. So Job has kind of anticipated this out of his suffering.
V. Bildad’s Speech
Before we finish, though, we want to take a quick look at chapter 18, Bildad’s speech. The structure of Bildad’s speech is very simple. He simply says, first Job needs to listen, reality won’t change to suit him, 18:2-4. Then, Job is one of the proverbially wicked, 18:5-21.
Let’s see what he has to say here. Bildad says in verses 2 and 3: “When will you end these speeches? Be sensible, and then we can talk. Why are we regarded as cattle and stupid in your sight?” This is kind of a direct answer to Job because Job has just said to God, “You have withheld understanding from their minds.” So Bildad got the point and he says, “What makes you think we’re stupid? When are you going to answer us correctly?” He is very angry, he is very upset. Verse 4: ”You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger, is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place?” The rocks, the earth, that is a way of describing reality. In Bildad’s mind, the reality is, God punishes sinners. If you are not a sinner, God is not going to punish you. So, Job just won’t face the fact. He wants reality to change to suit him, and Bildad just casts that into his face.
We should notice, of course, that in reality it is the friends who want reality to change to suit them because they know Job is a good man, is a righteous man; and there is no explanation for what has happened to him. But they refuse to face it.
Now he gives his big presentation of Job as one of the proverbially wicked men. Verse 5:”The lamp of the wicked man is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning. The light in his tent becomes dark; the lamp beside him goes out. The vigor of his step is weakened; his own schemes throw him down. His feet thrust him into a net, he wanders into its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast. A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path.”
Let’s just stop right there for a moment. This is a standard Biblical picture of what happens to the wicked. They dig a pit and fall into it themselves. They set a snare and they themselves are trapped in it. This is a theme that recurs repeatedly in the Bible, especially in Proverbs. Bildad is simply re-affirming this Biblical teaching. But again, we need to understand that what he is saying is, Job is this wicked man.
Verse 11: “Terrors startle him on every side and dog his every step. Calamity is hungry for him; disaster is ready for him when he falls. It eats away parts of his skin; death’s firstborn devours its limbs.”
Let’s pause right there. We have already seen that calamity has befallen Job; but more specifically, it eats away his skin. What is the nature of Job’s affliction? It is a skin affliction. Again, he is not speaking abstractly; he is speaking about Job.
Verse 14:”He is torn from the security of his tent and marched off to the king of terrors. Fire resides in his tent; burning sulfur is scattered over his dwelling. His roots dry up below, his branches wither above.”
Notice there in verse 16, again he has gone back to the metaphor of the tree. In this case, he is a tree that is not planted by waters and it withers in time of
drought. Verse 17:”The memory of him perishes from the earth; he has no name in the land. He is driven from light into the realm of darkness and is banished from the world. He has no offspring or descendants among his people , no survivor where once he lived.” Again, Job has lost all of his children. They are all dead. Verse 20:”People of the west are appalled at his fate; those of the east are seized with horror. Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who does not know God.”
Notice, Job had just said that the righteous see what happens to him and are appalled. The reason the righteous are appalled is because they know that Job is righteous. They don’t understand why this has happened. They are confused. But as far as Bildad is concerned, they are appalled because they see how badly the wicked suffer. They see how thorough and complete the wrath of God is. You see the same kind of expressions when it talks about the destruction of a city, like the destruction of Samaria or the destruction of Jerusalem. The people will walk by and be appalled and be astonished. That is what Bildad is saying. They were so wicked that God utterly annihilated them; and people look at it and can’t believe it. Verse 21, again: “Such is the dwelling of an evil man.”
What is he saying here? Very clearly, that Job is an evil man. So Bildad clearly is not convinced by anything Job has said; and he has rounded out his speech with another firm conviction, saying that Job is one of the wicked men that all of the sermons and all of the proverbs are all about.
When we come back, we will look at Job speaking again, when he laments again, but he also has another confession of faith and statement of hope.