This chapter begins with Bildad the Shuhite challenging Job’s alleged false innocence – acting as the effective “judge” of Job, launching accusations against him time and time again. Is not Bildad more a type of Satan than he is of Christ, for Satan is the chief accuser of those in Jesus (Revelation 12:10)? The refrain from Bildad – “If your children have sinned against him”, “If you will seek God…”, “If you are pure and upright…” (v.4-6), which is better understood as your children have sinned, you have not sought God, and you are not pure and upright. That is the only answer which Bildad can give – hardly the words of encouragement, and hardly the theology which Christ holds (John 9). Here, Bildad appeals to nature for his arguments (v.11-15):
- Papyrus grows with marsh (v.11)
- Reeds flourish where there is water (v.11)
- Trust is not as a spider’s web (v.14)
- The righteous man’s house shall stand and endure (v.15)
- The righteous man shall not be like a lush plant, entwined to a stone heap and destroyed from his place (v.16-18).
As Adam Clarke states:
” Verse 15… is all allusion to the spider. When he suspects his web, here called his house, to be frail or unsure, he leans upon it in different parts, propping himself on his hinder legs, and pulling with his fore claws, to see if all be safe. If he find any part of it injured, he immediately adds new cordage to that part, and attaches it strongly to the wall. When he finds all safe and strong, he retires into his hole at one corner, supposing himself to be in a state of complete security, when in a moment the brush or the besom sweeps away both himself, his house, and his confidence. This I have several times observed; and it is in this that the strength and point of the comparison consist. The wicked, whose hope is in his temporal possessions strengthens and keeps his house in repair; and thus leans on his earthly supports; in a moment, as in the case of the spider, his house is overwhelmed by the blast of God’s judgments, and himself probably buried in its ruins. This is a very fine and expressive metaphor, which not one of the commentators that I have seen has ever discovered.
…Verse 16… is another metaphor. The wicked is represented as a luxuriant plant, in a good soil, with all the advantages of a good situation; well exposed to the sun; the roots intervolving themselves with stones, so as to render the tree more stable; but suddenly a blast comes, and the tree begins to die. The sudden fading of its leaves, that its root is become as rottenness, and its vegetable life destroyed. I have often observed sound and healthy trees, which were flourishing in all the pride of vegetative health, suddenly struck by some unknown and incomprehensible blast, begin to die away, and perish from the roots. I have seen also the prosperous wicked, in the inscrutable dispensations of the Divine providence, blasted, stripped, made bare, and despoiled, in the same way.”
Clarke’s observations point out the subtlety in Bildad’s accusation – for Bildad is stating not simply a black and white situation of God’s righteousness (i.e. evil will be destroyed and the sinners are easily identifiable). Contrarily, it is the evil ones who appear as lush plants; who appear to have reliable households – both accusations specific to Job, who was teeming with (as Bildad alleges) children who only appeared to be godly, and a household which only appeared to be built on God’s precepts.
Yet, the accuser once again looks at these elements outside of Christ, and presents the Christless man before God, emphasising (like Eliphaz) the need to be justified by one’s works. It is in fact only the righteous man (Psalm 1-2) who is the living water (Jeremiah 17:13; John 7:38); it is onlyChrist’s house which shall stand and endure for all time (1 Peter 2:5). As Adam Clarke continues to observe:
“Job’s friends must have been acquainted, at least, with the history of the ancient patriarchs; and most certainly they contained facts of an opposite nature. Righteous Abel was persecuted and murdered by his wicked brother, Cain. Abram was obliged to leave his own country on account of worshipping the true God; so all tradition has said. Jacob was persecuted by his brother Esau; Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers; Moses was obliged to flee from Egypt, and was variously tried and afflicted, even by his own brethren. Not to mention David, and almost all the prophets. All these were proofs that the best of men were frequently exposed to sore afflictions and heavy calamities; and it is not by the prosperity or adversity of men in this world, that we are to judge of the approbation or disapprobation of God towards them. In every case our Lord’s rule is infallible: By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Bildad’s accusations are cut short and Job immediately responds with an opening – “How can a man be in the right before God?” – surely a rhetorical question. Yet he is not necessarily saying that Bildad is wrong per se. Rather, he is saying that Bildad is stating the obvious – no man is sinless! Nor can any man state that he is “in the right” and argue that before God. This is a God of love and goodness and justice. As Clarke states, “He is supreme, and will give account of none of his matters. He is infinitely wise, and cannot mistake. He is infinitely kind, and can do nothing cruel. He is infinitely good, and can do nothing wrong. No one, therefore, should question either his motives or his operations” (c.f. Isaiah 45:9; 2 Corinthians 4:7).
Job clearly understands the ambit of God’s righteousness – though a man may consider himself righteous, it is ultimately God who decides the man’s righteousness. His rhetoric of how man can be right before God is in the vein of every statement regarding man’s standing before God in this chapter (c.f. Matthew 7:22). What “laughter” which Bildad spoke of in chapter 8 is but false as Job prescribes – “If I forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer” (v.27), yet he would become “afraid of all [his] suffering, for [he knows God] will not hold [him] innocent.” Job understands the gravity of falling on the wrong side of God’s justice, and reminds Bildad that there is no judge greater than the LORD – but Bildad and Eliphaz clearly are not of the same ilk. As Job’s rhetoric continues in v.33, “Would that there were an arbiter between us” (as the ESV footnote provides, as the Hebrew could be translated this way)? Such an arbiter would take the Father’s rod away from Job, and let not the dread of the Father terrify him. Then Job would speak without fear of God; otherwise, if Job were to stand alone outside of Jesus, then he should accordingly be consumed with such fear (v.33-35). Such is the Redeemer and Arbiter whom Job speaks of in Job 19:25. However, until such Redeemer becomes the central tenet of his response, Job continues to plead to God for mercy in the following chapter.
This chapter begins with “I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (v.1). Such is the honesty of a man righteous in Jesus. He knows it is the LORD who placed him in the current situation (v.3-7); he also knows that the LORD is not punishing Job because Job is not guilty (v.7). Despite what appears to be a complaint, Job describes his theology of God clearly – He fashioned Job, made him, clothed him with skin and flesh and knit him together with bones and sinews, granted him life and steadfast love, and His care has preserved Job’s spirit (v.8-12). Such is the great God whom Job describes – the same God who could destroy him, who could return him to dust, who would curdle him like cheese, who could decide not to acquit Job of his iniquity, who could hunt him like a lion, work wonders against him, renew His witnesses against him, increase His vexation against him, bring fresh troops (v.8-17).
Thus, Job’s substance of complaint is that of a righteous man. What is the purpose of being righteous and blameless if one were to receive such trials from the LORD? A common question asked by Christians of all ages. “Why did you bring me out from the womb?” as some have undoubtedly questioned the LORD. Yet, Job is not done with his exposition, just as the Teacher’s main point is not driven until the final chapters of Ecclesiastes.