New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Job 18:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered- Bildad doesn't even engage with Job's words after briefly doing so in :4, but rather just vents his anger in this speech, threatening Job with all manner of condemnation; and the longer he rants on, the more convinced he becomes that Job is "wicked" and doesn't know God (:5,21). This is the problem when we don't engage with the words and arguments of another, or pay mere lip service to doing so; we can fall headlong into a feeding frenzy of angry accusation, resulting in doing what God condemns- condemning our brother, imputing sin rather than righteousness to a person we have created in our own minds, who merely bears the name of the one who began merely with a theological difference with us.

Job 18:2 How long will you hunt for words? Consider, and afterwards we will speak-
This again is imputing to Job an image which the friends like to assume he has, rather than engaging with what he has actually said. Job appears to be blurting out his feelings, not hunting for words to say.

Job 18:3 Why are we counted as animals, which have become unclean in your sight?-
Again as noted on :2, this is a case of attacking a straw man image of an opponent. For Job has not treated them as animals. They have themselves proclaimed all men as "unclean" by birth (Job 15:14), and yet they decide Job has called them unclean, and they object to it. But as Job transfers his feelings back onto the friends in Job 17:12, so they are doing the same to him. They may posit that all men are unclean, including themselves; but if Job is even supposed to have said this, then he is to be condemned. This again is an example to us of what happens when dialogue goes wrong. The dialogues begin and end with Job and the friends in silence. The implication is that all that was said had been not said.

Job 18:4 You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you? Or shall the rock be removed out of its place?-
This is the only point in this speech where Bildad makes any attempt to engage with the actual words of Job; see on :1. And he quickly moves on to generalize about Job as a wicked person for the rest of his speech. In any case, he is only superficially engaging with Job's words. Job has said that he felt as if God were tearing him apart like a wild beast (Job 16:9); but Bildad twists this, or simply misremembers it, to Job saying that he was tearing himself apart. Job has argued that the process of erosion wears down the greatest mountains and removes them (Job 14:18,19), and so likewise the strongest man is eventually worn down to dust. But Bildad denies this; perhaps he was ignorant of the process of erosion, and considered it bunk science. For him, present realities are all that count. Mountains aren't removed, in his experience. And yet they are, by faith (Mt. 17:20); and the great mountain which God would surely remove was Babylon, and He would establish the mountain of His restored people and Kingdom in Zion (Zech. 4:7; Dan. 2:45). The exiles disbelieved this, and thus were like Bildad, seeing only what was immediately before their own eyes. Bildad considered that the eretz ("land") could never be "forsaken"; but that is just what happened. The very phrase is used of the land being forsaken, because God's people had forsaken Him (Lev. 26:43). The hope of the restoration prophets was that the land would no longer be forsaken (Is. 62:4). But just as Bildad considered such a thing impossible, so God's people had done.

Job 18:5 Yes, the light of the wicked shall be put out, the spark of his fire shall not shine-
Much of Bildad's condemnation of Job in :5-21 appears to be taken from the "wisdom of the Beni Kedem", the children of the east (1 Kings 4:30). Bildad has decided Job is sinful and very wicked, because of the extent of his sufferings. And he brings in now descriptions of the wicked man taken from other sources. Through these allusions and quotations, he is lead to yet further condemn and slander Job.

Job 18:6 The light shall be dark in his tent. His lamp above him shall be put out-
Light becoming dark is exactly the phrase used about the judgment coming upon Judah (Is. 5:10; 13:10; Jer. 13:16). Indeed this had happened to Job, but insofar as he was representing God's people who were to suffer this.

Job 18:7 The steps of his strength shall be shortened. His own counsel shall cast him down-
An oblique reference to the way Job was apparently dying before his time, with a shortened life. Here we have another connection between Job and Hezekiah, who had the same experience, but like Job was restored out of it. Yet Hezekiah didn't make use of that restoration, just as the exiles didn't.

Job 18:8 For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he wanders into its mesh-
I noted on :5 that Bildad has concluded that Job is wicked because of the extent of his sufferings; and he begins quoting or alluding to standard condemnations of the wicked from the wisdom of the east. And this leads him to ever more falsely accuse Job. For it was simply not so that Job was falling into his own trap. For he had lived justly and uprightly before his trials (Job 1:1). 

Job 18:9 A snare will take him by the heel. A trap will catch him-
I noted on :8 that this idea that Job had fallen into his own snare was totally untrue. But it was how he was judged and considered by men. In this respect, he was completely identified with the sins of Israel, who indeed fell into their own snare (Is. 8:14; 24:17,18; Hos. 5:1). He was a representative figure.

Job 18:10 A noose is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the way-
Jeremiah alludes to this in complaining that the Jews had hid snares for him (Jer. 18:22). He often alludes to Job and saw himself as  Job- persecuted by his own people, whom he vainly tried to reform.

Job 18:11 Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall chase him at his heels-
This looks ahead to Jerusalem, represented by Job, surrounded on every side by her enemies. The "terrors" are imagined to be demon-like figures under the control of "the king of terrors" (s.w., :14). As noted on :14, this wrong idea is being deconstructed.

Job 18:12 His strength shall be famished. Calamity shall be ready at his side-
The destruction of Jerusalem by famine may be in view, prefigured by Job being so hungry that he had to beg for bread (see on Job 15:23).

Job 18:13 The members of his body shall be devoured. The firstborn of death shall devour his members-
The phrase recalls the destroying Angel who destroyed the Egyptians and would have also destroyed the Israelite firstborn were it not for the blood of the Passover lamb. The satan figure was associated with an obedient Divine angel who brought the trials upon Job (see on Job 1:6). "Devour" is the same Hebrew word used of how Job's wealth was "consumed" by Divine fire (Job 1:16). Again, Job is representative of an apostate Israel who likewise had their members (s.w. "branches") devoured by the fire of Divine judgment (s.w. Ez. 19:14; Hos. 11:6).


Job 18:14 He shall be rooted out of his tent where he trusts. He shall be brought to the king of terrors-
Significantly, it is the friends who make allusion to the ‘Satan’ figures and gods as if they are real, whereas Job in his responses always denies their reality and sees God as the direct source of His sufferings. Bildad speaks of how Job’s troubles are to be associated with “the king of terrors”; Eliphaz blames them upon the “sons of Resheph” (Job 5:7); but Job’s response is that the source of the evil in his life is ultimately from God and not any such being. See on Job 5:7. The Bible personifies death as a person; that is the king of terrors (Ps. 49:14; Is. 28:15), rather than the superhuman being of  the friends' imagination.

Job 18:15 There shall dwell in his tent that which is none of his. Sulphur shall be scattered on his habitation-
Living in early times, the friends were likely aware of the fate of Sodom. Job's children and wealth had been destroyed by Divine fire, just as Sodom was, and perhaps sulphur was also used. God's sinful people are likewise identified with Sodom (Is. 1:10; Ez. 16:46; Am. 4:11), the destruction of Jerusalem was seen as that of Sodom (Lam. 4:6), just as the friends here identify Job with Sodom.

Job 18:16 His roots shall be dried up beneath. Above shall his branch be cut off-
The theme of 'drying up' or 'withering' is significant. Bildad considers Job to have been 'dried up' by God's judgment (Job 8:12), and the word is used of how God withered or dried up Judah at the hands of their invaders (Jer. 12:4; 23:10; Ez. 17:9,10,24; Zech. 11:17; Lam. 4:8; Is. 40:7,8- although the prophetic word of God requiring their restoration would endure, despite their drying up). The dry bones of Judah in captivity were withered or dried up (Ez. 37:11). So Job's 'drying up' was again, a sharing in the representative suffering of God's people. Job's personal response to his 'drying up' was to reflect that God dries up waters and also sends them forth as floods (Job 12:15 s.w.); He can give and He can take, just as Job had initially realized (Job 2:10). Just as He dried up Job / Israel, so He could abundantly send forth waters; just as He did at the Red Sea. Restoration and salvation was just as easy for Him as destruction, to put it another way. The drying up of Job was also understood by him as referring to his death (Job 14:11), but God could raise him from the dead and have a desire to him again (Job 14:15). Eliphaz wrongly argues that the Divine 'drying up' of a person means permanent extinction (Job 15:30), as does Bildad (Job 18:16); but Job always sees the 'drying up' as part of a Divine action which also has a counterpart, the pouring out again of waters, or resurrection of the dried up, withered bones. Likewise Judah in captivity thought that their drying up, their dry bones, were incapable of revival (Ez. 37:11); but the message is that they could indeed be revived, and their drying up was but a presage to their eternal revival.        

This connects with the thought of Job's words in Job 14:8: "Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stock dies in the ground". "Earth" is eretz, the land (of Israel). If merely "soil" was intended, a different word would have been used. Again, we see the drama of Job has been tweaked, under Divine inspiration, to become the narrative for the exiles. The root had indeed largely died in the land at the time of the Babylonian invasion, but it still had some life and would "bud" again (Job 14:9). Job was the man with great roots who had been cut down but hadn't completely died (Job 8:17); his roots had been dried up (Job 18:16; 29:19). He represented Judah, whose roots were throughout the land as a tree transplanted by God (s.w. Ps. 80:9). Those roots were withered by the invasions (Is. 5:24), but out of those dry roots would grow up a "tender plant / branch" (Is. 11:1,10; 53:2), using the same word for "tender" as in Job 14:7. This Messianic suffering servant was to be based upon Job, and representative of all God's restored people. They were to again spread their roots in the land of promise in a restored Kingdom (Is. 37:31; Jer. 17:8), after the pattern of Job's restoration.

Job 18:17 His memory shall perish from the earth. He shall have no name in the street-
This was the most awful fate for an oriental sheikh or leader. Is. 26:14 uses this language about Babylon, who initially refused to let the Jews return.

Job 18:18 He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world-
The idea of being driven away into darkness is that of condemnation, as is used of the driving of God's condemned people into exile (Is. 8:22; Jer. 23:12). Again, Job suffered the condemnation of the wicked without being wicked as charged. And just as the Lord's death made Him be perceived as an accursed criminal, although He was innocent, so the friends' judgments of Job made him appear "wicked" when he wasn't.

Job 18:19 He shall have neither son nor grandson among his people, nor any remaining where he lived-
Clearly an oblique reference to the fate of Job's children. Perhaps the desolation and emptying of homes and areas in Israel and Judah is in view, after the people were carried into exile.

Job 18:20 Those who come after shall be astonished at his day, as those who went before were frightened-
"Astonished" is s.w. "desolation" in the descriptions of the fate of the land when its people would go into exile (Lev. 26:34,35; Lam. 1:4). The promise of restoration was that the new covenant would change this and restore the desolate (Jer. 33:10). Bildad failed to see this, assuming that all judgment was to be eternal. The idea of ultimate restoration was out of his mind, as it was with the faithless exiles.

Job 18:21 Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous. This is the place of him who doesn’t know God
- Clearly Job did "know God". We see here for all time the danger of dashing headlong along a path of reasoning about a person which leads us to a totally wrong and slanderous position about them. Job 36:26 uses the same phrase in what appears to be Elihu's take on this- which is that in fact God is too great to be known by any man. His final appearance makes it clear that to know God is to repent and accept His grace.