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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Job

Job 18 Commentary

Let’s turn in our Bibles to the Book of Job and chapter number 18 for this Job 18 commentary.

I want us to picture in our mind an equation.  

On the left side of that equation you have the word “Reality.”  

Then there’s an equal sign (=).  

And to the right of that equal sign you have two constants.  

The first of those two constants is “God’s Goodness” – that’s his moral excellence. His kindness and love and compassion and benevolence and on and on. 

Then you have a plus sign. 

And the second constant is “God’s Greatness” – that’s his sovereignty and power and control and perfect knowledge and so forth. 

So – can you picture that equation in your mind? Realty = God’s Goodness + God’s Greatness. 

God is good. God is great. And that’s the sum of reality as we know it. 

What do you think about that equation? There’s some legitimacy to it.  

But, I can tell you what Job’s friends thought about that equation. They would have considered that equation to be absolutely irrefutably true. 

God is good. He loves justice and righteousness. On the other side, God hates wickedness. That’s because he is morally good. 

And then God’s greatness comes along and sees to it that all infringements of moral uprightness are immediately punished in this life. God sovereignly executes judgement against the wicked. 

And so, it’s quite natural that these men are putting Job’s situation into this grid – this equation. And even though Job is claiming personal innocence and moral uprightness – that’s just not how the equation works, Job! No, if you were morally upright, God would sovereignly reward you. 

Because reality – all we know and experience – is that God is good and God is great – and therefore, Job, we’re seeing your demise and we know that it’s nothing else than the punishing hand of God crushing your wickedness in his holy grasp. 

But there’s good news, Job! God is good. If you repent of your sin – which is apparently secret to even us – but not to God! – if you repent, God is good and will restore you. 

And Job himself would have been inclined to accept this equation of reality. And yet, what he’s coming to understand more and more is that there is a variable in that equation that these friends of his are not aware of. 

The two constants of God’s goodness and God’s greatness don’t fully explain Job’s reality anymore. They used to. But ever since that heavenly wager between God and Satan – that Job has no clue about – things have been different for Job. 

And so, that variable that should be added to the equation of reality is “Evil.”  

Reality = God’s Goodness + God’s Greatness + … Evil!  

Bad things. Catastrophe. The suffering of – not the wicked only – but indeed – even the righteous! 

But the insertion of evil into the equation of reality is something Job’s friends are not at all ready to grapple with in any meaningful way. 

And so, we enter the 18th chapter of the book of Job with yet another speech from one of Job’s friends. 

And in this chapter, Bildad gets his second chance to try to get Job to buy in to this equation of reality – while he ignores the reality of unexplainable evil and suffering in this world that’s run by a good and great God. 

And so, we’re going to see now Bildad answering Job – and even his fellow-friends somewhat – in one single chapter. 

The Opening Insult 

And so, in verses 1 and 2 Bildad starts his speech the way you would to anyone who’s not buying into your system of thinking. He insults not only Job – but he insults even his fellow-would-be-comforters. 

KJV Job 18:1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, 

2 How long will it be ere ye [i.e., plural ] make an end of words?
[mark/show understanding/you must consider], and [afterwards/then] we [will speak/can talk]. 

So, Bildad comes into his second speech with a great deal of arrogance. 

And he demonstrates that by both putting others down and by bolstering himself up. 

He puts everyone else in the group down as he uses the plural form of the second-person personal pronoun – “ye” in King James Version English. 

And this is the only place I could find in which one of these friends addresses the whole group. Usually they address only Job. But here Bildad is so elevated in his own estimation of himself and his insights that he’s ready to rebuke and insult not only Job – but also the rest of the guys who are ready to rebuke and insult Job. 

Then, Bildad bolsters himself in everyone’s eyes. He speaks very condescendingly as he tells probably just Job now to “mark” or to start showing some understanding or start considering the very wise things that Bildad has to say. 

And if Job starts considering what these men – and in particular Bildad himself – have to say – well then, they can talk to him. 

And yet, Bildad shows that he is determined to speak – whether or not Job listens and shows any sort of understanding that would meet with Bildad’s approval. 

Narrowing-in on Job 

And so, Bildad continues to narrow-in on Job in verses 3 and 4 as he expresses shock at Job’s light estimation of his friends’ supposed wisdom. 

3 [Wherefore/Why] [are/should] we [counted/regarded] as beasts,
and [reputed/considered] [vile/stupid] in your sight? 

4 [He/You who] teareth [i.e., to pieces…] [himself/yourself] in [his/your] anger:
shall the earth be [forsaken/abandoned] for [thee/your sake]?
and shall the rock be removed out of his place? 

So, I sense this defensiveness from Bildad in verse 3 and into the first statement of verse 4. He’s exasperated that Job would think so little of his great and superior wisdom! He’s truly offended that Job would insinuate that Bildad and his companions are as wise as mere animals. 

And so, Bildad turns around and takes a swipe at Job. Well Job, look at you tearing at yourself in your anger! What’s wrong with you? It’s like you’re suffering or something! Get a hold of yourself, man! Who’s the real brute beast here – us or you?? 

And then Bildad asked two questions at the end of verse 4 that expressed his total confusion as to why Job would ever attempt to question their equation of reality.  

To Bildad, it seems that Job is trying to be secretly wicked and escape the punishment that a good and great God needs to inflict on people like Job who are bucking his moral order. And of course – in Bildad’s mind – to suggest that Job is exempt from the “way things work” in this world is tantamount to causing the earth to be bereft of people or a large unmovable stone to be moved from its place. In a word – it’s impossible! 

The Punishment of the Wicked 

And so, Bildad takes the rest of his response to Job and he highlights what he is very sure happens to wicked people.  

And because what’s happening to Job is very similar to what the wicked experience – Bildad draws the conclusion that Job must be wicked! 

The Lights Go Out 

And so, Bildad begins in verses 5 and 6 by using the metaphor of light to describe the wicked man’s life coming to nothing – just like Job’s life seems to be doing! 

5 [Yea/Indeed/Yes], the [light/lamp] of the wicked [shall be put out/goes out/is extinguished],
and the [spark/flame] of his fire shall not shine. 

6 The light shall [be/grow] dark in his [tabernacle/tent],
and his [candle/lamp] shall be put out [with/above] him. 

So, notice the references to light, spark, fire, and candle. And how these things are put out and not shining and growing dark. 

That’s how Bildad envisions what happens to wicked men who cross God. God will immediately deal with them – just like he’s apparently dealing with Job. 

Snared in Traps 

Next, Bildad speaks of the wicked as being caught in traps in verses 7-10.  

And once more, Bildad thinks that this is what’s happening with Job. Job is supposedly hiding secret sins. But at last – he’s been caught – or at least, that’s what Bildad surmises. 

7 The [steps/stride] [of his strength/vigorous] shall be [straitened/shortened/restricted],
and his own [counsel/scheme] [shall cast/brings/throws] him down. 

8 For he [is/has been] [cast/thrown] into a net by his own feet,
and he [walketh/steps/wanders] [upon/on/into] [a snare/the webbing/ a mesh]. 

9 [The gin/A snare/A trap] [shall take/seizes] him by the heel,
and [the robber/a trap/a snare] [shall prevail against/snaps shut on/grips] him. 

10 [The snare/A noose/A rope] is [laid/hidden] for him [in/on] the ground,
and a trap for him [in/on/lies on] the [way/path]. 

So, notice the references to being brought down, cast into a net, walking in to a snare, being trapped by a “gin,” having the robber or trap prevail against him, having a snare laid on the ground for him, having a trap lying secretly on his pathway. 

So, the wicked man can try as he might – he’s still going to be caught. He can be as clever as he wishes – but God is going to get him in this life. 

And actually, Bildad doesn’t explicitly involve God in the laying of these traps for the wicked. The phrase “his own” appears once in both verse 7 and verse 8. In other words, this is just the way of life. This is how things happen. 

Of course, in Bildad’s mind, God is behind all of this. But he’s convinced that God just works this way all of the time with wicked men. And because God appears to be treating Job this way, therefore Job must be wicked! 

According to Bildad, Job had been getting away with his sin for a while – but God has finally started to set off traps for him to run into and be caught. 

Ever-Present Terrors 

And going along with the theme of wicked men – like Bildad thinks Job is – being trapped in a snare – now in verses 11-13 Bildad continues by asserting that the wicked man has terror and destruction closely pursuing him.  

And once more – as Bildad looks at the awful situation that Job is facing – he imagines that this is exactly what’s happening to Job. 

11 Terrors [shall make him afraid/frighten him] on [every side/all sides],
and [shall drive him to his feet/harry him at every step/dog his every step]. 

12 [His/For him] [strength/calamity] [shall be/is] [hungerbitten/famished/hungry],
and [destruction/calamity/misfortune] [shall be/is] ready at his side. 

13 [It/Disease/Calamity] [shall devour/eats away] [the strength/parts] of his skin:
[even the firstborn of/the most terrible] death [shall devour/devours] his [strength/limbs]. 

And that reference to “the firstborn of death” is likely speaking of the strongest or most terrible death. The deadliest death. In the Old Testament we hear men calling their firstborn the beginning of his strength. It’s the highest – the best. And so, when Bildad speaks of the firstborn of death, he’s speaking of the worst kind or the strongest kind of death. 

And so, we just saw Bildad speak to the most terrible death, destruction, hunger, and general terrors. All of these realities meet the wicked man in this life and they make him afraid, they devour his strength, they are ready at his side – they’re unavoidable – they devour his skin – and then for good measure Bildad repeats once more – just so that Job would take special note of it – hey Job, these things devour the strength of the wicked. 

And I think there’s a reason that Bildad keeps speaking of the devouring of what the wicked hold dear and precious. Because Bildad is trying to convict Job of serious offences against God. And he’s coming up with evidence to convict. 

One piece of evidence is that everything that Job had and loved and that made Job strong – has indeed been – to use Bildad’s favorite word in verses 11-13 – devoured! Even the man’s skin is appearing to be devoured with all of the boils he had. 

So – once more – Bildad is bringing evidence that he believes proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Job is a wicked man. It didn’t appear to anyone like that at first, but Bildad is now convinced that Job has committed some seriously-awful sins that have gone hidden. But now God has caught him and surrounded him with terrors. 

Dwelling Place Not Safe 

Furthermore, Bildad in verses 14 and 15 insists that the wicked man is in constant danger – even in his own home – the place that he would assume that’s he’s safest and most protected.  

And yet again – Bildad is surely casting a belittling look at Job as he’s making strong inference that Job himself is experiencing this very fate that the wicked man can expect. 

14 His [confidence/sense of safety or security] [shall be rooted out of/is torn from/is dragged from] his [tabernacle/tent],
and [it shall bring/they march] him to the king of terrors. 

15 [It/There] [shall dwell/dwells] in his [tabernacle/tent], [because it is none/nothing] of his: [or, fire resides in his tent…]
[brimstone/burning sulfur] [shall be/is] scattered [upon/on/over] his [habitation/residence]. 

So, we note the references to awful things happening in the place in which the wicked man feels safest. We hear several times of tabernacles or tents and habitations. 

But just when he feels safe – there come terror and uprooting and even brimstone! In the end, the wicked man is left with nothing that is actually his in his tent – it’s all gone. 

And by the way, I get to this point, and I am shocked at Bildad. He and his two friends came to Job originally to do what? To comfort the poor suffering man. Let me ask you – have you heard a word of comfort in this entire chapter? Not at all! 

What is wrong with this guy? Can’t he just stop talking? 

The answer? No. In fact, he has a few more verses to go! 

Agricultural Withering 

And so, next, in verse 16, Bildad compares the wicked man – and, of course, Job – to a tree or plant that is withering. 

16 His roots [shall be dried up/are dried/dry up] [beneath/below],
and above [shall/is] his branch [be cut off/wither]. 

That’s total destruction. If a tree’s branches wither, there can still be hope that there’s some life left in the roots. And when a tree’s roots wither – maybe there’s some sap left in the branches to go back down to the roots and help strengthen them. 

And yet, when a tree has both branch and root rotting, it’s done for. 

And that’s the message of comfort – apparently – that Bildad wants to relate to his suffering friend Job. Wow. 

No One Remembers 

Well, moving on, in verses 17-19 Bildad declares that wicked men – of which Job surely is one – experience a great deal of isolation in this life and for years to come.  

And of course – Bildad is looking at this man – Job – who is living in the city’s garbage dump on the outskirts of humanity – forsaken and forgotten by all – and he’s putting two and two together in his mind and coming up with fool-proof evidence that Job is a secretly-wicked man! 

17 [His remembrance/Memory of him/His memory] [shall perish/perishes] from the earth,
and he [shall have/has] no name [in the street/abroad/in the land]. 

18 He [shall be/is] driven from light into darkness,
and [chased/is banished] [out/from] of the [world/inhabited world]. 

19 He [shall neither have son nor nephew/has no offspring or posterity/has neither children nor descendants] among his people,
[nor any remaining/nor any survivor/no survivor] [in/where/in those places] [his dwellings/he sojourned/he once stayed]. 

So, note the isolation. He is isolated – all alone – because no one remembers him, because he has no name or recognition abroad. He’s isolated in the fact that he’s driven from the light to the darkness here no one can see him – banished from the world of men to be lonely and unknown. The wicked man is isolated from posterity in that these people will not survive to continue living in the places where he wicked man lived. 

And so, it’s not hard to see why Bildad brings out this evidence as he convicts Job. Job’s location on the outskirts of humanity indicates isolation and so does the fact that he lost all of his children and most of his servants. 

A Breadth of Astonishment 

And so, last, in verses 20 and 21 Bildad envisions the wicked man being the source of astonishment to men from all over the place – as they witness the devastation that he has been outlining in this chapter and that he’s been drawing strong inferences and conclusion to the life of his suffering friend Job. 

20 [They that come after him/Those in the west/People of the west] [shall be astonied/are appaled] at his [day/fate],
[as they that went before/and those in the east/people of the east] [were affrighted/are seized with horror]. 

21 [i.e., Saying…] Surely such [are/is] the [dwellings/residence] of [the wicked/an evil man],
and this is the place of him that knoweth not God. 

So, people from west to east – from before and after – they will all come together and confess the sentiments of verse 21 – that this wicked man is getting exactly what he deserves. And he’s earned this treatment because he doesn’t know God and is wicked. 

And that’s where Bildad ends. On a note of discouragement and destruction and coldness. 

All because Job will not get with the program and realize that he must be a sinner for God to treat him the way he’s treating him. 

And yet, Job is not suffering for his sin. And so, he’ll be obliged to respond to this miserable comfort next time in chapter 19. 

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