Checking in with the Friends (Job 8)
Bill Long 1/17/05
My approach to Eliphaz, the first friend who spoke (4-5), is that his speech was subtly supportive but gently probing of Job. Eliphaz said that Job had strengthened others in their weakness; now he doesn't seem to be able to take his own advice. Eliphaz also encouraged Job to persevere in his faith, believing as he did that the goodness of God would eventually bring safety, fruitfulness and abundance to Job.
Then I argued that Job, rather than responding graciously or even tolerantly to Eliphaz's approach, struck out at his friends, possibly because his pain had so twisted him that he felt they didn't understand him. In any case, Job closes 6-7 with some cynical and desperate questions to God.
Crucial in the flow of the book, then, is how the second friend responds to Job. I think Bildad gives Job mixed messages in his speech. He is like a person who is looking at you with an inviting smile on his face but, at the same time, brandishing a weapon that you are not sure he has under control. Let's hear Bildad and try to understand what he is about.
"Then Bildad the Shuhite answered: 2 "How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? 3 Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? 4 If your children sinned against him, he delivered them into the power of their transgression. 5 If you will seek God and make supplication to the Almighty, 6 if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore to you your rightful place. 7 Though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great."
A. Bildad accuses Job of speaking words like a "great wind (v.2)." In 1:19 the text says that a "great wind" destroyed Job's child's house, killing all 10. Would Job be tempted to hear those words and "flash back" to his children? Or, are Bildad's words spoken innocently?
B. Bildad begins his speech with "How long." These words are favorites of the Psalmist when a righteous man is speaking, and asking for God to help him. Read the first lines of Ps. 13, for example. Bildad, then, sees himself as the "righteous" one. How is he "put upon" by Job's words in 6-7?
C. He thinks that Job accused God of "perverting justice." How so?
D. Another indication of Bildad's possible subtlety (but is he subtle?) is in v. 4. How does he say this verse? Is he suggesting that Job's children actually brought the result that happened or is he phrasing it in such a way that he can easily backtrack from that approach when accused of it?
E. But he uses a lot of "ifs" in vv. 4-6. Are they used in the same way?
"13 Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. 14 Their confidence is gossamer, a spider's house their trust. 15 If one leans against its house, it will not stand; if one lays hold of it, it will not endure."
Bildad has a long section (11-19) where he details the fate of the wicked. I only give a few of his verses so that you get the flavor of them. Take time to read all nine verses.
A. Bildad devotes three times as many verses to describe the fate of the godless (11-19) as the hope of the righteous (20-22). Any significance in that?
B. Does Bildad seem to include Job as one of the people he is describing in 11-19?
C. Bildad's description of the wicked has a vicious dimension to it. Knowing what you know about the Hebrew concept of memory, how do you respond, for example, to v. 18? I wonder if Bildad's desire to "obliterate" the wicked is a counterpart, in a way, to Job's desire to obliterate himself in 3:1-10. Any comment?
"20 See, God will not reject a blameless person, nor take the hand of evildoers. 21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. 22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more."
A. Do you see these verses as a genuine heart-felt encouragement to Job? A sort of tepid endorsement of a certain theology?
B. Both he and Eliphaz speak of laughter (v.21; 5:22). How much does laughter play in their theology? Yours? Job's?
By the time that Bildad finishes his speech, all hope of any kind of understanding talk among friends seems to be dashed. Yet, they keep talking to one another. Why? From now on it seems as if they are ships in the night, going in their own directions, heeding the calls of their own fears and uncertainties. We will now move on to Job's response (9-10) before we hear hear a few words from the third friend, Zophar.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long