Bildad Speaks Again--Job 18:1-4
Bill Long 2/4/05
In contrast to the exhausted ramblings of Job in the previous chapter, Bildad's second speech is a model of clarity and well-ordered construction. After a brief introduction where he criticizes Job liberally (1-4), he turns to the fate of the wicked for the remainder of the chapter (5-22). That so much of his speech is consumed with the ultimate desserts of the wicked is probably an indication that Bildad now puts Job in that category. Job's continual intransigence and dismissive attitude towards the friends offends Bildad deeply. He responds in kind to Job, however, and one of the purposes of this lesson will be to show how clever and devastating are Bildad's initial words in response to Job.
To place his speech in context, however, we recall that in Job 8, his first speech, he was the sly one, the one who "innocently" queried whether Job's children might have sinned and thereby brought on this terrible calamity (8:4). What were your initial reactions to Bildad? Though he also, like Eliphaz in Job 15, appealed to tradition (8:8-10), the focus of his first speech was on the fate of the wicked and the hope that Job should have in the future (God would yet "fill your mouth with laughter"--8:21). This lesson will examine Bildad's complaint against Job (1-4), while the next will treat his long exposition of the fate of the wicked (5-22).
1 "Then Bildad the Shuhite answered: 2 'How long will you hunt for words? Consider, and then we shall speak. 3 Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight? 4 You who tear yourself in your anger-- shall the earth be forsaken because of you, or the rock be removed out of its place?'"
A. Because Job has made his issues very "personal," against both God and the friends, Bildad does likewise, though he turns all his efforts against Job. He picks up right away on Job's dismissive attitude toward the friends in v. 3. Recall that Job has said (12:3; 13:2), "I am not inferior to you," which suggests Job has played the "stupid" card against them. Even dumb people don't like to be told they are dumb. But are the friends, in fact, stupid? Is Job's strategy of attacking people as stupid one that you adopt? Do you say so publicly or only in the protected environment of friends and family? Was Bildad right to "call Job" on his characterization of the friends?
B. Bildad turns Job's words back on him also in v. 4. Job is tearing himself in his anger. The Hebrew words are identical to Job's allegation against God in 16:9--"He has torn me in his wrath." Clever, Bildad. What he is suggesting is that the only tearing going on is Job's self-destructive ranting. How do you tell the difference between "righteous" anger and self-destructive anger? How do you know that "blaming God" for what has happened is not just an excuse for not wanting to take responsibility for one's own life? Are you sympathetic to Bildad's characterization of Job's situation?
C. Bildad's real theological problem with Job, however, is in the rest of v. 4. He suggests that Job expects God as it were to suspend the laws of nature for Job. Don't we all know those types of people who believe that the world only began when they were born, that nothing of importance happened before they came into the room, that their child was the only child ever born, that their dilemma is unique to humankind? What is your reaction to that kind of person? Is Job really like that?
D. That is, in v.4 Bildad accuses Job of believing that he is special and that the entire world ought to stop what it is doing to focus on "Job's problem." But, isn't that what we believe, too? That is, does your religion teach you that you are special, that God specifically cares for you and that the promises of Scripture about God's working things to the benefit of those who love God are promises that apply personally to you? Or, do you have a more general view of God, where God is more of a "cosmic energy" or a force, personal or impersonal, who superintends creation but really doesn't focus too much on your particular concern?
E. Note again Bildad's slyness. When he asks "shall the rock be removed out of its place?" in verse 4, he is precisely quoting Job's words in 14:18. As I showed in an earlier study, those words are great and wrenching words of transition for Job, words where he abandons the hope he constructed so carefully in 14:13-17. It must have pained Job considerably to say 14:18. The rock crumbles; so does human hope. But how does Bildad use these most intimate and painful words of Job? Is it as if he is taking the most precious thing of Job, his words, and saying, "blah blah blah rocks removing out of their places blah blah blah"? Bildad seems to be saying, "Job, you are really not a special guy." Is he right?
One of the first rules of effective litigation strategy is to try to turn the words of your opponent against him or her. Use the words, draw out the implication of the words, show how utterly ridiculous the words and their implications are. Show your opponent, therefore, to be mistaken at best or a blithering idiot at worst. Verbal jousting is the essence of a lawsuit. That is what we have here. Who is "winning" the case so far, in your judgment?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long