Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
1 Then began Bildad the Shuhite, and said:
2 How long wilt thou utter such things,
And the words of thy mouth are a boisterous wind?
3 Will God reverse what is right,
Or the Almighty reverse what is just?
4 When thy children sinned against Him,
He gave them over to the hand of their wickedness.
(Note: Nothing can be said respecting the signification of the name בּלדּד even as a probable meaning, unless perhaps equals בל־דד, sine mammis, i.e., brought up without his mother's milk.)
begins harshly and self-confidently with quousque tandem, עד־אן instead of the usual עד־אנה. אלּה, not: this, but: of this kind, of such kind, as Job 12:3; Job 16:2. כּבּיר רוּח is poetical, equivalent to גּדולה רוּח, Job 1:19; רוּח is gen. comm. in the signification wind as well as spirit, although more frequently fem. than masc. He means that Job's speeches are like the wind in their nothingness, and like a boisterous wind in their vehemence. Bildad sees the justice of God, the Absolute One, which ought to be universally acknowledged, impugned in them. In order not to say directly that Job's children had died such a sudden death on account of their sin, he speaks conditionally. If they have sinned, death is just the punishment of their sin. God has not arbitrarily swept them away, but has justly given them over to the destroying hand of their wickedness, - a reference to the prologue which belongs inseparably to the whole.
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
5 If thou seekest unto God,
And makest supplication to the Almighty,
6 If thou art pure and upright; Surely!
He will care for thee,
And restore the habitation of thy righteousness;
7 And if thy beginning was small,
Thy end shall be exceeding great.
There is still hope for Job (אתּה, in opposition to his children), if, turning humbly to God, he shows that, although not suffering undeservedly, he is nevertheless pure and upright in his inmost mind. Job 8:6 is so intended; not as Mercier and others explain: si in posterum puritati et justitiae studueris. אל־אל שׁחר, to turn one's self to God earnestly seeking, constr. praegnans, like אל־אל דּרשׁ, Job 5:8. Then begins the conclusion with כּי־עתּה, like Job 13:18. "The habitation of thy righteousness" is Job's household cleansed and justified from sin. God will restore that; שׁלּם might also signify, give peace to, but restore is far more appropriate. Completely falling back on שׁלם, the Piel signifies to recompense, off like being returned for like, and to restore, of a complete covering of the loss sustained. God will not only restore, but increase beyond measure, what Job was and had. The verb. masc. after אחרית here is remarkable. But we need not, with Olsh., read ישׂגּה: we may suppose, with Ewald, according to 174, e, that אהרית is purposely treated as masc. It would be a mistake to refer to Proverbs 23:32; Proverbs 29:21, in support of it.
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
8 For inquire only of former ages,
And attend to the research of their fathers -
9 For we are of yesterday, without experience,
Because our days upon earth are a shadow -
10 Shall they not teach thee, speak to thee,
And bring forth words from their heart?
This challenge calls Deuteronomy 32:7 to mind. לבּך is to be supplied to כּונן; the conjecture of Olshausen, וּבונן, is good, but unnecessary. רשׁון is after the Aramaic form of writing, comp. Job 15:7, where this and the ordinary form are combined. The "research of their fathers," i.e., which the fathers of former generations have bequeathed to them, is the collective result of their research, the profound wisdom of the ancients gathered from experience. Our ephemeral and shadowy life is not sufficient for passing judgment on the dealings of God; we must call history and tradition to our aid. We are תּמול (per aphaeresin, the same as אתמול), yesterday equals of yesterday; it is not necessary to read, with Olshausen, מתּמול. There is no occasion for us to suppose that Job 8:9 is an antithesis to the long duration of life of primeval man. לב (Job 8:10) is not the antithesis of mouth; but has the pregnant signification of a feeling, i.e., intelligent heart, as we find לבב אישׁ, a man of heart, i.e., understanding, Job 34:10, Job 34:34. יוציאוּ, promunt, calls to mind Matthew 13:52. Now follow familiar sayings of the ancients, not directly quoted, but the wisdom of the fathers, which Bildad endeavours to reproduce.
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
11 Doth papyrus grow up without mire?
Doth the reed shoot up without water?
12 It is still in luxuriant verdure, when it is not cut off,
Then before all other grass it with
13 So is the way of all forgetters of God,
And the hope of the ungodly perisheth,
14 Because his hope is cut off,
And his trust is a spider's house:
15 He leaneth upon his house and it standeth not,
He holdeth fast to it and it endureth not.
Bildad likens the deceitful ground on which the prosperity of the godless stands to the dry ground on which, only for a time, the papyrus or reed finds water, and grows up rapidly: shooting up quickly, it withers as quickly; as the papyrus plant,
(Note: Vid., Champollion-Figeac, Aegypten, German translation, pp. 47f.)
if it has no perpetual water, though the finest of grasses, withers off when most luxuriantly green, before it attains maturity. גּמא, which, excepting here, is found only in connection with Egypt (Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 18:2; and Isaiah 35:7, with the general קנה as specific name for reed), is the proper papyrus plant (Cypeerus papyyrus, L.): this name for it is suitably derived in the Hebrew from גּמא, to suck up (comp. Lucan, iv. 136: conseritur bibul Memphytis cymba papyro); but is at the same time Egyptian, since Coptic kam, cham, signifies the reed, and 'gôm, 'gōme, a book (like liber, from the bark of a tree).
(Note: Comp. the Book of the Dead (Todtenbuch), ch. 162: "Chapter on the creation of warmth at the back of the head of the deceased. Words over a young cow finished in pure gold. Put them on the neck of the dead, and paint them also on a new papyrus," etc. Papyrus is here cama: the word is determined by papyrus-roll, fastening and writing, and its first consonant corresponds to the Coptic aspirated g. Moreover, we cannot omit to mention that this cama equals gôme also signifies a garment, as in a prayer: "O my mother Isis, come and veil me in thy cama." Perhaps both ideas are represented in volumen, involucrum; it is, however, also possible that goome is to be etymologically separated from kam, cham equals גמא.)
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.
He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.
16 He dwells with sap in the sunshine,
And his branch spreads itself over his garden.
17 His roots intertwine over heaps of stone,
He looks upon a house of stones.
18 If He casts him away from his place,
It shall deny him: I have not seen thee.
19 Behold, thus endeth his blissful course,
And others spring forth from the dust.
The subject throughout is not the creeping-plant directly, but the ungodly, who is likened to it. Accordingly the expression of the thought is in part figurative and in part literal, יחזה אבנים בּית (Job 8:17). As the creeper has stones before it, and by its interwindings, as it were, so rules them that it may call them its own (v. Gerlach: the exuberant growth twines itself about the walls, and looks proudly down upon the stony structure); so the ungodly regards his fortune as a solid structure, which he has quickly caused to spring up, and which seems to him imperishable. Ewald translates: he separates one stone from another; בּית, according to 217, g, he considers equivalent to בּינת, and signifies apart from one another; but although חזה equals חזז, according to its radical idea, may signify to split, pierce through, still בּית, when used as a preposition, can signify nothing else but, within. Others, e.g., Rosenmller, translate: he marks a place of stones, i.e., meets with a layer of stones, against which he strikes himself; for this also בּית will not do. He who casts away (Job 8:18) is not the house of stone, but God. He who has been hitherto prosperous, becomes now as strange to the place in which he flourished so luxuriantly, as if it had never seen him. Behold, that is the delight of his way (course of life), i.e., so fashioned, so perishable is it, so it ends. From the ground above which he sprouts forth, others grow up whose fate, when they have no better ground of confidence than he, is the same. After he has placed before Job both the blessed gain of him who trusts, and the sudden destruction of him who forgets, God, as the result of the whole, Bildad recapitulates:
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.
Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
20 Behold! God despiseth not the perfect man,
And taketh not evil-doers by the hand.
21 While He shall fill thy mouth with laughing,
And thy lips with rejoicing,
22 They who hate thee shall be clothed with shame,
And the tent of the ungodly is no more.
"To take by the hand," i.e., ready to help as His own, as Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 42:6. Instead of עד (Job 8:21), there is no great difficulty in reading עוד: again (as e.g., Psalm 42:6) He will fill; but even עד is supportable; it signifies, like Job 1:18; Psalm 141:10, while. On the form ימלּה, vid., Ges. 75, 21, b. This close of Bildad's speech sounds quite like the Psalms (comp. Psalm 126:2 with Job 8:21; Psalm 35:26; Psalm 109:29; Psalm 132:18, with Job 8:22). Bildad does all he can to win Job over. He calls the ungodly שׂנאיך, to show that he tries to think and expect the best of Job.
We have seen that Job in his second speech charges God with the appearance of injustice and want of compassion. The friends act as friends, by not allowing this to pass without admonition. After Job has exhausted himself with his plaints, Bildad enters into the discussion in the above speech. He defends the justice of God against Job's unbecoming words. His assertion that God does not swerve from the right, is so true that it would be blasphemy to maintain against him that God sometimes perverts the right. And Bildad seems also to make the right use of this truth when he promises a glorious issue to his suffering, as a substantial proof that God does not deal unjustly towards him; for Job's suffering does actually come to such an issue, and this issue in its accomplishment destroys the false appearance that God had been unjust or unmerciful towards him. Bildad expresses his main point still more prudently, and more in accordance with the case before him, when he says, "Behold! God does not act hostilely towards the godly, neither does He make common cause with the evil-doer" (Job 8:20), - a confession which he must allow is on both sides the most absolute truth. By the most telling figures he portrays the perishableness of the prosperity of those who forget God, and paints in glowing colours on this dark background the future which awaits Job. What is there in this speech of Bildad to censure, and how is it that it does not produce the desired cheering effect on Job?
It is true that nothing that God sends to man proceeds from injustice, but it is not true that everything that He sends to him comes from His justice. As God does not ordain suffering for the hardened sinner in order to improve him, because He is merciful, so He does not ordain suffering for the truly godly in order to punish him, because He is just. What we call God's attributes are only separate phases of His indivisible holy being, - ad extra, separate modes of His operation in which they all share, - of which, when in operation, one does not act in opposition to another; they are not, however, all engaged upon the same object at one time. One cannot say that God's love manifests itself in action in hell, nor His anger in heaven; nor His justice in the afflictions of the godly, and His mercy in the sufferings of the godless.
Herein is Bildad's mistake, that he thinks his commonplace utterance is sufficient to explain all the mysteries of human life. We see from his judgment of Job's children how unjust he becomes, since he regards the matter as the working out of divine justice. He certainly speaks hypothetically, but in such a way that he might as well have said directly, that their sudden death was the punishment of their sin. If he had found Job dead, he would have considered him as a sinner, whom God had carried off in His anger. Even now he has no pleasure in promising Job help and blessing; accordingly from his point of view he expresses himself very conditionally: If thou art pure and upright. We see from this that his belief in Job's uprightness is shaken, for how could the All-just One visit Job with such severe suffering, if he had not deserved it! Nevertheless אתה וישׁר זך אם (Job 8:6) shows that Bildad thinks it possible that Job's heart may be pure and upright, and consequently his present affliction may not be peremptory punishment, but only disciplinary chastisement. Job just - such is Bildad's counsel - give God glory, and acknowledge that he deserves nothing better; and thus humbling himself beneath the just hand of God, he will be again made righteous, and exalted.
Job cannot, however, comprehend his suffering as an act of divine justice. His own fidelity is a fact, his consciousness of which cannot be shaken: it is therefore impossible for him to deny it, for the sake of affirming the justice of God; for truth is not to be supported by falsehood. Hence Bildad's glorious promises afford Job no comfort. Apart from their being awkwardly introduced, they depend upon an assumption, the truth of which Job cannot admit without being untrue to himself. Consequently Bildad, though with the best intention, only urges Job still further forward and deeper into the conflict.
But does, then, the confession of sin on the part of constantly sinful man admit of his regarding the suffering thus appointed to him not merely not as punishment, but also not as chastisement? If a sufferer acknowledges the excessive hideousness of sin, how can he, when a friend bids him regard his affliction as a wholesome chastisement designed to mortify sin more and more, - how can he receive the counsel with such impatience as we see in the case of Job? The utterances of Job are, in fact, so wild, inconsiderate, and unworthy of God, and the first speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad on the contrary so winning and appropriate, that if Job's affliction ought really to be regarded from the standpoint of chastisement, their tone could not be more to the purpose, nor exhortation and comfort more beautifully blended. Even when one knows the point of the book, one will still be constantly liable to be misled by the speeches of the friends; it requires the closest attention to detect what is false in them. The poet's mastery of his subject, and the skill with which he exercises it, manifests itself in his allowing the opposition of the friends to Job, though existing in the germ from the very beginning, to become first of all in the course of the controversy so harsh that they look upon Job as a sinner undergoing punishment from God, while in opposition to them he affirms his innocence, and challenges a decision from God.
The poet, however, allows Bildad to make one declaration, from which we clearly see that his address, beautiful as it is, rests on a false basis, and loses its effect. Bildad explains the sudden death of Job's children as a divine judgment. He could not have sent a more wounding dart into Job's already broken heart; for is it possible to tell a man anything more heart-rending that that his father, his mother, or his children have died as the direct punishment of their sins? One would not say so, even if it should seem to be an obvious fact, and least of all to a father already sorely tried and brought almost to the grave with sorrow. Bildad, however, does not rely upon facts, he reasons only priori. He does not know that Job's children were godless; the only ground of his judgment is the syllogism: Whoever dies a fearful, sudden death must be a great sinner; God has brought Job's children to such a death; ergo, etc. Bildad is zealously affected for God, but without understanding. He is blind to the truth of experience, in order not to be drawn away from the truth of his premiss. He does not like to acknowledge anything that furnishes a contradiction to it. It is this same rationalism of superstition or credulity which has originated the false doctrine of the decretum absolutum. With the same icy and unfeeling rigorism with which Calvinism refers the divine rule, and all that happens upon earth, to the one principle of absolute divine will and pleasure, in spite of all the contradictions of Scripture and experience, Bildad refers everything to the principle of the divine justice, and indeed, divine justice in a judicial sense.
There is also another idea of justice beside this judicial one. Justice, צדקה or צדק, is in general God's dealings as ruled by His holiness. Now there is not only a holy will of God concerning man, which says, Be ye holy, for I am holy; but also a purpose for the redemption of unholy man springing from the holy love of God to man. Accordingly justice is either the agreement of God's dealings with the will of His holiness manifest in the demands of the law, apart from redemption, or the agreement of His dealings with the will of His love as graciously manifested in the gospel; in short, either retributive or redemptive. If one, as Bildad, in the first sense says, God never acts unjustly, and glaringly maintains it as universally applicable, the mystery of the divine dispensations is not made clear thereby, but destroyed. Thus also Job's suffering is no longer a mystery: Job suffers what he deserves; and if it cannot be demonstrated, it is to be assumed in contradiction to all experience. This view of his affliction does not suffice to pacify Job, in spite of the glorious promises by which it is set off. His conscience bears him witness that he has not merited such incomparably heavy affliction; and if we indeed suppose, what we must suppose, that Job was in favour with God when this suffering came upon him, then the thought that God deals with him according to his works, perhaps according to his unacknowledged sins, must be altogether rejected.
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.