Job 18
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 18. The Second Speech of Bildad

Eliphaz with more inwardness than his fellows had made the punishment of the sinner to come greatly from his own conscience (ch. Job 15:20 seq., cf. Job’s reply as to himself ch. Job 16:12); Bildad attributes it to the order of nature and the moral instinct of mankind, both of which rise up against the sinner (ch. 18); while Zophar, with a certain variation on both views, explains it from the retributive operation of sin itself (ch. 20). Interesting points of contact may be observed between these views and the first speeches of the three friends.

Several things in Job’s last discourse deeply offended Bildad:—

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
1. Job had used very hard words regarding his friends; he had called them annoying comforters (ch. Job 16:2) and scorners (ch. Job 16:20), and complained of being beset by their illusory mockeries (ch. Job 17:2); and said that God had sent blindness and want of understanding upon them, and that there was not one wise man among them (ch. Job 17:4-10).

But he had gone further. He had appeared to regard himself and them in their treatment of him as types of two classes—himself as the type of the “upright” and “innocent” and “clean of hands” (ch. Job 17:8-9), exposed to the contumely and spitting of the “peoples,” the “godless” (ch. Job 17:6-8) and the ruthless (ch. Job 17:5).

How long will it be ere ye make an end of words? mark, and afterwards we will speak.
2. Then he spoke impiously of God, saying that He tore him in His anger (ch. Job 16:9), and appealed to the earth and nature to rise up on his side (ch. Job 16:18).

Such things provoke the personal and moral indignation of Bildad alike. It seems to him that Job holds his brethren and him little higher than the beasts (although it was Job himself that was destitute of understanding), and that in his extravagant self-righteousness he flings them away from him as belonging to the class of the “unclean” (Job 18:2-3).

And it is not God that tears him in His anger; rather in his outrageous fury he is tearing himself. And does he suppose, as his appeal to the earth might suggest, that the eternal flow of law and order in the universe is to be interrupted for his sake—that he may be reputed innocent, or that being guilty he may not suffer the penalty of his evil, and that his principles may prevail? (Job 18:4).

This question naturally leads over to the principal theme of the discourse, the certainty of the destruction of the wicked through the operation of the fixed order of the world and the moral instincts of mankind (Job 18:5-21).

ere you make an end of words] Rather, how long will ye hunt for words, lit. set snares for words. Bildad begins with the same exclamation of impatient astonishment that he used on a former occasion, ch. Job 8:2, how long? quousque tandem abutere patientia nostra? By “hunting for words” he means making subtle and artificial attempts at finding arguments—which were only words. He probably refers to the distinctions which Job, in wrestling with his great problem, drew between God and God, and his appeals to the one against the other. Such things seem subtleties to Bildad and but the theme of speakers; man’s destiny in the world of God is a thing of more solid stuff, and its principles not so intangible.

mark, and afterwards] Rather, understand. Bildad gives back Job’s words, Thou hast hid their heart from understanding, ch. Job 17:4. It was not they but he that was without wisdom, and until he came to some admission of first principles talking was of little avail. In answering Job Bildad uses here the plur. ye, with reference no doubt to Job’s identifying himself with the class of righteous sufferers persecuted by the wicked, ch. Job 17:6 seq.

The circumstances of the Author’s time perhaps shine out through these allusions—the collision of classes, the conflicting claims of parties to represent the true people of God, and the diverse solutions which various minds sought for the hard problem of the national affliction, which turned the servant of the Lord over into the hands of the wicked (ch. Job 16:11) and made him the servant of rulers (Isaiah 49:7).

Wherefore are we counted as beasts, and reputed vile in your sight?
3. and reputed vile] lit. and are unclean. Bildad describes what Job’s treatment of his friends suggests to him as Job’s idea of them. The reference is to the passages, ch. Job 17:4; Job 17:10, and the words “clean of hands” ch. Job 17:9, which Job had used of himself and other unjustly persecuted men, cf. Psalm 73:22.

He teareth himself in his anger: shall the earth be forsaken for thee? and shall the rock be removed out of his place?
4. The first clause must be rendered in English,

Thou who tearest thyself in thine anger.

The Heb. uses in preference the objective form, One who teareth himself in his anger, shall the earth be forsaken for thee? See on ch. Job 12:4. The words refer to ch. Job 16:9—it is not God who tears him, it is Job who tears himself in his insensate passion, cf. ch. Job 5:2.

shall the earth be forsaken] i. e. depopulated and made a wilderness, where no man dwells; Leviticus 26:43; Isaiah 6:12; Isaiah 7:16. The desolation of the earth, which God has not created a waste but made to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18), and the removal of the fixed rock from its place, are figures which mean, overturning the fixed moral order of the universe established by God. Bildad asks if the current of the moral order of the world is to be interrupted or turned back for Job’s sake, that he may escape the imputation of wickedness, or the penalty of it, and that his principles may be accepted? cf. ch. Job 16:18.

Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.
5–21. The disastrous end of the wicked, in the moral order of the world, is certain

The last verse naturally led over to this idea, which is the theme of the speech. The idea is set out in a great variety of graphic figures, and the speech is studded with sententious and proverbial sayings in the manner of the speaker’s first discourse (ch. 8). The history of the wicked man’s downfall is followed through all its stages:—

Job 18:5-7.

  The principle—the sinner’s light goes out.

Job 18:8-11.

  The progress of his downfall.

Job 18:12-14.

  The final scenes.

Job 18:15-17.

  The extinction of his race and name.

Job 18:18-21.

  Men’s horror of his fate and memory.

5–7. The principle—the sinner’s light goes out. The word yea means “notwithstanding”—in spite of Job’s struggling against the law, the law remains and verifies itself universally. The bright beacon light on the sinner’s tent goes out, and the cheerful flame on his hearth shines no more. His home is desolate. The word “light” lends itself in all languages for such general use, as the Arab proverb says, Fate has put out my light—extinguished my prosperity. The picture here however is scarcely to be so generalized.

The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.
6. his candle shall be put out with him] The meaning is either: his lamp shall be put out over him, the idea being that it was hung in his dwelling above him or shone upon him, cf. ch. Job 29:3, “when God’s lamp shined upon my head”; or, his lamp shall be put out to him, the prep. being the same reflexive, untranslateable word referred to on ch. Job 14:22.

The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down.
7. Another figure for the same thought. His firm, wide steps of prosperity and security, when he walked in a wide place (Psalm 4:1), become narrowed and hampered. Widening of the steps is a usual Oriental figure for the bold and free movements of one in prosperity, as straitening of them is for the constrained and timid action of one in adversity, cf. Proverbs 4:12 and Psalm 18:36. The figure hardly describes the consequences of the sinner’s light going out, it is rather independent and parallel to that figure. Cf. ch. Job 13:27.

his own counsel] The evil principles that guide his conduct, ch. Job 10:3, Psalm 1:1. These inevitably lead him into calamity, cf. ch. Job 4:8.

For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.
8–11. All things hasten on his ruin; the moral order of the world is such that wherever he moves or touches upon it it becomes a snare to seize him. “Snares” do not mean temptations, they are hidden instruments of destruction that seize and hold the hunted creature. His “counsel,” and his own feet (Job 18:8), his evil nature and its outcome, his evil conduct, carry him into these snares—laid for wickedness in the constitution of things.

The gin shall take him by the heel, and the robber shall prevail against him.
9. the robber shall prevail] Rather, the trap layeth hold of him, as all the verbs in this passage should be put in the present tense. The word is that occurring ch. Job 5:5. The world of God is one network of snares for the wicked man, he walks upon snares, in the field and in the way alike. The idea that the world is a moral constitution is very prominent in the Old Testament, a mere physical constitution of things is an idea unknown to it.

The snare is laid for him in the ground, and a trap for him in the way.
Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him to his feet.
11. This verse does not seem to give a picture of the sinner’s conscience, but rather of his consciousness at last. The preceding verses described how he walked on snares unwitting that they were there; now he awakens to the perception of his condition, he feels the complications that surround him, and would flee from the terrors that he has come to realize.

and shall drive him to his feet] Rather, and drive him away at his heels. A spectral host of terrors pursue close behind him.

His strength shall be hungerbitten, and destruction shall be ready at his side.
12. hunger-bitten] A word formed like “frost-bitten,” “cankerbit” (Lear, 5.3). The word literally means “hungry,” and the figure expresses the idea that his strength shall diminish and become feeble, as one does that is famished; cf. a similar strong figure, Joel 1:12, “Joy is withered away from the sons of men.” On the figure in the second clause cf. ch. Job 15:23.

12–14. The closing scenes in three steps: his strength is weakened; his body consumed by a terrible disease; he is led away to the dark king.

It shall devour the strength of his skin: even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength.
13. The verse reads,

It shall devour the members of his body,

Even the firstborn of death shall devour his members.

The subject it in clause one is the “firstborn of death” in clause two; cf. a similar construction, Jdg 5:20, “they fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera”. “Members of his body” is literally the pieces (“parts” ch. Job 41:12) of his skin. The firstborn of death is the strongest child of death (Genesis 49:3); or else, less naturally, the “deadliest death,” cf. firstborn of the poor (= the very poorest) Isaiah 14:30; in any case the phrase means the most terrible and fatal disease. The Arabs call deadly diseases “daughters of destiny”—destiny, as the bacchanal fatalist sings,

Ordained for us and we ordained for it.

His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.
14. The meaning is,

He shall be plucked out of his tent wherein he trusted,

And he shall be brought to the king of terrors.

In the phrase “his tent wherein he trusted” Bildad goes back to his former figure of the sinner’s house which he grasps to maintain himself, ch. Job 8:15. The “king of terrors” is death. In Psalm 49:14 a somewhat different figure is employed, that of a shepherd: The wicked “like sheep are put in Sheol, Death herds them,” cf. Isaiah 28:15. Death is personified as rex tremendus, Virg. Geo. 4:469 (Hitzig); there is no reference to Satan, who has rule in the realm of death, Hebrews 2:14, nor to any mythical personage like the Pluto of classical antiquity. The last scenes of the sinner’s fate have been described: he sought to flee from terrors, he is brought at last to the king of them. Then the fate of those belonging to him is stated.

It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his: brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation.
15. The sense probably is,

There shall dwell in his tent they that are not his,

Brimstone shall be showered upon his habitation.

So Conant excellently. The two clauses of the verse are not to be taken logically together, they describe the destiny awaiting the sinner’s possessions and dwelling under different conceptions—in the one case they pass into the hands of strangers, in the other they are accursed of God, like Sodom, (Genesis 19:24) and Edom (Isaiah 34:9 seq.), and overwhelmed with a rain of brimstone from heaven.

15–17. The extinction of his name and race.

His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off.
16. shall his branch be cut off] Rather, his branches shall wither, see on ch. Job 14:2. The tree is not a figure for the sinner as a single person, but as the centre of a family, widely ramified and firmly established (his roots), and numerous (his branches). These all perish with him, cf. Bildad’s former plant-life lore, ch. Job 8:11 seq., 16 seq.

His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street.
17. perish from the earth] Rather, from the land.

in the street] Rather, on the face of the earth. The word means the outlying places (marg. to ch. Job 5:10), as opposed to the cultivated land, and “earth” as a word expressing wideness and distance seems nearest here.

He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.
18. He shall be driven] lit. they shall drive (or, they drive) him. The subject is mankind, men; and the sinner himself is referred to, hardly, his name (Job 18:17).

18–20. Men’s horror of his fate and memory.

Bildad now introduces the moral instinct of mankind and the part it takes in the sinner’s downfall. The words go back somewhat on the ideas of the previous verses.

He shall neither have son nor nephew among his people, nor any remaining in his dwellings.
19. Song of Solomon nor nephew] i. e. son nor grandson. So the word nephew (Lat nepos, through Fr. neveu) means in the English of the time—

O thou most auncient grandmother of all,

Why suffredst thou thy nephews dear to fall.

Spens. Fa. Q. 1. 5. 22, (Michie, Bible Words and Phrases).

In Genesis 21:23 the word is rendered son’s son. The Heb. expression is more general, he shall neither have offspring nor descendant.

They that come after him shall be astonied at his day, as they that went before were affrighted.
20. They that come after him] The word “him” must be omitted; the expression refers to the later generations of men, as they that went before does to the earlier, those nearer the sinner’s day, but, of course, both expressions describe generations living after the wicked man. Others take the two phrases to mean, they of the West, and they of the East. In the one case the idea is that men’s horror of his memory and fate is eternal, lasting through all generations; in the other that it is universal,—both in the West and in the East. His day is the day of his downfall, Psalm 37:13; Jeremiah 50:27. Job had complained that he was made a “byword of the peoples” ch. Job 17:6; Bildad, with a singular hardness, rejoins, It is true, the deep moral instinct of mankind rises up against such a man.

Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Job 17
Top of Page
Top of Page