Job 18
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
II. Bildad and Job: Ch. 18–19

A.—Bildad: Job’s passionate outbreaks are useless, for the Divine ordinance, instituted from of old, is still in force, securing that the hardened sinner’s doom shall suddenly and surely overtake him


1. Sharp rebuke of Job, the foolish and blustering boaster:

JOB 18:1–4

1          Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said:

2     How long will it be ere ye make an end of words?

Mark, and afterwards we will speak.

3     Wherefore are we counted as beasts,

and reputed vile in your sight?

4     He teareth himself in his anger!

shall the earth be forsaken for thee?

and shall the rock be removed out of his place?

2. Description of the dreadful doom of the hardened evil-doer:

JOB 18:5–21

5     Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out,

and the spark of his fire shall not shine.

6     The light shall be dark in his tabernacle,

and his candle shall be put out with him.

7     The steps of his strength shall be straitened,

and his own counsel shall cast him down.

8     For he is cast into a net by his own feet,

and he walketh upon a snare.

9     The gin shall take him by the heel,

and the robber shall prevail against him.

10     The snare is laid for him in the ground,

and a trap for him in the way.

11     Terrors shall make him afraid on every side,

and shall drive him to his feet.

12     His strength shall be hunger-bitten,

and destruction shall be ready at his side.

13     It shall devour the strength of his skin;

even the first-born of death shall devour his strength.

14     His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle,

and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.

15     It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his;

brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation.

16     His roots shall be dried up beneath,

and above shall his branch be cut off.

17     His remembrance shall perish from the earth,

and he shall have no name in the street.

18     He shall be driven from light into darkness,

and chased out of the world.

19     He shall neither have son nor nephew among his people

nor any remaining in his dwellings.

20     They that come after him shall be astonished at his day,

as they that went before were affrighted.

21     Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,

and this is the place of him that knoweth not God.


1. In opposition to Job’s solemn appeal to God as a witness of his innocence, Bildad continues fixed in his former preconceived opinion, that a secret crime must be the cause of his heavy burden of suffering. After a short, sharp, censorious introduction, in which he pays back Job’s bitter and harsh reprimands in the same coin, (Job 18:2–4), he shows that, notwithstanding Job’s passionate bluster, the old divine decree was still in force, by virtue of which a sudden merited punishment from God carries off the hardened sinner, and with him his entire household and race (vers 5–21). He thus presents a companion piece to that description of the doom of the ungodly with which Eliphaz had closed his preceding discourse (Job 15:20–35), this delineation of Bildad’s being new only in form, but being similar to that of Eliphaz throughout as to its substance and tendency. The whole discourse is divided into six strophes of three to four verses each, of which the first forms the introductory section spoken of above, while the remaining five belongs to the long main division, Job 18:5–21.

2. Introduction and First Strophe: A short, sharp rebuke of Job as a foolish boaster, raving with passion; Job 18:2–4.

Job 18:2. How long will ye yet hunt for words?—Let it be observed that Bildad’s former discourse began with a like impatient question, Job 8:2 (there עַד־אָן, here עַד־אָנָה) and further, that he addresses his opponent in the plural, for the reason that the latter had himself first made his cause identical with the cause of all the righteous, and had thereby himself provoked this representative association of his person with all who were like-minded. [“Some say that he thinks of Job as one of a number; Ewald observes that the controversy becomes more wide and general [representing two great parties or divisions of mankind]; and Schlottmann conjectures that Bildad fixes his eye on individuals of his hearers, on whose countenances he believed he saw a certain inclination to side with Job. This conjecture we will leave to itself; but the remark which Schlottmann also makes that Bildad regards Job as a type of a whole class, is correct, only one must also add, this address in the plural is a reply to Job’s sarcasm (Job 12:2) by a similar one. As Job has told his friends that they act as if they were mankind in general, and all wisdom were concentrated in them, so Bildad has taken it amiss that Job connects himself with the whole of the truly upright, righteous, and pure; and he addresses him in the plural because he, the unit, has puffed himself up as such a collective whole.” Delitzsch], Still further Job had also begun his last discourse (see Job 16:3) with a complaint about the useless interminable discourse of the friends,—a complaint which Bildad here retaliates, although to be sure in an altered form. [“Job’s speeches are long, and certainly are a trial of patience to the three, and the heaviest trial to Bildad, whose turn now comes on, because he is at pains throughout to be brief. Hence the reproach of endless babbling with which he begins here, as at Job 8:2.” Del.]. שִׂים קִנְצֵי למ׳ is not “to put an end to words, to make an end of speaking” (so the ancient versions, Rabbis, Rosenm., Gesen. [E. V. Umbreit. Lee, Carey, Renan]), etc.; for a plural קִּנְצִים (with a resolved Daghesh for קִצִּים, [see Green, § 54 3]), for קֵץ. cannot be shown elsewhere. Moreover in that case we should rather look for the singular construction שִׂים קֵץ (see Job 28:3). [Merx introduces the sing, into the text. Rodwell renders עַד־אָנָה as an exclamation, and the following Imperf. (like that of b) as an Imperative,—“How long? Make an end of words.” So substantially Bernard, except that he supplies the clause following in Job 8:2. This construction however still leaves the plural קִנְצֵי unaccounted for. According to the usual construction the clause should have לֹא after עַד־אָנָה, to render which with E. V., etc. “How long will it be ere,” etc., is forced and gratuitous.—E.]. We are to take קִנְצֵי (with Castell., Schult., J. D. Michaelis, Ewald, Hirzel, Del. [Dillm., Schlottm., Con., Words.], etc.), as plur. constr. of קָנֵץlaqueus (a hunter’s noose, a snare), so that the phrase under consideration signifies, “making a hunt for, hunting after words” (laqueus verbis tenders, verba venando capere). By this however is intended not contradiction and opposition perpetually renewed, but only uninterrupted, yet useless speaking. [Fürst, while agreeing with the above derivation of קִנְצֵי, explains it here as fig. for perversion, contortion: “how long will ye make a perversion of words?” But this explanation of the figure is less natural and appropriate. Bildad’s charge against Job and his party is that they were hunting after words, straining after something to say, when there was really nothing to be said.—E.]—Understand, and afterwards we will speak.—תָּבִינוּ, “will you understand,” voluntative for the Imperative בִּינוּ; comp. on Job 17:10a.

Job 18:3. Why are we accounted as the brute?—a harsh allusion to Job 17:4, 10; comp. also Ps. 73:22.—Are regarded as stupid in your eyes?—נִטְמִינוּ, from = טמה טמם ,אטם, “to stop up,” hence lit. “are (are treated as) stopped up in your eyes,” i. e. are in your opinion stupid, blockheads (comp. the similar phrase in Is. 59:1). The LXX. exchange the word, which does not appear elsewhere, for נִדְמִינוּ, σεσιωπήκαμεν; the Targ. gives טמענא, “are sunk.” The Vulg. finally (followed by many moderns, including Dillmann [Ewald, Noyes, Lee, Con., Car., Rod., and so E. V.]) derives the word from טמא = טמה, “to be impure” (Lev. 11:43), and translates accordingly: et sorduimus coram vobis. But this meaning would be a stronger departure from that of the first member than is allowed by the structure of the verses elsewhere in this discourse, which exhibit throughout a thoroughly rigid parallelism. Moreover it would obscure too much the antithetic reference to Job 17:8, 9.

Job 18:4. O thou, who tearest thyself in thy rage.—This exclamation, which is prefixed to the address proper to Job, and put in the third person ([so apud Arabes ubique fere, Schult.], comp. Job 17:10a), is in direct contradiction to the saying of Job in Job 16:9, which represents him as torn by God, whereas he proves that the cause of the tearing is his own furious passion.—For thee [LXX. probably reading הַבְמוּתְךָ, which Merx adopts into the text, render ἐὰν σὺ αποθάνης] should the earth be depopulated [lit. forsaken] (comp. עזב in Is. 7:16; 6:12) [on the form תֵּעָזַב, with Pattach in the ultimate, see Green, § 91, 6], and a rock remove out of its place (comp. Job 14:18; 9:5). Both these things would come to pass if the moral order of the world, established by God as an unchangeable law, more especially as it reveals itself in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked, were to depart from its fixed course; or in other words, should God cease to be a righteous rewarder. For that, as Bildad thinks, is what Job really desires in denying his guilt; his passionate incessant assertion of his innocence points to a dissolution of the whole sacred fabric of universal order as established by God (comp. Rom. 3:5, 6). [A fine and most effective stroke of sarcasm. On the one side, the puny, impotent storming of Job’s wrath; on the other, the calm, unalterable movement of Divine Law. How foolish the former when confronting the latter! And by what right could he expect the Divine Order to be overthrown for his sake? For thee (emphatic) is everything to be plunged into desolation and chaos?—E.]

3. The terrible doom of hardened sinners, described as a salutary warning and instruction, for Job: Job 18:5–21.

Second Strophe: Job 18:5–7. [The destruction of the wicked declared.]

Job 18:5. Notwithstanding, the light of the wicked shall go out.—גַּם adding to that which has already been said something new and unexpected, like ὅμως, equivalent to “notwithstanding;” comp. Ps. 129:2; Ezek. 16:28. The “light going out” is a figure of prosperity destroyed (comp. Job 30:26); so also in the i second member: and the flames of his fire shine not. As to שָׁבִיב, “flame,” comp. Dan. 3:22; 7:9. Also as to the transition from the plural in a (“wicked ones”) to the sing, in b (his fire), see on Job 17:5; Ewald, § 319, a.

Job 18:6. The light darkens (lit. “has darkened,” חָשַׁךְ, Perf. of certainty, as in Job 5:20) in his tent (comp. Job 21:17; 29:3; Ps. 18:29 [28]; Prov. 13:9),and his lamp above him (i. e., the lamp hanging down above him from the covering of his tent, comp. Eccles. 12:6) goes out.—this figure of the extinction of the light of prosperity which is repeated again and again, is alike familiar to the Hebrew and to the Arabian; the latter also says: “Fate has put out my light.”

Job 18:7. His mighty steps [lit. the steps of his strength] are straitened: another figure which is “just as Arabic as it is Biblical” (Del.). Comp. in regard to it Prov. 4:12; Ps. 18:37 [36]. Also as regards the form יֵצְרוּ (not from יָצַר, as Gesen. [Fürst], and Hirzel say, but Imperf. form צרר, see Ewald, § 138, b. [The meaning is clearly: his movements are hampered, his powers are contracted by the pent-up limits which shut him in],—And his own counsel casts him down: comp. Job 5:12 seq., and as regards עֵצָה in the bad sense of the counsel of the wicked, see Job 10:3; 21:16.

Third Strophe: Job 18:8–11. [Everything conspires to destroy the sinner.]

Job 18:8. For his feet drive him into a net: lit. “he is driven, sent forth” (שֻׁלַּח, precisely as in Judg. 5:15) [by or with his own feet. A vivid paradoxical expression, conveying also a profound truth. The sinner is driven, and yet rushes on to his ruin. He is divided against himself. He pursues his course at once with and against his will.—E.]—And he walks over pitfalls.—שְׂבָכָה, net-like, cross-barred work, or lattice-work, applied here specially to a snare (as in Arabic schabacah, snare), hence a cross-barred covering laid over a deep pit. [“He thinks he is walking upon solid ground, but he is grievously mistaken; it is but a delicate net-work, spread over an unfathomable abyss, into which, therefore, he every moment risks to be precipitated.” Bernard.]

Job 18:9, 10 continue still further the same figures derived from hunting, snare, cord and noose. In Job 18:8–10 there are six different implements mentioned as being in readiness to capture the evil-doer; a vivid variety of expression which reminds us of the five names given to the lion by Eliphaz, Job 4:10 seq.; comp. also on Job 19:13 seq.

Job 18:9. A trap holds his heel fast, and a snare takes fast hold upon him.—To the simple אחז, to hold, corresponds in b the significantly stronger חזק which, however, is used with עַל [instead of בְּ], thus giving expression to the idea of a mighty, overpowering seizure, [The jussive form יַחֲזֵק is used simply by poetic license.] On צַמִּים, snare [which is not plur., but sing., after the form צַדִּיק, from צמם], comp. on Job 5:5. [The rendering of E. V.: “robbers” is to be rejected here, as well as in Job 5:5.]

Job 18:10. Hidden in the ground is his cord, and his gin upon the pathway.—[The suffixes here undoubtedly refer to the sinner, and not, according to Conant’s rendering—“its cord—its noose”—to the snare of Job 18:9. “The continuation in Job 18:10 of the figure of the fowler affirms that that issue of his life, Job 18:9, has been preparing long beforehand.; the prosperity of the evil-doer from the beginning tends towards ruin.” Del.]

Job 18:11 unites the figures by way of explanation in a more general expression.—On every side terrors affright him.—בַּלָּהוֹת signifies two things at once—terrible thoughts and terrible circumstances, here naturally such as are sent by God upon the wicked to disturb him.—And scare him at his footsteps;i. e. pursuing him: לְרַגְלָיו meaning “step for step, close behind;” comp. Gen. 30:30; 1 Sam. 25:42; Is. 41:2; Hab. 3:5.—[E. V. “shall drive him to his feet” is ambiguous.] הֵפִיץ, lit. diffundere, dissipare, hence requiring a collective for its object (as e. g. “host” in Hab. 3:14), or a word representing a mass (as e. g. “cloud, smoke,” comp. Job 37:11; 40:11, etc.); here, however, exceptionally connected with a single individual as its object, and hence synonymous with רדף, to chase, scare (comp. Job 30:15). [“It would probably not be used here, but for the idea that the spectres of terror pursue him at every step, and are now here, now there, and his person is multiplied.” Del.]

Fourth Strophe: Job 18:11–14. Description of the final overthrow of the wicked in its three stages: outward adversity, mutilation of the body by disease, and death—hence manifestly pointing at Job.

Job 18:12. His calamity shows itself hungry.—The voluntat. יְהִי used for the finite: comp. Job 18:9, also below Job 24:14.—אֹנוֹ, defective for אוֹנוֹ, is more correctly derived from אָוֶן in the sense of calamity, misfortune, than from אוֹן, “strength.” The latter rendering, which is adopted by the Vulgate, Rosenm., Ewald, Stickel, Schlottm., Dillm. [E. V., Umbreit, Good, Lee, Wem., Noyes, Con., Car., Rod., Elz.], yields a sense which is in itself entirely appropriate: “then does his strength become hungry.” [“But this rendering is unsatisfactory, for it is in itself no misfortune to be hungry, and רָעֵב does not in itself signify ‘exhausted with hunger.’ It is also an odd metaphor that strength becomes hungry.” Delitzsch.] But the rendering favored by the Peshito, Hirzel, Hahn, Del. [Renan, Words.], etc.—“his calamity shows itself hungry (towards him); it seems greedy, eager to devour him” agrees better both with the second member of the parallelism, and with the actual course of Job’s adversity, which began with a series of external calamities suddenly bursting upon him, to which Bildad manifestly refers. The explanation of the Targ. [and Bernard]—“the son of his manhood’s strength (comp. אוֹן in Gen. 49:3) becomes hungry” destroys the connection [and “sounds comical rather than tragic,” Del.]; and Reiske’s translation—“he is hungry in the midst of his strength”—assumes the correctness of the conjectural reading רָעֵב בְּאֹנוֹ, which is entirely without support.—And destruction (אֵיד, lit. “a heavy burden, a load of suffering,” hence stronger than אָוֶן, comp. Job 21:17; Obad. 13) is ready for his fall.—לְצַלְעוֹ might of itself signify “at his side” (lit. “rib”), being thus equivalent to בְּיָדוֹ, Job 15:23 (Gesen., Ew., Schlottm., Dillm.), [E. V., Good, Lee, Bernard, Wem, Words., Noy., Ren., Con., Car., Rod., Elz.]; but a more forcible meaning is obtained, if in accordance with Psalm 35:15; 38:18, we take צֶלַע to mean “limping, fall,” and so find destruction represented as in readiness to cast down the wicked.

Job 18:13. There devours the parts of his skin (בַּדִּים elsewhere “cross-bars,” or “branches of a tree,” comp. Job 17:16; used here of the members of the body: עוֹר here for the body; comp. on Job 2:4), there devours his parts the first-born of death [or with a smoother English construction, by inverting the order of clauses, as Rodwell: “The first-born of death shall devour—devour the limbs of his body”]. According to this rendering, which is already justified by the ancient versions, and which has of late been quite generally adopted, בְּכוֹר מָוֶת is the subject of the whole verse, and is placed for emphasis at the end. By this “first-born of death,” we are to understand not the “angel of death” as the Targum explains it, nor again “death” itself, as Hahn thinks, but a peculiarly dangerous and terrible disease, [“in which the whole destroying power of death is contained, as in the first-born the whole strength of his parent.” Del.]. Comp. the Arabic designation of fatal fevers as benât el-menîjeh, “daughters of fate or death.” The whole verse thus points with indubitable clearness to Job’s disease, the elephantiasis, which devours the limbs and mutilates the body,—an allusion which is altogether lost, if, with Umbreit and Ewald, we make the wicked himself the subject of the verse, understanding him to be designated in b by way of apposition as “the first-born of death, i. e., as surely doomed to death, and to be compared in the rest of the verse to one in hunger devouring his own limbs, as in Is. 9:19 [20].

Job 18:14. He is torn out of his tent, wherein he trusted:מִבְטָחוֹ as in Job 8:14. מִבְטָחוֹ is taken as the subject of the sentence by E. V., Rosenm., Umbr., Ewald. Noyes, Bernard. Good, Lee, Wemyss, Carey, Barnes, Rod., Merx, Delitzsch; the meaning being as explained by the latter: “Everything that makes the ungodly man happy as head of a household, and gives him the brightest hopes of a future, is torn away from his household, so that he, who is dying off, alone survives.” The rendering of our Comm. is adopted by Dillmann, Schlottm., Conant, Renan, Hirzel, Hahn, Heiligst.—It is defended by Dillmann on the ground that according to the order of the description the fate of his tent and household is not mentioned until verse 15; and also that by its position מבטחו stands in apposition to אחלו, whereas according to the other construction the order should have been inverted, מבטחז as subject coming immediately after the verb: grounds which seem satisfactory.—E.].—And he must march to the king of terrors: lit., “and it makes him march” (תצעידהו fem. used as neuter), viz., his calamity, the dismal something, the secret power which effects his ruin [“After the evil-doer is tormented for a while with temporary בלהות, and made tender and reduced to ripeness for death by the first-born of death, he falls into the possession of the king of בלהות himself; slowly and solemnly, but surely and inevitably (as תצעיד implies, with which is combined the idea of the march of a criminal to the place of execution), he is led to this king by an unseen arm.” Delitzsch]. The “king of terrors” is death himself, who is here, as in Ps. 49:15 [14]; Is. 28:15 personified as a ruler of the underworld. He is not however to be identified with the king of the under-world in the heathen mythologies (e. g., with the Yama of the Hindus, or the Pluto of the Romans, with whom Schärer and Ewald here institute a comparison), nor with Satan. For although the latter is in Heb. 2:14 designated as ὁ τὸ κράτος ἔχων τοῦ θανάτου, in our book according to Job 1:6 seq., he appears in quite another character than that of a prince of death. Neither can the Angel of the abyss, Abaddon (Rev. 9:11) be brought into the comparison here, since the king of terrors is unmistakably the personification of death itself. We produce an unsuitable enfeebling of the sense if, with the Pesh., Vulg., Böttcher, Stickel, [Parkhurst, Noyes, Good, Wemyss, Carey] disregarding the accentuation we separate בַּלָּהוֹת from מֶלֶךְ, and render it as subj. of ׃תצעידהו “and destruction makes him march onward to itself, as to a king” [or: “Terror pursues him like a king,” Noyes]—a rendering which is made untenable by the disconnected and obscure position which, in the absence of a clause more precisely qualifying it, it assigns to לְמֶלֶךְ (instead of which we might rather look for כְּמֶלֶךְ).

Fifth Strophe: Job 18:15–17. Description of the influence of the calamity as extending beyond the death of the wicked man, destroying his race, his posterity, and his memory.

Job 18:15. There dwells in his tent that which does not belong to him: or again: “of that which is not his.” For מִבְּלִי־לוֹ may be rendered in both ways, either partitively (Hirzel), or, which is to be preferred, as a strengthened negation אֲשֶׁר מִבְּליִ־לוֹ, “that which is not his” (comp. the adverbial מִבְּלִי in Ex. 14:11; also the similar, yet more frequent מֵאֵין; and in general Ewald, § 294, a). In any case לֹא־לַהּ in Job 39:16 may be compared with it. The fem. תשׁכון (for neuter) is explained on the ground that the forsaken tent is thought of as being inhabited not by human beings, but by wild beasts (Is. 13:20 seq.; 34:11 seq.), or wild vegetation (Zeph. 2:9).—Brimstone is scattered on his habitation, viz., from heaven (Gen. 19:24) in order to make it, the entire habitation of the wretched man (נָוֵהוּ as in Job 5:3) a solitude, the monument of an everlasting curse; comp. Job 15:34; Deut. 29:22; Ps. 11:6; also the remark of Wetzstein in Delitzsch, founded on personal observation of present modes of thought and customs among the orientals: “The desolation of his house is the most terrible calamity for the Semite; i. e., when all belonging to his family die, or are reduced to poverty, their habitation is desolated, and their ruins are become the by word of future generations. For the Bedouin especially, although his hair tent leaves no mark, the thought of the desolation of his house, the extinction of his hospitable hearth, is terrible.”

Job 18:16. His roots dry up from beneath, and his branch (קָצִיר as in Job 14:9) withers above (not, “is lopped off,” Del. [E. V., Conant, etc.] comp. above on Job 14:2): [“the derivation from מלל “to cut off,” is here altogether untenable, for the cutting off of the branches of a tree dried up in the roots is meaningless.” Dillm.]. The same vegetable figure, in illustration of the same thing; see above, Job 15:32 seq.; comp. Amos 2:9; Is. 5:24, also the inscription on the sarcophagus of Eschmunazar: “Let there not be to him a root below or a branch above!”

Job 18:17. His memory perishes out of the land, and he has no (longer a) name on the (wide) plain.—As אֶרֶץ in the first member denotes the “land with a settled population,” so חוּץ denotes the region outside of this inhabited land, the wide plain, steppe, wilderness. Comp. on Job 5:10, also the parallel phrase אֶרֶץ וְחוּצוֹת in Prov. 8:26 (see on the passage).

Sixth Strophe (together with a closing verse): Job 18:18–21. [After his destruction the wicked lives in the memory of posterity only as a warning example].

Job 18:18. He is driven out of the light into the darkness (i. e., out of the light of life and happiness into the darkness of calamity and death), and chased out of the habitable world. יְנִדֻּהוּ, from the Hiph. הֵנֵד of the verb תֵּבֵל ;נדד used of the inhabited globe, the οἰκουμένη. The third plural of both verbs expresses the subject indefinitely, as in Job 4:19; 7:3; 19:26. It would be legitimate to take as the object referred to by the suffixes, not the wicked man himself, but his שֵׁם and זֵכֶר (Seb. Schmidt, Ewald). The following verse however makes this interpretation less probable.

Job 18:19. No sprout, no shoot (remains) to him among his people.—The phrase “sprout and shoot” will most nearly and strikingly reproduce the short and forcible alliteration of נִין וְנֶכֶד, which is found also in Gen. 21:23; Is. 14:22.—And there is no escaped one (שָׂרִיד, as in Deut. 2:34, etc.), in his dwellings. מָגוּר, “lodging, dwelling,” elsewhere only in Ps. 55:16. The whole verse expresses, only still more directly and impressively, what was first of all said figuratively above in Job 18:16.

Job 18:20. They of the West are astonished on account of his day (i. e., the day of doom, of destruction; comp. יוֹם in Ps. 37:13; 137:7; Obad. 12, etc.), and they of the East are seized with terror (lit., “they take fright,” seize upon terror, in accordance with a mode of expression employed also in Job 21:6; Isa. 13:8; Hos. 10:6. The אֲחַרוֹנִים, as well as the קַּדְמֹנִים, might certainly, according to the general usage of the words elsewhere, denote “posterity,” together with the “ancestors” (i. e., the fathers, now living, of the later generations), hence the successors of the wicked, together with his contemporaries. So, besides the ancient versions [and E. V.], many moderns, e. g. Hirzel, Schlottmann, Hahn [Lee, Bernard, Noyes, Conant, Wordsworth, Renan, Rodwell], etc. A more suitable meaning is obtained, however, if (with Schultens, Oetinger, Umbreit, Ewald, Delitzsch, Dillmann), [Wemyss, Barnes, Carey, Elzas, Merx], we take the words in a local sense: the “men of the west,” the “men of the east,” the neighbors on both sides, those who live towards the east, and those who live towards the west [Dillmann inelegantly: “those to the rear, and those to the front”]. Comp. the well-known designation of the Mediterranean as הים האחרון (the western sea), and of the Dead Sea as הקדמוני (the eastern sea). [Del. objects to the former rendering: “The return from the posterity to those then living is strange, and the usage of the language is opposed to it; for קדמנים is elsewhere always what belongs to the previous age in relation to the speaker; e. g.1 Sam. 24:14; comp. Eccles. 4:16.” Schlottmann, on the other hand, argues that the temporal sense is much better suited to the entire connection than the local.]

Job 18:21. A concluding verse, which properly lies outside of the strophe-structure of the discourse, similar to Job 5:27; 8:19.—Only thus does it befall the dwellings of the unrighteous, and thus the place of him who (לֹא־יָדַע without אֲשֶׁר, comp. Job 29:16; Gesen, § 116 [§ 121], 3), knew not God:i. e. did not recognize and honor God, did not concern himself about Him (Job 24:1). Hahn, Dillmann, etc., correctly render אַךְ at the beginning of this verse not affirmatively,=“yea, surely,” but restrictively—“only so, not otherwise does it happen to the dwellings of the unrighteous,” etc. For it is only by this rendering that Bildad’s whole description receives the emphatic conclusion which was to be expected after its solemn and pathetic opening, Job 18:5 seq.


1. Bildad appears here again, as in his former discourse, Job 8., as essentially an imitator of Eliphaz, without being able to present much that is new in comparison with his older associate and predecessor. So far as his picture of the restless condition and irretrievable destruction of the wicked (Job 18:4 seq.) is in all essentials a copy of that of Eliphaz in Job 15:20 seq., while at the same time this, instead of being the subject of a particular section, runs through his entire argument as its all-controlling theme, he appears poorer in original ideas than his model. At the same time he rivals, and indeed surpasses, his associate now again, as before, in wealth of imagery and in the variety of his illustrations derived from the life of nature and humanity, for the vivid and skilful handling of which the speaker is pre-eminently distinguished among the three friends. He uses the peculiar phraseology of the Chokmah with consummate art; and this aptness and elegance of style compensates in a measure for its lack of originality. Especially does his terrible portraiture of the wicked man encountering his doom, like that of Eliphaz in Job 15., or even in a higher degree than that in some particulars, acquire by virtue of these qualities a peculiar significance as regards its æsthetic beauty, its relation to scriptural theology, and its parenetic value. “The description is terribly brilliant, solemn and pathetic, as becomes the stern preacher of repentance with haughty mien and pharisaic self-confidence; it is none the less beautiful, and, considered in itself, also true—a masterpiece of the poet’s skill in poetic idealizing, and in apportioning out the truth in dramatic form.” (Delitzsch i. 332). Especially are the gradual steps in the destruction of the wicked (Job 18:12 seq.), and the participation of all that he leaves behind him, of his posterity, his property, and his memory, in his own sudden downfall and total ruin (Job 18:15 seq.), described with masterly power. All this is presented with such internal truth, and in such harmony with the experiences of all mankind, that the description, considered in itself, and detached from its connections, is well adapted to exert a salutary influence for all time in the way of warning and exhortation, and edification even for the Christian world.

2. It is true nevertheless that the malignant application to the person of Job of the sharp points and venomous stings of this portraiture, wonderful as it is in itself, destroys the pure enjoyment of the study of it, and warns the thoughtful reader at every step to exercise caution in the acceptance of these maxims of wisdom, which, while sounding beautifully, are applied solely and altogether in the service of an illiberal legal pharisaic and narrow view of life. [“Bildad knows nothing of the worth and power which a man attains by a righteous heart. By faith he is removed from the domain of God’s justice, which recompenses according to the law of works, and before the power of faith even rocks remove from their place” (see Job 18:4). Delitzsch.] The unmistakable directness of the allusions to Job’s former calamities (in Job 18:12–14 which point to the frightful disease which afflicted him; in Job 18:15, where the shower of brimstone is a reminder of Job 1:16 seq., and in Job 18:16, where the “withering of the branch” points to the death of the children) takes away from the description, although true in itself, that which alone could constitute it a universal truth, and lowers it to the doubtful rank of a representation having a partisan purpose. It compels us to regard its author, moreover, as a preacher of morality entangled in a carnal, external, legal dogmatism, destitute of all earnest, deep and pure experience of the nature of human sin, as well as of the divine righteousness, and for that very reason misunderstanding the real significance of Job’s sufferings, and doing gross injustice to his person. We are thus constrained to put Bildad, as a practical representative and teacher of the Divine wisdom of the Old Testament, far below his opponent. The practical commentator, especially when engaged in the continuous exposition of the whole poem, cannot help keeping in view these considerations, which impair the religious and ethical value of this discourse. In its characteristic traits and motives, it yields comparatively little that is directly profitable and edifying.


Job 18:3 seq. OECOLAMPADIUS: Truly the ungodly are vile in the eyes of the godly, and are recognized as being more stupid than brutes; but this is in accordance with a healthy judgment, and free from contempt. For the world was even crucified to Paul, yet what did he not do that he might benefit those who were in the world? The godly therefore seem vile to the ungodly in quite a different sense from that in which the ungodly seem vile to the godly; for to the one class belongs charity, which the other class in every way neglect; the former act without pride, the latter with the utmost pride.—BRENTIUS (on Job 18:4): It is no common trial of faith, that we must think of ourselves as not being of such consequence with God that He for our sakes should change common events, and His own pre-established order. … We seem to think that God rather will change His usual course on our account.—WOHLFARTH: God’s plan is indeed unchangeable and without exceptions, alike in the realm of nature, and in that of spirit. But we must beware of erring by arguing from that which is external to that which is internal. In that which pertains to the spiritual, the higher, that which is to decide is, not external indications, but reason, Scripture, and conscience.

Job 18:5 seq. BRENTIUS: These curses on the wicked are that his light may be put out, and that the spark of his fire may not shine. For the Lord and His Word are true light and splendor, as David says (Ps. 36:10 [9]; 119:105). The wicked have neither, for they say in their heart: There is no God.—V. GERLACH: The light is here in general the symbol of a clear knowledge of man’s destiny, of serene consciousness in the whole life (Matt. 6:22 seq.); the light of the tent carries the symbol further, and points to this clearness, even in a man’s daily household affairs, as something which ceases to be for the ungodly.

Job 18:17 seq. LANGE: The memory which a man leaves behind him is of little consequence; it is enough if we are known to God in respect of that which is good. Many righteous souls are hidden from the world, because they have wrought their works in the most quiet way in God (John 3:21); while, on the contrary, many an ungodly man makes noise and disturbance enough, so that he is talked about after his death. …… But to the believing child of God it is still granted as his special beatitude that he shall see God, who will make his life an example, bringing it forth into the light, and causing it even after his death to shed a sweet savor to the praise of God (Prov. 10:7).

Job 18:21. BRENTIUS: Truly it is not without purpose that the Holy Spirit so often, even ad fastidium sets forth in this book the judgment which befalls the ungodly; it is to admonish us, lest we should be disturbed by the prosperity of the ungodly, knowing that the judgment hangs over their head, and will be executed most speedily, as you have most impressively set forth in regard to this matter in Ps. 73. For although the application of these judgments to Job by the friends is altogether forced, their opinions nevertheless are most true, and are written for our instruction.—WOHLFARTH (on Job 18:5–21): By what tokens can we determine that any one truly reveres God? Not by his scrupulous attention to the external observances of religion, not by the external events which befall him, not by the individual good works which he does, but by the faith which he confesses, by the whole direction of his life toward that which is Godlike, by the composure with which he dies: Ps. 73:17, 19, etc.

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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