The First Speech of Bildad (8:1-22)
Bildad proved to be even more brutal than Eliphaz in his words to Job. Like Eliphaz, he was more interested in pointing an accusing finger in Job’s face than putting a gentle arm around his shoulder. Bildad told Job that he was getting what he deserved (compare to Job 4:8). He told Job that his complaints were nothing short of blasphemous (8:1-3). And then, without an ounce of sympathy in his voice, he told Job that his children sinned against the Lord and therefore received exactly what they deserved (8:4). “Ouch! That was a low blow, Bildad!” Bildad argued that, because God can do no wrong, if Job was suffering it was because he obviously had done something wrong. Bildad then offered his simplistic advice to Job: “If you are as pure and upright as you claim to be, then implore God’s compassion and He will deliver you from your trials and make your end bright and successful.”
Bildad appealed to the accumulated wisdom of the ages to support his argument. He told Job that there was plenty of evidence to support the argument of why people’s lives are touched by success and calamity. Biblical scholar Warren Wiersbe wisely cautions, “To be sure, we can today learn from the past, but the past must be a rudder to guide us into the future and not an anchor to hold us back. The fact that something was said years ago is no guarantee that it is right. The past contains as much folly as wisdom.”
Bildad argued on the basis of cause and effect in these verses. He argued that by observing an effect one could deduce what its cause must have been. Bildad said that the self-confident man who trusts in himself or his possessions will quickly wither like a plant that is not deeply rooted (8:11-14). A man whose trust is in material possessions may prosper, but will quickly perish and leave no mark of achievement (8:15-18). Once again (8:19-20), without an ounce of sympathy in his voice, Bildad told Job that “God will not reject a man of integrity” (as He has apparently done with you, Job), nor will He support the evildoers” who may at first seem to thrive (like you, Job). Bildad, in essence, told Job, “You had it all. Now you have nothing. If that’s not a sign that your faith was shallow and superficial, I don’t know what is!” If only Job’s friends had heard God’s estimation of Job (recorded in Job 1:8 and 2:3) they might have kept their judgmental swords in their sheaths.
Bildad told Job that the outcome of his current sufferings and trials will either vindicate him and shame his detractors or prove that Job was not as innocent as he claimed to be. For Bildad, Job’s exoneration was to be measured by material success. Bildad, at this points, seems to argue Satan’s point that man serves God and lives a virtuous life only because of self-interest.
Note: Steven J. Lawson offers the following suggestions on how to be a friend to the hurting:
First, be there for them. Job’s friends stood before him but not with him.
Second, feel their pain and hurt. Job’s friends did not bear his burden (see Galatians 6:2). Instead, they sat across the room and criticized. “It takes no size to criticize,” writes Lawson. In the words of T. Miles Bennett, they tried to “patch grief with proverbs.”
Third, be on their team. Job’s friends spent more time trying to pin him down than to lift him up.
Fourth, listen more than you talk. Lawson points out, “Job didn’t need a lecture, he needed love. He didn’t need a sermon, he needed sympathy. He didn’t need criticism, he needed comfort. He didn’t need a treatise, he needed tenderness.”
Fifth, don’t try to explain everything. Eliphaz and Bildad thought they knew why everything was going wrong in Job’s life. They didn’t have a clue.
Sixth, help instill hope. Job’s friends did not try to rekindle the flame of his hope.
Seventh, look beyond your friend’s faults to his or her needs. Job’s friends attacked his shortcomings and lost sight of his need.
Eighth, emphasize God’s love and compassion. Job’s friends emphasized only the justice and discipline of God to the exclusion of His love, mercy, and tenderness.