Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
Verse 1. - Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said. Bildad the Shuhite has the second place in the passage where Job's friends are first mentioned (Job 2:11), and occupies the same relative position in the dialogue. We may suppose him to have been younger than Eliphaz and older than Zophar. He does little more than repeat the arguments of Eliphaz, stating them, however, more bluntly, and with less of tact and consideration. The chief novelties of his discourse are an appeal to the teaching of past ages (vers 8-10), and the employment of new and forcible metaphors (vers. 11-19).
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
Verse 2. - How long wilt thou speak these things? An exclamation like that of Cicero, "Quousque tandem?" One or two outbreaks might be pardoned; but to persist was to abuse the patience of his hearers. And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? literally, be a strong wind; i.e. have all the bluster and vehemence of a tempest, which seeks to carry everything before it by sheer force and fury. The address is rude and unsympathetic.
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
Verse 3. - Doth God pervert judgment? This was, no doubt, what Job's words of expostulation might seem to imply. But he had never gone so far as to make the direct charge, and a true friend would have shrunk from taxing him with an impiety, witch could only be deduced from his speech by way of inference. It is our duty to put the best construction that we can on our friends' words, no less than upon their actions. Or doth the Almighty pervert justice? "Justice" is not altogether the same thing with "judgment." Judgment is the act, justice the principle which underlies or ought to underlie the act. It is, of course, impossible for God to pervert either. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).
If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
Verse 4. - If thy children have sinned against him. Bildad assumes this absolutely; Eliphaz had only hinted at it (Job 10:4). Both presume to know what could be known only to the Searcher of hearts. And he have cast them away for their transgression; literally, and he have delivered them into the hand of their transgressions - abandoned them, that is, to the consequences of their wrong-doing. The allusion is, of course, to the fact recorded in Job 1:19.
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
Verse 5. - If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes. Here we have again an echo of the words of Eliphaz (Job 5:8). There is a tacit assumption that Job has not had recourse to God, has not pleaded his cause with him or taken him into counsel; whereas all the evidence was the other way. Both when the first batch of calamities was reported to him (Job 1:14-19), and when the stroke of disease came (Job 2:10), Job cast his care on God, fell back on him, submitted himself to him unreservedly. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord," he said in the one case; in the other, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" And make thy supplication to the Almighty; literally, make the Almighty gracious to thee."
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Verse 6. - If thou wert pure and upright. Job had asserted this, not in so many words, but substantially (Job 6:29, 30). We have God's testimony that it was true (Job 1:8; Job 2:3); not, of course, in the sense that he was absolutely free from sin, but in that qualified sense in which "just," and "righteous," and "pure," and "holy" can be properly used of men. Bildad implies, without boldly asserting it, that he does not believe Job to deserve the epithets, either absolutely or in a qualified sense. If he were so, Surely now he (i.e. God) would awake for thee. This is a common anthropomorphism (see Psalm 7:6; Psalm 35:25; Psalm 44:23; Psalm 59:4, 5; Isaiah 51:9). And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous; or, make peaceful the habitation wherein thy righteousness dwelleth; i.e. make peaceful the habitation wherein thou, a righteous man ex hypothesi dwellest.
Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
Verse 7. - Though thy beginning was small; rather, were small. Bildad does not refer to the past, but to the present. Though, if God were now to set to work to prosper Job, his beginning would be slender indeed, yet what the outcome might be none could know. God might prosper him greatly. Yet thy latter end should greatly increase. Here, once mere, Bildad does but follow in the steps of Eliphaz (see Job 5:18-26), prophesying smooth things, as be had done. It is difficult to believe that either comforter put any faith in the prospect which he held out, or imagined that Job would really be restored to prosperity. Rather there is a covert sarcasm in their words. If thou weft indeed so free from guilt as thou claimest to be, then thou wouldst be confident of a happy issue out of thy afflictions. If thou art not confident of such an issue, it is because thou art conscious of guilt.
For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
Verse 8. - For inquire... of the former age. Put the matter to the test of experience - not the short-lived experience of living men, but the treasure of experience which has been handed down from generation to generation since the remotest times, and which is embodied in proverbs - the expression of the concentrated wisdom of antiquity. Search out and see what has in former ages been thought concerning prosperous men, like thyself, when suddenly cast down and afflicted. And prepare thyself to the search of their fathers. Go back, i.e., to the past age, but do not stop there - pursue thy researches further and further to their remote ancestors. Bildad implies that the records of these remote times have been, in some way or other, preserved, either in writings or by oral tradition. Writing was certainly known in Egypt and Babylonia from a time anterior to Abraham, and to the Hittites at a date not very much later. Books of advice and instruction embodied in proverbs, or moral precepts, were among the earliest, in Egypt certainly. See the "Instructions of Amen-em-hat." in the 'Records of the Past,' vol. if. pp. 11-16, and the 'Proverbs of Aphobis,' published by the Revelation Dunbar Heath. Bildad's speech is thought to indicate "special familiarity with Egypt."
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
Verse 9. - For we are but of yesterday. "We," i.e. "of the present generation, old men though we may be, are but of yesterday; our experience is as nothing compared with the long, long experience of the past centuries, wherein the men of old "hived wisdom with each studious year," not, like ourselves, hurried and pressed by the shortness of the term to which life is now reduced, but having ample time for reflection and consideration in their long lives of five, six, seven, centuries (Genesis 11:10-17), which enabled them to give their attention to everything in its turn, and to exhaust all the experiences that human life has to offer. And know nothing; i.e. comparatively. Sir Isaac Newton said that he felt like a child gathering shells upon the seashore, while the great ocean of truth lay unexplored before him. Because our days upon earth are a shadow (comp. Job 14:2; Psalm 102:11; Isaiah 40:6). So brief and fleeting that they can scarcely be called a reality.
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
Verse 10. - Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart (see the comment on ver. 8).
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
Verse 11 - Can the rush grow up without mire? The word translated "rush" (גמא) is that which occurs also in Exodus if. 3: Isaiah 18:2 and Isaiah 35:7, as designating a plant common in Egypt, and which is only found in these four places. It is generally admitted that the "papyrus" is meant "a plant of the Cyperaceae or sedge family, which was formerly common in Egypt" (Hooker, in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 3. p. 1019). The chief peculiarity of the papyrus is its triangular stem, which rises to the height of six or seven, sometimes even of thirteen or fourteen, feet, and terminates in a bunch of thread-like flowering branchlets. The pith of these stems was the material of which the ancient Egyptians made their paper. The papyrus is a water-plant, and needs an abundant supply, but would often spring up out of any small pool which the Nile left as it retired, and, when the water failed from the peel, would rapidly wither away. A fine papyrus plant was on view, with other water-plants, in the circular greenhouse in Kew Gardens, towards the end of the season of 1890. Can the flag grow without water "The flag" (אחוּ) seems to be the ordinary sedge, or marah-plant. Like the papyrus, it would often spring up in all its greenness from a pool or pond left by the retiring river, and then in a few days, when the water was dried up, would wither away. Both images represent the prosperity of the wicked, and were probably proverbial.
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
Verse 12. - Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not out down. It grows and flourishes in a rich greenness up to a certain point; no one touches it; but the water fails from the root, and it fades, collapses, and is gone. It withereth before any other herb. The ground may be all green around it with ordinary grass and other herbs, since they only need a little moisture - the water-plant will collapse unless it has its full supply.
So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
Verse 13. - So are the paths of all that forget God. So, that is, do those proceed on their way by whom God has been forgotten, They spring up in apparent strength and lusty force; they flourish for a brief space; then, untouched by man's hand, they suddenly fade, fall, and disappear, before the mass of their contemporaries. Job is, of course, glanced at in the expression, "all that forget God," though it is the last thing that he had done. And the hypocrite's hope shall perish; or, the hope of the ungodly man shall perish (comp. Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 17:8, where the LXX. translates by ἀσεβὴς or παράνομος).
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.
Verse 14. - Whose hope shall be cut off; or, break in sunder (Revised Version). Here the second metaphor begins to come in. The ungodly, who has built up around him a house, and a body of dependants and friends, is like a spider which has spun itself a magnificent web, and thinks to find a defense in it. The moment it is put to the proof it breaks in sunder;" its delicate tracery is shattered; its fabric goes to nought. Job's house had gone to nought before his person was smitten, and, though it had once been so strong, in the hour of trial had lent him no support at all. And whose trust shall be a spider's web; literally, a spider's house. All the trust of the ungodly, in whatever it consists, shall be as fragile, as frail, as unsubstantial, as the filmy structure that a spider spins with such ears and skill, but which a wind, or a wasp, or an inconsiderate movement of its own may shatter to bits.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.
Verse 15. - He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. A spider's web, once damaged, rapidly goes to pieces. It cannot be patched up. To "lean upon it" is to put its structure to a test which it is unable to bear. It cannot "stand" or "endure." The case is the same with all the supports of the ungodly.
He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.
Verse 16. - He is green before the sun. Bildad here introduces a third and more elaborate simile. The hypocrite, or ungodly man (ver. 13), is as a gourd (Jonah 4:6), or other rapidly growing plant, which shoots forth at sunrise with a wealth of greenery, spreading itself over a whole garden, and even sending forth its sprays and tendrils beyond it (comp. Genesis 49:22) - lovely to look at, and full, apparently, of life and vigour. And his branch shooteth forth in his garden; rather, over his garden, or beyond his, garden.
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
Verse 17. - His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth (rather, he seeth) the place (literally, house) of stones. This passage is very obscure The word gal, translated heap, means sometimes a spring or stream of water (Song of Solomon 4:12); and many of the best Hebraists regard it as having that meaning here (Buxtorf, Lee, Stanley Leathes, Revised Version). In this case we have to regard the rapidly growing plant as having its roots wrapped about the perennial spring, which was a not uncommon, and always a much-desired, feature of an Eastern garden. Thus nourished, it naturally increased and spread itself, and "was green before the sun." May we suppose that it "saw the house of stones," because the spring which nourished it gushed forth from the native rock so that its roots were in contact with both?
If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.
Verse 18. - If he destroy him from his place; or, if he be destroyed. The verb seems to be best taken as impersonal. If he be destroyed in any way, suddenly or gradually, by a Divine stroke, or by human agency, or by the comparatively slow process of nature, in any case the result is one, the flourishing plant is clean swept away, and the place of it knows it no more. Bildad's words are very dramatic and expressive. Then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee. The place shall be ashamed of having ever nurtured anything so vile, and shall declare that it never held such a growth.
Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.
Verse 19. - Behold, this is the joy of his way. Bitterly ironical - This is what his rapid and rampant greenery comes to; this is how his triumphant career ends! Utter destruction, disappearance, obliteration! And out of the earth shall others grow. The destruction leaves room for something better to follow - a sounder, healthier, and less short-lived growth.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
Verse 20. - Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man. Bildad winds up with words of apparent trust in, and good will towards, Job. God is absolutely just, and will neither forsake the righteous man nor uphold the wicked one. If Job is, as he says, true to God, upright, and (humanly speaking) "perfect," then he has only to go on trusting God; God will not leave him "till he fill his mouth with laughing, and his lips with rejoicing" (ver 21); then "they that irate him shall be clothed with shame, and their dwelling-place shall come to nought' (ver. 22); but if, as we feel instinctively that Bildad believes, Job is not "perfect," but "an evil-doer," then he must expect no relief, no lull in his sufferings; he is obnoxious to all the threatenings which have formed the bulk of Bildad's discourse (vers. 8-20) - be may look to being cut off, like the rush and the flag (vers. 11, 12), crushed like the spider's web (ver. 14), destroyed, and forgotten, like the rapidly growing gourd (Vers. 16-19); he must look for no help from God (ver. 20); but must be contented to pass away and make room for men of a better stamp (ver. 19). Neither will he help the evil-doers; literally, neither will he grasp the hand of evil-doers; i.e. though he may support them for a while, he will not maintain them firmly and constantly.
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
Verse 21. - Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing. This is very elliptical. The full phrase would be, "God will not cast away a perfect man; therefore, if thou be such, he will not cast away thee, till he fill thy mouth with laughter, and thy lips with rejoicing," or "with shouting for joy."
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.
Verse 22. - They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame (comp. Psalm 35:26); and the dwelling-place (literally, tent, or tabernacle) of the wicked shall come to nought (literally, shall not be). The words are involved and obscure, because Bildad does not wish to make his meaning plain. He has to invent phrases which may cut both ways, and, while they seem directed against Job's enemies, may pain and wound Job himself.