Bildad the Insufferable Bully

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:

“How long will you hunt for words?
    Consider, and then we will speak.
Why are we counted as cattle?
    Why are we stupid in your sight?
You who tear yourself in your anger,
    shall the earth be forsaken for you,
    or the rock be removed out of its place?

“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out,
    and the flame of his fire does not shine.
The light is dark in his tent,
    and his lamp above him is put out.
His strong steps are shortened,
    and his own schemes throw him down.
For he is cast into a net by his own feet,
    and he walks on its mesh.
A trap seizes him by the heel;
    a snare lays hold of him.
10 A rope is hidden for him in the ground,
    a trap for him in the path.
11 Terrors frighten him on every side,
    and chase him at his heels.
12 His strength is famished,
    and calamity is ready for his stumbling.
13 It consumes the parts of his skin;
    the firstborn of death consumes his limbs.
14 He is torn from the tent in which he trusted
    and is brought to the king of terrors.
15 In his tent dwells that which is none of his;
    sulfur is scattered over his habitation.
16 His roots dry up beneath,
    and his branches wither above.
17 His memory perishes from the earth,
    and he has no name in the street.
18 He is thrust from light into darkness,
    and driven out of the world.
19 He has no posterity or progeny among his people,
    and no survivor where he used to live.
20 They of the west are appalled at his day,
    and horror seizes them of the east.
21 Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
    such is the place of him who knows not God.” – Job 18:1-21 ESV

In Bildad’s second speech to Job, one can sense his growing frustration and disdain for his “patient.” He is put out by Job’s persistent claims of innocence and more than a bit offended that his ungrateful friend refuses to recognize the wisdom of his words. So, Bildad resorts to name-calling and sarcasm. He turns into the neighborhood bully who picks on the one kid who can’t effectively defend himself.

First, he attacks Job’s verbosity, accusing him of being a pompous blowhard who seems to think that he can talk his way out of his dilemma.

“How long before you stop talking?
    Speak sense if you want us to answer!
Do you think we are mere animals?
    Do you think we are stupid? – Job 18:2-3 NLT

Bildad finds Job’s little monologues to be nothing more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” He isn’t buying what Job is selling and is, frankly, fed up with having to listen to Job’s incessant claims of victimhood. In a highly unsympathetic tone, Bildad tells Job that his displays of self-righteous anger are a total waste of time.

You may tear out your hair in anger,
    but will that destroy the earth?
    Will it make the rocks tremble? – Job 18:4 NLT

Throwing a fit and putting on a show of mock mourning isn’t going to change anything. Job is wasting his time and his breath because Bildad and his companions remain stubbornly convinced that Job is guilty as charged. In fact, Bildad pulls no punches, clearly labeling Job as a wicked man who is getting exactly what he deserves.

“Surely the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.
    The sparks of their fire will not glow.
The light in their tent will grow dark.
    The lamp hanging above them will be quenched.
The confident stride of the wicked will be shortened.
    Their own schemes will be their downfall. – Job 18:5-7 NLT

Throughout this relatively short speech, Bildad repeatedly associates Job with the wicked. There is nothing subtle about his insinuation and his words must have cut deep into Job’s psyche. How could a man whom Job considered to be a close friend end up being so brutally cruel and heartless? Bildad provides Job with no hope but, instead, he presents his friend with a bleak picture of further suffering that will end in Job’s demise. Unwilling to declare Job’s wickedness to his face, Bildad takes the more tactful but no less hurtful course. He simply infers Job’s guilt by referring to “the wicked,” and he makes it clear that “those people” always end up getting what they deserve.

“All memory of their existence will fade from the earth;
    no one will remember their names.” – Job 18:17 NLT

Job had lost everything but his mind. He could still understand what Bildad was saying and it must have cut like a knife. Bildad’s words were as subtle as a brick to the forehead. He practically describes Job’s personal plight word for word, in a less-than-compassionate attempt to prove just how wicked Job is.

“Terrors surround the wicked
    and trouble them at every step.
Hunger depletes their strength,
    and calamity waits for them to stumble.
Disease eats their skin;
    death devours their limbs.
They are torn from the security of their homes
    and are brought down to the king of terrors.
The homes of the wicked will burn down;
    burning sulfur rains on their houses. – Job 18:11-15 NLT

Virtually every one of these things had happened to Job and Bildad was using them as evidence of the fate awaiting “the wicked.” In Bildad’s estimation, Job was living proof that the wicked always get what they deserve. Job’s litany of losses gave ample testimony to his life of unrighteousness; they were the just judgments of a holy God on an unholy man.

And in an almost demonic display of insensitivity, Bildad claims that any lingering hope that Job may have of leaving a legacy is nothing more than wishful thinking.

“They [the wicked] will be thrust from light into darkness,
    driven from the world.
They will have neither children nor grandchildren,
    nor any survivor in the place where they lived.” – Job 18:18-19 NLT

If anyone is wicked, it’s Bildad. He displays an inordinate amount of disdain for his friend, using his words to wound rather than to heal. He shows no desire to lift up his brother with words of encouragement. His speech is destructive rather than instructive. His callous conclusions are meant to defend himself rather than Job, and the longer he talks, the more damage he does.

Bildad finally runs out of things to say, but he makes sure to end his speech with a knock-out punch. He tells Job that, one day, long after Job is gone, people will come by the ruins of his former home and say, “This was the home of a wicked person, the place of one who rejected God” (Job 18:21 NLT).

According to Bildad, Job will leave a legacy, but it will not be the one he had hoped for. There will be no memories of Job’s blamelessness. There will be no heirs to carry on his good name. All that will be left to memorialize Job will be the remnants of his destroyed life. These are the words that Bildad leaves ringing in the ears of his suffering friend. And with friends like this, who needs enemies?

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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