BILDAD THE SHUHITE IS SCANDALIZED BY Job’s response to Eliphaz and offers his own searing rebuttal (Job 8).
“How long will you say such things?” Bildad asks. “Your words are a blustering wind” (Job 8:2). We would say they are nothing but hot air. From Bildad’s perspective, Job is charging God with perverting justice. “Does the Almighty pervert what is right?” (Job 8:3). But Bildad cannot let the point linger as a merely theoretical point to be debated by theologians. The implications of his rhetorical question Bildad now drives home in a shaft that must have pierced Job to the quick: “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin” (Job 8:4). In other words, the proper explanation of the storm that killed all ten of Job’s children (Job 1:18-19) is that they deserved it. To say anything else would surely mean, according to Bildad, that God is unjust, that he perverts justice. So the way forward for Job is “to look to God and plead with the Almighty” (Job 8:5). If Job humbles himself and is truly pure and upright, God will restore him to his “rightful place.” Indeed, all the fabulous wealth Job formerly enjoyed will seem like a mere piffle compared with the rewards that will come to him (Job 8:6-7).
For his authority Bildad appeals to longstanding tradition, to “the former generations.” The opinions he and his friends express are not newfangled ideas but received tradition. Bildad and his friends, regardless of how old they are, can only have learned by experience what can be tasted in one lifetime. What they are appealing to, however, is not the experience of one lifetime, but accumulated tradition. That tradition says that the godless and those who forget God perish like reeds without water; they enjoy all the support of those who lean on spiders’ webs (Job 8:11-19). Conversely, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers” (Job 8:20).
Of course, this is roughly the argument of Eliphaz, perhaps somewhat more bluntly expressed; and while Eliphaz appealed to visions of the night, Bildad appealed to received tradition. Once again, parts of the argument are not wrong. At one level, on an eternal scale, it is right to conclude that God vindicates righteousness and condemns wickedness. But as Bildad expresses the case, he claims to know more about God’s doings than he really does (neither he nor Job knows the behind-the-scenes setup in chapter 1). Worse, he applies his doctrine mechanically and shortsightedly, and ends up condemning a righteous man.
Can you think of instances where premature or unbalanced application of biblical truth has turned out to be fundamentally mistaken?