In this chapter Bildad responds to Job, cautioning him that all men are unrighteous and though they prosper for a time their destruction is assured as punishment unless they repent.
Bildad now joins the fray. Much like Eliphaz, he cannot keep silent because Job is accusing God of not treating him rightly. This, he views as an assault of God’s justice. There is some truth to this as we find out later.
He asserts rhetorically, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right” (Job 8:3)? Obviously the answer is no. So, without a hint of subtlety if God is both righteous and all powerful, it stands to reason that Job’s suffering is occurring as punishment.
To Bildad, other obvious explanations are not acceptable. One would be that God does not always see suffering and is not omniscient (this is the view of Jehovah’s Witnesses for example). The other would be that God is unjust and punishes “good” people. It is our presumption that he would agree with Eliphaz and assert by default, all men are deserving of punishment anyhow. In fact, when pressed on the matter and finding no specific unrighteousness to accuse Job of, he argues desperately, “How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman” (Job 25:4)?
Though a not completely untrue position, if we use this to rationalize why we experience evil, then man is deserving of punishment all of the time and he is never to experience God’s blessings, but only punishment. As we have already seen, Job accuses God of being overly scrupulous for this reason. What is man that God, knowing he is flawed, seeks to crush him every moment?
Nonetheless, Bildad just as Eliphaz is self-righteous, but also inconsistent. On one hand he sees all men as unrighteous and deserving to be crushed. However, he somehow does not lump himself in that definition and asserts to Job that if only a man can be righteous (something they say before is impossible anyhow), only then can he be restored to God. It is, at it’s heart, a completely irrational view.
Bildad does not allow logic to get in the way of accusing Job of immense unrighteousness deserving of death. He callously says, “If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression” (Job 8:4). Bildad then admonishes Job that if he merely repents of his sin, “He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate” (Job 8:6).
There is more to this than the idea “if you repent, God will restore you.” Implicitly, there is a very profound error in the assertion. God is not answerable to man, nor does he meet man on his terms. So, if we give the church more money, if we reject our inclinations to sin, and if we pursue righteousness, none of these acts put God in our debt. As Elihu later in the book astutely asserts:
If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, or what does He receive from your hand (Job 35:6-7)?
If God is the one that makes us righteous by His Spirit leading us to and sustaining our faith in Christ, how can we buy God off with righteousness that was not our own to begin with? As the Scripture states, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You” (1 Chron 29:14). God made all of creation, everything we have is from Him. We can’t buy Him off with His own money, so to say.
In short, Bildad is wrong. However, he is going by what he believes is an orthodox tradition: “Please inquire of past generations and consider the things searched out by their fathers…Will they not teach you and tell you…?” (Job 8:8, 10).
The teachings of Bildad, perhaps old Near Eastern proverbs, are not that difficult to understand. Perhaps the metaphor about trusting in one’s own works instead of placing trust in God is the toughest one. Bildad teaches, “He [the wicked] trusts in his house, but it does not stand; he holds fast to it, but it does not endure” (Job 8:15). The man who exerts effort, perhaps by cutting moral corners so to say, will find that “his shoots spread out over his garden” (Job 8:16) and he feels secure as the roots wrap around stones (Job 8:17). Yet, in one fell swoop, God puts the tree to the axe (Job 8:18).
In a way, Bildad is saying that the wicked appear to be doing well for a time, but eventually they pay dearly for what they have done. He asserts that God takes joy in doing this to the wicked, knowing that the next wave of wicked men will raise themselves from the dust and will also be put to the axe (Job 8:19).
Bildad ends his advice with promises of restoration, which ironically will all come to pass by the end. God does not reject a man with integrity, He will not support evil-doers, and those who hate Job will be clothed with shame.