Bildad gives a final response to Job and is in many ways the best argument him and his friends have cooked up pertaining the total depravity of man.
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Aquinas sums up Bildad’s argument quite nicely: “He wants to show in this that man cannot propose his own justice and innocence, however great it may be, as it is reckoned as nothing in comparison to God, when divine justice is in question.”
In other words, he is employing the only logically consistent and not easily refutable strategy the friends have left: because man is depraved, God is always in the right to arbitrarily punish him. Eliphaz already tried this in Chapter 22.
We should not mock such a train of thought outright. Apart from grace, death is the destiny for all men and deservedly so: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). Further, as even the friends know acknowledging the existence of the “King of Terrors,” the wicked suffer in their death. In fact, if men have done nothing to merit their own salvation, then their eternal damnation and punishment is totally deserved because they have wronged an infinitely great God.
And so, if man already deserves eternal damnation, why would it be unjust if God caused him suffering whenever He wanted to?
Now, do not be so quick to say Bildad, or Eliphaz for that matter, is wrong. They are not. If all we knew about our nature is that we are sinful and deserve damnation, because “the wages of sin are death” (Rom 6:23), then there is no debate. We do deserve punishment. There is no getting around it. Man should suffer for wronging an infinitely great God.
Now, if all we know about God is that He is just, He would be doing no wrong if He judged us for the infractions of our youth. Or the times we sin out of weakness. Or when we curse God or commit any sin in our hearts in any way, for even just a second. Job is wrong for taking such offense to God potentially judging him for every little thing (Job 7:17-21). Even if this is how God was acting, He would still be totally in the right provided that all we know about His nature is that He is just.
As we shall see, Bildad correctly understands the ramifications of God’s immeasurable greatness and justice. Yet,He has no understanding of God’s mercy. It is this sort of mercy that Job has understood all along, because of his profound faith in God. And, it is the absence of this mercy when he has been faithful which has thrown him into complete confusion as to what exactly God’s nature is.
Bildad begins his argument speaking of God’s inimitable power, implying that His station makes Him unquestionable: “Dominion and awe belong to Him” (Job 25:2). Afterward, he explains why: “Who establishes peace in His heights. Is there any number to His troops? And upon whom does His light not rise” (Job 25:2-3)?
The assertion is simple. God has dominion, because he controls the heavens and the Earth*. He enforces His control with His holy angels. Much like the idiom “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” wherever God sheds His light, which is everywhere, He exercises authority. Therefore, dominion is not only His because of His complete and total sovereignty, but also He is awe-inspiring as His power cannot be matched.
How does Bildad imagine His power? Matthew Henry, perhaps taken in by what are in many ways very true and beautiful words from Bildad, finds no disagreement between Bildad’s and Job’s views of heaven (Henry ascribes to a “perfect Job” doctrine as we have discussed before). When Bildad speaks of a great tranquility in heaven, in Henry’s words, “The holy angels never quarrel with him, nor with one another, but entirely acquiesce in His will, and unanimously execute it without murmuring or disputing.Thus the will of God is done in heaven; and thus we pray that it may be done by us and others on earth.”
It is our view, and that of other commentators as well, that this is not what Bildad is speaking of. Bildad is speaking of God’s awesome authority. He establishes peace, which means He takes it by force. This is not a picture of peace as Henry imagines, but a picture of war.
Further, even though this is leaving the mouth of Bildad (with the negative connotations that we may infer from God making peace by force), it is a surprisingly accurate view in many ways. We know of Satan’s fall from the Scripture the following:
[Y]ou [Lucifer] said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
Nevertheless you will be [“thou art” in YLT] thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit (Is 14:13-14).
The YLT probably retains a better reflection of the verb tense than the NASB for reasons in translation philosophy we do not need to cover here. The point is, Lucifer’s rebellion against heaven occurred sometime before the completion of Creation. The “slaying of Leviathan” is just a euphemism for this battle against Satan.
So, Satan has already been thrust down to Sheol. Rev 9:1 appears to substantiate this: “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star [“Morning Star” aka “Lucifer,” Is 14:12] from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Hence, the falling has already occurred and it will occur again when Satan is thrust into the lake of fire for eternity.
For what it is worth, this reading might mean that Rev 20 is merely another description of Rev 9:1. Therefore, this highly debated chapter of the Bible speaks of Satan’s bounding as a past event. This means that Satan is bound at the beginning of creation, then breaks free, and after this he is bound again for “1,000 years.” The 1,000 years represents the time that elapses before the final tribulation in which Satan breaks free again. However, we do not have any definitive teachings on this matter other than to offer the speculation that Satan’s bounding is a past event that has already occurred as part of God’s making peace in heaven.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer ask that “Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we should be reminded of what we are really praying for. God’s will is done both on Earth and Heaven already for He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). Instead, we know that God has given the “prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2) a degree of power in the Earth. This cannot be taken lightly, for Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 12:30, John 14:31). He is also called the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4).
A ruler has been given dominion, but Satan has not been given complete sovereignty. He cannot work all things according to the counsel of his will, not on Earth and definitely not in heaven. However, has God permitted Satan to exercise power? Yes, wherever there is not a hedge (see chapter one), there he may go.
Later in the book, God will describe how he restrains Leviathan and even Satan’s evil is ultimately for good and His glory. Of course, Satan in his arrogance does not realize this.
So, when we pray for the Father’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are asking for His perfect protection, for we know He is able to dispense it. After all, He has established perfect peace in heaven by casting Satan out. Because Satan has been cast out of heaven and is now in the world, we know that apart from His grace and protection, we are subjected to Leviathan.
On top of this, we struggle with the sinful desires in our own flesh, so we are deceived like Eve very easily. For this reason we ask, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil or, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” God can deliver us because of who He is and His power. Satan does not have a lasting kingdom. He is ultimately toothless.
Yes, may the Lord’s will be done on Earth, Father lead us not into temptation. May He “incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances” (1 Kings 8:58).
If God can do this at a drop of a dime, why does He bother with Satan? According to James 1:13-15, “He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Apart from Satan, sin is at the core of our natures, but even Christians who are “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17) and have new natures still struggle with “the flesh.”
Time does not permit a full discourse on “the flesh” here, but to put it briefly, all men are “fleshy.” They are enticed to sin by their own lust for sin.
Yet, God can use our own wicked flesh, which nothing good dwells in (Rom 7:18), and Satan to bring about a good result for our own good. Concerning a man guilty of sexual immorality, Paul instructed to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5). So, dealing confronting Satan with the God who “works all things for good” (Rom 8:28) one’s back assists in the destruction of one’s flesh. As a result, the Spirit holds greater sway in one’s life (Gal 5:16).
Bildad, whether he actually understands the notion of total depravity or is forced to argue it in order to preserve God’s justice, asks rhetorically, “How then can a man be just with God” (Job 25:3)? A man can be just in Christ. Job knows this, but Bildad does not. If all men are not just, then all men’s suffering can rightfully be the result of retribution. However, as we just covered, this does not permit God to use suffering for benefiting man or glorifying Himself. Bildad’s retribution philosophy puts God in a box that He does not fit into.
Bildad then follows up the rhetorical question with another that is meant to convey the same point: “How can he be clean who is born of woman” (Job 25:3)? The foolishness of the assertion is obvious! Is not the Lord Jesus born of the Virgin Mary? Man can be clean if he is not imputed Adam’s sin. Christ, not born of the will of man but of the Spirit, avoids this by default. Christians, like Job, can be clean because their sins are nailed to the cross and they are imputed Christ’s righteousness.
Bildad then ends with one last rhetorical question meant to convey the unworthiness of man: “If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man, that worm” (Job 25:5-6)!
It is so easy to be drawn in by Bildad’s argument. We know that in the Book of Revelation, there will be no sun, moon, and probably stars for compared to the light emanating from God, they are complete darkness. They would obscure the truth in that same darkness (Rev 21:23-24). As David spoke of God in heaven: “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps 36:9). However, this is not what Bildad is talking about. He is essentially reiterating Eliphaz’s argument: “The heavens are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15).
This is really at the core of what Bildad is saying: If even the greatest things are nothing to God, than to presume man means anything to God where He should prevent man’s suffering makes no sense. No one cries when a maggot or worm is crushed.
This is a very strong and internally consistent argument. Epicurus’ whole problem of evil, where the existence of evil somehow would make God not omniscient, omnipotent, nor omnibenevolent, is exposed as idiocy by Bildad’s point.
To summarize Epicurus:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
The only good reason God should be good enough, or powerful enough, or smart enough to stop evil according to Epicurus is that human suffering should presumably matter to God. However, if man is no more special than a worm, or evoluted from a pile of scum that originated 1.2 billion years ago, then man is nothing and what he confronts has no profound meaning in the universe.
Therefore, the universe does not revolve around man. Man’s suffering in the grand scheme of things then is immaterial and unimportant. Impugning God’s motives or nature over something unimportant is idiotic. The atheists that employ Epicurus’ argument suffer from a flaw: they maintain an anthropocentric view of the universe where how an individual feels really should mean more at the end of the day then how a worm feels.
Bildad’s argument therefore is pretty air-tight. What is man that God should even give any notice or care about Him? Why not crush him if it suits God at the moment? The materialist philosopher and the atheist that loves complaining about the “problem of evil” cannot demonstrate that the universe is anthropocentric. Without demonstrating this, their whole argument is fallacious.
While Bildad might silence the materialists, he cannot silence Christians. We understand that the universe is Theocentric and not Anthropocentric. Yet, thanks to God’s revelation we know that man is made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:27). God the Son has both a human and divine nature that exist in their fullness so that He is fully God and fully man. He existed before His incarnation not in bodily form, but now has a body “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). Therefore, the universe does not revolve around man, but God does have plans and purposes for man. Man is the only creature that can partake in a divine union with God by being in Christ. He is certainly more than a worm.