Whatever God does is just. God destroyed your life. Therefore, you deserved it. That is a summary of Bildad’s response to Job’s harrowing lament and plea for wisdom as well as sympathy from his friends in Job 6-7. The hidden premise is that God only destroys the life of the wicked. Somebody, somewhere sinned.
With shocking pastoral insensitivity Bildad blames Job’s children for their own demise (8:4).
When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
Bildad applies the doctrine of retribution to Job’s children (8:2-7). As readers we know that the sins of the children had nothing–in terms of the Prologue–to do with their deaths. Even more Job had religiously sacrificed for their sins, but–in Bildad’s mind–to no effect. Bildad clearly sees the “justice” of God (8:3). It has to make sense to him; there must be a just, rational explanation for the death of children. That round peg has to fit into the square hole Bildad has been given it.
Bildad extends Eliphaz’s theme, the datum of his visionary experience (4:17). Can a person be more righteous/pure than God? God does not pervert righteousness/justice (8:3) and if Job will turn again to righteousness/purity, then God will make his ending better than his beginning (8:5).
Bildad, therefore, like Eliphaz before him, holds out some hope for Job.
If….if….if…you will do better, Job; if you will become more righteous; if you will repent; “if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty,” “if you are pure and upright,” then God, “even now,” will “restore you to your rightful place.” “Your beginnings,” Bildad promises, “will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be” (Job 8:5-7). Job could possibly expect–if he repents–”laughter” and “joy” once again while the “tents of the wicked” disappear (Job 8:20-22).
Between the two exhortations to repent (8:5-7 and 8:20-22), our friendly theologian–based on the wisdom of the ages–points to the fragility of those who “forget God” (8:13). They are fragile because they trust in what is fragile. They wither and die like rootless plants or blow away like houses built by spiders. They have no hope (8:13).
Bildad’s closing “wisdom” is particularly problematic from Job’s standpoint. According to Bildad, God does not “reject a blameless person or strengthen the hands of evildoers” (8:20). How ironic! Job is “blameless”, at least according to the Prologue (1:1,8; 2:3), which uses the same Hebrew word. And it was God who put Job into the satan’s hands as well (1:12; 2:6). God, in fact, did strengthen the hands of the one who attacked Job.
So, there are two choices; there are only two scenarios in Bildad’s mind. Bildad confirms God’s quid pro quo arrangement with humanity and encourages Job to embrace the profit of righteous living. Life is about equity and fairness–God will treat us just as we deserve. If we sin, he will condemn us. If we are pure, he will bless us. It’s that simple, right?
Job does not think so.
Moreover, in the framework of this poetic drama, if Job follows Bildad’s wisdom, then the satan was right after all–human beings are only interested in profit. Job will repent to get back his life even when he thinks he is innocent.
But Job won’t do that.