Bildad had very disingenuously perverted Job’s complaints by making them the description of the miserable condition of a wicked man; and yet he repeats them here, to move their pity, and to work upon their good nature, if they had any left in them.
I. He complains of the tokens of God’s displeasure which he was under, and which infused the wormwood and gall into the affliction and misery. How doleful are the accents of his complaints! “He hath kindled his wrath against me, which flames and terrifies me, which burns and pains me,” Job 19:11. What is the fire of hell but the wrath of God? Seared consciences will feel it hereafter, but do not fear it now. Enlightened consciences fear it now, but shall not feel it hereafter. Job’s present apprehension was that God counted him as one of his enemies; and yet, at the same time, God loved him, and gloried in him, as his faithful friend. It is a gross mistake, but a very common one, to think that whom God afflicts he treats as his enemies; whereas, on the contrary, as many as he loves he rebukes and chastens; it is the discipline of his sons. Which way soever Job looked he thought he saw the tokens of God’s displeasure against him. 1. Did he look back upon his former prosperity? He saw God’s hand putting an end to that (Job 19:9): “He has stripped me of my glory, my wealth, honour, power, and all the opportunity I had of doing good. My children were my glory, but I have lost them; and whatever was a crown to my head he has taken it from me, and has laid all my honour in the dust.” See the vanity of worldly glory: it is what we may be soon stripped of; and, whatever strips us, we must see and own God’s hand in it and comply with his design. 2. Did he look down upon his present troubles? He saw God giving them their commission, and their orders to attack him. They are his troops, that act by his direction, which encamp against me, Job 19:12. It did not so much trouble him that his miseries came upon him in troops as that they were God’s troops, in whom it seemed as if God fought against him and intended his destruction. God’s troops encamped around his tabernacle, as soldiers lay siege to a strong city, cutting off all provisions from being brought into it and battering it continually; thus was Job’s tabernacle besieged. Time was when God’s hosts encamped round him for safety: Hast thou not made a hedge about him? Now, on the contrary, they surrounded him, to his terror, and destroyed him on every side, Job 19:10. 3. Did he look forward for deliverance? He saw the hand of God cutting off all hopes of that (Job 19:8): “He hath fenced up my way, that I cannot pass. I have now no way left to help myself, either to extricate myself out of my troubles or to ease myself under them. Would I make any motion, take any steps towards deliverance? I find my way hedged up; I cannot do what I would; nay, if I would please myself with the prospect of a deliverance hereafter, I cannot do it; it is not only out of my reach, but out of my sight: God hath set darkness in my paths, and there is none to tell me how long,” Ps. 74:9. He concludes (Job 19:10), “I am gone, quite lost and undone for this world; my hope hath he removed like a tree cut down, or plucked up by the roots, which will never grow again.” Hope in this life is a perishing thing, but the hope of good men, when it is cut off from this world, is but removed like a tree, transplanted from this nursery to the garden of the Lord. We shall have no reason to complain if God thus remove our hopes from the sand to the rock, from things temporal to things eternal.
II. He complains of the unkindness of his relations and of all his old acquaintance. In this also he owns the hand of God (Job 19:13): He has put my brethren far from me, that is, “He has laid those afflictions upon me which frighten them from me, and make them stand aloof from my sores.” As it was their sin God was not the author of it; it is Satan that alienates men’s minds from their brethren in affliction. But, as it was Job’s trouble, God ordered it for the completing of his trial. As we must eye the hand of God in all the injuries we receive from our enemies (“the Lord has bidden Shimei curse David”), so also in all the slights and unkindnesses we receive from our friends, which will help us to bear them the more patiently. Every creature is that to us (kind or unkind, comfortable or uncomfortable) which God makes it to be. Yet this does not excuse Job’s relations and friends from the guilt of horrid ingratitude and injustice to him, which he had reason to complain of; few could have borne it so well as he did. He takes notice of the unkindness, 1. Of his kindred and acquaintance, his neighbours, and such as he had formerly been familiar with, who were bound by all the laws of friendship and civility to concern themselves for him, to visit him, to enquire after him, and to be ready to do him all the good offices that lay in their power; yet these were estranged from him, Job 19:13. They took no more care about him than if he had been a stranger whom they never knew. His kinsfolk, who claimed relation to him when he was in prosperity, now failed him; they came short of their former professions of friendship to him and his present expectations of kindness from them. Even his familiar friends, whom he was mindful of, had now forgotten him, had forgotten both his former friendliness to them and his present miseries: they had heard of his troubles, and designed him a visit; but truly they forgot it, so little affected were they with it. Nay, his inward friends, the men of his secret, whom he was most intimate with and laid in his bosom, not only forgot him, but abhorred him, kept as far off from him as they could, because he was poor and could not entertain them as he used to do, and because he was sore and a loathsome spectacle. Those whom he loved, and who therefore were worse than publicans if they did not love him now that he was in distress, not only turned from him, but were turned against him, and did all they could to make him odious, so to justify themselves in being so strange to him, Job 19:19. So uncertain is the friendship of men; but, if God be our friend, he will not fail us in a time of need. But let none that pretend either to humanity or Christianity ever use their friends as Job’s friends used him: adversity is the proof of friendship. 2. Of his domestics and family relations. Sometimes indeed we find that, beyond our expectation, there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother; but the master of a family ordinarily expects to be attended on and taken care of by those of his family, even when, through weakness of body or mind, he has become despicable to others. But poor Job was misused by his own family, and some of his worst foes were those of his own house. He mentions not his children; they were all dead, and we may suppose that the unkindness of his surviving relations made him lament the death of his children so much the more: “If they had been alive,” would he think, “I should have had comfort in them.” As for those that were now about him, (1.) His own servants slighted him. His maids did not attend him in his illness, but counted him for a stranger and an alien, Job 19:15. His other servants never heeded him; if he called to them they would not come at his call, but pretended that they did not hear him. If he asked them a question, they would not vouchsafe to give him an answer, Job 19:16. Job had been a good master to them, and did not despise their cause when they pleaded with him (Job 31:13), and yet they were rude to him now, and despised his cause when he pleaded with them. We must not think it strange if we receive evil at the hand of those from whom we have deserved well. Though he was now sickly, yet he was not cross with his servants, and imperious, as is too common, but he entreated his servants with his mouth, when he had authority to command; and yet they would not be civil to him, neither kind nor just. Note, Those that are sick and in sorrow are apt to take things ill, and be jealous of a slight, and to lay to heart the least unkindness done to them: when Job was in affliction even his servants’ neglect of him troubled him. (2.) But, one would think, when all forsook him, the wife of his bosom should have been tender of him: no, because he would not curse God and die, as she persuaded him, his breath was strange to her too; she did not care for coming near him, nor took any notice of what he said, Job 19:17. Though he spoke to her, not with the authority, but with the tenderness of a husband, did not command, but entreated her by that conjugal love which their children were the pledges of, yet she regarded him not. Some read it, “Though I lamented, or bemoaned myself, for the children,” that is, “for the death of the children of my own body,” an affliction in which she was equally concerned with him. Now, it appeared, the devil spared her to him, not only to be his tempter, but to be his tormentor. By what she said to him at first, Curse God and die, it appeared that she had little religion in her; and what can one expect that is kind and good from those that have not the fear of God before their eyes and are not governed by conscience? (3.) Even the little children who were born in his house, the children of his own servants, who were his servants by birth, despised him, and spoke against him (Job 19:18); though he arose in civility to speak friendly to them, or with authority to check them, they let him know that they neither feared him nor loved him.
III. He complains of the decay of his body; all the beauty and strength of that were gone. When those about him slighted him, if he had been in health, and at ease, he might have enjoyed himself. But he could take as little pleasure in himself as others took in him (Job 19:20): My bone cleaves now to my skin, as formerly it did to my flesh; it was this that filled him with wrinkles (Job 16:8); he was a perfect skeleton, nothing but skin and bones. Nay, his skin too was almost gone, little remained unbroken but the skin of his teeth, his gums and perhaps his lips; all the rest was fetched off by his sore boils. See what little reason we have to indulge the body, which, after all our care, may be thus consumed by the diseases which it has in itself the seeds of.
IV. Upon all these accounts he recommends himself to the compassion of his friends, and justly blames their harshness with him. From this representation of his deplorable case, it was easy to infer, 1. That they ought to pity him, Job 19:21. This he begs in the most moving melting language that could be, enough (one would think) to break a heart of stone: “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O you my friends! if you will do nothing else for me, be sorry for me, and show some concern for me; have pity upon me, for the hand of God hath touched me. My case is sad indeed, for I have fallen into the hands of the living God, my spirit is touched with the sense of his wrath, a calamity of all other the most piteous.” Note, It becomes friends to pity one another when they are in trouble, and not to shut up the bowels of compassion. 2. That, however, they ought not to persecute him; if they would not ease his affliction by their pity, yet they must not be so barbarous as to add to it by their censures and reproaches (Job 19:22): “Why do you persecute me as God? Surely his rebukes are enough for one man to bear; you need not add your wormwood and gall to the cup of affliction he puts into my hand, it is bitter enough without that: God has a sovereign power over me, and may do what he pleases with me; but do you think that you may do so too?” No, we must aim to be like the Most Holy and the Most Merciful, but not like the Most High and Most Mighty. God gives not account of any of his matters, but we must give account of ours. If they did delight in his calamity, let them be satisfied with his flesh, which was wasted and gone, but let them not, as if that were too little, wound his spirit, and ruin his good name. Great tenderness is due to those that are in affliction, especially to those that are troubled in mind.