Bildad here describes the destruction itself which wicked people are reserved for in the other world, and which, in some degree, often seizes them in this world. Come, and see what a miserable condition the sinner is in when his day comes to fall.
I. See him disheartened and weakened by continual terrors arising from the sense of his own guilt and the dread of God’s wrath (Job 18:11, 12): Terror shall make him afraid on every side. The terrors of his own conscience shall haunt him, so that he shall never be easy. Wherever he goes, these shall follow him; which way soever he looks, these shall stare him in the face. It will make him tremble to see himself fought against by the whole creation, to see Heaven frowning on him, hell gaping for him, and earth sick of him. He that carries his own accuser, and his own tormentor, always in his bosom, cannot but be afraid on every side. This will drive him to his feet, like the malefactor, who, being conscious of his own guilt, takes to his heels and flees when none pursues, Prov. 28:1. But his feet will do him no service; they are fast in the snare, Job 18:9. The sinner may as soon overpower the divine omnipotence as flee from the divine omniscience, Amos 9:2, 3. No marvel that the sinner is dispirited and distracted with fear, for, 1. He sees his ruin approaching: Destruction shall be ready at his side, to seize him whenever justice gives the word, so that he is brought into desolation in a moment, Ps. 73:19. 2. He feels himself utterly unable to grapple with it, either to escape it or to bear up under it. That which he relied upon as his strength (his wealth, power, pomp, friends, and the hardiness of his own spirit) shall fail him in the time of need, and be hunger-bitten, that is, it shall do him no more service than a famished man, pining away for hunger, would do in work or war. The case being thus with him, no marvel that he is a terror to himself. Note, The way of sin is a way of fear, and leads to everlasting confusion, of which the present terrors of an impure and unpacified conscience are earnests, as they were to Cain and Judas.
II. See him devoured and swallowed up by a miserable death; and miserable indeed a wicked man’s death is, how secure and jovial soever his life was. 1. See him dying, arrested by the first-born of death (some disease, or some stroke that has in it a more than ordinary resemblance of death itself; so great a death, as it is called, 2 Cor. 1:10; a messenger of death that has in it an uncommon strength and terror), weakened by the harbingers of death, which devour the strength of his skin, that is, it shall bring rottenness into his bones and consume them. His confidence shall then be rooted out of his tabernacle (Job 18:14), that is, all that he trusted to for his support shall be taken from him, and he shall have nothing to rely upon, no, not his own tabernacle. His own soul was his confidence, but that shall be rooted out of the tabernacle of the body, as a tree that cumbered the ground. “Thy soul shall be required of thee.” 2. See him dead, and see his case then with an eye of faith. (1.) He is then brought to the king of terrors. He was surrounded with terrors while he lived (Job 18:11), and death was the king of all those terrors; they fought against the sinner in death’s name, for it is by reason of death that sinners are all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:15), and at length they will be brought to that which they so long feared, as a captive to the conqueror. Death is terrible to nature; our Saviour himself prayed, Father, save me from this hour. But to the wicked it is in a special manner the king of terrors, both as it is a period to that life in which they placed their happiness and a passage to that life where they will find their endless misery. How happy then are the saints, and how much indebted to the Lord Jesus, by whom death is so far abolished, and the property of it altered, that this king of terrors becomes a friend and servant! (2.) He is then driven from the light into darkness (Job 18:18), from the light of this world, and his prosperous condition in it, into darkness, the darkness of the grave, the darkness of hell, into utter darkness, never to see light (Ps. 49:19), not the least gleam, nor any hopes of it. (3.) He is then chased out of the world, hurried and dragged away by the messengers of death, sorely against his will, chased as Adam out of paradise, for the world is his paradise. It intimates that he would fain stay here; he is loth to depart, but go he must; all the world is weary of him, and therefore chases him out, as glad to get rid of him. This is death to a wicked man.
III. See his family sunk and cut off, Job 18:15. The wrath and curse of God light and lie, not only upon his head and heart, but upon his house too, to consume it with the timber and stones thereof, Zech. 5:4. Death itself shall dwell in his tabernacle, and, having expelled him, shall take possession of his house, to the terror and destruction of all that he leaves behind. Even the dwelling shall be ruined for the sake of its owner: Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation, rained upon it as upon Sodom, to the destruction of which this seems to have reference. Some think he here upbraids Job with the burning of his sheep and servants with fire from heaven. The reason is here given why his tabernacle is thus marked for ruin: Because it is none of his; that is, it was unjustly got, and kept, from the rightful owner, and therefore let him not expect either the comfort or the continuance of it. His children shall perish, either with him or after him, Job 18:16. So that, his roots being in his own person dried up beneath, above his branch (every child of his family) shall be cut off. Thus the houses of Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab, were cut off; none that descended from them were left alive. Those who take root in the earth may expect it will thus be dried up; but, if we be rooted in Christ, even our leaf shall not wither, much less shall our branch be cut off. Those who consult the true honour of their family, and the welfare of its branches, will be afraid of withering it by sin. The extirpation of the sinner’s family is mentioned again (Job 18:19): He shall neither have son nor nephew, child nor grandchild, to enjoy his estate and bear up his name, nor shall there be any remaining in his dwelling akin to him. Sin entails a curse upon posterity, and the iniquity of the fathers is often visited upon the children. Herein, also, it is probable that Bildad reflects upon the death of Job’s children and servants, as a further proof of his being a wicked man; whereas all that are written childless are not thereby written graceless; there is a name better than that of sons and daughters.
IV. See his memory buried with him, or made odious; he shall either be forgotten or spoken of with dishonour (Job 18:17): His remembrance shall perish from the earth; and, if it perish thence, it perishes wholly, for it was never written in heaven, as the names of the saints are, Luke 10:20. All his honour shall be laid and lost in the dust, or stained with perpetual infamy, so that he shall have no name in the street, departing without being desired. Thus the judgments of God follow him, after death, in this world, as an indication of the misery his soul is in after death, and an earnest of that everlasting shame and contempt to which he shall rise in the great day. The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot, Prov. 10:7.
V. See a universal amazement at his fall, Job 18:20. Those that see it are affrighted, so sudden is the change, so dreadful the execution, so threatening to all about him: and those that come after, and hear the report of it, are astonished at it; their ears are made to tingle, and their hearts to tremble, and they cry out, Lord, how terrible art thou in thy judgments! A place or person utterly ruined is said to be made an astonishment, Deut. 28:37; 2 Chron. 7:21; Jer. 25:9, 18. Horrible sins bring strange punishments.
VI. See all this averred as the unanimous sense of the patriarchal age, grounded upon their knowledge of God and their many observations of his providence (Job 18:21): Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place (this the condition) of him that knows not God! See here what is the beginning, and what is the end, of the wickedness of this wicked world. 1. The beginning of it is ignorance of God, and it is a wilful ignorance, for there is that to be known of him which is sufficient to leave them for ever inexcusable. They know not God, and then they commit all iniquity. Pharaoh knows not the Lord, and therefore will not obey his voice. 2. The end of it, and that is utter destruction. Such, so miserable, are the dwellings of the wicked. Vengeance will be taken of those that know not God, 2 Thess. 1:8. For those whom he has not honour from he will get himself honour upon. Let us therefore stand in awe and not sin, for it will certainly be bitterness in the latter end.
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