Here, I. Bildad reproves Job for what he had said (Job 8:2), checks his passion, but perhaps (as is too common) with greater passion. We thought Job spoke a great deal of good sense and much to the purpose, and that he had reason and right on his side; but Bildad, like an eager angry disputant, turns it all off with this, How long wilt thou speak these things? taking it for granted that Eliphaz had said enough to silence him, and that therefore all he said was impertinent. Thus (as Caryl observes) reproofs are often grounded upon mistakes. Men’s meaning is not taken aright, and then they are gravely rebuked as if they were evil-doers. Bildad compares Job’s discourse to a strong wind. Job had excused himself with this, that his speeches were but as wind (Job 6:26), and therefore they should not make such ado about them: “Yea, but” (says Bildad) “they are as strong wind, blustering and threatening, boisterous and dangerous, and therefore we are concerned to fence against them.”
II. He justifies God in what he had done. This he had no occasion to do at this time (for Job did not condemn God, as he would have it thought he did), or he might at least have done it without reflecting upon Job’s children, as he does here. Could he not be an advocate for God but he must be an accuser of the brethren? 1. He is right in general, that God doth not pervert judgment, nor ever go contrary to any settled rule of justice, Job 8:3. Far be it from him that he should and from us that we should suspect him. He never oppresses the innocent, nor lays a greater load on the guilty than they deserve. He is God, the Judge; and shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Gen. 18:25. If there should be unrighteousness with God, how should he judge the world? Rom. 3:5, 6. He is Almighty, Shaddai—all sufficient. Men pervert justice sometimes for fear of the power of others (but God is Almighty, and stands in awe of none), sometimes to obtain the favour of others; but God is all-sufficient, and cannot be benefited by the favour of any. It is man’s weakness and impotency that he often is unjust; it is God’s omnipotence that he cannot be so. 2. Yet he is not fair and candid in the application. He takes it for granted that Job’s children (the death of whom was one of the greatest of his afflictions) had been guilty of some notorious wickedness, and that the unhappy circumstances of their death were sufficient evidence that they were sinners above all the children of the east, Job 8:4. Job readily owned that God did not pervert judgment; and yet it did not therefore follow either that his children were cast-aways or that they died for some great transgression. It is true that we and our children have sinned against God, and we ought to justify him in all he brings upon us and ours; but extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces; and, in our judgment of another’s case (unless the contrary appears), we ought to take the more favourable side, as our Saviour directs, Luke 13:2-4. Here Bildad missed it.
III. He put Job in hope that, if he were indeed upright, as he said he was, he should yet see a good issue of his present troubles: “Although thy children have sinned against him, and are cast away in their transgression (they have died in their own sin), yet if thou be pure and upright thyself, and as an evidence of that wilt now seek unto God and submit to him, all shall be well yet,” Job 8:5-7. This may be taken two ways, either, 1. As designed to prove Job a hypocrite and a wicked man, though not by the greatness, yet the by the continuance, of his afflictions. “When thou wast impoverished, and thy children were killed, if thou hadst been pure and upright, and approved thyself so in the trial, God would before now have returned in mercy to thee and comforted thee according to the time of thy affliction; but, because he does not so, we have reason to conclude thou art not so pure and upright as thou pretendest to be. If thou hadst conducted thyself well under the former affliction, thou wouldst not have been struck with the latter.” Herein Bildad was not in the right; for a good man may be afflicted for his trial, not only very sorely, but very long, and yet, if for life, it is in comparison with eternity but for a moment. But, since Bildad put it to this issue, God was pleased to join issue with him, and proved his servant Job an honest man by Bildad’s own argument; for, soon after, he blessed his latter end more than his beginning. Or, 2. As designed to direct and encourage Job, that he might not thus run himself into despair, and give up all for gone; there might yet be hope if he would take the right course. I am apt to think Bildad here intended to condemn Job, yet would be thought to counsel and comfort him. (1.) He gives him good counsel, yet perhaps not expecting he would take it, the same that Eliphaz had given him (Job 5:8), to seek unto God, and that betimes (that is, speedily and seriously), and not to be dilatory and trifling in his return and repentance. He advises him not to complain, but to petition, to make his supplication to the Almighty with humility and faith, and to see that there was (what he feared had hitherto been wanting) sincerity in his heart (“thou must be pure and upright”) and honesty in his house—“that must be the habitation of thy righteousness, and not filled with ill-gotten goods, else God will not hear thy prayers,” Ps. 66:18. It is only the prayer of the upright that is the acceptable and prevailing prayer, Prov. 15:8. (2.) He gives him good hopes that he shall yet again see good days, secretly suspecting, however, that he was not qualified to see them. He assures him that, if he would be early in seeking God, God would awake for his relief, would remember him and return to him, though now he seemed to forget him and forsake him—that if his habitation were righteous it should be prosperity. When we return to God in a way of duty we have reason to hope that he will return to us in a way of mercy. Let not Job object that he had so little left to being the world with again that it was impossible he should ever prosper as he had done; no, “Though thy beginning should be ever so small, a little meal in the barrel and a little oil in the cruse, God’s blessing shall multiply that to a great increase.” This is God’s way of enriching the souls of his people with graces and comforts, not per saltum—as by a bound, but per gradum—step by step. The beginning is small, but the progress is to perfection. Dawning light grows to noonday, a grain of mustard seed to a great tree. Let us not therefore despise the day of small things, but hope for the day of great things.