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181. Job 18:5-10, Bildad’s Understanding of Judgment I

 

5 “Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,

   And the flame of his fire gives no light.

6 The light in his tent is darkened,

   And his lamp goes out above him.

7 His vigorous stride is shortened,

   And his own scheme brings him down.

8 For he is thrown into the net by his own feet,

   And he steps on the webbing.

9 A snare seizes him by the heel,

   And a trap snaps shut on him.

10 A noose for him is hidden in the ground,

   And a trap for him on the path.

 

We now begin Bildad’s somewhat laborious catalogue of the ways in which the wicked will be judged and ultimately destroyed by God. No doubt the repetition of similar words in verses 5-6 (light/lamp/flame) and in verses 8-10 (traps, snare, pit, net, rope) is meant to impress on Job the seriousness and certainty of the judgment he is facing. In addition, Bildad will deftly use words and concepts previously used by Job to try to undercut Job’s earlier arguments. Yet, we have no indication that Job is the slightest bit worried by Bildad’s threatening words. Though he will say in the next chapter that the friends “crush” (daka) him with words, the very word used twice by Eliphaz (daka, 4:19; 5:4) to emphasize the parlous fate of the wicked, it isn't as if Job feels that these words are actually that threatening to him. It is as if Job is saying, ‘The only thing that is crushing here are your words!’ If we look at the play of words more closely, we see that daka with only slight rearrangement of letters becomes daak, the word Bildad twice uses in this chapter (18:5, 6) to express the impending judgment on or extinguishment of the wicked. The friends are throwing their hardest fastballs at Job; Job seemingly yawns as they speed by him outside the strike zone.

 

In this section Bildad discusses three of the terrors that overcome the wicked: his light is extinguished (vv 5-6); his steps are cut short (v 7); he falls into terrible traps (vv 8-10).  Bildad’s language is crystal-clear here and, apart from a few hapaxes, it flows easily for us. We are told in verse 5a that the “light” (the common or) of the “wicked” (the common rashim) will be “put out/extinguished” (daak twice; 9x in Bible but also in Job 6:17 and 21:17). Thus, the Book of Job ‘owns’ the concept of extinguishment. The parallel thought follows in verse 5b: the “flame” (shabib, a hapax) of his fire (the common esh) doesn’t shine (naga, 6x). One would think that one verse is enough to get the idea across that it is “lights out” for the wicked person, but Bildad belabors the point a bit by repeating it in verse 6. The “light” (or again) is “dark” (the common choshek) in his tent (the common ohel). Then, to maintain the parallelism in verse 6, we have his “lamp” (ner, 48x, also in Job 21:17; 29:3) will be extinguished (using the same rather rare verb daak as in v 5).

 

The first thing to note about the language or structure of Bildad’s thought in verses 5-6 is that “lights” result in “flames” (the hapax shahib) here, while in another place in Job, where God is speaking, it is a “lamp” (lappid) that gives forth “sparks” (a hapax kidod in 41:19 in Hebrew/41:11 in English). Whereas in Job 18:5-6, light is “going out,” which in this case means “extinguished, in Job 41 light is “going out,” which in this case means to shoot out from a monster’s mouth. So, the content and context is quite different, but the light/flame; lamp/spark parallelism is interesting between Bildad and God’s speeches. Job also uses the word lappid in condemning the friends in 12:5.  

 

For all its suggestive parallels with God’s words in Job 41, the thought of 18:5-6 is quite conventional. Proverbs has the “orthodox” statement of this idea, with even more nicely balanced cola, when blessing or rejoicing is contrasted with the light going out:  

 

     “The light (or) of the righteous (tsaddiq) rejoices, but the lamp (ner) of the wicked (rashim) will be       extinguished (daak, Proverbs 13:9).

 

Or,

 

     “Whoever curses his father and his mother, his lamp (ner) will be extinguished (daak) in darkness      (choshek, Proverbs 20:20).

 

Bildad is thus expressing in Job 18:5-6 an uncontroversial or even a pedestrian idea in common language. 

 

But what makes Bildad’s words especially inflammatory here, so to speak, is his use of the rare verb daak, which no doubt is meant to play off of Job’s use of the similar, and perhaps even functionally identical word zaak, in 17:1. Job had lamented there that his days were “extinguished/extinct” (zaak). Bildad’s riposte is that the wicked will be “extinguished” (daak). It is almost as if he is saying to Job, ‘Hey, Job, try it on for size. Your extinction is no doubt the same as the extinction of the wicked. Thus, rather than getting on your high horse and complaining about the uniqueness of your situation, realize that you yourself are admitting that you are standing on judgment’s doorstep.’  Perhaps that is why Bildad uses daak twice in 18:5-6; he wants to make sure that Job catches his drift.