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184. Job 18:11-21, Five More Ways That The Wicked Will Be Judged


If we are not already terrified by the first three terrors, Bildad adds five more torments awaiting those who will be judged by God.  


11 “All around terrors frighten him,

   And harry him at every step.

12 His strength is famished,

   And calamity is ready at his side.

13 His skin is devoured by disease,

   The firstborn of death devours his [f]limbs.

14 He is torn from [g]the security of his tent,

   And they march him before the king of terrors.

15 There dwells in his tent nothing of his;

   Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.

16 His roots are dried below,

   And his branch is cut off above.

17 Memory of him perishes from the earth,

   And he has no name abroad.

18 He is driven from light into darkness,

   And chased from the inhabited world.

19 He has no offspring or posterity among his people,

   Nor any survivor where he sojourned.

20 Those in the west are appalled at his [l]fate,

   And those in the east are seized with horror.

21 Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,

   And this is the place of him who does not know God.”


What is noteworthy about terrors that will be described here (numbered 4-8 in essay 179) is that, except for the first one (number 4 in my list), all of them have a specificity that the first three terrors do not have. In terrors 5-8 will meet hunger, disease, impoverishment, and disappearance of the family from the earth. These judgments are so severe that one wonders why anyone would choose to be a wicked person. Troubles now and pains forever. Where’s the fun in that?


Terror number four is, well, terror. Word-for-word verse 11 reads,


     “Round about terrors terrify him, and they scatter/shatter (puts) his feet.”


The words of the first part are clear enough, but the verb puts in the second part makes us pause. But let’s begin with clarity. The two words for terror here are the noun ballalah (10x/5x in Job) and the verb baath (16x/8x in Job). There are other words for terror in the Bible; one of the common ones is where the “l” and “h” of the first word are inverted: bahal (37x/5x in Job), though bahal is often translated “dismay” or “trouble” (e.g., Job 4:5, Genesis 45:3). A closer look at many of those 37 appearances may actually justify a “terror” reading for them. We will meet a curious figure called “the King of Terrors” a few verses below (v 14), so the theme of terror continues beyond this verse. Note that Eliphaz connects the concept of snares and terror in 22:10, where he says to Job, “Therefore snares (pach) are round you (sabib) and terrors (bahal) suddenly make you sore afraid (pachad).” Though he varies the words of Bildad, one might see Eliphaz in 22:10 as conflating numbers 3 (snares) and 4 (generic terror) from Bildad’s terror list in Chapter 18. 


The Book of Job, then, might be said to own, or at least have a near controlling interest, in the concept of terror. After all, what is really at stake in the book is how Job can understand, and hope to cool off, or calm down, God—whom he characterizes as the divine terrorist. We have already seen how God “terrifies me (Job) with visions” (7:14; baath); Job has also asked that the dread of God no longer terrify him (9:34; baath).  Bildad would be trying to show that the real terrors in the universe will be felt by those who are wicked while Job accuses God of terrorism. They are now talking past each other.


As mentioned above, the second part of verse 11 is difficult.  Some try to render the verb puts in the Hiphil as “entrap,” thus making a connection between the trap language of verses 8-10 and verse 11, but the best rendering here is probably “shake to pieces.” Though almost all of the 67 appearances of puts are best rendered “scatter” (e.g., II Kings 25:5; II Chronicles 18:16; Nehemiah 1:8), Job’s use of it in Job 16:12 to describe the divine assault on him, where Job has been seized (achaz) by the neck and then puts, is best seen not simply as a “scattering” of Job but of an actual “shattering” or “shaking to pieces” of Job. Bildad’s use of the same verb in the same rare fashion in 18:11, then, would be significant. It is as if he is saying, ‘You think that God has been puts-ing you (16:12). . .Wait until the real puts happens in the future for the wicked. Then you will really feel it!’ Sometimes one wonders if all the judgment-laden language of many of the world’s great religious traditions is simply a function of resentment. Bildad’s use of puts here seems to suggest that. 


The other thing that is difficult with verse 11 is the last word, literally, “to his feet.” He will be shaken or scattered “to his feet” (Seow renders it “at his feet”), an image that isn’t particularly clear but may just suggest the completeness of the judgment. We might say today that something shakes us “to the core” or “to the bones.” We wonder if being “scattered to the feet” is an ancient equivalent. Clines’ rendering of it as “Disaster waits only for him to stumble” and Seow’s as “destroyed to his feet” are two modern attempts to comet to grips with the “scattered to the feet” language of verse 11.


After the terrors that will come upon the wicked (and Job, too), the duo of hunger (v 12) and disease (v 13) will follow. Yet the language of verse 12 is anything but clear. We might render verse 12,


     “His trouble shall be hunger/hungry (the common raeb); and calamity shall be established at his      side.”


Clines renders the first phrase “His calamity shall be hungry for him,” which would take terror number 5 out of the realm of suffering hunger and plunge Job back into the world of general misfortune. Yet favoring the traditional rendering is the fact that verse 13 talks about disease. Hunger and disease are a nice hendiadys pointing to complete disaster. In addition, the KJV and many translations following it use the now-obsolete “hungerbitten” to describe the trouble of verse 12a.  “His strength shall be hungerbitten” means that he won’t actually starve to death but will suffer extreme hunger.


Difficult also is the second part of verse 12. Word-for-word we have,


     “Destruction/calamity (ed, 24x) is established (kun) at his side (tsela).”


Others render this as “Calamity shall be ready for his fall” (Seow has “destruction is ready for his stumble”) or even, in Anderson’s imaginative translation, “His ribs stick out.” Anderson can get to that result by taking the word tsela (41x) not in its usual meaning of “side” (e.g., used 19x in describing the sides of the Tabernacle or its objects in Exodus 25-40) but in the way it is used in Genesis 2, where God took one of Adam’s ribs (tsela) from his body. But Clines and others want to see the word here derived from tsala, which implicates the concept of “stumbling” or “limping” (used 3x in this way), and so we have calamity attending the wicked person’s stumbling. But you would think that with feet in traps and body caught in nooses there is scant chance of anyone’s stumbling. Then again, each metaphor may stand on its own, as if the person’s condition is reset to “neutral” after the previous terror has had its effect on the person. So, we frankly don’t know what kind of terror is being inflicted on the hapless wicked person here, but hunger seems to be in view. But maybe by this time the wicked person is so battered that another disaster or two won’t alter his life that much.

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