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248. Job 25:6, Finishing Bildad’s Thoughts

 

Well, let’s conclude Bildad’s thought. In 25:6 he makes a comparison. If the stars and moon aren’t even pure, how much less might humans be clean in God’s sight!  Note that Eliphaz had used the same reasoning in 15:16:

 

    “How much less (aph-kiy) one that is abominable and impure, man (ish) who drinks water as sin.”

 

Note how Bildad in 25:6 faithfully follows Eliphaz’s thought from 15:16:

 

    “How much less (aph-kiy) a man (enosh) who is a worm and the son of man who is a maggot."

Elihpaz had used elegant language of abomination (taab, 22x) and filth or corruption (alach, 3x) to describe humans in 15:16. The argument is a fortiori—if things which we all agree are superior to humans are not trusted by God, then how much less would God put trust in humans. Bildad picks up not only the same argument but even the same fairly rare argumentative language (aph-kiy). But just as Bildad dropped Eliphaz’s use of aman in favor of the more practical/visual ahal in 25:5, so in 26:6 he drops Eliphaz’s elegant terms for corruption and replaces them with much more practical/visual terms “worms” and “maggots.” You wonder if Bildad’s eyes were boring through Job as he spoke these two words: rimmah/tola.

 

Not much needs to be said about these last two words of Bildad. They mean just about the same thing—a worm. A rimmah  (7x) is usually translated “worm” in its other six Biblical appearances, but is rendered “maggot” in most translations of this passage, primarily to differentiate it from the tola at the end of the verse. Most translators feel that you can’t just say that humans are like “worms” and “worms.”  Yet, the KJV had no such qualms.  Note its rendering of 25:6:

 

    “How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, who is a worm?”

 

But we of the twenty-first century, who were brought up to vary our vocabulary in writing, can’t do that. So, we tend to render rimmah as “maggot.” 5/7 appearances of rimmah are in Job. Earlier he had his clothes covered in/with rimmah (7:5). In a particularly depressing speech, Job calls on his father “corruption” (shachath) and his mother and sister he calls “maggot” (rimmah, 17:14). Bildad must think, then, that using rimmah here perfectly fits Job’s situation.

 

A tola (43x) has a more interesting history. Though its first appearance was as “worm” in Exodus 16:20, where the day-old manna started to breed these creatures and then stank, it then appears 26x in the Tabernacle narrative of Exodus 25-40 to describe not worms that are infesting the holy places but a kind of scarlet stuff or yarn that was the raw material for the curtains that lined the Tabernacle. Obviously the worm-guts, neatly pressed out, were used in a mixture to make stunning colors for the dwelling place of God. You wonder who first discovered this. Jonathan Swift might have said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster,” but the same might be predicated for the man (or woman) who first looked at a squished worm and said, ‘I can imagine that liquid, which you are all running from and saying ‘Gross!!’ actually lining the Tabernacle of God.’  

 

After seeing Bildad’s dependence on Eliphaz, both for his ideas as well as his very vocabulary, and after realizing that when Bildad had turned to “maggot” language in verse 6, the author recognized it high time to pull the plug on him. He really had nothing more to say. Job was certainly a worm. As a worm, he really had nothing else to do than to repent or be squished—and perhaps both. There is no need for the author to allow Bildad to belabor points about the certainty of divine judgment or even a thin sliver of hope that might still be held out for Job. Bildad is finished. We don’t have to posit an untimely truncation of his speech and then find the “rest” of it later on. He is done. Or, in the language of some Millennials, ‘He is so done.’