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76. Job 8:4, Going On the Attack
Now that Bildad has taken offense at Job’s words, he might as well plunge the knife directly into Job.Though he qualifies his statement in verse 4 with im (“if”; the first of three consecutive verses beginning with im), one wonders if a translation of “if” really is implied here. Many scholars see the im in verse 5 as not having real meaning (i.e., the verse functions as a command or exhortation rather than a hypothetical statement), so perhaps the im of verse 4 also functions to give the impression of faux magnanimity or hypothetical observation when assertion is really what is going on. Here are the two possible ways of translating verse 4:
“If your sons/children sinned against him; then he has sent them into the hand of their sin,”
“Your sons/children sinned against him; and so he has sent them into the hand of their sin.”
Even judgmental people whose categories are hyper clear might try to cover their cynicism or cruelty by ‘if’ clauses. After using language of perversion in verse 3, however, Bildad doesn’t seem to be in the mood to back off and say, “supposing if. . .” The judgment continues. By uttering verse 4, choosing the second translation just given, Bildad actually would be trying to answer Job’s question about his suffering. A goodly portion of Job’s suffering is not because of his sin but his children’s sin. That is Bildad's cool, calculating, clean and candid conclusion.
People who love their categories more than people might even be delighted by this argument. It is clean, to be sure. Perhaps this might be the first of three assertions Bildad could make fully to clean up the ‘mess’ that has fallen on Job. He still has to explain the loss of property and the sores all over Job’s body, but if he has boldly suggested children’s sin as responsible for their deaths he can no doubt find other reasons, consistent with his system, why the other two catastrophes occurred. So, ultimately, Bildad might think of himself as trying to help Job. If he can remove responsibility from Job for his other two categories of losses, then all is super clean—Bildad would have provided explanations for everything and would have preserved Job’s integrity. Job, then, might truly have to admit that he has wrongly alleged that God has “perverted” justice. Clever, Bildad.
Now that Bildad has provided a deft explanation for the children’s death, he can move to considering Job’s response in Chapters 6-7. We can almost hear him intoning, ‘It’s not the disasters themselves (for which I, Bildad, have an explanation) but how you respond to the disasters.’ Haven’t we heard life-coaches of all types uttering similar platitudes? 'You can’t control the hand your dealt, but you can control how you deal with the hand.' Or, my favorite, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' Something like that. . .