Book of Job Ch. 18-21



Gordis, Robert.  The Book of God and Man: A Study of Job.  (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1965).

——————-    The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Studies.  (Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1978).

Janzen, J. Gerald.  Job.  Part of the Interpretation bible commentary series edited by James L. Mays.  (John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1985).

Wilson, Gerald H.   Job.  Part of the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, General Editors W. Ward Gasque, Robert Hubbard Jr., and Robert Johnston.   (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2007).




Notes for Chapter 18 Bildad’s second speech

Wilson p. 193: “Bildad’s speech clearly falls into two major segments: the opening response caustically directed to Job(18:1-4); and a longer wisdom rumination or admonition concerning the ultimate destruction of the wicked (18:5-21).”

Light /  dark imagery runs throughout the OT / NT

18:15-18  Wilson p. 198: “The name of an individual is the public representation of his personhood.  It is the means by which “memory” is carried on.  Often the “name” indicated the character or, or at least the hopes attached to, the person, and many names expressed one’s trust in the saving power of God.  For the name to be forgotten then, means the end of one’s hopes as the person has passed from memory into oblivion.”  Hence – what seems to us today the overemphasis on having sons, hence Levirate marriage to carry on the name of the dead man, hence the extraordinary repudiation of gossip in the OT because it can smear the name of a person forever, hence the emphasis on naming in general.

18:20 those who came before and those who come after – another merism – for everyone




Notes for Chapters 19 Job’s reply to Bildad

19:6 – “Know then that God has dealt unfairly with me”    This is the crux of the whole thing.  Job is being told that his experience of God is wrong, that God is always “fair” and “good” to those who are good.  Do we trust our experience or the tradition?  “Who you going to believe?  Me or your lying eyes?’   This has application to us today.  Is our moral tradition right or our experience (of contraception, of homosexuality …)

Job goes on – not only has God not come to my rescue – It is God who is persecuting me!

Job manages to conclude – v. 25 to the end – that God WILL one day vindicate him.  NAB notes indicate the various texts are rather corrupt at this point.   The Hebrew for “vindicator” is actually “redeemer” which is rooted in the OT concept of family members coming to the aid of other family members held in bondage or about to lose their property.  A monetary redemption. Boaz does this for Ruth.  God redeems / rescues Israel from Egypt and from Babylon.   Later applied to Jesus / cross / redemption of God’s people

This is not an expectation of physical resurrection or life after death.  A moral vindication.

Job shifts from metaphor to metaphor to make his point – he has been robbed,  he is a soldier attacked by the enemy army.

All of those one would expect to take his side and to comfort him are instead demeaning him

Wilson p. 207: “While Job’s experience forces him to make room in his worldview for the innocent suffering of the righteous, he remains grounded in the belief that the God he worships is a God of truth and a lover of righteousness.”

Gordis p. 195: “In his unshakable assurance that there must be justice in the world, he sees the God of righteousness rising to his defense.  God is not merely an arbiter waiting to judge him fairly, or even a witness ready to testify on his behalf, but a Redeemer who will fight his cause, even at the end of time.  His faith reaches a new pinnacle in another respect as well.  Earlier he had seen his witness in the heavens; now he sees his vindicator on the earth.”

Notes for Chapter 20 Zophar’s second speech

Though the wicked appear to prosper God will ultimately punish them.  Corollary to though the just may suffer now God will ultimately reward them.  This is the traditional wisdom stated once again, as emphatically as possible.




Wilson p. 217: “Exhaustive consumption in search of satisfaction is ultimately frustrated when there is at last nothing more to consume, and yet the craving still abides deep within.  Perhaps linking more explicitly the wicked’s exploitive greed for possessions with the metaphorical lust for food, the last half of verse 21 admonishes that the prosperity for which he has striven without satisfaction will itself not endure.”


Notes for Chapter 21  Job’s reply to Zophar

One thing that makes this chapter and some others hard to interpret is the use of quotations (of others, of wisdom, of the opponent etc.) – at a time when quotation marks didn’t exist and when quoting exactly wasn’t practiced either.

Job essentially says take a look around you – the wicked DO prosper.  21:17 “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?  How often does destruction come upon them, the portion he allots in his anger?”  Don’t talk about his children or descendants suffering – HE should suffer – and does not.   Job insists that his friends (and we) acknowledge reality and not dwell in pious clichés.

21:5 little factoid  Gordis p. 228: “The Roman god of silence, Harpocrates, was pictured with his finger on his mouth.”

Wilson p. 222: “The key problem that stalks Job throughout this chapter is that God is not powerless to act or to judge.  And yet, the fact is that such wicked arrogance and injustice continues unchecked and untested in the face of God, who is the Almighty!”

Wilson p. 223: “As Job sarcastically reveals, the best “gift” (consolation) we can offer in such circumstances is often to shut up!  Our silent presence and support – our acceptance of our hurting friend despite their anger and doubt – these are the encircling arms of love that the broken soul craves and needs.”

Wilson p. 224:

“If God is indeed both powerful and in control (as the friends and Job all attest);

if nevertheless the righteous suffer innocently and extremely as Job has;

if at the same time the wicked arrogantly defy God while living at ease;

if this describes the real world, then what is left for anyone but trembling and terror?”


Nevertheless – Job remains faithful


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