Job 18: Lessons From Bildad’s Mistakes for Confronting Someone Accused of Sin

Introduction: This chapter records Bildad’s second of three attacks against Job. Instead of showing compassion after hearing Job’s cries for help, Bildad became enraged and believed that Job could no longer be reasoned with. Thus, like Job’s other friends, Bildad decided to attack Job without mercy in the misguided belief that he could bring Job to a real repentance. Bildad, however, had no evidence that Job had ever committed any serious sins. From Bildad’s mistakes, God reveals seven lessons for confronting an alleged sinner. These include: (1) love, (2) prayer, (3) humility, (4) a Spirit-led investigation, (5) hope, (6) gentleness, and (7) truth.

First, Bildad was filled with contempt for Job. Thus, even if Job had committed some serious sin (and he hadn’t), his approach was predictably ineffective. Confronting an alleged sinner should instead only be done with love. Second, Bildad relied upon his own life experiences and no actual evidence of misconduct to accuse Job of receiving God’s just punishment for some allegedly serious sins. Confronting an alleged sinner, however, also requires prayer for discernment and should never rely only upon a person’s personal life experiences. Third, Bildad warned that God would extinguish the light of the wicked. He spoke as if he had no sin when he was a bigger sinner than Job. Confronting an alleged sinner must always be done in humility. Every person is guilty of sin under God’s law and in need of His mercy and grace. Fourth, Without investigating for evidence of an alleged sin, Bildad warned that Job had become ensnared in the consequences of his own sins. But confronting an alleged sinner always requires a Spirit-led investigation of the facts. Fifth, Bildad warned Job that he faced terror, disease, and “brimstone” in his death. Confronting a sinner, however, should be done by giving the alleged sinner the hope of restoration. Sixth, Bildad offered a mean-spirited attack which blamed the grieving Job for the death of his ten children. Confronting an alleged sinner, however, should only be done in gentleness. Finally, Bildad resorted to lies by accusing Job of never really knowing God. Because they were friends and Bildad knew Job to be a man of greater faith than himself, he knew that his accusation was a lie. Confronting an alleged sinner should only be done with truth. The ends never justify the means. Lies are the tool of the devil, not God.

1. Love: Confronting an Alleged Sinner Should Only be Done with Love. Job 18:1-3.

  • Bildad dismissed Job’s cries for sympathy with contempt. In response to Job’s appeals to God and his friends, Bildad revealed that he had heard enough from Job: “1 Then Bildad the Shuhite responded, “How long will you hunt for words? Show understanding, and then we can talk. Why are we regarded as animals, as stupid in your eyes?” (Job 18:1-3). By this point, it was clear that Job and his friends had grown tired of each other. Job had asked his friends: “Is there no end to windy words? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:3). Bildad responded with a similar attack. His words also mirrored his opening attack against Job : “‘How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a mighty wind?” (Job 8:2). Zophar had also dismissed Job’s statements as meaningless words: “Shall a multitude of words go unanswered, and a talkative man be acquitted?” (Job 11:2). Eliphaz had further dismissed Job’s words as worthless wind: “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill himself with the east wind?” (Job 15:2). Bildad was so convinced of his “retribution theology”, where only sinners suffer, that he accused Job of trying to deceive them as if they were unintelligent animals.

Bildad showed contempt for Job in his time of great suffering1

  • Job’s friends unfairly ignored his words. Job previously asked his friends to back up their charges against him with evidence and not treat his words of grief as meaningless: “24 Teach me, and I will be silent; and show me how I have done wrong. 25 How painful are honest words! But what does your argument prove? 26 Do you intend to rebuke my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind? 27 You would even cast lots for the orphans, and barter over your friend.” (Job 6:24-27). Like Eliphaz, Bildad ignored Job’s complaints and showed him no compassion. At a minimum, if Job was accused of being a sinner, he was entitled to know what sin he had committed. In fact, Job was not suffering because of any sin. Instead, God allowed him to be tested.

  • Only confront an alleged sinner with love. Even if Job had sinned and needed correction, his friends failed to approach Job with love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34). Moreover, even though Job’s friends felt as though Job had disrespected their views, their experiences and the wisdom of their age, they were still required to respond with love: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). When you show kindness and love to your enemy or attacker, the Apostle Paul reveals that you “heap burning coals on his heads.” (Ro. 12:20). When others attack you, do you respond with Jesus’ love? Or, like Job’s friends, do you respond to another person’s insults or disrespect with your own insults?

2. Prayer: Confronting an Alleged Sinner Also Requires Prayer for Discernment. Job 18:4.

  • Bildad relied upon his own life experience to accuse Job of hiding his sins. Despite having known Job to be the most God-fearing man anywhere (Job 1:1), Bildad relied upon his own life experiences to accuse Job of giving false protests of innocence: “You who tear yourself in your anger— Should the earth be abandoned for your sake, or the rock moved from its place?” (Job 18:4). Job had previously incorrectly accused God of being the source of his misfortune: “His anger has torn me and hunted me down, He has gnashed at me with His teeth; My enemy glares at me.” (Job 16:9). But Bildad believed that Job’s sorrow and attempt to allegedly shift the blame was all the proof needed to establish Job’s true responsibility for his calamities: “Bildad told Job, ‘Just look at yourself. You are tearing yourself to pieces in anger. Your condition is all the evidence anyone needs to see that you are in sin and need to repent.”’ (David Guzik on Job 18:4).2

  • Bildad accused Job of seeking to pervert God’s divine justice against sinners. Bildad not only believed Job to be concealing the truth against them, he considered Job a heretic. Job previously lamented his allegedly hopeless situation because God’s will in the natural order of the world could not be challenged: “But the falling mountain crumbles away, and the rock moves from its place;” (Job 14:18). Bildad responded by accusing Job of being a hypocrite by allegedly trying to pervert God’s divine will: “As Eliphaz had charged Job (Job 15:4) with the evil tendencies of his speeches, so Bildad here compares him to a maniac, and assumes that the effect of his teaching will be to banish God from the earth, and remove the strength and hope of man. The last clause is a direct quotation from Job in Job 14:18; it looks, therefore, very much like a willful perversion of Job's words, for it is clear that he used them very differently. Even if there were no intentional misrepresentations, Bildad applies Job’s words to his own purposes. The drift of his question is, ‘Can you expect the course of God's providence to be altered for you? On the contrary, the retribution that awaits the wicked is sure and swift; for verily (Job 18:5) the light of the wicked shall be put out.”’ (Ellicott’s commentary on Job 18:4).3

  • Pray for God’s guidance before confronting someone over an alleged sin. Bildad sought to confront Job based solely upon his own personal beliefs about the sources of Job’s suffering. But the Bible warns against relying upon your own understanding: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7; 28:26; Ps. 62:8). When you are uncertain about whether or how to confront an alleged sinner, you never need to wonder what to do. When you pray, you have God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to guide your every step and your every action (Jo. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13; Ps. 119:105). Do you read the Word and pray before confronting someone?

  • A double-minded believer should not always expect God to answer prayers. Even though he knew who God was, Bildad lived based upon his own worldly experiences. If you vacillate between depending upon Jesus and the world, Jesus considers your faith unstable. Believers who are double-minded should not expect Jesus to answer their prayers: “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:7-8). “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.” (Ps. 119:113). Elijah challenged the Jews to either pick God or Baal instead of trying to follow both: “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kgs. 18:21). Jesus also warned that you cannot have two masters in your life: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24). Like Job’s friends, are your allegiances torn between God and the world in any area?

3. Humility: Confronting an Alleged Sinner Must Always Be Done in Humility. Job 18:5-6.

  • Bildad proclaimed that God would extinguish Job’s light. Bildad was so convinced of his views that he stated the God would soon extinguish Job’s light on Earth and the after-life: “Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out, and the spark from his fire does not shine. The light in his tent is darkened, and his lamp goes out above him.” (Job 18:5-6). Job had just lamented the “darkness” that he believed awaited because he incorrectly believed that God viewed him as an enemy: “11 My days are past, my plans are torn apart, the wishes of my heart. 12 They make night into day, saying, ‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.” (Job 17:11-12). Bildad sought to use Job’s words against him by proclaiming that he would receive punishment he allegedly deserved, eternal darkness in the afterlife: “Bildad, from this point, turns wholly to denunciation. He strings together a long series of menaces - probably ancient saws, drawn from ‘the wisdom of the Beni Kedem’ (1 Kings 4:30), and descriptive of the wretched fate of the wicked man, with whom he identifies.” (Pulpit commentary on Job 18:5).4

Bildad left Job feeling beaten down when he needed encouragement5

  • Bildad spoke with misguided arrogance in claiming to know God’s will. Bildad had no right to speak for God. It is a true statement that God is the source of all light, both on Earth and in the after-life: “For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness.” (Ps. 18:28). “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom should I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). It is also a true statement that God will one day extinguish the light of the wicked: “The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked goes out.” (Prov. 13:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:9). “For there will be no future for the evil person; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Prov. 24:20). But Bildad had no right to apply this to Job. Even if Job had been a sinner, it is for God alone to sentence Job as an alleged sinner to judgment.

  • Be humble when you confront others. Whenever you serve God, He wants you to do so with humility: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). One important reason for humility when confronting an alleged sinner is that everyone is guilty of sin: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Bildad had no right to proclaim to know God’s will. He was in fact the one in need of God’s mercy. If you ever need to confront an alleged sinner, always do so with humility.

4. The Holy Spirit: Confronting a Sinner Requires a Spirit-Led Investigation. Job 18:7-10.

  • Bildad asserted that Job was caught in his own sins without doing any investigation. Bildad argued that Job’s allegedly hidden sins had laid a snare for him and had shorted his life and brought him down: “His vigorous stride is shortened, and his own plan brings him down. For he is thrown into the net by his own feet, and he steps on the webbing. 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 pathway.” (Job 18:7-10). Bildad, however, made these charges against Job without proof that Job had committed any sin.

  • God does allow sinners to be caught in their own lies and deceit. Satan frequently uses half-truths when he seeks to deceive, entrap, and discourage God’s people. As a general proposition, Bildad was correct to say that God can allow a sinner to be caught in their own sins: “But if you do not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). “If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7). “The proud have hidden a trap for me, and snares; they have spread a net at the wayside; they have set snares for me. Selah” (Ps. 140:5). “Therefore sin is not to reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” (Ro. 6:12). But Bildad had no evidence upon which to base his charge that Job was caught in a sin.

  • Conduct a Spirit-led investigation before accusing another of sin. In any matter where you need to discern the truth, God wants you to carefully investigate and turn to the Holy Spirit: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13; 14:17; 1 Jo. 5:6). When investigating an alleged sin, let the Spirit guide your investigation, your questions, and your attempt to discern the true facts. Unlike Bildad, God does not want you to draw your own conclusions based upon your own understanding. That inevitably leads to injustice.

5. Hope: Confronting a Sinner Should be Done with the Hope of Restoration. Job 18:11-16.

  • Bildad offered Job a bleak prediction of the hopeless situation that he faced. Bildad then ruthlessly attacked Job by stating that he faced terror and disease for the rest of his life and then “brimstone” after his death: “11 All around sudden terrors frighten him, and harass him at every step. 12 His strength is famished, and disaster is ready at his side. 13 It devours parts of his skin, the firstborn of death devours his limbs. 14 He is torn from the security of his tent, and they march him before the king of terrors. 15 Nothing of his dwells in his tent; brimstone is scattered on his home. 16 His roots are dried below, and his branch withers above.” (Job 18:11-16). Eliphaz gave a similar warning: “Sounds of terror are in his ears; while he is at peace the destroyer comes upon him.” (Job 15:21). Zophar also later made a similar threat against Job: “It is drawn and comes out of his back, even the flashing point from his gallbladder; terrors come upon him,” (Job 20:25). Job’s friends all sought to condemn Job without offering him God’s hope.

  • Sinners who fail to repent do face judgment. Bildad again employed half-truths to condemn Job. It was a true statement that God allows unrepentant sinners to face a painful judgment. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps. 1:6). “He will rain coals of fire upon the wicked, and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.” (Ps. 11:6). “Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth.” (Zech. 14:12). Bildad, however, had no evidence that Job was wicked or likely to be judged.

  • Bildad manipulated Job’s misguided beliefs to further condemn him. Job previously pleaded with God to turn his alleged anger and attacks against him: “His anger has torn me and hunted me down, He has gnashed at me with His teeth; my enemy glares at me . . . 11 God hands me over to criminals, and tosses me into the hands of the wicked. 12 I was at ease, but He shattered me, and He has grasped me by my neck and shaken me to pieces; He has also set me up as His target. 13 His arrows surround me. He splits my kidneys open without mercy; He pours out my bile on the ground. 14 He breaks through me with breach after breach; He runs at me like a warrior.” (Job 16:9-14). “Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God line up against me.” (Job 6:4). He further saw his friends as persecuting him the same way as God allegedly did: “Why do you persecute me as God does, and are not satisfied with my flesh?” (Job 19:22). Instead of encouraging Job, Bildad sought to use Job’s description of what was happening to him as proof that he was under God’s judgment.

  • Bildad also used Job’s illnesses and suffering against him. Job had “7 . . . severe boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head” (Job 2:7), skin that had tuned “black on me,” (Job 30:30a), dead skin that was filled “with maggots and a crust of dirt, . . .” (Job 7:5a), and dead, hard scars that oozed with puss (Job 7:5b). Bildad sought to use this against Job by proclaiming that God’s judgment included: “devour[ing] parts of his skin,” (Job 18:13). Thus, Bildad misused Job’s illnesses as alleged proof of Job’s wickedness. Bildad had also used Job’s suffering and his belief that he would die soon as further proof of his judgment. Bildad alleged that only the wicked suffered, which he referred to as a person being “torn from the security of his tent” and instead living in an empty “tent with “brimstone scattered on his home.” (Job 18:14-15). He also proclaimed that the wicked prematurely die, which he referred to as a “march” “before the king of terrors,” a personification of death. (Job 18:14). Bildad, however, never offered Job the hope that he could avoid what Bildad predicted awaited him.

  • Offer an alleged sinner God’s hope. God’s goal for you when you confront an alleged sinner is to restore them, not to condemn them: “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will make Your ear attentive to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that mankind, which is of the earth, will no longer cause terror.” (Ps. 10:17-18). “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry for help and save them.” (Ps. 145:19). “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14). When you confront an alleged sinner, are you trying to restore them or rip them down? If you are only trying to condemn them, you are speaking for the enemy.

6. Gentleness: Confronting a Sinner Should Only be Done in Gentleness. Job 18:17-21.

  • Bildad blamed Job for the death of his children. Bildad was so convinced of his own theology that only sinners suffer that he blamed Job for the death of his 10 children: “17 The 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 descendants among his people, nor any survivor where he resided.” (Job 18:17-19). Bildad’s comments had become cruel. Job had pleaded for the Earth and his Advocate in heaven to establish his innocence: “18 Earth, do not cover my blood, and may there be no resting place for my cry. 19 Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high . . . that one might plead for a man with God as a son of man with his neighbor!” (Job 16:18-21). Bildad argued that his pleas were in vain. Instead of being remembered or having an advocate in heaven to defend him, Job would allegedly be quickly forgotten (Job 18:17-19). Job also mourned the tragic death of his children (Job 1:2, 18-19). But Bildad argued that Job’s tragic loss was instead proof of his wickedness, implying that he was responsible for their deaths: “ He has no offspring or descendants among his people, nor any survivor where he resided.” (Job 18:19).

Bildad accused Job of causing the death of his 10 children6

  • God will ultimately judge the wicked. Bildad again relied upon half-truths to attack Job. It is true that God will one day judge the wicked: “The mentioning of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” (Prov. 10:7). “You have rebuked the nations, You have eliminated the wicked; You have wiped out their name forever and ever.” (Ps. 9:5). It is also a true statement that the wicked will one day live in darkness: “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14). “They grope in darkness with no light, and He makes them stagger like a drunken person.” (Job 12:25). “They reeled and staggered like a drunken person, and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.” (Ps. 107:27-28). But there was no evidence that any of this applied to Job.

  • Discipline sinners with gentleness. Bildad resorted to cruelty to induce Job to repent. By doing so, he became Satan’s instrument. Believers must be careful never to confront an alleged sinner out of anger. Instead, believers must only investigate and discipline out of love. The goal should again be the believer’s restoration. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:21; Matt. 18:15). When a brother or sister sins, are you seeking to restore that person out of love? Or, do you cut down the sinner with gossip, lies, and slander?

7. Truth: Confronting a Sinner Should Only be Done with Truth. Job 18:20-21.

  • In an effort to induce Job into repentance, Bildad accused him of failing to know God. After every other effort to convince Job to change had failed, Bildad alleged that Job never really knew God: “20 Those in the west are appalled at his fate, and those in the east are seized with horror. 21 Certainly these are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God.” (Job 18:20-21). Job “was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:1). God further twice boasted to Satan that there were none like Job in his blameless walk (Job 1:8; 2:3). Bildad would have known Job’s love for God as his friend. But he decided to escalate his attack further by alleging that Job did “not know God.” (Job 18:21). In effect, Bildad alleged that Job was a charlatan with a counterfeit faith. This had to be the most hurtful attack of all.

  • Walk before others as a blameless witness for Christ. Bildad might have incorrectly assumed that Job was hiding a sin. But he knew of Job’s love for God. Thus, he resorted to lying to win his argument. God never wants you to lie. Instead, He wants you to walk with truth and integrity so that you can be His witness to others. When He affirmed His covenant with Abraham, He told him to walk blamelessly before Him. “‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.”’ (Gen. 17:1(b)). Job and Noah were also initially “blameless” in their walks. (Job 1:1; Gen. 6:9). God also wants you to walk blameless before Him and others. “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Dt. 18:13). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19; 24:17; Ex. 18:21; 23:8). This exhortation also exists in the New Testament. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). “because it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Matt. 5:14). Is your light an example for others to follow? Or, are you repelling others?

  • When you resort to lies, you speak for the enemy. If you feel the need to lie or bend the truth to win an argument, you are speaking for the devil: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). Are you a witness to God’s truth through your conduct?