Job 8: Lessons from Bildad’s Mistakes in Helping Job For Spirit-Led Grief Counseling

Introduction: Bildad, like Eliphaz, was sincere in his desire to help Job. Yet, his efforts were also sincerely misguided. While Eliphaz used subtly in an effort to persuade Job to repent of some hidden sin, Bildad elected to use tough love and harsh words. Yet, like Eliphaz, Bildad leveled completely false charges and gave ungodly advice. From Bildad’s mistakes, God reveals seven lessons on Spirit-led counseling. Spirit-led counseling requires: (1) compassion, (2) encouragement, (3) humility, (4) grace, (5) the Holy Spirit, (6) assistance, and (7) God’s Word.

First, instead of showing compassion for Job’s loss, Bildad immediately attacked him. Although tough love can be appropriate after a person’s initial grief and after other efforts have failed, it should rarely be a first option. Spirit-led grief counseling instead requires empathy and patience. Second, Bildad also offered hurtful and untrue comments that Job and his sons were responsible for their tragedies. Spirit-led grief counseling should instead encourage the broken-hearted. Third, Bildad told Job to seek God’s mercy to be restored. Yet, he spoke as one who did not need this same mercy. Spirit-led grief counseling should always be rooted in humility. Fourth, Bildad also falsely promised that Job’s repentance would automatically cause God to make Job better off than he was in his allegedly sinful state. God’s gifts, however, are based upon grace. Spirit-led grief counseling should never create a false sense of entitlement. A person may then expect God to bless them. Fifth, Bildad offered advice based upon worldly tradition. Spirit-led grief counsel instead requires prayer and reading the Word for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Sixth, Bildad correctly recognized that the foundations of Job’s earthly existence had collapsed around him. Yet, instead of blaming Job, he should have offered Job support. Spirit-led grief counseling also requires helping those in need. Finally, Bildad promised that if Job became a real person of integrity, God would allegedly guarantee his joy and protection. Yet, exceptions exist to God’s promises. Spirit-led grief counseling must accurately represent God’s Word.

1. Compassion: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Requires Compassion. Job 8:1-2.

  • Bildad dismissed Job as a wind bag. While Eliphaz at least began his criticisms with diplomatic tact (Job 4:1-3), Job’s friend Bildad immediately attacked him: “1 Then Bildad the Shuhite responded, ‘How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a mighty wind?” (Job 8:1-2). Bildad was likely a descendant of Abraham and his concubine Keturah, who settled in modern day Saudi Arabia (Gen. 25:1-2). Bildad treated Job’s words of pain and his defense against Eliphaz’s allegation that Job was a sinner as meaningless words, like a strong “wind” (Job 6:26; 8:2). “Is there no end to windy words? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:3). “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill himself with the east wind?” (Job 15:2).

Bildad dismissed the grieving Job as a wind bag1

  • 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.

  • Bildad failed to show compassion. Bildad used words of false counsel that were nothing short of cruel: “Bildad’s speech contains an important negative lesson about human nature in general and about the qualities of a good counselor. He heard Job’s words with ears, but his heart heard nothing. This truth should be viewed in light of Job’s plea for compassion in chapter 6. All people under the most ordinary circumstances need compassion; how much more Job in his extremity! Repeatedly in chapter 6 Job called himself a helpless (v. 13) and despairing man (vv. 14, 26) in need of the devotion of his friends. It seems almost incredible that Bildad would reply callously.”2

  • Show God’s compassion and comfort to others. When the world turns against you, Jesus offers you His comfort and love: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4; 7:6; Is. 51:12). God in turn asks you to be kind and compassionate toward others, just as He is to you: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;” (Col. 3:12). “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). When others around you are hurting, do you offer them compassion?

2. Encouragement: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Encourages the Broken-Hearted. Job 8:3-4.

  • Bildad advised Job that he and his sons received the results of God’s just punishment. While Eliphaz called Job a sinner through inferences, Bildad bluntly told Job that he and his sons had received the just reward for their apparent hidden sins: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your sons sinned against Him, then He turned them over to the power of their wrongdoing.” (Job 8:3-4). Bildad assumed that a just God would only allow this suffering if they were sinners. Thus, while Eliphaz used innuendo, Bildad directly blamed Job’s family for the death of Job’s sons.

  • Bildad’s theory that Job reaped what he sowed confused the ultimate with the immediate. Bildad believed that divine justice required that God punish the wicked and reward the righteous (Job 8:3). Eliphaz offered a similar inaccurate statement to Job that he had reaped what they sowed in life: “‘Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow wrongdoing and those who sow trouble harvest it.” (Job 4:7-8). Similar statements exist throughout the Bible. “ . . . for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8). “Who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Ro. 2:6). “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.” (Prov. 22:8). “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.” (Hos. 8:7). “For the Son of Man . . . will then repay every man according to his deeds.” (Matt. 16:27). Like Eliphaz, Bildad’s error was in confusing the ultimate with the immediate. God will one day judge sinners and reward the righteous in heaven. Yet, while on Earth, He may allow sinners to prosper and the righteous to suffer when it is part of His greater plans for a long-term good (Ro. 8:28).

  • Bildad asked the right questions with the wrong motive. Regarding Bildad’s two questions about God’s divine justice and fairness in Job 8:3, one commentator observes: “For all his lack of polish, Bildad did, in this verse, come to the heart of the issue. His two questions remarkably approximate God’s questions of Job in 40:8, both verses including the widely used pair of roots, mispat and sedeq, ‘justice’ and ‘right.’ They also sound like Abraham’s question about the destruction of Sodom in Gen 18:15: ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do [mispat]?”’3

  • Encourage one another with love in times of distress. Even if Bildad were correct in his belief that Job and his sons caused their own tragedies (and he wasn’t), this was the wrong manner to confront Job. Even if they had sinned, Bildad should have employed love and encouragement to bring Job to a better place. God wants you to be a source of encouragement to others. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). Will you encourage others the way God is there for you?

3. Humility: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Requires Humility. Job 8:5-6.

  • Bildad advised Job to repent and seek God’s mercy. Because Bildad believed that God would only allow a sinner to experience misery, he bluntly told Job to repent of his sins: “If you will search for God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely now He will stir Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.” (Job 8:5-6). Bildad committed the sins of presumption and arrogance. He did not speak for God, and he falsely labeled Job as a sinner without any evidence. He also falsely accused Job of failing to repent when Job had just done so (Job 7:21).

  • Never accuse a person of a sin without evidence and without love. Bildad’s false accusations of sin only added to Job’s despair. He poured fuel on Job’s fires of grief: “The advice is good when directed to a true sinner; but like good medicine given for the wrong ailment, the results can be nil at best and disastrous at worst.”4

  • Be humble in counsel because no one is without sin. One common mistake that people make in counseling is to lecture or speak down to the other person. This is easy to do when you feel fine in your life and the other person is an emotional wreck. But no one is without sin: “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, or no person living is righteous in Your sight.” (Ps. 143:2). “Indeed, there is not a righteous person on earth who always does good and does not ever sin.” (Ecc. 7:20). “When they sin against You (for there is no person who does not sin) and You are angry with them and turn them over to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, distant or near;” (1 Kgs. 8:46). “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23). Thus, counseling another person should always be done in a spirit of gentleness: “Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; . . .” (Gal. 6:1).

4. Grace: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Is Based Upon Grace, Not Entitlement. Job 8:7.

  • Bildad advised Job that repentance will guarantee God’s blessing. Bildad also falsely promised that a repentance would automatically cause God to make Job better off than he was in his allegedly sinful state: “Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”’ (Job 8:7). Bildad preached the earliest known version of the “prosperity gospel”: “He wished to prove that Job could not possibly be an upright man, for if he were so, he here affirms that his prosperity would increase continually.” (Charles Spurgeon on Job 8).5 This doctrine was just as false then as it is now.

  • Never cause someone to expect or demand things from God. Job’s friends all made the same mistake in believing that God could be reduced to a predictable set of formulas. ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). God’s promises are based upon grace (Ro. 5:15; Eph. 2:8). You should never promise blessings on God’s behalf. You not only lack the authority to make such promises, you may also cause someone to feel a sense of entitlement. This may lead to disappointment when the person’s expectations are not met. The only promises that you should feel comfortable promising are the ones that are clearly stated in the Bible. And, some promises are reserved for heaven that may or may not take place on Earth.

  • Bildad unknowingly spoke prophetically of Job’s future restoration. Although everything Bildad said was wrong, God did restore everything that Job had lost (Job 42:10-17). God further increased Job’s fame for all eternity as a hero of the faith (Jam. 5:10-11).

5. The Holy Spirit: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Relies of the Spirit and the Word. Job 8:8-10.

  • Bildad advised Job to follow the wisdom of worldly tradition. While Eliphaz relied upon a dream to call Job a sinner (Job 4:12-16), Bildad claimed to rely upon worldly tradition: “Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow. 10 Will they not teach you and tell you, and bring forth words from their minds?” (Job 8:8-10). Bildad suggested that Job had been foolish by refusing to rely upon tradition and the views of elders when determining God’s will. Yet, the Bible is full of ancient examples of the righteous who suffered through no fault of their own. For example, Cain murdered his righteous brother Abel out of jealousy (Gen. 4:8).

  • Don’t let tradition govern your actions when it conflicts with God’s Word. Bildad argued that Job would be a fool not to rely upon worldly tradition because each person lives a short life (Job 8:9). Yet, Jesus warns believers not to choose the traditions of mankind over His Word: “‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”’ (Mark 7:6-8; Matt. 15:7-9; Is. 29:13).

  • Pray for wisdom and read God’s Word before you offer advice. If you wish to avoid making Bildad’s mistake, pray for wisdom and read God’s Word: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me.” (Ps. 51:6). “For to a person who is good in His sight, He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, . ..” (Ecc. 2:26). Are you praying for wisdom when others are in need of help?

  • Let the Holy Spirit guide your words of advice for others. When you pray and submit to God, the Holy Spirit will guide your words of advice for others in need: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:16). God wants you to seek His guidance through prayer and the Word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). Do you pray and read God’s Word before offering advice to others?

6. Assistance: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Offers Help to Those in Need. Job 8:11-19.

  • Bildad advised Job that his life collapsed because his alleged righteousness was a mirage. Bildad’s criticisms of Job escalated until he accused Job of having built up a false reality regarding his piety: “11 Can papyrus grow tall without a marsh? Can the rushes grow without water? 12 While it is still green and not cut down, yet it withers before any other plant. 13 So are the paths of all who forget God; and the hope of the godless will perish, 14 His confidence is fragile, and his trust is a spider’s web. 15 He depends on his house, but it does not stand; He holds on to it, but it does not endure. 16 He flourishes before the sun, and his shoots spread out over his garden. 17 His roots wrap around a rock pile, He grasps a house of stones. 18 If he is removed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, ‘I never saw you.’ 19 Behold, this is the joy of His way; and out of the dust others will spring.” (Job 8:11-19). In some translations, Bildad refers to Job as a hypocrite: “So are the paths of all who forget God; and the hope of the hypocrite shall perish,” (Job 8:13 (NKJ)). According to Bildad, Job’s plight exposed the alleged hypocrisy behind his claims of righteousness: “These reeds are like the hypocrite or the one who makes a mere show of faith without true trust in God. Spurgeon used Bildad’s illustration of papyrus reed in Job 8:11-18 as a description of the hypocrite. · Like the reed, hypocrites grow up quickly. · Like the reed, hypocrites are hollow and without substance. · Like the reed, hypocrites are easily bent. · Like the reed, hypocrites can lower their head in false humility. · Like the reed, hypocrites bear no fruit. . . Even as the papyrus quickly withers and dies, so will all those who turn their back on God. He may prosper for a time, but will ultimately come to ruin.” (David Guzik on Job 8).6

Bildad called Job’s alleged piety a mirage, suggesting he was a hypocrite7

  • Many without faith in Jesus will crumble in time of crisis. In times of crisis, Bildad warned that “the hope of the godless will perish” (Job 8:13). Because Job was not “godless,” (or a hypocrite in the NKJ translation) this criticism did not apply to him. Bildad alleged that such a person had a trust that could easily collapse in times of strain like a “spider’s web” (Job 8:14). In times of strain, the person’s house “does not endure.” (Job 8:15). Although Bildad’s words did not apply to Job’s circumstances, Jesus gave a similar warning to those who ignore His Word. Only those who hear His Word and act upon it will be able to endure the storms that come in life: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.” (Matt. 7:24-27). A reed also requires water to grow, and Jesus is the living water that gives life to all things (Jo. 7:37-39). Job suffered desperation because he did not know the promises of Jesus’ Word. For those who know Jesus’ Word and put their trust in it, they can endure any storm by giving their burdens to Jesus.

  • A believer in Jesus is not replaceable like the reed. Bildad warned that the “godless” will die out like a reed and quickly be replaced by another: “this is the joy of His way; and out of the dust others will spring.” (Job 8:19). In contrast, Jesus’ living water provides eternal life. You are important to Jesus, and He will never replace you: “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” (Jo. 4:14).

  • Jesus offers an eternal hope that cannot be taken away. Jesus offers a hope that cannot be taken away, even when (like Job) your body fails and you lose your worldly possessions: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Are you offering the hope of Jesus?

  • If you love Jesus, show it by helping the poor and the disadvantaged. Bildad correctly recognized that the foundations of Job’s earthly existence had collapsed around him. Yet, instead of blaming Job, he should have offered Job support. God created you for His “good works.” (Eph. 2:10). This includes compassion and charity for those who are in need: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17; Dt. 15:11; Matt. 5:42). “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”’ (Matt. 25:40, 35). Conversely, Jesus warns: ‘“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”’ (Matt. 25:45; Prov. 14:31). “But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jo. 3:17). Are you giving to those who are in need?

7. God’s Word: Spirit-Led Grief Counsel Accurately Represents God’s Word. Job 8:20-22.

  • Bildad advised that God’s joy and protection awaited Job if he became a man of integrity. After falsely accusing Job of hypocrisy regarding his righteousness, Bildad then made false promises that God would grant Job joy and protection if he developed real integrity: “20 Behold, God will not reject a person of integrity, nor will He help evildoers. 21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with joyful shouting. 22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will no longer exist.” (Job 8:20-22). God had twice proclaimed to Satan that Job was blameless (Job 1:8; 2:3). Thus, nothing that Bildad proclaimed accurately described why Job was suffering.

Bildad urged Job to turn from sin and become a man of integrity8

  • God does not guarantee a joyful life for the righteous. Bildad was correct to state that God can bring the righteous joy (Job 8:21). Eliphaz also praised God for his ability to give hope to the oppressed: “16 So the helpless has hope, and injustice has shut its mouth.” (Job 5:16). Similar statements appear throughout the Bible: “The upright see it and are glad; but all injustice shuts its mouth.” (Ps. 107:42). But Bildad was wrong to promise that God would give Job a righteous life if he allegedly stopped being a sinner.

  • God can frustrate the schemes of the wicked and allow His people to succeed. Bildad also claimed that God would defeat Job’s enemies if he became a man of integrity (Job 8:22). Eliphaz also praised God for His ability to frustrate the plans of the wicked: “12 He frustrates the schemes of the shrewd, so that their hands cannot attain success. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? “13 He captures the wise by their own cleverness, and the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.” (Job 5:12-13). Other similar verses exist: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31; Ps. 33:10). “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God. For it is written: ‘He is the one who catches the wise by their craftiness’;” (1 Cor. 3:19). But Bildad was again wrong to make these promises for God. Making unfounded promises may lead to disappointment in God.

  • God sometimes allows evil people to prosper. Even Jesus observed that God the Father “ . . . causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45). Although God may also allow sinners to face judgment on Earth for their sins, that is within His discretion and subject to His greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28). God will one day judge each person according to their deeds. But this will happen in heaven. For believers in Christ Jesus, He has taken the penalty for our sins. If we were all judged by our deeds, none would be found worthy (Ro. 3:10).

  • God also can allow the innocent to suffer. Eliphaz’s claim that the innocent do not suffer suggests that he had lived a very sheltered life. God may allow the innocent to suffer when it is necessary as part of His greater plan. The best example of this was Jesus. He died without sin so that mankind’s sins could be cast upon Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

  • Don’t misrepresent God’s Word when counseling others. When a person is ready to hear God’s Word, you should be prepared to give a Biblically accurate explanation for the hope that lies within you (1 Pet. 3:15). To do this you need to study God’s Word. Are you regularly studying the Word so that you can accurately use it to help others in need?

  1. Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 905.↩︎

  2. Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 116.↩︎

  3. Alden, p. 117.↩︎