Online Bible Commentary
When We Forget God
Job 8:8 "Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, 9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. 10 Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding? 11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water? 12While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. 13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. 14 What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider's web. 15 He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold. 16 He is like a well-watered plant in the sunshine, spreading its shoots over the garden; 17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks and looks for a place among the stones. 18 But when it is torn from its spot, that place disowns it and says, 'I never saw you.' 19 Surely its life withers away, and from the soil other plants grow. (NIV)
Job’s three friends come to counsel him during his time of suffering from grief and physical pain inflicted upon him by Satan, with God’s permission. All three wrongly contend that Job’s suffering is a result of sin, when, in fact, Job is suffering because God is testing him. After Eliphaz, Bildad comes to counsel Job. Bildad, in this passage, contends that Job has forgotten God, that he is a hypocrite. Bildad’s accusation is that Job has forgotten God and secretly turned to sin, thus the reason for his punishment. While Bildad is incorrect that Job has forgotten God, his description in this passage of people who forget God is accurate.
Bildad begins by concluding that his generation is not old or wise enough to discern the truth of this situation. He determines that they must turn to the ancients, their fathers and forefathers, for wisdom (vv. 8-10). Bildad was a Shuhite, a descendant of Shuah, one of Abraham’s sons. So Bildad is likely referring to the wisdom of Abraham that had been handed down to him by his family. Bildad then launches into three examples of this wisdom that describes those who forget God.
Bildad compares those who forget God with the papyrus plant. Papyrus grows out of marsh land and water (v.11). This marsh land, which forms the base for the papyrus, is not ground that is good for sustained growth. The papyrus will outgrow the grass and look green and healthy for a while. But it will soon dry up and wither away, while the grass remains (v.12). Thus those who forget God may look good for a season, but their success quickly departs with the wind, while the godly, the grass, continue to flourish (v.13).
Bildad’s second example describing those who forget God refers to that in which they place their trust. Those who forget God place their trust, not in the enduring strength of God, but in things that are fragile, like a spider web (v.14). Whenever they face problems in life they go to “lean” on what they have placed their trust in, their spider web, but it does not support them. They continue to try to cling to their web, their idol, their substitute for God, but it gives way completely (v.15). Because they have not placed their faith in God, but in the things of the world, they are left on their own when the world fails them in their time of need.
The third example, given by Bildad, describing those who forget God is that of “a well-watered plant in the sunshine” (v. 16a). It grows in good soil with roots spreading out throughout the garden (v.16b). The roots become even more rooted as they entwine rocks and stones (v.17). But then the roots are torn out, the plant withers, and other plants come up in its place (vv. 18-19). This is the person who forgets God as he gains great prosperity through the ways of the world. He thinks that he is secure in life because of his wealth. But then God cuts him down and raises up someone else in his place, someone who will honor God with his blessings.
These three examples serve to remind us that God blesses faithfulness. We may flourish for a season when we forget him, but those who remain faithful flourish for eternity. The way of the world is the shiny new toy that soon fades and breaks. But the way of God is the solid foundation for life.