So the second friend, Bildad the Shuhite speaks.
There is a high level similarity in his message for Job, compared to Eliphaz: it’s your fault it happened, and in your power to fix it asking God mercy for your sins.
But the personalities are very different, and the instances of victim blame flow from the personality.
This is quite instructive because it encourages me to ask: what tendency in my personality tends to flavour the way I read God’s word and behave?
And maybe also: what role does personality have to play? It’s God given isn’t it? Not to be stamped out? When does my personality lead me to sin, when do I serve God in it? How do you lay your personality on the altar?
Bildad is much more naturally conservative and direct. I think of him as Moore college dude (that’s a pretty straight evangelical theological college here in Sydney).
So where Eliphaz was all double-edged compliments (you’re a loved teacher, how about you teach yourself?) and indirect insinuations, Bildad gives Job something more like a bollocking and an old man rant.
His opening salvo is to ask how much longer Job will keep going on like a blustering wind. Hurry up, your children got what they deserved, you’re running out of time to straighten up and fly right, essentially. Gosh.
Then he does a variation on the old man classic ‘kids these days, no respect’. He says job has cut himself off from the wisdom of the elders.
Though he does it so eloquently, is quite a beautiful song in itself to spiritual depth and sustenance.
He talks about various ways plants wither by being cut off from sustenance: growing in a marsh, cut and put in a jar, tangled in roots, planted among rocks. It’s reminiscent of Jesus’ parable of the sower.
He compares Job’s understanding to trying to lean on a spiders web. So vivid!
He ends each idea with a promise that if job listens to him, he’ll be rich and prosperous again, an idea I naturally treat with skepticism, probably because I’ve grown up with the story of Job as part of my cultural memory.
Eliphaz is more relational, starting with what he knows of Job, Bildad is more didactic, starting with what he knows of God. It will be interesting to see how job moderates his response.
In the meantime: my personality is a bit of a mix of those two. I’m fundamentally evangelical (but never evangelically fundamentalist…).
I’m towards the progressive side politically, which puts me at odds with some of the favourite political causes of people I’d think of as culturally evangelical.
In style my weaknesses are more like Eliphaz. I battle with a tendency to not speak up in order to keep the peace. It’s why I write so much, I think!
I’m convinced personality itself is not the issue. Honesty, genuineness, being real are all wings upon which God’s mission can soar. Hiding your personality can be as much of a constraining chain as personality flaws I’m sure.
Gotta go now… Lots of chapters to think more about this!