But Job answered and said,Job 26:1. But Job answered and said — Job, finding his friends quite driven from their strong hold, and reduced to give up the argument, now begins to triumph, Job 26:2-3. He tells them, if the business was to celebrate the power and wisdom of the Almighty, he could produce as many shining instances of it as they could; but, at the same time, he intimates that their behaviour was mean, after so great a parade of wisdom as they had exhibited, to shelter themselves at last behind the power of God, rather than generously give up an argument which they were unable to maintain, and acquit him of a suspicion which they were not capable of supporting by a conviction. — Heath.
How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?Job 26:2. How hast thou helped him, that is without power? — Thou hast helped excellently! It is an ironical expression, implying quite the contrary, that he had not helped at all. As if he had said, I am a poor helpless creature, my strength and spirits are quite broken with the pains of my body, and the perplexities of my mind; and humanity and religion should have taught thee to support and comfort me, with representations of the goodness and promises of God, and not to terrify and overwhelm me with displaying his sovereign majesty, his glorious holiness, and inflexible justice, the thoughts whereof are already so discouraging and dreadful to me.
How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?Job 26:3. How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? — Me, whom thou takest to be void of understanding, and whom, therefore, thou oughtest to have instructed with wholesome counsels, instead of those impertinent discourses which thou hast delivered. But, as the words, him that hath, are not in the original, the text would be better rendered, Why dost thou counsel without wisdom? And how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? — And the essence, truth, or substance, (so the word ותושׁיה, vethushiah, signifies,) namely, of the thing in question between us, in abundance thou hast made known; thou hast spoken the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and all that can be said in the matter! A most wise and profound discourse thou hast made, and much to the purpose! An ironical expression as before. But the word לרב, la-rob, which we translate, plentifully, or, in abundance, may be read, la-rib, to contention: and then the clause will bear a clearer sense, thus: Why dost thou discover truth or wisdom for the sake of contention?
To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?Job 26:4. To whom hast thou uttered words — For whose instruction hast thou uttered these things? For mine? Dost thou think I do not know that which the meanest persons are not unacquainted with; that God is incomparably greater and better than his creatures? Whose spirit came from thee — Who inspired thee with this profound discourse of thine?
Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.Job 26:5. Dead things, &c. — That is, according to several interpreters, those seeds which are sown and die in the earth quicken again and grow. Or, as R. Levi rather thinks, an allusion is made to those vegetables, stones, or metals, which are found in the earth under the waters. The Hebrew word here for dead things is רפאים, rephaim, which is generally rendered dead men; thus, Psalm 88:10, we read, Wilt thou show wonders to methim, the dead? Shall rephaim, the dead, arise and praise thee? Isaiah 26:14. The dead, methim, shall not live: the deceased, rephaim, shall not rise. In these passages, therefore, and many others that might be produced, methim and rephaim are both translated dead or deceased. Instead of this, however, the LXX., the Vulgate Latin, and the Targum, render rephaim, giants, or mighty men. “Their interpretation is very just,” says Chappelow, “if, as R. Bechai writes, they were so named because their countenance was so austere, that whoever looked on them, manus ejus remissæ fuerunt, his hands were weakened with the terror that was upon him, (Buxtorf in rapha.) From hence it is that our learned Mede explains rephaim, in Proverbs 21:16, not of the dead, but of the giants or rebels against God, of whom we read, Genesis 6., namely, those mighty men of the old world, whose wickedness was so great as to occasion the deluge. Therefore, to ‘remain in the congregation of rephaim,’ is the same as to go and keep them company; that is, to go to that accursed place and condition in which they are. Thus, S. Jarchi’s gloss is, In cœtu rephaim, that is, in cœtu gehinnom, the congregation of those in hell. His gloss is the very same on our text here in Job. Again, Proverbs 9:17-18, ‘He knoweth not that rephaim, the dead, (the mighty ones,) are there, and that her (the harlot’s) guests are in the depths of hell,’ that is, she will bring them, who frequent her, to hell, to keep the apostate giants company. From all which we conclude, with the ingenious author above mentioned, that the place before us, and the verse following, seem to be no other than a description of hell.” Peters, Dodd, and many other critics, view the passage in the same light. Houbigant renders it, Behold the giants tremble beneath the waters in their habitations; and, he says, “Job means those giants who were overwhelmed with the flood; having their overthrow as immediately present before his eyes, because the deluge at this time was fresh in the memory of men.” Poole, whose note on the passage is well worth the reader’s attention, comprehends all the forementioned particulars in his interpretation, thus: Job, having censured Bildad’s discourse, proceeds to show how little he needed his information in that point. He shows that the power and providence of God reach not only to the things we see, but also to the invisible parts of the world; not only to the heavens above and their inhabitants, and to men upon earth, of which Bildad discoursed, Job 25:2-3, but also to such persons or things as are under the earth, or under the waters; which are out of our sight and reach, yet not out of the view of Divine Providence: including, 1st, dead or lifeless things, such as amber, pearl, coral, metals, or other minerals, which are formed or brought forth, by the almighty power of God, from under the waters; either in the bottom of the sea, or within the earth, which is the lowest element, and in the Scripture and other authors spoken of as under the waters. And, 2d, dead men, and the worst of them, such as died in their sins, and after death were condemned to further miseries; of whom this very word seems to be used, (Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18,) who are here said to mourn or groan from under the waters, from the lower parts of the earth; or from under those subterranean waters which are supposed to be within and under the earth; and from under the inhabitants thereof; either of the waters or of the earth, under which these waters are; or with the other inhabitants thereof; of that place under the waters; namely, the apostate spirits. So the sense is, that God’s dominion is over all men, yea, even the dead, and the worst of them, who, though they would not own God, nor his providence, while they lived, yet now are forced to acknowledge and feel that power which they despised, and bitterly mourn under the sad effects of it in their infernal habitations.
Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.Job 26:6. Hell is naked before him — Is in his presence, and under his providence. Hell itself, that place of utter darkness, is not hid from his sight. Destruction — The place of destruction, hath no covering — Such as can conceal it from his view.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.Job 26:7. He stretcheth out the north — The northern part of the heavens, which he particularly mentions, and puts for the whole visible heavens, because Job and his friends lived in a northern climate; over the empty space — Hebrew, על תהו, gnal tohu, over the vacuity, or emptiness; the same word which Moses uses, Genesis 1:2, which does not prove that the author of this book lived after Moses wrote the book of Genesis, and had seen that book, but only that Moses’s account of the creation is the ancient and true account, well known in the days of Job and his friends, and therefore alluded to here. And hangeth the earth upon nothing — Upon its own centre, which is but an imaginary thing, and, in truth, nothing; or, he means, upon no props, or pillars, but his own power and providence. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase is, “By his wonderful power and wisdom he stretches out the whole world from the one pole to the other, which he alone sustains; as he doth this globe of earth hanging in the air, without any thing to support it.”
He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.Job 26:8. He bindeth up the waters — Those fluid and heavy bodies, pressing downward with great force; in his thick clouds — As it were in bags, keeping them there suspended often for a long time; and the cloud is not rent under them — But sustains them, notwithstanding their great weight, so that they do not burst forth all at once, and fall suddenly and violently upon the earth, but distil in dews, drops, and showers, to moisten, refresh, and fertilize it in due season.
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.Job 26:9. He holdeth back — Namely, from our view, that its effulgent brightness may not dazzle our sight; the face of his throne — The heaven of heavens: where he dwells, its light and glory being too great for mortal eyes; and spreadeth his clouds upon it — And thereby mercifully hides from our eyes those overpowering splendours which we could not bear to behold. Bishop Patrick, however, understands this merely of God’s covering the face of the sky with clouds, to prevent “the beams of the sun from scorching the earth.”
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.Job 26:10. He hath compassed the waters — Namely, of the sea; for of the waters of the clouds he had just spoken; with bounds — With rocks and shores, and principally his own decree, formed at the creation, and renewed after the deluge, (Genesis 9:11; Genesis 9:15,) that the waters should not overwhelm the earth; until the day and night come to an end — Until the end of the world, for so long these vicissitudes of day and night are to continue.
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.Job 26:11. The pillars of heaven tremble — Perhaps the mountains, which by their height and strength seem to reach and support the heavens. And are astonished at his reproof — When God reproveth not them, but men by them, manifesting his displeasure by thunders or earthquakes.
He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.Job 26:12. He divideth the sea with his power — “By his power he raises tempests, which make great furrows in the sea, and divideth, as it were, one part of it from another;” and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud — “And, such is his wisdom, he knows how to appease it again, and repress its proud waves into the deadest calm.” — Bishop Patrick. Waterland and Schultens render רגע הים, ragang hajam, he shaketh the sea. Bishop Warburton tells us, that the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea is here plainly referred to, and that רהב, rahab, rendered proud, signifies Egypt. But Mr. Peters justly observes, “Others may see nothing more in it than the description of a storm or tempest. The Hebrew word translated divide, is not the same that is used, Exodus 14., of the Red sea, but signifies a violent breaking and tossing of the waves as in a storm. And if the former part of the sentence means that God sometimes, by his power, raises a violent storm at sea, the latter may well enough be understood of the pride and swelling of the sea itself, allayed again by the same divine power and will which raised it.”
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.Job 26:13. By his Spirit — Either, 1st, By his divine virtue or power, called his Spirit, Zechariah 4:6; Matthew 12:28. Or, 2d, By his Holy Spirit, to which the creation of the world is ascribed, Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4. He hath garnished the heavens — Adorned or beautified them with those glorious lights, the sun, moon, and stars. His hand hath formed the crooked serpent — By which he may mean all kinds of serpents, with fishes and monsters of the sea. It is the same word that is used for leviathan, Isaiah 27:1, of which the Targum understands it, and perhaps may be intended of the whale or crocodile. Chappelow, who gives us divers senses of the word ברח, bariach, here rendered crooked, and used as an epithet to designate the kind of serpent intended, observes that, in any of those senses, it is applicable to the great dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2. For (to allude to those senses of the word) that crooked, apostate serpent was formed, was brought forth, was wounded even to death, by God, fled from his vengeance, grieved, and trembled. “It may well be asked,” says the learned Bishop Sherlock, who is of the same mind, and thinks that by the crooked serpent here is meant that apostate spirit who tempted Eve under the form of a serpent, “how come these disagreeable ideas to be joined together? How comes the forming of a crooked serpent to be mentioned as an instance of almighty power, and to be set, as it were, upon an equal footing with the creation of the heavens, and all the host of them? When you read the whole chapter, all the images in which are great and magnificent, can you possibly imagine that the forming the crooked serpent, in this place, means no more than that God created snakes and adders? This surely cannot be the case. If we consider the state of religion in the world when this book was penned, it will help to clear this matter up. The oldest notion in opposition to the supremacy of the Creator is that of two independent principles; and the only kind of idolatry mentioned in the book of Job, and it was of all others the most ancient, is the worship of the sun and moon, and heavenly host. From this Job vindicates himself, Job 31:26, &c. Suppose Job now to be acquainted with the fall of man, and the part ascribed to the serpent of the introduction of evil; and see how aptly the parts cohere. In opposition to the idolatrous practice of his time, he asserts God to be the Maker of all the hosts of heaven. By his Spirit hath he garnished the heavens — In opposition to the false notion of two independent principles, he asserts God to be the Maker of him who was the first author of evil; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent — You see how properly the garnishing of the heavens and the forming of the serpent are joined together. That this is the ancient traditionary explanation of this place we have undeniable evidence from the translation of the LXX., who render the latter part of this verse, which relates to the serpent, in this manner: By a decree he destroyed the apostate dragon. The Syriac and Arabic versions are to the same effect. These translators apply the place to the punishment inflicted on the serpent, and it comes to the same thing; for the punishing the serpent is as clear an evidence of God’s power over the author of evil as the creating him.”
Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?Job 26:14. Lo, these are parts of his ways — But very small parcels even of those of his works which are visible to us. For it would be a vain and fruitless labour should I undertake to speak of all the wonders of the Creator. His works are so many, so great, and so far surpassing our narrow conceptions, that we can never hope to arrive at a perfect knowledge of them all, or even of any of them. We must be content to stand, as it were, at a distance, and, with profound reverence, take a short, imperfect view of a few mere sketches of the effects of his wonder-working power. But how little a portion is heard of him? — Of his wisdom, and power, and providence. If these his external and visible works be so stupendous, how glorious then must be his invisible, and more internal perfections and operations! For what we see or know of him is nothing in comparison of what we do not know, and of what is in him, or is done by him. But the thunder of his power who can understand? — Either, first, Of his mighty and terrible thunder, which is often mentioned as an eminent work of God. Or, second, Of his almighty power, which is properly compared to thunder, in regard of its irresistible force, and the terror which it causes to wicked men.