Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
But Job answered and said,
Job 26:1-14. Job's Reply.
How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?
2, 3. without power … no strength … no wisdom—The negatives are used instead of the positives, powerlessness, &c., designedly (so Isa 31:8; De 32:21). Granting I am, as you say (Job 18:17; 15:2), powerlessness itself, &c. "How hast thou helped such a one?"
How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?
3. plentifully … the thing as it is—rather, "abundantly—wisdom." Bildad had made great pretensions to abundant wisdom. How has he shown it?
To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
4. For whose instruction were thy words meant? If for me I know the subject (God's omnipotence) better than my instructor; Job 26:5-14 is a sample of Job's knowledge of it.
whose spirit—not that of God (Job 32:8); nay, rather, the borrowed sentiment of Eliphaz (Job 4:17-19; 15:14-16).
Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.
5-14. As before in the ninth and twelfth chapters, Job had shown himself not inferior to the friends' inability to describe God's greatness, so now he describes it as manifested in hell (the world of the dead), Job 26:5, 6; on earth, Job 26:7; in the sky, Job 26:8-11; the sea, Job 26:12; the heavens, Job 26:13.
Dead things are formed—Rather, "The souls of the dead (Rephaim) tremble." Not only does God's power exist, as Bildad says (Job 25:2), "in high places" (heaven), but reaches to the region of the dead. Rephaim here, and in Pr 21:16 and Isa 14:9, is from a Hebrew root, meaning "to be weak," hence "deceased"; in Ge 14:5 it is applied to the Canaanite giants; perhaps in derision, to express their weakness, in spite of their gigantic size, as compared with Jehovah [Umbreit]; or, as the imagination of the living magnifies apparitions, the term originally was applied to ghosts, and then to giants in general [Magee].
from under—Umbreit joins this with the previous word "tremble from beneath" (so Isa 14:9). But the Masoretic text joins it to "under the waters." Thus the place of the dead will be represented as "under the waters" (Ps 18:4, 5); and the waters as under the earth (Ps 24:2). Magee well translates thus: "The souls of the dead tremble; (the places) under the waters, and their inhabitants." Thus the Masoretic connection is retained; and at the same time the parallel clauses are evenly balanced. "The inhabitants of the places under the waters" are those in Gehenna, the lower of the two parts into which Sheol, according to the Jews, is divided; they answer to "destruction," that is, the place of the wicked in Job 26:6, as "Rephaim" (Job 26:5) to "Hell" (Sheol) (Job 26:6). "Sheol" comes from a Hebrew root—"ask," because it is insatiable (Pr 27:20); or "ask as a loan to be returned," implying Sheol is but a temporary abode, previous to the resurrection; so for English Version "formed," the Septuagint and Chaldee translate; shall be born, or born again, implying the dead are to be given back from Sheol and born again into a new state [Magee].
Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
6. (Job 38:17; Ps 139:8; Pr 5:11).
destruction—the abode of destruction, that is, of lost souls. Hebrew, Abaddon (Re 9:11).
no covering—from God's eyes.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
7. Hint of the true theory of the earth. Its suspension in empty space is stated in the second clause. The north in particular is specified in the first, being believed to be the highest part of the earth (Isa 14:13). The northern hemisphere or vault of heaven is included; often compared to a stretched-out canopy (Ps 104:2). The chambers of the south are mentioned (Job 9:9), that is, the southern hemisphere, consistently with the earth's globular form.
He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.
8. in … clouds—as if in airy vessels, which, though light, do not burst with the weight of water in them (Pr 30:4).
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.
9. Rather, He encompasseth or closeth. God makes the clouds a veil to screen the glory not only of His person, but even of the exterior of His throne from profane eyes. His agency is everywhere, yet He Himself is invisible (Ps 18:11; 104:3).
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.
10. Rather, "He hath drawn a circular bound round the waters" (Pr 8:27; Ps 104:9). The horizon seems a circle. Indication is given of the globular form of the earth.
until the day, &c.—to the confines of light and darkness. When the light falls on our horizon, the other hemisphere is dark. Umbreit and Maurer translate "He has most perfectly (literally, to perfection) drawn the bound (taken from the first clause) between light and darkness" (compare Ge 1:4, 6, 9): where the bounding of the light from darkness is similarly brought into proximity with the bounding of the waters.
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.
11. pillars—poetically for the mountains which seem to bear up the sky (Ps 104:32).
astonished—namely, from terror. Personification.
his reproof—(Ps 104:7). The thunder, reverberating from cliff to cliff (Hab 3:10; Na 1:5).
He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
12. divideth—(Ps 74:13). Perhaps at creation (Ge 1:9, 10). The parallel clause favors Umbreit, "He stilleth." But the Hebrew means "He moves." Probably such a "moving" is meant as that at the assuaging of the flood by the wind which "God made to pass over" it (Ge 8:1; Ps 104:7).
the proud—rather, "its pride," namely, of the sea (Job 9:13).
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.
13. Umbreit less simply, "By His breath He maketh the heavens to revive": namely, His wind dissipates the clouds, which obscured the shining stars. And so the next clause in contrast, "His hand doth strangle," that is, obscures the north constellation, the dragon. Pagan astronomy typified the flood trying to destroy the ark by the dragon constellation, about to devour the moon in its eclipsed crescent-shape like a boat (Job 3:8, Margin). But better as English Version (Ps 33:6).
crooked—implying the oblique course, of the stars, or the ecliptic. "Fleeing" or "swift" [Umbreit] (Isa 27:1). This particular constellation is made to represent the splendor of all the stars.
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?
14. parts—Rather, "only the extreme boundaries of," &c., and how faint is the whisper that we hear of Him!
thunder—the entire fulness. In antithesis to "whisper" (1Co 13:9, 10, 12).