Job 26:14
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?
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(14) These are parts.—Literally, ends—just the merest outskirts. For “is heard” we may render do we hear; and for “the thunder of His power,” the thunder of His mighty deeds. We can only hear the faintest whisper of His glory, and cannot understand or endure the full-toned thunder of His majesty. Here, then, is Job’s final reply to the arguments of his friends. He shows himself even more conscious than they of the grandeur and holiness of God; but that has in no way rendered his position as a sufferer more intelligible—rather the reverse—nor theirs as defenders of the theory of exact retribution. He cannot understand and they cannot explain; but while he rejects their explanations, he rests secure in his own faith.

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.

26:5-14 Many striking instances are here given of the wisdom and power of God, in the creation and preservation of the world. If we look about us, to the earth and waters here below, we see his almighty power. If we consider hell beneath, though out of our sight, yet we may conceive the discoveries of God's power there. If we look up to heaven above, we see displays of God's almighty power. By his Spirit, the eternal Spirit that moved upon the face of the waters, the breath of his mouth, Ps 33:6, he has not only made the heavens, but beautified them. By redemption, all the other wonderful works of the Lord are eclipsed; and we may draw near, and taste his grace, learn to love him, and walk with delight in his ways. The ground of the controversy between Job and the other disputants was, that they unjustly thought from his afflictions that he must have been guilty of heinous crimes. They appear not to have duly considered the evil and just desert of original sin; nor did they take into account the gracious designs of God in purifying his people. Job also darkened counsel by words without knowledge. But his views were more distinct. He does not appear to have alleged his personal righteousness as the ground of his hope towards God. Yet what he admitted in a general view of his case, he in effect denied, while he complained of his sufferings as unmerited and severe; that very complaint proving the necessity for their being sent, in order to his being further humbled in the sight of God.Lo, these are parts of his ways - This is a small portion of his works. We see only the outlines, the surface of his mighty doings. This is still true. With all the advances which have been made in science, it is still true that we see but a small part of his works. What we are enabled to trace with all the aids of science, compared with what is unseen and unknown, may be like the analysis of a single drop of water compared with the ocean.

But how little a portion is heard of him? - Or, rather, "But what a faint whisper have we heard of him!" Literally, "What a whisper of a word," - דבר וּמח־שׁמץ yuvmah shėmets dâbâr. The word שׁמץ shemets means a transient sound rapidly passing away; and then a whisper; see the notes at Job 4:12. A "whisper of a word" means a word not fully and audibly spoken, but which is whispered into the ear; and the beautiful idea here is, that what we see of God, and what he makes known to us, compared with the full and glorious reality, bears about the same relation which the gentlest whisper does to words that are fully spoken.

The thunder of his power who can understand? - It is probable that there is here a comparison between the gentle "whisper" and the mighty "thunder;" and that the idea is, if, instead of speaking to us in gentle whispers, and giving to us in that way some faint indications of his nature, he were to speak out in thunder, who could understand him? If, when he speaks in such faint and gentle tones, we are so much impressed with a sense of his greatness and glory, who would not be overwhelmed if he were to speak out as in thunder? Thus explained, the expression does not refer to literal thunder, though there is much in the heavy peal to excite adoring views of God, and much that to Job must have been inexplicable. It may be asked, even now, who can understand all the philosophy of the thunder? But with much more impressiveness it may be asked, as Job probably meant to ask, who could understand the great God, if he spoke out with the full voice of his thunder, instead of speaking in a gentle whisper?

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).

These are parts, or, the extremities, but small parcels, the outside and visible work. How glorious then are his visible and more inward perfections and operations!

Of his ways, i.e. of his works. Of him, i.e. of his power, and wisdom, and providence, and actions. The greatest part of what we see or know of him, is the least part of what we do not know, and of what is in him, or is done by him.

The thunder of his power; either,

1. Of his mighty and terrible thunder, which is oft mentioned as an eminent work of God; as Job 28:26 40:9 Psalm 29:3 77:18. Or,

2. Of his mighty power, which is aptly compared to thunder, in regard of its irresistible force, and the terror which it causeth to wicked men; this metaphor being used by others in like cases; as among the Grecians, who used to say of their vehement and powerful orators, that they did thunder and lighten; and in Mark 3:17, where powerful preachers are called sons of thunder.

Lo, these are parts of his ways,.... This is the conclusion of the discourse concerning the wonderful works of God; and Job was so far from thinking that he had taken notice of all, or even of the chief and principal, that what he observed were only the extremities, the edges, the borders, and outlines of the ways and works of God in creation and providence; wherefore, if these were so great and marvellous, what must the rest be which were out of the reach of men to point out and describe?

but how little a portion is heard of him? from the creatures, from the works of creation, whether in heaven, earth, or sea; for though they do declare in some measure his glory, and though their voice is heard everywhere, and shows forth the knowledge of him; even exhibits to view his invisible things, his eternal power and Godhead; yet it is comparatively so faint a light, that men grope as it were in the dark, if haply they might find him, having nothing but the light of nature to guide them. We hear the most of him in his word, and by his Son Jesus Christ, in whose face the knowledge of him, and his glorious perfections, is given; and yet we know but in part, and prophesy in part; it is but little in comparison of what is in him, and indeed of what will be heard and known of him hereafter in eternity:

but the thunder of his power who can understand? meaning not literally thunder, which though it is a voice peculiar to God, and is very strong and powerful, as appears by the effects of it; see Job 40:9; yet is not so very unintelligible as to be taken notice of so peculiarly, and to be instanced in as above all things out, of the reach of the understanding of men; but rather the attribute of his power, of which Job had been discoursing, and giving so many instances of; and yet there is such an exceeding greatness in it, as not to be comprehended and thoroughly understood by all that appear to our view; for his mighty power is such as is able to subdue all things to himself, and reaches to things we cannot conceive of. Ben Gersom, not amiss, applies this to the greatness and multitude of the decrees of God; and indeed if those works of his which are in sight cannot be fully understood by us, how should we be able to understand things that are secret and hidden in his own breast, until by his mighty power they are carried into execution? see 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Lo, these are parts of his ways: but {m} how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?

(m) If these few things which we see daily with our eyes, declare his great power and providence, how much more would they appear, if we were to comprehend all his works.

14. The verse reads,

Lo these are the outskirts of his ways;

And how small a whisper is that which we hear of him!

But the thunder of his power who can understand?

The power of God is illustrated in the mighty works described in Job 26:5-13. Yet what we see of Him in these is but the ends, the outskirts of His real operations. And what we hear of Him is but as a faint whisper; the thunder of the full unfolding of His power who can understand? The nervous brevity and sublimity of these words are unsurpassable.

Verse 14. - Lo, these are parts of his ways; literally, ends of his ways; i.e. the mere outskirts and fringe of his doings. But how small a portion is heard of him? rather, how small a whisper? But the thunder of his power who can understand?, or, the thunder of his mighty deeds. Job implies that he has not enumerated one-half of God's great works - he has just hinted at them, just whispered of them. If they were all thundered out in the ears of mortal man. who could receive them or comprehend them

Job 26:1414 Behold, these are the edges of His ways,

And how do we hear only a whisper thereof!

But the thunder of His might - who comprehendeth it?

These (אלּה retrospective, as in Job 18:21) are only קצות, the extremest end-points or outlines of the ways of God, which Job has depicted; the wondrous fulness of His might, which extends through the whole creation, transcends human comprehension; it is only שׁמץ דּבר therefrom that becomes audible to us men. שׁמץ (שׁמץ) is translated by Symm. here ψιθύρισμα, Job 4:12, ψιτηυρισμός; the Arab. šamiṣa (to speak very quickly, mutter) confirms this idea of the word; Jerome's translation, vix. parvam stillam sermonis ejus (comp. Job 4:12, venas, tropical for parts), is doubly erroneous: the rendering of the שׁמץ has the antithesis of רעם against it, and דּבר is not to be understood here otherwise than in ערות דּבר, Deuteronomy 23:15; Deuteronomy 24:1 : shame of something equals something that excites a feeling of shame, a whisper of something equals some whisper. The notion "somewhat," which the old expositors attribute to שׁמץ, lies therefore in דבר. מה is exclamatory in a similar manner as in Psalm 89:48 : how we hear (נשׁמע, not נשׁמע) only some whisper thereof (בּו partitive, as e.g., Isaiah 10:22), i.e., how little therefrom is audible to us, only as the murmur of a word, not loud and distinct, which reaches us!

As in the speech of Bildad the poet makes the opposition of the friends to fade away and cease altogether, as incapable of any further counsel, and hence as conquered, so in Job's closing speech, which consists of three parts, Job 26:1, Job 27:1, Job 29:1, he shows how Job in every respect, as victor, maintains the field against the friends. The friends have neither been able to loose the knot of Job's lot of suffering, nor the universal distribution of prosperity and misfortune. Instead of loosing the knot of Job's lot of suffering, they have cut it, by adding to Job's heavy affliction the invention of heinous guilt as its ground of explanation; and the knot of the contradictions of human life in general with divine justice they have ignored, in order that they may not be compelled to abandon their dogma, that suffering everywhere necessarily presupposes sin, and sin is everywhere necessarily followed by suffering. Even Job, indeed, is not at present able to solve either one or other of the mysteries; but while the friends' treatment of these mysteries is untrue, he honours the truth, and keenly perceives that which is mysterious. Then he proves by testimony and an appeal to facts, that the mystery may be acknowledged without therefore being compelled to abandon the fear of God. Job firmly holds to the objective reality and the testimony of his consciousness; in the fear of God he places himself above all those contradictions which are unsolvable by and perplexing to human reason; his faith triumphs over the rationalism of the friends, which is devoid of truth, of justice, and of love.

Job first answers Bildad, Job 26:1. He characterizes his poor reply as what it is: as useless, and not pertinent in regard to the questions before them: it is of no service to him, it does not affect him, and is, moreover, a borrowed weapon. For he also is conscious of and can praise God's exalted and awe-inspiring majesty. He has already shown this twice, Job 9:4-10; Job 12:13-25, and shows here for the third time: its operation is not confined merely to those creatures that immediately surround God in the heavens; it extends, without being restrained by the sea, even down to the lower world; and as it makes the angels above to tremble, so there it sets the shades in consternation. From the lower world, Job's contemplation rises to the earth, as a body suspended in space without support; to the clouds above, which contain the upper waters without bursting, and veil the divine throne, of which the sapphire blue of heaven is the reflection; and then he speaks of the sea lying between Shel and heaven, which is confined within fixed bounds, at the extreme boundaries of which light passes over into darkness; - he celebrates all this as proof of the creative might of God. Then he describes the sovereign power of God in the realm of His creation, how He shakes the pillars of heaven, rouses the sea, breaks the monster in pieces, lights up the heavens by chasing away the clouds and piercing the serpent, and thus setting free the sun. But all these - thus he closes - are only meagre outlines of the divine rule, only a faint whisper, which is heard by us as coming from the far distance. Who has the comprehension necessary to take in and speak exhaustively of all the wonders of His infinite nature, which extends throughout the whole creation? From such a profound recognition and so glorious a description of the exaltation of God, the infinite distance between God and man is most clearly proved. Job has adequately shown that his whole soul is full of that which Bildad is anxious to teach him; a soul that only requires a slight impulse to make it overflow with such praise of God, as is not wanting in an universal perception of God, nor is it full of wicked devices. When therefore Bildad maintains against Job that no man is righteous before such an exalted God, Job ought indeed to take it as a warning against such unbecoming utterances concerning God as those which have escaped him; but the universal sinfulness of man is no ground of explanation for his sufferings, for there is a righteousness which avails before God; and of this, job, the suffering servant of God, has a consciousness that cannot be shaken.

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