Job 26:9
He holds back the face of his throne, and spreads his cloud on it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) He holdeth back the face.—Or, covereth the face of his throne in the heavens, spreading his rack of 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.”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.He holdeth back the face of his throne - That is, he does not exhibit it - he covers it with clouds. The idea seems to be, that God sometimes comes forth and manifests himself to mankind, but that he comes encompassed with clouds, so that his throne cannot be seen. So in Psalm 18:11, "He made darkness his secret place, his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies." God is often represented as encompassed with clouds, or as accompanied with tempests.

And spreadeth his cloud upon it - That is, so that it cannot be seen. There is much poetic beauty in this image. It is, that the clouds are made to conceal the splendor of the throne of God from the sight of man, and that all their sublimity and grandeur, as they roll on one another, and all their beauty when painted with so many colors in the evening, are designed to hide that throne from mortal eyes. No one sees God; and though it is manifest that he is every where employed, and that he comes forth with amazing grandeur in the works of creation and providence, yet he is himself invisible.

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 holdeth back, i.e. to wit, from our view, that its lustre and glory should not reach us, and so dazzle our sight; he covereth it with a cloud, as the next words explain it. Or, he holdeth fast, or binds together, or strengthens it, that it may be able to bear that burden.

The face of his throne; either,

1. This lower air, which is as the face or open part of the heavens, which is often called God’s throne, as Psalm 11:4 Isaiah 66:1 Amos 9:6. Or,

2. The appearance or manifestation of the heaven of heavens, where he dwelleth, whose light and glory is too great for mortal eyes, which therefore by clouds and other ways he hides from us. He holdeth back the face of his throne,.... His throne is the heaven of heavens; the face of it, or what is before it, is the starry and airy heavens; this face of his throne is sometimes held back, or covered with clouds, that so his throne is so far from being visible, that even the face of it, or the outside or external appearance of it, is not to be seen, as follows:

and spreadeth his cloud upon it; and both he and his throne are invisible; clouds and darkness are round about him, and his pavilion round about are dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies, Psalm 18:11; and even the light in which he dwells, and with which he clothes himself, is impervious to us, and is so dazzling, that itself covers and keeps back himself and throne from being seen by mortals. The Targum suggests, that what is here said to be done is done that the angels may not see it; but these always stand before the throne of God, and always behold the face of God himself.

He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. he holdeth back] Or, he shutteth up, or, enshrouds. The “face of his throne” is perhaps the outside of it, or that view which it would present if seen; and the meaning is that He enshrouds His throne so that it is not seen by those below. The idea cannot be that this is an occasional phenomenon, as if sometimes His throne could be seen, for though He has set His glory on the heavens, Psalm 8:2 (comp. Exodus 24:10; Psalm 18:12), this is but a reflection of the inner glory. The conception rather is that clouds are ever about Him, in His lofty abode, and even accompany and enshroud Him in all His movements; ch. Job 38:1; Amos 9:6; Psalm 104:3-13.Verse 9. - He holdeth back the face of his throne; rather, he covereth up. He makes the clouds to gather in the vault of heaven, above which is his throne, and in this way conceals it and covers it up. And spreadeth his cloud upon it; or, over it, so blotting it out from sight. Behind the more obvious meaning lies one which is deeper and more spiritual. God withdraws himself from sight, gathers clouds and darkness around him to be the habitation of his seat, hides from men the principles of his government and administration, makes himself unapproachable and inscrutable, is a mystery and an enigma which man cannot hope to understand or solve (comp. 1 Kings 8:12; Psalm 18:11; Psalm 97:2). Instead of the appellation מרומיו, which reminds one of Isaiah 24:21, - where a like peacemaking act of judgment on the part of God is promised in reference to the spirit-host of the heights that have been working seductively among the nations on earth, - גּדוּדיו, of similar meaning to צבאיו, used elsewhere, occurs in this verse. The stars, according to biblical representation, are like an army arrayed for battle, but not as after the Persian representation - as an army divided into troops of the Ahuramazd and Angramainyus (Ahriman), but a standing army of the children of light, clad in the armour of light, under the guidance of the one God the Creator (Isaiah 40:26, comp. the anti-dualistic assertion in Isaiah 45:7). The one God is the Lord among these numberless legions, who commands their reverence, and maintains unity among them; and over whom does not His light arise? Umbr. explains: who does not His light, which He communicates to the hosts of heaven, vanquish (קוּם על in the usual warlike meaning: to rise against any one); but this is a thought that is devoid of purpose in this connection. אורהו with the emphatic suff. hu (as Job 24:23, עיניהוּ) at any rate refers directly to God: His light in distinction from the derived light of the hosts of heaven. This distinction is better brought out if we interpret (Merc., Hirz., Hahn, Schlottm., and others): over whom does (would) not His light arise? i.e., all receive their light from His, and do but reflect it back. But יקוּם equals יזרח cannot be justified by Job 11:17. Therefore we interpret with Ew. and Hlgst. thus: whom does not His light surpass, or, literally, over whom (i.e., which of these beings of light) does it not rise, leaving it behind and exceeding it in brightness (יקוּם as synon. of ירוּם)? How then could a mortal be just with God, i.e., at His side or standing up before Him; and how could one of woman born be spotless! How could he (which is hereby indirectly said) enter into a controversy with God, who is infinitely exalted above him, and maintain before Him a moral character faultless, and therefore absolutely free from condemnation! In the heights of heaven God's decision is revered; and should man, the feeble one, and born flesh of flesh (vid., Job 14:1), dare to contend with God? Behold, עד־ירח (עד, as usually when preceded by a negation, adeo, ne ... quidem, e.g., Exodus 14:28, comp. Nahum 1:10, where J. H. Michaelis correctly renders: adeo up spinas perplexitate aequent, and אל used in the same way, Job 5:5, Ew. 219, c), even as to the moon, it does not (ולא with Waw apod., Ges. 145, 2, although there is a reading לא without ו) shine bright, יאחיל equals יהל, from אהל equals הלל.

(Note: It is worthy of observation, that hilâl signifies in Arabic the new moon (comp. Genesis, S. 307); and the Hiphil ahalla, like the Kal halla, is used of the appearing and shining of the new moon.)

Thus lxx, Targ. Jer., and Gecatilia translate; whereas Saadia translates: it turns not in (Arab. lâ ydchl), or properly, it does not pitch its tent, fix its habitation. But to pitch one's tent is אהל or אהל, whence יהל, Isaiah 13:20, equals יאהל; and what is still more decisive, one would naturally expect יאהיל שׁם in connection with this thought. We therefore render אהל as a form for once boldly used in the scriptural language for הלל, as in Isaiah 28:28 אדשׁ once occurs for דּוּשׁ. Even the moon is only a feeble light before God, and the stars are not clean in His eyes; there is a vast distance between Him and His highest and most glorious creatures - how much more between Him and man, the worm of the dust!

The friends, as was to be expected, are unable to furnish any solution of the mystery, why the ungodly often live and die happily; and yet they ought to be able to give this solution, if the language which they employ against Job were authorized. Bildad alone speaks in the above speech, Zophar is silent. But Bildad does not utter a word that affects the question. This designed omission shows the inability of the friends to solve it, as much as the tenacity with which they firmly maintain their dogma; and the breach that has been made in it, either they will not perceive or yet not acknowledge, because they think that thereby they are approaching too near to the honour of God. Moreover, it must be observed with what delicate tact, and how directly to the purpose in the structure of the whole, this short speech of Bildad's closes the opposition of the friends. Two things are manifest from this last speech of the friends: First, that they know nothing new to bring forward against Job, and nothing just to Job's advantage; that all their darts bound back from Job; and that, though not according to their judgment, yet in reality, they are beaten. This is evident from the fact that Bildad is unable to give any answer to Job's questions, but can only take up the one idea in Job's speech, that he confidently and boldly thinks of being able to approach God's throne of judgment; he repeats with slight variation what Eliphaz has said twice already, concerning the infinite distance between man and God, Job 4:17-21; Job 15:14-16, and is not even denied by Job himself, Job 9:2; Job 14:4. But, secondly, the poet cannot allow us to part from the friends with too great repugnance; for they are Job's friends notwithstanding, and at the close we see them willingly obedient to God's instruction, to go to Job that he may pray for them and make sacrifice on their behalf. For this reason he does not make Bildad at last repeat those unjust incriminations which were put prominently forward in the speech of Eliphaz, Job 22:5-11. Bildad only reminds Job of the universal sinfulness of the human race once again, without direct accusation, in order that Job may himself derive from it the admonition to humble himself; and this admonition Job really needs, for his speeches are in many ways contrary to that humility which is still the duty of sinful man, even in connection with the best justified consciousness of right thoughts and actions towards the holy God.

1 Then Job began, and said:

2 How has thou helped him that is without power,

Raised the arm that hath no strength!

3 How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom,

And fully declared the essence of the matter!

4 To whom hast thou uttered words,

And whose breath proceeded from thee?

Bildad is the person addressed, and the exclamations in Job 26:2, Job 26:3 are ironical: how thy speech contains nothing whatever that might help me, the supposedly feeble one, in conquering my affliction and my temptation; me, the supposedly ignorant one, in comprehending man's mysterious lot, and mine! ללא־כח, according to the idea, is only equivalent to כח לו (אין) לאשׁר לא, and זרוע לא־עז equivalent to זרוע בלא־עז (לא עז לו); the former is the abstr. pro concreto, the latter the genitival connection - the arm of the no-power, i.e., powerless (Ges. 152, 1). The powerless one is Job himself, not God (Merc., Schlottm.), as even the choice of the verbs, Job 26:2, Job 26:3, shows. Respecting תּוּשׁיּה, which we have translated essentiality, duration, completion, we said, on Job 5:12, that it is formed from ישׁ (vid., Proverbs 8:21), not directly indeed, but by means of a verb ושׁי brev a fo (ושׁה), in the signification subsistere (comp. Arab. kân, and Syriac קום);

(Note: Comp. also Spiegel, Grammatik der Huzvresch-Sprache, S. 103.)

it is a Hophal-formation (like תּוּגה), and signifies, so to speak, durability, subsistentia, substantia, ὑπόστασις, so that the comparison of ושׁי with אשׁשׁ, Arab. 'ss (whence אשׁישׁ, Arab. ası̂s, asâs, etc., fundamentum) is forced upon one, and the relationship to the Sanskrit as (asmi equals εἰμὶ) can remain undecided. The observation of J. D. Michaelis

continued...

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