Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
But Job answered and said,
How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?
How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?
To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.5 - The shades are put to pain
Deep under the waters and their inhabitants.
6 Shel is naked before him,
And the abyss hath no covering.
7 He stretched the northern sky over the emptiness;
He hung the earth upon nothing.
Bildad has extolled God's majestic, awe-inspiring rule in the heights of heaven, His immediate surrounding; Job continues the strain, and celebrates the extension of this rule, even to the depths of the lower world. The operation of the majesty of the heavenly Ruler extends even to the realm of shades; the sea with the multitude of its inhabitants forms no barrier between God and the realm of shades; the marrowless, bloodless phantoms or shades below writhe like a woman in travail as often as this majesty is felt by them, as, perhaps, by the raging of the sea or the quaking of the earth. On רפאים, which also occurs in Phoenician inscriptions, vid., Psychol. S. 409; the book of Job corresponds with Psalm 88:11 in the use of this appellation. The sing. is not רפאי (whence רפאים, as the name of a people), but רפא (רפה), which signifies both giants or heroes of colossal stature (from רפה equals Arab. rafu‛a, to be high), and the relaxed (from רפה, to be loose, like Arab. rafa'a, to soften, to soothe), i.e., those who are bodiless in the state after death (comp. חלּה, Isaiah 14:10, to be weakened, i.e., placed in the condition of a rapha). It is a question whether יחוללוּ be Pilel (Ges.) or Pulal (Olsh.); the Pul., indeed, signifies elsewhere to be brought forth with writing (Job 15:7); it can, however, just as well signify to be put in pain. On account of the reference implied in it to a higher causation here at the commencement of the speech, the Pul. is more appropriate than the Pil.; and the pausal , which is often found elsewhere with Hithpael (Hithpal.), Psalm 88:14; Job 33:5, but never with Piel (Pil.), proves that the form is intended to be regarded as passive.
Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.שׁאול is seemingly used as fem., as in Isaiah 14:9; but in reality the adj. precedes in the primitive form, without being changed by the gender of שׁאול. אבדּון alternates with שׁאול, like קבר in Psalm 88:12. As Psalm 139:8 testifies to the presence of God in Shel, so here Job (comp. Job 38:17, and especially Proverbs 15:11) that Shel is present to God, that He possesses a knowledge which extends into the depths of the realm of the dead, before whom all things are γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα (Hebrews 4:13). The following partt., Job 26:7, depending logically upon the chief subject which precedes, are to be determined according to Job 25:2; they are conceived as present, and indeed of God's primeval act of creation, but intended of the acts which continue by virtue of His creative power.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.By צפון many modern expositors understand the northern part of the earth, where the highest mountains and rocks rise aloft (accordingly, in Isaiah 14:13, ירכתי צפון are mentioned parallel with the starry heights), and consequently the earth is the heaviest (Hirz., Ew., Hlgst., Welte, Schlottm., and others). But (1) it is not probable that the poet would first have mentioned the northern part of the earth, and then in Job 26:7 the earth itself - first the part, and then the whole; (2) נטה is never said of the earth, always of the heavens, for the expansion of which it is the stereotype word (נטה, Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 51:13; Zechariah 14:1; Psalm 104:2; נוטיהם, Isaiah 42:5; נטה, Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 51:15; ידי נטו, Isaiah 45:12); (3) one expects some mention of the sky in connection with the mention of the earth; and thus is צפון,
(Note: The name צפון signifies the northern sky as it appears by day, from its beclouded side in contrast with the brighter and more rainless south; comp. old Persian apâkhtara, if this name of the north really denotes the "starless" region, Greek ζόφος, the north-west, from the root skap, σκεπᾶν, σκεπανός (Curtius, Griech. Etymologie, ii. 274), aquilo, the north wind, as that which brings black clouds with it.)
with Rosenm., Ges., Umbr., Vaih., Hahn, and Olsh., to be understood of the northern sky, which is prominently mentioned, because there is the pole of the vault of heaven, which is marked by the Pole-star, there the constellation of the greater Bear (עשׁ, Job 9:9) formed by the seven bright stars, there (in the back of the bull, one of the northern constellations of the ecliptic) the group of the Pleiades (כּימה), there also, below the bull and the twins, Orion (כּסיל). On the derivation, notion, and synonyms of תּהוּ, vid., Genesis, S. 93; here (where it may be compared with the Arab. theı̂j-un, empty, and tı̂h, desert) it signifies nothing more than the unmeasurable vacuum of space, parall. בּלימה, not anything equals nothing (comp. modern Arabic lâsh, or even mâsh, compounded of Arab. lâ or mâ and šâ, a thing, e.g., bilâs, for nothing, ragul mâsh, useless men). The sky which vaults the earth from the arctic pole, and the earth itself, hang free without support in space. That which is elsewhere (e.g., Job 9:6) said of the pillars and foundations of the earth, is intended of the internal support of the body of the earth, which is, as it were, fastened together by the mountains, with their roots extending into the innermost part of the earth; for the idea that the earth rests upon the bases of the mountains would be, indeed, as Lwenthal correctly observes, an absurd inversion. On the other side, we are also not justified in inferring from Job's expression the laws of the mechanism of the heavens, which were unknown to the ancients, especially the law of attraction or gravitation. The knowledge of nature on the part of the Israelitish Chokma, expressed in Job 26:7, however, remains still worthy of respect. On the ground of similar passages of the book of Job, Keppler says of the yet unsolved problems of astronomy: Haec et cetera hujusmodi latent in Pandectis aevi sequentis, non antea discenda, quam librum hunc Deus arbiter seculorum recluserit mortalibus. From the starry heavens and the earth Job turns to the celestial and sub-celestial waters.
He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.8 He bindeth up the waters in His clouds,
Without the clouds being rent under their burden.
9 He enshroudeth the face of His throne,
Spreading His clouds upon it.
10 He compasseth the face of the waters with bounds,
To the boundary between light and darkness.
The clouds consist of masses of water rolled together, which, if they were suddenly set free, would deluge the ground; but the omnipotence of God holds the waters together in the hollow of the clouds (צרר, Milel, according to a recognised law, although it is also found in Codd. accented as Milra, but contrary to the Masora), so that they do not burst asunder under the burden of the waters (תּחתּם); by which nothing more nor less is meant, than that the physical and meteorological laws of rain are of God's appointment. Job 26:9 describes the dark and thickly-clouded sky that showers down the rain in the appointed rainy season. אחז signifies to take hold of, in architecture to hold together by means of beams, or to fasten together (vid., Thenius on 1 Kings 6:10, comp. 2 Chronicles 9:18, מאחזים, coagmentata), then also, as usually in Chald. and Syr., to shut (by means of cross-bars, Nehemiah 7:3), here to shut off by surrounding with clouds: He shuts off פּני־כסּה, the front of God's throne, which is turned towards the earth, so that it is hidden by storm-clouds as by a סכּה, Job 36:29; Psalm 18:12. God's throne, which is here, as in 1 Kings 10:19, written כּסּה instead of כּסּא (comp. Arab. cursi, of the throne of God the Judge, in distinction from Arab. 'l-‛arš, the throne of God who rules over the world),
(Note: According to the more recent interpretation, under Aristotelian influence, Arab. 'l-‛rš is the outermost sphere, which God as πρῶτον κινοῦν having set in motion, communicates light, heat, life, and motion to the other revolving spheres; for the causae mediae gradually descend from God the Author of being (muhejji) from the highest heaven into the sublunary world.)
is indeed in other respects invisible, but the cloudless blue of heaven is His reflected splendour (Exodus 24:10) which is cast over the earth. God veils this His radiance which shines forth towards the earth, פּרשׁז אליו עננו, by spreading over it the clouds which are led forth by Him. פּרשׁו is commonly regarded as a Chaldaism for פּרשׁז (Ges. 56, Olsh. 276), but without any similar instance in favour of this vocalizaton of the 3 pr. Piel (Pil.). Although רענן and שׁאנן, Job 15:32; Job 3:18, have given up the i of the Pil., it has been under the influence of the following guttural; and although, moreover, i before Resh sometimes passes into a, e.g., ויּרא, it is more reliable to regard פרשז as inf. absol. (Ew. 141, c): expandendo. Ges. and others regard this פרשז as a mixed form, composed from פרשׁ and פרז; but the verb פרשׁ (with Shin) has not the signification to expand, which is assumed in connection with this derivation; it signifies to separate (also Ezekiel 34:12, vid., Hitzig on that passage), whereas פרשׂ certainly signifies to expand (Job 36:29-30); wherefore the reading פּרשׂז (with Sin), which some Codd. give, is preferred by Br, and in agreement with him by Luzzatto (vid., Br's Leket zebi, p. 244), and it seems to underlie the interpretation where פרשז עליו is translated by עליו (פּרשׂ) פרש, He spreadeth over it (e.g., by Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Ralbag). But the Talmud, b. Sabbath, 88 b (פירש שדי מזיו שכינתו ועננו עליו, the Almighty separated part of the splendour of His Shechina and His cloud, and laid it upon him, i.e., Moses, as the passage is applied in the Haggada), follows the reading פּרשׁז (with Shin), which is to be retained on account of the want of naturalness in the consonantal combination שׂז; but the word is not to be regarded as a mixed formation (although we do not deny the possibility of such forms in themselves, vid., supra, p. 468), but as an intensive form of פרשׂ formed by Prosthesis and an Arabic change of Sin into Shin, like Arab. fršḥ, fršd, fršṭ, which, being formed from Arab. frš equals פּרשׂ (פּרשׂ), to expand, signifies to spread out (the legs).
Job 26:10 passes from the waters above to the lower waters. תּכלית signifies, as in Job 11:7; Job 28:3; Nehemiah 3:21, the extremity, the extreme boundary; and the connection of תּכלית אור is genitival, as the Tarcha by the first word correctly indicates, whereas אור with Munach, the substitute for Rebia mugrasch In this instance (according to Psalter, ii. 503, 2), is a mistake. God has marked out (חן, lxx ἐγύρωσεν) a law, i.e., here according to the sense: a fixed bound (comp. Proverbs 8:29 with Psalm 104:9), over the surface of the waters (i.e., describing a circle over them which defines their circuit) unto the extreme point of light by darkness, i.e., where the light is touched by the darkness. Most expositors (Rosenm., Hirz., Hahn, Schlottm., and others) take עד־תכלית adverbially: most accurately, and refer חג to אור as a second object, which is contrary to the usage of the language, and doubtful and unnecessary. Pareau has correctly interpreted: ad lucis usque tenebrarumque confinia; עם in the local sense, not aeque ac, although it might also have this meaning, as e.g., Ecclesiastes 2:16. The idea is, that God has appointed a fixed limit to the waters, as far as to the point at which they wash the terra firma of the extreme horizon, and where the boundary line of the realms of light and darkness is; and the basis of the expression, as Bouillier, by reference to Virgil's Georg. i. 240f., has shown, is the conception of the ancients, that the earth is surrounded by the ocean, on the other side of which the region of darkness begins.
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.11 The pillars of heaven tremble
And are astonished at His threatening.
12 By His power He rouseth up the sea,
And by His understanding He breaketh Rahab in pieces.
13 By His breath the heavens become cheerful;
His hand hath formed the fugitive dragon.
The mountains towering up to the sky, which seem to support the vault of the sky, are called poetically "the pillars of heaven." ירופפוּ is Pulal, like יחוללוּ, Job 26:5; the signification of violent and quick motion backwards and forwards is secured to the verb רוּף by the Targ. אתרופף equals התפּלּץ, Job 9:6, and the Talm. רפרף of churned milk, blinding eyes (comp. הרף עין, the twinkling of the eye, and Arab. rff, fut. i. o. nictare), flapping wings (comp. Arab. rff and rfrf, movere, motitare alas), of wavering thinking. גּערה is the divine command which looses or binds the powers of nature; the astonishment of the supports of heaven is, according to the radical signification of תּמהּ (cogn. שׁמם), to be conceived of as a torpidity which follows the divine impulse, without offering any resistance whatever. That רגע, Job 26:12, is to be understood transitively, not like Job 7:5, intransitively, is proved by the dependent (borrowed) passages, Isaiah 51:15; Jeremiah 31:35, from which it is also evident that רגע cannot with the lxx be translated κατέπαυσεν. The verb combines in itself the opposite significations of starting up, i.e., entering into an excited state, and of being startled, from which the significations of stilling (Niph., Hiph.), and of standing back or retreat (Arab. rj‛), branch off. The conjecture גּער after the Syriac version (which translates, go‛ar bejamo) is superfluous. רהב, which here also is translated by the lxx τὸ κῆτος, has been discussed already on Job 9:13. It is not meant of the turbulence of the sea, to which מחץ is not appropriate, but of a sea monster, which, like the crocodile and the dragon, are become an emblem of Pharaoh and his power, as Isaiah 51:9. has applied this primary passage: the writer of the book of Job purposely abstains from such references to the history of Israel. Without doubt, רהב denotes a demoniacal monster, like the demons that shall be destroyed at the end of the world, one of which is called by the Persians akomano, evil thought, another taromaiti, pride. This view is supported by Job 26:13, where one is not at liberty to determine the meaning by Isaiah 51:9, and to understand נחשׁ בּרח, like תּנּין in that passage, of Egypt. But this dependent passage is an important indication for the correct rendering of חללה. One thing is certain at the outset, that שׁפרה is not perf. Piel equals שׁפרה, and for this reason, that the Dagesh which characterizes Piel cannot be omitted from any of the six mutae; the translation of Jerome, spiritus ejus ornavit coelos, and all similar ones, are therefore false. But it is possible to translate: "by His spirit (creative spirit) the heavens are beauty, His hand has formed the flying dragon." Thus, in the signification to bring forth (as Proverbs 25:23; Proverbs 8:24.), חללה is rendered by Rosenm., Arnh., Vaih., Welte, Renan, and others, of whom Vaih. and Renan, however, do not understand Job 26:13 of the creation of the heavens, but of their illumination. By this rendering Job 26:13 and Job 26:13 are severed, as being without connection; in general, however, the course of thought in the description does not favour the reference of the whole of half of Job 26:13 to the creation. Accordingly, חללה is not to be taken as Pilel from חול (ליל), but after Isaiah 57:9, as Poel from חלל, according to which the idea of Job 26:13 is determined, since both lines of the verse are most closely connected.
(בּריח) נחשׁ בּרח is, to wit, the constellation of the Dragon,
(Note: Ralbag, without any ground for it, understands it of the milky way (העגול החלבי), which, according to Rapoport, Pref. to Slonimski's Toledoth ha-schamajim (1838), was already known to the Talmud b. Berachoth, 58 b, under the name of נהר דנוד.)
one of the most straggling constellations, which winds itself between the Greater and Lesser Bears almost half through the polar circle.
"Maximus hic plexu sinuoso elabitur Anguis
Circum perque duas in morem fluminis Arctos."
(Virgil, Georg. i.244f.)
Aratus in Cicero, de nat. Deorum, ii. 42, describes it more graphically, both in general, and in regard to the many stars of different magnitudes which form its body from head to tail. Among the Arabs it is called el-hajje, the serpent, e.g., in Firuzabdi: the hajje is a constellation between the Lesser Bear (farqadân, the two calves) and the Greater Bear (benât en-na‛sch, the daughters of the bier), "or et-tanı̂n, the dragon, e.g., in one of the authors quoted by Hyde on Ulugh Beigh's Tables of the Stars, p. 18: the tann lies round about the north pole in the form of a long serpent, with many bends and windings." Thus far the testimony of the old expositors is found in Rosenmller. The Hebrew name תּלי (the quiver) is perhaps to be distinguished from טלי and דּלי, the Zodiac constellations Aries and Aquarius.
(Note: Vid., Wissenschaft, Kunst, Judenthum (1838), S. 220f.)
It is questionable how בּרח is to be understood. The lxx translates δράκοντα ἀποστάτην in this passage, which is certainly incorrect, since בריח beside נחשׁ may naturally be assumed to be an attributive word referring to the motion or form of the serpent. Accordingly, Isaiah 27:1, ὄφιν φείγοντα is more correct, where the Syr. version is חויא חרמנא, the fierce serpent, which is devoid of support in the language; in the passage before us the Syr. also has חויא דערק, the fleeing serpent, but this translation does not satisfy the more neuter signification of the adjective. Aquila in Isaiah translates ὄφιν μόχλον, as Jerome translates the same passage serpentem vectem (whereas he translates coluber tortuosus in our passage), as though it were בּריח; Symm. is better, and without doubt a substantially similar thought, ὄφιν συγκλείοντα, the serpent that joins by a bolt, which agrees with the traditional Jewish explanation, for the dragon in Aben-Ezra and Kimchi (in Lex.) - after the example of the learned Babylonian teacher of astronomy, Mar-Samuel (died 257), who says of himself that the paths of the heavens are as familiar to him as the places of Nehardea
(Note: Vid., Grtz, Geschichte der Juden, iv. 324. On Isaiah 27:1 Kimchi interprets the מבריח differently: he scares (pushes away).)
- is called נחשׁ עקלתון, because it is as though it were wounded, and בריח, because it forms a bar (מבריח) from one end of the sky to the other; or as Sabbatai Donolo (about 94), the Italian astronomer,
(Note: Vid., extracts from his המזלות ספר in Joseph Kara's Comm. on Job, contributed by S. D. Luzzatto in Kerem Chemed, 7th year, S. 57ff.)
expresses it: "When God created the two lights (the sun and moon) and the five stars (planets) and the twelve מזלור (the constellations of the Zodiac), He also created the תלי (dragon), to unite these heavenly bodies as by a weaver's beam (מנור אורגים), and made it stretch itself on the firmament from one end to another as a bar (כבריח), like a wounded serpent furnished with the head and tail." By this explanation בּריח is either taken directly as בּריח, vectis, in which signification it does not, however, occur elsewhere, or the signification transversus (transversarius) is assigned to the בּריח ( equals barrı̂ah) with an unchangeable Kametz, - a signification which it might have, for brch Arab. brḥ signifies properly to go through, to go slanting across, of which the meanings to unite slanting and to slip away are only variations. בּריח, notwithstanding, has in the language, so far as it is preserved to us, everywhere the signification fugitivus, and we will also keep to this: the dragon in the heavens is so called, as having the appearance of fleeing and hastening away. But in what sense is it said of God, that He pierces or slays it? In Isaiah 51:9, where the תנין is the emblem of Egypt (Pharaoh), and Isaiah 27:1, where נחשׁ בריח is the emblem of Assyria, the empire of the Tigris, the idea of destruction by the sword of Jehovah is clear. The present passage is to be explained according to Job 3:8, where לויתן is only another name for נחש בריח (comp. Isaiah 27:1). It is the dragon in the heavens which produces the eclipse of the sun, by winding itself round about the sun; and God must continually wound it anew, and thus weaken it, if the sun is to be set free again. That it is God who disperses the clouds of heaven by the breath of His spirit, the representative of which in the elements is the wind, so that the azure becomes visible again; and that it is He who causes the darkening of the sun to cease, so that the earth can again rejoice in the full brightness of that great light, - these two contemplations of the almighty working of God in nature are so expressed by the poet, that he clothes the second in the mythological garb of the popular conception.
In the closing words which now follow, Job concludes his illustrative description: it must indeed, notwithstanding, come infinitely short of the reality.
He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.
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 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.