Job 26


Job, perceiving that his friends could no longer support their

arguments on the ground they had assumed, sharply reproves

them for their want both of wisdom and feeling, 1-4;

shows that the power and wisdom of God are manifest in the

works of creation and providence; gives several proofs; and

then adds that these are a small specimen of his infinite

skill and unlimited power, 5-14.


Verse 2. How hast thou helped him] This seems a species of

irony. How wonderfully hast thou counselled the unskilful and

strengthened the weak! Alas for you! ye could not give what ye did

not possess! In this way the Chaldee understood these verses: "Why

hast thou pretended to give succour, when thou art without

strength? And save, while thy arm is weak? Why hast thou given

counsel, when thou art without understanding? And supposest that

thou hast shown the very essence of wisdom?"

Verse 4. Whose spirit came from thee?] Mr. Good renders the

verse thus: From whom hast thou pillaged speeches? And whose

spirit hath issued forth from thee? The retort is peculiarly

severe; and refers immediately to the proverbial sayings which in

several of the preceding answers have been adduced against the

irritated sufferer; for which see Job 8:11-19; 15:20-35, some of

which he has already complained of, as in Job 12:3, and

following. I concur most fully therefore with Dr. Stock in

regarding the remainder of this chapter as a sample, ironically

exhibited by Job, of the harangues on the power and greatness of

God which he supposes his friends to have taken out of the mouths

of other men, to deck their speeches with borrowed lustre. Only,

in descanting on the same subject, he shows how much he himself

can go beyond them in eloquence and sublimity.

Job intimates that, whatever spirit they had, it was not the

Spirit of God, because in their answers falsehood was found.

Verse 5. Dead things are formed from under the waters] This

verse, as it stands in our version, seems to convey no meaning;

and the Hebrew is obscure; , harephaim, "the Rephaim,"

certainly means not dead things; nor can there be any propriety in

saying that dead things, or things without life, are formed under

the waters, for such things are formed everywhere in the earth,

and under the earth, as well as under the waters.

The Vulgate translates: Ecce gigantes gemunt sub aquis, et qui

habitant cum eis. "Behold the giants, and those who dwell with

them, groan from under the waters."

The Septuagint: μηγιγαντεςμαιωθησονταιυποκατωθενυδατοςκαι

τωνγειτονωναυτου; "Are not the giants formed from under the

waters, and their neighbours?"

The Chaldee:

eposhar degibraiya demithmazmezin yithbareyan veinnun

millera lemaiya umashreiyatehon, "Can the trembling giants be

regenerated, when they and their hosts are under the water?"

The Syriac and Arabic: "Behold, the giants are slain, and are

drawn out of the water." None of these appear to give any sense by

which the true meaning can be determined.

There is probably here an allusion to the destruction of the

earth by the general deluge. Moses, speaking concerning the state

of the earth before the flood, says, Ge 6:4, "There were giants

nephilim, in the earth in those days." Now it is likely

that Job means the same by rephaim as Moses does by the

nephilim; and that both refer to the antediluvians, who were

all, for their exceeding great iniquities, overwhelmed by the

waters of the deluge. Can those mighty men and their neighbours,

all the sinners who have been gathered to them since, be rejected

from under the waters, by which they were judicially overwhelmed?

Mr. Good thinks the shades of the heroes of former times, the

gigantic spectres, the mighty or enormous dead, are meant.

I greatly question whether sea-monsters be not intended, such as

porpoises, sharks, narwals, grampuses, and whales. We know,

however that an opinion anciently prevailed, that the Titans, a

race of men of enormous stature, rebelled against the gods, and

endeavoured to scale heaven by placing one mountain on the top of

another; and that they and their structure were cast down by the

thunder of the deities, and buried under the earth and sea; and

that their struggles to arise produce the earthquakes which occur

in certain countries. Now although this opinion is supported by

the most respectable antiquity among the heathens, it is not to be

supposed that in the word of God there can be any countenance

given to an opinion at once as absurd as it is monstrous. (But

still the poet may use the language of the common people.) I must

therefore either refer the passage here to the antediluvians, or

to the vast sea-monsters mentioned above.

Verse 6. Hell is naked before him] Sheol, the place of the

dead, or of separate spirits, is always in his view. And there is

no covering to Abaddon-the place of the destroyer, where

destruction reigns, and where those dwell who are eternally

separated from God. The ancients thought that hell or Tartarus was

a vast space in the centre, or at the very bottom of the earth. So

VIRGIL, AEn. lib. vi., ver. 577:-

___________________ Tum Tartarus ipse

Bis patet in praeceps tantum, tenditque sub umbras,

Quantus ad aethereum coeli suspectus Olympum

Hic genus antiquum terrae, Titania pubes,

Fulmine dejecti, fundo volvuntur in imo.

"Full twice as deep the dungeon of the fiends,

The huge Tartarean gloomy gulf, descends

Below these regions, as these regions lie

From the bright realms of yon ethereal sky.

Here roar the Titan race, th' enormous birth;

The ancient offspring of the teeming earth.

Pierced by the burning bolts of old they fell,

And still roll bellowing in the depths of hell."


And some have supposed that there is an allusion to this opinion

in the above passage, as well as in several others in the Old

Testament; but it is not likely that the sacred writers would

countenance an opinion that certainly has nothing in fact or

philosophy to support it. Yet still a poet may avail himself of

popular opinions.

Verse 7. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place]

al tohu, to the hollow waste. The same word as is used,

Ge 1:2,

The earth was without form, tohu. The north must here mean

the north pole, or northern hemisphere; and perhaps what is here

stated may refer to the opinion that the earth was a vast extended

plain, and the heavens poised upon it, resting on this plain all

round the horizon. Of the south the inhabitants of Idumea knew

nothing; nor could they have any notion of inhabitants in that


Hangeth the earth upon nothing.] The Chaldee says: "He lays the

earth upon the waters, nothing sustaining it."

Verse 8. He bindeth up the waters] Drives the aqueous particles

together, which were raised by evaporation, so that, being

condensed, they form clouds which float in the atmosphere, till,

meeting with strong currents of wind, or by the agency of the

electric fluid, they are farther condensed; and then, becoming too

heavy to be sustained in the air, fall down in the form of rain,

when, in this poetic language, the cloud is rent under them.

Verse 9. He holdeth back the face of his throne] Though all

these are most elegant effects of an omniscient and almighty

power, yet the great Agent is not personally discoverable; he

dwelleth in light unapproachable, and in mercy hides himself from

the view of his creatures. The words, however may refer to those

obscurations of the face of heaven, and the hiding of the body of

the sun, when the atmosphere is laden with dense vapours, and the

rain begins to be poured down on the earth.

Verse 10. He hath compassed the waters with bounds] Perhaps this

refers merely to the circle of the horizon, the line that

terminates light and commences darkness, called here

ad tachlith or im chosech, "until the completion of light

with darkness." Or, if we take tachlith here to be the same

with techeleth, Ex 25:4, and elsewhere, which we translate

blue, it may mean that sombre sky-blue appearance of the horizon

at the time of twilight, i.e., between light and darkness; the

line where the one is terminating and the other commencing. Or, He

so circumscribes the waters, retaining them in their own place,

that they shall not be able to overflow the earth until day and

night, that is, time itself, come to an end.

Verse 11. The pillars of heaven tremble] This is probably a

poetical description either of thunder, or of an earthquake:-

"He shakes creation with his nod;

Earth, sea, and heaven, confess him God."

But there may be an allusion to the high mountains, which were

anciently esteemed by the common people as the pillars on which

the heavens rested; and when these were shaken with earthquakes,

it might be said the pillars of heaven tremble. Mount Atlas was

supposed to be one of those pillars, and this gave rise to the

fable of Atlas being a man who bore the heavens on his shoulders.

The Greek and Roman poets frequently use this image. Thus SILIUS

ITALICUS, lib. i., ver. 202:-

Atlas subducto tracturus vertice coelum:

Sidera nubiferum fulcit caput, aethereasque

Erigit aeternum compages ardua cervix:

Canet barba gelu, frontemque immanibus umbris

Pinea silva premit; vastant cava tempora venti

Nimbosoque ruunt spumantia flumina rictu.

"Atlas' broad shoulders prop th' incumbent skies:

Around his cloud-girt head the stars arise.

His towering neck supports th' ethereal way;

And o'er his brow black woods their gloom display.

Hoar is his beard; winds round his temples roar;

And from his jaws the rushing torrents pour."

J. B. C.

Verse 12. He divideth the sea with his power] Here is a manifest

allusion to the passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites, and the

overthrow of Pharaoh and his host, according to the opinion of the

most eminent critics.

He smiteth through the proud.] Rahab, the very name by

which Egypt is called Isa 51:9, and elsewhere.

Calmet remarks: "This appears to refer only to the passage of

the Red Sea, and the destruction of Pharaoh. Were we not

prepossessed with the opinion that Job died before Moses, every

person at the first view of the subject must consider it in this

light." I am not thus prepossessed. Let Job live when he might, I

am satisfied the Book of Job was written long after the death of

Moses, and not earlier than the days of Solomon, if not later. The

farther I go in the work, the more this conviction is deepened;

and the opposite sentiment appears to be perfectly gratuitous.

Verse 13. By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens] See the

observations below.

Verse 14. Lo, these are parts of his ways] ketsoth, the

ends or extremities, the outlines, an indistinct sketch, of

his eternal power and Godhead.

How little a portion is heard] shemets, a mere whisper;

admirably opposed, as Mr. Good has well observed, to raam, the

thunder, mentioned in the next clause. As the thunder is to a

whisper, so are the tremendous and infinitely varied works of

God to the faint outlines exhibited in the above discourse. Every

reader will relish the dignity, propriety, and sense of these

expressions. They force themselves on the observation of even the

most heedless.

By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens.-Numerous are the

opinions relative to the true meaning of this verse. Some think it

refers to the clearing of the sky after a storm, such as appears

to be described Job 26:11, 12; and suppose

his Spirit means the wind, which he directs to sweep and cleanse

the face of the sky, by which the splendour of the day or the

lustre of the night is restored: and by the crooked, flying, or

aerial serpent, as it is variously rendered, the ecliptic is

supposed to be meant, as the sun's apparent course in it appears

to be serpentine, in his approach to and recession from each of

the tropics. This tortuous line may be seen on any terrestrial

globe. Many will object to this notion as too refined for the time

of Job; but this I could easily admit, as astronomy had a very

early existence among the Arabians, if not its origin. But with

me the chief objection lies against the obscurity of the allusion,

if it be one; for it must require no small ingenuity, and almost

the spirit of divination, to find out the sun's oblique path in

the zodiac in the words His hand hath formed the crooked serpent.

Others have imagined that the allusion is to the lightning in that

zigzag form which it assumes when discharged from one cloud into

another during a thunder storm. This is at once a natural and very

apparent sense. To conduct and manage the lightning is most

certainly a work which requires the skill and omnipotence of GOD,

as much as garnishing the heavens by his Spirit, dividing the sea

by his power, or causing the pillars of heaven to tremble by his

reproof. Others think that the act of the creation of the solar

system is intended to be expressed, which is in several parts of

the sacred writings attributed to the Spirit of God; (Ge 1:2;

Ps 33:6;) and that the

crooked serpent means either Satan, who deceived our first

parents, or huge aquatic animals; for in Isa 27:1, we find the

leviathan and dragon of the sea called nachash

bariach, the very terms that are used by Job in this place: "In

that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall

punish leviathan, the piercing serpent, ( nachash bariach,)

even leviathan, that crooked serpent, ( nachash

akallathon,) and he shall slay the dragon ( hattannin) that

is in the sea." And we know that in Ge 1:21

hattanninim haggedolim, which we translate great whales,

includes all sea-monsters or vast aquatic animals. Calmet, who

without hesitation adopts this sentiment, says: "I see no

necessity to have recourse to allegory here. After having

exhibited the effects of the sovereign power of God in the

heavens, in the clouds, in the vast collection of waters in

the sea, it was natural enough for Job to speak of the production

of fishes." The intelligent Dr. Sherlock gives another

interpretation. After strongly expressing his disapprobation of

the opinion that Job should descend, after speaking of the

creation of the heavens and their host, to the formation of

snakes and adders, he supposes "that Job here intended to oppose

that grand religious system of sabaeism which prevailed in his

time, and to which, in other parts of this book, he alludes; a

system which acknowledged two opposite independent principles by

which the universe was governed, and paid Divine adoration to the

celestial luminaries. Suppose, therefore, Job to be acquainted

with the fall of man, and the part ascribed to the serpent of the

introduction of evil, see how aptly the parts cohere. In

opposition to the idolatrous practice of the time, he asserts God

to be the maker of all the host of heaven: By his Spirit 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 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 explication of this place, we have undeniable

evidence from the translation of the Septuagint, who render the

latter part of this verse, which relates to the serpent, in this

manner: προσταγματιδεεθανατωσεδρακοντααποστατην, By a decree

he destroyed the apostate dragon. The Syriac and Arabic versions

are to the same effect: And his hand slew the flying serpent.

"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. We need not wonder to see so much

concern in this book to maintain the supremacy of God, and to

guard it against every false notion; for this was the theme, the

business of the author."-Bp. Sherlock on Prophecy, Diss. ii.

From the contradictory opinions on this passage, the reader will

no doubt feel cautious what mode of interpretation he adopts, and

the absolute necessity of admitting no texts of doubtful

interpretation as vouchers for the essential doctrines of

Christianity. Neither metaphors, allegories, similes, nor

figurative expressions of any kind, should ever be adduced or

appealed to as proofs of any article in the Christian faith. We

have reason to be thankful that this is at present the general

opinion of the most rational divines of all sects and parties, and

that the allegory and metaphor men are everywhere vanishing from

the meridian and sinking under the horizon of the Church.

Scriptural Christianity is prevailing with a strong hand, and

going forward with a firm and steady step.

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