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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Job 26

Verses 1-4

Job Speaks (26:1-14?)

Such Words Give No Help (26:1-4)

Verses 1-4 are clearly a rebuke of the friends, for their words of advice, which were meant to be helpful, were not so at all. Some interpreters see in these verses a continuation of the speech of Bildad (omitting verse 1), and regard them as that speaker’s reminder to Job of the way in which formerly he has been quick to offer the orthodox formulae of advice, and of the fact that the views he has just uttered must represent some other "spirit." Others see that the connection with 25:1-6 is not at all clear and prefer to regard 26:2-4 as the opening of Bildad’s third speech, assigning 25:1-6 to the third speech of Zophar.

Still others, with perhaps better reason, agree with the heading of 26:1 and see these verses as a part of Job’s reply to Bildad. If this is the case then the words are scornful and sarcastic throughout. Their nearest parallels are Job 6:25-26; Job 16:2-5, but here Job’s bitterness is even more pronounced, and he even implies that Bildad’s speech is not his own view but that he parrots another, or repeats what an evil spirit taught him.

Verses 5-14

God Is Incomprehensible in Power (26:5-14)

If these verses (5-14) are read immediately after 25:1-6, it will be apparent how naturally they fit the thought of Bildad’s last speech. For this reason, and because they represent a point of view which is not in harmony with Job’s main contention as the book nears its climax, they are usually assigned to Bildad. The verses are an extended recital of God’s limitless and essentially incomprehensible power, and as such could, of course, have been spoken by any of the participants.

In connection with Bildad’s other words it can be seen that the power of God is represented as operating first in heaven (Job 25:1-6) and then in Sheol (Job 26:5-6). "The shades" are the inhabitants of Sheol; "the waters" is a reference to "the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4), the abyss upon which the earth was thought to have been founded. "Abaddon" is a synonym for Sheol (see Job 28:22; Job 31:12; Proverbs 15:11), meaning literally "destruction" (so also in the New Testament the similar Greek word "Apollyon" refers to the Destroyer, see Revelation 9:11).

The image which appears in the following verses is that of God’s creative power by which he defeated and brought under control the powers of chaos, symbolized in the darkness and the waters, and by which he continually sustains the earth, hanging it "upon nothing." In verse 7 the reference to "the void" recalls the Genesis account of creation (Genesis 1:2), as do the following verses with reference to the binding of the waters. The word "moon" in verse 9 is a guess; other possibilities are "throne" or, better, "tent," referring to God’s dwelling. The "circle" in verse 10 describes the limiting boundary which God has fixed, so that the waters of chaos and the darkness will not again overwhelm the earth (see also Proverbs 8:27; Job 38:8; Job 38:11). In verse 11 there may be a reference to the upheaval consequent upon God’s creative act, or it may be a reference to an earthquake which, although severe, does not destroy the earth itself. "Rahab" in verse 12 is a common name for the primitive chaotic power, usually symbolized as a dragon, defeated by God in creation (see comment on Job 3:8; Job 7:12; Job 9:13), also depicted in verse 13. There can be no doubt that the poet used an ancient mythological picture, neither can there be any doubt that he did not accept it as fact.

It is imagery, powerful and informing, but it is not the truth itself. The truth which appears strongly in this doxology is that God is in full control of his creation. Creation and man’s existence are continuously maintained by God and only by him. If it were not for the exercise of his power, the forces of evil, of chaos, the darkness, and the waters of the abyss, would sweep over and destroy.

With such a profound truth before the speaker it is noticeable that the conclusion he draws is not the conclusion of faith but of an obtuse kind of agnosticism. All of the evidences of God’s power, even the supreme evidence of the act of creation, are but the fringes of the power itself. Therefore man can only resign himself to a fractional understanding.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 26". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-26.html.