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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Job 25

 

 

Verses 1-14

II. Bildad and Job: Chap25–26

A.—Bildad: Again setting forth the contrast between God’s exaltation and human impotence

Job 25

1. Man cannot argue with God

Job 25:2-4

1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said:

2 Dominion and fear are with Him,

He maketh peace in His high places.

3 Is there any number of His armies?

and upon whom doth not His light arise?

4 How then can man be justified with God?

or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?

2. Man is not pure before God: Job 25:5-6

5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not;

yea, the stars are not pure in His sight.

6 How much less Prayer of Manasseh, that is a worm;

and the son of Prayer of Manasseh, which is a worm?

B.—Job: Rebuke of his opponent, accompanied by a description, far surpassing his, of the exaltation and greatness of God

Job 26

1. Sharp rebuff of Bildad: Job 26:1-4

1 But Job answered, and said:

2 How hast thou helped him that is without power?

how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?

3 How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom?

and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?

4 To whom hast thou uttered words?

and whose spirit came from thee?

2. Description of the incomparable sovereignty and exaltation of God, given to surpass the far less spirited effort of Bildad in this direction: Job 26:6-14

5 Dead things are formed

from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.

6 Hell is naked before Him,

and destruction hath no covering.

7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place,

and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

8 He bindeth up the waters in His thick clouds;

and the cloud is not rent under them.

9 He holdeth back the face of His throne,

and spreadeth His cloud upon it.

10 He hath compassed the waters with bounds,

until the day and night come to an end.

11 The pillars of heaven tremble,

and are astonished at His reproof.

12 He divideth the sea with His power,

and by His understanding He smiteth through the proud.

13 By His spirit He hath garnished the heavens;

His hand hath formed the crooked serpent.

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?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Job’s reply to the last assaults of Eliphaz had certainly avoided all personality, but had at the same time asserted his complete innocence in very strong, almost objectionable language ( Job 23:10-12). It is more particularly to this vulnerable point that Bildad turns his attention in this, his last discourse, which limits itself to showing how unbecoming it is for man—this miserable worm of the earth—to arrogate to himself any right whatever before God, or to impute to himself any justice. In substance, accordingly, he lays down only two propositions, and that without enlarging on them, to wit: (1) Man cannot argue with God, the Almighty; (2) Before God, the Holy One, man cannot be pure. In this discourse, which closes the series of attacks on Job, he describes the divine greatness and exaltation, a description which is decidedly meagre, made up only of repetitions of what Eliphaz had said in his former discourses (comp. Job 4:17 seq.; Job 15:14 seq.). No wonder that Job discovers the opportunity thus presented to him, and in his reply, first of all, addresses to the speaker a sharp, bitterly satirical rebuff, and then meets his propositions in regard to God’s greatness and holiness, not by denying them, but by surpassing them with a far more magnificent and eloquent description of the same divine attributes. [And note particularly that as Bildad’s illustrations of his theme are drawn from the heavenly hosts and luminaries, Job in his reply dwells principally, though not exclusively on God’s greatness as manifested in the heavens above.—E.]—The Strophe-scheme of both discourses is very simple, Bildad’s discourse containing only two strophes, the first of three, the second of two verses; Job’s discourse containing four strophes, each of three verses.

2. The last discourse of Bildad: Job 25. Man can neither argue with God, nor is he pure before Him.

First Strophe: Job 25:2-4.—Dominion and fear are with Him, who maketh peace in His high places.—הַמְשֵׁל, lit. “to wield dominion, to exercise sovereignty,” a substantive Inf. absol. Hiph.; comp. Ewald, § 156, e.—[פחד is added in order to set forth the terrible majesty of this sovereignty.—Schlott.]—בִּמְרוֹמָיו cannot be understood as a more precise qualification of the subject: “He in His high places, He who is enthroned in the heights of heaven” (Reimarus, Umbreit, Hahn). It is rather a local qualification of the action affirmed of the subject. It accordingly describes the peace founded by God as established in the heights of heaven, and so having reference to the inhabitants of heaven, and pre-supposing their former strife. Bear in mind what was said above by Job of God’s “judging those in heaven” ( Job 21:22), and comp. Isaiah 24:21; also below Job 26:13.—It is a weakening of the sense which is scarcely justified by the language to understand the passage as teaching God’s agency in harmonizing either the elements of the heavenly Kosmos (the perpetually recurring cycle, the wonderfully ordered paths of the stars, comp. Clemens Romans 1Cor19), or the discord of the heavenly spirits, conceived of only in the most abstract possible manner, but in truth continually averted by God, and thus as teaching the maintenance, not the making or institution, of peace (so Seb. Schmidt, J. Lange, Starke, etc.). [“Ewald explains the words of the heavenly powers and spirits represented by the innumerable host of the stars, which might indeed some time be at war among themselves, but which are ever brought again by the Higher Power into order and peace. But nothing whatever is said elsewhere of such a discord as now coming to pass in the upper world. All analogies point rather to a definite fact which is assigned to the beginning of creation.” Schlott.].

Job 25:3. Is there any number to His armies?—גְדוּדָיו, synonymous with צְבָאָיו, which is used elsewhere in this sense, are God’s hosts or armies, the stars, first of all, indeed, the heavenly armies, together with the angels which rule and inhabit them (comp. above on Job 15:15). Whether also the lower forces of nature, such as lightnings, winds, etc. (comp. Job 38:19 seq.; Psalm 104:4, etc.) are intended, as Dillmann thinks is doubtful in view of the indefiniteness of the figurative form of expression. And upon whom does not His light arise?—The emphatic suffix ehu in אוֹרֵהוּ (comp. עֵינֵיהוּ, Job 24:23) puts His light, to wit God’s own light, in contrast with the derived lower light of His hosts. The expression is scarcely to be understood of the sunlight, which indeed itself belongs to the number of these נְדוּדִים: neither can יָקוּם be taken יִזְרַח= (neither here, nor Job 11:17). It is inadmissible accordingly to refer the words to the rising sun, as a sign of the fatherly beneficent solicitude of God for His earthly creatures (comp. Matthew 5:45. So against Mercier, Hirz. Hahn, Schlott, etc.). We are to understand them rather of that absolutely supra-terrestrial light in which God dwells, which He wears as His garment, by which indeed He manifests His being, His heavenly doxa ( Psalm 104:2; Ezekiel 1:27 seq.; 1 Timothy 6:16, etc.). In respect to this light Bildad asks: “upon whom does it not arise?” The question is not: “whom does it not surpass?” [“over whom (i.e. which of these beings of light) does it not rise, leaving it behind, and exceeding it in brightness?” Delitzsch], for קוּם would scarcely be appropriate for this thought, since the degree of light is not measured by its height (against Ewald, Heiligst, Del.)—but: “upon whom does it not dispense blessings and happiness?” (Dillm.)

Job 25:4. How could a mortal be just with God—(comp. Job 9:2): i. e. how could he appear before Him, to whose absolute power all heavenly beings are subject, arguing with Him, and making pretensions to righteousness? The second member, with which Job 4:17; Job 15:14 may be compared, stands connected with the principal thought of the discourse, which immediately follows, to the effect that no man possesses purity or moral spotlessness before God.

Second strophe: Job 25:5-6.

Job 25:5. Behold, even the moon, it shineth not brightly, and the stars are not pure in His eyes.—עַד־יָרֵחַ, lit. “even to the moon,’ i.e. even as regards the moon. In the following וְלֹא the וְ is the Vav of the apodosis; comp. Gesen. § 145 [§ 142], 2; and see above Job 23:12. יָהִל=יַאֲהִיל from אהל, an alternate form, found only here, of הלל, to be bright, to shine; comp. Job 31:26. Gekatilia’s attempt to render the verb—“to pitch a tent,” is inadmissible, for that must have read יְאָהֵל שָׁם, in order to yield the meaning—“He pitcheth not his tent.”—The clause—“in His eyes”—in the second member, belongs also to the first. Comp. the parallel passages already cited in Job 4:15.—Furthermore it is only the physical light, the silver-white streaming brilliancy of the stars, which is here put beside the absolute glory of God’s light (which is at once physical and ethical). Scarcely is there reference to the angels as inhabiting the stars, and to their moral purity (against Hirzel); from which however nothing can be inferred unfavorable to the theory that the stars, i.e., the heavenly globes of the starry world, are inhabited by angels.

Job 25:6. Much less then (אַף בִּי, as in Job 15:16) mortal Prayer of Manasseh, the worm, etc. In regard to these figures of the maggot and the worm, as setting forth the insignificance, weakness, and contemptibleness of Prayer of Manasseh, comp. Psalm 22:7, 6]; also Isaiah 53:2, and similar descriptions.

3. Job’s rejoinder: Job 26. First Division (and Strophe): Job 26:2-4 : Sharp ironical rebuke of Bildad.

Job 26:2. How hast thou helped the powerless!מֶה־ here, like מַה, is equivalent to an ironical—“How well! How excellent!” (comp. Job 19:28). לֹא־כֹחַ, lit. “no-power” is abstr. pro conc. = the powerless; so also in bלֹא־עֹו = the strengthless, the feeble; and in Job 26:3 aלֹא חָכְמָה=the unwise, ignorant. By these three parallel descriptive clauses Job means of course himself, as the object of the well-intended, but perverted attempts of the friends to teach him (not God, as Mercier, Schlottm, etc. explain) [as though Bildad had regarded God as too feeble to maintain His own cause. But against this explanation the choice of verbs, if nothing else, would be, as Delitzsch argues, decisive].

Job 26:3..…and hast declared wisdom in abundance (לָרֹב, lit. “for multitude”) [“an ironical hit at the poverty-stricken brevity of B.’s speech.” Dillm.]. תּוּשִׁיָּה, here as in Job 5:12 may be rendered by “that which is to be accomplished,” provided it be referred to the intellectual world, and so understood as vera et realis sapientia (J. H. Mich.). Here indeed the word is used ironically of its opposite.

Job 26:4. To whom hast thou uttered words?i. e. whom hast thou been desirous of reaching by thy words? for whom were thy elaborate speeches coined? was it, possibly, for me, who have not been touched by them in the least? So correctly the LXX.: τίνι ἀνήγγειλας ῤήματα, and the Vulg.: quem docere voluisti? The translation: “with whose assistance (אֶת־מִי) hast thou utttered these words?” (Arnh. Hahn) [Con.] seems indeed to be favored by b, but is condemned by the construction of the verb הִגִּיד elsewhere in our book with a double accusative (so also Job 31:37; comp. Ezekiel 43:10), and does not agree so well with what precedes.—And whose breath went forth from thee?i.e. from what kind of inspiration (inbreathing) hast thou spoken? is it the divine? Num Deo inspirante locutus es? The question involves a biting irony; for the speech of Bildad, so poor and meagre in thought, merely repeating a little of what Eliphaz had said already, might look accordingly as though it had been inspired by the latter.

4. Second Division: Job 26:5-14 : Eclipsing and surpassing the description given by Bildad of the exaltation and majesty of God by one far more glorious.

Second Strophe: Job 26:5-7. While Bildad’s description took its start from heaven, and it stars, Job begins by appealing to the realm of shades, together with its subterranean inhabitants as witnesses of the divine omnipotence and majesty, in order from this depth, the lowest foundation of all that Isaiah, to mount upward to the heavenly world—The shades are made to tremble.—רְפָאִים are not “giants,” as the Ancient Versions render the word, but in accordance with the root דפה (“to be slack, relaxed, exhausted,” comp. Ewald, § 55, e), “weak, powerless,” namely, the marrowless and bloodless shades or forms of the underworld, the wretched inhabitants of the realm of the dead; so also in Psalm 88:11, 10]; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18, and often: Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 26:19; comp. Job 14:9 seq. [It seems every way reasonable to associate with the idea of weakness, nervelessness, etc., here given to the word that of gigantic stature, when we remember that this same word did denote a race of earthly giants, and that the tendency of the imagination to magnify the spectral forms of the dead is so common, if not universal. So Good: “The spectres of deified heroes were conceived, in the first ages of the world, to be of vast and more than mortal stature, as we learn from the following of Lucretius:

Quippe et enim jam tum divûm mortalia secla

Egregias animo fades vigilante videbant;

Et magis in somnis mirando corporis actu.”

This idea will certainly add to the gloomy sublimity of the description here. Let one imagine the gigantic “marrowless, bloodless phantoms or shades below writhe like a woman in travail as often as the majesty of the heavenly Ruler is felt by them, as perhaps by the raging of the sea, or the quaking of the earth.” Delitzsch. “That even these beings, although otherwise without feeling or motion, and situated at an immeasurable distance from God’s dwelling-place are sensible of the effects of God’s activity,—this is a much stronger witness to God’s greatness than aught that B. had alleged.” Hirzel]. Of these shades, living far from God in the depths under the earth and under the seas (comp. b: “beneath the waters and their inhabitants”), it is here said: “they are put in terror, they are made to tremble and quake” (יְחוֹלָלוּ, Pul. from חוּל, comp. Ewald, § 141 b), an expression which, like Psalm 139:8; Proverbs 15:11, is intended to describe the energy of the divine omnipotence as illimitable and filling all things, extending even down to Sheol. Comp. also James 2:19, a passage otherwise related to the one before us, and perhaps suggested by it, but having a different purpose. [The rendering of E. V. needs but to be compared with the above to show how erroneous and unsatisfactory it is.—E.].

[The definition, “destruction, annihilation” here given for אבדון is of course not to be understood in the metaphysical sense of the extinction of being. It is the destruction of life, as enjoyed on the face of the earth; the extinction of light, the derangement of order, the wasting away of all vital energy and beauty. Hence as שְׁאוֹל describes the underworld as the insatiable receptacle of the departed, demanding and drawing men into itself, orcus rapax, אֲבַדּוֹן gives us a glimpse yet deeper into its abysmal horrors, its destructive, wasting potencies. Hence the fearful significance with which in Rev. ( Job 9:11) it is applied, as the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek Apollyon, to the angel of the bottomless pit.—E.].

Job 26:7. Who stretcheth out the northern heavens over empty space.—The Participles in this and the two following verses attach themselves to God, the logical subject of the ver. preceding [and are used to describe the divine activity herein specified as continuous]. Our rendering of צָפוֹן in the sense of the northern heavens, the northern half of the heavenly vault, has decisively in its favor the verb נטה, which is never used of the stretching out or expansion of the earth, or a part of it, but always of the out-stretching of the heavenly vault, which is conceived of as a tent; comp. Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Zechariah 12:1; Psalm 104:2, etc. It would be singular, moreover, if Job had first mentioned only a part of the earth, the northern, and not until afterwards had mentioned it as a whole, however true it might be that the popular notion of oriental antiquity, which represented the north of the earth as a part of it which abounded most in mountains, and was highest and heaviest, would seem to favor this view (against Hirzel, Ewald, Heiligst, Schlottmann, Dillmann). [Ewald calls attention to the corresponding Hindu notion concerning the north. Schlottmann thinks such a reference to the north as the heaviest part of the earth best suited to the connection. Dillmann argues that it could not properly be affirmed of the heavens, that they are stretched out over the תֹּהוּ]. The reference of צָפוֹן to the northern hemisphere of the heavens (Umbreit, Vaih, Hahn, Olsh, Del, etc.) is favored also by this considetion in addition to those already mentioned, that all the more important constellations which our book mentions (the Bear, Pleiades, etc.) belong to this northern hemisphere, and that moreover among other people of the ancient world, the “pole” (i. e. the north pole), and “heaven,” are used as synonyms; so especially among the Romans (Varro, de L. L. vii2, § 14; Ovid, Fast. 6, 278; Horace, and other poets). The correct view was substantially given by Brentius: Synecdoche, a part for the whole; for Aquino, which is Septentrio [North] is used for the whole heaven or firmament. Hangeth the earth upon nothing: בְּלִימָה, not anything [lit. “not-what”] = nothing, here substantially synonymous with “the empty space,” תֹּהוּ (comp. Genesis 1:2), hence denoting the endless empty space in which the earth (which according to Job 26:10 is conceived of as a flat disk, rather than as a ball). together with the overarching northern heavens, hangs freely. The cosmological conception of the suspension of the earth in the empty space of the universe (with which may be compared parallel representations from the classics, such as Lucretius II, 600 seq.. Ovid, Fast. II, 269 seq.) does not conflict with the mention of the “pillars of the earth” in Job 9:6, for the reason that the “pillars” are conceived of as the inner roots or bones, the skeleton as it were of the body of the earth. It is only quite indirectly that the passage before us can be used to prove the creation of the world out of nothing. We may suggest as worthy of note the descriptions, which remind us of the one before us, in the more recent oriental poets, as e. g. the Persian Ferideddin Attar (in5. Hammer, Geschichte der schönen Redekünste Persiens, p141, 143):

“Pillarless he spreads out the heavens

A canopy above the earth. …

What bears the atmosphere? ’Tis nothing,

Nothing on nothing, and only nothing;”

also the Arabian Audeddin Alnasaph (de religione Sonnitar., princ. Job 5:2):

“Out of a breath He made the heavens;” and already in the Koran, in its Sur. Job 13:2, it is said: “It is Allah, who has built the heavens on high, without founding it on visible pillars.” Comp. Umbreit on the ver.

Third Strophe: [“By which nothing more or less is meant than that the physical and meteorological laws of rain are of God’s appointment.” Del.].

Job 26:9 [“describes the dark and thickly clouded sky that showers down the rain in the appointed rainy season.” Del.] Who enshroudeth the outside of His throne—lit. “of the throne,” for כִּסֵּה, as in 1 Kings 10:19 is for כִסֵּא, scarcely, as Hirzel thinks, by an error of transcription for כִסְּאֹה. But unquestionably “the throne” is simply = “His throne,” God’s throne in heaven (comp. Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34). It is said of the face or outside (פְּנֵי) of this throne, i. e., that side of it which is turned towards this earth, that God “encloses” or “enshrouds” it by causing the clouds to come between it and the earth. מְאַחֵז, Piel from אחז, used here of the artificial veiling, or unclosing, draping it as it were) [“אחז signifies to take hold of, in architecture to hold together by means of beams, or to fasten together. … 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.” Del. Hence not exactly “to hold back,” E. V. but to “fasten up.” Merx understands the verb of bearing, holding up, and the verse to set forth the miracle that God bears up the throne on which He sits. But in that case פני would be superfluous. E.]. Spreading over it His clouds—this member of the verse explaining the former. עָלָיו refers to פְּנֵי כִסְאוֹ, and the quadril. verb פַּרְשֵׁז is Inf. Absol. and may thus be rendered in Latin by expendendo, in our language by the Pres. Active Participle (comp. Ew. § 141, c; and Del. on the ver.) [According to others, e. g., Dillmann, Green, § 189 a, the vb. is preterite. Gesenius (Lex) regards the quadriliteral as a mixed form, from פרש and פרז. Delitzsch argues forcibly against this, and regards it as an intensive form of פרשׂ, formed by prosthesis, and an Arabic change of Sin into Shin.]

Job 26:10 [passes from the waters above to the waters below]. He hath rounded off (encircled, חָג, comp. the ἐγύρωσεν of the LXX.) a bound (חֹק as in Job 14:5) for the face of the water, to the ending of the light beside the darkness: or “to the extremity” (the confines, the boundary line) of the light with the darkness, ad lucis usque tenebrarumque confinia (Pareau). So correctly Del. and Dill. [E. V. Con, Words, Carey, Renan, Rod. Merx], while most moderns (Rosenm, Ewald, Hirz, Schlottm, Hahn, etc.) take עַד־תַּכְלִיִת by itself in an adverbial sense, “most perfectly, most accurately,” (comp. Job 28:3), take אוֹר either as a remoter accus. of חנ (so Hirz.), or as Genit. to חֹק, standing at the head of the clause in the construct state (so Ewald). In either case, however, we get a construction which is much too harsh. As proving that עַד־תַּכְלִית is by no means necessarily used adverbially, comp. above Job 11:7. The meaning of the verse will be rightly apprehended only by referring it not to the limit in time between light and darkness, i. e. to the regular succession of day and night (Schlottm.), but to the limit in space, the line separating between the light and dark regions of the heavenly circle, which runs along the surface of the waters of the ocean, encircling the earth. “That is to say this description, like that in Proverbs 8:27, has for its basis the conception, prevalent also among the classic nations, and down into the middle ages, that the earth is encompassed all around by water, or a sea,—that upon this earth-encircling ocean is marked out the circle of the celestial hemisphere, along which the sun and stars run their course (so that a part of the water lies within this circle)—that the region of the stars, of the light, lies inside of this circle, and that the region of darkness begins outside of it; comp. Voss on Virg. Georg. I, 240 seq.” Dillm.

Fourth Strophe: Job 26:11-13.—The pillars of heaven are made to tremble, and are astonished at His rebuke.—“Pillars of heaven” is the name which the poet gives to the mountains towering upon high, which seem as it were to bear up the arch of heaven; comp. the ancient classic legend of Atlas, and see above on Job 9:6. In speaking of these pillars as “moved to trembling” (יְרוֹפָפוּ, Piel. from רוּף, τινάσσειν) [“the signification of violent and quick motion backwards and forwards is secured to the verb” by forms in the Targ, Talm. and Arabic.—Del.], and as fleeing in astonishment before God’s rebuking thunder (comp. Psalm 104:7; Isaiah 50:2; Nahum 1:4), the poet describes here he phenomenon of an earthquake, or that of a tremendous thunderstorm (comp. Psalm 29.; also Revelation 6:12 seq.; Job 20:11).

Job 26:12. By His power He frightens up the sea.—רגע here not intransitive as in Job 7:5; but transitive in the sense of “frightening up, arousing,” τ̔αράσσειν (comp. Isaiah 51:15; Jeremiah 31:35); hardly in the sense of intimidating, or putting at rest, as some expositors [Umbreit, Dillm. [Conant, Carey, Rod.], etc.) render the verb after the LXX. (κατέπαυσεν). [E. V. “divideth” (and so Bernard) here, and in all the passages cited: but unsupported and less suitably.]—And by His understanding He smites Rahab in pieces.—Comp. on Job 9:13, where already it was shown to be necessary to understand רַחַב (LXX.: τὸ κῆτος) of a colossal demon-monster of legendary antiquity (not of Egypt, nor of the raging fury of the sea, to which מחץ, “to shatter, to dash in pieces” would not be suitable).

Job 26:13. By His breath the heavens become bright: lit. “are brightness,” שִׁפְרָה, a substantive found only here, which, however, does not denote a permanent quality of the heavens (Rosenm.), but one that is transiently [occasionally] produced by God [by His breath He scatters the clouds, and brightens the face of heaven]; His hand hath pierced the fleeing serpent.—חֹלְלָה, Po. from חלל, Isaiah 51:9, hence perforavit, trucidavit; not Pil. from חול or חילֹ, so that it would express the idea of forming, creating as the Targ, Jeremiah, Rosenm, Arnh, Vaih, Welte, Renan [E. V, Con, Noy, Ber, Rod.], explain. For here again the discourse treats not of a creative energy of God, but of one that is exercised as a part of the established order of nature, and in all probability it discusses the same theme as that to which Job 3:8 refers, to wit, the production of eclipses of the sun and moon. For the popular superstition prevalent at the time of the composition of our book conceived of this phenomenon as consisting in the attempt of a dragon-like dark monster to swallow up these luminaries, accompanied by an intervention of God, who slays or strangles this monster [“so that it was customary to say, when the sun or moon was eclipsed: ‘The Dragon, or the Flying Serpent, has wound around it;’ and on the other hand when it was released from the obscuration: ‘God has killed the Dragon.’ ” Dillm.] It is to this exercise of God’s power, bringing deliverance, that the clause חֹלְלָה יָדוֹ refers, while נָחָשׁ בָּרִיחַ (the same expression also in Isaiah 27:1) denotes the monster referred to, which is represented as seized upon in the act of fleeing (before God), hence as “a fugitive, fleeing serpent.” In that parallel passage in Isaiah, the LXX. rightly translate by ὄφιν φεύγοντα, while their rendering in the passage before us, δράκοντα ἀποστάτην, whether we regard the language or the thought, is equally inadmissible with the coluber tortuosus of the Vulg. [followed by E. V. “crooked serpent”], or the serpenlem vectem of the same version in Isaiah 27:1 (comp. the ὄφιν συγκλείοντα, “the barring serpent,” of Symmachus).

Job 26:14. A recapitulating closing verse, standing outside of the schema of strophes.—Lo, these (אֵלֶּה pointing backwards, as in Job 18:21) are the ends of His ways; or, “of His way,” according to the K’thibh; the same wavering between דַּרְכּוֹ and דְּרָכָיו to be seen also in Proverbs 8:22. The “ends” or “borders” (Delitzsch) [Conant, Words, etc.,] of God’s ways are the extreme outlines of what He is doing in governing the world, those intimations of His heavenly activity which are lowest, and nearest, and most immediately accessible to our power of apprehension.—And what a faintly whispering word (it is) that we hear!—דָּבָר וּמָה־שֶׁמֶץ, lit. “and what a whisper of a word.” For this combination of מָה with a substantive in apposition, comp. Psalm 30:10; Isaiah 40:18; and for שָׁמַע with בְּ of the attentive hearing of anything, see above Job 21:2; also Job 37:2; Genesis 27:5; Psalm 92:12. Against the partitive rendering of בּוֹ, advocated by Schlott. and Delitzsch, may be urged the plur form דְּרָכָיו, preferred by the Masoretes, as well as the probability that to express this meaning the preposition מִן would rather have been used. [Here again, as in Job 4:12, the incorrect rendering of E. V.: “How little a portion is heard of Him,” mars the poetic beauty and graphic contrast of the passage. On שמץ Wordsworth remarks: “We feel as it were a zephyr of God’s Presence walking in the garden of this world in the cool of the day.”]—But the thunder of His omnipotence (according to the K’ri גְּבוּרוֹתָיו, “his energies”) who can understand?i. e. the full, unmodified manifestation of His energies, the unsmothered “thunder-course” of His heavenly spheres (comp. what Raphael says in the Prologue to Faust) would be unbearable by us, frail, sinful children of earth. [“Job could not have uttered in nobler language his deep feeling of the degree in which the divine glory surpasses all human knowledge. There resounds in it in truth an echo of the far-off divine thunder itself, and before this the poet has the friends now become entirely dumb.” Schlottm.]

DOCTRINAL, ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL

1. That which Bildad brings forward against Job in Job 25. is so meagre, and possesses so little novelty, that it may be said, that in his discourse the opposition of the friends dies the death of exhaustion, and that the bitter irony of Job’s rejoinder to it seems fully justified. For the real problem which underlies the whole controversy—the great mystery touching the frequency with which the innocent suffer, which Job had again set forth so eloquently just before—that problem Bildad certainly does not consider. He avoids indeed those bitter personalities and odious accusations against Job with which Eliphaz had made his exit just before in a manner that was altogether unworthy, and takes his leave of the sufferer, whom he himself also had heretofore violently assailed, in a way that is relatively friendly—in a way in which the final peaceful termination of the conflict ( Job 42:7-9) is remotely intimated. That which Bildad actually brings forward is a truth which does not at all touch the real point at issue, which Job himself has on former occasions expressly conceded (see Job 9:2; Job 14:4), the same truth which Eliphaz had in his first two discourses prominently emphasized, and in the renewed statement of which, at this time, Bildad closely copies even the expressions of his older associate. He “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 Prayer of Manasseh, even in connection with the best justified consciousness of right thoughts and actions towards the holy God” (Del.).

2. Of the fact that Job is still wanting in proper humility, and in a profound perception of sin, he at once proceeds to give evidence in his rejoinder in Job 26. In this he appears as decisively victorious over his opponents, who have shown themselves totally unequal to the problem to be solved, while Hebrews, by his emphatic reference to the incomprehensibleness and unsearchableness of God’s ways, had made at least an important advance towards its solution, and had shown his appreciation of the mystery as such in its entire significance. But he makes his vanquished opponents duly sensible of this superiority which he had over them, when in replying to Bildad, the last speaker of the number, he wields the weapon of sarcasm in a way that is altogether merciless, and seeks to humiliate him by a eulogy of the divine omnipotence and exaltation which is visibly intended to surpass and eclipse that which had been said by him. It is true indeed that this very description in its incomparable grandeur gives us to understand clearly enough how entirely filled and carried away Job is by its infinitely elevated theme, and how by virtue of his flight to this height of an inspired contemplation of God. every thought respecting the unrelenting, or even vindictive persecution of his opponents disappears, so that the closing reference to the unattainable height and glory of the divine nature and activity ( Job 26:14) is unaccompanied by any expression whatever of triumphant pride, or bitter enjoyment of their discomfiture (comp. V. Gerlach below, Homiletic Remarks on Job 26:2 seq.). The pure and undivided enthusiasm with which he surrenders himself to the contemplation of the Divine has manifestly an ennobling, purifying, and elevating influence on his spirit. It shows that he is not far removed at length from the goal of a perfectly correct and true solution of the dark mystery which occupies him. It makes it apparent that essentially one thing is lacking to him that he may press upward through the dark scenes of his conflict to the light of pure truth and peace with God, and that is—a humble submission beneath the dealings of the only wise and true God, dealings which are righteous even towards him, sincere repentance and confession of the errors and failures of which he had been guilty even during the hot conflict of suffering through which he had passed, that “repenting in dust and ashes” to which God’s treatment brought him at last, as one who had been afflicted by his Heavenly Father, not indeed in accordance with the ordinary standard of retribution, but nevertheless not unjustly, not without a remedial and loving purpose.

3. That which is of greatest interest in the two short sections preceding not only to the scientific, but also to the practical and homiletic expositor, are those elements of a poetic cosmology and physical theology, which in Bildad’s discourse are presented more briefly and more in the way of suggestion, but which in that of Job are exhibited in a more developed and comprehensive form. It is that material which at an earlier day was treated by Baur in his Systema Mundi Jobæum (Hal1707), Scheuchzer in his Jobi Physica Sacra, etc., and which to this day is a theme of no small interest in its theological aspects as well as in those related to cosmology and the history of civilization. The fact that certain mythological representations, and in particular a few traces of astronomical myths, are scattered over this magnificent picture of creation, and that the teachings of modern science concerning the mechanism of the heavens cannot be derived from it, cannot injure the peculiarly high value of the description, nor destroy its utility for practical purposes. It is in any case a view of the universe of incontrovertible grandeur, which in all that is described in Job 26:5-13 beholds only the “fringes” of God’s glory as they hang over on earth (comp. Isaiah 6:1), only a few meagre lineaments of the entire divine manifestation, only a muffled murmur echoing from afar off as a poor substitute for the thunder of His omnipotence. And in respect to the purity and correctness of its representations in detail, this physical theology of Job ranks sufficiently high, as is shown by that which is said of “hanging the earth upon nothing” ( Job 26:7), a description of the fact no less surprising than the following descriptions of meteorological and geological processes are poetically bold and elevated.

Particular Passages

Job 25:4 seq. Cocceius: Although in our eyes the stars may seem καθαρόν τι στίλβειν (to shine with some degree of purity], nevertheless even they are outside of God’s habitation, being esteemed unworthy to adorn His dwelling-place. … How therefore can miserable Prayer of Manasseh, who is mortal and diseased and liable to death, who is a son of Adam, who is no worthier than a worm, or a grub, who is made of earth, who crawls on the earth, who lives by the earth, who is at once foul and defiled, … who in a word is as far below the stars, as the worm is below himself—how shall he dare or be able to face God in His court, and on equal terms to argue with Him? Let him, along with the moon and the stars, keep himself in his own station, and he will enjoy God’s favors; but let him attempt to exalt himself, and he will be crushed by the weight of the divine majesty.—V. Gerlach: As the hosts of heaven are types of the pure spirits of heaven, so is their brightness a type of the holiness of the inhabitants of heaven, just as immediately after (in Job 26:6) the mortality and wretchedness of man is a type of his sinfulness. In this contra-position there lies a profound truth: Holiness and shining brightness, and sin and death’s corruption correspond to each other. In his frailty and mortality man has an incessant reminder of his sin and corruption; in seeing his outward lot he should humble himself inwardly before God.

Job 26:2-4. Wohlfarth: After that Job has ironically shown to his friend the irrelevancy of his reply; he takes a nobler revenge upon him, by delivering a much worthier eulogy on God’s exalted greatness, of which notwithstanding and during his suffering he has a most vivid and penetrating conviction.—V. Gerlach: Job’s frame of mind bordering on pride, which causes him altogether to misunderstand that which is glorious and exalted in Bildad’s last discourse, belongs to the earthly folly which clings to him, which is to be stripped away from him by the sufferings and conflicts of his inner Prayer of Manasseh, and which does at last really fall away from him. The splendid description which follows, and especially its humble conclusion ( Job 26:14), proves in the meanwhile that the fundamental disposition of Job’s heart was different from that which the particular expressions uttered by him in his more despondent moods would seem to indicate.

Job 26:7 seq. Brentius: The fact that God stretches out the heavens, and supports the earth, without the aid of pillars, is a great argument in proof of His power ( Psalm 102:26). The poets relate that Atlas supports heaven on his shoulders; but we acknowledge the true Atlas, the Lord our God, who by His word supports both heaven and earth.—Wohlfarth: The look to heaven which Job here requires us to take, does not indeed reach upwards to the throne of the Eternal ( Job 26:7 seq.). But although we cannot now behold Him, who dwells in His inaccessible light, we can nevertheless feel His nearness, recognize His existence, experience His influence, see His greatness and majesty, when we pray to Him as the Being who stretches out the heavens above the earth like a tent, at whose beckoning the clouds open and water the thirsty earth, who has given to the water its bounds, etc. As the work bears witness to its master, so does the universe to its Creator, Preserver, and Ruler ( Psalm 19:5); and no despairing one has ever beheld the eternal order which stands before him, and its mysterious, but ever beneficent movements, no sinner desiring salvation has ever tarried in the courts of this great temple of God, without being richly dowered with heavenly blessings

Job 26:14. Oecolampadius: These tokens of divine power however great will nevertheless rightly be esteemed small, as being hardly a slight whisper in comparison with the mighty thunder. There is nothing therefore so frightful, but faith will be able to endure it, when it thus exercises itself in the works of God’s power, especially with the word of promise added.—Wohlfarth: We can survey only the smallest portion of God’s immeasurable realm! What is the knowledge of the greatest sages but the short-sighted vision of a worm! Our earth is a grain of sand in the All, the “drop of a bucket,” as the prophet says; and how little do we know of Him; how great is the sum of that which is hidden from us! ( 1 Corinthians 13:9 seq.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 25:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/job-25.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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