Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 11:8

"They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - God Continued...;   Hell;   Ignorance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Hell;   Sheol;   The Topic Concordance - Knowledge;   Opposition;   Seeing;   Vanity;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Zophar;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Providence of God;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Greatness of God;   Hypocrisy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Hell;   Holman Bible Dictionary - God;   Hell;   Job, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Devil;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Sirach;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Hell;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - High;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Astronomy;   Comparative, Religion;   Hades;   Job, Book of;   Unchangeable;   Zophar;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Sheol;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for January 12;   Every Day Light - Devotion for April 2;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

It is as high as heaven - High as the heavens, what canst thou work? Deep below sheol, (the invisible world), what canst thou know? Long beyond the earth, and broad beyond the sea, is its measure. These are instances in the immensity of created things, and all out of the reach of human power and knowledge; and if these things are so, how incomprehensible must he be, who designed, created, preserves, and governs the whole!

We find the same thought in Milton: -

"These are thy glorious works, Parent of good!

Almighty! Thine this universal frame:

How wondrous fair! Thyself how wondrous then!"

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-11.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

It is as high as heaven - That is, the knowledge of God; or the subject is as high as heaven. The idea is, that man is incompetent to examine, with accuracy, an object that is as far off as the heavens; and that as the knowledge of God must be of that character, it is vain for him to attempt to investigate it fully. There is an energy in the Hebrew which is lost in our common translation. The Hebrew is abrupt and very emphatic: “The heights of the heavens!” It is the language of one looking up with astonishment at the high heavens, and over-powered with the thought that the knowledge of God must be higher even than those distant skies. Who can hope to understand it? Who can be qualified to make the investigation? It is a matter of simple but sublime truth, that God must be higher than these heavens; and when we take into view the amazing distances of many of the heavenly bodies, as now known by the aid of modern astronomy, we may ask with deeper emphasis by far than Zophar did. “Can we, by searching, find out God?”

Deeper than hell - Hebrew “Than Sheol” - משׁאול meshe'ôl The Septuagint renders this, “the heaven is high, what canst thou do? And there are things deeper than in Hades - βαθύτερα τῶν ἐν ᾃδου bathutera tōn en Hadou - what dost thou know?” On the meaning of the word Sheol, see Isaiah 5:14, note; Isaiah 14:9, note. It seems to have been supposed to be as deep as the heavens are high; and the idea here is, that it would be impossible for man to investigate a subject that was as profound as Sheol was deep. The idea is not that God was in Sheol, but that the subject was as profound as the abode of departed spirits was deep and remote. It is possible that the Psalmist may have had this passage in his eye in the similar expression, occurring in Psalm 139:

If I ascend into heaven, thou art there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-11.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?.... Or, "is higher than the heavens"F9גבהי שמים "altior est altissimis coelis", Junius & Tremellius. ; either the wisdom of God and the secrets of it; the perfection of his wisdom, by which he has made the heavens; or evangelical wisdom, hid in his heart, and which the highest of creatures, the angels, come at the knowledge of only by revelation; and therefore, what can man do to find it out, unless God reveals it? or wisdom displayed in dark providences, which can never be accounted for until the judgments of God are made manifest: or else, "he that is God", as the Vulgate Latin version, is "higher than the heavens"; the heaven is his throne on which he sits, and therefore he must be higher than that; the heavens, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain him; he fills up the infinite space beyond them; how is it possible therefore to find him out, to comprehend him?

deeper than hell; what canst thou know? meaning, neither the grave nor the place of the damned, for both which "Sheol" is sometimes used, but the centre or lowest part of the earth; there is a depth in God, in his essence, in his thoughts, in his wisdom, displayed in nature, providence, and grace, that is unfathomable; we can know nothing of it but what he is pleased to make known; see Psalm 92:5; the Targum of the verse is,"in the height of heaven, what canst thou do? in the law, which is deeper than hell, what canst thou know?'

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-11.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

[It is] as high as heaven; what canst thou do? d deeper than hell; what canst thou know?

(d) That is, this perfection of God, and if man is not able to comprehend the height of the heavens, the depth of the earth, the breadth of the sea, which are but creatures, how can he attain to the perfection of the creator.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/job-11.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

It — the “wisdom” of God (Job 11:6). The abruptness of the Hebrew is forcible: “The heights of heaven! What canst thou do” (as to attaining to them with thy gaze, Psalm 139:8)?

know — namely, of His perfections.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-11.html. 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 11:8 [It is] as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?

Ver. 8. It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?] And much higher; it is as the highnesses of heaven (so the Hebrew hath it), which is so high that one would wonder we should be able to behold the starry sky (which yet is but as the marble wall round about the palace), and the very eye not be tired in the way. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 25:3"} How high that second heaven is may hereby be gathered, in that the stars (whereof those of the first magnitude are said to be every one above 107 times as large again as the whole earth) do yet seem to us but as so many small sparks or spangles; but how high the third heaven is above them cannot be conjectured, Ephesians 4:10. And yet the wisdom of the Almighty is far above that. But what meaneth Zophar by these cutted questions of his, What canst thou do? and what canst thou know? He thought, belike, that either Job considered not what he had said when he so set forth God’s wisdom, and his own shallowness; or else that he contradicted himself when he nevertheless stood so much upon his own integrity, and complained so greatly of his misery, as of an injury.

Deeper than hell] Which, wherever it is, appeareth, by this and other texts of Scripture, as Revelation 14:11, Deuteronomy 32:22, Psalms 55:15, Proverbs 15:24, &c., to be below, Ubi sit, sentient, qui curiosius quaerunt, saith one; where it is they shall find one day who too curiously inquire. The word here rendered hell signifieth the lower and more remote parts of the earth; and David telleth us that the wicked shall be turned into hell, into the lowest part of it, as the He locale there implieth, Psalms 9:17.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 11:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-11.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 11:8. It is as high as heaven The universe was divided by the ancient Hebrews into the upper and the lower, the visible and invisible hemisphere; the one they call שׁמים shamaiim, or heaven; the other שׁאול sheol, which we have no English word to express: these two are opposed to each other in Scripture for height and depth, as in this verse and Psalms 139:8. Again, heaven was considered by them as the habitation of God and his holy angels; שׁאול sheol as the region of departed souls; and the surface of the earth, lying in the middle betwixt both, as the habitation of the sons of men, during their short continuance in this life. As little philosophical as this may seem, the division is simple and natural; and we are not further concerned with it in a philosophical, but in a theological view; as it shews the belief of the ancients under the Old Testament, that the soul subsists after death in a certain place and state. See Psalms 16:10. Isaiah 14:9 and Peters, p. 319 where a complete investigation of the meaning of the word שׁאול sheol will be found. Houbigant renders it, He is as high; and in Job 11:9 the measure of him, &c.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 11:8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-11.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Thou canst not measure the heights of the visible heavens, much less of the Divine perfections.

What canst thou do, to wit, to find him out?

What canst thou know, concerning him and his ways, which are far out of thy sight and reach?

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 11:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/job-11.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

8.High as heaven — Literally, the heights of heaven! The wisdom of God towers above the heavens; penetrates beneath the depths of sheol, (the underworld;) in length and breadth it surpasses earth and ocean. The apostle in like manner describes the perfection of love by giving the four dimensions “breadth, length, depth, and height,” (Ephesians 3:18,) the dimensions of a cube, which in the apocalypse stands as the symbol of perfection; Revelation 21:16. “The Pythagoreans represent the divine nature and every kind of perfection and completeness by a square.” — Heyne. The Fathers saw in this description of wisdom the similitude of the cross. Their idea J.F. Meyer thus reproduces: “Its head uplifts itself to the throne of God, and its root reaches down to hell. Its arms stretch from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, and from pole to pole. In it heaven and earth are united, in it appeased.”

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-11.html. 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

what. ? Figure of speech Erotesis. App-6.

hell. Hebrew. Sheol. App-35.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/job-11.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?

It is as high as heaven - the "wisdom" of God (Job 11:6). The abruptness of the Hebrew is forcible: 'The heights of heaven! What canst thou do?' as to attaining to them with thy gaze (Psalms 139:8).

What canst thou know - namely, of His perfections.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-11.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(8) It is as high as heaven.—Literally, The heights of heaven; what canst thou do? it is deeper than the grave; what canst thou know?

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/job-11.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
It is as high as heaven
Heb. the heights of heaven.
22:12; 35:5; 2 Chronicles 6:18; Psalms 103:11; 148:13; Proverbs 25:2,3; Isaiah 55:9
deeper
26:6; Psalms 139:6-8; Amos 9:2; Ephesians 3:18,19
Reciprocal: Job 37:20 - surely;  Psalm 16:10 - my;  Ecclesiastes 7:24 - General1 Corinthians 13:9 - General

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 11:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-11.html.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?"Job 11:8

As a matter of fact, there is a heaven which our poor hands cannot touch.—Do we deny the existence of that lofty space, simply because we cannot touch it? Do we say, Our eyes may be deceiving us, and after all there is no such loftiness? It is all optical illusion or delusion?—As in nature so it ought to be in higher truth and graces; there are some things to be seen from afar, others to be handled and directly enjoyed, and others again which partake of the nature of dream and symbol and apocalypse.—We must make something like a reasonable distribution of the circumstances and phenomena which make up our life.—There are some things about which we may talk almost exhaustively; everything about them is so explicit and direct: but when we come upon those higher things which can only be seen at an infinite distance, we must make allowance for our inability, and not blame God or cast discredit upon his method of training the world.—If a man cannot reach what God has made, is it likely that he can comprehend all that God is? Is not the worker always greater than his work? Whoever made the stars may be rationally supposed to be greater than the stars which he has made, and, being greater, is by so much more difficult of comprehension, so difficult, indeed, as to rise to the point of absolute impossibility in our present state.—We do not venture to attempt an interpretation of everything that is in ourselves; our own souls are often too profound for our vision; our motives are so complicated and intermixed that it is impossible for us to separate the one action from the other, and to say, This is good, and, That is bad, in exact terms.—All height should teach us to aspire; all width created by God, such as the great sea or the greater firmament, should lead us out in the direction of enlargement and comprehensiveness of mind; all. the symbols of nature should have a corresponding effect upon our spiritual capacity and training.—We must not be afraid to look nature fully and lovingly in the face; she is a great parable which the heart alone can often read; she does not set little and arbitrary boundaries to our position and progress, but rather is full of encouragement to us to advance and conquer.—Still, as in nature we know just where to stop, so it should be in spiritual inquest and study: we come to brinks, and must take care not to fall over: we behold lofty eminences, and must know that they were meant to be looked at and not to be trodden under foot: to make a wise use of nature in this way is to encourage and strengthen all that is best in our spiritual being.—Has any man seen all the creation of God? Has any man any conscious relation to any other world than the earth in which he was born? Is it possible for any man to see through the darkness of midnight, when all the light of heaven has been withdrawn?—If, then, there are such limits And obstructions, difficulties and impossibilities, in things which are termed natural, is it at all an irrational conception there should be things in even greater abundance in the purely spiritual realm, which mock us and sometimes defy us, and which all the while beckon and lure us with hopefulness that we may yet see further kingdoms and enjoy the larger liberties of life?—Blessed is he who knows where to stop.—Because there is a stopping-place in all thought, it does not follow that there is no line of thought to be entered upon.—When we know where to stop, we may also know that the point is but intermediate, not final; that we rest there but for a moment, and that by-and-by we shall take up the series, and continue it into the very day of heaven itself.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 11:8". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/job-11.html. 1885-95.