Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
But Job answered and said,XXVI.
(1) Then answered Job.—Job himself has virtually said much the same as Bildad (Job 9:2; Job 14:4), so he makes no further comment on his remarks here, but merely asks how he has helped him thereby, or others like him in a weak and helpless condition.
How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?(3) The thing as it is?—Rather, How hast thou plentifully declared sound knowledge?
To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?(4) To whom.—That is, “Is it not to one who had said the same thing himself? Was it not my own breath, my own teaching, that came forth from you?” He then proceeds to show that it is not only the starry heavens that declare the glory of God, but the under world likewise, and the universe generally.
Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.(5) Dead things are formed.—The Hebrew word is the Rephaim, who were among the aboriginal inhabitants of the south of Palestine and the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and it is used to express the dead and the inhabitants of the nether world generally. The word rendered are formed probably means either are pierced or tremble: that is, they are pierced through with terror, or they tremble, with a possible reference to the state of the dead as the prey of corruption, though spoken of them where they are beyond the reach of it. All the secrets of this mysterious, invisible, and undiscoverable world are naked and open before Him—the grave lies naked and destruction is uncovered.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.(7) He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.—If these words mean what they seem to do—and it is hard to see how they can mean anything else—then they furnish a very remarkable instance of anticipation of the discoveries of science. Here we find Job, more than three thousand years ago, describing in language of scientific accuracy the condition of our globe, and holding it forth as a proof of Divine power. Some have attempted to explain the latter clause of the destitution caused by famine; but that is precluded by the terms of the first clause.
He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.(8) He bindeth up the waters.—The idea of the waters being bound up in the clouds, so that the clouds are not rent thereby, is similar to that in Genesis 1:7. The conception is that of a vast treasury of water above the visible sky, which is kept there in apparent defiance of what we know as the laws of gravitation, and which all experience would show was liable to fall of itself.
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.(9) He holdeth back the face.—Or, covereth the face of his throne in the heavens, spreading his rack of cloud upon it.
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.(10) He hath compassed the waters with bounds.—Rather, He hath described a circle upon the face of the waters, unto the confines of light and darkness. The phenomenon described is that of the horizon at sea, which is a perfect circle, and which is the limit apparently of light, and beyond which is darkness, for all is invisible.
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.(11) The pillars of heaven tremble.—The phenomenon of storm and tempest is alluded to.
He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.(12) He divideth the sea.—The word is taken in the two opposite senses of stirring up and calming; perhaps the latter is more appropriate to the context, which seems to speak of God’s mastery over nature.
By his understanding he smiteth through the proud.—Literally, Rahab, which certainly is at times a name for Egypt (see Isaiah 51:9, e.g.), and which, if used in that sense here, can only refer to the signal judgments on Egypt at the Exodus. According to our view of this matter will be the indication derived therefrom of the date of Job.
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.(13) The crooked serpent.—By this expression is doubtless meant the forked lightning-flash, though it is difficult to determine whether any, or what mythological ideas may underlie the expression, or whether it is anything more than a figure derived from the natural world, which suggested the similitude of the flying serpent. Others understand by it the constellation of the Northern Dragon, to whose influence storms were ascribed.
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) These are parts.—Literally, ends—just the merest outskirts. For “is heard” we may render do we hear; and for “the thunder of His power,” the thunder of His mighty deeds. We can only hear the faintest whisper of His glory, and cannot understand or endure the full-toned thunder of His majesty. Here, then, is Job’s final reply to the arguments of his friends. He shows himself even more conscious than they of the grandeur and holiness of God; but that has in no way rendered his position as a sufferer more intelligible—rather the reverse—nor theirs as defenders of the theory of exact retribution. He cannot understand and they cannot explain; but while he rejects their explanations, he rests secure in his own faith.