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Job 26:1 But Job answered and said,
Ver. 1. But Job answered and said ] Bildad had vexed him with his impertinence and superfluous discourses of God’s attributes, as if Job had denied them or doubted of them, which was far from him, witness this chapter. He therefore rippleth up Bildad with a continued smart irony in the three next following verses, letting loose the reins to his justly conceived grief and indignation, and invading his adversary with these sharp questions by way of wonderment.
Job 26:2 How hast thou helped [him that is] without power? [how] savest thou the arm [that hath] no strength?
Ver. 2. How hast thou helped him that is without power? ] q.d. Full well hast thou done it, surely. (See a like irony Mark 7:9 1Co 4:8 ; 1Co 4:10 ) Thou art a very goodly comforter, and with a great deal of wisdom thou hast framed thy discourse to my present necessity. Thou lookest upon me as a poor, forlorn, strengthless, fruitless creature. Thou shouldest therefore have set thyself to support me and shore me up, by uttering not only commoda, sed et accommoda, things true and profitable, but things fit and suitable to my distressed condition. Thou hast spoken much of the majesty and purity of Almighty God (wherein I well accord thee), but these are words of terror, such as I can hardly bear. Of strong medicine we say, Quod nec puero, nec seni, nec imbecillo, sed robusto conveniat, that it is not for children, or old folks, or weak ones, but for the stronger sort; it is not for every complexion and state. So neither is every discourse for all sort of people. It is a singular skill to be able to time a word, Isaiah 50:4 , and to set it upon its wheels, Proverbs 25:10 , to declare unto a man his righteousness, which not one of a thousand can tell how to do it like him, Job 33:23 , to seek to find out pleasant words, such as have both goads and nails in them, Ecclesiastes 12:10-11 (to prick them on to duty, and to fasten them to the right, as pales to their rails), to divide the word of God aright, 2 Timothy 2:15 , and to give every one his portion in the due season, Matthew 24:45 . Not as he in the emblem, who gave straw to the dog, and a bone to the ass. The good word of God, if well applied, is profitable to all things, as is here hinted; sc. to help the powerless, to save the strengthless, to counsel the ignorant, and to set forth things as they are, that there may be no manner of mistake; but then it must be wisely handled, and the help of God’s Holy Spirit must be implored, Job 26:4 , that it may be a word of reconciliation, a savour of life unto life, 2Co 2:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:19 , and whatsoever else is said in commendation of it, Psalms 19:7-10 . Mercer interpreting this verse and the two following, Hoc de Deo accipio, saith he, These things I understand concerning God; and it is as if Job had said to Bildad, Oh, how bravely helpest thou him that is weak, and pleadest for him that is forlorn, as if God wanted thy patronage and defence! No question but thou art a man fit to advise him, and to set him in a course that he cannot otherwise hit on: this is a good sense also. But what meant Brentius to bring in Job blaspheming here, as thus, Quem iuvas? impotentem? salvas brachium invalidi? Cui consulis? insipienti? &c. Whom helpest thou, O God? the impotent? savest thou the arm of the strengthless? Whom counsellest thou? the ignorant? &c.: q.d. Surely thou shouldest do so by promise, and it would well become thee to do so by me; but (alas) thou dost nothing less; and hence it is that I skill stick in the briars, &c. Upon this gloss we may write, as the canonists do sometimes, Palea, or, Hoc non credo.
Job 26:3 How hast thou counselled [him that hath] no wisdom? and [how] hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?
Ver. 3. How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? ] q.d. Thou lookest upon me as a fool and an atheist; but this thou dost with far greater folly; for I am not the man thou takest me for, but can say as much for God as thyself, and more too; and if I were such as thou wouldest make of me, I might so continue, for any help I should have by thy counsel. The like hereunto we may say to the Papists and other seducers, who pretend to tender our good, to counsel us for the best, and to wish our salvation.
And how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? ] Heb. The essence, or the reason, or the naked truth: q.d. What ado hast thou kept to tell me no more than I knew before? wherein thou hast fairly lost thy labour and missed of thy design, if ever thou intendedst to counsel and comfort me. Very wisely hast thou done it, I must needs say for thee.
Job 26:4 To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
Ver. 4. To whom hast thou uttered words? ] And, as thou thinkest, words weighty, and worthy of all acceptation, when in truth there is no such matters; bubbles of words they are, and big swollen fancies, sed cui bono? What tack is there in them? and to what good purpose are they? Melancthon makes mention of a certain good man, who reading Aristotle’s discourse concerning the rainbow, conceited thereupon many strange speculations, and wrote to a friend that he had far outdone Aristotle in that matter (Manl. loc. com. 536). But coming afterwards to the university, and disputing there upon that subject, he was found to be utterly out in those fancies of his, which indeed were no better than a sublime dotage.
And whose spirit came from thee? ] Or, came out of thee? Was it by God’s Spirit that thou spakest, or thine own rather? For "there is a spirit in man, but the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding," Job 32:8 . Job would not have Bildad think and term his discourses to be divine inspirations, or such admirable pieces, rare sayings, being but vulgar and ordinary businesses (Scult. Ann. p. 238). Muncer, the arch Anabaptist, wrote a book against Luther, wherein he boasteth much of the spirit, and of prophetical light, accusing Luther for unspiritual, and one that savoured nothing but carnal things. The Antinomians use to call upon their hearers to mark; it may be they shall hear that which they have not heard before, whenas the thing they deliver after so promising a preface, is either false, or what is taught ordinarily by others. Some read the words thus, Whose spirit admired thee? for the spirit goeth as it were out of itself after those things it admireth. The Hebrews expound it thus, Whose spirit hast thou quickened, or confirmed, by these thy words? Who is the wiser or the better for them? Quam animam per haec fecisti? What soul hast thou gained to God by thy doctrine? confer Genesis 12:5 , the souls which they had made, that is, brought to the true fear and service of God.
Job 26:5 Dead [things] are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.
Ver. 5. Dead things are formed from under the waters ] Here Job’s tongue, like a silver bell, begins to sound out the great things of God far better than Bildad had done, beginning at the bottom, and declaring that nothing is bred or brought forth, whether animate or inanimate, fish or other things in all the vast and deep ocean, but it is by his decree and power (Abbots). The Septuagint or Vulgate, for dead and lifeless things render giants, and understand thereby whales, those huge sea monsters formed under the waters.
And the inhabitants thereof ] That is, saith one, other fishes in general, which are in the seas where those whales are; for there is that Leviathan, and there are creeping things (that is, smaller fishes) innumerable. And in particular certain little fishes that are noted always to swim with the whales, as guides of their way, that they may not unawares, coming into muddy places, be mired there. Aristotle calleth them muscles; Pliny, musticets.
Job 26:6 Hell [is] naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
Ver. 6. Hell and destruction are before him ] Here beginneth a magnificent and stately description of the majesty of God; and, 1. From his omniscience; 2. From his omnipotence. For the first, "Hell and destruction are before him." Not the grave only, but the nethermost hell, that most abstruse part of the universe, and most remote from heaven, God’s court. Of hell we know nothing save only what the Scripture saith of it in general, that there is a hell, and that the pains of it are endless, easeless, and remediless, &c., but God only knoweth who are in hell, and who is yet to be hereafter hurled into it. It is the saints’ happiness that to them there is no such condemnation, Romans 8:1 , that over them this second death hath no power, Revelation 20:6 . That if hell had already swallowed them up (as they sometimes when deserted feel themselves to be in the very suburbs of it), it could no better hold them than the whale’s stomach could do Jonah. Luke 22:31 , "Satan hath desired to have thee"; sc. to hell, but that he shall never have; for they are the redeemed of the Lord, saved from the wrath to come, and may triumphingly sing, Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? &c.
And destruction hath no covering ] That is, hell, the place of destruction, the palace of King Abaddon (so the devil is called, Rev 9:11 ), and so hell is called in this text, because thereinto are thrust all that are destined to destruction, all the brats of fathomless perdition, such as was Judas the traitor, who went to his place, and all wicked ones, who shall surely be turned into hell, with all those that forget God, Psalms 9:17 . This place is not covered, saith Ferus here, but open to God, for whomsoever he will cast thereinto.
Job 26:7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, [and] hangeth the earth upon nothing.
Ver. 7. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place ] Heb. Over Tohu. Aristotle saith, that beyond the movable heavens there is neither body, nor time, nor place, nor vacuum. But on this side of the heaven there are bodies, time, place, and, as it may seem to some, an empty place; for so the air is here called, over which, and not over any solid matter, for a foundation, God hath spread and stretched forth the heavens which are here called the north, because they are moved about the north pole; and besides, the north is held the upper part of the world, according to that of Virgil,
Mundus ut ad Scythiam Riphaeasque arduus arces
Cousurgit; premitur Libyae devexus ad austros.
Hence it is here put for the whole heaven which, held up by the word of God’s power, without any other props, leaneth upon the liquid air, the air upon the earth, and the earth upon nothing.
And hangeth the earth upon nothing ]
Terra pilae similis, nullo fulcimine nixa,
Aero sublato tam grave pendet onus (Ovid. 6, Fasti).
The earth hangs in the midst of heaven, like Architas’ or Archimedes’ pigeon, equally poised with his own weight. Of this great wonder the philosophers, after much study, can give no good reason, because ignorant of this, that God hath appointed it so to be, even from the first creation, Psa 104:5 Hebrews 1:2 . The poets fable that Atlas beareth up heaven with his shoulders; but we confess the true Atlas, viz. the Lord our God, who by his word alone beareth up heaven and earth (This is the very finger of God, Aristotle himself admireth it, De Cael. 1. 2, c. 13); and it is here fitly alleged as an argument of his Almightiness. The greatness of this work of God appeareth hereby, saith Merlin, that men cannot spread aloft the thinnest curtain, absque fulcris, without some solid thing to uphold it.
Job 26:8 He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.
Ver. 8. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds ] Heb. Clouds, which yet have their name from thickness, because they arise from air condensed. In these God bottleth up the rain, and there keepeth it in by main strength (as the word signifieth), though those vessels are as thin and thinner than the liquor that is contained in them. This, duly weighed, were enough to convince an atheist, especially if he consider how.
The cloud is not rent under them ] And so causeth a cataclism to drown the earth; as sometimes at sea, especially, great harm is done this way among the ships, by a water spout, as mariners call it, the Greek εξυδρια , and the Dutch Ein Wolckenbruch, or a breach of heaven; viz. when clouds cleave asunder, and discharge themselves all at once, for a great mischief to mankind. Now that God thus binds up these heavy vapours, and keeps them in the clouds, as a strong man in a cobweb, till brought by the winds whithersoever he pleaseth to appoint them, they drop upon the earth by little and little, to make it fruitful; this is a wonderful work of God, and should bring us to the knowledge of his power, wisdom, and goodness, Rom 1:19-20 Job 38:37 Jeremiah 5:22 .
Job 26:9 He holdeth back the face of his throne, [and] spreadeth his cloud upon it.
Ver. 9. He holdeth back the face of his throne ] i.e. Of heaven, Isaiah 66:1 , which he soon overcloudeth and muffleth up, or masketh, with a veil. Mystically, by the face of his throne, we may understand the knowledge of his glory; for this is held from us so in this world, that we cannot perfectly know him as he is, but must content ourselves with a learned ignorance, 1 John 3:3 . Here darkness is, and will be, under his feet, Psalms 18:9 .
And spreadeth his cloud upon it ] It is fitly called his cloud, because, 1. It is his handiwork, Psa 18:11; Gen 9:14; Job 28:26-27 ; Job 37:15-16 ; Job 38:9; Psalms 104:5 . His sun draweth up those vapours, which, being thickened in the middle region of the air by the cold encompassing and driving them together, become a cloud. 2. He used it of old as a sign of his glorious power and gracious presence with his people, Exodus 13:21 ; Exo 16:10 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 ; and as a figure of Christ’s guiding and protecting his Church through the wilderness of this world, Isaiah 4:5-6 Isaiah 4:3 . He still rideth in state upon the clouds, Isaiah 19:1 . Christ was by a cloud coached up to heaven, Acts 1:9 , and shall come in like manner, Revelation 1:7 ; Revelation 10:1 . We also shall then be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 . - O mora! Christe, veni.
Job 26:10 He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.
Ver. 10. He hath compassed the waters with bounds ] Decreto circinavit superficiem aquarum (Tremel.). He hath as it were with a pair of compasses drawn a circle about the sea, that it may not pass to drown the earth. Confer Job 38:8 ; Job 38:10-11 ; Psalms 33:7 ; Psalms 89:10 ; Psalms 104:9 ; Proverbs 8:29 . So he drew a circle round about the earth, Proverbs 8:27 , doing all with infinite wisdom, Pondere, mensura, numero, &c. He foundeth the earth not upon solid rocks, but fluid waters. And that it floateth not upon them, nor is shaken with them (as oft as there is a tempest in the ocean that begirteth it), neither yet is overflowed by them, this is the wonderful work of God. Aristotle in his book De Mirabilibus admireth it, and acknowledgeth God’s providence, which elsewhere he denieth. Terminum aquis prescripsit, saith Job here. And this either he had from Moses, Genesis 1:10 , or, if he lived before Moses, as it is most likely he did, he had it, as he had many other things, by tradition from the fathers. Sailors tell us, that as they draw nigh to the shore, when they enter into a haven, they run as it were downhill. And yet men are said to go down (not up) to the sea in ships, Psalms 107:23 . See a reason hereof in this text and Psalms 104:26 . An vero non stupendum est? saith Lavater. But is it not a wonderful thing that so fierce an element, so huge a mass of waters, tossed by the winds, should be bounded and bridled by sands, confined and kept within their prescribed place and shore? Especially if the water be (as some affirm) ten times larger than the earth, the air than the water, the fire than the air.
Until the day and night come to an end ] Heb. Until the consummation of light with darkness; that is, till time shall be no more, till the end of the world, when all things shall be let loose to devastation, and the sea shall overflow the land again, as that then it shall, some would gather from this text.
Job 26:11 The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.
Ver. 11. The pillars of heaven tremble ] i.e. The angels, say some, who tremble out of conscience of their own comparative imperfections. The best of saints on earth, say others (according to Gal 2:9 Rev 3:12 Pro 9:1-2 ), who tremble at God’s word, Isaiah 66:2 , and have many concussions by afflictions. But better understand the firmament of heaven, Hag 2:6-7 Matthew 24:29 . The powers of heaven shall be shaken, they shall quake with the loud check of his thunderclaps. Or the high and mighty mountains, whereon the heavens seem to rest, as on so many pillars, shaken by earth, quakes, and sometimes with great astonishment removed out of their places.
And are astonished at his reproof ] As all the beasts of the field are at the roaring of the lion; Ut quis a gravi et magnae potestatis vire, obiurgatus, tremit et vehementer solicitus est, as a slave chided by a prince trembleth, and is aghast.
Job 26:12 He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
Ver. 12. He divideth the sea with his power ] i.e. With his strong winds causing tempests: see the like Isaiah 51:15 : so that it lieth as it were in ridges, the top of one wave far from another, Jeremiah 31:35 . That was a strange thing that is reported to have fallen out at London the last week. On Monday, Aug. 14, 1654, by reason of the great winds the tide was so low in the Thames, that boys waded over it from one side to the other, the old watermen affirming they never saw it so before.
And by his understanding he smiteth through the proud ] Heb. Pride, or Rahab, which is oft put for Egypt, as Psalms 87:4 ; Psalms 89:10 Isaiah 51:9 , whence some would have Pharaoh meant; others, the devil; others, the whale dashing against a rock, or driven to shore where he is taken; others, the proud waves of the sea, as Job 38:11 , disabled by God to stir more, as a man mortally wounded is to fight longer. An instance hereof we have in the history of Jonah, and another in the Gospel, Matthew 8:14 . As God is powerful enough to raise storms, so he is wise enough to lay them again, Psalms 107:25 ; Psalms 107:29 . He hath the sea in as great awe as a giant hath a pigmy.
Job 26:13 By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.
Ver. 13. By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens ] Spiritu eius caeli sunt ipsa pulchritudo, By his Spirit the heavens are beauty itself, so Vatablus rendereth it, Adoravit, decoravit, pulchrefecit. Hinc κοσμος . That Three in One, and One in Three, wrought in the creation: see Psalms 33:6 , "By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Here Jehovah, his Word, and his Spirit, are noted to be the Maker of the world; so Genesis 1:1-31 . The heathens had some blind notions hereof, as appeareth by Plutarch, who reporteth that in Thebe, a town of Egypt, they worshipped a God whom they acknowledged to be immortal; but how painted they him? In the likeness of a man blowing an egg out of his mouth; to signify that he made the round world by the spirit of his mouth. Upon the heavens especially God hath bestowed a great deal of skill and workmanship, as appeareth, Heb 11:10 Psalms 8:3 , where heaven is called, The work of God’s fingers; a curious Divine work; a metaphor from them that make tapestry. Garnished it is with stars, as a palace is with stately pictures, besides the inward beauty, which is unconceivable. There is something of a Saphir in the Hebrew word here rendered garnished, and Rev 21:19 search is made through all the bowels of the earth to find out all the precious treasures that could be had, gold, pearls, and precious stones of all sorts; and what can these serve to? only to shadow out the glory of the walls of the New Jerusalem, and the gates, and to pave the streets of the city. See also Isaiah 54:11-12 .
His hand hath formed the crooked serpent ] Enixa est, peperit, hath brought forth as by birth, hath formed the most deformed and dreadful creature in the earth; or those flaming dragons flying in the air (meteors I mean); or the constellation in heaven called the Dragon, between the two Bears, and not far from the north pole ( Est hoc sane maximum, et maxime conspicuum in caelo sidus, &c. ); or, lastly, those sea dragons, the whales, which Mercer thinketh most likely to be here meant, and compareth Isa 27:1 Psalms 104:26 Job 40:20 . Neither need we wonder, saith he, that the beginning of the verse is of heaven and the end of the sea; for Job would show and set forth two admirable works of God in two extremes of the world; viz. in heaven above, and in the waters under the earth; his power and wisdom shineth everywhere in the creatures, neither can a man easily look beside a miracle. Job, therefore, insisteth not long upon particulars, but, as one lost in the labyrinth of admiration at so great things, he thus shuts up:
Job 26:14 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?
Ver. 14. Lo, these are parts of his ways ] Or rather, particles of his works. Extrema sunt viarum eius, so the Tigurines translate it; these are the ends, extremities, or utmost parts of them, the το γνωστον , as St Paul calleth it, that which may be known of God, per species creaturarum, Romans 1:19-20 , as the sun may be seen in the water after a sort; but in rota, circle, as the schools speak, in the circle wherein it runs, we are not able to behold him; so something of God may be seen in his works, in his word; his back parts we may see and live, as Moses, Exodus 33:18-20 ; his train in the temple, as Isaiah, Isaiah 6:1
But how little a portion is heard of him? ] Heb. What a littleness, or shred of a word or thing, is heard of him, Quam exiguitatem (Pis. cat.). Parvam stillam (Vulg.). ικμαδα (Sept.). Paucum de pauco, pusillum et parum admodum (Merc.). As when one heareth the latter end only of a sentence, that which the echo resoundeth, and no more; it is but a modicum, the main we cannot know, we are as narrow mouthed vessels: Ye are not able to bear what I have to say to you, saith Christ to his apostles, John 16:12 . And to the people he spake as they were able to hear, Mark 4:33 , and not as he was able to have spoken. Loquimur de Deo non quantum debemus, sed quantum possumus, saith Gratian the emperor, We speak of God, not so much as we should, but so much as we can (In Epist. ad Ambrose). We prophesy but in part, and what wonder, since we know but in part, 1 Corinthians 13:9 . In human things the wisest men have professed that the greatest part of what they knew was the least of that they knew not; how much more in things divine? By no expressions do we so fully set forth God, saith Scaliger, as by those which set forth our ignorance. Our safest eloquence concerning God is our silence, saith learned Hooker.
But the thunder of his power, who can understand? ] Heb. Of his powers; that is, his powerful thunder; which, while Alladius, king of the Latins, would by certain engines that he had made him imitate, he justly perished by a thunderbolt from heaven; his house also, wherein he had attempted so to do, was consumed with fire from heaven, as Dionysius Halicarnassus and Orosius testify. Some by thunder here understand God’s astonishing presence and utterance of himself. Others, his force and grandeur, his notable and thundering exploits, which shine all the world over, and to which, if all that have been instanced shall be compared, they will appear to be but as a few heat drops to a great shower of rain. He that shall go about to declare them shall be forced to say with the poet (Lucret.),
Claudicat ingenium, delirat linguaque, mensque.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 26". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26