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JOB CHAPTER 26
Job’s reply: this toucheth not Job, Job 26:1-4;
who acknowledgeth God’ power and providence to be infinite and unsearchable, of which we have but small knowledge Job 26:5-14.
How hast thou helped? thou hast helped egregiously. It is an ironical expression, implying the quite contrary, that he had not at all helped. See the like, Genesis 3:22; 1 Kings 18:27; 1 Corinthians 4:8,1 Corinthians 4:10.
Him that is without power; either,
1. God, who it seems is weak and unwise, and needed so powerful and eloquent an advocate as thou art to maintain his fights and plead his cause. Or, rather,
2. Job himself: I am a poor helpless creature, my strength and spirits quite broken with the pains of my body and perplexities of my mind, whom nature, and humanity, and religion should have taught thee to support and comfort with a representation of the gracious nature and promises of God, and not to terrify and overwhelm me with displaying his sovereign majesty, the thoughts whereof are already so distractive and dreadful to me.
Him that hath no wisdom; either,
1. God: thou hast in effect undertaken to teach God how to govern the world. Or rather,
2. Me, whom you take to be a man void of understanding, Job 11:2,Job 11:3, whom therefore you should have instructed with wholesome counsels, instead of these impertinent discourses; and who indeed do want wisdom, being perfectly at a loss, and not knowing what to say or do.
The thing as it is, Heb. essence, the truth and substance of the thing in question between us; thou hast spoken the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and all t can be said in the matter. Or,
wisdom, as this word is used, Proverbs 3:21. A most wise and profound discourse thou hast made, and much to the purpose: an ironical expression, as before.
For whose instruction hast thou uttered these things? For mine? Dost thou think me to be so ignorant, that I do not know that which the meanest persons are not unacquainted with, to wit, that God is incomparably greater and better than his creatures?
Whose spirit came from thee? so the sense is, Whom hast thou revived or comforted by this discourse? Not me surely. The spirit or breath of a man is in a manner suppressed and intercepted in deep sorrows and consternations, such as Job’s were; and when he is cheered or refreshed, it finds vent and breathes out freely, as it did before. But I do not remember that ever this phrase is used in this sense; but, on the contrary, the giving or restoring of life is expressed by the coming in, and not by the going out, of spirit or breath, as appears from Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 37:5,Ezekiel 37:6,Ezekiel 37:10. The words therefore are and may be otherwise understood; either thus, Whose spirit or inspiration (as this word signifies, Job 32:8)
came from thee? Who inspired thee with this profound discourse of thine? Was it by Divine inspiration, as thou wouldst have us to believe? or was it not a rash suggestion of thy own vain and foolish mind? Or thus, Whose spirit went out (to wit, of his body, by an ecstasy of admiration) for thee, by reason of thy discourse? I may be thought partial in my censure of it, but thou mayst perceive none of our friends here present admire it, except thyself. Or, To or for whom (the particle eth being here understood out of the former branch, as is usual among the Hebrews) did breath go out from thee, i.e. didst thou speak? For whose good, or to what end, didst thou speak this? God needed it not; I receive no edification or benefit by it.
Job having censured Bildad’s discourse concerning God’s dominion and power, as insignificant and impertinent to their question, he here proceedeth to show how little he needed his information in that point, and that he was able to instruct him in that doctrine, of which accordingly he gives divers proofs or instances. Here he showeth that the power and providence of God reacheth not only to the things which we see, but also to the invisible parts of the world; not only to the heavens above, and their inhabitants, and to men upon earth, of which Bildad discoursed Job 25:2,Job 25:3, but also to such persons or things as are under the earth, or under the waters, which are under the earth; which are out of our sight and reach, and might be thought to be out of the ken or care of Divine Providence. This Hebrew word sometimes signifies giants, as Deuteronomy 2:11,Deuteronomy 2:20; Deuteronomy 3:13; 1 Chronicles 20:8; whence it may be translated to other great and, as it were, gigantic creatures, and more commonly dead men, as Psalms 88:11; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 21:16; Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 26:14,Isaiah 26:19 whence it is supposed metaphorically to signify also dead or lifeless things; though there be no example of that use of the word elsewhere; and it may seem improper to call those things dead, which never had nor were capable of life. The next Hebrew word, or the verb, is primarily used of women with child, and signifies their bringing forth their young ones with travail or grievous pains, as Job 39:3; Psalms 29:9; Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 45:10; and thence it signifies either to form or bring forth, as below, Job 26:13; Proverbs 26:10; or to grieve or mourn, or to be in pain. Accordingly these words are diversely understood; either,
1. Of dead or lifeless things, such as amber, pearl, coral, metals, or other minerals, which are formed or brought forth, to wit, by the almighty power of God, from under the waters, i.e. either in the bottom of the sea, or within the earth, which is the lowest element, and in the Scripture and other authors spoken of as under the waters; this being observed as a remarkable work of God’s providence, that the waters of the sea, which are higher than the earth, do not overwhelm it; and from under (which may be repeated out of the former clause of the verse, after the manner of the Hebrews)
the inhabitants thereof, i.e. either of the waters, which are fishes; or of the earth, which are men. Or rather,
2. Of the giants of the old world, which were men of great renown whilst they lived, Genesis 6:4, and the remembrance of them and of their exemplary destruction was now in some sort fresh and famous; who once carried themselves insolently towards God and men, but were quickly subdued by the Divine power, and drowned with a deluge, and now mourn or groan from under the waters, where they were buried, and from under the present inhabitants thereof, as before. Or,
3. Of vast and gigantic fishes, or monsters of the sea, who by God’s infinite power were formed or brought forth under the waters with the other inhabitants thereof, to wit of the waters, the lesser fishes. Or,
4. Of dead men, and of the worst sort of them, such as died in their sins, and after death were condemned to further miseries; for of such this very word seems to be used, Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18, who are here said to mourn or groan from under the waters, i.e. from the lower parts of the earth, or from under those subterranean seas of waters which are by Scripture and by philosophers supposed to be within and under the earth; of which see Deuteronomy 8:7; Job 28:4,Job 28:10; Psalms 33:7; and from under
the inhabitants thereof, i.e. either of the waters, or of the earth, under which these waters are, or with the other inhabitants thereof, i.e. of that place under the waters, to wit, the apostate spirits. So the sense is, that God’s dominion is over all men, yea, even the dead, and the worst of them, who though they would not own God nor his providence whilst they lived, yet now are forced to acknowledge and feel that power which they despised, and bitterly mourn under the sad effects of it in their subterranean and infernal habitations, of which the next verse speaks more plainly. And this sense seems to be favoured by the context and scope of the place, wherein Job begins his discourse of God’s power and providence at the lowermost and hidden parts of the world, and thence proceeds to those parts which are higher and visible. Nor is it strange that Job speaks of these matters, seeing it is evident that Job, and others of the holy patriarchs and prophets of old, did know and believe the doctrine of the future life, and of its several recompences to good and bad men. Others understand this of the resurrection of the dead; The dead shall be born (as this word is used, Psalms 2:7; Proverbs 8:24,Proverbs 8:25, i.e. shall be raised, which is a kind of regeneration, or second birth, and is so called, Matthew 19:28; Acts 13:33)
from under the waters, ( i.e. even those of them that lie in the waters, Revelation 20:13, that were drowned and buried in the sea, and devoured by fishes, &c., whose case may seem to be most desperate, and therefore they only are here mentioned,) and (or even, this particle being oft used expositively) the inhabitants thereof, i.e. those dead corpses which lie or have long lain there.
Hell, as this word is frequently used, as Job 11:8; Isaiah 57:9, &c. And so it seems to be explained by the following word,
destruction, i.e. the place of destruction, which interpreters generally understand of hell, or the place of the damned. Others, the grave, the most secret and obscure places and things. Is naked before him, i.e. it is in his presence, and under his providence. So far am I from imagining that God cannot see through a dark cloud, as you traduced me, Job 22:13, that I very well know that even hell itself, that place of utter darkness, is not hid from his sight.
Destruction, i.e. the place of destruction, as it is also used, Proverbs 15:11, by a metonymy of the adjunct.
Hath no covering, to wit, such as to keep it out of his sight.
The north, i.e. the northern pole, or part of the heavens, which he particularly mentions, and puts for the whole visible heaven, because Job and his friends lived in a northern climate, and were acquainted only with that part of the heavens, the southern pole and parts near it being wholly unknown to them. The heavens are oft and fitly said to be spread or stretched out like a curtain or tent, to which they are resembled.
The empty place, to wit, the air, so called, not philosophically, as if it were wholly empty; but popularly, because it seems to be so, and is generally void of solid and visible bodies.
Upon nothing; upon its own centre, which is but an imaginary thing, and in truth nothing; or upon no props or pillars, but his own power and providence; which is justly celebrated as a wonderful work of God, both in Scripture and in heathen authors.
This also is a miraculous work of God, considering the nature of these waters, which are fluid and heavy, and pressing downward, especially being ofttimes there in great abundance; and withal, the quality of the clouds, which are thin and loose bodies of the same nature with fogs and mists upon the face of the earth, and therefore of themselves utterly unable to bear that weight, and to keep up those waters from falling suddenly and violently upon the earth.
He holdeth back, i.e. to wit, from our view, that its lustre and glory should not reach us, and so dazzle our sight; he covereth it with a cloud, as the next words explain it. Or, he holdeth fast, or binds together, or strengthens it, that it may be able to bear that burden.
The face of his throne; either,
1. This lower air, which is as the face or open part of the heavens, which is often called God’s throne, as Psalms 11:4; Isaiah 66:1; Amos 9:6. Or,
2. The appearance or manifestation of the heaven of heavens, where he dwelleth, whose light and glory is too great for mortal eyes, which therefore by clouds and other ways he hides from us.
The waters, to wit, of the sea; for of the upper waters coming out of the clouds he spoke before.
With bounds; which are partly the rocks and shores, and principally God’s appointment, made at the first creation, and renewed after the deluge, Genesis 9:11,Genesis 9:15, that the waters should not overwhelm the earth: see Job 38:8,Job 38:10,Job 38:11; Psalms 104:3; Jeremiah 5:22.
Until the day and night come to an end, i.e. unto the end of the world, for so long these vicissitudes of day and night are to continue, Genesis 8:22; Genesis 9:9; Jeremiah 5:22; Jeremiah 31:35,Jeremiah 31:36.
The pillars of heaven; either,
1. Those mountains which by their height and strength may seem to reach and support the heavens, as the poets said of Atlas; for this is a poetical book, and there are many poetical expressions in it. These tremble sometimes by force of earthquakes, or by God’s glorious appearance in them, as Sinai did. Or,
2. Holy angels; but they are not subject either to trembling, or to God’s rebuke. Or,
3. The heavenly bodies, as the sun, and moon, and stars, which as they may seem in some sort to support, so they do certainly adorn the heavens; and we know pillars are oft made, not to support, but only for ornament; as the two famous pillars of the temple, Jachin and Boaz, 1 Kings 7:21. And these ofttimes seem to tremble and be astonished, as in eclipses or tempests, and terrible works of God in the air, by which they are frequently said to be affected and changed, because they seem so to us; and many things are spoken in Scripture according to appearance: see Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 24:23; Joel 2:10,Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29, &c.
At his reproof; either,
1. When God rebuketh them: for God is sometimes said in Scripture to rebuke the lifeless creatures; which is to be understood figuratively of the tokens of God’s anger in them. Or,
2. When God reproveth not them, but men by them, manifesting his displeasure against sinful men by thunders, or earthquakes, or prodigious works.
He speaks either,
1. Of God’s dividing the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass over; and consequently the Hebrew word rahab, which here follows, and is translated pride, or the proud, is meant of Egypt, which is oft called Rahab, as Psalms 87:4; Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 51:9. But it seems most probable that that work was not yet done, and that Job lived long before Israel’s coming out of Egypt. Or rather,
2. Of the common work of nature and providence in raising tempests, by which he breaketh or divideth the waves of the sea, by making deep furrows in it, and casting up part of the waters into the air, and splitting part of them upon the rocks and shores of the sea.
By his understanding, i.e. by his wise counsel and administration of things, so as may obtain his own glorious ends.
The proud; either,
1. The whale, which is called
king over all the children of pride, Job 41:34, and which is sometimes by force of tempests cast upon the shore. Or rather,
2. The sea, which is fitly called proud, as its waves are called, Job 38:11, because it is lofty, and fierce, and swelling, and unruly; which God is said to smite when he subdues and restrains its rage, and turns the storm into a calm.
By his spirit; either,
1. By his Divine virtue or power, which is sometimes called his spirit, as Zechariah 4:6; Matthew 12:28. Or,
2. By his Holy Spirit, to which the creation of the world is ascribed, Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalms 33:6.
He hath garnished the heavens; adorned or beautified them with those glorious lights, the sun, and moon, and stars.
The crooked serpent; by which he understands either,
1. All the kinds of serpents, or fishes, or monsters of the sea. Or,
2. The most eminent of their kinds, particularly the whale, which may be here not unfitly mentioned (as it is afterwards more largely described) amongst the glorious works of God in this lower world; as the garnishing of the heavens was his noblest work in the superior visible parts of the world.
Or, 3. A heavenly constellation, called the great dragon and serpent, which being most eminent, as taking up a considerable part of the northern hemisphere, may well be put for all the rest of the constellations or stars wherewith the heavens are garnished. Thus he persisteth still in the same kind of God’s works, and the latter branch explains the former. And this sense is the more probable, because Job was well acquainted with the doctrine of astronomy, and knew the nature and names of the stars and constellations, as appears also from Job 9:9; Job 38:31.
These are parts, or, the extremities, but small parcels, the outside and visible work. How glorious then are his visible and more inward perfections and operations!
Of his ways, i.e. of his works. Of him, i.e. of his power, and wisdom, and providence, and actions. The greatest part of what we see or know of him, is the least part of what we do not know, and of what is in him, or is done by him.
The thunder of his power; either,
1. Of his mighty and terrible thunder, which is oft mentioned as an eminent work of God; as Job 28:26; Job 40:9; Psalms 29:3; Psalms 77:18. Or,
2. Of his mighty power, which is aptly compared to thunder, in regard of its irresistible force, and the terror which it causeth to wicked men; this metaphor being used by others in like cases; as among the Grecians, who used to say of their vehement and powerful orators, that they did thunder and lighten; and in Mark 3:17, where powerful preachers are called sons of thunder.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 26". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20