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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 26

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Job's Response to Bildad

A. Job challenges his friends.

1. (Job 26:1-2) Have you practically helped me or anyone else?

But Job answered and said:

"How have you helped him who is without power?
How have you saved the arm that has no strength?

a. But Job answered and said: This begins a long discourse of Job, which first answered the brief speech of Bildad (Job 25) and then became a speech on wisdom and a final defense, ending in Job 31.

i. "The pronouns are singular; Job is addressing one person, presumably Bildad." (Andersen)

ii. "He begins then, in Chapter 26, with three verses of scornful irony, addressed apparently to the last speaker, but obviously intended for each of the three." (Bradley)

iii. "Bildad has struck a most sensitive nerve. . . . Job could not restrain himself. He leveled a sarcastic reply directly at the speaker … He had nothing but contempt for Bildad's wisdom." (Smick)

b. How have you helped him who is without power? Job considered all the wisdom from Bildad and his two friends (Eliphaz and Zophar), and wondered where the help or strength was in any of it.

i. At the end of it all, Job's friends got to the point where they were so concerned about being right that they forgot to be concerned about helping Job.

2. (Job 26:3-4) Have you helped me or anyone else with your wisdom?

How have you counseled one who has no wisdom?
And how have you declared sound advice to many?
To whom have you uttered words?
And whose spirit came from you?"

a. How have you counseled one who has no wisdom? Job made these statements broad enough to include not only himself, but also anyone else that Bildad and his friends failed to help.

i. "A most wise and profound discourse thou hast made, and much to the purpose: an ironical expression, as before." (Poole)

b. To whom have you uttered words? Job wondered who else had been damaged by the insensitivity and misapplied wisdom of his friends.

c. Whose spirit came from you? In the very first speech of Job's friends (Job 4), Eliphaz said that a mysterious spirit and revealed to him his principles. The message from the shadowy spirit began, Can a mortal be more righteous than his God? (Job 4:17). Bildad then repeated the same idea to Job in Job 25:4, as well as other recycled arguments in that brief chapter. Therefore, Job wanted to know from Bildad: Whose spirit came from you? Or, as the New International Version has it, Whose spirit spoke from your mouth?

i. "Like a broken record, the first word and the last words of Job's friends are exactly the same, and all their words in between have been but variations on this one theme." (Mason)

B. Job praises God and His awesome power in creation.

"Then, to show the poverty of Bildad's argument, he spoke of the greatness of God to prove that he knew it, and even more perfectly than his friends." (Morgan)

1. (Job 26:5-13) A description of the power of God.

"The dead tremble,
Those under the waters and those inhabiting them.
Sheol is naked before Him,
And Destruction has no covering.
He stretches out the north over empty space;
He hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the water in His thick clouds,
Yet the clouds are not broken under it.
He covers the face of His throne,
And spreads His cloud over it.
He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters,
At the boundary of light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble,
And are astonished at His rebuke.
He stirs up the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.
By His Spirit He adorned the heavens;
His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

a. The dead tremble, those under the waters and those inhabiting them: Many suggestions have been offered for the identity of these "watery dead." Some think that Job believed that Sheol was a watery abyss, connected it with an idea suggested by 2 Samuel 22:5. Others think it is just a poetical way of describing those who are buried in the lowest pit, in the depths (Psalm 88:6). Some even believe those inhabiting the waters are actually fishes and sea creatures. It seems best to regard it as a poetic and non-technical description of the uncertainty, darkness, and gloom of the world beyond.

i. Job used similar imagery in Job 10:21-22: The land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land as dark as darkness itself.

ii. Yet, the point in context should not be missed. Job's idea is that there is no place hidden from God; everything (including the realm of the dead and the depths of the sea) is naked before Him.

iii. Destruction has no covering: "That is, hell, the place of destruction, the palace of King Abaddon (so the devil is called, Revelation 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." (Trapp)

b. He hangs the earth on nothing: Job remarkably understood this. In contrast to ancient mythologies that said the earth was held up on the backs of elephants or giant turtles, Job knew that He hangs the earth on nothing.

i. "He hangeth the earth upon nothing. You see how nearly the Poet-philosopher lays his hand on the yet unveiled secrets of Nature. We can hardly wonder that the passage caught the eye of a Kepler, fresh from removing a portion of the veil." (Bradley)

ii. "The greatness of this work of God appeareth hereby, saith Merlin, that men cannot spread aloft the thinnest curtain, without some solid thing to uphold it." (Trapp)

c. He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness: Job also understood the principles of the curvature of the earth and the curved nature of the horizon.

i. "The fact that God can spread out the heavens over empty space, hang the earth on nothing, and fill the clouds with water without their bursting is intended to make us stand in awe (Job 26:8)." (Smick)

ii. The pillars of heaven tremble: "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." (Poole)

d. He stirs up the sea with His power: Job knew the mighty energy displayed in storms that stirred up the sea, and he knew that this was from the power of God.

i. "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." (Poole)

e. His hand pierced the fleeing serpent: This is another obscure reference to an ancient serpent defeated by God. Isaiah 51:9 and Psalm 89:8-10 also speak of a serpent associated with the sea that God defeated as a demonstration of His great strength, and identifies this serpent with the name Rahab, meaning proud one.

i. Ancient rabbinic mythologies suggest that an evil serpent was in the primeval sea resisting creation, and that God killed the serpent and brought order to the world (Genesis 1:1-2).

ii. Satan is often represented as a dragon or a serpent (Genesis 3; Revelation 12 and 13) and the sea is thought of as a dangerous or threatening place in the Jewish mind (Isaiah 57:20; Mark 4:39; Revelation 21:1). Therefore, Leviathan may be another serpent-like manifestation of Satan, who was the original "Rahab" (proud one).

iii. In the ancient times of Job, there were many popular legends about the gods who combated different hostile deities in order to create the earth. Job took some of these stories and made the Lord GOD the hero of them. Therefore, it is the Lord God who stirs up the sea by His power, when ancient legends said that Tiamat (the Deep) was the chaotic goddess defeated by the hero god Marduk (Bel), or Yam (the Sea) who was defeated by Baal.

iv. "Here the sea that God subdues is not the deity Yam. Job depersonalized Yam by using the definite article (the sea), thus expressing his innate monotheistic theology. Marduk employed seven winds to overthrow Tiamat; here God's own breath clears the heavens. All the power of the wind is his breath. Further, by his own wisdom, skill, and power he 'cut Rahab to pieces' and 'pierced the gliding serpent,' unlike Marduk who depended on the enablement of the father-gods. . . . Job, then, demonstrated God's authority over the domain of Mot (the god of death) in Job 26:5-6 and over the domain of Baal (the cosmic storm god in Job 26:7-10). And in Job 26:12-13 Job drew attention to God's awe-inspiring power over the domain of Yam (the stormy sea-god)." (Smick)

v. "A study of the Old Testament names for the well-known Canaanite mythological sea monsters like Rahab shows how purposefully the Old Testament authors used the language to enrich their own poetic conceptions of the supremacy of the one and only true God." (Smick)

2. (Job 26:14) Man in light of the power of God.

Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
And how small a whisper we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand?"

a. Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways: Job's description of the power of God in Job 26:5-13 is amazing and impressive; yet Job knew that this description did not begin to fully describe God.

i. When God finally speaks to Job later in the book, He will speak to Job more about His ways, upon which Job has only touched the edges of. He will bring some of the thunder of His power to Job.

ii. "The explanation of Job's suffering is the fact that God and Satan had made a battleground of his soul. It was not for Job's chastening or his perfecting, but for an ulterior purpose which he did not know, but his intuition made him stick to the fact that the only One who could explain the sublimities of Nature was the One who could explain what he was going through." (Chambers)

b. But the thunder of His power who can understand? Job understood a lot about God; but He understood enough to know there was far more than he did not understand.

i. "His mighty power, which is aptly compared to thunder, in regard of it irresistible force, and the terror which it causeth to wicked men." (Poole)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 25 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 27 Next Chapter →
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