New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 26:1 Then Job answered- The speech of Job recorded in Job 26-31 is the longest in the book. The pattern of each of the three friends giving a speech and Job replying, spread over three speeches, appears to slightly break down in that Zophar doesn't give his third speech. We note that Bildad's final speech was very brief, and was really only quoting previous words from Eliphaz (Job 25). This could all create the intentional impression in the drama that the friends were running out of steam in their arguments. Job now makes a very long speech... but that is not his victory nor justification. That is only provided by God's appearance at the end, when Job repents of his words. It is usual for the genre of drama to play with audience expectation and dash it to make a point. That is what is happening here, with Bildad's final speech really a flop, and Zophar not giving the speech which the structure of the drama requires him to make. And we are also led to expect Job's final long speech to be his justification, seeing most of what he says is true in itself. But this too is a dashed expectation; for God appears and condemns them all, and then justifies Job by grace. But see on Job 27:11.

Job 26:2 How have you helped him who is without power! How have you saved the arm that has no strength!-
The reference may again be to Cain, who was cursed with the ground being "without power" to him (Gen. 4:12 s.w.), as an apostate Israel were (s.w. Lev. 26:20). In this case Job would be saying that even the condemned in this life could be helped to revival. That was what he had learnt of God, and he expected men to act with a similar saving grace. Elihu confirms the argument by saying that although God has all power, He doesn't despise those who have none (Job 36:5). The exiles were also without "power" (Lam. 1:6 s.w.), represented by Daniel in just that position (s.w. Dan. 10:8,16,17), with "no strength" (Ez. 19:14), but would "renew their strength / power" (Is. 40:31 s.w.). That revival would not be by human power but by God's spirit (Zech. 4:6), after the pattern of Job's revival. The Zion who had "no strength" would put on strength (s.w. Is. 51:9; 52:1).

Job 26:3 How have you counselled him who has no wisdom, and plentifully declared sound knowledge!-
Job felt he had been deprived of everything, including wisdom and knowledge. But this was not because he was unwise; he is presented as a perfect man (Job 1:1). God is able to give and take wisdom, as is seen in the natural creation (Job 39:17 s.w.).

Job 26:4 To whom have you uttered words? Whose spirit came forth from you?-
To ask this question is to imply that they were false prophets (1 Kings 22:24). And God confirms this at the end, in saying that the friends had not spoken rightly about Him (Job 42:7).

Job 26:5 Those who are deceased tremble, those beneath the waters and all that live in them-
AV "Dead things are formed from under the waters". "Waters" are a clear figure for judgment. Job's great theme is that out of death, there can be revival and restoration. Death itself is no barrier to this revival. This was the lesson taught to the exiles by the vision of the dry, dead bones of Israel reviving. The LXX therefore speaks of "giants be born from under the water".

Job 26:6 Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering-
This is a deconstruction of Mot, the god of death; see on Job 10:8. He sees God is the real attacker, not, therefore, Mot or any other such being. Note too how Num. 16:31–35 describes God as swallowing up Korah, Dathan and Abiram into death in the earth – as if to deconstruct the idea that Mot did things like this. But in the context noted on :5, death is no barrier to God's work of revival and restoration.


Job 26:7 He stretches out the north over empty space, and hangs the earth upon nothing-
This continues the ideas of :5,6; God can revive and restore from death, He can create matter, and can hang great weights upon nothing. Emptiness and deserted space can be used by Him. And this was the challenge of faith to the exiles. To believe that the empty space of the Jerusalem temple and the ruined land could again be stretched out by God as a tabernacle is stretched out, and revived (s.w. Is. 54:2); just as Job's ravaged body and life could be restored in a moment. Creation itself had been brought about from that which was "without form" (Gen. 1:2, s.w. "empty space"), and so the new creation of Job and Israel would be likewise.

Job 26:8 He binds up the waters in His thick clouds, and the cloud is not burst under them-
Job likes to reason from the hints found within the natural creation, and Elihu and God Himself will speak to him in these very terms which he clearly so appreciated. Here, Job's point is that great weight can be carried by that which is nothing, and will not be broken by the great weight. This is in harmony with the preceding verses; Job believed that God would and could revive from nothing, from death itself.

Job 26:9 He encloses the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud upon it-
As so often in the drama of Job, truths are presented but without context. This is indeed true; but Job and the exiles had to learn that the cloud that came between God and themselves was that of human sin (Is. 44:22), even though God responded by bringing that cloud (Job 36:32). The years of exile were the day of cloud (Ez. 34:12; Lam. 3:44). But through that cloud, the light of God's saving glory was still visible (Job 37:15).

Job 26:10 He has defined a boundary on the surface of the waters, and to the confines of light and darkness-
GNB "He divided light from darkness by a circle drawn on the face of the sea". Job understands that it is God who sends the good and evil, the light and the darkness, into his life (Job 30:26). Significantly, he states his faith that God even marks out the boundary between light and darkness (Job 26:10) – a similar idea in essence to the reassurance of Is. 45:5 that God creates both light and darkness. The ‘darkness’, however we experience and understand it, is framed and limited by God; it is not a power or being with independent existence outside the realm of God’s power. God confirms Job’s understanding later, when He says that it is He who can swaddle the sea [another figure for uncontrollable evil] in bands of darkness (Job 38:9) – as if to say that it is God who gives things like darkness and the sea their sinister appearance and perception by men; but He is in control of them, using them in His hand. See on Job 38:10.

Job 26:11 The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His rebuke-
Job understood God to be in control in Heaven; he rejects the idea of a cosmic conflict going on ‘up there’ which the friends seem to allude to. More specifically, Job speaks of how God’s hand forms and can pierce the “crooked serpent” and smite any monster (Job 26:11–14). It’s as if Job is mocking the idea that God has let him go into the hands of the cosmic monsters which the friends believed in. For Job so often stresses that it is the “hand of God” which has brought His affliction (Job 19:21; 23:2). That Divine hand was far greater than any mythical ‘Satan’ figure. The theme of his speech in Job 28 is that Yahweh alone is to be feared throughout the entire cosmos. Nobody else – such as the ‘Satan’ figures alluded to by the friends – needed to be feared.


Job 26:12 He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He strikes through Rahab-
Rahab is a term used for Babylon and so this becomes all the more relevant to the restoration context. "The sea" was understood by the contemporary people to be awfully mysterious, and a radical power in its own right. Just as Babylon and the forces arraigned against Job seemed invincible and a law to themselves. Just as we may consider we are in the hands of forces which are mysterious and too great for us to grapple with. But Job's simple faith was that God was in total control of all those things. "He stirs up the sea..." is quoted in Is. 51:15 of God's power available for the exiles against Babylon.


Job 26:13 By His Spirit the heavens are garnished. His hand has pierced the swift serpent-
See on :11. Here the hand and Spirit of God are equated- both are Angelic phrases, and thus provides further evidence that the Angels actually performed the creation. Many passages clearly identify God’s spirit with His power. In order to create the earth, “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen. 1:2,3). God’s spirit was the power by which all things, e.g. light, were made. “By His spirit He has created the heavens; His hand has formed the crooked serpent” (Job 26:13). A comparison of Mt. 12:28 and Lk. 11:20 shows that “the finger of God” and “the spirit of God” are parallel - God in action is His spirit. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Ps. 33:6).

Thus Job associates God's Spirit with His hand, which is Satan's hand. It seems far more fitting that this hand and spirit should be Angelic rather than human. Again, it was Angelic work that formed the Heavens. Job recognized that his trials came from the hand of God, but knew that His hand would not kill him- " with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me... howbeit He will not stretch out His hand to (bring me to) the grave" (Job 30:21,24). This was exactly the brief given to satan- to try Job, but "preserve his life". The hand of God creating evil (Job 2:10,11) must surely refer to God's " Angels of evil" (Ps. 78:49) rather than to man- Cyrus had to be taught that no one except God (including human satans!) created evil (Is. 45:5-7).

Job 26:14 Behold, these are but the outskirts of His ways. How small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand
?- There are only some things which God makes known to us about Himself; we do not have the total truth about God, we see but parts of His ways and hear only a little portion of Him (Job 26:14). Our perception and definition of “the truth” needs to bear this in mind. Absolute truth claims aren’t simply ignorant, they lead to all manner of relationship breakdown, arrogance and deformation of spirituality both in ourselves and others. See on Rom. 1:19.