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Job 26:5-14

A Better Description of God’s Greatness 1 

26:5 “The dead 2  tremble 3 

those beneath the waters

and all that live in them. 4 

26:6 The underworld 5  is naked before God; 6 

the place of destruction lies uncovered. 7 

26:7 He spreads out the northern skies 8  over empty space; 9 

he suspends the earth on nothing. 10 

26:8 He locks the waters in his clouds,

and the clouds do not burst with the weight of them.

26:9 He conceals 11  the face of the full moon, 12 

shrouding it with his clouds.

26:10 He marks out the horizon 13  on the surface of the waters

as a boundary between light and darkness.

26:11 The pillars 14  of the heavens tremble

and are amazed at his rebuke. 15 

26:12 By his power he stills 16  the sea;

by his wisdom he cut Rahab the great sea monster 17  to pieces. 18 

26:13 By his breath 19  the skies became fair;

his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. 20 

26:14 Indeed, these are but the outer fringes of his ways! 21 

How faint is the whisper 22  we hear of him!

But who can understand the thunder of his power?”

1 sn This is the section, Job 26:5-14, that many conclude makes better sense coming from the friend. But if it is attributed to Job, then he is showing he can surpass them in his treatise of the greatness of God.

2 tn The text has הָרְפָאִים (harÿfaim, “the shades”), referring to the “dead,” or the elite among the dead (see Isa 14:9; 26:14; Ps 88:10 [11]). For further discussion, start with A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual, 88ff.

3 tn The verb is a Polal from חִיל (khil) which means “to tremble.” It shows that even these spirits cannot escape the terror.

4 tc Most commentators wish to lengthen the verse and make it more parallel, but nothing is gained by doing this.

5 tn Heb “Sheol.”

6 tn Heb “before him.”

7 tn The line has “and there is no covering for destruction.” “Destruction” here is another name for Sheol: אֲבַדּוֹן (’avaddon, “Abaddon”).

8 sn The Hebrew word is צָפוֹן (tsafon). Some see here a reference to Mount Zaphon of the Ugaritic texts, the mountain that Baal made his home. The Hebrew writers often equate and contrast Mount Zion with this proud mountain of the north. Of course, the word just means north, and so in addition to any connotations for pagan mythology, it may just represent the northern skies – the stars. Since the parallel line speaks of the earth, that is probably all that was intended in this particular context.

9 sn There is an allusion to the creation account, for this word is תֹּהוּ (tohu), translated “without form” in Gen 1:2.

10 sn Buttenwieser suggests that Job had outgrown the idea of the earth on pillars, and was beginning to see it was suspended in space. But in v. 11 he will still refer to the pillars.

11 tn The verb means “to hold; to seize,” here in the sense of shutting up, enshrouding, or concealing.

12 tc The MT has כִסֵּה (khisseh), which is a problematic vocalization. Most certainly כֵּסֶה (keseh), alternative for כֶּסֶא (kese’, “full moon”) is intended here. The MT is close to the form of “throne,” which would be כִּסֵּא (kisse’, cf. NLT “he shrouds his throne with his clouds”). But here God is covering the face of the moon by hiding it behind clouds.

13 tn The expression חֹק־חָג (khoq-khag) means “he has drawn a limit as a circle.” According to some the form should have been חָק־חוּג (khaq-khug, “He has traced a circle”). But others argues that the text is acceptable as is, and can be interpreted as “a limit he has circled.” The Hebrew verbal roots are חָקַק (khaqaq, “to engrave; to sketch out; to trace”) and חוּג (khug, “describe a circle”) respectively.

14 sn H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 173) says these are the great mountains, perceived to hold up the sky.

15 sn The idea here is that when the earth quakes, or when there is thunder in the heavens, these all represent God’s rebuke, for they create terror.

16 tn The verb רָגַע (raga’) has developed a Semitic polarity, i.e., having totally opposite meanings. It can mean “to disturb; to stir up” or “to calm; to still.” Gordis thinks both meanings have been invoked here. But it seems more likely that “calm” fits the context better.

17 tn Heb “Rahab” (רָהַב), the mythical sea monster that represents the forces of chaos in ancient Near Eastern literature. In the translation the words “the great sea monster” have been supplied appositionally in order to clarify “Rahab.”

18 sn Here again there are possible mythological allusions or polemics. The god Yam, “Sea,” was important in Ugaritic as a god of chaos. And Rahab is another name for the monster of the deep (see Job 9:13).

19 tn Or “wind”; or perhaps “Spirit.” The same Hebrew word, רוּחַ (ruakh), may be translated as “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit/Spirit” depending on the context.

20 sn Here too is a reference to pagan views indirectly. The fleeing serpent was a designation for Leviathan, whom the book will simply describe as an animal, but the pagans thought to be a monster of the deep. God’s power over nature is associated with defeat of pagan gods (see further W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan; idem, BASOR 53 [1941]: 39).

21 tn Heb “the ends of his ways,” meaning “the fringes.”

22 tn Heb “how little is the word.” Here “little” means a “fraction” or an “echo.”

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