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Job 26:1--27:23

Job’s Reply to Bildad 1 

26:1 Then Job replied:

26:2 “How you have helped 2  the powerless! 3 

How you have saved the person who has no strength! 4 

26:3 How you have advised the one without wisdom,

and abundantly 5  revealed your insight!

26:4 To whom 6  did you utter these words?

And whose spirit has come forth from your mouth? 7 

A Better Description of God’s Greatness 8 

26:5 “The dead 9  tremble 10 

those beneath the waters

and all that live in them. 11 

26:6 The underworld 12  is naked before God; 13 

the place of destruction lies uncovered. 14 

26:7 He spreads out the northern skies 15  over empty space; 16 

he suspends the earth on nothing. 17 

26:8 He locks the waters in his clouds,

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

26:9 He conceals 18  the face of the full moon, 19 

shrouding it with his clouds.

26:10 He marks out the horizon 20  on the surface of the waters

as a boundary between light and darkness.

26:11 The pillars 21  of the heavens tremble

and are amazed at his rebuke. 22 

26:12 By his power he stills 23  the sea;

by his wisdom he cut Rahab the great sea monster 24  to pieces. 25 

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

his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. 27 

26:14 Indeed, these are but the outer fringes of his ways! 28 

How faint is the whisper 29  we hear of him!

But who can understand the thunder of his power?”

A Protest of Innocence

27:1 And Job took up his discourse again: 30 

27:2 “As surely as God lives, 31  who has denied me justice, 32 

the Almighty, who has made my life bitter 33 

27:3 for while 34  my spirit 35  is still in me,

and the breath from God is in my nostrils,

27:4 my 36  lips will not speak wickedness,

and my tongue will whisper 37  no deceit.

27:5 I will never 38  declare that you three 39  are in the right;

until I die, I will not set aside my integrity!

27:6 I will maintain my righteousness

and never let it go;

my conscience 40  will not reproach me

for as long as I live. 41 

The Condition of the Wicked

27:7 “May my enemy be like the wicked, 42 

my adversary 43  like the unrighteous. 44 

27:8 For what hope does the godless have when he is cut off, 45 

when God takes away his life? 46 

27:9 Does God listen to his cry

when distress overtakes him?

27:10 Will he find delight 47  in the Almighty?

Will he call out to God at all times?

27:11 I will teach you 48  about the power 49  of God;

What is on the Almighty’s mind 50  I will not conceal.

27:12 If you yourselves have all seen this,

Why in the world 51  do you continue this meaningless talk? 52 

27:13 This is the portion of the wicked man

allotted by God, 53 

the inheritance that evildoers receive

from the Almighty.

27:14 If his children increase – it is for the sword! 54 

His offspring never have enough to eat. 55 

27:15 Those who survive him are buried by the plague, 56 

and their 57  widows do not mourn for them.

27:16 If he piles up silver like dust

and stores up clothing like mounds of clay,

27:17 what he stores up 58  a righteous man will wear,

and an innocent man will inherit his silver.

27:18 The house he builds is as fragile as a moth’s cocoon, 59 

like a hut 60  that a watchman has made.

27:19 He goes to bed wealthy, but will do so no more. 61 

When he opens his eyes, it is all gone. 62 

27:20 Terrors overwhelm him like a flood; 63 

at night a whirlwind carries him off.

27:21 The east wind carries him away, and he is gone;

it sweeps him out of his place.

27:22 It hurls itself against him without pity 64 

as he flees headlong from its power.

27:23 It claps 65  its hands at him in derision

and hisses him away from his place. 66 

1 sn These two chapters will be taken together under this title, although most commentators would assign Job 26:5-14 to Bildad and Job 27:7-23 to Zophar. Those sections will be noted as they emerge. For the sake of outlining, the following sections will be marked off: Job’s scorn for Bildad (26:2-4); a better picture of God’s greatness (26:5-14); Job’s protestation of innocence (27:2-6); and a picture of the condition of the wicked (27:7-23).

2 tn The interrogative clause is used here as an exclamation, and sarcastic at that. Job is saying “you have in no way helped the powerless.” The verb uses the singular form, for Job is replying to Bildad.

3 tn The “powerless” is expressed here by the negative before the word for “strength; power” – “him who has no power” (see GKC 482 §152.u, v).

4 tn Heb “the arm [with] no strength.” Here too the negative expression is serving as a relative clause to modify “arm,” the symbol of strength and power, which by metonymy stands for the whole person. “Man of arm” denoted the strong in 22:8.

5 tc The phrase לָרֹב (larov) means “to abundance” or “in a large quantity.” It is also used ironically like all these expressions. This makes very good sense, but some wish to see a closer parallel and so offer emendations. Reiske and Kissane thought “to the tender” for the word. But the timid are not the same as the ignorant and unwise. So Graetz supplied “to the boorish” by reading לְבָעַר (lÿbaar). G. R. Driver did the same with less of a change: לַבּוֹר (labbor; HTR 29 [1936]: 172).

6 tn The verse begins with the preposition and the interrogative: אֶת־מִי (’et-mi, “with who[se help]?”). Others take it as the accusative particle introducing the indirect object: “for whom did you utter…” (see GKC 371 § Both are possible.

7 tn Heb “has gone out from you.”

8 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.

9 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.

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

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

12 tn Heb “Sheol.”

13 tn Heb “before him.”

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

15 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.

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

17 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.

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

19 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.

20 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.

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

22 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.

23 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.

24 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.”

25 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).

26 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.

27 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).

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

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

30 tn The Hebrew word מָשָׁל (mashal) is characteristically “proverb; by-word.” It normally refers to a brief saying, but can be used for a discourse (see A. R. Johnson, “MasŒal,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 162ff.).

31 tn The expression חַי־אֵל (khay-el) is the oath formula: “as God lives.” In other words, the speaker is staking God’s life on the credibility of the words. It is like saying, “As truly as God is alive.”

32 tn “My judgment” would here, as before, be “my right.” God has taken this away by afflicting Job unjustly (A. B. Davidson, Job, 187).

33 tn The verb הֵמַר (hemar) is the Hiphil perfect from מָרַר (marar, “to be bitter”) and hence, “to make bitter.” The object of the verb is “my soul,” which is better translated as “me” or “my life.”

34 tn The adverb עוֹד (’od) was originally a noun, and so here it could be rendered “all the existence of my spirit.” The word comes between the noun in construct and its actual genitive (see GKC 415 §128.e).

35 tn The word נְשָׁמָה (nÿshamah) is the “breath” that was breathed into Adam in Gen 2:7. Its usage includes the animating breath, the spiritual understanding, and the functioning conscience – so the whole spirit of the person. The other word in this verse, רוּחַ (ruakh), may be translated as “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit/Spirit” depending on the context. Here, since it talks about the nostrils, it should be translated “breath.”

36 tn The verse begins with אִם (’im), the formula used for the content of the oath (“God lives…if I do/do not…”). Thus, the content of the oath proper is here in v. 4.

37 tn The verb means “to utter; to mumble; to meditate.” The implication is that he will not communicate deceitful things, no matter how quiet or subtle.

38 tn The text uses חָלִילָה לִּי (khalilah li) meaning “far be it from me,” or more strongly, something akin to “sacrilege.”

39 tn In the Hebrew text “you” is plural – a reference to Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad. To make this clear, “three” is supplied in the translation.

40 tn Heb “my heart.”

41 tn The prepositional phrase “from my days” probably means “from the days of my birth,” or “all my life.”

42 sn Of course, he means like his enemy when he is judged, not when he is thriving in prosperity and luxury.

43 tn The form is the Hitpolel participle from קוּם (qum): “those who are rising up against me,” or “my adversary.”

44 tc The LXX made a free paraphrase: “No, but let my enemies be as the overthrow of the ungodly, and they that rise up against me as the destruction of transgressors.”

45 tn The verb יִבְצָע (yivtsa’) means “to cut off.” It could be translated transitively or intransitively – the latter is better here (“when he is cut off”). Since the next line speaks of prayer, some have thought this verse should be about prayer. Mandelkern, in his concordance (p. 228b), suggested the verb should be “when he prays” (reading יִפְגַּע [yifga’] in place of יִבְצָע [yivtsa’]).

46 tn The verb יֵשֶׁל (yeshel) is found only here. It has been related spoils [or sheaves]”); שָׁאַל (shaal, “to ask”); נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift up” [i.e., pray]); and a host of others.

47 tn See the note on 22:26 where the same verb is employed.

48 tn The object suffix is in the plural, which gives some support to the idea Job is speaking to them.

49 tn Heb “the hand of.”

50 tn Heb “[what is] with Shaddai.”

51 tn The interrogative uses the demonstrative pronoun in its emphatic position: “Why in the world…?” (IBHS 312-13 §17.4.3c).

52 tn The text has the noun “vain thing; breath; vapor,” and then a denominative verb from the same root: “to become vain with a vain thing,” or “to do in vain a vain thing.” This is an example of the internal object, or a cognate accusative (see GKC 367 §117.q). The LXX has “you all know that you are adding vanity to vanity.”

53 tn The expression “allotted by God” interprets the simple prepositional phrase in the text: “with/from God.”

54 tn R. Gordis (Job, 294) identifies this as a breviloquence. Compare Ps 92:8 where the last two words also constitute the apodosis.

55 tn Heb “will not be satisfied with bread/food.”

56 tn The text says “will be buried in/by death.” A number of passages in the Bible use “death” to mean the plague that kills (see Jer 15:2; Isa 28:3; and BDB 89 s.v. בְּ 2.a). In this sense it is like the English expression for the plague, “the Black Death.”

57 tc The LXX has “their widows” to match the plural, and most commentators harmonize in the same way.

58 tn The text simply repeats the verb from the last clause. It could be treated as a separate short clause: “He may store it up, but the righteous will wear it. But it also could be understood as the object of the following verb, “[what] he stores up the righteous will wear.” The LXX simply has, “All these things shall the righteous gain.”

59 tn Heb כָעָשׁ (khaash, “like a moth”), but this leaves room for clarification. Some commentators wanted to change it to “bird’s nest” or just “nest” (cf. NRSV) to make the parallelism; see Job 4:14. But the word is not found. The LXX has a double expression, “as moths, as a spider.” So several take it as the spider’s web, which is certainly unsubstantial (cf. NAB, NASB, NLT; see Job 8:14).

60 tn The Hebrew word is the word for “booth,” as in the Feast of Booths. The word describes something that is flimsy; it is not substantial at all.

61 tc The verb is the Niphal יֵאָסֵף (yeasef), from אָסַף (’asaf, “to gather”). So, “he lies down rich, but he is not gathered.” This does not make much sense. It would mean “he will not be gathered for burial,” but that does not belong here. Many commentators accept the variant יֹאסִף (yosif) stood for יוֹסִיף (yosif, “will [not] add”). This is what the LXX and the Syriac have. This leads to the interpretive translation that “he will do so no longer.”

62 tn Heb “and he is not.” One view is that this must mean that he dies, not that his wealth is gone. R. Gordis (Job, 295) says the first part should be made impersonal: “when one opens one’s eyes, the wicked is no longer there.” E. Dhorme (Job, 396) has it more simply: “He has opened his eyes, and it is for the last time.” But the other view is that the wealth goes overnight. In support of this is the introduction into the verse of the wealthy. The RSV, NRSV, ESV, and NLT take it that “wealth is gone.”

63 tn Many commentators want a word parallel to “in the night.” And so we are offered בַּיּוֹם (bayyom, “in the day”) for כַמַּיִם (khammayim, “like waters”) as well as a number of others. But “waters” sometimes stand for major calamities, and so may be retained here. Besides, not all parallel structures are synonymous.

64 tn The verb is once again functioning in an adverbial sense. The text has “it hurls itself against him and shows no mercy.”

65 tn If the same subject is to be carried through here, it is the wind. That would make this a bold personification, perhaps suggesting the force of the wind. Others argue that it is unlikely that the wind claps its hands. They suggest taking the verb with an indefinite subject: “he claps” means “one claps. The idea is that of people rejoicing when the wicked are gone. But the parallelism is against this unless the second line is changed as well. R. Gordis (Job, 296) has “men will clap their hands…men will whistle upon him.”

66 tn Or “hisses at him from its place” (ESV).

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