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Job 26

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?”

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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.”

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