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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 26

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. XXVI.

Job, reproving the uncharitable spirit of Bildad, acknowledges the power of God to be infinite and unsearchable.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 26:1. But Job answered and said Job, finding his friends quite driven from their strong hold, and reduced to give up the argument, now tells them, Job 26:2-3 if the business was to celebrate the power and wisdom of the Almighty, he could produce as many shining instances of it as they could; but at the same time he intimates, that their behaviour was mean, after so great a parade of wisdom as they had exhibited, to shelter themselves at last behind the power of God, rather than generously give up an argument which they were unable to maintain, and acquit him of a suspicion which they were not capable of supporting by a conviction. Heath.


Verse 2

Job 26:2. How hast thou helped him, &c.— Whom hast thou been helping? him who hast no power: For whom hast thou gotten a victory? the arm which hath no strength, Job 26:3. To whom hast thou been giving counsel? him who hath no wisdom: verily, thou hast been teaching learning to the master. Heath. The latter clause of the 3rd verse, which is literally rendered, was, most probably, a proverbial expression.


Verse 5

Job 26:5. Dead things are formed from under the waters Shall the Rephaim be brought forth from under the waters; and their inhabitants, or their neighbours? It follows, Job 26:6, Sheol is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. Job is here giving instances of the almighty power of God. Our translators have been a little unhappy in their version. The word רפאים Rephaim never signifies dead things. It originally denotes those giants in impiety who were overwhelmed by the flood; and from thence it came afterwards to signify the manes of wicked men, or men of violence like them, who, as they died, were gathered to their assembly, to the lowest depths of שׁאול sheol. See Proverbs 9:18. The Chaldee paraphrast, LXX. and Vulgate, all translate rephaim here by a word which signifies giants; and from a view of their translations, compared with the Hebrew, the meaning of the verse seems to be, "Shall the Rephaim be brought forth again from under the waters, with which they were overwhelmed at the flood; or their neighbours, those wicked souls who have since been gathered to their assembly?" See Peters, Proverbs 21:16, and Isaiah 14:9. Houbigant renders this verse, Behold the giants tremble beneath the waters, in their inhabitants: Job means those giants, says he, who were overwhelmed with the flood; having their overthrow as immediately present before his eyes, because the deluge at this time was fresh in the memory of men.


Verse 9

Job 26:9. He holdeth back the face of his throne, &c.— He covereth the place of his immediate presence, spreading his cloud over it. Heath.


Verse 10

Job 26:10. He hath compassed the waters with bounds He hath set a circle as a boundary upon the face of the waters, even to the extremity of light with darkness; i.e. to the very edge where light and darkness meet. The horizontal circle is here meant. See Peters, and the note on chap. Job 28:3.


Verse 12

Job 26:12. He divideth the sea with his power He shaketh the sea. Schultens. He appeaseth the sea by his power; by his wisdom he hath determined its extent. Houbigant, who observes, that the sacred author here refers to God's creation of the sea, and his limitation of it by appointed bounds. Bishop Warburton, however, tells us, that the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea is here plainly referred to, and that רהב rahab, rendered proud, signifies Egypt. But perhaps, says Mr. Peters, others may see nothing more in it than the description of a storm or tempest. The Hebrew word רג raging translated divide, is not the same as is used Exodus 14 of the Red Sea, but signifies a violent breaking and tossing of the waves, as in a storm. And if the former part of the sentence means that God sometimes by his power raises a violent storm at sea, the latter may well enough be understood of the pride and swelling of the sea itself, allayed again by the same divine power and will which raised it. Though I suspect, indeed, from the use of the phrase elsewhere, that same ancient piece of history, much older than that of Pharaoh's overthrow in the Red Sea, may be here alluded to. If Egypt, for its pride, or strength, be once or twice called רהב rahab, in the scriptures, this is no argument that Egypt must be always meant, wherever the word proud or reb occurs.


Verse 13

Job 26:13. By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens, &c.— It may be well asked, how come these disagreeable ideas to be joined together? How comes the forming of a crooked serpent to be mentioned as an instance of Almighty power, and to be set as it were upon an equal foot with the creation of the heavens, and all the host of them? When you read the whole chapter, all the images in which are great and magnificent, can you possibly imagine that the forming of the crooked serpent, in this place, means no more than that God created snakes and adders? This surely cannot be the case. If we consider the state of religion in the world when this book was penned, it will help to clear this matter up. The oldest notion, in opposition to the supremacy of the creator, is, that of two independent principles; and the only kind of idolatry mentioned in the book of Job (and it was of all others the most ancient) is the worship of the sun and moon and heavenly host: from this Job vindicates himself, chap. Job 31:26, &c. Suppose Job now to be acquainted with the fall of man, and the part ascribed to the serpent, of the introduction of evil; and see how aptly the parts cohere: In opposition to the idolatrous practice of his time, he asserts God to be the maker of all the host of heaven, By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens. In opposition to the false notion of two independent principles, he asserts God to be the maker of him who was the first author of evil: His hand hath formed the crooked serpent. You see how properly the garnishing of the heavens and the forming of the serpent are joined together. That this is the ancient traditionary explication of this place, we have undeniable evidence from the translation of the LXX, who render the latter part of this verse, which relates to the serpent, in this manner: By a decree he destroyed the apostate dragon. The Syriac and Arabic versions are to the same effect. These translators apply the place to the punishment inflicted on the serpent, and it comes to the same thing; for the punishing of the serpent is as clear an evidence of God's power over the author of evil, as the creating him. We need not wonder to see so much concern in this book of Job to maintain the supremacy of God, and to guard it against every false notion; for this was the theme, the business of the author. He gives as it were an epitome of his design in these remarkable words, delivered by Job, chap. Job 9:4. God is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? The mention of the serpent in this manner, in the book of Job, is the more to be regarded, because this book being, as I conceive, older than the Mosaic history; it is an evident proof that the account of Moses is the ancient account of the fall, and not a story dressed up by himself to serve any particular ends or purposes. Bp. Sherlock on Prophecy, Dissert. 2: As this learned and able writer has in these last words expressed his opinion of the antiquity of this book, we will just set down, for the satisfaction of the reader, what he offers against the opinion of its being written for the consolation of the Jews at Babylon. "The patience of Job," says he, "is much talked of, and we seldom look further for any use of this book; but in truth the book was written in opposition to the very ancient opinion which introduced two independent principles; one of good, the other of evil. For this reason Satan, the author of Job's misfortunes, has permission from God to afflict Job; and the moral of the history lies in Job's reflection, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: and again, Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all which, as the history expressly observes, Job did not sin with his lips; intimating how prone men were to sin with their lips, when they talked of the evils of life, and the author of them."


Verse 14

Job 26:14. Lo, these are parts of his ways Lo! these are but the outlines of his paths; yet what a series of noble acts have we heard of him! but of the thundering of his mightiness, who can even bear the contemplation? See Heath and Schultens.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Pained as Job is, in every part, he cannot help rallying Bildad on the impertinence of his pompous oration.

How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength? If this be referred to God, it is an ironical sarcasm on Bildad's pretending to lift his feeble arm in support of the Almighty and his cause; or if it be spoken of Job, as seems most likely, it expresses his contempt of a discourse so foreign to the purpose, and so little suited to minister to him strength or help. How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? ridiculing the folly of his affecting the part of a counsellor, and of his regarding his opponent as if he was destitute of understanding: And how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? set forth the matter in dispute in a copious and convincing manner, when in fact he had not spoken one word to the purpose, respecting the grand point in debate. To whom hast thou uttered words, as if I were ignorant of such knowledge, and words withal so foreign to the case? And whose spirit came from thee? in thy conceit, the spirit of wisdom and eloquence; in my apprehension, the spirit of error and affectation. Note; (1.) When persons conceited, and wedded to their own opinions, assume a superiority in dispute, without producing any just claim to it, they deserve the ridicule that they provoke. (2.) It is not sufficient that what we say is true; it must be pertinent, and applicable to the case in hand, or else it is unprofitable and vain. (3.) Afflicted souls need not to have displays of majesty and terror set before them; but of mercy and grace in Christ, poured in as balm to their wounds.

2nd, The point in debate is dropped here; and, since Bildad seemed to triumph in setting forth the power and greatness of God; Job, so far from disputing it, heartily joins with him, yea, exceeds him. It were happy for us, in all our religious differences, if we would waive disputes about opinions allowedly not essential to salvation, and, content to differ about the more abstruse and minuter points of doctrine, unite in the great and glorious truths which both sides heartily embrace.

1. The power and glory of God appear among the inhabitants of hell beneath, sunk as stones in the mighty waters, and groaning in misery: the Rephaim, the giants of enormous size, swept away by the devouring deluge with all the multitude, are shut up in chains of darkness in the great abyss, unto the judgment of the great day, (for so the words may signify:) Behold, the giants groan under the waters, with the inhabitants thereof, the world of the ungodly. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering; he sees each atom of the sleeping dead wherever dispersed in earth, fire, air, or water: yea, the place of the damned is open before him, hell itself excludes not his presence; how then should the sinner be hid, when even death and hell are without covering?

2. From things beneath, he ascends to things around us, in the earth and sea: He hangs the earth upon nothing, poised in the vast expanse, and held together by strange magnetic virtue. Shut up in the bosom of the vast abyss, the mighty waters know those bounds which they cannot pass till time shall be no more. The stormy billows roar, and lash the echoing shores; the waves lift up their heads, as if they had forsaken the deep, and threatened to mount the skies; the pillars of heaven, the strong mountains, tremble, and stand astonished at his reproof, when tempests and mighty thunders are stirred up round about them; then, at his word, he smiteth through the proud waves, the storm is hushed, billows subside, and creep in gentle murmurs to the shore.

3. From objects around us on earth, he rises to the visible glories above us, which bear the strong and legible characters of his eternal power and godhead who fashioned them. The vast expanse of firmament is stretched over us, where float those clouds, in which, by wonderful mechanism, the waters exhaled from the sea are suspended, nor, rent with the weight, pour down in torrents their collected stores, but with gentle showers refresh, instead of deluging the earth. Garnished by his Spirit, the aetherial sky, bright with sun, moon, and stars, displays the wonders of his transcendant greatness; and his hand hath formed the crooked serpent, either some bright constellation in the heavens, or that wonder of God's works upon earth, Leviathan, Isaiah 27:1.; yet, surpassing marvellous as these his works appear, lo, these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him? how little do we know, compared with what is unseen; and even in what is visible, how small a part can we comprehend of the depths of the wisdom, knowledge, and glory of God therein manifested. But the thunder of his power, the amazing greatness of it, who can understand? it infinitely transcends all human faculties, and leaves us far behind, lost in wonder and admiration.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 26:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-26.html. 1801-1803.

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