This is another perplexing chapter, with various commentaries offering different interpretations, often opposing or
וַיַּעַן אִיּוֹב וַיֹּאמַר׃ 26:1
Job 26:1 And Job responded, and he said,
מֶה־עָזַרְתָּ לְלֹא־כֹחַ הוֹשַׁעְתָּ זְרוֹעַ לֹא־עֹז׃ 26:2
Job 26:2 "How you give help to one without power,
liberate an arm without strength!"
מַה־יָּעַצְתָּ לְלֹא חָכְמָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה לָרֹב הוֹדָעְתָּ׃ 26:3
Job 26:3 "How you give counsel to one without wisdom,
and declare sound knowledge in abundance!"
Can you see the sarcasm dripping from the words of Job? He seems to be beyond arguing. He has strength
enough only to ridicule now. And the rest of the chapter continues this thread of Job’s exasperation.
אֶת־מִי הִגַּדְתָּ מִלִּין וְנִשְׁמַת־מִי יָצְאָה מִמֶּךָּ׃ 26:4
Job 26:4 "With whom do you declare such words?
And whose spirit came forth from you?"
הָרְפָאִים יְחוֹלָלוּ מִתַּחַת מַיִם וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶם׃ 26:5
Job 26:5 "The ghosts must tremble from beneath the water,
even its inhabitants."
It’s very difficult to determine who or what is causing the ghosts to tremble. It’s possible to understand this verse
and the next one as an introduction to the subsequent partial but eloquent description of God’s power. But it’s also
possible to see that they are still sarcastically referring to Bildad’s “momentous” words of the preceding chapter.
עָרוֹם שְׁאוֹל נֶגְדּוֹ וְאֵין כְּסוּת לָאֲבַדּוֹן׃ 26:6
Job 26:6 "Sheol is bare before Him,
and there is no cover for destruction.
נֹטֶה צָפוֹן עַל־תֹּהוּ תֹּלֶה אֶרֶץ עַל־בְּלִי־מָה׃ 26:7
Job 26:7 "He extends northward over empty space,
hanging the earth over nothingness,
The first part of this verse is quite perplexing. At least five attempts to explain it can be found in the commentaries,
and there are probably many more than that. The term northward can relate to the heavens, the uninhabited part of
the earth, the whole of the earth (that is, its inhabited regions), even the ocean, and more. Empty space is thought
to represent the ocean. Others believe it may simply mean what it says, under the assumption that Job understood
that the earth was suspended in emptiness and held there by the great power of God.
צֹרֵר־מַיִם בְּעָבָיו וְלֹא־נִבְקַע עָנָן תַּחְתָּם׃ 26:8
Job 26:8 binding water in His dark clouds,
and no cloud is split open beneath them,
מְאַחֵז פְּנֵי־כִסֵּה פַּרְשֵׁז עָלָיו עֲנָנוֹ׃ 26:9
Job 26:9 overlaying the face of the throne,
spreading His cloud about it,
The ancients believed that God enshrouded His heavenly throne with the clouds so it could not be seen.
מְאַחֵז פְּנֵי־כִסֵּה פַּרְשֵׁז עָלָיו עֲנָנוֹ׃ 26:10
Job 26:10 encircling a boundary about the surface of the waters,
out to the extent of light against darkness."
עַמּוּדֵי שָׁמַיִם יְרוֹפָפוּ וְיִתְמְהוּ מִגַּעֲרָתוֹ׃ 26:11
Job 26:11 "The pillars of heaven should shake,
and be astounded by His rebuke."
בְּכֹחֹו רָגַע הַיָּם (וּבִתוּבְנָתֹו) [וּבִתְבוּנָתֹו] מָחַץ רָהַב׃ 26:12
Job 26:12 "He disturbs the sea with His power,
and with His understanding smites through the sea monster."
Two oddities are found in this verse. The second word can be translated as disturbs, divides, or as stills, the
opposite of the first meaning. If it is correctly meant as disturbs or divides, then it may refer to the Exodus miracle at
the Reed Sea. If stills is the intended meaning, then it may relate to an ancient legend that the earth was originally
covered with waters and God wanted the celestial prince of the sea (Egypt) to cause the waters to recede, leaving
the dry land. Egypt refused to do this, and God smote him. Next we come to the last word of this verse. While I
translate it as sea monster, it can also be considered to be a name, the poetic name of Egypt (as mentioned above). There are many differing views on this verse. As for the error in the parentheses, it seems the second beth and the second vav are misplaced. The correction in the brackets interchanges their positions in the word.
בְּרוּחֹו שָׁמַיִם שִׁפְרָה חֹלֲלָה יָדֹו נָחָשׁ בָּרִיחַ׃ 26:13
Job 26:13 "By His 'breath' the heavens are cleared,
His ‘hand’ pierces the fleeing serpent."
The first part of this verse would seem clear enough; the winds, God’s ‘breath,’ clear the sky of clouds. However,
most bibles have a different translation: spirit, which is the more frequent meaning for the word. In either case,
breath or spirit, the phrase makes similar sense. The second part, however, is less understood. Most translators
assume the fleeing serpent is an early name for a constellation that circles much of the sky not far above the
horizon. But no one has a theory about the words “His ‘hand’ pierces the fleeing serpent.” This aspect of the
phrase seems to have been completely ignored. There’s a good reason for this: Almost all of the translations say
“His hand formed the fleeing serpent,” which grossly mistranslates the fourth word in the verse. The word may be
translated as profanes, desecrates, defiles, dishonors, begins, wounds, or pierces. By no stretch of the imagination
may it be translated as forms or formed. So no one has explained the meaning to my satisfaction. And I have no
הֶן־אֵלֶּה קְצֹות (דַּרְכֹּו) [דְּרָכָיו] וּמַה־שֵּׁמֶץ דָּבָר נִשְׁמַע־בֹּו וְרַעַם (גְּבוּרָתֹו) [גְּבוּרֹותָיו] מִי יִתְבֹּונָן׃ 26:14
Job 26:14 "Lo, these are but inklings of His ways,
then how little of the matter can we hear concerning it!
So who may fathom the thunder of His might?"
I believe this to be another stab as Bildad’s words (and those of the other friends as well). As for the errors, the word within the first set of parentheses should include the yad that is added in the brackets. But the word in the second set of parentheses is assumed to be plural and is translated as His mighty deeds, while it makes perfect sense to leave it singular as His might. So I disagree with the designation of the second word being in error. It is not necessary to add the extra vav that is in the brackets.
[Return to Job Chapters] [Prev.: Job 25] [Next: Job 27]