WORTHLESS COUNSEL FAILS TO DRAW OUT RELEVANT APPLICATIONS FROM THE AWESOME POWER OF THE MAJESTIC GOD
Francis Andersen: The speech is in two parts.
– First there is a sarcastic response to Bildad’s dismal last speech (verses 2–4).
– Then there is a magnificent description of God’s power in creation (5–14).
Elmer Smick: The controlling theme is indeed similar to Bildad’s—God’s vast power. Job takes up where Bildad left off. Bildad has used the theme to reduce sinful humans to the status of worms. Job wishes to correct what he sees as an unwarranted connection. He does not see God’s power related to the possibility or impossibility of human reconciliation with God. Both men deal with the cosmos, but Job ends on a note that leaves humans standing before the mystery of God’s power with unanswered questions (v.14), but not as a maggot (25:6).
Delitzsch: In what follows, Job now continues the description of God’s exalted rule, which Bildad had attempted, by tracing it through every department of creation; and thus proves by fact, that he is wanting neither in a recognition nor reverence of God the almighty Ruler.
John Trapp: The question may be asked: What place has this poetical tribute to the majesty of God in the argument of the book? Viewed simply as an effort to outdo and correct the utterance of Bildad the speech is not fully explained. We ask further: What is meant to be in Job’s mind at this particular point in the discussion; whether he is secretly complaining that power and dominion so wide are not manifested in executing justice on earth, or, on the other hand, comforting himself with the thought that judgment will yet return to righteousness and the Most High be proved the All-just? The inquiry has special importance because, looking forward in the book, we find that when the voice of God is heard from the storm it proclaims His matchless power and incomparable wisdom.
At present it must suffice to say that Job is now made to come very near his final discovery that complete reliance upon Eloah is not simply the fate but the privilege of man. Fully to understand Divine providence is impossible, but it can be seen that One who is supreme in power and infinite in wisdom, responsible always to Himself for the exercise of His power, should have the complete confidence of His creatures. Of this truth Job lays hold; by strenuous thought he has forced his way almost through the tangled forest, and he is a type of man at his best on the natural plane. The world waited for the clear light which solves the difficulties of faith. While once and again a flash came before Christ, He brought the abiding revelation, the dayspring from on high which giveth light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
(:1) PROLOGUE – JOB RESPONDS
“Then Job responded,”
I. (:2-4) SARCASTICALLY MOCKING THE WORTHLESS COUNSEL OF BILDAD
Tremper Longman: Job begins his next speech by sarcastically characterizing the speeches of his friends. From the very beginning, he has made clear that his friends are unreliable as counselors. They are worse than ineffective; they have actually intensified his problems. They are absolutely no help. Though they claim to come with authority, they really have let him down (vv. 2-4).
Elmer Smick: Bildad has struck a most sensitive nerve. In all Job’s speeches nothing has been more important to him than his determination to be vindicated, to be shown blameless, in God’s tribunal (10:1–7; 13:3, 13–19; 16:18–21; 19:23–27; 23:2–7). Bildad has just labeled that impossible. Job cannot restrain himself. He levels a sarcastic reply directly at the speaker (Hebrew second singular). He has nothing but contempt for Bildad’s wisdom. In his colorful, ironic exclamations, Job considers himself powerless, feeble, and without wisdom, but not a maggot (vv.2–4). If Bildad would only impute to him the dignity every human being deserves, he could have some compassion. The RSV (continued in the NRSV) already caught this ironic tone departing from the question format in the KJV (LXX). Understanding vv.2–3 as sarcasm makes Job’s question about the source of such wisdom equally tongue-in-cheek.
Stan Anderson: Job is frustrated with all of them. In effect he says, “Thanks for nothing.” He hurls a series of sarcastic questions like barbed arrows:
• How have you helped me in my weakness?
• How have you consoled me in my confusion?
• Do you realize that an evil spirit is controlling you?
Job describes them as “miserable comforters” and “physicians of no value.”
Instead of helping him, these friends only made matters worse. They said many words, but none of those words blessed him. Instead of blessing him, they blasted him and burdened him. He questioned whose spirit spoke through them (vs. 4), suggesting that Satan may have inspired them instead of God.
3 CHARACTERIZATIONS OF WORTHLESS COUNSEL
A. (:2) Powerless to Help the Weak
“What a help you are to the weak!
How you have saved the arm without strength!”
John Hartley: These verses contain Job’s harshest rejection of a friend’s counsel. Job uses the second person masculine singular form here, whereas in his other speeches he used second person masculine plural forms in addressing the friends as a group. Perhaps he is singling out Bildad for this series of harsh rhetorical questions because he has reiterated the position of each of the other comforters.
David Guzik: How have you helped him who is without power: Job considered all the wisdom from Bildad and his two friends (Eliphaz and Zophar), and wondered where the help or strength was in any of it.
At the end of it all, Job’s friends got to the point where they were so concerned about being right that they forgot to be concerned about helping Job.
B. (:3) Devoid of Helpful Wisdom or Insight
“What counsel you have given to one without wisdom!
What helpful insight you have abundantly provided!”
C. (:4) Lacks Divine Authority
“To whom have you uttered words?
And whose spirit was expressed through you?”
John Hartley: By asking the source of his inspiration Job is questioning the value of his instruction. The breath (nešāmâ) is the principle of human life that is given by God (Gen. 2:7; Job 33:4). It may also stand for divine inspiration that stirs up special insight deep inside a person (cf. 32:8). Job, however, does not find that Bildad has any special wisdom from outside his own thinking that will help him overcome his difficulties. In fact, he has had to resort to quoting from the other friends to fill out his third speech. Therefore, by rejecting Bildad’s instruction as lacking in encouragement and in wisdom at this point, Job is rejecting all the discourse of the comforters as worthless.
David Guzik: Whose spirit came from you: In the very first speech of Job’s friends (Job 4), Eliphaz said that a mysterious spirit had revealed to him his principles. The message from the shadowy spirit began, Can a mortal be more righteous than his God? (Job 4:17). Bildad then repeated the same idea to Job in Job 25:4, as well as other recycled arguments in that brief chapter. Therefore, Job wanted to know from Bildad: Whose spirit came from you, or as the New International Version has it, Whose spirit spoke from your mouth?
II. (:5-14) SINCERELY PRAISING THE MAJESTIC POWER OF GOD
A. (:5-6) Power over the Realm of the Dead
“The departed spirits tremble
Under the waters and their inhabitants.
6 Naked is Sheol before Him
And Abaddon has no covering.”
John Hartley: God, the Creator, has complete mastery over the realm of the dead, referred to by three names, waters (mayim), Sheol, and Abaddon (ʾaḇaḏḏôn). Sheol was thought to lie under the ocean and to be a murky, watery abode. Its inhabitants eked out a wretched, meager existence. They are called shades (repāʾîm), for while they have existence and identity, they are weak and helpless. Even though Sheol is far away (11:8), dark (17:13), and sealed (7:9), no one can hide from God there. Sheol is naked before him, i.e., God knows all that happens there. Since there is no hiding from God in Sheol, its inhabitants tremble in dread of his presence.
Elmer Smick: The thrust of these verses is that there is no place hidden from God. Job’s remark is an emphatic rejoinder to Bildad’s statement (25:3) that the light of God shines on everyone. Job heightens the observation dramatically by drawing attention to the searching eye of God from which even Sheol (Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 69–98) and Abaddon (from the Hebrew word “Destruction”; see Note) provide no hiding place. The proverbist, whose purpose is different from Job’s, takes it a step further: “Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD; how much more the hearts of men!” (Pr 15:11).
Kim Kuhfuss: Sheol — understood three ways –
1) Lower parts of earth
2) Grave – Ps. 16:10
3) Place of torment- Ps. 139:8; Rev. 14:10
Also understood as: Hell = destruction and place of no escape- Hebrews 2:3
B. (:7-10) Power over Creation as God Exercises Control
Mike Waters: God tells us two things about Himself within the book of creation—
– He’s outside of creation and
– concerned with creation (both of these reveal the majesty of God).
(a) He is outside of creation—this means, the fact of creation argues its Creator is distinct from creation. . . The fact of creation argues that its Creator existed prior to it—that He existed before all that we see.
(b) He is concerned with creation—He’s both outside of creation and yet, intimately concerned with it. This is contrary to the error of Deism, which basically believes, God remains detached from creation. Deism affirms that God made creation, but it denies that He continues to be intimately concerned with creation. But again this is contrary to Job 26, for here we learn He fills the clouds with water and stirs up the sea with His power. This is called God’s providence and basically includes two things—preservation (whereby He sustains everything) and governance (whereby He directs everything). Thus, Job focuses on both—God not only created all things in six days, but He sustains and governs it. Every single atom is upheld by His mighty power, every storm is governed by His power and wisdom.
1. (:7) Control over All Creation = Summary Statement
“He stretches out the north over empty space,
And hangs the earth on nothing.”
John Hartley: God, like a sheikh pitching a tent, created the world.
Tremper Longman: According to Job, God is not only sovereign over the underworld; he is also in charge of the rest of the cosmos. Using creation language (stretches out, hangs), Job talks about how God brought about Zaphon and the earth out of nothing (v. 7). Zaphon is a reference to the mythological mountain where the gods dwell. In a sense, the move from the underworld to Zaphon is a way of saying that God is in control of heaven and earth and everything in between. He did, after all, bring the earth out of nothing, and so he controls everything.
David Guzik: He hangs the earth on nothing: Job remarkably understood this. In contrast to ancient mythologies that said the earth was held up on the backs of elephants or giant turtles, Job knew that He hangs the earth on nothing.
Chuck Smith: Interesting statement, indeed, in that Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible, probably as old as the book of Genesis, maybe even older; it could have been written before Genesis. And Job declares that God hangs the earth upon nothing. Now compare that with the scientific theories of those days, the men of science in those days. The wise men had drawn pictures of the earth being held up by an elephant. Now I don’t know what he was standing on. Or Atlas holding up the earth. But Job declares he hung it on nothing. Interesting indeed.
2. (:8) Control over the Clouds
“He wraps up the waters in His clouds;
And the cloud does not burst under them.”
John Hartley: Under the heavenly canopy God does many wonders. Amazingly he binds (ṣōrēr) some of the waters in thick clouds (ʿāḇîm), as one stores wine in a wineskin. But the cloud mass (ʿānān) does not burst or split open under the great weight of the water. God protects the earth from being inundated by a cloudburst.
Elmer Smick: The fact that God can spread out the heavens over empty space, hang the earth on nothing, and fill the clouds with water without their bursting is intended to make us stand in awe (v.8). Job is boldly expressing in poetic terms the marvelous, majestic power of God. Those clouds, though they contain an impressive quantity of water, do not split and dump all the water at once. Even with today’s scientific explanation of cloud formation in terms of temperature, pressure, condensation, etc., one is still moved to wonder at the extreme complexity and yet ingenious simplicity of such a phenomenon.
3. (:9) Control over the Display of His Glory
“He obscures the face of the full moon,
And spreads His cloud over it.”
John Hartley: God encloses the sight of his throne in a cloud mass (ʿānān; cf. Ps. 97:2). Since no creature can behold his glory and live, for it is too brilliant and awesome, these clouds protect his creatures from being consumed by the glory.
Elmer Smick: Does God cover the face of “his throne” or “the full moon”? If the text is speaking of God’s throne, then this line can be tied to God’s appearance in the storm (38:1). God uses the clouds to enshroud him in his lofty abode (Ps 104:3–13; Am 9:6). He appears in heaven in golden splendor and awesome majesty. But people can no more look at him directly than they can the sun (37:21–22). So the clouds must cover the face of his throne—an apt word picture of a theophany.
4. (:10) Control over the Separation of Light and Darkness
“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters,
At the boundary of light and darkness.”
John Hartley: At the end of the sea’s waters God drew a boundary line, the horizon, to divide the light from the darkness. The horizon is located at the farthest limits. This line divides the light that shines on the cosmos from the darkness that inhabits the watery chaos.
C. (:11-13) Power over Chaotic Cosmic Forces
Tremper Longman: Verses 11–13 then speak again of the effect of his greatness and power on the cosmos and its inhabitants. The very pillars that separate the earth from the heavens quake when he issues his rebuke. The pillars that hold up the heavens would be seen as extremely formidable, and that God can make them quake indicates the immensity of his power. In v. 12 Job speaks of the Sea as a mythological power, representing hostile powers. In ancient Canaan, the Sea (Yam) was a god who assumed the kingship of the pantheon and was resisted by Baal, who defeated and subdued him. The stilling of the Sea shows God’s power over the forces of chaos. Rahab is a mythological creature that inhabits the sea and thus provides a good parallel to Yam (Sea). The reference to God’s defeat of Rahab may hark back to the myth that God defeats the sea monster that represents chaos.
1. (:11) Over the Pillars of Heaven
“The pillars of heaven tremble,
And are amazed at His rebuke.”
John Hartley: Whenever God appears in anger, the pillars of heaven, possibly the distant mountains on the horizon that support the huge canopy of the sky, shake violently. The phrase at his rebuke (geʿārâ) describes God’s command to bring into subjection those cosmic forces hostile to his rule.
Elmer Smick: The thought was common in the ancient world that the earth shook at its foundations when God expressed his anger (Ps 18:7, 15; Isa 2:19, 21; 13:13; Eze 38:19; et al.). Such phenomenological language was based on volcanoes and earthquakes. The force exerted by a thunderclap (Ps 77:18) is perceived as “the blast of the breath from your [God’s] nostrils” (Ps 18:15).
2. (:12-13) Over the Sea, the Heavens and All Mythical Foes
“He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.”
Poole: The sea, which is fitly called proud, as its waves are called, Job 38:11, because it is lofty, and fierce, and swelling, and unruly; which God is said to smite when he subdues and restrains its rage, and turns the storm into a calm.
Derek Kidner: God is sovereign over every imaginable enemy and foe, even “Rahab” (26:12; cf. 9:13) and “the gliding serpent” (26:13, a possible reference to Leviathan).
John Hartley: God overcame these foes by his power and by his insight (v. 12), even by his wind and his hand (v. 13). These words for God’s instruments in defeating his foes are chiastically arranged:
God’s power (v. 12a)
is visible in his hand (v. 13b),
and his insight or wisdom (v. 12b)
is manifest in his wind or breath (v. 13a).
Usually in ancient Near Eastern mythologies the god of wisdom is distinguished from the god of power. Because these two qualities do not exist in a single god of the pantheon, there is no god that is able to accomplish his full intentions. In contrast, the God of Scripture possesses both qualities supremely. There is no other cosmic being that is his equal in any way.
D. (:14) Power Beyond Our Imagination (cf. Eph. 3:20)
“Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”
Tremper Longman: Job then ends his description of God’s great creative power, which stands over against anti-creation forces represented by various mythological images, by saying that this is just the tip of the iceberg. God’s power is ultimately mysterious and far more extensive than Job suggests. We do not hear a full report of his doings; so we have only a partial picture of who he is and his power (“the fringes of his way”).
John Hartley: The mighty acts of God are merely the outskirts or the extremities of his ways. In a theophany a person hears but a whisper of God’s ways. If the wonders of creation are far too marvelous for mankind to comprehend, it is just as impossible for a human being to comprehend the thunder of his power. At best a human being catches only a glimpse of God’s marvelous ways.
David Guzik: Job understood a lot about God; but He understood enough to know there was far more than he did not understand.
Stan Anderson: God is greater than you think. J. B. Phillips wrote a book entitled, Your God is Too Small. God is not actually small, but He is too small in people’s minds. A. W. Tozer was right when he said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Elmer Smick: For Job these manifestations and deeds are but mere shadows or whispers of the smallest part of God’s might. We stand merely at the fringe of his majestic power. Who among us can even begin to comprehend this fully, let alone fully realize the thunderous might of which he is capable? How beautifully and humbly Job asserts the majestic omnipotence of God! But he ends the poem convinced of the mystery that surrounds that omnipotence.
Ray Stedman: Once again he goes on to state the majesty of God in a brilliant and moving passage, and he closes with this word in verse 14: And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power? What he says is simply that there is a mystery in God that no human can plumb. Even when we have understood something of the greatness of His wisdom and majesty in nature—when we have learned of His omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, and we know that as part of our theology—it still does not explain all of His ways.
I am reminded of a verse from Robert Browning’s poem “Bishop Blougram’s Apology,” where the poet describes an arrogant young man who has worked out all his theology so that God is carefully boxed in. He believes he knows the answers to all the theological riddles of life; there is no place for God in it. He can handle it all himself. He comes to an old bishop and tells him he does not need God any longer; he is committed to his unbelief. The old bishop warns him:
“Just when we are safest, there’s a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one’s death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides,—
And that’s enough for fifty hopes and fears…
The Grand Perhaps.”
What he means is that just when you think you have God all worked out, something happens that you can’t handle—it doesn’t fit your box. You see a sunset that is so moving that it awakens depths in you that you can’t explain. Someone dies, and you don’t know how to handle it. You see a flower, and you are touched by it. You listen to a chorus-ending from Euripides, and it moves you in such a strange way, it doesn’t fit the facts. And in all these ways God is breaking through into our lives—the grand perhaps, and that’s enough for fifty hopes and fears—the great mystery of God.