Job praises God for dominating nature and destroying the mythical creatures.
Job praises God: “The pillars of heaven tremble, Astounded at His blast. By His power He stilled the sea…” (vv. 11-12a)
III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: You would help without having the strength; You would deliver with arms that have no power. Without having the wisdom, you offer advice And freely give your counsel.
v. 14: These are but glimpses of His rule, The mere whisper that we perceive of Him; Who can absorb the thunder of His mighty deeds?
2-4. Opening remarks
5-14. Hymnic praise
Chapter 26 is Job’s ninth speech. Job begins with a few opening remarks (vv. 2-4), and proceeds to praise God with excessively hymnic and mythical language (vv. 5-14). As one might expect, the chapter has many parallels to the hymns found in the book of Psalms.
While v. 1 ascribes this chapter’s speech to Job, it seems odd that Job would praise God at this point in time. Hakham (p. 201) believes that Job is trying to display his piety in order to convince the friends that he is being punished despite his innocence. However, Clines and other scholars take a different approach: they believe that the speech actually belongs to one of the friends. Clines writes (p. 630): “The whole of chap. 26 is ascribed to Job in the present form of the book. Most commentators, however, believe that in chaps. 24-48, at the end of the third cycle of speeches, there has been some damage to the text in the course of its transmission. Not only does the orderly succession of speeches break down, but, as the text stands, Job speaks twice (cf. 26:1; 27:1) without any intervening speech from one of the friends, and, more importantly, presents positions (especially on the fate of the wicked, 27:13-23) quite at odds with his consistent views throughout the rest of the book. For these reasons, I have regarded the present verse as an addition to the book, introduced by a copyist after the damage to the sequence has occurred.” It is important to point out Clines’ self-acknowledged speculation (pp. 628-629): “We can never be sure, of course, whether our modern rearrangements of the order of the text successfully restore the attributions of speeches in the original text in its final form, especially when the speeches of the three friends have so much in common; but it is necessary for the sake of the exegesis to make decisions, right or wrong, about who is speaking at any point.”
The speech contains many mythical elements. For example, it begins by mentioning the refa’im “departed spirits” in v. 5: “The shades (refa’im) tremble Beneath the waters and their denizens.” According to Smith (“Rephaim,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. V pp. 674-76), the word refa’im is a “term in the Hebrew Bible whose uses fall generally into two categories: (1) descriptions of the dead in the underworld, or (2) references to a group or nation of giants or warriors.” The term is often parallel to metim “the dead,” as in Ps. 88:11, “Do You work wonders for the dead (metim)? Do the shades (refa’im) rise to praise You? Selah.” It can also specifically refer to dead kings, as in Isa. 14:9: “Sheol below was astir To greet your coming — Rousing for you the shades Of all earth’s chieftains, Raising from their thrones All the kings of nations.” (See the ABD for similarities to Ugaritic rephaim texts.) For and example of the word’s second meaning, see Gen. 14:5, “In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim at Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim at Ham, the Emim at Shaveh-kiriathaim.”
There is also a mention of God’s fight with the sea monsters in vv. 12-13: “By His power He stilled the sea; By His skill He struck down Rahab. By His wind the heavens were calmed; His hand pierced the Elusive Serpent.” Indeed, God appears to be at odds with the sea creatures in other places of Tanakh as well: Ps. 74:13-14 says, “it was You who drove back the sea with Your might, who smashed the heads of the monsters in the waters; it was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan, who left him as food for the denizens of the desert,” and Ps. 89:10-11 says, “You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves surge, You still them. You crushed Rahab; he was like a corpse; with Your powerful arm You scattered Your enemies.” While some feel that these verses are speaking of powerful creatures such as the crocodile and the hippopotamus, chapters such as Job 40-41 seem to be describing more mythical beings. Scholars now believe that there was a common ancient Near Eastern conception of God fighting the Sea and it’s creatures. For instance, Day writes in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (“Dragon and Sea, God’s Conflict With,” Vol. II, pp. 228-31), “the background of this mythological imagery was previously believed to be Babylonian, but since the discovery of the Ugaritic texts it has become apparent that the more immediate source of the biblical allusions is Canaanite mythology.” With this background in mind, a verse from chapter 3 is now understandable. Job asks God, “Am I the sea or the Dragon, That You have set a watch over me?” Job is probably asking God, “am I some sort of enemy of yours, like the sea creatures with which you are at odds?” In other words, “I am not your enemy, let me be!”
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Job 21-37 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Job (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Day, “Dragon and Sea, God’s Conflict With” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. II, pp. 228-31)
Mark S. Smith, “Rephaim” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. V pp. 674-76)
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