Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Job Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |

JOB 26


Job Rebukes Bildad Job: Mans' Frailty and God's Majesty Reply of Job Job A Hymn to God's Omnipotence
(25:1-6; 26:5-14)
26:1 26:1-14
The Greatness of God     [Bildad]  
        Bildad's Rhetoric Is Beside the Point

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. See note at Contextual Insights of Job 25.


B. Job's response to Bildad is very sarcastic. Job feels that his three comforters have not only not brought comfort but have attacked him unfairly.

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1537) thinks Job 26:2-4 is from Bildad because of the use of the singular "you." Everywhere else Job uses the plural "you," but the three comforters always use the singular.


C. Job 26:5-14 "may" be part of Bildad's speech. This section of the dialogues does not match the other cycles. Why is uncertain.

They seem to continue the thought of God's greatness begun in Job 25:1-6. However, 26:5-14 is a wonderful poem of God's greatness and could surely be from Job. This type of cosmic imagery does not fit Bildad's previously recorded words.


D. This cosmology reflects the thought of ANE cultures (see Introduction to Genesis online). It was a three storied worldview.

1. The atmosphere was a dome with several levels (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEAVENS AND THE THIRD HEAVEN and the Third Heaven).

2. The dry ground was a flat disk floating on water.

3. The dead were beneath the dry ground in a prison house (see Special Topic: Sheol).

For a good discussion of Semitic cosmology see John H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One and  ANE Thought and the OT: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible.


E. There are several places where ANE creation mythology (i.e., conflict with watery chaos) is alluded to.

1. Job 9:13 – Rahab

2. Job 20:12-13 – Rahab; the fleeing serpent

3. Ps. 74:12-17 – sea monsters; Leviathan

4. Ps. 89:9-10 – Rahab

5. Ps. 104:25-26 – Leviathan

6. Isa. 51:9-10 – Rahab; dragon

See G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 13, "The Language of Myth."


 1Then Job responded,
 2"What a help you are to the weak!
 How you have saved the arm without strength!
 3What counsel you have given to one without wisdom!
 What helpful insight you have abundantly provided!
 4To whom have you uttered words?
 And whose spirit was expressed through you?"

26:2-3 Notice the parallelism.

1. verbs

a. help (BDB 740, KB 810), Job 26:2a

b. saved (BDB 446, KB 448), Job 26:2b

c. given counsel (BDB 419, KB 421), Job 26:3a

d. provided (lit. "caused to know," BDB 393, KB 390), Job 26:3b

2. noun phrases

a. "the weak" (lit. "him who has no power), Job 26:2a

b. "the arm without strength," Job 26:2b

c. "to one without wisdom," Job 26:3a

This is all sarcasm! The subject "you" is singular, addressing Bildad specifically.

26:4 This verse has two questions. I think the NRSV catches the intended meaning.

"With whose help have you uttered words,

And whose spirit has come forth from you?"

Job is questioning the true source of Bildad's speech. The implication is that it is an evil, mistaken spiritual source. This may be the only place outside Job 1-2 where "the adversary" is alluded to.

It is also possible that Job recognized that Bildad was alluding to Eliphaz's previous speech (Job 4).

 5"The departed spirits tremble
 Under the waters and their inhabitants.
 6Naked is Sheol before Him,
 And Abaddon has no covering.
 7He stretches out the north over empty space
 And hangs the earth on nothing.
 8He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
 And the cloud does not burst under them.
 9He obscures the face of the full moon
 And spreads His cloud over it.
 10He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
 At the boundary of light and darkness.
 11The pillars of heaven tremble
 And are amazed at His rebuke.
 12He quieted the sea with His power,
 And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
 13By His breath the heavens are cleared;
 His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
 14Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
 And how faint a word we hear of Him!
 But His mighty thunder, who can understand?"

26:5-14 This is an extended passage on the omnipotent God. I think it refers to the monotheistic Deity of Israel. Monotheism is rare outside of Israel (i.e., Melchizedek, Gen. 14:17-24; and Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, Exod. 2:16-22; 3:1; 18:1-2, apparently knew of YHWH). Remember, I think a Judean sage composed the book of Job based on oral traditions about a historical person. Often, Israelite theology appears in the dialogues.

The attributes of God show

1. His control over the dead, Job 26:5-6

2. His control over creation, Job 26:7-13

3. His hiddenness, Job 26:14



NASB"departed spirits"
NKJV"the dead"
REB"the shades"
TEV"the spirits of the dead"
NJB"the shadows"
Peshitta"mighty men"
Moffatt"primaeval giants"

The MT has "shades" (lit. Repha'im, BDB 952). This Hebrew root has two distinct meanings.

1. race of giants (see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS USED FOR TALL/POWERFUL WARRIORS OR PEOPLE GROUPS (GIANTS)) – Gen. 14:5; 15:20; Deut. 2:20; 3:11; Jos. 17:15; 1 Chr. 20:4

2. the departed/the conscious dead – Job 26:5-6; Pro. 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isa. 14:9; 26:11-19; this usage is common in Wisdom Literature (see SPECIAL TOPIC: WISDOM LITERATURE)

Because of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 it is possible to see these as departed kings and powerful humans, now in Sheol, their power and prestige gone. There is a detailed discussion of this term in NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 1173-1180.

▣ "under the waters" Creation was thought to be established on the "cosmic waters" (cf. Ps. 24:2; 104:2-3; 136:6).

26:6 This verse asserts that God knows what occurs in Sheol (BDB 982, i.e., holding place of the dead, see Special Topic: Sheol) and Abaddon (BDB 2, cf. Job 28:22; 31:12; Ps. 88:10-11; Pro. 15:11; 27:20; see Special Topic: Abaddon. . .Apollyon). Psalm 139:7-12, especially 139:8 asserts YHWH is present in Sheol.

26:7 It is possible that "the north" (BDB 860) is a reference to "the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north" (cf. Isa. 14:13; Ps. 48:2), which reflects Canaanite mythology of Mount Zaphon (other mythology referred to in Job 26:12-13).

However, Job 26:7 may be an alternate way of referring to the creation of the earth.

1. earth as a stretched tent (cf. Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Isa. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Jer. 10:12; 51:15) stretched over a void; hung on nothing (i.e., possibly primordial ocean; i.e., Hebrew "Tohu," BDB 1062, cf. Gen. 1:2)

2. earth built on subterranean pillars (1 Sam. 2:8; Job 9:6; Ps.75:3)

3. John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Job, p. 253, #35, suggests the word "earth" (BDB 75), which in this context, means the netherworld (i.e., Sheol). He lists the other places where the Hebrew word has this connotation (cf. Exod. 15:12; 1 Sam. 28:13; Job 10:21-22; Eccl. 3:21; Isa. 26:19; Jonah 2:6).


26:8-9 The two words for "cloud" (BDB 728 and 777) are used in two senses.

1. clouds that hold rain, so important for the agricultural societies of the ANE, Job 26:8

2. clouds that cover God's glory lest mankind sees God and dies (i.e., Shekinah cloud of glory), Job 26:9 (cf. Gen. 16:13; Exod. 33:20; Jdgs. 13:22; Hab. 3:4c; Isa. 6:5)



NASB"He obscures the face of the full moon"
NKJV"He covers the face of His throne"
REB"He covers the face of the full moon"
TEV"He hides the full moon"
JPSOA"He shuts off the view of His throne"
LXX"He who holds firmly the face of the throne"
Peshitta"He holds fast the covering of the firmament"

The UBS Text Project (p. 83) gives the NKJV an "A" rating. The other option (NASB) has the same consonants but different vowels.

The basic meaning of the verb (BDB 28, KB 31) is to "seize," "lay hold of," or "settle" (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 354-358). The Piel stem is used of "hiding" or "covering." This covering involves "the clouds" (cf. Job 26:8). See SPECIAL TOPIC: COMING ON THE CLOUDS.

▣ "spreads" This verb (BDB 831, KB 975, Pilel infinitive absolute) occurs only here. It apparently comes from the verb "spread" (BDB 831, KB 975).

26:10 This verse refers to God's separating the waters (i.e., salt and fresh in Gen. 1:9-10). God set a boundary beyond which the waters may not pass (cf. Job 38:8-11; Ps. 104:9; Pro. 8:29). This shows God's power in creation.

26:11-13 These verses describe the power of God's spoken word (cf. Genesis 1). The "Rahab" (BDB 923, meaning "pride" or "arrogance") of Job 26:12 is Babylonian creation mythology (for a good discussion of the different ways the word "mythology" is used see G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 13, "The Language of Myth") of God's destruction of watery chaos (cf. Ps. 74:12-17; notice it is parallel with Yam [sea], a god of ancient mythology). This same theme may be carried over into Job 26:13. The basic meaning of the word in 26:13a is "fair" (BDB 1051, KB 1636) but that does not fit the parallel of 26:13b, "pierced the fleeing serpent." Perhaps the NASB, "cleared," TEV, "clear," could reflect the context of Isa. 27:1.

26:11 "tremble" This verb (BDB 952, KB 1279, Poal imperfect) occurs only here in the OT. Most English translations translate it as "tremble." Some other options/guesses are

1. swayed

2. fluttered

3. tottered

4. quaked

but all convey the same basic thought.


NKJV"stirs up"
NJB"whipped up"

The MT has the verb (BDB 920 I, KB 1188, Qal perfect). It can mean

1. disturb, cf. Isa. 51:15; Jer. 31:35

2. quiet, cf. Jer. 31:2; 47:6; 50:34

The Qal form usually denotes #1. If so, Job 26:12a is parallel to 26:12b, which denotes the ANE mythology of the defeat (TEV) of watery chaos (Ps. 74:12-17).

▣ "understands" This Hebrew noun (BDB 108) is personified in Pro. 2:9; 7:4; and 8:14. In Pro. 8:22-31 it is the first creation of YHWH (i.e., Wisdom) whereby He created everything else. This is a powerful word in Hebrew thought.


NJB"His breath"
Peshitta"His Spirit"
JPSOA"his wind"

This is the Hebrew word ruah (BDB 924). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE. As the Spirit was active in Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:12-13, so too, in this cosmological text.

Because of Job 41:21, where Leviathan (another way to refer to Rahab) is said to breathe out fire, some scholars (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 764) think Job 26:13a refers to God defeating the ancient sea monster (i.e., watery chaos). I think, in context, Job 26:11 and 13 all speak of the power of the spoken word.

1. His rebuke, Job 26:11

2. He quieted the sea, Job 26:12

3. His breath, Job 26:13

Notice the mention of "word" and "thunder" (a metaphor of God's voice) is used in Job 26:14.


26:14 Of all the powerful acts of God mentioned, they are only a mere fraction of His power and wonders. He is beyond human comprehension (cf. Job 11:7-9).

NASB"faint a word"
NRSV"small a whisper"
NJB"feeblest echo"
JPSOA"mere whisper"
REB"faint the whisper"
LXX"a droplet"

This noun construct (BDB 1036 and 182) denotes a fraction or fragment of something (cf. Job 4:12). This word (BDB 1036) occurs only twice in the OT, both in Job. The parallelism with "fringes" (or "outskirts of," BDB 892) drives the translation options.

▣ "His mighty thunder" God uses sound to communicate His presence and power. This verse relates to Job 26:11, "His rebuke."

Notice the ways God shows His presence (using different synonymous roots).

1. thunder – Exod. 9:23,28,29,33,34; 19:16; 20:18; 1 Sam. 7:10; 12:17,18; Job 26:14; 28:26; 38:25; Ps. 29:3; 77:18; 81:7; 104:7; Isa. 29:6

2. lightning – Exod. 19:16; 20:18; 2 Sam. 22:15; Job 28:26; 37:3; 38:25; Ps. 18:14; 77:18; 97:4

3. flames of fire – Exod. 3:2; Jdgs. 13:20; Ps. 18:8; 50:3; Isa. 29:6; 30:30; 66:15; Joel 2:5

4. wind – Gen. 8:1; Exod. 10:13,19; 14:21; Num. 11:31; 2 Sam. 22:11; 1 Kgs. 19:11; Job 1:19;   38:1; Ps. 18:15; 48:7; 104:3; 135:7; 147:18; Isa. 29:6; 66:15; Jonah 1:4; 4:8

Just a closing thought on this cosmological poem, God, the one true God, is powerful! However, in all this power (i.e., creation), Job is still sick and rejected. He affirms God's power and sovereignty but questions His fairness and justice. God reveals Himself to Job in power at the end of the book (Job 38:1-40:6), but never answers the questions about His justice! It remains the mystery of evil in a world created by, controlled by, guided by an all-powerful and loving God. The mystery remains!! See Contextual Insights A and B at Job 38.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To whom does "spirit" in Job 26:4 refer?

2. In your own words describe the common cosmology of the ANE. How is the Bible the same/different?

3. Does the Bible present creation as a gradual unfolding (Genesis 1) or a battle (Psalm 74; 89; Isa. 27)?

4. Explain the word "mythology."

5. Why is Job 26:9 so difficult to translate?

6. Who is Job 26:13 talking about?

7. Explain in your own words the implication of Job 26:14.


Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  JobTable of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |