1 - 4 The Vanity of Bildad’s Words
1 Then Job responded,
2 “What a help you are to the weak!
How you have saved the arm without strength!
3 “What counsel you have given to [one] without wisdom!
What helpful insight you have abundantly provided!
4 “To whom have you uttered words?
And whose spirit was expressed through you?
Job responds to Bildad (verse 1). His answer sounds sarcastic. In his speeches he has shown how he searches for justification, but Bildad says in cold blood that this is not possible. Job acknowledges that he is someone who has no power, that he is weak (verse 2). But what a great help he has received from Bildad. His arm hung down powerless, but fortunately, Bildad was there to redeem him. Such a friend brings you something. And then the counsel Bildad gave to the poor Job who lacked wisdom (verse 3). Bildad has not been frugal with it, but has “abundantly provided” insight. Job says as it were: ‘I know nothing, of course. But what a wonderful light have you shed over my situation. It’s all clear now, you know.’
But to whom did Bildad actually reveal his words (verse 4)? Bildad has spoken all his words to a man in deep distress. What he said did not help Job and give him strength and certainly did not relieve his misery, but increased his suffering. Instead of oil and wine they sprinkled salt in his wounds. Bildad’s words have not helped to solve the dark enigma of his present suffering. All the words said to Job by his friends have been misplaced and have proved the bankruptcy of their wisdom.
And what is the origin of Bildad’s words? What spirit prompted them, and went out from him in the words he spoke? It is clear that Bildad is not a messenger of God. The speeches of Bildad and his friends were not inspired by God, but by their own thoughts about God. Bildad’s speech breathes the spirit of Eliphaz (Job 4:17). What the friends said does not correspond in any way to how God really deals with a man who is immersed in suffering. Therefore God’s wrath also ignites against the friends (Job 42:7-9).
5 - 6 God Dominates the Depths
5 “The departed spirits tremble
Under the waters and their inhabitants.
6 “Naked is Sheol before Him,
And Abaddon has no covering.
Bildad has spoken about God’s greatness in the heights, Job here speaks about God’s greatness in the depths. It relates to demonic powers, to the Sheol, the realm of death, and its inhabitants (verse 5). The lost are also under the power of God. We do not see them, they are in Abaddon, the place of destruction, but they are not beyond His sight. He sees them and knows them in full.
In His time they will rise up trembling. Wherever they may be, He will call them forth by His power to judge them (Rev 20:13). In the kingdom of the dead it is not satan who reigns, but God (Psa 139:8; Phil 2:10). Everything is open to God, including the realm of death; nothing is hidden from Him (verse 6; Pro 15:11; Heb 4:13).
7 - 13 God Rules over the Universe
7 “He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
8 “He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.
9 “He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.
10 “He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
11 “The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.
12 “He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
13 “By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
Job continues his description of the greatness of God, now looking north and upward (verse 7). He sees the vast expanse of the universe. He looks north – the place from which God reigns (Isa 14:13-14) – the northern ceiling of the heavens, which is like a curtain overhanging the expanse. In that vast expanse of emptiness, where nothing can be hanged on, the earth hangs. God has hung the globe “on nothing”.
That the earth “hangs” is an established fact. If Scripture mentions anything about creation, it is God’s truth. Scientific ‘truth’ is different. Scientific language is quickly outdated. Scientific conclusions have to be rewritten regularly because new insights destroy the previous ones. The Bible, inspired by God and therefore faultless, is not written in scientific language, but in everyday language and never needs to be changed. Everything God has said remains current for all ages and generations (2Tim 3:16-17).
Thus God also wraps up the waters together in the clouds (verse 8; cf. Pro 30:4), without the cloud tearing through its weight. It is God who gathers the fumes of the earth into thick clouds, as it were the jars of heaven (Job 38:37). It is His way of giving rain on earth wherever He wills (cf. Jer 10:13; Psa 104:3).
Above the clouds is God’s throne (verse 9; cf. Psa 97:2). Of course this is meant to be symbolic, because even without clouds the throne of God is invisible. The throne is the center from which creation is ruled (cf. Job 1:6-12). Man, with all his knowledge and ability, is incapable of discovering Him. He also excludes God in his research into the origin and progress of the universe. He is willfully ignorant (2Pet 3:5). As a result, he has fallen into the foolishness of evolution theory.
God not only controls the water above the earth’s surface, but also the water on the earth’s surface (verse 10). The water above the earth is held by God in clouds. The water on earth is held by God within the limits set by Him (Psa 104:9; Jer 5:22b).
Also in another sense God has drawn a boundary over the surface of the water. That boundary is the horizon. We become aware of this when we stand on the shore of an ocean. If we look into the distance, we see the horizon. We cannot look any further. There is the boundary between the light sky and the dark sea, the boundary between the water in the cloud sky and the water in the sea.
Also the impressive, massive, unshakable mountains, rising high above the landscape and touching the heaven, are under His authority (verse 11). They are poetically called “the pillars of heaven”, as if the heaven is resting on them. But when He rebukes them, and we might think of an earthquake, they tremble (Exo 19:18). Of all that imposing nothing remains. Only His majesty above all else is permanent.
Then there is also His power in the wind with which He whips up the sea (verse 12; Psa 107:25; Isa 51:15; Jer 31:35). With the same authority He also restrains the wind and causes “the storm to be still” (Psa 107:29). What is attributed to God here we see the Lord Jesus doing in the Gospels (Mt 8:26; Mk 4:39). It is one of the many proofs that the Lord Jesus is God.
God is not only great in His omnipotence and majesty, but also in His clearness (verse 13). The Spirit of God gives that clearness in heaven. We see the clearness of the sky, the clouds, the heavenly bodies. David is deeply impressed by it: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained” (Psa 8:3). God creates, controls and delivers (Isa 27:1; Rev 20:2).
That clearness was lost by “the quick [or: fleeing] serpent”, the devil (Rev 12:9), when he brought sin into the world. But God is in Christ the Victor over the devil. He will renew the surface of the earth (Psa 104:30) and restore creation to its original clearness. Then the devil will be bound and the corruption of creation will be taken away (Rom 8:21).
14 There Is Much More
14 “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”
After all that has been said about the heavens and the earth, it must also be said that these are but part of His ways. It is, so to speak, only the glory of the hem of His garments (Isa 6:1). In creation only “His eternal power and divine nature” are seen (Rom 1:20). These are the limits of God’s power that a man can see. He cannot see any further. Reality is so much greater than a man can comprehend, let alone describe it. In order to see more, man needs the revelation of the Spirit.
The language God speaks in creation is clear and overwhelming (Psa 19:2-7). They are visual words. Yet they say so little compared to the fullness that is in Him. In comparison with Who God really is, they are merely whispering words. If these “fringes of His ways” show us only a glimpse of His infinite power, how could anyone understand “His mighty thunder”? Here Job means the full unfolding of the power of God.
Man is incapable of understanding God’s power. Who is not impressed by an approaching thunderstorm with deafening thunderclaps and blinding flashes of light? But what do we actually understand of the power of God Who controls it? If God showed His full power, man would be blown away, wiped out, crushed and consumed.
The New Testament believer is able to see more of God than just His eternal power and divine nature. He has received the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit he is able to know the thoughts of God, “for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1Cor 2:10). Children of God can behold God’s glory in Christ, the “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).