on Job 26 :14
Lo, these are parts of his ways - קצות ketsoth, the ends or extremities, the outlines, an indistinct sketch, of his eternal power and Godhead.
How little a portion is heard - שמץ shemets, a mere whisper; admirably opposed, as Mr. Good has well observed, to רעם raam, the thunder, mentioned in the next clause. As the thunder is to a whisper, so are the tremendous and infinitely varied works of God to the faint outlines exhibited in the above discourse. Every reader will relish the dignity, propriety, and sense of these expressions. They force themselves on the observation of even the most heedless. By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens - Numerous are the opinions relative to the true meaning of this verse. Some think it refers to the clearing of the sky after a storm, such as appears to be described Job 26:11, Job 26:12; and suppose his Spirit means the wind, which he directs to sweep and cleanse the face of the sky, by which the splendor of the day or the lustre of the night is restored: and by the crooked, flying, or aerial serpent, as it is variously rendered, the ecliptic is supposed to be meant, as the sun's apparent course in it appears to be serpentine, in his approach to and recession from each of the tropics. This tortuous line may be seen on any terrestrial globe. Many will object to this notion as too refined for the time of Job; but this I could easily admit, as astronomy had a very early existence among the Arabians, if not its origin. But with me the chief objection lies against the obscurity of the allusion, if it be one; for it must require no small ingenuity, and almost the spirit of divination, to find out the sun's oblique path in the zodiac in the words His hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Others have imagined that the allusion is to the lightning in that zigzag form which it assumes when discharged from one cloud into another during a thunder storm. This is at once a natural and very apparent sense. To conduct and manage the lightning is most certainly a work which requires the skill and omnipotence of God, as much as garnishing the heavens by his Spirit, dividing the sea by his power, or causing the pillars of heaven to tremble by his reproof. Others think that the act of the creation of the solar system is intended to be expressed, which is in several parts of the sacred writings attributed to the Spirit of God; (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6); and that the crooked serpent means either Satan, who deceived our first parents, or huge aquatic animals; for in Isaiah 27:1, we find the leviathan and dragon of the sea called נחש ברח nachash bariach, the very terms that are used by Job in this place: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan, the piercing serpent, (נחש ברח nachash bariach), even leviathan, that crooked serpent, (נחש עקלתון nachash akallathon), and he shall slay the dragon (התנין hattannin) that is in the sea." And we know that in Genesis 1:21 התנינם הגדלים hattanninim haggedolim, which we translate great whales, includes all sea-monsters or vast aquatic animals. Calmet, who without hesitation adopts this sentiment, says: "I see no necessity to have recourse to allegory here. After having exhibited the effects of the sovereign power of God in the heavens, in the clouds, in the vast collection of waters in the sea, it was natural enough for Job to speak of the production of fishes." The intelligent Dr. Sherlock gives another interpretation. After strongly expressing his disapprobation of the opinion that Job should descend, after speaking of the creation of the heavens and their host, to the formation of snakes and adders, he supposes "that Job here intended to oppose that grand religious system of sabaeism which prevailed in his time, and to which, in other parts of this book, he alludes; a system which acknowledged two opposite independent principles by which the universe was governed, and paid Divine adoration to the celestial luminaries. Suppose, therefore, Job to be acquainted with the fall of man, and the part ascribed to the serpent of the introduction of evil, see how aptly the parts cohere. In opposition to the idolatrous practice of the time, he asserts God to be the maker of all the host of heaven: By his Spirit he garnished the heavens. In opposition to the false notion of two independent principles, he asserts God to be the maker of him who was the author of evil: His hand hath formed the crooked serpent. You see how properly the garnishing of the heavens and the forming of the serpent are joined together. That this is the ancient traditionary explication of this place, we have undeniable evidence from the translation of the Septuagint, who render the latter part of this verse, which relates to the serpent, in this manner: Προσταγματι δε εθανατωσε δρακοντα αποστατην, By a decree he destroyed the apostate dragon. The Syriac and Arabic versions are to the same effect: And his hand slew the flying serpent.
"These translators apply the place to the punishment inflicted on the serpent; and it comes to the same thing, for the punishing the serpent is as clear an evidence of God's power over the author of evil as the creating him. We need not wonder to see so much concern in this book to maintain the supremacy of God, and to guard it against every false notion; for this was the theme, the business of the author." - Bp. Sherlock on Prophecy, Diss. ii.
From the contradictory opinions on this passage, the reader will no doubt feel cautious what mode of interpretation he adopts, and the absolute necessity of admitting no texts of doubtful interpretation as vouchers for the essential doctrines of Christianity. Neither metaphors, allegories, similes, nor figurative expressions of any kind, should ever be adduced or appealed to as proofs of any article in the Christian faith. We have reason to be thankful that this is at present the general opinion of the most rational divines of all sects and parties, and that the allegory and metaphor men are everywhere vanishing from the meridian and sinking under the horizon of the Church. Scriptural Christianity is prevailing with a strong hand, and going forward with a firm and steady step.
on Job 26 :14
Lo, these are parts of his ways - This is a small portion of his works. We see only the outlines, the surface of his mighty doings. This is still true. With all the advances which have been made in science, it is still true that we see but a small part of his works. What we are enabled to trace with all the aids of science, compared with what is unseen and unknown, may be like the analysis of a single drop of water compared with the ocean.
But how little a portion is heard of him? - Or, rather, "But what a faint whisper have we heard of him!" Literally, "What a whisper of a word," - דבר וּמח־שׁמץ yuvmah shėmets dâbâr. The word שׁמץ shemets means a transient sound rapidly passing away; and then a whisper; see the notes at Job 4:12. A "whisper of a word" means a word not fully and audibly spoken, but which is whispered into the ear; and the beautiful idea here is, that what we see of God, and what he makes known to us, compared with the full and glorious reality, bears about the same relation which the gentlest whisper does to words that are fully spoken.
The thunder of his power who can understand? - It is probable that there is here a comparison between the gentle "whisper" and the mighty "thunder;" and that the idea is, if, instead of speaking to us in gentle whispers, and giving to us in that way some faint indications of his nature, he were to speak out in thunder, who could understand him? If, when he speaks in such faint and gentle tones, we are so much impressed with a sense of his greatness and glory, who would not be overwhelmed if he were to speak out as in thunder? Thus explained, the expression does not refer to literal thunder, though there is much in the heavy peal to excite adoring views of God, and much that to Job must have been inexplicable. It may be asked, even now, who can understand all the philosophy of the thunder? But with much more impressiveness it may be asked, as Job probably meant to ask, who could understand the great God, if he spoke out with the full voice of his thunder, instead of speaking in a gentle whisper?
on Job 26 :14
26:14 Parts - But small parcels, the outside and visible work. Portion - Of his power and wisdom, and providence. His Power - His mighty power, is aptly compared to thunder; in regard of its irresistible force, and the terror which it causes to wicked men.