on Job 26 :5
Dead things are formed from under the waters - This verse, as it stands in our version, seems to convey no meaning; and the Hebrew is obscure; הרפאים, harephaim, "the Rephaim," certainly means not dead things; nor can there be any propriety in saying that dead things, or things without life, are formed under the waters, for such things are formed everywhere in the earth, and under the earth, as well as under the waters.
The Vulgate translates: Ecce gigantes gemunt sub aquis, et qui habitant cum eis. "Behold the giants, and those who dwell with them, groan from under the waters."
The Septuagint: Μη γιγαντες μαιωθησονται ὑποκατωθεν ὑδατος, και των γειτονων αυτου; "Are not the giants formed from under the waters, and their neighbors?"
The Chaldee: אפשר דגבריא דמתמזמזין יתברין ואנון מלרע למיא ומשריתהון eposhar degibraiya demithmazmezin yithbareyan veinnun millera lemaiya umashreiyatehon, "Can the trembling giants be regenerated, when they and their hosts are under the water?"
The Syriac and Arabic: "Behold, the giants are slain, and are drawn out of the water." None of these appear to give any sense by which the true meaning can be determined.
There is probably here an allusion to the destruction of the earth by the general deluge. Moses, speaking concerning the state of the earth before the flood, says, Genesis 6:4, "There were giants נפלים nephilim, in the earth in those days." Now it is likely that Job means the same by רפאים rephaim as Moses does by the nephilim; and that both refer to the antediluvians, who were all, for their exceeding great iniquities, overwhelmed by the waters of the deluge. Can those mighty men and their neighbors, all the sinners who have been gathered to them since, be rejected from under the waters, by which they were judicially overwhelmed?
Mr. Good thinks the shades of the heroes of former times, the gigantic spectres, the mighty or enormous dead, are meant.
I greatly question whether sea-monsters be not intended, such as porpoises, sharks, narwals, grampuses, and whales. We know, however that an opinion anciently prevailed, that the Titans, a race of men of enormous stature, rebelled against the gods, and endeavored to scale heaven by placing one mountain on the top of another; and that they and their structure were cast down by the thunder of the deities, and buried under the earth and sea; and that their struggles to arise produce the earthquakes which occur in certain countries. Now although this opinion is supported by the most respectable antiquity among the heathens, it is not to be supposed that in the word of God there can be any countenance given to an opinion at once as absurd as it is monstrous. (But still the poet may use the language of the common people). I must therefore either refer the passage here to the antediluvians, or to the vast sea-monsters mentioned above.
on Job 26 :5
Dead things - Job here commences his description of God, to show that his views of his majesty and glory were in no way inferior to those which had been expressed by Bildad, and that what Bildad had said conveyed to him no real information. In this description he far surpasses Bildad in loftiness of conception, and sublimity of description. Indeed, it may be doubted whether for grandeur this passage is surpassed by any description of the majesty of God in the Bible. The passage here has given rise to much discussion, and to a great variety of opinion. Our common translation is most feeble, and by no means conveys its true force. The object of the whole passage is to assert the universal dominion of God. Bildad had said Job 25:1-6 that the dominion of God extended to the heavens, and to the armies of the skies; that God surpassed in majesty the splendor of the heavenly bodies; and that compared with him man was a worm. Job commences his description by saying that the dominion of God extended even to the nether world; and that such were his majesty and power that even the shades of the mighty dead trembled at his presence, and that hell was all naked before him. The word רפאים râphâ'ı̂ym - Rephaim - so feebly rendered "dead things," means the shades of the dead; the departed spirits that dwell in Sheol; see the word explained at length in the notes at Isaiah 14:9. They are those who have left this world and who have gone down to dwell in the world beneath - the great and mighty conquerors and kings; the illustrious dead of past times, who have left the world and are congregated in the land of Shades. Jerome renders it, "gigantes," and the Septuagint, γίγαντες gigantes - giants; from a common belief that those shades were larger than life. Thus, Lucretius says:
Quippe et enim jam tum divum mortalia secla
Egregias animo facies vigilante videbant;
Et magis in somnis, mirando corporis aucter
Rer. Nat. ver. 1168.
The word "shades" here will express the sense, meaning the departed spirits that are assembled in Sheol. The Chaldee renders it, גבריא - mighty ones, or giants; the Syriac, in like manner, giants.
Are formed - The Syriac renders this, are killed. Jerome, gemunt - groan; Septuagint, "Are giants born from beneath the water, and the neighboring places?" What idea the authors of that version attached to the passage it is difficult to say. The Hebrew word used here (יחוּללו yechôlālû, from חוּל chûl), means to twist, to turn, to be in anguish - as in child birth; and then it may mean to tremble, quake, be in terror; and the idea here seems to be, that the shades of the dead were in anguish, or trembled at the awful presence, and under the dominion of God. So Luther renders it - understanding it of giants - Die Riesen angsten sich unter den Wassern. The sense would be well expressed, "The shades of the dead tremble, or are in anguish before him. They fear his power. They acknowledge his empire."
Under the waters - The abode of departed spirits is always in this book placed beneath the ground. But why this abode is placed beneath the waters, is not apparent. It is usually under the ground, and the entrance to it is by the grave, or by some dark cavern; compare Virgil's Aeniad, Lib. vi. A different interpretation has been proposed of this verse, which seems better to suit the connection. It is to understand the phrase (תחת tachath) "under," as meaning simply beneath - "the shades beneath;" and to regard the word (מים mayı̂m) waters as connected with the following member:
"The shades beneath tremble;
The waters and the inhabitants thereof."
Thus explained, the passage means that the whole universe is under the control of God, and trembles before him. Sheol and its Shades; the oceans and their inhabitants stand in awe before him.
And the inhabitants thereof - Of the waters - the oceans. The idea is, that the vast inhabitants of the deep all recognize the power of God and tremble before him. This description accords with that given by the ancient poets of the power and majesty of the gods, and is not less sublime than any given by them.
on Job 26 :5