Job 26:14 (CSB)
14These are but the fringes of his ways; how faint is the word we hear of him! Who can understand his mighty thunder?
Job begins his final reply to his friends, this time specifically to Bildad, with a flurry of insults. The sarcasm here seems to be out of step with the relatively neutral and sound speech from Bildad. We could speculate a defense for Job, but it would simply be speculation, and it’s probably best to simply note his sarcastic start.
These 9 verses contain wisdom on the part of Job, displayed through his understanding of the might and sovereignty of God. Here he explores these attributes of God through the creative order.
First Job starts not with the heavenly, but with the dead, noting that not just the things above are God’s handiwork, but even the things below are exposed and subject to God’s omnipotence and omniscience.
Then in vv7-11 Job shifts to those things above. He alludes to God’s creation of the skies, the design of weather properties and the cycling of water into clouds, which remain above between man and God’s proverbial “heavenly” throne. The picture of the horizon as something God has “laid out” is an interesting picture, continuing to describe the creative power and order God demonstrated in separating the earth and water from the sky. And although some might point to v11 as an example of the Bible failing in its accuracy, as if this is a literal claim that there are physical pillars holding up the sky, the obvious poetic description of Job serves to further reinforce the picture of a mighty God who has exerted his sovereignty and power over the created order doing the miraculous with his creation.
In Job 26:12-13 we read mention of Rahab, most likely a mythological sea monster. Again, rather than viewing this as a failure of scripture due to a reference to a possible mythological creature, we read the passage as it is intended: as a poetic expression of the might and power of God. The message here is not to make claims of monsters, or any other type of “real” creature that one may try to “defend” the passage with, but it is to express, in a way that would have been clear at the time, God’s glorious attributes.
Job finishes this section with an amazing insight, and theological clarity. What he has described is just the “fringe” of who God is, and it is a “faint word” of who God is, and this is what we see and hear. Truly, who of us mere humans “can understand his mighty thunder?”
Job 27 begins with Job returning to his profession of innocence. While he continues to affirm God as the one who sustains him, while at the same time maintaining his righteousness and the fact that his grievous suffering is not a result of some judgment as his friends have repeatedly asserted.
In vv7-10 we see a slightly different take from Job, as he describes bad happening to the wicked, rather than what he has previously generally railed against, namely the wicked not receiving justice. Whether Job is speaking about his friends or the wicked who have opposed him in general, it is unclear, and really does not make much difference to the meaning: he who is cut off from God will have no recourse or hope.
The final extended passage of Job 27 provides a number of pictures of what the wicked will face. But before job dives into these example pictures of judgment, he provides some insight into what he is really intending in the rest of the speech. In v11 Job suggests he is going to “teach” his friends about the power of God, and in v12 he refers to their “empty talk.” When we notice these things, and the fact that what follows reads much like what Job’s friends have said to, and about, Job, and descriptions of his state that he has provided himself, we see the remainder of the chapter as Job mocking his friends and their “empty talk.”
And, just as there were nuggets of insight in what Job’s friends had said, there are truths within Job’s speech here: the impermanence of wealth, the terror that the wicked man will experience apart from God, the general tortuous state of being against God. But the point is, as Job prefaced this passage, that Job is not separated from God, and the judgments of his friend are in fact wrong.
Lord, thank you for being a holy and righteous God that we can depend on and trust despite what circumstances we may be in. I pray that you would help us to remain faithful and obedient in both times of blessing and those of trials. Strengthen us with your power as we are tested, and refine us to have faith that is not dependent on our haves and have-nots. Amen.