Avraham ben Yaakov


In this brief chapter Bildad HaShuhi, second in seniority out of the three companions who had come to "comfort" Job in his misery, gives what turns out to be their final answer to him - after Job's speeches in the chapters that follow, the companions could find no more to say to him to try to change his attitude. As we end this third cycle of the interchanges between Job and the three companions, we note that the third companion, Tzophar HaNaamasi, does not even attempt to answer Job.

Job had said, "I shall set forth my case before Him!" (ch 23 v 4). Bildad's short reply to Job is in the form of a KAL VA-CHOMER (an argument from a light to a serious case, or vice versa). So great is God, with His countless armies of angels, that the very heavens are impure in His eyes - how much less can a putrid mortal, destined to be eaten by the worms, justify himself before God?

V 2: "Dominion and fear are with Him." - "'Dominion' is the archangel Michael (CHESSED); 'Fear' is the archangel Gabriel (Gevurah) - you are quite incapable of answering even one of them!" (Rashi). This is Bildad's answer to Job's saying he would put his case before God. In the words of Metzudas David (ad loc.): "Great is the dominion and the fear that are with HaShem. Each one of them makes peace in the celestial order of the stars and planets so as not to work contrary to the other in running the lower world [=earth] and so as not to change their mission. It is not as you [Job] say - that the celestial order is not subject to God. For they do indeed bow to Him, whether through awe at His exaltedness or fear of punishment."

This verse contains the phrase "He makes peace in His high places," which is recited daily numerous times, at the conclusion of Birchas HaMozon (the Blessing after Bread), the Shmonah Esray prayer and the full Kaddish.

The Midrash comments on this verse: "Rabbi Yaakov said: Even the celestial beings need peace. The constellations ascend, and Taurus says, 'I am first' - and does not see what came before him. Gemini says, 'I am first' and does not see what came before him, and likewise each one says 'I am first'. They complement one another and they do not harm each other. See how the celestial beings need peace. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: The firmament is made of water and the angels are made of fire and they live with each other. It is not only a matter of the relationship between one angel and another. Even within one angel himself, half is fire and half is water, and He makes peace within him! Great is peace, for the celestial beings need peace. Is it not a case of KAL VA-CHOMER: if peace is necessary in a place where there is no hatred, no enmity and no contentiousness, how much more so in a place where all of these exist - on earth!" (Tanchuma).

V 5 alludes to the mystery of the diminution of the moon because of her jealousy of the sun (Hullin 60b; see Metzudas David on this verse). Even though her rebellion was very minor and her status was very great, she is nothing in comparison to God and even her small rebellion is considered very great. Similarly, even the stars are not pure in God's eyes -

V 6: How much more contemptible is man - destined to be eaten by the worms - and even a minor rebellion on his part against God is considered very great. Where then is Job's "righteousness"?


Job now replies to Bildad, saying that his words cannot help or avail either Job or other men seeking to investigate the question of apparently meaningless suffering, and they do not have the power to penetrate the secret. For when a person says that the judgment meted out to man is subject to chance, he says so because of the very greatness of God - for man is too insignificant for Him to pay him any attention (Ramban on v 2).

Metzudas David explains: Job mocks Bildad for having stated what everybody knows while speaking very minimally about the wonders of God. Job describes His wonders at even greater length and says that nevertheless, he too has not come to tell of more than a small portion of His wonders. It is as if he is saying to Bildad: What does it matter if considering God's greatness and man's lowliness, even a small rebellion is considered to be very great. In that case the rebellion of the wicked must be considered even greater - why then does God apparently not exact retribution from them? (Metzudas David on Job 26:14).

Vv 2-4 Job mocks Bildad for failing to provide any help. "To whom have you uttered words" (v 4) - "Who is there who does not already know what you have said?" ".and the soul of whom came forth from you?" (ibid.) - "Whose spirit was speaking through you - who did you hear these words from: Job is speaking scornfully" (Metzudas David).

V 5: Job begins to speak about the mysteries of the REPHA-IM, the "shades" - i.e. the dead, who go down to Gehennom, which weakens (ME-RAPEH) the creations, and which consists of seven chambers beneath the sea and those that dwell in it (see Rashi and Metzudas Tzion). Job is saying to Bildad: If you have come to tell of the greatness of God, I know even more than this and I too will speak of it (Metzudas David).

V 6: "She'ol is naked before Him" - "Even though it is in the depths of the earth beneath the waters, God still knows all that is in it, as if it is naked before Him without a covering" (Metzudas David).

V 7: "He stretches out the north over the empty place." Metzudas David explains that he is referring to the earth, because the main inhabited areas are in the north. The wonder is that the earth stands with nothing holding it up.

V 8: "He binds up the waters in His thick clouds and the cloud is not rent under them" - "He binds the rain-waters in the clouds to be stored up so as to send them down only drop by drop, and the cloud is never rent apart under the water so as to pour it all down in one moment" (Metzudas David).

V 9: "He closes in the face of the throne." The "throne" is the heaven, for "the heaven is My throne" (Isaiah 66:1). God sets the boundaries of the heaven as one encloses a house with walls (cf. I Kings 6:10; see Ramban on our verse).

V 10: God sets boundaries for the sea for ever.

Vv 11-12: His rebuke causes the very heavens to tremble, and He stirs up the sea with His power. He smites Rahab - this is Egypt , which was overthrown in the Red Sea .

V 13: ".His hand slew the slant serpent" - This is Pharaoh. The "slant serpent" is also considered to be an allusion to the mystery of the TELI mentioned in Sefer Yetzirah 6. Some identify this with the constellation of Draco. For an extensive discussion of this concept, see the commentary on Sefer Yetzirah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan pp. 231ff.

V 14: Job concludes his answer to Bildad by saying that he has only described a small portion of the wondrous ways of God.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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