I believe we have greatly misunderstood God’s word in many areas because of our current, traditional education system. The teachings today have implanted many pictures in our minds which are problematic when comparing to God’s word; and which we then try to force upon God’s word. One example of how our schooled or learned biases remove us from God’s word is Job 26:7.
“He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” (KJV)
or in the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
“He stretches the north over chaos, and suspends the earth on nothing,”
and in Young’s Literal Translation (YLT),
“Stretching out the north over desolation, Hanging the earth upon nothing,“
So, desolation, chaos, and empty place are all translated for Strong’s Heb 8414, which is “tohu” meaning formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness. (1)
Do we really understand this verse?
Ex 20:4, “`Thou dost not make to thyself a graven image, or any likeness which [is] in the heavens above, or which [is] in the earth beneath, or which [is] in the waters under the earth.“ (YLT)
As the people could not make graven images of anything they could not see, then the heavens were the sky above, or the air. Earth beneath the sky (heavens) was the land, countries, regions, territories, people of the land, as opposed to the sky. Then the waters under the earth must be just those of the seas and the oceans?
Psa. 136:6, “To Him spreading the earth over the waters, For to the age [is] His kindness.“ (YLT)
Job 26:7 is poetry in which case the first half of the stanza is repeated or restated in the second half in a different form. Therefore, the first half of Job 26:7 has “north” which is restated in the second half as “earth.” The Hebrew word for north is Strong’s 6828, transliterated as “tsaphon” and means north, northside, northern, northward. (2)
Gen 1:2, “The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water.” (CJB)
Unformed and void, face of the deep, water.
I believe that all of the commentaries are approaching Job 26:7 from the wrong perspective. They are forcing a taught concept from “science” upon God’s word and trying to make the teaching of men take precedence over God’s word.
It is always the case that God’s scriptures interprets His word. The commentary on Job 26:7 from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges seems typical.
“It may be doubtful whether “the north” refers to the northern part of the earth or to the northern heavens. In favour of the latter reference is the fact that the expression “stretch out,” often said in regard to the heavens (e.g. ch. Job 9:8), is not elsewhere used with reference to the earth, and it is scarcely probable that “the earth” would be used as a parallel to “the north,” a part of the earth.” (3)
That the commentaries have to explain away the usual use of poetical repetition as first the part, then the whole for “earth” in Job 26:7 they then can use this as a rationale for their further discussion on their learned “scientific” prejudices. They have digressed from the usual poetical construct of restating or replacing the object from the first half as a different word in the second half.
In Job 26:7 the word “north” is not a part of the “earth” in the 2nd half as is supposed above; it is restated as “earth” in the 2nd half. So, in Job 26:7 north equals earth.
Now we can look back at Gen. 1:2, and compare. Before Noah’s flood, the land masses were centered and together (Gen. 10:25). In the creation, God separated the land / earth from the waters, raising the land above the waters below.
This is confirmed in Psa. 136:6 where God says He spread the earth / land over the waters.
Confirmed again in Ex. 20:4 with the waters being under the earth.
The word “water” in both Ex. 20:4 and Psa. 136:6 is Strong’s 4325, “mayim.” (4) Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) has definitions as 1a) a spring or well; (1b) a river, Nile; 1c) sea; 1d) flood; 1e) subterranean (esp Ex. 20:4); 1f) in clouds; 1g) rain; 1h) dew; 1i) primEval deep. The second definition is with the use of proper names , and the third is special uses as “water of the feet” or urine; water of a dunghill, or water (which is) distress as in drunk imprisonment, etc.
But the figurative uses are defined at BDB #4. As poetry uses figurative words, then we need to consider these: 4a – of distress as in many waters, or deep waters, or water of gall; 4b – of outbursting force; 4c. of rushing nations (Isa. 17:12); 4d – impetuous, violent, overwhelming as in Isa. 28:2, 17; Hos. 10:7; Job 27:20, etc; 4e – as running away such as of heart in timidity; or of the knees; 4f – transitoriness; 4g – refreshment; 4h – a figure of rest and peace; 4i – reckless bloodshed; 4j – figurative of bride, or enjoyment of one’s wife; 4k – of outpoured wrath; 4l abundant justice or outpoured feelings.
BDB 4a of distress as in many waters might be considered chaos. BDB 4b of outbursting force, and 4c of rushing nations and 4d of violent, overwhelming all result in desolation.
Consider also the figurative use at BDB 4e of timid hearts and weak knees. Weak knees are folding, unable to hold up, or to stand. Timid hearts are also weak, unable to hold a position or to do what is necessary because they lack conviction and strength. Not having strength to do, or to stand is baseless, or standing on nothing.
We cannot stand on water (that is without Jesus’ help).
Strong’s Concordance also lists uses of “mayim” as waste, wasting, watering, and course. So, water(s) = waste = emptiness = void, without form= nothing.
The Hebrew word for nothing is Strong’s 1099 transliterated as “belimah.” It is only used in Job 26:7. (5) There is no other use of this word in all of the OT. That means the commentaries are speculating as they have no other Hebrew word to compare it with.
So, we have to compare the entirety of the verse with the rest of scripture.
Discarding taught “science” and learned biases, and basing our understanding only upon God’s word, based only upon the definitions and uses of His words, I believe it is very probable that the “nothing” of Job 26:7 is the formless, void, emptiness of Gen. 1:2, and of spreading the earth over the waters of Psa. 136:6.
So if we replace the poetry of Job 26:7 with the rest of scripture we find,
“Stretching out the [earth] over desolation, Hanging the earth upon [void, empty waters],”
is exactly the consistent poetic method of restating the first part in the second part, and is exactly what God said in Gen. 1:2 and Psa. 136:6.
With this analysis, God hung the earth over/upon the void, waste, desolate, chaotic waters of the deep.
No matter the teachings of men, God’s word stands true (Psa. 119:160). So, I wonder how much of today’s “science” is true fact, and how much is fiction derived from an atheistic belief system.
1) Strong’s Heb. 8414, tohu – https://biblehub.com/hebrew/8414.htm
2) Strong’s Heb 6828, tsaphon – https://biblehub.com/hebrew/6828.htm
3) Job 26:7 Commentaries – https://biblehub.com/commentaries/job/26-7.htm
4) Strong’s Heb 4325, “mayim” – https://biblehub.com/hebrew/4325.htm
5) Strong’s Heb. 1099, “belimah” – https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1099.htm