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276. Job 28:25-26, Where Does Wisdom Reside? Essay Two
25 "When He imparted weight to the wind
And meted out the waters by measure,
26 When He set a limit for the rain
And a course for the thunderbolt,
But as God goes deeper into the divine “warmup” in these verses, we learn that God is interested in systems of measurement. The word for “to create” (bara) is somewhat surprisingly absent in these verses; instead of God’s “creating” the world, we have God using two words for mensuration, mishqal (49x) and middah (55x) in verse 25. The first thing for God is that he literally “did/doing for the wind a weight.” Mishqal (“weight”) only appears here in Job, but is obviously derived from the verb shaqal (“to weigh out”). The most familiar biblical word in the sh-q-l family is sheqel, the actual coin or measure of weight.
Shaqal only appears 22x in the Bible, but four of these are in the Book of Job. Job used it twice in 6:2 when he lamented the weight of his troubles. “If anyone would actually/thoroughly weigh them….” is the tone of it. Job will also use it in 31:6 to describe his desire that his integrity be “weighed.” We have some hope that Job might be properly “weighed” by God once we realize that God is the one who gave the wind its “weight” or appropriate amount.
God also “estimated/measured/regulated” (middah is verb). the waters “by measure.” Before getting to middah (“measure”), a word should be said about the verb takan, rendered by the NRSV as “apportioned” and NASB as “meted out.” Though 9/18 of its appearances are in Ezekiel 18 and 33, where it means something like “to be right,” the primary meaning field of the rest of its scattered nine appearances is “to mark off, direct, weigh, mete out, estimate.” The three appearances of takan in Proverbs are perhaps the best way to read it. It is God who “weighs” (takan) the heart (21:2; 24:12) or the motives (16:2). In Job 28:25, God weighs out the waters “by measure” (middah). Middah first appeared in the language of Tabernacle construction in Ex 25-40; a lot of things needed accurate measurement in those chapters. That same precision of meaning appears when Solomon constructs the Temple in I Kings 7 (appears 3x); it can describe the “measure” of a person of immense stature/measure (I Chronicles 11:23; 20:6). When the Psalmist utters a heartfelt prayer to God it is for God to let him know the “extent/measure” (middah) of his days (Psalm 39:4).
God put this kind of care into the world. He looked it over (nabat/raah) and measured out (mishqal/middah) the wind and waters. Now in verse 26 we see the divine care for two other natural phenomena: the rain and the thunderbolt. One might have thought that the moon or stars would follow in the wake of the rain and thunderbolt, but the storm, in contrast, is mentioned. There might be some indebtedness in these terms to systems of thought in the broader Near Eastern environment, since Baal, the Canaanite deity, is often characterized as one riding on winds and bringing storms. In fact, the way our author expresses “thunderbolt” isn’t exactly clear; it is literally, “a path for thunderbolt/lightning voices” or “a way for the lightning of the thunder.” One wonders if the final phrase of verse 26 is borrowed/translated from other ancient, but probably lost, accounts of divine mastery of waters and forces of nature. The same phrase, chaziz qoloth, appears in Job 38:25, where God quizzes Job about the one who has cut a “way for the thunderbolt.” Rain and thunder (matar, chaziz), present in verse 26, also appear together in Zechariah 10:1, where there is also the verb asah thrown in for good measure.
We have the double appearance of the verb asah (“to do/make”) in verses 25, 26. Though God may not be said to “create,” God certainly “makes.” Rather than continuing with terms for measurement in verse 26, we have terms of limitation or confinement. The thunder/lightning has a “way” or a “path” (the common word derek); the rain has a “statute/law/decree” (choq). As our divine “pitcher” is warming up for the “delivery” of wisdom, we see a process of control and order being established in the world. Though chaos may reign in the friends’ conversation, there is nothing but order in the divine ruling of the world. We have apportionment, laws, and paths for things.