Please explain the following passages from Job: “His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent” (Job 26:13) and “He overturns mountains at the base” (Job 28:9).
Concerning Job 26:13, the Hebrew for “pierced” (ESV) is chuwl, defined in part as “to be made to writhe, be made to bear” and “to be brought forth.” The Hebrew for “serpent” (ESV) is nachash. It was used in biblical times to refer to an actual snake and also to the constellation of the serpent or dragon in the northern part of the sky. Contextually, Job is talking about the majesty and power of God in chapter 26. Taking into account the Hebrew terminology, he is either:
- Talking about God’s hand creating (bringing forth) a literal serpent
- Talking about God “piercing” the serpent (causing the serpent to writhe), a possible reference to the Genesis 3:15 prophecy about Jesus defeating Satan
- Or talking about God’s hand creating (bringing forth) the constellations, such as the dragon or serpent constellation in the northern sky
Concerning Job 28:9, Job is contextually talking about the activities of foolish, wicked men (chapters 27-28). In chapter 28, he focuses on man’s mining activities, speaking of how man mines for silver, gold, iron, and copper in order to make a profit (28:1ff). Thus, “He overturns mountains at the base” (28:9) is contextually referring to how man digs deep into the very foundation or root of hills and mountains in search of profit. “Overturns” in Hebrew is haphak and carries with it the idea of change, something man does to the mountain when he mines it. “The base” in Hebrew is sheresh, literally “root, bottom.” Man digs to the very bottom of the mountain as he mines it in search of riches.