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Adam Clarke Commentary

Job 38

Verse 1

The Lord answers Job out of a whirlwind, and challenges him to answer, Job 38:1 -3. He convinces him of ignorance and weakness, by an enumeration of some of his mighty works; particularly of the creation of the earth, Job 38:4 -7. The sea and the deeps, Job 38:8 -18. The light, Job 38:19 -21. Snow, hail, thunder, lightning, rain, dew, ice, and hoar-frost, Job 38:22 -30. Different constellations, and the ordinances of heaven influencing the earth, Job 38:31 -33. Shows his own power and wisdom in the atmosphere, particularly in the thunder, lightnings, and rain, Job 38:34 -38. His providence in reference to the brute creation, Job 38:39 -41.

Verse 1

Gird up thy loins - See Job 38:1 -3. Some think that this and the preceding verse have been repeated here from Job 38:1 -3, and that several of the words there, here, and Job 42:3 , have been repeated, in after times, to connect some false gatherings of the sheets of parchment, on which the end of this poem was originally written. See on Job 40:1 (note), and at the end of the chapter.

Verse 2

Who is this that darkeneth counsel - As if he had said, Who art thou who pretendest to speak on the deep things of God, and the administration of his justice and providence, which thou canst not comprehend; and leavest my counsels and designs the darker for thy explanation?

Verse 2

Who is he that hideth counsel - These are the words of Job, and they are a repetition of what Jehovah said, Job 38:2 : "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" Job now having heard the Almighty's speech, and having received his reproof, echoes back his words: "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge Alas, I am the man; I have uttered what I understood not; things too wonderful for me, that I knew not. God had said, Job 38:3 : "Gird up now thy loins like a man; I will demand of thee, and answer thou me." In allusion to this, Job exclaims to his Maker, Job 42:4 : "Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will ask of Thee, and declare Thou unto Me." I acknowledge my ignorance; I confess my foolishness and presumption; I am ashamed of my conduct; I lament my imperfections; I implore thy mercy; and beg thee to show me thy will, that I may ever think, speak, and do, what is pleasing in thy sight.Things too wonderful - I have spoken of thy judgments, which I did not comprehend.

Verse 3

The commencement of Cicero's oration against Catiline, to which I have referred on Job 38:3 , is the following: - Quousque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? Quamdiu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata jactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium palatii-nihil urbis vigiliae, - nihil timor popuii, - nihii concursus bonorum omnium, - nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus-nihil horum ora, vultusque moverunt? Patere tua consilia nan sentis? Constrictam jam omnium horum conscientia teneri conjurationem tuam non vides? Quid proxima, quid superiore nocte egeris, - ubi fueris, quos convocaveris, - quid consilii ceperis, quem nostrum ignorare arbitraris? O tempora! O mores! Senatus haec intelligit, - consul videt; hic tamen vivit! Vivit? immo vero eitam in senatum venit; fit publici consilii particeps; notat et designat oculis ad caedem unumquemque nostrum! Nos autem, viri fortes, satisfacere reipublicae videmur, si istius furorem ac tela vitemus!The reader will perceive how finely Cicero rushes into this invective, as if the danger had been too immediate to give him leisure for the formality of address and introduction. See Guthrie's Orations of Cicero. Here is eloquence! Here is nature! And in thus speaking her language, the true orator pierces with his lightnings the deepest recesses of the heart. The success of this species of oratory is infallible in the pulpit, when the preacher understands how to manage it.

Verse 4

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? - Thou hast a limited and derived being; thou art only of yesterday; what canst thou know? Didst thou see me create the world?

Verse 4

Both speak nearly in the same way concerning the creation of the earth and the sea. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? - Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth as if it had issued from the womb?" Job 38:4 -8. This seems a reference to the flood. In Proverbs 8:22 -29 Wisdom says: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way - when as yet he had not made the earth - when he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth." These are precisely the same kind of conceptions, and nearly the same phraseology.

Verse 5

Who hath laid the measures thereof - Who hath adjusted its polar and equatorial distances from the center?Who hath stretched the line - Who hath formed its zones and its great circles, and adjusted the whole of its magnitude and gravity to the orbit in which it was to move, as well as its distance from that great center about which it was to revolve? These questions show the difficulty of the subject; and that there was an unfathomable depth of counsel and design in the formation of the earth.

Verse 6

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? - How does it continue to revolve in the immensity of space? What supports it? Has it foundations like a building, and is it fastened with a key-stone, to keep the mighty fabric in union?

Verse 7

When the morning stars sang together - This must refer to some intelligent beings who existed before the creation of the visible heavens and earth: and it is supposed that this and the following clause refer to the same beings; that by the sons of God, and the morning stars, the angelic host is meant; as they are supposed to be first, though perhaps not chief, in the order of creation. For the latter clause the Chaldee has, "All the troops of angels." Perhaps their creation may be included in the term heavens, Genesis 1:1 : "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." These witnessed the progress of the creation; and, when God had finished his work, celebrated his wisdom and power in the highest strains.

Verse 8

Am I a sea, or a whale - "Am I condemned as the Egyptians were who were drowned in the Red Sea? or am I as Pharaoh, who was drowned in it in his sins, that thou settest a keeper over me?" Targum. Am I as dangerous as the sea, that I should be encompassed about with barriers, lest I should hurt mankind? Am I like an ungovernable wild beast or dragon, that I must be put under locks and bars? I think our own version less exceptionable than any other hitherto given of this verse. The meaning is sufficiently plain. Job was hedged about and shut in with insuperable difficulties of various kinds; he was entangled as a wild beast in a net; the more he struggled, the more he lost his strength, and the less probability there was of his being extricated from his present situation. The sea is shut in with barriers, over which it cannot pass; for God has "placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it," Jeremiah 5:22 . "For thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth;" Psalms 104:9 . "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors; and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed;" Job 38:8 . Here then is Job's allusion: the bounds, doors, garment, swaddling bands, decreed place, and bars, are the watchers or keepers which God has set to prevent the sea from overflowing the earth; so Job's afflictions and distresses were the bounds and bars which God had apparently set to prevent him from injuring his fellow creatures. At least Job, in his complaint, so takes it. Am I like the sea, which thou hast imprisoned within bounds, ready to overwhelm and destroy the country? or am I like a dragon, which must be cooped up in the same way, that it may not have the power to kill and destroy? Surely in my prosperity I gave no evidence of such a disposition; therefore should not be treated as a man dangerous to society. In this Job shows that he will not refrain his mouth.

Verse 8

Who shut up the sea with doors - Who gathered the waters together into one place, and fixed the sea its limits, so that it cannot overpass them to inundate the earth?When it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? - This is a very fine metaphor. The sea is represented as a newly born infant issuing from the womb of the void and formless chaos; and the delicate circumstance of the liquor amnii, which bursts out previously to the birth of the foetus, alluded to. The allusion to the birth of a child is carried on in the next verse.

Verse 9

When I make the cloud the garment - Alluding to the cloth in which the new-born infant is first received. The cloud was the same to the newly raised vapor, as the above recipient to the new-born child.And thick darkness a swaddlingband for it - Here is also an allusion to the first dressings of the new-born child: it is swathed in order to support the body, too tender to bear even careful handling without some medium between the hand of the nurse and the flesh of the child. "The image," says Mr. Good, "is exquisitely maintained: the new-born ocean is represented as issuing from the womb of chaos; and its dress is that of the new-born infant." There is here an allusion also to the creation, as described in Genesis 1:1 , Genesis 1:2 . Darkness is there said to be on the face of the Deep. Here it is said, the thick darkness was a swaddlingband for the new-born Sea.

Verse 10

And brake up for it my decreed place - This refers to the decree, Genesis 1:9 : "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place."And set bars and doors - And let the dry land appear. This formed the bars and doors of the sea; the land being everywhere a barrier against the encroachments and inundations of the sea; and great rivers, bays, creeks, etc., the doors by which it passes into the interior of continents, etc.

Verse 11

Hitherto shalt thou come - Thus far shall thy flux and reflux extend. The tides are marvellously limited and regulated, not only by the lunar and solar attractions, but by the quantum of time also which is required to remove any part of the earth's surface from under the immediate attractive influence of the sun and moon. And this regulation takes place by means of the rotation of the earth round its own axis, which causes one thousand and forty-two miles of its equator to pass from under any given point in the heavens in one hour; and about five hundred and eighty miles in the latitude of London: so that the attracted fluid parts are every moment passing from under the direct attractive influence, and thus the tides cannot generally be raised to any extraordinary height. The attraction of the sun and moon, and the gravitation of its own parts to its own center, which prevent too great a flux on the one hand, and too great a reflux on the other; or, in other words, too high a tide, and too deep an ebb, are also some of those bars and doors by which its proud waves are stayed, and prevented from coming farther; all being regulated by these laws of attraction by the sun and moon, the gravitation of its own parts from the sun and moon, and the diurnal motion round its own axis, by which the fluid parts, easily yielding to the above attraction, are continually moving from under the direct attractive influence. Here a world of wisdom and management was necessary, in order to proportion all these things to each other, so as to procure the great benefits which result from the flux and reflux of the sea, and prevent the evils that must take place, at least occasionally, were not those bars and doors provided. It is well known that the spring-tides happen at the change and full of the moon, at which time she is in conjunction with and opposition to the sun. As these retire from their conjunction, the tides neap till about three days after the first quadrature, when the tides begin again to be more and more elevated, and arrive at their maximum about the third day after the opposition. From this time the tides neap as before till the third day after the last quadrature; and afterwards their daily elevations are continually increased till about the third day after the conjunction, when they recommence their neaping; the principal phenomena of the tides always taking place at or near the some points of every lunar synodic revolution.

Verse 12

Hast thou commanded the morning - This refers to dawn or morning twilight, occasioned by the refraction of the solar rays by means of the atmosphere; so that we receive the light by degrees, which would otherwise burst at once upon our eyes, and injure, if not destroy, our sight; and by which even the body of the sun himself becomes evident several minutes before he rises above the horizon.

Verse 13

Caused the dayspring to know his place - This seems to refer to the different points in which daybreak appears during the course of the earth's revolution in its orbit; and which variety of points of appearing depends on this annual revolution. For, as the earth goes round the sun every year in the ecliptic, one half of which is on the north side of the equinoctial, and the other half on its south side, the sun appears to change his place every day. These are matters which the wisdom of God alone could plan, and which his power alone could execute. It may be just necessary to observe that the dawn does not appear, nor the sun rise exactly in the same point of the horizon, two successive days in the whole year, as he declines forty-three degrees north, and forty-three degrees south, of east; beginning on the 21st of March, and ending on the 22d of December; which variations not only produce the places of rising and setting, but also the length of day and night. And by this declination north and south, or approach to and recession from the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the solar light takes hold of the ends of the earth, Job 38:13 , enlightens the arctic and antarctic circles in such a way as it would not do were it always on the equinoctial line; these tropics taking the sun twenty-three and a half degrees north, and as many south, of this line.

Verse 13

That the wicked might be shaken out of it? - The meaning appears to be this: as soon as the light begins to dawn upon the earth, thieves, assassins, murderers, and adulterers, who all hate and shun the light, fly like ferocious beasts to their several dens and hiding places; for such do not dare to come to the light, lest their works be manifest, which are not wrought in God. To this verse the fifteenth appears to belong, as it connects immediately with it, which connection the introduction of the fourteenth verse disturbs. "And from the wicked," such as are mentioned above "their light is withholden;" they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil; and as they prowl after their prey in the night-season, they are obliged to sleep in the day, and thus its "light is withholden" from them. "And the high arm shall be broken;" or, as Mr. Good translates, "The roving of wickedness is broken off." They can no longer pursue their predatory and injurious excursions.

Verse 14

It is turned as clay to the seal - The earth, like soft clay, is capable of modifying itself in endless ways, and assuming infinite forms. As a proof of this, see the astonishing variety of plants, flowers, and fruits, and the infinitely diversified hues, odours, tastes, consistency, and properties, of its vegetable productions. There seems to be an allusion here to the sealing of clay, which I believe has been, and is now, frequent in the East. Six of those Eastern seals for sealing clay, made of brass, the figures and characters all in relief, the interstices being entirely perforated and cut out, so that the upper side of the seal is the same as the lower, now lie before me. They seem to have been used for stamping pottery, as some of the fine clay still appears in the interstices.And they stand as a garment - The earth receiving these impressions from the solar light and heat, plants and flowers spring up, and decorate its surface as the most beautiful stamped garment does the person of the most sumptuously dressed female. Mr. Good translates the whole verse thus: - "Canst thou cause them to bend round as clay to the mould, so that they are made to sit like a garment?" He supposes that reference is here made to the rays of light; but take his own words: "The image, as it appears to me, is taken directly from the art of pottery, an image of very frequent recurrence in Scripture; and in the present instance admirably forcible in painting the ductility with which the new light of the morning bends round like clay to the mould, and accompanies the earth in every part of its shape so as to fit it, as we are expressly told in the ensuing metaphor, like a garment, as the clay fits the mould itself." Mr. Good supposes that a mould in which the pottery is formed, not a seal by which it is impressed, is referred to here. In this sense I do not see the metaphor consistent, nor the allusion happy. It is well known that the rays of light never bend. They may be reflected at particular angles, but they never go out of a straight course. A gun might as well be expected to shoot round a corner, as a ray of light to go out of a straight line, or to follow the sinuous or angular windings of a tube, canal, or adit. But if we take in the sun as he advances in his diurnal voyage, or rather the earth, as it turns round its axis from west to east, the metaphor of Mr. Good will be correct enough; but we must leave out bending and ductility, as every part of the earth's surface will be at least successively invested with the light.

Verse 16

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? - Of these springs, inlets, or outlets of the sea, we know just as much as Job. There was prevalent among philosophers an opinion, that through a porous bottom fresh matter was constantly oozing by which the sea was supplied with new materials. But through such pores these materials might as well ooze out as ooze in.Walked in the search of the depth? - Hast thou walked from the shallow beach through the great ocean's bed, till thou hast arrived at its profoundest depths? In other words, Dost thou know the depths of the sea? Job, we may presume, did not. No man since him has found them out. In multitudes of places they are unfathomed by any means hitherto used by man.

Verse 17

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? - Dost thou know in what the article of death consists? This is as inexplicable as the question, What is animal life?The doors of the shallow of death? - צלמות tsalmaveth, the intermediate state, the openings into the place of separate spirits. Here two places are distinguished: מות maveth, death, and צלמות tsalmaveth, the shadow of death. It will not do to say, death is the privation of life, for what then would be the shadow of that privation?

Verse 18

The breadth of the earth? - At that time the circumference of the globe was not known, because the earth itself was supposed to be a vast extended plain, bordered all round with the ocean and the sky.

Verse 19

Where light dwelleth - What is the source of light? Yea, what is light itself? It is not in the sun, for light was before the sun; but what is light? It is no doubt a substance; but of what kind? and of what are its particles? As to darkness, what is It? Is it philosophical to say, it is the mere privation of light? I shall think philosophy has made some advances to general accuracy and perfection when it proves to us what cold is, and what darkness is, leaving mere privations out of the question.

Verse 20

Shouldest take it to the bound thereof? - Or, as Mr. Good, translates, "That thou shouldest lay hold of it in its boundary." That thou shouldest go to the very spot where light commences, and where darkness ends; and see the house where each dwells. Here darkness and light are personified, each as a real intelligent being, having a separate existence and local dwelling. But poetry animates everything. It is the region of fictitious existence. I believe this verse should be translated thus: - "For thou canst take Us to its boundary; for thou knowest the paths to its house." This is a strong irony, and there are several others in this Divine speech. Job had valued himself too much on his knowledge; and a chief object of this august speech is to humble his "knowing pride," and to cause him to seek true wisdom and humility where they are to be found.

Verse 21

Knowest thou - This is another strong and biting irony, and the literal translation proves it: "Thou knowest, because thou was then born; and the number of thy days is great," or multitudinous, רבים rabbim, multitudes.

Verse 23

Reserved against the time of trouble - לעת צר leeth tsar, "to the season of strictness," i.e., the season when the earth is constringed or bound by the frost.Against the day of battle and war? - Hailstones being often employed as instruments of God's displeasure against his enemies, and the enemies of his people. There is probably an allusion here to the plague of hail sent on the Egyptians. See Exodus 9:23 (note), and the notes there, for more particulars concerning hailstones, remarkable showers of them, etc. There may be also a reference to Joshua 10:10 -11 (note), where a destructive shower of what are called hailstones fell upon the Canaanitish kings who fought against Israel. See the note there also.

Verse 24

By what way is the light parted - Who can accurately describe the cause and operation of a thunder cloud, the cause, nature, and mode of operation of the lightning itself? Is it a simple element or compound substance? What is its velocity? and why not conductible by every kind of substance, as it is known to exist in all, and, indeed, to be diffused through every portion of nature? How is it parted? How does it take its zigzag form? this is the curious, indescribable, and unknown parting. Are all the causes of positive and negative electricity found out? What are its particles, and how do they cohere, and in what order are they propagated? Much has been said on all these points, and how little of that much satisfactorily!Scattereth the east wind upon the earth? - קדים kadim, the eastern storm, euroclydon, or levanter.

Verse 25

Divided a water-course - The original תעלה tealah, from עלה alah, to ascend, may signify rather a cloud, or clouds in general, where the waters are stored up. I cannot see how the overflowings or torrents of water can be said to ascend any other way than by evaporation; and it is by this Divine contrivance that the earth is not only irrigated, but even dried; and by this means too much moisture is not permitted to lie upon the ground, which would not only be injurious to vegetation, but even destroy it. But query, may not a waterspout be intended?A way for the lightning of thunder - "A path for the bolt of thunder." God is represented as directing the course even of the lightning; he launches the bolt, and makes the path in which it is to run. To grasp, manage, and dart the thunderbolt or lightning, was a work which heathenism gave to Jupiter, its supreme god. None of the inferior deities were capable of this. But who can thunder with a voice like the Almighty? He is The Thunderer.

Verse 25

After it a voice roareth - After the flash has been seen, the peal is heard; and this will be more or fewer seconds after the peal, in proportion to the distance of the thunder cloud from the ear. Lightning traverses any space without any perceivable succession of time; nothing seems to be any obstacle to its progress. A multitude of persons taking hands, the first and the last connected with the electric machine, all feel the shock in the same instant; and were there a chain as conductor to go round the globe, the last would feel the shock in the same moment as the first. But as sound depends on the undulations of the air for its propagation, and is known to travel at the rate of only 1142 feet in a second; consequently, if the flash were only 1142 feet from the spectator, it would be seen in one second, or one swing of the pendulum, before the sound could reach the ear, though the clap and the flash take place in the same instant, and if twice this distance, two seconds, and so on. It is of some consequence to know that lightning, at a considerable distance, suppose six or eight seconds of time, is never known to burn, kill or do injury. When the flash and the clap immediately succeed each other, then there is strong ground for apprehension, as the thunder cloud is near. If the thunder cloud be a mile and a half distant, it is, I believe, never known to kill man or beast, or to do any damage to buildings, either by throwing them down or burning them. Now its distance may be easily known by means of a pendulum clock, or watch that has seconds. When the flash is seen, count the seconds till the clap is heard. Then compute: If only one second is counted, then the thunder cloud is within 1142 feet, or about 380 yards; if two seconds, then its distance is 2284 feet, or 761 yards; if three seconds, then 3426 feet, or 1142 yards; if four seconds, then the cloud is distant 4568 feet, or 1522 yards; if five seconds, then the distance is 5710 feet, or 1903 yards; if six seconds, then the distance is 6852 feet, or 2284 yards, one mile and nearly one-third; if seven seconds, then the distance of the cloud is 7994 feet, or 2665 yards, or one mile and a half, and 25 yards. Beyond this distance lightning has not been known to do any damage, the fluid being too much diffused, and partially absorbed, in its passage over electric bodies, i.e., those which are not fully impregnated by the electric matter, and which receive their full charge when they come within the electric attraction of the lightning. For more on the rain produced by thunder storms, see on Job 38:25 (note). This scale may be carried on at pleasure, by adding to the last sum for every second 1142 feet, and reducing to yards and miles as above, allowing 1760 yards to one mile.He thundereth with the voice of his excellency - גאונו geono, of his majesty: nor is there a sound in nature more descriptive of, or more becoming, the majesty of God, than that of Thunder. We hear the breeze in its rustling, the rain in its pattering, the hail in its rattling, the wind in its hollow howlings, the cataract in its dash, the bull in his bellowing, the lion in his roar; but we hear God, the Almighty, the Omnipresent, in the continuous peal of Thunder! This sound, and this sound only, becomes the majesty of Jehovah.And he will not stay them - ולא יעקבם velo yeahkebem, and he hath not limited or circumscribed them. His lightnings light the world; literally, the whole world. The electric fluid is diffused through all nature, and everywhere art can exhibit it to view. To his thunder and lightning, therefore, he has assigned no limits. And when his voice soundeth, when the lightning goes forth, who shall assign its limits, and who can stop its progress? It is, like God, Irresistible.

Verse 27

To satisfy the desolate and waste - The thunder cloud not only explodes over inhabited countries, that the air may be purified and the rain sent down to fertilize the earth, but it is conducted over deserts where there is no human inhabitant; and this to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth: for there are beasts, fowls, and insects, that inhabit the desert and the wilderness, and must be nourished by the productions of the ground. Every tribe of animals was made by the hand of God, and even the lowest of them is supported by his kind providence.

Verse 30

The waters are hid as with a stone - Here is a reference to freezing in the winter, as we may learn from some of the constellations mentioned below, which arise above our horizon, in the winter months. The word יתחבאו yithchabbau is understood by the versions in general as implying hardening or congelation; and we know in some intense frosts the ice becomes as hard as a stone; and even the face of the deep - the very seas themselves, not only in the polar circles, but even in northern countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and parts of Germany, are really frozen, and locked up from all the purposes of navigation for several months in winter.

Verse 31

Coverdale renders the Job 38:31 and Job 38:32 verses thus:Hast thou brought the VII starres together? Or, Art thou able to breake the circle of heaven? Canst thou bringe forth the morynge starre, or the evenynge starre, at convenient tyme, and conveye them home agayne?

Verse 32

Mazzaroth in his season? - This is generally understood to mean the signs of the zodiac. מזרות Mazzaroth, according to Parkhurst, comes from מזר mazar, to corrupt; and he supposes it to mean that pestilential wind in Arabia, called simoom, the season of which is the summer heats.

Verse 33

Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? - Art thou a thorough astronomer? Art thou acquainted with all the laws of the planetary system? Canst thou account for the difference of their motions, and the influence by which they are retained and revolve in their orbits? And canst thou tell what influence or dominion they exercise on the earth? Sir Isaac Newton has given us much light on many of these things; but to his system, which is most probably the true one, gravity is essential; and yet what this gravity is he could neither explain nor comprehend; and his followers are not one whit wiser than he. No man has ever yet fully found out the ordinances of heaven, and the dominion thereof on the earth.

Verse 34

Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds - Canst thou produce lightning and thunder, that water may be formed, and poured down upon the earth? Thunder is called קלות koloth, voices; for it is considered the voice of God: here then Job's voice, קולך kolecha, is opposed to the voice of Jehovah!

Verse 35

Canst thou send lightnings - We have already seen that the lightning is supposed to be immediately in the hand and under the management of God. The great god of the heathen, Jupiter Brontes, is represented with the forked lightnings and thunderbolt in his hand. He seems so to grasp the bickering flame that, though it struggles for liberty, it cannot escape from his hold. Lightnings - How much like the sound of thunder is the original word: ברכים Berakim! Here are both sense and sound.Here we are? - Will the winged lightnings be thy messengers, as they are mine?

Verse 36

Who hath put wisdom in the in ward parts? - Who has given לשכוי lasechvi, to the contemplative person, understanding? Even the most sedulous attention to a subject, and the deepest contemplation, are not sufficient to investigate truth, without the inspiration of the Almighty, which alone can give understanding. But who has given man the power to conceive and understand? A power which he knows he has, but which he cannot comprehend. Man knows nothing of his own mind, nor of the mode of its operations. This mind we possess, these operations we perform; - and of either do we know any thing? If we know not our own spirit, how can we comprehend that Spirit which is infinite and eternal? Mr. Good thinks that this verse is a continuation of the subject above, relative to the lightnings, and therefore translates thus: - Who putteth understanding into the vollies?And who giveth to the shafts discernment?All the versions, except the Septuagint, which trifles here, understand the place as we do. Either makes a good sense. The Septuagint has, "Who hath given the knowledge of weaving to women; or the science of embroidery?" Instead of understanding to the heart, the Vulgate has, understanding to the cock; that it might be able to distinguish and proclaim the watches of the night.

Verse 37

Who can number the clouds - Perhaps the word ספר saphar, which is commonly rendered to number, may here mean, as in Arabic, to irradiate, as Mr. Good contends; and may refer to those celestial and inimitable tinges which we sometimes behold in the sky.Bottles of heaven - The clouds: it is an allusion to the girbahs, or bottles made of skin, in which they are accustomed to carry their water from wells and tanks.

Verse 38

When the dust groweth into hardness - That is, Who knows how the dust - the elementary particles of matter, were concreted; and how the clods - the several parts of the earth, continue to cohere? What is the principle of cohesion among the different particles of matter, in all metals and minerals? Even water, in a solid form, constitutes a part of several gems, called thence water of crystallization. Who can solve this question? How is it that 90 parts of alumine, 7 of silex, and 1.2 of oxide of iron, constitute the oriental ruby? and that 90 parts of silex and 19 of water, form the precious opal? And how can 46 parts of silex, 14 of alumine, 28 of carbonate of lime, 6.5 of sulphate of lime, 3 of oxide of iron, and 2 of water, enter into the constitution, and form the substance, of the lapis lazuli? How do these solids and fluids of such differing natures grow into hardness, and form this curious mineral? Take another example from that beautiful precious stone, the emerald. Its analysis shows it to be composed of glucine 13, silex 64.5, alumine 16, lime 1.6, and oxide of chrome 3.25. Now how can these dusts, utterly worthless in themselves, grow into hardness, combine, and form one of the most beautiful, and, next to the diamond, the most precious, of all the gems? The almighty and infinitely wise God has done this in a way only known to and comprehensible by himself.

Verse 39

Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? - Rather the lioness, or strong lion. Hast thou his instinct? Dost thou know the habits and haunts of such animals as he seeks for his food? Thou hast neither his strength, his instinct nor his cunning. In the best Hebrew Bibles, the thirty-ninth chapter begins with this verse, and begins properly, as a new subject now commences, relating to the natural history of the earth, or the animal kingdom; as the preceding chapter does to astronomy and meteorology.

Verse 40

Gird up now thy loins - I will not confound thee with my terrors; dismiss all fearful apprehensions from thy mind; now act like a man, כגבר kegeber, like a hero: stand and vindicate thyself. For I will demand of thee - I will ask thee a series of questions more easy of solution than those which thou hast affected to discuss already; and then thou shalt have the opportunity of answering for thyself. The most impressive and convincing manner of arguing is allowed to be that by interrogation, which the Almighty here adopts. The best orations delivered by the ancients were formed after this manner. That celebrated oration of Cicero against Catiline, which is allowed to be his masterpiece, begins with a multitude of short questions, closely pressed upon each other. See the end of the chapter, Job 38:40 (note).

Verse 40

When they couch in their dens - Before they are capable of trusting themselves abroad.

Verse 41

Who provideth for the raven - This bird is chosen, perhaps, for his voracious appetite, and general hunger for prey, beyond most other fowls. He makes a continual cry, and the cry is that of hunger. He dares not frequent the habitations of men, as he is considered a bird of ill omen, and hated by all. This verse is finely paraphrased by Dr. Young: - Dream of a dream, and shadow of a shade!What worlds hast thou produced, what creatures framed,What insects cherish'd, that thy God is blamed?When pain'd with hunger, the wild raven's broodCalls upon God, importunate for food,Who hears their cry? Who grants their hoarse request,And stills the glamours of the craving nest?"On which he has this note: - "The reason given why the raven is particularly mentioned as the care of Providence is, because by her clamorous and importunate voice she particularly seems always calling upon it; thence κορασσω, α κοραξ, is to ask earnestly - Aelian. lib. ii., c. 48. And since there were ravens on the banks of the Nile, more clamorous than the rest of that species, those probably are meant in this place."

Job 38


  1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
  2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
  3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
  4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
  5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
  6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
  7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
  8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
  9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
  10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
  11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
  12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
  13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
  14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
  15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
  16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
  17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
  18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
  19 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
  20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
  21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
  22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
  23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
  24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
  25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
  26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
  27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
  28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
  29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
  30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
  31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
  32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
  33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
  34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
  35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
  36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
  37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
  38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
  39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
  40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
  41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

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