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Knowest thou, the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? - That is, the particular season when the mountain goats bring forth their young. Of domestic animals - the sheep, the tame goat, etc., the habits would be fuIly understood. But the question here relates to the animals that roamed at large on inaccessible cliffs; that were buried in deep forests; that were far from the dwellings and observation of people; and the meaning is, that there were many facts in regard to such points of Natural History which Job could not explain. God knew all their instincts and habits, and on the inaccessible cliffs, in the deep dell, in the dark forest, he was with them, and they were the objects of his care. He not only regarded the condition of the domestic animals that had been brought into the service of man, and where man perhaps might be disposed to claim that they owed much of their comfort to his care, but he regarded also the wild, wandering beast of the mountain, where no such pretence could be advanced.
The providence of God is over them; and in the periods of their lives when they seem most to need attention, when every shepherd and herdsmen is most solicitous about his flocks and herds, then God is present, and his care is seen in their preservation. The particular point in the inquiry here is, not in regard to the time when these animals produced their young or the period of their gestation, which might probably be known, but in regard to the attention and care which was needful for them when they were so far removed from the observance of man, and had no human aid. The “wild goat of the rock” here referred to, is, doubtless, the Ibex, or mountain goat, that has its dwellings among the rocks, or in stony places. The Hebrew term is יעל yâ‛êl, from יעל ya‛al, “to ascend, to go up.” They had their residence in the lofty rocks of mountains; Psalms 104:18. “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats.”
Hebrew “For the goats of the rocks” - סלעים יעלים yâ‛êliym sela‛iym. So in 1 Samuel 24:2 (3), “Saul went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats;” that is, where were the wild goats - היעלים hayâ‛êliym. For a description of the wild goat, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxiii. The animal here referred to is, doubtless, the same which Burckhardt saw on the summit of Mount Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai, and which he thus describes in his Travels in Syria, p. 571: “As we approached the summit of the mountain (Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai), we saw at a distance a small flock of mountain goats feeding among the rocks. One of our Arabs left us, and by a widely circuitous route endeavored to get to the leeward of them, and near enough to fire at them. He enjoined us to remain in sight of them, and to sit down in order not to alarm them. He had nearly reached a favorable spot behind a rock, when the goats suddenly took to flight. They could not have seen the Arab, but the wind changed, and thus they smelt him. The chase of the beden, as the wild goat is called, resembles that of the chamois of the Alps, and requires as much enterprise and patience. The Arabs make long circuits to surprise them, and endeavor to come upon them early in the morning, when they feed.
The goats have a leader who keeps watch, and on any suspicious smell, sound, or object, makes a noise, which is a signal to the flock to make their escape. They have much decreased of late, if we may believe the Arabs; who say that fifty years ago, if a stranger came to a tent, and the owner of it had no sheep to kill, he took his gun and went in search of a beden. They are, however, even now more common here than in the Alps, or in the mountains to the east of the Red Sea. I had three or four of them brought to me at the convent, which I bought at three-fourths of a dollar each. The flesh is excellent, and has nearly the same flavor as that of the deer. The Bedouins make water bags of their skins, and rings of their horns, which they wear on their thumbs. When the beden is met with in the plains, the dogs of the hunters easily catch him; but they cannot come up with him among the rocks, where he can make leaps of 20 feet.”
Or Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? - The reference here is to the special care and protection of God manifested for them. The meaning is, that this animal seems to be always timid and apprehensive of danger, and that there is special care bestowed upon an animal so defenseless in enabling it to rear its young. The word hinds denotes the deer, the fawn, the most timid and defenseless, perhaps, of all animals.
Canst thou number the months ... - That is, as they wander in the wilderness, as they live in inaccessible crags and cliffs of the rocks, it is impossible for man to be acquainted with their habits as he can with those of the domestic animals.
They bow themselves - literally, they curve or bend themselves; that is, they draw their limbs together.
They cast out their sorrows - That is, they cast forth the offspring of their pains, or the young which cause their pains. The idea seems to be, that they do this without any of the care and attention which shepherds are obliged to show to their flocks at such seasons. They do it when God only guards them; when they are in the wilderness or on the rocks far away from the abodes of man. The leading thought in all this seems to be, that the tender care of God was over his creatures, in the most perilous and delicate state, and that all this was exercised where man could have no access to them, and could not even observe them.
Their young ones are in good liking - Hebrew “they are fat;” and hence, it means that they are strong and robust.
They grow up with corn - Herder, Gesenius, Noyes, Umbreit, and Rosenmuller render this, “in the wilderness,” or “field.” The proper and usual meaning of the word used here (בר bâr) is corn (grain); but in Chaldee it has the sense of open fields, or country. The same idea is found in the Arabic, and this sense seems to be required by the connection. The idea is not that they are nurtured with grain, which would require the care of man, but that they are nurtured under the direct eye of God far away from human dwellings, and even when they go away from their dam and return no more to the place of their birth. This is one of the instances, therefore, in which the connection seems to require us to adopt a signification that does not elsewhere occur in the Hebrew, but which is found in the cognate languages.
They go forth, and return not unto them - God guards and preserves them, even when they wander away from their dam, and are left helpless. Many of the young of animals require long attention from man, many are kept for a considerable period by the side of the mother, but the idea here seems to be, that the young of the wild goat and of the fawn are thrown early on the providence of God, and are protected by him alone. The particular care of Providence over these animals seems to be specified because there are no others that are exposed to so many dangers in their early life. “Every creature then is a formidable enemy. The eagle, the falcon, the osprey, the wolf, the dog, and all the rapacious animals of the cat kind, are in continual employment to find out their retreat. But what is more unnatural still, the stag himself is a professed enemy, and she, the hind, is obliged to use all her arts to conceal her young from him, as from the most dangerous of her pursuers.” “Goldsmith’s Nat. His.”
Who hath sent out the wild ass free? - For a description of the wild ass, see the notes at Job 11:12. On the meaning of the word rendered “free” (חפשׁי chophshı̂y), see the notes at Isaiah 58:6. These animals commonly “inhabit the dry and mountainous parts of the deserts of Great Tartary, but not higher than about latitude 48 degrees. They are migratory, and arrive in vast troops to feed, during the summer, on the tracts to the north and east of the sea of Aral. About autumn they collect in herds of hundreds, and even thousands, and direct their course southward toward India to enjoy a warm retreat during winter. But they more usually retire to Persia, where they are found in the mountains of Casbin; and where part of them remain during the whole year. They are also said to penetrate to the southern parts of India, to the mountains of Malabar and Gelconda. These animals were anciently found in Palestine, Syria, Arabia Deserta, Mesopotamia, Phrygia, and Lycaonia, but they rarely occur in those regions at the present time, and seem to be almost entirely confined to Tartary, some parts of Persia and India, and Africa. Their manners resemble those of the wild horse.
They assembIe in troops under the conduct of a leader or sentinel; and are extremely shy and vigilant. They will, however, stop in the midst of their course, and even suffer the approach of man for an instant, and then dart off with the utmost rapidity. They have been at all times celebrated for their swiftness. Their voice resembles that of the common ass, but is shriller.” “Rob. Calmet.” The Onager or wild ass is doubtless “the parent stock from which we have derived the useful domestic animal, which seems to have degenerated the further it has been removed from its parent seat in Central Asia. It is greatly distinguished in spirit and grace of form from the domestic ass. It is taller and more dignified; it holds the head higher, and the legs are more elegantly shaped. Even the head, though large in proportion to the body, has a finer appearance, from the forehead being more arched; the neck by which it is sustained is much longer, and has a more graceful bend. It has a short mane of dark and woolly hair; and a stripe of dark bushy hair also runs along the ridge of the back from the mane to the tail. The hair of the body is of a silver gray, inclining to flaxen color in some parts, and white under the belly.
The hair is soft and silken, similar in texture to that of the camel.” - The Pictorial Bible. It is of this animal, so different in spirit, energy, agility, and appearance, from the domestic animal of that name, that we must think in order to understand this passage. We must think of them fleet as the wind, untamed and unbroken, wandering over vast plains in groups and herds, assembled by thousands under a leader or guide, and bounding off with uncontrollable rapidity on the approach of man, if we would feel the force of the appeal which is here made. God asks of Job whether he - who could not even subdue and tame this wild creature - had ordained the laws of its freedom; had held it as a captive, and then set it at liberty to exult over boundless plains in its conscious independence. The idea is, that it was one of the creatures of God, under no laws but such as he had been pleased to impose upon it, and wholly beyond the government of man.
Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? - As if he had been once a captive, and then set free. The illustration is derived from the feeling which attends a restoration to liberty. The freedom of this animal seems to be as productive of exhilaration as if it had been a prisoner or slave, and had been suddenly emancipated.
Whose house I have made - God had appointed its home in the desert.
And the barren land his dwellings - Margin, as in Hebrew “salt places.” Such places were usually barren. Psalms 107:34, “he turneth a fruitful land into barrenness.” Hebrew “saltness.” Thus, Virgil, Geor. ii. 238-240:
Salsa antem tellus, et quae, perhibetur amara.
Frugibus infelix: ea nec mansuescit arando;
Nec Baccho genus, aut pomis sua nomina servat.
Compare Pliny, Nat. His. 31, 7, Deuteronomy 29:23.
He scorneth the multitude of the city - That is, he sets all this at defiance; he is not intimidated by it. He finds his home far away from the city in the wild freedom of the wilderness.
Neither regardeth he the crying of the driver - Margin, “exacter.” The Hebrew word properly means a collector of taxes or revenue, and hence, an oppressor, and a driver of cattle. The allusion here is to a driver, and the meaning is, that he is not subject to restraint, but enjoys the most unlimited freedom.
The range of the mountains is his pasture - The word rendered “range” יתור yâthûr, means properly a “searching out,” and then that which is obtained by search. The word “range” expresses the idea with sufficient exactness. The usual range of the wild ass is the mountains. Pallas, who has given a full description of the habits of the Onager, or wild ass, states, that it, especially loves desolate hills as its abode. “Acts of the Society of Sciences of Petersburg,” for the year 1777.
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee? - In the previous part of the argument, God had appealed to the lion, the raven, the goats of the rock, the hind, and the wild ass; and the idea was, that in the instincts of each of these classes of animals, there was some special proof of wisdom. He now turns to another class of the animal creation in proof of his own supremacy and power, and lays the argument in the great strength and in the independence of the animal, and in the fact that man had not been able to subject his great strength to the purposes of husbandry. In regard to the animal here referred to, there has been great diversity of opinion among interpreters, nor is there as yet any one prevailing sentiment. Jerome renders it “rhinoceros;” the Septuagint, μονόκερως monokerōs, the “unicorn;” the Chaldee and the Syraic retain the Hebrew word; Gesenius, Herder, Umbreit, and Noyes, render it the “buffalo;” Schultens, “alticornem;” Luther and Coverdale, the “unicorn;” Rosenmuller, the “onyx,” a large and fierce species of the antelope; Calmet supposes that the rhinoceros is intended; and Prof. Robinson, in an extended appendage to the article of Calmet (art. Unicorn), has endeavored to show that the wild buffalo is intended.
Bochart, also, in a long and learned argument, has endeavored to show; that the rhinoceros cannot be meant. Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. chapter xxvi. He maintains that a species of antelope is referred to, the “rim” of the Arabs. DeWette (Com. on Psalms 22:21) accords with the opinion of Gesenius, Robinson, and others, that the animal referred to is the buffalo of the Eastern continent, the bos bubalus of Linnaeus, an animal which differs from the American buffalo only in the shape of the horns and the absence of the dewlap. The word which occurs here, and which is rendered “unicorn” (רים rêym or ראם re'êm, is used in the Scriptures only in the following places, where in the singular or plural it is uniformly rendered “unicorn,” or “unicorns” - Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21; Psalms 29:6; Psalms 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7. By a reference to these passages, it will be found that the animal had the following characteristics:
(1) It was distinguished for its strength; see Job 39:11 of this chapter. Numbers 23:22, “he (that is, Israel, or the Israelites) hath as it were the strength of a unicorn - ראם re'êm. In Numbers 24:8, the same declaration is repeated. It is true that the Hebrew word in both these places (תועפה tô‛âphâh) may denote rapidity of motion, speed; but in this place the notion of strength must be principally intended, for it was of the power of the people, and their ability manifested in the number of their hosts, that Balaam is speaking. Bochart, however (Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxvii.), supposes that the word means, not strength, or agility, but height, and that the idea is, that the people referred to by Balaam was a lofty or elevated people. If the word means strength, it was most appropriate to compare a vast host of people with the vigor and force of an untamable wild animal. The idea of speed or of loftiness does not so well suit the connection.
(2) It was an animal that was not subjected to the service of tilling the soil, and that was supposed to be incapable of being so trained. Thus, in the place before us it is said, that he could not be so domesticated that he would remain like the ox at the crib; that he could not be yoked to the plow; that he could not be employed and safely left to pursue the work of the field; and that he could not be so subdued that it would be safe to attempt to bring home the harvest by his aid. From all these declarations, it is plain that he was regarded as a wild and untamed animal; an animal that was not then domesticated, and that could not be employed in husbandry. This characteristic would agree with either the antelope, the onyx, the buffalo, the rhinoceros, or the supposed unicorn, With which of them it will best accord, we may be able to determine when all his characteristics are examined.
(3) The strength of the animal was in his horns. This was one of his special characteristics, and it is evidently by this that he is designed to be distinguished. Deuteronomy 33:17, “his glory is like the firstling of a bullock, and his horns like the horns of unicorns.” Psalms 92:10, “my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn.” Psalms 22:21, “thou hast heard me (saved me) from the horns of the unicorns.” It is true, indeed, as Prof. Robinson has remarked (Calmet, art. “Unicorn”), the word ראם re'êm has in itself no reference to horns, nor is there in the Hebrew an illusion any where to the supposition that the animal here referred to has only one horn. Wherever, in the Scriptures, the animal is spoken of with any allusion to this member, the expression is in the plural, “horns.” The only variation from this, even in the common version, is in Psalms 92:10, where the Hebrew is simply, “My horn shalt thou exalt like an unicorn, “where the word horn, as it stands in the English version, is not expressed. There is, indeed, in this passage, some obvious allusion to the horns of this animal, but all the force of the comparison will be retained if the word inserted in the ellipsis is in the plural number. The horn or horns of the ראם re'êm were, however, beyond question, the principal seat of strength, and the instruments of assault and defense. See the passage in Deuteronomy 33:17, “With them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth.”
(4) There was some special majesty or dignity in the horns of this animal that attracted attention, and that made them the proper symbol of dominion and of royal authority. Thus, in Psalms 92:10, “My horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn,” where the reference seems to be to a kingly authority or dominion, of which the horn was an appropriate symbol. These are all the characteristics of the animal referred to in the Scriptures, and the question is, With what known animal do they best correspond? The principal animals referred to by those who have examined the subject at length are, the onyx or antelope; the buffalo; the animal commonly referred to as the unicorn, and the rhinoceros. The principal characteristic of the unicorn was supposed to be, that it had a long, slender horn projecting from the forehead; the horn of the rhinoceros is on the snout, or the nose.
I. In regard to the antelope, or the “rim” of the modern Arabs, supposed by Bochart to be the animal here referred to, it seems clear that there are few characteristics in common between the two animals. The onyx or antelope is not distinguished as this animal is for strength, nor for the fact that it is especially untamable, nor that its strength is in its horns, nor that it is of such size and proportions that a comparison would naturally be suggested between it and the ox. In all that is said of the animal, we think of one greater in bulk, in strength, in untamableness, than the onyx; an animal more distinguished for conquest and subduing other animals before him. Bochart has collected much that is fabulous respecting this animal, from the rabbis and the Arabic writers, which it is not needful here to repeat; see the Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxvii.; or Scheutzer, Physi. Sac. on Numbers 23:22.
II. The claims of the “buffalo” to be regarded as the animal here referred to, are much higher than those of the onyx, and the opinion that this is the animal intended is entertained by such names as those of Gesenius, DeWette, Robinson, Umbreit, and Herder. But the objections to this seem to me to be insuperable, and the arguments are not such as to carry conviction. The principal objections to the opinion are:
(1) That the account in regard to the horns of the ראם re'êm by no means agrees with the fact in regard to the bison, or buffalo. The buffalo is an animal of the cow kind (Goldsmith), and the horns are short and crooked, and by no means distinguished for strength. They do not in fact surpass in this respect the horns of many other animals, and are not such as would occur ordinarily as the prominent characteristic in their description. It is true that there are instances where the horns of the wild buffalo are large, but this does not appear to be the case ordinarily. Mr. Pennant mentions a pair of horns in the British Museum, which are six feet and a half long, and the hollow of which will hold five quarts. Lobo affirms that some of the horns of the buffalo in Abyssinia will hold ten quarts; and Dillon saw some in India that were ten feet long. But these were manifestly extraordinary cases.
(2) The animal here referred to was evidently a stronger and a larger animal than the wild ox or the buffalo. “The Oriental buffalo appears to be so closely allied to our common ox, that without an attentive examination it might be easily mistaken for a variety of that animal. In point of size, it is rather superior to the ox; and upon an accurate inspection, it is observed to differ in the shape and magnitude of the head, the latter being larger than in the ox.” “Robinson, in Calmet.” The animal here referred to was such as to make the contrast particularly striking between him and the ox. The latter could be employed for labor; the former, though greatly superior in strength, could not.
(3) The ראם re'êm, it was supposed, could not be tamed and made to subserve domestic purposes. The buffalo, however, can be made as serviceable as the ox, and is actually domesticated and employed in agricultural purposes. Niebuhr remarks that he saw buffalo not only in Egypt, but also at Bombay, Surat, on the Euphrates, Tigris, Orontes, and indeed in all marshy regions and near large rivers. Sonnini remarks that in Egypt the buffalo, though but recently domesticated, is more numerous than the common ox, and is there equally domestic, and in Italy they are known to be commonly employed in the Pontine marshes, where the fatal nature of the climate acts on common cattle, but affects buffalo less. It is true that the animal has been comparatively recently domesticated, and that it was doubtless known in the time of Job only as a wild, savage, ferocious animal; but still the description here is that of an animal not only that was not then tamed, but obviously of one that could not well be employed in domestic purposes.
We are to remember that the language here is that of God himself, and that therefore it may be regarded as descriptive of what the essential nature of the animal was, rather than what it was supposed to be by the persons to whom the language was addressed. One of the principal arguments alleged for supposing that the animal here referred to by the ראם re'êm was the buffalo, is, that the rhinoceros was probably unknown in the land where Job resided, and that the unicorn was altogether a fabulous animal. This difficulty will be considered in the remarks to be made on the claims of each of those animals.
III. It was an early opinion, and the opinion was probably entertained by the authors of the Septuagint translation, and by the English translators as well as by others, that the animal here referred to was the unicorn. This animal was long supposed to be a fabulous animal, and it has not been until recently that the evidences of its existence have been confirmed. These evidences are adduced by Rosenmuller, “Morgenland, ii. p. 269, following,” and by Prof. Robinson, “Calmet, pp. 908, 909.” They are, summarily, the following:
(1) Pliny mentions such an animal, and gives a description of it, though from his time for centuries it seems to have been unknown. “His. Nat. 8, 21.” His language is, Asperrimam autem feram monocerotem reliquo corpore equo similem, capite cervo, pedibus elephanti, cauda apro, mugitu gravi, uno cornu nigro media fronte cubitorum duum eminente. IIanc feram vivam negant capi. “The unicorn is an exceeding fierce animal, resembling a horse as to the rest of his body, but having the head like a stag, the feet like an elephant, and the tail like a wild boar; its roaring is loud; and it has a black horn of about two cubits projecting from the middle of the forehead.”
(2) The figure of the unicorn, in various attitudes, according to Niebuhr, is depicted on almost all the staircases in the ruins of Persepolis. “Reisebeschreib. ii. S. 127.”
(3) In 1530, Ludovice de Bartema, a Roman patrician, visited Mecca under the assumed character of a Mussulman, and among other curiosities that he mentions, he says, “On the other side of the caaba is a walled court, in which we saw two unicorns that were pointed out to us as a rarity; and they are indeed truly remarkable. The larger of the two is built like a three-year-old colt, and has a horn upon the forehead about three ells long. This animal has the color of a yellowish-brown horse, a head like a stag, a neck not very long, with a thin mane; the legs are small and slender like those of a hind or roe; the hoofs of the fore feet are divided, and resemble the hoofs of a goat. Rosenmuller. “Alte u. neue Morgenland, No. 377. Thes ii. S. 271, 272.”
(4) Don Juan Gabriel, a Portuguese colonel, who lived several years in Abyssinia, assures us that in the region of Agamos, in the Abyssinian province of Darners, he had seen an animal of the form and size of a middle-sized horse, of a dark, chestnut-brown color, and with a whitish horn about five spans long upon its forehead; the mane and tail were black, and the legs long and slender. Several other Portuguese, who were placed in confinement upon a high mountain in the district Namna, by the Abyssinian king Saghedo, related that they had seen at the mountain several unicorns feeding. These accounts are confirmed by Lobe, who lived for a long time as a missionary in Abyssinia.
(5) Dr. Sparrman the Swedish naturalist, who visited the Cape of Good Hope and the adjacent regions in 1772-1776, gives, in his Travels, the following account: Jacob Kock an observing peasant on Hippopotamus river, who had traveled over a considerable part of Southern Africa, found on the face of a perpendicular rock, a drawing made by the Hotttentots of an animal with a single horn. The Hottentots told him that the animal there represented was very like the horse on which he rode, but had a straight horn upon the forehead. They added, that these one-horned animals were rare; that they ran with great rapidity, and that they were very fierce.
(6) A similar animal is described as having been killed by a party of Hottentots in pursuit of the savage Bushmen in 1791. The animal resembled a horse, was of a light grey color, and with white stripes under the jaw. It had a single horn directly in front, as long as one’s arm, and at the base about as thick. Toward the middle the horn was somewhat flattened, but had a sharp point; it was not attached to the bone of the forehead, but was fixed only in the skin. The head was like that of the horse, and the size about the same. These authorities are collected by Rosenmuller, “Alte u. nerve Morgenland,” vol. ii. p. 269ff, ed. Leipz. 1818.
(7) To these proofs one other is added by Prof. Robinson. It is copied from the Quarterly Review for Oct. 1820 (vol. xxiv. p. 120), in a notice of Frazer’s Tour through the Himalaya mountains. The information is contained in a letter from Maj. Latter, commanding in the rajah of Sikkim’s territories, in the hilly country east of Nepaul. This letter states that the unicorn, so long considered as a fabulous animal, actually exists in the interior of Thibet, where it is well known to the inhabitants. “In a Thibetian manuscript,” says Maj. Latter, “containing the names of different animals, which I procured the other day from the hills, the unicorn is classed under the head of those whose hoofs are divided: it is called the one-horned “tso’po.” Upon inquiring what kind of an animal it was, to our astonishment, the person who brought the manuscript described exactly the unicorn of the ancients; saying that it was a native of the interior of Thibet, about the size of a tattoo (a horse from twelve to thirteen hands high,) fierce and extremely wild; seldom if ever caught alive, but frequently shot; and that the flesh was used for food. They go together in herds, like wild buffalo, and are frequently to be met with on the borders of the great desert, in that part of the country inhabited by wandering Tartars.’
(8) To these proofs I add another, taken from the Narrative of the Rev. John Campbell, who thus speaks of it, in his “Travels in South Africa,” vol. ii. p. 294. “While in the Mashow territory, the Hottentots brought in a head different from any rhinoceros that had been previously killed. The common African rhinoceros has a crooked horn resembling a cock’s spur, which rises about nine or ten inches above the nose, and inclines backward; immediately behind this is a short thick horn. But the head they brought us had a straight horn projecting three feet from the forehead, about ten inches above the tip of the nose. The projection of this great horn very much resembles that of the fanciful unicorn in the British arms. It has a small, thick, horny substance, eight inches long, immediately behind it, and which can hardly be observed on the animal at the distance of 100 yards, and seems to be designed for keeping fast that which is penetrated by the long horn; so that this species must look like the unicorn (in the sense ‘one-horned’) when running in the field.
The head resembled in size a nine-gallon cask, and measured three feet from the mouth to the ear; and being much larger than that of the one with the crooked horn, and which measured eleven feet in length, the animal itself must have been still larger and more formidable. From its weight, and the position of the horn, it appears capable of overcoming any creature hitherto known.” A fragment of the skull, with the horn, is deposited in the Museum of the London Missionary Society. These testimonies from so many witnesses from different parts of the world, who write without concert, and yet who concur so almost entirely in the account of the size and figure of the animal, leave little room to doubt its real existence. That it is not better known, and that its existence has been doubted, is not wonderful. It is to be remembered that all accounts agree in the representation that it is an animal whose residence is in deserts or mountains, and that large parts of Africa and Asia are still unexplored. We are to remember, also, that the giraffe has been discovered only within a few years, and that the same is true of the gnu, which until recently was held to be a fable of the ancients.
At the same time, however, that the existence of such an animal as that of the unicorn is in the highest degree probable, it is clear that it is not the animal referred to in the passage before us; for
(1) It is in the highest degree improbable that it was so well known as is supposed in the description here; and
(2) The characteristics do not at all agree with the account of the ראם re'êm of the Scriptures. Neither in regard to the size of the animal, its strength, or the strength of its horns, does it coincide with the account of that animal in the Bible.
IV. If neither of the opinions above referred to be correct, then the only remaining opinion that has weight is, that it refers to the rhinoceros. Besides the considerations above suggested, it may be added that the characteristics of the animal given in the Scriptures all agree with the rhinoceros. In size, strength, wildness, untamableness, and in the power and use of the horn, those characteristics agree accurately with the rhinoceros. The only argument of much weight against this opinion is presented by Prof. Robinson in the following language: “The ראם re'êm was obviously an animal well known to the Hebrews, being everywhere mentioned with other animals common to the country, while the rhinoceros was never an inhabitant of the country, is nowhere else spoken of by the sacred writers, nor, according to Bochart, either by Aristotle in his treatise of animals, nor by Arabian writers.” In reply to this we may observe:
(1) that the ראם re'êm is mentioned in the Scriptures only in seven places (see above), showing at least that it was probably an animal not very well known in that country, or it would have been alluded to more often;
(2) it is not clear that in those places it is “everywhere mentioned with other animals common to that country,” as in the passage before us there is no allusion to any domestic animal; nor is there in Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8; Psalms 92:10. In Psalms 22:21, they are mentioned in the same verse with “lions;” in Psalms 29:6, in connection with “calves;” and in Isaiah 34:7, with bullocks and bulls - wild animals inhabiting Idumea. But the entire account is that of an animal that was untamed and that was evidently a foreign animal.
(3) What evidence is there that the Hebrews were well acquainted, as Prof. Robinson supposes, with “the wild buffalo?” Is this animal an inhabitant of Palestine? Is it “elsewhere” mentioned in the Scriptures? Is there any more evidence from the Bible that they were acquainted with it than with the rhinoceros?
(4) It cannot be reasonably supposed that the Hebrews were so unacquainted with the rhinoceros that there could be no allusion to it in their writings. This animal was found in Egypt and in the adjacent countries, and whoever was the writer of the book of Job, there are frequent references in the book to what was well known in Egypt; and at all events, the Hebrews had lived too long in Egypt, and had had too much contact with the Egyptians, to be wholly ignorant of the existence and general character of an animal well known there, and we in fact find just about as frequent mention of it as we should on this supposition. It does not seem, therefore, to admit of reasonable doubt that the rhinoceros is referred to in the passage before us. This animal next to the elephant, is the most powerful of animals. It is usually about twelve feet long; from six to seven feet high; and the circumference of its body is nearly equal to its length.
Its bulk of body, therefore, is about that of the elephant. Its head is furnished with a horn, growing from the snout, sometimes three and a half feet long. This horn is erect, and perpendicular to the bone on which it stands, and it has thus a greater purchase or power than it could have in any other position. “Bruce.” Occasionally it is found with a double horn, one above the other, though this is not common. The horn is entirely solid, formed of the hardest bony substance, and so firmly growing on the upper maxillary bone as seemingly to make but a part of it, and so powerful as to justify all the allusions in the Scriptures to the horn of the ראם re'êm. The skin of this animal is naked, rough, and knotty, lying upon the body in folds, and so thick as to turn the edge of a scimetar, or to resist a musket-ball. The legs are short, strong, and thick, and the hoofs divided into three parts, each pointing forward. It is a native of the deserts of Asia and Africa, and is usually found in the extensive forests which are frequented by the elephant and the lion. It has never been domesticated; never employed in agricultural purposes; and thus, as well as in size and strength, accords with the account which is given of the animal in the passage before us. The following cut will furnish a good illustration of this animal:
Be willing to serve thee. - In plowing and harrowing thy land, and conveying home the harvest, Job 39:12.
Or abide by thy crib - As the ox will. The word used here (ילין yālı̂yn) means properly to pass the night; and then to abide, remain, dwell. There is propriety in retaining here the original meaning of the word, and the sense is, Can he be domesticated or tamed? The rhinoceros never has been.
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? - That is, with the common traces or cords which are employed in binding oxen to the plow.
Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? - The word “valleys” here is used to denote such ground as was capable of being plowed or harrowed. Hills and mountains could not thus be cultivated, though the spade was in common use in planting the vine there, and even in preparing them for seed, Isaiah 7:25. The phrase “after thee” indicates that the custom of driving cattle in harrowing then was the same as that practiced now with oxen, when the person who employs them goes in advance of them. It shows that they were entirely under subjection, and it is here implied that the ראם re'êm could not be thus tamed.
Wilt thou trust him? - As thou dost the ox. In the domestic animals great confidence is of necessity placed, and the reliance on the fidelity of the ox and the horse is not usually misplaced. The idea here is, that the unicorn could not be so tamed that important interests could be safely entrusted to him.
Because his strength is great? - Wilt thou consider his strength as a reason why important interests might be entrusted to him? The strength of the ox, the camel, the horse, and the elephant was a reason why their aid was sought by man to do what he could not himself do. The idea is, that man could not make use of the same reason for employing the rhinoceros.
Wilt thou leave thy labour to him? - Or, rather, the avails of thy labor - the harvest.
Wilt thou believe him? - That is, wilt thou trust him with the productions of the field? The idea is, that he was an untamed and unsubdued animal. He could not be governed, like the camel or the ox. If the sheaves of the harvest were laid on him, there would be no certainty that he would convey them where the farmer wished them.
And gather it into thy barn? - Or, rather, “to thy threshing-floor,” for so the word used here (גרן gôren) means. It was not common to gather a harvest into a barn, but it was usually collected on a hard-trod place and there threshed and winnowed. For the use of the word, see Ruth 3:2; Judges 6:37; Numbers 18:30; Isaiah 21:10.
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? - In the previous verses the appeal had been to the wild and untamable animals of the desert. In the prosecution of the argument, it was natural to allude to the feathered tribes which resided there also, and which were distinguished for their strength or fleetness of wing, as proof of the wisdom and the superintending providence of God. The idea is, that these animals, far away from the abodes of man, where it could not be pretended that man had anything to do with their training, had habits and instincts special to themselves, which showed great variety in the divine plans, and at the same time consummate wisdom. The appeal in the following verses Job 39:13-18 is to the remarkable habits of the ostrich, as illustrating the wisdom and the superintending providence of God. There has been very great variety in the translation of this verse, and it is important to ascertain its real meaning, in order to know whether there is any allusion here to the peacock, or whether it refers wholly to the ostrich. The Septuagint did not understand the passage, and a part of the words they endeavored to translate, but the others are retained without any attempt to explain them. Their version is, Πτέρυξ τερπομένων νεέλασσα, ἐὰν συλλάβῃ ἀσιδα καὶνέσσα Pterux terpomenōn neelassa, ean sullabē asida kai nessa - the wing of the exulting Neelassa if she conceives or comprehends the Asia and Nessa.” Jerome renders it,” The wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the falcon and the hawk.” Schultens renders it, “The wing of the ostrich is exulting; but is it the wing and the plumage of the stork?” He enumerates no less than twenty different interpretations of the passage. Herder renders it,
“A wing with joyous cry is uplifted yonder;
Is it the wing and feather of the ostrich?”
Umbreit renders it,
“The wing of the ostrich, which lifts itselfjoyfully,
Does it not resemble the tail and feather of the stork?”
Rosenmuller renders it,
“The wing of the ostrich exults!
Truly its wing and plumage is like that of the stork!”
Prof. Lee renders it, “Wilt thou confide in the exulting of the wings of the ostrich? Or in her choice feathers and head-plumage, when she leaveth her eggs to the earth,” etc. So Coverdale renders it, “The ostrich (whose feathers are fairer than the wings of the sparrow-hawk), when he hath laid his eggs upon the ground, he breedeth them in the dust, and forgetteth them.” In none of these versions, and in none that I have examined except that of Luther and the common English version, is there any allusion to the peacock; and amidst all the variety of the rendering, and all the difficulty of the passage, there is a common sentiment that the ostrich alone is referred to as the particular subject of the description. It is certain that the description proceeds with reference only to the habits of the ostrich, and it is very evident to my mind that in the whole passage there is no allusion whatever to the peacock.
Neither the scope of the passage, nor the words employed, it is believed, will admit of such a reference. There is great difficulty in the Hebrew text, which no one has been able fully to explain, but it is sufficiently clear to make it manifest that the ostrich, and not the peacock, is the subject of the appeal. The word which is rendered “peacock,” רננים reneniym, is derived from רנן rânan, “to give forth a tremulous and stridulous sound;” and then to give forth the voice in vibrations; to shake or trill the voice; and then, as in lamentation or joy the voice is often given forth in that manner, the word comes to mean to utter cries of joy; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 35:6; and also cries of lamentation or mourning, Lamentations 2:19. The prevailing sense of the word in the Scriptures is to rejoice; to shout for joy; to exult. The name is here given to the bird referred to, evidently from the sound which it made, and probably from its exulting or joyful cry.
The word does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures as applicable to a bird, and there is no reason whatever, either from its etymology, or from the connection in which it is found here, to suppose that it refers to the peacock. Another reason is suggested by Scheutzer (Phys. Sac. in loc.), why the peacock cannot be intended here. It is, that the peacock is originally an East Indian fowl, and that it was imported at comparatively a late period in the Jewish history, and was doubtless unknown in the time of Job. In 1 Kings 10:22, and 2 Chronicles 9:21, it appears that peacocks were among the remarkable productions of distant countries that were imported for use or luxury by Solomon, a fact which would not have occurred had they been common in the patriarchal times. To these reasons to show that the peacock is not referred to here, Bochart, whose chapters on the subject deserve a careful attention (Hieroz. P. ii. L. ii. c. xvi. xvii.), has added the following:
(1) That if the peacock had been intended here, the allusion would not have been so brief. Of so remarkable a bird there would have been an extended description as there is of the ostrich, and of the unicorn and the horse. If the allusion is to the peacock, it is by a bare mention of the name, and by no argument, as in other cases, from the habits and instincts of the fowl.
(2) The word which is used here as a description of the bird referred to, רננים reneniym, derived from the musical properties of the bird, is by no means applicable to the peacock. It is of all fowls, perhaps, least distinguished for beauty of voice.
(3) The property ascribed to the fowl here of “exulting in the wing,” by no means agrees with the peacock. The glory and beauty of that bird is in the tail, and not in the wing. Yet the wing is here, from some cause, particularly specified. Bochart has demonstrated at great length, and with entire clearness, that the peacock was a foreign fowl, and that it must have been unknown in Judea and Arabia, as it was in Greece and Rome, at a period long after the time in which the book of Job is commonly supposed to have been written. The proper translation of the Hebrew here then would be, The wing of the exulting fowls “moves joyfully” - נעלסה ne‛âlasâh. The attention seems to be directed to the wing, as being lifted up, or as vibrating with rapidity, or as being triumphant in its movement in eluding the pursuer. It is not its beauty particularly that attracts the attention, but its exulting, joyful, triumphant, appearance.
Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? - Margin, “or, the feathers of the stork and ostrich.” Most commentators have despaired of making any sense out of the Hebrew in this place, and there have been almost as many conjectures as there have been expositors. The Hebrew is, ונצה חסידה אם־אברה 'im'ebrâh chăsı̂ydâh venôtsâh. A literal translation of it would be, “Is it the wing of the stork, and the plumage,” or feathers? The object seems to be to institute a comparison of some kind between the ostrich and the stork. This comparison, it would seem, relates partly to the wings and plumage of the two birds, and partly to their habits and instincts; though the latter point of comparison appears to be couched in the mere name. So far as I can understand the passage, the comparison relates first to the wings and plumage. The point of vision is that of the sudden appearance of the ostrich with exulting wing, and the attention is directed to it as in the bounding speed of its movements when in rapid flight.
In this view the usual name is not given to the bird - יענה בנות benôth ya‛ănâh, Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 50:39, but merely the name of fowls making a stridulous or whizzing sound - רננים reneniym. The question is then asked whether it has the wing and plumage of the stork - evidently implying that the wing of the stork might be supposed to be adapted to such a flight, but that it was remarkable that without such wings the ostrich was able to outstrip even the fleetest animal. The question is designed to turn the attention to the fact that the ostrich accomplishes its flight in this remarkable manner without being endowed with wings like the stork, which is capable of sustaining by its wings a long and rapid flight. The other point of the comparison seems couched in the name given to the stork, and the design is to contrast the habits of the ostrich with those of this bird - particularly in reference to their care for their young. The name given to the stork is חסידה chăsı̂ydâh, meaning literally “the pious,” a name usually given to it - ”avis pia,” from its tenderness toward its young - a virtue for which it was celebrated by the ancients, Pliny “Hist. Nat. x;” Aelian “Hist. An. 3, 23.” On the contrary, the Arabs call the ostrich the impious or ungodly bird, on account of its neglect and cruelty toward its young. The fact that the ostrich thus neglects its young, is dwelt upon in the passage before us Job 39:14-17, and in this respect she is placed in strong contrast with the stork. The verse then, I suppose, may be rendered thus:
“A wing of exulting fowls moves joyfully!
Is it the wing and the plumage of the pious bird?”
This means that with both (in regard to the wing and the habits of the two) there was a strong contrast, and yet designing to show that what seems to be a defect in the size and rigor of the wing, and what seems to be stupid forgetfulness of the bird in regard to its young, is proof of the wisdom of the Creator, who has so made it as to be able to outstrip the fleetest horse, and to be adapted to its shy and timid mode of life in the desert. The ostrich, whose principal characteristics are beautifully and strikingly detailed in this passage in Job, is a native of the torrid regions of Arabia and Africa. It is the largest of the feathered tribes and is the connecting link between quadrupeds and fowls. It has the general properties and outlines of a bird, and yet retains many of the marks of the quadruped. In appearance, the ostrich resembles the camel, and is almost as tall; and in the East is called “the camel-bird” (Calmet).
It is covered with a plumage that resembles hair more nearly than feathers; and its internal parts bear as near a resemblance to those of the quadruped as of the bird creation - Goldsmith. See also Poiret’s “Travels in the Barbary States,” as quoted by Rosenmuller, “Alte u. neue Morgenland,” No. 770. A full description is there given of the appearance and habits of the ostrich. Its head and bill resemble those of a duck; the neck may be compared with that of the swan, though it is much longer; the legs and thighs resemble those of a hen, but are fleshy and large. The end of the foot is cloven, and has two very large toes, which like the leg are covered with scales. The height of the ostrich is usually seven feet from the head to the ground; but from the back it is only four, so that the head and the neck are about three feet long. From the head to the end of the tail, when the neck is stretched in a right line, the length is seven feet.
One of the wings with the feathers spread out is three feet in length. At the end of the wing there is a species of spur almost like the quill of a porcupine. It is an inch long, and is hollow, and of a bony substance. The plumage is generally white and black, though some of them are said to be gray. There are no feathers on the sides of the thighs, nor under the wings. It has not, like most birds, feathers of various kinds, but they are all bearded with detached hairs or filaments, without consistence and reciprocal adherence. The feathers of the ostrich are almost as soft as down, and are therefore wholly unfit for flying, or to defend the body from external injury. The feathers of other birds have the web broader on one side than the other, but those of the ostrich have the shaft exactly in the middle. In other birds, the filaments that compose the feathers of the wings are firmly attached to each other, or are “hooked together,” so that they are adapted to catch and resist the air; on those of the ostrich no such attachments are found.
The consequence is, that they cannot oppose to the air a suitable resistance, as is the case with other birds, and are therefore incapable of flying, and in fact never mount on the wing. The wing is used (see the notes at Job 39:18) only to balance the bird, and to aid it in running. The great size of the bird - weighing 75 or 80 pounds - would require an immense power of wing to elevate it in the air, and it has, therefore, been furnished with the means of surpassing all other animals in the rapidity with which it runs, so that it may escape its pursuers. The ostrich is made to live in the wilderness, and it was called by the ancients “a lover of the deserts.” It is shy and timorous in no common degree, and avoids the cultivated fields and the abodes of man, and retreats into the utmost recesses of the desert. In those dreary wastes its subsistence is the few tufts of coarse grass which are scattered here and there, but it will eat almost anything that comes in its way.
It is the most voracious of animals, and will devour leather, glass, hair, iron, stones, or anything that is given. Valisnieri found the first stomach filled with a quantity of incongruous substances; grass, nuts, cords, stones, glass, brass, copper, iron, tin, lead, and wood, and among the rest, a piece of stone that weighed more than a pound. It would seem that the ostrich is obliged to fill up the great capacity of its stomach in order to be at ease; but that, nutritious substances not occurring, it pours in whatever is at hand to supply the void. The flesh of the ostrich was forbidden by the laws of Moses to be eaten Leviticus 11:13, but it is eaten by some of the savage nations of Africa, who hunt them for their flesh, which they regard as a dainty. The principal value of the ostrich, however, and the principal reason why it is hunted. is in the long feathers that compose the wing and the tail, and which are used so extensively for ornaments, The ancients used these plumes in their helmets; the ladies, in the East, as well as in the West, use them to decorate their persons, and they have been extensively employed also as badges of mourning on hearses. The Arabians assert that the ostrich never drinks, and the chosen place of its habitation - the waste, sandy desert - seems to confirm the assertion. As the ostrich, in the passage before us, is contrasted with the stork, the accompanying illustrations will serve to explain the passage.
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth - That is, she does not build a nest, as most birds do, but deposits her eggs in the sand. The ostrich, Dr. Shaw remarks, lays usually from thirty to fifty eggs. The eggs are very large, some of them being above five inches in diameter, and weighing fifteen pounds - Goldsmith. “We are not to consider,” says Dr. Shaw, “this large collection of eggs as if they were all intended for a brood. They are the greatest part of them reserved for food, which the dam breaks, and disposeth of according to the number and cravings of her young ones.” The idea which seems to be conveyed in our common version is, that the ostrich deposits her eggs in the sand, and then leaves them, without further care, to be hatched by the heat of the sun. This idea is not, however, necessarily implied in the original, and is contrary to fact. The truth is, that the eggs are deposited with great care, and with so much attention to the manner in which they are placed, that a line drawn from those in the extremities would just touch the tops of the intermediate ones (see Damir, as quoted by Bochart, “Hieroz.” P. ii. Lib. ii. c. xvii. p. 253), and that they are hatched, as the eggs of other birds are, in a great measure by the heat imparted by the incubation of the parent bird.
It is true that in the hot climates where these birds live, there is less necessity for constant incubation than in colder latitudes, and that the parent bird is more frequently absent; but she is accustomed regularly to return at night, and carefully broods over her eggs. See Le Valliant, “Travels in the Interior of Africa,” ii. 209, 305. It is true also that the parent bird wanders sometimes far from the place where the eggs are deposited, and forgets the place, and in this case if another nest of eggs is seen, she is not concerned whether they are her own or not, for she is not endowed with the power of distinguishing between her own eggs and those of another. This fact seems to have given rise to all the fables stated by the Arabic writers about the stupidity of the ostrich; about her leaving her eggs; and about her disposition to sit on the eggs of others. Bochart has collected many of these opinions from the Arabic writers, among which are the following: Alkazuinius says, “They say that no bird is more foolish than the ostrich, for while it forsakes its own eggs, it sits on the eggs of others; from the proverb, “Every animal loves its own young except the ostrich.”
Ottomanus says, “Every animal loves its own progeny except the ostrich. But that pertains only to the male. For although the common proverb imputes folly to the female, yet with her folly she loves her young, and feeds them, and teaches them to fly, the same as other animals.” Damir, an Arabic writer, says, “When the ostrich goes forth from her nest, that she may seek food, if she finds the egg of another ostrich, she sits on that, and forgets her own. And when driven away by hunters, she never returns; whence, it is that she is described as foolish, and that the proverb in regard to her has originated.
And warmeth them in dust - The idea which was evidently in the mind of the translators in this passage was, that the ostrich left her eggs in the dust to be hatched by the heat of the sun. This is not correct, and is not necessarily implied in the Hebrew, though undoubtedly the heat of the sand is made to contribute to the process of hatching the egg, and allows the parent bird to be absent longer from her nest than birds in colder climates. This seems to be all that is implied in the passage.
And forgetteth that the foot may crush them - She lays her eggs in the sand, and not, as most birds do, in nests made on branches of trees, or on the crags of rocks, where they would be inaccessible, as if she was forgetful of the fact that the wild beast might pass along and crush them. She often wanders away from them, also, and does not stay near them to guard them, as most parent birds do, as if she were unmindful of the danger to which they might be exposed when she was absent. The object of all this seems to be, to call the attention to the uniqueness in the natural history of this bird, and to observe that there were laws and arrangements in regard to it which seemed to show that she was deprived of wisdom, and yet that everything was so ordered as to prove that she was under the care of the Almighty. The great variety in the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, and especially their lack of resemblance to what would have occurred to man, seems to give the special force and point to the argument used here.
She is hardened against her young ones - The obvious meaning of this passage, which is a fair translation of the Hebrew, is, that the ostrich is destitute of natural affection for her young; or that she treats them as if she had not the usual natural affection manifested in the animal creation. This sentiment also occurs in Lamentations 4:3, “The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” This opinion is controverted by Buffon, but seems fully sustained by those who have most attentively observed the habits of the ostrich. Dr. Shaw, as quoted by Paxton, and in Robinson’s Calmet, says, “On the least noise or trivial occasion she forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others.” “Agreeable to this account,” says Paxton, “the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed, some of which are sweet and good, and others addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growths, according to the time it may be presumed they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, not bigger than well-grown pullets, half-starved, straggling and moaning about like so many distressed orphans for their mothers.”
Her labour is in vain without fear - Herder renders this,” In vain is her travail, but she regards it not.” The idea in the passage seems to be this; that the ostrich has not that apprehension or provident care for her young which others birds have. It does not mean that she is an animal remarkably bold and courageous, for the contrary is the fact, and she is, according to the Arabian writers, timid to a proverb; but that she has none of the anxious solicitude for her young which others seem to have - the dread that they may be in want, or in danger, which leads them, often at the peril of their own lives, to provide for and defend them.
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom ... - That is, he has not imparted to her the wisdom which has been conferred on other animals. The meaning is, that all this remarkable arrangement, which distinguished the ostrich so much from other animals was to be traced to God. It was not the result of chance; it could not be pretended that it was by a human arrangement, but it was the result of divine appointment. Even in this apparent destitution of wisdom, there were reasons which had led to this appointment, and the care and good providence of God could be seen in the preservation of the animal. Particularly, though apparently so weak, and timid, and unwise, the ostrich had a noble hearing Job 39:18, and when aroused, would scorn the fleetest horse in the pursuit, and show that she was distinguished for properties that were expressive of the goodness of God toward her, and of his care over her.
What time she lifteth up herself on high - In the previous verses reference had been made to the fact that in some important respects the ostrich was inferior to other animals, or had special laws in regard to its habits and preservation. Here the attention is called to the fact that, notwithstanding its inferiority in some respects, it had properties such as to command the highest admiration. Its lofty carriage, the rapidity of its flight, and the proud scorn with which it would elude the pursuit of the fleetest coursers, were all things that showed that God had so endowed it as to furnish proof of his wisdom. The phrase “what time she lifteth up herself,” refers to the fact that she raises herself for her rapid flight. It does not mean that she would mount on her wings, for this the ostrich cannot do; but to the fact that this timid and cowardly bird would, when danger was near, rouse herself, and assume a lofty courage and bearing. The word here translated “lifteth up” (תמריא tamâriy') means properly “to lash, to whip,” as a horse, to increase its speed, and is here supposed by Gesenius to be used as denoting that the ostrich by flapping her wings lashes herself up as it were to her course. All the ancient interpretations, however, as well as the common English version, render it as if it were but another form of the word רום rûm, to raise oneself up, or to rise up, as if the ostrich aroused herself up for her flight. Herder renders it, “At once she is up, and urges herself forward.” Taylor (in Calmet) renders it:
“Yet at the time she haughtily assumes courage;
She scorneth the horse and his rider.”
The leading idea is, that she rouses herself to escape her pursuer; she lifts up her head and body, and spreads her wings, and then bids defiance to anything to overtake her.
She scorneth the horse and his rider - In the pursuit. That is, she runs faster than the fleetest horse, and easily escapes. The extraordinary rapidity of the ostrich has always been celebrated, and it is well known that she can easily outstrip the fleetest horse. Its swiftness is mentioned by Xenophon, in his Anabasis; for, speaking of the desert of Arabia, he says, that ostriches are frequently seen there; that none could overtake them; and that horsemen who pursued them were obliged soon to give over, “for they escaped far away, making use both of their feet to run, and of their wings, when expanded, as a sail, to waft them along.” Marmelius, as quoted by Bochart (see above), speaking of a remarkable kind of horses, says, “that in Africa, Egypt, and Arabia, there is but one species of that kind which they call the Arabian, and that those are produced only in the deserts of Arabia. Their velocity is wonderful, nor is there any better evidence of their remarkable swiftness, than is furnished when they pursue the camel-bird.”
It is a common sentiment of the Arabs, Boehart remarks, that there is no animal which can overcome the ostrich in its course. Dr. Shaw says, “Notwithstanding the stupidity of this animal, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. ‘They, when they raise themselves up for flight, laugh at the horse and his rider.’ They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility, and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded, quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more entertaining than such a sight; the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and for oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue.” “Travels,” 8vo., vol. ii. p. 343, as quoted by Noyes. The same representation is confirmed by the writer of a voyage to Senegal, who says,” She sets off at a hand gallop; but after being excited a little, she expands her wings, as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground.
I am persuaded she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser” - Rob. Calmet. Buffon also admits that the ostrich runs faster than the horse. These unexceptionable testimonies completely vindicate the assertion of the inspired writer. The proofs and illustrations here furnished at considerable length are designed to show that the statements here made in the book of Job are such as are confirmed by all the investigations in Natural History since the time the book was written. If the statements are to be regarded as an indication of the progress made in the science of Natural History at the time when Job lived, they prove that the observations in regard to this animal had been extensive and were surprisingly accurate. They show that the minds of sages at that time had been turned with much interest to this branch of science, and that they were able to describe the habits of animals with an accuracy which would do the highest credit to Pliny or to Buffon. If, however, the account here is to be regarded as the mere result of inspiration, or as the language of God speaking and describing what he had done, then the account furnishes us with an interesting proof of the inspiration of the book. Its minute accuracy is confirmed by all the subsequent inquiries into the habits of the animal referred to, and shows that the statement is based on simple truth. The general remark may here be made, that all the notices in the Bible of the subjects of science - which are indeed mostly casual and incidental - are such as are confirmed by the investigations which science in the various departments makes. Of what other ancient book but the Bible can this remark be made?
Hast thou given the horse strength? - The incidental allusion to the horse in comparison with the ostrich in the previous verse, seems to have suggested this magnificent description of this noble animal - a description which has never been surpassed or equalled. The horse is an animal so well known, that a particular description of it is here unnecessary. The only thing which is required is an explanation of the phrases used here, and a confirmation of the particular qualities here attributed to the war-horse, for the description here is evidently that of the horse as he appears in war, or as about to plunge into the midst of a battle. The description which comes the nearest to this before us, is that furnished in the well known and exquisite passage of Virgil, Georg. iii. 84ff:
- Turn, si qua sonum procul arma dedere,
Stare loco nescitedmientauribns, et tremitartus,
Collectumq; premens volvit sub naribusignem.
Densa. iuba, et dextrojuctata recumbat in armo.
At duplex agitur, per lumbos spina; cavatque
Tellurem, et solidograviter sonat ungulacornu.
“But at the clash of arms, his ear afar
Drinks the deep sound, and vibrates to the war;
Flames from each nostril roll in gathered stream,
His quivering limbs with restless motion gleam;
O’er his right shoulder, floating full and fair,
Sweeps his thick mane, and spreads his pomp of hair;
Swift works his double spine; and earth around
Rings to his solid hoof that wears the ground.”
Many of the circumstances here enumerated have a remarkable resemblance to the description in Job. Other descriptions and correspondences between this passage and the Classical writers may be seen at length in Bochart, “Hieroz.” P. i. L. i. c. viii.; in Scheutzer, “Physica Sacra, in loc.;” and in the “Scriptorum variorum Sylloge (Vermischte Schriften,” Goetting. l 82), of Godofr. Less. A full account of the habits of the horse is also furnished by Michaelis in his “Dissertation on the most ancient history of horses and horse-breeding,” etc. Appendix to Art. clxvi. of the Commentary of the Laws of Moses, vol. ii. According to the results of the investigations of Michaelis, Arabia was not, as is commonly supposed, the native country of the horse, but its origin is rather to be sought in Egypt; and in the account which is given of the riches of Job, Job 1:3; Job 42:12, it is remarkable that the horse is not mentioned. It is, therefore, in a high degree probable that the horse was not known in his time as a domestic animal, and that, in his country at least, it was employed chiefly in war.
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? - There seems to be something incongruous in the idea of making thunder the clothing of the neck of a horse, and there as been considerable diversity in the exposition of the passage. There is evidently some allusion to the mane, but exactly in what respect is not agreed. The Septuagint renders it, “Hast thou clothed his neck with terror” - φόβον phobon? Jerome refers it to the “neighing” of the horse - ”aut circumdabis collo ejus hinnitum” Prof. Lee renders it, “Clothest thou his neck with scorn?” Herder, “And clothed its neckwith its flowing mane.” Umbreit, “Hast thou clothed his neck with loftiness?” Noyes, “Hast thou clothed his neck with its quivering mane?” Schultens, “convestis cervicem ejus tremore alacri” - “with rapid quivering;” and Dr. Good, “with the thunder-flash.” In this variety of interpretation, it is easy to perceive that the common impression has been that the mane is in some way referred to, and that the allusion is not so much to a sound as of thunder, as to some motion of the mane that attracted attention.
The mane adds much to the majesty and beauty of the horse, and perhaps it was in some way decorated by the ancients so as to set it off with increased beauty. The word which is used here, and which is rendered “thunder” (רעמה ra‛mâh), is from the verb רעם râ‛am, meaning to rage, to roar, as applied to the sea, Psalms 96:11; Psalms 98:7, and then to thunder. It has also the idea of trembling or quaking, Ezekiel 27:35, and also of provoking to anger, 1 Samuel 1:6. The verb and the noun are more commonly referred to thunder than anything else, Job 37:4-5; Job 40:9; 2 Samuel 22:14; 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 7:10; Psalms 18:13; Psalms 29:3; Psalms 77:18; Psalms 104:7; Isaiah 29:6. A full investigation of the meaning of the passage may be seen in Bochart, “Hieroz.” P. i. Lib. ii. c. viii. It seems to me to be very difficult to determine its meaning, and none of the explanations given are quite satisfactory. The word used requires us to understand the appearance of the neck of the horse as having some resemblance to thunder, but in what respect is not quite so apparent.
It may be this; the description of the war-horse is that of an animal fitted to inspire terror. He is caparisoned for battle; impatient of restraint; rushing forward into the thickest of the fight; tearing up the earth; breathing fire from his nostrils; and it was not unnatural, therefore, to compare him with the tempest. The majestic neck, with the erect and shaking mane, is likened to the thunder of the tempest that shakes everything, and that gives so much majesty and tearfulness to the gathering storm, and the description seems to be this - that his very neck is fitted to produce awe and alarm, like the thunder of the tempest. We are required, therefore, it seems to me, to adhere to the proper meaning of the word; and though in the coolness of criticism there may appear to be something incongruous in the application of thunder to the neck of the horse, yet it might not appear to be so if we saw such a war-horse - and if the thought, not an unnatural one, should strike us, that in majesty and fury he bore a strong resemblance to an approaching tempest.
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? - Or, rather, “as a locust” - כארבה kā'arbeh. This is the word which is commonly applied to the locust considered as gregarious, or as appearing in great numbers (from רבה râbâh, “to be multiplied”). On the variety of the species of locusts, see Bochart “Hieroz.” P. ii. Lib. iv. c. 1ff The Hebrew word here rendered “make afraid” (רעשׁ râ‛ash) means properly “to be moved, to be shaken,” and hence, to tremble, to be afraid. In the Hiphil, the form used here, it means to cause to tremble, to shake; and then “to cause to leap,” as a horse; and the idea here is, Canst thou cause the horse, an animal so large and powerful, to leap with the agility of a locust? See Gesenius, “Lex.” The allusion here is to the leaping or moving of the locusts as they advance in the appearance of squadrons or troops; but the comparison is not so much that of a single horse to a single locust, as of cavalry or a company of war-horses to an army of locusts; and the point of comparison turns on the elasticity or agility of the motion of cavalry advancing to the field of battle.
The sense is, that God could cause that rapid and beautiful movement in animals so large and powerful as the horse, but that it was wholly beyond the power of man to effect it. It is quite common in the East to compare a horse with a locust, and travelers have spoken of the remarkable resemblance between the heads of the two. This comparison occurs also in the Bible; see Joel 2:4, “The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen so shall they run;” Revelation 9:7. The Italians, from this resemblance, call the locust “cavaletta,” or little horse. Sir W. Ouseley says, “Zakaria Cavini divides the locusts into two classes, like horsemen and footmen, ‘mounted and pedestrian.’ “Niebuhr says that he heard from a Bedouin near Bassorah, a particular comparison of the locust with other animals; but he thought it a mere fancy of the Arabs, until he heard it repeated at Bagdad. He compared the head of a locust to that of a horse, the breast to that of a lion, the feet to those of a camel, the belly with that of a serpent, the tail with that of a scorpion, and the feelers with the hair of a virgin; see the Pictorial Bible on Joel 2:4.
The glory of his nostrils is terrible - Margin, as in Hebrew, “terrors.” That is, it is fitted to inspire terror or awe. The reference is to the wide-extended and fiery looking nostrils of the horse when animated, and impatient, for action. So Lucretius, L. v.:
Et fremitum patulis sub naribus edit ad arma.
So Virgil, “Georg.” iii. 87:
Collectumque premens voluit sub naribus ignem.
Claudian, in iv. “Consulatu Honorii:”
Ignescunt patulae nares.
He paweth in the valley - Margin, “or, His feet dig.” The marginal reading is more in accordance with the Hebrew. The reference is to the well known fact of the “pawing” of the horse with his feet, as if he would dig up the ground. The same idea occurs in Virgil, as quoted above:
Tellurem, et solido graviter solar ungula cornu.
Also in Apollonius, L. iii. “Argonauticon:”
Hōs d' arēios hippos, eeldomenos polemoio,
Skarthmō epichremethōn krouei pedon.
“As a war-horse, impatient for the battle,
Neighing beats the ground with bis hoofs”
He goeth on to meet the armed men - Margin, “armor.” The margin is in accordance with the Hebrew, but still the idea is substantially the same. The horse rushes on furiously against the weapons of war.
He mocketh at fear - He laughs at that which is fitted to intimidate; that is, he is not afraid.
Neither turneth he back from the sword - He rushes on it without fear. Of the fact here stated, and the accuracy of the description, there can be no doubt.
The quiver rattleth against him - The quiver was a case made for containing arrows. It was usually slung over the shoulder, so that it could be easily reached to draw out an arrow. Warriors on horseback, as well as on foot, fought with bows and arrows, as well as with swords and spears; and the idea here is, that the war-horse bore upon himself these instruments of war. The rattling of the quiver was caused by the fact that the arrows were thrown somewhat loosely into the case or the quiver, and that in the rapid motion of the warrior they were shaken against each other. Thus, Virgil, Aeneid ix. 660:
- pharetramque fuga sensere sonantem.
Silius, L. 12:
Plena tenet et resonante pharetra.
Turba ruunt stridentque sagittiferi coryti.
So Homer (“Iliad, a.”), when speaking of Apollo:
Tox́ ōmoisin echōn, amfērefea te faretrēn
Eklangxan d' aŕ oistoi ep' ōmōn chōmenoio.
See Seheutzer’s “Phys. Sac., in loc.”
He swalloweth the ground - He seems as if he would absorb the earth. That is, he strikes his feet into it with such fierceness, and raises up the dust in his prancing, as if he would devour it. This figure is unusual with us, but it is common in the Arabic. See Schultens, “in loc.,” and Bochart, “Hieroz,” P. i. L. ii. c. viii. pp. 143-145. So Statius:
Stare loco nescit, pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum.
Th’ impatient courser pants in every’ vein,
And pawing seems to beat the distant plain;
Hills, vales, and floods, appear already cross’d,
And ere he starts a thousand steps are lost.
Neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet - This translation by no means conveys the meaning of the original. The true sense is probably expressed by Umbreit. “He standeth not still when the trumpet soundeth; “that is, he becomes impatient; he no longer confides in the voice of the rider and remains submissive, but he becomes excited by the martial clangor, and rushes into the midst of the battle. The Hebrew word which is employed (יאמין ya'âmiyn) means properly “to prop, stay, support”; then “to believe, to be firm, stable”; and is that which is commonly used to denote an act of “faith,” or as meaning “believing.” But the original sense of the word is here to be retained, and then it refers to the fact that the impatient horse no longer stands still when the trumpet begins to sound for battle.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha - That is,” When the trumpet sounds, his voice is heard “as if” he said, Aha - or said that he heard the sound calling him to the battle.” The reference is to the impatient neighing of the war horse about to rush into the conflict.
And he smelleth the battle afar off - That is, he snuffs, as it were, for the slaughter. The reference is to the effect of an approaching army upon a spirited war-horse, as if he perceived the approach by the sense of smelling, and longed to be in the midst of the battle.
The thunder of the captains - literally, “the war-cry of the princes.” The reference is to the loud voices of the leaders of the army commanding the hosts under them. In regard to the whole of this magnificent description of the war-horse, the reader may consult Bochart, “Hieroz.” P. i. L. ii. c. viii., where the phrases used are considered and illustrated at length. The leading idea. here is, that the war-horse evinced the wisdom and the power of God. His majesty, energy, strength, impatience for the battle, and spirit, were proofs of the greatness of Him who had made him, and might be appealed to as illustrating His perfections. Much as people admire the noble horse, and much as they take pains to train him for the turf or for battle, yet how seldom do they refer to it as illustrating the power and greatness of the Creator; and, it may be added, how seldom do they use the horse as if he were one of the grand and noble works of God!
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom - The appeal here is to the hawk, because it is among the most rapid of the birds in its flight. The particuIar thing specified is its flying, and it is supposed that there was something special in that which distinguished it from other birds. Whether it was in regard to its speed, to its manner of flying, or to its habits of flying at periodical seasons, may indeed be made a matter of inquiry, but it is clear that the particular thing in this bird which was adapted to draw the attention, and which evinced especially the wisdom of God, was connected with its flight. The word here rendered “hawk,” (נץ nêts) is probably generic, and includes the various species of the falcon or hawk tribe, as the jet-falcon, the goshawk, the sparrow, hawk, the lanner, the saker, the hobby, the kestril, and the merlin. Not less than one hundred and fifty species of the hawk, it is said, have been described, but of these many are little known, and many of them differ from others only by very slight distinctions.
They are birds of prey, and, as many of them are endowed with remarkable docility, they are trained for the diversions of falconry - which has been quite a science among sportsmen. The falcon, or hawk, is often distinguished for fleetness. One, belonging to a Duke of Cleves, flew out of Westphalia into Prussia in one day; and in the county of Norfolk (England) one was known to make a flight of nearly thirty miles in an hour. A falcon which belonged to Henry IV. of France, having escaped from Fontainebleau, was found twenty-four hours after in Malta, the space traversed being not less than one thousand three hundred and fifty miles; being a velocity of about fifty-seven miles an hour, on the supposition that the bird was on the wing the whole time. It is this remarkable velocity which is here appealed to as a proof of the divine wisdom. God asks Job whether he could have formed these birds for their rapid flight. The wisdom and skill which has done this is evidently far above any that is possessed by man.
And stretch her wings toward the south - Referring to the fact that the bird is migratory at certain seasons of the year. It is not here merely the rapidity of its flight which is referred to, but that remarkable instinct which leads the feathered tribes to seek more congenial climates at the approach of winter. In no way is this to be accounted for, except by the fact that God has so appointed it. This great law of the winged tribes is one of the clearest proofs of divine wisdom and agency.
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command? - Margin, as in Hebrew, “by thy mouth.” The meaning is, that Job had not power to direct or order the eagle in his lofty flight. The eagle has always been celebrated for the height to which it ascends. When Ramond had reached the summit of Mount Perdu, the highest of the Pyrenees, he perceived no living creature but an eagle which passed above him, flying with inconceivable rapidity in direct opposition to a furious wind. “Edin. Ency.” “Of all animals, the eagle flies highest; and from thence the ancients have given him the epithet of “the bird of heaven.” “Goldsmith.” What is particularly worth remarking here is, the accuracy with which the descriptions in Job are made. If these are any indications of the progress of the knowledge of Natural History, that science could not have been then in its infancy. Just the things are adverted to here which all the investigations of subsequent ages have shown to characterize the classes of the feathered creation referred to.
And make her nest on high - “The nest of the eagle is usually built in the most inaccessible cliff of the rock, and often shielded from the weather by some jutting crag that hangs over it.” “Goldsmith.” “It is usually placed horizontally, in the hollow or fissure, of some high and abrupt rock, and is constructed of sticks of five or six feet in length, interlaced with pliant twigs, and covered with layers of rushes, heath, or moss. Unless destroyed by some accident, it is supposed to suffice, with occasional repairs, for the same couple during their lives.” “Edin. Ency.”
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock - “He rarely quits the mountains to descend into the plains. Each pair live in an insulated state, establishing their quarters on some high and precipitous cliff, at a respectful distance from others of the same species.” “Edin. Ency.” They seem to occupy the same cliff, or place of abode, during their lives; and hence, it is that they are represented as having a permanent abode on the lofty rock. In Damir it is said that the blind poet Besar, son of Jazidi, being asked, if God would give him the choice to be an animal, what he would be, said that he would wish to be nothing else than an “alokab,” a species of the eagle, for they dwelt in places to which no wild animal could have access. Scheutzer, “Phys. Sac. in loc.” The word rendered “abideth” means commonly “to pass the night,” and here refers to the fact that the high rock was its constant abode or dwelling. By night as well as by day, the eagle had his home there.
Upon the crag of the rock - Hebrew, “Upon the tooth of the rock” - from the resemblance of the crag of a rock to a tooth.
From, thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off - “When far aloft, and no longer discernible by the human eye, such is the wonderful acuteness of its sight, that from the same elevation it will mark a hare, or even a smaller animal, and dart down on it with unerring aim.” “Edin. Ency.” “Of all animals, the eagle has the quickest eye; but his sense of smelling is far inferior to that of the vulture. He never pursues, therefore, but in sight.” “Goldsmith.” This power of sight was early known, and is celebrated by the ancients. Thus, Homer, r’ - . verse 674.
- ὥστ ̓ ἀιετός ὄν ῥά τε φασὶν
- hōst' aietos on ra te fasin
Oxusaton derkesthai hupouraniōn peteēnōn.
“As the eagle of whom it is said that it enjoys the keenest vision of
All the fowls under heaven.”
So Aelian, II. L. i. 32. Also Horace “Serm.” L. i. Sat. 3:
- tam cernit acutum
Quam aut aquila, aut serpeus Epidaurus.
The Arabic writers say that the eagle can see “four hundred parasangs.” “Damir,” as quoted by Scheutzer. It is now ascertained that birds of prey search out or discern their food rather by the sight than the smell. No sooner does a camel fall and die on the plains of Arabia, than there may be seen in the far-distant sky apparently a black speck, which is soon discovered to be a vulture hastening to its prey. From that vast distance the bird, invisible to human eye, has seen the prey stretched upon the sand and immediately commences toward it its rapid flight.
Her young ones also suck up blood - The word used here (יעלעוּ ye‛âl‛û) occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It is supposed to mean, to sup up greedily; referring to the fact that the young ones of the eagle devour blood voraciously. They are too feeble to devour the flesh, and hence, they are fed on the blood of the victim. The strength of the eagle consists in the beak, talons, and wings; and such is their power, that they are able to convey animals of considerable size, alive, to their places of abode. They often bear away in this manner, lambs, kids, and the young of the gazelle. Three instances, at least, are known, where they have carried off children. In the year 1737, in Norway, a boy upward of two years of age was carried off by an eagle in the sight of his parents. Anderson, in his history of Iceland, asserts that in that island children of four and five years of age have experienced the same fate; and Ray mentions that in one of the Orkheys an infant of a year old was seized in the talons of an eagle, and conveyed about four miles to its eyry. “Edin. Ency.” The principal food of the young eagle is blood. The proof of this fact may be seen in Scheutzer’s “Phys. Sac., in loc.”
And where the slain are, there is she - Hebrew, “the slain;” referring perhaps primarily to a field of battle - where horses, camels, and human beings, lie in confusion. It is not improbable that the Savior had this passage in view when he said, speaking of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together; “Matthew 24:28. Of the fact that they thus assemble, there can be no doubt. The “argument” in proof of the wisdom and majesty of the Almighty in these references to the animal creation, is derived from their strength, their instincts, and their special habits. We may make two remarks, in view of the argument as here stated:
(1) One relates to the remarkable accuracy with which they are referred to. The statements are not vague and general, but are minute and characteristic, about the habits and the instincts of the animals referred to. The very things are selected which are now known to distinguish those animals, and which are not found to exist in the same degree, if at all, in others. Subsequent investigations have served to confirm the accuracy of these descriptions, and they may be taken now as a correct account even to the letter of the natural history of the different animals referred to. If, therefore, as has already been stated, this is to be regarded as an indication of the state of natural science in the time of Job. it shows quite an advanced state; if it is not an indication of the existing state of knowledge in his time, if there was no such acquaintance with the animal creation as the result of observation, then it shows that these were truly the words of God, and are to be regarded as direct inspiration. At all events, the statement was evidently made under the influence of inspiration, and is worthy of the origin which it claims.
(2) The second remark is, that the progress of discovery in the science of natural history has only served to confirm and expand the argument here adverted to. Every new fact in regard to the habits and instincts of animals is a new proof of the wisdom and greatness of God and we may appeal now, with all the knowledge which we have on these subjects, with unanswerable force to the habits and instincts of the wild goats of the rock, the wild ass, the rhinoceros, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, and the eagle, as each one furnishing some striking and special proof of the wisdom, goodness, superintending providence and power of the great Creator.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 39". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter