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Bible Commentaries
Job 38

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-34

The Speeches of the Almighty

When the human debate was over, and Job had proudly asserted his readiness to confront God, conscious of his innocence (Job 31:35-37), there was nothing left, if the contest was to be decided, except a direct intervention of God. This Job had himself again and again demanded. He had challenged God to meet him and justify the treatment He accorded to him. He complains bitterly that God evades him, and lets him suffer, though He knows that he is innocent. Now at last God speaks. But not at all as Job had demanded. For he had implored God to remove His hand from him, in other words, to release him from pain that he might not be distracted by it, and not to make him afraid with His terror, since otherwise he might be driven, though innocent, to confess to guilt. God does not heal him, and He speaks out of the storm. Nor does the matter of His utterance conform to what Job had demanded, any more than the manner of it. For He does not deal with the question of Job’s sin, or tell him the reason of his affliction. He puts question after question to him, challenging him to explain the mysteries of the universe. These he cannot comprehend; with what right then does he criticise God’s government of the world?

It is a surprise to some that God should be represented by the poet as taking this line. Why should He speak with such irony, and why not offer the man who had suffered so deeply some explanation and comfort? Partly because Job had brought deserved rebuke on himself for his attack on God’s rule of the world. Partly because he needed to rise to a higher point of view from which he could see the complexity of the problem. Moreever, God does not explain to Job the cause of his suffering, since the supreme lesson of the book is that he becomes so sure of God that he knows his affliction to be in harmony with God’s righteousness, though he is wholly incapable of reconciling the two intellectually. But after he has reached this position God restores him to health and prosperity.

The vital element in his experience is not the speech of God, but the vision of God. It is in a true relation to God, which is possible only to him to whom the divine vision is vouchsafed, that Job learns to trust God utterly. And as he looks back on the charges he has brought against Him, whom in this deep, mystical manner he has just come to know, he loathes the words he has uttered, and repents in dust and ashes. ’I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.’

Verses 1-41

The First Speech of the Almighty (Job 38, 39)

The marvels of creation, which witness to the infinite wisdom, power, and watchful care of the Creator, are presented to Job in such a way as to force from him a confession of ignorance and weakness, and of presumption in venturing to contend with God.

1-38. The wonders of earth and heaven. What does Job know of their nature and origin and ordering?

1. Whirlwind] rather, ’storm.’ Theophanies, or manifestations of God to man, are usually represented in OT. as accompanied by convulsions of nature: cp. Exodus 19:16-20. There is no necessary reference to the storm in Job 37.

2. The question evidently refers to Job. ’God condemns Job for making dark the divine plan of the world. He had spoken as though it was all a tangled riddle. Really there is in it a beautiful luminous order’ (Peake). But this makes Job the last speaker, not Elihu, and supports the view that the latter’s speeches are an interpolation.

3. Job had expressed too boldly his desire to contend with God concerning his righteousness. But he has still to learn that he must trust where he cannot understand.

4-7. The creation of the earth.

5. Who hath laid] RV ’Who determined.’

7. Sons of God] the angels.

8-11. The sea.

8. When it brake forth] The ancients thought that the sea issued from the subterranean abyss, with which it was connected by springs in the bed of the ocean: cp. Job 38:16 and Genesis 7:11.

10a. Render, ’and prescribed for it its boundary.’

12-15. The dawn.

12. Since thy days] RV adds ’began.’

13. Deeds of darkness are checked by the coming of light: cp. John 3:20.

14. RM ’It is changed as clay under the seal, and all things stand forth as in a garment.’ Objects which have hitherto been obscure and shapeless take form and colour, as if wrapped in a clinging garment, when daylight comes.

15. Darkness, which is the light of the wicked, disappears, and with it their power to harm is gone.

16, 17. The deep and the under-world. The deep lies beneath the bed of the sea.

16. Search of the depth] RV ’recesses of the deep.’

17. Opened] RV ’revealed.’ Death] Sheol, the place of the dead.

19-21. The abode of light and darkness.

19. Where] rather,’ whither.’

20. Take it to the bound thereof] i.e. track it.

21. Knowest thou it] RVDoubtless thou knowest’: spoken ironically.

22-30. The secrets of show and hail, rain and frost.

22. Treasures] RV ’treasuries’; storehouses.

22, 23. Cp. passages such as Joshua 10:11; Psalms 18, where God is represented as intervening in the affairs of men through the elements of nature.

24b. RV ’Or the east wind scattered upon the earth.’

25. ’Who has made a channel for the tropical rain to pour down from the heavens through the skies?’

26, 27. God’s providence neglects no part of His creation. Job had at the most thought of man, but mainly of himself. God reminds him of the vast animate and inanimate creation.

28a. ’Does man beget the rain?’

30. Render, ’The waters are congealed like stone.’

31a. Render, ’Canst thou group together the Pleiades?’ Sweet influences] RV ’cluster.’

Pleiades] see on Job 9:9.

32. Render, ’Canst thou lead forth the signs of the zodiac in the season? ’i.e. Can you influence their appearing? The zodiacal signs were known 3,000 years b.c. (The zodiac is that part of the sky which includes the apparent paths of the sun, moon, and planets. The ’signs’ are the divisions of 30 degrees into which, for astronomical and other purposes, it is divided.) Arcturus with his sons] or, ’the Bear over her sons,’ i.e. the revolution of the Bear round the Pole and Little Bear.

33. The laws of the seasons and their influence on the earth.

36. Inward parts] RM ’dark clouds.’ Heart] RM ’meteor.’

37. In] RV ’by.’ Stay] RV ’pour out.’ Bottles of heaven] i.e. rain-clouds.

37-41. These vv. are connected in subject with Job 39.

41. They wander] RVand wander.’

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 38". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/job-38.html. 1909.
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