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Job 39:1 Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? [or] canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
Ver. 1. Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? ] The history of the living creatures is of singular use we see to set forth the goodness, power, wisdom, and other of God’s attributes clearly shining in them. And therefore they have very well deserved all sorts who have put forth such histories and discourses; as Aristotle, Aelian, Pliny, Gesner, Aldobrandinus, &c., of whom I may say, as once Eneas Sylvius (afterwards Pope Plus II.) did of learning in general, that popular men should esteem them as silver, noblemen as gold, princes as pearls; and not so slenderly reward them as Pope Sixtus did Theodorus Gaza (who translated and dedicated unto him Aristotle, De Natura Animalium ), paying him only for the rich binding and bossing forty crowns; but bountifully encourage them, as Great Alexander did his master Aristotle for that same work; he gave him, saith the history, eight hundred talents, which is four hundred and fourscore thousand crowns (Job. Manl. loc. com. 572). The pleasure of reading such authors is not so great as the profit; for thereby we may attain to the knowledge of God, and of ourselves; of his will, and our duties. Hence we are sent to school to the unreasonable creatures, even the most contemptible, as the pismire, Proverbs 6:6 . And Basil, writing to one that was proud of his knowledge, propoundeth unto him divers questions concerning this same pismire, as, namely, how many feet he hath? whether he hath entrails, such as kidneys, liver, heart, veins, nerves, as other living creatures do? &c. Similarly, God here, to humble Job, and to convince him of his meanness, asketh him whether he knoweth the wild goats and hinds, with the time of their bringing forth young, the means and the manner? &c. And whether these things were done by his ordination and vigilance? Many admirable things are written of these wild goats; as what cold places they live in, what inaccessible rocks, how strangely there they hang, what huge leaps they fetch; but especially about their bringing forth, how by a natural sagacity they help themselves, both before and after, by biting upon certain herbs that are helpful to them in that case,
Pendentem summa capream de rupe videbis
Casuram speres, decipit illa canes (Mart.).
These things and many more such may be read about in Pliny’s Natural History; of which book Erasmus well saith, that it is a store house, or rather a world full of things most worthy to be read. So are not the Jewish expositors, who tell us many strange things here concerning these creatures, quae commentitia esse puto, which I take to be mere fictions, saith learned Mercer; and I to be trifles and old wives’ fables, saith Lavater, to the belief whereof they are justly given up by God for their rejection of Christ, the light of the world. We grant that the whole world is full of miracles, though for the commonness of them they are little noted, or noticed. But should these men think to help the truth by their lies? Should they speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for him?
Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? ] Which they do not without a great deal of pain (as the Hebrew word importeth), no creature the like, unless it be woman. God sometimes frighteth them by his thunder, and so furthereth their delivery, Psalms 29:9 , while they struggle with many griefs, and to give life to their calves, are in danger of losing their own. Now, if God help the hinds in this case, will he be wanting to his labouring daughters? Let them send for Lady Faith to be their midwife; and all shall go well. She hath delivered graves of their dead, Hebrews 11:35 . How much more then will she them of their quick births, yea, though they carry death in their bowels!
Job 39:2 Canst thou number the months [that] they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
Ver. 2. Canst thou number the months they fulfil? ] Eight months, Aristotle saith (the elephant is said to go above eight years), but who can tell the instant when, or why not sooner or later? Dost thou exactly observe and count those months, as I do, to a moment? Sola hic Deo providentia elucet.
Job 39:3 They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.
Ver. 3. They bow themselves ] sc. By an instinct of nature, whether it be the pain they suffer, which compelleth them to it, or the fear of hurting their calves, which obligeth them to it.
They bring forth their young ] Diffindunt: fissa sc. et aperta tandem matrice; they bring forth with a great deal of difficulty, to the crushing of their young, which yet escape and grow up. Let good women learn, sperare a Deo faciles et faelices partus, to trust in God for a happy delivery, though it go hard with them, sometimes to the making of some Medea say, Millies in acie mori mallem quam semel parere, I had rather a thousand times die in battle than bring forth one child (Eurip.).
They cast out their sorrows ] Tormina, their throes, and therewith their young, by the benefit of the herbs Arus and Seselis, which they feed upon, for the better bringing away of their gleanings, as they call the involucrum, that wrappeth the young in the matrix (Arist. Hist. Anim. lib. 8, cap. 5; Plin. lib. 8, cap. 31). The Vulgate hath it, They utter roarings; they cast forth cries which are as terrible as the roarings of lionesses. Stato partus tempore valvae dehiscunt quae a partu mox occluduntur; id quod fieri videmus, inquit Galenus, sed quomodo fiat, admirari tantum possumus. Avicenna vocat opus supra mirabilia omnia, mirabile. Sed miracula assiduitate vilescunt. If a man should be born but once in a hundred years, all the world would stand amazed at such a miracle.
Job 39:4 Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.
Ver. 4. Their young ones are in good liking ] Or, they recover; revalescent begin to grow well , as Isaiah 58:14 , notwithstanding the hardness of their birth, by reason of their dam’s exceeding dry temperature, Psalms 42:1 . As the hind brayeth after the water brooks, as being naturally hot and dry, when in pain especially; and this the young are sensible of in their coming into the world, which yet they soon recover and grow sleek and fat, η ελαφος (Sept.). Let God be trusted for the welfare of our children, though weak and wearish when newly born, and hard put to it in the birth.
They grow up with corn ] Or, in the field; after that they have been nourished a while with their dam’s milk, they forage for themselves; being calved about autumn, as Aristotle noteth, that is, in seed time; others say, about harvest, when grain is in the field, and God’s great barn door open, as the proverb is. This is here brought as an argument for the Divine providence.
They go forth, and return not unto them ] That is, to their dams; as finding food enough abroad. Thus other creatures, as soon as they are born almost, can shift for themselves; only poor shiftless man is long ere he can do anything, or comes to any proof, to be able to provide for himself.
Job 39:5 Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
Ver. 5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free? ] פרא Phere, ferum animal (so Tremellius rendereth it), the wild creature. And it is not unlikely that the Latin word fera comes from this Hebrew word for a wild ass; which is a most untameable and untractable creature, Eo quod onager feritate antecellit (Piscat.). "Every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind," James 3:7 . We read of Augustus Caesar that he had a tame tiger, but who ever heard of a wild ass tamed? Africa is said to have whole herds of them; and it is reported, that when they see a man they stand stock still, and kick with their hinder feet, braying aloud. And when the hunter comes so near to them that he could touch them almost, they snuff up the wind, kick up their heels, and run quite away; so nimble they are, that they can hardly be taken, much less tamed? To the colt of this wild creature is a natural man compared by Zophar, Job 11:12 , for his extreme rudeness and unruliness. The prophet Jeremiah hath the like of the idolaters of his time, Jeremiah 2:24 , who were lawless and lewd losels, obstinate, and refractory; such as multo facilius fregeris quam flexeris, will sooner break than bend: with these froward God will wrestle, Psalms 18:26 ; with these antipodes God will walk contrary, Leviticus 26:41 , and be as cross as they are for the hearts of them. His law hath four teeth to taw and tame these masterless monsters: viz. 1. Irritation, Romans 7:7 Romans 7:2 . Induration, Isaiah 6:10 Isaiah 6:3 . Obsignation, Genesis 4:7 Genesis 4:4 . Execration, Deuteronomy 28:16-17 , &c. Obeyed he will be of them, either actively or passively; and sanctified he will be, either by them or upon them, Leviticus 10:3 . Wild asses are free from men; but so are not wild Ishmaelites from God. Who hath ever loosed the bands of the wild ass? but God will hamper his rebels, and certainly subdue them; all his foes shall become his footstool. Be instructed therefore, O Jerusalem, Jeremiah 6:8 . Be not as horse and mule that have no understanding, &c., for many sorrows shall be to such wicked, Psalms 32:9-10 , and it is too hard for them to kick against the pricks, Acts 9:5 , to push back upon the goad, as untamed heifers use to do, but to their further sorrow and sufferance.
Job 39:6 Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.
Ver. 6. Whose house I have made the wilderness ] That of Arabia especially near unto Job, where were whole droves of these wild asses. There are a sort of them also in Plara, one of the islands of the Aegean Sea. Hermits and anchorites seem to affect the same liberty; but where did God ever grant it them? Man is Zωον πολιτικον , saith Aristotle, Nature’s good fellow, as one Englisheth him; and no sooner had the Philippians received the gospel but they were in fellowship to a day, Philippians 1:5 . The communion of saints is as well a point of Christian practice as an article of Christian belief; and they have much to answer for who sty up themselves, and forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; these are in the ready way to utter apostasy, Hebrews 10:25 ; Hebrews 10:39 . He is not like to walk long who affecteth to walk alone. Two are better than one; and why, see Ecclesiastes 4:9 ; Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 , with the notes.
And the barren land his dwellings ] Heb. The salt place, that is, barren as if it had been sowen with salt, Jdg 9:45 Psalms 107:33-34 . Salt is taken in Scripture to be both a cause and sign of barrenness, Deu 29:23 Zephaniah 2:9 , though among us there are some kind of soils, they say, that are manured with salt, and thereby made fruitful; but in those hot and dry countries it was otherwise. In these barren places God provideth for the wild ass; and although he hath there but little food, yet he is lusty and nimble, and sayeth himself both from the hunter and from the ravage of other fierce and savage creatures, by his strength and swiftness. Xenophon telleth us, That Cyrus passing through the wilderness of Arabia, with his horsemen, there were many of these wild asses (Cyropaed. l. 3); who, being stirred, ran so swiftly away, that some horsemen following could not come near them; then standing still; but when the horsemen approached they fell again running as before, thus deluding them. Haec igitur bestia non mediocre mirabilis Dei potentiae vestigium est, saith Brentius. In this beast, therefore, there is much of God’s great power and providence to be seen. And from hence also we may gather, saith another interpreter, that a little is enough to sustain men in the wilderness of this world. As the children of Israel also were here sustained, having nothing to eat but what God sent them down from heaven from day to day, forty years together. Nature is content with a little, grace with less.
Job 39:7 He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.
Ver. 7. He scorneth the multitude of the city ] Heb. He laugheth. Insignis metaphora. He would scorn to be set to work, as the tame ass is. Asinum oneramus et non curat, quia asinus est, saith Bernard, We load the ass, and he taketh it well for worth, because he is an ass. But the wild ass will not take so; he is not a beast born to bear burdens as the other. He is not tardum et pigrum animal as the other, a dull and slow creature; for which cause also, saith Bellarmine, God would none of him, Exodus 13:13 ; Exodus 34:20 . Christ so far hateth dulness, that he bade Judas the traitor what he did do quickly. The wild ass is very swift, and fed by God’s providence in the wilderness; scorning the multitude, or the hurrying noises of the city.
Neither regardeth he the crying of the driver ] Heb. of the exactor, who rateth and rageth against the tame ass with words and blows, to hasten him to his work, and to bring him this way and that way. Oppressive princes do the like to their poor subjects (the king of France is called, Rex asinorum ), which sometimes maketh them turn wild, and shake off subjection; as the Jews did that to the Romans, choosing rather to suffer the most exquisite torments than to be enslaved (Joseph. l. xviii. c. 2). But what a mad conceit was that of Martin Stembach, a Dutch sectary, A. D. 1566, who would needs correct the Lord’s Prayer, Stultam et inefficacem asserens orationem in qua interiectione o uteremur; non secus enim hac exclamandi formula divinam gratiam impediri, quam asinarii, asinorum impetum hoc adverbio? (Lonicer. ex Theatre Vitro).
Job 39:8 The range of the mountains [is] his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.
Ver. 8. The range of the mountains is his pasture ] There he keeps, probably, for fear of lions and other fierce creatures; and there he finds food and forage, such as doth not only appease his hunger, but excite his appetite; as if he were in some fat pasture.
And he searcheth out every green thing ] Speeding better in his search than those asses of Hetruria, which, feeding upon green hemlock, are thereby laid for dead for three days; till half hileded by the countrymen, who take them for dead, they start up, and with a horrible noise run away in that pickle.
Job 39:9 Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Ver. 9. Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee? ] The rhinoceros, saith the Vulgate: but that is another kind of beast, so called from the growing of his horn from his nose ( Naricornis ). This is the monoceros or unicorn, which cannot be taken alive ( interimi potest, capi non potest ), as the rhinoceros may. A very fierce and strong creature it is; and today very rare, but anciently more common. He hath one horn only (and not many, as R. Levi by a mistake would infer from Deu 33:17 ), that greweth in the middle of his forehead; and that he lifted up on high; whence also be hath his name in the Hebrew. He is described in Scripture, 1. By this high lifting up of his horn, Psalms 92:10 Psalms 92:2 . By his strength, Numbers 23:22 Numbers 23:3 . From his untameable fierceness here. Pliny calleth him a Licorn. Vertomannus saith he saw two of them. Scaliger saith he had seen the horn of a unicorn, a special antidote against poison. But some deny that there is any such creature; because if he had a horn so placed, and of such a length as is affirmed, he could not graze; and besides, it appeareth not certainly that ever any man saw such a creature. Aelian saith that there are a sort of wild asses in India of the size of a horse, that have one horn in the midst of their foreheads in length a cubit and a half; and so sharp, that therewith he pierceth through the hardest things. Some conceive that by the beast here mentioned is meant the wild bull, here opposed to the tame ox, and elsewhere joined to oxen, Deu 33:17 Isaiah 34:6 . Whatever it is, it will not be brought to do man service, though fitted by stature and strength to do much; but lives at liberty, and is provided for by God.
Or abide by the crib? ] Heb. lie all night there, as oxen do, ready for service next morning? I think not.
Job 39:10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Ver. 10. Canst thou bind the unicorn? &c. ] To keep him in order, and to hold him hard to his work, that he may lay the furrows even? Canst thou tether or gear him, like a horse? Or wilt he be brought to drive or lead a plough or harrow? No such matter. Before the Fall all creatures would gladly have served man. Sed rebellis facta est, quia homo numini, creatura homini (August.).
Job 39:11 Wilt thou trust him, because his strength [is] great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
Ver. 11. Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? ] Of the unicorn’s strength Balaam speaketh, Numbers 23:22 . The Hebrew word signifieth such lustiness, courage, and prowess, as whereby one endureth labour without weariness or fainting. Such strength is required in ploughmen, whose work is never at an end; and hard fallow must have a strong team. But the unicorn will never fadge nor frame to such an employment. Free God hath made him; and rather than part with his freedom he will part with his life. Let men learn to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free, Galatians 5:1 , and not be again entangled (as oxen tied to the yoke) with the yoke of spiritual bondage, worse than the Egyptian servitude.
Job 39:12 Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather [it into] thy barn?
Ver. 12. Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed ] That is, the crop that comes of thy seed; as in the former verse, thy labour, that is, the fruit of thy labour, as Psalms 128:2 . There is no trusting to this wild and fierce creature to do any such thing. Vertoman saith, that he saw two unicorns, and that they were not of so fierce a nature but that they might be brought to somewhat. But then they were not true unicorns, say we; such as God here describeth.
And gather it into thy barn? ] No trusting to the unicorn’s gentleness for any such matter, unless we desire to be deceived.
Job 39:13 [Gavest thou] the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
Ver. 13. Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? ] Alam exultandam, the wings and tail to the peacock, wherein he so prideth himself and taketh such pleasure, being all in changeable colours. So are some great promises (the peacock here hath his name from his loud and shrill voice), as often changed as moved. A beautiful bird it is, and preciously clothed by God. They were wont to say here, that peacocks, hops, and heresy came first into England in one and the same ship. They say, he most of all spreads his fair tail when he is most beheld by men, and praised. His feathers are good for little else but only to please children. But that he pulleth down his fair plumes, and setteth up his harsh note, when he looketh down upon his ill favoured feet, is an old wive’s tale; let those who wish to believe it.
Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? ] And so by a synecdoche, to all other fowls of the air; in the admirable variety of whose colours, tunes, and tastes, 1 Corinthians 15:39 , much of God’s power and wisdom, yea, of his goodness also, may be seen; and therefore the loss of these creatures (good for food, for physique, and for delight, as the companions of our lives) is threatened as a judgment, Jeremiah 4:25 ; Jeremiah 9:10 . Some for the ostrich render the stork, and some a night bird of an ill note; but the following description agreeth best with the bustard or ostrich, which is between a beast and a fowl, having so thin feathers and so heavy a body that be cannot fly, but only lifteth up his wings, and runneth very swiftly. Aelian saith, that he is almost as big as a camel, being, therefore, called Struthio-camelus. Pliny saith that he is higher than a horseman on horseback, and can outrun him; but is so foolish, that being pursued, if he can hide his head only in some hole or thicket, and can see nobody, he thinks himself safe, and that nobody seeth him; though his great bulk be all in sight, Cum interim tota corporis mole promineat. Other effects of his folly follow in the next words.
Job 39:14 Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
Ver. 14. Which leaveth her eggs in the earth ] Some say that she layeth 80 eggs, and having a faculty of discerning which of them will prove ostriches, and which will come to nothing; she leaveth some of them upon the sand, and upon other some sitteth and hatcheth them. But this appeareth to be a fiction, because another and a better reason of her leaving her eggs is here alleged; and the power and providence of God giving them life by the heat of the sun, evidenced and evinced.
And warmeth them in the dust ] Julius Scaliger reporteth the like of a certain crested bird of the size of a hen, found in Catigan, an island in the sea Sur; which sitteth not upon her eggs, but burieth them two feet deep in the sand; whence they are hatched by the sun and hot sands; and this, say some, in very hot countries is not unusual.
Job 39:15 And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
Ver. 15. And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them ] This brutish and blockish bird forgetteth, that is, she never considereth, what may befall her eggs, left so carelessly. Other fowl set their nests aloft and out of harm’s way; not so this foolish and careless creature, who hath neither affection to preserve them nor fear to lose them.
Job 39:16 She is hardened against her young ones, as though [they were] not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;
Ver. 16. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers ] Heb. her sons. So are those peremptores potius quam parentes, as Bernard calleth them, rather parricides than parents, who look not to the precious souls of their poor children; who labour not to mend that by education which they have marred by propagation. These are worse than those daughters of Jerusalem, who, slain almost with grief and hunger, became cruel to their sucklings, like the ostriches of the wilderness, Lamentations 4:3 . What a cruel mother was Medea! and the mother of King Edward, the martyr, whom she basely murdered; and when his brother Egelred (who succeeded him in the kingdom), being then but ten years old, mourned thereat, his mother was so enraged, that taking wax candles, which were readiest at hand, she therewith scourged him so sore, that he could never after endure wax candles to be burnt before him (Mr Clark’s Martyrol. fol. 31). But this cruelty was nothing to that of soul murder, whereof many parents, by their negligence at least, are deeply guilty; they bring forth children to that old manslayer, and so their labour (in bearing and breeding children) is in vain, and worse, without fear, for they will not be better advised nor affected.
Job 39:17 Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
Ver. 17. Because God hath deprived her of wisdom ] That is, of such forecast to provide for her young ones by a natural instinct, as other fowls and beasts have, Struthionis astorgia declaratur e causis duabus, vacuitate metus et vacuitate intellectus. God’s mercy to men appeareth, 1. In giving us wisdom beyond them, Job 35:11 Job 35:2 . In giving us power over them, Psalms 8:6-8 ; Psalms 3:1-8 . In learning us so much by them in those many Scripture comparisons, Proverbs 7:23 ; Proverbs 26:2 ; Pro 27:8; Matthew 8:26 . That is a sweet place, Isaiah 31:5 , "As birds flying" ( sc. to save their young), "so will the Lord defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it." The fowls of the air are and may be unto us examples and monitors of many virtues to be embraced and vices to be eschewed. In the ostrich, for instance, we may see that strength and size of body is not always accompanied with wisdom and understanding; that it is God who either giveth or denieth wisdom to his creatures; that natural affection is of him; that he gives not all things to one man, but diversely distributeth his gifts. The ostrich hath wings, but not to fly with.
Oυτως ου παντεσσι θεοι χαριεντα διδουσιν
‘ Aνδρασι . - Non omnia possumus omnes.
Job 39:18 What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.
Ver. 18. What time she lifteth up herself on high, &c. ] That is, when she runneth away from the hunter (which she doth with singular swiftness), she lifteth up herself on high, not from the earth, as other birds (for that she cannot do), but on the earth, with wings stretched out like sails, and her whole body bolt upright, scarce touching the earth at all with her feet, but quickening her own pace with sharp spurs, which they say she hath in the pinion of each wing, so pricking herself on, that she may run the faster; to teach us what we should do in the race of religion, and when pursued by Satan, how to hasten to Christ.
She scorneth the horse and his rider ] That is, she easily outrnns them, being as swift as a bird that flieth. They say the Arabians are wont to try their horses’ swiftness by trying to overtake them.
Job 39:19 Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Ver. 19. Hast thou given the horse strength? ] Having mentioned the horse, he comes next to show his nature; and here we have a most elegant description of a generous horse, such as Dubartas maketh Cain to manage, and as the Greeks call φρυσγματιαν , fremebundum.
- Quod siqua sonum procul arms dedere
Stare loco nescit, micat auribus, et tremit artus;
Collectumque premens volvit sub naribus ignem
In this creature therefore we have a clear instance of the wonderful power and wisdom of God. If the horse be so strong and warlike, what is the Almighty, that man of war? Exodus 15:3 , and victor in battle, as the Chaldee there calleth him? This is one way whereby we may conceive of God, sc. per viam eminentiae, for if there be such and such excellence in the creature, what is there in the Creator, since all that is in us is but a spark of his fame, a drop of his ocean? How then wilt thou, O Job, dare to contend with him, who art not able to stand before this creature of his? Wonderful things are reported concerning Bucephalus, and the horse of Julius Caesar, of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, of the Sybarites’ war horses, Qui ad symphoniae cantum saltatione quadam movebantur (Pausan.). The Persians dedicated a horse to the sun, so did the idolatrous Israelites, 2 Kings 23:11 , as the swiftest creature to the swiftest God. Very serviceable he is for drawing and carrying, but especially in battle, whereof only here, De equis militaribus et cataphractis; of war horses, the use whereof appeareth to be very ancient, even in Job’s days. The Israelites made little or no use of them in the conquest of Canaan; but their enemies there did, and Pharaoh before them, Exo 14:6-10 Let it be held that "a horse is a vain thing for safety, neither shall he deliver any by his great strength," Psalms 33:17 . The Jews are sharply reproved and heavily threatened for trusting to the horses of Egypt, Isaiah 31:1 ; Yεος ουκ εστι φιλιππος (Plut. in Numa).
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? ] That is, with neighing and snorting, answerable to his strength, and which soundeth terribly from within his neck, till his very eyes sparkle, as if he did both thunder and lighten. The apostles and other ministers of God are called Christ’s white horses, Revelation 6:1-2 , upon which he rideth about the world, conquering and to conquer; horses, for their courage and constance, and white, for their purity of doctrine, discipline, and conversion: they thunder in their doctrine and lighten in their lives (as Nazianzen, saith Basil, did), to the subduing of souls to the obedience of faith.
Job 39:20 Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils [is] terrible.
Ver. 20. Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? ] Which soon flincheth and flieth with the least noise. But the horse is more like that formidable army of locusts described Joel 2:1-32 , that bare down all before them, and shook all places wherever they came.
The glory of his nostrils is terrible ] Heb. Terrors; his snorting and sneezing strikes terror into people. The more wonderful is God’s goodness in subduing to weak man so lusty a creature, to be ridden and ruled at his pleasure. He trains him to the great saddle, and teacheth him to obey his hand and spur, to bound in the air, to observe his measures, to show that docility, dexterity, and vigour, which none but God hath given him, and be every way so serviceable and useful, both in war and peace. Joannes Bodin hath observed (Theat. Nat. 405), That whereas lions, wolves, and other ravenous creatures have a gall and choler, whereby they are easily stirred up to anger and revenge; not so horses, asses, camels, elephants, and other creatures made for man’s help; these have neither gall nor horns, wherein appeareth summa Opifieis sapientia, the great wisdom and goodness of the Creator.
Job 39:21 He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in [his] strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
Ver. 21. He paweth in the valley ]
Tellurem, et solido graviter sonat ungula cornu.
Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum (Virg.).
Such is the impatience of his spirit, that he champs his bit and stamps with his feet; he pricks up his ears, and grows white with foam, and can hardly be held in till the enemy come, and would fain be in the battle; whither, when he comes, he runs upon the pikes, and undauntedly casts himself and his rider among the enemies’ squadrons. Quod summa mirum est, saith Mercer, which is a wonderful thing indeed; and it is no less wonderfully set forth by a most lively and lightsome hypotyposis, giving us to see, as it were, the horse rushing into the battle, and to hear him shearing and snorting with disdain and despite, bringing everywhere horror and disorder.
Job 39:22 He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
Ver. 22. He mocketh at fear, &c. ] Heb. He laugheth, by an elegant prosopopoeia, a such as this Book is full of. Non vanes horret strepitus. He feareth no colours when once engaged in fight, but counts that a sport and play whereof others are afraid.
Neither turneth he back from the sword ] Or any other offensive weapons; these cannot make him turn tail or recoil. He is never more furious than when he sees himself covered with blood. - Vires animosque a vulnere sumit; being wounded, he biteth and kicketh, and fighteth no less stoutly than the rider himself doth.
a A rhetorical figure by which an inanimate or abstract thing is represented as a person, or with personal characteristics: = personification
Job 39:23 The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
Ver. 23. The quiver rattleth against him ] The arrow; those messengers of death come whisking and singing about his ears (so the bullets now in so much use), but he is unappalled by this.
The glittering spear ] Heb. The flaming spear, as Genesis 3:24 , that is, bright and clear, shining like a flame of fire, which must needs be terrible; but not at all to the war horse.
And the shield ] Or rather javelin, lance, or the like; he feareth not a wood of pikeman set in array against him.
Job 39:24 He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that [it is] the sound of the trumpet.
Ver. 24. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness ] He runs over it as fast as if he did swallow it up at a draught, Terrain prae cursus celeritate, ebibare, et epotare videtur (Merc.). A hyperbolic metaphor.
With fierceness and rage ] Or, With commotion or unquietness, In fremitu et commotione. There is an elegance in the original that cannot be interpreted in English.
Neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet ] He is so overjoyed, when that sign is given, to begin the battle. Others, he cannot stand still when he hath once heard the sound of the trumpet.
Job 39:25 He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Ver. 25. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha ] Or, Euge. A note of rejoicing, which he seemeth to utter in his language: these are poetic terms.
He smelleth out the battle afar off ] He knows that the onset is about to be given. Pliny writeth, That horses will perceive beforehand the very time of the fight, if it be but
By the thunder of the captains, and the shouting ] The captains’ adhortations and the soldiers’ acclamations, &c. The Hebrew word signifieth the noise either of joy or sorrow: both are commonly heard in battles. "For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood," Isaiah 9:5 . The glory of all this that is said of the horse the Lord assumeth to himself; and yet the horse is not so courageous, but that he is as much afraid of and troubled at the sight of the stone Taraxippe (which therehence also hath its name) as the elephant is at the sight of a hog, and a lion of a cock, wherewith they have a natural antipathy, as naturalists tell us (Bodin. Theat. Nat. p. 407).
Job 39:26 Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, [and] stretch her wings toward the south?
Ver. 26. Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom? ] Or, Doth the hawk ( plumescere) get her feathers by thy wisdom? The word cometh from a root which signifieth strong, because the strength of fowls is in their wings, their delight in high flying. Hath the hawk her wings from thee? and doth she recruit and use them, artificio et auspicio, by thy art or industry? Tame them indeed men may, and bring them to hand, as falconers do, for pleasure more than for profit; but neither can they give them their wings nor repair them when broken.
And stretch her wings toward the south ] Thereby to furnish herself with a second plumage, while she flieth into those hotter countries, where (as they say) her old feathers by the sun’s heat fall off, and new come in their room (Pennabit).
Job 39:27 Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
Ver. 27. Doth the eagle mount up at thy command? ] Mount plumb up (which no bird else can do) to an infinite height, even out of sight; not without an eye still on her prey, which by this means she spies sooner, and seizeth upon better, Matthew 24:28 . A fit emblem of a hypocrite, who seems to soar aloft, but it is for some self and sinister respect: he seeketh not the Lord Jesus Christ (as the sincere hearted do), but his own belly, Romans 16:18 .
And make her nest on high ] Not in plains, but on lofty tops and inaccessible rocks, for the safety of her young ones. Of the nature of eagles, read Aristotle, De Nat. Animal. lib. 9, cap. 32, and Pliny, lib. 3, cap. 10. They tell us, that there is an enmity between the eagle and the serpent; and because the serpent seeketh to destroy the young eagles, she setteth her nest on high, to safeguard them. And if any man seek to rob her nest, she doubteth not to assault him with her wings and talons. Formidable she is to all birds save only the hawk, who is able to deal with her if he can but avoid the first shock.
Job 39:28 She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
Ver. 28. She dwelleth and abideth upon the rock, &c. ] Which are counterscarfed and encompassed with precipices; there she makes her nest in the clefts and crags. The reason whereof see in the note on the verse before.
Upon the crag of the rock ] She nestleth not upon the sand, as the ostrich doth, Job 39:14 . And in this so great difference of birds and other creatures is seen the wonderful power and providence of God.
Job 39:29 From thence she seeketh the prey, [and] her eyes behold afar off.
Ver. 29. From thence she seeketh her prey ] Besides fowls (whereof she is called the queen) she preyeth upon hares, hinds, foxes, and such other beasts as she can master. Hence that complaint of the hare,
In me omnis terraeque marisque aviumque ruina est (Martial).
And her eyes behold afar off ] To a very great distance. She has sharp sight, and first sees her prey, and then seeks it. Her sight is so strong, that she can look intently into the body of the sun without being dazzled; and by that property makes proof of her young ones whether they be right or not. Those that cannot so behold the sun she drives out of the nest as spurious. Those that can she owneth, and beareth abroad with her open wings (as Munster noteth out of R. Solomon, Schol. in Deu 32:11 ), that none can shoot them but through her body; and thereto Moses alludeth, Exodus 19:4 .
Job 39:30 Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain [are], there [is] she.
Ver. 30. Her young ones also suck up blood ] Heb. They are glutonous for blood. The Hebrew word, jegnalegna dam, seems to be made from the sound in sucking. The young eagles, not yet able to tear the prey brought unto them by the old one with their talons, suck the blood with their beak, and so are fleshed in blood betimes.
And where the slain are, there is she ] This is true of all the kinds of eagles, but especially of the vulturine eagle, which is of a very sharp smell as well as sight, and, by a strange sagacity of nature, resorteth with her young ones to places of slaughter and bloodshed; she followeth armies and feedeth on carcases, which they can smell, say some naturalists, before the battle is fought. And can this be of any one but the Lord. Our Saviour alludeth to this text, Matthew 24:28 , Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be also. See Trapp on " Mat 24:28 "
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 39". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29