Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Job 39

Verses 1-4

1 Dost thou know the bearing time of the wild goats of the rock?

Observest thou the circles of the hinds?

2 Dost thou number the months which they fulfil,

And knowest thou the time of their bringing forth?

3 They bow down, they let their young break through,

They cast off their pains.

4 Their young ones gain strength, grow up in the desert,

They run away and do not return.

The strophe treats of the female chamois or steinbocks, ibices (perhaps including the certainly different kinds of chamois), and stags. The former are called יעלים, from יעל, Arab. w‛l (a secondary formation from עלה, Arab. ‛lâ ), to mount, therefore: rock-climbers. חולל is inf. Pil.: τὸ ὠδίνειν, comp. the Pul . Job 15:7. שׁמר, to observe, exactly as Ecclesiastes 11:4; 1 Samuel 1:12; Zechariah 11:11. In Job 39:2 the question as to the expiration of the time of bearing is connected with that as to the time of bringing forth. תּספּור, plene , as Job 14:16; לדתּנה ( littâna , like עת = עדתּ ) with an euphonic termination for לדתּן, as Genesis 42:36; Genesis 21:29, and also out of pause, Ruth 1:19, Ges. §91, 1, rem. 2. Instead of תּפלּחנה Olsh. wishes to read תּפלּטנה, but this (synon. תמלטנה ) would be: they let slip away; the former (synon. תבקענה ): they cause to divide, i.e., to break through (comp. Arab. felâh , the act of breaking through, freedom, prosperity). On כּרע, to kneel down as the posture of one in travail, vid., 1 Samuel 4:19. “They cast off their pains” is not meant of an easy working off of the after-pains (Hirz., Schlottm.), but חבל signifies in this phrase, as Schultens has first shown, meton. directly the foetus, as Arab. ḥabal , plur. ahbâl , and ὠδίν, even of a child already grown up, as being the fruit of earlier travail, e.g., in Aeschylus, Agam . 1417f.; even the like phrase, ῥίψαι ὠδῖνα = edere foetum, is found in Euripides, Ion 45. Thus born with ease, the young animals grow rapidly to maturity ( חלם, pinguescere, pubescere, whence חלום, a dream as the result of puberty, vid., Psychol . S. 282), grow in the desert ( בּבּר, Targ. = בּחוּץ, vid., i. 329, note), seek the plain, and return not again למו, sibi h. e. sui juris esse volentes (Schult.), although it might also signify ad eas , for the Hebr. is rather confused on the question of the distinction of gender, and even in חבליהם and בניהם the masc . is used ἐπικοίνως . We, however, prefer to interpret according to Job 6:19; Job 24:16. Moreover, Bochart is right: Non hic agitur de otiosa et mere speculativa cognitione, sed de ea cognitione, quae Deo propria est, qua res omnes non solum novit, sed et dirigit atque gubernat .

Verses 5-8

5 Who hath sent forth the wild ass free,

And who loosed the bands of the wild ass,

6 Whose house I made the steppe,

And his dwelling the salt country?

7 He scorneth the tumult of the city,

He heareth not the noise of the driver.

8 That which is seen upon the mountains is his pasture,

And he sniffeth after every green thing.

On the wild ass (not: ass of the forest).

(Note: It is a dirty yellow with a white belly, single-hoofed and long-eared; its hornless head somewhat resembles that of the gazelle, but is much later; its hair has the dryness of the hair of the deer, and the animal forms the transition from the stag and deer genus to the ass. It is entirely distinct from the mahâ or baqar el-wahsh, wild ox, whose large soft eyes are so much celebrated by the poets of the steppe. This latter is horned and double-hoofed, and forms the transition from the stag to the ox distinct from the ri'm , ראם, therefore perhaps an antelope of the kind of the Indian nîlgau, blue ox, Portax tragocamelus . I have not seen both kinds of animals alive, but I have often seen their skins in the tents of the Ruwalâ . Both kinds are remarkable for their very swift running, and it is especially affirmed of the ferâ that no rider can overtake it. The poets compare a troop of horsemen that come rushing up and vanish in the next moment to a herd of ferâ . In spite of its difficulty and hazardousness, the nomads are passionately given to hunting the wild ass, and the proverb cited by the Kâmûs: kull es - sêd bigôf el - ferâ (every hunt sticks in the belly of the ferâ, i.e., compared with that, every other hunt is nothing), is perfectly correct. When the approach of a herd, which always consists of several hundred, is betrayed by a cloud of dust which can be seen many miles off, so many horsemen rise up from all sides in pursuit that the animals are usually scattered, and single ones are obtained by the dogs and by shots. The herd is called gemı̂le , and its leader is called ‛anûd ( ענוּד ),as with gazelles. - Wetzst.)

In Hebr. and Arab. it is פּרא ( ferâ or himâr el - wahsh, i.e., asinus ferus ), and Aram. ערוד ; the former describes it as a swift-footed animal, the latter as an animal shy and difficult to be tamed by the hand of man; “Kulan” is its Eastern Asiatic name. lxx correctly translates: τίς δὲ ἐστιν ὁ ἀφεὶς ὄνον ἄγριον ἐλεύθερον . חפשׁי is the acc . of the predicate (comp. Genesis 33:2; Jeremiah 22:30). Parallel with ערבה (according to its etymon perhaps, land of darkness, terra incognita ) is מלחה, salt adj . or (sc. ארץ ) a salt land, i.e., therefore unfruitful and incapable of culture, as the country round the Salt Sea of Palestine: that the wild ass even gladly licks the salt or natron of the desert, is a matter of fact, and may be assumed, since all wild animals that feed on plants have a partiality, which is based on chemical laws of life, for licking slat. On Job 39:8 Ew. observes, to render יתוּר as “what is espied” is insecure, “on account of the structure of the verse” ( Gramm . S. 419, Anm.). This reason is unintelligible; and in general there is no reason for rendering יתוּר, after lxx, Targ., Jer., and others, as an Aramaic 3 fut . with a mere half vowel instead of Kametz before the tone = יתוּר, which is without example in Old Testament Hebrew (for יהוּא, Ecclesiastes 11:3, follows the analogy of יהי ), but יתוּר signifies either abundantia (after the form יבוּל, לחוּם Job 20:23, from יתר, Arab. wtr , p. 571) or investigabile , what can be searched out (after the form יקוּם, that which exists, from תּוּר, Arab. târ , to go about, look about), which, with Olsh. §212, and most expositors, we prefer.

Verses 9-12

9 Will the oryx be willing to serve thee,

Or will he lodge in thy crib?

10 Canst thou bind the oryx in the furrow with a leading rein,

Or will he harrow the valleys, following thee?

11 Wilt thou trust him because his strength is great,

And leave thy labour to him?

12 Wilt thou confide in him to bring in thy sowing,

And to garner thy threshing-floor?

In correct texts רים has a Dagesh in the Resh, and היאבה the accent on the penult., as Proverbs 11:21 ינּקה רע, and Jeremiah 39:12 רּע מאוּמה . The tone retreats according to the rule, Ges. §29, 3, b ; and the Dagesh is, as also when the second word begins with an aspirate,

(Note: The National Grammarians call this exception to the rule, that the muta is aspirated when the preceding word ends with a vowel, אתי מרחיק ( veniens e longinquo ), i.e., the case, where the word ending with a vowel is Milel, whether from the very first, or, when the second word is a monosyllable or has the tone on the penult., on account of the accent that has retreated (in order to avoid two syllables with the chief tone coming together); in this case the aspirate, and in general the initial letter (if capable of being doubled) of the second monosyllabic or penultima -accented word, takes a Dagesh; but this is not without exceptions that are quite as regular. Regularly, the second word is not dageshed if it begins with ו, כ, ל, ב, or if the first word is only a bare verb, e.g., עשׂה לו, or one that has only ו before it, e.g., ועשׂה פסח ; the tone of the first word in both these examples retreats, but without the initial of the second being doubled. This is supplementary, and as far as necessary a correction, to what is said in Psalter, i 392, Anm.)

Dag. forte conj., which the Resh also takes, Proverbs 15:1 מענה־רּך, exceptionally, according to the rule, Ges. §20, 2, a . In all, it occurs thirteen times with Dagesh in the Old Testament - a relic of a mode of pointing which treated the ר (as in Arabic) as a letter capable of being doubled (Ges. §22, 5), that has been supplanted in the system of pointing that gained the ascendency. רים (Psalms 22:22, רם ) is contracted from ראם (Psalms 92:11, plene , ראים ), which (= ראם ) is of like form with Arab. ri'm (Olsh. §154, a ).

(Note: Since ra'ima , inf. ri'mân , has the signification assuescere , ראם, רים, רימנא (Targ.) might describe the oryx as a gregarious animal, although all ruminants have this characteristic in common. On ראם, Arab. r'm, vid., Seetzen's Reise, iii. S. 393, Z 9ff., and also iv. 496.)

Such, in the present day in Syria, is the name of the gazelle that is for the most part white with a yellow back and yellow stripes in the face ( Antilope leucoryx, in distinction from Arab. ‛ifrı̂ , the earth-coloured, dirty-yellow Antilope oryx, and Arab. ḥmrı̂, himrı̂, the deer-coloured Antilope dorcas ); the Talmud also ( b. Zebachim, 113b; Bathra, 74 b ) combines ראימא and אורזילא or ארזילא, a gazelle (Arab. gazâl ), and therefore reckons the reêm to the antelope genus, of which the gazelle is a species; and the question, Job 39:10, shows that an animal whose home is on the mountains is intended, viz., as Bochart, and recently Schlottm. (making use of an academic treatise of Lichtenstein on the antelopes, 1824), has proved, the oryx, which the lxx also probably understands when it translates μονοκέρως ; for the Talmud. קרש, mutilated from it, is, according to Chullin, 59 b, a one-horned animal, and is more closely defined as טביא דבי עילאי, “gazelle (antelope) of Be (Beth)-Illâi” (comp. Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmuds, 1858, §146).

The oryx also appears on Egyptian monuments sometimes with two horns, but mostly with one variously curled; and both Aristotle

(Note: Vid., Sundevall, Die Thierarten des Aristoteles (Stockholm, 1863), S. 64f.)

and Pliny describe it as a one-horned cloven-hoof; so that one must assent to the supposition of a one-horned variety of the oryx (although as a fact of natural history it is not yet fully established), as then there is really tolerably certain information of a one-horned antelope both in Upper Asia and in Central Africa;

(Note: J. W. von Müller ( Das Einhorn von gesch. u. naturwiss. Standpunkte betrachtet, 1852) believed that in a horn in the Ambras Collection at Vienna he recognised a horn of the Monocerôs (comp. Fechner's Centralblatt, 1854, Nr. 2), but he is hardly right. J. W. von Müller, Francis Galton ( Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa, 1853), and other travellers have heard the natives speak ingenuously of the unicorn, but without seeing it themselves. On the other hand, Huc and Gabet ( Journeyings through Mongolia and Thibet, Germ. edition) tell us “a horn of this animal was sent to Calcutta: it was 50 centimetres long and 11 in circumference; from the root it ran up to a gradually diminishing point. It was almost straight, black, etc ... . Hodgson, when English consul at Nepal, had the good fortune to obtain an unicorn ... . It is a kind of antelope, which in southern Thibet, that borders on Nepal, is called Tschiru . Hodgson sent a skin and horn to Calcutta; they came from an unicorn that died in the menagerie of the Raja of Nepal.” The detailed description follows, and the suggestion is advanced that this Antilope Hodgsonii, as it has been proposed to call the Tschiru, is the one-horned oryx of the ancients. The existence of one-horned wild sheep (not antelopes), attested by R. von Schlagintweit ( Zoologischer Garten, 1st year, S. 72), the horn of which consists of two parts gradually growing together, covered by one horn-sheath, does not depreciate the credibility of the account given by Huc-Gabet (to which Prof. Will has called my attention as being the most weighty testimony of the time). Another less minute account is to be found in the Arabic description of a journey (communicated to me by Prof. Fleischer) by Selîm Bisteris (Beirût, 1856): In the menagerie of the Viceroy of Egypt he saw an animal of the colour of a gazelle, but the size and form of an ass, with a long straight horn between the ears, and what, as he says, seldom go together) with hoofs, viz. - and as the expression Arab. ḥâfr , horse's hoof (not Arab. chuff , a camel's hoof), also implies - proper, uncloven hoofs, - therefore an one-horned and at the same time one-hoofed antelope.)

and therefore there is sufficient ground for seeking the origin of the tradition of the unicorn in an antelope, - perhaps rather like a horse, - with one horn rising out of the two points of ossification over the frontal suture. The proper buffalo, Bos bubalus, cannot therefore be intended, because it only came from India to Western Asia and Europe at a more recent date, but also not any other species whatever of this animal (Carey and others), which is recognisable by its flat horns, which are also near together, and its forbidding, staring, bloodshot eyes; for it is tameable, and is (even in modern Syria) used as a domestic animal. On the other hand there are antelopes which somewhat resemble the horse, others the ox (whence βούβαλος, βούβαλις, is a name for the antelope), others the deer and the ass. Schultens erroneously considers ראם to be the buffalo, being misled by a passage in the Divan of the Hudheilites, which gives the ri'm the by-name of dhu chadam , i.e., oxen-like white-footed, which exactly applies to the A. oryx or even the A. leucoryx; for the former has white feet and legs striped lengthwise with black stripes, the latter white feet and legs. Just as little reason is there for imagining the rhinoceros after Aquila (and in part Jerome); ῥινοκέρως is nothing but an unhappy rendering of the μονοκέρως of the lxx. The question in Job 39:10, as already observed, requires an animal that inhabits the mountains.

On אבה, to be willing = to take up, receive. The “furrow ( תּלם, sulcus , not porca , the ridge between the furrows) of his cord” is that which it is said to break up by means of the ploughshare, being led by a rein. אחריך refers to the leader, who goes just before or at the side; according to Hahn, to one who has finished the sowing which precedes the harrowing; but it is more natural to imagine the leader of the animal that is harrowing, which is certainly not left to itself. On כּי, Job 39:12, as an exponent of the obj. vid., Ew. §336, b . The Chethib here uses the Kal שׁוּב transitively: to bring back (viz., that which was sown as harvested), which is possible (vid., Job 42:10). גרנך, Job 39:12, is either a locative (into thy threshing-floor) or acc . of the obj. per synecd. continentis pro contento, as Ruth 3:2; Matthew 3:12. The position of the question from beginning to end assumes an animal outwardly resembling the yoke-ox, as the ראם is also elsewhere put with the ox, Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalms 29:6; Isaiah 34:7. But the conclusion at length arrived at by Hahn and in Gesenius' Handwörterbuch, that on this very account the buffalo is to be understood, is a mistake: A. oryx and leucoryx are both (for this very reason not distinguished by the ancients) entirely similar to the ox; they are not only ruminants, like the ox, with a like form of the hoof, but also of a plump form, which makes them appear to be of the ox tribe.

Verses 13-18

13 The wing of the ostrich vibrates joyously,

Is she pious, wing and feather?

14 No, she leaveth her eggs in the earth

And broodeth over the dust,

15 Forgetting that a foot may crush them,

And the beast of the field trample them.

16 She treateth her young ones harshly as if they were not hers;

In vain is her labour, without her being distressed.

17 For Eloah hath caused her to forget wisdom,

And gave her no share of understanding.

18 At the time when she lasheth herself aloft,

She derideth the horse and horseman.

As the wild ass and the ox-like oryx cannot be tamed by man, and employed in his service like the domestic ass and ox, so the ostrich, although resembling the stork in its stilt-like structure, the colour of its feathers, and its gregarious life, still has characteristics totally different from those one ought to look for according to this similarity. רננים, a wail, prop. a tremulous shrill sound (vid., Job 39:23), is a name of the female ostrich, whose peculiar cry is called in Arabic zimâr ( זמר ). נעלס (from עלס, which in comparison with עלץ, עלז, rarely occurs) signifies to make gestures of joy. אם, Job 39:13, is an interrogative an; חסידה, pia , is a play upon the name of the stork, which is so called: pia instar ciconiae (on this figure of speech, comp. Mehren's Rehtorik der Araber, S. 178). כּי, Job 39:14, establishes the negation implied in the question, as e.g., Isaiah 28:28. The idea is not that the hen-ostrich abandons the hatching of her eggs to the earth ( עזב ל as Psalms 16:10), and makes them “glow over the dust” (Schlottm.), for the maturing energy compensating for the sitting of the parent bird proceeds from the sun's heat, which ought to have been mentioned; one would also expect a Hiph . instead of the Piel תּחמּם, which can be understood only of hatching by her own warmth. The hen-ostrich also really broods herself, although from time to time she abandons the חמּם to the sun.

(Note: It does, however, as it appears, actually occur, that the female leaves the work of hatching to the sun by day, and to the male at night, and does not sit at all herself; vid., Funke's Naturgeschichte, revised by Taschenberg (1864), S. 243f.)

That which contrasts with the φιλοστοργία of the stork, which is here made prominent, is that she lays here eggs in a hole in the ground, and partly, when the nest is full, above round about it, while חסידה ברושׁים ביתה, Psalms 104:17. רננים is construed in accordance with its meaning as fem. sing., Ew. §318, a . Since she acts thus, what next happens consistently therewith is told by the not aoristic but only consecutive ותּשׁכּח : and so she forgets that the foot may crush ( זוּר, to press together, break by pressure, as הזּוּרה, Isaiah 59:5 = הזּוּרה, that which is crushed, comp. לנה = לנה, Zechariah 5:4) them (i.e., the eggs, Ges. §146, 3), and the beast of the field may trample them down, crush them ( דּוּשׁ as Arab. dâs , to crush by treading upon anything, to tread out).

Job 39:16

The difficulty of הקשׁיח (from קשׁח, Arab. qsḥ , hardened from קשׁה, Arab. qsâ ) being used of the hen-ostrich in the masc., may be removed by the pointing הקשׁיח (Ew.); but this alteration is unnecessary, since the Hebr. also uses the masc . for the fem . where it might be regarded as impossible (vid., Job 39:3, and comp. e.g., Isaiah 32:11.). Jer. translates correctly according to the sense: quasi non sint sui, but ל is not directly equivalent to כּ ; what is meant is, that by the harshness of her conduct she treats her young as not belonging to her, so that they become strange to her, Ew. §217, d . In Job 39:16 the accentuation varies: in vain ( לריק with Rebia mugrasch ) is her labour that is devoid of anxiety; or: in vain is her labour ( לריק( ruobal r with Tarcha, יגיעהּ with Munach vicarium ) without anxiety (on her part); or: in vain is her labour ( לריק with Mercha, יגיעה with Rebia mugrasch ), yet she is without anxiety. The middle of these renderings ( לריק in all of them, like Isaiah 49:4 = לריק, Isaiah 65:23 and freq.) seems to us the most pleasing: the labour of birth and of the brooding undertaken in places where the eggs are put beyond the danger of being crushed, is without result, without the want of success distressing her, since she does not anticipate it, and therefore also takes no measures to prevent it. The eggs that are only just covered with earth, or that lie round about the nest, actually become a prey to the jackals, wild-cats, and other animals; and men can get them for themselves one by one, if they only take care to prevent their footprints being recognised; for if the ostrich observes that its nest is discovered, it tramples upon its own eggs, and makes its nest elsewhere (Schlottm., according to Lichtenstein's Südafrik. Reise ). That it thus abandons its eggs to the danger of being crushed and to plunder, arises, according to Job 39:17, from the fact that God has caused it to forget wisdom, i.e., as Job 39:17 explains, has extinguished in it, deprived it of, the share thereof ( ב as Isaiah 53:12, lxx ἐν, as Acts 8:21) which it might have had. It is only one of the stupidities of the ostrich that is made prominent here; the proverbial ahmaq min en - na‛âme , “more foolish than the ostrich,” has its origin in more such characteristics. But if the care with which other animals guard their young ones is denied to it, it has in its stead another remarkable characteristic: at the time when ( כּעת here followed by an elliptical relative clause, which is clearly possible, just as with בּעת, Job 6:17) it stretches (itself) on high, i.e., it starts up with alacrity from its ease (on the radical signification of המריא = המרה ), and hurries forth with a powerful flapping of its wings, half running half flying, it derides the horse and its rider - they do not overtake it, it is the swiftest of all animals; wherefore Arab. '‛ dâ mn 'l - dlı̂m zalı̂m , equivalent to delı̂m according to a less exact pronunciation, supra, p. 582, note) and Arab. 'nfr mn 'l - n‛âmt , fleeter than the ostrich, is just as proverbial as the above Arab. 'ḥmq mn 'l - wa‛nat ; and “on ostrich's wings” is equivalent to driving along with incomparable swiftness. Moreover, on תּמריא and תּשׂחק, which refer to the female, it is to be observed that she is very anxious, and deserts everything in her fright, while the male ostrich does not forsake his young, and flees no danger.

(Note: We take this remark from Doumas, Horse of the Sahara . The following contribution from Wetzstein only came to hand after the exposition was completed: “The female ostriches are called רננים not from the whirring of their wings when flapped about, but from their piercing screeching cry when defending their eggs against beasts of prey (chiefly hyaenas), or when searching for the male bird. Now they are called rubd , from sing. rubda (instead of rabdâ ), from the black colour of their long wing-feathers; for only the male, which is called חיק (pronounce hêtsh ), has white. The ostrich-tribe has the name of בּת יענה bat (Arab. bdt 'l - wa‛nat ), 'inhabitant of the desert,' because it is only at home in the most lonely parts of the steppe, in perfectly barren deserts. Neshwân the Himjarite, in his 'Shems el-'olûm' (MSS in the Royal Library at Berlin, sectio Wetzst . I No. 149, Bd. i.f. 110 b ), defines the word el - wa‛na by: ארץ ביצא לא תנבת שׁיא, a white (chalky or sandy) district, which brings forth nothing; and the Kâmûs explains it by ארץ צלבּה, a hard (unfruitful) district. In perfect analogy with the Hebr. the Arabic calls the ostrich abu (and umm ) es - sahârâ, 'possessor of the sterile deserts.' The name יענים, Lamentations 4:3, is perfectly correct, and corresponds to the form יעלים (steinbocks); the form פעל (Arab. f‛l ) is frequently the Nisbe of פעל and פעלה, according to which יען = בּת היענה and יעל = בּת היּעלה, 'inhabitant of the inaccessible rocks.' Hence, says Neshwân (against the non-Semite Firûzâbâdi ), wa‛l ( יעל and wa‛la ) is exclusively the high place of the rocks, and wa‛il ( יעל exclusively the steinbock. The most common Arabic name of the ostrich is na‛âme , נעמה, collective na‛âm , from the softness ( nu‛ûma , נעוּמה ) of its feathers, with which the Arab women (in Damascus frequently) stuff cushions and pillows. Umm thelâthin , 'mother of thirty,' is the name of the female ostrich, because as a rule she lays thirty eggs. The ostrich egg is called in the steppe dahwa , דּחוה (coll. dahû ), a word that is certainly very ancient. Nevertheless the Hauranites prefer the word medha, מדחה . A place hollowed out in the ground serves as a nest, which the ostrich likes best to dig in the hot sand, on which account they are very common in the sandy tracts of Ard ed-Dehanâ ( דהנא ), between the Shemmar mountains and the Sawâd (Chaldaea). Thence at the end of April come the ostrich hunters with their spoil, the hides of the birds together with the feathers, to Syria. Such an unplucked hide is called gizze ( גזּה ). The hunters inform us that the female sits alone on the nest from early in the day until evening, and from evening until early in the morning with the male, which wanders about throughout the day. The statement that the ostrich does not sit on its eggs, is perhaps based on the fact that the female frequently, and always before the hunters, forsakes the eggs during the first period of brooding. Even. Job 39:14 and Job 39:15 do not say more than this. But when the time of hatching (called el - faqs , פקץ ) is near, the hen no longer leaves the eggs. The same observation is also made with regard to the partridge of Palestine ( el - hagel , חגל ), which has many other characteristics in common with the ostrich.

That the ostrich is accounted stupid (Job 39:17) may arise from the fact, that when the female has been frightened from the eggs she always seeks out the male with a loud cry; she then, as the hunters unanimously assert, brings him forcibly back to the nest (hence its Arabic name zalı̂m , 'the violent one'). During the interval the hunter has buried himself in the sand, and on their arrival, by a good shot often kills both together in the nest. It may also be accounted as stupidity, that, when the wind is calm, instead of flying before the riding hunters, the bird tries to hide itself behind a mound or in the hollows of the ground. But that, when escape is impossible, it is said to try to hide its head in the sand, the hunters regard as an absurdity. If the wind aids it, the fleeing ostrich spreads out the feathers of its tail like a sail, and by constantly steering itself with its extended wings, it escapes its pursuers with ease. The word המריא, Job 39:18, appears to be a hunting expression, and (without an accus. objecti ) to describe this spreading out of the feathers, therefore to be perfectly synonymous with the תערישׁ (Arab. t'rı̂š ) of the ostrich hunters of the present day. Thus sings the poet Râshid of the hunting race of the Sulubât: 'And the head (of the bride with its loosened locks) resembles the (soft and black) feathers of the ostrich-hen, when she spreads them out ( ‛arrashannâ ). They saw the hunter coming upon them where there was no hiding-place, And stretched their legs as they fled.' The prohibition to eat the ostrich in the Thora (Leviticus 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15) is perhaps based upon the cruelty of the hunt; for it is with the rarest exceptions always killed only on its eggs. The female, which, as has been said already, does not flee towards the end of the time of brooding, stoops on the approach of the hunter, inclines the head on one side and looks motionless at her enemy. Several Beduins have said to me, that a man must have a hard heart to fire under such circumstances. If the bird is killed, the hunter covers the blood with sand, puts the female again upon the eggs, buries himself at some distance in the sand, and waits till evening, when the male comes, which is now shot likewise, beside the female. The Mosaic law might accordingly have forbidden the hunting of the ostrich from the same feeling of humanity which unmistakeably regulated it in other decisions (as Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6., Leviticus 22:28, and freq.).)

Verses 19-25

19 Dost thou give to the horse strength?

Dost thou clothe his neck with flowing hair?

20 Dost thou cause him to leap about like the grasshopper?

The noise of his snorting is a terror!

21 He paweth the ground in the plain, and boundeth about with strength.

He advanceth to meet an armed host.

22 He laugheth at fear, and is not affrighted,

And turneth not back from the sword.

23 The quiver rattleth over him,

The glittering lance and spear.

24 With fierceness and rage he swalloweth the ground,

And standeth not still, when the trumpet soundeth.

25 He saith at every blast of the trumpet: Ha, ha!

And from afar he scenteth the battle,

The thundering of the captains and the shout of war.

After the ostrich, which, as the Arabs say, is composed of the nature of a bird and a camel, comes the horse in its heroic beauty, and impetuous lust for the battle, which is likewise an evidence of the wisdom of the Ruler of the world - a wisdom which demands the admiration of men. This passage of the book of Job, says K. Lצffler, in his Gesch. des Pferdes (1863), is the oldest and most beautiful description of the horse. It may be compared to the praise of the horse in Hammer-Purgstall's Duftkצrner; it deserves more than this latter the praise of majestic simplicity, which is the first feature of classic superiority. Jer. falsely renders Job 39:19 : aut circumdabis collo ejus hinnitum ; as Schlottm., who also wishes to be so understood: Dost thou adorn his neck with the voice of thunder? The neck ( צוּאר, prop. the twister, as Persic gerdân, gerdan, from צוּר, Arab. ṣâr , to twist by pressure, to turn, bend, as Pers. from gerdı̂den , to turn one's self, twist) has nothing to do with the voice of neighing. But רעמה also does not signify dignity (Ew. 113, d ), but the mane, and is not from רעם = ראם = רם, the hair of the mane, as being above, like λοφιά, but from רעם, tremere , the mane as quivering, trembling (Eliz. Smith: the shaking mane); like φόβη, according to Kuhn, cogn. with σόβη, the tail, from φοβεῖν ( σοβεῖν ), to wag, shake, scare, comp. άΐ́σσεσθαι of the mane, Il . vi. 510.

Job 39:20

The motion of the horse, which is intended by תרעישׁנּוּ ( רעשׁ, Arab. r‛s, r‛š, tremere, trepidare ), is determined according to the comparison with the grasshopper: what is intended is a curved motion forwards in leaps, now to the right, now to the left, which is called the caracol, a word used in horsemanship, borrowed from the Arab. hargala -l- farasu (comp. חרגּל ), by means of the Moorish Spanish; moreover, Arab. r‛s is used of the run of the ostrich and the flight of the dove in such “successive lateral and oblique motions” (Carey). nachar, Job 39:20, is not the neighing of the horse, but its snorting through the nostrils (comp. Arab. nachı̂r, snoring, a rattling in the throat), Greek φρύαγμα, Lat. fremitus (comp. Aeschylus, Septem c. Th. 374, according to the text of Hermann: ἵππος χαλινῶν δ ̓ ὡς κατασθμαίνων βρέμει ); הוד, however, might signify pomp (his pompous snorting), but perhaps has its radical signification, according to which it corresponds to the Arab. hawı̂d , and signifies a loud strong sound, as the peal of thunder ( hawı̂d er - ra‛d ),' the howling of the stormy wind ( hawı̂d er - rijâh ), and the like.

(Note: A verse of a poem of Ibn-Dûchi in honour of Dôkân ibn-Gendel runs: Before the crowding ( lekdata ) of Taijâr the horses fled repulsed, And thou mightest hear the sound of the bell-carriers ( hawı̂da mubershemât ) of the warriors ( el - menâir , prop. one who thrusts with the lance). Here hawı̂d signifies the sound of the bells which those who wish to announce themselves as warriors hang about their horses, to draw the attention of the enemy to them. Mubershemât are the mares that carry the burêshimân , i.e., the bells. The meaning therefore is: thou couldst hear this sound, which ought only to be heard in the fray, in flight, when the warriors consecrated to death fled as cowards. Taijâr ( Têjâr ) is Sâlih the son of Cana'an (died about 1815), mentioned in p. 456, note 1, a great warrior of the wandering tribe of the 'Aneze . - Wetzst.)

The substantival clause is intended to affirm that its dull-toned snort causes or spreads terror. In Job 39:21 the plur . alternates with the sing., since, as it appears, the representation of the many pawing hoofs is blended with that of the pawing horse, according to the well-known line,

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum

(Virgil, Aen. viii. 596);

or, since this is said of the galloping horse, according to the likewise Virgilian line,


Tellurem, et solido graviter sonat ungula cornu

(Georg. iii. 87 f).

חפר is, as the Arab. hâfir , hoof, shows, the proper word for the horse's impatient pawing of the ground (whence it then, as in Job 39:29, signifies rimari, scrutari ). עמק is the plain as the place of contest; for the description, as now becomes still more evident, refers to the war-horse. The verb שׂישׂ ( שׂוּשׂ ) has its radical signification exsultare (comp. Arab. s]âts, skirta'n, of the foetus) here; and since בּכח, not בּכּח, is added to it, it is not to be translated: it rejoices in its strength, but: it prances or is joyous with strength, lxx γαυριᾷ ἐν Ἰσχύΐ . The difference between the two renderings is, however, scarcely perceptible. נשׁק, armament, Job 39:21, is meton. the armed host of the enemy; אשׁפּה, “the quiver,” is, however, not used metonymically for the arrows of the enemy whizzing about the horse (Schult.), but Job 39:23 is the concluding description of the horse that rushes on fearlessly, proudly, and impetuously in pursuit, under the rattle and glare of the equipment of its rider (Schlottm. and others). רנה (cogn. of רנן ), of the rattling of the quiver, as Arab. ranna, ranima, of the whirring of the bow when the arrow is despatched; to point it תּרנּה (Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 8:3), instead of תּרנה, would be to deprive the language of a word supported by the dialects (vid., Ges. Thes .). On Job 39:24 we may compare the Arab. iltahama - l - farasu - l - arda , the horse swallows up the ground, whence lahimm, lahı̂m, a swallower = swift-runner; so here: with boisterous fierceness and angry impatience ( בּרעשׁ ורגז ) it swallows up the ground, i.e., passes so swiftly over it that long pieces vanish so rapidly before it, as though it greedily sucked them up ( גּמּא intensive of גּמא, whence גּמא, the water-sucking papyrus); a somewhat differently applied figure is nahab - el - arda , i.e., according to Silius' expression, rapuit campum . The meaning of Job 39:24 is, as in Virgil, Georg. iii. 83f.:

Tum si qua sonum procul arma dedere,

Stare loco nescit ;

and in Aeschylus, Septem, 375: ὅστις βοὴν σάλπιγγος ὁρμαίνει (Hermann, ὀργαίνεἰ μένων (impatiently awaiting the call of the trumpet). האמין signifies here to show stability (vid., Genesis, S. 367f.) in the first physical sense (Bochart, Rosenm., and others): it does not stand still, i.e., will not be held, when ( כּי, quum ) the sound of the war-trumpet, i.e., when it sounds. שׁופר is the signal-trumpet when the army was called together, e.g., Judges 3:27; to gather the army that is in pursuit of the enemy, 2 Samuel 2:28; when the people rebelled, 2 Samuel 20:1; when the army was dismissed at the end of the war, 2 Samuel 20:22; when forming for defence and for assault, e.g., Amos 3:6; and in general the signal of war, Jeremiah 4:19. As often as this is heard ( בּדי, in sufficiency, i.e., happening at any time = quotiescunque ), it makes known its lust of war by a joyous neigh, even from afar, before the collision has taken place; it scents ( praesagit according to Pliny's expression) the approaching conflict, (scents even in anticipation) the thundering command of the chiefs that may soon be heard, and the cry of battle giving loose to the assault. “Although,” says Layard ( New Discoveries, p. 330), ”docile as a lamb, and requiring no other guide than the halter, when the Arab mare hears the war-cry of the tribe, and sees the quivering spear of her rider, her eyes glitter with fire, her blood-red nostrils open wide, her neck is nobly arched, and her tail and mane are raised and spread out to the wind. The Bedouin proverb says, that a high-bred mare when at full speed should hide her rider between her neck and her tail.”

Verses 26-30

26 Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom,

Doth it spread its wings towards the south?

27 Or is it at thy command that the eagle soareth aloft,

And buildeth its nest on high?

28 It inhabiteth the rock, and buildeth its nest

Upon the crag of the rock and fastness.

29 From thence it seeketh food,

Its eyes see afar off.

30 And its young ones suck up blood;

And where the slain are, there is it.

The ancient versions are unanimous in testifying that, according to the signification of the root, נץ signifies the hawk (which is significant in the Hieroglyphics): the soaring one, the high-flyer (comp. Arab. nṣṣ , to rise, struggle forwards, and Arab. nḍḍ , to raise the wings for flight). The Hiph . יאבר- (jussive form in the question, as Job 13:27) might signify: to get feathers, plumescere (Targ., Jer.), but that gives a tame question; wherefore Gregory understands the plumescit of the Vulgate of moulting, for which purpose the hawk seeks the sunny side. But האביר alone, by itself, cannot signify “to get new feathers;” moreover, an annual moulting is common to all birds, and prominence is alone given to the new feathering of the eagle in the Old Testament, Psalms 103:5; Micah 1:16, comp. Isaiah 40:31 (lxx πτεροφυήσουσιν ὡς ἀετοί ).

(Note: Less unfavourable to this rendering is the following, that אברה signifies the long feathers, and אבר the wing that is composed of them (perhaps, since the Talm. אברים signifies wings and limbs, artus, from אבר = הבר, Arab. hbr , to divide, furnish with joints), although נוצה (from נצה, to fly) is the more general designation of the feathers of birds.)

Thus, then, the point of the question will lie in לתימן : the hawk is a bird of passage, God has endowed it with instinct to migrate to the south as the winter season is approaching.

In Job 39:27 the circle of the native figures taken from animal life, which began with the lion, the king of quadrupeds, is now closed with the eagle, the king of birds. It is called נשׁר, from נשׁר, Arab. nsr, vellere ; as also vultur (by virtue of a strong power of assimilation = vultor ) is derived from vellere , - a common name of the golden eagle, the lamb's vulture, the carrion-kite ( Cathartes percnopterus ), and indeed also of other kinds of kites and falcons. There is nothing to prevent our understanding the eagle κατ ̓ εξοχήν, viz., the golden eagle ( Aquila chrysaëtos ), in the present passage; for even to this, corpses, though not already putrified, are a welcome prey. In Job 39:27 we must translate either: and is it at thy command that ... ? or: is it so that (as in הכי ) at thy command ... ? The former is more natural here. מצוּדה, Job 39:28, signifies prop. specula (from צוּד, to spy); then, however, as Arab. masâd (referred by the original lexicons to masada ), the high hill, and the mountain-top. The rare form יעלעוּ, for which Ges., Olsh., and others wish to read לעלעוּ or ילעלעוּ (from לוּע, deglutire ), is to be derived from עלע, a likewise secondary form out of עלעל (from עוּל, to suck, to give suck),

(Note: The Arab. ‛alla does not belong here: it gains the signification iterum bibere from the primary signification of “coming over or upon anything,” which branches out in various ways: to take a second, third, etc., drink after the first. More on this point on Isaiah 3:4.

Supplementary note: The quadriliteral עלעל to be supposed, is not to be derived from עלל, and is not, as it recently has been, to be compared with Arab. ‛ll, “to drink.” This Arab. verb does not signify “to drink” at all, but, among many other branchings out of its general primary signification, related to עלה, Arab. ‛lâ , also signifies: “to take a second, third, etc., drink after the first,” concerning which more details will be given elsewhere. עלעל goes back to עוּל, lactare , with the middle vowel, whence also עויל, Job 16:11; Job 12:18; Job 21:11 (which see). The Hauran dialect has ‛âlûl (plur. ‛awâlı̂l ), like the Hebr. עולל ( עולל = מעולל ), in the signification juvenis , and especially juvencus (comp. infra, p. 689, note 3, “but they are heifers,” Arab. illâ ‛awâlı̂l ).)

like שׁרשׁ out of שׁרשׁר (from שׁרר, Arab. srr, to make firm), Ew. §118, a, comp. Fürst, Handwörterbuch, sub עוּל, since instances are wanting in favour of עלע being formed out of לעלע ( Jesurun, p. 164). Schult. not inappropriately compares even גלג = גלגל in גּלגּתא, Γολγοθᾶ = גּלגּלתּא . The concluding words, Job 39:30, are perhaps echoed in Matthew 24:28. High up on a mountain-peak the eagle builds its eyrie, and God has given it a remarkably sharp vision, to see far into the depth below the food that is there for it and its young ones. Not merely from the valley in the neighbourhood of its eyrie, but often from distant plains, which lie deep below on the other side of the mountain range, it seizes its prey, and rises with it even to the clouds, and bears it home to its nest.

(Note: Vid., the beautiful description in Charles Boner's Forest Creatures, 1861.)

Thus does God work exceeding strangely, but wonderously, apparently by contradictions, but in truth most harmoniously and wisely, in the natural world.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 39". 1854-1889.