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Bible Commentaries
Job 39

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-30

The Third Stage of the Disentanglement

Job 38:1 to Job 42:6

JEHOVAH’S DISCOURSE.—The aim of which is to prove that the Almighty and Only Wise God, with whom no mortal man should dispute, might also ordain suffering simply to prove and test the righteous: (Second Half of the positive solution of the problem.)

Job 38:1 to Job 40:5

First Discourse of Jehovah (together with Job’s answer): With God, the Almighty and Only Wise, no man may dispute. Job 38:1 to Job 40:5

1. Introduction: The appearance of God; His demand that Job should answer Him

Job 38:1-3

1          Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

2     2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel

by words without knowledge?

3     Gird up now thy loins like a man;

for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me!

2. God’s questions touching His power revealed in the wonders of creation

Job 38:4 -Job 39:30

a. Questions respecting the process of creation:

Job 38:4-15.

4     Where wast thou, when I laid the foundations of the earth?

declare, if thou hast understanding.

5     Who hath laid the measure thereof, if thou knowest?

or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6     Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?

or who laid the corner-stone thereof:

7     when the morning-stars sang together,

and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8     Or who shut up the sea with doors,

when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?

9     When I made the cloud the garment thereof,

and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it;

10     and brake up for it my decreed place,

and set bars and doors,

11     and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;

and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

12     Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days;

and caused the day spring to know his place;

13     that it might take hold of the ends of the earth,

that the wicked might be shaken out of it?

14     It is turned as clay to the seal;

and they stand as a garment.

15     And from the wicked their light is withholden,

and the high arm shall be broken.

b. Respecting the inaccessible depths and heights below and above the earth, and the forces proceeding from them

Job 38:16-27

16     Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?

or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

17     Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?

or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

18     Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?

declare if thou knowest it all.

19     Where is the way where light dwelleth?

and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

20     that thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof,

and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

21     Knowest thou it because thou wast then born?

or because the number of thy days is great?

22     Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?

or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

23     which I have reserved against the time of trouble,

against the day of battle and war?

24     By what way is the light parted,

which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

25     Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters,

or a way for the lightning of thunder;

26     to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is;

on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;

27     to satisfy the desolate and waste ground;

and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

c. Respecting the phenomena of the atmosphere, and the wonders of the starry heavens

Job 38:28-38

28     Hath the rain a father?

or who hath begotten the drops of dew?

29     Out of whose womb came the ice?

and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?

30     The waters are hid as with a stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen.

31     Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,

or loose the bands of Orion?

32     Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?

or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?

33     Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?

canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth.

34     Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds,

that abundance of waters may cover thee?

35     Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go,

and say unto thee, Here we are?

36     Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?

or who hath given understanding to the heart?

37     Who can number the clouds in wisdom?

or who can stay the bottles of heaven,

38     when the dust groweth into hardness,

and the clods cleave fast together?

d. Respecting the preservation and propagation of wild animals, especially of the lion, raven, wild goat, oryx, ostrich, war-horse, hawk, and eagle

Job 38:39 to Job 39:30

39     Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion?

or fill the appetite of the young lions,

40     when they couch in their dens,

and abide in the covert to lie in wait?

41     who provideth for the raven his food?

when his young ones cry unto God,
they wander for lack of meat.

Chap. 39

1          Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?

or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?

2     Canst thou number the months that they fulfil?

or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?

3     They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones,

they cast out their sorrows.

4     Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn;

they go forth, and return not unto them.

5     Who hath sent out the wild ass free?

or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?

6     Whose house I have made the wilderness,

and the barren land his dwellings.

7     He scorneth the multitude of the city,

neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.

8     The range of the mountains is his pasture,

and he searcheth after every green thing.

9     Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee,

or abide by thy crib?

10     Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow?

or will he harrow the valleys after thee?

11     Wilt thou trust him because his strength is great?

or wilt thou leave thy labor to him?

12     Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed,

and gather it into thy barn?

13     Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?

or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

14     Which leaveth her eggs in the earth,

and warmeth them in the dust,

15     and forgetteth that the foot may crush them,

or that the wild beast may break them.

16     She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers:

her labor is in vain without fear;

17     because God hath deprived her of wisdom,

neither hath He imparted unto her understanding.

18     What time she lifteth up herself on high,

she scorneth the horse and his rider.

19     Hast thou given the horse strength?

hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?

20     Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?

the glory of his nostrils is terrible.

21     He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:

he goeth on to meet the armed men.

22     He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted;

neither turneth he back from the sword.

23     The quiver rattleth against him,

the glittering spear and the shield.

24     He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage;

neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.

25     He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha!

and he smelleth the battle afar off,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

26     Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom,

and stretch her wings toward the south?

27     Doth the eagle mount up at thy command,

and make her nest on high?

28     She dwelleth and abideth on the rock,

upon the crag of the rock and the strong place.

29     From thence she seeketh the prey,

and her eyes behold afar off.

30     Her young ones also suck up blood;

and where the slain are, there is she.

3. Conclusion of the discourse, together with Job’s answer, announcing his humble submission

Job 40:1-5

Chap. 40.

1          And Jehovah answered Job, and said,

2     Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him?

he that reproveth God, let him answer it.

3     Then Job answered the Lord, and said,

4     Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?

I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

5     Once have I spoken, but I will not answer:

yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.


1. The appearance of God, which Job had again and again expressly wished for, a wish which recurs in Job 23:3 seq., and especially towards the end of his last discourse (Job 31:35), and for which Elihu’s preaching of doctrine and of repentance had prepared the way—this appearance now takes place during that storm, of fearful beauty, which had supplied the last of Elihu’s discourses with the material for its impressive descriptions of the greatness of God in His works. This Divine manifestation, which is not to be understood as taking place corporeally in a human form; see on Job 38:1—corresponds moreover to the preparatory representations proceeding from Elihu in this respect, that like those representations it bears testimony at the same time in behalf of Job and against him. It testifies for Job in that it brings about the actual realization of the ardent longing which he had so often uttered, and in that it is not accompanied by that terrifying and crushing effect on the bold challenger which he himself had several times dreaded as possible (Job 9:34; Job 13:21; Job 23:6), and had on that account deprecated. It testifies against him by means of the deep humiliation which the majesty of the Almighty occasions to him, by means of the consciousness wrought within him of his own insignificance and limitation in contrast with this fulness of power and wisdom, and by means of the principle which in this very way is brought forth into full expression, and which is expressly acknowledged by him at the close of this first address of Jehovah—the principle, namely, that from henceforth he must lay aside entirely all condemnation of God’s ways, and be willing to submit himself in absolute humility to His decree.—Again the rich illustration, elaborated in the most elevated style of poetic discourse, which in this first address God gives of His all-transcending majesty in contrast with man’s insignificance (chs. Job 38:4 to Job 39:30) is also such as testifies at once for and against Job, and thus continues with increased emphasis the strain already begun by Elihu (especially in his fourth discourse). On the one side it serves to confirm the previous descriptions given by Job himself of God’s greatness, wonderful power, and plenitude of wisdom; on the other side it transcends the same in the incomparably more elevated and impressive power of its representation, under the influence of which the last remainder of insolent pride still adhering to Job must of necessity dissolve and disappear. The discourse forms one well-conceived, harmoniously constructed whole, consisting of two principal divisions of almost equal length, of which the first (Job 38:4-38) refers to the creation and to inanimate nature, the second (chs. Job 38:39; Job 39:30) to the animal kingdom, as sources of evidence proving the divine majesty. It is not necessary to resolve these two divisions into two separate discourses, as is done by Köster and Schlottmann, the former of whom even deems it necessary to resort to the violent operation of transposing the conclusion in Job 40:1-5, and putting it after Job 38:36.—Each of these divisions may be subdivided into three strophegroups, or long strophes, consisting of 11–12 verses each, which may again be subdivided, according to the subjects described, into subordinate strophes or paragraphs, now longer and now shorter. Of these simple, short strophes the three long strophes of the first principal division (a, b and c) contain respectively three to four, whereas the last two long strophes, at least of the second chief division, which dwell on themes derived from the animal world, consist of but two short strophes respectively.

2. The Introduction: Job 38:1-3.—Then Jehovah answered Job out of the storm.—The “answering” or “replying” refers back to Job’s repeated challenges, and especially to the last, found in Job 31:35 : “Let the Almighty answer me!”—מִנְהַסְּעָרָה (here, as also in Job 40:6 with medial נ; comp. Ewald, § 9, 11, c [Green, § 4, a]; which the K’ri in both cases sets aside) “out of the storm (thunderstorm);” not (as Luther translates) “out of a storm.” It is beyond question an unsatisfactory explanation of the definite article to say that as applied to סערה it means that storm, which “always, or as a rule, is wont to announce and to accompany the appearance of God, whenever He draws nigh to the earth in majesty and in the character of a judge” (Dillmann). In view of the way in which the most ancient Old Testament sources describe the theophanies of the patriarchal age in general, this generic rendering of the article is not at all suitable (comp. also 1 Kings 19:11 : “the Lord was not in the wind”). The only explanation of the הסערה here, as well as in Job 40:6, which is linguistically and historically satisfactory, is that which finds in it a reference to Elihu’s description of a violent thunder-storm in his last discourse (Job 36:37)—a reference which at the same time confirms not only our interpretation of this discourse given above, but also its genuineness, and the authenticity of Elihu’s discourses in general. Placing ourselves (along with the commentators cited above on Job 36:0.) on this, the only correct point of view, we see at once the impossibility of viewing “God’s speaking out of the storm” as taking place through a corporeal appearance of Jehovah in human form. On the contrary, precisely in the same way that Elihu’s description pre-supposed only an invisible approach and manifestation of God in the storm-clouds, in their thunder and lightning, so also here a similar presence and self-manifestation of the Highest is intended, taking place under the veil of those mighty phenomena of nature; hence only a symbolical, not a corporeal appearance of God. For this reason we may with some propriety describe the solution of the whole problem of our poem which is introduced by this divine appearance as “a solution in the consciousness” (Delitzsch). In any case the theophany which effects it is to be conceived of as one in which God “drew near to the earth veiled, perceptible indeed to the ear, and in His shining veil visible to the eye, but nevertheless veiled, and not presenting a bodily appearance” (Ewald). [In accordance with the explanation given above of Job 37:21-22, the סערה out of which Jehovah speaks is not to be limited to the storm while raging, but refers rather to “the dark materials of the storm now pacified,” the mountainous cloud-masses in the north, which having spent their thunder, were now looming up in “terrible majesty,” while their open rifts disclosed the golden irradiation of the sunlight, a scene we may suppose not unlike that described by Wordsworth near the close of the Second Book of the Excursion. Such a scene, just preceded as it had been by the awe-inspiring phenomena of the storm at its height would fitly usher in the Divine Presence, from which the words which are to end the controversy are about to proceed.—E.]

Job 38:2. Who is this that darkens counsel: lit. “who is this, who is here (מִי זֶה, comp. Gesenius, § 122 [§ 120], 2) darkening counsel?” עֵצָה without the article (instead of הָעֵצָה, or instead of עֲצָתִי) is used intentionally in order to describe that which is darkened by Job qualitatively, as something “which is a counsel (or a plan),” as opposed to a whim, or a cruel caprice, such as Job had represented God’s dealings with him as being. [“Two things are implied in what is here said to Job: that his suffering is founded on a plan of God’s, and that he by his perverse speeches is guilty of distorting and mistaking this plan (in representing it as caprice without a plan).” Dillm. Job’s ignorant words had “darkened” God’s plan by obscuring or keeping out of sight its intelligent benevolent features]. The participle מַחֲשִׁיךְ is used rather than the Perf., because down to the very end of his speaking Job had misunderstood God’s counsel, and even during Elihu’s discourses he had recalled nothing of what he had said in this particular. For to the instruction and reproofs of this last speaker he had made no other response than persistent profound silence. He actually appeared accordingly at the moment when Jehovah himself began to speak as still a “darkener of counsel,” however true it might be that his conversion to a better frame of mind had already begun inwardly to take place under the influence of the addresses of his predecessor. This participle מַחֲשִׁיךְ accordingly furnishes no argument against the genuineness of chap. 32-37. (against Ewald, Delitzsch, Dillmann, etc.): and all the less seeing that a direct interruption of Job at the moment when he had last spoken contentiously and censoriously in respect to God’s plan (Job 31:35 seq.) by the appearance of God cannot be intended even if these chapters were in fact not genuine (comp. remarks on that passage). And especially would the assumption that the interpolator of the Elihu discourses had been prompted by this expression, מַחֲשִׁיךְ, purposely to avoid introducing Job within the limits of that section as making any confession whatever of his penitence, presuppose on the part of the interpolator a degree of artistic deliberation, nay more, of crafty cunning absolutely without a parallel in the entire Bible literature.

Job 38:3. Gird up now thy loins like a mani.e., in preparation for the contest with me (comp. Job 12:21). According to b this contest is to consist in a series of questions to be addressed by God to Job and to be answered by the latter; hence formally or apparently in the very thing which Job himself had in Job 13:22 wished for; in reality however God so overwhelms him by the humiliating contents of these questions that the absolute inequality of the contending parties and Job’s guilt become apparent at once.

3. The argument: a. God’s questions respecting the process of creation: Job 38:4-15. [This division consists of three minor strophes of four verses each, the fourth verse in each forming, as Schlottmann observes, a climax in the thought].

a. Questions touching the foundation of the earth: Job 38:4-7.

Job 38:4. Where wast thou when I founded the earth? (A question similar to that of Eliphaz above: Job 15:7 seq.). Declare it if thou hast understanding—to wit, of the way in which this process was carried on. This same How of the process of founding the earth is also the unexpressed object of הַגֵּד “declare!” In respect יָדַע בִּינָה, “to have an understanding of anything,” comp. Isaiah 29:24; Pro 4:1; 2 Chronicles 2:12.

Job 38:5. Who hath fixed its measure that thou shouldest know it?—כִּי תֵדַע, not: “for thou surely knowest it” (Schlottmann) [Good, Lee, Barnes, Carey, Renan, Elzas], but “so that thou shouldest know it” (כִי as in Job 3:12). [Dillmann objects to the rendering, “for thou knowest,” that the verb should be in that case יָדַעְתָּ; an objection which may also be urged against the rendering of E. V., Sept., Vulg., Umbreit, Rosenmüller, Bernard, “if thou knowest.” Compare אִם יָדַעְתָּ in Job 38:4 b.]. “The מִי inquires not after the person of the Architect, the same being sufficiently known, but rather after His character, and that of His activity:—what kind of a being must He be who could fix the earth’s measure like that of a building?” (Dillmann).

Job 38:6. Whereon were its pillars sunkeni.e., on what kind of a foundation? אֲדָנִים lit. “pedestals,” comp. Exodus 26:19 seq.; Song of Solomon 5:15. The meaning of the question is of course that already indicated in Job 9:6; Job 26:7, according to which passages the earth hangs free in space. The question in b refers to the same thing: “or who laid down her corner-stone?” where the “laying down” (יָרָה, jacere) of the corner-stone points to the wonderful ease with which the entire work was accomplished.

Job 38:7. When the morning-stars sang out together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.—The Infinitive רֹן is continued in b by the finite verb, as in Job 38:13, and often. The whole description determines the time of the fact of the founding of the earth (καταβολὴ κόσμου) spoken of in Job 38:6. The founding is here set forth as a festal celebration (comp. Ezra 3:10; Zechariah 4:7) attended by all the heavenly hosts, which are here mentioned by the double designation “sons of God” (comp. Job 1:6; Job 2:1) and “morning stars, i.e., creatures of such glory, that they surpass all other creatures of God in the same way that the brightness of the morning-star (=כּוֹכַב בֹּקֶר הֵילֵל, Isaiah 14:12, Lucifer) eclipses all the other stars. As another example of this generic generalized form of expression here found in the word “morning-stars,” compare the כִּסִילִים of Isaiah 13:10, i.e., the Orion-like constellations. The expression “morning-stars” moreover is scarcely to be understood as a tropical designation of that which is literally designated by the expression “sons of God,” that is to say, the angels (Hirzel, Dillmann [Carey, Wemyss, Barnes] etc.). Rather are the angels and stars mentioned together here in precisely the same way that in Job 15:15 “heaven” and “the holy ones” of God are mentioned together, this being in accordance with the mysterious connection which the Holy Scriptures generally set forth as existing between the starry and angelic worlds (comp. also on Job 25:6). Such a representation of the brightly shining and joyously “jubilating” stars (comp. Psalms 19:2; Psalms 148:3) as present when the earth was founded by God by no means contradicts the Mosaic account of creation in Genesis 1:0. where verse 14 (according to which the sun, moon and stars were not made until the fourth day) is assuredly to be interpreted phenomenally, not as descriptive of the literal fact.

β. Questions respecting the shutting up of the sea within bounds: Job 38:8-11.

Job 38:8. And (who) shut up the sea with doors?—וַיָּסֵךְ, which is attached to מִי יָרָה in Job 38:6, is used with reference to the waters of the sea in the newly-created earth, which at first wildly swelling and raging had in consequence to be enclosed, penned up, as it were, behind the doors (comp. Job 3:23) of a prison (comp. Genesis 1:2; Genesis 1:9 seq.). The second member introduces a clause determining the time of the first which continues to the end of Job 38:11.—When it burst forth, came out from the wombi.e., out of the interior of the earth (comp. Job 38:16). The verb גִּיחַ, which is used in Psalms 22:10 [9] of the bursting forth of the fœtus out of the womb, is explained by the less bold word יֵצֵא (which follows the Infinitive in the same way as the finite verb above in Job 38:7). The representation of the earth as the womb, out of which the waters of the sea burst forth, seems to contradict the modern geological theory, which on the contrary makes the earth to emerge out of the primitive sea, which enveloped and covered everything. But the science of geology recognizes not only elevations, but depressions by sinking of land or mountain masses (comp. Friedr. Pfaff, Das Wasser, Munich, 1870, p. 250 seq.). Especially do the recent “Deep Sea Explorations,” as they are called, seem to be altogether favorable to the essential correctness of the biblical view presented here and also in Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2, which regards the interior of the earth as originally occupied by water (comp. Pfaff, p. 90 seq.; Hermann Gropp, Untersuchungen und Erfahrungen über das Verhalten des Grundwassers und der Quellen, Lippstadt, 1868).

Job 38:9. When I made the cloud its garment, etc. A striking poetic description of that which in Genesis 2:6 seq. is narrated in historic prose. In respect to חֲתֻלָּה, “wrapping, swaddling-cloth,” comp. the corresponding verb in Ezekiel 16:4. [By this expression the ocean is obviously compared to a babe. “God thus in grand language expresses how manageable was the ocean to Him.” Carey].

Job 38:10. And brake for it (lit. “over it”) my bound, etc. The verb שָׁבַר which is not here equivalent to גּזר, “to appoint,” as Arnheim, Wette, Hahn [Lee, Bernard, Noyes, Conant, Wemyss, Barnes, Renan] think, [or according to Rosenmüller, Umbreit, Carey, “to span,” after the Arabic] vividly portrays the abrupt fissures of the sea-coast, which is often so high and steep. Comp. the Homeric ἐπὶ ῥηγμῖνι θαλασσης. On חֹק, “bound,” comp. Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:29; Jeremiah 5:22. On b comp. Job 38:8 a.

Job 38:11. Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further (וְלֹא תֹסִיף scil. לָבוֹא); here let one set against the pride of thy waves, scil. “a dam, a bound.” The verb יָשִׁית, “let one place” is used passively [and impersonally] for “let there be placed” (comp. Gesen. § 137 [§ 134]). It is not necessary, with the Vulg. and Pesh. to read תָּשִׁית, “here shalt thou stay the pride of thy waves,” or, with Codurcus, Ewald, and others to make פא the subj. (in the sense of “this place”). On the pride of the waves”=“proud waves,” comp. Psalms 89:10 [9].

γ. Questions respecting the regular advance of the light of morning upon the earth: Job 38:12-15. [“The transition from the sea to the morning is not so abrupt as it appears. For the ancients supposed that the sun sets in the ocean, and at his rising comes out of it again.” Noyes. “Here with genuine poetry the dawn sending forth its rays upon the earth immediately after creation is represented in its regular recurrence and in its moral significance. This member accordingly forms the transition to the following strophe; it is however first of all the logical conclusion of the first.” Schlottmann].

Job 38:12. Hast thou since thy birth (lit. “from thy days”) commanded the morning (i.e., to arise at its time), made known to the dawn its place, (lit. “made the dawn to know its place”). Instead of the K’thibh, יִדַּעְתָּה שַׁחַר it is certainly admissible to read with the K’ri יִדַּעְתָּ הַשַּׁחַר; the anarthrous בֹּקֶר of the first member by no means requires us to remove the definite article from the dawn, which is always only one. [“The mention of its ‘place’ here seems to be an allusion to the fact that it does not always occupy the same position. At one season of the year it appears on the equator, at another north, at another south of it, and is constantly varying its position. Yet it always knows its place. It never fails to appear where by the long-observed laws it ought to appear.” Barnes].

Job 38:13. That it may take hold on the borders (or “fringes”) of the earth. The surface of the earth is conceived of as an outspread carpet, of the ends of which the dawn as it were takes hold all together as it rises suddenly and spreads itself rapidly (comp. Job 37:3; Psalms 139:9), and this with the view of shaking out of it “the wicked, the evil-doers who, dreading the light, ply their business upon it by night;” i.e., of removing them from it at once. The passage contains an unmistakable allusion to Job’s own previous description in Job 24:13 seq. God, anticipating herein in a certain measure the contents of His second discourse, would give Job to understand “how through the original order of creation as established by Himself human wrong is ever annulled again”) Ewald. Comp. also Job 5:15).

Job 38:14. That it may change like signet-clayi.e., the earth (γῆ σημανρίς, Herod. II. 38), which during the night is, as it were, a shapeless mass, like unsealed wax, but which, in the bright light of the morning, reveals the entire beauty of its changing forms, of its heights and depths, etc. The subj. of יִתְיַצְּבוֹ is to be sought neither in the “morning” and “day-spring” of Job 38:12 (Schultens, Rosenmüller), which is altogether too far removed from this clause, nor in the “borders” of Job 38:13 (Ewald), but in the particular things found on the earth’s surface. The effect of the morning on them is that “they set themselves forth (or, all sets itself forth) like a garment,” i.e., in all the manifold variegated forms and colors of gay apparel.

Job 38:15. From the wicked their light is withheldi.e., the darkness of the night with which they are so familiar [and which is to them what light is to others], comp. Job 24:16 seq. (Delitz.: “the light to which they are partial” [ihr Lieblingslicht]). And the uplifted arm (is) brokeni.e., figuratively, in the sense that the light of the day compels it to desist from the violence, to fulfil which it had raised itself (comp. Job 22:8).

4. Continuation: b. Questions respecting the heights and depths above and below the earth, and the natural forces proceeding from them: Job 38:16-27.

a. The depths under the earth: Job 38:16-18.

Job 38:16. Hast thou come to the well-springs of the sea?—i.e., to those “fountains of the deep” of which the Mosaic account of the Flood makes mention; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2 (comp. above on Job 38:8). The phrase נִבְכֵי־יָם, found only here, is not, with Olshausen and Hitzig, to be changed into נִבְלֵי־יָם, for the root נבךְ is evidently only a harsher variation of נבע, and so beyond a doubt expresses the notion of “welling, springing.” Thus correctly the LXX: πηγὴ θαλάσσης. [Jarchi, followed by Bernard, Lee, (and see Ewald and Schlottmann) defines נבכים to mean “entanglements, mazes” (comp. בוךְ); but this meaning is less probable than the one more commonly received after the Sept.].—In respect to חֵקֶר in b, comp. above, Job 8:8; Job 11:7.

Job 38:17. Have the gates of death opened themselves to thee, etc.—Comp. Job 26:6, where the mention of the realm of the dead follows that of the sea precisely as here. On “death,” as meaning the realm of the dead, comp. Job 28:22; and on צלמות in the same sense, see Job 10:21 seq.

Job 38:18. Hast thou made an examination unto the breadths of the earth.—התבונן עד signifies, as also in Job 32:12, “to attend to anything strictly, to take a close observation of anything,” the עד indicating that this observation is complete, that it penetrates through to the extreme limit. The interrogative הֲis omitted before הִתְבֹּנַנְתָּ, in order to avoid the concurrence of the two aspirates (Ewald, § 324, b). On b comp. Job 38:4, כֻּלָהּ refers not to the earth, but in the neuter sense, to the things spoken of in the questions just asked. [“To see the force of this (question), we must remember that the early conception of the earth was that it was a vast plain, and that in the time of Job its limits were unknown.” Barnes. “Too much stress is commonly laid on the fact that when the poet wrote this, only a small part of the earth was known. Unquestionably the consciousness of the limitation of man’s vision was in some respects strengthened by that, fact; but that which is properly the main point here, to wit, the inability of man, at one glance to compass the whole earth and all its hidden depths retains all its ancient stress in connection with the widest geographical acquaintance with the surface of the earth.” Schlottmann].

β. The heights of light above the earth: Job 38:19-21.

Job 38:19. What is the way (thither, where) the light dwells.—On the relative clause יִשְּׁכּוֹן אוֹר comp. Ges. § 123 [§ 121], 3, c. On b, comp. Job 28:1-12. The meaning of the whole verse is as follows: Both light and darkness have a first starting point or a final outlet, which is unapproachable to man, and unattainable to his researches. [“As in Genesis 1:0., the light is here regarded as a self-subsistent, natural force, independent of the heavenly luminaries by which it is transmitted: and herein modern investigation agrees with the direct observations of antiquity.” Schlottm.]

Job 38:20. That Thou mightest bring them (light and darkness) to their bound [lit. “it to its bound,” the subjects just named considered separately]. כִּי as above in Job 38:5. לקח lit. “to bring, to fetch;” comp. Genesis 27:13; Genesis 42:16; Genesis 48:9.—And that thou shouldest know the paths of their house, i.e. “to their home, their abiding place” (comp. Job 28:23). It is possible that by this “knowing about the paths of their house” is meant taking back [escorting home] the light and darkness, just as in the first member mention is made of fetching, bringing them away; for the repetition of כִּי seems to indicate that the meaning of the two halves of the verse is not identical (Dillmann).

Job 38:21 is evidently intended ironically: Thou knowest, for then wast thou born, i.e. at the time when light and darkness were created, and their respective boundaries were determined. The meaning is essentially the same as in Job 15:7. On the Imperf. with אָז comp. Gesenius, § 127 [§ 125], 4, a; Ewald, § 136, b.—And the number of thy days is many.—The attraction in connection with מִסְפַּר as in Job 15:20; Job 21:21. [The interrogative rendering of this verse, as in E. V.: “Knowest thou it, because thou-wast then born?” etc., is excessively flat. It may be undesirable, as Barnes says, “to represent God as speaking in the language of irony and sarcasm, unless the rules of interpretation imperatively demand it.” But humiliating irony surely accords better with the dignity and character of the speaker, as well as with the connection, than pointless insipidity.—E.]

γ. Snow and hail, light and wind: Job 38:22-24.

Job 38:22. Hast thou come to the treasuries of the snow? Comp. on Job 37:9. The figure of the “treasuries” (אֹצָרוֹת, magazines, storehouses) vividly represents the immense quantities in which snow and hail are wont to fall on the earth; comp. Psalms 135:7.

Job 38:23 gives the purpose and rule of the Divine Government of the world, which snow and hail are constrained to subserve.—Which I have reserved for the time of distress.—Such an עֵת צָר (comp. Job 15:24; Job 36:16) may be caused in the east not only by a hailstorm (Exodus 9:22; Haggai 2:17; Sir 39:29), but even by a fall of snow. In February, 1860, innumerable herds of sheep, goats and camels, and also many men, were destroyed in Hauran by a snow-storm, in which snow fell in enormous quantities, as described by Muhammed el-Chatib el-Bosrawi in a writing still in the possession of Consul Wetzstein (Delitzsch).—The second member refers to such cases as Joshua 10:11 (comp. Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 30:30; Ezekiel 13:13; Psalms 68:15 [14]; 1 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 23:20), where violent hail or thunder-storms contributed to decide the issues of war in accordance with the divine decrees.

Job 38:24. What is the way to where the light is parted [where] the east wind spreadeth over the earth.—The construction as in Job 38:19 a. The light and the east wind (i.e. a violent wind, a storm in general, comp. Job 27:21) are here immediately joined together, because the course of both these agents defies calculation, and because they are incredibly swift in their movements [possibly also because they both proceed from the same point of the compass]. אוֹר scarcely denotes the lightning, as in Job 37:3 seq. (Schlottmann), which is first spoken of in Job 38:25, and then again in Job 38:35, and to which the verb יחלק, “divides, scatters itself,” is less suitable than to the bright day-light (comp. Job 38:13 seq.) In respect to הֵפִיץ, se diffundere, comp. Exo 5:12; 1 Samuel 13:8. [According to the E. V. the light is the subject of both members: “By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth.” But this construction is less probable and suitable than that given above, which recognizes the “light” as the subject of the first member, and the “east-wind” of the second.—E.]

d. The rain-storm and the lightning considered as divinely appointed phenomena which, while they inspire terror, are productive of beneficent results: Job 38:25-27.

Job 38:25. Who hath divided a watercourse for the rain-torrent, i.e., conducted the rain through the thick masses of clouds to specific portions of the thirsty earth. שֶׁטֶף, which of itself means “flood, torrent of waters” in general, is used here of a down-pouring beneficent torrent of rain [“the earthward direction assigned to the water-spouts is likened to an aqueduct coming downwards from the sky;” Delitzsch], and hence in a different sense from e.g., Psalms 32:6. The second member is taken verbally from Job 28:26.

Job 38:26. That it may rain on the land where no man is; lit. “to cause it to rain,” etc. The subject of לְהַמְטִיר is of course God who has been already indicated by מִי in Job 38:25. That it should rain on a land of “no-man” (the construction as in Job 10:22), i.e., on a land destitute of men, not artificially irrigated and tilled by men, is here set forth as a wise and loving providential arrangement of God’s. [“God lays stress on this circumstance in order to humiliate man, and to show him that the earth was made neither by him, nor for him.” Renan. “Man who is so prone to put his own interests above everything else, and to judge everything from his own human point of view, is here most strikingly reminded, how much wider is the range of the Divine vision, and how God in the exercise of His loving solicitude remembers even those regions, which receive no care from man, so that even there the possibility of life and growth is secured to His creatures.” Dillmann].

Job 38:27 then states more definitely this beneficent purpose of God: to satisfy the wild and wilderness, (שֹׁאָה וּמְשׁוֹאָה as in Job 30:3) [“the desert is thus like a thirsty pilgrim; it is parched, and thirsty, and sad, and it appeals to God, and He meets its wants and satisfies it,” Barnes], and to make the green herb to sprout; lit. “to make the place (the place of going forth, מֹצָא, comp. Job 28:1) of the green herb to sprout.”

5. Continuation. c. Questions respecting the phenomena of the atmosphere and the wonders of the starry heavens: Job 38:28-38.

α. Respecting rain, dew, ice, and hoar-frost: Job 38:28-30.

Job 38:28-29. Is there a father to the rain? As this member, together with the following inquires (through the formula מִי הוֹלִיד) after a male progenitor for the atmospheric precipitations of moisture, so does Job 38:29 inquire after the mother of ice and hoar-frost, for the formula מִי ילֳדוֹ in b also refers to the agency of a mother, as well as the question in a. This variation of gender in the representation is to be explained by the fact that rain and dew come from heaven, the abode of God, while ice and hoarfrost come out of the earth, out of the secret womb of the waters (verse 8).—אֶגְלֵי טָל in Job 38:28 b are not “reservoirs of dew” (Gesenius), for which the verb הוֹלִיד would not be suitable, but drops (lit. balls, globules; LXX.: βῶλοι) of dew, whether the root אגל be associated with גללִ, volvere (which is the view commonly held), or with the Arab, agal, retinere, colligere (so Delitzsch).

Job 38:30 describes more specifically the wonderful process which takes place when water is frozen into ice. The water hardens like stone. יִתְחַבָּאוּ, lit. “they hide themselves, draw themselves together, thicken” (a related form is חָמָא, whence הֶמְאָה, curdled milk). The same representation of the process of freezing as producing contraction or compression (a representation which in the strict physical sense is not quite correct, seeing that water on the contrary always expands in freezing—comp. Pfaff, in the work cited above, pp. 103, 189 seq.), was given above by Elihu, chapter Job 37:10, not however without indicating in what sense he intended this compression, a sense which is by no means incorrect; see on the passage. A similar intimation is conveyed here by the second member: and the face of the deep cleaves together, and thus constitutes a firm solid mass (continuum), instead of fluctuating to and fro, as in the fluid state. הִתְלַכֵּד as in Job 41:8 [17]; comp. the Greek ἔχεσθαι.

β. Respecting the control of the stars, and of their influence upon earth: Job 38:31-33.

Job 38:31. Canst thou bind the bands of the Pleiades?—מַעֲדַנּוֹת here not = amœnitates, as in 1 Samuel 15:32, [E. V., “sweet influences,” referring to the softening and gladdening influences of spring-time, when that constellation makes its appearance] but vincula (LXX.: δεσμόν; Targ. שֵׁירֵי=σειράς) as appears from קשר “to bind,” and the parallel מוֹשְׁכוֹת in b, and not less from the testimony of all the ancient versions, of Talmudic usage, and of the Masora. It is to be derived accordingly by transposition from ענד, “to bind” (comp. Job 31:36) not from עדן. The arranging of the stars of the Pleiades (כִּימָה as in Job 9:9) in a dense group is with poetic boldness described here as the binding of a fillet, or of a cluster of diamonds. (See a similar conception copied out of Persian poets in Ideler, Sternennamen, p. 147).—Or loose the bands of Orion, so that this brilliant constellation would fall apart, or fall down from heaven, to which the presumptuous giant is chained (comp. on Job 9:9). The explanation preferred by Dillmann is admissible, and even perhaps, in view of the etymon of מוֹשְׁכוֹת, to be preferred to the one more commonly adopted: “Or canst thou loose the lines [German—Zugseile, draw-lines, traces, the cords by which he is drawn up to his place, suggested by סשׁךְ] of Orion (the giant suspended in heaven), and thus canst thou now raise, and now lower him in the firmament?” The reference of the passage to the Star Suhêl = Canopus (Saad., Gekat., Abulwalid, comp. also Delitzsch) is uncertain, and conflicts with the well-known signification of כְּסִיל, which is also firmly established by Job 9:9.

Job 38:32. Canst thou bring forth the bright stars in their time (בְּעִתּוֹ as in Job 5:26; Psalms 104:27; Psalms 145:15). The word מַזָּרוֹת, to which such a variety of interpretations have been given, which already the LXX. did not understand, and accordingly rendered by μασουρώθ [followed herein by E. V., “Mazzaroth”], seems to be most simply explained (with Dillmann) as a contracted form of מַזְהָרוֹת, from זהר, splendere, and to mean accordingly “the brightly shining, brilliant stars,” in which case we may assume the planets to be intended, particularly such as are pre-eminently brilliant, as Venus, Jupiter, Mars, (comp. Vulg., “Luciferum”) [Fürst: Jupiter, the supreme god of good fortune]. The “being brought forth in their time” seems to suit better these wandering stars than e.g., “the two crowns,” the Northern and Southern (Cocceius, Eichhorn, Michaelis, Ewald, by comparison with נזר) [these constellations being, as Dillmann objects, too obscure and too little known], or the twelve signs of the Zodiac (so the majority of moderns, on the basis of the very precarious identification of מַזָּרוֹת with מַזָּלוֹת, 2 Kings 23:5), or the twenty-eight stations (Arab. menâzil) of the moon (so A. Weber, in his Abhandlung über die vedischen Nachrichten von den naxatra, oder Mondstationen, 1860), or, finally, any prophetic stars whatever, astra, præsaga, præmonentia (Gesenius, who refers the word to נזר in the Arabic signification).—And guide the Bear (lit., “the she-bear,” עַיִשׁ, comp. Job 9:9) together with his [lit., her] young?i.e., the constellation of the Bear with the three stars forming its tail, which are regarded as its children (בָּנִים, in Arab. בָּנוֹת); see on Job 9:9. The evening star (vesperus, Vulg.) is far from being intended, and equally so the comparatively unimportant constellation Capella (Eichhorn, Bibliothek, Vol. VII., p. 429).

Job 38:33. Knowest thou the laws of heaven?i.e., the laws which rule the course of the stars, the succession of seasons and periods, annual and diurnal, etc., (comp. Genesis 1:14 seq.; Job 8:22).—Or dost thou establish its dominion over the earth?i.e., dost thou ordain and confirm its influence (that of heaven, here personified as a king; comp. Ewald, § 318 a) on earthly destinies. מִשְׁטָר, “dominion,” is construed [with בְּ] after the analogy of the verbs משׁל בְּ ,רדה בְ.

γ. Respecting the Divine control of clouds and lightnings: Job 38:34; Job 38:36. On Job 38:34 b, comp. Job 22:11 b (which is here verbally repeated). On Job 38:35 comp. Psalms 104:3; Psalms 33:9.

δ. Additional questions relating to the clouds, and their agencies: Job 38:36-38.

Job 38:36. Who put wisdom in the dark clouds, who gave understanding to that which appears in the sky [Germ. “Luftgebilde” atmospheric phenomena]; i.e., who has given to them an intelligent arrangement and significance, טֻחוֹת, from טוּחַ, signifies here as in Psalms 51:8, dark, hidden places,” meaning here, as the connection shows, “dark clouds, black cloud-layers” (Eichhorn, Umbr., Hirz., Stickel, Hahn, Dillmann, etc., by comparison with the Arabic טחא, and its derivative nouns. In that caseשֶׂכְוִי, from the Hebr. and Aram, שׂכה, “to see,” (comp. שְׂכִיּוּת and מַשְׂכִּית), signifies “appearance, phenomenon, form,” here according to the parallelism of the first member, “a form, phenomenon of the atmosphere, or the clouds.” It can scarcely mean (the rainbow being certainly called קֶשֶׁט, Genesis 9:13) “an appearance of light, fiery meteor” (Ewald, Hahn), or “the full moon,” (so Dillmann, at least tentatively, assuming at the same time that טֻחוֹת refers to the dark phases of the moon). At all events the explanation which refers both parallel expressions to phenomena of the cloud-heavens is the only one suited to the context (as was the case with the meteorological sense of “gold” in Job 37:22; whereas on the contrary the interpretation long ago adopted by the Vulg., the 2d Targ., and many Rabbis [and E. V.] and recently by Delitzsch [Gesenius, Noyes, Conant, Barnes, Wordsworth, Schlottmann, Renan], according to which טֻחוֹת means “the reins,” or “entrails,” (comp. Psalms 51:8 [6]), and שֶׂכְוִי the “cock” [as “the weather-prophet κατ̓ ἐξοχήν among animals,” Delitzsch: while Gesenius, Schlottmann, Noyes, Conant, Wordsworth, Renan, as also E. V., render by “heart, intelligence”] yields a meaning that is singular enough, and which is made no better when the cock is regarded as speculator et præco auroræ, as ales diei nuntius (Prudentius), or as a weather-prophet (after Cicero, de divin. II., 26), and the reins are supposed to be mentioned because of their power of foretelling the weather and presaging the future. Still more singular and opposed to the context is the rendering of the LXX.: Τίς ἔδωκεν γυναικὶ ὐφάσματος σοφίαν καὶ ποικιλτικὴν ἐπιστήμην [And who has given to woman skill in weaving, or knowledge of embroidery]? They seem to have read in the first member טֹווֹת, in the second שָׂכוֹת, “embroidering women,” or שַׂכּוֹת “to embroider.”

Job 38:37. Who numbers the clouds in Wisdom.—סִפֵּר as elsewhere the Kal: “to number” (Job 28:27). And the bottles of the heavens—who inclines themi.e., who causes them to be emptied, to pour out their fluid contents. The comparison of the clouds, laden with rain, to bottles, or pitchers occurs frequently also in Arabic poets (see Schultens on the passage). [E. V. “Who can stay the bottles of heaven?” which is less suitable to השׁכיב, and to the context. Jerome, taking, נבלי to mean “harps,” renders uniquely: et concentrum cœlorum quis dormire faciet?]

Job 38:38. When the dust flows together into a molten mass. מוּצָק, “fused, solid metal,” a word which is to be explained in accordance with Job 37:18 (not in accordance with Job 22:16). צֶקֶת here, as in 1 Kings 22:35, to be rendered intransitively: “When the dust pours itself,” i.e., when it flows, runs, as it were, together. In respect to רְגָבים, “clods,” comp. Job 21:33.

6. Continuation and conclusion, d. Questions respecting the propagation and preservation of wild beasts as objects of the creative power and wise providence of God. chap. 38–39:30. a. The lion, the raven, the wild goat, the stag, and the wild ass: Job 38:39 to Job 39:8.

Job 38:39. Dost thou hunt the prey for the lioness, and dost thou appease the craving of the young lions?—Respecting the lion’s names, לָבִיא and כְּפִיר, comp. on Job 4:11. “To appease (lit. to fill) the craving” (מִלֵּא חַיָּה), means the same as “to fill the soul” (מ׳ נֶפֶשׁ), Proverbs 6:30.

Job 38:40. When they crouch in the dens. On יָשֹׁחוּ comp. Psalms 10:10. On מְעוֹנוֹתlustra, comp. Psalms 104:22. In respect to סֻכָּה in b, comp. סֹךְ, used elsewhere in the sense of “thicket,” Psalms 10:9; Jeremiah 25:38. On לְמוֹ־אָֽרֶב, which gives the object of the “crouching” and “sitting” [or “dwelling”], comp. Job 31:9 b.

Job 38:41. Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry unto God, [wander without food?—The interrogation properly extends over the whole verse, not, as in E. V., over the first member only, which makes the remainder of the verse meaningless.—E.]. הֵכִין, “to prepare, to provide,” as in Job 27:16 seq. כִּי “when,” as in Job 38:40 a. The ravens are introduced here, as in the parallel passages, Psalms 147:9; Luke 12:24, as objects of God’s fatherly care, rather than any other description of birds, because they are specially noticeable among birds in search of food, by reason of their hoarse cries. Observe moreover the contrast, which is surely intentional between the mighty monarch of the beasts, which in Job 38:39 seq. is put at the head of beasts in search of food, and the contemptibly small, insignificant, and uncomely raven. [“Jewish and Arabian writers tell strange stories of this bird, and its cruelty to its young; hence, say some, the Lord’s express care for the young ravens, after they had been driven out of the nests by the parent birds; but this belief in the ravens’ want of affection to its young is entirely without foundation. To the fact of the raven being a common bird in Palestine, and to its habit of flying restlessly about in constant search for food to satisfy its voracious appetite, may perhaps be traced the reason for its being selected by our Lord and the inspired writers as the especial object of God’s providing care.” Smith’s Bib. Dict. Art. “Raven.”]

 Job 39:1-4 : Propagation and increase of the wild goats (rock-goats, ibices) and stags.

Job 39:1. Knowest thou the time when the wild goats bear? observest thou the travail of the hinds?—חוֹלֵל Inf. Pilel of חול, “to be in labor,” ὠδίνειν (comp. the Pulal in Job 15:7), here the object of תִּשְׁמֹר, to which verb the influence of the הֲ before יָדַעְתָּ in the first member extends.

Job 39:2. Dost thou number the months which they (must) fulfil;i.e., until they bring forth, hence their period of gestation. [The point of the question can scarcely be that Job could have no knowledge whatever of the matters here referred to, but that he could have no such knowledge as would qualify him to stand toward these creatures at such a time in the place of God; or, as Carey expresses it: “Can you keep an exact register of all this, and exercise such providential care over these creatures, the mountain goats and hinds, as to preserve them from dangers during the time of gestation, and then deliver them at the proper period?”—E.]. In the second member לִדְתָּנָה, with full-toned suffix, is used for לִדְתָּן; comp. Ruth 1:19, and Gesenius, § 91 [§ 89], 1, Rem. 2. [Green, § 104, g].

Job 39:3. They bow themselves (comp. 1 Samuel 4:19), they let their young ones break through (lit. “cleave;” comp. Job 16:13), they cast away their pains;i.e., the fruit of their pains, their fœtus, for this is what חֶבֶל here signifies, not the after-pains, as Hirzel and Schlottmann think. Comp. ῥίψαι ὠδῖνα = edere fœtum, in Euripides, Ion 45; also examples of the same phraseology from the Arabic in Schultens on the passage. It will be seen further that תפלחנה (instead of which Olshausen needlessly conjectures תפלטנה after Job 21:10) forms a paronomasia with תשלחנה.

Job 39:4. Their young ones become strong (חלם, lit. “to grow fat,” pinguescere), grow up in the desert.—בַּחוּץ=בַּבָּר, or בַּשָּדֶה, as often in the Targ. [a meaning more suitable to the context than that of E. V. “with corn “]. They go away, and return not to them;i.e., to the parents, לָמוֹ however might also be explained after Job 6:19; Job 24:16 as Dat. commodi: sibi=sui juris esse volentes (Schultens, Delitzsch).

Vers 5–8. The wild ass, introduced as an example of many beasts, the life of which is characterized by unrestricted liberty, defying and mocking all human control and nurture.

Job 39:5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free, and who hath loosed the bands of the fugitive?—The words פֶּרֶא (Arab, ferâ; comp. above Job 6:5; Job 11:12; Job 24:5) and עָרּוֹד denote one and the same animal, the wild ass or onager (the ὄνος ἄγριος of the LXX., the “Kulan” of the eastern Asiatics of to-day), which is characterized by the first name as the “swift runner,” by the latter (which in Aramaic, and particularly in the Targum is the common name), as the “shy, fleeing one.” As to the predicate accusative חָפְּשִׁי, “free, set loose,” comp. Deuteronomy 15:12; Jeremiah 34:14. As to the second member, comp. Job 38:31.

Job 39:6. Whose home [lit. “house”] I have made the desert, and his abode the salt-steppe.—The word “salt-steppe” (מְלֵחָה) which is here used as parallel to “waste, desert” (ערבה, Job 24:5 b), stands in Psalms 107:34 as the opposite of אֶרֶץ פְּרִי (comp. Judges 9:45, where mention is made of sowing a destroyed city with salt). On the preference of the wild ass for saline plants, and on his disposition to take up his abode in salt marshes, comp. Oken, Allg. Naturgesch. Vol. VII., p. 1230.

Job 39:7. [He laughs at the tumult (E. V. “multitude,” but the parallelism favors “tumult”) of the city], the driver’s shouts he hears not;i.e., he flees from the control of the drivers, to which the tamed ass is subjected. On תְּשֻׁאוֹת, comp. Job 36:29.

Job 39:8. He ranges through the mountains as his pasture.—So according to the reading יָתוּר (Imperf. of תּוּר, investigare), which is attested by almost all the ancient versions, by the LXX, Vulg., Targum. The Masoretic reading יְתוּר is either (with the Pesh. Le Clerc, etc.) to be taken as a variant of תּוּר, abundantia, or as a derivative of תּוּר with the meaning, “that which is searched out” (investigatum, investigabile). But the statement that “the abundance of the mountains is the pasture of the wild ass” would be at variance with the fact in respect to the life of these animals, which inhabit the bare mountain-steppes (comp. Oken in the work cited above). On the other hand we should expect the normal form יְתוּר, following the analogy of such words as יָקוּם to have an active rather than a passive signification. יְתוּר however can scarcely mean “circle, compass,” [E. V. “range”] here (Hahn).

β. The oryx and ostrich: Job 39:9-18.

Job 39:9. Will the oryx be pleased to serve thee?—רֵים, contracted from רְאֵם (comp. the full written form רִאֵים, Psalms 92:11), assuredly denotes not the rhinoceros (Aq., Vulgate) [Good, Barnes], because the animal intended must be one that was common in Western Asia, and especially in the regions of Syria and Palestine. Comp. the reference to it in Psalms 22:22 [21]; Job 29:6; Deuteronomy 33:17; Isaiah 34:7. It would be more natural, with Schultens, Gesenius, De Wette, Umbreit, Hirzel [Robinson, Noyes, Carey, Wordsworth, Renan, Rodwell, Conant, Fürst, Smith’sBib. Dict. Art. “Unicorn”], etc., to understand the buffalo or wild ox [bos bubalus) to be intended, seeing that this animal is still quite common in Palestine, and that here a contrast seems to be intended between this wild ox and the tame species (see Job 39:10). But this particular buffalo of Palestine is an animal which is not particularly strong, or characterized by untamable wildness, as is shown by the fact that it is frequently used in tilling the land (Russell, Naturgesch. von Aleppo, II. 7) [Thomson’sLand and the Book, I. 386, 387]. The μονοκέρως of the LXX. [E. V.: “unicorn”] (of which the Talmudic קרש is a mutilated form, and the ῥινοκἑρως of Aquila and Jerome is a misunderstanding) points to an animal which is, if not always, yet often, represented as having one horn, i.e., as being armed with one horn on the forehead, consisting of two which have grown together. Such an animal seems in ancient times to have been somewhat common in Egypt and South-western Asia, the same being a species nearly related to the oryx—antelope (Antil. loucoryx) of to-day. It is represented on Egyptian monuments, now with two horns, and now with one. It is described by Aristotle and Pliny as a one-horned, cloven hoof (Aristotle, Hist. Anim. II. 1; De Partib. Anim. III. 2; Pliny, Hist. Nat. XI. 106); and in all probability it has been again discovered recently in the Tschiru, or the Antil. Hodgsonii of Southern Thibet (Hue and Gabet, Journeyings through Mongolia and Thibet, Germ. Edit., p. 323; see the passage quoted in Delitzsch, II., p. 334, n. 2). The name רים in the passage before us is all the more suitably applied to such an animal of the oryx species, in view of the fact that the corresponding Arabic word still signifies a species of antelope among the Syro-Arabians of to-day, and that this same oryx-family embraces sub-species which are particularly wild, largely and powerfully built, and almost bovine in their characteristics. Accordingly, Luther’s translation of the word by “unicorn,” in this passage, and probably in every other where ראם occurs in the Old Testament, supported as it is by the LXX., might be justified without our being compelled to understand by this “unicorn” a fabulous animal like that of the Perso-Assyrian monuments, or of the English royal coat-of-arms. Comp. on the subject S. Bochart, Hierozoicon, II. 335 seq.; Rosenmüller, Bibl. Alterth. IV. 2, 288 seq.; Lichtenstein, Die Antilopen, 1824; Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmud, 1858, § 146, 174; Sundewall, Die Thierarten des Aristoteles, Stockholm, 1863, p. 64 seq.; also Koner’s Zeitschr. für allgem. Erdkunde, 1862, II., H. 3, p. 227, where interesting information is given respecting the researches of the Englishman, W. B. Bailie, touching the existence of a one horned animal still to be found in the regions of Central Africa, south of the Sea of Tsad, differing both from the rhinoceros and from the unicorn of the British coat-of-arms, which is probably, therefore, an African variety of the oryx—antelope, and possibly the very same variety as that represented on the old Egyptian monuments. [See Robinson’s Researches in Palestine, III, 306, 563; Wilson, Lands of the Bible, II., p. 167 seq.; and the remarks of Dr. Mason, of the Assam Mission, in the Christian Review, January, 1856, quoted by Conant in this verse.] Will he lodge [lit. “pass the night,” יָלִיןat thy crib?—lit. “over thy crib” [hence אֵבוּם cannot be, as defined by Gesenius, “stall, stable”], for the crib being very low, the cattle of the ancients in the East reached over it with the head while lying beside it. Comp. Isaiah 1:3 and Hitzig on the passage.

Job 39:10. Dost thou bind the oryx to the furrow of his cord?i.e., to the furrow (comp. Job 31:38) which he raises by means of the ploughshare, as he is led along by the cord. Or will he harrow the valleys (Ps. 65:14) after thee (אַחֲרֶיךָ), i.e., while following thee, when thou seekest to lead him in the act of ploughing [rather, as in the text, harrowing, שִׂדֵּד, to level].

Job 39:11. Wilt thou trust him because his strength is great?i.e., will the great strength which he possesses awake thy confidence, and not rather thy mistrust? On יְגִיעַ, “labor” [“wilt thou commit to him thy labor”], in the sense of the fruit of labor, the product of tilling, comp. Psalms 78:46; Psalms 128:2. The verse following is decisive in favor of this interpretation of the verse before us; otherwise the word might, in accordance with Genesis 31:42, denote the labor or the toil itself.

Job 39:12. Wilt thou trust to him that he bring home thy sowing?—Respecting כִּי as exponent of the object, see Ewald, § 336, b.יָשׁוּב, if we adhere to it, with the K’thibh, is used in the transitive sense, as in Job 42:10; Psalms 85:5. The K’ri, however, substitutes for it the Hiphil, which, in this sense, is the form more commonly used. And that he gather (into) thy threshing-floor.—גָּרְנְךָ is probably locative (בַּגָּרְנְךָ=). It may possibly, however, be taken as accusative of the object per synecdochen continentis pro contento (threshing-floor=fruits of the threshing-floor, yield of the harvest), as in Ruth 3:2; Matthew 3:12.

Job 39:13-18. The ostrich (lit. the female ostrich) introduced as an example of untamable wildness from among the birds. The wing of the (female) ostrich waves joyously.—רְנָנִים, lit. “wailings, shrill cries of mourning” plur. abstr.) is a poetic designation of the ostrich here, or of the female ostrich, noted for its piercing cries. So correctly the Vulg., Bochart, and almost all the moderns. The Targ. arbitrarily understands the bird designated to be the “mountain-cock,” Kimchi and Luther the “peacock” [and so E. V.: “Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the pea-cocks?”] As to נֵעֱלָם, “to move itself joyously,” comp. Job 20:18; also the Homeric expression, ἀγάλλεσθαι πτερύγεσσιν. Is it a pious pinion and plumage?i.e., is the wing of this bird, the waving of which is so powerful and wonderfully rapid, a pious one, productive of mild and tender qualities, like that of the stork? For it is to that bird—which in its build resembles the ostrich, but which is more mild in disposition, and is, in particular, more affectionate and careful in the treatment of its offspring—that the predicate חֲסִידָה, pia with its double meaning, refers (which Delitzsch accordingly translates storchfromm [stork-pious], pia instar circoniæ). This is evident from the description which follows.

Job 39:14. Nay, she abandons her eggs to the earth.—כִּי here “nay, rather,” as in Job 22:2. The subj. of תעזב is the רננים of Job 39:13, construed here as Fem. Sing. The same construction obtains in the following verbs (Ew. §318 a).

Job 39:15. And forgets that the foot can crush them.—וַתִּשְׁכַּח, simply consecutive, and hence present; comp. Job 3:21. On the sing, suffix in תְּזוּרֶהָ, referring to the eggs, see Gesenius, § 146 [§ 143], 3. The fact here described, to wit, that the mother ostrich easily forgets her eggs, at least while she is not yet through with laying them, as well as in the beginning of the period of incubation, and that she leaves them unprotected, especially on the approach of hunters, is true of this animal only in its wild condition. In that state it shares these and similar habits, proceeding from excessive wildness and fear of man, with many other birds, as, e. g., the partridge. In its tamed condition, the ostrich watches over its young very diligently indeed,—and, moreover, shows nothing of that stupidity popularly ascribed to it, and which has become proverbial (to which Job 39:17 alludes). Comp. the Essay entitled: Die Zuchtung des Straussen als europäisches Hausthier, in the Ausland, 1869, No. 13, p. 30.6. The opinion moreover, partially circulated among the ancients, that the ostrich does not at all incubate its eggs, belongs to that class of scientific fables which, as in the case of those strange animals the basilisk, the dragon, the unicorn, etc., have been incorrectly imputed to the Old Testament. The verse before us furnishes no support whatever to that opinion. [See Smith’s Bib. Dict., Art, “Ostrich.” “The habit of the ostrich leaving its eggs to be matured by the sun’s heat is usually appealed to in order to confirm the Scriptural account, ‘she leaveth her eggs to the earth;’ but this is probably the case only with the tropical birds; the ostriches with which the Jews were acquainted were, it is likely, birds of Syria,. Egypt and North Africa; but even if they were acquainted with the habits of the tropical ostriches, how can it be said that ‘she forgetteth that the foot may crush.’ the eggs, when they are covered a foot deep or more in sand? We believe the true explanation of this passage is to be found in the fact that the ostrich deposits some of her eggs not in the nest, but around it; these lie about on the surface of the sand, to all appearance forsaken; they are however designed for the nourishment of the young birds, according to Levaillant and Bonjainville (Cuvier, An. King. by Griffiths and others, Job 8:432),” and see below on Job 39:16].

Job 39:16. She deals hardly with her young, as though they were not hers; lit. “for not to her” (i.e., belonging to her) הִקְשִׁיחַ, lit. “he deals hardly;’ which, bearing in mind [the suffix in בָּנֶיהָ, and] the clause לְלֹא־ לָהּ, which immediately follows, gives a change of gender which is intolerably harsh, which we may perhaps obviate (with Ewald, etc.) by pointing הַקְשֵׁיחַ (Inf. Absol., comp Ewald, § 280, a). The correction תַּקְשִׁיחַ (Hirzel, Dillmann) [Merx] is less plausible. In vain is her labor without her being distressed; lit. “without fear” (בְּלִי־פחד), i.e., her labor in laying her eggs is in vain (inasmuch as many of her eggs are abandoned by her to destruction), without her giving herself any trouble or anxiety on that account. This unconcern and carelessness of the female ostrich touching the fate of her young, which stands in glaring contrast with the tender anxiety of the stork-mother (Job 39:13 b), is carried to such a length, that she herself often stamps to pieces her eggs (the shells of which moreover are quite hard), when she observes that men or beasts have been about; and even uses the eggs which are left to lie unhatched in feeding the young ones as they creep forth. Comp. Wetzstein, in Delitzsch II., p. 339 seq.

Job 39:17. For God made her to forget wisdom, and gave her no share in understanding.—הִשָּׁהּ Perf. Hiph. with the suffix ־ָהּ from נשׁה (comp. Job 11:6). חָלַק בַּבִּינָה, “to give a share in understanding” (comp. Job 7:13; Job 21:25). For parallel expressions as to the thought, to wit, Arabic proverbs about the stupidity of the ostrich, see Schultens and Umbreit on the passage. The only other passage in the Old Testament where the cruelty of the ostrich is set forth in proverbial form is Lamentations 4:3.

Job 39:18. At the time when she lashes herself aloft, she laughs at the horse and his rider.—כָּעֵת, here not “at this time, just now” (Gesen., Schlott,), but=כָעֵת אֲשֶׁר, and hence with an elliptical relative clause following. Respecting מרא, which both in Kal. and Hiphil can signify “to lash, to beat,” and which in Hebrew is found in this signification only here, see Gesenius in the Lexicon. The whole verse describes in a way which combines simplicity and terseness with vividness, the lightning-like swiftness of an ostrich, or a herd of such birds, fleeing before hunters on horseback, the running movement of the bird being aided by the vibration of the wings. At the same time the mention of “the horse and his rider” prepares the transition to the description which follows, the only one in this series which refers to a tamed animal.

Job 39:19-25. The war-horse—a favorite subject of description also on the part of Arabian and other oriental poets; comp. the “Praise of the Horse” in 5. Hammer—Purgstall’s Duftkörner: Amrul-Keis, Moallakat, 39:50, 64, and other parallels to this passage cited by Umbreit. Of all these poetic descriptions which have come down from antiquity (to which also may be added Virgil, Georg. III, 75 seq.)., the present one is the oldest and most beautiful. [“In connection with this description of the war-horse, which among many similar ones is the most splendid, it has been justly observed that to a Hebrew the horse as a theme of description must seem all the more noble in that he was known not as a beast of draught, but only as a war-horse.” Schlottmann].

Job 39:19. Dost thou give strength (גְּבוּרָה used specially of warlike strength, fortitudo; comp. Judges 8:21; 2 Kings 18:20) dost thou clothe his neck with fluttering hair?i.e., with quivering, waving mane? It is thus that most moderns explain the word רַעְמָה, not found elsewhere, from the root רעם, “to quake” (Ezekiel 27:35), by comparison with the Greek φόβη (related to φόβος). The signification “thunder, neighing” (Symmach., Theodot., Jerome, Luther, Schlottmann) [E. V.] would indeed be etymologically admissible, but it would not be suited to the words “neck,” and “clothe.” Umbreit and Ewald, (§ 113, d) [the latter however in his Commentary as above—“quivering mane”] explain it by “dignity;” but the identity of רעמה with רַאְמָה is questionable, and such words as גָּאוֹן, or שְׂאֵת would have been more naturally used to express that idea.

Job 39:20. Dost thou make him leap like the locust?i.e., when he rushes along on the gallop, like a vastly enlarged bounding troop of locusts (comp. Joel 2:4). “What is intended, is a spiral motion in leaps, now to the right, now to the left, which is called the caracol, a word used in horsemanship, borrowed from the Arabic har-gala-l-farasu (comp. חַרְגֹּל), through the medium of the Moorish Spanish” (Delitzsch). [The rendering of E. V.: “canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper”—is at variance with the spirit of the description, which, in each member, sets forth some trait which commands admiration.—E.]. The glory of his snorting is a terror,—or, “since the glory of his snorting,” etc. (descriptive clause without וְ). On נחר “snorting,” comp. the Arabic nachir, “the death-rattle, snoring,” Greek, φρύαγμα, Lat., fremitus. חוד here denoting not a splendid appearance, but a majestic peal or roar.

Job 39:21. They explore in the valley, then he rejoiceth in strength.—The subject of יַחְפְּרוּ can scarcely be the hoofs of the horse (Delitzsch [“the representation of the many pawing hoofs being blended with that of the pawing horse”]), and the use throughout thus far of the singular in speaking of the horse (so also again in וְיָשִׂישׂ) makes it impossible that the plural here should refer to him. Hence the signification “pawing” preferred here by the ancient versions [and E. V.], and most of the moderns seems inadmissible, even admitting that חפר is the word commonly used for the pawing of the horse (see Schultens on the passage). We must rather with Cocceius and Ewald understand the subject to be the riders, or the warriors; “they take observations,” or “observations are taken in the valley (while it is uncertain whether the fighting should begin): then he rejoiceth in strength.” The meaning “to paw” is to be retained only in case we adopt with Dillmann [Merx] the reading יחְפֹּר, or with Böttcher יְחַפְּרֵר. He goes forth against an armed host, lit. “the armor;” נֶשֶׁק here otherwise than in Job 20:24.—On Job 39:22 comp. Job 39:7; Job 39:18.

Job 39:23. The quiver rattleth upon him;i.e. the quiver of the horseman who is seated upon him, not the hostile contents of the quiver, the whirring arrows of the enemy, as Schultens [Conant, Rodwell] explain. Besides this part of the armor, the second member mentions the “spear and the lance” [not “shield,” E. V.], or rather with poetic circumlocution, “the lightning (lit. flame) of the spear and the lance,” להב synonymous with בָּרָק, Job 20:25; comp. להט, Genesis 3:24; also Judges 3:22; 1 Samuel 17:7; Nahum 3:3.

Job 39:24. With rushing and raging he swallows the ground;i.e. in sweeping over the ground at full gallop, he swallows it up as it were; a figure which is current also among Arabic poets (see Schultens and Delitzsch on the passage). The assonance of רגז־רעש may be represented by “rushing and raging.”—And he does not stand still when the trumpet sounds.—Lit. “he does not show himself fixed, does not stay fixed, does not contain himself:” יַאֲמִין accordingly in its primitive sensuous meaning; not “he believes not” (Kimchi, Aben Ezra) [E. V. i.e. for joy; it is too good to be true]. As to קוֹל comp. Ewald, § 286, f [adverbial use of קול here=when the trumpet is loud]. As parallel in thought comp. beyond all other passages that of Virgil referred to above (Georg. III. 83 seq.):

… . Turn, si qua sonum procul arma dedere,
Stare loco nescit, micat auribus et tremit artus
Collectumque fremens volvit sub naribus ignem.

Job 39:25. As often as the trumpet (sounds), he says, Aha! i. e., he neighs, full of a joyous eagerness for the battle. On בְּרֵיquotiescunque (lit. “in sufficiency”), comp. Ewald, § 337, c.And from afar he smells the battle, the thunder (comp. Job 36:29) of the captains, and the shouting (the battle-cries of the contestants; comp. Judges 7:18 seq.). Similarly Pliny, N. H. VIII. Job 42:0 : præsagiunt pugnam: and of moderns more particularly Layard (New Discoveries, p. 330): “Although 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,” etc.

Job 39:26. The hawk, as the first example of birds of prey, distinguished by their strength, lightning-like swiftness, and lofty flight.—Doth the hawk fly upward by thy understanding?—נֵץ (the “high flyer”) is, according to the unanimous testimony of the ancient versions, the hawk, a significant bird, as is well known, in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, which is here introduced on account of its mysteriously note-worthy characteristic of taking its flight southwards at the approach of winter (Pliny, N. H. x. 8). For it is to this that the apocop. Imperf. Hiph. יַאֲבֶר (denominative from אֶבְרָה, “wing”) refers: assurgit, attollitur alis, not to the yearly moulting, which precedes the migration southward (Vulg.: plumescit; in like manner the Targ., Gregory the Great, Rosenm.). For this annual renewal of plumage (πτεροφυεῖν, see LXX., Isaiah 40:31) is common to all birds, and is predicated elsewhere in the Old Testament only of the eagle (Psalms 103:5; Micah 1:16; Isaiah 40:31), not of the hawk.

Job 39:27-30. The eagle, as king of the birds, closing the series of native animals here described, in like manner as the lion, as king of the mammalia, had opened the series. נֶשֶׁר is in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, like ἀετός in the New Testament (comp. Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37), a. common designation of the eagle proper, and of the vulture: and the characteristic of carnivorousness which is here and often elsewhere referred to belongs in fact not only to the varieties of the vulture (such as the carrion-kite and lammergeyer), but also to the more common varieties of the eagle, such as the golden eagle and the osprey, which do not disdain to eat the carcasses of animals which have recently died. Comp. Winer’s Real-Wörter-Buch, under Adler.—Doth the eagle soar at thy command? lit. make high (יגביה, scil. עוף) his flight; comp. Job 5:7.—And build his nest on high? lit. “is it at thy command that he builds his nest on high?” Comp. Obadiah 1:4; Jeremiah 49:16; Proverbs 30:19.

Job 39:28. With the phrase שֶׁן־סֶלַע, lit. “tooth of the rock,” comp. the names Dent du midi, Dent-blanche, Dent de Moreles, etc.

Job 39:30. And his young ones lap up blood.—[The gender throughout is masculine, not fem. as in E. V.] יְעַלְעוּ from עלע, an abbreviated secondary form of עִלְעֵל, Pilp. of עוּל, “to suck.” Possibly, however, we should read (with Gesen. and Olsh.) יְלַעְלְעוּ, from לעע לוּע=, deglutere. On the sucking of blood by the young eagles, comp. Ælian, H. anim. x. Job 14:0 : σαρκῶν ἤδεται βορᾶ καὶ πίνει αἶμα καὶ τὰ νεόττια ἐκτρέφει τοῖς αὐτοῖς.

 7. Conclusion of the discourse, together with Job’s answer: Job 40:1-5.

Job 40:2. Will the censurer contend with the Almighty ? to wit, after all that has here been laid before him in proof of the greatness and wonderful power of God. Observe the return to Job 38:2, which this question brings about. רֹב Inf. absol. of רִיב (as in Judges 11:25) here in the sense of a future. The adoption of this construction in preference to the finite verb gives a meaning that is particularly forcible. Comp. the well-known sentence: mene incepto desistere victim? Also Ewald, § 328, a.He who hath reproved God, let him answer it;i.e. let him reply to all the questions asked from Job 38:2 on.

Job 40:4. Behold, I am too base;i.e. to solve the problem presented, I am not equal to it.—I lay my hand on my mouth; i.e. I impose on myself absolute silence; comp. Job 21:5; Job 29:9.

Job 40:5. Once have I spoken, and I will not again begin, will no more undertake to speak; see on Job 3:2. “Once—twice,” as in Psalms 62:12 [11], are used only because of the poetic parallelism for “often;” comp. Gesenius, § 120 [§ 118], 5. The solemn formal retractation which Job here makes of his former presumptuous challenges of God marks the first stage of his gradual return to a more becoming position toward God. It is God’s purpose, however, to lead him forward from this first stage, consisting in true self-humiliation (in contrast to his former self-exaltation) to a still more advanced stage—even the complete melting down of his heart in sincere penitence. It is the realization of this purpose which Jehovah seeks in His second and last discourse.


1. As a magnificent specimen of physico-the-ological demonstration in poetic form, the present discourse of God, the first and longest which He delivers, is incomparable. With wonderful symmetry of treatment, it makes first the inanimate, and then the animate creation the theme of profound contemplation; each of these domains being treated with about the same fulness, and with a homologous arrangement of strophes (see Exegetical Remarks, No. 1), in order thus to impress Job with the highest admiration of the divine power, wisdom and goodness, as these attributes are revealed in the entire world of nature. The First Long Strophe (Job 38:4-15) which makes the creation of the heavens, the earth, and the sea, the theme of contemplation serves to illustrate principally the divine omnipotence, together with the attributes most immediately related to it, eternity, infinity and omnipresence, or the divine being as transcending space and time. Towards the close of this strophe the attribute of justice is also drawn into the circle of contemplation, it being one chief object of the whole description to represent the Almighty God as being also just in His vast activities, always and everywhere just (see Job 40:13-15). The consideration of omnipotence is next followed by that of wisdom, together with the attribute of omniscience which stands most closely connected with it, the discussion having reference to the hidden heights and depths above and below the earth, from which the phenomena of the atmosphere and of light, proceed (Second Long Strophe, Job 38:16 seq.). Already toward the end of this description the attribute of God’s goodness emerges into view, as it is shown in the beneficent effects of the rain-showers (Job 40:25-27). Afterwards in the third Long Strophe (Job 40:28-38) this attribute retires again to the background, while the power manifested in the heavens, and the wisdom revealed in the atmosphere, occupy the foreground. All the more decidedly however in the last three Long Strophes, or in the zoological and biological description constituting the section which we have marked d (Job 38:39 to Job 39:30), is the discourse again directed to the goodness of God, or to the Creator’s fatherly care, which is most intimately united with His power and wisdom, and which in the exercise of them takes the most particular interest in the life of His earthly animate creation. For all that is advanced in this section in the way of proof of the wonderful wisdom and all-penetrative knowledge of the Most High in the sphere of animal life, and of its ordinary as well as its extraordinary phenomena is subordinated to the teleological reference to His special providence, in view of which not one of His creatures is indifferent to Him. (Comp. Bochart’s Remarks on Job 39:1-4 : The knowledge here spoken of is not passive and speculative simply, but that knowledge which belongs to God, by which He not only knows all things, but directs and governs them, etc.). That which makes this survey of the most exalted attributes of God as reflected in the wonders of His creation especially impressive is the accumulation of so many examples and illustrations from the domain of physical theology, and the wonderful art with which they are elaborated in the minutest detail, together with the striking harmony and consistency which their arrangement exhibits, notwithstanding all the flow and freedom of the poetic sweep of thought. Not one of these illustrations from the great book of creation is absolutely new. Job himself has more than once in his discourses introduced brief reflective descriptions of nature similar in kind, and scarcely inferior in beauty (Job 9:4-10; Job 12:7-10; Job 12:12-25; Job 26:5-14); even Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have at least occasionally described, not without skill and taste, the divine power and wisdom, as they are revealed in the works of His creation; and Elihu near the close of his discourses dwelt on this theme at length, and with powerful effect. The grandeur and superiority of that which Jehovah here advances, in part confirming, in part going beyond those utterances of the former speakers, consists in the way in which, alike with artless simplicity, and with harmonious and connected order, He has accumulated such an array of the most manifold and luminous evidences of His majesty as revealed in the wonders of nature. Comp. Julius Fürst, Geschichte der biblischen Literatur, etc., II., p. Job 418: “The poet has here artistically combined the utmost polish of diction, the greatest abundance of natural pictures, the most thrilling and winning vividness in the succinct descriptions given of the wonders of creation; and the effect on Job must have been really overpowering. The reader also finds the discourse distinguished by tone and harmony, by power, acuteness, and clearness, by method, order, and plan, so that it presents itself as the most beautiful discourse in the Old Testament Scriptures. In this discourse, cast in the form of questions, Jehovah exhibits the animate and inanimate creation, the manifold channels in which the forces of nature secretly operate, its wonderful and mysterious phenomena, as they are held together in glorious order by His creative hand, as they are ruled by His nod. The eternal creative energy, which bears witness to a wisdom that is unsearchable, to a providential love, to a wise moral order of the universe, appears to the weak human spirit as an insoluble mystery, which has for its aim to put Job to shame. In this discourse, embracing six long strophes, each consisting for the most part of twelve verse-lines, the exhibition of the transcendent wonders of nature certainly imparts indescribable power to the contemplation of the greatness of the Creator. Every one must see however that these natural wonders, after we have explained them in their immediate foundations through our knowledge of natural laws, and after we have understood them from the general laws of nature, must be understood according to the effects which they produce. The next thing to be noticed is the poetic conception of the beauty of nature, the deep mental contemplation of the Cosmos, as it shows itself among all the civilized nations of antiquity; and then the poetry of nature found among the Hebrews, considered particularly as the reflex of monotheism. The characteristic marks of the Hebrew poetry of nature, as A. Von Humboldt strikingly observes in his Cosmos, are that “it always embraces the whole universe in its unity, comprising both terrestrial life and the luminous realms of space. It dwells but rarely on the individuality of phenomena, preferring the contemplation of great masses. The Hebrew poet does not depict nature as a self-dependent object, glorious in its individual beauty, but always as in relation and subjection to a higher spiritual power. The natural wonders here sung by the poet point to the invariableness, the amazing regularity of the operations of nature, i.e., to its laws, which lead us to adore supreme wisdom, power, and love, lead us in a word to religion. Finally, it is to be borne in mind that the century in which the poet lived was one of the earliest in which such questions were propounded, and sketches of nature made.”—Comp. the still more decided appreciation of the contents of our discourse as respects its natural theology and its æsthetic features in the book of Jos. L. Saalschütz, entitled Form und Geist der biblisch-hebräischen Poesie, Königsb., 1853, (Third Lecture: Biblisch-hebräische Naturanschau-ung und Natur-poesie); also Ad. Kohnt’s Alexander v. Humboldt und das Judenthum, Leipzig, 1871 (Fourth Part: Humboldt’s Stellung zur Bibel), also the striking observations of Reuss, in his Vortrag über das Buch Job towards the end), which show with peculiar beauty how that, notwithstanding the vast enlargement of our knowledge of nature in modern times, the larger number of the questions here addressed by Jehovah to Job, still remain as unanswerable as at the time when the poem was composed; the fact being that it is only the old formulas in respect to particular mysterious phenomena which have disappeared before a clearer and fuller knowledge, not the mysteries themselves, and that accordingly even to the naturalist of the present, God remains a hidden God. See further on this subject in the Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks on the following discourse of God (Job 40-41).

2. Notwithstanding all the admiration which this first discourse of Jehovah evokes in view of the evidences here presented of its beauty, and in particular of the value of its contributions to natural theology, we might still continue in doubt respecting its congruity to the plan and connection of the poem as a whole. It might seem singular and incongruous: (1) That the discourse from beginning to end runs through a series of questions from God to Job, calculated to shame and humiliate the latter, when he has already (Job 9:3) declared his shrinking from such a rigid inquisition, and his inability to answer even one in a thousand of such questions as the Most High might ask of him. (2) Fault might be found moreover with the contents of these questions, as exhibiting too little that is new, that has not already been touched upon, as being in too close agreement with what has been advanced by Job himself in respect to the greatness and wisdom revealed in the Cosmos, as being therefore too exclusively physical, i.e. as being too little adapted to produce a direct impression on the inward perversity and blindness of him who is addressed (an objection which has in fact been to some extent urged by some expositors and critics, as e. g. by de Wette, Knobel, Arnheim, etc.). The first of these objections, however, is directed against what is simply a misconception; for that declaration of Job in respect to his inability to answer God is made only incidentally, and in no wise conditions the final issue of the action of the poem. On the contrary Job had in the course of his discourses wished often enough that God might enter into a controversy with him. And, most of all, the questions which God puts to him, and of which he cannot answer one, are significantly related in the way of contrast to the last of the presumptuous challenges which Job had put forth. Whereas in Job 31:35 he had exclaimed: “Let the Almighty answer me!” God now fulfils this wish, although in quite another way than that which he had expected. He speaks to him out of the storm, not however by way of reply or self-vindication, but throughout asking questions, and so overwhelming the presumptuous fault-finder with a series of unanswerable queries, permanently silencing him, and compelling him at last to acknowledge his submission. At the same time the tendency of these divine questions is by no means to stun, to crush, to annihilate. Here and there it is true their tone borders on irony (see especially Job 38:21; Job 38:28; Job 39:1 seq.). It never, however, becomes harsh or haughty; on the contrary it is throughout affectionately condescending, lifting up at the same time that it humbles, gently administering instruction and consolation.—And as with this interrogative form of the discourse, so also is its natural theology thoroughly suited to the divine purpose in regard to Job. That self-humiliation, that silent submission to the divine will as being always and in every case wise, just and good, which was to be wrought in Job, how could it have been more suitably promoted than by pointing him to the visible creation, which already in and of itself is full, nay which overflows with facts adapted to vanquish all human pride and presumption? And especially may we ask in respect to that, presumptuous argument, on which Job had continually planted himself in opposition to God: “I have not transgressed; therefore my grievous suffering is absolutely inexplicable—may more, is unreasonable and unjust,”—how could the error and folly of that position have been more effectually demonstrated to him than by a reference to the numberless inexplicable and incomprehensible subjects which continually present themselves to us in the realms of nature, in its life, processes and events? how could the doubt respecting the logical and ethical grounds of the apparently harsh treatment to which God had subjected him, be more effectually disposed of than by bringing forward various phenomena of physical life on earth and elsewhere, each one of which stands before us as an amazing wonder, and as an eloquent witness of the unsearchableness of God’s ways, who in what He does is ever wise, and whose purpose is ever one of love? Comp. Delitzsch (II., p. 354): “From the marvellous in nature, he divines that which is marvellous in his affliction. His humiliation under the mysteries of nature is at the same time humiliation under the mystery of his affliction.” And a little before (p. 352): “Contrary to expectation, God begins to speak with Job about totally different matters from His justice or injustice in reference to his affliction. Therein already lies a deep humiliation for Job. But a still deeper one is God’s turning, as it were, to the abecedarium naturæ, and putting the censurer of His doings to the blush. That God is the almighty and all-wise Creator and Ruler of the world, that the natural world is exalted above human knowledge and power, and is full of marvellous divine creations and arrangements, full of things mysterious and incomprehensible to ignorant and feeble man, Job knows even before God speaks, and yet he must now hear it, because he does not know it rightly; for the nature with which he is acquainted as the herald of the creative and governing power of God, is also the preacher of humility; and exalted as God the Creator and Ruler of the natural world is above Job’s censure, so is He also as the author of His affliction. That which is new therefore in the speech of Jehovah is not the proof of God’s exaltation in itself, but the relation to the mystery of his affliction, and to his conduct towards God in this his affliction, in which Job is necessitated to place perceptions not in themselves strange to him. He who cannot answer a single one of those questions taken from the natural kingdom, but, on the contrary, must everywhere admire and adore the power and wisdom of God—he must appear as an insignificant fool, if he applies them to his limited judgment concerning the Author of his affliction.”


In the homiletic treatment of this first discourse of Jehovah’s, it will be necessary of course to explain its position in the structure of the poem as a whole, and the significance of its contents for the solution of the problem of the book. All that pertains to this, however, will evidently possess only a subordinate practical value. For the practical treatment, on the contrary, it is of the highest importance suitably to set forth the value of the contents of the discourse for modern doubters, or those who after Job’s fashion find fault with divine providence; to show accordingly that the questions contained in it touching natural theology are still in a certain sense unanswerable, and that the mysteries to which allusion is made ever remain real mysteries, even to the greatest intellects in the world of science. In this connection use might be made, in the way of illustration and exemplification, of the many confessions which have been made by the greatest investigators of nature touching the incompleteness and limitation of all earthly knowledge and of all the discoveries which have hitherto been achieved in the department of natural science (especially the confessions of astronomers like Newton, Herschel, A. V. Humboldt, Laplace, and recently by Proctor [Other worlds than ours, Preface], and also by chemists and biologists, such as J. V. Liebig, Darwin, Laugel, etc.) The phenomena described in the first half of the discourse (Job 38:4-38), derived from the consideration of the heavens and of atmospheric meteorology, being pre-eminently rich in convincing examples of the mystery and unsearchableness which characterize the divine procedure in the economy of nature, also admit evidently of being considered with particular thoroughness (as e.g., a point which obviously suggests itself—by calling attention in connection with such passages as Job 38:22 seq., Job 38:29 seq. to the fruitlessness, and indeed the hopelessness of the attempts hitherto made to reach the North Pole). The zoological and biological phenomena, on the other hand, which form the subject of the second half of the divine description, it will be better to present together in brief outline, in so far at least as the purpose of illustrating the incomprehensibility of the divine agency in creating and governing the universe is concerned. This second series of natural facts on the contrary are all the better suited to the basis of meditations on the fatherly love of God which remembers and cares for all His creatures, whether brutes or men.

Particular Passages

Job 38:4 seq. Brentius: The aim of this discourse is to show that no one has the right to accuse the Lord of injustice. The proof of this point is that the Lord alone is the Creator of all things, which with a certain amplification is illustrated from various classes of creatures. … From the history of these creatures God proves that it is permitted to no one to accuse Divine sovereignty of injustice, or to resist it; for of all creatures not one was the Lord’s counsellor, or rendered Him any aid in the creation of the world. He can without any injustice therefore dispose of all creatures according to His own will, and create one vessel to honor, another to dishonor, as it may please Him.—Oecolampadius: No other reason can be given than His own good pleasure why God did not make the earth ten times larger. He had the power to enlarge it, no less than to confine it within such narrow limits; He would have been able to make valleys, where there are mountains, and conversely, etc. But He is Lord, and it pleased Him to assign to things the length and depth and breadth which they now have.—Cramer: That God, who has from eternity dwelt in inaccessible light, has revealed Himself through the work of creation, receives its explanation out of the depth of His great goodness and mercy. When therefore we treat of God, of His works and mysteries, we must do it with beseeming modesty and reverence. … If even the book of nature transcends our ability to decipher it fully, how much more incomprehensible and mysterious will the book of Holy Scripture be for us.—von Gerlach: The fundamental thought of these representations which God here puts forth is that only He who can create and govern all things, who superintends everything and adjusts all things in their relation to each other, can also comprehend the connection of human destinies. Inasmuch however as feeble short-sighted man cannot understand and fathom the created things which are daily surrounding him, how can he assume to himself any part of God’s agency in administering the universe?

Job 38:16 seq. von Gerlach: Of the particular subject here referred to [scientific discoveries in the natural world], it is true that the later researches of mankind have accomplished much, only however to reveal new depths of this immeasurable creation. In seeking to penetrate into the meaning of these words, we are not to dwell on the literal features of each separate statement. It is a poetic and splendid description of the greatness and unsearchableness of God in creation, from the point of view which men then occupied, a description which retains its lofty internal truth, although the letter of it, regarded from the stand-point of our present knowledge of nature no longer seems as striking to us as the ancients. Indeed it may be said that this more thorough investigation of natural laws has itself vastly increased the number and greatness of such wonders as are set forth in this description for him who enters into the spirit of it.

Job 38:39 seq.; Job 40:1 seq. Cramer: The volume of natural history [das Thierbuch] which God here writes out for us, should be a genuine text-book to all the virtues.—Starke: If animals, whether strong or despicable, great or small, are embraced in God’s merciful providential care, we can regard their need as a silent appeal to the goodness of the Lord, and in this sense even the ravens cry to God when they cry out from hunger.

Job 39:27 seq. Vict. Andrea: From that which is here intimated (to wit, that other animals must sacrifice their life, in order to satisfy the blood-thirsty brood of an eagle) do we not see that the suffering of a simple creature might in God’s plan be designed to benefit other creatures of God?—So the death of a man may, through the terrifying effect which it has on others, often be a blessing to them. And how often is severe sickness, wholly irrespective of the end which the suffering may have for the patient himself, a most effective school of sympathy, yea, of the most self-sacrificing love for all who surround the sufferer. Very often such a sufferer, if he diligently strives to exhibit in his own person a pattern of resignation and praise to God, has been a rich source of light and blessing for those who are round about him! How short-sighted it is therefore for the sick to complain that their life is wholly without use, that they are only a burden to those who are about them, etc. In short the majesty of God has only to question man, in order to bring into the dearest consciousness his narrow limitations.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 39". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/job-39.html. 1857-84.
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