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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Job 38

Verses 1-41

Marvellously, God Himself directly intervenes in this discussion so early in the history of man. The storm that had been brewing as Elihu spoke becomes a whirlwind, and God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. Job had felt his whole life to be in the vortex of a whirlwind, but he little realised that God was speaking in the very troubles he faced, therefore God spoke directly to him. This was miraculous, of course, and there was no possibility that Job would not listen.

It may seem amazing that God would take time to speak to one man in the presence of only a few others when the message He gave was so wonderful that all mankind should benefit by it. However, it was not necessary to speak to large numbers, for the complete record is given in writing for the benefit of every person who will read it, from that time in early history throughout all succeeding history. Who could dare to question the magnificent wonder of these words directly from God in chapters 38 to 41? How well it is for us to take this message deeply to heart.

Are His words too philosophic to understand? Not at all! This is no treatise on theological mysteries, but a plain appeal to simple honesty, concerning the evident facts of God's creation. It surely puts man in his place, for it gives God His true place of Creator and Sustainer of all the universe. How well worth our serious meditation are all the details of which God speaks to Job.

GOD'S CALL TO JOB

(vv.1-3)

It should be very clear to everyone that God is not speaking to Elihu, but that He confirms what Elihu had said as He answers Job directly (v.1). Most of what God says is in the form of questions. His first question is, "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge," (v.2) - in other words, "Who do you think you are, Job?" Job's words lacked the knowledge he ought to have had, and God will deeply impress this upon him.

"Now prepare yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer Me" (v.3). God expects Job to take only a man's place, and the questions God asks are simple enough for a man to understand, though Job would find himself helpless to answer such questions.

QUESTIONS AS TO GOD'S WORKS OF CREATION

(vv.4-38)

This section is divided into seven parts, beginning with

THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH

(vv.4-7)

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (v.4). Does the earth have foundations? - an earth that revolves in space with nothing to hold it up? Yes, it could not even exist without a fundamental basis of truth, but could Job explain this? Can anyone today explain it? No! For one thing, none of us was present when God laid these foundations, and who can understand anything about the way that creation came into existence? "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalms 33:9). The earth's foundations and earth itself were created at the same instant, simply by the Word of God.

"Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!" (v.5). Of course Job knew that only God could do this. "Who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened?" (v.6). Certainly the foundations of the earth are not fastened to anything visible to us.. Whether Job knew this at that time or not, he could certainly not answer God's question. When man builds he must have a foundation fastened to something solid, but what of God's building? Man too requires a corner stone. Who laid the corner stone for God's building?

[Creation of Angels]

At the creation of earth "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." There is no doubt the sons of God are angels (ch.1:6), who were therefore created before the earth was. If "the morning stars" are literal stars, then the stars too were created before the earth was, it may be objected thatGenesis 1:16; Genesis 1:16 seems to indicate that God made stars on the fourth day of the refurbishing of the earth, but when we are told, "He made the starts also," this is likely not chronological, but a notice of a creation prior to the history of the fourth day. We may question if literal stars can sing, but science has told us that there is a harmony of sound emanating from the stars. At least there was a great celebration among God's creatures when He created the earth.

HIS CONTROL OF THE SEAS

(vv.8-11)

"Who shut in the sea with doors?" (v.8). God is not speaking here of the original creation, but of His separating the waters above from the waters beneath (Genesis 1:6-7). For the earth was at first covered with water, then the waters were separated and the dry land appeared. As the Word of God caused the appearance of the land, so His Word caused the waters to be gathered "into one place" (Genesis 1:9).

As to the seas being gathered together into one place, it is a known fact that all the seas are connected, which is not true of the lands. But this tremendous body of waters, always in motion, often surging in mighty waves, so that man is helpless before its raging, is yet under the perfect control of the Creator. He says, "I make clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band." Yet how good to read in Psalms 93:4, "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea."

This is beautifully confirmed in verses 10 and 11: "I fixed My limit for it and set bars and doors, when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop."' People may speak of "natural laws" as causing this phenomenon, but who is the Author of natural law?

How striking is the spiritual significance of God's control of the seas! Job felt as though the waves of the sea were engulfing him in the succession of painful tribulations that seemed to be uncontrolled. Believers may pass through times of turbulent unrest and distress as though tossed by the waves of a rolling sea, but God is in perfect control of all this, and is able to quiet the sea immediately, just as the Lord Jesus did when His disciples were so alarmed: "He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still:' and the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39).

THE DAY DISPLACING THE NIGHT

(vv.12-15)

Did Job decide when the morning was to dawn? (v.12). What a question for the man who thought he could practically make God accountable to him! The morning always follows the night, and what man can change this amazing fact? Job had been feeling the darkness of night in the hard experiences he had suffered. If he could command the morning, then he could bring complete relief to the trials of darkness. But only God can cause the dawn to know its place.

Verse 13 reminds us that when the millennial day dawns it will embrace "the ends of the earth," and the wicked will be shaken out of it. The wicked, who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, will at that day be exposed by the light of "the Sun of righteousness" arising with "healing in His wings." The Lord Jesus, the true Light, will so expose the wicked as to shake them out of the earth.

As to verse 24, Samuel Ridout writes, "As the marks of the signet ring upon the formless day, so the light stamps upon the face of the earth the varied forms and colours of all things. They stand out like a lovely garment - or the reverse, a scene of ruin - under the light. The light shows all things as they are" (The Book of Job - S. Ridout - p.227).

Because the wicked love darkness, then light is withheld from them (v.15), and their arm, upraised in opposition to God, is simply broken. Job should certainly have been deeply impressed by this, for he had been dangerously close to raising his arm in opposing God, and in this way acting as the wicked do.

THINGS UNFATHOMED, UNMEASURED

(vv.16-21)

Now God asks Job if he had entered the springs of the sea or walked in search of the depths (v.16). We are told that the insect population of the world is far greater in weight than all the human and animal population - though it would require quite a number of mosquitoes to equal the weight of one elephant! But all the population of earth -human, animals, insects and birds - are nothing compared to the population of the seas, for the seas are populated in all areas and at every level. Job had no idea of what was unseen beneath the surface of the seas.

Had the gates of death been opened to him? (v.17). Of course the seas have swallowed countless millions of people (including those drowned in the flood of Noah's day); but apart from this, did Job understand where death had taken those who had been claimed by it through all the years?

"Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this" (v.18). At that time, no doubt Job did not know the earth was formed as a tremendous ball rotating in space. But even today, though we are told the earth Isaiah 25:0 miles in circumference, who can possibly comprehend the greatness of this? Though scientists have learned a great deal about God's creation, yet the more they learn, the more evident it becomes that their ignorance is far greater than their knowledge.

"Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place?" (v.19). God had said, "Let there be light" on the first day of the remaking of the earth (Genesis 1:3), before the sun was set in its place on the fourth day. Some scientists have considered that the sun was the source of light, but further searching has persuaded them that there is light apart from the sun. Where does it come from? We do not know any more about this than Job did. Thus, the origin of light or the origin of darkness are matters of which mankind is totally ignorant.

Could Job take the light or the darkness back to its original place of dwelling? (v.20). The very question would not have arisen in men's minds, but God raises it simply to show how greatly man's knowledge is limited. The irony of verse 21 is striking. Was Job born when light was introduced? Had he lived so many years? Of course these words of God are simply intended to put Job in his place.

THE ELEMENTS

(vv.22-30)

The Lord now turns to bring to Job's attention the many elements of the weather, which continually affect people in various ways, - the snow, hail, wind, rain, frost and dew. Amazingly, every snowflake (of which there are trillions) is beautifully designed in a pattern of six points, yet none have ever been found to be identical to another! Snow provides a cover for earth in winter to protect the ground from freezing deeply. In the snow there are treasures of which Job was totally ignorant, and similarly in the hail. While the snow may be for protection, the hail is reserved for times of trouble, battle and war. Both snow and hail are frozen water, but how different they are when falling on earth!

Man likes to think of himself as in control of things, but can he control the snow or the hail or the wind? (vv.22-24). Verse 24 inserts the matter of the way in which light is diffused before speaking of the east wind. For Job was to realise that the light of God was involved in all His actions, and just as definitely at work when He sent His east wind of strong adversity. God's ways had really been darkness to Job, so he did not understand the way God was diffusing His light.

Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one?" (vv.25-26). Sometimes the rain causes overflowing floods, sometimes even where there are no inhabitants, yet also sometimes where the inhabitants are greatly affected by it. But God's work is not confined to the needs of humans, little as we may understand these things. Our mere human thoughts centre around ourselves, which is only unseemly pride. God's thoughts are infinitely higher than we naturally imagine (Isaiah 55:8-9).

"Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew?" (v.28). Where and when the rain falls may seem to us totally haphazard, but it is dependent simply on the will of our God and Father, who never makes a mistake. Similarly, frost is always sent by Him in perfect wisdom for every occasion (v.29). How it is possible for water to harden like stone is only explained by God's law in sending the cold (v.30). Who really understands this?

THE HEAVENLY BODIES

(vv.31-33)

Job had spoken of "the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades" (ch.9:9), so that he knew something of astronomy. The Lord draws his attention first to the Pleiades, meaning "the heap of stars," asking if Job can "bind the chains of the Pleiades." Astronomers discovered "that the whole solar system is moving forward around Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades" (Fausset's Bible Encyclopaedia - p. 576). While the planets revolve around the sun, the sun and all the planets revolve around Alcyone at the rate of 422,000 miles per day! Such are the chains (or "binds") of the Pleiades that captivate the whole solar system. Could Job bind such influences? Or could he loose the belt of Orion, the force that keeps Orion in its orbit? Could he bring out Mazzaroth (the constellations of stars) in their proper season? Could he guide the Great Bear with its cubs?

Thus the stars of the heavens were a matter of common knowledge at this early date in history, and the names have remained the same. But did Job know the ordinances God had established in the heavens? Did he even understand the relationship the stars had to the earth, let alone being able to set those stars in places of dominion over the earth? Astrologers try to correlate the movement of the stars with the events of earth, but their efforts only expose their utter ignorance.

HOW ARE CLOUDS CONTROLLED?

(vv.34-38)

These verses conclude the first section of God's answer to Job, for it is clear that chapter 39 should begin with verse 39 of chapter 38. He had spoken of the rain in verses 25-28, now He adds a question as to whether Job could give orders to the clouds to drop their water when Job desired it (v.34). We may see the clouds dark and heavy and think at such a time that we could tell the clouds to pour out their rain, but it may be that no rain falls at all. Lightning may trigger a rainfall, but who can send the lightning? (v.35). If man does have any wisdom at all, who has put it in his mind? Is he to have the credit for this? Or does he manufacture his own understanding? (v.36). If one thinks he is wise, let him number the clouds! They are so constantly changing and on the move, often amazing in their magnificence, that we are wise simply to observe and marvel at the display they present, rather than to think of numbering them. May such lessons deeply impress us.

GOD'S CARE FOR HIS CREATURES

(ch.38:39 to 39:30)

THE BEASTS OF PREY

(vv.38-41)

God is not only infinitely great, but He has a heart of kindness and care for all His creation. In this section He begins with the beasts of prey, with which we should not likely begin, for we think of them as needing no outside care for they are predators. But they require the care of God as do all other creatures. God has made them as they are and provides for them in the fact of their being able to hunt their own food. Who would think of hunting food for them, at least while they are in the wilds? "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God" (Psalms 104:21).

Even Satan (who is spoken of as "a roaring lion" - 1 Peter 5:8) is dependent on God for his very existence. It was Satan who implied to Eve that God was not good in withholding from her and her husband the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1); yet Satan has himself benefited by God's goodness since the time of his creation.

The raven is a bird of prey (v.41), but if God did not provide the prey for them and their young, how could they continue to exist? Interestingly, it is said here, "its young ones cry to God." Whether intelligently or not is not the question, but God recognises their cry. If so, did God not hear the cry of Job? Of course He did, though He did not answer Job at just the time and in the way that Job thought He ought to.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Job 38". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/job-38.html. 1897-1910.