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JEHOVAH’S ADDRESS TO JOB
Elihu had now said all he intended. Possibly interrupted by the storm which had been gathering during his speech. Out of the storm-cloud, from which already issued thunders and lightnings, the Almighty was now to speak. The grandeur and sublimity of the scene not to be surpassed. Its only counterpart at the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18).
I. The announcement of the Almighty’s speech. Job 38:1.—“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (or storm-cloud). Observe—
1. The Speaker. “The Lord”—ehovah. A name
(1) Mysterious; expressive of the mysterious attributes of Godhead—eternity, self-existence, unchangeableness, self-dependence—He Who was, is, and is to be. Equivalent to that given by God Himself at the burning bush: “I am,” or “I am that I am”.
(2) Gracious; a covenant name. Assumed by God in relation to Israel as His chosen and covenant people—“Jehovah, the God of Israel”. Indicates unchangeable faithfulness in the performance of His promises and covenant obligations. Especially revealed to Moses at the bush as expressive of the relationship to be established between God and Israel from that period. The pronunciation of the name lost to the Jews, together with their covenant relationship to the Almighty. Now known by them only as the name of four letters. “Adonai”—Lord or Master—substituted for it. The name as given in the text, probably indicative of the Israelitish authorship of the book, as well as in some degree of the period of its composition. The name applied in the Bible to three distinct persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here the Son intended as “The Word,” or He by Whom the Godhead speaks and reveals Himself to man (John 1:1). Unspeakable condescension on the part of Jehovah to address Himself to fallen man in any other way than one of judgment.
2. The speech. “Answered.” God’s address to Job an “answer”. Mercy implied in God’s speaking to man at all. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers,” &c. (Hebrews 1:1). Might have treated men as the fallen angels—with eternal silence. One of the greatest trials and griefs to the godly when God appears to be “silent to them” (Psalms 28:1). Saul’s great misery that God answered him no more (1 Samuel 28:15). Especial mercy when God answers men. Implies felt need and desire on man’s part—sense of darkness, perplexity, want. God still answers men—by His written word, His Spirit, the lips of His servants, His providence. Especial mercy when God answers men. Job’s three friends, and then Elihu, had answered Job, but without effect. The answer from God Himself needed. “None teacheth like Him.” “I am the Lord that teacheth thee to profit.” He speaks and instructs “with a strong hand” (Isaiah 8:11). His word with power. The proper posture of men in relation to God that of Samuel: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth;” or that of David: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak” (1 Samuel 3:10; Psalms 85:8). God’s answer to Job given according to his desire, yet not such as he expected. Intended not to vindicate Himself or His procedure, but to instruct and humble Job. Given to convince him of the sinfulness of his complaints and questionings, by showing him his own ignorance and littleness in contrast with Jehovah’s omniscience and almightiness. Designed to show him his inability even to judge of His Maker’s procedure, from his inability to explain the commonest operations in nature. The answer a prosecution of the argument of Elihu. Job apparently silenced, but not convinced, by Elihu’s speeches. The address unequalled for majesty of sentiment and sublimity of language by any uninspired production either of ancient or modern times. The speech a daring flight for a poet, but sustained because inspired. The book of Job the sublimest poem in the world. “One of the grandest things ever written with pen—nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.”—Carlyle. This speech the sublimest part of the book.
3. The party addressed. “Job.” Others present; possibly, however, without hearing, or at least understanding, what was spoken. Saul’s companions on the way to Damascus saw the light, but “heard not the voice of Him that spake to him” (Acts 22:9). Yet, they “heard a voice, but saw no man”—hearing it without understanding its utterance (Acts 9:7). A Divine voice, like thunder, spoke to Jesus in the presence of the people, understood by Him, but not by them (John 12:28-29). Observe—
(1) Divine sovereignty. The three friends in greater error than Job, yet Job only answered. Yet
(2) sovereignty exercised in justice and goodness. Job alone desired an answer from God, and alone believed that such would be given.
(3) Divine mercy and kindness in answering Job. His spirit at times all but, if not actually, rebellious, and his language petulant and irreverent—such as called for deep repentance. God does not turn away from His sincere, though sinning, servants.
(4) God’s faithfulness to His people. His answer a sharp reproof to Job. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” God loves His people too well to suffer sin upon them. Saints often dealt with in an apparently rougher manner than even sinners.
(5) The particularity of God’s dealing with men. Job singled out in this address, as if the only person present. So always when God speaks effectually. “Thou art the man.” “Zacchæus, make haste and come down.” The Good Shepherd “calleth His own sheep by their name.”
4. The place. “Out of the whirlwind”. The tempest raised for this special purpose. Perhaps an ordinary storm-cloud now produced in the providence of God to be employed as His pavilion whence to issue this address. Natural for a storm to be chosen for such a purpose. Perhaps a similar storm employed in the giving of the law (Exodus 19:18). All nature under God’s control, and ready at His call. The lightnings His servants, saying: Here we are (Job 38:35). A storm the symbol of judgment and the expression of power. The descent of the Spirit at Pentecost like the sound of “a rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2). Divine interposition on behalf of David and David’s Lord represented as connected with a storm of wind and hail, thundering and lightning (Psalms 18:9-14). Clouds, fire, and tempest accompany the Judge’s descent at the last day (Psalms 50:3; Daniel 7:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Revelation 1:7). The whirlwind, or storm-cloud, now employed as expressive of—
(1) The majesty of the Speaker;
(2) The weightiness of the matter;
(3) The power of the Almighty to accomplish His purposes, whether of mercy or judgment;
(4) The terribleness of His displeasure. Intended
(1) To awaken more solemn attention;
(2) To convey a deeper impression of the power and majesty of God;
(3) To contribute to the object of the speech, Job’s conviction and humiliation. Suitable as—
(1) Accompanying a Divine reproof; 2) On an occasion in which the power, justice, and providence of God had appeared to be called in question. The present case compared and contrasted with God’s voice to Elijah in the wilderness—a wind, earthquake, and fire, yet the Lord in none of them, but in “a still, small voice” which followed (1 Kings 19:11-12). Observe—
(1) All nature used as God’s instruments. The storm-cloud employed as His pavilion, and the whirlwind as His car (Psalms 18:10-11).
(2) Terrible to hate such a Being for our enemy; blessed to have Him for our friend. “A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
(3) God occasionally speaks to His people out of a storm. Storms in the experience of believers; but the Lord is in the storm, and speaks out of it. An ancient version of the text reads: “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind of grief.” A Father’s voice in every tempest of trouble that overtakes a believer. The voice, as in Job’s case, may be one of reproof, but is, at the same time, one of love. “It is I; be not afraid.” “I will allure her into the wilderness, and I will speak comfortably unto her” (Marg.: “to her heart”). What appears only to betoken wrath, and to threaten destruction, made to believers to be a channel of mercy. In Job’s case the storm-cloud prepared the way for the sunshine that followed. Blessed for God to speak to us, though out of a whirlwind. A storm of any kind a blessing, if God speaks to us out of it. If God only speak to us, we may well leave the mode of His doing so to Himself. The same loving Father and faithful covenant-God, whether He speak in a whirlwind, an earthquake, a fire, or a “still, small voice.”
II. The Reproof. Job 38:2.—“Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” The question expressive of wonder and reprehension. “Who is this?” Who so bold, foolish, and pre sumptuous? The wisest and best incompetent to sit in judgment on the Divine procedure. The ground of God’s reproof—“that darkens counsel by words without knowledge.” Job not reproved for his previous life, but his present language. His language blamed not for its impiety, but its presumption and ignorance. Job “darkened counsel”—
(1) By casting reflections on the Divine procedure, and so obscuring its brightness;
(2) Making that which is mysterious to us still darker by cavils and short-sighted reasonings. Great force in the expression. Man, by his carnal reasoning, and still more by his complaining, instead of clearing up what is dark in the Divine procedure, only makes it darker. Observe—
1. All God’s ways are “counsel.” “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom.” Nothing in God’s dealings but what is the result of an infinite wisdom and eternal forethought. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” Everything both actual and possible taken into view by Him at one glance. His perfections enable Him not only to know, but to choose and accomplish, what is best. Nothing unforeseen or unprovided for. A sparrow’s fall not without God. His purposes called His “counsel,” because the result of wisdom and forethought (Psalms 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 28:29; Acts 2:23). God’s grace in Christ abundant towards us, but “in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:8). Every event in Providence and every trouble in a believer’s experience, the filling up of a wise and well-calculated plan, without any prejudice to man’s freedom or lessening of his responsibility.
2. Man, by reasoning about, and cavilling against, God’s dealings, only darkens the subject. Our duty in reference to God’s procedure not to reason and question, but to submit and adore. The more that man, in his own carnal wisdom, reasons about God and His providence, the greater His perplexity and confusion. To teach man’s duty in reference to the Divine procedure, the object of the Almighty’s present address. Its meaning, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 66:10).
3. Human reasonings in regard to God and his dealings, apart from revelation, only “words without knowledge.” Such reasonings the mere thoughts and prattle of children in regard to the administration of a kingdom. God and His ways known only as He is pleased to reveal them. “What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” Our knowledge, while on earth, at best but “in part”—fragmentary and piecemeal. God’s providential dealings seen hereafter as a transparent sea of glass (Revelation 15:2).
4. All cavils and complaints against God’s dealings in providence only the result of ignorance—“words without knowledge”.
III. The Challenge Job 38:3.—“Gird up now thy loins like a man (a valiant man, ready to enter on a contest, as Job had wished to do with the Almighty (ch. Job 13:22),—spoken in irony and humbling reproof); for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” Job’s desire now granted, but not in the way he expected. God “calls” (ch. Job 13:22), but not to enter into a suit with Job in regard to his past life. The questions put, not as to what he has done, but what he knows and is able to do. The object of them to shew his folly and presumption in questioning his Maker’s dealings. His knowledge shown to be ignorance, and his power perfect weakness. These contrasted with the wisdom and power of God, as seen—
(1) In His work of creation;
(2) In His work of providence. A series of questions proposed which follow each other like claps of thunder in the ear of the silenced patriarch. The challenge intended to show Job his utter incapacity to sit in judgment on God’s procedure, and his arrogance in arraigning it. Job reminded by it that he is but of yesterday and knows nothing, and that he is unable to put a finger to the commonest processes of nature, either in the inanimate or animate world; while all has been seen, planned, and executed ages before he was born, and is continually, every moment, and in all places, executed still by Him who is both Creator and Governor of the universe. The questions such as to teach us true Christian wisdom—silence and submission in the presence of God’s most mysterious and painful providences. Observe—
1. Man’s proper character and behaviour in relation to God’s procedure, rather that of a child than of a “man.” The things of God hidden from the wise and prudent, but “revealed unto babes.” Our duty and interest in relation to God’s dealings, to behave ourselves like “a weaned child” (Psalms 131:2). “In malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye men” (1 Corinthians 14:20).
2. In the presence of God, man’s posture to be rather that of a child than of a “man”. In relation to our duty as Christians in the world, we are to “quit ourselves like men and be strong,” but in the presence of God to take the place of children. When Jeremiah took the place of a child, God made him “an iron pillar and a brazen wall against the whole land” (Jeremiah 1:6; Jeremiah 1:18). The “worm Jacob” taken by God and employed as a “new sharp thrashing instrument having teeth, to thrash the nations” (Isaiah 41:15).
3. Man’s duty to “gird up his loins” in order to work for God, not to debate with Him. The mightiest but a sorry match for his Maker. “Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth; but woe unto him that striveth with his Maker” (Isaiah 45:9). “Who will set the thorns and briars against me in battle.” Man’s glory and honour, to contend for God; his disgrace and ruin, to contend with Him.
IV. The Questioning. Job 38:4-41).—Embraces a wide field both in nature and Providence. As suitable and appropriate to humble man’s pride in the present age of advanced science, as in the days of the patriarch. The questions have relation to—
1. Job’s antiquity and God’s creation of the world. Job 38:3-7.—“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if (or ‘since’—ironically) thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures (assigned the dimensions and proportions) thereof, if (or since) thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it (the measuring line, in order to regulate its form and dimensions for beauty and use)? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened (‘its bases sunk’)? or who laid the corner-stone thereof (rendering the fabric so firm as not to fall to pieces); When the morning stars (angels, figuratively so called from their splendour and early place in creation; or perhaps, literal stars, by personification) sang together (like the Priests and Levites at the foundation and finishing of the second Temple (Ezra 3:10-11; Zechariah 4:7), and all the sons of God (angels, so called from their Divine origin and resemblance) shouted for joy?” (participating with their Maker’s joy in the perfection of the work and the prospects connected with it (Exodus 31:17; Psalms 104:31; Proverbs 8:31).
(1) Man incapacitated from his very creaturehood, and especially his comparatively recent creation, for forming a judgment, apart from revelation, concerning God’s purposes and procedure. The plan of the world’s government formed in connection with the creation of it. To form an unaided judgment of the former, man should have been present at the latter.
(2) Every thing Connected with the
Formation of the Earth,
indicative of infinite wisdom and power, but lying beyond man’s present knowledge. Science confessedly ignorant of such a thing as creation, and of the origin of the universe. The rocks probably intended here as the “foundations” of the earth. These ascertained to descend several miles below the surface. The earth’s crust known to the depth of eight or ten miles. Supposed, from calculation, to extend nearly twenty miles lower. The globe itself believed to have been at the beginning a mass of metal resembling quicksilver, and to have been launched into space in a state of extreme heat—being first, by a natural process, covered with rust and then with water. The first really solid ground believed to have been granite—a hard, fire-baked substance, prepared in the interior furnace of the globe for the pavement of the water-covered earth, and pressed, while in a soft state, by some enormous weight occasioned by the hot and burning metals that rested over it. Its hard stony masses afterwards, by some mighty agency, forced up to the surface; some portions being left under the waters, while others were driven up through them, and formed mountains and hills. The granite subsequently covered by various earths placed on it by the Creator, so as to form the earth’s crust. The granite itself formed out of eight of the sixty materials found in the crust of the globe, these forming three distinct bodies (quartz, mica, and feldspar), each so constituted as to answer the purposes for which it was required, viz.—to form by its union with the other substances a solid pavement, suitable to go round the globe. Streams of electricity supposed to have accompanied the mighty forces that lifted the granite, in mountain piles, up through the waters, causing it to crack and rend into four-sided blocks. The granite thus uplifted at various periods of the world’s existence, and made the great storehouse whence mud, sand, and fragments have been supplied for the building up of the greater number of our rocks; its blocks grinding one against another, and its mountain surfaces being broken and crumbled into dust by the united action of frost, wind, and rain. The particles rolling down the rocky steeps, and falling into innumerable rills trickling down the mountain’s side, believed to have been washed by them into the valleys below, to meet the river floods; where they were ground and smoothed, through constant friction, into masses of sand, mud, and rubble, swept into the ocean, and driven still onwards by tides and currents, till they gradually sank down and formed flat beds or strata. Some of these strata thousands of feet in depth. Hardened into rock by the pressure of new beds over them, by the effects of heat, and by dissolved iron or lime percolating in water through the masses. Some of the loosened particles of granite falling into the surrounding waters, believed to have been spread in beds over the hot ocean floors, or piled up in hollow places between the sea-mountains; and having been there baked by the hot granite, to have formed what are called crystalline rocks of gneiss and mica slate, sometimes two miles in depth; while clay slate, several hundred feet in thickness, was further made from the same materials, and divided into its thin plates by the electric fluid having been sent through the mass of the slate mud. The earth thus said in Scripture to have been “founded upon the seas and established upon the floods” (Psalms 24:2); an ocean of water having been the original covering of the globe, before the rocks were heaved up through its waters. In another sense, the earth without foundations, being hung “upon nothing” (ch. Job 26:7), and kept in its place while moving round the sun, by the two opposite centripetal and centrifugal forces.
(3) The formation of the earth and its preparation as a habitation for man, especially when viewed in connection with its future history, a work of such glory and excellence as to call forth the joyful songs of angelic spectators. The earth itself, before sin defaced it, and as it appeared on the day on which God rested from His work, a scene of matchless beauty. That must have been beautiful, and worthy of the songs of angels, which the Divine Creator himself pronounced “very good.” From that earth, as probably in some degree made known at the time of its formation, angels themselves were to derive a large accession both to their knowledge and their joy (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12; Luke 2:10-14; Revelation 5:12).
(4) Angels of inconceivable antiquity. Millions of ages since the foundations of the earth were laid in its granite rocks. Angels apparently spectators during the laying of those foundations as well as through the whole process of the earth’s formation. Hence probably called “morning stars.” God’s elder children. Full of knowledge as the elder-born of creation. Happy they are who made to resemble them in character and to spend eternity in their society!
(5) That in God’s works of creation on earth sufficient to occupy the songs of the highest created Intelligences. How glorious then those works, and how worthy of our contemplation and praise! A lesson here intended for Job. The angels’ joyful adoration exhibited for his and our imitation. God’s works, whether of creation or providence, to be commended, not complained against nor cavilled at. A privilege to be the inhabitants of a world whose formation awakened the joyful songs of angels. If angels rejoiced and sung on account of its formation, how much more may we, if savingly interested in the redemption-work of Him by whom and for whom all things were made, and who, to save us, took our nature and became our elder Brother!
2. The sea and its barriers of sand and rock. Job 38:8-11.—“Or who shut up the sea (probably the waters that covered the earth at the beginning of the Mosaic creation, Genesis 1:2) with doors, when it brake forth (perhaps from an underground abyss), as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof (perhaps the darkness or thick vapour that was ‘upon the face of the deep,’ Genesis 1:2), and thick darkness a swaddling band for it (the waters viewed as a new-born infant); and brake up for it my decreed place (or, ‘appointed my decree over it’), and set bars and doors (in the sand and rocks, while preparing the sea and dry land, Genesis 1:9); and said: Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”
The operations here referred to, in accordance with the account of the creation given in the book of Genesis. Darkness and dense vapour enveloping the globe and its watery surface, the natural effect of the earth’s internal heat acting upon the waters that covered it. According to geologists, the fiercest heat of the glowing globe probably checked from ascending into the air through the rusty covering spread over it; the change in temperature thus causing the steaming vapours in the atmosphere to fall down upon that covering in the shape of water, and so to surround the whole of the globe with one general primeval ocean. The “doors,” or sandy and rocky barriers of the ocean afterwards formed, the result of upheavals and subsidencies at subsequent and different periods. The whole process the work of a wisdom and power surpassing our conception, and one far beyond the knowledge and comprehension of men. Observe—
The restraint imposed upon the rolling and dashing waves of ocean by a barrier of sand and rocks, the emblem of the restraint put upon the pride and rebellion of intelligent creatures. Fallen angels restrained within the bounds assigned them by the Almighty. ‘Reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 1:8). Their liberty to tempt and do mischief only such as He is pleased to allow. Such restraining power frequently exhibited by the Saviour when on earth. In their endeavours to crush the Church, allowed to proceed so far and no farther. So with wicked men and the Church’s human adversaries. Herod “stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the Church.” Had already slain one apostle and was intent on the murder of another, when he is smitten by an invisible hand and miserably dies (Acts 12:1, &c.). The reformation under Luther took place immediately after the Pope and his adherents, at the Lateran Council in 1514, rejoiced that not a single voice was raised against his authority throughout the whole world. The power of the Moslems arrested at Tours by Charles Martel in 1492, when it threatened to subdue the whole of Europe, as it had already done a large portion of it. The Invincible Armada, by which Philip
2. of Spain expected to crush the Reformation in England, with its troops drawn from all quarters, after three years of preparation, carrying, as it did, the instruments of torture by which the heretics of England were to pay the price of their desertion from Rome, was destroyed almost without hand when on the very eve of accomplishing its purpose. Deus flavit, et dissipantur. “God blew and they are scattered.” “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” The “gates of hell” may send forth its raging legions against the Church of Christ, but “shall not prevail against it.” The interests of the Church as a whole, and of every believer composing it, safe in the hands of such a God and Saviour.
3. The vicissitude of day and night. Job 38:12-15.—“Hast thou commanded the morning (to succeed the night) since thy days (since thou wast born, or, because thou hast seen many days); and caused the day-spring to know his place (the exact time throughout the year when it should arise); that it might take hold of the ends of the earth (spreading its light from one end of the earth to the other—from the eastern to the western horizon), that the wicked might be shaken out of it (as no longer able to pursue their deeds of darkness after the morning light has risen)? It (the earth) is turned as clay to the seal (Heb., ‘as clay of the seal,’ as the clay under the impression of the seal, exhibiting forms and appearances which were not visible upon it before); and they (the objects on the earth’s surface) stand [forth] as a garment (a beautiful, parti-coloured, and variously-figured robe clothing the earth, which during the night was entirely unseen). And from the wicked their light is withholden (these being, as the result of their evil deeds, deprived of the light either by imprisonment or death), and the high arm (their mighty power, or the arm uplifted for deeds of violence,) shall be (or is) broken” (in consequence of the light exposing their deeds and leading to their detection and punishment, and from courts of justice being in those countries usually held in the morning). Observe—
(1) One of the most striking examples of Divine wisdom, power, and goodness, afforded in the succession of day and night. The result of the earth’s daily rotation on its axis in its annual revolution round the sun, and the inclination of that axis from the perpendicular. The return of light every morning a mercy demanding devout thankfulness, and calling for adoring consideration of the Divine wisdom and goodness; all the more as this has been going on ever since the creation of the world.
(2) Man’s feebleness exhibited in connection with the return of each morning’s light. Man unable to promote or hinder, hasten or retard, its return by a single moment.
(3) Among other beneficial objects accomplished by the return of morning light, is its subserviency to God’s moral government of the world, in checking the commission of evil deeds which can only be perpetrated under the cover of night, and in leading to their detection and punishment.
(4) As every morning throughout the year exhibits afresh to man’s view the earth arrayed in its beautiful garments, our duty is thankfully to recognize the goodness of God in an arrangement which conduces so much to our comfort and enjoyment, as well as to our convenience.
4. The depths of the ocean. Job 38:16.—“Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea (the ‘fountains of the great deep,’ Genesis 7:11; or ‘the entangled thickets’ or jungle in the ocean beds)? or hast thou walked (as on dry land) in the search of the depth?” (penetrated and examined the depths of the ocean or its caverned recesses). Three facts connected with the ocean-depths exhibiting God’s greatness and man’s littleness.
(1) The unexplored vegetation found in the bottom of sea. The bed of the ocean in many localities luxuriantly clothed with marine vegetation, to the extent of many hundred miles. These submarine forests and jungles thronged with living beings, while no eye of man rests on their hidden beauties.
(2) The great depth of water in some parts of the ocean. Probable that, considering the greater extent of the ocean than of the land, the bed of the former descends to a depth considerably exceeding the highest mountains of the latter. In the North Atlantic, no bottom found in 1849 with a line of 34,200 feet, nearly equal to six and a half miles in length. In the South Atlantic, the depth reached, in 1853, of eight miles and three quarters. In these almost unfathomable depths, not a plant that vegetates, nor a creature that finds a home in those ocean-caves, but is open to God’s omniscient eye, and is the object of his providential care.
(3) The existence of fountains in the bottom of the sea. These fountains emit their streams of fresh water into the ocean from underground sources. In many places the water of the sea is fresher at great depths than at the surface, owing to the presence of such springs. A powerful jet of fresh water found in the Gulf of Spezzia, and others in the Persian Gulf and in the Bay of Xagua, south-east of Cuba.
5. The earth’s interior and the nether world of spirits. Job 38:17.—“Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?” Two ideas suggested in these interrogatories.
(1) The earth’s interior hidden and unknown to men. The place of departed spirits often represented as in the interior of the earth, probably from the body being buried beneath its surface (1 Samuel 28:8-15). The earth’s interior entirely unknown to man. Rocks of various kinds known to constitute its crust to the depth of eight or ten miles. This crust supposed to extend perhaps fifteen miles further—an extent, however, of which nothing is known. The space beyond, probably an immense cavern of subterranean fire, heating the lower parts of the crust, and occasioning hot springs and volcanoes, which from time to time force up flames, lava, and red-hot mud.
(2) The world of spirits unknown and unpenetrated by men while in the body. Of that world nothing is certainly known except as revealed in the Word of God. Man unable to penetrate its hidden regions except by bursting the bars of his corporeal enclosure. Views of the abode of happy spirits sometimes vouchsafed to favoured men on earth, probably while in an ecstatic state (2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 7:9-17). Persons miraculously restored to life unable to report their observation and experience in the spirit-world. Glimpses of heaven occasionally afforded to to believers, especially when already arrived at its confines. Human power or science unable to draw aside the veil that conceals the world of spirits from our view. Mysteries connected with the state of the dead not revealed. One thing certain;—a heaven of joy or a hell of woe awaits men after death, according as their character prepares them for one or the other. Fallen angels “reserved in chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day,” with temporary liberty allowed, in the mean time to perhaps a part (Jude 1:6; Luke 8:18-31).
6. The earth’s extent. Job 38:18.—“Hast thou perceived (as in one glance) the breadth of the earth? declare if (or since) thou knowest it all.” The language adapted to the ideas then prevalent in regard to the earth. Its form and extent equally unknown in the days of the patriarch. The earth then thought to be a vast plain with inequalities on its surface, stretching to an unknown extent, and bounded on all sides by the ocean. More recent observation and study have ascertained, with sufficient accuracy, both the figure and the dimensions of the earth. In consequence however of its spherical figure, man’s eye able to rest at any moment on but a small portion of its surface. The Eye of Omniscience every moment equally on every part of that surface, as well as on its secret depths.
7. The origin and diffusion of light. Job 38:19-21; Job 38:24. “Where is the way [to] where [the] light dwelleth? and as for darkness (viewed as a substance, rather than as the absence of light), where is the place thereof (from whence it comes, or where it exactly begins)? that thou shouldst take it to (or ‘seize it at’) the bound thereof (where it begins and terminates), and that thou shouldst know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou (or ‘thou knowest’) it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great? By what way is the light parted (diffusing itself over the earth every morning), which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?” (the solar heat causing the air to ascend while colder air rushes in to fill its place, thus causing the wind, especially the trade winds, which blow for months from east to west; or, “which the east wind scatters upon the earth,”—the light rising in the east).
naturally an object of special attention to early sages. Its emanation from the sun and other heavenly bodies obvious. The subject, however, still a mysterious one. According to Genesis, light created before either sun or moon. These bodies merely reservoirs or reflectors of light. The question still arose: What is light, and what is its origin? Philosophers still uncertain as to its nature. Doubtful whether an extremely thin and subtle fluid substance, or merely an agitation or undulation of the ether, producing its effects in a similar way to that in which sound is produced; the undulations in the one case striking the ear and in the other the eye, and so producing the sensation of sound or light respectively. The former, till lately, generally believed; the latter now the prevailing theory. Light now viewed by men of science as radiant force. Uncertain whether, by the creation of light at the beginning, we are to understand the creation of the actual force itself, or that of the particular condition or medium of radiation, technically known as ether, supposed to permeate space and substance. The latter thought more probable. Of the source of light, the account in Genesis says nothing. Its existence or appearance followed the command: “Let there be light.” That it came from an external source, previous to the sun’s formation or appearance, seems evident from the alternation of light and darkness during the intervening days. Light ascertained, from the testimony of the rocks, to have operated on the earth ages before man’s residence on it. The sun the centre of light, only as endued with a luminous atmosphere which envelopes its opaque body, but through which portions of that body are distinctly visible. The manner in which the light is “parted,” or separated from its great solar centre, as much a mystery now as in the days of the patriarch. Known to occupy a certain time in reaching the earth. Its rate of travel ascertained to be about thirteen millions of miles in a minute, and the period required in reaching the earth, about eight minutes. Some of the laws according to which light operates, in recent times satisfactorily ascertained. Known to be composed of different coloured rays—red, yellow, and blue; their composition affording the white light, and their “parting” or separation, and partial blending, giving the various colours presented by different objects. Exhibited in their pure and blended form in the rainbow; the raindrops separating the rays and refracting them at different angles after the manner of a prism, and so producing the three primary and four secondary colours. The light emanating from the fixed stars generally like that of our own sun, but in some cases coloured; different stars appearing to be different colours.
The question in regard to the abode of the light, perhaps referring rather to the sun itself, frequently called “the light,” as being the centre and source of it to the earth. Represented as coming forth as a bridegroom “from his chamber” (Psalms 19:4). The question: Where is that chamber? The earth’s annual revolution round the sun and daily rotation on its own axis, not then known. The sun supposed to move from east to west, as it appears to do. But whence he rose, and where he remained after setting, a mystery. The Ptolemaic theory of the earth being the centre of the system, and the sun, &c., moving round it, finally succeeded by the Copernican or Newtonian, which places the sun in the centre, at the distance of ninety-five millions of miles from the earth. The sun appears to rise in the east and move towards the west, from the earth moving on its axis from west to east. The opposite hemispheres of the globe naturally illuminated and in darkness alternately once in twenty-four hours, the period of one rotation on its axis.
8. The snow and hail. Job 38:22-23. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and of war?” Snow and hail known to be the effects of cold in the higher regions of the atmosphere; the former being condensed vapour congealed before it is formed into drops, and the latter the drops themselves congealed in their descent to the earth. Usually brought by cold winds from the north; their treasures therefore, to those living north of the equator, apparently in the northern regions. These regions probably unknown in the days of Job. The treasures of the snow and hail, however, rather in the higher parts of the atmosphere, where man has not been able to penetrate. Spoken of as “treasures” from their vast abundance, and as being apparently stored up in the clouds. Snow and hail among the Creator’s instruments in His government of the world, employed often in a way of judgment. Hail especially an instrument of destruction to the crops of the field. Employed as one of the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 9:14); and as the means of discomfiting the combined forces of the Canaanites (Joshua 10:11). To be, perhaps, still more grievously employed among the judgments to be inflicted on the kingdom of Antichrist, forming part of the seventh and last vial (Revelation 16:21). The sufferings and destruction of Napoleon’s Grand Army, in 1812, mainly due to the snow and cold of a Russian winter. Snow and hail among the Almighty’s reserved treasures for the discomfiture of His and His Churches’ adversaries, to be probably employed in the “battle of that great day of God Almighty,—in the place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:14-16).
9. Rain. Job 38:25-28; Job 38:34; Job 38:37-38.—“Who hath divided a water-course (conduit or channel) for the overflowing (inundation or pouring forth) of waters [in the form of rain], or a way for the lightning (or flash) of thunder (the usual precursor of rain in the east, ch. Job 28:26; Zechariah 10:1): to cause it to rain on the earth where no man is [to care either for the ground or the beasts that live upon it]; on the wilderness, where there is no man [but only the inferior animals to be provided for]; to satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring? Hath the rain a father? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, [commanding] that abundance of waters may cover thee? Who can number the clouds in wisdom (or ‘muster’ them as an army for the purpose for which he requires them (2 Kings 25:29)? Who can stay (or ‘lay,’ so, as to empty) the bottles of heaven (the clouds, resembling in their form and use the dark-coloured water-skins employed in the East), when the dust groweth into hardness (is fused into a solid mass), and the clouds cleave fast together (thus forming soil for cultivation, instead of mere dust,—the effect of continued drought)?” Still points to the mysteries of meteorology, even yet but imperfectly understood, but evincing a wisdom and a power altogether Divine.
Four circumstances connected with rain here alluded to as exhibiting God’s greatness and man’s littleness.
(1.) That the rain does not descend in one mass of water from the clouds, but in innumerable channels or tiny rills. Who makes these channels? what has man to do with the forming of them? Man, as in Egypt, makes channels for conveying the water from the well to irrigate his garden or his field; but who makes those channels that convey the water down from the clouds?
(2) The mysterious production of the rain, by the conversion of invisible into visible vapour, and its condensation into drops, which increase in size as they fall to the ground. This atmospheric process unknown in the days of Job, and still a mystery of Divine power and wisdom. “Hath the rain a father?”
(3) The preparation for the rain by the lightning or electric flash, dissolving the rain-cloud by reducing its temperature, or otherwise. Drops of water known to result from the combination of the two gases of which water is composed, through the introduction of an electric spark. But what power is it which so manages that mysterious element or force called electricity, as to produce the copious and fertilizing showers? “Who hath made a way for the lightning?”
(4) That the wilderness receives a supply of rain as well as inhabited places. Proof of its abundance and the riches of Divine goodness. No stinting with God, neither from want of ability nor willingness to bestow. Enough and to spare with Him. Even the beasts in the solitary waste provided for. His also to make even the solitary place to be glad for His people, and to cause the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose (Isaiah 35:1). Divine power and goodness able to turn the wilderness into a fruitful field as seen in the cases in African deserts (Isaiah 32:15).
(5) That the clouds are so managed as to be made the means, by their filling and emptying, like so many huge water-skins, of irrigating the earth and ministering to man’s necessities. Who so musters those clouds, like a general his forces, taking account of their number, size, &c., as to have them ready for his service, and to bring them together whenever he pleases to employ them? Who disposes and empties those bottles of heaven?
10. The dew. Job 38:18.—“Who hath begotten the drops of dew?” Another of the mysteries of nature. Dew long supposed to fall on the ground during the night. But whence its fall? There is no cloud. No one ever saw it fall. The process better understood in modern times. The dew rather a formation or deposit than a descent. The moisture in the saturated air, in consequence of the greatly reduced temperature during the night and its contact with the cooler ground, condenses on certain substances and forms drops, like those which stand on the wall of a room, when the air, which has been saturated with moisture, is suddenly cooled by the reduction of the temperature. Usually falls, or is deposited, in clear cold nights after a warm day. Hence found with us especially in autumn. Most copious in warm climates, where the days are hot and the nights often cold. In eastern countries, as in Judæa, the want of rain often compensated by the abundant dew, in cooling and moistening the ground, and in refreshing and promoting vegetation. Hence the frequent allusion to it and to its beneficial effects found in the Scriptures (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 33:13; Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalms 132:3; Prove. Job 19:12; Isaiah 18:4). Frequently employed for comparison and metaphor. The Word of God compared to it from its influence on the soul (Deuteronomy 32:2). The people of God compared to it from their influence on the world (Micah 5:7). God Himself compared to it in relation to his people (Hosea 14:5). The converts of Christ compared to it both from their number and beauty, especially as seen in the morning of the resurrection after the night of the tomb (Psalms 110:3).
11. The ice and hoar-frost. Job 38:29-30.—“Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath engendered it? The waters (in consequence of the cold) are hid as with a stone (or, ‘being made as a stone’), and the face of the deep (any collection of water) is frozen” (‘held bound’ or ‘holds itself together,’ i.e. is congealed). Ice known to be water rendered solid by the loss of its natural heat, which keeps its particles separate and so preserves it in a liquid state, but which the water gives out to the atmosphere in contact with it in consequence of the great reduction of its temperature. Hoar-frost simply the dew frozen before it has been formed into drops. The temperature of the atmosphere that to which these and almost all the phenomena of meteorology are due. This again due to the radiant force, or light, as including heat, imparted by the sun to the earth, and then again dispersed into space. Heat an element or force pervading all bodies, and keeping their particles at a certain degree of expansion. Suddenly withdrawn from nature, the globe would shrink into a much smaller compass; what is now in a gaseous state would become liquid; the liquid would become solid; and all vegetable and animal life on the earth’s surface would instantly perish. On the other hand, an opposite result would ensue from a much increased degree of heat. Solids would become liquid or be consumed, while liquids would be converted into vapour. The wisdom, power, and goodness of God seen in so tempering the heat given forth from the sun, that both the atmosphere and the earth are in their present ordinary condition. Times indicated by the rocks when a different state of things existed. A time indicated in the Scriptures of truth, when it will be otherwise again (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12).
12. The heavenly bodies. Job 38:31-33.—“Canst thou bind (restrain, or perhaps unite) the sweet influences (or delights, or according to another reading, ‘bonds’) of Pleiades (Marg., ‘Chimah, or the Seven Stars’), or loose the bands of Orion? (Marg., ‘Chesil,’ or the Fool or, Impious one; a magnificent constellation appearing in winter, and therefore connected with stormy weather, hence probably the Hebrew name. Orion a warrior in Greek mythology; the name given from the supposed resemblance of the constellation to a giant or hero; the ‘bands’ of Orion either the rigours of winter, which bind up vegetation, or the invisible tie which connects the numerous stars that compose it, the telescope revealing myriads more than are visible to the naked eye, particularly in the nebula seen in the belt of the figure). Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth (Marg., ‘the [twelve] signs of the Zodiac,’ appearing successively through the twelve months of the year), in his season? or, canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (probably the constellation known as the Great Bear, or the Plough; the Hebrew and Arabic name Aish denoting the Bier, the four stars in the body of the Bear forming the Bier itself, and the three in the tail, its ‘sons’ or attendant mourners: the constellation appropriately said to be ‘guided,’ not brought forth,—being visible all through the year, and appearing continually to move round the centre which we call the North Pole). Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven (or laws of the heavens)? Canst thou set the dominion (or influence) thereof in the earth?”
The attention of eastern sages directed at an early period to the stars, their time of appearing, and their supposed influence on the earth. Their successive appearance indicative of the seasons of the year and the time suitable for agricultural and other pursuits. Stars early grouped into figures or constellations, to which names were given from their supposed resemblance to terrestrial objects. Twelve of these appeared to rise or come into view successively in the course of the year, thus marking the twelve months. Their names, the Ram, the Bull, &c. These twelve groups or constellations, called the twelve signs of the Zodiac, probably what is here meant by Mazzaroth. The name perhaps identical with one denoting “abodes,” as indicating the different stages of the sun in his apparent annual course. Said to be “brought forth,” because apparently so; their appearance being probably due to the earth’s progress round the sun. Natural things spoken of in the Bible rather as they appear to be, than as they are in reality.
The Pleiades or Seven Stars, a group or cluster of stars in the constellation or Sign of the Bull. Their Hebrew name Chimah, denoting a heap or cluster, probably given from their appearance. Appears about the middle of April. Hence associated with the season of spring, whence its Latin name—Vergiliæ. The name in the text its Greek one, from a word denoting to “sail”; as indicating the time when navigation might be safely commenced. The “sweet influences,” or delights, ascribed, according to the present text, to the Pleiades, as marking the arrival of Spring. The genial change in the weather accompanying the appearance of this constellation, hailed as not merely necessary to vegetation and the sustenance of man and beast, but as also contributing in a high degree to man’s comfort and enjoyment. The season of
loved and celebrated in all ages, as the season—
(1) Of returning brightness and sunshine, after the clouds and gloom of winter.
(2) Of warmth and comfort, after the cold and tempests of preceding months.
(3) Of revived life, both in the vegetable and animal creation—the natural world appearing to burst forth as from a state of death.
(4) Of freshness and beauty, as seen everywhere in the verdure of the fields, the foliage of the woods, and the flowers of the garden and the meadow.
(5) Of joyousness and gaiety, exhibited in the melody of birds and hum of insects that fills the air, the flitting butterfly and the sportive fish.
(6) Of love, as seen especially in the birds that now pair and build their nests, and warble their affection to one another. All nature appears to rejoice and put on festal attire, and man participates largely in the “sweet influences” of Spring.
“Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes; and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or calls an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;
But the warm air thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a second birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
The drowsy cuckoo and the humble bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring
In triumph to the world the youthful spring
The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile.”
Spring fitted and intended—
(1) To awaken gratitude to its Divine and bountiful Author, who gives us again to rejoice in “the sweet influences of the Pleiades.” Then, if ever, it is to be said: “All thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless Thee” (Psalms 145:10).
(2) To serve as an emblem of the spiritual spring—(i.) When the soul is renewed and quickened to spiritual life by the Holy Ghost, and Jesus arises on it as “the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings.” Man’s natural state, in consequence of the Fall, one of winter and spiritual death. Christ came into the world and comes into the soul as the reviving Sun, to impart life, and fruitfulness, and joy. The Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, employed by Him to breathe upon the soul and renew its life. (ii.) When the believer, under the same Divine influence, is restored to liveliness and comfort, and to the “joys of God’s salvation,” after a season of darkness, deadness, and tempest. (iii.) When both the Church and the earth itself shall be renewed in life and beauty at the Lord’s advent and the resurrection of the just. A new life then imparted to the believer’s body after the winter of the tomb, and a new earth created out of the ashes of the present one, wherein shall dwell righteousness (2 Peter 3:12-13; Romans 8:21-23). The Bridegroom’s call to the Church then fully realized: “Lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; and the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).
The Pleiades, especially the brightest star in the cluster, called Alcyone, recently ascertained to be the centre or axle round which the Solar System revolves, the sun carrying with it the earth and other planets with their satellites, and moving in the direction of the constellation Hercules. The number of stars seen in the cluster, with the aid of a good telescope, nine or ten times as many as those visible to the naked eye. The distance of the group from the sun, thirty-four millions of times greater than that of the sun from the earth. The “influences” of the Pleiades upon the earth, in so attracting it with the whole Solar System as to carry it round it at the rate, it is supposed, of four hundred and twenty-two thousand miles a day, in an orbit which it will require many thousands of years to accomplish, probably unspeakably greater than was dreamt of in the days of Job. Yet perfectly known to Him who asked the question: Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? and who Himself communicated to the group its mighty power of attraction. The Hebrew name, interpreted by some as denoting a pivot or hinge, in striking accordance with this recent discovery of science.”—See an article on the subject from Dr. McMillan in Dickinson’s Theological Quarterly for April, 1875.
The “ordinances of heaven,” or laws governing the motions and influences of the heavenly bodies, much better understood now than in the time of the patriarch. The discovery of these laws one of the greatest achievements of modern science, associated with the names of Newton, Kepler, and Laplace. The laws themselves of a different nature from that contemplated by early sages. The law of gravitation,—by which bodies and the particles which compose them act upon each other according to their bulk, with an attracting force which increases as the squares of their distance from each other decrease,—found so far as observation has been able to penetrate, to operate through all space. This law, in connection with another,—that of the vis inertiæ of bodies operating as a centrifugal force, or the tendency of a body to move on in a straight line when once put in motion—that by which the earth and other planets, with their attendant moons, are preserved in their orbits and carried round the sun. The same law in operation among the fixed stars, some of which are observed to revolve round each other. Each star thus preserved in its own place in the heavens. The same law that which carries our solar system round its centre in the Pleiades, and which probably carries the Pleiades themselves round some other centre hid far away in the unexplored depths of our galaxy; and, possibly, the galaxy itself, with its countless millions of worlds, round some other centre,—perhaps the glorious throne of their Almighty Creator.
The conservation of force—or the fact that none of the natural forces—heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, magnetism, and chemism,—is either created or annihilated in any of the material processes of the universe, but is only transformed—either taking the place of or giving place to an equivalent amount of some other force—pronounced by the late Professor Faraday to be “the highest law in physical science which our faculties permit us to perceive.” Yet, how little it is that we know of the “ordinances of heaven,” or laws of the material universe, we are reminded by the well-known language of one of the greatest discoverers of those laws. According to the authority just quoted, the idea of gravity as varying inversely as the square of the distance, apparently in direct opposition to the principle of the conservation of force; involving, as it appears to do, the creation and annihilation of power to an enormous extent, simply by the change of distance,—a result equal to the “highest acts our minds can appreciate of infinite power upon matter.” Here science, notwithstanding her amazing progress in unfolding the mysteries of the universe, is at a stand. Besides her ignorance of the nature of the forces which she has succeeded in discovering, she is unable to explain the apparent opposition between the two highest physical laws with which she is acquainted. These “ordinances of heaven,” as not only “known” but established by the Almighty, singularly expressive of the infinite power and glorious majesty of “Him, with whom we have to do.”
The “dominion” or influence of the heavenly bodies upon the earth, also a subject transcending man’s present knowledge. The influence of the sun alone upon the earth still full of mystery. Science teaches us that on the light or radiant force (including heat) imparted by the sun, depend well nigh the whole of the phenomena of meteorology; being the cause not only of the temperature of the earth, but of the moistness of the atmosphere, of winds, of clouds, of dew, of rain, of ocean-currents, and of “every one of the elements which, variously combined and conditioned by the earth’s external features, go to make up climate.”—Warrington’s Week of Creation. Changes in the condition of our own atmosphere, and so of the weather, believed to be connected with changes in the atmosphere of the sun. The influence of the moon upon the earth, especially upon its waters, well known. A portion of heat discovered to reach us even from the fixed stars. The chemical influence of the solar rays on bodies exposed to the light also well known. The very existence of vegetation dependent on that element or force in those rays called actinism or chemism. Even metals and rocks unable to be exposed to its influence without undergoing a change in consequence of it. The “dominion” or influence of the heavenly bodies, especially of the sun, doubtless intimately connected with the physical forces now known to man, and found to be so correlated as to be capable of producing and being resolved or transformed into each other. Man so far from “setting” that “dominion” in the earth, that he even yet very imperfectly understands it.
13. Lightning and meteors. Job 38:35-36.—“Canst thou send lightnings that they may go and say unto thee: Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts (perhaps ‘into the dark masses’ of cloud or ‘into the airy dartings’)? or, who hath given understanding to the heart (not here the word always translated ‘heart,’ but one elsewhere denoting a picture, image, or imagination, as in Isaiah 2:16; Leviticus 26:1; Psalms 73:7,—perhaps the forms of the clouds, or the shooting meteors)?” Human powerlessness seen in relation to the lightning. Man able to draw down electricity from the thundercloud, and by a suitable apparatus to obtain vivid electric sparks and flashes from the atmosphere. But his feebleness in the presence of this mysterious agent shown in the fact that such attempts have been known to be followed by instant death. Although uncontrollable by man, the lightning yet obedient to the command of its Maker. Its origin in the electricity of which the earth is the reservoir. The earth thus shown to contain within it the elements of its own destruction, which only await the bidding of their Creator to do their work.
The allusions in the 36th verse uncertain. The reference to celestial phenomena favoured, if not rendered certain, by the context. Clouds or meteors probably in view, as objects far beyond man’s control, but serving the wise purposes of their Creator as if themselves endowed with intelligence. The first clause possibly a reference to the Aurora Borealis, the well-known lights arising from electricity, and seen sometimes at night shooting up in streams from the northern part of the sky; their motions, especially as seen in more northern latitudes, sometimes amazingly quick and their forms rapidly changing. The second clause of the verse may be an allusion to the phenomenon known as Meteoric Showers or Falling Stars. These meteors usually visible in clear weather about the middle of November. Myriads of small stars appear to shoot out in all directions with the rapidity of lightning, and then suddenly disappear. The nature and origin of the phenomenon still undetermined. To man the motions of these meteors appear in the highest degree arbitrary. But even these, like the lightning-flash, are under the direction of infinite wisdom and in accordance with the will of their Creator. “Not an object in nature left to the reckless sway of chance. All things adjusted with unerring wisdom, managed by infinite power, and overruled for good with paternal care.”—Duncan’s Philosophy of the Seasons.
According to the English version, the questioning in the 36th verse will relate to—
14. Human reason and intelligence. “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts,” &c. “Wisdom” and “understanding” used to denote reason and intelligence, or the first of the three great classes of mental faculties—the intellect, the emotions, and the will; the intellect including both the cognitive or knowing, and the reflective or reasoning faculties. The “inward parts” and the “heart” spoken of as the seat of these faculties. The brain now more correctly regarded as the seat and organ of the mind. Three things suggested by the questions in reference to the
(1) Reason and intelligence proper to man. “Wisdom” found in man’s “inward parts,” and “understanding” in his “heart.” Man distinguished from the brute creation by the possession of these faculties of the intellect. Thus qualified to know, love, and intelligently to serve his Creator, to contemplate the works of God around him, to reason on subjects of the most varied and highest import, and to prepare for another and a better life. Only so much “understanding” possessed by the lower animals as to qualify them for the preservation and enjoyment of the present life, and for the propagation and preservation of offspring, as well as to render them, in various respects, serviceable to man. Reason and intelligence in man not something merely differing in degree from the instinct of other animals, but differing from it in kind. Intellect that which allies him both to angels and to God Himself. Constitutes a large portion of the image of his Creator in which he was created. Existed in a much higher degree before sin disordered and depraved his nature. Men now “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). The faculties themselves, however, still in existence as man enters the world. Their development the work of time. That development affected by circumstances, and the means employed for it. Education the great means of developing the mental faculties. The intellect of races and families progressive or retrograde according to such development. The degree of intellect different in different individuals, constitutionally and from birth. This difference, doubtless, in some cases the result of circumstances, but more generally from the good pleasure of the Creator, who even in this respect “divideth to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). The degree as well as the development of intellect connected with the condition, size, and configuration of the brain, which forms its seat, and is the organ through which it acts.
(2) Reason and intelligence imparted to man by the Creator. Wisdom “put” into the inward parts; “given” to the heart. The mind or intellect entirely different and distinct from the material organ through which it acts and manifests itself. Reason and thought not a mere force existing in and belonging to the brain as a material substance. The brain the seat and organ of thought, not its cause. Mind not the production of other physical forces, as heat is transformed into electricity; but something superadded to the material organization. Man’s physical frame formed out of the dust of the ground, after which God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Man thus made to partake of an intellectual as well as an immortal nature, which rendered him what his Maker designed him to be—a reflection of His own image (Genesis 1:26). The art, science, and skill of man mediately or immediately the gifts of God. The language of the prophet applicable not merely to agriculture, but to all the arts and manufactures, and to all the sciences which elevate the human mind and distinguish the most enlightened of the human species: “This also cometh from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28:29). The language of the Almighty concerning Bezaleel, the son of Uri, true of any other similarly eminent in any of the arts of civilized life: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works,” &c. (Exodus 31:3). “In the hearts of all the wise-hearted I have put wisdom” (Job 38:6).
(3) The impartation of reason and intelligence to man a special exhibition of Divine power and wisdom. “Who put wisdom in the inward parts?” Thought and reason the highest manifestation of power in a creature. Man thus placed far above other creatures greatly his superior in size and physical strength. Able thus to fulfil his Maker’s purpose concerning him and the commission given him, to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion” over all other living creatures (Genesis 1:28). Made by the possession of his mental faculties a fellow-worker with God. Enabled, by working upon the materials placed at his hand, to produce other works of power, both of a material and an intellectual nature. Qualified to invent and construct works which are themselves the admiration of others and the multiplication of power. A Watt and an Arkwright enabled to produce machines by which, with a little water and fuel, one man is able to do the work of twenty or a hundred, and the strength of draught-horses can be entirely dispensed with. By a simple apparatus, provided through the human intellect, man is enabled to employ the lightning to convey his messages, and to hold almost immediate fellowship with distant countries and continents. As a co-worker with his Maker, he is enabled, by the faculties which God has given him, to convert the wilderness into a fruitful field, and to cause the desert to “rejoice and blossom as the rose.” If God thus puts wisdom and understanding into man, and endows him with so much power, how great the wisdom and power of the Creator Himself!
15. Beasts and birds of prey. Job 38:39-41—“Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion (or lioness), or fill the appetite of the young lions, when they couch in their dens and abide in the covert to lie in wait? Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander (or, ‘and wander,’ or ‘are famished’) for lack of meat.” Passes from inanimate to animated nature. The present section properly belonging to the next chapter. Begins with beasts of prey. Their food provided for them by the Creator Himself, by bringing other animals, which they are enabled to overcome and feed upon, within their reach. Some animals formed, by their physical structure, to live upon others. Their character as carnivorous given them by God, who provides for them the sustenance for which their bodily organization is adapted. Even the fierce lioness provided with her food by God. Beasts of prey, with all their ferocity, only a portion of the great family for which the Creator daily provides. But how powerless is man in their presence! How unable to provide for them! Man, since the entrance of sin into the world, obliged to employ his intellect in destroying, instead of supporting, such animals.
The “raven” probably mentioned in contrast with the lion. The largest of the sparrow-order of birds. Feeds on carrion as well as fruit and small animals, and is known even to carry off poultry. An unclean bird, and of little apparent significance; yet the raven cared for by the Creator equally with the noble and majestic lord of the forest. His Divine providence, directed even to the young of the raven, when forsaken by the parent bird, or early expelled by it from the nest. Not a cry of these young ravens but enters into the ears of the great and gracious Creator (Psalms 147:9). Their cry viewed as directed to Himself as their parent and provider. God cares and provides for the meanest as well as the mightiest of His creatures. A twofold lesson for man.
(1) To be kind to animals, and, when not injurious or destructive, attentive to their wants.
(2) To trust in God while doing His will. The lesson taught by Jesus to his disciples: “Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have store-house nor barn: and God feedeth them: how much are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24). “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (Psalms 34:10).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 38". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent