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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Job 37

 

 

Verses 1-24

EXPOSITION

Job 37:1-24

It has been already remarked that there is no natural division between Job 36:1-33 and Job 37:1-24.—the description of the thunderstorm and its effects runs on. From its effect on cattle, Elihu passes to its effect on man (Job 37:1-5); and thence goes on to speak of other natural manifestations of God's power and marvellousness—snow, violent rain, whirlwind, frost, and the like (Job 37:6-13). He then makes a final appeal to Job to acknowledge his own weakness and God's perfection and unsearchableness, and to bow down in wonder and adoration before him (verses 14-24).

Job 37:1

At this also; i.e. at the thunderstorm or at the particular crash mentioned in Job 36:33. My heart trembleth. A violent peal of thunder produces in almost all men a certain amount of nervous trepidation. Elihu seems to have been abnormally sensitive. His heart trembled so that it seemed to be moved out of his place.

Job 37:2

Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth; or, Hearken ye, hearken ye to the noise of his voice (comp. Psalms 77:18 : Psalms 104:7; and below, Psalms 104:4, Psalms 104:5). We need not suppose Elihu to speak otherwise than poetically. He does not, like the Indian of

" … untutored mind,

See God in clouds or hear him in the wind."

He does not mean that the thunder is actually God's voice, but that it tells of him, reminds of him, brings naturally to men's minds the thought of his marvellous greatness and power, and should therefore be listened to with awe and trembling, not passed over lightly, like any other sound.

Job 37:3

He directeth it under the whole heaven. The reverberations of the thunderclap roll along the entire cloud-canopy, from one end of the heavens to the other, beginning often faint in the distance, then growing loud over our heads, finally sinking into low muttered rumblings on the far horizon. And his lightning unto the ends of the earth. Similarly, the lightning, though originating in a flash at some definite spot, sets the whole sky aglow, shining from side to side of the heavens, and, as it were, to the very "ends of the earth." Both have a character of universality which is marvellous, and which makes them fitting emblems of him of whom they are the messengers and ministers (see Matthew 24:27).

Job 37:4

After it a voice roareth. After the lightning-flash has been seen, the thunderclap comes. In their origin they are simultaneous; but, as light travels faster than sound, unless we are close to the flash, then is an interval, the thunder following on the lightning. He thundereth with the voice of his excellency (see the comment on Job 37:2). And he will not stay them when his voice is heard. The words are plain, but the meaning is obscure. What will not God stay? His lightnings? His thunderings? His rain? His hail? There is no obvious antecedent. And in what sense will he not "stay" them? Some explain, "He will not slacken their speed; "others, "He will not cause them to Cease."

Job 37:5

God thundereth marvellously with his voice. In finishing off his description of the thunderstorm, Elihu dwells upon its marvellousness. Each step in the entire process is strange and wonderful, beyond man's comprehension; and the lesson to be drawn from the consideration of the whole series of phenomena is that great things doeth he (i.e. God), which we cannot comprehend. Even after all that has been done of late years to advance the science of meteorolegy, it cannot be said that the rationale of storms is fully grasped by the scientific intellect

Job 37:6

For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth. The phenomenon of snow is always full of marvel to an Oriental. It comes before him so seldom; it is in itself so strange; it involves things so inexplicable as the sudden solidification of a liquid, crystallization, a marked expansion of bulk, and the sudden assumption by what was colourless of a definite and dazzling colour. In Arabia and the countries bordering on Palestine snow very seldom falls; but in Palestine itself the mountain ranges of Lebanon and Hermon are never without it; and in the region occupied by Job and his friends then is reason to believe that ice and snow were not altogether infrequent (see Job 6:16, and the comment ad loc). Likewise to the small rain; or, to the light shower of rain—"the spring rain," as the Chaldee paraphrast explains it. And to the great rain of his strength; or, "the heavy winter rain," according to the same authority. "The former and the latter rain"—the rain of winter, and the rain of spring—are often mentioned by the sacred writers (see Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7). God gave both, ordinarily, in due course.

Job 37:7

He sealeth up the hand of every man. In the winter season, when the snow falls, and the heavy rains pour down (Job 37:6), God "seeleth up the hand of every man;" i.e. puts an end to ordinary out-of-doors labour, and establishes a time of pause or rest (comp. Homer, 'II.,' 17.549). He does this with the object that all men may know his work; i.e. that, during the time of their enforced idleness, men may have leisure for reflection, and may employ it in meditating upon him and his marvellous "work."

Job 37:8

Then (i.e. in winter) the beasts go into dens. The very beasts shut themselves up, and remain hidden in their places, i.e in their lairs, on account of the inclemency of the season.

Job 37:9

Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; rather, out of the secret chamber—the storehouse where God keeps his tempests. Nothing is said of "the south" here, though elsewhere, no doubt, whirlwinds are said to come especially from that quarter (see Isaiah 21:1 and Zechariah 9:14). And cold out of the north; rather, and cold from the scatterers. "The scatterers" seem to be the violent winds which clear the heavens of clouds, and bring in a clear frosty atmosphere. Or the word used may designate a constellation (comp. Job 38:32).

Job 37:10

By the breath of God frost is given (comp. Psalms 147:16-18). "The breath of God," which is a metaphor for the will of God, causes alike both frost and thaw. And the breadth of the waters is straitened; or, congealed. A broad expanse of water is suddenly turned by frost into a stiff and solid mass.

Job 37:11

Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud; rather, also with moisture he ladeth the thick cloud. Elihu returns from his description of the winter season to the more ordinary condition of things. Rain is the chief necessity of Eastern countries; and God is ever providing it, causing moisture to be drawn up from earth and sea, and safely lodged in the clouds, whence it descends, as needed, and as commanded by God, upon the fields and plains that man cultivates. He scattereth his bright cloud. Most commentators see a reference to lightning here; and it is possible, no doubt, that such a reference is intended. "His bright cloud"—literally, "the cloud of his light"—may mean "the cloud in which his lightning is stored." But perhaps no more is meant than that God spreads abroad over the earth the clouds on which his sunlight rests. The genial showers of spring fall generally from clouds that are, in part at any rate, steeped in the sun's rays.

Job 37:12

And it is turned round about by his counsels, "It" (i.e. the cloud) is "turned round" (or directed in its course) "by his counsels," or under the guidance of his wisdom, and so conveys his rain whither he pleases. That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. There is no expressed antecedent to "they." Perhaps the showers are intended, or the atmospheric influences generally.

Job 37:13

He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. God has different purposes in directing the rain hither or thither. Sometimes his object is to punish by violent or excessive rainfall: sometimes it is to fertilize his own special land; sometimes it is out of kindness to men generally.

Job 37:14-24

Elihu ends with a personal appeal to Job, based on the statements which he has made. Can Job imagine that he understands the workings of God in nature? If not, how can he venture to challenge God to a controversy? Would it not be better to recognize that his ways are inscrutable?

Job 37:14

Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Consider the marvels of God's works in nature, as I have set them forth to thee (Job 36:27-33; Job 37:2-13); the mysteries of evaporations, of cloud formation and accumulation, of thunder, of lightning, of snow and frost, of genial showers and fierce downpours, of summer and winter, of the former rain and the latter, of the gentle breeze and the whirlwind; and then say if thou comprehendest the various processes, and canst explain them, and make others to understand them (verse 19). If not, shouldest thou not own, as we do, that "we cannot find him out" (verse 23), cannot reach to the depths of his nature, and therefore are unfit to pronounce judgment on his doings?

Job 37:15

Dost thou know when God disposed them; rather, disposes them—gives them their orders, arranges for their course and sequence? Or dost thou know when he caused (or rather, causes) the light of his cloud (either the lightning, or perhaps the rainbow, as Schultens suggests) to shine? Thou canst not pretend to any such knowledge.

Job 37:16

Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds? i.e. "how they are poised and suspended in the sky" (Stanley Loathes). The wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge (comp. Job 36:5).

Job 37:17

How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind? Dost thou even know how it is that, while the breeze from the north chills thee (Job 37:9, Job 37:10), the breath from the south makes thee feel thy garments too warm? If thou canst not explain a physical matter, wherein thine own comfort is concerned, how much less canst thou comprehend the workings of God in his moral universe!

Job 37:18

Hast thou with him spread out the sky? Didst thou assist in the spreading out of the sky, that great and magnificent work of the Creator, transcending almost all others (see the comment on Job 9:8)? Or did not God effect this work alone, without even a counsellor (Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14), so that thou hadst no part in it? Which is strong, and as a molten looking-glass. The sky is "strong" or "firm;" i.e. enduring or permanent, though not really hard like a mirror. Elihu, however, seems to have regarded it, like many of the ancients, as a solid mass, resembling a concave mirror of metal. The translation, "looking-glass," is wrong, both here and in Exodus 38:8, since glass was not used for mirrors until the period of the early Roman empire. The earlier mirrors were of polished metal.

Job 37:19

Teach us what we shall say unto him. Elihu indulges in irony. If thou art so wise as thou pretendest to be, then he pleased to "teach us." We acknowledge our ignorance—we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness. Enlighten us, if thou canst.

Job 37:20

Shall it be told him that I speak? rather, that I would speak (comp. Job 31:35). Job had expressed the wish that God would "hear him, and answer him." Elihu, intending to rebuke this presumption, yet shrinking from doing so directly, puts himself in Job's place, and asks, "Would it be fitting that I should demand to speak with God?" If not, it cannot be fitting that Job should do so. If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up. This is probably the true meaning, though another has been suggested by some commentators, who prefer to render, "Or should a man wish that he were destroyed?" (So Ewald, Dillmann, Canon Cook, and our Revisers.) If we adopt this rendering, we must understand Elihu as appending to his first rebuke a second, levelled against Job's desire to have his life ended.

Job 37:21

And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds; rather, and now men cannot behold the light which is bright in the skies. Now, i.e; here in this world, men cannot look straight at the sun, since he dazzles them. How much less, then, would they be able to face God on his throne in heaven! Yet this is what Job had proposed to do (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:18-22; Job 22:3-7, etc.). But the wind passeth, and cleanseth them; rather, when the wind passeth and cleareth them; i.e. when, the wind having swept away the clouds and cleared the sky' the sun shines forth in all its splendour.

Job 37:22

Fair weather cometh out of the north; literally, out of the north cometh gold. The bearing of this is very obscure, whether we suppose actual gold to he meant, or the golden splendours of the sun, or any other bright radiance. No commentator has hit on a satisfactory explanation. With God is terrible majesty. This is sufficiently plain, and it is the point whereto all Elihu's later argument has been directed (see Job 36:22-33; Job 37:1-18). God's majesty is so great that men can only tremble before him.

Job 37:23

Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. This is the "conclusion of the whole matter." God is inscrutable, and man must hide his face before him and not presume to judge him. He is also excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice. His moral perfection is on a par with his might and majesty. He will not afflict; rather, he will not answer; i.e. he will not account to men for his doings, or condescend to justify himself in their eyes. His acts cannot but be righteous.

Job 37:24

Men do therefore fear him; or, let men therefore fear him. Let them see in his unsearchableness, his almighty power, his absolute moral perfection, and his superiority to all human questioning, ample grounds for the profoundest reverence and fear. And let them remember that he respecteth not any that are wise of heart. However "wise of heart" men may be, God does not "respect" them, at any rate to the extent of submitting his conduct to their judgment, and answering their clues-tionings (see Job 37:20).

HOMILETICS

Job 37:1-24

Elihu to Job: 5. The wonderful works of God.

I. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR VARIETY. Beginning with the thunderstorm (verse 2), with its quickly spreading clouds (Job 36:29), its sharp, gleaming bolts (verse 3), its crashing and reverberating peals (verse 4), Elihu passes on to descant upon other natural phenomena—such as the falling of the snow and the rain upon the earth (verse 6); the sweeping of the whirlwind, or hot simoom, from the remote regions of the southern desert, alternately with the rushing of the cold blasts from "the scatterers," or north winds (verse 9); the congelation of the water-drops by the breath of winter, and the straitening of the rivers by thick blocks of ice (verse 10); the replenishing of the emptied rain-cloud with fresh loads of water, and the distribution far and wide of the cloud of his light, i.e. of the cloud that is pregnant with lightning (verse 11). And yet such phenomena are only an infinitesimally small portion of that endless variety which Nature in her movements and manifestations affords. This variety, too, besides being an eminent enhancement of nature's beauty, contributes in a high degree to nature's usefulness, and is a testimony by no means unimportant in favour of nature having been the production of an all-wise Artificer, since the suggestion is little short of inconceivable that a world so wondrously fair, so exquisitely diversified, so harmoniously adjusted in all its parts, could have been the work of blind, unintelligent force, directed in its operations by purposeless chance, or could have emanated from any other source than that of an infinite mind.

II. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR ORIGIN. The presumption above created is explicitly confirmed by Elihu, who commends to Job's attention the entire circle of nature's interesting phenomena as "the wondrous works of God" (verse 14), "the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge" (verse 16), and "his work" (verse 7), i.e. as the productions of his almighty finger. Does the thunder cannonade along the sky? It is God who roareth with the voice of his excellency (verse 4). Do the heavens shake their snowflakes, distil their gentle showers, or pour their copious floods upon the earth? It is God who saith to the snow and rain, "Be thou on the earth" (verse 6). Does the frost arrest the flowing river, congeal the water-drop, lie like crisp white beads upon the ground, or trace its fairy pictures on the windowpane? It is God's breath that sends the frost into the air (verse 10). Do the rain-clouds fill and empty themselves upon the earth? It is God who loadeth them with liquid burdens (verse 11). Does the lightning-shaft, leaping from the dark bosom of the storm-cloud, career through the murky sky? It is God who directeth it under the whole heaven (verse 3). Nor is this simply superstition, like that which caused the untutored savage and the cultured Greek alike to transform every mountain and stream into the abode of a divinity. And just as little is it merely poetry which, personifying dead things, deals with them as beings endued with life and intelligence. It is piety which, with a keener and truer discernment than is sometimes evinced by modern scientists, overleaping every intermediate cause, takes its station with adoring wonder beside the throne of him who is the absolute and uncreated Author of this universal frame. The characteristic here ascribed to Elihu, the youthful prophet of Arabia, was one which in an eminent degree pertained to the Hebrew mind. The psalms of David, in particular, are distinguished by the boldness with which they recognize the hand of God in the ever-varying phenomena of this terrestrial sphere (cf. Psalms 8:1-9.; 19.; 29.; 65.; 68.). Nor was this peculiarity awanting to the later poets of the period of the exile (cf. Psalms 104:1-35.). Even New Testament writers (e.g. St. Paul, Acts 14:17; Acts 17:28) are not strangers to this devout practice. Above all, it was habitual with Christ (Matthew 6:30; John 5:17). It is much to be re,tied that modern scientists should so frequently overlook the fact that in investigating nature's laws they are merely informing themselves as to the specific methods in which the supreme Creator has been pleased to work.

III. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR EXECUTION. If the phenomena of nature are in themselves such as to demand an infinite mind for their conception, much more does their production call for a supreme Artificer of unlimited resources as to wisdom and power. Elihu declares them to be "doings" positively incomprehensible by the finite mind (verse 5); and, notwithstanding all the results of scientific observation, it is still true that the chief secrets of nature continue to baffle man's intelligence. Take the thunderstorm, for instance, to which Elihu alludes. Almost any scientific treatise touching on the subject will explain how the dark masses of cloud that pile themselves above the horizon and gradually spread along the sky are filled with water and charged with electricity, how the lightning is produced by the meeting of positive with negative electricity, and how the thunderclap results from the explosion of the overcharged clouds. But, after all, this does not impart a great deal of information to the mind. It leaves unresolved the deepest mysteries connected with the problem, such as the way in which the storm-cloud is formed, and the structure of the particles of which it is composed, the mode in which the earth and the air have been charged with different kinds or degrees of electricity, what electricity itself is, and what are the laws of its production and distribution. And even though all these matters were explored by the patient intellect of science, there would still remain the question how the phenomena themselves can be made, clearly showing that the utmost that is attainable by man is to understand the works of God (at least in part) when they are made, not to arrive at the wisdom by which they might be reproduced. The meteorologist can observe how God makes his thunder, but he cannot himself thunder with a voice like God's. He can descant upon the cause of snow, can expatiate upon the beauty of the snowflakes, and can tell that their crystals assume five leading forms; but with all his learning and amid all his researches he has never laid his finger on the art of making snow, or of saying to a single flake, "Be thou on the earth."

IV. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR CONTROL. If nature is not a vast machine from which God has departed, still less is it an engine which he has suffered to escape from his hand. Conceived by infinite wisdom and fashioned by almighty power, it has by the same combination of qualities been kept in complete subordination. Elihu instances the lightning-cloud as a work of God that is "turned round about by his counsels, and that doeth whatsoever he commandeth upon the face of the wide earth" (Verse 12). But it is the same with the snow and the rain, the frost and the wind. These are as submissive to his command as the thunder when it roars, or the lightning when it gleams. So, according to the concurrent testimony of Scripture, are all his works in all places of his dominion (Job 23:13; Psalms 33:9; Psalms 119:90, Psalms 119:91; Isaiah 40:26; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11).

V. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR IMPRESSIVENESS. More especially is this the case with the grandee and sublimer phenomena. The thunderstorm, with its ominous gloom, its lurid fires, its terrific detonations, carries a sense of awe to every sentient creature. At its first approach the cattle manifest their fear by herding together in the most sheltered spots that they can find. The birds, as they fly with sager haste to screen themselves among the boughs, give evidence that they are smitten with an unknown dread. Even the wild beasts that roam through the forest or scour the plain, the shaggy lion and the ferocious tiger, slink away to hide themselves within their dens Nay, man, whether civilized or barbarian, religious or unbelieving, cannot witness the dread commotion of the elements, cannot look upon "the sulphurous and thought-executing fires, vaunt couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts" as they flash across the murky vault of heaven, or listen to the "all-shaking thunder" as it crashes, rolls, and roars across the pavement of the skies, without instinctively holding his breath and feeling solemnized, as if he stood in presence of the supernatural. Even the heart of Elihu trembled and tottered from its place before the awe-inspiring manifestation of Divine power which was then taking place (verse 1), very much as Moses did in the presence of Mount Sinai, when it shook beneath the feet of the God of Israel (Psalms 68:8), and he gave expression to his horror, saying," I exceedingly fear and quake" (Hebrews 12:21). But scarcely less impressive to a thoughtful and devout mind is Nature in her quieter moods.

"The meanest floweret of the vale,

The simplest note that swells the gale,

The common sun. the air, the skies,

To him are opening Paradise."

Elihu speaks of God sealing up the hand of every man by the terrors of his thunder or the rigours of his winter (verse 7); that is, arresting man's customary occupations, and compelling man, by a period of enforced leisure, to meditate upon his work, so as to know and recognize it to be his. One reason why men fail to trace God's presence in his own creation is the want of a religious contemplation of his works. The supreme Creator has so constructed every portion of nature that, if rightly interpreted, it will speak of him.

VI. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR DESIGN. It is a fundamental article in biblical theology that the supreme Artificer never acts without a purpose (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11). The universe was not summoned into existence without a specific end in view (Revelation 4:11). The earth was not created in vain, but formed to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). So every single work of God has its particular aim. Elihu again recurs for an example to the thunder-cloud. When God causes a thunderstorm to burst upon a land, it is not an accident, or a haphazard operation, but an event with a well-defined object in contemplation. It is either as a punishment for sin, or as an act of mercy towards man, or as a means of fertilizing the land and thus conferring benefit on an entire population. That is to say, it is employed as an instrument in the execution of God's prearranged design, whether that be specific in its destination or general, i.e. for the benefit of an individual or the good of a country, and whether it be punitive or merciful. And every other phenomenon of nature is in like manner connected with the silver line of God's eternal purpose. Science may not be able to see how the two are linked together. But, if faith can, it is enough. It is not unscientific to affirm that God sends the thunderstorm and the whirlwind, the earthquake and the pestilence, since the hand of God confessedly is outside the cognizance of science; it is not required by religion to deny that all these phenomena are due to immediately preceding causes. Science traces back the links of the chain to the verge of its material domain. When science falters and becomes blind, faith, catching up the quest, penetrates the regions beyond, and discovers the last link of the chain to be the hand of God.

VII. WONDERFUL IN RESPECT OF THEIR TEACHINGS. These may be summed up in one word, "ignorance." Whatever else they attest, they emphatically proclaim man to be destitute of true knowledge.

1. Concerning the phenomena of nature. Elihu asks Job with a touch of irony if he could explain what to men in general was incomprehensible-how God had imposed laws upon the cloud and the lightning, and by what means he caused "the light of his cloud" to shine—if he knew so much about meteorology as to be able to comprehend "the balancings of clouds"—nay, if he could tell how the action of the south wind, or hot simoom, made him warm (verses 15-17). Doubtless on every one of these points science has laid open to us much that was concealed from the mind of Job and even of Elihu; but still it is relatively true that in comparison with what remains to be explored man is as yet profoundly ignorant of the great secrets of nature.

2. Concerning the position of himself. Man, Elihu reminds Job, was not distinguished from nature's phenomena as God was, being not the creator as God, but only himself a creature like nature. "Hast thou with him spread out the sky, strong and as a molten mirror?" (verse 18). Consequently, it was sheer presumption to imagine that man was competent to enter into judgment or controversy with God. If Job knew how to address God, Elihu would be glad to be instructed; as for himself, he would as soon think of saying that he wanted to be swallowed up as that he wished to speak with God (verses 19, 20). It is ever precisely in proportion as we understand the feebleness, insignificance, and sinfulness of our position before God that we are withheld from the offences of presumption and irreverence.

3. Concerning the administration of providence. Exactly as the clear firmament overhead with its shining sun is obscured from view by the storm-clouds that intervene, so the principles on which God governs the world, allotting suffering to one and happiness to another, cannot be distinctly perceived by man. By-and-by they will be made to shine forth with resplendent lustre, as soon the darkened heavens will be swept of clouds, and the bright light, beaming clown from the ethereal heights, will in all its radiant glory be disclosed. Meantime man stands beneath the clouds, where all is dark, though above, i.e. to the mind of God, everything is clear (1 John 1:5).

4. Concerning the character of God. Elihu means to say either that fair weather effulgent as gold (or disclosing the golden sun), cometh out of the northern quarters of the sky, or that men out of the northern regions of the earth extract gold; but that neither can the Divine Being, with whom is terrible majesty, be steadily looked upon by man, as man can contemplate the orb of day, nor can the nature of God be fathomed as men dig out gold from the mine. "Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out." Not that this implies an utter ignorance of the attributes pertaining to the Supreme. On the contrary, man may gather from his wondrous works in creation and providence that God is "excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice;" nay, that he is compassionate and merciful also, being indisposed to afflict either willingly or severely, and never except as a means to an end.

5. Concerning the rule of duty. "Men do therefore fear him." Such homage rests on the three pillars of God's power, God's justice, and God's mercy. Yet man, like Job, is prone to forget the reverence due to God. Hence it is ever needful to enforce attention to duty by reminders of God's supremacy and majesty. "He respecteth not any that are wise of heart." Self-righteousness and pride are wholly inconsistent with a right fulfilment of human duty towards the Supreme. "Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off" (Psalms 138:6).

Learn:

1. That nature is the handiwork of God.

2. That nature contains revelations of beauty, power, wisdom, goodness, justice, to the soul of man.

3. That it is man's duty to study that which God has revealed.

4. That the best preparation for a study of nature, as of any other revelation, is a deep conviction of personal ignorance.

5. That the more we learn of the works of God, the less shall we think of ourselves.

6. That rightly prosecuted, the study of nature leads to God.

7. That the glory of God is ever greater than the grandeur of his works, or of Nature in her sublimest moods.

8. That the sum of human duty, as expounded by nature, is to fear God and keep his commandments.

9. That the discoveries of nature have been eclipsed by the revelations of the gospel.

10. That if it behoves man to study God in nature, much more does it behove him to study God in Christ.

HOMILIES BY R. GREEN

Job 37:14

On considering the works of God.

Elihu in his continued address would teach Job to hearken to the Lord rather than reply to him. to learn rather than teach, and more especially to consider his wonderful works. The greatness of the Divine works causeth Job's teacher's heart to tremble; so he would it were with Job. To the greatness of the Divine voice, to the wonder of the Divine works, he directs him. The works of God may be considered—

I. AS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE GREATNESS. This is one of the purposes in Elihu's mind. He would lead Job to "tear." It is only by a contemplation of the works of God that we can rise as by successive steps to any adequate conception of the greatness of the Divine power or the grandeur of the Divine Name. They are beyond our comprehension, and so give us a notion of the infinite; they are multiplied, and great and wonderful. In them is hidden the parable of the Divine greatness. They may be considered—

II. AS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS. With great beauty the Divine goodness is traced in this book. A goodness extended not only to man, but also to the beasts of the field, to the fish of the sea, to the bird of the air. It is from this contemplation that man may return to himself, and learn that the goodness everywhere displayed around him may be truly at work within and for him, though its processes are not made known. So the Divine works may be considered—

III. AS A REVELATION OF THE HIDDEN PURPOSE OF GOD. In all the wonderful works around, much as men know, there is much that is hidden. To this Elihu calls Job's attention. "Dost thou know when God disposed them?" "Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds? Dost thou know "the wondrous works of him that is perfect in knowledge"?

IV. Hence is revealed

This is the process of Elihu's argument. "With God is terrible majesty." His work is deep. He is "the Almighty," whom we cannot find out. His purposes we cannot fathom. Therefore-so the argument terminates—therefore bow and wait and trust. God "is excellent in power, and in judgment and in justice." These he perverts not. Therefore may men reverence him with lowly fear and with silent mouth, and the wise will wait on him for the unfolding of his own wise ways.—R.G.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

Job 37:1-5

The voice of the thunder.

I. A VOICE OF TERROR. The deep roar, the wide volume of sound, the mystery and the majesty of the thunder, combine to make it strike us with awe. Thunder accompanied the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16). Men are naturally alarmed at any voice from heaven. God sometimes speaks to us in thunderous notes, i.e. through great calamities. Then we tremble as before an irresistible majesty.

II. A VOICE OF NATURE. The thunder is part of the economy of nature—as much a part of it as the whisper of the wind or the hum of the insect. It struck the ancient world with the greater alarm because it was wholly inexplicable. Now that we know its connection with time electric currents of the atmosphere, we do not think of it as so fearful. The artillery of the heavens is all obedient to fixed laws of nature. Yet it is not the less fired by the hand of God, who is the Spirit of nature as well as its Maker. The reduction of the thunder to a place among natural phenomena suggests a lesson in faith. We may be reassured when we see that what looks lawless is part of the Divine order. We often alarm ourselves with needless fears; but all must be well when God rules over all.

III. A POWERLESS VOICE. The silent lightning is deadly. On the other hand, the, re are no thunderbolts; it was ignorance that attributed the effects of the electric flash to the thunder that followed it. But this was in accordance with a common way of thinking. We pay most attention to that which makes most noise. Yet when the noise is heard the power is past. Men are always undervaluing the lightning and overvaluing the thunder. Sin is ignored, its consequences are made much of. Goodness is forgotten, fame is worshipped. Fidelity is not seen, success makes the welkin ring with applause.

IV. A VOICE OF MERCY. The thunder cannot do anything directly, with all its noise and fury. The deeds are done by the swift, subtle electricity; and the boasting thunder is nothing but noise. Still, there is a message in the thunder. The noise of the thunder tells us that the lightning has come and gone! The fearful flash has passed, and still we live untouched, unhurt. Moreover the storm, of which the thunder is one element, is a most refreshing influence, clearing the atmosphere, cooling the temperature, bringing rain to thirsty fields and gardens. Thus the voice that seems only to roar in rage is to be associated with grateful thoughts. The same may be said of other thunderous voices. Calamities burst over our heads like thunderstorms. At first they stun us; but by degrees we begin to see that they have brought showers of blessing, and that they have not crushed us as we expected. Here we stand, in spite of the storm, still living and still enjoying the loving-kindness of God.—W.F.A.

Job 37:11-13

The rainstorm.

I. ITS SOURCE. It is produced by God, and it is directed by God. He brings it about, and he guides it.

1. It comes from God. Now, this is most certainly an integral part of nature. We have seen that the thunder belongs to nature. That was not always apparent to men; there seemed to be something so weird and awful about it that men attributed it to supernatural agencies. But the rain is manifestly in the order of natural phenomena. Yet this is as Divine as the thunder. God is in all nature, and as much in its quiet, normal occurrences as in what is startling and exceptional.

2. It is piloted by God. The clouds seem to pass over the heavens in wild confusion. We can see no reins to hold them in, nor any whip to drive them on. The science of meteorology is about the most backward of all the sciences, because it is so difficult to reduce the phenomena of the weather to their place in an orderly scheme, on account of their ceaseless variations and apparently boundless irregularities. But we are already seeing that there are laws behind the weather, and some of them are already known. Hence our weather prognostications in the newspapers. Now, the Scripture view of the weather, as much as that of the most orderly and changless phenomena, attributes all its movements to the will of God. God is in what looks to us most conflicting and purposeless. If he is steering it, we can trust to him to bring it to a happy end.

II. ITS PURPOSE.

1. This is determined by God. The march of the clouds is commanded by their great Captain. In nature as well as in human life God works with a purpose, and the end is with him.

2. It is obscure. We cannot tell whether the rain is for one particular purpose which we have in mind, or for another that has never occurred to us. In all life God works out many purposes quite beyond the reach of our thoughts.

3. It may be "for a scourge." God sends what we regard as untimely rain—rain in harvest; or too much rain—floods that devastate fields, drown crops, and invade houses. For God sometimes looks very stern in his actions, whatever his thoughts may be. In other ways God chastises his people by natural calamities. Let us not be amazed when these things happen to us. They are predicted, and therefore they should be expected.

4. It may be in mercy. "For the good of his land." The dry soil needs rain. Thirsty crops are refreshed by the downpour that is distressing to the traveller. What looks like a calamity may be a blessing. Instead of complaining of the inconvenience of what happens to us, let us look round us and see if it is bringing good in some other direction.

5. In any case it is for a blessing. The scourge is a blessing in disguise. Though various results may issue from God's various actions, in so far as they are designed by God they all make for righteousness and the welfare of his children. Thunder and rain bless even by their calamities. Sorrow and loss, pain and tears, scourges and thorns, are instruments of discipline that bless when they hurt.—W.F.A.

Job 37:14

The wondrous works of God.

I. THE NATURE OF THESE WORKS,

1. Material things. We cannot live for ever in a realm of ideas. It is well to come down to the solid earth and look at physical facts. There are lessons to be learnt from the stones and trees and living creatures of nature. Mountain and stream, forest and flower, speak to the soul of man.

2. Created things. "Works." These things were made. They are not eternal; they are manufactured articles. They are not chance products of chaos; they have been designedly made.

3. Divine things. The glory of them is their Maker. God has condescended to put his hand to this earth of ours. and the result has been all the life and beauty with which it abounds. The character of the Maker is impressed on his work. God owns what he has made. Therefore his works belong to him. They are but lent to us. We are stewards who will have to give an account of all that we use and of how we use it.

4. Wonderful things. God's works are "wondrous." They are stamped with the impress of thought. The most advanced science is but man's blundering attempt to spell out God's hieroglyphics written in the great book of nature. The very difficulties of nature spring from its vast complexity. The Architect of the universe is an infinite Artist, Mathematician, Physiologist.

II. HOW THESE WONDROUS WORKS SHOULD BE REGARDED.

1. With attention. "Hearken unto this." The sin of the world distracts our thoughts, so that we fall to perceive what God is saying to us through the many voices of nature. We miss the voices of God in nature and life through heedless indifference.

2. With patience. "Stand still." We hurry to and fro, and so fail to gather the treasures that come to him who waits. The life of rushing haste is superficial. The best things do not come at a call, nor can they be snatched up in a moment. We must "wait on the Lord" if we would have his blessing, and "be still" if we would know that he is God (Psalms 46:10). Thus hearkening, and standing still, we are to wait for God to speak to us through his works. We talk too much about the works of God; it would be better if we would be silent and let them speak to us.

3. With thought. "And consider." Note the "and." Attention and patience should precede and prepare the way for the consideration. But then this must follow and be joined on to the earlier passive conditions. We must not be stilt in mental indolence. When God speaks to us through his wondrous works, our part is to receive his message intelligently and think over it. The study of nature in science is commended to us. But we need to rise above this, to meditate over the Divine voices in nature and in all the works of God.—W.F.A.

Job 37:19

The prayer for prayer.

Seeing Jesus in prayer, and noticing how different his prayer was from theirs, the disciples besought him to reach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Their request implied a high estimation of true prayer, and at the same time a deep sense of their own inability to pray aright. The same feelings are expressed to us by Elihu.

I. WHAT IS REQUIRED IN TRUE PRAYER. The greatness of God suggests to Elihu the importance of speaking to God in the right way. The vastness and splendour o{the heavens, as well as the majesty of the thunder and the government of the cloud, impress us with the majesty of God; and yet his greatest glory is not seen in these phenomena, hut it is revealed in his moral rule and his fatherly goodness. It would be a foolish thing for us to shrink from approaching God on account of his majesty in the physical universe. He is not like a stately monarch who surrounds himself with the ceremony of a court. Formal manners are an abomination in prayer. God does not look for the courtier's obsequiousness; he seeks the child's confidence. At the same time, his kingly state is crowned by holiness. We have to approach him in awe of his purity. He dwells in light eternal. This fact, much more than his power and wide sway over the physical universe, calls for a deeply reverent spirit in prayer. Then the spiritual nature of God requires spiritual worship, and we must be true in heart if we would pray acceptably.

II. THE DIFFICULTY OF ATTAINING TO TRUE PRAYER. Elihu and the disciples of Christ both felt this difficulty. Job's friend gives the cause of it—"for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness."

1. Ignorance. We do not know what God wills; nor do we know our own hearts. Not only is the spiritual realm strange to us; we even need to know what are our needs.

2. Sin. This is the darkness that really hinders and ruins prayer. The father is not vexed at his child's helpless prattle when the child is loving and obedient. He does not look for pompous phrases; he prefers the natural, simple outpouring of the child's heart. But he is grieved at duplicity, insincerity, unreality. When our hearts are far from God we cannot pray acceptably to him. The great difficulty is want of sympathy with God; want of sympathy is the one hindrance to all human intercourse, and it is the one thing that prevents us from praying acceptably.

III. THE WAY TO REACH TRUE PRAYER. This is by prayer. We must pray to be taught to pray. The confession of our inability to pray is the first step towards doing so acceptably. Pride and self-sufficiency keep us back from the right spirit of prayer. We have to learn to bow our wills as well as to bend our knees. But the prayer to be taught this lesson may be answered in unexpected ways. We may learn what we should say to God in a school of adversity. Humbled and subdued by sorrow, we may be brought down to the right spirit of prayer in the experience from which we shrink with dismay. Or perhaps the lesson may come through more directly spiritual influences. We need to contemplate the character of God in order to pray to him aright. The revelation of God in Christ shows us how we should approach God. When we see Jesus we learn how to pray.—W.F.A.

Job 37:21

Unbearable light.

When clouds are cleared from the face of the sun we cannot bear to look up at the splendour of unveiled light. This is the case even in our thick and humid atmosphere; but it is much more so in the East, where the sun shines in its terrible strength. The unbearable light is a type of the majesty of God.

I. GOD VEILS HIS GLORY IN CLOUDS. The day often beans with clouds about the sun. Then we can look at the splendour of the dawn, because the ever-shifting panorama of crimson and gold that heralds in the day is visible to us in colours that our eyes can endure to look at. God begins the education of his children in a light that is tempered to suit their feeble vision. But a common mistake is to forget that God is condescending to our weakness, and to limit our conception of God to the measured revelation. Thus we form partial and human ideas of God. If his cloud is thick and dark we do not see his glorious light, and then we accuse him of the darkness, and narrow and unjust thoughts of God spring up in our hearts. Difficulties in nature and providence trouble us. Vexations thoughts about the apparent imperfection of God's works fill our minds with doubt. And all the while the simple truth is that God is merciful and considerate, veiling himself in clouds for the very purpose of sparing us.

II. GOD'S UNVEILED GLORY WOULD BE AN UNBEARABLE LIGHT. This we commonly say and instinctively feel. Let us now ask how it should be so.

1. Ignorance is dazzled by absolute knowledge. The beginner is not helped, he is only perplexed, when he is favoured with the most advanced thoughts of the ripe scholar. If all God's truth were suddenly flashed out to us it would be incomprehensible and overwhelming.

2. Sin shrinks from perfect holiness. The centre of God's eternal light is his purity. In our sin we cannot bear to look upon this.

3. Finite life cannot endure the fulness of infinite life. Our sympathies endeavour to respond to the appeals that draw them out. But when those appeals are infinite, our own life is swallowed up in the response. If we entered fully into the life of God, our life would be extinguished as the light of the stars is quenched in that of the sun.

III. GOD EDUCATES US BY GRADUALLY UNVEILING HIS GLORY. The clouds are rolled back by degrees. Twilight is a merciful gift of providence, tempering the first approach of the light, and saving us from the shook of the sudden exchange of night for day. God's education of his people is gradual.

1. Revelation is progressive. Adam could not endure the light which Christ brought. Early ages were trained by degrees to fit them for the growing light of God's truth. We have not reached all knowledge. Christ has many things to tell us, but we cannot bear them now (John 16:12). "God has yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word."

2. Individual lives are prepared for growing light. We cannot endure on earth the glory that shall be revealed in heaven. Our early Christian experience is not capable of receiving all that God wishes to reveal to us; therefore he rolls back the clouds by slow degrees, preparing for the great apocalypse. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12).—W.F.A.

Job 37:23

The mystery of God.

We cannot find out God. In his great strength and perfect equity he will render an account to no man. Here is a mystery, but one that is saved from terror by a sufficient revelation to reassure us of the true righteousness of God.

I. THE MYSTERY IS IN THE ACTION OF GOD. His nature is mysterious. But we are not distressed by the difficulty of comprehending it, for we know it must be beyond our grasp, and we may be content to live in peace without solving the most abstruse problems of theology. It is very different with the action of God. This affects us closely. We see it in our common life in the world. Yet here too is mystery.

1. Nature is a mystery. Not only cannot we understand its origin, but we cannot see whither it is tending. The great machine rolls on to a future beyond our imagination. What is God doing with it? How is he using all the pain and failure of it?

2. Providence is a mystery. We cannot see why God acts as he does, giving prosperity to one and adversity to another without reasons that we cat, discover. Why does he permit the simple, honest man to fail, and the clever rogue to succeed?

3. Religion is a mystery. There are mysterious doctrines in it; these we can endure. But there are also mysterious experiences. We cannot understand the dark days of strange thoughts and sad feelings, the weariness and failure, through which we have to pass.

II. THE CHARACTER OF GOD IS REVEALED TO US. Let us be fair and see what is known before we sit down and despair over the mystery of God. It is better to fix our eyes on the light we have than to brood in helpless melancholy over the darkness that surrounds it on every side. Now we know what it most concerns us to know about God. We need not understand the exact process if we can see the end. But if the character of God is revealed, we may be sure that the end of God's actions will agree with it. God has made himself known to us as perfect righteousness. That is enough. Then all he does must be righteous—"in plenty of justice." We can trust God for what he is, even when we do not understand what he does.

III. THE MYSTERY OF GOD IS IN HARMONY WITH THE REVELATION OF GOD. There is a close connection between the two. They do not contradict one another. On the contrary, the revelation leads up to the mystery. That revelation shows equity. Now, equity implies a fair treatment of all things. It is not a simple notion like love or anger. It God is just, he must take into account others besides the one person he is dealing with, and more than the pleasure or pain of the present moment. Large issues are at stake, wide interests are involved. These must go beyond our small world of observation. Therefore, because we believe in the equity of God, we must expect him to act in mystery. It is not for us to call him to account. The idea of dome so suggests an unworthy doubt. We should trust his righteousness without asking him to solve the mystery of his action.—W.F.A.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 37:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/job-37.html. 1897.

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