Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 39:1

"Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer?
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - God;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Beasts;   Goat, the;   Hart, the;   Rocks;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Goat;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Animals;   Fulfillment;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Goat;   Roe;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Hart;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Animals;   Doe;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Goat;   Hart, Hind;   Knowledge;   Nature;   World;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Goat;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Hind,;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Goat;   Hind;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Bring;   Chamois;   Deer;   Goat;   Zoology;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Goat;   Hart;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Knowest thou the time - To know time, etc., only, was easy, and has nothing extraordinary in it; but the meaning of these questions is, to know the circumstances, which have something peculiarly expressive of God's providence, and make the questions proper in this place. Pliny observes, that the hind with young is by instinct directed to a certain herb, named seselis, which facilitates the birth. Thunder, also, which looks like the more immediate hand of Providence, has the same effect. Psalm 29:9; : "The Voice of the Lord maketh the Hinds to Calve." See Dr. Young. What is called the wild goat, יעל yael, from עלה alah, to ascend, go or mount up, is generally understood to be the ibex or mountain goat, called yael, from the wonderful manner in which it mounts to the tops of the highest rocks. It is certain, says Johnston, there is no crag of the mountains so high, prominent or steep, but this animal will mount it in a number of leaps, provided only it be rough, and have protuberances large enough to receive its hoofs in leaping. This animal is indigenous to Arabia, is of amazing strength and agility, and considerably larger than the common goat. Its horns are very long, and often bend back over the whole body of the animal; and it is said to throw itself from the tops of rocks or towers, and light upon its horns, without receiving any damage. It goes five months with young.

When the hinds do calve? - The hind is the female of the stag, or cervus elaphus, and goes eight months with young. They live to thirty-five or forty years. Incredible longevity has been attributed to some stags. One was taken by Charles VI., in the forest of Senlis, about whose neck was a collar with this inscription, Caesar hoc mihi donavit, which led some to believe that this animal had lived from the days of some one of the twelve Caesars, emperors of Rome. I have seen the following form of this inscription: -

Tempore quo Caesar Roma dominatus in alta

Aureolo jussit collum signare monili;

Nehemiah depascentem quisquis me gramina laedat.

Caesaris heu! caussa periturae parcere vitae!

Which has been long public in the old English ballad strain, thus: -

"When Julius Caesar reigned king,

About my neck he put this ring;

That whosoever should me take

Would save my life for Caesar's sake."

Aristotle mentions the longevity of the stag, but thinks it fabulous.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-39.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Knowest thou, the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? - That is, the particular season when the mountain goats bring forth their young. Of domestic animals - the sheep, the tame goat, etc., the habits would be fuIly understood. But the question here relates to the animals that roamed at large on inaccessible cliffs; that were buried in deep forests; that were far from the dwellings and observation of people; and the meaning is, that there were many facts in regard to such points of Natural History which Job could not explain. God knew all their instincts and habits, and on the inaccessible cliffs, in the deep dell, in the dark forest, he was with them, and they were the objects of his care. He not only regarded the condition of the domestic animals that had been brought into the service of man, and where man perhaps might be disposed to claim that they owed much of their comfort to his care, but he regarded also the wild, wandering beast of the mountain, where no such pretence could be advanced.

The providence of God is over them; and in the periods of their lives when they seem most to need attention, when every shepherd and herdsmen is most solicitous about his flocks and herds, then God is present, and his care is seen in their preservation. The particular point in the inquiry here is, not in regard to the time when these animals produced their young or the period of their gestation, which might probably be known, but in regard to the attention and care which was needful for them when they were so far removed from the observance of man, and had no human aid. The “wild goat of the rock” here referred to, is, doubtless, the Ibex, or mountain goat, that has its dwellings among the rocks, or in stony places. The Hebrew term is יעל yâ‛êl from יעל ya‛al “to ascend, to go up.” They had their residence in the lofty rocks of mountains; Psalm 104:18. “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats.”

Hebrew “For the goats of the rocks” - סלעים יעלים yâ‛êliym sela‛iym So in 1 Samuel 24:2 (3), “Saul went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats;” that is, where were the wild goats - היעלים hayâ‛êliym For a description of the wild goat, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxiii. The animal here referred to is, doubtless, the same which Burckhardt saw on the summit of Mount Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai, and which he thus describes in his Travels in Syria, p. 571: “As we approached the summit of the mountain (Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai), we saw at a distance a small flock of mountain goats feeding among the rocks. One of our Arabs left us, and by a widely circuitous route endeavored to get to the leeward of them, and near enough to fire at them. He enjoined us to remain in sight of them, and to sit down in order not to alarm them. He had nearly reached a favorable spot behind a rock, when the goats suddenly took to flight. They could not have seen the Arab, but the wind changed, and thus they smelt him. The chase of the beden, as the wild goat is called, resembles that of the chamois of the Alps, and requires as much enterprise and patience. The Arabs make long circuits to surprise them, and endeavor to come upon them early in the morning, when they feed.

The goats have a leader who keeps watch, and on any suspicious smell, sound, or object, makes a noise, which is a signal to the flock to make their escape. They have much decreased of late, if we may believe the Arabs; who say that fifty years ago, if a stranger came to a tent, and the owner of it had no sheep to kill, he took his gun and went in search of a beden. They are, however, even now more common here than in the Alps, or in the mountains to the east of the Red Sea. I had three or four of them brought to me at the convent, which I bought at three-fourths of a dollar each. The flesh is excellent, and has nearly the same flavor as that of the deer. The Bedouins make water bags of their skins, and rings of their horns, which they wear on their thumbs. When the beden is met with in the plains, the dogs of the hunters easily catch him; but they cannot come up with him among the rocks, where he can make leaps of 20 feet.”

Or Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? - The reference here is to the special care and protection of God manifested for them. The meaning is, that this animal seems to be always timid and apprehensive of danger, and that there is special care bestowed upon an animal so defenseless in enabling it to rear its young. The word hinds denotes the deer, the fawn, the most timid and defenseless, perhaps, of all animals.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-39.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

JOB 39

A CONTINUATION OF THE WORDS OF JEHOVAH

As already noted, the details of God's multiple questions addressed to Job do not appear to follow any pattern. Moreover it seems that the questions themselves are not nearly so important as the simple fact that Almighty God is here carrying on a conversation with a mortal man. This is at once, the glory of Job, and of mankind. The questions do not solve any of the mysteries of Job's suffering; the questions he has so eagerly asked remain unanswered; but in spite of all this, the questions achieve their intended effect in the heart of Job. As we learn later in Job 41:6, Job repents in dust and ashes. And of what does he repent? It was not of that gross wickedness imagined in the accusations of his friends, for of that he was not guilty. Nevertheless, he was by no means sinless; and his innocent notion that he could plead his worthiness even before God was profoundly in error.

Job accepted for himself the guilt and unworthiness which, in the very nature of our sinful mortality, pertains to all mankind. And it is in that sublime fact that the wise man must, at last, find the explanation of all the mysteries of our earthly existence, and, "Trust our Creator in all areas, even those in which we cannot see; for we walk by faith and not by sight." It was the surpassing honor of Job that God enabled him to do that very thing.

Job 39:1-4

JOB'S IGNORANCE OF WILD GOATS; DEER; AND OTHER WILD LIFE

"Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rocks bring forth?

Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?

Canst thou number the months that they fulfill?

Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?

They bow themselves, they bring forth their young,

They cast forth their pain.

Their young ones become strong,

They grow up in the open field:

They go forth, and return not again."

Men have learned much about the beasts of the earth since the times of Job; and by capturing and breeding animals in menageries and zoological gardens, some of the questions God asked of Job in this paragraph men are now able to answer; but by no means do men know the whole story of the instinctive traits God created in all animals. There are inexplicable mysteries regarding any animal that the wisest men on earth cannot explain.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/job-39.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?.... Which creatures are so called, because they dwell among the rocksF4"----Amantis saxa capellae". Ovid. Epist. 15. v. 55. and run upon them; and though their heads are loaded with a vast burden of horns upon them, yet can so poise themselves, as with the greatest swiftness, to leap from mountain to mountain, as Pliny saysF5Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 53. Aelian. de Animal. l. 14. c. 16. : and if they bring forth their young in the rocks, as Olympiodorus asserts, and which is not improbable, it is not to be wondered, that the time of their bringing forth should not be known by men, to whom the rocks they run upon are inaccessible;

or canst thou mark the time when the hinds do calve? that is, precisely and exactly, and so as to direct, order, and manage, and bring it about, as the Lord does: and it is wonderful that they should calve, and not cast their young before their time, when they are continually in flight and fright, through men or wild beasts, and are almost always running and leaping about; and often scared with thunder, which hastens birth, Psalm 29:9; otherwise the time of their bringing forth in general is known by men, as will be observed in Job 39:2.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-39.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Even wild beasts, cut off from all care of man, are cared for by God at their seasons of greatest need. Their instinct comes direct from God and guides them to help themselves in parturition; the very time when the herdsman is most anxious for his herds.

wild goats — ibex (Psalm 104:18; 1 Samuel 24:2).

hinds — fawns; most timid and defenseless animals, yet cared for by God.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-39.html. 1871-8.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

CREATURE AND CREATOR

‘Thou … God.’

Job 39:1; Job 39:17

I. Still the unveiling of the Divine glory proceeds, but now in its application to the things of life.—The feeding of lions and young lions; the fact that the cry of a young raven is prayer in His ears, which He answers with food; the mystery of the begetting and birth of lower animals, with the sorrows of travail, and the finding of strength; the freedom and wildness and splendid untameableness of the wild ass; the uncontrolled strength of the wild ox: in all these things God reveals Himself as interested; and, morever, as active.

II. And still the unveiling goes forward, and the differing manifestations of foolishness and power and wisdom, as they are evident among birds and beasts, are dealt with.—The ostrich rejoicing in the power of her pinions, and in her folly abandoning her eggs and her young, is described; and her very foolishness is accounted for by the act of God. He deprived her of wisdom. There is nothing, then, that happens in these lower realms of life apart from His volition. The war-horse with his might, who is yet tameable, so that he will serve man, and come to rejoice amid strange and awful battle scenes and sounds, is yet not of man’s creation. All his essential strength is Divinely bestowed. The hawk with wisdom directing it to the south land, and the eagle placing her nest on high, far from the possibility of intrusion, yet in such place of observation as enables her to feed her young, these also are God-guided. Even though in the great dispensation of His government God has committed to man dominion, it is dominion over facts and forces which he has not originated, nor does he sustain.

Illustration

‘Notable especially to us is the close relation between this portion and certain sayings of our Lord in which the same argument brings the same conclusion. “Two passages of God’s speaking,” says Mr. Ruskin, “one in the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it seems to me, a different character from any of the rest, having been uttered, the one to effect the last necessary change in the mind of a man whose piety was in other respects perfect; and the other as the first statement to all men of the principles of Christianity by Christ Himself—I mean the thirty-eighth to the forty-first chapters of the Book of Job and the Sermon on the Mount. Now the first of these passages is from beginning to end nothing else than a direction of the mind which was to be perfected, to humble observance of the works of God in nature. And the other consists only in the inculcation of three things: First, right conduct; second, looking for eternal life; third, trusting God through watchfulness of His dealings with His creation.”’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Job 39:1". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/job-39.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 39:1 Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? [or] canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?

Ver. 1. Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?] The history of the living creatures is of singular use we see to set forth the goodness, power, wisdom, and other of God’s attributes clearly shining in them. And therefore they have very well deserved all sorts who have put forth such histories and discourses; as Aristotle, Aelian, Pliny, Gesner, Aldobrandinus, &c., of whom I may say, as once Eneas Sylvius (afterwards Pope Plus II.) did of learning in general, that popular men should esteem them as silver, noblemen as gold, princes as pearls; and not so slenderly reward them as Pope Sixtus did Theodorus Gaza (who translated and dedicated unto him Aristotle, De Natura Animalium), paying him only for the rich binding and bossing forty crowns; but bountifully encourage them, as Great Alexander did his master Aristotle for that same work; he gave him, saith the history, eight hundred talents, which is four hundred and fourscore thousand crowns (Job. Manl. loc. com. 572). The pleasure of reading such authors is not so great as the profit; for thereby we may attain to the knowledge of God, and of ourselves; of his will, and our duties. Hence we are sent to school to the unreasonable creatures, even the most contemptible, as the pismire, Proverbs 6:6. And Basil, writing to one that was proud of his knowledge, propoundeth unto him divers questions concerning this same pismire, as, namely, how many feet he hath? whether he hath entrails, such as kidneys, liver, heart, veins, nerves, as other living creatures do? &c. Similarly, God here, to humble Job, and to convince him of his meanness, asketh him whether he knoweth the wild goats and hinds, with the time of their bringing forth young, the means and the manner? &c. And whether these things were done by his ordination and vigilance? Many admirable things are written of these wild goats; as what cold places they live in, what inaccessible rocks, how strangely there they hang, what huge leaps they fetch; but especially about their bringing forth, how by a natural sagacity they help themselves, both before and after, by biting upon certain herbs that are helpful to them in that case,

Pendentem summa capream de rupe videbis

Casuram speres, decipit illa canes (Mart.).

These things and many more such may be read about in Pliny’s Natural History; of which book Erasmus well saith, that it is a store house, or rather a world full of things most worthy to be read. So are not the Jewish expositors, who tell us many strange things here concerning these creatures, quae commentitia esse puto, which I take to be mere fictions, saith learned Mercer; and I to be trifles and old wives’ fables, saith Lavater, to the belief whereof they are justly given up by God for their rejection of Christ, the light of the world. We grant that the whole world is full of miracles, though for the commonness of them they are little noted, or noticed. But should these men think to help the truth by their lies? Should they speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for him?

Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?] Which they do not without a great deal of pain (as the Hebrew word importeth), no creature the like, unless it be woman. God sometimes frighteth them by his thunder, and so furthereth their delivery, Psalms 29:9, while they struggle with many griefs, and to give life to their calves, are in danger of losing their own. Now, if God help the hinds in this case, will he be wanting to his labouring daughters? Let them send for Lady Faith to be their midwife; and all shall go well. She hath delivered graves of their dead, Hebrews 11:35. How much more then will she them of their quick births, yea, though they carry death in their bowels!

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 39:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-39.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

CHAP. XXXIX.

Of the wild goats and hinds; of the wild ass; the unicorn, the peacock, stork, and ostrich; the horse, the hawk, and the eagle.

Before Christ 1645.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 39:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-39.html. 1801-1803.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

The whole of this chapter, like the former, contains the Lord's solemn, but tender expostulation with Jobadiah In a very beautiful manner the Lord sends his servant to the inferior creation for lessons of instruction, and in showing him how merciful the Lord is, in providing for all the wants of the several creatures he hath formed, thereby to convince him; that it is impossible God should overlook the higher order, in his creature man; so that Job's charging God with inattention, and unkindness, was altogether unjust and ill founded.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/job-39.html. 1828.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

JOB CHAPTER 39

Of the wild goats and hinds, Job 39:1-4; the wild ass, Job 39:5-8; the unicorn, Job 39:9-12; the peacock, stork, and ostrich, Job 39:13-18; the horse, Job 39:19-25; the hawk; the eagle, Job 39:26-30. These creatures, not fully known to Job, or governed by him, are sufficient to convince him that he is no fit judge of the counsels of God.

Knowest thou the time, that thou mayst then go to them, and afford them thy help in their hard work?

The wild goats of the rock; which dwell in high and steep rocks, where no man can come. See 1 Samuel 24:2 Psalms 104:18.

Bring forth; which they do with great difficulty, as is implied, Psalms 29:9, and noted by philosophers, wherein they have no assistance from men, but only from God.

When the hinds do calve; when God by his secret instinct directs them to a certain herb called seseli, which, as naturalists report, doth hasten and help forward their birth.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 39:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/job-39.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

β. The questions thus far propounded must have profoundly impressed Job with a sense of his insignificance; another, and more important view of himself, he is now to take in the mirror of nature — a no less view than that of his consummate ignorance. His attention is again directed to the brute creation, and he is asked a few plain questions, perhaps in irony, concerning the laws that govern the gestation and birth of animals with which he must have been more or less familiar. These laws, he is made to feel, revolve in a sphere entirely independent of himself — the domain of divine forethought and arrangement; man can mark results, but knows not the secret principles which render the gestation of one animal longer, or its parturition less difficult, than that of another, Job 39:1-4.

1.Wild goats — The ibex, or rock-goat, (Hebrews, yaal, that is, climber,) was well known to the Jews, both in the Wilderness and in the Land of Promise. But, though familiar with the animal, they knew but little of its habits, owing to its extreme wariness and wildness.’ In Arabia Petraea the ibex is very common. It is generally found in small herds of eight or ten. (Tristram, Natural History.) Canst thou mark when, etc. — Rather, observest thou the travail of the hinds? “The question here,” as Bochartus well observes, “is not of idle and merely speculative knowledge, but of that knowledge which belongs to God only, by which he not only knows all things, but directs and governs them.” Or, its object may be, in a most humiliating manner, to remind Job that the parturition of the mountain hind takes place without his foresight, intervention, or control. Thus, most moderns.

Hinds — The female of the common stag. The reader is referred to Pliny’s Natural History, 8:32, for the views of the ancients on this whole subject.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-39.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Goats (Ibex. Hebrew Yahale.; Haydock) frequent rocks, and places which are almost inaccessible to man. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/job-39.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Next God speaks of the wild goats and deer. Job did not even know the time of their gestation period. They dwell on wild mountains (Psalms 104:18), they are wild and timid, they give birth out in the middle of nowhere and their young grow up to become strong, yet man has nothing to do with any of this. "Hidden from civilized man, these mountain creatures bear with ease their young, who soon become strong, grow up, and leave their parents, ready to fend for themselves" (Zuck p. 171).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/job-39.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Knowest thou . . . ? Note the Figure of speech Erotesis (App-6), used by Jehovah throughout this chapter for emphasis.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/job-39.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?

Even wild beasts, cut off from all care of man, are cared for by God at their seasons of greatest need. Their instinct comes direct from God, and guides them to help themselves in parturition-the very time when the herdsman is most anxious for herds.

Wild goats - ibex (Psalms 104:18; 1 Samuel 24:2).

Hinds - most timid and defenseless animals, yet cared for by God.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-39.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
the wild
1 Samuel 24:2; Psalms 104:18
when
Psalms 29:9; Jeremiah 14:5
Reciprocal: Genesis 1:24 - Let;  Psalm 8:8 - The fowl;  Proverbs 6:7 - GeneralProverbs 25:2 - the glory;  Ecclesiastes 11:5 - even

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 39:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-39.html.