Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 39:17

Because God has made her forget wisdom, And has not given her a share of understanding.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Birds;   God;   Ostriches;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ostrich, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Animals;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Job;   Knowledge;   Nature;   World;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ostrich,;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

God hath deprived her of wisdom - Of this foolishness we have an account from the ancients; and here follow two instances:

  1. It covers its head in the reeds, and thinks itself all out of sight because itself cannot see. So Claudian: -
- 'Stat lumine clauso

Ridendum revoluta caput: creditque latere

Quad non ipsa videt.'

2. They who hunt them draw the skin of an ostrich's neck on one hand, which proves a sufficient lure to take them with the other. They have so little brain that Heliogabalus had six hundred heads for his supper. Here we may observe, that our judicious as well as sublime author just touches the great points of distinction in each creature, and then hastens to another. A description is exact when you cannot add but what is common to another thing; nor withdraw, but something peculiarly belonging to the thing described. A likeness is lost in too much description, as a meaning is often in too much illustration." - Dr. Young.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-39.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom … - That is, he has not imparted to her the wisdom which has been conferred on other animals. The meaning is, that all this remarkable arrangement, which distinguished the ostrich so much from other animals was to be traced to God. It was not the result of chance; it could not be pretended that it was by a human arrangement, but it was the result of divine appointment. Even in this apparent destitution of wisdom, there were reasons which had led to this appointment, and the care and good providence of God could be seen in the preservation of the animal. Particularly, though apparently so weak, and timid, and unwise, the ostrich had a noble hearing Job 39:18, and when aroused, would scorn the fleetest horse in the pursuit, and show that she was distinguished for properties that were expressive of the goodness of God toward her, and of his care over her.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-39.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom,.... Or "made her to forget"F4השה "oblivisci fecit eum", Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens. what she had; an instance of her forgetfulness is mentioned Job 39:15; and so Leo AfricanusF5Ut supra. (Desciptio. Africae, l. 9. p. 766.) says of it, that it is of a very short memory, and presently forgets the place where its eggs are laid;

neither hath he imparted to her understanding; many instances are given of its stupidity by historians, as that it will take anything that is offered to it to eat, stones, iron, &c.F6Aelian. ut supra. (de Animal. l. 5. c. 21.) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 1. ; that it will thrust its head and neck into a thicket, fancying: it is hid and covered, and that none can see it; which PlinyF7Ibid. (Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 1.) remarks as an instance of its foolishness; though Diodorus SiculusF8Ut supra. (Diodor. Sicul. Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133.) takes this to be a point of prudence, for the preservation of those parts of it which are weakest. Strabo givesF9Geograph. l. 16. p. 531. another instance of its stupidity, its being so easily deceived by sportsmen, who, by putting the skin of an ostrich on their hands, and reaching out fruits or seeds to it, it will receive them of them, and be taken. Others observe the smallness of their heads, and so of their brains, as an argument of their want of understanding; and it has been remarked, as a proof of their having but few brains, that Heliogabalus, the Roman emperor, had six hundred heads of ostriches dressed at once for his supper, for the sake of their brainsF11Lamprid. Vit. Heliogab. c. 20, 30. .

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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 39:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-39.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Because God hath deprived her of k wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

(k) That is, to have a care and natural affection toward his young.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/job-39.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

wisdom — such as God gives to other animals, and to man (Job 35:11). The Arab proverb is, “foolish as an ostrich.” Yet her very seeming want of wisdom is not without wise design of God, though man cannot see it; just as in the trials of the godly, which seem so unreasonable to Job, there lies hid a wise design.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-39.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

Deprived — Because God hath not implanted in her that instinct, and affection, which he hath put into other birds and beasts toward their young.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/job-39.html. 1765.

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 39:17". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/job-39.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 39:17 Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

Ver. 17. Because God hath deprived her of wisdom] That is, of such forecast to provide for her young ones by a natural instinct, as other fowls and beasts have, Struthionis astorgia declaratur e causis duabus, vacuitate metus et vacuitate intellectus. God’s mercy to men appeareth, 1. In giving us wisdom beyond them, Job 35:11 2. In giving us power over them, Psalms 8:6-8; Psalms 3:1-8. In learning us so much by them in those many Scripture comparisons, Proverbs 7:23; Proverbs 26:2; Proverbs 27:8;, Matthew 8:26. That is a sweet place, Isaiah 31:5, "As birds flying" (sc. to save their young), "so will the Lord defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it." The fowls of the air are and may be unto us examples and monitors of many virtues to be embraced and vices to be eschewed. In the ostrich, for instance, we may see that strength and size of body is not always accompanied with wisdom and understanding; that it is God who either giveth or denieth wisdom to his creatures; that natural affection is of him; that he gives not all things to one man, but diversely distributeth his gifts. The ostrich hath wings, but not to fly with.

Oυτως ου παντεσσι θεοι χαριεντα διδουσιν

Aνδρασι. - Non omnia possumus omnes.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 39:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-39.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Because God hath not implanted in her that natural instinct, and providence, and affection, which he hath put into other birds and beasts towards their young. And yet no man presumes to reproach me for making this difference in my creatures. And as little reason hast thou to blame me for afflicting thee, when others not so bad as thou for the present go unpunished; because I have no less authority over thee than over them, and can dispose of all my creatures according to my good pleasure. The great folly of this bird is noted by Arabic writers, who best know her, and that not only for this property of forsaking her own eggs, but also for other things, as that she eats any thing which is offered to her, as iron, stones, glass, hot coals, &c., whereas other birds and beasts have so much sagacity, as to reject improper and unwholesome things; that being pursued by the hunter, she thinks herself safe and unseen by hiding her head in the sand; for which, and other such qualities, it is a proverb among the Arabians, More foolish than an ostrich.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 39:17". 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

17.Because God hath deprived, etc. — Rather, For God made her forgetful of wisdom, (hhokmah,) and gave her no share in understanding, (binah.) The Arabs have a proverb, “Foolish as the ostrich,” which might suffice for the illustration of the verse. Bochartus, however, cites five instances of stupidity. One may be given from Livingstone: “The ostrich is generally seen quietly feeding on some spot where no one can approach him without being seen by his wary eye. As the wagon moves along far to the windward, he thinks it is intended to circumvent him, so he rushes up a mile or so from the leeward, and so near to the front oxen that one sometimes gets a shot at the silly bird. When he begins to run, all the game in sight follow his example. I have seen this folly taken advantage of when he was feeding quietly in a valley open at both ends. A number of men would commence running, as if to cut off his retreat from the end through which the wind came; and although he had the whole country, hundreds of miles, before him by going to the other end, on he madly rushed to get past the men, and so was speared. He never swerves from the course he once adopts, but only increases his speed.” — South Africa, p. 171. See also Tristram, Nat. His., p. 238, and Wetzstein in Delitzsch, ii, pp. 341, 342. The difference thus suggested between the ostrich and animals pre-eminent in understanding must at the same time have impressed upon Job one of the many mysteries of the world of instinct; a world which Hume declares to be “inexplicable by all the disquisitions of human understanding.”

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-39.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 39:17. Because God hath deprived her of wisdom — The want of natural affection to her young is not the only reproach due to the ostrich. “She is likewise inconsiderate and foolish in her private capacity, particularly in her choice of food, which is frequently highly detrimental and pernicious to her, for she swallows every thing greedily and indiscriminately, whether it be pieces of rags, leather, wood, stone, or even iron.” “When I was at Oran,” proceeds Dr. Shaw, “I saw one of these birds swallow, without any seeming uneasiness or inconvenience, several leaden bullets, as they were thrown upon the floor, scorching hot from the mould.” A second instance of her folly is, that, to secure herself, she will thrust her head into the shrubs, though her body which is of a great height, be exposed. As a third instance, it is said that she is sometimes taken by a stratagem of the sportsman, who clothes himself with the skin of an ostrich, putting his right hand into the skin of the neck, and moving it in the same manner as the ostrich does its own neck, and with his left hand strowing some seed from a bag that hangs down; by this means he entices the bird, and throws it into the valleys. A fourth is, the leaving her eggs, as has been just mentioned. A fifth instance is taken from the shape of its body, having a little head, and scarce any brain: hence historians tell us, that the Emperor Heliogabalus, to gratify his luxurious taste, together with other delicacies, such as the combs of cocks, the tongues of pheasants and nightingales, the eggs of partridges, the heads of parrots and peacocks, the brains of thrushes, had likewise served up to him, at one entertainment, the heads of six hundred ostriches for the sake of the brains; because, being so very small, a less number would not have been sufficient to make a dish. See Chappelow.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 39:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/job-39.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Understanding. This bird has a head disproportionately small; insomuch, that Heliogabalus served up the brains of 600 at one supper. It greedily eats iron, &c., which may help its digestion, as sand does that of other birds. (Calmet) --- When it is hunted, it hides its head only, as if this would be a sufficient defence, (Pliny, [Natural History?] x. 1.) and is taken alive by a man, clothed in the skin of an ostrich, who moves the head with his hand. (Strabo xvi.) --- All which proves its stupidity. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/job-39.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

Wisdom - such as God gives to other animals, and to man (Job 35:11). The Arab proverb is, 'Foolish as an ostrich.' Yet her very seeming want of wisdom is not without wise design of God, though man cannot see it: just as in the trials of the godly, which seem so unreasonable to Job, there lies hid a wise design.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-39.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
17:4; 35:11; Deuteronomy 2:30; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Isaiah 19:11-14; 57:17; James 1:17
Reciprocal: Job 12:20 - taketh;  Psalm 119:19 - hide;  Isaiah 28:26 - For his God;  Isaiah 30:28 - causing

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 39:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-39.html.