Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
1. Jehovah appears unexpectedly in a whirlwind (already gathering Job 37:1, 2), the symbol of "judgment" (Ps 50:3, 4, &c.), to which Job had challenged Him. He asks him now to get himself ready for the contest. Can he explain the phenomena of God's natural government? How can he, then, hope to understand the principles of His moral government? God thus confirms Elihu's sentiment, that submission to, not reasonings on, God's ways is man's part. This and the disciplinary design of trial to the godly is the great lesson of this book. He does not solve the difficulty by reference to future retribution: for this was not the immediate question; glimpses of that truth were already given in the fourteenth and nineteenth chapters, the full revelation of it being reserved for Gospel times. Yet even now we need to learn the lesson taught by Elihu and God in Job.
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
counsel—impugning My divine wisdom in the providential arrangements of the universe. Such "words" (including those of the friends) rather obscure, than throw light on My ways. God is about to be Job's Vindicator, but must first bring him to a right state of mind for receiving relief.
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
3. a man—hero, ready for battle (1Co 16:13), as he had wished (Job 9:35; 13:22; 31:37). The robe, usually worn flowing, was girt up by a girdle when men ran, labored, or fought (1Pe 1:13).
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
4. To understand the cause of things, man should have been present at their origin. The finite creature cannot fathom the infinite wisdom of the Creator (Job 28:12; 15:7, 8).
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
5. measures—of its proportions. Image from an architect's plans of a building.
line—of measurement (Isa 28:17). The earth is formed on an all-wise plan.
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
6. foundations—not "sockets," as Margin.
fastened—literally, "made to sink," as a foundation-stone let down till it settles firmly in the clay (Job 26:7). Gravitation makes and keeps the earth a sphere.
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
7. So at the founding of Zerubbabel's temple (Ezr 3:10-13). So hereafter at the completion of the Church, the temple of the Holy Ghost (Zec 4:7); as at its foundation (Lu 2:13, 14).
morning stars—especially beautiful. The creation morn is appropriately associated with these, it being the commencement of this world's day. The stars are figuratively said to sing God's praises, as in Ps 19:1; 148:3. They are symbols of the angels, bearing the same relation to our earth, as angels do to us. Therefore they answer to "sons of God," or angels, in the parallel. See on Job 25:5.
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
8. doors—floodgates; these when opened caused the flood (Ge 8:2); or else, the shores.
womb—of chaos. The bowels of the earth. Image from childbirth (Job 38:8, 9; Eze 32:2; Mic 4:10). Ocean at its birth was wrapped in clouds as its swaddling bands.
When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
10. brake up for—that is, appointed it. Shores are generally broken and abrupt cliffs. The Greek for "shore" means "a broken place." I broke off or measured off for it my limit, that is, the limit which I thought fit (Job 26:10).
And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
11. stayed—Hebrew, "a limit shall be set to."
Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
12-15. Passing from creation to phenomena in the existing inanimate world.
Hast thou—as God daily does.
commanded the morning—to rise.
since thy days—since thou hast come into being.
his place—It varies in its place of rising from day to day, and yet it has its place each day according to fixed laws.
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
13. take hold of the ends, &c.—spread itself over the earth to its utmost bounds in a moment.
wicked—who hate the light, and do their evil works in the dark (Job 24:13).
shaken out of it—The corners (Hebrew, "wings" or "skirts") of it, as of a garment, are taken hold of by the dayspring, so as to shake off the wicked.
It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
14. Explaining the first clause of Job 38:13, as Job 38:15 does the second clause. As the plastic clay presents the various figures impressed on it by a seal, so the earth, which in the dark was void of all form, when illuminated by the dayspring, presents a variety of forms, hills, valleys, &c.
turned—(Hebrew, "turns itself") alludes to the rolling cylinder seal, such as is found in Babylon, which leaves its impressions on the clay, as it is turned about; so the morning light rolling on over the earth.
they stand—The forms of beauty, unfolded by the dawn, stand forth as a garment, in which the earth is clad.
And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
15. their light—by which they work; namely, darkness, which is their day (Job 24:17), is extinguished by daylight.
high—Rather, "The arm uplifted" for murder or other crime is broken; it falls down suddenly, powerless, through their fear of light.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
16. springs—fountains beneath the sea (Ps 95:4, 5).
search—Rather, "the inmost recesses"; literally, "that which is only found by searching," the deep caverns of ocean.
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
17. seen—The second clause heightens the thought in the first. Man during life does not even "see" the gates of the realm of the dead ("death," Job 10:21); much less are they "opened" to him. But those are "naked before God" (Job 26:6).
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
18. Hast thou—as God doth (Job 28:24).
Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
19-38. The marvels in heaven. "What is the way (to the place wherein) light dwelleth?" The origin of light and darkness. In Ge 1:3-5, 14-18, "light" is created distinct from, and previous to, light-emitting bodies, the luminaries of heaven.
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
20. Dost thou know its place so well as to be able to guide, ("take" as in Isa 36:17) it to (but Umbreit, "reach it in") its own boundary, that is, the limit between light and darkness (Job 26:10)?
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
21. Or without the interrogation, in an ironical sense [Umbreit].
then—when I created light and darkness (Job 15:7).
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
22. treasures—storehouses, from which God draws forth snow and hail. Snow is vapor congealed in the air before it is collected in drops large enough to form hail. Its shape is that of a crystal in endless variety of beautiful figures. Hail is formed by rain falling through dry cold air.
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
23. against the time of trouble—the time when I design to chastise men (Ex 9:18; Jos 10:11; Re 16:21; Isa 28:17; Ps 18:12, 13; Hag 2:17).
By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
24. is … parted—parts, so as to diffuse itself over the whole earth, though seeming to come from one point. Light travels from the sun to the earth, ninety millions of miles, in eight minutes.
which scattereth—rather, "And by what way the east wind (personified) spreads (scattereth) itself." The light and east wind are associated together, as both come from one quarter, and often arise together (Jon 4:8).
Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
25. waters—Rain falls, not in a mass on one spot, but in countless separate canals in the air marked out for them.
way for the lightning—(Job 28:26).
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
26. Since rain fails also on places uninhabited by man, it cannot be that man guides its course. Such rain, though man cannot explain the reason for it, is not lost. God has some wise design in it.
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
27. As though the desolate ground thirsted for God's showers. Personification. The beauty imparted to the uninhabited desert pleases God, for whom primarily all things exist, and He has ulterior designs in it.
Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
28. Can any visible origin of rain and dew be assigned by man? Dew is moisture, which was suspended in the air, but becomes condensed on reaching the—in the night—lower temperature of objects on the earth.
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
29. Job 37:10.
The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
30. The unfrozen waters are hid under the frozen, as with a covering of stone.
frozen—literally, "is taken"; the particles take hold of one another so as to cohere.
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
31. sweet influences—the joy diffused by spring, the time when the Pleiades appear. The Eastern poets, Hafiz, Sadi, &c., describe them as "brilliant rosettes." Gesenius translates: "bands" or "knot," which answers better the parallelism. But English Version agrees better with the Hebrew. The seven stars are closely "bound" together (see on Job 9:9). "Canst thou bind or loose the tie?" "Canst thou loose the bonds by which the constellation Orion (represented in the East as an impious giant chained to the sky) is held fast?" (See on Job 9:9).
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
32. Canst thou bring forth from their places or houses (Mazzaloth, 2Ki 23:5, Margin; to which Mazzaroth here is equivalent) into the sky the signs of the Zodiac at their respective seasons—the twelve lodgings in which the sun successively stays, or appears, in the sky?
his sons?—the three stars in his tail. Canst thou make them appear in the sky? (Job 9:9). The great and less Bear are called by the Arabs "Daughters of the Bier," the quadrangle being the bier, the three others the mourners.
Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
33. ordinances—which regulate the alternations of seasons, &c. (Ge 8:22).
dominion—controlling influence of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, &c., on the earth (on the tides, weather) (Ge 1:16; Ps 136:7-9).
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
34. Jer 14:22; above Job 22:11, metaphorically.
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
35. Here we are—at thy disposal (Isa 6:8).
Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
36. inward parts … heart—But "dark clouds" ("shining phenomena") [Umbreit]; "meteor" [Maurer], referring to the consultation of these as signs of weather by the husbandman (Ec 11:4). But Hebrew supports English Version. The connection is, "Who hath given thee the intelligence to comprehend in any degree the phenomena just specified?"
heart—not the usual Hebrew word, but one from a root "to view"; perception.
Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
37. Who appoints by his wisdom the due measure of the clouds?
stay—rather, "empty"; literally, "lay down" or "incline" so as to pour out.
bottles of heaven—rain-filled clouds.
When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
38. groweth, &c.—rather, pour itself into a mass by the rain, like molten metal; then translate Job 38:38, "Who is it that empties," &c., "when," &c.? The English Version, however, is tenable: "Is caked into a mass" by heat, like molten metal, before the rain falls; "Who is it that can empty the rain vessels, and bring down rain at such a time?" (Job 38:38).
Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
39. At Job 38:39-39:30, the instincts of animals. Is it thou that givest it the instinct to hunt its prey? (Ps 104:21).
appetite—literally, "life," which depends on the appetite" (Job 33:20).
When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
40. lie in wait?—for their prey (Ps 10:9).
Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
41. Lu 12:24. Transition from the noble lioness to the croaking raven. Though man dislikes it, as of ill omen, God cares for it, as for all His creatures.