Job 38:21
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Knowest thou it?—It is better to read this verse without an interrogation, as sublime irony. “Doubtless thou knowest all this, for thou wast born then, and the number of thy days is so great!”

Job 38:21. Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? — An ironical question. If thou pretendest that thou knowest these things, how camest thou by this knowledge? Was it because thou didst then exist in the full and perfect use of thy faculties, and thereby hadst the opportunity of inspecting my works, and of seeing whence the light came? Or, because thou hast gained this knowledge by long experience, as having lived ever since the creation of the world until this time? Whereas, in truth, thou art but of yesterday, and knowest, comparatively, nothing, Job 8:9.

38:12-24 The Lord questions Job, to convince him of his ignorance, and shame him for his folly in prescribing to God. If we thus try ourselves, we shall soon be brought to own that what we know is nothing in comparison with what we know not. By the tender mercy of our God, the Day-spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those that sit in darkness, whose hearts are turned to it as clay to the seal, 2Co 4:6. God's way in the government of the world is said to be in the sea; this means, that it is hid from us. Let us make sure that the gates of heaven shall be opened to us on the other side of death, and then we need not fear the opening of the gates of death. It is presumptuous for us, who perceive not the breadth of the earth, to dive into the depth of God's counsels. We should neither in the brightest noon count upon perpetual day, nor in the darkest midnight despair of the return of the morning; and this applies to our inward as well as to our outward condition. What folly it is to strive against God! How much is it our interest to seek peace with him, and to keep in his love!Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? - This may either be a question, or it may be spoken ironically. According to the former mode of rendering it, it is the same as asking Job whether he had lived long enough to understand where the abode of light was, or whether he had an existence when it was created, and knew where its home was appointed. According to the latter mode, it is keen sarcasm. "Thou must know all this, for thou art so old. Thou hast had an opportunity of observing all this, for thou hast lived through all these changes, and observed all the works of God." This latter method of interpreting it is adopted by Umbreit, Herder, Noyes, Rosenmuller, and Wemyss. The former, however, seems much better to accord with the connection, and with the dignity and character of the speaker. It is not desirable to represent God as speaking in the language of irony and sarcasm unless the rules of interpretation imperatively demand it. 21. Or without the interrogation, in an ironical sense [Umbreit].

then—when I created light and darkness (Job 15:7).

An ironical question: If thou pretendest that thou knowest these things, and canst readily answer these questions, how comest thou by this knowledge? Was it from hence, because thou wast born when I made the world, and that first constitution of the light and darkness in that order and succession which continues to this day, and thereby hadst the opportunity of inspecting my works, and seeing whence the light came, and because thou hast gained this knowledge by long experience, as having lived ever since the creation of the world until this time? whereas in truth thou art but of yesterday, and knowest nothing, as was said, Job 8:9. But the words are and may be otherwise rendered, Dost or didst thou know, either by thy own remembrance, or by the information of others,

that thou wast then born? (to wit, when I made the world. Or, Didst thou know that thou shouldest then be born? then, to wit, when thou wast born. Or, Didst thou then know, the two Hebrew particles being transplaced, as is not unusual in that language, that thou shouldest be born? How couldst thou know this, when thou hadst no being?) and that the number of thy days should be great? that thou shouldst live so long as thou hast lived? Thou couldst neither foreknow the time of thy birth, nor the length of thy life. Or, and is the number of thy days great, i.e. so great that it reacheth to the time of the world’s creation?

Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born?.... When light and darkness were first separated, and had their several apartments assigned them; their laws and rules given them, and their bounds and limits set them? No; he was not: and, had he been the first man, could not have been early enough to have been present at the doing of this, and so come at the knowledge thereof; since man was not made until the sixth day of the creation;

or because the number of thy days is great; reach to the beginning of time, and so as old as the creation. This was not the case. Some understand these words ironically; "thou knowest" the places and bounds of light and darkness, since thou art a very old man, born as soon as the world was. Whereas he was of yesterday, and knew nothing; which to convince him of is the design of this biting, cutting, expression. The Targum is,

"didst thou know then that thou shouldest be born, and the number of thy days many?''

No, Job did not know when he was born, nor of whom, and in what circumstances, but by the relation of others; and much less could he know before he was born, that he should be, or how long he should live in the world: but God knows all this beforehand; when men shall come into the world, at what period and of what parents, and how long they shall continue in it.

Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. The verse is ironical,

Thou knowest; for thou wast then born,

And the number of thy days is great.

The words “thou knowest” refer to the question, Job 38:19, Which is the way …? Job knows the way to the place of light, for he was born contemporary with it; he is as old as the dayspring which morning by morning has overspread the earth since creation’s dawn.

“Light is considered here, as in Genesis 1, to be a natural force, with an independent existence, apart from the heavenly luminaries that transmit it. And in this, as is well known, modern investigation coincides with the direct perceptions of antiquity” (Schlottmann, Comm. on Job, p. 468). To this remark it has to be added that in the present passage “darkness” also, no less than light, is regarded as a natural force, with an independent existence, and a “place” where it abides, contiguous to light. Science, to which Scripture is taught to look so humbly for approval, will no doubt confirm this representation also.

Verse 21. - Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? The irony that has underlain the whole address comes here to the surface, and shows itself palpably. Job, of course, is as old as the Almighty, or, at any rate, coeval with creation; otherwise he could not presume to take the tone which he has taken, and arraign the moral government of the Creator. Or because the number of thy days is great! Compare the sarcasm of Eliphaz (Job 15:7). Job 38:2116 Hast thou reached the fountains of the sea,

And hast thou gone into the foundation of the deep?

17 Were the gates of death unveiled to thee,

And didst thou see the gates of the realm of shades?

18 Hast thou comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Speak, in so far as thou knowest all this!

19 Which is the way to where the light dwelleth,

And darkness, where is its place,

20 That thou mightest bring it to its bound,

And that thou mightest know the paths of its house?

21 Thou knowest it, for then wast thou born,

And the number of thy days is great! -

The root נב has the primary notion of obtruding itself upon the senses (vid., Genesis, S. 635), whence נבך in Arabic of a rising country that pleases the eye (nabaka, a hill, a hillside), and here (cognate in root and meaning נבע, Syr. Talmud. נבג, Arab. nbg, nbṭ, scatuirire) of gushing and bubbling water. Hitzig's conjecture, approved by Olsh., נבלי, sets aside a word that is perfectly clear so far as the language is concerned. On חקר vid., on Job 11:7. The question put to Job in Job 38:17, he must, according to his own confession, Job 26:6, answer in the negative. In order to avoid the collision of two aspirates, the interrogative ה is wanting before התבּננתּ, Ew. 324, b; התבנן עד signifies, according to Job 32:12, to observe anything carefully; the meaning of the question therefore is, whether Job has given special attention to the breadth of the earth, and whether he consequently has a comprehensive and thorough knowledge of it. כּלּהּ refers not to the earth (Hahn, Olsh., and others), but, as neuter, to the preceding points of interrogation. The questions, Job 38:19, refer to the principles of light and darkness, i.e., their final causes, whence they come forth as cosmical phenomena. ישׁכּן־אור is a relative clause, Ges. 123, 3, c; the noun that governs (the Regens) this virtual genitive, which ought in Arabic to be without the art. as being determined by the regens, is, according to the Hebrew syntax, which is freer in this respect, הדּרך (comp. Ges. 110, 2). That which is said of the bound of darkness, i.e., the furthest point at which darkness passes away, and the paths to its house, applies also to the light, which the poet perhaps has even prominently (comp. Job 24:13) before his mind: light and darkness have a first cause which is inaccessible to man, and beyond his power of searching out. The admission in Job 38:21 is ironical: Verily! thou art as old as the beginning of creation, when light and darkness, as powers of nature which are distinguished and bounded the one by the other (vid., Job 26:10), were introduced into the rising world; thou art as old as the world, so that thou hast an exact knowledge of its and thine own contemporaneous origin (vid., Job 15:7). On the fut. joined with אז htiw denioj . regularly in the signification of the aorist, vid., Ew. 134, b. The attraction in connection with מספּר is like Job 15:20; Job 21:21.

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