Job 38:37
Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
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(37) Who can stay the bottles of heaven?—This is understood in two opposite senses—of pouring out the bottles or of laying them up in store. It is not easy to decide which is most in accordance with the context, for the context also is somewhat uncertain, according as we interpret the solid mass of thick mud or of hard, dry soil. The survey of physical phenomena ends with this verse.

Job 38:37-38. Who can number the clouds in wisdom? — Who can wisely search, and exactly find out, the number of the clouds? which are indeed numberless, and filled with water as the next clause implies. Or who can stay the bottles of heaven? — Can prevent the rain from being poured upon the earth out of the clouds, in which it is kept as in bottles; when the dust groweth into hardness — When the earth grows very hard, in the time of a great drought; and the clods cleave fast together — Become close and compact. Or the condition of the earth may be intended presently after a fall of rain, when the ground, which in the time of drought was much of it dissolved into dust, is now, by the rain, cemented or united together.38:25-41 Hitherto God had put questions to Job to show him his ignorance; now God shows his weakness. As it is but little that he knows, he ought not to arraign the Divine counsels; it is but little he can do, therefore he ought not to oppose the ways of Providence. See the all-sufficiency of the Divine Providence; it has wherewithal to satisfy the desire of every living thing. And he that takes care of the young ravens, certainly will not be wanting to his people. This being but one instance of the Divine compassion out of many, gives us occasion to think how much good our God does, every day, beyond what we are aware of. Every view we take of his infinite perfections, should remind us of his right to our love, the evil of sinning against him, and our need of his mercy and salvation.Who can number the clouds? - The word here rendered "clouds" (שׁחקים shachaqiym) is applied to the clouds as made up of "small particles" - as if they were composed of fine dust, and hence, the word number is applied to them, not as meaning that the clouds themselves were innumerable, but that no one could estimate the number of particles which enter into their formation.

In wisdom - By his wisdom. Who has sufficient intelligence to do it?

Or who can stay the bottles of heaven? - Margin, as in Hebrew "cause to lie down." The clouds are here compared with bottles, as if they held the water in the same manner; compare the notes at Job 26:8. The word rendered "stay" in the text, and in the margin "cause to lie down," is rendered by Umbreit, "pour out," from an Arabic signification of the word. Gesenius supposes that the meaning to "pour out" is derived from the idea of "causing to lie down," from the fact that a bottle or vessel was made to lie down or was inclined to one side when its contents were poured out. This explanation seems probable, though there is no other place in the Hebrew where the word is used in this signification. The sense of pouring out agrees well with the connection.

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.

Who can wisely search out and exactly find the number of the clouds? They are numberless, and filled with water, as the next clause implies.

Who can stay the bottles of heaven, to wit, the clouds? in which the rain is kept as in bottles, out of which God poureth it when he sees fit. Who can number the clouds in wisdom?.... Or has such wisdom as to be able to count them when the heavens are full of them; hence they are used to denote a great multitude, Isaiah 55:8; or "declare" them (t), set forth and explain the nature of them, their matter, motion, and use; none can do this perfectly or completely. Aben Ezra interprets it, who can make them as sapphire? in which he is followed by Mr. Broughton and others (u); the sapphire is a precious stone, very clear and lucid, of a sky colour. And then the sense is, who can make a clear and serene sky, when it is cloudy? None but the Lord; see Job 37:11;

or who can stay the bottles of heaven? or "barrels", as Mr. Broughton; the clouds in which the rain is bottled or barrelled up; and when it is the pleasure of God to pour them out, who can stay, stop, or restrain them? or who can "cause them to lie down" (w)? that is, on the earth; to descend or "distil" on it, as the same translator. Who can do this, when it is the will of God to withhold them? To stop or unstop, those bottles, to restrain rain, or pour it forth, is entirely at his dispose, and not man's; see Job 38:34.

(t) "enarrabit", V. L. "vel explicabit", Mercerus, Schmidt. (u) Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Vid. Ravii Orthograph. Ebr. p. 22. (w) "cubare faciet", Drusius, Schmidt; "quiescere", Montanus; "descendere", Pagninus, so Aben Ezra; "effundit humi", Schultens.

Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the {y} bottles of heaven,

(y) That is, the clouds in which the water is contained as in bottles.

37. The verse carries on the thought of the preceding.

who can number] Or, who numbereth in wisdom? Who musters or counts off the clouds, that they be sufficient and not in excess for the purpose required of them?

The second clause means,

Or who poureth out the bottles of the heavens?Verse 37. - Who can number the clouds in wisdom? i.e. Who is wise enough to number the clouds, and say how many they are? Or who can stay the bottles of heaven! rather, Who can pour out? (see the Revised Version). The "bottles," or "water-skins," of heaven are the dense clouds heavy with rain, which alternately hold the moisture like a reservoir, and pour it out upon the earth. God alone can determine when the rain shall fall. 31 Canst thou join the twistings of the Pleiades,

Or loose the bands of Orion?

32 Canst thou bring forth the signs of the Zodiac at the right time,

And canst thou guide the Bear with its children?

33 Knowest thou the laws of heaven,

Or dost thou define its influence on the earth?

That מעדגּות here signifies bindings or twistings (from עדן equals ענד, Job 31:36) is placed beyond question by the unanimous translations of the lxx (δεσμόν) and the Targ. (שׁירי equals σειράς), the testimony of the Masora, according to which the word here has a different signification from 1 Samuel 15:32, and the language of the Talmud, in which מעדנין, Klim, c. 20, signifies the knots at the end of a mat, by loosing which it comes to pieces, and Succa, 13b, the bands (formed of rushes) with which willow-branches are fastened together above in order to form a booth (succa); but מדאני, Sabbat, 33a, signifies a bunch of myrtle (to smell on the Sabbath). מעדנות כּימה is therefore explained according to the Persian comparison of the Pleiades with a bouquet of jewels, mentioned on Job 9:9, and according to the comparison with a necklace (‛ipd-eth-thurajja), e.g., in Sadi in his Gulistan, p. 8 of Graf's translation: "as though the tops of the trees were encircled by the necklace of the Pleiades." The Arabic name thurajja (diminutive feminine of tharwân) probably signifies the richly-adorned, clustered constellation. But כּימה signifies without doubt the clustered group,

(Note: The verb כום is still in general use in the Piel (to heap up, form a heap, part. mukauwam, heaped up) and Hithpa. (to accumulate) in Syria, and kôm is any village desolated in days of yore whose stones form a desolate heap comp. Fleischer, De Glossis Habichtianis, p. 41f.]. If, according to Kamus, in old Jemanic kı̂m in the sense of mukâwim signifies a confederate (synon. chilt, gils), the כּימה would be a confederation, or a heap, assemblage (coetus) of confederates. Perhaps the כימה was regarded as a troop of camels; the Beduins at least call the star directly before the seven-starred constellation of the Pleiades the hâdi, i.e., the singer riding before the procession, who cheers the camels by the sound of the hadwa (חדוה), and thereby urges them on. - Wetzst.

On πλειάδες, which perhaps also bear this name as a compressed group (figuratively γότρυς) of several stars (ὅτι πλείους ὁμοῦ κατὰ συναγωγήν εἰσι), vid., Kuhn's Zeitschr. vi. 282-285.)

and Beigel (in Ideler, Sternnamen, S. 147) does not translate badly: "Canst thou not arrange together the rosette of diamonds (chain would be better) of the Pleiades?"

As to כּסיל, we firmly hold that it denotes Orion (according to which the Greek versions translate Ὠρίων, the Syriac gaboro, the Targ. נפלא or נפילא, the Giant). Orion and the Pleiades are visible in the Syrian sky longer in the year than with us, and there they come about 17 higher above the horizon than with us. Nevertheless the figure of a giant chained to the heavens cannot be rightly shown to be Semitic, and it is questionable whether כסיל is not rather, with Saad., Gecat., Abulwalid, and others, to be regarded as the Suhl, i.e., Canopus, especially as this is placed as a sluggish helper (כסיל, Hebr. a fool, Arab. the slothful one, ignavus) in mythical relation to the constellation of the Bear, which here is called עישׁ, as Job 9:9 עשׁ, and is regarded as a bier, נעשׁ (even in the present day this is the name in the towns and villages of Syria), which the sons and daughters forming the attendants upon the corpse of their father, slain by Ged, the Pole-star. Understood of Orion, משׁכות (with which Arab. msk, tenere, detinere, is certainly to be compared) are the chains (Arab. masakat, compes), with which he is chained to the sky; understood of Suhl, the restraints which prevent his breaking away too soon and reaching the goal.

(Note: In June 1860 I witnessed a quarrel in an encampment of Mo'gil-Beduins, in which one accused the others of having rendered it possible for the enemy to carry off his camels through their negligence; and when the accused assured him they had gone forth in pursuit of the marauders soon after the raid, and only turned back at sunset, the man exclaimed: Ye came indeed to my assistance as Suhl to Ged (פזעתם לי פזע סהיל ללגדי). I asked my neighbour what the words meant, and was informed they are a proverb which is very often used, and has its origin as follows: The Ged (i.e., the Pole-star, called mismâr, משׂמר, in Damascus) slew the Na‛sh (נעשׁ), and is accordingly encompassed every night by the children of the slain Na‛sh, who are determined to take vengeance on the murderer. The sons (on which account poets usually say benı̂ instead of benât Na‛sh) go first with the corpse of their father, and the daughters follow. One of the latter is called waldâne, a lying-in woman; she has only recently given birth to a child, and carries her child in her bosom, and she is still pale from her lying-in. (The clear atmosphere of the Syrian sky admits of the child in the bosom of the waldâne being distinctly seen.) In order to give help to the Ged in this danger, the Suhl appears in the south, and struggles towards the north with a twinkling brightness, but he has risen too late; the night passes away ere he reaches his goal. Later I frequently heard this story, which is generally known among the Hauranites. - Wetzst.

We add the following by way of explanation. The Pleiades encircle the Pole-star as do all stars, since it stands at the axis of the sky, but they are nearer to it than to Canopus by more than half the distance. This star of the first magnitude culminates about three hours later than the Pleiades, and rises, at the highest, only ten moon's diameters above the horizon of Damascusa significant figure, therefore, of ineffectual endeavour.)

מזּרות is not distinct from מזּלות, 2 Kings 23:5 (comp. מזּרך, "Thy star of fortune," on Cilician coins), and denotes not the twenty-eight menzil (from Arab. nzl, to descend, turn in, lodge) of the moon,


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