William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,Job Chapter 38
Chap. 38: 1-38. The last three verses of this chapter properly belong to the next chapter, as we there enter upon animate nature. All that we have here is in regard to what is called inanimate nature. Yet it is a part of the creation of God quite as truly as is animate nature. Still, this latter rises above everything that is without life. For life is a very wonderful thing, even in an animal, however small, and distinguishes it from all that never had life. But here we have Jehovah speaking, and it was Jehovah who spake at Sinai and in a way suitable to the law. Because the law of God if given to man - sinful man, as it was - must be a ministration of death and condemnation. It is because of defect in human law that a bad man escapes, and therefore the better the law the greater certainty that it will reach one who deserves to be punished by it. And God's law is perfect for the object for which He gave it as the rule for fallen man upon the earth, to curb and restrain him; and if he be not curbed or restrained, to condemn (and in effect ending in death).
But here there was quite a different reason why God spoke; because there was an end, for those who believed - to know that God cares for them, and this too, entirely independent of Israel and the very special dealings of God for the chosen people. God's eye and God's hand too are ever in exercise over every creature on the face of the earth. It does not matter how small or how great; it does not matter how violent or how peaceful; this makes no difference, they are creatures of God. And God has to do with them, as He shows here. This was a grand lesson for Job. He had forgotten that God has to say to the very hairs of our head, for they are all numbered; and that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowing. But God takes it in according to His own grandeur, and His grandeur is quite beyond man's ability to comprehend, and this was exactly the object - to show the folly of Job venturing to judge God's dealings, venturing to pronounce, or to find fault for a moment. In an early chapter of the Book you may remember that Job wished that God would only lay aside His alarming nature, and allow him to approach Him that he might plead his cause, and that he might defend himself before God. Here came the answer. I need not say it was to be an answer to every person, to everyone that has the fear of God, in all ages. The value of this Book does not at all diminish by the light of Christ. On the contrary, we ought to understand the Book a great deal better for that light.
Here, then, we have Jehovah - you observe this name has not appeared after Job 2 (except in Job 12:9) in the historical part. But now before the proper history is concluded (the last chapter is the concluding chapter of the history), before that it brings Him in again. We have Him speaking according to His authority, according to His relationship; and that is just exactly what "Jehovah" means. It is God not merely in the abstract, but God in relation to man upon the earth. And hence He answers Job. But He answers him here because it was a rebuke out of the whirlwind. "Then Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind." It was meant to be a rebuke and that Job should really feel it and profit by it. And it is a terrible thing where God does not rebuke a soul upon the earth. What does it mean? It means judgment by and by for ever. Those that are brought into relationship livingly with God have His interference - not merely the fact that they are in relationship, but the proof of it. And He was giving this grand light upon how it acts and how Job ought to have been - if he did not enter into it - ought to have been on his guard against setting up his own judgment about God. This is what He is overthrowing, in these chapters.
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" He does not mean that Job did not know Him at all, but He did mean that his knowledge was limited, and that he had no adequate knowledge as to the dealings of God. "Gird up now thy loins like a man" - like a hero - "for I will demand of thee and answer thou me." That was a remarkable word. God is going to ask him a number of questions. Job had been questioning the dealings of God. Now God retorts upon him; now He says, I am going to ask you, and answer Me like a man if you can. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" What an overwhelming question! What did Job know about it? "Declare, if thou hast understanding." He had none. "Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?" He did not know. "Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?" Because there are two things true of the earth. Stability for the time - that is what is referred to here, and why foundations are spoken of; and there is another view given in this very Book of Job, that it is suspended upon nothing. That never entered into the mind of anyone until comparatively late. Even the men of science have only just come to that. But there it was in Scripture before them. It is hung upon nothing. So that it has great stability and regularity in its course, so firmly are the foundations laid; but on the other hand the mighty power of God is shown, because, although it is hung upon nothing of the creature, it hangs entirely upon God's power.
"When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" The angels were made before the earth was made, but this is not at all referred to in Genesis 1; and the reason is plain. The point in Genesis 1:1, is simply to give, first of all, the creation of all the universe where there was nothing. I do not say out of nothing - that is folly; but where there was nothing, God created the universe, the heavens, the earth, and all their host, but in a very different state from what it is in now. Then the next verse shows a complete collapse that subsequently took place - what people call chaos; and the heathen always began with chaos, but we begin with God the Creator. But that chaotic condition was of all importance for man when man should be created upon the earth. Because how was man to get down to the bowels of the earth? How was he to know that there were treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, and marble and slate, and granite, and all the other most useful things that God had created? They were down deep in the earth, and the only way in which man could even suspect and learn certainly of their existence, and, consequently, to lock for them, was by that confusion which brought up some part of that which was buried deep in the earth. So that all mining was founded upon that very fact of the power of God that caused the inner contents of the earth to appear, at any rate, on the earth's crust. Be. cause what is deep in it no one can tell; no man can tell. Man has never penetrated but a very small way - I suppose not more than the thickness of an orange peel compared with the orange - so little, into the bowels of the earth. What fills it, therefore, they do not know. They may reason; and as to what one man reasons, another man reasons to the contrary. They really do not know; and this is the thing that Jehovah was causing Job to realise - his total ignorance.
What is the effect, then, on a pious man that really believes in Him and His guidance? What is the effect of knowing our ignorance to be so immense? Reliance upon God. There was the great thing in which Job failed, murmured and found fault. He could not understand it. He might have believed and ought to have believed, and that is where we find our failure too, for we are quite as ready to reason and murmur as Job. Well, now, He speaks here clearly of the creation, and He carries that on in the verses which follow.
"Or who shut up the sea?" He had looked at the earth, and now he looks at the sea. "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I make the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it." Well, it was a very bold child, this new ungovernable creature that came into existence! And therefore He speaks about covering it up and swaddling it. "And brake up for it my decreed place and set bars and doors and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" ? For who can control the ocean? "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days"; now He looks at the vicissitudes of day and night, and He says now, 'Was it you that set this all agoing, or do you know anything about it, how it was done?' . . . "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the day-spring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth" - that is, when the son rises to gild it as it were - "that the wicked might be shaken out of it?" Because the darkness of the night is exactly what gives the opportunity for murder and burglary and all the other knaveries of men more than any other time. "It is turned as clay to the seal" - because when the earth is in darkness just like that, no more can you discover it than the clay before it is impressed with the seal. But the moment the light shines, there you find its conformation and its beauty as God fixed upon it - but in the dark there is nothing to be seen. "And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken." Then He turns to the sea again in another way. Not the rushing of the waters controlled by the power of God; but here He looks at the source of it. "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?" - the abyss.
Now He goes down lower still, because Sheol, or Hades, as we have it, that is, the receptacle of departed spirits - is represented under the figure at any rate, and it may be the reality, of the heart of the earth. It is not the same thing as the lake of fire, but here we have a prison for those that have died. "Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? "
Now He comes up to the surface. "Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?" What do you know about it? "Declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth?" (vers. 18-21). And He shows that God has a store that man knows nothing about, which is caused to act whenever it pleaseth God. "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow, or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?" Look at the case of the Amorites, who, on the way to Beth-horon, fell by the hail stones that God rained upon them. And, again, He rained fire and brimstone, in other cases, on the cities of the plain. "Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters; or the way for the lightning of thunder; to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is?" Well, God does think of animals, He thinks of even the insect; He thinks of where no man is; there He has His thoughts and His plans and His goodness.
"To satisfy the desolate and waste ground and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?" And it is remarkable how much rain has to do. People have been lamenting the immense and abnormal rain that we have had lately. But I saw a letter of an expert upon it, who looks forward, if God is pleased to give a good spring, that there will be an exceptional harvest. The fruit of it will be far beyond what has been had in England for many a day and many a year. That is in the hands of God. I do not pretend to say; let these men fight it out. "Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?"
Then He looks also at the various stars and constellations. He asks, now what have you to do with them; do you know anything about how they came there. and how they have been ranged there? "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades" - it is rather the bands of the Pleiades - at any rate it is a counterpart of the bands of Orion - "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?" They say that the signs of the Zodiac are here referred to, but whether that is the case is very uncertain. "Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?" "Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?" Conditions have an immense effect upon the earth. All is having an influence either of a terrible kind or a beneficent kind. Who is it that has fixed all that? Was it you, Job? "Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who hath given understanding to the heart?" It comes down to man now. "Who can number the clouds in wisdom? Or who can stay the bottles of heaven" - well, all that is perfectly simple to God, and God has command in every whit of it - "when the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?"
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
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,
And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.