William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?Job Chapter 39
Well, now we come to animate nature. Clearly these three verses (39-41) ought rather to be the opening of Job 39. "Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion?" It says, That is what I do, I find food for the lions and for the young lions too. There they are crouching in their dens, "and they abide in the covert to lie in wait." I do not allow them to die for want of proper food. "Who provideth for the raven his food?" It is not only the great lion, but the comparatively small raven when his young ones cry unto God - there it is, they cry unto Him. They do not murmur; they cry. They tell their want, God has put that into them. It is a cry, and God hears it as directed to Himself. "They wander for lack of meat." But He hears and answers.
"Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth" (Job 39:1)? They are very inaccessible as a general role to man. They are found in the great heights of the mountains. "Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth? They bow themselves; they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows; their young ones are in good liking" - though they are hunted to death, and man is fond of feeding on them, yet God provides for them - "they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them. Who hath sent out the wild ass free?" That is also an animal that shuns the human race. "Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?" (vers. 1-8).
Thus we have had the wild goats, and then, the wild ass; and now, what is called here, a "unicorn." I do not know why this name has been given to it. There is but one animal with a single horn, the Indian rhinoceros, found only in Southern Asia, but here it should be the wild ox. "Canst thou bind the wild ox with his band in the furrow?" We have the wild goat (ver. 1), the wild ass (ver. 5), and now the wild ox (ver. 9). They follow one another in rotation. This is a more powerful animal than either of the others. There is a rising in the scale. "Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed and gather it into thy barn? "
Well, now we come to a very peculiar phrase. There is really nothing here about peacocks at all. It is a mistake. A peacock we find for the first time in Solomon's day. They were brought from India or from Ceylon; and it is curious that the name of the peacock as given in Kings and Chronicles is Sanscrit, not Hebrew. It is the language of India, the old classical language of India. But this is quite a different thing. It should read, "The wing of the ostrich waveth joyously; is it the pinion and plumage of the stork?" (ver. 13). It is really the ostrich in the first part of the verse, and the stork in the latter. There is a kind of contrast of the ostrich with its great fluttering and also its stupid indifference to its young with the stork. The stork is the most affectionate bird that God created. There is no bird that has such a great care for its offspring; and for that reason there are people in the world who allow them to be kept and honoured, and not a soul must injure them under penalty. I believe, in Holland to this day, that the storks are found in buildings of any height; and they are allowed not merely on the firs of the forest, but they are very fond of being near mankind, and they often build their nests in chimneys and the like, and in lofty places; and people have such a respect for a bird marked by such affection that they will not allow anyone to shoot or injure them in any respect,
Now that is the bird that is contrasted with the ostrich. The ostrich on the contrary leaves its young just to get through as they can, and exposes its eggs in the sand and leaves them there to come to maturity or to be destroyed. She does not care about them. And this is referred to - "which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom." And who is to dispute with God? The God that gives one bird its remarkable character of affection takes away the commonest sense even from another bird of immense power and great swiftness so that an ostrich could outrun a racehorse for awhile - "she scorneth the horse and his rider."
Now he comes to the horse itself; and the war horse in particular. "Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?" What have you to do with it? "Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible" (vers. 19 - 25), Well, it is a splendid description indeed, but it is all for the purpose of overwhelming Job with the folly of his pretending to talk about God. Now He looks at the hawk, and the eagle more particularly. "Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?" Who was it that conferred these peculiar powers on all these animals and birds? "Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?" (vers. 26-30).
Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.
Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.
Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.
He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.
The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.