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Bible Commentaries
Job 38

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-41

The First Chapter of Genesis

Job 38:4

The real object of the narrative in Genesis is not to teach scientific truth, but to teach religious truth.

I. One object of the narrative will be evident at once: it is to show, in opposition to the crude conceptions current in many parts of the ancient world, that the world is not self-originated; that it was called into existence, and brought gradually into its present state, at the will of a Spiritual Being, prior to it, independent of it, deliberately planning each stage of its development. The fact of a Creator is the fundamental teaching of the cosmogony of Genesis.

II. The first chapter of Genesis is not meant to teach authoritatively the actual past history of the earth. Its object is to afford a view true in conception, if not in detail, of the origin of the earth as we know it, and to embody this not in an abstract or confused form which may soon be forgotten, but in a series of representative pictures which may impress themselves upon the imagination, and in each one of which the truth is insisted on, that the stage which it represents is no product of chance, or of mere mechanical forces, but that it is an act of the Divine will.

III. A third point on which the record insists is the distinctive pre-eminence belonging to man. 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' What, then, do we suppose to be meant when it is said that man was made in the 'image of God'? It is meant that he has been endowed with that highest and noblest of gifts, the gift of self-conscious reason.

IV. The cosmogony of Genesis teaches the absolute supremacy of the Creator in His work of Creation: it exhibits to us, in a series of representative pictures, how every stage of His work was dependent upon His will and realized His purpose: it emphasizes the distinctive pre-eminence belonging to man.

S. R. Driver, Sermons, p. 163.

Job 38:4

Was man with his experience present at the creation, then, to see how it all went on? Have any scientific individuals yet dived down to the foundations of the universe, and gauged everything there? Did the Maker take them into His counsel; that they read His ground-plan of the incomprehensible All; and can say, This stands marked therein, and no more than this? Alas, not in anywise! These scientific individuals have been nowhere but where we also are; have seen some handbreadths deeper than we see into the Deep that is infinite, without bottom as without shore.

Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (book III. chap. VIII.).

References. XXXVIII. 4. A. Ainger, The Gospel and Human Life, p. 108. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 288.

Job 38:7

Every time that analysis strips from nature the gilding that we prized, she is forging thereout a new picture more glorious than before, to be suddenly revealed by the advent of a new sense whereby we see it a new creation, at sight of which the sons of God shall have cause to shout for joy.

Prof. W. K. Clifford.

'Neither say,' Carlyle writes in the Sartor Resartus, chap. VII, 'that thou hast now no Symbol of the Godlike. Is not God's Universe a Symbol of the Godlike; is not Immensity a Temple; is not Man's History, and Men's History, a perpetual Evangel? Listen, and for organ-music thou wilt ever, as of old, hear the Morning-stars sing together.'

Does there not exist a perfected sense of Hearing as of the morning-stars singing together an understanding of the words that are spoken all through the universe, the hidden meaning of all things, the Word which is creation itself a profound and far pervading sense, of which our ordinary sense of sound is only the first novitiate and initiation.

Edward Carpenter, Civilization Its Cause and Cure, p. 98.

The office of the artist should be looked upon as a priest's service in the temple of Nature, where ampler graces are revealed to those that have eyes to see, just as ever gentler chords announce the fuller life to those that have ears to hear, while declared Law opens up wide regions unordered and anarchic, where selfish greed has yet to be tutored into wise rule. In the circle of the initiated, responsive beings recognize the elimination of immature design in creation to be a triumph of patient endeavour, and they join in the chorus of those who 'sang together for joy' on the attainment of the ideal of Heaven's Artist, who in overflowing bounty endowed the colourless world with prismatic radiance, prophesying of Titians yet to be, who should go forth to charm away scales from the eyes of the blind. W. Holman Hunt in the preface to his Pre-Raphaelitism.

' Werther,' Carlyle writes in his essay on Goethe's works, 'we called the voice of the world's despair: passionate, uncontrollable is this voice; not yet melodious and supreme, as nevertheless we at length hear it in the wild apocalyptic Faust: like a death-song of departing worlds; no voice of joyful "moraine-stars singing together" over a creation; but of red nigh-extinguished midnight stars, in spheral swan-melody, proclaiming, It is ended.'

The great advantage of this mean life is thereby to stand in a capacity of a better; for the colonies of heaven must be drawn from earth, and the sons of the first Adam are only heirs to the second. Thus Adam came into this world with the power also of another; not only to replenish the earth but the everlasting mansions of heaven. Where we were when the foundations of the earth were laid, when the morning-stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. He must answer who asked it. Sir Thomas Browne.

Job 38:11

You have indeed winged ministers of vengeance, who cany your bolts to the remotest verge of the sea. But there a power steps in, that limits the arrogance of raging passions and furious elements, and says, 'So far shalt thou go and no further*. Who are you, that should fret and rage, and bite the chains of nature? Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America.

The unavoidable aim of all corporate bodies of learning is not to grow wise, or teach others wisdom, but to prevent anyone else from being or seeming wiser than themselves; in other words, their infallible tendency is in the end to suppress inquiry and darken knowledge, by setting limits to the mind of man, and saying to his proud spirit, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further I Hazlitt, Table-Talk. ' It is always hard,' wrote Dr. Mandell Creighton to a young friend,' to curb oneself within the possibilities of one's own particular life! How happiness consists in recognizing limits, and how hard it is to do so!' To his wife he wrote thus in 1871: 'Everybody obeys the doctrine of limits, not every one recognizes the fact and owns it; the last persons in the world to be lazy, to be indolent, or to be cowardly are those who can recognize limits as self-imposed; they are decidedly not under the power of circumstances, but rather are entire masters of them.'

In Old Mortality Scott makes young Morton soliloquize thus: 'Alas! what are we that our best and most praiseworthy feelings can be thus debased and depraved that honourable pride can sink into haughty and desperate indifference for general opinion, and the sorrow of blighted affection inhabit the same bosom which licence, revenge, and rapine, have chosen for their citadel? But it is the same throughout; the liberal principles of one man sink into cold and unfeeling indifference, the religious zeal of another hurries him into frantic and savage enthusiasm. Our resolutions, our passions, are like the waves of the sea, and, without the aid of Him who formed the human breast, we cannot say to its tides, "Thus far shall ye come, and no further".' Describing, in the first volume of The Stones of Venice, the Alpine peak, Ruskin ejaculates: 'There was it set, for holy dominion, by Him who marked for the sun his journey, and bade the moon know her going down. It was built for its place in the far-off sky; approach it, and, as the sound of the voice of man dies away about its foundation, and the tide of human life, shattered upon the vast aerial shore, is at last met by the eternal "Here shall thy waves be stayed," the glory of its aspect fades into blanched fearfulness.'

Let anyone look on the long wall of Malamocco, which curbs the Adriatic, and pronounce between the sea and its master. Surely that Roman work (I mean Roman in conception and performance) which says to the ocean 'Thus far shalt thou come and no further,' and is obeyed, is not less sublime and poetical than the angry waves which vainly break beneath it.


Compare the closing paragraphs of Carlyle's essay on Taylor's Survey of German Poetry, especially the sentences on the rise of literature in the age. 'Higher and higher it rises round all the Edifices of Existence; they must all be molten into it, and anew bodied forth from it, or stand unconsumed among its fiery surges. Woe to him whose Edifice is not built of fine Asbest, and on the Everlasting Rock; but on the false sand, and of the driftwood of accident, and the paper and parchment of antiquated Habit! For the power, or powers, exist not on earth, that can say to that sea, Roll back, or bid its proud waters be still.'

References. XXXVIII. 11. T. Spurgeon, Dawn to the Sea, p. 105. XXXVIII. 13. D. Roberts, Christian World Pulpit, October 1, 1890. XXXVIII. 17. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines, p. 104. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2917. XXXVIII. 22. W. L. Watkinson, The Ashes of Roses, p. 5. XXXVIII. 25-27. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2583.

Job 38:28

Two passages of God's speaking, one in the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it seems to me, a different character from any of the rest, having been uttered, the one to effect the last necessary change in the mind of a man whose piety was in other respects perfect; and the other, as the first statement to all men of the principles of Christianity by Christ Himself I mean the 38th to 41st chapters of the book of Job, and the Sermon on the Mount. Now the first of these passages is, from beginning to end, nothing else than a direction of the mind which was to be perfected to humble observance to the works of God in nature. And the other consists only in the inculcation of three things: 1st, right conduct; 2nd, looking for eternal life; 3rd, trusting God, through watchfulness of His dealings with His creation; and the entire contents of the book of Job, and of the Sermon on the Mount, will be found resolvable simply into these three requirements from all men that they should act rightly, hope for heaven, and watch God's wonders and work in the earth; the right conduct being always summed up under the three heads of justice, mercy, and truth, and no mention of any doctrinal point whatsoever occurring in either piece of divine teaching.


Reference. XXXVIII. 28. W. R. Inge, Faith and Knowledge, p. 29.

Job 38:31

So far as the Jewish prophets made use of such astronomy as they had, they used it altogether in the sense in which the modern agnostics use their heliocentric astronomy to impress upon man his utter insignificance in creation.... When the author of the book of Job, in urging what another prophet calls 'the Lord's controversy,' wants to convince Job of his nothingness, what is his most impressive illustration? 'Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades' [or, as the Revised Version puts it, 'Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades?'] 'or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the signs of the Zodiac in their season, or canst thou guide the Bear with her train? Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?' language surely, if ever language could be used, which suggests that to control the heavenly bodies implies a force of far mightier scope and magnitude than any which is needed only for our little planet.

R. H. Hutton, Contemporary Thought and Thinkers, vol. I. p. 291.

Reference. XXXVIII. 31. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 818.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 38". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/job-38.html. 1910.
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