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Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Ver. 1. Then the Lord answered Job ] God himself, taking the word out of Elihu’s mouth (who bad spoken well, but lacked majesty to set it forth), became his own patron, et huius disputationis sequester, and decider of this long controversy, vindicating his own authority, and teaching that truth in the four following chapters, which St Paul briefly compriseth in these words, Romans 11:33-34 , "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" Why then should any one require an account of his proceedings, or question his justice? Job had often desired that God would take knowledge of his cause. His friends also had desired the same, Job 11:5 . Here therefore he appeareth in person, not as out of an engine devised for that purpose, after the manner of some partial tragedy, for the whole narration testifieth that this is a true story of things done indeed, and afterwards faithfully recorded (Beza). Which history is highly to be esteemed as an incomparable treasure, if it were for nothing else, yet for the right knowledge of natural philosophy here laid open, in these four following chapters, together with the chief and principal end thereof, which is, that in these visible creatures we may behold the invisible things of God.
Out of the whirlwind ] That is, out of a cloud whence issued a whirlwind or a storm, as a testimony of his heavenly majesty, and to procure attention. See the like Deuteronomy 4:12 1 Kings 19:11 Eze 1:4 Nahum 1:9 Hebrews 12:18 . God loves to be acquainted with men in the walks of their obedience, yet he takes state upon him in his ordinances, and will be trembled at in his word and judgments.
And said ] With much more mildness and moderation than Elihu or any of them had used in reprehending Job, and yet with such plenty and efficacy of words and arguments, Ut facillime omnes omnium orationes superet, that no such oration can anywhere else be read. Well might Lavater say, Hoc postremum colloquium est admodum suave et utile, This conference of God with Job is very sweet and profitable; for it teacheth us, among other things, how gently God dealeth with his offending servants, and how hardly the best are brought to confess their sins, and truly to repent of them.
Job 38:2 Who [is] this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Ver. 2. Who is this that darkeneth counsel ] Who is this that talketh thus? saith God, stepping forth, as it were, from behind the hangings; how now? What is to do here? Some ancients think it meant of Elihu; but Job is the man. See Job 42:3 , where he takes it to himself; and it may be God here pointed to him with a Quis est iste Iob?
That darkeneth counsel ] My counsel, by misconstructions; his own, by rash and unskilful expressions; for which Elihu also rightly blamed him, and his other friends took great offence at him; who should rather have said, as Cruciger did of Luther, Eum commodius sentire quam loquitur, dum effervescit, that he thought not so ill as he spoke in his heat.
By words without knowledge ] This is the worst that God chargeth Job with; words of folly and ignorance: not with malice, falsehood, blasphemy, &c. Counsel also he attributeth to him, though not wisely managed. If there be any good in us, he noteth and noticeth it; passing by our defects and failings; as when Sarah called her husband lord, she is much commended for it; though there was never another good word in all that sentence, Genesis 18:12 1Pe 3:6 Job 35:16 .
Job 38:3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Ver. 3. Gird up now thy loins like a man ] As men did use to do when they went to fight, 1 Kings 20:11 . Stand to thy ward, and see to thyself; for I mean to assail thee and to try thy manhood. Plato hath observed, that the best fencers are the worst soldiers. Many can brave it beforehand, as that Thrasonical Gaal did, Judges 9:29 , who yet cannot look their enemy in the face with blood in their cheeks.
For I will demand of thee, and answer thou me ] I will be thy opponent, since thou hast challenged me into the schools, as it were, and given me my choice, and prove thee with hard questions; whereunto if thou canst give no good answer, see thine own folly, and be satisfied.
Job 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Ver. 4. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? ] q.d. Thou wast nowhere, a mere nonens; thou wast no companion or counsellor of mine; nay, not so much as an onlooker, for thou art but of yesterday. Thou understandest not the reason of this fair fabric; much less of my dark and deep counsels.
Declare, if thou hast understanding ] Heb. if thou kuowest understanding. An irony, but friendly, and free from all bitterness; the better to convince Job of his folly and faultiness; for which end, also, multis eum interrogationibus onerat, God loadeth him with many deep questions, the least whereof he could not answer. (Mercer).
Job 38:5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Ver. 5. Who hath laid the measures thereof ] In that circumference and diameter that it holdeth?
If thou knowest ] Or, For thou knowest; quandoquidem scitus es, a tart irony. Geometricians take upon them to know the various dimensions of the earth; and Archimedes boasted, that if he had but where to set his foot from off the earth he could shake the whole body of it. As also, that he could number all the sands that were in the whole world, habitable and inhabitable. But these were vain boasts.
Or who hath stretched the line upon it? ] A metaphor from masons and other master builders, who work by line and by rule. Vitruvius in his 7th book saith thus, Longitudines ad regulam et lineam, altitudines ad perpendiculum, anguli ad normam respondentes exigantur.
Job 38:6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
Ver. 6. Whereupon are the foundations thereof fasttened? ] Surely, upon nothing, but the word of God’s power. The philosophers dispute many things concerning the foundations of the earth but without any sound foundation of good reason. Some Jewish doctors make the mountains to be them; but these bear not up the earth, but the contrary. The Psalmist saith, that God hath founded the solid earth upon the liquid waters, Psalms 24:2 , wherein appeareth the infinite wisdom and power of God the founder. Vitruvius saith, In solido extruendum, foundations must be laid in solid places. But God is not tied to rules; his works are in oppositis mediis, as was above noted.
Or who laid the corner-stone thereof ] i.e. The centre, say some Jewish doctors, whither all heavy things are carried, and about which the whole world hangeth; the elements and heavenly orbs surrounding it in their motions. Others fetch this corner stone out of the middle of the sea. But all this discourse is metaphorical, to show the firmness of the work, wherein none had any hand but only the essential wisdom of God, Proverbs 8:1 , who did it with more ease than men can build a house.
Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Ver. 7. When the morning stars sang together ] There is but one morning star properly so called, viz. Phosphorus, Lucifer, or Venus, the sun’s forerunner. But for their brightness, they are all called here stars of the morning, and said to sing together, as birds use to do at break of day; so did these in the morning of the creation, when first those heavenly torches began to shine, and joyfully to dance, as it were, in number and measure. This they do still in their kind, Psalms 19:1 , beckoning also, as it were, to us to do the like, Psalms 145:3 .
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? ] i.e. All the angels, as Job 1:6 , meant also by those morning stars, as Piscator and others will have it. These being created, together with the highest heavens, on the first day (as it is probable, like as Christ’s soul was created in and with his body in the Virgin’s womb the same moment), were present at a great part of the creation, if not at all; and were rapt with admiration at the great wisdom and power of their Creator, singing, "Holy, holy, holy," &c. Shall the stars sing, the angels shout, and shall we be so dull? This was all they did at the creation. Note this against those who held that God made the superior creatures himself, but the inferior by his angels. A great hand they have, as God’s instruments, in governing the world, Ezekiel 1:5-7 , &c., whence also they are called watchmen and keepers, Daniel 4:13 , but not any had they in making the world; for in that work God was alone, and by himself, Isaiah 44:24 .
Job 38:8 Or [who] shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, [as if] it had issued out of the womb?
Ver. 8. Or who shut up the sea with doors ] i.e. With bounds and banks. The sea God shut up in the hollow parts of the earth, as in a great house, that the dry land, naturally overwhelmed thereby, might appear, and become fit, both to bear grain, grass, plants, &c., and to yield a habitation for men and beasts. Piscator thinks it is a metaphor from flood gates at mill ponds.
When it brake forth as if it had issued out of the womb? ] The sea is here set forth in lively colours, as an imcomprehensible work of God’s wisdom. Out of nothing God produced it at first, as an infant out of the mother’s womb. How great is God, then, to whom the great sea is but as a little infant? It brake out of the womb, when it was severed from the abyss; which lay covered with darkness, till the waters below were separated from those above, Genesis 1:10 .
Job 38:9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
Ver. 9. When I made the cloud the garment thereof ] When I clothed this new born child with a cloud, Elegans allegoria (Jun.); commanding the vapours which environ it to serve it for garments. Clouds are begotten of the waters, of the sea especially, and appear daily upon it.
And thick darkness a swaddling-band for it ] This thick darkness is well interpreted to be those fogs and mists which arise upon the sea, and are between the clouds and the sea; as the swaddling bands between the upper garment and the child. Interim significat, saith Mercer here. Meanwhile here is signified, that God can as easily rule and repress the sea as the mother, or nurse, can her suckling when it is swathed up.
Job 38:10 And brake up for it my decreed [place], and set bars and doors,
Ver. 10. And brake up for it my decreed place ] That great house in the hollows of the earth, Job 38:8 , gathering it together by a perpetual and powerful decree, into that place and pit. Tremellius renderetb it, Quum diffregi pro eo terram decreto meo, When I brake up for it the earth by my decree. Others, And laid upon it nay statute; for shabhar signifieth also statuere, decernere, say they; but that is more than I know.
And set bars and doors ] Vectes et valvas. See Job 38:8 . This is a work of God’s great power; and is therefore much instanced and insisted upon in Scripture, Psa 109:1-31 Jeremiah 5:22 , &c. God could have put many other hard questions to Job about the sea; as, why it swelleth not by the inflowing of so many great rivers? why the waters of it are so salt? whence it is that it so ebbeth and floweth? &c. Aristotle showeth himself no very wise man in answering these questions; whom yet Averroes so madly admireth, that he saith there is no error at all to be found in him; and that his doctrine is the chiefest truth.
Job 38:11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
Ver. 11. And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further ] This God commanded, and it is done. If the sea at any time break its bounds, and overflow countries (as in Holland, Zealand, and other parts it hath done), that is to declare the power of God, and his just anger against sin.
And here shall thy proud waves be stayed? ] Canute commanded such a thing, but the sea regarded him not. Xerxes beat the sea, and cast a pair of fetters into it to make it his prisoner, but to no purpose. God here chides it by an elegant ellipsis or aposiopesis, Illic ponet (sc. ventus ) elationem fluctuum tuorum, and it is quieted immediately, as Jon 1:15 Mat 8:26 Think the same of the waters of afflictions.
Job 38:12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; [and] caused the dayspring to know his place;
Ver. 12. Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days ] It may be thou wilt say, These are ancient things, done long before I was born; but ask me of things within my reach and remembrance. Well, then, what sayest thou to the sunrising? Hast thou either lengthened or hastened it at any time since thou wert born, causing it to rise at such or such an hour, in such or such a point of heaven, according to the various degrees and situations of the zodiac? No; this is more than ever any man could do. "The day is thine, the night also is thine," saith David: "thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter," Psalms 74:16-17 . If all the emperors and potentates of the earth should conjoin their threes to hinder or hasten the rising of the sun, they could never do it. Joshua did indeed stop the course of the sun; but that was by the power of God set awork by his faithful prayer; whence one crieth out, O admirabilem piarum precum vim ac poteutiam, quibus etiam coelestia cedunt! Oh the admirable power of prayer, force of faith, which is such as the visible heavens are sensible of, and giveth way to! how then should earth or hell stand before it?
And caused the dayspring to know his place ] The word dayspriug comes from blackness; for it is not ηως ηνοδακτυλος , clear light at first; but κροκοπεπλος , rather dark than light, Aurora sic a nigrore dicta qui eam comitatur.
Job 38:13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
Ver. 13. That it might take hold of the ends of the earth ] That is, suddenly illighten the whole horizon; for which cause also David ascribeth wings to the morning, Psalms 139:9 , so that the light is not a body, nor, as some will have it, a substance, but an accident. The truth is, no man can tell what it is of any certainty; an admirable creature it is, surely a divine and heavenly thing, than which nothing is more desirable, nothing more profitable. Two excellent uses of it are here set forth: 1. To refresh men by the sight of the earth, and the things thereon. 2. To set us upon serious employment, such as is the punishment of evil doers, for so some interpret those next words.
That the wicked might be shaken out of it? ] sc. By banishment, or rather by death, inflicted upon them in the light, for their deeds of darkness. Or, at least, that those Lucifugae, tenebriones, those inauspicate night birds, who hate the light, because their works are evil, might be shamed and shunned. Their motto is, Iam lux inimica propinquat (Virg.). See Job 24:13 ; Job 24:17 .
Job 38:14 It is turned as clay [to] the seal; and they stand as a garment.
Ver. 14. It is turned as clay to the seal ] That is, the earth, now discerned, by reason of the air enlightened. The sense is this, Like as clay in the lump, that hath no figure stamped upon it, is changed by a seal impressed, and receiveth the figure of the seal upon itself (Piscator); so the earth, which by night was without form by reason of darkness, when once the sun is up, is figured as it were; that is, it shows the several figures stamped upon it.
And they stand as a garment ] All the several fruits, flowers, and various workmanship of God in her produced creatures that grow thereupon, appear as a stately garment or ornament on a man, Matthew 6:28-29 , the sunbeams shining upon it as lace (Abbot).
Job 38:15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
Ver. 15. And from the wicked their light is withholden ] They have no such joy of those comforts which the light afforded; but as it discovereth their dark practices, Ephesians 5:13 , so it bringeth them forth to condign punishment, Utpote indignos, qui hac luce fruantur.
And the high arm shall be broken ] i.e. His strength, tyranny, and power, whereby he oppressed others as with an outstretched arm, lifted up to strike with violence, this shall be broken, as Moab’s was, Jeremiah 48:1-47 , and as all the wicked’s shall be; but the Lord upholdeth the righteous, Psalms 37:17 . It is well noted that this verse is an exposition of the latter part of Job 38:13 , as the former verse was of the former part. And well might Mercer say of this and the three following chapters, Sunt haec alta et insignia, et nonnulla difficilia, these are things high, and excellent, and something dark and difficult
Job 38:16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Ver. 16. Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? ] Heb. into the tears of the sea, Usque ad plorata maris, Job 28:11 ; for springs pour out water as eyes do tears; and the same Hebrew word signifieth an eye and a spring; because, saith one, the eye is of a watery constitution; or to show that from it, as from a spring or fountain, did flow both sin itself, the cause of sin, and misery, the punishment of both: and because by it came the greatest hurt, therefore God hath placed in it the greatest tokens of sorrow: iisdem quibus videmus oculis flemus. Now, if Job cannot fathom the sea, much less can he the deep counsels of God.
Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? ] Et in vado voraginis ambulasti? No; that is God’s walk alone, Psalms 77:19 , whatever the Papists’ legend of their St Christopher.
Job 38:17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Ver. 17. Have the gates of death been opened unto thee ] sc. That thou shouldest know when, how, and of what disease every man shall die; together with the state and condition of the dead.
Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? ] No, nor any man living hath ever seen those dark and dismal receptacles of the dead, called here the shadow of death; that is, so dreadful, that they were enough to strike a man dead.
Job 38:18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
Ver. 18. Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? ] Heb. the breadths, i.e. the length also and circumference thereof. Geographers define the length of the earth from east to west, the breadth from north to south; and they have their suppurations and conjectures, Frigidae sunt et leves coniecturae (Mercer). Peucer and others tell us, that if there were a path made round the earth, an able footman might easily go it in 900 days. Which if he could, yet what mortal man, though he should live 900 years, could ever visit and view the whole face, nature, and dimension of the earth, wherein are so many deserts and bogs impassable? Or, what Job can give a reason why God made the earth of such a length and breadth, and no more, when he could so easily have done it? How much less can he of God’s secret and unsearchable judgments? and why should he so desire to know the cause wherefore he is afflicted?
Declare if thou knowest it all ] Since a great part of it is uninhabited; and the sea surroundeth it as a girdle.
Job 38:19 Where [is] the way [where] light dwelleth? and [as for] darkness, where [is] the place thereof,
Ver. 19. Where is the way where light dwelleth? ] These are poetic terms likewise; which signify, or mean nothing else, but that God alone, without any help or work of any man, appointed the various points of sunrising and sunsetting.
And as for darkness, where is the place thereof? ] i.e. Little canst thou tell what is become of it, or where the sun setteth; by the absence whereof cometh darkness. The truth is, our reason is by original sin so darkened that we understand not these lesser and common matters. Those that are more high and hard we learn not but with much labour and long experience. As for the mysteries of God, and things pertaining to salvation, we cannot at all attain unto them by human reason, as is to be seen in Nicodemus, John 3:9-10 1Co 2:14
Job 38:20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths [to] the house thereof?
Ver. 20. That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof ] That thou shouldest take light and darkness by the hand, as it were, and lead them to the place of their abode.
And that thou shouldest know the paths, &c. ] That is, which way to go to bring them out of their retiring rooms; and to reduce them into our hemisphere.
Job 38:21 Knowest thou [it], because thou wast then born? or [because] the number of thy days [is] great?
Ver. 21. Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? ] Beza readeth it thus, These things, forsooth, thou knowest, because thou wast then born (viz. when I made them, and appointed what order and course they should keep), and the number of thy days is great, thou art very far grown in years, as having lived ever since the creation, Es annosissimus et antiquissimus, &c. Ironice omnia.
Job 38:22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Ver. 22. Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? ] i.e. Into the clouds, where these meteors (whereof before, Job 37:1-24 ) are engendered; and from whence God, when he pleases, bringeth such great store as if he had them treasured up by him for a long season. See the like said of the winds, Psalms 135:7 , Quasi parata haberet horum penuaria. Gregory, allegorizing these words, showeth that earthly treasures are treasures of snow. We see little children what pains they take to rake and scrape together snow to make a snowball: right so they that scrape together the treasure of this world have but a snowball of it; as soon as the sun shineth, and God breatheth upon it, and so entereth into it, soon it cometh to nothing.
Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail? ] Another metaphor from officers of the exchequer or public treasury; q.d. Hast thou the inspection or administration of these meteors?
Job 38:23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
Ver. 23. Which I have reserved against the time of trouble ] Or, against the time of the enemy to punish him, as Exodus 9:24 Jos 10:11 Isaiah 30:30 . By deep snows men are sometimes withered and destroyed; by violent hail stones and coals of fire. as Psa 18:13-15 What an overthrow was procured against the Quades by the prayers of the thundering legion, as they were afterwards called in the days of Aurelius the emperor! Ingens grando compluraque fulmina in hostes ceciderunt, Huge hail stones and many lightning bolts fell upon the enemy, saith the heathen historian (Dio in Vit. Ant. Phil.).
Against the day of battle and war? ] When God is pleased to bring forth his upper and lower troops ready pressed, as the Rabbis phrase it.
Job 38:24 By what way is the light parted, [which] scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Ver. 24. By what way is the light parted ] sc. From the clouds by lightning, or from darkness by the sunrising? Knowest thou that? Or the cause of it? Nothing less. Something philosophers have to say here, but upon no great certainty.
Which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? ] Eurus est ventus urens, exsiccans; the east wind hath its name in Hebrew from the sunrising; the Latins call it, Venture subsolanum, as that which usually followeth the rising sun; but whence it cometh, and whither it goeth, is more than Job or any other can tell.
Job 38:25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
Ver. 25. Who hath divided (or derived) a watercourse for the overflowing of waters] That is, the waterclouds, for the pouring out of rain, velut per canales et tubulos, as by pipes and conveyances, wheresoever God pleaseth, men being amazed at those miracles of nature; is it not the Lord alone? He it is who divideth the deluge of waters; as it were, draining them into certain furrows which would otherwise fall down from heaven all at once, and make great spoil here below.
Or a way for the lightning of thunder ] Nimbo sonoro, saith Tremellius. See Job 28:6 . See Trapp on " Job 28:6 "
Job 38:26 To cause it to rain on the earth, [where] no man [is; on] the wilderness, wherein [there is] no man;
Ver. 26. To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is ] But wild beasts only. These also are God’s creatures, and he provideth food for them. How much more will he do so for us, though small faiths.
In the wilderness, wherein there is no man ] Repetitio ad varietatem et elegantiam, as also to show the certainty of the thing.
Job 38:27 To satisfy the desolate and waste [ground]; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
Ver. 27. To satisfy the desolate and waste ground ] The waste and waste ground, saith Broughton elegantly; and the Hebrew sounds alike.
And to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth ] For the use of wild creatures, whereof there are great store in the desert of Arabia, not far from Job; for the which, and the rest of his living creatures, this great housekeeper of the world provideth food suitable to their several appetites.
Job 38:28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Ver. 28. Hath the rain a father? ] Subaudi, praeter me? saith Vatablus. Hath it any father but me? Can any of the heathen deities give rain? Or can the heavens give showers? "Art not thou he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things," Jeremiah 14:22 .
Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? ] Those round orient pearls, that, falling from heaven in a clear night, do sweetly refresh whatsoever groweth in fields and meadows. The natural causes hereof and of rain are known, but we must rise higher to God, the first Author and Father of these and other things, before and after mentioned, who bringeth them out of his treasuries, and doth wonderfully both make and manage them. It is remarkable that Christ saith, Hosea 14:5 , "I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily," &c. See Trapp on " Hos 14:5 " Christ is unto them as a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest, Isa 18:4 making their hearts to be as so many watered gardens, Jeremiah 31:12 .
Job 38:29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
Ver. 29. Out of whose womb came the ice ] Indeed of ice and water is said in a sense,
Mater me genuit: eadem mox gignitur ex me.
But these creatures are not produced by causes which are constant and invariable in nature, as human generation is, but they proceed from God’s pure and simple free will.
And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? ] Out of the heaven, that is, out of the lower region of the air, cometh the matter of it, but God maketh it. Naturalists say that the hoar frost is a vapour congealed by a cold wind in cold places of the lower region of the air; as in winter we see the breath that cometh out of the mouth to congeal and hang upon the beard and hairs. This hoar frost is answerable in the counter point to the dew, but lasteth much longer.
Job 38:30 The waters are hid as [with] a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
Ver. 30. The waters are hid as with a stone ] This is a further description of ice, which is hard as a stone and clear as crystal; so great is the force of frost; how much more, then, of God to do whatsoever he pleaseth.
And the face of the deep is frozen ] Some deep rivers are ice to the bottom, so that loaden carts are driven over, fires made upon them, meat dressed, &c., as was here upon the Thames in the great frost, some forty-five years since, Quae aquae magno et diuturno frigore congelescunt, velut per 10 vel 20 annos continuos appellantur crystallus, velut in Alpibus. Yea, some seas are frozen over (Juvenal speaks of the icy ocean, et glacialem Oceanum ) in the northern part of the world, the ice thereof, when once thawed, floateth in the waters like huge mountains, as in Greenland.
Job 38:31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Ver. 31. Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades ] That is, restrain the pleasantness of the spring, or assuage the sharpness of winter, that cold and comfortless quarter? There is none beside God who can either forbid flowers to break forth in the springtime or else cause them to flourish in winter. The Pleiades (otherwise called Virgiliae and the hens, a verni temporis significatione ) are the seven stars in the end of Aries. They are in Hebrew called Chimah, or Chamah, to love ardently, because of the fellowship and working together that appeareth in them. They have all one name, because they all help one another in the work, which is to bring the spring; and like seven sisters or lovers, so are they joined together in one constellation, and in one company. We see, saith one, that God will have the sweetest works in nature to be perfected by mutual help. The best time of the year cometh with these Pleiades, and the best time of our life cometh when we enter into true love and fellowship.
Or loose the bands of Orion? ] Which is a constellation which arises in the beginning of winter, and draweth foul weather after him as with bands; these can no man loose, for winter never rotteth in the air (as the proverb hath it), nor is it fit it should, for it is of very great use for mellowing of the earth, killing of worms and weeds, &c. Neither can the spring come kindly till Orion have prepared the way, Nimbosus Orion (Virg.), παρα το ορινειν , turbare et concitare. God will have us suffer before we reign. The word Chesil here used signifieth in the Chaldee to perfect; because, saith one, by suffering and offering violence to ourselves we enter into perfection, Luke 13:32 . If we would have a pleasant spring of grace in our hearts we must first have a nipping winter. The spirit of mortification must be like the cold constellation of Orion, to nip our quick motions in the head, and to bind all our unclean desires and burning lusts, that they stir not in us; and unless we do thus the delights of Pleiades, or the seven stars of comfort, shall never appear to us.
Job 38:32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Ver. 32. Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth? ] Or, the twelve signs; or the southern stars that bring in summer. Lucifer, some render it; others, the Hyades, and others again every one of the stars or signs. It is like it was some one star very well known in those days, as were likewise the rest here mentioned, and put for the four seasons of the year.
Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? ] Or, Bootes with his wain (those northern stars), or, Autumn with the yearly fruits, the gift and work of God alone. Of Arcturus, Jerome observeth, that semper versatur, nunquam mergitur; this is most true of Christ’s Church, much tossed, never drowned.
Job 38:33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
Ver. 33. Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? ] Either how to order them, as master over them, or to comprehend what they are certainly and perfectly.
Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? ] As well in regard to the motion of the heavens, which varieth the seasons of the year, as of the influences and virtue which cometh from thence. For they who think that the superior bodies have no power at all upon these inferior do go against common sense and experience, yea, this and many other texts of Scriptures; which yet make nothing at all for that judiciary astrology so much cried up in these last and worst days of the world, by some who would have the manners, studies, and events of every man to depend upon the stars, yea, the rise and ruin of kingdoms, arts, religion, &c.
Job 38:34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
Ver. 34. Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds? ] Thy commanding voice, as Numbers 9:23 . Some render it, Thy thunder. Will the clouds obey thee, and rain upon thee at thy pleasure? Something thou mayest get by thy prayers, as Elias did, James 5:17 , and the thundering legion in the ecclesiastical history, but nothing by command or compulsion. The monarch of Mexico is a mad man to take an oath at his coronation, that it shall be what weather soever he pleaseth all the time of his reign (Lopez de Gomara).
Job 38:35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we [are]?
Ver. 35. Canst thou send lightnings? ] Nunquid emittes. Canst thou send forth lightnings and thunder bolts, as hurtful creatures, out of the cave wherein they are kept? or as so many soldiers or servants, to do as thou commandest them? The poets feign that Mercury had once a mind to steal Jupiter’s thunder bolts, but durst not, lest they should burn his fingers. Histories tell us of a king of Egypt, and of Caligula, the Roman emperor, that they attempted to thunder and lighten, but with very ill success. Job is here told that that is too hard a work for any creature to do, Admirari duntaxat potest, efficere non potest (Brent.).
Job 38:36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
Ver. 36. Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? ] Hitherto God hath set forth his own admirable power, wisdom, and providence in making and governing the lifeless creatures, the meteors especially. Now he comes to declare the same in things endued with life; and first with man, his masterpiece: Who hath given him wisdom (saith God) in the inward parts, or reins? where the reasonable soul sitteth and sovereigneth. The Hebrews say, That the heart understandeth, and the reins deliberate. They have their name here from plastering over, or covering, because they are overly covered with fat and flesh; howbeit the Lord trieth them, Jeremiah 17:10 ; and hath given wisdom to man to moderate his affections and concupiscences which are here seated, and to get truth into these inward parts, Psalms 51:6 , that this hidden man of the heart may be highly accepted in heaven, 1 Peter 3:4 .
Or who hath given understanding to the heart? ] To the cock, saith the Vulgate Latin, after the Talmudists and Jewish doctors; who teach their disciples whensoever they hear the cock crow by night to say this benediction, The Lord be praised, who giveth understanding to the cock; sc. to awaken men, and to announce day. The Septuagint render it, Who hath given to women skill to weave and art to embroider? But they do best that take the word (though found only in this place) for the heart, as that wherein are painted and imprinted the imaginations and representations of things, as the word seemeth to import, Mens quasi imaginatrix et figuratrix dicta quod omnia pervideat et cognoscat.
Job 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
Ver. 37. Who can number the clouds in wisdom? ] Quis sapphirinas efficit nubes? Who can make the clouds like sapphire, that is bright and clear? so some read it. Others, Who can declare the clouds? sc. their number, nature, and uses?
Or who can stay the bottles of heaven? ] i.e. The clouds, fitly compared to bottles, as those vessels that hold the rain, and pour it out on the earth, when God pleaseth to turn the mouths of those bottles downward. This is a great miracle, saith Lavater, that whereas water is fluid, and beareth downward, yet it abideth in the lofty and soft air, nor can fall but where and when God appointeth.
Job 38:38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
Ver. 38. When the dust groweth into hardness, &c. ] When the ground hath had its fill, so that the light dust is turned into lumps of earth, and that which was tossed with every wind is clodded and glued together by water into a heavy substance, Hic enim simplex est et nativus huius loci sensus, saith Merlin. Danaeus in discoursing about stones, how they are made of earth, saith that this text is a compendium of all the large discourses of the natural philosophers concerning that subject.
Job 38:39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
Ver. 39. Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? ] Heb. For the old lion, as Nehemiah 2:9 , that cannot hunt for himself. Prey he must have, as being a very ravenous creature; but wilt thou provide it for him? With what great charge do princes maintain a few lions! But God maintaineth all, and all other creatures, Psalms 104:27-28 ; Psalms 145:15 , putting it into the young lions to provide prey for the old; and causing these creatures to keep for most parts in the deserts, where they feed upon camels, and such as they can light upon. Plin. et Aristot. scribunt, Leones multa solida sine dissectu devorare. Ammianus Marcellinus writeth, that in Chaldea there are a huge number of lions, which were like enough to devour up both men and beasts throughout the country. But in addition he saith, that by reason of the store of water and mud thereof there breed yearly an innumerable company of gnats, whose property is to fly into the eye of the lion, as being a bright and orient thing, where, biting and stinging the lion, he teareth so fiercely with his claws, that he puts out his own eyes; and by that means many are drowned in the rivers, others starve for want of prey, and many the more easily killed by the inhabitants.
Or fill the appetite of the young lions ] Which is very greedy and insatiate. Some render it, Catervam, the troop or company of young lions. But God in mercy to mankind hath so disposed it, that as devouring creatures are more rare (the lioness seldom brings forth more than one in all her life), so they go not often by troops, but range alone seeking their prey.
Job 38:40 When they couch in [their] dens, [and] abide in the covert to lie in wait?
Ver. 40. When they couch in their dens, &c. ] When both by might and sleight they provide for themselves. Hunters with all their pains and means cannot catch a beast as soon as the lion can. An ape he hateth in a special manner, as being too crafty for him; and yet he feareth man (although as the poet Ennius saith),
Simia quam similis furpissima bestia nobis,
whereof no other probable reason can be given, but the small remnant of God’s image left as yet in man, who once had dominion over all the creatures, and is still feared by the fiercest of them.
And abide in the covert to lie in wait? ] Where they crouch, counterfeit themselves asleep, lie quiet and close, as cats that would catch mice, or foxes birds. But if this way they speed not, Basil saith they set up a loud roar, whereby the beasts are so amazed, that they have no power to stir out of the place they stand in, till the lions have taken them.
Job 38:41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
Ver. 41. Who provideth for the raven his food? ] Though the raven be a most vile creature, and hated almost of all: in some places there is a reward appointed for those that shall kill them up. Though an unclean creature, and therefore abominable, Leviticus 11:13 ; Leviticus 11:15 . Though unmerciful to her own, and pitiless to other birds, though an inauspicate creature, a sign both of man’s punishment and God’s curse, Isaiah 34:11 . Though he crieth with a hoarse and harsh voice (whence also he hath derived the origin of his name), and so unfit to move pity; yet God provideth food for him. What then will he do for his faithful servants? Matthew 6:26 , where our Saviour fetcheth not an example from the Israelites miraculously fed in the wilderness, or Elijah in the desert, but from fowls of the air; and among them, not from eagles, hawks, nightingales, but ravens, &c. "Consider the ravens," Luke 12:24 , Corvus incubat 20 diebus, et pullos nido expellit (Plin. Arist.).
When his young ones cry to God ] Though by implication only they cry, and not directly: being forsaken by the old ones, and left bare, they are fed by God with flies and worms bred in the nest out of their excrements; till, able to fly, and leave the nest, they wander for lack of meat to take it wherever they can meet with it.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 38". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20