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Canst thou draw out Leviathan?
Behemoth and leviathan
The description of the “behemoth” in the preceding chapter and the “leviathan” here suggests a few moral reflections.
I. The prodigality of created might. With what amazing force are these creatures endowed! How huge their proportions! How exuberant their vital energy!
II. The restraining power of the Divine government. What keeps those creatures in cheek? They are under the spell of the Almighty. To all creatures the Creator has set a boundary beyond which they cannot pass.
III. The absurdity of man priding himself in his strength. “Let not the mighty man glory in his might,” etc.
IV. The probability of mental giants in the universe. May there not be in the spiritual domain as great a difference in the power of its tenants as there is in the physical?
V. The Divine mode of solving man’s moral difficulties. Great were the difficulties of Job in relation to God’s government. God does not reason with Job, but shows Himself to him, and this settles all dispute, and will ever do so.
VI. God’s work in nature should be studied, in order to impress us with his majesty. We must remember the profoundly religions and serious character of the Eastern patriarch. (Homilist.)
He maketh a path to shine after him.
What was that illumined path? It was phosphorescence. You find it in the wake of a ship in the night, especially after rough weather. Phosphorescence is the lightning of the sea. I found a book of John Ruskin, and the first sentence my eyes fell upon was his description of phosphorescence, in which he calls it the “lightning of the sea.” It is the waves of the sea diamonded; it is the inflorescence of the billows; the waves of the sea crimsoned, as was the deep after the sea fight of Lepanto; the waves of the sea on fire. There are times when from horizon to horizon the entire ocean seems in conflagration with this strange splendor, as it changes every moment to tamer or more dazzling colour on all sides of you. You sit looking over the rail of the yacht or ocean steamer, watching and waiting to see what new thing the God of beauty will do with the Atlantic. This phosphorescence is the appearance of myriads of the animal kingdom rising, falling, flashing, living, dying. These luminous animalcules for nearly one hundred and fifty years have been the study of naturalists and the fascination of all who have brain enough to think. Now God, who puts in His Bible nothing trivial or useless, calls the attention of Job, the greatest scientist of his day, to this phosphorescence, and as the leviathan of the deep sweeps past, points out the fact that “He maketh a path to shine after him.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Upon the earth there is not his like.
The supremacy of leviathan
The lion is often spoken of as “the king of the forest,” or the “king of beasts,” and in a similar sense the leviathan is here spoken of as at the head of the animal creation. He is afraid of none of them; he is subdued by none of them; he is the prey of none of them. The whole argument, therefore, closes with this statement, that he is at the head of the animal creation; and it was by this magnificent description of the power of the creatures which God had made, that it was intended to impress the mind of Job with a sense of the majesty and power of the Creator. It had the effect. He was overawed with the conviction of the greatness of God, and he saw how wrong it had been for him to presume to call in question the justice, or sit in judgment on the doings of such a Being. God did not, indeed, go into an examination of the various points which had been the subject of controversy; He did not explain the nature of His moral administration so as to relieve the mind from perplexity; but He evidently meant to leave the impression that He was vast and incomprehensible in His government, infinite in power, and had a right to dispose of His creation as He pleased. No one can doubt that God could, with infinite ease, have so explained the nature of His administration as to flee the mind from perplexity, and so as to have resolved the difficulties which hung over the various subjects which had come into debate between Job and his friends. Why He did not do this is nowhere stated, and can only be the subject of conjecture. It is possible, however, that the following suggestions may do something to show the reasons why this was not done.
1. We are to remember the early period of the world when these transactions occurred, and when this Book was composed. It was in the infancy of society, and when little light had gleamed on the human mind in regard to questions of morals and religion.
2. In that state of things it is not probable that either Job or his friends would have been able to comprehend the principles in accordance with which the wicked are permitted to flourish, and the righteous are so much afflicted, if they had been stated. Much higher knowledge than they then possessed about the future world was necessary to understand the subject which then agitated their minds. It could not have been done without a very decided reference to the future state, where all these inequalities are to be removed.
3. It has been the general plan of God to communicate knowledge by degrees: to impart it when men have had full demonstration of their own imbecility, and when they feel the need of Divine teaching; and to reserve the great truths of religion for an advanced period of the world. In accordance with this arrangement, God has been pleased to keep in reserve, from age to age, certain great and momentous truths, and such as were particularly adapted to throw light on the subjects of discussion between Job and his friends. They are the truths pertaining to the resurrection of the body; the retributions of the Day of Judgment; the glories of heaven and the woes of hell, where all the inequalities of the present state may receive their final and equal adjustment. These great truths were reserved for the triumph and glory of Christianity; and to have stated them in the time of Job would have been to have anticipated the most important revelations of that system. The truths of which we are now in possession would have relieved much of the anxiety then felt, and solved most of these questions; but the world was not then in the proper state for their revelation.
4. It was a very proper lesson to be taught men, to bow with submission, to a sovereign God, without knowing the reason of His doings. No lesson, perhaps, could be learnt of higher value than this. To a proud, self-confident, philosophic mind, a mind prone to rely on its own resources and trust to its own deductions, it was of the highest importance to inculcate the duty of submission to will and sovereignty. This is a lesson which we often have to learn in life, and which almost all the trying dispensations of providence are fitted to teach us. It is not because God has no reason for what He does; it is not because He intends we shall never know the reason: but it is because it is our duty to bow with submission to His will, and to acquiesce in His right to reign, even when we cannot see the reason of His doings. Could we reason it out, and then submit because we saw the reason, our submission would not be to our Maker’s pleasure, but to the deductions of our own minds. Hence, all along, He so deals with man, by concealing the reason of His doings, as to bring him to submission to His authority, and to humble all human pride. To this termination all the reasonings of the Almighty in this Book are conducted; and after the exhibition of His power in the tempest, after His sublime description of His own works, after His appeal to the numerous things which are, in fact, incomprehensible to man, we feel that God is great--that it is presumptuous in man to sit in judgment on His works, and that the mind, no matter what it does, should bow before Him with profound veneration and silence. (Albert Barnes.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 41". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25