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CLOSE OF THE CONTROVERSY BY THE INTERFERENCE OF THE ALMIGHTY.
The discourse, by which the Almighty answers Job and rebukes his "friends," occupies four chapters (ch. 38-41.). It is broken into two parts by the interposition of a-short confession on Job's part (Job 40:3-5). Job 38:1-41 and Job 39:1-30 are closely connected, and form a single appeal—a sort of argumentum ad verecundiam—to Job's profound ignorance of God's natural government, which incapacitates him from passing judgment upon what is far more incomprehensible and mysterious, God's moral government. The points adduced, in which Job is challenged to claim that be has knowledge, or confess that he is ignorant, are:
(1) The creation of the material world (Job 38:4-7).
(2) The control and government of the sea (verses 8-11).
(3) The bringing forth of the dawn (verses 12-15).
(4) The formation of Sheol, of light and darkness, Of snow, hail, floods, rain, lightning, thunder, ice, dew, hoarfrost (verses 17-30).
(5) The government of the stars and of the clouds (verses 31-38).
(6) The creation, endowment with instincts, and general direction of the animal world—wild goats, hinds, wild asses, wild cattle, ostriches, horses, hawks, eagles (Job 39:1-30.)
The tone of the appeal is sustained at a high pitch, and the entire passage is one of extraordinary force and eloquence.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. It is remarked, with reason, that the special mention of Job as the person answered "implies that another speaker had intervened" (Wordsworth); while the attachment of the article to the word "whirlwind" implies some previous mention of that phenomenon, which is only to be found in the discourse of Elihu (Job 37:9). Both points have an important bearing on the genuineness of the disputed section, ch. 32-37. And said. The question whether there was an objective utterance of human words out of the whirlwind, or only a subjective impression of the thoughts recorded on the minds of those present, is unimportant. In any case, there was a revelation direct from God, which furnished an authoritative solution of the questions debated to all who had been engaged in the debate.
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? It is very noticeable that God entirely ignores the reasonings of Elihu, and addresses himself, in the first instance, wholly to Job, with whom he begins by remonstrating. Job has not been without fault. He has spoken many "words without knowledge" or with insufficient knowledge, and has thus trenched on irreverence, and given the enemies of God occasion to blaspheme. Moreover, he has "darkened counsel." Instead of making the ways of God clear to his friends and companions, he has east doubts upon God's moral government (Job 21:7-26), upon his mercy and loving-kindness (Job 16:7-14), almost upon his justice (Job 19:7; Job 31:1-35). He is thus open to censure, and receives censure, and owns himself "vile" (Job 40:4), before peace and reconciliation can be established.
Gird up now thy loins like a man. Job had desired to contend with God, to plead with him, and argue out his case (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:3, Job 13:18-22; Job 23:4-7; Job 31:35). God now offers to grant his request, and bids him stand forth "as a man'" and "gird himself" for the contest, which he has challenged. For I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. He will begin with interrogatories which Job must answer; then Job will be entitled to put questions to him. Job, however, on the opportunity being given him, shrinks back, and says, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken: but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further" (Job 40:4, Job 40:5). The confident boldness which he felt when God seemed far off disappears in his presence, and is replaced by diffidence and distrust.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Wast thou present? Didst thou witness it? If not, what canst thou know concerning it? And if thou knowest nothing of creation, what canst thou know of deeper things? The metaphor, by which the creation of the earth is compared to the foundation of an edifice, is a common one (Psalms 102:25; Psalms 104:5; Proverbs 8:29 : Isaiah 48:13; Isaiah 51:13, Isaiah 51:16; Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 1:10, etc.), and is to be viewed as a concession to human weakness, creation itself, as it actually took place, being inconceivable. Declare, if thou hast understanding. That is, if thou hast any knowledge on the subject (comp. Job 38:18).
Who determined the measures thereof? Everything in creation is orderly, measured, predetermined, governed by law and will The actual weight of the planets is fixed by Divine wisdom, with a view to the stability and enduringness of the solar system (comp. Isaiah 40:12). If thou knowest; literally, for thou knowest—an anticipation of the lofty irony which comes out so remarkably in Job 38:21. Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Human builders determine the dimensions of their constructions by means of a measuring-line (Ezekiel 40:3-49, etc.). The writer carries out his metaphor of a building by supposing a measuring-rod to have been used at the creation of the earth also. Some find a trace of the idea in Genesis 1:9, where they translate קָווּ הַמַּיִם, "Let the waters be marked out with a line."
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? These details follow naturally upon the adoption of the particular metaphor of a house or building. They are not to be pressed. The object is to impress on Job his utter ignorance of God's ways in creation. Or who laid the corner-stone thereof? Who gave the last finishing touch to the work (see Psalms 118:22; Zechariah 4:7)? Canst thou tell? If not, why enter into controversy with the Creator?
When the morning stars sang together. The stars generally, or the actual stars visible on the morn of creation, are probably meant. They, as it were, sang a song of loud acclaim on witnessing the new marvel. Their priority to the earth is implied, since they witness its birth. Their song is, of course, that silent song of sympathy, whereof Shakespeare speaks when he says, "Each in its motion like an angel sings" ('Merchant of Venice,' Acts 5:0. sc. 1). And all the sons of God shouted for joy. "The sons of God" here must necessarily be the angels (see Job 1:6; Job 2:1), since there were no men as yet in existence. They too joined in the chorus of sympathy and admiration, perhaps lifting up their voices (Revelation 5:11, Revelation 5:12), perhaps their hearts only, praising the Creator, who had done such marvellous things.
Or who shut up the sea with doors? From the earth a transition is made to the sea, as the second great wonder in creation (comp. Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:10; Exodus 20:11; Psalms 104:24, Psalms 104:25). God's might is especially shown in his power to control and confine the sea, which rages so terribly and seems so utterly uncontrollable. God has blocked it in "with doors"—i.e. with "bounds that it cannot pass, neither turn again to cover the earth" (Psalms 145:9). Sometimes the barrier is one of lofty and solid rock, which seems well suited to confine and restrain; but sometimes it is no more than a thin streak of sliver sand or a bank of loose, shifting pebbles. Yet, in both eases alike, the restraint suffices. "The sand is placed for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it" (Jeremiah 5:22); the beach of shifting pebbles remains as firm as the rock itself, and never recedes or advances more than a few feet. When it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb; i.e. at its birth, when it was first formed, by the gathering together of the waters into one place (see Genesis 1:9).
When I made the cloud the garment thereof. The account of creation here given is certainly not drawn wholly from Genesis It is to be viewed as a second, independent, account of the occurrences, in fuller detail, but vaguer, by reason of the poetical phraseology. And thick darkness a swaddllng-band for it. The infant sea, just come from the womb (verse 8), is represented as clothed with a cloud, and swaddled in thick darkness, to mark its complete subjection to its Creator from the first.
And brake up for it my decreed place; rather, as in the margin, and established my decree upon it; or, as in the Revised Version, and prescribed for it my decree. The decree itself is given in Job 38:11. And set bars and doors (see above, Job 38:8, where the imagery of "doors" has been already introduced). As Professor Lee observes, "The term דְּלָתַיִם contains a metaphor taken from the large folding-doors of a city, which are usually set up for the purpose of stepping the progress of an invading enemy, and are hence supplied with bolts and bars". Representations of such folding-doors are common in the Assyrian sculptures; and in one instance the doors themselves, or, to speak more exactly, their outer bronze easing, has been recovered. These gates were twenty-two feet high and six feet broad each.
And said, Hitherto shalt thou corns, but no further. The law is not quite absolute. Wherever the sea washes a coast-line, there is a continual erosive action, whereby the land is, little by little, eaten away, and the line of the coast thrust back. But the action is so slow that millennia pass without any considerable effect being produced, and encroachments in some places are generally counterbalanced by retrenchment in others, so that the general contour of laud and water, with the proportion of the one to the other, remain probably very much the same at the present day as when the earth first became the habitation of man. And here shall thy proud waves be stayed. The waves of the sea "rage horribly," and every now and then topple down a rock or undermine a cliff, and seem proud of their achievements; but how little do they effect, even in thousands of years! The little islet of Psyttaleia still blocks the eastern end of the straits of Salamis. The Pharos island lies off the westernmost mouth of the Nile. Even the low, fiat Aradus, on the Syrian coast, has not been swept away. Everywhere the waves are practically "stayed," and all the menaces of the sea against the land come to nought.
Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days? rather, by reason of ray length of days—a similar irony to that observable in Job 38:5, Job 38:21, etc. The third marvel of creation brought before us is the dawn, or daybreak—that standing miracle of combined utility and beauty. Has Job authority to issue his orders to the dawn, and tell it when to make its appearance? Has he caused the dayspring to know his place? Job cannot possibly pretend to any such power.
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? The idea seems to he that the dawn, suddenly appearing, seizes hold of all the ends of the earth "at one rush" (Canon Cook), and lights up the whole terrestrial region. The wicked, lovers of darkness, are taken by surprise, and receive a shock from which they recover with difficulty (comp. Job 24:16, Job 24:17). That they are "shaken from the earth" must be regarded as Oriental hyperbole.
It is turned as clay to the seal; rather, it changes as the clay of a seal. The seals of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and others were commonly impressed upon clay, and not upon wax. As the seal changed the clay from a dull, shapeless lump to a figured surface, so the coming of the dawn changes the earth from an indistinct mass to one diversified with form and colour. As M. Renan explains, "L'aurore fair our la terre l'effet d'un sceau sur la torte sigillee, en dormant de laforme, et du relief, a la surface do l'univers, qui pendant la nuit est somme un chaos indistinct." And they stand as a garment; rather, and things stand out as a garment' or as on a garment—a richly embroidered dress is intended, on which the pattern stands out in relief.
And from the wicked their light is withholden. Then, when the dawn bursts forth, "from the wicked, their light"-which is darkness (Job 24:13-17)—"is withholden," and the consequence is that the high arm—the arm that is proud and lifted up—shall be broken. Detection and punishment fall upon the wicked doers who are surprised by the daylight.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? The emphasis is on the word "springs," which means sources, origin, or deepest depths. Canst thou go to the bottom of anything, explore its secrets, explain its cause and origin? Or hast thou walked in the search (rather, the deep places) of the depth? Art thou not as ignorant as other men of all these remote and secret things? Physical science is now attempting the material exploration of the ocean-depths, but "deep-sea dredgings" bring us no nearer to the origin, cause, or mode of creation of the great watery mass.
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? By "the gates of death," Sheol, the abode of the dead, seems to be intended (comp. Job 10:21, Job 10:22; Job 17:16). Has Job explored this region, and penetrated its secrets? Or is it as unknown to him as to the rest of mankind? The second hemistich—Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?—is a mere echo of the first, adding an new idea.
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? literally, the breadths; i.e. the dimensions generally. The exact dimensions are probably not even yet known. Job can scarcely have had any conception of them. To him the earth was probably a vast plain, extended, he knew not how far, in all directions. Declare if thou knowest it all (comp. verses 4, 5, and 21).
Where is the way where light dwelleth? or, Which is the way to the dwelling-place of light '? Where, i.e; does light dwell? What is its original and true home? Light is a thing quite distinct from the sun and moon and planets (Genesis 1:3, Genesis 1:16). Where and what is it? Dost thou know the way to its dwelling-place? If not, why, once more, dost thou pretend to search out the deep things of God? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof? Darkness, too, light's antithesis, must not that have a home—a "place" of abode, as Job himself had postulated, when he spoke of "a land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself … Where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21, Job 10:22)? If so, can Job point out the locality?
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof. Can Job "take" light and darkness, and lead them to their proper places, and make them observe their proper "bounds," as God can (Genesis 1:4)? And that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof (comp. verse 19).
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? The irony that has underlain the whole address comes here to the surface, and shows itself palpably. Job, of course, is as old as the Almighty, or, at any rate, coeval with creation; otherwise he could not presume to take the tone which he has taken, and arraign the moral government of the Creator. Or because the number of thy days is great? Compare the sarcasm of Eliphaz (Job 15:7).
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? The "treasures of the snow" are the storehouses, wherein the snow is, poetically, supposed to be laid up. Vast accumulations of snow actually exist in various portions of the earth's surface, but the fresh snow that falls is not taken from these treasuries, but newly generated by the crystallization of floating vapours in the atmosphere. Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail? This expression is to be explained similarly, as poetical. Hail is nowhere kept in store. It is generated by the passage of rain-drops through a layer of freezing air.
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble. Hail is reckoned throughout Scripture as one of the ministers of the Divine vengeance (see Exodus 9:18-29; Exodus 10:5-15; Joshua 10:11; Psalms 18:12, Psalms 18:13; Psalms 78:47, Psalms 78:48; Psalms 105:32; Isaiah 30:30; Isaiah 32:19; Ezekiel 13:11, Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 36:22; Haggai 2:17; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:21). Its destructive effect upon crops, even in temperate latitudes, is indicated by the insurances against damage from hail, which, even in our own country, so many farmers think it worth their while to pay. In tropical and semi-tropical regions the injury caused by hailstorms is far greater. Against the day of battle and war. Compare especially Joshua 10:11, which, however, we need not suppose to have been in the mind of the writer. In ancient times, when the bow held the place in war which is now occupied by the rifle or the musket, a heavy hailstorm, striking full in the face of the combatants on one side, while it only fell on the backs of their adversaries, must of tea have decided a battle.
By what way is the light parted? or, distributed, so as to be enjoyed by all the inhabitants of the earth (Stanley Loathes). Which scattereth, etc.; rather, or by what way is the east wind scattered over the earth? (see the Revised Version) Job is asked to explain God's modus operandi in nature, which, of course, he cannot do. Hence his answer in Job 40:5.
Who hath divided a water-course for the overflowing of waters? rather, as in the Revised Version, Who hath cleft a channel for the water-flood? i.e. Who has furrowed and seamed the ground (in Western Asia) with deep gullies, or "water-courses," for the rapid carrying off of the violent rains to which those regions are subject? The wadies of Syria and Arabia seem to be alluded to. They too are God's work, not Job's. Or a way for the lightning of thunder? The "way" for the passage of the electric current is not marked out beforehand, like the way for the escape of the superfluous waters; but it is equally determined on and arranged previously by God, who has laid down the laws which it is bound to follow.
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man. God not only causes his rain to fall equally on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45), but equally, or almost equally, on inhabited lauds and uninhabited. His providence does not limit itself to supplying the wants of man, but has tender regard to the beasts, and birds, and reptiles, and insects which possess the lands whereon man has not yet set his foot.
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground. Parched ground seems to cry aloud for water, and so to make a piteous appeal to Heaven. Perhaps rain is not wholly wasted, even on the bare sands of the Sahara, or the rugged rocks of Tierra del Fuego. It may have uses which are beyond our cognizance. And to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth. Where the rain produces herbage, it is certainly of use, for wherever there is herbage there are always insects, whose enjoyment of life has every appearance of being intense.
Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? How do rain and dew come into existence? Can Job make them, or any other man? Can man even conceive of the process by which they were made? If not, must not their Maker, who is God, be wholly inscrutable?
Out of whose womb came the ice? Modern scientists admit that the process by which a liquid is metamorphosed into a solid transcends their utmost power of thought. They know nothing more than the fact that at the temperature of 32° Fahr. water, and at other temperatures other liquids, are solidified. It is thus not only creation itself, but the transformations of created things, that transcend the scientific intellect and are inexplicable. And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? This is the same question as that of the previous clause, expressed in different words
The waters are hid as with a stone; rather, the waters are hardened, like unto stone. When the frost comes, the waters are congealed and rendered as hard as stone. (So Dillmann and Canon Cook.) And the face of the deep is frozen. By "the deep" (תּהוֹם) is certainly not meant here either the open ocean, which, in the latitudes known to the dwellers in South Western Asia, never freezes, or the Mediterranean. Some of the lakes which abound in the regions inhabited by Job and his friends are probably meant. These may occasionally have been thinly coated with ice in the times when the Book of Job was written (see the comment on Job 6:16).
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades? (On the almost certain identification of the Hebrew Kirnah with the Pleiades, see the comment on Job 9:9.) Whether the "sweet influences" of the constellation are here spoken of is very doubtful. Schultens and Professor Lee support the rendering; but most critics prefer to translate the word employed (מעדנים) by "chains" or "fastenings" (Rashi, Kimchi, Rosenmuller, Dillmann, Canon Cook). If we adopt this view, we must suppose the invisible links which unite the stars into a constellation to be intended. Job is asked whether he can draw the links nearer together, and bind the stars closer to one another. Or loose the bands of Orion? The identity of Kesil with Orion is generally allowed. Job is asked if he can loosen the tie which unites the several members of this constellation together. Of course, he can pretend to no such powers.
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? The context implies that "Mazzaroth" is a constellation on a par with the Pleiades, Orion, and the Bear (Kimah, Kesil, and 'Aish). This makes it impossible to accept the meaning, so generally assigned, of "the twelve signs of the Zodiac." Again, the plural form is fatal to the conjecture that "Mazzaroth" designates a single star or planet, as Jupiter, Venus, or Sirius (Cook). The word is derived probably from the root zahar, "to shine," "to be bright," and should designate some especially brilliant cluster of stars Whether it is to be regarded as a variant of Mazzaloth (2 Kings 23:5) is uncertain. Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (On the identity of 'Ash or 'Aish with the Great Bear, see the comment on Job 9:9.) The "sons" of 'Aish are conjectured to be the three large stars in the tail of Ursa Major (Stanley Leathes); but the grounds on which the conjecture rests are very slight.
Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? i.e. the physical laws by which the course of nature is governed (comp. Psalms 119:90, Psalms 119:91; Psalms 148:6). The general prevalence of law in the material world is quite as strongly asserted by the sacred writers as by modern science. The difference is that modern science regards the laws as physical necessities, self-subsisting, while Scripture looks upon them as the ordinances of the Divine will. This latter view involves, of course, the further result that the Divine will can at any time suspend or reverse any of its enactments. Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? If Job does not even know the laws whereby the world is governed, much less can he establish such laws himself, and make them work.
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of water may sever thee? Will the clouds take their orders from thee, listen to thee, obey thy voice? None but the "medicine-men" of savage tribes profess to have any such power. Elijah, indeed, "prayed, and the heaven gave rain" (James 5:18); but this was a very different thing from "commanding the clouds of heaven." His prayer was addressed to God, and God gave the rain for which he made his petition.
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Hers we are? If Job cannot command the clouds, much less can he send (or rather, send forth) lightnings—these marvellous and terrible evidences of almighty power. Even now, with all our command of electricity, our savants would, from the best electrical ms-chine, find it difficult to produce the effects which often result from a single flash of lightning.
Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Some refer this to human wisdom, and understand the Almighty as asking—Who has put man's wisdom into his inward parts? literally, into his kidneys, or as our idiom would express it, "into his heart." But there is great difficulty in supposing a sudden transition from clouds and lightning in Job 38:34, Job 38:35 to the human understanding in Job 38:36, with a return to clouds and rain in Job 38:37. Hence many of the best critics understand Job 38:36 of the purpose and intelligence that may be regarded as existing in the clouds and rain and lightning themselves, which are God's ministers, and run to and fro at his command, and execute his pleasure. (So Schultens, Rosenmuller, Professor Lee, and Professer Stanley Leathes.) To obtain this result, we must translate the word טוּחוֹת By "tempest" or "thunder-belts," and the word שׂכוי, in the next clause, by "storm n or something similar (see the Revised Version, where "dark clouds" is suggested as an alternative for "inward parts'" and "meteor" as an alternative for "heart"). The whole passage will then run thus: Who hath put wisdom in the thunderbolts? or who hath given understanding to the tempest?
Who can number the clouds in wisdom? i.e. Who is wise enough to number the clouds, and say how many they are? Or who can stay the bottles of heaven? rather, Who can pour out? (see the Revised Version). The "bottles," or "water-skins," of heaven are the dense clouds heavy with rain, which alternately hold the moisture like a reservoir, and pour it out upon the earth. God alone can determine when the rain shall fall.
When the dust groweth into hardness. 'Aphar (עָפַר) here, as often, means "earth," or "soil," rather than "dust." When by the heat of the sun's rays the ground grows into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together, baked into a compact mass, then is the time when rain is most needed, and when the Almighty in his mercy commonly sends it. The consideration of inanimate nature here ends, with the result that its mysteries altogether transcend the human intellect, and render speculation on the still deeper mysteries of the moral world wholly vain and futile.
Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? A new departure. Job 39:1-30 should commence from this point. What does Job know of the habits and instincts of animals? Can he arrange so that the lion (rather, lioness) shall obtain its proper prey, and thus fill the appetite—or, satisfy the appetite (Revised Version)—of the young lions, which depend on their dam? Certainly not. "The lions, roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God" (Psalms 104:21).
When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait (comp. Psalms 10:9, Psalms 10:10; Psalms 17:12).
Who provideth for the raven his food? (comp. Luke 12:24, "Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them"). God's mercy is "over all his works," not only over those whereof man sees the utility; but also over beasts of prey, and birds thought to be of ill omen. Especially he cares for the young of each kind, which most need protection. When his young ones cry unto God. So Psalms 147:9, "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." The young ravens are driven to cry out, when they, i.e. the parent birds, wander for lack of meat, and have a difficulty in finding it.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the theophany.
I. THE LORD'S APPEARANCE TO JOB.
1. The time of this appearance. At the close of Elihu's address. Not too soon, when neither had Elihu finished his expositions nor had Job's heart been suitably prepared for such an interview as he was on the eve of obtaining, but precisely at the moment when the purpose of his coming was most likely to be effected. God never mistimes any of his visits to his people, whether he comes for judgment or for mercy. In this case the preaching of Elihu had begun to tell upon the turbulent spirit of the patriarch. The thunderstorm had helped to solemnize his mind, and lay him prostrate before the majesty of that Worker who had hitherto remained invisible. Then, amid the crashing of the thunder and the lurid gleams of the lightning, while the fierce whirlwind swept up from the southern desert—then was the moment God selected for making his presence known to his afflicted servant.
2. The mode of this appearance. Whether there was a visible form presented to the patriarch's eye it is impossible to say. Probably there was only a voice, like that which spoke to Adam in the garden (Genesis 3:9,Genesis 3:10), to Abraham on Moriah (Genesis 22:11), to Israel at Sinai (Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:1; Deuteronomy 4:12), and to Elijah at Horeb (1 Kings 19:12); like that which spoke to Christ at the Jordan (Matthew 3:17), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5), and in the city of Jerusalem (John 12:30); like that which arrested Saul (Acts 9:4), and afterwards St. John (Revelation 1:10). That this voice should have issued from the midst of a whirlwind (by the way, an indirect confirmation of the authenticity of the Elihu section) was doubtless designed
(1) to arrest Job's attention,
(2) to convey some impression of the majesty of God, and
(3) to indicate the weighty character of the truth about to be communicated.
3. The reality of this appearance. It has been suggested that there was no objective appearance presented to any of Job's senses except what was afforded by the phenomena of the thunderstorm; that the voice was purely subjective—the inner voice of Job's own spirit, as it were, rising up within him to proclaim the overpowering sense of the Divine majesty under which it lay. "As the storm passes away with a vehement wind, clearing the heavens and presenting a lively symbol of the terrible majesty of God, Job feels the near presence of his Maker; the word rings through his heart, it brings back all that he had ever ]earned of his works; creation arises before him to witness for its Maker, the Spirit of God moulds his thoughts and completes his knowledge," and leads him to pour forth the sentiments here recorded in that "methodical and artistic form which pertains to the highest order of Hebrew poetry" (Canon Cook). To such an interpretation of the dramatist's language there is no very serious objection; but, on the other hand, it is permissible to hold that the entire phenomenon was objective.
4. The object of this appearance.
(1) To meet Job's desires. Repeatedly and earnestly had the patriarch expressed a wish, at first dubiously, but afterwards with something like defiance, that God would admit him to an interview, that he might have an opportunity of stating his case and pleading his cause (Job 9:34, Job 9:35; Job 13:3, Job 13:22; Job 23:3; Job 31:37). Well, in amazing condescension to this almost impious demand, Jehovah, "who giveth not an account of his matters" (Job 33:13), chines down from the serene altitudes of his eternal palace, riding on a whirlwind, thundering with his voice, sending forth his lightnings, causing the solid globe to tremble beneath the tread of his glowing feet (Psalms 18:9-14).
(2) To complete Job's instruction. Elihu had been sent to begin the work of educating God's ill-informed servant. That work had been performed with some considerable measure of success. Accordingly, to deepen the impressions made upon the mind of Job, Jehovah takes up the line of argument pursued by his ambassador, thus in a manner confirming all that had been by him advanced, and opening up before the mind of Job the full import of that teaching in a way that was impossible to Elihu.
(3) To humble Job's pride. Although the Lord had expressly come to afford Job an opportunity to vindicate himself, if he could, he begins by aiming at the reduction of Job's self-righteous vanity. With a creature filled as Job was at the moment with such intolerable haughtiness and presumption, it was impossible that God could treat. The first thing to be attempted was to bring Job down from the lofty pedestal of self-complacent dignity on which he had established himself; and this was aimed at partly by the sublime character of the Divine manifestation, and partly (perhaps chiefly) by the elevated tenor of the Divine teaching.
(4) To effect Job's restoration. That in the terrible ordeal through which Job had passed his integrity had not been to some extent shaken, no candid reader will affirm. Satan at the outset alleged that it would wholly fail. Jehovah maintained that it would stand. When the last trial (the preaching of the friends) had ended, Job was far from being in a state of stable equilibrium as to his integrity. Accordingly, Elihu, in perfect harmony with the original conditions of the problem, was sent to his assistance; and now, when all things had been prepared for his coming, God himself arrives upon the scene. "Who can teach like him?" said Elihu; and so discerning the approach of the great King, the faithful ambassador withdraws, leaving Job to get his last lesson from him who alone teacheth to profit (Isaiah 48:17). If after this Job still continues unhumbled, then Satan will have proved victorious; but if God shall be able to restore his servant to a proper frame of mind, then the final verdict will go with him, and not only the devil, but the intelligent universe, be forced to own that
"A good man, in the darkness and dismay
Of powers that fail, and purposes o'erthrown,
May still be conscious of the proper way;"
(Goethe's 'Faust,' Prologue.)
that a man through the grace of God may become possessor of a piety against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail.
II. THE LORD'S REPROOF OF JOB.
1. Sin charged. Jehovah begins the interview by distinctly specifying Job's offence. He had "darkened counsel" (verse 2); that is, he had obscured and misrepresented the prearranged plan and underlying principles of the Divine administration. The language reminds us:
(1) That there is a well-defined plan in accordance with which everything on earth comes to pass. As the primordial atoms of matter did not fortuitously fashion themselves into that brilliant host of suns and systems which we name the universe, or even into this wondrous globe which in comparison with the whole is but as a drop in the ocean, so neither do the events of time which compose human history occur by chance, but each one falls into the place prepared for it in the universal scheme.
(2) That this plan, or creation-programme, has been arranged in accordance with the highest wisdom. It is not a random plan that God has selected for his universe, or even for the earth, as an architect might build a house agreeable to the first idea or sketch that came into his mind; it is the best possible plan that omniscient wisdom could devise.
(3) That this creation-programme or world-plan in all its details has been constructed in accordance with the fundamental principles of truth and equity. Otherwise it could not have been the production of the highest wisdom. Hence it is deducible that the existence neither of sin nor of suffering is incompatible with eternal right.
(4) That the harmonious accordance of this Divine plan with law and justice shines forth in God's administration with sufficient clearness to convince every one who studies that administration with fairness and impartiality.
(5) That if in any case the luminous radiance of God's counsel is obscured, it must be owing to the shadow cast thereon by the intellectual and moral darkness of those by whom it is beheld.
2. Ignorance affirmed. Exactly this was the case with Job, for the challenge is not addressed to the friends, and still less to Elihu. Job had asserted more than once that the Divine government of the world was not in accordance (at any rate, not in visible accordance) with the eternal principles of equity, adducing instances, as he supposed, which no amount of ingenuity could harmonize with absolutely impartial justice. "But God pronounces that these words were 'without knowledge.' The instances that Job had appealed to as being obvious to the sight of all men of God's giving prosperity to the wicked, and causing the innocent to suffer wrongfully, and without redress, are pronounced to be untrue" (Fry).
3. Astonishment expressed. "Who is this?" The words carry in them
(1) "a rebuke or reprehension," "as if God, pointing at Job, had said, Is it you? I could not have believed that my servant Job would have so much forgotten himself;" and
(2) "a slight or diminution," as though Job, otherwise a man of an excellent spirit, "had been too bold with God, and therefore no wonder if God spake contemningly to him" (Caryl).
III. THE LORD'S DEMAND FROM JOB.
1. To display the courage he had previously vaunted. "Gird up thy loins now like a man," i.e. like a valiant hero (a geber), as you frequently affected to be. Job had formerly professed to be ready for an interview with God (Job 13:18, Job 13:22); had complained that God acted towards him like an invisible assailant (Job 19:7), whom he knew not how to meet or where to find (Job 23:3, Job 23:8, Job 23:9); nay, had declared that nothing would rejoice him more than to hear that his unseen adversary had opened a tribunal for the hearing of his case and prepared an indictment for the exposition of his guilt—that such an indictment he would wind around his brow like a regal crown, and march into God's presence with the stately steps of a prince (Job 31:35-37). Brave words, O Job! But most men, like Falstaff, are valiant in the absence of the foe. Jehovah had now come to ask Job to evince the sincerity of his boast. So will God one day come, upon the clouds of heaven, with great power and glory, to afford all the presumptuous ungodly an opportunity of showing whether they can meet without fear him whom they now despise without shame.
2. To recite the answers he had formerly professed to have prepared. Job had declared his perfect indifference as to whether the Almighty when he came should assume the position of assailant or defendant. If he preferred that Job should open the case, Job was ready; if he elected to assume the initiative, Job had his defences at hand. "Well," exclaims Jehovah, "as you gave me the choice, I decide upon the latter. I am ready to begin the hearing of your cause. Therefore stand forth. I will demand of thee, and answer thou me ]" "I will come shortly," wrote Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:19), "if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power" In the like spirit had Jehovah come to Job, to see whether the reality corresponded in any degree with the loud-sounding profession he had made.
1. That God keeps the times and seasons of all things connected with his kingdom in his own hand.
2. That nature with all its phenomena is under service to God.
3. That God's voice in nature, much more in the Word, and most of all in the conscience, is full of majesty.
4. That for God to answer any of his creatures, much more sinful dust and ashes, is an act of amazing condescension.
5. That God will not hide the faults of any of his people when he enters into judgment with them.
6. That ignorance lies at the root of much, if not all, of man's misunderstanding of, and murmuring against, God's ways.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the examination: 1. Concerning the creation.
I. THE CREATION OF THE EARTH THE HANDIWORK OF GOD.
1. An exclusively Divine work. Jehovah claims not simply to have been the Framer of the mighty fabric of the globe, but to have shared the honour of that stupendous achievement with no co-worker. Hence certainly not with Job. "Where wast thou when I established the earth?" Not taking part or even looking on, since thou wast not then in existence. That this terrestrial world, and indeed the vast universe of which it forms a part almost infinitesimally small, has not existed from eternity, and did not spring into being fortuitously and without adequate cause, hut was summoned from the womb of nothingness by the fiat of Omnipotence, besides according with the plainest declarations of Scripture (Genesis 1:1), harmonizes more exactly than any other theory with the dictates of reason.
2. A perfectly finished work. As in the Mosaic cosmogony Elohim is represented as beginning, carrying forward through successive stages, and completing the preparation of the newly made earth as man's abode, so here Jehovah advances a like claim in behalf of himself. Under the image of a building he describes the earth, in its construction, as having been planned by him: "Who," i.e. but me, "hath determined its measure?" founded by him: "Where wast thou when I established the earth?" erected by him: "Whereupon are the foundations," i.e. the bases of its pillars, "fastened?" finished by him: "Who hath laid the cornerstone thereof?"
3. A firmly secured work. Not, however, in the sense of standing still and without motion (Caryl), but in that of being permanently established. The constitution and course of nature, though not unalterable at the will of him by whom it hath been decreed, is yet so definitely settled that man can reckon on its uniformity. It can be overthrown by neither accident nor design. The properties and laws of matter are so certain in their operation, that some reasoners have falsely concluded them to be immutable.
II. THE CREATION OF THE EARTH WAS THE SONG OF THE ANGELS.
1. The singers: the angels. The race of spiritual intelligences who inhabit the heavenly world (Psalms 68:17; Matthew 18:10; John 1:51), who are here described by:
(1) Their place in creation; being styled (according to one exposition of the passage) "morning stars," as having been first created, the first beings summoned into the broad expanse of dependent existence (Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 8:5), as the morning stars appear to swim out first into the vault of heaven; as being possessed of incomparable excellence of nature (Psalms 103:20), as the morning stars outshine all other stars in brilliance; or as being the harbingers or heralds of succeeding and perhaps higher creatures than themselves (John 1:51), as the morning star serves to usher in through the portals of the dawn the golden chariot of the sun.
(2) Their relation to God; being designated his "sons," not as Christ is, who is the Father's Only Begotten (Psalms 2:7; John 1:18; Acts 13:33)—an honour never conferred upon the angels (Hebrews 1:5); or as saints are, by regeneration and adoption (John 1:12)—an experience which the unfallen angels do not need, and the fallen ones do not get; out probably as Adam was (Luke 3:38), and as men in general are (Acts 17:28) to indicate their dependence upon, and constitutional likeness to, God their Creator.
2. Their song: an anthem of creation. Which also is characterized in a twofold way:
(1) By its outward expression, as vocal," they sang," giving utterance to their emotions in the tongue of immortals; as choral, "they sang together," preserving harmony in their singing, maintaining a delightful concord of sweet sounds; as universal, "all the sons of God shouted" there was not a voice in the innumerable throng that was silent (cf. 'Merchant of Venice,' Acts 5:0. sc. 1); as cordial, "they shouted," expressive of the hearty vehemence and exuberant gladness with which they poured forth their heavenly melodies.
(2) By its inward inspiration, as proceeding from the full tide of joy which rose and swelled within their breasts, which joy was occasioned by admiration of the great Creator's power, contemplation of the Divine Artificer's wisdom, appreciation of the Infinite Father's goodness, anticipation of the supreme God's purpose, in calling forth from the wide womb of non-existence, by a single fiat of omnipotence, a world so wondrously fair, for an end of which it may have been given to their angelic minds to form some by no means, dim conception, viz. to be the future home of man.
III. THE CREATION OF THE EARTH A STUDY FOB MAN, As such it was propounded to Job, who was asked to receive lessons from it as to three points.
1. The brevity of man's life as compared with the existence of God. "Where wast thou when I founded the earth? Thou wast not then born! Thy days on earth are as a Shadow. A few years ago thou hadst no existence. But I, thy Creator, whom thou dost foolishly arraign, bad a being before the world was!" Nothing is more fitted to impress man with a sense of the utter vanity and insignificance of this terrestrial existence of which he partakes than a contemplation of the eternity of God.
2. The ignorance of man's mind as compared with the omniscience of God. Jehovah asks the patriarch if he could tell how the pillars of the globe were fastened in their sockets, or how either the foundation or corner stones of the stupendous fabric were laid in their places, and fixed so as to continue permanent and immovable. "Declare, if thou hast understanding." But all these were comprehended by eternal wisdom. How immeasurably foolish, then must it be for man to presume that he either can, or ought to be able to, understand the moral administration of a world of whose original construction he is entirely ignorant! Nothing is better calculated to humble the pride of human wisdom than we reflect both how small is the circle of knowledge surveyed by the wisest in comparison with the vast sphere of ignorance by which he is still encompassed, and in particular how infinitesimal is the largest quantity of science collected by man when weighed against the immeasurable omniscience of God.
3. The impotence of man's arm as compared with the omnipotence of God. Vast in contrivance and execution as are many of the works of man, the building of the pyramids, the exploration of mines, the construction of locomotives, the tunnelling of mountains, and other mighty achievements of human genius, it is certain that man himself must regard these as puny and insignificant beside the gigantic works of nature, the piling up of Himalayas, the formation of oceans, the establishment of those mysterious influences which men in their ignorance denominate physical forces, the peopling of earth, air, and sea with their myriad forms of life. And yet these are all the handiwork of God, effected by his power with infinite ease and with such consummate skill that man cannot hope to improve them, cannot oven imitate them, yea, can hardly succeed in making a perfect copy of them. Nay, modern astronomy, by enlarging our conceptions of the stellar world, reminds us that stupendous a work as is the formation of this material globe, it is in reality one of the smallest of the productions that have come from his creative hand, being in fact but as a drop in a bucket, or as the small dust of a balance, in comparison with the boundless universe to which it belongs.
1. That the first of all beings is God.
2. That the primal cause of all things is the power of God.
3. That only the mind which planned the world can perfectly understand its government.
4. That all God's works, in the moral world no less than in the material, are characterized by wisdom.
5. That God's works should never fail to excite the admiration and rejoicing of God's children.
6. That, though man cannot be saved, he may yet be instructed, by the angels.
7. That if the old or material creation required the power of God, much more does the new or spiritual creation.
The songs of the angels.
I. AT THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.
II. AT THE INCARNATION OF THE SAVIOUR.
III. AT THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS.
IV. AT THE INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the examination: 2. Concerning the sea.
I. THE PRODUCTION OF THE SEA.
1. The place whence it issued. The sea, by a bold metaphor, is represented as a child proceeding from its mother's womb. The allusion apparently is to the third day's creative work, when the terrestrial waters were collected into seas by "the upheaval of the land through the action of subterranean fires, or the subsidence of the earth's crust in consequence of the cooling and shrinking of the interior mass" ('Pulpit Commentary: Genesis,' Genesis 1:9). The hitherto quiet surface of the deep being thrown into violent commotion, on the one hand the upward rush of waters occasioned by the sinking of the solid particles would seem like an irruption from the interior of the earth, while on the other hand the backward sweep produced by the sudden upheaval of mountain-peaks would appear as if effected by the superior restraint of some mighty hand. Hence, the whole is depicted as the birth of a young giant, who is no sooner ushered into life than he requires to be restrained and confined.
2. The violence of its irruption. The word employed by Jehovah to describe its evolution from the still chaotic mass of the globe is the same which Scripture writers use to represent the bursting forth of a river from its source (Job 40:23), the emerging of a child from its mother's womb (Psalms 22:10), the rushing of a soldier into battle (Ezekiel 32:2), the springing of a warrior from ambush (Judges 20:33). The language conveys a vivid picture of the vehement and sudden manner in which the land and water of our globe were separated, which, according to both revelation (Psalms 104:7) and science, was most probably effected by volcanic agency.
3. The appearance it presented. Still adhering to the metaphor of a new-born infant, which the nurse wraps in swaddling-bands and baby-clothes, Jehovah tells the patriarch that he too had provided suitable apparel for the new-born sea, giving it clouds for a garment and darkness for a band, meaning that at its first separation from the solid earth it was overhung by heavy vapours and thick mists which served to enshroud it like a pall.
II. THE DISPOSITION OF THE SEA.
1. The preparation of its place. The received translation, which is clearly inspired by Genesis 1:9 and Psalms 104:8, understands God to say that the newly formed sea was not left to roll its waters at will across the surface of the globe, but was withdrawn into the ocean beds in which at the present time it rests, and that these beds, besides being constructed by Divine agency, acting, no doubt, through natural means, had also been definitely prearranged by Divine wisdom, which had "broken up for it my decreed place," and were permanently fixed by Divine power, which had "strictly measured its boundary" (Umbreit), or broken over it a Divine decree (Delitzsch), i.e. imposing upon it a statute of limitation.
2. The restraining of its waters. This again is represented as the imprisoning within strongly built walls and firmly barred doors of the aforesaid young and vigorous giant, who cannot be permitted unchecked liberty, but must be kept within bounds, being afforded so much freedom and no more—freedom, that is to say, within the precincts of his prison, but not beyond. In the case of the sea, the imprisoning walls and doors are the rocks and sands and beaches which line the coasts of the great ocean waters. And yet it is not these that repel the sea from overflowing its banks, but the voice of God who says, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed;' as it is not the prison walls that really confine the young giant, but the sovereign will of him, the Parent or Nurse, by whom they have been constructed and the infant monster has been immured.
1. That God is the Maker of the sea as well as of the dry land.
2. That God can control the sea even in its fiercest moods.
3. That the sea, no less than other creatures, cannot overstep the bounds assigned it by its Maker.
4. That God's hand upon the sea, and God's voice to the sea, are all that keep its waters from overflowing the earth.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the examination: 3. Concerning the light.
I. THE LIGHT OF THE MORNING THE SERVANT OF GOD.
1. The light of the morning is a servant to some one. It is under the commandment of a Superior. Every movement that it makes proclaims it to be under law. Modern science is even able with much precision to formulate the laws to which it renders obedience. And these operate with such unfailing regularity and such irresistible potency, that even this subtlest, nimblest, and most powerful of creatures is unable to elude their grasp or repel their sway. Morning after morning does the dawn appear like a sentinel returning to his place. Day after day does the golden sun push his disc above the horizon, never mistaking the time when or the exact spot where he should first begin to tip the mountain-tops with roseate hues. From whatever source the laws emanate it is clear that the sun yields them submission.
2. The light of the morning is not the servant of man. "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days? hast thou caused the day-spring to know its place?" inquires Jehovah of Job, as if he meant ironically to suggest that, although Job could have had no hand in either the first formation of the globe or the production of the sea, inasmuch as he was not then in existence, perhaps since he had arrived on earth he had been the lord paramount, to whom the powerful king of day did obeisance, and from whom the roseate dawn received its daily charge. At the same time, the interrogation is so phrased as to point to the appropriate reply that not only was Job not the director-general of the solar movements, but throughout the entire course of his career he had not been able to impose his authority on the morning light for so much as a single day. And, of course, what was true of Job is likewise true of all. The student of the heavens may contemplate the beauty and investigate the laws of the solar beam; but he cannot hinder it on its mission or turn it aside from its path. He can neither instruct nor direct it as to when, where, or how it is to shine. It may serve him in obedience to the Divine command which has made all creatures wait on man; but man cannot make of it his servant in the sense of subjecting it to his ordinances. Hence the inference that follows is inevitable.
3. The light of the morning is exclusively the servant of God. The voice it obeys is that which addressed Job from the whirlwind. The rule it follows is that prescribed for it by him who at the first said, "Let light be," and light was. The law it recognizes and fulfils is that of him who set the sun in the heavens to give light upon the earth.
II. THE LIGHT OF THE MORNING THE ENEMY OF EVIL-DOERS.
1. The expressive metaphor. The light, personified as a powerful servant or minister of God, is represented as coming forth every morning from the chambers of the dawn, as seizing the broad and beautifully variegated carpet of the earth by the edges, as forcibly lifting it up, and as effectively shaking from it the evil-doers who, under cover of darkness, had laid themselves down to rest, or had gone forth on errands of wickedness, upon its surface.
2. The authorized interpretation. So completely does the dawn of day surprise the night-birds, or workers of iniquity, who prey upon society that their outstretched arms are broken, i.e. are arrested in the very act of perpetrating their nefarious deeds. When the darkness vanishes, the light in which they work is removed from them; and, shunning the dawn of day as if it were the shadow of death (Job 24:17), they slink away into their dens, disappearing as effectually from the world of light as if they had been shaken violently from the surface of the earth.
III. THE LIGHT OF THE MORNING THE BEAUTIFIER OF THE EARTH.
1. The imprinting seal. Analyzing the Divine metaphor, one may say that the spreading of the dawn is compared to the rolling of a cylindrical seal across the surface of a prepared sheet of clay. The figure indicates the gradual and progressive opening of the dawn, the silent and onward march of the light, the continually widening diffusion of day, the uprising of objects on the earth's surface into clearness and distinctness of outline.
2. The printed clay. As the seal when it passes over the smooth clay ]eaves behind it an impression winch seems to start up from the clay, so the sweeping of the dawn across the plains of earth causes object after object, mountain, rock, tree, grass, flower, everything that earth supports on its bosom, to start up in succession into prominence of vision.
3. The radiant garment. The result is expressed by a change of figure. The illuminated earth is compared to a richly embroidered garment, whose variegated hues and deftly woven figures, concealed by the preceding darkness, are now brought to light by the effulgent day.
1. That the constitution and course of nature in all its parts and details rest upon the command of God.
2. That apart from this Divine commandment the sons of men could not enjoy so much as a single day.
3. That the power of man can interfere with little things no more than with great things in nature.
4. That man has many servants who obey not his command.
5. That light plays an important part in the moral administration of earth.
6. That the main source of beauty in material things is the light of day.
7. That evil-doers generally and instinctively hate the light.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the examination: 4. Concerning the mysteries of creation.
I. THE MYSTERIES OF CREATION ARE MANIFOLD IN THEIR VARIETY. Jehovah directs Job's attention to some examples of these hidden things, or secrets, of nature.
1. The depths of the ocean. The sea, perhaps more than any other object in nature, the universal emblem of the mysterious, in respect of its immensity, inconstancy, potency, harmony, is specially invested with a veil of wonder when the mind reflects upon its unfathomable profundity. Ever sounding and singing on its surface, now chanting weird melodies as its tiny wavelets break upon the shore, now bellowing and roaring with discordant fury when the raging winds catching the ruffian billows by the top bid them clash in mortal conflict, underneath all is still, silent, solemn, voiceless, and, except where there are currents, motionless as the grave. Above inviting man's approach and investigation, below it has deep and dark recesses, untraversed by human foot, unscanned by mortal eye. Continually sending forth its treasures to the upper air in magic trains of mist, doing homage to the golden sun, it has "springs" or "fountains" underneath (Genesis 7:11), whence its waste is supplied.
2. The realms of the unseen world. The grim and gloomy subterranean regions so eloquently described by Job (Job 10:22; Job 26:5) as the abodes of disembodied spirits, are here similarly represented as the habitations of the dead, who are shut. within the sunless receptacles by means of doors and bars. Without expressly asserting that the two places," the interior parts of the earth" and "the realm of shades," were identical, the language of Jehovah imports that both alike were among the secret things as yet unveiled to man. And this witness is true. To saint and sinner equally the manner of existence, when the now embodied spirit shall have shuffled off this mortal coil, is an unfathomable mystery. A terra incognita is the country beyond the tomb. Nor has man yet been able to explore the innermost recesses of the earth. His investigations and researches have been confined to the earth's crust, possessing a thickness of only a few thousand feet. Whether the central substance of the globe is a solid mass or a glowing fire is yet with physicists a quaestio vexata.
3. The extent of the earth. That the earth was in patriarchal times popularly believed to be a plain is no proof that even then its sphericity was not guessed at, though perhaps not definitely ascertained by geographers and astronomers (vide Job 26:7, homiletics). Still, with all the appliances of modern science for observing the transit of Venus, upon which calculations for the earth's dimensions depend, the most that can be thus obtained is only an approximation towards the truth—an approximation no doubt sufficiently accurate for working purposes, but still an approximation as distinguished from the absolute truth.
4. The origin of light and darkness. Among the discoveries of modern science few surpass in interest those relating to the composition and the laws of light. The prism by untwisting a solar beam, and the spectrum by analyzing its very substance, have widened man's knowledge in this department of physics to an astonishing extent. Yet what light itself is, what are its physical causes, and how it produces its particular effects, are still among the unascertained facts of nature.
5. The sources of snow and hail. Here again it is not the physical power or force which causes snow or hail which constitutes the mystery; but the fact that they seem to descend upon earth in inexhaustible supplies at the moments when they are most required, viz. when God has some time of trouble in store for man or some terrible judgment to inflict on earth. Scripture speaks of hail as having been employed by God for the destruction of his enemies (Exodus 9:18; Joshua 10:11; Isaiah 30:10).
6. The distribution of light and wind. Jehovah alludes to the laws in accordance with which the beams of light and the air-currents spread themselves across the surface of the globe, and exercise their respective influences upon the earth and its inhabitants.
7. The inner principles of rain, dew, ice, and frost. The causes that immediately produce these phenomena were probably to a large extent unknown in the days of Job, though they are now understood by persona of a moderate degree of culture. But it is the power behind the immediately operating material causes after which Jehovah inquires.
II. THE MYSTERIES OF CREATION ARE UNDISCOVERABLE BY MAN.
1. The oldest man was not present at their formation. "Knowest thou it [i.e. where the light dwelleth] because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy months is great?" Jehovah means that neither Job nor any other human intelligence was cognizant by personal observation of the institution of this or any other of the above-named mysteries. The establishment of nature's laws took place before the birth or creation of man. Each individual as he opens his eyes upon the theatre of existence witnesses their operation. When they first began to operate no man was there.
2. The wisest man does not know them through intuition. "Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?" Has the knowledge of this or of any of these mysteries flashed in upon thee, or risen up within thee by a kind of scientific intuition? The human understanding we believe to be sent into the world with a definite amount of mental furniture in the shape of mental and moral intuitions, which gradually assert their presence in and power over the soul; but among these innate ideas are not to be discovered solutions of the physical problems of the universe.
3. The most diligent man cannot roach them by personal investigation. "Hast thou come in thy walkings upon the fountains of the sea?" Have thy researches conducted thee to the secrets of creation? At the best man's knowledge of the material universe is comparatively superficial. It is doubtful if his powers of investigation can conduct him to the first principles of natural phenomena; and, even if they were sufficient in themselves, the limited extent of time during which man can apply them to the task renders ultimate success well-nigh impossible.
III. THE MYSTERIES OF CREATION ARE ALL UNDERSTOOD BY GOD.
1. They are all of his making. The sea with all its springs and caves is of his production. The dark underworld of spirits has been constructed by him. His was the voice that summoned the light into being. Snow, hail, wind, rain, frost, and dew, are each and all his creatures.
2. They are all of his hiding. If man knows so much and no more about natural phenomena, that is traceable solely to the Divine will. God could have endowed man with a deeper insight into the final causes of things had he chosen. If, therefore, God has power to hide, he must likewise know what he hides.
3. They are all of his directing. It is God who bids the fountains of the ocean spring, who says to the light, "Be distributed across the face of the earth," who charges the snow to fall upon the ground, who causes it to rain upon the wilderness where no man is. Hence the entire secret of their working must be known to him.
1. In the presence of nature's mysteries, a lesson concerning our own ignorance.
2. In presence of our ignorance, a lesson of humility.
3. In presence of the God of nature, lessens of reverence, trust, and submission.
Jehovah to Job: the first answer-the examination: 5. Concerning four worlds.
I. THE WORLD OF STARS. Jehovah invites Job to reflect upon his own impotence, and therefore also inferentially upon his (i.e. Jehovah's) omnipotence, as regards the phenomena of the heavens, over which the Power of God is exhibited in a fourfold degree.
1. In creating the orbs of heaven. The constellations (Orion, Arcturus, the Pleiades, Mazzaroth) and the planets that adorn the nocturnal sky, the nebulae that fill the depths of space, the wandering comets that flash along their eccentric paths, are all the work of his almighty fingers; cf. Job 9:9, homiletics; and consult Exposition for the import of the names Orion ("Giant" or "Fool"), the Pleiades ("A Heap" or "Group"), Arcturus (the Great Bear). Mazzaroth is commonly understood to signify the twelve signs of the zodiac (Gesenius, Umbreit, Delitzsch, Carey), though its introduction between Orion and Arcturus, conjoined with its obvious connection with the root zahar, "to shine," seems to point to a constellation or star of peculiar brightness (Canon Cook), as e.g. Jupiter or Venus (LXX; Lucifer).
2. In instituting the ordinances of heaven. The laws in accordance with which the celestial luminaries have been formed and established in their respective places in the sky, and in obedience to which they move through the depths of space and shine upon the face of earth, have been patiently investigated, and are now in some degree understood by man; but in the sense of comprehending how they have been ordained, the wisest astronomer, no less than the dullest peasant, is completely ignorant. Kepler ascertained that planets move in elliptical orbits, but why, was beyond his Power to tell Newton discovered the law of gravitation; but what gravitation itself was, the philosopher could no more explain than a schoolboy.
3. In regulating the movements of heaven. Whether the image is that of a chariot to which its snorting steeds are fastened by means of bands (Carey), or of a bouquet of jewels bound or twisted together (Delitzsch), the binding, of the sweet influences of the Pleiades refers to God's power in bringing that constellation above the horizon at certain seasons of the year, and in calling it forth every night during the season upon the dark vault of heaven. So the loosening of the bands of Orion may point to the disappearance of that constellation from the firmament, the bringing forth of Mazzaroth and the guiding of Arcturus to the directing of their movements in the sky.
4. In determining the influences of heaven. That the stellar world exercised an influence upon the earth, the course of its events and the fortunes of its inhabitants, was a dream of astrological superstition, and cannot be admitted as the subject to which Jehovah here alludes. The explanation must be sought, and with sufficient fulness will be found, by recurring to the words of Moses in connection with the work of the fourth creative day (Genesis 1:14-19).
II. THE WORLD OF METEORS. Descending from the upper circle of the stars, Jehovah pauses at the next beneath it, the circle of the aerial firmament, directing Job to two phenomena that lie beyond the range of his ability, but quite within the sphere of God's, thereby demonstrating on the one hand the feebleness of man, and on the other hand the omnipotence of God.
1. The bringing of rain. "Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? God speaks to the clouds when his voice thunders through the sky, and immediately the clouds reply by deluging the earth with a flood. But man may shout himself hoarse in the vain endeavour to make the clouds obedient to his will. Yet the Power of faith wielded by a weak man has accomplished what is here denied to man in himself (1 Kings 18:42; James 5:17).
2. The sending of lightning. "Canst thou send forth lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?" No! It is a special mercy that no Job ca, a thus exercise unlimited control over the powers of nature.
"Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder!"
('Measure for Measure,' Acts 2:0. so. 2.)
But the thunderbolts of the sky, the electric currents of the air, the innumerable forces of the globe, are all obedient to the word of command which God gives (cf. Matthew 8:9).
III. THE WORLD OF INTELLIGENCE. Descending yet a third step, Jehovah reaches the realm of men. Interrogating Job, he:
1. Makes a frank recognition. Man is possessed of wisdom in the inward parts, and retains understanding in his heart; i.e. he has a certain power of inquiring into the names and causes of terrestrial phenomena. God delights to acknowledge the essential dignity of man, even though sin has largely defaced his beauty and impaired his powers. Man's intelligence is a noble gift which man should not despise, but cultivate with assiduity.
2. Asks an important question. Whence did man receive his wisdom? Was it from himself? Did it spring up within his heart as a spontaneous growth or development? Or was the doctrine of Elihu (Job 32:8) correct that it is the Spirit of the Almighty which gives man understanding? Many modern scientists would affirm the former, which shows that they still require to ponder Jehovah's question to the patriarch.
IV. THE WORLD OF ANIMALS. Leaving man, the last stage is arrived at in the domain of the lower creatures, in which Job is invited to behold an evidence of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God.
1. Of God's power. Had the problem been proposed to Job to provide food for the lioness and her whelps, Jehovah asks him if he could have done it: "Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lioness? or fill the appetite of the young lions?" (verse 39). No; Job could not have so much as approached these ferocious creatures without trembling; but God did it every day, silently, regularly, effectively, by the operation of a divinely implanted instinct which impelled every particular creature to seek and find its own particular food That God was able thus to move even the most untamable of beasts was sufficient demonstration of the completeness of that control which he wielded over the entire animal creation.
2. Of God's wisdom. There are few more striking illustrations of the wisdom of God than those afforded by the instincts of the lower creatures, and in particular by that which guides them to the special food which each requires, to the place where it is to be found, and the manner in which it is to be appropriated. What this mysterious force is which controls every sentient creature neither science nor philosophy can explain. Resembling intelligence, it yet differs from intelligence by obvious characteristics.
3. Of God's goodness. Manifested in catering for any of his creatures, it is conspicuously seen in providing food for the unclean raven and her hateful brood. It is even revealed by those predatory instincts which lead the stronger animals to prey upon the weaker, thus serving among other purposes to limit the increase of the inferior orders of existence, and even shadowing forth to man truths of a lofty spiritual significance, had he only the opened eye to understand them.
1. That there is no part of God's universe over which his sway is not sovereign and complete.
2. That man may admire God's great power and wisdom, but he can neither equal the one nor improve the other.
3. That man is even dependent upon God for the capacity to understand and appreciate the Divine wisdom and power.
4. That nothing exists in God's world that does not serve some divinely ordained purpose.
5. That God's goodness extends to the meanest and most repulsive of creatures.
6. That that God who is kind to lionesses and ravens will not likely be forgetful of his own children.
7. That men should imitate their Maker in being kind to the lower animals.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The discourses of Jehovah.
At length, in answer to the repeated appeals of Job, the Almighty appears, not to crush and overwhelm, as fear had often suggested, but to reason with his servant; to appeal to his spiritual intelligence, rather than to smite him into lower prostration by some thunderbolt of rebuke. "Come now, and let us reason together," is the gracious invitation of him who is Eternal Reason, amidst the wild clamours of our passion and despondency. At the same time, this revelation of the majesty of God humiliates and purifies the recipient of it, teaching him his own littleness and limitation in presence of this fulness of might and of wisdom. God, as the Almighty and only Wise, with whom no mortal may contend in judgment, may appoint the sufferings of the righteous for their probation and purification. And thus the great problem of the book, the enigma of life, receives from the highest Source its long-delayed solution.—J.
First discourse of Jehovah: God the Almighty and the All-wise: man may not contend with him.
I. INTRODUCTION. APPEARANCE OF GOD; SUMMONS TO JOB. (Job 39:1-3.) Out of the storm, in all its grandeur and beauty, which had been gathering while Elihu was speaking, the voice of the Creator is heard, calling upon Job, as one who has been obscuring the Divine counsel by ignorant words, to gird up his loins and prepare for the contest he has so often invoked.
II. GOD'S QUESTIONS TO MAN'S REASON AND CONSCIENCE. (Verse 4- Job 39:30.) These questions all appeal to man's wonder and curiosity, which impel him to seek the causes of things, and are therefore indirect reminders of his ignorance which can find no last answer to the questions he cannot but ask.
1. Questions on the mode of creation. (Verses 4-15.)
(1) How was the earth founded? Who prescribed its limits? How shall the solid pillars, on which in the fancy of the ancient world it was conceived as resting, be themselves conceived as supported? Where is the corner-stone of this world-building, and who laid it? How can that great epoch of creation be realized in imagination when all the celestial beings held jubilee over the new-born world? We conceive of the existence of the earth in space under different notions than these; but is the wonder of a world rolling in space, and bound by the principle of gravitation to other bodies, a less wondrous conception, or one more easy to explain?
(2) So with the great sea. Who gave it its limits, who shut in as with gates the vast flood of waters? Breaking forth, as it seemed, from the womb of earth with impetuous force, yet governed and kept within bounds, so that its proud waves cannot transcend the limits fixed by Omnipotence, clothed with the raiment of clouds, the great ocean awakes in all minds the sense of sublimity, the emotion of awe.
"Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,—
Calm or convulsed, in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving—boundless, endless, and sublime,
The image of eternity, the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone"
(3) Or look again at the dawn in its splendid beauty, which men worshipped as Eos, Ushas, Aurora; consider the regularity of its appearance, gladdening the hearts of all creatures. Who bade the dawn arise and gild the summits of the mountain, causing the earth to flash with all her brilliant variety of colours? Who bade the sun clothe the torrent with rainbows? Nay, who made yonder sun a symbol of righteousness, instinctively perceived by the human conscience, so that ill-doers flee before its revealing beams, for their stronghold of darkness is broken open and their power is overthrown?
2. Question continued: earth's depths and heights, and the forces that thence proceed. (Verses 16-27.)
(1) The depths under the earth. (Verses 16-18.) God calls man to reflect upon the immeasurable, the inaccessible; to cause his thought to plunge into the abysses of the sea, to pass in imagination those gloomy portals where the sun goes down, and which lead to Hades, the realm of shadows and of darkness; or with extensive view to survey the broad earth in all its vastness from east to west. "Cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd" to one spot by the conditions of the bodily life, our mind has spiritual capacities and organs by which we may have notions of the Infinite, and these fill us with the sense of the unsearchableness of God.
(2) Again, from the depths let fancy sear to the bright heights above (verses 19-21), let it seek to explore the unapproachable fount of light, or the seat of darkness. Still our ignorance blushes and hides her face before the Divine secrets of existence. With what keen irony does Jehovah rebuke the sciolists of every age in verse 21? Shall short-lived man presume to know the beginning and source of anything? What though we may have cleared up some childlike confusions of thought, have introduced some method and system into our conceptions of the universe, have reduced heat and light to modes of motion, traced the correlation of forces, and perhaps are on our way to the conception of a oneness of force in all its various manifestations: what then? Whence force? Whence and what is motion? Approach as indefinitely near as we may to the last generalization, to the ultimate germ-principle of the genesis of the universe, there will still remain the unknown and the unknowable; there will be need and room still for wonder, worship, reverence, religion.
(3) Or turn to the wonders of the atmosphere: snow and hail, light and wind (verses 22-27). The questions here asked again are those of childlike wonder and ignorance. We do not put them in the same way. Science restates these questions for us; but only to give our wonder a new direction, a wider scope, a more intelligent quality.
3. The wonders of the air and starry heavens. (Verses 28-38.)
(1) Here a number of natural phenomena and processes are mentioned, and the explanation of them in like manner demanded. The generation of rain, of dew, of ice, of frost,—science mediately explains these, i.e. traces them to their secondary causes, and brings these causes under certain general laws. But thus the interest deepens in the phenomena; the wonder is not less, but more.
(2) The guidance of the stars, and their influence upon the earth (verses 32, 33). The Pleiades, or seven stars, appear as if threaded upon a skein, as a necklace of jewels. Who formed that wondrous thread? Or who can loose the fetters of Orion, so that that splendid figure of the heavens should fall to pieces or descend from the sky? Can man lead forth the splendid stars (Mazzaroth) in their season?—Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Bear along with its little ones? Knowest thou the laws of the heaven, by which the course of the planets, the changes of the day and of the year, are brought about? Or canst thou determine its influence upon the earth? Modern science has answered these ancient questions with a clearness and fulness inconceivable in the days of the patriarch. But the field of contemplation and of wonder it thus opens to us is infinitely vaster. And the sentence holds good, "An undevout astronomer is mad." Perhaps there is no science which more assists the mind to the sense of the sublimity of God than astronomy. And besides the revelation of the infinitely great above our heads, microscopic science has brought to light the infinitely small beneath our feet. The longer Job stands gazing, musing, the more do the Divine questions thicken upon him. From every star, from every cloud amidst the innumerable host spread out in the welkin, from every flash of lightning and from every drop of rain, the same voice speaks, the same challenge comes. Man cannot create by all his science the least of these things, and how shall he presume to penetrate the mysteries of the counsel of the Almighty, or question the wisdom and the rightness of his doings?
4. The animal world. (Verse 39- Job 39:30.) A rich field of study is opened here in the evidences of natural history to the creative power and the loving providence of God for all his creatures. We cannot turn our sermons into lectures on natural history; to descend into details would be to lose sight of those grand elementary truths of which nature's every page furnishes such abundant illustrations. For purposes of teaching, religion and science must to some extent be kept apart in their consideration. That is, we must not burden religious teaching with natural details, however interesting; nor interrupt at every step a scientific lesson, in order to pronounce a homily, or thrust forward a moral application. But viewed in a general way for the purpose of stimulating intelligent religious feeling, the animal world presents:
(1) Variety, rich and boundless, of form, of structure, of mode, and existence. How different the powers of the animals here enumerated—the lion, the raven, the goat, the wild ass, the horse! The limbs that spring and bound, that climb or fly, provided with that muscular apparatus which no human art can rival; the internal organs fitting the creature for its particular food and scene of existence;—these and all the variety of facts that come to light under this head bespeak a power and skill that can adapt the instrument to every set of circumstances, can be daunted by no difficulty, can find means for all necessary ends (see the illustrations in McCosh and Dickie's 'Typical Forms and Special Ends'). Whatever may be the scientific theory in fashion, whether teleological or evolutionary, in so far as it is a true theory, i.e. correctly represents the facts of observation, it can and must lend itself to natural piety, to the confirmation of the great truths of religion. Separate the wild guesses of some scientific men from the sober theories of an accurate science, the latter must ever remain, side by side with the Bible, a witness for God.
(2) Consider again the marvellous force that we call instinct. Instinct may possibly be defined as unconscious reason. We see traces of it in plants, and more strikingly marked ones in animals. It is a power by which these lower creatures arrive at ends, execute designs of marvellous skill and beauty, penetrate immediately to natural truth. Man, plodding his way slowly by the light of reason to his ends, stands in amazement before the effects and results of this mysterious mind-force. Well he may; for what is this force, so constant, so unerring, so matchless, but a direct emanation and impartation from the Creator himself?
(3) And again our sense of the beautiful and the sublime is awakened by the study of animal life. The description of the war-horse in Job 39:1-30, has always been reckoned among the most striking examples of the sublime. His strength, his vibrating mane and trembling neck, all quivering with emotion, his fiery spirit breathing, as it were, fire through his nostrils, pawing the ground in his impatience, rushing to the charge at the battle-signal,—the whole is a living expression of Divine force, awful and beautiful to behold. The analytic habits of scientific thought may hinder, if we do not guard against it, our simple and intense appreciation of nature and nature's individual objects as appealing to our sense of wonder, awe, and beauty. These feelings were given to lead us upward to the Fountain of all existence, to adore the beauty and the might of God. Thus "the book of animal life, that God here writes down for us, may be to us a true book of training for all virtues" (Cramer). If God cares so closely and so providently for the life of the lower animals, how much more are we, his children, his care? This wondrous life in body, soul, and mind; these capacities of moral improvement, of increasing knowledge of eternal life in communion with himself;—will he not care fro them? Let the cry of the dumb creatures remind us of our need of prayer, and of him who delights to hear; let the contemplation of the beauty and order of their divinely created life fill us with disgust at the disorder of sin in our own heart and life, and let us seek, in the new redeemed mode of existence, to use and improve all our powers, and consecrate them to the service of our faithful Creator, our compassionate Father and Redeemer.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Job 38:4, Job 38:19, Job 38:32, Job 38:33
Human impotence and ignorance exposed.
Job's affliction is a mystery—a mystery that needs to be revealed. Job has not given the explanation of it. He has not known it. His friends have failed. It has been attributed to his sin; but he is confident in his honest integrity, and cannot be persuaded that he is suffering punishment, for he has not a consciousness of guilt. Elihu has indicated the hidden nature of the Divine works, and has not made the mystery clearer. But he has closed the lips of them who would accuse God of wrong and unjust dealing. Job is being led, perhaps blindfold, to a final exposition of the whole. By imperfect knowledge of the purpose of God, Job may be led to wrong conclusions. But God will not forsake his faithful servant, of whom the Divine testimony at the beginning was that he "sinned not with his tongue;" and at the end that he had "spoken the thing which is right." It is still night with Job; he is in the dark as to the purpose of his affliction, but the morning breaketh. And whilst God has appeared hitherto as the Punisher of Job, he will ere long declare himself his Friend, and when he has well tried his faithful servant will amply reward him. But there are processes in the Divine method. Job has to be humbled to the very dust, and the present stage in that process is to reveal the littleness of man in presence of the Most High. Human impotence and ignorance are displayed in presence of the wonderful creation of God.
I. GOD'S WORK INDEPENDENT OF MAN. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" "Hast thou commanded the morning," and "caused the day-spring to know his place?" "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?" etc.
II. GOD'S WORK ABOVE MAN. "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?" etc.
III. GOD'S WORK UNKNOWN TO MAN. "Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?" "Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?" etc. Thus is Job taught amidst the wonders of God's creation how great is the Creator. If his works are past finding out by puny man, surely his purpose which he hath hidden is beyond the reach of human research. It is another step in the valley of humiliation for him who is finally found biting the dust.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
At length Job has his wish. He has been longing to meet with God and praying for God to reveal himself. The time has now come for God to hear his prayer and make his will known. This is far more important than man's speculations.
I. THE COMING OF GOD.
1. The time of his coming. God comes last. The three friends have had their say, reiterating till they weary us. Job has been free to vent his grief and his despair. Elihu, more enlightened, yet not quite attaining to the full light, has uttered his long harangue. All have said all they had to say, and throughout God has been silent. Now it is his time to appear. God will have the last word in every controversy, in every life's story, in the great world's history. "In the beginning God "In the end, too, there is God. Christ is the Alpha and also the Omega. We have but to wait in patience. The end is not yet; when it comes God reveals himself.
2. The manner of his coming. "Out of the whirlwind." When Elijah met God the Lord was not in the whirlwind. God uses various vehicles of revelation—the "still small voice" for Elijah, the whirlwind for Job. He is not tied down to any routine. He has no rigid ceremonies. He adapts his methods to circumstances and requirements. Anything God has made may be a chariot in which he will come to visit his people. Sometimes it is best for him to come in storm and tempest, to hush our vain babble and subdue our wayward spirit. The noisy debate of men is drowned in the whirlwind of God.
II. THE ACTION OF GOD. When he comes it is to answer Job.
1. For Job's sake. Then the first thought is of the patriarch. He is the central figure in the whole drama. But we might have thought that the three friends would have been rebuked first. Yet their condemnation is postponed. It is more necessary for Job to be relieved of his perplexity and led into a right state of mind.
2. An answer. Then God had heard what preceded. He may not make his presence manifest, but yet he is a silent Auditor at all our conferences, debates, quarrels. He hears our trusty words. He perceives our foolish doubts. God's treatment of us is not irrespective of our action. He takes account of all we do and say, and his action is adjusted accordingly. Thus God answers man. He meets the doubt, takes up the difficulty, handles the complaint, deals with the prayer, replies to the question. We may have to wait long for the answer. It may not come in this life. But as it came to Job, so at last, in God's time, it will assuredly come to us, and when it has come no more need be said. It will certainly be full, sufficient, satisfying.
3. In words. The Lord spoke out of the whirlwind. God usually answers us on earth by deeds of providence, or by the voiceless pleading of his Spirit in our hearts. But he has given us words in the messages that prophets have brought to us and that are recorded in the Bible. For us, however, God's great answer to every question and every prayer is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. The gospel shows that God has not left us to work out our problems in the dark. It reveals God speaking to us, and his message in Christ is one to give light and peace.—W.F.A.
Job 38:2, Job 38:3
This is perplexing. When after long delays God has at length appeared, we expect him to clear up all doubts and to fully vindicate his providence to Job, while he also vindicates Job in the presence of the three friends. But God acts in a very different way, and rather seems to defend darkness and mystery than to shed light. Yet if we look into the matter carefully we shall see that all the light that could be given with profit comes through the new impression of awe and mystery that the language of God's reply produces.
I. IGNORANCE MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND HUMBLED. If anything had been most painfully apparent to Job throughout the whole debate, rousing his scorn as well as his anger, it was the fact that his three friends had "darkened counsel by words without knowledge." Now God wilt have Job see that even he has been making the same mistake. The perplexed patriarch has been throwing out a cloud of indignant words, but he has not really understood what he has been talking about. Such words have not helped to the explanation of things; on the contrary, they have been misleading, darkening counsel instead of throwing light upon it. Now, until Job perceives this, he cannot be led to a vision of reassuring truth. While we think we know, our ignorance is invincible. So long as we are satisfied with ourselves, we cannot receive the deliverance of God. The first lesson must reveal our ignorance and humble our pride.
II. MYSTERY MUST BE MANFULLY FACED. Job had lain groaning on his ash-heap. Let him now gird up his loins like a man. Humility should not be thought to exclude courage. We are most brave when we think least of ourselves. Now, a courageous facing of difficulty is necessary if we would conquer it. It is useless to rave against the mystery of life. Let us go up to it and confront it calmly. This is the second step to the conquest of moral and intellectual difficulties. But there may be a touch of irony in God's words to Job—merciful and not bitter, kindly meant, to complete his lesson of humility. Can the patriarch face the mystery? Let him try. It' he fails in the honest attempt, he will be in the very condition for receiving the help of a Divine revelation.
III. THOUGHT MUST BE ROUSED AND STIMULATED. Job had been questioning God; God will now question Job. God's first answer to Job is to request an answer from the patriarch. It is easy to put questions. We should be wiser if we listened to those that are addressed to us. The method of the reply to Job out of the whirlwind was fitted to awaken the thinking of the patriarch. We must learn to approach the mysteries of God with an open and an active mind. No help can come to us so long as we remain inert. Perhaps one effect of the awakening of thought will be to reveal our own littleness by the side of the awful greatness of God. This is what God's answer to Job seems designed to produce in his hearer. Then we can be no longer perplexed at mystery. We see we must expect it. At the same time, the greatness and goodness of God in his works teach us to trust him and not despair at the mystery.—W.F.A.
The song of creation.
I. A GLAD SONG. This highly poetic picture describes the joy of creation. When the world was made God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:10). There is no Manichaean pessimism in the Bible. Nature is full of gladness. This we should expect when we know the character of God, for he whose name is love must take pleasure in the joy of his creatures. We may see the same truth in the construction of the world. It is beautiful, and made to minister to the happiness of the myriads of living creatures that inhabit it. We may find it hard to catch the echoes of the song of creation, yet even amid the toils and cares of life it is cheering to be reminded of its rare and ravishing melody.
II. A SONG OF PRAISE. This was more than gladness. The Creator's glory is celebrated in the joyful recognition of the greatness and beauty of his works. Nature-worship always tends to grovel in the mire, twining itself most closely about the lowest thing in nature. Wordsworth was a prophet of nature of the highest order, because he saw more than nature, and because he took nature as a mirror of the spiritual world. The glad praises of the sons of the morning begin the history of the world with a hymn to God.
III. A HOPEFUL SONG. It was sung by morning stars, in view of the new day of creation. It sprang out of the fresh youth of the world. We praise God for what he has done since that first psalm was sung. Yet we too can sing in hope, for God still lights up the future with glory. There is always something melancholy in a song of memory. The right attitude of the sons of God is the forward gaze.
IV. A HARMONIOUS SONG. The morning stars sang together. Plato discovered the music of the spheres in their rhythmic movements. There is no music in war, confusion, or selfishness. The joy of heaven is the gladness of love. Sympathy tunes the sweetest music the heart can utter. If we would emulate the joyous praises of the angels, we must follow their willing obedience, and live in that heavenly atmosphere of love which is their home.
V. AN ANCIENT SONG. Vastly more ancient than any one imagined in the days of Job. The brain grows dizzy in the vain attempt to form some idea of the immeasurable antiquity that is opened up to us by the wonderful story of geology. Before all that came the first song of creation. This thought dwarfs the life of man. Job had considered of the brevity of life from another point of view, and with regard to the melancholy prospect of its termination. Now he is to look back and see how recent was his origin. This was to check dogmatic assumptions. How can the creature of a day enter into the age-long counsels of God?
VI. AS ETERNAL SONG. The far-off antiquity was joyous in the light and love of God. But the Divine light and love have not laded out of the world. God is still creating. Every fresh spring is a new birth from God, every day has its dawning, every child its gladsome youth. The theory of evolution suggests even more joyous creations in the future. But better than them all is the second creation, the regeneration of souls, for which there is joy in the presence of the angels of God (Luke 15:10). The joy of creation is the angels' joy; that of redemption is "in the presence of the angels." For this greater joy does not first arise in them; it springs from the very heart of God.—W.F.A.
Lessons of the sea.
Passing from the thought of the joy of creation, when the morning stars sang together, we find our thoughts directed to the sea in its power and pride, first formed by the hand of God, and ever reined in by his commanding voice.
I. GOD'S POWER OVER WHAT IS MOST GREAT. The sea strikes our imagination chiefly because of its vastness. It only consists of water, which, when we see it in the trickling rill or hold it in the cup, is one of the most simple and seemingly harmless things in nature. But in gathering volume it gains strength. The little rill swells into the roaring torrent. The water of the sea grows into a tumult of awful forces before which the strongest man is helpless. To the ocean Byron says—
"Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor cloth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell'd, uncoffin'd, and unknown."
Yet the sea is under God's complete control Nothing is too strong for God. No might can escape his authority. Kings and emperors, men of genius and men of vast resources, are all subject to the present rule, and must all answer to the final call of God.
II. GOD'S ORDER IN WHAT IS MOST TURBULENT. Nothing looks so wild and lawless as the sea in a storm. In the mixing of the elements, when the wind shrieks among the waves, and the waters leap up madly to the sky, we seem to be back in the confusion of Old Chaos. Yet we know that the raging sea is as truly under the laws of nature as the fields with their growing crops. Every drop of water is as absolutely obedient to law as the stars in their orderly courses. God rides upon the storm. He rules over the unruly. Wild tempests of human passion, the fury of the despot and the rage of the people, are all watched and controlled by God. When black clouds gather and angry waves rise on the sea of human life, let us remember that there is One who rules over nations and cities as well as over the wild forces of nature.
III. GOD'S RESTRAINT OF WHAT IS MOST CHANGEFUL. The waters threaten to invade the land. But there is a limit to their progress. Each wave that tries most eagerly to outrun its predecessor is compelled to break and fall back in confusion, hissing with vexation as it is dragged down among the pebbles. The tide rises, higher and yet higher; but it has its limit. God gives man a certain scope for freedom. He can rise and fall like the wave, and ebb and flow like the tide. Sometimes he seems to have a very long leash. But it is not endless, and God has hold of it. At the right moment he will draw it in, and then all man's pride will be of no use. Our life is like the shifting tide, like the restless wave. We are wearied with its incessant changefulness. It is like the sea crawling up on the beach, and creeping back again, moaning on the shore night and day without intermission. There is monotony even in the changes. That is just the point to be noted. They are all limited and under restraint. So is it with those of life; they are limited and restrained by the providential care of our Father.—W.F.A.
Job 38:31, Job 38:32
Astrology and astronomy.
The earliest science was that which concerned itself with the movements of the heavenly bodies; until recent times this science was universally associated with the fortunes of men, and it is still thus associated by the greater part of the world. What is our relation to the heavenly bodies?
I. IN COMMON WITH THE STARS, WE ARE PART OF ONE DIVINE UNIVERSE. The study of the heavens is the study of God's works. He dwells in the most distant systems, and equally in this familiar world. All parts of the universe obey the fixed laws of God; all move in harmony under his directing hand. Thus all the worlds are linked together. We are members of a very large "household of God."
II. WE ARE SUBJECT TO INFLUENCES FROM THE HEAVENLY BODIES. We have given up astrology as a delusion. But we are entirely dependent for life itself upon one heavenly body, the sun. This earth is not self-sufficient. It would be frozen to death if the sun were to cease to pour into it his streams of heat. Some have connected sun-spots with social and financial crises! Although this may be but a survival of an ancient superstition, perhaps it is not wise to affirm that it must be nothing more. Now, the physical heavens have always been to us a type of the spiritual heavens. Spiritually our life is not self-contained. Astrology had this in its favour, that it taught a certain largeness of view. It did not permit a person to confine his attention to his own parish. It compelled him to look up and to look to distant things. It is our duty to "do the next thing," and not to waste our time in star-gazing. Nevertheless, we need to be lifted in thought out of the petty round of interests that immediately concern us, even in order that we may best discharge our duty in connection with those interests. Astronomy is an elevating and enlarging science; much more so is a true theology.
III. WE CANNOT AFFECT THE HEAVENLY BODIES. They roll on their age-long courses in sublime indifference to our greatest achievements and strongest desires. Job is asked whether he can bind up the cluster or Pleiades, as he would bind up a hunch of jewels. Can he unclasp the belt of great Orion? Here man is nothing. This is a lesson in humility. Yet have we not a grand encouragement in knowing that the Lord of the starry universe is our Father who cares for us, listens to our cry, and helps our need?
IV. WE CANNOT RULE THE SEASONS. As summer came on, Job would see the brilliant little group of the Pleiades rising before the sun and the giant Orion sinking out of sight; and this would be a sign that the fruitful season was approaching. But Job could not hasten it. The farmer cannot bring abort the seasons he would choose. It is useless to murmur at their apparent inopportuneness. It is wiser to learn the lesson they teach us of our absolute dependence on God. Before these great phenomena of nature we are as nothing. Yet in the sight of God we are more than all of them; for they are material, we spiritual; they his works, we his children.—W.F.A.
Job is asked to think of the raven, and consider how it is provided for. Christ answers the question: "Consider the ravens; that they sow not, neither reap; which have no store-chamber nor barn; and God feedeth them: of how much more value are ye than the birds!" (Luke 12:24). But the lessons are not the same in both cases. While Job is to see the greatness of God in providence, Christ directs attention to his care and kindness in providing for his creatures. There are some characteristics of the raven that accentuate the ideas of providential power and kindness.
I. ONE OF THE LOWER CREATURES. God is not only concerned with spiritual beings He makes his power felt, and he shows his kindness in the animal world. Nothing is so insignificant as to be beneath his notice. Material wants are thought of and supplied by God. But if he supplies these wants of the lower creatures, much more will he satisfy the deeper hunger of spiritual beings.
II. A WILD BIRD. Man cares for his domestic pets, and leaves the wild creatures to shift for themselves. But these animals are not neglected by God. Though building its nest in the depths of the forest or in some remote mountain recess among desolate cliffs and crags, the raven is watched over and cared for by God. Though no meek caged bird, but a free denizen of the wilderness, it is not beyond his control. God cares for his wandering children. Wild races, savage tribes, forgotten peoples, forlorn souls, are all under the notice and care of God.
III. A REPULSIVE BIRD. The raven has no gorgeous plumage; there is no music in its croak; it feeds on carrion. Yet God provides for it. God is very wide in his sympathies. We are narrow, partial, selective. While we favour one person and slight another, the large bounty of God is extended to all his creatures. God provides for the insignificant sparrow and the croaking raven. He cares for both insignificant and objectionable men and women. We must remember, however, that the repulsiveness of the raven is not moral. Sin is worse than feeding on carrion. God provides for sinners, sending rain and sunshine alike on the good and on the evil. Nevertheless, his best blessings are reserved for those of his children who know and love him.
IV. A NATURAL CREATURE. The raven is a part of nature. It simply follows its unconscious instincts, and in doing so it finds that its wants are provided for. God who implanted instincts satisfies them. We are to follow our whole nature, not the animal part only, but also the spiritual, which in us is as natural as the animal, and more important. Then, just in proportion as we keep to the laws of our being as God has constituted us, shall we find that our real wants are provided for. But if God has given to us reason and conscience, and only instinct to the raven, we must use our higher faculties in obtaining what is needful, just as the raven uses what is highest in its nature. The raven is not fed if it lives idly like the lily, which God still cares for in its own sphere; and man will not be satisfied if he lives only like the raven. Each creature must follow its full nature.
V. A PARENT. God implants parental love. When the young ravens cry, God feeds them by leading their parents to food. God uses natural affections for the good of his creatures. He blesses children through their parents.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 38". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19