GOD’S AWESOME DESIGN AND PROVIDENTIAL CONTROL OF THE UNIVERSE AND ALL THAT IS IN IT SHOULD CAUSE US TO HUMBLY SUBMIT
David Atkinson: Chapter 38 tells us that God does answer Job. He does so in this world, in sovereign freedom, and in God’s timing. The Elihu speeches, which came after Job’s last stand, prevent us from thinking that God is somehow forced into a reply by Job’s persistence in his previous speech. Throughout these last few chapters, though, the drums have been rolling, and the climax of the book is now upon us. . .
Job’s worst fears were that God had abandoned him. In the silence and the isolation, he had assumed that God had let him down and let him go. Job did not know that God had taken a risk, so to speak, to demonstrate Job’s integrity for heavenly purposes of his own. Of course God’s withdrawal was all part of the story, for Job’s pilgrimage of faith was precisely not a pilgrimage of sight. It is crucial to the story that Job should be in the dark. So he stands as a representative of, and an example for, all those of us who try to keep trusting in the dark. For all those of us whose faith is tested by the darkness and the apparent absence of God, the great reassurance of Job 38 is that God speaks. The Lord does come!
Thomas Constable: What God did not say to Job is as surprising as what He did say. He did not mention Job’s suffering, He gave no explanation of the problem of evil, He did not defend Himself against Job’s charge of injustice, and He made no comment on the retributive principle. God simply revealed Himself to Job and his companions to a greater degree than they had known, and that greater revelation silenced them. He proved Himself to be the truly wise Person.
Parsons: Although a major thrust of the Lord’s speeches (38:1—40:2; 40:6—41:34) was to polemicize against all potential rivals to His lordship over the cosmos, there is also a subtle refutation of the dogma of divine retribution. Although granting that the control of chaotic forces of evil (which in some instances is inherent in the design of the universe—38:12-15) is somewhat consistent with the principle of divine retribution, God demonstrates that the universe is not always geared to this principle.
Tremper Longman: In chap. 38 Job finally gets what he desired, an audience with God. However, it does not go the way he anticipated. Instead of Job confronting God, God confronts Job (38:1–3). The first divine speech opens with challenging words emanating from a whirlwind. God accuses Job of ignorance and then sets about to prove it by peppering him with questions. These are rhetorical questions that assume no answer on the correct presumption that Job has none to offer. After all, the questions are completely unfair. No human can expect to know how the creation was put together (38:4–7). No one was there when it happened! Certainly Job does not know how to control the sea (38:8–11) or where its source is located, any more than he knows where the realm of death can be found (38:16–17). Can he command the morning (38:12–15) or control the rain and snow (38:22–30)? Does he know the expanse of the earth (38:18–21) or have knowledge of the heavens (38:31–38)? Of course not. Nor does he know enough about the lion and the raven that he might provide for them (38:39–41). Only God can know and do these things.
Moving into chap. 39, God continues the line of the argument against Job initiated in 38:39–41. More animals are listed whose characteristics expose the difference between God and Job. As Westermann recognized, the question God asks Job here “sets up an unqualified alternative: Are you Creator or creature? Are you God or man? God knows all about how mountain goats and deer reproduce; Job does not (39:1–4). God gives the wild/Arabian onager its freedom; Job does not (39:5–8). God controls the wild ox; Job cannot (39:9–12). God gives the ostrich its speed, while withholding intelligence; Job does not (39:13–18). God gives the warhorse its fearless strength; Job does not (39:19–25). God gives the hawk its ability to soar through the sky; Job does not (39:26–50). With one exception, these are all wild animals with which humans have no real connection. The one exception is the warhorse, in whose description it becomes clear that it is only on the edge of domestication, able to be used by humans more for its love of conflict than anything else.
Elmer Smick: The format God has chosen is to ply Job with questions (as a professor would do with a presumptuous student); but strangely he says nothing about Job’s suffering, nor does he address the problem of theodicy. Job does not get the bill of indictment or verdict of innocence he has wanted. But neither is he humiliated with a list of the sins he has committed for which he is being punished. The latter would have been the case if the counselors had been correct. So by implication Job’s innocence is established, and later it is directly affirmed (42:7–8).
John Hartley: After and introduction and opening challenge to Job (38:1-3), Yahweh interrogates Job about the created order (38:4 – 39:30), and concludes by extending an invitation for Job to respond (40:1-2). . . Although there is no mention of mankind in this speech, no doubt intentionally, Job can easily discern Yaweh’s implication that he cares for human beings even more wisely and compassionately than for the other creatures.
Francis Andersen: To suggest that God’s governance is obscure is to speak in ignorance (38:2). The list is but a sample: the earth (38:4–7), the sea (8–11), morning (12–15), the underworld (16–18), light (19–21), snow (22, 23), storm (24–27), rain (28–30), various constellations (31–33), clouds (34–38), the lion (39, 40), ravens (41), the ibex (39:1–4), the wild ass (5–8), the wild ox (9–12), the ostrich (13–18), the horse (19–25), the hawk (26), the falcon (27–30). The list is assorted, with no strict order. It begins with some cosmic elements, moves to meteorological phenomena and ends with animals and birds. The horse seems to be the only domesticated animal mentioned, and it is his majesty, not his servility, that is stressed. With this exception, all the creatures mentioned are beyond the control of men. Yet all are among God’s pets. He cares even for the sparrow. Somehow this discourse arouses in Job a sense of awe at the beauty and order of the world. A sense of mystery too, for some of these animals seem ugly, repugnant, useless to men. And some of the things mentioned are remote from men, and some are a danger to him.
(38:1) PROLOGUE – THE LORD ANSWERS JOB
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,”
David Atkinson: But now, in chapter 38 our author wants us to be in no doubt. God is called ‘Yahweh’ once again. Now the gracious Lord of the covenant promise to Abraham is speaking to this man from Uz. Now the God whose name ‘Yahweh’ is associated with his personal presence of care, steadfast love and faithfulness to the people of his covenant, this God speaks to Job.
John Hartley: This panorama of natural phenomena witnesses that Yahweh, the holy God, is actually present. The clouds protect the audience from being consumed by the divine holiness. Those who behold such a display are filled with dread and wonder. The awe strikes the beholder dumb. Each worshiper, drawn out of his self-centered existence as by a powerful magnet, bows reverently before his God.
David Guzik: Repeatedly the whirlwind is associated with the divine presence. It speaks to us of the powerful, unmanageable nature of God; that He is like a tornado that cannot be controlled or opposed.
• God brought Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1-11).
• God’s presence is in the whirlwind (Psalm 77:18; Nahum 1:3).
• God’s coming is like a whirlwind (Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13 and 23:19).
• God appeared to Ezekiel in a whirlwind (Ezekiel 1:4).
(38:2-3) OPENING CHALLENGE AND REBUKE –
PUTTING JOB IN HIS PLACE
A. (:2) You Have a Limited Perspective
“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?”
John Hartley: Yahweh, the Wise Teacher, takes the offensive and interrogates Job, his complaining servant. Job has pondered his dilemma from many sides, and his questioning has led him to challenge the traditional belief that God governs the world in justice (e.g. chs. 21 and 24). Without presenting a self-defense against these accusations, Yahweh opens by putting Job in his place with a question that cast doubt on Job’s insight (v. 2). Without discounting Job’s moral integrity, Yahweh challenges Job’s perception of his governance of the world. By opening with the words Who is this? Yahweh asserts his superiority. Moreover, he shows respect for Job by addressing him as a virile man (geber). This choice of words means that neither his affliction nor his inflamed rhetoric has diminished his intrinsic worth as a human being.
Certainly Job lacks insight into the counsel of God, i.e., the wisdom that permeates his creative acts and guides his governance of the universe (cf. Jer. 32:19). At times Job approached the truth of his situation with penetrating insight but he fell quickly into despondent outbursts. His anxious fears about his humiliating circumstance have clouded his thinking about Yahweh’s purpose. Job has darkened this counsel because he lacks a broad, comprehensive perspective of God’s ways. His perception has been darkest when he has accused God of acting arbitrarily without regard for justice and when he has assumed that he himself could dispute with God as an equal.
Derek Kidner: What is this chapter all about? God is systematically reducing Job to size, deflating all the excess pride inside him by removing from Job’s mind every thought that makes God out to be small. It is an outworking of something Elihu has said: “God comes in awesome majesty” (37:22). Job has been shown a little of that majesty in a tremendous display of God’s wisdom and power in nature. Since Job is unable to match it, indeed he is ridiculously puny in comparison, he is not in a position to question what God is doing.
B. (:3) You Should Not Be Trying to Correct God
“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!”
David Atkinson: so here God is inviting Job to consider the beauty and order and wonder of the created world.
I. (38:4-15) INTERROGATION REGARDING CREATION
A. (:4-7) Creation of the Earth
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
5 Who set its measurements, since you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
6 On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
John Hartley: Job is asked to make known his knowledge of the initial stages of the creation of the world as though he were the primordial man who had witnessed the laying of the earth’s foundation (cf. 15:7). From an OT perspective, however, wisdom was God’s sole companion present at creation (ch. 28; Prov. 8:22-31). Therefore, since Job lacks this essential knowledge, how could he expect to dispute successfully with God?
Peter Wallace: We have seen throughout the book of Job that knowledge and power are closely related. If you have knowledge, then you have power. God is saying to Job – you may know correct words – but do you know the things themselves! If you do, then you would have power over them.
Francis Andersen: Knowledge of the origins of the world is inaccessible to men. Man, the latest arrival on the scene, never observed the beginnings. Creation is a hypothesis, reasonable, but not verifiable. The result is seen, but not the act, nor the Agent. Here then is a vast mystery, and the Bible views it in many different ways. The Old Testament contains at least a dozen creation ‘stories’ which use almost as many different images, casting God in the role of builder, potter, weaver, etc., drawing the illustrations from the crafts of men.
B. (:8-11) Creation of the Sea
“Or who enclosed the sea with doors,
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
9 When I made a cloud its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 And I placed boundaries on it,
And I set a bolt and doors,
11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop ‘?”
John Hartley: Having brought forth the sea and harnessed it, he commands it and it does his bidding (cf. Ps. 104:6-9). This is a way of affirming that there are no belligerent cosmic forces beyond Yahweh’s authority. . .
Since he fully controls or restricts the sea, never can it at will inundate the inhabited land. This wording means that the sea may encroach on the land, but only so far. Its mighty, proud waves break at the seashore, the line drawn by God. Even when the sea is aroused in a violent storm and its waves reach far inland, there is a boundary it may not cross.
C. (:12-15) Creation of Dawn
“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place;
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal;
And they stand forth like a garment.
15 And from the wicked their light is withheld,
And the uplifted arm is broken.”
Elmer Smick: Verse 14 pictures the long, deep shadows of early morning when the earth reminds us of clay taking the shape of the seal pressed into it or of the folds of a garment. Daylight deprives the wicked of the kind of “light” they need. Here we have a subtle figure (v.15), for “the light” the wicked are denied is certainly “the darkness” that is their element, indeed, “deep darkness is their morning” (24:17). The wicked “put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isa 5:20). With the same powerful figure, Jesus warned, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Lk 11:35).
John Hartley: The rays of dawn overcome the blackness of night and ensure the continuance of life on earth. Every morning, just as a maid vigorously shakes the crumbs from a huge tablecloth, the rays of dawn reach out and grasp the mountains, the corners of the earth’s tablecloth, and shake the wicked off the earth’s surface.
As the morning light etches multiple designs on the horizon in an array of colors, the darkened earth begins to take shape before the human eye. The dawn lights up the hills, valleys, trees, and shrubs. Just as a lump of clay is turned into a beautiful design beneath a seal, so too the earth glistens in beauty beneath the sun’s first rays. In another picture the early light of day makes the earth appear as a beautiful garment, exquisite in design and glorious in color.
At dawn the wicked, who love darkness, flee into hiding (cf. 24:13-17). The sun eclipses the light of the wicked, i.e., it deprives them of the good fortune and protection night offers them. The sun’s rays prevent them from pursuing their evil designs. Their upraised arm – a sign of their arrogant determination to enforce violently their evil will – is broken. This wording may allude to the fact that during the day the court sits and delivers a stiff sentence of physical impairment against the wicked for their doing evil during the night. Such harsh sentences were designed to break the power of the wicked.
These verses speak directly to Job’s concern that the wicked prosper unchecked (chs. 21, 24). Yahweh counters Job’s complaint with the position that his own command of the light confines the work of the wicked. He has contained the wicked within limits just as he has stayed the encroachment of the sea against the land. Like the sea the wicked may cause terror and turmoil, but the light is the boundary that holds them in. Although God grants a measure of freedom to mankind, the wicked never move outside his control.
II. (38:16-38) INTERROGATION REGARDING CONTROL OVER THE INANIMATE WORLD
John Hartley: Yahweh inquires of Job about his acquaintance with the extremities of the created world. He asks if Job has ever traversed the recesses or the outer limits of the world, whether they be the depths of the sea (vv. 16-18), the distant east (vv. 19-21), or the heights of the heavens (vv. 22-24). The axiom is that whoever knows or controls the extremities of the world has control over the universe. If Job could answer Yahweh’s questions in the affirmative, it would mean that he had comprehensive knowledge about the universe and understood the way it was governed. But he has never visited these remotest places. The world remains an intriguing enigma to him, as to all human beings.
Warren Wiersbe: The next eleven questions (Job 38:16-24) relate to the vast dimensions of creation.
A. (:16-18) Unseen Netherworld (Depths and Expanses) = Gates of Death
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.”
Elmer Smick: Here he turns to mysteries of created things not visible to the human eye. Note the progression: journeying (v.16), then seeing (v.17), then understanding what you see (v.18). Each step in this progression is increasingly impossible for Job. Yahweh’s control over this unseen netherworld is just as real as his control over the sea or the land of the living (cf. 26:5–6). If the names of various deities to whom the myths imputed control of these domains are here as an overtone (cf. Tsevat, n. 29), it is to suggest that neither they nor Job but only Yahweh really understands and controls “all this” (v.18). What does Job know about those realms where no living human being has ever been?
John Hartley: At the springs of the sea lie the gates to Sheol. These gates are guarded by deep darkness (salmawet; cf. Job 3:5). If Job had walked there he would have seen the gates through which the shades muse pass on their way to Sheol and which prevent their returning to earth. Yahweh asks Job if he has contemplated the vast expanse of the underworld. This probing question is especially germane since Job has often expressed his longing for the comforts of death offered by Sheol. At this point Yahweh orders Job to speak, but he remains silent.
B. (:19-21) Mystery of Light and Darkness
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
20 That you may take it to its territory,
And that you may discern the paths to its home?
21 You know, for you were born then,
And the number of your days is great!”
C. (:22-24) Storehouses of Snow and Hail
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 Which I have reserved for the time of distress,
For the day of war and battle?
24 Where is the way that the light is divided,
Or the east wind scattered on the earth?”
D. (:25-27) Storm
“Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt;
26 To bring rain on a land without people,
On a desert without a man in it,
27 To satisfy the waste and desolate land,
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?”
John Hartley: Though no one lives there, the rain God sends nourishes the multitude of desert life. This set of questions implies that human beings, motivated by green and utilitarian attitudes, would never disperse the precious rain to water this desolate land. In their imagined wise (though selfish) planning they would manage the weather for their own profit and pleasure. As a result the balance of nature would be upset and the cultivated land would become a desert. Only God has the wisdom to make it rain in the desert, giving evidence of his wise care for the entire world.
E. (:28-30) Variety of Forms of Moisture
“Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
30 Water becomes hard like stone,
And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.”
John Hartley: The phenomenon of how water changes into so many different forms bears witness to God’s creative genius (cf. Ps. 147:16-18).
F. (:31-33) Heavenly Constellations
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?”
Elmer Smick: Job has moved with the Lord, in his mind’s eye, from the “recesses of the deep” and “gates of death” (vv.16–17) to heavenly constellations. The terminology draws on the interpretation of those fanciful figures the ancients saw in the celestial constellations. Our language in this space age still uses the same terms. The antithesis of binding and loosening the imagined fetters that hold together the cluster of stars called Pleiades or the belt of the hunter Orion rests on poetic license and literary convention. The message is about God’s cosmic dominion over these stars as they seasonally move across the sky.
G. (:34-38) Meteorological Phenomena
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
So that an abundance of water may cover you?
35 Can you send forth lightnings that they may go
And say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the innermost being,
Or has given understanding to the mind?
37 Who can count the clouds by wisdom,
Or tip the water jars of the heavens,
38 When the dust hardens into a mass,
And the clods stick together?”
John Hartley: With these portraits Yahweh asserts his lordship over the entire earth – the cultivated land and the wilderness, the domesticated animals and the wild beasts. No part of the world lies outside his rule. No hostile forces exist beyond his authority. That which seems unruly and demonic to mankind is assuredly subject to God’s rule. This picture of God’s sovereign rule parallels numerous glyphs from the ancient world that depict the might of the monarch’s dominion with the motif that he is Lord of the animals (see also various biblical texts that mention God’s care for animals, e.g., Ps. 104:14a, 21; 145:15-16; 147:9; Matt. 6:26; 10:29; Luke 12:24). As Lord of the universe he governs the whole world for the well-being of every creature, including those mankind despises.
Thomas Constable: God’s point in asking Job to consider each of these animals was this: Even upon careful examination, there are many things about their individual characteristics, behavior, purpose, and life that people simply cannot explain. That is still true today. For reasons unknown to Job, God allowed each animal to experience what was His will for that species. Similarly, He permits every human being to experience what he or she undergoes for reasons partially unknown to us. Only Yahweh is powerful enough and wise enough to do this.
Roy Zuck: The 12 animals described here – six beasts, five birds, and an insect – all exhibit the creative genius and providential care of God. Fittingly the list begins with the lion, the king of the beasts, and ends with the word for eagle, the king of the birds.
A. (38:39-41) Nourishment Provided for Lions and Ravens
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 When they crouch in their dens,
And lie in wait in their lair?
41 Who prepares for the raven its nourishment,
When its young cry to God,
And wander about without food?”
Elmer Smick: These verses really begin a new aspect of Yahweh’s control over nature. From 38:39 to 39:30 the focus is on creatures of the animal world that are objects of curiosity and wonder to people. The choice is somewhat random, as though Yahweh is saying, “Here are only a few specimens of all my creatures, great and small, winged and earthbound, wild and tamed—but all are under my care and dominion.” It has never crossed Job’s mind to hunt prey for lions (v.39) or to stuff food into the outstretched gullets of the raven’s nestlings (v.41). But are not their growls and squawks cries to God, on whom all these creatures ultimately depend?
Francis Andersen: These extraordinary creatures are hard to relate purposefully to men. Although placed in charge of the world, no man would hunt prey for a lioness! Yet God supplies such an animal with food. Explain that!
John Hartley: This short periscope, functioning as an introduction to the long discourse on animals, teaches that Yahweh sustains both the strong and the delicate among the wild animals. He shows his care and protection for all of his creation, and he does so in a way that far surpasses what any human being could or would do.
B. (39:1-4) Gestation and Birthing Practices of Mountain Goats and Deer
“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
2 Can you count the months they fulfill,
Or do you know the time they give birth?
3 They kneel down, they bring forth their young,
They get rid of their labor pains.
4 Their offspring become strong,
they grow up in the open field;
They leave and do not return to them.”
Elmer Smick: Throughout the wild kingdom and its rich variety of creatures, God informs Job of his creative and sustaining activity. He provides for each species its own gestation period and ability to bear young in the field—without assistance and with a divinely ordered wisdom to provide for themselves and their young. The offspring of an ibex doe, unlike human infants who need years of care, can stand within minutes of birth and soon gambol off to thrive in the wild.
C. (39:5-8) Freedom of the Wild Donkey
“Who sent out the wild donkey free?
And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
6 To whom I gave the wilderness for a home,
And the salt land for his dwelling place?
7 He scorns the tumult of the city,
The shoutings of the driver he does not hear.
8 He explores the mountains for his pasture,
And he searches after every green thing.”
Elmer Smick: One of the most admired animals of the OT world was the wild donkey (or onager). It was a compliment and a promise of an enviable freedom when the angel declared that Ishmael (Ge 16:12) would become “a wild donkey of a man.” The creature was admired for both its freedom and its ability to survive under the harshest conditions.
John Hartley: God watches over the wild ass, making sure that it enjoys its freedom amid scarcity.
D. (39:9-12) Strength of the Wild Ox
“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Or will he spend the night at your manger?
10 Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes?
Or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11 Will you trust him because his strength is great
And leave your labor to him?
12 Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain,
And gather it from your threshing floor?”
Elmer Smick: In vv.5–8 there was an implied contrast between the wild donkey and the tame donkey. Here there is an explicit contrast between the wild ox and the tame ox. This animal (Heb. rêm; “unicorn,” KJV; “rhinoceros,” Vul.; GK 8028) is believed to be the now-extinct aurochs (Bos primigenius). Next to the elephant and rhino, it was the largest and most powerful land animal of the biblical world. Most of the nine OT occurrences of the word make reference to it as a symbol of strength (cf. Nu 23:22; 24:8; Dt 33:17; Ps 29:6; et al.). It was already rare in Palestine in the time of Moses.
John Hartley: This stalwart animal, which is endowed with more strength than wisdom, is, nevertheless shrewd enough to stay out of bondage. From a human perspective, its strength, being available only for its own needs, goes to waste. God, however, is its master and its sustainer.
E. (39:13-18) Strange and Weird Ostrich
“The ostriches’ wings flap joyously
With the pinion and plumage of love,
14 For she abandons her eggs to the earth,
And warms them in the dust,
15 And she forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or that a wild beast may trample them.
16 She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers;
Though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned; 1
7 Because God has made her forget wisdom,
And has not given her a share of understanding.
18 When she lifts herself on high,
She laughs at the horse and his rider.”
Elmer Smick: The lesson is that God can and does make creatures that appear odd and crazy to us if doing so pleases him. Imagine a bird that can’t fly. Though it has wings, it can run faster than a horse (v.18). Job cannot understand what God is doing in his life, and God is telling him the created world is just as difficult to rationalize.
Francis Andersen: From the sublime to the ridiculous. It is hard to argue that this hilarious sketch of the ostrich serves any solemn didactic purpose. It is what it is, a silly bird, because God made it so. Why? This comical account suggests that amid the profusion of creatures some were made to be useful to men, but some are there just for God’s entertainment and ours.
John Hartley: The ostrich is a huge, peculiar-looking bird. Its small head, attached to a large body by a long, skinny neck, makes one chuckle. In addition, although it joyously beats its wings, it fails to fly. . . Even though the ostrich is a bird that cannot fly, astonishingly it can run faster than the stately horse. In a chase this strange creature laughs at the majestic horse and its rider. Even though it appears that God has deprived the ostrich of wisdom, in this one aspect he has made it superior, raising it above ridicule to a place of respect. God’s wisdom has marvelously created even the strangest of animals.
F. (39:19-25) The Fearsome Warhorse
“Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20 Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrible.
21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He goes out to meet the weapons.
22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
And he does not turn back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against him,
The flashing spear and javelin.
24 With shaking and rage he races over the ground;
And he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet.
25 As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’
And he scents the battle from afar,
And thunder of the captains, and the war cry.”
Elmer Smick: The horse is the only animal in this poem that is domestic. This unexpected feature still serves the Lord’s purpose, for only one kind of horse is viewed—the charger, the warhorse. The creatures of the wild in their proud freedom and curious behavior are obviously beyond Job’s control, but even a creature that man has tamed can display fearsome behavior that excites our imagination. The lines burst with the literary energy needed to do justice to the performance of this amazing creature during the height of the frenzy of battle.
Francis Andersen: But two questions are applicable to Job.
– Can you make such an animal?
– Can you control him?
Even the well-broken and best-trained mount might break from the restraints of the most skilled rider, so that even the one domesticated animal included in the list is not completely under the control of man. And is man, more free than any beast, to be understood as struggling against the reins of God when stirred up as Job was? If so, we have an allegory.
G. (39:26-30) Flight of the Predator Bird
“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars,
Stretching his wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up,
And makes his nest on high?
28 On the cliff he dwells and lodges,
Upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
29 From there he spies out food;
His eyes see it from afar.
30 His young ones also suck up blood;
And where the slain are, there is he.”
Francis Andersen: This verse gives a brief glimpse of the hawk, spreading its wings towards the south, probably in his instinctive migration. The question to Job is whether the bird does this by your wisdom (the word is actually ‘discernment’, as used in 38:4, 36). Does God ask if Job endowed the creature with this instinct? But this would mean that Job was the Creator, which is not the issue. Does God ask if the bird’s movements are under Job’s control? The immense difference between a man’s limited mastery of his environment and God’s total sovereignty is certainly one of the themes of these speeches. Or does God ask Job a more intellectual question (suggested by the word ‘understanding’), whether he comprehends how the bird responds to the seasons and flies so gracefully? Perhaps the last two are interwoven in the idea of knowledge which enables a man to control nature.
Elmer Smick: In v.26 the marvel for Job to contemplate is one we still view with amazement—the migratory instincts of birds. Our knowledge that some birds fly thousands of miles each year (cf. the arctic tern, which flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic) serves to validate this particular choice of God’s faunal wonders. The two words used in vv.26–27 are the Hebrew generic names that include several species. The first (v.26) appears to be the sparrow hawk (nēṣ; GK 5891), a bird not resident to the Holy Land but known because it stops off there each year in its migration (Kline, 486). In v.27 the griffon vulture (nešer; GK 5979) is the largest bird of the area. The same word is used for the true “eagle” (NIV), but here a carrion eater is in mind. Several interesting characteristics of this bird are mentioned: its soaring ability, its aerie (nest) high on the crags, and its phenomenal eyesight.
(40:1-2) CLOSING CHALLENGE AND REBUKE –
WILL YOU NOW SUBMIT?
“Then the LORD said to Job,
2 ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.’”
Derek Kidner: Continuing the imagery which we have already noticed, of a challenge to engage in a wrestling match, this section concludes with a request that Job yield to the Lord’s greater strength and wisdom. It is, basically, an appeal for Job’s submission. [It is possible to translate: “Will the contender with the Almighty yield?]
Francis Andersen: If Job understands any of these matters better than God, God is willing to learn from him. The question is ironical, of course; but in view of the friendly tone of the speeches, it is not at all snide.
Delitzsch: The question means, will Job persist in this contending with God? He who sets God right, as though he knew everything better than He, shall answer the questions put before him.
Elmer Smick: Here, then, in 40:2 the Lord gets to the point. Job has set himself up arbitrarily as God’s accuser. How can Job assume such a lofty position in the light of who God is? After this front-row seat surveying the marvels and mysteries of God’s created universe, is Job still ready to make his proud insinuations and accusations about the nature of God’s lordship over all things? It is Job’s turn to speak again. But there will be no long speeches, no more rage, no more challenging his Creator.
John Hartley: The tables have been turned. Job, the questioner, is being questioned. Building on the evidence just given, Yahweh asks Job a penetrating question that pinpoints the implication of his complaint. That is, in advocating the rightness of his own position so tenaciously, Job has implied that God needs to be corrected. Having presented his position, Yahweh now offers Job the opportunity to articulate such a correction. Moreover, since Yahweh has spoken in response to Job’s challenge, Job may not remain silent without voiding his oath of innocence. His silence would imply his concession. But if he continues to argue, he will leave himself open to divine rebuke.