Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
Knowest thou, the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? - That is, the particular season when the mountain goats bring forth their young. Of domestic animals - the sheep, the tame goat, etc., the habits would be fuIly understood. But the question here relates to the animals that roamed at large on inaccessible cliffs; that were buried in deep forests; that were far from the dwellings and observation of people; and the meaning is, that there were many facts in regard to such points of Natural History which Job could not explain. God knew all their instincts and habits, and on the inaccessible cliffs, in the deep dell, in the dark forest, he was with them, and they were the objects of his care. He not only regarded the condition of the domestic animals that had been brought into the service of man, and where man perhaps might be disposed to claim that they owed much of their comfort to his care, but he regarded also the wild, wandering beast of the mountain, where no such pretence could be advanced.
The providence of God is over them; and in the periods of their lives when they seem most to need attention, when every shepherd and herdsmen is most solicitous about his flocks and herds, then God is present, and his care is seen in their preservation. The particular point in the inquiry here is, not in regard to the time when these animals produced their young or the period of their gestation, which might probably be known, but in regard to the attention and care which was needful for them when they were so far removed from the observance of man, and had no human aid. The "wild goat of the rock" here referred to, is, doubtless, the Ibex, or mountain goat, that has its dwellings among the rocks, or in stony places. The Hebrew term is יעל yâ‛êl, from יעל ya‛al, "to ascend, to go up." They had their residence in the lofty rocks of mountains; Psalm 104:18. "The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats."
Hebrew "For the goats of the rocks" - סלעים יעלים yâ‛êliym sela‛iym. So in 1 Samuel 24:2 (3), "Saul went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats;" that is, where were the wild goats - היעלים hayâ‛êliym. For a description of the wild goat, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxiii. The animal here referred to is, doubtless, the same which Burckhardt saw on the summit of Mount Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai, and which he thus describes in his Travels in Syria, p. 571: "As we approached the summit of the mountain (Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai), we saw at a distance a small flock of mountain goats feeding among the rocks. One of our Arabs left us, and by a widely circuitous route endeavored to get to the leeward of them, and near enough to fire at them. He enjoined us to remain in sight of them, and to sit down in order not to alarm them. He had nearly reached a favorable spot behind a rock, when the goats suddenly took to flight. They could not have seen the Arab, but the wind changed, and thus they smelt him. The chase of the beden, as the wild goat is called, resembles that of the chamois of the Alps, and requires as much enterprise and patience. The Arabs make long circuits to surprise them, and endeavor to come upon them early in the morning, when they feed.
The goats have a leader who keeps watch, and on any suspicious smell, sound, or object, makes a noise, which is a signal to the flock to make their escape. They have much decreased of late, if we may believe the Arabs; who say that fifty years ago, if a stranger came to a tent, and the owner of it had no sheep to kill, he took his gun and went in search of a beden. They are, however, even now more common here than in the Alps, or in the mountains to the east of the Red Sea. I had three or four of them brought to me at the convent, which I bought at three-fourths of a dollar each. The flesh is excellent, and has nearly the same flavor as that of the deer. The Bedouins make water bags of their skins, and rings of their horns, which they wear on their thumbs. When the beden is met with in the plains, the dogs of the hunters easily catch him; but they cannot come up with him among the rocks, where he can make leaps of 20 feet."
Or Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? - The reference here is to the special care and protection of God manifested for them. The meaning is, that this animal seems to be always timid and apprehensive of danger, and that there is special care bestowed upon an animal so defenseless in enabling it to rear its young. The word hinds denotes the deer, the fawn, the most timid and defenseless, perhaps, of all animals.
Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
Canst thou number the months ... - That is, as they wander in the wilderness, as they live in inaccessible crags and cliffs of the rocks, it is impossible for man to be acquainted with their habits as he can with those of the domestic animals.
They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.
They bow themselves - literally, they curve or bend themselves; that is, they draw their limbs together.
They cast out their sorrows - That is, they cast forth the offspring of their pains, or the young which cause their pains. The idea seems to be, that they do this without any of the care and attention which shepherds are obliged to show to their flocks at such seasons. They do it when God only guards them; when they are in the wilderness or on the rocks far away from the abodes of man. The leading thought in all this seems to be, that the tender care of God was over his creatures, in the most perilous and delicate state, and that all this was exercised where man could have no access to them, and could not even observe them.
Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.
Their young ones are in good liking - Hebrew "they are fat;" and hence, it means that they are strong and robust.
They grow up with corn - Herder, Gesenius, Noyes, Umbreit, and Rosenmuller render this, "in the wilderness," or "field." The proper and usual meaning of the word used here (בר bâr) is corn (grain); but in Chaldee it has the sense of open fields, or country. The same idea is found in the Arabic, and this sense seems to be required by the connection. The idea is not that they are nurtured with grain, which would require the care of man, but that they are nurtured under the direct eye of God far away from human dwellings, and even when they go away from their dam and return no more to the place of their birth. This is one of the instances, therefore, in which the connection seems to require us to adopt a signification that does not elsewhere occur in the Hebrew, but which is found in the cognate languages.
They go forth, and return not unto them - God guards and preserves them, even when they wander away from their dam, and are left helpless. Many of the young of animals require long attention from man, many are kept for a considerable period by the side of the mother, but the idea here seems to be, that the young of the wild goat and of the fawn are thrown early on the providence of God, and are protected by him alone. The particular care of Providence over these animals seems to be specified because there are no others that are exposed to so many dangers in their early life. "Every creature then is a formidable enemy. The eagle, the falcon, the osprey, the wolf, the dog, and all the rapacious animals of the cat kind, are in continual employment to find out their retreat. But what is more unnatural still, the stag himself is a professed enemy, and she, the hind, is obliged to use all her arts to conceal her young from him, as from the most dangerous of her pursuers." "Goldsmith's Nat. His."
Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
But now they who are younger than I have me in derision,
Whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the
Dogs of my flock. Job 30:1.
I am become a brother to the jackal,
And a companion to the ostrich. Job 30:29.
The mountain-goat and the hind:
Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?
Or canst thou observe the birth-throes of the hind?
Canst thou number the months that they fulfil?
Knowest thou the season when they bring forth?
They bow themselves; they give birth to their young;
They cast forth their sorrows.
Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.
Whose house I have made - God had appointed its home in the desert.
And the barren land his dwellings - Margin, as in Hebrew "salt places." Such places were usually barren. Psalm 107:34, "he turneth a fruitful land into barrenness." Hebrew "saltness." Thus, Virgil, Geor. ii.-238-240:
Salsa antem tellus, et quae, perhibetur amara.
Frugibus infelix: ea nec mansuescit arando;
Nec Baccho genus, aut pomis sua nomina servat.
Compare Pliny, Nat. His. 31, 7, Deuteronomy 29:23.
He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.
He scorneth the multitude of the city - That is, he sets all this at defiance; he is not intimidated by it. He finds his home far away from the city in the wild freedom of the wilderness.
Neither regardeth he the crying of the driver - Margin, "exacter." The Hebrew word properly means a collector of taxes or revenue, and hence, an oppressor, and a driver of cattle. The allusion here is to a driver, and the meaning is, that he is not subject to restraint, but enjoys the most unlimited freedom.
The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.
The range of the mountains is his pasture - The word rendered "range" יתור yâthûr, means properly a "searching out," and then that which is obtained by search. The word "range" expresses the idea with sufficient exactness. The usual range of the wild ass is the mountains. Pallas, who has given a full description of the habits of the Onager, or wild ass, states, that it, especially loves desolate hills as its abode. "Acts of the Society of Sciences of Petersburg," for the year 1777.
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee? - In the previous part of the argument, God had appealed to the lion, the raven, the goats of the rock, the hind, and the wild ass; and the idea was, that in the instincts of each of these classes of animals, there was some special proof of wisdom. He now turns to another class of the animal creation in proof of his own supremacy and power, and lays the argument in the great strength and in the independence of the animal, and in the fact that man had not been able to subject his great strength to the purposes of husbandry. In regard to the animal here referred to, there has been great diversity of opinion among interpreters, nor is there as yet any one prevailing sentiment. Jerome renders it "rhinoceros;" the Septuagint, μονόκερως monokerōs, the "unicorn;" the Chaldee and the Syraic retain the Hebrew word; Gesenius, Herder, Umbreit, and Noyes, render it the "buffalo;" Schultens, "alticornem;" Luther and Coverdale, the "unicorn;" Rosenmuller, the "onyx," a large and fierce species of the antelope; Calmet supposes that the rhinoceros is intended; and Prof. Robinson, in an extended appendage to the article of Calmet (art. Unicorn), has endeavored to show that the wild buffalo is intended.
Bochart, also, in a long and learned argument, has endeavored to show; that the rhinoceros cannot be meant. Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. chapter xxvi. He maintains that a species of antelope is referred to, the "rim" of the Arabs. DeWette (Com. on Psalm 22:21) accords with the opinion of Gesenius, Robinson, and others, that the animal referred to is the buffalo of the Eastern continent, the bos bubalus of Linnaeus, an animal which differs from the American buffalo only in the shape of the horns and the absence of the dewlap. The word which occurs here, and which is rendered "unicorn" (רים rêym or ראם re'êm, is used in the Scriptures only in the following places, where in the singular or plural it is uniformly rendered "unicorn," or "unicorns" - Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalm 22:21; Psalm 29:6; Psalm 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7. By a reference to these passages, it will be found that the animal had the following characteristics:
(1) It was distinguished for its strength; see Job 39:11 of this chapter. Numbers 23:22, "he (that is, Israel, or the Israelites) hath as it were the strength of a unicorn - ראם re'êm. In Numbers 24:8, the same declaration is repeated. It is true that the Hebrew word in both these places (תועפה tô‛âphâh) may denote rapidity of motion, speed; but in this place the notion of strength must be principally intended, for it was of the power of the people, and their ability manifested in the number of their hosts, that Balaam is speaking. Bochart, however (Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxvii.), supposes that the word means, not strength, or agility, but height, and that the idea is, that the people referred to by Balaam was a lofty or elevated people. If the word means strength, it was most appropriate to compare a vast host of people with the vigor and force of an untamable wild animal. The idea of speed or of loftiness does not so well suit the connection.
(2) It was an animal that was not subjected to the service of tilling the soil, and that was supposed to be incapable of being so trained. Thus, in the place before us it is said, that he could not be so domesticated that he would remain like the ox at the crib; that he could not be yoked to the plow; that he could not be employed and safely left to pursue the work of the field; and that he could not be so subdued that it would be safe to attempt to bring home the harvest by his aid. From all these declarations, it is plain that he was regarded as a wild and untamed animal; an animal that was not then domesticated, and that could not be employed in husbandry. This characteristic would agree with either the antelope, the onyx, the buffalo, the rhinoceros, or the supposed unicorn, With which of them it will best accord, we may be able to determine when all his characteristics are examined.
(3) The strength of the animal was in his horns. This was one of his special characteristics, and it is evidently by this that he is designed to be distinguished. Deuteronomy 33:17, "his glory is like the firstling of a bullock, and his horns like the horns of unicorns." Psalm 92:10, "my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn." Psalm 22:21, "thou hast heard me (saved me) from the horns of the unicorns." It is true, indeed, as Prof. Robinson has remarked (Calmet, art. "Unicorn"), the word ראם re'êm has in itself no reference to horns, nor is there in the Hebrew an illusion any where to the supposition that the animal here referred to has only one horn. Wherever, in the Scriptures, the animal is spoken of with any allusion to this member, the expression is in the plural, "horns." The only variation from this, even in the common version, is in Psalm 92:10, where the Hebrew is simply, "My horn shalt thou exalt like an unicorn, "where the word horn, as it stands in the English version, is not expressed. There is, indeed, in this passage, some obvious allusion to the horns of this animal, but all the force of the comparison will be retained if the word inserted in the ellipsis is in the plural number. The horn or horns of the ראם re'êm were, however, beyond question, the principal seat of strength, and the instruments of assault and defense. See the passage in Deuteronomy 33:17, "With them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth."
(4) There was some special majesty or dignity in the horns of this animal that attracted attention, and that made them the proper symbol of dominion and of royal authority. Thus, in Psalm 92:10, "My horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn," where the reference seems to be to a kingly authority or dominion, of which the horn was an appropriate symbol. These are all the characteristics of the animal referred to in the Scriptures, and the question is, With what known animal do they best correspond? The principal animals referred to by those who have examined the subject at length are, the onyx or antelope; the buffalo; the animal commonly referred to as the unicorn, and the rhinoceros. The principal characteristic of the unicorn was supposed to be, that it had a long, slender horn projecting from the forehead; the horn of the rhinoceros is on the snout, or the nose.
I. In regard to the antelope, or the "rim" of the modern Arabs, supposed by Bochart to be the animal here referred to, it seems clear that there are few characteristics in common between the two animals. The onyx or antelope is not distinguished as this animal is for strength, nor for the fact that it is especially untamable, nor that its strength is in its horns, nor that it is of such size and proportions that a comparison would naturally be suggested between it and the ox. In all that is said of the animal, we think of one greater in bulk, in strength, in untamableness, than the onyx; an animal more distinguished for conquest and subduing other animals before him. Bochart has collected much that is fabulous respecting this animal, from the rabbis and the Arabic writers, which it is not needful here to repeat; see the Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxvii.; or Scheutzer, Physi. Sac. on Numbers 23:22.
II. The claims of the "buffalo" to be regarded as the animal here referred to, are much higher than those of the onyx, and the opinion that this is the animal intended is entertained by such names as those of Gesenius, DeWette, Robinson, Umbreit, and Herder. But the objections to this seem to me to be insuperable, and the arguments are not such as to carry conviction. The principal objections to the opinion are:
(1) That the account in regard to the horns of the ראם re'êm by no means agrees with the fact in regard to the bison, or buffalo. The buffalo is an animal of the cow kind (Goldsmith), and the horns are short and crooked, and by no means distinguished for strength. They do not in fact surpass in this respect the horns of many other animals, and are not such as would occur ordinarily as the prominent characteristic in their description. It is true that there are instances where the horns of the wild buffalo are large, but this does not appear to be the case ordinarily. Mr. Pennant mentions a pair of horns in the British Museum, which are six feet and a half long, and the hollow of which will hold five quarts. Lobo affirms that some of the horns of the buffalo in Abyssinia will hold ten quarts; and Dillon saw some in India that were ten feet long. But these were manifestly extraordinary cases.
(2) The animal here referred to was evidently a stronger and a larger animal than the wild ox or the buffalo. "The Oriental buffalo appears to be so closely allied to our common ox, that without an attentive examination it might be easily mistaken for a variety of that animal. In point of size, it is rather superior to the ox; and upon an accurate inspection, it is observed to differ in the shape and magnitude of the head, the latter being larger than in the ox." "Robinson, in Calmet." The animal here referred to was such as to make the contrast particularly striking between him and the ox. The latter could be employed for labor; the former, though greatly superior in strength, could not.
(3) The ראם re'êm, it was supposed, could not be tamed and made to subserve domestic purposes. The buffalo, however, can be made as serviceable as the ox, and is actually domesticated and employed in agricultural purposes. Niebuhr remarks that he saw buffalo not only in Egypt, but also at Bombay, Surat, on the Euphrates, Tigris, Orontes, and indeed in all marshy regions and near large rivers. Sonnini remarks that in Egypt the buffalo, though but recently domesticated, is more numerous than the common ox, and is there equally domestic, and in Italy they are known to be commonly employed in the Pontine marshes, where the fatal nature of the climate acts on common cattle, but affects buffalo less. It is true that the animal has been comparatively recently domesticated, and that it was doubtless known in the time of Job only as a wild, savage, ferocious animal; but still the description here is that of an animal not only that was not then tamed, but obviously of one that could not well be employed in domestic purposes.
We are to remember that the language here is that of God himself, and that therefore it may be regarded as descriptive of what the essential nature of the animal was, rather than what it was supposed to be by the persons to whom the language was addressed. One of the principal arguments alleged for supposing that the animal here referred to by the ראם re'êm was the buffalo, is, that the rhinoceros was probably unknown in the land where Job resided, and that the unicorn was altogether a fabulous animal. This difficulty will be considered in the remarks to be made on the claims of each of those animals.
III. It was an early opinion, and the opinion was probably entertained by the authors of the Septuagint translation, and by the English translators as well as by others, that the animal here referred to was the unicorn. This animal was long supposed to be a fabulous animal, and it has not been until recently that the evidences of its existence have been confirmed. These evidences are adduced by Rosenmuller, "Morgenland, ii. p. 269, following," and by Prof. Robinson, "Calmet, pp. 908, 909." They are, summarily, the following:
(1) Pliny mentions such an animal, and gives a description of it, though from his time for centuries it seems to have been unknown. "His. Nat. 8, 21." His language is, Asperrimam autem feram monocerotem reliquo corpore equo similem, capite cervo, pedibus elephanti, cauda apro, mugitu gravi, uno cornu nigro media fronte cubitorum duum eminente. IIanc feram vivam negant capi. "The unicorn is an exceeding fierce animal, resembling a horse as to the rest of his body, but having the head like a stag, the feet like an elephant, and the tail like a wild boar; its roaring is loud; and it has a black horn of about two cubits projecting from the middle of the forehead."
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? - That is, with the common traces or cords which are employed in binding oxen to the plow.
Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? - The word "valleys" here is used to denote such ground as was capable of being plowed or harrowed. Hills and mountains could not thus be cultivated, though the spade was in common use in planting the vine there, and even in preparing them for seed, Isaiah 7:25. The phrase "after thee" indicates that the custom of driving cattle in harrowing then was the same as that practiced now with oxen, when the person who employs them goes in advance of them. It shows that they were entirely under subjection, and it is here implied that the ראם re'êm could not be thus tamed.
Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
Wilt thou trust him? - As thou dost the ox. In the domestic animals great confidence is of necessity placed, and the reliance on the fidelity of the ox and the horse is not usually misplaced. The idea here is, that the unicorn could not be so tamed that important interests could be safely entrusted to him.
Because his strength is great? - Wilt thou consider his strength as a reason why important interests might be entrusted to him? The strength of the ox, the camel, the horse, and the elephant was a reason why their aid was sought by man to do what he could not himself do. The idea is, that man could not make use of the same reason for employing the rhinoceros.
Wilt thou leave thy labour to him? - Or, rather, the avails of thy labor - the harvest.
Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
Wilt thou believe him? - That is, wilt thou trust him with the productions of the field? The idea is, that he was an untamed and unsubdued animal. He could not be governed, like the camel or the ox. If the sheaves of the harvest were laid on him, there would be no certainty that he would convey them where the farmer wished them.
And gather it into thy barn? - Or, rather, "to thy threshing-floor," for so the word used here (גרן gôren) means. It was not common to gather a harvest into a barn, but it was usually collected on a hard-trod place and there threshed and winnowed. For the use of the word, see Ruth 3:2; Judges 6:37; Numbers 18:30; Isaiah 21:10.
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
The eagle and the hawk:
Is it by thy understanding that the hawk flieth,
And spreadeth his wings toward the south?
Is it at thy command that the eagle mounteth up,
And that he buildeth his nest on high?
He inhabiteth the rock and abideth there -
Upon the crag of the rock, and the high fortress.
From thence he spieth out his prey,
His eyes discern it from afar.
His young ones greedily gulp down blood;
And where the slain are, there is he.
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth - That is, she does not build a nest, as most birds do, but deposits her eggs in the sand. The ostrich, Dr. Shaw remarks, lays usually from thirty to fifty eggs. The eggs are very large, some of them being above five inches in diameter, and weighing fifteen pounds - Goldsmith. "We are not to consider," says Dr. Shaw, "this large collection of eggs as if they were all intended for a brood. They are the greatest part of them reserved for food, which the dam breaks, and disposeth of according to the number and cravings of her young ones." The idea which seems to be conveyed in our common version is, that the ostrich deposits her eggs in the sand, and then leaves them, without further care, to be hatched by the heat of the sun. This idea is not, however, necessarily implied in the original, and is contrary to fact. The truth is, that the eggs are deposited with great care, and with so much attention to the manner in which they are placed, that a line drawn from those in the extremities would just touch the tops of the intermediate ones (see Damir, as quoted by Bochart, "Hieroz." P. ii. Lib. ii. c. xvii. p. 253), and that they are hatched, as the eggs of other birds are, in a great measure by the heat imparted by the incubation of the parent bird.
It is true that in the hot climates where these birds live, there is less necessity for constant incubation than in colder latitudes, and that the parent bird is more frequently absent; but she is accustomed regularly to return at night, and carefully broods over her eggs. See Le Valliant, "Travels in the Interior of Africa," ii. 209, 305. It is true also that the parent bird wanders sometimes far from the place where the eggs are deposited, and forgets the place, and in this case if another nest of eggs is seen, she is not concerned whether they are her own or not, for she is not endowed with the power of distinguishing between her own eggs and those of another. This fact seems to have given rise to all the fables stated by the Arabic writers about the stupidity of the ostrich; about her leaving her eggs; and about her disposition to sit on the eggs of others. Bochart has collected many of these opinions from the Arabic writers, among which are the following: Alkazuinius says, "They say that no bird is more foolish than the ostrich, for while it forsakes its own eggs, it sits on the eggs of others; from the proverb, "Every animal loves its own young except the ostrich."
Ottomanus says, "Every animal loves its own progeny except the ostrich. But that pertains only to the male. For although the common proverb imputes folly to the female, yet with her folly she loves her young, and feeds them, and teaches them to fly, the same as other animals." Damir, an Arabic writer, says, "When the ostrich goes forth from her nest, that she may seek food, if she finds the egg of another ostrich, she sits on that, and forgets her own. And when driven away by hunters, she never returns; whence, it is that she is described as foolish, and that the proverb in regard to her has originated.
And warmeth them in dust - The idea which was evidently in the mind of the translators in this passage was, that the ostrich left her eggs in the dust to be hatched by the heat of the sun. This is not correct, and is not necessarily implied in the Hebrew, though undoubtedly the heat of the sand is made to contribute to the process of hatching the egg, and allows the parent bird to be absent longer from her nest than birds in colder climates. This seems to be all that is implied in the passage.
And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
And forgetteth that the foot may crush them - She lays her eggs in the sand, and not, as most birds do, in nests made on branches of trees, or on the crags of rocks, where they would be inaccessible, as if she was forgetful of the fact that the wild beast might pass along and crush them. She often wanders away from them, also, and does not stay near them to guard them, as most parent birds do, as if she were unmindful of the danger to which they might be exposed when she was absent. The object of all this seems to be, to call the attention to the uniqueness in the natural history of this bird, and to observe that there were laws and arrangements in regard to it which seemed to show that she was deprived of wisdom, and yet that everything was so ordered as to prove that she was under the care of the Almighty. The great variety in the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, and especially their lack of resemblance to what would have occurred to man, seems to give the special force and point to the argument used here.
She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;
She is hardened against her young ones - The obvious meaning of this passage, which is a fair translation of the Hebrew, is, that the ostrich is destitute of natural affection for her young; or that she treats them as if she had not the usual natural affection manifested in the animal creation. This sentiment also occurs in Lamentations 4:3, "The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness." This opinion is controverted by Buffon, but seems fully sustained by those who have most attentively observed the habits of the ostrich. Dr. Shaw, as quoted by Paxton, and in Robinson's Calmet, says, "On the least noise or trivial occasion she forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others." "Agreeable to this account," says Paxton, "the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed, some of which are sweet and good, and others addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growths, according to the time it may be presumed they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, not bigger than well-grown pullets, half-starved, straggling and moaning about like so many distressed orphans for their mothers."
Her labour is in vain without fear - Herder renders this," In vain is her travail, but she regards it not." The idea in the passage seems to be this; that the ostrich has not that apprehension or provident care for her young which others birds have. It does not mean that she is an animal remarkably bold and courageous, for the contrary is the fact, and she is, according to the Arabian writers, timid to a proverb; but that she has none of the anxious solicitude for her young which others seem to have - the dread that they may be in want, or in danger, which leads them, often at the peril of their own lives, to provide for and defend them.
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom ... - That is, he has not imparted to her the wisdom which has been conferred on other animals. The meaning is, that all this remarkable arrangement, which distinguished the ostrich so much from other animals was to be traced to God. It was not the result of chance; it could not be pretended that it was by a human arrangement, but it was the result of divine appointment. Even in this apparent destitution of wisdom, there were reasons which had led to this appointment, and the care and good providence of God could be seen in the preservation of the animal. Particularly, though apparently so weak, and timid, and unwise, the ostrich had a noble hearing Job 39:18, and when aroused, would scorn the fleetest horse in the pursuit, and show that she was distinguished for properties that were expressive of the goodness of God toward her, and of his care over her.
What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.
What time she lifteth up herself on high - In the previous verses reference had been made to the fact that in some important respects the ostrich was inferior to other animals, or had special laws in regard to its habits and preservation. Here the attention is called to the fact that, notwithstanding its inferiority in some respects, it had properties such as to command the highest admiration. Its lofty carriage, the rapidity of its flight, and the proud scorn with which it would elude the pursuit of the fleetest coursers, were all things that showed that God had so endowed it as to furnish proof of his wisdom. The phrase "what time she lifteth up herself," refers to the fact that she raises herself for her rapid flight. It does not mean that she would mount on her wings, for this the ostrich cannot do; but to the fact that this timid and cowardly bird would, when danger was near, rouse herself, and assume a lofty courage and bearing. The word here translated "lifteth up" (תמריא tamâriy') means properly "to lash, to whip," as a horse, to increase its speed, and is here supposed by Gesenius to be used as denoting that the ostrich by flapping her wings lashes herself up as it were to her course. All the ancient interpretations, however, as well as the common English version, render it as if it were but another form of the word רום rûm, to raise oneself up, or to rise up, as if the ostrich aroused herself up for her flight. Herder renders it, "At once she is up, and urges herself forward." Taylor (in Calmet) renders it:
"Yet at the time she haughtily assumes courage;
She scorneth the horse and his rider."
The leading idea is, that she rouses herself to escape her pursuer; she lifts up her head and body, and spreads her wings, and then bids defiance to anything to overtake her.
She scorneth the horse and his rider - In the pursuit. That is, she runs faster than the fleetest horse, and easily escapes. The extraordinary rapidity of the ostrich has always been celebrated, and it is well known that she can easily outstrip the fleetest horse. Its swiftness is mentioned by Xenophon, in his Anabasis; for, speaking of the desert of Arabia, he says, that ostriches are frequently seen there; that none could overtake them; and that horsemen who pursued them were obliged soon to give over, "for they escaped far away, making use both of their feet to run, and of their wings, when expanded, as a sail, to waft them along." Marmelius, as quoted by Bochart (see above), speaking of a remarkable kind of horses, says, "that in Africa, Egypt, and Arabia, there is but one species of that kind which they call the Arabian, and that those are produced only in the deserts of Arabia. Their velocity is wonderful, nor is there any better evidence of their remarkable swiftness, than is furnished when they pursue the camel-bird."
It is a common sentiment of the Arabs, Boehart remarks, that there is no animal which can overcome the ostrich in its course. Dr. Shaw says, "Notwithstanding the stupidity of this animal, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. 'They, when they raise themselves up for flight, laugh at the horse and his rider.' They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility, and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded, quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more entertaining than such a sight; the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and for oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue." "Travels," 8vo., vol. ii. p. 343, as quoted by Noyes. The same representation is confirmed by the writer of a voyage to Senegal, who says," She sets off at a hand gallop; but after being excited a little, she expands her wings, as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground.
I am persuaded she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser" - Rob. Calmet. Buffon also admits that the ostrich runs faster than the horse. These unexceptionable testimonies completely vindicate the assertion of the inspired writer. The proofs and illustrations here furnished at considerable length are designed to show that the statements here made in the book of Job are such as are confirmed by all the investigations in Natural History since the time the book was written. If the statements are to be regarded as an indication of the progress made in the science of Natural History at the time when Job 54ed, they prove that the observations in regard to this animal had been extensive and were surprisingly accurate. They show that the minds of sages at that time had been turned with much interest to this branch of science, and that they were able to describe the habits of animals with an accuracy which would do the highest credit to Pliny or to Buffon. If, however, the account here is to be regarded as the mere result of inspiration, or as the language of God speaking and describing what he had done, then the account furnishes us with an interesting proof of the inspiration of the book. Its minute accuracy is confirmed by all the subsequent inquiries into the habits of the animal referred to, and shows that the statement is based on simple truth. The general remark may here be made, that all the notices in the Bible of the subjects of science - which are indeed mostly casual and incidental - are such as are confirmed by the investigations which science in the various departments makes. Of what other ancient book but the Bible can this remark be made?
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Hast thou given the horse strength? - The incidental allusion to the horse in comparison with the ostrich in the previous verse, seems to have suggested this magnificent description of this noble animal - a description which has never been surpassed or equalled. The horse is an animal so well known, that a particular description of it is here unnecessary. The only thing which is required is an explanation of the phrases used here, and a confirmation of the particular qualities here attributed to the war-horse, for the description here is evidently that of the horse as he appears in war, or as about to plunge into the midst of a battle. The description which comes the nearest to this before us, is that furnished in the well known and exquisite passage of Virgil, Georg. iii.:84ff:
- Turn, si qua sonum procul arma dedere,
Stare loco nescitedmientauribns, et tremitartus,
Collectumq; premens volvit sub naribusignem.
Densa. iuba, et dextrojuctata recumbat in armo.
At duplex agitur, per lumbos spina; cavatque
Tellurem, et solidograviter sonat ungulacornu.
"But at the clash of arms, his ear afar
Drinks the deep sound, and vibrates to the war;
Flames from each nostril roll in gathered stream,
His quivering limbs with restless motion gleam;
O'er his right shoulder, floating full and fair,
Sweeps his thick mane, and spreads his pomp of hair;
Swift works his double spine; and earth around
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? - Or, rather, "as a locust" - כארבה kā'arbeh. This is the word which is commonly applied to the locust considered as gregarious, or as appearing in great numbers (from רבה râbâh, "to be multiplied"). On the variety of the species of locusts, see Bochart "Hieroz." P. ii. Lib. iv. c. 1ff The Hebrew word here rendered "make afraid" (רעשׁ râ‛ash) means properly "to be moved, to be shaken," and hence, to tremble, to be afraid. In the Hiphil, the form used here, it means to cause to tremble, to shake; and then "to cause to leap," as a horse; and the idea here is, Canst thou cause the horse, an animal so large and powerful, to leap with the agility of a locust? See Gesenius, "Lex." The allusion here is to the leaping or moving of the locusts as they advance in the appearance of squadrons or troops; but the comparison is not so much that of a single horse to a single locust, as of cavalry or a company of war-horses to an army of locusts; and the point of comparison turns on the elasticity or agility of the motion of cavalry advancing to the field of battle.
The sense is, that God could cause that rapid and beautiful movement in animals so large and powerful as the horse, but that it was wholly beyond the power of man to effect it. It is quite common in the East to compare a horse with a locust, and travelers have spoken of the remarkable resemblance between the heads of the two. This comparison occurs also in the Bible; see Joel 2:4, "The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen so shall they run;" Revelation 9:7. The Italians, from this resemblance, call the locust "cavaletta," or little horse. Sir W. Ouseley says, "Zakaria Cavini divides the locusts into two classes, like horsemen and footmen, 'mounted and pedestrian.' "Niebuhr says that he heard from a Bedouin near Bassorah, a particular comparison of the locust with other animals; but he thought it a mere fancy of the Arabs, until he heard it repeated at Bagdad. He compared the head of a locust to that of a horse, the breast to that of a lion, the feet to those of a camel, the belly with that of a serpent, the tail with that of a scorpion, and the feelers with the hair of a virgin; see the Pictorial Bible on Joel 2:4.
The glory of his nostrils is terrible - Margin, as in Hebrew, "terrors." That is, it is fitted to inspire terror or awe. The reference is to the wide-extended and fiery looking nostrils of the horse when animated, and impatient, for action. So Lucretius, L. v.:
Et fremitum patulis sub naribus edit ad arma.
So Virgil, "Georg." iii.:87:
Collectumque premens voluit sub naribus ignem.
Claudian, in iv. "Consulatu Honorii:"
Ignescunt patulae nares.
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
He paweth in the valley - Margin, "or, His feet dig." The marginal reading is more in accordance with the Hebrew. The reference is to the well known fact of the "pawing" of the horse with his feet, as if he would dig up the ground. The same idea occurs in Virgil, as quoted above:
Tellurem, et solido graviter solar ungula cornu.
Also in Apollonius, L. iii.:"Argonauticon:"
Ὡς δ ̓ ἀρήΐος ἵππος, ἐελδόμενος πολεμοίο,
Σκαρθμῷ ἐπιχρεμέθων κρούει πέδον.
Hōs d' arēios hippos, eeldomenos polemoio,
Skarthmō epichremethōn krouei pedon.
"As a war-horse, impatient for the battle,
Neighing beats the ground with bis hoofs"
He goeth on to meet the armed men - Margin, "armor." The margin is in accordance with the Hebrew, but still the idea is substantially the same. The horse rushes on furiously against the weapons of war.
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
He mocketh at fear - He laughs at that which is fitted to intimidate; that is, he is not afraid.
Neither turneth he back from the sword - He rushes on it without fear. Of the fact here stated, and the accuracy of the description, there can be no doubt.
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
The quiver rattleth against him - The quiver was a case made for containing arrows. It was usually slung over the shoulder, so that it could be easily reached to draw out an arrow. Warriors on horseback, as well as on foot, fought with bows and arrows, as well as with swords and spears; and the idea here is, that the war-horse bore upon himself these instruments of war. The rattling of the quiver was caused by the fact that the arrows were thrown somewhat loosely into the case or the quiver, and that in the rapid motion of the warrior they were shaken against each other. Thus, Virgil, Aeneid ix. 660:
- pharetramque fuga sensere sonantem.
Silius, L. 12:
Plena tenet et resonante pharetra.
Turba ruunt stridentque sagittiferi coryti.
So Homer ("Iliad, a."), when speaking of Apollo:
Τόξ ὤμοισιν ἔχων, ἀμφηρεφέα τε φαρέτρην
Ἔκλαγξαν δ ̓ ἄῤ ὀΐστοὶ ἐπ ̓ ὤμων χωομένοιο.
Tox́ ōmoisin echōn, amfērefea te faretrēn
Eklangxan d' aŕ oistoi ep' ōmōn chōmenoio.
See Seheutzer's "Phys. Sac., in loc."
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
He swalloweth the ground - He seems as if he would absorb the earth. That is, he strikes his feet into it with such fierceness, and raises up the dust in his prancing, as if he would devour it. This figure is unusual with us, but it is common in the Arabic. See Schultens, "in loc.," and Bochart, "Hieroz," P. i. L. ii. c. viii. pp. 143-145. So Statius:
Stare loco nescit, pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum.
Th' impatient courser pants in every' vein,
And pawing seems to beat the distant plain;
Hills, vales, and floods, appear already cross'd,
And ere he starts a thousand steps are lost.
Neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet - This translation by no means conveys the meaning of the original. The true sense is probably expressed by Umbreit. "He standeth not still when the trumpet soundeth; "that is, he becomes impatient; he no longer confides in the voice of the rider and remains submissive, but he becomes excited by the martial clangor, and rushes into the midst of the battle. The Hebrew word which is employed (יאמין ya'âmiyn) means properly "to prop, stay, support"; then "to believe, to be firm, stable"; and is that which is commonly used to denote an act of "faith," or as meaning "believing." But the original sense of the word is here to be retained, and then it refers to the fact that the impatient horse no longer stands still when the trumpet begins to sound for battle.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha - That is," When the trumpet sounds, his voice is heard "as if" he said, Aha - or said that he heard the sound calling him to the battle." The reference is to the impatient neighing of the war horse about to rush into the conflict.
And he smelleth the battle afar off - That is, he snuffs, as it were, for the slaughter. The reference is to the effect of an approaching army upon a spirited war-horse, as if he perceived the approach by the sense of smelling, and longed to be in the midst of the battle.
The thunder of the captains - literally, "the war-cry of the princes." The reference is to the loud voices of the leaders of the army commanding the hosts under them. In regard to the whole of this magnificent description of the war-horse, the reader may consult Bochart, "Hieroz." P. i. L. ii. c. viii., where the phrases used are considered and illustrated at length. The leading idea. here is, that the war-horse evinced the wisdom and the power of God. His majesty, energy, strength, impatience for the battle, and spirit, were proofs of the greatness of Him who had made him, and might be appealed to as illustrating His perfections. Much as people admire the noble horse, and much as they take pains to train him for the turf or for battle, yet how seldom do they refer to it as illustrating the power and greatness of the Creator; and, it may be added, how seldom do they use the horse as if he were one of the grand and noble works of God!
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?
4. The beasts that are mentioned are, also, quite numerous, and the description of some of them constitutes the most magnificent part of the poem. The descriptions of the various animals are also more minute than any thing else referred to, and but a few of them can be copied without transcribing whole chapters. The beasts referred to are the following.
The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion (are silenced),
And the teeth of young lions are broken out.
The old lion perishes for want of prey,
And the whelps of the lioness are scattered abroad.
Job 39:26Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom - The appeal here is to the hawk, because it is among the most rapid of the birds in its flight. The particuIar thing specified is its flying, and it is supposed that there was something special in that which distinguished it from other birds. Whether it was in regard to its speed, to its manner of flying, or to its habits of flying at periodical seasons, may indeed be made a matter of inquiry, but it is clear that the particular thing in this bird which was adapted to draw the attention, and which evinced especially the wisdom of God, was connected with its flight. The word here rendered "hawk," (נץ nêts) is probably generic, and includes the various species of the falcon or hawk tribe, as the jet-falcon, the goshawk, the sparrow, hawk, the lanner, the saker, the hobby, the kestril, and the merlin. Not less than one hundred and fifty species of the hawk, it is said, have been described, but of these many are little known, and many of them differ from others only by very slight distinctions.
They are birds of prey, and, as many of them are endowed with remarkable docility, they are trained for the diversions of falconry - which has been quite a science among sportsmen. The falcon, or hawk, is often distinguished for fleetness. One, belonging to a Duke of Cleves, flew out of Westphalia into Prussia in one day; and in the county of Norfolk (England) one was known to make a flight of nearly thirty miles in an hour. A falcon which belonged to Henry IV. of France, having escaped from Fontainebleau, was found twenty-four hours after in Malta, the space traversed being not less than one thousand three hundred and fifty miles; being a velocity of about fifty-seven miles an hour, on the supposition that the bird was on the wing the whole time. It is this remarkable velocity which is here appealed to as a proof of the divine wisdom. God asks Job whether he could have formed these birds for their rapid flight. The wisdom and skill which has done this is evidently far above any that is possessed by man.
And stretch her wings toward the south - Referring to the fact that the bird is migratory at certain seasons of the year. It is not here merely the rapidity of its flight which is referred to, but that remarkable instinct which leads the feathered tribes to seek more congenial climates at the approach of winter. In no way is this to be accounted for, except by the fact that God has so appointed it. This great law of the winged tribes is one of the clearest proofs of divine wisdom and agency.
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command? - Margin, as in Hebrew, "by thy mouth." The meaning is, that Job had not power to direct or order the eagle in his lofty flight. The eagle has always been celebrated for the height to which it ascends. When Ramond had reached the summit of Mount Perdu, the highest of the Pyrenees, he perceived no living creature but an eagle which passed above him, flying with inconceivable rapidity in direct opposition to a furious wind. "Edin. Ency." "Of all animals, the eagle flies highest; and from thence the ancients have given him the epithet of "the bird of heaven." "Goldsmith." What is particularly worth remarking here is, the accuracy with which the descriptions in Job are made. If these are any indications of the progress of the knowledge of Natural History, that science could not have been then in its infancy. Just the things are adverted to here which all the investigations of subsequent ages have shown to characterize the classes of the feathered creation referred to.
And make her nest on high - "The nest of the eagle is usually built in the most inaccessible cliff of the rock, and often shielded from the weather by some jutting crag that hangs over it." "Goldsmith." "It is usually placed horizontally, in the hollow or fissure, of some high and abrupt rock, and is constructed of sticks of five or six feet in length, interlaced with pliant twigs, and covered with layers of rushes, heath, or moss. Unless destroyed by some accident, it is supposed to suffice, with occasional repairs, for the same couple during their lives." "Edin. Ency."
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock - "He rarely quits the mountains to descend into the plains. Each pair live in an insulated state, establishing their quarters on some high and precipitous cliff, at a respectful distance from others of the same species." "Edin. Ency." They seem to occupy the same cliff, or place of abode, during their lives; and hence, it is that they are represented as having a permanent abode on the lofty rock. In Damir it is said that the blind poet Besar, son of Jazidi, being asked, if God would give him the choice to be an animal, what he would be, said that he would wish to be nothing else than an "alokab," a species of the eagle, for they dwelt in places to which no wild animal could have access. Scheutzer, "Phys. Sac. in loc." The word rendered "abideth" means commonly "to pass the night," and here refers to the fact that the high rock was its constant abode or dwelling. By night as well as by day, the eagle had his home there.
Upon the crag of the rock - Hebrew, "Upon the tooth of the rock" - from the resemblance of the crag of a rock to a tooth.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
From, thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off - "When far aloft, and no longer discernible by the human eye, such is the wonderful acuteness of its sight, that from the same elevation it will mark a hare, or even a smaller animal, and dart down on it with unerring aim." "Edin. Ency." "Of all animals, the eagle has the quickest eye; but his sense of smelling is far inferior to that of the vulture. He never pursues, therefore, but in sight." "Goldsmith." This power of sight was early known, and is celebrated by the ancients. Thus, Homer, r' - . verse 674.
- ὥστ ̓ ἀιετός ὄν ῥά τε φασὶν
Ὀξύσατον δέρκεσθαι ὑπουρανίων πετεηνῶν.
- hōst' aietos on ra te fasin
Oxusaton derkesthai hupouraniōn peteēnōn.
"As the eagle of whom it is said that it enjoys the keenest vision of
All the fowls under heaven."
So Aelian, II. L. i. 32. Also Horace "Serm." L. i. Sat. 3:
- tam cernit acutum
Quam aut aquila, aut serpeus Epidaurus.
The Arabic writers say that the eagle can see "four hundred parasangs." "Damir," as quoted by Scheutzer. It is now ascertained that birds of prey search out or discern their food rather by the sight than the smell. No sooner does a camel fall and die on the plains of Arabia, than there may be seen in the far-distant sky apparently a black speck, which is soon discovered to be a vulture hastening to its prey. From that vast distance the bird, invisible to human eye, has seen the prey stretched upon the sand and immediately commences toward it its rapid flight.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.
Her young ones also suck up blood - The word used here (יעלעוּ ye‛âl‛û) occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It is supposed to mean, to sup up greedily; referring to the fact that the young ones of the eagle devour blood voraciously. They are too feeble to devour the flesh, and hence, they are fed on the blood of the victim. The strength of the eagle consists in the beak, talons, and wings; and such is their power, that they are able to convey animals of considerable size, alive, to their places of abode. They often bear away in this manner, lambs, kids, and the young of the gazelle. Three instances, at least, are known, where they have carried off children. In the year 1737, in Norway, a boy upward of two years of age was carried off by an eagle in the sight of his parents. Anderson, in his history of Iceland, asserts that in that island children of four and five years of age have experienced the same fate; and Ray mentions that in one of the Orkheys an infant of a year old was seized in the talons of an eagle, and conveyed about four miles to its eyry. "Edin. Ency." The principal food of the young eagle is blood. The proof of this fact may be seen in Scheutzer's "Phys. Sac., in loc."
And where the slain are, there is she - Hebrew, "the slain;" referring perhaps primarily to a field of battle - where horses, camels, and human beings, lie in confusion. It is not improbable that the Savior had this passage in view when he said, speaking of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together; "Mat 24:28. Of the fact that they thus assemble, there can be no doubt. The "argument" in proof of the wisdom and majesty of the Almighty in these references to the animal creation, is derived from their strength, their instincts, and their special habits. We may make two remarks, in view of the argument as here stated:
(1) One relates to the remarkable accuracy with which they are referred to. The statements are not vague and general, but are minute and characteristic, about the habits and the instincts of the animals referred to. The very things are selected which are now known to distinguish those animals, and which are not found to exist in the same degree, if at all, in others. Subsequent investigations have served to confirm the accuracy of these descriptions, and they may be taken now as a correct account even to the letter of the natural history of the different animals referred to. If, therefore, as has already been stated, this is to be regarded as an indication of the state of natural science in the time of Job. it shows quite an advanced state; if it is not an indication of the existing state of knowledge in his time, if there was no such acquaintance with the animal creation as the result of observation, then it shows that these were truly the words of God, and are to be regarded as direct inspiration. At all events, the statement was evidently made under the influence of inspiration, and is worthy of the origin which it claims.
(2) The second remark is, that the progress of discovery in the science of natural history has only served to confirm and expand the argument here adverted to. Every new fact in regard to the habits and instincts of animals is a new proof of the wisdom and greatness of God and we may appeal now, with all the knowledge which we have on these subjects, with unanswerable force to the habits and instincts of the wild goats of the rock, the wild ass, the rhinoceros, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, and the eagle, as each one furnishing some striking and special proof of the wisdom, goodness, superintending providence and power of the great Creator.