Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
Verses 1-30. - This chapter completes the survey of animate nature begun at Job 38:39. The habits and instincts of the wild goat, the wild ass, and wild cattle are first noticed (vers. 1-12); then a transition is made to the most remarkable of birds, the ostrich (vers. 13-18). Next, the horse is described, and, as it were, depicted, in a passage of extraordinary fire and brilliancy (vers. 19-25). Finally, a return is made to remarkable birds, and the habits of the hawk and eagle obtain mention (vers. 26-30). Throughout, the object is to show the infinite wisdom of God, and the utter incompetence of man to explain the mysteries of nature. Verse 1. - Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? The wild goats of Western Asia are of two kinds, the Capra segagrus, and the Asiatic ibex, or Capra Sinaitica. The latter is probably the animal here intended, which is called yael sela, "the wild goat of the rocks," and was known to the Assyrians as ya-e-li. It is an animal with large rough horns curving backwards, closely allied to the steinbock, or bouquetin, of the Swiss and Tyrolian Alps. It is very shy and wild, difficult of approach, and inhabiting only the most rocky and desolate tracts of Syria and Arabia. Representations of the animal, which was hunted by the Assyrian kings, are common upon the Ninevite monuments (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 140. Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? "The hinds" here are probably the females of the species of ibex intended. The clause is therefore a mere repetition, in other words, of the preceding one.
Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
Verse 2. - Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? With an animal so wild as the ibex, these secrets of nature would be difficult to observe and note down. In Job's time probably no one had made such subjects an object of inquiry. Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth? This would be less difficult to observe. The breeding-time of most wild animals is known in the country which produces them.
They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.
Verse 3. - They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast oat their sorrows. Parturition is a pain, even to the brute creation, though, comparatively speaking, a light one. (For the figure of speech by which that which causes pain is called pain, see AEschyl., 'Agam.,' 1. 1427; Eurip., 'Ion,' 1. 45; Herod., 5:18.)
Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.
Verse 4. - Their young ones are in good liking; i.e. healthy and strong (comp. Daniel 1:10). They grow up with corn; rather, they grow up out of doors, or in the open air (see Professor Lee, ad loc; and Buxtorf, 'Lex. Hebr. et Chald.,' p. 87). They go forth, and return not unto them. They quit their dams early, and "go forth" to provide for themselves - an indication of health and strength.
Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
Verse 5. - Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? Two kinds of onager or wild ass, seem to be intended - the one called pore' (פִרֶא), and the other 'arod (עָרוד). These correspond probably to the Asinus hemippus and the Asinus onager of modern naturalists, the former of which is still found in the deserts of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Northern Arabia, while the latter inhabits Western Asia from 48° N.lat. southward to Persia, Beloochistan, and Western India. Sir H. A. Layard describes the former, which he saw, as a "beautiful animal, in fleetness equalling the gazelle, very wild, and of a rich fawn colour, almost pink" ('Nineveh and its Remains,' Vol. 1. p. 324). The latter (Asinus onager) was seen by Sir R. K. Porter in Persia ('Travels,' vol. 1. p. 460), and is described in very similar terms. The two, however, appear to be distinct species (see Dr. Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 3. pp. 19, 20, Appendix). Both animals are remarkable for extreme wildness; and all attempts to domesticate the young of either have hitherto failed.
Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.
Verse 6. - Whose house I have made the wilderness. The Mesopotamian regions inhabited by the Asinus hemippus are those vast stretches of rolling plain, treeless, producing a few aromatic shrubs and much wormwood, which intervene between the Sinjar mountain-range and the Babylonian alluvium. Here the wild ass was seen by Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, in company with ostriches, gazelles, and bustards (Xen., 'Anab.,' 1:5); and here Sir Austin Layard also made its acquaintance ('Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 270). The Asians onager frequents the deserts of Khorassan and Beloochistan, which are even more barren than the Mesepotamian. And the barren land his dwellings; rather, the salt land (see the Revised Version). The great desert of Khorassan is largely impregnated with salt, and in places encrusted with it. The wild ass licks salt with avidity.
He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.
Verse 7. - He scorneth the multitude of the city. Avoids, that is, the haunts of men, and is never seen near them. Neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. Nothing will induce the wild ass to submit to domestication.
The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.
Verse 8. - The range of the mountains is his pasture. By "mountains" we must here understand rocky ranges like the Sinjar and the mountains of Beloochistan, or again those of the Sinaitic peninsula. Wild asses do not frequent the regions which we commonly call mountainous. And he searcheth after every green thing; i.e. he seeks out the small patches of pasture which are to be found in such rocky regions.
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Verse 9. - Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? This is an unfortunate translation, since there is no word etymologicallly correspondent to "unicorn" in the original. The word used is rem or reyrn; and the rem is distinctly said in Deuteronomy 33:17 to have "horns." All that is said of the rim in Scripture points to some species of wild cattle, and recent critics are almost universally agreed thus far at any rate. Assyrian investigation carries us a step further. It is found that the wild bull so often represented on the monuments as hunted by the Ninevite monarchs was known to the Assyrians by the name of rimu or rim. Careful examination of the sculptures has resulted in the identification of this animal with Bee primi-genius an extinct species, probably identical with the urns of the Romans, which Caesar saw in Gaul, and of which he has left a description. "These uri," he says, "are scarcely less than elephants in size, but in their nature, colour, and form are bulls. Great is their strength, and great their speed; nor do they spare man nor beast, when once they have caught sight of him. ... Even when they are young, they cannot be habituated to man and made tractable. The size and shape of their horns are very different from those of our own oxen" ('De Bell. Gall.,' 6:28).
Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Verse 10. - Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? That is, "as thou bindest the ox?" Canst thou make him plough for thee? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Another common employment of oxen.
Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
Verse 11. - Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? If a man could bind the urns to his plough or to his harrow, still he could not "trust" him. The huge brute would be sure to prove unmanageable, and would only cause damage to his owner. Or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? As thou leavest many labours to thy oxen, confiding in their docility.
Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
Verse 12. - Wilt thou believe him - rather, Wilt thou confide in him (see the Revised Version) - that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barns? i.e. convey the harvest from the field to the homestead, that it may be safely lodged in thy barn. The "strength" of the urns (ver. 11) would make all such labours light to him, but his savage nature would render it impossible to use him for them.
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
Verse 13. - Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? rather, the wing of the ostrich (literally, of ostriches) is exultant; i.e. a thing that it glories in. The allusion is, perhaps, to the flapping of its wings by the ostrich, as it hurries over the ground, which is sore, thing like that of a cock before crowing or after beating an antagonist. Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? This clause is very obscure, but may perhaps mean, Are her feathers and plumage kindly? (see the Revised Version); i.e. does she use them for the same kindly purpose as other birds - to warm her eggs, and forward the process of hatching them?
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
Verse 14. - Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust. The best authorities tell us that in tropical countries ostriches, having scratched a hole in the sand, and deposited their eggs in it, cover the eggs over with a layer of sand, sometimes as much as a foot in thickness, and, leaving them during the daytime to be kept warm by the heat of the sun, only incubate at night. It is evidently this habit of the bird that is here alluded to. That in cooler countries ostriches do not do this is not to the point. The habit was known in Job's time, and was so noticeable as to characterize the bird to a large extent.
And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
Verse 15. - And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. Where the eggs are covered by a layer of sand a foot thick, this danger is not incurred. But when the eggs are numerous - and they are sometimes as many as thirty - they are apt to be very poorly covered, and the results follow which are described in the text.
She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;
Verse 16. - She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers. This is a deduction from what has preceded, and discloses no new fact. Recent careful observation of the habits of the ostrich indicates that the parental instinct is not wanting, though it may be weaker than in most birds. Both the male and the female incubate at night, and, when the nest is approached by the hunter, the parent bird or birds will leave it, and try to draw him away from it by running on in front of him, or feigning to attack him, much as peewits do in our own country. Her labour is in vain without fear; or, though her labour is in vain, she is without fear (see the Revised Version); i.e. though she is often disappointed of her immediate hope of offspring, through her eggs being crushed and destroyed, yet she grows no wiser, she does not fear for the future.
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
Verse 17. - Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. There is an Arab proverb - "As stupid as an ostrich" - which the Arabs justify on five grounds:
(1) The ostrich, they say, will swallow iron, stones, leaden bullets, and other things, which injure and sometimes prove fatal to it.
(2) When hunted, it thrusts its head into a hush, and iron,nee that the hunter does not see it.
(3) It allows itself to be captured by transparent devices.
(4) It neglects its eggs.
(5) Its head is small, and contains but a small quantity of brains. To these grounds I may add that in the South-African ostrich-farms, the birds allow themselves to be confined within a certain space by a fence of sticks and string raised about a foot from the ground. They seem to think that they cannot step over it.
What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.
Verse 18. - What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider. The ostrich sometimes tries to elude pursuit by crouching and hiding behind hillocks or in hollows, making itself as little conspicuous as possible; but, when these attempts fail, and it starts off to run in the open, then it "lifts itself up" to its full elevation, beats the air with its wings, and scours along at a pace that no horse can equal. The Greeks with Xenophon, though well mounted, failed to catch a single ostrich ('Anab.,' 1:5. § 3).
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Verse 19. - Hast thou given the horse strength? (comp. Psalm 147:10). Geburah means, however, more than "strength." It includes courage and all martial excellence. Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Many objections have been taken to this expression; and endeavours have been made to show that the word used (דַעְמָה) does not mean "thunder," but" a tremulous motion," "quivering muscles and a tossing mane," or else "scorn," "indignation." But as רַעַם always means "thunder" (Job 26:14; Job 39:25; Psalm 77:19: 81:8; 145:7; Isaiah 29:6), it seems unlikely that רעמה means anything else. To the objection that the metaphor is "incongruous" (Professor Lee), it would appear to be enough to reply that one of our greatest prose-poets has seen in it peculiar fitness. So true every way" says Carlyle, on the passage: "true eyesight and vision for all things; material things, not less than spiritual; "the horse - Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?" ('Lectures on Heroes,' p. 78).
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
Verse 20. - Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? rather, Canst thou make him leap forward as a grasshopper? The bound with which a war-horse rushes to battle seems intended. The glory of his nostrils is terrible. When the war-horse snorts, men tremble (see Jeremiah 8:16, "The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones").
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
Verse 21. - He paweth in the valley. Canon Cook appositely compares Virgil's "carat tellurem" ('Georg.,' 3:87, 88), and Professor Lee Pope's expression, that "ere they start a thousand steps are lost." The verb is in the plural, because a line of cavalry, all pawing and eager to be off, is intended to be represented. And rejoiceth in his strength. Nothing is more remarkable than the eagerness and joy which war-horses show when the battle approaches. They are generally more excited than their riders. He goeth on to meet the armed men; literally, he rusheth upon the weapons. Equally true in ancient and in modern warfare. The main use of cavalry is in the charge (see Denison's 'Hist. of Cavalry,' pp. 507-512).
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
Verse 22. - He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. "The cavalry of modern times will rush undismayed upon the line of opposing bayonets" (Professor Lee). "We do not believe that a body of infantry ever existed that, with the bayonet alone, unsupported by fire, could have checked the determined charge of good horsemen" (Denison, p. 510).
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
Verse 23. - The quiver rattleth against him. In the Aasyrian sculptures the quiver of mounted archers is often hung at the side, instead of at the back. In this position it would rattle against the neck of the war-horse (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2 p. 25). The glittering spear and the shield would occasionally strike against his neck or his shoulders.
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
Verse 24. - He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and. rage. This is a common metaphor to denote the rapidity with which the horse covers the space that lies before him. Virgil has, "Corripiuut spatia" ('AEnid,' 5:316); Silius ltalions, "Campum volatu rapucre" (3:308); Shakespeare, "He seemed in running to devour the way." Arab poets have similar expressions (see Bochart, ' Hieroz.,' pt. 1. bk. 2. o. 8). Neither beiieveth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. (So Schultens, Canon Cook, and our Revisers.) But most recent critics prefer to render, "He standeth not still when the trumpet soundeth," and compare Virgil's "Stare loco nescit" ('Georg.,' 3:84).
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Verse 25. - He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha! literally, at the trumpet; i.e. at the sound of the trumpet. The utterance, "Ha, ha!" (heakh)' is an imitation of the horse's snort or neigh. And he smelleth the battle afar off. Not merely presages it, as Pliny Bye ("Equi praesagiunt pugnam, 'Hist. Nat,' 8:42), or perceives it. but seems to scent it. The open and quivering nostrils raise this idea. The thunder of the captains, and the shouting. On the great noise made by advancing armies in ancient times, see 2 Kings 7:6; Isaiah 5:28-30: Jeremiah 8:16, etc.
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?
Verse 26. - Doth the hawk fly (or, soar) by thy wisdom? The hawk's strength of wing is extraordinary, and one of the greatest of natural marvels. Can Job claim to have contrived it? Many as have been the attempts made, human ingenuity has not yet devised anything that can fly. And stretch her wings toward the south? Migrate, i.e., when winter approaches, to the warmer southern regions. Few things in nature are more remarkable than the instinct of migratory birds.
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
Verse 27. - Doth the eagle mount up at thy command? The enumeration of natural marvels ends with the eagle, the monarch of birds, as it began with the lion, the king of beasts (Job 38:39). The power of the eagle to "mount up," notwithstanding its great size and weight, is very surprising. The species intended in this place is probably the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) or else the imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca)' which arc both of them common in Syria and Mesopotamia. And make her nest on high? The nests of eagles are almost always built on lofty, generally on inaccessible, rocks. Aristotle says, Ποιοῦνται δεαὐτὰς (sc, τὰς νεοττίας), οὐκ ἐν πεδινοῖς τόποις ἀλλ ἐν ὑψηκοῖς μάλιστα μὲν καὶ ἐν πέτραις ἀποκρήμνοις (comp. Jeremiah 49:16).
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
Verse 28. - She dwelleth and abideth on the rook, upon the crag of the rook, and the strong place; literally, the tooth of the rock. The craggy summits of rocks bear a resemblance to the fangs of a tooth. Hence we have in France the Dent du Chat, and in Switzerland the Dent de Jaman and the Dent du Midi.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Verse 29. - From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. Aristotle gives this as a reason for the lofty flight of the eagle, Υψοῦ πέταται ὁπως ἐπὶ πλεῖστον τόπον καθορᾷ. The keen sight of the eagle is recognized by modern savants: "Aquila, genre d'oiseaux de proie... caracterise par un bec sans denlelure et droit a sa base jusquaupres de l'extremite, ou il se corbe beaucoup; par des pieds robustes armes d'ongles aigus et tranchants, par leur rue percante et leur grands envergure" ('Dictionnaire Universelle des Sciences,' p. 25).
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.
Verse 30. - Her young ones also suck up blood. It has been asserted that this is not the case, since they are fed on carrion (Merx). But, as eagles are known to seize fawns, hares, lambs, and other small animals, and transport them to their eyries, their young must certainly be nourished, in part, on the flesh of animals newly killed. And where the slain are, there is she (comp. Deuteronomy 21:18; Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37). Eagles, or at any rate birds "more resembling eagles than vultures," are commonly represented on the Assyrian monuments, especially in battle-scenes, where they either feed on the dead bodies of the slain, or tear out their entrails, or sometimes carry up aloft the decapitated head of some unfortunate soldier (see the 'Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology' vol. 8. p. 59, and pls. 2. and 3.).