|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
39:1-30 God inquires of Job concerning several animals. - In these questions the Lord continued to humble Job. In this chapter several animals are spoken of, whose nature or situation particularly show the power, wisdom, and manifold works of God. The wild ass. It is better to labour and be good for something, than to ramble and be good for nothing. From the untameableness of this and other creatures, we may see, how unfit we are to give law to Providence, who cannot give law even to a wild ass's colt. The unicorn, a strong, stately, proud creature. He is able to serve, but not willing; and God challenges Job to force him to it. It is a great mercy if, where God gives strength for service, he gives a heart; it is what we should pray for, and reason ourselves into, which the brutes cannot do. Those gifts are not always the most valuable that make the finest show. Who would not rather have the voice of the nightingale, than the tail of the peacock; the eye of the eagle and her soaring wing, and the natural affection of the stork, than the beautiful feathers of the ostrich, which can never rise above the earth, and is without natural affection? The description of the war-horse helps to explain the character of presumptuous sinners. Every one turneth to his course, as the horse rushes into the battle. When a man's heart is fully set in him to do evil, and he is carried on in a wicked way, by the violence of his appetites and passions, there is no making him fear the wrath of God, and the fatal consequences of sin. Secure sinners think themselves as safe in their sins as the eagle in her nest on high, in the clefts of the rocks; but I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord, #Jer 49:16". All these beautiful references to the works of nature, should teach us a right view of the riches of the wisdom of Him who made and sustains all things. The want of right views concerning the wisdom of God, which is ever present in all things, led Job to think and speak unworthily of Providence.
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).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee,.... Whether there is or ever was such a creature, as described under the name of an unicorn, is a question: it is thought the accounts of it are for the most part fabulous; though Vartomannus (y) says he saw two at Mecca, which came from Ethiopia, the largest of which had a horn in his forehead three cubits long. There are indeed several creatures which may be called "monocerots", who have but one horn; as the "rhinoceros", and the Indian horses and asses (z). The Arabic geographer (a) speaks of a beast in the Indies, called "carcaddan", which is lesser than an elephant and bigger than a buffalo; having in the middle of the forehead an horn long and thick, as much as two hands can grasp: and not only on land, but in the sea are such, as the "nahr whal", or Greenland whale (b); but then they do not answer to the creature so called in Scripture: and, besides, this must be a creature well known to Job, as it was to the Israelites; and must be a strong creature, from the account that gives of it, and not to be taken as here. And Solinus (c) speaks of such "monocerots" or unicorns, which may be killed, but cannot be taken, and were never known to be in any man's possession alive; and so Aelianus (d) says of the like creature, that it never was remembered that anyone of them had been taken. Some think the "rhinoceros" is meant; but that, though a very strong creature, and so may be thought fit for the uses after mentioned, yet may be tamed; whereas the creature here is represented as untamable, and not to be subdued, and brought under a yoke and managed; and besides, it is not very probable that it was known by Job. Bochart (e) takes it to be the "oryx", a creature of the goat kind; but to me it seems more likely to be of the ox kind, to be similar to them, and so might be thought to do the business of one; and the rather, because of its great strength, and yet could not be brought to do it, nor be trusted with it: for the questions concerning it relate to the work of oxen; and as the wild ass is opposed to the tame one in the preceding paragraph, so here the wild ox to a tame one. And both Strabo (f) and Diodorus Siculus (g) relate, that among the Troglodytes, a people that dwelt near the Red sea, and not far from Arabia, where Job 54ed, were abundance of wild oxen or bulls, and which far exceeded the common ones in size and swiftness; and the creature called the seem in the original, has its name from height. Now the question is, could Job take one of these wild bulls or oxen, and tame it, and make it willing to do any work or service he should choose to put it to? No, he could not;
or abide by thy crib? manger or stall, as the tame or common ox will; who, when it has done its labour, is glad to be led to its stall and feed, and then lie down and rest, and there abide; see Isaiah 1:3; but not so the wild ox.
(y) Navigat. l. 1. c. 19. (z) Vid. Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 26. (a) Nub. Clim. 1. par. 8. (b) Ludolf. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 10. Of this narhual, or sea unicorn, see the Philosoph. Transact. abridged, vol. 9. p. 71, 72. (c) Polyhistor. c. 65. (d) De Animal. l. 16. c. 20. (e) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 27. col. 969, &c. (f) Geograph. l. 16. p. 533. (g) Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 175.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. unicorn—Pliny [Natural History, 8.21], mentions such an animal; its figure is found depicted in the ruins of Persepolis. The Hebrew reem conveys the idea of loftiness and power (compare Ramah; Indian, Ram; Latin, Roma). The rhinoceros was perhaps the original type of the unicorn. The Arab rim is a two-horned animal. Sometimes "unicorn" or reem is a mere poetical symbol or abstraction; but the buffalo is the animal referred to here, from the contrast to the tame ox, used in ploughing (Job 39:10, 12).
abide—literally, "pass the night."
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