Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.Job 37:1. This verse reads,
Yea, at this my heart trembleth,
And leapeth up out of its place.
Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.2. the sound that goeth] Or, the muttering. The thunder is the voice of God, going forth out of His mouth.
He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.3. he directeth] Rather, assuming another derivation of the word, he sendeth it forth, lets it loose.
After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.4. with the voice of his excellency] Rather, with his voice of majesty.
he will not stay them] Rather, he stayeth them not; He restrains not His lightnings. The words describe the play of the lightning, rapidly succeeding the thunder. When God’s presence is announced by His terrible voice, there also are His awful ministers, the lightnings, swift to do His commandments against His adversaries (ch. Job 36:32).
God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.6. The verse reads as a whole,
For he saith to the snow, Fall thou on the earth;
Likewise to the showers of rain,
Even to the showers of his mighty rains.
The reference in the second and third clauses is probably to the heavy rainfall of the winter season.
6–10. Another wonder of God’s power, snow and frost.
He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.7. He sealdh up the hand] Effect of the winter rains and snow on men: all labour in the field is suspended; the hand of man is as it were “sealed up.”
that all men may know his work] The Heb. must be rendered: that all men whom he hath made may know, lit. all men of his workmanship. The meaning is, that men by their enforced inactivity through His operations in nature may know His sovereign power and that they are subject to it. The sense given by the A. V. is that of some of the ancient Versions, but implies a different reading.
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.8. their places] Their coverts or lairs. The reference is to the hibernation of the animals, or to their retreat into their coverts for shelter from the snow and rains.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.9. The rendering of this verse in the A.V. is free and in some measure conjectural.
the south] lit. the chamber. In ch. Job 9:9 reference was made to the “chambers of the south,” and it has been assumed that the same is the meaning here. There is no reason, however, why the southern heavens should be called “chamber” more than any other quarter of the sky; and the passage appears to refer to the season of winter, while the south wind brings heat, Job 37:17. The term “chamber” is most probably used in the sense of “treasury” (ch. Job 38:22), as Psalm 135:7, “He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.” The meaning probably is, out of its (or, his) chamber cometh the whirlwind.
the north] The word is of uncertain meaning. It may signify, the scattering (winds), that is, possibly the north winds that scatter the clouds and bring frost.
9–10. Frost and ice.
By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.10. By the breath of God frost] Rather, ice. The wind is the breath of God as the thunder is His voice. This cold breath gives ice.
Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:11–13. The wonderful movements of the clouds directed by the guidance of God, and fulfilling His several behests.
These verses read,
11. Also he ladeth the thick cloud with moisture,
He spreadeth his lightning-cloud abroad;
12. And it is turned round about by his guidance,
That it may do whatsoever he commandeth it
Upon the face of the whole earth;
13. Whether it be for correction, or for his earth,
Or for mercy that he causeth it to come.
And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.12. In the second clause the words are lit. “that they may do,” the plur. referring to “cloud” (Job 37:11) collectively. Others make the pronoun they refer to men, which is very unnatural. The expression “the whole earth” is lit. the world of the earth, Proverbs 8:31.
He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.13. This is the natural rendering of the Heb. If right the words “correction” (rod, ch. Job 21:9) and “mercy” must refer to God’s purposes in regard to men, while the words “for his earth” refer more to the inanimate world, as God “causeth it to rain on the earth, where no man is,” ch. Job 38:26. Many have felt, however, that the balance of the verse requires only two objects to be stated, namely “correction” and “mercy,” and would render the first line, whether it be for correction, when due to his earth.
Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.14–23. Elihu’s own imagination kindles at the thought of the wonders which he is unfolding, and he beseeches Job to observe them with a reverent awe, and learn from them the unsearchableness of Him who is their Author.
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?15. when God disposed them] Rather, how God layeth his command upon them, and causeth, &c.?
Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?16. the balancings] That is, how the clouds are poised in the heavens (comp. ch. Job 26:8), which Elihu regards as an unspeakable marvel.
How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?17. how thy garments are warm] Rather perhaps, thou Whose garments are warm, when the earth is still because of the south wind. Job 37:15 referred to the storm cloud; Job 37:16-17 refer rather to the sultry summer cloud. The words express how feeble man has no part in causing these wonders, but only passively feels the effect of them. “This sensation of dry, hot clothes is only experienced during the siroccos” (Thomson, Land and the Book). In reference to the stillness of the earth under such a wind, this writer says, “There is no living thing abroad to make a noise. The birds hide in thickest shades, the fowls pant under the walls with open mouth and drooping wings, the flocks and herds take shelter in caves and under great rocks, and the labourers retire from the fields and close the windows and doors of their houses.… The very air is too weak and languid to stir the pendent leaves even of the tall poplars.”
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?18. The present tense is better in this verse,
Canst thou with him spread out the skies,
Strong, as a molten mirror?
“With Him” may mean “along with Him,” or rather like Him. The comparison of the clear, dry, burnished summer skies of the East to “brass” is made in other parts of Scripture. The Eastern mirrors were plates of metal, Exodus 38:8.
Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.19. This thought of the strong expanse of heaven stretched out by God suggests to Elihu His unspeakable greatness and unsearchableness, and he demands of Job with what words of man such a Being is to be addressed, if one sought to contend with Him.
by reason of darkness] That is, of understanding—in presence of the unsearchableness of God.
Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.20. The verse means,
Shall it be told him that I would speak?
Or shall a man wish that he should be swallowed up?
Elihu recoils from the thought of going into God’s presence to strive with Him; such daring presumption would be voluntarily to court destruction. The words “shall a man wish?” are lit. has a man said or commanded? i. e. has any one ever voluntarily ordered his own annihilation? Nothing other than this does the man do who ventures to contend with the Almighty.
And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.21. The natural meaning of this verse is,
And now men cannot look upon the light,
When it is bright in the skies,
And the wind hath passed and cleansed them.
The “light,” here the sunlight, is too great to look upon, it dazzles the beholder, when the wind has passed over and cleared the heavens. Others render, as A.V. in the main, and now men see not the light, though it is bright in the clouds (i. e. behind the clouds); but the wind passeth over and cleareth them. It is difficult to reconcile this translation of the third clause with grammar. The idea supposed to be suggested by this rendering is, that just as behind the clouds there is light, which will by and by appear, so the darkness around God’s face and ways will speedily clear away. But such a thought remains altogether unexpressed; and besides, the whole passage refers to the unsearchableness of God and the terrible majesty that surrounds Him and makes Him unapproachable (Job 37:22-23). The verse is evidently incomplete in sense, expressing but half the idea; the other half is given in Job 37:22.
Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.22. fair weather] lit. gold, that is, probably, golden brightness or splendour, the reference being to the light (Job 37:21). This is said to come from the North because the north wind (Job 37:21) clears away the clouds and reveals it. With this sense the verse carries on the thought of Job 37:21, and the antithesis is expressed in the second clause of Job 37:22, with God is terrible glory—if men cannot look upon the light when it shines in the cloudless heaven, how much less shall they bear to look upon the majesty of God, surrounded with terrible glory.
Others adhere to the literal sense of gold, considering the general meaning to be, that men may penetrate into the furthest and darkest regions of the earth and bring out to view whatever precious things they contain, but around God is a terrible majesty which exalts Him above all comprehension. However good this meaning be in itself, it leaves Job 37:21 isolated and incomplete in sense. And although to Classical Antiquity the North may have been the region of gold, no trace of such a conception appears in the Old Testament, for any identification of Havilah (Genesis 2:11) with Colchis is more than adventurous. The comparison too of the light to gold is common in the poetry of all languages.
Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.23. According to the original the members of the verse stand thus;
The Almighty! we cannot find him out; who is great in power,
And in justice and fulness of righteousness: he will not afflict.
The connexion shews that afflict has the sense of afflict unjustly, or oppress. Taken thus the verse has a certain halting movement. Hence others take the word “afflict” in the sense of wrest or do violence to, rendering the second clause, and justice and fulness of righteousness he will not pervert (Ew.).
Elihu returns here at the end of his discourse to the thought of God with which he started, ch. Job 36:5, “Behold God is mighty, and despiseth not any.” This is the thought of God that fills all his discourses; God’s power is ever conjoined with righteousness, and He unjustly afflicts or oppresses none.
23, 24. Elihu sums up his teaching regarding the greatness of God, which is ever conjoined with righteousness. It is befitting men, therefore, not to judge Him, but to fear Him, for He regards not them that are wise in their own understanding.
Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.24. wise of heart] That is, wise in their own thoughts. God has respect unto the humble—a final exhortation to Job to abstain from presumptuous complaints of God, and to unite with mankind everywhere in fearing Him.