Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.XXXVII.
(1) At this also my heart trembleth.—Elihu is discoursing of the same matter. He says, “Not only are the cattle terrified, but at this also my heart trembleth and is moved out of its place. Hark! listen to the sound of His voice.”
He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.(3) He directeth it.—Or, sendeth it forth: i.e., the noise and rumbling which fills all heaven.
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) After it a voice roareth—i.e., the thunderclap which follows the lightning-flash.
And he stayeth them not(or will not stay them) when his voice is heard.—What does this mean? We understand it, “Yet none can track them (i.e., the thunder and the lightning) when His voice is heard. They travel in paths which none can explore. Vivid as the lightning is, who shall pursue its course?”
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) For he saith to the snow.—All the operations of nature obey the behest of God—the snow, the gentle showers, the drenching downpour. By means of these He sealeth up the hand of every man, obstructing and impeding their works and movements, so that all the men whom He has made may know it or know Him. This is the plain meaning, which the Authorised Version gives somewhat less clearly. Men may learn from these things that they and their works are under the control of God. They are not the entirely free agents they suppose.
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.(8) Then the beasts go into dens.—And not man only, but the beasts likewise, have to take refuge in their dens and coverts.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.(9) Out of the south.—Rather, out of its chamber (see Job 9:9) cometh the whirlwind, or typhoon: and cold from the northern constellations, from the quarter of the heavens where they shine.
By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.(10) The breadth of the waters is straitened.—Firm, like a molten mass.
Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:(11) He wearieth the thick cloud.—Also He ladeth the thick cloud with moisture, maketh it to be charged with rain. “He scattereth the cloud of His lightning,” that is, which containeth His lightning. Others render, “Yea, the bright sun weareth out (disperseth) the thick cloud; it scattereth the cloud that holds His lightning. And it (the cloud) is turned round about by His counsels, that they may do His purpose, even all which He commandeth them, upon the face of the habitable world.” Whether for correction, or for His land generally, or whether He causeth the rain to come as a special mercy:—these are the various purposes for which God reserves His showers.
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?(15) Light of His cloud—i.e., lightning, as before. “Dost thou know all the secrets of God’s thunderbolts, at whom and how He will use them?” Some understand this otherwise: “Dost thou know when God setteth the sun over them (the clouds), and causeth the light (i.e., the sun) to shine upon His cloud?” i.e., “Dost thou know how God useth the sun to disperse the clouds?”
Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?(16) The balancings of the clouds.—How they are poised and suspended in the sky. “Ye clouds, that far above me float and pause.”—Coleridge.
How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?(17) When he quieteth the earth.—Or, When the earth is still.
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?(18) Spread out the sky.—Some understand this of the action of the sun in dispersing the clouds; but it seems more probable that it refers to God. “Hast thou spread out with Him the magnificent dome of heaven?” The words used, however, imply the clouds rather than the cloudless sky which resembles a burnished mirror; so that it is not improbable that the sun may be the subject here and in the following verses.
Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.(19) Teach us what we shall say unto (or, concerning) him—i.e., the sun. “He is altogether hidden by the clouds; but is he gone? is he not still there behind them?”
Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.(20) Be swallowed up.—The sense will vary, according as we understand this of God or of the sun. In the first case, it is a simple expression of awe at God’s majesty: “Shall it be told Him that I would speak? If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up;” but unquestionably the sense is clearer if we understand it of the sun: “Shall it be told of him? Shall I, indeed, speak it? or hath any man ever ventured to say, in such a case, that the sun is swallowed up, extinguished?”
And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.(21) And now men see not the bright light—i.e., the sun. “But he is bright behind the clouds, and when the wind has passed over them and cleared them away, even the north wind, he will come forth like gold; but upon God there is terrible majesty. Though the sun is hidden, we shall see him again, but who shall ever find out God?” It is manifest that this rendering adds great sublimity, and points to the opening of the next chapter.
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) Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out.—He is excellent, or mighty, in power and justice, &c.
Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.(24) Men do therefore fear him.—Or, “Therefore men may fear Him; but as for the wise in heart, no one even of them shall see Him.” This may be, and probably is, the meaning, though the literal rendering is that of the Authorised Version, which, however, involves a somewhat doubtful sentiment in itself, for God, we may believe, does regard or respect those who are truly wise. In the original there is a very manifest play on the words, which it is impossible to preserve, between yĕre’u and yireh—men shall fear, but none shall see.