Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.XXXIX.
(4) They grow up with corn.—Or more probably, perhaps, in the open field, as the word means according to some.
He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.(7) The crying of the driver.—Or, the shoutings of the taskmaster. The word is the same as is applied to the taskmasters of Egypt, and this suggests the question whether or not there may be a reminiscence of that bondage here.
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?(9) The unicorn.—It is a mistake to identify this animal with the rhinoceros, as was formerly done; it is more probably the same with the buffalo, or wild ox. The most glaring form of the mistake is in Psalm 22:22 : “Thou hast heard me also from among the horns of the unicorns” The way in which the animal is here spoken of, as in analogous contrast to the domestic ox, suggests that it is not wholly dissimilar. It is familiar and homely toil that the wild ox is contemplated as being put to, in the place of tame cattle, whose work it is.
Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?(12) Wilt thou believe him?—i.e., trust him, as in the former verse “Wilt thou [trust” was, rather, Wilt thou feel confidence in him?
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?(13) Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?—Rather, The wing of the ostrich is superb, but are her pinions and her feathers like the stork’s? Ostrich feathers are said to be worth from £8 to £15 a pound; but, beautiful and valuable as they are, they are hardly like the plumage of a bird, and are not so used for flight; on the contrary, the ostrich runs like a quadruped, it is stated at the rate sometimes of fifty or sixty miles an hour.
Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,(14) Which leaveth her eggs.—The ostrich only sits upon her eggs at night, when the cold would chill and destroy them; by day the heat of the sand continues the process of hatching.
What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.(18) She lifteth up herself.—That is, either from the nest when she comes to maturity, or when she sets out to run. The ostrich has a habit of running in a curve, which alone enables horsemen to overtake and kill or capture her. As in Job 39:13 a comparison seems to be drawn between the ostrich and the stork, so here, probably, the subject spoken of is the stork. Swift and powerful as the ostrich is, yet no sooner does the stork, on the contrary, rise on high into the air than she—as, indeed, any bird—can baffle the pursuit of horsemen.
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?(19) Thunder—i.e., with terror, such as thunder causes. Some refer it to the moving or shaking of the mane.
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.(20) Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?—Rather, Hast thou made him to leap as a locust?
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.(21) He paweth . . . he rejoiceth.—The first verb is plural, and the second singular. “They paw” (literally, dig), and “he rejoiceth.”
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.(24) Neither believeth he—i.e., he disregardeth the summons of the trumpet, as though he did not believe that it gave the call to war.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.(25) He saith among the trumpets—Literally, when there are plenty of trumpets: 1 e., as often as the trumpet soundeth.
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?(26) Doth the hawk fly?—The more symmetrical order of these descriptions would be for the ostrich to have come after the war-horse and before the hawk; in that case there would have been a gradual transition from the fleetest of quadrupeds to the fleetest of birds by means of the ostrich, which, though winged like a bird, cannot use its wings as birds do, but only run on the ground like a quadruped.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.(30) Where the slain are, there is she.—Comp. Matthew 24:28, and Luke 17:37.