Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.
1. At this—when I hear the thundering of the Divine Majesty. Perhaps the storm already had begun, out of which God was to address Job (Job 38:1).
Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.
2. Hear attentively—the thunder (noise), &c., and then you will feel that there is good reason to tremble.
sound—muttering of the thunder.
He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.
3. directeth it—however zigzag the lightning's course; or, rather, it applies to the pealing roll of the thunder. God's all-embracing power.
ends—literally, "wings," "skirts," the habitable earth being often compared to an extended garment (Job 38:13; Isa 11:12).
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. The thunderclap follows at an interval after the flash.
stay them—He will not hold back the lightnings (Job 37:3), when the thunder is heard [Maurer]. Rather, take "them" as the usual concomitants of thunder, namely, rain and hail [Umbreit] (Job 40:9).
God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
5. (Job 36:26; Ps 65:6; 139:14). The sublimity of the description lies in this, that God is everywhere in the storm, directing it whither He will [Barnes]. See Ps 29:1-11, where, as here, the "voice" of God is repeated with grand effect. The thunder in Arabia is sublimely terrible.
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. Be—more forcible than "fall," as Umbreit translates Ge 1:3.
to the small rain, &c.—He saith, Be on the earth. The shower increasing from "small" to "great," is expressed by the plural "showers" (Margin), following the singular "shower." Winter rain (So 2:11).
He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.
7. In winter God stops man's out-of-doors activity.
sealeth—closeth up (Job 9:7). Man's "hands" are then tied up.
his work—in antithesis to man's own work ("hand") which at other times engages men so as to make them liable to forget their dependence on God. Umbreit more literally translates, That all men whom He has made (literally, "of His making") may be brought to acknowledgment."
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.
8. remain—rest in their lairs. It is beautifully ordered that during the cold, when they could not obtain food, many lie torpid, a state wherein they need no food. The desolation of the fields, at God's bidding, is poetically graphic.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.
9. south—literally, "chambers"; connected with the south (Job 9:9). The whirlwinds are poetically regarded as pent up by God in His southern chambers, whence He sends them forth (so Job 38:22; Ps 135:7). As to the southern whirlwinds (see Isa 21:1; Zec 9:14), they drive before them burning sands; chiefly from February to May.
the north—literally, "scattering"; the north wind scatters the clouds.
By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
10. the breath of God—poetically, for the ice-producing north wind.
straitened—physically accurate; frost compresses or contracts the expanded liquid into a congealed mass (Job 38:29, 30; Ps 147:17, 18).
Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
11-13. How the thunderclouds are dispersed, or else employed by God, either for correction or mercy.
by watering—by loading it with water.
wearieth—burdeneth it, so that it falls in rain; thus "wearieth" answers to the parallel "scattereth" (compare, see on Job 37:9); a clear sky resulting alike from both.
bright cloud—literally, "cloud of his light," that is, of His lightning. Umbreit for "watering," &c., translates; "Brightness drives away the clouds, His light scattereth the thick clouds"; the parallelism is thus good, but the Hebrew hardly sanctions it.
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. it—the cloud of lightning.
counsels—guidance (Ps 148:8); literally, "steering"; the clouds obey God's guidance, as the ship does the helmsman. So the lightning (see on Job 36:31, 32); neither is haphazard in its movements.
they—the clouds, implied in the collective singular "it."
face of the world, &c.—in the face of the earth's circle.
He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.
13. Literally, "He maketh it (the rain-cloud) find place," whether for correction, if (it be destined) for His land (that is, for the part inhabited by man, with whom God deals, as opposed to the parts uninhabited, on which rain is at other times appointed to fall, Job 38:26, 27) or for mercy. "If it be destined for His land" is a parenthetical supposition [Maurer]. In English Version, this clause spoils the even balance of the antithesis between the "rod" (Margin) and "mercy" (Ps 68:9; Ge 7:1-24).
Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.
14. (Ps 111:2).
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?
15. when—rather, "how."
disposed them—lays His charge on these "wonders" (Job 37:14) to arise.
shine—flash. How is it that light arises from the dark thundercloud?
Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?
16. Hebrew, "Hast thou understanding of the balancings," &c., how the clouds are poised in the air, so that their watery gravity does not bring them to the earth? The condensed moisture, descending by gravity, meets a warmer temperature, which dissipates it into vapor (the tendency of which is to ascend) and so counteracts the descending force.
perfect in knowledge—God; not here in the sense that Elihu uses it of himself (Job 36:4).
dost thou know—how, &c.
How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?
17. thy garments, &c.—that is, dost thou know how thy body grows warm, so as to affect thy garments with heat?
south wind—literally, "region of the south." "When He maketh still (and sultry) the earth (that is, the atmosphere) by (during) the south wind" (So 4:16).
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
18. with him—like as He does (Job 40:15).
spread out—given expanse to.
strong pieces—firm; whence the term "firmament" ("expansion," Ge 1:6, Margin; Isa 44:24).
molten looking glass—image of the bright smiling sky. Mirrors were then formed of molten polished metal, not glass.
Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.
19. Men cannot explain God's wonders; we ought, therefore, to be dumb and not contend with God. If Job thinks we ought, "let him teach us, what we shall say."
darkness—of mind; ignorance. "The eyes are bewilderingly blinded, when turned in bold controversy with God towards the sunny heavens" (Job 37:18) [Umbreit].
Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.
20. What I a mortal say against God's dealings is not worthy of being told Him. In opposition to Job's wish to "speak" before God (Job 13:3, 18-22).
if … surely he shall be swallowed up—The parallelism more favors Umbreit, "Durst a man speak (before Him, complaining) that he is (without cause) being destroyed?"
And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.
21. cleanseth—that is, cleareth the air of clouds. When the "bright light" of the sun, previously not seen through "clouds," suddenly shines out from behind them, owing to the wind clearing them away, the effect is dazzling to the eye; so if God's majesty, now hidden, were suddenly revealed in all its brightness, it would spread darkness over Job's eyes, anxious as he is for it (compare, see on Job 37:19) [Umbreit]. It is because now man sees not the bright sunlight (God's dazzling majesty), owing to the intervening "clouds" (Job 26:9), that they dare to wish to "speak" before God (Job 37:20). Prelude to God's appearance (Job 38:1). The words also hold true in a sense not intended by Elihu, but perhaps included by the Holy Ghost. Job and other sufferers cannot see the light of God's countenance through the clouds of trial: but the wind will soon clear them off, and God shall appear again: let them but wait patiently, for He still shines, though for a time they see Him not (see on Job 37:23).
Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.
22. Rather, "golden splendor." Maurer translates "gold." It is found in northern regions. But God cannot be "found out," because of His "Majesty" (Job 37:23). Thus the twenty-eighth chapter corresponds; English Version is simpler.
the north—Brightness is chiefly associated with it (see on Job 23:9). Here, perhaps, because the north wind clears the air (Pr 25:23). Thus this clause answers to the last of Job 37:21; as the second of this verse to the first of Job 37:21. Inverted parallelism. (See Isa 14:13; Ps 48:2).
with God—rather, "upon God," as a garment (Ps 104:1, 2).
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. afflict—oppressively, so as to "pervert judgment" as Job implied (see on Job 8:3); but see on Job 37:21, end of note. The reading, "He answereth not," that is, gives no account of His dealings, is like a transcriber's correction, from Job 33:13, Margin.
Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.
24. do—rather, "ought."
wise—in their own conceits.