God thunders marvelously with his voice; great things does he, which we cannot comprehend.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend - That is, not only in regard to the thunder and the tempest, but in other things. The description of the storm properly ends here, and in the subsequent verses Elihu proceeds to specify various other phenomena, which were wholly incomprehensible by man. The reference here to the storm, and to the other grand and incomprehensible phenomena of nature, is a most appropriate introduction to the manifestation of God himself as described in the next chapter, and could not but have done much to prepare Job and his friends for that sublime close of the controversy.
The passage before us Job 36:29-33; Job 37:1-5, is probably the earliest description of a thunderstorm on record. A tempest is a phenomenon which must early have attracted attention, and which we may expect to find described or alluded to in all early poetry. It may be interesting, therefore, to compare this description of a storm, in probably the oldest poem in the world, with what has been furnished by the masters of song in ancient and modern times, and we shall find that in sublimity and beauty the Hebrew poet will suffer nothing in comparison. In one respect, which constitutes the chief sublimity of the description. he surpasses them all: I mean in the recognition of God. In the Hebrew description. God is every where in the storm He excites it; he holds the lightnings in both hands; he directs it where he pleases; he makes it the instrument of his pleasure and of executing his purposes. Sublime, therefore, as is the description of the storm itself, furious as is the tempest; bright as is the lightning: and heavy and awful as is the roar of the thunder, yet the description derives its chief sublimity from the fact that "God" presides over all, riding on the tempest and directing the storm as he pleases. Other poets have rarely attempted to give this direction to the thoughts in their description of a tempest, if we may except Klopstock, and they fall, therefore, far below the sacred poet. The following is the description of a storm by Elihu, according to the exposition which I have given:
Who can understand the outspreading of the clouds,
And the fearful thunderings in his pavilion?
Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it;
He also covereth the depths of the sea.
By these he executeth judgment upon the people,
By these he giveth food in abundance.
With his hands he covereth the lightning,
And commandeth it where to strike.
He pointeth out to his friends -
The collecting of his wrath is upon the wicked.
At this also my heart palpitates,Marvellously; with a wonderful and terrible noise, and so as to produce many wonderful effects, as the breaking down of great and strong trees or buildings, the killing of men in a stupendous manner, &c.
Great things doeth he, even in the course of nature, and in visible things; which all men see, but scarce any can give the true and satisfactory reasons of them; for the greatest philosophers speak only by guess, and are greatly divided among themselves about them. And therefore it is not strange if the secret and deep counsels of Divine Providence be out of our reach; and it is great arrogancy in thee, O Job, to censure them, because thou dost not fully understand them. Psalm 29:5; and there are some things reported which seem almost incredible, were they not well attested facts; as that an egg should be consumed thereby, and the shell unhurt; a cask of liquor, the liquor in it spoiled, and the cask not touched; money melted in the purse, and the purse whole; the fetus in the womb killed, and the woman preserved; with other things of the like kind mentioned by various writers (d); and which are to be accounted for only by the swift motion and piercing and penetrating nature of lightning. So the voice of God in the Gospel thunders out and declares many wonderful things; as the doctrines of the trinity of Persons in one God; of the everlasting love of the three Persons; of the Person of Christ, and the union of the two natures in him; of his incarnation, of redemption and salvation by him; of regeneration by the spirit of God; of union to Christ, and communion with him; and of the resurrection of the dead: and it produces marvellous effects, attended with a divine power; as quickening sinners dead in trespasses and sins; enlightening those who are darkness itself; bearing down all opposition before it; casting down the strong holds of sin and Satan, and reducing the most stubborn and obstinate to the obedience of Christ;
great things doth he, which we cannot comprehend; or "know" (e): great things in creation, the nature and causes of which lie greatly out of the reach of man; and which he rather guesses at than knows, and still less comprehends. Great things in providence; in sustaining all creatures and providing for them; and in the government of the world, and in his dispensations in it; his judgments being unsearchable, and his ways past finding out: and great things in grace; as the salvation of sinners by Christ, and the conversion of their souls by his Spirit; and even what is known of them is known but in part and very imperfectly. This is a transition to other great things done by the Lord, besides those before mentioned, and particular instances follow.God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 5. - God thundereth marvellously with his voice. In finishing off his description of the thunderstorm, Elihu dwells upon its marvellousness. Each step in the entire process is strange and wonderful, beyond man's comprehension; and the lesson to be drawn from the consideration of the whole series of phenomena is that great things doeth he (i.e. God), which we cannot comprehend. Even after all that has been done of late years to advance the science of meteorolegy, it cannot be said that the rationale of storms is fully grasped by the scientific intellect
And the roots of the sea He covereth.
31 For thereby He judgeth peoples,
He giveth food in abundance.
32 Both hands He covereth over with light,
And directeth it as one who hitteth the mark.
33 His noise announceth Him,
The cattle even that He is approaching.
A few expositors (Hirz., Hahn, Schlottm.) understand the celestial ocean, or the sea of the upper waters, by ים, Job 36:30; but it is more than questionable (vid., on Job 9:8) whether ים is used anywhere in this sense. Others as (Umbr., Ew.) the masses of water drawn up to the sky out of the depths of the sea, on which a Persian passage cited by Stick. (who, however, regards the Waw of ושׁרשׁי as Waw adaequationis) from Schebisteri may be compared: "an exhalation rises up out of the sea, and comes down at God's command upon the deserts." In both cases כּסּה would be equivalent to כסה עליו, obtegit se, which in and of itself is possible. But he who has once witnessed a storm in the neighbourhood of the sea, will decide in favour of one of the three following explanations: (1.) He covereth the uprooted ground of the sea (comp. Psalm 18:15.) with the subsiding waves (Blumenf.); but then Job 36:30 would require to be understood of the light of the brightening sky following the darkness of the storm, which is improbable in respect of Job 36:32. (2.) While the sky is brilliantly lighted up by the lightning, the abysses of the ocean are veiled in a so much deeper darkness; the observation is correct, but not less so another, that the lightning by a thunder-storm, especially when occurring at night, descends into the depths of the sea like snares that are cast down (פּחים, Psalm 11:6), and the water is momentarily changed as it were into a sea of flame; accordingly it may be explained, (3.) Behold, He spreadeth over Himself His light (viz., the light which incessantly illumines the world), and the roots of the sea, i.e., the sea down to its depths, He covers with it, since He makes it light through and through (Stuhlm. Wolfs.). Thus, as it appears, Jerome also interprets: Et (si voluerit) fulgurare lumine suo desuper, cardines quoque maris operiet.
(Note: The Targ. translates אור, Job 36:30, Job 36:32, by מטרא, pluvia, according to the erroneous opinion of R. Jochanan: כל אורה שׁנאמר באליהוא אינו אלא בירידת גשׁמים. Aben-Ezra and Kimchi explain even עלי־אור, Isaiah 18:4, according to this passage. The lxx translates Job 36:30: ἰδοὺ ἐκτενεῖ ἐπ ̓ αὐτὸν ἠδώ (Cod. Alex. επ αυτον το τοξον; Cod. Sinait. επ αυτην ηωδη (with the corrections ηδω and τοξον), probably according to the reading אידו for אורו. But what connection have ἠδώ and rainbow?)
This, that He makes the light of the lightning His manifestation (פּרשׂ עליו), and that He covers the earth down to the roots of the sea beneath with this light, is established in Job 36:31 from the design, partly judicial, partly beneficial, which exists in connection with it. בּם refers as neuter (like בּהם, Job 22:21) to the phenomena of the storm; מכבּיר (with the adverbial ל like לרב, Job 26:3), what makes great equals a making great, abundance (only here), is n. hiphil. after the form משׁהית, perdens equals perditio. In Job 36:32 God is represented under a military figure as a slinger of lightnings: He covers light over both hands, i.e., arms both completely with light (comp. סכסך and Arab. škk, totum se operire armis), and directs it (עליה referring to אור as fem. like Jeremiah 13:16, and sometimes in the Talmud). But what is the meaning of בּמפגּיע? Hahn takes מפגיע as n. hiphil. like מכביר: an object of attack; but what then becomes of the original Hiphil signification? It ought to be בּמפגּע (Job 7:20), as Olsh. wishes to read it. Ew., Hirz., and others, after the example of Theod. (lxx), Syr., Jer., translate: against the adversary; מפגיע ;yrasre signifies indeed the opposite in Isaiah 49:16 : intercessor (properly, one who assails with prayers); however, it would be possible for this word, just as פגע c. acc. (which signifies usually a hostile meeting, Exodus 5:3 and freq., but sometimes also a friendly, Isaiah 47:3; Isaiah 64:4), to be an ἐναντιόσημον. We prefer to abide by the usage of the language as we have it, according to which הפגיע signifies facere ut quid incurset s. petat, Isaiah 53:6; מפגיע therefore is one who hits, in opposition to one who misses the mark. The Beth is the Beth essentiae (vid., on Job 23:13), used here like Exodus 6:3; Psalm 55:19; Isaiah 40:10. With both hands He seizes the substance of the lightning, fills them with it so that they are completely covered by it, and gives it the command (appoints it its goal), a sure aimer!
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