Job 38:14
It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) As clay to the seal.—In the darkness every object is without form and void, just as clay or wax, which has no distinctness of shape till the seal is applied, and then the impression is clear and manifest. So with the coming of the daylight after darkness. We should rather render, It is changed as clay under the seal, and all things stand forth as in their proper raiment.

Job 38:14. It is turned as clay to the seal — As the seal makes a beautiful impression upon the clay, which, in itself, hath no form or comeliness; so the earth, which in the darkness of the night lies like a confused heap, without either form or beauty, has quite a new face put upon it by the return of the morning light, and appears in excellent order and glory. And they stand as a garment — That is, the twilight and morning stand, as it were, dressed in a beautiful and magnificent garment. Or the meaning is, that the men and things of the earth, whether natural, as living creatures, herbs, and trees; or artificial, as houses or other buildings, present themselves to our view, as if covered and adorned with elegant and beautiful clothing.38:12-24 The Lord questions Job, to convince him of his ignorance, and shame him for his folly in prescribing to God. If we thus try ourselves, we shall soon be brought to own that what we know is nothing in comparison with what we know not. By the tender mercy of our God, the Day-spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those that sit in darkness, whose hearts are turned to it as clay to the seal, 2Co 4:6. God's way in the government of the world is said to be in the sea; this means, that it is hid from us. Let us make sure that the gates of heaven shall be opened to us on the other side of death, and then we need not fear the opening of the gates of death. It is presumptuous for us, who perceive not the breadth of the earth, to dive into the depth of God's counsels. We should neither in the brightest noon count upon perpetual day, nor in the darkest midnight despair of the return of the morning; and this applies to our inward as well as to our outward condition. What folly it is to strive against God! How much is it our interest to seek peace with him, and to keep in his love!It is turned as clay to the seal - A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Schultens enumerates no less than twenty, and of course it is not easy to determine the meaning. The Septuagint renders it, "Didst thou take clay of the earth, and form an animal, and place on the earth a creature endowed with speech?" Though this would agree well with the connection, yet it is a wide departure from the Hebrew. The reference is, undoubtedly, to some effect or impression produced upon the earth by the light of the morning, which bears a resemblance, in some respects, to the impression produced on clay by a seal. Probably the idea is, that the spreading light serves to render visible and prominent the forms of things, as the seal when impressed on clay produces certain figures.

One form of a Babylonian seal was an engraved cylinder, fixed on an axle, with a handle in the manner of a garden roller, which produced the impression "by being rolled on the softened wax. Mr. Rich (Second Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon, p. 59) remarks, "The Babylonian cylinders are among the most interesting and remarkable of the antiques. They are from one to three inches in length; some are of stone, and others apparently of paste or composition of various kinds. Sculptures from several of these cylinders have been published in different works. Some of them have cuneiform writing," (for the "arrow-headed" character, p. 48), "but it has the remarkable peculiarity that it is reversed, or written from right to left, every other kind of cuneiform writing being incontestably to be read from left to right. This can only be accounted for by supposing that they were intended to roll off impressions. The cylinders are said to be chiefly found in the ruins of Jabouiga. The people of America are fond of using them as amulets, and the Persian pilgrims who came to the shrines of Ali and Hossein frequently carry back with them some of these curiosities."

It may be observed, also, in the explanation of the passage, that clay was often used for the purpose of a seal in Oriental countries. The manner in which it was used was to daub a mass of it over the door or lock of a house, a caravansera, a room, or any place where anything valuable was deposited, and to impress upon it a rude seal. This indeed would not make the goods safe from a robber, but it would be an indication that the place is not to be entered, and show that if it had been entered it was by violence; compare Matthew 27:66. This impression on clay would be produced by the "revolving" or Babyionian seal, by turning it about, or rolling it on clay, and thus bringing the figures out prominently, and this will explain the passage here. The passing of the light over the earth in the morning, seems to be like rolling a cylinder-seal on soft clay. It leaves distinct impressions; raises up prominent figures; gives form and beauty to what seemed before a dark undistinguished mass. The word rendered "it is turned" (תתהפך tithâphak), means properly "it turns itself" - and the idea is that, like the revolving seal, it seems to roll over the face of the earth, and to leave a distinct and beautiful impression. Before, the face of the earth was obscure. Nothing, in the darkness of the night, could be distinguished. Now, when the dawn arises and the light spreads abroad, the figures of hills, and trees, and tents, and cities, rise before it as if a seal had been rolled on yielding clay. The image is one, therefore, of high poetic character, and of great beauty. If this be the correct interpretation, the passage does not refer to the revolution of the earth on its axis, or to any change in appearance or form which it assumes when the wicked are shaken out of it, as Schultens supposes, but to the beautiful change in appearance which the face of the earth seems to undergo when the aurora passes over it.

And they stand as a garment - This passage is perhaps even more difficult than the former part of the verse. Prof. Lee renders it, "And that men be set up as if accoutred for battle," and according to him the idea is, that people, when the light shines, set themselves up for the prosecution of their designs. Coverdale renders it, "Their tokens and weapons hast thou turned like clay, and set them up again as the changing of a garment." Grotius supposes it means that things by the aurora change their appearance and color like a variegated garment. The true idea of the passage is probably that adopted by Schultens, Herder, Umbreit, Rosenmuller, and Noyes, that it refers to the beautiful appearance which the face of nature seems to put on when the morning light shines upon the world. Before, all was dark and undistinguished. Nature seemed to be one vast blank, with no prominent objects, and with no variety of color. When the light dawns on the earth, the various objects - the hills, trees, houses, fields, flowers, seem to stand forth, or to raise themselves up (יתיצבו yityâtsabû), and to put on the appearance of gorgeous and variegated vestments. It is as if the earth were clothed with beauty, and what was before a vast blank were now arrayed in splendid vestments. Thus understood, there is no need of supposing that garments were ever made, as has been sometimes supposed, with so much in-wrought silver and gold that they would "stand upright themselves." It is a beautiful conception of poetry - that the spreading light seems to clothe the dark world with a gorgeous robe, by calling forth the objects of creation from the dull and dark uniformity of night to the distinctness of day.

14. Explaining the first clause of Job 38:13, as Job 38:15 does the second clause. As the plastic clay presents the various figures impressed on it by a seal, so the earth, which in the dark was void of all form, when illuminated by the dayspring, presents a variety of forms, hills, valleys, &c.

turned—(Hebrew, "turns itself") alludes to the rolling cylinder seal, such as is found in Babylon, which leaves its impressions on the clay, as it is turned about; so the morning light rolling on over the earth.

they stand—The forms of beauty, unfolded by the dawn, stand forth as a garment, in which the earth is clad.

It, to wit, the earth, mentioned in the next foregoing verse.

Is turned; is transformed and changed in its shape and appearance.

To the seal, or, by the seal, which makes a beautiful or valuable impression upon that clay, which in itself hath no form, nor worth, nor comeliness in it. So the earth, which in the darkness of the night lies like a confused heap, without either form or beauty, when the light ariseth and shineth upon it, appears in excellent order and great glory.

They; either,

1. The inhabitants of the earth, and particularly the wicked, mentioned both in the foregoing and following verses. Or,

2. More generally, the men and things of the earth, whether natural, as living creatures, herbs, and trees, &c.; or artificial, as houses or other buildings.

Stand, i. e. present themselves to our view, for which that posture of standing is most convenient. Or, consist, or abide, or are constituted.

As a garment; wherewith the earth is in a manner clothed and adorned as with a garment; as the blessed God himself is said to cover himself with light as with a garment, Psalm 104:2. It is turned as clay to the seal,.... As the clay receives a different form by the impress of the seal upon it, so the earth appears in a different manner by the spring of morning light upon it; in the darkness of the night nothing of its form and beauty is to be seen; it is a mere "tohu" and "bohu", like the chaos, Genesis 1:2; its rising hills, and spreading dales, and beautiful landscapes, cannot be observed with pleasure; but when the light breaks forth in the morning, it is seen in all its beauty and glory: of the change the light of the Gospel makes in men, see 2 Corinthians 3:18;

and they stand as a garment; or things stand upon it as a garment, as Mr. Broughton renders the words; herbs, plants, and trees, unseen in the night, stand up like a vesture to the earth in the morning light; and as they are clothed themselves, they are a garment to that, which now puts on another and beautiful habit; the pastures are clothed with flocks, and the valleys covered with corn, and the whole earth with light itself, as with a garment: and as beautifully do men made light in the Lord appear; see Isaiah 41:10.

It is turned as clay to the seal; {l} and they stand as a garment.

(l) The earth which seemed in the night to have no form by the rising of the sun, is as it were created anew, and all things in it clad with new beauty.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. Another charming figure. Under the light of morn the earth, which was formless in the darkness, takes shape like the clay under the seal.

It is changed as clay under the seal,

And they stand forth as a garment.

In the first clause the words are lit. as seal-clay. All things with clear-cut impression and vivid colouring stand forth under the light, and together form a various, many-coloured garment, in which the earth is robed.Verse 14. - It is turned as clay to the seal; rather, it changes as the clay of a seal. The seals of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and others were commonly impressed upon clay, and not upon wax (Lsyard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' pp. 153-156). As the seal changed the clay from a dull, shapeless lump to a figured surface, so the coming of the dawn changes the earth from an indistinct mass to one diversified with form and colour. As M. Renan explains, "L'aurore fair our la terre l'effet d'un sceau sur la torte sigillee, en dormant de laforme, et du relief, a la surface do l'univers, qui pendant la nuit est somme un chaos indistinct." And they stand as a garment; rather, and things stand out as a garment or as on a garment - a richly embroidered dress is intended, on which the pattern stands out in relief. 8 And who shut up the sea with doors,

When it broke through, issued from the womb,

9 When I put clouds round it as a garment,

And thick mist as its swaddling clothes,

10 And I broke for it my bound,

And set bars and doors,

11 And said: Hitherto come, and no further,

And here be thy proud waves stayed!?

The state of תהו ובהו was the first half, and the state of תהום the second half of the primeval condition of the forming earth. The question does not, however, refer to the תהום, in which the waters of the sky and the waters of the earth were as yet not separated, but, passing over this intermediate condition of the forming earth, to the sea, the waters of which God shut up as by means of a door and bolt, when, first enshrouded in thick mist (which has remained from that time one of its natural peculiarities), and again and again manifesting its individuality, it broke forth (גּיח of the foetus, as Psalm 22:10) from the bowels of the, as yet, chaotic earth. That the sea, in spite of the flatness of its banks, does not flow over the land, is a work of omnipotence which broke over it, i.e., restraining it, a fixed bound (חק as Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:29; Jeremiah 5:22, equals גּבוּל, Psalm 104:9), viz., the steep and rugged walls of the basin of the sea, and which thereby established a firm barrier behind which it should be kept. Instead of וּפה, Joshua 18:8, Job 38:11 has the Chethib וּפא. חק is to be understood with ישׁית, and "one set" is equivalent to the passive (Ges. 137*): let a bound be set (comp. שׁת, Hosea 6:11, which is used directly so) against the proud rising of thy waves.

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