Job 38:31
Can you bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
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(31) The sweet influences.—With reference to their supposed effect on weather and the like, or perhaps the word means chain or band, with allusion to their group—“Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.” The context, however, of “the bands of Orion” seems rather to favour the other view. “Canst thou regulate the influences exerted by these several constellations in either direction of increase or diminution?”

Job 38:31. Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades? — Generally understood of the seven stars, which, rising about the time of the vernal equinox, bring in the spring. Canst thou restrain or hinder their influences? Or loose the bands of Orion? — By which it binds up the air and earth, rising in November, and bringing in the winter, attended with storms of rain and hail, or frost and snow. See note on Job 9:9. Whatever be the meaning of the words rendered Pleiades and Orion, the sense of which is disputed among the learned; by the former, כימה, chimah, we are to understand the sign which appears in the heavens at the spring of the year: and by the latter, כסיל, chesil, the sign which presents itself when the season is cold and severe: and the plain interpretation of the passage is, Is it in thy power to hinder either the mild or the rigid seasons of the year from making their regular appearance? Both summer and winter will have their course; God indeed can change them when he pleases, can make the spring cold, and so bind the influences of Pleiades and the winter warm, and so loose the bands of Orion, but we cannot.38:25-41 Hitherto God had put questions to Job to show him his ignorance; now God shows his weakness. As it is but little that he knows, he ought not to arraign the Divine counsels; it is but little he can do, therefore he ought not to oppose the ways of Providence. See the all-sufficiency of the Divine Providence; it has wherewithal to satisfy the desire of every living thing. And he that takes care of the young ravens, certainly will not be wanting to his people. This being but one instance of the Divine compassion out of many, gives us occasion to think how much good our God does, every day, beyond what we are aware of. Every view we take of his infinite perfections, should remind us of his right to our love, the evil of sinning against him, and our need of his mercy and salvation.It would seem from these passages, that the allusion to the clusters of stars here, is made to them as the harbingers of certain seasons. "It is well known, that, in different regions of the earth, the appearance of certain constellations before sunrise or after sunset, marks the distinction of seasons, and regulates the labors of the farmer." Wemyss. It is also known that the appearance of certain constellations - as Orion - was regarded by mariners as denoting a stormy and tempestuous season of the year. See Job 9:7-9, notes; and Job 38:31-33, notes. This seems to be the knowledge of the constellations referred to here, and there is no certain evidence that the observation of the heavens in the time of Job had gone beyond this.

A somewhat curious use has been made of the reference to the stars in the book of Job, by an attempt to determine the time when he lived. Supposing the principal stars here mentioned to be those of Taurus and Scorpio, and that these were the cardinal constellations of spring and autumn in the time of Job, and calculating their positions by the precession of the equinoxes, the time referred to in the book of Job was found to be 818 years after the deluge, or 184 years before the birth of Abraham. "This calculation, made by Dr. Brinkley of Dublin, and adopted by Dr. Hales, had been made also in 1765 by M. Ducontant in Paris, with a result differing only in being forty-two years less." The coincidence is remarkable, but the proof that the constellations referred to are Taurus and Scorpio, is too uncertain to give much weight to the argument.


The intimations about the structure, the size, and the support of the earth, are also very obscure, and the views entertained would seem to have been very confused. Language is used, doubtless, such as would express the popular belief, and it resembles that which is commonly employed in the Scriptures. The common representation is, that the heavens are stretched out as a curtain or tent, or sometimes as a solid concave sphere in which the heavenly bodies are fixed (see the notes at Isaiah 34:4), and that the earth is an immense plain, surrounded by water, which reached the concave heavens in which the stars were fixed. Occasionally, the earth is represented as supported by pillars, or as resting on a solid foundation; and once we meet with an intimation that it is globular, and suspended in space.

In the following passages the earth and the sky are represented as supported by pillars:

He shaketh the earth out of her place,

And the pillars thereof tremble. Job 9:6

The pillars of heaven tremble,

And are astonished at his rebuke. Job 31:11.

In the latter passage the reference is to mountains, which seem to uphold the sky as pillars, in accordance with the common and popular representation among the ancients. Thus Mount Atlas, in Mauritania, was represented as a pillar on which heaven was suspended:

"Atlas' broad shoulders prop th' incumbent skies,

Around his cloud-girt head the stars arise,"

In the following passage the earth is represented as suspended on nothing, and there would seem to be a slight evidence that the true doctrine about the form of the earth was then known:


31. sweet influences—the joy diffused by spring, the time when the Pleiades appear. The Eastern poets, Hafiz, Sadi, &c., describe them as "brilliant rosettes." Gesenius translates: "bands" or "knot," which answers better the parallelism. But English Version agrees better with the Hebrew. The seven stars are closely "bound" together (see on [550]Job 9:9). "Canst thou bind or loose the tie?" "Canst thou loose the bonds by which the constellation Orion (represented in the East as an impious giant chained to the sky) is held fast?" (See on [551]Job 9:9). Bind, i.e. restrain or hinder them. Canst thou bind or shut up the earth when they open it?

The sweet influences; or, the delights; because this constellation by its benign and opening influences brings in the spring, the herbs and flowers, and other delights of the earth.

Pleiades, called also the Seven Stars. Of this and the following constellation, see Job 9:9.

The bands; by which it binds up the air and earth, by bringing storms of rain or hail, or frost and snow; and withal binds or seals the hands of workmen, as is noted, Job 37:7.

Orion: this is another constellation, which riseth in November, and brings in winter. So the sense of the verse is, Thou canst not bind the earth when the one looseth or openeth it, nor loose or open it when the other binds or shutteth it up. Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,.... Of which See Gill on Job 9:9; and this constellation of the seven stars which is meant, rising in the spring, the pleasantnesses of the season, as the word may be rendered, may be intended here; which cannot be restrained or hindered from taking place in the proper course of the year; which is beautifully described in Sol 2:12; and may in a spiritual sense relate to the effects of powerful and efficacious grace, the influences of which are irresistible, and cause a springtime in the souls of men, where it was before winter, a state of darkness, deadness, coldness, hardness, and unfruitfulness, but now the reverse. Some versions read, "the bands of the Pleiades" (l), as if the sense was, canst thou gather and bind, or cluster together, such a constellation as the seven stars be, as I have done? thou canst not; and so not stop their rising or hinder their influences, according to the other versions:

or loose the bands of Orion? of which See Gill on Job 9:9 and Amos 5:8. This constellation appears in the winter, and brings with it stormy winds, rain, snow, and frost, which latter binds up the earth, that seeds and roots in it cannot spring up; and binds the hands of men from working, by benumbing them, or rendering their materials or utensils useless; for which reasons bands are ascribed to Orion, and are such strong ones that it is not in the power of men to loose: the seasons are not to be altered by men; and, Job might be taught by this that it was not in his power to make any change in the dispensations of Providence; to turn the winter of adversity into the spring of prosperity; and therefore it was best silently to submit to the sovereignty of God, and wait his time for a change of circumstances.

(l) , Sept. "nexus stellarum", Schmidt; so Jarchi and Targum.--According to the Talmud, the word signifies an hundred stars. Vid. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 58. 2.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences {q} of Pleiades, or loose the bands of {r} Orion?

(q) Which rise when the sun is in Taurus, which is the spring, and brings flowers.

(r) Which comes in winter.

31. canst thou bind] Rather, dost thou bind? The questions addressed to Job, throughout the chapter, mean in general, Is it he that effects what is observed to be done? not, Can he undo what is done, or do what is not done? Hence the questions here imply that the Pleiades are bound and that Orion is loosed, and Job is asked whether it be he that binds in the one case and looses in the other.

the sweet influences] The idea suggested by “influences” is that man’s life on the earth is ruled by the stars, as Shakespeare calls the moon

the moist star,

Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire hangs.

There is, however, no trace of this idea in the original word. Those who retain this translation suppose the reference to be to the genial influence of spring, of which this cluster of stars, when appearing before the sun in the east, was a joyful herald. Such a reference is too remote; neither does it allow any just meaning to “bind.” Besides, the exegetical tradition is that the word rendered “sweet influences “has the same sense as “bands” in the second clause (so Sept. δεσμόν), as the parallelism requires. The verse rather means,

Dost thou bind the bands of the Pleiades,

Or loose the cords of Orion?

It is not certain that these are the stars meant, and the allusions are obscure. As “loosing the cords” or bands of Orion cannot mean dissolving the constellation and separating its stars from one another, so, if the parallelism is exact, “binding the bands” of the Pleiades ought not to refer to the fact that the stars of this constellation always appear as a group in the same form, although this is the idea which most writers consider to be expressed. The word in the second clause, being from a root always meaning to draw (ch. Job 41:1, Isaiah 5:18, Hosea 11:4), ought to have some such sense as cords,—that by which anything is drawn, rather than that by which it is bound. The reference is probably to the motion of the constellation in the heavens. An Arabic poet, bewailing the slowness of the hours of a night of sorrow, says that, in their immobility and tardiness to turn towards their setting-place, “its stars seem bound by cords to a rock.” The same poet, however, compares the Pleiades, including perhaps Orion under the name, when it appears upon the horizon, to a girdle studded with jewels; and some have supposed that the sense in the present passage is similar, rendering, Dost thou bind into a band (or fillet) the Pleiades? This is an improbable conceit. So far as the mere language is concerned, the first clause most naturally refers to some star or constellation which appears bound to one place, whether it be that it stands always high in the heavens or is unable to rise much above the horizon; and the second clause to some star or group whose motion in the heavens is free, whether it be that it is able to rise high or that it sets and disappears.

31–38. The direction of the regular movements of the heavens, and their influence upon the earth.Verse 31. - Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades? (On the almost certain identification of the Hebrew Kirnah with the Pleiades, see the comment on Job 9:9.) Whether the "sweet influences" of the constellation are here spoken of is very doubtful. Schultens and Professor Lee support the rendering; but most critics prefer to translate the word employed (מעדנים) by "chains" or "fastenings" (Rashi, Kimchi, Rosenmuller, Dillmann, Canon Cook). If we adopt this view, we must suppose the invisible links which unite the stars into a constellation to be intended. Job is asked whether he can draw the links nearer together, and bind the stars closer to one another. Or loose the bands of Orion? The identity of Kesil with Orion is generally allowed. Job is asked if he can loosen the tie which unites the several members of this constellation together. Of course, he can pretend to no such powers. 22 Hast thou reached the treasures of the snow,

And didst thou see the treasures of the hail,

23 Which I have reserved for a time of trouble,

For the day of battle and war?

24 Which is the way where the light is divided,

Where the east wind is scattered over the earth?

25 Who divideth a course for the rain-flood

And the way of the lightning of thunder,

26 That it raineth on the land where no one dwelleth,

On the tenantless steppe,

27 To satisfy the desolate and the waste,

And to cause the tender shoot of the grass to spring forth?

The idea in Job 38:22 is not that - as for instance the peasants of Menn, four hours' journey from Damascus, garner up the winter snow in a cleft of the rock, in order to convey it to Damascus and the towns of the coast in the hot months - God treasures up the snow and hail above to cause it to descend according to opportunity. אצרות (comp. Psalm 135:7) are the final causes of these phenomena which God has created - the form of the question, the design of which (which must not be forgotten) is ethical, not scientific, is regulated according to the infancy of the perception of natural phenomena among the ancients; but at the same time in accordance with the poet's task, and even, as here, in the choice of the agents of destruction, not merely hail, but also snow, according to the scene of the incident. Wetzstein has in his possession a writing of Muhammed el-Chatb el-Bosrwi, in which he describes a fearful fall of snow in Hauran, by which, in February 1860, innumerable herds of sheep, goats, and camels, and also many human beings perished.

(Note: Since the Hauranites say of snow as of fire: jahrik, it burns (brlant in French is also used of extreme cold), Job 1:16 might also be understood of a fall of snow; but the tenor of the words there requires it to be understood of actual fire.)


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