Job 38:33
Know you the ordinances of heaven? can you set the dominion thereof in the earth?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(33) The ordinances of heaven.—Comp. Job 28:26. That is, the recurring seasons and their power of influencing the earth.

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.Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? - The laws or statutes by which the motions of the heavenly bodies are governed. These were wholly unknown in the time of Job, and the discovery of some of those laws - for only a few of them are yet known - was reserved to be the glory of the modern system of astronomy. The suggestion of the great principles of the system gave immortality to the name Copernicus; and the discovery of those laws in modern times has conferred immortality on the names of Brahe, Kepler, and Newton. The laws which control the heavenly bodies are the most sublime that are known to man, and have done more to impress the human mind with a sense of the majesty of God than any other: discoveries made in the material universe. Of course, all those laws were known to God himself, and he appeals to them in proof of his greatness and majesty. The grand and beautiful movements of the heavenly bodies in the time of Job were fitted to produce admiration; and one of the chief delights of those that dwelt under the splendor of an Oriental sky was to contemplate those movements, and to give names to those moving lights. The discoveries of science have enlarged the conceptions of man in regard to the starry heavens far toward immensity; have shown that these twinkling lights are vast worlds and systems, and at the same time have so disclosed the laws by which they are governed as to promote, where the heart is right, intelligent piety, and elevate the mind to more glorious views of the Creator.

Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? - That is, "dost thou assign the dominion of the heavens over the earth?" The reference is, undoubtedly, to the influence of the heavenly bodies upon sublunary objects. The exact extent of that cannot be supposed to have been known in the days of Job, and it is probable that much more was ascribed to the influence of the stars on human affairs than the truth would justify. Nor is its extent now known. It is known that the moon has an influence over the tides of the ocean; it may be that it has to some extent over the weather; and it is not impossible that the other heavenly bodies may have some effect on the changes observed in the earth which is not understood. Whatever it is, it was and is all known to God, and the idea here is, that it was a proof of his immense superiority over man.

33. ordinances—which regulate the alternations of seasons, &c. (Ge 8:22).

dominion—controlling influence of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, &c., on the earth (on the tides, weather) (Ge 1:16; Ps 136:7-9).

Knowest thou? either,

1. Simply, and by speculation, dost thou understand them? Or,

2. Practically, or operatively, so as to establish or rule them, as the next clause implies.

The ordinances of heaven; the laws, which are firmly established concerning their order, motion, or rest and their powerful influences upon this lower world. Didst thou give these laws? or dost thou perfectly know them?

Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? canst manage and overrule their influences, that they shall bring such seasons and such weather as thou wouldst have? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?.... Settled by the decree, purpose, and will of God, and are firm and stable; see Psalm 148:6; the laws and statutes respecting their situation, motion, operation, influence, and use, which are constantly observed; these are so far from being made by men, and at their direction, that they are not known by them, at least not fully and perfectly;

canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? or over it; of the heavens over the earth; not such an one as judicial astrologers ascribe unto them, as to influence the bodies of men, especially the tempers and dispositions of their minds; to affect their wills and moral actions, the events and occurrences of their lives, and the fate of nations and kingdoms; their dominion is not moral and civil, but physical or natural, as to make the revolutions of night and day, and of the several seasons of the year; and to affect and influence the fruits of the earth, &c. see Genesis 1:16; but this dominion is solely under God, and at his direction, and is not of men's fixing.

Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the {u} dominion thereof in the earth?

(u) Can you cause the heavenly bodies to have any power over the earthly bodies?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
33. canst thou set] Rather, as before, dost thou set? The idea is that the heavens and the stars exercise an influence over the earth and the destinies of man.Verse 33. - Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? i.e. the physical laws by which the course of nature is governed (comp. Psalm 119:90, 91; Psalm 148:6). The general prevalence of law in the material world is quite as strongly asserted by the sacred writers as by modern science. The difference is that modern science regards the laws as physical necessities, self-subsisting, while Scripture looks upon them as the ordinances of the Divine will. This latter view involves, of course, the further result that the Divine will can at any time suspend or reverse any of its enactments. Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? If Job does not even know the laws whereby the world is governed, much less can he establish such laws himself, and make them work. 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.)

continued...

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