Know you the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or can you mark when the hinds do calve?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Job 39:1-2. Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock —
Which dwell in high and steep rocks, where no man can come; bring forth? — Which they do with great difficulty, as is implied, Psalm 29:9, and observed by naturalists, and in which they have no help save from God only. “Vain man, who wouldest so fain pry into my secrets! Didst thou ever climb the rocks to see the wild goats bring forth? Or hast thou assisted at the hard labour of the hinds, and helped to ease them of their burdens?” Canst thou number the months that they fulfil, &c. — “Dost thou know the moment of their conception? Or keepest an account when they will be delivered?” — Patrick. The questions here, as Bochart argues, do not relate to a mere idle and speculative knowledge of the particular time when the wild goats bring forth, or the hinds calve, and the months they fulfil, (which by common observation might easily be found out,) but to the various circumstances thereof, and that divine and providential oversight and care by which God not only knows all things, but directs and governs them. For this reason, he supposes that the LXX interpreters render the clause, εφυλαξας δε ωδινας ελαφων, Hast thou observed, or guarded the bringing forth of the hinds? Without the custody of God, (as he argues,) who preserves with the utmost care whatever he has once created, this kind of wild goats must quickly fail, amidst the numberless dangers to which they are exposed, both from hunters and from savage beasts; not to mention how often the dams themselves bring their young into the utmost peril. To this he subjoins St. Chrysostom’s observation, namely, how properly the word εφυλαξας is here applied, because the wild goat being always on the flight, in fear and agony, continually leaping and prancing about; why does it not produce mere abortions, instead of bringing any of its young to maturity? No other reason can be assigned than the wonderful providence of God, in the preservation of the dams and their young. We have also an account, in Bochart, from Aristotle, Pliny, &c., of the pregnant hinds’ receiving great assistance in parturition from the herb seselis, to which they are directed by instinct, and the eating of which greatly forwards their delivery. To all which may be added what we read in Psalm 29:9, concerning thunder, or the voice of the Lord, which יחולל אילות, jecholel, aijaloth, (the very words in our text,) maketh the hinds to calve: that is, (as the same learned writer observes,) among the many wonderful effects of thunder this is one, that those wild beasts, which with difficulty bring forth their young at other times, upon the hearing of it are immediately delivered; the terror they are thereby thrown into being so great as to have a strong effect on those parts which have need to be relaxed. See Chappelow.
The providence of God is over them; and in the periods of their lives when they seem most to need attention, when every shepherd and herdsmen is most solicitous about his flocks and herds, then God is present, and his care is seen in their preservation. The particular point in the inquiry here is, not in regard to the time when these animals produced their young or the period of their gestation, which might probably be known, but in regard to the attention and care which was needful for them when they were so far removed from the observance of man, and had no human aid. The "wild goat of the rock" here referred to, is, doubtless, the Ibex, or mountain goat, that has its dwellings among the rocks, or in stony places. The Hebrew term is יעל yâ‛êl, from יעל ya‛al, "to ascend, to go up." They had their residence in the lofty rocks of mountains; Psalm 104:18. "The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats."
Hebrew "For the goats of the rocks" - סלעים יעלים yâ‛êliym sela‛iym. So in 1 Samuel 24:2 (3), "Saul went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats;" that is, where were the wild goats - היעלים hayâ‛êliym. For a description of the wild goat, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. i. Lib. iii. c. xxiii. The animal here referred to is, doubtless, the same which Burckhardt saw on the summit of Mount Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai, and which he thus describes in his Travels in Syria, p. 571: "As we approached the summit of the mountain (Catharine, adjacent to Mount Sinai), we saw at a distance a small flock of mountain goats feeding among the rocks. One of our Arabs left us, and by a widely circuitous route endeavored to get to the leeward of them, and near enough to fire at them. He enjoined us to remain in sight of them, and to sit down in order not to alarm them. He had nearly reached a favorable spot behind a rock, when the goats suddenly took to flight. They could not have seen the Arab, but the wind changed, and thus they smelt him. The chase of the beden, as the wild goat is called, resembles that of the chamois of the Alps, and requires as much enterprise and patience. The Arabs make long circuits to surprise them, and endeavor to come upon them early in the morning, when they feed.
The goats have a leader who keeps watch, and on any suspicious smell, sound, or object, makes a noise, which is a signal to the flock to make their escape. They have much decreased of late, if we may believe the Arabs; who say that fifty years ago, if a stranger came to a tent, and the owner of it had no sheep to kill, he took his gun and went in search of a beden. They are, however, even now more common here than in the Alps, or in the mountains to the east of the Red Sea. I had three or four of them brought to me at the convent, which I bought at three-fourths of a dollar each. The flesh is excellent, and has nearly the same flavor as that of the deer. The Bedouins make water bags of their skins, and rings of their horns, which they wear on their thumbs. When the beden is met with in the plains, the dogs of the hunters easily catch him; but they cannot come up with him among the rocks, where he can make leaps of 20 feet."
Or Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? - The reference here is to the special care and protection of God manifested for them. The meaning is, that this animal seems to be always timid and apprehensive of danger, and that there is special care bestowed upon an animal so defenseless in enabling it to rear its young. The word hinds denotes the deer, the fawn, the most timid and defenseless, perhaps, of all animals.
1. Even wild beasts, cut off from all care of man, are cared for by God at their seasons of greatest need. Their instinct comes direct from God and guides them to help themselves in parturition; the very time when the herdsman is most anxious for his herds.
wild goats—ibex (Ps 104:18; 1Sa 24:2).
hinds—fawns; most timid and defenseless animals, yet cared for by God.Of the wild goats and hinds, Job 39:1-4; the wild ass, Job 39:5-8; the unicorn, Job 39:9-12; the peacock, stork, and ostrich, Job 39:13-18; the horse, Job 39:19-25; the hawk; the eagle, Job 39:26-30. These creatures, not fully known to Job, or governed by him, are sufficient to convince him that he is no fit judge of the counsels of God.
or canst thou mark the time when the hinds do calve? that is, precisely and exactly, and so as to direct, order, and manage, and bring it about, as the Lord does: and it is wonderful that they should calve, and not cast their young before their time, when they are continually in flight and fright, through men or wild beasts, and are almost always running and leaping about; and often scared with thunder, which hastens birth, Psalm 29:9; otherwise the time of their bringing forth in general is known by men, as will be observed in Job 39:2.Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. canst thou mark] Rather, dost thou. The goats of the rock are the mountain goats, a species of chamois.
Ch. Job 39:1-4. The goats of the rock and the hinds.Verses 1-30. - This chapter completes the survey of animate nature begun at Job 38:39. The habits and instincts of the wild goat, the wild ass, and wild cattle are first noticed (vers. 1-12); then a transition is made to the most remarkable of birds, the ostrich (vers. 13-18). Next, the horse is described, and, as it were, depicted, in a passage of extraordinary fire and brilliancy (vers. 19-25). Finally, a return is made to remarkable birds, and the habits of the hawk and eagle obtain mention (vers. 26-30). Throughout, the object is to show the infinite wisdom of God, and the utter incompetence of man to explain the mysteries of nature. Verse 1. - Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? The wild goats of Western Asia are of two kinds, the Capra segagrus, and the Asiatic ibex, or Capra Sinaitica. The latter is probably the animal here intended, which is called yael sela, "the wild goat of the rocks," and was known to the Assyrians as ya-e-li. It is an animal with large rough horns curving backwards, closely allied to the steinbock, or bouquetin, of the Swiss and Tyrolian Alps. It is very shy and wild, difficult of approach, and inhabiting only the most rocky and desolate tracts of Syria and Arabia. Representations of the animal, which was hunted by the Assyrian kings, are common upon the Ninevite monuments (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 140. Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? "The hinds" here are probably the females of the species of ibex intended. The clause is therefore a mere repetition, in other words, of the preceding one.
That an overflow of waters may cover thee?
35 Dost thou send forth lightnings, and they go,
And say to thee: Here we are?
36 Who hath put wisdom in the reins,
Or who hath given understanding to the cock?
37 Who numbereth the strata of the clouds with wisdom
And the bottles of heaven, who emptieth them,
38 When the dust flows together into a mass,
And the clods cleave together?
As Job 38:25 was worded like Job 28:26, so Job 38:34 is worded like Job 22:11; the ך of תכסך is dageshed in both passages, as Job 36:2, Job 36:18, Habakkuk 2:17. What Jehovah here denies to the natural power of man is possible to the power which man has by faith, as the history of Elijah shows: this, however, does not come under consideration here. In proof of divine omnipotence and human feebleness, Elihu constantly recurs to the rain and the thunder-storm with the lightning, which is at the bidding of God. Most moderns since Schultens therefore endeavour, with great violence, to make טחות and שׂכרי mean meteors and celestial phenomena. Eichh. (Hirz., Hahn) compares the Arabic name for the clouds, tachâ (tachwa), Ew. Arab. ḍiḥḥ, sunshine, with the former; the latter, whose root is שׂכה (סכה), spectare, is meant to be something that is remarkable in the heavens: an atmospheric phenomenon, a meteor (Hirz.), or a phenomenon caused by light (Ew., Hahn), so that e.g., Umbr. translates: "Who hath put wisdom in the dark clouds, and given understanding to the meteor?" But the meaning which is thus extorted from the words in favour of the connection borders closely upon absurdity. Why, then, shall טחות, from טוּח, Arab. ṭı̂ych, oblinere, adipe obducere, not signify here, as in Psalm 51:8, the reins (embedded in a cushion of fat), and in fact as the seat of the predictive faculty, like כּליות, Job 19:27, as the seat of the innermost longing for the future; and particularly since here, after the constellations and the influences of the stars have just been spoken of, the mention of the gift of divination is not devoid of connection; and, moreover, as a glance at the next strophe shows, the connection which has been hitherto firmly kept to is already in process of being resolved?
If טחות signifies the reins, it is natural to interpret שׂכוי also psychologically, and to translate the intellect (Targ. I, Syr., Arab.), or similarly (Saad., Gecat.), as Ges., Carey, Renan, Schlottm. But there is another rendering handed down which is worthy of attention, although not once mentioned by Rosenm., Hirz., Schlottm., or Hahn, according to which שׂכוי signifies a cock, gallum. We read in b. Rosch ha-Schana, 26a: "When I came to Techm-Kn-Nishraja, R. Simeon b. Lakish relates, the bride was there called נינפי and the cock שׂכוי, according to which Job 38:36 is to be interpreted: שׂכוי equals תרנגול." The Midrash interprets in the same way, Jalkut, 905, beginning: "R. Levi says: In Arabic the cock is called סכוא." We compare with this, Wajikra rabba, c. 1: "סוכו is Arabic; in Arabia a prophet is called סכוא;" whence it is to be inferred that שׂכוי, as is assumed, describes the cock as a seer, as a prophet.
As to the formation of the word, it would certainly be without parallel (Ew., Olsh.) if the word had the tone on the penult., but Codd. and the best old editions have the Munach by the final syllable; Norzi, who has overlooked this, at least notes שׂכוי with the accent on the ult. as a various reading. It is a secondary noun, Ges. 86, 5, a so-called relative noun (De Sacy, Gramm. Arabe, 768): שׂכרי, speculator, from שׂכו (שׂכוּ, שׂכה), speculatio, as פּלאי, Judges 13:18 (comp. Psalm 139:6), miraculosus, from פּלא, a cognate form to the Chald. סכוי (סכואה), of similar meaning. In connection with this primary signification, speculator, it is intelligible how סכוי in Samaritan (vid., Lagarde on Proverbs, S. 62) can signify the eye; here, however, in a Hebrew poet, the cock, of which e.g., Gregory says: Speculator semper in altitudine stat, ut quidquid venturum sit longe prospiciat. That this signification speculator equals gallus
(Note: No Arab. word offers itself here for comparison: tuchaj, a cock, has different consonants, and if Arab. škâ in the sense of Arab. šâk, fortem esse, were to be supposed, שׂכוי would be a synon. of גּבר, which is likewise a name of the cock.)
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