Job 39:13
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
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(13) Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?—Rather, The wing of the ostrich is superb, but are her pinions and her feathers like the stork’s? Ostrich feathers are said to be worth from £8 to £15 a pound; but, beautiful and valuable as they are, they are hardly like the plumage of a bird, and are not so used for flight; on the contrary, the ostrich runs like a quadruped, it is stated at the rate sometimes of fifty or sixty miles an hour.

Job 39:13. Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? — The subject now changes from beasts to birds. There is no Hebrew in the text for gavest thou, and Bochart, who says of this verse, Vix ullus sit Scripturæ locus qui minus intelligatur, There is, perhaps, scarce any passage of Scripture which is less understood, “seems to have proved beyond dispute,” says Dr. Dodd, “that the word rendered peacocks,” רננים, renanim, “signifies ostriches, and the following description entirely agrees with that opinion. Mr. Heath renders the verse, The wing of the ostrich is triumphantly expanded, though the strong pinion be the portion of the stork and the falcon. Dr. Shaw renders the verse, The wing of the ostrich is quivering, or expanded, the very feathers and plumage of the stork; and he observes, that the warming the eggs in the dust, or sand, is by incubation. In commenting on these verses it may be observed, says the doctor, that when the ostrich is full grown, the neck, particularly of the male, which before was almost naked, is now very beautifully covered with red feathers. The plumage likewise upon the shoulders, the back, and some parts of the wings, from being hitherto of a dark grayish colour, becomes as black as jet, while the rest of the feathers retain an exquisite whiteness. They are, as described Job 39:13, the very feathers and plumage of the stork; that is, they consist of such black and white feathers as the stork, called from thence πελαργος, is known to have. But the belly, the thighs, and the breast, do not partake of this covering, being usually naked, and when touched are of the same warmth as the flesh of quadrupeds. Under the joint of the great pinion, and sometimes upon the lesser, there is a strong pointed excrescence, like a cock’s spur, with which it is said to prick and stimulate itself, and thereby acquire fresh strength and vigour whenever it is pursued.”

39:1-30 God inquires of Job concerning several animals. - In these questions the Lord continued to humble Job. In this chapter several animals are spoken of, whose nature or situation particularly show the power, wisdom, and manifold works of God. The wild ass. It is better to labour and be good for something, than to ramble and be good for nothing. From the untameableness of this and other creatures, we may see, how unfit we are to give law to Providence, who cannot give law even to a wild ass's colt. The unicorn, a strong, stately, proud creature. He is able to serve, but not willing; and God challenges Job to force him to it. It is a great mercy if, where God gives strength for service, he gives a heart; it is what we should pray for, and reason ourselves into, which the brutes cannot do. Those gifts are not always the most valuable that make the finest show. Who would not rather have the voice of the nightingale, than the tail of the peacock; the eye of the eagle and her soaring wing, and the natural affection of the stork, than the beautiful feathers of the ostrich, which can never rise above the earth, and is without natural affection? The description of the war-horse helps to explain the character of presumptuous sinners. Every one turneth to his course, as the horse rushes into the battle. When a man's heart is fully set in him to do evil, and he is carried on in a wicked way, by the violence of his appetites and passions, there is no making him fear the wrath of God, and the fatal consequences of sin. Secure sinners think themselves as safe in their sins as the eagle in her nest on high, in the clefts of the rocks; but I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord, #Jer 49:16". All these beautiful references to the works of nature, should teach us a right view of the riches of the wisdom of Him who made and sustains all things. The want of right views concerning the wisdom of God, which is ever present in all things, led Job to think and speak unworthily of Providence.The eagle and the hawk:

Is it by thy understanding that the hawk flieth,

And spreadeth his wings toward the south?

Is it at thy command that the eagle mounteth up,

And that he buildeth his nest on high?

He inhabiteth the rock and abideth there -

Upon the crag of the rock, and the high fortress.

From thence he spieth out his prey,

His eyes discern it from afar.

His young ones greedily gulp down blood;

And where the slain are, there is he.

13. Rather, "the wing of the ostrich hen"—literally, "the crying bird"; as the Arab name for it means "song"; referring to its night cries (Job 30:29; Mic 1:8) vibrating joyously. "Is it not like the quill and feathers of the pious bird" (the stork)? [Umbreit]. The vibrating, quivering wing, serving for sail and oar at once, is characteristic of the ostrich in full course. Its white and black feathers in the wing and tail are like the stork's. But, unlike that bird, the symbol of parental love in the East, it with seeming want of natural (pious) affection deserts its young. Both birds are poetically called by descriptive, instead of their usual appellative, names. Gavest thou: the style of this book is very concise, and some verb is manifestly wanting to supply the sense; and this seems to be fitly understood out of Job 39:19, where it is expressed. The goodly; or, triumphant; that wherein it triumpheth or prideth itself. Wings, or feathers; Heb. wing or feather. The peacock’s beauty lies in its tail; which may well enough be comprehended under this name, as it is confessed that the Latin word ala, which properly signifies a wing, is used by Martial and Claudian to express the peacock’s tail.

The peacocks; or, as some render it, to the ostrich, whose wings are much more great and goodly than those of the peacock. And for the other word in the next clause, which is rendered

ostrich, they translate it another way; for that the Hebrew word hasidah doth not signify an ostrich, seems plain from the mention and description of that bird, Psalm 104:17 Jeremiah 8:7 Lamentations 4:3 Zechariah 5:9, which doth not at all agree to the ostrich. And forasmuch as the following verses do evidently speak of the ostrich, and it is absurd to discourse of a bird which had not been so much as named, and consequently the name of it must be found in this verse, and there is no other word in this verse which bids so fair for it, it may seem probable that this word is not to be rendered the peacock, (though it be so taken by most,) but the ostrich. Nor is it likely that both the peacock and the ostrich should be crowded together into one verse, especially when all the following characters belong only to the latter of them. Add to this, that it is confessed, even by the Hebrew writers themselves, that there is a great uncertainty in the signification of the names of birds and beasts; and therefore it is not strange if many interpreters were mistaken in the signification of this word. Or

wings and feathers unto the ostrich: or, or the wings or feathers of the stork (or, or) the ostrich. Or, didst thou give (which may be repeated out of the former branch)

the wings and feathers to the stork? Or, verily (the particle im being oft used as a note of confirmation, as Psalm 59:16 63:7 Proverbs 3:34 23:18) it hath

wings and feathers like those of a stork; for so indeed they are, black and white like them. And this may be noted as a great and a remarkable work of God, that it should really have wings and feathers as other birds have, and particularly the stork, who comes nearest to it in bulk and colour, although otherwise, by its vast bulk, it might seem to be a beast rather than a bird, as it is also called by Aristotle, and Pliny, and others.

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?.... Rather "ostriches", as the Vulgate Latin and Tigurine versions render it; some render it, "the wing of those that exult is joyful", so Montanus; that is, of the ostriches; who, in confidence of their wings, exult and glory over the horse and his rider, Job 39:18; for peacocks are not remarkable for their wings, but for their tails; whereas the wings of the ostrich are as sails unto them, as several writers observe (k); and with which they rather run, or row, than fly: hence it is called by Plautus (l) "passer marinus", the sea sparrow: and the feathers of it are more goodly than those of the wings of the peacock; and besides, it is a question whether the peacock was where Job 54ed, and in his times; since it is originally from the Indies, and from thence it was brought to Judea in the times of Solomon; and was not known in Greece and Rome (m) until later ages. Alexander the Great, when he first saw them in India, was surprised at them; and yet Solon (n) speaks of them in his time as seen by him, which was at least two hundred years before Alexander; though at Rome not common in the times of Horace (o), who calls a peacock "rara avis"; and speaks of them as sold for a great price; but ostriches were well known in Arabia, where Job 54ed, as is testified by Xenophon (p), Strabo (q), and Diodorus Siculus (r). Moreover, what is said in the following verses is only true of the ostrich, and that only is spoken of here and there, as it follows;

or wings and feathers unto the ostrich; or whose wings and feathers are like the storks; and so Bochart renders the words, truly they have "the wing and feather of the stork"; the colours of which are black and white, from whence it has its name (s) in Greek; and so Leo Africanus (t) says of the ostriches, that they have in their wings large feathers of a black and white colour; and this was a creature well known in Arabia (u), in which Job 54ed.

(k) Xenophon. de Expedit. Cyri, l. 1. Aelian. de. Animal. l. 2. c. 77. (l) Persa, Acts 2. Sc. 2. v. 17. (m) Aelian. de Animal. l. 5. c. 21. (n) Laert. Vit. Solon. l. 1. c. 2.((o) Sermon. l. 2. Sat. 2. v. 25, 26. Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 20. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 3. c. 13. (p) Ut supra. (Xenophon. de Expedit. Cyri, l. 1.) (q) Geograph. l. 16. p. 531. (r) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133. (s) Suidas in voce (t) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 766. (u) Diodor. Sicul. ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133.)

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
13. The verse reads,

The wing of the ostrich beats joyously,

Is it a kindly pinion and feather?

The word rendered ostrich means lit. crying or wailing, that is, the cryer or wailer; the female ostrich is probably meant, see on ch. Job 30:29. The word “kindly,” lit. pious, is the name given to the stork (Psalm 104:17), whose affection for its young is proverbial, and there may be in the term an allusion to this bird, which the ostrich in some points resembles externally, but from which it differs so strangely in disposition.

13–18. The ostrich.

Verse 13. - Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? rather, the wing of the ostrich (literally, of ostriches) is exultant; i.e. a thing that it glories in. The allusion is, perhaps, to the flapping of its wings by the ostrich, as it hurries over the ground, which is sore, thing like that of a cock before crowing or after beating an antagonist. Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? This clause is very obscure, but may perhaps mean, Are her feathers and plumage kindly? (see the Revised Version); i.e. does she use them for the same kindly purpose as other birds - to warm her eggs, and forward the process of hatching them? Job 39:1313 The wing of the ostrich vibrates joyously,

Is she pious, wing and feather?

14 No, she leaveth her eggs in the earth

And broodeth over the dust,

15 Forgetting that a foot may crush them,

And the beast of the field trample them.

16 She treateth her young ones harshly as if they were not hers;

In vain is her labour, without her being distressed.

17 For Eloah hath caused her to forget wisdom,

And gave her no share of understanding.

18 At the time when she lasheth herself aloft,

She derideth the horse and horseman.

As the wild ass and the ox-like oryx cannot be tamed by man, and employed in his service like the domestic ass and ox, so the ostrich, although resembling the stork in its stilt-like structure, the colour of its feathers, and its gregarious life, still has characteristics totally different from those one ought to look for according to this similarity. רננים, a wail, prop. a tremulous shrill sound (vid., Job 39:23), is a name of the female ostrich, whose peculiar cry is called in Arabic zimâr (זמר). נעלס (from עלס, which in comparison with עלץ, עלז, rarely occurs) signifies to make gestures of joy. אם, Job 39:13, is an interrogative an; חסידה, pia, is a play upon the name of the stork, which is so called: pia instar ciconiae (on this figure of speech, comp. Mehren's Rehtorik der Araber, S. 178). כּי, Job 39:14, establishes the negation implied in the question, as e.g., Isaiah 28:28. The idea is not that the hen-ostrich abandons the hatching of her eggs to the earth (עזב ל as Psalm 16:10), and makes them "glow over the dust" (Schlottm.), for the maturing energy compensating for the sitting of the parent bird proceeds from the sun's heat, which ought to have been mentioned; one would also expect a Hiph. instead of the Piel תּחמּם, which can be understood only of hatching by her own warmth. The hen-ostrich also really broods herself, although from time to time she abandons the חמּם to the sun.

(Note: It does, however, as it appears, actually occur, that the female leaves the work of hatching to the sun by day, and to the male at night, and does not sit at all herself; vid., Funke's Naturgeschichte, revised by Taschenberg (1864), S. 243f.)


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