Job 39:18
What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.
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(18) She lifteth up herself.—That is, either from the nest when she comes to maturity, or when she sets out to run. The ostrich has a habit of running in a curve, which alone enables horsemen to overtake and kill or capture her. As in Job 39:13 a comparison seems to be drawn between the ostrich and the stork, so here, probably, the subject spoken of is the stork. Swift and powerful as the ostrich is, yet no sooner does the stork, on the contrary, rise on high into the air than she—as, indeed, any bird—can baffle the pursuit of horsemen.

Job 39:18. What time she lifteth up herself on high — Or, as Dr. Shaw more properly renders this clause, When she raiseth herself up to run away, namely, from her pursuers. For which purpose she stretches out her neck and legs, both which are very tall, lifts up her head and body, and spreads her wings; she scorneth the horse and his rider — She despiseth them on account of her greater swiftness; for though she cannot fly, because of her great bulk, yet by the aid of her wings she runs so fast, that horsemen cannot overtake her. Xenophon says, Cyrus’s horsemen, who were able to run down wild asses and wild goats, could never take ostriches. See Bochart. “When these birds are surprised,” says Dr. Shaw, “by persons coming suddenly upon them, while feeding in some valley, or behind some rocky or sandy eminence in the deserts, they will not stay to be curiously viewed and examined. Neither are the Arabs ever dexterous enough to overtake them, even when they are mounted upon their jinse, or horses. They afford them an opportunity only of admiring at a distance their extraordinary agility, and the stateliness, likewise, of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was of ascribing to them an expanded, quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more beautiful and entertaining than such a sight. The wings, by their repeated, though unwearied, vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars, while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue.” We have mentioned their great bulk, as unfitting them for flying, and shall here observe, from the Encyclop. Brit., that the “ostrich is, without doubt, the largest of all birds, being nearly eight feet in length, and, when standing upright, from six to eight feet in height. We are told, in the Gentleman’s Magazine, (vol. 20. page 356,) that two ostriches were shown in London in the year 1750, the male of which was ten feet in height, and weighed 3 cwt. and 1 qr. But, though usually seven feet high from the top of the head to the ground, from the back it is only four, so that the head and neck are above three feet long. One of the wings, without the feathers, is a foot and a half; and being stretched out with the feathers is three feet.”

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.What time she lifteth up herself on high - In the previous verses reference had been made to the fact that in some important respects the ostrich was inferior to other animals, or had special laws in regard to its habits and preservation. Here the attention is called to the fact that, notwithstanding its inferiority in some respects, it had properties such as to command the highest admiration. Its lofty carriage, the rapidity of its flight, and the proud scorn with which it would elude the pursuit of the fleetest coursers, were all things that showed that God had so endowed it as to furnish proof of his wisdom. The phrase "what time she lifteth up herself," refers to the fact that she raises herself for her rapid flight. It does not mean that she would mount on her wings, for this the ostrich cannot do; but to the fact that this timid and cowardly bird would, when danger was near, rouse herself, and assume a lofty courage and bearing. The word here translated "lifteth up" (תמריא tamâriy') means properly "to lash, to whip," as a horse, to increase its speed, and is here supposed by Gesenius to be used as denoting that the ostrich by flapping her wings lashes herself up as it were to her course. All the ancient interpretations, however, as well as the common English version, render it as if it were but another form of the word רום rûm, to raise oneself up, or to rise up, as if the ostrich aroused herself up for her flight. Herder renders it, "At once she is up, and urges herself forward." Taylor (in Calmet) renders it:

"Yet at the time she haughtily assumes courage;

She scorneth the horse and his rider."

The leading idea is, that she rouses herself to escape her pursuer; she lifts up her head and body, and spreads her wings, and then bids defiance to anything to overtake her.

She scorneth the horse and his rider - In the pursuit. That is, she runs faster than the fleetest horse, and easily escapes. The extraordinary rapidity of the ostrich has always been celebrated, and it is well known that she can easily outstrip the fleetest horse. Its swiftness is mentioned by Xenophon, in his Anabasis; for, speaking of the desert of Arabia, he says, that ostriches are frequently seen there; that none could overtake them; and that horsemen who pursued them were obliged soon to give over, "for they escaped far away, making use both of their feet to run, and of their wings, when expanded, as a sail, to waft them along." Marmelius, as quoted by Bochart (see above), speaking of a remarkable kind of horses, says, "that in Africa, Egypt, and Arabia, there is but one species of that kind which they call the Arabian, and that those are produced only in the deserts of Arabia. Their velocity is wonderful, nor is there any better evidence of their remarkable swiftness, than is furnished when they pursue the camel-bird."

It is a common sentiment of the Arabs, Boehart remarks, that there is no animal which can overcome the ostrich in its course. Dr. Shaw says, "Notwithstanding the stupidity of this animal, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. 'They, when they raise themselves up for flight, laugh at the horse and his rider.' They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility, and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded, quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more entertaining than such a sight; the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and for oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue." "Travels," 8vo., vol. ii. p. 343, as quoted by Noyes. The same representation is confirmed by the writer of a voyage to Senegal, who says," She sets off at a hand gallop; but after being excited a little, she expands her wings, as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground.

I am persuaded she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser" - Rob. Calmet. Buffon also admits that the ostrich runs faster than the horse. These unexceptionable testimonies completely vindicate the assertion of the inspired writer. The proofs and illustrations here furnished at considerable length are designed to show that the statements here made in the book of Job are such as are confirmed by all the investigations in Natural History since the time the book was written. If the statements are to be regarded as an indication of the progress made in the science of Natural History at the time when Job 54ed, they prove that the observations in regard to this animal had been extensive and were surprisingly accurate. They show that the minds of sages at that time had been turned with much interest to this branch of science, and that they were able to describe the habits of animals with an accuracy which would do the highest credit to Pliny or to Buffon. If, however, the account here is to be regarded as the mere result of inspiration, or as the language of God speaking and describing what he had done, then the account furnishes us with an interesting proof of the inspiration of the book. Its minute accuracy is confirmed by all the subsequent inquiries into the habits of the animal referred to, and shows that the statement is based on simple truth. The general remark may here be made, that all the notices in the Bible of the subjects of science - which are indeed mostly casual and incidental - are such as are confirmed by the investigations which science in the various departments makes. Of what other ancient book but the Bible can this remark be made?

18. Notwithstanding her deficiencies, she has distinguishing excellences.

lifteth … herself—for running; she cannot mount in the air. Gesenius translates: "lashes herself" up to her course by flapping her wings. The old versions favor English Version, and the parallel "scorneth" answers to her proudly "lifting up herself."

She lifteth up herself on high, to flee from her pursuer; to which end she lifteth up her head and body, and spreads her wings.

She scorneth the horse and his rider she despiseth them in regard of her greater swiftness; for though she cannot fly because of her great bulk, being said to be as big as a new-born camel, yet by the aid of her wings she runs so fast that horsemen cannot reach her, as both Greek and other authors have noted.

What time she lifted up herself on high,.... It is sometimes eight foot high (l); when alarmed with approaching danger she raises up herself, being sitting on the ground, and erects her wings for flight, or rather running;

she scorneth the horse and his rider; being then, as Pliny (m) says, higher than a man on horseback, and superior to a horse in swiftness; and though horsemen have been able to take wild asses and goats, very swift creatures, yet never ostriches, as Xenophon relates (n) of those in Arabia; and this creature has another method, when pursued, by which it defies and despises, as well as hurts and incommodes its pursuers, which is by casting stones backward at them with its feet as out of a sling (o).

(l) Philosoph. Transact. abridged, vol. 2. p. 360. (m) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 1.((n) De Expedit. Cyri, l. 1.((o) Plin. ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 1.) Aelian. de Animal. l. 4. c. 37.

What {l} time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.

(l) When the young ostrich is grown up, he outruns the horse.

18. lifteth up herself on high] That is, in flight. The flying of the ostrich is properly a very swift running, in which she is helped by her outspread wings and tail. “Its speed has been calculated at twenty-six miles an hour by Dr Livingstone, and yet the South African ostrich is smaller than the northern species; and I have myself, in the Sahara, measured its stride, when bounding at full speed, from twenty-two to twenty-eight feet” (Tristram, p. 237).

The cruel disposition of the ostrich and her foolishness have been implanted in her by God, yet in strange contradiction to these qualities are others which He has bestowed on her, such as her swiftness when pursued, which enables her to laugh at the horse and his rider. This singular union of dissimilar qualities, as if it were the work of creative power at play, shews both the inconceivable freedom and resource of the Mind that operates in creation.

Verse 18. - What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider. The ostrich sometimes tries to elude pursuit by crouching and hiding behind hillocks or in hollows, making itself as little conspicuous as possible; but, when these attempts fail, and it starts off to run in the open, then it "lifts itself up" to its full elevation, beats the air with its wings, and scours along at a pace that no horse can equal. The Greeks with Xenophon, though well mounted, failed to catch a single ostrich ('Anab.,' 1:5. § 3). Job 39:18The difficulty of הקשׁיח (from קשׁח, Arab. qsḥ, hardened from קשׁה, Arab. qsâ) being used of the hen-ostrich in the masc., may be removed by the pointing הקשׁיח (Ew.); but this alteration is unnecessary, since the Hebr. also uses the masc. for the fem. where it might be regarded as impossible (vid., Job 39:3, and comp. e.g., Isaiah 32:11.). Jer. translates correctly according to the sense: quasi non sint sui, but ל is not directly equivalent to כּ; what is meant is, that by the harshness of her conduct she treats her young as not belonging to her, so that they become strange to her, Ew. 217, d. In Job 39:16 the accentuation varies: in vain (לריק with Rebia mugrasch) is her labour that is devoid of anxiety; or: in vain is her labour (לריק( ruobal r with Tarcha, יגיעהּ with Munach vicarium) without anxiety (on her part); or: in vain is her labour (לריק with Mercha, יגיעה with Rebia mugrasch), yet she is without anxiety. The middle of these renderings (לריק in all of them, like Isaiah 49:4 equals לריק, Isaiah 65:23 and freq.) seems to us the most pleasing: the labour of birth and of the brooding undertaken in places where the eggs are put beyond the danger of being crushed, is without result, without the want of success distressing her, since she does not anticipate it, and therefore also takes no measures to prevent it. The eggs that are only just covered with earth, or that lie round about the nest, actually become a prey to the jackals, wild-cats, and other animals; and men can get them for themselves one by one, if they only take care to prevent their footprints being recognised; for if the ostrich observes that its nest is discovered, it tramples upon its own eggs, and makes its nest elsewhere (Schlottm., according to Lichtenstein's Sdafrik. Reise). That it thus abandons its eggs to the danger of being crushed and to plunder, arises, according to Job 39:17, from the fact that God has caused it to forget wisdom, i.e., as Job 39:17 explains, has extinguished in it, deprived it of, the share thereof (ב as Isaiah 53:12, lxx ἐν, as Acts 8:21) which it might have had. It is only one of the stupidities of the ostrich that is made prominent here; the proverbial ahmaq min en-na‛âme, "more foolish than the ostrich," has its origin in more such characteristics. But if the care with which other animals guard their young ones is denied to it, it has in its stead another remarkable characteristic: at the time when (כּעת here followed by an elliptical relative clause, which is clearly possible, just as with בּעת, Job 6:17) it stretches (itself) on high, i.e., it starts up with alacrity from its ease (on the radical signification of המריא equals המרה), and hurries forth with a powerful flapping of its wings, half running half flying, it derides the horse and its rider - they do not overtake it, it is the swiftest of all animals; wherefore Arab. '‛dâ mn 'l-dlı̂m ‛zalı̂m, equivalent to delı̂m according to a less exact pronunciation, supra, p. 582, note) and Arab. 'nfr mn 'l-n‛âmt, fleeter than the ostrich, is just as proverbial as the above Arab. 'ḥmq mn 'l-wa‛nat; and "on ostrich's wings" is equivalent to driving along with incomparable swiftness. Moreover, on תּמריא and תּשׂחק, which refer to the female, it is to be observed that she is very anxious, and deserts everything in her fright, while the male ostrich does not forsake his young, and flees no danger.

(Note: We take this remark from Doumas, Horse of the Sahara. The following contribution from Wetzstein only came to hand after the exposition was completed: "The female ostriches are called רננים not from the whirring of their wings when flapped about, but from their piercing screeching cry when defending their eggs against beasts of prey (chiefly hyaenas), or when searching for the male bird. Now they are called rubd, from sing. rubda (instead of rabdâ), from the black colour of their long wing-feathers; for only the male, which is called חיק (pronounce hêtsh), has white. The ostrich-tribe has the name of בּת יענה bat (Arab. bdt 'l-wa‛nat), 'inhabitant of the desert,' because it is only at home in the most lonely parts of the steppe, in perfectly barren deserts. Neshwn the Himjarite, in his 'Shems el-'olm' (MSS in the Royal Library at Berlin, sectio Wetzst. I No. 149, Bd. i.f. 110b), defines the word el-wa‛na by: ארץ ביצא לא תנבת שׁיא, a white (chalky or sandy) district, which brings forth nothing; and the Kms explains it by ארץ צלבּה, a hard (unfruitful) district. In perfect analogy with the Hebr. the Arabic calls the ostrich abu (and umm) es-sahârâ, 'possessor of the sterile deserts.' The name יענים, Lamentations 4:3, is perfectly correct, and corresponds to the form יעלים (steinbocks); the form פעל (Arab. f‛l) is frequently the Nisbe of פעל and פעלה, according to which יען equals בּת היענה and יעל equals בּת היּעלה, 'inhabitant of the inaccessible rocks.' Hence, says Neshwn (against the non-Semite Firzbdi), wa‛l (יעל and wa‛la) is exclusively the high place of the rocks, and wa‛il (יעל exclusively the steinbock. The most common Arabic name of the ostrich is na‛âme, נעמה, collective na‛âm, from the softness (nu‛ûma, נעוּמה) of its feathers, with which the Arab women (in Damascus frequently) stuff cushions and pillows. Umm thelâthin, 'mother of thirty,' is the name of the female ostrich, because as a rule she lays thirty eggs. The ostrich egg is called in the steppe dahwa, דּחוה (coll. dahû), a word that is certainly very ancient. Nevertheless the Hauranites prefer the word medha, מדחה. A place hollowed out in the ground serves as a nest, which the ostrich likes best to dig in the hot sand, on which account they are very common in the sandy tracts of Ard ed-Dehan (דהנא), between the Shemmar mountains and the Sawd (Chaldaea). Thence at the end of April come the ostrich hunters with their spoil, the hides of the birds together with the feathers, to Syria. Such an unplucked hide is called gizze (גזּה). The hunters inform us that the female sits alone on the nest from early in the day until evening, and from evening until early in the morning with the male, which wanders about throughout the day. The statement that the ostrich does not sit on its eggs, is perhaps based on the fact that the female frequently, and always before the hunters, forsakes the eggs during the first period of brooding. Even. Job 39:14 and Job 39:15 do not say more than this. But when the time of hatching (called el-faqs, פקץ) is near, the hen no longer leaves the eggs. The same observation is also made with regard to the partridge of Palestine (el-hagel, חגל), which has many other characteristics in common with the ostrich.

That the ostrich is accounted stupid (Job 39:17) may arise from the fact, that when the female has been frightened from the eggs she always seeks out the male with a loud cry; she then, as the hunters unanimously assert, brings him forcibly back to the nest (hence its Arabic name zalı̂m, 'the violent one'). During the interval the hunter has buried himself in the sand, and on their arrival, by a good shot often kills both together in the nest. It may also be accounted as stupidity, that, when the wind is calm, instead of flying before the riding hunters, the bird tries to hide itself behind a mound or in the hollows of the ground. But that, when escape is impossible, it is said to try to hide its head in the sand, the hunters regard as an absurdity. If the wind aids it, the fleeing ostrich spreads out the feathers of its tail like a sail, and by constantly steering itself with its extended wings, it escapes its pursuers with ease. The word המריא, Job 39:18, appears to be a hunting expression, and (without an accus. objecti) to describe this spreading out of the feathers, therefore to be perfectly synonymous with the תערישׁ (Arab. t'rı̂š) of the ostrich hunters of the present day. Thus sings the poet Rshid of the hunting race of the Sulubt: 'And the head (of the bride with its loosened locks) resembles the (soft and black) feathers of the ostrich-hen, when she spreads them out (‛arrashannâ). They saw the hunter coming upon them where there was no hiding-place, And stretched their legs as they fled.' The prohibition to eat the ostrich in the Thora (Leviticus 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15) is perhaps based upon the cruelty of the hunt; for it is with the rarest exceptions always killed only on its eggs. The female, which, as has been said already, does not flee towards the end of the time of brooding, stoops on the approach of the hunter, inclines the head on one side and looks motionless at her enemy. Several Beduins have said to me, that a man must have a hard heart to fire under such circumstances. If the bird is killed, the hunter covers the blood with sand, puts the female again upon the eggs, buries himself at some distance in the sand, and waits till evening, when the male comes, which is now shot likewise, beside the female. The Mosaic law might accordingly have forbidden the hunting of the ostrich from the same feeling of humanity which unmistakeably regulated it in other decisions (as Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6., Leviticus 22:28, and freq.).)

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