Job 39:5
Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
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Job 39:5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free? — Who hath given him this disposition, that he loves freedom, and hates that subjection which other creatures quietly endure. Compare Job 11:12; Hosea 8:9; in which, and other places of Scripture, the wild ass is described as delighting in the wilderness; perverse and obstinate in his behaviour; running with great swiftness whither his lust, hunger, thirst, or other desires draw him. Who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? — That is, who keeps him from receiving the bands, and submitting to the service of man? Who hath made him so untractable and unmanageable? Which is the more strange because home-bred asses are so tame and tractable. The word ערוד, gnarod, here translated wild ass, is not the same with that used in the former clause, which is פרא, pere; and Rabbi Levi makes this difference between them, that the former means an animal found in the wilderness, which eateth herbs, and the latter, asinus agri vel sylvestris, the ass which frequents the cultivated grounds and woods, and is supported by their produce. Bochart, however, thinks they ought not to be distinguished, and that one and the same animal is meant in both places.

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 dog:

But now they who are younger than I have me in derision,

Whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the

Dogs of my flock. Job 30:1.

The jackal:

I am become a brother to the jackal,

And a companion to the ostrich. Job 30:29.

The mountain-goat and the hind:

Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?

Or canst thou observe the birth-throes of the hind?

Canst thou number the months that they fulfil?

Knowest thou the season when they bring forth?

They bow themselves; they give birth to their young;

They cast forth their sorrows.


5. wild ass—Two different Hebrew words are here used for the same animal, "the ass of the woods" and "the wild ass." (See on [552]Job 6:5; [553]Job 11:12; [554]Job 24:5; and [555]Jer 2:24).

loosed the bands—given its liberty to. Man can rob animals of freedom, but not, as God, give freedom, combined with subordination to fixed laws.

Who hath sent out the wild ass free? who hath given him this disposition, that he loves freedom, and avoids and hates that subjection which other creatures quietly and contentedly endure?

Who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? which is not to be understood privatively, as if God took off the bands which men had put upon him; but negatively, that he keeps him from receiving the bands and submitting to the service of man. Who hath made him so untractable and unmanageable? Which is the more strange, because home-bred asses are so tame and tractable.

Who hath sent out the wild ass free?.... Into the wide waste, where it is, ranges at pleasure, and is not under the restraint of any; a creature which, as it is naturally wild, is naturally averse to servitude, is desirous of liberty and maintains it: not but that it may be tamed, as Pliny (m) speaks of such as are; but it chooses to be free, and, agreeably to its nature, it is sent out into the wilderness as such: not that it is set free from bondage, for in that it never was until it is tamed; but its nature and inclination, and course it pursues, is to be free. And now the question is, who gave this creature such a nature, and desire after liberty? and such power to maintain it? and directs it to take such methods to secure it, and keep clear of bondage? It is of God;

or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? not that it has any naturally upon it, and is loosed from them; but because it is as clear of them as such creatures are, which have been in bands and are freed from them: therefore this mode of expression is used, and which signifies the same as before.

(m) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 44.

Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
5–8. The wild ass. Who gave the wild ass his freedom and his indomitable love of liberty—who scorns the noise of cities and laughs at the shouts of the driver, which his tame brother obeys? The point of the questions lies not only in the striking peculiarities of the beautiful creature itself, but in the strange contrast between it and the tame ass, which in external appearance it resembles.

Verse 5. - Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? Two kinds of onager or wild ass, seem to be intended - the one called pore' (פִרֶא), and the other 'arod (עָרוד). These correspond probably to the Asinus hemippus and the Asinus onager of modern naturalists, the former of which is still found in the deserts of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Northern Arabia, while the latter inhabits Western Asia from 48° southward to Persia, Beloochistan, and Western India. Sir H. A. Layard describes the former, which he saw, as a "beautiful animal, in fleetness equalling the gazelle, very wild, and of a rich fawn colour, almost pink" ('Nineveh and its Remains,' Vol. 1. p. 324). The latter (Asinus onager) was seen by Sir R. K. Porter in Persia ('Travels,' vol. 1. p. 460), and is described in very similar terms. The two, however, appear to be distinct species (see Dr. Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 3. pp. 19, 20, Appendix). Both animals are remarkable for extreme wildness; and all attempts to domesticate the young of either have hitherto failed. Job 39:5 5 Who hath sent forth the wild ass free,

And who loosed the bands of the wild ass,

6 Whose house I made the steppe,

And his dwelling the salt country?

7 He scorneth the tumult of the city,

He heareth not the noise of the driver.

8 That which is seen upon the mountains is his pasture,

And he sniffeth after every green thing.

On the wild ass (not: ass of the forest).

(Note: It is a dirty yellow with a white belly, single-hoofed and long-eared; its hornless head somewhat resembles that of the gazelle, but is much later; its hair has the dryness of the hair of the deer, and the animal forms the transition from the stag and deer genus to the ass. It is entirely distinct from the mah or baqar el-wahsh, wild ox, whose large soft eyes are so much celebrated by the poets of the steppe. This latter is horned and double-hoofed, and forms the transition from the stag to the ox distinct from the ri'm, ראם, therefore perhaps an antelope of the kind of the Indian nlgau, blue ox, Portax tragocamelus. I have not seen both kinds of animals alive, but I have often seen their skins in the tents of the Ruwal. Both kinds are remarkable for their very swift running, and it is especially affirmed of the fer that no rider can overtake it. The poets compare a troop of horsemen that come rushing up and vanish in the next moment to a herd of fer. In spite of its difficulty and hazardousness, the nomads are passionately given to hunting the wild ass, and the proverb cited by the Kms: kull es-sêd bigôf el-ferâ (every hunt sticks in the belly of the fer, i.e., compared with that, every other hunt is nothing), is perfectly correct. When the approach of a herd, which always consists of several hundred, is betrayed by a cloud of dust which can be seen many miles off, so many horsemen rise up from all sides in pursuit that the animals are usually scattered, and single ones are obtained by the dogs and by shots. The herd is called gemı̂le, and its leader is called ‛anûd (ענוּד),as with gazelles. - Wetzst.)

In Hebr. and Arab. it is פּרא (ferâ or himâr el-wahsh, i.e., asinus ferus), and Aram. ערוד; the former describes it as a swift-footed animal, the latter as an animal shy and difficult to be tamed by the hand of man; "Kulan" is its Eastern Asiatic name. lxx correctly translates: τίς δὲ ἐστιν ὁ ἀφεὶς ὄνον ἄγριον ἐλεύθερον. חפשׁי is the acc. of the predicate (comp. Genesis 33:2; Jeremiah 22:30). Parallel with ערבה (according to its etymon perhaps, land of darkness, terra incognita) is מלחה, salt adj. or (sc. ארץ) a salt land, i.e., therefore unfruitful and incapable of culture, as the country round the Salt Sea of Palestine: that the wild ass even gladly licks the salt or natron of the desert, is a matter of fact, and may be assumed, since all wild animals that feed on plants have a partiality, which is based on chemical laws of life, for licking slat. On Job 39:8 Ew. observes, to render יתוּר as "what is espied" is insecure, "on account of the structure of the verse" (Gramm. S. 419, Anm.). This reason is unintelligible; and in general there is no reason for rendering יתוּר, after lxx, Targ., Jer., and others, as an Aramaic 3 fut. with a mere half vowel instead of Kametz before the tone equals יתוּר, which is without example in Old Testament Hebrew (for יהוּא, Ecclesiastes 11:3, follows the analogy of יהי), but יתוּר signifies either abundantia (after the form יבוּל, לחוּם Job 20:23, from יתר, Arab. wtr, p. 571) or investigabile, what can be searched out (after the form יקוּם, that which exists, from תּוּר, Arab. târ, to go about, look about), which, with Olsh. 212, and most expositors, we prefer.

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