Matthew Poole's Commentary
At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.God’s great works, lightning, thunder, snow, rain, winds, frosts, clouds, and his providences towards nations, whether for correction or mercy, call for reverence and fear, Job 37:1-14; as also his unsearchable wisdom in them, Job 37:15-18. We are ignorant, and cannot speak to God; but must fear him, who respecteth none, Job 37:19-24.
At this also, of which I have already spoken, and am now to speak further, to wit, the thunder, which hath ofttimes made even atheists and other wicked men to tremble with a fear of horror, and good men to tremble with a fear of reverence, and a due dread of God’s judgments.
Is moved out of his place; leaps and beats excessively, as if it would leap out of my body.
Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.It seems not improbable, that whilst Elihu was speaking it thundered greatly, and that tempest was begun wherewith God ushered in his speech, as it here follows, Job 38:1, and that this occasioned his return to that subject of which he had discoursed before, and his exhortation to them to mind it with deeper attention.
The noise of his voice; or, his voice (to wit, the thunder, which is called a voice, Exodus 20:18, and God’s voice, Psalm 29:4) with trembling; because the thunder is an effect or evidence of God’s mighty power, and ofttimes of his anger also. The sound that goeth out of his mouth; as the voice (and thunder is God’s voice) goeth out of man’s mouth. Or, that is produced by God’s word or command, which is oft signified by his mouth.
He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.He directeth it, to wit, his voice; which he shooteth or guideth like an arrow to the mark, so disposing it that it may do that work for which he sends it.
Under the whole heaven; far and wide through all the parts of this lower world.
Unto the ends of the earth; from one end of the heaven to the opposite end or part of the earth, as from east to west, Matthew 24:27.
After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.After it a voice, i.e. after the lightning. For though the thunder be in order of nature before the lightning, yet the lightning is seen before the thunder is heard.
With the voice of his excellency, or, with his excellent, or high, or lofted voice, both loud and full of majesty and awfulness.
He will not stay; or, delay. Heb. take them by the heel, as Jacob did Esau in the womb, to delay or stop him from entering into the world before him. Them; either,
1. The lightnings spoken of in the beginning of the verse. But these do not stay till his voice be heard, but come before it. Or rather,
2. The rains and storms, of which he spoke before, and will speak again, Job 37:6.
God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.Marvellously; with a wonderful and terrible noise, and so as to produce many wonderful effects, as the breaking down of great and strong trees or buildings, the killing of men in a stupendous manner, &c.
Great things doeth he, even in the course of nature, and in visible things; which all men see, but scarce any can give the true and satisfactory reasons of them; for the greatest philosophers speak only by guess, and are greatly divided among themselves about them. And therefore it is not strange if the secret and deep counsels of Divine Providence be out of our reach; and it is great arrogancy in thee, O Job, to censure them, because thou dost not fully understand them.
For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.By his powerful word and will the snow is made in the air, and falls upon the earth where and when he seeth fit.
The great rain of his strength, i.e. those great storms or showers of rain which come with great force and irresistible violence.
He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.By these great snows and rains he drives men out of the fields, and seals or binds tap their hands from all that work, and drives them home to their houses, and in a manner shuts them up there. See Genesis 7:16 Exodus 9:19. Or, by his hand or power (i.e. by those powerful works of his hand here mentioned) he sealeth, or shutteth up, or keepeth close every man, to wit, in his house, as the beasts in their dens, Job 37:8. That all men may know his work; that men being hindered from action and their own work, and so being idle and at perfect leisure, may fall to a serious contemplation of these and other great and glorious works of God. Or, that he (i.e. every man, as was now expressed)
may know (or inquire into, or take an account of) all his workmen; for which the proper season is when they are all hindered from their work, and brought together into the house.
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.Then, in great rains or deep snows, the beasts go into dens for shelter and comfort.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.Out of the south, Heb. out of the inner chamber; as the southern part of the world is called, because in a great part it was and is hid and unknown to those who live in the northern hemisphere, in which Job’s habitation lay. Or, out of the chambers of the south, as it is more largely expressed, Job 9:9; for this is opposed to the north in the following clause.
The whirlwind; violent and stormy winds which in those parts most frequently came-out of the south, whence they are called whirlwinds of the south, Zechariah 9:14. So also Isaiah 21:1.
Cold, i.e. cold and freezing winds, which generally come from that quarter.
By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.By the breath of God, i.e. by the word of God, as this very phrase is explained, Psalm 33:6; by his will or appointment, to which as the principal cause all these works are ascribed.
The breadth of the waters is straitened; the frost dries up the waters in great measure, and bringeth the remainder into a narrower compass, as we see.
Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:By watering, to wit, the earth; by causing them first to receive and return, and then to pour forth abundance of water.
He wearieth the thick cloud, by filling and burdening them with much water, and making them to go long journeys to water remote parts, and at last to spend and empty themselves there; all which things make men weary; and therefore are here said to make the clouds weary by a common figure called prosopopoeia.
He scattereth his bright cloud: as for the white and lightsome clouds, (which are opposed to the thick and black clouds in the former clause,) he scattereth and dissolveth them by the wind or sun. Or, he scattereth other clouds by his light, i.e. by the beams of the sun. So he gathereth some, and scattereth others, as he pleaseth, causing either clear, or dark and rainy weather.
And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.It is turned round about; the clouds (now mentioned) are carried about to this or that place.
By his counsels; not by chance, (though nothing seems to be more casual and uncertain than the motions of the clouds,) but by his order and governance.
That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them; either be dispersed and pass away without effect, to the disappointment of the husbandmen’s hopes, or be dissolved in sweet and fruitful showers.
He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.He causeth it to come, Heb. he maketh it (to wit, the cloud, or clouds, and the rain which is in it) to find, to wit, a path, or to find out the persons or place to which God intends either good or hurt by it.
For correction, Heb. for a rod, to scourge or correct men by immoderate showers. Or, for a tribe, or certain portion of land, which God intends particularly to punish in that kind.
For his land, i.e. for God’s land, whereby he understands either,
1. The land which he favoureth, and where his servants live, such as Canaan was, which for that reason God blessed with rain, as is noted, Deu 11:12 Psalm 68:9,10. But in Job’s time God’s people were not in Canaan, but in Egypt, where little or no rain fell. Or,
2. The uninhabited or desert parts of the world, which may be called God’s land peculiarly, because it is immediately and only under God’s care, as being not regarded nor possessed by any man. For it is noted as a special act of God’s providence, that he causeth rain to fall upon such places, Job 38:26,27. Or,
3. His earth, as it may be rendered, to wit, the whole earth, which is said to be the Lord’s, Psalm 24:50:12, and which may be here opposed to a tribe, or little part of the earth. And so this may note a general judgment by excessive rains inflicted upon the whole earth, and all its inhabitants, even the universal deluge, which then was in a manner of fresh memory, which came in a great measure out of the clouds. And thus these two first members speak of correction, and the last of mercy.
For mercy; for the comfort and benefit of mankind, by cooling and cleansing the air, and refreshing and improving all the fruits of the earth, and other ways.
Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.If there be so much matter of wonder and adoration in the most obvious and sensible works of God, how wonderful must his deep and secret counsels and judgments be! And therefore it would better become thee humbly to admire, and quietly to submit to them, than to murmur or quarrel with them.
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?When God disposed them, to wit, the things before mentioned, the clouds, rain, snow, thunder and lightning, and other meteors. Did God ask counsel from thee to acquaint thee with his counsels in the producing and ordering of them, when, and where, and in what manner he should dispose them? God ordereth all these things not as it pleaseth thee, but as he thinks meet; and in like manner he disposeth of all human affairs, and of thine among the rest.
Caused the light of his cloud to shine; which may be understood either,
1. Of the light of the sun breaking through the clouds, when it is most glorious and comfortable. But though this light break through the clouds, yet it is very improper to call it the light of the clouds. Or,
2. The lightning, which is properly so called, as being produced by and in a cloud. Or,
3. The rainbow, which is a lightsome and glorious work of God, and therefore not likely to be omitted in this place, and which is seated in a cloud, which also may well be called God’s cloud, because therein God puts his bow, as the rainbow is called, Genesis 9:13.
Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?The balancings; how God doth as it were weigh and suspend the clouds in balances; so that although they are ponderous and flail of water, yet they are by his power kept up in the thin air from falling down upon us in spouts and floods, as sometimes they have done, and generally would do, if not overruled by a higher Providence.
Which is perfect in knowledge; who exactly knows the weight. These are effects and evidences of his infinite power and knowledge.
How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?How and why thy garments keep thee warm; of which as there are some natural causes, so it is certain that they are not sufficient to do it without God’s blessing, as experience shows, Haggai 1:6.
The earth, i.e. the air about the earth.
By the south wind; which though sometimes it brings tempests, Job 37:9, yet commonly it ushereth in hot weather, Luke 12:55, as the north wind brings cold, Job 37:9. Or, from the south wind, i.e. from the tempest, which was noted to come out of the south, Job 37:9. Heb. from or
by the south, i.e. by the sun’s coming into the southern parts, which makes the air quiet and warm.
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?Wast thou his co-worker or assistant in spreading out the sky like a tent or canopy over the earth? or canst thou spread out such another sky? Then indeed thou mayst with some colour pretend to be privy to his counsels, and to judge of his works.
Which is strong; which though it be very thin and transparent, yet is also firm, and compact, and stedfast, and of great force when it is pent up.
As a molten looking-glass, made of brass or steel, as the manner then was.
Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.Unto him, i.e. unto God, either by way of apology for thee; or rather, by way of debate and disputation with him about his counsels and ways: about which we know not what to say, and therefore are willing to be taught by thee, who pretendest to such exquisite knowledge of these matters. So it is a reproof of his presumption and arrogance.
We cannot order our speech; we know neither with what words or matter, nor in what method and manner, to maintain discourse with him, or plead against him. The words our speech are easily understood out of the former clause of the verse.
By reason of darkness; both because of the darkness of the matter, God’s counsels and ways being a great depth, and far out of our reach; and because of the darkness or blindness of our minds.
Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.That I speak, Heb. that I will speak. Shall I send, or who dare carry, a challenge from me to God, or a message that I am ready and desirous to debate with him concerning his proceedings? This indeed thou hast done in effect, but far be such presumption from me.
If a man speak; if a man should be so bold and venturous to enter the lists with God.
He shall be swallowed up with the sense of God’s infinite majesty and spotless purity.
And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.And; or, for, as this particle is oft rendered; the following words containing a reason of those which go before.
Now: this particle is either,
1. A note of time, and so it intimates a sudden change which then was in the weather, which having been very dark, began now to clear up; or rather,
2. A note of inference to usher in the argument. Men see not; either,
1. Do not observe (as seeing is oft used) nor consider these glorious works of God; or,
2. Cannot behold, or at least not gaze upon it.
In the clouds; or, in the skies; for the Hebrew word signifies both clouds and skies. This is to be understood, either,
1. Of bright and lightsome clouds; or rather,
2. Of the sun, which is oft and emphatically called light, as was noted before, and here the bright light; which men ofttimes cannot behold, either when it is covered with a black and thick cloud; or when, as it follows, the sky is very clear, and consequently the sunshine is very bright. And therefore it is not strange if we cannot see God, who dwelleth in darkness, 1 Kings 8:12, nor discern his counsels and ways, which are covered with great obscurity; and if we dare not approach to him, with whom is, as it here follows, terrible majesty; and if we presume to do so, we must needs be swallowed up, as was said, Job 37:20.
But the wind passeth; or rather, when (as this particle is used) the wind passeth. Cleanseth them; earlier the clouds, i.e. cleanseth the air from them; or the skies, by driving away those clouds which darkened it.
Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.Fair weather; or, when (which particle may well be understood out of, the foregoing verse; and so this may be a further description of the time when men cannot see or gaze upon the sun, namely, when) fair weather, &c. Heb. gold; either,
1. Properly. And so this may be noted as another wonderful work of God, that the choicest of metals, to wit, gold, should be found in and fetched out of the bowels of cold northern countries. Or,
2. Metaphorically, as this word is oft used of bright and shining things; as we read of golden oil, Zechariah 4:12, and we call happy times golden days. And so bright and fair weather may well be called golden, because then the sun gilds the air and earth with its beams, which also are called by poets golden beams.
Out of the north, i.e. from the northern winds, which scatter the clouds, and clear the sky, Proverbs 25:23.
With God is terrible majesty; and therefore we neither can nor may approach too near to him, nor speak presumptuously or irreverently to him, or of him. And so this is the application of what he had now said, that we could not see the sun, &c, much less God; and withal it is an epiphonema or conclusion of the whole foregoing discourse. Those glorious works of his which I have described, are testimonies of that great and terrible majesty which is in him; which should cause us to fear and reverence him, and not to behave ourselves so insolently towards him, as Job hath done.
Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.We cannot find him out, to wit, to perfection, as it is expressed, Job 11:7. We cannot comprehend him; his being, power, wisdom, justice, and his counsels proceeding from them, are past our finding out; and therefore it is most absurd and intolerable that thou, O Job, presumest to censure what thou dost not understand.
He is excellent in power; and therefore as he doth not need any unrighteous action to advance himself, so he cannot do it, because all such things are acts and evidences of impotency or weakness.
In judgment, i.e. in the just and righteous administration of judgment, as this word is oft used, and as the thing itself and the following words plainly evince. And this he adds, to intimate that although God had indeed a power to crush Job, or any other man, yet he never did nor can exercise that power unjustly or tyrannically, as Job seemed to insinuate.
In plenty of justice; in great and perfect justice, such as no man can justly reproach.
He will not afflict, to wit, without just cause, and above measure; as it may and must be limited, both from the foregoing words, and from Job’s complaint, which was of that very thing; and from the nature of the thing, because otherwise this proposition, that God
will not afflict, is not simply and universally true. Or these last words may be joined with the former; and so some render the place,
he is excellent in power, and, or but, or
yet, he will not afflict any man with judgment and much (i.e. too much)
justice, i.e. with extremity or rigour of justice.
Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.Men do therefore fear him; for this cause, to wit, because of God’s infinite and excellent perfections, and especially those mentioned in the foregoing verse, men do or should (for the future tense is oft used potentially, as Hebricians know) fear or reverence him, and humbly submit to him, and not presume to quarrel or dispute with him, as thou, O Job, hast done.
He respecteth not, Heb. he doth not, or will not behold, to wit, with respect or approbation; he beholdeth them afar off with scorn and contempt.
Any that are wise of heart, i. e. such as are wise in their own eyes, that lean to their own understandings, and despise all other men in comparison of themselves, and scorn all their counsels; that are so puffed up with the opinion of their own wisdom, that they dare contend with their Maker, and presume to censure his counsels and actions; which he hereby intimates to be Job’s fault, and to be the true reason why God did not respect nor regard him, nor his prayers and tears, as Job complained. And so this is also a tacit advice and exhortation to Job to be humble and little ill his own eyes, if ever he expected or desired any favour from God.