At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.
Verses 1-24. - It has been already remarked that there is no natural division between ch. 36 and ch. 37. - the description of the thunderstorm and its effects runs on. From its effect on cattle, Elihu passes to its effect on man (vers. 1-5); and thence goes on to speak of other natural manifestations of God's power and marvellousness - snow, violent rain, whirlwind, frost, and the like (vers. 6-13). He then makes a final appeal to Job to acknowledge his own weakness and God's perfection and unsearchableness, and to bow down in wonder and adoration before him (vers. 14-24). Verse 1. - At this also; i.e. at the thunderstorm or at the particular crash mentioned in Job 36:33. My heart trembleth. A violent peal of thunder produces in almost all men a certain amount of nervous trepidation. Elihu seems to have been abnormally sensitive. His heart trembled so that it seemed to be moved out of his place.
Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.
Verse 2. - Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth; or, Hearken ye, hearken ye to the noise of his voice (comp. Psalm 77:18: 104:7; and below, vers. 4, 5). We need not suppose Elihu to speak otherwise than poetically. He does not, like the Indian of
"... untutored mind,
See God in clouds or hear him in the wind." He does not mean that the thunder is actually God's voice, but that it tells of him, reminds of him, brings naturally to men's minds the thought of his marvellous greatness and power, and should therefore be listened to with awe and trembling, not passed over lightly, like any other sound.
He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.
Verse 3. - He directeth it under the whole heaven. The reverberations of the thunderclap roll along the entire cloud-canopy, from one end of the heavens to the other, beginning often faint in the distance, then growing loud over our heads, finally sinking into low muttered rumblings on the far horizon. And his lightning unto the ends of the earth. Similarly, the lightning, though originating in a flash at some definite spot, sets the whole sky aglow, shining from side to side of the heavens, and, as it were, to the very "ends of the earth." Both have a character of universality which is marvellous, and which makes them fitting emblems of him of whom they are the messengers and ministers (see 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.
Verse 4. - After it a voice roareth. After the lightning-flash has been seen, the thunderclap comes. In their origin they are simultaneous; but, as light travels faster than sound, unless we are close to the flash, then is an interval, the thunder following on the lightning. He thundereth with the voice of his excellency (see the comment on ver. 2). And he will not stay them when his voice is heard. The words are plain, but the meaning is obscure. What will not God stay? His lightnings? His thunderings? His rain? His hail? There is no obvious antecedent. And in what sense will he not "stay" them? Some explain, "He will not slacken their speed; "others, "He will not cause them to Cease."
God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
Verse 5. - God thundereth marvellously with his voice. In finishing off his description of the thunderstorm, Elihu dwells upon its marvellousness. Each step in the entire process is strange and wonderful, beyond man's comprehension; and the lesson to be drawn from the consideration of the whole series of phenomena is that great things doeth he (i.e. God), which we cannot comprehend. Even after all that has been done of late years to advance the science of meteorolegy, it cannot be said that the rationale of storms is fully grasped by the scientific intellect
For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.
Verse 6. - For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth. The phenomenon of snow is always full of marvel to an Oriental. It comes before him so seldom; it is in itself so strange; it involves things so inexplicable as the sudden solidification of a liquid, crystallization, a marked expansion of bulk, and the sudden assumption by what was colourless of a definite and dazzling colour. In Arabia and the countries bordering on Palestine snow very seldom falls; but in Palestine itself the mountain ranges of Lebanon and Hermon are never without it; and in the region occupied by Job and his friends then is reason to believe that ice and snow were not altogether infrequent (see Job 6:16, and the comment ad loc). Likewise to the small rain; or, to the light shower of rain - "the spring rain," as the Chaldee paraphrast explains it. And to the great rain of his strength; or, "the heavy winter rain," according to the same authority. "The former and the latter rain" - the rain of winter, and the rain of spring - are often mentioned by the sacred writers (see Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7). God gave both, ordinarily, in due course.
He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.
Verse 7. - He sealeth up the hand of every man. In the winter season, when the snow falls, and the heavy rains pour down (ver. 6), God "seeleth up the hand of every man;" i.e. puts an end to ordinary out-of-doors labour, and establishes a time of pause or rest (comp. Homer, 'II.,' 17:549). He does this with the object that all men may know his work; i.e. that, during the time of their enforced idleness, men may have leisure for reflection, and may employ it in meditating upon him and his marvellous "work."
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.
Verse 8. Then (i.e. in winter) the beasts go into dens. The very beasts shut themselves up, and remain hidden in their places, i.e in their lairs, on account of the inclemency of the season.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.
Verse 9. - Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; rather, out of the secret chamber - the storehouse where God keeps his tempests. Nothing is said of "the south" here, though elsewhere, no doubt, whirlwinds are said to come especially from that quarter (see Isaiah 21:1 and Zechariah 9:14). And cold out of the north; rather, and cold from the scatterers. "The scatterers" seem to be the violent winds which clear the heavens of clouds, and bring in a clear frosty atmosphere. Or the word used may designate a constellation (comp. Job 38:32).
By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
Verse 10. - By the breath of God frost is given (comp. Psalm 147:16-18). "The breath of God," which is a metaphor for the will of God, causes alike both frost and thaw. And the breadth of the waters is straitened; or, congealed. A broad expanse of water is suddenly turned by frost into a stiff and solid mass.
Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
Verse 11. - Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud; rather, also with moisture he ladeth the thick cloud. Elihu returns from his description of the winter season to the more ordinary condition of things. Rain is the chief necessity of Eastern countries; and God is ever providing it, causing moisture to be drawn up from earth and sea, and safely lodged in the clouds, whence it descends, as needed, and as commanded by God, upon the fields and plains that man cultivates. He scattereth his bright cloud. Most commentators see a reference to lightning here; and it is possible, no doubt, that such a reference is intended. "His bright cloud" - literally, "the cloud of his light" - may mean "the cloud in which his lightning is stored." But perhaps no more is meant than that God spreads abroad over the earth the clouds on which his sunlight rests. The genial showers of spring fall generally from clouds that are, in part at any rate, steeped in the sun's rays.
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.
Verse 12. - And it is turned round about by his counsels, "It" (i.e. the cloud) is "turned round" (or directed in its course) "by his counsels," or under the guidance of his wisdom, and so conveys his rain whither he pleases. That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. There is no expressed antecedent to "they." Perhaps the showers are intended, or the atmospheric influences generally.
He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.
Verse 13. - He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. God has different purposes in directing the rain hither or thither. Sometimes his object is to punish by violent or excessive rainfall: sometimes it is to fertilize his own special land; sometimes it is out of kindness to men generally.
Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.
Verses 14-24. - Elihu ends with a personal appeal to Job, based on the statements which he has made. Can Job imagine that he understands the workings of God in nature? If not, how can he venture to challenge God to a controversy? Would it not be better to recognize that his ways are inscrutable? Verse 14. - Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Consider the marvels of God's works in nature, as I have set them forth to thee (Job 36:27-33; Job 37:2-13); the mysteries of evaporations, of cloud formation and accumulation, of thunder, of lightning, of snow and frost, of genial showers and fierce downpours, of summer and winter, of the former rain and the latter, of the gentle breeze and the whirlwind; and then say if thou comprehendest the various processes, and canst explain them, and make others to understand them (ver. 19). If not, shouldest thou not own, as we do, that "we cannot find him out" (ver. 23), cannot reach to the depths of his nature, and therefore are unfit to pronounce judgment on his doings?
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?
Verse 15. - Dost thou know when God disposed them; rather, disposes them - gives them their orders, arranges for their course and sequence? Or dost thou know when he caused (or rather, causes) the light of his cloud (either the lightning, or perhaps the rainbow, as Schultens suggests) to shine Thou canst not pretend to any such knowledge.
Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?
Verse 16. - Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds? i.e. "how they are poised and suspended in the sky" (Stanley Loathes). The wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge (comp. Job 36:5).
How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?
Verse 17. - How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind? Dost thou even know how it is that, while the breeze from the north chills thee (vers. 9, 10), the breath from the south makes thee feel thy garments too warm? If thou canst not explain a physical matter, wherein thine own comfort is concerned, how much less canst thou comprehend the workings of God in his moral universe!
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
Verse 18. - Hast thou with him spread out the sky? Didst thou assist in the spreading out of the sky, that great and magnificent work of the Creator, transcending almost all others (see the comment on Job 9:8)? Or did not God effect this work alone, without even a counsellor (Isaiah 40:13, 14), so that thou hadst no part in it? Which is strong, and as a molten looking-glass. The sky is "strong" or "firm;" i.e. enduring or permanent, though not really hard like a mirror. Elihu, however, seems to have regarded it, like many of the ancients, as a solid mass, resembling a concave mirror of metal. The translation, "looking-glass," is wrong, both here and in Exodus 38:8, since glass was not used for mirrors until the period of the early Roman empire. The earlier mirrors were of polished metal (see Smith's 'Dict. of Antiquities,' vol. 3. pp. 1052, 1212).
Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.
Verse 19. - Teach us what we shall say unto him. Elihu indulges in irony. If thou art so wise as thou pretendest to be, then he pleased to "teach us." We acknowledge our ignorance - we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness. Enlighten us, if thou canst.
Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.
Verse 20. - Shall it be told him that I speak? rather, that I would speak (comp. Job 31:35). Job had expressed the wish that God would "hear him, and answer him." Elihu, intending to rebuke this presumption, yet shrinking from doing so directly, puts himself in Job's place, and asks, "Would it be fitting that I should demand to speak with God?" If not, it cannot be fitting that Job should do so. If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up. This is probably the true meaning, though another has been suggested by some commentators, who prefer to render, "Or should a man wish that he were destroyed?" (So Ewald, Dillmann, Canon Cook, and our Revisers.) If we adopt this rendering, we must understand Elihu as appending to his first rebuke a second, levelled against Job's desire to have his life ended.
And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.
Verse 21. - And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds; rather, and now men cannot behold the light which is bright in the skies. Now, i.e., here in this world, men cannot look straight at the sun, since he dazzles them. How much less, then, would they be able to face God on his throne in heaven! Yet this is what Job had proposed to do (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:18-22; Job 22:3-7, etc.). But the wind passeth, and cleanseth them; rather, when the wind passeth and cleareth them; i.e. when, the wind having swept away the clouds and cleared the sky the sun shines forth in all its splendour.
Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.
Verse 22. - Fair weather cometh out of the north; literally, out of the north cometh gold. The bearing of this is very obscure, whether we suppose actual gold to he meant, or the golden splendours of the sun, or any other bright radiance. No commentator has hit on a satisfactory explanation. With God is terrible majesty. This is sufficiently plain, and it is the point whereto all Elihu's later argument has been directed (see Job 36:22-33; Job 37:1-18). God's majesty is so great that men can only tremble before him.
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.
Verse 23. - Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. This is the "conclusion of the whole matter." God is inscrutable, and man must hide his face before him and not presume to judge him. He is also excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice. His moral perfection is on a par with his might and majesty. He will not afflict; rather, he will not answer; i.e. he will not account to men for his doings, or condescend to justify himself in their eyes. His acts cannot but be righteous.
Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.
Verse 24. - Men do therefore fear him; or, let men therefore fear him. Let them see in his unsearchableness, his almighty power, his absolute moral perfection, and his superiority to all human questioning, ample grounds for the profoundest reverence and fear. And let them remember that he respecteth not any that are wise of heart. However "wise of heart" men may be, God does not "respect" them, at any rate to the extent of submitting his conduct to their judgment, and answering their clues-tionings (see ver. 20).