Job 37

CHAPTER XXXVII

Elihu continues to set forth the wisdom and omnipotence of God,

as manifested in the thunder and lightning, 1-5;

in the snows and frosts, 6-8;

in various meteors; and shows the end for which they are sent,

9-13.

Job is exhorted to consider the wondrous works of God in the

light, in the clouds, in the winds, in heat and cold, in the

formation of the heavens, and in the changes of the atmosphere,

14-22.

The perfections of God, and how he should be reverenced by his

creatures, 23, 24.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXXVII

Verse 1. My heart trembleth] This is what the Septuagint has

anticipated; see under Job 36:28. A proper consideration of God's

majesty in the thunder and lightning is enough to appall the

stoutest heart, confound the wisest mind, and fill all with

humility and devotion. This, to the middle of Job 37:5, should be

added to the preceding chapter, as it is a continuation of the

account of the thunder and lightning given at the conclusion of

that chapter. Our present division is as absurd as it is

unfortunate.

Verse 2. Hear attentively] "Hear with hearing." The words seem

to intimate that there was actually at that time a violent storm

of thunder and lightning, and that the successive peals were now

breaking over the house, and the lightning flashing before their

eyes. The storm continued till Elihu had finished, and out of that

storm the Almighty spoke. See the beginning of the succeeding

chapter. See Clarke on Job 38:1.

The noise of his voice] The sudden clap.

And the sound that goeth out.] The peal or continued

rattling, pounding, and thumping, to the end of the peal. The

whole is represented as the voice of God himself, and the thunder

is immediately issuing from his mouth.

Verse 3. He directeth it under the whole heaven] He directeth it

(the lightning) under the whole heaven, in the twinkling of an eye

from east to west; and its light-the reflection of the flash, not

the lightning, unto the ends of the earth, so that a whole

hemisphere seems to see it at the same instant.

Verse 4. After it a voice roareth] After the flash has been

seen, the peal is heard; and this will be more or fewer seconds

after the peal, in proportion to the distance of the thunder cloud

from the ear. Lightning traverses any space without any

perceivable succession of time; nothing seems to be any obstacle

to its progress. A multitude of persons taking hands, the first

and the last connected with the electric machine, all feel the

shock in the same instant; and were there a chain as conductor to

go round the globe, the last would feel the shock in the same

moment as the first. But as sound depends on the undulations of

the air for its propagation, and is known to travel at the rate of

only 1142 feet in a second; consequently, if the flash were only

1142 feet from the spectator, it would be seen in one second, or

one swing of the pendulum, before the sound could reach the ear,

though the clap and the flash take place in the same instant, and

if twice this distance, two seconds, and so on. It is of some

consequence to know that lightning, at a considerable distance,

suppose six or eight seconds of time, is never known to burn, kill

or do injury. When the flash and the clap immediately succeed each

other, then there is strong ground for apprehension, as the

thunder cloud is near. If the thunder cloud be a mile and a half

distant, it is, I believe, never known to kill man or beast, or to

do any damage to buildings, either by throwing them down or

burning them. Now its distance may be easily known by means of a

pendulum clock, or watch that has seconds. When the flash is seen,

count the seconds till the clap is heard. Then compute: If only

one second is counted, then the thunder cloud is within 1142 feet,

or about 380 yards; if two seconds, then its distance is 2284

feet, or 761 yards; if three seconds, then 3426 feet, or 1142

yards; if four seconds, then the cloud is distant 4568 feet, or

1522 yards; if five seconds, then the distance is 5710 feet, or

1903 yards; if six seconds, then the distance is 6852 feet, or

2284 yards, one mile and nearly one-third; if seven seconds, then

the distance of the cloud is 7994 feet, or 2665 yards, or one mile

and a half, and 25 yards. Beyond this distance lightning has not

been known to do any damage, the fluid being too much diffused,

and partially absorbed, in its passage over electric bodies, i.e.,

those which are not fully impregnated by the electric matter, and

which receive their full charge when they come within the electric

attraction of the lightning. For more on the rain produced by

thunder storms, see on Job 38:25. This scale may be carried on at

pleasure, by adding to the last sum for every second 1142 feet,

and reducing to yards and miles as above, allowing 1760 yards to

one mile.

He thundereth with the voice of his excellency] geono, of

his majesty: nor is there a sound in nature more descriptive of,

or more becoming, the majesty of God, than that of THUNDER. We

hear the breeze in its rustling, the rain in its pattering,

the hail in its rattling, the wind in its hollow howlings,

the cataract in its dash, the bull in his bellowing, the

lion in his roar; but we hear GOD, the Almighty, the

Omnipresent, in the continuous peal of THUNDER! This sound, and

this sound only, becomes the majesty of Jehovah.

And he will not stay them] velo yeahkebem, and he

hath not limited or circumscribed them. His lightnings light the

world; literally, the whole world. The electric fluid is diffused

through all nature, and everywhere art can exhibit it to view. To

his thunder and lightning, therefore, he has assigned no limits.

And when his voice soundeth, when the lightning goes forth, who

shall assign its limits, and who can stop its progress? It is,

like God, IRRESISTIBLE.

Verse 5. God thundereth marvellously with his voice] This is the

conclusion of Elihu's description of the lightning and thunder:

and here only should chap. xxxvi. have ended. He began,

Job 36:29, with the

noise of God's tabernacle; and he ends here with the marvellous

thundering of Jehovah. Probably the writer of the book of Job had

seen the description of a similar thunder storm as given by the

psalmist, Ps 77:16-19:-

Ver. 16. The waters saw thee, O God!

The waters saw thee, and were afraid.

Yea, the deeps were affrighted!

Ver. 17. The clouds poured out water;

The ethers sent forth a sound;

Yea, thine arrows went abroad.

Ver. 18. The voice of thy thunder was through the expanse:

The lightnings illumined the globe;

The earth trembled and shook!

Ver. 19. Thy way is in the sea,

And thy paths on many waters;

But thy footsteps are not known.

Great things doeth he] This is the beginning of a new paragraph;

and relates particularly to the phenomena which are afterwards

mentioned. All of them wondrous things; and, in many respects, to

us incomprehensible.

Verse 6. For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth] SNOW is

generally defined, "A well-known meteor, formed by the freezing of

the vapours in the atmosphere." We may consider the formation of

snow thus:-A cloud of vapours being condensed into drops, these

drops, becoming too heavy to be suspended in the atmosphere,

descend; and, meeting with a cold region of the air, they are

frozen, each drop shooting into several points. These still

continuing their descent, and meeting with some intermitting gales

of a warmer air, are a little thawed, blunted, and again, by

falling into colder air, frozen into clusters, or so entangled

with each other as to fall down in what we call flakes.

Snow differs from hail and hoar-frost in being crystallized:

this appears on examining a flake of snow with a magnifying glass;

when the whole of it will appear to be composed of fine spicula or

points diverging like rays from a centre. I have often observed

the particles of snow to be of a regular figure, for the most part

beautiful stars of six points as clear and transparent as ice. On

each of these points are other collateral points, set at the same

angles as the main points themselves, though some are irregular,

the points broken, and some are formed of the fragments of other

regular stars. I have observed snow to fall sometimes entirely in

the form of separate regular six-pointed stars, without either

clusters or flakes, and each so large as to be the eighth of an

inch in diameter.

The lightness of snow is owing to the excess of its surface,

when compared with the matter contained under it.

Its whiteness is owing to the small particles into which it is

divided: for take ice, opaque almost to blackness, and pound it

fine, and it becomes as white as snow.

The immediate cause of the formation of snow is not well

understood: it has been attributed to electricity; and hail is

supposed to owe its more compact form to a more intense

electricity, which unites the particles of hail more closely than

the moderate electricity does those of snow. But rain, snow, hail,

frost, ice, &c., have all one common origin; they are formed out

of the vapours which have been exhaled by heat from the surface of

the waters.

Snow, in northern countries, is an especial blessing of

Providence; for, by covering the earth, it prevents corn and other

vegetables from being destroyed by the intense cold of the air in

the winter months; and especially preserves them from cold

piercing winds. It is not a fact that it possesses in itself any

fertilizing quality, such as nitrous salts, according to vulgar

opinion: its whole use is covering the vegetables from intense

cold, and thus preventing the natural heat of the earth from

escaping, so that the intense cold cannot freeze the juices in the

tender tubes of vegetables, which would rupture those tubes, and

so destroy the plant.

Mr. Good alters the punctuation of this verse, and translates

thus:-

Behold, he saith to the snow, BE!

On earth then falleth it.

To the rain,-and it falleth:

The rains of his might.

By the small rain, we may understand drizzling showers: by the

rain of his strength, sudden thunder storms, when the rain

descends in torrents: or violent rain from dissipating

water-spouts.

Verse 7. He sealeth up the hand of every man] After all that has

been said, and much of it most learnedly, on this verse, I think

that the act of freezing is probably intended; that when the earth

is bound up by intense frost, the hand, yad, labour, of

every man is sealed up; he can do no more labour in the field,

till the south wind blow, by which a thaw takes place. While the

earth is in this state of rigidity, the beasts go into their dens,

and remain in their places, Job 37:8, some of them sleeping out

the winter in a state of torpor, and others of them feeding on the

stores which they had collected in autumn. However, the passage

may mean no more than by the severity of the rains beasts are

drawn to their covers; and man is obliged to intermit all his

labours. The mighty rains are past. Who would have thought that on

this verse, as its Scriptural foundation, the doctrine of

chiromancy is built! God has so marked the hand of every man by

the lines thereon exhibited, that they tell all the good or bad

fortune they shall have during life; and he has done this that all

men, by a judicious examination of their hands, may know his work!

On this John Taisnier, a famous mathematician, lawyer, musician,

and poet laureate of Cologne, has written a large folio volume,

with more hands in it than fell to the lot of Briareus:-printed at

Cologne, 1683.

Verse 9. Out of the south cometh the whirlwind]

See Clarke on Job 9:9. What is rendered

south here, is there rendered chambers. Mr. Good translates

here, the utmost zone. The Chaldee:-"From the supreme chamber the

commotion shall come; and from the cataracts of Arcturus the

cold." What the whirlwind, suphah, is, we know not. It

might have been a wind peculiar to that district; and it is very

possible that it was a scorching wind, something like the simoom.

Verse 10. By the breath of God frost is given] The freezing of

water, though it is generally allowed to be the effect of cold,

and has been carefully examined by the most eminent philosophers,

is still involved in much mystery; and is a very proper subject to

be produced among the great things which God doeth, and which we

cannot comprehend, Job 37:5. Water, when frozen, becomes

solid, and increases considerably in bulk. The expansive power

in freezing is so great, that, if water be confined in a

gun-barrel, it will split the solid metal throughout its whole

length. Bombshells have been filled with water, and plugged tight,

and exposed to cold air, when they have been rent, though the

shell has been nearly two inches thick! Attempts have been made to

account for this; but they have not, as yet, been generally

successful. The breath of God freezes the waters; and that breath

thaws them. It is the work of Omnipotence, and there, for the

present, we must leave it.

The breadth of the waters is straitened.] This has been

variously translated; mutsak, which we here render

straitened, we translate Job 37:18

melted. Mr. Good thinks that the idea of a mirror is implied, or

something molten; and on this ground it may be descriptive of the

state of water formed into ice. He therefore translates:-

By the blast of God the frost congealeth,

And the expanse of the waters into a mirror.

I have only to observe, that in the act of freezing wind or air

is necessary; for it has been observed that water which lay low in

ponds did not freeze till some slight current of air fell on and

ruffled the surface, when it instantly shot into ice.

Verse 11. By watering he wearieth the thick cloud] Perhaps it

would be better to say, The brightness beri, dissipates the

cloud; or, if we follow our version, By watering the earth he

wearieth, wearieth out or emptieth, the thick cloud-causes it to

pour down all its contents upon the earth, that they may cause it

to bring forth and bud. The Vulgate understood it differently:

Frumentum desiderat nubes, et nubes spargunt lumen suum. "The

grain desireth the clouds; and the clouds scatter abroad their

light."

Verse 12. And it is turned round about by his counsels] The

original is difficult: vehu mesibboth

mithhappech bethachbulothav; which has been thus paraphrased: And

he-the sun, makes revolutions-causes the heavenly bodies to

revolve round him, turning round himself-turning round his own

axis, by his attachments-his attractive and repulsive

influences, by which the heavenly bodies revolve round him, and by

which, as if strongly tied to their centre, bechebel,

with a cable or rope, they are projected to their proper

distances, and prevented from coming too near, or flying off too

far.

That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them] That men may

perform his will, availing themselves of the influences of the

sun, moon, times, seasons, &c., to cultivate the earth for the

sustenance of themselves and their cattle.

Upon the face of the world in the earth.] al

peney thebel aretsah, over the surface of the habitable world.

Perhaps the above exposition may appear to be too far-fetched; and

possibly the passage refers only to the revolutions of the

seasons, and the operations connected with them.

Verse 13. He causeth it to come] The Vulgate translates the text

thus: Sive in una tribu, sine in terra sua, sive in quocunque loco

misericordiae suae eas jusserit inveniri. "Whether in one tribe,

or whether in his own land, or in whatsoever place of his mercy he

has commanded them to come." In the preceding verse it is said

that God conducts the clouds according to the orders of his

counsels, whithersoever he pleases: and here it is added that,

when he designs to heap favours upon any land, he commands the

clouds to go thither, and pour out on it their fertilizing

showers. See Calmet.

The Vulgate certainly gives a good sense, and our common version

is also clear and intelligble; but there are doubts whether the

Hebrew will bear this meaning. Here it is stated that God sends

the rain either for correction, leshebet, which signifies

rod, staff, tribe, and is here taken as the symbol of correction,

he sends rain sometimes as a judgment, inundating certain lands,

and sweeping away their produce by irresistible floods: or for his

land, leartso, his own land, Palestine, the place of

his favoured people: or for mercy, lechesed; when a

particular district has been devoured by locusts, or cursed with

drought, God, in his mercy, sends fertilizing rains to such places

to restore the ears which the caterpillars have eaten, and to make

the desert blossom like the garden of the Lord. Some think that

Job refers to the curse brought upon the old world by the waters

of the deluge. Now although God has promised that there shall no

more be a flood of waters to destroy the whole earth; yet we know

he can, very consistently with his promise, inundate any

particular district; or, by a superabundance of rain, render the

toil of the husbandman in any place vain. Therefore, still his

rain may come for judgment, for mercy, or for the especial help of

his people or Church.

Verse 14. Hearken unto this] Hear what I say on the part of God.

Stand still] Enter into deep contemplation on the subject.

And consider] Weigh every thing; examine separately and

collectively; and draw right conclusions from the whole.

The wondrous works of God.] Endless in their variety; stupendous

in their structure; complicated in their parts; indescribable in

their relations and connections; and incomprehensible in the

mode of their formation, in the cohesion of their parts, and in

the ends of their creation.

Verse 15. Dost thou know when God disposed them] Dost thou know

the laws by which they are governed; and the causes which produce

such and such phenomena?

And caused the light of his cloud to shine?] Almost every critic

of note understands this of the rainbow, which God gave as a sign

that the earth should no more be destroyed by water. See Ge 9:13,

and the note there.

Verse 16. Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds] How are

the clouds suspended in the atmosphere? Art thou so well

acquainted with the nature of evaporation, and the gravity of the

air at different heights, to support different weights of

aqueous vapour, so as to keep them floating for a certain portion

of time, and then let them down to water the earth; dost thou know

these things so as to determine the laws by which they are

regulated?

Wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge] This is a

paraphrase. Mr. Good's translation is much better:-

"Wonders, perfections of wisdom!"

Verse 17. How thy garments are warm] What are warmth and cold?

How difficult this question! Is heat incontestably a substance,

and is cold none? I am afraid we are in the dark on both these

subjects. The existence of caloric, as a substance, is supposed to

be demonstrated. Much, satisfactorily, has been said on this

subject; but is it yet beyond doubt? I fear not. But supposing

this question to be set at rest, is it demonstrated that cold is

only a quality, the mere absence of heat? If it be demonstrated

that there is such a substance as caloric, is it equally certain

that there is no such substance as frigoric? But how do our

garments keep us warm? By preventing the too great dissipation of

the natural heat. And why is it that certain substances, worked

into clothing, keep us warmer than others? Because they are bad

conductors of caloric. Some substances conduct off the caloric or

natural heat from the body; others do not conduct it at all, or

imperfectly; hence those keep us warmest which, being bad

conductors of caloric, do not permit the natural heat to be thrown

off. In these things we know but little, after endless cares,

anxieties, and experiments!

But is the question yet satisfactorily answered, why the north

wind brings cold, and the south wind heat? If it be so to my

readers, it is not so to me; yet I know the reasons which are

alleged.

Verse 18. Hast thou with him spread out the sky] Wert thou with

him when he made the expanse; fitted the weight to the winds;

proportioned the aqueous to the terrene surface of the globe; the

solar attraction to the quantum of vapours necessary; to be stored

up in the clouds, in order to be occasionally deposited in

fertilizing showers upon the earth? and then dost thou know how

gravity and elasticity should be such essential properties of

atmospheric air, that without them and their due proportions, we

should neither have animal nor vegetable life?

Strong-as a molten looking-glass?] Like a molten mirror. The

whole concave of heaven, in a clear day or brilliant night, being

like a mass of polished metal, reflecting or transmitting

innumerable images.

Verse 19. Teach us what we shall say unto him?] Thou pretendest

to be so very wise, and to know every thing about God, pray make

us as wise as thyself, that we may be able to approach with thy

boldness the Sovereign of the world; and maintain our cause with

thy confidence before him. As for our parts, we are ignorant; and,

on all these subjects, are enveloped with darkness. Mr. Good

translates:-

"Teach us how we may address him,

When arrayed in robes of darkness."

It is a strong and biting irony, however we take it.

Verse 20. Shall it be told him that I speak?] Shall I dare to

whisper even before God? And suppose any one were to accuse me

before him for what I have spoken of him, though that has been

well intended, how should I be able to stand in his presence? I

should be swallowed up in consternation, and consumed with the

splendour of his majesty.

But in what state art thou? What hast thou been doing? Thou

hast arraigned God for his government of the world; thou hast

found fault with the dispensations of his providence; thou hast

even charged him with cruelty! What will become of THEE?

Verse 21. And now men see not the bright light] Mr. Good gives

the sense clearer:-

"Even now we cannot look at the light

When it is resplendent in the heavens.

And a wind from the north hath passed

along and cleared them."

Elihu seems to refer to the insufferable brightness of the sun.

Can any man look at the sun shining in his strength, when a clear

and strong wind has purged the sky from clouds and vapours? Much

less can any gaze on the majesty of God. Every creature must sink

before him. What execrably dangerous folly in man to attempt to

arraign His conduct!

Verse 22. Fair weather cometh out of the north] Is this any

version of the original mitstsaphon zahab yeetheh?

which is rendered by almost every version, ancient and modern,

thus, or to this effect: "From the north cometh gold." Calmet

justly remarks, that in the time of Moses, Job, and Solomon, and

for a long time after, gold was obtained from Colchis, Armenia,

Phasis, and the land of Ophir, which were all north of Judea and

Idumea; and are in the Scriptures ordinarily termed the north

country. "But what relation can there be between, Gold cometh out

of the north, and, With God is terrible majesty?" Answer: Each

thing has its properties, and proper characteristics, which

distinguish it; and each country has its advantages. Gold, for

instance, comes from the northern countries; so praises offered to

the Supreme God should be accompanied with fear and trembling: and

as this metal is from the north, and northern countries are the

places whence it must be procured; so terrible majesty belongs to

God, and in him alone such majesty is eternally resident.

As zahob, which we translate gold, (see Job 28:16,)

comes from a root that signifies to be clear, bright, resplendent,

&c.; Mr. Good avails himself of the radical idea, and translates

it splendour:-

"Splendour itself is with God;

Insufferable majesty."

But he alters the text a little to get this meaning, particularly

in the word yeetheh, which we translate cometh, and which

he contends is the pronoun itself; the yod, as a

performative, here being, as he thinks, an interpolation. This

makes a very good sense; but none of the ancient versions

understood the place thus, and none of the MSS. countenance this

very learned critic's emendation.

Verse 23. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out] This is

a very abrupt exclamation, and highly descriptive of the state of

mind in which Elihu was at this time; full of solemnity, wonder,

and astonishment, at his own contemplation of this "great First

Cause, least understood." The ALMIGHTY! we cannot find him out.

Excellent in power and in judgment] We must not pretend to

comprehend his being, the mode of his existence, the wisdom of his

counsels, nor the mysteries of his conduct.

He will not afflict.] la yeanneh, he will not ANSWER.

He will give account of none of his matters to us. We cannot

comprehend his motives, nor the ends he has in view.

Verse 24. Men do therefore] Therefore men, anashim,

wretched, miserable, ignorant, sinful men, should fear him.

He respecteth not any] No man is valuable in his sight on

account of his wisdom; for what is his wisdom when compared with

that of the Omniscient? Whatever good is in man, God alone is the

author of it. Let him, therefore, that glorieth, glory in the

Lord.

THUS ends the speech of Elihu; a speech of a widely different

description, on the whole, from that of the three friends of Job

who had spoken so largely before him. In the speeches of Eliphaz,

Zophar, and Bildad, there is little besides a tissue of borrowed

wise sayings, and ancient proverbs and maxims, relative to the

nature of God, and his moral government of the world. In the

speech of Elihu every thing appears to be original; he speaks from

a deep and comprehensive mind, that had profoundly studied the

subjects on which he discoursed. His descriptions of the Divine

attributes, and of the wonderful works of God, are correct,

splendid, impressive, and inimitable. Elihu, having now come

nearly to a close, and knowing that the Almighty would appear and

speak for himself, judiciously prepares for and announces his

coming by the thunder and lightning of which he has given so

terrific and majestic a description in this and the preceding

chapter. The evidences of the Divine presence throng on his eyes

and mind; the incomprehensible glory and excellency of God

confound all his powers of reasoning and description; he cannot

arrange his words by reason of darkness; and he concludes with

stating, that to poor weak man God must for ever be

incomprehensible, and to him a subject of deep religious fear and

reverence. Just then the terrible majesty of the Lord appears!

Elihu is silent! The rushing mighty wind, for which the

description of the thunder and lightning had prepared poor,

confounded, astonished Job, proclaims the presence of Jehovah: and

out of this whirlwind God answers for and proclaims himself!

Reader, canst thou not conceive something of what these men felt?

Art thou not astonished, perplexed, confounded, in reading over

these descriptions of the thunder of God's power? Prepare, then,

to hear the voice of God himself out of this whirlwind.

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