Job 38:17
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
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Job 38:17. Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? — Hath the earth opened all her dark caverns to thee? Or, hast thou ever gone down to the centre, or into the depths and bowels of that earth in which the generality of men are buried? Hast thou looked into שׁאול, sheol, or hades, the intermediate state, the region of departed spirits? And dost thou know how the souls of men are disposed of after death, and what are their various states and conditions? Or, hast thou observed and marked the several ways leading to, and introducing death? Death is a grand secret. 1st, We know not beforehand when, and how, and by what means we or others shall be brought to death; by what road we must go the way whence we shall not return; what disease or disaster will be the door to let us into the house appointed for all living; man knows not his time. 2d, We cannot describe what death is, how the knot is untied between body and soul, nor how the spirit of a man leaves the tenement of clay, and goes:

“To be, we know not what, and live, we know not how.”

Thus Mr. Norris, who adds:

“When life’s close knot, by writ from destiny, Disease shall cut or age untie; When after some delays, some dying strife, The soul stands shivering on the ridge of life; With what a dreadful curiosity Does she launch out into the sea of vast eternity!”

Let us make it sure that the gates of heaven shall be opened to us on the other side death, and then we need not fear the opening of the gates of death to receive us, though it is a way we are to go but once. 3d, We have no correspondence at all with separate souls, nor any acquaintance with their state. It is an unknown, undiscovered region, to which they are removed. We can neither hear from them, nor send to them. While we are here, in a world of sense we speak of the world of spirits as blind men do of colours; and when we remove thither, shall be amazed to find how much we were mistaken.

38:12-24 The Lord questions Job, to convince him of his ignorance, and shame him for his folly in prescribing to God. If we thus try ourselves, we shall soon be brought to own that what we know is nothing in comparison with what we know not. By the tender mercy of our God, the Day-spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those that sit in darkness, whose hearts are turned to it as clay to the seal, 2Co 4:6. God's way in the government of the world is said to be in the sea; this means, that it is hid from us. Let us make sure that the gates of heaven shall be opened to us on the other side of death, and then we need not fear the opening of the gates of death. It is presumptuous for us, who perceive not the breadth of the earth, to dive into the depth of God's counsels. We should neither in the brightest noon count upon perpetual day, nor in the darkest midnight despair of the return of the morning; and this applies to our inward as well as to our outward condition. What folly it is to strive against God! How much is it our interest to seek peace with him, and to keep in his love!Have the gates of death been opened unto thee - That is, the gates of the world where death reigns; or the gates that lead to the abodes of the dead. The allusion here is to "Sheol," or "Hades," the dark abodes of the dead. This was supposed to be beneath the ground, and was entered by the grave, and was inclosed by gates and bars; see the notes at Job 10:21-22. The transition from the reference to the bottom of the sea to the regions of the dead was natural, and the mind is carried forward to a subject further beyond the ken of mortals than even the unfathomable depths of the ocean. The idea is, that God saw all that occurred in that dark world beneath us, where the dead were congregated, and that his vast superiority to man was evinced by his being able thus to penetrate into, and survey those hidden regions. It is common in the Classical writers to represent those regions as entered by gates. Thus, Lucretius, i.1105,

- Haec rebus erit para janua letl,

Hae se turba foras dabit omnis materai.

- "The doors of death are ope,

And the vast whole unbounded ruin whelms."


So Virgil, Aeneid ii.661,

- Pater isti janua leto,

"The door of death stands open."

Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? - The doors which lead down to the gloomy realms where death spreads its dismal shades. This expression is more emphatic than the former, for the word צלמות tsalmâveth "shadow of death," is more intensive in its meaning than the word מות mâveth, "death." There is the superadded idea of a deep and dismal shadow; of profound and gloomy darkness; see the word explained in the notes at Job 3:5; compare Job 10:21-22. Man was unable to penetrate those gloomy abodes and to reveal what was there; but God saw all with the clearness of noon-day.

17. seen—The second clause heightens the thought in the first. Man during life does not even "see" the gates of the realm of the dead ("death," Job 10:21); much less are they "opened" to him. But those are "naked before God" (Job 26:6). Hast thou seen, or dost thou perfectly know, the place and state of the dead, the depths and bowels of that earth in which the generality of dead men are buried, or the several ways and methods of death, or the various states and conditions of men after death? And the same thing is repeated.

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?.... Meaning not by which death has entered into the world, and which have been the causes and occasion of it; as the sin of man, the appointment of God, and various providences, calamities and diseases; but by which men enter into the state of the dead. Men know not experimentally what death is, nor in what way they shall go out of the world, nor at what time, nor in what place; they know not what the state of the dead is, there is no correspondence between them and the living; they do not know either what they enjoy or endure, or who precisely and with certainty are in the separate abodes of bliss or misery; the gates of these dark and invisible regions to us have never been thrown open, for mortals to look into them;

or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? the same thing in other words; the Targum and Jarchi interpret this of hell.

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
17. have the gates of death] Or, were the gates? Death is personified; it is Sheol, the place of the dead, ch. Job 28:22. This is a lower deep than the recesses of the sea; Job, no doubt, went down there also.

hast thou seen] Or, didst thou see?

Verse 17. - Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? By "the gates of death," Sheol, the abode of the dead, seems to be intended (comp. Job 10:21, 22; Job 17:16). Has Job explored this region, and penetrated its secrets? Or is it as unknown to him as to the rest of mankind? The second hemistich - Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? - is a mere echo of the first, adding an new idea. Job 38:1716 Hast thou reached the fountains of the sea,

And hast thou gone into the foundation of the deep?

17 Were the gates of death unveiled to thee,

And didst thou see the gates of the realm of shades?

18 Hast thou comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Speak, in so far as thou knowest all this!

19 Which is the way to where the light dwelleth,

And darkness, where is its place,

20 That thou mightest bring it to its bound,

And that thou mightest know the paths of its house?

21 Thou knowest it, for then wast thou born,

And the number of thy days is great! -

The root נב has the primary notion of obtruding itself upon the senses (vid., Genesis, S. 635), whence נבך in Arabic of a rising country that pleases the eye (nabaka, a hill, a hillside), and here (cognate in root and meaning נבע, Syr. Talmud. נבג, Arab. nbg, nbṭ, scatuirire) of gushing and bubbling water. Hitzig's conjecture, approved by Olsh., נבלי, sets aside a word that is perfectly clear so far as the language is concerned. On חקר vid., on Job 11:7. The question put to Job in Job 38:17, he must, according to his own confession, Job 26:6, answer in the negative. In order to avoid the collision of two aspirates, the interrogative ה is wanting before התבּננתּ, Ew. 324, b; התבנן עד signifies, according to Job 32:12, to observe anything carefully; the meaning of the question therefore is, whether Job has given special attention to the breadth of the earth, and whether he consequently has a comprehensive and thorough knowledge of it. כּלּהּ refers not to the earth (Hahn, Olsh., and others), but, as neuter, to the preceding points of interrogation. The questions, Job 38:19, refer to the principles of light and darkness, i.e., their final causes, whence they come forth as cosmical phenomena. ישׁכּן־אור is a relative clause, Ges. 123, 3, c; the noun that governs (the Regens) this virtual genitive, which ought in Arabic to be without the art. as being determined by the regens, is, according to the Hebrew syntax, which is freer in this respect, הדּרך (comp. Ges. 110, 2). That which is said of the bound of darkness, i.e., the furthest point at which darkness passes away, and the paths to its house, applies also to the light, which the poet perhaps has even prominently (comp. Job 24:13) before his mind: light and darkness have a first cause which is inaccessible to man, and beyond his power of searching out. The admission in Job 38:21 is ironical: Verily! thou art as old as the beginning of creation, when light and darkness, as powers of nature which are distinguished and bounded the one by the other (vid., Job 26:10), were introduced into the rising world; thou art as old as the world, so that thou hast an exact knowledge of its and thine own contemporaneous origin (vid., Job 15:7). On the fut. joined with אז htiw denioj . regularly in the signification of the aorist, vid., Ew. 134, b. The attraction in connection with מספּר is like Job 15:20; Job 21:21.

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