Job 38:1


At length, in answer to the repeated appeals of Job, the Almighty appears, not to crush and overwhelm, as fear had often suggested, but to reason with his servant; to appeal to his spiritual intelligence, rather than to smite him into lower prostration by some thunderbolt of rebuke. "Come now, and let us reason together," is the gracious invitation of him who is Eternal Reason, amidst the wild clamours of our passion and despondency. At the same time, this revelation of the majesty of God humiliates and purifies the recipient of it, teaching him his own littleness and limitation in presence of this fulness of might and of wisdom. God, as the Almighty and only Wise, with whom no mortal may contend in judgment, may appoint the sufferings of the righteous for their probation and purification. And thus the great problem of the book, the enigma of life, receives from the highest Source its long-delayed solution. - J.









Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said.
This sublime discourse is represented as made from the midst of the tempest or whirlwind which Elihu describes as gathering. In this address the principal object of God is to assert His own greatness and majesty, and the duty of profound submission under the dispensations of His government. The general thought is, that He is Lord of heaven and earth; that all things have been made by Him, and that He has a right to control them; and that in the works of His own hands He had given so much evidence of His wisdom, power, and goodness, that men ought to have unswerving confidence in Him. He appeals to His works, and shows that, in fact, man could explain little, and that the most familiar objects were beyond his comprehension. It was therefore to be expected that in His moral government there would be much that would be above the power of man to explain. In this speech the creation of the world is first brought before the mind in language which has never been equalled. Then the Almighty refers to various things in the universe that surpass the wisdom of man to comprehend them, or his power to make them — to the laws of light; the depths of the ocean; the formation of the snow, the rain, the dew, the ice, the frost; the changes of the seasons, the clouds, the lightnings; and the instincts of animals. He then makes a particular appeal to some of the mere remarkable inhabitants of the air, the forest, and the waters, as illustrating His power. He refers to the gestation of the mountain goats; to the wild ass, to the rhinoceros, to the ostrich, and to the horse (ch. 39). The ground of the argument in this part of the address is that He had adapted every kind of animal to the mode of life which it was to lead; that He had given cunning where cunning was necessary, and where unnecessary, that He had withheld it; that He had endowed with rapidity of foot or wing where such qualities were needful; and that where power was demanded, He had conferred it. In reference to all these classes of creatures, there were peculiar laws by which they were governed; and all, in their several spheres, showed the wisdom and skill of their Creator. Job is subdued and awed by these exhibitions. To produce, however, a more overpowering impression of His greatness and majesty, and to secure a deeper prostration before Him, the Almighty proceeds to a particular description of two of the more remarkable animals which He had made — the behemoth, or hippopotamus, and the leviathan, or crocodile; and with this description, the address of the Almighty closes. The general impression designed to be secured by this whole address is that of awe, reverence, and submission. The general thought is, that God is supreme; that He has a right to rule; that there are numberless things in His government which are inexplicable by human wisdom; that it is presumptuous in man to sit in judgment on His doings; and that at all times man should bow before Him with profound adoration. It is remarkable that, in this address, the Almighty does not refer to the main point in the controversy. He does not attempt to vindicate His government from the charges brought against it of inequality, nor does He refer to the future state as a place where all these apparent irregularities will be adjusted.

(Albert Barnes.)

As Elihu's eloquent discourse draws to a close, our hearts grow full of expectation and hope. The mighty tempest in which Jehovah shrouds Himself sweeps up through the darkened heaven; it draws nearer and nearer; we are blinded by "the flash which He flings to the ends of the earth," our hearts "throb and leap out of their place," and we say, "God is about to speak, and there will be light." But God speaks, and there is no light. He does not so much as touch the intellectual problems over which we have been brooding so long, much less, as we hoped, sweep them beyond the farthest horizon of our thoughts. He simply overwhelms us with His majesty. He causes His "glory" to pass before us, and though, after he has seen this great sight, Job's face shines with a reflected lustre which has to be veiled from us under the mere forms of a recovered and augmented prosperity, we are none the brighter for it. He claims to have all power in heaven and on earth, to be Lord of all the wonders of the day and of the night, of tempest, and of calm. He simply asserts, what no one has denied, that all the processes of nature, and all the changes of providence are His handiwork, that it is He who calleth forth the stars, and determines their influence upon earth, He who sendeth rain and fruitful seasons, He who provides food for bird and beast, arms them with strength, clothes them with beauty, and quickens in them the manifold wise instincts by which they are preserved and multiplied. He does not utter a single word to relieve the mysteries of His rule, to explain why the good suffer and the wicked flourish, why He permits our hearts to be so often and so cruelly torn by agonies of bereavement, of misgiving, of doubt. When the majestic voice ceases we are no nearer than before to a solution of the haunting problems of life. We can only wonder that Job should sink in utter love and self-abasement before Him; we can only ask, in unfeigned surprise — and it is well for us if some tone of contempt do not blend with our surprise, — "What is there in all this to shed calm, and order, and an invincible faith into Job's perturbed and doubting spirit?" We say, "This pathetic poem is a logical failure after all; it does not carry its theme to any satisfactory conclusion, nor to any conclusion; it suggests doubts to which it furnishes no reply, problems which it does not even attempt to solve; charmed with its beauty we may be, but we are none the wiser for our patient study of its argument." But that would be a sorry conclusion of our labour. And before we resign ourselves to it, let us at least ask:

1. Is it so certain as we sometimes assume it to be that this poem was intended to explain the mystery of human life? Is it even certain that a logical explanation of that mystery is either possible or desirable to creatures such as we are in such a world as this? The path of logic is not commonly the path of faith. Logic may convince the reason, but it cannot bend the will or change the heart. God teaches us, — Jehovah taught Job, — as we teach children, by the mystery of life, by its illusions and contradictions, by its intermixtures of evil with good, of sorrow with joy; by the questions we are compelled to ask even though we cannot answer them, by the problems we are compelled to study although we cannot solve them. And is not this His best way?

2. But if the "answer" of Jehovah disappoints us, it satisfied Job; and not only satisfied him, but swept away all his doubts and fears in a transport of gratitude and renewed love. Expecting to hear some conclusive argument, we overlook the immense force and pathos of the fact, that Jehovah spake to Job at all. What Job could not bear was that God should abandon as well as afflict him. It was not what God said, but that God did speak to him, brought comfort.

3. Still the question recurs: What was it that recovered Job to faith and peace and trust? Was there absolutely nothing in the answer of Jehovah out of the tempest to meet the inquest of his beseeching doubts? Yes, there was something, but not much. There is an argument of hints and suggestions. It meets the painful sense of mystery which oppressed Job. God simply says, we should not let that mystery distress us, because there are mysteries everywhere. Another argument is, Consider these mysteries and parables of Nature, and what they reveal of the character and purpose of Him by whom they were created and made. You can see that they all work together for good. May not the mystery of human life and pain be as beneficent? God does not argue with us, nor seek to force our trust; for no man was ever yet argued into love, or could even compel his own child to love and confide in him. Trust and love are not to be forced, but won. God may have to deal with us as we deal with our children. Not by logical arguments, which convince our reason, but by tender appeals which touch and break our hearts, our Father conquers us at last, and wins our love and trust forever.

(Samuel Cox, D. D.)

As Job has at last exhausted all mortal powers in order to prevail upon God without defiance and without murmuring, and to behold the solution of the dark enigma, He who has so long been desired and entreated cannot longer withhold His appearance. He now appears at the right time, since an earlier appearance would either have been perilous to the man who was still insufficiently prepared for it, because it would then necessarily have been an angry and destructive response to the defiant or murmuring challenge of man, or else have been incompatible with the proper majesty of God, supposing it had been mercifully condescending and conciliatory, as if man in his ignorance could force such a gracious appearance by rebellion. But now, after the sufferer has tried every human means of prevailing upon God in the proper manner, and already, as conqueror over himself, endeavours without passionate feeling to obtain a higher revelation and final deliverance, this is granted to him at the right moment. It thus appears as if Jahve had so long delayed simply because He had from the beginning anticipated and known that such a brave sufferer as Job would not wholly lose himself, even in the utmost temptation and danger, but would triumphantly go forth from it with higher power and capacity, so as to be able to experience the awful moment of the revelation of a truth and glory such as had been previously never thought of. A revelation coming in this manner must be for Job a friendly and gracious one.

(Heinrich A. Von Ewald.)

We are reminded by these words of the similar experience of Elijah when, in the midst of the grandest manifestations of nature, he was brought into direct contact with God. The Lord, we are told, was not in the mighty wind that passed before Elijah on Horeb. He did not choose the whirlwind as the symbol of Himself; because what Elijah required was not the display of God's newer but the revelation of His love — not the stormy, but the gentle side of God's nature. He Himself was a tempestuous spirit, an incarnate whirlwind. To such a stormy nature a lesson came to teach him the secret of his failure, and to show him that there were greater powers than those which he had employed, and a better spirit than that which he had displayed. He believed that the most effective way of freeing the land from its idolatry was by threatening and judgment. There was nothing in these judgments to appeal to Israel's better nature — to convince them of their sin, and to rouse them to a sense of duty; and the Baal worship, which they were compelled by fear to renounce for a day, resumed its old spell over them when the storm subsided, and the sky became once more serene. But not thus did God reveal Himself to Job. He revealed Himself in the still, small voice to Elijah, because there was too much of the whirlwind in his own character, and in his work of reformation for Israel, and he needed to be taught the greater power of gentleness and love. He revealed Himself in the whirlwind to Job, because there was too much of the still, small voice in his own disposition and in his circumstances, and he needed to be stirred up by trials and troubles that would shake his life to the very centre. The lot of Job was at first extraordinarily prosperous. His nature became like his circumstances; his soul was at ease he lived upon the surface of his being; he was contented with himself and with the world. Job's worship was practically a similar bargain of faith. He would offer sacrifice to God as a preventive of worldly evil, and as the safeguard of his prosperity. We know what happens in nature after a long continuance of sunshine and calm. It needs a storm to agitate the stagnant waters, and fill the foaming waves with vital air for the good of the creatures of the sea. And so the man whose prosperous life settles down upon the lees of his nature, and partakes of their sordidness, requires the storm of trial to purify the atmosphere of his soul, to rouse him from his selfishness, to brace up his energies, and to make him a blessing to others, and a grander and truer man in himself. It was for this reason that the overwhelming troubles that came upon Job were sent. "The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind." That Divine speech was entirely different from the arguments of Elihu and Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz. There were no upbraidings in it; no replies to specious sophistries and short-sighted charges. it seemed to ignore altogether the questions at issue; it appealed not to the intellect, but to the heart. He grew wiser the more he suffered; and the storm that purified his soul gave him a deeper insight into the mysteries of Divine providence, so that he could rise superior to the doubts of his own heart, and vindicate the ways of God to man against all the dishonouring arguments of his false friends. As a candle within a transparency, so the fire of pain illumined the truth of God to him, and made plain what before had been dark. He had lost everything which men of the world value, but he had found what was more than a compensation. And so God deals with us still. He speaks to different persons in different ways: to one who is self-sufficient because of his prosperity, by the loud roar of the whirlwind; to another who is despondent and depressed because of failure and blighted hopes arising from wrong methods of doing good, He speaks in the still, small voice, and assures him that fury is not in Him. The Divine method is ever by the still, small voice. God would prefer to deal with us in gentle, loving, quiet ways. Judgment is His strange work. God's continued goodness to us too often leaves us careless and godless. The still, small voice speaking to us in the blessings of life with which day after day our cup is filled, is unheeded, and God requires to send His whirlwind to speak to us in such a way that we shall be compelled to hear.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Numerous instances might be cited where God manifested Himself out of a cloud. But as well in the dew drop, out of the calm and silent lake, as well as from the billowy ocean. In all ways He seeks to reach and impress men with His greatness and goodness. But I believe men are more impressed when in the pathway of the cyclone, where the ordinary provisions of safety are inadequate, and men lift up their voices, and implore the mercy of the great Jehovah.

I. The first thing to consider is, how EASILY THE MOST INNOCENT THINGS MAY BECOME HARMFUL AND DANGEROUS. A child may sleep in the morning breeze. What is softer than the dewdrop as it releases the aroma of the fields that we drink in with so much pleasure? And yet with what terrific force it sweeps on when changed into the tornado and flood! How great, therefore, the power for destruction in the simplest. In the souls of men there are forces no less terrible than those in physical nature that, held by a slight restraint, keep in check vices, which, were they loose, would carry devastation into society.

II. The second principle TEACHES THAT DESTRUCTIVE THINGS MAY BECOME BENEFICIAL. At first we shrink from the approaching storm, property is lost, homes destroyed, and yet we learn from viewing the scene of desolation that storms may be beneficial. Do we think of the poison in the atmosphere, and how the storm has taken it up and blown it away, giving us in its place a pure atmosphere? A few lives may be given to the tornado, but you and I have been given purer air. The soldier in the same manner dies for his country. These may be great mysteries. The storm may destroy much, but it blesses us all. The cyclones in the spiritual world strike us, but give us a better vision; they purify our spiritual atmosphere, and let us see nearer the world to which we are journeying.

III. The third teaching of the tornado is HOW THE SIMPLE THINGS BECOME INSCRUTABLE. Man's knowledge seems to extend to a certain point. God said to the sea: "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther." But the storm may bring great blessings. We live in a little circle of light; we see but a few feet, and know not but the next step may be into infinite blackness; but if God is with us it does not matter. The three lessons, considered together, teach us that this world is an island in the midst of a great ocean. We are like the mariners on the lake — the more the storm rages the more lights will be turned toward the haven. We all need a refuge from the storm. Some seek it in the sciences and philosophy; but the only haven is in the arms of Jesus, where there is at least heaven, sweet, blessed heaven, for the burdened and weary.

(George C. Lorimer, D. D.)

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