Lectures on Job 38-41

Job 38‑41  •  23 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Lecture 10.-Chaps. 38-41
Chap. 38:1-38. The last three verses of this chapter properly belong to the next chapter, as we there enter upon animate nature. All that we have here is in regard to what is called inanimate nature. Yet it is a part of the creation of God quite as truly as is animate nature. Still, this latter rises above everything that is without life. For life is a very wonderful thing, even in an animal, however small, and distinguishes it from all that never had life. But here we have Jehovah speaking, and it was Jehovah who spake at Sinai and in a way suitable to the law. Because the law of God if given to man—sinful man, as it was—must be a ministration of death and condemnation. It is because of defect in human law that a bad man escapes, and therefore the better the law the greater certainty that it will reach one who deserves to be punished by it. And God's law is perfect for the object for which He gave it as the rule for fallen man upon the earth, to curb and restrain him; and if he be not curbed or restrained, to condemn (and in effect ending in death).
But here there was quite a different reason why God spoke; because there was an end, for those who believed—to know that God cares for them, and this too, entirely independent of Israel and the very special dealings of God for the chosen people. God's eye and God's hand too are ever in exercise over every creature on the face of the earth. It does not matter how small or how great; it does not matter how violent or how peaceful; this makes no difference, they are creatures of God. And God has to do with them, as He shows here. This was a grand lesson for Job. He had forgotten that God has to say to the very hairs of our head, for they are all numbered; and that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowing. But God takes it in according to His own grandeur, and His grandeur is quite beyond man's ability to comprehend, and this was exactly the object—to show the folly of Job venturing to judge God's dealings, venturing to pronounce, or to find fault for a moment. In an early chapter of the Book you may remember that Job wished that God would only lay aside His alarming nature, and allow him to approach Him that he might plead his cause, and that he might defend himself before God. Here came the answer. I need not say it was to be an answer to every person, to everyone that has the fear of God, in all ages. The value of this Book does not at all diminish by the light of Christ. On the contrary, we ought to understand the Book a great deal better for that light.
Here, then, we have Jehovah—you observe this name has not appeared after chap. 2 (except in 12:9) in the historical part. But now before the proper history is concluded (the last chapter is the concluding chapter of the history), before that it brings Him in again. We have Him speaking according to His authority, according to His relationship; and that is just exactly what “Jehovah” means. It is God not merely in the abstract, but God in relation to man upon the earth. And hence He answers Job. But He answers him here because it was a rebuke out of the whirlwind. “Then Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind.” It was meant to be a rebuke and that Job should really feel it and profit by it. And it is a terrible thing where God does not rebuke a soul upon the earth. What does it mean? It means judgment by and by forever. Those that are brought into relationship livingly with God have His interference—not merely the fact that they are in relationship, but the proof of it. And He was giving this grand light upon how it acts and how Job ought to have been—if he did not enter into it—ought to have been on his guard against setting up his own judgment about God. This is what He is overthrowing, in these chapters.
“Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” He does not mean that Job did not know Him at all, but He did mean that his knowledge was limited, and that he had no adequate knowledge as to the dealings of God. “Gird up now thy loins like a man” —like a hero— “for I will demand of thee and answer thou me.” That was a remarkable word. God is going to ask him a number of questions. Job had been questioning the dealings of God. Now God retorts upon him; now He says, I am going to ask you, and answer Me like a man if you can. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” What an overwhelming question What did Job know about it? “Declare, if thou hast under-standing.” He had none. “Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?” He did not know. “Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?” Because there are two things true of the earth. Stability for the time—that is what is referred to here, and why foundations are spoken of; and there is another view given in this very Book of Job, that it is suspended upon nothing. That never entered into the mind of anyone until comparatively late. Even the men of science have only just come to that. But there it was in Scripture before them. It is hung upon nothing. So that it has great stability and regularity in its course, so firmly are the foundations laid; but on the other hand the mighty power of God is shown, because, although it is hung upon nothing of the creature, it hangs entirely upon God's power.
“When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” The angels were made before the earth was made, but this is not at all referred to in Genesis 1; and the reason is plain. The point in Genesis 1:11In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1), is simply to give, first of all, the creation of all the universe where there was nothing. I do not say out of nothing—that is folly; but where there was nothing, God created the universe, the heavens, the earth, and all their host, but in a very different state from what it is in now. Then the next verse shows a complete collapse that subsequently took place—what people call chaos; and the heathen always began with chaos, but we begin with God the Creator. But that chaotic condition was of all importance for man when man should be created upon the earth. Because how was man to get down to the bowels of the earth? How was he to know that there were treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, and marble and slate, and granite, and all the other most useful things that God had created? They were down deep in the earth, and the only way in which man could even suspect and learn certainly of their existence, and, consequently, to look for them, was by that confusion which brought up some part of that which was buried deep in the earth. So that all mining was founded upon that very fact of the power of God that caused the inner contents of the earth to appear, at any rate, on the earth's crust. Because what is deep in it no one can tell; no man can tell. Man has never penetrated but a very small way—I suppose not more than the thickness of an orange peel compared with the orange so little, into the bowels of the earth. What fills it, therefore, they do not know. They may reason; and as to what one man reasons, another man reasons to the contrary. They really do not know; and this is the thing that Jehovah was causing Job to realize-his total ignorance.
What is the effect, then, on a pious man that really believes in Him and His guidance? What is the effect of knowing our ignorance to be so immense? Reliance upon God. There was the great thing in which Job failed, murmured and found fault. He could not understand it. He might have believed and ought to have believed, and that is where we find our failure too, for we are quite as ready to reason and murmur as Job. Well, now, He speaks here clearly of the creation, and He carries that on in the verses which follow.
“Or who shut up the sea?” He had looked at the earth, and now he looks at the sea. “Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I make the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it.” Well, it was a very bold child, this new ungovernable creature that came into existence! And therefore He speaks about covering it up and swaddling it. “And brake up for it my decreed place and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed"? For who can control the ocean? “Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days"; now He looks at the vicissitudes of day and night, and He says now, “Was it you that set this all agoing, or do you know anything about it, how it was done?"... “Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the day-spring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth” —that is, when the sun rises to gild it as it were— “that the wicked might be shaken out of it?” Because the darkness of the night is exactly what gives the opportunity for murder and burglary and all the other knaveries of men more than any other time. “It is turned as clay to the seal” —because when the earth is in darkness just like that, no more can you discover it than the clay before it is impressed with the seal.
But the moment the light shines, there you find its conformation and its beauty as God fixed upon it—but in the dark there is nothing to be seen. “And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.” Then He turns to the sea again in another way. Not the rushing of the waters controlled by the power of God; but here He looks at the source of it. “Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?” —the abyss.
Now He goes down lower still, because Sheol, or Hades, as we have it, that is, the receptacle of departed spirits—is represented under the figure at any rate, and it may be the reality, of the heart of the earth. It is not the same thing as the lake of fire, but here we have a prison for those that have died. “Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”
Now He comes up to the surface. “Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?” What do you know about it? “Declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth?” (vers. 18—21). And he shows that God has a store that man knows nothing about, which is caused to act whenever it pleaseth God. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow; or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” Look at the case of the Amorites, who, on the way to Beth-horon, fell by the hail stones that God rained upon them. And, again, He rained fire and brimstone, in other cases, on the cities of the plain. “Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters; or the way for the lightning of thunder; to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is?” Well, God does think of animals, He thinks of even the insect; He thinks of where no man is; there He has His thoughts and His plans and His goodness.
“To satisfy the desolate and waste ground and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?” And it is remarkable how much rain has to do. People have been lamenting the immense and abnormal rain that we have had lately. But I saw a letter of an expert upon it, who looks forward, if God is pleased to give a good spring, that there will be an exceptional harvest. The fruit of it will be far beyond what has been had in England for many a day and many a year. That is in the hands of God. I do not pretend to say; let these men fight it out. “Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?”
Then He looks also at the various stars and constellations. He asks, now what have you to do with them; do you know anything about how they came there, and how they have been ranged there? “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades” —it is rather the bands of the Pleiades—at any rate it is a counterpart of the bands of Orion— “Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?” They say that the signs of the Zodiac are here referred to, but whether that is the case is very uncertain. “Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?” “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” Conditions have an immense effect upon the earth. All is having an influence either of a terrible kind or a beneficent kind. Who is it that has fixed all that? Was it you, Job? “Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who hath given understanding to the heart?” It comes down to man now. “Who can number the clouds in wisdom? Or who can stay the bottles of heaven” —well, all that is perfectly simple to God, and God has command in every whit of it— “when the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?”
Well, now we come to animate nature. Clearly these three verses (39-41) ought rather to be the opening of the 3gth chapter. “Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion?” It says, That is what I do, I find food for the lions and for the young lions too. There they are crouching in their dens, “and they abide in the covert to lie in wait.” I do not allow them to die for want of proper food. “Who provideth for the raven his food?” It is not only the great lion, but the comparatively small raven when his young ones cry unto God—there it is, they cry unto Him. They do not murmur; they cry. They tell their want, God has put that into them. It is a cry, and God hears it as directed to Himself. “They wander for lack of meat.” But He hears and answers.
“Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth” (chap. 39:1)? They are very inaccessible as a general rule to man. They are found in the great heights of the mountains. “Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? Canst thou number the months that they fulfill? Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth? They bow themselves; they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows; their young ones are in good liking” —though they are hunted to death, and man is fond of feeding on them, yet God provides for them— “they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them. Who hath sent out the wild ass free?” That is also an animal that shuns the human race. “Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?” (vers. 1-8).
Thus we have had the wild goats, and then, the wild ass; and now, what is called here, a “unicorn.” I do not know why this name has been given to it. There is but one animal with a single horn, the Indian rhinoceros, found only in Southern Asia, but here it should be the wild ox. “Canst thou bind the wild ox with his band in the furrow?” We have the wild goat (ver. 1), the wild ass (ver. 5), and now the wild ox (ver. 9). They follow one another in rotation. This is a more powerful animal than either of the others. There is a rising in the scale. “Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave they labor to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed and gather it into thy barn?”
Well, now we come to a very peculiar phrase. There is really nothing here about peacocks at all. It is a mistake. A peacock we find for the first time in Solomon's day. They were brought from India or from Ceylon; and it is curious that the name of the peacock as given in Kings and Chronicles is Sanscrit, not Hebrew. It is the language of India, the old classical language of India. But this is quite a different thing. It should read, “The wing of the ostrich waveth joyously; is it the pinion and plumage of the stork?” (ver. 13). It is really the ostrich in the first part of the verse, and the stork in the latter. There is a kind of contrast of the ostrich with its great fluttering and also its stupid indifference to its young with the stork. The stork is the most affectionate bird that God created. There is no bird that has such a great care for its offspring; and for that reason there are people in the world who allow them to be kept and honored, and not a soul must injure them under penalty. I believe, in Holland to this day, that the storks are found in buildings of any height; and they are allowed not merely on the firs of the forest, but they are very fond of being near mankind, and they often build their nests in chimneys and the like, and in lofty places; and people have such a respect for a bird marked by such affection that they will not allow anyone to shoot or injure them in any respect.
Now that is the bird that is contrasted with the ostrich. The ostrich on the contrary leaves its young just to get through as they can, and exposes its eggs in the sand and leaves them there to come to maturity or to be destroyed. She does not care about them. And this is referred to— “which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom.” And who is to dispute with God? The God that gives one bird its remarkable character of affection takes away the commonest sense even from another bird of immense power and great swiftness so that an ostrich could outrun a racehorse for a while— “she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
Now he comes to the horse itself; and the war horse in particular. “Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” What have you to do with it? “Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible” (vers. 19-25). Well, it is a splendid description indeed, but it is all for the purpose of overwhelming Job with the folly of his pretending to talk about God. Now He looks at the hawk, and the eagle more particularly. “Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?” Who was it that conferred these peculiar powers on all these animals and birds? “Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” (vers. 26-30).
And at this point Jehovah appeals to Job again (chap. 40.). “Moreover, Jehovah answered Job and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it.” Then Job does answer. “And Job answered Jehovah and said, Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.” Jehovah repeats what He said before, “Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” That is what Job had done. “Hast thou an arm like God?” Who are you to talk to God about Him as you have done? “Or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?” Well, now, “Deck thyself” with the excellency of God if you can. There was Job—a poor woebegone man with all his flesh corrupt, and the very worms feeding upon him before he had died—in the greatest possible misery of his body. “Deck thyself with majesty and glory.” “Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath; and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.” Why do you not put down all the bad people in the world? “Look on every one that is proud, bring him low” (vers. 1-14). But he was entirely dependent upon God.
That is the reverse of the picture. God now takes up in the latter part of His discourse but two animals, and of an amphibious nature. They were neither among the beasts of the earth proper, nor were they birds of heaven. They were a mixture of animals that could enter upon the land, and could also betake themselves to the waters. And these are described under the name, first, of “behemoth,” and secondly, of “leviathan.”
“Behemoth” means what is called the hippopotamus It ought not to be called a river-horse, at all, which is what “hippopotamus” means. It is a river-ox. It is like an ox rather than a horse; of course, with its own peculiarities; and they are very peculiar. But still it is very much more after the appearance and habits of an ox than it is of a horse. And these two creatures were well known, particularly on the Nile. Both of them were familiar in the waters of the Nile; and in Arabia in the desert, to which these speakers belonged more or less—the edge of it or beginning of that which abutted on the desert—they were familiar by report, if not by actual visit to Egypt. They were familiar with these animals. They have been very much misunderstood by learned men. They have called them all sorts of strange things. For instance, many will have it that “behemoth” means an elephant, but when you read the account you will see it is very unlike an elephant, except that it is a big creature and with enormous strength, but beyond that, nothing.
“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee” (vers. 15-24). When I made you I made him. “He eateth grass as an ox.” I have, therefore, good reason for saying that it is a river-ox, and not at all a river-horse. “Lo, now, his strength is in his loins and his force is in the navel of his belly.” I rather think that the expression in the l9th verse means, not that he makes the sword to approach unto him to kill him, but that He that made him made him a sword—made him a scythe; it is a scythe rather than a sword, and that is pretty much what the tusk of a hippopotamus is. It has great power in cleavings of all kinds, and in cutting. “Surely the mountains bring him forth food” —he can go to the mountain if he likes, in the neighborhood of it— “where all the beasts of the field play. He lieth under the shady trees” —that is where he loves to be— “in the covert of the reed, and fens”
Well now, in chap. 41, comes a still longer description of “leviathan,” and I understand that to be the crocodile. The crocodile is a very formidable beast. It is not so shy of the human kind; on the contrary, it preys upon men, women, and children, if it can get hold of them. It is not therefore at all so strange as the “behemoth” that we have been reading about.
“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? You that can do such wonders; you can talk about God; and you can judge for God, and you can find fault with God! Well, can you catch leviathan with an hook? You ought to be able to do that. “Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” (vers. 1-8). Be off with you! Do not you fight him. “Behold, the hope of him is in vain.” Spears or arrows are nothing to him and even a musket ball has no power to pierce the skin of a crocodile. “His scales are his pride,” because it is not only his enormous strength, and his practical invulnerability to any ordinary weapon, but there he is so confident in it himself.
So that here we may stop tonight. It suffices to show what God uttered to overwhelm Job in his self-confidence, and to show that his ignorance was so great, his powerlessness was evident; his lack of wisdom to enter into even the outer works of God. And, after all, what was God speaking about? Earthly things. Everyone of these things is merely of a natural kind, and has to do with what is visible, with what is seen and temporal. And if Job is so utterly unable to answer one of these questions—and in point of fact they are not answered to this day with all the brag of science—still, if that is the case about earthly things, what about the heavenly? What about the eternal things? There we are entirely and absolutely dependent upon God. We know nothing but what He tells us, and this is all our blessing—this is what we are waiting for—the unseen and the eternal, and, consequently, we of all people ought to be thoroughly dependent, looking up, confiding, and believing.
If the Lord will, next Wednesday evening I hope to conclude the Book, and to say a little of its general character also, besides saying what is necessary upon the particular chapter itself—the 42nd.
“Behemoth.” The name is, as competent men believe, an Egyptian designation (p-cho-mo, literally, water-ox) of the hippopotamus in Shemitic form.”
“Leviathan.” The leviathan here described (Job 41) seems to be, beyond doubt, not the dolphin or the whale, as some learned men have argued, but the crocodile. So most have been convinced since Bochart (Hieroz. 705, &c., 737, &c.).”
W. K.