Job 38 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Job 38)

Verse 1

[1] Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Lord — The eternal word, Jehovah, the same who spake from mount Sinai.

Answered — Out of a dark and thick cloud, from which he sent a tempestuous wind, as the harbinger of his presence. In this manner God appears and speaks to awaken Job and his friends, to the more serious attention to his words; and to testify his displeasure both against Job, and them, that all of them might be more deeply humbled and prepared to receive, and retain the instructions which God was about to give them.

Verse 2

[2] Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Counsel — God's counsel. For the great matter of the dispute between Job and his friends, was concerning God's counsel and providence in afflicting Job; which Job had endeavoured to obscure and misrepresent. This first word which God spoke, struck Job to the heart. This he repeats and echoes to, chap. 42:3, as the arrow that stuck fast in him.

Verse 3

[3] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

Gird up — As warriors then did for the battle.

Verse 4

[4] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Where — Thou art but of yesterday; and dost thou presume to judge of my eternal counsels! When - When I settled it as firm upon its own center as if it had been built upon the surest foundations.

Verse 5

[5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Measures — Who hath prescribed how long and broad and deep it should be.

Line — the measuring line to regulate all its dimensions.

Verse 6

[6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

Foundations — This strong and durable building hath no foundations but God's power, which hath marvelously established it upon itself.

Cornerstone — By which the several walls are joined and fastened together, and in which, next to the foundations, the stability of a building consists. The sense is, who was it that built this goodly fabrick, and established it so firmly that it cannot be moved.

Verse 7

[7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Stars — The angels, who may well be called morning-stars, because of their excellent lustre and glory.

Sons of God — The angels called the sons of God, because they had their whole being from him, and because they were made partakers of his Divine and glorious image.

Shouted — Rejoiced in and blessed God for his works, whereby he intimates, that they neither did advise or any way assist him, nor dislike or censure any of his works, as Job had presumed to do.

Verse 8

[8] Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?

Doors — Who was it, that set bounds to the vast and raging ocean, and shut it up, as it were with doors within its proper place, that it might not overflow the earth? Break forth - From the womb or bowels of the earth, within which the waters were for the most part contained, and out of which they were by God's command brought forth into the channel which God had appointed for them.

Verse 9

[9] When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,

The cloud — When I covered it with vapours and clouds which rise out of the sea, and hover above it, and cover it like a garment.

Darkness — Black and dark clouds.

Swaddling band — Having compared the sea to a new-born infant, he continues the metaphor, and makes the clouds as swaddling-bands, to keep it within its bounds: though indeed neither clouds, nor air, nor sands, nor shores, can bound the sea, but God alone.

Verse 10

[10] And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,

Break up — Made those hollow places in the earth, which might serve for a cradle to receive and hold this great and goodly infant when it came out of the womb.

And set — Fixed its bounds as strongly as if they were fortified with bars and doors.

Verse 12

[12] Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;

Morning — Didst thou create the sun, and appoint the order and succession of day and night.

Since — Since thou wast born: this work was done long before thou wast born.

To know — To observe the punctual time when, and the point of the heavens where it should arise; which varies every day.

Verse 13

[13] That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?

That — That this morning light should in a moment spread itself, from one end of the hemisphere to the other.

Shaken — From the face of the earth. And this effect the morning-light hath upon the wicked, because it discovers them, whereas darkness hides them; and because it brings them to condign punishment, the morning being the usual time for executing judgment.

Verse 14

[14] It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.

It — The earth.

Turned — Is changed in its appearance.

By the seal — The seal makes a beautiful impression upon the clay, which in itself hath no form, or comeliness. So the earth, which in the darkness of night lies like a confused heap without either form or beauty, when the light arises and shines upon it, appears in excellent order and glory.

They — The men and things of the earth, whether natural, as living creatures, herbs and trees; or artificial, as houses or other buildings.

Stand — Present themselves to our view.

Garment — Wherewith the earth is in a manner clothed and adorned.

Verse 15

[15] And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.

Withheld — That light which enjoyed by others is withholden from them, either by their own choice, because they chuse darkness rather than light; or by the judgment of God, or the magistrate, by whom they are cut off from the light of the living.

Arms — Their great strength which they used to the oppression of others.

Verse 16

[16] Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

Springs — Heb. the tears; the several springs out of which the waters of the sea flow as tears do from the eyes.

Walked — Hast thou found out the utmost depth of the sea, which in divers places could never be reached by the wisest mariner? And how then canst thou fathom the depths of my counsels?

Verse 17

[17] Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

Death — Hast thou seen, or dost thou know the place and state of the dead; the depths and bowels of that earth in which the generality of dead men are buried. Death is a grand secret? We know not when or by what means we shall be brought to death: by what road we must go the way, whence we shall not return. We cannot describe what death is; how the knot is untied between soul and body, or how the spirit goes "To be we know not what, and live we know not how." With what dreadful curiosity does the soul launch out into an untried abyss? We have no correspondence with separate souls, nor any acquaintance with their state. It is an unknown, undiscovered region, to which they are removed. 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.

Verse 18

[18] Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

Breadth — The whole compass and all the parts of it?

Verse 19

[19] Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

Dwelleth — Hath its constant and settled abode. Whether goes the sun when it departs from this hemisphere? Where is the tabernacle and the chamber in which he is supposed to rest? And seeing there was a time when there was nothing but gross darkness upon the face of the earth, what way came light into the world? Which was the place where light dwelt at that time, and whence was it fetched? And whence came that orderly constitution and constant succession of light and darkness? Was this thy work? Or wast thou privy to it, or a counsellor, or assistant in it?

Verse 20

[20] That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

Take it — Bring or lead it: and this it refers principally to the light, and to darkness, as the consequent of the other.

Bound — Its whole course from the place of its abode whence it is supposed to come, to the end of its journey.

Know — Where thou mayst find it, and whence thou mayst fetch it.

Verse 22

[22] Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

Treasures — Dost thou know where I have laid up those vast quantities of snow and hail which I draw forth when I see fit?

Verse 23

[23] Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

Trouble — When I intend to bring trouble upon any people for their sins.

Verse 24

[24] By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

Distributed — In the air, and upon the face of the earth. This is variously distributed in the world, shining in one place and time, when it doth not shine in another, or for a longer time, or with greater brightness and power than it doth in another. All which are the effects of God's infinite wisdom and power, and such as were out of Job's reach to understand.

Which — Which light scattereth, raises the east-wind, and causes it to blow hither and thither upon the earth? For as the sun is called by the poets, the father of the winds, because he draws up those exhalations which give matter to the winds, so in particular the east-wind is often observed to rise together with the sun.

Verse 25

[25] Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;

Overflowing — For the showers of rain which come down orderly, and gradually, as if they were conveyed in pipes or channels; which, without the care of God's providence, would fall confusedly, and overwhelm the earth.

Lightning — For lightning and thunder? Who opened a passage for them out of the cloud in which they were imprisoned? And these are joined with the rain, because they are commonly accompanied with great showers of rain.

Verse 26

[26] To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;

To cause — That the clouds being broken by lightning and thunder might pour down rain.

No man — To water those parts by art and industry, as is usual in cultivated places.

Verse 27

[27] To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

To bring forth — Hitherto God has put such questions to Job, as were proper to convince him of his ignorance. Now he comes to convince him of his impotence. As it is but little that he can know, and therefore he ought not to arraign the Divine counsels, so it is but little he can do; and therefore he ought not to oppose Divine providence.

Verse 28

[28] Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?

Father — Is there any man that can beget or produce rain at his pleasure?

Verse 31

[31] Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?

Bind — Restrain or hinder them.

Pleiades — The seven stars, which bring in the spring.

Bands — By which it binds up the air and earth, by bringing storms of rain and hail or frost and snow.

Orion — This constellation rises in November, and brings in winter. Both summer and winter will have their course? God indeed can change them when he pleases, can make the spring cold, and so bind the influences of Pleiades, and the winter warm, and so loose the bands of Orion; but we cannot.

Verse 32

[32] Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?

Bring forth — Canst thou make the stars in the southern signs arise and appear? Arcturus - Those in the northern.

His sons — The lesser stars, which are placed round about them; and attend upon them, as children upon their parents.

Verse 33

[33] Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

Ordinances — The laws which are firmly established concerning their order, motion, or rest, and their powerful influences upon this lower world. Didst thou give these laws? Or dost thou perfectly know them? Canst thou - Manage and over rule their influences.

Verse 34

[34] Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?

Cover thee — Thy land when it needs rain.

Verse 38

[38] When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?

Mire — By reason of much rain.

Verse 39

[39] Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,

Hunt — Is it by thy care that the lions who live in desert places are furnished with necessary provisions? This is another wonderful work of God.

Verse 41

[41] Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

Raven — Having mentioned the noblest of brute creatures, he now mentions one of the most contemptible; to shew the care of God's providence over all creatures, both great and small. Their young ones are so soon forsaken by their dams, that if God did not provide for them in a more than ordinary manner, they would be starved to death. And will he that provides for the young ravens, fail to provide for his own children.

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