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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

JOB 39

A CONTINUATION OF THE WORDS OF JEHOVAH

As already noted, the details of God's multiple questions addressed to Job do not appear to follow any pattern. Moreover it seems that the questions themselves are not nearly so important as the simple fact that Almighty God is here carrying on a conversation with a mortal man. This is at once, the glory of Job, and of mankind. The questions do not solve any of the mysteries of Job's suffering; the questions he has so eagerly asked remain unanswered; but in spite of all this, the questions achieve their intended effect in the heart of Job. As we learn later in Job 41:6, Job repents in dust and ashes. And of what does he repent? It was not of that gross wickedness imagined in the accusations of his friends, for of that he was not guilty. Nevertheless, he was by no means sinless; and his innocent notion that he could plead his worthiness even before God was profoundly in error.

Job accepted for himself the guilt and unworthiness which, in the very nature of our sinful mortality, pertains to all mankind. And it is in that sublime fact that the wise man must, at last, find the explanation of all the mysteries of our earthly existence, and, "Trust our Creator in all areas, even those in which we cannot see; for we walk by faith and not by sight." It was the surpassing honor of Job that God enabled him to do that very thing.

Job 39:1-4

JOB'S IGNORANCE OF WILD GOATS, DEER, AND OTHER WILD LIFE

Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rocks bring forth?

Or 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,

They cast forth their pain.

Their young ones become strong,

They grow up in the open field:

They go forth, and return not again."

Men have learned much about the beasts of the earth since the times of Job; and by capturing and breeding animals in menageries and zoological gardens, some of the questions God asked of Job in this paragraph men are now able to answer; but by no means do men know the whole story of the instinctive traits God created in all animals. There are inexplicable mysteries regarding any animal that the wisest men on earth cannot explain.

QUESTIONS REGARDING THE WILD-ASS AND THE WILD-OX

Who hath sent out the wild-ass free?

Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild-ass,

Whose home I have made the wilderness,

And the salt land his dwelling place?

He scorneth the tumult of the city,

Neither heareth he the shoutings of the driver.

The range of the mountains is his pasture,

And he searcheth after every green thing.

Will the wild-ox be content to serve thee?

Or will he abide by thy crib?

Canst thou bind the wild-ox with his band in the furrow?

Or will he harrow the valleys after thee?

Wilt thou trust him because his strength is great?

Or wilt thou leave to him thy labor?

Wilt thou confide in him, that he will bring home thy seed,

And gather the grain of thy threshing floor?"

The animals mentioned here are the wild-ass, which is, "The onager of central Asia,"F1 and the wild-ox, identified by Pope in the Anchor Bible as, "the buffalo."F2

The wild-ass, of course, is similar to the common donkey; and the mystery of these animals in some particulars is still incredibly arcane. Why, for example, has it been impossible to domesticate the buffalo? And regarding the ass, why cannot mules be produced by the breeding of the female donkey with a stallion? whereas, they are produced only by the breeding of mares with the male ass. We mention these things merely to suggest that, although men have learned many things, there are yet many incomprehensible mysteries in the natural creation that surrounds us.

HOW HAS A STUPID BIRD LIKE THE OSTRICH SURVIVED?

The wings of the ostrich wave proudly;

But are the pinions and plumage of love?

For she leaveth her eggs on the earth,

And warmeth them in the dust,

And forgetteth that the foot may crush them,

Or that the wild beast may trample them.

She dealeth hardly with her young ones, as if they were not hers:

Though her labor be in vain, she is without fear;

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom,

Neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

What time she lifteth up herself on high,

She scorneth the horse and his rider."

God's question for Job in this section is not grammatically stated but implied, as indicated by our title for these verses. Can anyone explain how such a senseless creature could survive throughout the millenniums of human history?


 
Verses 13-18
The wings of the ostrich wave proudly; [But] are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaveth her eggs on the earth, And warmeth them in the dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, Or that the wild beast may trample them. She dealeth hardly with her young ones, as if they were not hers: Though her labor be in vain, [she is] without fear; Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, Neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, She scorneth the horse and his rider.
(Job 39:13)? The exact meaning here is obscure; but Rawlinson wrote that, The question here is, 'Does the ostrich use those beautiful pinions and plumage for the same kindly purpose as other birds, namely, to warm her eggs and further the purpose of hatching them.'F3

CAN YOU EXPLAIN SUCH AN ANIMAL AS THE HORSE?

Hast thou given the horse his might?

Has thou clothed his neck with the quivering mane?

Has thou made him to leap as a locust?

The glory of his snorting is terrible.

He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:

He goeth out to meet the armed man.

He mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed;

Neither turneth he back from the sword.

The quiver rattleth against him,

The flashing spear and the javelin.

He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage;

Neither believeth he that it is the voice of the

Neither believeth he that it is the voice of the trumpet.

As oft as the trumpet soundeth he saith, Aha!

And he smelleth the battle afar off,

The thunder of the captains and the shouting."

Here again, the question addressed to Job is implied rather than spoken as an interrogative. We have paraphrased it in the paragraph heading. The horse is a war animal, surpassing all others in that inherent characteristic.


 
Verses 19-25
Hast thou given the horse [his] might? Hast thou clothed his neck with the quivering mane? Hast thou made him to leap as a locust? The glory of his snorting is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: He goeth out to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed; Neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, The flashing spear and the javelin. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; Neither believeth he that it is the voice of the trumpet. As oft as the trumpet [soundeth] he saith, Aha! And he smelleth the battle afar off, The thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
(Job 39:22-23). The weapons mentioned here of which the horse was not afraid were all ancient weapons, and relatively silent, when compared to artillery and other modern weapons; but the horse is no more afraid of the roar of a canon than he was the silent flight of an arrow. Who can explain such a thing? God evidently created the horse for warfare; and, for that reason, forbade the kings of Israel to multiply horses unto themselves, a restriction which they promptly violated.

BEHOLD THE MYSTERIES OF THE HAWK AND THE EAGLE

Is it by thy wisdom that the hawk soareth?

And stretcheth her wings toward the south?

Is it at thy command that the eagle mounteth up,

And maketh her nest on high?

On the cliff she dwelleth, and maketh her home,

Upon the point of the cliff, and the stronghold.

From thence she spieth out the prey;

Her eyes beholdeth it afar off.

Her young ones suck up blood:

And where the slain are, there is she.

The hawk and the eagle are birds of prey; and

their behavior is the wonder of all who ever observed it carefully."


 
Verses 26-30
Is it by thy wisdom that the hawk soareth, (And) stretcheth her wings toward the south? Is it at thy command that the eagle mounteth up, And maketh her nest on high? On the cliff she dwelleth, and maketh her home, Upon the point of the cliff, and the stronghold. From thence she spieth out the prey; Her eyes behold it afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood: And where the slain are, there is she.
(Job 39:27. In October of 1953, while this writer was a chaplain in the Far East, he once was taken for an excursion on a plane which the GI's called the Charlie 119; and we circled the summit of a mountain in southern Japan called `Mount Aso.' There, on the very lip of that active volcano was an eagle's nest! Who can explain such things as that?

Her eyes beholdeth it afar off
(Job 39:29). Long before mankind discovered such a thing as the telescope, both eagles and vultures were provided with telescopic vision, an ability most certainly mentioned here. In a similar manner, long before mankind had learned anything whatever about radar, the cave-dwelling bats were created by God with built-in radar systems enabling them to hunt and find and eat millions of insects at night!


Footnotes for Job 39
1: Britannica World Language Dictionary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1959), Vol. 1, p. 882.
2: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Job, p. 257.
3: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7d, p. 632.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 39". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=039>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.