Elihu here goes on to extol the wonderful power of God in the meteors
and all the changes of the weather: if, in those changes, we submit to
the will of God, take the weather as it is and make the best of it, why
should we not do so in other changes of our condition? Here he observes
the hand of God,
I. In the thunder and lightning,
II. In the frost and snow, the rains and wind,
III. He applies it to Job, and challenges him to solve the phenomena of
these works of nature, that confessing his ignorance in them, he might
own himself an incompetent judge in the proceedings of divine
IV. Concludes with his principle, which he undertook to make out, That
God is great and greatly to be feared,
|The Address of Elihu.
||B. C. 1520.|
1 At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his
2 Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that
goeth out of his mouth.
3 He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning
unto the ends of the earth.
4 After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his
excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.
5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things
doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
Thunder and lightning, which usually go together, are sensible
indications of the glory and majesty, the power and terror, of Almighty
God, one to the ear and the other to the eye; in these God leaves not
himself without witness of his greatness, as, in the rain from heaven
and fruitful seasons, he leaves not himself without witness of his
even to the most stupid and unthinking. Though there are natural causes
and useful effects of them, which the philosophers undertake to account
for, yet they seem chiefly designed by the Creator to startle and
awaken the slumbering world of mankind to the consideration of a God
above them. The eye and the ear are the two learning senses; and
therefore, though such a circumstance is possible, they say it was
never known in fact that any one was born both blind and deaf. By the
word of God divine instructions are conveyed to the mind through the
ear, by his works through the eye; but, because those ordinary sights
and sounds do not duly affect men, God is pleased sometimes to astonish
men by the eye with his lightnings and by the ear with his thunder. It
is very probable that at this time, when Elihu was speaking, it
thundered and lightened, for he speaks of the phenomena as present;
and, God being about to speak
these were, as afterwards on Mount Sinai, the proper prefaces to
command attention and awe. Observe here,
1. How Elihu was himself affected, and desired to affect Job, with the
appearance of God's glory in the thunder and lightning
"For my part," says Elihu, "my heart trembles at it; though I
have often heard it, often seen it, yet it is still terrible to me, and
makes every joint of me tremble, and my heart beat as if it would move
out of its place." Thunder and lightning have been dreadful to
the wicked: the emperor Caligula would run into a corner, or under a
bed, for fear of them. Those who are very much astonished, we say, are
thunder-struck. Even good people think thunder and lightning
very awful; and that which makes them the more terrible is the hurt
often done by lightning, many having been killed by it. Sodom and
Gomorrah were laid in ruins by it. It is a sensible indication of what
God could do to this sinful world, and what he will do, at last,
by the fire to which it is reserved. Our hearts, like Elihu's should
tremble at it for fear of God's judgments,
He also calls upon Job to attend to it
Hear attentively the noise of his voice. Perhaps as yet it
thundered at a distance, and could not be heard without listening: or
rather, Though the thunder will be heard, and whatever we are doing we
cannot help attending to it, yet, to apprehend and understand the
instructions God thereby gives us, we have need to hear with great
attention and application of mind. Thunder is called the voice of
&c.), because by it God speaks to the children of men to fear before
him, and it should put us in mind of that mighty word by which the
world was at first made, which is called thunder.
Ps. civ. 7,
At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away, namely, the
waters, when God said, Let them be gathered into one place.
Those that are themselves affected with God's greatness should labour
to affect others.
2. How he describes them.
(1.) Their original, not their second causes, but the first. God
directs the thunder, and the lightning is his,
Their production and motion are not from chance, but from the counsel
of God and under the direction and dominion of his providence, though
to us they seem accidental and ungovernable.
(2.) Their extent. The claps of thunder roll under the whole
heaven, and are heard far and near; so are the lightnings darted to
the ends of the earth; they come out of the one part under
heaven and shine to the other,
Though the same lightning and thunder do not reach to all places, yet
they reach to very distant places in a moment, and there is no place
but, some time or other, has these alarms from heaven.
(3.) Their order. The lightning is first directed, and after it a
The flash of fire, and the noise it makes in a watery cloud, are really
at the same time; but, because the motion of light is much quicker than
that of sound, we see the lightning some time before we hear the
thunder, as we see the firing of a great gun at a distance before we
hear the report of it. The thunder is here called the voice of God's
excellency, because by it he proclaims his transcendent power and
greatness. He sends forth his voice and that a mighty voice,
(4.) Their violence. He will not stay them, that is, he does not
need to check them, or hold them back, lest they should grow unruly and
out of his power to restrain them, but lets them take their course,
says to them, Go, and they go--Come, and they come--Do this, and
they do it. He will not stay the rains and showers that usually
follow upon the thunder (which he had spoken of,
so some, but will pour them out upon the earth when his voice is
heard. Thunder-showers are sweeping rains, and for them he makes
(5.) The inference he draws from all this,
Does God thunder thus marvellously with his voice? We must then
conclude that his other works are great, and such as we cannot
comprehend. From this one instance we may argue to all, that, in the
dispensations of his providence, there is that which is too great, too
strong, for us to oppose or strive against, and too high, too deep, for
us to arraign or quarrel with.
6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to
the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.
7 He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know
8 Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.
9 Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the
10 By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the
waters is straitened.
11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth
his bright cloud:
12 And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may
do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in
13 He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his
land, or for mercy.
The changes and extremities of the weather, wet or dry, hot or cold,
are the subject of a great deal of our common talk and observation; but
how seldom do we think and speak of these things, as Elihu does here,
with an awful regard to God the director of them, who shows his power
and serves the purposes of his providence by them! We must take notice
of the glory of God, not only in the thunder and lightning, but in the
more common revolutions of the weather, which are not so terrible and
which make less noise. As,
I. In the snow and rain,
Thunder and lightning happen usually in the summer, but here he takes
notice of the winter-weather. Then he saith to the snow, Be thou on
the earth; he commissions it, he commands it, he appoints it, where
it shall light and how long it shall lie. He speaks, and it is done: as
in the creation of the world, Let there be light, so in the
works of common providence, Snow, be thou on the earth. Saying
and doing are not two things with God, though they are with us. When he
speaks the word the small rain distils and the great rain
pours down as he pleases--the winter-rain (so the LXX.), for in
those countries, when the winter was past, the rain was over and gone,
Song of Solomon 2:11.
The distinction in the Hebrew between the small rain and the great rain
is this, that the former is called a shower of rain, the latter
of rains, many showers in one; but all are the showers of his
strength: the power of God is to be observed as much in the small
rain that soaks into the earth as in the great rain that batters on the
house-top and washes away all before it. Note, The providence of God
is to be acknowledged, both by husbandmen in the fields and travellers
upon the road, in every shower of rain, whether it does them a kindness
of a diskindness. It is sin and folly to contend with God's providence
in the weather; if he send the snow or rain, can we hinder them? Or
shall we be angry at them? It is as absurd to quarrel with any other
disposal of Providence concerning ourselves or ours. The effect of the
extremity of the winter-weather is that it obliges both men and beasts
to retire, making it uncomfortable and unsafe for them to go abroad.
1. Men retire to their houses from their labours in the field, and keep
He seals up the hand of every man. In frost and snow, husbandmen
cannot follow their business, nor some tradesmen, nor travellers, when
the weather is extreme. The plough is laid by, the shipping laid up,
nothing is to be done, nothing to be got, that men, being taken off
from their own work, may know his work, and contemplate that,
and give him the glory of that, and, by the consideration of that work
of his in the weather which seals up their hands, be led to celebrate
his other great and marvellous works. Note, When we are, upon any
account, disabled from following our worldly business, and taken off
from it, we should spend our time rather in the exercises of piety and
devotion (in acquainting ourselves with the works of God and praising
him in them) than in foolish idle sports and recreations. When our
hands are sealed up our hearts should be thus opened, and the less we
have at any time to do in the world the more we should thereby be
driven to our Bibles and our knees.
2. The beasts also retire to their dens and remain in
their close places,
It is meant of the wild beasts, which, being wild, must seek a shelter
for themselves, to which by instinct they are directed, while the tame
beasts, which are serviceable to man, are housed and protected by his
The ass has no den but his master's crib, and thither he goes, not only
to be safe and warm, but to be fed. Nature directs all creatures to
shelter themselves from a storm; and shall man alone be unprovided with
II. In the winds, which blow from different quarters and produce
Out of the hidden place (so it may be read) comes the
whirlwind; it turns round, and so it is hard to say from which
point it comes but it comes from the secret chamber, as the word
signifies, which I am not so willing to understand of the south,
because he says here
that the wind out of the south is so far from being a whirlwind that it
is a warming, quieting, wind. But at this time, perhaps, Elihu saw a
whirlwind-cloud coming out of the south and making towards them, out of
which the Lord spoke soon after,
Or, if turbulent winds which bring showers come out of the south, cold
and drying blasts come out of the north to scatter the vapours and
clear the air of them.
III. In the frost,
See the cause of it: It is given by the breath of God, that is,
by the word of his power and the command of his will; or, as some
understand it, by the wind, which is the breath of God, as the thunder
is his voice; it is caused by the cold freezing wind out of the north.
See the effect of it: The breadth of the waters is straitened,
that is, the waters that had spread themselves, and flowed with
liberty, are congealed, benumbed, arrested, bound up in crystal
fetters. This is such an instance of the power of God as, if it were
not common, would be next to a miracle.
IV. In the clouds, the womb where all these watery meteors are
conceived, of which he had spoken,
Three sorts of clouds he here speaks of:--
1. Close, black, thick clouds, pregnant with showers; and these with
watering he wearies
that is, they spend themselves, and are exhausted by the rain into
which they melt and are dissolved, pouring out water till they are
weary and can pour out no more. See what pains, as I may say, the
creatures, even those above us, take to serve man: the clouds water the
earth till they are weary; they spend and are spent for our benefit,
which shames and condemns us for the little good we do in our places,
though it would be to our own advantage, for he that watereth shall
be watered also himself.
2. Bright thin clouds, clouds without water; and these he
scattereth; they are dispersed of themselves, and not dissolved
into rain, but what becomes of them we know not. The bright cloud, in
the evening, when the sky is red, is scattered, and proves an earnest
of a fair day,
3. Flying clouds, which do not dissolve, as the thick cloud, into a
close rain, but are carried upon the wings of the wind from place to
place, dropping showers as they go; and these are said to be turned
round about by his counsels,
The common people say that the rain is determined by the planets, which
is as bad divinity as it is philosophy, for it is guided and governed
by the counsel of God, which extends even to those things that seem
most casual and minute, that they may do whatsoever he commands
them; for the stormy winds, and the clouds that are driven by them,
fulfil his word; and by this means he causes it to rain upon one
city and not upon another,
Thus his will is done upon the face of the world in the earth,
that is, among the children of men, to whom God has an eye in all these
things, of whom it is said that he made them to dwell on the face of
The inferior creatures, being incapable of doing moral actions, are
incapable of receiving rewards and punishments: but, among the children
of men, God causes the rain to come, either for the correction of his
land or for a mercy to it,
(1.) Rain sometimes turns into a judgment. It is a scourge to a sinful
land; as once it was for the destruction of the whole world, so it is
now often for the correction or discipline of some parts of it, by
hindering seedness and harvest, raising the waters, and damaging the
fruits. Some have said that our nation has received much more prejudice
by the excess of rain than by the want of it.
(2.) At other times it is a blessing. It is for his land, that
this may be made fruitful; and, besides that which is just necessary,
he gives for mercy, to fatten it and make it more fruitful. See
what a necessary dependence we have upon God, when the very same thing,
according to the proportion in which it is given, may be either a great
judgment or a great mercy, and without God we cannot have either a
shower or a fair gleam.
14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the
wondrous works of God.
15 Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light
of his cloud to shine?
16 Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous
works of him which is perfect in knowledge?
17 How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by
the south wind?
18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong,
and as a molten looking glass?
19 Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order
our speech by reason of darkness.
20 Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he
shall be swallowed up.
Elihu here addresses himself closely to Job, desiring him to apply what
he had hitherto said to himself. He begs that he would hearken to this
that he would pause awhile: Stand still, and consider the wondrous
works of God. What we hear is not likely to profit us unless we
consider it, and we are not likely to consider things fully unless we
stand still and compose ourselves to the consideration of them. The
works of God, being wondrous, both deserve and need our consideration,
and the due consideration of them will help to reconcile us to all his
providences. Elihu, for the humbling of Job, shows him,
I. That he had no insight into natural causes, could neither see the
springs of them nor foresee the effects of them
Dost thou know this and know that which are the wondrous
works of him who is perfect in knowledge? We are here taught,
1. The perfection of God's knowledge. It is one of the most glorious
perfections of God that he is perfect in knowledge; he is omniscient.
His knowledge is intuitive: he sees, and does not know by
report. It is intimate and entire: he knows things truly, and not by
their colours--thoroughly, and not by piecemeal. To his knowledge there
is nothing distant, but all near--nothing future, but all
present--nothing hid, but all open. We ought to acknowledge this in all
his wondrous works, and it is sufficient to satisfy us in those
wondrous works which we know not the meaning of that they are the works
of one that knows what he does.
2. The imperfection of our knowledge. The greatest philosophers are
much in the dark concerning the powers and works of nature. We are a
paradox to ourselves, and every thing about us is a mystery. The
gravitation of bodies, and the cohesion of the parts of matter, are
most certain, and yet unaccountable. It is good for us to be made
sensible of our own ignorance. Some have confessed their ignorance,
and those that would not do this have betrayed it. But we must all
infer from it what incompetent judges we are of the divine politics,
when we understand so little even of the divine mechanics.
(1.) We know not what orders God has given concerning the clouds, nor
what orders he will give,
That all is done by determination and with design we are sure; but what
is determined, and what designed, and when the plan was laid, we know
not. God often causes the light of his cloud to shine, in the
rainbow (so some), in the lightning (so others); but did we foresee, or
could we foretel, when he would to it? If we foresee the change of
weather a few hours before, by vulgar observation, or when second
causes have begun to work by the weather-glass, yet how little do these
show us of the purposes of God by these changes!
(2.) We know not how the clouds are poised in the air, the
balancing of them, which is one of the wondrous works of God.
They are so balanced, so spread, that they never rob us of the benefit
of the sun (even the cloudy day is day), so balanced that they do not
fall at once, nor burst into cataracts or water-spouts. The rainbow is
an intimation of God's favour in balancing the clouds so as to keep
them from drowning the world. Nay, so are they balanced that they
impartially distribute their showers on the earth, so that, one time or
other, every place has its share.
(3.) We know not how the comfortable change comes when the winter is
[1.] How the weather becomes warm after it has been cold. We know how
our garment came to be warm upon us, that is, how we come to be warm in
our clothes, by reason of the warmth of the air we breathe in. Without
God's blessing we should clothe ourselves, yet not be warm,
But, when he so orders it, the clothes are warm upon us, which, in the
extremity of cold weather, would not serve to keep us warm.
[2.] How it becomes calm after it has been stormy: He quiets the
earth by the south wind, when the spring comes. As he has a
blustering freezing north wind, so he has a thawing, composing, south
wind; the Spirit is compared to both, because he both convinces and
Song of Solomon 4:16.
II. That he had no share at all in the first making of the world
"Hast thou with him spread out the sky? Thou canst not pretend
to have stretched it out without him, no, nor to have stretched it out
in conjunction with him; for he was far from needing any help either in
contriving or in working." The creation of the vast expanse of the
which we see in being to this day, is a glorious instance of the divine
1. That, though it is fluid, yet it is firm. It is strong, and
has its name from its stability. It still is what it was, and suffers
no decay, nor shall the ordinances of heaven be altered till the lease
expires with time.
2. That, though it is large, it is bright and most curiously fine: It
is a molten looking-glass, smooth and polished, and without the
least flaw or crack. In this, as in a looking-glass, we may behold
the glory of God and the wisdom of his handy work,
When we look up to heaven above we should remember it is a mirror or
looking-glass, not to show us our own faces, but to be a faint
representation of the purity, dignity, and brightness of the upper
world and its glorious inhabitants.
III. That neither he nor they were able to speak of the glory of God in
any proportion to the merit of the subject,
1. He challenges Job to be their director, if he durst undertake the
task. He speaks it ironically: "Teach us, if thou canst, what
we shall say unto him,
Thou hast a mind to reason with God, and wouldst have us to contend
with him on thy behalf; teach us then what we shall say. Canst thou
see further into this abyss than we can? If thou canst, favour us with
thy discoveries, furnish us with instructions."
2. He owns his own insufficiency both in speaking to God and in
speaking of him: We cannot order our speech by reason of
darkness. Note, The best of men are much in the dark concerning the
glorious perfections of the divine nature and the administrations of
the divine government. Those that through grace know much of God, yet
know little, yea, nothing, in comparison with what is to be known, and
what will be known, when that which is perfect shall come and the veil
shall be rent. When we would speak of God we speak confusedly and with
great uncertainly, and are soon at a loss and run aground, not for want
of matter, but for want of words. As we must always begin with fear and
trembling, lest we speak amiss (De Deo etiam vera dicere periculosum
est--Even while affirming what is true concerning God we incur
risk), so we must conclude with shame and blushing, for having
spoken no better. Elihu himself had, for his part, spoken well on God's
behalf, and yet is so far from expecting a fee, or thinking that God
was beholden to him for it, or that he was fit to be standing counsel
for him, that
(1.) He is even ashamed of what he has said, not of the cause, but of
his own management of it: "Shall it be told him that I speak?
Shall it be reported to him as a meritorious piece of service, worthy
his notice? By no means; let it never be spoken of," for he fears that
the subject has suffered by his undertaking it, as a fine face is
wronged by a bad painter, and his performance is so far from meriting
thanks that it needs pardon. When we have done all we can for God we
must acknowledge that we are unprofitable servants and have nothing at
all to boast of. He is afraid of saying any more: If a man
speak, if he undertake to plead for God, much more if he offer to
plead against him, surely he shall be swallowed up. If he speak
presumptuously, God's wrath shall soon consume him; but, if ever so
well, he will soon lose himself in the mystery and be over powered by
the divine lustre. Astonishment will strike him blind and dumb.
21 And now men see not the bright light which is in the
clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.
22 Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible
23 Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is
excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he
will not afflict.
24 Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are
wise of heart.
Elihu here concludes his discourse with some short but great sayings
concerning the glory of God, as that which he was himself impressed,
and desired to impress others, with a holy awe of. He speaks concisely,
and in haste, because, it should seem, he perceived that God was about
to take the work into his own hands.
1. He observes that God who has said that he will dwell in the thick
darkness and make that his pavilion
(2 Chronicles 6:1,Ps+18:11)
is in that awful chariot advancing towards them, as if he were
preparing his throne for judgment, surrounded with clouds and
He saw the cloud, with a whirlwind in the bosom of it, coming out of
the south; but now it hung so thick, so black, over their heads, that
they could none of them see the bright light which just before
was in the clouds. The light of the sun was now eclipsed. This
reminded him of the darkness by reason of which he could not speak
and made him afraid to go on,
Thus the disciples feared when they entered into a cloud,
Yet he looks to the north, and sees it clear that way, which gives him
hope that the clouds are not gathering for a deluge; they are covered,
but not surrounded, with them. He expects that the wind will
pass (so it may be read) and cleanse them, such a wind as
passed over the earth to clear it from the waters of Noah's flood
in token of the return of God's favour; and then fair weather will
come out of the north
and all will be well. God will not always frown, nor contend for ever.
2. He hastens to conclude, now that God is about to speak; and
therefore delivers much in a few words, as the sum of all that he had
been discoursing of, which, if duly considered, would not only clench
the nail he had been driving, but make way for what God would say. He
(1.) That with God is terrible majesty. He is a God of glory and
such transcendent perfection as cannot but strike an awe upon all his
attendants and a terror upon all his adversaries. With God is
terrible praise (so some), for he is fearful in praises,
(2.) That when we speak touching the Almighty we must own that
we cannot find him out; our finite understandings cannot
comprehend his infinite perfections,
Can we put the sea into an egg-shell? We cannot trace the steps he
takes in his providence. His way is in the sea.
(3.) That he is excellent in power. It is the excellency of his
power that he can do whatever he pleases in heaven and earth. The
universal extent and irresistible force of his power are the excellency
of it; no creature has an arm like him, so long, so strong.
(4.) That he is not less excellent in wisdom and righteousness, in
judgment and plenty of justice, else there would be little
excellency in his power. We may be sure that he who can do every thing
will do every thing for the best, for he is infinitely wise, and will
not in any thing do wrong, for he is infinitely just. When he executes
judgment upon sinners, yet there is plenty of justice in the execution,
and he inflicts not more than they deserve.
(5.) That he will not afflict, that is, that he will not afflict
willingly; it is no pleasure to him to grieve the children of men, much
less his own children. He never afflicts but when there is cause and
when there is need, and he does not overburden us with affliction, but
considers our frame. Some read it thus: "The Almighty, whom we
cannot find out, is great in power, but he will not afflict in
judgment, and with him is plenty of justice, nor is he extreme to
mark what we do amiss."
(6.) He values not the censures of those who are wise in their own
conceit: He respecteth them not,
He will not alter his counsels to oblige them, nor can those that
prescribe to him prevail with him to do as they would have him do. He
regards the prayer of the humble, but not the policies of the crafty.
No, the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
1 Corinthians 1:15.
(7.) From all this it is easy to infer that, since God is great, he is
greatly to be feared; nay, because he is gracious and will not afflict,
men do therefore fear him, for there is forgiveness with him,
that he may be feared,
4. It is the duty and interest of all men to fear God. Men shall
fear him (so some); sooner or later they shall fear him. Those that
will not fear the Lord and his goodness shall for ever tremble under
the pourings out of the vials of his wrath.