Job, in answer to Bildad, admits the truth of his arguments, but declines to attempt the justification which can alone entitle him to accept the favourable side of Bildad's alternative. Man cannot absolutely justify himself before God. It is in vain to attempt to do so. The contest is too unequal. On the one side perfect wisdom and absolute strength (verse 4); on the other, weakness, imperfection, ignorance. guilt (verses 17-20). And no "daysman," or umpire, between them; no third party to hold the balance even, and preside authoritatively over the controversy, and see that justice is done (verses 33-35). Were it otherwise, Job would not shrink from the controversy; but he thinks it ill arguing with omnipotent power. What he seems to lack is the absolute conviction expressed by Abraham in the emphatic words'" Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? " ( Genesis 18:25 ).
Which shaketh the earth out of her place . This is a still more startling figure of speech; but comp. Psalms 46:2 ; Psalms 68:16 ; Psalms 114:4 , Psalms 114:6 . And the pillars thereof tremble . The earth is conceived of, poetically, as a huge edifice, supported on pillars (comp. Psalms 75:3 ), which in an earthquake are shaken, and impart their motion to the entire building. Rosenmuller's quotation of Seneca, 'Nat. Quaest.,' 6:20—" Fortasse ex aliqua parle terra veluti columnis quibusdam et pills sustinetur, quibus vitiatis et recedentibus tremit pondus impositum "—is apposite.
Job to Bildad: 2. The majesty of God depicted.
I. IN TERRESTRIAL PHENOMENA .
1 . Overturning mountains. "Which removeth," i.e. . uprooteth or overtumeth, "the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger" (verse 5). Whatever be the allusion intended, whether to the convulsions of nature which occurred at the Flood, or to those usually associated with earthquakes, the language suggests the absoluteness of God's control over nature, and in particular:
2 . Convulsing the earth. "Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars," i.e. the internal foundations, "thereof tremble" (verse 6). Nothing is more seemingly stable than the solid globe ( Psalms 119:90 ). Its original establishment was a sublime witness to the power and wisdom of its Creator ( 1 Samuel 2:8 ; Psalms 24:1 , Psalms 24:2 ; Psalms 136:6 ; Jeremiah 51:15 ). Yet, by the mysterious forces treasured up within its dark retreats, the Almighty can make it tremble as if about to be dissolved ( Psalms 104:32 ; Psalms 114:7 ), as he did at Sinai ( Exodus 19:18 ; Psalms 68:8 ), and as once again he will do at the end of time ( Hebrews 1:10 ; 2 Peter 3:10 ). The shaking of the earth is an emblem of Divine judgments ( Isaiah 13:13 ).
II. IN THE WONDERS OF THE SKY .
1 . Obscuring the sun. "Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth [or, 'shineth'] not" (verse 7). Alluding to both natural and supernatural obscurations of the solar light, of the former of which ordinary eclipses may be taken as illustrations, while the Egyptian darkness will constitute a sample of the latter.
2 . Concealing the stars. "And sealeth up the stars" (verse 7). The stars also are God's creatures ( Genesis 1:16 ), and as such are obedient to his control. The vast number, immense magnitudes, and incredible velocities of the heavenly bodies, as unfolded by modern astronomy, impart to us loftier conceptions of the Creatofs power than were possessed by devout Hebrews. The Divine wisdom also is significantly displayed in the regularity of their movements, which secures that they never fail to swim out into the blue sea of the celestial firmament when the light of day has departed. Yet the ease with which the splendor of the midnight sky can be extinguished, by pouring over it the brilliance of day, or drawing round it the thick gloom of clouds, is no less striking as a visible display of almighty wisdom and power, and one which must have appeared to an Oriental, looking up into a Syrian sky, infinitely more solemnizing than it does to an Occidental, who only sees the stars shining with a dimmer lustre.
3 . Bringing down the clouds. "Which alone spreadeth out the heavens" (verse 8). The reference is probably not to the original creation of the firmament ( Genesis 1:6 ), but to the visible descent of storm-clouds upon the sea ( Psalms 18:9-11 ). The poet represents the striking phenomena of cloud-land as another exhibition of almighty power. The modern scientist imagines, when he has predicted the advent and measured the velocity of the tempest, he has effectually disposed of the Hebrew poet's notion of supernaturalism in connection with the marvels of the sky. But the laws by which storm-clouds are built up and let down, swept along and finally dispersed, have not been spontaneously developed, or inherently possessed by, but externally imposed on, nature by him whose strength is in the clouds ( Psalms 68:34 ), who employs them as his chariot ( Psalms 104:3 ), and who when he pleases draws them across the face of heaven ( Psalms 147:8 ).
4 . Walking on the billows. "And treadeth upon the waves [literally, 'the heights'] of the sea" (verse 8); i.e. upon the fierce mountainous billows. The two clauses are descriptive of a storm at sea, in which sea and sky appear to intermingle ( Psalms 107:25 , Psalms 107:26 ). As the wind, so the water; as the sky, so the sea; as the cloud, so the wave, recognizes the authority of God. The Divine power is usually exhibited as calming the troubled billows ( Psalms 65:7 ; Psalms 89:9 , Psalms 89:13 ). Here Jehovah is portrayed as exciting a tempest, bringing down his clouds, sending forth his hurricanes, raising the still waters into gigantic billows, lashing the quiet sea into a wild and tumultuous commotion, and then going forth in sublime sovereignty amidst the hurricane he has produced, walking calmly upon the crested heights of the ocean, causing his voice to be heard above the loudest roar of the storm,and at length saying, "Peace, be still!" So Christ visibly walked upon the Sea of Galilee ( Matthew 14:26 ). Another picture of God's sovereignty over creation, another lesson of God's ability to be the confidence of them that are afar off upon the sea ( Psalms 65:8 ).
III. IN THE CREATION OF THE STELLAR WORLD .
1 . The constellations of the northern hemisphere. "Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades [literally, 'who made']."
2 . The constellations of the southern hemisphere. "And the chambers of the south;" i.e. the regions of the southern sky, which are completely veiled from view to us, and only occasionally discovered to Arabian spectators.
IV. IN THE PROVIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNIVERSE . The sentiment of Job 38:10 , which almost verbatim repeats the utterance of Eliphaz ( Job 5:10 ), may be viewed as a general description of the mighty power of God in upholding, as well as creating, the stupendous fabric he has summoned into being. Regarded in this light, it describes the operations of Divine energy as:
1 . Great. He " doeth great things" ( Job 38:10 ). Everything that God does (in creation and providence) may be characterized as great ( Psalms 92:5 ; Psalms 111:2 ), as being the production of infinite power. The distinction between great and little, when applied to Divine acts, exists only in the human understanding. The creation of a solar system is as easy to Omnipotence as the construction of an atom, and the formation of the latter as much dependent on Divine power as the production of the former.
2 . Wonderful. "He doeth wondrous things." The wisdom displayed in the Divine works is conspicuous to every intelligent observer ( Psalms 104:24 ). The marvels of creation are fully equalled by the wonders of providence. The formation of a crystal, the structure of a flower, the organization of an animal, are examples of the former; the Deluge, the Exodus from Egypt, the Babylonish exile, the incarnation and death of Christ, illustrations of the latter.
3 . Unsearchable. He doeth things "past finding out." Much as modern science has discovered of the secrets of Nature, there are vast realms lying unexplored around and beyond her, into some of which it is doubtful if she will ever be able to penetrate. Her ascertained results also make it probable that there are works of God into which she cannot sink the plummet of her finite understanding; as e.g. the nature of electricity and magnetism, the mystery of life in all its forms and gradations, the mode in which matter and mind act and react upon one another.
4 . Numerous. He doeth "wonders without number." The exquisite variety and the apparently limitless number of God's works are impressive testimonies to the infinite power and matchless wisdom of the Creator.
God viewed as absolute and arbitrary Power.
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN IN PRESENCE OF HIS OMNIPOTENCE . ( Job 9:1-3 .) What avails right on one's side against him who has all heaven's artillery at his command? "It is idle to argue with the Master of thirty legions." Out of a thousand questions with which the Almighty might overwhelm my mind, there is not one which I could answer with the chance of a fair hearing. Indeed, this in a sense is true, as the thirty-eighth chapter will presently show. It is idle to argue with God concerning the constitution of things. But it is never idle to plead the right. This, God, by the very nature of his Being, by his promises, is bound to attend to. Job thinks of God as the Almighty and the All-wise (verse 4), and he finds in this combination of attributes only reason for despair. He leaves out his justice; his faith in his love is suspended for a time. Hence he sees him only through the distorted dream of suffering, and his dark inferences are wrong.
II. DESCRIPTIONS OF THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF GOD .
1 . In nature's destructive forces. Here he would rival and outvie Eliphaz in the sublimity of his pictures. The more terrible phenomena of nature are produced as evidences of a blind, tyrannic might: the earthquake (verse 5), which topples over the giant mountains like a child's plaything, and rocks the solid foundations of the earth (verse 6); the eclipse of sun and stars , the universal darkness of the heavens (verse 7), Here is the origin, according to some philosophers, of religion—man's terror in the presence of the vast destructive forces of nature. But it is the origin only of a part of religious feeling—of awe and reverence. And when man learns more of nature as a whole, and more of his own heart, he rises into loftier and happier moods than that of slavish fear.
2 . In nature ' s splendour and general effect. The vastness of the "immeasurable heavens," and the great sea of clouds (verse 8), the splendid constellations of the northern and the southern sky (verse 9), lead the mind out in wonder, stretch the imagination to its limits, fill the soul with the sense of the unutterable, the innumerable, the infinite (verse 10). This mood is happier than the former. It is one of elevation, wonder, delighted joy in the communion of the mind with Mind. It is stamped upon the glowing lines of the nineteenth psalm. But Job draws from these sublime spectacles at present only the inference of God's dread and irresistible power.
III. MANKIND ITSELF IN RELATION TO THIS ABSOLUTE POWER .
1 . It is invisible and swift in its errand of terror (verse 11). Sudden death by lightning, or by a hasty malady, naturally produces an appalling effect. Hence the prayer of the Litany.
2 . It is irresistible. (Verses 12, 13.) No human hand can stay, no human prayer avert, its overpowering onset. The monsters, or Titans ("helpers of Rahab"), were overcome, according to some well-known legend; how much less, then, can I resist with success (verse 14)?
3 . The consciousness of innocence is therefore of no avail. Supplication alone is in place before a Disputant who knows no law but his will (verse 15). I cannot believe that he, from his height, would give attention to my cry (verse 16). He is Force, crushing Force alone, guided only by causeless caprice (verse 17); stifling the cry of the pleader in his mouth, and filling him with bitterness (verse 18).
4 . The human dilemma. Man in presence of an absolute Tyrant must always be in the wrong. If he stands on might, he is a fool; if he appeals to right, he has no court of all appeal—for who can challenge the Judge of heaven and earth? Right will be set down as wrong, innocence will be pronounced guilt (verses 19, 20). We see, from this picture of Job's state of mind, that there is no extremity of doubt so dim as when man is tempted to disbelieve in the principle of justice as the law of the universe, which cannot be broken. The thought of God turns then only into one of unmitigated horror and despair.—J.