Job 39 Commentary | Q41-44: Birth of Goats and Deer
Now, as we head into chapter 29, the Lord asks Job if he knows anything about the birth of goats and deer in verses 1-4.
KJV Job 39:1 [Knowest thou/Do you know/Are you acquainted with] [the time when/the way/when] the [wild goats of the rock/the mountain goats] [bring forth/give birth]?
[or canst thou/Do you] [mark/observe/watch] [when the hinds do calve/the calving of the deer/as the wild deer give birth to their young/when the doe bears her fawn]?
2 [Canst/Can/Do] [thou number/you count] the months [that they fulfil/they must fulfill/till they bear]?
[or knowest thou/Or do you know/and do you know/Do you know] the time [when they bring forth/they give birth]?
3 They [bow themselves/kneel down/crouch/crouch down], [they bring forth/they bear/and bring forth] their [young ones/young],
they [cast out/get rid of/bring forth/end] their [sorrows/labor pains/offspring they have carried].
4 Their [young ones/offspring/young] [are in good liking/become strong/grow strong/thrive and grow strong], they grow up [with corn/in the open fields/in the open/in the wilds];
they [go forth/leave/go off], and [return not unto/do not return to] them.
Now, I am guessing from the questions that God just asked that Job would not have known the time or way in which mountain goats bear their offspring. He apparently would not have been able to observe when deer bear their fawns. I assume that Job would not have been able to count the months that gestation would take in these creatures or even the timing of their birth process.
And I would be in the same boat as Job in this arena and most of us would be as well. Who has the time to study this kind of thing? And honestly, if we didn’t have the luxury of teams of scientists and professional film crews going around and documenting this phenomenon and then broadcasting this to kind of event to us, we’d all be in the dark about this process.
And so, I suppose a contemporary unbeliever might view these four questions that God asked that all relate to the timing of the birth of these animals and say, “Well, yeah, I know how that works!” And such a person might feel a big of smug superiority to the Lord.
But here’s the underlying reality that’s implicit in God’s questions regarding the birth of animals. Job and most normal people without researching it would not know anything about how this all works. At best, we can research and discover how this process works. We can even see some video of it nowadays.
But on the other hand – God doesn’t just know about it. He makes it happen.
And without doing any research, he speaks in an impromptu manner about how it works. As if this is just something in the back of his mind that he can access at any time – the facts of how it all works. That information is accessible to God. That information is something that God knows because it’s a process that God oversees from beginning to end.
And don’t you suppose that – if God sees through the fairly obscure process of the birth of animals – that he’s mindful of the process of our sufferings? That he’s perhaps – as in Job’s life – the one who has caused it to happen for his own divine – and oftentimes secret – purposes?
We can trust him even in our suffering. He knows what he’s doing – even if we don’t.
Job 39 Commentary | Q45-46: Wild Donkeys
Next, the Lord asks Job about wild donkeys in verses 5-8.
5 Who [hath sent out/sent out/let X go] the wild [ass/donkey] free?
[or who/and who/who] [hath loosed/loosed/released/untied] the [bands/bonds/ropes] of the [wild ass/swift donkey/donkey]?
6 [Whose house I have made/To whom I gave X for a home/to whom I appointed X for its home/I gave him X as his home] the [wilderness/steppe/wasteland],
[and the/the] [barren land/salt land/wastes/sand flats] [his/for his/as its/as his] [dwellings/dwelling place/habitat] [./?]
7 [He/It] [scorneth/laughs at] the [multitude/tumult/commotion] [of/in] the [city/town],
[neither regardeth he/he does not hear/it does not hear] the [crying/shoutings/shouts/shout] of the driver.
8 [The range of/He explores/It ranges/He ranges] the [mountains/hills] [is his/for his/as its] pasture,
and [he searcheth/searches] [after every/for any] green [thing/plant].
So, God asks Job about wild donkeys – and in particular he asks him who made them to be wild. Why aren’t they domesticated?
Well, that’s where God takes ownership of that decision – to leave these animals wild. God made their house the wilderness. God made them to dwell in the barren land.
And because God has made them that way, they – as it were – just laugh at the idea of being domesticated. They’re free – and God pictures them as kind of loving it! They don’t have any human masters – they can wander wherever they want and eat anything they please.
And so, these beasts are out of the control of mankind. And we’re going to see this theme more – I believe – with the discussion later on of Behemoth and Leviathan – but God is starting to point out that he has created certain animals to be out of the control of God’s human creatures.
And what Job and his friends and we are all supposed to take from that is this – we don’t have everything under control. And if we can’t even control animals – donkeys and whatever else – well then, how can we presume to control our circumstances? And ultimately, how can we presume to control God?
And isn’t that what we want to do? We’d like to control God and make him do our bidding. And that’s the problem with Job and his friends. They all thought that God – in whatever way – could be controlled. You want good from God? You can control that outcome by doing good. And when God didn’t deliver on this assumed promise – then Job was expressing a desire to control God by bringing him to court and making God answer his charges – or at least that God would reveal what he was charging and punishing Job for.
But God doesn’t work that way. He is beyond our control. If his animals – like the wild donkey and others – are outside of our control – then how much more is he beyond our ability to control?
Job 39 Commentary | Q47-52: Powerful Wild Oxen
Well, the Lord asks Job about another beast that is ultimately beyond Job’s ability to control. And that is the powerful wild oxen in verses 9-12.
9 Will the [unicorn/wild ox] [be willing/consent] to [serve thee/be your servant],
[or abide/Will it spend the night] [by thy crib/at your manger/at your feeding trough]?
10 Canst thou [bind/hold] the [unicorn/wild ox] with [his band/ropes/a harness] [in the/to a] furrow?
or will he [harrow/till] the valleys [following…] [after/behind] thee?
11 Wilt thou [trust/rely on] him, because his strength is great?
or wilt thou [leave/commit] thy [labour/heavy work] to him?
12 [Wilt thou believe/Can you count on/Can you trust] him, that he will [bring home/return/bring in] thy seed,
and gather it into thy [barn/threshing floor]?
And so, moving from wild donkeys to wild oxen, God asks Job if he’s able to control these creatures either. Will they serve him? Will they do his work? Can he trust them to do what he wants them to do?
The answer of course is that Job would not be able to harness wild oxen. Just like the wild donkeys, these beasts are outside of Job’s control.
And that last verse has God asking Job whether he can believe or count on or trust the wild ox. And once more, the answer to that is “No.” But whom can Job trust? Whom must Job trust? God.
And we can and must as well. We must trust God – and in particular his wisdom in our lives and even our suffering. Even when we don’t understand his ways.