Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
All Commentaries on Job 38:1 Go To Job 38
Gregory The Dialogist
1. I see it must be observed, that if the speech were said to have been addressed to one in health and safety, the Lord would not be described as having spoken out of the whirlwind. But because He speaks to one who has been scourged, He is described as having spoken out of the whirlwind. For the Lord speaks to His servants in one way, when He improves them inwardly by compunction, and in another, when He presses on them with severity, lest they be puffed up. For by the gentle address of the Lord, is shewn His affectionate sweetness, but by His terrible, is pointed out His dreadful power. By the one the soul is persuaded to advance, by the other, that which is advancing is checked. In the one it learns what to desire, in the other what to fear. By the one He says, Be glad and rejoice, O daughter of Sion, for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. [Zech. 2, 10] By the other it is said; The Lord will come in a tempest, and in the whirlwind are His paths. [Is. 66, 15] For He in truth is gentle, Who comes to dwell in the midst of us. But when He makes His way by the tempest and whirlwind, He doubtless disturbs the hearts which He touches; and puts Himself forth to tame their pride, when He is made known as mighty and terrible.
2. It should also be known, that the Divine mode of speaking is distinguished in two ways. For either the Lord speaks by Himself, or His words are adapted to us by means of an angelic creature. But when He speaks by Himself, He is disclosed to us, solely by the power of His inward inspiration. When He speaks by Himself, the heart is instructed in His word, without words and syllables; because His power is known by a kind of inward elevation. At which the mind when full is raised up, when empty is weighed down. For it is a kind of weight, to raise up every mind which it fills. It is an incorporeal light, to both fill the inner parts, and circumscribe them without, when filled. It is a discourse without noise, which both opens the ears, and yet knows not to utter a sound. For in that which is written concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit; Suddenly there was made a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind approaching, and it filled the whole house, where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them;) [Acts 2, 2. 3.] the Lord appeared indeed by the fire, but He spake to them by Himself within. And neither that sound nor that fire was God; but by that which He displayed outwardly, He expressed what He performed inwardly. For because He made the Disciples both to glow with zeal, and to be skilful in speech within, He displayed tongues of fire without. The elements, therefore, were applied with significance, that their bodies might feel the fire and the sound, but that their hearts might be instructed by the invisible fire, and the voice without a sound. The fire then which appeared was outward, but that which gave knowledge was inward. And when the eunuch of queen Candace was sitting in his chariot, and journeying, and was holding Isaiah in his hands, without understanding him, the Spirit had doubtless said to Philip in his heart, Join thyself to the chariot. [Acts 8, 29] And when Cornelius had sent soldiers who feared God to summon Peter, Peter doubtless heard in his mind by the Spirit, Behold three men seek thee. Arise therefore, get thee down, and go with them. [Acts 10, 19] For, for the Spirit of God to say, as it were, certain words to us, is for Him to intimate by His hidden power what is to be done, and to instruct in an instant, without the medium of sound or the slowness of speech, the unlearned heart of man in hidden mysteries. For because the hearing does not comprehend at once all the sayings which are addressed to it; since it understands reasons by means of words, and words separately by syllables; but our sight apprehends suddenly and at once the whole object, by turning itself towards it; the words of God addressed to us from within are seen, rather than heard; because, while He insinuates Himself, without the delay of words, He illumines by His sudden light the darkness of our ignorance. Whence also when Baruch the son of Neriah was explaining, when demanded, how he had heard the words of Jeremiah prophesying, he said, He pronounced all these words from his mouth, as if he were reading, and I wrote them. [Jer 36, 18] For he who speaks when reading, looks in one direction, but utters his words in another; because he speaks that which he sees. The Prophets of God then, because they rather see than hear His words in the heart, speak as if reading.
3. But when God declares His will by an Angel, He points it out sometimes by words, sometimes by things, sometimes by words and things together, sometimes by images presented to the eyes of the heart, sometimes by images taken for the time from the air and presented even before the eyes of the body sometimes by heavenly substances, sometimes by earthly, and sometimes by earthly and heavenly together. But sometimes God so speaks even by an Angel to the hearts of men, that the Angel Himself is presented to the sight of the mind.
4. For God speaks in words by an Angel, when nothing is displayed in outward appearance, but the words of the Heavenly saying are heard; as on the Lord saying, Father, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee; [John 17, 1] it is immediately replied, I have glorified, and will glorify Him again. [John 12, 28] For God, Who speaks without time, by the power of inward impulse, uttered not in time that voice by His own Substance, which voice, circumscribed by time, He made plain by human words. But speaking doubtless from “heavenly places, He fashioned, by the ministry of a rational creature, those His words which He wished to be heard by men.
5. But sometimes God speaks through Angels by things, when nothing is said in word, but future events are announced by an object taken from the elements; as Ezekiel, hearing no words, saw the appearance of amber in the midst of the fire; [Ezek. 1, 4] in order, namely, that while he was looking on this single object, he might understand the things which were to come to pass in the last times. For amber [‘electrum’] is a mixture of the metals of gold and silver, by which admixture the silver indeed is rendered more brilliant, but the brightness of the gold is softened down. What then is pointed out by amber, but the Mediator between God and men? For while He presented Himself to us as a union of the Divine and human natures, He both rendered His human nature more glorious by His Godhead, and tempered the Divine Nature to our sight by His Manhood. For since human nature shone forth with so many miracles by the virtue of the Godhead, the silver was improved by the gold; and because God could be recognised through the flesh, and because He endured therein so many adversities, the gold was, as it were, tempered by the silver. And it is well represented also in the midst of the fire, because the flame of the judgment which follows attends the mystery of His Incarnation. For it is written, The Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son. [John 5, 22]
6. But sometimes God speaks by Angels in words and deeds at once, when He teaches by certain gestures, that which He declares in words. For neither could Adam, after his sin, hear the Lord in the Substance of His Divinity, but he heard the words of reproof by the Angel, of whom it is written; When he had heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden at the wind after mid-day, he hid himself among the trees of the garden. [Gen. 3, 8] For what is it, that God after the sin of man no longer stands, but walks in the garden, except that He points out that He has been driven from the heart of man, by the inroad of sin? What by His so doing at the wind after mid-day, except that the more glowing light of truth had departed, and the frosts of his sin were congealing his sinful soul? He reproved, therefore, Adam, when walking, that He might make known to benighted souls their wickedness, not by words only, but also by His doings; so that sinful man might both hear by His words what he had done, and perceive, by His walking, the inconstancy of his changeableness, on having lost the stability of eternity, and by the wind might observe his own torpor, when the warmth of charity had been driven away, and learn by the declining of the sun that he was drawing near to darkness.
7. Sometimes God speaks through Angels by images presented to the eyes of the heart; as Jacob when sleeping saw a ladder leaning against heaven. [Gen.28, 12] As Peter caught up in trance saw a linen cloth full of reptiles and quadrupeds; [Acts 10, 10. 11.] for he would not have been in a trance, unless he were beholding these things with other than bodily eyes. As a man of Macedonia appeared to Paul in a vision of the night, who asked him to come over into Macedonia. [ib.16, 9] Sometimes God speaks through Angels by images taken for the time from the air, and presented before the eyes of the body. As Abraham was able not only to behold three men, but also to receive them into an earthly habitation, and not only to receive them, but to supply also food for their use. [Gen. 18, 2] For unless the Angels, when announcing some inward truths, assumed for a time their bodies from the air, they would not, in truth, appear to our outward sight; nor would they take food with Abraham, unless they were bearing for our sake some solid substance from the heavenly element. Nor is it any wonder that they who are there received, are called, at one time ‘Angels,’ and at another ‘the Lord,’ because they, who were ministering outwardly, are designated by the word ‘Angel;’ and He Who was ruling them within, is pointed out by the appellation ‘Lord ;’ that by this the power of Him Who was ruling, and by the latter the office of these who were ministering might be clearly displayed. [Exod. 3, 2. 4.]
8. Sometimes God speaks through Angels by heavenly substances, as it is written, that when the Lord had been baptized, a voice sounded from the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have been well pleased. [Matt. 3, 17] Sometimes God speaks through Angels by earthly substances, as when He reproved Balaam, He formed human words in the mouth of a she ass. [Numb. 22, 28] Sometimes He speaks through Angels by earthly and heavenly substances together. As when He declared to Moses the words of His command in the Mount, He brought together the fire and the bush, and added one from above, and the other from below. [Exod. 3, 2] But this is done, only when something is signified by this very conjunction. For what else did He point out by addressing Moses, through the burning bush, except that He would become the ruler of that people, which would feel the flame of the Law, and yet would not avoid the thorn of sin? or that there would come forth from that people, He Who would take away by the fire of His Godhead the sins of our flesh, as the thorns of the bush; and would preserve the substance of our manhood unconsumed, even in the very flame of the Godhead?
9. But sometimes God pours the virtue of His inspiration into the hearts of men, through Angels, by their secret presence. Whence also Zechariah says, And the Angel who was speaking in me, said to me. [Zech. 1, 14] By saying that the Angel was speaking in him, and yet to him, he clearly proved that he who was speaking to him, was not without him by any bodily appearance. Whence also he added a little after, And, behold, the Angel that was talking in me was going out. [ibid. 2, 3] For often they appear not outwardly, but, as they are angelic spirits, they make known the will of God to the senses of the Prophets, and raise them up to sublime thoughts, and whatever events are still future they set forth as present in their original causes. For the heart of man, burdened with the very weight of corruptible flesh, enduring this its bodily part as an obstacle, penetrates not into inward things, and lies as a heavy burden without; because it has no hand within to raise it up. Whence it results, as has been said, that the subtilty of angelic virtue appears itself, as it really is, to the senses of the Prophets, and that their mind is raised up as it is touched by the subtle spirit, and that it is no longer slothful and sluggish below, but, filled with inspiration within, ascends on high, and thence beholds, as from a lofty eminence, the things which are to come, beneath it. But lest any one should think that, in the aforesaid words of Zechariah, either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, is designated by the word ‘Angel,’ if he considers the text of Holy Scripture, he quickly amends his opinion. For it never calls the Father, or the Holy Spirit, an ‘Angel,’ nor the Son, except when preaching His Incarnation. Whence it is plainly shewn in the words of the same Zechariah, that an Angel, that is a creature, was really speaking in him, when it is said, And, behold, the Angel that was talking in me was going out. And it is immediately subjoined, And another Angel was going on to meet him, and he said to him, Speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall he inhabited without a wall. [Zech. 2, 3. 4.] The Angel therefore who is sent, who is ordered by an Angel what words he ought to speak, is not God. But because, in the sight of their Creator, the ordained ministrations of Angels are distinguished by the position of their ranks, (in order that after the common happiness of their blessed state they may rejoice together beholding their Creator, and yet minister to each other according to the position of their dignity,) an Angel sends an Angel to the Prophets, and both teaches and directs him, whom he beholds rejoicing in God in common with himself; because he surpasses him both by his superior wisdom, in power of knowledge, and, by more distinguished grace, in height of power.
10. These points then have been stated, to show in what ways God talks with men. But when the Lord is said to have answered Job from the whirlwind, it is disputed, whether He spoke to him by Himself, or by an Angel. For commotions of the air could have been made by an Angel, and these words, which are subjoined, could have been delivered by him. And again, both an Angel could agitate the air in a whirlwind without, and the Lord could sound into his heart without words the force of His sentence by Himself within; in order that it may be believed that he, who when filled with God, heard these things without words, himself uttered in words the sayings of the Lord which follow.