And said, Thus far shall you come, but no farther: and here shall your proud waves be stopped?
All Commentaries on Job 38:11 Go To Job 38
Gregory The Dialogist
Because there is doubtless a limit of the secret judgment, both when the storm of persecution should burst forth, and when it should cease, lest, if not aroused, it should not discipline the Elect, or, if unrestrained, should overwhelm them. But when the knowledge of the faith reaches as far as to the persecutors, the swelling of the troubled sea is appeased, and there does the sea break its waves, because on coming to the knowledge of the truth, it blushes at every thing it has done wickedly. For the broken wave in truth glides back on itself; because wickedness when overcome is accused even by the thought of its own heart; and suffers, as it were, the very violence which it had inflicted, because it feels the stings of guilt, from the depravity which it had committed. Whence it is said to certain persons by Paul, What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? [Rom. 6, 21] As if it were said; Why did the waves of ‘your wickedness raise themselves aloft, which being now broken in themselves, overwhelm you when converted, by the same means with which they puffed you up when perverted. It is therefore rightly said, And here shall thou break thy swelling waves. But that the doors are spoken of a second time, in this shutting up of the sea, after the manner of Holy Scripture, a thing once mentioned is repeated by way of confirmation.
40. But if we ought to understand by the ‘sea’ in this place, not specially the crowd of persecutors, but the world in general; the Lord set up gates against the sea a second time, because He first gave to the human race the precepts of the law, and afterwards the testament of new grace; He a second time confined the violence of this sea by the gates He set against it, since those, whom He chose to obey His will, He first kept from idols, by giving the law, and afterwards delivered from the carnal understanding of things by the revelation of grace. The sea a second time received gates, because God first prohibited mankind from works of iniquity, but afterwards restrained them from the sin of thought. Let us see how God first imposed gates on the swelling sea. For behold it is said by the law, Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. [Ex. 20, 13-16; Deut 5, 17-20] Let us see how the Lord confines this sea with second gates. Behold He says in the Gospel, Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. [Matt. 5, 27. 28.] And it is said again, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you. [ib. 43. 44.] He therefore Who first prohibits wickednesses of deeds, and afterwards does away with the faults of the heart, doubtless twice imposes gates on the swelling sea, that it pass not over the shores of justice which have been drawn around it.
41. But when He was saying, Who hath shut up the sea with doors? He immediately also subjoined the time, When it was breaking forth, as if proceeding from the womb. Because, namely, he then opposed mankind by the precepts of the Law, when the world, though little removed from its first beginning, was going forth even from its very birth to make progress in the carnal life. For to proceed from the womb, is to appear in the flesh in the light of present glory. And it is rightly subjoined, When I was laying the cloud as the garment thereof. Because, doubtless, God did not then present Himself to men in open sight, but while He rescued them from the error of unbelief, and yet laid not open to them the brightness of His own light, He withdrew them, as it were, from darkness, and yet covered them with a cloud, in order that they might forsake their former deeds of wickedness, and yet see not more clearly at present future blessings. Whence also it is filly subjoined, And covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes. For when He taught not ignorant people by the open preaching of the Spirit, but bound them, in figurative language, with the literal precepts, He enveloped them, while yet weak in knowledge, with the darkness of His words, as if with swaddling clothes; in order that they might gain strength by being bound by grosser commands, lest they should perish, through a fatal freedom, in their own pleasures. And since not love, but fear, was confining them to the way of righteousness, the Divine dispensation kept them close, as it were, in order to nourish them. For when the feeble people unwillingly endured the swaddling bands of precepts, it attained to a stronger condition from its very bondage. For because fear first restrained it from sin, it came forth afterwards, in a fitting condition, into the liberty of the Spirit. These swaddling clothes which He gave to beginners, the Lord Himself blames by the Prophet, saying, I gave them precepts that were not good. [Ez. 20, 25] For evil things cease, as it were, to be evil, by comparison with worse, and good things are, so to say, not good, in comparison with better. For as it is said of Sodom and Gomorrah, to guiltier Judah, Thou hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done, [Ex. 16, 51] so are the good precepts, which were given to the ignorant, spoken of as not good, by reason of the better precepts of the New Testament which succeed them. For neither would minds which were clinging to the practice of the carnal life be raised from their low condition, unless they advanced through a gradual course of preaching. For hence is it, that when they were settled in Egypt, their secret love of gain is condescended to by a considerate and righteous forbearance, and they are ordered to depart, after having first taken away the gold and silver vessels of their neighbours. But when brought to Mount Sinai, they hear at once, on receiving the Law, Thou shaft not covet any thing that is thy neighbour’s. [Ex. 20, 17] And hence it is, that in the same law they are directed to exact an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, [Exod. 21, 24] and yet at last, on the revelation of grace, they are commanded, when struck, to offer the other cheek. [Matt. 5, 38. 39.] For because anger exacts more in vengeance than it has suffered in wrong; while they learn not to requite their wrongs in a manifold manner, they would learn at last to bear them of their own accord, even when multiplied. Hence it is that He prohibited this same ignorant people certain observances, but preserved others after their original use, though He applied them so as to prefigure a better condition. For they used to sacrifice brute animals to idols in Egypt, and He afterwards retained the sacrifice of animals, for their observance, but forbade the worship of idols; in order that, while losing a portion of their customs, their weakness might be comforted by retaining something of them. But by a marvellous dispensation of wisdom the Lord converted into a mightier figure of the Spirit, that carnal custom which He retained. For what do the sacrifices of those animals designate, except the death of the Only-Begotten? What do the sacrifices of those animals signify, except the extinction of our carnal life? The weakness then of an ignorant people is condescended to, by the same means as the greater strength of the Spirit is announced through the shadowy forms of allegories. It is therefore rightly said, And I was covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes; because He bore with the weaknesses of its tenderness, by the same means as He raised a lofty cloud of spiritual significations.
42. But because He kept them by the limits of the precepts from unrestrained wanderings of mind, He rightly subjoins; I surrounded it with My boundaries. And because He restrained the motions of this human race by sending the Mediator, He fitly subjoins; And I set a bar and doors. For He set in truth a bar and doors; because He confirms the preaching of the new life, by sending our Redeemer to oppose the sins of the guilty. For doors, when closed, are strengthened by a bar being placed against them. God, therefore, placed against them a bar, because against the wanton motives of the human race He sent the Only-Begotten, Who confirmed in His actions the spiritual precepts, which He taught in words. But it is well subjoined; Hitherto shalt thou come, and thou shall not proceed further, and here shall thou break thy swelling waves. For this sea had in truth passed over its former doors, because the wave of human pride used to overleap the barriers of the door opposed to it. But after the world found the Only-Begotten opposed to it, it broke the force of its pride, and could not pass over, because it found the boundary of its fury closed up by His strength. Whence it is rightly said by the Prophet, The sea saw and fled. [Ps. 114, 3] By doors, also, His sufferings which were seen can, not unfitly, be understood. And He secretly placed a bar against them, because He strengthened them by the invisible Godhead. Against which the waves of the world come, but they break and are scattered: because haughty men despise them when they see them, but by experience dread their strength. For when the human race first derided, and then trembled at, the sufferings of the Only-Begotten, it came swelling with pride, like the sea which is about to dash against the opposing doors, and was broken and scattered by their power.
But because this is said to blessed Job, in order that the glorying of his heart, at his many virtues, might be kept down, (lest he should perchance attribute to himself what he knows of his lofty position,) if we consider these words in a moral sense also, we learn how much they were said for his edification.