His undersides are like sharp stones: he spreads sharp pointed marks upon the mire.
All Commentaries on Job 41:30 Go To Job 41
Gregory The Dialogist
25. For in Holy Scripture when the ‘sun’ is used figuratively, there is designated sometimes the Lord, sometimes persecution, sometimes the display of an open sight of any thing, but sometimes the understanding of the wise. For by the ‘sun’ the Lord is typified, as is said in the Book of Wisdom, that all the ungodly in the day of the last judgment, on knowing their own condemnation, are about to say; We have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun rose not upon us. [Wisd. 5, 6] As if they plainly said: The ray of inward light has not shone on us. Whence also John says; A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet. [Rev. 12, 1] For by the ‘sun’ is understood the illumination of truth, but by the moon, which wanes and is filled up every month, the changeableness of temporal things. But Holy Church, because she is protected with the splendour of the heavenly light, is clothed, as it were, with the sun; but, because she despises all temporal things, she tramples the moon under her feet. Again, by the ‘sun’ is designated persecution, as the Truth says in the Gospel, that the seeds which sprang up without roots withered when the sun arose. [Matt. 13, 6] Because, namely, the words of life which flourish for a moment of time in the heart of earthly men, are dried up by the heat of persecution coming upon them. Again, by the ‘sun’ is designated the setting forth of a clear view, as the Prophet announces the Lord of all things appearing to our eyes, saying; He hath set His tabernacle in the sun. [Ps. 19, 4] As if he were saying, He displayed in the light of clear vision the mystery of His assumed humanity. And as it is said to the same Prophet by the Divine voice by Nathan; For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing in the sight of all Israel, and in the sight of the sun. [2 Sam. 12, 12] For what does he mean by the sight of the sun, except the knowledge of manifest vision. Again, by the name ‘sun’ is expressed the understanding of the wise, as it is written in the Apocalypse; The fourth angel poured forth his vial upon the sun, and it was given unto him to afflict men with heat and fire. [Rev. 16, 8] To pour forth a vial upon the sun is in truth to inflict the punishments of persecution on men shining with the splendour of wisdom. And it was given unto him to afflict men with heat and fire. Because when wise men, overcome by tortures, are smitten with the error of evil living, the weak, being persuaded by their example, burn with temporal desires. For the falls of the strong increase the destructions of the weak. That the acuteness of wisdom is designated by the ‘sun,’ is said also in the way of comparison by Solomon; A wise man continueth as the sun, a fool changeth as the moon. [Ecclus. 27, 11] What then is pointed out in this place by the rays of the sun, but the acuteness of wise men? For because many, who seemed to be resplendent in Holy Church with the light of wisdom, either caught by persuasions, or alarmed by threats, or overpowered by tortures, submit themselves at that time to the power of this Leviathan, it is rightly said, The rays of the sun will be under him. As if it were plainly said, These, who within Holy Church seemed by the acuteness of wisdom to shed, as it were, rays of light, and by the authority of rectitude to be resplendent from above, submit themselves under the power of this Leviathan by their evil doings, so as no longer to shine from above by sound preaching, but to submit to him by obeying him in perverse ways. The rays therefore of the sun are under him, when some, even learned men, do not exalt the acuteness of their wisdom by acting freely, but bend themselves down, both by the perversity of their doings, and by the fawning of adulation, to the steps of this Leviathan; so that their understanding, which by the gift of heaven was like a sun to them from above, is cast down, by earthly desire, beneath the feet of the ancient enemy. And accordingly even now when any of the wise or learned, for the sake of advantage, or of the glory of temporal life, submits, by falling into flattery, to the powers of the world who work wickedness, a ray of the sun casts itself, as it were, beneath the feet of the coming Antichrist. And Behemoth humbles, as it were, beneath himself the light of heaven, when he tramples under foot, through their fatal assent, the minds of the wise. The rays, therefore, of the sun submit themselves to the feet of this Leviathan, as often as those who seem to be resplendent with the light of doctrine derive, through excessive acuteness, wrong opinions from Holy Scripture, and by their perverse opinions yield themselves up to his errors. For when they set themselves up against the faithful preaching of the truth, they follow by their false opinions the footsteps of this Leviathan. The rays of the sun are under him, as often as those who are learned, or powerful with the light of understanding, either exalt themselves in pride, to the contempt of others, or putting aside the lofty thoughts they feel, are polluted with the filthy desires of the flesh, or, forgetting heavenly things, pursue those of earth, or, not remembering that they are earth, boast vainly of their knowledge of heavenly things. Whence it is there also rightly subjoined,
He will strew gold under him like clay.
26. For by the term ‘gold’ in Holy Scripture is understood sometimes the brightness of Divinity, sometimes the splendour of the heavenly city, sometimes charity, sometimes the brightness of secular glory, sometimes the beauty of sanctity. For by the name ‘gold’ is designated the very inmost brightness of Divinity, as the appearance of the Bridegroom is described in the Song of Songs; His head is the most fine gold. [Cant. 5, 11] For because God is the Head of Christ, but in metals nothing is brighter than gold, the Head of the Bridegroom is said to be gold, because His Humanity rules over us from the brightness of His Divinity. Again, by the name ‘gold’ is understood the splendour of the heavenly city, as John bears witness that he saw it, saying; The city itself was of pure gold, like unto clear glass. [Rev. 21, 18] For the gold of which that city consists is said to be like glass, in order that by the gold it may be described as being bright, and by the glass as being clear. Again, by the name ‘gold’ charity is suggested, as the Angel, whom the same John beheld talking with him, he saw girt at the paps with a golden girdle. [Rev. 1, 13]] Doubtless because when the breasts of the citizens of heaven are no longer subject to the fear of punishment, and are not separated by any rent the one from the other, they bind themselves together by charity alone. [see Bk. xxi. §5. comp. Acts 7, 30] But to ‘have a golden girdle about the paps,’ is to restrain all the movements of our changeful thoughts by the hands of love alone. Again, by the name of ‘gold’ is expressed the brightness of secular glory, as is said by the Prophet, Babylon is a golden cup. [Jer. 51, 7] For what is designated by the name of Babylon, but the glory of this world? And this ‘cup’ is said to be ‘golden,’ because while it shews the beauty of temporal things, it so intoxicates foolish minds with its concupiscence, that they desire temporal display, and despise invisible beauties. For in this golden cup Eve was the first who was made drunken of her own accord, of whom the history of truth says, that when she desired the forbidden tree, she saw that it was beautiful to the sight, and delightful to the look, and ate thereof. [Gen. 3, 6] Babylon is therefore a golden cup; because while it displays a look of outward beauty, it steals away the feeling of inward rectitude. Again, by the name of ‘gold’ is understood the splendor of sanctity, as Jeremiah deplores the change of the Jewish people from the splendor of righteousness to the gloom of wickedness, saying, How is the gold become dim, the finest colour is changed? [Lam. 4, 1] For as we said before, gold is dimmed, when the beauty of righteousness is forsaken, as the darkness of iniquity succeeds. The finest colour is changed, when the splendour of innocence is turned into the foulness of sin.
27. By the name also of ‘clay ‘is designated in Holy Scripture sometimes the multiplicity of earthly goods, sometimes wicked teaching which savours of filth, sometimes the allurement of carnal desire. For by ‘clay’ is typified the multiplicity of earthly goods, as is said by the Prophet Habakkuk, Woe to him that multiplieth those things which are not his; how long doth he heap against himself the thick clay? [Hab. 2, 6] For he weighs himself down with thick clay, who multiplying earthly goods by avarice, confines himself with the oppression of his sin. Again, by the name of ‘clay’ is designated teaching which savours of faith, as is said to the Lord by the same Prophet; Thou madest a way in the sea for thy horses, in the clay of many waters. [Hab. 3, 15] As if he were saying, Thou hast opened a way for thy preachers amid the doctrines of this world which savour of filthy and earthly things. By ‘clay’ is designated also the desire of filthy pleasure, as the Psalmist says in entreaty; Take me out of the clay, that I stick not. [Ps. 69, 14] For to stick in the clay, is to be polluted with the filthy desires of carnal concupiscence.
28. In this place therefore ‘gold’ is taken for the brightness of sanctity; but nothing hinders our understanding by ‘clay,’ either covetousness in earthly things, or the infection of wicked doctrines, or the filth of carnal pleasures. For because this Leviathan subjects at that time to himself many, who seemed within Holy Church to be resplendent with the brightness of righteousness, either by the desire of earthly things, or by the infection of erroneous doctrine, or by carnal pleasures, he doubtless strews the gold under him like clay. For to strew gold as clay, is to trample down in some persons purity of life by unlawful desires; so that even they may follow his filthy footsteps, who used before to flash forth against him with the splendour of their virtues. The ancient enemy then deceives some at that time under a show of sanctity, but intercepts others by the foul sins of a carnal life. But he will then openly attack in these ways, but now he rules secretly in the hearts of many, as the Apostle Paul says, That he may he revealed in his time; for the mystery of iniquity doth already work. [2 Thess. 2, 6. 7.] He therefore even now throws gold under him as clay, as often as he overthrows the chastity of the faithful through the sins of the flesh. He tramples on gold as clay, as often as he distracts the understanding of the continent by unclean desires. And this he performs the more vehemently at that time, the more unrestrainedly he perpetrates all that he desires, as given up to his own abandoned liberty.
29. And it may perhaps disturb some one, why the merciful Lord permits those things so to happen, that this Leviathan either now by crafty suggestions, or then by that accursed man whom he fully possesses, subjects to himself even the rays of the sun, that is, the learned and wise, or strews gold (that is, holy men refulgent with the brightness of sanctity) as clay beneath him, by polluting them with sins. But we reply at once, that the gold which could be strewed as clay by his evil persuasions, was never gold before the eyes of God. For they who can at any time be seduced so as never to come back again, seem in the eyes of men to lose the sanctity they possessed; but they never had it in the sight of God. For a man is often involved secretly in many sins, and he seems great in some one virtue. And this virtue itself also becomes weak and fails, because, when it is observed by men, it is doubtless praised, and its praise is eagerly sought after. Whence it comes, that even that very virtue is no virtue in the eyes of God, while it conceals that which displeases, puts forward that which pleases Him. What merits then can there possibly be with God, when both sins are concealed, and good qualities made public? For frequently, as we have said, pride is hidden, and chastity is publicly known; and therefore the chastity which has been long made a shew of, is lost towards the end of life, because the concealed pride is sustained unamended even to the end. Another is busy in almsgiving, he distributes his own goods; but he is yet a slave to many acts of injustice, or perhaps employs his tongue in detraction. And it is frequently the case, that he, who had been compassionate, is inflamed, at the end of his life, with the stimulants of rapacity and cruelty. And it is the effect of a most righteous judgment, that he loses before men, even that by which he pleased men, who was never careful to amend that, by which he was displeasing to God. Another studies patience; but while he does not avoid envying others, and keeping malice in his heart, he at last becomes impatient, who for a long while grieved in secret. These therefore are in some measure ‘gold,’ and in some measure ‘clay.’ And this ‘gold’ is strewed as ‘clay,’ when even the virtue, which had shone brightly before men, is scattered by the force of secret sins. But we think it worth while to consider more accurately the excellence of the heavenly dispensation in these cases.
30. For Almighty God often tolerates the secret sins of some persons, in order that He may so make use of their known virtues as to promote the interests of His own Elect. For some persons do not entirely forsake the world, and lay hold on the narrow way, not so as to persevere. But yet by their example they inflame those, who are about to persevere, to seek the narrow way. Whence it frequently happens that this good life which they seem to live, they live not for themselves, but rather for the Elect alone, when, though not about to persevere themselves, they excite others, who will persevere, to zeal in holy living. But we often behold some persons enter on a way, and hasten to the proposed spot; and others follow them, because they see them on the way, and they go on together to the same place. But it frequently happens that when any difficulty assails them, those who were going before, return back, and that those who were following reach the appointed spot. So doubtless are those who lay hold on the way of holiness, though not about to persevere. For they enter on the way of virtue, though not about to reach its end, for the very purpose of shewing to those who are about to reach it, the way in which they should walk. And even the fall of these promotes, with no slight benefit, the advancement of the Elect. Because while they behold their fall, they tremble for their own state, and the ruin which condemns those, humbles these. For they learn to trust in the protection of heavenly assistance, when they see that many have fallen from their own strength. When therefore the reprobate seem to be acting rightly, they are pointing out as it were a level road for the Elect who are following them; but when they fall and lapse into wickedness, they shew, as it were, to the Elect who are journeying after them, the pitfall of pride to be guarded against. Let this Leviathan then go his way, and ‘put beneath himself the rays of the sun,’ and ‘cast under him the gold like clay.’ Almighty God knows how to use aright the sin of the reprobate for the comfort of His own Elect, when they who are about to reach Him, both advance toward Him by their own merits, and are frequently corrected in their proud thoughts by the lapses of others. But if this Leviathan acts thus even with those whom some virtue distinguishes, what is he likely to do with those whose mind is not in any degree raised up above earthly desires? These persons however the divine discourse plainly mentions.