Introduction: To show Job that he was complaining about things that he could not understand and to show God’s incredible love for mankind, God first asked Job whether he understood how He created the universe, the Earth, the seas, the atmosphere, the water cycle, the physical laws, and how He sustains the natural world. Job had no answer. Here, God continued with questions regarding several diverse examples of animals that He created. The animals included: four mammals, three birds; six wild animals, one domesticated animal; five animals that Moses defined as unclean and two that were clean. The list further included two animal species that mankind later brought to extinction. The list included: (1) the mountain goat, (2) the wild donkey, (3) the wild ox, (4) the Arabian ostrich, (5) the horse, (6) the hawk, and (7) the eagle. Although there are thousands of animals that God did not mention, seven is a number of divine completeness. These seven animals revealed God’s sovereignty over nature, His omnipotence, and His right to be trusted even when we do not fully understand the reasons for our suffering. His description of the animals further reveals several things that He also provides to believers.
First, God questioned Job if he could explain how God created the birthing process for mountain goats. God designed them to stand only minutes after birth and to climb rocks within a day of birth. The hidden birthing process that God miraculously created was something that Job could not see. But it showed that God is behind the scenes working, even when Job could not see it. Second, God next asked Job if he could explain how the wild donkey became free while the domesticated donkey lived in servitude. He gave them their freedom, and He can give us our freedom. Third, God then asked Job if he had the strength to control the wild ox. God again made the ox as a rugged animal that only He could control. Just as God gave the wild ox its strength, He would also strengthen Job. And He can also strengthen believers when they humbly submit to Him. Fourth, God also asked Job if he could explain the mysterious behaviors of the ostrich. Although they appeared to lack wisdom, God made them so that they could outrun or kick any natural predator. God also gave Job and every other believer special gifts to survive. Fifth, God next asked Job if he created the horse with its might. The horse was a symbol of God’s protection. God protected Job from a trial beyond that which he could handle, and He protects believers from any trial that they cannot handle. Sixth, God also asked Job if he could explain how birds like the hawk migrate. Because God can create such amazing creatures, we can also trust Him during our trials. Finally, God asked Job about how God created the eagle. God created the eagle to soar and nest in the cliffs, safe from predators. Like the eagle, God also promises to give believers a future home where they will soar in peace and find protection.
God’s creation of the mountain goat. God continued His questions of Job with three questions that Job could not answer regarding the birthing practices of the mountain goat: “1 Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer? 2 Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth? 3 They kneel down, they deliver their young, they get rid of their labor pains. 4 Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; they leave and do not return to them.” (Job 39:1-4). Based upon Job’s most likely geographic setting, it is believed that God referred to His “Asiatic ibex”: “The wild goats of Western Asia are of two kinds, the Capra segagrus, and the Asiatic ibex, or Capra Sinaitica. The latter is probably the animal here intended, which is called yael sela, ‘the wild goat of the rocks,’ and was known to the Assyrians as ya-e-li. It is an animal with large rough horns curving backwards, closely allied to the steinbock, or bouquetin, of the Swiss and Tyrolian Alps. It is very shy and wild, difficult of approach, and inhabiting only the most rocky and desolate tracts of Syria and Arabia.” (Pulpit Commentary on Job 39:1).1 The wild goat was amongst the animals that Moses called “clean” and suitable for eating (Dt. 14:4-5). Yet, like most of the natural world, the birthing of the mountain goat took place outside of Job’s observation. It was part of God’s miraculous design that Job had questioned.
God’s miraculous design and provision for the mountain goat. Like all animals, God created and provided for the mountain goat: “The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for the rock hyrax.” (Ps. 104:18). The psalmist also praised God for His sovereign hand in even the animal birthing process: “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everything says, ‘Glory!’” (Ps. 29:9) The birth of the ibex is an example of God’s miraculous design that humans can only marvel at: “Throughout the wild kingdom and its rich variety of creatures, God informs Job of his creative and sustaining activity. He provides for each species its own gestation period ability to bear young in the field – without assistance and with a divinely ordained wisdom to provide for themselves and their young. The offspring of an ibex doe, unlike human infants that need years of care, can stand within minutes of birth and soon gambol off to thrive in the wild.” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 1038). Because it had to navigate mountain rocks and extreme weather at a young age, God further made these animals extremely rugged at birth. Kids will start rock climbing only a day or two after they are born. Adult mountain goats can also eventually leap up to 12 feet.2
Trust that God is in control is in control of the unseen things in your life. Job could not explain how God designed these goats. God was there, even when Job could not see it. Because God controls every detail of nature, the lesson for Job was that he could trust God with his life as well. The same lesson applies to believers: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). Do you trust that God is in control of your life, even when you can’t see His hidden hand?
God’s creation of the wild donkey. God next asked Job if he could explain how the wild donkey became free while the typical donkey lives in servitude to its human masters: “5 Who sent the wild donkey out free? And who opened the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 to whom I gave the wilderness as his home, and the salt land as his dwelling place? 7 He laughs at the turmoil of the city, he does not hear the shouting of the taskmaster. 8 He explores the mountains of his pasture, and searches after every green thing.” (Job 39:5-8). The “onanger” was another name for the wild donkey. It is an animal that Moses called unclean because it does not chew its cud or have split hooves (Lev. 11:3; Dt. 14:6).
God’s miraculous design and provision for the wild donkey. God created the donkey to be stubborn, independent, and able to survive in the harshest conditions (cf., Job 6:6; 24:5). Similar to the mountain goat, they can stand and nurse just 30 minutes after birth.3 God also provided for them: “They give drink to every animal of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.” (Ps. 104:11) God later compared Ishmael to the wild donkey after Abraham drove him out. He was wild, but God still provided for him: “But he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live in defiance of all his brothers.” (Gen. 16:12). “The ‘wild donkey’ appears ten times in the Old Testament, four of them in Job (6:5; 11:12; 24:5; and here). Most of the contexts include something about the lonely and desert life it leads [fn. Gen. 16:12; Ps. 104:11; Isa. 32:14; Jer. 2:24; 14:6; Hos. 8:9]. This passage is the classic one that speaks of the wild donkey’s freedom. Yahweh asked Job who ‘untied his ropes’ and let him ‘go free,’ a ridiculous question, that is, one aimed to ridicule Job. The answer is God – He is the one who assigns all animals and nations their lots.” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 383-384). Job could not explain let alone control these creatures. Thus, it was presumptuous for Job to believe that he could challenge God’s plans for his life.
God is sovereign and also able to free you from any sin or burden. Job suffered from a number of burdens and deep feelings of loss. But God would soon free Job from his many burdens: “With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”’ (Ex. 13:14(b)). Jesus also came to free mankind from the bondage of sin and human oppression that humans have imposed upon themselves. On the first day of His public ministry, He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:14-21). “‘So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:36). “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1). Jesus gave you His Word to protect you from slavery to sin. When you feel trapped, are you turning to Jesus?
God’s control over the wild ox. God then asked Job four questions about whether he had the strength to control the wild ox: “9 Will the wild bull be willing to serve you, or will he spend the night at your feeding trough? 10 Can you tie down the wild bull in a furrow with ropes, or will he plow the valleys after you? 11 Will you trust him because his strength is great, and leave your labor to him? 12 Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain and gather it from your threshing floor?” (Job 39:9-12). In the Old King James Bible, this animal (rem) is translated as the mythical “unicorn”. In contrast, the New King James, the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version have all defined this as the “wild ox.” Yet, “wild ox is not a very good translation; nor is the classic King James Version translation of “unicorn” here. This animal is actually a fearsome, mighty, extinct animal known as the aurochs [Bos primigenius] ‘. . . Extinct since 1627, this enormous animal was the most powerful of all hoofed beasts, exceeded in size only by the hippopotamus and the elephant. It is the standard symbol of strength in the Old Testament, where it is mentioned nine times.”’ (David Guzik on Job 39) (internal citation omitted).4 “The aurochs was 180 cm tall and weighed up to 1 ton. . . Both sexes had horns, the bull’s up to 107 cm long and the cow’s 70 cm. . . . The calves, which were born 10 months later, were hunted by wolves. Adults, on the other hand, had few natural enemies and could live as much as 20 years.”5 It was also a clean animal that can be eaten (Dt. 14:4). Yet, through mankind’s mismanagement, it is now extinct. It symbolized the strength that only God can provide.
The ox was a symbol of God’s power. Throughout the Old Testament, God used the ox as a symbol of His power: “God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.” (Nu. 23:22). “God brings him out of Egypt, He is for him like the horns of the wild ox. He will devour the nations who are his adversaries, and will crush their bones, and smash them with his arrows.” (Nu. 24:8). “As the firstborn of his ox, majesty is his, and his horns are the horns of the wild ox; with them he will gore the peoples all at once, to the ends of the earth. And those are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and those are the thousands of Manasseh.” (Dt. 33:17). “Save me from the lion’s mouth; from the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.” (Ps. 22:21). “But You have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.” (Ps. 92:10). While God had the power to both create and master the ox, Job had neither ability. Thus, he needed to trust the mind of the Creator to cause all things to work together for good (Ro. 8:28).
God is sovereign over all creation and can strengthen believers like the ox. God wanted Job to find strength in Him. God alone has the sovereign power to strengthen any animal or person. One commentator observes that “the Lord contrasts the wild animal with its domestic cousin, asking Job if he could tame, harness, and render profitable for service these elusive and unruly beasts . . . Equally unimaginable was the prospect that this mighty creature would submit to a harness to plow or harrow the lowland ‘valleys’ where the best soil was deposited . . . The farmers of the ancient Middle East must have coveted the strength of the wild ox because all that power could do the hardest tasks if only it could be subdued and disciplined. Unfortunately it could not be trusted but with its ferocious strength probably would damage and even kill.” (Alden at p. 384-385). Just as God gave the wild ox its strength, He would also strengthen Job. When believers humble themselves before Jesus, He also promises to strengthen them: “Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10). If you need to be strengthened during a trial, humble yourself and pray for Jesus to strengthen you.
Mankind also has the obligation to be good stewards over God’s creation. God gave mankind “dominion” over the animal kingdom: “and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26b). Thus, mankind is called upon to be good stewards over the environment and to ensure the survival of species like aurochs. “A righteous person has regard for the life of his animal, . . .” (Prov. 12:10a).
God’s creation of the mysterious ostrich. God next asked Job if he could explain the unusual behaviors of the ostrich: “13 The wings of the ostrich flap joyously, with the pinion and feathers of love, 14 for she abandons her eggs to the earth and warms them in the dust, 15 and she forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild animal may trample them. 16 She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers; though her labor is for nothing, she is unconcerned, 17 because God has made her forget wisdom, and has not given her a share of understanding. 18 When she rushes away on high, she laughs at the horse and his rider.” (Job 39:13-18). Here, God described the now-extinct Arabian Ostrich (“Struthio camelus syriacus”). The ostrich was an unclean animal (Lev. 11:16; Dt. 14:15). It was also known for its failure to care for its young: “Even jackals offer the breast, they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has proved herself cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness.” (Lam. 4:3). This species disappeared when mankind used firearms and motor vehicles to hunt it. It finally disappeared by around the 1920s.
Just as God provided for the maligned ostrich, He provides for believers when attacked. Job was the ostrich in this account. Job’s friends attacked him and alleged that he lacked wisdom (e.g., Job 11:2; 15:2; 18:2-3; 34:35; 35:36). To others, it also looked as though God made the ostrich “forget wisdom” and not have “understanding” (Job 39:17). But He in fact designed even this odd, flightless bird with amazing survival abilities: “The ostrich has a tiny brain but is well programmed with instincts that assure its survival. It does not forsake its eggs (v. 14. Cf. KJV). The verb in this verse means ‘lay,’ though a homonym does mean ‘forsake’ (citation omitted). The seeming cruelty to her young (v. 16; cf. Lam. 4:3) derives from the practice of driving off the yearlings when mating season arrives. The ostrich has exceptional eyesight – the largest of any land animal with 360 degree vision. But the text concentrates on the bird’s most incongruous feature: tremendous legs. One kick can tear open a lion or a man.” (Gaebelein, Smick, p. 1039). God designed them to be the heaviest and tallest bird in the world, weighing up 320 pounds and reaching a height of up to 9 feet. It also has the biggest eyes in the whole animal world, reaching approximately 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. They have an average of 40 to 45 years, but can live up to 70 years. They are also the fastest land bird in the world. They generally run at an average speed of 45 mph. But they can reach a speed of up to 60 mph. They are also social animals. A flock can range from 10 to 100 members. But they typically live in groups of 10 for protection. Their legs are also strong enough to even kill a lion.6 Like the ostrich, God provides for each of His believers.
God provides different gifts of the Spirit to believers. Like the animal kingdom, believers do not receive the same gifts. God provides believers with different gifts so that they can serve Him as a united body: “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Cor. 12:8-10). Are you using your gifts to serve God? Or, have you internalized the lies of the enemy that you have nothing of value to offer God or the people around you?
(Engraving of an 1877 ostrich hunt in the Palestinian territories: Source – Wikipedia)
God’s creation of the magnificent horse. God then asked who created the mighty horse: “19 Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? 20 Do you make him leap like locusts? His majestic snorting is frightening. 21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He goes out to meet the battle. 22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; and he does not turn back from the sword. 23 The quiver rattles against him, the flashing spear and javelin. 24 He races over the ground with a roar and fury, and he does not stand still when he hears the sound of the trumpet. 25 As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’ And he senses the battle from afar, and the thunder of the captains and the war cry.” (Job 39:19-25). Moses also called the horse an unclean animal for eating because they do not chew their cud or have split hooves (Lev. 11:3; Dt. 14:6). Of the seven animals that God described, it was the only domesticated animal.
The horse was a symbol of power and God’s protection. Horses were powerful animals that allowed armies to win wars during Biblical times. They were so powerful that God even warned the Jews not to trust in their own strength by accumulating too many horses. ‘“Moreover, he [the king] shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.”’ (Dt. 17:16). “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” (Ps. 20:7). Horses also symbolized God’s protection. Nehemiah named one of the gates of Jerusalem the “Horses Gate,” which was used to protect Jerusalem (Neh. 3:28-29). The prophet Jeremiah later described the Horse Gate as a place of God’s victory for those who trusted in Him: “And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD; it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.” (Jer. 31:40). At this gate, God will fulfill His promise that Jerusalem will one day be forever protected from its enemies: “Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more.” (Joel 3:17). “In that day ‘Holiness to the LORD’ shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.” (Zech. 14:20). Jesus will also return with power on a white horse (Rev. 19:11-21).
God’s miraculous design of the horse. God also designed the horse with amazing features. They have near 360 degrees of vision. Their only blind spots are directly in front and directly behind them. Their eyes can also work independently of each other. This allows them to focus on two things at the same time. They further can typically run at speeds of 30 mph, with the fastest horse having run 55 mph. To power these amazing creatures, God created them with hearts that typically weigh between 9-10 pounds (almost ten times the size of the average human heart of less than 1 pound). For their protection, God further designed them with the ability to sleep standing up and with the need for only three hours of sleep each day. Also for their protection, God designed them with the ability to move their ears up to 180-degrees.7 These mighty creatures symbolized the protection that God can provide to any one who trusts in Him.
Turn to God for protection. Although Job could not yet see it, God was protecting Job from any trial that was beyond his ability to handle. God repeatedly set the limits for Satan’s attacks in Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). God would also soon rebuke Job’s attackers (Job 42:7-9). God can also protect you and deliver you from the evil one when he attacks you. “The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.” (Ps. 121:7).
God’s creation of the migratory hawk. God next asked Job if he could explain the ability of the hawk to migrate far away and then return to the same location each year: “26 Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, stretching his wings toward the south?” (Job 39:26). The hawk was considered an unclean bird that could not be eaten (Lev. 11:16; Dt. 14:15). “Just as ‘hawk’ in English covers several species, so nes in Hebrew includes falcons, true hawks, and harriers. Probably the Lesser Kestrel is indicated here because it is one of the most common migratory hawks. In the autumn it would ‘spread its wings toward the south,’ that is, to its winter home in Africa.” (Alden p. 390). These were among the many animals that mankind had difficulty controlling: “God also wanted Job to be astonished at the wildness of it all; even allowing for the fact that God had given man dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Even with dominion over all these, man did not make or sustain these great wild animals. If mankind had so little authority over nature, could Job expect to have more control over the mysterious events of his life?” (David Guzik on Job 39).
God’s miraculous design of migratory birds. One commentary observes that “Few things in nature are more remarkable than the instinct of migratory birds.” (Pulpit Commentary on Job 39:26). God created more than 4,000 species of birds with internal GPS-like brains that allow them to migrate long distances, frequently across contents. Some birds also fly at altitudes where the air is too thin and cold for humans. For example, the bar-headed geese fly over the Himalayas in India at up to five and a half miles above sea level. In 1975, one was sucked into a jet 37,000 feet or seven miles above sea level. As another incredible example, the Artic tern can travel more than 49,700 miles in a year. They breed in the Artic and then fly to the Antarctic. Over their 30-year life span, they can fly the equivalent of three round trips to the moon and back. As another example, the northern wheatear (weighing less than an ounce) travels up to 9,000 miles each way between the Artic and Africa.8 Paul proclaimed that we are without excuse when we deny God’s hand in creation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20).
(The migratory Lesser Kestrel Hawk)
Because God is in control over every detail in nature, you can trust Him. God wanted Job to understand that His hidden hand was everywhere. Thus, God wanted Job to trust Him during his trials. You can also trust God during your trials as well. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). This means that you do not need to fear set-backs or defeats: “He will not fear bad news; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” (Ps. 112:7). Just as He guides the migratory birds across great distances, He also stays with us and guides us when we trust Him: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you, I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” (Is. 41:10). When you face trials, frustration, or loss, do you trust that God is in control?
God’s creation of the eagle. Finally, God asked Job if he could command the soaring eagles how to fly and where to find dwelling places on protected cliffs: “27 Is it at your ]command that the eagle flies high, and makes his nest on high? 28 He dwells and spends his nights on the cliff, on the rocky cliff, an inaccessible place. 29 From there he tracks food; his eyes look at it from afar. 30 His young ones also lick up blood greedily; and where the slain are, there he is.” (Job 39:27-30). The eagle was also considered “unclean” for eating (Lev. 11:13; Dt. 14:12). Like the eagles, we are also unclean. But we can be made clean through the blood of Jesus and His Word (Jo. 15:3).
Like the eagle, God promises believers a future of soaring peace. In the Bible, the eagle was a symbol of grandeur that flies high above the Earth. “Most references to it are figurative with points made about its strength (Exod. 19:4; Isa. 40:31), speed (2 Sam. 1:23; Jer. 4:13), grandeur in flight (Prov. 30:19; Jer. 48:40), or ability to take prey (Job 9:26; Hab. 1:8) or find carrion (Prov. 30:17; Matt. 24:28). Here, as in Jer. 49:16 and Obad. 4, the point is the ‘soaring’ and ‘nesting’ high, craggy, inaccessible places. Yahweh asked Job if these magnificent creatures did any of these superhuman feats at his ‘command,’ literally ‘mouth.’” (Alden at p. 390). God’s eagles are also marvels of creation. There are over 60 species of eagles across the world. God declared that the eagle “tracks food; his eyes look at it from afar.” (Job 39:29). He made their eyesight that is up to 8 times greater than humans. An eagle can spot a rabbit up to 3.2 km away. They can also turn their heads up to 210 degrees in a circle to find their prey. They can do this because they have 14 vertebrae in their necks, twice the number humans have. Their grip is also 10 times more powerful than an average human grip. Job was again left unable to offer any response to God about His creation. Like the eagle, God would soon lift Job up and rehabilitate him. For believers, He will lift you up and allow you to find the soaring peace that “surpasses all understanding” no matter what happens (Phil. 4:7).
God offers us a future home. God provides eagles with nests “on the rocky cliff, an inaccessible place.” (Job 39:27-28). Jesus promises that there are many mansions in God’s home that await His believers (Jo. 14:2). God is also worthy of our praise.