on Job 4 :13
From the visions of the night - "It is in vain," says Mr. Good, "to search through ancient or modern poetry for a description that has any pretensions to rival that upon which we are now entering. Midnight-solitude - the deep sleep of all around - the dreadful chill and horripilation or erection of the hair over the whole body - the shivering, not of the muscles only, but of the bones themselves - the gliding approach of the spectre - the abruptness of his pause - his undefined and indescribable form - are all powerful and original characters, which have never been given with equal effect by any other writer."
Mr. Hervey's illustration is also striking and natural. "'Twas in the dead of night; all nature lay shrouded in darkness; every creature was buried in sleep. The most profound silence reigned through the universe. In these solemn moments Eliphaz, alone, all wakeful and solitary, was musing on sublime subjects. When, lo! an awful being burst into his apartment. A spirit passed before his face. Astonishment seized the beholder. His bones shivered within him; his flesh trembled all over him; and the hair of his head stood erect with horror. Sudden and unexpected was its appearance; not such its departure. It stood still, to present itself more fully to his view. It made a solemn pause, to prepare his mind for some momentous message. After which a voice was heard. A voice, for the importance of its meaning, worthy to be had in everlasting remembrance. It spoke, and these were its words:"
on Job 4 :13
In thoughts - Amidst the tumultuous and anxious thoughts which occur in the night. The Hebrew word rendered thoughts, (שׂעפים śâ‛ı̂phı̂ym), means thoughts which divide and distract the mind.
From the visions of the night - On the meaning of the word visions, see the notes at Isaiah 1:1. This was a common mode in which the will of God was made known in ancient times. For an extended description of this method of communicating the will of God, the reader may consult my Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7.
When deep sleep falleth on men - The word here rendered deep sleep, תרדמה tardêmâh, commonly denotes a profound repose or slumber brought upon man by divine agency. So Schultens in loc. It is the word used to describe the "deep sleep" which God brought upon Adam when he took from his side a rib to form Eve, Genesis 2:21; and that, also, which came upon Abraham, when an horror of great darkness fell upon him; Genesis 15:12. It means here profound repose, and the vision which he saw was at that solemn hour when the world is usually locked in slumber. Umbreit renders this, "In the time of thoughts, before the night-visions," and supposes that Eliphaz refers to the time that was especially favorable to meditation and to serious contemplation before the time of sleep and of dreams. In support of this use of the preposition מן mı̂n, he appeals to Haggai 2:16, and Noldius Concord. Part. p. 546.
Our common version, however, has probably preserved the true sense of the passage. It is impossible to conceive anything more sublime than this whole description. It was midnight. There was solitude and silence all around. At that fearful hour this vision came, and a sentiment was communicated to Eliphaz of the utmost importance, and fitted to make the deepest possible impression. The time; the quiet; the form of the image; its passing along, and then suddenly standing still; the silence, and then the deep and solemn voice - all were fitted to produce the proroundest awe. So graphic and so powerful is this description, that it would be impossible to read it - and particularly at midnight and alone - without something of the feeling of awe and horror which Eliphaz says it produced on his mind. It is a description which for power has probably never been equalled, though an attempt to describe an apparition from the invisible world has been often made. Virgil has attempted such a description, which, though exceedingly beautiful, is far inferior to this of the Sage of Teman. It is the description of the appearance of the wife of Aeneas:
Infelix simulacrum atque ipsius umbra Crousae
Visa mihi ante oculos, et nora major imago.
Obstupui, steteruntque comae, et vox faucibus haesit.
- "At length she hears,
And sudden through the shades of night appears;
Appears no more Creusa, nor my wife,
But a pale spectre, larger than the life.
Aghast, astonished, and struck dumb with fear,
on Job 4 :13
4:13 In thoughts - These thoughts arose from the visions of the night, which it is probable he had seen before. Visions differed from dreams herein, that God imparted his mind to men in dreams when asleep, but in visions, when they were awake. And these visions sometimes happened by day, but most frequently by night. Sleep - In the dead of the night, when men usually are in a deep sleep; though Eliphaz was not now asleep.