on Job 38 :31
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades - The Pleiades are a constellation in the sign Taurus. They consist of six stars visible to the naked eye; to a good eye, in a clear night, seven are discernible; but with a telescope ten times the number may be readily counted. They make their appearance in the spring. Orion may be seen in the morning, towards the end of October, and is visible through November, December, and January; and hence, says Mr. Good, it becomes a correct and elegant synecdoche for the winter at large. The Pleiades are elegantly opposed to Orion, as the vernal renovation of nature is opposed to its wintry destruction; the mild and open benignity of spring, to the severe and icy inactivity of winter. I have already expressed my mind on these supposed constellations, and must refer to my notes on Job 9:9, etc., and to the learned notes of Doctor Hales and Mr. Mason Good on these texts. They appear certain, where I am obliged to doubt; and, from their view of the subject, make very useful and important deductions. I find reluctance in departing from the ancient versions. In this case, these learned men follow them; I cannot, because I do not see the evidence of the groundwork; and I dare not draw conclusions from premises which seem to me precarious, or which I do not understand. I wish, therefore, the reader to examine and judge for himself.
Coverdale renders the Job 38:31 and Job 38:32 verses thus:
Hast thou brought the VII starres together? Or, Art thou able to breake the circle of heaven? Canst thou bringe forth the morynge starre, or the evenynge starre, at convenient tyme, and conveye them home agayne?
on Job 38 :31
It would seem from these passages, that the allusion to the clusters of stars here, is made to them as the harbingers of certain seasons. "It is well known, that, in different regions of the earth, the appearance of certain constellations before sunrise or after sunset, marks the distinction of seasons, and regulates the labors of the farmer." Wemyss. It is also known that the appearance of certain constellations - as Orion - was regarded by mariners as denoting a stormy and tempestuous season of the year. See Job 9:7-9, notes; and Job 38:31-33, notes. This seems to be the knowledge of the constellations referred to here, and there is no certain evidence that the observation of the heavens in the time of Job had gone beyond this.
A somewhat curious use has been made of the reference to the stars in the book of Job, by an attempt to determine the time when he lived. Supposing the principal stars here mentioned to be those of Taurus and Scorpio, and that these were the cardinal constellations of spring and autumn in the time of Job, and calculating their positions by the precession of the equinoxes, the time referred to in the book of Job was found to be 818 years after the deluge, or 184 years before the birth of Abraham. "This calculation, made by Dr. Brinkley of Dublin, and adopted by Dr. Hales, had been made also in 1765 by M. Ducontant in Paris, with a result differing only in being forty-two years less." The coincidence is remarkable, but the proof that the constellations referred to are Taurus and Scorpio, is too uncertain to give much weight to the argument.
The intimations about the structure, the size, and the support of the earth, are also very obscure, and the views entertained would seem to have been very confused. Language is used, doubtless, such as would express the popular belief, and it resembles that which is commonly employed in the Scriptures. The common representation is, that the heavens are stretched out as a curtain or tent, or sometimes as a solid concave sphere in which the heavenly bodies are fixed (see the notes at Isaiah 34:4), and that the earth is an immense plain, surrounded by water, which reached the concave heavens in which the stars were fixed. Occasionally, the earth is represented as supported by pillars, or as resting on a solid foundation; and once we meet with an intimation that it is globular, and suspended in space.
In the following passages the earth and the sky are represented as supported by pillars:
He shaketh the earth out of her place,
And the pillars thereof tremble. Job 9:6
The pillars of heaven tremble,
And are astonished at his rebuke. Job 31:11.
In the latter passage the reference is to mountains, which seem to uphold the sky as pillars, in accordance with the common and popular representation among the ancients. Thus Mount Atlas, in Mauritania, was represented as a pillar on which heaven was suspended:
"Atlas' broad shoulders prop th' incumbent skies,
Around his cloud-girt head the stars arise,"
In the following passage the earth is represented as suspended on nothing, and there would seem to be a slight evidence that the true doctrine about the form of the earth was then known:
on Job 38 :31
38:31 Bind - Restrain or hinder them. Pleiades - The seven stars, which bring in the spring. Bands - By which it binds up the air and earth, by bringing storms of rain and hail or frost and snow. Orion - This constellation rises in November, and brings in winter. Both summer and winter will have their course? God indeed can change them when he pleases, can make the spring cold, and so bind the influences of Pleiades, and the winter warm, and so loose the bands of Orion; but we cannot.