Description of the War-Horse.
B. C. 1520.
19 Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? 20 Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. 21 He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. 22 He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. 23 The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. 24 He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. 25 He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
God, having displayed his own power in those creatures that are strong and despise man, here shows it in one scarcely inferior to any of them in strength, and yet very tame and serviceable to man, and that is the horse, especially the horse that is prepared against the day of battle and is serviceable to man at a time when he has more than ordinary occasion for his service. It seems, there was, in Job’s country, a noble generous breed of horses. Job, it is probable, kept many, though they are not mentioned among his possessions, cattle for use in husbandry being there valued more than those for state and war, which alone horses were then reserved for, and they were not then put to such mean services as with us they are commonly put to. Concerning the great horse, that stately beast, it is here observed,
1. That he has a great deal of strength and spirit (v. 19): Hast thou given the horse strength? He uses his strength for man, but has it not from him: God gave it to him, who is the fountain of all the powers of nature, and yet he himself delights not in the strength of the horse (Ps. cxlvii. 10), but has told us that a horse is a vain thing for safety, Ps. xxxiii. 17. For running, drawing, and carrying, no creature that is ordinarily in the service of man has so much strength as the horse has, nor is of so stout and bold a spirit, not to be made afraid as a grasshopper, but daring and forward to face danger. It is a mercy to man to have such a servant, which, though very strong, submits to the management of a child, and rebels not against his owner. But let not the strength of a horse be trusted to, Hos. xiv. 3; Ps. xx. 7; Isa. xxxi. 1, 3.
2. That his neck and nostrils look great. His neck is clothed with thunder, with a large and flowing mane, which makes him formidable and is an ornament to him. The glory of his nostrils, when he snorts, flings up his head, and throws foam about, is terrible, v. 20. Perhaps there might be at that time, and in that country, a more stately breed of horses than any we have now. 3. That he is very fierce and furious in battle, and charges with an undaunted courage, though he pushes on in imminent danger of his life.
(1.) See how frolicsome he is (v. 21): He paws in the valley, scarcely knowing what ground he stands upon. He is proud of his strength, and he has much more reason to be so as using his strength in the service of man, and under his direction, than the wild ass that uses it in contempt of man, and in a revolt from him v. 8.
(2.) See how forward he is to engage: He goes on to meet the armed men, animated, not by the goodness of the cause, or the prospect of honour, but only by the sound of the trumpet, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting of the soldiers, which are as bellows to the fire of his innate courage, and make him spring forward with the utmost eagerness, as if he cried, Ha! ha! v. 25. How wonderfully are the brute-creatures fitted for and inclined to the services for which they were designed.
(3.) See how fearless he is, how he despises death and the most threatening dangers, (v. 22): He mocks at fear, and makes a jest of it; slash at him with a sword, rattle the quiver, brandish the spear, to drive him back, he will not retreat, but press forward, and even inspires courage into his rider.
(4.) See how furious he is. He curvets and prances, and runs on with so much violence and heat against the enemy that one would think he even swallowed the ground with fierceness and rage, v. 24. High mettle is the praise of a horse rather than of a man, whom fierceness and rage ill become. This description of the war-horse will help to explain that character which is given of presumptuous sinners, Jer. viii. 6. Every one turneth to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. When a man’s heart is fully set in him to do evil, and he is carried on in a wicked way by the violence of inordinate appetites and passions, there is no making him afraid of the wrath of God and the fatal consequences of sin. Let his own conscience set before him the curse of the law, the death that is the wages of sin, and all the terrors of the Almighty in battle-array; he mocks at this fear, and is not affrighted, neither turns he back from the flaming sword of the cherubim. Let ministers lift up their voice like a trumpet, to proclaim the wrath of God against him, he believes not that it is the sound of the trumpet, nor that God and his heralds are in earnest with him; but what will be in the end hereof it is easy to foresee.
– Matthew Henry Commentary