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Q&A

Why does Job 39:19 use 'clothed' for 'Have you clothed his neck with thunder'?

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This use of 'clothe' feels kooky and unnatural to me. In 2022 Modern English, clothes usually refer to the body, not the neck. Can someone please make this natural and intuitive?

Then again, English ISN'T my first language. I've never ridden a horse in my life.

New King James Version
“Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder?

[...]

World English Bible
"Have you given the horse might? Have you clothed his neck with a quivering mane?

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X-posts https://www.reddit.com/r/BibleVerseCommentary/comments/seuwll/why_does_job_3919_use_clothed... (1 comment)
It's a figure of speech, that's all. This question might work better in Judaism, where someone who kn... (1 comment)

2 answers

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The "mane" of a horse refers to the hair that grows on the top of its neck. The immediate context of vv. 19–25 is imagery associated with this war horse that fearlessly and eagerly carries its rider into battle. Ultimately God is questioning Job whether he is the one who gives horses their strength and power (the rhetorical answer is an emphatic "No!").

A challenge with this translation is that רַעְמָה (ra'mah) is a hapax legomenon. The word is often connected with its (likely) root meaning "thunder" (רַעַם, which may also carry the connotation of "quaking" or "rumbling," as these are also associated with thunder).[1]

The Septuagint translators understood it in the sense of fear or terror ("ἐνέδυσας δὲ τραχήλῳ αὐτοῦ φόβον"[2] == "[have you] clothed its neck with terror" || "put fear on its neck"), although this may have to do with the root meaning of the Greek word for "mane" being "fear." This seems to fit the context well. The Latin Vulgate focused on the sound ("neighing").

A. B. Davidson thought it referred to the quivering of the neck rather than the mane. Gray thought the sound and not the movement was the point. But without better evidence, a reading that has “quivering mane” may not be far off the mark. But it may be simplest to translate it “mane” and assume that the idea of “quivering” is part of the meaning.[3]

The quivering mane may imply an allusion/pattern as Job 39:13 references the "vibrating wing" of the ostrich. Assuming the connection with the root word for "thunder," the poetic implication of v.19 might be:

poetically for, "he with arched neck inspires fear as thunder does." Translate, "majesty...."[4]

Translators essentially agree that "the image is one of magnificent power."[5] Individual translations might convey this differently (whether more literally: "flowing mane," or by attempting to retain the metaphorical language: "clothed with thunder"), but that is the overarching imagery being conveyed.


  1. Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1266. ↩︎

  2. Joseph Ziegler, ed., Iob, vol. XI, 4, Vetus Testamentum Graecum. Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis Editum (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982), Job 39:19b. ↩︎

  3. Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Job 39:19. ↩︎

  4. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 342. ↩︎

  5. Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael Fishbane, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1558. ↩︎

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The Bible often uses clothing as a metaphor. I've found a Christ Covenant Church article that goes in detail into several examples.

A few more examples:

Colossians 3:12: "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Proverbs 31:25: "She is clothed with strength and dignity."

Galatians 3:26: "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

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