He stretcheth out the north over the empty place,.... The northern hemisphere, which is the chief and best known, at least it was in the time of Job, when the southern hemisphere might not be known at all; though, if our version of Job 9:9 is right, Job seems to have had knowledge of it. ScheuchzerF21Physic. Sacr. vol. 4. p. 724. thinks the thick air farthest north is meant, which expands itself everywhere, and is of great use to the whole earth. But if the northern hemisphere is meant, as a learned manF23Gregory's Notes and Observations, &c. c. 12. p. 55. expresses it, it
"was not only principal as to Job's respect, and the position of Arabia, but because this hemisphere is absolutely so indeed, it is principal to the whole; for as the heavens and the earth are divided by the middle line, the northern half hath a strange share of excellency; we have more earth, more men, more stars, more day (the same also Sephorno, a Jewish commentator on the place, observes); and, which is more than all this, the north pole is more magnetic than the south:'
though the whole celestial sphere may be intended, the principal being put for the whole; even that whole expansion, or firmament of heaven, which has its name from being stretched out like a curtain, or canopy, over the earth; which was done when the earth was "tohu", empty of inhabitants, both men and beasts, and was without form and void, and had no beauty in it, or anything growing on it; see Genesis 1:2;
and hangeth the earth upon nothing; as a ball in the airF24"Terra pilae similis nullo fulcimine nixa", Ovid. Fast. 6. , poised with its own weightF25"Circumfuso pendebat in aere tellus, ponderibus librata suis----", Ovid. Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 1. , or kept in this form and manner by the centre of gravity, and so some Jewish writersF26Ben Gersom & Bar Tzemach in loc. interpret "nothing" of the centre of the earth, and which is nothing but "ens rationis", a figment and imagination of the mind; or rather the earth is held together, and in the position it is, by its own magnetic virtue, it being a loadstone itself; and as the above learned writer observes,
"the globe consisteth by a magnetic dependency, from which the parts cannot possibly start aside; but which, howsoever thus strongly seated on its centre and poles, is yet said to hang upon nothing; because the Creator in the beginning thus placed it within the "tohu", as it now also hangeth in the air; which itself also is nothing as to any regard of base or sustentation.'
In short, what the foundations are on which it is laid, or the pillars by which it is sustained, cannot be said, except the mighty power and providence of God. The word used seems to come from a root, which in the Syriac and Chaldee languages signifies to "bind and restrain"; and may design the expanse or atmosphere, so called from its binding and compressing nature, על, "in" or "within" which the earth is hung; see Psalms 32:9.