Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds - Though the vapor appear to be fortuitously raised, and subject, when suspended in the atmosphere, to innumerable accidents, to different winds and currents which might drive it all to the sandy deserts, or direct its course so that it should fall again into the great deep from which it has been exhaled, without watering and refreshing the earth; yet so does the good and wise providence of God manage this matter, that every part of the arable terrene surface receives an ample supply; and in every place, where requisite, it may be truly said that "The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and water the earth, and cause it to bring forth and bud, that it may minister seed to the sower, and bread to the eater." In Egypt, where there is little or no rain, the earth is watered by the annual inundation of the Nile; there, because this system of evaporation is not necessary, it does not exist. Who can account for this economy? How are these clouds so judiciously and effectually spread through the atmosphere, so as to supply the wants of the earth, of men, and of cattle? I ask, with Elihu, "Who can understand the spreadings of these clouds?" And I should like to see that volunteer in the solution of paradoxes who would step forward and say, I am the man.
The noise of his tabernacle? - By the tabernacle we may understand the whole firmament or atmospheric expansion; the place where the Almighty seems more particularly to dwell; whence he sends forth the rain of his strength, and the thunder of his power. The noise must refer to the blowing of winds and tempests. or to the claps, peals, and rattling of thunder, by means of the electric fluid.
Also, can any understand the spreadings of the clouds? - The out spreading - the manner in which they expand themselves over us. The idea is, that the manner in which the clouds seem to “spread out,” or unfold themselves on the sky, could not be explained, and was a striking proof of the wisdom and power of God. In the early periods of the world, it could not be expected that the causes of these phenomena would be known. Now that the causes “are” better known, however, they do not less indicate the wisdom and power of God, nor are these facts less fitted to excite our wonder. The simple and beautiful laws by which the clouds are suspended; by which they roll in the sky; by which they spread themselves out - as in a rising tempest, and by which they seem to unfold themselves over the heavens, should increase, rather than diminish, our conceptions of the wisdom and power of the Most High.
Or, the noise of his tabernacle - Referring, doubtless, to thunder. The clouds are represented as a tent or pavilion spread out for the dwelling of God (compare the notes at Isaiah 40:22), and the idea here is, that the noise made in a thunder-storm is in the unique dwelling of God. Herder well expresses it, “The fearful thunderings in his tent,” compare Psalm 18:11 -
He made darkness his secret place,
His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
The sense here is, who can understand and explain the cause of thunder? The object of Elihu in this is, to show how great and incomprehensible is God, and nature furnishes few more impressive illustrations of this than the crash of thunder.