38:31 [And even] when, towards the close of the day, nobly-bred, swift-footed steeds were brought before him.
The story of Solomon’s love of beautiful horses is meant to show that all true love of God is bound to be reflected in one’s realization of, and reverence for, the beauty created by Him.
38:32 he would say, “Verily, I have come to love the love of all that is good because I bear my Sustainer in mind!”- [repeating these words as the steeds raced away] until they were hidden by the veil [of distance – whereupon he would command].
To explain this verse, some of the commentators advance the most fantastic stories, almost all of them going back to Talmudic sources. Razi rejects them all, maintaining that they are unworthy of serious consideration. Instead, he plausibly suggests that the “body” (jasad) upon Solomon’s throne is an allusion to his own body, and – metonymically – to his kingly power, which was bound to remain “lifeless” so long as it was not inspired by God-willed ethical values. (It is to be borne in mind that in classical Arabic a person utterly weakened by illness, worry or fear, or devoid of moral values, is often described as “a body without a soul”.) In other words, Solomon’s early trial consisted in his inheriting no more than a kingly position, and it rested upon him to endow that position with spiritual essence and meaning.
38:33 “Bring them back unto me!” – and would [lovingly] stroke their legs and their necks.
i.e., a spiritual kingdom, which could not be inherited by anyone and, hence, would not be exposed to envy or worldly intrigue.
38:34 But [ere this], indeed, We had tried Solomon by placing upon his throne a [lifeless] body, and thereupon he turned [towards Us, and].
i.e., as a reward for his humility and turning away from worldly ambitions, implied in the prayer, “Forgive me my sins”.
38:35 he prayed, “O my Sustainer! Forgive me my sins, and bestow upon me the gift of a kingdom which may not suit anyone after me: verily, Thou alone art a giver of gifts!”
Cf. 21:81 and the corresponding note 75. For the meaning, in general, of the many legends surrounding the person of Solomon, see note 77 on 21:82.
38:36 And so We made subservient to him the wind so that it gently sped at his behest whithersoever he willed.
i.e., subdued and, as it were, tamed by him: see note 76 on 21:82, which explains my rendering, in this context, of shayatin as “rebellious forces”.
38:37 As well as all the rebellious forces [that We made to work for him] – every kind of builder and diver.
See note 78 on 21:83.
38:38 And others linked together in fetters.
i.e., with life-weariness in consequence of suffering. As soon as he realizes that God has been testing him, Job perceives that his utter despondency and weariness of life – eloquently described in the Old Testament (The Book of Job iii) – was but due to what is described as “Satan’s whisperings”: this is the moral to be drawn from the above evocation of Job’s story.
38:39 [And We told him] “This is Our gift, for thee to bestow freely on others, or to withhold, without [having to render] account!”
According to the classical commentators, the miraculous appearance of a healing spring heralded the end of Job’s suffering, both physical and mental.
38:40 And, verily, nearness to Us awaits him [in the life to come], and the most beauteous of all goals!
Lit., “his family” (cf. 21:84 and the corresponding note 79).