World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Interlude: Where Wisdom Is Found
“Surely there is a mine for silver,
and a place for gold to be refined.
Iron is taken out of the earth,
and copper is smelted from ore.
Miners put an end to darkness,
and search out to the farthest bound
the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation;
they are forgotten by travelers,
they sway suspended, remote from people.
As for the earth, out of it comes bread;
but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
Its stones are the place of sapphires,
and its dust contains gold.
“That path no bird of prey knows,
and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
The proud wild animals have not trodden it;
the lion has not passed over it.
“They put their hand to the flinty rock,
and overturn mountains by the roots.
They cut out channels in the rocks,
and their eyes see every precious thing.
The sources of the rivers they probe;
hidden things they bring to light.
“But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
Mortals do not know the way to it,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be gotten for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed out as its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
in precious onyx or sapphire.
Gold and glass cannot equal it,
nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
the price of wisdom is above pearls.
The chrysolite of Ethiopia cannot compare with it,
nor can it be valued in pure gold.
“Where then does wisdom come from?
And where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
and concealed from the birds of the air.
Abaddon and Death say,
‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
“God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
For he looks to the ends of the earth,
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he gave to the wind its weight,
and apportioned out the waters by measure;
when he made a decree for the rain,
and a way for the thunderbolt;
then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.
And he said to humankind,
‘Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”
Job 28:1-28. Job's Speech Continued.
In the twenty-seventh chapter Job had tacitly admitted that the statement of the friends was often true, that God vindicated His justice by punishing the wicked here; but still the affliction of the godly remained unexplained. Man has, by skill, brought the precious metals from their concealment. But the Divine Wisdom, which governs human affairs, he cannot similarly discover (Job 28:12, &c.). However, the image from the same metals (Job 23:10) implies Job has made some way towards solving the riddle of his life; namely, that affliction is to him as the refining fire is to gold.
1. vein—a mine, from which it goes forth, Hebrew, "is dug."
place for gold—a place where gold may be found, which men refine. Not as English Version, "A place—where," (Mal 3:3). Contrasted with gold found in the bed and sand of rivers, which does not need refining; as the gold dug from a mine does. Golden ornaments have been found in Egypt, of the times of Joseph.
2. brass—that is, copper; for brass is a mixed metal of copper and zinc, of modern invention. Iron is less easily discovered, and wrought, than copper; therefore copper was in common use long before iron. Copper-stone is called "cadmium" by Pliny [Natural History, 34:1; 36:21]. Iron is fitly said to be taken out of the "earth" (dust), for ore looks like mere earth.
3. "Man makes an end of darkness," by exploring the darkest depths (with torches).
all perfection—rather, carries out his search to the utmost perfection; most thoroughly searches the stones of darkness and of the shadow of death (thickest gloom); that is, the stones, whatever they be, embedded in the darkest bowels of the earth [Umbreit] (Job 26:10).
4. Three hardships in mining: 1. "A stream (flood) breaks out at the side of the stranger"; namely, the miner, a strange newcomer into places heretofore unexplored; his surprise at the sudden stream breaking out beside him is expressed (English Version, "from the inhabitant"). 2. "Forgotten (unsupported) by the foot they hang," namely, by ropes, in descending. In the Hebrew, "Lo there" precedes this clause, graphically placing it as if before the eyes. "The waters" is inserted by English Version. "Are dried up," ought to be, "hang," "are suspended." English Version perhaps understood, waters of whose existence man was previously unconscious, and near which he never trod; and yet man's energy is such, that by pumps, &c., he soon causes them to "dry up and go away" [So Herder]. 3. "Far away from men, they move with uncertain step"; they stagger; not "they are gone" [Umbreit].
5. Its fertile surface yields food; and yet "beneath it is turned up as it were with fire." So Pliny [Natural History, 33] observes on the ingratitude of man who repays the debt he owes the earth for food, by digging out its bowels. "Fire" was used in mining [Umbreit]. English Version is simpler, which means precious stones which glow like fire; and so Job 28:6 follows naturally (Eze 28:14).
6. Sapphires are found in alluvial soil near rocks and embedded in gneiss. The ancients distinguished two kinds: 1. The real, of transparent blue: 2. That improperly so called, opaque, with gold spots; that is, lapis lazuli. To the latter, looking like gold dust, Umbreit refers "dust of gold." English Version better, "The stones of the earth are, &c., and the clods of it (Vulgate) are gold"; the parallel clauses are thus neater.
7. fowl—rather, "ravenous bird," or "eagle," which is the most sharp-sighted of birds (Isa 46:11). A vulture will spy a carcass at an amazing distance. The miner penetrates the earth by a way unseen by birds of keenest sight.
8. lion's whelps—literally, "the sons of pride," that is, the fiercest beasts.
passed—The Hebrew implies the proud gait of the lion. The miner ventures where not even the fierce lion dares to go in pursuit of his prey.
9. rock—flint. He puts forth his hand to cleave the hardest rock.
by the roots—from their foundations, by undermining them.
10. He cuts channels to drain off the waters, which hinder his mining; and when the waters are gone, he he is able to see the precious things in the earth.
11. floods—"He restrains the streams from weeping"; a poetical expression for the trickling subterranean rills, which impede him; answering to the first clause of Job 28:10; so also the two latter clauses in each verse correspond.
12. Can man discover the Divine Wisdom by which the world is governed, as he can the treasures hidden in the earth? Certainly not. Divine Wisdom is conceived as a person (Job 28:12-27) distinct from God (Job 28:23; also in Pr 8:23, 27). The Almighty Word, Jesus Christ, we know now, is that Wisdom. The order of the world was originated and is maintained by the breathing forth (Spirit) of Wisdom, unfathomable and unpurchasable by man. In Job 28:28, the only aspect of it, which relates to, and may be understood by, man, is stated.
understanding—insight into the plan of the divine government.
13. Man can fix no price upon it, as it is nowhere to be found in man's abode (Isa 38:11). Job implies both its valuable worth, and the impossibility of buying it at any price.
15. Not the usual word for "gold"; from a Hebrew root, "to shut up" with care; that is, purest gold (1Ki 6:20, Margin).
weighed—The precious metals were weighed out before coining was known (Ge 23:16).
onyx—(Ge 2:12). More valued formerly than now. The term is Greek, meaning "thumb nail," from some resemblance in color. The Arabic denotes, of two colors, white preponderating.
17. crystal—Or else glass, if then known, very costly. From a root, "to be transparent."
18. Red coral (Eze 27:16).
pearls—literally, "what is frozen." Probably crystal; and Job 28:17 will then be glass.
rubies—Umbreit translates "pearls" (see La 4:1; Pr 3:15). The Urim and Thummim, the means of consulting God by the twelve stones on the high priest's breastplate, "the stones of the sanctuary" (La 4:1), have their counterpart in this chapter; the precious stones symbolizing the "light" and "perfection" of the divine wisdom.
19. Ethiopia—Cush in the Hebrew. Either Ethiopia, or the south of Arabia, near the Tigris.
20. Job 28:12 repeated with great force.
21. None can tell whence or where, seeing it, &c.
fowls—The gift of divination was assigned by the heathen especially to birds. Their rapid flight heavenwards and keen sight originated the superstition. Job may allude to it. Not even the boasted divination of birds has an insight into it (Ec 10:20). But it may merely mean, as in Job 28:7, It escapes the eye of the most keen-sighted bird.
We have [only] heard—the report of her. We have not seen her. In the land of the living (Job 28:13) the workings of Wisdom are seen, though not herself. In the regions of the dead she is only heard of, her actings on nature not being seen (Ec 9:10).
23. God hath, and is Himself, wisdom.
24. "Seeth (all that is) under," &c.
25. God has adjusted the weight of the winds, so seemingly imponderable, lest, if too weighty, or too light, injury should be caused. He measureth out the waters, fixing their bounds, with wisdom as His counsellor (Pr 8:27-31; Isa 40:12).
26. The decree regulating at what time and place, and in what quantity, the rain should fall.
27. declare—manifest her, namely, in His works (Ps 19:1, 2). So the approval bestowed by the Creator on His works (Ge 1:10, 31); compare the "rejoicing" of wisdom at the same (Pr 8:30; which Umbreit translates; "I was the skilful artificer by His side").
prepared—not created, for wisdom is from everlasting (Pr 8:22-31); but "established" her as Governor of the world.
searched … out—examined her works to see whether she was adequate to the task of governing the world [Maurer].
28. Rather, "But unto man," &c. My wisdom is that whereby all things are governed; Thy wisdom is in fearing God and shunning evil, and in feeling assured that My wisdom always acts aright, though thou dost not understand the principle which regulates it; for example, in afflicting the godly (Joh 7:17). The friends, therefore, as not comprehending the Divine Wisdom, should not infer Job's guilt from his sufferings. Here alone in Job the name of God, Adonai, occurs; "Lord" or "master," often applied to Messiah in Old Testament. Appropriately here, in speaking of the Word or Wisdom, by whom the world was made (Pr 8:22-31; Joh 1:3; Ecclesiasticus 24:1-34).