Job 28 – Job’s Discourse on Wisdom
A. Man and the search for material treasure.
1. (1-4) Man seeks after treasure in the earth.
“Surely there is a mine for silver,
And a place where gold is refined.
Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
a. Surely there is a mine for silver: Job considered the way men search for precious and useful metals (such as silver, gold, iron, and copper).
i. This chapter and its place in the Book of Job is the source of some controversy. “Most scholars find it impossible to believe that Job ever recited this poem. They find it quite incompatible with what comes before and after.” (Andersen)
ii. Yet the poem also seems too calm, too thoughtful, and too reflective to be one of Job’s friends. Some scholars think that the poem doesn’t belong to the Book of Job at all, and that some later scribe inserted it in the book.
iii. There are two good solutions. The better solution is to simply say that this is indeed Job’s work. “Why should it surprise us if Job, having exhausted all other avenues of protest and inquiry, should all at once slip quietly into a more reflective mood and begin meditating on the source of wisdom? Why shouldn’t Job grow strangely becalmed here for a time and contemplate his problems from a more traditional perspective?” (Mason)
iv. The other solution is to say that this chapter is the inserted observation of the anonymous author of the Book of Job. Andersen describes this perspective: “Because we think that Job is a story, we find it appropriate that this interlude is spoken by the story-teller. It sums up the case as it stands at this point. It emphasizes the failure of the human mind to arrive at the hidden wisdom, and so, far from interfering with the Lord’s speeches, it lays the foundation for them by showing their necessity.”
b. Searches every recess: Job explained how men diligently sought after these precious and useful metals. They light up dark places (Man puts an end to darkness), they search every recess; they dig to break open a shaft away from people, and even personally endanger themselves (they hang far away from men; they swing to and fro).
i. “This chapter is the oldest and finest piece of natural history in the world, and gives us very important information on several curious subjects, and could we ascertain the precise meaning of all the original words, we might, most probably, find out allusions to several useful arts which we are apt to think are of modern, or comparatively modern, invention.” (Clarke)
ii. “Careful examination of every reference Job makes to geology or meteorology reveals that there is no significant or insignificant blunder in all he says; every reference is a piece of consummate accuracy.” (Chambers)
iii. “The point is that man’s intelligence and determination enable him to accomplish amazing feats of technological ingenuity, but left to himself he cannot find wisdom. Wisdom is a treasure rarer than any other.” (Smick)
iv. “Those forgotten could be explorers far from home, or slaves in the mind.” (Andersen)
2. (5-11) The hidden nature of earth’s treasure.
As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.”
a. As for the earth, from it comes bread… its stones are the source of sapphires: Job continued to paint the picture of the earth as a treasure house of value and riches for those who are willing to work hard and search diligently for these riches.
i. “Above spreads the surface of mother earth, with her waving cornfields, rich with human sustenance. Below, her very entrails are torn and devastated as by flames.” (Bradley)
ii. “The falcon is celebrated for its vision, the lion for its courage. But neither is as observant or as intrepid as man, and neither bird nor beast has access to the remote places that men have penetrated in their lust for treasures.” (Andersen)
b. He puts his hand on the flint; he overturns the mountains… he cuts out channels in the rocks… He dams up the streams: Job here explained how hard men are willing to work to gain the treasure and wealth that is hidden in the earth.
B. Job explains the value and the source of wisdom.
1. (12-19) True wisdom is rare.
“But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its value,
Nor is it 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 purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.”
a. But where can wisdom be found: Job here made the point he had built up to in the previous verses. Men search hard and are willing to endure danger for the sake of the riches of this earth, but all of that is easy compared to the search for wisdom.
i. “Man doth not see this wisdom but only so far as God is pleased to reveal it to him, and therefore he cannot declare it to others; man did not prepare, nor order, nor contrive it, and therefore no wonder if he cannot search it out.” (Poole)
b. The deep says, “It is not in me”: Job spoke here of how rare wisdom is, making it all the more valuable among men. Indeed, it cannot be purchased for gold and is therefore worth more than all of those precious metals.
i. “The logic of saying in one breath, ‘It isn’t there, but, even if it were, you couldn’t buy it’, is often met in the Bible.” (Andersen)
2. (20-28) The source and summary of wisdom.
“From where then does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed,
He searched it out.
And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’”
a. From where then does wisdom come: Job explained how hard it was to find wisdom, and then asked the logical question. Job knew that he needed this precious wisdom, and he certainly knew that his friends needed this wisdom.
i. “Sure it is that man, sorry man, knoweth neither the price of Divine wisdom, for it is invaluable; nor the place of it, for it is investigable; nor the order of it, for that is unattainable till we come to heaven.” (Trapp)
ii. “He seems to say that, though men should explore the deep places of the earth with all the diligence of miners seeking gold and silver, though they should exert all their mental force, as miners use all their muscular vigor, and though they should employ all the machinery within their reach, as men do who pierce through the rocks in search of precious treasure yet it is not within the range of human labor and skill to attain unto wisdom. That can only be found by another and a higher method; it must come to us by revelation from God, for we cannot find it by our own efforts.” (Spurgeon)
b. God understands its way, and He knows its place: Job knew the answer to his own question; he knew that God understood wisdom and its source.
i. “This is, indeed, at once our confidence and our comfort – ‘God understandeth.’ The things that perplex us, do not perplex Him; the mysteries by which we are surrounded, are no mysteries to Him.” (Morgan)
ii. “Having shown God as the Source of wisdom, the author now makes his application to man. Man must look to God for wisdom. Man may share in it only through a knowledge of the revealed mind of God.” (Smick)
c. To establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure… He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt: The same God who masters the natural world has the riches of wisdom at His disposal. He has demonstrated His own wisdom and power through the design of the natural world.
d. Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding: Job concluded this great speech by coming back to the touchstone of revelation. Since true wisdom comes from God, it is found by being in right relation to Him (the fear of the Lord), and it is shown by a life that does depart from evil.
i. Job understood what the later psalmist also understood: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), an idea also repeated in Proverbs 9:10 and 15:33. If true wisdom can be simply gained by human effort, energy, and ingenuity (like the rare and precious metals of the earth), then the fear of the Lord is not essential to obtaining wisdom. But if it comes from God’s revelation, then right relationship with Him is the key to wisdom.
ii. Adam Clarke on to man He said: “This probably refers to the revelation of his will which God gave to Adam after his fall. He had before sought for wisdom in a forbiddenway. When he and Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, they took and did eat, Genesis 3:6. Thus they lost all the wisdom that they had, by not setting the fear of the Lord before their eyes, and became foolish, wicked, and miserable. Hear, then, what God prescribes as a proper remedy for this dire disease: The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; it is thy only wisdom now to set God always before thy eyes, that thou mayest not again transgress.”
iii. “The gaining of wisdom requires the total sacrifice of our single most precious possession: ourselves. More specifically, what is required is the surrender of our wills.” (Mason)
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