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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Job 28

 

 

Verse 1
JOB 28

WISDOM - THE GREATEST TREASURE AND HARDEST TO FIND

After a review of the reasons and speculations why some scholars would refer this chapter to Zophar, Hesser wrote that, "There is therefore no good reason for assigning this chapter to Zophar."[1] This chapter is a remarkably well-planned and eloquent discussion of the wisdom that comes from God alone. The very beauty of the chapter has led some to label it, "A Choral Interlude,"[2] that somehow got incorporated into the Book of Job. Hesser also exploded that inaccuracy as follows. "The theory that this is a choral ode not closely related to Job is unacceptable, because what has disturbed Job throughout the book is the incomprehensible nature of God's wisdom. Job trusts God and believes that He is powerful and wise. Job's problem is that God's wisdom is hidden from him."[3] Thus it is seen that this chapter is most relevant and pertinent to all that Job has been saying throughout the dialogues.

What is the lesson of this chapter? Barnes answered the question thus, "The design is to show that we must acquiesce in the inscrutable dispensations of Divine Providence, without being able fully to understand them."[4] "The chapter also teaches that wisdom is completely beyond the reach of men, unless the quest for it is carried on in the setting of the fear of the Lord."[5]

The chapter divisions regard: (1) "Man's phenomenal technological triumphs in the discovery and mining of precious stones and metals (Job 28:1-11),"[6] and (2), "That in spite of amazing achievements in scientific enterprise, men are unable either by the techniques or treasures of science to attain wisdom (Job 28:12-28)."[7]

Job 28:1-11

MAN'S REMARKABLE SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS

"Surely there is a mine for silver,

And a place for gold which they refine.

Iron is taken out of the earth,

And copper is molten out of the stone.

Man setteth an end to darkness,

And searchest out to the farthest bound,

The stones of obscurity and thick darkness.

He breaketh open a shaft away from where men sojourn;

They are forgotten of the foot;

They hang afar from men, they swing to and fro.

As for the earth, out of it cometh bread;

And underneath it is turned up as it were by fire.

The stones thereof are the place of sapphires,

And it hath dust of gold.

That path no bird of prey knoweth,

Neither hath the falcon's eye seen it.

The proud beasts have not trodden it,

Nor hath the fierce lion passed thereby.

He putteth forth his hand upon the flinty rock;

He overturneth the mountains by the roots.

He cutteth out channels among the rocks;

And his eye seeth every precious thing.

He bindeth the streams that they trickle not;

And the thing that is hid he bringeth forth to light."

The marvelous achievements of the mining industry dominate this paragraph.

"Silver .... gold ... iron ... and copper" (Job 28:1-2). These four metals constituted the great bulk of ancient riches; and the point here regards the source of these things. "They all come from God. They were created by Him and deposited in the earth."[8] Such hidden things as these man is able to seek out and procure.

"Man setteth an end to darkness" (Job 28:3). "This seems to be a reference to the use of lamps in the underground darkness of mines."[9]

"He breaketh open a shaft ... they swing to and fro." (Job 28:4). This is a reference to the shaft by which men enter mines, and their swinging to and fro resulted from the primitive method of letting men down into such mines in baskets.

"The stones thereof are the place of sapphires" (Job 28:6). "It is doubtful if the gem called by the Hebrews `sapphire' was the gem that bears that name today. It may have been lapiz lazuli."[10]

"No bird of prey knoweth ... neither hath the falcon's eye seen it ... the proud beasts have not trodden it" (Job 28:7-8). Birds and beasts alike are unable to travel the ways of the miner who searches out the treasures of the earth.

"He overturneth the mountains ... cutteth out channels among the rocks ... bindeth the streams that they trickle not" (Job 28:9-11). These are references to necessary mining operations, "Given as illustrations of man's persistence through difficulties, however great, to his end - the acquisition of treasure."[11] The mention of this here appears to have the purpose of showing that if true wisdom could be found by exploring the earth, or any other part of man's physical environment, then he might be expected at last to find it. This thought serves to establish the principle developed in the final section of the chapter, namely, that man cannot find wisdom.

Verse 12
WISDOM - THE MOST PRECIOUS OF ALL THINGS; IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND

"But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

Man knoweth not the price thereof,

Neither is it found in the land of the living.

The deep saith, It is not in me;

And the sea saith, It is not with me.

It cannot be gotten for gold,

Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.

It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir,

With the precious onyx, or the sapphire.

Gold and glass cannot equal it,

Neither shall it be exchanged for jewels of of fine gold.

No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal.

Yea, the price of wisdom is above rubies.

The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it,

Neither shall it be valued with pure gold.

Whence then cometh wisdom?

And where is the place of understanding?

Seeing it is hidden from the eyes of all living,

And kept close from the birds of the heavens.

Destruction and Death say,

We have heard a rumor thereof with our ears."

Matthew Henry's summary of this section is: "The caverns of the earth may be discovered, but not the counsels of heaven."[12] The previous paragraph has eloquently affirmed that wisdom cannot be discovered by searching; it cannot be purchased with gold or precious stones; and man cannot even ascertain the place where it might be found. It is no ordinary kind of wisdom that is spoken of here. "It is not the practical kind of `wisdom' spoken of in the Book of Proverbs, but the full and complete understanding of the world and its order...There is a great gulf between human and divine wisdom."[13] "Men can discover anything that is hidden, all but one thing, wisdom! And the irony is that all of the precious fortunes he can discover cannot purchase the one thing he needs more than anything else. That comes from God."[14]

"Gold ... silver ... onyx ... crystal ... sapphires ...rubies ... topaz, etc." (Job 28:25-19). "This continuing list of things that are inferior to wisdom has the effect of elevating more and more the great wisdom that is from God."[15]

"Wisdom is not a thing that may be bought or sold. God alone must grant it and find a way of imparting it, which he certainly will not do for a sum of money."[16]

"Whence cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding?" (Job 28:20). This repeats the question of Job 28:12, indicating that, " Job 28:14-19 have thrown no light on the question."[17]

"It is hid from the eyes of all living" (Job 28:21). "Job never doubted for a moment that God was wise. What troubled him was that such wisdom was hidden from men."[18]

Verse 23
THE GREAT SECRET OF TRUE WISDOM REVEALED

"God understandeth the way thereof,

And he knoweth the place thereof.

For he looketh to the ends of the earth,

And seeth under the whole heaven;

To make a weight for the wind:

Yea, he meteth out the waters by measure.

When he made a decree for the rain,

And a way for the lightning of the thunder;

Then did he see it, and declare it;

He established it, yea, and searched it out.

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.

And to depart from evil, that is understanding."

"There is but One who possesses perfect knowledge and wisdom, that is, [~'Elohiym]."[19] He is the omniscient, ubiquitous and omnipotent One. Infinite knowledge and understanding are His and His alone. "Any man who would travel in the direction of acquiring any portion of the true wisdom, of which only God is the possessor, must do so only as a moral and upright worshipper of the Creator."[20] "Not only is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom, it is the chief part of it as well."[21]

"No amount of intelligence, or cleverness, or information, or knowledge, or of worldly or scientific wisdom will be of any avail for any man unless he starts with this beginning, `The Fear of the Lord,' (Psalms 91:10; Proverbs 1:7), building upon that as his foundation."[22]

That foundation of true wisdom Job most certainly possessed, as the concluding chapter of this remarkable book fully reveals.

We conclude this chapter with the observation that the fear of the Lord is not merely the `beginning of wisdom,' it also stands as the principal burden and assignment that God has laid upon all of his human children. "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 28:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=028". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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