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The Mystery of Divine Wisdom
In this famous chapter Job declares that Wisdom—that is, the principle of the divine government of the world—is a mystery not to be solved by man. Man’s wisdom lies in fearing God, and in departing from evil. But this conclusion is quite at variance with the position taken by Job in the chapters before and after it. ’It might no doubt be supposed that Job has reached a calmer mood; and abandoning the attempt to discover a speculative solution of the difficulties which distress him, finds man’s wisdom to consist in the practical fulfilment of life (Job 28:28). But if Job has risen to this tranquil temper, how comes it that he falls back into complainings (Job 30:20-23) and dissatisfaction at not having been justified by God (Job 31:35)? And, further, if he has reached by the unaided force of his own meditations this devout and submissive frame of mind, how is the ironical tone of the Divine speeches (Job 38 f.) to be accounted for? If he is already resigned to the inscrutability of the divine ways, how does it need to be again pointed out to him?’ (Driver). These considerations have induced many scholars to regard the chapter as a later insertion. Some have regarded it as a part of Zophar’s third speech, but its quiet beauty and detachment in temper forbid this view. The chapter constitutes an independent poem, which a reader may have inserted here to indicate that the discussion which has just closed deals with subjects too lofty for human understanding.
1-11. Man can discover precious metals by mining processes, but where can Wisdom be found?
1. Surely] RM ’For.’ Perhaps the question in Job 28:12 and Job 28:20, ’Where shall Wisdom be found?’, ’Whence then cometh Wisdom?’ may be understood at the beginning of this verse. It has even been suggested that it once stood at the beginning and has been omitted by accident.
1. Vein] RV ’mine.’ Remains of.mines have been found in Edom a little N. of Petra, and it is well known that copper and turquoise mines were worked by the Egyptians in the Sinaitic Peninsula at least as early as the reign of Sa-nekht, the founder of the third Egyptian dynasty, i.e. according to Prof. Flinders Petrie about 4950 b.c. (see his ’Researches in Sinai’). Where they fine it] RV ’which they refine.’
2. Brass] rather, ’copper.’
3. Render, ’Man setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out to the furthest bound the stones,’ etc., a reference to mining operations.
4. RV ’He (the miner) breaketh open a shaft away from where men sojourn; They (miners) are forgotten of the foot that passeth by (overhead); They hang afar from men, they swing to and fro (i.e. by ropes).’ The word rendered ’shaft’ should be’ channel.’ Ancient mines were often not vertical shafts, but sloping tunnels. A slight change would give ’He breaketh open a shaft away from light.’
5. As it were fire] RV ’as it were by fire,’ a reference to mining operations. 7. A path] the miner’s tunnel.
9. The miner’s excavations.
10. Rivers] RM ’passages.’ IIa. RV ’He bindeth (with clay) the streams that they trickle not,’ i.e. he prevents water from entering the mine.
12-28. Man can discover some things by his cleverness, but Wisdom, the mystery of the universe and its ordering, is beyond his ken. It is the secret of God who ordained its existence.
13. The price thereof] LXX reads, ’the way thereof.’
14. The depth] the primeval abyss supposed to lie under the earth: cp. Genesis 1:2.
15f Cp. Proverbs 3:14-15; Proverbs 8:10-11;
17. Crystal] RV ’glass’: known to the ancients, but extremely costly.
18. No mention] because there is no comparison. Rubies] RM ’pearls.’
22. Destruction] Heb. Abaddon, the realm of the dead. The fame of Wisdom, but not the knowledge of it, has reached these gloomy regions.
23. See on 12-28. Since God is the creator of the universe, and knows even its most secret recesses, He must know where Wisdom is to be found. Not only so, but the very work of creation and the adjustment of natural phenomena are indications of Wisdom, and prove not merely God’s knowledge of Wisdom’s abode, but his possession of Wisdom itself.
25. RM ’When he maketh a weight for the wind: yea, he meteth out the waters by measure,’ i.e. the regulation by God of the forces of nature.
26. A decree for the rain] i.e. for its regulation.
27. ’When God ordered creation, Wisdom was present to Him; He declared it, gave it existence, and contemplated it in all its fulness with divine approval’ (Gibson).
28. Man’s wisdom is a distinct thing from the Divine Wisdom. It is that right conduct which accompanies reverence for a holy God.
The description of Wisdom in this chapter closely connects the book of Job in this respect with the other Wisdom literature of the OT., viz. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The personification is, however, less distinct in Job. Wisdom here is only God’s attribute. Proverbs 8:22-31 should be carefully compared with this c.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 28". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter