Job 28:1. Surely, &c. — Job, having confuted his three friends on their own principles, in the last two and some of the preceding chapters, here falls into a kind of soliloquy on the difficulty of obtaining true wisdom. His friends had laid claim to it from their great age, and from their knowledge of ancient traditions: see Job 5:27, and Job 8:8-9, and Job 15:9-10, and Job 20:4; but he had shown them of how little importance or signification their conclusions were. Where, then, it became the question, is wisdom to be found? To answer this question is the intent of Job’s discourse in this chapter, which is evidently an inquiry after wisdom; not the unsearchable depths of God’s counsels, but wisdom in general; or, rather, the wisdom proper to man: see Job 28:28. Job here determines, that even that wisdom is not attainable by the human capacity and industry without a revelation from God. The several arts of discovering and purifying silver, of refining gold, making iron and brass from the ore, the art of mining itself, the secrets of husbandry, are all within the reach of human ability and diligence: but to comprehend the ways of Divine Providence, and understand the reasons of God’s dispensations toward mankind, whether the righteous or the wicked, is above man’s capacity, and can only be known so far as God is pleased to reveal them: that God, however, has furnished man with a sufficient rule to walk by, and that to attend to it is his highest wisdom, and, indeed, the only way to be truly wise; all other speculations and attempts to attain true wisdom being vain and fruitless.
There is a vein for silver, &c. — Thus the chapter begins with a fine description of the indefatigable industry and ardour of mankind in searching after things which contribute either to the use or ornament of life; how they dig into the bowels of the earth for metals, gold, silver, iron, brass; and that the industry or avarice of man is without bounds: he searcheth into the land of darkness itself for hidden treasures. The word rendered vein, מוצא, mutza, signifies properly a going forth; there is a going forth for the silver: that is, “man hath found where silver may be dug out of the earth.” And a place for gold where they fine it — Or, as it is in the margin, rather, for gold which they fine. For he speaks not here of the works of men and of art, but of those of God and nature, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words.
Job 28:2-3. Iron is taken out of the earth, &c. — They invent means to extract iron and brass out of the earth and stone. He setteth an end to darkness, &c. — There is no mine so dismally dark, but there is some man or other who will undertake to work in it, and find out a method of conveying light into it: and searcheth out all perfection — He searches to the very bottom of it, and finds out all the valuable treasures contained therein; the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death — The precious stones, which lie hid in the dark bowels of the earth, where no living thing can dwell.
Job 28:4. The flood breaketh out — While men are digging and searching in the mines, a flood of waters breaks in suddenly and violently upon them, and disturbs them in their work; from the inhabitant — Hebrew, מעם גר, megnim gar, from with the inhabitant, or sojourner, as the word rather means: that is, out of that part of the earth which the miners inhabit, or wherever they sojourn and work; so that they dare not continue there any longer: but are forced to leave the place; even the waters forgotten of the foot — The first words in this clause, even the waters, are not in the Hebrew. It is only, They (namely, the waters) are forgotten of the foot; that is, the foot, treading on dry ground, forgets that the waters were lately there. They are dried up, they are gone away from men — That is, the art of man finds a way to divert such waters into different channels, and to drain them, so that they leave the places dry again, or, at least, run in such shallow streams that they are easily passed over.
Job 28:5-6. As for the earth, out of it cometh bread — Out of the surface of the earth man gets herbs and corn, and other kinds of food for his sustenance: and under it is turned up, as it were, fire — Lime, to manure and enrich the ground, or coals and brimstone, and other materials of fire: unless, as some suppose, this rather refers to a central fire in the bowels of the earth. The stones of it are the place of sapphires — Of precious stones; the sapphire, as one of the most eminent, being put for all the rest. In some parts of the earth the sapphires are mixed with stones, and cut out of them and polished. And it hath — The earth containeth; dust of gold — Distinct from that gold which is found in the mass; both sorts of gold being found in the earth.
Job 28:7-8. There is a path which no fowl knoweth — Namely, in the bowels of the earth. Man by his industry goeth in mines under the earth, in paths where neither bird nor beast has ever entered. Which the vulture’s eye hath not seen — Whose eye is very quick and strong, and searches all places for its prey. The lion’s whelps — Hebrew, בני שׁחצ, benei shachatz, the sons of the wild beast, have not trodden it — The wildest beasts, who search for solitary places, have never made their den there, nor so much as approached it; nor the fierce lion passed by it — Which rangeth all places for prey. The birds and beasts have often led men to such places as otherwise they should never have found out; but they could not lead them to these mines; the finding out of them is a special gift of God.
Job 28:9-11. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock, &c. — He digs through the hardest rocks by his obstinate labour; and undermines mountains, that he may find the treasures hid in their bowels. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks — If he meets with waters in his mining, which hinder his work, he cuts a channel through the rocks to convey them away; or, if he wants water, to wash the ore, he, with incredible industry, cuts channels to bring it into the mines. And his eye seeth every precious thing — Having with great art, and indefatigable industry, broke through all difficulties, he at last arrives at the wished-for object, and finds those precious treasures which he sought for. He bindeth the floods from overflowing — He restraineth them, and, as it were, bindeth them to their good behaviour, that they may not overflow the mine. Or, by his industry and skill he confineth the rivers, so that they cannot overflow. And the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light — Those metals, or precious stones, which lie hid in the secret parts of the earth, he discovers to himself and others.
Job 28:12. But where shall wisdom be found? — I confess that man hath one kind of wisdom, and that in a great degree, namely, to discover the works of nature, and to perform the operations of art; but as for that sublime and eminent wisdom which consists in the perfect knowledge of all God’s counsels and ways, and of the reasons of the dispensations of his providence toward good and bad men, this is far above man’s reach, and is the prerogative of God alone. Nay, and that wisdom which consists in the true and saving knowledge of God and ourselves, no man can attain but by the special gift of God.
Job 28:13-14. Man knoweth not the price thereof — Its immense, its unspeakable value: nor can it be purchased with all that he hath to give for it. Neither is it found in the land of the living — It is not a thing that any part of this world affords. Nor is it found in perfection among mortal men, that live on earth, but only among those blessed spirits that live in heaven. The depth saith, It is not in me, &c. — Could the profound abysses of the sea speak, they would tell us they do not conceal this wisdom in their great depths. It is not to be found in any part of the land or sea, though a man should dig or dive ever so deep to find it; nor is it to be learned from any creature. For though the creatures of God discover his being, and power, and, in part, his wisdom, yet they do not instruct us in the methods and reasons of his providential dispensations toward good and evil men; nor communicate that experimental, practical knowledge of him of which cometh salvation.
Job 28:15-17. It cannot be gotten for gold — The choicest gold laid up in treasures, as the word סגר, segor, signifies: neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof — Namely, in the balance; for in those times money was paid by weight. It cannot be valued with gold of Ophir — Though the gold that comes from thence be the purest of all, neither that, nor the most precious stones, can purchase this wisdom. The gold and the crystal — Hebrew, זכוכית, zecucith, gemma nitidissima, a very bright gem, says Buxtorf: lapis pretiosus, nitidus, a bright precious stone, Ab. Ezra. The word is not elsewhere used, but being derived from זכךְ, zachach, purus, vel mundus esse, it has in it the signification of purity, clearness, and brightness. The exchange of it shall not be for jewels — Or, vessels, as כלי, chelei, rather means; of fine gold, פז, paz, of solid gold, in which vessels the curiosity of art is added to the excellence of the matter of which they are formed.
Job 28:18-19. No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls — They are of no value, if compared with wisdom, nor fit to be mentioned as a price wherewith to purchase it. For the price, &c. — Hebrew, משׁךְ, meshech, the attraction, or extraction, of wisdom is above rubies — מפנינים, mippeninim, pearls. But the expression is rendered by the LXX., υπερ τα εσωτατα, above the innermost, or most concealed and guarded things; and by the Vulgate de occultis, of secret things. Chappelow proposes to render the words, “The attraction of wisdom is above any thing we behold:” a translation which, as he observes, Aquila’s version justifies γλυκυ δε σοφια παρα τα περιβλεπτα, wisdom is sweet, or desirable, above the things that are anywhere seen. Poole, who would render meshech, extraction, or acquisition, thinks there is an allusion to the manner in which pearls are obtained, namely, by diving to the bottom of the sea; which, he observes, is aptly applied to this wisdom, because, lying very deep, and remote from the reach of mankind, it is not to be obtained without diligent search and consideration. The clause would then be read, The drawing forth of wisdom is above that of pearls: that is, men may dive into the sea, and fetch up pearls, but this wisdom lies a great deal deeper. The topaz of Ethiopia — Or of Arabia, for Cush signifies both countries; and the topaz, which Pliny calls amplissima gemmarum, the most noble of gems, was found in the Red sea, which lay between both, and so might be ascribed to either; shall not equal it, &c. — The Ethiopian topaz, which is so much esteemed for its wonderful lustre, doth not come near it in value; nor are the golden ornaments which they wear in those parts proportionable to it.
Job 28:20-21. Whence then cometh wisdom, &c. — By what means, then, shall we get this precious treasure of wisdom, of which we are so desirous? Who can show us where it lies, that we may go and search for it? By a diligent prosecution of this inquiry he brings us at length to this issue: That there is a two-fold wisdom; one hid in God, which is secret, and belongs not to us; the other made known by him, and revealed to man, which belongs to us and to our children. It is hid from the eyes of all living — Of all men that live upon the earth. And kept close from the fowls of the air — Though they fly high, and can see far and clearly, they cannot discern this: men of the most exalted and comprehensive minds, of the most enlarged and elevated understanding, cannot discover it: however acute their discernment may be, and however high their thoughts may soar, yet they cannot rise to this height, they cannot comprehend this. The line and plummet of human reason can never fathom the abyss of the divine counsels. Who can account for the maxims, measures, and methods of God’s government? Let us then be content, not to know the future events of Providence, till time discovers them; and not to know the secret reasons of Providence, till eternity brings them to light.
Job 28:22. Destruction and death — Either, 1st, Men that are dead, and thereby freed from the encumbrance of their bodies, which depressed their minds, and whose faculties are more raised and enlarged than those of men still in the body; or, rather, 2d, The grave, the habitation of the dead, to which these things are here ascribed, as they are to the depths and to the sea, Job 28:14, by a common figure. These inward recesses of the earth are as little acquainted with this wisdom as the upper regions: and had they a tongue they could only say, We have heard the fame thereof — We know it only by slight and uncertain rumours. But though they cannot give an account of it themselves, yet there is a world, on which these dark regions border, where we shall see it clearly. Have patience, says death, I will fetch thee shortly to a place where even this wisdom shall be found. When the veil of flesh is rent, and the interposing clouds are scattered, we shall know what God doth, though we know not now.
Job 28:23-24. God understandeth the way thereof — God alone knows and can make known the nature and properties, the rules and measures, the plans and designs, the operations and effects, of this wisdom which we inquire after; or, the methods which he takes, in the management of all affairs in the world, together with its reasons, and the ends he has in view in them. And he knoweth the place thereof — Where it dwells, which is only in his own mind. For he looketh to the ends of the earth — He, and he only knows it, because his providence is infinite and universal, reaching to all places and times, past, present, and to come; whereas the most knowing men have narrow understandings, and the wisdom, and justice, and beauty of God’s works are not fully seen till all the parts of them be laid together.
Job 28:25. To make the weight for the winds — His wisdom it is which sets things in such exact order, and gives them such just measures, that the wind cannot blow but in those proportions which he hath prescribed. He appoints to every wind that blows its season, its degree, its bounds, when, and where, and how much, and how long, each shall blow. He only knows why he doth these things. He instanceth in some few of God’s works, and those which seem to be most trivial and uncertain, that thereby he might more strongly imply that God doth the same in other things which are more considerable, and that he doth all things in the most exact order, and weight, and measure. And he weigheth the waters — Namely, the rain- waters, which God layeth up in his storehouses, the clouds, and thence draws them forth, and sends them down upon the earth, in such times and proportions as he thinks fit. By measure — For liquid things are examined by measure, as other things are by weight: and here are both weight and measure, to signify with what perfect wisdom God governs the world.
Job 28:26. When — At the first creation, he settled that course and order which should afterward be continued; he made a decree for the rain — An appointment, and, as it were, a statute law, that it should fall upon the earth, and that in such times, and places, and proportions, and manner, as he should think fit, either for correction or mercy, as Elihu speaks, Job 37:13. And a way for the lightning of the thunder — A path, or egress, for it out of the thick cloud in which it was shut up, and, as it were, imprisoned; and the course which it should take, and in which it should proceed, to accomplish the purposes intended by him.
Job 28:27. Then did he see it — Namely, wisdom, which is the subject of the present discourse. This God saw, not without, in any creature formed by him, but within himself; he looked upon it in his own eternal mind, as the rule by which he would proceed in the creation and government of all things. And declared it — Made it evident, first to angels, and then to man, when he created this lower world; that is, discovered by his works the deep wisdom which lay hid before in his own breast. He prepared it — He had it in readiness for the doing of all his works, as if he had, for a long time, been preparing materials for them. So it is spoken of God after the manner of men. Or, as הכינה, hechinah, may be properly rendered, he established it, namely, the order which he first fixed in the world, that it should continue in after ages. And searched it out — Not properly; for so searching implies ignorance, and requires time and industry, all which is repugnant to the divine perfections; but figuratively, he did, and doth, all things with that absolute and perfect wisdom, so exactly and perfectly, as if he had bestowed a long time in searching, to find them out.
Job 28:28. And — Or, rather, but, unto man — For this is added by way of opposition, to show that man’s wisdom doth not lie in a curious inquiry into, or an exact knowledge of God’s secret counsels, and the ways of his providence, but in things of quite another nature; he said — Unto Adam, in the day when he was created, and in and with him to all his posterity: that is, God spake it partly, and at first inwardly, to the mind of man, in which he wrote this with his own finger; and partly afterward, by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and other teachers whom he sent into the world, to teach men true wisdom; which accordingly they did, not by acquainting the people with the secrets of God’s counsels and providence, but by declaring to them his revealed will, and instructing them in their duty toward God and one another; making it their great and principal, if not only business, to make men wise unto salvation: see Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 29:29. Behold — Which expression denotes the great importance of this doctrine, and man’s backwardness to apprehend, consider, and practise it; and withal, man’s proneness to place his wisdom in vain and curious speculations; the fear of the Lord — True religion in all its branches, including the knowledge and love of God, followed by obedience to his will, and every part of godliness and righteousness: that is wisdom — In that only consists man’s true wisdom; because that, and that only, is his duty, and his safety and happiness, both for this life and for the next; and because this is attainable, whereas the depths of God’s counsels are unknown and unsearchable to man and all created beings. And to depart from evil — From sin, which is called evil eminently, as being the chief evil, and the cause of all other evils. Religion consists of two branches, doing good, and forsaking evil; the former is expressed in the former clause of this verse, and the latter in these words. Is understanding — Is the best kind of knowledge or wisdom to which man can attain in this life. The design of Job, in this close of his discourse, is not only to reprove the boldness of his friends, in prying into God’s secrets, and passing such a rash censure upon him, and upon God’s carriage toward him; but also to vindicate himself from the imputation of hypocrisy, which they fastened upon him, by showing that he had ever esteemed it to be his best wisdom to fear God, and to depart from evil.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 28". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany