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The connection of this chapter with the preceding is somewhat obscure. Probably we are to regard Job as led to see, even while he is justifying God's ways with sinners (Job 27:8-23), how many and how great are the difficulties in the way of forming a single consistent theory of the Divine action, which shall be applicable to all cases. Hence he comes to the conclusion that God is incomprehensible by man and inscrutable; and that it is only given to man to know him sufficiently for his practical guidance. To impress this on his hearers is his main object (verses 12-28); and, to impress it the more, he introduces it by a sharp contrast. Wonderful as is man's cleverness and ingenuity in respect of earthly things and physical phenomena (verses 1-11), with respect to heavenly things and the spiritual world—wherewith true wisdom is concerned—he knows next to nothing. All that he knows is just enough to guide his conduct aright (verse 28).
Surely there is a vein for the silver; literally, an issue for silver? i.e. a place or places whence it is drawn forth from the earth. The silver-mines of Spain were very early worked by the Phoenicians, and produced the metal in great abundance. But Asia itself was probably the source whence silver was obtained in primitive times. And a place for gold where they fine it; or, fuse it. Gold is very widely spread over the earth's surface, and in ancient times was especially abundant in Arabia (Diod. Sic.. 2.1; 3.42; Strabo, 16.4. § 18; Pit,y, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6.32, etc.); so that Job might easily have been acquainted with the processes of fusing and refining it. Two processes of refining are mentioned by Diedorus as practised by the Egyptians (3.11).
Iron is taken out of the earth (see the comment on Job 20:24). Iron was found in the hills of Palestine (Deuteronomy 8:9), in the trans-Jordanic region (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud,' 4.8. § 2), in the sandstone of the Lebanon, and in Egypt, probably also in many other places. It is scarcely ever found except in the shape of iron ore, and so has to be "taken out of the earth." And brass is molten out of the stone. By "brass" we must understand copper, since the amalgam brass is never found in a natural state. Copper was yielded abundantly in very early times by the mines which the Egyptians worked in the Sinaitic peninsula. It was also obtainable from Palestine (Deuteronomy 8:9), Cyprus, and Armenia (Ezekiel 27:13). Sometimes it is found pure, but generally in the shape of copper ore, which has to be "molten" for the pure metal to run off.
He setteth an end to darkness. Man, in his desire to obtain these metals, "setteth an end to darkness," i.e. letteth in the light of day, or the artificial light which he carries with him, upon the natural abode of darkness, the inner parts of the earth. The miner's first operation is to pierce the ground with a shaft, perpendicular, horizontal, or oblique, as suits his purpose. Through this the light enters into what was previously pitch darkness. And searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death; rather, and searcheth out to the furthest bound the stones of thick darkness and of the shadow of death; explores, i.e.' the entire murky regina within the earth, notwithstanding its fearful gloom and obscurity.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant. This passage is very obscure; but recent critics suggest, as its probable meaning, "He (i.e. the miner) breaketh open a shaft, away from where men inhabit" (see the Revised Version). The miner does not wish to be interfered with, and therefore sinks his shaft in some wild spot, far from the habitations of men. Even the waters forgotten of the foot; rather, they are forgotten of the foot; i.e. no one visits them; they are left alone; they are "forgotten of the foot" of the passer-by. They are dried up, they are gone away from men; rather, they hang swinging to and fro, far from men. The descent of the shaft is made by a rope, to which they "hang swinging" all the time that they defend. As they have sought secrecy, all this takes place far from the haunts of men.
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread. Man's cleverness is such that he turns the earth to various uses. By tillage of its surface he causes it to produce the staff of life, bread: and by his mining operations the under part of it is turned up as fire, or rather, as by fire. Fire was used in some of the processes whereby masses of material were detached and forced to yield their treasures (see Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 33.4. § 73).
The stones of it are the place of sapphires. Among the rocks and stones whereof the interior of the earth is mainly composed are found gems of inestinable value, for instance, sapphires. It is doubtful whether the Hebrew sapphire (ספיר) was the gem which bears that name among ourselves, or the lapis lazuli. In either case it was highly esteemed, and appeared in kings' crowns (Ezekiel 28:13), and in the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18); Job notes its high value in verse 16. And it (i.e. the earth) hath dust of gold; literally, dusts; i.e. a multitude of small specks or atoms. In the auriferous rocks gold is commonly scattered in such specks.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth; or, his is a path which no bird of prey knoweth (see the Revised Version). The miner's path through the bowels of the earth is intended. And which the vulture's eye hath not seen. The vulture is probably the most keen-sighted of birds, but it cannot even get a glimpse of the subterraneous path which the miner treads.
The lion's whelps have not trodden it; literally, the sons of the fierce—the whelps of lions, tigers, or leopards may be intended. These beasts would haunt the mountains and penetrate into natural caverns, bat would never adventure themselves in the shafts and adits of miners. Nor the fierce lion passed by it; rather, passed thereby (see the Revised Version).
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock. Our Revisers translate, upon the flinty rock; while Canon Cook maintains that "the word used means either granite or quartz." Probably Job meant no more than that man does not shrink from attacking any—even the hardest—rock; but will subdue it, and cut his way through it, if he has occasion so to do. He overturneth the mountains by the roots. Herodotus, in describing what he had seen of the Phoenician mining operations in the island of Thasos, observes, "a huge, mountain has been turned upside down in the search for ores" (Herod; 6.47). Pliny says of the process employed for detaching huge masses from the metalliferous hills in Spain, "They attack the rock with iron wedges and hammers. When this work is complete, they destroy the supports, and notify by signal that the fall is about to take place. A watchman, stationed on the mountain-top, alone understands the signal; and he proceeds at once to have all the workmen called in, and himself makes a hurried retreat. Then the mountain falls m upon itself with a crash that cannot be imagined, and an incredible concussion of the air. The successful engineers contemplate the ruin which they have achieved" ('Hist. Nat.,' 33.4. § 73).
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks. Some understand this of man's general ability to cut canals and tunnels, and change the course of rivers. But the allusion is more probably to the works undertaken in mines for the carrying off of the water from them. Diodorus says that when subterranean springs were tapped in mines, which threatened to flood them, it was usual to construct ducts, or tunnels, by which the inconvenient liquid might be carried off to a lower level (Diod. Siculus, 5.37. § 3). And his eye seeth every precious thing. Nothing escapes his notice. Even as he constructs these duets he has his eye open to note any signs of mineral wealth, of metals or of precious stones, that occur along the line of his excavation.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing. This, again, may be either taken generally of man's ability to create dams, dykes, and embankments, whereby the overflow of waters is prevented; or specially of such works when connected with mines, from which it is possible, in some instances, to dam out water that would otherwise interfere with their working. The word translated "overflowing" means probably "weeping," and seems to point to that leakage from the roofs and sides of galleries and adits which is more difficult to control and stop than even subterranean springs or rivers. And the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. This is the final result of mining operations. Things useful or beautiful that are hiddden deep down in the heart of the earth, and that might have seemed wholly inaccessible, are brought out of the pit's month into the light of day for the service and delectation of mankind.
Here we come on an abrupt change. From human ingenuity and contrivance Job turns to the consideration of "wisdom"—that wisdom which has been defined as "the reason which deals with principles "(Canon Cook). "Where," he asks, "is this to be found?" It is a wholly different thing from cleverness and ingenuity. It inquires into causes and origins, into the ends and purposes of things; it seeks to solve the riddle of the universe. Perfect wisdom can, of course, only dwell with God (verse 23). Man must be content with something much below this. With him "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding" (verse 28).
But where shall wisdom be found? "Wisdom is the principal thing," says Solomon (Proverbs 4:7); and again, "It is better to get wisdom than gold" (Proverbs 16:16). But where is it to be found? Job's three friends thought that it dwelt with them (Job 12:2); but this was a mistake, since God reproaches them with their "folly" (Job 42:8). Job does not claim to possess it (Job 26:3); he only desires it. It is his deep conviction that it is only possessed, in the true sense of the word, by God. And where is the place of understanding? It is not quite clear whether Job intends to make any distinction between "wisdom" (חכמה) and "understanding" (בינה). Canon Cook suggests that "wisdom" is "the reason which deals with principles," and "understanding" "the faculty which discerns and appreciates their application." But refined distinctions of this kind are scarcely suitable to the age of Job. Dean Plumptre, in his comment on Proverbs, accepts the distinction implied in the Septuagint translation of that book, which renders חכמה by σοφία' and בינה by φρόνησις. This is a much simpler and more easily understood distinction, being that which separates between scientific know. ledge and the practical intelligence which directs conduct. But it may be doubted whether Job does not use the two words as synonyms.
Man knoweth not the price thereof. The real value of wisdom cannot be estimated in terms of ordinary human calculation. It transcends figures. Neither is it found in the land of the living. True wisdom, such as Job is speaking of (see the comment on verses 12-28), does not exist among men. It transcends human faculties, and is among the peculiar possessions of the Most High (verse 23). Hence the Most High is altogether inscrutable by man'' his ways are past finding out."
The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. The deep abysses of the ocean declare that it is not with them; and the wide reaches of the far-extending sea proclaim that it is not with them either.
It cannot be gotten for gold. No amount of gold can purchase it; no, not of the purest and most refined quality (1 Kings 6:20, 1 Kings 6:21), for it is not a thing that can be bought or sold God must grant it, and find a way of imparting it; which he certainly will not do for a sum of money. Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. If gold cannot purchase it, much less can silver—the less valuable medium of exchange. (On the weighing of silver, in sales, see Genesis 23:16; Jeremiah 32:9; Ezra 8:26.)
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir. The locality of Ophir has been much contested, but, on the whole, the weight of evidence would seem to be in favour of Arabia, on the south-east coast (see the article on "Ophir" in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' which exhausts all that can be said on the subject). The high estimation in which "gold of Ophir" was held appears not only in this passage, but also in Job 22:24; Psalms 45:9 : and Isaiah 13:12. It is to be accounted for by the imperfection of all the anciently known processes of refining, which left the best refined gold inferior to the natural product of the Ophir mines or washings. With the precious onyx, or the sapphire. (On the latter of these two stones, see the comment upon Isaiah 13:6.) The "onyx" is probably the stone now known as the "sardonyx," which was highly prized by the ancients. It had a place in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:20), and is mentioned among the treasures of the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13). The sardonyx presents layers variously coloured, as blue, black, white, and vermilion.
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it; rather, gold and crystal. This second mention of gold (see verse ]5) seems superfluous, but perhaps the patriarch is thinking of some goblet or ornament in which crystal and gold were combined together. Ornaments of this kind bare been found in Phoenicia. And the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold; or, vessels of fine gold. Both in Egypt and Phoenicia vessels of gold were common.
No mention shall be made of coral. The word translated "coral" (רָאמוֹת) means properly "things that are high." It occurs only here and in Ezekiel 27:16. The rabbinical interpretation of the word as "coral" is doubtful, since it was unknown to the LXX. Or of pearls. The word gabish (גָבִישׁ) occurs only in this place. Some identify it with rock-crystal. For the price of wisdom is above rubies. Here we have another obscure word (פָנִינִים), which is variously rendered by "rubies," "pearls," "carbuncles," and "red coral." The balance of authority is in favour of pearls.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it. It is generally allowed that the pithdath (פִטְדַת) is either the "topaz" or the "chrysolite." In favour of its being the chrysolite is the passage of Pliny which mentions its being esteemed for its green tints ('Hist. Nat.,' Job 37:8). Otherwise "topaz" might have appeared to be the best rendering. By "Cush," here translated "Ethiopia," is probably meant Cushite Arabia, or the southern and south-eastern regions. Neither shall it be valued with pare gold. Of the four words used for "gold" in this passage (Job 28:15-17), one (זהב) seems to be the common name, and to designate the metal by its coleus, "yellow," since צָהַב means "to be yellow" Another (סָגוּר) means properly "what is treasured," or "shut up," from סָגַר, "to shut." The third (פַז) seems to be the name for "native gold," or that found in river-washings and nuggets, which was regarded as the purest. The fourth (כֶּחֶם) is a poetical name only, and designates gold of extreme purity (So Job 5:11), whether highly refined or native. Job uses them all, to show that there was no gold of any kind wherewith it was possible to purchase wisdom.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? This is a repetition of Job 28:12, with a mere variant of the verb in the first line. Job's elaborate inquiry of verses 14-19 having thresh no light on the subject, the original question recurs—Where does wisdom come from?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living. Man cannot see it, because it is immaterial, but he cannot even conconceive of it, because its nature transcends him. And kept close from the fowls of the air. (comp. Job 28:7). The sight of birds is far keener than that of man; but even birds cannot detect where wisdom is.
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. "Death and destruction" seem to represent the inhabitants of Sheol—the world of the departed. Job personifies them, and represents them as saying, that in their gloomy and remote abode (Job 10:21, Job 10:22) they have heard some dim rumour, some vague report, of the "place" of wisdom and understanding, the nature of which, however, they do not communicate to him. His idea seems to be that their knowledge on the subject does not much transcend the knowledge of living men, whom he regards as profoundly ignorant with respect to it. He thus prepares the way for his assertion in the next verse. Man, neither living nor dead, can make any answer to the great question raised; but—
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. God only understands what true wisdom is. It is a part of his being, an essential element of his nature. He knows "the way" of it, i.e. how it works and manifests itself; and he knows "the place' of it, i.e. where it dwells, what limits it has, if any, and how far it is communicable to any beside himself. The highest knowledge is all hid in God (Colossians 2-3); and, except so far as God imparts it to him, man can know nothing of it.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth. Man is conditioned. God is unconditioned. Man's knowledge has strict and narrow limits. God "looketh unto the ends of the earth." It is the universality of God's knowledge that makes each item of it perfect. Where knowledge is circumscribed, it is impossible to be sure that some truth outside the circle of the person's cognizance has not a bearing on that which is within his cognizance—a bearing, which, if he were aware of it, would give the truth a different aspect. With God alone there are no such limits, everything being within his cognizance. And seeth under the whole heaven. As his knowledge of earthly things is unlimited, so is his knowledge of heavenly things also; and not only of heavenly things in a material sense, as of sun, moon, stars, comets, planets, nebulae, etc; but also of causes, principles, ends, laws, and the like, whereby both material and immaterial things are governed, ordered, and maintained in being. Of matters of this kind and character man can only say, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; I cannot attain unto it" (Psalms 139:6).
To make the weight for the winds. God by his wisdom gives to winds their exactly fitting degree of force and violence, so that they perform the work in the world which they were intended to perform, and which would not be performed, were they either of a less or of a greater intensity. And he weigheth the waters by measure (comp. Isaiah 40:12, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?"). Everything in creation is duly proportioned to every other thing. All is ordered "by weight and with care."
When he made a decree for the rain. God "made a decree for the rain" when be placed the fall of rain under fixed and unalterable laws. In some countries rainy seasons begin almost regularly on a fixed day in the calendar, while for several months in the year it is almost certain that rain will not fall. Even where there is no such exact regularity as this, the rainfall has its laws, since there are maxima and minima which are never exceeded. And a way for the lightning of the thunder. God gave laws to the electric current, and prescribed the "way" that it should take in its passage from heaven to earth, or from cloud to cloud, or from earth to heaven. Everything was ruled beforehand by Infinite Wisdom.
Then did he see it, and declare it. From the creation of the world, and before it, God foresaw all that was necessary to maintain his universe in the perfect order and the perfect beauty that he designed for it. At the Creation he, in a certain sense, "declared it," or set it forth, before such intelligences as then existed. Subsequently, in part to Adam, in part to Noah, in part to Moses, he further declared, by revelation, at any rate a portion of the design of his creation, and of the laws by which it was regulated. He prepared it, yea, and searched it out. This is an inversion of what seems to us the natural order, whereof there are many examples. God must first have investigated and searched out, in his own secret counsels, the entire scheme of creation, and afterwards have proceeded to the "preparation" or "establishment" of it.
And unto man he said. Not in so many words, not by any written or spoken revelation; but by the nature which he implanted in man, and especially by the conscience wherewith he endowed him. Man feels in his heart of hearts that whatever wisdom may be in the abstract, his true wisdom is "the fear of God," his true understanding "to depart from evil." No amount of intelligence, no amount of cleverness, or of information, or of knowledge, or of worldly or scientific wisdom, will be of any avail to him, unless he starts with this "beginning" (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7), and builds on this foundation. This foundation, at any rate, Job had. since God bore him witness that he had it (Job 2:3).
Job's first parable: 3. A discourse upon true wisdom.
I. THE WISDOM UNDISCOVERABLE BY HUMAN GENIUS. Among the stupendous efforts of human industry and skill with which Job was acquainted, nothing was better fitted to impress the mind with a sense of man's illimitable daring, resistless might, and wonderful success in searching out all perfection (verse 3), and brining hidden things to light (vet, 11), than the operations of the miner. These, a knowledge of which may have been derived from mines then being worked in Egypt, the Sinaitic peninsula, and Arabia (vide Exposition; and cf. Delitzsch, in loco), are with much accuracy and vividness portrayed.
1. The treasures the miner seeks. These are set forth by their names and the places where they commonly are found.
(1) Silver from the issuing place, i.e. from the mine; and gold, which men refine, from its place, i.e. also from the mine. Expositors generally remark upon the accuracy of these statements, which speak of silver as being found in a vein or "issue" at some depth below the ground, and gold as obtained near the surface; of the silver as requiring to be dug from the earth, and of gold as needing to be washed out from the pulverized rock. The first mention in Scripture of "gold and silver" is in connection with Abraham's return out of Egypt (Genesis 13:2), though gold afterwards abounded in Arabia and Judaea in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 10:2, 1 Kings 10:21, 1 Kings 10:27). If "the use of gold and silver commonly precedes the. discovery of iron (Barnes), then it is probable that those precious metals were not unknown to Tubal-Cain and his contemporaries (Genesis 4:22). It is impossible to say to what extent the art of metal-working had advanced in Job s time, but the mention of ear-rings and bracelets in the days of Abraham (Genesis 24:30), and of silver cups, gold rings, and gold chains in the age of Joseph (Genesis 41:42; Genesis 44:2), makes it obvious that considerable proficiency had been attained prior to the era of Moses. In the estimation of Job the procuring and preparing of these precious metals were signal illustrations of the power and skill of man.
(2) Iron from the dust, i.e. from the bowels of the earth, and copper from the stone, i.e. from the ore by smelting. Tubal-Cain is the first known worker in brass (copper) and iron (Genesis 4:22). Iron is afterwards mentioned in the time of Og King of Bashan, B.c. 1350. The working of iron and copper mines is more difficult than those of gold or silver; hence the use of the former metals indicates a more advanced state of civilization.
(3) Stones of darkness and of the shadow of death. These may be the copper and iron ores which are fetched up from the lowest depths of the earth; the miner in pursuit of them penetrating into the remotest regions, making an end of darkness, lighting up the lightless interior of the earth, and carrying his search into every extremity, i.e. into every nook and corner (verse 3). Or they may include all kinds of precious stones, such as the sapphire (verse 6), lying buried in the dark recesses of the earth, which, in order to appease man's insatiable thirst of acquisition, are turned up as it were by fire, although out of it, i.e. from the surface of the earth, there cometh forth bread (verse 5).
2. The path the miner follows. A solitary path.
(1) Remote from human ken (verse 4). Out amid the solitudes of the Sinaitic peninsula the miner sinks his shaft down beneath the surface of the ground, leaving behind him the homes and habitations of men. There, forgotten by travellers overhead, he swings himself down the pit-shaft by a rope, descending to his lonely toil; or, perhaps, sitting suspended at his work, he swings to and fro, far removed from human-kind.
(2) Withdrawn from creature-observation (verses 7, 8). Sweeping far and wide in search of prey, the eagle's or the vulture's eye cannot gaze on the hidden path by which the miner presses towards his spoils; nay, in quest of earth's treasures he travels by a road inaccessible to, and even imperceptible by, the lion and other proud beasts of prey. That man can penetrate to secret retreats in pursuit of wealth, where neither quick-sighted bird nor keen-scented beast can follow, is a striking testimony to man's superiority over the brute creation.
3. The works the miner executes. Some of these have been mentioned already, but for the sake of continuity may be here repeated.
(1) Sinking a shaft (verse 4), down which he descends by a rope.
(2) Exploring the interior of the earth's crust (verse 5), turning it up as it were by fire.
(3) Blasting and clearing away the rock that contains no ore (verse 9), laying his hand upon the quartz and turning up the mountains by the roots. That blasting was practised in ancient times is stated by Pliny (vide Exposition; and of. Delitzsch).
(4) Cutting channels, or galleries, in the rock to drain off the water (verse 10), or, according to another view, to bring in water to wash the gold ore.
(5) Guarding against the flooding of the mine (verse 11), by binding up the watercourses that they weep not (a technical term still used among colliers), i.e. damming up the water that percolates through the roof and sides of the pit, which would otherwise interfere with the operations of the miner, but which, being restrained, enables him to bring to light whatever precious things the bowels of the earth conceal. And now, having finished this vivid and instructive sketch of the enterprise, skill, and power with which the miner explores the deep places of the earth in search of wealth, the poet tarns to ask in triumph—Where are man's corresponding successes in the pursuit of wisdom? Man can dig and cut and blast his way through rocks and mountains till he reaches the place of sapphires; but the haunt of wisdom, i.e. of the true principles of the Divine administration, and the place of understanding, i.e. the faculty of applying these to particular cases, are and must remain for ever beyond his ken.
II. TRUE WISDOM INCOMPARABLE IN ITS VALUE. Picturing a pearl-merchant anxious to purchase this heavenly treasure (of. Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:46), Job remarks:
1. That it cannot be discovered in order to be valued. Should one roam through the land of the living, i.e. traverse the face of earth in every direction in pursuit of it, it would still elude his observation. Should he "take the wings of the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the sea" (Psalms 139:9), inquiring after it, the sea with every rippling billow would reply, "It is not with me." Nay, should he dive into the subterranean abyss of waters (Psalms 139:8), still prosecuting his research after wisdom, up from those dark depths would sound the answer, "Not in me."
2. That, if it could be discovered, man cannot estimate its worth. "A mortal knoweth not its price" (verse 13). So transcendent in its excellence is this heavenly wisdom, so l at surpassing man's ordinary conceptions, that the task of appreciating its essential value is beyond the capacities of his finite understanding. "Man is the measure of the universe," said Pythagoras. "Be it so," is Job's thought; "here is something outside of the universe of which the vastest human intelligence is not the measure "—the Divine wisdom, in accordance with which it has been framed, and by which it is continually governed, including the Divine intelligence that devised the ideal plan of the world, the ideal plan or pattern itself, and the combined wisdom and power by which that plan is carried forward into minute and complete realization.
3. That, even if its price could be told, its equivalent could not be found by man. "The poet lays everything under contribution to illustrate the thought that the worth of wisdom exceeds the worth of the most valuable earthly thing" (Delitzsch). Nothing that the miner can bring up from the bowels of the earth, nor aught that the merchant can import from foreign climes; nay, not all of these together can be set in comparison with heaven's jewel of eternal wisdom (Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15). Gold and silver of the rarest, purest, brightest quality; costly pearls of most delicate hue and of fabulous worth; the entire wealth of a world, cannot purchase it (Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11). What Job asserts of the wisdom which enables one to understand and appreciate the. principles of Divine government on earth is more true of that wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation. It also is in itself undiscoverable by man (1 Corinthians 1:21). Its true worth cannot properly be appreciated by man (Romans 11:33). Its mercantile equivalent cannot be offered or even found by man (Matthew 16:26). The price of him who is the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) is above rubies.
III. TRUE WISDOM POSSESSED BY GOD ALONE. Since wisdom can neither be discovered by man's intelligence nor purchased by man's gold, the question naturally recurs, "Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?" in response to which Job affirms:
1. That true wisdom is the secret of God alone. God's exclusive knowledge of wisdom is impressively represented by a renewed declaration of the utter ignorance of all created beings concerning this transcendent theme.
(1) Man is absolutely powerless to speak a profitable word upon the subject, "seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living" (verse 21). So the Divine plan of redemption is one which it never would have entered into the mind of man to conceive (1 Corinthians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 2:9). And hence human schemes of salvation have ever proved insufficient and worthless.
(2) The creatures generally are unable to afford information on this lofty question. Even the far-seeing birds, to which ancient diviners were wont to turn in their perplexities, have no oracle to utter, seeing it is "kept close from the fowls of the air" (verse 21).
(3) The inhabitants of the underworld are equally at a loss on this high matter. "Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears" (verse 22). That is to say, the dwellers in the realms of the dead are aware of its existence, but can communicate no knowledge of its nature and worth. And, having thus shut off all created beings from participation in this wisdom, the poet ends by solemnly declaring:
2. That true wisdom is the property of God alone. "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof" (verse 23). Besides stating that God knows whence true wisdom is to be obtained, Job designs to convey the thought that God alone is in possession of this wisdom. Looking to the ends of the earth and searching under the whole heaven, he not only comprehends with his omniscient glance "where wisdom dwelleth;" but, in virtue of that knowledge, he is himself the infinitely wise and understanding One (Job 12:13).
3. That true wisdom has been exemplified by God alone. The creation of the world was a sublime manifestation of this wisdom (Proverbs 8:27-31). In particular the establishment of those laws which regulate the force of the wind, the distribution of land and water, the collecting and emptying of the rain-clouds, and the origin and course of the lightning, was a signal display of celestial intelligence (verses 25, 26). Nay, when the almighty Artificer fashioned the universe, then did he search out this wisdom, assign to it a place and function in his grand creative work, and commit to it the production, preservation, and providential government of all finite things (verse 27). With this unbeginning Wisdom St. John (John 1:1-4) identifies the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. TRUE WISDOM DIVINELY REVEALED TO MAN. Though undiscoverable by human genius, and unpurchaseable by human gold, true wisdom has not been withheld from man. He has received it by revelation.
1. The Divinity of this revelation. It has not been imparted by nature. The material fabric of creation is a product and a display of celestial wisdom; but it is not sufficient for man as a law by conforming to which he too may attain unto wisdom. Nor has man himself discovered it, either by physical or scientific research, or by philosophical or religious speculation, or by heathen and superstitious divination. The law which should constitute man a participator in eternal wisdom was and is something distinct from the laws which regulate matter. It was a something communicated to man over and above all that God said to him indirectly through the medium of nature.
2. The antiquity of this revelation. At various subsequent periods, as e.g. at Sinai, and again at the Advent, repeated and enlarged, it was yet first delivered in the day of man's creation, when God, having made man an intelligent and responsible creature, placed him under the law of right, engraven on the fleshy tablets of his heart.
3. The import of this revelation. That heavenly wisdom has for man an inward essential principle, and an outward permanent expression.
(1) The inward essential principle: "the fear of the Lord (Adonai)." This fear is not a slavish dread, but a filial and reverential awe, based upon a just conception of God's greatness (Job 25:2), and of man's relation to him as moral Governor (Psalms 33:8). Such fear is the root and mainspring of all piety in souls (Deuteronomy 5:29; Deu 10:12; 2 Kings 17:36; Psalms 96:4, Psalms 96:9; Psalms 147:11; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 1:17). It is also the true source and commencement of all genuine wisdom (Psalms 111:5; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10). Hence "wisdom "and "piety" "or religion" are synonymous terms. Nor can it be doubted that for a human soul to fear God, in the comprehensive and exalted sense above referred to, is supremely reasonable in itself, and incontestably wise as a principle for the regulation of life. The term briefly defines the attitude intelligent beings should maintain towards God, the all-glorious moral Governor of the universe. Originally implanted in man at creation, and afterwards obliterated by the Fall, it is now being reimplanted or reawakened in man by the gospel.
(2) The outward permanent expression: "to depart from evil." To fear God and yet continue in sin is a moral contradiction. The soul that reveres God's majesty and trembles at God's power, much more that admires God's character and loves God's Person, will of necessity find its highest happiness in respecting God's Word and doing God's will. Hence a prompt, earnest, decisive, complete, and final separation from evil (i.e. from errors both in doctrine and practice) of every kind is largely insisted on as the only satisfactory evidence of genuine religion (Job 11:14; Job 22:23; Psalms 4:4; Isaiah 1:16; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:6), while the truly pious, whose hearts are really possessed by holy fear, are ever characterized by a more or less resolute determination to keep the Divine Law (Psalms 112:1; Psalms 119:63; Proverbs 14:2, Pro 14:16; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:17). Cf. the language of an ancient religious hymn to Amen: "I cry, The beginning of wisdom is the way of Amen".
1. To admire God's wisdom and goodness in the construction and arrangement of this material globe. Besides being fashioned by Divine wisdom, the earth is also full of the Divine riches.
2. To see in the monuments of man's engineering skill, mechanical industry, commercial enterprise, and scientific research at once a striking testimony to man's dominion over the creatures, and an admirable confirmation of the truth of Scripture.
3. To rate material wealth at its true value, observing both its weakness and its power. While contributing largely to man's physical comfort and social influence, it cannot impart either wisdom or happiness, and still less can it serve as a substitute for religion and salvation.
4. To reason that the same Divine wisdom which placed the material creation under law would not forget to institute a rule of life for man. Hence morality and religion are not accidental and relative, but absolute and eternal, being inseparably bound up with man's constitution as an intelligent and responsible creature.
5. To recognize the inborn foolishness of those who neither fear God nor depart from evil. "The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death."
6. To gratefully acknowledge the Divine loving-kindness in making known to man the manifold wisdom of God in Christ and his salvation. The secret of the Divine administration which Job could not fathom has been clearly discovered in the gospel.
7. To perceive that ever since the Fall the world has been governed on substantially the same principles. Christ conducts mundane affairs to-day as he did in Job's time by the law of grace and in the interests of holiness.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Job 29:1 -28
Praises of Divine wisdom.
Amidst the darkness of suffering, and the deep sense of the mysteries of life, inexplicable by human wisdom, Job rises to the contemplation of that Divine wisdom which has founded all things, which knows all things, and in the reverent acknowledgment of which man may find for himself the true path both of wisdom and of power. Already the spirit of Job, purified by long suffering and experience, is rising into that presence where there is light and no darkness at all; and from this height of calm contemplation is fitted to become the teacher of his teachers, the "instructor of many."
I. TRUE WISDOM TO BE FOUND NOWHERE ON EARTH. (Verses 1-11.) To illustrate this, we are pointed, in a fine description, to the art of mining, by which man lays open the costly treasures of the earth (Deuteronomy 8:9), but cannot gain possession of this highest and best treasure of all. Gold, silver, iron, and copper are dug out of the bowels of the earth, and melted from their ores; the miner's lamp dispels the darkness, as in every direction he searches for the "ore of darkness and deadly night." It is a picture of the eager, industrious, untiring toil with which men in all ages in the mines of Egypt, of Palestine, of the old and the new worlds, have sought to gather and to lay up treasures on earth for themselves. There is often even a frenzy, a reckless disregard of health and of life, in this passionate pursuit. With what eagerness should we rather pursue the quest of the heavenly treasures, the inward blessings which make men truly rich and happy (Matthew 16:26)! The description proceeds. The shaft (verse 4) is broken away from those who dwell above; the miners plunge deeply into the earth, further and further from the habitations of men, so that they are forgotten by the step of every one who walks above. They are depicted as hanging far from mortals by ropes on the perilous descent of the shaft in their way to obtain the ore (Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.' 33.4. 21). Above, upon the bright earth, the bread-corn is growing, while belong. men are stirring, and rummaging in its bowels, using sometimes the disturbing and destructive force of fire (verse 5). Precious stones as well as metals, sapphires as well as golden ore, fall a prize to the diligent miner (verse 6). Then, to heighten the description, the inaccessibility of these subterranean ways is depicted. The all-roaming birds and beasts of prey have not discovered them (verse 8). But undaunted man lays his hand on the flint, uproots the mountains, and bursts open paths through the rocks, and the fire of eager desire glitters in his eye as it falls on each precious thing. He toils to keep the water out of his shafts, by which they are so readily overflowed and spoiled; and thus he brings the hidden treasures to light (verse 11). Such are the splendid capabilities of man—the courage, the energy, the defiance of danger—called out by his desires. His reward comes; but does it correspond to his exertions? Having passed the best of his days in these severe toils and anxieties and dangers, he thinks to sit down and solace his age with the acquisitions of his younger and more daring yea, s; but does the enjoyment of the poor remainder of life balance these struggles which perhaps brought age upon him before his time, and cut him off from pleasure in the proper days of pleasure, and from the youthful satisfactions that were then denied? "I am this day fourscore years old, and can I yet taste what I eat and what I drink?" (2 Samuel 19:35). "Whoever lives to Parzillai's years shall not be able, with all Barzillai's wealth and greatness, to procure himself a quicker and better relish of what shall be set before him than Barzillai had" (South).
II. WISDOM NO OUTWARD GOOD, AND BY NO OUTWARD MEANS TO BE FOUND. (Verses 12-22.) Practical wisdom, the principle of right conduct, and theoretical wisdom, or insight,—where in all the wide world shall they be found (verse 12)? None knows the purchase-price, nor the market for wisdom in all the wide land of the living. "Put money in thy purse" is the one maxim which applies in everything but this. "Money answereth all things;" but there are exceptions, and this is one. Gold and silver have no more power than stones and clods in this spiritual commerce. Cross the seas; visit the great cities; enter the churches; study at the schools; see and hear all; yet still the aching heart will cry, "Where is wisdom to be found? and what is its price?" All the gold and jewels of the Indies cannot buy it. Its worth is incomparable. Weight nor measure can be applied to it; it has no place in the business and exchange of the world (verses 13-19). Again, then, and again tie question recurs, "Whence comes wisdom? where is the place of understanding?" Science cannot answer, with all her keenness of vision and wealth of knowledge; no brightest eagle-eye has searched out its locale. Neither the living nor the kingdom of the dead can bring us news of its site (verses 20-22). It must, then, be immaterial. And being real, it must be sought for and found by that which is real and spiritual in ourselves. The things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor imagination conceived, God reveals to the spirit. We must be conscious of a spiritual life and of spiritual needs; of a destiny for heavenly as well as earthly things; we must yield to the spiritual impulse, and labor for the satisfaction of the spiritual hunger as well as for the bread that perisheth, if this great question is ever for us to be answered.
III. WISDOM IS IN THE FEAR OF GOD. (Verses 23-28.)
1. The question answered. God knows the way to wisdom, for he knows its seat and place. (Verse 23.) He is himself the All-wise One. His wisdom is seen in the marvellous construction and arrangement of the natural world. He regulates the winds and the waters (Isaiah 40:12), the rain, the lightning, and the thunder (verses 24-26). And his absolute wisdom is the rule for the inward life of man, the still more wonderful world of the spiritual life. In the creation as a whole he announces typically his eternal will to all rational creatures (verse 27).
2. The Divine declaration. (Verse 28, "The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.") God would not keep his wisdom altogether secret. He reveals, as well as is, wisdom. This is the original eternal command, the law that "is not of yesterday," and which has never been unknown in any generation of mankind.
1. The eternal wealth of God's nature. He needed no model or copy from which to frame his world. "He spake, and it was done; commanded, and it stood fast ' (verse 27).
2. There is a wisdom which is an example and end, and a wisdom which is a shadow and means. The former is in God, the latter from God in us. So are we "partakers of the Divine nature" in reflection from him, union with him, and enjoyment of him (2 Peter 1:4).
3. Wisdom is the nature of God (Proverbs 8:25, sqq.), uncreated, essential; with us it is an acquisition, a derivation.
4. True wisdom for us depends on the living, moral communion of the heart with God. Without this it is vain to seek to know him. An Eastern proverb says, "He who would learn the secrets of the mighty, must diligently keep watch at his doors." Blessed they who thus wait continually at God's doors l
5. True wisdom is not to be obtained without its price. It must be wrought for by the endeavour of a holy and pious life. The departing from evil, the mortification of sin, the weeding out of vices, lays out work enough for us in this life, and makes the toils of man for perishable good seem small in comparison. "But the end is noble, and the reward is great."
6. The energy of man in the pursuit of earthly good should be a constant reminder to us of the need for like zeal in the pursuit of the eternal good (Matthew 6:19, sqq.; 1 Timothy 6:1-21.; James 5:1-20.).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The path of true wisdom.
With singular fulness Job describes the early methods of mining, and the knowledge man had already gained of the hidden treasures of the earth, and the power he could wield over them. In this recognition of the power of man, and of his deep insight into the nature and constitution of the earth, and its many treasures and processes, he prepares the way for a setting forth of the limits beyond which man cannot go. With all his searching he finds not out the path of "wisdom," and with all his getting he fails to get "understanding." And this further prepares for a setting forth of the true sources of wisdom and the place of understanding. The path of true wisdom does not lie in those dark recesses of the earth where the vein of the silver lies hidden. It is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's keen eye hath not seen, and over which the beasts of prey have not trodden; nor hath the fierce lion passed by it. God alone miderstandeth the way thereof, and he alone knoweth its path. The plain inference, then, is—Man must ask wisdom of God.
I. THE ERROR OF SUPPOSING THAT A KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROCESSES OF NATURE GIVES A TRUE AND PERFECT WISDOM. In all these man may be deeply learned, and yet there be a path hidden from him. The danger of this day is a supposing that science truly so called is a sufficient knowledge for man. An accurate acquaintance with "the laws of nature" still leaves man ignorant of many necessary truths. For the right use of material substances, a knowledge of those substances and the laws of their combination is necessary; and for the safety of the animal life, a knowledge of its structure and processes—the laws of animal life—is equally needful. But the total idea of the human life is not reached by these. Fie who is capable of moral and spiritual acts has a moral and spiritual nature; and he has need of the knowledge of the laws of the moral government under which he is placed, and of the spiritual nature with which he is endowed.
II. THE LOWLY SEARCHING FOE THIS HIDDEN WISDOM WILL LEAD MEN TO A CONVICTION OF THEIR INABILITY TO ARRIVE AT A PERFECT ACQUAINTANCE WITH IT. It is hid from the eyes of all living. Very humbling is this to the proud heart of him who has obviously a supreme position amidst the works of God—who is above all creatures, subduing them to his authority; and above "nature," compelling it to be subservient to his wish. To know that he knows not, and to know that by searching he cannot find out the knowledge he desires, brings down his high looks. Here he must sit in the seat of the scholar; here, confessing his ignorance, ask.
III. THE TRUE SEARCHER, BAFFLED IN HIS MANY EFFORTS, TURNS AT LAST TO GOD, AND FINDS THE SOURCE OF WISDOM IN HIM; and learns that the fear of the Lord is the possession of the true wisdom, and the careful keeping of the path of righteousness the true understanding. That is to say, the highest wisdom is a moral state, and the truest understanding a religious obedience.
From how many is this "hidden," and how unwilling are the ignorant to ask, and the proud to acknowledge their need! While he who consciously lacks this highest wisdom, and asks of God, proves that he giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not any for asking.—R.G.
Job 29:20 -27
Wisdom hidden from man.
Skilful is the hand of man. His researches are profound. He has digged deep into the earth. He tracks the vein of the silver and the place for the gold. He taketh iron out of the earth, and brass he melteth from the stone. He searcheth amidst the stones of darkness and the very shadow of death. His eye seeth what escapes the eye of the vulture, and he knoweth the path which no fowl knoweth. His power is over the hills, for he putteth his hand upon the rock, and overturneth the mountains by the roots. Rocks and rivers and flood are under his power, and the hidden things he bringeth to light. But with all his powers of research he is baffled in the pursuit of wisdom, and he knows neither the place nor the price of understanding. The perfect knowledge of the nature of things, and the high wisdom to guide in the proper use of' things, is not within the human grasp. Such knowledge is too high for him. It belongs unto God. It cannot be gotten for gold, nor purchased with the price of silver. This reflection may—
I. PROFITABLY TURN AWAY OUR HOPES OF GAINING WISDOM FROM MAN. We cannot gain it there; for "it is hid from the eyes of all living."
II. IT IS A BECOMING OCCASION FOR HUMILITY ON THE PART OF MAN. Vain man, who can do so much, is baffled here.
III. IT IS A MOTIVE FOR THANKFULLY RECEIVING THE TEACHINGS OF THE WISE. There are men to whom God has discovered the hidden springs of wisdom. Happy they, and happy all who learn of them.
IV. BUT ITS SUPREME LESSON IS TO DRIVE US IN OUR SEARCH FOR WISDOM TO GOD, to whom alone it appertains. "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof"—even the wisdom that is "hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air."—R.G.
The true wisdom.
Wisdom—the "principal thing"—wisdom that "cannot be gotten for gold," or valued with "the precious onyx, or the sapphire," which "the topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal"—wisdom "belongeth unto God," and must be taught us by him, for we are ignorant. Wisdom consists in "the fear of the Lord," and in departing from evil. This wisdom man findeth not in the rocks nor in the depth of the sea. This is to man his truest, his highest, wisdom. This is the wisdom for the price of which "silver cannot be weighed." The fear of the Lord is the very beginning and end of wisdom to man—
I. BECAUSE IT IS FOUNDED IN A JUST RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE SUPREMACY, AUTHORITY, AND POWER. The most foolish thing a man can do is to deny, either by word or by conduct, the authority of God. He who truly acknowledges the Divine supremacy will humble himself, and take his rightful place, free from presumption and self-asserting independence, which is the basis of all disobedience.
II. BECAUSE IT AFFORDS HIM THE TRUEST BASIS FOR FAITH AND HOPE. He who fears, and therefore reverences God, will learn how to commit himself into the Divine hands for all needful blessing. As far from presumption as from fear, he will be able calmly to trust in God and do good. He can have no real hope towards God who in irreverence and self-conceit cherishes not "the fear of the Lord" in his heart.
III. BECAUSE WITHOUT THE FEAR OF THE LORD THERE CAN BE NO TRUE LOVE FOR THE DIVINE NAME. That cannot be loved which is not respected and honoured. The true respect towards God is holy fear—the sacred reverence for the majesty, sanctity, and authority of the Divine Name.
IV. BECAUSE IT IS THE MOST EFFECTUAL BARRIER AGAINST EVIL-DOING.
V. BECAUSE OF THE SPECIAL PROMISES OF BLESSING MADE TO THEM THAT FEAR HIS NAME. From all this springs the duty of cherishing due regard for all things sacred, that the heart may be suitably and profitably impressed by them. "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
This passage is justly famous for its graphic description of ancient mining. It gives us a picture of the miner's toil and peril, his industry, his skill, and his adventure. Let us see what lessons may be learnt from the miner and his craft.
I. GOD HAS LAID UP GREAT RICHES FOR MAN. People talk foolishly about exhausting the mines. Particular mines may come to an end, and certain lodes may be worked out. But the earth is not one mine or one English county. No one can calculate what vast stores of metal lie under the surface of the ground. The great treasury has scarcely been touched; ages upon ages will not suffice to ransack its stores. When we learn about Australia, Asia Minor, South America, etc; we discover that there is still boundless wealth under the soil. Thus God has made ample provision for the wants of his children.
II. THESE RICHES ARE HIDDEN BENEATH THE EARTH. Men must sink shafts and blast racks. God gives us great possessions, but we must put forth energy in acquiring them. Thus Israel had to fight for Canaan. Wisdom is got through toil and effort. Spiritual wealth is won at the cost of spiritual conflict. Though the chief conflict was Christ's, and though the best treasures are freely given, we must seek if we would find (Matthew 7:7).
III. THE MINER'S WORK IS TOILSOME. Few men have so disagreeable or hard a task. In dark subterranean regions, often breathing a close, unwholesome atmosphere, suffer'-ing from tremendous heat, labouring with axe and shovel, the miner has no idle lot. He may be forgotten by those who tread the greensward over his head. But we all profit by his industry. It is only right that his brave and arduous work should be generously recognized. In our happy homes and beautiful churches we should do wall to think of the miner, and pray for him just as we pray for "those in peril on the sea."
IV. INGENUITY AND ENTERPRISE CHARACTERIZE THE WORK OF THE MINER. What thought and effort and daring are put into mining! Surely this is nobler work than the killing which all the world honours in the soldier? We can understand why God has hidden the precious metals in the bowels of the earth, when we see what manly traits are evolved in the work of obtaining them. But if so, should not the same high qualities be brought forth in the search for the hidden treasure of the kingdom of heaven? Its gold, and silver, and iron, and copper are worth so much trouble, are not wisdom and goriness and eternal life deserving of the most strenuous efforts?
V. THERE IS PERIL IN THE MINER'S LIFE. Mining disasters are more fatal than shipwrecks. The miner needs to know a refuge more secure than any that art or science can contrive. He, indeed, should have his trust in God. But for others his peril is an occasion to rouse interest and deepen sympathy. We all profit by his labours; at least, then, let us all do what we can to protect him from the dangers which carelessness and selfishness create.—W.F.A.
Job 29:7, Job 29:8
The miner's path.
The vulture's eye is keen, the lion's whelps are daring; yet a path which these wild creatures never saw is known to the miner, and climbed by him in his search for precious metals. He penetrates into fearful ravines, climbs dizzy cliffs, follows dark passages far into the mountain-side, descends deep shafts down to the hidden regions of the earth.
I. THE SUPERIORITY OF MIND TO INSTINCT. The senses of animals are keener than those of men; the sight of the bird and the scent of the wild beast greatly exceed our seeing and smell. Animals are stronger than men; we cannot emulate the vulture's flight or the stroke of the lion's paw. Yet, with duller senses and weaker muscles, we can rule over the animals; we can even beat them on their own ground. The superiority of man is the superiority of mind. Therefore, if he would retain and perfect this superiority, he must not sink down to the level of the beasts that perish. Sottish sensuality robs man of his supremacy. If it is by the mind that man conquers, it is disgraceful to live for the sake of the body. Only mental power gives so weak a creature as man any chance in the struggle for existence. Then it is most incongruous that bodily appetite should be permitted to enslave this power for its own low pleasures. Moreover, if the inner man is the higher man, that which is highest within is our truest and best self. The highest powers scale the highest peaks.
II. THE TRIUMPH OF ENERGY. The miner knows his secret path and climbs it, because he is determined to search out the precious metals, no matter where he may have to go in pursuit of them. Here is manly vigour. Now, it is just this vigour joined to intelligence that gives man success in the battle of life. No one deserves to be prosperous without it. It is only a, artificial state of society that allows the idle to be pampered in luxury. The healthy rule is that of St. Paul, "If any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). In the miner's path we have an evidence of what effort can do. This same effort is needed in every branch of life. Industry is healthy and fruitful, and the old-fashioned duty can never be lessened by any change of circumstances. If men shrink from work they proclaim that their better nature is conquered in them. It will be a bad day for England when her old spirit of enterprise is given up. In the Christian life there is a call for the miner's daring and energy. Here, too, heroic enterprises are undertaken by the nobler spirits. There are paths in spiritual experience that no one with a merely animal nature can ever see; but the brave sons of God walk thereon and find rare treasures by the way. Browning tells us—
"Life is—to wake, not sleep;
Rise, and not rest; but press
From earth's level, where blindly creep
Things perfected, more or less,
To heaven's height, far and steep."
The search for wisdom.
I. WISDOM IS SUPREMELY DESIRABLE. Men sink shafts and traverse hazardous paths in search of the precious metals simply because of their value. The costly and difficult processes of mining would not be carried on unless an adequate reward were expected. Unless men appreciate wisdom they will not take much trouble in attempting to acquire it. The first thing is to see that "the price of wisdom is above rubies" (Job 29:18). Knowledge is good, as the food of the intellect. The knowledge of God is most precious as the food of the soul. Practical knowledge is essential for guidance in life. Wisdom is more than the satisfaction of curiosity; it is the light of life.
II. WISDOM DOES NOT LIE ON THE SURFACE OF THE WORLD. It is like the treasures of deep rallies, and therefore it is not seen by the superficial. God does not cast his pearls before swine. There are blessings that all men—even the most heedless—have a share in. But the greatest blessings are not stumbled on unawares. These are for all who will seek them; but they must be sought. Hidden treasures are sometimes dug up from beneath ancient ruins—vessels of gold and silver that have lain for ages buried under heaps of rubbish. So Divine treasures have been hidden beneath piles of earthly and comparatively worthless things. Sin and worldliness have buried them. They need to be rediscovered. Thus man has both to recover lost spiritual riches and to mine in virgin soil for new wisdom.
III. WISDOM IS NOT EASILY FOUND. It is not enough to sink a mine, for perhaps we may not strike a lode; we must discover where the precious metal lies. The mining engineer must bring his science and experience to bear on the great problem as to where the shaft is to be made, and if he makes a mistake all the costly work of preparing the mine will be thrown away. Now, we want some divining-rod to show us where to seek for the Divine wisdom. Philosophers have dug their mines in various regions of life and thought. No doubt they have brought much precious ore to the surface. But the great treasure of Divine knowledge has not been struck by any human inquiry without the guiding of a special heavenly revelation. Seas may be dredged and strange wonders of the deep brought to light, but these additions to natural history do not help us much in coming to know spiritual truth.
IV. WISDOM CANNOT BE BOUGHT. Precious stones may be purchased for money. Knowledge may be obtained in classes for which fees are charged; and yet the fees cannot purchase real education, and unless the scholar uses his mind he cannot profit by his lessons. No subscriptions to churches and missions and charities can buy Divine wisdom.
V. WISDOM IS A DIVINE GIFT SEEKING SOULS. It is like the precious metals in the earth which God has given to man freely. The treasures of God are for all, without money and without price. Moreover, God shows us where to find these treasures. Christ "is made unto us wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:30). When we receive Christ, we have the Treasure for which philosophers and saints toiled and mined. He brings the Divine wisdom to the surface, to cur very doors. If we would acquire wisdom, we have but to open our hearts to welcome Christ.—W.F.A.
The high price of wisdom.
In the main, prices are determined by two causes—by the value set on things on account of their utility and attractiveness, and by the difficulty of acquiring them. Both these elements enter into the high price of wisdom.
I. WISDOM IS VALUABLE ON ACCOUNT OF ITS UTILITY AND ATTRACTIVENESS. People will not give a high price for what is not valued highly. Appreciation implies the perception of some equivalence in value. If wisdom is sought at a great price, wisdom is highly prized. Otherwise it would be left alone as not worth purchasing. Let us, then, observe the elements of value in wisdom.
1. Guidance. We need knowledge to save us from blundering. Bight principles are charts by which to steer. Moral folly plunges men headlong down to ruin; moral wisdom is the safe guide to life. We must know the heavenly way, we must see how to climb the steep hill, we must have skill to navigate the vessel of life.
2. Sustenance. Divine wisdom feeds the soul like heavenly manna, and refreshes it like water from the rock. It is reviving and nourishing as wine and milk (Isaiah 55:1). The soul is starved without the truth of God. That truth is its meat and drink.
3. Satisfaction. Much that men feed on spiritually is like chaff and sawdust; it does not really satisfy, though it seems to fill. But the knowledge of God is restful; it meets the deep needs and answers to the true desires of the inner life.
4. Culture. The effect of this heavenly possession is to elevate and transform the soul itself. It is more than a guide, a food, a satisfaction; it is a moulding influence. By a subtle alchemy it brings the soul round to its own character. He who has wisdom is wise. The possession of Divine grace makes us sons of God.
II. WISDOM IS COSTLY BECAUSE OF THE DIFFICULTY OF ACQUIRING IT. People will not give a high price unnecessarily even for what they value highly. What is both plentiful and easily accessible is necessarily cheap, however useful and attractive it may be. When the supply is fully equal to the demand, the price is low. But wisdom is not only inherently valuable; it is also only got at a great cost. Note the reasons for its dearness.
1. A difficult search. There may be an abundance of precious metals far under the soil, but if mines have to be constructed some expenditure must be incurred before the treasures can be acquired. Hence their costliness. Now, men have been seeking wisdom with great toil and weariness through all the ages.
2. Rarity. Prices mount high in times of scarcity. Famine may make corn more precious than rubies. When the world had fallen far from God down into the night of sin and ignorance, true wisdom became scarce.
3. The sacrifice of Christ. Christ has become wisdom to us, but at what a cost? First there was the condescension of his incarnation, when be emptied himself and became of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant. Then his arduous life was spent in bringing the knowledge and grace of God to men. His midnight watches, and his days full of work and conflict, were spent for this object. Lastly, his cross marks the supreme gift of himself in death to purchase for us the Divine wisdom. That wisdom is more costly than rubies; it is acquired by us at the cost of the blood of our Lord.—W.F.A.
God's access to wisdom.
Wisdom is rare, precious, and costly. Men are skilful and enterprising in mining for the precious metals; but the search for wisdom, though carried on with the utmost assiduity, seems to be more difficult. Nevertheless, what is inaccessible to man is quite within the reach of God. We may fail in attempting to find wisdom, but God possesses it. He knows where it lies hidden from us; he can tread the labyrinth of the mine that leads to it.
I. THIS IS A GROUND OF FAITH. If God has true wisdom, we can be Content to leave with him those issues of life which we cannot understand ourselves.
1. In nature. To us many of the processes of nature are unintelligible. Not only cannot we understand the "how," but we are also perplexed about the "why." Apparently aimless and seemingly hurtful processes fill nature with dark mysteries. But these mysteries are all open to God. Of his works we can say, "In wisdom hast thou made them all." The world was not created by a blundering Demiurge, but by an all-wise God.
2. In providence. Our own lives are enigmas to us. We cannot understand why our plans are broken, our hopes scattered, our joys turned to bitterness It all looks wild, chaotic, aimless, sometimes even cruel We can but rest in the thought that God is higher and wiser than we are.
"Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright desirous,
And works his sovereign will"
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense."
3. In redemption. It may not be possible for us to understand the atonement. Theories are all inadequate. There is a mystery at the root of Christianity. But when God devised his great idea of salvation he had access to all wisdom. It must be wise. Our part is to follow it as far as we can see it, and to trust God for the rest.
II. THIS IS A KEY TO WISDOM. God knows where the treasure is hidden; he is familiar with the path that leads to it. Then he must be the Guide to wisdom. If we would attain to it we must seek it from God.
1. By prayer. St,. James has said, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). It is not only that wisdom is a boon bestowed in answer to prayer; prayer itself is the road to wisdom. St. Paul could see things in a new light when it could be said of him, "Behold, he prayeth." The spirit of prayer opens the windows of heaven and reveals the wisdom of God.
2. By godliness. We must be like God if we would share in God's wisdom. Sympathy with God will give us eyes to see as God sees. Nearness to him will introduce us to the path that he treads. When we walk with God we shall be led to those deep mines of wisdom to which he penetrates. Thus true wisdom is closely allied to true religion. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom" (verse 28).—W.F.A.
The revelation of wisdom.
Man has searched for wisdom, but in vain. Then God, who has access to it, has revealed it to him, and has shown that it consists in the fear of the Lord and in departure from evil. The existence of a Divine revelation is here distinctly affirmed. God speaks through nature, Scripture, and conscience, and especially in Christ. Now, the Divine revelation of wisdom is here presented to us in two aspects—a positive and a negative. The first of these consists in religion; the second is of a moral character.
I. THE POSITIVELY RELIGIOUS ASPECT OF REVEALED WISDOM. When God reveals wisdom to man it first appears as "the fear of the Lord." Job says, like Solomon, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7); it is wisdom; the two are identified. Now, the expression, "fear of the Lord," is the Old Testament name for religion- Therefore wisdom is religion. When we have found true religion we have discovered true wisdom.
1. The highest knowledge is obtained through spiritual experience. Science comes through the study of nature, and history is learnt by reading of past deeds; certainly religion will not dispense with the laboratory and the library. Still, even in these matters the truth-loving spirit-which is the spirit of science—is nourished and strengthened by communion with the eternal Truth. The highest knowledge, however, is of a different order; it is the knowledge that reaches to the meaning and purpose of life, and is not satisfied with the phenomena and processes that are the materials of science. This can only be had by the experience of the truth of God in religion.
2. The best course of life is that which is pursued in obedience to the will of God. It is the function of practical wisdom not so much to reveal mysteries as to show us the path in which we should walk. God has made known that path; he has shown us that the perfect way is one of Christ-like obedience. We live wisely when we acknowledge our Creator, obey our Father, loyally serve our King. Any other way must be foolish, because it will involve ingratitude and rebellion, and must therefore end in ruin. No wise man would choose to ruin himself.
II. THE NEGATIVELY MORAL ASPECT OF REVEALED WISDOM. "To depart from evil is understanding."
1. Sin must be abandoned before truth can be received. Sin blinds the spiritual vision. It is a moral lie, and the enemy to all truth. Bad passions and corrupt desires cloud the judgment and distort the understanding. They are the pure in heart who see God, and all the truth of God is open to the eye of goodness, but shut up and hidden from the prying curiosity of wickedness. A bad man cannot be a true philosopher. He may know many things; he cannot know real truth. The details and the worldly ideas may be acquired by him; but the deeper meaning of everything is lost to such a person.
2. A right understanding of life prompts to repentance. When the light of God begins to fall on the soul, sin is seen for the first time in its hideous natural character. Then we wonder how we could have fondled so loathsome an object. Its disgusting features drive us from it with horror.
3. The life of sin is ruinously foolish. It offers great delights, but its promises are lies. Even its pleasures do not satisfy, and they soon give place to bitter regrets. The wise way of living is the path of purity and integrity—the path which can only be followed in godly fear and Christian faith.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter