Job 28 Commentary: It must have been a few years ago that I lost my wallet for over a week. I thought it was in the car, but I searched there several times with no luck.
I was about to start calling my financial institutions and having them cancel my cards and things like that – when I checked one last time thoroughly and systematically that car. And I found it – there it was – under the passenger side seat.
I had looked there before. But apparently not hard enough.
Certain things in this life are easy to find. While, others are quite difficult.
But in Job, chapter 28 we’re going to have Job tell us that there’s one thing that’s utterly impossible for mere mortals to find. And that thing is wisdom.
So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 28.
Now, we saw in the last chapter that Job was in agreement with his friends that – indeed – God does show his power against wicked men by punishing them.
But that causes Job to consider that he himself is receiving the fate of these wicked men – but he himself is righteous.
Job – a righteous man – even by God’s testimony – is suffering like the wicked are supposed to. And that makes no sense. He can’t understand God’s ways.
And as the message of this book goes, When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust His Wisdom in Our Circumstances.
But in this chapter that we’re going to be studying now, Job admits that God’s wisdom is really difficult to find.
Job 28 Commentary | Mankind can find some amazing things…
And what’s really interesting is that humankind has shown an amazing ability to find things that would seem to be nearly impossible to discover.
And so, this is what Job marvels at for the first 11 verses of this chapter – that there’s very little that’s hidden from human endeavor to discover it.
Job begins by speaking of mining precious metals.
KJV Job 28:1 Surely there is a [vein/mine] for [the silver/silver],
and a place for gold [where they fine/to refine] it.
Yes, there is a place for silver and gold. And what we need to recognize is that that place is not usually out in the open. You usually need to search for it and dig it up.
And Job goes on to highlight human endeavor to excavate these metals.
2 Iron is taken [out of/from] the [earth/dust/ground],
and [brass/copper] is [molten/smelted] [out of the/from] [stone/rock].
And so, verses 1 and 2 are Job pointing to the existence of hard-to-find metals.
And now, he’s going to focus on mankind’s ability to find these metals in the earth.
3 [He/Man] [setteth/puts] an end to darkness,
and searcheth out [all perfection/to the farthest limit/the farthest recesses]:
the [stones/rock/ore] [of darkness/in gloom],
and [the shadow of death/deep shadow/the deepest darkness].
This is describing the darkness that’s found in caves and other places in which mining activities are carried out. It’s dark down there – but mankind puts an end to that darkness and finds what its looking for.
And Job goes on to speak more of spelunking in caves as people search for previous metals.
4 [The flood breaketh/He sinks a shaft] [out/far] from [the inhabitant/habitation/where people live];
[even the waters forgotten of the foot/in places forgotten by travelers]:
they [are dried up/hang and swing to and fro/dangle and sway],
[they are gone away/far] from men.
Now, the word behind “flood” is translated elsewhere as “valley” 23 times. It’s then something like a rift or break in the earth. And the word behind “breaketh out” is also translated as “break in” or “break down.” And one more – “dried up” some other versions take to be describing the mining process of men dangling by ropes in the mine.
Whatever the particular details, Job is talking about mining and how amazing it is that humans can do this.
And then Job goes on to state that the appearance of the earth can conceal all this activity that he’s been saying goes on inside of it.
5 [As for the earth/The earth], [out of/from] [it/which] cometh [bread/food]:
and under it is [turned up/overturned] as it were [by…] fire.
And this could be speaking of the reality that we know of as plate tectonics – how the earth is made up of moving sliding plates gliding apparently on molten rock. That could be what Job is describing.
Otherwise, he’s just comparing the peaceful appearance of the earth above ground to what he’s been describing regarding what happens underground.
And then Job wants to point to the fact that the earth – and especially the area under the top soil – contains noteworthy treasures!
6 [The stones of it/Its rocks] are the [place/source] of sapphires:
and it [hath/contains] dust of gold.
The “it” in this verse of course is speaking of the earth. The earth contains sapphires and gold.
Then Job is going to – for several verses – emphasize the fact that what humans are able to discover within the earth is really quite unknown to most of the animal kingdom. Humans are in a unique position to access this exquisite treasure.
7 [There is a path/The path/A hidden path] which no [fowl/bird of prey] knoweth,
and which the [vulture's/falcon’s] eye hath not seen:
So, no bird has seen the treasure hidden in these mines.
Further, no beast has seen it either.
8 [The lion's whelps/Proud beasts] have not [trodden/set foot on] it,
nor the fierce lion passed [by/over/along] it.
And then Job turns from considering the fact that the treasure within the earth is hidden from animals. And he now is going to meditate on the ability of mankind to do this kind of work – of digging down into the earth and finding amazing treasures.
9 He putteth forth his hand upon the [rock/flint] [to work…];
he overturneth the mountains [by/at] the [roots/bases].
And so, in a sense, man is being like God here. God can overturn mountains in his power. And on a very smaller scale – mankind can do that, too.
And here’s more of what Job is marveling that man can do with the earth.
10 He [cutteth/hews/has cut] out [rivers/channels] [among/through] the rocks;
and his eye [seeth/have spotted] every precious thing.
And finally, mankind is able to hold back and conceal – and to reveal.
11 He [bindeth/dams up/has searched] the [floods from overflowing/streams from flowing/sources of the rivers];
and [the thing that is hid/what was (is) hidden] bringeth he [forth to/out into the] light.
So, Job is asserting that humans are able to discover the most fascinating and hidden things in this creation. That’s his point in verses 1 through 11.
Job 28 Commentary | But mankind is unable to find wisdom…
But Job isn’t merely concerned about gold and sapphires and mining. He’s not marveling at mankind’s abilities just to marvel.
No – Job has led us through all that people can find on this earth in order to magnify one thing that none of us can find. And that’s wisdom.
12 But where [shall/can] wisdom be found?
and where is the place of understanding?
Because we know where to find gold. You just dig with your hands and your tools in the right place in the earth and there it is. But where would you direct someone to find wisdom if you were Job with no Bible as we have it today? You can’t direct people to a location on earth where they can dig out or even buy wisdom and understanding.
And that’s because it’s not from “around these parts”!
13 [Man/Mankind] knoweth not [the price thereof/its value/its place];
neither [is/can] it found in the land of the living.
So, wisdom is not found in this world – and certainly not within the earth – like with jewels and such.
And so, who can discover how much it’s worth? If you want to figure out how much a certain piece of jewelry is worth, you bring it to an appraiser. He’ll look at it, examine it, and tell you based on his experience how much it’s worth.
But how do you get wisdom appraised? It’s real. And it’s incredibly valuable. But you can’t bring it in to your local jewelry store and let the man behind the counter estimate its value. You can’t appraise the physical value of something that you can’t find.
And it’s not just that mankind cannot find wisdom – Job even presents inanimate locations on the earth as testifying to the fact that even they can’t find wisdom and understanding within themselves.
14 The [depth/deep] saith,
It is not [in/with] me:
and the sea saith,
It is not with me.
And even if someone did know where it could be found, you would never have enough money to purchase it.
15 It cannot be [gotten/given] [for/in exchange for] [pure/fine…] gold,
neither [shall/can] silver be weighed for the price thereof.
And then Job is going to go on about how there’s nothing that can help you purchase wisdom – not even the precious metals and jewels that he’s already discussed.
16 It cannot be [valued/measured out for purchase] with the gold of Ophir,
with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.
And that’s because wisdom is unrivaled in value to anything else that a man can get.
17 The gold and the crystal cannot [equal/be compared with] it:
and the exchange of it shall not be for [jewels/articles/a vase] of fine gold.
And we just celebrated Mothers’ Day and were reminded of the virtuous woman whose worth was far above rubies. But a woman who fears the Lord is to be estimated in that way because the thing that she possesses – wisdom – is also valued like that.
18 No mention shall be made of coral, or of [pearls/crystal/jasper]:
for the price of wisdom is above [rubies/pearls].
And Job goes on to extol wisdom by telling us what cannot purchase it.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia [shall/cannot] [not equal/be compared with] it,
neither shall it be [valued/purchased] with pure gold.
And then Job utters what seems to be a refrain in this chapter because we saw a statement that was very similar in verse 12.
20 [Whence/From where] then cometh wisdom?
and where is the place of understanding?
Only in verse 12, Job asked where wisdom can be found. Here in verse 20, he asks from where it comes. But every other word is exactly the same – and really, even the two ideas of finding something and knowing where it comes from are almost identical.
And Job’s question is legitimate – because according to Job, no one knows the answer.
No creature or bird knows where wisdom comes from.
21 [Seeing/Thus/For] it [is hid/has been hidden] from the eyes of [all/every] living [creature…],
and [kept close/concealed] from the fowls of the air.
And not even destruction and death know where wisdom comes from – where its source on the earth is.
22 [Destruction/Abaddon] and death say,
We have heard [the fame thereof/a report of it/a rumor about where it can be found] with our ears.
So, mankind can find awesome things in this world. But no one can find wisdom. That’s what we’ve been taught by Job so far through verse 22.
Job 28 Commentary | Only God has wisdom…
No one can find wisdom. That is, no one – except for God.
And so, Job is going to make that point from verses 23-28 – God alone has wisdom.
23 God understandeth the way [thereof/to it],
and he [alone…] knoweth the place thereof.
He knows wisdom’s way and place. He knows how to access it.
Why? How can God know this when no one else does?
24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth,
and [seeth/observes] [everything…] under the [whole heaven/heavens];
So, God sees the whole picture. He’s not ignorant of anything. There’s nothing he doesn’t see.
God alone knows and perceives and sees everything. And therefore, he alone knows wisdom.
And so, Job seems to be using the terms wisdom and understanding to describe the ability to see the whole picture and act accordingly. Or to be in tune with reality – as only God knows it.
Job doesn’t have this ability. He doesn’t know what’s going on. God’s ways are confusing and making no sense to him.
God has wisdom – and Job feels like he himself is totally lacking it.
And then Job wants to go back to the beginning of creation and recall how God established wisdom.
God did this when he created the winds and the waters.
25 [To/When he] [make/imparted/made] [the weight/weight/the force] [for/to/of] the winds;
and he [weigheth/meted out/measured] the waters [by measure/with a gauge].
And that’s the same time in which he created the rain and thunder.
26 When he [made a decree/set a limit/imposed a limit] for the rain,
and a [way/course/path] for the [lightning of the thunder/thunder bolt]:
And what did God do at the time he created these forces – wind, water, rain, and thunder? He did what no man can do – he assessed the value of wisdom and scrutinized it.
27 Then did he see [it/wisdom], and [declare/assessed the value of] it;
he [prepared/established] it, yea, and [searched it out/examined it closely].
And so, that’s how Job pictures God coming to be acquainted with wisdom.
And then God communicated that to his human creatures.
28 And unto [man/mankind] he said,
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to [depart/turn away] from evil is understanding.
So, as humans we can’t find wisdom as we find other physical things. We need God to give it to us.
And that’s when God says – you want wisdom? Fear me. You want understanding – a rough equivalent of wisdom? Then turn from evil.
And we bring that to Job’s situation. Job is having great difficulty recognizing what reality even is anymore. Reality as Job knew it was that if he lived right, God would bless him. That’s what Job believed and its apparently what many others believed – at least if his three friends are any indication of the popular thinking of the time. Everyone was thinking that God rewards moral goodness with blessings. That was reality in their minds.
But Job is still doing good. But he’s not being blessed. It seems like God’s angry with him and punishing him. Job still is fearing the Lord and departing from evil. Why is this not seeming to help Job live in light of reality anymore?
And the answer to that of course is that reality is bigger than Job’s small view of how God works in the world. God is bigger than that. Reality is broader than any of our human minds can comprehend.
And while Job is ready to admit that in creation at-large, he’s not ready to trust that God is acting according to wisdom – the broad and complete view of things – in Job’s situation.
And that’s why next time we’re going to see Job wistfully relive all the blessings that once were his as he sought to fear the Lord.