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Bible Commentaries
Job 28

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.

In Job 27:1-23 Job had tacitly admitted that the statement of the friends was often true, that God vindicated His justice by punishing the wicked here: but still the affliction of the godly remained unexplained. Man has, by skill, brought the precious metals from their concealment. But the Divine Wisdom, which governs human affairs, he cannot similarly discover, (12, etc.) However, the image from the same metals (Job 23:10) implies Job has made some way toward solving the riddle of his life-namely, that affliction is to him as the refining fire to gold.

Vein - a mine, from which it goes forth, Hebrew - i:e., is dug.

Place for gold - `a place where gold may be found, which men refine.' Not as the English version, "a place-where," etc., (Malachi 3:3.) Contrasted with gold found in the bed and sand of rivers, which does not need refining, as the gold dug from a mine does. Golden ornaments have been found in Egypt of the times of Joseph.

Verse 2

Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.

Brass - i:e., copper; because brass is a mixed metal of copper and zinc, of modern invention. Iron is less easily discovered and worked than copper: therefore copper was in common use long before iron. Copper-stone is called 'cadmia' by Pliny ('Natural History,' 34:1; 36:21). Iron is fitly said to be taken out of the "earth" (dust), for ore looks like mere earth.

Verse 3

He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.

'Man makes an end of darkness' by exploring the darkest depths (with torches).

All perfection - rather, carries out his search to the utmost perfection [ lªkaal (H3605) takliyt (H8503)]: 'most thoroughly searches the stones of darkness and of the shadow of death' (thickest gloom) - i:e., the stones, whatever they be, embedded in the darkest bowels of the earth (Umbreit). (Job 26:10.)

Verse 4

The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.

Three hardships in mining:

(1) 'A stream (flood) breaks out at the side of the stranger' [ mee`im (H5973) gaar (H1481) - literally, from alongside the stranger]: namely, the miner, a strange new-comer into places heretofore unexplored; his surprise at the sudden stream breaking out beside him is expressed (English version, from the inhabitant). Maurer and Gesenius translate, 'A shaft (or gully-like pit) is broken open far from the inhabitant' (the dwellers on the surface of the earth).

(2) "Forgotten" (unsupported), by the foot they hang, by ropes, in descending. In the Hebrew, 'Lo there' [ha-] precedes this clause graphically placing it as if before the eye. The waters are inserted by the English version. Are dried up ought to be, 'hang,' 'are suspended' [ daluw (H1809), from daalaah (H1802), to draw. The English version takes it from daalal (H1809), wasted]. The English version perhaps understood waters of whose existence man was previously unconscious, and near which he never trod; and yet man's energy is such that, by pumps, etc., he soon causes them to 'dry up and go away,' (so Herder).

(3) 'Far away from men, they move with uncertain step;' they stagger: not 'they are gone,' as the English version [ naa`uw (H5128), from nuwa`, to be shaken] (Umbreit).

Verse 5

As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.

Its fertile surface yields food; and yet 'beneath it is turned up as it were by fire.' So Pliny ('Natural History,' 33:) observes on the ingratitude of man, who repays the debt he owes the earth for food by digging out its bowels. 'Fire' was used in mining (Umbreit). The English version is simpler, which means precious stones which glow like fire; and so Job 28:6 follows naturally (Ezekiel 28:14, "stones of fire").

Verse 6

The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.

Sapphires are found in alluvial soil near rocks and embedded in gneiss. The ancients distinguished two kinds:

(1) The real, of transparent blue;

(2) That improperly so called, opaque, with gold spots - i:e., lapis lazuli.

To the latter, looking like gold dust, Umbreit refers 'dust of gold.' The English version is better, 'The stones of the earth are etc., and the clods of it [ `aprowt (H6083)] (Vulgate) are gold:' the parallel clauses are thus neater.

Verse 7

There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:

Fowl, [ `aayiT (H5861)] - rather, rarenous bird, or eagle, which is the most sharp-sighted of birds (Isaiah 46:11). A vulture will spy a carcass at an amazing distance. The miner penetrates the earth by a way unseen by birds of even the keenest sight.

Verse 8

The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.

Lion's whelps - literally, the sons of pride [ bªneey (H1121) shaachats (H7830)] - i:e., the fiercest beasts. Lion's whelps - literally, the sons of pride [ bªneey (H1121) shaachats (H7830)] - i:e., the fiercest beasts.

Passed. The Hebrew implies the proud gait of the lion: traversed. The miner ventures where not even the fierce lion dares to go in pursuit of his prey.

Verse 9

He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.

Rock - flint. He puts forth his hand to cleave the hardest rock.

By the roots - from their foundations, by undermining them.

Verse 10

He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.

He cuts channels to drain off the waters, which hinder his mining; and when the waters are gone, he is able to see the precious things in the earth.

Verse 11

He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.

Floods. 'He restrains the streams from weeping' (margin); a poetical expression for the trickling subterranean rills which impede him: answering to the first clause of Job 28:10; so also the two latter clauses in each verse correspond.

Verse 12

But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?

Can man discover the Divine Wisdom by which the world is governed, as he can the treasures hidden in the earth? Certainly not. Divine Wisdom is conceived as a person (Job 28:12-27) distinct from God (Job 28:23; also, in Proverbs 8:23; Proverbs 8:27). The Almighty Word, Jesus Christ, we know now is that Wisdom. The order of the world was originated and is maintained by the breathing forth (Spirit) of Wisdom, unfathomable and unpurchasable by man. In Job 28:28 the only aspect of it which relates to, and may be understood by, man is stated.

Understanding - insight into the plan of the divine government.

Verse 13

Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.

Man can fix no price upon it, as it is nowhere to be found in man's abode, the land of the living' (Isaiah 38:11), Job implies both its invaluable worth and the impossibility of buying it at any price.

Verse 14

The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.

Not the usual word for gold [ cªgowr (H5458)]; from a Hebrew root [ caagar (H5462)], to shut up with care -

i.e., purest gold, (1 Kings 6:20, margin).

Weighed. The precious metals were weighed out before coining was known (Genesis 23:16).

Verse 16

It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.

Gold of Ophir - the most precious (note, Job 22:24; Psalms 45:9).

Onyx - (Genesis 2:12). More valued formerly than now. The term is Greek, meaning thumb-nail, from some resemblance in colour. The Arabic denotes of two colours, white preponderating.

Verse 17

The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.

Crystal, [ zªkowkiyt (H2137)] - or else glass, if then known, very costly. From a root [ zaakah (H2135)], to be transparent.

Jewels - rather, vessels [ kªliy (H3627)].

Verse 18

No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.

Red coral (Ezekiel 27:16).

Pearls - literally, what is frozen [ gaabiysh (H1378)]. Probably crystal; and Job 28:17 will then be glass.

Rubies. Umbreit translates pearls (see Lamentations 4:1; Proverbs 3:15, "She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her"). The Urim and Thummim, the means of consulting God by the twelve stones on the high priest's breastplate, "the stones of the sanctuary" (Lamentations 4:1), have their counterpart in this chapter: the precious stones symbolizing the 'light' and 'perfection' (as Urim and Thummim respectively mean) of the Divine Wisdom.

Verse 19

The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.

Ethiopia - Cush in the Hebrew. Either Ethiopia or the south of Arabia near the Tigris.

Verse 20

Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?

Job 28:12 repeated with great force.

Verse 21

Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.

None can tell whence or where, seeing it, etc.

Fowls. The gift of divination was assigned by the pagan especially to birds. Their rapid flight heavenwards and keen sight originated the superstition. Job may allude to it, Not even the boasted divination of birds has an insight into it (Ecclesiastes 10:20). But it may merely mean, as Job 28:7, it escapes the eye of even the most keen-sighted bird.

Verse 22

Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.

i.e., the abodes of destruction and of the dead. "Death" put for Sheol (Job 30:23; Job 26:6, note; Psalms 9:13).

We have (only) heard - the report of her. We have not seen her. In the land of the living (Job 28:13) the workings of Wisdom are seen, though not herself. In the regions of the dead she is only heard of, her actings on nature not being seen (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Verse 23

God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.

God hath, and is Himself wisdom. So He alone "understandeth the way thereof, and knoweth the place thereof."

Verse 24

For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;

Seeth (all that is) under, etc.

Verse 25

To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.

God has adjusted the weight of the winds, so seemingly imponderable, lest, if too weighty or too light, injury should be caused. He measureth out the waters, fixing their bounds, with wisdom as His counselor (Proverbs 8:27-31; Isaiah 40:12).

Verse 26

When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:

The decree regulating at what time and place, and in what quantity, the rain should fall.

A way - through the parted clouds (Job 38:25; Zechariah 10:1).

Verse 27

Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.

Declare - manifest her-namely, in His works (Psalms 19:1-2). So the approval bestowed by the Creator on His works (Genesis 1:10; Genesis 1:31); cf. the "rejoicing" of wisdom at the same (Proverbs 8:30; the former clause of which Umbreit translates 'I was the skillful artificer by his side;' Proverbs 8:31).

Prepared - not created, because wisdom is from everlasting (Proverbs 8:1-36); but 'established' Her as Governor of the world.

Searched out - examined her works, to see whether she was adequate to the task of governing the world (Maurer).

Verse 28

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.

Rather, But unto man, etc., my wisdom is that whereby all things are governed: thy wisdom is in fearing God and shunning evil, and in feeling assured that my wisdom always acts aright, though thou dost not understand the principle which regulates it-e.g., in afflicting the godly (John 7:17). The friends, therefore, as not comprehending the Divine Wisdom, should not infer Job's guilt from his sufferings: for though, for the most part, vengeance overtakes the heinous transgressor even here, and prosperity attends the righteous, yet there are cases where God afflicts the godly in His own inscrutable wisdom. Here alone in Job the name of God 'Adonai' occurs, Lord or Master, often applied to Messiah in the Old Testament. Appropriately here, in speaking of the Word or Wisdom by whom the world was made, (Proverbs 8:1-36; John 1:1; Sir 24:1-34 .)


(1) How marvelous are the contrivances devised by man, how desperate the risks which he has incurred, to obtain the much-coveted treasures of the earth-iron, copper, silver, gold, and precious stones! He ventures where foot has never trodden before, exiling himself from the cheerful haunts of men, to sojourn in the darkness of a pit, his life at every moment exposed to a thousand dangers from water, fire-damp, foul air, the falling in of the mine, and his own false steps-and all in order to gain the hidden riches beneath the soil. His boldness is often crowned with success, and, by all-conquering industry and scientific skill, he surmounts most of the difficulties in the way of his object. This energy is not in itself censurable, but commendable, when exercised in its due measure and place; and it tends to carry out the gracious purposes of the beneficent Creator for the good of man.

(2) Still more marvelous it is that man will not bestow at least equal energy, perseverance, and self-sacrificing (2) Still more marvelous it is that man will not bestow at least equal energy, perseverance, and self-sacrificing ardour on that which is so infinitely more precious than earthly treasures-the attainment of true and saving wisdom. Like Solomon, we ought to pray not for long life, riches, and honours, but thus - "I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart." We ought to seek at all costs, as our first aim, to be "made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).

(3) Wisdom has a two-fold relation-as it belongs to God, and as it belongs to us. The wisdom by which the world is governed by God cannot be explored by man, as he can discover the secret treasures of the mine. The most costly price that man could pay cannot purchase the knowledge of this divine secret (Job 28:13-19). But the wisdom which it most concerns man to know is, blessed be God! altogether attainable by us. "Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil is understanding." This wisdom is bought already for us, and needs not to be bought by us. "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). They are revealed in the Word to believers through the Holy Spirit, and received by faith. We cannot solve all difficulties in theory, but we can know all that is needful practically for salvation. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 28". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-28.html. 1871-8.
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