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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Job 28

Verses 1-4

From the mention of silver and gold, the description passes on to iron and ore (copper, cuprum = aes Cyprium ). Iron is called בּרזל , not with the noun-ending el like כּרמל (thus Ges., Olsh., and others), but probably expanded from בּזּל (Fürst), like שׁרבּיט from שׁבּיט שׁבט סמפּיר from ספּיר , βάλσαμον from בּשׂם , since, as Pliny testifies, the name of basalt (iron-marble) and iron are related,

Job now describes the operation of mining more minutely; and it is worthy of observation that the last-mentioned metal, with which the description is closely connected, is copper. נחל , which signifies elsewhere a valley, the bed of a river, and the river itself, like the Arab. wâdin (not from &#נחל נהל , to flow on, as Ges. Thes. and Fürst, but from נחל , root חל to hollow, whence &#נחילה חליל , a flute, as being a hollowed musical instrument), signifies here the excavation made in the earth, and in fact, as what follows shows, in a perpendicular direction, therefore the shaft. Nasse contends for the signification “valley,” by which one might very well conceive of “the working of a surface vein:” “By this mode of working, a small shaft is made in the vein (consequently in a perpendicular direction), and the ore is worked from both sides at once. At a short distance from the first shaft a second is formed, and worked in the same way. Since thus the work progresses lengthwise, a cutting becomes formed in the mountain which may well be compared to a deep valley, if, as is generally the case where the stone is firm and the ways are almost perpendicular, the space that is hewn out remains open (that is, not broken in or filled in).” But if נחל everywhere else denotes a valley with its watercourse, it has not necessarily a like signification in mining technology. It signifies, perhaps not without reference to its usual signification, the shafts open above and surrounded by walls of rock (in distinction from the more or less horizontal galleries or pit-ways, as they were cut through the excavated rocks in the gold mines of Upper Egypt, often so crooked that, as Diodorus relates, the miners, provided with lights on their forehead, were always obliged to vary the posture of the body (according to the windings of the galleries); and מעם־גּר , away from him who remains above, shows that one is to imagine these shafts as being of considerable depth,; but what follows even more clearly indicates this: there forgotten ( הנּשׁכּחים with the demonstrative art. as Job 26:5; Psalms 18:31; Psalms 19:11, Ges. §109 ad init.) of (every) foot (that walks above), they hang (comp. Rabb. מדלדּל , pendulus )

(Note: Vid., Luzzatto on Isaiah 18:5, where זלזלים , of the trembling and quivering twigs, is correctly traced to זלל דלל זלל ; on the other hand, Isaiah 14:19, אבני־בור is wrongly translated fundo della fossa , by comparison with Job 28:3. אבן does not signify a shaft, still less the lowest shaft, but stone (rock).)

far from men, hang and swing or are suspended: comp. Pliny, h. n. xxxiii. 4, 21, according to Sillig's text: is qui caedit funibus pendet, ut procul intuenti species no ferarum quidem sed alitum fiat. Pendentes majori ex parte librant et linias itineri praeducunt . דּלל has here the primary signification proper also to the Arab. dll , deorsum pendeere ; and נוּע is related to נוּד , as nuere , νεύειν , to nutare . The מני of מנּי־רגל , taken strictly, does not correspond to the Greek ὑπό , neither does it form an adverbial secondary definition standing by itself: far away from the foot; but it is to be understood as מן is also used elsewhere after נשׁכח , Deuteronomy 31:21; Psalms 31:13: forgotten out of the mouth, out of the heart; here: forgotten away from the foot, so that this advances without knowing that there is a man beneath; therefore: totally vanished from the remembrance of those who pass by above. מאנושׁ is not to be connected with נעוּ (Hahn, Schlottm.), but with דּלּוּ , for Munach is the representative of Rebia mugrasch, according to Psalter, ii. 503, §2; and דלו is regularly Milel, whereas Isaiah 38:14 is Milra without any evident reason. The accentuation here follows no fixed law with equally regulated exceptions (vid., Olsh. §233, c).

Moreover, the perception that Job 28:4 speaks of the shaft of the mine, and the descent of the miners by a rope, is due to modern exegesis; even Schultens, who here exclaims: Cimmeriae tenebrae, quas me exsuperaturum vix sperare ausim , perceived the right thing, but only imperfectly as yet. By נחל he understands the course or vein of the metal, where it is embedded; and, since he understands גר after the Arab. ‛garr , foot of the mountain, he translates: rumpit (homo) alveum de pede montis . Rosenm., on the other hand, correctly translates: canalem deorsum actum ex loco quo versatur homo . Schlottm. understands by gr the miner himself dwelling as a stranger in his loneliness; and if we imagine to ourselves the mining districts of the peninsula of Sinai, we might certainly at once conceive the miners' dwellings themselves which are found in the neighbourhood of the shaft in connection with מעם־גר . But in and for itself גר signifies only those settled (above), without the secondary idea of strangers.

Verses 5-8

5 The earth-from it cometh forth bread,

And beneath it is turned up like fire.

6 The place of the sapphire are its stones,

And it containeth gold ore.

7 The way, that no bird of prey knoweth,

And the eye of the hawk hath not gazed at,

8 Which the proud beast of prey hath not trodden,

Over which the lion hath not walked.

Job 28:5 is not to be construed as Rosenm.: ad terram quod attinet, ex qua egreditur panis, quod subtus est subvertitur quasi igne ; nor with Schlottm.: (they swing) in the earth, out of which comes bread, which beneath one turns about with fire; for Job 28:5 is not formed so that the Waw of ותחתּיה could be Waw apod., and ארץ cannot signify ”in the interior of the earth” as locativus ; on the contrary, it stands in opposition to תחתיה , that which is beneath the earth, as denoting the surface of the earth (the proper name of which is אדמה , from the root דם , with the primary notion of a flat covering). They are two grammatically independent predicates, the first of which is only the foil of the other: the earth, out of it cometh forth bread ( לחם as Psalms 104:14), and beneath it (the surface of the earth) = that which lies beneath it ( ותחתיה only virtually a subj. in the sense of ותחתּיּותיה , since תּחתּי occurs only as a preposition), is turned about (comp. the construction of the sing. of the verb with the plur. subj. Job 30:15) as (by) fire Instar ignis, scil. subvertentis ); i.e., the earth above furnishes nourishment to man, but that not satisfying him, he also digs out its inward parts (comp. Pliny, h. n. xxxiii. proaem.: in sede Manium opes quaerimus, tanquam parum benigna fertilique quaqua calcatur ), since this is turned or tossed about (comp. מהפּכה , the special word for the overthrow of Sodom by fire) by mining work, as when fire breaks out in a house, or even as when a volcanic fire rumbles within a mountain (Castalio: agunt per magna spatia cuniculos et terram subeunt non secus ac ignis facet ut in Aetna et Vesuvio ). The reading במו (Schlottm.) instead of כמו is natural, since fire is really used to blast the rock, and to separate the ore from the stone; but, with the exception of Jerome, who has arbitrarily altered the text ( terra, de qua oriebatur panis in loco suo, igni subversa est ), all the old translations reproduce כמו , which even Nasse, in opposition to von Veltheim, thinks suitable: Man's restless search, which rummages everything through, is compared to the unrestrainable ravaging fire.

Job 28:6 also consists of two grammatically independent assertions: the place (bed) of the sapphire is its rock. Must we refer לו to ספּיר , and translate: “and it contains fine dust of gold” (Hirz., Umbr., Stick., Nasse)? It is possible, for Theophrastus (p. 692, ed. Schneider) says of the sapphire it is ὥσπερ χρυσόπαστος , as it were covered with gold dust or grains of gold; and Pliny, h. n. xxxvii. 9, 38f.: Inest ei (cyano) aliquando et aureus pulvis qualis in sapphiris, in iis enim aurum punctis conlucet , which nevertheless does not hold good of the proper sapphire, but of the azure stone ( lapis lazuli ) which is confounded with it, a variegated species of which, with gold, or rather with iron pyrites glittering like gold, is specially valued.

(Note: Comp. Quenstedt, Handbuch der Mineralogie (1863), S. 355 and 302.)

But Schultens rightly observes: vix cerdiderim, illum auratilem pulvisculum sapphiri peculiari mentione dignum ; and Schlottm.: such a collateral definition to ספיר , expressed in a special clause (not a relative one), has something awkward about it. On the other hand, עפרת זהב is a perfectly suitable appellation of gold ore. “The earth, which is in itself black,” says Diodorus in the passage quoted before, “is interspersed with veins of marble, which is of such pre-eminent whiteness, that its brilliance surpasses everything that glitters, and from it the overseers of the mine prepare gold with a large number of workmen.” And further on, of the heating of this gold ore he says: “the hardest auriferous earth they burn thoroughly in a large fire; thus they make it soft, so that it can be worked by the hand.” עפרת זהב is a still more suitable expression for such auriferous earth and ore than for the nuggets of ἄπυρος χρυσός (i.e., unsmelted) of the size of a chestnut, which, according to Diodorus, ii. 50, are obtained in mines in Arabia ( μεταλλεύεται ). But it is inadmissible to refer לו to man, for the clause would then require to be translated: and gold ore is to him = he has, while it is the rather intended to be said that the interior of the earth has gold ore. לו is therefore, with Hahn and Schlottm., to be referred to מקום : and this place of the sapphire, it contains gold. The poet might have written להּ but לו implies that where the sapphire is found, gold is also found. The following נתיב (with Dechî), together with the following relative clause, is connected with אבניה , or even with מקום , which through Job 28:6 is become the chief subj.: the place of the sapphire and of the gold is the rock of the bowels of the earth, - a way, which, etc., i.e., such a place is the interior of the earth, accessible to no living being of the earth's surface except to man alone. The sight of the bird of prey, the עיט , ἀετός , and of the איּה , i.e., the hawk or kite, reaches from above far and wide beneath;

(Note: The איה - says the Talmud b. Chullin, 63 b - is in Babylon, and seeth a carcase in the land of Israel.)

the sons of pride, שׁחץ (also Talmud. arrogance, ferocia , from שׁחץ = Arab. šachaṣa , to raise one's self, not: fatness, as Meier, after Arab. šachuṣa , to be fat, thick), i.e., the beasts of prey, especially the lion, שׁחל (vid., on Job 4:10, from שׁחל , Arab. sḥl , to roar, Arab. of the ass, comp. the Lat. rudere used both of the lion and of the ass), seek the most secret retreat, and shun no danger; but the way by which man presses forward to the treasures of the earth is imperceptible and inaccessible to them.

Verses 9-12

9 He layeth his hand upon the pebbles;

He turneth up the mountains from the root.

10 He cutteth canals through the rocks;

And his eye seeth all kinds of precious things.

11 That they may not leak, he dammeth up rivers;

And that which is hidden he bringeth to light.

12 But wisdom, whence is it obtained?

And where is the place of understanding?

Beneath, whither no other being of the upper world penetrates, man puts his hand upon the quartz or rock. חלּמישׁ (perhaps from חלם , to be strong, firm: Arabic, with the reduplication resolved, chalnubûs , like עכּבישׁ , Arab. ‛ancabûth , vid., Jesurun, p. 229) signifies here the quartz, and in general the hard stone; שׁלח יד בּ something like our “to take in hand” of an undertaking requiring strong determination and courage, which here consists in blasting and clearing away the rock that contains no ore, as Pliny, h. n. xxxiii. 4, 21, describes it: Occursant ... silices; hos igne et aceto rumpunt, saepius vero, quoniam id cuniculos vapore et fumo strangulat, caedunt fractariis CL libras ferri habentibus egeruntque umeris noctibus ac diebus per tenebras proxumis tradentes; lucem novissimi cernunt . Further: he (man, devoted to mining) overturns ( subvertit according to the primary signification of הפך , Arab. 'fk , 'ft , to turn, twist) mountains from the roots. The accentuation הפך with Rebia mugrasch, משׁרשׁ with Mercha, is false; it is, according to Codd. and old editions, to be accented הפך with Tarcha, משׁרשׁ with Munach, and to be translated accordingly: subvertit a radice montes (for Munach is the transformation of a Rebia mugrasch), not a radice montium . Blasting in mining which lays bare the roots (the lowest parts) of the mountains is intended, the conclusion of which - the signal for the flight of the workmen, and the effective crash - is so graphically described by Pliny in the passage cited above: Peracto opere cervices fornicum ab ultumo cadunt; dat signum ruina eamque solus intellegit in cacumine ejus montis vigil. Hic voce, nutu evocari jubet operas pariterque ipse devolat. Mons fractus cadit ab sese longe fragore qui concipi humana mente non possit eque efflatu incredibili spectant victores ruinam naturae .

The meaning of Job 28:10 depends upon the signification of the יארים . It is certainly the most natural that it should signify canals. The word is Egyptian; aur in the language of the hieroglyphs signifies a river, and especially the Nile; wherefore at the close of the Laterculus of Eratosthenes the name of the king, Φρουορῶ ( Φουορῶ ), is explained by ἤτοι Νεῖλος . If water-canals are intended, they may be either such as go in or come away. In the first case it may mean water let in like a cataract over the ruins of the blasted auriferous rock, the corrugi of Pliny: Alius par labor ac vel majoris impendi: flumina ad lavandam hanc ruinam jugis montium obiter duxere a centesimo plerumque lapide; corrugos vocant, a corrivatione credo; mille et hic labores . But בּקּע is not a suitable word for such an extensive and powerful flooding with water for the purpose of washing the gold. It suits far better to understand the expression of galleries or ways cut horizontally in the rock to carry the water away. Thus von Veltheim explains it: “The miner makes ways through the hard rock into his section in which the perpendicular shaft terminates, guides the water which is found in abundance at that depth through it [i.e., the water as the bottom of the pit that hinders the progress of the work], and is able [thus Job 28:10 naturally is connected with what precedes] to judge of the ore and fragments that are at the bottom, and bring them to the light. This mode of mining by constantly forming one gallery under the other [so that a new gallery is made under the pit that is worked out by extending the shaft, and also freeing this from water by making another outlet below the previous one] is the oldest of all, of which anything certain is known in the history of mining, and the most natural in the days when they had no notion of hydraulics.” This explanation is far more satisfactory than that of Herm. Sam. Reimarus, of the “Wolfenbütteler Fragmente” (in his edition of the Neue Erkl. des B. Hiob, by John Ad. Hoffmann, 1734, iv. S. 772): “ He breaks open watercourses in the rocks. What the miners call coming upon water, is when they break into a fissure from which strong streams of water gush forth. The miner not only knows how to turn such water to good account, but it is also a sign that there are rich veins of ore near at hand, as there is the most water by these courses and fissures. Hence follows: and then his eye sees all kinds of precious things. ” But there is no ground for saying that water indicates rich veins of ore, and בקע is much more appropriate to describe the designed formation of courses to carry off the water than an accidental discovery of water in course of the work; moreover, יארים is as appropriate to the former as it is inappropriate to the latter explanation, for it signifies elsewhere the arms of the Nile, into which the Nile is artificially divided; and therefore it may easily be transferred to the horizontal canals of the mine cut through the hard rock (or through the upper earth). Nevertheless, although the water plays an important part in mining operations, by giving rise to the greatest difficulties, as it frequently happens that a pit is deluged with water, and must be abandoned because no one can get down to it: it is improbable that Job 28:10 as well as Job 28:11 refers to this; we therefore prefer to understand יארים as meaning the (horizontal) courses (galleries or drifts) in which the ore is dug, - a rendering which is all the more possible, since, on the one hand, in Coptic jaro (Sahidic jero ) signifies the Nile of Egypt ( phiaro ente chêmi ); on the other, ior ( eioor ) signifies a ditch, διώρυξ (comp. Isaiah 33:21, יארים , lxx διώρυχες ), vid., Ges. Thes. Thus also Job 28:10 is consistently connected with what precedes, since by cutting these cuniculi the courses of the ore (veins), and any precious stones that may also be embedded there, are laid bare.

Job 28:11

Contrary to the correct indication of the accentuation, Hahn translates: he stops up the droppings of the watercourses; מבּכי has Dechî, and is therefore not to be connected with what follows as a genitive. But Reimarus' translation: from the drops he connects the streams, is inadmissible. “The trickling water,” he observes, “is carefully caught in channels by the miners for use, and is thus brought together from several parts of the reservoir and the water-wheel. What Pliny calls corrugus, corrivatio ,.” On the contrary, Schlottm. remarks that חבשׁ cannot signify such a connection, i.e., gathering together of watercourses; it occurs elsewhere only of hunting, i.e., binding up wounds. Nevertheless, although חבשׁ cannot directly signify “to collect,” the signification coercere (Job 34:17), which is not far from this idea, - as is evident from the Arab. ḥibs ( ḥabs ), a dam or sluice for collecting water, and Arab. maḥbas 'l - mâ' , a reservoir, cistern, - is easily transferable to water, in the sense of binding = catching up and accumulating. But it is contrary to the form of the expression that מבכי , with this use of חבש , should denote the materia ex qua , and that נהרות should be referred to the miry ditches in which “the crushed ore is washed, for the purpose of separating the good from the worthless.” On the contrary, from the form of the expression, it is to be translated: a fletu (not e fletu ) flumina obligat , whether it be that a fletu is equivalent to ne flent s. stillent (Simeon Duran: שׁלא יזלו ), or obligat equivalent to cohibet (Ralbag: מהזּלה ). Thus von Veltheim explains the passage, since he here, as in Job 28:10, understands the channels for carrying off the water. “The miner covers the bottom with mire, and fills up the crevices so exactly i.e., he besmears it, where the channel is broken through, with some water-tight substance, e.g., clay, that it may entirely carry off the water that is caught by it out of the pit in which the shaft terminates, and not let it fall through the fissures crevices to the company of miners below to the vein that lies farther down; then the miner can descend still deeper since the water runs outwards and does not soak through, and bring forth the ore that lies below the channel.” This explanation overlooks the fact that יארים is used in Job 28:10, whereas Job 28:11 has נהרות . It is not probable that these are only interchangeable expressions for the channels that carry off the water. יארים is an appropriate expression for it, but not נהרות , which as appropriately describes the conflux of water in the mine itself.

The meaning of Job 28:11 is, that he (the miner) binds or stops the watercourses which his working out of the pit has interfered with and injured, so that they may not leak, i.e., that they may not in the least ooze through, whether by building up a wall or by collecting the water that streams forth in reservoirs (Arab. mahbas ) or in the channels which carry it outwards, - all these modes of draining off the water may be included in Job 28:11, only the channel itself is not, with von Veltheim, to be understood by נהרות , but the concourse of the water which, in one way or the other, is rendered harmless to the pit-work, so that he (the miner), as Job 28:11 says, can bring to light ( &#אור לאור ) whatever precious things the bowels of the earth conceals ( תּעלמהּ , according to Kimchi and others, with euphonic Mappik, as according to the Masora כבכורהּ Isaiah 28:4, גשׁמהּ Ezekiel 22:24, and also וגלהּ Zechariah 4:2, only לתפארת הקריאה ולא לכינוי , i.e., they have Mappik only for euphony, not as the expression of the suff.).

Job 28:12

With the question in Job 28:12 the description of mining attains the end designed: man can search after and find out silver, gold, and others metals and precious stones, by making the foundations of the earth accessible to him; but wisdom, whence shall be obtain it, and which ( ואי־זה , according to another reading ואיזה ) is the place of understanding? החכמה has the art. to give prominence to its transcendency over the other attainable things. חכמה is the principal name, and בּינה interchanges with it, as תּבוּנה , Proverbs 8:1, and other synonyms in which the Chokma literature abounds elsewhere in Prov 1-9. בינה is properly the faculty of seeing through that which is distinguishable, consisting of the possession of the right criteria; חכמה , however, is the perception, in general, of things in their true nature and their final causes.

Verses 13-16

13 A mortal knoweth not its price,

And it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The abyss saith: It is not in me,

And the sea saith: It is not with me.

15 Pure gold cannot be given for it,

And silver cannot be weighed as its price;

16 And it is not outweighed with fine gold of Ophir,

With the precious onyx and the sapphire.

It is self-evident that wisdom is found nowhere directly present and within a limited space, as at the bottom of the sea, and cannot be obtained by a direct exchange by means of earthly treasures. It is, moreover, not this self-evident fact that is denied here; but the meaning is, that even if a man should search in every direction through the land of the living, i.e., (as e.g., Psalms 52:7) the world - if he should search through the תּהום , i.e., the subterranean waters that feed the visible waters (vid., Gen. 39:25) - if he should search through the sea, the largest bounded expanse of this water that wells up from beneath - yea, even if he would offer all riches and precious things to put himself in possession of the means and instruments for the acquirement of wisdom, - wisdom, i.e., the profoundest perception of the nature of things, would still be beyond him, and unattainable. ערך , Job 28:13, an equivalent (from ערך , to range beside, to place at the side of), interchanges with מחיר (from מחר , cogn. &#מהר מכר , mercari ). סגור is זהב סגוּר , 1 Kings 6:20 and freq., which hardly signifies gold shut up = carefully preserved, rather: closed = compressed, unmixed; Targ. דּהב סנין , aurum colatum ( purgatum ). Ewald compares Arab. sajara , to seethe, heat; therefore: heated, gained by smelting. On the other hand, כּתם from כתם , Arab. ktm , occulere , seems originally to denote that which is precious, then precious gold in particular, lxx χρυσίῳ Ωφείρ , Cod. Vat. and Cod. Sinaiticus, Σωφίρ (Egyptized by prefixing the Egyptian sa , part, district, side, whence e.g., sa - rees , the upper country, and sa - heet , the lower country, therefore = sa - ofir , land of Ophir). שׁהם is translated here by the lxx ὄνυξ (elsewhere σαρδόνυξ or σάρδιος ), of which Pliny, h. n. xxxvii. 6, 24, appealing to Sudeines, says, in gemma esse candorem unguis humanii similitudinem ; wherefore Knobel, Rödiger, and others, compare the Arab. sâhim , which, however, does not signify pale, but lean, and parched by the heat, with which, in hot countries at least, not pallor, but, on the contrary, a dark brown-black colour, is identified (Fl.). Arab. musahham , striped (Mich.), would be more appropriate, since the onyx is marked through by white veins; but this is a denom. from sahm , a dart, prop. darted, and is therefore wide of the mark. On the etymology of ספּיר , vid., Jesurun, p. 61. Nevertheless both שׁהם and ספּיר are perhaps foreign names, as the name of the emerald (vid., ib. p. 108), which is Indian (Sanskr. marakata , or even marakta ); and, on the other hand, it is called in hieroglyph (determined by the stone) uot, the green stone (in Coptic p. auannēse , the green colour) (Lauth).

The transcendent excellence of wisdom above the most precious earthly treasures, which the author of the introduction to the book of Proverbs briefly describes, Job 3:14, is now drawn out in detail.

Verses 17-20

17 Gold and glass are not equal to it,

Nor is it exchanged for jewels of gold.

18 Pearls and crystal are not to be mentioned,

And the acquisition of wisdom is beyond corals.

19 The topaz of Ethiopia is not equal to it,

It is not outweighed by pure fine gold.

20 Whence, then, cometh wisdom,

And which is the place of understanding?

Among the separate חפצים , Proverbs 3:15, which are here detailed, apart from זהב , glass has the transparent name זכוּכית , or, as it is pointed in Codd., in old editions, and by Kimchi, זכוכית , with Cholem (in the dialects with ג instead of ) כ . Symm. indeed translates crystal, and in fact the ancient languages have common names for glass and crystal; but the crystal is here called זכוּבישׁ , which signifies prop., like the Arab. 'gibs , ice ; κρύσταλλος also signifies prop. ice, and this only in Homer, then crystal, exactly as the cognate קרח unites both significations in itself. The reason of this homonymy lies deeper than in the outward similarity, - the ancients really thought the crystal was a product of the cold; Pliny, xxxvii. 2, 9, says: non alibi certe reperitur quam ubi maxume hibernae nives rigent, glaciemque esse certum est, unde nomen Graeci dedere . The Targ. translates גבישׁ by פּנינים , certainly in the sense of the Arabico-Persic bullûr ( bulûr ), which signifies crystal, or even glass, and moreover is the primary word for βήρυλλος , although the identical Sanskrit word, according to the laws of sound, vaidurja (Pali, velurija ), is, according to the lexicons, a name of the lapis lazuli (Persic, lagurd ). Of the two words ראמות and פּננים , the one appears to mean pearls and the other corals; the ancient appellations of these precious things which belong to the sea are also blended; the Persic mergân (Sanskr. mangara ) unites the signification pearl and coral in itself. The root פן , Arab. f n , which has the primary notion of pushing, especially of vegetation (whence Arab. fann , a branch, shoot, prop. motion; French, jet ), and Lamentations 4:7, where snow and milk, as figures of whiteness (purity), are placed in contrast with פנינים as a figure of redness, favour the signification corals for פנינים . The Coptic be nôni , which signifies gemma , favours (so far as it may be compared) corals rather than pearls. And the fact that ראמות , Ezekiel 27:16, appears as an Aramaean article of commerce in the market of Tyre, is more favourable to the signification pearls than corals; for the Babylonians sailed far into the Indian Ocean, and brought pearls from the fisheries of Bahrein, perhaps even from Ceylon, into the home markets (vid., Layard, New Discoveries, 536). The name is perhaps, from the Western Asiatic name of the pearl,

(Note: Vid., Zeitschr. für d. Kunde des Morgenlandes, iv. 40f. The recently attempted explanation of κοράλλιον from גּורל (to which κλῆρος the rather belongs), in the primary signification lappillus (Arab. ‛garal ), is without support.)

mutilated and Hebraized.

(Note: Two reasons for פנינים = pearls (in favour of which Bochart compares the name of the pearl-oyster, πίννα ) and ראמות = corals, which are maintained by Carey, are worthy of remark. (1.) That פנינים does not signify corals, he infers from Lamentations 4:7, for the redness of corals cannot be a mark of bodily beauty; “but when I find that there are some pearls of a slightly reddish tinge, then I can understand and appreciate the comparison.” (2.) That ראמות signifies corals, is shown by the origin of the word, which properly signifies reêm -(wild oxen) horns, which is favoured by a mention of Pliny, h. n. xiii. 51: ( Tradidere ) juncos quoque lapideos perquam similes veris per litora, et in alto quasdam arbusculas colore bubuli cornus ramosas et cacuminibus rubentes . Although Pliny there speaks of marine petrified plants of the Indian Ocean (not, at least in his sense, of corals), this hint of a possible derivation of ראמות is certainly surprising. But as to Lamentations 4:7, this passage is to be understood according to Song of Solomon 5:10 (my friend is צח ואדום ). The white and red are intended to be conceived of as mixed and overlapping one another, as our Germ. popular poetry speaks of cheeks which “shine with milk and purple;” and as in Homer, Il. iv. 141-146, the colour of the beautifully formed limbs of Menelaus is represented by the figure (which appears hideous to us): ὡς δ ̓ ὅτε τίς τ ̓ ἐλέφαντα γυνὴ φοίνικι μιήνͅ (ebony stained with purple).)

The name of the פּטדּה of Ethiopia appears to be derived from to'paz by transposition; Pliny says of the topaz, xxxvii. 8, 32, among other passages; Juba Topazum insulam in rubro mari a continenti stadiis CCC abesse dicit, nebulosam et ideo quaesitam saepius navigantibus; ex ea causa nomen accepisse: topazin enim Troglodytarum lingua significationem habere quaerendi . This topaz, however, which is said to be named after an island of the same name, the Isle of Serpents in Agatharchides and Diodorus, is, according to Pliny, yellowish green, and therefore distinct from the otherwise so-called topaz. To make a candid confession, we grope about everywhere in the dark here, and the ancient versions are not able to help us out of our difficulty.

(Note: The Targ. translates שׁהם by פּנינים , βήρυλλος ; ספיר by שׁבזיזא (Arab. sbz, vid., Pott in the Zeitschr.f. K. d. M. iv. 275); פז by אובריזין , ὄβρυζον ; ראמות by סנדלכין , σανδαράχη , red gold-pigment (vid., Rödiger-Pott, as just quoted, S. 267); גבישׁ again by בּירוּלין in the sense of the Arabico-Persic bullûr , Kurd. bellûr , crystal; פנינים by מרגלין , μαργαρῖται ; פטדה by מרגּלא ירקא (the green pearl); כתם by פטלון (perhaps פּטלון , πέταλον , in the sense of lamina auri ).)

The poet lays everything under contribution to illustrate the thought, that the worth of wisdom exceeds the worth of the most valuable earthly thing; besides which, in משׁך חכמה מפנינים , “the acquisition or possession (from משׁך , Arab. msk , to draw to one's self, to take hold of) of wisdom is above corals,” there is an indication that, although not by the precious things of the earth, still in some way or other, wisdom can be possessed, so that consequently the question repeated at the end of the strophe will not remain unanswered. This is its meaning: now if wisdom is not to be found in any of the places named, and is not to be attained by any of the means mentioned, whence can man hope to attain it, and whither must he turn to find it? for its existence is certain, and it is an indisputable need of man that he should partake of it.

Verses 21-24

21 It is veiled from the eyes of all living,

And concealed from the fowls of heaven.

22 Destruction and death say:

With our ears we heard a report of it. -

23 Elohim understandeth the way to it,

And He - He knoweth its place.

24 For He looketh to the ends of the earth,

Under the whole heaven He seeth.

No living created being ( כּל־חי , as Job 12:10; Job 30:23) is able to answer the question; even the birds that fly aloft, that have keener and farther-seeing eyes than man, can give us no information concerning wisdom; and the world at least proclaims its existence in a rich variety of its operations, but in the realm of Abaddon and of death below (comp. the combination שׁאול ואבדון , Proverbs 15:11, ᾅδου καὶ τοῦ θανάτου , Revelation 1:18) it is known only by an indistinct hearsay, and from confused impressions. Therefore: no creature, whether in the realm of the living or the dead, can help us to get wisdom. There is but One who possesses a perfect knowledge concerning wisdom, namely Elohim, whose gave extends to the ends of the earth, and who sees under the whole heaven, i.e., is everywhere present ( תּחת , definition of place, not equivalent to אשׁר תּחת ; comp. on Job 24:9), who therefore, after the removal of everything earthly (sub-celestial), alone remains. And why should He with His knowledge, which embraces everything, not also know the way and place of wisdom? Wisdom is indeed the ideal, according to which He has created the world.

Verses 25-28

25 When He appointed to the wind its weight,

And weighed the water according to a measure,

26 When He appointed to the rain its law,

And the course to the lightning of the thunder:

27 Then He saw it and declared it,

Took it as a pattern and tested it also,

28 And said to man: Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom,

And to depart from evil is understanding.

It is impracticable to attach the inf. לעשׂות to Job 28:24 as the purpose, because it is contrary to the meaning; but it is impossible, according to the syntax, to refer it to Job 28:27 as the purpose placed in advance, or to take it in the sense of perfecturus , because in both instances it ought to have been יתכּן instead of תּכּן , or at least ותכּן with the verb placed first (vid., Job 37:15). But even the temporal use of ל in לפנות at the turn (of morning, of evening, e.g., Genesis 24:63) cannot be compared, but לעשׂות signifies perficiendo = quum perficeret (as e.g., 2 Samuel 18:29, mittendo = quum mitteret ), it is a gerundival inf. Nägelsb. S. 197f., 2nd edition); and because it is the past that is spoken of, the modal inf. can be continued in the perf., Ges. §132, rem. 2. The thought that God, when He created the world, appointed fixed laws of equable and salutary duration, he particularizes by examples: He appointed to the wind its weight, i.e., the measure of its force or feebleness; distributed the masses of water by measure; appointed to the rain its law, i.e., the conditions of its development and of its beginning; appointed the way, i.e., origin and course, to the lightning ( חזיז from חזז , Arab. ḥzz , secare ). When He thus created the world, and regulated what was created by laws, then He perceived ( ראהּ with He Mappic. according to the testimony of the Masora) it, wisdom, viz., as the ideal of all things; then He declared it, enarravit, viz., by creating the world, which is the development and realization of its substance; then He gave it a place הכינהּ (for which Döderl. and Ewald unnecessarily read הבינהּ ), viz., to create the world after its pattern, and to commit the arrangement of the world as a whole to its supreme protection and guidance; then He also searched it out or tested it, viz., its demiurgic powers, by setting them in motion to realize itself.

If we compare Proverbs 8:22-31 with this passage, we may say: the חכמה is the divine ideal-world, the divine imagination of all things before their creation, the complex unity of all the ideas, which are the essence of created things and the end of their development. “Wisdom,” says one of the old theologians,

(Note: Vid., Jul. Hamberger, Lehre Jak. Böhme's, S. 55.)

“is a divine imagination, in which the ideas of the angels and souls and all things were seen from eternity, not as already actual creatures, but as a man beholds himself in a mirror.” It is not directly one with the Logos, but the Logos is the demiurg by which God has called the world into existence according to that ideal which was in the divine mind. Wisdom is the impersonal model, the Logos the personal master-builder according to that model. Nevertheless the notions, here or in the alter cognate portion of Scripture, Proverbs 8:22-31, are not as yet so distinct as the New Testament revelation of God has first of all rendered possible. In those days, when God realized the substance of the חכמה , this eternal mirror of the world, in the creation of the world, He also gave man the law, corresponding to which he corresponds to His idea and participates in wisdom. Fearing the supreme Lord ( אדני ) only here in the book of Job, one of the 134 ודאין , i.e., passages, where אדני is not merely to be read instead of יהוה , but is actually written),

(Note: Vid., Buxtorf's Tiberias, p. 245; comp. Bär's Psalterium, p. 133.)

and renouncing evil ( סוּר מרע , according to another less authorized mode of writing מרע ), - this is man's share of wisdom, this is his relative wisdom, by which he remains in connection with the absolute. This is true human φιλοσοφία , in contrast to all high-flown and profound speculations; comp. Proverbs 3:7, where, in like manner, “fear Jehovah” is placed side by side with “depart from evil,” and Proverbs 16:6, according to which it is rendered possible סור מרע , to escape the evil of sin and its punishment by fearing God. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; comp. Psalms 111:10) is the symbolum , the motto and uppermost principle, of that Israelitish Chokma, whose greatest achievement is the book of Job. The whole of Job 28:1 is a minute panegyric of this principle, the materials of which are taken from the far-distant past; and it is very characteristic, that, in the structure of the book, this twenty-eighth chapter is the clasp which unites the half of the δέσις with the half of the λύσις , and that the poet has inscribed upon this clasp that sentence, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” But, moreover, Job's closing speech, which ends in this celebration of the praise of the חכמה , also occupies an important position, which must not be determined, in the structure of the whole.

After Job has refuted Bildad, and, continuing his description, has celebrated in such lofty strains the majesty of God, it can hardly be expected that the poet will allow Zophar to speak fore the third time. Bildad is unable to advance anything new, and Zophar has already tried his utmost to terrify Job for the second time; besides, Job's speech furnishes no material for a reply (a motive which is generally overlooked), unless the controversy were designed to ramble on into mere personalities. Accordingly the poet allows Job to address the friends once more, but no longer in the extreme and excited tone of the previous dialogue, but, since the silence of the friends must produce a soothing impression on Job, tempering him to gentleness and forbearance, in a tone of confession conscious of victory, yet altogether devoid of haughty triumph, - a confession in which only one single word of reproach ( Job 27:12) escapes him. Job 27:1 contain this confession - Job's final address to his friends.

Job once again most solemnly asserts his innocence before the friends; all attempts on the part of the friends to entice or to extort from him a confession which is against his conscience, have therefore been in vain: joyous and victorious he raises his head, invincible, even to death, in the conviction of that which is a fact of his consciousness that cannot be got rid of by denial. He is not an evil-doer; accordingly he must stand convicted as an evil-doer who treats him as such. For although he is not far from death, and is in sore vexation, he has not manifested the hopelessness and defection from God in which the evil-doer passes away. Job has indeed even expressed himself despondingly, and complained of God's wrath; but the true essence of his relation to God came to light in such words as Job 16:19-21; Job 17:9; Job 19:25-27. If the friends had not been blind to such brilliant aspirations of his life in God, how could they regard him as a godless man, and his affliction as the punishment of such an one! His affliction has, indeed, no connection with the terrible end of the evil-doer. Job here comes before the friends with the very doctrine they have so frequently advanced, but infatuated with the foolish notion that it is suited to his case. He here gives it back to them, to show them that it is not suited to him. He also does not deny, that in the rule the evil-doer meets a terrible end, although he has hitherto disputed the assertion of the friends, because of the exclusiveness with which it was maintained by them. His counter-assertion respecting the prosperity of the evil-doer, which from the beginning was not meant by him so exclusively as the friends meant theirs respecting the misfortune of the evil-doer, is here indirectly freed from the extreme appearance of exclusiveness by Job himself, and receives the necessary modification. Job does not deny, yea, he here brings it under the notice of the friends, that the sword, famine, and pestilence carry off the descendants of the evil-doer, and even himself; that his possessions at length fall into the hands of the righteous, and contain within themselves the germ of destruction from the very first; that God's curse pursues, and suddenly destroys, the godless rich man himself. Thus it comes to pass; for while silver and other precious things come from the depths of the earth, wisdom, whose worth far transcends all earthly treasures, is to be found with no created being, but is with God alone; and the fear of God, to avoid evil, is the share of wisdom to which man is directed according to God's primeval decree.

The object of the section, Job 28:1, is primarily to confirm the assertion concerning the judgment that befalls the evil-doer, Job 27:13-23; the confirmation is, however, at the same time, according to the delicately laid plan of the poet, a glorious general confession, in which Job's dialogue with the friends comes to a close. This panegyric of wisdom (similar to Paul's panegyric of charity, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) is the presentation of Job's predominant principle, and as such, is like a song of triumph, with which, without vain-glory, he closes the dialogue in the most appropriate manner. If God's life has such a basis, it is not possible that his affliction should be the punishment of an ungodly man. And if the fear of God is the wisdom appointed to man, he also teaches himself that, though unable to see through the mystery of his affliction, he must still hold on to the fear of God, and teaches the friends that they must do the same, and not lay themselves open to the charge of injustice and uncharitableness towards him, the suffering one, in order to solve the mystery. Job's conclusion, which is first intended to show that he who does not fear God is overtaken by the merited fate of a fool who rebels against God's moral government, shows at the same time that the afflictive lot of those who fear God must be judged of in an essentially different manner from that of the ungodly.

We may imagine what impression these last words of Job to the friends must have made upon them. Since they were obliged to be silent, they will not have admitted that they are vanquished, although the drying up of their thoughts, and their involuntary silence, is an actual proof of it. But does Job make them feel this oppressively? Now that they are become so insignificant, does he read them a severe lecture? does he in general act towards them as vanquished? No indeed, but solemnly, and without vaunting himself over his accusers, he affirms his innocence; earnestly, but in a winning manner, he admonishes them, by tempering and modifying what was vehement and extreme in his previous replies. He humbly submits himself to the divine wisdom, by setting the fear of God, as man's true wisdom, before himself and the friends as their common aim. Thus he utters “the loftiest words, which must surprise the opponents as they exhibit him as the not merely mighty, but also wonderfully calm and modest conqueror, who here for the first time wears the crown of true victory, when, in outward victory conquering himself, he struggles on towards a more exalted clearness of perception.”

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 28". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.