Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.
Job 28:1-28. Job's Speech Continued.
In the twenty-seventh chapter 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 (Job 28:12, &c.). However, the image from the same metals (Job 23:10) implies Job has made some way towards solving the riddle of his life; namely, that affliction is to him as the refining fire is to gold.
1. vein—a mine, from which it goes forth, Hebrew, "is dug."
place for gold—a place where gold may be found, which men refine. Not as English Version, "A place—where," (Mal 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.
Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.
2. brass—that is, copper; for brass is a mixed metal of copper and zinc, of modern invention. Iron is less easily discovered, and wrought, than copper; therefore copper was in common use long before iron. Copper-stone is called "cadmium" 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.
He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.
3. "Man makes an end of darkness," by exploring the darkest depths (with torches).
all perfection—rather, carries out his search to the utmost perfection; most thoroughly searches the stones of darkness and of the shadow of death (thickest gloom); that is, the stones, whatever they be, embedded in the darkest bowels of the earth [Umbreit] (Job 26:10).
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.
4. Three hardships in mining: 1. "A stream (flood) breaks out at the side of the stranger"; namely, the miner, a strange newcomer into places heretofore unexplored; his surprise at the sudden stream breaking out beside him is expressed (English Version, "from the inhabitant"). 2. "Forgotten (unsupported) by the foot they hang," namely, by ropes, in descending. In the Hebrew, "Lo there" precedes this clause, graphically placing it as if before the eyes. "The waters" is inserted by English Version. "Are dried up," ought to be, "hang," "are suspended." 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, &c., 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" [Umbreit].
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.
5. Its fertile surface yields food; and yet "beneath it is turned up as it were with 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]. English Version is simpler, which means precious stones which glow like fire; and so Job 28:6 follows naturally (Eze 28:14).
The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.
6. 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; that is, lapis lazuli. To the latter, looking like gold dust, Umbreit refers "dust of gold." English Version better, "The stones of the earth are, &c., and the clods of it (Vulgate) are gold"; the parallel clauses are thus neater.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
7. fowl—rather, "ravenous bird," or "eagle," which is the most sharp-sighted of birds (Isa 46:11). A vulture will spy a carcass at an amazing distance. The miner penetrates the earth by a way unseen by birds of keenest sight.
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.
8. lion's whelps—literally, "the sons of pride," that is, the fiercest beasts.
passed—The Hebrew implies the proud gait of the lion. The miner ventures where not even the fierce lion dares to go in pursuit of his prey.
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
9. rock—flint. He puts forth his hand to cleave the hardest rock.
by the roots—from their foundations, by undermining them.
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.
10. He cuts channels to drain off the waters, which hinder his mining; and when the waters are gone, he he is able to see the precious things in the earth.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.
11. floods—"He restrains the streams from weeping"; 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.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?
12. 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 Pr 8:23, 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.
Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.
13. Man can fix no price upon it, as it is nowhere to be found in man's abode (Isa 38:11). Job implies both its valuable worth, and the impossibility of buying it at any price.
The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.
It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
15. Not the usual word for "gold"; from a Hebrew root, "to shut up" with care; that is, purest gold (1Ki 6:20, Margin).
weighed—The precious metals were weighed out before coining was known (Ge 23:16).
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.
16. gold of Ophir—the most precious (See on Job 22:24 and Ps 45:9).
onyx—(Ge 2:12). More valued formerly than now. The term is Greek, meaning "thumb nail," from some resemblance in color. The Arabic denotes, of two colors, white preponderating.
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.
17. crystal—Or else glass, if then known, very costly. From a root, "to be transparent."
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
18. Red coral (Eze 27:16).
pearls—literally, "what is frozen." Probably crystal; and Job 28:17 will then be glass.
rubies—Umbreit translates "pearls" (see La 4:1; Pr 3:15). The Urim and Thummim, the means of consulting God by the twelve stones on the high priest's breastplate, "the stones of the sanctuary" (La 4:1), have their counterpart in this chapter; the precious stones symbolizing the "light" and "perfection" of the divine wisdom.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
19. Ethiopia—Cush in the Hebrew. Either Ethiopia, or the south of Arabia, near the Tigris.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
20. Job 28:12 repeated with great force.
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.
21. None can tell whence or where, seeing it, &c.
fowls—The gift of divination was assigned by the heathen 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 (Ec 10:20). But it may merely mean, as in Job 28:7, It escapes the eye of the most keen-sighted bird.
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.
22. That is, the abodes of destruction and of the dead. "Death" put for Sheol (Job 30:23; 26:6; Ps 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 (Ec 9:10).
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.
23. God hath, and is Himself, wisdom.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
24. "Seeth (all that is) under," &c.
To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.
25. 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 counsellor (Pr 8:27-31; Isa 40:12).
When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:
26. 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; Zec 10:1).
Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.
27. declare—manifest her, namely, in His works (Ps 19:1, 2). So the approval bestowed by the Creator on His works (Ge 1:10, 31); compare the "rejoicing" of wisdom at the same (Pr 8:30; which Umbreit translates; "I was the skilful artificer by His side").
prepared—not created, for wisdom is from everlasting (Pr 8:22-31); 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].
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
28. Rather, "But unto man," &c. 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; for example, in afflicting the godly (Joh 7:17). The friends, therefore, as not comprehending the Divine Wisdom, should not infer Job's guilt from his sufferings. Here alone in Job the name of God, Adonai, occurs; "Lord" or "master," often applied to Messiah in Old Testament. Appropriately here, in speaking of the Word or Wisdom, by whom the world was made (Pr 8:22-31; Joh 1:3; Ecclesiasticus 24:1-34).