Matthew Poole's Commentary
Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.The power and wisdom of God in his works of nature, Job 28:1-11. A knowledge and wisdom answering this is not found in man, nor to be bought or acquired, Job 28:12-21. Death and destruction make their report of it, Job 28:22. It is only in God, Job 28:23-27. Man’s wisdom is to fear God, Job 28:28.
There is a vein for the silver; where it is hid by God, and found and fetched out by the art and industry of man. The connexion of this chapter with the former is difficult, and diversly apprehended; but this may seem to be the fairest account of it: Job having in the last chapter discoursed of God’s various providences and carriages towards wicked men, and showed that God doth sometimes for a season give them wealth and prosperity, but afterwards calls them to a sad account, and punisheth them severely for their abuse of his mercies; and having formerly showed that God doth sometimes prosper the wicked all their days, so as they live and die without any visible token of God’s displeasure against them, when, on the contrary, good men are exercised with many and grievous calamities; and perceiving that his friends were, as men in all ages have been, scandalized at these methods of Divine Providence, and denied the thing, because they could not understand the reason of such unequal dispensations: in this chapter he declares that this is one of the depths and secrets of Divine Wisdom, not discoverable by any mortal man in this world; and that although men had some degree of wisdom whereby they could dig deep, and search out many hidden things, as the veins of silver, gold, &c., yet this was a wisdom of a higher nature, and out of man’s reach. And hereby he secretly checks the arrogance and confidence of his friends, who, because they had some parts of wisdom, the knowledge of natural things, such as are here contained, and of human affairs, and of some Divine matters, therefore presumed to fathom the depths of God’s wisdom and providence, and to judge of all God’s ways and works by the scantling of their own narrow understandings. Possibly it may be connected thus: Job having been discoursing of the wonderful ways of God, both in the works of nature, Job 26:5-14, and in his providential dispensations towards wicked men, Job 27:13-23 to the end, he here returns to the first branch of his discourse, and discovers more of God’s wisdom and power in natural things. And this he doth partly, that by this manifestation of his singular skill in the ways and actions of God, he might vindicate himself from that contempt which they seemed to have of him, and oblige them to hear what he had further to say with more attention and consideration; and partly that by this representation of the manifold wisdom and power of God, they might be wrought to a greater reverence for God and for his works, and not presume to judge so rashly and boldly of them, and to condemn what they did not understand in them.
Where they fine it; or rather, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, which they, to wit, the refiners, do fine. For he speaks not here of the works of men and of art, but of God and of nature, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words.
Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.Iron is taken out of the earth; being made of earth, concocted by the heat of the sun into that hardness, and by miners digged out of the earth.
Brass; or, copper.
Is molten out of the stone, wherewith it is mixed and incorporated in the earth, and by fire and the art of the metallist it is separated from it, and taken out of it, as Pliny observes, Job 34:1,10 36:27.
He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.He; either,
1. Man, the miner; or,
2. God, of whose works of nature he here speaks; or,
3. God as the chief author and director, and man as God’s instrument in the work.
An end; or, a bound, how far the darkness shall reach, and how far the dark and hidden parts and treasures of the earth shall be searched, and discovered, and brought to light.
All perfection, i.e. metals and minerals, which are nothing else but earth concocted, and hardened, and brought to maturity and perfection. Or, unto all perfection, i.e. he perfectly and exactly searcheth them out; although the Hebrew lamed may be here only a note of the accusative case, as our translation takes it.
The stones; either gems and precious stones, which are called by this word, Proverbs 26:8; or those stones out of which the metals forementioned are taken.
Of darkness, and the shadow of death; which lie hid in the dark and deadly shades and bowels of the earth.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.This verse speaks either,
1. Of another great and remarkable work of God, whereby in some places either new rivers break forth, or old rivers break in upon the inhabitants, and drive them away; and in other places rivers or other waters are dried up, or derived into other channels or grounds, by which means these lands are rendered more useful and fruitful. Or rather,
2. Of an accident which commonly happens in mines, where, whilst men are digging, a flood of waters breaks in suddenly and violently upon them, and disturbs them in their work.
From the inhabitant, Heb.
from with the inhabitant, i.e. out of that part of the earth which the miners in a manner inhabit, or where they have their fixed abode, and for the most part dwell. Or, so that there is no inhabitant or abider, i.e. so that the miners dare continue there no longer, but are forced to come away.
Even the waters; which word is easily and fitly understood out of the foregoing word flood. Or without this supplement, the flood may be said to be forgotten, &c., that singular word being collectively taken, and so conveniently joined with this word of the plural number.
Forgotten of the foot, i.e. untrodden by the foot of man, such waters as men either never did pass over, by reason of their depth, cannot pass over; or such as though the miners at first for a while did pass over, yet now cannot, or dare not, do so any more. Forgetfulness is here ascribed to the foot, as it is to the hand, Psalm 137:5; and it is put for ignorance or unacquaintedness; as all sinners are said to forget God, though many of them never remembered nor minded him.
They are dried up, they are gone away from men; Heb.
they are dried up (or drawn up, to wit, by engines made for that purpose) from men, (i.e. from the miners, that they may not be hindered in their work. Or, with or by men, the prefix mem being oft put for beth, i.e. by the labour of men,) they remove or vanish, or pass away, and so the miners return to their work.
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.Out of it; out of the upper parts of the earth. Bread; bread-corn, or other food for man’s use.
Under it; either,
1. Under the same earth, which either at the same time yields bread out of its upper, and fire out of its lower parts; or at several times; that earth which once was fruitful becoming, by the disposition of Divine Providence, barren and sulphureous, &c. Or,
2. Under other parts of the earth.
Is turned up, i.e. is digged out and fetched up.
As it were fire; either gold and precious stones, which glitter and sparkle like fire; or coals, and brimstone, and other materials of fire.
The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.The place of sapphires, i.e. of precious stones; the sapphire, as one of the most eminent, being put for all the rest. In some parts of the earth the sapphires are mixed with stones, and cut out of them and polished. Of this stone, see Exodus 24:10 Song of Solomon 5:14 Lamentations 4:7 Ezekiel 1:26.
It hath, i.e. the earth containeth in or under it.
Dust of gold; which is a distinct thing from that gold which is found in the mass or lump, of which Job 28:2; both sorts of gold being found in the earth.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:A path, to wit, in the dark depths and bowels of the earth. The vulture; whose eye is very quick and strong, and which searcheth all places for its prey, but cannot reach to these places, which yet the wisdom of man by the direction of God’s providence findeth out.
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.The lion’s whelps, Heb. the sons of pride; a fit name for lions, which are lofty and stately creatures, despising both men and all other beasts that oppose them.
The fierce lion; which rangeth all places for prey, and findeth out the deepest dens and caves of the earth. The birds and beasts have ofttimes led men to such places as otherwise they should never have found out; but they could not lead men to these mines; but the finding out of them is a special gift of God, and an act of that wisdom which he hath put into man.
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.This and the two next verses are meant either,
1. Of other eminent and considerable works of God, who sometimes overturneth rocks, and produceth new rivers in unlikely places. Or rather,
2. Of the same work of mining and digging for gold, or other precious things of the earth, and of other effects of man’s art and wisdom in that work. The miners resolve to break through all opposition, and by iron tools, or fire, or other ways, dig through the hardest rocks. He undermineth the very mountains to find out the metals lying at the bottom of them.
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.He maketh channels among the rocks to convey away that water which was breaking in upon him, and if not thus diverted, would have spoiled his work; of which See Poole "Job 28:4". Having with great art and indefatigable industry broke through all difficulties, he at last arriveth at his end, and finds out those precious treasures which he sought for.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.He restraineth
the floods, and as it were bindeth them to their good behaviour, that they may not overflow the mine; and those metals which did lie hid in the secret parts of the earth, he discovers to himself and others.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?Wisdom, Heb. that wisdom; for here is an article which seems to be emphatical. The sense is, I confess that man hath one kind of wisdom in a great measure, to wit, to discover the works of nature, and to perform the operations of art; but as for that sublime and eminent wisdom, which consists in the exact knowledge of all God’s counsels and ways, and of the several manners and reasons of his governing the world, and dealing with good and bad men, this is far above man’s reach, and is the prerogative of God alone.
Where is the place of understanding? there is no vein for that upon the earth, as there is for gold or silver.
Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.Man knoweth neither where to purchase it, nor how much it is worth, nor what to offer in exchange for it.
In the land of the living; amongst mortal men that live upon earth, but only amongst those blessed spirits that dwell above.
The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.The depth, to wit, of the earth, because the sea here follows as a differing place. This is a very common figure, whereby speech is ascribed to dumb and senseless creatures. The meaning is, This is not to be found in any part of the land or sea, yea, though a man should dig or dive never so deep to find it, nor to be learned from any creatures; for though these discover the being, and power, and in part the wisdom of God, yet they do not instruct us in the methods and grounds of God’s providential dispensations to good and evil men: these are secrets of wisdom reserved for God himself.
It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.For gold; the choicest gold laid up in treasures, as the word signifies. Weighed, to wit, in the balance; for in those times money was paid by weight, not by tale. See Genesis 23:16 Jeremiah 23:9,10.
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.The gold of Ophir was the best sort of gold. See Poole "1 Kings 9:28", See Poole "Job 22:24". Onyx, or sardonyx. See Poole "Exodus 28:20".
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.The crystal; or, amber, which in those parts was of very great price; or, the diamond. The Hebrew word is not elsewhere used, and it hath in it the signification of purity, or clearness, or brightness.
Jewels; or, vessels; wherein there is not only the excellency of the materials, but the curiosity of art, which renders the other much more valuable.
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.No mention shall be made; they are of no value, nor worthy to be named the same day with this, nor fit to be mentioned as a price or recompence wherewith to purchase this. The price; or, the attraction, or acquisition; or rather, the extraction, or drawing forth. For Job useth the word of art which was proper in the taking of
pearls, as the following word, rendered by our translators rubies, is understood by divers, both Hebrew and Christian interpreters, and amongst others by the late eminently learned Bochart, who proveth it by divers arguments. Now these pearls are and were taken by men that dived to the bottom of the sea, and drew them out thence, which is the very word which both Arabic and Latin authors use in the case; as indeed the same word is used of all fishermen, who are said to draw forth with their hook, or net, or otherwise, fishes, or any other thing for which they are fishing. Moreover this diving, as it produced great profit, so it was not without some danger and difficulty; for if they heedlessly put their fingers into the gaping shell, within which the pearl was, it speedily closed upon them, and put them to exquisite pain, to the loss of their finger, and sometimes of their life; which is a fit representation of the state of those persons who search after the knowledge of God’s counsels and ways, and the grounds of them, who as when they modestly inquire into them, and truly discover them, they have infinite advantage and satisfaction therein; so if they pry into them too boldly, searching into those things which God hath concealed, and rashly judging of them above what they know, which Job judged to be his friends’ case, they expose themselves to manifold snares and dangers. And this extraction, or drawing forth, is aptly used concerning this wisdom, which lying very deep and remote from the reach of ordinary men, is not to be obtained without diligent search and consideration. And so the place may be thus translated, the extraction or drawing forth of wisdom is above that (to wit, the extraction) of pearls.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.The topaz; of which see Exodus 28:17 39:10.
Of Ethiopia, or, of Arabia; for Cush signifies both Ethiopia and Arabia; and the topaz was found in the Red Sea, which lay between both, and so might be ascribed to either.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?Where this precious treasure lies, and whence a man may fetch it.
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.Of all living; of all men that live upon the earth.
From the fowls of the air: though they fly high, and can see far and well, yet they cannot discern this: men of the most raised understandings cannot discover it. It is to be found no where in this visible world, neither in the upper nor lower parts of it.
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.Destruction and death; either,
1. Men that are dead, and thereby freed from the encumbrance of their bodies, which depress their minds, and have more raised thoughts than men that live here. Or,
2. The grave, the place of the dead, to which these things are here ascribed, as they are to the depths, and to the sea, Job 28:14, by a figure called prosopopaeia. If a man should search for this wisdom, either amongst living men, or amongst the dead, he could not find it; yea, though he should and might inquire of all men that formerly lived in the world, some of whom were persons of prodigious wit and learning, and of vast experience, as having lived nigh a thousand years, and made it their great business in that time to search out the depths of this Divine wisdom in the administration of the world.
We have heard the fame thereof; we know it only by slight and uncertain rumours, but not fully and perfectly.
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.God, i.e. God alone; as appears by the denial of it to all other things.
The way thereof; either the way how it is to be obtained; or rather, the methods or courses which it takes in the management of all affairs in the world, together with its grounds and ends in them.
The place thereof; where it dwells, which is only in his own breast and mind, and in the best of men but in part, and only as far as it pleaseth him to afford it.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;He, and he only, knows it, because his providence, and that only, is infinite and universal, reaching to all places, and times, and things, past, present, and to come; whereas the most acute and knowing men have narrow understandings, and see but very few things and small parcels of the works of God, and therefore are very unfit to pass a judgment upon them, because the wisdom, and justice, and beauty of God’s works is not clearly nor fully seen till all the parts of them be laid together.
To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.To make the weight for the winds; which of themselves are most light, and without any weight, and inconstant, and such as no creature can order or govern them: but God manageth them all by weight, appointing to every wind that blows its season, its proportion, its bounds and limits, when, and where, and how much, and how long each wind shall blow, and for what ends; whether for mercy, as to refresh men in hot seasons with its gentle gales, to cherish the fruits of the earth, to waft ships on the sea to their desired havens, &c.; or whether for judgment, as to corrupt the air, and thereby the bodies of men, and fruits of the earth, to blow down houses upon their inhabitants, as he was pleased to deal with my poor unhappy children. He only doth all these things, and he only knows why he doth them. He instanceth but in some few of God’s works, and those which seem to be most trivial, and casual, and uncertain, that thereby he might more strongly imply and prove that God doth the same in other things which are more considerable, and are managed by more constant causes and certain methods; that he doth all things in the most exact order, and weight, and measure.
He weigheth: but it seems a very improper speech, to weigh things by measure; and therefore this word may more fitly be otherwise rendered, he examineth, or disposeth, or fitteth, or directeth, for so this verb is elsewhere used, as 1 Samuel 2:3 Psalm 75:3 Proverbs 16:2 21:2.
The waters, to wit, the rain waters, as appears from the next verse, which God layeth up in his store-houses, or bottles, the clouds, and thence draws them forth, and sends them down upon the earth in such times and proportions as he thinks fit, and as may serve his several designs and ends.
By measure; for liquid things are examined by measure, as other things are by weight; and here is both weight and measure, to signify with what exact and perfect wisdom God doth govern the world.
When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:When he made; which was either from eternity, or at the first creation, when he settled that course and order which should afterwards be continued. Or, when he maketh: but our translation seems best to suit with the then in the next verse, where the sense is completed.
Decree for the rain; an appointment, and as it were a statute law, that it should fall upon the earth, and that in such times, and places, and proportions, and manner as he should think fit, either for correction or for mercy, as Elihu speaks, Job 37:13. A way, or path, how it should get out of the thick cloud, in which it was shut up, and as it were imprisoned; or, a course, which should for the future be observed, as to the time, and measure, and ends, and other circumstances belonging to it.
Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.Then; either from eternity, when he decreed what he would do, or when he first created them.
Did he see it, i.e. wisdom, which is the subject matter of the present discourse. This God saw not abroad, but within himself; he looked or reflected upon it in his own mind, as the rule by which he would proceed in the creation and government of all things, managing them in such ways and methods as were most agreeable to his own most wise and unsearchable counsels, which no human or created wit can reach or pierce into. Or, he saw it, so as to declare it, as it follows; so as to make it visible and manifest in some measure to his creatures. Or, he saw it, i.e. he enjoyed it, seeing being oft put for enjoying, as Psalm 27:13 34:12 Ecclesiastes 2:1 3:13. Compare Proverbs 8:22.
Declare it, i.e. he made it evident, he discovered his deep wisdom, which lay hid before in his own breast; or he laid the foundation of that discovery of it, which then was, or afterward should be, made to angels and men, as the heavens did in themselves declare the glory of God, Psalm 19:1, before there was such a creature as man to take notice of it, because the object was visible in itself, and not made so by the eye which afterwards beheld it. Or, did number it, i.e. showed it as it were by number; not only in gross, but as it were by retail, in all the several works which he made.
He prepared it, i.e. he had it in readiness for the doing of all his works, as if he had been for a long time preparing materials for them. So it is a speech of God after the manner of men. Or, he disposed it, i.e. used or employed it in his works. Or, he settled or established it, i.e. he firmly purposed to do such and such things in such manner as he thought meet, and he established the order which he first made in the world, that it should continue in after-ages. Or, he directed it, and directed and ordered all things by it.
Searched it out; not properly; for so searching implies ignorance, and that a man is at a loss, and requires time and industry, all which is repugnant to the Divine reflections; but figuratively, as such expressions are oft used concerning God, i.e. he did and doth all things with that absolute and perfect wisdom, and he knoweth all his own counsels and actions, and the reasons of them, so exactly and perfectly, as if he had bestowed a long time in searching and judging to find them out. And this and the other acts mentioned in this verse are to be understood of God solely and exclusively, it being here, as it is oft elsewhere in this book, sufficiently implied, that this kind of Divine wisdom, which consists in the accurate knowledge of all God’s counsels and works, is far above, out of man’s reach. Man doth not see this wisdom but only so far as God is pleased to reveal it to him, and therefore he cannot
declare it to others; man did not prepare, nor order, nor contrive it, and therefore no wonder if he cannot search it out. And so this is most fitly connected with the following verse; for as here he tells us what wisdom is denied to man, so there he informeth us what is granted to him.
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.And; or rather, but; for this is added by way of opposition, to show that man’s wisdom doth not lie in a curious inquiry into, or in an exact knowledge of, the secret paths of God’s counsel and providence: but in things of another and of a lower nature.
Unto man; unto Adam at first, and in and with him to all his race and posterity.
He said, i.e. God spoke it, partly, and at first inwardly, to the mind of man, in which God wrote this with his own finger, and engraved it as a first principle for his direction; and partly afterwards by the holy patriarchs, and prophets, and other teachers of his church, whom God sent into the world to teach men true wisdom; which accordingly they did, not by acquainting the people with the secrets and intricacies of God’s counsel and providence, but by declaring the revealed will of God, and instructing them in their duty towards God and men, making this their great, if not only, business, to make men wise unto salvation. See Deu 4:6 29:29. Behold; which expression notes the great importance of this doctrine, and withal man’s dulness and backwardness to apprehend and consider it, and man’s proneness to place his wisdom in vain and curious speculations.
The fear of the Lord, i.e. true religion, and the right worship of God, both inward and outward, all which cometh under this name.
That is wisdom; in that only consists man’s true wisdom, because that, and that only, is his duty, and his safety, and happiness, both for this life and for the next; and withal this is attainable, whereas the depths of God’s ways are unknown and unsearchable to human or created capacities. To depart from evil, i.e. from sin, which is called evil eminently, as being the chief, if not the only, evil, and the cause of all other evils, and that which is constantly and immutably evil, whereas afflictions are frequently made good and highly beneficial. Religion consists of two branches, doing good and forsaking evil; the former is expressed in the former clause of this verse, and the latter in these words.
Is understanding; is the best kind of knowledge or wisdom to which man can attain in this life. The same thing is here twice expressed in several phrases. And the design of Job in this close of his discourse, is not only to show the mistake, and reprove the arrogance and boldness, of his friends, in prying into God’s secrets, and passing such a rash censure upon him, and upon God’s ways and carriage towards him; but also to vindicate himself from the imputation of hypocrisy and profaneness, which they fastened upon him, by showing that he had ever esteemed it to be his best wisdom and true interest to fear God, and to depart from evil.