Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.
Verses 1-28. - The connection of this chapter with the preceding is somewhat obscure. Probably we are to regard Job as led to see, even while he is justifying God's ways with sinners (Job 27:8-23), how many and how great are the difficulties in the way of forming a single consistent theory of the Divine action, which shall be applicable to all cases. Hence he comes to the conclusion that God is incomprehensible by man and inscrutable; and that it is only given to man to know him sufficiently for his practical guidance. To impress this on his hearers is his main object (vers. 12-28); and, to impress it the more, he introduces it by a sharp contrast. Wonderful as is man's cleverness and ingenuity in respect of earthly things and physical phenomena (vers. 1-11), with respect to heavenly things and the spiritual world - wherewith true wisdom is concerned - he knows next to nothing. All that he knows is just enough to guide his conduct aright (ver. 28). Verse 1. - Surely there is a vein for the silver; literally, an issue for silver? i.e. a place or places whence it is drawn forth from the earth. The silver-mines of Spain were very early worked by the Phoenicians, and produced the metal in great abundance (see the author's 'History of Phoenicia,' p. 314). But Asia itself was probably the source whence silver was obtained in primitive times. And a place for gold where they fine it; or, fuse it. Gold is very widely spread over the earth's surface, and in ancient times was especially abundant in Arabia (Diod. Sic.. 2:1; 3:42; Strabo, 16:4. § 18; Pit,y, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6:32, etc.); so that Job might easily have been acquainted with the processes of fusing and refining it. Two processes of refining are mentioned by Diodorus as practised by the Egyptians (3:11).
Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.
Verse 2. - Iron is taken out of the earth (see the comment on Job 20:24). Iron was found in the hills of Palestine (Deuteronomy 8:9), in the trans-Jordanic region (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud,' 4:8. § 2), in the sandstone of the Lebanon ('Hist. of Phoenicia,' p. 47), and in Egypt ('Hist. of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 93), probably also in many other places. It is scarcely ever found except in the shape of iron ore, and so has to be "taken out of the earth." And brass is molten out of the stone. By "brass" we must understand copper, since the amalgam brass is never found in a natural state. Copper was yielded abundantly in very early times by the mines which the Egyptians worked in the Sinaitic peninsula ('Hist. of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. pp. 93, 94). It was also obtainable from Palestine (Deuteronomy 8:9), Cyprus ('Hist. of Phoenicia,' p. 311), and Armenia (Ezekiel 27:13). Sometimes it is found pure, but generally in the shape of copper ore, which has to be "molten" for the pure metal to run off.
He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.
Verse 3. - He setteth an end to darkness. Man, in his desire to obtain these metals, "setteth an end to darkness," i.e. letteth in the light of day, or the artificial light which he carries with him, upon the natural abode of darkness, the inner parts of the earth. The miner's first operation is to pierce the ground with a shaft, perpendicular, horizontal, or oblique, as suits his purpose. Through this the light enters into what was previously pitch darkness. And searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death; rather, and searcheth out to the furthest bound the stones of thick darkness and of the shadow of death; explores, i.e. the entire murky regina within the earth, notwithstanding its fearful gloom and obscurity.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.
Verse 4. - The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant. This passage is very obscure; but recent critics suggest, as its probable meaning, "He (i.e. the miner) breaketh open a shaft, away from where men inhabit" (see the Revised Version). The miner does not wish to be interfered with, and therefore sinks his shaft in some wild spot, far from the habitations of men. Even the waters forgotten of the foot; rather, they are forgotten of the foot; i.e. no one visits them; they are left alone; they are "forgotten of the foot" of the passer-by. They are dried up, they are gone away from men; rather, they hang swinging to and fro far from men. The descent of the shaft is made by a rope, to which they "hang swinging" all the time that they defend. As they have sought secrecy, all this takes place far from the haunts of men.
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.
Verse 5. - As for the earth, out of it cometh bread. Man's cleverness is such that he turns the earth to various uses. By tillage of its surface he causes it to produce the staff of life, bread: and by his mining operations the under part of it is turned up as fire, or rather, as by fire. Fire was used in some of the processes whereby masses of material were detached and forced to yield their treasures (see Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 33:4. § 73).
The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.
Verse 6. - The stones of it are the place of sapphires. Among the rocks and stones whereof the interior of the earth is mainly composed are found gems of inestinable value, for instance, sapphires. It is doubtful whether the Hebrew sapphire (ספיר) was the gem which bears that name among ourselves, or the lapis lazuli. In either case it was highly esteemed, and appeared in kings' crowns (Ezekiel 28:13), and in the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18); Job notes its high value in ver. 16. And it (i.e. the earth) hath dust of gold; literally, dusts; i.e. a multitude of small specks or atoms. In the auriferous rocks gold is commonly scattered in such specks.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
Verse 7. - There is a path which no fowl knoweth; or, his is a path which no bird of prey knoweth (see the Revised Version). The miner's path through the bowels of the earth is intended. And which the vulture's eye hath not seen. The vulture is probably the most keen-sighted of birds, but it cannot even get a glimpse of the subterraneous path which the miner treads.
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.
Verse 8. - The lion's whelps have not trodden it; literally, the sons of the fierce - the whelps of lions, tigers, or leopards may be intended. These beasts would haunt the mountains and penetrate into natural caverns, but would never adventure themselves in the shafts and adits of miners. Nor the fierce lion passed by it; rather, passed thereby (see the Revised Version).
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
Verse 9. - He putteth forth his hand upon the rock. Our Revisers translate, upon the flinty rock; while Canon Cook maintains that "the word used means either granite or quartz." Probably Job meant no more than that man does not shrink from attacking any - even the hardest - rock; but will subdue it, and cut his way through it, if he has occasion so to do. He overturneth the mountains by the roots. Herodotus, in describing what he had seen of the Phoenician mining operations in the island of Thasos, observes, "a huge, mountain has been turned upside down in the search for ores" (Herod., 6:47). Pliny says of the process employed for detaching huge masses from the metalliferous hills in Spain, "They attack the rock with iron wedges and hammers. When this work is complete, they destroy the supports, and notify by signal that the fall is about to take place. A watchman, stationed on the mountain-top, alone understands the signal; and he proceeds at once to have all the workmen called in, and himself makes a hurried retreat. Then the mountain falls m upon itself with a crash that cannot be imagined, and an incredible concussion of the air. The successful engineers contemplate the ruin which they have achieved" ('Hist. Nat.,' 33:4. § 73).
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.
Verse 10. - He cutteth out rivers among the rocks. Some understand this of man's general ability to cut canals and tunnels, and change the course of rivers. But the allusion is more probably to the works undertaken in mines for the carrying off of the water from them. Diodorus says that when subterranean springs were tapped in mines, which threatened to flood them, it was usual to construct ducts, or tunnels, by which the inconvenient liquid might be carried off to a lower level (Diod. Siculus, 5:37. § 3). And his eye seeth every precious thing. Nothing escapes his notice. Even as he constructs these duets he has his eye open to note any signs of mineral wealth, of metals or of precious stones, that occur along the line of his excavation.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.
Verse 11. - He bindeth the floods from overflowing. This, again, may be either taken generally of man's ability to create dams, dykes, and embankments, whereby the overflow of waters is prevented; or specially of such works when connected with mines, from which it is possible, in some instances, to dam out water that would otherwise interfere with their working. The word translated "overflowing" means probably "weeping," and seems to point to that leakage from the roofs and sides of galleries and adits which is more difficult to control and stop than even subterranean springs or rivers. And the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. This is the final result of mining operations. Things useful or beautiful that are hiddden deep down in the heart of the earth, and that might have seemed wholly inaccessible, are brought out of the pit's month into the light of day for the service and delectation of mankind.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?
Verses 12-28. - Here we come on an abrupt change. From human ingenuity and contrivance Job turns to the consideration of "wisdom" - that wisdom which has been defined as "the reason which deals with principles "(Canon Cook). "Where," he asks, "is this to be found?" It is a wholly different thing from cleverness and ingenuity. It inquires into causes and origins, into the ends and purposes of things; it seeks to solve the riddle of the universe. Perfect wisdom can, of course, only dwell with God (ver. 23). Man must be content with something much below this. With him "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding" (ver. 28). Verse 12. - But where shall wisdom be found? "Wisdom is the principal thing," says Solomon (Proverbs 4:7); and again, "It is better to get wisdom than gold" (Proverbs 16:16). But where is it to be found? Job's three friends thought that it dwelt with them (Job 12:2); but this was a mistake, since God reproaches them with their "folly" (Job 42:8). Job does not claim to possess it (Job 26:3); he only desires it. It is his deep conviction that it is only possessed, in the true sense of the word, by God. And where is the place of understanding? It is not quite clear whether Job intends to make any distinction between "wisdom" (חכמה) and "understanding" (בינה). Canon Cook suggests that "wisdom" is "the reason which deals with principles," and "understanding" "the faculty which discerns and appreciates their application." But refined distinctions of this kind are scarcely suitable to the age of Job. Dean Plumptre, in his comment on Proverbs ('Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 529), accepts the distinction implied in the Septuagint translation of that book, which renders חכמה by σοφία' and בינה by φρόνησις. This is a much simpler and more easily understood distinction, being that which separates between scientific know. ledge and the practical intelligence which directs conduct. But it may be doubted whether Job does not use the two words as synonyms.
Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.
Verse 13. - Man knoweth not the price thereof. The real value of wisdom cannot be estimated in terms of ordinary human calculation. It transcends figures. Neither is it found in the land of the living. True wisdom, such as Job is speaking of (see the comment on vers. 12-28), does not exist among men. It transcends human faculties, and is among the peculiar possessions of the Most High (ver. 23). Hence the Most High is altogether inscrutable by man" his ways are past finding out."
The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.
Verse 14. - The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. The deep abysses of the ocean declare that it is not with them; and the wide reaches of the far-extending sea proclaim that it is not with them either.
It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
Verse 15. - It cannot be gotten for gold. No amount of gold can purchase it; no, not of the purest and most refined quality (1 Kings 6:20, 21), for it is not a thing that can be bought or sold God must grant it, and find a way of imparting it; which he certainly will not do for a sum of money. Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof; If gold cannot purchase it, much less can silver - the less valuable medium of exchange. (On the weighing of silver, in sales, see Genesis 23:16; Jeremiah 32:9; Ezra 8:26.)
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.
Verse 16. - It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir. The locality of Ophir has been much contested, but, on the whole, the weight of evidence would seem to be in favour of Arabia, on the south-east coast (see the article on "Ophir" in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' which exhausts all that can be said on the subject). The high estimation in which "gold of Ophir" was held appears not only in this passage, but also in Job 22:24; Psalm 45:9: and Isaiah 13:12. It is to be accounted for by the imperfection of all the anciently known processes of refining, which left the best refined gold inferior to the natural product of the Ophir mines or washings. With the precious onyx, or the sapphire. (On the latter of these two stones, see the comment upon ver. 6.) The "onyx" is probably the stone now known as the "sardonyx," which was highly prized by the ancients. It had a place in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:20), and is mentioned among the treasures of the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13). The sardonyx presents layers variously coloured, as blue, black, white, and vermilion.
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.
Verse 17. - The gold and the crystal cannot equal it; rather, gold and crystal. This second mention of gold (see ver. ]5) seems superfluous, but perhaps the patriarch is thinking of some goblet or ornament in which crystal and gold were combined together. Ornaments of this kind bare been found in Phoenicia ('Hist. of Phoenicia,' pp. 362, 370). And the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold; or, vessels of fine gold. Both in Egypt and Phoenicia vessels of gold were common.
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
Verse 18. - No mention shall be made of coral. The word translated "coral" (רָאמות) means properly "things that are high." It occurs only here and in Ezekiel 27:16. The rabbinical interpretation of the word as "coral" is doubtful, since it was unknown to the LXX. Or of pearls. The word gabish (גָבִישׁ) occurs only in this place. Some identify it with rock-crystal. For the price of wisdom is above rubies. Here we have another obscure word (פָנִינִים), which is variously rendered by "rubies," "pearls," "carbuncles," and "red coral." The balance of authority is in favour of pearls.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
Verse 19. - The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it. It is generally allowed that the pithdath (פִטְדַת) is either the "topaz" or the "chrysolite." In favour of its being the chrysolite is the passage of Pliny which mentions its being esteemed for its green tints ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:8). Otherwise "topaz" might have appeared to be the best rendering. By "Cush," here translated "Ethiopia," is probably meant Cushite Arabia, or the southern and south-eastern regions (see the author's 'Origin of Nations,' pp. 206-209). Neither shall it be valued with pare gold. Of the four words used for "gold" in this passage (vers. 15-17), one (זהב) seems to be the common name, and to designate the metal by its coleus, "yellow," since צָהַב means "to be yellow" Another (סָגוּר) means properly "what is treasured," or "shut up," from סָגַר, "to shut." The third (פַז) seems to be the name for "native gold," or that found in river-washings and nuggets, which was regarded as the purest. The fourth (כֶּחֶם) is a poetical name only, and designates gold of extreme purity (Song of Solomon 5:11), whether highly refined or native. Job uses them all, to show that there was no gold of any kind wherewith it was possible to purchase wisdom.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
Verse 20. - Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? This is a repetition of ver. 12, with a mere variant of the verb in the first line. Job's elaborate inquiry of vers. 14-19 having thresh no light on the subject, the original question recurs - Where does wisdom come from?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.
Verse 21. - Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living. Man cannot see it, because it is immaterial, but he cannot even conconceive of it, because its nature transcends him. And kept close from the fowls of the air. (comp. ver. 7). The sight of birds is far keener than that of man; but even birds cannot detect where wisdom is.
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.
Verse 22. - Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. "Death and destruction" seem to represent the inhabitants of Sheol - the world of the departed. Job personifies them, and represents them as saying, that in their gloomy and remote abode (Job 10:21, 22) they have heard some dim rumour, some vague report, of the "place" of wisdom and understanding, the nature of which, however, they do not communicate to him. His idea seems to be that their knowledge on the subject does not much transcend the knowledge of living men, whom he regards as profoundly ignorant with respect to it. He thus prepares the way for his assertion in the next verse. Man, neither living nor dead, can make any answer to the great question raised; but -
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.
Verse 23. - God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. God only understands what true wisdom is. It is a part of his being, an essential element of his nature. He knows "the way" of it, i.e. how it works and manifests itself; and he knows "the place' of it, i.e. where it dwells, what limits it has, if any, and how far it is communicable to any beside himself. The highest knowledge is all hid in God (Colossians 2-3); and, except so far as God imparts it to him, man can know nothing of it.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
Verse 24. - For he looketh to the ends of the earth. Man is conditioned. God is unconditioned. Man's knowledge has strict and narrow limits. God "looketh unto the ends of the earth." It is the universality of God's knowledge that makes each item of it perfect. Where knowledge is circumscribed, it is impossible to be sure that some truth outside the circle of the person's cognizance has not a bearing on that which is within his cognizance - a bearing, which, if he were aware of it, would give the truth a different aspect. With God alone there are no such limits, everything being within his cognizance. And seeth under the whole heaven. As his knowledge of earthly things is unlimited, so is his knowledge of heavenly things also; and not only of heavenly things in a material sense, as of sun, moon, stars, comets, planets, nebulae, etc., but also of causes, principles, ends, laws, and the like, whereby both material and immaterial things are governed, ordered, and maintained in being. Of matters of this kind and character man can only say, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; I cannot attain unto it" (Psalm 139:6).
To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.
Verse 25. - To make the weight for the winds. God by his wisdom gives to winds their exactly fitting degree of force and violence, so that they perform the work in the world which they were intended to perform, and which would not be performed, were they either of a less or of a greater intensity. And he weigheth the waters by measure (comp. Isaiah 40:12, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?"). Everything in creation is duly proportioned to every other thing. All is ordered "by weight and with care."
When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:
Verse 26. - When he made a decree for the rain. God "made a decree for the rain" when be placed the fall of rain under fixed and unalterable laws. In some countries rainy seasons begin almost regularly on a fixed day in the calendar, while for several months in the year it is almost certain that rain will not fall. Even where there is no such exact regularity as this, the rainfall has its laws, since there are maxima and minima which are never exceeded. And a way for the lightning of the thunder. God gave laws to the electric current, and prescribed the "way" that it should take in its passage from heaven to earth, or from cloud to cloud, or from earth to heaven. Everything was ruled beforehand by Infinite Wisdom.
Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.
Verse 27. - Then did he see it, and declare it. From the creation of the world, and before it, God foresaw all that was necessary to maintain his universe in the perfect order and the perfect beauty that he designed for it. At the Creation he, in a certain sense, "declared it," or set it forth, before such intelligences as then existed. Subsequently, in part to Adam, in part to Noah, in part to Moses, he further declared, by revelation, at any rate a portion of the design of his creation, and of the laws by which it was regulated. He prepared it, yea, and searched it out. This is an inversion of what seems to us the natural order, whereof there are many examples. God must first have investigated and searched out, in his own secret counsels, the entire scheme of creation, and afterwards have proceeded to the "preparation" or "establishment" of it.
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
Verse 28. - And unto man he said. Not in so many words, not by any written or spoken revelation; but by the nature which he implanted in man, and especially by the conscience wherewith he endowed him. Man feels in his heart of hearts that whatever wisdom may be in the abstract, his true wisdom is "the fear of God," his true understanding "to depart from evil." No amount of intelligence, no amount of cleverness, or of information, or of knowledge, or of worldly or scientific wisdom, will be of any avail to him, unless he starts with this "beginning" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7), and builds on this foundation. This foundation, at any rate, Job had. since God bore him witness that he had it (Job 2:3).