I. TRUE WISDOM TO BE FOUND NOWHERE ON EARTH. (Vers. 1-11.) To illustrate this, we are pointed, in a fine description, to the art of mining, by which man lays open the costly treasures of the earth (Deuteronomy 8:9), but cannot gain possession of this highest and best treasure of all. Gold, silver, iron, and copper are dug out of the bowels of the earth, and melted from their ores; the miner's lamp dispels the darkness, as in every direction he searches for the "ore of darkness and deadly night." It is a picture of the eager, industrious, untiring toil with which men in all ages in the mines of Egypt, of Palestine, of the old and the new worlds, have sought to gather and to lay up treasures on earth for themselves. There is often even a frenzy, a reckless disregard of health and of life, in this passionate pursuit. With what eagerness should we rather pursue the quest of the heavenly treasures, the inward blessings which make men truly rich and happy (Matthew 16:26)! The description proceeds. The shaft (ver. 4) is broken away from those who dwell above; the miners plunge deeply into the earth, further and further from the habitations of men, so that they are forgotten by the step of every one who walks above. They are depicted as hanging far from mortals by ropes on the perilous descent of the shaft in their way to obtain the ore (Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.' 33:4. 21). Above, upon the bright earth, the bread-corn is growing, while belong. men are stirring, and rummaging in its bowels, using sometimes the disturbing and destructive force of fire (ver. 5). Precious stones as well as metals, sapphires as well as golden ore, fall a prize to the diligent miner (ver. 6). Then, to heighten the description, the inaccessibility of these subterranean ways is depicted. The all-roaming birds and beasts of prey have not discovered them (ver. 8). But undaunted man lays his hand on the flint, uproots the mountains, and bursts open paths through the rocks, and the fire of eager desire glitters in his eye as it falls on each precious thing. He toils to keep the water out of his shafts, by which they are so readily overflowed and spoiled; and thus he brings the hidden treasures to light (ver. 11). Such are the splendid capabilities of man - the courage, the energy, the defiance of danger - called out by his desires. His reward comes; but does it correspond to his exertions? Having passed the best of his days in these severe toils and anxieties and dangers, he thinks to sit down and solace his age with the acquisitions of his younger and more daring yea, s; but does the enjoyment of the poor remainder of life balance these struggles which perhaps brought age upon him before his time, and cut him off from pleasure in the proper days of pleasure, and from the youthful satisfactions that were then denied? "I am this day fourscore years old, and can I yet taste what I eat and what I drink?" (2 Samuel 19:35). "Whoever lives to Parzillai's years shall not be able, with all Barzillai's wealth and greatness, to procure himself a quicker and better relish of what shall be set before him than Barzillai had" (South).
II. WISDOM NO OUTWARD GOOD, AND BY NO OUTWARD MEANS TO BE FOUND. (Vers. 12-22.) Practical wisdom, the principle of right conduct, and theoretical wisdom, or insight, - where in all the wide world shall they be found (ver. 12)? None knows the purchase-price, nor the market for wisdom in all the wide land of the living. "Put money in thy purse" is the one maxim which applies in everything but this. "Money answereth all things;" but there are exceptions, and this is one. Gold and silver have no more power than stones and clods in this spiritual commerce. Cross the seas; visit the great cities; enter the churches; study at the schools; see and hear all; yet still the aching heart will cry, "Where is wisdom to be found? and what is its price?" All the gold and jewels of the Indies cannot buy it. Its worth is incomparable. Weight nor measure can be applied to it; it has no place in the business and exchange of the world (vers. 13-19). Again, then, and again the question recurs, "Whence comes wisdom? where is the place of understanding?" Science cannot answer, with all her keenness of vision and wealth of knowledge; no brightest eagle-eye has searched out its locale. Neither the living nor the kingdom of the dead can bring us news of its site (vers. 20-22). It must, then, be immaterial. And being real, it must be sought for and found by that which is real and spiritual in ourselves. The things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor imagination conceived, God reveals to the spirit. We must be conscious of a spiritual life and of spiritual needs; of a destiny for heavenly as well as earthly things; we must yield to the spiritual impulse, and labor for the satisfaction of the spiritual hunger as well as for the bread that perisheth, if this great question is ever for us to be answered.
III. WISDOM IS IN THE FEAR OF GOD. (Vers 23-28.)
1. The question answered. God knows the way to wisdom, for he knows its seat and place. (Ver. 23.) He is himself the All-wise One. His wisdom is seen in the marvellous construction and arrangement of the natural world. He regulates the winds and the waters (Isaiah 40:12), the rain, the lightning, and the thunder (vers. 24-26). And his absolute wisdom is the rule for the inward life of man, the still more wonderful world of the spiritual life. In the creation as a whole he announces typically his eternal will to all rational creatures (ver. 27).
2. The Divine declaration. (Ver. 28, "The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.") God would not keep his wisdom altogether secret. He reveals, as well as is, wisdom. This is the original eternal command, the law that "is not of yesterday," and which has never been unknown in any generation of mankind. LESSONS.
1. The eternal wealth of God's nature. He needed no model or copy from which to frame his world. "He spake, and it was done; commanded, and it stood fast ' (ver. 27).
2. There is a wisdom which is an example and end, and a wisdom which is a shadow and means. The former is in God, the latter from God in us. So are we "partakers of the Divine nature" in reflection from him, union with him, and enjoyment of him (2 Peter 1:4).
3. Wisdom is the nature of God (Proverbs 8:25, sqq.), uncreated, essential; with us it is an acquisition, a derivation.
4. True wisdom for us depends on the living, moral communion of the heart with God. Without this it is vain to seek to know him. An Eastern proverb says, "He who would learn the secrets of the mighty, must diligently keep watch at his doors." Blessed they who thus wait continually at God's doors l
5. True wisdom is not to be obtained without its price. It must be wrought for by the endeavour of a holy and pious life. The departing from evil, the mortification of sin, the weeding out of vices, lays out work enough for us in this life, and makes the toils of man for perishable good seem small in comparison. "But the end is noble, and the reward is great."
A place for gold where they fine it.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
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