Job Speaks of Wisdom and Understanding
Man seeks after treasure in the earth:
“People know where to mine silver
and how to refine gold.
2 They know where to dig iron from the earth
and how to smelt copper from rock.
3 They know how to shine light in the darkness
and explore the farthest regions of the earth
as they search in the dark for ore.
4 They sink a mine shaft into the earth
far from where anyone lives.
They descend on ropes, swinging back and forth.
The hidden nature of earth’s treasure:
5 Food is grown on the earth above,
but down below, the earth is melted as by fire.
Mining in the ancient Near East
C.S. Lewis once spoke of the arrogance of each age. What he meant is that in any given age, there is a tendency to look back upon previous ages as being much less ingenious than our own age.
For example, we might suppose that mining technologies have only been perfected during the period of the Industrial Revolution. Yet mining engineers and metallurgists during the time of Job were quite adept at extracting valuable ore and gems from the earth. Job 28 uses the mining technology of that day to make the point succinctly stated by Robert L. Alden in the New American Commentary: vol. 11, Job, “Wisdom is precious like silver and needs refining like gold.”
Walton, Matthews and Chavalas’s The IVP Bible Commentary: Old Testament explains that mining in the ancient Near East was called pitting. Shafts, some quite deep, were dug straight down into the ore, or dug horizontally into the sides of mountains. Workers were lowered down into these shafts in baskets, and these baskets were filled with ore which were pulled to the surface with ropes.
Job 28:5 says, “As for the earth, out of it comes bread,/but underneath it is turned up by fire.” This is a reference to the ancient practice of fracturing ore-laced rock through heating it with intense fires and then dousing the rock with cold water mixed with vinegar.
(For more of this interesting article from the Colson Center, click HERE.)
6 Here the rocks contain precious lapis lazuli,
and the dust contains gold.
7 These are treasures no bird of prey can see,
no falcon’s eye observe.
8 No wild animal has walked upon these treasures;
no lion has ever set his paw there.
9 People know how to tear apart flinty rocks
and overturn the roots of mountains.
10 They cut tunnels in the rocks
and uncover precious stones.
11 They dam up the trickling streams
and bring to light the hidden treasures.
True wisdom is rare:
12 “But do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
13 No one knows where to find it,
for it is not found among the living.
14 ‘It is not here,’ says the ocean.
‘Nor is it here,’ says the sea.
15 It cannot be bought with gold.
It cannot be purchased with silver.
16 It’s worth more than all the gold of Ophir,
greater than precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal.
It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.
18 Coral and jasper are worthless in trying to get it.
The price of wisdom is far above rubies.
19 Precious peridot from Ethiopia cannot be exchanged for it.
It’s worth more than the purest gold.
The source and summary of wisdom:
20 “But do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity.
Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it.
22 Destruction and Death say,
‘We’ve heard only rumors of where wisdom can be found.’
23 “God alone understands the way to wisdom;
he knows where it can be found,
24 for he looks throughout the whole earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
“This is, indeed, at once our confidence and our comfort – ‘God understandeth.’ The things that perplex us, do not perplex Him; the mysteries by which we are surrounded, are no mysteries to Him.”
–G. Campbell Morgan
25 He decided how hard the winds should blow
and how much rain should fall.
26 He made the laws for the rain
and laid out a path for the lightning.
27 Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it.
He set it in place and examined it thoroughly.
28 And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’”
HERE is a beautiful song wonderfully suited for our text today — “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, sung by Kristen Getty.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved