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. 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 Diedorus as practised by the Egyptians (3.11).
Surely there is a vein for silver – Margin, “mine” Coverdale renders this, “There are places where silver is molten.” Prof. Lee renders it, “There is an outlet for the silver,” and supposes it means the coming out or separation of the silver from the earthy particles by which it is surrounded in the ore, not the coming out from the mine. The word rendered “vein” (מוצא môtsâ’) means properly a going forth, as the rising of the sun, Psa_19:6; the promulgation of an edict Dan_9:25; then a place of going forth – as a gate, door; Eze_42:11; Eze_43:11, and thence a mine, a vein, or a place of the going forth of metals; that is, a place where they are procured. So the Septuagint here, Ἔστι γὰρ άργυρίῳ τό πος ὅθεν γίνεται Esti gar arguriō topos hothen ginetai – “there is a place for silver whence it is obtained.” The idea here is that man had evinced his wisdom in finding out the mines of silver and working them. It was one of the instances of his skill that he had been able to penetrate into the earth, and bring out the ore of the precious metals, and convert it to valuable purposes.
And a place for gold – A workshop, or laboratory, for working the precious metals. Job says, that even in his time such a laboratory was a proof of the wisdom of man. So now, one of the most striking proofs of skill is to be found in the places where the precious metals are purified, and worked into the various forms in which they are adapted to ornament and use.
Where they fine it – – יזקו yāzoqû. The word used here (זקק zâqaq) means properly to bind fast, to fetter; and then to compress, to squeeze through a strainer; and hence, to strain, filter; and thence to purify – as wine that is thus filtered, or gold that is purified Mal_3:3. It may refer here to any process of purifying or refining. It is commonly done by the application of heat. One of the instructive uses of the book of Job is the light which it throws incidentally on the state of the ancient arts and sciences, and the condition of society in reference to the comforts of life at the early period of the world when the author lived. In this passage it is clear:
(1) that the metals were then in general use, and
(2) that they were so worked as to furnish, in the view of Job a striking illustration of human wisdom and skill.
Society was so far advanced as to make use not only of gold and silver, but also of copper and brass. The use of gold and silver commonly precedes the discovery of iron, and consequently the mention of iron in any ancient book indicates a considerably advanced state of society. It is of course, not known to what extent the art of working metals was carried in the time of Job, as all that would be indicated here would be that the method of obtaining the pure metal from the ore was understood. It may be interesting, however, to observe, that the art was early known to the Egyptians, and was carried by them to a considerable degree of perfection. Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in vestures of fine linen, and put a chain of gold about his neck; Gen_41:42, and great quantities of gold and silver ornaments were borrowed by the Israelites of the Egyptians, when they were about to go to the promised land. Gold and silver are mentioned as known in the earliest ages; compare Gen_2:11-12; Gen_41:42; Exo_20:23; Gen_23:15-16. Iron is also mentioned as having been early known; Gen_4:22. Tubal Cain was instructor in iron and brass. Gold and silver mines were early worked in Egypt, and if Moses was the compiler of the book of Job, it is possible that some of the descriptions here may have been derived from that country, and at all events the mode of working these precious metals was probably the same in Arabia and Egypt. From the mention of ear rings, bracelets, and jewels of silver and gold, in the days of Abraham, it is evident that the art of metallurgy was known at a very remote period. Workmen are noticed by Homer as excelling in the manufacture of arms, rich vases, and other objects inlaid or ornamented with vessels:
Πηλείδης δ ̓ ἆιψ ἄλλα τίθει ταχυτῆτος ἄεθλα,
Αργύρεον κρατῆρα τετυγμειον.
Pēleidēs d’ aips alla tithei tachutēnos aethla,
Argirepm kratēra tetugmeion.
Iliad xxiii. 741.
His account of the shield of Achilles (Iliad xviii. 474) proves that the art of working in the precious metals was well known in his time; and the skill required to delineate the various objects which he describes was such as no ordinary artisan, even at this time, could be supposed to possess. In Egypt, ornaments of gold and silver, consisting of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and trinkets, have been found in considerable abundance of the times of Osirtasen I, and Thothmes III, the contemporaries of Joseph and of Moses. Diodorus (i. 49) mentions silver mine of Egypt which produced 3,200 myriads of minae. The gold mines of Egypt remained long unknown, and their position has been ascertained only a few years since by M. Linant and M. Bonomi. They lie in the Bisharee desert, about seventeen days’ journey to the South-eastward from Derow. The matrix in which the gold in Egypt was found is quartz, and the excavations to procure the gold are exceedingly deep.
The principal excavation is 180 feet deep. The quartz thus obtained was broken by the workmen into small fragments, of the size of a bean, and these were passed through hand mills made of granitic stone, and when reduced to powder the quartz was washed on inclined tables, and the gold was thus separated from the stone. Diodorus says, that the principal persons engaged in mining operations were captives, taken in war, and persons who were compelled to labor in the mines, for offences against the government. They were bound in fetters, and compelled to labor night and day. “No attention,” he says, “is paid to these persons; they have not even a piece of rag to cover themselves; and so wretched is their condition, that every one who witnesses it, deplores the excessive misery which they endure. No rest, no intermission from toil, are given either to the sick or the maimed; neither the weakness of age, nor women’s infirmities, are regarded; all are driven to the work with the lash, until, at last, overcome with the intolerable weight of their afflictions, they die in the midst of their toil.”
Diodorus adds, “Nature indeed, I think, teaches that as gold is obtained with immense labor, so it is kept with difficulty, creating great anxiety, and attended in its use both with pleasure and with grief.” It was perhaps, in view of such laborious and difficult operations in obtaining the precious metals, and of the skill which man had evinced in extracting them from the earth, that Job alluded here to the process as a striking proof of human wisdom. On the early use of the metals among the ancient Egyptians, the reader may consult with advantage, Wilkinsoh’s “Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians,” vol. iii. pp. 215ff.
Iron is taken out of the earth (see the comment on Job_20:24). Iron was found in the hills of Palestine (Deu_8:9), in the trans-Jordanic region (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud,’ 4.8. § 2), in the sandstone of the Lebanon, and in Egypt, 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. It was also obtainable from Palestine (Deu_8:9), Cyprus, and Armenia (Eze_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.
Iron – As has been remarked above, iron was early known, yet probably its common use indicates a more advanced state of civilization than that of gold and silver. The Mexicans were ignorant of the use of iron, though ornaments of gold and silver elegantly worked abounded among them. Iron is less easily discovered than copper, though more abundant, and is worked with more difficulty. Among the ancient nations, copper was in general use long before iron; and arms, vases, statues, and implements of every kind were made of this metal alloyed and hardened with tin, before iron came into general use. Tubal Cain is indeed mentioned Gen_4:22 as the “instructor of every artificer in brass and iron,” but no direct mention is made of iron arms Num_35:16 or tools Deu_27:5, until after the departure from Egypt. According to the Arundelian Marbles, iron was known one hundred and eighty-eight years before the Trojan war, about 1370 years B.C.; but Hesiod, Plutarch, and others, limit its discovery to a much later period. Homer, however, distinctly mentions its use, Iliad xxiii. 262:
Η δε γυνᾶικα ὲΰζώνα;, πολιον τε σίδηρον.
Hē de gunaikas euzōnas, polion te sidēron.
That by the “sideros” of the poet is meant iron, is clear, from a simile which he uses in the Odyssey, derived from the quenching of iron in water, by which he illustrates the hissing produced in the eye of Polyphemus by piercing it with the burning stake:
“And as when armorers temper in the ford
The keen edged pole-axe or the shining sword,
The red-hot metal hisses in the lake,
Thus in the eye-ball hissed the plunging stake.”
Odyssey ix. 391; Pope
Iron is mentioned in the time of Og king of Bashan, 1450 B.C. It was at first, however, regarded as of great value, and its use was very limited. It was presented in the temples of Greece as among the most valuable offerings, and rings of iron have been found in the tombs of Egypt that had been worn as ornaments, showing the value of the metal. One of the reasons why this metal comes so slowly into use, and why it was so rare in early times, was the difficulty of smelting the ore, and reducing it to a malleable state “Its gross and stubborn ore,” says Dr. Robertson (America, B. iv.) “must feel twice the force of fire, and go through two laborious pocesses, before it becomes fit for use.” It was this fact which made it to Job such a proof of the wisdom of man that he had invented the process of making iron, or of separating it from the earthy portions in which it is found.
Is taken out of the earth – Margin, “dust.” The form in which iron is found is too well known to need description. It is seldom, if ever, found in its purity, and the ore generally has so much the appearance of mere earth, that it requires some skill to distinguish them.
And brass – נחוּשׁה nechûshâh. Brass is early and frequently mentioned in the Bible (Gen_4:22; Exo_25:3; Exo_26:11, et al.), but there is little doubt that copper is meant in these places. Brass is a compound metal, made of copper and zinc – containing usually about one third of the weight in zinc – and it is hardly probable that the art of compounding this was early known; compare the notes at Job_20:24. Dr. Good renders this, “And the rock poureth forth copper.” Coverdale, “The stones resolved to metal.” Noyes, “The stone is melted into copper.” Prof. Lee, “Also the stone (is taken from the earth) from which one fuseth copper.” The Hebrew is, literally,” And stone is poured out יציק copper.” The Septuagint renders it, “And brass is cut like stones;” that is, is cut from the quarry. The word “stone” here in the Hebrew (אבן ‘eben) means, doubtless, “ore” in the form of stone; and the fact mentioned here, that such ore is fused into the נחוּשׁהeht nechûshâh, is clear proof that copper is intended. Brass is never found in ore, and is never compounded in the earth. A similar idea is found in Pliny, who probably uses the word “aes” to denote copper, as it is commonly employed in the ancient writings. Aes fit ex lapide aeroso, quem vocant Cadmiam; et igne lapides in nes solvantur. Nat. Hist. xxxiv. i. 22. On the general subject of ancient metallurgy, see Wilkinsoh’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. iii. chapter ix.
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.
He setteth an end to darkness – That is, man does. The reference here is undoubtedly to the operations of mining, and the idea is, that man delves into the darkest regions; he goes even to the outer limits of darkness; he penetrates everywhere. Probably the allusion is derived from the custom of carrying torches into mines.
And searcheth out all perfection – Makes a complete search; examines everything; carries the matter to the utmost. The idea is not that he searches out all perfection – as our translation would seem to convey; but that he makes a complete and thorough search – and yet after all he does not come to the true and highest wisdom.
The stones of darkness – The last stone, says Herder, in the mining investigations in the time of Job; the corner or boundary stone, as it were, of the kingdom of darkness and night. Prof. Lee supposes that there is allusion here to the fact that stones were used as “weights,” and that the idea is, that man had ascertained the “exact weight” of the gross darkness, that is, had taken an accurate admeasurement of it, or had wholly investigated it. But this solution seems far-fetched. Schultens supposes the center of the earth to be denoted by this expression. But it seems to me that the words “stone” and “darkness” are to be separated, and that the one is not used to qualify the other. The sense is, that man searches out everything; he perfectly and accurately penetrates everywhere, and examines all objects; “the stone” (אבן ‘eben), that is, the rocks, the mines; “the darkness” (אפל ‘ôphel), that is, the darkness of the cavern, the interior of the earth; “and the shadow of death” (צלמות tsalmâveth), that is, the most dark and impenetrable regions of the earth. So it is rendered by Coverdale: “The stones, the dark, and the horrible shadow.”
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant – This passage is very difficult. Some think it refers to mining; others to navigation. If it refer to the former, it may be intended to point out the waters that spring up when the miners have sunk down to a considerable depth, so that the mine is drowned, and they are obliged to give it up. Previously to the invention of the steam-engine this was generally the case: hence ancient mines may be reopened and worked to great advantage, because we have the means now to take off the water which the ancient workers had not. When, therefore, floods break out in those shafts, they are abandoned; and thus they are,
Forgotten of the foot – No man treads there any more. The waters increase דלו dallu, they are elevated, they rise up to a level with the spring, or till they meet with some fissure by which they can escape; and thence מאנוש נעו meenosh nau, they are moved or carried away from men; the stream is lost in the bowels of the earth.
Mr. Peters thinks that both this verse, and Job_9:26, refer to navigation, then in a state of infancy; for the sea is not so much as mentioned; but נחל nachal, a torrent or flood, some river or arm of the sea perhaps of a few leagues over, which, dividing the several nations, must interrupt their hospitality and commerce with each other, unless by the help of navigation. According to this opinion the verse may be translated and paraphrased thus: The flood-rivers and arms of the sea – separateth from the stranger, מעם ג meim gar, divides different nations and peoples: they are forgotten of the foot – they cannot walk over these waters, they must embark in vessels; then they dwindle away, דלו dallu, from the size of men, that is, in proportion to their departure from the land they lessen on the sight; נעו nau, they are tossed up and down, namely, by the action of the waves. This receives some countenance from the psalmist’s fine description, Psa_107:26, Psa_107:27, of a ship in a rough sea: They mount up to heaven; they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, ינועו yanuu, (the same word as above), they stagger like a drunken man. Mr. Good’s translation is singular: –
He breaketh up the veins from the matrice,
Which, though thought nothing of under the foot,
Are drawn forth, are brandished among mankind.
This learned man thinks that it applies solely to mining, of which I cannot doubt; and therefore I adopt the first interpretation: but as to agreement among translators, it will be sought in vain. I shall just add Coverdale: With the ryver of water parteth he a sunder the straunge people, that knoweth no good neighbourheade; such as are rude, unmannerly, and boysterous.
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, Psa_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.
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.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant – It would be difficult to tell what idea our translators affixed to this sentence, though it seems to be a literal version of the Hebrew. There has been a great variety of rendering given to the passage. Noyes translates it:
“From the place where they dwell they open a shaft,
Unsupported by the feet,
They are suspended, they swing away from men.”
“A flood goeth out from the realm of oblivion,
They draw it up from the foot of the mountain,
They remove it away from men.”
According to this, the meaning, Herder says, would be, that “the dwelling of the forgotten would be the kingdom of the dead, and at greater depth than the deepest mines have reached. Streams break forth from the river of eternal oblivion beneath, and yet are overcome by the miners, pumped dry, and turned out of the way. “Yet I confess,” says he, “the passage remains obscure to my mind.” Coverdale renders it, “With the river of water parteth he asunder the strange people, that knoweth no good neighborhood; such as are rude, unmannerly, and boisterous.” The Septuagint renders it, “The channels of brooks are choked up with sand; when to such as know not the right way strength is unavailing, and they are removed from among men.” The difficulty of interpreting the passage has been felt by every expositor to be great; and there are scarcely two expositions alike. There can be no doubt that Job refers to mining operations, and the whole passage should be explained with reference to such works. But the obscurity may possibly arise from the fact that mining operations were then conducted in a manner different from what they are now, and the allusion may be to some custom which was then well understood, but of which we now know nothing. A plausible interpretation, at least, has been furnished by Gesenius, and one which seems to me to be more satisfactory than any other. An explanation of the words in the passage will bring out this view. The word rendered “breaketh out” (פרץ pârats) means to break, rend, tear through – and here refers to the act of breaking through the earth for the purpose of sinking a shaft or pit in a mine. The word rendered “flood” (נחל nachal) means properly a stream or brook; then a valley in which a brook runs along; and here Gesenius supposes it means a shaft or pit of a mine. It may be called a נחל nachal, or valley, from the resemblance to a gully which the water has washed away by a mountain-torrent.
From the inhabitant – This conveys evidently no idea as it now stands. The Hebrew is מעם־גר mē‛ı̂m-gār. The word גוּר gûr, from which גר gār is derived, means to sojourn for a time, to dwell, as a stranger or guest; and the phrase here means, “away from any dweller or inhabitant;” that is, from where people dwell, or from the surface of the ground as the home of men; that is, under ground. Or the idea is, that it is done where no one could dwell. It could not be the abode of man.
Even the waters forgotten of the foot – The words “even the waters” are supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is מני־רגל הנשׁכחים hanı̂śkâchı̂ym mı̂nı̂y-regel, and refers to being unsupported by the foot. They go into a place where the foot yields no support, and they are obliged to suspend themselves in order to be sustained.
They are dried up – דלו dâlû. The word דלל dâlal, from which this is derived, means to hang down, to be pendulous, as boughs are on a tree, or as a bucket is in a well. According to this interpretation, the meaning is, that they “hang down” far from men in their mines, and swing to and fro like the branches of a tree in the wind.
They are gone away from men – The word נעו nā‛û, from נוּע nûa‛, means to move to and fro, to waver, to vacillate. Gr. and Latin νεύω neuō, nuo, Germ. nicken, to nod backward and forward. The sense here is, that, far from the dwellings of people, they “wave to and fro” in their deep mines, suspended by cords. They descend by the aid of cords, and not by a firm foothold, until they penetrate the deep darkness of the earth. Other interpretations may be seen, however, defended at length in Schultens, and in Rosenmuller – who has adopted substantially that of Schultens – in Dr. Good, and in other commentaries. Few passages in the Bible are more obscure.
But where shall wisdom be found? – It is most evident that the terms wisdom and understanding are used here in a widely different sense from all those arts and sciences which have their relation to man in his animal and social state, and from all that reason and intellect by which man is distinguished from all other animals. Now as these terms חכמה chochmah, wisdom, and בינה binah, understanding or discernment, are often applied in the sacred writings in their common acceptations, we must have recourse to what Job says of them, to know their meaning in this place. In Job_28:28, he says, The fear of the Lord is Wisdom, and to depart from evil is Understanding. We know that the fear of the Lord is often taken for the whole of that religious reverence and holy obedience which God prescribes to man in his word, and which man owes to his Maker. Hence the Septuagint render חכמה chochmah, wisdom, by θεοσεβια, Divine worship; and as to a departure from evil, that is necessarily implied in a religious life, but it is here properly distinguished, that no man might suppose that a right faith, and a proper performance of the rites of religious worship, is the whole of religion. No. They must not only worship God in the letter, but also in the spirit; they must not only have the form, but also the power of godliness: and this will lead them to worship God in spirit and truth, to walk in his testimonies, and abstain from every appearance of evil; hence they will be truly happy: so that wisdom is another word for happiness. Now these are things which man by study and searching could never find out; they are not of an earthly origin. The spirit of a man, human understanding, may know the things of a man – those which concern him in his animal and social state: but the Spirit of God alone knows the things of God; and therefore Wisdom – all true religion – must come by Divine revelation, which is the mode of its attainment. Wisdom finds out the thing, and understanding uses and applies the means; and then the great end is obtained.
But where shall wisdom be found? “Wisdom is the principal thing,” says Solomon (Pro_4:7); and again, “It is better to get wisdom than gold” (Pro_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, 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.
12.Wisdom — החכמה, is a word of varied and comprehensive import. It includes both intellectual and moral qualities; either, as they exist (concretely) in the mind of God or other moral agent, or as they are brought to light (abstractly) either by His action or that of some other being. In other words, it may mean either the divine idea or archetype according to which God works, or high intelligent action itself, involving upright conduct. It also means pure creative Intelligence, (hhokmah,) answering to the Logos of the New Testament. Here Wisdom is used with the article, and personified: — darkly mysterious, of worth inestimable, perfect in all its works, infinitely to be desired by man; a Divine Conception and yet distinct from God, (Job_28:27, it may prefigure the incarnate Being who is “made unto us wisdom and righteousness.” Nature, as revealed wisdom of God, incomplete and unsatisfying, carries within herself an embryonic prediction that in the fulness of time there should be a fuller disclosure made of divinely hidden wisdom. The boasted Pindar, of the classics, fails in his tribute to wisdom when compared with Job: —
“How can’st thou hope true wisdom’s to be found,
Wherein so little man surpasses man?
For it can never be that minds,
Of mortal woman born,
Can trace the counsels of Deity.”
— Fragment x, (Dissen.)
Compare the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, chapters 7-9.
Understanding — בינה, is rendered by the Germans, einsicht, insight. Its root idea, “to divide,” “to separate,” is the same as that of hhokmah, (wisdom,) and they are used interchangeably. The former, (binah,) according to Delitzsch, is the faculty of seeing through that which is distinguishable consisting of the possession of the right criteria; while the latter, (hhokmah,) is the perception, in general, of things in their true nature and their final causes.
Man knoweth not the price thereof – The word rendered “price” (ערך ‛êrek) means properly that which is set in a pile or row, or which is arranged in order. Here it means preparation, equipment – that is, anything put in order, or ready, Jdg_17:10. It is also used in the sense of estimation or valuation, Lev_5:15, Lev_5:18. The word “price” here, however, seems to form no proper answer to the question in the previous verse, as the question is, “where” wisdom is to be found, not what is its “value.” Many expositors have, therefore, introduced a different idea in their interpretation. Dr. Good renders it, “Man knoweth not its source.” Prof. Lee, “Man knoweth not its equal.” Herder, “Man knoweth not the seat thereof.” Coverdale, “No man can tell how worthy a thing she is.” The Septuagint renders it, “Man knoweth not – όδὸν άυτῆς hodon autēs – her way.” But the word used here is not employed to denote a “place” or “way,” and the true interpretation doubtless is, that Job does not confine himself to a strict answer of the question proposed in Job_28:12, but goes on to say that man could not buy it; he could neither find it, nor had he the means of purchasing it with all the wealth of which he was the owner.
Neither is it found in the land of the living – That is, it is not found among human beings. We must look to a higher source than man for true wisdom; compare Isa_38:11; Isa_53:8.
The depth saith – This is a beautiful personification. The object of this verse and the following is, to show that wisdom cannot be found in the deepest recesses to which man can penetrate, nor purchased by anything which man possesses. It must come from God only. The word “depth” here (תהום tehôm) means properly a wave, billow, surge; then a mass of waters, a flood, or the deep ocean, Deu_8:7; Gen_7:11; Psa_36:6; and then a gulf, or abyss. It refers here to the sea, or ocean; and the idea is, that its vast depths might be sounded, and true wisdom would not be found there.
It cannot be gotten for gold – Margin, “fine gold shall not be given for it.” The word which is here rendered “gold.” and in the margin “fine gold” (סגור segôr), is not the common word used to denote this metal. It is derived from סגר sâgar, to “shut,” to “close,” and means properly that which is “shut up” or “enclosed;” and hence, Gesenius supposes it means pure gold, or the most precious gold, as that which is shut up or enclosed with care. Dr. Good renders it “solid gold,” supposing it means that which is condensed, or beaten. The phrase occurs in nearly the same form סגור זהב zâhâb sâgûr, “gold shut up,” Margin,) in 1Ki_6:20-21; 1Ki_7:49-50; 1Ki_10:21; 2Ch_4:21-22; 2Ch_9:20, and undoubtedly denotes there the most precious kind of gold. Its relation to the sense of the verb “to shut up” is not certain. Prof. Lee supposes that the idea is derived from the use of the word, and of similar words in Arabic, where the idea of heating, fusing, giving another color, changing the shape, and thence of fixing, retaining, etc., is found; and that the idea here is that of fused or purified gold. Michaelis supposes that it refers to “native” gold that is pure and unadulterated, or the form of gold called “dendroides,” from its shooting out in the form of a tree – “baumartig gewachsenes Gold” (from the Arabic, “a tree”). It is not known, however, that the Hebrew word סגר was always used to denote a tree. There can be no doubt that the word denotes “gold” of a pure kind, and it may have been given to it because gold of that kind was carefully “shut up” in places of safe keeping; but it would seem more probable to me that it was given to it for some reason now unknown. Of many of the names now given by us to objects which are significant, and which are easily understood by us, it would be impossible to trace the reason or propriety, after the lapse of four thousand years.
Neither shall silver be weighed – That is, it would be impossible to weigh out so much silver as to equal its value. Before the art of coining was known, it was common to weigh the precious metals that were used as a medium of trade; compare Gen_23:16.
The gold of Ophir – Gold is five times mentioned in this and Job_28:17 and Job_28:19, and four of the times in different words. I shall consider them all at once.
1. סגור Segor, from סגר sagar, to shut up. Gold. in the mine, or shut up in the ore; native gold washed by the streams out of the mountains, etc.; unwrought gold.
2. כתם Kethem, from כתם catham, to sign or stamp: gold made current by being coined, or stamped with its weight or value; what we would call standard or sterling gold.
3. זהב Zahab, from זהב zahab, to be Lear, bright, or resplendent: the untarnishing metal; the only metal that always keeps its lustre. But probably here it means gold chased, or that in which precious stones are set; burnished gold.
4. פז Paz, from פז paz, to consolidate, joined here with כלי keley, vessels, ornaments, instruments, etc.: hammered or wrought gold; gold in the finest forms, and most elegant utensils. This metal is at once the brightest, most solid, and most precious, of all the metals yet discovered, of which we have no less than forty in our catalogues. In these verses there are also seven kinds of precious stones, etc., mentioned: onyx, sapphire, crystal, coral, pearls, rubies, and topaz.
These I shall also consider in the order of their occurrence.
1. שהם shoham, the Onyx, from ονυξ, a man’s nail, hoof of a horse, because in color it resembles both. This stone is a species of chalcedony; and consists of alternate layers of white and brown chalcedony, under which it generally ranges. In the Vulgate it is called sardonyx, compounded of sard and onyx. Sard is also a variety of chalcedony, of a deep reddish-brown color, of which, and alternate layers of milk-white chalcedony, the sardonyx consists. A most beautiful block of this mineral sardonyx, from Iceland, now lies before me.
2. ספיר sappir, the Sapphire stone, From ספר saphar, to count, number; probably from the number of golden spots with which it is said the sapphire of the ancients abounded. Pliny says, Hist. Nat. lib. xxxvii., cap. 8: Sapphirus aureis punctis collucet: coeruleae et sapphiri, raraque cum purpura: optimae apud Medos, nusquam tame perlucidae. “The sapphire glitters with golden spots. Sapphires are sometimes of an azure, never of a purple color. Those of Media are the best, but there are none transparent.” This may mean the blood stones; but see below. What we call the sapphire is a variety of the perfect corundum; it is in hardness inferior only to the diamond. It is of several colors, and from them it has obtained several names.
1. The transparent or translucent is called the white sapphire.
2. The blue is called the oriental sapphire.
3. The violet blue, the oriental amethyst.
4. The yellow, the oriental topaz.
5. The green, the oriental emerald.
6. That with pearly reflections, the opalescent sapphire.
7. When transparent, with a pale, reddish, or bluish reflection, it is called the girasol sapphire.
8. A variety which, when polished, shows a silvered star of six rays in a direction perpendicular to the axis, is called asteria.
When the meaning of the Hebrew word is collated with the description given by Pliny, it must be evident that a spotted opaque stone is meant, and consequently not what is now known by the name sapphire. I conjecture, therefore, that lapis lazuli, which is of a blue color, with golden-like spots, formed by pyrites of iron, must be intended.
The lapis lazuli is that from which the beautiful and unfading color called ultramarine is obtained.
3. זכוכית zechuchith, Crystal, or glass, from זכה zachah, to be pure, clear, transparent. Crystal or crystal of quartz is a six-sided prism, terminated by six-sided pyramids. It belongs to the siliceous class of minerals: it is exceedingly clear and brilliant, insomuch that this property of it has become proverbial, as clear as crystal.
4. ראמות ramoth, Coral, from ראם raam, to be exalted or elevated; probably from this remarkable property of coral, “it always grows from the tops of marine rocky caverns with the head downwards.” Red coral is found in the Mediterranean, about the isles of Majorca and Minorca, on the African coast, and in the Ethiopic ocean.
5. גביש gabish, Pearls, from גבש gabash, in Arabic, to be smooth, to shave off the hair; and hence גביש gabish, the pearl, the smooth round substance; and also hail or hailstones, because of their resemblance to pearls. The pearl is the production of a shell-fish of the oyster kind, found chiefly in the East Indies, and called berberi; but pearls are occasionally found in the common oyster, as I have myself observed, and in the muscle also. They are of a brilliant sparkling white, perfectly round in general, and formed of coats in the manner of an onion. Out of one oyster I once took six pearls. When large, fine, and without spots, they are valuable. I have seen one that formed the whole body of a Hindoo idol, Creeshna, more than an inch in length, and valued at 300 guineas.
6. פנינים peninim, Rubies, from פנה panah, he turned, looked, beheld. The oriental ruby is blood-red, rose-red, or with a tinge of violet. It has occasionally a mixture of blue, and is generally in the form of six-sided prisms. It is a species of the sapphire, and is sometimes chatoyant in its appearance, i.e., has a curious kind of reflection, similar to the cat’s eye: and as this is particularly striking, and changes as you turn the stone, hence probably the name peninim, which you derive from פנה panah, to turn, look, behold, etc. But some learned men are of opinion that the magnet or loadstone is meant, and it is thus called because of the remarkable property it has of turning north and south. And this notion is rendered the more likely, because it agrees with another word in this verse, expressive of a different property of the magnet, viz., its attractive influence: for the Hebrew words משך חכמה מפנינים meshech chochmah mippeninim, which we render, The price of wisdom is above rubies, is literally, The Attraction of wisdom is beyond the peninim, the loadstone; for all the gold, silver, and precious stones, have strong influence on the human heart, attracting all its passions strongly; yet the attraction of wisdom – that which insures a man’s happiness in both worlds – is more powerful and influential, when understood, than all of these, and even than the loadstone, for that can only attract iron; but, through desire of the other, a man, having separated himself from all those earthly entanglements, seeketh and intermeddleth with All Wisdom. The attractive property of the loadstone must have been observed from its first discovery; and there is every reason to believe that the magnet and its virtues were known in the East long before they were discovered in Europe.
7. פטדה pitdah, the Topaz. This word occurs only in Exo_28:17; Exo_39:10; Eze_28:13, and in the present place; in all of which, except that of Ezekiel, where the Septuagint is all confusion, the Septuagint and Vulgate render the word always τοπαζιον, topazius, the Topaz. This stone is generally found in a prismatic form, sometimes limpid and nearly transparent, or of various shades of yellow, green, blue, lilac, and red. I have thus given the best account I can of the stones here mentioned, allowing that they answer to the names by which we translate them. But on this point there is great uncertainty, as I have already had occasion to observe in other parts of this work. Beasts, birds, plants, metals, precious stones, unguents, different kinds of grain, etc., are certainly mentioned in the sacred writings; but whether we know what the different Hebrew terms signify, is more than we can certainly affirm. Of some there is little room to doubt; of others conjecture must in the present state of our knowledge, supply the place of certainty. See Philip’s Elementary Introduction to Mineralogy; an accurate work, which I feel pleasure in recommending to all students in the science.
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; Psa_45:9 : and Isa_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 Isa_13:6.) 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 (Exo_28:20), and is mentioned among the treasures of the King of Tyre (Eze_28:13). The sardonyx presents layers variously coloured, as blue, black, white, and vermilion.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? This is a repetition of Job_28:12, with a mere variant of the verb in the first line. Job’s elaborate inquiry of verses 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. 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. Job_28:7). The sight of birds is far keener than that of man; but even birds cannot detect where wisdom is.
It is hid from the eyes of all living – That is, of all people, and of all animals. Man has not found it by the most sagacious of all his discoveries, and the keenest vision of beasts and fowls has not traced it out.
And kept close – Hebrew “concealed.”
From the fowls of the air – Compare the notes at Job_28:7. Umbreit remarks, on this passage, that there is attributed to the fowls in Oriental countries a deep knowledge, and an extraordinary gift of divination, and that they appear as the interpreters and confidants of the gods. One cannot but reflect, says he, on the personification of the good spirit of Ormuzd through the fowls, according to the doctrine of the Persians (Compare Creutzer’s Symbolik Thes 1. s. 723); upon the ancient fowlking (Vogelkonig) Simurg upon the mountain Kap, representing the highest wisdom of life; upon the discourses of the fowls of the great mystic poet of the Persians, Ferideddin Attar, etc. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, also, a considerable part of their divinations consisted in observing the flight of birds, as if they were endowed with intelligence, and indicated coming events by the course which they took; compare also, Ecc_10:20, where wisdom or intelligence is ascribed to the birds of the air. “Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.”
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof – אבדון ומות Abaddon vamaveth, the destroyer, and his offspring death. This is the very name that is given to the devil in Greek letters Αβαδδων, Rev_9:11, and is rendered by the Greek word Απολλυων, Apollyon, a word exactly of the same meaning. No wonder death and the devil are brought in here as saying they had heard the fame of wisdom, seeing Job_28:28 defines it to be the fear of the Lord, and a departure from evil; things point blank contrary to the interests of Satan, and the extension of the empire of death.
Destruction – This is a personification which is exceedingly sublime. Job had spoken of the wonderful discoveries made by science, but none of them had disclosed true wisdom. It had not been discovered in the shaft which the miner sank deep in the earth; in the hidden regions which he laid open to day, nor by the birds that saw to the farthest distance, or that were regarded as the interpreters of the will of the gods. It was natural to ask whether it might not have been discovered in the vast profound of the nether world – the regions of death and of night; and whether by making a bold appeal to the king that reigned there, a response might not be heard that would be more satisfactory. In Job_28:14, the appeal had been made to the sea – with all its vast stores; here the appeal is to far deeper regions – to the nether world of darkness and of death. On the word used here (אבדון ‘ăbaddôn), “destruction,” see the notes at Job_26:6. It is employed here, as in that place, to denote the nether world – the abode of departed spirits – the world where those are who have been destroyed by death, and to which the destruction of the grave is the entrance.
And death – Death is used here to denote “Sheol,” or the abode of the spirits of the dead. The sense is, that those deep and dark regions had simply heard the distant report of wisdom but they did not understand it, and that if one went down there it would not be fully revealed to him. Perhaps there is an allusion to the natural expectation that, if one could go down and converse with the dead, he could find out much more than can be known on earth. It was to be presumed that they would understand much more about the unseen and future world, and about the plans and government of God, than man can know here. It was on this belief, and on the hope that some league or alliance could be made with the dead, inducing them to communicate what they knew, that the science of necromancy was founded; see the notes at Isa_8:19.
We have heard the fame thereof – We have heard the report of it, or a rumor of it. The meaning is, that they did not understand it fully, and that if man could penetrate to those dark regions, he could not get the information which he desired. Wisdom is still at such an immense distance that it is only a report, or rumor of it, which has reached us.
God understandeth the way thereof – It can only be taught by a revelation from himself. Instead of הבין hebin, understandeth, six MSS. have הכין hechin, disposed or established. This reading is also supported by the Septuagint; Ὁ Θεος ευ συνεστησεν αυτης ὁδον, “God hath well established her way:” falsely rendered bene cognovit, hath well known, in the Latin version of the Septuagint in the London Polyglot; but bene constituit, hath well established, in the Complutensian, Antwerp, and Paris Polyglots.
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.
God understandeth the way thereof – These are doubtless the words of Job. The meaning is, that the reason of the divine dispensations could be known only to God himself. He had given no clew by which man could discover this. He might carry his investigations far into the regions of science; he could penetrate the earth, and look on the stars, but still all his investigations fell short of disclosing the reasons of the divine dispensations. The secret was lodged in his bosom, and he only could communicate it where and when he pleased. It may be added here, that this is as true now as it was in the time of Job. Man has carried the investigations of science almost infinitely further than he had then, but still by the investigations of science he has by no means superseded the necessity of revelation, or shed light on the great questions that have, in all ages, so much perplexed the race. It is only by direct communication, by his word and by his Spirit, that man can be made to understand the reason of the divine doings, and nothing is better established by the course of events than the truth on which Job here so much insists, that science cannot answer the questions of so much interest to man about the divine government.
When he made a decree for the rain – When he determined how that should be generated, viz., By the heat of the sun evaporation is produced: the particles of vapor being lighter than the air on the surface, ascend into the atmosphere, till they come to a region where the air is of their own density; there they are formed into thin clouds, and become suspended. When, by the sudden passages of lightning, or by winds strongly agitating these clouds, the particles are driven together and condensed so as to be weightier than the air in which they float, then they fall down in the form of rain; the drops being greater or less according to the force or momentum, or suddenness, of the agitation by which they are driven together as well as to the degree of rarity in the lower regions of the atmosphere through which they fall.
A way for the lightning of the thunder – ודרך לחזיז קולות vederech lachaziz koloth. קול kol signifies voice of any kind; and koloth is the plural and is taken for the frequent claps or rattlings of thunder. חז chaz signifies to notch, indentate, or serrate, as in the edges of the leaves of trees; חזיז chaziz must refer to the zigzag form which lightning assumes in passing from one cloud into another. We are informed that “this is a frequent occurrence in hot countries.” Undoubtedly it is; for it is frequent in cold countries also. I have seen this phenomenon in England in the most distinct manner for hours together, with a few seconds of interval between each flash. Nothing can better express this appearance than the original word.
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.
When he made a decree for the rain – A statute or law (חק chôq) by which the rain is regulated. It is not sent by chance or hap-hazard. It is under the operation of regular and settled laws. We cannot suppose that those laws were understood in the time of Job, but the fact might be understood that the rain was regulated by laws, and that fact would show that God was qualified to impart wisdom. His kingdom was a kingdom of settled law and not of chance or caprice, and if the rain was regulated by statute, it was fair to presume that he did not deal with his people by chance, and that afflictions were not sent without rule; compare the notes at Job_5:6.
And a way – A path through which the rapid lightning should pass – referring, perhaps, to the apparent “opening” in the clouds in which the lightning seems to move along.
The lightning of the thunder – The word “lightning” here (חזיז chăzı̂yz) properly means “an arrow,” from הזז hāzaz, obsolete, to pierce through, to transfix, to performate; and hence, the lightning – from the rapidity with which it passes – like an arrow. The word “thunder” (קולות qôlôt) means voices, and hence, “thunder,” as being by way of eminence the voice of God; compare Psa_29:3-5. The whole expression here means “the thunder-flash.” Coverdale renders this, “when he gave the mighty floods a law;” but it undoubtedly refers to the thunderstorm, and the idea is, that he who controls the rapid lightning, regulating its laws and directing its path through the heavens, is qualified to communicate truth to people, and can explain the great principles on which his government is administered.
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.
Then did he see it – That is, then did he see wisdom. When in the work of creation he gave laws to the rain and the thunder storm; when he weighed out the winds and measured out the waters, then he saw and understood the principles of true wisdom. There is a remarkable similarity between the expression here and Pro_8:27-30, “When he prepared the heavens, I (wisdom) was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the foundations of the deep; when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth; then I was by him as one brought up with him; I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.”
And declare it – Margin, “number.” The word (ספר sâphar) means, however, rather to “declare,” or to “narrate;” and the idea is, that even then he made known to intelligent beings the true principles of wisdom, as consisting in the fear of the Lord, and in suitable veneration for the Most High. “In what way” this was made known, Job does not say; but there can be no doubt of the fact to which he adverts, that even in his time the great principles of all real wisdom were made known to created intelligences, as consisting in profound veneration of God, in a willingness to bow under his dispensations, and to confide in him.
He prepared it – Made it a matter of “thought” and “inquiry” to find out what was real wisdom, and communicated it in a proper way to his creatures. The idea is, that it was not the result of chance, nor did it spring up of its own accord, but it was a matter of “intelligent investigation” on the part of God to know what constituted true wisdom. Probably, also, Job here means to refer to the attempts of man to investigate it, and to say that its value was enhanced from the fact that it had even required “the search of God” to find it out. Beautiful eulogiums of Wisdom may be seen in the Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, of which the following is a specimen:
Wisdom shall praise herself,
And shall glory in the midst of her people.
In the congregation of the Most High shall she open her mouth,
And triumph before his power.
I came out of the mouth of the Most High,
And covered the earth as a cloud.
I dwell in high places,
And my throne is in a cloudy pillar.
I alone compassed the circuit of heaven,
And walked in the bottom of the deep.
In the waves of the sea, and in all the earth,
And in every people and nation, I got a possession.
He created me from the beginning, before the world,
And I shall never fall. Ecclus. 24
Unto man he said – לאדם laadam, unto man, he said: This probably refers to the revelation of his will which God gave to Adam after his fall. He had before sought for wisdom in a forbidden way. When he and Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, they took and did eat, Gen_3:6. Thus they lost all the wisdom that they had, by not setting the fear of the Lord before their eyes; and became foolish, wicked, and miserable. Hear, then, what God prescribes as a proper remedy for this dire disease: The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; it is thy only wisdom now to set God always before thy eyes, that thou mayest not again transgress.
Depart from evil is understanding – Depart from the evil within thee, and the evil without thee; for thy own evil, and the evil that is now, through thee, brought into the world, will conspire together to sink thee into ruin and destruction. Therefore, let it be thy constant employment to shun and avoid that evil which is everywhere diffused through the whole moral world by thy offense; and labor to be reconciled to him by the righteousness and true holiness, that thou mayest escape the bitter pains of an eternal death. See the note on Job_28:12.
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” (Psa_111:10; Pro_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).
28.Unto man — Hebrew, Adam; which leads some to suppose that this divine precept was delivered to our fore-parents before the fall, and that it “contains perhaps a summary of religious knowledge imparted to them.” — Lee.
The Lord — Adhonai. Many manuscripts have Jehovah. That man might answer the end of his being — dwelling in harmony with God and himself — divine wisdom encompassed him also with law, no less than the elemental powers of nature. This law, like all the works of wisdom, was simple and yet perfect — the offspring of divine goodness and love. “Fear is the mother of foresight:” spiritual fear, of a foresight that comprehends the possibilities of life and the reality of eternity. The fear of God, in any world of moral beings, is a conserving power as essential as that which binds the planetary system. In man wisdom manifests itself as a moral growth, whose life is rooted in the fear of the Lord and the departing from evil; in God it is the eternal embodiment of perfection without growth, degrees, or limitations. “No one,” says St. Ambrose, “can know wisdom without God;” a sentiment which Lord Bacon supplements with a lesson which the philosophers of the day should heed: “It is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little, or superficial knowledge, of philosophy may incline the mind to Atheism, but a further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back to religion.” — Advancement of Science. See also his Essays, 16. The scholar is referred to the exhaustive treatise on this chapter by Pareau, entitled, “Wisdom better known to the Dead than to the Living,” and to be found at the close of his work De Immortalitatis Notitiis, 28:229-367; also Samuel Wesley’s Dissertationes in Librum Jobi, 34.
And unto man he said – At what time, or how, Job does not say. Prof. Lee supposes that this refers to the instruction which God gave in Paradise to our first parents; but it may rather be supposed to refer to the universal tenor of the divine communications to man, and to all that God had said about the way of true wisdom. The meaning is, that the substance of all that God had said to man was, that true wisdom was to be found in profound veneration of him.
The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom – The word “Lord” here is improperly printed in small capitals, as if the word were יהוה yehovâh. The original word is, however, אדני ‘ǎdonāy; and the fact is worthy of notice, because one point of the argument respecting the date of the book turns on the question whether the word Yahweh occurs in it; see the notes at Job_12:9. The fear of the Lord is often represented as true wisdom; Pro_1:7; Pro_14:27; Pro_15:33; Pro_19:23; Psa_111:10, et al. The meaning here is, that real wisdom is connected with a proper veneration for God, and with submission to him. We cannot understand his ways. Science cannot conduct us up to a full explanation of his government, nor can the most profound investigations disclose all that we would wish to know about God. In these circumstances, true wisdom is found in humble piety; in reverence for the name and perfections of God; in that veneration which leads us to adore him, and to believe that he is right, though clouds and darkness are round about him. To this conclusion Job, in all his perplexities, comes, and here his mind finds rest.
And to depart from evil is understanding – To forsake every evil way must be wise. In doing that, man knows that he cannot err. He walks safely who abandons sin, and in forsaking every evil way he knows that he cannot but be right. He may be in error when speculating about God, and the reasons of his government; he may be led astray when endeavoring to comprehend his dealings; but there can be no such perplexity in departing from evil. There he knows he is right. There his feet are on a rock. It is better to walk surely there than to involve ourselves in perplexity about profound and inscrutable operations of the divine character and government. It may be added here, also, that he who aims to lead a holy life, who has a virtuous heart, and who seeks to do always what is right, will have a clearer view of the government and truth of God, than the most profound intellect can obtain without a heart of piety; and that without that, all the investigations of the most splendid talents will be practically in vain.