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Frontline Ministries - Job's Discourse on Wisdom in Job 28

Job's Discourse on Wisdom

An Exegetical Paper on Job 28:1-28

D. Massimiliano Lorenzini

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.

INTRODUCTION

The Book of Job deals with one of man's oldest questions: Why do the righteous suffer? The Book of Job, possibly the oldest book in the Bible, records God's revelation on the subject.

As to the date and authorship of the Book of Job, this author believes the contents to be historical rather than allegorical. Because of that, this author believes the book to be written early, by Job or Moses. It is possible that it may have been written during the wisdom period in Israel's history (the Solomonic era), but this author believes, with Samuel Ridout, that "Taken reverently, the word of God allows such questions; but when men go further, and doubt the authenticity or authorship of books declared to be written by certain men, as Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, etc., faith turns from the whole as dangerous and unholy speculation." E.W. Bullinger offers a sound word on the subject: "A lengthened account of the discussion of these questions would be without profit."

An interesting piece of evidence as to the historicity of Job and the date is found in a long subscription to the Book of Job in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (OT). It says Job lived in the land of Ausis (Uz) on the borders of Idumea (Edom) and Arabia, his name before was Jobab and was the son of Zara, a son of the son's of Esau, so that he was the fifth from Abraham. In Genesis 36:10,13,17 Zerah is named as the son of Reuel, one of the sons of Esau. One named Jobab is named a "king" in Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel and that this Jobab was the son of Zerah, in Genesis 36:31,33. This would account for Job being a worshiper of the God of Abraham and would place Job as living during the time around Moses and explains how Moses could have been the author as one Jewish tradition claims.

Chapter 28 of the Book of Job, Job's discourse on wisdom, is in the midst of Job's final defense to his friends. It occurs after the third round of dialogs regarding the reason for Job's suffering. His friends believe Job to be guilty of sin for incurring the great suffering in his life, though the reader knows Job is innocent. Francis Andersen calls Job 28 an "interlude" in the dramatic dialog of Job and his three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Andersen writes, "It stands complete in itself, and is not joined smoothly with the preceding and following material. Yet it does not interrupt the flow, as if it would be better out of the way; for there is a natural break at this point." Ridout says, "Continuing his monologue, Job next contrasts the doom of the ungodly rich, as described in the previous chapter, with the true riches (wisdom), which can never be lost. The connection is clear, and the transition natural and striking." Ridout continues, "The whole passage is beautiful and noble in its conception and expression, and indicates that the one who speaks knows that blessed One whom he describes. This chapter would prove that Job could not be the hypocrite his friends would make him out to be."

Roy Zuck says, "This chapter may be seen as Job's rebuke to the shortsighted wisdom of his antagonists, an effort to demonstrate that their limited theological outlook was false. Seen as a disclaimer to their accusations that he was not fearing God and needed to turn from evil, the chapter is unquestionably fitting as the words of Job. Also, it is consistent with God's earlier assessment of Job (1:1, 8; 2:3), thus demonstrating to the reader that the three friends were mistaken in their demand that Job must begin to revere God and repent of sin. Chapter 28 argues that he had been fearing God and hating evil, but that they had not! Seen in this way, the final verse of the chapter becomes one of the great, climactic moments in the book."

Against this Andersen writes, "But most scholars find it impossible to believe that Job ever recited this poem. They find it quite incompatible with what comes before and after. It would represent a premature conversion, and render any further speeches by Elihu or by the Lord superfluous....It is so sublime that other scholars prefer to remove it altogether, because it competes with the following Yahweh speeches and lessens their impact." John D.W. Watts writes, "Virtually the unanimous consensus of modern scholarship sees this chapter as separate from the dialogue and from Job's speech in chapters 29-31."

This is what happens when one departs from taking the Bible at face value. These types of "scholars" have become educated fools. In a footnote, Andersen writes, "Some scholars would like to put the refrain ("Where shall wisdom be found?") at the beginning as well as in verses 12 and 20." Because these "scholars" believe the Bible to be mere human literature they feel they can rewrite it according to what suits their fallen minds. This author does not accept this low view of the Scriptures and believes it should not be tolerated in the church of the Lord Jesus.

This author takes chapter 28 as Job's discourse on wisdom during Job's final defense. However, it can be treated separately as a wonderful poem on wisdom because, as Andersen said, "it stands complete in itself." And to this we now turn our attention.

EXEGETICAL SECTION

In this 28th chapter of Job we have an excellent poem on wisdom. Verses 1-11 show that man is industrious and ingenious in searching out the treasures hidden in the earth. Verses 12-22 show that the more valuable treasure of the knowledge of God lies beyond his reach. God alone comprehends and possesses it and the only way for man to obtain it is by revelation as he is rightly related to God and departs from evil, verses 23-28. These are the three stanzas to the poem. Within this overall outline it is helpful to follow the outline of Matthew Henry who, in his typical style, has brought out the riches of this passage.

Job 28:1-11

I. The wealth of this world is hidden in the earth. Job begins his discourse on wisdom as an "intriguing riddle," as Andersen states. "Surely there is a mine for silver...gold...iron...copper" (vv. 1-2): Precious and valuable and useful metals are taken from the earth. "Its stones are the sources of sapphires, and it contains gold dust" (v. 6): Wealth is contained in the rock. Man recognizes and appreciates the value of these things. This wealth, however, is hidden "in the darkness and the shadow of death" (v. 3); it is "hidden in places forgotten by feet" (v. 4); in "that path no bird knows" (v. 7). "The falcon's eye [has not] seen it" (v. 7): This bird, which has ability of sight beyond any man, cannot see it. "Nor has the fierce lion passed over it" (v. 8): The lion with its great strength and courage cannot get to the hidden wealth.

II. The wealth that is hidden in the earth cannot be obtained but with a great deal of difficulty. The "silver" is mined, "gold is refined, iron is taken from the earth," and "copper is smelted from ore" (vv. 1-2). "Man puts an end to darkness" (v. 3): The subterranean earth is exposed by natural and artificial light. "They hang far away from men; they swing to and fro" (v. 4): A reference to the use of ropes in the mining operation. "He cuts out channels in the rocks" (v. 10): May refer to the means of draining water, but is probably speaking of tunnels in the rocks so that "his eye sees every precious thing" (v. 10).

III. Though the subterraneous wealth is thus hard to obtain, yet men will have it. They will go to any lengths to obtain wealth. That is why the mines are created at all. "He breaks open a shaft" (v.4): He will expend any effort to get to the wealth. "As for the earth, from it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire" (v. 5): The earth brings forth what man needs, but he is not satisfied with that. He will ravage the interior of the earth and leave in a state much like the results that fire brings. "He overturns the mountains at the roots" (v.9): A vivid picture of the extent the wealth seekers will go to. "He dams up the streams from trickling" (v. 11): Underground streams that would interfere with the mining operation. These men risk their lives to obtain this wealth. Matthew Henry says these men, "are continually in danger of being suffocated by damps or crushed or buried alive by the fall of the earth upon them." Yet, "In the prospect of laying hold of them, they make nothing of all these difficulties. Go to the miner's then, thou sluggard in religion; consider their ways, and be wise. Let their courage, diligence, and constancy in seeking the wealth that perisheth shame us out of slothfulness and faint-heartedness in labouring for the true riches."

Job 28:12-19

After showing man's ingenuity, persistence, and success in exploration, mining, and smelting for the sake of material riches, Job asks the most pertinent question: "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?" (v. 12). Matthew Henry says two things cannot be found out concerning this wisdom:

I. The price of it, for that is inestimable; its worth is infinitely more than all the riches in this world. "Man does not know its value" (v. 13): Men do not know the value of wisdom, so take no thought or effort to obtain it, and thus do not where it can be found. Not only can man not find wisdom, he cannot even purchase it with the precious metals and stones he has found (vv. 15-19).

II. The place of it, for that is undiscoverable. Henry says, "While the most of men are asking, ‘Where shall money be found?' we should ask, Where may wisdom be found? not vain philosophy, or carnal policy, but true religion; for that is the only true wisdom, It is not found in this land of the living, v. 13." "The deep says, ‘It is not in me'; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.'" (v. 14): Andersen writes, "The point is that it cannot be obtained from the world, nor from the most primaeval and elemental powers of nature, Tehom and Yam, the original watery chaos of creation."

Job 28:20-28

Henry says, "There is a twofold wisdom, one hidden in God, which is secret and belongs not to us, the other made known by him and revealed to man, which belongs to us and to our children." Henry is here quoting from Dueteronomy 29:29 which says, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." God has not kept His wisdom from us, but desires us to know what is needed to live in right relationship with Him and with others. Dueteronomy 30:11-14 says:

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

God is the only source of wisdom and understanding as Job 28:20-28 makes clear.

I. The knowledge of God's secret will, the will of his providence, is out of our reach. 1. This knowledge is hidden from us (v. 21). "Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a report [or rumor] about it with our ears.'" (v. 22): Ridout says, "How true it is that those who consider their latter end are near to wisdom, ready to receive the revelation which God gives. This is the wisdom which cometh down from above, and is given to the meek." 2. This knowledge is hidden in God. Two reasons why God alone must know this knowledge: (1) Because all events are now directed by an all-seeing and almighty Providence, vv. 23-24. Only the omniscient God is capable of comprehending this knowledge, and by it He governs the universe. "God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and He sees under the whole heavens," (vv. 23-24): This is in stark contrast to man's laborious searching. (2) Because all events were from eternity designed and determined by an infallible prescience and immutable decree, vv. 25-27. Zuck says, "Job's appreciation of God's sovereignty over and providential care for His creation is again seen in His establishment of regulations that govern four aspects of nature (vv. 25-26)." God settled the course of nature by wisdom (v. 27). Zuck says, "When God, in His creative work, prescribed laws for the wind, waters, rain, and lightning, He explored wisdom, which is treated as a tangible object or idea. (Cf. Prov. 8:27-30, which is strikingly similar.) He saw it, probed it, (a possible rendering for the word "declared"), established it, and investigated it. Together these verbs suggest that He perfectly fathomed the nature of wisdom--in stark contrast to man's inability even to find it."

II. The knowledge of God's revealed will is within our reach; it is level to our capacity, and will do us good (v. 28). Zuck says, "The necessity of divine, propositional revelation is indicated next: "to man He said" (v. 28). The acquisition of true wisdom is impossible without revelation. Witness again the foolishness of some so-called "scholars": "Many commentators do not like this verse. They dismiss it as a platitude that replaces noble agnosticism with a banal moralism." Observe the assessment of these "noble agnostics" by God:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them (they "study" the Bible). For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25)

The consistent Christian view is that God did say this. It was the Serpent who said to Eve, "Has God indeed said...?" (Gen. 3:1). When we observe what is said it is obvious why Satan would like us to doubt it. "And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding" (v. 28): Job is exemplary of this principle (v. 1:1). Zuck says, "Fearing God and turning away from evil may be summarized as adoration of God and obedience to God. Thus the truly wise man is the one whose life is centered on God, not self, and is regulated by God. Man in right relationship to God, worshiping Him, serving Him, obeying Him--that is wisdom and understanding!" This what we were created for: To be in fellowship with God and glorify Him.

Wisdom is directly connected with God who is the source of wisdom, and from whom wisdom is revealed primarily through His word. Meredith G. Kline says, "For wisdom is the word of His will and becomes articulate for man in God's law--natural and moral. Divine law is the form in which God reveals His wisdom to men." How does one progress in wisdom? Kline gives us an answer: "Man's reverent acknowledgment that he and his world are subject to the Creator is so much the lifeblood of human wisdom that it can be identified with wisdom. A man begins to be wise when he ceases to strive for wisdom independently of God and in his own power. He advances in wisdom through meditation on the moral law and investigation of natural law. Apart from a true recognition of divine revelation, whether in the natural creation or in the Word, man's meditation and investigation produce not wisdom but folly. The cultural enterprise not begun and consummated in the cult is vain. And the cult, if it be not the true cult of the Lord, is vanity. The fear of the Lord, covenant consecration, is the beginning and chief part of wisdom."

CONCLUSION

In summation, we have seen in this wonderful discourse of Job on wisdom that, "All man's scientific investigations, technological advances, and intellectual achievements--remarkable as they are, whether in Job's day or the present--fail miserably to provide a ‘full explanation of [God's] government [or to] disclose all that we would wish to know about God.' Instead, real wisdom consists in establishing one's life in submissive veneration before God, in revering God in an attitude of confidence that He does all things right (although that rightness may not always be apparent to man)."

We have seen that man possesses great skill in finding hidden things of value, but he cannot find wisdom and doesn't even know where to look for it. However, God is the possessor and source of wisdom. By revelation He allows us to know what we need to know to be successful in life. This wisdom is gained and expressed by fearing God and turning from evil. We cannot know everything, but what we need to know God makes abundantly clear. In what we cannot know we simply must trust in God's gracious sovereignty. This is the message of Job chapter 28 and in fact of the Book of Job.

Job could deliver this discourse with calmness and confidence because he possessed this wisdom, as is seen in 1:1,8; 2:3. Where the Lord Himself says that Job was "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil." Job did what he knew to do and trusted in God for what he did not know. May we as Christians follow in his steps.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Andersen, Francis I. Job, The Tyndale Old TestamentCommentaries. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Bullinger, E.W. The Companion Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990.

Kline, Meredith G. "Job" in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Nashville: The Southwestern Company, 1962.

Radmacher, Earl D., ed. The Nelson Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Ridout, Samuel. The Book of Job. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1919.

Watts, John D.W. Job in The Broadman Bible Commentary. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971.

Zuck, Roy. Job, Everyman's Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.


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