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JOB 28


Job Tells of Earth's Treasures Job's Discourse on Wisdom Hymn On the Inaccessibility of Wisdom In Praise of Wisdom Wisdom is Beyond Human Reach
The Search for Wisdom Is Harder   28:9-11

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. Notice there is no identification of the speaker (and no allusions to the three comforters). It does not seem logically to connect to Job 27 (i.e., it uses a conjunction [BDB 471] that does not make a logical or grammatical connection with Job 27). It seems to foreshadow God's response to Job that occurs in Job 38:1-41:3a.


B. This is often called

1. an interlude

2. a transition

3. a bridge


C. I assume the author of the book of Job is a Judean sage (i.e., the vocabulary and imagery are similar to the speeches of Job 3-27. If so, this would be perhaps an editorial comment on a main theme (i.e., #3 below) of the entire book. I think the themes are

1. the fairness or justice of God in His dealings with humans

2. the reality of the innocent suffering, which is surprising in light of "the two ways"

3. where is true wisdom found; how does one attain it

D. Notice the "precious" (Job 28:10b) things listed in this chapter.

1. silver (BDB 494)

2. gold (BDB 262)

3. iron (BDB 137)

4. copper (BDB 639)

5. rock (lit., "ore," BDB 6)

6. "as fire" (gem stone)

7. sapphires (BDB 705)

8. gold of Ophir (BDB 508 construct BDB 20)

9. precious onyx (BDB 995 I)

10. glass (BDB 269)

11. coral (BDB 910)

12. crystal (BDB 150)

13. pearls (BDB 819)

14. topaz (BDB 809)

15. pure gold (BDB 508 and BDB 373)

This is like a summary of all valuable metals and jewels of the ANE. The things humans treasure most are worthless in buying or obtaining wisdom. Human effort cannot find it, buy it, or obtain it (cf. Job 28:18b)!


 1"Surely there is a mine for silver
 And a place where they refine gold.
 2Iron is taken from the dust,
 And copper is smelted from rock.
 3Man puts an end to darkness,
 And to the farthest limit he searches out
 The rock in gloom and deep shadow.
 4He sinks a shaft far from habitation,
 Forgotten by the foot;
 They hang and swing to and fro far from men.
 5The earth, from it comes food,
 And underneath it is turned up as fire.
 6Its rocks are the source of sapphires,
 And its dust contains gold.
 7The path no bird of prey knows,
 Nor has the falcon's eye caught sight of it.
 8The proud beasts have not trodden it,
 Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
 9He puts his hand on the flint;
 He overturns the mountains at the base.
 10He hews out channels through the rocks,
 And his eye sees anything precious.
 11He dams up the streams from flowing,
 And what is hidden he brings out to the light."

28:1-11 This paragraph answers the question stated in Job 28:12,20, "where can wisdom be found?"

The first point is "it cannot be found with the ‘precious' things (jewels, metals) in the earth." Men mine the earth, even in difficult and remote places, but wisdom is not found here.

The second point is that no animals (i.e., birds, beasts) know where it is either (cf. Job 28:7-8,21).

This outline could be continued

1. in Job 28:13,21a, where mankind does not know

2. in Job 28:14a, where "the deep" (personified) does not know

3. in Job 28:14b, where the Sea (Yam) does not know

4. in Job 28:22, where neither "Abaddon" nor "death" (personified) knows where wisdom is to be found

Job does not know nor do his three friends, though they all think they do!

Only God (Job 28:23-27) knows!

28:3 This verse refers to manmade lighting in mines.

28:4 This must refer to the valuable jewels or ore high up on the sides of the gorge or cliff side. Line 4c is very hard to interpret. Its imagery has been lost unless it refers to human miners being suspended by ropes, ladders, platforms, baskets so as to take jewels and ore from the side of deep gorges or cliffs (AB, p. 179).

It is surely possible that this refers to lowering people into the mine shaft (NET Bible, p. 821).

28:5 The mention of fire could have several meanings.

1. it refers to a bright, shiny jewel

2. it refers to a method of cracking the rock layers

3. it is some allusion to volcanic activity as the source of gems and ore


28:7-8 I think the UBS Handbook (p. 497) is correct in seeing these verses as referring to the secret path to the mines. Secret so no other humans can find the mine. This may parallel Job 28:4.

It is possible that it refers to the fact that people/animals walking on the surface of the earth have no idea of what is occurring underground in a mine.

It is also possible that Job 28:7-8 highlights the fact that humans explore beneath the earth's surface but animals do not. So, God's most cerebral creatures have some advantages but, like animals, can still not know/find wisdom..


Peshitta"divides the rivers"

This noun (BDB 384) basically means "stream" or "a channel cut by a river" (i.e., the Nile, cf. Exod. 1:22; 2:3 or Tigris, cf. Dan. 12:5). It can be used of

1. wells

2. mining shafts (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 48)


28:11a This could refer not to rivers but mythologically to "the watery deeps" (i.e., the abode of the gods), another allusion to inaccessible places.

 12"But where can wisdom be found?
 And where is the place of understanding?
 13Man does not know its value,
 Nor is it found in the land of the living.
 14The deep says, ‘It is not in me';
 And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.'
 15Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it,
 Nor can silver be weighed as its price.
 16It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
 In precious onyx, or sapphire.
 17Gold or glass cannot equal it,
 Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold.
 18Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned;
 And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls.
 19The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
 Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
 20Where then does wisdom come from?
 And where is the place of understanding?
 21Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living
 And concealed from the birds of the sky.
 22Abaddon and Death say,
 ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.'"

28:12 This question (which is the key to Job 28) is repeated in Job 28:20.

28:13a This line of poetry has been translated two ways.

1. ערכה, BDB 789 – its value or price (MT, JPSOA)

2. דרכה, BDB 202 – its way or place (NRSV, NJB, REB, following the LXX)

The UBS Text Project (p. 89) gives four suggestions.

1. its price or value

2. its equal

3. its residence or home (Ugaritic)

4. its level or station

It gives the MT "price" a "C" (considerable doubt) rating. Dahood's studies in Ugaritic have demonstrated that the Semitic root, ערך, can mean "house" or "abode" (see [1] Mitchell Dahood, Hebrew Ugaritic Lexicography VII, p. 255 and [2] NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 535). This forms a much better parallelism in Job 28:12-14.

28:13b The point is that wisdom cannot be found

1. by living humans, even with all their ingenuity and energy (i.e., Job 28:1-11)

2. by the primeval mythological powers (i.e., the Deep, the Sea, cf. Job 28:14)

3. by Abaddon and Death, Job 28:22

This is poetry, not prose. Do not push a contradiction between Job 28:13b and 28:28. They are addressing two different kinds of wisdom.

 23"God understands its way,
 And He knows its place.
 24For He looks to the ends of the earth
 And sees everything under the heavens. 
 25When He imparted weight to the wind
 And meted out the waters by measure,
 26When He set a limit for the rain
 And a course for the thunderbolt,
 27Then He saw it and declared it;
 He established it and also searched it out.
 28And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
 And to depart from evil is understanding.'"

28:23-27 Only God "understands" (BDB 106, KB 122, Hiphil perfect) and "knows" (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal perfect) wisdom. He is the God of creation (Job 28:24-26). He and He alone

1. saw it (i.e., wisdom)

2. declared it

3. established it

4. searched it out

This reflects the poetic truth of the creation of wisdom in Pro. 8:22-31.

28:24 This verse speaks of the omniscience of God (cf. Ps. 33:13-14; 66:7; 102:19; 104:32; Pro. 15:3; Heb. 4:13). The Creator knows

1. His physical creation

2. His human creation


28:28 Although wisdom cannot be found or purchased by humans, God has revealed Himself. Therefore,

1. the fear of the Lord (Adon) is wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Pro. 1:7; 9:10); the title Adon is used only here in the book; it is another textual hint of a Judean sage

2. the reception of wisdom results in a moral transformation; truth and life are joined inseparably (cf. Job 1:1,8; 2:3)

It should be noted that a knowledge of God in all His creative power and purpose (i.e., "the wisdom," Job 28:12,20) cannot be known by human creatures (cf. Deut. 29:29), but we were created for fellowship (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:8) and we can know something of God ("wisdom" but with no article), enough to trust Him and obey Him!

▣ "fear" See Special Topic: Fear.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who is the author of Job 28?

2. What is the purpose of Job 28:1-11?

3. Define OT "wisdom."

4. Why are Job 28:12 and 20 the theological key to the chapter?

5. How is Job 28:28 different from the other verses of this chapter?

6. Define OT "fear."


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