John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary

Verse 17 (Job 28:17)

The gold and the crystal cannot equal it ,.... Crystal was found in an island of the Red sea, situated before Arabia, called Neron, and in another, which from a gem found in it bears the name of Topazion, and may be thought therefore to be well known by Job; and though it is not now of so much account, it formerly was very valuable. Pliny F1 Ut supra, (Nat. Hist. l. 37.) c. 2. makes mention of a crystal vessel, sold for 150,000 sesterces, about 1250 pounds sterling; and of two crystal cups broke by Nero in his fury, on hearing of some losses, to punish the then present age, that no other men might drink out of them: some render it "amber", which is found in Prussia, and being at a great distance from Job's country, might be the more valuable there; and Pliny F2 Ib. c. 5. speaks of it as had in as great esteem as gems: the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin versions, and others, translate it "glass" F3 זכוכית υαλος , Sept. "vitrum", V. L. Tigurine version, Cocceius. which had its original from Phoenicia, near Judea; so Pliny says F4 Ut supra, (Nat. Hist.) l. 36. c. 26. Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 10. sect. 2. from the lake Cendevia, within the roots of Mount Carmel, in Phoenicia, near Judea, springs the river Belus, from whence glass came first; and he speaks of Sidon (a city in Phoenicia) as famous for it; and Tacitus F5 Hist. l. 5. c. 7. observes, that the river Belus glides in the Jewish sea, and about the mouth of it sand is gathered and mixed with nitre, and boiled into glass; and this being near the country where Job dwelt, it is thought be had knowledge of it; and from this passage some F6 Neri Praefat. ad. lib. de re vitriaria. have concluded the great antiquity of glass; and if it is true what Aelianus F7 Var. Hist. l. 12. c. 3. relates, that when the monument of the ancient Belus (the first king of Babylon) was dug up by Xerxes, the son of Darius, that there was found a glass urn, where lay a body in oil, it must be in use before the times of Job. An Arabic chronologer F8 Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 33. affirms what be had from men conversant in history, that in Egypt, after the flood, there were men learned in various sciences, and among the rest in alchemy, and had knowledge of burning glasses; though the invention of these, and of a glass globe, is ascribed to Archimedes F9 Vid. Fabritii Bibliothec. Gr. l. 3. c. 22. sect. 11. 15. , who lived somewhat later than two hundred years before Christ. There was great plenty of glass very early in Ethiopia, after mentioned, in which they enclosed their dead, that they might be seen through it F11 Diodor. Sic. l. 2. p. 102. Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 24. ; and if it was in use in Job's time, and especially if it was then a late invention, it might be highly valued, and therefore placed here with things of the greatest worth. In the times of Nero, Pliny says F12 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 26.) two small glass cups were sold for six thousand sesterces, or forty five pounds sterling, and according to others near fifty pounds; and the same writer relates, that in the times of Tiberias an art was found out to make glass flexible and malleable; but was ordered to be destroyed, lest the value of gold, silver, and brass, should be lessened by it. The Targum renders the word here used a looking glass; See Gill on Joshua 11:8 . Some think the diamond or adamant is meant, and others that it is a general name for all sorts of precious stones, they being clear, transparent, and lucid, as the word signifies:

and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold ; set in fine gold; or "vessels" of it, more valuable than gold itself, being made of gold, purified, refined, and wrought by art into curious forms; and yet wisdom is so valuable as not to be exchanged for these. Mr. Broughton takes this fine gold, or gold of Phaz, to be the same with Fess in Barbary, which had its name from a heap of gold there found when its foundation was laid; for "fess" with the Arabs signifies gold F13 Leo African. Descript. Africae, l. 3. p. 273. .

- John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary