The connection of this chapter with the preceding is somewhat obscure. Probably we are to regard Job as led to see, even while he is justifying God's ways with sinners ( Job 27:8-23 ), how many and how great are the difficulties in the way of forming a single consistent theory of the Divine action, which shall be applicable to all cases. Hence he comes to the conclusion that God is incomprehensible by man and inscrutable; and that it is only given to man to know him sufficiently for his practical guidance. To impress this on his hearers is his main object (verses 12-28); and, to impress it the more, he introduces it by a sharp contrast. Wonderful as is man's cleverness and ingenuity in respect of earthly things and physical phenomena (verses 1-11), with respect to heavenly things and the spiritual world—wherewith true wisdom is concerned—he knows next to nothing. All that he knows is just enough to guide his conduct aright (verse 28).
Here we come on an abrupt change. From human ingenuity and contrivance Job turns to the consideration of "wisdom"—that wisdom which has been defined as "the reason which deals with principles "(Canon Cook). "Where," he asks, "is this to be found?" It is a wholly different thing from cleverness and ingenuity. It inquires into causes and origins, into the ends and purposes of things; it seeks to solve the riddle of the universe. Perfect wisdom can, of course, only dwell with God (verse 23). Man must be content with something much below this. With him "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding" (verse 28).
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it ; rather, gold and crystal. This second mention of gold (see verse ]5) seems superfluous, but perhaps the patriarch is thinking of some goblet or ornament in which crystal and gold were combined together. Ornaments of this kind bare been found in Phoenicia. And the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold ; or, vessels of fine gold. Both in Egypt and Phoenicia vessels of gold were common.
Job's first parable: 3. A discourse upon true wisdom.
I. THE WISDOM UNDISCOVERABLE BY HUMAN GENIUS . Among the stupendous efforts of human industry and skill with which Job was acquainted, nothing was better fitted to impress the mind with a sense of man's illimitable daring, resistless might, and wonderful success in searching out all perfection (verse 3), and brining hidden things to light (vet, 11), than the operations of the miner. These, a knowledge of which may have been derived from mines then being worked in Egypt, the Sinaitic peninsula, and Arabia ( vide Exposition; and cf. Delitzsch, in loco ), are with much accuracy and vividness portrayed.
1 . The treasures the miner seeks. These are set forth by their names and the places where they commonly are found.
2 . The path the miner follows. A solitary path.
3 . The works the miner executes. Some of these have been mentioned already, but for the sake of continuity may be here repeated.
1. That it cannot be discovered in order to be valued. Should one roam through the land of the living, i.e. traverse the face of earth in every direction in pursuit of it, it would still elude his observation. Should he "take the wings of the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the sea" ( Psalms 139:9 ), inquiring after it, the sea with every rippling billow would reply, "It is not with me." Nay, should he dive into the subterranean abyss of waters ( Psalms 139:8 ), still prosecuting his research after wisdom, up from those dark depths would sound the answer, "Not in me."
2 . That , if it could be discovered, man cannot estimate its worth. "A mortal knoweth not its price" (verse 13). So transcendent in its excellence is this heavenly wisdom, so l at surpassing man's ordinary conceptions, that the task of appreciating its essential value is beyond the capacities of his finite understanding. "Man is the measure of the universe," said Pythagoras. "Be it so," is Job's thought; "here is something outside of the universe of which the vastest human intelligence is not the measure "—the Divine wisdom, in accordance with which it has been framed, and by which it is continually governed, including the Divine intelligence that devised the ideal plan of the world, the ideal plan or pattern itself, and the combined wisdom and power by which that plan is carried forward into minute and complete realization.
3 . That , even if its price could be told , its equivalent could not be found by man. "The poet lays everything under contribution to illustrate the thought that the worth of wisdom exceeds the worth of the most valuable earthly thing" (Delitzsch). Nothing that the miner can bring up from the bowels of the earth, nor aught that the merchant can import from foreign climes; nay, not all of these together can be set in comparison with heaven's jewel of eternal wisdom ( Proverbs 3:14 , Proverbs 3:15 ). Gold and silver of the rarest, purest, brightest quality; costly pearls of most delicate hue and of fabulous worth; the entire wealth of a world, cannot purchase it ( Proverbs 8:10 , Proverbs 8:11 ). What Job asserts of the wisdom which enables one to understand and appreciate the. principles of Divine government on earth is more true of that wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation. It also is in itself undiscoverable by man ( 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). Its true worth cannot properly be appreciated by man ( Romans 11:33 ). Its mercantile equivalent cannot be offered or even found by man ( Matthew 16:26 ). The price of him who is the Wisdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 1:24 ) is above rubies.
III. TRUE WISDOM POSSESSED BY GOD ALONE . Since wisdom can neither be discovered by man's intelligence nor purchased by man's gold, the question naturally recurs, "Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?" in response to which Job affirms:
1 . That true wisdom is the secret of God alone. God's exclusive knowledge of wisdom is impressively represented by a renewed declaration of the utter ignorance of all created beings concerning this transcendent theme.
2 . That true wisdom is the property of God alone. "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof" (verse 23). Besides stating that God knows whence true wisdom is to be obtained, Job designs to convey the thought that God alone is in possession of this wisdom. Looking to the ends of the earth and searching under the whole heaven, he not only comprehends with his omniscient glance "where wisdom dwelleth;" but, in virtue of that knowledge, he is himself the infinitely wise and understanding One ( Job 12:13 ).
3 . That true wisdom has been exemplified by God alone. The creation of the world was a sublime manifestation of this wisdom ( Proverbs 8:27-31 ). In particular the establishment of those laws which regulate the force of the wind, the distribution of land and water, the collecting and emptying of the rain-clouds, and the origin and course of the lightning, was a signal display of celestial intelligence (verses 25, 26). Nay, when the almighty Artificer fashioned the universe, then did he search out this wisdom, assign to it a place and function in his grand creative work, and commit to it the production, preservation, and providential government of all finite things (verse 27). With this unbeginning Wisdom St. John ( John 1:1-4 ) identifies the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. TRUE WISDOM DIVINELY REVEALED TO MAN . Though undiscoverable by human genius, and unpurchaseable by human gold, true wisdom has not been withheld from man. He has received it by revelation.
1 . The Divinity of this revelation. It has not been imparted by nature. The material fabric of creation is a product and a display of celestial wisdom; but it is not sufficient for man as a law by conforming to which he too may attain unto wisdom. Nor has man himself discovered it, either by physical or scientific research, or by philosophical or religious speculation, or by heathen and superstitious divination. The law which should constitute man a participator in eternal wisdom was and is something distinct from the laws which regulate matter. It was a something communicated to man over and above all that God said to him indirectly through the medium of nature.
2 . The antiquity of this revelation. At various subsequent periods, as e.g. at Sinai, and again at the Advent, repeated and enlarged, it was yet first delivered in the day of man's creation, when God, having made man an intelligent and responsible creature, placed him under the law of right, engraven on the fleshy tablets of his heart.
3 . The import of this revelation. That heavenly wisdom has for man an inward essential principle, and an outward permanent expression.
1 . To admire God's wisdom and goodness in the construction and arrangement of this material globe. Besides being fashioned by Divine wisdom, the earth is also full of the Divine riches.
2 . To see in the monuments of man's engineering skill, mechanical industry, commercial enterprise, and scientific research at once a striking testimony to man's dominion over the creatures, and an admirable confirmation of the truth of Scripture.
3. To rate material wealth at its true value, observing both its weakness and its power. While contributing largely to man's physical comfort and social influence, it cannot impart either wisdom or happiness, and still less can it serve as a substitute for religion and salvation.
4 . To reason that the same Divine wisdom which placed the material creation under law would not forget to institute a rule of life for man. Hence morality and religion are not accidental and relative, but absolute and eternal, being inseparably bound up with man's constitution as an intelligent and responsible creature.
5 . To recognize the inborn foolishness of those who neither fear God nor depart from evil. "The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death."
6 . To gratefully acknowledge the Divine loving-kindness in making known to man the manifold wisdom of God in Christ and his salvation. The secret of the Divine administration which Job could not fathom has been clearly discovered in the gospel.
7 . To perceive that ever since the Fall the world has been governed on substantially the same principles. Christ conducts mundane affairs to-day as he did in Job's time by the law of grace and in the interests of holiness.