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Job 28:1-11


III. Job’s Search for Wisdom (28:1-28)

No Known Road to Wisdom 1 

28:1 “Surely 2  there is a mine 3  for silver,

and a place where gold is refined. 4 

28:2 Iron is taken from the ground, 5 

and rock is poured out 6  as copper.

28:3 Man puts an end to the darkness; 7 

he searches the farthest recesses

for the ore in the deepest darkness. 8 

28:4 Far from where people live 9  he sinks a shaft,

in places travelers have long forgotten, 10 

far from other people he dangles and sways. 11 

28:5 The earth, from which food comes,

is overturned below as though by fire; 12 

28:6 a place whose stones are sapphires 13 

and which contains dust of gold; 14 

28:7 a hidden path 15  no bird of prey knows –

no falcon’s 16  eye has spotted it.

28:8 Proud beasts 17  have not set foot on it,

and no lion has passed along it.

28:9 On the flinty rock man has set to work 18  with his hand;

he has overturned mountains at their bases. 19 

28:10 He has cut out channels 20  through the rocks;

his eyes have spotted 21  every precious thing.

28:11 He has searched 22  the sources 23  of the rivers

and what was hidden he has brought into the light.

1 sn As the book is now arranged, this chapter forms an additional speech by Job, although some argue that it comes from the writer of the book. The mood of the chapter is not despair, but wisdom; it anticipates the divine speeches in the end of the book. This poem, like many psalms in the Bible, has a refrain (vv. 12 and 20). These refrains outline the chapter, giving three sections: there is no known road to wisdom (1-11); no price can buy it (12-19); and only God has it, and only by revelation can man posses it (20-28).

2 tn The poem opens with כִּי (ki). Some commentators think this should have been “for,” and that the poem once stood in another setting. But there are places in the Bible where this word occurs with the sense of “surely” and no other meaning (cf. Gen 18:20).

3 tn The word מוֹצָא (motsa’, from יָצָא [yatsa’, “go out”]) is the word for “mine,” or more simply, “source.” Mining was not an enormous industry in the land of Canaan or Israel; mined products were imported. Some editors have suggested alternative readings: Dahood found in the word the root for “shine” and translated the MT as “smelter.” But that is going too far. P. Joüon suggested “place of finding,” reading מִמְצָא (mimtsa’) for מוֹצָא (motsa’; see Bib 11 [1930]: 323).

4 tn The verb יָזֹקּוּ (yazoqqu) translated “refined,” comes from זָקַק (zaqaq), a word that basically means “to blow.” From the meaning “to blow; to distend; to inflate” derives the meaning for refining.

5 tn Heb “from dust.”

6 tn The verb יָצוּק (yatsuq) is usually translated as a passive participle “is smelted” (from יָצַק [yatsaq, “to melt”]): “copper is smelted from the ore” (ESV) or “from the stone, copper is poured out” (as an imperfect from צוּק [tsuq]). But the rock becomes the metal in the process. So according to R. Gordis (Job, 304) the translation should be: “the rock is poured out as copper.” E. Dhorme (Job, 400), however, defines the form in the text as “hard,” and simply has it “hard stone becomes copper.”

7 sn The text appears at first to be saying that by opening up a mine shaft, or by taking lights down below, the miner dispels the darkness. But the clause might be more general, meaning that man goes deep into the earth as if it were day.

8 tn The verse ends with “the stone of darkness and deep darkness.” The genitive would be location, describing the place where the stones are found.

9 tc The first part of this verse, “He cuts a shaft far from the place where people live,” has received a lot of attention. The word for “live” is גָּר (gar). Some of the proposals are: “limestone,” on the basis of the LXX; “far from the light,” reading נֵר (ner); “by a foreign people,” taking the word to means “foreign people”; “a foreign people opening shafts”; or taking gar as “crater” based on Arabic. Driver puts this and the next together: “a strange people who have been forgotten cut shafts” (see AJSL 3 [1935]: 162). L. Waterman had “the people of the lamp” (“Note on Job 28:4,” JBL 71 [1952]: 167ff). And there are others. Since there is really no compelling argument in favor of one of these alternative interpretations, the MT should be preserved until shown to be wrong.

10 tn Heb “forgotten by the foot.” This means that there are people walking above on the ground, and the places below, these mines, are not noticed by the pedestrians above.

11 sn This is a description of the mining procedures. Dangling suspended from a rope would be a necessary part of the job of going up and down the shafts.

12 sn The verse has been properly understood, on the whole, as comparing the earth above and all its produce with the upheaval down below.

13 tn It is probably best to take “place” in construct to the rest of the colon, with an understood relative clause: “a place, the rocks of which are sapphires.”

sn The modern stone known as sapphire is thought not to have been used until Roman times, and so some other stone is probably meant here, perhaps lapis lazuli.

14 sn H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 181) suggests that if it is lapis lazuli, then the dust of gold would refer to the particles of iron pyrite found in lapis lazuli which glitter like gold.

15 tn The “path” could refer to the mine shaft or it could refer to wisdom. The former seems more likely in the present context; the word “hidden is supplied in the translation to indicate the mines are “hidden” from sharp-eyed birds of prey above.

16 sn The kind of bird mentioned here is debated. The LXX has “vulture,” and so some commentaries follow that. The emphasis on the sight favors the view that it is the falcon.

17 tn Heb “the sons of pride.” In Job 41:26 the expression refers to carnivorous wild beasts.

18 tn The Hebrew verb is simply “to stretch out; to send” (שָׁלח, shalakh). With יָדוֹ (yado, “his hand”) the idea is that of laying one’s hand on the rock, i.e., getting to work on the hardest of rocks.

19 tn The Hebrew מִשֹּׁרֶשׁ (mishoresh) means “from/at [their] root [or base].” In mining, people have gone below ground, under the mountains, and overturned rock and dirt. It is also interesting that here in a small way humans do what God does – overturn mountains (cf. 9:5).

20 tn Or “tunnels.” The word is יְאֹרִים (yÿorim), the word for “rivers” and in the singular, the Nile River. Here it refers to tunnels or channels through the rocks.

21 tn Heb “his eye sees.”

22 tc The translation “searched” follows the LXX and Vulgate; the MT reads “binds up” or “dams up.” This latter translation might refer to the damming of water that might seep into a mine (HALOT 289 s.v. חבשׁ; cf. ESV, NJPS, NASB, REB, NLT).

23 tc The older translations had “he binds the streams from weeping,” i.e., from trickling (מִבְּכִי, mibbÿkhi). But the Ugaritic parallel has changed the understanding, reading “toward the spring of the rivers” (`m mbk nhrm). Earlier than that discovery, the versions had taken the word as a noun as well. Some commentators had suggested repointing the Hebrew. Some chose מַבְּכֵי (mabbÿkhe, “sources”). Now there is much Ugaritic support for the reading (see G. M. Landes, BASOR 144 [1956]: 32f.; and H. L. Ginsberg, “The Ugaritic texts and textual criticism,” JBL 62 [1943]: 111).

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