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Job 28 – Only God Knows Wisdom


This chapter seems to be out of place before Job's final monologue (in 29-31), leading to some important questions about who is speaking. The point is that humans can do many marvelous things, but that only God can know wisdom.


Job is the last named speaker, but these words seem out of place in his mouth since he continues his pleas of innocence and laments about his condition in the following three chapters. Chapter 28 seems to suggest an attitude of acceptance of the fact that humans can never penetrate the mysteries of the universe that are accessible only to God. In the book, however, Job is not yet at that point.

It may be that the chapter is an interlude inserted by the writer or later editor of the book to bring relief from the persistent questioning in the dialogues between Job and his friends. It is a way to begin to move away from what went before and give the reader a hint of what will come when God finally speaks. If this is true, it is meant as an aside to the reader (to us) and is not directly part of the conversation between Job and his friends.

The chapter does not denigrate human wisdom. There are many things that humans can discover by using the minds and ingenuity that God gave them. An example is given in the metaphor of mining, digging into the earth to find what had never before been seen, even by birds and animals (verses 1-11). Humans have brought hidden things to light (verse 11b). There are limits, however, and human beings are wise to accept them and admit that only God knows the way to wisdom.

Job 28

Interlude: Where Wisdom Is Found

28‘Surely there is a mine for silver,
   and a place for gold to be refined.
2 Iron is taken out of the earth,
   and copper is smelted from ore.
3 Miners put* an end to darkness,
   and search out to the farthest bound
   the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
4 They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation;
   they are forgotten by travellers,
   they sway suspended, remote from people.
5 As for the earth, out of it comes bread;
   but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
6 Its stones are the place of sapphires,*
   and its dust contains gold.

7 ‘That path no bird of prey knows,
   and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
8 The proud wild animals have not trodden it;
   the lion has not passed over it.

9 ‘They put their hand to the flinty rock,
   and overturn mountains by the roots.
10 They cut out channels in the rocks,
   and their eyes see every precious thing.
11 The sources of the rivers they probe;*
   hidden things they bring to light.

12 ‘But where shall wisdom be found?
   And where is the place of understanding?
13 Mortals do not know the way to it,*
   and it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”,
   and the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought for gold,
   and silver cannot be weighed out as its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
   in precious onyx or sapphire.*
17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,
   nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
   the price of wisdom is above pearls.
19 The chrysolite of Ethiopia* cannot compare with it,
   nor can it be valued in pure gold.

20 ‘Where then does wisdom come from?
   And where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
   and concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
   “We have heard a rumour of it with our ears.”

23 ‘God understands the way to it,
   and he knows its place.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth,
   and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he gave to the wind its weight,
   and apportioned out the waters by measure;
26 when he made a decree for the rain,
   and a way for the thunderbolt;
27 then he saw it and declared it;
   he established it, and searched it out.
28 And he said to humankind,
“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
   and to depart from evil is understanding.”

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