Job 28:1–12, 13–16, 20–28comment (0)
June 20, 2013
By Douglas K. Wilson Jr.
Related Scripture: Job 28:1–12, 13–16, 20–28
Explore the Bible
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
WHOM CAN I TRUST?
Job 28:1–12, 13–16, 20–28
Three cycles of discussion have been recorded prior to today’s focal passage, which is a hymn of wisdom. Within each cycle, Job has been accused of wrongdoing, wrong thinking or wrong speaking by his companions. In response, our protagonist has pointed to God as the One who holds the answer to his suffering. Here he expresses confidence in God who rules the universe by wisdom.
Advocates represent diverse worldviews in popular culture. Each voice wishes to be heard, and each demands recognition as being equally valid. Like Job’s friends, these voices have their own beliefs about God, man, the universe and suffering. They also believe that their perspectives must be heard.
Recognize the Limits (1–12)
Humanity has discovered secrets from within the earth. Metals are dug from the earth and are manipulated into objects for man’s use. Precious jewels are mined from the depths with expert precision. From the early records in Genesis, Bible students discover that the appreciation for and management of precious materials (Gen. 2:12) and forged metals (Gen. 4:22) have been part of human activity.
While such human knowledge is commonplace today, true wisdom is more difficult to ascertain. Pursuing philosophy, the love of wisdom, is a longstanding endeavor, with succeeding generations building on or arguing against the conclusions of their predecessors. Human wisdom has its limits, and even wisdom from God takes time and maturity for human comprehension. The speaker in this passage delineates knowledge from wisdom, with a lingering question where wisdom can be found.
Acknowledge Wisdom’s Value (13–16)
“No man can know its value, since it cannot be found in the land of the living” (28:13). In this section, wisdom is more precious than gold, silver, onyx, sapphire, glass, coral, quartz, pearls and topaz. These materials are more accessible in our affluent, opulent American culture, making it difficult for our readers to comprehend this passage. In societies with tribal patriarchs, these items are precious commodities. True wisdom is rarer than any of them.
Paul takes this concept a step further. Greek philosophers were convinced of their own brands of wisdom, which the apostle calls human wisdom, carnal or natural. He explained that “the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s spirit … he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14). Paul warns against man-centered philosophy (Col. 2:8). Seemingly counterintuitive to human reasoning, God chooses foolish, weak, ordinary people to confound the wise, strong and high-born. Believers cannot “boast in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:18–29).
Seek Wisdom’s Guidance (20–28)
In this passage, one can observe Hebrew parallelism at work. The terms “wisdom” / “understanding” serve as a word pair (28:20, 28), as do “hidden” / “concealed” in 28:21 and “ends of the earth” / “under the heavens” in 28:24. Why focus on these parallels? Knowledge of literary devices is impersonal, requiring little effort and no vulnerability. We are often more comfortable discussing issues that have no bearing on our lives than those that require change such as relying upon God for direction, recognizing His familiarity with our lives or repenting, which requires personal acknowledgement of need.
“The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom” (28:28). Comparable words are echoed in Proverbs (Prov. 1:7; 9:10), within another subsection of wisdom literature. Unlike the short, pithy sayings of Solomon, the narrative of Job includes theodicy, which defends the righteousness of God in the midst of human suffering. This book teaches us that man is not the measure of all things and that man is responsible to God.
The Lord governs the universe. While philosophers may offer solutions to the Epicurean question, the answer of suffering lies with the majestic glory of God. By design, God allows evil and suffering as means of demonstrating human need for God. Job needed God. His companions needed God. So do you.