The poetic beauty that is so prevalent in the Wisdom Literature is seldom more lovely than in much of this chapter of Job. Verses 1-11 begin the chapter by extolling the accomplishments of man in extracting precious metals from the depths of the earth. Verse three appears to be referring to an example of man’s mastery of darkness with the use of torches in deep and dark mines – said much more beautifully by the verse itself (“Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness”). Or consider verse 9’s description of the act of mining itself (“Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots”).
Man, the verses tell us, is the only creature on earth who is able to go into these depths and accomplish the extraction of these precious metals, and so it is only man who knows the secrets of these labyrinths or has even seen them. Only man is able to so carve out and alter the face of the earth to find and acquire these resources.
Then verses 12-22 point out that even God’s greatest creation (man) cannot find wisdom by the physical acts at which he has become so masterful. And he cannot even use the great wealth that he accumulates from these great feats of manipulating the earth in order to purchase that wisdom, for it cannot be bought. Wisdom is hidden from all living things by the Creator, and man cannot penetrate to any deep or hidden place in order to find understanding.
Verses 23 and following point out the obvious conclusion that God alone knows the way to it and understands where it lays. He “gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure.” And just as he created the laws of nature for such things as the rains and lightning and thunder, he established wisdom.
Then, just as Solomon said in Proverbs 1:7, verse 28 tells us that “he said to man,‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'” It is again important to understand that it does not say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom about only religious matters. Just as was Solomon’s point, it is the beginning of all knowledge. Only by God’s power, His will, and the fact that He holds consistent and constant the created order of the universe in which we live, can man even have the ability to have understanding.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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