Job 28:1
Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.
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(1) Surely there is a vein for the silver.—In this chapter Job draws out a magnificent contrast between human skill and ingenuity and Divine wisdom. The difficulty to the ordinary reader is in not perceiving that the person spoken of in Job 28:3 is man, and not God. Man possesses and exercises this mastery over nature, but yet is ignorant of wisdom unless God bestows it on him. That Job should say this is but natural, after his painful experience of the want of wisdom in his friends.

Job 28:1. Surely, &c. — Job, having confuted his three friends on their own principles, in the last two and some of the preceding chapters, here falls into a kind of soliloquy on the difficulty of obtaining true wisdom. His friends had laid claim to it from their great age, and from their knowledge of ancient traditions: see Job 5:27, and Job 8:8-9, and Job 15:9-10, and Job 20:4; but he had shown them of how little importance or signification their conclusions were. Where, then, it became the question, is wisdom to be found? To answer this question is the intent of Job’s discourse in this chapter, which is evidently an inquiry after wisdom; not the unsearchable depths of God’s counsels, but wisdom in general; or, rather, the wisdom proper to man: see Job 28:28. Job here determines, that even that wisdom is not attainable by the human capacity and industry without a revelation from God. The several arts of discovering and purifying silver, of refining gold, making iron and brass from the ore, the art of mining itself, the secrets of husbandry, are all within the reach of human ability and diligence: but to comprehend the ways of Divine Providence, and understand the reasons of God’s dispensations toward mankind, whether the righteous or the wicked, is above man’s capacity, and can only be known so far as God is pleased to reveal them: that God, however, has furnished man with a sufficient rule to walk by, and that to attend to it is his highest wisdom, and, indeed, the only way to be truly wise; all other speculations and attempts to attain true wisdom being vain and fruitless.

There is a vein for silver, &c. — Thus the chapter begins with a fine description of the indefatigable industry and ardour of mankind in searching after things which contribute either to the use or ornament of life; how they dig into the bowels of the earth for metals, gold, silver, iron, brass; and that the industry or avarice of man is without bounds: he searcheth into the land of darkness itself for hidden treasures. The word rendered vein, מוצא, mutza, signifies properly a going forth; there is a going forth for the silver: that is, “man hath found where silver may be dug out of the earth.” And a place for gold where they fine it — Or, as it is in the margin, rather, for gold which they fine. For he speaks not here of the works of men and of art, but of those of God and nature, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words.

28:1-11 Job maintained that the dispensations of Providence were regulated by the highest wisdom. To confirm this, he showed of what a great deal of knowledge and wealth men may make themselves masters. The caverns of the earth may be discovered, but not the counsels of Heaven. Go to the miners, thou sluggard in religion, consider their ways, and be wise. Let their courage and diligence in seeking the wealth that perishes, shame us out of slothfulness and faint-heartedness in labouring for the true riches. How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! How much easier, and safer! Yet gold is sought for, but grace neglected. Will the hopes of precious things out of the earth, so men call them, though really they are paltry and perishing, be such a spur to industry, and shall not the certain prospect of truly precious things in heaven be much more so?Surely there is a vein for silver - Margin, "mine" Coverdale renders this, "There are places where silver is molten." Prof. Lee renders it, "There is an outlet for the silver," and supposes it means the coming out or separation of the silver from the earthy particles by which it is surrounded in the ore, not the coming out from the mine. The word rendered "vein" (מוצא môtsâ') means properly a going forth, as the rising of the sun, Psalm 19:6; the promulgation of an edict Daniel 9:25; then a place of going forth - as a gate, door; Ezekiel 42:11; Ezekiel 43:11, and thence a mine, a vein, or a place of the going forth of metals; that is, a place where they are procured. So the Septuagint here, Ἔστι γὰρ άργυρίῳ τό πος ὅθεν γίνεται Esti gar arguriō topos hothen ginetai - "there is a place for silver whence it is obtained." The idea here is that man had evinced his wisdom in finding out the mines of silver and working them. It was one of the instances of his skill that he had been able to penetrate into the earth, and bring out the ore of the precious metals, and convert it to valuable purposes.

And a place for gold - A workshop, or laboratory, for working the precious metals. Job says, that even in his time such a laboratory was a proof of the wisdom of man. So now, one of the most striking proofs of skill is to be found in the places where the precious metals are purified, and worked into the various forms in which they are adapted to ornament and use.

Where they fine it - - יזקו yāzoqû. The word used here (זקק zâqaq) means properly to bind fast, to fetter; and then to compress, to squeeze through a strainer; and hence, to strain, filter; and thence to purify - as wine that is thus filtered, or gold that is purified Malachi 3:3. It may refer here to any process of purifying or refining. It is commonly done by the application of heat. One of the instructive uses of the book of Job is the light which it throws incidentally on the state of the ancient arts and sciences, and the condition of society in reference to the comforts of life at the early period of the world when the author lived. In this passage it is clear:

(1) that the metals were then in general use, and

(2) that they were so worked as to furnish, in the view of Job a striking illustration of human wisdom and skill.

Society was so far advanced as to make use not only of gold and silver, but also of copper and brass. The use of gold and silver commonly precedes the discovery of iron, and consequently the mention of iron in any ancient book indicates a considerably advanced state of society. It is of course, not known to what extent the art of working metals was carried in the time of Job, as all that would be indicated here would be that the method of obtaining the pure metal from the ore was understood. It may be interesting, however, to observe, that the art was early known to the Egyptians, and was carried by them to a considerable degree of perfection. Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in vestures of fine linen, and put a chain of gold about his neck; Genesis 41:42, and great quantities of gold and silver ornaments were borrowed by the Israelites of the Egyptians, when they were about to go to the promised land. Gold and silver are mentioned as known in the earliest ages; compare Genesis 2:11-12; Genesis 41:42; Exodus 20:23; Genesis 23:15-16. Iron is also mentioned as having been early known; Genesis 4:22. Tubal Cain was instructor in iron and brass. Gold and silver mines were early worked in Egypt, and if Moses was the compiler of the book of Job, it is possible that some of the descriptions here may have been derived from that country, and at all events the mode of working these precious metals was probably the same in Arabia and Egypt. From the mention of ear rings, bracelets, and jewels of silver and gold, in the days of Abraham, it is evident that the art of metallurgy was known at a very remote period. Workmen are noticed by Homer as excelling in the manufacture of arms, rich vases, and other objects inlaid or ornamented with vessels:

Πηλείδης δ ̓ ἆιψ ἄλλα τίθει ταχυτῆτος ἄεθλα,

Αργύρεον κρατῆρα τετυγμειον.

Pēleidēs d' aips alla tithei tachutēnos aethla,

Argirepm kratēra tetugmeion.

Iliad xxiii. 741.

His account of the shield of Achilles (Iliad xviii. 474) proves that the art of working in the precious metals was well known in his time; and the skill required to delineate the various objects which he describes was such as no ordinary artisan, even at this time, could be supposed to possess. In Egypt, ornaments of gold and silver, consisting of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and trinkets, have been found in considerable abundance of the times of Osirtasen I, and Thothmes III, the contemporaries of Joseph and of Moses. Diodorus (i. 49) mentions silver mine of Egypt which produced 3,200 myriads of minae. The gold mines of Egypt remained long unknown, and their position has been ascertained only a few years since by M. Linant and M. Bonomi. They lie in the Bisharee desert, about seventeen days' journey to the South-eastward from Derow. The matrix in which the gold in Egypt was found is quartz, and the excavations to procure the gold are exceedingly deep.

The principal excavation is 180 feet deep. The quartz thus obtained was broken by the workmen into small fragments, of the size of a bean, and these were passed through hand mills made of granitic stone, and when reduced to powder the quartz was washed on inclined tables, and the gold was thus separated from the stone. Diodorus says, that the principal persons engaged in mining operations were captives, taken in war, and persons who were compelled to labor in the mines, for offences against the government. They were bound in fetters, and compelled to labor night and day. "No attention," he says, "is paid to these persons; they have not even a piece of rag to cover themselves; and so wretched is their condition, that every one who witnesses it, deplores the excessive misery which they endure. No rest, no intermission from toil, are given either to the sick or the maimed; neither the weakness of age, nor women's infirmities, are regarded; all are driven to the work with the lash, until, at last, overcome with the intolerable weight of their afflictions, they die in the midst of their toil."

Diodorus adds, "Nature indeed, I think, teaches that as gold is obtained with immense labor, so it is kept with difficulty, creating great anxiety, and attended in its use both with pleasure and with grief." It was perhaps, in view of such laborious and difficult operations in obtaining the precious metals, and of the skill which man had evinced in extracting them from the earth, that Job alluded here to the process as a striking proof of human wisdom. On the early use of the metals among the ancient Egyptians, the reader may consult with advantage, Wilkinsoh's "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. iii. pp. 215ff.


Job 28:1-28. Job's Speech Continued.

In the twenty-seventh chapter Job had tacitly admitted that the statement of the friends was often true, that God vindicated His justice by punishing the wicked here; but still the affliction of the godly remained unexplained. Man has, by skill, brought the precious metals from their concealment. But the Divine Wisdom, which governs human affairs, he cannot similarly discover (Job 28:12, &c.). However, the image from the same metals (Job 23:10) implies Job has made some way towards solving the riddle of his life; namely, that affliction is to him as the refining fire is to gold.

1. vein—a mine, from which it goes forth, Hebrew, "is dug."

place for gold—a place where gold may be found, which men refine. Not as English Version, "A place—where," (Mal 3:3). Contrasted with gold found in the bed and sand of rivers, which does not need refining; as the gold dug from a mine does. Golden ornaments have been found in Egypt, of the times of Joseph.The power and wisdom of God in his works of nature, Job 28:1-11. A knowledge and wisdom answering this is not found in man, nor to be bought or acquired, Job 28:12-21. Death and destruction make their report of it, Job 28:22. It is only in God, Job 28:23-27. Man’s wisdom is to fear God, Job 28:28.

There is a vein for the silver; where it is hid by God, and found and fetched out by the art and industry of man. The connexion of this chapter with the former is difficult, and diversly apprehended; but this may seem to be the fairest account of it: Job having in the last chapter discoursed of God’s various providences and carriages towards wicked men, and showed that God doth sometimes for a season give them wealth and prosperity, but afterwards calls them to a sad account, and punisheth them severely for their abuse of his mercies; and having formerly showed that God doth sometimes prosper the wicked all their days, so as they live and die without any visible token of God’s displeasure against them, when, on the contrary, good men are exercised with many and grievous calamities; and perceiving that his friends were, as men in all ages have been, scandalized at these methods of Divine Providence, and denied the thing, because they could not understand the reason of such unequal dispensations: in this chapter he declares that this is one of the depths and secrets of Divine Wisdom, not discoverable by any mortal man in this world; and that although men had some degree of wisdom whereby they could dig deep, and search out many hidden things, as the veins of silver, gold, &c., yet this was a wisdom of a higher nature, and out of man’s reach. And hereby he secretly checks the arrogance and confidence of his friends, who, because they had some parts of wisdom, the knowledge of natural things, such as are here contained, and of human affairs, and of some Divine matters, therefore presumed to fathom the depths of God’s wisdom and providence, and to judge of all God’s ways and works by the scantling of their own narrow understandings. Possibly it may be connected thus: Job having been discoursing of the wonderful ways of God, both in the works of nature, Job 26:5-14, and in his providential dispensations towards wicked men, Job 27:13-23 to the end, he here returns to the first branch of his discourse, and discovers more of God’s wisdom and power in natural things. And this he doth partly, that by this manifestation of his singular skill in the ways and actions of God, he might vindicate himself from that contempt which they seemed to have of him, and oblige them to hear what he had further to say with more attention and consideration; and partly that by this representation of the manifold wisdom and power of God, they might be wrought to a greater reverence for God and for his works, and not presume to judge so rashly and boldly of them, and to condemn what they did not understand in them.

Where they fine it; or rather, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, which they, to wit, the refiners, do fine. For he speaks not here of the works of men and of art, but of God and of nature, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words.

Surely there is a vein for the silver,.... Silver is mentioned first, not because the most valuable, for gold is preferable to it, as brass is to iron, and yet iron is mentioned first in Job 28:2; but because silver might be first known, or was first in use, especially in the coinage of money; we read of pieces of silver, or shekels of silver, in the times of Abraham, but not of any golden coin, Genesis 23:15; and among the old Romans silver was coined before gold (p); it has its name from a word which signifies "desire", because it is desirable to men, it answering to various uses and purposes; and sometimes the desires and cravings of men after it are enlarged too far, and become criminal, and so the root of all evil to them: and now there is a "vein" for it in the earth, or a mine in which it may be dug for, and found, in which it runs as veins in a man's body, in certain ramifications, like branches of trees, as they do; and the inhabitants of Hispaniola, and other parts of the West Indies, when found out by Columbus, which abounded with gold mines, declared that they found by experience that the vein of gold is a living tree, (and so the same, perhaps, may be said of silver,) and that it spreads and springs from the root, which they say extends to the centre of the earth by soft pores and passages of the earth, and puts forth branches, even to the uppermost part of the earth, and ceases not till it discovers itself unto the open air; at which time it shows forth certain beautiful colours instead of flowers, round stones of golden earth instead of fruits, and thin plates instead of leaves (q); so here there is a vein, or a "going out for the silver" (r), by which it makes its way, as observed of the gold, and shows itself by some signs and tokens where it may be found; or rather this egress is made for it, by opening the mine where it is, digging into it, and fetching it out of it, and from whence great quantities are often brought. In Solomon's time it was made as the stones in Jerusalem, 1 Kings 10:27;

and a place for gold where they fine it; there are particular places for this most excellent of all metals, which has its name in Hebrew from its yellow colour; all countries do not produce it; some are famous for it, and some parts of them, as the land of Havilah, where was gold, and that gold was good, Genesis 2:11; and Ophir; hence we often read of the gold of Ophir, so called from the place where it was found, as in this chapter, Job 28:16; and now the Spanish West Indies; but nearer to Job than these gold was found; there were not only mountains that abounded with gold near to Horeb, in the desert of Arabia (s), but it was to be found with the Sabeans (t), the near neighbours of Job; yea, the Ophir before referred to was in Arabia. Some understand this of the place where pure gold is found already refined, and needs no melting and refining; and of such Pliny (u) speaks, and of large lumps and masses of it; but for the most part it lies in ore, which needs refining; and so here it may intend the place where it is found in the ore, and from whence it is taken and had to the place where it is refined; for melting places used to be near where the golden ore was found; and so when Hispaniola was first found by Columbus, the gold that was dug out of the mountains of Cibana, and other places, were brought to two shops, which were erected with all things appertaining to melt and refine it, and cast into wedges; and so early as that, in these two shops, were molten yearly three hundred thousand pound weight of gold (w).

(p) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 3.((q) Peter Martyr. Decad. 3. l. 8. (r) "exitus", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius, Michaelis; "egressio", Vatablus. (s) Hieron. de loc. Heb. fol. 90. A. (t) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28. (u) Ut supra, (Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 33.) c. 4. (w) P. Martyr. Decad. 1. l. 10.

Surely there is a vein for the silver, {a} and a place for gold where they fine it.

(a) His purpose is to declare that man may attain in this world to various secrets of nature, but man is never able to comprehend the wisdom of God.

1. surely there is] Rather, for there is. The connexion, however, with the preceding is difficult to perceive (see at the end of the chapter).

there is a vein] lit. an issue or source. The emphasis falls on is—there is a place from which silver comes forth, it has a source out of which it may be gotten.

where they fine it] Rather, which they (men) refine. The most precious ores, both silver and gold, have a place where they may be found; however distant and dark and deep in the earth their place be, such a place is known, men penetrate to it, and bring them forth. The antithesis is presented in Job 28:12, But whence shall Wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? It hath no place known to man.

Verses 1-28. - 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 (vers. 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 (vers. 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 (ver. 28). Verse 1. - Surely there is a vein for the silver; literally, an issue for silver? i.e. a place or places whence it is drawn forth from the earth. The silver-mines of Spain were very early worked by the Phoenicians, and produced the metal in great abundance (see the author's 'History of Phoenicia,' p. 314). But Asia itself was probably the source whence silver was obtained in primitive times. And a place for gold where they fine it; or, fuse it. Gold is very widely spread over the earth's surface, and in ancient times was especially abundant in Arabia (Diod. Sic.. 2:1; 3:42; Strabo, 16:4. § 18; Pit,y, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6:32, etc.); so that Job might easily have been acquainted with the processes of fusing and refining it. Two processes of refining are mentioned by Diodorus as practised by the Egyptians (3:11). Job 28:1 1 For there is a mine for the silver,

And a place for gold which they fine.

2 Iron is taken out of the dust,

And he poureth forth stone as copper.

3 He hath made an end of darkness,

And he searcheth all extremities

For the stone of darkness and of the shadow of death.

4 He breaketh away a shaft from those who tarry above:

There, forgotten by every foot,

They hang and swing far from men.

(Note: Among the expositors of this and the two following strophes, are two acquainted with mining: The director of mines, von Veltheim, whose observations J. D. Michaelis has contributed in the Orient. u. exeg. Bibliothek, xxiii. 7-17; and the inspector of mines, Rudolf Nasse, in Studien und Krit. 1863, 105-111. Umbreit's Commentary contains some observations by von Leonhard; he understands Job 28:4 as referring to the descent upon a cross bar attached to a rope, Job 28:5 of the lighting up by burning poles, Job 28:6 of the lapis lazuli, and Job 28:10 of the earliest mode of "letting off the water.")

According to the most natural connection demonstrated by us, Job desires to show that the final lot of the rich man is well merited, because the treasures which he made the object of his avarice and pride, though ever so costly, are still earthy in their nature and origin. Therefore he begins with the most precious metals, with silver, which has the precedence in reference to Job 27:16, and with gold. מוצא without any secondary notion of fulness (Schultens) signifies the issuing place, i.e., the place fro which anything naturally comes forth (Job 38:27), or whence it is obtained (1 Kings 10:28); here in the latter sense of the place where a mineral is found, or the mine, as the parall. מקום, the place where the gold comes forth, therefore a gold mine. According to the accentuation (Rebia mugrasch, Mercha, Silluk), it is not to be translated: and a place for the gold where they refine it; but: a place for the gold which they refine. זקק, to strain, filter, is the technical expression for purifying the precious metals from the rock that is mingled with them (Malachi 3:3) by washing. The pure gold or silver thus obtained is called מזקּק (Psalm 12:7; 1 Chronicles 28:18; 1 Chronicles 29:4). Diodorus, in his description of mining in Upper Egypt (Job 3:11), after having described the operation of crushing the stone to small fragments,

(Note: Vid., the whole account skilfully translated in Klemm's Allgem. Cultur-Geschichte, v. 503f.)

proceeds: "Then artificers take the crushed stone and lay it on a broad table, which is slightly inclined, and pour water over it; this washes away the earthy parts, and the gold remains on the slab. This operation is repeated several times, the mass being at first gently rubbed with the hand; then they press it lightly with thin sponges, and thus draw off all that is earthy and light, so that the gold dust is left quite clean. And, finally, other artificers take it up in a mass, shake it in an earthen crucible, and add a proportionate quantity of lead, grains of salt, and a little tin and barley bran; they then place a close-fitting cover over the crucible, and cement it with clay, and leave it five days and nights to seethe constantly in the furnace. After this they allow it to cool, and then finding nothing of the flux in the crucible, they take the pure gold out with only slight diminution." The expression for the first of these operations, the separation of the gold from the quartz by washing, or indeed sifting (straining, Seihen), is זקק; and for the other, the separation by exposure to heat, or smelting, is צרף.

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