From where then comes wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Job 28:20-21. Whence then cometh wisdom, &c. — By what means, then, shall we get this precious treasure of wisdom, of which we are so desirous? Who can show us where it lies, that we may go and search for it? By a diligent prosecution of this inquiry he brings us at length to this issue: That there is a two-fold wisdom; one hid in God, which is secret, and belongs not to us; the other made known by him, and revealed to man, which belongs to us and to our children. It is hid from the eyes of all living — Of all men that live upon the earth. And kept close from the fowls of the air — Though they fly high, and can see far and clearly, they cannot discern this: men of the most exalted and comprehensive minds, of the most enlarged and elevated understanding, cannot discover it: however acute their discernment may be, and however high their thoughts may soar, yet they cannot rise to this height, they cannot comprehend this. The line and plummet of human reason can never fathom the abyss of the divine counsels. Who can account for the maxims, measures, and methods of God’s government? Let us then be content, not to know the future events of Providence, till time discovers them; and not to know the secret reasons of Providence, till eternity brings them to light.Job 28:12, in order to give it greater emphasis. It is designed to fix the attention on the inquiry as one which found no solution in the discoveries of science, and whose solution was hidden from the most penetrating human intellect. Job 28:12; repeated to set forth the superior excellency of wisdom, and to carry on the discourse, and lead on to other things concerning it. See Gill on Job 28:12. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20–22. The preceding verses indicated that Wisdom cannot be acquired by man though he should bid for it the most precious things that he possesses, in other words that it is unattainable; these verses state that idea again explicitly. The question Job 28:20 implies a negative answer—nowhere by man.Verse 20. - Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? This is a repetition of ver. 12, with a mere variant of the verb in the first line. Job's elaborate inquiry of vers. 14-19 having thresh no light on the subject, the original question recurs - Where does wisdom come from?
And it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The abyss saith: It is not in me,
And the sea saith: It is not with me.
15 Pure gold cannot be given for it,
And silver cannot be weighed as its price;
16 And it is not outweighed with fine gold of Ophir,
With the precious onyx and the sapphire.
It is self-evident that wisdom is found nowhere directly present and within a limited space, as at the bottom of the sea, and cannot be obtained by a direct exchange by means of earthly treasures. It is, moreover, not this self-evident fact that is denied here; but the meaning is, that even if a man should search in every direction through the land of the living, i.e., (as e.g., Psalm 52:7) the world - if he should search through the תּהום, i.e., the subterranean waters that feed the visible waters (vid., Genesis 39:25) - if he should search through the sea, the largest bounded expanse of this water that wells up from beneath - yea, even if he would offer all riches and precious things to put himself in possession of the means and instruments for the acquirement of wisdom, - wisdom, i.e., the profoundest perception of the nature of things, would still be beyond him, and unattainable. ערך, Job 28:13, an equivalent (from ערך, to range beside, to place at the side of), interchanges with מחיר (from מחר, cogn. מהר, מכר, mercari). סגור is זהב סגוּר, 1 Kings 6:20 and freq., which hardly signifies gold shut up equals carefully preserved, rather: closed equals compressed, unmixed; Targ. דּהב סנין, aurum colatum (purgatum). Ewald compares Arab. sajara, to seethe, heat; therefore: heated, gained by smelting. On the other hand, כּתם from כתם, Arab. ktm, occulere, seems originally to denote that which is precious, then precious gold in particular, lxx χρυσίῳ Ωφείρ, Cod. Vat. and Cod. Sinaiticus, Σωφίρ (Egyptized by prefixing the Egyptian sa, part, district, side, whence e.g., sa-rees, the upper country, and sa-heet, the lower country, therefore equals sa-ofir, land of Ophir). שׁהם is translated here by the lxx ὄνυξ (elsewhere σαρδόνυξ or σάρδιος), of which Pliny, h. n. xxxvii. 6, 24, appealing to Sudeines, says, in gemma esse candorem unguis humanii similitudinem; wherefore Knobel, Rdiger, and others, compare the Arab. sâhim, which, however, does not signify pale, but lean, and parched by the heat, with which, in hot countries at least, not pallor, but, on the contrary, a dark brown-black colour, is identified (Fl.). Arab. musahham, striped (Mich.), would be more appropriate, since the onyx is marked through by white veins; but this is a denom. from sahm, a dart, prop. darted, and is therefore wide of the mark. On the etymology of ספּיר, vid., Jesurun, p. 61. Nevertheless both שׁהם and ספּיר are perhaps foreign names, as the name of the emerald (vid., ib. p. 108), which is Indian (Sanskr. marakata, or even marakta); and, on the other hand, it is called in hieroglyph (determined by the stone) uot, the green stone (in Coptic p. auannēse, the green colour) (Lauth).
The transcendent excellence of wisdom above the most precious earthly treasures, which the author of the introduction to the book of Proverbs briefly describes, Job 3:14, is now drawn out in detail.
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