Friday, October 17, 2003

Job 28: Not for Sale

This essay is #32 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Not for Sale

In the first part of his call for wisdom, the author compares the efforts of mankind to dig into the earth for the things his finds precious. In the next section, he states that all such efforts are worthless in the pursuit of wisdom:

Mankind does not know its place; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not with me.’ And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ Fine gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can its price be weighed out in silver. It cannot be measured out for purchase with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires. Neither gold nor crystal can be compared with it, nor can a vase of gold match its worth. Of coral and jasper no mention will be made; the price of wisdom is more than pearls. The topaz of Cush cannot be compared with it; it cannot be purchased with pure gold. 

But wisdom—from where does it come? Where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:13-20)

In answer to the question posed before, "Where can wisdom be found." The author tells us that mankind cannot discover it. It is not to be found in any of the places on earth: land, deep, or sea. You cannot buy it and it cannot be measured.

And yet the crisis at this point in the book of Job cries out for wisdom, but no one has it. All the speakers are hung up on the relationship between righteous behavior and creature comforts. They see material blessings as flowing from a moral principle that the Lord must obey. This chapter on wisdom is to wake us up and to realize that such a notion is not correct. 

Twice now, the author has asked the whereabouts of wisdom and understanding. Yet it seems that we are no closer to knowing where to find them, and the crisis of the book still looms. The author concludes his interjection this way:

For it has been hidden from the eyes of every living creature, and from the birds of the sky it has been concealed. 

Destruction and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a rumor about where it can be found.’ 

God understands the way to it, and he alone knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and observes everything under the heavens. When he made the force of the wind and measured the waters with a gauge. When he imposed a limit for the rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and assessed its value; he established it and examined it closely. And he said to mankind, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:21-28)

Wisdom and understanding have been hidden from all living things except man. We as men and women made in the image of God have abilities for language, art, music, and things of the Spirit that are incalculably higher than all other living creatures on the earth. Later in Job, the author records Elihu as saying, "But no one says, ‘Where is God, my Creator, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the wild animals of the earth, and makes us wiser that the birds of the air?’ (Job 35:10-11)"

Death and destruction have heard a rumor of its place. This is a poetic way of saying that anyone brought to the point of death and destruction are often those who begin to ask directions. But it is important to know that they are not place that wisdom is to be found. If this were so, then all who face death would find wisdom, but many do not. Death and destruction only suggest that it exists.

And so the author gives this answer, "God understands the way to it." He knows this by way of His omniscience. He knows this by way of His creative activities. And God tells to fear Him and to turn away from evil.

Job lost the fear of God. Rather he sought vindication. He called for another to arbitrate the dispute between himself and God. Job left the path of wisdom. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar never feared God enough to really investigate Job's situation by which they could have discerned his innocence and sought to better understand the new wisdom needed. The fear of God would have changed the all direction of the questioning from Job and his friends:

  • God is great--We know this
  • God is good--Dare we say otherwise
  • Job seems to be a good guy--There is no evidence to say otherwise.
  • What are His purposes in all this?

With this line of reasoning, I have given you the entire foundation from which Elihu spoke when he addressed Job.

Wisdom to live life is of inestimable value to us. Job 28 appeals to us to understand this. So does the opening 9 chapters of proverbs. These contain appeal after appeal for us to understand and embrace the path of wisdom. The following verses dovetail with this section of Job very well:

My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, indeed, if you call out for understanding, and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. 

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you. (Proverbs 2:1-10)

Seek wisdom. Learn and live.

Beginning with Elihu, whom we will meet in chapter 32, we will begin to see Job's situation from a new perspective. But before we get there, a dynamic in Job's heart must surface. We will begin that next.

Monday: Job Revealed

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Job 28: Deep in the Earth

This essay is #31 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

The Wrong Measure

For all their points of disagreement, Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar agreed about the link between material blessing and God's favor. For Job's three friends, the very degree of Job's suffering warranted an investigation into his sin. For Job, the degree of his suffering warranted his questions about God's justice. It is for these reasons that it seems out of place to attribute Job 28 to anyone but the author of the book of Job. The chapter asks the question, "Where can wisdom be found?" But it is apparent, at least to me, that no one has actually sought the wisdom needed to understand Job's predicament in the light of truth about God and truth about Job.

Why do the righteous suffer at the hands of a loving God? At the point of crisis--where Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have no more to say and Job's last words accuse the God of heaven of denying him justice--at this point Job 28 reminds us of a central truth. We need wisdom and that only comes from the Lord.

Let's look at the opening section:

“Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the ground, and rock is poured out as copper. Man puts an end to the darkness; he searches the farthest recesses for the ore in the deepest darkness. Far from where people live he sinks a shaft, in places travelers have long forgotten, far from other people he dangles and sways. The earth, from which food comes, is overturned below as though by fire; a place whose stones are sapphires and which contains dust of gold; a hidden path no bird of prey knows— no falcon’s eye has spotted it. Proud beasts have not set foot on it, and no lion has passed along it. On the flinty rock man has set to work with his hand; he has overturned mountains at their bases. He has cut out channels through the rocks; his eyes have spotted every precious thing. He has searched the sources of the rivers and what was hidden he has brought into the light. 

“But wisdom—where can it be found? Where is the place of understanding?" (Job 28:1-12)

The section begins with a description of mining by which men search out and bring metals and precious things from the earth. I love the picture of the miner dangling and swaying by a rope as he descends the mining shaft to continue his digging. Mining is contrasted to agriculture and the author makes sure to mention that no other animal engages in such activity. The search for precious metals and gems is uniquely human and the effort to acquire them is extraordinary--especially in Job's day. Man "has overturned mountains at their bases."

On the heals of this description, the author asks, "But wisdom--where can it be found? Where is the place of understanding?" By placing the pursuit of baubles next to wisdom and understanding, the author does two things. First, he nullifies the value base on which the entire discussion among Job and friends has turned. It has all been about the things that Job has lost. It has all been about what Job must do for God to restore his fortunes. By contrasting the difficulties of mining with the elusiveness of wisdom, he says that Job and his friends have sought the wrong goal. They were seeking to restore fortunes, instead of seeking wisdom from God to understand the situation. Second, the author directs us to change our attitudes and goals before the book continues. In this way, we become seekers not of what has happened to Job and why, but of understanding how it plays out in a way that integrates truth about God and truth about Job's situation.

To the Hebrew, wisdom is not intellectual knowledge. Wisdom is more akin to having a skill than knowledge--although any skill by necessity requires knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge applied effectively and correctly. I have computer wisdom--having programmed them for over 30 years. I have little management wisdom, which is why I still program after 30+ years. I have friends who have automobile wisdom and woodworking wisdom. Life wisdom and understanding bring skill to living life. Through the pursuit of wisdom we seek to learn and live while others live and learn.

So the author asks, "But wisdom--where can it be found? Where is the place of understanding?" The trials of Job and the dialogs have brought us to the place where we would like to know very much. With this chapter, the book of Job takes a turn and asks the right question for the first time and promises hope that such wisdom will be forthcoming.

Next: Not for sale

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Job 27: Job's First Monolog

This essay is #30 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


In the last segment, Bildad spoke briefly and then Job spoke briefly. There followed a discourse on the nature of God that I conclude came from the author of Job. If we treat Job's response to Bildad as the end of the speech cycles, then this next section of Job has the following structure:

  • The author reminds us of God's nature. (Job 26)
  • Job speaks of God's injustice (Job 27)
  • The author directs us to seek wisdom (Job 28)
  • Job speaks of his lost greatness (Job 29-31)

The interjections of the author are important literary elements and come at the point of the book's greatest tension. They promise and foreshadow the resolution of the story. Today I will spend some time of Job's self-righteousness. And then I will spend two to three days on the wisdom chapter.

The first words of Job to his friends lamented the catastrophes he had endured. He had no hope. He filled his early dialogs with death wishes and self-pity. As the accusations of his friends increased, Job's assertions of his innocence also increased until he, too, crossed a line of sorts. Eliphaz had crossed the line of falsely accusing Job of specific wrongdoing. Job now crossed the line to assert his complete righteousness contrasted with God's injustice. Note these next words of his:

And Job took up his discourse again: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter— for while my spirit is still in me, and the breath from God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will whisper no deceit. I will never declare that you are in the right; until I die, I will not set aside my integrity! I will maintain my righteousness and never let it go; my conscience will not reproach me for as long as I live. (Job 27:1-6)

Do you see the change here? God had denied him justice. The Almighty had made his life bitter. His friends were wrong in their accusations. Job was a man of integrity and righteousness. Job elevated his character above that of God. He was going to stay the course regardless.

What Job said next is puzzling at first, because it seems as if he is stating all the things that his friends had been saying. Close inspection does show some key differences:

“May my enemy be like the wicked, my adversary like the unrighteous. For what hope does the godless have when he is cut off, when God takes away his life? Does God listen to his cry when distress overtakes him? Will he find delight in the Almighty? Will he call out to God at all times? 

I will teach you about the power of God; What is on Shaddai’s mind I will not conceal. If you yourselves have all seen this, Why in the world do you continue this meaningless talk? 

This is the portion of the wicked man allotted by God, the inheritance that evildoers receive from the Almighty. If his children increase—it is for the sword! His offspring never have enough to eat. Those who survive him are buried by the plague, and their widows do not mourn for them. If he piles up silver like dust and store up clothing like mounds of clay, what he stores up a righteous man will wear, and an innocent man will inherit his silver. The house he builds is as fragile as a moth’s cocoon, like a hut that a watchman has made. He goes to bed wealthy, but will do so no more. when he opens his eyes, it is all gone. Terrors overwhelm him like a flood; at night a whirlwind carries him off. The east wind carries him away, and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place. It hurls itself against him without pity as he flees headlong from its power. It claps its hands at him in derision and hisses him away from his place. (Job 27:7-23)

We need to understand that Job here referred to the legacy of the wicked man after he died. Note the repeated reminders of death. The godless have been cutoff, God has taken away his life, those who survive him are buried, etc. Job had not backed off from his complaint that the wicked often prosper and end their days in health and wealth. What he now contended was that the wicked despair at death and that his survivors suffer when he is no longer around to provide for them and protect them.

Job's friends had pointed fingers at Job and said, "You suffer because you are wicked." Job responded with, "No! I am righteous. The innocent often suffer and the wicked prosper. What is more it is their survivors that suffer when he is gone. God has denied justice to us all."

It is true that Job saw despair for the wicked at the point of death, but I think that the preponderance of Job's words, in the context of all his speeches, is to give one more bit of evidence to show that God judges men wrongly. Job claimed the high moral ground.

This sets the stage for the next chapter in Job, which is one of the most important. Indeed it points the way for us out of the pits to which Job and his friends have taken us. To get the most out of it, please review the book so far and answer these questions:

  • What was the common expectation concerning the life of a upright and God fearing man or woman?
  • What was the common expectation concerning the life of a wicked man or woman?
  • Job looked at the loss of property, children, and health and concluded what about God?
  • Job's friends looked at the loss of his property, children, and health and concluded what about Job?
  • What is the measure by which they perceived the Lord's blessings in the life of another person?

The next chapter in Job drives home, in vivid imagery, this point: the value system by which both Job and his friends have argued is flawed.

Next: Deep in Earth

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Monday, October 13, 2003

Job 25, 26: Bildad Almost Speaks

This essay is #29 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


Bildad was the friend who argued from the traditions of the past. The problem with viewing the world exclusively from past traditions is that they can leave you short of ideas when new ones are needed. I think that was what happened to Bildad when he next tried to speak to Job. He opened his mouth. He began to speak. He expected the proverb to be there and it never came. He closed his mouth and became silent. 

Here is his last speech in its entirety:

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered: “Dominion and awesome might belong to God; he establishes peace in his heights. Can his armies be numbered? On whom does his light not rise? How then can a human being be righteous before God? How can one born of a woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure as far as he is concerned, how much less a mortal man, who is but a maggot— a son of man, who is only a worm!” (Job 25:1-6)

His ideas were gone. He had no more to say. The words of Bildad are ended. It is as if all that is left is that no one can be righteous. Bildad has dropped into despair.


As we might expect, from the cycle of speeches so far, Job spoke next. But also had very little to say.

Then Job replied: “How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the person who has no strength! How you have advised the one without wisdom, and abundantly revealed your insight! To whom did you utter these words? And whose spirit has come forth from your mouth?" (Job 26:1-4)

Job, it would seem was content to let Bildad's words rest as a final dig.

Who Speaks Next?

If you have been following this series of Job closely, you should now know that:

  • Job believed that he could stand before the Lord and win his case.
  • Eliphaz had a somewhat dark view of God and believed Job to be suffering from specific sin.
  • Bildad had run out of things to say.
  • Zophar had never had an original thought. Seeing that Eliphaz and Bildad had no more to say, he did not join the third cycle.

To whom then would you ascribe these next words? Before you read them, you should note that there is no break from Job's words in Job 26:1-4. so perhaps they belong to Job. However, Job 27:1 reads, "And Job took up his discourse again." This seems to imply that there was a break somewhere.

“The dead tremble— those beneath the waters and all that live in them. The underworld is naked before God; the place of destruction lies uncovered. He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth on nothing. He locks the waters in his clouds, and the clouds do not burst with the weight of them. He conceals the face of the full moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He marks out the horizon on the surface of the waters as a boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of the heavens tremble and are amazed at his rebuke. By his power he stills the sea; by his wisdom he cut the great sea monster to pieces. By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Indeed, these are but the outer fringes of his ways! How faint is the whisper we hear of him! But who can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:5-14)

To who would you ascribe these words? Do you see that they fit neither Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. None of the speakers has made reference to the nature of God without using it to drive home one of their pet ideas. But these words are simply about who God is and His power. These words also contain a foreshadowing of the Behemoth and Leviathan chapters. "By his power, he stills the sea, by his wisdom he cut the great sea monster to pieces."

This brief passage foreshadows the end of the book of Job. The sea serpent is Leviathan. This is the fearful creature that Job invoked in his opening lament:

Let those who curse the day curse it— those who are prepared to rouse Leviathan. (Job 3:8)

And it is the fire breathing dragon that the Lord will bring to Job later:

“Can you pull in Leviathan with a hook, and tie down its tongue with a rope?  ...  The likes of it is not on earth, a creature without fear. It looks on every haughty being; it is king over all that are proud.” (Job 41:1, 33-34)

As Job progresses, the Leviathan motif becomes a metaphor for Job's pride. Here in this interlude, the author foreshadows the slaying of this sea monster and fleeing serpent.

It is my opinion that the author of Job has interjected his own thoughts here at this crucial point on the book. The dialog cycle is over. We have heard from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and we will not hear from them again. No one has answered Job, but Job has raised the big issues of the suffering innocent and comfortable wicked. Job has silenced his critics, but the book now teeters on the edge of despair. The author now reminds us about the omniscience and power of God over nature and evil. He tells that there is yet hope.  It is also my belief that this was a normal literary form of the day. In other words, the original readers of Job may have expected this interjection at this point in the story.

So what does this author tell us:

  1. Death and Hades are fully exposed to God.
  2. He is the sole creator of the world and the master of nature.
  3. The moon appears or does not appear by the will of God. It is not a deity.
  4. He commands the world and it obeys.
  5. He has destroyed the great sea monster, the fleeing serpent.

"How faint is the whisper we hear of him!" The author lends his commentary to the dialogs. They have drifted from the nature of God. The author tells us to reconnect to God before hearing more of what Job has to say.

There will be a similar interjection at chapter 28. But that will be for later.

Tuesday: Job's First Monolog

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>