V. THE POEM ON WISDOM
Where Is Wisdom to Be Found?
1There is indeed a mine for silver,*
and a place for refining gold.
2Iron is taken from the earth,
and copper smelted out of stone.
3* He sets a boundary for the darkness;
the farthest confines he explores.
4He breaks open a shaft far from habitation,
unknown to human feet;
suspended, far from people, they sway.
5The earth, though out of it comes forth bread,
is in fiery upheaval underneath.
6Its stones are the source of lapis lazuli,
and there is gold in its dust.
7The path no bird of prey knows,
nor has the hawk’s eye seen it.
8The proud beasts have not trodden it,
nor has the lion gone that way.
9He sets his hand to the flinty rock,
and overturns the mountains at their root.
10He splits channels in the rocks;
his eyes behold all that is precious.
11He dams up the sources of the streams,
and brings hidden things to light.
12As for wisdom—where can she be found?
Where is the place of understanding?a
13Mortals do not know her path,
nor is she to be found in the land of the living.
14The Deep says, “She is not in me”;
and the Sea says, “She is not with me.”
15Solid gold cannot purchase her,
nor can her price be paid with silver.b
16She cannot be bought with gold of Ophir,*
with precious onyx or lapis lazuli,
17Gold or crystal cannot equal her,
nor can golden vessels be exchanged for her.
18Neither coral nor crystal should be thought of;
the value of wisdom surpasses pearls.
19Ethiopian topaz does not equal her,
nor can she be weighed out for pure gold.
20As for wisdom, where does she come from?
Where is the place of understanding?
21She is hidden from the eyes of every living thing;
even from the birds of the air she is concealed.
22Abaddon* and Death say,
“Only by rumor have we heard of her.”
it is he who knows her place.d
24For he beholds the ends of the earth
and sees all that is under the heavens.
25When he weighed out the wind,
and measured out the waters;
26When he made a rule for the rain
and a path for the thunderbolts,e
27Then he saw wisdom and appraised her,
established her, and searched her out.
28* And to mortals he said:
See: the fear of the Lord is wisdom;
and avoiding evil is understanding.f
* [28:1–28] This chapter contains a beautifully vivid description of that Wisdom which is beyond the attainment of creatures and known only to God. The pronouns referring to Wisdom may be translated as either feminine or neuter; in view of Wisdom’s role as God’s companion and partner in creation (see Prv 8:22–30; Sir 24:1–21; Wis 9:9; Bar 3:9–4:4), the feminine is used here. There is no consensus about the authorship of this poem; it may originally have been an independent composition incorporated into the Book of Job.
* [28:3–4] The subject of the verbs in these verses has no clear antecedent; the context of vv. 2–6 suggests miners. The Hebrew of v. 4 is especially difficult. The general sense of vv. 1–11 is that one can find minerals in the earth; in contrast, where is Wisdom to be found (vv. 12, 20)?
* [28:23–27] In reply to the question of vv. 12, 20, these verses indicate that the creator (vv. 24–26) knows the “place” of wisdom and even “established” her, but the specifics are not given. For further development of this theme, cf. Sir 1:1–10 and Bar 3:9–4:4.
* [28:28] This verse may be a later addition expressing a commonplace of the wisdom tradition; see cross-references. The addition seems to tie the poem in with the description of Job as fearing God and avoiding evil (1:1, 8; 2:3).