Week of November 20, 2005


Bible Passage:  Job 28:12-19, 23-28.


Biblical Truth: True wisdom is found only in a relationship with God.




The book of Job belongs to the genre called ‘Wisdom Literature’ (along with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). This literature is concerned with reality and man’s perception of reality. Wisdom is all about understanding order in the universe, the meaning of a thing and its connection with other things. That order is hidden behind the visible events of daily life. So wisdom deals with what you cannot see behind what you can see. Wisdom involves knowing the way things ‘are’, and living sensibly in the light of it. In the book of Job, the call for ‘wisdom’ comes in the context of an innocent man suffering terribly. How is this crisis to be explained? What is the order or the reality behind Job’s ordeal? Why are things so unpleasant for Job? Where does understanding dwell? Job’s three friends presume to have ‘wisdom’ in this matter. They claim to understand the order behind what has happened to Job. But with wearisome and increasingly aggressive speeches, they reduced wisdom to a matter of cause and effect: Job suffers because Job sinned. But they were wrong, and Job knew that true wisdom would yield a different answer. What was it? Better still, where is wisdom in all its fullness? Where is the explanation of all reality, not just Job’s reality? Where is the order behind this whole universe. But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? [28:12]. This is the question.


The Search for Wisdom 28:12-14.


[12] But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? [13] Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. [14] The deep says, “It is not in me”; and the sea says, “It is not with me.” [NASU]


Chapter 28 stands as a sort of intrusion into the cycles of speeches. It separates the dialogue between Job and the three friends. This chapter is about wisdom, human and divine. Human wisdom is demonstrated in an ability to cope – to cope with the ordinary demands of day-to-day morality; to cope with knowing what to do, how to govern, how to rule, etc. But in every sphere, true wisdom depends on obedience to God, and not on natural or theoretical knowledge. Possibly the main theological question of the book of Job is in verse 12: But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? There is something more to wisdom than even the remarkable skill of the miner, the technologist, the scientific explorer [28:1-11]. There is something that even human beings themselves do not understand. There is, we shall learn, a divine wisdom as well as human wisdom. Mankind does not comprehend its worth [13]. The deep powers of creation do not contain it [14]. Divine wisdom is not the result of technological skill; it cannot be bought or exchanged [15]. The meaning here is that even if a man should search in every direction through the land of the living, wisdom would still be beyond him and unattainable.


The Value of Wisdom 28:15-19. 


[15] Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price. [16] It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx, or sapphire. [17] Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. [18] Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; and the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. [19] The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.  [NASU]

The transcendent excellence of wisdom above the most precious earthly treasures is now drawn out in detail. Wisdom is of more value than all these earthly treasures. This is Job’s point: now if wisdom is not to be found in any of the places named, and is not to be attained by any of the means mentioned, where can man hope to attain it and where must he turn to find it. No living created being is able to answer the question. Even the birds that fly aloft, that have keener and farther-seeing eyes than man, can give us no information concerning wisdom [21]. Therefore no creature, whether in the realm of the living or the dead, can help us to get wisdom.


The Source of Wisdom 28:23-28.


[23] God understands its way, and He knows its place. [24] For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. [25] When He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure, [26] When He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt, [27] Then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out. [28] And to man He said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”  [NASU]


The answer to the question as to where true wisdom is to be found escapes human beings, for true wisdom is not of this world. Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the sky. The truth is that only God knows the way to wisdom [23], for he sees everything under the heavens. It stems from his creative power: saw it, declared it, established it, searched it out [25-27]. The fear of the Lord – life lived in communion with the Lord and in obedience to his will – is the beginning of wisdom [28]. That is the gift which enables us to cope. True wisdom thus remains the gift of God – and it is a gift of grace. Wisdom is the way of living before God. Wisdom at the human level lies in having a proper relationship with God [28]. Only as we become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty, acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.


See the connection in the text! At the start of the book God described Job in a class by himself (no one like him on the earth) as fearing God and turning away from evil [1:8; 2:3]. Since wisdom is now defined with those exact words (fear of the Lord, depart from evil) God has declared Job the wisest man around. Job understands the order of the cosmos better than his counselors. Job understands reality. The gaps in his knowledge do not make him less wise. Rather, he trusts God whose knowledge has no gaps. That is wisdom. Wisdom is a spiritual issue. Wisdom is a reverent fear of God. Wisdom is a life governed by his commands. Unbelief is the opposite of wisdom; so is all manner of evil.




Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! [Rom. 11:33] Wisdom is commonly defined as good judgment, or the ability to develop the best course of action, or the best response to a given situation. We all recognize that human wisdom at its best is fallible. The wisest men or women simply do not have all the facts of a given situation, nor are they able to predict with certainty the results of a given course of action. But God never has to agonize over a decision. He does not even have to deliberate within Himself or consult others outside of Himself. His wisdom is intuitive, infinite, and infallible: His understanding is infinite [Ps. 147:5]. J. L. Dagg described wisdom as consisting in the selection of the best end of action, and the adoption of the best means for the accomplishment of this end. God is infinitely wise because he selects the best possible end of action and because he adopts the best possible means for the accomplishment of the end which he has in view. The best possible end of all of God’s actions is ultimately His glory. That is, all that God does or allows in all of His creation will ultimately serve His glory. Everything that is included in the concept of God’s glory is a mystery we cannot fully comprehend. But we do know that it involves a display of all His grandeur and His wondrous perfections, including the perfection of His wisdom. The good that God works for in our lives is conformity to the likeness of His Son. It is not necessarily comfort or happiness but conformity to Christ in ever-increasing measure in this life and in its fullness in eternity. God knows exactly what He intends we become and He knows exactly what circumstances, both good and bad, are necessary to produce that result in our lives. God knows infallibly with infinite wisdom what combination of good and bad circumstances will bring us more and more into sharing His holiness. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives.


The fact is, God has not really told us why He allowed Satan to so afflict Job as he did. On the basis of the truth of Romans 8:28, we must conclude that God had a much higher purpose in allowing Satan’s onslaughts against Job than merely using Job as a pawn in a “wager” between Himself and Satan. The story concludes with a conversation between God and Job in which Job acknowledges that through his trials he has come into a new and deeper relationship with God. He said, I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You [42:5]. We may conclude that this deeper relationship was one (but probably not all) of the results God had in mind all along. But whether we see beneficial results in this life or not, we are still called upon to trust God that in His love He wills what is best for us and in His wisdom He knows how to bring it about. So we should never ask “why?” in the sense of demanding that God explain or justify His actions or what He permits in our lives. But though we should never ask a demanding “why?” we may and should ask God to enable us to understand what He may be teaching us through a particular experience. We must learn to trust God when He does not tell us why, when we do not understand what He is doing. If we are to honor God by trusting Him, and if we are to find peace for ourselves, we must come to the place where we can honestly say, “God, I do not have to understand. I will just trust You.”


Questions for Discussion:


1.     How would you define wisdom? What is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom? How do you determine if someone is wise? What is it about that person that gives evidence of wisdom?


2.     Scripture tells us that the fear of the Lord is wisdom or the beginning of wisdom [Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33]. Why is this true? Why is it necessary to fear the Lord in order to be wise?


3.     Proverbs 8 is a famous description of wisdom. How many similarities does it have with Job 28?


4.     From the following texts, what has Jesus Christ got to do with wisdom? (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 30; Ephesians 1:7-10; Colossians 2:2-3).


5.     What is the connection between Scripture and wisdom? (Read 2 Timothy 3:12-17; Psalm 19:7-14; Psalm 119:97-105).



The Message of Job, David Atkinson, Inter-Varsity.

Job, Peter Bloomfield, The Guide, Evangelical Press.

Job, F. Delitzsch, Eerdmans.

Manual of Theology, J.L. Dagg.

Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, Navpress.