When we think of Job we often think about suffering. Rightly so, the unfortunate character of this book suffers a great deal. Yet, Job is not only about suffering. In fact, a reading of chapter 28 suggests that suffering is just part of the scenery intended to assist us in a search for wisdom.
Chapter 28 starts by reporting that humans have been pretty good at finding treasure. Silver, gold, iron, copper, sapphires… we have become adept at finding some pretty important items, but the question remains, where is wisdom? Human beings have demonstrated skill at digging deep into the earth for precious minerals. However, after we have explored the deepest parts of the universe, we still search for wisdom.
The question is asked in v.12 “But where can wisdom be found and where is the place of understanding?” and again in v.20 “where then does wisdom come from and where is the place of understanding?” It is not a surprise to learn that wisdom is with God. More specifically, while engaged in the work of creation, God did something with wisdom. Only he knows the way to wisdom, and it cannot be found by digging or mining.
Job may be reluctant to answer this question with any certainty. The point of chapter 28 is that God alone knows where wisdom is. In the end, Job realizes that God knows more than we do. He alone possesses the wisdom necessary to understand and we are at our best when we trust him and fear the Lord, the one who possesses this wisdom.
The chapter ends at 28.28 “behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” I can’t help but remember how the story of Job began. Back in the first chapter, Job is introduced to us as “fearing God, and turning away from evil” (1.1). And later he is introduced to Satan as “fearing God and turning away from evil” (1.8). We can’t help but consider whether chapter twenty eight is telling us to look again at the introduction of Job. Does he know this wisdom and understanding from the beginning of the book? One wonders if it was this wisdom that assisted him as he walked through the struggles he encountered throughout the story.
Roland Murphy states that after this, the debate is over. Job’s friends have nothing else to say. But Job continues to talk to God. Perhaps that is a good place for us to be. Talking with God. Fearing the Lord. Turning away from evil.