Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Silver. Hebrew, “Surely there is a vein, or mine, for silver.” (Haydock) — The sagacity of man has discovered all these things. Wonderful also is the instinct of animals, ver. 7. Yet wisdom comes from God alone; and those act rashly, who pretend to dive into his counsels in punishing his creatures and ruling the world. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Stone. Protestants, “and brass is molten out of the stone.” (Haydock) — “When brass comes out of the mine it resembles stone, and being mixed with earth is refined in the fire.” (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxvi. 27.) (Menochius) — All this process would require much ingenuity and time. Tubalcain was a great artist before the deluge; (Genesis iv. 22.) but we cannot tell who were the inventors of these things, though (Calmet) the Greeks have specified the names of some who introduced these metals into their respective countries. (Pliny vii. 56.) (Haydock)
Ver. 3. He (God) hath, &c. (Haydock) — Darkness, before which these inventions could not be made; (Menochius) or, man has been able to measure the hours of day and night by the shadow of the sun, and by other means. He always strives to perfect his works, and examines with care the mines which lay concealed in the most profound obscurity. (Calmet) — Precious stones and metals lie the deepest. (Menochius) — From the consideration of these beautiful works, men ought to raise their minds to the Creator, and wisely rest in him alone. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. At. Nations are separated by waters from each other. (Calmet) — Some, like the Chinese, keep all strangers at a distance. (Haydock) — But the industry of man breaketh through all barriers. Hebrew, “a river separates a foreign nation forgotten by travellers; but these waters cannot stop man: they flow away.” (Calmet) — Protestants, “The flood breaketh out from the inhabitants, even the waters; forgotten of the foot, they are dried up; they are gone away from men.” Septuagint, “Sand cuts off a torrent: but those who forget the way of justice, have become infirm, and have been instable among mortals.” (Haydock) — Travellers are sometimes parted by a swelling torrent; (Sa) and waters, bursting forth suddenly, change the roads of men. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. In its, &c. Hebrew and Septuagint, “and under it is turned up as it were fire,” which lies in it. (Haydock) — Fire, like Sodom; to which event Job alludes, chap. xxii. 20. (Calmet) — The furnaces to melt various metals have taken the place of corn, and occupy the land. (Menochius) — Men have extracted bitumen, &c., even from the lake of Sodom. (Pliny, [Natural History?] vii. 15.) — Nothing escapes them. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Sapphires. The best are found in Media, in the country of the Taphyri, (Ptol.) or Raspires. (Herodotus iii. 94.) — Gold. This precious metal, like all others, is found in the bowels of the earth, (Haydock) and in the bed of rivers, in Ophir, Peru, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Path of these metals, (Menochius) or a path in general. (Haydock) — They fly, as beasts roam about, without keeping the high road; yet never miss their way, or fail to return to their own place, though they may have crossed the sea or woods, and been absent many months. This instinct is one of the wonders of nature. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Merchants, who go the shortest road. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “of lions,” which find their deans without asking for the path. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Roots, in quest of precious metals. (Menochius) — “Imus in viscera terræ et in sede Marium opes quærimus.” (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxiii. pref.)
Effodiuntur opes, irritamenta malorum. (Ovid, Met. i.)
Ver. 10. Rivers. Or, the waters lodged in the mines. (Menochius) — He hath even cut canals through the hardest rocks, (Haydock) and sunk wells. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Searched, by diving; (Calmet) or, Hebrew, “he bindeth the rivers from flowing;” diverting their course by dams, &c. This is another proof of the power of man. (Calmet) —Labor omnia vincit. (Horace)
Ver. 12. Understanding, of supernatural things, which teaches us to love God, and to comprehend his counsels. This is very different from the human sagacity of which he has been speaking; and this is the gift of God alone. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Price. It has none, like other precious things, Baruch iii. 15. — In delights is not expressed in Hebrew or Septuagint. (Calmet) — But to live in misery is hardly to be accounted living, (Haydock) and the addition restrains the proposition, as some men possess this treasure, though not those who take no pains (Calmet) to mortify corrupt nature. (Haydock) — Chaldean, “it is not found in the land of the proud, whose life is spent in sin.” (Calmet) — True wisdom is found, not in natural, but in supernatural, things. (Worthington)
Ver. 15. Finest, obrizum, which has the colour of fire. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxiii. 3.) The old Vulgate and Septuagint read “locked-up gold,” aurum conclusum, (Calmet) and the Hebrew Segor, (Haydock) “that which is shut up,” like things of value: gold is sometimes specified, 3 Kings vi. 20.
Ver. 16. Dyed, &c. Hebrew cethem ophir, (Haydock) “the shut up” (gold, though the Vulgate, Septuagint, &c., very in the interpretation) “of Ophir.” This country was famous for its gold. (Calmet) — Its situation is not clearly ascertained. St. Jerome seems to have placed it in India, with Josephus, “in the golden country,” now Malacca. — Stone. Protestants, onyx. Hebrew shoham (Haydock) means, probably, the emerald, Genesis ii. 12. (Calmet) — But these names are very indeterminate. Theodotion, from whom great part of this chapter is inserted in the Septuagint has “the gold of Ophir, and the precious onyx and sapphire.” (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Gold. This is the third time it has been mentioned, according to its different degrees of excellence. Hence it is called by the most common name, (Calmet) zahab. (Haydock) — Crystal was formerly more “transparent” than we have it at present. (Calmet) — Zecucith (Haydock) denotes something of this kind. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Things. Hebrew Ramoth and Gabish (Haydock) are terms much controverted. The first may denote the unicorns, (Deuteronomy xxxiii. 17.) and the latter the thunderbolt, or ceraunia, which were in high request. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxvii. 9. Ezechiel (xiii. 11., and xxvii. 16.) mentions the former as carried by merchants to Tyre. These stones, which fell from the sky, were used by the Parthian magi, &c., for secret purposes. They have given rise to many fabulous accounts. Those which are to be seen, are by no means beautiful. (Calmet) — Yet if the people esteemed them, Job might well include them among other things of most value. Protestants, “No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.” (Haydock) — The latter part of the verse would be rather, “the fishing for wisdom would be more difficult than that for pearls;” (Calmet) or, “the extraction of wisdom is above the drawing forth of peninim.” (Haydock) — The pinna is a kind of fish which is fastened to the bottom of the sea, by roots, of which the byssus was made, 1 Paralipomenon xv. 27. Pearls were commonly found in the Persian Gulf, near Idumea. The art of diving for them, and extracting them from the fish, was very difficult, but nothing in comparison with the labour requisite to discover wisdom. The ancients describe some pearls of a reddish gold colour. (Athen. iii. 13.) ( Jeremias’ Lamentations iv. 7.) — Adam, which is interpreted red, in Jeremias, means also any thing very shining; in which sense the word purpureus is used. (Horace vi. Ode 1.) (Bochart, Anim. p. 2, b. v. vi. (Calmet) and t. iii. 681. 91.) The opinion of this author seems preferable to that of Hutchinson and Cooke, who would translate peninim (Haydock) by “loadstones or magnets,” which the former says are like “reddish clay,” though they are really of a dusky iron grey, sometimes tinged with brown or red. This complexion would not be very beautiful. Yet the Nazarites are compared to peninim, (Lamentations iv.) and to snow, (Parkhurst) as they were of a most fair red and white, like pearls. (Haydock) — Though the ancients seem to have been acquainted with the loadstone or magnetic needle, particularly the Phenicians (Odys. viii. 556.) and Chinese, for many ages, yet it was never so common as to form a popular comparison. Aquila renders the word in question, periblepta, “conspicuous things;” and pearls were certainly highly valued by the Jews, &c. Parkhurst, in pone. — Theodotion, in the Septuagint, “draw forth wisdom before the inmost things.” — Both these versions agree with the Vulgate, as the most precious goods are kept out of sight. (Haydock) — Yet the deepest mines of gold do not require so much diligence and sagacity for us to discover and possess them, as wisdom does; but, in return, it will abundantly recompense the man who finds such a treasure, Ecclesiasticus vi. 19., and 24. (Pineda)
Ver. 19. Ethiopia, on the east of the Red Sea. Pliny ([Natural History?] vi. 29.) mentions the isle of Chuthis, which was also famous for the topaz. — Dying. Hebrew cethem, (Haydock) which we have observed relates to gold, ver. 16.
Ver. 22. Destruction. Hebrew abaddon, which is before (chap. xxvi. 6.) used to signify the bottomless abyss. There, too late! the dead become acquainted with the value and nature of wisdom. (Haydock) — But their knowledge is imperfect, and of no use to us. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Measure. He regulates the winds, and knows the drops of water, (Haydock) which to man is impossible, Proverbs xvi. 2.
Ver. 26. Storms; or Hebrew, “for the lightning, which attends thunder.” (Calmet)
Ver. 27. It. All the works of God proclaim his wisdom. (Haydock) — He never made an acquisition of it, but possessed it from all eternity, Proverbs viii. 23.
Ver. 28. Understanding. This is the duty of man, and a thing of the utmost importance. This teaches us to adore God’s judgments (Calmet) in silence. (Haydock) — It is the most important instruction of the whole book. (Pineda) — Man must consider God’s works to fear Him; and by avoiding evil, and doing good, (Worthington) to shew true wisdom. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Man’s industry searcheth out many things: true wisdom is taught by God alone.
1 Silver hath beginnings of its veins, and gold hath a place, wherein it is melted.
2 Iron is taken out of the earth, and stone melted with heat is turned into brass.
3 He hath set a time for darkness, and the end of all things he considereth, the stone also that is in the dark, and the shadow of death.
4 The flood divideth from the people that are on their journey, those whom the foot of the needy man hath forgotten, and who cannot be come at.
5 The land, out of which bread grew in its place, hath been overturned with fire.
6 The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and the clods of it are gold.
7 The bird hath not known the path, neither hath the eye of the vulture beheld it.
8 The children of the merchants have not trodden it, neither hath the lioness passed by it.
9 He hath stretched forth his hand to the flint, he hath overturned mountains from the roots.
10 In the rocks he hath cut out rivers, and his eye hath seen every precious thing.
11 The depths also of rivers he hath searched, and hidden things he hath brought forth to light.
12 But where is wisdom to be found, and where is the place of understanding?
13 Man knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the land of them that live in delights.
14 The depth saith: It is not in me: and the sea saith: It is not with me.
15 *The finest gold shall not purchase it, neither shall silver be weighed in exchange for it
16 It shall not be compared with the dyed colours of India, or with the most precious stone sardonyx, or the sapphire.
17 Gold or crystal cannot equal it, neither shall any vessels of gold be changed for it.
18 High and eminent things shall not be mentioned in comparison of it: but wisdom is drawn out of secret places.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia shall not be equal to it, neither shall it be compared to the cleanest dying.
20 Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hid from the eyes of all living, and the fowls of the air know it not.
22 Destruction and death have said: With our ears we have heard the fame thereof.
23 God understandeth the way of it, and he knoweth the place thereof.
24 For he beholdeth the ends of the world: and looketh on all things that are under heaven.
25 Who made a weight for the winds, and weighed the waters by measure.
26 When he gave a law for the rain, and a way for the sounding storms.
27 Then he saw it, and declared, and prepared, and searched it.
28 And he said to man: Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding.
15: Wisdom vii. 9.