Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 27
V 1: "And Job ADDED, bearing his parable, and he said." When Job saw that his companions had stopped answering him (for which Eli-hu later castigated them, Job 32:16), he added further arguments, raising his voice and speaking in similes, metaphors and parables. The following chapters are replete with such parables (e.g. in Job 28:16, where wisdom is said to be incomparable with finest gold; see Rashi, Metzudas David and Ramban on our verse).
V 2: "By the living God - who has turned away my just cause, and the Almighty has embittered my soul". With these words Job takes a solemn oath that God has caused him evil despite his being innocent, for in turning Job over to the forces of nature He has not fairly requited his righteousness. The Midrash comments that the fact that Job swore in the name of God shows that his service was the service of love and did not derive from fear of punishment, "for no man swears by the life of the king unless he loves the king" (Tosefta Sotah on this verse). Out of love of God, seeking to justify His ways without flattery, Job was seeking a true answer to the problem of why the righteous suffer in this world.
Vv 4-6: "My lips shall not speak wickedness nor my tongue utter deceit." Protesting his complete innocence of any of the evil of which his companions had accused him, Job declares that he cannot say that the truth is with them, because this would be untrue and then he would be a hypocrite and a villain - either through flattering them by saying they were telling the truth when they were not, or through flattering God by giving a glib answer to the question of why the righteous suffer - because they are not righteous - which does not solve the problem at all (see Ramban). The problem of why the righteous suffer remains - because Job knows in his heart that he never departed from his righteousness.
V 7: "Let my enemy be as the wicked." So detestable to Job is any trace of wickedness that he would curse his enemy that he should be wicked (Metzudas David).
V 8: "For what is the hope of the hypocrite." Job is asking why he would want to be a villain and a robber - for what happens to the villain and the robber in the end (Rashi). Metzudas David explains Job to be saying that although in his view everything that happens in this material world is given over to the implacable government of the heavenly order of the stars and planets so that there is no difference between the lot of the righteous and that of the wicked, nevertheless he would still not choose the path of evil. For what hope will the villain and the robber have when God takes his soul from him. Even though the righteous may have suffered in this world, they can still hope for spiritual delight in the world of the souls. But what hope have the wicked? (Metzudas David ad loc.). The above-quoted explanation by Metzudas David fits with Ramban's explanation (on Job ch 22, see our commentary thereon) that while Job could see no justice in the dispensation of health, children and wealth in this material world, which he saw to be governed by fate as determined by the astrological signs, he did believe in justice in the non-physical world of the souls.
V 11: "I shall teach you concerning the hand of God; that which is with the Almighty I will not conceal." Metzudas David explains that Job is saying it is not his intention to incite people to choose wickedness. He only wants to teach his companions the true nature of the government that comes from God's hand, and he will not refrain from speaking in order that people should not attribute the apparent injustice of the suffering of the righteous and the wellbeing of the wicked to any imperfection in God since everything comes down through the heavenly order of stars and planets (Metzudas ad loc.).
V 12: "Behold, all you yourselves have seen it - why then do you thus altogether breathe emptiness?" Job is saying that the destruction of the wicked which the companions had so emphasized is a well known, regular phenomenon to which everyone can bear witness, and he will not deny it - so why should the companions suspect that Job had chosen the path of wickedness? (Metzudas David).
Vv 13-23: In these verses Job acknowledges that no matter how great the success of the wicked, their wealth will eventually be taken from them and given over to others and retribution will come to their descendants. Ramban (on v 13) explains Job to be saying that even if all the troubles in the world come to the descendants of the wicked man while his glory flies away when he dies, this still does not resolve the problem of the success of the wicked because he has no interest in his house after his death. In addition, there is the problem of the righteous who suffer, over which he complained from the outset and his main outcry is against this.
There is no break in the Hebrew text between the end of Chapter 27 and the beginning of Chapter 28. They are one continuous discourse until Ch 28 v 12, which starts a new section.
V 1: "Surely silver has its source." Rashi on this verse explains the connection of thought between the opening of Chapter 28 and the earlier part of Job's discourse in the previous chapter. "Surely silver has its source." - "This too provides another argument in support of what he said earlier, 'I have held by my righteousness' (27:6). For why should I be wicked? If it would be for the sake of silver and gold - everything has its origin and its end. But 'from where does wisdom come?' (ch 28 v 20) - wisdom is more precious than everything, and for that reason I set my heart all my days to learn" (Rashi on v 1).
Vv 1-11: Job lists some of the wondrous, paradoxical ways in which natural phenomena come into being, each from its own unique source. Four different metals - silver, gold, iron and copper - each have their own source (vv 1-2). God has set a fixed time for darkness to rule - there is a "stone (EVVEN) of darkness and the shadow of death", a kind of black hole from which punishments come forth, and it is called a "stone" after the way in which a man stumbles on a stone and gets hurt (Rashi). The literal meaning of verses 4ff is explained by Ramban to refer to the hidden source of water-courses, which come up from under the ground, while the source of bread is from the ground, yet paradoxically, if one digs deep beneath the surface of the ground, one finds the element of fire in the form of sulfur and salt. The ensuing verses speak about other mysterious sources of natural phenomenon.
Verses 4ff were also darshened by the sages as referring to the calamity that overtook Sodom , when rivers of fire and sulfur burst out over them. A most lovely habitation that had wealth in plenty and was never subject to marauders, foreign spies and hostile enemies was turned into a barren, uninhabitable waste (Sanhedrin 109a).
Verses 12ff: Having expressed how material wealth and resources have their source and also come to an end because they are finite, Job now contrasts this with the inestimable wealth of true wisdom. "But where shall wisdom be found?" The Hebrew text can also be construed as, "Wisdom comes forth out of nothingness". "Rabbi Yohanan said, From this verse we learn that Torah wisdom endures only in one who makes himself as nothing" (Sotah 21b). Wisdom comes from humility. And Kabbalistically, the Sefirah of Chochmah, Wisdom, emanates out of AYIN, referring to Keter which is beyond any form of conceptualization.
V 14: "The depth says, It is not in me." - "If you ask those who go down to the depths to find pearls or to the sources of gold and silver in the depths of the earth, they will tell you, It is not in me - because they are not proficient in Torah law! The people who go across the seas to trade will tell you wisdom is not with them, because they cannot purchase it for money like other merchandise" (Rashi).
Vv 20: Job continues in this most beautiful discourse, asking where Wisdom and Understanding can be found - because they are hidden from all the living.
V 23: "God understands its way." - "He knows where wisdom dwells, and thus they praise wisdom, saying of it that 'God understands its way' - He looked into the Torah and created the world through its letters: according to their order and their values He formed all the creations as is written in the secret Sefer Yetzirah" (Rashi on v 23).
V 25: "He makes a weight for the winds and he weighs the waters by measure" - Everything in the world is precisely measured (see Rashi on this verse).
Vv 27-28: "Then He saw it, and declared it, he established it and indeed He searched it out. And to man he said, Behold the fear of Hashem - that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." True wisdom is known only to God, who "looked into the Torah and made the creation" as alluded to in verse 27, which kabbalistically refers to the four worlds. However, to man God says: Since your mind is insufficient to attain the depths of the hidden secrets of wisdom, know that fear of HaShem is the entry into wisdom while turning aside from evil is the way to attain understanding. This means that through fear of God one may attain hidden secrets that cannot be understood through natural means, for then God will put wisdom into the person's heart (see Metzudas David on v 28).
Metzudas David summarizes the intent of Job's argument in chapters 27-8 along the following lines: Job is arguing that wisdom is better than all possessions, and it is impossible to acquire it except through fear of God. For this reason, even though there is no distinction between the righteous and the wicked in the accidents of fate that befall them in the material world, one should still follow the path of righteousness in order to attain wisdom, which is worth more than anything, for it provides spiritual delight. If so, who would choose wickedness and loose the beauty of wisdom because of it? This is part of Jobs self-vindication from his companions' accusations that he was wicked (see Metzudas David on v 28).
Ramban on verse 28 elaborates on the esoteric interpretation of Chapter 28 beginning from verse 1, explaining that the passage alludes to the four elements (bound up with the mystery of the four metals), the ten Sefirot and the 22 letters of the Aleph Beit. 10 plus 22 = 32: These are the 32 Pathways of Wisdom known to the sages. (The 50 Gates of Understanding are alluded to later on in Job ch's 38ff, as discussed in detail by Raavad, Introduction to Sefer Yetzirah.)
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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