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277. Job 28:27-28, Finishing on Wisdom

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.’”

 

Now that the divine bona fides has been well-established, we only need to relate it to the production of wisdom to finish the chapter. Yet, before getting to that brief, and seemingly anticlimactic verse 28, we have God’s care now first directed towards wisdom. God has stretched out heavens, made lightning, created storms, but now is concerned with wisdom. The four common verbs of verses 24-26 to describe the divine activity—nabat, raah, asah, takan are now mirrored with four verbs in verse 27 to describe God’s care for wisdom. These four verbs are raah, saphar, kun, chaqar or “see, number/count, establish, search out.” The first three could have be predicated of God’s other activities in the world. Raah has just been used to describe God’s “seeing” things (v 24); saphar is a “measurement-type” verb, though it often is just translated as “declare.” Its root meaning is found in the area of numbers. The kun of verse 27 is easily connected with the takan of verse 25. One wonders if in the mysteries of language formation that these two verbs were really ever one verb.


But the difference between God’s dealing with the rest of creation in verses 24-26 and God’s dealing with wisdom in verse 27 is that God “searches out” (chaqar) the latter.  Chaqar is nothing less than exhilarating in this context. Appearing 27x in the Bible, chaqar also appears disproportionately frequently in Job (6x), but four of its five other appearances in Job describe the process of human striving. Only in Job 13:9 is it used to describe God’s “searching out” humans. In the next chapter we will hear Job tell how he searched out/investigated (chaqar) the cases of the needy before rendering judgment (29:16). Eliphaz had famously used the word in the last verse of his first speech, when he tells Job of the absolute certainty he has of his words. Not only has “he” searched them out; but “we have searched them out” (chaqar; 5:27).  

 

The verb chaqar finds its most memorable double usage in Psalm 139:1, 23. At the beginning of this great Psalm the author confessed that God has “searched” him (chaqar) and “known” him (the common yada). Though he has already acknowledged God’s searching him, at the end he says, “Search me, O God” (chaqar again). Job 28:27 indicates that God is as involved in the process of deep investigation as are humans.  Humans and God meet in the process and end of the search.

 

Verse 28 then gives the result of this tremendous divine effort of setting up and searching out wisdom. To get wisdom and understanding (parallel concepts from vv 12, 20) is nothing other than fearing God and departing from evil. Job had mastered these in Chapter 1. Lest we think this is an anticlimactic statement, however, we should recognize that a simple result from following a long process actually gives that process its integrity and clarity. Many scholars suggest that the end result of an initiation into the ancient mystery cults of the Hellenistic world was simply seeing a bright light or an ear of corn. When Eliphaz builds up the importance of the vision that was vouchsafed him in 4:12-16, he then tells us simply that what he “saw” was that mortals really aren’t righteous or pure before God (4:17). It is a rather “duh” moment, until you realize that the revelatory statement after a dramatic buildup is almost always a simple phrase, a common picture, an incontrovertible and obvious statement. Perhaps the real meaning is not simply to get to the “meaning” of wisdom as departing from evil, but to get to know the ways of this God who puts so much care into making (asah) the world and setting up and searching out wisdom.