In one of the most fascinating ways, Job 28:12–21 describes God’s wisdom and the futility of human endeavor to obtain it outside of Him. Job does this by pointing out two things: (1) the value of wisdom, and (2) the hiddenness of its source. The ultimate purpose of this passage shows that God’s ideal for us is (1) beyond human estimate and (2) beyond human intellectual, physical, and spiritual ability. The first is the limit of our potential to understand, while the second is the limitation of our actual understanding. This chapter in Job concludes with the comforting thought that in God, what was once impossible without Him becomes totally attainable by Him (Job 28:28).
From verses 15–17, gold is mentioned four times and in four various forms. The first word in verse 15, segore, occurs only twice in the Bible (the other is in Hosea 13:8). In verse 16, Job refers to the gold (kethem) of Ophir, which is often translated as fine gold. Verse 17 mentions gold (zahab) with glass or crystal in the beginning of the verse and fine gold (paz) at the end—the first is widely mentioned in the Bible, more than three hundred times, while the latter is mentioned less than ten times. The former denotes the golden color, while the latter refers to refined gold.
Job uses four different words for gold to refer to the worth of wisdom. The passage states that what God requires of us is unattainable and priceless. The value of God’s ideal for His children could not be purchased with any form of gold, whether it be common, special, rare, refined, or the purest gold of all. This wisdom that is not common, but rather religious in its affairs and salvific in its nature, is not for sale—it exceeds all estimable value.
Even if, for the sake of argument, someone had what it takes to purchase this wisdom that leads to salvation, another challenge confronts us: the place where this wisdom resides is unapproachable. Job seeks to explain that no one knows where this wisdom is or where it came from; it has carefully hidden itself from our eyes and may as well be higher than the highest bird can fly.
Some believe that the Rüppell’s griffon vulture is the highest-flying bird in the world, reaching heights of nearly 40,000 feet in the air! Speaking of the unreachable heights of God’s wisdom, Job says that it is concealed even from the birds of the air that, in some cases, are able to fly as high as commercial airliners. “It is hidden from the eyes of all living” (Job 28:21) means that if it were possible to combine all human intelligence to seek out the location of this wisdom, the search would be in vain.
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). Although God’s ideal for us is above the highest human thought and more costly than silver, gold, or precious rubies, it is attainable through “fear of the Lord.”