From where does wisdom come?

Dear congregation,

Here is something on Job 28. I hope this will cause you to want to read the chapter.

I have as a small, but not insignificant, part of my personality the dream of the treasure seeker. I suppose it is part of my genetic makeup. My uncle spent the last 20 years of his life as a prospector in the Australian Outback. My dad had a huge rock collection he had gathered from the deserts in Nevada stored behind his shop that he would wistfully brood over from time to time. I remember the thrill of panning for gold and finding a flake or two in the Sierras in California as a kid. I fondly remember my numerous excursions poking around old Arizona mines with Dave Haveman, and picking up some gorgeous rocks from the tailings. Two of my sons apparently caught the bug, deciding to major in geosciences. So, for me Job 28 strikes a special chord. It is the miner’s chapter. It begins, “surely there is a mine for silver…”

Job 28 is an enigma within the book of Job. The commentaries I have call it an interlude. They debate to which voice the chapter belongs. Is it Job’s voice, or Elihu’s, or the anonymous author’s, or something else altogether? It is a riddle, and deliberately so. The first 11 verses describe the miner’s search for hidden treasure in picturesque and haunting terms. The places one must go are far from civilization. The mine shafts and adits are deep underground, in deep darkness. One swings to and fro (within cages hung from ropes) to access the ores on cliff faces. Yet, in spite of the difficulties and the hiddenness of the treasures, the dedicated prospector can be successful. Precious ores and gems are found.

But then, we learn that the search for hidden treasure is a metaphor for the search for wisdom. For the search for understanding of the hard things in life is the subject of the book of Job. Verse 12 starts out, “But where shall wisdom be found…?” It is not something that can be found in the land of the living (which I presume here refers to ordinary life). It is not in the depths of the sea. It is not something that can be purchased for a fabulous price at a fabulous bazaar where wares from the ends of the earth are sold.

Verse 20 asks again, “From where, then, does wisdom come?” We start to inch closer. There is a rumor that it exists beyond the grave. God knows where it can be found. Surely it exists in the workshop of his primeval creation (where we cannot go, but can surely admire the output). But then comes a surprise ending. A voice speaks from off-stage and announces a completely unexpected answer.

You will have to look it up yourself. 

—Elder Jim Blake


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