Job 28 – the “selah” of the book

If you read the scholars about the lyric poem on Wisdom found in Job 28, they are all over the map.  It came from somewhere else, they say, or it does not fit, or it interrupts the flow and so on.

It comes after the cycle of dialogues from the three friends, and just before Job’s 3 chapter summary self defense (ch 29-31).

It is beautiful poetry, and as such, a challenge for the translators.

I particularly like the image of miners, hanging down from ropes in dark caverns, swinging back and forth as they search for rare gems.

It seems best, from here, to see chapter 28 as an interlude.  It is like the notes in the Psalms, “selah”.  People used to read those in churches, because it was embedded in the text of the King James Version.  However, when the psalms are laid out in poetic shape on the page, the “selah” usually goes to the side.  It marks, we believe, a time for the worshipper to reflect on what has just been said. Probably there is a musical interlude at that point. 

Observe the placement of the selas in Psalm 32 – they seem to follow poetic stanzas.

So Job 28 fits in the same way.  It is a little pause, before we press on toward the conclusion. 

And of course the point is clear – humanity is brilliant at finding treasures in the earth, through great effort and physical courage.  However, we have not been able to find wisdom.   This leads to the thought that God has to give that which we can not uncover for ourselves.


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