Job 28:17

17 Neither gold nor emeralds are comparable; extravagant jewelry can't touch it.

Job 28:17 Meaning and Commentary

Job 28:17

The gold and the crystal cannot equal it
Crystal was found in an island of the Red sea, situated before Arabia, called Neron, and in another, which from a gem found in it bears the name of Topazion, and may be thought therefore to be well known by Job; and though it is not now of so much account, it formerly was very valuable. Pliny F1 makes mention of a crystal vessel, sold for 150,000 sesterces, about 1250 pounds sterling; and of two crystal cups broke by Nero in his fury, on hearing of some losses, to punish the then present age, that no other men might drink out of them: some render it "amber", which is found in Prussia, and being at a great distance from Job's country, might be the more valuable there; and Pliny F2 speaks of it as had in as great esteem as gems: the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin versions, and others, translate it "glass" F3 which had its original from Phoenicia, near Judea; so Pliny says F4 from the lake Cendevia, within the roots of Mount Carmel, in Phoenicia, near Judea, springs the river Belus, from whence glass came first; and he speaks of Sidon (a city in Phoenicia) as famous for it; and Tacitus F5 observes, that the river Belus glides in the Jewish sea, and about the mouth of it sand is gathered and mixed with nitre, and boiled into glass; and this being near the country where Job dwelt, it is thought be had knowledge of it; and from this passage some F6 have concluded the great antiquity of glass; and if it is true what Aelianus F7 relates, that when the monument of the ancient Belus (the first king of Babylon) was dug up by Xerxes, the son of Darius, that there was found a glass urn, where lay a body in oil, it must be in use before the times of Job. An Arabic chronologer F8 affirms what be had from men conversant in history, that in Egypt, after the flood, there were men learned in various sciences, and among the rest in alchemy, and had knowledge of burning glasses; though the invention of these, and of a glass globe, is ascribed to Archimedes F9, who lived somewhat later than two hundred years before Christ. There was great plenty of glass very early in Ethiopia, after mentioned, in which they enclosed their dead, that they might be seen through it F11; and if it was in use in Job's time, and especially if it was then a late invention, it might be highly valued, and therefore placed here with things of the greatest worth. In the times of Nero, Pliny says F12 two small glass cups were sold for six thousand sesterces, or forty five pounds sterling, and according to others near fifty pounds; and the same writer relates, that in the times of Tiberias an art was found out to make glass flexible and malleable; but was ordered to be destroyed, lest the value of gold, silver, and brass, should be lessened by it. The Targum renders the word here used a looking glass; (See Gill on Joshua 11:8). Some think the diamond or adamant is meant, and others that it is a general name for all sorts of precious stones, they being clear, transparent, and lucid, as the word signifies:

and the exchange of it [shall not be for] jewels of fine gold;
set in fine gold; or "vessels" of it, more valuable than gold itself, being made of gold, purified, refined, and wrought by art into curious forms; and yet wisdom is so valuable as not to be exchanged for these. Mr. Broughton takes this fine gold, or gold of Phaz, to be the same with Fess in Barbary, which had its name from a heap of gold there found when its foundation was laid; for "fess" with the Arabs signifies gold {m}.


F1 Ut supra, (Nat. Hist. l. 37.) c. 2.
F2 Ib. c. 5.
F3 (tykwkz) (ualov) , Sept. "vitrum", V. L. Tigurine version, Cocceius.
F4 Ut supra, (Nat. Hist.) l. 36. c. 26. Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 10. sect. 2.
F5 Hist. l. 5. c. 7.
F6 Neri Praefat. ad. lib. de re vitriaria.
F7 Var. Hist. l. 12. c. 3.
F8 Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 33.
F9 Vid. Fabritii Bibliothec. Gr. l. 3. c. 22. sect. 11. 15.
F11 Diodor. Sic. l. 2. p. 102. Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 24.
F12 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 26.)
F13 Leo African. Descript. Africae, l. 3. p. 273.

Job 28:17 In-Context

15 It can't be bought with the finest gold; no amount of silver can get it.
16 Even famous Ophir gold can't buy it, not even diamonds and sapphires.
17 Neither gold nor emeralds are comparable; extravagant jewelry can't touch it.
18 Pearl necklaces and ruby bracelets - why bother? None of this is even a down payment on Wisdom!
19 Pile gold and African diamonds as high as you will, they can't hold a candle to Wisdom.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.