Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Job 28 - on wisdom and understanding

This translation doesn't come close to the poetry I remember singing from the setting of William Boyce of the AV text (no vocal performance online but text is here and there is a score and play-through available). Alas for the rigidity of my thumbs.

In this poem several words of the prior conversations are picked up - but what stands out here is the number of repeated words. It is tempting to read into the recurrence of place. There is also the contrast between the mortal search and the searching of God - in this case Elohim.

for there is for silver a coming out
and a place for gold they refine
Iron from dust is taken
and stone pours brass

an end he sets for darkness
and to all consummation he himself searches out
stones of gloom and obscurity
a torrent bursts out from a people of strife
those forgotten by a foot
linger from a mortal and wag on

earth - from her comes forth bread
and under her is overturned something like fire
a place of sapphire her stones
and gold dust to him

a path a bird of prey does not know
and an eye of a vulture does not sight
the whelps of the pride have not been made to walk
the aged beast has not adorned itself with it

on the flint he stretches out his hand
he overturns the roots of the mountains
among the rocks he splits canals
and every precious thing his eye sees
from weeping he binds the streams
and things secret he brings to light

but that wisdom - from where is she found?
and where is this place of understanding?
mortal does not know her proportion
and she is not found in the earth of the living
depth says - not in me is she
and sea says - there is none in me

she will not be given for fine gold in exchange
and silver will not be weighed for her hire
she cannot be valued with the finest gold of Ophir
with precious onyx or sapphire
she is not ordered by gold or crystal
nor is her recompense by jewels in fine gold
of coral and pearls there will be no remembering
for the draw of wisdom is above rubies
she is not ordered by the topaz of Cush
nor by the pure finest gold can she be valued

but that wisdom - where does she come from?
and where is this place of understanding?
and she is secreted from the eyes of all living
and from the birds of heaven she is concealed

Abaddon and death say
with our ears we have heard her hearing
God understands her way
and he - he knows specifically her place

for he - he attends to the extremities of the earth
and under all the heavens he sees
to make for the wind a weight
and the waters he balances by measure

when he made for the rain a decree
and a way for the lightning of voices
then he saw her and recounted her
he prepared her - indeed - searched her out

and he said to the human
lo - the fear of the Lord - that is wisdom
and to turn away from evil is understanding

Note - updated to use the female pronoun for wisdom - inexcusable to have missed this! That God should look - what an image of creation.

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