on Job 28 :4
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant - This passage is very difficult. Some think it refers to mining; others to navigation. If it refer to the former, it may be intended to point out the waters that spring up when the miners have sunk down to a considerable depth, so that the mine is drowned, and they are obliged to give it up. Previously to the invention of the steam-engine this was generally the case: hence ancient mines may be reopened and worked to great advantage, because we have the means now to take off the water which the ancient workers had not. When, therefore, floods break out in those shafts, they are abandoned; and thus they are,
Forgotten of the foot - No man treads there any more. The waters increase דלו dallu, they are elevated, they rise up to a level with the spring, or till they meet with some fissure by which they can escape; and thence מאנוש נעו meenosh nau, they are moved or carried away from men; the stream is lost in the bowels of the earth.
Mr. Peters thinks that both this verse, and Job 9:26, refer to navigation, then in a state of infancy; for the sea is not so much as mentioned; but נחל nachal, a torrent or flood, some river or arm of the sea perhaps of a few leagues over, which, dividing the several nations, must interrupt their hospitality and commerce with each other, unless by the help of navigation. According to this opinion the verse may be translated and paraphrased thus: The flood-rivers and arms of the sea - separateth from the stranger, מעם ג meim gar, divides different nations and peoples: they are forgotten of the foot - they cannot walk over these waters, they must embark in vessels; then they dwindle away, דלו dallu, from the size of men, that is, in proportion to their departure from the land they lessen on the sight; נעו nau, they are tossed up and down, namely, by the action of the waves. This receives some countenance from the psalmist's fine description, Psalm 107:26, Psalm 107:27, of a ship in a rough sea: They mount up to heaven; they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, ינועו yanuu, (the same word as above), they stagger like a drunken man. Mr. Good's translation is singular: -
He breaketh up the veins from the matrice,
Which, though thought nothing of under the foot,
Are drawn forth, are brandished among mankind.
This learned man thinks that it applies solely to mining, of which I cannot doubt; and therefore I adopt the first interpretation: but as to agreement among translators, it will be sought in vain. I shall just add Coverdale: With the ryver of water parteth he a sunder the straunge people, that knoweth no good neighbourheade; such as are rude, unmannerly, and boysterous.
on Job 28 :4
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant - It would be difficult to tell what idea our translators affixed to this sentence, though it seems to be a literal version of the Hebrew. There has been a great variety of rendering given to the passage. Noyes translates it:
"From the place where they dwell they open a shaft,
Unsupported by the feet,
They are suspended, they swing away from men."
"A flood goeth out from the realm of oblivion,
They draw it up from the foot of the mountain,
They remove it away from men."
According to this, the meaning, Herder says, would be, that "the dwelling of the forgotten would be the kingdom of the dead, and at greater depth than the deepest mines have reached. Streams break forth from the river of eternal oblivion beneath, and yet are overcome by the miners, pumped dry, and turned out of the way. "Yet I confess," says he, "the passage remains obscure to my mind." Coverdale renders it, "With the river of water parteth he asunder the strange people, that knoweth no good neighborhood; such as are rude, unmannerly, and boisterous." The Septuagint renders it, "The channels of brooks are choked up with sand; when to such as know not the right way strength is unavailing, and they are removed from among men." The difficulty of interpreting the passage has been felt by every expositor to be great; and there are scarcely two expositions alike. There can be no doubt that Job refers to mining operations, and the whole passage should be explained with reference to such works. But the obscurity may possibly arise from the fact that mining operations were then conducted in a manner different from what they are now, and the allusion may be to some custom which was then well understood, but of which we now know nothing. A plausible interpretation, at least, has been furnished by Gesenius, and one which seems to me to be more satisfactory than any other. An explanation of the words in the passage will bring out this view. The word rendered "breaketh out" (פרץ pârats) means to break, rend, tear through - and here refers to the act of breaking through the earth for the purpose of sinking a shaft or pit in a mine. The word rendered "flood" (נחל nachal) means properly a stream or brook; then a valley in which a brook runs along; and here Gesenius supposes it means a shaft or pit of a mine. It may be called a נחל nachal, or valley, from the resemblance to a gully which the water has washed away by a mountain-torrent.
From the inhabitant - This conveys evidently no idea as it now stands. The Hebrew is מעם־גר mē‛ı̂m-gār. The word גוּר gûr, from which גר gār is derived, means to sojourn for a time, to dwell, as a stranger or guest; and the phrase here means, "away from any dweller or inhabitant;" that is, from where people dwell, or from the surface of the ground as the home of men; that is, under ground. Or the idea is, that it is done where no one could dwell. It could not be the abode of man.
Even the waters forgotten of the foot - The words "even the waters" are supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is מני־רגל הנשׁכחים hanı̂śkâchı̂ym mı̂nı̂y-regel, and refers to being unsupported by the foot. They go into a place where the foot yields no support, and they are obliged to suspend themselves in order to be sustained.
They are dried up - דלו dâlû. The word דלל dâlal, from which this is derived, means to hang down, to be pendulous, as boughs are on a tree, or as a bucket is in a well. According to this interpretation, the meaning is, that they "hang down" far from men in their mines, and swing to and fro like the branches of a tree in the wind.
They are gone away from men - The word נעו nā‛û, from נוּע nûa‛, means to move to and fro, to waver, to vacillate. Gr. and Latin νεύω neuō, nuo, Germ. nicken, to nod backward and forward. The sense here is, that, far from the dwellings of people, they "wave to and fro" in their deep mines, suspended by cords. They descend by the aid of cords, and not by a firm foothold, until they penetrate the deep darkness of the earth. Other interpretations may be seen, however, defended at length in Schultens, and in Rosenmuller - who has adopted substantially that of Schultens - in Dr. Good, and in other commentaries. Few passages in the Bible are more obscure.
on Job 28 :4
28:4 Breaketh out - While men are searching, water breaks in upon them. Inhabitants - Out of that part of the earth which the miners inhabit. Forgotten - Untrodden by the foot of man. Dried up - They are dried up, (or, drawn up, by engines made for that purpose) from men, from the miners, that they may not be hindered in their work.