on Job 28 :11
He bindeth the floods - Prevents the risings of springs from drowning the mines; and conducts rivers and streams from their wonted course, in order to bring forth to light what was hidden under their beds. The binding or restraining the water, which, at different depths, annoys the miner, is both difficult and expensive: in some cases it may be drawn off by pipes or canals into neighboring water courses; in others, it is conducted to one receptacle or reservoir, and thence drawn off. In Europe it is generally done by means of steam-engines. What method the ancients had in mining countries, we cannot tell; but they dug deep in order to find out the riches of the earth. Pliny says, nervously, Imus in viscera terrae; et in sede manium opes quaerimus. "We descend into the bowels of the earth; and seek for wealth even in the abodes of departed spirits." The manes or ghosts of the dead, or spirits presiding over the dead, were supposed to have their habitation in the center of the earth; or in the deepest pits and caves. Ovid, speaking of the degeneracy of men in the iron age, Met. lib. i., ver. 137, says: -
Nec tantum segetes alimentaque debita dives
Poscebatur humus; sed itum est in viscera terrae:
Quasque recondiderat, Stygiisque admoverat umbris,
Effodiuntur opes, irritaenenta malorum.
Jamque nocens ferrum, ferroque nocentius aurum
Prodierat: prodit bellum, quod pugnat utroque;
Sanguineaque manu crepitantia concutit arma.
"Nor was the ground alone required to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share:
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg'd from her entrails first the precious ore;
And that alluring ill to sight display'd,
Which, next to hell, the prudent gods had laid.
on Job 28 :11
He bindeth the floods from overflowing - Margin, Weeping The Hebrew also is "from weeping" מבכי mı̂bekı̂y; referring to the water which trickles down the shaft of the mine. The idea is, that even the large streams which break out in such mines, the fountains and springs which the miner encounters in his operations, he so effectually restrains that they do not even trickle down or "weep" on the sides of the shaft, but it is left perfectly dry. This is necessary in opening mines of coal or minerals, and in making tunnels or other excavations. Yet anyone who has passed into a coal mine, through a tunnel, or into any one of the deep natural caves of the earth, will see how difficult it is to close all the places where water would trickle down. It is in fact seldom done; and if done literally in the time of Job, it indicates a very advanced state of the art of mining. In sinking a shaft, it is often necessary to pass at different depths through strata of earth where the water oozes out in abundance, and where the operations would be necessarily suspended if it could not be stopped or drawn off. The machinery necessary for this constitutes a considerable part of the expense of mining operations.
And the thing that is hid he bringeth forth to light - The concealed treasures; the gold and gems that are buried deep in the earth. He brings them out of their darkness, and converts them to ornament and to use. This ends the description which Job gives of the operations of mining in his time. We may remark in regard to this description:
(1) That the illustration was admirably chosen. His object was to show that true wisdom was not to be found by human science, or by mere investigation. He selects a case, therefore, where man had shown the most skill and wisdom, and where he had penetrated farthest into darkness. He penetrated the earth; drove his shaft through rocks; closed up gushing fountains, and laid bare the treasures that had been buried for generations in the regions of night. Yet all this did not enable him fully to explain the operations of the divine government.
(2) The art of mining was carried to a considerable degree of perfection in the time of Job. This is shown by the fact that his description would apply very well to that art even as it is practiced now. Substantially the same things were done then which are done now, though we cannot suppose with the same skill, or to the same extent, or with the same perfection of machinery.
(3) The time when Job 54ed was in a somewhat advanced period of society. The art of working metals to any considerable extent indicates such an advance. It is not found among barbarous tribes, and even where the art is to a considerable extent known, it is long before men learn to sink shafts in the earth, or to penetrate rocks, or to draw off water from mines.
(4) We see the wisdom and goodness which God has shown in regard to the things that are most useful to man. Those things which are necessary to his being, or which are very desirable for his comfort, are easily accessible; those which are less necessary, or whose use is dangerous, are placed in deep, dark, and almost inaccessible places. The fruits of the earth are near to man; water flows every where, and it is rare that he has to dig deep for it; and when found by digging, it is a running fountain, not soon exhausted like a mine of gold; and iron, also, the most valuable of the metals, is usually placed near the surface of the earth. But the pearl is at the bottom of the ocean; diamonds and other precious stones are in remote regions or imbedded in rocks; silver runs along in small veins, often in the fissures of rocks, and extending far into the bowels of the earth. The design of placing the precious metals in these almost inaccessible fissures of the rocks, it is not difficult to understand. Had they been easily accessible, and limited in their quantity, they would long since have been exhausted - causing at one time a glut in the market, and at others absolute want. As they are now, they exercise the utmost ingenuity of man, first to find them, and then to procure them; they are distributed in small quantities, so that their value is always great; they furnish a convenient circulating medium in all countries; they afford all that is needful for ornament.
(5) There is another proof of wisdom in regard to their arrangement in the earth, which was probably unknown in the time of Job. It is the fact that the most useful of the metals are found in immediate connection with the fuel required for their reduction, and the limestone which facilitates that reduction. This is now perfectly understood by mineralogists, and it is an instance of the goodness of God, and of the wisdom of his arrangements, which ought not to be disregarded or overlooked. They who wish to examine this subject more at length, may find some admirable views in Buckland's Geology and Mineralogy (Bridgewater Treatises), vol. i. pp. 392-415.
on Job 28 :11