on Job 28 :18
4. ראמות ramoth, Coral, from ראם raam, to be exalted or elevated; probably from this remarkable property of coral, "it always grows from the tops of marine rocky caverns with the head downwards." Red coral is found in the Mediterranean, about the isles of Majorca and Minorca, on the African coast, and in the Ethiopic ocean.
5. גביש gabish, Pearls, from גבש gabash, in Arabic, to be smooth, to shave off the hair; and hence גביש gabish, the pearl, the smooth round substance; and also hail or hailstones, because of their resemblance to pearls. The pearl is the production of a shell-fish of the oyster kind, found chiefly in the East Indies, and called berberi; but pearls are occasionally found in the common oyster, as I have myself observed, and in the muscle also. They are of a brilliant sparkling white, perfectly round in general, and formed of coats in the manner of an onion. Out of one oyster I once took six pearls. When large, fine, and without spots, they are valuable. I have seen one that formed the whole body of a Hindoo idol, Creeshna, more than an inch in length, and valued at 300 guineas.
6. פנינים peninim, Rubies, from פנה panah, he turned, looked, beheld. The oriental ruby is blood-red, rose-red, or with a tinge of violet. It has occasionally a mixture of blue, and is generally in the form of six-sided prisms. It is a species of the sapphire, and is sometimes chatoyant in its appearance, i.e., has a curious kind of reflection, similar to the cat's eye: and as this is particularly striking, and changes as you turn the stone, hence probably the name peninim, which you derive from פנה panah, to turn, look, behold, etc. But some learned men are of opinion that the magnet or loadstone is meant, and it is thus called because of the remarkable property it has of turning north and south. And this notion is rendered the more likely, because it agrees with another word in this verse, expressive of a different property of the magnet, viz., its attractive influence: for the Hebrew words משך חכמה מפנינים meshech chochmah mippeninim, which we render, The price of wisdom is above rubies, is literally, The Attraction of wisdom is beyond the peninim, the loadstone; for all the gold, silver, and precious stones, have strong influence on the human heart, attracting all its passions strongly; yet the attraction of wisdom - that which insures a man's happiness in both worlds - is more powerful and influential, when understood, than all of these, and even than the loadstone, for that can only attract iron; but, through desire of the other, a man, having separated himself from all those earthly entanglements, seeketh and intermeddleth with All Wisdom. The attractive property of the loadstone must have been observed from its first discovery; and there is every reason to believe that the magnet and its virtues were known in the East long before they were discovered in Europe.
7. פטדה pitdah, the Topaz. This word occurs only in Exodus 28:17; Exodus 39:10; Ezekiel 28:13, and in the present place; in all of which, except that of Ezekiel, where the Septuagint is all confusion, the Septuagint and Vulgate render the word always τοπαζιον, topazius, the Topaz. This stone is generally found in a prismatic form, sometimes limpid and nearly transparent, or of various shades of yellow, green, blue, lilac, and red. I have thus given the best account I can of the stones here mentioned, allowing that they answer to the names by which we translate them. But on this point there is great uncertainty, as I have already had occasion to observe in other parts of this work. Beasts, birds, plants, metals, precious stones, unguents, different kinds of grain, etc., are certainly mentioned in the sacred writings; but whether we know what the different Hebrew terms signify, is more than we can certainly affirm. Of some there is little room to doubt; of others conjecture must in the present state of our knowledge, supply the place of certainty. See Philip's Elementary Introduction to Mineralogy; an accurate work, which I feel pleasure in recommending to all students in the science.
on Job 28 :18
No mention shall be made of coral - That is, as a price by which to purchase wisdom, or in comparison with wisdom. The margin here is, "Ramoth" - retaining the Hebrew word ראמה râ'mâh. Jerome renders it, "excelsa" - exalted or valuable things. So the Septuagint, Μετέωρα Meteōra - exalted or sublime things; as if the word were from רום, to be exalted. According to the rabbis, the word here means "red coral." It occurs also in Ezekiel 27:16, where it is mentioned as a valuable commodity in merchandise in which Syria traded with Tyre, and occurs in connection with emeralds, purple, broidered work, fine linen, and agate. The coral is a well known marine substance, not valued now as if it were a precious stone, but probably in the time of Job regarded as of value sufficient to be reckoned with gems. It was not rare, though its uses were not known. As a beautiful object, it might at that time deserve to be mentioned in connection with pearls.
It is now found in abundance in the Red Sea, and probably that which was known to Job was obtained there. Shaw says, "In rowing gently over it (the port Tor), while the surface of the sea was calm, such a diversity of "Madrepores Furuses," and other marine vegetables, presented themselves to the eye, that we could not forbear taking them, as Pliny (L. xiii. cap. 25) had done before us, for a forest under water. The branched Madrepores particularly contributed very much to authorize the comparison, for we passed over several that were eight or ten feet high, growing sometimes pyramidical like the cypress, and at other times had their branches more open and diffused, like the oak; not to speak of others which, like the creeping plants, spread themselves over the bottom of the sea;" Travels, p. 384, Ed. Oxford, 1738. It should be added, however, that there is no absolute certainty that Job referred here to coral. The Hebrew word would suggest simply that which was "exalted in value," or of great price; and it is not easy to determine to what particular substance Job meant to apply it.
Or of pearls - גבישׁ gâbı̂ysh. This word occurs nowhere else, though אלגבישׁ 'elgâbı̂ysh, is found in Ezekiel 13:11, Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 38:22, where it means hail-stones, or pieces of ice. Perhaps the word here means merely "crystal" - resembling ice. So Umbreit Gesenius, and others, understand it. Prof. Lee supposes that the word used here denotes that which is "aggregated" and then what is "massive," or "vast;" see his note on this place. Jerome renders it, "eminentia" - exalted, lofty things; the Septuagint retains the word without attempting to translate it - γαβὶς gabis - and the fact that they have not endeavored to render it, is a strong circumstance to show that it is now hopeless to attempt to determine its meaning.
Above rubies - The ruby is a precious stone of a carmine red color, sometimes verging to violet. There are two kinds of rubies, the oriental or corundum, and the spinelle. The ruby is next in hardness to the diamond, and approaches it in value. The oriental ruby is the same as the sapphire. The ruby is found in the kingdom of Pegu, in the Mysore country, in Ceylon, and in some other places, and is usually imbedded in gneiss. It is by no means certain, however, that the word used here (פנינים pânı̂ynı̂ym) means rubies. Many of the rabbis suppose that "pearls" are meant by it; and so Bochart, Hieroz. ii. Lib. v. c. 6, 7, understands it. John D. Michaelis understands it to mean "red corals," and Gesenius concurs with this opinion. Umbreit renders it, "Perlen" - "pearls." The word occurs in Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 20:15; Proverbs 31:10; Lamentations 4:7. In the Proverbs, as here, it is used in comparison with wisdom, and undoubtedly denotes one of the precious gems.
on Job 28 :18