Three pertinent questions arise relative to this hymn on wisdom. Who uttered it? Why is it located here? What is its role in the book?
The present arrangement of the book would argue for Job to be its spokesman since the chapters preceding it and following it are assigned to Job. However, the material of this chapter is incompatible with Job's earlier and subsequent thoughts. If this chapter is given to Job, then the balance of the book is extraneous since Job would already have his answer. It seems equally unacceptable to assign this chapter to one of the comforters. The suggestion that this chapter was presented by a chorus must also be rejected since Job is not a drama. It appears best to assign these words to an editor.
The location of this material is also problematic since it interrupts Job's speeches. Perhaps this chapter is deliberately detached, serving as an interlude marking the end of the dialogue and preparing for the peroration of Job that follows. It certainly is a break from the heated exchange that had occurred. This hymn reflects an aura of calmness and sanity.
More significant for our consideration is the role this chapter plays. Retrospectively it serves as a rebuke to the arrogance of the debaters who by their dogmatism reflected their hubris. It shows that one, unaided by God, can never arrive at an answer to the reason for innocent suffering. Human beings can locate and mine mineral treasures hidden in the earth, but they cannot find wisdom (vv. 1-11). Not only can they not find wisdom by their ingenuity, they cannot secure it with their wealth (vv. 12-19). While wisdom remains hidden from them, it is seen by God (vv. 20-28). This divine wisdom is beyond their grasp, and they must settle for the practical wisdom of piety (Pope, 206).
This chapter not only rebukes the past dogmatic claims of the participants; it also sets the stage for the appearance of the Lord.