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Bible Commentaries
Job 31

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Job 31:1-40. Job proceeds to prove that he deserved a better lot. As in Job 29:1-25 he showed his uprightness as an emir, or magistrate, in public life, so in this chapter be vindicates his character in private life.

Verses 2-4

For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?

He asserts his guarding against being allured to sin by his senses.

Verse 1. Think - cast a (lustful) look [ 'etbowneen (H995)]. He not merely did not so, but put it out of the question, by covenanting with his eyes against leading him into temptation (Proverbs 6:25; Matthew 5:28). The Hebrew for "made a covenant" is literally, 'I cut a covenant:' referring to the victims slain in making a covenant [ kaarat (H3772) bªriyt (H1285): Greek, orkia temnein: Latin, icere foedus]. The Hebrew preposition lª- before "eyes" expresses that these were not the party with whom he contracted, but in respect to which he made the covenant with his own soul and with God.

Verse 2. Had I let my senses tempt me to sin, 'what portion (would there have been to me - i:e., must I have expected) from (literally, of) God from above, and what inheritance from (literally, of) the Almighty,' etc. (Maurer). (Job 20:29, "This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God;" Job 27:13)

Verse 3. Answer to the question in Job 31:2.

Strange - extraordinary.

Verse 4. Doth not He see ... ? Knowing this, I could only have expected "destruction" (Job 31:3), had I committed this sin (Proverbs 5:21.

Verse 5

If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;

Job's abstinence from evil deeds.

Vanity - i:e., falsehood (Psalms 12:2).

Verse 6

Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.

Parenthetical. Translate, 'O that God would weigh me in a balance of justice, then would He know my integrity.'

Verse 7

If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands;

Connected with Job 31:6.

The way - of God (Job 23:11; Jeremiah 5:5). A godly life.

Heart walked after ... eyes - if my heart coveted what my eyes beheld (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Joshua 7:21, where the successive stages in the progress of sin here mentioned are exemplified in Achan's case - "I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonian garment, etc., then I coveted them, and took them: and behold they are hid in the earth").

Hands - (Psalms 24:4).

Verse 8

Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.

Apodosis to Job 31:5; Job 31:7: the curses which he imprecates on himself, if he had done these things (Leviticus 26:16; contrast Amos 9:14; Psalms 128:2).

Offspring - rather, what I plant; my harvests.

Verses 9-12

If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door;

Job asserts his innocence of adultery.

Deceived - hath let itself be seduced (Proverbs 7:8, etc.; Genesis 39:7-12).

Laid wait - until the husband went out.

Verse 10. Grind - turn the handmill. Be the most abject slave and concubine (Isaiah 47:2; 2 Samuel 12:11).

Verse 11. In the earliest times punished with death (Genesis 38:24). So in later times (Deuteronomy 22:22). Heretofore he had spoken only of sins against conscience; now, one against the community, needing the cognizance of the judge.

Verse 12. (Proverbs 6:27-35, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife;" Proverbs 7:6-23; Proverbs 7:26-27.) No crime more provokes God to send destruction as a consuming fire; none so desolates the soul.

Verses 13-23

If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;

Job affirms his freedom from unfairness toward his servants: from harshness and oppression toward the needy.

Despise the cause - refused to do them justice.

Verse 14,15. Parenthetical; the reason why Job did not despise the cause of his servants. Translate, What then (had I done so) could I have done, when God arose (to call me to account); and when He visited (came to inquire), what could I have answered Him?

Verse 15. Slaveholders try to defend themselves by maintaining the original inferiority of the slave. But Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:26; Ephesians 6:9, make the common origin of masters and servants the argument for brotherly love being shown by the former to the latter.

Verse 16. To fail - in the vain expectation of relief (Job 11:20).

Verse 17. Arabian rules of hospitality require the stranger to be helped first, and to the best.

Verse 18. Parenthetical: asserting that he did the contrary to the things in Job 31:16-17.

He - the orphan.

Guided her - namely, the widow, by advice and protection. On this and "a father" see Job 29:16.

Verse 19. Perish - i:e., ready to perish (Job 29:13).

Verse 20. Loins. The parts of the body benefitted by Job are poetically described as thanking him. The loins, before naked, when clad by me, wished me every blessing.

Verse 21. "When (i:e., because) I saw" that I might calculate on the "help" of a powerful party in the court of justice ("gate"), if I should be summoned by the injured fatherless.

Verse 22. Apodosis to Job 31:13; Job 31:16-17; Job 31:19-21. If I had done those crimes I should have made a bad use of my influence (my arm, figuratively, Job 31:21): therefore, if I have done them, let my arm (literally) suffer: retribution in kind. Job alludes to Eliphaz' charge (Job 22:9). The first "arm" is rather the shoulder. The second "arm" is the forearm.

From the bone - literally, a reed [ qaaneh (H7070)]: hence, the bone of the upper arm, above the elbow.

Verse 23. For - i:e., the reason why Job guarded against such sins. Fear of God, though he could escape man's judgment (Genesis 39:9). Umbreit translates, 'Yea, destruction and terror from God might have befallen me had I done so' I prefer the English version.

Highness - majestic might.

Endure - I could have availed nothing against it. "I could not endure" the assault of His might, if He should put it forth against me.

Verses 24-25

If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;

Job asserts his freedom from trust in money (1 Timothy 6:17). Here he turns to his duty toward God, as before be had spoken of his duty toward himself and his neighbour. Covetousness in covert idolatry, as it transfers the heart from the Creator to the creature (Colossians 3:5). In Job 31:26-27 he passes to overt idolatry.

Verse 26

If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;

If I looked unto the Sun (as an object of worship), because he shined; or to the Moon, because she walked (moved majestically), etc. Sabaism (from tsaabaa' (H6635), the heavenly hosts) was the earliest form of false worship. God is hence called, in contradistinction, "Lord of Sabaoth." The sun, moon, and stars, the brightest objects in nature, and seen everywhere, were supposed to be visible representatives of the invisible God. They had no temples, but were worshipped on high places and roofs of houses (Ezekiel 8:16; Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11). The Hebrew [ 'owr (H216)] here for "sun" is light (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:7; Habakkuk 3:4). Probably light was worshipped as the emanation from God, before its embodiments, the sun, etc. This worship prevailed in Chaldea; wherefore Job's exemption from the idolatry of his neighbours was the more exemplary. Our 'Sunday, Monday' or Moon-day, bear traces of Sabaism.

Verse 27

And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:

Enticed - away from God to idolatry.

Kissed ... hand. Adoration literally means this. In worshipping they used to kiss the hand, and then throw the kiss, as it were, toward the object of worship (1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2).

Verse 28

This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above. This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.

The Mosaic law embodied subsequently the feeling of the godly from the earliest times against idolatry, as deserving judicial penalties: being treason against the Supreme King (Deuteronomy 13:9; Deuteronomy 17:2-7; Ezekiel 8:14-18). This passage therefore does not prove Job to have been subsequent to Moses.

Verse 29

If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him:

Lifted up himself - in malicious triumph (Proverbs 17:5, "He that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished;" Proverbs 24:17; Psalms 7:4).

Verse 30

Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.

Mouth - literally, palate (Job 6:30, note).

Wishing - literally, 'so as to demand his (my enemy's) soul (i:e., life) by a curse.' This verse parenthetically confirms Job 31:29. Job, in the patriarchal age of the promise, anterior to the law, realizes the Gospel spirit, which was the end of the law (cf. Leviticus 19:18; contrast Deuteronomy 23:6 with Matthew 5:43-44).

Verse 31

If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.

i.e., Job's household said, Oh that we had Job's enemy to devour! We cannot rest satisfied until we have. But Job refrained from even wishing revenge (1 Samuel 26:8-9, David would not hurt Saul, his cruel foe, when in his power, at the hill of Hachilah; 2 Samuel 16:9-10, David would not let Abishai kill Shimei, who had cursed and cast stones at him in fleeing from Absalom). So Jesus Christ (Luke 9:54-55). In this view this Job 31:31 is connected with Job 31:30, 'No; I never wished a curse to his soul, when the men of my tabernacle (household) said, "Oh that,"' etc. But better (see Job 31:32) translated, 'Who can show (literally, give) [ miy (H4310) yiteen (H5414)] the man who was not satisfied with the flesh (meat) provided by Job?' He never let a poor man leave his gate without giving him enough to eat.

Verse 32

The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.

Traveller, [ 'orach (H734)] - literally, way - i:e., wayfarers; so expressed to include all of every kind (2 Samuel 12:4).

Verse 33

If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:

Adam. Translated by Umbreit 'as men do,' (Hosea 6:7, where see the margin). But the English version is more natural. Job elsewhere alludes to the flood. So he might easily know of the fall, through the two links which connect Adam and Abraham (about Job's time) - namely, Methuselah and Shem. Adam is representative of fallen man's propensity to concealment (Proverbs 28:13). It was from God that Job did not "hide his iniquity in his bosom;" as, on the contrary, it was from God that "Adam" hid in his lurking-place. This disproves the translation 'as men:' for it is from their fellow-men that 'men' are chiefly anxious to hide their real character as guilty. Magee, to make the comparison with Adam more exact, for "my bosom" translates 'in my lurking-place' [ bªchubiy (H2243)]. The same word, as a verb, is found in Genesis 3:8; Genesis 3:10 [ wayitchabee' (H2244), "I hid myself"]: an incidental confirmation of the view that Job refers to Adam's covering of his sin.

Verse 34

Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door?

Rather, the apodosis to Job 31:33, "Then let me be (or, I must have been) fear-stricken before a great multitude; let the contempt (or the contempt, etc., must have terrified me) etc.; let me keep silence (the greatest disgrace to a patriot, heretofore so prominent in assemblies), and not go out' (or, And I, brought to silence, durst not again have gone out of the door), etc. A just retribution, that he who hides his sin from God should have it exposed before man (2 Samuel 12:12). But Job had not been so exposed, but, on the contrary, was esteemed in the assemblies of the tribe ("families"): a proof, he implies, that God does not hold him guilty of hiding sin (Job 24:16, contrast with Job 29:21-25). Maurer does not make the apodosis come until Job 31:40, "(Then) let thistles grow," etc. So he translates this Job 31:34 as giving the reason which might have induced him, had he yielded to the temptation, to "cover his transgressions" - namely, 'because I feared a great multitude, and because the contempt of the tribes terrified me so that I should keep quiet and not go out of doors.'

Verse 35

Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.

Job returns to his wish (Job 13:22; Job 19:23). Omit is: 'Behold, my sign' - i:e., my mark of subscription to the statements just given in my defense: the mark or signature was originally a cross; and hence, the letter Tau (in the Hebrew here for sign) or T. Translate also, 'Oh that the Almighty,' etc. He marks "God" as the "One" meant in the first clause - "Oh that one would hear me!" Adversary - i:e., he who contends with me-refers also to God. The vagueness is designed to express 'whoever it be that judicially opposes me'-the Almighty, if it is He.

Had written a book - rather, 'would write down his charge' or 'bill of indictment.'

Verse 36

Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.

So far from hiding the adversary's "answer" or 'charge' through fear, 'I would take it on my shoulders' as a public honour (Isaiah 9:6).

A crown - not a mark of shame, but of distinction (Isaiah 62:3).

Verse 37

I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.

Declare ... number of ... steps - I would accurately declare all my ways-my whole course of life. A good conscience imparts a princely dignity before man, and free assurance in approaching God. This can be realized, not in Job's way (cf. Job 42:5-6), but only through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:22).

Verse 38

If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain;

Personification. The complaints of the unjustly ousted proprietors are transferred to the lands themselves (Job 31:20; Genesis 4:10; Habakkuk 2:11). If I have unjustly acquired lands (Job 24:2; Isaiah 5:8).

Furrows - the specification of these makes it likely, he implies in this, 'If I paid not the labourer for tillage;' as next verse, 'If I paid him not for gathering in the fruits.' Thus, of the four clauses in Job 31:38-39, the first refers to the same subject as the fourth, and the second is connected with the third by introverted parallelism. James 5:4, who plainly alludes to this passage: cf. "Lord of Sabaoth" with Job 31:26 here.

Verse 39

If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:

Lose ... life - not literally, but 'harassed to death;' until he gave me up his land gratis (Maurer); as in Judges 16:16; 'suffered him to languish' by taking away his means of living (Umbreit). (1 Kings 21:13.)

Verse 40

Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.

Thistles - or brambles; thorns.

Cockle - literally, noxious weeds, perhaps wolfsbane, which is common in Arabia.

The words ... ended - i:e., in the controversy with the friends. He spoke in the book afterward, but not to them. At Job 31:37 would be the regular conclusion in strict art. But Job 31:38-40 are natural to be added by one whose mind in agitation recurs to its sense of innocence, even after it has come to the point usual to stop at; this takes away the appearance of rhetorical artifice. Hence, the transposition by Eichorn of Job 31:38-40 to follow Job 31:25 is quite unwarranted.

Remarks: (1) The eye (Job 31:1) is one of the greatest avenues by which lust enters into the soul. Then, when lust bath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15). In the case of sexual passion the only safety is in fleeing from whatever would lead to temptation. The moth that hovers long about the candle is sure at last to burn himself. Joseph, when tempted by a licentious woman, avoided being "with her" at all, and when she caught him by the garment, "fled" from her (Genesis 39:12). Job "made a covenant with his eyes" to avoid occasion of temptation. Had David done so (2 Samuel 11:2), he would have escaped falling into the great sin of his life, and blot on his otherwise godly character: but beauty attracted his eye in a season of idleness and ease, and, suffering his mind to dwell on the first thought of passion, fanned his lust into a flame, and from lust he sunk into murder, and has 'given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme' (2 Samuel 12:14). The impure look is regarded before God as equivalent to the impure act (Matthew 5:28). Therefore let us oppose the first beginnings of sin, as we have to do with the God who searcheth the heart.

(2) Whatever professions of religion we make, if our practice be sinful, our final sentence shall be, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work in iniquity" (Job 31:2; Job 31:4; Job 31:14; Job 31:28; Matthew 7:23). God will "weigh, as in an even balance," at the judgment, and will vindicate His people's "integrity" (Job 31:6), flowing from faith, on the one hand, and, on the other, will take accurate note of those whose "step hath turned out of the way, and whose heart has walked after their eyes, and to whose hands any blot hath cleaved" (Job 31:7). Especially will He take cognizance of sins committed against the purity of the marriage bed. Even in this life such sins often bring on the perpetrator retribution in kind (Job 31:9-10): thus David's secret adultery with Bathsheba was punished by the incestuous act of his own son Absalom, who lay with his father's wives in the sight of all Israel (2 Samuel 12:11-12; 2 Samuel 16:22).

(3) The true child of God will jealously watch over himself, lest the natural pride and selfishness of the heart should betray him into the least unfairness in his dealings with his servants and labourers (Job 31:13; Job 31:38-39), knowing that he and they have one and the same Master in heaven, who is no respecter of persons-one and the same God, who rode them as well as him. Substantial pity for the poor, the widow, and the fatherless (Job 31:16-21), is another characteristic of the sincere follower of God, who is "a Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widow" (Psalms 68:5). How sweet the pleasure of imitating God, who delights to share His own happiness with others; and, instead of eating one's morsel alone (Job 31:17),

`To press the bashful stranger to his food, And learn the luxury of doing good' (verses 31,32)

(4) Covetousness and idolatry are different manifestations of one and the same principle-namely, love and service to the creature instead of the Creator. How apt the heart is to make gold its "confidence" (Job 31:24), instead of "trust in the living God!" (1 Timothy 6:17.) Here then especially we ought to set a watch over ourselves against "the love of money," which is "a (Greek) root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10.)

(5) Triumph in the calamity of an enemy is peculiarly offensive to God, who "resisteth the proud" (Job 31:29). A meek and forgiving spirit toward others best becomes us, who owe such a debt of forgiveness to God, when we were enemies.

(6) It is the natural tendency of us all to follow our first parent, Adam, in the vain attempt to hide ourselves and our transgressions from God (Job 31:33). Our truest wisdom is, instead of vainly trying to "cover" them ourselves, to go to God to "cover" them for us with the atonement provided in Christ, that so we may know experimentally the blessedness of the man whose iniquity is forgiven and whose sin is covered (Psalms 32:1).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-31.html. 1871-8.
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