Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
1. Job proceeds to prove that he deserved a better lot. As in the twenty-ninth chapter, he showed his uprightness as an emir, or magistrate in public life, so in this chapter he vindicates his character in private life.
1-4. He asserts his guarding against being allured to sin by his senses.
think—rather, "cast a (lustful) look." He not merely did not so, but put it out of the question by covenanting with his eyes against leading him into temptation (Pr 6:25; Mt 5:28).
For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
2. Had I let my senses tempt me to sin, "what portion (would there have been to me, that is, must I have expected) from (literally, of) God above, and what inheritance from (literally, of) the Almighty," &c. [Maurer] (Job 20:29; 27:13).
Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
3. Answer to the question in Job 31:2.
Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?
4. Doth not he see? &c.—Knowing this, I could only have expected "destruction" (Job 31:3), had I committed this sin (Pr 5:21).
If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;
5. Job's abstinence from evil deeds.
vanity—that is, falsehood (Ps 12:2).
Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.
6. Parenthetical. Translate: "Oh, that God would weigh me … then would He know," &c.
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;
7. Connected with Job 31:6.
the way—of God (Job 23:11; Jer 5:5). A godly life.
heart … after … eyes—if my heart coveted, what my eyes beheld (Ec 11:9; Jos 7:21).
Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.
8. Apodosis to Job 31:5, 7; the curses which he imprecates on himself, if he had done these things (Le 26:16; Am 9:14; Ps 128:2).
offspring—rather, "what I plant," my harvests.
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door;
9-12. Job asserts his innocence of adultery.
deceived—hath let itself be seduced (Pr 7:8; Ge 39:7-12).
laid wait—until the husband went out.
Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.
10. grind—turn the handmill. Be the most abject slave and concubine (Isa 47:2; 2Sa 12:11).
For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
11. In the earliest times punished with death (Ge 38:24). So in later times (De 22:22). Heretofore he had spoken only of sins against conscience; now, one against the community, needing the cognizance of the judge.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.
12. (Pr 6:27-35; 8:6-23, 26, 27). No crime more provokes God to send destruction as a consuming fire; none so desolates the soul.
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
13-23. Job affirms his freedom from unfairness towards his servants, from harshness and oppression towards the needy.
despise the cause—refused to do them justice.
What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?
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 enquire), what could I have answered Him?
Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?
15. Slaveholders try to defend themselves by maintaining the original inferiority of the slave. But Mal 2:10; Ac 17:26; Eph 6:9 make the common origin of masters and servants the argument for brotherly love being shown by the former to the latter.
If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
16. fail—in the vain expectation of relief (Job 11:20).
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;
17. Arabian rules of hospitality require the stranger to be helped first, and to the best.
(For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb;)
18. Parenthetical: asserting that he did the contrary to the things in Job 31:16, 17.
guided her—namely, the widow, by advice and protection. On this and "a father," see Job 29:16.
If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
19. perish—that is, ready to perish (Job 29:13).
If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
20. loins—The parts of the body benefited by Job are poetically described as thanking him; the loins before naked, when clad by me, wished me every blessing.
If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
21. when—that is, "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.
Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.
22. Apodosis to Job 31:13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 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. 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"; hence the upper arm, above the elbow.
For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
23. For—that is, the reason why Job guarded against such sins. Fear of God, though he could escape man's judgment (Ge 39:9). Umbreit more spiritedly translates, Yea, destruction and terror from God might have befallen me (had I done so): mere fear not being the motive.
endure—I could have availed nothing against it.
If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;
24, 25. Job asserts his freedom from trust in money (1Ti 6:17). Here he turns to his duty towards God, as before he had spoken of his duty towards himself and his neighbor. Covetousness is covert idolatry, as it transfers the heart from the Creator to the creature (Col 3:5). In Job 31:26, 27 he passes to overt idolatry.
If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;
If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;
26. If I looked unto the sun (as an object of worship) because he shined; or to the moon because she walked, &c. Sabaism (from tsaba, "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 (Eze 8:16; De 4:19; 2Ki 23:5, 11). The Hebrew here for "sun" is light. Probably light was worshipped as the emanation from God, before its embodiments, the sun, &c. This worship prevailed in Chaldea; wherefore Job's exemption from the idolatry of his neighbors was the more exemplary. Our "Sun-day," "Mon-day," or Moon-day, bear traces of Sabaism.
And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:
27. 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, towards the object of worship (1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2).
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.
28. 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 (De 13:9; 17:2-7; Eze 8:14-18). This passage therefore does not prove Job to have been subsequent to Moses.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him:
29. lifted up myself—in malicious triumph (Pr 17:5; 24:17; Ps 7:4).
Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.
30. mouth—literally, "palate." (See on Job 6:30).
wishing—literally, "so as to demand his (my enemy's) soul," that is, "life by a curse." This verse parenthetically confirms Job 31:30. Job in the patriarchal age of the promise, anterior to the law, realizes the Gospel spirit, which was the end of the law (compare Le 19:18; De 23:6, with Mt 5:43, 44).
If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.
31. That is, Job's household said, Oh, that we had Job's enemy to devour, we cannot rest satisfied till we have! But Job refrained from even wishing revenge (1Sa 26:8; 2Sa 16:9, 10). So Jesus Christ (Lu 9:54, 55). But, better (see Job 31:32), translated, "Who can show (literally, give) 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.
The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.
32. traveller—literally, "way," that is, wayfarers; so expressed to include all of every kind (2Sa 12:4).
If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:
33. Adam—translated by Umbreit, "as men do" (Ho 6:7, where see Margin). But English Version is more natural. The very same word for "hiding" is used in Ge 3:8, 10, of Adam hiding himself from God. 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 (Pr 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, "lurking-place."
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?
34. Rather, the apodosis to Job 31:33, "Then let me be fear-stricken before a great multitude, let the contempt, &c., let me keep silence (the greatest disgrace to a patriot, heretofore so prominent in assemblies), and not go out," &c. A just retribution that he who hides his sin from God, should have it exposed before man (2Sa 12:12). But Job had not been so exposed, but on the contrary was esteemed in the assemblies of the "tribes"—("families"); a proof, he implies, that God does not hold him guilty of hiding sin (Job 24:16, contrast with Job 29:21-25).
Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
35. Job returns to his wish (Job 13:22; 19:23). Omit "is"; "Behold my sign," that is, my mark of subscription to the statements just given in my defense: the mark of signature was originally a cross; and hence the letter Tau or T. Translate, also "Oh, that the Almighty," &c. He marks "God" as the "One" meant in the first clause.
adversary—that is, 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 be He.
had written a book—rather, "would write down his charge."
Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.
36. So far from hiding the adversary's "answer" or "charge" through fear,
I would take it on my shoulders—as a public honor (Isa 9:6).
a crown—not a mark of shame, but of distinction (Isa 62:3).
I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.
37. A good conscience imparts a princely dignity before man and free assurance in approaching God. This can be realized, not in Job's way (Job 42:5, 6); but only through Jesus Christ (Heb 10:22).
If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain;
38. Personification. The complaints of the unjustly ousted proprietors are transferred to the lands themselves (Job 31:20; Ge 4:10; Hab 2:11). If I have unjustly acquired lands (Job 24:2; Isa 5:8).
furrows—The specification of these makes it likely, he implies in this, "If I paid not the laborer for tillage"; as Job 31:39, "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, the second is connected with the third by introverted parallelism. Compare Jas 5:4, which plainly alludes to this passage: compare "Lord of Sabaoth" with Job 31:26 here.
If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:
39. lose … life—not literally, but "harassed to death"; until he gave me up his land gratis [Maurer]; as in Jud 16:16; "suffered him to languish" by taking away his means of living [Umbreit] (1Ki 21:19).
Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.
40. thistles—or brambles, thorns.
cockle—literally, "noxious weeds."
The words … ended—that is, in the controversy with the friends. He spoke in the book afterwards, but not to them. At Job 31:37 would be the regular conclusion in strict art. But Job 31:38-40 are naturally added by one whose mind in agitation recurs to its sense of innocence, even after it has come to the usual stopping point; 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.