Job 31:1
I made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I think on a maid?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXXI.

(1) I made a covenant with mine eyes.—Job makes one grand profession of innocence, rehearsing his manner of life from the first; and here he does not content himself with traversing the accusations of his friends, but professes his innocence also of sins less manifest to the observance of others, and affecting the secret conduct and the heart—namely, sensual transgression and idolatry. His object, therefore, is to show his friends that he has really been more upright than their standard demanded or than they supposed him to be, till his affliction made them suspect him; and this uprightness was the consequence of rigid and inflexible adherence to principle, for he made a covenant with his eyes, as the avenues of sinful desires. (Comp. Matthew 5:28.)

Job 31:1. I made a covenant with mine eyes, &c. — So far have I been from any gross wickedness, that I have abstained from the least occasions and appearances of evil. It was possible Job’s friends might make quite another use than he intended of the relation which he had made of his miserable condition in the foregoing chapter. And, therefore, lest it should confirm them in their old error, and they should take what he had said to be an argument of his guilt, he gives, in this chapter, a large and particular account of his integrity, which, in general, he had so often asserted; laying his very soul, and the most secret inclinations of it, open before them; together with the actions of his whole life in his private capacity, (for of his public he had spoken before, chap. 29.,) both in respect of his neighbours of all sorts, and in respect of God, to whom he again most solemnly appeals, in the conclusion of this discourse, for the truth of what he here asserts. Why then should I think upon a maid? — This is generally understood to mean the great care and circumspection which Job had used to avoid all temptations and occasions of sin; and he subjoins, in the following verses, the very high and reasonable motives which had urged him, and should urge every man, to such a circumspection; namely, to avoid destruction, the sure consequence of it. Which is a further proof that his prospects were to another life; for, had he spoken of a temporal destruction, it would have been the very thing which his antagonists had repeated over and over to him, and had urged as an argument of his guilt that he was thus miserably destroyed. When Job, therefore, says the same thing, namely, that a sure destruction attends the wicked; it is their portion, an inheritance from God; it is plain he must understand it in another sense than his antagonists did; namely, of their final retribution in a future state. See Peters, and the note on Job 31:13; Job 31:23. 31:1-8 Job did not speak the things here recorded by way of boasting, but in answer to the charge of hypocrisy. He understood the spiritual nature of God's commandments, as reaching to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is best to let our actions speak for us; but in some cases we owe it to ourselves and to the cause of God, solemnly to protest our innocence of the crimes of which we are falsely accused. The lusts of the flesh, and the love of the world, are two fatal rocks on which multitudes split; against these Job protests he was always careful to stand upon his guard. And God takes more exact notice of us than we do of ourselves; let us therefore walk circumspectly. He carefully avoided all sinful means of getting wealth. He dreaded all forbidden profit as much as all forbidden pleasure. What we have in the world may be used with comfort, or lost with comfort, if honestly gotten. Without strict honestly and faithfulness in all our dealings, we can have no good evidence of true godliness. Yet how many professors are unable to abide this touchstone!I made a covenant with mine eyes - The first virtue of his private life to which Job refers is chastity. Such was his sense of the importance of this, and of the danger to which man was exposed, that he had solemnly resolved not to think upon a young female. The phrase here, "I made a covenant with mine eyes," is poetical, meaning that he solemnly resolved. A covenant is of a sacred and binding nature; and the strength of his resolution was as great as if he had made a solemn compact. A covenant or compact was usually made by slaying an animal in sacrifice, and the compact was ratified over the animal that was slain, by a kind of imprecation that if the compact was violated the same destruction might fall on the violators which fell on the head of the victim. This idea of cutting up a victim on occasion of making a covenant, is retained in most languages. So the Greek ὅρκια τέμνειν, πέμνἔιν σπονδάς horkia temnein, temnein spondas, and the Latin icere foedus - to strike a league, in allusion to the striking down, or slaying of an animal on the occasion. And so the Hebrew, as in the place before us, כרת ברית berı̂yth kârath - to cut a covenant, from cutting down, or cutting in pieces the victim over which the covenant was made; see this explained at length in the notes at Hebrews 9:16. By the language here, Job means that he had resolved, in the most solemn manner, that he would not allow his eyes or thoughts to endanger him by improperly contemplating a woman.

Why then should I think upon a maid - Upon a virgin - על־בתולה ‛al-bethûlâh; compare Proverbs 6:25, "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids;" see, also, the fearful and solemn declaration of the Saviour in Matthew 5:28. There is much emphasis in the expression used here by Job. He does not merely say that he had not thought in that manner, but that the thing was morally impossible that he should have done it. Any charge of that kind, or any suspicion of it, he would repel with indignation. His purpose to lead a pure life, and to keep a pure heart, had been so settled, that it was impossible that he could have offended in that respect. His purpose, also, not to think on this subject, showed the extent of the restriction imposed on himself. It was not merely his intention to lead a chaste life, and to avoid open sin, but it was to maintain a pure heart, and not to suffer the mind to become corrupted by dwelling on impure images, or indulging in unholy desires. This strongly shows Job's piety and purity of heart, and is a beautiful illustration of patriarchal religion. We may remark here, that if a man wishes to maintain purity of life, he must make just such a covenant as this with himself - one so sacred, so solemn, so firm, that he will not suffer his mind for a moment to harbor an improper thought. "The very passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it;" and the outbreaking crimes of life are just the result of allowing the imagination to dwell on impure images. As the eye is the great source of danger (compare Matthew 5:28; 2 Peter 2:14), there should be a solemn purpose that that should be pure, and that any sacrifice should be made rather than allow indulgence to a wanton gaze: compare Mark 9:47. No man was ever too much guarded on this subject; no one ever yet made too solemn a covenant with his eyes, and with his whole soul to be chaste.

CHAPTER 31

Job 31:1-40.

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).He protesteth his continency and chastity; God’s providence, presence, and judgments; his motives, Job 31:1-4. His just dealings, Job 31:5-8. Free from adultery, which ought to be punished by the magistrate, Job 31:9-12. His just carriage to his servants, and the reason, Job 31:13-15. His bounty to the poor, for fear of God, and his highness, Job 31:6-23. Not covetous, nor idolatrous, which ought to be punished by the magistrate, Job 31:24-28. Not revengeful, Job 31:29,30. Hospitable to strangers, Job 31:31,32. His repentance, Job 31:33. He wisheth God would answer, and his words might be recorded, Job 31:35-37. His imprecation against himself, if he spoke not the truth, Job 31:38-40.

So far have I been from wallowing in the mire of uncleanness, or any gross wickedness, wherewith you charge me, that I have abstained even from the least occasions and appearances of evil, having made a solemn resolution within myself, and a solemn covenant and promise to God, that I would not wantonly or lustfully fix mine eyes or gaze upon a maid, lest mine eyes should affect my heart, and stir me up to further filthiness. Hereby we plainly see that that command of Christ. Matthew 5:29, was no new command peculiar to the gospel, as some would have it, but the very same which the law of God revealed in his word, and written in men’s hearts by nature, imposed upon men in the times of the Old Testament. See also 2 Peter 2:14 1Jo 2:16. Should I think upon, i.e. indulge myself in filthy and lustful thoughts? Seeing I was obliged, and accordingly took care, to guard mine eyes, I was upon the same reason obliged to restrain my imagination. Or, why then should I consider, or contemplate, or look curiously, or thoughtfully, or diligently? Since I had made such a covenant, why should I not keep it? A maid; which is emphatically added, to show that that circumstance which provokes the lust of others had no such power over him, and that he restrained himself from the very thoughts and desires of filthiness with such persons, wherewith the generality of men allowed themselves to commit gross fornication, as deeming it to be either none, or but a very little sin. Withal he insinuates with how much more caution he kept himself from uncleanness with any married person.

I made a covenant with mine eyes,.... Not to look upon a woman, and wantonly gaze at her beauty, lest his heart should be drawn thereby to lust after her; for the eyes are inlets to many sins, and particularly to uncleanness, of which there have been instances, both in bad men and good men, Genesis 34:2; so the poet (t) represents the eye as the way through which the beauty of a woman passes swifter than an arrow into the hearts of men, and makes impressions there; see 2 Peter 2:14; hence Zaleucus ordered adulterers to be punished, by plucking out the eyes of the adulterer (u); wherefore Job, to prevent this, entered into a solemn engagement with himself, laid himself under a strong obligation, as if he had bound himself by a covenant, made a resolution in the strength of divine grace, not to employ his eyes in looking on objects that might ensnare his heart, and lead him to the commission of sin; he made use of all ways and means, and took every precaution to guard against it; and particularly this, to shut or turn his eyes from beholding what might be alluring and enticing to him: it is said (x) of Democritus, that he put out his eyes because he could not look upon a woman without lusting after her:

why then should I think upon a maid; of corrupting and defiling her, since he had made a covenant with his eyes, and this would be a breach of that covenant: and therefore, besides the sin of lusting after her, or of corrupting her, he would be a covenant breaker, and so his sin would be an aggravated one: or he made a covenant with his eyes, to prevent any impure thoughts, desires, and inclinations in him; for the eye affects the heart, and stirs up lust in it, and excites unclean thoughts and unchaste desires: this shows that the thought of sin is sin; that fornication was reckoned a sin before the law of Moses; and that Job better understood the spirituality of the law than the Pharisees did in the time of Christ, and had the same notion of lust in the heart being fornication and adultery as he had; and that good men are not without temptation to sin, both from within and from without; and therefore should carefully shun all appearances of evil, and whatsoever leads unto it, and take every necessary precaution to guard against it.

(t) Musaeus de Heron. & Leand. v. 92, &c. (u) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 13. c. 24. (x) Tertullian. Apolog. c. 46.

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

(a) I kept my eyes from all wanton looks.

(b) Would not God then have punished me?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The “eye,” the lusts of which are frequently spoken of in scripture, is the great inlet through which that which is without affects the heart and stirs evil desire. Job made a “covenant” or agreement with his eyes, that they should obey his mind, or act always in harmony with his higher self.

why then should I think] Or, how then should I look? Under his contract with his eyes such sinful looking upon a woman (Matthew 5:28) was impossible; comp. Romans 6:2, We that died to sin, how shall we live any longer therein?

1–12. Job clears himself of cherishing or yielding to sensuous desires. This idea is pursued through a series of instances; (1) simple desire, excited by the eye, Job 31:1-4; (2) actual yielding to such desire in word or deed, Job 31:5-8; (3) the grossest form of sensual sin, Job 31:9-12.Verse 1. - I made a covenant with mine eyes; rather, for mine eyes. The covenant must have been with himself. Job means that be came to a fixed resolution, by which he thenceforth guided his conduct, not even to "look upon a woman to lust after her" (Matthew 5:28). We must suppose this resolution come to in his early youth, when the passions are strongest, and when so many men go astray. How then should I look upon a maid! Having made such a resolution, how could I possibly break it by "looking upon a maid"? Job assumes that he could not be so weak as to break a solemn resolution. The further progress of the thoughts seems to be well carried out only by our rendering of Job 30:24. The manifestation of feeling - Job means to say - which he himself felt at the misfortune of others, will be still permitted to him in his own misfortune, the seeking of compassion from the sympathising: or have I not wept for the hard of day? i.e., him whose lot in life is hard (comp. Arab. qası̂y, durus, miser); did not my soul grieve for the needy? Here, also, לא from Job 30:25 continues its effect (comp. Job 3:10; Job 28:17); עגם is ἅπ. γεγρ., of like signification with אגם, whence אגם Isaiah 19:10, אגמה (sadness) b. Mod katan 14b, Arab. agima, to feel disgust. If the relation of Job 30:25 to Job 30:24 is confirmatory, Job 30:26 and what follows refers directly to Job 30:24 : he who felt sympathy with the sufferings of others will nevertheless dare in his own affliction to stretch out his hand for help in the face of certain ruin, and pour forth his pain in lamentation; for his affliction is in reality inexpressibly great: he hoped for good (for the future from his prosperous condition, in which he rejoiced),

(Note: lxx Aldina: ἐγὼ δὲ ἀπέχων ἀγαθοῖς, which Zwingli rightly corrects ἐπέχων (Codd. Vat., Alex., and Sinait.).)

then came evil; and if I waited for light, deep darkness came. Ewald (232, h) regards ואיחלה as contracted from ואיחלה, but this shortening of the vowel is a pure impossibility. The former signifies rather καὶ ἤλπιζον or ἐβουλόμην ἐλπίζειν, the latter καὶ ἤλπισα, and that cohortative fut. logically forms a hypothetical antecedent, exactly like Job 19:18, if I desire to rise (אקומה), they speak against me (vid., Ew. 357, b). In feverish heat and anxiety his bowels were set boiling (רתח as Job 41:23, comp. Talmud. רתחן, a hot-headed fellow), and rested not (from this boiling). The accentuation Tarcha, Mercha, and Athnach is here incorrect; instead of Athnach, Rebia mugrasch is required. Days of affliction came upon him (קדּם as Psalm 18:6), viz., as a hostile power cutting off the previous way of his prosperity.

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