Job 31:1
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon 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. Job 31:1 1 I have made a covenant with mine eyes,

And how should I fix my gaze upon a maiden!

2 What then would be the dispensation of Eloah from above,

And the inheritance of the Almighty from the heights -

3 Doth not calamity overtake the wicked,

And misfortune the workers of evil?

4 Doth He not see my ways

And count all my steps?

After Job has described and bewailed the harsh contrast between the former days and the present, he gives us a picture of his moral life and endeavour, in connection with the character of which the explanation of his present affliction as a divinely decreed punishment becomes impossible, and the sudden overthrow of his prosperity into this abyss of suffering becomes to him, for the same reason, the most painful mystery. Job is not an Israelite, he is without the pale of the positive, Sinaitic revelation; his religion is the old patriarchal religion, which even in the present day is called dı̂n Ibrâhı̂m (the religion of Abraham), or dı̂n el-bedu (the religion of the steppe) as the religion of those Arabs who are not Moslem, or at least influenced by the penetrating Islamism, and is called by Mejânı̂shı̂ el-hanı̂fı̂je (vid., supra, p. 362, note) as the patriarchally orthodox religion.

(Note: Also in the Merg district east of Damascus, which is peopled by an ancient unmixed race, because the fever which prevails there kills strangers, remnants of the dı̂n Ibrâhı̂m have been preserved despite the penetrating Islamism. There the mulaqqin (Souffleur), who says the creed into the grave as a farewell to the buried one, adds the following words: "The muslim is my brother, the muslima my sister, Abraham is my father (abı̂), his religion (dı̂nuh) is mine, and his confession (medhebuh) mine." It is indisputable that the words muslim (one who is submissive to God) and islm (submission to God) have originally belonged to the dı̂n Ibrâhı̂m. It is also remarkable that the Moslem salutation selâm occurs only as a sign in war among the wandering tribes, and that the guest parts from his host with the words: dâimâ besât el-Chalı̂l̂ lâ maqtû‛ walâ memnû‛, i.e., mayest thou always have Abraham's table, and plenty of provisions and guests. - Wetzst.)

As little as this religion, even in the present day, is acquainted with the specific Mohammedan commandments, so little knew Job of the specifically Israelitish. On the contrary, his confession, which he lays down in this third monologue, coincides remarkably with the ten commandments of piety (el-felâh) peculiar to the dı̂n Ibrâhı̂m, although it differs in this respect, that it does not give the prominence to submission to the dispensations of God, that teslı̂m which, as the whole of this didactic poem teaches by its issue, is the duty of the perfectly pious; also bravery in defence of holy property and rights is wanting, which among the wandering tribes is accounted as an essential part of the hebbet er-rı̂h (inspiration of the Divine Being), i.e., active piety, and to which it is similarly related, as to the binding notion of "honour" which was coined by the western chivalry of the middle ages.

Job begins with the duty of chastity. Consistently with the prologue, which the drama itself nowhere belies, he is living in monogamy, as at the present day the orthodox Arabs, averse to Islamism, are not addicted to Moslem polygamy. With the confession of having maintained this marriage (although, to infer from the prologue, it was not an over-happy, deeply sympathetic one) sacred, and restrained himself not only from every adulterous act, but also from adulterous desires, his confessions begin. Here, in the middle of the Old Testament, without the pale of the Old Testament νόμος, we meet just that moral strictness and depth with which the Preacher on the mount, Matthew 5:27., opposes the spirit to the letter of the seventh commandment. It is לעיני, not עם־עיני, designedly; כרת ברית עם or את is the usual phrase where two equals are concerned; on the contrary, כרת ברית ל where two the superior - Jehovah, or a king, or conqueror - binds himself to another under prescribed conditions, or the covenant is made not so much by a mutual advance as by the one taking the initiative. In this latter case, the secondary notions of a promise given (e.g., Isaiah 55:3), or even, as here, of a law prescribed, are combined with כרת ברית: "as lord of my senses I prescribed this law for my eyes" (Ew.). The eyes, says a Talmudic proverb, are the procuresses of sin (סרסורי דחטאה נינהו); "to close his eyes, that they may not feast on evil," is, in Isaiah 33:15, a clearly defined line in the picture of him on whom the everlasting burnings can have no hold. The exclamation, Job 31:1, is spoken with self-conscious indignation: Why should I... (comp. Joseph's exclamation, Genesis 39:9); Schultens correctly: est indignatio repellens vehementissime et negans tale quicquam committi par esse; the transition of the מה, Arab. mâ, to the expression of negation, which is complete in Arabic, is here in its incipient state, Ew. 325, b. התבּונן על is intended to express a fixed and inspection (comp. אל, 1 Kings 3:21) gaze upon an object, combined with a lascivious imagination (comp. Sir. 9:5, παρθένον μὴ καταμάνθανε, and 9:8, ἀπόστρεψον ὀφθαλμὸν ἀπὸ γυναικὸς εὐμόρφου καὶ μὴ καταμάνθανε κάλλος ἀλλότριον), a βλέπειν which issues in ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτῆν, Matthew 5:28. Adulterium reale, and in fact two-sided, is first spoken of in the third strophe, here it is adulterium mentale and one-sided; the object named is not any maiden whatever, but any בּתוּלה, because virginity is ever to be revered, a most sacred thing, the holy purity of which Job acknowledges himself to have guarded against profanation from any lascivious gaze by keeping a strict watch over his eyes. The Waw of וּמה is, as in Job 31:14, copulative: and if I had done it, what punishment might I have looked for?

The question, Job 31:2, is proposed in order that it may be answered in Job 31:3 again in the form of a question: in consideration of the just punishment which the injurer of female innocence meets, Job disavows every unchaste look. On חלק and נחלה used of allotted, adjudged punishment, comp. Job 20:29; Job 27:13; on נכר, which alternates with איד (burden of suffering, misfortune), comp. Obadiah 1:12, where in its stead נכר occurs, as Arab. nukr, properly id quod patienti paradoxum, insuetum, intolerabile videtur, omne ingratum (Reiske). Conscious of the just punishment of the unchaste, and, as he adds in Job 31:4, of the omniscience of the heavenly Judge, Job has made dominion over sin, even in its first beginnings and motions, his principle.

The הוּא, which gives prominence to the subject, means Him who punishes the unchaste. By Him who observes his walk on every side, and counts (יספּור, plene, according to Ew. 138, a, on account of the pause, but vid., the similar form of writing, Job 39:2; Job 18:15) all his steps, Job has been kept back from sin, and to Him Job can appeal as a witness.

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