Job 31:16
If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
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Job 31:16-17. If I have withheld the poor, &c. — If I have denied them what they desired of me, either in justice or from necessity; for he was under no obligation to grant their vain or inordinate desires. Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail — With tedious expectation of my justice or charity. I durst neither deny nor delay my help, when they needed or required it. Or have eaten my morsel alone — Without communicating part of my provisions or property to the poor, as it follows; and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof — This one kind of necessitous persons is put for all the rest. Job is most large upon these heads of doing justice to the widows and fatherless, and relieving the poor, because Eliphaz had most particularly accused him in these respects.31:16-23 Job's conscience gave testimony concerning his just and charitable behaviour toward the poor. He is most large upon this head, because in this matter he was particularly accused. He was tender of all, and hurtful to none. Notice the principles by which Job was restrained from being uncharitable and unmerciful. He stood in awe of the Lord, as certainly against him, if he should wrong the poor. Regard to worldly interests may restrain a man from actual crimes; but the grace of God alone can make him hate, dread, and shun sinful thoughts and desires.If I have withheld the poor from their desire - Job now turns to another class of virtues, regarded also as of great importance in the patriarchal ages, kindness to the poor and the afflicted; to the fatherless and the widow. He appeals to his former life on this subject; affirms that he had a good conscience in the recollection of his dealings with them, and impliedly declares that it could not have been for any deficiency in the exercise of these virtues that his calamities had come upon him. The meaning here is, that he had not denied to the poor their wish. If they had come and desired bread of him, he had not withheld it; see Job 22:7.

Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail - That is, I have not frustrated her hopes, or disappointed her expectations, when she has looked intently upon me, and desired my aid. The "failing of the eyes" refers to failing of the object of their expectation; or the expression means that she had not looked to him in vain; see Job 11:20.

16. fail—in the vain expectation of relief (Job 11:20). Withheld the poor from their desire, i.e. denied them what they desired of me, either in justice or from necessity; for he was not obliged to grant their vain or inordinate desires.

Caused the eyes of the widow to fail, to wit, with tedious expectation of my justice or charity. I durst neither deny nor delay my help when they required and needed it. If I have withheld the poor from their desire,.... Their reasonable desires, and which it was in his power to grant; as when they desired a piece of bread, being hungry, or clothes to cover them, being naked; but not unreasonable desires, seeking and asking great things for themselves, or unlimited and unbounded ones, such as the two sons of Zebedee desired of Christ, Mark 10:35;

or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; through long waiting for, and expecting help and succour from him, and at last disappointed. Job did not use the widow in such a manner as to give her reason to hope for relief or counsel from him she came for, and make her wait long, and then send her away empty, as he was charged, Job 22:9; but he soon dispatched her, by granting her what she sued to him for.

If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow {m} to fail;

(m) By long waiting for her request.

16. eyes of the widow to fail] i. e. with looking in vain for help, Psalm 69:3.Verse 16. - If I have withheld the poor from their desire. As Eliphaz had maintained (Job 22:6, 7), and as Job had already denied (Job 29:12, 16). The duty of relieving the poor, solemnly enjoined upon the people of Israel in the Law (Deuteronomy 15:7-11), was generally admitted by the civilized nations of antiquity. In Egypt it was especially insisted on. "The Egyptian's duties to mankind," says Dr. Birch, "were comprised in giving bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, oil to the wounded, and burial to the dead" ('Egypt from the Earliest Times,' p. 46). Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail. "Thou hast sent widows away empty," was one of the accusations of Eliphaz (Job 22:9). "I caused the widow's heart," replied Job, "to sing for joy" (Job 29:13). The widow's weakness has always been felt to give her a special claim on man's benevolence (see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11, 14; Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 26:12, 13; Psalm 146:9; Proverbs 15:25; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5; 1 Timothy 5:16; James 1:27). 9 If my heart has been befooled about a woman,

And if I lay in wait at my neighbour's door:

10 Let my wife grind unto another,

And let others bow down over her.

11 For this is an infamous act,

And this is a crime to be brought before judges;

12 Yea, it is a fire that consumeth to the abyss,

And should root out all my increase.

As he has guarded himself against defiling virgin innocence by lascivious glances, so is he also conscious of having made no attempt to trespass upon the marriage relationship of his neighbour (רע as in the Decalogue, Exodus 20:17): his heart was not persuaded, or he did not allow his heart to be persuaded (נפתּה like πείθεσθαι), i.e., misled, on account of a woman (אשּׁה as אשׁת אישׁ, in post-bibl. usage, of another's wife), and he lay not in wait (according to the manner of adulterous lovers described at Job 24:15, which see) at his neighbour's door. We may here, with Wetzstein, compare the like-minded confession in a poem of Muhdi ibn-Muhammel: Arab. mâ nabb klb 'l-jâr mnâ ẇlâ ‛awâ, i.e., "The neighbour's dog never barked (נב, Beduin equivalent to נבח in the Syrian towns and villages) on our account (because we have gone by night with an evil design to his tent), and it never howled (being beaten by us, to make it cease its barking lest it should betray us)." In Job 31:10 follows the punishment which he wishes might overtake him in case he had acted thus: "may my wife grind to another," i.e., may she become his "maid behind the mill," Exodus 11:5, comp. Isaiah 47:2, who must allow herself to be used for everything; ἀλετρίς and a common low woman (comp. Plutarch, non posse suav. viv. c. 21, καὶ παχυσκελὴς ἀλετρὶς πρὸς μύλην κινουμένη) are almost one and the same. On the other hand, the Targ. (coeat cum alio), lxx (euphemistically ἀρέσαι ἑτέρῳ, not, as the Syr. Hexapl. shows, ἀλέσαι), and Jer. (scortum sit alterius), and in like manner Saad., Gecat., understand תּטחן directly of carnal surrender; and, in fact, according to the traditional opinion, b. Sota 10a: אין טחינה אלא לשׁון עבירה, i.e., "טחן everywhere in Scripture is intended of (carnal) trespass." With reference to Judges 16:21 and Lamentations 5:13 (where טחון, like Arab. ṭaḥûn, signifies the upper mill-stone, or in gen. the mill), this is certainly incorrect; the parallel, as well as Deuteronomy 28:30, favours this rendering of the word in the obscene sense of μύλλειν, molere, in this passage, which also is seen under the Arab. synon. of grinding, Arab. dahaka (trudere); according to which it would have to be interpreted: let her grind to another, i.e., serve him as it were as a nether mill-stone. The verb טחן, used elsewhere (in Talmud.) of the man, would here be transferred to the woman, like as it is used of the mill itself as that which grinds. This rendering is therefore not refuted by its being תּטחן and not תּטּחן. Moreover, the word thus understood is not unworthy of the poet, since he designedly makes Job seize the strongest expressions. Among moderns, תטחן is thus tropically explained by Ew., Umbr., Hahn, and a few others, but most expositors prefer the proper sense, in connection with which molat certainly, especially with respect to Job 31:9, is also equivalent to fiat pellex. It is hard to decide; nevertheless the preponderance of reasons seems to us to be on the side of the traditional tropical rendering, by the side of which Job 31:10 is not attached in progressive, but in synonymous parallelism: et super ea incurvent se alii, כּרע of the man, as in the phrase Arab. kr‛t 'l-mrât 'lâ 'l-rjl (curvat se mulier ad virum) of the acquiescence of the woman; אחרין is a poetical Aramaism, Ew. 177, a. The sin of adultery, in case he had committed it, ought to be punished by another taking possession of his own wife, for that (הוּא a neutral masc., Keri היא in accordance with the fem. of the following predicate, comp. Leviticus 18:17) is an infamous act, and that (היא referring back to זמּה, Keri הוּא in accordance with the masc. of the following predicate) is a crime for the judges. On this wavering between הוא and היא vid., Gesenius, Handwrterbuch, 1863, s. v. הוּא, S. 225. זמּה is the usual Thora-word for the shameless subtle encroachments of sensual desires (vid., Saalschtz, Mosaisches Recht, S. 791f.), and פּלילים עון (not עון), according to the usual view equivalent to crimen et crimen quidem judicum (however, on the form of connection intentionally avoided here, where the genitival relation might easily give an erroneous sense, vid., Ges. 116, rem.), signifies a crime which falls within the province of the penal code, for which in Job 31:28 it is less harshly עון פּלילי: a judicial, i.e., criminal offence. פּלילים is, moreover, not the plur. of פּלילי (Kimchi), but of פּליל, an arbitrator (root פל, findere, dirimere).

The confirmatory clause, Job 31:12, is co-ordinate with the preceding: for it (this criminal, adulterous enterprise) is a fire, a fire consuming him who allows the sparks of sinful desire to rise up within him (Proverbs 6:27.; Sir. 9:8), which devours even to the bottom of the abyss, not resting before it has dragged him whom it has seized down with it into the deepest depth of ruin, and as it were melted him away, and which ought to root out all my produce (all the fruit of my labour).

(Note: It is something characteristically Semitic to express the notion of destruction by the figure of burning up with fire [vid. supra, p. 449, note], and it is so much used in the present day as a natural inalienable form of thought, that in curses and imprecations everything, without distinction of the object, is to be burned; e.g., juhrik, may (God) burn up, or juhrak, ought to burn, bilâduh, his native country, bedenuh, his body, ‛ênuh, his eye, shawâribuh, his moustache (i.e., his honour), nefesuh, his breath, ‛omruh, his life, etc. - Wetzst.)

The function of ב is questionable. Ew. (217, f) explains it as local: in my whole revenue, i.e., throughout my whole domain. But it can also be Beth objecti, whether it be that the obj. is conceived as the means of the action (vid., on Job 16:4-5, Job 16:10; Job 20:20), or that, "corresponding to the Greek genitive, it does not express an entire full coincidence, but an action about and upon the object" (Ew. 217, S. 557). We take it as Beth obj. in the latter sense, after the analogy of the so-called pleonastic Arab. b (e.g., qaraa bi-suwari, he has practised the act of reading upon the Suras of the Koran); and which ought to undertake the act of outrooting upon my whole produce.

(Note: On this pleonastic Beth obj. (el-Bâ el-mezı̂de) vid., Samachschari's Mufassal, ed. Broch, pp. 125, 132 (according to which it serves "to give intensity and speciality"), and Beidhwi's observation on Sur. ii. 191. The most usual example for it is alqa bi-jedeihi ila et-tahlike, he has plunged his hands, i.e., himself, into ruin. The Bâ el-megâz (the metaphorical Beth obj.) is similar; it is used where the verb has not its most natural signification but a metaphorical one, e.g., ashada bidhikrihi, he has strengthened his memory: comp. De Sacy, Chrestomathie Arabe, i. 397.)

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