I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
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.
For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
Verse 2. - For what portion of God is there from above? The meaning seems to be, "For what portion in God would there be to me from above, if I were so to act?" i.e. if I were secretly to nurse and indulge my lusts. Impurity, perhaps, more than any other sin, cuts off from God, who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13). And what inheritance of the Almighty from on high! What should I inherit, i.e. what should I receive, from on high, if I were so sinful? The next verse gives the answer,
Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
Verse 3. - Is not destruction to the wicked? The inheritance of the wicked is "destruction" - ruin both of soul and body. This is what I should have to expect if I yielded myself to the bondage of lust and concupiscence. And a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? The rare word neker (גכר), translated here by "strange punishment," seems to mean "alienation from God" - being turned from God's friend into his enemy (comp. Buxtorf, 'Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum,' who explains גכר by "alienatio;" and the comment of Schultens on Job 31:3, "Necer, a Deo alienatio").
Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?
Verse 4. - Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? (see above, Job 7:18-20; and below, Job 34:21. Comp. also Psalm 139:3; Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 15:3, etc.).
If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;
Verse 5. - If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit. "If I have been a living lie, i.e. if, under a fair show of piety and righteousness of life, I have, as you my friends suppose, been all along a deceiver and a hypocrite, cloaking my secret sins under a mere pretence of well-doing, then the sooner I am exposed the better. Let me be weighed," etc. The painful suggestion of hypocrisy has been made by Job's friends repeatedly during the colloquy (Job 4:7-9; Job 8:6, 12; Job 11:4-6, '11-14; 15:30-35; 18:5-21; 20:5-29, etc.), and has deeply afflicted the patriarch. It is a charge so easily made, and so impossible to refute. All that the righteous man, thus falsely accused, can do is to appeal to God: "Thou, God, knowest. Thou, God, wilt one day show forth the truth."
Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.
Verse 6. - Let me be weighed in an even balance; literally, let him (i.e. God) weigh me in the balances of justice. The use of this imagery by the Egyptians has been already noted (see the comment on Job 6:2). It is an essential part of every Egyptian representation of the final judgment of souls by Osiris. Each man's merits are formally weighed in a balance, which is carefully depicted, and he is judged accordingly. Job asks that this may be done in his case, either immediately or at any rate ultimately. He would have the act performed, that God may know his integrity; or rather, may recognize it. (So Professor Leo.) Job has no doubt that a thorough investigation of his case will lead to a, acknowledgment and proclamation of his innocence.
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;
Verse 7. - If my step hath turned out of the way. If; i.e., I have at any time knowingly and voluntarily departed from the way of thy commandments, as made known to me either by godly men or by thy law written in my heart, then let the consequences follow that are mentioned in the next verse. Or if mine heart hath walked after mine eyes, and if consequently any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; i.e. if I have been guilty of any plain act of sin. It is to be remembered that Job has the testimony of God himself to the fact that he was "a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 2:3).
Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.
Verse 8. - Then let me sow, and let another eat (comp. Job 5:5; Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:33, 51, etc.). The expression is proverbial. Yea, lot my offspring be rooted out; rather, my produce, or the produce of my field (see the Revised Version).
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door;
Verse 9. - If mine heart have been deceived by a woman; rather, enticed, or allured unto a woman. If, that is, I have suffered myself at any time to be enticed by the wiles of a "strange woman" (Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 6:24, etc.), and have so far yielded as to go after her; and if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door - watching for an opportunity to enter unseen, while the goodman is away (Proverbs 7:19) Job is not speaking of what he has done, but of what men may suspect him of having done.
Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.
Verse 10. - Then let my wife grind unto another; i.e. "let the wife of my bosom be brought so low as to be compelled to do the servile work of grinding the corn in the household of another woman." The condition of the female slaves who ground the corn was regarded as the lowest point in domestic slavery (see Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:2). And let others bow down upon her. Let them, i.e., claim the master's right, and reduce her to the extremest degradation There would be a just nemesis in this punishment of an adulterer (see 2 Samuel 12:11).
For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
Verse 11. - For this is an heinous crime. The crime of adultery subverts the family relation, on which it has pleased God to erect the entire fabric of human society. Hence, in the Jewish Law, adultery was made a capital offence (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), both in the woman and in the man. Among other nations the adulteress was commonly punished with death, but the adulterer escaped scot-free. In modern communities adultery is mostly regarded, not as a crime, but as a civil wrong, on account of which an action lies against the adulterer. It is an iniquity to be punished by the judges; literally, it is an iniquity of judges; i.e. one of which judges take cognizance.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.
Verse 12. - For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction; i.e. it is a thing which brings down the wrath of God upon a man, so that "a fire is kindled in his anger, which shall burn unto the lowest hell" (Deuteronomy 32:22). Compare the sentence on David for his great transgression (2 Samuel 12:9-12). And would root out all mine increase; i.e. "would destroy all my estate;" either by leading me to waste my substance upon my companion in sin, or by bringing down God's judgments upon me to my temporal ruin.
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
Verse 13. - If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant. Job now disclaims a fourth sin - the oppression of his dependants. Eliphaz had taxed him generally with harshness and cruelty in his relations towards those weaker than himself (Job 22:5-9), but had not specially pointed to this kind of oppressiveness. As, however, this was the commonest form of the vice, Job deems it right to disclaim it, before addressing himself to the several charges brought by Eliphaz. He has not ill used his slaves, either male or female. He has not "despised their cause," but given it full consideration and attention; he has heard them when they contended with him; he has allowed them to "contend;" he has been a just, and not a hard master. The slavery of which he speaks is evidently of a kind under which the slave had certain rights, as was the case also under the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:2-11).
What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?
Verses 14, 15. - What then shall I do when God riseth up? Job regards God as the Avenger and Champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependants, he would have provoked God's anger, and God would assuredly "rise up" one day to punish. What, then, could he (Job) do? What but submit in silence? When he visiteth, what shall I answer him? There could be no valid defence. The slave was still a man, a brother - God's creature, equally with his master. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? God "hath made of one Mood all nations of men," and all individual me, "to dwell on the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). All have rights - in a certain sense, equal rights. All are entitled to just treatment, to kind treatment, to merciful treatment. Job is before his age in recognizing the substantial equality of the slave with the freeman, which otherwise was scarcely taught by any until the promulgation of the gospel (see 1 Timothy 6:2; Philemon 1:16).
Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?
If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
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).
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;
Verse 17. - Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof. With the widow, the fatherless is usually conjoined, as an equal object of compassion (see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10, etc.). Eliphaz had specially charged Job with oppression of the fatherless (Job 22:9), and his charge had been denied by Job (Job 29:12). He now claims to have always shared his bread with orphans, and made them partakers or his abundance.
(For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb;)
Verse 18. - For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb; i.e. I have always, so long as I can remember, protected the orphan and done my best to help the widow. It has been my habit from my earliest years so to act. The language is exaggerated; but it had, no doubt, a basis of fact to rest upon. Job was brought up in these principles.
If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
Verse 19. - If I have seen any perish for want of clothing (scrap. Job 22:6, where Eliphaz taxes Job with so acting; and, on the duty of clothing the naked, see Isaiah 58:7; Ezekiel 18:7, 16; Matthew 25:36). Or any poor without covering. A pleonastic parallelism.
If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
Verse 20. - If his loins have not blessed me (see above, Job 29:11, 13), and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep. Clothed, i.e., with a garment spun from wool yielded by my own sheep. A great sheikh like Job would keep in store many such garments, ready to be given to such as were naked or poorly clad, when they came under his observation (Isaiah 58:7).
If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
Verse 21. - If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless; i.e. if I have in any way oppressed him. When I saw my help in the gate; i.e.. when I had the power to do so - when I saw my friends and hangers-on mustered in force at the gate where causes were being tried. The wrong and robbery which the poor suffer in the East have always been camel, to a large extent, by failure of justice in the courts, where might, and not right, carries the day.
Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.
Verse 22. - Then let mine arm (rather, my shoulder) fall from my shoulder-blade. Job was, perhaps, led to make this rather strange imprecation by the fact that, in the disease from which he was suffering, portions of bone sometimes detach themselves and come away. And mine arm be broken from the bone. My forearm, i.e, detach itself from the bone of the upper arm, and come away from it.
For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
Verse 23. - For destruction from God was a terror to me. I could not, i.e., have acted in the way charged against me by Eliphaz, since I was always God-fearing, and should have been deterred, if by nothing else, at any rate by dread of the Divine vengeance. And by reason of his highness I could not endure. God's majesty and excellency are such that I could not have had the face to resist them. If! had begun such a course of life as Eliphaz laid to my charge (Job 22:5-9), I could not have persisted in it.
If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;
Verse 24. - If I have made gold my hope. This is a sin with which the patriarch had not been directly charged. But it had been more or less insinuated (see Job 15:28; Job 20:10, 15, 19; Job 22:24, etc.). He may also, perhaps, have felt some inclination to it. Or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence. (On the wicked man's trust in riches, see Psalm 49:6; Psalm 52:7; Psalm 62:10; Mark 10:24; Luke 12:16-19.)
If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;
Verse 25. - If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much. Job feels that it is wrong even to care greatly for wealth. He seems almost to anticipate the saying of St. Paul, that "covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5); and hence he passes on without pause from this sort of creature-worship to others common in his day (vers. 26, 27). which he likewise disclaims.
If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;
Verse 26. - If I beheld the sun when it shined; literally, the light; i.e. the great light, which God made to rule the day (Genesis 1:16). Sun-worship, the least ignoble form of idolatry, was widely spread in the East, and in Egypt, from a very early date. According to the views of some, the religion el' t e Egyptians was little else than a complicated sun-worship from its earliest inception to its very latest phase. "The religious notions of the Egyptians," says Dr. Birch, "were chiefly connected with the worship of the sun, with whom at a later period all the principal deities were connected. As Hag, or Harmachis, he represented the youthful or rising sun; as Ra, the midday; and as Turn. the setting sun. According to Egyptian notions, that god floated in a boat through the sky or celestial ether, and descended to the dark regions of night, or Hades. Many deities attended on his passage or were connected with his worship, and the gods Amen and Khepr, who represented the invisible and self-produced god, were identified with the sun" ('Egypt from the Earliest Times,' Introduction, pp. 9, 10.). Even those who do not go these lengths admit that the solar worship was, at any rate, a very main element in the cult of Egypt (see the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. pp. 342-364). In the Babylonian and Assyrian religion the position of the sun-god was leas prominent, but still, as San, or Shamas, he held an important place, and was the main object of religious veneration to a largo body of worshippers ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. pp. 126-128; vol. 2. pp. 17, 18). In the Vedic system the sun figured as Mitra, and in the Zoroastrian as Mithra, in both holding a high position. Among the Arabians the sun, worshipped as Orotal, is said to have been anciently the only god, though he was accompanied by a female principle named Alilat (Herod., 3:8). Or the moon walking in brightness. The worship of the moon has. in most countries where it has prevailed, been quite secondary and subordinate to that of the sun. In Egypt. while nine gods are more or less identified with the solar luminary, two only, Khons and Thoth, can be said to represent the moon. In the Vedic and Zoroastrian systems the moon, called Soma, or Hems, almost dropped out of the popular religion, at any rate as a moon-god. In the Arabiun, Alilat, a goddess, probably represented the moon, as did Ashtoreth, a goddess, in the Pheonician. In Assyria, however, and in Babylonia, moon-worship held a higher position, Sin, the moon-god, taking precedence over Shamas, the sun-god, and being a very much more important personage (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. pp. 123-126; vol. 2. pp. 16, 17). Thus both moon-worship and sun-worship were prevalent among all, or almost all, Job's neighbours.
And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:
Verse 27. - And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand. The sin of the heart is placed first, as the fens et origo mali the spiritual root of the matter. On this naturally follows the outward act which, in the case of idolatry, was commonly the act exactly expressed by the word "adore" - the movement of the hand to the mouth in token of reverence and honour (see Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 28:2, "Inter adorandum dexteram ad osculum referimus, et totum corpus circumagimus;" and Minucius Felix, Octav., 2, Caecilius, simulacro Serapidis denotato, ut vulgus superstitiosum solet, manum ori admovens osculum labiis pressit").
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.
Verse 28. - This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge (see the comment on ver. 11, adfin.). It is rightly concluded from this expression that, in the country and age of Job, the sort of idolatry which is here mentioned was practised by some, and also that it was legally punishable. For I should have denied the God that is above. The worship of any other god besides the supreme God is, practically, atheism, since "no man can serve two masters." Moreover, to set up two independent gods is to destroy the idea of God, which implies supremacy over every other being.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him:
Verse 29. - If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me. "If at any time I was malevolent, if I wished evil to others, and rejoiced when evil came upon them, being (as the Greeks expressed it) ἐπιχαιρέκακος - if I so acted even in the case of my enemy - then," etc. The apodosis is wanting, but may be supplied by any suitable imprecation (see vers. 8, 10, 22, 40). Or lifted up myself - i.e. was puffed up and exalted - when evil found him. In the old world men generally regarded themselves as fully entitled to exult at the downfall of an enemy, and to triumph over him with words of contumely and scorn (camp. Judges 5:19-31; Psalm 18:37-42; Isaiah 10:8-1.4, etc.). There appears to be but one other passage in the Old Testament, besides the present, in which the contrary disposition is shown. This is Proverbs 17:5, where the writer declares that "he who is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished."
Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.
Verse 30. - Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. Much less, Job means, have I gone beyond the thought to the word, and imprecated a curse upon him with my mouth, as the manner of most hen is towards their enemies (see 2 Samuel 16:5; 1 Samuel 17:43; Nehemiah 13:25; Psalm 109:28; Jeremiah 15:10, etc).
If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.
Verse 31. - If the men of my tent said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied. A very obscure passage, but probably to be connected with the following verse, in which Job boasts of his hospitality. Translate, If the men of my tent did not say, Who can find a man that has not been satisfied with his meat? The apodosis is wanting, as in ver. 28.
The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.
Verse 32. - The stranger did not lodge in the street; i.e. "I did not suffer any stranger who came under my notice to lodge in the street, but, like Abraham (Genesis 18:2-8), went out to him, and invited him in, to partake of my hospitality." This is still the practice of Arab sheikhs in Syria, Palestine, and the adjacent countries (see Dr. Cunningham Geikie's 'Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 283). But I opened my doors to the traveller; literally, to the way; i.e. "my house gave on the street, and I kept my house door open." Compare the Mishna, "Let thy house be open to the street" ('Pirke Aboth,' § 5).
If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:
Verse 33. - If I covered my transgressions as Adam; or, after the manner of men It does not seem to me likely that Job had such a knowledge of Adam's conduct in the garden of Eden as would have made an allusion to it in this place natural or probable. The religious traditions of the Chaldees, which note the war in heaven, the Deluge, the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, contain no mention of Adam or of Paradise. Nor. so far as I am aware, is there, among other ancient legends, any near parallel to the story of the Fall as related in Genesis 4. Much less does the subordinate detail of Adam hiding himself make its appearance in any of them. The marginal rendering, "after the manner of men," is therefore, I think, to be preferred. By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom. This is not particularly apposite to the case of Adam, who "hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 4:8).
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?
Verse 34. - Did I fear a great multitude! rather, because I feared the great multitude or the great assembly; i.e. the gathering of the people in the gate on occasions of public business. It' Job had been conscious of any great and heinous sins' he would not have led the open and public life which, previously to his calamities, he had always led (Job 29:7-10, 21-25); he would have been afraid to make his appearance at public meetings, lest his sins should have become known, and should draw upon him scorn and contempt, instead of the respect and acclamations to which he was accustomed. Or did the contempt of families terrify me? rather, and the contempt of families terrified me. The contempt of the assembled tribes and families, which might have been poured out upon him at such meetings, would have been quite sufficient to prevent his attending them. If by any accident he had found himself at one, and had seen that he was looked upon with disfavour, he must have kept silence in order to avoid observation. Prudence would have counselled that more complete abstention which is implied in the phrase, and went not out of the door; i.e. "stayed at home in mine own house."
Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
Verse 35. - Oh that one would hear me! i.e. Oh that I had an opportunity of plea, ling my cause before a just judge l of having charges openly brought against me, and having "one" to hear my reply to them! Job does not regard his "comforters" as such persons. They are prejudiced; they have even made themselves his accusers. Behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me; rather, behold here is my signature I let the Almighty answer me. This passage is parenthetic. Job would prefer to be judged by God, if it were possible, and therefore throws out the wish. Here is his plea in ch. 29-31; and here is his attestation by word of mouth, which is equivalent to his signature. And that mine adversary had written a book; or, had penned an indictment against me. Job would have matters brought to an issue. In default of a Divine trial and sentence, which he cannot expect, it would suffice tot him that his arraigner should formally draw out his list of charges, and present him with a copy, and so give him an opportunity of making answer to it. If this were done, then (he says) -
Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.
Verse 36. - Surely I would take it upon my shoulder - the place of honour (see Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 22:22) - and bind it as a crown to me; i.e. adorn my head with it, as with a diadem.
I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.
Verse 37. - I would declare unto him the number of my steps; i.e. I would conceal nothing. I would willingly divulge every act of my life. I would make full and complete answer to the indictment in every particular. As a prince would I go near unto him. There should be no timidity or cringing on my part. I would face my accuser boldly, and bear myself as a prince in his presence.
If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain;
Verses 38-40. - It is generally supposed that these verses, with the exception of the last clause of ver. 40, are misplaced. As a termination, they form an anti-climax, and greatly weaken the peroration. Their proper place would seem to be between vers. 32 and 33. Verse 38. - If my land cry against me; i.e. if my land disclaim my ownership, as having been acquired by wrong or robbery. If the furrows likewise thereof complain; or, weep, as having been torn from their rightful proprietors, and seized by a stranger. The apodosis is in ver. 40.
If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:
Verse 39. - If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money; i.e. without acquiring a title to them by purchase. Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life. Either by actual violence or by depriving them of the means of support (see the comment on Job 29:13). Job had been accused of robbery and oppression both by Zophar (Job 20:12-19) and Eliphaz (Job 22:5-9). He had not, however, been accused of actual murder.
Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.
Verse 40. - Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockles instead of barley. Then let me be appropriately punished by finding the land, whereof I have wrongfully become possessed, produce nothing but thistles (or thorns) and noxious weeds, such as cockles (Authorized Version) or hemlock (Professor Lee). The words of Job are ended. This may be regarded either as Job's own conclusion of his long speech, or as a remark of the author's. On the whole, the former view is to be preferred.