Job declares his uprightness. (1-8) His integrity. (9-15) Job merciful. (16-23) Job not guilty of covetousness or idolatry. (24-32) Job not guilty of hypocrisy and violence. (33-40)
Verses 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!
Verses 9-15 All the defilements of the life come from a deceived heart. Lust is a fire in the soul: those that indulge it, are said to burn. It consumes all that is good there, and lays the conscience waste. It kindles the fire of God's wrath, which, if not quenched by the blood of Christ, will consume even to eternal destruction. It consumes the body; it consumes the substance. Burning lusts bring burning judgments. Job had a numerous household, and he managed it well. He considered that he had a Master in heaven; and as we are undone if God should be severe with us, we ought to be mild and gentle towards all with whom we have to do.
Verses 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.
Verses 24-32 Job protests, 1. That he never set his heart upon the wealth of this world. How few prosperous professors can appeal to the Lord, that they have not rejoiced because their gains were great! Through the determination to be rich, numbers ruin their souls, or pierce themselves with many sorrows. 2. He never was guilty of idolatry. The source of idolatry is in the heart, and it corrupts men, and provokes God to send judgments upon a nation. 3. He neither desired nor delighted in the hurt of the worst enemy he had. If others bear malice to us, that will not justify us in bearing malice to them. 4. He had never been ( 1 Peter. 4:9 )
Verses 33-40 Job clears himself from the charge of hypocrisy. We are loth to confess our faults, willing to excuse them, and to lay the blame upon others. But he that thus covers his sins, shall not prosper, ( Proverbs 28:13 ) . He speaks of his courage in what is good, as an evidence of his sincerity in it. When men get estates unjustly, they are justly deprived of comfort from them; it was sown wheat, but shall come up thistles. What men do not come honestly by, will never do them any good. The words of Job are ended. They end with a bold assertion, that, with respect to accusation against his moral and religious character as the cause for his sufferings, he could appeal to God. But, however confident Job was, we shall see he was mistaken, chap. 40:4, chap. 40:5 ; 1Jo. 1:8 . Let us all judge ourselves; wherein we are guilty, let us seek forgiveness in that blood which cleanseth from all sin; and may the Lord have mercy upon us, and write his laws in our hearts!
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 ( Proverbs 6:25 , Matthew 5:28 ).
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 ).
3. Answer to the question in Job 31:2 .
4. Doth not he see? &c.--Knowing this, I could only have expected "destruction" ( Job 31:3 ), had I committed this sin ( Proverbs 5:21 ).
5. Job's abstinence from evil deeds.
vanity--that is, falsehood ( Psalms 12:2 ).
6. Parenthetical. Translate: "Oh, that God would weigh me . . . then would He know," &c.
7. Connected with Job 31:6 .
the way--of God ( Job 23:11 , Jeremiah 5:5 ). A godly life.
heart . . . after . . . eyes--if my heart coveted, what my eyes beheld ( Ecclesiastes 11:9 , Joshua 7:21 ).
hands--( Psalms 24:4 ).
8. Apodosis to Job 31:5 Job 31:7 ; the curses which he imprecates on himself, if he had done these things ( Leviticus 26:16 , Amos 9:14 , Psalms 128:2 ).
offspring--rather, "what I plant," my harvests.
9-12. Job asserts his innocence of adultery.
deceived--hath let itself be seduced ( Proverbs 7:8 , Genesis 39:7-12 ).
laid wait--until the husband went out.
10. grind--turn the handmill. Be the most abject slave and concubine ( Isaiah 47:2 , 2 Samuel 12:11 ).
11. In the earliest times punished with death ( Genesis 38:24 ). So in later times ( Deuteronomy 22:22 ). Heretofore he had spoken only of sins against conscience; now, one against the community, needing the cognizance of the judge.
12. ( Proverbs 6:27-35 , Proverbs 8:6-23 Proverbs 8:26 Proverbs 8:27 ). No crime more provokes God to send destruction as a consuming fire; none so desolates the soul.
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.
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?
15. Slaveholders try to defend themselves by maintaining the original inferiority of the slave. But Malachi 2:10 , Acts 17:26 , Ephesians 6:9 make the common origin of masters and servants the argument for brotherly love being shown by the former to the latter.
16. fail--in the vain expectation of relief ( Job 11:20 ).
17. Arabian rules of hospitality require the stranger to be helped first, and to the best.
18. Parenthetical: asserting that he did the contrary to the things in Job 31:16 Job 31:17 .
guided her--namely, the widow, by advice and protection. On this and "a father," see Job 29:16 .
19. perish--that is, ready to perish ( Job 29:13 ).
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.
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.
22. Apodosis to Job 31:13 Job 31:16 Job 31:17 Job 31:19 Job 31:20 Job 31:21 . 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.
23. For--that is, the reason why Job guarded against such sins. Fear of God, though he could escape man's judgment ( Genesis 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.
24, 25. Job asserts his freedom from trust in money ( 1 Timothy 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 ( Colossians 3:5 ). In Job 31:26 Job 31:27 he passes to overt idolatry.
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 ( Ezekiel 8:16 , Deuteronomy 4:19 , 2 Kings 23:5 2 Kings 23:11 ). 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.
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 ( 1 Kings 19:18 , Hosea 13:2 ).
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 ( Deuteronomy 13:9 , 17:2-7 , Ezekiel 8:14-18 ). This passage therefore does not prove Job to have been subsequent to Moses.
29. lifted up myself--in malicious triumph ( Proverbs 17:5 , 24:17 , Psalms 7:4 ).
30. mouth--literally, "palate."
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 Leviticus 19:18 , Deuteronomy 23:6 , with Matthew 5:43 Matthew 5:44 ).
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 ( 1 Samuel 26:8 , 2 Samuel 16:9 2 Samuel 16:10 ). So Jesus Christ ( Luke 9:54 Luke 9:55 ). 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.
32. traveller--literally, "way," that is, wayfarers; so expressed to include all of every kind ( 2 Samuel 12:4 ).
33. Adam--translated by UMBREIT, "as men do" ( Hosea 6:7 , where see Margin). But English Version is more natural. The very same word for "hiding" is used in Genesis 3:8 Genesis 3:10 , 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 ( Proverbs 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."
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 ( 2 Samuel 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 ).
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."
36. So far from hiding the adversary's "answer" or "charge" through fear,
I would take it on my shoulders--as a public honor ( Isaiah 9:6 ).
a crown--not a mark of shame, but of distinction ( Isaiah 62:3 ).
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 Job 42:6 ); but only through Jesus Christ ( Hebrews 10:22 ).
38. Personification. The complaints of the unjustly ousted proprietors are transferred to the lands themselves ( Job 31:20 , Genesis 4:10 , Habakkuk 2:11 ). If I have unjustly acquired lands ( Job 24:2 , Isaiah 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 Job 31:39 , the first refers to the same subject as the fourth, the second is connected with the third by introverted parallelism. Compare James 5:4 , which plainly alludes to this passage: compare "Lord of Sabaoth" with Job 31:26 here.
39. lose . . . life--not literally, but "harassed to death"; until he gave me up his land gratis [MAURER]; as in Judges 16:16 ; "suffered him to languish" by taking away his means of living [UMBREIT] ( 1 Kings 21:19 ).
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.