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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.
For what portion of God is there from above? - Or, rather, “What portion should I then have from God who reigns above?” Job asks with emphasis, what portion or reward he should expect from God who reigns on high, if he had not made such a covenant with his eyes, and if he had given the reins to loose and wanton thoughts? This question he himself answers in the following verse, and says, that he could have expected only destruction from the Almighty.
Is not destruction to the wicked? - That is, Job says that he was well aware that destruction would overtake the wicked, and that if he had given indulgence to impure desires he could have looked for nothing else. Well knowing this, he says, he had guarded himself in the most careful manner from sin, and had labored with the greatest assiduity to keep his eyes and his heart pure.
And a strange punishment - - ונכר weneker. The word used here, means literally strangeness - a strange thing, something with which we were unacquainted. It is used here evidently in the sense of a strange or unusual punishment; something which does not occur in the ordinary course of events. The sense is, that for the sin here particularly referred to, God would interpose to inflict vengeance in a manner such as did not occur in the ordinary dealings of his providence. There would be some punishment adopted especially to this sin, and which would mark it with his special displeasure. Has it not been so in all ages? The Vulgate renders it, alienatio, and the Septuagint translates it in a similar manner - ἀπαλλοτρίωσις apallotriōsis - and they seem to have understood it as followed by entire alienation from God; an idea which would be every where sustained by a reference to the history of the sin referred to by Job. There is no sin that so much poisons all the fountains of pure feeling in the soul, and none that will so certainly terminate in the entire wreck of character.
Doth he not see my ways? - This either means that God was a witness of all that he did - his thoughts, words, and deeds, and would punish him if he had given indulgence to improper feelings and thoughts; or that since God saw all his thoughts, he could boldly appeal to him as a witness of his innocence in this matter, and in proof that his life and heart were pure. Rosenmuller adopts the latter interpretation; Herder seems to incline to the former. Umbreit renders it, “God himself must be a witness that I speak the truth.” It is not easy to determine which is the true meaning. Either of them will accord well with the scope of the passage.
If I have walked with vanity - This is the second specification in regard to his private deportment. He says that his life had been sincere, upright, honest. The word vanity here is equivalent to falsehood, for so the parallelism demands, and so the word (שׁוא shâv') is often used; Psalms 12:3; Psalms 41:7; Exodus 23:1; Deuteronomy 5:20; compare Isa, Deuteronomy 1:13. The meaning of Job here is, that he had been true and honest. In his dealings with others he had not defrauded them; he had not misrepresented things; he had spoken the exact truth, and had done that which was without deception or guile.
If my foot hath hasted to deceit - That is, if I have gone to execute a purpose of deceit or fraud. He had never, on seeing an opportunity where others might be defrauded, hastened to embrace it. The Septuagint renders this verse, “If I have walked with scoffers - μετα γελοιαστῶν meta geloiastōn - and if my foot has hastened to deceit.”
Let me be weighed in an even balance - Margin, him weigh me in balances of justice. That is, let him ascertain exactly my character, and treat me accordingly. If on trial it be found that I am guilty in this respect, I consent to be punished accordingly. Scales or balances are often used as emblematic of justice. Many suppose, however, that this verse is a parenthesis, and that the imprecation in Job 31:8, relates to Job 31:5, as well as to Job 31:7. But most probably the meaning is, that he consented to have his life tried in this respect in the most exact and rigid manner, and was willing to abide the result. A man may express such a consciousness of integrity in his dealings with others, without any improper self-reliance or boasting. It may be a simple fact of which he may be certain, that he has never meant to defraud any man.
If my step hath turned out of the way - The path in which I ought to walk - the path of virtue.
And mine heart walked after mine eyes - That is, if I have coveted what my eyes have beheld; or if I have been determined by the appearance of things rather than by what is right, I consent to bear the appropriate punishment.
And if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands - To have clean hands is emblematic of innocence; Job 17:9; Psalms 24:4; compare Matthew 27:24. The word blot here means stain, blemish: Daniel 1:4. The idea is, that his hands were pure, and that he had not been guilty of any act of fraud or violence in depriving others of their property.
Then let me sow, and let another eat - This is the imprecation which he invokes, in case he had been guilty in this respect. He consented to sow his fields, and let others enjoy the harvest. The expression used here is common in the Scriptures to denote insecurity of property or calamity in general; see Leviticus 26:16 : “And ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it;” compare Deuteronomy 28:30; Amos 9:13-14.
Yea, let my offspring be rooted out - Or, rather, “Let what I plant be rooted up.” So Umbreit, Noyes, Schultens, Rosenmuller, Herder, and Lee understand it. There is no evidence that he here alludes to his children, for the connection does not demand it, nor does the word used here require such an interpretation. The word צאצאים tse'ĕtsâ'iym - means properly shoots; that is, what springs out of anything - as the earth, or a tree - from יצא yâtsâ' - to go out, to go forth. It is applied to the productions of the earth in Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 34:1, and to children or posterity, in Isaiah 22:24; Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 65:23; Job 5:25; Job 21:8. Here it refers evidently to the productions of the earth; and the idea is, that if he had been guilty of dishonesty or fraud in his dealings, he wished that all that he had sowed should be rooted up.
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman - If I have been enticed by her beauty. The word rendered “deceived” פתה pâthâh means to open, to expand. It is then applied to that which is open or ingenuous; to that which is unsuspicious - like a youth; and thence is used in the sense of being deceived, or enticed; Deuteronomy 11:16; Exodus 22:16; Proverbs 1:10; Proverbs 16:29. The word “woman” here probably means a married woman, and stands opposed to “virgin” in ver. 1. The crime which he here disclaims is adultery, and he says that his heart had never been allured from conjugal fidelity by the charms or the arts of a woman.
Or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door - That is, to watch when he would be absent from home. This was a common practice with those who were guilty of the crime referred to here; compare Proverbs 7:8-9.
Then let my wife grined unto another - Let her be subjected to the deepest humiliation and degradation. Probably Job could not have found language which would have more emphatically expressed his sense of the enormity of this crime, or his perfect consciousness of innocence. The last thing which a man would imprecate on himself, would be that which is specified in this verse. The word “grind” (טחן ṭâchan) means to crush, to beat small; then to grind, as in a handmill; Judges 16:21; Numbers 11:8. This was usually the work of females and slaves; see the notes at Isaiah 47:2. The meaning here is, “Let my wife be the mill-wench to another; be his abject slave, and be treated by him with the deepest indignity.” This passage has been understood by many in a different sense, which the parallelism might seem to demand, but which is not necessarily the true interpretation. The sense referred to is this: Cogatur uxor mea ad patiendum alius concubitum, ut verbum molendi hoc loco eodem sensu sumatur, quo non raro a Latinis usurpatur ut in illo Horatii (Satyr. L. i. Ecl. ii. verse 35), alienas permolere uxores.
In this sense the rabbinic writers understand Judges 16:21 and Lamentations 5:13. So also the Chaldee renders the phrase before us (חורן תשמשעם אנתתי) coeat cure alio uxor mea; and so the Septuagint seems to have understood it - ἀρέσαι ἄρα κὰι ἡ γυνή μου ἑτέρῳ aresai ara kai hē gunē mou heterō. But probably Job meant merely that his wife should be reduced to the condition of servitude, and be compelled to labor in the employ of another. We may find here an answer to the opinion of Prof. Lee (in his notes at Job 31:1), that the wife of Job was at this time dead, and that he was meditating the question about marrying again. May we not here also find an instance of the fidelity and forgiving spirit of Job toward a wife who is represented in the early part of this book as manifesting few qualities which could win the heart of an husband? There is no expression of impatience at her temper and her words on the part of Job, and he here speaks of it as the most serious of all calamities that could happen; the most painful of all punishments, that that same wife should be reduced to a condition of servitude and degradation.
For this is an heinous crime - This expresses Job’s sense of the enormity of such an offence. He felt that there was no palliation for it; he would in no way, and on no pretence, attempt to vindicate it.
An iniquity to be punished by the judges - A crime for the judges to determine on and decide. The sins which Job had specified before this, were those of the heart; but here he refers to a crime against society - an offence which deserved the interposition of the magistrate. It may be observed here, that adultery has always been regarded as a sin “to be punished by the judges.” In most countries it has been punished with death; see the notes at John 8:5.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction - This may mean that such an offence would be a crime that would provoke God to send destruction, like a consuming fire upon the offender (Rosenmuller and Noyes), or more likely it is designed to be descriptive of the nature of the sin itself. According to this, the meaning is, that indulgence in this sin tends wholly to ruin and destroy a man. It is like a consuming fire, which sweeps away everything before it. It is destructive to the body, the morals, the soul. Accordingly, it may be remarked that there is no one vice which pours such desolation through the soul as licentiousness. See Rush on the Diseases of the Mind. It corrupts and taints all the fountains of morals, and utterly annihilates all purity of the heart. An intelligent gentleman, and a careful observer of the state of things in society, once remarked to me, that on coming to the city of Philadelphia, it was his fortune to be in the same boarding-house with a number of young men, nearly all of whom were known to him to be of licentious habits. He has lived to watch their course of life; and he remarked, that there was not one of them who did not ultimately show that he was essentially corrupt and unprincipled in every department of morals. There is not any one propensity of man that spreads such a withering influence over the soul as this; and, however it may be accounted for, it is certain that indulgence in this vice is a certain evidence that the whole soul is corrupt, and that no reliance is to be placed on the man’s virtue in any respect, or in reference to any relation of life.
And would root out all mine increase - By its desolating effects on my heart and life. The meaning is, that it would utterly ruin him; compare Luke 15:13, Luke 15:30. How many a wretched sensualist can bear testimony to the truth of this statement! How many a young man has been wholly ruined in reference to his worldly interests, as well as in reference to his soul, by this vice compare Proverbs 7:0: No young man could do a better service to himself than to commit the whole of that chapter to memory, and so engrave it on his soul that it never could be forgotten.
If I did despise the cause of my man-servant - Job turns to another subject, on which he claimed that his life had been upright. It was in reference to the treatment of his servants. The meaning here is, “I never refused to do strict justice to my servants when they brought their cause before me, or when they complained that my dealings with them had been severe.”
When they contended with me - That is, when they brought their cause before me, and complained that I had not provided for them comfortably, or that their task had been too hard. If in any respect they supposed they had cause of complaint, I listened to them attentively, and endeavored to do right. He did not take advantage of his sower to oppress them, nor did he suppose that they had no rights of any kind. It is evident, from this, that Job had those who sustained to him the relation of servants; but whether they were slaves, or hired servants, is not known. The language here will agree with either supposition, though it cannot be doubted that slavery was known as early as the time of Job. There is no certain evidence that he held any slaves, in the proper sense of the term, nor that he regarded slavery as right; compare the notes at Job 1:3. He here refers to the numerous persons that had been in his employ in the days of his prosperity, and says that he had never taken advantage of his power or rank to do them wrong.
What then shall I do when God riseth up? - That is, when he rises up to pronounce sentence upon people, or to execute impartial justice. Job admits that if he had done injustice to a servant, he would have reason to dread the divine indignation, and that he could have no excuse. “I tremble,” said President Jefferson, speaking of slavery in the United States “when I remember that God is just!” Notes on Virginia.
And when he visiteth - When he comes to inspect human conduct. Umbreit renders it “when he punishes.” The word visit is often used in this sense in the Scriptures.
Did not he that made me in the womb make him? - Had we not one and the same Creator, and have we not consequently the same nature? We may observe in regard to this sentiment, (1.) That it indicates a very advanced state of view in regard to man. The attempt has been always made by those who wish to tyrannize over others, or who aim to make slaves of others, to show that they are of a different race, and that in the design for which they were made, they are wholly inferior. Arguments have been derived from their complexion, from their supposed inferiority of intellect, and the deep degradation of their condition, often little above that of brutes, to prove that they were originally inferior to the rest of mankind. On this the plea has been often urged, and oftener felt than urged, that it is right to reduce them to slavery. Since this feeling so early existed, and since there is so much that may be plausibly said in defense of it, it shows that Job had derived his views from something more than the speculations of people, and the desire of power, when he says that he regarded all people as originally equal, and as having the same Creator. It is in fact a sentiment which people have been practically very reluctant to believe, and which works its way very slowly even yet on the earth; compare Acts 17:26. (2.) This sentiment, if fairly embraced and carried out, would soon destroy slavery everywhere.
If people felt that they were reducing to bondage those who were originally on a level with themselves - made by the same God, with the same faculties, and for the same end; if they felt that in their very origin, in their nature, there was that which could not be made mere property, it would soon abolish the whole system. It is kept up only where people endeavor to convince themselves that there is some original inferiority in the slave which makes it proper that he should be reduced to servitude and be held as property. But as soon as there can be diffused abroad the sentiment of Paul, that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men,” Acts 17:26, or the sentiment of the patriarch Job, that “the same God made us and them in the womb,” that moment the shackles of the slave will fall, and he will be free. Hence it is apparent, how Christianity, that carries this lesson on its fore-front, is the grand remedy for the evils of slavery, and needs only to be universally diffused to bring the system to an end.
And did not one fashion us in the womb - Margin, Or, did he not fashion us in one womb? The Hebrew will bear either construction, but the parallelism rather requires that given in the text, and most expositors agree in this interpretation. The sentiment is, whichever interpretation be adopted, that they had a common origin; that God would watch over them alike as his children; and that, therefore, they had equal rights.
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.
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone - If I have not imparted what I had though ever so small, to others. This was in accordance with the Oriental laws of hospitality. It is regarded as a fixed law among the Arabians, that the guest shall always be helped first, and to that which is best; and no matter how needy the family may be, or how much distressed with hunger, the settled laws of hospitality demand that the stranger-guest shall have the first and best portion. Dr. Robinson, in his “Biblical Researches,” gives an amusing instance of the extent to which this law is carried, and the sternness with which it is executed among the Arabs. In the journey from Suez to Mount Sinai, intending to furnish a supper for the Arabs in their employ, he and his fellow-travelers had bought a kid, and led it along to the place of their encampment. At night the kid was killed and roasted, and the Arabs were anticipating a savory supper.
But those of whom they had bought the kid, learned in some way that they were to encamp near, and naturally concluded that the kid was bought to be eaten, and followed them to the place of encampment, to the number of five or six persons. “Now the stern law of Arabian hospitality demands, that whenever a guest is present at a meal, whether there be much or little, the first and best portion must be laid before the stranger. In this instance the five or six guests attained their object, and had not only the selling of the kid, but also the eating of it, while our poor Arabs, whose mouths had long been watering with expectation, were forced to take up with the fragments.” Vol. 1:118. There is often, indeed, much ostentation in the hospitality of the Orientals, but the law is stern and inflexible. “No sooner,” says Shaw (Travels, vol. 1:p. 20), “was our food prepared, than one of the Arabs, having placed himself on the highest spot of ground in the neighborhood, called out thrice with a loud voice to all their brethren, the sons of the faithful, to come and partake of it; though none of them were in view, or perhaps within a hundred miles of them.” The great law of hospitality Job says he had carefully observed, and had not withheld what he had from the poor and the fatherless.
For from my youth he was brought up with me - This verse is usually regarded as a parenthesis, though very various expositions have been given of it. Some have understood it as denying that he had in any way neglected the widow and the fatherless, and affirming that the orphan had always, even from his youth, found a father in him, and the widow a guide. Others, as our translators, suppose that it is a parenthesis thrown in to indicate his general course of life, although the imprecation which he makes on himself, if he had neglected the widow and the orphan, is found in Job 31:22. Luther reads the two previous verses as questions, and this as an answer to them, and so also do Rosenmuller and Noyes. Umbreit regards this verse as a parenthesis. This is probably to be considered as the correct interpretation, for this better agrees with the Hebrew than the other proposed. It implies a denial of having neglected the widow and the orphan, but the full expression of his abhorrence of a charge of having done so, is to be found in the strong language in Job 31:22. The unusual Hebrew word גדלני gâdalniy probably stands for עמי גדל gâdal ‛imy - “he was brought up with me.” This form of the word does not occur elsewhere.
As with a father - That is, he always found in me one who treated him as a father. The meaning is, that he had always had under his care those who were orphans; that from his very youth they had been accustomed to look up to him as a father; and that they had never been disappointed in him. It is the language of one who seems to have been born to rank, and who had the means of benefiting others, and who had done it all his life. This accords also with the Oriental notions of kindness - requiring that it should be shown especially to the widow and the fatherless.
I have guided her - Margin, “That is, the widow.” The meaning is, that he had been her counsellor and friend.
From my mother’s womb - This cannot be literally true, but it means that he had done it from early life; or as we would say, he had always done it.
If I have seen any perish ... - He turns to another virtue of the same general class - that of providing for the poor. The meaning is clear, that he had always assisted the poor and needy.
If his loins have not blessed me - This is a personification by which the part of the body that had been clothed by the benevolence of Job, is supposed to speak and render him thanks.
If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless - That is, if I have taken advantage of my rank, influence, and power, to oppress and injure him.
When I saw my help in the gate - The gate of a city was a place of concourse; a place where debates were held, and where justice was administered. Job speaks here of that part of his life when he was clothed with authority as a magistrate, or when he had power and influence as a public man. He says that he had never abused this power to oppress the fatherless. He had never taken advantage of his influence to injure them, because he saw he had a strong party under his control, or because he had power enough to carry his point, or because he had those under him who would sustain him in an oppressive measure. This is spoken with reference to the usually feeble and defenseless condition of the orphan, as one who is deprived of his natural protector and who is, therefore, liable to be wronged by those in power.
Then let mine arm - The strong language which Job uses here, shows his consciousness of innocence, and his detestation of the offences to which he here refers, Job 31:16-22. The word rendered “arm” here (כתף kâthêph) means properly the shoulder. Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 49:22; Numbers 7:9; compare the notes at Isaiah 11:14. There is no instance, it is believed, unless this is one, in which it means arm, and the meaning here is, that he wished, if he had been guilty, his shoulder might separate from the blade. So Herder, Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Noyes render it; and so the Vulgate and the Septuagint.
From my shoulder-blade - The scapula - the flat bone to which the upper arm is attached. The wish of Job is, that the shoulder might separate from that, and of course the arm would be useless. Such a strong imprecation implies a firm consciousness of innocence.
And mine arm - The word arm here denotes the forearm - the arm from the elbow to the fingers.
From the bone - Margin, “the chanelbone.” Literally, “from the reed” - מקנה miqâneh. Umbreit renders it, Schneller als ein Rohr - quicker than a reed. The word קנה qâneh means properly a reed, cane, calamus (see the notes at Isaiah 43:24), and is here applied to the upper arm, or arm above the elbow, from its resemblance to a reed or cane. It is applied, also, to the arm or branch of a chandelier, or candlestick, Exodus 25:31, and to the rod or beam of a balance, Isa. xlvi. 6. The meaning here is, that he wished that his arm should be broken at the elbow, or the forearm be separated from the upper arm, if he were guilty of the sins which he had specified. There is allusion, probably, and there is great force and propriety in the allusion, to what he had said in Job 31:2 l: “If his arm had been lifted up against an orphan, he prayed that it might fall powerless.”
For destruction from God was a terror to me - The destruction which God would bring upon one who was guilty of the crime here specified, awed and restrained me. He was deterred from this crime of oppressing the fatherless by the fear of God. He could have escaped the judgment of people. He had power and influence enough not to dread the penalty of human law. He could have done it in such a way as not to have been arraigned before any earthly tribunal, but he remembered that the eye of God was upon him, and that he was the avenger of the fatherless and the widow.
And by reason of his highness - On account of his majesty, exaltation, glory.
I could not endure - אוכל לא lo''ûkôl - I could not; that is, I could not do it. I was so much awed by his majesty; I had such a veneration for him, that I could not be guilty of such an offence.
If I have made gold my hope - That is, if I have put my trust in gold rather than in God; if I have fixed my affections with idolatrous attachment on riches rather than on my Maker. Job here introduces another class of sins, and says that his conscience did not charge him with guilt in respect to them. He had before spoken mainly of social duties, and of his manner of life toward the poor, the needy, the widow, and the orphan. He here turns to the duty which he owed to God, and says that his conscience did not charge him with idolatry in any form. He had indeed been rich, but he had not fixed his affections with idolatrous attachment on his wealth.
Or have said to fine gold - The word used here (כתם kethem) is the same which is employed in Job 28:16, to denote the gold of Ophir. It is used to express that which was most pure - from the verb כתם kâtham - to hide, to hoard, and then denoting that which was hidden, hoarded, precious. The meaning is, that he had not put his trust in that which was most sought after, and which was deemed of the highest value by people.
If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great - That is, if I have rejoiced as if I might now confide in it, or put my trust in it. He had not found his principal joy in his property, nor had he attempted to find in that the happiness which he ought to seek in God.
And because mine hand had gotten much - Margin, found. Prof. Lee translates this, “When as a mighty man my hand prevailed.” But the usual interpretation is given in our translation, and this accords better with the connection. The word found better expresses the sense of the Hebrew than gotten, but the sense is not materially varied.
If I beheld the sun when it shined - Margin, light. The Hebrew word (אור 'ôr) properly means light, but that it here means the sun is manifest from the connection, since the moon occurs in the parallel member of the sentence. Why the word light is used here rather than sun, can be only a matter of conjecture. It may be because the worship to which Job refers was not primarily and originally that of the sun, the moon, or the stars, but of light as such, and that he mentions this as the essential feature of the idolatry which he had avoided. The worship of light in general soon became in fact the worship of the sun - as that is the principal source of light. There is no doubt that Job here refers to idolatrous worship, and the passage is particularly valuable, as it describes one of the forms of idolatry then existing, and refers to some of the customs then prevalent in such worship.
The word light is used, also, to denote the sun in Job 37:2 l; compare Isaiah 18:4; Habakkuk 3:4. So, also, Homer speaks of the sun not only as λαμπρὸν φάος ἡελίοιο lampron faos hēelioio - bright light of the sun, but simply as φάος faos - light. Odyssey r. 335. The worship here referred to is that of the heavenly bodies, and it is known that this existed in the early periods of the world, and was probably one of the first forms of idolatry. It is expressly mentioned by Ezekiel as prevailing in his time, Ezekiel 8:16, “And they worshipped the sun toward the east.” That it prevailed in the time of Moses, is evident from the caution which he gives in Deuteronomy 4:19; compare 2 Kings 23:5. It is well known, also, that the worship of the heavenly bodies was common in the East, and particularly in Chaldea - near to which Job is supposed to have lived, and it was a remarkable fact that one who was surrounded with idolaters of this description had been enabled always to keep himself pure.
The principle on which this worship was founded was, probably, that of gratitude. People adored the objects from which they derived important benefits, as well as deprecated the wrath of those which were supposed to exert a malignant influence. But among the objects from which people derived the greatest benefits were the sun and moon, and hence, they were objects of worship. The stars, also, were supposed to exert important influences over people, and hence, they also early became objects of adoration. An additional reason for the worship of the heavenly bodies may have been, that light was a natural and striking symbol of the divinity, and those shining bodies may have been at first honored as representatives of the Deity. The worship of the heavenly bodies was called Sabaism, from the Hebrew word צבא tsâbâ' - host, or army - as being the worship of the hosts of heaven.
It is supposed to have had its origin in Persia, and to have spread thence to the West. That the moon was worshipped as a deity, is abundantly proved by the testimony of the ancient writers. Hottinger, Hist. Orient. Lib. 1:c. 8, speaking of the worship of the Zabaists, adduces the testimony of Ali Said Vaheb, saying that the first day of the week was devoted to the sun; the second to the moon; the third to Mars, etc. Maimonides says that the Zabaists worshipped the moon, and that they also said that Adam led mankind to that species of worship. Mor. Nev. P. 3: Clemens Alexandr. says (in Protrepto) κὰι προσεκίνησαν ἥλιον ὡς ἰνδοὶ κὰι σελήνην ὡς φρύγες kai prosekinēsan hēlion hōs indoi kai selēnēn hōs fruges. Curtius says of the people of Lybia (Liv. iv. in Melp.) θυὸνσι δὲ ἡλίῳ κὰι οελήνη μόυνοισι thuousi de hēliō kai oelēnē mounoisi.
Julius Caesar says of the Germans, that they worshipped the moon, Lib. 6: de B. G. p. 158. The Romans had a temple consecrated to the moon, Taci. Ann. Lib. 15: Livy, L. 40: See Geor. Frid. Meinhardi Diss. de Selenolatria, in Ugolin’s Thesau. Sacr. Tom. 23:p. 831ff. Indeed, we have a proof of the worship of the moon in our own language, in the name given to the second day of the week - Monday, i. e. moon-day, implying that it was formerly regarded as devoted to the worship of the moon. The word “beheld” in the passage before us must be understood in an idolatrous sense. “If I have looked upon the sun as an object of worship.” Schultens explains this passage as referring to splendid and exalted characters, who, on account of their brilliance and power, may be compared to the sun at noon-day, and to the moon in its brightness. But the more obvious and common reference is to the sun and moon as objects of worship.
Or the moon walking in brightness - Margin, bright. The word “walking,” here applied to the moon, may refer either to its course through the heavens, or it may mean, as Dr. Good supposes, advancing to her full; “brightly, or splendidly progressive.” The Septuagint renders the passage strangely enough. “Do we not see the shining sun eclipsed? and the moon changing? For it is not in them.”
And my heart hath been secretly enticed - That is, away from God, or led into sin.
Or my mouth hath kissed my hand - Margin, my hand hath kissed my mouth. The margin accords with the Hebrew. It was customary in ancient worship to kiss the idol that was worshipped; compare 1 Kings 19:18, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel - and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” See, also, Hosea 13:2. The Muslims at the present day, in their worship at Mecca, kiss the black stone which is fastened in the corner of the Beat Allah, as often as they pass it, in going round the Caaba. If they cannot come near enough to kiss it, they touch it with the hand, and kiss that. An Oriental pays his respects to one of a superior station by kissing his hand and putting it to his forehead. Paxton. See the custom of kissing the hand of a Prince, as it exists in Arabia, described by Niebuhr, Reisebeschreib. 1, S. 414. The custom prevailed, also, among the Romans and Greeks. Thus, Pliny (Hist. Nat. 28:2) says, Inter adorandum dexterarm ad osculum referimus, et totum corpus circumagimus. So Lucian in the book, περὶ ὀρχήτεως peri orchēseōs, says, “And the Indians, rising early, adore the sun - not as we, kissing the hand - τὴν χείρα κύσαντες tēn cheira kusantes - think that our vow is perfect.” The foundation of the custom here alluded to, is the respect and affection which is shown for one by kissing; and as the heavenly bodies which were worshipped were so remote that the worshippers could not have access to them, they expressed their veneration by kissing the hand. Job means to say, that he had never performed an act of homage to the heavenly bodies.
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judqe - Note Job 31:11. Among the Hebrews idolatry was an offence punishable by death by stoning; Deuteronomy 17:2-7. It is possible, also, that this might have been elsewhere in the patriarchal times a crime punishable in this manner. At all events, Job regarded it as a heinous offence, and one of which the magistrate ought to take cognizance.
For I should have denied the God that is above - The worship of the heavenly bodies would have been in fact the denial of the existence of any Superior Being. This, in fact, always occurs, for idolaters have no knowledge of the true God.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me - Job here introduces another class of offences, of which he says he was innocent. The subject referred to is the proper treatment of those who injure us. In respect to this, he says that he was entirely conscious of freedom from exultation when calamity came upon a foe, and that he had never even wished him evil in his heart. The word “destruction” here, means calamity, disappointment, or affliction of any kind. It had never been pleasant to him to see one who hated him suffer. It is needless to remark how entirely this accords with the New Testament. And it is pleasant to find such a sentiment as this expressed in the early age of the world, and to see how the influence of true religion is at all times the same. The religion of Job led him to act out the beautiful sentiment afterward embodied in the instructions of the Savior, and made binding on all his followers; Matthew 5:44. True religion will lead a man to act out what is embodied in its precepts, whether they are expressed in formal language or not.
Or lifted up myself - Been elated or rejoiced.
When evil found him - When calamity overtook him.
Neither have I suffered my mouth - Margin, as in Hebrew, palate. The word is often used for the mouth in general, and especially as the organ of the voice from the use and importance of the palate in speaking. Proverbs 8:7. “For my palate (חכי chikiy) speaketh truth.” It is used as the organ of taste, Job 12:11; compare Job 6:30; Psalms 119:103.
By wishing a curse to his soul - It must have been an extraordinary degree of piety which would permit a man to say this with truth, that he had never harbored a wish of injury to an enemy. Few are the people, probably, even now, who could say this, and who are enabled to keep their minds free from every wish that calamities and woes may overtake those who are seeking their hurt. Yet this is the nature of true religion. It controls the heart, represses the angry and revengeful feelings, and creates in the soul an earnest desire for the happiness even of those who injure us.
If the men of my tabernacle - The men of my tent; or those who dwell with me. The reference is doubtless to those who were in his employ, and who, being constantly with him, had an opportunity to observe his manner of life. On this verse there has been a great variety of exposition, and interpreters are by no means agreed as to its meaning. Herder connects it with the previous verse, and renders it,
“No! my tongue uttered no evil word,
Nor any imprecation against him,
When the men of my tent said,
‘O that we had his flesh, it would satisfy us.’“
That is, though he were the bitterest enemy of my house, and all were in open violence. Noyes translates it,
“Have not the men of my tent exclaimed,
‘Who is there that hath not been satisfied with his meat?’“
Umbreit supposes that it is designed to celebrate the benevolence of Job, and that the meaning is, that all his companions - the inmates of his house - could bear him witness that not one of the poor was allowed to depart without being satisfied with his hospitality. They were abundantly fed, and their needs supplied. The verse is undoubtedly to be regarded as connected, as Ikenius supposes, with the following, and is designed to illustrate the hospitality of Job. His object is to show that those who dwelt with him, and who had every opportunity of knowing all about him, could never say that the stranger was not hospitably entertained. The phrase, “If the men of my tabernacle said not,” means, that a case never occurred in which they could not make use of the language which follows, they never could say that the stranger was not hospitably entertained.
Oh that we had - The phrase נתן מי mı̂y nâthan, commonly means, “O that” - as the Latin Utinam - implying a wish or desire. See Job 19:23; Job 31:35. But here the phrase seems to be used in the sense of “Who will give, or who will show or furnish” (compareJob 14:4; Job 14:4); and the sense is, “Who will refer to one instance in which the stranger has not been hospitably entertained?”
Of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied - Or, rather, “Who will refer to an instance in which it can be said that we have not been satisfied from his flesh, that is, from his table, or by his hospitality?” The word flesh here cannot mean, as our translation would seem to imply, the flesh of Job himself, as if it were to be torn and lacerated with a spirit of revenge, but that which his table furnished by a generous hospitality. The Septuagint renders this, “If my maid-servants have often said, O that we had some of his flesh to eat! while I was living luxuriously.” For a great variety of opinions on the passage, see Schultens in loc. The above interpretation of Ikenius is the most simple, natural, and obvious of any which have been proposed, and is adopted by Schultens and Rosenmuller.
That is, “How often to the traveler, imitating the bark of the dog, and the echo of whose voice was heard, have I kindled a fire, the shining wood of which I quick raised up to him, as one would hasten to the prey, in fear lest someone of my own people should anticipate me in the privileges and rites of hospitality.” The allusion to the imitation of the barking of a dog here, refers to the custom of travelers at night, who make this noise when they need a place of rest. This sound is responded to by the dogs which watch around the tents of their masters, and the sound is the signal for a general rush to show hospitality to the stranger. Burckhardt, speaking of the inhabitants of the Houran - the country east of the Jordan, and south of Damascus, says, “A traveler may alight at any house he pleases; a mat will be immediately spread for him, coffee made, and a breakfast or dinner set before him. In entering a village it has often happened to me, that several persons presented themselves, each begging that I would lodge at his house. It is a point of honor with the host never to receive the smallest return from a guest. Besides the private habitations, which offer to every traveler a secure night’s shelter, there is in every village the Medhafe of the Sheikh, where all strangers of decent appearance are received and entertained. It is the duty of the Sheikh to maintain this Medhafe, which is like a tavern, with the difference that the host himself pays the bill. The Sheikh has public allowance to defray these expenses, and hence a man of the Houran, intending to travel about for a fortnight never thinks of putting a single para in his pocket; he is sure of being every where well received, and of living better, perhaps, than at his own home.” Travels in Syria, pp. 294, 295.
If I covered my transgressions as Adam - That is, if I have attempted to hide or conceal them; if, conscious of guilt, I have endeavored to cloak my sins, and to appear righteous. There has been great variety of opinion about the meaning of this expression. The margin reads it, “After the manner of men.” Luther, renders it, “Have I covered my wickedness as a man” - Habe ich meine Schalkheit wie ein Menseh gedecht. Coverdale, “Have I ever done any wicked deed where through I shamed myself before men.” Herder, “Did I hide my faults like a mean man.” Schultens, “If I have covered my sin as Adam.” The Vulgate, Quasi homo - “as a man.” The Septuagint, “If when I sinned unwillingly (ᾶκουσίως akousiōs - inadvertently, undesignedly) I concealed my sin.” Noyes, “After the manner of men.” Umbreit, Nach Menschenart - “After the manner of men.” Rosenmuller, As Adam. The Chaldee, כאדם, meaning, as Rosenmuller remarks, as Adam; and the Syriac, As men.
The meaning may either be, as people are accustomed to do when they commit a crime - referring to the common practice of the guilty to attempt to cloak their offences, or to the attempt of Adam to hide his sin from his Maker after the fall; Genesis 3:7-8. It is not possible to decide with certainty which is the correct interpretation, for either will accord with the Hebrew. But in favor of the supposition that it refers to the effort of Adam to conceal his sin, we may remark, (1.) That there can be little or no doubt that that transaction was known to Job by tradition. (2.) it furnished him a pertinent and striking illustration of the point before him. (3.) the illustration is, by supposing that it refers to him, much more striking than on the other supposition. It is true that people often attempt to conceal their guilt, and that it may be set down as a fact very general in its character; but still it is not so universal that there are no exceptions. But here was a specific and well-known case, and one which, as it was the first, so it was the most sad and melancholy instance that had ever occurred of an attempt to conceal guilt. It was not an attempt, to hide it from man - for there was then no other man to witness it; but an attempt to hide it from God. From such an attempt Job says he was free.
By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom - By attempting to conceal it so that others would not know it. Adam attempted to conceal his fault even from God; and it is common with people, when they have done wrong, to endeavor to hide it from others.
Did I fear a great multitude - Our translators have rendered this as if Job meant to say that he had not been deterred from doing what he supposed was right by the fear of others; as if he had been independent, and had done what he knew to be right, undeterred by the fear of popular fury, or the loss of the favor of the great. This version is adopted also by the Vulgate, by Herder, and substantially by Coverdale and Luther. Another interpretation has, however, been proposed, and is adopted by Schultens, Noyes, Good, Umbreit, Dathe, and Scott, which is, that this is to be regarded as an imprecations, or that this is the punishment which he invoked and expected if he had been guilty of the crime which is specified in the previous verses. The meaning then would be “Then let me be confounded before the great multitude! Let the contempt of families cover me with shame! Let me keep silence, and let me never appear abroad!” The Hebrew will admit of either construction, and either of them will accord well with the connection. The latter, however, regarding it as an imprecation, seems to me to be preferable, for two reasons:
(1) It will accord more forcibly with what he had said in the previous verse. The sense then would be, as expressed by Patrick, “If I have studied to appear better than I am, and have not made a free confession, but, like our first parent, have concealed or excused my faults, and, out of self-love, have hidden mine iniquity, because I dread what the people will say of me, or am terrified by the contempt into which the knowledge of my guilt will bring me with the neighboring families, then am I content my mouth should be stopped, and that I never stir out of my door any more.”
(2) This interpretation seems to be required, in order to make a proper close of his remarks. The general course in this chapter has been to specify an offence, and then to utter an imprecation if he had been guilty of it. In the previous verses he had specified crimes of which he had declared himself innocent; but unless this verse be so regarded, there is no invocation of any corresponding punishment if he had been guilty. It seems probable, therefore, that this verse is so to be regarded. According to this, the phrase “Did I fear a great multitude” means, “Then let me be terrified by a multitude - by the opinions of the world, and let this be the punishment of my sin. Since by the fear of others I was led to hide my sin in my bosom, let it be my lot to lose all popular favor, and feel that I am the object of public scorn and contempt!”
Or did the contempt of families terrify me - Let the contempt of families crush me; let me be despised and abhorred by them. If I was led to hide sins in my bosom because I feared them, then let me be doomed to the total loss of their favor, and become wholly the object of their scorn.
That I kept silence - Or let me keep silence as a punishment. That is, let me not be admitted as a counsellor, or allowed to express my sentiments in the public assemblies.
And went not out at the door - That is, “Let me not go out at the door. Let me be confined to my dwelling, and never be allowed to appear in public, to mingle in society, to take part in public affairs - because by the fear of the world I attempted to hide my faults in my bosom. Such a punishment would be appropriate to such an offence. The retribution would be no more than a suitable recompense for such an act of guilt - and I would not shrink from it.”
O that one would hear me! - This refers undoubtedly to God. It is, literally, “Who will give to me one hearing me;” and the wish is that which he has so often expressed, that he might get his cause fairly before God. He feels assured that there would be a favorable verdict, if there could be a fair judicial investigation; compare the notes at Job 13:3.
Behold, my desire is - Margin, “Or, my sign is that ‘the Almighty will answer me.’” The word rendered in the text desire, and in the margin sign, (תו tâv), means properly a mark, or sign, and is also the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Then the word means, according to Gesenius (Lex.), a mark, or cross, as subscribed to a bill of complaint; hence, the bill itself, or, as we should say, the pleading. According to this, Job means to say that he was ready for trial, and that there was his bill of complaint, or his pleading, or his bill of defense. So Herder renders it, “See my defense.” Coverdale, “Lo, this is my cause.” Miss Smith renders it, “Behold my gage!” Umbreit, Meinel Kagschrift - My accusation. There can be no doubt that it refers to the forms of a judicial investigation, and that the idea is, that Job was ready for the trial. “Here” says he, “is my defense, my argument, my pleading, my bill! I wait that my adversary should come to the trial.” The name used here as given to the bill or pleading (תו tâv, mark, or sign), probably had its origin from the fact that some mark was affixed to it - of some such significance as a seal - by which it was certified to be the real bill of the party, and by which he acknowledged it as his own. This might have been done by signing his name, or by some conventional mark that was common in those times.
That the Almighty would answer me - That is, answer me as on trial; that the cause might be fairly brought to an issue. This wish he had frequently expressed.
And that mine adversary - God; regarded as the opposite party in the suit.
Had written a book - Or, would write down his charge. The wish is, that what God had against him were in like manner entered in a bill or pleading that the charge might be fairly investigated. On the word book, compare the notes at Job 19:23. It means here a pleading in court, a bill, or charge against anyone. There is no irreverence in the language here. Job is anxious that his true character should be investigated, and that the great matter at issue should be determined; and he draws his language and illustrations from well-known practices in courts of law.
Surely, I would take it upon my shoulder - That is, the book or bill which the Almighty would write in the case. Job says that he has such confidence that what God would record in his case would be in his favor, such confidence that he had no charge of hypocrisy against him, and that he who knew him altogether would not bring such an accusation against him, that he would bear it off triumphantly on his shoulders. It would be all that he could desire. This does not refer to what a judge would decide if the cause were submitted to him, but to a case where an opponent or adversary in court should bring all that he could say against him. He says that he would bear even such a bill on his shoulders in triumph, and that it would be a full vindication of his innocence. It would afford him the best vindication of his character, and would be that which he had long desired.
And bind it as a crown to me - I would regard it as an ornament - a diadem. I would bind it on my head as a crown is worn by princes, and would march forth exultingly with it. Instead of covering me with shame, it would be the source of rejoicing, and I would exhibit it every where in the most triumphant manner. It is impossible for anyone to express a more entire consciousness of innocence from charges alleged against him than Job does by this language.
I would declare unto him the number of my steps - That is, I would disclose to him the whole course of my life. This is language also appropriate to a judicial trial, and the meaning is, that Job was so confident of his integrity that he would approach God and make his whole course of life known to him.
As a prince would I go near unto him - With the firm and upright step with which a prince commonly walks. I would not go in a base, cringing manner, but in a manner that evinced a consciousness of integrity. I would not go bowed down under the consciousness of guilt, as a self-condemned malefactor, but with the firm and elastic foot-tread of one conscious of innocence. It must be remembered that all this is said with reference to the charges which had been brought against him by his friends, and not as claiming absolute perfection. He was accused of gross hypocrisy, and it was maintained that he was suffering the judicial infliction of heaven on account of that. So far as those charges were concerned, he now says that he could go before God with the firm and elastic tread of a prince - with entire cheerfulness and boldness. We are not, however, to suppose that he did not regard himself as having the common infirmities and sinfulness of our fallen nature. The discussion does not turn at all on that point.
If my land cry against me - This is a new specification of an offence, and an imprecation of an appropriate punishment if he had been guilty of it. Many have supposed that these closing verses have been transferred from their appropriate place by an error of transcribers, and that they should have been inserted between Job 31:23-24 - or in some previous part of the chapter. It is certain that Job 31:35-37 would make an appropriate and impressive close of the chapter, being a solemn appeal to God in reference to all the specifications, or to the general tenor of his life; but there is no authority from the MSS. to make any change in the present arrangement. All the ancient versions insert the verses in the place which they now occupy, and in this all versions agree, except, according to Kennicott, the Teutonic version, where they are inserted after Job 31:25. All the MSS. also concur in the present arrangement.
Schultens supposes that there is manifest pertinency and propriety in the present arrangement. The former specification, says he, related mainly to his private life, this to his more public conduct; and the design is to vindicate himself from the charge of injustice and crime in both respects, closing appropriately with the latter. Rosenmuller remarks that in a composition composed in an age and country so remote as this, we are not to look for or demand the observance of the same regularity which is required by the modern canons of criticism. At all events, there is no authority for changing the present arrangement of the text. The meaning of the phrase “if my land cry out against me” is, that in the cultivation of his land he had not been guilty of injustice. He had not employed those to till it who had been compelled to do it, nor had he imposed on them unreasonable burdens, nor had he defrauded them of their wages. The land had not had occasion to cry out against him to God, because fraud or injustice had been done to any in its cultivation; compare Genesis 4:10; Hab. ii. 11.
Or that the furrows likewise thereof complain - Margin, weep. The Hebrew is, “If the furrows weep together,” or “in like manner weep.” This is a beautiful image. The very furrows in the field are personified as weeping on account of injustice which would be done them, and of the burdens which would be laid on them, if they were compelled to contribute to oppression and fraud.
If I have eaten the fruits thereof - Margin, strength. The strength of the earth is that which the earth produces or which is the result of its strength. We speak now of a “strong soil “ - meaning that it is capable of bearing much.
Without money - Hebrew “without silver “ - silver being the principal circulating medium in early times. The meaning here is, “without paying for it;” either without having paid for the land, or for the labor. “Or have caused the owners thereof.” Margin, the soul of the owners thereof to expire, or breathe out. The Hebrew is, “If I have caused the life of the owners (or lords) of it to breathe out.” The meaning is, if I have appropriated to myself the land or labor of others without paying for it, so that their means of living are taken away. He disclaims all injustice in the case. He had not deprived others of their land by violence or fraud, so that they had no means of subsistence.
Let thistles grow; - Genesis 3:18. Thistles are valueless; and Job is so confident of entire innocence in regard to this, that he says he would be willing, if he were guilty, to have his whole land overrun with noxious weeds.
And cockle - Cockle is a well known herb that gets into wheat or other grain. It has a bluish flower, and small black seed, and is injurious because it tends to discolor the flour. It is not certain by any means, however, that this is intended here. The margin is, noisome weeds. The Hebrew word באשׁה bo'shâh is from באשׁ bâ'ash, “to have a bad smell, to stink,” and was given to the weed here referred to on that account, compare Isaiah 34:3. The cockle however, has no unpleasant odor, and the word here probably means noxious weeds. So it is rendered by Herder and by Noyes. The Septuagint has βάτος batos, bramble; the Vulgate, spina, thorn; Prof. Lee, prunus sylvestris, “a bramble resembling the hawthorn;” Schultens, labrusca, wild vine.
The words of Job are ended - That is, in the present speech or argument; his discussions with his friends are closed. He spoke afterward, as recorded in the subsequent chapters, but not in controversy with them. He had vindicated his character, sustained his positions, and they had nothing to reply. The remainder of the book is occupied mainly with the speech of Elihu, and with the solemn and sublime address which God himself makes.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 31". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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