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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Job 31

Verses 1-40


Concludes his speeches by a solemn, particular, and extended declaration of the purity and uprightness of his life. Especial reference to his private, as before to his public, conduct. Intended to silence his accusers and justify his complaints. Affords a picture of an outwardly and blameless character. A specimen, presented in beautiful language, of a pure morality accompanied with, and based upon, an ardent piety and genuine religion. Job asserts—

I. His chastity. Job 31:1.—“I made a covenant with (or laid a solemn charge upon) mine eyes: why (or how) then should I look (or that I would not look) upon a maid” [to lust after her, as Matthew 5:28]. Speaks especially as a married man, and with reference to the sin of adultery. Already beginning to prevail in that early period, particularly with the rich and powerful. Hence Abraham’s apprehension and temptation (Genesis 12:11-15); and Isaac’s, (Genesis 26:7-10). Observe—

1. The text the language of holy resolution. The soul to act as lord of the body. The body with its members, organs, and senses, to be kept in subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27). The avenues to temptation to be guarded. The eye the inlet of lust. Occasions and temptations to sin to be guarded against as well as sin itself. The neglect of Job’s resolution the occasion of David’s fall and broken bones (2 Samuel 11:2-4; Psalms 51:8). The Saviour’s rule—“If thine eye offend thee”—prove a constant or frequent occasion of sin by awaking lust—“pluck it out”—remove the occasion of sin at whatever cost (Matthew 5:28). Eve’s looking on the forbidden fruit the occasion of her own fall and the ruin of millions of her offspring. Lot’s wife looking back on Sodom the cause of her petrifaction into a pillar of salt. Dinah’s idle curiosity in visiting a heathen city to see its women, the loss of her own chastity. Achan’s looking on the golden wedge and Babylonish garments the loss of his life (Joshua 7:21). Samson’s sleep on Delilah’s lap the loss of his locks (Judges 16:19). “Look not on the wine when it is red” (Proverbs 23:31). David’s (or Daniel’s?) prayer: “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” (Psalms 119:37). Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair refused even to look upon its wares. The contrast of the text in 2 Peter 2:14, “Having eyes full of adultery.”

2. Job’s reasons for his resolution.

(1) His preference for a better portion. Job 31:2.—“For what portion of God is there [in such a case] from above? and what inheritance from the Almighty on high?” Job taught to distinguish between present pleasure and future bliss, and between the mere gratification of lust and the enjoyment of true happiness. No gratification of the senses to be compared to the enjoyment of God’s favour. A man must either forego the pleasures of sin or the joys of heaven. Nothing unclean admitted within the New Jerusalem. The gratification of sinful passion incompatible with the enjoyment of God’s presence. Observe—(i.) In order to the resisting of temptation and avoiding of sin, important to “have respect to the recompense of reward” (Hebrews 11:26). Thus Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season (Hebrews 11:25). Having this respect, Mary chose the good part, and turned her back on the world; not having it, the rich young man chose the world, and turned his back upon Christ. (ii.) Necessary to choose between the enjoyment of sin and the enjoyment of God, and between a portion in this world and one in the next. The whole tenour of a man’s life here, and the whole eternity of his experience hereaft er, determined by the choice he makes between the two. (iii.) God not only the Bestower of a believer’s portion, but the portion itself (Psalms 16:5). Such portion to be desired in preference to all earthly and sensuous enjoyment, as—First: More excellent in itself, and more becoming man’s better nature as a moral and intellectual being. Second: More satisfying to such a being, and to one made capable, as man is, of enjoying his Maker’s friendship. Third: More enduring, the one terminating at the farthest with death, the other extending throughout eternity. Fourth: Attended with no remorse. Fifth: Followed by no penalty.

(2) His dread of the consequences of sin. Job 31:3—“Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment (a terrible calamity or ‘alienation’—viz., from God and all good) to the workers of iniquity?” Reference to the “terrors of the Lord” important in persuading ourselves, as well as others, to the avoidance of sin (2 Corinthians 5:11). Christ’s argument, “What shall a man be profited, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Better to enter into life with one eye or one foot, than having two eyes or two feet to be cast into hell. Better lose everything than lose heaven. Every loss light compared with the loss of the soul. Observe—(i.) Destruction certain to the wicked and impenitent. The wicked turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psalms 9:17). (ii) No earthly calamity equal to that which must one day overtake the unqodly. The destruction of the Old World by water, and that of Sodom and Gomorrha by fire, only a foreshadowing of the destruction of the impenitent at the final judgment. Inconceivable terrors involved in the sentence: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41). “Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Such destruction the righteous penalty of wilful transgression of the Divine law, rebellion against the Divine government, and refusal of the Divine mercy. Natural that whatsoever a man soweth that he should also reap. Destruction and misery the flower and fruit of sin. Sin is misery in the seed; misery is only sin in the bloom.

(3) The recollections of God’s constant inspection. (Job 31:4)—“Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?” (or actions,—every separate act or passage in my course on earth) Omniscience a necessary attribute of godhead. An open eye the Egyptian hieroglyphic for deity. “Thou God seest me,” the guardian of Job’s life. Not easy to sin under the gaze of the broad eye of the Almighty. Few so hardy as to break the Queen’s commands with the Queen herself looking on. The practice of sin the result of forgetfulness of God. The language of the heart if not of the lips of the ungodly,—No eye shall see me (ch. Job 24:15). To walk before God the easy and natural way to be perfect and upright (Genesis 17:1).

II. His honesty, uprightness, and freedom from covetousness (Job 31:5-8). “If I have walked with vanity (lived in the practice of falsehood and hypocrisy), or if my food hath hasted to deceit (to the commission of a fraud); let me be weighed (Heb., ‘let him—or any one—weigh me’) in an even balance (Heb. ‘in the balances of righteousness,’) that God may know my integrity (should there be any doubt in the matter, which however is impossible). If my step hath turned out of the way (the straight way, or way of truth and uprightness, the only way that men should walk in), and mine heart walked after mine eyes—(gone out in covetous desire after the possession of what I have seen, as Ahab’s heart went after Naboth’s vineyard,—the eye being the inlet of covetousness as well as of lust), and if any blot (or stain of wrong doing, unjust gain, or bribe for the perversion of justice) hath cleaved to my hands (in the transaction of any business with my fellow-men, or in the discharge of my duty as a magistrate and a judge); then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring (or my produce) be rooted out.” The language—

1. Of conscious innocence and integrity. Job able unhesitatingly to appeal to his neighbours and to God Himself in the declaration of his honesty and uprightness both in private and public life. So Samuel at Gilgal (1 Samuel 12:3; and Paul at Miletus (Acts 20:18-20; Acts 20:33-35). Job’s character as here given by himself only that already given him by God.

2. Of, in some degree at least, self-ignorance and pride. Job apparently still too confident in his own righteousness. Though upright in his external dealings, and blameless in the eyes of men, yet, weighed “in the balances of righteousness,” even Job found wanting (Romans 3:9-10; Romans 3:19; Romans 3:23). Much self-knowledge yet to be gained by him. Job yet to take the place of the publican—“God be merciful to me a sinner” (chap. Job 40:4; Job 42:5-6).

3. Of sincerity. A mark of uprightness, when we are not only willing but wishful, if we have done wrong, to suffer for it. David’s case (Psalms 7:3-5. Paul’s Acts 25:11).

Job’s imprecation suggests that, in the providence of God, punishment in this world is often according to the nature of the sin. Cruelty and wrong done to others often punished by the same being experienced by ourselves. Injustice in our gains punished by a blight on our substance. Same principle acknowledged in the next sin specified.

III. His freedom from adulterous desires and practices. Job 31:9-12.—“If mine heart hath been deceived by (or enticed towards) a woman (especially one married—temptation from a maid spoken of already, Job 31:1); or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door (watching the opportunity of his absence); then let my wife (my own wife) grind (become an abject slave; Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:2; and concubine) to another, and let others bow down upon her.”

Adultery apparently prevalent in the time of Job and the writer of the book (chap. Job 24:15). Job declares his freedom from the sin as an exceptional thing among the great men of his time and country. A sin to which his riches and power afforded, as in David’s case, a strong temptation. Not uncommon in patriarchal times for the great to take another man’s wife, though at the expense of her husband’s life. Hence Abraham’s and Isaac’s fear for their wives’ chastity and their own lives—the one in Egypt, and both in Gerar (Genesis 12:12; Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:7). One of the ten commandments in the Decalogue expressly directed against this sin. Its commission punished with death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). The sin apparently prevalent in the time of David and Solomon (Psalms 50:18; Proverbs 6:24-29; Proverbs 7:5-9; and of the later prophets, Jeremiah 5:8; Jeremiah 9:2; Ezekiel 18:6). Common among the Jews in the time of the Saviour (John 8:3-9). The Pharisees and Rabbis themselves said to have been notoriously guilty of it (Romans 2:22). The destruction of Jerusalem and the Great Captivity under the Romans ascribed by the Talmud to its prevalence for forty years previous to that event.

Job’s reasons for abstaining from this sin. Job 31:11.—

1. The heinousness of the crime itself: “For this is an heinous crime.” Sin to be avoided on account of its heinousness and malignity, apart from its consequences (Jeremiah 44:4). Adultery the most heinous form of covetousness and theft. The most aggravated wrong that can be done to another. Inflicts the deepest wound and in the tenderest part. Robs him of honour and home. Covers his family with shame. Defilement of a man’s wife worse to endure than her death. Adultery a species of murder. The ruin of the injured man’s peace, and often leading to bloodshed and death.

2. Its consequences. These were—

(1) Civil and judicial. “It is an iniquity to be punished by the judges”—probably authoritative umpires or arbitrators in the case of any serious charge between man and man, with power to inflict appropriate penalty—usually the elders of the people (Deuteronomy 21:2; Joshua 20:4). Adultery a capital crime, not only among the Jews but other nations of antiquity. The magistrate appointed by God to be a terror to evil doers (Romans 13:1-4). Some sins only cognizable by God; others punishable by man. A special heinousness in a crime punishable by the civil magistrate.

(2) Natural and providential. “For it is a fire that consumeth unto destruction, and would root out all mine increase.” Sin in general, and sins like adultery in particular, a “fire taken into the bosom” (Proverbs 6:27). Its tendency to destroy comfort, health, reputation, family, estate; and ultimately the soul itself in endless perdition. One single act brought constant trouble into David’s house and lasting sorrow into his heart. Sin destructive in its own nature; and some sins naturally more destructive than others. Many, if not all, sins carry with them their own punishment.

The imprecation in the text strongly declarative of Job’s innocence. The evil imprecated, the very last a man would wish to himself. The penalty invoked in accordance with the nature of the offence. “By what a man sins by that is he punished.”—Jewish Proverb. David’s adultery with Bathsheba is punished with incest between his son and daughter, and the defilement of his concubines by his own son. His murder of Uriah is punished by the murder of his incestuous son by the hand of his own brother (2 Samuel 13:16).

IV. His justice and humanity to his servants or slaves. Job 31:13.—“If I did despise the cause (or rights) of my manservant, or of my maidservant (my bondman or my bondwoman, my male or female slave), when they contended (had any controversy) with me.” In the East, masters viewed as having absolute right over their servants or slaves. These considered a portion of the master’s property. Were not permitted to appear in a court of justice against him. Might therefore be the object of any oppression without human redress. Job’s conduct towards his slaves the opposite of that of an oppressor. Probably exceptional, and just such as became a professed servant of the true God. His slaves treated by him, in the case of any complaint, as having rights equal with his own.

The grounds of this treatment of his slaves or servants:—

1. The consideration that for his conduct towards them he was amenable to God. Job 31:14.—“What then should I do when God riseth up? (to examine into my conduct, or to execute judgment on me as a transgressor, or finally, to plead the cause of the oppressed slave), and when he visiteth (for the examination of conduct or the punishment of offences) what should I answer him” (for such conduct, so as to escape His anger)? Observe—

(1) The fear of God an effectual restraint on Job and all good men. Joseph’s case: “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” The principle of Nehemiah’s upright and disinterested conduct (Nehemiah 5:15).

(2) A day coming in which God makes inquisition into the conduct both of masters and servants, rulers and ruled. The highest as well as the lowest amenable to His tribunal.

(3) God viewed by the natural conscience as a righteous and impartial judge.

(4) Justice even in respect to the most outcast, a duly written on the conscience of mankind.

(5) Men helpless against God’s determination to punish the transgressor. The most powerful tyrant feebler than the puniest insect before Him.

2. As having the same Creator, and mode of creation. Job 31:15.—“Did not he that made me in the womb make him?” Master and servant the similar work of the same Creator, and therefore both equally valued and cared for by Him, and to be treated on equal terms by each other.

3. As having the same nature. “Did not one fashion us in the womb” (or, “did not He fashion us in one and the same womb—one by similarity, not numerically). Both formed in the same manner and possessed of the same human nature. A woman’s womb the origin of both (Malachi 2:10). The fundamental equality of mankind thus strongly asserted. The sentiment confirmed by the Apostle—“God hath made of one blood all nations of men,” &c. (Acts 17:26). The Negro and the Papuan with the same essential features of humanity as the European. The slave possessed of the same faculties and powers, both moral and intellectual, as his master. The points in which men naturally differ from each other small and few compared with those in which all are alike. Men in a proper sense brethren, of whatever nation or class in society. The language of Job strikes at the root of slavery as justified by inferiority of race. Equality between master and servant, in the eyes of God, the teaching of the New Testament. Slavery not expressly forbidden, but principles inculcated which necessarily lead to its overthrow as Christianity advances. The views expressed by Job, in respect to man, of an advanced character for that period of the world. Only even now becoming universally acknowledged and acted upon by the Christian Church. Sentiments and practice of an opposite kind till very lately prevalent in a large portion of the Christian world. Even Christians justified the poet’s satire—

“Man finds his fellow guilty of a skin
Not coloured like his own; and having power
To enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey.”

V. His benevolence and kindness to the poor. Job 31:16-17.—“If I have withheld the poor from their desire (their due wages, or rather the perquisites for which they looked as something belonging to them), or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail [by long withholding from her the expected help or redress]; or have eaten my morsel (or bread) alone, and the fatherless have not eaten thereof.” Claims of the poor constantly recognized in the law of Moses. Perquisites appointed for them in the harvest and in the vintage (Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22); in every seventh year (Exodus 23:11); and in every third year’s tithes (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Kindness and readiness to help the poor strictly enjoined (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). Their wages to be promptly paid them (Leviticus 19:13). Observe—Help as well as justice to the poor to be not only rendered, but rendered promptly. He gives twice who gives at once.—Latin Proverb. Job’s conduct the opposite of that of the unjust judge in the parable (Luke 18:2, &c).—Provision made by the Mosaic law for the widow in common with the poor in general. Their perquisites the same (Deuteronomy 19:21). Her raiment not to be taken to pledge (Deuteronomy 24:17). Herself not to be harrassed or afflicted (Exodus 22:22). A curse pronounced on those who should wrong her or “pervert her judgment” (Deuteronomy 27:19). Job, probably long before the law was given, careful to afford the poor and the widow their just rights, and to fulfil their reasonable expectations. The law from Sinai a Divine sanction to duties already performed by many without it, through the law written on the conscience, and the principle of grace infused by the Holy Spirit.—Kindness to and care of the fatherless also strictly enjoined by the Divine law. These objects of sympathy and compassion usually joined with the poor and the widow. Job’s table open to the poor and needy. Common in the East to admit poor persons and strangers to their table or to send them portions from it. Hospitality a cardinal virtue among the Arabs. To he cultivated as a Christian grace (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). Enjoined as a Christian duty (Luke 14:13). “Ready to distribute,” a New Testament precept (1 Timothy 6:18). The section suggestive of the duty of

Kindness to the poor

Reasons and motives for its exercise—

1. The desire to relieve suffering and extend happiness.

2. The claim the poor have upon us as fellow-creatures and partakers of our common humanity. A Divine principle that where there is lack on the part of any member of the great family, it should be supplied out of the abundance of others (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). All living creatures, according to their nature, claim our help in suffering circumstances. Still more those of our own flesh. Kindness and benevolence to the poor and destitute allied to justice. Love a debt we owe to all our brethren. Kindness to the poor only one form of that love (Romans 13:8-10).

3. The principle that we should do to others as we would that they should do to us in similar circumstances (Luke 6:31).

4. The will and authority of our common Maker and Parent.

5. The example of the heavenly Father (Luke 6:35-36).

6. The special example of Christ, who “for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). His life a going about doing good.

7. The manner in which God has identified the cause of the poor with His own, and in which Christ has done that of His disciples (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45).

8. Active kindness to the poor a fruit of the Spirit, and an instinct of the new nature created in a believer after the image of God, (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:10-12).

Lower and less worthy considerations—

1. The pleasure in the exercise of the benevolent affections, in relieving the sufferings and contributing to the happiness of others. The luxury of doing good.
2. The remembrance of our own liability to poverty and suffering, and our possible need of the help and sympathy of others.

3. The reward in an approving conscience and the “blessing of those who were ready to perish” (chap. Job 29:13.)

The exercise of kindness and benevolence marred by the introduction of selfish elements.
Kindness to the poor and needy to be—

1. Free and spontaneous.
2. Disinterested and pure from selfish motives.
3. Sincere and undissembled.
4. Prompt and seasonable.
5. Unwearied and persevering.
6. Self-denying as far as is necessary.
7. Impartial and general.
8. Up to our ability and opportunity.

9. Judicious and discriminating. Help given to the poor, without judgment and discretion, may be more injurious than beneficial. Our charity, like God’s, to be directed by “wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:8). Relief not only to be given, but given to the proper objects and in the proper form.

10. Hearty and cheerful. Kind deeds to be accompanied with kind words and kind looks (Romans 12:8). The manner of the deed often as important as the deed itself.

Job’s reason for his assertion, with stronger affirmation of it. Job 31:18.—“For from my youth, he (the fatherless) was brought up with me as with a father, and I have guided (helped or comforted) her (the widow) from my mother’s womb” (a strong hyperbole, meaning, “from my earliest years”). To assert more strongly his benevolence, he assigns a reason for it, and adds something in regard to its exercise. With him the practice was nothing new. Benevolence was his natural disposition. Speaks of it as something born with him. Kindness to the widow and fatherless had been practised by him from his earliest years. Had grown with him into a habit or second nature. Much of this habit probably due to the character, and care of his parents. Neither the name of his father nor mother mentioned; but their eulogy unintentionally written in these words. His home a pious one, and his up-bringing according to godliness. Care early bestowed by his parents on his moral training. Observe, in respect to—

Early moral training—

1. Some born with dispositions naturally more benevolent than others. Such a disposition a favour from the Author of our being. Responsibility connected with its cultivation and exercise. Natural disposition to benevolence not necessarily followed by the wise, persevering, and self-denying practice of it. In Job’s case, the disposition fostered by his parents, and improved by himself through the constant exercise of kindness to the poor and needy. All probably born with more or less of such a disposition to begin with. A fragment of the Divine image imparted in creation. The least of it capable of increase through cultivation and practice. Its introduction in early life possible, and to be expected under the Christian economy and the dispensation of the Spirit. The natural disposition of children often an inheritance from their parents.

2. Children capable of being trained to the exercise of the benevolent affections. To be trained to “minister” and to show kindness to the poor and suffering, one of the most important parts of a child’s education. Such education more especially devolving upon the parents, and particularly the mother. Under the parents’ careful and constant attention, habits of good-doing capable of being formed in early life.

3. Early habits of benevolence, among the principal means of forming the character in after years. A child trained to such habits may become, in a greater or less degree, a Howard or an Elizabeth Fry. A Nero only the development of a child allowed to take pleasure in torturing a bird, or sticking a pin through a fly. The child the father to the man.

Job resumes the declaration of his humanity and benevolence, and asserts it in respect to clothing as well as feeding the poor. Job 31:19-20.—“If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering (by night or by day); if his loins have not blessed me (in gratitude for my clothing them), and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (or lambs, woven into cloth to serve him for a garment by day and a coverlet by night). Clothing the poor a needful form of benevolence in Arabia as well as in Britain. The cold of winter at times severe, all the more sensible after the extreme heat of summer. The nights often as cold as the days are hot. Clothing especially manufactured from the wool of sheep; a coarser kind from the hair of the camels. The earliest kind of clothing the skins of animals (Genesis 3:21). The next step a garment made of the wool woven into cloth. Sheep chiefly valuable in the East on this account. The wool not only a beneficent provision for the animal itself, but for man who was to be its keeper. One of the sons of Adam, and the first martyr, a keeper of sheep (Genesis 4:2).

Clothing the poor repeatedly mentioned in Scripture as one of the duties of charity. One of the forms of loving service rehearsed by Christ from the judgment-seat, as having been performed by the righteous on Himself in the person of His followers. (Matthew 25:36). The duty enjoined by the Baptist as a proof of true repentance—“He that hath two coats let him give to him that hath none.” The name of Dorcas now a household word, from her kindness in clothing the poor. Perhaps as many perish for want of clothing as for want of bread. To be feared that garments lie in the chest, or hang in the wardrobe, which ought to clothe the “loins” of the poor. “The boards of my floor can well want carpets while so many of the poor around me want clothes to their backs” (Fenelon).

Declares, further, his humanity negatively. Had never used intimidation or violence in regard to the fatherless, nor used his influence in court to their disadvantage. Job 31:21.—“If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless (either to threaten or oppress him,—to ‘smite with the fist of wickedness,’ Isaiah 58:4), when I saw my help (or advantage, or those who were ready to support me) in the gate” (or court of justice, where a controversy was pending between us). Observe:—

1. Humanity exercised as well in what we refrain from doing as in what we do.
2. A strong temptation to the rich and powerful to take advantage of their position in a dispute with the poor. Cases of complaint against injury usually decided in the east by the opinion of the judge or Kadi, or by the voice of the majority of elders. A man of power and influence easily able to carry a case in his favour against the weak and defenceless. Such cases of complaint probably not infrequent where one man possessed such numerous flocks and herds, and carried on so extensive a husbandry. The greatest man in the land of Uz might easily have used his power and influence in such a oase, but had ever refrained from doing so.

3. As much principle often required to abstain from taking advantage of our position and influence in a dispute with others, as to bestow a positive benefit. Jezebel’s wickedness displayed in her counting upon her power with the elders and nobles in the court to obtain the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:7-13).

Closes the declaration of his humanity to the poor with an imprecation in case of guilt. Job 31:22.—“Then let mine arm (the upper arm, from the elbow upwards) fall from the shoulder blade, and mine arm (the fore-arm, between the wrist and the elbow) be broken from the bone” (or upper arm to which it is attached). Reference to the whole of the preceding declaration in regard to his humanity to the poor, but more especially to the last-mentioned particular—“If I have lifted,” &c. The punishment imprecated always corresponding with the offence supposed to have been committed. On the same principle, Cranmer held his right hand over the burning pile to be first consumed, as the member which had signed the recantation made against his conscience and against the truth. The penalty conceived justly to fall especially on the member or organ which was more especially concerned in the offence, Men convicted of theft among the Copts not unfrequently found with their hands cut off.

Adds a reason for his declared conduct, Job 31:23.—“For destruction from God was a terror unto me, and by reason of his highness, I could not endure” (either to commit the sin or meet His wrath). Similar sentiment expressed in Job 31:3; Job 31:14. The reason given with reference to all the particulars of his conduct just mentioned, but more especially to the last. Observe—

The fear of God a good man’s preservative against sin. Seen in the case of Joseph and Nehemiah as well as of Job. The consideration of God’s displeasure against the sinner and the punishment threatened against the sin, one motive for resisting temptation and practising good, though not the highest. Rather the last source of defence against temptation when others fail. Better to abstain from sin and practice good, from hatred to sin itself and from love to God and good-doing, than from fear of His wrath. In Gospel exhortations to resist temptation and to do good, appeals rather made to the believer’s gratitude for mercies received, to his position and privileges in Christ, and to the example of his Divine Master and Father, than to his fears of punishment and the Divine anger. Fear a right and important motive, but rather for the servant than the child. “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry: Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Yet a loving and right-minded child will fear to offend a father, even more than a servant fears to offend a master. Love a more powerful principle than fear; yet fear may be called in to help when love is not sufficiently strong in itself.

V. Declares his freedom from idolatry both in its spiritual and external form, both secret and open, in heart and in life (Job 31:24-28). Specifies the two leading forms of idolatry—Mammonism and Sabæism—the trust in and love of riches, and the worship of idols in the ordinary sense of the word; here that of the sun and moon. The one the idolatry of the heart, the other that of the outward act. Job clears himself from both.

1. From Mammonism, or the trust in and love of riches. Job 31:24-25.—“If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, thou art my confidence; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much.” (Note—the language of idolatry,—“Mine hand had gotten,” instead of—“the Lord had given”—the language of a servant of God). Job abjures as forms of


1. Trust in riches. Riches naturally and easily trusted in by an unrenewed heart. Money a defence (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Answereth all things (Ecclesiastes 10:19). Trust apt to be placed in riches for happiness in general. More particularly—

(1) For acquisition of the means of life and sources of enjoyment.
(2) For defence against suffering and the assaults of others.
(3) For power and position in the world. Trust in money a common form of idolatry. “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease,” &c. Trust in Himself required by God from His intelligent creatures. That trust transferred to any other person or thing, in God’s sight idolatry. Trust in riches contrasted in the Scriptures with trust in God (Psalms 52:7; 1 Timothy 6:17). The former characteristic of the ungodly; the latter, of the righteous. Believers cautioned not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God (1 Timothy 6:17). Trust in riches incompatible with entrance into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:24). The rich man not to glory in his riches, but in the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:31). God and not riches to be trusted in for our daily bread. Hence the petition: “Give us this day,” &c. Man’s life not in the abundance of the things he possesses. Liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). Riches not given to be trusted in, but to be employed by us as stewards, in the service of the Master and for the benefit of others as well as ourselves, in obedience to His will and in dependence on His blessing.

To trust in riches instead of God not only wicked but foolish, as—

(1) Riches are uncertain, and may soon and suddenly cease to be ours.
(2) They are unable to render us either safe or happy even while we possess them.
(3) They fail to meet the most important exigences of our nature as moral and responsible creatures.
(4) They are unable to accompany us into another world.

The possession of riches to be distinguished from trust in them. Money well employed, a blessing; when allowed to usurp the place of God as our trust and confidence, a curse. The young man in the Gospel an example of trust in riches, notwithstanding a great appearance of piety and morality. Unable to give them up to follow Christ, because looking to them to make him happy rather than to God. A test as to whether we are trusting in riches—Am I ready cheerfully to give them up at God’s will and for God’s service? And, What proportion of my substance do I give for the extension of His kingdom, and the promotion of His cause in the world?

2. Love of riches. Job neither trusted in his wealth nor rejoiced in it. Riches a good, but not the chief good. If riches increase, the heart not therefore to be set upon them (Psalms 62:10). Observe—

(1) Not money, but the love of it, the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). A lawful, as well as an unlawful, rejoicing in our possessions (Deuteronomy 12:7; Ecclesiastes 2:7; Ecclesiastes 4:16). Lawfully rejoiced in, when viewed not as what our own hand has gotten, but as what God has given; and not as given for our own exclusive enjoyment, but also for the benefit of others and the Master’s service. Riches loved and idolized—(i.) When their acquisition and enjoyment afford us more pleasure and delight than the possession and enjoyment of God. (ii.) When we are more concerned about the acquisition and increase of them than about the enjoyment of God’s favour and the advancement of His cause. (iii.) When we find it difficult to give up any considerable portion of them at God’s will and for the promotion of His glory in the world.

(2) The love of money incompatible with the love of God (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15). Hence covetousness, or the love of riches, idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5). Supreme love to God as the All-good, required of His intelligent creatures, as truly as as undivided trust in Him as the Almighty.

(3) Love of riches distinct from a proper appreciation of them. Riches as merely possessed by us, a blessing; a curse, when they possess us. As a mere possession, they are worthless; as a means of doing good and glorifying God, invaluable.

Job’s wealth not taken from him either for his trust in it or his fondness of it, any more than for his unlawful acquisition of it, or any evil use which he made of it.

Job taught by the Holy Spirit as well as by the light of nature, to view heart-idolatry, or the worship of riches, as heiuous in God’s sight as outward idolatry, or the worship of sun and moon. The view confirmed in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:5).

2. Job equally abjures the second form of idolatry, the worship of fictitious divinities, or of idols in the ordinary sense of the word,—here, that of the heavenly bodies, especially the sun and moon. Job 31:26-27.—“If I beheld the sun (Heb. ‘light,’—a poetic name for the sun, which from its luminous atmosphere has been constituted a fountain of light to the earth and other planets), when it shined [in its glorious effulgence], or the moon walking in brightness (advancing like an orb of burnished silver in her course through the heavens); and my heart (the seat of the affections, and required in worship) hath been secretly [while I have outwardly been a worshipper of the only true God, and because afraid of the consequences of open idolatry,] enticed [by their appearance of majesty, glory, and beauty, and by the false views already beginning to be entertained regarding their divinity], or my mouth hath kissed my hand” [in token of my adoration of these luminaries (1 Kings 19:5; Hosea 13:2)]; (Heb., “My hand hath kissed my mouth”—the heart leading in the sin, and the hand following; inward affections being manifested by outward actions). The idolatry here indicated known as Sabæism, from the Hebrew word Saba, “a host,” denoting the worship of the “host of heaven,” or the heavenly bodies (Deuteronomy 17:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3). Originally the worship of “light” or fire, and afterwards connected with that of the sun, moon, and stars, as its great reservoirs and sources as well as symbols. The heavenly bodies, especially the sun and moon, among the earliest objects of idolatrous worship. This form of idolatry especially prevalent in Chaldæa, where probably it had its origin. Babylon called the mother of harlots. The worship of the sun and moon an early form of Arabian idolatry. The moon the great divinity of the ancient Arabians. Still an object of great veneration with Mahommedans. Hence the symbol of the Crescent. The Caaba at Mecca originally a temple dedicated to the moon. Abraham’s relatives and neighbours in Chaldæa addicted to this form of idolatry. His place of residence—“Ur of the Chaldees,” probably so called from Ur, “fire;” or from Or, “light”. At Mugheir, believed by some to be its modern representative, the ruins have been discovered of a temple dedicated to the moon, and resembling that of the sun at Babylon.

These luminaries worshipped originally as representatives of deity, then as deities themselves. Viewed as the great prolific powers in the universe, and the bestowers of all earthly blessings.
The worship of the sun and moon ultimately that of almost the whole known world. Prevalent among our own ancestors. The names of the first and second days of the week, monuments of its existence among the Anglo-Saxons. Temples of Apollo or the sun, and of Diana or the moon, formerly stood in London, the one on the site of Westminster Abbey, the other on that of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The object of Jehovah in making Israel his elect nation to preserve them from the practice of this idolatry, and thus to have witnesses for Himself and His truth in the world (Deuteronomy 4:19). The practice of it in Israel’s degeneracy the cause of their captivity in Babylon (Ezekiel 8:16; 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11)”. Observe—

(1) Fallen humanity prone to put the creature in the place of the Creator. Early lost the true idea and knowledge of God through departure from and alienation to Him. “Did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28). Hence objects remarkable either for majesty, beauty or utility, worshipped in His stead. The source and essence of idolatry (Romans 1:25).

(2) Difficult for fallen human nature to use the creature without abusing it. Objects of nature to be viewed, not with idolatrous fondness or admiration of the creature, but with admiration, love, and praise to the Creator. Nature to lead up to nature’s God, not away from Him. Indication of idolatry in man, when

“The landscape has his praise, but not its Author”.

(3) A mark of advanced enlightenment, that Job mentions with the same breath, trust in and love of riches, with the worship of the heavenly bodies, as equally idolatrous and offensive in the sight of God.

(4) In Job’s time the knowledge and worship of the true God greatly on the decrease; yet His faithful worshippers still to be found. “Left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:17).

Jobs reason for abstaining from idolatry either in its spiritual or external forms. Job 31:28.—“This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge (or, ‘a judicial iniquity;’ idolatry still in Job’s days considered a punishable crime; afterwards, by the law of Moses, to be punished with death, Deuteronomy 17:2-7); for I should have denied (‘lied to’ or against) the God that is above” (in place, power, dignity, and excellence). Observe—

1. The heinousness of a sin to be a principal reason for its avoidance.

2. That heinousness to be especially seen in its relation to God.

3. Trust in and love of riches, as well as the external worship of a created object or image, a denial of the true God. All idolatry a denial of God.

(1) In the boundless excellence of His being.
(2) In the spirituality of His nature.
(3) In His infinity and omnipresence.
(4) In His moral as well as natural perfections.
(5) In His sufficiency for our happiness and safety.
(6) In His sole right to the trust, love, and worship of His intelligent creatures.
4. God not only denied by our words, but by our works.

5. Alt trust in and worship of the creature, a lie against God. A lie in the right hand of every idol-worshipper, whether of man, money, or of the sun and moon (Isaiah 44:20).

VI. Denies all vindictiveness in reference to enemies. Job 31:29-30.—“If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself (in exultation or insult) when evil found him; neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul” (or, by asking for his life, i.e., the removal of it in an imprecation). Observe—

1. Even a good man not without enemies. Hatred from the world promised by Christ to His disciples (Matthew 10:22). A blessing pronounced on those who, for His sake, experience it (Luke 6:22). A woe on those of whom all men speak well (Luke 6:26). Hatred from the world a consequence of not being of it (John 15:19). Christ Himself the great object of the world’s hatred (John 15:18). The ground of that hatred his testimony against its works (John 7:7). Those spared the world’s hatred who partake of its character (John 7:7). “They that forsake the law, praise the wicked; but such as keep the law, contend with him” (Proverbs 28:4). Hence the enmity of the wicked against the good. This enmity experienced by Job.

2. A good man known by his conduct towards his enemies. The mark of an un-regenerate heart to cherish ill-will against an enemy or to take pleasure in his misfortune. Hatred of a foe the prompting of fallen nature and the spirit of heathenism. “Revenge is sweet,”—the language of the Great Murderer. To rejoice in the fall of an enemy, the sin of the Edomites in relation to Israel and the cause of their punishment (Obadiah 1:12-13). The sin forbidden in Proverbs 24:17. The contrary disposition enjoined both in the Old and New Testanments (Proverbs 25:21; Romans 12:20). Christ’s command to his followers, not only not to rejoice in the evil that overtakes an enemy, but to pray for and promote his welfare (Matthew 5:44). Noble minds rejoice in the opportunity of befriending a foe. Instances recorded even of the heathen returning kindness for insult. Pericles having been followed to his door by one who had been railing against him, offered him his servant to light him home. Augustus invited to supper the poet Catullus after he had been railing against him. Nothing more common among men than vindictiveness, and nothing more contemptible. Our best revenge on an enemy is to forgive him and treat him kindly. To wish evil to him who hates us makes us as bad, or worse, than himself. The New Testament rule in such cases.—“Overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). In accordance with His own precept, Christ prayed for his murderers (Luke 23:34). Commissioned His heralds of mercy to begin with those who had clamoured for His blood (Luke 24:47). His spirit and conduct imitated by His followers. The first Christian martyr died with a prayer on his lips for those who were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60). Job’s religion afterwards embodied in the Gospel. Though living in the patriarchal age, Job exemplified the spirit of Christianity. The new commandment only a new edition of the old. An advance however in the moral teaching of the New Testament as compared with that of the Old. Job instructed not to hate an enemy; the Christian taught to love him. Christianity teaches not only not to wish a curse to an enemy, but to pray for a blessing to him.

3. The teaching of God’s Spirit and the character of God’s children always essentially the same. That teaching and character a transcript of His own nature. God’s example that of forgiveness and kindness to enemies. The carnal mind enmity to God. Mankind enemies to God in their mind by wicked works (Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21).

4. Special guard to be placed upon the mouth. A sinful thought or feeling not to be allowed utterance. To be suppressed instead of being expressed. An aggravation of sin in the heart to give it expression with the lips. Bodily organs not to be employed as the instruments of sin.

VII. Job declares his humanity as a householder (Job 31:31-32).

1. In his kindness to his domestics and inmates. Job 31:31—“If the men of my tabernacle (those residing under his roof, whether as domestics, retainers, or other inmates.) said not, Oh, that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied” (or, “Who is there that was was not satisfied with his flesh?”—i.e., with his hospitality, 1 Samuel 25:11; or, according to some ancient versions, “If they said, Who will give us of his flesh, that we may be satisfied,” as complaining of not having sufficient food, or longing for the better supplies on his own table). Job able to appeal to his own domestics and the inmates of his dwelling for evidence of his humanity, more especially of his bounty to them and his liberality to others. No niggard in his own house. Treated his servants not only with justice, but kindness. Gave them not only food, but of the best kind, and plenty of it. Made them sharers of the best that was on his own table. Had no feast but they partook of it. Observe—

(1) A good man will be kind and liberal to his domestics (Colossians 4:1).

(2) Well when, as masters, we can appeal to our servants for our character, and when they can bear an honest testimony in our favour. Servants and inmates of our house, likely to be the best judges of our character and conduct.

(3) Good to make our house a home for others as well as ourselves. A Christian duty to “bring the poor that are cast out to our house” (Isaiah 58:7). “I was a stranger and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:35). Job’s house never without the objects of his charity. The widow and the fatherless, the stranger and the destitute, frequent guests at his table. Note—Customary for wealthy Arabs to slaughter sheep or camels for the supply of their household. “Broad dishes” the glory of an Arab chief, as necessary for the entertainment of his guests.

2. In his hospitality to travellers. Job 31:32—“The stranger did not lodge in the street (for want of a house to receive him, it being difficult to obtain accommodation in Oriental towns and villages then, as it is still, except with the sheikh or a Christian); but I opened my doors to the traveller” (or, as margin, “to the way,” as if to invite and welcome the traveller passing by). Pleasing picture of Oriental manners, corresponding with those of patriarchal times (Genesis 18:1-4; Genesis 19:1, &c). Job an example of the New Testament precept—“Use hospitality without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9). “Given to hospitality,” more than merely “showing” it (Romans 12:13). “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,”—not merely your relatives or acquaintances (Hebrews 13:2).

VIII. Clears himself from secret and concealed transgressions. Job 31:33-34.—“If I covered my transgressions as Adam (in allusion to Genesis 3:8; or, ‘like men,’ as Hosea 6:7—as men are wont to do after the example of their first father), by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom (from impenitence or hypocrisy, or both): Did I fear a great multitude (or, ‘because I feared,’ &c.; or as an imprecation—‘Then let me fear,’ &c.), or did the contempt of families (or tribes) terrify me (so as to conceal my sin or neglect my duty to the stranger; or, ‘because the contempt, &c., terrified me;’ or, ‘let the contempt, &c., terrify or crush me’), that I kept silence [instead of acknowledging my transgression, or opening my mouth in behalf of the oppressed stranger,—like Lot, Genesis 19:6-8, or the old man of Gibeah, Judges 19:22-24], and went not out of the door?” (for fear of detection, or to avoid the danger and self-denial connected with my duty to the stranger; or, as continuing the imprecation, “let me be silent,” &c.). Observe—

1. The best not free from transgressions, both against God and men. Job a perfect man, yet acknowledges transgressions. “Not a just man on earth that doeth good and sinneth not” Ecclesiastes 7:20).

2. Natural to men to conceal their transgressions. Adam’s conduct imitated by all his children (Genesis 3:8).

3. Men with much outward morality and religion may still be guilty of secret sins. The case with the Scribes and Pharisees in the days of the Saviour. Job more than suspected of it by his friends. Hence his concern now to clear himself of such hypocrisy.
4. The fear of man often more powerful in leading men to conceal their guilt, than the fear of God in leading them to confess it. The ungodly more afraid of man’s shame than of God’s wrath.

5. Just that secret crimes should be followed by popular contempt and ignominy as their penalty. A day coming when secret transgressors, who have successfully covered their crimes in this life, will awake to “shame and everlasting contempt” in the next (Daniel 12:3).

6. A good man has no need either to fear the populace or shun the public eye. A good conscience a man’s best armour. “Be just and fear not”.

7. A good man more afraid of God’s displeasure than of man’s contempt. The sin of men, that they are more afraid of man and the “multitude” than of their Maker. “Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the Son of man that shall be made as grass, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?” (Isaiah 51:12-13). “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:23).

8. The part of an honest and sincere heart, to confess transgressions both before God, and, when necessary, before man. A Christian’s first duty, to confess his transgressions to God; his next, to confess them to man if he has injured or offended him. “Confess your faults one to another,” a New Testament precept (James 5:16). Confession to God necessary to forgiveness from God (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:8-9; Psalms 32:3-5). Frank confession a mark of true repentance. Examples: Zaccheus (Luke 19:8); the penitent thief (Luke 23:41); the converts of Ephesus (Acts 19:18-19).

9. A good man not deterred from duty, either by the fear of numbers or the contempt of neighbours. Example: Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:0). Milton’s famous picture of the Seraph Abdiel—

“Faithful found

Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmov’d,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified.
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number, nor example, with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind,
Though single”.

VIII. Job’s final desire and challenge. Job 31:35-37.—“O that one would hear me! (or ‘O that I had one to hear me!’—an impartial judge or umpire in the controversy between the Almighty and himself, so that his case might be fairly tried and decided upon). Behold, my desire is that the Almighty would answer me (or, ‘here is my mark’ or signature, i.e., to the declaration he made of his innocence—‘let the Almighty answer me,’ and prove me guilty if He can); and that my adversary had written a book (or, ‘and let mine adversary write a book’ or bill of indictment against me, as in courts of law; or, ‘and [O that I had] the book [or indictment which] mine adversary has written against me!) Surely I would take it upon my shoulder (as a thing of which I was not ashamed, but which I was willing that every one should see and know), and bind it as a crown to me (as a thing in which I rather gloried as my honour and ornament, being persuaded that all the charges contained in it would be found to be groundless). I would declare unto him (viz., the umpire or judge) the number of my steps (all the various passages of my life); as a prince—(with the boldness and confidence of an innocent man assured of coming off victorious, instead of the faltering step and downcast look of a culprit) would I go near unto him” (instead of avoiding him like Adam in the garden, as conscious of guilt).

This lofty passage is, perhaps, the strongest declaration of his innocence that Job had yet made, probably intended as the finale of his pleadings, and the climax of his protestations. The three following verses, with the exception of the last clause, probably standing originally somewhere before the present passage; or, what is less likely, as a still farther vindication of his character.

The passage stands as a proof of his conscious integrity. Expresses his continued desire to have a fair and impartial hearing of his case, with the conviction that he would be declared free from the sins which were either openly or by implication charged upon him, and from any such transgressions as to merit his present sufferings. The adversary with whom he wishes to contest the matter, mainly God himself who seemed to treat him as a guilty person. His three friends also his adversaries, but only as taking up the view of his character which God himself seemed to take from the way in which He was now dealing with him. God seemed to have charges against him of which he was entirely unconscious. His friends declared that such charges must exist. Job denied there there was any ground for them. Hence his great desire that the matter may be fairly examined into and decided.
This desire of Job, now soon about to be granted, and that in his favour. Not however to be done till he has been taught some necessary and important lessons. Though having the truth on his side in the controversy, his spirit and language not always what they ought to have been. His error in declaring his innocence in too decided a manner, and in carrying his declaration almost, if not altogether, to the point of self-confident glorying and self-righteous pride. At times not only bitter in his spirit and language towards his three friends, but petulant and irreverent towards God. The present winding up of his speeches sounded like a declaration that he was righteous, whatever God might be in the matter; in other words, that he was more righteous than God. Too much overlooked the fact—

(1) That he, in common with all mankind, was guilty before God, and had given sufficient occasion to be visited with stripes even more severe than those from which he was now suffering;
(2) That God is infinitely holy, just, and good, and would do nothing with any of His creatures but what was perfectly right;
(3) That God might have wise objects in view in dealing with him as He did, which, though now hidden from him, He in His own time would show—as, for example, his own purification, God employing his sufferings as the goldsmith does the furnace for purifying the gold;
(4) That God, as Creator, has the right to do with His creatures as He pleases without doing anything either unjust or unkind, and that it is the creature’s part to be passive and submissive in His hand—Job’s actual conduct at the beginning of his trials.

The steps between this last speech of Job’s and the declaration of his integrity on the part of the Almighty, occupied in correcting these errors, and in bringing him to a juster view of himself, and to a better state of mind in regard to God. Observe:—

1. No flesh allowed to glory in God’s presence—(1 Corinthians 1:29). One of the great objects of the Bible to teach men this truth. The proper place for fallen man before God, even at his best, is the dust. Tendency to pride in the best. Imperfection stamped on all human excellence. Like Moses, Job speaks unadvisedly with his lips. Utters what is rash before God, which he afterwards repents in dust and ashes. Not yet the perfect man who “offendeth not in word” (James 3:2).

2. Only one way of going near to God as our judge with boldness and confidence. Not that of Job, as in ourselves righteous and innocent; but as sinners, accepting of and trustiug in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ as the only ground of our acceptance before God (Hebrews 10:22.) “Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness. In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:24-25).

IX. Job finally clears himself of injustice in his business transactions with his fellow-men. (Job 31:38-40).—“If my land (probably the land which, like Isaac, he rented and cultivated for his own use) cry against me (as dishonestly acquired or oppressively cultivated,—like Abel’s innocent blood shed by his brother’s hand (Genesis 4:10), or that the furrows likewise thereof complain (Hebrew, ‘weep together,’ as in sympathy with one another, and with the owners whom I have wronged by occupying their land without paying duly for its use, or with the labourers whom I have oppressed by employing them without a fair remuneration for their work;—a beautiful and bold personification to increase the effect): if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money (in payment either to the proprietor for the occupancy of his land, or to the labourer for his work in cultivating it), or have caused the owners thereof to lose their lives (either directly by violent means in order to obtain their property, or indirectly by withholding the just payment for its occupancy): let thistles (or thorns) grow instead of wheat, and cockle (or noxious weeds) instead of barley”. Observe—

1. One of the most testing points in reference to a man’s character, how he curries on his business and conducts his transactions with his fellow-men. Constant temptation to over-reach and take advantage. Tendency in fallen human nature both to withhold from others their just due, and to exact more than our own. The business principles of the world often the reverse of those of the Bible. That of “Buy cheap and sell dear,” liable to be carried out to the extent of fraud and extortion. Christianity and sound morality teach us to give every man a fair price for his labour or his goods, and to ask no more than a fair price for our own. The maxim, “Business is business,” sinful if understood as meaning that business is exempted from the same rules of morality as are applied to other branches of conduct. Defectiveness in commercial morality one of the sins of the day In the race for riches, men tempted, even in a Christian land, to commit the sins which Job here solemnly abjures—receiving labour, goods, or money, without giving a just equivalent. The temptation not always resisted to sell articles that are something different from what they are represented to be. The severe reproof of the Almighty, directed in the Bible against those who oppress the hireling of their wages (Malachi 3:5; James 5:4). A woe pronounced on him “who buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work,” (Jeremiah 22:13).

2. Even professedly religious men tempted to follow the world in untruthful and unfair modes of conducting basiness. The practice of overreaching and extortion apparently prevalent in Job’s time and country. Extortion on the part of rulers, proprietors, and dealers in the East, notorious. The practice of a Turk or Arab in demanding an exorbitant price for his goods, as common as that of the governor or employer in giving the merest pittance for the labourer’s work. Extortion and excess among the prevailing sins of the Pharisees in the days of the Saviour (Matthew 23:25). Job careful to resist the temptation to a common sin. Renounced filthy gain. No canker in his gold and silver. No rust on his money to witness against him either here or hereafter, and to eat his flesh as it were fire (James 5:3). Had neither sought to buy cheaper nor sell dearer than justice and humanity demanded.

3. Dishonesty found on the side of buyers as well as of sellers.

(1). In not paying duly for goods delivered;

(2). In depreciating and cheapening down an article, in order to get a bargain, or to obtain it at a price below its value. “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth” (Proverbs 20:14).

4. The mark of a true servant of God, to be “faithful in that which is least”.

5. The part of a follower of Christ, to commend his Master’s religion by exhibiting a, sterling morality in his daily life. “What soever things are true, honest, just, lovely, and of good report,” &c. (Philippians 4:8).

6. Murder committed in more ways than one. Indirect as well as direct murder. The life-blood of the poor may be drained by oppressive work and inadequate remuneration. Hearts broken by fraud and oppression in civil, as well as by inhumanity and cruelty in domestic life.

7. Wrong done to another often recompensed by loss incurred by ourselves. A curse imprecated by Job on his land as the righteous penalty of wrong, if done by him either in acquiring or cultivating it. Another example of the maxim: As the sin, so the punishment. Job probably reminded of the curse pronounced on the ground, first for Adam’s sin and then for Cain’s (Genesis 3:17-18; Genesis 4:11-12). Suggests another evidence that Job was well acquainted with Genesis.

“The words of Job are ended”. Probably followed the final protestation of his innocence in Job 31:37. Job’s “words” spoken partly by the flesh and partly by the spirit. Were partly those of an enlightened and sanctified believer, and partly those of a yet unhumbled sinner. Were at last partly commended and partly reproved by the Almighty. Have been recorded for our instruction and comfort, but not all of them for our imitation. Began with justifying and speaking well of God; ended by speaking well of himself. Contain some of the most elevated sentiments and glorious truths ever conceived by human mind or uttered by human lips. Viewed in connection with his extraordinary sufferings, and the circumstances in which they were uttered, they exhibit a marvel of Divine grace, in enabling the sufferer to possess his soul in patience, and “to glorify God in the fires.” Afford the picture of a man as perfect as fallen nature admitted of in the ages previous to the advent of Christ and the dispensation of the Spirit. Observe—Words ended in their utterance not ended in their effect. By these words of Job, he “being dead yet speaketh”. The effect of words, for good or evil, often experienced for generations and centuries after they have been spoken or written.

“Nothing is lost: the drop of dew,

That trembles on the leaf or flower,

Is but exhaled to fall anew,

In summer’s thunder shower;

Perchance to shine within the bow,

That fronts the sun at fall of day;

Perchance to sparkle in the flow

Of fountains far away.

So with our words; or harsh or kind,

Utter’d, they are not all forgot;

But leave some trace upon the mind,

Pass on, yet perish not.”

J. Critchley Prince.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 31". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.