Bible Commentaries
Job 31

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2484. B.C. 1520.

Job’s protestation of his innocence, with regard to wantonness, Job 31:1-4 ; fraud and injustice, Job 31:5-8 ; adultery, Job 31:9-12 ; haughtiness and severity toward his servants, Job 31:13-15 ; unmercifulness to the poor, Job 31:16-23 ; confidence in his wealth, Job 31:24 , Job 31:25 ; idolatry, Job 31:26-28 ; revenge, Job 31:29-31 ; neglect of poor strangers, Job 31:32 ; hypocrisy, or not reproving others, Job 31:33 , Job 31:34 . He wishes God would answer, and that his words might be recorded, Job 31:35-37 . Protests his innocence as to oppression, Job 31:38-40 .

Verse 1

Job 31:1. I made a covenant with mine eyes, &c. So far have I been from any gross wickedness, that I have abstained from the least occasions and appearances of evil. It was possible Job’s friends might make quite another use than he intended of the relation which he had made of his miserable condition in the foregoing chapter. And, therefore, lest it should confirm them in their old error, and they should take what he had said to be an argument of his guilt, he gives, in this chapter, a large and particular account of his integrity, which, in general, he had so often asserted; laying his very soul, and the most secret inclinations of it, open before them; together with the actions of his whole life in his private capacity, (for of his public he had spoken before, chap. 29.,) both in respect of his neighbours of all sorts, and in respect of God, to whom he again most solemnly appeals, in the conclusion of this discourse, for the truth of what he here asserts. Why then should I think upon a maid? This is generally understood to mean the great care and circumspection which Job had used to avoid all temptations and occasions of sin; and he subjoins, in the following verses, the very high and reasonable motives which had urged him, and should urge every man, to such a circumspection; namely, to avoid destruction, the sure consequence of it. Which is a further proof that his prospects were to another life; for, had he spoken of a temporal destruction, it would have been the very thing which his antagonists had repeated over and over to him, and had urged as an argument of his guilt that he was thus miserably destroyed. When Job, therefore, says the same thing, namely, that a sure destruction attends the wicked; it is their portion, an inheritance from God; it is plain he must understand it in another sense than his antagonists did; namely, of their final retribution in a future state. See Peters, and the note on Job 31:13; Job 31:23.

Verse 2

Job 31:2 . For what portion of God is there, &c. What recompense may be expected from God for those who do otherwise? From above How secretly soever unchaste persons carry the matter, so that men cannot reprove them, yet there is one who stands upon a higher place, whence he seeth in what manner they act.

Verses 3-4

Job 31:3-4. Is not destruction to the wicked? Destruction is their portion. And a strange punishment Some extraordinary and dreadful judgment, which of right belongs to them. Hebrew, ונכר , venecher, an alienation, or estrangement, namely, from God and his favour: had I been such a one, I neither should nor could have expected any kindness or mercy from God in a future world, as now I do. Doth not he see my ways? That is, all my counsels and courses. This was another reason why he was so circumspect and exact in restraining his thoughts, and senses, and whole man from sinful practices, because he knew that God would discern them, and therefore punish them, as he said, Job 31:3.

Verses 5-6

Job 31:5-6. If I have walked with vanity Conversed in the world, or dealt with men, with lying, falsehood, or hypocrisy, as the word vanity is often used; or if my foot hath hasted to deceit If, when I had an opportunity of enriching myself by wronging others, I have readily and greedily complied with it. Let me be weighed, &c. I desire nothing more than to have my heart and life weighed in just balances, and searched out by the all-seeing God. That God may know Or, and he will know (upon search he will find out: which is spoken of God after the manner of men) mine integrity So this is an appeal to God to be witness of his sincerity.

Verses 7-8

Job 31:7-8. If my step hath turned out of the way If I have knowingly and willingly swerved from the way of truth and justice, which God hath prescribed to me; and my heart walked after mine eyes A strong and beautiful expression, signifying, if my eyes have seduced my heart. If I have let my heart loose to desire forbidden objects, which my eyes have seen. Commonly sin enters by the eye into the heart: thus David, letting his heart walk after his eyes, was led into the sin, first, of adultery, and then, of murder. How careful then ought we to be, how deeply should this be fixed in our minds, not to let our heart walk after our eyes. It is a maxim which deserves to be written, we will not say in letters of gold, but, what is of more importance, on the table of every heart! And if any blot hath cleaved to my hands Any unjust gain. If I have had or have in my hands, or possession, any goods, gotten from others by fraud or violence, which would be a great scandal and a blot to my reputation: Then let me sow, and let another eat Let strangers enjoy the fruit of my labours. Yea, let my offspring be rooted out Or, rather, my increase; all my plants, and fruits, and improvements, as the word צאצאי , tzeetzaai, properly signifies. Indeed, Job had not now any children to be rooted out.

Verses 9-10

Job 31:9-10. If my heart have been deceived by a woman Namely, by a strange woman, or rather, by my neighbour’s wife, as the next words limit the clause; for of a maid he had spoken before. If I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door Watching for his absence, or some fair opportunity to enter his house and defile his bed. Then let my wife grind unto another Let another take away my wife from me, make her the vilest slave, and use her at his pleasure. Not as if Job desired this, but that if God should give up his wife to such wickedness, he would acknowledge his justice in it.

Verses 11-12

Job 31:11-12. For this is a heinous crime Namely, adultery, whether committed by choice and design, or by the solicitation of a woman; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished, &c. Hebrew, an iniquity of the judges; which it belongs to them to take cognizance of, and to punish, even with death; and that not only by the law of Moses, but even by the law of nature, as appears from the known laws and customs of the heathen nations. For it is a fire that consumeth, &c. Lust is a fire in the soul; it consumes all that is good there, convictions of sin, desires after God, devout affections, pious resolutions, holy comforts, and lays the conscience waste. The sin of adultery, or fornication, consumes the body, the reputation, the substance, rooting out all the increase: it kindles the fire of God’s wrath, which, if not quenched by the blood of Christ, in consequence of repentance and faith in him, will burn to the lowest hell.

Verses 13-15

Job 31:13-15. If I did despise the cause of my man-servant If I used my power over him to overthrow him and his just rights; when they contended with me Either for requiring more work from them than they could perform, or for not providing for them those supports which their nature and necessity required, or for any other plausible cause. I heard them patiently, considered the matters complained of impartially, and did them right even against myself, if through any misinformation, or fancied provocation, I had done them an injury. What then shall I do when God riseth up? Namely, to plead the cause of the oppressed against the oppressor, and to execute judgment. I used my servant like one who knew that I myself also was a servant, and had a master in heaven, to whom I was to give an account of my conduct toward my servant and all men. And when he visiteth That is, when he shall call me to his tribunal, and strictly examine all my actions, and particularly the cause between me and my servant; what shall I answer him? What apology shall I make for myself? Did not he that made me, &c. I considered that, though he was my servant, he was my fellow-creature, made by the same God, and therefore one of God’s subjects, whom I could not injure without injustice to the supreme Lord. And did not one fashion us, &c. With a body and soul of the same nature and quality, a rational and immortal creature, and made after God’s image no less than myself, to whom therefore I owed some respect for God’s sake.

Verses 16-17

Job 31:16-17. If I have withheld the poor, &c. If I have denied them what they desired of me, either in justice or from necessity; for he was under no obligation to grant their vain or inordinate desires. Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail With tedious expectation of my justice or charity. I durst neither deny nor delay my help, when they needed or required it. Or have eaten my morsel alone Without communicating part of my provisions or property to the poor, as it follows; and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof This one kind of necessitous persons is put for all the rest. Job is most large upon these heads of doing justice to the widows and fatherless, and relieving the poor, because Eliphaz had most particularly accused him in these respects.

Verse 18

Job 31:18. For from my youth As soon as I was capable of managing my own affairs, and doing good to others; he was brought up with me as with a father Under my care and protection, with all the diligence and tenderness of a father. And I have guided her The widow, mentioned Job 31:16; from my mother’s womb From my tender years; ever since I was capable of discerning good from evil, I have made conscience of this duty.

Verses 19-22

Job 31:19-22. If I have seen any perish When it was in my power to help them. If his loins have not blessed me That is, if my covering his loins hath not given him occasion to bless me, and to pray to God to bless me; the loins being put for the whole body. If he were not warmed, &c. With clothing made of my wool. If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless An expression signifying an act of power and hostility. If I have ever beaten or ill used him; if I have brought him to the judgment- seat, that, under the colour of justice, I might take away his right, or any ways to threaten, injure, or crush him; when I saw my help in the gate When I saw myself superior in the gate, Houbigant. That is, superior in authority. When I understood my advantage against him, and that I could influence the judges to do what I pleased. Then let mine arm fall, &c. I am contented that that arm which hath been so wickedly employed, may either rot off or fall out of joint, and so be useless and burdensome to me.

Verse 23

Job 31:23. For destruction, &c. I stood in awe of God, and his justice and wrath, and therefore made it my care and business to shun sin, and to please him. And by reason of his highness His excellence or majesty, which is most glorious and terrible; I could not endure I knew myself unable, either to oppose his power, or to bear his wrath, and therefore I did not dare to provoke him by any impiety or injustice. Even good men have need to restrain themselves from sin, with the fear of destruction from God. Even when salvation from God is a comfort to us, yet destruction from God should be a terror to us. Adam, in innocence, was awed by a threatening.

Verse 24

Job 31:24. If I have made gold my hope That is, the matter of my hope and trust, expecting safety and happiness from it, and placing my chief joy in the increase of my riches.

Verse 25

Job 31:25. If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great Esteeming myself happy in the possession of it, though without God’s love and favour; because my hand had gotten much Ascribing my acquisition of it to my own skill or industry, rather than to God’s goodness and mercy. And these sins Job the rather mentions, partly for his own vindication, lest it should be thought that God took away his property because he had abused it to pride, or luxury, or the oppression of others; and partly for the instruction of mankind in succeeding generations, that they might take notice of the evil of such practices, though by most men they are reputed laudable or harmless, or, at the worst, but light and trivial instances of misconduct.

Verses 26-27

Job 31:26-27. If I beheld the sun when it shined Namely, in its full strength and glory; when it most affected men’s minds and hearts with admiration of its beauty, and of the benefits which it is instrumental in communicating to the world, and thereby moved them to worship it; or the moon walking in brightness When it shined most clearly, or was at the full, at which time especially the idolaters worshipped it. Job, in this passage, evidently speaks of the worship of the host of heaven, and especially of the sun and moon, the most eminent and glorious of that number, which was the most ancient kind of idolatry, and most frequent in the eastern countries. And my heart hath been enticed Or seduced, or deceived, by their plausible and glorious appearances, to believe that there was something of a divinity in them, and so should be induced to worship them, and that secretly, or inwardly, in my thoughts or affections, while I professed outwardly to adhere to God and the true religion. This emphatical expression, enticed, seems to be used here with a design to teach the world this necessary and important truth: that no mistake, or error of mind, would excuse the practice of idolatry. My mouth hath kissed my hand In token of worship, whereof this was a sign.

Verse 28

Job 31:28. This also were an iniquity No less than the other fore- mentioned sins of adultery, oppression, &c.; to be punished by the judge The civil magistrate; who, being advanced and protected by God, is obliged to maintain and vindicate his honour, and consequently to punish idolatry. For I should have denied God Not directly, but by consequence, because this was to rob God of his prerogative, by giving to the creature that worship which is peculiar to God.

Verses 29-30

Job 31:29-30. If I rejoiced, &c. I was so far from being malicious toward, and from revenging myself on, an enemy, which is the common and allowed practice of ungodly men, that I did not so much as delight in his ruin, when it was brought upon him by other hands. By this, and other passages of the Old Testament, (see Exodus 23:4; Proverbs 24:17-18,) we see that to love, forgive, and do good to our enemies, is not a duty peculiar to Christianity, but a part of that charity which now is, and ever was, by the law of nature, of indispensable obligation upon all men. Or lifted up myself when evil found him Hebrew, התעררתי , hithgnorarti, stirred up himself, to rejoice and insult over his misery. Neither have I suffered my mouth Hebrew, חכי , chicchi, my palate, which, being one of the instruments of speech, is put for all the rest; to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. The sense is, if any desire of his hurt did arise in me, I forthwith suppressed it, and did not suffer it to break forth in my uttering an imprecation against him.

Verses 31-32

Job 31:31-32. If the men of my tabernacle My domestics and familiar friends; said not, O that we had of his flesh! Heath and Schultens read the words, Who can show the man that hath not filled himself with his victuals? And many commentators understand Job as asserting here, that it was a common thing among those who lived in his family, on beholding his boundless beneficence, to cry out, “Who is there that has not eaten of his flesh?” That is, who has not tasted of his generosity? Others consider it as an exclamation of gratitude, uttered by those who were sustained by Job; as if he had said, O that we had wherewithal to support ourselves, that we might not thus be a burden to this generous man; that we might not be obliged thus to feed upon his flesh or substance! But the connection of the words with the preceding seems most apparent if we understand them as an amplification, and further confirmation, of Job’s charitable disposition toward his enemies. Although his cause was so just, and the malice of his enemies so notorious and unreasonable, that all who were daily conversant with him, and were witnesses of his and their carriage, were so zealous in his quarrel, that they protested they could eat their very flesh; yet he restrained both them and himself from executing vengeance upon them. The stranger Or traveller, as it follows; did not lodge in the street

But in my house, according to the laws of hospitality; see Genesis 18:3; Genesis 19:2.

Verse 33

Job 31:33. If I covered my transgressions as Adam As Adam did in paradise. By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom In my own breast, and from the sight of all men; or, in secret, as R. Levi renders בחבי , bechobbi. Job alludes to Adam’s hiding himself among the trees of the garden, and palliating his sin; a circumstance in the history of the fall, recorded by Moses, Genesis 3:7, and doubtless imparted by the godly patriarchs to their children before Moses’s time, and therefore well known to Job, who here says he did not act thus, but was ever ready to acknowledge his errors. The allusion is quite proper and apposite: but if we should render the passage, agreeably to the marginal reading, after the manner of men, it becomes an accusation of others; and the vindication of himself has a mixture of pride in it, which does not suit the character of the speaker. See Sherlock on Prophecy, p. 212.

Verse 34

Job 31:34. Did I fear a great multitude? No: all that knew Job, knew him to be a man of resolution, that boldly appeared, spoke, and acted, in defence of religion and justice. He durst not keep silence, or stay within, when called to speak or act for God. He was not deterred by the number, or quality, or insults of the injurious, from reproving them, and doing justice to the injured.

Verse 35

Job 31:35 . O that one would hear me! O that I might have my cause heard by any just and impartial judge! Behold, my desires, &c. So the Vulgate and the Targum understand תוי , tavi, here, deriving it from אוה , ivvah, he desired, he coveted. Some, however, deriving it from תוה , tivvah, to mark, to design, to define, render the clause, Lo, here is my sign, mark, or pledge, namely, that I will stand the trial. But the former seems to be the true sense, and is approved by A. Ezra and R. Levi. That the Almighty would answer me Answer my desire herein, either by hearing me himself, or by appointing some impartial person to judge whether I be such a hypocrite as my friends make me, or an upright person. And that mine adversary Whosoever he be that shall contend with, or accuse me; had written a book Had put down in writing the charges he has against me, and brought them in. He alludes to what is usual in judicial proceedings. This shows that letters were in use in Job’s time.

Verse 36

Job 31:36. Surely I would take it The book, or writing, containing the charges against me; upon my shoulder As a trophy, or badge of honour; and bind it as a crown to me I would be so far from being ashamed or terrified, that I would glory, and rejoice, and triumph in it, nay, and openly expose it to be read by all, well knowing that so groundless and impotent an accusation would only serve the more to clear my innocence.

Verse 37

Job 31:37. I would declare to him To the Almighty, my judge; the number of my steps The whole course of my life and actions, step by step, as far as I could remember: as a prince would I go near him That is, with courage and confidence of success: I would stand before him with a look as upright and assured as that of a prince. Nothing can be plainer than that the book, or libel, here supposed to be written by Job’s adversary, cannot be meant of one drawn up by God. For how was it possible for him to triumph in this? If it were a bill of accusation, coming from the God of truth, he had more reason to tremble, certainly, than to triumph. We must therefore conclude that by the adversary must be meant one or all of Job’s friends, who were his only accusers that we know of: and God is here appealed to as a hearer or judge between them. In this it is that Job, with reason, rejoices and triumphs as being conscious of his integrity before God, and his sincere desire and endeavour to know and do his will in all things. See Peters and Dodd.

Verses 38-40

Job 31:38-40. If my land cry against me To wit, to God, for revenge,

(as the like phrase signifies, Genesis 4:10; Habakkuk 2:11,) because I have gotten it from the right owners by fraud or violence, as my friends accuse me. If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money Either without paying the price required by the right owner of the land, or by defrauding the workmen of the wages of their labours. Or have caused the owners to lose their life Killing them, that I might have undisturbed possession of it, as Ahab did Naboth. The words of Job are ended To wit, in answer to his friends: for he speaks but little afterward, and that is to God.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 31". Benson's Commentary. 1857.