Job 31


Job makes a solemn protestation of his chastity and integrity,


of his humanity, 13-16;

of his charity and mercy, 17-23;

of his abhorrence of covetousness and idolatry, 24-32;

and of his readiness to acknowledge his errors, 33, 34;

and wishes for a full investigation of his case, being

confident that this would issue in the full manifestation

of his innocence, 36-40.


Verse 1. I made a covenant with mine eyes]

berith carats leeynai: "I have cut" or divided "the covenant

sacrifice with my eyes." My conscience and my eyes are the

contracting parties; God is the Judge; and I am therefore bound

not to look upon any thing with a delighted or covetous eye, by

which my conscience may be defiled, or my God dishonoured.

Why then should I think upon a maid?] umah

ethbonen al bethulah. And why should I set myself to contemplate,

or think upon, Bethulah? That Bethulah may here signify an idol,

is very likely. Sanchoniatho observes, that Ouranos first

introduced Baithulia when he erected animated stones, or rather,

as Bochart observes, ANOINTED stones, which became representatives

of some deity. I suppose that Job purges himself here from this

species of idolatry. Probably the Baithulia were at first emblems

only of the tabernacle; beith Eloah, "the house of

God;" or of that pillar set up by Jacob, Ge 28:18, which he

called beith Elohim, or Bethalim; for idolatry always

supposes a pure and holy worship, of which it is the counterfeit.

For more on the subject of the Baithulia,

See Clarke on Ge 28:19.

Verse 2. For what portion of God is there from above?] Though I

have not, in this or in any other respect, wickedly departed from

God, yet what reward have I received?

Verse 3. Is not destruction to the wicked] If I had been guilty

of such secret hypocritical proceedings, professing faith in the

true God while in eye and heart an idolater, would not such

a worker of iniquity be distinguished by a strange and unheard-of


Verse 4. Doth not he see my ways] Can I suppose that I could

screen myself from the eye of God while guilty of such iniquities?

Verse 5. If I have walked with vanity] If I have been guilty of

idolatry, or the worshipping of a false god: for thus shau,

which we here translate vanity, is used Jer 18:15; (compare with

Ps 31:6; Ho 12:11; and Jon 2:9,) and it seems evident that

the whole of Job's discourse here is a vindication of himself from

all idolatrous dispositions and practices.

Verse 6. Mine integrity.] tummathi, my perfection; the

totality of my unblameable life.

Verse 7. If my step hath turned out of the way] I am willing to

be sifted to the uttermost-for every step of my foot, for every

thought of my heart, for every look of mine eye, and for

every act of my hands.

Verse 8. Let me sow, and let another eat] Let me be plagued both

in my circumstances and in my family.

My offspring be rooted out.] It has already appeared probable

that all Job's children were not destroyed in the fall of the

house mentioned Job 1:18, 19.

Verse 9. If mine heart have been deceived by a woman] The

Septuagint add, ανδροςετερου, another man's wife.

Verse 10. Let my wife grind unto another] Let her work at the

handmill, grinding corn; which was the severe work of the

meanest slave. In this sense the passage is understood both by the

Syriac and Arabic. See Ex 11:5, and Isa 47:2; and see at

the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Job 31:40.

And let others bow down upon her.] Let her be in such a state as

to have no command of her own person; her owner disposing of her

person as he pleases. In Asiatic countries slaves were considered

so absolutely the property of their owners, that they not only

served themselves of them in the way of scortation and

concubinage, but they were accustomed to accommodate their guests

with them! Job is so conscious of his own innocence, that he is

willing it should be put to the utmost proof; and if found guilty,

that he may be exposed to the most distressing and humiliating

punishment; even to that of being deprived of his goods, bereaved

of his children, his wife made a slave, and subjected to all

indignities in that state.

Verse 11. For this is a heinous crime] Mr. Good translates,

"For this would be a premeditated crime,

And a profligacy of the understanding."

See also Job 31:28.

That is, It would not only be a sin against the individuals more

particularly concerned, but a sin of the first magnitude against

society; and one of which the civil magistrate should take

particular cognizance, and punish as justice requires.

Verse 12. For it is a fire] Nothing is so destructive of

domestic peace. Where jealousy exists, unmixed misery dwells; and

the adulterer and fornicator waste their substance on the unlawful

objects of their impure affections.

Verse 13. The cause of my man-servant] In ancient times slaves

had no action at law against their owners; they might dispose of

them as they did of their cattle, or any other property. The slave

might complain; and the owner might hear him if he pleased, but he

was not compelled to do so. Job states that he had admitted them

to all civil rights; and, far from preventing their case from

being heard, he was ready to permit them to complain even against

himself, if they had a cause of complaint, and to give them all

the benefit of the law.

Verse 15. Did not he that made me-make him?] I know that God is

the Judge of all; that all shall appear before him in that state

where the king and his subject, the master and his slave, shall be

on an equal footing, all civil distinctions being abolished for

ever. If, then I had treated my slaves with injustice, how could I

stand before the judgment-seat of God? I have treated others as I

wish to be treated.

Verse 17. Or have eaten my morsel myself alone] Hospitality was

a very prominent virtue among the ancients in almost all nations:

friends and strangers were equally welcome to the board of the

affluent. The supper was their grand meal: it was then that they

saw their friends; the business and fatigues of the day being

over, they could then enjoy themselves comfortably together. The

supper was called coena on this account; or, as Plutarch says,



φιλοις. "The ancient Romans named supper COENA, (κοινα,) which

signifies communion (κοινωνια) or fellowship; for although they

dined alone, they supped with their friends."-PLUT. Symp. lib.

viii., prob. 6, p. 687. But Job speaks here of dividing his bread

with the hungry: Or have eaten my morsel myself alone. And he is a

poor despicable caitiff who would eat it alone, while there was

another at hand, full as hungry as himself.

Verse 18. This is a very difficult verse, and is variously

translated. Take the following instances:-For from his youth he

(the male orphan) was brought up with me as a father. Yea, I have

guided her (the female orphan) from her mother's womb.-Heath.

Nam a pueris educavit me commiseratio; jam inde ab utero matris

meae illa me deduxit.-Houbigant.

"For commiseration educated me from my childhood;

And she brought me up even from my mother's womb."

This is agreeable to the Vulgate.

"Behold, from my youth calamity hath quickened me;

Even from my mother's womb have I distributed it."

This is Mr. Goods version, and is widely different from the


For mercy grewe up with me fro my youth,

And compassion fro my mother's wombe.



μουωδηγησα.-Septuagint. "For from my youth I nourished them as a

father; and I was their guide from my mother's womb."

The Syriac. "For from my childhood he educated me in distresses,

and from the womb of my mother in groans." The Arabic is nearly

the same.

The general meaning may be gathered from the above; but who can

reconcile such discordant translations?

Verse 20. If his loins have not blessed me] This is a very

delicate touch: the part that was cold and shivering is now

covered with warm woollen. It feels the comfort; and by a fine

prosopopoeia, is represented as blessing him who furnished the


Verse 21. If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless] I

have at no time opposed the orphan, nor given, in behalf of the

rich and powerful, a decision against the poor, when I saw my help

in the gate-when I was sitting chief on the throne of judgment,

and could have done it without being called to account.

There are sentiments very like these in the poem of Lebeid, one

of the authors of the Moallakhat. I shall quote several verses

from the elegant translation of Sir William Jones, in which the

character of a charitable and bountiful chief is well described:-

"Oft have I invited a numerous company to the death of a camel

bought for slaughter, to be divided with arrows of equal


"I invite them to draw lots for a camel without a foal, and for

a camel with her young one, whose flesh I distribute to all the


"The guest and the stranger admitted to my board seem to have

alighted in the sweet vale of Tebaala, luxuriant with vernal


"The cords of my tent approaches every needy matron, worn with

fatigue, like a camel doomed to die at her master's tomb, whose

venture is both scanty and ragged."

"There they crown with meat (while the wintry winds contend with

fierce blasts) a dish flowing like a rivulet, into which the

famished orphans eagerly plunge."

"He distributes equal shares, he dispenses justice to the

tribes, he is indignant when their right is diminished; and, to

establish their right, often relinquishes his own."

"He acts with greatness of mind, and nobleness of heart: he

sheds the dew of his liberality on those who need his assistance;

he scatters around his own gains and precious spoils, the prizes

of his valour."-Ver. 73-80.

Verse 22. Let mine arm fall] Mr. Good, as a medical man, is at

home in the translation of this verse:-

"May my shoulder-bone be shivered at the blade,

And mine arm be broken off at the socket."

Let judgment fall particularly on those parts which have either

done wrong, or refused to do right when in their power.

Verse 23. Destruction from God was a terror] I have ever been

preserved from outward sin, through the fear of God's judgments; I

knew his eye was constantly upon me, and I could

"Never in my Judge's eye my Judge's anger dare."

Verse 24. Gold my hope] For the meaning of zahab, polished

gold, and kethem, stamped gold, see on Job 28:15-17.

Verse 26. If I beheld the sun when it shined] In this verse Job

clears himself of that idolatrous worship which was the most

ancient and most consistent with reason of any species of

idolatry; viz., Sabaeism, the worship of the heavenly bodies;

particularly the sun and moon, Jupiter and Venus, the two

latter being the morning and evening stars, and the most

resplendent of all the heavenly bodies, the sun and moon excepted.

"Job," says Calmet, "points out three things here:

"1. The worship of the sun and moon; much used in his time, and

very anciently used in every part of the East; and in all

probability that from which idolatry took its rise.

"2. The custom of adoring the sun at its rising, and the moon at

her change; a superstition which is mentioned in Eze 8:16, and in

every part of profane antiquity.

"3. The custom of kissing the hand; the form of adoration, and

token of sovereign respect."

Adoration, or the religious act of kissing the hand, comes to us

from the Latin; ad, to, and os, oris, the mouth. The hand lifted

to the mouth, and there saluted by the lips.

Verse 28. For I should have denied the God that is above.] Had I

paid Divine adoration to them, I should have thereby denied the

God that made them.

Verse 29. If I rejoiced] I did not avenge myself on my enemy;

and I neither bore malice nor hatred to him.

Verse 30. Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin] I have

neither spoken evil of him, nor wished evil to him. How few of

those called Christians can speak thus concerning their enemies;

or those who have done them any mischief!

Verse 31. If the men of my tabernacle said] I believe the Targum

gives the best sense here:-"If the men of my tabernacle have not

said, Who hath commanded that we should not be satisfied with his

flesh?" My domestics have had all kindness shown them; they have

lived like my own children, and have been served with the same

viands as my family. They have never seen flesh come to my table,

when they have been obliged to live on pulse.

Mr. Good's translation is nearly to the same sense:-

"If the men of my tabernacle do not exclaim,

Who hath longed for his meat without fulness?"

"Where is the man that has not been satisfied with his flesh?"

i.e., fed to the full with the provisions from his table. See

Pr 23:20; Isa 23:13, and Da 10:3.

Verse 32. The stranger did not lodge in the street] My kindness

did not extend merely to my family, domestics, and friends; the

stranger-he who was to me perfectly unknown, and the

traveller-he who was on his journey to some other district,

found my doors ever open to receive them, and were refreshed with

my bed and my board.

Verse 33. If I covered my transgressions as Adam] Here is a most

evident allusion to the fall. Adam transgressed the commandment of

his Maker, and he endeavoured to conceal it; first, by hiding

himself among the trees of the garden: "I heard thy voice, and

went and HID myself;" secondly, by laying the blame on his wife:

"The woman gave me, and I did eat;" and thirdly, by charging the

whole directly on God himself: "The woman which THOU GAVEST ME to

be with me, SHE gave me of the tree, and I did eat." And it is

very likely that Job refers immediately to the Mosaic account in

the Book of Genesis. The spirit of this saying is this: When I

have departed at any time from the path of rectitude, I have been

ready to acknowledge my error, and have not sought excuses or

palliatives for my sin.

Verse 34. Did I fear a great multitude] Was I ever prevented by

the voice of the many from decreeing and executing what was right?

When many families or tribes espoused a particular cause, which I

found, on examination, to be wrong, did they put me in fear, so as

to prevent me from doing justice to the weak and friendless? Or,

in any of these cases, was I ever, through fear, self-seeking, or

favour, prevented from declaring my mind, or constrained to keep

my house, lest I should be obliged to give judgment against my

conscience? Mr. Good thinks it an imprecation upon himself, if he

had done any of the evils which he mentions in the preceding

verse. He translates thus:-

"Then let me be confounded before the assembled multitude,

And let the reproach of its families quash me!

Yea, let me be struck dumb! let me never appear abroad!"

I am satisfied that Job 31:38-40, should come in either here, or

immediately after Job 31:25; and that Job's words should end with

Job 31:37, which, if the others were inserted in their proper

places, would be Job 31:40. See the reasons at the end of the

chapter. See Clarke on Job 31:40.

Verse 35. O that one would hear me!] I wish to have a fair and

full hearing: I am grievously accused; and have no proper

opportunity of clearing myself, and establishing my own innocence.

Behold, my desire is] Or, hen tavi, "There is my

pledge." I bind myself, on a great penalty, to come into court,

and abide the issue.

That the Almighty would answer me] That he would call this case

immediately before himself; and oblige my adversary to come into

court, to put his accusations into a legal form, that I might have

the opportunity of vindicating myself in the presence of a judge

who would hear dispassionately my pleadings, and bring the cause

to a righteous issue.

And that mine adversary had written a book] That he would not

indulge himself in vague accusations, but would draw up a proper

bill of indictment, that I might know to what I had to plead,

and find the accusation in a tangible form.

Verse 36. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder] I would be

contented to stand before the bar as a criminal, bearing upon my

shoulder the board to which the accusation is affixed. In a book

of Chinese punishments now before me, containing drawings

representing various criminals brought to trial, in trial, and

after trial, charged with different offences; in almost all of

them a board appears, on which the accusation or crime of which

they are accused, or for which they suffer, is fairly written.

Where the punishment is capital, this board appears fastened to

the instrument, or stuck near the place of punishment. In one

case a large, heavy plank, through which there is a hole to pass

the head,-or rather a hole fitting the neck, like that in the

pillory,-with the crime written upon it, rests on the criminal's

shoulders; and this he is obliged to carry about for the weeks or

months during which the punishment lasts. It is probable that

Job alludes to something of this kind, which he intimates he would

bear about with him during the interim between accusation and

the issue in judgment; and, far from considering this a disgrace,

would clasp it as dearly as he would adjust a crown or diadem to

his head; being fully assured, from his innocence, and the

evidence of it, which would infallibly appear on the trial, that

he would have the most honourable acquittal. There may also be an

allusion to the manner of receiving a favour from a superior: it

is immediately placed on the head, as a mark of respect; and if a

piece of cloth be given at the temple, the receiver not only puts

it on his head, but binds it there.

Verse 37. I would declare unto him the number of my steps] I

would show this adversary the different stations I had been in,

and the offices which I had filled in life, that he might trace me

through the whole of my civil, military, and domestic life, in

order to get evidence against me.

As a prince would I go near] Though carrying my own accusation,

I would go into the presence of my judge as the nagid, chief,

or sovereign commander and judge, of the people and country, and

would not shrink from having my conduct investigated by even the

meanest of my subjects.

In these three verses we may observe the following particulars:-

1. Job wishes to be brought to trial, that he might have the

opportunity of vindicating himself: O that I might have a hearing!

2. That his adversary, Eliphaz and his companions, whom he

considers as one party, and joined together in one, would reduce

their vague charges to writing, that they might come before the

court in a legal form: O that my adversary would write down the


3. That the Almighty, Shaddai, the all-sufficient GOD, and

not man, should be the judge, who would not permit his adversaries

to attempt, by false evidence, to establish what was false, nor

suffer himself to cloak with a hypocritical covering what was

iniquitous in his conduct: O that the Almighty might answer for

me-take notice of or be judge in the cause!

4. To him he purposes cheerfully to confess all his ways, who

could at once judge if he prevaricated, or concealed the truth.

5. This would give him the strongest encouragement: he would go

boldly before him, with the highest persuasion of an honourable


Verse 38. If my land cry] The most careless reader may see that

the introduction of this and the two following verses here,

disturbs the connection, and that they are most evidently out of

their place. Job seems here to refer to that law, Le 25:1-7, by

which the Israelites were obliged to give the land rest every

seventh year, that the soil might not be too much exhausted by

perpetual cultivation, especially in a country which afforded so

few advantages to improve the arable ground by manure. He,

conscious that he had acted according to this law, states that his

land could not cry out against him, nor its furrows complain. He

had not broken the law, nor exhausted the soil.

Verse 39. If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money] I

have never been that narrow-minded man who, through a principle of

covetousness, exhausts his land, putting himself to no charges, by

labour and manure, to strengthen it; or defrauds those of their

wages who were employed under him. If I have eaten the fruits of

it, I have cultivated it well to produce those fruits; and this

has not been without money, for I have gone to expenses on the

soil, and remunerated the labourers.

Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life] Coverdale

translates, Yee yf I have greved eny of the plowmen. They have not

panted in labour without due recompense.

Verse 40. Let thistles grow instead of wheat] What the word

choach means, which we translate thistles, we cannot tell: but

as chach seems to mean to hold, catch as a hook, to hitch, it

must signify some kind of hooked thorn, like the brier; and this

is possibly its meaning.

And cockle] bashah, some fetid plant, from

baash, to stink. In Isa 5:2, 4, we translate it

wild grapes; and Bishop Lowth, poisonous berries: but

Hasselquist, a pupil of the famous Linnaeus, in his Voyages, p.

289, is inclined to believe that the solanum incanum, or hoary

nightshade is meant, as this is common in Egypt, Palestine, and

the East. Others are of opinion that it means the aconite, which

[Arabic] beesh, in Arabic, denotes: this is a poisonous herb, and

grows luxuriantly on the sunny hills among the vineyards,

according to Celsus in Hieroboticon. [Arabic] beesh is not only

the name of an Indian poisonous herb, called the napellus moysis,

but [Arabic] beesh moosh, or [Arabic] farut al beesh, is the name

of an animal, resembling a mouse, which lives among the roots of

this very plant. "May I have a crop of this instead of barley, if

I have acted improperly either by my land or my labourers!"

The words of Job are ended.] That is, his defence of himself

against the accusations of his friends, as they are called. He

spoke afterwards, but never to them; he only addresses God, who

came to determine the whole controversy.

These words seem very much like an addition by a later hand.

They are wanting in many of the MSS. of the Vulgate, two in my own

possession; and in the Editio Princeps of this version.

I suppose that at first they were inserted in rubric, by some

scribe, and afterwards taken into the text. In a MS. of my own, of

the twelfth or thirteenth century, these words stand in rubric,

actually detached from the text; while in another MS., of the

fourteenth century, they form a part of the text.

In the Hebrew text they are also detached: the hemistichs are

complete without them; nor indeed can they be incorporated with

them. They appear to me an addition of no authority. In the first

edition of our Bible, that by Coverdale, 1535, there is a white

line between these words and the conclusion of the chapter; and

they stand, forming no part of the text, thus:-

Here ende the wordes of Job.

Just as we say, in reading the Scriptures "Here ends such a

chapter;" or, "Here ends the first lesson," &c.

Or the subject of the transposition, mentioned above, I have

referred to the reasons at the end of the chapter.

Dr. Kennicott, on this subject, observes: "Chapters xxix., xxx.,

and xxxi., contain Job's animated self-defence, which was made

necessary by the reiterated accusation of his friends. This

defense now concludes with six lines (in the Hebrew text) which

declare, that if he had enjoyed his estates covetously, or

procured them unjustly, he wished them to prove barren and

unprofitable. This part, therefore seems naturally to follow

Job 31:25, where he speaks of his

gold, and how much his hand had gotten. The remainder of the

chapter will then consist of these four regular parts, viz.,

"1. His piety to God, in his freedom from idolatry,

Job 31:26-28.

"2. His benevolence to men, in his charity both of temper and

behaviour, Job 31:29-32.

"3. His solemn assurance that he did not conceal his guilt, from

fearing either the violence of the poor, or the contempt of the

rich, Job 31:33, 34.

"4. (Which must have been the last article, because conclusive

of the work) he infers that, being thus secured by his integrity,

he may appeal safely to God himself. This appeal he therefore

makes boldly, and in such words as, when rightly translated, form

an image which perhaps has no parallel. For where is there an

image so magnificent or so splendid as this? Job, thus conscious

of innocence, wishing even God himself to draw up his indictment,

[rather his adversary Eliphaz and companions to draw up this

indictment, the Almighty to be judge,] that very indictment he

would bind round his head; and with that indictment as his crown

of glory, he would, with the dignity of a prince, advance to his

trial! Of this wonderful passage I add a version more just and

more intelligible than the present:-

"Ver. 35. O that one would grant me a hearing!

Behold, my desire is that the Almighty would answer me;

And, as plaintiff against me, draw up the indictment.

With what earnestness would I take it on my shoulders!

I would bind it upon me as a diadem.

The number of my steps would I set forth unto Him;

Even as a prince would I approach before Him!"

I have already shown that Eliphaz and his companions, not GOD,

are the adversary or plaintiff of whom Job speaks. This view makes

the whole clear and consistent, and saves Job from the charge of

presumptuous rashness. See also Kennicott's Remarks, p. 163.

It would not be right to say that no other interpretation has

been given of the first clause of Job 31:10 than that given

above. The manner in which Coverdale has translated the 9th and

10th verses is the way in which they are generally understood: Yf

my hert hath lusted after my neghbour's wife, or yf I have layed

wayte at his dore; O then let my wife be another man's harlot, and

let other lye with her.

In this sense the word grind is not unfrequently used by the

ancients. Horace represents the divine Cato commending the young

men whom he saw frequenting the stews, because they left other

men's wives undefiled!

Virtute esto, inquit sententia dia Catonis,

Nam simul ac venas inflavit tetra libido,

Hue juvenes aequum est descendere, non alienas

Permolere uxores.

SAT. lib. i., s. 2., ver. 32.

"When awful Cato saw a noted spark

From a night cellar stealing in the dark:

'Well done, my friend, if lust thy heart inflame,

Indulge it here, and spare the married dame.'"


Such were the morals of the holiest state of heathen Rome; and

even of Cato, the purest and severest censor of the public

manners! O tempora! O mores!

I may add from a scholiast:-Molere vetus verbum est pro

adulterare, subagitare, quo verbo in deponenti significatione

utitur alibi Ausonius, inquiens, Epigr. vii., ver. 6, de crispa

impudica et detestabili:-

Deglubit, fellat, molitur, per utramque cavernam.

Qui enim coit, quasi molere et terere videtur.

Hinc etiam molitores dicti sunt, subactores, ut apud eundem,

Epigr. xc., ver. 3.

Cum dabit uxori molitor tuus, et tibi adulter.

Thus the rabbins understand what is spoken of Samson grinding in

the prison-house: quod ad ipsum Palaestini certatim suas uxores

adduxerunt, suscipiendae ex eo prolis causa, ob ipsius robur.

In this sense St. Jerome understands La 5:13:

They took the young men to GRIND. Adolescentibus ad impudicitiam

sunt abusi, ad concubitum scilicet nefandum. Concerning grinding

of corn, by portable millstones, or querns, and that this was the

work of females alone, and they the meanest slaves;

See Clarke on Ex 11:5, and on "Jud 16:21".

The Greeks use μυλλας to signify a harlot; and μυλλω, to

grind, and also coeo, ineo, in the same sense in which Horace,

as quoted above, alienas PERMOLERE uxores.

So Theocritus, Idyll. iv., ver. 58.



Dic age mihi, Corydon, senecio ille num adhuc molit,

Illud nigro supercilio scortillum, quod olim deperibat?

Hence the Greek paronomasia, μυλλαδαμυλλειν, scortam molere. I

need make no apology for leaving the principal part of this note

in a foreign tongue. To those for whom it is designed it will be

sufficiently plain. If the above were Job's meaning, how dreadful

is the wish or imprecation in verse the tenth! Job 31:10

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