Job 31

Job Vindicates Himself

“I made a covenant with
The idea of cutting a covenant for something may suggest a covenant that is imposed, except that this construction elsewhere argues against it (see 2 Chr 29:10).
my eyes;
how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?
This half-verse is the effect of the covenant. The interrogative מָה (mah) may have the force of the negative, and so be translated “not to pay attention.”

What then would be one’s lot from God above,
one’s heritage from the Almighty
Heb “lot of Shaddai,” which must mean “the lot from Shaddai,” a genitive of source.
on high?
Is it not misfortune for the unjust,
and disaster for those who work iniquity?
Does he not see my ways
and count all my steps?
The normal approach is to take this as the protasis, and then have it resumed in v. 7 after a parenthesis in v. 6. But some take v. 6 as the apodosis and a new protasis in v. 7.
I have walked in falsehood,
and if
The “if” is understood by the use of the consecutive verb.
my foot has hastened
The verbs “walk” and “hasten” (referring in the verse to the foot) are used metaphorically for the manner of life Job lived.
to deceit –
let him
“God” is undoubtedly the understood subject of this jussive. However, “him” is retained in the translation at this point to avoid redundancy since “God” occurs in the second half of the verse.
weigh me with honest
The word צֶדֶךְ (tsedeq, “righteousness”) forms a fitting genitive for the scales used in trade or justice. The “scales of righteousness” are scales that conform to the standard (see the illustration in Deut 25:13–15). They must be honest scales to make just decisions.
then God will discover
The verb is וְיֵדַע (veyeda’, “and [then] he [God] will know”). The verb could also be subordinated to the preceding jussive, “so that God may know.” The meaning of “to know” here has more the idea of “to come to know; to discover.”
my integrity.
If my footsteps have strayed from the way,
if my heart has gone after my eyes,
The meaning is “been led by what my eyes see.”

or if anything
The word מֻאוּם (muum) could be taken in one of two ways. One reading is to represent מוּם (mum, “blemish,” see the Masorah); the other is for מְאוּמָה (meumah, “anything,” see the versions and the Kethib). Either reading fits the passage.
has defiled my hands,
then let me sow
The cohortative is often found in the apodosis of the conditional clause (see GKC 320 #108.f).
and let another eat,
and let my crops
The word means “what sprouts up” (from יָצָא [yatsa’] with the sense of “sprout forth”). It could refer metaphorically to children (and so Kissane and Pope), as well as in its literal sense of crops. The latter fits here perfectly.
be uprooted.
If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door,
Gordis notes that the word פֶּתַח (petakh, “door”) has sexual connotations in rabbinic literature, based on Prov 7:6ff. (see b. Ketubbot 9b). See also the use in Song 4:12 using a synonym.

10  then let my wife turn the millstone
Targum Job interpreted the verb טָחַן (takhan, “grind”) in a sexual sense, and this has influenced other versions and commentaries. But the literal sense fits well in this line. The idea is that she would be a slave for someone else. The second line of the verse then might build on this to explain what kind of a slave – a concubine (see A. B. Davidson, Job, 215).
for another man,
and may other men have sexual relations with her.
Heb “bow down over her,” an idiom for sexual relations.
The idea is that if Job were guilty of adultery it would be an offense against the other woman’s husband, and so by talionic justice another man’s adultery with Job’s wife would be an offense against him. He is not wishing something on his wife; rather, he is simply looking at what would be offenses in kind.

11  For I would have committed
Heb “for that [would be].” In order to clarify the referent of “that,” which refers to v. 9 rather than v. 10, the words “I have committed” have been supplied in the translation.
a shameful act,
The word for “shameful act” is used especially for sexual offenses (cf. Lev 18:27).

an iniquity to be judged.
Some have deleted this verse as being short and irrelevant, not to mention problematic. But the difficulties are not insurmountable, and there is no reason to delete it. There is a Kethib-Qere reading in each half verse; in the first the Kethib is masculine for the subject but the Qere is feminine going with “shameless deed.” In the second colon the Kethib is the feminine agreeing with the preceding noun, but the Qere is masculine agreeing with “iniquity.”
The expression עָוֹן פְּלִילִים (’avon pelilim) means “an iniquity of the judges.” The first word is not spelled as a construct noun, and so this has led some to treat the second word as an adjective (with enclitic mem [ם]). The sense is similar in either case, for the adjective occurs in Job 31:28 meaning “calling for judgment” (See GKC 427 #131.s).

12  For it is a fire that devours even to Destruction,
Heb “to Abaddon.”

and it would uproot
The verb means “to root out,” but this does not fit the parallelism with fire. Wright changed two letters and the vowels in the verb to get the root צָרַף (tsaraf, “to burn”). The NRSV has “burn to the root.”
all my harvest.
13  “If I have disregarded the right of my male servants
or my female servants
when they disputed
This construction is an adverbial clause using the temporal preposition, the infinitive from רִיב (riv, “contend”), and the suffix which is the subjective genitive.
with me,
14  then what will I do when God confronts me in judgment;
Heb “arises.” The LXX reads “takes vengeance,” an interpretation that is somewhat correct but unnecessary. The verb “to rise” would mean “to confront in judgment.”

when he intervenes,
The verb פָקַד (paqad) means “to visit,” but with God as the subject it means any divine intervention for blessing or cursing, anything God does that changes a person’s life. Here it is “visit to judge.”

how will I respond to him?
15  Did not the one who made me in the womb make them?
Heb “him,” but the plural pronoun has been used in the translation to indicate that the referent is the servants mentioned in v. 13 (since the previous “him” in v. 14 refers to God).

Did not the same one form us in the womb?
16  If I have refused to give the poor what they desired,
Heb “kept the poor from [their] desire.”

or caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
17  If I ate my morsel of bread myself,
and did not share any of it with orphans
Heb “and an orphan did not eat from it.”

18  but from my youth I raised the orphan
Heb “he grew up with me.” Several commentators have decided to change the pronoun to “I,” and make it causative.
like a father,
and from my mother’s womb
The expression “from my mother’s womb” is obviously hyperbolic. It is a way of saying “all his life.”

I guided the widow!
Heb “I guided her,” referring to the widow mentioned in v. 16.

19  If I have seen anyone about to perish for lack of clothing,
or a poor man without a coat,
20  whose heart did not bless me
The MT has simply “if his loins did not bless me.” In the conditional clause this is another protasis. It means, “if I saw someone dying and if he did not thank me for clothing them.” It is Job’s way of saying that whenever he saw a need he met it, and he received his share of thanks – which prove his kindness. G. R. Driver has it “without his loins having blessed me,” taking “If…not” as an Aramaism, meaning “except” (AJSL 52 [1935/36]: 164f.).

as he warmed himself with the fleece of my sheep,
This clause is interpreted here as a subordinate clause to the first half of the verse. It could also be a separate clause: “was he not warmed…?”

21  if I have raised my hand
The expression “raised my hand” refers to a threatening manner or gesture in the court rather than a threat of physical violence in the street. Thus the words “to vote” are supplied in the translation to indicate the setting.
to vote against the orphan,
when I saw my support in the court,
Heb “gate,” referring to the city gate where judicial decisions were rendered in the culture of the time. The translation uses the word “court” to indicate this to the modern reader, who might not associate a city gate complex with judicial functions.

22  then
Here is the apodosis, the imprecation Job pronounces on himself if he has done any of these things just listed.
let my arm fall from the shoulder,
The point is that if he has raised his arm against the oppressed it should be ripped off at the joint. The MT has “let fall my shoulder [כְּתֵפִי, ketefi] from the nape of the neck [or shoulder blade (מִשִּׁכְמָה, mishikhmah)].”

let my arm be broken off at the socket.
The word קָנֶה (qaneh) is “reed; shaft; beam,” and here “shoulder joint.” All the commentaries try to explain how “reed” became “socket; joint.” This is the only place that it is used in such a sense. Whatever the exact explanation – and there seems to be no convincing view – the point of the verse is nonetheless clear.

23  For the calamity from God was a terror to me,
The LXX has “For the terror of God restrained me.” Several commentators changed it to “came upon me.” Driver had “The fear of God was burdensome.” I. Eitan suggested “The terror of God was mighty upon me” (“Two unknown verbs: etymological studies,” JBL 42 [1923]: 22-28). But the MT makes clear sense as it stands.

and by reason of his majesty
The form is וּמִשְּׂאֵתוֹ (umisseeto); the preposition is causal. The form, from the verb נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to raise; to lift high”), refers to God’s exalted person, his majesty (see Job 13:11).
I was powerless.
24  “If I have put my confidence in gold
or said to pure gold,
‘You are my security!’
25  if I have rejoiced because of the extent of my wealth,
or because of the great wealth my hand had gained,
26  if I looked at the sun
Heb “light”; but parallel to the moon it is the sun. This section speaks of false worship of the sun and the moon.
when it was shining,
and the moon advancing as a precious thing,
27  so that my heart was secretly enticed,
and my hand threw them a kiss from my mouth,
Heb “and my hand kissed my mouth.” The idea should be that of “my mouth kissed my hand.” H. H. Rowley suggests that the hand was important in waving or throwing the kisses of homage to the sun and the moon, and so it receives the focus. This is the only place in the OT that refers to such a custom. Outside the Bible it was known, however.

28  then this
Heb “it.”
also would be iniquity to be judged,
See v. 11 for the construction. In Deut 17:2ff. false worship of heavenly bodies is a capital offense. In this passage, Job is talking about just a momentary glance at the sun or moon and the brief lapse into a pagan thought. But it is still sin.

for I would have been false
The verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash) in the Piel means “to deny.” The root meaning is “to deceive; to disappoint; to grow lean.” Here it means that he would have failed or proven unfaithful because his act would have been a denial of God.
to God above.
29  If
The problem with taking this as “if,” introducing a conditional clause, is finding the apodosis, if there is one. It may be that the apodosis is understood, or summed up at the end. This is the view taken here. But R. Gordis (Job, 352) wishes to take this word as the indication of the interrogative, forming the rhetorical question to affirm he has never done this. However, in that case the parenthetical verses inserted become redundant.
I have rejoiced over the misfortune of my enemy
The law required people to help their enemies if they could (Exod 23:4; also Prov 20:22). But often in the difficulties that ensued, they did exult over their enemies’ misfortune (Pss 54:7; 59:10 [11], etc.). But Job lived on a level of purity that few ever reach. Duhm said, “If chapter 31 is the crown of all ethical developments of the O.T., verse 29 is the jewel in that crown.”

or exulted
The Hitpael of עוּר (’ur) has the idea of “exult.”
because calamity
The word is רָע (ra’, “evil”) in the sense of anything that harms, interrupts, or destroys life.
found him –
30  I
This verse would then be a parenthesis in which he stops to claim his innocence.
have not even permitted my mouth
Heb “I have not given my palate.”
to sin
by asking
The infinitive construct with the ל (lamed) preposition (“by asking”) serves in an epexegetical capacity here, explaining the verb of the first colon (“permitted…to sin”). To seek a curse on anyone would be a sin.
for his life through a curse –
31  if
Now Job picks up the series of clauses serving as the protasis.
the members of my household
Heb “the men of my tent.” In context this refers to members of Job’s household.
have never said,
The line is difficult to sort out. Job is saying it is sinful “if his men have never said, ‘O that there was one who has not been satisfied from his food.’” If they never said that, it would mean there were people out there who needed to be satisfied with his food.

‘If only there were
The optative is again expressed with “who will give?”
who has not been satisfied from Job’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Job) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
meat!’ –
32  But
This verse forms another parenthesis. Job stops almost at every point now in the conditional clauses to affirm his purity and integrity.
no stranger had to spend the night outside,
for I opened my doors to the traveler
The word in the MT, אֹרחַ (’orakh, “way”), is a contraction from אֹרֵחַ (’oreakh, “wayfarer”); thus, “traveler.” The same parallelism is found in Jer 14:8. The reading here “on/to the road” is meaningless otherwise.

33  if
Now the protasis continues again.
I have covered my transgressions as men do,
Some commentators suggest taking the meaning here to be “as Adam,” referring to the Paradise story of the sin and denial.

by hiding
The infinitive is epexegetical, explaining the first line.
iniquity in my heart,
The MT has “in my bosom.” This is the only place in the OT where this word is found. But its meaning is well attested from Aramaic.

34  because I was terrified
Here too the verb will be the customary imperfect – it explains what he continually did in past time.
of the great multitude,
Heb “the great multitude.” But some commentators take רַבָּה (rabbah) adverbially: “greatly” (see RSV).

and the contempt of families terrified me,
so that I remained silent
and would not go outdoors –
There is no clear apodosis for all these clauses. Some commentators transfer the verses around to make them fit the constructions. But the better view is that there is no apodosis – that Job broke off here, feeling it was useless to go further. Now he will address God and not men. But in vv. 38–40b he does return to a self-imprecation. However, there is not sufficient reason to start rearranging all the verses.

Job’s Appeal

35  “If only I had
The optative is again introduced with “who will give to me hearing me? – O that someone would listen to me!”
someone to hear me!
Here is my signature –
Heb “here is my ‘tav’” (הֵן תָּוִי, hen tavi). The letter ת (tav) is the last letter of the alphabet in Hebrew. In paleo-Hebrew the letter was in the form of a cross or an “X,” and so used for one making a mark or a signature. In this case Job has signed his statement and delivered it to the court – but he has yet to be charged. Kissane thought that this being the last letter of the alphabet, Job was saying, “This is my last word.” Others take the word to mean “desire” – “this is my desire, that God would answer me” (see E. F. Sutcliffe, “Notes on Job, textual and exegetical,” Bib 30 [1949]: 71-72; G. R. Driver, AJSL 3 [1935/36]: 166; P. P. Saydon, “Philological and Textual Notes to the Maltese Translation of the Old Testament,” CBQ 23 [1961]: 252). R. Gordis (Job, 355) also argues strongly for this view.

let the Almighty answer me!
If only I had an indictment
Heb “a scroll,” in the context referring to a scroll containing the accusations of Job’s legal adversary (see the next line).

that my accuser had written.
The last line is very difficult; it simply says, “a scroll [that] my [legal] adversary had written.” The simplest way to handle this is to see it as a continuation of the optative (RSV).

36  Surely
The clause begins with the positive oath formula, אִם־לֹא (’im-lo’).
I would wear it proudly
The word “proudly” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied (note the following line).
on my shoulder,
I would bind
This verb is only found in Prov 6:21. But E. Dhorme (Job, 470) suggests that (with metathesis) we have a derivative מַעֲדַנּוֹת (maadannot, “bonds; ties”) in 38:31.
it on me like a crown;
37  I would give him an accounting of my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.

Job’s Final Solemn Oath

Many commentators place vv. 38–40b at the end of v. 34, so that there is no return to these conditional clauses after his final appeal.
38  “If my land cried out against me
Some commentators have suggested that the meaning behind this is that Job might not have kept the year of release (Deut 15:1), and the law against mixing seed (Lev 19:19). But the context will make clear that the case considered is obtaining the land without paying for it and causing the death of its lawful owner (see H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 206). Similar to this would be the case of Naboth’s vineyard.

and all its furrows wept together,
39  if I have eaten its produce without paying,
Heb “without silver.”

or caused the death
The versions have the verb “grieved” here. The Hebrew verb means “to breathe,” but the form is Hiphil. This verb in that stem could mean something of a contemptuous gesture, like “sniff” in Mal 1:13. But with נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) in Job 11:20 it means “to cause death,” i.e., “to cause to breathe out; to expire.” This is likely the meaning here, although it is possible that it only meant “to cause suffering” to the people.
of its owners,
There is some debate over the meaning of בְּעָלֶיהָ (bealeyha), usually translated “its owners.” Dahood, following others (although without their emendations), thought it referred to “laborers” (see M. Dahood, Bib 41 [1960]: 303; idem, Bib 43 [1962]: 362).

40  then let thorns sprout up in place of wheat,
and in place of barley, weeds!”
The word בָּאְשָׁה (boshah, from בָּאַשׁ [baas, “to have a foul smell”]) must refer to foul smelling weeds.

The words of Job are ended.

V. The Speeches of Elihu (32:1-37:24)

Copyright information for NETfull