If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit. “If I have been a living lie, i.e. if, under a fair show of piety and righteousness of life, I have, as you my friends suppose, been all along a deceiver and a hypocrite, cloaking my secret sins under a mere pretence of well-doing, then the sooner I am exposed the better. Let me be weighed,” etc. The painful suggestion of hypocrisy has been made by Job’s friends repeatedly during the colloquy (Job_4:7-9; Job_8:6, Job_8:12; Job_11:4-6, ’11-14; Job_15:30-35; Job_18:5-21; Job_20:5-29, etc.), and has deeply afflicted the patriarch. It is a charge so easily made, and so impossible to refute. All that the righteous man, thus falsely accused, can do is to appeal to God: “Thou, God, knowest. Thou, God, wilt one day show forth the truth.”
If I have walked with vanity – This is the second specification in regard to his private deportment. He says that his life had been sincere, upright, honest. The word vanity here is equivalent to falsehood, for so the parallelism demands, and so the word (שׁוא shâv’) is often used; Psa_12:3; Psa_41:7; Exo_23:1; Deu_5:20; compare Isa, Deu_1:13. The meaning of Job here is, that he had been true and honest. In his dealings with others he had not defrauded them; he had not misrepresented things; he had spoken the exact truth, and had done that which was without deception or guile.
If my foot hath hasted to deceit – That is, if I have gone to execute a purpose of deceit or fraud. He had never, on seeing an opportunity where others might be defrauded, hastened to embrace it. The Septuagint renders this verse, “If I have walked with scoffers – μετα γελοιαστῶν meta geloiastōn – and if my foot has hastened to deceit.”
Let me be weighed in an even balance; literally, let him (i.e. God) weigh me in the balances of justice. The use of this imagery by the Egyptians has been already noted (see the comment on Job_6:2). It is an essential part of every Egyptian representation of the final judgment of souls by Osiris. Each man’s merits are formally weighed in a balance, which is carefully depicted, and he is judged accordingly. Job asks that this may be done in his case, either immediately or at any rate ultimately. He would have the act performed, that God may know his integrity; or rather, may recognize it. (So Professor Leo.) Job has no doubt that a thorough investigation of his case will lead to a, acknowledgment and proclamation of his innocence.
6.Let me be weighed, etc. — Literally, let him weigh me in a balance of righteousness, and God shall know mine integrity.
Balance — See note, Job_6:2. According to the Egyptian mythology, when the soul appears before Osiris it is weighed in a balance. A series of questions (amounting to as many as forty-two) are proposed, of the most severe and searching character, which “illustrate the nature of that secret and self-judging law which everywhere, in spite of intellectual aberrations, is still active in the cause of truth and righteousness, among the inmost fibres of the human heart.” — HARDWICK. (See his work, “Christ,” etc., 2:301-303; also Bib. Sac., 25:97-103.)
Let me be weighed in an even balance – Margin, him weigh me in balances of justice. That is, let him ascertain exactly my character, and treat me accordingly. If on trial it be found that I am guilty in this respect, I consent to be punished accordingly. Scales or balances are often used as emblematic of justice. Many suppose, however, that this verse is a parenthesis, and that the imprecation in Job_31:8, relates to Job_31:5, as well as to Job_31:7. But most probably the meaning is, that he consented to have his life tried in this respect in the most exact and rigid manner, and was willing to abide the result. A man may express such a consciousness of integrity in his dealings with others, without any improper self-reliance or boasting. It may be a simple fact of which he may be certain, that he has never meant to defraud any man.
By a woman, to wit, by a strange woman, or rather by my neighbour’s wife, as the next words limit it; for of a maid he spoke before, Job_31:1, and this cannot be meant of his own wife. He saith, by a woman, i.e. either by gazing upon her beauty, so as to be enamoured with it, and to lust after her; or by her persuasions or allurements. Or, concerning a woman, i.e. concerning impure conversation with a forbidden woman. The phrase is very emphatical, taking from himself and others the vain excuses wherewith men use to palliate their sins, by pretending that they did not design the wickedness, but were merely drawn in and seduced by the strong enticements and provocations of others; all which Job supposeth, and yet nevertheless owns the great guilt of such practices even in that case, as well knowing that temptation to sin is no justification of it.
Laid wait at my neighbour’s door; watching for a fit opportunity to defile his wife. Compare Pr 7 Pr 9.
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman – If I have been enticed by her beauty. The word rendered “deceived” פתה pâthâh means to open, to expand. It is then applied to that which is open or ingenuous; to that which is unsuspicious – like a youth; and thence is used in the sense of being deceived, or enticed; Deu_11:16; Exo_22:16; Pro_1:10; Pro_16:29. The word “woman” here probably means a married woman, and stands opposed to “virgin” in ver. 1. The crime which he here disclaims is adultery, and he says that his heart had never been allured from conjugal fidelity by the charms or the arts of a woman.
Or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door – That is, to watch when he would be absent from home. This was a common practice with those who were guilty of the crime referred to here; compare Pro_7:8-9.
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 Exo_11:5 (note), and Isa_47:2 (note); and see at the end of the chapter, Isa_31:8 (note).
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.
Let my wife grind unto another; either,
1. Let her be taken captive, and made a slave to grind in other men’s mills; which was a sore and vile servitude, Exo_11:5Jud_16:21Isa_47:2Mat_24:41. Or rather,
2. Let her be defiled by another man, as the next words expound it, and as the Hebrews understand it, and as this very phrase is used by very ancient, both Greek and Latin, authors of which see my Latin Synopsis on this place. And this is to be cautiously understood, not as if Job desired or would permit a requital in the same kind, but only, that if in that case God should give up his wife to such a wickedness, he should acknowledge his justice in it, and (though with abhorrency of the sin) accept of that punishment of it.
Let others bow down upon her; another modest expression of a filthy action; whereby the Holy Ghost gives us a pattern and a precept to avoid not only unclean actions, but also all immodest expressions.
Then let my wife grined unto another – Let her be subjected to the deepest humiliation and degradation. Probably Job could not have found language which would have more emphatically expressed his sense of the enormity of this crime, or his perfect consciousness of innocence. The last thing which a man would imprecate on himself, would be that which is specified in this verse. The word “grind” (טחן ṭâchan) means to crush, to beat small; then to grind, as in a handmill; Jdg_16:21; Num_11:8. This was usually the work of females and slaves; see the notes at Isa_47:2. The meaning here is, “Let my wife be the mill-wench to another; be his abject slave, and be treated by him with the deepest indignity.” This passage has been understood by many in a different sense, which the parallelism might seem to demand, but which is not necessarily the true interpretation. The sense referred to is this: Cogatur uxor mea ad patiendum alius concubitum, ut verbum molendi hoc loco eodem sensu sumatur, quo non raro a Latinis usurpatur ut in illo Horatii (Satyr. L. i. Ecl. ii. verse 35), alienas permolere uxores.
In this sense the rabbinic writers understand Jdg_16:21 and Lam_5:13. So also the Chaldee renders the phrase before us (חורן תשמשעם אנתתי) coeat cure alio uxor mea; and so the Septuagint seems to have understood it – ἀρέσαι ἄρα κὰι ἡ γυνή μου ἑτέρῳ aresai ara kai hē gunē mou heterō. But probably Job meant merely that his wife should be reduced to the condition of servitude, and be compelled to labor in the employ of another. We may find here an answer to the opinion of Prof. Lee (in his notes at Job_31:1), that the wife of Job was at this time dead, and that he was meditating the question about marrying again. May we not here also find an instance of the fidelity and forgiving spirit of Job toward a wife who is represented in the early part of this book as manifesting few qualities which could win the heart of an husband? There is no expression of impatience at her temper and her words on the part of Job, and he here speaks of it as the most serious of all calamities that could happen; the most painful of all punishments, that that same wife should be reduced to a condition of servitude and degradation.
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.
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant. Job now disclaims a fourth sin—the oppression of his dependants. Eliphaz had taxed him generally with harshness and cruelty in his relations towards those weaker than himself (Job_22:5-9), but had not specially pointed to this kind of oppressiveness. As, however, this was the commonest form of the vice, Job deems it right to disclaim it, before addressing himself to the several charges brought by Eliphaz. He has not ill used his slaves, either male or female. He has not “despised their cause,” but given it full consideration and attention; he has heard them when they contended with him; he has allowed them to “contend;” he has been a just, and not a hard master. The slavery of which he speaks is evidently of a kind under which the slave had certain rights, as was the ease also under the Mosaic Law (Exo_21:2-11).
If I did despise the cause of my man-servant – Job turns to another subject, on which he claimed that his life had been upright. It was in reference to the treatment of his servants. The meaning here is, “I never refused to do strict justice to my servants when they brought their cause before me, or when they complained that my dealings with them had been severe.”
When they contended with me – That is, when they brought their cause before me, and complained that I had not provided for them comfortably, or that their task had been too hard. If in any respect they supposed they had cause of complaint, I listened to them attentively, and endeavored to do right. He did not take advantage of his sower to oppress them, nor did he suppose that they had no rights of any kind. It is evident, from this, that Job had those who sustained to him the relation of servants; but whether they were slaves, or hired servants, is not known. The language here will agree with either supposition, though it cannot be doubted that slavery was known as early as the time of Job. There is no certain evidence that he held any slaves, in the proper sense of the term, nor that he regarded slavery as right; compare the notes at Job_1:3. He here refers to the numerous persons that had been in his employ in the days of his prosperity, and says that he had never taken advantage of his power or rank to do them wrong.
What then shall I do when God riseth up? – That is, when he rises up to pronounce sentence upon people, or to execute impartial justice. Job admits that if he had done injustice to a servant, he would have reason to dread the divine indignation, and that he could have no excuse. “I tremble,” said President Jefferson, speaking of slavery in the United States “when I remember that God is just!” Notes on Virginia.
And when he visiteth – When he comes to inspect human conduct. Umbreit renders it “when he punishes.” The word visit is often used in this sense in the Scriptures.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Slaveholders try to defend themselves by maintaining the original inferiority of the slave. But Mal_2:10; Act_17:26; Eph_6:9 make the common origin of masters and servants the argument for brotherly love being shown by the former to the latter.
What then shall I do when God riseth up? Job regards God as the Avenger and Champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependants, he would have provoked God’s anger, and God would assuredly “rise up” one day to punish. What, then, could he (Job) do? What but submit in silence? When he visiteth, what shall I answer him? There could be no valid defence. The slave was still a man, a brother—God’s creature, equally with his master. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? God “hath made of one Mood all nations of men,” and all individual me, “to dwell on the face of the earth” (Act_17:26). All have rights—in a certain sense, equal rights. All are entitled to just treatment, to kind treatment, to merciful treatment. Job is before his age in recognizing the substantial equality of the slave with the freeman, which otherwise was scarcely taught by any until the promulgation of the gospel (see 1Ti_6:2; Phm_1:16).
If I have withheld the poor from their desire. As Eliphaz had maintained (Job_22:6, Job_22:7), and as Job had already denied (Job_29:12, Job_29:16). The duty of relieving the poor, solemnly enjoined upon the people of Israel in the Law (Deu_15:7-11), was generally admitted by the civilized nations of antiquity. In Egypt it was especially insisted on. “The Egyptian’s duties to mankind,” says Dr. Birch, “were comprised in giving bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, oil to the wounded, and burial to the dead”. Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail. “Thou hast sent widows away empty,” was one of the accusations of Eliphaz (Job_22:9). “I caused the widow’s heart,” replied Job, “to sing for joy” (Job_29:13). The widow’s weakness has always been felt to give her a special claim on man’s benevolence (see Exo_22:22; Deu_14:29; Deu_16:11, Deu_16:14; Deu_24:19; Deu_26:12, Deu_26:13; Psa_146:9; Pro_15:25; Isa_1:17; Jer_7:6; Mal_3:5; 1Ti_5:16; Jas_1:27).
If I have withheld the poor from their desire – Job now turns to another class of virtues, regarded also as of great importance in the patriarchal ages, kindness to the poor and the afflicted; to the fatherless and the widow. He appeals to his former life on this subject; affirms that he had a good conscience in the recollection of his dealings with them, and impliedly declares that it could not have been for any deficiency in the exercise of these virtues that his calamities had come upon him. The meaning here is, that he had not denied to the poor their wish. If they had come and desired bread of him, he had not withheld it; see Job_22:7.
Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail – That is, I have not frustrated her hopes, or disappointed her expectations, when she has looked intently upon me, and desired my aid. The “failing of the eyes” refers to failing of the object of their expectation; or the expression means that she had not looked to him in vain; see Job_11:20.
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone – 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, Το μεν γαρ δειπνον φασι κοινα δια την κοινωνιαν καλεισθαι· καθ’ ἑαυτους γαρ ηριστων επιεικως οἱ παλαι ρωμαιοι, συνδειπνουντες τοις 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.
If I have made gold my hope – That is, if I have put my trust in gold rather than in God; if I have fixed my affections with idolatrous attachment on riches rather than on my Maker. Job here introduces another class of sins, and says that his conscience did not charge him with guilt in respect to them. He had before spoken mainly of social duties, and of his manner of life toward the poor, the needy, the widow, and the orphan. He here turns to the duty which he owed to God, and says that his conscience did not charge him with idolatry in any form. He had indeed been rich, but he had not fixed his affections with idolatrous attachment on his wealth.
Or have said to fine gold – The word used here (כתם kethem) is the same which is employed in Job_28:16, to denote the gold of Ophir. It is used to express that which was most pure – from the verb כתם kâtham – to hide, to hoard, and then denoting that which was hidden, hoarded, precious. The meaning is, that he had not put his trust in that which was most sought after, and which was deemed of the highest value by people.
If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great – That is, if I have rejoiced as if I might now confide in it, or put my trust in it. He had not found his principal joy in his property, nor had he attempted to find in that the happiness which he ought to seek in God.
And because mine hand had gotten much – Margin, found. Prof. Lee translates this, “When as a mighty man my hand prevailed.” But the usual interpretation is given in our translation, and this accords better with the connection. The word found better expresses the sense of the Hebrew than gotten, but the sense is not materially varied.
If I beheld the sun when it shined – 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.
If I beheld the sun when it shined; literally, the light; i.e. the great light, which God made to rule the day (Gen_1:16). Sun-worship, the least ignoble form of idolatry, was widely spread in the East, and in Egypt, from a very early date. According to the views of some, the religion el’ t e Egyptians was little else than a complicated sun-worship from its earliest inception to its very latest phase. “The religious notions of the Egyptians,” says Dr. Birch, “were chiefly connected with the worship of the sun, with whom at a later period all the principal deities were connected. As Hag, or Harmachis, he represented the youthful or rising sun; as Ra, the midday; and as Turn. the setting sun. According to Egyptian notions, that god floated in a boat through the sky or celestial ether, and descended to the dark regions of night, or Hades. Many deities attended on his passage or were connected with his worship, and the gods Amen and Khepr, who represented the invisible and self-produced god, were identified with the sun”. Even those who do not go these lengths admit that the solar worship was, at any rate, a very main element in the cult of Egypt. In the Babylonian and Assyrian religion the position of the sun-god was leas prominent, but still, as San, or Shamas, he held an important place, and was the main object of religious veneration to a largo body of worshippers. In the Vedic system the sun figured as Mitra, and in the Zoroastrian as Mithra, in both holding a high position. Among the Arabians the sun, worshipped as Orotal, is said to have been anciently the only god, though he was accompanied by a female principle named Alilat (Herod; 3.8). Or the moon walking in brightness. The worship of the moon has. in most countries where it has prevailed, been quite secondary and subordinate to that of the sun. In Egypt. while nine gods are more or less identified with the solar luminary, two only, Khons and Thoth, can be said to represent the moon. In the Vedic and Zoroastrian systems the moon, called Soma, or Hems, almost dropped out of the popular religion, at any rate as a moon-god. In the Arabiun, Alilat, a goddess, probably represented the moon, as did Ashtoreth, a goddess, in the Pheonician. In Assyria, however, and in Babylonia, moon-worship held a higher position, Sin, the moon-god, taking precedence over Shamas, the sun-god, and being a very much more important personage. Thus both moon-worship and sun-worship were prevalent among all, or almost all, Job’s neighbours.
If I beheld the sun when it shined – Margin, light. The Hebrew word (אור ‘ôr) properly means light, but that it here means the sun is manifest from the connection, since the moon occurs in the parallel member of the sentence. Why the word light is used here rather than sun, can be only a matter of conjecture. It may be because the worship to which Job refers was not primarily and originally that of the sun, the moon, or the stars, but of light as such, and that he mentions this as the essential feature of the idolatry which he had avoided. The worship of light in general soon became in fact the worship of the sun – as that is the principal source of light. There is no doubt that Job here refers to idolatrous worship, and the passage is particularly valuable, as it describes one of the forms of idolatry then existing, and refers to some of the customs then prevalent in such worship.
The word light is used, also, to denote the sun in Job_37:2 l; compare Isa_18:4; Hab_3:4. So, also, Homer speaks of the sun not only as λαμπρὸν φάος ἡελίοιο lampron faos hēelioio – bright light of the sun, but simply as φάος faos – light. Odyssey r. 335. The worship here referred to is that of the heavenly bodies, and it is known that this existed in the early periods of the world, and was probably one of the first forms of idolatry. It is expressly mentioned by Ezekiel as prevailing in his time, Eze_8:16, “And they worshipped the sun toward the east.” That it prevailed in the time of Moses, is evident from the caution which he gives in Deu_4:19; compare 2Ki_23:5. It is well known, also, that the worship of the heavenly bodies was common in the East, and particularly in Chaldea – near to which Job is supposed to have lived, and it was a remarkable fact that one who was surrounded with idolaters of this description had been enabled always to keep himself pure.
The principle on which this worship was founded was, probably, that of gratitude. People adored the objects from which they derived important benefits, as well as deprecated the wrath of those which were supposed to exert a malignant influence. But among the objects from which people derived the greatest benefits were the sun and moon, and hence, they were objects of worship. The stars, also, were supposed to exert important influences over people, and hence, they also early became objects of adoration. An additional reason for the worship of the heavenly bodies may have been, that light was a natural and striking symbol of the divinity, and those shining bodies may have been at first honored as representatives of the Deity. The worship of the heavenly bodies was called Sabaism, from the Hebrew word צבא tsâbâ’ – host, or army – as being the worship of the hosts of heaven.
It is supposed to have had its origin in Persia, and to have spread thence to the West. That the moon was worshipped as a deity, is abundantly proved by the testimony of the ancient writers. Hottinger, Hist. Orient. Lib. 1:c. 8, speaking of the worship of the Zabaists, adduces the testimony of Ali Said Vaheb, saying that the first day of the week was devoted to the sun; the second to the moon; the third to Mars, etc. Maimonides says that the Zabaists worshipped the moon, and that they also said that Adam led mankind to that species of worship. Mor. Nev. P. 3: Clemens Alexandr. says (in Protrepto) κὰι προσεκίνησαν ἥλιον ὡς ἰνδοὶ κὰι σελήνην ὡς φρύγες kai prosekinēsan hēlion hōs indoi kai selēnēn hōs fruges. Curtius says of the people of Lybia (Liv. iv. in Melp.) θυὸνσι δὲ ἡλίῳ κὰι οελήνη μόυνοισι thuousi de hēliō kai oelēnē mounoisi.
Julius Caesar says of the Germans, that they worshipped the moon, Lib. 6: de B. G. p. 158. The Romans had a temple consecrated to the moon, Taci. Ann. Lib. 15: Livy, L. 40: See Geor. Frid. Meinhardi Diss. de Selenolatria, in Ugolin’s Thesau. Sacr. Tom. 23:p. 831ff. Indeed, we have a proof of the worship of the moon in our own language, in the name given to the second day of the week – Monday, i. e. moon-day, implying that it was formerly regarded as devoted to the worship of the moon. The word “beheld” in the passage before us must be understood in an idolatrous sense. “If I have looked upon the sun as an object of worship.” Schultens explains this passage as referring to splendid and exalted characters, who, on account of their brilliance and power, may be compared to the sun at noon-day, and to the moon in its brightness. But the more obvious and common reference is to the sun and moon as objects of worship.
Or the moon walking in brightness – Margin, bright. The word “walking,” here applied to the moon, may refer either to its course through the heavens, or it may mean, as Dr. Good supposes, advancing to her full; “brightly, or splendidly progressive.” The Septuagint renders the passage strangely enough. “Do we not see the shining sun eclipsed? and the moon changing? For it is not in them.”
And my heart hath been secretly enticed – That is, away from God, or led into sin.
Or my mouth hath kissed my hand – Margin, my hand hath kissed my mouth. The margin accords with the Hebrew. It was customary in ancient worship to kiss the idol that was worshipped; compare 1Ki_19:18, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel – and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” See, also, Hos_13:2. The Muslims at the present day, in their worship at Mecca, kiss the black stone which is fastened in the corner of the Beat Allah, as often as they pass it, in going round the Caaba. If they cannot come near enough to kiss it, they touch it with the hand, and kiss that. An Oriental pays his respects to one of a superior station by kissing his hand and putting it to his forehead. Paxton. See the custom of kissing the hand of a Prince, as it exists in Arabia, described by Niebuhr, Reisebeschreib. 1, S. 414. The custom prevailed, also, among the Romans and Greeks. Thus, Pliny (Hist. Nat. 28:2) says, Inter adorandum dexterarm ad osculum referimus, et totum corpus circumagimus. So Lucian in the book, περὶ ὀρχήτεως peri orchēseōs, says, “And the Indians, rising early, adore the sun – not as we, kissing the hand – τὴν χείρα κύσαντες tēn cheira kusantes – think that our vow is perfect.” The foundation of the custom here alluded to, is the respect and affection which is shown for one by kissing; and as the heavenly bodies which were worshipped were so remote that the worshippers could not have access to them, they expressed their veneration by kissing the hand. Job means to say, that he had never performed an act of homage to the heavenly bodies.
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judqe – Note Job_31:11. Among the Hebrews idolatry was an offence punishable by death by stoning; Deu_17:2-7. It is possible, also, that this might have been elsewhere in the patriarchal times a crime punishable in this manner. At all events, Job regarded it as a heinous offence, and one of which the magistrate ought to take cognizance.
For I should have denied the God that is above – The worship of the heavenly bodies would have been in fact the denial of the existence of any Superior Being. This, in fact, always occurs, for idolaters have no knowledge of the true God.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me. “If at any time I was malevolent, if I wished evil to others, and rejoiced when evil came upon them, being (as the Greeks expressed it) ἐπιχαιρέκακος—if I so acted even in the case of my enemy—then,” etc. The apodosis is wanting, but may be supplied by any suitable imprecation (see Job_31:8, Job_31:10, Job_31:22, Job_31:40). Or lifted up myself—i.e. was puffed up and exalted—when evil found him. In the old world men generally regarded themselves as fully entitled to exult at the downfall of an enemy, and to triumph over him with words of contumely and scorn (camp. Jdg_5:19-31; Psa_18:37-42; Isa_10:8-14, etc.). There appears to be but one other passage in the Old Testament, besides the present, in which the contrary disposition is shown. This is Pro_17:5, where the writer declares that “he who is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”
29.Rejoiced at the destruction, etc. — Rejoicing in the sufferings of others is a most hateful form of evil. (See note on Job_15:27.) In Job’s bitterest invectives there is no trace of hate. Here he speaks of him who hated me. Noble as Job appears in such a light, Christ demands more than this negative moral action, even the love of an enemy; “a voice,” says Lord Bacon, “beyond the light of nature.” Comp. Exo_23:4-5; Lev_19:18; Deu_23:7; Pro_20:22; Pro_24:17; Pro_25:21-22; and Cicero, De Officiis, 1, 25.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me – Job here introduces another class of offences, of which he says he was innocent. The subject referred to is the proper treatment of those who injure us. In respect to this, he says that he was entirely conscious of freedom from exultation when calamity came upon a foe, and that he had never even wished him evil in his heart. The word “destruction” here, means calamity, disappointment, or affliction of any kind. It had never been pleasant to him to see one who hated him suffer. It is needless to remark how entirely this accords with the New Testament. And it is pleasant to find such a sentiment as this expressed in the early age of the world, and to see how the influence of true religion is at all times the same. The religion of Job led him to act out the beautiful sentiment afterward embodied in the instructions of the Savior, and made binding on all his followers; Mat_5:44. True religion will lead a man to act out what is embodied in its precepts, whether they are expressed in formal language or not.
Or lifted up myself – Been elated or rejoiced.
When evil found him – When calamity overtook him.
Neither have I suffered my mouth – Margin, as in Hebrew, palate. The word is often used for the mouth in general, and especially as the organ of the voice from the use and importance of the palate in speaking. Pro_8:7. “For my palate (חכי chikiy) speaketh truth.” It is used as the organ of taste, Job_12:11; compare Job_6:30; Psa_119:103.
By wishing a curse to his soul – It must have been an extraordinary degree of piety which would permit a man to say this with truth, that he had never harbored a wish of injury to an enemy. Few are the people, probably, even now, who could say this, and who are enabled to keep their minds free from every wish that calamities and woes may overtake those who are seeking their hurt. Yet this is the nature of true religion. It controls the heart, represses the angry and revengeful feelings, and creates in the soul an earnest desire for the happiness even of those who injure us.
If I covered my transgressions as Adam – Here is a most evident allusion to the fall. Adam transgressed the commandment of his Maker, and he endeavored 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.
If I covered my transgressions as Adam; or, after the manner of men It does not seem to me likely that Job had such a knowledge of Adam’s conduct in the garden of Eden as would have made an allusion to it in this place natural or probable. The religious traditions of the Chaldees, which note the war in heaven, the Deluge, the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, contain no mention of Adam or of Paradise. Nor. so far as I am aware, is there, among other ancient legends, any near parallel to the story of the Fall as related in Gen_4:1-26. Much less does the subordinate detail of Adam hiding himself make its appearance in any of them. The marginal rendering, “after the manner of men,” is therefore, I think, to be preferred. By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom. This is not particularly apposite to the case of Adam, who “hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen_4:8).
If I covered my transgressions as Adam – That is, if I have attempted to hide or conceal them; if, conscious of guilt, I have endeavored to cloak my sins, and to appear righteous. There has been great variety of opinion about the meaning of this expression. The margin reads it, “After the manner of men.” Luther, renders it, “Have I covered my wickedness as a man” – Habe ich meine Schalkheit wie ein Menseh gedecht. Coverdale, “Have I ever done any wicked deed where through I shamed myself before men.” Herder, “Did I hide my faults like a mean man.” Schultens, “If I have covered my sin as Adam.” The Vulgate, Quasi homo – “as a man.” The Septuagint, “If when I sinned unwillingly (ᾶκουσίως akousiōs – inadvertently, undesignedly) I concealed my sin.” Noyes, “After the manner of men.” Umbreit, Nach Menschenart – “After the manner of men.” Rosenmuller, As Adam. The Chaldee, כאדם, meaning, as Rosenmuller remarks, as Adam; and the Syriac, As men.
The meaning may either be, as people are accustomed to do when they commit a crime – referring to the common practice of the guilty to attempt to cloak their offences, or to the attempt of Adam to hide his sin from his Maker after the fall; Gen_3:7-8. It is not possible to decide with certainty which is the correct interpretation, for either will accord with the Hebrew. But in favor of the supposition that it refers to the effort of Adam to conceal his sin, we may remark, (1.) That there can be little or no doubt that that transaction was known to Job by tradition. (2.) it furnished him a pertinent and striking illustration of the point before him. (3.) the illustration is, by supposing that it refers to him, much more striking than on the other supposition. It is true that people often attempt to conceal their guilt, and that it may be set down as a fact very general in its character; but still it is not so universal that there are no exceptions. But here was a specific and well-known case, and one which, as it was the first, so it was the most sad and melancholy instance that had ever occurred of an attempt to conceal guilt. It was not an attempt, to hide it from man – for there was then no other man to witness it; but an attempt to hide it from God. From such an attempt Job says he was free.
By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom – By attempting to conceal it so that others would not know it. Adam attempted to conceal his fault even from God; and it is common with people, when they have done wrong, to endeavor to hide it from others.
Did I fear a great multitude! rather, because I feared the great multitude’ or the great assembly; i.e. the gathering of the people in the gate on occasions of public business. It’ Job had been conscious of any great and heinous sins’ he would not have led the open and public life which, previously to his calamities, he had always led (Job_29:7-10, Job_29:21-25); he would have been afraid to make his appearance at public meetings, lest his sins should have become known, and should draw upon him scorn and contempt, instead of the respect and acclamations to which he was accustomed. Or did the contempt of families terrify me? rather, and the contempt of families terrified me. The contempt of the assembled tribes and families, which might have been poured out upon him at such meetings, would have been quite sufficient to prevent his attending them. If by any accident he had found himself at one, and had seen that he was looked upon with disfavour, he must have kept silence in order to avoid observation. Prudence would have counselled that more complete abstention which is implied in the phrase, and went not out of the door; i.e. “stayed at home in mine own house.”
Did I fear a great multitude – Our translators have rendered this as if Job meant to say that he had not been deterred from doing what he supposed was right by the fear of others; as if he had been independent, and had done what he knew to be right, undeterred by the fear of popular fury, or the loss of the favor of the great. This version is adopted also by the Vulgate, by Herder, and substantially by Coverdale and Luther. Another interpretation has, however, been proposed, and is adopted by Schultens, Noyes, Good, Umbreit, Dathe, and Scott, which is, that this is to be regarded as an imprecations, or that this is the punishment which he invoked and expected if he had been guilty of the crime which is specified in the previous verses. The meaning then would be “Then let me be confounded before the great multitude! Let the contempt of families cover me with shame! Let me keep silence, and let me never appear abroad!” The Hebrew will admit of either construction, and either of them will accord well with the connection. The latter, however, regarding it as an imprecation, seems to me to be preferable, for two reasons:
(1) It will accord more forcibly with what he had said in the previous verse. The sense then would be, as expressed by Patrick, “If I have studied to appear better than I am, and have not made a free confession, but, like our first parent, have concealed or excused my faults, and, out of self-love, have hidden mine iniquity, because I dread what the people will say of me, or am terrified by the contempt into which the knowledge of my guilt will bring me with the neighboring families, then am I content my mouth should be stopped, and that I never stir out of my door any more.”
(2) This interpretation seems to be required, in order to make a proper close of his remarks. The general course in this chapter has been to specify an offence, and then to utter an imprecation if he had been guilty of it. In the previous verses he had specified crimes of which he had declared himself innocent; but unless this verse be so regarded, there is no invocation of any corresponding punishment if he had been guilty. It seems probable, therefore, that this verse is so to be regarded. According to this, the phrase “Did I fear a great multitude” means, “Then let me be terrified by a multitude – by the opinions of the world, and let this be the punishment of my sin. Since by the fear of others I was led to hide my sin in my bosom, let it be my lot to lose all popular favor, and feel that I am the object of public scorn and contempt!”
Or did the contempt of families terrify me – Let the contempt of families crush me; let me be despised and abhorred by them. If I was led to hide sins in my bosom because I feared them, then let me be doomed to the total loss of their favor, and become wholly the object of their scorn.
That I kept silence – Or let me keep silence as a punishment. That is, let me not be admitted as a counsellor, or allowed to express my sentiments in the public assemblies.
And went not out at the door – That is, “Let me not go out at the door. Let me be confined to my dwelling, and never be allowed to appear in public, to mingle in society, to take part in public affairs – because by the fear of the world I attempted to hide my faults in my bosom. Such a punishment would be appropriate to such an offence. The retribution would be no more than a suitable recompense for such an act of guilt – and I would not shrink from it.”