Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JOB CHAPTER 31
He protesteth his continency and chastity; God’s providence, presence, and judgments; his motives, Job 31:1-4. His just dealings, Job 31:5-8. Free from adultery, which ought to be punished by the magistrate, Job 31:9-12. His just carriage to his servants, and the reason, Job 31:13-15. His bounty to the poor, for fear of God, and his highness, Job 31:6-23. Not covetous, nor idolatrous, which ought to be punished by the magistrate, Job 31:24-28. Not revengeful, Job 31:29,30. Hospitable to strangers, Job 31:31,32. His repentance, Job 31:33. He wisheth God would answer, and his words might be recorded, Job 31:35-37. His imprecation against himself, if he spoke not the truth, Job 31:38-40.
So far have I been from wallowing in the mire of uncleanness, or any gross wickedness, wherewith you charge me, that I have abstained even from the least occasions and appearances of evil, having made a solemn resolution within myself, and a solemn covenant and promise to God, that I would not wantonly or lustfully fix mine eyes or gaze upon a maid, lest mine eyes should affect my heart, and stir me up to further filthiness. Hereby we plainly see that that command of Christ. Matthew 5:29, was no new command peculiar to the gospel, as some would have it, but the very same which the law of God revealed in his word, and written in men’s hearts by nature, imposed upon men in the times of the Old Testament. See also 2 Peter 2:14 1 John 2:16. Should I think upon, i.e. indulge myself in filthy and lustful thoughts? Seeing I was obliged, and accordingly took care, to guard mine eyes, I was upon the same reason obliged to restrain my imagination. Or, why then should I consider, or contemplate, or look curiously, or thoughtfully, or diligently? Since I had made such a covenant, why should I not keep it? A maid; which is emphatically added, to show that that circumstance which provokes the lust of others had no such power over him, and that he restrained himself from the very thoughts and desires of filthiness with such persons, wherewith the generality of men allowed themselves to commit gross fornication, as deeming it to be either none, or but a very little sin. Withal he insinuates with how much more caution he kept himself from uncleanness with any married person.
The reason of my continency and chastity was, the consideration of God’s presence, and providence, and judgments.
What portion of God; what fruit or recompence might be expected from God for those who do such things? Nothing but destruction, as it follows, Job 31:3. I considered, that though these practices might at first please me, yet they would be bitterness in the latter end. From above; an emphatical phrase, to note, that how secretly and slily soever unchaste persons carry the matter, so as men cannot reprove or reproach them; yet there is one who stands upon a higher place, whence he hath the better prospect, who seeth both when, and in what manner, and with what design they do these things.
Destruction is their portion, and a strange punishment, some extraordinary and dreadful judgment, which of right and course belongs to them, and only to such as they are, although it hath pleased God out of his sovereign power to inflict it upon me, who have lived in all good conscience before him. Heb. an alienation or estrangement, to wit, from God and from his favour. Had I been such a one, I neither could nor should have expected any kindness or mercy from God, as now I do.
i.e. All my counsels and courses. This is 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.
Walked, i.e. conversed in the world, dealt with men.
With vanity, i.e. with lying, or falsehood, or hypocrisy, as this word is oft used, as Psalms 4:2 12:3 36:3 Proverbs 30:8, and as the next words explain it.
If my foot hath hasted to deceit; if when I have had any temptation or opportunity of enriching myself, by defrauding or wronging others, I have readily and greedily complied with it, as hypocrites (such as you account me) use to do, and have not rejected and abhorred it; for more is here understood than is expressed. The sense is imperfect, and supposeth an imprecation, which is either understood, after the manner of the Hebrews, or expressed in the next verse.
This is either,
1. An imprecation; or rather,
2. A submission to trial, as the following words show. The sense is, I am so far from being conscious to myself of any hypocrisy or secret wickedness, whereby I have brought these unusual judgments upon myself, as you traduce me, that 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, Heb. and let him know (i.e. let him acknowledge and show that he knoweth and approveth); or let him make known to my friends and others, who censure or condemn me. Or, and he will know, (i.e. 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, and to vindicate him from the imputation of hypocrisy.
If I have wittingly, and willingly, and customarily (as you accuse me) swerved from the way of truth and justice which God hath prescribed to me; for otherwise no man here is so just, but he sometimes takes a wrong step, Ecclesiastes 7:20. If I have let my heart loose to covet and seek after forbidden things, which mine eyes have seen; which may design either,
1. The lust of uncleanness; but of that he had spoken Job 31:1, and reneweth the discourse Job 31:9. Or rather,
2. The lust of covetousness, which is called the lust of the eyes, 1 John 2:16, partly because it is oft caused by sight, as Joshua 7:21, and partly because ofttimes all the satisfaction it gives is to please the sight, Ecclesiastes 5:11. And this sin is most legible in the following punishment, Job 31:8, where his loss answers to this evil gain. The phrase notes the common method and progress of sin, which is to enter by the eye to the heart, Genesis 3:6 Numbers 15:39 Ecclesiastes 2:10 11:9.
Any blot, or blemish, to wit, any unjust gain. If I 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.
Let strangers enjoy the fruit of my labours, according to God’s curse, Leviticus 26:16 Deuteronomy 28:30.
My offspring; as this word is used, Job 5:25 27:14. Or rather, my increase, or growths, or sprouts, i.e. all my plants, and fruits, and improvements. For,
1. So the word properly signifies.
2. So this latter branch of the verse explains the former, as is most frequent in this and some other books of Scripture.
3. He had not now any children to be rooted out.
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.
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, Exodus 11:5 Jude 16:21 Isaiah 47:2 Matthew 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.
To wit, adultery, whether committed by choice and design, or by the solicitation of the woman, Job 31:9. Heb. an iniquity of the judges, i.e. which belongs to them to take cognizance of, and to punish, and that with death; and that not only by the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 22:22, but even by the law of nature, as appears from the known laws and customs of heathen nations in that case. See also Genesis 38:24. This is opposed to those secret and lesser sins, which are only known to and punished by God.
For this sin would be as a secret but consuming fire, wasting my estate and reputation, and body and soul too, provoking God and enraging the husband, and bringing down some extraordinary vengeance upon me; and therefore the fear of God kept me from this and such-like wickedness.
All mine increase, i.e. all my estate: compare Proverbs 6:27.
If I did despise the cause of my man-servant; if I used my power over him to overthrow him or his just rights. And seeing it is known that I was so just and kind to them, over whom I had such unlimited power, it is not probable that I should be guilty of such cruelty to others, as you impute to me.
When they contended with me; either for imposing heavier burdens than they could bear; or for not providing for them those supports which their nature and necessity required, or for any other plausible cause. I heard them patiently and indifferently, and did them right even against myself, if by any misinformation or passion I had done them any injury.
When God riseth up, to wit, to plead the cause of the oppressed against the oppressor, and to execute judgment, as this phrase is used, Psalms 68:1 Zechariah 2:13, and elsewhere. I used my servant like one who was also myself a servant, and had a Master in heaven, Colossians 4:1, to whom I was to give an account of my carriage to my servant and to all men.
When he visiteth, i.e. when he shall call me to his tribunal, and severely examine all my actions, and particularly the cause between me and my servant, what apology shall I make for myself?
I considered that he was, though my servant, yet my fellow creature, made by the same God, and therefore one of God’s subjects, whom I could not abuse without the injury of his supreme Lord.
Did not one fashion us in the womb, Heb. did he not form us in one womb? not in one individual womb, but in a womb of the same kind, in a human womb, with a body and soul of the same nature and quality, a reasonable and immortal creature, and made after God’s image, no less than myself, to whom therefore I owed some respect for God’s sake.
Withheld the poor from their desire, i.e. denied them what they desired of me, either in justice or from necessity; for he was not obliged to grant their vain or inordinate desires.
Caused the eyes of the widow to fail, to wit, with tedious expectation of my justice or charity. I durst neither deny nor delay my help when they required and needed it.
Eaten my morsel myself alone; without communicating part of my provisions or estate to the poor, as it follows.
The fatherless: this one kind of necessitous persons is put for all the rest.
From my youth; as soon as I was capable of managing my own affairs, and of doing good to others.
He was brought up with me, in my family, or at least under my care and protection.
As with a father, i.e. with all the diligence and tenderness of a father.
I have guided her, i.e. the widow, mentioned Job 31:16, and commonly joined with the fatherless.
From my mother’s womb, i.e. from my tender years; ever since I was capable of discerning good and evil, I have made conscience of this duty; and this my continuance in well-doing is a good evidence of my sincerity therein.
When it was in my power to clothe and arm them against cold and nakedness.
Blessed me, i.e. given him occasion to bless and praise me, and to pray to God to bless me for covering them; the loins being put synecdochically for the whole body: see the like expression Deuteronomy 24:13, and compare Genesis 4:10 Luke 16:9.
With the fleece of my sheep; with clothing made of my wool.
To smite him with the fist of wickedness, as the phrase is, Isaiah 58:4; to bring him to the judgment-seat, that under colour of justice I might take away his right, as powerful oppressors use to do, or any ways to threaten, injure, or crush him.
When I saw my help in the gate; when I understood my advantage against him, and that I could influence the judges to do what I pleased.
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.
I was so far from denying or questioning God’s providence, wherewith you seem to charge me, that I always reverenced it; and when by reason of my great wealth, and power, and interest I had little reason to fear man, I stood in awe of God and of his judgments, and made it my care and business to please God. His highness, or excellency, or majesty, which is most glorious and terrible.
I could not endure; I found myself utterly unable either to oppose his power, or to bear his wrath, and therefore I durst not provoke him by any impiety or injustice.
My hope, i.e. the matter of my hope and trust, placing my chief joy and satisfaction in worldly wealth, expecting safety and happiness from it. Compare Psalms 62:10.
If I rejoiced, to wit, carnally and excessively, esteeming myself happy therein without God’s love and favour; for otherwise it is not only lawful, but a duty and gift of God, moderately and thankfully to rejoice in the good things of this life; of which see Deuteronomy 12:7 Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 3:12,13 5:18,19.
Because mine hand had gotten much; ascribing my wealth to my own wit or industry, rather than to God’s goodness and mercy. And these sins he the rather mentions, partly for his own vindication, lest it should be thought that God took away his estate because he had abused it to pride, or carnal confidence, or luxury, or the oppression of others, &c.; and partly for the instruction of mankind in succeeding generations, that they might take notice of the malignity and odiousness of these practices, which by most men are reputed either laudable or harmless, or at worst but light and trivial miscarriages.
If I beheld; not simply, nor only with admiration; (for it is a glorious work of God, which we ought to contemplate and admire;) but for the end here following, or so as to ascribe to it the honour peculiar to God.
The sun, Heb. the light, to wit, the sun, as appears by the opposition of the
moon following, which is called the light here, and Genesis 1:16 Psalms 136:7,8, by way of eminency, because it is the great light, and the fountain of light to this visible world. And this is understood either,
1. Of Job’s worldly glory or prosperity, which is oft compared to light in Scripture, as the contrary is to darkness. And so the sense of these and the following words is, If I reflected upon my wealth and glory with pride, and admiration, and satisfaction. But this he had now mentioned in plain and proper terms, Job 31:25, and therefore it is not likely that he should now repeat the same thing in dark and metaphorical expressions. And although this be a great sin before God, yet this is not one of those sins which fall under the cognizance of human judges, as it here follows, Job 31:28. Or rather,
2. Of the sun in the firmament; and so this place speaks of the idolatrous; 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 was most frequent in the Eastern countries, in one of which Job lived.
When it shined, i.e. in its full strength and glory; for then it did most affect men’s eyes and hearts with admiration at its beauty and benefits, and so move them to adore it. Or, when it began to shine, (the complete verb being used of the beginning of it, as he reigned is oft put for he began to reign,) i.e. at its first rising, which was a special and the chief time for its adoration. Walking in brightness; when it shines most clearly; or when it is at the full, for then especially did the idolaters worship it.
Secretly; in my inward thoughts or affections, whilst I made open profession of my adherence to God and to the true religion. Enticed, or seduced, or deceived, by its plausible and glorious appearance, which might easily cheat a credulous and inconsiderate person to believe that there was something of a divinity in it, and so induce him to worship it. This emphatical expression seems to be used with design to teach the world this necessary and useful truth, that no mistake or error of mind would excuse the practice of idolatry. Or my mouth, Heb. and my mouth, which seems more proper here, because the secret error of the mind, without some such visible action and evidence as here follows, had not been punishable by the judges.
Kissed my hand, in token of worship; whereof this was a sign, whether given to men, as Genesis 41:40 Psalms 2:12, or to idols, 1 Kings 19:18 Hosea 13:2. And when the idols were out of the reach of idolaters, that they could not kiss them, they used to kiss their hands, and, as it were, to throw kisses at them; of which we have many examples in heathen writers; of which see my Latin Synopsis on this place.
This also, no less than the other forementioned sins, adultery, oppression, &c.
By the judge, i.e. by the civil magistrate; who being advanced and protected by God, is obliged to maintain and vindicate his honour, and consequently to punish idolatry. And this did not cease to be his duty, although the magistrates of the world in Job’s time were so far from this, that they themselves also were idolaters. Yet considering that both Job and his friends, who lived in his time and neighbourhood, were most probably the posterity or kindred of Abraham and his family, and by him or his instructed in the knowledge of the true God, and were also men of great power and authority in their places; it seems most likely that they did restrain and punish idolatry in their several jurisdictions, or at least in their own large and numerous families, where the masters anciently had power of life and death without control.
I should have denied God; not directly, (for nothing is more evident than this, that divers of the wiser heathens, who did worship the sun and moon, did yet acknowledge and adore the sovereign and supreme God over and above all,) but by consequence and construction, because this was to rob God of his prerogative, by giving to the creature that religious honour or worship which is peculiar to God.
That is above; who is above the sun and moon, not only in place, his glorious mansion and palace being far above all visible heavens, but also in power and dignity, or adorable excellency.
I was so far from malice and revenging myself of mine enemy, which is the common and allowed practice of ungodly men, that I did not so much as desire or delight in his ruin, when it was brought upon him by other hands. Compare Exodus 23:4 Proverbs 24:17,18. Whence we may judge whether the great duty of loving and forgiving our enemies be a peculiar precept of Christianity, or whether it be a natural and moral duty, and a part and act of that charity which now is, and ever was, the duty of one man to another in all ages.
Lifted up myself, Heb. stirred up myself, to rejoice and insult over his misery.
My mouth, Heb. my palate, which being one of the instruments of speech, is put for another, or for all the rest. The sense is, If any secret passion or desire of his hurt did arise in me, I forthwith suppressed it, and did not suffer it to grow and break forth into an imprecation of hurt to him.
The men of my tabernacle, i.e. my domestics and familiar friends, who were much conversant with me in my house, and were witnesses of my carriage to others, and of their carriages to me, and therefore best able to judge in the case.
Of his flesh; either,
1. Of Job’s flesh, which is thought to be an expression either,
1. Of their fervent love to him, caused by his great tenderness and kindness to them. But his meek and gentle carriage to his servants he had expressed before in plain terms, Job 31:13; and therefore it is not likely he would repeat it, at least in such an obscure and ambiguous phrase, as is no where used in this sense, and is used in a contrary sense, Job 19:22. Or,
2. Of their hatred and rage against him, for the excessive trouble he put upon them in the entertainment of strangers, which follows, Job 31:32. But it is very improbable, either that so just and merciful a man as Job would put intolerable burdens upon his servants; or that some extraordinary trouble brought upon them by hospitality would inflame them to such a height of rage as this phrase implies, against so excellent and amiable a master. Or,
2. Of the flesh and other provisions made by Job for strangers: He feeds them liberally, but scarce alloweth us time to satisfy ourselves therewith; which also is very unlikely. Or rather,
3. Of the flesh of Job’s enemy, of whom he last spoke, Job 31:29,30. And so this is an amplification and further confirmation of Job’s charitable disposition and carriage to his enemy, although his cause was so just, and the malice of his enemies was so notorious and unreasonable, that all who were daily conversant with him, and were witnesses of his and their mutual carriages, did condemn and abhor them for it, and were so concerned and zealous in Job’s quarrel, that they protested they could eat their very flesh, and could not be satisfied without it. And yet notwithstanding all these provocations of others, he restrained both them and himself from executing vengeance upon them, as David afterwards did in a like case, 1 Samuel 24:4 2 Samuel 16:9,10.
We cannot be satisfied, to wit, without eating his flesh.
The stranger; or, traveller as it follows.
Did not lodge in the street; but in my house, according to the laws of hospitality, and the usage of those times, when there were no public inns provided for the conveniency of such persons: see Genesis 18:3 19:2 Jude 19:15,21.
This he adds to prevent or answer an objection. So the sense is, either,
1. And whereas amongst these and other virtues it may well be presumed that I had divers failings, as I do not now deny them, so I never covered them, but was forward to confess them to God or to men, as I had occasion. Or, (which I propose with submission to better judgments,)
2. If I used all this care and caution in my carriage towards strangers, and enemies, and others only as a cloak to any secret and subtle way of wickedness, such as you accuse me of, and did not seek to purge out all sin as in God’s sight, but only to hide my sins from men, and to have the better opportunity for oppressing others, or indulging myself in any other close sin, under a colour, and with a reputation of justice and holiness. As Adam; either,
1. As Adam did in Paradise; which history is recorded by Moses, Genesis 3:7, &c., and was doubtless imparted by the godly patriarchs to their children before Moses’s time. Or,
2. Like a man, or after the manner of men in their corrupt estate. Compare Hosea 6:7.
In my bosom; in my own breast, and from the sight of all men.
This verse either,
1. Contains new matter, and another argument or evidence of his integrity, taken from his courage and faithfulness in the discharge of his duty as a magistrate. The interrogation implies a denial; and so the sense is either,
1. This, I did not for fear of a great multitude, or for any contempt, or reproach, or other inconvenience which might befall me from great and numerous families, or combinations of people, who were engaged for him who had an unrighteous cause, forbear to speak for the poor oppressed and injured person whom they all opposed, or deny to go out of the door of my house to plead his cause, as a timorous and man-pleasing judge would have done. Or,
2. This, Though I could have terrified or violently oppressed
a great multitude, because of my great power and interest, yet did the most contemptible persons or families terrify me, i.e. I was afraid to do them any injury, not for fear of them, as appears from the former clause, but for fear of God; therefore I kept
silence, and went not out of the door, i.e. I durst neither move tongue, nor hand, nor foot against them. Or,
2. It contains an amplification or confirmation of what he said, Job 31:33; either thus, Did I cover or conceal my transgressions, because I was afraid of the rage of the multitude, or of the contempt of families, which would be brought upon me by the confession of my wickedness? Did I therefore keep silence, i.e. forbore to confess my sin, and not go out of my door; but keep at home as one in that case ashamed or afraid to be seen abroad? No, the fear of shame or contempt from men did not hinder me from giving glory to God by confessing my faults. Or rather thus, Did I therefore cover all my oppressions, and frauds, and other wickednesses (wherewith you tax me) with the mask of virtue and piety, and use all possible caution and cunning in my evil courses, because I feared the great multitude, (who were my friends and admirers, but in case of the discovery of my wickedness would have hated and persecuted me,) or because the contempt of so many families (whose favour and good opinion I needed or desired) terrified me? Then (as the particle vau is oft used, i. e. if that were really my case) I should be silent, (I should silently and patiently bear all the strokes of God, and all the reproaches of my friends,) and not go out of the door of my house, as one ashamed to show his face before men. But my condition being through God’s mercy far otherwise, and my conscience bearing me witness of my integrity in these and many other things, I dare now lift up my head, and open my mouth to plead my cause, and I desire nothing more than a fair hearing; Oh that one would hear me! as it follows in the next verse.
Oh that one would hear me! Oh that I might have my cause heard by any just and impartial judge!
That the Almighty would answer me, i.e. answer my desire herein; either by hearing me himself, or by appointing some indifferent person to judge whether I be such a hypocrite as my friends make me, or an upright person, and whether I have not cause to complain.
Mine adversary; whosoever he be that shall contend with me, or accuse me, God himself not excepted, nay, possibly being chiefly intended, though for reverence to him he forbore to express it. So this is another of Job’s irreverent and presumptuous expressions, for which he is so sharply reproved afterwards.
Had written a book, i.e. had given me his charge written in a book or paper, as the manner was in judicial proceedings, that I might put in my answer into the court, which I am ready to do.
I would take it, i.e. that book containing my charge or accusation.
Upon my shoulder; as a trophy or badge of honour. I should not fear nor smother it, but glory in it, and make open show of it, as that which gave me the happy and long-desired occasion of vindicating myself, which I doubt not fully to do.
Unto him, i.e. to my judge, or adversary.
The number of my steps, i.e. the whole course of my life and actions, which I would exactly number to him, step by step, so far as I can remember. I would not answer his allegations against me, but furnish him with further matter of the same kind, and then answer all together.
As a prince, i.e. with undaunted courage, and confidence, and assurance of success, as being clearly conscious of my own sincerity; not like a self-condemned malefactor, as my friends suppose me to be.
Would I go near unto him, and not run away, or hide myself from my judge, as guilty persons desire to do.
To wit, to God for revenge, as the like phrase is used, Genesis 4:10 Habakkuk 2:11, because I have gotten it from the right owners by fraud or violence, as my friends charge me, and as is implied in the next verse.
Without money; either without paying the price required by the right owner for the land, or by defrauding my workmen of the wages of their labours.
To lose their life; killing them, that so I might have undisturbed possession of it, as Ahab did Naboth.
To wit, in answer to his friends; for he speaks but little afterwards, and that is to God.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24