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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Job 31

 

 

Verses 1-40

Though Job's misery was complete, he returns in this chapter to the defence of his whole life, which was comparatively more virtuous than that of any other man. God had said this to Satan long before (Job 1:8), so that there is no reason to doubt what Job says of himself, though he did not realise that the very fact of his declaring his own goodness was really sinful pride.

JOB'S CLAIM OF MORAL UPRIGHTNESS

(vv.1-12)

He says he had made a covenant with his eyes (v.1). That is, he had purposed he would not be seduced by what his eyes observed. He would evidently look away from anything that might be tempting. For he recognised that God above knew every thought of his heart, for the Almighty was high above Job (v.2). Destruction was not properly for Job therefore, but for the workers of iniquity (v.3). Job was conscious of the fact that God observed his ways and the details of every step (v.4).

He insists, if he is suspected of walking in falsehood or practising deceit, let him be weighed in honest scales (vv.5-6), for God would thus be persuaded of Job's integrity. So confident was Job, that he could declare that if he had stepped out of the way or his heart had followed his eyes, if his hands were soiled, then let another eat what Job sowed, in fact, let harvest be totally rooted up (vv.7-8).

Again, he insists that if his heart had been enticed by a woman or if he had taken the initiative in going to his neighbour's house with motives of evil, then let his wife leave him and choose another. "For," he says, "That would be wickedness; deserving of judgment. For that would be a fire that consumes to destruction, and would root out all my increase" (vv.11-12). He was firmly decided as to the wickedness of such things, though his thoughts were contrary to large numbers of careless people today.

KINDNESS AT HOME AND ABROAD

(vv.13-23)

Had Job despised the cause of any of his servants, whether male or female? (v.13). If this were true, he asks, what should he do when God raised the question with him? For God made these servants just as He had made Job. This fact had been considered by Job long before, we are sure, so that he was not guilty of oppressing the creatures of God (vv.14-15).

In verses 16-21 he speaks of sins of omission also. If he had not helped the poor or had ignored the plight of the widow, but had kept all he had for himself, so that the fatherless were left hungry; if he had seen anyone perish for lack of clothing or any poor man without covering; if the heart of the poor had not blessed Job, not being warmed by the fleece of his sheep; if Job had not championed the cause of the fatherless in the gate, the place of judgment; then he says, "let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket" (v.22). In contrast to this, notice his words in parenthesis (v.18), "But from my youth I reared him (the fatherless) as a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow."

He ends this section by showing that the fear of God was a vital matter with him (v.23). It was a terror to him to even think of the reality of God's destructive power against evil, so greatly so that he would not dare to offend One whose magnificence filled him with awe to the point of his saying, "I cannot endure."

REFUSAL OF EVERY FORM OF IDOLATRY

(vv.24-28)

Was Job showing kindness to the poor in order to gain some material benefit for himself? He thoroughly repudiates this thought in these verses. Though his wealth was great, yet he had not made gold his idol (vv.24-25). He did realise the danger when riches increased, of setting his heart on them, for covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). If he had any such motives, only God knew these fully, and Job was willing to be examined by God and be judged according to truth.

In contemplating the sun and the moon, had Job been enticed to worship them, as many others are enticed? (vv.26-27). Both of these are amazing objects, but Job looked higher than them and had not even secretly given them honour. He recognised that anything that usurps God's place in the heart is an idol, and if he had been guilty of even secretly allowing this in his thoughts, then this would be iniquity deserving of judgment (v.28), for it would amount to denying the God who is infinitely high above all.

Though Job was no doubt speaking truth, yet there was no reason that he should thus advertise what his character had been. Why did he not stop to consider that God knew his actions, his words and his motives perfectly, and he could wait on God to bring to light the truth concerning His servant?

FRIENDLY AND HOSPITABLE

(vv.29-32)

Job speaks now of his attitude toward mankind generally. It was evidently a concern to him that he should not rejoice when trouble came to one who hated him, nor take advantage of such an occasion to profit by the misfortune of such a person (v.29). In fact, he had not even allowed his mouth to sin by asking for a curse on that person's soul (v.30). Actually, this is only normal for one who has faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 12:20), so that it was no reason for Job to boast. Unbelievers of course acted contrary to this, but we can only expect this from those who do not know the Lord.

Job's close neighbours ("men of my tent") could bear witness that no one was exempt from being provided with food from Job (v.31); and no traveller had to stay in the streets when in Job's vicinity: he was not forgetful to entertain strangers (v.32).

NO HYPOCRISY WITH ITS FEAR OF MAN

(vv.33-34)

He was willing to be tested too as to whether he had covered his transgression, as Adam did when using fig leaves, as though this could deceive the Lord (v.33). One might cover his sin because he fears the criticism of the people and the contempt of families, but Job was confident he had no reason for such fear, no reason to hide at home from the eyes of critics (v.34). His life had been open and aboveboard.

A CHALLENGE TO BE HEARD

(vv.35-40)

In considering all these things that he felt were to his credit, it is little wonder that Job again bursts into the urgent plea that someone in authority would hear him (v.35), and realises his only hope along this line is in "the Almighty." Why did He not answer Job's desperate cries? If God was taking the place of a prosecutor (which was certainly not so), why had He not written a book dealing with the whole case? Here in early years was the expressed desire for a book written by God! Now we know such a Book is written, not from the viewpoint of a prosecutor, but from that of God being for us, a Book that shows His understanding of everything about us, and has for its object both the glory of God and the greatest good for mankind.

Job says he would carry such a book on his shoulder and bind it to him like a crown (v.36). No doubt he was thinking that a book written by God would be a commendation of Job's character and conduct, but such a view was far from the truth. Such a book of God does commend faithful conduct, but it just as plainly condemns the pride of man, not exalting man at all, but glorifying God. But that same Book declares the greatness of the grace of God in saying the souls of sinful men who turn in true repentance to God and accept the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. How worthwhile indeed that we should carry the Word of God on our shoulders, and have it as a crown to adorn our heads!

In verse 37 Job says, "I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince would I approach Him." But God did not need Job to declare the number of his steps to Him: He knew them far better than Job did. Nor did Job, when he actually met God, approach Him "like a prince.' Rather, he took his rightful place in saying, to God, "Behold, I am vile" (ch.40:4). In other words, he approached God "as a sinner;" then God later gave him the place of a prince.

A FINAL APPEAL AS TO HIS LAND

(vv.38-40)

Job has appealed to man and to God, and it seems as though his last appeal is an afterthought, for his land does not seem as important as what he has before spoken of, but he says that even his land, if it had reason to cry out against Job for misusing it, or if he had eaten its fruit without considering its proper needs, would be justified in producing thistles instead of wheat, weeds instead of barley. Of course Job would not say this unless he was confident that he had properly cared for his land. However, this last long discourse of Job was intended to convince his friends that he was not guilty of any of their charges against him, and had reason to be honoured for his many virtues. His friends have no answer.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Job 31:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/job-31.html. 1897-1910.

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