Job 31:1-40

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Job spoke of having “made a covenant with [his] eyes,” determining to what he would refuse to give his attention. In view of this covenant or prior agreement, he raised the question, “How then could I look upon a virgin” (with improper desires)? According to the Greek version of Theodotion, Job would not take notice of or think of a virgin in an improper way. (31:1; see the Notes section.)

The rhetorical question suggests that there would be an adverse judgment from God if Job had not acted in harmony with the “covenant” he had made. “And what [would be my] portion of God from above, and what [would be my] inheritance of the Almighty from on high?” The implication is that he would not receive a desirable share or inheritance. The Greek version of Theodotion frames the rhetorical question similarly. “And what has God apportioned from above, and [what is] the inheritance of the Self-sufficient One from on high?” (31:2)

The answer to the next rhetorical question would be that the unrighteous one would experience calamity (“destruction” [Theodotion]) and those working iniquity or lawlessness would face disaster (“estrangement” [Theodotion], becoming outcasts). (31:3)

Job believed that God was fully aware of everything he did. This is evident from his rhetorical question, “Does he not see my ways [my way (Theodotion)]? And all my steps he numbers.” His numbering or counting all of Job’s steps suggests that no act of his escaped God’s attention. (31:4)

Job raised the point as to whether he had walked in “falsehood” (shav’). In other contexts, the Hebrew word (shav’ basically means “emptiness,” “nothingness,” or “vanity.” Here it probably relates to engaging in dishonest practices. According to the Septuagint, the question is whether he had walked with scorners or mockers. The concluding thought is whether Job “hastened to deceit” with his foot, having been quick to deceive others to attain base objectives. (31:5)

For God to “weigh” Job in a “just balance” would mean that God would judge his conduct aright. Job believed that he had lived uprightly and, therefore, concluded that God (the “Lord” [LXX]), based on just evaluation, would “know” or recognize his “completeness,” integrity, or innocence. (31:6)

Job was willing to bear the consequences if his step had turned aside from the right way, if his “heart” or he in his inward self had gone after his “eyes” that had viewed objects of attention in an impure way, or if any spot of uncleanness from corrupt actions adhered to his hands. According to the Septuagint rendering, the reference to the hands relates to touching “gifts” or accepting bribes. (31:7)

If Job had been guilty of the corrupt acts previously mentioned, he thought it right for his labors to be cursed. He would sow seed, but another one would eat the produce. Whatever would grow for him, he would have considered it just retribution for it to be uprooted. Another significance for the concluding phrase would be that Job’s descendants be rooted out. This is because the plural Hebrew word tse’etsa’ím can designate either offspring or produce. The Septuagint rendering points to the meaning offspring. It quotes Job as saying, “May I become rootless on the earth.” (31:8)

Other actions Job deemed deserving of a curse were if his “heart” had been “enticed by a woman” and if he had “lain in wait” at the door of his fellow or companion. Lying in wait at his associate’s door (“her doors” [LXX]) would have been for the purpose of seizing an opportunity to satisfy his passionate desire for his fellow’s wife. (31:9)

Job is quoted as expressing the deserved curse with the words, “May my wife grind for another man and may others bow down over her.” In view of the reference to an adulterous course in the previous verse, these words suggest that others would violate Job’s wife. A number of translations are specific in conveying this significance. “May my wife be another man’s slave, and may other men enjoy her.” (REB) “Let my wife go and grind for someone else, let others have intercourse with her!” (NJB) “Then may my wife grind for another, and may others cohabit with her!” (NAB) The Septuagint rendering has Job saying, “Then may my wife also please another, and may my little children be humiliated.” (31:10)

With apparent reference to adultery, Job is quoted as using the word zimmáh. This Hebrew word basically means “plan” or “device.” In this context, it denotes a shameful act. It would be an “iniquity” or “guilt” for “judges,” requiring them to render a judgment against the guilty party. The Septuagint rendering refers to the husband’s anger that is directed against the adulterer. “For the fury of anger is uncontrollable [when it comes to] defiling a man’s wife.” (31:11)

The shameful act of adultery “would be a fire that consumes to Abaddon” or to destruction. If Job had made himself guilty, he would expect all his yield to burn to the root, indicating that nothing would be left of his possessions. The Septuagint rendering represents the fire as burning in “every part.” Wherever it reaches, the fire would destroy everything from the root up or totally. (31:12)

Job considered it a grave wrong to disregard the cause of his manservant or maidservant were they to bring a complaint against him. (31:13)

Job recognized that, if he disregarded the complaint of his male or his female servant, God would not look favorably upon him. By means of rhetorical questions, Job acknowledged that he would have no defense before God, the ultimate Lord or Master, if he had not given attention to the cause of his servants. “What then will I do when God rises up? And when he makes a visitation [for judgment], what shall I answer him?” (31:14)

Job regarded his servant just as much of God’s creation as he himself was and as deserving to be treated accordingly. He expressed this with the rhetorical questions. “Did not He who made me in the womb make him? And did not [the same] One form him in the womb?” The Septuagint rendering expresses the basic thought somewhat differently. “Is it not even as I came to be in a womb, and these [my servants] came to be? And we came to be in the same belly?” The process of conception and birth was identical. (31:15)

For Job to have held back poor ones “from [their] desire” would have meant his callously disregarding their need and failing to respond to it. To cause the eyes of a widow to fail may refer to the effect on her from a deliberate refusal to come to her aid or defense. It would have added to her grief, causing her to shed tears to such an extant that her vision would have become blurred. The Septuagint rendering indicates that Job responded compassionately to persons in distress. Powerless or helpless ones did not end up missing or lacking what they needed. Job did not let the “eye of a widow fail.” (31:16)

Job recognized that it would have been a serious wrong for him selfishly to have eaten his morsel alone and not to have the fatherless one or orphan also partake of it. (31:17)

From his youth, the fatherless one “grew up with [him]” as if Job had been his caring father. Based on the context, the female whom Job guided or assisted could have been a widow or an orphaned girl. From his earliest recollection, or “from the womb of [his] mother,” he had been willing to come to her aid. A number of translations are more specific than is the Hebrew text (and the Septuagint rendering) in identifying the ones whom Job helped or the One who cared for Job. “The boy who said, ‘From my youth he [Job] brought me up,’ or the girl who claimed that from her birth I guided her.” (REB) “But from my youth I reared him as would a father, and from my birth I guided the widow.” (NIV) “Since the time I was young, I have cared for orphans and helped widows.” (CEV) “I, whom God has fostered father-like from childhood, and guided since I left my mother’s womb.” (NJB) “Though like a father God has reared me from my youth, guiding me even from my mother’s womb.” (NAB) (31:18; see the Notes section.)

When he saw someone perishing because of not having a garment or enough clothing to provide adequate warmth, or a poor man with nothing to cover himself (probably for the night), Job, as evident from the next verse, made provision for the individual. (31:19; see the Notes section.)

Job would have responded with compassion, giving clothing to the needy one. For this apparent reason, Job spoke of the individual’s loins as blessing him. There would have been an expression of gratitude for the covering the loins received. With the fleece of Job’s sheep, the poor man would have warmed himself. (31:20; see the Notes section.)

Job acknowledged that he would have merited a curse if he had raised his hand against the fatherless one (orphan [LXX]) because of seeing personal “help in the gate.” Raising a hand against the fatherless one would have denoted taking advantage of that one’s vulnerability with threats and intimidation to attain base objectives. Seeing “help in the gate” meant having the support of elders sitting in judgment at the city gate. A number of translations are more explicit in their renderings than is the Hebrew text. “If I have raised my hand against the fatherless, knowing that I had influence in court.” (NIV) “If I have raised my hand against the innocent, knowing that those who would side with me were in court.” (REB) “If I have raised my hand against the innocent because I saw that I had supporters at the gate.” (NAB) In the Septuagint, the reference is to reliance on much help remaining. (31:21)

The curse that Job felt he would have merited if he had used his power against a defenseless fatherless one or orphan would have been for his shoulder blade to fall from his shoulder and for his arm to be broken from its socket. This would have reduced him to a helpless state. In the Hebrew text, the expression rendered “from its socket” literally reads, “from its stock” or “reed.” So another possible meaning is that the lower arm be broken from the upper arm. The Septuagint quotes Job as saying, “May my shoulder separate from the collarbone, and my arm be broken from my elbow.” (31:22)

Job knew that escape from God’s power was impossible. To him, the prospect of “calamity from God” as a punishment for wrongdoing was a terror or very frightening. This indicates that a wholesome fear was a factor in restraining him from corrupt conduct. The Septuagint says, “For the fear of the Lord restrained me.” Job recognized that before divine “majesty,” he had “no power.” (31:23; see the Notes section.)

Job recognized that it would have been wrong for him to make gold his trust or to have called fine gold his confidence. God alone was the one to be trusted at all times. Material riches could easily be lost and so were an unreliable basis for security. (31:24; see the Notes section.)

Job acknowledged as a serious error if he had rejoiced because his wealth was great and because his “hand” had acquired (literally, “found”) much. If his full attention had been on his riches as the source of his joy and he had regarded all that he attained as the product of his own effort, he would have been guilty of ignoring God. In the case of the concluding phrase, the Septuagint quotes Job as saying, “And if also I laid my hand upon innumerable things” (or if many riches had come into his possession, with these being the chief focus of his attention). (31:25)

According to the Hebrew text, Job is quoted as saying, “If I have looked at the light when it shone.” This refers to his looking at the light from the sun, apparently in a worshipful way (as is suggested by the words of verses 27 and 28). The Septuagint, though specific in mentioning the sun, conveys a meaning that differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Or do I not indeed see the shining sun eclipsed.” This could denote that the light of the sun was progressively diminished as the evening approached. Regarding the moon, the Hebrew text continues, “and the splendid moon moving,” or the moon in its splendor or brightness moving across the night sky. Also in this case, the seeing of the moon is of a worshipful nature. The Septuagint refers to the waning of the moon. Then, regarding what happens to the light of the sun and the moon, the Septuagint rendering suggests that the diminishing of the light of the sun and the moon does not originate with these two celestial bodies, “for it is not in them.” (31:26)

If Job’s “heart” or he in his inner self had been “deceived secretly,” or enticed in a manner hidden from the view of fellow humans, and his “hand” had “kissed [his] mouth,” this would have been a serious transgression (as expressed in the next verse). With the action of the kiss referred to as proceeding from the hand, it appears that the hand was then used to throw a kiss to the sun or the moon. (31:27; see the Notes section.)

The idolatrous act mentioned in the previous verse would have been an “iniquity” or, according to the Septuagint rendering, “accounted” as the “greatest lawlessness.” An act of worship directed to the sun or the moon, to mere creations, would have meant being “false to God above,” to the Creator. According to the Septuagint, Job, if he had engaged in this idolatrous practice, would have “dealt falsely before the Lord Most High.” (31:28)

Job recognized it to be a serious wrong for one to express joy over the calamity befalling an enemy. He is quoted as expressing this thought with the words, “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of one hating me or exulted when evil overtook him.” The Septuagint rendering is similar, “And if also I became gratified at the fall of my enemies and my heart said, Good!” As evident from the next verse, Job did not manifest such a malicious spirit. (31:29)

Job did not let his mouth sin by asking for a curse against the soul (the person or life) of one who hated him. The Septuagint rendering refers to Job as acknowledging that a curse on him would have been merited if he had expressed malicious joy when calamity befell one who had been hostile to him. “Then may my ear hear the curse of me.” The concluding thought in the Septuagint appears to represent Job as saying that he would rightly become a topic of conversation by his “people” for doing evil or practicing lawlessness (or as one experiencing evil or affliction). (31:30)

The expression “men of [Job’s] tent” could identify members of his household or persons who were guests in his tent. Based on what these individuals observed, they could say, “Who is there that has not been satisfied with [Job’s] flesh” or meat? The implied answer is that everyone in Job’s home received an ample portion of food. No one was neglected. (31:31; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job welcomed strangers into his home. No stranger or traveler ever had to lodge outside on the street. Job’s doors were open to anyone who needed a place to stay for the night. (31:32)

Job was willing to acknowledge his transgressions. He was not like a man who concealed his transgressions, hiding his iniquity in his bosom. He did not conceal his iniquity as if he had put it out of sight in the upper fold of his garment. The Septuagint rendering is, “And if I also, having sinned unintentionally, hid my sin.” The implication is that Job did not resort to concealment even if the sin was unintentional. (31:33)

Job openly admitted when he was in the wrong. He was not like persons who fear a great multitude and, therefore, seek to keep up appearances by concealing their transgressions. The “contempt of families” who would come to know about his errors did not terrify him. He continued to be open about his expressions and his routine of life. Job did not conduct himself like a man who remained silent and did not venture out of the entrance of his home because of shame or embarrassment. According to the Septuagint, Job “was not overawed by a great crowd” from openly speaking before them, apparently admitting his wrong. This would have been the case even if he had permitted a powerless or helpless man to leave his door with an empty bosom or with nothing having been given him to fill his need. (31:34)

Job desired that there might be someone who would listen to him. His words “here [is] my mark” seem to represent Job as saying that the defense he had made was like a legal document to which his mark or signature had been affixed. According to that signed defense, Job wanted the Almighty to answer him. Apparently referring to God as an adversary or an opponent in a legal case, Job appears to refer to receiving “an indictment written by my adversary [literally, man of my dispute].” (31:35; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job had no self-doubts about his having maintained upright conduct. He was willing proudly to carry the written indictment of his adversary or opponent (whom he perceived to be God on account of the calamities that had befallen him) upon his shoulder and to bind it upon him as if it were a crown. This suggests that Job was confident that he would be able to answer every charge that might be directed against him. (31:36; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

To his opponent (whom he thought to be God), Job would declare the “number of [his] steps” or set forth his entire course of life. Confident of the rightness of his case, he would make his approach to him boldly as would a prince. (31:37; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job acknowledged that he merited a curse on his land if he had been ruinous toward it and it cried out against him and the furrows did weep. Continual exploitation of the land without letting it lie fallow periodically would have contributed to making it less productive. As land not properly cared for, it is here represented as crying out over mistreatment. The reference to weeping indicates that the furrows presented a sad sight on account of bad agricultural practices. The Septuagint also refers to the weeping of the furrows, but it introduces the verse with the words, “if the land ever groaned over me.” This groaning would have been because of the way the land had been treated. (31:38)

Eating the produce of the land “without silver,” the common medium of exchange, could signify eating the produce without having duly compensated the hired workers for their labors. The Hebrew text concludes the verse with the words, “and the soul of its owners I have caused them to breathe out.” This could mean that, through the mistreatment of workers, Job would have caused them to breathe out their “soul” or the life that was their own, bringing them to the point of complete exhaustion. The Hebrew text is obscure, and this has given rise to a variety of interpretive renderings. “If I have … grieved the hearts of its [the land’s] tenants.” (NAB [Verses 38 and 39 are inserted after verse 8.]) “If I have … broken the spirit of its [the land’s] tenants.” (NIV) “If I have … left my creditors to languish.” (REB [Verses 38 and 39 are inserted after verse 28.]) “Nor have I cheated my workers and caused them pain.” (CEV) “If I have … made its [the land’s] [rightful] owners despair.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition) “If I have … caused the death of its [the land’s] owners.” (NRSV [This rendering represents the breathing out of the “soul” or life to be death.]) (31:39; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

If Job had been guilty of the acts he previously described, he understood that this would have merited a curse on his land. “Instead of wheat, let thorns” (“nettles” [LXX], a collective singular in Hebrew and Greek) “grow” (“come forth to me” [LXX]) on the land; “and instead of barley, stinking things” (a collective singular in Hebrew) or noxious weeds (a “bramble” [LXX], a collective singular). With this expression, the words of Job ended. (31:40)


The words in verses 1 through 4 were not found in the Septuagint available to Origen in the third century CE. He marked them as having been added from the Greek version of Theodotion.

The marks of Origen for the wording in verse 18 indicate that it was supplied from the Greek version of Theodotion. This verse has Job saying that, from his youth, he “reared like a father” and, from his “mother’s womb, gave guidance.”

Without the addition of the wording from the Greek version of Theodotion, the Septuagint continues the thought of verse 17 in verse 19 with what Job would have failed to do — if he “overlooked a naked man perishing and did not clothe him.”

In verse 20, the Septuagint continues the sentence from verse 19 with the words, “if powerless” or helpless ones “did not bless me” (for coming to their aid), “and their shoulders were warmed with the fleece of my lambs.”

According to the marks of Origen, the wording of the concluding phrase of verse 23 was added from the Greek version of Theodotion. This phrase reads, “On account of his load, I will not endure.”

The initial phrase of verse 24, according to the marks of Origen, was taken from the Greek version of Theodotion. It reads, “If I have made gold my strength.” These words are followed by the Septuagint rendering, “and if also I have relied upon precious stone.”

In verse 27, the first phrase (“and if my heart was deceived secretly”) is, according to the marks of Origen, an addition from the Greek version of Theodotion. Thereafter the Septuagint continues, “and if also I placed my hand upon my mouth [and] kissed [it].”

In verse 31, the Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. It represents Job as making an expression about his female servants. “But if also my maidservants often said, Who may give us of his flesh [meat] to be satisfied?” The implied answer to their question appears to be that this was never the case, for they benefited from Job’s generous provisions. This seems evident from his words, “I was very kind.”

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek text of the initial phrase of verse 35 (“Who might give me a hearing?”) was added from the version of Theodotion. The Septuagint continues, “But if I had not feared the hand of the Lord, also the document, which I had against someone, I would have put upon my shoulders …” This rendering suggests that, because Job did fear God, he would not be carrying any document on his shoulders that indicated his intent to engage in a legal dispute.

Verse 36 in the Septuagint continues with the thought about the document. If it had not been for his fear of the “hand of the Lord,” Job would have put this document upon his “shoulders as a crown and read it aloud.” He, however, had a reverential fear of God and did not do this.

In verse 37, the Septuagint rendering suggests that, if he did not have a fear of God, Job would not have torn up the document and handed it back to the person who had to comply with its requirements. This document evidently was one that obligated the individual to repay a debt, for the verse concludes with the thought that Job had taken “nothing from the debtor.”

The opening phrase of verse 39 in the Septuagint refers to Job as saying, “And if also I have eaten its strength [what the land produced] alone, without price.” The next phrase could be rendered, “and if I, [by] having cast out, grieved the soul of the owner of the land.” This could be understood to refer to evicting the rightful owner from his land and thereby grieving his soul or him.