There is a good deal of difficult Hebrew in this chapter, so it lends itself to interpretation and misinterpretation. As a result, variations in translations abound. In this last speech of Job’s, he now expresses his confidence in his integrity.
בְּרִית כָּרַתִּי לְעֵינָי וּמָה אֶתְבּוֹנֵן עַל־בְּתוּלָה׃ 31:1
Job 31:1 "I have made for my eyes a covenant;
so how could I be attentive to a maiden?"
Apparently the covenant was that he would not look at another woman.
וּמֶה חֵלֶק אֱלוֹהַּ מִמָּעַל וְנַחֲלַת שַׁדַּי מִמְּרֹמִים׃ 31:2
Job 31:2 "And what would be the portion of God from above,
and the inheritance of the Almighty from the heights?"
הֲלֹא־אֵיד לְעַוָּל וְנֵכֶר לְפֹעֲלֵי אָוֶן׃ 31:3
Job 31:3 "Is it not calamity for one of evil,
and misfortune for the workers of iniquity?"
Job reiterates his fervent belief that only sin and iniquity are punished by God.
הֲלֹא־הוּא יִרְאֶה דְרָכָי וְכָל־צְעָדַי יִסְפֹּור׃ 31:4
Job 31:4 "Can He not see my ways
and count all my steps?"
Almost all of the rest of this chapter is Job’s recounting of his steps. He examines all his possible sins, even the most heinous, and in the end remains confident in his righteousness.
אִם־הָלַכְתִּי עִם־שָׁוְא וַתַּחַשׁ עַל־מִרְמָה רַגְלִי׃ 31:5
Job 31:5 "Had I walked with vanity
or hurried my foot on to deceit,
יִשְׁקְלֵנִי בְמֹאזְנֵי־צֶדֶק וְיֵדַע אֱלוֹהַּ תֻּמָּתִי׃ 31:6
Job 31:6 He would weigh me on the scales of justice,
but God knows my integrity."
אִם תִּטֶּה אַשֻּׁרִי מִנִּי הַדָּרֶךְ וְאַחַר עֵינַי הָלַךְ לִבִּי וּבְכַפַּי דָּבַק מֻאוּם ׃ 31:7
Job 31:7 "Had my step turned from the path,
or my heart gone after my eyes,
or had any spot stuck to my hands,
אֶזְרְעָה וְאַחֵר יֹאכֵל וְצֶאֱצָאַי יְשֹׁרָשׁוּ׃ 31:8
Job 31:8 let me sow, and another eat,
and my produce be uprooted."
אִם־נִפְתָּה לִבִּי עַל־אִשָּׁה וְעַל־פֶּתַח רֵעִי אָרָבְתִּי׃ 31:9
Job 31:9 "Had my heart been enticed by a woman,
or had I lain in wait at the door of my neighbor,
תִּטְחַן לְאַחֵר אִשְׁתִּי וְעָלֶיהָ יִכְרְעוּן אֲחֵרִין׃ 31:10
Job 31:10 let my wife grind for another,
and others bow down upon her."
This verse really indicates Job’s confidence in himself, in that he wishes his wife would be involved in adultery if he had sinned.
כִּי־ (הוּא) [הִיא] זִמָּה (וְהִיא) [וְהוּא] עָוֹן פְּלִילִים׃ 31:11
Job 31:11 "Though it would be adultery,
yet it would be the punishment of the judges."
There is one genuine error in this verse and one not so genuine. The first is indeed an error. Its gender is masculine and it should be feminine. The first parentheses contain the masculine pronoun it, and the first brackets contain the more correct feminine it. However, I believe the second parentheses contain the appropriate feminine form of the pronoun, as it should be feminine. So I believe the correction is unnecessary.
כִּי אֵשׁ הִיא עַד־אֲבַדּוֹן תֹּאכֵל וּבְכָל־תְּבוּאָתִי תְשָׁרֵשׁ׃ 31:12
Job 31:12 "Though it would be a fire that would consume until destruction,
yet, with all my gain, it would uproot."
With all Job’s wealth, the consequence of this would be disastrous.
אִם־אֶמְאַס מִשְׁפַּט עַבְדִּי וַאֲמָתִי בְּרִבָם עִמָּדִי׃ 31:13
Job 31:13 "Were I to despise the cause of my man-servant or my maid-servant
in their contending with me,
וּמָה אֶעֱשֶׂה כִּי־יָקוּם אֵל וְכִי־יִפְקֹד מָה אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ׃ 31:14
Job 31:14 then what would I do when God will rise up?
And when He will attend, how might I answer Him?"
הֲלֹא־בַבֶּטֶן עֹשֵׂנִי עָשָׂהוּ וַיְכֻנֶנּוּ בָּרֶחֶם אֶחָד׃ 31:15
Job 31:15 "Did not my Maker make him in the belly?
And One establish us in the womb?"
With this verse Job shows that he holds all humans equal. He has a marvelous sense of their dignity.
אִם־אֶמְנַע מֵחֵפֶץ דַּלִּים וְעֵינֵי אַלְמָנָה אֲכַלֶּה׃ 31:16
Job 31:16 "Were I to have withheld anything from the desire of the poor,
or caused the eyes of a widow to cease,
וְאֹכַל פִּתִּי לְבַדִּי וְלֹא־אָכַל יָתוֹם מִמֶּנָּה׃ 31:17
Job 31:17 or eat my morsel by myself,
that any fatherless did not eat from it
כִּי מִנְּעוּרַי גְּדֵלַנִי כְאָב וּמִבֶּטֶן אִמִּי אַנְחֶנָּה׃ 31:18
Job 31:18 (surely from my youth he grew up with me as a father,
and from the womb of my mother I would guide her),
Again Job shows his sensitivity to the needs of everyone else.
אִם־אֶרְאֶה אֹובֵד מִבְּלִי לְבוּשׁ וְאֵין כְּסוּת לָאֶבְיֹון׃ 31:19
Job 31:19 were I to see one lost without clothing,
or there was no covering for one in want,
אִם־לֹא בֵרֲכוּנִי (חֲלָצֹו) [חֲלָצָיו] וּמִגֵּז כְּבָשַׂי יִתְחַמָּם׃ 31:20
Job 31:20 even if the one's loins did not bless me,
or the other would not be warmed from the fleece of my sheep,
The error indicated in the parentheses is corrected in the brackets with the addition of a yad, which transforms the word, translated as one’s loins, from singular to plural.
אִם־הֲנִיפוֹתִי עַל־יָתוֹם יָדִי כִּי־אֶרְאֶה בַשַּׁעַר עֶזְרָתִי׃ 31:21
Job 31:21 or had I brandished my hand against an orphan,
though I could see my help in the gate,
כְּתֵפִי מִשִּׁכְמָה תִפּוֹל וְאֶזְרֹעִי מִקָּנָה תִשָּׁבֵר׃ 31:22
Job 31:22 may my shoulder fall from the shoulder blade,
and my arm be broken from the bone,
כִּי פַחַד אֵלַי אֵיד אֵל וּמִשְּׂאֵתוֹ לֹא אוּכָל׃ 31:23
Job 31:23 except, though the calamity of God is a dread of mine,
but because of one's dignity, I could not accomplish."
This verse is difficult to understand. But I believe it is saying that Job lives with integrity not because he fears God’s wrath, but because he sees the dignity in every one.
אִם־שַׂמְתִּי זָהָב כִּסְלִי וְלַכֶּתֶם אָמַרְתִּי מִבְטַחִי׃ 31:24
Job 31:24 "Had I made gold my confidence
and to pure gold said, 'My security,'
אִם־אֶשְׂמַח כִּי־רַב חֵילִי וְכִי־כַבִּיר מָצְאָה יָדִי׃ 31:25
Job 31:25 were I to have exulted because my wealth was so great,
or because my hand had attained so much,
אִם־אֶרְאֶה אוֹר כִּי יָהֵל וְיָרֵחַ יָקָר הֹלֵךְ׃ 31:26
Job 31:26 were I to have observed the sunlight when it would flash brightly,
or the splendid moon proceeding,
וַיִּפְתְּ בַּסֵּתֶר לִבִּי וַתִּשַּׁק יָדִי לְפִי׃ 31:27
Job 31:27 and my heart had been enticed secretly,
that my hand touched to my mouth,
Many translators assume the second line means that Job would kiss his hand. I believe this is incorrect. The message I get from this line is that Job would put his hand to his mouth in awe, reverence, and astonishment, and at least begin to think of worshiping these “gods.”.
גַּם־הוּא עָוֹן פְּלִילִי כִּי־כִחַשְׁתִּי לָאֵל מִמָּעַל׃ 31:28
Job 31:28 it also would be iniquity to a judge,
for I had lied to God Who is above."
אִם־אֶשְׂמַח בְּפִיד מְשַׂנְאִי וְהִתְעֹרַרְתִּי כִּי־מְצָאוֹ רָע׃ 31:29
Job 31:29 "Were I to have rejoiced in the destruction of one who hated me,
or would have felt triumphant when evil found him
וְלֹא־נָתַתִּי לַחֲטֹא חִכִּי לִשְׁאֹל בְּאָלָה נַפְשׁוֹ׃ 31:30
Job 31:30 -- and I did not permit my mouth to sin,
seeking his life with a curse --
אִם־לֹא אָמְרוּ מְתֵי אָהֳלִי מִי־יִתֵּן מִבְּשָׂרוֹ לֹא נִשְׂבָּע׃ 31:31
Job 31:31 if the men of my tent did not say,
'... who will give an unsatisfied one from his flesh,'
בַּחוּץ לֹא־יָלִין גֵּר דְּלָתַי לָאֹרַח אֶפְתָּח׃ 31:32
Job 31:32 -- in the street the stranger would not lodge,
I would open my door to the wayfarer --
אִם־כִּסִּיתִי כְאָדָם פְּשָׁעָי לִטְמוֹן בְּחֻבִּי עֲוֺנִי׃ 31:33
Job 31:33 had I concealed my transgression as humanity does,
my iniquity hidden in my bosom,
כִּי אֶעֱרוֹץ הָמוֹן רַבָּה וּבוּז־מִשְׁפָּחוֹת יְחִתֵּנִי וָאֶדֹּם לֹא־אֵצֵא פָתַח׃ 31:34
Job 31:34 because I would fear the murmur of many,
or the contempt of families would dismay me,
that I would be silent, not go out the door,
מִי יִתֶּן־לִי שֹׁמֵעַ לִי הֶן־תָּוִי שַׁדַּי יַעֲנֵנִי וְסֵפֶר כָּתַב אִישׁ רִיבִי׃ 31:35
Job 31:35 (who could grant to me one to listen to me
-- behold, my desire is the Almighty should answer me
-- but my contender wrote the document)
אִם־לֹא עַל־שִׁכְמִי אֶשָּׂאֶנּוּ אֶעֶנְדֶנּוּ עֲטָרוֹת לִי׃ 31:36
Job 31:36 surely on my back I would carry it,
I would tie it up, wreaths to myself.
I believe the pronoun it refers to Job’s (impossible) transgression mentioned in v. 33.
מִסְפַּר צְעָדַי אַגִּידֶנּוּ כְּמוֹ־נָגִיד אֲקָרֲבֶנּוּ׃ 31:37
Job 31:37 "I would dictate a recounting of my steps to him;
like a prince does I would approach him."
אִם־עָלַי אַדְמָתִי תִזְעָק וְיַחַד תְּלָמֶיהָ יִבְכָּיוּן׃ 31:38
Job 31:38 "If my land were to cry out against me,
and its furrows weep together,
אִם־כֹּחָהּ אָכַלְתִּי בְלִי־כָסֶף וְנֶפֶשׁ בְּעָלֶיהָ הִפָּחְתִּי׃ 31:39
Job 31:39 had I devoured its produce without payment,
and caused its husbanders to breathe their last,
תַּחַת חִטָּה יֵצֵא חוֹחַ וְתַחַת־שְׂעֹרָה בָאְשָׁה תַּמּוּ דִּבְרֵי אִיּוֹב׃ 31:40
Job 31:40 instead of wheat let come forth thorn,
and instead of barley, stinkweed."
The words of Job are ended.
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