Job 31:13
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
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(13) If I did despise.—In Job 22:8, Eliphaz had insinuated that Job had favoured the rich and powerful, but had oppressed and ground down the weak. He now meets this accusation, and affirms that he had regarded his own servants even as brethren, because partakers of a common humanity.

Job 31:13-15. If I did despise the cause of my man-servant — If I used my power over him to overthrow him and his just rights; when they contended with me — Either for requiring more work from them than they could perform, or for not providing for them those supports which their nature and necessity required, or for any other plausible cause. I heard them patiently, considered the matters complained of impartially, and did them right even against myself, if through any misinformation, or fancied provocation, I had done them an injury. What then shall I do when God riseth up? — Namely, to plead the cause of the oppressed against the oppressor, and to execute judgment. I used my servant like one who knew that I myself also was a servant, and had a master in heaven, to whom I was to give an account of my conduct toward my servant and all men. And when he visiteth — That is, when he shall call me to his tribunal, and strictly examine all my actions, and particularly the cause between me and my servant; what shall I answer him? — What apology shall I make for myself? Did not he that made me, &c. — I considered that, though he was my servant, he was my fellow-creature, made by the same God, and therefore one of God’s subjects, whom I could not injure without injustice to the supreme Lord. And did not one fashion us, &c. — With a body and soul of the same nature and quality, a rational and immortal creature, and made after God’s image no less than myself, to whom therefore I owed some respect for God’s sake.

31:9-15 All the defilements of the life come from a deceived heart. Lust is a fire in the soul: those that indulge it, are said to burn. It consumes all that is good there, and lays the conscience waste. It kindles the fire of God's wrath, which, if not quenched by the blood of Christ, will consume even to eternal destruction. It consumes the body; it consumes the substance. Burning lusts bring burning judgments. Job had a numerous household, and he managed it well. He considered that he had a Master in heaven; and as we are undone if God should be severe with us, we ought to be mild and gentle towards all with whom we have to do.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.

13-23. Job affirms his freedom from unfairness towards his servants, from harshness and oppression towards the needy.

despise the cause—refused to do them justice.

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.

If I did despise the cause of my manservant, or of my maidservant,.... Whether it was a cause that related to any controversy or quarrel among themselves when it was brought before him, he did not reject it, because of the meanness of the contending parties, and the state of servitude they were in; but he received it and searched into it, heard patiently what each had to say, examined them thoroughly, entered into the merits of the cause, and either reconciled them, or passed a righteous sentence, punished the delinquent, and protected the innocent; or, if it was a cause relating to himself, any complaint of their work, or wages, or food, or clothing, as it seems to be from what follows:

when they contended with me; had anything to complain of, or to object to him on the above account, or any other, where there was any show or colour of foundation for it; otherwise it cannot be thought he would indulge a saucy, impudent, and contradicting behaviour in them towards him: masters in those times and countries had an unlimited, and exercised a despotic power over their servants, and used them with great rigour, and refused to do them justice upon complaints; but Job behaved as if he had had the rules of the apostle before him to act by in his conduct towards his servants, Ephesians 6:9; and even condescended to submit the cause between him and his servants to other judges or arbitrators, or rather took cognizance of it himself, heard patiently and carefully what they had to allege, and did them justice.

If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they {i} contended with me;

(i) When they thought themselves evil intreated by me.

13. Job refers to what he might have done in his high position; he might have “despised” or slighted the cause of his servants when they had ground of complaint against him. He treated them not as possessions but as persons, who had rights as well as himself, 14, 15. This treatment of them was forced on him by the feeling that all men, his servant and himself alike, are children of the same one God, who will avenge wrong done to any, whether slave or free; Ephesians 6:9.

13–23. Job repudiates all misuse of the power which his rank gave him, denying (1) that he treated contemptuously his servants when they had a cause against him, Job 31:13-15; (2) that he was indifferent to the wants of the unprotected, or refused to bestow on them of his own bread and raiment, Job 31:16-20; (3) that he violently wronged any, even though he could have secured a judgment favourable to him before the tribunal, Job 31:21; after which follows the imprecation, Job 31:22-23.

Verse 13. - 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 case also under the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:2-11). Job 31:1313 If I despised the cause of my servant and my maid,

When they contended with me:

14 What should I do, if God should rise up,

And if He should make search, what should I answer Him?

15 Hath not He who formed me in the womb formed him also,

And hath not One fashioned us in the belly?

It might happen, as Job 31:13 assumes, that his servant or his maid (אמה, Arab. amatun, denotes a maid who is not necessarily a slave, ‛abde, as Job 19:15, whereas שׁפחה does not occur in the book) contended with him, and in fact so that they on their part began the dispute (for, as the Talmud correctly points out, it is not בּריבי עמּם, but בּריבם עמּדי), but he did not then treat them as a despot; they were not accounted as res but personae by him, he allowed them to maintain their personal right in opposition to him. Christopher Scultetus observes here: Gentiles quidem non concedebant jus servo contra dominum, cui etiam vitae necisque potestas in ipsum erat; sed Iob amore justitiae libere se demisit, ut vel per alios judices aut arbitros litem talem curaret decidi vel sibi ipsi sit moderatus, ut juste pronuntiaret. If he were one who despised (אמאס not מאסתּי) his servants' cause: what should he do if God arose and entered into judgment; and if He should appoint an examination (thus Hahn correctly, for the conclusion shows that פקד is here a synon. of בחן Psalm 17:3, and חקר Psalm 44:22, Arab. fqd, V, VIII, accurate inspicere), what should he answer?

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