Job 31:23
For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) I could not endure.—Rather, I was unable to act thus.

Job 31:23. For destruction, &c. — I stood in awe of God, and his justice and wrath, and therefore made it my care and business to shun sin, and to please him. And by reason of his highness — His excellence or majesty, which is most glorious and terrible; I could not endure — I knew myself unable, either to oppose his power, or to bear his wrath, and therefore I did not dare to provoke him by any impiety or injustice. Even good men have need to restrain themselves from sin, with the fear of destruction from God. Even when salvation from God is a comfort to us, yet destruction from God should be a terror to us. Adam, in innocence, was awed by a threatening.

31:16-23 Job's conscience gave testimony concerning his just and charitable behaviour toward the poor. He is most large upon this head, because in this matter he was particularly accused. He was tender of all, and hurtful to none. Notice the principles by which Job was restrained from being uncharitable and unmerciful. He stood in awe of the Lord, as certainly against him, if he should wrong the poor. Regard to worldly interests may restrain a man from actual crimes; but the grace of God alone can make him hate, dread, and shun sinful thoughts and desires.For destruction from God was a terror to me - The destruction which God would bring upon one who was guilty of the crime here specified, awed and restrained me. He was deterred from this crime of oppressing the fatherless by the fear of God. He could have escaped the judgment of people. He had power and influence enough not to dread the penalty of human law. He could have done it in such a way as not to have been arraigned before any earthly tribunal, but he remembered that the eye of God was upon him, and that he was the avenger of the fatherless and the widow.

And by reason of his highness - On account of his majesty, exaltation, glory.

I could not endure - אוכל לא lo''ûkôl - I could not; that is, I could not do it. I was so much awed by his majesty; I had such a veneration for him, that I could not be guilty of such an offence.

23. For—that is, the reason why Job guarded against such sins. Fear of God, though he could escape man's judgment (Ge 39:9). Umbreit more spiritedly translates, Yea, destruction and terror from God might have befallen me (had I done so): mere fear not being the motive.

highness—majestic might.

endure—I could have availed nothing against it.

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.

For destruction from God was a terror to me,.... Though he feared not men, they being at his beck and command, ready to do any thing for him he should order, yet he feared God; and the dread of his resentment, and of destruction from him the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy, had such an influence on him as to deter and keep him from all unkindness to the poor, and in justice to the fatherless; he dreaded the destruction of himself, his family, and substance in this world, and everlasting destruction of soul and body in the world to come; which of all things is to be feared, Matthew 10:28; and Old Testament saints were much under a spirit of bondage to fear, and were actuated thereby; and, though Job might not be under any dread of eternal damnation, knowing his interest in the living Redeemer; yet he might fear temporal destruction, as it is certain he did; which thing he feared came upon him, though not for any crime or crimes he was guilty of, see Job 30:25; he might fear, as a good man may, the chastisements and corrections of his heavenly Father:

and by reason of his highness I could not endure; God is higher than the highest angels, or men; he is above all gods, so called; he is God over all, blessed for ever; and such is his height, his glory, and his majesty, that it is terrible, and the dread of them makes men afraid; nor can any sinner stand before him, nor withstand him, nor hope to prevail against him, nor flee from his presence, nor escape out of his hand, nor bear his wrath and indignation, and the coming down of his arm; for what hands can be strong, or heart endure, when the almighty God deals with them? or Job's sense may be, that such an awe of the divine Being was always upon him, that he could not do any unkind thing to the poor, or unjust one to the fatherless.

For destruction from God was a {q} terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.

(q) I did not refrain from sin for fear of men, but because I feared God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. highness I could not endure] Or, majesty I was powerless, lit. I was unable. The verse closes the whole passage Job 31:16-22, expressing the feeling by which Job’s conduct was regulated; his awe before the majesty of God and fear of His judicial anger restrained him, so that he was “powerless” to commit any of the wrongs to which he has just made reference.

Verse 23. - For destruction from God was a terror to me. I could not, i.e., have acted in the way charged against me by Eliphaz, since I was always God-fearing, and should have been deterred, if by nothing else, at any rate by dread of the Divine vengeance. And by reason of his highness I could not endure. God's majesty and excellency are such that I could not have had the face to resist them. If! had begun such a course of life as Eliphaz laid to my charge (Job 22:5-9), I could not have persisted in it. Job 31:2319 If I saw one perishing without clothing,

And that the needy had no covering;

20 If his loins blessed me not,

And he did not warm himself from the hide of my lambs;

21 If I have lifted up my hand over the orphan,

Because I saw my help in the gate:

22 Let my shoulder fall out of its shoulder-blade,

And mine arm be broken from its bone;

23 For terror would come upon me, the destruction of God,

And before His majesty I should not be able to stand.

On אובד comp. on Job 4:11; Job 29:13; he who is come down from his right place and is perishing (root בד, to separate, still perfectly visible through the Arab. bâda, ba‛ida, to perish), or also he who is already perished, periens and perditus. The clause, Job 31:19, forms the second obj. to אם אראה, which otherwise signifies si video, but here, in accordance with the connection, signifies si videbam. The blessing of the thankful (Job 29:13) is transferred from the person to the limbs in Job 31:20, which need and are benefited by the warmth imparted. אם־לא here is not an expression of an affirmative asseveration, but a negative turn to the continuation of the hypothetical antecedents. The shaking, הניף, of the hand, Job 31:21, is intended, like Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 19:16 (comp. the Pilel, Isaiah 10:32), Zechariah 2:13, as a preparation for a crushing stroke. Job refrained himself from such designs upon the defenceless orphan, even when he saw his help in the gate, i.e., before the tribunal (Job 29:7), i.e., even when he had a certain prospect or powerful assistance there. If he has acted otherwise, his כּתף, i.e., his upper arm together with the shoulder, must fall out from its שׁכם, i.e., the back which bears it together with the shoulder-blades, and his אזרע, upper and lower arm, which is considered here according to its outward flesh, must be broken out of its קנה, tube, i.e., the reed-like hollow bone which gives support to it, i.e., be broken asunder from its basis (Syr. a radice sua), this sinning arm, which did not compassionate the naked, and mercilessly threatened the defenceless and helpless. The ת raphatum which follows in both cases, and the express testimony of the Masora, show that משּׁכמה and מקּנה have no Mappik. The He quiescens, however, is in both instances softened from the He mappic. of the suff., Ew. 21,f. פּחד in Job 31:23 is taken by most expositors as predicate: for terror is (was) to me evil as God, the righteous judge, decrees it. But אלי is not favourable to this. It establishes the particular thing which he imprecates upon himself, and that consequently which, according to his own conviction and perception, ought justly to overtake him out of the general mass, viz., that terror ought to come upon him, a divine decreed weight of affliction. איד אל is a permutative of פחד equals פחד אלהים, and אלי with Dech equivalent to אלי (יבא) יהיה, comp. Jeremiah 2:19 (where it is to be interpreted: and that thou lettest no fear before me come over thee). Thus also Job 31:23 is suitably connected with the preceding: and I should not overcome His majesty, i.e., I should succumb to it. The מן corresponds to the prae in praevalerem; שׂאת (lxx falsely, λῆμμα, judgment, decision equals משׂא, Jer. pondus) is not intended otherwise than Job 13:11 (parall. פחד as here).

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