The Nine Sins of Job 31

In his final monologue (chapters 29-31), Job presents something of a legal case before God. In the last third of his speech, he marks off nine grave sins he has avoided. But these are illustrative of some of the problems in modern society. Alas, some sins never die. This plea begins with a confession of a covenant (perhaps it belongs with verses 9-12) and an acknowledgement that while some sins might be easy to hide, God sees all:

1 I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I look upon a virgin?
2 What would be my portion from God above,
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Does not calamity befall the unrighteous,
and disaster the workers of iniquity?
4 Does he not see my ways,
and number all my steps?

Telling lies, or in contemporary parlance, spreading fake news:

5 ‘If I have walked with falsehood,
and my foot has hurried to deceit—
6 let me be weighed in a just balance,
and let God know my integrity!—
7 if my step has turned aside from the way,
and my heart has followed my eyes,
and if any spot has clung to my hands;
8 then let me sow, and another eat;
and let what grows for me be rooted out.

… means that I work and others get paid.

Desire for one not my own, stalking:

9 ‘If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door;
10 then let my wife grind for another,
and let other men kneel over her.
11 For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be a criminal offence;
12 for that would be a fire consuming down to Abaddon,
and it would burn to the root all my harvest.

… this is one of the most horrific punishments, that a spouse will marry someone more worthy and the crime means a burning not just of a harvest, but of one’s land all the way down to the underworld.

Abuse of slaves, or in modern lingo, one’s employees:

13 ‘If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves,
when they brought a complaint against me;
14 what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?

What happens when God comes to their aid, perhaps through other human beings? We’ve all come into the world in the same way.

The longest narrative treats sins against the needy:

16 ‘If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
17 or have eaten my morsel alone,
and the orphan has not eaten from it—
18 for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father,
and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow—
19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
or a poor person without covering,
20 whose loins have not blessed me,
and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
21 if I have raised my hand against the orphan,
because I saw I had supporters at the gate;
22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
and let my arm be broken from its socket.
23 For I was in terror of calamity from God,
and I could not have faced his majesty.

Jobs pleads his case he has cared for the poor, and is willing to endure the loss of his arm and shoulder, for God’s majesty is invoked by the mistreatment of those in need.

It looks like greed, but the lust for wealth is linked closely to the worship of false gods:

24 ‘If I have made gold my trust,
or called fine gold my confidence;
25 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great,
or because my hand had acquired much;
26 if I have looked at the sun when it shone,
or the moon moving in splendor,
27 and my heart has been secretly enticed,
and my mouth has kissed my hand;
28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
for I should have been false to God above.

How do we think of our enemies?

29 ‘If I have rejoiced at the ruin of those who hated me,
or exulted when evil overtook them—
30 I have not let my mouth sin
by asking for their lives with a curse—

Hospitality was a prime virtue in the ancient Middle East, and remains a struggle today:

31 if those of my tent ever said,
“O that we might be sated with his flesh!”—
32 the stranger has not lodged in the street;
I have opened my doors to the traveller—


33 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do,
by hiding my iniquity in my bosom,
34 because I stood in great fear of the multitude,
and the contempt of families terrified me,
so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors—

Job is willing to swear in writing, and to offer anyone a chance to say he has not done rightly in his life:

35 O that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me like a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.\

A late addition in reading verses consecutively by number, abuse of the land:

38 ‘If my land has cried out against me,
and its furrows have wept together;
39 if I have eaten its yield without payment,
and caused the death of its owners;
40 let thorns grow instead of wheat,
and foul weeds instead of barley.’

Perhaps timely with the concerns about the planet’s natural resources and the abuse of the environment.

So curious that so much of this has resonance with the many issues facing society today. What do you make of it?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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