Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Job 31:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Or have eaten my morsel myself alone - Hospitality was a very prominent virtue among the ancients in almost all nations: friends and strangers were equally welcome to the board of the affluent. The supper was their grand meal: it was then that they saw their friends; the business and fatigues of the day being over, they could then enjoy themselves comfortably together. The supper was called coena on this account; or, as Plutarch says, Το μεν γαρ δειπνον φασι κοινα δια την κοινωνιαν καλεισθαι· καθπ 'ἑαυτους γαρ ηριστων επιεικως οἱ παλαι ρωμαιοι, συνδειπνουντες τοις φιλοις . "The ancient Romans named supper Coena, (κοινα ), which signifies communion (κοινωνια ) or fellowship; for although they dined alone, they supped with their friends." - Plut. Symp. lib. viii., prob. 6, p. 687. But Job speaks here of dividing his bread with the hungry: Or have eaten my morsel myself alone. And he is a poor despicable caitiff who would eat it alone, while there was another at hand, full as hungry as himself.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Or have eaten my morsel myself alone - If I have not imparted what I had though ever so small, to others. This was in accordance with the Oriental laws of hospitality. It is regarded as a fixed law among the Arabians, that the guest shall always be helped first, and to that which is best; and no matter how needy the family may be, or how much distressed with hunger, the settled laws of hospitality demand that the stranger-guest shall have the first and best portion. Dr. Robinson, in his “Biblical Researches,” gives an amusing instance of the extent to which this law is carried, and the sternness with which it is executed among the Arabs. In the journey from Suez to Mount Sinai, intending to furnish a supper for the Arabs in their employ, he and his fellow-travelers had bought a kid, and led it along to the place of their encampment. At night the kid was killed and roasted, and the Arabs were anticipating a savory supper.

But those of whom they had bought the kid, learned in some way that they were to encamp near, and naturally concluded that the kid was bought to be eaten, and followed them to the place of encampment, to the number of five or six persons. “Now the stern law of Arabian hospitality demands, that whenever a guest is present at a meal, whether there be much or little, the first and best portion must be laid before the stranger. In this instance the five or six guests attained their object, and had not only the selling of the kid, but also the eating of it, while our poor Arabs, whose mouths had long been watering with expectation, were forced to take up with the fragments.” Vol. 1:118. There is often, indeed, much ostentation in the hospitality of the Orientals, but the law is stern and inflexible. “No sooner,” says Shaw (Travels, vol. 1:p. 20), “was our food prepared, than one of the Arabs, having placed himself on the highest spot of ground in the neighborhood, called out thrice with a loud voice to all their brethren, the sons of the faithful, to come and partake of it; though none of them were in view, or perhaps within a hundred miles of them.” The great law of hospitality Job says he had carefully observed, and had not withheld what he had from the poor and the fatherless.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.