Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Job 31:21

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless - I have at no time opposed the orphan, nor given, in behalf of the rich and powerful, a decision against the poor, when I saw my help in the gate - when I was sitting chief on the throne of judgment, and could have done it without being called to account. There are sentiments very like these in the poem of Lebeid, one of the authors of the Moallakhat. I shall quote several verses from the elegant translation of Sir William Jones, in which the character of a charitable and bountiful chief is well described: -

"Oft have I invited a numerous company to the death of a camel bought for slaughter, to be divided with arrows of equal dimensions."

"I invite them to draw lots for a camel without a foal, and for a camel with her young one, whose flesh I distribute to all the neighbors."

"The guest and the stranger admitted to my board seem to have alighted in the sweet vale of Tebaala, luxuriant with vernal blossoms."

"The cords of my tent approaches every needy matron, worn with fatigue, like a camel doomed to die at her master's tomb, whose venture is both scanty and ragged."

"There they crown with meat (while the wintry winds contend with fierce blasts) a dish flowing like a rivulet, into which the famished orphans eagerly plunge."

"He distributes equal shares, he dispenses justice to the tribes, he is indignant when their right is diminished; and, to establish their right, often relinquishes his own."

"He acts with greatness of mind, and nobleness of heart: he sheds the dew of his liberality on those who need his assistance; he scatters around his own gains and precious spoils, the prizes of his valor." - Ver. 73-80.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless - That is, if I have taken advantage of my rank, influence, and power, to oppress and injure him.

When I saw my help in the gate - The gate of a city was a place of concourse; a place where debates were held, and where justice was administered. Job speaks here of that part of his life when he was clothed with authority as a magistrate, or when he had power and influence as a public man. He says that he had never abused this power to oppress the fatherless. He had never taken advantage of his influence to injure them, because he saw he had a strong party under his control, or because he had power enough to carry his point, or because he had those under him who would sustain him in an oppressive measure. This is spoken with reference to the usually feeble and defenseless condition of the orphan, as one who is deprived of his natural protector and who is, therefore, liable to be wronged by those in power.

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.