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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 2

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verses 1-6

Wisdom, having solemnly warned rebellious scorners, now instructs her dutiful children. The dark question long before asked — "Where shall wisdom be found?" (Job 28:12, Job 28:20-21 ) — is now answered. It is here set before us, as the fear and knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:5 ); a principle of practical godliness (Proverbs 2:7-9 ); a preservation from besetting temptations (Proverbs 2:10-19 ); and a guide into the right and safe path. (Proverbs 2:20 .) Hence follow the security of its scholars (Proverbs 2:21 ), and the certain ruin of its ungodly despisers. (Proverbs 2:22 .)

The rules for its attainment are such as the simplest comprehension can apply. Carefully pondered, and diligently improved, they will furnish a key for the understanding of the whole word of God. Let us examine them more distinctly.

Receive my words — Let them be "the seed cast into the ground of an honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15 ) — a heart prepared of God. (Proverbs 16:1 .) Read the book of God as one who "sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard his word." (Luke 10:39 .) Like the Bereans, "receive it with all readiness" (Acts 17:11 ); like the Thessalonians, with reverential faith, acknowledging its supreme authority (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ). Hide my commandments with thee. Carry them about with thee as thy choicest treasure for greater security (Colossians 3:16, with Matthew 13:44 ); as thy furniture always at hand for present use. (Proverbs 4:20-21 ; Proverbs 7:3 . Job 22:22 .) Let the heart be the hiding-place for the treasure. (Luke 2:19, Luke 2:51 . Psalms 119:11 .) Satan can never snatch it thence.

But there must be an active, practical habit of attention.†1 Yet to incline the ear, and apply the heart — "who is sufficient for these things?" Oh! my God! Let it be thine own work on me — in me. Thou alone canst do it.†2 Let it be with me, as with thy Beloved Son — "Waken my ear morning by morning to hear as the learned." (Isaiah 50:4 .) So let me under thy grace "incline mine ear, and hear, that my soul may live." (Ibid. Isaiah 55:3 .)

Without this spirit of prayer — there may be attention and earnestness; yet not one spiritual impression upon the conscience; not one ray of Divine light in the soul. Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under a heavenly tutorage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. The word first comes into the ears; then it enters into the heart; there it is safely hid; thence rises the crythe lifting up of the voice. Thus, "the entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple." (Psalms 119:130 .) God keeps the key of the treasure-house in his own hand. "For this he will be enquired of" (Ezekiel 36:37 ) to open it unto thee. We look for no other inspiration than Divine grace to make his word clear and impressive. Every verse read and meditated on furnishes material for prayer. Every text prayed over opens a mine of "unsearchable riches," with a light from above, more clear and full than the most intelligent exposition. David (Psalms 119:18 &c.) and his wise son (1 Kings 3:9-12 ) sought this learning upon their knees; and the most matured Christian will continue to the end to lift up his voice for a more enlarged knowledge of God. (Ephesians 1:17-18 .)

But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather give energy to it.†3 The miner’s indefatigable pains; his invincible resolution; his untiring perseverance; seeking, yea, searching for hid treasures, — such must be our searching into the sacred storehouse.†4 To read, instead of "searching the Scriptures," is only to skim the surface, and gather up a few superficial notions.†5 The rule of success is — Dig up and down the field; and if the search be discouraging, dig again. The patient industry of perusal and re-perusal will open the embosomed treasure. "Surely there is a vein for the silver." (Job 28:1 .) Yet what miner would be content with the first ore? Would he not search deeper and deeper, until he has possessed himself of the whole; not satisfied with taking away much, but determined to leave nothing? Thus let us daily explore "the length, and the breadth, and the depth" of our boundless stores, until we be "filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19 .)

This habit of living in the element of Scripture is invaluable. To be filled from this Divine treasury; to have large portions of the word daily passing through the mind; gives us a firmer grasp, and a more suitable and diversified application of it. Yet this profit can only be fully reaped in retirement. We may read the Scriptures in company. But to search them, we must be alone with God. Here we learn to apply ourselves wholly to the word, and the word wholly to us. This enriching study gives a purer vein of sound judgment. The mere reader often scarcely knows where to begin, and he performs the routine without any definite object. His knowledge therefore must be scanty and ineffective. Nor is the neglect of this habit less hurtful to the Church. All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be traced to this source — "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures." (Matthew 22:29 .) They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. But the mind prayerfully occupied in the search of Divine truth — crying and lifting up the voice — will never fail to discern the two great principles of godliness — The fear and knowledge of God. There is no peradventure nor disappointment in this search — Then shalt thou understand. The LORD giveth wisdom; it cometh out of his mouth. None shall search in vain. (Job 32:8 . Isaiah 48:17 ; Isaiah 54:13 . James 1:5, James 1:17 . Compare Genesis 41:38-39 . Exodus 4:12 . Daniel 1:17 .) Never has apostasy from the faith been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God.

Footnotes

†1 Proverbs 22:17; Proverbs 23:12 . The Emperor Constantine stood hours to hear the word; replying, when asked to sit, ’that he thought it wicked to give negligent ears, when the truth handled was spoken of God.’ — (Euseb. De Vita Constant. Lib. 4.) Foxe records of Edward VI. ’That never was he present at any sermon commonly, but would excerp them, or note them with his own hand.’ — Vol. V.700. Yet Bishop Hooper thought, that his royal master’s love for the preached word needed to be quickened. — Sermon 7th on Jonas.

†2 Proverbs 20:12. "Thou giving me the ear, I have heard, as thou wouldest thy word to be heard." — Jerome on Habakkuk 3:2 .

†3 On one side is Luther’s inestimable axiom — ’Bene orasse est bene studuisse.’ On the other side is the balance of the old proverb — ’Ora et labora.’ Compare Matthew 11:12 . ’We are all,’ says the heavenly Leighton, ’too little in the humble seeking and begging this Divine knowledge; and that is the cause why we are so shallow and small proficients. "If thou cry, and lift up thy voice for understanding, search for it as for hid treasures;" sit down upon thy knees, and dig for it. That is the best posture, to fall right upon thy golden vein, and go deepest to know the mind of God, in searching the Scriptures, to be directed and regulated in his ways; to be made skillful in ways of honouring him, and doing him service. This neither man nor angels can teach him, but God alone.’ — Sermon on Psalms 107:43 .

†4 ’Viscera terræ extrahimus, ut digito gestiatur gemma, quam petimus. Quot manus afferuntur, ut unus niteat articulus! Simili studio, industriâ, constantiâ, Sapientiæ inquisitioni incumbendum erat.’ — Plin. lib. ii. c. 65.

†5 Compare John 5:39 . Greek (Ereunate tas graphas oti umeis dokeite en autais zoen aionion echein kai ekeinai eirin ai marturousai peri emou) — a similar allusion to the miner’s toil. ’I can speak it by experience’ — said a wise man — ’that there is little good to be gotten by reading the Bible cursorily and carelessly. But do it daily and diligently, with attention and affection; and you shall find such efficacy, as is to be found in no other book that can be named.’ — Erasmus’s Preface to Luke. Peter Martyr gives the same testimony, Epist. Dedic. To Comment. On Rom. The following relic of our renowned Elizabeth will be read both with interest and profit. It was written on a blank leaf of a black-letter edition of St. Paul’s Epistles, which she used during her lonely imprisonment at Woodstock. The volume itself, curiously embroidered by her own hand, is preserved in the Bodleian: — ’August. I walk many times into the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by pruning, eat them by reading, chew them by musing, and lay them up at length in the high seat of memorie, by gathering them together, that so, having tasted their sweetness, I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life.’ — Miss Strickland’s Queens of England, vi. 113.

Verses 7-9

Vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:18 ) and foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19 ) are the stamp on the wisdom of this world. Here is sound wisdom. It looks at things not in their notions, but in their proper substance. It is sound, because it is practical. It is indeed a hid treasure (Proverbs 2:4 ); so safe, that no spoiler can reach it; yet so free, that every sinner may have access to it. Yes; in the Son of God himself "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." All these treasures in him are laid up for the righteous — made over to them. (Colossians 2:3 . 1 Corinthians 1:30 .) Oh let us draw upon this infinite treasure daily, hourly, for light to direct an upright walk. ’To those that are true and upright in heart, he will in his own good time reveal true and saving knowledge, and that sound spiritual wisdom, which shall make them eternally happy.’†1 Our faithful God is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. (Proverbs 30:5 . Psalms 84:11 .) His wisdom covers us from that subtle sophistry, which would spoil us of our treasure. (Proverbs 22:12 .) The way of the saints is indeed fraught with danger; beset with temptation; yet is it safe (Proverbs 4:11 ; Proverbs 8:20 . Deuteronomy 33:26-29 . 1 Samuel 2:9 . Psalms 37:23-24 ; Psalms 56:9 ) — kept and preserved by Almighty power, even on the very edge of the enemy’s ground. (1 Samuel 25:39 ; 1 Samuel 27:1, with 1 Samuel 29:1-11 . 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 .)

Such also is the completeness of this godly privilege, that not only does it enlarge our knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:5 ), but it brings us to a full understanding of every practical obligation. Indeed that only is sound wisdom, that guides our feet into every good path; that "makes the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:15-17 .) The gracious wisdom that saves the soul, sanctifies the heart and life. (Titus 2:11-12 .)

Footnotes

†1 Bishop Hall.

Verses 10-11

We have seen the good that wisdom brings to us. (Proverbs 2:5 .) Now see the evil, from which it preserves us. But observe its place — in the heart. Here only has it any light, life, or power. (Proverbs 4:23 .) Clear knowledge floating in the head is deep ignorance. While it only glitters in the understanding, it is dry, speculative, and barren. When it entereth into the heart, light beams out, all the affections are engaged; and how pleasant is it to the soul! (Proverbs 24:13-14 . Job 23:12 . Psalms 119:103 . Jeremiah 15:16 .) Religion now is no lifeless notion. It is handled, tasted, enjoyed. It gives a discreet and understanding direction to the whole conduct. It becomes not only an external rule, but a preserving, keeping principle (Proverbs 4:6 ; Proverbs 6:22-24 . Psalms 17:4 ; Psalms 119:9-11, Psalms 119:104 ); like the military guard for the safety of the royal person. (1 Samuel 26:16 . 2 Kings 11:11 .) Before, it was the object of our search. Now, having found it, it is our pleasure. Until it is so, it can have no practical influence. It is "the man, whose delight is in the law of the LORD," who is preserved from "walking in the counsel of the ungodly." (Psalms 1:1-2 ; Compare Proverbs 7:4-5 .) Education, conviction, high moral principle, are at best only partially operative. The reclaimed drunkard may be true to his Temperance-pledge; but, if the "root of bitterness" be untouched, he may be a Socialist or a Chartist, or revel in some other equally ruinous course. External wickedness may be exchanged for decent formality. Vagrant affections may be turned from some object of vanity; yet not fixed upon the Divine centre of attraction. The mind may be disciplined from utter unprofitableness, only to indulge in the idolatry of talent, or the fascinations of poisoned literature. The folly of the pride of life may be resisted; yet pride in other of its multiform fruits tenderly cherished. In all these cases, the principle is unsubdued. The forsaken sin only makes way for some more plausible, but not less deadly passion. The heart, cast into the mold of the Gospel, is the only cover from those snares within and without (Romans 6:17-18 . 2 Corinthians 3:18 ), which so imperceptibly, yet so fatally, estrange us from God. Never, till the vital principle is implanted, is their mischief discerned. Never, till then, does the heart find its proper object, its true resting-place.

Footnotes

Verses 12-15

The various snares for the young, about to be detailed, furnish a fearful picture of the temptations to which our children are exposed. Will it not awaken out earnest cries for their deep and solid conversion to God; that wisdom may indeed enter into their hearts, and its pleasures be really enjoyed; that they may have a religious taste, as well as a religious education; that they may know the Gospel, not only in the conviction of their conscience, or the excitement of their feelings, but in the entire renewal of their hearts before God? This, and nothing less, will preserve them from the snare of their cruel foe. Every town and village swarms with his emissaries; first, initiated themselves into the mysteries of his art; then, going forth, laborious and practiced teachers, well instructed for his murderous work. Against one of these enticements we have been before warned. (Proverbs 1:10-13 .) Another is here given: The tempter bears his character upon his lips; the evil man that speaketh proud things against God and his law; like a poisonous fountain sending up poisoned waters. Oh! how quickly does the contamination spread! He does not sin in ignorance. He and his companions†1 have probably been trained in the paths of uprightness. Having come in contact with the pestilential breath of the ungodly, they have caught the contagion, and eagerly spread it. Readily do they leave the paths, which they never heartily loved, to walk in the ways of darkness, which their hearts do love. (Proverbs 4:16-17 . Job 24:13-16 . John 3:19-20 .) Having left the hated paths, they become therefore foremost in iniquity. Poisoned themselves, they would poison all around them. They rejoice, like Satan himself, to do evil:†2 to draw their fellow-sinners into the net; and they delight in those, who are most froward in their wickedness.†3 Thus they plunge deeper and deeper into sin, till they lose all traces of the straight way, and all their ways become crooked, leading with sure steps to eternal ruin. Is not this the picture, drawn to the very life, of many a Sunday-scholar, or a child of godly parents, the subject of deep and tender care; "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13 ), the neglect of faithful warning, the stifling of solemn conviction? How do they deserve to be left of God , who have first left him with such fearful aggravation! Young man! Especially shun companions, who are sinning against better knowledge and instruction. They are hardened in devotedness to their master’s work. Oh! if misguided sinners could but see sin in its horrid deformity and certain end, would not "their hearts meditate terror"? But the crookedness of their ways hides the end from view. Satan presents the bait, palliates the sin, covers the enormity, closes the eyes, and conceals the certain end of all — Hell. (Psalms 125:5 . Romans 6:21 ; with 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 .) The froward in their paths cannot — will not — turn back.

Footnotes

†1 The change to the plural number (the man — who leave) implies confederacy.

†2 Compare Isaiah 3:9 ; Jeremiah 9:15 . God’s heavy judgment. 2 Thessalonians 2:12 .

†3 The sin of the heathen, Romans 1:32 .

Verses 16-19

Another snare of the fowler is here graphically portrayed.†1 Wisdom hidden in the heart is, as before, the most effectual deliverance; restraining even the eye from the hurtful object.†2 Ought not the strange woman, even if she be born and baptized in a Christian land, to be counted as a stranger†3 and foreigner among us? One who had forsaken the guide of her youth,†4 and forgotten the solemn bond of the covenant of her God†5 — what else could she be to the unwary but a vile flatterer with her lips? (Proverbs 5:3 ; Proverbs 7:5, Proverbs 7:21 .) The slave of unlawful desire; having no guide but her own will; no pleasure but sensual gratification; quickly she becomes her own and her victim’s murderer. Her house is the land of death. (Proverbs 5:5 .) Eternal death is her doom (Galatians 5:19-21 . Ephesians 5:5 . Revelation 21:8 ; Revelation 22:15 .) Her paths incline to the dead, with the awful monuments of Divine vengeance in olden time.†6 Some instances indeed of deliverance are given; not so much examples, as special miracles, of grace, to show how far the "arm of the Lord" can reach.†7 But so rare are they, that it is as if scarcely none†8 that go unto her return again. And what madness is it to rush into the snare upon so faint and glimmering hope of escape! (Ecclesiastes 7:26 .) The spell of lust palsies the grasp, by which its victim might have taken hold of the paths of life for deliverance. He that is "saved, is so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15 ), the wonder of heaven and earth. "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zechariah 3:2 .)

Footnotes

†1 Proverbs 5:3-20; Proverbs 6:24 ; Proverbs 7:5-23 ; Proverbs 22:14 ; Proverbs 23:27 . Some commentators give an allegorical interpretation to these pictures, as descriptive of idolatry or false doctrine. ’But surely,’ as Holden well observes, ’if there be any dependence to be placed upon the language of the sacred writer, any propriety in his expressions, it is to be understood in its literal sense, as a warning against the seduction of harlots. The spirit of allegorical interpretation may make the Scriptures speak whatever is prompted by the wildest fancy, or the deepest fanaticism.’ — Holden in loco. Compare Scott in loco.

†2 Compare Job 31:1, and our Lord’s rule: — Matthew 5:28 .

†3 The strange woman — a stranger. Two different words in the Hebrew, the latter appearing to mark a foreigner. Compare Deuteronomy 23:17 ; Leviticus 19:29 . It is, however, but too evident that this abandoned class was not confined to foreigners. Compare Genesis 38:15-16 ; Judges 11:1 ; 1 Kings 3:16 .

†4 Though an harlot, she might be (Proverbs 7:5, Proverbs 7:10, Proverbs 7:19 ) or might have been (John 4:17-18 ) a married woman.

†5 Malachi 2:14-16. Compare Ezekiel 16:59-60 . Does not this sacred view of the marriage ordinance rebuke the legislative sanction which has now degraded it to a mere civil contract?

†6 ’The dead.’ — Scott and Bishop Patrick in loco. Compare Proverbs 9:18 . Heb. Mede’s Learned Discourse, vii.

†7 Solomon’s own case. Compare Luke 7:37-50 ; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 .

†8 None in comparison, very few. Compare Isaiah 59:4 ; Isaiah 64:7 .

Verses 20-22

Here is the consummating blessing of engrafted wisdom. Not only does it deliver from evil men; but it guides us into the way of good men. Clad with this Divine armour, thou shalt have courage, like Joseph, to turn thy face from the enchantment of Sin (Genesis 39:9-10 ), and keep the paths of the righteous, rugged indeed, yet the only paths of rest and security. (Song of Song of Solomon 1:7-8 . Jeremiah 6:16 .) Thus shalt thou dwell and remain in the land, as its original inheritor (Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:29, Psalms 37:34 . Matthew 5:5 ); having the best portion in earth, and an infinitely better portion in heaven; while the wicked and transgressors, though they may "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," shall be ultimately cut off, rooted out, and "driven away" into everlasting ruin. (Proverbs 10:30 ; Proverbs 14:32 ; Proverbs 15:25 . Psalms 52:5-7 ; Psalms 92:7 . Matthew 3:10 .)

And now, what serious reader of this chapter can fail to estimate above all price the privilege of being early enlisted under the banner of the cross; early taught in the ways, and disciplined in the school, of the Bible; and early led to hide that blessed book in the heart, as the rule of life, the principle of holiness, the guide to heaven!

Parents, sponsors, teachers of youth; ponder your deep responsibility with unceasing prayer for special grace and wisdom. Beware of glossing over sins with amiable or palliating terms. Let young people be always led to look upon vicious habits with horror, as the most appalling evil. Discipline their vehemence of feeling, and all ill-regulated excitement. Keep out of sight, as far as may be, books calculated to inflame the imagination. To give an impulse to the glowing passion may stimulate the rising corruption to the most malignant fruitfulness. Oh! what wisdom is needed to guide, to repress, to bring forth, develope safely, and to improve fully, the mind, energies, and sensibilities of youth!

Young man! beware! Do not flatter thyself for a moment, that God will ever wink at your sinful passions; that he will allow for them, as slips and foibles of youth. They are the "Cords of your own sins," which, if the power of God’s grace break them not in time, will "hold" you for eternity. (Proverbs 5:22 .) Shun then the society of sin, as the infection of the plague. Keep thy distance from it, as from the pit of destruction. Store thy mind with the preservative of heavenly wisdom. Cultivate the taste for purer pleasures. Listen to the fatherly, pleading remonstrance, inviting thee to thy rest — "Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, ’My Father! Thou art the guide of my youth?’" (Jeremiah 3:4 .)

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-2.html. 1846.
 
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