Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 23

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-3

The point of this advice is to be humble and restrained in the presence of a prestigious host. The guest should put a knife to his throat rather than to his food (i.e., curb his appetite, control himself). [Note: Delitzsch, 2:104.]

"Threaten your appetite with death." [Note: Harris, p. 575.]

The fact that the host serves delicacies may not indicate that he esteems the guest highly. The host may simply be getting him in a good mood for his own selfish reasons. He may want something from him or be evaluating him. "What is before you" (Proverbs 23:1) is better than "who is before you." [Note: Waltke, "The Book . . .," pp. 237-38.]

Verses 4-5

Wealth is just as illusive as social prestige (cf. Luke 12:20; 1 Timothy 6:7-10). Therefore, people should not wear themselves out trying to get rich.

Verses 6-8

It is better to decline a dinner invitation from a miser because, if you accept, you will only have a miserable experience. Kidner paraphrased Proverbs 23:8 as follows: "It takes away the relish . . . to have one’s grudging host . . . doing mental arithmetic (Proverbs 23:7 a) with each dish." [Note: Kidner, p. 151.]

"The seventh saying [Proverbs 23:1-3] warns about the greed of the gluttonous guest and the ninth saying [Proverbs 23:6-8] about the greed of the stingy host. At their center stands the eighth saying [Proverbs 23:4-5], prohibiting the quest for riches, for they are a false security. All three sayings warn that things are not as they appear." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . . 31, p. 237.]

Verse 9

"The hearing of a fool" is literally "the ears of a fool." One should not try to speak words of wisdom to a fool. As always in Proverbs, the fool is one who rejects God’s words. The words spoken on this occasion are in harmony with God’s since they are words containing wisdom. Trying to teach someone divine wisdom when he or she rejects divine wisdom is a waste of time. However, God can change people’s minds about divine wisdom. But this proverb deals only with natural response.

Verses 10-12

Here the writer added a reason to the warning in the fourth saying (Proverbs 22:28). God is the rescuing avenger of the defenseless (in Genesis 28:16; Exodus 6:6; Job 19:25; and many times in Isaiah 41-63). Here it is evidently God who is in view, rather than a human kinsman-redeemer (Heb. goel, cf. Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6; Job 19:25; Isaiah 41-63). This is another warning against taking unfair advantage of a defenseless person.

We should probably take Proverbs 23:12 as an exhortation added to the tenth saying. Some scholars have viewed it as an introduction to the remaining 20 sayings in view of its similarity to Proverbs 22:17; Proverbs 23:15-16; Proverbs 23:19; Proverbs 23:26. [Note: Toy, pp. 432-33.] In either case, it is a general admonition to apply these wise declarations to life.

Verses 13-14

The sage again advocated discipline. Beating with a rod is not the only form of discipline advocated in Proverbs. It is simply one form used here as a poetic parallel to discipline (Heb. musar, moral correction). Other forms of discipline (reproof, temporary isolation, "grounding," etc.) may be more appropriate in some situations with children of differing ages and temperaments. These verses assure the parent that the child will not only survive the discipline, but he or she will survive because of it.

"The idea is that discipline helps the child to live a full life; if he dies (prematurely), it would be a consequence of not being trained. In Proverbs such a death might be moral and social as well as physical." [Note: Ross, p. 1070.]

"Severe discipline is not cruel, but to withhold it from callous youth is. . . . However, the cleansing rod must be applied with warmth, affection, and respect for the youth. Warmth and affection, not steely discipline, characterize the father’s lectures (cf. Proverbs 4:1-9). Parents who brutalize their children cannot hide behind the rod doctrine of Proverbs." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . . 31, p. 252.]

Verses 15-16

This saying balances the previous one. The child’s choice is as vital as the parent’s discipline. The affectionate "My son" adds a warm touch and removes any inference that the writer enjoyed whipping his child. This father’s greatest concern was that his son should learn wisdom. Parents rejoice when they observe their children making wise choices.

Verses 17-18

The long view-even beyond death-is essential in order to avoid envying the wicked, who frequently prosper in this life. We should always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. Looking up (Proverbs 23:17) and looking ahead (Proverbs 23:18) can help us avoid envying sinners. [Note: Kidner, p. 152.]

Verses 19-21

Overindulgence in food and drink can lead to sleepiness, then laziness, then poverty. We should avoid the constant companionship of people marked by these characteristics. Excessive eating and drinking are often symptoms of deeper problems. [Note: Plaut, pp. 241-42.] This saying also implies that the influence of bad companions is strong.

Verses 22-23

Heeding wise parental instruction is hard for some children, but it is necessary for them to become wise. By listening to and obeying his or her parents, the child learns to listen to and obey God. Submission to parental authority makes submission to divine authority easier (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-4). Honoring parents here means listening (paying attention) to their instructions. [Note: Toy, p. 436.] It does not necessarily mean obeying their instructions.

Verses 24-25

Note again that righteousness and wisdom were synonymous in the mind of the writer (Proverbs 23:24). Children who follow God’s way of wisdom not only bring joy to themselves but also to their parents.

Verses 26-28

Another exhortation to apply what follows prefaces this saying. It is especially important. Our culture glamorizes sexual promiscuity, but these verses reveal its true consequences: entrapment, constraint, painful loss, and treachery. Two types of harlots are in view: the unmarried (Heb. zonah, "harlot" or "prostitute") and the married (nokriyah, "adulterous woman" or "wayward wife," Proverbs 23:27).

Verses 29-35

This classic description of drunkenness ironically illustrates the folly of that vice. The father urges his son to remember how too much drinking will end-so its present enjoyment will not captivate him.

"While alcoholism is a medical problem, it is also a moral problem because it involves choices and brings danger to other people." [Note: Ross, p. 1072.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/proverbs-23.html. 2012.
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