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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Proverbs 23

Verses 1-3

Sixth Saying (Hexastitch) Comments - Proverbs 23:1-3 forms a single proverbial thought using six lines, which is called a hexastitch.

Proverbs 23:1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:

Proverbs 23:2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.

Proverbs 23:3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.

Proverbs 23:3 Comments - The Geneva Bible translation notes on Proverbs 23:3 read, “For oft times the rich when they bid their inferiors to their tables, it is not for the love they bear them, but for their own secret purposes.” [127] For example, many times wealth people have gained their wealth by using and bribing people, by deceit and manipulation. Here, the verse is telling the one who has been brought into the presence of wealth and power, not to be overwhelmed by awesome appearance, but to be cautious and wise.

[127] The Bible, That is, the Holy Scriptures Containing the Old and New Testament, Translated According to the Hebrew and Greek, and Conferred With the Best Translations in Divers Languages (London: Robert Barker, 1615), notes on Proverbs 23:3.

Verses 1-35

Divine Service: The Words of the Wise (Two Collections) In Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34 we have a collection of sayings that is often called “The Words of the Wise.” Scholars give it this title because there are indications from Proverbs 22:21 that King Solomon sent young men to seek out the wisdom of Egypt and of the East. There are two collections of sayings in this section. The first collection is made up of thirty sayings (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22) and the second collection is short, consisting of only four sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34). We know that Solomon identified two sources of wisdom outside of Israel, which were the East and Egypt; for we read in 1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” We know that the first collection of sayings has similarities with ancient Egyptian wisdom. Thus, it most likely originated from Egypt. We can then suggest that the second, but shorter, collection of sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34) either came from Egypt as miscellaneous wisdom, or it may have been that wisdom which Solomon collected from the East.

We see in one verse in this section (Proverbs 22:21) that serves as a possible reference to the fact that Solomon sent a delegation of men to seek out wise men of other nations. The YLT reads, “To cause thee to know the certainty of sayings of truth, To return sayings of truth to those sending thee .” (Proverbs 22:21) It implies that Solomon sent a delegate to a faraway city in his search for wisdom; for we read in Ecclesiastes 12:9 that Solomon “sought out” proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 12:9, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.”

In other words, some of the young men that were trained in his court were selected, or called out, to go to other nations and seek divine wisdom. These would have been men who had learned Solomon’s proverbs well and applied them to their lives. In addition, these men may have carried a collection of Solomon’s proverbs as a gift to these wise men of Egypt and the East.

The wise men of this place may have compiled thirty of their most important proverbs and sent them back to King Solomon with a cover letter using the words found in Proverbs 22:17-21, which also serves as a prologue to these sayings. They gave Solomon’s delegate a collection of sayings of truth for those who sent him. It appears that King Solomon honored these proverbs by keeping them with his other collection of proverbs. This is how they were placed within the Proverbs of Solomon. However, we must assume that King Solomon would not have sought something from lesser kings without offering to them a greater gift, perhaps his collection of divine sayings. Thus, those who were sent out probably took the message of the God of Israel with them to evangelize the civilized world as a part of their calling.

Regarding its application to our spiritual journey, we see how God will pick a point in time when He finds us faithful to entrust to us a greater calling. In Proverbs 22:21 we see how Solomon chose one or more of his faithful servants and sent them to gather divine wisdom outside of his kingdom. It is a time when God calls us and anoints us for a particular task. For example, Paul was called to the nations in Acts 9:15 when Ananias prophesied that, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” But it was many years later when Paul was sent out with Barnabas and anointed in the office of an apostle to the Gentiles in Acts 13:1-4. If we will be faithful and continue in what God has given to us, we, too, will find a greater calling and anointing to serve. This is a place of maturity that God is trying to get each of us to obtain.

The number “thirty” symbolized manhood and maturity in ancient times. Thus, these thirty sayings of the wise may serve to symbolize a Christian’s spiritual maturity; for it is only those mature in Christ who are appointed to Christian service; so, the thirty sayings contained within this passage of Scripture may represent our journey towards maturity. In other words, when we adopt these thirty sayings to our life, we will have developed a mature behaviour and be ready for our assignment and calling in Christian service.

This section of proverbs is characteristics by having lengthy sayings of two or more verses, which build upon a theme. The training becomes more intensive as we apply ourselves to learning the ways of wisdom. Therefore, we must apply more contemplation in order to understand these truths. However, as in our secular education, our past learning will serve as a foundation to understanding the more difficult issues of life. These sayings can be divided into two groups.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. First Collection (Thirty Sayings of the Wise) Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22

2. Second Collection (Four Sayings) Proverbs 24:23-34

Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 The Words of the Wise: First Collection (Thirty Sayings) Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 begins a new section of collections, often called The Words of the Wise. It is possible that these sayings were collected by Solomon from outside his kingdom. We know that Solomon identified two sources of wisdom outside of Israel, which were the East and Egypt; for we read in 1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”

We know that the first collection of sayings has similarities with ancient Egyptian wisdom. Thus, it most likely originated from Egypt. We can then suggest that the second, but shorter, collection of sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34) either came from Egypt as miscellaneous wisdom, or it may have been that wisdom which Solomon collected from the East.

This first collection of “Sayings of the Wise” is characterized by individual truths that come in groups of two or more verses. The training becomes more intensive as we apply ourselves to learning the ways of wisdom. Therefore, we must apply more contemplation in order to understand these truths. As in our secular education, our past learning will serve as a foundation to understanding the more difficult issues of life.

The signposts found in the sayings of the wise (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34) and in Solomon’s second collection (25-29) tell us to continue in the fear of the Lord, to honor those in authority over us, and this will bring happiness into our lives as we continue on this journey. Note:

Proverbs 23:17, “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.”

Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:”

Proverbs 28:14, “Happy is the man that feareth alway : but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”

Here is a proposed outline:

a) Prologue (Ode or Decastitch) Proverbs 22:17-21

b) First Saying( Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:22-23

c) Second Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:24-25

d) Third Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:26-27

e) Fourth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 22:28

f) Fifth Saying (Tristitch) Proverbs 22:29

g) Sixth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:1-3

h) Seventh Saying (Pentastitch) Proverbs 23:4-5

i) Eighth Saying (Heptastitch) Proverbs 23:6-8

j) Ninth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 23:9

k) Tenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:10-11

l) Eleventh Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:12-14

m) Twelfth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:15-16

n) Thirteenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:17-18

o) Fourteenth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:19-21

p) Fifteenth Saying (Octastitch) Proverbs 23:22-25

q) Sixteenth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:26-28

r) Seventeenth Saying (An Ode) Proverbs 23:29-35

s) Eighteenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:1-2

t) Nineteenth Saying (Tristitch) Proverbs 24:3-4

u) Twentieth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:5-6

v) Twenty-First Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:7

w) Twenty-Second Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:8

x) Twenty-Third Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:9

y) Twenty-Fourth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:10

z) Twenty-Fifth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 24:11-12

aa) Twenty-Sixth Saying (Pentastitch) Proverbs 24:13-14

bb) Twenty-Seventh Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:15-16

cc) Twenty-Eighth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:17-18

dd) Twenty-Ninth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:19-20

ee) Thirtieth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:21-22

The Thirty Sayings - Some scholars translate Proverbs 22:20 to read “thirty sayings” instead of “excellent things,” and it is easy to find thirty individual proverbs in this section of literature.

BBE, “Have I not put in writing for you thirty sayings, with wise suggestions and knowledge,” (Proverbs 22:20)

It is possible that Solomon gathered these sayings outside the nation of Israel, perhaps in Egypt. When we compare some of these sayings with an Egyptian writing entitled The Instruction of Amenemope, written about 1200 to 1300 B.C. and made up of thirty chapters, we find that this ancient writing has a few proverbs that are similar to the proverbs in this passage of Scripture. [121]

[121] Miriam Lichtheim, The Instruction of Amenemope, in Ancient Egyptian literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973-[80]), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

Example One:

Proverbs 22:17-18 a, “Direct your ear and hear wise words. Set your heart to know them. For it is pleasant if you keep them in your inmost self.”

Amenemope Proverbs 3:10, “Give your ears and hear what is said, give your mind over to their interpretation: It is profitable to put them in your heart.

Example Two:

Proverbs 22:20, “Have I not written for you thirty counsels and teachings to teach you what is right and true?”

Amenemope Proverbs 27:7, “Mark for your self these thirty chapters: They please, they instruct, they are the foremost of all books.”

Example Three:

Proverbs 22:24, “Do not make friends with people prone to anger. With the hotheaded person do not associate.”

Amenemope Proverbs 11:12, “Do not fraternize with the hot-tempered man, nor approach him to converse.”

Example Four:

Proverbs 23:1-2, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe what is before you. Put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.”

Amenemope Proverbs 23:16, “Look at the cup in front of you, and let it suffice your need.”

Thus, it was possible that Solomon was exposed to other ancient literature, and actually read this ancient piece of wisdom literature. One verse in the Scriptures that refers to this exposure is found in 1 Kings 4:30. It mentions that there were wise men in the east and in Egypt.

1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”

We see in Ecclesiastes 12:9 that Solomon sought out wisdom, which meant that he could have looked far and wise for wisdom literature.

Ecclesiastes 12:9, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out , and set in order many proverbs.”

We see a possible reference to the fact that Solomon sent a delegation of men to seek out wise men of other nations in Proverbs 22:21. Thus, a group of Egyptian wise men many have compile a collection of thirty sayings that were most popular among themselves.

Proverbs 22:21, “That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? ”

This, however, does not take away from the inspiration of the Scriptures, because divine wisdom is universal, being found in many other people besides the Israelites. Job is an example of this.

The theme of universal wisdom given from God to mankind is found in the book of Romans:

Romans 1:19-20, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Romans 2:14-15, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”

The Significance of the Number “Thirty” We ponder the question of why there were thirty sayings. We have seen that an ancient Egyptian piece of wisdom literature entitle The Instruction of Amenemope was made up of thirty chapters. In this ancient document, there is also a reference to the “council of the thirty.” [122] The importance of the number thirty can be found in other parts of Egyptian antiquity. It shows up in an ancient board game named “Senet,” which was “the best known and most widely popularized board game from ancient Egypt. Based upon a 3x10 board of thirty squares, it consisted of a race game played with knucklebones that could be engaged between two players or, as some temple drawings suggest, by a single player.” “The game itself symbolized the path of the dead through the underworld. ‘I must enter the Hall of the thirty and I become God at the 31,’ says one papyrus.” [123]

[122] Mirian Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: vol. II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1973), chapter 19, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

[123] Ricardo Calvo, “Chapter 2: Mystical numerology in Egypt and Mesopotamia,” in The Origins of Chess: Mystical Numerology in Egypt and Mesopotamia, [on-line]; accessed on 7 June 2009; available from http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/calvonumerology.html; Internet; see also Wolfgang Decker, Sports and Games of Ancient Egypt (London: Yale University Press, 1992), 124.

Even within the Hebrew culture, the age of thirty was significant in that it marked the maturity of adulthood. We find Joseph being appointed to lead the nation of Egypt at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:46). Ezekiel and Jesus Christ were both called into their ministries at the age of thirty (Ezekiel 1:1, Luke 3:23).

Genesis 41:46, “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Ezekiel 1:1, “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”

Luke 3:23, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,”

Verses 1-35

Divine Service: The Words of the Wise (Two Collections) In Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34 we have a collection of sayings that is often called “The Words of the Wise.” Scholars give it this title because there are indications from Proverbs 22:21 that King Solomon sent young men to seek out the wisdom of Egypt and of the East. There are two collections of sayings in this section. The first collection is made up of thirty sayings (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22) and the second collection is short, consisting of only four sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34). We know that Solomon identified two sources of wisdom outside of Israel, which were the East and Egypt; for we read in 1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” We know that the first collection of sayings has similarities with ancient Egyptian wisdom. Thus, it most likely originated from Egypt. We can then suggest that the second, but shorter, collection of sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34) either came from Egypt as miscellaneous wisdom, or it may have been that wisdom which Solomon collected from the East.

We see in one verse in this section (Proverbs 22:21) that serves as a possible reference to the fact that Solomon sent a delegation of men to seek out wise men of other nations. The YLT reads, “To cause thee to know the certainty of sayings of truth, To return sayings of truth to those sending thee .” (Proverbs 22:21) It implies that Solomon sent a delegate to a faraway city in his search for wisdom; for we read in Ecclesiastes 12:9 that Solomon “sought out” proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 12:9, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.”

In other words, some of the young men that were trained in his court were selected, or called out, to go to other nations and seek divine wisdom. These would have been men who had learned Solomon’s proverbs well and applied them to their lives. In addition, these men may have carried a collection of Solomon’s proverbs as a gift to these wise men of Egypt and the East.

The wise men of this place may have compiled thirty of their most important proverbs and sent them back to King Solomon with a cover letter using the words found in Proverbs 22:17-21, which also serves as a prologue to these sayings. They gave Solomon’s delegate a collection of sayings of truth for those who sent him. It appears that King Solomon honored these proverbs by keeping them with his other collection of proverbs. This is how they were placed within the Proverbs of Solomon. However, we must assume that King Solomon would not have sought something from lesser kings without offering to them a greater gift, perhaps his collection of divine sayings. Thus, those who were sent out probably took the message of the God of Israel with them to evangelize the civilized world as a part of their calling.

Regarding its application to our spiritual journey, we see how God will pick a point in time when He finds us faithful to entrust to us a greater calling. In Proverbs 22:21 we see how Solomon chose one or more of his faithful servants and sent them to gather divine wisdom outside of his kingdom. It is a time when God calls us and anoints us for a particular task. For example, Paul was called to the nations in Acts 9:15 when Ananias prophesied that, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” But it was many years later when Paul was sent out with Barnabas and anointed in the office of an apostle to the Gentiles in Acts 13:1-4. If we will be faithful and continue in what God has given to us, we, too, will find a greater calling and anointing to serve. This is a place of maturity that God is trying to get each of us to obtain.

The number “thirty” symbolized manhood and maturity in ancient times. Thus, these thirty sayings of the wise may serve to symbolize a Christian’s spiritual maturity; for it is only those mature in Christ who are appointed to Christian service; so, the thirty sayings contained within this passage of Scripture may represent our journey towards maturity. In other words, when we adopt these thirty sayings to our life, we will have developed a mature behaviour and be ready for our assignment and calling in Christian service.

This section of proverbs is characteristics by having lengthy sayings of two or more verses, which build upon a theme. The training becomes more intensive as we apply ourselves to learning the ways of wisdom. Therefore, we must apply more contemplation in order to understand these truths. However, as in our secular education, our past learning will serve as a foundation to understanding the more difficult issues of life. These sayings can be divided into two groups.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. First Collection (Thirty Sayings of the Wise) Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22

2. Second Collection (Four Sayings) Proverbs 24:23-34

Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 The Words of the Wise: First Collection (Thirty Sayings) Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 begins a new section of collections, often called The Words of the Wise. It is possible that these sayings were collected by Solomon from outside his kingdom. We know that Solomon identified two sources of wisdom outside of Israel, which were the East and Egypt; for we read in 1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”

We know that the first collection of sayings has similarities with ancient Egyptian wisdom. Thus, it most likely originated from Egypt. We can then suggest that the second, but shorter, collection of sayings (Proverbs 24:23-34) either came from Egypt as miscellaneous wisdom, or it may have been that wisdom which Solomon collected from the East.

This first collection of “Sayings of the Wise” is characterized by individual truths that come in groups of two or more verses. The training becomes more intensive as we apply ourselves to learning the ways of wisdom. Therefore, we must apply more contemplation in order to understand these truths. As in our secular education, our past learning will serve as a foundation to understanding the more difficult issues of life.

The signposts found in the sayings of the wise (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34) and in Solomon’s second collection (25-29) tell us to continue in the fear of the Lord, to honor those in authority over us, and this will bring happiness into our lives as we continue on this journey. Note:

Proverbs 23:17, “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.”

Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:”

Proverbs 28:14, “Happy is the man that feareth alway : but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”

Here is a proposed outline:

a) Prologue (Ode or Decastitch) Proverbs 22:17-21

b) First Saying( Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:22-23

c) Second Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:24-25

d) Third Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 22:26-27

e) Fourth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 22:28

f) Fifth Saying (Tristitch) Proverbs 22:29

g) Sixth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:1-3

h) Seventh Saying (Pentastitch) Proverbs 23:4-5

i) Eighth Saying (Heptastitch) Proverbs 23:6-8

j) Ninth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 23:9

k) Tenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:10-11

l) Eleventh Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:12-14

m) Twelfth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:15-16

n) Thirteenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:17-18

o) Fourteenth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:19-21

p) Fifteenth Saying (Octastitch) Proverbs 23:22-25

q) Sixteenth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:26-28

r) Seventeenth Saying (An Ode) Proverbs 23:29-35

s) Eighteenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:1-2

t) Nineteenth Saying (Tristitch) Proverbs 24:3-4

u) Twentieth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:5-6

v) Twenty-First Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:7

w) Twenty-Second Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:8

x) Twenty-Third Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:9

y) Twenty-Fourth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 24:10

z) Twenty-Fifth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 24:11-12

aa) Twenty-Sixth Saying (Pentastitch) Proverbs 24:13-14

bb) Twenty-Seventh Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:15-16

cc) Twenty-Eighth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:17-18

dd) Twenty-Ninth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:19-20

ee) Thirtieth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 24:21-22

The Thirty Sayings - Some scholars translate Proverbs 22:20 to read “thirty sayings” instead of “excellent things,” and it is easy to find thirty individual proverbs in this section of literature.

BBE, “Have I not put in writing for you thirty sayings, with wise suggestions and knowledge,” (Proverbs 22:20)

It is possible that Solomon gathered these sayings outside the nation of Israel, perhaps in Egypt. When we compare some of these sayings with an Egyptian writing entitled The Instruction of Amenemope, written about 1200 to 1300 B.C. and made up of thirty chapters, we find that this ancient writing has a few proverbs that are similar to the proverbs in this passage of Scripture. [121]

[121] Miriam Lichtheim, The Instruction of Amenemope, in Ancient Egyptian literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973-[80]), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

Example One:

Proverbs 22:17-18 a, “Direct your ear and hear wise words. Set your heart to know them. For it is pleasant if you keep them in your inmost self.”

Amenemope Proverbs 3:10, “Give your ears and hear what is said, give your mind over to their interpretation: It is profitable to put them in your heart.

Example Two:

Proverbs 22:20, “Have I not written for you thirty counsels and teachings to teach you what is right and true?”

Amenemope Proverbs 27:7, “Mark for your self these thirty chapters: They please, they instruct, they are the foremost of all books.”

Example Three:

Proverbs 22:24, “Do not make friends with people prone to anger. With the hotheaded person do not associate.”

Amenemope Proverbs 11:12, “Do not fraternize with the hot-tempered man, nor approach him to converse.”

Example Four:

Proverbs 23:1-2, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe what is before you. Put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.”

Amenemope Proverbs 23:16, “Look at the cup in front of you, and let it suffice your need.”

Thus, it was possible that Solomon was exposed to other ancient literature, and actually read this ancient piece of wisdom literature. One verse in the Scriptures that refers to this exposure is found in 1 Kings 4:30. It mentions that there were wise men in the east and in Egypt.

1 Kings 4:30, “And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”

We see in Ecclesiastes 12:9 that Solomon sought out wisdom, which meant that he could have looked far and wise for wisdom literature.

Ecclesiastes 12:9, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out , and set in order many proverbs.”

We see a possible reference to the fact that Solomon sent a delegation of men to seek out wise men of other nations in Proverbs 22:21. Thus, a group of Egyptian wise men many have compile a collection of thirty sayings that were most popular among themselves.

Proverbs 22:21, “That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? ”

This, however, does not take away from the inspiration of the Scriptures, because divine wisdom is universal, being found in many other people besides the Israelites. Job is an example of this.

The theme of universal wisdom given from God to mankind is found in the book of Romans:

Romans 1:19-20, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Romans 2:14-15, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”

The Significance of the Number “Thirty” We ponder the question of why there were thirty sayings. We have seen that an ancient Egyptian piece of wisdom literature entitle The Instruction of Amenemope was made up of thirty chapters. In this ancient document, there is also a reference to the “council of the thirty.” [122] The importance of the number thirty can be found in other parts of Egyptian antiquity. It shows up in an ancient board game named “Senet,” which was “the best known and most widely popularized board game from ancient Egypt. Based upon a 3x10 board of thirty squares, it consisted of a race game played with knucklebones that could be engaged between two players or, as some temple drawings suggest, by a single player.” “The game itself symbolized the path of the dead through the underworld. ‘I must enter the Hall of the thirty and I become God at the 31,’ says one papyrus.” [123]

[122] Mirian Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: vol. II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1973), chapter 19, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

[123] Ricardo Calvo, “Chapter 2: Mystical numerology in Egypt and Mesopotamia,” in The Origins of Chess: Mystical Numerology in Egypt and Mesopotamia, [on-line]; accessed on 7 June 2009; available from http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/calvonumerology.html; Internet; see also Wolfgang Decker, Sports and Games of Ancient Egypt (London: Yale University Press, 1992), 124.

Even within the Hebrew culture, the age of thirty was significant in that it marked the maturity of adulthood. We find Joseph being appointed to lead the nation of Egypt at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:46). Ezekiel and Jesus Christ were both called into their ministries at the age of thirty (Ezekiel 1:1, Luke 3:23).

Genesis 41:46, “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Ezekiel 1:1, “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”

Luke 3:23, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,”

Verses 4-5

Seventh Saying (Pentastitch) Proverbs 23:4-5 forms a single proverbial thought using five lines, which is called a pentastitch. This proverb warns us against setting our hearts upon material wealth because it is so easy to be deceived by such pursuits. It appears to bring someone to a place of satisfaction and wisdom, but in fact, it can leave one empty and foolish.

Proverbs 23:4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

Proverbs 23:4 “Labour not to be rich” Scripture References - Note a similar verse:

1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Proverbs 23:4 “cease from thine own wisdom” - Scripture References - Note similar verse:

Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Proverbs 26:12, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Isaiah 5:21, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Romans 11:25, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”

Proverbs 23:5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Proverbs 23:5 “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?” Comments - The eye referred to in Proverbs 23:5 represents the heart of a man. Thus, a person who sets his heart upon riches will be misled by appearances.

Proverbs 23:5 Illustration - Chasing riches is like chasing butterflies. They seem to be just at your finger tips, yet you cannot quite catch them.

Proverbs 23:5 Illustration - In college a young student brought to me and my roommates two young baby birds which had been knocked out of their nest. We raised them up inside the apartment. I fed them berries and other foods. One small bird died quickly, but the other grew up healthy. Soon he was able to fly around the apartment. We would take him outside and he would fly back and forth to our hands and we would feed him. One day he flew into a tree. Then latter into another tree farther away and soon he was gone, forever.

Verses 6-8

Eighth Saying (Heptastitch) Proverbs 23:6-8 forms a single thought using seven lines, which is called a heptastitch. It warns us not to share in the spoils of someone who is evil because his heart is not favorable to you so that he will turn against you at some point in this relationship.

Proverbs 23:6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:

Proverbs 23:6 Comments - Regarding the phrase, “an evil eye,” the eye represents the heart of a man. Thus, this refers to a man with a wicked heart.

Proverbs 23:8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

Proverbs 23:8 Comments - The Geneva Bible translation notes read, “ He will not cease till he has done you some harm, and his flattering words will come to no use.” [128]

[128] The Bible, That is, the Holy Scriptures Containing the Old and New Testament, Translated According to the Hebrew and Greek, and Conferred With the Best Translations in Divers Languages (London: Robert Barker, 1615), notes on Proverbs 23:8.

Verse 9

Ninth Saying (Distitch) Proverbs 23:9 forms a single proverbial thought using two lines, which is called a distitch.

Proverbs 23:9 Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

Proverbs 23:9 Word Study on “wisdom” Gesenius says the Hebrew word “understanding” ( שֶׂכֶל ) (H7922) means, “understanding, intelligence, prudence.” Strong says it means, “intelligence, success.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 16 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “understanding 7, Wisdom 3, wise 1, prudence 1, knowledge 1, sense 1, discretion 1, policy 1.”

Strong says ( שֶׂכֶל ) (H7922) comes from the primitive root ( שָׂכַל ) (H7919), which means, “to be circumspect, and hence, intelligent.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 63 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “understand 12, wise 12, prosper 8, wisely 6, understanding 5, consider 4, instruct 3, prudent 2, skill 2, teach 2, misc 7.”

This Hebrew noun is a key word woven throughout in the book of Proverbs being used six times:

Proverbs 3:4, “So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 12:8, “A man shall be commended according to his wisdom : but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.”

Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.”

Proverbs 16:22, “ Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.”

Proverbs 19:11, “ The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”

Proverbs 23:9, “Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.”

This word refers to the ability of a man to think straight in contrast to the person who has a twisted mind.

Proverbs 23:9 Comments - In Matthew 7:1-6 Jesus teaches us about judging our neighbour. We are to avoid being critical of our neighbour (Proverbs 7:1-4). Instead, we are to live a lifestyle of godliness so that we can speak words of wisdom and advice into the lives of others (Proverbs 7:5). If they reject what we have to offer, we are not to push Christian teachings into their face, lest they become offended at God’s Word and further bring judgment upon themselves (Proverbs 7:6). Rather, we are to discern their hearts and help those who will accept our ministry (Proverbs 7:6). This is why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and told them that he that is spiritual is to judge (or discern) all things while not being found guilty of sin and judged by others (1 Corinthians 2:15). That is, we are supposed to live a godly lifestyle without sin by being mature enough to be able to discern between good and evil in our lives as well as those around us.

1 Corinthians 2:15, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”

Solomon made a similar statement in Proverbs 9:8, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” We are to correct those who are in error. If they are rebellious, the burden to correct them is not upon us. However, we are to have enough discernment to recognize when someone is receptive to correction, and offer such in a spirit of love. Solomon as well said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6) If we speak the truth in love when correcting others, we may initially wound someone’s heart, but such wounds in the lives of the humble will quickly heal.

Proverbs 23:9 Scripture References - Note similar verses:

Proverbs 9:8, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”

Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Verses 10-11

Tenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:10-11 forms a single proverbial thought using four lines, which is called a tetrastitch. This proverb warns us not to mistreat the fatherless lest God take vengeance upon their oppressor.

Proverbs 23:10 Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:

Proverbs 23:10 Comments - The Mosaic Law made provisions for preserving the ancient boundary marks set by the founding fathers of the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17). These boundary marks were originally set during the time of Joshua during the allotment of the land to the twelve tribes of Israel immediately after the conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua 13:1 to Joshua 21:45). During the course of the nation’s history, land was lost because of poverty, or the need to sell one’s land; it was lost by marauding groups from neighbouring countries; it was taken by corruption (Job 24:2). For example, King Ahab killed Naboth and took possession of his land (1 Kings 21:1-16). Today in many countries, the office of land registry is corrupted, so that government officials change land titles through bribes, or land owners simply encroach out of their boundaries and steal portions of neighbouring land.

Deuteronomy 19:14, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.”

Deuteronomy 27:17, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

Job 24:2, “Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.”

Scripture References - Note a similar proverb:

Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 22:22-23, “Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.”

Proverbs 23:11 For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.

Proverbs 23:11 Comments - Regarding the phrase, “their redeemer, ” note Leviticus 25:25, “If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it , then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.”

Verses 12-14

Eleventh Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:12-14 forms a single proverbial thought using six lines, which is called a hexastitch. This proverb exhorts us to be ready to discipline your children despite the pain they suffer because it will deliver them from a greater pain if they go to Hell. This proverb also tells us that a child who is not properly disciplined is on his way to Hell.

Proverbs 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 23:12-14 Comments Child Discipline - Discipline should be motivated by love (Hebrews 12:6).

Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Verses 15-16

Twelfth Saying (Tetrastitch) Comments - Proverbs 23:15-16 forms a single proverbial thought using four lines. This proverb tells us that our parents, our superiors as well as our Heavenly Father rejoice when we walk in wisdom and speak words of righteousness. In contrast, we grieve them when we do not walk upright.

Verses 17-18

Thirteenth Saying (Tetrastitch) Proverbs 23:17-18 forms a single proverbial thought using four lines. This proverb warns us not to envy the sinner because God is faithful to reward His children. We will again be warned about envying the wicked in Proverbs 24:1-2.

Proverbs 24:1-2, “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.”

Illustration - We also find an example of this proverb in Psalms 73, a psalm of Asaph, of how he envied the wicked until he went into the sanctuary of God and his mind became clear enough to reflect upon their end.

Psalms 73:3, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

David also warned against this type of envy in Psalms 37:0 by reminding us that he will soon be cut off.

Psalms 37:1-2, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”

Proverbs 23:18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:18 “and thine expectation shall not be cut off” - Comments - In hell, there is no longer any hope. All hope is cut off.

Verses 19-21

Fourteenth Saying (Hexastitch) Proverbs 23:19-21 forms a single proverbial thought using six lines, which is called a hexastitch. It warns us against a life of fleshly indulgence and slothfulness, which leads to poverty.

Verses 22-25

Fifteenth Saying (Octastitch) Proverbs 23:22-25 serves as the only example of an eight-line proverb, which is called an octastitch. These four verses form a single thought. It is similar to Proverbs 23:15-16 in that it says our parents, our superiors as well as our Heavenly Father will rejoice when we walk in wisdom and speak words of righteousness. In contrast, we grieve them when we do not walk upright.

Verses 26-28

Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

Proverbs 23:26 Comments - Give to God our heart first, then our eyes will observe God’s ways. We will begin to see God’s blessings and curses, and begin to see His ways of working in our lives and those lives around us (1 Corinthians 2:14).

1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Verses 29-35

Seventeenth Saying (An Ode) Proverbs 23:29-35 forms a single proverbial thought using twenty lines. This proverb warns us against drinking alcohol and drunkenness. It perverts the heart and lead to woes and sorrows. Yet, a person will continue in it because he is in bondage to this sin.

Proverbs 23:35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

Proverbs 23:35 “I will seek it yet again” - Comments - This is a clear example of a stronghold. The Geneva Bible translations notes read, “Though drunkenness makes them more insensible then beasts, yet they can not refrain.” [129]

[129] The Bible, That is, the Holy Scriptures Containing the Old and New Testament, Translated According to the Hebrew and Greek, and Conferred With the Best Translations in Divers Languages (London: Robert Barker, 1615), notes on Proverbs 23:35.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/proverbs-23.html. 2013.