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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 23

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-35

Proverbs 23:1-2 . When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, and hast a princely feast before thee of meats and wines, put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. How many have stained their character at public dinners. Excision is the way to conquer crime. Every man must have an inexorable rule of temperance in his own breast, or he is lost. Cicero ridicules the man, natus abdomini, born for his belly. Christ has commanded us to cut off the right hand, and to pluck out the right eye, whenever they cause to offend. It is safest for religious characters to keep far away from the place of temptation; and if they have not resolution to stand, then their duty is at once determined, they must offend their friends rather than their God.

Proverbs 23:4 . Labour not to be rich. It is a propensity which may destroy the soul, as well as the voluptuous pleasures of the prodigal. And who can amass a great fortune, without thousands of hard bargains, not to say frauds; and without a monopoly which draws away trade from many families who can hardly live? And who that has gained a fortune can be sure to keep it? Perhaps he may lose it by some speculation before he dies. Perhaps his heir may most disgracefully waste it. It is not much more than seven hundred and fifty years since William the Conqueror gave large tracts of land to his Norman friends. Now there are but a few families who retain the name to which the land was granted; and which of them can prove that they are of the same blood? Look at the peerage. How many titles are extinct; and how few of the ancient ones still retained have descended in a direct line. Thus “riches make themselves wings;” yea, the strong wings of an eagle, who carries her prey far beyond the reach of man, and they fly away into the hands of strangers. Thus invading armies have often conveyed them to a hostile shore. Who then would fill his life with cares, and hazard his salvation, for things which are not?

Proverbs 23:10 . Remove not the old landmark. See on Deuteronomy 19:14.

Proverbs 23:11 . For their Redeemer is mighty. Hebrews גאלם goalam, their kinsman, who under the law of Moses had the right to redeem the estate. God is the father of the fatherless, and he will avenge all trespasses, and will replace the landmark for the widow and the orphan, with vengeance on the oppressor.

Proverbs 23:12 . Apply thine heart unto instruction, to acquire in schools, the elements of knowledge. You will need them in all the future walks of life, for professional duties, and to act your part in conversation. They will open your genius, will enable you to survey nature, and contemplate characters, with more than vulgar eyes. They will elevate your own character; while without them, you will be degraded and despised. Above all, pray the Lord to aid you, in making such an estimate of life and all its relations, as to apply your heart to true wisdom.

Proverbs 23:13 . Withhold not correction from the child. See on Proverbs 13:24.

Proverbs 23:18 . Surely there is an end. ישׁ אחרית yesh acharith, there is a hereafter another life. This is evidently the sense of the original. And thine expectation [of immortality] shall not be cut off. This expectation or hope was the support of good men in every age. They had the hope and the promise; we have the demonstration, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Proverbs 23:23 . Buy the truth, by making every sacrifice for religion that is required, and by seeking it, as in Proverbs 23:12. Sell it not; do not repudiate, nor cast it away. Christ is the pearl of great price, the word of truth is incorruptible, and heaven is an inheritance which fadeth not away. Worldly wisdom is often bought too dear, but no man ever paid too high a price for truth. When Moses bartered the riches, the honours, and the hopes of Egypt for the reproach of Christ, the circumstances of his life and death prove that he made a happy exchange. See Reflections on Deuteronomy 34:0. and Matthew 17:0. Whereas he who like Esau, sells his part in the covenant, can never by tears atone for his crime. What a pity then that poor sinners should be so unwilling to part with their rags and dirt and shame, for the unsearchable riches of the knowledge of Christ, by whom came both grace and truth. Let them but walk in the truth, and religion will soon put a whole coat on their back, and store their cottage with the true riches of contentment, peace, and love.

Proverbs 23:26 . My son, give me thine heart. Why should the young man give his heart to the sensual delights of the age; to dogs, horses, taverns, theatres, and harlots, as in the next words. These are the ways which lead to the loss of fortune, the ruin of health, and the damnation of the soul. It is the voice of truth which warns them of danger. Give me thy heart, says the Lord; thy body, with all the vigour and bloom of youth; thy mind, with all its powers. All happiness, all beauty, all perfection dwell with God. The beauty of created good fades like the verdure of the year; but with God the glory is permanent. To know and love him with all the heart, is life and heaven opened on earth.

Proverbs 23:31 . Look not thou upon the wine when it is red in the cup. It drowns reason, it enflames the passions, it forms a habit, it wastes a fortune, it leads to every crime. The drunkard loses his rank in society, and forfeits all claims to righteousness and life.

Proverbs 23:32 . At last, when poverty and disease come, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Of nachish, “serpent,” We have certain knowledge; but of צפע tzepâ, “adder,” we are less certain. Natural history, by the moderns only, has been distinguished by genera and species. The critics read variously, cockatrice, basilisk, adder. Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 54:5. Jeremiah 7:17. The word is used for the goad of an ox; and it refers to the deadly pungency of the venom. We should not however depress the knowledge of the ancients: they are applauded by men of the middle ages. Seneca says, Though all things by the ancients were discovered; yet this will always be new, the use, the knowledge, and disposition of things found out by others. Etsi omnia á veteribus inventa essent; hoc tamen semper novum erit, usus, &c. Epist. 64.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/proverbs-23.html. 1835.
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