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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Proverbs 8

Verses 1-3

The author has now almost exhausted the ethical material; for in this introduction to the Solomonic Book of Proverbs he works it into a memorial for youth, so that it is time to think of concluding the circle by bending back the end to the beginning. For as in the beginning, Proverbs 1:20., so also here in the end, he introduces Wisdom herself as speaking. There, her own testimony is delivered in contrast to the alluring voice of the deceiver; here, the daughter of Heaven in the highways inviting to come to her, is the contrast to the adulteress lurking in the streets, who is indeed not a personification, but a woman of flesh and blood, but yet at the same time as the incarnate ἀπάτη of worldly lust. He places opposite to her Wisdom, whose person is indeed not so sensibly perceptible, but who is nevertheless as real, coming near to men in a human way, and seeking to win them by her gifts.

By מרמים Hitzig understands the summit of a mountain, and therefore regards this verse as an interpolation; but the “high places” are to be understood of the high-lying parts of the city. There, on the way which leads up and down, she takes her stand. עלי = Arab. 'ly , old and poetic for על , signifies here “hard by, close to,” properly, so that something stands forward over the edge of a thing, or, as it were, passes over its borders (Fl.). The בּית , Hitzig, as Bertheau, with lxx, Targ., Jerome, interpret prepositionally as a strengthening of בּין (in the midst); but where it once, Ezekiel 1:27, occurs in this sense, it is fully written בּית ל . Here it is the accus. loci of the substantive; “house of the ascent” (Syr. bêth urchotho ) is the place where several ways meet, the uniting point, as אם הדרך (Ezekiel 21:26), the point of departure, exit; the former the crossway, as the latter the separating way. Thus Immanuel: the place of the frequented streets; Meîri: the place of the ramification (more correctly, the concentration) of the ways. נצּבה signifies more than קמה (she raises herself) and עמדה (she goes thither); it means that she plants herself there.

Proverbs 8:3

In this verse Bertheau finds, not inappropriately, the designations of place: on this side, on that side, and within the gate. ליד , at the hand, is equivalent to at the side, as Psalms 140:6. לפי , of the town, is the same as לפּתח , Proverbs 9:14, of the house: at the mouth, i.e., at the entrance of the city, thus where they go out and in. There are several of these ways for leaving and entering a city, and on this account מבּוא פתחים are connected: generally where one goes out and in through one of the gates (doors). מבוא , fully represented by the French avenue, the space or way which leads to anything (Fl.). There she raises her voice, which sounds out far and wide; vid., concerning תּרנּה ( Graec. Venet. incorrectly, after Rashi, ἀλαλάξουσι ), at Proverbs 1:20.

Verses 4-9

Now begins the discourse. The exordium summons general attention to it with the emphasis of its absolute truth:

Regarding ארמה , calliditas , in a good sense, vid., at Proverbs 1:4; regarding פּתאים , those who are easily susceptible of good or bad, according to the influence that is brought to bear upon them, vid., also Proverbs 1:4; and regarding כּסילים , the intellectually heavy, dull persons in whom the flesh burdens the mind, vid., at Proverbs 1:22. לב is parallel with ערמה , for the heart (according to its Semitic etymon, that which remains fast, like a kernel, the central-point) is used for the understanding of which it is the seat ( Psychol. p. 249), or heartedness = intelligence (cf. חסר־לב , Proverbs 6:32 = ἄνους or ἄλογος ). We take ערמה and לב as objective, as we have translated: that which is in both, and in which they consist. Thus הבּין , which is a favourite word with this author, has both times the simple transitive meaning of the gain of understanding into the nature and worth of both; and we neither need to interpret the second הבינוּ in the double transitive meaning, “to bring to understanding,” nor, with Hitzig, to change in into הכינוּ

That to which Wisdom invites, her discourse makes practicable, for she speaks of נגידים . Hitzig interprets this word by conspicua , manifest truths, which the Graec. Venet. understands to be ἐναντία , after Kimchi's interpretation: truths which one makes an aim and object ( נגד ) on account of their worth. Fürst, however, says that נגיד , from נגד , Arab. najad , means to be elevated, exalted, and thereby visible (whence also הגּיד , to bring to light, to bring forward); and that by נגידים , as the plur. of this נגיד , is to be understood princeps in the sense of principalia , or πραεσταντια (lxx σεμνά ; Theodot. ἡγεμονικά ; Jerome, de rebus magnis ) (cf. νόμος βασιλικός of the law of love, which surpasses the other laws, as kings do their subjects), which is supported by the similar expression, Proverbs 22:20. But that we do not need to interpret נגידים as abstr., like מישׁרים , and as the acc. adverb.: in noble ways, because in that case it ought to be נגידות (Berth.), is shown by Proverbs 22:20, and also Proverbs 16:13; cf. on this neuter use of the masc., Ewald, §172a. “The opening of my lips ( i.e., this, that they open themselves, not: that which they disclose, lay open) is upright” is to be regarded as metonymia antecedentis pro conseq.: that which I announce is...; or also as a poetic attribution, which attributes to a subject that which is produced by it (cf. Proverbs 3:17): my discourse bearing itself right, brings to light (Fl.). Proverbs 23:16, cf. 31, is parallel both in the words and the subject; מישׁרים , that which is in accordance with fact and with rectitude, uprightness ( vid., at Proverbs 1:3), is a word common to the introduction (chap. 1-9), and to the first appendix to the first series of Solomonic Proverbs (Prov 22:17-24:22), with the Canticles. In Song of Solomon 5:16, also, as where (cf. Proverbs 5:3; Job 6:30), the word palate [ Gaumen ] is used as the organ of speech.

Proverbs 8:7

כּי continues the reason (begun in Proverbs 8:6) for the Hearken! (cf. Proverbs 1:15-17; Proverbs 4:16.); so that this second reason is co-ordinated with the first (Fl.). Regarding אמת , vid., at Proverbs 3:3; הגה , here of the palate (cf. Psalms 37:30), as in Proverbs 15:28 of the heart, has not hitherto occurred. It signifies quiet inward meditation, as well as also (but only poetically) discourses going forth from it ( vid., at Psalms 1:2). The contrary of truth, i.e., moral truth, is רשׁע , wickedness in words and principles - a segolate, which retains its Segol also in pausa, with the single exception of Ecclesiastes 3:16.

Proverbs 8:8-9

The בּ of בּצדק is that of the close connection of a quality with an action or matter, which forms with a substantive adverbia as well as virtual adjectiva, as here: cum rectitudine ( conjuncta i. e. vera ) sunt omnia dicta oris mei (Fl.); it is the ב of the distinctive attribute (Hitzig), certainly related to the ב essentiae (Proverbs 3:26, according to which Schultens and Bertheau explain), which is connected with the abstract conception ( e.g., Psalms 33:4), but also admits the article designating the gender ( vid., at Psalms 29:4). The opposite of צדק (here in the sense of veracitas , which it means in Arab.) is נפתּל ועקּשׁ , dolosum ac perversum . עקּשׁ (cf. Gesen. §84, 9) is that which is violently bent and twisted, i.e., estranged from the truth, which is, so to speak, parodied or caricatured. Related to it in meaning, but proceeding from a somewhat different idea, is &#נפתל פּתל , used primarily of threads, cords, ropes, and the like, means to twist them, to twine them over and into one another, whence פּתיל , a line or string made of several intertwisted threads (cf. Arab. ftı̂lt , a wick of a candle or lamp); Niph., to be twisted, specifically luctari , of the twisting of the limbs, and figuratively to bend and twist oneself, like the crafty ( versutus ) liars and deceivers, of words and thoughts which do not directly go forth, but by the crafty twistings of truth and rectitude, opp. &#ישׁר נכון (Fl.). There is nothing of deception of error in the utterances of wisdom; much rather they are all נכצים , straight out from her (cf. Isaiah 57:2), going directly out, and without circumlocution directed to the right end for the intelligent, the knowing (cf. Nehemiah 10:29); and ישׁרים , straight or even, giving no occasion to stumble, removing the danger of erring for those who have obtained knowledge, i.e., of good and evil, and thus the ability of distinguishing between them (Gesen. §134, 1) - briefly, for those who know how to estimate them.

Verses 10-12

Her self-commendation is continued in the resumed address:

Ver. 12 follows Proverbs 8:11 = Proverbs 3:15 as a justification of this estimating of wisdom above all else in worth. Regarding אני with Gaja, vid., the rule which the accentuation of this word in the three so-called metrical books follows in Merx' Archiv, 1868, p. 203 (cf. Baer's Torath Emeth, p. 40). We translate: ego sapientia involo sollertiam , for the verb שׁכן is construed with the accusative of the object, Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 10:30; 37:3 (cf. גוּר , Psalms 5:5), as well as with ב , Genesis 26:2, Ps. 69:37. Wisdom inhabits prudence, has settled down, as it were, and taken up her residence in it, is at home in its whole sphere, and rules it. Bertheau not unsuitably compares οἰκῶν with μόνος ἔχων , 1 Timothy 6:16. Regarding מזמּות , vid., Proverbs 1:4; Proverbs 5:2. It denotes well-considered, carefully thought out designs, plans, conclusions, and דּעת is here the knowledge that is so potent. This intellectual power is nothing beyond wisdom, it is in her possession on every occasion; she strives after it not in vain, her knowledge is defined according to her wish. Wisdom describes herself here personally with regard to that which she bestows on men who receive her.

Verse 13

Far remote is the idea that 13a is dependent on אמצא (I acquire) (Löwenstein, Bertheau). With this verse begins a new series of thoughts raising themselves on the basis of the fundamental clause 13a. Wisdom says what she hates, and why she hates it:

13 “The fear of Jahve is to hate evil;

Pride and arrogancy, and an evil way

And a deceitful mouth, do I hate.”

If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 1:7), then wisdom, personally considered, stands before all else that is to be said of her in a relation of homage or reverence toward God corresponding to the fear of God on the part of man; and if, as the premiss 13a shows, the fear of God has as its reverse side the hatred of evil, then there arises what Wisdom says in שׂנאתי (I hate) of herself. Instead of the n. actionis שׂנאת (hatred), formed in the same way with יראת , which, admitting the article, becomes a substantive, the author uses, in order that he might designate the predicate as such (Hitzig), rather the n. actionis שׂנאת as מלאת , Jeremiah 29:10. קראת , Judges 8:1, is equivalent to שׂנאת like יבּשׁת , the becoming dry, יכלת , the being able; cf. (Arab.) shanat , hating, malât , well-being, ḳarât , reading (Fl.). The evil which Wisdom hates is now particularized as, Proverbs 6:16-19, the evil which Jahve hates. The virtue of all virtues is humility; therefore Wisdom hates, above all, self-exaltation in all its forms. The paronomasia גּאה וגאון (pride and haughtiness) expresses the idea in the whole of its contents and compass (cf. Isaiah 15:6; Isaiah 3:1, and above at Proverbs 1:27). גּאה (from גּאה , the nominal form), that which is lofty = pride, stands with גּאון , as Job 4:10, גבהּ , that which is high = arrogance. There follows the viam mali , representing the sins of walk, i.e., of conduct, and os fullax ( vid., at Proverbs 2:12), the sins of the mouth. Hitzig rightly rejects the interpunctuation רע , and prefers רע . In consequence of this Dechî ( Tiphcha init.), וּפי תהפּכת have in Codd. and good editions the servants Asla and Illuj ( vid., Baer's Torath Emeth, p. 11); Aben-Ezra and Moses Kimchi consider the Asla erroneously as disjunctive, and explain וּפי by et os = axioma meum , but Asla is conjunctive, and has after it the ת raphatum.

Verses 14-16

After Wisdom has said what she hates, and thus what she is not, she now says what she is, has, and promises:

Here we are led to think of legislation, but the usage of the language determines for the Po. חקק only the significations of commanding, decreeing, or judging; צדק is the object accus., the opposite of חקקי־און (decrees of unrighteousness), Isaiah 10:1. רזן is a poetic word, from רזן = Arab. razuna , to be heavy, weighty, then to be firm, incapable of being shaken, figuratively of majestic repose, dignity (cf. Arab. wqâr and כּבוד ) in the whole external habitus , in speech and action such as befits one invested with power (Fl.).

Proverbs 8:16

We may not explain the second clause of this verse: et ad ingenua impelluntur quicunque terrae imperant , for נדיב is adj. without such a verbal sense. But besides, נדיבים is not pred., for which it is not adapted, because, with the obscuring of its ethical signification (from נדב , to impel inwardly, viz., to noble conduct, particularly to liberality), it also denotes those who are noble only with reference to birth, and not to disposition (Isaiah 32:8). Thus נדיבים is a fourth synonym for the highly exalted, and כל־שׁפטי ארץ is the summary placing together of all kinds of dignity; for שׁפט unites in itself references to government, administration of justice, and rule. כל is used, and not וכל - a so-called asyndeton summativum. Instead of ארץ (lxx) there is found also the word צדק (Syr., Targ., Jerome, Graec. Venet., adopted by Norzi after Codd. and Neapol. 1487). But this word, if not derived from the conclusion of the preceding verse, is not needed by the text, and gives a summary which does not accord with that which is summed up ( ממלכים רזנים שׂרים נדיבים ); besides, the Scripture elsewhere calls God Himself שׁופט צדק (Psalms 9:5; Jeremiah 11:20). The Masoretic reading

(Note: If the Masoretes had read שׁפטי צדק , then would they have added the remark לית (“it does not further occur”), and inserted the expression in their Register of Expressions, which occurs but once, Masora finalis, p. 62.)

of most of the editions, which is also found in the Cod. Hillel ( ספר הללי )

(Note: One of the most ancient and celebrated Codd of the Heb. Scriptures, called Hillel from the name of the man who wrote it. Vid., Streack's Prolegomena, p. 112. It was written about a.d. 600.)

merits the preference.

Verses 17-21

The discourse of Wisdom makes a fresh departure, as at Proverbs 8:13: she tells how, to those who love her, she repays this love:

In this verse part of Proverbs 3:16 is repeated, after which אתּי is meant of possession ( mecum and penes me ). Regarding הון , vid., Proverbs 1:13; instead of the adjective יקר there, we have here עתק . The verb עתק brev signifies promoveri , to move forwards, whence are derived the meanings old (cf. aetas provecta , advanced age), venerable for age, and noble, free (cf. עתּיק , Isaiah 28:9, and Arab. 'atyḳ , manumissus ), unbound, the bold. Used of clothing, עריק (Isaiah 23:18) expresses the idea of venerable for age. עתק used of possessions and goods, like the Arab. 'âtak , denotes such goods as increase during long possession as an inheritance from father to son, and remain firm, and are not for the first time gained, but only need to be inherited, opes perennes et firmae (Schultens, Gesenius' Thesaur., Fleischer), although it may be also explained (which is, however, less probable with the form עתק ) of the idea of the venerable from opes superbae (Jerome), splendid opulence. צדקה is here also a good which is distributed, but properly the distributing goodness itself, as the Arab. ṣadaḳat , influenced by the later use of the Hebrew צדקה ( δικαιοσύνη = ἐλεημοσύνη ), denotes all that which God of His goodness causes to flow to men, or which men bestow upon men (Fl.). Righteousness is partly a recompensative goodness, which rewards, according to the law of requital, like with like; partly communicative, which, according to the law of love without merit, and even in opposition to it, bestows all that is good, and above all, itself; but giving itself to man, it assimilates him to itself ( vid., Psalms 24:7), so that he becomes צדיק , and is regarded as such before God and men, Proverbs 8:19.

The fruit and product of wisdom (the former a figure taken from the trees, Proverbs 3:18; the latter from the sowing of seed, Proverbs 3:9) is the gain and profit which it yields. With חרוּץ , Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 3:14, פּז is here named as the place of fine gold, briefly for זהב מוּפז , solid gold, gold separated from the place of ore which contains it, or generally separated gold, from פּזז , violently to separate metals from base mixtures; Targ. דּהבא אובריזין , gold which has stood the fire-test, obrussa , of the crucible, Greek ὄβρυζον , Pers. ebrı̂z , Arab. ibrı̂z . In the last clause of this verse, as also in 10b, נבחר is to be interpreted as pred. to תבוּאתי , but the balance of the meaning demands as a side-piece to the מחרוץ ומפז (19a) something more than the mere כּסף . In 20f. the reciprocal love is placed as the answer of love under the point of view of the requiting righteousness. But recompensative and communicative righteousness are here combined, where therefore the subject is the requital of worthy pure love and loving conduct, like with like. Such love requires reciprocal love, not merely cordial love, but that which expresses itself outwardly.

Proverbs 8:20-21

In this sense, Wisdom says that she acts strictly according to justice and rectitude, and adds (21) wherein this her conduct manifests itself. The Piel הלּך expresses firm, constant action; and בּתוך means that she turns from this line of conduct on no side. להנחיל is distinguished from בּהנחיל , as ut possidendam tribuam from possidendam tribuendo ; the former denotes the direction of the activity, the latter its nature and manner; both combine if we translate ita ut ....

(Note: Biesenthal combines the etymologically obscure הנחיל with נחל : to make to flow into, so that נחל denotes inheritance in contradistinction to acquisition; while נחלה , in contradistinction to ירשּׁה , denotes the inheritance rather of many than of the individual.)

Regarding the origin of ישׁ , vid., at Proverbs 2:7; it denotes the being founded, thus substantia , and appears here, like the word in mediaeval Latin and Romanic (Ital. sustanza, Span. substancia), and like οὐσία and ὕπαρξις ( τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ) in classic Greek, to denote possessions and goods. But since this use of the word does not elsewhere occur (therefore Hitzig explains &#ישׁ ישׁ לי , I have it = presto est ), and here, where Wisdom speaks, ישׁ connects itself in thought with תּוּשׁיּה , it will at least denote real possession (as we also are wont to call not every kind of property, but only landed property, real possession), such possession as has real worth, and that not according to commercial exchange and price, but according to sound judgment, which applies a higher than the common worldly standard of worth. The Pasek between אהבי and ישׁ is designed to separate the two Jods from each other, and has, as a consequence, for להנחיל אהבי the accentuation with Tarcha and Mercha ( vid., Accentssystem, vi. §4; cf. Torath Emeth, p. 17, §3). The carrying forward of the inf. with the finite, 21b, is as Proverbs 1:27; Proverbs 2:2, and quite usual.

Verse 22

Wisdom takes now a new departure, in establishing her right to be heard, and to be obeyed and loved by men. As the Divine King in Psalms 2:1-12 opposes to His adversaries the self-testimony: “I will speak concerning a decree! Jahve said unto me: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee;” so Wisdom here unfolds her divine patent of nobility: she originates with God before all creatures, and is the object of God's love and joy, as she also has the object of her love and joy on God's earth, and especially among the sons of men:

“Jahve brought me forth as the beginning of His way,

As the foremost of His works from of old.”

The old translators render קנני (with Kametz by Dechî; vid., under Psalms 118:5) partly by verbs of creating (lxx ἔκτισε , Syr., Targ. בּראני ), partly by verbs of acquiring (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Venet. ἐκτήσατο ; Jerome, possedit ); Wisdom appears also as created, certainly not without reference to this passage, Sir. 1:4, προτέρα πάντων ἕκτισται σοφία ; 1:9, αὐτὸς ἕκτισεν αὐτήν ; 24:8, ὁ κτίσας με . In the christological controversy this word gained a dogmatic signification, for they proceeded generally on the identity of σοφία ὑποστατική ( sapientia substantialis ) with the hypostasis of the Son of God. The Arians used the ἔκτισέ με as a proof of their doctrine of the filius non genitus, sed factus , i.e., of His existence before the world began indeed, but yet not from eternity, but originating in time; while, on the contrary, the orthodox preferred the translation ἐκτήσατο , and understood it of the co-eternal existence of the Son with the Father, and agreed with the ἔκτισε of the lxx by referring it not to the actual existence, but to the position, place of the Son (Athanasius: Deus me creavit regem or caput operum suorum ; Cyrill.: non condidit secundum substantiam, sed constituit me totius universi principium et fundamentum ). But (1) Wisdom is not God, but is God's; she has personal existence in the Logos of the N.T., but is not herself the Logos; she is the world-idea, which, once projected, is objective to God, not as a dead form, but as a living spiritual image; she is the archetype of the world, which, originating from God, stands before God, the world of the idea which forms the medium between the Godhead and the world of actual existence, the communicated spiritual power in the origination and the completion of the world as God designed it to be. This wisdom the poet here personifies; he does not speak of the person as Logos, but the further progress of the revelation points to her actual personification in the Logos. And (2) since to her the poet attributes an existence preceding the creation of the world, he thereby declares her to be eternal, for to be before the world is to be before time. For if he places her at the head of the creatures, as the first of them, so therewith he does not seek to make her a creature of this world having its commencement in time; he connects her origination with the origination of the creature only on this account, because that à priori refers and tends to the latter; the power which was before heaven and earth were, and which operated at the creation of the earth and of the heavens, cannot certainly fall under the category of the creatures around and above us. Therefore (3) the translation with ἔκτισεν has nothing against it, but it is different from the κτίσις of the heavens and the earth, and the poet has intentionally written not בּראני , but קנני . Certainly קנה , Arab. knâ , like all the words used of creating, refers to one root-idea: that of forging ( vid., under Genesis 4:22), as ברא does to that of cutting ( vid., under Genesis 1:1); but the mark of a commencement in time does not affix itself to קנה in the same way as it does to ברא , which always expresses the divine production of that which has not hitherto existed. קנה comprehends in it the meanings to create, and to create something for oneself, to prepare, parare ( e.g., Psalms 139:13), and to prepare something for oneself, comparare , as κτίζειν and κτᾶσθαι , both from kshi, to build, the former expressed by struere , and the latter by sibi struere . In the קנני , then, there are the ideas, both that God produced wisdom, and that He made Himself to possess it; not certainly, however, as a man makes himself to possess wisdom from without, Proverbs 4:7. But the idea of the bringing forth is here the nearest demanded by the connection. For ראשׁית דּרכּו is not equivalent to בּראשׁית דרכו (Syr., Targ., Luther), as Jerome also reads: Ita enim scriptum est : adonai canani bresith dercho (Ep. cxl. ad Cyprian.); but it is, as Job 40:19 shows, the second accusative of the object (lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion). But if God made wisdom as the beginning of His way, i.e., of His creative efficiency (cf. Revelation 3:14 and Colossians 1:15), the making is not to be thought of as acquiring, but as a bringing forth, revealing this creative efficiency of God, having it in view; and this is also confirmed by the חוללתי ( genita sum ; cf. Genesis 4:1, קניתי , genui ) following. Accordingly, קדם מפעליו (foremost of His works) has to be regarded as a parallel second object. accusative. All the old translators interpret קדם as a preposition [before], but the usage of the language before us does not recognise it as such; this would be an Aramaism, for קדם , Daniel 7:7, frequently מן־קדם (Syr., Targ.), is so used. But as קדם signifies previous existence in space, and then in time ( vid., Orelli, Zeit und Ewigkeit, p. 76), so it may be used of the object in which the previous existence appears, thus (after Sir. 1:4): προτέραν τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ (Hitzig).

Verse 23

A designation of the When? expressed first by מאז (Isaiah 48:8, cf. Isaiah 40:21), is further unfolded:

“From everlasting was I set up,

From the beginning, from the foundations of the earth.”

That נסּכתּי cannot be translated: I was anointed = consecrated, vid., at Psalms 2:6. But the translation also: I was woven = wrought (Hitzig, Ewald, and previously one of the Greeks, ἐδιάσθην ), does not commend itself, for רקּם (Psalms 139:15), used of the embryo, lies far from the metaphorical sense in which נסך = Arab. nasaj , texere , would here be translated of the origin of a person, and even of such a spiritual being as Wisdom; נסדתּי , as the lxx reads ( ἐθεμελιωσέ με ), is not once used of such. Rightly Aquila, κατεστάθην ; Symmachus, προκεχείρισμαι ; Jerome, ordinata sum . Literally, but unintelligibly, the Gr. Venet. κέχυμαι , according to which (cf. Sir. 1:10) Böttcher: I was poured forth = formed, but himself acknowledging that this figure is not suitable to personification; nor is it at all likely that the author applied the word, used in this sense of idols, to the origin of Wisdom. The fact is, that נסך , used as seldom of the anointing or consecration of kings, as סוּך , passes over, like &#יצק הצּיק ), &#צוּק מצוּק , a pillar), and &#יצג הצּיג ), from the meaning of pouring out to that of placing and appointing; the mediating idea appears to be that of the pouring forth of the metal, since נסיך , Daniel 11:8, like נסך , signifies a molten image. The Jewish interpreters quite correctly remark, in comparing it with the princely name נסיך [cf. Psalms 83:12] (although without etymological insight), that a placing in princely dignity is meant. Of the three synonyms of aeternitas a parte ante , מעולם points backwards into the infinite distance, מראשׁ into the beginning of the world, מקּדמי־ארץ not into the times which precede the origin of the earth, but into the oldest times of its gradual arising; this קדמי it is impossible to render, in conformity with the Hebr. use of language: it is an extensive plur. of time, Böttcher, §697. The מן repeated does not mean that the origin and greatness of Wisdom are contemporaneous with the foundation of the world; but that when the world was founded, she was already an actual existence.

Verses 24-26

This her existence before the world began is now set forth in yet more explicit statements:

Instead of בּאין , in (yet) non-existence (24), we have here טרם , a subst. which signifies cutting off from that which already exists ( vid., at Genesis 2:5), and then as a particle nondum or antequam, with בּ always antequam, and in Proverbs 8:26 עד־לא , so long not yet (this also originally a substantive from עדה , in the sense of progress). With הטבּעוּ (were settled) (as Job 38:6, from טבע , to impress into or upon anything, imprimere, infigere ) the question is asked: wherein? Not indeed: in the depths of the earth, but as the Caraite Ahron b. Joseph answers, אל קרקע הים , in the bottom of the sea; for out of the waters they rise up, Psalms 104:8 (cf. at Genesis 1:9).

Proverbs 8:26

ארץ וחוּצות is either, connecting the whole with its part: terra cum campis , or ארץ gains by this connection the meaning of land covered with buildings, while חוצות the expanse of unoccupied land, or the free field outside the towns and villages (cf. בּר , Arab. barrytt ) (Fl.), vid., Job 5:10; Job 18:17 (where we have translated “in the steppe far and wide”); and regarding the fundamental idea, vid., above at Proverbs 5:16. Synonymous with ארץ , as contrast to חוצות , is תּבל , which like יבוּל (produce, wealth) comes from יבל , and thus denotes the earth as fruit-bearing (as אדמה properly denotes the humus as the covering of earth). Accordingly, with Ewald, we may understand by ראשׁ עפרות , “the heaps of the many clods of the fertile arable land lying as if scattered on the plains.” Hitzig also translates: “the first clods of the earth.” We do not deny that עפרות may mean clods of earth, i.e., pieces of earth gathered together, as Job 28:6, עפרת זהב , gold ore, i.e., pieces of earth or ore containing gold. But for clods of earth the Heb. language has the nouns רגב and מגרפה ; and if we read together עפרות , plur. of the collective עפר (dust as a mass), which comes as from a n. unitatis עפרה , and ראשׁ , which, among its meanings in poetry as well as in prose, has also that of the sum, i.e., the chief amount or the total amount (cf. the Arab. râs âlmâl , the capital, τὸ κεφάλαιον ), then the two words in their mutual relation yield the sense of the sum of the several parts of the dust, as of the atoms of dust (Cocceius; Schultens, summam pluverum orbis habitabilis ); and Fleischer rightly remarks that other interpretations, as ab initio pulveris orbis, praecipus quaeque orbis terrarum, caput orbis terrarum ( i.e., according to Rashi, the first man; according to Umbreit, man generally), leave the choice of the plur. עפרות unintelligible. Before these creatures originated, Wisdom was, as she herself says, and emphatically repeats, already born; חוללתּי is the passive of the Pilel חולל , which means to whirl, to twist oneself, to bring forth with sorrow (Aquila, Theodotion, ὠδινήθην ; Graec. Venet. 24a, πέπλασμαι , 25b, ὠδίνημαι ), then but poet. generally to beget, to bring forth (Proverbs 25:23; Proverbs 26:10).

Verse 27

But not only did her existence precede the laying of the foundation of the world; she was also actively taking part in the creative work:

“When He prepared the heavens, I was there,

When He measured out a circle for the mirror of the multitude of waters.”

Again a sentence clothed with two designations of time. The adv. of place שׁם is used, chiefly poetically, for אז , eo tempore (Arab. thumm , in contradistinction to thamm , eo loco ); but here it has the signification of place, which includes that of time: Wisdom was there when God created the world, and had then already long before that come into existence, like as the servant of Jahve, Isaiah 48:16, with just such a שׁם אני , says that He is there from the time that the history of nations received a new direction, beginning with Cyrus. הכין signifies to give a firm position or a definite direction. Thus Job 28:27 of Wisdom, whom the Creator places before Himself as a pattern (ideal); here, as Jeremiah 10:12; Psalms 65:7, of the setting up, restoring throughout the whole world. In the parallel member, חוּג , corresponding to שׁמים , appears necessarily to designate the circle or the vault of the heavens (Job 22:14), which, according to the idea of the Hebrews, as in Homer, rests as a half-globe on the outermost ends of the disc of the earth surrounded with water, and thus lies on the waters. Vid., Hupfeld under Psalms 24:2. This idea of the ocean girdling the earth is introduced into the O.T. without its being sanctioned by it. The lxx ( καὶ ὅτε ἀφώριζε τὸν ἑαυτοῦ θρόνον ἐπ ̓ ἀνέμων ) appears to understand תהום of the waters above; but תהום never has this meaning, ים (Job 9:8; Job 36:30) might rather be interpreted of the ocean of the heavens. The passage in accordance with which this before us is to be expounded is Job 26:10: He has set a limit for the surface of the waters, i.e., describing over them a circle setting bounds to their region. So here, with the exchange of the functions of the two words; when He marked out a circle over the surface of the multitude of waters, viz., to appoint a fixed region ( מקוה , Genesis 1:10) for them, i.e., the seas, fountains, rivers, in which the waters under the heavens spread over the earth. חקק signifies incidere, figere , to prescribe, to measure off, to consign, and directly to mark out, which is done by means of firm impressions of the graver's tools. But here this verb is without the Dagesh, to distinguish between the infinitive and the substantive חקּו (his statute or limit); for correct texts have בּחקו ( Michlol 147a); and although a monosyllable follows, yet there is no throwing back of the tone, after the rule that words terminating in o in this case maintain their ultima accentuation ( e.g., משׂמו אל , Numbers 24:23). Fleischer also finally decides for the explanation: quum delinearet circulum super abysso , when He marked out the region of the sea as with the circle.

Verses 28-31

In Proverbs 8:28, Proverbs 8:29, these two features of the figure of the creation of the world return (the beginning of the firmament, and the embankment of the under waters); hence we see that the discourse here makes a fresh start with a new theme:

In this sentence, subordinating to itself these designations of time, the principal question is as to the meaning of אמון , Hofmann's interpretation ( Schriftbew. i. 97) “continually” ( inf. absol. in an adverbial sense) is a judicious idea, and אמן , to endure, remains indeed in אמת (stability); but in this sense, which נאמן represents, it is not otherwise used. Also מהימנתּא (believing, trusting) of the Targ. ( Graec. Venet. πίστις , as if the word used were אמוּן ) is linguistically inadmissible; the Hebr. האמין corresponds to the Aram. haimēn . One of these two only is possible: אמון means either opifex or alumnus . The meaning alumnus (Aquila, τιθηνουμένη ; Meîri and Malbim, אמון בחיק האל , ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ ) would derive the word from אמן , to support, make firm, take care of; the form ought to have a passive sense (Symm. Theod. ἐστηριγμένη ), as גּדול sa ,)חם , twined, pressed, strong, great, and be pointed נקד (with a moveable ā , different from the form &#בּגוד חמוץ , Isaiah 1:17); and אמון , in the meaning nursling, foster-child, favourite (Schultens, Euchel, Elster, and others, also Rashi and Kimchi, who all find in אמון the meaning of education, גידול ), would place itself with אמוּן , fostered, Lamentations 4:5, אמן , fosterer, אמנת ,reret , foster-mother. This is the meaning of the word according to the connection, for Wisdom appears further on as the child of God; as such she had her joy before Him; and particularly God's earth, where she rejoiced with the sons of men, was the scene of her mirth. But on this very account, because this is further said, we also lose nothing if אמון should be interpreted otherwise. And it is otherwise to be interpreted, for Wisdom is, in consequence of קנני (Proverbs 8:22), and חוללתי , which is twice used (Proverbs 8:24-25), God's own child; but the designation אמון would make Him to be the אמן of Wisdom; and the child which an אמן bears, Numbers 11:12, and fosters, Esther 2:7, is not his own. Hence it follows that אמון in this signification would be an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον ; on the other hand, it really occurs elsewhere, Jeremiah 52:15 ( vid., Hitzig l.c.), in the sense of opifex . This sense, which recommends itself to Ewald, Hitzig, Bertheau, and Zöckler, lies also at the foundation of the ἁρμόζουσα of the lxx, מתקנא of the Syr., the cuncta componens of Jerome, and the designation of Wisdom as ἡ τῶν πάντων τεχνῖτις of the Book of Wisdom 7:21. The workmaster is called אמון , for which, Song of Solomon 7:2, אמן , or rather אמּן ( ommân ), Aram. and Mishn. אוּמן ; not, perhaps, as he whom one entrusts with something in whom one confides or may confide in a work ( vid., Fleischer, loc), but from אמן , to be firm, as one who is strong in his art, as perhaps also the right hand, which has the name ימין as being the artifex among the members. The word occurs also as an adjective in the sense of “experienced, skilful,” and does not form a fem. according to the use of the word in this case before us, only because handicraft ( אוּמנוּת ) belongs to men, and not to women; also in the Greek, δημιουργός , in the sense of τὰ δημόσια ( εἰς τὸ δημόσιον ) ἐργαζόμενος , has no fem.; and in Lat., artifex is used as a substantive ( e.g., in Pliny: artifex omnium natura ), like an adj. of double gender. It is thus altogether according to rule that we read אמון and not אמונה (after the form בּגודה ); also we would make a mistake if we translated the word by the German “ Werkmeisterin ” work-mistress, directress (Hitzig), for it is intended to be said that she took up the place of a workmaster with Him, whereby chiefly the artistic performances of a חרשׁ artificer are thought of. This self-designation of Wisdom is here very suitable; for after she has said that she was brought forth by God before the world was, and that she was present when it was created, this אמון now answers the question as to what God had in view when He gave to Wisdom her separate existence, and in what capacity she assisted in the creation of the world: it was she who transferred the creative thoughts originally existing in the creative will of God, and set in motion by His creative order, from their ideal into their real effectiveness, and, as it were, artistically carried out the delineations of the several creatures; she was the mediating cause, the demiurgic power which the divine creative activity made use of, as is said, Proverbs 3:19, “Jahve has by Wisdom founded the earth,” and as the Jerusalem Targ. Genesis 1:1, in connection with Proverbs 8:22, translates: בחוּכמא ברא יי ית שׁמיּא וית ארעא .

But - this is now the question - does the further unfolding of the thoughts here agree with this interpretation of אמון ? That we may not misunderstand what follows, we must first of all represent to ourselves, that if אמון meant the foster-child, Wisdom could not yet, in what follows, be thought of as a little child (Numbers 11:12), for that would be an idea without any meaning; to rejoice [ spielen = play] is certainly quite in accordance with youth, as 2 Samuel 2:14 shows (where שׂחק לפני is said of the sportive combat of youthful warriors before the captain), not exclusively little children. So, then, we must guard against interpreting שׁעשׁוּעים , with the lxx and Syr., in the sense of שׁעשׁוּעיו - an interpretation which the Targ., Jerome, the Graec. Venet., and Luther have happily avoided; for mention is not made here of what Wisdom is for Jahve, but of what she is in herself. The expression is to be judged after Psalms 109:4 (cf. Genesis 12:2), where Hitzig rightly translates, “I am wholly prayer;” but Böttcher, in a way characteristic of his mode of interpretation, prefers, “I am ointment” ( vid., Neue Aehrenlese, No. 1222). The delight is meant which this mediating participation in God's creating work imparted to her - joy in the work in which she was engaged. The pluralet. שׁעשׁועים is to be understood here, not after Jeremiah 13:20, but after Isaiah 11:8; Psalms 119:70, where its root-word, the Pilpel שׁעשׁע (proceeding from the primary meaning of caressing, demulcere ), signifies intransitively: to have his delight somewhere or in anything, to delight oneself - a synonym to the idea of play (cf. Aram. שׁעא , Ethpe. to play, Ethpa. to chatter); for play is in contrast to work, an occupation which has enjoyment in view. But the work, i.e., the occupation, which aims to do something useful, can also become a play if it costs no strenuous effort, or if the effort which it costs passes wholly into the background in presence of the pleasure which it yields. Thus Wisdom daily, i.e., during the whole course of creation, went forth in pure delight; and the activity with which she translated into fact the creative thoughts was a joyful noise in the sight of God, whose commands she obeyed with childlike devotion; cf. 2 Samuel 6:21, where David calls his dancing and leaping before the ark of the covenant a ' שׂחק לפני ה . But by preference, her delight was in the world, which is illustrated from the Persian Minokhired, which personifies Wisdom, and, among other things, says of her: “The creation of the earth, and its mingling with water, the springing up and the growth of the trees, all the different colours, the odour, the taste, and that which is pleasing in everything - all that is chiefly the endowment and the performance of Wisdom.”

Since the statements of Wisdom, as to her participation in the creation of the world, are at this point brought to a close, in this verse there is set forth the intimate relation into which she thus entered to the earth and to mankind, and which she has continued to sustain to the present day. She turned her love to the earth for the sake of man, and to man not merely as a corporeal, but especially as a spiritual being, to whom she can disclose her heart, and whom, if he receives her, she can bring back to God (Book of Wisdom 7:27). There are not here express references to Gen 1 or Gen 2. In יום יום (day for day, as Genesis 39:10, cf. Esther 2:4, יום ויום ) we have not to think of the six days of creation. But inasmuch as the whole description goes down to בּני אדם as its central-point, it denotes that creation came to its close and its goal in man. The connection of תּבל ארץ is as Job 37:12, where ארצה for ארץ is wholly, as &#לילה חרסה , and the like, an original accusative.

Verse 32

After that Wisdom has shown in Proverbs 8:22-31 how worthy her fellowship is of being an object of desire from her mediating place between God and the world, she begins with this verse (as Proverbs 7:24; Proverbs 5:7) the hortatory ( parהnetische ) concluding part of her discourse:

“And now, ye sons, hearken unto me,

And salvation to those who keep my ways!”

The lxx omits Proverbs 8:33, and obviates the disturbing element of ואשׁרי , 32b, arising from its ו , by a transposition of the stichs. But this ואשרי is the same as the καὶ μακάριος , Matthew 11:6; the organic connection lies hid, as Schleiermacher ( Hermeneutik, p. 73) well expresses it, in the mere sequence; the clause containing the proof is connected by ו with that for which proof is to be assigned, instead of subordinating itself to it with כּי . Such an exclamatory clause has already been met with in Proverbs 3:13, there אדם follows as the governed genitive, here a complete sentence (instead of the usual participial construction, שׁמרי דרכי ) forms this genitive, Gesen. §123, 3, Anm. 1.

Verses 33-36

The summons 32a, and its reason 32b, are repeated in these verses which follow:

The אשׁרי here following שׁמעוּ is related to it as assigning a motive, like the ואשׁרי (Proverbs 8:32) following שׁמעו ; according to the Masora, we have to write אשׁרי with Mercha, and on the first syllable Gaja ( vid., Baer's Torath Emeth, pp. 26, 29; cf. under Psalms 1:1). לשׁקד signifies to watch, not in the sense of ad vigilandum , but vigilando , as Isaiah 5:22; Isaiah 30:1; Ewald, §380d. In contradistinction to העיר and הקיץ , which denote watching as the consequence of wakefulness or an interruption of sleep, שׁקד signifies watching as a condition, and that as one which a person willingly maintains ( Psychol. p. 275), the intentional watching (cf. Arab. shaḳidha , to fix penetrating eyes upon anything), with על of the place and object and aim (Jeremiah 5:6; cf. העיר על , Job 8:6). The plurals דּלתות ( fores , as חמות , Jeremiah 1:18, maenia ) and פתחים are amplifying plurs. of extension, suggesting the idea of a palace or temple; מזוּזת ( postes portae, in quibus cardines ejus moventur , from זוּז , to move hither and thither) is intended to indicate that he to whom the discourse refers holds himself in closest nearness to the entrance, that he might not miss the moment when it is opened, or when she who dwells there presents herself to view. “The figure is derived from the service of a court: Wisdom is honoured by her disciples, as a queen or high patroness; cf. Samachschari's Golden Necklaces, Pr. 35: Blessed is the man who knocks only at God's door, and who departs not a nail's breadth from God's threshold” (Fl.).

Proverbs 8:35

This verse gives the reason for pronouncing those happy who honour Wisdom. The Chethı̂b is כי מצאי מצאי חיּים , but the passing over into the sing. 35b is harsh and objectionable; the Kerı̂ rightly regards the second מצאי as a mistaken repetition of the first, and substitutes כי מצאי מצא חיים , with which the וחטאי (Proverbs 8:36) of the antithesis agrees. Regarding מצאי , for which, less accurately, מצאי (only with the Dechî without Metheg) is generally written, vid., Accentuationssystem, vii. §2. הפיק , to get out = reach, exchanged with מצא , Proverbs 3:13 ( vid., there); according to its etymon, it is connected with מן , of him from or by whom one has reached anything; here, as Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 18:22, God's favour, favorem a Jova impetravit .

Proverbs 8:36

חטאי may, it is true, mean “my sinning one = he who sins against me ( חטא לי ),” as קמי is frequently equivalent to קמים עלי ; but the contrast of מצאי places it beyond a doubt that חטא stands here in its oldest signification: to miss something after which one runs (Proverbs 19:2), seeks (Job 5:24), at which one shoots ( Hiph. Judges 20:16), etc., id non attingere quod petitur , Arab. âkhṭa , to miss, opposite to âṣab , to hit (Fl.). Just because it is the idea of missing, which, ethically applied, passes over into that of sin and guilt (of fault, mistake, false step, “ Fehls, Fehlers, Fehltritts ”), חטא can stand not only with the accusative of the subject in regard to which one errs, Leviticus 5:16, but also with the accusative of the subject which one forfeits, i.e., misses and loses, Proverbs 20:2, cf. Habakkuk 2:10; so that not only מאס נפשׁו , Proverbs 15:32 ( animam suam nihili facit ), but also חוטא נפשׁו , Proverbs 20:2 ( animam suam pessumdat ), is synonymous with חמס נפשׁו ( animae suae h. e. sibi ipsi injuriam facit ). Whoever misses Wisdom by taking some other way than that which leads to her, acts suicidally: all they who wilfully hate ( Piel) wisdom love death, for wisdom is the tree of life, Proverbs 3:18; wisdom and life are one, 35a, as the Incarnate Wisdom saith, John 8:51, “If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.” In the Logos, Wisdom has her self-existence; in Him she has her personification, her justification, and her truth.

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Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/proverbs-8.html. 1854-1889.