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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 23

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-35

c) Warning against greediness, intemperance, impurity, etc

Chap. 23

1          When thou sittest to eat with a ruler,

consider well him who is before thee,—

2     and thou wilt put a knife to thy throat

if thou art a gluttonous man.

3     Crave not his dainties,

for it is deceitful food.

4     Labor not to be rich;

cease from (this) thine own wisdom.

5     Wilt thou look eagerly after it—and it is no longer there?

for assuredly it maketh itself wings,
as an eagle that flieth toward the heavens.

6     Eat not the bread of him that hath an evil eye,

and crave not his dainties.

7     For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he;

“eat and drink” saith he to thee,
but his heart is not with thee.

8     Thy morsel which thou hast eaten, wilt thou cast up,

and wilt have lost thy pleasant words.

9     Speak not in the ears of a fool,

for he would despise the wisdom of thy words.

10     Remove not old landmarks,

and into the field of the fatherless enter thou not.

11     For their avenger is a mighty one;

He will maintain their cause with thee.

12     Apply thine heart to instruction,

and thine ears to words of knowledge.

13     Withhold not correction from the child;

for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die.

14     Thou beatest him with the rod,

and his soul thou deliverest from hell.

15     My son, if thine heart be made wise,

my heart will rejoice, even mine;

16     And my reins will exalt,

when thy lips speak right things.

17     Let not thine heart press on eagerly after sinners,

but after the fear of Jehovah all the day;

18     for if the end come

then thy hope shall not be destroyed.

19     Hear thou, my son, and be wise,

and incline thine heart in a right way.

20     Be not among winebibbers,

who devour much flesh.

21     For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to want,

and the sleep of sloth clotheth in rags.

22     Hearken to thy father that hath begotten thee,

and despise not thy mother when she is old.

23     Buy the truth and sell it not,

wisdom, and discipline and understanding.

24     The father of a righteous man rejoiceth greatly;

he that begetteth a wise man hath joy in him.

25     Let thy father and thy mother be glad,

and her that bare thee exult.

26     My son, give me thine heart,

and let thine eyes delight in my ways.

27     For a harlot is a deep ditch,

and the strange woman a narrow pit.

28     Yea, she lieth in wait like a robber,

and the false among men doth she multiply.

29     Who hath woe? who hath grief?

who hath contentions,—who trouble,—who wounds without cause,
who hath redness of eyes?

30     They that tarry long at the wine,

who come to seek mixed wine.

31     Look not on the wine, when it is red,

when it sparkleth in the cup,
when it glideth smoothly!

32     At last it biteth like a serpent,

and stingeth like an adder.

33     Thine eyes shall see strange things,

and thine heart shall utter perverse things;

34     and thou shalt be as one that (is) in the midst of the sea?

as one that lieth on the top of a mast.

35     “They have stricken me—I have not felt it—

they have smitten me—I have not known it—
when I awake I will seek it yet again.”


Proverbs 23:1.—[We have in בִּין, as in גִּיל, ver, 24, examples of the “spurious” עי verbs, or mixed עי and עו. The present result is that we have here in Proverbs 23:1, and in the K’ri in Proverbs 23:24, forms apparently of the Inf. constr., where the idiom of the language requires an Inf. abs. See Green, § 158, 2, 8; Bött., §§ 988, 4, a; 1141; 1143, 1, 2, etc. The תָּבִין is followed by a Perf. consec. to express the idea of the “Fiens debitum,” what ought always to be, and so may confidently be expressed as a finished result. Bött., § 981, B. γ.—A.]

Proverbs 23:4.—The punctuation לְהַעֲשִׁיר is unquestionably correct (see Exegetical notes); to alter it to לְהֶעָשִׁיר (LXX, Targ., Hitzig), as though the admonition were against laboring for the favor of the rich man, is unnecessary.

Proverbs 23:5.—We render according to the K’ri יָעיּף, which is certainly to he preferred to the unmeaning K’thibh ועיף (for which many conjecture וְעוֹף, “as eagles and birds of the heavens”). [Bött., §1132, 3, very confidently proposesוְיָעֹף, making the verb a Jussive.—A.]

Proverbs 23:7.—[For the form אֱכוֹל comp. critical notes on Proverbs 22:7-8.—A.]

The verb (שָׁעַר) pointed and accented as here can be nothing but 3d pers. Perf. Kal, equivalent to the Chald. שְׁעַר, cogitavit, meditatus est; and this meaning of the expression gives a general sense so appropriate that we ought clearly to abide by it (with Aben Ezra, Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster, etc. [so the E. V., N., S., M., W., De W., Fuerst], although no support can be found for it any where in the Old Testament. The LXX rendered שֵׂעַר “ hair” [so he eats and drinks, as if any one should swallow a hair]; the Chald., שַׁעַר, “fool;” Schultens, שַׂעַר, shuddering; Ewald and Hitzig,, שָׁעֻר divided (“as one who is divided in his soul”) [Holden and others, “as he is vile”]; but these are all unnecessary attempts at emendation.

Proverbs 23:10.—[In שְׂדֵי Bött., § 821, Decl. 2, and n. 5, maintains that we have a sing, constr. from the original form שָׂדַי, and not a plur. const, collateral to שְׂדוֹת, as most of the grammars and lexicons hold. He compares עֲדֶי and עֲלֵי.—A.]

Ver.12.—[הָבִיאָה, a poetical form, a lengthened Imper. pres. Comp. דְּעֵה in Proverbs 24:14.—A.]

Proverbs 23:15.—[The supplementary אָנִי conforms to the case of the preceding suffix of the same person, which is of course a genitive. Bött., § 855, 3.—A.]

Proverbs 23:19.—אַשֵּׁר is here a real Piel with a factitive meaning, unlike its use in Proverbs 4:14.

Proverbs 23:22.—[The demonstrative זֶה used, as it is occasionally in poetry and prophecy, not instead of a relative, but as the emphatic antecedent of an omitted relative. Bött., §§ 896, 6; 897, E.—A.]

Proverbs 23:25.—[Instead of reading the verbs as simple Imperf., to be rendered by the future, they may perhaps be made more expressive if made examples of the “consultative” use of the Jussive: “let thy father and thy mother,” etc. The E. V. is “thy father and thy mother shall,” etc.—A.]

Proverbs 23:26.—Instead of the K’thibh, תִּרְצֶנָה (= תִּרְצֶינָה), “let them delight in my words” (comp. Proverbs 16:7), the K’ri, with all the old versions, calls unnecessarily for תִּצֹּרְנָה, “let them preserve or keep,” etc.

Proverbs 23:32.—[יַפְרִשׁ Bött would explain as shortened from יַפְרֵשׁ and not from יַפְרִישׁ. See §1013, ex.—A.]

Proverbs 23:33.—[יִרְאוּ, a masc. form agreeing with a fem. subject, as the fem. תִּרְאֶיגָה would have seemed perhaps to agree with זָרוֹת. See Bött., § 936, A. a.—A.]


l. Proverbs 23:1-8. Warnings against courting the favor of the powerful, against greed, and against intercourse with the envious. The first of these warnings, Proverbs 23:1-3, stands very plainly in immediate connection with the last verse of the preceding chapter. The counsel that one’s powers be employed in the service of kings is followed by a warning against the dangers of a too confidential intercourse with powerful and honorable men, especially against the danger of being watched by them on occasion of their banquets, and possibly recognized as immoderate, as intemperate, as an epicure, etc. Comp. the Arabic proverb: He that eats the Sultan’s soup burns his lips, though it be not till afterward (Meid., II., 741); or this other: With kings one seats himself at the table for the sake of honor, and not of surfeiting (Thaâl Synt., p. 31); see Horace also, Ars poet., 434 sq., and Sir 9:13-14; Sir 31:12-14.—Consider well him who is before thee, viz., that he is not one of thine equals, but one much mightier and loftier (so Luther, Umbreit, Hitzig [Kamph., N., M.] etc. Others: Consider well what is before thee, i.e., the food that is set before thee (LXX, Vulg., Ewald, Bertheau [E. V., H., S, Wordsw.] etc. Both explanations are possible; the first seems more consistent with the connection.

Proverbs 23:2. Thou wilt put a knife to thy throat. Lit., “and thou hast put”—for which reason Hitzig thinks it necessary to put this entire verse after verse 3, and to regard it as a continuation of the reference made in 3, b, to the danger of eating with great men. But no ancient MS. or version exhibits any other order of the verses than the usual one, and besides this gives unquestionably a good logical progress in the thought. It is grammatically unjustifiable to regard the verb as Imperative (LXX, Vulg., Luther [E. V., etc.]: “And put a knife to thy throat”). [But Bött. justifies a rendering substantially the same (see Critical note) by saying, “Although the legislator and teacher prescribes only for the future, yet the hearer and reader (and their point of view must be taken) cannot regard the thing prescribed as merely future.—Something that is in general terms enjoined he must, as soon as he becomes cognizant of it, not merely do in the future, but in case of need immediately, etc. This Fiens debitum remains then indeterminate in time.” As between the two resulting ideas: “Thou hast virtually destroyed thyself if thou art a self-indulgent man,”—and “ Thou must at all hazards subdue thine appetite” we prefer the latter, with K, N., W., M., H, against S.—A.]. If thou art a gluttonous man, lit. a master or owner of desire, not precisely one ruled by appetite (Umbreit), but a man cherishing and maintaining strong desires; comp. “Master of dreams,” Genesis 37:19.

Proverbs 23:3. Crave not his dainties (comp. 6, b, Proverbs 24:1): for it is deceitful food, lit., “bread of lies” (comp. Proverbs 20:17). i.e., a deceptive meal, which in reality has another object than that which it seems to have.

Proverbs 23:4-5. Labor not to be rich. Since what follows plainly emphasizes the fugitive and perishable nature of riches in itself, the sentiment as a whole doubtless aims to deter from striving after wealth, or from covetousness—Cease from (this) thine own wisdom, viz, from that which has reference to the acquisition and preservation of riches.—Wilt thou look eagerly (lit. “let thine eyes fly”) after it:—a we render in accordance with the K’ri, which in spite of the fact that a Hiphil of this verb does not occur elsewhere, is to be preferred to the unintelligible K’thibh; and we do not need (with Hitzig) to substitute the rendering “if thou faintest, if thou art weary” (from עוף “to be feeble or powerless;” comp Jeremiah 4:31; Judges 4:21)—And it is no longer there, has disappeared, is suddenly gone! Comp. the same expression, Job 7:9. also Genesis 5:24.—For assuredly it maketh itself wings, precisely “it will make itself wings;” comp. 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5; also the Latin phrase alas sibi facere (Sil. Ital. 16, 351) and our proverbial expression “to make one find his logs,” or again “Füsse kriegen und davon flaegen” [to get feet and fly away]—As an eagle that flieth towards the heavens (see Critical notes).

Proverbs 23:6-8. Eat not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, the jealous; the man of an evil eye is the opposite of the man with the “good eye,” to him who is of a “kindly look,” (comp. Proverbs 22:9; Deuteronomy 15:9; Matthew 6:23).

Proverbs 23:7. For as he thinketh in his heart so is he See Critical notes.

Proverbs 23:8. Thy morsel which thou hast eaten thou shalt cast up and this under the constraint of the “evil eye exciting vexation and disgust, under the feeling of bitterness which the envy and ill will of thine entertainer will excite in thee, and from the perception of the fruitlessness of thy friendly words, which were intended to gain the false heart of this man.

2.Proverbs 23:9-11; Proverbs 23:9-11 Warning against intercourse with fools, and against violence.—With Proverbs 23:9 comp. Proverbs 9:8.—And into the field of the fatherless press thou not, lit. “come not into them.” i.e., in the way of removing boundaries or other acts of violence. [Hackett (Scripture Illustrations) and other travellers in the East call attention to the simplicity of these landmarks, a single stone or small heap of stones,—and the ease with which an aggressor could encroach without detection.—A.].

Proverbs 23:11. For their avenger is a strong one, i.e., Jehovah, who appears as the vindicator of outraged innocence (as גֹּאִל, Job 19:25; Jer. 1:34, etc.), when human deliverers and protectors are wanting to it. (For illustration of human “redeemers” comp. Ruth 3:12). With b compare Proverbs 22:23; also Psalms 68:6 Malachi 3:5, etc.

3.Proverbs 23:12-18. Admonition to the strict training of children, and to the striving after true wisdom and the fear of God—Apply thine heart to correction. For this phrase “to apply the heart, to incline the heart,” comp. Psalms 90:12, b; for the “words of knowledge,” Proverbs 1:2.

Proverbs 23:12 can hardly be regarded as an introduction to all that follows as far as Proverbs 24:2 (in opposition to Bertheau); rather does the general exhortation contained in it, to the reception of a discipline of the understanding, prepare the way only for what immediately follows,.—perhaps as far as Proverbs 23:16, or 18.

Proverbs 23:13. Comp. Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15.

Proverbs 23:14. And his soul thou deliverest from hell i.e., so far forth as correction leads to life, and is even itself life; comp. Proverbs 4:13; Proverbs 15:24 : also Proverbs 7:27 sq; Proverbs 9:18.

Proverbs 23:15-16 My son, if thine heart be cometh wise, i.e., if it as the result of whole some discipline shall have become wise—My heart will rejoice, even mine—therefore not thine merely. For the repetition of the suffix which expresses the genitive relation, by the casus rectus, compare, 1 Kings 21:9; 1 Kings 21:9;2 Samuel 19:1; 2 Samuel 19:1.; and also chap Proverbs 22:19 above. The “reins ” in 16, a, are plainly only an interchangeable expression for “heart” (Psalms 16:7; Psalms 17:3), and the “right speaking of the lips” is the necessary effect or the outward sign of having become wise.

Proverbs 23:17. Let not thine heart press on eagerly after sinners, but after the fear of Jehovah all the day. Thus, Schelling, Umbreit, Hitzig, [K.] correctly render, while the greater number, following the LXX, Vulg., etc., restrict the effect of the verb יְקַנֵּא to the first member, and for the second supply the Imper, of the substantive verb. For the general idea moreover comp. Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 24:0;Proverbs 1:19. [Holden gives a qualified endorsement to the interpretation which our author adopts; (N., M., S. follow the E, V) in the line of the LXX rendering.—Rueetschi supports the view which makes the one expressed verb common to the two clauses, the shades of meaning varying as a person is the object in the former, a thing in the latter clause; in the former case the idea is very nearly that of “envy,” in the latter “to be zealous for.” A more delicate point discussed by R. is the peculiarity of the compound connective כִּי אִם, in Proverbs 23:17 and again in Proverbs 23:18. In the former it is hardly more than the simple adversative “but” (see Ewald, Lehrb. 343, b); in the latter (see Z’s. view below), it must be virtually a causal “for,” or by conjectural emendation =כִּי אָז “for then,” (as above, p. 157).—A.].

Proverbs 23:18. For if the end come. So Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster correctly render, for the connective is here not “rather” or “but rather” as in Proverbs 23:17, but כִּי is a causal (comp. Proverbs 24:20), and אִם supplies a condition, as in the similar passage Proverbs 24:14. The “end” is not specifically the hour of death (Umbreit) but the terminus which is necessarily reached in all human relations (Elster), the hour of judicial decision, when God fulfils the hopes of the pious but visits the ungodly with righteous penalties. So far forth as this decisive end is ordinarily reached not till the future life, there is undoubtedly a hint of the hope of immortality and of a future retribution involved in this passage, as in Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 14:32.

4.Proverbs 23:19-25. Warning against intemperance and extravagance, and counsel to an obedient endeavor after truth.—Hear thou, my son, and be wise. The pronoun is added to strengthen the appeal in the Imper. “hear” for the sake of the contrast with the disobedient in Proverbs 23:20 sq.—And incline thine heart in a right way, lit. “and let thine heart go straight forward in the way” (i.e., in the “way of understanding” Proverbs 9:6). Comp. Job 31:7.

Proverbs 23:20. Who devour much flesh. This conception of the Hebrew phrase is the simplest and best supported by the authority of all the old translators. We are to think of gluttons who at their carousals with much wine consume also much flesh. Comp. Proverbs 7:14; Proverbs 9:2; and for the association of זוֹלֵל “waster, consumer,” with סבֵא, “drunkard,” comp. also Deuteronomy 21:20, as well as the expression of the New Testament, φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, Matthew 11:19, which seems to be a free rendering of this fixed formula. It is arbitrary and contrary to the meaning of זולֵל as established in the usage of the language, when Ewald and Umbreit refer it to licentious voluptuaries, who “dishonor or destroy their own body.” Of the later commentators Bertheau, Elster, Hitzig have taken the right view. [The author is perhaps too summary in his way of dismissing an interpretation, which has the support of Hebraists and expositors like Gesen., Fuerst, De W., N.; and yet we concur in his view, which is best supported by scriptural parallels, and is that favored by the LXX, Vulg., Luther, E. V., H., S., M., Wordsw., etc.—A.]

Proverbs 23:21. And the sleep of sloth clotheth in rags. The noun נוּמה, “sleep,” which occurs only here, according to the context describes the indolence and drowsiness into which the drunkard and glutton sinks in consequence of his excesses, and the necessary result of which is poverty.

Proverbs 23:22. Hearken to thy father that hath begotten thee,—and for that reason deserves obedience, as does the mother also, to whom, according to clause b, it is becoming to hearken in the time of her old age.

Proverbs 23:23. Buy truth and sell it not. The “buying” of the truth consists in the acquisition of it with labor, exertion and sacrifice (comp. Proverbs 4:5; Proverbs 4:7; Proverbs 16:16; Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46). The “selling” of it would consist in its gross disparagement, and its sacrifice for the sake of sensual enjoyment, or any unsubstantial seeming treasure. [“Give up everything for truth,” says Dr. Chalmers, “and let no bribery of any sort induce me to surrender it.”]

Proverbs 23:24. The father of a righteous man rejoiceth greatly. The K’ri is unquestionably to be preferred to the K’thibh, while in clause b we ought probably to give the preference rather to the K’thibh; we render therefore literally, “the begetter of a wise man—and he shall rejoice in himself.”—With respect to the sentiment of this verse and the one following comp. Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 27:11.

5.Proverbs 23:26-28. Warning against licentiousness, introduced by a summons to a loving consecration to wisdom.—My son, give me thine heart. The speaker is evidently wisdom personified, who appears here as in Proverbs 7:4-5, in opposition to a treacherous harlot, and admonishes to a firm adherence to her “ways,” i.e. to the principles and rules of life which are prescribed by wisdom.

Proverbs 23:27. With a compare Proverbs 22:14 a.—And the strange woman a narrow pit; therefore, those that have been ensnared by her artifices and brought to ruin, she releases again with as much difficulty as a narrow and deep well (possibly of a conical, or, the reverse, a funnel shape) permits one who has fallen into it to escape.

Proverbs 23:28. Yea, like a robber doth she lie in wait. חֵרֵף is used only here to describe a robber. Comp Jeremiah 3:2, where a wanton harlot is compared to an “Arab of the desert” lurking about the roads.—And the false among men doth she multiply; i.e. by her seductive arts she allures many to unfaithfulness, especially when it is married men among whom she practises her impurities. Umbreit unnecessarily renders: she draweth to herself faithless ones (i.e. adulterers);—besides, the verb here used could hardly express this idea. But it is likewise inappropriate, with Ewald, Bertheau, Elster, etc., to understand by the “faithless” not so much adulterers, etc., as rather robbers and murderers. No sufficient support from the language can be adduced for Hitzig’s conception of בּוֹגְדִים as equivalent to the abstract בּוּגְרָה “perfidy, faithlessness.”

6. Proverbs 23:29-35. Warning against the vice of intemperance, by means of a vivid picture of its ruinous results.—who hath woe? Who hath grief? Lit., “to whom is ah? to whom alas?”. The interjection אֲבוֹי, an expansion ofאוֹי is found only here. Among the subsequent terms, the “trouble” is strictly anxious care, complaint; “wounds without cause” are wounds received in causeless or wholly unprofitable disputes, wounds and stripes such as come of the brawls of drunken men; finally the dark “redness of the eyes” is the revolting effect of excessive use of wine as it shows itself in the face, according to Genesis 49:12.

Proverbs 23:30. They that tarry long at the wine (comp. Isaiah 5:11), who come to seek mixed wine. There is hardly need of our supposing (in accordance with Bertheau’s view) an actual entrance into a proper wine store or cellar (Song Song of Solomon 2:4),—but rather a concourse of several at the house of some one (comp. Job 1:4), to drink there strong spiced wine or mixed liquor (Proverbs 9:5).

Proverbs 23:31. When it sparkleth in the cup (lit., “giveth out or showeth its eye”), when it glideth smoothly (lit., “goeth a straight or right way,” ingreditur blande (Vulg.)). Comp. Song Song of Solomon 7:10. [The figurative use of the term “eye” in this vivid description has suggested two slightly different conceptions;—one, that of Bött., etc., derived from the brightness of the eye; the other, that of Fuerst, etc., from its roundness, setting forth therefore the “ bead, or pearl” of the wine. Two different interpretations have likewise been given to the latter part of the description; one of these is based upon the smooth flow in the glass of rich, oily old wine (so E. V., W., etc.); the other upon its smooth pleasant flow as it is swallowed, when “it goeth down aright” (so substantially Luther, De W., K., Z., Bertheau, H., N., S., M.). The LXX gives a curiously divergent rendering: “For if thou shouldest set thine eyes on bowls and cups, thou shalt afterwards go more naked than a pestle.”—A.]

Proverbs 23:32. At last it biteth like a serpent; lit., “its end,” i.e. its ruinous influence which finally becomes evident, its fearful after-pangs.—And stingeth like an adder. This Hiphil form, which occurs only here, can, in accordance with the Aramæan, have no other meaning than “to sprinkle, or spirt,” for which in the case before us “poison” suggests itself as the natural object; (the serpent is the very poisonous species of viper mentioned also in Isaiah 11:8).

Proverbs 23:33. Thine eyes shall see strange things. The “strange” (זָרוֹת) standing parallel with “perverse (things),” is evidently to be taken in a different sense from that required in Proverbs 22:14; it therefore does not denote “strange women” (Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster), but “strange, marvellous things,” as the object of the drunken man’s vision; thus, e.g., the doubling of certain objects, their inversion, their tremulous or swaying motion, etc. (thus, correctly, Rosenm., Ewald, Hitzig).—With clause b compare Proverbs 15:28. [While the Book of Proverbs emphasizes the connection of drunkenness and licentiousness as kindred, and often contemporaneous or successive vices (see especially chap. 7), still the rendering suggested by Proverbs 22:14, and preferred by the E. V., De W., N., M., H., S., etc., is rendered less probable by the parallelism, which in Hebrew is not to be lightly disregarded.—A.]

Proverbs 23:34. And shalt be as one who (is) in the midst of the sea,i.e. probably not one who is out in the midst of the high sea (so Umbreit, Bertheau, etc.), but one who is in the depths of the sea (Jonah 2:4), and therefore one who is as unconscious, with the spirit as completely removed from all previous surroundings, as a drowned man lying upon the deep sea-bottom (Hitzig). [Kamph., H., N., S., M. take the other view, which has this to commend it, that it refers to more common experiences, and experiences of living men, and harmonizes better with the second part of the description.—A.]—As one that sleepeth on the top of a mast,—a lively image of the condition of the drunken man, reeling, staggering hither and thither, rising and falling, as it were, and so exposed to imminent perils to his life.חִבֵּל “mast,” (which is usually described by תֹּרֶן), a word occurring only here, and apparently related to the verb חבל, “to bind;” comp. Daniel 4:20. [Fuerst makes the primary meaning “to conduct, direct, guide,” and therefore interprets the noun of the “steering apparatus, the rudder.”—A.]

Proverbs 23:35. They have stricken me—I have not felt it, etc. Evidently language of the intoxicated man, who first, in clauses a and b, tells how he feebly remembers having experienced, without really feeling, even blows and bodily abuse of other kinds, while he was in his intoxication,—and then in clause c, although still half-bewildered by the later influence of the wine, expresses his intense craving for more, and his fixed purpose to seek anew the prohibited enjoyment. The more characteristic this whole picture of the mode of thought and action of a confirmed inebriate, so much the more unnecessary is it, with Hitzig, to read in a and b “it hath stricken—it hath smitten me” (הֲלָמָנִי הִכָּנִי) and to make wine personified (as in Proverbs 23:32) the subject.—With c compare, moreover, the language of the sluggard craving sleep; Proverbs 6:10.


There is hardly need of further demonstration to show, that it is several of the main forms of sensual self-indulgence of which our chapter treats in the way of warning and dissuasion. At first it is a very strong desire for the pleasures of great men’s tables, as well as for the enjoyments and advantages which intercourse with envious men secures (Proverbs 23:1-3; Proverbs 23:6-8), that forms the subject of the admonition. The remonstrance interposed between these two warnings, and relating to striving after riches, points to covetousness as the deep root not only of evils in general, but of this one in particular (Proverbs 23:4-5; comp. 1 Timothy 6:10).—[Lawson:—Solomon often speaks of riches as a reward that wisdom frequently bestows on those who love her, but here he cautions us against supposing that wisdom encourages the love of riches]. There follows next a further warning against common, rude and uncultivated conversation (Proverbs 23:9).—[Chalmers:—Let me know when to be silent as well as when to speak. There is a manifest contempt for what is said that should lay instant arrest upon me]. There is a like warning against the rough and greedy exercise of violence upon helpless orphans, and others who are weak and entitled to consideration (Proverbs 23:10-11); against foolish doting, and a false carnal forbearance in the matter of the discipline of children (Proverbs 23:12-18);—[Arnot:—The command is framed upon the supposition that parents often fail on the side of tenderness; the word is given to nerve them for a difficult duty. There is no ambiguity in the precept; both the need of correction and the tremendous issues that depend on it are expressed with thrilling precision of language];—next, against haughty contempt of the consideration due to parents, and disobedience to them (Proverbs 23:22-25); against intercourse with the gluttonous and profligate (Proverbs 23:19-21); against being ensnared by wanton women (Proverbs 23:26-28); against the vice of drunkenness (Proverbs 23:29-35). As a basis for the warning against these two chief forms of incontinence and fleshly indulgence we have at one time more prominence given to the nothingness and transientness of the possessions or enjoyments to be obtained by means of them (Proverbs 23:5; Proverbs 23:21; Proverbs 23:35), and at another to the heavy penalty in temporal and eternal death,(vers, 11, 14, 18, 27 sq., 32). To the foolish sentiments and manner life which lead down to such ruin, Proverbs 23:17, which is cast in a peculiarly comprehensive form, opposes the “fear of Jehovah,” as the only means of deliverance and preservation. And as the glorious fruit and result of this we have extolled in Proverbs 23:18 a hope which outlasts the grave and death,—the same hope, therefore, of an eternally blessed life, which in some earlier passages of the Book of Proverbs had already come out significantly; comp. above, remarks on this passage, on p. 202.


Homily on the entire chapter:—The fear of God the only safeguard against the ruinous ascendency of fleshly lusts, especially avarice, extravagance, drunkenness and licentiousness.—Comp. Stöcker: On intemperance in eating and drinking.—Berleburg Bible:—The art of living well, according to the rules of wisdom.

Proverbs 23:1-3. Luther (marginal):—At court there is deceitful bread, for one is ever out-lying and out-flattering another that he may bring him down, and himself up.… It is bad eating cherries with lords.—Melanchthon:—To be seeking offices and positions of service with great men is allowable if we know ourselves to be in some measure fitted for it; yet one striving for these may never restrain the independent judgment of him who has the choice, or in general seek to attain its end by unjust means: otherwise it is a guilty ambition.—Hasius:—He that cannot walk prudently in dangerous places does better to keep away from them.—Geier:—At the table of the Lord’s grace in the Holy Sacrament, one should appear with special reverence and humility; for there one has to do with the King of all kings.—Starke:—Moderation and the careful testing of that which is and that which is not hurtful to the body must always be the rule of prudence, even though one have great stores on hand.—[Arnot:—It is of the Lord that hunger is painful and food gives pleasure; between these two lines of defence the Creator has placed life with a view to its preservation. The due sustenance of the body is the Creator’s end; the pleasantness of food the means of attaining it. When men prosecute and cultivate that pleasure as an end, they thwart the very purposes of Providence].

Proverbs 23:4-5. Melanchthon:—Diligence, industry, faithful striving to fulfil one’s earthly calling this proverb does not forbid, but multiplicity of cares and a greedy eagerness under which, man, from want of confidence in God, seeks with pain and self-imposed smart for the perishable goods of this world. From such wayward and unlawful striving it summons us back to the true sphere of our calling and to a prudent and diligent work therein with appeals for divine aid.—Tübingen Bible:—To toil for riches which are perishable and cannot satisfy the soul, is a sinful folly. In heaven should we be gathering treasures that endure forever, Matthew 6:19 sq.—[T. Adams:—Solomon compares riches not to some tame house bird, or a hawk that may be fetched down with a line, or found again by her bells; but an eagle that violently cuts the air and is gone past recalling.—Bp. Hopkins:—It were a most strange folly to fall passionately in love with a bird upon his wing, etc. How much better were it, since riches will fly, for thyself to direct their flight towards heaven, by relieving the necessitous servants and members of Jesus Christ?]

Proverbs 23:6-8. Zeltner:—Learn to be pleased and content at little cost, and thou wilt be able easily to forget dainty morsels. Follow Paul: I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).—Wohlfarth:—Reflect how much ruin envy works, this annoyance at others’ prosperity,—how it spares no means for the overthrow of the envied neighbor, how unhappy and discontented it also makes even its own slaves, to what grievous sins it forces them, etc. Consider this, and thou wilt not merely take to heart the prudential maxim: Beware of the envious,—but thou wilt seek to keep thyself also from this vice!

Proverbs 23:9 sq. Starke (on Proverbs 23:9):—To speak at the wrong time and in the wrong place brings always far more harm than profit.—(On Proverbs 23:10-11):—Pious widows and orphans have, notwithstanding their forsaken and apparently helpless condition, the mightiest protection; Sir 35:16 sq.—(On Proverbs 23:12):—Not simply instruction, but also correction and punishment one must receive gladly if one would become wise.

Proverbs 23:13-18. Luther (marginal comm, on Proverbs 23:13):—If thou scourgest thy son the executioner need not scourge him. There must be scourging once; if the father does not do it, then Master John does it; there is no help for it. No one has ever escaped it, for this is God’s judgment.—J. Lange:—Many parents deserve hell in their own children, because they have neglected to train them in holiness.—Cramer (on Proverbs 23:15):—Next to the experience of God’s grace there is no greater joy on earth than when one finds joy and honor in his children.—[H. Melvill:—If a child do that which will make a parent happier he does that which will also make himself so. Heart-wisdom is the thing desired. No wisdom is thought worthy of the name that has not heaven for its origin and end, and the heart for its abode.—Trapp (on ver.17):—Men must wake with God, walk with Him, and lie down with Him, be in continual communion with Him, and conformity unto Him. This is to be in heaven aforehand.—Bp. Hopkins:—It is the property of grace and holiness, when there are no actual explicit thoughts of God, then to be habitually in the fear of God, possessing the heart and overawing it],—Starke (on Proverbs 23:18):—The true good of the pious is still future; so much the less may they be enamored of the present seeming good of the ungodly.—Reinhard (Gesam. Predd., Bd. 2., 1804; Sermon on Proverbs 23:17-18):—How much cause we have to hold true to the old unchangeable principles of a genuine fear of God.—Sackreuter (Fast-day Sermon on Proverbs 23:17-18,—see “Sonntagsfeier,” 1839):—Of three excellent preservatives from sin, viz.: 1) the avoidance of evil example; 2) reverence for God; 3) frequent remembrance of the blessing of virtue.

Proverbs 23:19 sq. [Trapp (on Proverbs 23:19):—Let knowledge and affection be as twins, and run parallel; let them mutually transfuse life and vigor, the one into the other.—John Foster:—On the self-discipline suitable to certain mental states].—Tübingen Bible (on Proverbs 23:20-21):—Gluttony and drunkenness are works of the flesh; they that do such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God, Galatians 5:19.—Lange (on Proverbs 23:22):—In the eyes of wicked children nothing is wont to seem more worthy of contempt than the old mother; and yet he is accursed of the Lord who troubles his mother, Sir 3:18.—Saurin (on Proverbs 23:23):—The investigation of truth involves the seven following duties: 1) be attentive; 2) do not be discouraged at labor; 3) suspend your judgment; 4) let prejudice yield to reason; 5) be teachable; 6) restrain your avidity of knowing; 7) in order to edify your mind subdue your heart.—[A. Fuller:—Solomon does not name the price of truth, because its value was beyond all price. Buy it at any rate! It cannot be too dear! And having got it make much of it! sell it not, no, not for any price!]—Zeltner (on Proverbs 23:26 sq.):—The best and most welcome present that thou canst bring thy God is thy heart with all its desires and powers. Is it ruined? He alone can amend and cleanse it.—Starke:—He who opens his heart to the prince of this world thereby shows himself the enemy of God and of eternal wisdom.—[Bp. Hopkins:—Whatever else we tender unto God if the heart be wanting, it is but the carcass of a duty].

Proverbs 23:29-35. Cramer:—All sins come in agreeably and taste well in the mouth; but afterward they are as bitter as gall, and fatal as the poison of vipers.—Osiander:—Wine is a noble gift of God; but its abuse is only the more ruinous, and therefore to be shunned like deadly poison.—Starke:—That man only is really and in the spiritual sense drunken who does not discern the great peril of his soul, but under all correction becomes only the more confident and defiant (Jeremiah 5:3).—[Trapp:—Such is the drunkard’s lethargy; neither is he more insensible than sensual and irrecoverable.—Lawson:—An inferior master in the art of moral painting gives us a just picture of drunkenness in these words, “Drunkenness is a distemper of the head, a subversion of the senses, a, tempest of the tongue, a storm in the body—the shipwreck of virtue, the loss of time, a wilful madness, a pleasant devil, a sugared poison, a sweet sin, which he that has has not himself, and he that commits it, doth not only commit sin, but is himself altogether sin”].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-23.html. 1857-84.
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