Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 27th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 3

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

Verses 1-35

4. Continuation of the exhibition of the salutary results of a devout and pious life

Proverbs 3:1-18

1          My son, forget not my doctrine,

and let thy heart keep my commandments;

2     for length of days and years of life

and welfare will they bring to thee.

3     Let not love and truth forsake thee;

bind them about thy neck,
write them upon the tablet of thy heart;

4     so wilt thou find favor and good reputation

in the eyes of God and of men.

5     Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart,

and rely not on thine own understanding.

6     In all thy ways acknowledge him,

and he will make smooth thy paths.

7     Be not wise in thine own eyes;

fear Jehovah and depart from evil.

8     Healing will then come to thy body

and refreshing to thy bones.

9     Honor Jehovah with thy wealth,

and with the best of all thine income;

10     so will thy barns be filled with plenty

and with new wine will thy vats overflow.

11     Jehovah’s correction, my son, despise not,

neither loathe thou his chastening;

12     for whom Jehovah loveth, him he chasteneth

and holdeth him dear, as a father his son.

13     Blessed is the man that hath found wisdom,

and he that attaineth understanding;

14     for better is its accumulation than the accumulation of silver,

and her gain (is better) than the finest gold.

15     More precious is she than pearls,

and all thy jewels do not equal her.

16     Long life is in her right hand,

in her left hand riches and honor.

17     Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

and all her paths (are paths) of peace.

18     A tree of life is she to those that lay hold upon her,

and he who holdeth her fast is blessed.

5. Description of the powerful protection which God, the wise Creator of the world, ensures to the pious

Proverbs 3:19-26

19          Jehovah hath with wisdom founded the earth,

the heavens (hath he) established by understanding;

20     by his knowledge were the floods divided,

and the clouds dropped down dew.

21     My son, never suffer to depart from thine eyes,

maintain (rather) thoughtfulness and circumspection;

22     so will they be life to thy soul

and grace to thy neck.

23     Then wilt thou go thy way in safety

and thy foot will not stumble.

24     When thou liest down thou wilt not be afraid,

and when thou liest down thy sleep is sweet.

25     Thou needst not fear from sudden alarm,

nor from the destruction of the wicked when it cometh.

26     For Jehovah will be thy confidence

and keep thy foot from the snare.

6. Admonition to benevolence and justice

Proverbs 3:27-35

27          Refuse not good to him to whom it is due,

when thine hands have power to do it.

28     Say not to thy neighbor: “Go and come again;”

or “to-morrow I will give it”—while yet thou hast it.

29     Devise not evil against thy neighbor

while he dwelleth securely by thee.

30     Contend with no man without cause,

when he did thee no evil.

31     Imitate not the man of violence

and choose none of his ways.

32     For an abhorrence to Jehovah is the deceiver,

but with the upright he maintaineth true friendship.

33     Jehovah’s curse dwelleth in the house of the wicked

but the home of the just he blesseth.

34     If he scorneth the scorners,

to the lowly he giveth grace.

35     Honor shall the wise inherit,

but shame sweepeth fools away.


Proverbs 3:6.—[The idea of the verb יְיַשֵּׁר is not that of guidance [E. V.: “shall direct thy paths”], but that of making straight (Stuart), or, perhaps, better still, making smooth (Fuerst, De W., Kamph.).—A.]

Proverbs 3:7-8.—[אַל־תְּהִי, the “dehortative” use of the Jussive, Bött., § 964,8; while in Proverbs 3:8 we have an example of the “desponsive” use—it shall be.—לְשָׁרֶּךָ. For the doubling of the ר by Dagesh see Bött., 392 c. He explains it as “mimetic for greater vigor.” Some texts carry this even into the succeeding ךְ § 885, A. Fuerst (Lex., sub verbo) pronounces it unnecessary to change the vocalization as proposed by some commentators and preferred by Zöckler, and agrees with Umbreit in his view of the meaning.—A.]

Proverbs 3:12.—In the ordinary rendering, “even as a father the son in whom he delighteth,” or “whom he holds dear” [which is the rendering, e.g., of the E. V., De Wette, Stuart, Noyes, Muensch.], יִרְצֶה is construed as in a relative clause. But then we should expect rather the perfect רָצָה; and there should have been in the first clause a comparative proposition of like construction with the one before us. The LXX, from which Hebrews 12:5 is literally quoted [a rendering which Holden adopts and defends], appears to have read יַכְאֵב instead of וּכֵאָב, for it translates the second clause by μαστιγοῖ δὲ πάντα υἰὸν ὅν παραδέχεται [scourgeth every son whom he receiveth]. This old variation, however, appears to owe its origin to the endeavor to secure a better parallelism. [Kamph. adopts a slightly different rendering, which makes the latter part of the clause relative, but makes the relative the subject and not the object of the verb, thus obviating the objection in regard to tense; and (dealeth) as a father (who) wisheth well to his son. The אֶת for אֶת at the beginning of the verse is explained by Bött., § 362, 3, as the result of assimilation to the subsequent אֶת—A.]

Proverbs 3:18.—In the Hebrew וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר the plural תֹּמְכִים is employed distributively, or, as it were, of undefined individuals, for which reason its predicate stands in the singular; comp. Genesis 47:3; Numbers 24:9; Gesen., Lehrgeb., p. 713; Ewald, §309, a [Bött., §702, 8].

Proverbs 3:26.—The בְּ in בְּכִסְלֵךְ is the so-called בִּ essentiæ, which serves for the emphatic and strengthened introduction of the predicate, as, e.g., in בְּעֶזְרִי, Exodus 18:4 (Gesen., Lehrgeb., 839; Ewald, Lehrb., 217 f.).

Proverbs 3:27.—“When thy hands have power to do it;” literally “when thy hands are for God.” “With this phrase compare יֵשׁ לְאֵל יָד Genesis 31:29; Micah 2:1; or אֵין לְאֵל יָד, Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5. [The weight, both of lexicographical and exegetical authority, is, and, we think, plainly should be, against this view of the author. See, e.g., Gesen. and Fuerst; אֵל has assigned to it distinctly the signification “strength,” the abstract quality corresponding to the concrete, “the strong,” i.e., God. It belongs to the power=it is in the power]. Inasmuch as in these idioms the singular יַד always occurs, the K’ri reads in our passage also יָדְֽךָ, and the LXX for the same reason had translated ἡ χείρ σου [the translation being a free one; Frankel, Vorstudien zur Septuaginta, p. 239]. Yet there is no grammatical reason whatever for the change.

Proverbs 3:28.—[לְרֵעָיִךָ, K’thibh, another distributive plural, where the K’ri has a singular; see Bött., §§ 702, d—886, c.—A.]

Proverbs 3:30.—[Holden translates the last clause “surely he will return thee evil,” because the ordinary rendering “gives to the word גָּמַל the sense of doing or performing, which it seems never to bear, but always that of returning, requiting, recompensing” The primary import, however, seems to be to collect, to complete, which fact, together with the tense, justifies the almost entire unanimity which sustains the ordinary rendering.—A.]


1. The close connection between this group of admonitions and chap. 2. appears at once externally in the resuming of the address “My son” (Proverbs 2:1), which recurs three times in chap. 3, Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 3:21,—without, however, for that reason, introducing in each instance a new paragraph; for in Proverbs 3:11 at least the series of admonitions beginning in Proverbs 3:1 continues in its former tone without interruption (comp. especially Proverbs 3:9),—and again the new commencement in Proverbs 3:21 does not equal in importance that in Proverbs 3:19 sq., or that in Proverbs 3:27 sq.—Hitzig maintains that Proverbs 3:22-26 are spurious, inasmuch as the promise of reward which it contains, after the earlier briefer suggestions of virtue’s reward in Proverbs 3:4; Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 3:10, seems tedious and disturbing;. inasmuch as their style of expression appears tame, prosaic, and even, in some degree, clumsy; inasmuch as there may be detected in them traces of a strange and later idiom (e.g., the חַיִּים וְחֵן [life and grace] in Proverbs 3:22; the שֹׁאָה [destruction] in Proverbs 3:25; the מִלֶּכֶד [from the snare] in Proverbs 3:26); and finally—the thing which appears in fact to have given the chief impulse to his suspicion—inasmuch as from the omission of these five verses there would result another instance of the decimal grouping of verses before we come again to the address to the “children” of wisdom in Proverbs 4:1, just as before the בְּנִי [my son] in Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 3:21 was repeated in each case after ten verses. But since no kind of external testimony can be adduced in support of this assumption of an interpolation, while, on the other hand, a version as old as the LXX contains the verses entire, the suspicion appears to rest on grounds wholly subjective, and to be supported by reasonings that are only specious. This is especially true of the fact that there are in each instance ten verses between the first addresses, “my son,”—which loses all its significance when we observe that in chap. 1. the same address recurs at much shorter intervals,—that between the “my son” in Proverbs 2:1 and the first in the third chapter there are no less than 22 verses,—and that finally the paragraphs or “strophes” formed by the repetition of this address in the two following chapters (Proverbs 4:10 sq.; Proverbs 4:20 sq.; Proverbs 5:1 sq.) are by no means of equal length, and can be brought into uniformity only by critical violence (the rejection of Proverbs 4:16-17; Proverbs 4:27).—If we therefore cannot justify Hitzig’s endeavor to produce by the exclusion of several verses a symmetrical external structure for our chapter, i.e., a division of it into three equal strophes, we are also obliged to differ with him when he conceives of the contents as mainly admonitory, in contrast with the more descriptive character of chap. 2. For here as there we find admonitions, direct or indirect, to the securing and retaining of wisdom (Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 3:9; Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 3:27 sq.) alternating with delineations of the blessedness which becomes the portion of its possessors (Proverbs 3:4; Proverbs 3:6 b, Proverbs 3:8, Proverbs 3:10, Proverbs 3:22 sq., 32 sq.), or with praises of wisdom itself (Proverbs 3:13 sq., 19 sq.). Especially are the commencement and conclusion of the chapter in close correspondence with those of chap. 2, and accordingly justify our conception of the general import of the proverbial discourses which it contains, as being a sort of continuation of the longer discourse which constitutes the preceding chapter. Only in two points do we find essentially new material introduced into the representation, which is now mainly admonitory and again chiefly descriptive,—viz., in Proverbs 3:19 sq., where the protecting and preserving power of wisdom is illustrated by a reference to God’s creative wisdom as the original source and model of all human wisdom,—and in Proverbs 3:27 sq., where in the place of the previous admonitions of a more general nature there appears a special admonition to love of one’s neighbor, as the sum and crown of all virtues. Therefore (with Delitzsch, comp. above, Introd., §15) at each of these points we begin a new section.

2. Continued representation of the salutary consequences of a wise and devout life. Proverbs 3:1-18.

Proverbs 3:1-2. Forget not my teaching.—The substance of this teaching (תּוֹרָה, as in Proverbs 1:8), or the enumeration of the individual commands (מִצְוֹת) of which it consists, begins with Proverbs 3:3.—Length of days, properly” extension of days” (אֹרֶךְ יָמִים) as in Psalms 21:4), is a description of earthly prosperity as it is promised to wisdom for a reward. Comp. Exodus 20:12; 1 Kings 3:14. For that this long life is a happy one, a “living in the promised land” (Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:30; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 22:7; Deuteronomy 30:16), an “abiding in the house of the Lord” and under His blessing (Psalms 15:1; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:3),—this is plainly assumed. Comp. the parallel expression שָׁלוֹם [peace] in the second member, which here, as below in Proverbs 3:17, describes the safety which belongs only to the pious, the religious peace of mind of which the ungodly know nothing (Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21).

Proverbs 3:3-4. The first of the commandments announced in Proverbs 3:1, with the corresponding promise of reward.—Love and truth.—These ideas חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת which are very often associated, in our Book, e.g., in Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 16:6; Proverbs 20:28,—are, when predicated of man, the designation of those attributes in which the normal perfection of his moral conduct towards his neighbor expresses itself. חֶסֶר, which, as a Divine attribute, is equivalent to mercy or grace, designates “the disposition of loving sympathy with others, which rests upon the feeling of brotherhood, the feeling that all men are of like nature, creatures of the same God.” This feeling, which is the prime factor in our moral life by which society is constituted, has for its natural basis the destitution and defencelessness of isolated man; from which springs the deeper necessity not only to augment power by mutual outward help, but also by the interchange of thoughts and emotions to effect a richer development of spiritual life, and to discern what in one’s own feeling is purely individual, and what is common and eternal” (Elster). אֱמֶת then designates inward truthfulness, the pectus rectum, the very essence of a true man opposed to all hypocrisy and dissimulation, the endeavor to mould every form into the closest possible correspondence with the nature of the thing, on which depends all the reliableness and security of life’s relations” (Elster, comp. Umbreit). The proofs of a life regulated by “love” and “truth,” and so of conduct toward one’s neighbor, as loving as it is true, a genuine ἀληθεύειν ἐν� [truth in love, Ephesians 4:15] are suggested in the following admonitory discourse in Proverbs 3:27 sq.—Bind them about thy neck—not as talismans and amulets, as Umbreit suggests, but simply as costly ornaments, which one wears upon the neck (comp. Proverbs 1:9; also Proverbs 7:3); or again as treasures which one will secure against loss, and therefore (if valued like a signet ring, Genesis 38:18; Jeremiah 22:24) wears attached to a chain about the neck. The latter explanation, to which Hitzig gives the preference, seems to be favored especially by Proverbs 6:21, and also by the analogy of the parallel expression “write upon the tablet of the heart,” i.e., thoroughly impress upon one’s self and appropriate the virtues in question (love and truth—not perchance the “commandments” mentioned in Proverbs 3:1, of which C. B. Michaelis and others here think without any good reason); comp. Jer 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:3 [“To bind God’s law about the neck is not only to do it, but to rejoice in doing it; to put it on, and to exult in it as the fairest ornament.” Wordsw.].—So wilt thou find favor and good reputation—literally, “and so find,” etc. (וּמְצָא); the Imper. with ו consec. stands for an Imperf. (Ewald, Lehrb., 235); for “by the command the certainty that obedience will follow is promoted,” Hitzig. Comp. Proverbs 4:4; Proverbs 20:13; Genesis 42:8; Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 45:22. [Bött. calls this the “desponsive” imperative; see § 957, 6—A.].—“Find favor or grace” (מָצָא חֵן) as in Jeremiah 31:2; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 2:52; only that in these passages, instead of “in the eyes of God” (i.e., according to God’s judgment, comp. Genesis 10:9; 2 Chronicles 30:22) the simpler phrase “with God” (אִם, παρά) is combined with the formula under discussion.—Good reputation.—Thus we translate, as Hitzig does, the expression שֵׂכֶל מוֹב, which below in Proverbs 13:15, as in Psalms 111:10, conveys the idea of good understanding or sagacity [so the E. V., Bertheau, Kamph. render it in this passage also]; but here, as in 2 Chronicles 30:20, denotes the judgment awarded to any one, the favorable view or opinion held concerning any one. [Fuerst, Van Ess, etc., prefer this rendering, while Gesen., De W., Stuart, Noyes, Muenscher translate “good success.”—A.]. With this interpretation the “finding favor” will have reference more to God, the “finding good opinion or favorable judgment” predominantly to men. [Kamph., however, insists that the idea is indivisible—universal favor.]

Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in Jehovah with all thine heart, etc.: the fundamental principle of all religion, consisting in an entire self-commitment to the grace and truth of God, with the abandonment of every attempt to attain blessedness by one’s own strength or wisdom; comp. Psalms 37:3 sq.; Psalms 118:8-9; Jeremiah 9:22.—Regard him. דָּעֵהוּ, strictly “take notice of him,” i.e., recognize Him as the unconditional controller over all thy willing and doing. Comp. the opposite: 1 Samuel 2:12, and in general for this pregnant use of the verb יָרַע Psalms 1:6; Psalms 37:18; Amos 3:2, etc.

Proverbs 3:7-8. Fear Jehovah and depart from evil (comp. Proverbs 14:16; Proverbs 14:6; Job 1:1; Job 28:28); an absolute contrast to the first clause of the verse; for he who fears God distrusts his own wisdom, when this perchance presents evil and wayward action as something agreeable and desirable (Genesis 3:5).—Healing will then be (come) to thy body. Thus probably is the phrase רִפְאוּת תְּהִי to be explained, with Bertheau and Hitzig,—for to express the idea “healing is this to thy body,” (Umbreit, Ewald, Elster, and most of the elder commentators) רִפְאוּת הִיא would rather have been required.—Instead of לְשָׁרֶּךָ thy navel (which, according to Umbreit, here, unlike Ezekiel 14:4; Song of Solomon 7:3, is intended to be a designation of the whole body by a part of special physiological importance) it will probably be correct to read לְשׁרְךָ as a contraction of לִשְׁאֵרְךָ, or לִבְשָׂרֵךָ as i Pro 4:22. For translations as early as the LXX and Peshito express simply the idea “to thy body,” to which furthermore the parallel “to thy bones” corresponds better (comp. Proverbs 14:30; Micah 3:2) than to the very far-fetched expression “to thy navel.” —Refreshing to thy bones. שִׁקּוּי strictly irrigation, watering, then refreshing, invigoration; here in contrast with the. “languishing of the bones” (Psalms 32:8; Psalms 32:4), i.e., their drying up under a fever heat or an inward anguish of soul, e.g., the pangs of a troubled conscience. Comp. Job 21:24; Isaiah 58:11.

Proverbs 3:9-10, Honor Jehovah with thy riches. The מִן in מֵהוֹנֶךָ and the following phrase מֵדֵאשִׁית כָּל־תְּבוּאָחֶךָ is certainly not to be construed as partitive, as though God was to be honored with a part only of one’s wealth and of the first fruits of one’s increase (so e.g., Bertheau), but the preposition מִן here expresses the idea of a coming forth out of something, as in Psalms 28:7; 2 Kings 6:27. In opposition to the comparative idea which Ewald endeavors to bring out from the מִן (“more than thy wealth”) see Hitzig on this passage. With regard to the idea itself compare passages like Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 18:4 sq.; Proverbs 28:8 sq.; Malachi 3:10-12. That the offering in sacrifice the first fruits of the field and of the other revenues of one’s possessions or labors was not only enjoined by their law upon the people of God under the Old Testament, but that it was also practiced by other ancient nations as a usage connected with religious worship, appears from passages in classical authors, e.g., Diod. Sicul., I., Proverbs 14:0 : Plut. de Iside, p. 377; Pliny’s Hist. Nat., 18, 2. Comp. in general Spencer, Delegibus Hebræorum ritualibus, p. 713, sq. (“de primitiarum origine”). [Be not content with lipservice, but obey God’s law by making the prescribed oblation and by bringing also free-will offerings to Him.”—Wordsw. Our author’s notes, in their distinct recognition of the first fruits as required for and by Jehovah, are to be preferred to his version, which has the more general but less Jewish idea that “the best” should be given.—A.]—With new wine will thy vats overflow. יִפְרֹצוּ, literally: they will extend themselves, separate, swell up Comp. the use of the same verb פָּרַץ with reference to rapidly increasing flocks; Genesis 30:20; Job 1:10.—Similar strong metaphors for the description of a rich abundance and the blessing of the harvest may be found, e.g., Joel 4:18; Amos 9:13; Leviticus 26:5.

Proverbs 3:11-12. Jehovah’s correction despise thou not. To the “despising” (מָאַם here as in the quite similar passage Job 5:17 [from which Wordsw. thinks our passage to be derived]), the “loathing” or “abhorring” (קוּץ) is evidently the climax. [In the E. V. generally this distinction between the two verbs is very fairly made; the prevailing rendering of the former being “despise, disdain, reject, refuse,” while that of the latter is “loathe, abhor.” In the present instance the rendering might easily be taken as an anti-climax.—A.].—And holds him dear as a father his son. For the general idea that God’s corrections are essentially nothing but revelations of His educating love and fatherly faithfulness, comp. in the Old Testament especially Deuteronomy 8:5; Psalms 118:18; Lamentations 3:33 sq.

Proverbs 3:13-18. Enthusiastic praise of true wisdom, which is one with the fear of God.—Blessed is the man that hath found wisdom. The perfect מָצָא, who hath found, expresses the idea of permanent possession; the parallel imperfect יָפיק (from פּוּק, procedere; therefore, to bring forth, to bring to view, to bring to pass, comp. Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 18:22) denotes a continually renewed and repeated attaining. The ἐκβάλλειν (“bring forth”) used of the scribe “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 13:52, cannot be compared directly with our expression, since הֵפִיק) clearly contains an idea synonymous and not one contrasted with מָצָא.—Better is her accumulation than the accumulation of silver. סַחְרָהּ does not, like the corresponding term פְרִי in the parallel passage, Proverbs 8:19, denote what wisdom, brings by way of gain, but the very act of gaining and acquiring (ἐμπορεύεσθαι, LXX). So with תְּבוּאָתָהּ, that which comes with and in herself, the gain which exists in herself. [The “merchandise” of the E. V. is unfortunately obscure and misleading].—Than the finest gold. חָרּוּץ signifies, according to most of the old interpreters, the finest and purest gold (Vulg.: aurum primum). The etymology leads, in the unmistakable identity of the root חרץ with that of the Greek χρυσός, at first only to the idea of clear or bright shining, gleaming or glittering (coruscare). Gold is therefore, on the ground of its brilliancy, named in the climax as a more precious possession than silver, to which in Proverbs 3:15 the “pearls” (instead of the K’thibh פְּנִיִּים we shall be constrained to give an unqualified preference to the K’ri פְּנִינִים, comp. Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 20:15; Proverbs 31:10, etc.) supply the culmination in the series, and the generalizing term “all thy jewels” includes the three specified items with all similar articles of value. Comp. Proverbs 8:2; Job 28:18, where our verse recurs almost literally. In the latter passage (Job 28:15-19) besides silver, gold and pearls, various other gems, e.g., onyx, sapphire, coral, amber, topaz, etc., are mentioned as falling far below the value of wisdom. In the LXX there appear both in Proverbs 3:15 and in 16 amplifying additions, in respect to which Hitzig, while not regarding as original the double clause interpolated in Proverbs 3:15 between the two members: οὐκ�. Εύ̓γνωστός ἐστιν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐγγίζουσιν αὐτῇ [no evil thing competes with her. She is well known to all those that approach her], yet considers it as resting upon an interpolation that had already made its way into the Hebrew text. The supplement added to Proverbs 3:16 : ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτῆς ἐκπορεύεται δικαιοσύνη, νόμον δέ καὶ έ̓λεον ἐπὶ γλώσσης φορεῖ [from her mouth proceedeth righteousness, law and mercy doth she bear upon her tongue] Heidenheim regards as the gloss of an Alexandrian Jew, who designed with it to oppose certain Pharisaic interpretations (?).—Long life is in her right hand, etc. Wisdom here appears personified, endowed with a human body and members,—and in Proverbs 3:16 at first in a general way, in Proverbs 3:17 so that she is represented as walking, in Proverbs 3:18 so that she appears standing like a tree, that dispenses shade and precious fruits. בִּימִינָהּ and בְּשְׂמֹאולָהּ in Proverbs 3:16 are at any rate not to be translated “at her right hand,” and “at her left hand” (so Luther and many old interpreters, conforming to Ps. 14:8; Psalms 45:9; Psalms 110:5), but “in her right and left hand,” in accordance with Psalms 16:11; Isaiah 44:20, where the preposition בְּ expresses the same idea.—“Long life,” literally, “length of days,” as above, in Proverbs 3:2, from which passage the LXX has here repeated also the phrase “καὶ ἐτη ζωῆς.”—Riches and honor, as in Proverbs 8:18; Proverbs 22:4. “The blessings which wisdom offers are appropriately distributed between the hands, according to their essential difference. The right hand is regarded as the nearer; and that one live is the foundation for his becoming rich and honored, as health is a condition preliminary to the enjoyment of prosperity. Compare accordingly the arrangement in 1 Kings 3:11-14” (Hitzig). [An over fanciful elaboration of the simple idea of the passage.—A.].—All her paths are (paths of) peace. שָׁלוֹם can be regarded as a genitive, in which case the construction is the same as in Psalms 45:6 (according to the interpretation which is probably correct), Psalms 30:7; Leviticus 6:3, etc.; comp. Gesenius, Gramm. § 121, 6; Naegelsbach, § 64, g.;—or as a nominative, “her paths are peace,” i.e., peaceable, peaceful, instead of strife and alarm offering pure peace and joy (so nearly all recent commentators, with the exception of Umbreit and Elster, who seem with good reason to prefer the former view). A tree of life wisdom is called in Proverbs 3:18, as in Proverbs 11:30 the “fruit of the righteous” is described by the same figurative expression, in Proverbs 13:12 the fulfilment of an ardent desire, and finally, Proverbs 15:4, “temperateness of the tongue.” The expression doubtless contains an allusion to the tree of life mentioned by Moses in Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22, although there the definite article stands before חַיִּים, because it was intended to designate the particular tree bearing this name in Paradise. The עֵץ הֵחַיִּים of Genesis and the עֵץ חַיִּים of Proverbs are therefore related to each other as the familiar ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ� of the Gospels to the υἰὸς� without the article in John 5:27. Elster, without reason, attempts to deny altogether the reference to Genesis 2:9, and to make the expression parallel with other figurative representations, like “fountain of life,” etc. In his observation that the figure of the tree in this passage is based upon the previous personification of wisdom, and that Sol. Song of Solomon 7:9 is therefore to be compared, Hitzig is certainly right (comp. also passages like Isaiah 61:3; Jeremiah 17:8; Psalms 1:3; Psalms 92:12). We must, however, regard as less pertinent the other proposition of the same commentator, according to which the tree of life in our passage corresponds not only with the tree of the same name in Paradise, but at the same time also with the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3:3), and so exhibits the identity of the two trees of Paradise. For as a thoroughly practical demeanor, consisting in the fear of God and obedience (see Proverbs 1:7) the true wisdom of the Book of Proverbs unquestionably presents as complete a contrast to all assuming and “devilish” wisdom from beneath (James 3:15) as the tree of life in Paradise to that of knowledge.—And he who holds her fast is blessed. See critical notes. See also below. notes on Proverbs 15:22.

3. Description of the wisdom of God that created the world, as the mighty protector of him that fears God: Proverbs 3:19-26.—Jehovah hath with wisdom founded the earth, etc.. A connection undoubtedly exists between this allusion to the divine archetype of all human wisdom and what has been before said, so far forth as the paradisiacal tree of life of primitive time seems to have called to the mind of the author the creation of the world, and therefore afforded him occasion for the brief delineation of the creative wisdom of God that lies before us, of which the passage, Proverbs 8:22 sq., is only a fuller development (comp. also Job 28:12 sq.; Sir 24:2 sq.). Yet if the connection were really as close as it is commonly regarded (e.g., by Bertheau, who finds in Proverbs 3:19-20 the conclusion of the series of thoughts beginning in Proverbs 3:11; by Elster, who discerns here “in a certain sense a metaphysical confirmation of the foregoing;” and in general also by Hitzig, etc.), the demonstrative conjunction. כִּי (for) would unquestionably stand at the beginning of the 19th verse; this, however, is wanting both in the original text and in the older versions, and was first introduced by Luther. Therefore as the words stand, with an emphatic prefixing of the subject “Jehovah” (as at the commencement of many Psalms, e.g., Psalms 27:0; Psalms 97:0; Psalms 99:0, etc.), they are evidently designed not so much to serve as a continuation of representations already begun, as for the introduction of ideas essentially new,—and these new thoughts, are the promises contained in Proverbs 3:21-26, of the divine protection and blessing, of which the wise man, i.e., he who acts and walks in accordance with this divine wisdom, will infallibly have the full enjoyment. Furthermore, comp., with reference to the idea of the conformity of the practical, ethical wisdom of man with the absolute creative wisdom of God, the “Doctrinal and Ethical” notes.—With wisdom. בְּחָכְמָה, literally “through” wisdom, i.e., not merely with the manifestation of wisdom as an attribute of His, but by means of the personal, essential wisdom, as an independent, creative power indwelling in Him from eternity, comp. Proverbs 8:22 sq. In the same hypostatic sense, therefore, are also the interchangeable ideas of “understanding” תְּבוּנָה Proverbs 3:19 l.c., and “knowledge” דַּעַת in Proverbs 3:20, to be understood. [With this view of the author Bertheau agrees, so Trapp and some others of the old English expositors: Scott, Holden suggest it as possible; while Stuart, Muenscher and others, judging more correctly, we think, find here none of those personal attributes which are so conspicuous in chap. 8 and there so clearly shape the interpretation.—A.]. On Proverbs 3:19 comp. in addition Jeremiah 10:12, and on Proverbs 3:20, Genesis 1:6 sq.; Proverbs 2:6.—Did the seas divide. The perf. נִבְקָעוּ, “they have divided,” refers to the primary creative act of the division once for all of the masses of water above and beneath the firmament, Genesis 1:6 sq., while the imperf., יִרְעֲפוּ, relates to the constantly repeated and still continued emptying of the clouds in rain, as a consequence of that sundering of the waters which belongs to the history of creation. [The E. V. loses this distinction and refers both to the present, “are”].

Proverbs 3:21-22. My son, never suffer to depart from thine eyes, etc. עַל יָלזֻוּ (for which, perhaps, in conformity with Proverbs 4:21 we ought to read יַלִּזוּ) signifies literally, “there must not escape, slip aside” (from לוּז) deflexit, a via declinavit). As subjects for the plural verb we usually find supplied from the preceding, especially from Proverbs 3:1 sq., the idea “my doctrines, my commands,” [as in the E. V. and the commentaries of Stuart, Muenscher and others]. But this is plainly quite too far-fetched. It is simpler, with Umbreit, Hitzig, etc., to conceive of the following hemistich, “thoughtfulness and circumspection,” as at the same time subjects of the verb in the first, and to explain their omission in the former clause to which they should properly have been attached, on the ground of the peculiar vivacity of the representation. This liveliness of expression can in some measure be preserved in our version by a “rather” after the verb of the second clause.—Maintain thoughtfulness and circumspection. The more uncommon תֻּשִׁיָה (comp. above Proverbs 2:7) stands here instead of חָכְמָה (wisdom) Proverbs 3:19, and also the less frequent מְזִמָּה instead of תְּכוּנָה which occurs there, in order to suggest the difference between the absolute wisdom and insight of God and the corresponding attributes of man. The LXX instead of the present order appear to have found the reverse, as they translate βουλὴν καὶ ἔννοιαν. Comp. Heidenheim (as above cited).—So will they be life to thy soul, etc. In reply to Hitzig’s disparagement of the genuineness of Proverbs 3:22-26, see remarks above, at the commencement of the exegesis. With respect to the thought of Proverbs 3:22 f. c., comp. above Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:16; Proverbs 3:18; also. Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 8:35, etc. For last clause comp. Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 3:3.

Proverbs 3:23. Then wilt thou go thy way in safety. לָבֶטַח, in security, free from care, full of trust and good confidence, as below in Proverbs 3:29. [“Thou shalt ever go under a double guard, the ‘peace of God’ within thee (Philippians 4:7) and the ‘power of God’ without thee, (1 Peter 1:5).”—Trapp.—For illustrations drawn from travellers’ experience near Jerusalem, see Thomson’s Land and Book, I., 109.—A.]. The simple בֶּטַח is used in the same way in Proverbs 10:9. For Proverbs 3:23 l. c. compare Psalms 91:12, for the whole verse Proverbs 4:12.

Proverbs 3:24. When thou liest down. The imperf. תִּשְׁכַב in the first member probably designs to express the idea of “laying one’s self down to rest,” while the following perf. וְשָׁכַבְתָּ would designate the effect and consequence of this act, the reclining and sleeping. Thus most interpreters have correctly judged. Hitzig amends according to the LXX: אִם תֵּשֵׁב, if thou sittest, which is plainly needlessly arbitrary. For the thought comp. furthermore Proverbs 4:22; Deuteronomy 28:66.

Proverbs 3:25. Thou needest not fear from sudden alarm. אַל־תִּירָא literally fear thou not. Since however the אָז in Proverbs 3:23 still has its effect, the expression is not to be taken merely as an admonition, but at the same time as a description of the future condition (Ewald, Lehrbuch 310, a). [Bött. § 964, a, classes it with the “permissive negatives”].—Nor from the destruction of the wicked. שֹׁאַת רְשָׁעִים the old commentators unanimously regard as active; the onset of the wicked, the storm which they raise against the pious (procella quam impii excitant, Chr. B. Michaelis). So recently Hitzig, while nearly all other modern interpreters since Döderlein prefer the passive conception; the storm or destruction that will sweep away the wicked. A positive decision is probably not possible. Yet the parallel in Psalms 35:8, seems to favor the latter view [which is adopted also by Stuart and Muenscher]. With reference to the subject compare further, for clause a, Psalms 91:5; Proverbs 1:27; Proverbs 24:22; and for b, Job 5:21.

Proverbs 3:26. For Jehovah will be thy confidence: literally, will be in thy confidence, כֶּסֶל is here unquestionably trust, confidence, as in Job 8:14; Job 31:24; Psalms 78:7. The signification “loins, side,” which the Vulgate has given to the expression (“Dominus erit in latere tuo”) and, in imitation of this, e.g., Ziegler, Muentinghe, etc., agrees indeed with passages like Job 15:27; Leviticus 3:4; Leviticus 3:10; Leviticus 15:4, etc., but not with the one before us.—And keep thy foot from the snare. The substantive לֶכֶד, snare—for which more usually מוֹקֵשׁ or פַּח—occurs only here, is not, however, for that reason necessarily to be regarded, as Hitzig would have it, as a sign of a later phraseology.

4. Admonition to benevolence and justice: Proverbs 3:27-35. A connection of this exhortation with some more specific point in the foregoing (with Proverbs 3:21 or Proverbs 3:20, e.g., as Hitzig suggests, assuming Proverbs 3:22-26 to be spurious) need not be attempted, since the whole of this brief section definitely enough distinguishes itself from the longer series of proverbial discourses, as an independent and peculiar whole.—Refuse not good to him that deserves it: literally, “hold not good back from its master,” i.e., from him to whom it belongs [“either by the law of equity or of charity,” Trapp,—“whether upon their deserving or upon their need,” Bp. Hall], him who is at the same time deserving and needy (LXX εὖ ποιεῖν ἐνδεῆ).

Proverbs 3:28. And yet thou hast it: literally, and it is yet with thee on hand, there is yet a store [there is with thee]. The LXX adds to this admonition to ready giving and to quick relief (according to the principle: bis dat qui cito dat, “he gives twice who gives quickly”), the words appropriate in themselves, “οὐ γὰρ οἶδας τί τέξεται ἡ ἐπιοῦσα” (for thou knowest not what the morrow shall bring forth), which, however, occur in their original place in Proverbs 27:1.

Proverbs 3:29. Devise not evil. The verb חָרַשׁ here as in Proverbs 6:14; Proverbs 6:18; Proverbs 12:20; Proverbs 14:22, expresses the idea of contriving, and that as a development of the idea of “forging” (Eze. 21:36) and not that of “ploughing” (as Ewald, following some older interpreters, maintains).

Proverbs 3:30. Without cause, Heb. חִנָּם, LXX, μάτην, comp. δωρεάν in John 15:25. What is meant by this “contending without cause” is made more apparent in the 2d member. In regard to the ethical significance of this precept comp. “Doctrinal and Ethical” notes, No. 3.

Proverbs 3:31. Emulate not the man of violence. For this signification of אַל־תְּקַנֵּא, which is found as early as the Vulgate (ne æmuleris hominem injustum), the strongest support is the parallel thought in the 2d member; while unquestionably in passages like Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:3; Proverbs 24:1, the expression קִנֵּא בְּ denotes rather a “falling into a passion” about some one, a “being envious.” Yet comp. Proverbs 23:17, where the meaning plainly resembles that before us. [The difference among these expositors, we think, is more seeming than real. Thus Stuart renders, “Be not envious toward,” etc., and explains “do not anxiously covet the booty which men of violence acquire;” Muenscher renders, “Envy thou not the man,” etc., and explains, “Do not be offended by the success and prosperity,” etc., “so as to imitate,” etc.—A.]—And choose none of his ways. For תִּכְחַר the LXX [μηδὲ ζηλώσῃς) must have read תּתְחַר, a reading which Hitzig is disposed to accept as the original. But how easily could this change be introduced, following as a standard Psalms 38:1, or Proverbs 24:19, where no doubt תִּתְחַר stands as the only appropriate reading!

Proverbs 3:32-35 supply a ground in the first instance for the counsels contained in Proverbs 3:27-31, but further in general for those of the whole chapter: thus Proverbs 3:35 in particular, by its contrasting the comprehensive terms “fool” and “wise,” reveals a far reaching breadth and compass in its reference, like the similar expressions at the close of the 1James , 2 d chapters.—An abhorrence to Jehovah is the deceiver.—נָלוֹז, properly the “perverse,” he who is deceitfully crooked and secret (comp. Proverbs 2:15), and so is in direct contrast with the “upright” or straightforward. [תּוֹעֵבָה, which in the E. V. is always translated by “abomination,” or some cognate term, is often used in other sacred books of idolatry. In the twenty or more passages in the Book of Proverbs in which the word is found it has this signification in no single instance. “It would seem,” says Wordsworth, in loc, “as if, when Solomon wrote the Proverbs, he regarded idolatry as a thing impossible. He therefore left out idolatry as the Greek Legislator omitted parricide from his code—as a thing too monstrous to be contemplated. And yet Solomon himself afterwards fell into idolatry,” etc.—A.].—With the upright he maintains true friendship.—Literally, “with the upright is his secret compact” (סוֹדוֹ), his intimacy, his confidential intimacy. Comp. Job 29:4; Psalms 25:14.—Jehovah’s curse dwells in the house of the wicked.—Comp. the אָלָה, the cursing which, according to Zechariah 5:4, will take possession of the house of the wicked, and destroy it (in accordance with Deuteronomy 28:17 sq.); and for the term מְאֵרָה, Malachi 2:2 (and Köhler on both passages).

Proverbs 3:34. If he scorneth the scorners.—To this hypothetical protasis the apodosis is not found in Proverbs 3:35, as Bertheau [and Stuart] hold, but immediately after, in the second clause of Proverbs 3:34. As in Job 8:20; Lamentations 3:32, there is an argumentum a contrario. Comp. our mode of constructing propositions, with “while on the one hand—so on the other.” For the sentiment of the 1st member, comp. Psalms 18:26; for that of the whole verse the passages in the N. T. which cite freely from the LXX, 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6, and also above, Proverbs 1:26 sq.

Proverbs 3:35. Shame sweeps fools away.—מֵרִים קָלוֹן literally “shame lifts up,” i.e., in order to sweep away and destroy them: Comp. Ezekiel 21:31; Isaiah 57:14, and the corresponding use of נָשָׂא, tollere= auferre; Isaiah 41:16; Job 27:21. The expression קָלוֹן, ignominia, properly levitas (lightness), at once reminds us directly of the familiar figure of chaff whirled away by the wind (Psalms 1:4; Isaiah 17:3; Isaiah 29:5, etc.). Therefore we need not take מֵרִים as the predicate of כְּסִילִים (fools) and translate it by suscipiunt in the sense of “gather up,” “carry away,” as Hitzig does, following: the 70, Targ., Vatabl., and Rosenmueller [so Noyes, Muenscher, Wordsw., while De Wette, Stuart, etc., agree with cur author—A.]; although the distributive use of the participle in the singular instead of the plural, would have a. sufficient parallel in the passage already explained, Proverbs 3:18 b.


1. “Wisdom is life and gives life.” This proposition, which finds its most pregnant utterance in Proverbs 3:18, and is formulated as a sort of Epitome of the whole chapter, is especially in the first admonitory discourse (Proverbs 3:1-18) expressed in manifold ways and exhibited in its bearing upon the most diverse relations, those of the present life first. Above all it is long life, to which walking in true wisdom aids (Proverbs 3:3-16), and this for this reason,—because such a course is the indispensable condition of physical as well as spiritual health,—or because, as Proverbs 3:8 expresses it, “the wise findeth health for his body and refreshing for his frame.” He who is truly wise aims infallibly at the needful temperance, and a prudent self-restraint in his physical and mental regimen, and thereby promotes health, his inward and outward well-being in the highest possible degree. He contributes by his obedient subjection to the Divine grace, to the emancipation of his noblest spiritual powers and capacities,—secures these as well as the functions of his bodily organization against morbid excitement or torpidity, and so develops generally his entire personal life, body, mind and spirit, to its normal harmony, and the most vigorous manifestation possible of its diverse and cardinal activities. He who has in this way become inwardly free through the fear of God and real wisdom in life, attains necessarily also to the confirmation of this his godlike freedom and vital power in connection with the phenomena of the outward natural life, as surely as the laws of the economy of nature are the same as those of the ethical sphere in the kingdom of God. He who is inwardly free becomes also naturally free. To him who has attained true mastery over himself there is soon restored dominion over the outward creation,—that heritage of the true children of God from Paradise,—at least in its essentials. And so outward prosperity is added in his experience to inward peace; God “smooths his paths” (Proverbs 3:6); fills his garners and cellars with abundance (Proverbs 3:10), makes him great through riches and honor (Proverbs 3:16), and guides him during this whole life in ways of delight, peace, and prosperity (Proverbs 3:17; comp. Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:18). A thing, however, that rises far above all these external blessings, above gold, silver and all the treasures of the earth (see Proverbs 3:14-15), is the grace and favor which the wise man finds not only with men, but much more with God (Proverbs 3:4). This favor of God and of men,i.e., not of all indiscriminately, but first and pre-eminently of the wise and devout, such as agree with God’s judgment, is evidently in the view of the poet the highest and most precious of the multiform blessings of wisdom which he enumerates. What, however, is this “favor with God and men,” the inseparable attendant and consequence of genuine wisdom (1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 2:52), what is this but the being a true child of God, the belonging to the fellowship of God and His people, the co-citizenship in the kingdom of truth and of blessedness?—We stand here manifestly at the point at which the eudæmonism of the author, in itself comparatively external and inclining to that which is partial and sensuous, joins hands with the true doctrine of Christianity,—where, therefore, the Old Testament doctrine of retributions predominantly earthly begins to be transformed into the super-sensual or spiritual realistic doctrine of the New Testament (Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 19:28-30). For if to be a child of God and to stand in relations of grace appears as the chief value and most precious reward of wisdom, the goal of prosperity at which the lovers of this wisdom aim is far more a heavenly than an earthly one; and fellowship with God, obedient, loving dependence on Him, is then not merely the end, but at the same time the principle and motive for all the thought, effort and action of the wise. As a way to the attainment of this end no other whatsoever can come under consideration but that opened and pointed out by God himself—that is, the way of faith in the revelation of His grace. Believing self-devotion to the salvation which God bestows, which in the Old Testament is still essentially placed in the future, but in Christ as the Mediator of the New Testament, has become real and present, is there as well as here the condition of the attainment of wisdom, of progressive growth and strength in its possession, and finally of the enjoyment of the blessed reward. That our poet also walks in this path, that he is a representative of the “fides Veteris Testamenti,” that he belongs to that host of witnesses, exemplars of faith under the Old Testament, which is brought before us in Hebrews 9:0; this is incontrovertibly established by the way in which he speaks of the conditions of attaining to the blessed reward of wisdom, or of the practical demeanor of the wise man in its details. There we hear nothing of outward works of the law, of meritorious services, of the fulfilling of God’s will with one’s own strength or reason; but “trust in the Lord with all thine heart” is enjoined in emphatic contrast with “leaning upon one’s own prudence” (Proverbs 3:5); the being “wise in one’s own eyes” is put in significant contrast with the fear of God and the avoiding of all evil (Proverbs 3:7); yes, willing submission to God’s salutary correction, humble and grateful subjection even to the strict disciplinary regulations which His fatherly love finds it good to employ; this constitutes the substance of the dispositions and modes of action which are here prescribed (Proverbs 3:11-12; comp. Hebrews 12:5 sq.). With good reason did Melanchthon direct attention to the genuinely evangelical, and even profoundly Christian character of this admonition to the patient endurance of sufferings as wholesome disciplinary ordinances of God. He remarks on Proverbs 3:11-12 : “Here the whole doctrine of the cross is to be brought into view, and the distinction considered between Philosophy and the Gospel. Philosophy and human reason judge otherwise of the causes of death and of human calamities than does the voice of the Gospel.…. Christian and philosophic patience must also be distinguished.” And further, on Proverbs 3:13 sq.: “These praises of wisdom are rightly understood of revealed wisdom, i.e., of the word of God manifested in the Church, of the Decalogue and the Gospel. Nor yet is it strange that antiquity applied these praises to the person who is the Son of God, who is the revealer of the word resounding in the Church, and is efficient by this word, and in it shows forth what God is, and what is His will.” How far, furthermore, the point of view of our teacher of wisdom is removed from all possible Antinomian disparagements of positive moral requirements, how clearly, on the other hand, the wisdom that he teaches appears to be regulated by both factors of Divine revelation, law and gospel, shows itself from the emphatic prominence given to “love and truth” (חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת Proverbs 3:3; comp. the previous analysis of these two ideas on p. 61) as the chief manifestations of a spirit that fears God, and of a scrupulously dutiful course in intercourse with one’s neighbor. Love is, therefore, according to him, also, the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14), and indeed to such a degree that, according to his conception, the compliance with special prescriptions of the positive external ceremonial law, e.g., the ordinances which relate to the bringing of the offerings of first fruits (see above on Proverbs 3:9), must be to it an easy thing. With the proposition of Bruch, that our author found himself in a sort of free-thinking opposition to the positive prescriptions of the Mosaic ceremonial law (comp. Introd., § 15, note), this admonition to a conscientious devotion of the first fruits to Jehovah, plainly cannot be reconciled.

2. As wisdom alone ensures true joy in life and abiding prosperity, it also shows itself man’s most reliable protection (Proverbs 3:19-26), his defender and guardian in all the inward temptations as well as the outward dangers of this earthly life. And this essentially for this reason, because it consists in trusting devotion to the eternal and absolute wisdom of God, which most richly and gloriously manifests its exhaustless power, and its compassionate love and faithfulness, as formerly in the creation of the world, now also in its preservation and government. For he who loves wisdom is also loved by her.; and he who by walking in faith, love, and the fear of God, confesses himself here below a friend of the Divine word,—in his behalf does the eternal Word make confession above before the throne of the Heavenly Father.—For further remarks upon the relation to the Logos or the Son of God, of the Divine wisdom, which is here in Proverbs 3:19-20, for the first time, hypostatically presented in its quality as the power that created the world, see below on Proverbs 8:22 sq. (Doctrinal and Ethical comments). [As will be seen from the Exegetical notes on Proverbs 3:19, the best modern exegesis is not unanimous in applying this passage, like chap. 8, to the hypostatic wisdom. Our author’s remarks, therefore, however just in themselves, may be regarded as here out of place, so far forth as they involve the personality of wisdom—A.]

3. The conditions for the attainment of true wisdom and its blessing, which are again emphasized in the concluding verses (27–35), are comprehended in the single requirement of love to one’s neighbor as the fulfilling of the Divine law. As special manifestations of this love of our neighbor, we have made prominent, charitableness and constant readiness to give (27, 28), sincerity and an unfeigned frankness of disposition (29), peaceableness and placability (30), gentleness and abstinence from all violence (31), straightforward, honorable and upright deportment in one’s general transactions (32, 33), humility and the avoidance of all arrogant, frivolous and scornful demeanor (34).—These admonitions do not rise to the full moral elevation of the New Testament’s requisitions of love. Thus there is noticeably wanting here the demand of love to enemies, although not in Proverbs 25:21, and instead of this there is, it is true, no hatred of one’s enemy recommended (as in the casuistic ethics of the later Pharisaic Judaism, according to Matthew 5:43), but yet a restriction of all dispute and controversy to one’s relations with an actual offender; see Proverbs 3:30. The specification of duties to one’s neighbor that is here presented is therefore related to one truly Christian, very much as the moral precepts which, according to Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist gave to the multitude that followed him, if compared with that fulfilment of the law presented by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as the standard for the conduct of the children of God under the New Testament (Matthew 5:20-48). Let us observe also the fact, which is certainly not accidental, that all the moral precepts in our passage are given in the form of negative imperatives or warnings, while, e.g., in the Sermon on the Mount, in the concluding and admonitory chapters of Paul’s Epistles, and in general in most of the counsels of the New Testament, the positively admonitory and preceptive tone has a decided preponderance over the prohibitory.


Homily on the entire chapter, starting with the central thought in Proverbs 3:18 : True wisdom as a tree of life,—considered 1) in the precious fruits which it bestows upon us (1–18);—2) in the solid ground in which it is rooted (19–26);—3) in the cultivation which we must bestow upon it by a loving and faithful integrity (27–35).—Comp. M. Geier’s analysis of the chapter, which, treating the four introductory verses as an exordium for the whole, finds prescribed in it three main classes of duties: 1) to God (5–26);—2) to our neighbor (27–30);—3) to ourselves (31–35).—So Starke: Solomon’s exhortation to the manifestation of that piety which flows from true wisdom, viz.: 1) of piety in itself (1–12);—2) of wisdom as its celestial source (13–26);—3) of love to our neighbors as its chief earthly fruit and result (27–35).

Proverbs 3:1-12. Melanchthon (on Proverbs 3:5-12, after treating the first four verses as an Introduction): Three precepts of divine Wisdom 1) Trust in God and fear of God (5–8);—2) the support of the ministry of the word by offerings and gifts (9,10);—3) patience under crosses and sufferings (11, 12, comp. above, p. 65).—Geier (on 5–18): Six cardinal duties to God: 1) confidence,—2) reverence,—3) humility,—4) honor,—5) patience,—6) zeal for wisdom.—Starke: An exhortation to true piety; and 1) a preliminary encouragement to attention (1–4);—2) the direct admonition to the manifestation of true piety, a) in confidence in God (5),—b) in a living knowledge of God (6),—c) in the fear of the Lord with a renouncing of one’s own wisdom (7, 8),—d) in the right payment of all gifts that are due (9, 10),—e) in the patient bearing of the cross (11, 12).—Calwer Handb.: The multiform blessings of a multiform wisdom; Proverbs 3:1-2 : long life, prosperity and peace;—3, Proverbs 4:0 : favor with God and men;—5, Proverbs 6 : a right guidance;—7, Proverbs 8:0 : even physical well-being;—9, Proverbs 10:0 : full garners and presses;—11, Proverbs 12:0 : grace from God also in trials and sufferings.

On Proverbs 3:1-4. Egard: See to it that on the tablet of thine heart nothing be found but the word of God and Jesus Christ. According to what is written on the tablet of thine heart, (2 Corinthians 3:3) will endless pain or eternal joy await thee, Matthew 10:32-33.—On Proverbs 3:5-8. Hasius: It is a characteristic of true wisdom that one regards himself as simple; men who are wise in their own eyes are far removed from true wisdom.—Zeltner: Where true fear of God exists, there is also true humility of soul, and renunciation of self. Sir 1:17-18, etc.—[Proverbs 3:5. Trapp: They trust not God at all that do it not alone.—Arnot: Trust is natural to the creature, though trust in the Lord be against the grain to the guilty. God complains as much of a divided allegiance as of none. In cleaving to Christ the effort to reserve a little spoils all. The command to “trust” is encouraging as well as reproving. The genuine spirit of adoption may be best observed in little things.—R. M. M ‘Cheyne: Every enlightened believer trusts in a divine power enlightening the understanding; he therefore follows the dictates of the understanding more religiously than any other man.

Proverbs 3:8. Arnot: He who makes holiness happy in heaven, makes holiness healthful on earth.]—On Proverbs 3:9-10. Starke: We should above all things seek the kingdom of God, and share our means with those who labor in the word, and the extension of God’s kingdom; but not hold our goods for gain in order so to avoid God’s service. It is unbelief if one accounts that lost which he voluntarily devotes to churches and schools, and to the maintenance of the ministry of the word. Matthew 10:42; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:6, etc.—Zeltner: Thankfulness opens the fountain of the divine blessing, unthankfulness closes it.—Stöcker: Liberality toward the clerical office, considered 1) in and by itself,—2) according to the manner of its exercise,—3) in its reward.—[W. Bates: Charity is a productive grace, that enriches the giver more than the receiver. The Lord signs Himself our debtor for what is laid out for Him, and He will pay it with interest].—On Proverbs 3:11-12. Egard: God’s strokes are better than Satan’s kiss and love; God smites for life, Satan caresses for death.—J. Lange: The kingdom of God in this world is a kingdom of the cross; but all suffering tends evermore to the testing and confirmation of faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7.—Berleb. Bible: God’s chastenings and corrections are no signs of anger, but of love; they are the pains which our healing and cure demand. Those who lie under the cross are often more acceptable to God, than those who taste and experience His dainties. He finds pleasure in our crosses and sufferings for this reason, because these are His remembrance and renewal of the sufferings of His Son. His honor is also involved in such a perpetuation of the cross in His members (Ephesians 3:13; Colossians 1:24, etc.) and it is this that causes Him this peculiar joy!

[Proverbs 3:11-12. Arnot: Let your heart flow down under trouble, for this is human; let it rise up also to God, for this is divine.—Trapp: He that escapes affliction may well suspect his adoption. God’s house of correction is His school of instruction.]

Proverbs 3:13-18. Egard: Silver, gold and pearls, serve and adorn the body only, wisdom, however, serves and adorns mainly the soul. As much as the soul is nobler than the body, so much is wisdom also nobler than all treasures. Beware lest thou with the children of this world look with delight upon the forbidden tree, and with them eat death from it. Beware lest thou choose folly instead of wisdom!—Stöcker: Whosoever desires to regain what our first parents squandered and lost by the fall, namely, eternal life—let him hold fast upon heavenly wisdom—i.e., God’s revealed word. This is a tree of life to all those who in true faith lay hold upon it.—Berleb. Bible: Solomon here testifies that wisdom even in Paradise nourished and supported men, and that the same is for this reason also in the restoration (the restitution of all things by Christ, Acts 3:21) ordained for their spiritual maintenance. In this originates that most blessed condition of the new man, who gradually becomes again like and equal to the man of Paradise.—Wohlfarth: The tree of life of which we are to eat day by day is faith, love, hope. Faith is its trunk, hope its flowers, love its fruit.

[Proverbs 3:16-17. Arnot:—If the law were according to a simple calculation in arithmetic, “the holiest liver, the longest liver,” and conversely, “the more wicked the life the earlier its close;” if this, unmixed, unmodified, were the law, the moral government of God would be greatly impeded, if not altogether subverted. He will have men to choose goodness for His sake and its own; therefore a slight veil is cast over its present profitableness.—South (Proverbs 3:17): The excellency of the pleasure found in wisdom’s ways appears 1) in that it is the pleasure of the mind;—2) that it never satiates nor wearies;—3) that it is in nobody’s power, but only in his that has it.]

Proverbs 3:19-26. Stöcker:—Inasmuch as wisdom is so grand a thing that all was made and is still preserved by it, we are thence to infer that we also can be by it preserved for blessedness. We should hold dear the heavenly wisdom revealed to us in the word, and earnestly crave it, should learn to keep our eye upon God Himself, should entreat Him for all that we need, depend upon His omnipotence and faithful care, despond under no adversities, etc., etc.—[Bridges: (Proverbs 3:23) Habitual eyeing of the word keeps the feet in a slippery path].—Starke: He who orders his ways to please the Lord, can in turn depend upon His gracious oversight and protection.—Our unrest and fear spring mainly from an evil conscience; divine wisdom however keeps the conscience from heavy sins, and stays the heart on God.—Von Gerlach: The wisdom which God imparts to the man who hearkens for His voice is no other than that by which He founded the earth; the holy order, which forms, keeps, supports, holds together, develops into life, advances all. As now all that God has made is very good, each thing according to the law of the divine order that dwells in it, so in and for man all becomes good that conforms to this order.—Wohlfarth (on Proverbs 3:21-26): The holy rest of the pious. Little as the heart’s innocence, this fairest fruit of wisdom, can preserve and wholly free us from the sufferings which God suspends over us for our refining, so surely however does it turn away the worst and saddest consequences of sin, and ensures even amidst the storms of this life a rest that nothing can disturb.—[Proverbs 3:26. Arnot: It is the peace of God in the heart that has power to keep the feet out of evil in the path of life.]

Proverbs 3:27-35. Stöcker: The virtues of beneficence and patience are here developed after the method of the second table of the ten commandments; it is therefore taught how the believing Christian is in his relations to his neighbor to exercise himself in true charity, steadfast patience and forbearance.—Cramer (in Starke): When God richly bestows upon us spiritual treasures, ought it to be a great matter, if we to honor Him give alms from our temporal goods?—(On Proverbs 3:32 sq.); If an ungodly man rises in prosperity, look not upon his prosperity, but upon his end; that can easily deter you from imitating him.—Wohlfarth (on Proverbs 3:27-28): Thankfulness toward God requires beneficence toward one’s brethren.—Von Gerlach: Divine wisdom teaches the true communism,—makes all things common. According to true love earthly goods belong to “their lord” (Proverbs 3:27) i.e, to him who needs them.—[Proverbs 3:27. Arnot: The poor have not a right which they can plead and enforce at a human tribunal. The acknowledgment of such a right would tend to anarchy. The poor are placed in the power of the rich, and the rich are under law to God.

Proverbs 3:33. Arnot: In addition to the weight of divine authority upon the conscience, all the force of nature’s instincts is applied to drive it home.

Proverbs 3:34. Trapp: Humility is both a grace and a vessel to receive grace.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-3.html. 1857-84.
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