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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ proverbs-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 2:1-5
HUMAN UNDERSTANDING AND DIVINE KNOWLEDGE
I. Divine knowledge is within the reach of the human understanding. When a physician has created an appetite in his patient, he sees that he is provided with food that will satisfy his hunger. As God has given the eye, so He has given light to meet its needs. God has created man with a need, and with capabilities of knowing Him, and has therefore placed such knowledge within his reach. “The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, etc.” (Romans 10:8).
II. The conditions of its attainment.
1. Attention. In all departments of knowledge we must begin by doing the easiest thing. The first thing we have to do is to listen to what the teacher has to say. Everybody can do that. This is the first thing to be done in order to attain a knowledge of God. We can listen to His message. We can “receive” His words, “incline our ear.” “Faith cometh by hearing.”
2. Retention. The simple attention of the soul is not the reclaiming power. The hearing will not bless us if we do not hold the truth in our memory. “And some seed fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up” (Matthew 13:4). But the ploughed earth receives the seed, and holds it, and hides it, and by retention comes seed to the sower and bread to the eater. We must not only “receive” but “hide” the words of God.
3. Reflection. This prevents forgetfulness; this is indispensable to retention. The rules of grammar, or of arithmetic, must not only be received into the memory, but meditated upon. We must “apply” our minds to them in order to understand them. The soul which receives and holds Divine truth must apply itself to the understanding of it.
4. Supplication. If the learner has not only the book, but the author of the book at hand, he can turn to him and ask him to unfold the meaning of the difficult passages, or to show him how to apply the rules. We have not only the Divine Word of God, but we have the Divine Spirit; not only the Book of Wisdom, but the Author of the Book, the source of wisdom. And He has promised to give wisdom for the asking. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him (James 1:5). There must be an asking in order to receive. “If thou criest after knowledge, etc.”
5. Perseverance. Those who find a few diamonds upon the surface of the ground do not then bring their labours to a conclusion. They dig down beneath, and toil on for months and years if the mine yields. They do not cease while they think there is more to be gained. The Divine wisdom is a mine which yields a little on the surface, but we must not stop there: we must dig down deep, we must continue to hear, to remember, to meditate, to cry for enlightenment,—we must ask, and seek, and knock, and never cease to “search” for the hidden and exhaustless treasures of wisdom.
III. The certainty of success if the conditions are fulfilled. Then shalt thou understand, etc. The mariner puts out to sea, and fulfils all the conditions known to him for reaching the country to which he is bound, but he may find a grave midway between his starting-point and his goal. The husbandman sows the seed, and fulfils all the conditions upon which a good harvest depends. But his crop may fail notwithstanding: he may not reap the golden grain. But no such disappointment ever befals the earnest seeker after the knowledge of God.
ILLLUSTRATION OF Proverbs 2:4
“There are frequent allusions to hid treasure in the Bible. Even in Job we read that the bitter in soul dig for death more earnestly than for hid treasure. There is not another comparison within the whole compass of human action so vivid as this. I have heard of diggers actually fainting when they have come even upon a single coin. They become positively frantic, dig all night with a desperate earnestness, and continue to work until utterly exhausted. There are, at this hour, hundreds of persons engaged in it all over the country. Not a few spend their last farthing upon these ruinous efforts.… It is not difficult to account for this hid treasure. The country has always been subject to revolutions, invasions, and calamities of different kinds.… Warriors and conquerors from every part of the world sweep over the land, carrying everything away that falls into their hand. Then, again, this country has ever been subject to earthquakes, which bury everything beneath her ruined cities.”—Thomson’s “Land and the Book.”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 2:1-2. The sinner is here told how he may become serious. In any conceivable path if thou wilt do that lowest conceivable thing—just listen; and, that thy listening may not be a mere passing flash, if thou wilt pause upon it, and attend. If a man just takes a chair and thinks for a moment of death and judgment and eternity, his heart begins to feel, and it will go on feeling to any length. It requires the Spirit, no doubt; but what is the Spirit but the Spirit of the God of Nature? He will come in the track of thought just as surely as a star is dragged after Him in the track of gravitation.—Miller.
The word of God is a vital seed, but it will not germinate unless it be hidden in a softened, receptive heart. It is here that Providence so often strikes in with effect as an instrument in the work of the Spirit. The place and use of providential visitations in the Divine administration of Christ’s kingdom is to break up the way of the word through the incrustations of worldliness and vanity that encase a human heart, and keep the word lying hard and dry upon the surface.—Arnot.
Angels, who are so much our superiors, apply themselves to the learning of it: they are already supplied with the stores of truth, and yet they desire to pry deeper into the mystery of it. Surely, then, the wisest of us ought to apply our whole hearts.—Lawson.
There are some who do hear, or rather, seem to hear. They profess to be all attention; but it is mere pretence—the mere result of politeness and courtesy to the speaker. This is worse than not hearing at all, inasmuch as it is the reality of neglect, with the guilt of hypocrisy added to it.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 2:2. Lie low at God’s feet and say,—“Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” His saints “sit down at His feet, every one to receive His word.”—Trapp.
Even as worldlings, when they hear of some good bargain, hearken very diligently; or as they who think that one speaketh of them put their ears near to him that speaketh.—Muffet.
Proverbs 2:3. Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under a heavenly pupilage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather give life and energy to it.—Bridges.
Knowledge is God’s gift, and must be sought at His hand, since He is the “Father of Lights,” and sells us “eye-salve” (Revelation 3:17).—Trapp.
It is not any longer a Nicodemus inclined towards Jesus, he cannot tell how, and silently stealing into His presence under cloud of night; it is the jailer of Philippi springing in and crying with a loud voice: “What must I do to be saved?”—Arnot.
Proverbs 2:4. The same image occurs in John 5:39 : “Search the Scriptures.” Not merely scrape the surface and get a few superficial scraps of knowledge, but dig deep, and far, and wide. The “treasures” are “hidden” by God, not in order to keep them back from us, but to stimulate our faith and patient perseverance in seeking for them.—Fausset.
Men never prayed that way and were not answered. Men seek money—
(2) as a matter of course;
(3) against all discomfitures;
(4) under all uncertainties.—Miller.
Will not the far-reaching plans, and heroic sacrifices, and long-enduring toil of Californian and Australian golddiggers rise up and condemn us who have tasted and known the grace of God? Their zeal is the standard by which the Lord stimulates us now, and will measure us yet. Two things are required in our search—the right direction and the sufficient impulse. The Scriptures point out the right way, the avarice of mankind marks the quantum of forcefulness, wherewith the seeker must press on.—Arnot.
(1) a loss or want of something. Else men seek not for it.
(2) A knowledge of this want or loss. Else men sit still.
(3) Some goodness indeed, or, in our own opinion, of the thing sought. Men are, or should be, content to lose what is evil.
(4) Some benefit to ourselves in it. Else few will seek it, though good in itself.
(5) An earnest desire to find it. Else men have no heart to seek it.
(6) A constant inquiry after it, wheresoever there is any hope to find it. Else we seek in vain. So in seeking wisdom—we must want it, and know that we want it, and see good in it, and that to ourselves, and seek it earnestly and constantly, if we would find it.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 2:5. That which impels men to the pursuit is also the prize which rewards them. If any distinction between God (Elohim, see “Critical Notes”) and the Lord (Jehovah) can be pressed here, it is that in the former the glory, in the latter the personality of the Divine nature is prominent.—Plumptre.
He understandeth the fear of the Lord, whose understanding feareth the Lord. The knowledge of God is found in all His creatures, but he findeth the knowledge of God who, being lost in his sins, is found by God in the acknowledgment of them … And as fear advanceth to the knowledge of God, so the knowledge of God bringeth us to the fear of Him.—Jermin.
This knowledge of God is the first lesson of heavenly wisdom. On the right apprehension of this lesson all the rest necessarily depends. Wrong views of God will vitiate every other department of your knowledge. Without right views of God you can have no right views of His law. Without right views of His law you can have no right views of sin, either in its guilt or in its amount. Without right views of sin you can have no right views of your own condition, and character, and prospects as sinners. Without right views of these you can have no right views of your need of a Saviour, or of the person, and righteousness, and atonement of that Saviour. Without right views of these you can have no right views of your obligations to Divine grace, etc.… The fear of the Lord, founded on the knowledge of Him, is something to the right understanding of which experience is indispensable. To a man who had never tasted anything sweet, you would attempt in vain to convey, by description, a right conception of the sensation of sweetness. And what is true of the sensations is true also of the emotions. To a creature that had never felt fear you would hardly convey, by description, an idea of its nature; and equally in vain would it be to make love intelligible to one that had never experienced that affection. It is thus to a depraved creature with regard to holy and spiritual affections. “The fear of the Lord”—a fear springing from love and proportioned to it—such a creature cannot understand but by being brought to experience it.—Wardlaw.
The knowledge of God regulates the fear and prevents it from sinking into terror, or degenerating into superstition, but guides it to express its power in checking and subduing every corrupt affection and animating the soul to every instance of obedience.—Lawson.
Proverbs 2:7. Sound wisdom. Miller translates this word “something stable.” It is used but twelve times in Scripture; in Job 5:12, it is translated “enterprise,” but the rendering given here would well fit the context there; and so in every other case. That walk uprightly, literally “the walkers of innocence.”
Proverbs 2:8. (Heb.) so as that “He may keep,” or protect the paths, etc., i.e. He manifests Himself as a shield that He may cause the upright to keep the paths of judgment (Fausset). 9 ver., Righteousness, etc., the same three words used in chap. Proverbs 1:3 (see Notes). Every or “the whole” path. 10 ver. When. Rather “if” or “because.” This verse is antecedent to the consequence expressed in Proverbs 2:11. Heart, “the seat of desire, the starting point for all personal self-determination” (Lange).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 2:6-11
GOD AS A GIVER AND MAN AS A RECEIVER
I. The fact stated—that God gives. The nature of the good is to give. God is the best of all beings, therefore He is the greatest giver.
1. The kindness of God is manifested in the character of His gifts.
2. The resources of God are revealed in the abundance of His gifts. The character and disposition of men are made known by what they give and by how they give. God’s gifts are “good and perfect,” and are given ungrudgingly (James 1:5-17). But men’s resources are not always equal to their desires to give. But God is rich, not only in mercy, but in power; He has given up to Himself in the gift of His Son, in whom dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and beyond whom the Father Himself cannot give.
II. Some of His gifts enumerated.
1. Wisdom. Sound wisdom. Real wisdom as opposed to that which is only a sham (see “Critical Notes”). The serpent—the devil—possesses cunning, but not real wisdom. Our first parents were led astray by believing a lie—the fruit of following the tempter’s guidance was unsoundness of body and soul. The results of this “wisdom of the serpent” proved its falsity. God gives the true wisdom. He gives men the truth. A knowledge of the truth about themselves, about Him (Proverbs 2:6), brings stability of character—leads men into the right way of life (Proverbs 2:9)—and thus tends to peace and blessedness of soul.
2. He gives protection by giving true wisdom. “He is a buckler,” etc. (Proverbs 2:7). When Abraham undertook to deliver Lot from the hands of his enemies, the skill with which he planned and carried out the attack (Genesis 14:14) showed his wisdom. After the victory God came to him and said, “Fear not, Abraham. I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). How had God just proved himself to be his shield? Not by sending a legion of angels to deliver him, but by giving him the wisdom by which he had defended himself. This is how He is a buckler to His children. He preserveth the way of His saints” (Proverbs 2:8) by giving them wisdom and grace to “understand” and keep “every good path” (Proverbs 2:9).
III. Man as a receiver of God’s gifts.
1. This wisdom and protection is only given to those who fulfil certain conditions. Wisdom is for the righteous, the buckler for them that walk uprightly, preservation for his saints. These terms must be regarded as relative, as we shall see presently; but the fact that God has “laid up” His “wisdom,” implies that it must be sought. God had laid up a store of wisdom for Joseph’s guidance-when Pharaoh summoned him from the prison, even as Joseph afterwards stored up corn for the needy people; but in both instances the gifts had to be sought for (Genesis 41:16). Daniel had wisdom laid up for him, but he had to ask for the wisdom kept in store for him (Daniel 2:18).
2. This best gift of God must be received into man’s best place. The knowledge which God gives must enter the heart, the affections—thus it will be pleasant to the soul (Proverbs 2:10). He who holds the rudder guides the vessel. There may be many important positions in a fortified city, but he who holds the highest place commands all the rest. Understanding the word heart here to mean the affections, the heart commands the man. The will, and even the conscience to an extent, are wheeled about by the affections. They are the rudder of the man; they are the key to the position in the town of Man-soul.
3. Man, by thus receiving God’s gifts, attains a relative perfection. The “understanding” of every good way implies a walking in them. Those who receive God’s wisdom “walk uprightly”—are “saints.” The man who has long followed any profession may be said to be a perfect master of his business, of his handicraft. This does not imply that he can go no further—can attain to nothing higher. The Apostle Paul speaks of an absolute and a relative perfection. He had attained to the last but not to the first (Philippians 3:12-15). To know what we ought to strive after and to choose the right way, is the relative perfection, which leads on to that which is absolute and entire.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 2:6. One may, indeed, by natural knowledge, very readily learn that God is a benevolent being; but how He becomes to a sinner the God of love, this can be learned only from the mouth of God in the Holy Scriptures.—Lange.
Proverbs 2:1-5 teach plainly that a man may get “light,” and that there are steps to it like money-getting; and yet hardly have the words left his lips before Solomon guards them: “Jehovah gives wisdom”—and guards them in a striking way, for he says: “For,” that is, the fact that it is the gift of God is the reason it can be proceeded so hopefully after by man.—Miller.
Solomon knew this by experience. The “for” gives the reason why he who is anxious to have wisdom should learn to know and worship God.—Fausset.
Every beam of reason in men is communicated from the wisdom of God (1 John 1:9). The simplest of the mechanical arts cannot be acquired unless men are taught of God. How, then, can we be expected to understand the mystery of the Divine will without light from the Father of lights.—Lawson.
Proverbs 2:7. We are ill keepers of our own goodness and wisdom: God, therefore, is pleased to lay it up for us,—and that it may be safe, Himself is the buckler and safeguard of it.… In this life, he that walketh, although he walk uprightly, and seeing evil, shuns it, yet may receive hurt behind, where backbiters too frequently make their assaults. Wherefore, as he walketh to God before him, so God walketh after him, and even there, where they cannot help themselves, He will be a buckler to His servants.… But learn also that the buckler shows that they who will live uprightly must strive and fight.—Jermin.
Heb., substance, reality (see “Critical Notes”): that which hath a true being in opposition to that which hath not.—Trapp.
He layeth up that which is essential for the righteous.—A. Clarke.
The righteousness of our conduct contributes to the enlightenment of our creed. The wholesome reaction of the moral on the intellectual is clearly intimated here, inasmuch as it is to the righteous that God imparteth wisdom.—Chalmers.
“He lays up” or “hides away.”
1. That the wicked may not find it.
2. That the righteous may have to dig to get it (the verb is the same as that from which “hid treasures” is derived in Proverbs 2:4).
3. That it may be safe from the evil one.—Miller.
He walks uprightly who lives with the fear of God as his principle, and the Word of God as his rule, and the glory of God as his end.—Wardlaw.
The most dreadful enemies of those who walk uprightly are those who endeavour to turn aside the way of their paths; but against these enemies God defends, for He keepeth the paths of wisdom and righteousness.—Lawson.
Proverbs 2:8. Well may they walk uprightly that are so strongly supported. God’s hand is ever under his; they cannot fall beneath it—Trapp.
“Paths of judgment” or “justice” are here, by the substitution of the abstract for the concrete expression, paths of the just, and therefore synonymous with “the way of His saints.”—Lange’s Commentary.
We have certain vicarious rights. One is, to come out all well at last. Another is, that all things shall work together for our good. Another is, that we shall grow up into Christ, increasing day by day. To realise each and all is required of God. The track this takes Him into for all is, as to each man, His path of judgment. Each such path He must walk in strictly. To do so, He must watch the saints.—Miller.
He is not the guardian of the broad way—the way of the world and of sin. That way Satan superintends, “the god of this world”—doing everything in his power, by all his various acts of enticement and intimidation, to keep his wretched subjects and victims from leaving it.—Wardlaw.
He preserveth the way of His saints both from being drawn out of that way, and from all evil while they walk in it.—Jackson.
If men will not keep their bounds, God will keep His. There is a right way for the saints to walk in.
1. Because else it were worse living in God’s kingdom than in any other kingdom. For all kingdoms have rules of safety and of living.
2. God would be in a worse condition than the meanest master of a family. He would have no certain service.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 2:9. Not as standing in speculation, but as a rule of life. Knowledge is either apprehensive only, or effective also. This differs from that as much as the light of the sun, wherein is the influence of an enlivening power, from the light of torches.—Trapp.
Not only does it enlarge our knowledge of God, but it brings us to a full understanding of every practical obligation.—Bridges.
1. That which is just and right.
2. That which is profitable.
3. That which is pleasing.
4. That which is full and complete (Genesis 15:15).… Men must grow from knowledge of some good duties to knowledge of others. They must go on till they know every good path.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 2:10. Another picture of the results of living unto the Lord. Not that only to which it leads a man, but that from which it saves him, must be brought into view. Here, as before, there is a gradation in the two clauses. It is one thing for wisdom to find entrance into the soul, another to be welcomed as a “pleasant guest.”—Plumptre.
Spiritual joy mortifies sin. His mouth hankers not after homely provision that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance. Pleasure there must be in the ways of God because therein men let out all their souls into God, the foundation of all good, hence they so infinitely distaste sin’s tasteless fooleries.—Trapp.
It was to open thus thy heart for wisdom that Christ’s heart was open upon the cross; it was to make an entrance for wisdom into thy heart that the spear entered into the heart of thy Saviour. And what though wisdom enter thy heart at a breach, a wound? It is this that must heal thee and make thee sound.—Jermin.
Here only has it any life or power. While it is only in the head it is dry, speculative, barren.… Before it was the object of our search; now, having found it, it is our pleasure.—Bridges.
It is pleasure that can compete with pleasure. It is joy and peace in believing that can overcome the pleasures of sin.… A human soul, by its very constitution, cannot be frightened into holiness. It is made for being won, and won it will be, by the drawing on this side or the drawing on that.—Arnot.
Proverbs 2:11. The man who has let knowledge come into his heart does but watch afterwards as he does in common walking: “discretion” or “reflection” will keep him straight.—Miller.
Men are subject to many dangers till they get Wisdom
1. Their reputation is in danger.
2. Their goods and estates are in danger.
3. Their body and life are in danger.
4. The soul is in danger of eternal misery. Therefore sin is called folly, and wicked men that go to hell are chronicled as fools all over this book.—Francis Taylor.
Though the heart of man by nature be a rebellious fort, so that wisdom at first must enter it by a kind of force, yet, being entered, it makes itself pleasant, and keeps and preserves the soul which kept her out.—Jermin.
Proverbs 2:12. Deliver, “snatch,” as a brand out of the fire. Evil man, rather “an evil way.”
Proverbs 2:13. “Level” paths.
Proverbs 2:16. Strange, “unknown,” “wanton” (see 1 Kings 11:1-8).
Proverbs 2:17. Guide, or “companion,” “confidant,” her lawful husband.
Proverbs 2:18. House, in the East means “interests;” a man’s whole blended well-being (Exodus 1:21).—Miller. (On Proverbs 2:16-18 see Note at the beginning of Chap. 7)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 2:12-20
THE CHARACTER OF THOSE FROM WHOM WISDOM PRESERVES
I. The evil man.
1. His speech is corrupt, Proverbs 2:12. The closed grave contains death and holds within it the seeds of pestilence, but while it remains unopened the corrupt influence remains enclosed in its narrow walls. But should it be opened, and its foulness allowed to fill the air, it begins to set in motion what will strike men down to its own level. The mouth of the wicked man while kept shut is a closed grave, his iniquity is shut up within himself, but when he speaks out the thoughts of his heart his mouth is as an open sepulchre, and he spreads around him moral disease and death.
2. He is a man of progressive iniquity. “He walks in the ways of darkness.” When a stone is set in motion, the momentum given to it, if no other law comes into operation to prevent it, will carry it to the lowest level in the direction in which it travels. The progress of wickedness is downhill, and walking in the ways of darkness implies a destination which in Scripture is called “outer darkness.”
3. He delights in his downward progress. Sorrow and joy are revealers of human hearts. The saint rejoices in whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report, and in his increase of power to do the same. That which rejoices him reveals his heart. The sinner that “rejoices to do evil and delights in the forwardness of the wicked,” brings to light the hidden things of darkness that are within him.
II. The wicked woman.
1. She is, pre-eminently, a covenant-breaker. The ribs of a vessel hold and keep together the whole structure, and enable it to keep its cargo safe. If the ribs give way, all goes to pieces, and the precious things which have been stored up within the ship are lost in the ocean. Human society is belted together—kept from going to pieces—by covenants. They are the ribs which keep together the State. The marriage covenant holds the first place. The woman whose character is here depicted has broken the bonds of this most sacred covenant—to which God was a witness (the covenant of an institution of His own ordination)—and has taken to the “strange” way of the devil. Well may she be called a strange woman. That a woman should be guilty of such a crime—should choose such a course of life, so opposed to all that is pure and womanly—is indeed a mystery.
2. She is a destroyer, not only of herself, but of others. When the river has broken through its proper boundaries there is a present and continual destruction, of which the bursting of its banks was only the beginning. This woman in the past broke the moral boundaries of her life, and is now not content to go to ruin herself, but tries to take others with her. To this end are her false and flattering words, of which we shall hear more in chapter Proverbs 5:3. She carries her victims beyond hope of recovery. There are no rules without exceptions. We know that there are those who have for a time been under the influence of such characters, and have returned to the paths of virtue and honour. But these are rare exceptions. In the main, it is, alas! true that “none that go unto her return again.” A vessel founders at sea, and we say that the crew is lost, although one survivor may have been rescued. We speak of an army being destroyed if one escapes to tell the tale. Where one who has taken hold on her paths struggles back to life and purity, thousands go down with her to death, bodily, social, and spiritual.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 2:12. To snatch (see “Critical Notes.”) “The way of evil.” The terms begin gently. It is only the gentle aspects that are dangerous at first. These are so fascinating that it requires us to be snatched to keep us out of the ways of darkness.—Miller.
Proverbs 2:13. Among the pests of men, none are such virulent pests of everything that is good as those that once made a profession of religion, but have left the way of uprightness. The stings of conscience which such persons experience, instead of reclaiming them, tend only to irritate their spirits, and inflame them into fierce enmity against religion.—Lawson.
Darkness, as thus set in contrast with uprightness, may be interpreted as descriptive both of the nature of the ways, and of their tendency and end. The man who walks in uprightness walks in light. His eye is “single.” There is “none occasion of stumbling in him.” He has but one principle; his “eyes look right on, his eyelids look straight before him.” He is not always looking this way and that, for devious paths that may suit a present purpose, but presses on ever in the same course; and thus all is light, all plain, all safe. “The ways of darkness” are the ways of concealment, evasion, cunning, tortuous policy and deceit. He who walks in them is ever groping; hiding himself among the subtleties of “fleshly wisdom”: and being ways of false principle and sin, they are ways of danger, and shame, and ruin.—Wardlaw.
There is a strictly causal and reciprocal relation between unrighteous deeds and moral darkness. The doing of evil produces darkness, and darkness produces the evil doing. Indulged lusts put out the eye-sight of the conscience; and under the darkened conscience the lusts revel unchecked.—Arnot.
The light stands in the way of their wicked ways as the angel did in Balaam’s way to his sin.—Trapp.
Proverbs 2:14. Though it be wormwood which they drink (Lamentations 3:15), yet being drunk with it, they perceive not the bitterness thereof, but like drunken men rejoice in their shame and misery.—Jermin.
Better is the sorrow of him that suffereth evil than the jollity of him that doeth evil, saith St. Augustine.—Trapp.
Here is a note of trial to discern our spiritual estate. Wicked men rejoice in sin; good men sorrow more for sin than for troubles.… Many triumph in their evil deeds because they have no good to boast of. And men are naturally proud and would boast of something.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 2:16. There is no viler object in nature than an adulteress. Though born and baptised in a Christian land, she is to be looked upon as a heathen woman and a stranger, and as self-made brutes are greater monsters than natural brute beasts, so baptised heathens are by far the worst of pagans.—Lawson.
This strange woman is an emblem of impenitence. The passage 16–19, means the seductiveness and yet the betraying wretchedness of impenitence. The woman who has left her husband has also left her God; and the nulla vestigia retrorsum witnessed in her dupes is the warning for the saint by which he keeps clear of her undoing. No man would err who would treat of adultery as having its lessons here. But no man would understand the passage who did not understand it further as a great picture of impenitence. The warnings are two:
(1) the un-stopping-short character of sin; she who wrongs her husband will be seen universally wronging God; and
(2) the unrecuperative history of the lost.—Miller.
Twice Solomon uses a similar expression, “the strange woman (even) the stranger,” to impress more forcibly on the young man the fact that her person belongs to another. The literal and spiritual adulteress are both meant. The spiritual gives to the world her person and her heart, which belong by right to God. In this sense the foreign women who subsequently drew aside Solomon himself, were “strange women,” not so much in respect to their local distance from Israel, as in respect to their being utterly alien to the worship of God. Lust and idolatry were the spiritual adultery into which they entrapped the once wise king. How striking that he should utter beforehand a warning which he himself afterwards disregarded.—Fausset.
We are not to forget that the accomplished seducer has herself perhaps been seduced. The fair and flattering words, the endless arts of allurement, are on both sides.—Wardlaw.
One who is as it were, a stranger to her own house and husband by faithlessness (Hitzig), and hence a type of anything that is false and seductive in doctrine or practice.… By God’s goodness Solomon’s words in this divinely inspired book were an antidote to the poison of his own vicious example.—Wordsworth.
Proverbs 2:17. False doctrine and false worship are in Scripture compared to harlotry and adultery. (Numbers 14:33; Judges 2:17; Judges 8:33; Psalms 106:39; Revelation 17:1-2; Revelation 18:3.—Wordsworth.
It is God that is the guide of her youth, whoever may be under Him; it is God’s covenant that is made, whosoever may be the contractor in it. It is God who is first forsaken, then forgotten; forsaken in the beginning of wickedness, forgotten in the hardened practice of it. God hath appointed guides for youth—to stay the weakness of it, and to which, as unto God, youth ought to yield obedience. For elder years He hath appointed covenants as bonds and chains to hold them sure.—Jermin.
There is no trusting them that will fail God and their near friends. If they fail God, they will fail men for their advantage. If they fail friends—much more strangers.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 2:18. When you get into the company of the licentious, you are among the dead. They move about like men in outward appearance, but the best attributes of humanity have disappeared—the best affections of nature have been drained away from their hearts.—Arnot.
Her house is not a building reared up, but inclined and bowed down, and she who dwelleth in it will, by her life, bring thee to the dead.… Death is here twice mentioned to show that it is a double death, a temporal death, and an eternal death, to which she bringeth men.—Jermin.
Proverbs 2:19. Who would cast himself into a deep pit in the hopes of coming out alive, when almost all that fell into it were dashed in pieces.—Lawson.
It is as hard to restore a lustful person to chastity as it is to restore a dead person to life.—Chrysostom.
A sin which, I am verily persuaded, if there be another that slays her thousands, may with truth be affirmed to slay its ten thousands.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 2:20. Here follows the whole ground of the exhibition: “That,” for the very purpose that “thou mayest walk in the way of good men.” This is a grand, pregnant doctrine. This bad life was abandoned to its worst partly as a lesson.—Miller.
It is not enough to shun the evil way, unless men walk in the good way.—Muffet.
He that walks in the way of good men shall meet with good men, and that shall keep him from the company of evil men and women. The paths of the righteous are too narrow for such: he shall not be troubled with them.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 2:21-22
THE CONTRAST IN THE END FROM THE CONTRAST IN THE WAY
If men walk in two directly opposite directions they cannot possibly arrive at the same goal.
I. The historic illustration of this truth. The first inhabitants of Canaan were allowed to dwell in the land until they defiled it to so great an extent by their sins that they were “rooted out,” to be replaced by the Hebrew people. These, in their turn, became “transgressors” of God’s law, and consequently forfeited their inheritance.
II. The reasonableness of this dealing. Uprightness leads to industry, and the land which is industriously cultivated fulfils the end for which God gave it to the children of men. Uprightness leads to the rightful dividing of the land or of its produce among all its inhabitants. It is God’s will that none of his creatures should suffer bodily want: if all men were truly upright and godly, the poor and needy, if they did not cease out of the land (Deuteronomy 15:2) would have a much larger share of its good things than they at present enjoy. The Hebrew civil and social laws show us what God’s intentions are in this matter. Therefore none ought to complain if they are deprived of a gift which they have mis-used.
III. The typical suggestion of the subject. Dwelling in the land of Canaan was typical of the eternal dwelling in the heavenly country. Some of the first inhabitants of that country have been “rooted out” because of sin (2 Peter 2:4), others have dwelt safely there for ages, because they are, literally, perfect. This is the destined home of all just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23; Hebrews 11:13-16; Matthew 22:32).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 2:21. The Israelite was, beyond the power of natural feeling, which makes home dear to every one, more closely bound to his ancestral soil by the whole form of the theocracy: torn from it he was in the inmost roots of his life itself, strained and broken.—Elster.
As surely a righteous man hath this right unto temporal things which a wicked man hath not, that God doth account him to be worthy of them … Wherefore it is observed, that in Scripture, although the wicked are said to possess the things of the earth, they are never said to inherit them; but the godly are said to inherit the good things of the earth as receiving them from the love of their heavenly Father.—Jermin.
Proverbs 2:22. The very earth casts out the wicked.… The whole has a typical meaning. This earth, many conjecture, is to be restored as heaven. In that event, the old Canaan types will be very perfect.—Miller.
Must not the righteous leave the earth too? Yes; but the earth is a very different thing to the righteous and to the wicked. To the latter it is all the heaven they ever have; to the righteous it is a place of preparation for heaven.—Lawson.
The event seemeth to be contrary to the promise here made, for the earth commonly is possessed by those who take evil ways, whilst in the mean season the godly are tossed up and down with many afflictions. But we must consider for our comfort, that the wicked wrongfully and unlawfully, as usurpers, possess the earth and the goods of this world; and again, that by many troubles, and by death in the end, they are put out of possession at last. As for the godly, they, by right, inherit the earth, so that, as Abraham was the heir to the land of promise even when he had not a foot of ground therein, in like manner all the godly are heirs of this world, according to the saying of the apostle, That all things are theirs (1 Corinthians 3:22); howsoever often here they possess little or nothing. In right they are heirs, and in part possessors, looking for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein the just shall dwell (2 Peter 3:13).—Muffet.
Suddenly, when they have feathered their nests and set up their rest, the wicked may die sinning. The saints shall not die till the best time—not till the time when, if they were rightly informed, they would desire to die.—Trapp.