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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 3

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-4


Proverbs 3:1. Keep. This word, says Miller, primarily means to look hard at, and generally to keep watch over, as over a vineyard.

Proverbs 3:2. Length of days, properly “extension of days.”

Proverbs 3:3. Good understanding, or “good success,” “good reputation.” Some read “good intelligence,” i.e., thou shalt be esteemed before God and man as one of good understanding.



I. The natural desire of a moral instructor. Every teacher desires that his pupil should remember his instructions, and unless that which has been given is remembered it is useless to carry him any further on. Memory holds a very important place in the formation of moral character. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you; … by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul likewise exhorts his son Timothy by means of his memory (2 Timothy 1:6). See also Hebrews 10:32; 2 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 3:1, etc. Solomon knew that his son could only profit by his counsel so long as he remembered it.

II. When the memory does not retain moral teaching, it is a moral rather than an intellectual fault. “Let thine heart keep my commandments.” We find it difficult to forget where we love. If a child loves his father, he is not likely to forget his words. Christ reminded his disciples that they did not “remember” because their hearts were hardened (Mark 8:17-18).

III. When the heart keeps the Divine Word, mercy and truth will not forsake the character. Where God’s precepts find a place of abode, there will likewise be found a merciful disposition towards men, and a truthful and sincere piety before God. If a tree has its roots in the waters, we know that its greenness will not fail: “its leaf shall not wither.” The freshness and beauty of the foliage is the necessary outcome of its roots dwelling in the stream. The mercifulness and the truthfulness of a man’s character will be in proportion to his affection for, and consequent retention of, the words of God.

IV. The blessings which will accompany a remembrance of the Divine teaching.

1. Length of days. We may infer from this that, as a rule, long life is to be desired. The longer distance a pure river runs through a country, the greater the amount of blessing which it diffuses on its way to the ocean. The longer a man of “mercy and truth” lives, the more he is enabled to bless his fellow-creatures. A long life gives a man time to attain great knowledge of God, and thus enables him to glorify Him upon the earth. A long life is also to be desired because the peculiar experience of earth belongs to the present life only. When that is ended we have reason to believe that we shall enter upon an entirely new experience; that which belonged to earth will have passed away with our earthly life. It has often been remarked that a godly manner of life is favourable to “length of days.” Sin and anxious care tend to bring men to an early grave, while purity, and trust in a living and loving Father are promoters of bodily health.

2. Divine and human favour. The human ruler is favourable to those who make it their business to obey his commands. A wise and good father makes a difference in his treatment of those children who seek to please him and those who defy his authority. God is the Father, and consequently the rightful Ruler of men, and having made laws for the guidance of His children, it follows of necessity that those who seek to obey those laws must find favour with Him. He is in this sense a respecter of persons. He has respect to those who “have respect unto His commandments” (Psalms 119:6). Favour in the sight of man is also promised. The value of a man’s favour depends upon a man’s character. To find favour with some men would be to be known as an enemy of God (James 4:4). It is written that Jesus increased “in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). But we know that He found little favour with the rulers of the Jews. Therefore, these words must be taken to refer to the favour of those whose favour is worth having.

3. Peace (Proverbs 3:2). Where the conscience and passions are at war there can be nothing but unrest, but when the conscience is reinforced by the Divine precepts, she rules, and the soul, as a consequence, enjoys peace. Peace must flow from the possession of Divine favour, and also from the consciousness of the good-will of good men.


Proverbs 3:1. Here we advance another step. Not only is it necessary to renounce and shun evil (Proverbs 1:10) and to listen to the voice of Wisdom and go in quest of her (Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 2:1-4), but it is also requisite to hold her fast under trial and tribulation (Proverbs 3:11), and to practise her rules by love to God and man (Proverbs 3:9; Proverbs 3:27; Proverbs 3:30).—Wordsworth.

“My law.” He who made us knows what is good for us. Submission to His will is the best condition for humanity. Our own will leads to sin and misery. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.… Silently to forget God’s law is a much more common thing amongst us than blasphemously to reject it.—Arnot.

Where love makes the impression, care locks it up.… Philo saith, “Thou forgettest God’s law, because thou forgettest thyself.” For didst thou remember thine own condition, how very nothing thou art, thou couldst not forget His law whose excellency exceedeth all things; and therefore to fasten His law in our hearts, God saith no more than that it is my law, as if the strength of that reason were sufficient to strike them into us not to be forgotten.—Jermin.

We should be able to say to Wisdom as Cœnis did to her lady Antonia, “You need not, madame, bid me do your business, for I so remember your commands, as I need never be reminded of them.”—Trapp.

The mental faculties have a close relation and a mutual dependence upon each other. There are, without doubt, original diversities in the power of memory. But memory depends greatly on attention, and attention depends not less upon the interest which the mind feels on the subject. He who feels no interest will not attend, and he who does not attend will not remember.—Wardlaw.

Proverbs 3:2. Length of days is the promise to the righteous—whether for earth or for heaven as their Father deems fittest for them. It itself, the promise, as regards this life, has no charm.… But peace added forms the sunshine of the toilsomeway.—Bridges.

The original is “length of days and years of lives.” They are lives which religion promiseth, one on earth, another in heaven: here such a long life as short days can make up, but there days shall be years: there shall be but one day, lengthened into eternity.—Jermin.

Where is the consistency of promising long life to wisdom! Where is the truth of such an assurance? But certain grammatical endings give us immediate signs of another interpretation. The verb “add” is masculine; the words “law” and “commandments” are feminine. On the contrary, all are masculines among the nouns of the next clause. Unless there should be reason to do violence by an ungrammatical exception, the nouns should be the subjects rather than the objects of the verb. We translate therefore, “For length of days, and years of life, and prosperity, shall make thee greater.”—Miller.

Such declarations are certainly not to be interpreted as a promise of long life in this world in every instance, as the result of obedience to God’s commands. There are promises to Israel of their days being prolonged in the land which are greatly mistaken when interpreted of the life of individuals; and as pledging in every case its prolongation to all the good. Such passages relate to the continued possession of the land of promise by the people, if they, in their successive generations, continued to serve God.—Wardlaw.

Simple duration of life in itself to Jewish mind, a great gift of God. “Years of life,” i.e., of a life truly such, a life worth living, not the lingering struggle with pain and sickness (compare the use of “life” in Psalms 30:5; Psalms 42:8.—Plumptre.

Proverbs 3:3. There was such a similitude of nature between the twins of love that at once they wept, and at once they smiled; they fell sick together, and they recovered jointly. Such are these twins of grace. In policy, mercy without truth is a sweet shower dropping upon barren sands, quite spilt, and no blessing following it; truth without mercy is extreme right and extreme injury. Consider them toward God and heaven. A faith of mere protestation without good works, such is truth without mercy, and all the integrity of the heathen, all the goodness that Socrates could teach, such is mercy without truth.—Bishop Hacket.

The neck is, in Solomon’s writings, the organ and symbol of obedience. 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 exult in it as the fairest ornament.—Wordsworth.

I. The matter to be recorded—mercy and truth. These two, meeting and kissing in the Mediator, constitute the revealed character of God Himself; and He desires to see, as it were, a miniature of His own likeness impressed upon His children.

II. The tablet for receiving it—the human heart. The reference is obviously to the tables of stone. The tables were intended to be not a book only, but a type. An impress should be taken on our own hearts, that we may always have the will of God hidden within us.—Arnot.

Let these graces be, as with God, in combination. The want of one buries the commendation of the other. “Such a one is merciful to the poor, but there is no truth in him.” “Such a one is very just in his dealings, but he is as hard as a flint.” Nor must these virtues be in occasional and temporary exercise. “Let them not forsake thee.”—Bridges.

Intimating—I. Their forsaking us is more than our forsaking them. Our forsaking them may come of our weakness, but their forsaking us comes of our wilfulness and hardness of heart in not entertaining them. II. It sets out the easiness of the loss of them through our corruption. III. It sets forth our great need of them. IV. It intimates our great care and pains needful for the retaining of them. They are easily lost, but hardly kept. A hawk must be well tamed before he is let fly, else he will return no more. These graces must be as carefully kept as providently gotten, like riches. And they must both be kept together, else mercy may lie to do good, and truth may reveal without cause what may do hurt. Therefore join both as God does (Psalms 85:10).—Francis Taylor.

Mercy and truth are dear sisters, blessed companions in God, sweet companions in man. Mercy loveth truth, truth loveth mercy, God loveth both; and if man love himself, he will do so likewise.—Jermin.

These words correspond to the two tables of the law. Benevolence is at the bottom of the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour,” and what is right is that great glory which we are to love in God.—Miller.

Proverbs 3:4. In other words, “Thou shalt be favoured and truly prospered, God and man both bearing witness to thy well-directed efforts.”—Stuart.

He that shows mercy to men shall find mercy with God.… and men love to be dealt truly and mercifully with themselves, even though they deal not so with others; especially they that get good by our merciful and just dealing will favour us.—Francis Taylor.

This favour of God and 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 favour of God and men 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 blessedness? We stand here manifestly at the point at which the Old Testament doctrine of retributions predominantly earthly begin to be transformed into the supersensual or spiritual realistic doctrine of the New Testament (Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 19:28-30).—Lange’s Commentary.

This promise is all one with that of the Apostle Paul, when, speaking of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, he saith, “that he which in these things serveth Christ, pleaseth God and is acceptable to men” (Romans 14:18).

Verses 5-6


Proverbs 3:6. Acknowledge, “take notice of,” “recognise” Him. Direct, “make level” or “smooth.



Man is so constituted that, in some respects, he must have objects outside of himself to lean upon. As a child, he leans upon a wisdom and strength which is superior to his own, and few men are so self-sufficient as entirely to lay aside this habit in after life. In many things we must, whether we will or not, depend upon the guidance and help of others. Every man, in common with the lower creatures, must of necessity lean upon a power greater than his own. “The eyes of all wait upon Thee” (Psalms 145:15). But this is a leaning which needs no exhortation: it springs from necessity. The exhortation of the text implies that in some things men have to choose whether they will lean upon God or not.

I. What is necessary in order to comply with the exhortation.

1. A knowledge of God. We cannot place entire trust in any person of whose character we have no knowledge; or, if we do so, we show our want of discretion. If a traveller across Central Africa were to give himself up to the guidance of the first native whom he met, he would probably find that his confidence had been misplaced. The youth who trusts in the first companion who offers his friendship is like a blind man placing his hand in that of any stranger who may offer him guidance. All lasting trust is based upon knowledge. “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee” (Psalms 9:10). The confidence of a wise man is born of knowledge of character. God can be known. His only-begotten Son hath declared Him (Luke 10:22; John 1:18; John 17:3).

2. Love to God. The character must be known, and, being known, must be loved, if there is to be a lasting confidence. We shall not lean with much weight where we do not love. The trust of a Christian will be in proportion to his love to his Lord. The more intimate the knowledge, the deeper will be the love; the deeper the love, the more entire the trust. Our Lord Jesus Christ knew His Father (John 17:25) as no creature could know Him, and His love being based upon this profound knowledge, His trust was entire and His obedience perfect, even in His darkest hours. “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” “Arise, let us go hence” (John 14:31). We cannot do better than write after this copy.

II. The necessary effect of such a confidence. We shall acknowledge God in all our ways. This must mean—

1. A practical recognition of His presence. We may be in the presence of a superior, and know that we are in his presence, without acknowledging it by showing him the respect that is due to him. If this is the case, we virtually ignore his existence. A child whose behaviour is not deferential to his parent practically ignores him. Acknowledging God in all our ways implies a reverent attitude of soul towards Him.

2. A belief in God’s care for the individual life. God makes Himself known as the God of the individual man. The care of the individual is his self-imposed task. “I am the Lord God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac, … and behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest” (Genesis 28:13; Genesis 28:15).

3. The reference of all our affairs to His guidance, and a submission of our will to His. This will be easy and natural in proportion to our knowledge, and love, and conviction that God will not think any of our concerns beneath His notice. Our submission will be in the ratio of our confidence—our confidence in the ratio of our knowledge.

III. The promise of direction guaranteed to compliance with the exhortation.

1. Men have many ways in life. Man’s many ways spring from his many needs. He has a living to earn in the world. His hunger must be satisfied—his body must be clothed and fed. His social wants must be met—he must have companions, form relationships. His mind must have food as well as his body. The aspirations of his spirit form another way, and demand direction and enlightenment. But one way—the way of acknowledging God—is needful to make any and all the other ways profitable and pleasant.

2. The certainty of right guidance from the foreknowledge and power of the guide. An Alpine guide, who has traversed a road many times, knows from memory what is at the end of the journey. He sees the end while he is on the way. God’s foreknowledge answers to our memory. He sees the end to which He is bringing us while we are on the way. And His power makes the accomplishment of his plans certain. He can speak of them as finished before the means are set in motion to bring them to pass. He said to Joshua: “Behold, I have given into thine hand Jericho” (Joshua 6:2), before any steps had been taken to overthrow it. His guidance makes it certain that His designs will be accomplished, whatever becomes of our plans.


Proverbs 3:5-6. The heart, the seat of the affections, and also, in Hebrew psychology, the conscience, which is not a sure guide unless it is regulated by the Lord’s will and word.—Wordsworth.

Once, indeed, man’s understanding gave clear, unclouded light, as man’s high prerogative—created in the image of God. But now—degraded by the fall, and darkened by the corruption of the heart—it must prove a false guide. Even in a renewed man—a prophet of God—it proved a mistaken counsellor 2 Samuel 7:2; 2 Samuel 7:5). Yet throw it not away; cultivate it; use it actively; but lean not to it.—Bridges.

“He shall Himself,” i.e., by His own Spirit. There is an emphatic pronoun. When we walk, it is not we that walk, but God.—Miller.

“Leaning to our own understanding” is, as far as it prevails, a kind of practical atheism. To form and prosecute our plans in this spirit of self-confidence, is to act as if there were no God—as if the fool’s thought, or the fool’s wish, were true.—Wardlaw.

I. The duty enjoined.

1. Entire.

2. Exclusive.

3. Uniform.

II. The blessing promised—Direction. Necessary on account of—

1. Our fallibility.
2. The hazards of the way.
3. False guides. Promised.

1. By the pointings of Providence.
2. By the lessons of the Bible.
3. By the influences of the Holy Spirit.—Outlines by Rev. G. Brooks.

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.—Lange’s Commentary.

The distant and unconfiding will come on occasion of State formalities to the sovereign; but the dear child will leap forward with everything. The Queen of England is the mother of a family. At one time her ministers of State come gravely into her presence to converse on the policy of nations; at another, her infant runs to her arms for protection, frightened at the buzzing of a fly. Will she love this last appeal because it is a little thing? We have had fathers of our flesh who delighted when we came to them with our minutest ailments. How much more should we bring all our ways to the Father of our spirits, and live by simple faith on Him.—Arnot.

We may be led for the exercise of our faith into a way of disappointment, or even of mistake. But no step well prayed over will ever bring ultimate regret.—Bridges.

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.—M. Cheyne.

The moralist, in preaching this trust in God, anticipates the teaching that man is justified by faith.—Plumptre.

See your confidence be not divided, part on God and part on man. Such a confidence may keep you from the lions (2 Kings 17:25) but it cannot keep you out of hell. A house built partly on firm ground, partly on sand, will fall. To trust in God is so to lean upon Him that if He fail thee thou sinkest.—Francis Taylor.

He shall direct, as He carefully chose out the Israelites’ way in the wilderness; not the shortest, but the safest way.—Trapp.

1. That our reliance may be rational we should know what it is that God has promised, and what we may expect from Him; else we may be disappointed in our hopes.
2. Reliance must be accompanied with obedience, with a purpose, and endeavour to do the things that are pleasing to God.
3. Reliance must also be connected with particular supplications to Him to bless us.
4. It must be accompanied with diligence and prudence in our worldly affairs.
5. It excludes immoderate cares, vain desires, fretful discontent.
6. Although reliance be so advantageous to us, even for the present, that it ought to be considered rather as a privilege than a duty, yet it is a noble virtue and a disposition of mind most agreeable to God. It is the greatest honour we can pay to Him. By it we show our belief in His wisdom, power, equity, and goodness.—Jortin.

Verses 7-12


Proverbs 3:8. Navel, “body” or “muscles.” Marrow, literally “refreshing,” “moistening,” in contrast to the condition described in Psalms 32:3-4.

Proverbs 3:11. Despite not, or “loathe not,” “shrink not.” The word, according to Miller, means “to melt.” Chastening, “discipline,” “correction.”

Proverbs 3:12. The latter clause of this verse should be read, “and holds him dear, or does him a favour, as a father does his son.”



Three exhortations are here given, to each of which is attached a promise or reason to induce the young man to obey.

I. An exhortation to humility. (Proverbs 3:7-8.) Its peculiar appropriateness and importance will be seen if we consider—

1. The person to whom the exhortation is addressed. “My son” (Proverbs 3:1). Lack of experience has a great tendency to breed self-conceit. As a rule, those who have lived the longest and have most acquaintance with men and things are the least disposed to be “wise in their own eyes.” Ignorance is the mother of self-conceit. These words are addressed to a young man, because his youth would render him very liable to this fault.

2. That self-conceit does not end with oneself but is dangerous to others. The man who insists upon the correctness of his knowledge of a dangerous way, and will not listen to the experience of those who are better acquainted with it, is sure to find some who believe in him and follow his guidance. Thus he may not only lose his own life, but be the murderer of others.

3. It shuts a man up to his ignorance. The only way to become wise is to feel we are ignorant. As a lunatic must be shut up with others in a like condition while his madness is upon him, so a self-conceited man must be imprisoned with the fools of the universe while he remains in that condition.

4. The Divine woes which are levelled against such an one. All the woes pronounced by our Lord against the Scribes and Pharisees were against sins born of this sin. The charge against them was that they were wise in their own eyes. “For judgment am I come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him said, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41). “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).

II. The remedy against self-conceit. “Fear the Lord,” etc. When those who are wise in their own eyes begin to reverence those who are much wiser than they are, they will begin to depart from this evil which is the root of many evils. Esteem for those who deserve esteem will lessen their esteem for themselves. A knowledge of the character and wisdom of God will produce reverence. When a man renders to God the reverence which is due unto Him, and which is born of a right appreciation of what God is, the scales of self-conceit will fall from his own eyes. As the sun melts the hoar-frost from the windows and leaves a clear medium for the rays of the sun to enter the chamber, so the contact of God with the human soul will melt away the self-esteem which shut Him out. How entrenched was Saul of Tarsus in his own opinions before he met the Lord on the road to Damascus. How high an estimate he had of himself, but how great was the change which acquaintance with Christ wrought. When Job got an insight into God’s greatness, he said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Self-conceit cannot live where there are right views of God.

III. The promise here given to those who walk reverently before God. Certain it is that such a mode of life leads to bodily health. Those who walk in the fear of the Lord live lives of purity, of temperance, of freedom from the consuming passions and corroding cares of the ungodly. Other things being equal, or anything like equal, godliness has the promise of the life that now is in this respect as in others. But if we understand the words in this narrow sense only, they seem to express only a small part, and the inferior part, of the blessing that comes to a man from the “fear of the Lord.” The bones here, as in Psalms 32:3; Psalms 35:10, are put for the whole man. And as the Psalmist, in the first-mentioned psalm, expresses his sad condition of soul as well as body when he says, “My moisture is turned to the drought of summer,” so the “marrow,” or “moisture,” of the bones here expresses a vigour of the entire man. Sin breaks the bones of a man’s spirit; the consciousness of the Divine favour which will flow from a reverential walk with God makes them “to rejoice” (Psalms 51:8).

Proverbs 3:9-10 contain

I. An exhortation to a right use of temporal riches.

1. Those who honour God with their gifts honour Him who has first honoured them with their stewardship. The man who is entrusted with the property of others has an honour put upon him by the trust. Potiphar put a great honour upon Joseph when he committed all that he had into his hand, and Joseph felt that it was so. This of itself should be a motive to a strict integrity and to devotion to the interests of One who has thus honoured us with confidence. All temporal, material blessings are given to men as stewards of God’s property (Luke 16:1-12), and in this light they ought to regard themselves.

2. If men honour God with their substance, they turn what would otherwise be a snare into a blessing. The tendency of wealth is doubtless to make men God-forgetting, self-confident, selfish (Mark 10:23; Luke 12:16; James 5:1). But those who use it for the advancement of God’s kingdom—for the alleviation of human suffering—make a friend of this “mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9).

3. God cannot be honoured with our substance unless we first give ourselves to Him. The great desire of a true father in relation to his children is to secure their love. Having that, everything else that is theirs will be his. Without that, no offering, no service, can be acceptable. God must have the man before He will accept his wealth.

II. The promise annexed to this exhortation. This cannot be the motive, but it is the consequence. Any man who gave his wealth because he believed it was a good investment in this sense, would not be honouring God with it. We must give, as we are commanded to lend, hoping for nothing again (Luke 6:35). And, although the material rewards which are appended to a certain line of conduct under the old dispensation do not invariably follow it in the new and more spiritual one, there is probably no Old Testament promise of earthly reward which is, and ever has been, fulfilled with so few exceptions.

Proverbs 3:11-12.

I. An exhortation to patient endurance of affliction.

1. From the constitution of our nature we can but dislike or loathe (despise, see “Critical Notes”) affliction itself. There has never been one of human kind who has welcomed affliction for its own sake; nay, more, there has never been one who has not shrunk from it, considered by itself. No man can do other than grieve for the death of his friend when he considers his own loss merely. No child of God can love pain or loss. The man who is under the knife of the surgeon must groan in the unnatural condition in which he is placed. Even Christ Himself, though He delighted to do the will of His Father (Psalms 40:8), shrank from the bitter cup of suffering. If, then, pain—probably mental pain—was felt to be bitter by the Sinless Man, how much more will a sinful man find it hard to bear.

2. The pain itself is that which renders us unable to see the connection between it and the benefit it is to work out. While a man is suffering pain of body or mind, his feelings, more or less, overpower his reason. Although we know that it is to work good in the future, we fail often to realise the fact—feeling holds us down to the present.

II. Four considerations to help us in times of affliction.

1. Its individuality. “My son, despise not thou,” which implies that God chastises men as individuals—that he distinguishes between them. There may be many sons and daughters in a human home; no two are exactly alike, therefore a wise discrimination must be exercised with regard to the chastisement or the discipline administered. So God discerns the needs of His children. No son or daughter need think that another cross would suit them better; they may be assured that the one they bear is the one that has been especially prepared for them, and is therefore peculiarly adapted for them.

2. Its end. It is educational. It is correction, not destruction. Even if it is rebuke, or punishment for a particular sin, it is designed to eradicate that sin, and thus add to the character; and we are assured, on the highest authority, that tribulation worketh patience, experience, and hope—all of which graces go to form a higher type of man (Romans 5:2-3).

3. Its signification. It means son-ship, adoption. It means that God has taken us in hand; that He is Himself presiding over our education; that He loves us and desires our spiritual growth.

4. Its Author. “The Lord.” We accept that from one whom we know, which we would not from a stranger. If we can be sure that a man’s motives are pure, we judge of his conduct accordingly. The consideration that affliction comes from the “righteous Father,” the King who cannot wrong any of His subjects, ought to help us to take the rebuke with meekness,—to bear the pain, although we cannot now see the profit.


Proverbs 3:7. This warning against self-confidence is closely connected with the preceding verse. The wise in his own eyes is he that leans to his own understanding. How striking is this connection between the fear of the Lord and the fear of sin (ch. Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 16:6; Genesis 39:9-10; Nehemiah 5:15).—Bridges.

Get all the wisdom thou canst. That is the very burden of these Proverbs. But as thou gettest it if thou seemest wise, be sure that thou art weighed down with folly. Gabriel, who has never sinned, is foolish because he knows not the end from the beginning, and we are foolish from a further cause, that our wisdom has remains with it that are corrupt.—Miller.

The greatest hindrance to all true wisdom is the thought that we have already attained it.—Plumptre.

Fear God, and fear evil; fear God to go to Him, fear evil to depart from it. The wings of fear to carry thee to God are love and care, the wings of fear to carry thee from evil are shame and sorrow.—Jermin.

Proverbs 3:8. The constant, steadfast, self-diffident operation of the religious principle is beneficial alike to body and soul. It preserves the mind in tranquillity and peace (Isaiah 26:3), and this is in a high degree conducive to the health and vigour of the bodily frame.—Wardlaw.

Two sadnesses flow from not fearing Jehovah—worn muscles and dried bones (see “Critical Notes”). The two are perfectly distinct. One means “aching labour,” the other, “horrible despondency.” The fear of God delivers from both.—Miller.

All God’s laws come from one source and conspire for one end. They favour righteousness and frown on sin. The law set in nature runs parallel as far as it goes to the law written in the word. Vice saps the health both of body and mind.—Arnot.

Proverbs 3:9. Works of piety and charity are evidently included.—Wardlaw.

Who art thou, that thou shouldest be able to honour Him, who is Himself of infinite honour? Who would not in this respect employ his substance in God’s fear, seeing thereby thou dost honour Him, whom to serve is a high honour to the highest angels.—Jermin.

To devote a portion of our substance directly to the worship of God, and the good of men, is a duty plainly enjoined in the Scriptures. It is not a thing that a man may do, or may not do, as he pleases. There is this difference, however, between it and the common relative duties of life. For the neglect of it no infliction comes from a human hand. God will not have the dregs that are squeezed out by pressure poured into His treasury. He loveth a cheerful giver. He can work without our wealth, but He does not work without our willing service.—Arnot.

Proverbs 3:10. At first sight the motive may be regarded as a selfish one. But second thoughts give another view. It is a trial of faith. And it is a trial than which few are found more difficult. It is hard to persuade a man that giving away will make him rich. We look with more confidence to bank interest, or the still better interest of a vested loan, than to a return of profit from what is wholly given away.—Wardlaw.

Men take care how to use their money to the best advantage by sea, by buying land or cattle, or by usury, an easy trade; thy best trade will be to maintain God’s worship.—Jermin.

This consecration of substance, as the seed-corn for the harvest, is as strange to the world as would be the casting of the seed in the earth to an untutored savage. Yet is the result secure in both cases: only with the difference, the temper of the earthly sower has no influence on the harvest; whereas the fruitfulness of the spiritual harvest mainly depends on the principles of the work. Most important is it that we honour the Lord—not ourselves.—Bridges.

Proverbs 3:11. Two things are forbidden here.

1. Do not make light of (despise) the Lord’s chastening, as if thou couldst easily cast it off—in insensibility to it, not recognising the Lord’s hand in it, and not humbling thyself under it.
2. Do not, on the contrary, through pusillanimity, be weary, and impatient, and despondent under the burden.—Cartwright.

Not to feel thy evils would be inhuman; not to bear them, unmanly.—Seneca.

Fainting and wearying may take place in two ways. The heart may be overwhelmed by sudden trials, giving an effect so stunning and overpowering that the spirit sinks into a temporary stupefaction, and, as the Apostle has it, “we faint.” Or it may become wearied out and exhausted by the long continuance of the same trial, or by a rapid succession of different strokes of the rod.—Wardlaw.

Having stated the blessings of wisdom, it is logical to consider the apparent exceptions.—Miller.

For if God did despise thee, He would not chasten thee, if He was weary of thee, He would not correct thee.—Jermin.

Some think it a goodly thing to bear out a cross by head and shoulders, and wear it out as they may, never improving it. As a man that, coming out of a shower of rain, dries again, and all is as before.—Trapp.

Prosperity and adversity, in their wise mixture and proportion, form our present condition. Each is equally fruitful in honouring the Lord; in prosperity, by a wise consecration of our substance; in adversity, by a humble and cheerful submission.… It is correction, this is for your humbling; it is only correction, this is your consolation. It is the declared test of our legitimacy (Hebrews 12:7-8). His discipline is that of the family, not of the school, much less of the prison.—Bridges.

Solomon here anticipates a covert objection, if all the favour in the sight of God and man, and the health which have been attributed to the fearers of the Lord (Proverbs 3:1-10) really be theirs, how is it that we see them so often sorely afflicted? The reason is, the Lord sends these afflictions, not for evil, but for good to His people.—Fausset.

Consider the afflictions we meet with in the character which the text assigns to them, viz., as corrections. What reasons have we for viewing them in this light?

1. They are of God, and God takes no pleasure in the misery of His creatures. By some other demonstrations than the dark demonstrations of sorrow, we know the benevolence of God; and as afflictions are from Him, we have reason to deem them a part of the discipline of His love.

2. The rule or order of human afflictions indicates their corrective intent. All do not come under this principle, but many do. It is manifest that many miseries of life are the results of sin, and if we could see further, it is extremely probable that we should attribute many human miseries to human sin which we now attribute to the naked sovereignty of God.
3. There is every reason to believe that a state of innocence would have kept the world from all suffering. Evils that extend so far, or are of such a nature that our reformation could not shun them, are instructive monitions that sin strikes deep, and requires for its cure the hand that rules the world.
4. Our afflictions have many alleviations. If they were intended as mere punishments they would have been made more destructive.—Dr. Spencer.

The first distinct utterance of a truth which has been so full of comfort to many thousands, the summing up of all controversies, like those of Job’s friends (Job 5:17) or our Lord’s disciples (John 9:2) as to the mystery of suffering. It was the lesson which the book of Job had proclaimed as the issue of so many perplexities. Here it enters into the education of every Jewish child taught to acknowledge a Father in heaven chastening him even as he had been chastened by an earthly father. The Apostle writing to the Hebrews can find no stronger comfort.—Plumptre.

Especially the well-beloved Son, who (Proverbs 3:12) was made “perfect through sufferings.”—Wordsworth.

God’s strokes are better than Satan’s kiss and love; God smites for life, Satan caresses for death.—Egard.

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).—Lange.

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 honour 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.—Berleburg Bible.

God loveth not thy correction, but thee He loveth.—Jermin.

He that escapes affliction may well suspect his adoption.—Trapp.

The same stroke may fall on two men, and be in the one case judgment, in the other love. “In vain have I smitten your children, they received no correction (Jeremiah 2:30). All were “smitten,” but they only obtained paternal correction who, in the spirit of adoption, “received” it as such. You may prune branches lying withered on the ground, and also branches living in the vine. In the two cases, the operation and the instrument are precisely alike; but the operation on this branch has no result, and the operation on that branch produces fruitfulness, because of a difference in the place and condition of the branches operated upon.—Arnot.

Verses 13-18


Proverbs 3:13. Gets, “draws out.”

Proverbs 3:13. Lay hold, “grasp,” from a Hebrew root strong. Retaineth, “holds her fast.”



I. Wisdom is to be found. She does exist. Precious metals and choice stones are to be found. They have an existence, and they exist in regions which may be reached by the exercise of man’s intelligence and labour. Those who find them have to dig for them, to seek for them, to give time, and strength, and wealth to the search. So Wisdom, although she is within reach of man must be diligently sought after, must be drawn out (see “Critical Notes”) by painstaking diligence.

1. Wisdom is to be found in, and drawn out from affliction. The bee is said to suck honey from bitter herbs as well as from sweet flowers. The context to these words is closely connected with them, and declare him to be truly blessed who becomes by affliction a wiser and a better man. It is within the reach of intelligent faith in God thus to extract the honey of wisdom from the sorrow which to “the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

2. Wisdom is to be found by study of the Divine Word. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God—they are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The record which God has given of His Son is a revelation of His highest wisdom. A crucified Christ is a manifestation of the wisdom of God, and by the study of Him as revealed in Holy Scripture, we may “draw out understanding” of how a man may be “just with God” (Job 9:2), and how a justified man may become a perfect man.

3. Wisdom is to be found in the practice of Divine precepts. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). He shall know the reality, the power, of the wisdom which cometh down from above by personal and blessed experience. Understanding in these matters is “drawn out” by doing.

4. Wisdom is found by communion with God. Those who talk much with men who are their superiors in goodness and intelligence, and live on friendly terms with them, must become wiser and better through the intercourse. The stronger soul will mould the weaker. The man who holds converse with the highest and best Intelligence, with the Fountain of Wisdom, must draw understanding out of this Living Spring.

5. Wisdom for special needs, the understanding how to act in emergencies, is drawn out from God by the confession of our ignorance and the pleading of God’s promises. Solomon was himself an example of this. By special prayer, by obeying his own precept (Proverbs 3:5-6), he obtained the gift of an understanding heart to judge the people (1 Kings 3:5-12).

II. Wisdom is beyond comparison with anything outside herself. She is better than wealth because she gives blessings which wealth cannot buy.

1. She gives real heart-satisfaction. Money will bring much ease and luxury to the bodily life, but mere material comfort cannot gladden the inner man or keep away old age and sickness. But Wisdom gives a joy which has its home in the heart, and which increases with the increase of years. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, because they are ways of holiness. Love, and joy, and peace, and all the graces which are the fruit of the Spirit of God are the very elements which in perfection constitute the blessedness of God Himself.

They are the fruits which His servants pluck from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). To be holy is to be happy in the true, deep sense of the word.

2. She introduces to better society. Wealth will do much in this way. Gold is a passport to honour in the world generally, often to the Church in the world. But the holy character which is born of heavenly wisdom is the only possession which will open the doors of the “Church of the firstborn,” which will admit to the society of God, His angels, and His redeemed ones. This is true honour.

3. Her gifts are for eternity. No matter how precious or how great the joy, the honour of earth passeth away (1 Corinthians 7:31). The gifts of Wisdom are for ever. The length of an eternity of days is in her hand.


Proverbs 3:13. Never will this solid happiness be known without singleness of judgment and purpose. This inestimable blessing must have the throne. The waverer and half-seeker fall short. Determined perseverance wins the prize (Philippians 3:12-14).—Bridges.

If God loves a son, He corrects him; and then, “O the blessedness of the man!” It actually makes him wise. Let us not forget the doctrine that affliction—as, indeed, everything else—always benefits the Christian.—Miller.

The coherence between this verse and the one preceding it is not to be neglected. To persuade the more to patience under God’s afflicting hand, he tells us, it is one way to get wisdom and happiness. What though thou suffer chastisement, and that be bitter to thee! if thou get wisdom by it, thou art happy.—Francis Taylor.

Saving wisdom is to be “found” and “gotten.” It is not required that we create it. We could not plan, we could not execute, a way of righteous redemption for sinners.… This is God’s doing, and it is all done. All things are now ready.… But we are required to seek the salvation which has been provided and brought near.… Understanding is a thing to be gotten. It comes not in sparks from our own intellect in collision with other human minds. It is a light from heaven. Religion is not all and only an anxious, fearful seeking: it is a getting too, and a glad enjoying.—Arnot.

It was man who, by losing wisdom, became unhappy; and it is man who, by finding wisdom, or rather being found by the wisdom of God, is made happy again. It was man whose understanding was deceived by the subtle serpent; and it is man who, by getting understanding, deceiveth the serpent of his prey.—Jermin.

Proverbs 3:14. Here, as in Proverbs 2:4, we have traces of the new commerce, the ships going to Ophir for gold, the sight of the bright treasures stimulating men’s minds to a new eagerness.—Plumptre.

Wisdom brings more profit than any worldly riches, because it brings better things than riches Song of Song of Solomon 1:0. It can quiet a man’s mind, which no wealth can do. Rich men have many cares—many griefs; crowns are crowns of thorns: nothing but wisdom can poise the soul in all tempests.

2. It affords a ladder to climb to eternal things, like Jacob’s ladder, that did reach from Bethel on earth, to Bethel (God’s house) in Heaven.—Francis Taylor.

One grain of grace is far beyond all the gold of Ophir, and one hour’s enjoyment of God to be much preferred before all the King of Spain’s annual entradoes. “Let me be put to any pain, any loss, so I get my Jesus,” said Ignatius. What is all the pomp and glory of the world but dung? (Philippians 3:7-8). “I esteem them no better” (surely) “that I may win Christ,” said Paul, that great trader by land and sea. This gold we cannot buy too dear, whatever we pay for it. The wise merchant sells all to purchase it (Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46).—Trapp.

The gain of fine gold weigheth very heavy in man’s account; but the gain of fine wisdom is better, for that weigheth heavy in the balance of God’s esteem. Tertullian, comforting the Christian martyrs, writes: “If you have lost some joys of this life, it is but a merchandise—to lose something to gain greater.”—Jermin.

Proverbs 3:16. As in the vision of Solomon at Gibeon, so here; Wisdom being chosen does not come alone, but brings with her the gifts which others who do not choose her choose in vain. The words are almost the echo of those in 1 Kings 3:11-13.—Plumptre.

It is certainly not a uniform experience that a man lives long in proportion as he lives well. Such a rule would obviously not be suitable to the present dispensation. It is true that all wickedness acts as a shortener of life, and all goodness as its lengthener; but other elements enter, and complicate the result, and slightly veil the interior law. If the law were according to a simple calculation in arithmetic, “the holiest liver, the longest liver,” and conversely, 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. Some power is allowed to the devil, to try them that are upon, the earth.—Arnot.

If God give his people a crown, he will not deny them a crust. If they have the good things of a throne, they shall be sure of the good things of the footstool.—Trapp.

St. Augustine telleth us that length of days is eternity, for whatsoever hath an end is short: but riches and honour, which by men are esteemed good things, they are in the left hand. It is not forbidden thee to enjoy the good things of this life, but do not put that in the right hand which should be in the left; do not prefer temporal things before eternal. Let us use the left hand for a time, but desire the right hand for eternity.—Jermin.

The right hand in the Bible everywhere means one’s highest instrumentality or agency (Revelation 2:1). We understand the text to mean, therefore, that wisdom is able to use long life as a splendid agency.—Miller.

It is eternity that filleth the right hand of Wisdom. Days for the clarity, length for the eternity. As the glory is clear for the countenance, so is it long for the continuance. The gift of the left hand is short and temporal.

I. Riches and honour are God’s gifts, therefore, in themselves, not evil. Saith Augustine: “That they may not be thought evil, they are given to good men; that they may not be thought the best good, they are given to evil men. Chrysostom remarks that Christ doth not say: “Ye cannot have God and mammon,” but, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

II. All are not so, but some; and therefore it is necessary for us to learn whether God gave us the riches and honour which we have. They come from God if

(1) they are honestly gotten,

(2) justly disposed,

(3) patiently lost.

III. Wealth and worship are, for the most part, companions; for both those gifts lie in one and the same hand. Riches are the stairs whereby men climb up into the height of dignity, the fortification that defends it, the food it lives upon, the oil that keeps the lamp of honour from going out.

IV. Though riches and honour are God’s gifts, yet they are but the gifts of His left hand. Therefore it follows that every wise man will seek the blessings of the right. Let us strive for the latter without condition; for the other, if they fall in our way, let us stoop to take them up.—Thomas Adams.


Proverbs 3:17.

I. The ways of religion are ways of pleasantness.

1. There is a pleasure in the duties relating immediately to God—in love, faith, reliance, hope, prayer, and thanksgiving.

2. There is a pleasure in those occupations in which a religious man will be frequently employed—in studying the works of God and the Holy Scriptures: in meditating on the perfections of the Almighty, etc.

3. There is a pleasure in that behaviour towards others, and that manner of prosecuting our worldly affairs, which ever accompany a religious disposition—in calm integrity, honest industry, and acts of beneficence.

4. There is a pleasure in performing our duty to ourselves—in temperance and control of the passions.

II. The ways of sin are not ways of pleasantness.

1. No man can be happy who acts against his conscience.
2. If men persuade themselves that there is no future life, the expectation of perishing utterly presents no agreeable prospect to the soul, which has a natural desire of immortality.
3. Every act contrary to reason and religion is, if not always, for the most part, hurtful, even in this life.—Jortin.

The excellency of the pleasure found in Wisdom’s ways appears—

I. In that it is the pleasure of the mind.
II. That it never satiates nor wearies.
III. That it is in nobody’s power, but only in his that has it

I am confident that the true Christian hath more true pleasure in suffering for Christ, or in one act of mortification, or victory over one lust, than the highest earthly potentate hath in all the honour that is done him, or good things enjoyed by him all his days.—Swinnock.

I. Wisdom of itself is satisfactory, as it implies a revelation of truth, and a detection of error to us. We are all naturally endowed with a strong appetite to know, to see, to pursue truth; and with an abhorrency of being deceived and entangled in mistake.

II. In its consequences it is pleasant and peaceable.

1. It assures us we take the best course and proceed as we ought. He that knows his way and is satisfied it is the true one, goes on merrily and carelessly, not doubting he shall in good time arrive at his destined journey’s end. Wisdom therefore frees us from the company of anxious doubt in our actions, and the consequence of bitter repentance; for no man can doubt of what he is sure, nor repent of what he knows good.
2. It begets in us a hope of success in our actions, and is usually attended therewith. What is more delicious than hope? What more satisfactory than success? And well-grounded hope confirms resolution and quickens activity, which mainly conduce to the prosperous issue of designs.
3. Wisdom prevents discouragement from the possibility of ill success, yea, and makes disappointment itself tolerable. For we have reason to hope that the All-wise Goodness reserves a better reward for us, and will some time recompense us, not only the good purposes we unhappily pursued, but also the unexpected disappointment we patiently endured.
4. Wisdom makes all the troubles of life easy and supportable, by rightly valuing the importance and moderating the influence of them.… If sin vex and discompose us, yet this trouble Wisdom, by representing the Divine Goodness and His tender mercies in our ever-blessed Redeemer, doth presently allay. And for all other adversities it abates their noxious power by showing us they are either merely imaginary or very short and temporary: that they admit of remedy, or at most do not exclude comfort.
5. Wisdom hath always a good conscience attending it, that purest delight and richest cordial of the soul; that brazen wall and impregnable fortress against both external assaults and internal commotions.—Barrow.

Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, as beams and influences issue from the sun. This, saith one, is a fore-reward of well-doing. “In doing thereof (not only for doing) there is great reward” (Psalms 19:11).—Trapp.

The paths of wisdom bring us to the peace of reconciliation with God; to the peace of society and friendship with the angels of God; to the peace of comfort and quietness in our own hearts.—Jermin.

They must be “ways of pleasantness” because “Thus saith the Lord.” And if we feel them not to be so, we know them not.—Bridges.

Her ways are sometimes on hot coals and to burning stakes. If there is anything unpleasant in her way, it is to promote wisdom and so to promote more “pleasantness” another time. All her paths peace, or “prosperity.” More thoroughly “all” of them than in the case of pleasantness. While the happiness of a Christian may flag in this world, his “prosperity” never stops a moment. His “way” is prosperous, i.e., he gains by every inch.—Miller.

Both the way and the end to which the way leads is peace. There are many ways in the world pleasant but not safe; others safe but not pleasant.—Fausset.

Proverbs 3:18. Like that planted in Paradise and promised by Christ to all that overcome.—Wordsworth.

It is remarkable that this and other references in Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4, are the only allusions in any book of the Old Testament, after Genesis, to the “tree” itself, or to its spiritual significance.… The tree of life which Adam was not to taste lies open to his children. No cherubim with flaming swords bar the approach. Wisdom is the tree of life giving true immortality.—Plumptre.

Wisdom beareth not her fruit for everyone. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, not to them that touch her with a light hand, that seek after her in a perfunctory manner, that think a little wisdom, a little godliness, to be sufficient for them.—Jermin.

The tree of life was the means ordained of God for the preservation of lasting life, and continual vigour and health, before man sinned. So true wisdom maintains man in the spiritual life of God’s grace, and the communion of His Spirit.—Diodati.

One view of man’s true dignity arises from the amount of his susceptibilities of enjoyment on the one hand, of suffering on the other. Think of what man was, of what he is, of what he is capable of becoming. His capabilities are such that nothing beneath God Himself can satisfy them. His soul can be filled from no created fountain. Wisdom provides for him a portion adequate to his most unbounded desires, to his most expanded capacities.—Wardlaw.

As the tree of life in Paradise, which was a sign of God’s favour, or the tree which sweetened the waters of Marah, or the tree seen in the Revelation, or any living or good tree which bringeth forth fruit whereby men live.—Muffet.

Verses 19-20


Proverbs 3:20. Depths, &c., “were the floods divided” into rivers and streams for the blessing of man. Dew, or “gentle rain,” or else the clouds signify the lower regions of the atmosphere where the dew is formed.



I. God had a personal existence before the world. If we say that a man founded an institution—built a house—we imply that he existed before the institution or the house, and that he exists as a separate identity from that which he has built or founded.

II. The world did not come by chance—it is not an orphan; it had a Creator, a Father. The world is not eternal. The Lord founded it. He “laid the foundations of the earth” (Job.).

III. That the world which God has made bears the impress of Infinite Wisdom. Scientific investigation and discovery bear out the assertion of Solomon, that the Lord “by wisdom founded the earth.” The discoveries of astronomers reveal to us more and more the “understanding” which “established the heavens.” Solomon here selects one example of the wisdom of God, as displayed in relation to the earth, viz., the process by which it is watered—by which God “maketh it soft with showers, and thus blesseth the springing thereof” (Psalms 65:10), and so gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater. This “philosophy of rain,” as it has been called, is one which illustrates creative wisdom in a remarkable manner. Dr. Ure says, “To understand the philosophy of the beautiful and often sublime phenomenon, so often witnessed since the creation of the world, and essential to the very existence of plants and animals, a few facts derived from observation and a long train of experiments must be remembered.

(1) Were the atmosphere everywhere at all times of a uniform temperature we should never have rain, or hail, or snow; the water absorbed by it in evaporation from the sea and the earth’s surface would descend in an imperceptible vapour, or cease to be absorbed by the air when it was once fully saturated.
(2) The absorbing power of the atmosphere, and consequently its capability to retain humidity, is proportionately greater and warmer than in cold air.
(3) The air near the surface of the earth is warmer than it is in the region of the clouds. The higher we ascend from the earth, the colder do we find the atmosphere. Hence the perpetual snow on very high mountains in the hottest climate. Now, when from continued evaporation the air is highly saturated with vapour, though it be invisible and the sky cloudless,—if its temperature be suddenly reduced by cold currents descending from above, or rushing from a higher to a lower latitude, its capacity to retain moisture is diminished, clouds are formed, and the result is rain. Air condenses as it cools, and, like a sponge filled with water and compressed, pours out the water which it cannot hold. How singular, yet how simple, the philosophy of rain. Who but Omniscience could have devised such an admirable arrangement for watering the earth?” Solomon could not have known how the earth was watered, but he knew enough to awaken his admiration of Providential love and skill.

IV. The exhibition of God’s wisdom in creation is intended to lead men to listen to his Word of Revelation. To this end the subject is introduced here by the preacher. When such a Being speaks, it must be worth men’s while to listen and obey. The heavens and earth have a speech or language (Psalms 19:1-2). They counsel us to seek Him who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure,”—Him “whose word shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:0).


Proverbs 3:19. Hitherto Wisdom has been thought of in relation to men. Now the question comes: What is she in relation to God? and the answer is: That the creative act implies a Divine wisdom, through which the Divine will acts. We have, as it were, the first link of the chain which connects this wisdom with the Divine Word, the Logos of St. John’s Gospel (John 1:3).—Plumptre.

The wisdom, so spiritual as to belong only to the pious, nevertheless has its reachings into all wisdom, as we saw in chap. Proverbs 1:10, where it is called “wisdoms,” as embracing all forms of it. Creative wisdom, therefore, is part of the broad array. But now, as a more important teaching, creative wisdom must include the spiritual. God could not found the heavens without that holy character that makes the system possible. Its enormous intricacies could not be kept up without the harmonising influences of holiness. Government, of course, is built upon it; justice, of course, is a part of it; and the whole world would be an unmeaning mass unless Jehovah, by wisdom, shaped it, viz., in those diviner forms in which He is the governor as well as the builder and original schemer of the universe. God would not have built the world without holiness, and therefore, in the very strictest sense, “by wisdom He founded” the heavens, because only that holy light, which is the light of love, could be the inspiring motive for building the habitations of His creatures. We are to understand this verse as meaning, therefore, first, that creative light merges into all light, as one grand omniscience; but, second, that creative light would be nothing without spiritual light; that God’s love and justice were the very spring and harmonious law whereon all are builded.—Miller.

The spirit of the recommendation seems to be that, as it is “the Lord which giveth wisdom,” that which comes from such a source must be worthy the desire and the solicitation. Think of what Wisdom, as it exists in Deity, has done!—the wonders it hath wrought! This will recommend God’s lessons.—Wardlaw.

The river and the fountain are both of one nature, and when pure water hath been looked on in the stream, it is a pleasant thing to behold it in the conduit head.—Muffet.

Verses 21-26


Proverbs 3:21. Them, i.e. “sound wisdom and discretion;” Sound wisdom, the same word as in chap. Proverbs 2:7 (see notes there). Miller translates here, as there, “something stable

Proverbs 3:25. Desolation of the wicked. This is interpreted in two ways.

1. The desolation in which the wicked strive to overwhelm the good; or,
2. The destruction which will sweep away the wicked, leaving the godly unharmed. “A positive decision is probably not possible” (Lange’s Commentary). Stuart, and most modern commentators, adopt the latter view.

Proverbs 3:26. Confidence. “Jehovah shall be as loins to thee” (Miller).



Here we have the keeping of the Divine commands resulting in a being kept by Divine power and love.

I. There is a possibility of losing what has been attained. The injunction here given is not, as in chap. Proverbs 2:10, to seek wisdom, but as in Proverbs 3:18 of this chapter, to keep a hold upon what has been already gotten. The Scriptures abound in such exhortations. Barnabas exhorted the Church at Antioch to “cleave unto the Lord,” and he and Paul, when in Pisidian Antioch, persuaded the disciples “to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 11:23; Acts 13:43). The word of Our Lord to the Church at Thyatira was “That which ye have hold fast till I come” (Revelation 2:25). There is no safety but in continual watchfulness and in constant study of Divine precepts. “My son, let them not depart from thine eyes.” A mariner may set out on his voyage with his vessel’s head pointing in the right direction, but if he does not hourly keep consulting the compass, it will not avail him much that he started right. The Apostle speaks of men having “made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:19). The world, the flesh, and the devil are cross currents and contrary winds which can only be met and overcome by constant, watchful reference to chart and compass.

II. The blessing which will result from “keeping wisdom,” viz., Soul-life. As food and an observance of physical laws are the means by which the body is enabled to perform the functions which are natural to it, so a constant receiving of God’s thoughts and an observance of God’s laws will enable the soul—the spiritual man—to fulfil the end for which it was created—to glorify and enjoy God. Such a man has the assurance that he is under the special guardianship of God. All the subjects of this realm are under the protection of the monarch, but she has a special and personal care for her own children. So God is the “Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). This particular regard of God for those who have become His children, by falling in with His method of making them right with themselves and with Him, is guaranteed.—

1. In the ordinary events of life. As the heirs of the monarch are always accompanied by those who count it an honour to serve them and, if needful, to protect them, so the heirs of salvation are ever attended by their body-guard, the angels who are “ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). In the night not only do they encamp round about them that fear God (Psalms 34:7), but the Lord Himself is said to be their keeper (Psalms 121:5). His peace “keeps (lit. garrisons) the heart” (Philippians 4:7) and gives the sweet sleep promised in Proverbs 3:24, even although outward circumstances may be apparently adverse (see illustration). This was the experience of David in the night of his adversity, even although he had brought it upon himself (Psalms 3:4). And the certain guidance which is promised in Proverbs 3:6 insures an avoidance of all real danger (Proverbs 3:23).

2. In times of special visitation (Proverbs 3:25). There was a “desolation of the wicked” in the days of Noah, but he and his house were “shut in” the ark by God Himself (Genesis 7:16). In the day when the Lord “rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah He delivered just Lot.” (2 Peter 2:6). When the “abomination of desolation stood in the holy place” at Jerusalem as foretold by our Lord (Matthew 24:15), those who obeyed His command and fled to the mountains escaped the terrible fate of those who remained in the city. (This is recorded by Eusebius). This assurance of constant guardianship and guidance is “life” to the soul (Psalms 30:5). Fear of the future paralyses a man’s energies, but confidence in an over-ruling personal God gives him strength for action.



So effectually had religious faith and hope, co-operating with natural courage and equanimity, composed his spirits that, on the very day on which he was to die, he dined with appetite, conversed with gaiety at table, and, after his last meal, lay down, as he was wont, to take a short slumber, in order that his body and mind might be in full vigour when he should mount the scaffold. At this time one of the Lords of the Council, who had probably been bred a Presbyterian, and had been seduced by interest to join in oppressing the Church of which he had once been a member, came to the castle with a message from his brethren, and demanded admittance to the Earl. It was answered that the Earl was asleep. The Privy Councillor thought that this was a subterfuge, and insisted on entering. The door of the cell was softly opened, and there lay Argyle on the bed, sleeping, in his irons, the placid sleep of infancy. The conscience of the renegade smote him. He turned away, sick at heart, ran out of the castle, and took refuge in the dwelling of a lady of his family, who lived hard by. There he flung himself upon a couch, and gave himself up to an agony of remorse and shame. His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought that he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. “No, no,” he said, “that will do me no good.” She prayed him to tell her what had disturbed him. “I have been,” he said, “to Argyle’s prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity sleeping as sweetly as ever man did. But as for me——.”—Macaulay.


Proverbs 3:21. Simply attend to them. “Watch” like a sentinel, intently eyeing. Solomon enjoins the voluntary, and promises the involuntary. The voluntary we can do, save only for that grand helplessness, an aversion of the will itself. The involuntary we cannot do, save only mediately through obedient acts. Attention is within our power if God gives grace to the will. This is the drift of the promise: You do your part and God will do His.—Miller.

Eye these things as the steersman doth the load-star, as the archer doth the mark he shoots at, or as the passenger doth his way, which he finds hard to hit and dangerous to miss.—Trapp.

Proverbs 3:22.—Wisdom reveals the righteousness of God, whereby a believer lives before God. Without this the man is dead in sins (Hebrews 2:4, Ephesians 2:1).—Fausset.

There is no life in the soul till knowledge come into it. There was no living creature in the world till light was made. God clears the understanding before He rectifies the will and affections; He keeps the same method in the little world that He did in the great world.—Francis Taylor.

Proverbs 3:23. This promise has a direction embodied with it, “Thou shalt walk in thy way.” We are required to keep the way of the Lord, and in the affairs of life to attend to our own concerns, shunning the character of busybodies by not meddling in the affairs of others.—Lawson.

Good success in the way may be crossed again; what is crowned with good success in the end can never be crossed.—Francis Taylor.

There shall be no cause to make thee stumble. For he that is blind or weak may stumble, though he be never so careful; and he may stumble that is careless, though he be never so well able to walk safely. But wisdom shall take away thy blindness, thy weakness, thy carelessness.—Jermin.

Thou shalt ever go under a double guard, the peace of God within thee and the power of God about thee.—Trapp.

Proverbs 3:24.—Peter in prison, in chains, between two soldiers, on the eve of his probable execution, when there seemed but a “step between him and death.” Yet in such a place, in such company, at such a moment, did he lie down so fearlessly and sleep so sweetly, that even the shining light failed to disturb him, and an angel’s stroke was needed to awaken him.—Bridges.

Surely the way to sleep quietly in this world is to be asleep to the world; his sleep is sweetest, when he is asleep, who, when he is awake, doth sweetly sleep in a neglect of worldly crosses or contentments.—Jermin.

Proverbs 3:25. So safe will all thy ways be that to fear will be a sin.—Plumptre.

From the terms before used, respecting the final destruction of the wicked, it is most likely that to it the reference is in this verse.—Wardlaw.

“Be not afraid” is at once a precept and a promise to the godly. They shall have no cause to fear evil tidings, therefore it is their privilege that they are not to fear them (Psalms 112:7; Psalms 91:5).—Fausset.

The Christian is threatened by the sinners in all their ills, whether for them or by them. Sin breeds the whole of them; and the wise man would magnify the grace by saying that they are all equally indifferent. “Let cares, like a wild deluge come.”—Miller.

Let a David “walk through the vale of the shadow of death” he will not fear, no, though he should go back the same way; “for Thou art with me,” saith he. He had God by the hand, and so long he feared no colours.—Trapp.

Proverbs 3:26. Beware of mistakes here. Do not say God is your confidence, if He be only your dread. An appalling amount of hypocrisy exists in Christendom, and passes current for devotion. He who is himself most worthy is often more disliked than any other being, and, as if this ingratitude were not enough, men double the sin by professing that they have confidence in Him. I have observed that sea-going ships do not trust to themselves in the windings of a river. Where they are hemmed in between rock and quicksand, grazing now the one and now the other, they take care to have a steamtug, both to bear them forward and to guide them aright. They hang implicitly upon its power. They make no attempt at independent action. But as soon as they get clear of the narrows—as soon as they have attained a good offing and an open sea—they heave off and hoist their own sails. They never want a steamer till they come into narrow waters again. Such is the trust in God which the unreconciled experience. In distress they are fain to lean upon the Almighty. While they are in the narrows they would hang on the help of a Deliverer.… The line of their dependence seems ever tight by their constant leaning. But when they begin to creep out of these shoals of life they heave off and throw themselves upon their own resources.… This is not to have confidence in God.—Arnot.

Verses 27-29


Proverbs 3:27. Withhold not, &c., literally “hold not good back from its master,” i.e., from him to whom it belongs.



True wisdom in the heart will show itself in right dealing between man and man. He who holds back any good thing by which it is in his power to bless another man is a thief. The withholding is a crime for which God will visit. This is true in relation not only to debts of justice (James 5:4) but to so-called debts of mercy. When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, there will be some against whom He will bring the charge—“I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not” (Matthew 25:42-43). There are five reasons against the postponement of any act of justice or mercy until the morrow.

1. The person who is in need to-day may be beyond your reach to-morrow. Death may remove him from your reach, and he may go into eternity your creditor. Men and women have been saved from taking a step which would have been their ruin, by a kindly word or act which would have come too late on the morrow.
2. If your needy friend do live to be helped on the morrow, you may not live to give him help, and you will then enter the presence of God a debtor to your brother. To-morrow is God’s property, to-day is man’s.
3. If your brother is not beyond your reach to-morrow, his need has been increased by the delay. If a man’s condition calls for medical aid to-day, and it is withholden, the disease will have a firmer hold to-morrow and will be harder to cure. What physician would say to a sick man in such a case, “Go, and come again?” Human need is a disease that is increased by delay in dealing with it. It is a weed that grows apace. What is only a seed to-day will be a sapling soon. If you delay the moral and intellectual training of the ignorant, the chains that bind them will be harder to break to-morrow than they are to-day. So that delay makes the demand greater, and the debt which might have been easily paid when it was due becomes hard to meet by withholding.
4. To do the good to-morrow which might be done to-day is not to be an imitator of God. The Divine Father makes His sun to shine to-day upon the evil and the good. He does not say, “To-morrow I will give thee,” but “now is the accepted time.”

5. The postponement of that which is due is “a devising of evil in the heart against thy neighbour” (Proverbs 3:29). Our Lord, in his parable of the good Samaritan, has answered for us the question, Who is my neighbour? (Luke 10:0). It is the man who is in need, and whose need we can relieve. It is not merely a negative, but a positive sin to withhold help to such a one—it is a violation of that rule of life which Christ Himself declares “is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).


Proverbs 3:27. The borrower is then to repay his debt to the lender; the finder to restore that which he hath taken up to the loser; he which hath received anything into his custody, is to bring it forth to him who reposed trust in him; the master is to pay the servant his wages. Finally, everyone is to practise that precept of the Apostle (Romans 13:8).—Muffet.

This practical injunction may be applied:

1. To all lawful debts, for articles purchased or work performed.
2. To government taxes, which ought to be regarded as debts due to the community.
3. To debts of charity and benevolence. For such debts there are. They cannot indeed be claimed; they cannot be made good in law. But they are due—due on the principle of the “royal law” (Matthew 7:12).—Wardlaw.

Here Solomon passes from general recommendations of wisdom to particular precepts of it. He reverts to instances of “mercy and truth” (Proverbs 3:3). He who is in need has a claim of ownership upon our property by the law of love, which is the law of God. Need makes the poor the owner, and God makes thee the dispenser of the goods which thou hast and which he needs: so such benefits are called “righteousness,” i.e., a righteous debt or obligation (2 Corinthians 9:9; Matthew 6:1, “alms;” Greek, “righteousness”). The same principle applies in the case of spiritual knowledge which thou hast and thy neighbour has not.—Fausset.

With the luxuries of grace, the wise man mixes in its conditions. They are rugged like those of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 13:0). If we enjoy the good of the Gospel, we are to render again according to the benefits shown us.—Miller.

It is the hungry man’s bread which we hoard up in our own barns. It is his meat on which we glut, and his drink which we guzzle: it is the naked man’s apparel which we shut up in our presses, or which we exorbitantly ruffle and flaunt in: it is the needy person’s gold and silver which we closely hide in our chests, or spend idly, or put out to useless use. We are, in thus holding, or thus spending, not only covetous, but wrongful, or havers of more than our own, against the will of the rightful owners.—Barrow.

1. They who have had much experience in the world may be of infinite use by giving salutary advice.

2. If we are afraid of being thought meddling, we can benefit others by a good example.

3. By vindicating the characters of those who have been unjustly defamed.

4. By not only giving alms, but attention, care, and friendship to the needy.

5. By recommending our brethren to God in prayer.—Bishop Porteous.

Proverbs 3:28. This conduct is too common. It may arise—

1. From an avaricious reluctance to part with the money. The avaricious man is so loath to part with the object of his idolatry that even a day’s delay pleases him.
2. From indolent listlessness. The man is not in a mood to be troubled. He is occupied about something else, or he is not disposed to be occupied at all.
3. From insolent superciliousness. This is often discovered towards inferiors, or towards persons against whom there exists a grudge. It is the vice of little minds—ungenerous, unjust, unmanly.—Wardlaw.

He gives twice to one in need who gives at once.—Publius Syrus.

Keep as few good intentions hovering about as possible. They are like ghosts haunting a dwelling. The way to lay them is to find bodies for them.—Arnot.

Proverbs 3:29. This evil may be practised in a great variety of ways. As, for instance—A man in business does what he can to obtain another’s confidence; or, whether he acts from this view or not, he knows that he has that confidence, and he takes advantage of it to obtain large quantities of goods from him, when aware that his own affairs are precarious and his credit sinking. There are not wanting cases in which the most nefarious crimes have been perpetrated through the medium of unsuspecting confidence. The wife of a man’s bosom, or the child of his paternal love, has been seduced by the unwitting confidence he has reposed in a seeming friend. It is the very sin by which “the devil beguiled Eve through his subtilty.” … All therefore who act such a part are of “their father the devil.”—Wardlaw.

Verse 30



I. Strife is unlawful when no good can come from striving. The purpose or end of the strife must be the test as to whether it is right or wrong. Mere assertion of our rights or material gain is not the highest good. If Abraham had pushed the quarrel between his herdsmen and those of Lot there can be no doubt that Abraham could have established a lawful claim to a choice of the land. But the good to be gained by striving was not worthy to be compared with the harm that would have been done, and therefore Abraham nobly forbore to insist on his rights.

II. Causeless strife is a self-infliction. A man can hardly be involved in lawful strife without mental agitation, how much more when he strives without cause. When the four winds of heaven seem to meet upon the sea, the waters foam and toss in ceaseless agitation. The winds must cease to strive before the calm can come. A man involved in an unlawful quarrel is like such a troubled sea. Reason and passion, heaven and hell, contend within him for the mastery, and while the battle lasts he must be miserable.

III. Strife rarely ends with those who begin it. Man’s relationship to his fellows renders it impossible for the result of his good or evil deeds to remain with himself alone. If the head of a family enters into a quarrel, the children will probably imbibe the spirit and suffer from the consequences. If kings and rulers involve a nation in unnecessary war, they bring needless suffering upon thousands of innocent people. This consideration alone ought to make men beware of entering into a quarrel.

IV. Causeless strife in the children of God gives a false representation of their Father’s character. They are God’s representatives upon earth, they are expected to fashion their lives upon the Divine model (Matthew 5:48). God is a God of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23). His contention is only with sin, and its end is the establishment of peace upon earth by righteousness.

Verses 31-35


Proverbs 3:31. Envy thou not, &c., or “emulate not” (Vulg.) “Do not anxiously covet” (Stuart).

Proverbs 3:32. Secret. His “secret compact,” “familiar intimacy.”

Proverbs 3:34. “If,” or “Seeing that He scorneth the scorners,” &c.

Proverbs 3:35. The promotion, &c., literally “shame lifts up,” i.e., in order to sweep away and destroy them; so Lange translates. Miller reads, “fools are each piling shame.” Stuart says on this verse, “Glory means here honour or an exalted station. Ziegler and Ewald render the next clause, ‘Shame shall elevate fools,’ spoken sarcastically. I prefer the meaning sanctioned by Ezekiel 21:23; Isaiah 57:14, viz., to take off, to sweep away, as the dust which is elevated by the wind and is swept off, as may be seen in Isaiah 17:13. Compare Isaiah 29:5; Psalms 35:5. At least, the image understood in this way is very vivid. It stands thus: ‘Fools are elevated like the light dust, and then are swept away in the same manner.’ ”



The children of Wisdom are strongly tempted sometimes to do this. Like Asaph (Psalms 73:0.), they see the prosperity of the wicked encompassed with pride, and clothed, as it were, with violence (Proverbs 3:6), and they are tempted to say: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.”

Such a state of mind is

I. Dangerous. It is the first step to becoming like him. Envy of the oppressor may result in “choosing his ways.” A conviction that there is anything belonging to the oppressor that can be envied may lead to becoming oppressors ourselves.

II. Unwise.

1. Because the oppressor is held in universal abhorrence by men. True it is that he possesses power, or he could not oppress, but sooner or later the power will be transferred to the hands of those whose rights he has trampled on, and the outburst of rejoicing at his overthrow is the revelation of the hidden hatred of which he has all along been the subject.

2. Because he is an abomination to the Most High (Proverbs 3:32). As there is in the noblest of human kind an intense loathing of those who use their power to the injury of others, so this feeling exists more strongly in the mind of God in proportion as His goodness and benevolence exceeds that of the most perfect man. This is not only declared in revelation, but is manifested in the retributions of Providence. Since Pharaoh and his hosts were overthrown in the Red Sea, God has been slaying “mighty kings” who have followed in Pharaoh’s footsteps, because “He is good, and His mercy endureth for ever” (Psalms 136:0).

3. Because of the contrast in the character, and in the present and future reward of the oppressor and the child of Wisdom. The oppressor is “froward.” He will not submit to the voice of instruction or correction, but will be his own absolute lord and master. His actions, if not his words, say: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” The righteous are submissive to the Divine will—they are the “lowly,” who are willing to learn of Him who was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). Such opposite characters must necessarily meet with opposite dealing from a righteous Ruler. It is a righteous law that “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). With the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward—with the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful—are the curse and the blessing which rest respectively upon, not only the froward and lowly man, but upon those to whom they belong—their house—those who are bound to them in family relation. The scorn of the froward man reaps a harvest of scorn, but “grace” is the reward of lowliness and humility (Proverbs 3:34). The contrast in the future inheritance is still greater. The present curse and blessing may not be always evident to onlookers, but the future glory and shame will be manifest to the universe (Matthew 25:31-36).


Proverbs 3:32. The Lord will freely reveal to the righteous what He keeps from others—the truths and promises, the blessings and joys of His covenant of peace, secret to the soul that possesses them, intransferable, “passing all understanding,” “unspeakable and full of glory.”—Wardlaw.

There is no less a secret of godliness than there is of any other trade or profession. Many profess an art or a trade, but thrive not by it because they possess not the secret or mystery of it, and many profess godliness but are little the better for it, because they have not the true secret of it. He hath that with whom God is in secret in his heart, and he that is righteous in secret where no man sees him, he is the righteous man with whom the secret of the Lord is.—Jernim.

They shall be of His cabinet council who choose rather to lie in the dust than to rise by evil arts, by wicked principles.—Trapp.

Proverbs 3:33. Whatever cost be there, there can be no true cheer, for God’s curse mars all; this will either rot the timber, and pull it down, or undermine the foundation, and blow it up. Possibly there may be in thy house a loving wife, loving children, many servants, stately rooms, costly furniture, dainty fare, great earthly delights; but, man, the curse of God is there. A spoonful of this, like copperas, will turn all thy wine into ink; thy sea of honey into gall and wormwood. How can thy sweetest dish be savoury, when the curse of God is thy sauce? Or thy finest raiment delight thee when in every suit there is the curse of God like a plague-sore? or how can thy most beautiful building content thee, when this curse of God on thee for thy wickedness turns it into a prison to keep thee, who art in the bond of iniquity, till the hour of death, the time of thine execution?—Swinnock.

The houses of the wicked are of two kinds, some dwell in their merits, others in their vices. The Pharisees of the world dwell in the lofty houses of their own meritorious holiness. But as St. Bernard saith, What more foolish than to dwell in a house yet hardly begun? The debauched people of the world dwell in the dirty houses of their wicked lives, and cannot be gotten out of them. But the curse of God is upon both. The righteous dwell in God’s mercy which covereth them from the anger of His justice.… The rich glutton may keep out Lazarus, but he keeps in God’s curse.—Jermin.

Here are the gods—could the philosopher say of his poor habitation, meaning his heathenish household gods—whatever else is wanting to me. How much more may the saint say so of his God.—Trapp.

Proverbs 3:35. They shall be promoted, indeed, but their exaltation shall be like that of Haman, who was exalted when he was hung upon a gallows fifty cubits high.—Lawson.

This last contrast carries us forward to the coming day when all shall “discern” in the full delight of eternity (Malachi 3:18). The wise—the heirs of glory—are identified with the lowly (Proverbs 3:34)—the heirs of grace. Self-knowledge—the principle of lowliness—is the very substance of wisdom. Their inheritance also is one—grace and glory (Psalms 84:11). For what higher glory can there be than the grace which hath redeemed a worm of the earth and made him a king and priest unto God?—Bridges.

Humility is both a grace and a vessel to receive grace.—Trapp.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/proverbs-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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