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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ proverbs-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Places of the paths “in the midst of the highways.” “These ways are roads, solitary paths, not streets in the city, and the delineation proceeds in such an order as to exhibit Wisdom; first, in Proverbs 8:2, as a preacher in the open country, in grove and field, on mountains and plains, and then in Proverbs 8:3, to describe her public harangues in the cities, and in the tumult of the multitudes” (Zöckler).
Proverbs 8:3. At the entrance of its doors, i.e., “standing on the further side of the gateway” (Zöckler) “at the entrance of the avenues” (Stuart).
Proverbs 8:4. The Hebrew words for men are different in the two clauses, “the first signifies men of high position, the second men of the common sort” (Psalms 49:2.) (Fausset).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:1-3
THE NATURE OF WISDOM’S CALL
Even if we reject the direct Messianic interpretation of this chapter, and understand Wisdom here to be only a poetical personification of an abstract attribute of God, it would be impossible, we think, for any minister of the New Testament to teach from it, and not find his way to Him who was “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2), to the Christ who is the “Wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). To say the least, the language is admirably adapted to set forth the Incarnate Son, the Saviour of the world. The introductory paragraph reveals the intense desire of Wisdom to win disciples.
I. From her taking the initiative. Wisdom addresses man first. When two persons have become estranged by the wrong-doing of one, he who is in the wrong will be slow to find his way back to the other to acknowledge his fault. Because he is in the wrong he may conclude, and in many cases would rightly conclude, that an advance on his side would be useless. But an advance from him who is in the right would be more likely to be successful; such a course of conduct on his part would carry with it a powerful magnetic force to draw the offender back, and would be a most convincing proof of the desire of him who had been rightly offended to effect a reconciliation. And if the offence had been committed, not once, but many times, the reluctance of the offender to face his offended friend would be increased in proportion to the number of times the act had been repeated, and if, notwithstanding these repeated offences, advances should continue to be made from the other side, the desire for reconciliation would be made more and more manifest. Wisdom is here represented in this light, and God in Christ did take the initiative in “reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Incarnate Wisdom came to men because men would not, and could not, by reason of their moral inability, come to Him first. In proportion to the distance men wander from God do they feel the impossibility of returning to Him unless they can receive from Him some encouragement to do so. This encouragement they have in the fact that “the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11), that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
II. From the variety of places where Wisdom’s voice is heard (Proverbs 8:2-3). If a man has goods to sell, he seeks those places where he will be most likely to find buyers; if he has thoughts which he wishes to make public, he goes where he will find the most hearers. The pilot has wisdom which he wants to sell to the less experienced ship-master, and he runs his cutter out into the highway of the channel. He is found at “the entrance of the gates” of the water-ways, at the mouths of the rivers; he places himself in the way of those who need his wisdom, and who will pay a good price for his skill. In proportion to a man’s earnestness to obtain a market, or a hearing, will be his endeavour to seek out the places where he will most likely succeed. Wisdom is here represented as frequenting the most conspicuous places, the most crowded thoroughfares, to find buyers for that spiritual instruction which is to be had “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Christ was found imparting the treasures of His wisdom wherever men would listen to His words. He “went up into a mountain and taught” (Matthew 5:1). He was found in the streets of the cities, in the temple, at the publican’s feast (Luke 5:27), in a boat on the shore of the lake. When multitudes were gathered at Jerusalem at the feasts, He was among them (John 7:14; John 7:37). At other times “He went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35). And thus He revealed His intense desire to give unto men those words which He declares to be “spirit and life” (John 6:63).
III. From the earnest tone of her call. “Doth not Wisdom cry.” When the voice of Christ was heard upon earth it was in no indifferent tone He addressed His hearers. He was “moved with compassion” towards the multitudes who followed Him (Matthew 14:14). On the “great day of the feast He stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let Him come unto Me and drink” (John 7:37). With what earnestness must He have uttered His lament over Jerusalem: “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace” (Luke 19:42). A man’s tone is more or less earnest to us in proportion as he gives proof that he is willing to follow up words by deeds. Judged in this light, how earnest must the call of Christ to men sound when they consider that He was willing to face Gethsemane and Calvary to give effect to His words. On this subject see also Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 1:20-21.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:1. She crieth by the written word, by ministers, and by the dealings of Providence. Instead of the clandestine whisper of the adulteress in the dark, Wisdom “puts forth her voice” openly in the day, and in a style suitable to every capacity, so that all are left without excuse if they reject her, preferring darkness to light.—Fausset.
The eternal Son of God gathers, plants, builds His Church by a voice, i.e., His word. All true teachers of the Word are crying voices through which Christ calls. Out of Christ’s school is no true wisdom. So long as Christ’s wisdom is still speaking outside thee it avails thee nothing; but when thou allowest it to dwell in thee it is thy light and life.—Egard.
We cannot promulgate as doctrine, but we think the last day will show that wisdom plied every art; that what was “all things working together for good” in behalf of the believer, was something analagous in tendency in the instance of the sinner; that if the sinner thought his lot defeated repentance, he was mistaken; or that, could he have fared otherwise, his chances would have been improved: all this was largely error; moreover, that he will be held accountable at last for quite the opposite, and punished for a life singularly favoured and frequently adapted as the very best to lead him to salvation.—Miller.
In her ministers, who are criers by office, and must be earnest (Isaiah 58:1). See an instance in holy Bradford. “I beseech you,” saith he, “I pray you, I desire you, I crave at your hands with all my very heart, I ask of you with hand, pen, tongue, and mind, in Christ, through Christ, for Christ, for His name, blood, mercy, power, and truth’s sake, my most entirely beloved that you admit no doubting of God’s final mercies towards you.” Here was a lusty crier indeed.—Trapp.
This form of interrogation, which expects as its answer an assenting and emphatic “yes, truly,” points to the fact clearly brought to view in all that has preceded, that Wisdom bears an unceasing witness in her own behalf in the life of men.—Zöckler.
Proverbs 8:2. “Standeth” implies assiduous perseverance. Instead of taking her stand in dark places, in a corner, like the harlot (chap. Proverbs 7:9), she “standeth” in the top of high places.—Fausset.
Wisdom is representing as haunting all human paths. Folly lives upon them, too. Wisdom does not claim them as her own; Folly does. Wisdom has but one path. And she haunts every other to turn men out of such diverse journeyings into the one great track of holiness and truth.—Miller.
Proverbs 8:3. Thereby intending
(1) to reach the whole concourse of the lost, and
(2) to make human life at these great rallying places of men, speak its own lessons, and utter the loudest warnings against the soul’s impenitence.—Miller.
Proverbs 8:5. Wisdom. This is a different word from the one used in Proverbs 8:1, and may be translated “subtilty,” or “prudence,” and though it is here used in a good sense, may, when the context requires it, be translated “artful cunning.”
Proverbs 8:6. Excellent, literally “princely,” generally rendered “plain,” “evident,” “obvious.”
Proverbs 8:7. Mouth, lit. “palate.” Speak, literally, “meditate;” the word originally meant “mutter,” and grew to mean “meditate,” because what a man meditates deeply he generally mutters about (Miller).
Proverbs 8:8. Froward, literally, “distorted,” or “crooked.”
Proverbs 8:9. “Right to the man of understanding, and plain to them that have attained knowledge” (Zöckler). “To the men of understanding they are all to the point” (Delitzsch).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:4-9
GOD’S SPEECH MEETING MAN’S NEED
I. Divine Wisdom has spoken because God’s silence would be human death. When a man is lying in prison awaiting the execution of the extreme penalty of the law, after he has petitioned the monarch for a reprieve, the silence of the monarch is a permission that the sentence is to be carried out. His silence is a death-knell to the criminal who has asked for pardon. It is an anticipation of the steel of the executioner, of the rope of the hangman. He longs for the word that would bring pardon. There is death in the silence. In the history of men’s lives there are many other instances when the silence of those whom they desire to speak embitters their life. There are many who keep silence whose speech would fall upon the heart of those who long for it, as the dew and gentle rain falls upon the parched earth. A word or a letter would be like a new lease of life, but the silence brings a sorrow which is akin to death, which perchance is the death of all that makes life to be desired. A parent who has no word from his absent son goes down in sorrow to the grave. Jacob was thus going down mourning when the words of Joseph reached him. Then “his spirit revived” (Genesis 45:27), and the aged, sorrowful patriarch renewed his youth. The life of man—all that is worth calling life—depends upon God’s breaking the silence between earth and heaven. His silence is that which is most dreaded by those who have heard his voice. Hence their prayer is, “Be not silent unto me; lest, if Thou be silent unto me, I become like them that go down into the pit (Psalms 28:1). If man had been left without any communication from God, he must have remained spiritually dead throughout his term of probation. For he is by nature what is called in Scripture, “carnally-minded,” which “is death” (Romans 8:5). Every man, if left to himself, forms habits of thinking and of acting that cause him “to be tied and bound with the chain of his sins.” And if God had not spoken he must have remained in this condition, which is spiritual death. Therefore, God has broken this silence with an “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead” (Ephesians 5:14). The nations were walking in the darkness and the shadow of death when the “light shined” upon them (Luke 1:79), in the person of Him who is the Word and the Wisdom of God, who, Himself, declared “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life;” “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 6:63; John 10:10).
II. Human nature needs the voice of Divine Wisdom because the soul cannot rest upon uncertainties (Proverbs 8:6-8). If a man is in the dark upon any subject, he is in a condition of unrest; there is a desire within him to rise from the state of probability to one of certainty. If a boy works a sum and does not know how to prove that it is right, he does not feel that satisfaction at having completed his task that he would do if he could demonstrate that the answer was correct. After all his labour he has only arrived at a may-be. So the result of all efforts of man’s unaided reasonings concerning himself and his destiny was but a sum unproved. There was no certainty after ages of laborious conjecture. There might be a future life and immortality, but it could not be positively affirmed. Although the sum might be right there was a possibility that it was wrong. The world by wisdom arrived at no certain conclusions in relation to the Divine character and the chief end of man, and uttered but an uncertain sound on the life beyond the grave. “How can man be just with God?” “If a man die shall he live again?” were never fully and triumphantly answered until the Incarnate Word stood by His own empty grave and said, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God” (John 20:17). He brought “rest” to the weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28), because His words were truth, and plainness, and certainty (see Proverbs 8:6-8); before they had been only error, or obscurity, or conjecture.
III. The wisdom of God is appreciated by those who have realised its adaptation to human needs. (Proverbs 8:9.) There is a twofold knowledge, or “understanding,” of Divine truth, as there is of much else with which we are acquainted. There is an acquaintance with the general facts of Divine revelation—a theoretical understanding of its suitableness to the needs of men, and there is a knowledge which arises from an experience of its adaptation to our personal need—a practical understanding which springs from having received a personal benefit. The chemist knows that a certain drug possesses qualities adapted to cure a particular malady, but if he comes to experience its efficacy in the cure of the disease in his own body, he has a knowledge which far surpasses the merely theoretical. It is then “plain” to him from an experimental understanding. The wisdom of God in the abstract, or in the personal Logos, is allowed by many to be adapted to the spiritual needs of the human race. They see the philosophy of the plan of salvation in the general, but its wonderful adaptation and “rightness” is only fully revealed when they have “found” the “knowledge” by an experimental reception of Christ into their own hearts. To him that thus “understands” all is “plain.”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:4. Christ offers Himself as a Saviour to all the human race.
I. The most awakening truth in all the Bible. It is commonly thought that preaching the holy law is the most awakening truth in the Bible, and, indeed, I believe this is the most ordinary means which God makes use of. And yet to me there is something far more awakening in the sight of a Divine Saviour freely offering Himself to eyery one of the human race.… Does it not show that all men are lost—that a dreadful hell is before them? Would the Saviour call so loud and so long if there was no hell?
II. The most comforting truth in the Bible. If there were no other text in the whole Bible to encourage sinners to come freely to Christ, this one alone might persuade them. Christ speaks to the human race. Instead of writing down every name He puts all together in one word, which includes every man, woman, and child.
III. The most condemning truth in all the Bible. If Christ be freely offered to all men, then it is plain that those who live and die without accepting Christ shall meet with the doom of those who refuse the Son of God.—McCheyne.
They are called to repentance, they are called to the remission of their sins; they may and must repent, and they, by repentance, are sure of pardon for all their sins. The good angels have not sinned, the bad angels cannot repent; it is man that hath done the one, it is man that must do the other.—Jermin.
“O men.” Some render it, “O ye eminent men” (see Critical Notes), whether for greatness of birth, wealth, or learning. But “the world by wisdom knows not God” (1 Corinthians 1:21); and “not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (Proverbs 8:26). And yet they shall not want for calling, if that would do it. But all to little purpose, for most part. They that lay their heads upon down pillows cannot so easily hear noises. “The sons of men,” i.e., to the meaner sort of people. These, usually, like little fishes, bite more than bigger. “The poor are gospelised,” saith our Saviour. Smyrna was the poorest, but the best of the seven churches.—Trapp.
Several ways whereby God addresses Himself to man. How different the method which God uses towards the rational from that which He uses toward the material world. In the world of matter God has not only fixed and prescribed certain laws according to which the course of nature shall proceed, but He is Himself the sole and immediate executor of those laws.… It is to Himself that He has set those laws, and it is by Himself that they are executed. But He does not deal so with the world of spirits. He does not here execute the laws of love, as He does there the laws of motion. He contents Himself to prescribe laws, to make rational applications, to speak to spirits. He speaks to them because they are rational, and can understand what He says, and He does but speak to them because they are free. And this He does in several ways.
1. By the natural and necessary order and connection of things. God, as being the Author of nature, is also the author of that connection that results from it between some actions and that good and evil that follows upon them, and which must therefore not be considered as mere natural consequences, but as a kind of rewards and punishments annexed to them by the Supreme Lawgiver, God having declared by them, as by a natural sanction, that ’tis His will and pleasure that those actions which are attended with good consequences should be done, and that those which are attended with evil consequences should be avoided. Not that the law has its obligation from the sanction, but these natural sanctions are signs and declarations of the will of God.
2. By sensible pleasure and pain. A thing which everybody feels, but which few reflect upon, yet there is a voice of God in it. For does not God, by the frequent and daily return of these impressions, continually put us in mind of the nature and capacity of our souls, that we are thinking beings, and beings capable of happiness and misery, which because we actually feel in several degrees, and in several kinds, we may justly think ourselves capable of in more, though how far, and in what variety, it be past our comprehension exactly to define.
3. By that inward joy which attends the good, and by that inward trouble and uneasiness which attends the bad state of the soul. This is a matter of universal experience. It is God that raiseth this pleasure or this pain in us, and that thus differently rewards or punishes the souls of men, and thus, out of His infinite love, is pleased to do the office of a private monitor to every particular man, by smiling upon him when he does well, and by frowning upon him when he does ill, that so he may have a mark to discern, and an encouragement to do his duty.—John Norris.
Proverbs 8:5. A man may be acutely shrewd and yet be a fool, and that in the very highest sense. Nor is this a mere mystic sense. He must be a fool actually, and of the very plainest kind, who gives the whole labour of a life, for example, to increase his eternal agonies.—Miller.
The heart is frequently used, simply for the mind or seat of intellect as well as for the affections; so that “an understanding heart” might mean nothing different from an intelligent mind. At the same time, since the state of the heart affects to such a degree the exercise of the judgment, “an understanding heart” may signify a heart freed from the influence of those corrupt affections and passions by which the understanding is perverted, and its vision marred and destroyed.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 8:6. The discoveries of Wisdom relate to things of the highest possible excellence; such as the existence, character, works, and ways of God; the soul; eternity; the way of salvation—the means of eternal life. And they are, on all subjects, “right.” They could not, indeed, be excellent themselves, how excellent soever in dignity and importance the subjects to which they related, unless they were “right.” But all her instructions are so. They are true in what regards doctrine, and “holy, just, and good” in what regards conduct or duty. There is truth without any mixture of error, and rectitude without any alloy of evil.—Wardlaw.
Right for each man’s purposes and occasions. The Scriptures are so penned that every man may think they speak of him and his affairs. In all God’s commands there is so much rectitude and good reason, could we but see it, that if God did not command them, yet it were our best way to practise them.—Trapp.
The teaching is not trifling, though addressed to triflers. “Right things”—things which are calculated to correct your false notions, and set straight your crooked ways.—Adam Clarke.
Proverbs 8:9. If aught in God’s Word does not seem to us right, it is because we, so far, have not found true knowledge. “To those who have bloodshot eyes, white seems red (Lyra). He who would have the sealed book opened to him must ask it of the Lamb who opens the book (Revelation 5:4-9.—Fausset.
The first part of this verse wears very much the aspect of a truism. But it is not said, “They are plain to him that understandeth them;” but simply to him that “understandeth.” It seems to signify, who has the understanding necessary to the apprehension of Divine truth—spiritual discernment. “He who is spiritual discerneth all things.” “They are all plain” to him who thus understandeth. It may further be observed, how very much depends, in the prosecution of any science, for correct and easy apprehension of its progressive development to the mind, on the clear comprehension of its elementary principles. The very clearest and plainest demonstrations, in any department of philosophy, will fail to be followed and to carry conviction—will leave the mind only in wonder and bewildering confusion, unless there is a full and correct acquaintance with principles or elements, or a willingness to apply the mind to its attainment. So in Divine science. There are, in regard to the discoveries of the Divine Word, certain primary principles, which all who are taught of God know, and which they hold as principles of explanation for all that that Word reveals, They who are thus “taught of God,” perceive with increasing fulness the truth, the rectitude, the unalloyed excellence of all the dictates of Divine wisdom. All is “plain”—all “right.” The darkness that brooded over the mind is dissipated. They “have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things” (1 John 2:20).—Wardlaw.
When a man gets the knowledge of himself, then he sees all the threatenings of God to be right. When he obtains the knowledge of God in Christ, then he finds that all the promises of God are right—yea and amen.—Adam Clarke.
Proverbs 8:11. Rubies, “pearls.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:10-11
WISDOM BETTER THAN WEALTH
I. Wisdom is to be preferred to wealth because it belongs to a higher sphere. The wisdom by which men succeed in finding gold and silver reveals the superiority of mind over matter. The apparatus of the miner or digger reveals that his thought, by which he is enabled to find the precious metal, is more than the metal itself. The precious stones which the merchant gains by trading are inferior to the wisdom he puts in operation to gain them, even though it is a wisdom which is only devoted to gaining money. The mental power which he puts forth shows that he is possessed of intelligence, which, belonging to the region of mind, belongs to a higher sphere than material wealth. When the wisdom is that spoken of in the text, the wisdom which springs from the very Fountain of goodness, it is not only preferable because it is the offspring of mind, but because it belongs to the higher region of spiritual purity.
II. Wisdom is to be preferred to wealth, because it had an existence before wealth. The world, with all its precious stones, and rich mines of gold and silver, is but of yesterday compared with wisdom. The mental and spiritual wealth of God was before matter; upon that wisdom—as we learn in this chapter—depended the existence of the material (Proverbs 8:22-32; chap Proverbs 3:19-20). Mental wealth is eternal, material wealth belongs only to time. Gold had a beginning, because the earth had a birthday, but wisdom is as old as God.
III. Wisdom is to be preferred to wealth, because it is an absolute necessity to man’s well-being, which gold is not. The first man, in his state of sinlessness, had no need of what men now call wealth, but wisdom—spiritual wisdom—was absolutely necessary to his continuation in a state of blessedness. Men need worldly, intellectual wisdom, even to make money. Many who inherit wealth lose it because they lack wisdom to use it rightly. But they can be blest without wealth, but not without the wisdom which leads to holiness. Wealth may bring pleasure with it, but to do so it must be united to true wisdom. Many who roll in riches have no pleasure in them; sometimes their very wealth adds to their unhappiness. Mental wealth enables men to extract some enjoyment from material wealth, but the riches of goodness makes gold and silver a means of increasing men’s happiness.
IV. Wisdom is to be preferred to wealth, because the latter may be destructive to character, and the former is its constructive power. Many men have been morally destroyed by their riches. But true wisdom is that by which a holy character is formed, the sustenance of the spiritual life. Riches may ruin; the wisdom which God gives to those who seek it at His hand can but bless.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:10. Thou canst not make as thy chief aim the acquisition of silver and that of true wisdom at one and the same time, for those aims mutually conflict, and each claims the whole man (Matthew 6:24). To accept the one involves the rejection of the other as the chief portion. He who lives for money is void of wisdom (Luke 12:16; Luke 12:20), and is called in Scripture a “fool.”—Fausset.
Had it been said, Receive silver, who would not have held out his hand to receive it? Had it been said, Receive gold, who would not have been forward and glad with both his hands to have taken it? But it is instruction and not silver, wherein, lest a worldly heart be afraid that the taking of silver were forbidden him, the next words show the meaning, that it is but instruction rather than silver, as it is knowledge rather than gold.… He that seeketh gold and silver diggeth up much earth, but finds little of them, but he that receiveth instruction and knowledge, which are, indeed, of a golden nature, even in a little shall get and find much. Wherefore Clemens Alexandrinus saith, “It is in the soul that riches are, and they alone are riches whereof the soul alone is the treasure.”—Jermin.
The first warning uttered by this wisdom from above is the repetition of a former word. The repetition is not vain. Another stroke so soon on the same place indicates that he who strikes feels a peculiar hardness there. The love of money is a root of evil against which the Bible mercifully deals many a blow. There lies one of our deepest sores. Thanks be to God for touching it with “line upon line” of His healing Word.… A ship bearing a hundred emigrants has been driven from her course and wrecked on a desert island, far from the tracks of men. The passengers get safe ashore with all their stores. There is no way of escape, but there are means of subsistence. An ocean unvisited by ordinary voyagers circles round their prison, but they have seed, with a rich soil to receive, and a genial climate to ripen it. Ere any plan has been laid, or any operation begun, an exploring party returns to head quarters reporting the discovery of a gold mine. Thither instantly the whole company resort to dig. They acquire and accumulate heaps of gold. The people are quickly becoming rich. But the spring is past, and not a field has been cleared, not a grain of seed has been committed to the ground. The summer comes, and their wealth increases, but the store of food is small. In harvest they begin to discover that their stores of gold are worthless. A cart-load of it cannot satisfy a hungry child. When famine stares them in the face a suspicion shoots across their fainting hearts that their gold has cheated them. They loathe the bright betrayer. They rush to the woods, fell the trees, till the ground, and sow the seed. Alas! it is too late! Winter has come, and their seed rots in the soil. They die of want in the midst of their treasures. This earth is a little isle—eternity the ocean round it. On this shore we have been cast, like shipwrecked sailors. There is a living seed; there is an auspicious spring time; the sower may eat and live. But gold mines attract us; we spend our spring there—our summer there: winter overtakes us toiling there, with heaps of hoarded dust, but destitute of the bread of life.—Arnot.
Proverbs 8:11. First, because everything else without it is a curse, and with it is just what is needed; second, because it is necessary to all beings, and even to God himself, as the spring of action; third, because it is glory and wealth in its very nature.—Miller.
Surely he that thinketh himself adorned with precious stones, showeth himself to be of less price than the stones are. To whom Clemens well applieth that saying of Apelles, who, when one of his scholars had painted Helena set out with much gold, said unto him, “Alas, poor young man, when thou could’st not draw her fair thou hast made her rich,” for so, when many have neglected the jewel of the soul they seek to prank out the body with jewels.—Jermin.
The wisdom of goodness, or virtue.
1. Is absolutely and without any limitation good, absolutely and without any limitation useful and desirable. It alone can never be misapplied, can never be criminal. This we cannot pronounce of any other good. Riches may be a snare, honours a burden, even the endowments of the mind may be a snare to us.
2. It is far more unchangeable than the value of all other goods and endowments. The value of riches is regulated by our wants and the wants of the society in which we live. The value of honour changes according to the opinions, the usages, the political institutions of mankind. The value of sensual pleasure depends much on our constitution, age, and health. Even the value of mental endowments is subject to vicissitudes. The value of true wisdom alone is invariably the same.
3. It is much more independent of station than any other good. Riches would cease to be riches if all men lived in abundance. Honour would lose much of its value if it gave us no precedence over others. A great proportion of the value of sensual and mental pleasures would be reduced to nothing if every man possessed them, and each in the same degree. But no man loses anything if another be virtuous likewise, but if all were virtuous all would infinitely profit thereby.
4. It has a pre-eminent value, by the effects it produces in us. It renders us:
(1) much better,
(2) more useful,
(3) more happy.
5. It alone fits us for a better life. It passes for as much in heaven as it does upon earth, and much more. It alone assimilates us with God. What we call riches, power, and knowledge, are poverty, weakness, and darkness, with Him.—Zollikofer.
Proverbs 8:12. Dwell with or “inhabit.” Witty inventions, “skilful plans” (Stuart), “sagacious counsels” (Zöckler)
Proverbs 8:14. Sound wisdom, the same word as in chap. Proverbs 2:7 (see note there). Stuart reads here, “As for me, my might is understanding;” Delitzsch, “Mine is counsel and promotion.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:12-13
WISDOM AND PRUDENCE
I. Wisdom and prudence are here represented as dwelling together to express unity of action. Elster remarks upon this passage: “Prudence denotes here right knowledge in special cases, in contrast with the more comprehensive idea of intelligence in general; the practical realisation of the higher principle of knowledge found in wisdom.” Prudence is as necessary to wisdom, as the hand is to the will. Prudence asks what is the best time, the best place, and the best manner in which to carry out what wisdom has designed. It has therefore been defined as “wisdom applied to practice.” Wisdom decrees that a certain word is to be spoken. Prudence decides upon the best time, place, and manner in which to say it. Prudence must always dwell with wisdom, if the designs of a wise man are to be brought to a successful issue. In all God’s plans both are always in operation. Consider their manifestation in the plan of redemption. The wisdom of God is manifested in the conception of plan. His prudence was shown in the choice of the time, place, and manner of the manifestation.
1. The time was “the fulness of time” (Galatians 4:4), when all the streams of human wisdom and greatness which had been flowing through the world for ages, had converged into one head and were seen to be powerless to accomplish the regeneration of the world. Then “God sent forth His Son.”
2. The place of the manifestation. When the wisdom of a commander has decided that a battle must be fought, his prudence is called in to decide where it must take place, where all lawful advantage will be upon his side. Our world was chosen by Divine prudence as the scene of the battle between the powers of Good and Evil because, seeing that here the human race had been most shamefully defeated by the devil, it was most fitting that here the Prince of Darkness should be defeated by One in human form—that the victory should be won where the defeat had been sustained.
3. The manner in which, or the means by which, man’s redemption was accomplished. The life of the Incarnate Son of God was adapted to influence the hearts of men. His death for their sins was calculated, as probably no other event could have been, to beget within them a love which is powerful enough to make them new creatures. The fact that millions of men and women have been thus born to a new life through the cross of Christ is a revelation of its adaptation to human needs, and a manifestation that Divine wisdom dwelt with Divine prudence in the plan of redemption; that in this, as in all His other workings, there was an exhibition of “sagacious counsels” (see Critical Notes).
II. Divine wisdom and prudence act in union for the promotion of moral ends (Proverbs 8:13). There is a wisdom and prudence which do not act in concert for this purpose, but for the very opposite. There is a manifestation of prudence choosing the best time, place, and method in which to work out an evil design. The plan of the tempter to ruin our first parents was a great display of united wisdom and prudence. The time, the place, the means chosen were all calculated to effect the purpose. But the wisdom and prudence of God unite to put down sin, to banish its evil influence from the universe. As we see the combination of wisdom and prudence in the Father’s plan of redemption, so we see them combined in every act and word of the Son of God while He was manifest in the flesh. The means He used to silence His enemies, to instruct His disciples, to enlighten the ignorant multitude, were all revelations of His Divine wisdom and prudence.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:12. That is, this spiritual light, which the very first proverb (ch. Proverbs 1:2-3) says is holiness; takes possession of any intellect; dwells in it; nay, makes a dwelling in it; for holiness can dwell in nothing else; and that intellect, though it may be the very mind of God, is stirred up by nothing else to do all that is grand in its total history (Proverbs 8:22-30). Satan, with such splendid intellect, what is he but the universe’s insanest fool? He toils for worse wages than anybody in the whole creation. But could wisdom get a lodging in that peerless intellect, what different results! She gets a lodging in our earthly faculties, and turns us about from sowing to our death, to a splendid harvest of eternal favour.—Miller.
Wisdom, in the most comprehensive aspect, is to be regarded as giving origin to all arts and sciences, by which human life is improved and adorned; as by her inventive skill developing all the varied appliances for the external comfort and well-being of mankind; as planning the “wondrous frame” of universal creation, which, with all its varied beauty, fills us, in the view, with astonishment and delight; and conceiving, in the depths of eternity, the glorious scheme—a scheme “dark with brightness all along”—which secures the happiness of man for ever, and in which she appears in her noblest and most attractive display, the whole, from first to last, discovering “the manifold wisdom of God.”—Wardlaw.
In the first address of Wisdom (ch. Proverbs 1:22-33), her words were stern and terrible. The first step in the Divine education is to proclaim “the terrors of the Lord,” but here she neither promises nor threatens, but, as if lost in contemplation, speaks of her own excellence. “Prudence.” The subtilty of the serpent, in itself neutral, but capable of being turned to good as well as evil. Wisdom, high and lofty, occupied with things heavenly and eternal, does not exclude, yea, rather, “dwells with” the practical tact and insight needed for the common life of men.—Plumptre.
Wisdom here beginneth to draw her own picture, and with her own pencil.… The force of the verse is, that Wisdom is there where there is a fitness of worth to entertain her.—Jermin.
I draw all into practice, and teach men to prove by their own experience, what is “that good, and holy, and acceptable will of God” (Romans 12:2). Trapp.
All arts among men are the rays of Divine wisdom falling upon them. Whatsoever wisdom there is in the world, it is but a shadow of the wisdom of God.—Charnock.
Prudence is defined, wisdom applied to practice; so, wherever true wisdom is, it will lead to action.… The farther wisdom proceeds in man the more practical knowledge it gains, and, finding out the nature and properties of things, and the general course of Providence, it can contrive by new combinations to produce new results.—Adam Clarke.
Proverbs 8:13. To fear retribution is not to hate sin. In most cases it is to love it with the whole heart. It is a solemn suggestion that even the religion of dark, unrenewed men is in its essence a love of their own sins. Instead of hating sin themselves, their grand regret is, that God hates it. If they could be convinced that the Judge would regard it as lightly as the culprit, the fear would collapse like steam under cold water, and all the religious machinery which it drove would stand still.—Arnot.
The godly avoid evil and do good—not merely from habit, education, the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment, but from hatred of evil and love of goodness.—Cartwright.
The affection of hatred as having sin for its object is spoken of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as that by which true religion may be known and distinguished.—Jon. Edwards.
Wisdom having shown where she dwelleth, she showeth likewise where she dwelleth not.… He that saith, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil,” is Himself the Lord that hateth evil. And, doubtless, every one should hate that which He hateth, whom all must love. Now, in an evil way, there be some ringleaders, and such are “pride, arrogancy, and the froward mouth,” for these draw many other after them.… And as for the Eternal Wisdom, how much He hateth them, His little regard of Himself showeth plainly and fully. For it was His hatred of Satan’s pride, reigning in wickedness, as well as His love to man captivated by it, that made Him to become man; yea, a worm, and no man, and by His humility to destroy pride, which He so greatly hated.—Jermin.
It is not only Divine holiness, observe, that “hates evil,” it is Divine wisdom. This conveys to us the important lesson that the will of God, along with his abhorrence of all that is opposed it, is founded in the best of reasons. All that is evil is contrary to His own necessary perfection, and, consequently, to “the eternal fitness of things.”—Wardlaw.
As it is impossible to hate evil without loving good; and as hatred to evil will lead a man to abandon the evil way, and love to goodness will lead him to do what is right in the sight of God, under the influence of that spirit which has given the hatred to evil, and the love of goodness; this implies the sum and substance of true religion, which is here termed the fear of the Lord.—Adam Clarke.
God’s people partake of the Divine nature, and so have God-like sympathies and antipathies (Revelation 2:6). They not only leave sin, but loathe it, and are at deadly feud with it. They purge themselves—by this clean fear of God (Psalms 19:7)—from all pollutions, not of flesh only, worldly lusts, and gross evils, but of spirit also, that lie more up in the heart of the country, as pride, arrogancy, etc.—Trapp.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 8:14-16
THE SOURCE OF TRUE POWER
I. Moral wisdom is the strength of kings. “I have strength; by me kings rule.” There is a kind of strength in all wisdom. The serpent’s strength is in his subtlety. The strength of the kingdom of darkness consists in a kind of wisdom of which our Lord speaks, when He says, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). Many kingdoms have been founded and governed upon the basis of merely human sagacity. But in all such government there are elements of weakness. The foundation of all lasting, true government is to be found only in moral wisdom, in other words, in holiness. That king or ruler will in the long-run have the firmest hold upon his subjects who is himself ruled by Divine wisdom. His strength will be found in the fact, that he rules himself before he attempts to rule others. His personal character will be his chief strength. Christ Himself is strong to rule, because He is pre-eminently the “Holy One.”
II. Without moral wisdom there can be no righteous government. “By me princes decree justice.” A man’s laws will be the outcome of his character. He will not make righteous laws unless he has himself submitted to moral rule. We are assured that all God’s decrees in relation to all His creatures are righteous, because we know Him to be altogether righteous. He has been declared by Him who knows Him best to be the “righteous Father” (John 17:25), therefore we know that only righteous laws can be decreed by Him. And it is only in proportion as rulers are influenced by Him, and partake of His character, that they rule in righteousness.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:14. Wisdom’s life is a thing of system. It has an assured result. It is the card-building of the spirit. One card supports another. It builds out with a declared dependence to the very end.—Miller.
The Son of God is a counsellor, as Isaiah calleth Him; for He is both of the privy council of His Father, and the adviser of His Church. Moreover, He hath strength in Him, being the arm of God to conquer sin, with hell and Satan, and is able to do whatsoever He will. Substance (sound wisdom, see Critical Notes), or the being of things, is likewise His, for He causeth all creatures to be and subsist.—Muffet.
Direction how to act in all circumstances and on all occasions must come from wisdom: the foolish man can give no counsel, cannot show another how he is to act in the various changes and chances of life. The wise man alone can give this counsel, and he can give it only as continually receiving instruction from God: for this Divine Wisdom can say, substance, reality, essence, (see Critical Notes on Sound Wisdom), all belong to me: I am the fountain whence all are derived. Man may be wise, and good, and prudent, and ingenious; but these he derives from me, and they are dependently in him. But in me all these are independently and essentially inherent.—Adam Clarke.
Many things are done, but not having counsel for the foundation of them, are weak and rotten and fall again to nothing. Many have understanding what is to be done, and how to do it, but have not strength to effect it: again many have strength of effecting, but have not understanding how to go about it. But the eternal wisdom hath all. It is no strength which by His strength is not supported, no understanding which by His understanding is not enlightened, no counsel which by His counsel is not guided.—Jermin.
“Knowledge is power,” and knowledge in union with wisdom—the ability to use knowledge aright—multiplies the power. In proportion as there is “understanding” and “wisdom,” is there “strength”—moral and spiritual strength—strength to act and to suffer, to do and to bear.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 8:15-16. The chief monarchs of the world come unto their sceptres by the power and permission of the Son of God. Lawgivers and counsellors, by His direction and inspiration, give advice and invent politic laws. Inferior rulers keep their places, countenance, and authority by His assistance, whereunto they also rise by His secret disposing of matters. Finally, judges and justices who use to keep courts and sit on benches, do by Him, from Him, and for Him, pronounce sentence, handle matters of state, execute laws, and finally determine all cases.—Muffet.
Here is a divine prophecy concerning Him who said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 23:18), and who has “on His head many crowns” (Revelation 19:12), and “on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16), and of whom it is written, “that by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).—Wordsworth.
Kings are kings only as they are wise, that is, wise in the sense of holiness. It does not mean holiness as altogether distinct from virtue, but holiness as that moral right which belongs to all ranks of moral intelligences. The virtue that belongs to God, and the virtue that belongs to Gabriel, and the virtue that remains in man, and the virtue that is wrecked in hell, are not all different qualities of moral right, but are all identically the same. One moral quality inheres in all. Government being a moral work, the man that governs must have a moral heart. And, as there are no two sorts of virtue, he truly exercises his kingship just in proportion as he is holy, i.e., in the language of this inspired book, just in proportion as he is spiritually wise.—Miller.
Every kingdom is a province of the universal empire of the “King of Kings.” Men may mix their own pride, folly, and self-will with this appointment. But God’s providential counter-working preserves the substantial blessing.—Bridges.
This language may be considered as implying
(1) that human government, in all its branches, is the appointment of Divine Wisdom
2. That all who sustain positions of authority and power should act habitually under the influence of Divine Wisdom
3. That no authority can be rightly exercised, and no judicial process successfully carried out, without the direction of Wisdom
4. That Divine wisdom exercises control over all human agents in the administration of public affairs.—Wardlaw.
“By me kings reign,” not as if men did behold that book, and accordingly frame their laws, but because it worketh in them when the laws which they make are righteous.—Hooker.
Proverbs 8:17. Early, i.e., “earnestly” (see on ch. Proverbs 1:28).
Proverbs 8:18. Durable. Zöckler thinks this rather signifies “growing.”
Proverbs 8:21. Inherit substance, “abundance.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 8:17-21
THE REWARD OF EARNEST SEEKERS
I. The mutual love which exists between Wisdom and her children. There is always a mutual love between a true teacher and a diligent, receptive pupil, and the love on each side has a reflex influence on both master and pupil, and renders it more pleasant to teach, and more easy to learn. When a child loves his parent, and the parent is teaching the child, love oils the wheels of the intellectual powers, and furnishes a motive power to conquer the lesson. And when the parent feels that he is loved by his child and pupil, the love is a present reward. There is such a love between Christ and His disciples. Peter appealed to Christ’s consciousness of being loved by him when he said, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:17). And Christ loves His pupils. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9; John 15:13). This mutual love imparts patience on the one side and perseverance on the other. It was Christ’s “first love to us” that gave Him patience to “endure the cross and despise the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And it is the responsive love of the disciple that enables Him to endure unto the end. It is the love that is born of the consciousness of being loved that stirs up to the diligent seeking of the latter clause of the verse, which expresses—
II. A certain success to the seekers of wisdom. In Holy Scripture earnest seeking and finding are complements of each other. The one does not exist without the other. Seeking ensures finding. Finding implies seeking. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). God’s promise is absolute. It can only fail on one of three suppositions.
1. That when God made the promise He had no intention of keeping it, or—
2. That unforseen circumstances have since arisen which render Him unable to fulfil His word, or—
3. That the conditions have not been fulfilled on the part of the seeker. We know that God’s holiness and omnipotence render the first two impossible, and therefore, whenever there is no finding, we are certain that there has been no real, earnest seeking. For the promise is limited by the condition, “they that seek me early, or earnestly.” If a traveller has a long journey to perform and many difficulties to overcome in the way, he shows his determination to arrive safely at his destination by setting out at early dawn. Those who are anxious to make a name, or a fortune, show their anxiety by rising early and sitting up late. There are degress of earnestness in seekers after Divine wisdom as in all other seekers. But those whose seeking is the most earnest will receive the most abundant reward. The Syro-Phœnician woman who besought Christ to heal her daughter was a type of earnest seekers. She redoubled her efforts as the apparent difficulties increased. She asked, she sought, she knocked. And she received not only what she sought, but a commendation from the Lord for her earnest seeking (Matthew 25:28).
III. What those find who find God. The reward promised to those who seek God is God Himself. In finding Him they find
(1.) The lasting riches of righteousness (Proverbs 8:18-19). This a wealth which will last. However great the satisfaction, however many the blessings which may flow from the riches of earth, “passing away” is written upon all. Yea, long before the end of life the riches may “make themselves wings” (chap. Proverbs 23:5). Among many other qualities that make moral wealth incomparably superior to material wealth, not the least is its durability. (See on Proverbs 8:11-12; also chap. Proverbs 3:15-16).
2. Guidance, Proverbs 8:20. (See on chap. Proverbs 3:6, etc.)
3. Reality in opposition to shadow, Proverbs 8:21. The hungry man who dreams that he is feasting experiences a kind of pleasure. But the feast is only in vision. There is no power in it to appease his hunger, or nourish his frame. But, if on awaking, he finds a table really spread with food, he then has the substance of that of which in his dream he had only the shadow. Worldly men walk, the Psalmist tells us, in a “vain show,” i.e., in an “image,” an “unreality” (Psalms 39:6). “They walk,” says Spurgeon on this verse, “as if the mocking images were substantial, like travellers in a mirage, soon to be filled with disappointment and despair.” There are many who dream that they are being satisfied while they are morally asleep. But by and by they awake and find that they have been feeding on visions of the night, that they have been spending their money for “that which was not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not” (Isaiah 55:2). To all who are conscious of this soul-hunger, eternal wisdom here offers substantial heart satisfaction, “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:17. The philosopher could say, that if moral virtue could be seen with mortal eyes, she would stir up wonderful loves of herself in the hearts of the beholders. How much more, then, would “the wisdom of God in a mystery!” (1 Corinthians 2:7,) that essential wisdom of God especially, the Lord Jesus, who is “altogether lovely,” “the desire of all nations.” “My love was crucified,” said Ignatius, who “loved not His life unto the death” (Revelation 12:11). Neither was there any love lost, or can be, for “I love them that love me.” Men do not always reciprocate, or return love for love. David lost his love upon Absalom; Paul upon the Corinthians; but here is no such danger.—Trapp.
The characters whom Christ loves. Christ loves those who love Him.
(1) Because He has done and suffered so much for their salvation. We naturally prize any object in proportion to the labour and expense which it cost us to obtain it. How highly, then, must Christ prize, how ineffably must He love His people. For this, among other reasons, His love for them must be greater in degree, and of a different kind from that which He entertains for the angels of light.
(2) Because they are united to Him by strong and indissoluble ties. The expressions used to describe this union are the strongest that language can afford. The people of Christ are not only His brethren, His sisters, His bride, but His members, His body, and He consequently loves them as we love our members, as our souls love our bodies.
(3) Because they possess His spirit, and bear His image. Similarity of character tends to produce affection, and hence every being in the universe loves his own image when he discovers it. Especially does Christ love His own image in His creatures, because it essentially consists in holiness, which is of all things most pleasing to His Father and Himself.
(4) Because they rejoice in and return His affection. It is the natural tendency of love to produce and increase love. Even those whom we have long loved become incomparably more dear when they begin to prize our love and to return it. If Christ so loved His people before they existed, and even while they were His enemies, as to lay down His life for their redemption, how inexpressibly dear must they be to Him after they become His friends.—Payson.
Seeking wisdom early implies
(1) that it engages our first concern and endeavour, while matters of an inferior consideration are postponed.
2. The constant use of the proper means to obtain it. If we see one continually practising any art, we judge that it is his intention to be master of it.
3. The using them with spirit and vigour. The superficial and spiritless performance of duty is as faulty as the total omission.—Abernethy.
All fancy that they love God. But those who either do not seek God at all, or seek Him coldly, whilst they eagerly seek the vanities of the world, make it plain that they are led by the love of the world more than by the love of God.—Fausset.
It is His love to us that makes us to love Him; and, doubtless, He that loves us so as to make us to love Him, cannot but love us when we do love Him.—Jermin.
Seek early, as the Israelites went early in the morning to seek for manna (Exodus 16:21), and as students rise early in the morning and sit close to it to get knowledge. To seek the Lord early is to seek the Lord
(2) opportunely. There is a season wherein God may be found (Isaiah 55:6), and if you let this season slip, you may seek and miss Him.
(3) Affectionately, earnestly (Isaiah 26:9). That prayer that sets the whole man a-work will work wonders in Heaven, in the heart, and in the earth. Earnest prayer, like Saul’s sword and Jonathan’s bow, never returns empty.—Brooks.
Proverbs 8:18. Spiritual riches are durable.
1. Because they are gotten without wronging any man. Temporal riches are often gotten by fraud and violence, and, therefore, are not lasting. The parties wronged use all means to recover their own, and God punishes unjust persons. Spiritual riches no man can challenge from us.
2. They are everlasting riches, and therefore durable. That must needs last long which lasts ever. These are true, not transitory riches, which often change their masters. They will swim out of the sea of this world with us, out of the shipwreck of death. Neither fire nor sword can take them from us.—Francis Taylor.
In the matters of rank and riches, the two strong cords by which the ambitious are led, the two reciprocally supporting rails on which the train of ambition ever runs,—even in these matters, that seem the peculiar province of an earthly crown, the Prince of Peace comes forth with loud challenge and conspicuous rivalry. Titles of honour! their real glory depends on the height and purity of the fountain whence they flow. They have often been the gift of profligate princes, and the rewards of successful crime. At the best the fountain is low and muddy: the streams, if looked at in the light of day, are tinged and sluggish. Thus saith the Lord, “Honour is with me.” He who saith it is the King of Glory. To be adopted into the family of God,—to be the son or daughter of the Lord Almighty,—this is honour. High born! We are all low-born until we are born again, and then we are the children of a King.—Arnot.
Proverbs 8:20. Christ guides infallibly by—
1. His word. It is all truth.
2. His spirit. Men mistake and think they are guided by God’s spirit when they are guided by their own, or by a worse spirit. But certainly whom Christ’s spirit guides He guides aright.
3. His example. All other men have their failings, and must be followed no further than they follow Christ. He is the original copy; others are but blurred abstracts.—Francis Taylor.
“I lead in the way of righteousness,” which is to say, I got not my wealth by right and wrong, by wrench and wiles. My riches are not the riches of unrighteousness, the “mammon of iniquity” (Luke 16:9); but are honestly come by, and are therefore like to be “durable” (Proverbs 8:18). St. Jerome somewhere saith, that most rich men are either themselves bad men or are heirs of those that have been bad. It is reported of Nevessan, the lawyer, that he should say, “He that will not venture his body shall never be valiant; he that will not venture his soul never rich.” But Wisdom’s walk lies not any such way. God forbid, saith she, that I, or any of mine, should take of Satan, “from a thread even to a shoelatchet, lest he should say, I have made you rich” (Genesis 14:23).—Trapp.
Proverbs 8:21. The great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14) is the only substantial reality to satisfy the disciples of Wisdom.—Fausset.
The followers of Christ shall be no losers by Him. They shall not inherit the wind, nor possess for their portion those unsubstantial things, of which it is said, they are not (chap. Proverbs 23:5), because they are not the true riches. It is not for want of riches to bestow, nor for want of love to His people, that He does not bestow upon every one of them crowns of gold and mines of precious metals.—Lawson.
Here is no yawning vacuum, but a grand object to give interest to life, to fill up every vacancy in the heart—perfect happiness. All that we could add from the world would only make us poorer, by diminishing that enjoyment of God for the loss of which there is no compensation. There is one point—only one—in the universe where we can look up and cry with the saintly Martyn, “With Thee there is no disappointment.”—Bridges.
“I will fill their treasures.” This is a great promise. It is made in a kingly style. There is no limit. It will take much to fill these treasures, for the capacity of the human spirit is very large. God moulded man after His own image, and when the creature is empty, nothing short of His Maker will fill him again. Although a man should gain the whole world, his appetite would not be perceptibly diminished, The void would be as great and the craving as keen as ever. Handfuls are gotten on the ground, but a soulful is not to be had except in Christ. “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete (i.e., full) in Him.”—Arnot.
Proverbs 8:22. Jehovah possessed me. The signification of this verb has been the subject of much discussion; ancient expositors, believing Wisdom here to be the eternal Son of God, deemed it necessary to reject the translation of the Septuagint, etc., who rendered it created, as the text then became an argument with Arians against the eternal co-existence of the Son. But most modern commentators, whatever view they take of the signification of “Wisdom,” agree in rejecting the reading of the authorised version. The majority render it, “created;” Delitzsch reads, “brought me forth;” Wordsworth and Miller, “got possession of,” or, “acquired.” Wordsworth says, “The word occurs about eighty times in the Old Testament, and in only four places beside the present is it translated ‘possess;’ viz., Genesis 14:19-22; Psalms 139:13; Jeremiah 32:15; Zechariah 11:5; in the last two it may well have the sense of getting, and in the former of creating.”
Proverbs 8:23. Set up, Stuart, Miller, and early expositors render “anointed;” Delitzsch and Zöckler prefer the authorised rendering.
Proverbs 8:26. Earth, etc., “the land and the plains, or the beginning of the dust of the earth.”
Proverbs 8:27. Set a compass, etc., “marked out a circle,” i.e., “when He fixed the vault of heaven, which rests on the face of the ocean.”
Proverbs 8:30. As one brought up, “as director of His work,” or, “as a builder at His side.”
NOTE ON THE PERSONIFICATION OF WISDOM.—There has been great discussion among expositors as to who, or what, is to be understood by this personification. Many modern and all ancient expositors consider that it refers exclusively to the Divine Word, the Eternal Son of God, others understand it as relating entirely to an attribute of the Divine nature. There is a middle view, which is thus put by Dr. John Harris in his sermon on Proverbs 8:30-36 : “Others, again reply that it refers exclusively to neither—but partly to that wisdom which begins in the fear of the Lord, partly to the Divine attribute of wisdom, and partly to the Son of God, the second person in the Godhead.” We cannot do better than give the views of a few eminent expositors and writers. Delitzsch thus comments on Proverbs 8:22 : “Wisdom takes now a new departure in establishing her right to be heard and to be obeyed and loved by men. As the Divine King in Psalms 2:0. opposes to His adversaries the self-testimony: ‘I will speak concerning a decree! Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee;’ so Wisdom here unfolds her Divine patent of nobility; she originates with God before all creatures, and is the object of God’s love and joy, as she also has the object of her love and joy on God’s earth, and especially among the sons of men. (See his translation of the verb in this verse—Critical Notes).
1. Wisdom is not God, but is God’s; she has personal existence in the Logos of the New Testament, but is not herself the Logos; she is the world idea, which, once projected, is objective to God, not as a dead form, but as a living spiritual image; she is the archetype of the world, which originating from God, stands before God, the world of the idea which forms the medium between the Godhead and the world of actual existence, the communicated spiritual power in the origination and the completion of the world as God designed it to be. This wisdom the poet here personifies; he does not speak of the personal Logos, but the further progress of the revelation points to her actual personification in the Logos. And since to her the poet attributes an existence preceding the creation of the world, he thereby declares her to be eternal, for to be before the world is to be before time. For if he places her at the head of the creatures, as the first of them, so therewith he does not seek to make her a creature of this world having its commencement in time; he connects her origination with the origination of the creature only on this account, because that à priori refers and tends to the latter; the power which was before heaven and earth were, and which operated at the creation of the earth and of the heavens, cannot certainly fall under the category of the creatures around and above us.” Wordsworth, in accordance with the principle of interpretation set forth in the note at the beginning of chapter 7 says, “We should be taking a very low, unworthy, and inadequate view of the present and following magnificent and sublime chapters.… If we did not behold Him who is essential wisdom, the co-eternal Son of God, and recognise here a representation of His attributes and prerogative.” The arguments in favour of this view are thus summed up by Fausset: “Wisdom is here personal Wisdom—the Son of God. For many personal predicates are attributed to Him: thus, subsistence by or with God, in Proverbs 8:30; just as John 1:1 saith, ‘The Word was with God,’ which cannot be said of a mere attribute. Moreover, the mode of subsistence imparted is generation, Proverbs 8:22; Proverbs 8:24-25 (see CRITICAL NOTES). In Proverbs 8:22 God is said to have possessed or acquired wisdom, not by creation (Psalms 104:24), nor by adoption, as Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalms 74:2, but by generation. The same verb is used by Eve of her firstborn (Genesis 4:1). Moreover, other attributes are assigned to Wisdom, as if she were not an attribute but a person—‘counsel,’ ‘strength,’ etc. Also, she has the feelings of a person (Proverbs 8:17): ‘I love them that love me.’ She does the acts of a person. She enables kings to rule, and invests them with authority (Proverbs 8:15-16). She takes part in creation, as one brought up, or nursed, in the bosom of the Father, as the only-begotten of His love (John 1:18). She cries aloud as a person (Proverbs 8:1-4), and her ‘lips’ and ‘mouth’ are mentioned (Proverbs 8:6-7). She is the delight of the Father, and she in turn delights in men (Proverbs 8:30-31), answering to the rapturous delight into which the Father breaks forth concerning Messiah (Isaiah 43:1; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; Ephesians 1:6). She builds a house, prepares a feast, and sends forth her maidens to invite the guests (ch. Proverbs 9:1-3). All which admirably applies to Messiah, who builds the Church, as His house, upon Himself the rock (Matthew 16:8, etc.), and invites all to the Gospel feast (Luke 14:16, etc.). He is Wisdom itself absolute, and as the Archetype, from Him wisdom imparted flows to others. As such, He invites us to learn wisdom from Him who is its source, ‘counsel’ and ‘sound wisdom’ (Proverbs 8:14), are in Him as attributes are in their subject, and as effects are in their cause. The parallel (ch. Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 1:23), ‘I will pour out my spirit unto you’ (see John 7:38), confirms the personal view. The same truth is confirmed by the reproof (ch. Proverbs 1:24), ‘Because I have called,’ etc., compared with Christ’s own words (Matthew 11:28, etc.) So Christ is called the Wisdom of God (Colossians 2:3). As Wisdom here saith ‘I was set up,’ or ‘anointed from everlasting,’ so the Father saith of Messiah, ‘I have set’ or ‘anointed my king’ etc. (Psalms 2:6). As in Proverbs 8:24, Wisdom is said to be “brought forth” or begotten by God before the world, and to have been by Him in creating all thimgs (Proverbs 8:27-30), so Messiah is called the ‘Son of God,’ and is said to have been with God in the beginning, and to have made all things (John 1:1-3) and to have been begotten before every creature (Colossians 1:15-17); and His goings forth are said, in Micah 5:2, to have been from of old, from everlasting.” The argument for the opposite view is thus stated by Dr. Wardlaw: “The objections to its meaning Christ, or the Word, are, to my mind, quite insuperable. For example:
(1) The passage is not so applied in any part of the New Testament. I do not adduce this consideration as any direct objection to the interpretation in question. I mean no more than this, that from its not being so explained there, we are relieved from any necessity of so explaining it. Such necessity, then, being thus precluded, the direct objections may be allowed to have their full force. Observe, then
(2), Wisdom here is a female personage. All along this is the case. Now, under such a view, the Scriptures nowhere else, in any of their figurative representations of ‘the Christ,’ ever thus describe or introduce Him. The application, on this account, appears to me exceedingly unnatural.
(3) Wisdom does not appear intended as a personal designation, inasmuch as it is associated with various other terms, of synonymous, or, at least, of corresponding import (Proverbs 8:1, chap. Proverbs 3:19-20). Were it meant for a personal designation, like the Logos or Word in the beginning of John’s Gospel, this would hardly have been admissible.
(4) That the whole is a bold and striking personification of the attribute of Wisdom, as subsisting in the Deity, appears further from what she is represented as saying in Proverbs 8:12 : ‘I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.’ Here Wisdom is associated with prudence; and the import of the association is, that Wisdom directs to the best ends, and to the choice of the best means for their attainment; and prudence, or discretion, teaches to shun whatever might, in any way or degree, interfere with and impede, or mar their accomplishment. This is precisely what wisdom, as an attribute or quality, does. And it is worthy of remark, that this association of wisdom with prudence, is introduced by the Apostle as characterising the greatest of the Divine inventions and works—that of our redemption. Wisdom was associated with prudence in framing and perfecting that wonderful scheme (Ephesians 1:7-8).
(5). It is very true that there are many things here, especially in the latter part of the chapter—indeed through the whole—that are, in a very interesting and striking manner, applicable to the Divine Messiah. But this is no more than might have been anticipated, that things which are true of a Divine attribute should be susceptible of application to a Divine person.” We quote, in conclusion, the remarks of Dr. Aiken, the American editor and translator of this portion of Lange’s Commentary: “The error in our English exegetical and theological literature with respect to our passage has been, we think, the attempt to force upon it more of distinctness and precision in the revelation of the mysteries of the Divine Nature than is disclosed by a fair exegesis … If it be not unworthy of the Holy Spirit to employ a bold and graphic personification, many things in this chapter may be said of and by the personified Wisdom which these authors regard as triumphantly proving that we have here the pre-existent Christ, the Son of God.… We can, to say the least, go no farther than our author has done in discovering here the foreshadowings of the doctrine of the Logos. We are inclined to prefer the still more guarded statements, e.g., of Dr. Pye Smith (Scripture Testimony to the Messiah), that this beautiful picture cannot be satisfactorily proved to be a designed description of the Saviour’s person; or that of Dr. John Harris (Sermon on chap. Proverbs 8:30-36): “At all events, while, on the one hand, none can demonstrate that Christ is here directly intended, on the other, none can prove that He is not contemplated; and perhaps both will admit that, under certain conditions, language such as that in our text may be justifiably applied to Him. One of these conditions is, that the language be not employed argumentatively, or in proof of anything relating to Christ, but only for the purpose of illustration; and another is, that when so employed, it be only adduced to illustrate such views of the Son of God as are already established by such other parts of Scripture as are admitted by the parties addressed.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:22-31
THE PERSONAL WISDOM OF GOD
I. The antiquity of the Personal Wisdom of God. Wisdom in the abstract must have existed before the creation of the world, because the world bears marks of wisdom. There must have been in Solomon the wisdom to design the temple before it took the form of beauty which made it so famous. There is skill hidden in the artist’s mind before it is manifested upon his canvas—the very existence of the picture proves the pre-existent skill. The world is a temple of large proportions, the beauty of which man can but copy afar off, and its existence proves the pre-existence of wisdom resident in a pre-existent person. As the world bears evident marks of great antiquity it proclaims an All-wise Cause which must necessarily be older still. There is no person known to the human race who claimed to have an existence before the world except Jesus Christ. He claimed—and it is claimed for Him by those who bore witness to Him—to have been before the world was, and to have been conscious of His divinity before the foundation of the world. He claims to have been possessor of “a glory with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5), a glory which included intellectual and moral wisdom. And the claim of His apostle concerning the pre-existence of the “Word of God” is most unmistakable (John 1:3). The existence of other and inferior “sons of God” before the creation of this world is implied in Scripture (Job 38:7), but we have no direct revelation concerning them. We feel that we could not apply to them, or to any creature, the words of the text, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way,” etc. But, in the light of New Testament revelation, if we give them a personal application, we must apply them to the Son of God, the Eternal Word, and to Him alone. The words point to an existence distinct from God. “I was by Him,” and “I was with Him.” And yet the intimate relationship and fellowship described does not express inferiority, but finds its fulfilment only in Him who not only “was in the beginning with God,” but who “was God.” (On this subject see note).
II. The Personal Wisdom of God the delight of the Eternal Father. “I was daily His delight” (Proverbs 8:30).
(1) Likeness in character is a foundation of delight. A man who is godly delights to see his own godly character reflected in his son. The recognition of moral likeness in the uncreated Son gave delight to the Eternal Father. Nothing gives God so much joy as goodness. Hence His joy in His only-begotten Son.
(2) Equality of nature is a source of delight to the good and true. Fellowship with an equal gives joy. Christ, when on earth, ever claimed this equality with the Father. He claimed an eternity of being. “Before Abraham was, I am” (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). Omniscience is claimed for Him, and He gave evidence that He possessed it. “He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). “And Jesus knowing their thoughts,” etc. (Matthew 9:4). Divine energy. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). Independent existence. “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). Holiness. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). Almighty power. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). In the eternal ages, before the creation of the world, the Father looked upon this “brightness of His glory and express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3), and this Divine Equal gave joy to the uncreated God (Isaiah 42:1).
III. The delight of the Personal Wisdom of God in the creation of the home of man. “Rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth” (Proverbs 8:31). The artist has joy in the thought of his completed work while it is in progress. He joys in that which is not as yet in outward form, but which is, in its completeness, within his mind. The architect, who sees day by day the building being reared which he knows will be the wonder of coming ages and the means of yielding comfort to thousands, rejoices in the thought of the blessing that is to come out of his work. He experiences an emotion with which a stranger cannot intermeddle (Proverbs 14:10). And so Eternal Wisdom is here represented as regarding the future home of man. He saw its adaptibility to the wants of the creatures who were to inhabit it—its inexhaustible resources for the supply of all man’s physical and many of his intellectual wants, and the thought of the millions to whose happiness the earth’s riches and beauties would minister throughout the ages gave Him joy. The best natures among human-kind delight when they are able to produce what will increase the happiness of their fellow-creatures. The poet rejoices when he feels that his thoughts will cheer the hearts of other men. The inventor is glad when he has made a discovery which he knows will be a boon to his race. And so the Eternal Wisdom of God looked with joy upon the earth which He had called into being for the habitation of the race whom He was about to create. The joy that would be theirs gave Him joy when He looked upon creation with their eyes.
IV. The special delight of the Personal Wisdom in man himself. “My delights were with the sons of men.”
1. His delight in man would arise from the fact that he was a creature different from all pre-existing creatures. Man is a link between mind and matter. He is a compound of the animal and the angel, of the dust of the earth and the breath of God. The material creation was called into being before man. The angelic and spiritual creatures existed before man. Man was, as it were, the clasp which united the two, and his unique character, we may well believe, made him a special object of interest to his Creator. New combinations give joy to those who, by combining forces, or material, or thoughts for the first time, bring about a new thing in the earth. They create a power or an idea which would not have existed if these elements had remained separate. Man, as he came originally from the hand of God, was such a perfectly balanced compound of mind and matter, of body and spirit, that his Creator had joy in the contemplation of His work, and declared it to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). If we apply the words of the text to the second person of the Godhead, we know, from Scripture testimony, that He was the Creator of man, for “without Him was not anything made that was made.” He is as rich in invention as He is in goodness.
2. The delight of Christ would be especially with men, because in His own nature God and man would meet in an eternal combination. The commander who can pluck victory out of the jaws of defeat, by the combination of certain forces not yet brought upon the field with others which have been already defeated, is allowed to give evidence of the highest military skill. The statesman who, anticipating the defeat of one measure, reserved another method of tactics in the background which he knew would ensure an ultimate success, and who used the very means by which he had been defeated as a lever to establish a better law and a more lasting benefit, would be considered to display ability of the first degree, and to be a benefactor of his race. And the contemplation of such a victory beforehand must be an occupation of the deepest interest to the mind which originates the plan and carries it into action. Christ is, beyond all comparison, the leader of men. He saw beforehand that human nature would be defeated in its first conflict with evil. He knew that Satan would enter in and spoil this new principality of God. But He had already made preparation for this defeat, and He purposed, by means of the very human nature which would be thus defeated, in combination with His own divinity, to spoil the spoiler and lead captivity captive. By the eternal union of His own nature with the human He purposed to place man on a firmer standing ground, and gain for him the power of an endless life. Christ becoming the head of the race has defeated sin in the human nature that was itself defeated, and the grace which He has thus imparted to man has lifted him to a higher level than that in which he was created. And if the first edition of man, which was “of the earth, earthy” (1 Corinthians 15:47), gave joy to his Creator, how much more must He have rejoiced in the prospect of that second edition which was to be made after His own likeness, and to be the reward of “the travail of His soul” (Isaiah 53:11), although even then He knew at what a cost the work would be accomplished. (1 Peter 1:20.)
NOTE ON THE RELATION OF THE SON OF GOD TO THE FATHER. (Proverbs 8:22-30 John 1:1). On this subjeet Dr. John Brown says, “That the Son is essentially and eternally related to the Father, in some real sense, as Father and Son; but that while distinct in person (for ‘the Word was with God’), He is neither posterior to Him in time (for ‘in the beginning was the Word’), nor inferior to Him in nature (for ‘the Word was God’), nor separate from Him in being (for ‘the same was in the beginning with God’), but One Godhead with the Father;” this would seem to come as near to the full testimony of Scripture on this mysterious subject as can be reached by our finite understanding, without darkening counsel with words without knowledge.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:22. “The beginning of His way” evidently means the commencement of creation, when Jehovah set out in His course of creative and consequently of providential manifestation of His eternal perfections. When this was we cannot tell. We may know the age of our own world, at least according to its present constitution. But when the universe was brought into being, and whether by one omnipotent fiat, or at successive and widely varying periods, it is beyond our power to ascertain. One thing we know for a certainly revealed fact, that there were angelic creatures in existence previous to the reduction of our globe to order and to the creation of man upon it. These holy intelligences contemplated the six days work of Divine wisdom and power in this part of the universe with benevolent transport. “The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” How many other creatures, and of what descriptions—how many other worlds, and how peopled, might have existed before man and his earthly residence we are unable to affirm. When men, indeed, begin to talk of its being absurd to suppose the universe so recent as to have been only coeval with our own globe, or our own system, they forget themselves. They do not speak considerately nor philosophically. There is no lapse of ages or any point of measurement in eternity.… Beginning is as inconsistent with the idea of eternity as termination is. Go as far back as imagination, or as numbers heaped on numbers, can carry you, there still remains the previous eternity, during which our speculative and presumptuous minds may wonder that Divine power had not been put forth.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 8:23. It was in the last times, that the Eternal Wisdom was set forth unto us, but it was from everlasting, that He was set up to be a king over us. It was in the fulness of time that He offered Himself for us, but it was from the beginning that He was anointed to be priest unto us. It was upon the earth that His gracious lips taught us, but it was before the earth was that He was ordained to be a prophet for us. It is in Him that all are chosen who come unto eternity, and He Himself was chosen from eternity. From everlasting he was set up our King, to set us up an everlasting kingdom. From the beginning was He anointed our priest, to anoint us in a priesthood that shall never end. Before the earth was, He was ordained our prophet, to order our feet in that way which shall bring us from earth to heaven; He was chosen that we might be the chosen people of God.—Jermin.
Proverbs 8:24. The order of creation corresponds to that which we find in Genesis I. Still more striking is the resemblance with the thoughts and language of the book of Job, chap. 22; 26; 38. A world of waters, “great deeps” lying in darkness—this was the picture of the remotest time of which man could form any conception, and yet the coexistence of the uncreated wisdom with the eternal Jehovah was before that.—Plumptre.
At the period referred to here, creation was not yet actually framed and executed, it was only framed and planned; the whole being at once, in all its magnificence and in all its minuteness, before the eye of the Omniscient mind, in its almost infinite complexity, extent, and variety, yet without the slightest approach to confusion! All there, in one vast and complicated, yet simple idea!—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 8:27. God’s “setting a compass upon the face of the deep” seems to refer to His circumscribing the earth when in its fluid state, assigning to it its spherical form, and fixing the laws by which that form should be constantly maintained. I think it probable that this refers to the earth in the state in which it is described previous to the beginning of the six days’ work, by which it was reduced to order, and fitted for and stocked with inhabitants. How was the fluid element held together in the spherical form? The answer is, God “set a compass upon the face of the deep, saying, This be thy just circumference, O world!” By the power of gravitation, affecting every particle, drawing it to the common centre, the equilibrium was maintained, the globular form effected and kept; which may here be meant by the poetical conception of sweeping a circle from the centre, and defining the spherical limits of the world of waters.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 8:29. Though great be the noise of the roaring of the sea, great the inconstancy of the tumbling waves, great the looseness of the flowing waters; yet the voice of God’s decree is easily heard by them, constant is their obedience unto God’s commandment, firmly do they keep the bounds of His law. But in the noise of our disorders, little is God’s Word heard by us, in the lightness of our hearts, much is the will of God slighted, in the looseness of our lives every way doth a careless regard of God’s law spread itself, which could not but drown us in a sea of God’s wrath, did not He who was when the bounds of the sea were decreed, purchase by the red sea of His blood a gracious pardon for us.… Fitly is God said to appoint the foundations of the earth only; for that alone founded the whole earth, no more was needful for it. But how little doth God’s appointment prevail with man, a little piece of earth. How often are God’s purposes in the means of salvation disappointed by him. To lay firm the foundations of grace in man’s heart, the Eternal Wisdom, who was when the foundations of the earth were appointed, came down from Heaven, and here was pleased to work out His life thereby to accomplish the work of our redemption. And shall not this, then, make us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?—Jermin.
Proverbs 8:30. To Wisdom the work was no laborious task. She “sported,” as it were, in the exuberance of her strength and might.—Plumptre.
Proverbs 8:31. What was it that here attracted His interest? Man had been created in the image of God—free to stand or fall. This freedom was the perfection of his nature. His fall was permitted as the mysterious means of his higher elevation. His ruin was overruled for his greater security. This habitable earth was to be the grand theatre of the work that should fill the whole creation with wonder and joy. Here the serpent’s head was to be visibly bruised, the kingdom of Satan to be destroyed, “precious spoil to be divided with the strong” (Isaiah 53:12). Here was the Church to be framed, as the manifestation of His glory, the mirror of His Divine perfections (Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:21). Considering the infinite cost at which He was to accomplish this work, the wonder is that He should have endured it; a greater wonder that, ere one atom of the creation was formed—ere the first blossom had been put forth in Paradise, he should have rejoiced in it.—Bridges.
Of all earthly creatures, Christ delights most in men.
1. Because man is the chief of God’s creatures upon earth, made after God’s image, and for whom all the rest were made.
2. Because He took on Him the nature of men, and not of angels (Hebrews 2:16).
3. He conversed most familiarly with men when He was incarnate. Men only had reason and wisdom to delight in Christ’s company, and to give Him occasion to delight in theirs.
4. Because He gave His life for them, that they might live with Him for ever. It seems, then, that He took great delight in them, and means to do so for ever.—Francis Taylor.
Did our Saviour, before His incarnation, rejoice in the habitable parts of the earth, and delight in visiting and blessing the sons of men? Then we may be certain that He still does so; for He is, yesterday, to-day, and for ever, the same. Still, He prefers earth to heaven; still, His chief delights are with the sons of men; and while, as man, He intercedes for them in Heaven, He still, as God, visits our world, to meet with and bless His people.… And how great will be our Saviour’s happiness, after the final consummation of all things!… If He loved, and rejoiced, and delighted in them before they knew and loved Him, how will He love and rejoice in them, when He sees them surrounding His throne, perfectly resembling Himself in body and soul, loving Him with unutterable love, contemplating Him with ineffable delight, and praising Him as their deliverer from sin, and death, and hell, as the author of all their everlasting glory and felicity.—Payson.
Proverbs 8:36. Sinneth against, “misseth,” so Stuart, Delitzsch, and Miller.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Proverbs 8:32-36
EXHORTATION FOUNDED ON HUMAN OBLIGATIONS TO DIVINE WISDOM
I. Because Christ, the Eternal Wisdom, has manifested His sympathy with man, we are under obligations to come into sympathy with Him. A man who has manifested his sympathy with, and delight in, another’s welfare by most substantial acts of benevolence and self-denial, has taken the most reasonable method of awakening an answering sympathy in the breast of him whom he has thus regarded. And the obligation on the part of the recipient is increased in proportion to the amount of self-sacrifice undergone on his behalf. If such a benefactor desires and asks for the friendship of him whom he has befriended, it would seem impossible that such an appeal could be made in vain. The eternal wisdom of God has gone to the utmost of even His infinite capacity of self-denial to show His delight in, and regard for the human race. This, coupled with His eternal existence and His almighty power, is here made the basis of an exhortation to men to listen to His words, “Now, therefore, hearken unto me, O ye children!”
II. Those who are thus drawn into sympathy with Eternal Wisdom come under conditions of life. Here is a repetition of an oft-repeated truth of revelation, that life and God’s favour are inseparable—identical (Proverbs 8:35). We can see shadows of this truth in the intercourse of men with their fellow-creatures. If a poor outcast child, surrounded by influences of evil to which he must yield if left to fight them single-handed, is lifted out of his degradation into a godly home, the favour of the friend who thus raises him changes his miserable existence into something worth calling life in comparison. The child who, by wilfulness, has forfeited the favour of a good parent, feels his entire existence clouded, but forgiveness through reconciliation brings light and life back to his spirit. The favour, therefore, of a fellow-creature is sometimes, by comparison, life. How much more is it so when we come into sympathy with Christ by hearkening to His voice and taking His yoke, and are by Him lifted out of a life of bondage to sin into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
III. Those who refuse thus to come into sympathy with Eternal Wisdom are self-destroyers, because they are God-haters. He who refuses to drink of the Fountain of Life, must, of necessity, be left to soul-death. There is nothing that gives more sorrow to a human being than to know that the evil from which he is suffering is self-inflicted. If a man loses his sight through a wound which he receives from another, although he feels his blindness to be a terrible calamity, it lacks the element of bitterness which would be added to it if it had been brought about by his own wilfulness. The man who loses a limb in lawful battle looks upon his loss as an honour, because it was inevitable. But his feeling would be very different if he knew that he had been crippled for life by his own folly. It will be the main ingredient in the bitter cup of those who disregard the invitations of Divine Wisdom that they are moral suicides. The consciousness of this is a perpetual hell to the human spirit. And the mere neglect is sufficient to give the death-blow. It is not necessary to be in positive opposition to God and goodness. Not to listen is to refuse. Not to wait on God is to sin against Him—is to despise the provisions of His mercy.
ILLUSTRATION OF Proverbs 8:34
Hovering about the avenues of a royal residence, there are in Eastern as well as in other countries, always to be seen groups of people, some of whom are attracted by the impulse of curiosity, others by the hope of obtaining some mark of royal favour. The assiduity and perseverance requisite for succeding in their suit, and waiting the propitious moment of presenting themselves in the presence of their sovereign, is not, as may be easily supposed, at all times consistent with personal ease and convenience, and, accordingly, here and there may be observed individuals seated upon a stone, or reclining upon the grass, in anxious expectation for the appearance of the sovereign on his way to daily exercise. To sit at the gates of a king is a custom of great antiquity.—Paxton’s Illustrations of Scripture.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 8:32. O sweet courtesy! as if it were but a small matter that the Eternal Wisdom should become our Master, and teach us as His scholars; or that, being our Lord, He should teach us as His servants; or that, being God, He should teach us as men; yet greater is His love, and, as a Father, He teacheth us as His children. And well may He call us His children, for it is He that teacheth us who, by adoption, hath made us to be His children, which by hearkening unto Him we show ourselves to be.—Jermin.
Proverbs 8:34. Uriah watched at David’s gate as a token of service (2 Samuel 11:9). Lazarus watched at Dives’ gate as a token of dependence (Luke 16:20). Courtiers at royal entrances for smiles of favour. Let the sinner do all these things.—Miller.
Not watching awhile, and then going away if they be not let in presently, but waiting patiently till they be let in. Not only taking occasion of learning offered, but waiting to find occasions, as petitioners wait on great men till their causes be ended.—Francis Taylor.
Wisdom here appears as a sovereign, separate and secluded, in the style of Oriental monarchs, so that only those know anything of her who diligently keep watch at her doors. Wisdom, who is universal in her call and invitation (Proverbs 8:1-3), yet, in the course of communication, in order to test the fidelity of her admirers, veils herself at times in a mysterious darkness, and reveals herself only to those who never intermit their search (Matthew 7:7).—Von Gerlach, in Lange’s Commentary.
There ought to be an expectation raised in us that the vital savour diffused in and by the Word may reach us; and many are ruined for not expecting it—not waiting at the posts of Wisdom’s door.—John Howe.
1. Natural life is found by it, not in regard of the beginning of it, but in regard of the comfort and continuance.
2. Spiritual life, or the life of grace. Wisdom is the life of the soul, and what were the world worth if there were no light?
3. Eternal life, or the life of glory. This is indeed the life that Christ, the wisdom of God, died to purchase for us, and lived among us to show us the way to it.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 8:36. Doing without is a stupid misery; but hating wisdom is an insane marvel.—Miller.
Not to love and earnestly seek Wisdom is to sin against her. To disregard her is to hate her, and is virtually, though unconsciously, to love death: for it is loving things, which as being opposed to wisdom, bring with them death.—Fausset.
What meaneth this all, where one would think there could be none? Can there be an all to hate Him who loveth all that is? But if it were not so, why do so many resist His holy will, despise His heavenly laws, rebel against His sacred pleasure? Are not these effects of hatred? Besides, so doth He challenge the all of our affection, as not to hate all things for His sake, is to hate Him. Now they that hate Him, what can they love? Surely it must needs be death, because in all things else He is. But that is the fruit of sin, and they that love the tree must needs love the fruit also. But to whom do we speak these things, or why do we speak them? Where shall we find open ears, or seeing eyes, when now almost men care not whom they look after, so that they do not look after themselves?—Jermin.
A child or an idiot may kindle a fire which all the city cannot quench. In spite of their utmost efforts, it might destroy both the homes of the poor and the palaces of majesty. So a sinner, though he cannot do the least good, can do the greatest evil. The Almighty only can save him, but he can destroy himself.—Arnot.
Sin a self-injury. There are three facts implied in these words: Firstly, That man is capable of sinning. This capability distinguishes man from the brute, and belongs to all moral beings.… It is our glory that we can sin; it is our disgrace and ruin that we do. Secondly, That sin is something directed against God. All the laws of man’s being—physical, organic, intellectual, and moral—are God’s laws, and violation of them is rebellion against heaven. Thirdly, That sin against God is a wrong done to our nature. This is true of all sin, physical as well as spiritual. We cannot violate the laws of physical health, without losing at the same time something of the life, elasticity, and vigour of the mind. That sin injures the soul admits of no debate: it is a patent fact written on every page of history, and proclaimed by the deep consciousness of humanity. From this unquestionable fact we may fairly deduce three general truths. I. That God’s laws are essentially connected with the constitution of man. From this fact two things follow.
(1.) That all sin is unnatural.
(2.) That an evasion of the penalties of sin is beyond the power of the creature. II. That God’s laws are the expression of benevolence. We wrong our souls by not keeping God’s laws. Obedience to them is happiness. The voice of all Divine prohibitions is, “Do thyself no harm,” the voice of all Divine injunctions is, “Rejoice evermore.” We infer from this fact—III. That God’s laws should be studiously obeyed.
(1.) Right requires it. All God’s laws are righteously binding upon the subject, and disobedience is a crime.
(2.) Expediency requires it. A life of sin is a life of folly, for it must ever be a life of misery.—Dr. David Thomas.
Proverbs 8:30-36. I. From the beginning the welfare of man engaged the complacent regard of God our Saviour. He derived delight from the material creation because it was to be subservient to man. II. We may therefore expect that all His communications and intercourse with us would be made to harmonise with our welfare also. We are warranted in expecting that all His communications with us will harmonise with the wants of our nature—that the means will be adapted to the end. Accordingly Proverbs 8:35-36 imply that so perfect is the adaptation between the provisions of mercy and the necessity of man, that he who rejects them wrongs his own soul, that who receives them receives life. III. May we not infer that, even of this habitable part, He would rejoice in some spots more than in others, especially in such as are set apart for the diffusion of His truth and the promotion of His designs.—Dr. J. Harris.