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Proverbs 9:1. Wisdom, in the plural, as in chap. Proverbs 1:20, to express excellence and dignity.
Proverbs 9:2. She hath mingled her wine. Some commentators understand the mingling to be with water, others with spices; both were customary among ancient orientals.
Proverbs 9:7. Latter clause. Most commentators translate, “he that rebuketh the wicked, it is his dishonour,” or, “it is a dishonour to him,” i.e., to the wicked man.
Proverbs 9:10. The Holy, generally understood to stand in apposition to Jehovah.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 9:1-12
I. The house to which Divine Wisdom invites her guests is one which has cost time and labour in the preparation. “Wisdom hath builded her house.” The building of anything implies the expenditure of time and labour. When the eagle builds her nest and prepares a house for her yet unborn young she spends much time in her work and bestows much labour upon it. In the building of a house for human habitation, whether it be a palace or a cottage, time and care, and thought and labour must be given to the building. And so it is in mental building; when thoughts are to be gathered together and fashioned into a book, the gathering and the building involves the expenditure of mental labour and of many hours and days, and sometimes years, before the work is completed. And God has not departed from this rule in the works which He has wrought for the benefit of His creatures. The house which He has built for the habitation of man was not brought into its present form all at once. God did not create the heavens and the earth in one day or in a short period of time We read that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:2), and the record of the rocks confirms the testimony of revelation that the preparation of the earth for man was a work of time In creation Divine Wisdom “builded her house.” And what is true of creation is true also of redemption. The incarnation of the Son of God took place in the days of Tiberius Cæsar, but the process of building the plan of redemption had been going on for ages. In the Mosaic dispensation it was seen in outline. Its sacrifices were shadows of the house which God intended hereafter to build in the human nature of the man Christ Jesus. The temple of Herod was forty-six years in building (John 2:20), but the temple of God was in course of preparation for more than forty-six generations before it was brought to completion in “the Word made flesh” (See Hebrews, chap. 9).
II. That which has been long in preparation is strong and enduring in character. It hath “seven pillars.” The snow-flake is not long in being formed and it is not long in duration. The bubble upon the stream is built in an instant, and passes away as quickly. But the coral island has taken many years and cost a million lives, to build it, and now it stands a rock in the midst of the ocean, and has become the home of man. All that is strong and lasting in the world has taken time in its formation. So is it in the refuge where that is found which will satisfy the soul of man. It was long ere it was completed, but it is a lasting edifice, built upon a sure foundation (Hebrews 6:18-19).
III. The house which Wisdom has builded contains that which will satisfy human need. The soul-blessings which God offers to men are often compared to a feast (Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 22:4). Here Wisdom is spoken of as having “killed her beasts, mingled her wine, furnished her table.”
1. It is plain that the human spirit needs a feast from the fact that God has spread the board. When the Lord Jesus furnished a table in the wilderness for the multitude it was to supply a manifest need. It was to meet Israel’s need that God fed them with manna in the wilderness. Man’s spiritual nature must starve without the feast which God’s wisdom has prepared. The existence of the feast proves the existence of the need.
2. This feast is of the best quality. The man who prepares a feast for his guests prepares of his best. The feast prepared by a poor man will be the best at his command; the banquet of a king will be such as befits his rank and resources. The banquet to which Divine Wisdom invites her guests is furnished with the most costly provisions that even God has to give. Christ, who declares Himself to be meat and drink to the spirit of man (John 6:51; John 6:54; John 6:56) is the best gift that God had to bestow upon man—the best food that Heaven could furnish.
3. Wisdom’s feast is one in which there is variety. There is flesh, wine, and bread (Proverbs 9:2; Proverbs 9:5). The feasts of the rich and great consist of many different dishes, and the variety adds to the enjoyment of the guests. God has provided many different kinds of food to satisfy our bodily appetite. Although they are all adapted to the same end, viz., to the nourishment of the body, the difference in their composition and flavour adds much to man’s enjoyment. The human spirit, like the human body, craves a variety in its food, and God has satisfied that craving. The revelation of God in Christ (in other words, the Gospel) reveals a great variety of spiritual truths upon which the spiritual nature of man can feed. There are things “new and old” in the Gospel treasury (Matthew 13:52). And new revelations of life and immortality will be brought to light throughout the coming ages, and the feeling of those who partake of the royal banquet will be like that of the ruler of the feast at Cana: “Thou hast kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10).
IV. Those who invite to Wisdom’s feast must be pure in character. The sending forth of “maidens” seems to convey this idea. Maidenhood is a type of purity. The character of the inviter must be in keeping with the nature of the invitation. If a man gives an invitation to the Gospel-feast, he will find that those whom he invites will look at the invitation through the glass of his character, and unless it is one through which the invitation can be favourably viewed, there will be little hope of his words proving effectual. Character and doctrine are inseparable. God intends the first to be a recommendation of the last. The invitation to “Come,” from the lips of the Lord Jesus, was mighty in its power, because the purity of His teaching was equalled by the purity of His life. The great power of the invitation to Wisdom’s feast in the mouths of the first Christian teachers sprang from the character of those who gave the invitation (see 2 Corinthians 1:2).
V. The means by which the guests are brought in. They are invited. There can be no compulsion in bringing men to the feast of Wisdom. No man can be compelled to partake of a feast. Persuasion can be used, and men can be induced to eat of it from a sense of need, but force is useless. A man may be placed at the board and kept there against his will, but the eating must ever be his own act. And so it is with the spiritual blessings which God has prepared for men. All the force that can be exercised is the force of persuasion. The first servants who went forth to invite men to the Gospel-feast were fully convinced that the weapon which they were to use was that of persuasion. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). “Knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).
VI. The publicity and general nature of the invitation. “She crieth upon the highest places of the city.” On this head see Homiletics on chaps. Proverbs 1:20-21; Proverbs 8:2-3.
VII. The different characters with whom Wisdom’s servants meet in giving her invitation. They meet with the wise and just man (Proverbs 9:9), and with the wicked, who are again classified as the simple (Proverbs 9:4), and the scorners (Proverbs 9:7). There is often a great difference in things of the same class and kind. All the fruit upon a tree may be bad, but all may not be equally bad. So among sinners are men of different degrees of sinfulness. There are the simple—those who are merely heedless of Divine teachings through a culpable ignorance and thoughtlessness, there are men so bad that they scorn all God’s invitations and set at nought His threatenings. This character is held up in Scripture as having reached the climax of iniquity. (See Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 1:22). The just man (Proverbs 9:9), is here synonymous with the wise man. He only is a wise man who has a worthy end which he sets himself to attain, and who uses the best means to attain that end. Hence the good or just man is the only truly wise man. He lays hold of all the means within his reach to increase his godliness, to get power to enable him to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk with God, and thus shows himself to be a member of the kingdom of the good which is the kingdom of the wise. He must be a just man, one who is upright in all his relations in life, one who will not knowingly leave undone his duty to his fellow-men. A man who is right in his relations towards God will not fail in his relations towards men. Simeon was a devont man, therefore he was a just man (Luke 2:25), so was Cornelius (Acts 10:2; Acts 10:22). But these wise men are not all equally wise, and none are so wise that they cannot increase in wisdom, and therefore Wisdom sends forth her invitations to all, to the wise and just men as well as to the simple and the scorner.
VIII. The opposite effects of the invitation upon opposite characters. The scorner hates it—the wise man loves it (Proverbs 9:8). When the sun shines upon a diseased eye it produces a sense of discomfort, but the same light falling upon a healthy eye gives a sensation of pleasure. The opposite feelings are the results of opposite conditions. The different receptions which are given to God’s invitations arise from the different spiritual conditions of the men who hear them. The man who “loves darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil” is pained when he receives Wisdom’s invitation, because the very invitation condemns him. It is a rebuke to him (Proverbs 9:7-8) for continuing to reject the feast for husks, for preferring to spend “money upon that which is not bread and his labour upon that which satisfieth not.” Hence he who thus reproveth a scorner gets to himself shame, and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot (Proverbs 9:7). The preacher of the Gospel endures the shame of the cross when he delivers his message to such an one, but it meets with quite an opposite reception from the wise and just. A wise man because he is wise desires more wisdom. Those who know most about a good thing are those who desire to know more, and this desire prevents them from being offended with those who offer to give them more knowledge. Even if Wisdom’s invitation takes the form of a rebuke (Proverbs 9:8), the wise man, considering that the end of the rebuke is to do him good, loves the ambassador of Wisdom who administers it. When a sick man receives severe treatment from a physician, he accepts it patiently because he bears in mind the end in view, viz., his restoration to health. And this is the light in which all wise men regard Divine reproof, whether it comes directly from Himself in the form of providential dispensations, or through the medium of the lips of one of His servants. The message which is a “savour of death” to the scorner, is a “savour of life” to them.
IX. If the invitation is effectual, there will be a forsaking and a fearing. “Forsake the foolish and live” (Proverbs 9:6). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). A forsaking of the wrong path must go before the entrance into the right one, and a fear that we may go wrong will help to keep us in the right way. A wholesome dread of God’s displeasure will lead a man to repentance, which is but another name for a change in life’s end, and aims, and purposes. A conviction that he has been going in the wrong direction will cause him to lend a willing ear to those who invite him to set out on the right path; and the acceptance of the invitation is the beginning of a life of true wisdom, because it is the beginning of the only safe and satisfying course of life.
X. Whatever reception is given to the invitations of Divine Wisdom, God is above all human approbation. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it” (Proverbs 9:12). The sun will go on shining, whatever men think or say about it. All the approbation of all the world will not add to the glory of the light that rules the day, and if men were to find fault with the manner in which it dispensed its light and heat, it would still hold on its way “rejoicing, as a strong man to run a race.” The children of Wisdom, who accept the Divine invitation, and fall in with God’s way of saving them, do not make God their debtor in any way. He would still be the moral Sun of the universe, if all mankind were to turn a deaf ear to His invitations, and all the praise of all the good in Heaven and earth cannot add one ray to the moral glory of His being. The scorn of the scorner cannot harm the God whose revelation he scorns, any more than a man could injure the wind that blows upon him by beating it. If men disapprove of God’s way of governing the world, or of His conditions of salvation, it cannot harm the Divine Being in any way. He is above all the approval or disapproval—all the rejection or acceptance of any finite creature. Eliphaz, the Temanite, spoke truly when he said, “Can a man be profitable to God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to Him that thou makest thy ways perfect?” (Job 22:2-3). It therefore follows, as a matter of course, that the Divine plan of redemption has been devised solely out of regard to His creatures; that love is the only motive that prompts Him to multiply invitations and warnings; and that the sufferings which are entailed upon men by their rejection of His provisions spring from nothing selfish or arbitrary in the Divine character.
XI. The acceptance of the Divine invitation is an obedience to the lawful instinct of self-love. Self-love is often confounded with selfishness, but they are widely different. The principle of self-love is recognised as lawful and right throughout the Bible. God commands a man to love his neighbour as he loves himself, thereby laying down the principle that self-love is necessary and right. Our Saviour appeals to this Divinely-implanted instinct when He urges men to save their souls, because of the infinite profit which they will thereby gain (Mark 8:36). And the fact that God has made self-love the standard whereby we are to measure our love to others, and that it is urged upon men as a motive by the Divine Son, at once places a great gulf between it and selfishness. Obedience to self-love leads men to obey Wisdom’s invitation and thus to become truly wise themselves. Self-love leads men to desire to make the best of their existence, and no man can do this unless he accepts the call to the feast which Wisdom has prepared. The Hebrew nation thought they could get profit to themselves apart from acceptance of the Divine proposals. They persuaded themselves that they could do without God’s way of life, and that the feast which He had prepared could be neglected with impunity. But they found when too late that they had done themselves an eternal wrong by “making light” of the call of the king’s servants. (See Matthew 22:14). But “Wisdom is justified of her children,” and although our Lord likens the men of that generation to children who neither dance to the sound of joyful music nor mourn to strains of lamentation (Luke 7:31-35), there have always been some who have so regarded their real interest as to be willing guests of the Divine Inviter. Obeying His call they come into possession of a righteous character, the only attainment of real profit which can be gotten out of existence. It is the only end worth living for. The end of a true soldier’s existence is not the keeping of his bodily life. That with him is quite a secondary consideration. Neither is it his happiness. These things are nothing to him in comparison with the attainment of a character for bravery and fidelity to his trust. And so with every man in God’s universe. Not ease and comfort, not fame or high position, but character is that only which will make existence really profitable, which will make it a gain to live. Happiness will, of necessity, follow godliness, but it is not the thing to be aimed at. The attainment of the highest earthly fame, or the amassing of vast riches, will not necessarily make a man a good companion for himself, and if he is not this, he has failed to draw true profit out of his existence. He may be a wise man according to men’s judgment, but if he has failed to consult his own true self-interest, he is a fool. A position in heaven would be nothing to such a man if he could obtain it. The blessedness of the heavenly world springs from the holy character of those who inhabit it, and this can be obtained only by listening to Wisdom’s voice, and so gaining that “fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy, which is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). “If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself” (Proverbs 9:12); in other words—thou thyself shall reap the first and principal benefit.
XII. The consequence of the rejection of Wisdom’s invitation must be borne by him who rejects it. “If thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.” If a man refuses to use the power which he possesses to walk, he will, in the course of time, lose the power of using his limbs. The man who will not listen to the promptings of self-love will stifle its voice. But though he may destroy self-love, he cannot destroy himself. That belongs to God alone. Man can make his existence into a terrible burden, can change that which God intended to be a blessing into a curse, and in this sense he can destroy himself—can “lose his soul;” but he must live still, and bear the consequences of his choice. We can burn up the most costly articles and reduce them to black ashes, but no power of man can annihilate a single particle of the ashes. They exist still in some form or other. So men, by scorning God’s invitations, can blacken and spoil the existence which God has given them, but they cannot annihilate themselves. They must live and bear the self-imposed burden.
ILLUSTRATION OF Proverbs 9:3
This may derive some illustration from a custom which Hasselquist noticed in Egypt, and which may seem to be ancient in that country. That it has been scarcely noticed by other travellers may arise from the fact that, although they may have seen the maidens on their way, they had not the means of knowing on what errand they were bound. He says that he saw a great number of women, who went about inviting people to a banquet in a singular, and, without doubt, in a very ancient manner. They were about ten or twelve, covered with black veils, as is customary in that country. They were preceded by four eunuchs; after them, and on the side, were Moors, with their usual walking staves. As they were walking, they all joined in making a noise, which, he was told, signified their joy, but which he could not find resembled a joyful or pleasing sound.—Kitto.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 9:1. “House” among the Hebrews was an image of all well-being (Exodus 1:21). It means shelter. It means nurture. It means repose. It means the centre of all provision. It means the home of all convivial feasts. If Wisdom has built such a shelter for the lost, it means she has furnished for them every possible necessity. An Eastern house depended upon columns that were around a court. Samson put his hand upon such interior supports. If Wisdom “has hewed out her seven pillars,” it means that the provision she has made for the saints is absolutely secure. The very number “seven” betokens a perfect, because a sacred support; and we have but to ask upon what the Gospel rests in its eternal promises and in the righteousness of its Great Head, to settle the question as to these sacred pillars.—Miller.
The Holy Spirit—having described in the foregoing chapter the office and work of Christ, as Creator, in the world of nature—now proceeds to describe His office and work in the world of grace. Solomon, the son of David, and the builder of the holy house at Jerusalem, here describes the operation of His own Divine Antitype, the Essential Wisdom, in building His house. The Son of God, having existed from eternity with the Father, in the fulness of time became Incarnate, building for Himself a human body, and also building for Himself a mystical body—the Church universal.… Wisdom’s seven pillars represent the perfection and universality of Christ’s work in both respects.—Wordsworth.
Pillars, and polished pillars. Anything is good enough to build a mud wall; but the church’s pillars are of marble, and those not rough but hewn; her safety is accompanied with beauty.—Trapp.
If Wisdom dwell anywhere, herself must build the house; if she set up the pillars, herself must hew them. Nothing can be meet to entertain her which is not her own work. Nothing can be fit for God’s residence, which is not made fit by God’s influence.—Jermin.
In the preceding chapter, Wisdom represented herself as manifest in all the works of God in the natural world; all being constructed according to the counsels of an infinite understanding. Here, she represents herself as the great potentate, who was to rule all that she had constructed; and having an immense family to provide for, had made an abundant provision, and calls all to partake of it.—Adam Clarke.
Proverbs 9:2. “She hath mingled her wine,” viz., with spices and other exhilarating ingredients, as was the custom in the East (Song of Solomon 8:2). Not with water which is the emblem of degeneracy. The wine mingled with aromatic spices is the exhilarating joy and comforts of the gospel (Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 26:29).—Fausset.
Does Christ give us His own flesh and blood, to nourish and refresh our souls? what grace, what comfort, what privilege will He withhold? He is most willing to communicate this provision to us.—Lawson.
God’s favour and grace is always ready to be found when it is faithfully sought. Our faith can never make Him tardy in desiring that at the present which He cannot give till hereafter, or in being beforehand to demand that which His ability is behindhand to perform. The messengers say not in the Gospel, Be there at such a time, and in the meanwhile things shall be prepared, or, Go with me now, and dinner will be ready anon; but Come, for all things are now ready.—Dod.
Christ provideth for His the best of the best; “fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees” (Isaiah 25:6); His own flesh, which is meat indeed; His own blood, which is drink indeed; besides that continual feast of a good conscience, whereat the holy angels, saith Luther, are as cooks and butlers, and the blessed Trinity joyful guests. Mr. Latimer says that the assurance of salvation is the sweatmeats of this stately feast.—Trapp.
Without asking what the flesh and wine specially mean, they are figures of the manifold enjoyment which makes at once strong and happy.—Delitzsch.
Proverbs 9:3. “Her maidens.” Sermons and providential strokes, the whole heraldry of the doctrine of salvation.—Miller.
Wisdom being personified as a feminine word, fitly has maidens as her ministers here. May there not also be an intimation (as Gregory and Bede suggest) of the natural feebleness of the Apostles and other ministers of the Gospel who have their treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7), and also of the tender love which the preachers of the Gospel must feel for the souls of those to whom they are sent?… The great Apostle of the Gentiles speaks of himself spiritually as a nurse and a mother.—Wordsworth.
She, together with her maids, crieth; she puts not off all the business to them, but hath a hand in it herself. “We are workers together with God,” saith Paul.—Trapp.
Proverbs 9:4. Ignorance is not a cause that should stay men from hearing the Word of God, but rather incite them to it. Their necessity doth require it, for who hath more need of eye-salve than they whose eyes are sore? And who have more need of guides than they who have lost their sight and are become blind? And especially when the way is difficult and full of danger.—Dod.
Proverbs 9:5. Not for the first time, in John 6:0, or on the night of the Last Supper, had bread and wine been made the symbols of fellowship with eternal life and truth.—Plumptre.
Indeed, to come is to eat; to come to Wisdom by attention is to eat of her instructions by receiving it into the soul.—Jermin.
The invitation is free. So it is throughout the Bible. The blessings of salvation are the gift of God. They are offered to sinners with the freeness of Divine munificence. Not only may they be had without a price, but if they are to be had at all it must be without a price. This is one of their special peculiarities. In treating with our fellow-men in the communication of good, we make distinctions. From some, who can afford it, we take an equivalent; from others, who cannot, we take none. We sell to the rich, we give to the poor. In the present case there is no distinction. All are poor. All are alike poor; and he who presumes to bring what he imagines a price, of whatever kind, forfeits the blessings, and is “sent empty away.” The invitation, too, is universal; for all men, in regard to divine and spiritual things, are naturally inconsiderate and foolish, negligent and improvident of their best and highest interests. And it is earnest, repeated, importunate. Is not this wonderful? Ought not the earnestness and the importunity to be all on the other side? Should not we find men entreating God to bestow the blessings, not God entreating men to accept them? Wonderful? “No,” we may answer in the terms of the negro woman to the missionary when he put the question, “Is not this wonderful?” “No, Massa, it be just like him.” It is in the true style of infinite benevolence. But is it not wonderful that sinners should refuse the invitation? It is not in one view, and it is in another. It is not, when we consider their depravity and alienation from God. It is, when we think of their natural desire for happiness, and the manifest impossibility of the object of their desire being ever found, otherwise than by their acceptance of them.—Wardlaw.
Proverbs 9:7. The reproof given is duty discharged, and the retort in return is a fresh call to repentance for sin past, and a caution against sin to come.—Flavel.
Here caution is given how we tender reprehension to arrogant and scornful natures, whose manner it is to esteem it for contumely, and accordingly to return it.—Lord Bacon.
The three verses, 7–9, in their general preceptive form, seem somewhat to interrupt the continuity of the invitation which Wisdom utters. The order of thought is, however, this: “I speak to you, the simple, the open ones, for you have yet ears to hear; but from the scorner or evil-doer of such, I turn away.” The rules which govern human teachers, leading them to choose willing or fit disciples, are the laws also of the Divine Educator. So taken, the words are parallel to Matthew 7:2, and find an illustration in the difference between our Lord’s teaching to His disciples and to them that were without.—Plumptre.
The passage is telling the consequences to the poor hardened man (see Critical Notes). Man is not like a thermometer, raised or sunken by every breath, but he is the subject of a change which makes a difference in moral influences. Without that change, instruction hardens him. With that change, it moves him and makes him better. Without the change the thermometer is always sinking; with the change it is rising all the time. This teaching is had in all forms in the New Testament. John says, “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you” (1 John 2:12); his plain implication being, that it would be useless to write except for the grace of forgiveness. We hear of a “savour of death unto death” (2 Corinthians 2:16); and Christ tells (John 15:24) that “if He had not come among them, and done the works that none other man did, they had not had sin.”—Miller.
Proverbs 9:8. By which I do not understand that we are forbidden to preach to the impenitent, but that we are to contemplate two facts: first, that unless they are changed our preaching will make them worse, and, therefore, second, that though our preaching is a chosen instrument of the change itself, yet, if they are scorners—i.e., if they are what our Saviour calls “swine” (Matthew 7:6), and He means by that, specially incorrigible—we are not to scatter our pearls to them. We are not to intrude religion upon scoffers. We are to withhold the good seed to some extent (yet with infinite compassion for all,) for what may more reasonably be hoped to be the good and honest ground (Mark 4:8).—Miller.
We must distinguish between the ignorant and the wilful scorner. Paul “did it ignorantly, in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). His countrymen deliberately refused the blessing, and shut themselves out from the free offers of salvation.—Bridges.
Proverbs 9:9. Instruction may be given with advantage to the wise.
1. No truly wise man will account it impossible to make accessions to his wisdom. Such a man is not wise in his own conceit (Romans 12:16). His entrance into this course is of too recent a date, and the efforts which he has made to gain wisdom too defective, to permit him to think his wisdom incapable of augmentation (John 8:2). And
(2) every wise man, whatever be the nature of his wisdom, will wish it to be increased as much as possible (Proverbs 18:15). Hence
(3), whatever instruction is given to him which is adapted to his character and circumstances, that is, which shows wherein he is defective, either in the end which he is pursuing, or in the manner of his pursuit, no matter by whom the instruction is given, he will account himself happy in having it, and will be the better for it.—Sketches of Sermons.
Proverbs 9:10. Men cannot begin to be wise except in holiness; unless it begins to be the fact that God is teaching a man, you cannot teach him.—Miller.
The heart that is touched with the loadstone of Divine love trembles still with godly fear.—Leighton.
The “knowledge of the holy” is the knowledge of all that is involved in hallowing God’s name; knowing experimentally all that tends to our sanctifying the Lord in our hearts and in life.—Fausset.
Some of the true wisdom is a nucleus, round which more will gather. A little island once formed in the bed of a great river, tends continually to increase. Everything adds to its bulk. The floods of winter deposit soil on it. The sun of summer covers it with herbage and consolidates its surface. Such is wisdom from above once settled in a soul. It makes all things work together for good to its possessor.—Arnot.
Proverbs 9:12. As we are not aware that the mass of the impenitent actually scoff at religion, we must look at this word, so often selected by Solomon, as meaning that practical scorn, by which men, who profess to respect the Gospel, show it the practical contempt of their worldliness.—Miller.
The principle involved in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:0) is embodied in the first intimation. The talents are in the first instance not won by the servant, but given by the master. So wisdom is specifically the gift of God (James 1:5). Those servants who use the talents well, are permitted to retain for their own use both the original capital and all the profit that has sprung from it: whereas he who made no profit is not allowed to retain the capital. Thus the Giver acts in regard to the wisdom which it is his own to bestow. The wisdom, with all the benefit it brings, is your own. Every instance of wise acting is an accummulation made sure for your own benefit. It cannot be lost. It is like water to the earth. The drop of water that trembled on the green leaf, and glittered in the morning sun, seems to be lost when it glitters in the air unseen; but it is all in safe keeping. It is held in trust by the faithful atmosphere, and will distil as dew upon the ground again, when and where it is needed most. Thus will every exercise of wisdom, though fools think it is thrown away, return into your own bosom, when the day of need comes round. Equally sure is the law that the evil which you do survives and comes back upon yourself. The profane word, the impure thought, the unjust transaction, they are gone like the wind that whistled past, and you seem to have nothing more to do with them. Nay, but they have more to do with you. Nothing is lost out of God’s world, physical or moral. When a piece of paper is consumed in the fire and vanishes in smoke, it seems to have returned to nothing. If it bore the only evidence of your guilt, you would be glad to see the last corner disappear before the officers of justice came in. All the world cannot restore that paper and read the dreaded lines again. The criminal breathes freely now no human tribunal can bring home his crime. But as the material of the paper remains undiminished in the mundane system, so the guilt which it recorded abides, held in solution, as it were, by the moral atmosphere which encircles the judgment-seat of God. Uniting with all of kindred essence that has been generated in your soul, it will be precipitated by a law, and when it falls, it will not miss the mark. Thou alone shalt bear it. Those who have not found refuge in the Sin-bearer must bear their own sin. Sins, like water, are not annihilated, although they go out of our sight. They fall with all their weight either on the sin-doer or on the Almighty Substitute. Alas for the man who is “alone” when the reckoning comes.—Arnot.
A man’s self is not that which he is for a short time and space, but that which he is for continuance, indeed for an endless continuance. And therefore that which we are in this life is not ourselves, but that which we shall be, that is ourselves. So that whosoever is wise for that time is wise for himself, and for that time we shall be wise if we be made so by the instruction of Eternal Wisdom.—Jermin.
Proverbs 9:13. A foolish woman, rather, “the woman of folly,” an exact opposition of the personified wisdom of the former part of the chapter. Clamorous, “violently excited” (Zöckler).
Proverbs 9:15. Who go right on their ways. “Who are going straightforward in their paths” (Stuart).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 9:13-18
THE FEAST OF FOLLY
That which strikes one upon reading this description is the analogy and the contrast which it presents to the feast of Wisdom.
I. Its analogies.
1. Both appeal to elements in the nature of man. Man is a compound, a complex being. He possesses a moral nature, a conscience, which can be satisfied only with moral truth and goodness, to which Wisdom appeals with her wine and bread of God’s revelation, and whose cravings they alone are able to appease. And he has sinful inclinations and passions which hanker after forbidden things, to which Folly appeals when she sets forth the attractions of her “stolen waters” and her “bread eaten in secret” (Proverbs 9:17). God’s wisdom and love are shown in appealing to the first, and Satan’s cunning and malice are manifested in the adaptation of his appeal to the second.
2. Both invite the same kind of character, viz., the “simple,” the inexperienced, those who have not tasted the sweets of godly living, yet “know not” from experience that the “dead” are in the house of Folly, that “her guests are in the depths of hell (Proverbs 9:18). Two potters may be desirous of possessing the same lump of clay in order to fashion it each one after his own desire. It is now a shapeless mass, but they know its yielding and pliable nature renders it capable of assuming any form, of taking any impress, which they may please to impart to it. The inexperienced in the experimental knowledge of good and evil are very much like potter’s clay; and here Wisdom and Folly, God and the devil, holiness and sin, stand side by side bidding for the clay, the one desiring to fashion out of it a “vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use” (2 Timothy 2:21), and the other anxious to make it a “vessel of wrath fitted to destruction” (Romans 9:22).
3. Both invite to the feasts through those who possess powers of persuasion. Though in the first Wisdom herself does not go forth, but sends her maidens, and in the second the woman herself goes out into the streets, yet they both belong to the sex which is, by common consent, allowed to be most skilled in the art of persuasion. History is full of instances of their power to influence for good and evil. There have been many Lady Macbeths, both in public and private life, and many “handmaids of the Lord” whose influence has been as mighty on the side of good. Both Wisdom and Folly possess ambassadors whose persuasive powers are mighty.
4. They utter their invitations in the same places. Wisdom “crieth upon the high places of the city” (Proverbs 9:3). Folly “sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city” (Proverbs 9:14). They both give invitations where they are most likely to obtain guests. In the places where many congregate are found the greatest variety of characters and those who have the most varied wants, and as in such places those who have wares of any kind to sell are sure of finding some to purchase, so the ambassadors of Divine wisdom and the emissaries of evil are certain, where the multitudes are gathered together, to find some to listen to their respective voices.
5. Both use the same words of invitation, and offer the same inducements. A feast is promised in both cases, i.e., both inviters promise satisfaction—enjoyment—to their guests. If a man coins bad money he must make it look as near as possible like the gold or he would not get anyone to accept it. It is only afterwards that his dupe finds that it lacks the ring of real gold. So the tempter to evil must make the advantages he professes to dispense look as much like real good as he possibly can. The false friend will often-times adopt the phraseology of the true, and will never be wanting in arguments to win his victim. The incarnate wisdom of God reminded His disciples that they might, in this respect and in others, learn something from the “children of this world,” who, in some matters, “are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8).
6. Both make the invitation wide and free. “Whoso” is the word used by both. The kingdom of darkness, as well as the kingdom of light, is willing to gather of “every kind” (Matthew 13:47). The only condition is “Enter in and partake of the banquet prepared.”
II. The Contrasts.
1. In the character of the inviters. In the one case they are “maidens,” emblematical (as we saw in considering the first feast) of purity; in the other she who invites is evidently a bold and wanton woman, identical with the one described in chapters 5 and 7 (compare Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 7:11-12, with Proverbs 9:13-14). Each one who invites is an embodiment of the principles ruling in the house to which she invites; each one sets forth in her own deportment what will be the result of accepting the respective invitations. So that, although the words used may be similar, the simple might be warned from the difference in aspect and demeanour of those who use them.
2. In the place to which the simple are invited. “In the former case,” says Zöckler, “it is to a splendid palace with its columns, to a holy temple of God; in the latter to a common house, a harlot’s abode, built over an entrance to the abyss of hell.” The first invitation is to the abode of a righteous king, where law, and order, and peace reign; the second is to an abode of lawlessness and self-seeking, and consequently of incessant strife and misery. Those who dwell in the first are ever magnifying the favour by which they were permitted to enter; the inhabitants of the latter are eternally cursing those by whose persuasions their feet were turned into the path which leads to death.
3. Wisdom invites to what is her own; Folly invites to that which belongs to another. Wisdom hath killed her beasts and mingled her wine; she cries, “Come, eat of my bread” (Proverbs 9:2; Proverbs 9:5). Folly saith to her victim, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17). The first is therefore a lawful meal: its dainties may be enjoyed with a full sense that there is no wrong done to oneself, or to any other creature in the universe, by participating in it. It may be eaten publicly; there is no reason for concealment—no sense of shame. But the guests of Folly are all wronging themselves, and wronging God, and wronging their fellow-men by sitting down at her table. And they feel that it is so even when the waters taste the sweetest, and the bread the most pleasant. Hence their banquet is a secret one, “for it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). Hence they “love darkness rather than light;” they “hate the light, lest their deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20-21).
4. The contrast in the results. There are poisonous fruits which are pleasant to the taste, but which lead to sickness and death. And there are bitter herbs which are not palatable, but which bring healing to the frame. Some of Wisdom’s dishes are seasoned with reproof and rebuke (Proverbs 9:8), but the outcome of listening to her call is an increase of wisdom and a lengthening of days and years (Proverbs 9:9-11). The feast of Folly is sweetened with “flattery” (chap. Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 7:21). The lips of the tempter “drop as an honey-comb” (chap. Proverbs 5:2), but there is a deadly poison in the dish. Eating of her food brings a man down into a devil; the bread and wine of Wisdom nourishes and strengthens him until he becomes “equal unto the angels of God” (Luke 20:26).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 9:1-18. The prototypical relation of the contents of this chapter to our Lord’s parables founded on banquets (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24) is evident, and therefore its special importance to the doctrines of the call of salvation.—Lange’s Commentary.
Proverbs 9:13. “Clamorous,” that is, so bustling as to allow no time for repentance (see 5, 6), like Cardinal Mazarin, of whom it was said that the devil would never let him rest. The sinner is so hurried along in the changes of life, as apparently to unsettle any attempted reformation. “Knows nothing;” an expression grandly doctrinal. The impenitent is blankly dark. Ecclesiastes 6:5 represents the perishing as like an untimely birth. “He hath not seen the sun, nor known anything.” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “Where can Wisdom be found?” says the inspired man (Job 28:14-22). “The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith., It is not with me.” The woman of folly is blankly ignorant; for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and if she has not the beginning, then mental light, if she have any, must be but as “darkness” (Matthew 6:23).—Miller.
A foolish woman is clamorous, and hath many words, but they are words only, for she knoweth nothing; the folly of sin is clamorous, and maketh many promises of pleasure and contentment, but they are promises only, and she performeth nothing.—Jermin.
Proverbs 9:15. Her chief aim is to secure the godly, or those inclined to become so; for she is secure as to others, and therefore takes no great trouble in their case.—Fausset.
Even the highway of God, though a path of safety, is beset with temptation. Satan is so angry with none as with those who are going right on.—Bridges.
Proverbs 9:16. Wisdom sets up her school to instruct the ignorant: Folly sets up her school next door to defeat the designs of Wisdom. Thus the saying of the satirist appears to be verified:—
“Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The devil surely builds a chapel there;
And it is found, upon examination,
The latter has the larger congregation.”—Defoe.
Folly does not invite the scorners, because she is secure of them, but only the “simple,” i.e., those who are such in the judgment of the Holy Spirit. Scripture expresses not what she says in outward words, but what is the reality. Whosoever turns in to her is a simpleton. Cartwright takes it that she calls the pious “simple.” Proverbs 9:15 favours this.—Fausset.
Proverbs 9:17. Folly shows her skill in seduction by holding out, in promise, the secret enjoyment of forbidden sweets. Alas! since the entrance of sin into the world, there has been among mankind a sadly strong and perverse propensity to aught that is forbidden, to taste what is laid under an interdict. The very interdiction draws towards it the wistful desires, and looks, and longings of the perverse and rebellious heart.—Wardlaw.
The power of sin lies in its pleasure. If stolen waters were not sweet, none would steal the waters. This is part of the mystery in which our being is involved by the fall. It is one of the most fearful features of the case. Our appetite is diseased.… Oh, for the new tastes of a new nature! “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” When a soul has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious, the foolish woman beckons you toward her stolen waters, and praises their sweetness in vain. The new appetite drives out the old.—Arnot.
Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell.—Trapp.
Indirect ways best please flesh and blood. “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” (Romans 7:8). We take this from our first parents, a greedy desire to eat of the forbidden fruit. All the other trees in the garden, although the fruit were as good, would not satisfy them.… Such is the corruption of our nature, that we like best what God likes worst.—Francis Taylor.
Proverbs 9:18. Of course “he knows not.” If the sinner only knew that he were already dead, he might wake up with a bound to the work of his salvation.—Miller.
All sinful joys are damned up with a but. They have a worm that crops them, nay, gnaws asunder their very root, though they shoot up more hastily and spread more spaciously than Jonah’s gourd.… When all the prophecies of ill success have been held as Cassandra’s riddles, when all the contrary minds of afflictions, all the threatened storms of God’s wrath could not dishearten the sinner’s voyage to these Netherlands, here is a but that shipwrecks all; the very mouth of a bottomless pit, not shallower than hell itself.… As man hath his sic, so God hath His sed.—T. Adams.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent