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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 23

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3004. B.C. 1000.

Verses 1-3

Proverbs 23:1-3. When thou sittest to eat with a ruler When thou art invited to the table of a great man; consider diligently what is before thee What things, what plenty and variety of meats and drinks, by which thou mayest easily be tempted to excess in partaking of them, and so mayest be induced to speak or act in an unbecoming manner. And put a knife to thy throat, &c. Restrain and govern thine appetite, so as to avoid all excess, as with a sword hanging over thy head, or as if a man stood with a knife at thy throat ready to take thy life, if thou didst transgress. Schultens, however, with some others, reads this verse, For thou wilt put a knife to thy throat, if thou art given to appetite; that is, “If thou dost not curb thy appetite, it will expose thee to certain danger, as if a knife were at thy throat.” And be not desirous of his dainties Especially be on thy guard when exquisite delicacies are set before thee; for they are deceitful meat Agreeable to the taste, and promising pleasure, but, if eaten to excess, loading the stomach, injuring the health, defiling the conscience, and depriving a man of peace with God, and peace of mind. “There are two evils,” says Dr. Dodd, from Patrick, Melancthon, and others, “to be avoided at the tables of the great: the one is, too much talking; the other, too much eating: the wise man exhorts his disciple to avoid both the one and the other, by the phrase, Put a knife to thy throat; repress your appetite and your inclination to talk. Wine, company, and the gayety which attends entertainments, often invite men to be too free in the use of meat and drink; and it is by these that kings frequently prove the fidelity and the secrecy of their confidants.”

Verses 4-5

Proverbs 23:4-5. Labour not Hebrew, אל תיגע , Do not weary thyself, namely, with immoderate cares and labours, as many covetous men do; to be rich To raise an estate, and make thy property abundantly more than it is. Solomon does not forbid all labour, nor a provident care, which he commends in other places; but only represents how vain and foolish it is to be over solicitous, and to carry our cares and labours to such excess as to injure, if not our health of body, yet our peace and serenity of mind, and to endanger or even preclude our everlasting salvation. Cease from thine own wisdom From that carnal wisdom which is natural to man in his corrupt estate, and which persuades men to believe that it is their interest to use all possible means to get riches, and that the happiness of their lives consists in the abundance of their possessions, directly contrary to the assertion of our blessed Lord, Luke 12:15. Wilt thou set thine eyes Wilt thou look with earnestness and eager desire; Hebrew, Wilt thou cause thine eyes to fly; upon that which is not Which has no solid and settled existence; which is thine to have, but not to hold; which is always upon the wing, and ofttimes gone in the twinkling of an eye. For riches certainly make themselves wings The wings on which they fly away are of their own making: like the wings of a fowl, they grow out of themselves. They have in themselves the principles of their own corruption, their own moth and rust. They are wasting in their own nature, and like a handful of sand, which, when griped, slips through the fingers. “The covetous man,” says Henry, “sits hatching and brooding over his wealth till it be fledged, as the chickens under the hen, and then it is gone. Or, as if a man should be enamoured with a flight of wild fowl that light in his field, and call them his own, because they are upon his ground; whereas, if he happen to come near them, they take wing immediately, and are gone to another man’s field.” They fly away as an eagle Swiftly, strongly, and irrecoverably. We quickly lose the sight and the possession of them. Their flying away from us is elegantly opposed to our eyes being set, or flying upon them, in the beginning of the verse.

Verses 6-8

Proverbs 23:6-8. Eat not thou the bread of him that hath an evil eye Of an envious or covetous man, who secretly grudges thee the meat which is set before thee. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he Thou must not judge of him by his words, for in them he professes kindness, (as it follows,) but by the constant temper of his mind, which he hath fully discovered to all that know him by the course of his life. Eat and drink, saith he, but his heart is not with thee He hath no sincere love to thee, but inwardly grudges thee that which he outwardly offers thee. The morsel, &c ., shall thou vomit up again When thou perceivest his churlish disposition and conduct, his meat will be loathsome to thee, and thou wilt wish that thou hadst never eaten it; and lose thy sweet words Thy pleasant discourse, wherewith thou didst adorn his table, and design both to delight and profit him, is lost, and of no effect to him, and thou wilt be ready to repent of it.

Verse 9

Proverbs 23:9 . Speak not in the ears of a fool Cast not away good counsels upon obstinate and incorrigible sinners: see Matthew 7:6. For he will despise the wisdom of thy words He will scornfully reject thy wise and good admonitions.

Verses 10-11

Proverbs 23:10-11. Enter not into the fields of the fatherless Either to take away their goods, or rather, to possess their lands, as this phrase is used, 2 Samuel 5:6. For their Redeemer is mighty Hebrew, גאלם , their near kinsman, to whom it belongs to avenge their wrongs, and to recover and maintain their rights: see on Leviticus 25:25; Numbers 35:12; Job 19:25. God is pleased to call himself the kinsman of the fatherless, to show how much he concerns himself for the relief of oppressed and helpless persons.

Verses 17-18

Proverbs 23:17-18. Let not thy heart envy sinners Let not the consideration of their present impunity and prosperity excite thee either to envy them, or to approve and imitate their evil courses; but be thou in the fear of the Lord Reverence the presence of the Divine Majesty, and dread his power and justice, and those judgments which he hath prepared for sinners, and thou wilt see no cause to envy, but rather to pity them; all the day long Not only when thou art in trouble, but in all times and conditions. For surely there is an end An expected and happy end for such as fear God; or, a reward, as the word אחרית , here used, is rendered, Proverbs 24:20. And thine expectation shall not be cut off Thou shalt certainly enjoy that good which thou expectest, as the wicked shall lose that happiness which they enjoy.

Verses 19-21

Proverbs 23:19-21. Hear and be wise Rest not in hearing, but see that thou grow wiser and better by it. And guide thy heart in the way Order the whole course of thine affections and actions in God’s way, often termed the way, as has been observed before. Be not among wine-bibbers Avoid their conversation and company, lest thou be either infected or injured by them. The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty Which is the common effect of revelling, feasting, and riotous living. Drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags They are wont to be attended also with immoderate sleeping, laziness, and neglect of all business, which as certainly will reduce men to extreme beggary as gluttony or drunkenness does.

Verses 22-25

Proverbs 23:22-25 . Hearken unto thy father that begat thee And who, therefore, desires and seeks thy good in all his counsels; and despise not thy mother when she is old When the infirmity of age is added to that of her sex, which is apt to produce contempt. Buy the truth Purchase a true and saving knowledge of God, and his will concerning thy salvation, upon any terms; spare no pains nor cost to obtain it; and sell it not Do not forget it, nor forsake it for any worldly advantages, as unthinking backsliders frequently do; also wisdom and understanding Whereby thou mayest be enabled to love and practice the truths known and received. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice “For there is no greater joy a parent can have than to see his son take virtuous ways; which, as it is the only wisdom, so it gives both parents and children the highest pleasure and satisfaction.” Thy father and thy mother shall be glad “Let not thy father and mother then want this singular pleasure; but, by thy well-doing, fill the heart of her that bare thee with joy and triumph; who, for all the pains and care she hath had in thy birth, and about thy education, desires no other requital but only this.” Bishop Patrick. Thus Solomon twice urges the same consideration, as a powerful argument to prevail with all children, that are not void of natural affection, to labour to be wise and good, that so they may rejoice the hearts of their parents, to whom they are under such high and indelible obligations.

Verse 26

Proverbs 23:26. My son, give me thy heart Receive my counsels with thy whole heart; for the heart being esteemed by the ancients the seat of the affections, Solomon may, accordingly, be properly understood as calling upon his disciples to embrace his doctrine and injunctions with the warmest affection, and to reduce them to practice without any reluctance or delay; and let thine eyes observe my ways Let thy mind seriously and practically consider the ways which I prescribe to thee. Or, rather, God is here speaking by Solomon, and saying to every true child of his, Son, daughter, give me thy heart. Certainly the heart is that which God especially requires, and calls for from every one of us; whatever we give, if we do not give him our hearts, it will not be accepted: he must be the chief object of our love. Our thoughts must dwell upon him; and on him, as our chief good and highest end, our most fervent affections must be placed. We must not think to divide our hearts between him and the world: he will have the whole heart, or no part of it. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.

Verses 27-28

Proverbs 23:27-28 . For a whore is a deep ditch In which a man is in evident danger of perdition, and out of which it is exceeding difficult to escape. See the note on Proverbs 22:14. She lieth in wait, &c. Watching all opportunities of insnaring young men to their destruction; and increaseth the transgressors among men She is the cause of innumerable sins against God, and against the souls and bodies of those whom she insnares, and by her arts and wicked example involves many persons in the guilt of her sins. She is of no other use in the world, which already is too bad, but to make it worse, by increasing the number of lewd, faithless, and incorrigible sinners.

Verses 29-30

Proverbs 23:29-30. Who hath wo? From the sin of lewdness, he proceeds to that of drunkenness, which frequently accompanies it. As if he had said, If thou intendest to avoid such filthy practices, avoid intemperance; the lamentable effects of which are so many, that it is a hard matter to enumerate them. For who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? If thou considerest who they are that run themselves into all manner of mischief; that are never out of danger, but are engaged in perpetual quarrels, disturbing the neighbourhood where they live by their noise, tumult, and fighting; who hath babbling? The sin of much and impertinent talking, or clamour and confusion, usual among drunkards; who hath wounds without cause? Wounds received, not in the defence of his country, but for frivolous causes, and on slight occasions; who hath redness of eyes Which men, inflamed with wine, are very apt to have. They that tarry long at the wine, &c. Thou wilt find they are such as are so in love with wine, that they neither willingly stir from it, nor content themselves with the ordinary sort, but make a diligent search for the richest and most generous kinds; they that go to seek mixed wine Wine mixed with divers ingredients, to make it strong and delicious. Hebrew, ממסךְ , mixture, mixed drinks of several sorts suited to their palates.

Verses 31-32

Proverbs 23:31-32. Look not thou upon the wine Earnestly, so as to inflame thine appetite toward it; in which sense men are forbidden to look upon a woman, Job 31:1; Matthew 5:28. When it is red Which was the colour of the best wines in that country, which therefore are called blood, Genesis 49:11; Deuteronomy 32:14; and such were used by them in the passover. Red wine, it appears, is still more esteemed in the East than white. And, according to Olearius, in his account of his travels, it is customary with the Armenian Christians, in Persia, to put Brazil wood or saffron into their wine, to give it a higher colour, when it is not so red as they wish, as they make no account of white wine. At the last it biteth like a serpent, &c. It hurts the body in many respects, impairs the vigour of the mind, wastes the estate, stains the character, wounds the conscience, and, without repentance, destroys the soul. “Remember,” says Bishop Patrick, in his paraphrase here, “that the pleasure will be attended at last with intolerable pains; when it works like so much poison in thy veins, and casts thee into diseases as hard to cure as the biting of a serpent, or the stinging of a basilisk;” for so the word צפעני , here rendered adder, properly signifies.

Verses 33-34

Proverbs 23:33-34. Thine eyes shall behold strange women With evil intent: lustful, nay, adulterous desires will be excited in thee, which thou wilt neither have inclination nor power to restrain and govern; and thy heart shall utter perverse things Will discover its wickedness by unseemly and perverse, perhaps, even by filthy, scurrilous, and blasphemous speeches. Thou shalt be as he that lieth down To sleep; in the midst of the sea That is, in a ship in the midst of the sea; as he that lieth upon the top of the mast The worst part of a ship to lie down upon, because of its perpetual tossings, and the hazard of him that sleeps upon it. “Thou wilt grow so perfectly senseless, that not only thy most important business will be neglected, but thou wilt un-thinkingly run thyself into the extremest hazards, without any apprehension of danger: being no more able to direct thy course, than a pilot who sleeps when a ship is tossed in the midst of the sea; or to take notice of the peril thou art in, than he that falls asleep on the top of a mast, where he was set to keep the watch.”

Verse 35

Proverbs 23:35. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, &c. “And to complete thy misery, shouldst thou be not only mocked and abused, but beaten also, thou thyself wilt confess afterward, that it made no impression on thee:

nay, shouldst thou be most lamentably bruised, thou wilt neither know who did it, nor at all regard it; but, as if no harm had befallen thee, no sooner wilt thou open thine eyes, but thou wilt stupidly seek an occasion to be drunk and beaten again.” Bishop Patrick.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/proverbs-23.html. 1857.
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