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The use of the Proverbs. An exhortation to fear God and believe his word: to avoid the enticings of sinners. Wisdom complaineth of contempt: she threateneth her contemners.
Proverbs 1:1. The Proverbs of Solomon— Solomon is the first of the sacred writers whose name appears at the head of his works. The name alone of so wise and so great a prince, is a sufficient recommendation to engage men to hear and to read. We naturally love to see and to listen to persons of illustrious name and extraordinary capacity; particularly when those qualities are joined with sovereign power. The stile of his work, the brevity of his sentences, and the parabolical turn, close, short, sententious, are also reasons for studying it; long discourses fatigue; all men have not leisure to attend to, or penetration to comprehend them. But precepts delivered in parable are always pleasing to hear. It is generally known, that this method of treating the most serious subjects was very common and familiar with the Jews. Jesus Christ, for the most part, delivered his instructions to the people in parables. See Matthew 13:3. &c. Proverbs 24:34. In short, they serve well to teach wisdom, truth, and justice; and to caution men against error, vice, and dissipation. Calmet. Bishop Warburton observes, that short isolated sentences were the mode in which ancient wisdom delighted to convey its precepts, for the regulation of human conduct: but when this natural method had lost the grace of novelty, and a growling, refinement had new coloured the candid simplicity of ancient manners, these instructive sages found a necessity of giving to their moral maxims the seasoning and poignancy of paradoxes. In these the son of David, we are told, most excelled. We find them to abound in the writings which bear his name, and we meet with frequent allusions to them in all the parts of Sacred Writ, under the name of riddles, parables, and dark sayings.
Proverbs 1:2. To know wisdom—to perceive— To give the knowledge of wisdom—the perception of, &c. and so on. The first six verses contain the author's design; wherein he uses several synonymous words to express the matter of which he intends to treat, as wisdom, instruction, understanding, knowledge, &c. By which he means instructions proper to form the mind; particularly those which respect youth, and which serve to correct and repress the sallies of their passions and humours. The first principle he lays down is, that a due sense of God is a most necessary qualification to enable one to profit by these instructions; teaching us, that our principal care must be to possess our minds with a lively sense of the being, wisdom, power, and goodness of God. This is the first step to wisdom; and the second is, to bear a high reverence to parents, both natural and spiritual, Proverbs 1:8. One of the first things that parents should take care of is, to teach their children to avoid evil company, Proverbs 1:10.; to represent vice in its true light, Proverbs 1:11, &c.; and to admonish them to hearken to the voice of wisdom, Proverbs 1:20. In short, in this chapter he introduces Wisdom speaking to her son, or to her children in general; inviting them to love her, and by no means to tread in the way of sinners, but to keep close to her directions; threatening destruction to those who contemn this counsel. See Bishop Patrick and Calmet.
Proverbs 1:3. To receive the instruction— Or, to learn the discipline. Schultens paraphrases the clause thus: "To conceive and cherish in the inmost heart, as a heavenly seed, the discipline of perfection, by which both thy prudence and happiness may be completed." According to Grotius, by justice is meant whatever is comprehended under the idea of benevolence or goodness: By judgment, that branch of justice which maybe termed commercial, or distributive, and which relates to contracts and their violation; and by equity is understood every other branch of justice which relates to any virtue, and is generally implied by the term rectitude.
Proverbs 1:6. To understand a proverb, &c.— By understanding a proverb, or, That he may understand a proverb. Schultens and Houb. "My lessons," says Wisdom, "will discover to him the sense of parables and enigmas." This study was very much the fashion in Solomon's time, as appears plainly from the queen of Sheba's visit to him. See 1Ki 10:1 and Sir 39:2.
Proverbs 1:7. The fear of the Lord— See Psalms 111:10. As the first lesson, the wise man tells us, that the fear of the Lord is the principle of wisdom. All wisdom which is not founded in religion, in the fear of God, is vain: piety, religion, the fear of God, are here synonimous. The prudence of the flesh, the policy of the world, knowledge raised from the things of earth, the barren science of the curiosities of nature; all this is not wisdom, because it may be without the fear of God, and true wisdom is founded only upon this fear. Some translate it, the principal point of wisdom is the fear of God: Piety, virtue, true wisdom, is principally founded upon the fear of the Lord: but the former sense is more clear and natural. This sentence is frequent in the Scriptures; and St. Augustin in Ep. Johan. tract. 9: often inculcates it; shewing, that fear prepares the way for the love of justice, which is perfect wisdom. Calmet.
Proverbs 1:8. My son, hear, &c.— It is very observable, how much human laws differ from divine. The former generally provides only that due regard be given by children to their fathers, but takes no notice of mothers; as may be seen in the Persian laws mentioned by Aristotle: the Roman, described in the Digests and Constitutions, and several passages of the Greek philosophers which we find in Epictetus and Simplicius, who consult only the honour of the father. But God, in his law, takes care to secure a just reverence to both parents, as we find in many parts of this book. See the first sixteen verses of the third chapter of Ecclesiasticus.
Proverbs 1:17. Surely in vain, &c.— The Syriac, which omits Proverbs 1:16., connects this with the 15th verse in this manner; And they fraudulently stretch and cast their net upon the bird. It reads, For the nets are not spread for the birds in vain: the LXX read unjustly instead of in vain; but that version seems forced and unnatural. For though it must be confessed, that the Hebrew word generally has this signification; yet that it also signifies in vain, appears from Ezekiel 6:10. The proverb then is a tacit reflection upon the obstinacy and infatuation of those persons, qui vivi viventes pereunt, who will not be warned by any sight or sense of their danger to avoid it; and who in this respect act with less prudence and caution than the very birds themselves, who will not fall into the net which is spread before them. See Dr. Grey's notes on the Proverbs. Other and different senses are given of this proverb; but, says Calmet, I prefer this: The wicked make haste to shed blood, and unjustly spread their nets before the birds; "They take the just by surprise, as they would take birds." Schultens, however, thinks that this verse connects with the following one, thus; "There is no bird so stupid as to fly into a net spread immediately before its eyes; but these abandoned sinners spread with their own hands, immediately before their own eyes, those nets by which they willingly involve themselves in certain death and ruin: for they who lay snares for the blood of the innocent lay snares for themselves; and they who desire to swallow up the virtuous alive, as the grave, will themselves be swallowed up in that grave, and plunged in destruction."
Proverbs 1:19. The life of the owners thereof— The Hebrew is not well translated here; בעל bangal, which often occurs in this book, signifies not only being lord or owner of a thing, but also under the dominion of it; given or addicted to it. So chap. Proverbs 18:9. לשׁון בעל bangal lashon, signifies a talkative person; נפשׁ בעל bangal nepesh, chap. Pro 23:2 one given to appetite; ףּא בעל bangal ap, a hasty, or passionate man: chap. Proverbs 22:24. So also chap. Proverbs 17:8. A gift is as a precious stone in the hands בעליו beadlaiv, of the owners thereof; i.e. of those who love bribes. Grey. Schultens renders the clause, It taketh away the life of those that take it.
Proverbs 1:20. Wisdom crieth without, &c.— Wisdom elevates her voice in the streets. She uttereth forth her voice in the public places. Schultens and Calmet. Solomon opposes the voice of wisdom and her agreeable invitations to the seducing discourse of sinners. "The latter lay snares for you in secret; they conceal themselves the better to deceive. Wisdom, on the contrary, lifteth up her voice in the streets and public places; she does not invite to murders, to violence, to injustice, to crimes commonly fatal to those who commit them; but to God, and to the highest good: She discovers the ways which lead to the extremest misery, in order to avoid it; she recals men from their errors, and threatens them with ruin if they despise her." By saying that wisdom lifts up her voice in the public places, Solomon prevents the poor excuse of those who would ask, where shall they find this wisdom? She is every where: all that surrounds us preaches up to us this wisdom. We need only open our eyes and ears. Do you behold evil, scandal, disorder? avoid doing it. Do you hear good discourses, do you see good examples? hear, imitate, and profit by them: the wise learn much more from fools, says Cato, than fools learn from the wise.
Proverbs 1:21. In the chief place of concourse— On the tops of the walls, according to the LXX; which Houbigant and Dr. Grey approve. Schultens renders it, at the head or beginning of the most frequented streets.
Proverbs 1:23. Behold I will pour out, &c.— I will communicate my Spirit to you, and cause you to comprehend my words. "I will open my heart, explain my sentiments, set my counsels before your eyes: I demand only your attention, and your sincere return to me, to truth, to wisdom." The Hebrew is literally,
If you return at my instruction; or, if you turn your face at my correction; "I will make my Spirit flow upon you, as a source or fountain which produceth its water." Schultens says, the force of the Hebrew word is, נבע nabang, ebullire, ebullium vobis Spiritum meum. I will make my Spirit ebulliate upon you; See Psalms 59:7.
Proverbs 1:31. And be filled— Or, And shall be surfeited.
Proverbs 1:32. For the turning away of the simple— The simple, the unfeeling: The men who have neglected my instructions, and who have been so void of reason as to deliver themselves up to the example and the advice of the wicked, shall be brought to death by their own folly: their prosperity, their happiness, their favour, shall be fatal to them; they shall perish by the very thing which they have sought for with so much earnestness. The Hebrew is משׁובת meshu-bath, the repose. "The peace or tranquillity of the simple, of those who have suffered themselves to be deluded by the subtle enchantments of the wicked, shall slay them; and the prosperity, the felicity, the abundance of the inconsiderate, shall destroy them." The LXX give a very different sense, They shall be slain, because they have unjustly oppressed the innocent; and the wicked shall perish by a rigorous examination. See Calmet. Dr. Grey says, that the prosperity of fools should rather be rendered the security of fools; their tranquillity in a vicious course, which will nevertheless end in their destruction.
REFLECTIONS.—As diligently as we are warned to fly the enticements of sinners, so earnestly are we admonished to attend the calls and warnings of God.
1. The voice of wisdom crying in the streets, in the places of greatest concourse, and in the gates, that all who will may hear the divine admonitions. This wisdom, or wisdoms in the original, may be interpreted of the divine revelation in general, or rather signifies Christ Jesus, who is the person here speaking in the words of his everlasting gospel; rebuking the wickedness of those to whom he preached, and foretelling their dreadful doom. And this voice is still heard in the public ministration of the word; and these warnings are to us still equally needful, and the danger of neglecting them equally fatal. Note; They that perish under a preached gospel, are left peculiarly without excuse.
2. The words which wisdom utters. [1.] He expostulates, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? indulge your vain notions, and sport in your own deceivings, in hopes of mercy, unsupported by God's word, and in ways of folly which must end in misery: and scorners delight in scorning; scoffing at serious godliness, and counting it high humour and wit to turn things sacred into ridicule; contemning religion as a mean, low thing, as the Scribes and Pharisees did the great Author of it: and fools hate knowledge; averse to hear the gospel-word, and choosing darkness rather than light. With such God bears long. He delighteth not indeed in the death of a sinner, and therefore, [2.] He exhorts them earnestly not to weary out his patience, or provoke his wrath. Turn ye at my reproof; attend to the calls of my word: and most encouraging is the invitation. Behold, sinner, and wonder, after all thy provocations, at the grace revealed in Jesus Christ who hath gifts even for the rebellious; Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, or upon you; upon some at least, if others continued impenitent, and would not hear. I will make known my words unto you; in general to all in the preaching of the gospel, so as to leave them inexcusable who reject it. [3.] He upbraids them with their impenitence, and hardness of heart: I have called, and ye refused; as the Jews rejected his word, and sinners continue to do; either by withdrawing from the place of hearing, or by their inattention there, or by their obstinacy notwithstanding every warning, persisting in their sins. I have stretched out my arm, and no man regarded; as Jesus did in the temple, and as his zealous ministers do in their importunate discourses, but to many with small effect; they continue a disobedient and gainsaying people. Ye have set at nought all my counsel; the gospel of their salvation, which the Jews despised, and which the self-righteous and the careless sinner still reject: and would none of my reproof; would neither hear nor obey it; nay, they hated knowledge, Pro 1:29 and did not choose the fear of the Lord, but rather preferred the perverse ways of their own hearts. [4.] He, therefore, denounces their doom, which had a present fulfilment in the destruction of the Jewish people; and will most eminently be accomplished in the day of the final perdition of ungodly men. I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh: come it will; pain and sickness will seize on their bodies, and terrors on their guilty souls. When your fear cometh as desolation, overwhelming as a flood; and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, sudden and irresistible; when distress and anguish cometh upon you, as was terribly felt in the siege of Jerusalem, and in the day of wrath will more fearfully overtake the impenitent sinner. Too late then it will be to cry for mercy, when the door is shut. Now prayer can avail, and God will hear the cries of the miserable; but then, says he, shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; deaf to their cries, though it were but for a drop of water to cool their flaming tongue. They shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; all their importunity is vain; the sentence is gone forth, the decree irrevocable, their damnation eternal: And this according to the strictest justice: they chose their own delusions, and were impenetrably hardened, Proverbs 1:29-30. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way. Sin and suffering are inseparable: they who choose the one, must expect the other; and be filled with their own devices, in the ruin they have courted. Thus the Jews, who crucified Christ, were themselves miserably crucified, till trees were wanting to hang them on. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them: they who depart from Christ must perish; and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them, their possessions enabling them to give a loose to the gratifications of their appetites, and begetting that fatal security which is the prelude to ruin. Let sinners read these awful lines, and tremble. Reader, whosoever thou art, may they never be fulfilled in thee! [5.] He declares the blessedness of those who hear and obey the reproofs of God's word. Whoso hearkeneth unto me, to Christ and his gospel, and yields up his heart to him, shall dwell safely: no enemy shall approach to hurt him, neither Satan, sin, nor death. Sprinkled with the blood of Christ, he shall enjoy constant peace on earth, and in heaven his abode shall be for ever: and shall be quiet from fear of evil; entered into that eternal rest, which nothing can disturb, and which remaineth sure to all the faithful people of God. Lord, may this be my lot and portion!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30