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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 3

Introduction

CHAP. III.

An exhortation to obedience, to faith, to mortification, to devotion, to patience. The happy gain of wisdom. The power and the benefits of wisdom. An exhortation to charitableness, peaceableness, and contentedness. The cursed state of the wicked.

Verse 1

Proverbs 3:1. My son, forget not my law In this chapter Solomon continues to press obedience to the precepts of wisdom, from a consideration of its benefits, which he speaks of more largely than in the foregoing chapter. See Proverbs 3:9-12. After which he returns to the general exhortation, Pro 3:13 advising every one to learn the doctrine delivered by God, and to be obedient; not to be so foolish as to prefer their own wisdom or craft before it. Solomon has composed this book with great address. Direct precepts, and moral instructions, proposed in a dogmatic manner, might weary; he diversifies his subjects and his persons, to relieve the attention of his disciple. Sometimes it is God, sometimes it is wisdom, sometimes it is Solomon himself, who speaks. He varies by a hundred different and agreeable ways a matter in itself extremely serious and important, and consequently demanding application and attention of mind. Here God himself appears to speak: My son, forget not my law. It is a great part of wisdom to continue faithfully and strongly attached to the law of God. Hence must be drawn all the instructions of wisdom. The law, in this place, may also signify the lessons and the precepts which the wise man gives to his disciple, whom he affectionately calls his son. (See Proverbs 3:21.) But the two following verses alluding immediately to the Mosaic law, it seems more probable that that law is meant. See Exodus 20:12.Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 5:16; Deu 6:8 and Calmet.

Verse 3

Proverbs 3:3. Let not mercy, and truth forsake thee Virtue and fidelity, Schultens; who observes, that these words are often joined together concerning God; see Psalms 25:10; Psa 89:14 concerning man; Genesis 24:49; Genesis 47:29. Joshua 2:14. With men, nothing can be more advantageous than virtue and fidelity, which include the sincere and constant performance of all kinds of duty. By an inversion of the syntax it is said, Let them not forsake thee, instead of Forsake not thou virtue and fidelity. See Gen 24:27 and there is much beauty and strength in this mode of expression. God commands us here to exercise mercy and truth, compassion and fidelity, towards each other; and he promises us in return, that we shall find favour and good success with men, Pro 3:4 where, instead of good understanding, we may read, good encouragement. See 2 Corinthians 8:21.

Verse 5

Proverbs 3:5. And lean not, &c.— Or, Rest not upon, &c. God demands that we love him, that we believe in him, that we trust in him, that we seek for him with all our heart: he would have nothing of us by halves: and surely he deserves that we should put our whole confidence in him; full of goodness as he is to protect, great in power as he is to defend. What can our wisdom, our industry, do without him?—Yet he does not forbid us to use our own prudence or understanding, but not to lean or rest upon it; as if every thing should depend upon that, exclusive of him. See Calmet.

Verse 7

Proverbs 3:7. Be not wise in thine own eyes, &c.— He employs all his authority, and all his eloquence, to exhort us to search after wisdom; but he would not by any means that we should be wise in our own eyes: he would have us doubt our own understanding; be always disposed to receive the good instructions of others; and refer to God, and not to ourselves, what we do: in one word, that our wisdom should never cause in us any pride, presumption, or temerity. See 2Co 12:11 and Isaiah 5:24.

Verse 8

Proverbs 3:8. Health to thy navel Many expositors, after the LXX, render this, It shall be health to thy flesh, or to thy body, instead of thy navel: but the learned Schultens has shewn that the word is properly rendered here, and according to the genius of eastern language, which by the navel expresses the middle or centre; a figure usual with the Greeks also, who called Delphos the navel of the earth, because they thought that that oracle was placed in the centre of the earth. It appears, that the navel here expresses the middle of the body, and of the heart. The healing of the navel is spoken of, because fomentations applied to this part diffuse their power throughout the whole body. So the reverence of God, and the hatred of evil, bring health to the body, and health to the mind; and render strong and serene the inmost faculties of both. See Schultens on the place. Bishop Patrick observes, that this verse seems to be but a metaphorical representation of that firmness, that vigorous health and cheerfulness of mind, which virtue (or holiness) implies.

Verse 9

Proverbs 3:9. Honour the Lord with thy substance According to the manners of the east, a subject was to pay his homage and shew his attachment to his lord and sovereign by presents. To make presents to a king, is to acknowledge him, to pay him homage. God would not have his people present themselves before him with empty hands. Exodus 23:15. The LXX render this verse, Honour the Lord from all thy righteous labours, and pay him the first-fruits of thy righteousness. They make use of the words righteous, and righteousness, to shew the detestation which God has of offerings which are made to him from possessions wickedly acquired. "Whatever is offered to God from the hands of wickedness (says one of the ancients) irritates the wrath of the Almighty." The promises in the next verse, and so, throughout this book, all those of a temporal kind, refer to the carnal Israelites: the spiritual Israelites desire to lay up treasures in heaven. See Calmet.

Verse 12

Proverbs 3:12. For whom the Lord loveth, &c.— The LXX read, For whom the Lord loveth he reproveth, and chasteneth every son whom he receiveth. From whence it is evident, that they read the Hebrew differently; and their construction is more natural, and agrees with Hebrews 12:6. Houbigant follows the LXX.

Verses 16-18

Proverbs 3:16-18. Length of days is in her right hand The wise man represents wisdom (i.e. holiness or religion) as other authors have done, particularly the excellent Cebes, in the shape of a beautiful woman, or rather queen; with her arms extended, in the posture not only of directing, but also of rewarding, her lovers and followers; for she holds forth in her right hand the great blessing of health and length of days, unto all those who will walk in the way to which she points; and it was but just to place this in her right hand; i.e. to give it the precedence, because it was the chief temporal promise of the law, and indeed the most desirable of all earthly blessings. After this follow wealth and reputation; which he places in her left hand, as inferior blessings, but which proceed also from her gift. Spiritually, these blessings refer to eternity, and the glories of heaven. As for cheerfulness in all conditions, there are no pleasures, he affirms, like those which wait upon wisdom and attend her motions; safe and secure pleasures; which do not merely gratify us for the present, and then expose us to danger, and leave us to the corrosives of sad reflections; but which give us a peaceable possession of perpetual joy, which never dies or decays, but, like the tree of life, remains fresh for ever. This allusion to the tree of life seems to be proverbial for that which prolongs life, and makes it pleasant and delightful. Some of the fathers understand it of Christ and his doctrine; and it is literally true, that he gives immortality, as the tree of life in paradise would have done. See Bishop Patrick.

Verses 19-20

Proverbs 3:19-20. The Lord by wisdom, &c.— See Job 38:4; Job 38:41. The effects which we call natural are the productions of the Creator's sovereign wisdom. Some understand by the depths broken up, the waters of the deluge; others, the original creation and distribution of the waters. The dews in Palestine are much more abundant than in our countries, whence the wise man gives them the same origin with the rain, namely the clouds; though the dew does not descend from so great a height.

Verses 21-26

Proverbs 3:21-26. My son, let not them depart, &c.— Wisdom gives life, health, safety, to body and soul: it is the most precious ornament of those who possess it: for the rest, when the wise man in so many places promises life, health, prosperity, peace, glory, to those who seek for wisdom, we must not take these promises absolutely and in the letter. We have known wise men live but a short time; we have seen them in affliction, in sickness, in adversity: Solomon himself informs us in the 12th verse, that God tries, by temporal evils and afflictions, his children and most faithful servants. We must therefore say, that God will either deliver his people from all these evils, or preserve them from them, or give them patience in this world, and put them into such a state as they would not change for all the riches and advantages of fortune: or, that, after this life, he will crown their holiness, virtue, and fidelity, with the highest rewards. The 25th verse should be rendered, Thou shalt not be afraid of any unexpected fear, nor of the bursting in of the wicked, when it shall come upon thee; or the assaults of wicked men rushing upon thee. The 26th verse is rendered by the LXX, The Lord shall be over all thy ways, and shall strengthen thy foot, that thou shalt not be shaken. See Calmet and Schultens.

Verse 27

Proverbs 3:27. Withhold not good, &c.— The words may literally be rendered, Withhold not good from the lords or masters of it; which some refer to the restitution of goods gained unjustly: but the connection requires that we understand the poor; who, by an elegant figure, are called the lords and masters of those goods which are possessed by the rich, so far as a just portion is due to them. Schultens. Calmet observes, that whoever has the power to do good is under the strongest obligation to assist those who have need of his assistance. The necessity of the poor has a just claim upon the abundance of the rich.

Verse 30

Proverbs 3:30. If he have done thee no harm "Contend not without reason; be not punctilious, litigious, quarrelsome;" we are not here forbidden to defend ourselves; but to be cautious, lest we offend against charity, justice, wisdom. Seneca says, "To contend with one's equal is uncertainty; with one's superior, madness; with one's inferior, meanness." Schultens observes, that two senses offer themselves to him upon this verse: the one, Contend not with a man without reason; because he hath not cherished any evil against you: i.e. because he is mild, placid, benign; and from the goodness of his disposition would not repel injury with injury: a grievous crime, yet how common! The other sense profits more closely upon retaliation, and a desire of revenge, thus: Because he is weaker, and of less power than to have courage to cherish any hatred; or to attempt any evil against thee: a detestable wickedness, which yet has always reigned in the world. See his note.

Verse 32

Proverbs 3:32. For the froward is abomination "He that perversely departs from all the rules of truth and justice is above all expression abominable to the Lord, even in his highest prosperity: but the Lord is a friend to men of sincere integrity; who know the secret of his providence in raising those wicked oppressors so high, that they may have the more dreadful fall."

Verse 34

Proverbs 3:34. Surely he scorneth the scorners God will treat the scorners as they deserve. See ch. Proverbs 1:26. The Psalmist says, to the same meaning, Psalms 18:26. With the holy thou wilt shew thyself holy; with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. "Thou wilt present thyself to those who seek thee; thou wilt turn thy back to those who despise thee." The LXX render the verse, The Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the lowly; and St. Peter and St. James have quoted it according to them. See 1 Peter 5:5.James 4:6; James 4:6.

Verse 35

Proverbs 3:35. Shame shall be the promotion of fools The elevation of fools shall turn to their confusion. The more they have been elevated, the more their folly shall be known, and their fall become more fatal. Schultens renders it peculiarly, and he thinks emphatically, And the branding of infamy ennobles the foolish. See his note.

*** I have omitted to add any REFLECTIONS to this and several other Chapters; as the proverbs contained in them are almost all independent of each other; and, therefore, Reflections upon each article would too much encroach on more interesting subjects.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/proverbs-3.html. 1801-1803.