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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 4

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

Solomon, to persuade obedience, sheweth what instruction he had of his parents, to study wisdom, and to shun the path of the wicked: he exhorteth to faith, and sanctification.

Verse 1

Proverbs 4:1. Hear, ye children Solomon here proposes himself as an example of docility; but in such a manner, that he refers all the advantages of his education to the early impressions which he received from his father and his mother under the blessing of Divine wisdom. He makes this appear by all his attachment; tender and respectful as it was, and by his sincere regard to his parents, particularly to his mother, to whose eulogy he has consecrated almost the whole 31st chapter. The principal instructions in the present chapter are these; that parents ought to take the utmost care to instruct their children diligently, and the higher their station the more accurate should their education be. Above all things, the excellence of wisdom, holiness, and virtue, is to be inculcated. See on Proverbs 4:7. Next to this they are to be cautioned against evil company, as the bane of youth; the wretchedness of their life who live wickedly, and the happiness, comfort, and satisfaction, of theirs who live piously and virtuously, are to be represented, Proverbs 4:14-19. Next they are to be taught how necessary it is to be constant in reading good books, especially the scriptures, Pro 4:21 and to have an upright heart, sincerely disposed to follow such directions. Watchfulness also over the senses is commanded, as necessary to preserve the affections from being corrupted.

Verse 3

Proverbs 4:3. For I was my father's son, &c.— Literally, I was a tender and delicate child, and the only son of my mother. The word, only son, in this place may be taken in the sense in which the LXX have translated it, and which we have followed. Greek and Latin authors often express by this epithet an only son or a first-born. Houbigant renders the verse, For I was the principal son of my father, the only-beloved of my mother.

Verse 7

Proverbs 4:7. Wisdom is the principal thing "As there is no thing comparable to wisdom; so the first step to it is, to know as much, and to prize it accordingly. Begin therefore to be wise, by looking upon the fear of God as above all earthly possessions; and by being willing, if it were necessary, to give all thou art worth to know what is pleasing to him." The reader will find a good comment on this verse in the Book of Wisdom, chap. Proverbs 6:12-17.

Verse 18

Proverbs 4:18. But the path of the just is as the shining light The presence of the just enlightens, instructs, edifies, rejoices: they carry light into every place by their example, and by their instructions. And they grow more and more in knowledge, grace, and consolation, until all be perfected and swallowed up in glory. The wicked, on the contrary, are always in darkness, Proverbs 4:19. The former are the children of light of whom the gospel speaks; the other are the children of darkness, who know not against what they are about to stumble. They commit sin without scruple; they deliver themselves up to it without remorse; they fall without grief, and they continue in it without repentance.

Verse 23

Proverbs 4:23. Keep thy heart with all diligence Above all keeping keep thy heart. Schultens. The life and death of the soul proceed from the heart: an upright, clear, enlightened, watchful heart gives life; a heart corrupted, dissipated, without knowledge, without wisdom, brings death: from the heart proceeds all evil. See Matthew 11:18-19. Guard it therefore most carefully; with all kind of diligence, and above all other cares: guard it from evil thoughts and evil desires: for if you have evil desires, it is impossible for you to refrain from evil actions. Your heart, corrupted as it is, will cause your destruction, if you do not employ all your care, in dependence on the blessing of God, to guard it well; to observe its motions, to regulate its inclinations, to repress its sallies.

Verse 25

Proverbs 4:25. Let thine eyes look right on This advice principally regards the conduct of manners. "Apply yourself to yourself, to your own proper conduct, to the direction of your own ways: carry not your eyes, your attention, to things which are foreign to you, to the persons and the affairs of others: For the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth." See chap. Proverbs 17:24.

Verse 27

Proverbs 4:27. Turn not, &c.— The LXX and Arabic read, "Do not decline to the right, nor to the left; remove thy foot from the evil way. For God knoweth the ways to the right, but those to the left are perverse ways: for he shall make thy paths straight, and shall conduct thy steps in peace." The meaning of the verse seems to be, "Fly all extremes, and neither attempt to add to, nor diminish from, God's commandments."

REFLECTIONS.—Nothing too great can be said in the commendation of divine wisdom.

1. Solomon earnestly exhorts his children, and all like them of a teachable spirit, to attend to the lessons of instruction that he was about to deliver. Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding; fathers are bound to use every method to inculcate on their children the knowledge of divine things, and they are in duty bound to pay all deference and attention to their advice; but whether they hear, or forbear, it will be a parent's comfort to have done his best: for I give you good doctrine; which, if received, will make you both wise and holy; forsake ye not my law.

2. He communicated to them what he had received from his father, and by experience had proved to be excellent. For I was my father' son, tender and only-beloved in the sight of my mother; the darling son, Jedediah, beloved of the Lord, and therefore beloved of them. He taught me also; though a king, not too great to be a teacher; and said unto me, let thine heart retain my words, treasure them up in thy memory, as the most invaluable riches; keep my commandments, and live: his obedience to them would, according to the promise, prolong his days on earth; or his fidelity to the inspired instructions of his father would lead him to life eternal. For his psalms are full of Christ, whom to know is everlasting life. Get wisdom, Christ the sum and substance of it, and the knowledge of his grace, revealed in the word of truth; get understanding, in the diligent use of all instituted means; for, though it is the gift of God, this does not make our diligence the less needful, but rather engages us to exert it, in confidence of success from God: forget it not, whatever measure is attained, neither decline from the words of my mouth; for when once we deviate but a step from the paths of righteousness, we know not where we shall stop. Principiis obsta; refrain the first wanderings, is the grand maxim and only security. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee from the snares and temptations which surround us; love her, as the most desirable object, and she shall keep thee from sin, from sorrow, from every evil way. Wisdom is the principal thing; either Christ, who is the head of all principalities and powers, and the prince of the kings of the earth; or his word, the knowledge of which is the highest wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding; for this, of all gain, will most amply recompense our toils: an interest in Christ, and acquaintance with his truth, are the grand acquisitions. Exalt her, ascribe to Jesus the honour due unto his excellent name, and highly value and esteem the glorious truths of God; and she shall promote thee, she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her, the highest honour and promotion, even that of being sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, to which all, who by faith apprehend Christ, shall be advanced. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace, a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee; not like earth's fading ornaments, or corruptible crowns, but ornaments which age will never tarnish, and crowns of glory incorruptible, eternal in the heavens.

3. Solomon himself seconds the instructions that his father had given him, with his own. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of thy life shall be many; often here, at least hereafter, life eternal will be the reward. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom, I have led thee in right paths; and, therefore, if he turned aside from them, he would be inexcusable: sins against light and conscience are doubly sinful. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened, but in the glorious liberty of the sons of God thine heart shall be enlarged with love, and every obstruction removed; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble, through any snares laid by the enemy of souls. Take fast hold of instruction, let her not go, hang upon her as thy guide and support, and let nothing separate thee from Christ and his ways; keep her, by faith maintain a sure interest in him, for she is thy life, the author of the life of grace now, and the bestower of the eternal life of glory, which all who are faithful to him will shortly enjoy with him.

For the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; their character is the just or justified, and also holy, who, by faith in Christ Jesus, are righteous before God. Their path is Christ himself, they walk in him, supported by his grace, and led by his word and Spirit, their shining light; and as the beams of day first break through the darkness, then in the horizon deep the rising sun appears, till at the last, ascending his meridian height, his brightest glories are displayed; so, increasing with the increase of God, the faithful soul grows more and more enlightened with divine truth, enlivened with divine warmth, till perfected in holiness, the full blaze of glory comes; and in eternity, without a cloud, we shall enjoy the transforming and beatific vision of our God. Blessed, therefore, and happy are they who walk in this way.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/proverbs-4.html. 1801-1803.