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The discipline and doctrine of wisdom. The custom and error of folly.
Proverbs 9:1. Wisdom hath builded her house— This is a most splendid allegory, says Schultens, in which Wisdom is conceived as a queen, sitting in her royal palace, and inviting mortals to a banquet, plentifully furnished with the richest dainties, that they may be fed with celestial delights for a blessed immortality. This parable gains great light from that of the nuptial feast, delivered by our Saviour, Matthew 22:0. Many of the ancient fathers applied this to the church, and to our Saviour's human nature, who himself styles his body a holy house, or temple; perhaps in allusion to this fine allegory. See John 2:19. Various have been the endeavours of commentators to apply every circumstance in this description; but it has been well observed, that whoever would do so will find themselves in a great error, and quite ignorant of the nature of parabolical writings; for parables may be compared to historical paintings, which are intended to convey a general idea, which is to be gathered from the collective body of images, not from any particular figure: the minute circumstances are to be considered only as heightenings of the piece; but the conclusion, or general maxim, is to be drawn from the scope, and assemblage of the whole. This is a continuance of the parable begun in the former chapter, says Calmet; where Wisdom is represented to us as a venerable woman, whose real beauties and solid promises are opposed to the delusions of Pleasure; who in the 7th chapter is painted under the idea of a debauched and impudent woman. She, to entice young persons to her snares, gives a description of the perfumes, the bed, the feast, which she has prepared for them. Wisdom, to engage disciples, does the same thing; but, instead of debauchery, false pleasures, and vice, which Voluptuousness promises them, Wisdom offers to her guests a solid and magnificent dwelling of sweet but chaste delights, of salutary instructions, and a happy life.
Proverbs 9:3. She hath sent forth her maidens— The maidens of Wisdom, says Calmet, are the apostles and first preachers of the gospel, who invite all people to the study of wisdom, to the faith of Jesus Christ, and to the practice of holiness and virtue. Upon the highest places of the city, we may read, Upon the tops of the highest places, &c. Calmet supposes, that the sacred writer refers here to the tops of the houses, conformably to what our Saviour says, Matthew 10:27. What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops.
Proverbs 9:4. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither— Wisdom invites the simple, the ignorant, those who have the innocence and simplicity of children. See 1 Corinthians 14:20.
Proverbs 9:5. Eat of my bread, &c.— That is, "Attend to, receive, and practise my precepts." Our blessed Lord may be understood in this sense, John 6:53.
Proverbs 9:7. He that reproveth a scorner— This and the following verse supply us with a reason for the conduct of Wisdom in addressing herself only to the simple. She invites not the pretendedly wise, those who think they are ignorant of nothing: to invite them to the feast of wisdom, would be to expose herself to their insults and censures. They think they have nothing to do with it. They would receive the invitation with disdain; they would despise the lessons of Wisdom; they would reject with disgust her wine and her viands. These scorners admirably represent the genius of libertines and professed infidels. The words, Getteth himself a blot, mean, "Instead of convincing or reforming such a one by his reproofs, he will find himself accused of the same crimes by the person whom he endeavours to amend." When a man instructs a scorner, his time which he thus employs is thrown away; others deride his pains as a labour ill-placed; and the scorner himself also despises the knowledge which he is taught: Thus a man is put to shame.
Proverbs 9:10. Understanding— Schultens, Calmet, and many others, render this Prudence; Christian prudence, true prudence, which consists in discerning what is more or less advantageous in all matters, and in choosing the means proper for execution, is undoubtedly the knowledge of the Holy; for it is by this that they are conducted through divine grace in the right way to heaven, and avoid the dangers which destroy so many thoughtless and imprudent persons. Some understand the text differently; The knowledge of holy things is the true prudence. Others translate the whole verse thus; The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and the beginning of prudence is the knowledge of holy things; as the law of God, his worship, &c.
Proverbs 9:13. A foolish woman, &c.— We have here another allegorical picture, describing Folly under the person of a harlot, who fascinates with her enticements, and offers also her dainties to her guests; but dainties tainted with the most subtil poison. The Hebrew, rendered a foolish woman, is more strong; the woman of folly כסילות אשׁת eisheth keisiluth, folly herself bearing the character of a harlot. You have the image of concupiscence, and pleasure, whom all the philosophers have represented under this idea. Her characters, expressed to the life, are, 1. That she is obstreperous, tumultuous, in a perpetual heat and restlessness of passion. 2. That she is פויות petaiuth, madness itself; mere dissoluteness and deception; and 3. She cares not whatever happens. It is an aposiopesis, which expresses the highest degree of atrociousness. Schultens. Dr. Grey would render it, A woman of folly is clamorous, and knoweth not shame.
Proverbs 9:16. Whoso is simple— This is a most specious and artful detortion of the address of Wisdom; by which she would insult the friends of religion, truth, and holiness.
Proverbs 9:17. Stolen waters are sweet— A proverbial expression for illicit pleasures; the Greeks and Latins make use of the same phrase. See chap. Pro 5:15 and Calmet. One of the profitable lessons to be learned from this chapter is, that there is nothing more inconsistent with wisdom, than the service of those impure lusts, which have been the ruin of all those who have been led by them; and therefore with this the wise man concludes his preface to the book of proverbs; again repeating (Proverbs 9:10.) that first principle upon which all religion is built, and wherewith he began his preface, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Indeed, there is no true wisdom but religion. The reader cannot but be pleased with the following passage from the excellent Bishop Berkeley's Minute philosopher; a work which well deserves the most careful perusal, "To suppose a society of rational agents, acting under the eye of Providence, concurring in one design to promote the common benefit of the whole, and conforming their actions to the established laws and order of the divine parental wisdom; wherein each particular agent shall not consider himself apart, but as the member of a great city, whose author and founder is God; in which the civil laws are no other than the rules of virtue, and the duties of religion; and where every one's interest is combined with his duty;—to suppose this would be delightful. On this supposition, a man need be no stoic or knight-errant to account for his virtue. In such a system vice is madness, cunning is folly, wisdom and virtue are the same thing; where, notwithstanding all the crooked paths and by-roads, the wayward appetites and inclinations of men, sovereign reason [under sovereign grace] is sure to reform whatever seems amiss, to reduce that which is devious, make straight that which is crooked, and in the last act wind up the whole plot, according to the exactest rules of wisdom and justice. In such a system or society, governed by the wisest precepts, enforced by the highest regards and discouragements, it is delightful to consider how the regulation of laws, the distribution of good and evil, the aim of moral agents, do all conspire in due subordination to promote the noblest end, to wit, the complete happiness or well-being of the whole. In contemplating the beauty of such a moral system, we may cry out with the Psalmist, Very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou city of God!" See Min. Phil. vol. 1: p. 183.
REFLECTIONS.—When in the days of his flesh the Wisdom of God appeared upon earth, he chose for the most part to convey his divine instructions by parables, a method which he had used of old, to communicate the mysteries of his gospel. So here,
1. A rich entertainment is provided in a sumptuous palace for Wisdom's guests. She hath builded her house, the church upon earth, founded on Christ, the rock of ages; and gloriously adorned with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit therein abundantly dispensed; or the heavenly mansions provided for the saints' everlasting rest, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. She hath hewn out her seven pillars; intimating the liability and perpetuity thereof, seven being the number of perfection; or referring to the constant provision of wise and able ministers, qualified with gifts and graces for the edifying of the body of Christ, and the support of the interests of his church and people. She hath killed her beasts, or her sacrifice; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. The sacrifice is a crucified Jesus, offering himself upon the cross for sinners. The wine is his blood, the richest cordial to the guilty soul. The table is furnished with all the blessings of grace, pardon, righteousness, peace, strength, consolation; the provision Jesus himself has made, and freely offers to every poor and hungry sinner.
2. An invitation is sent to them. She hath sent forth her maidens, the ministers of the gospel, appointed and sent to publish the glad tidings of salvation, She crieth upon the highest places of the city, as our Lord himself did at Jerusalem; and his servants continue to lift up their voice, with zeal and earnestness delivering their message. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither; even every soul which, conscious of its spiritual ignorance, desires to be taught the lessons of divine truth. As for him that hath no understanding, at least not distinguished by any attainments of science, she saith unto him, Come, eat of my bread, feed upon the delicacies provided, and drink of the wine which I have mingled; welcome to the festal board, to the wine and milk of gospel-grace; Eat, O my Friends; yea, drink abundantly, O beloved; for here no excess is to be feared. They who feed upon Christ and his love, cannot come with desires too enlarged; yea, blessed are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled.
3. An admonition is given to the guests. Forsake the foolish, and live; the company of sinners, whose works are folly, and their wages death: these we must leave, have no fellowship with them, that we may live to God, quickened by his Spirit, and go in the way of understanding; the way of grace, peace, holiness, and glory, which the word of God lays open and plain before us, and in which all who come to Jesus Christ ought henceforth to walk, even as he also walked.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent