Click to donate today!
The sixth chapter embraces four distinct discourses, each of which is a warning. The subjects treated of are
(1) suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-5);
(2) sloth (Proverbs 6:6-11);
(3) malice (Proverbs 6:12-19); and
(4) adultery (Proverbs 6:20 to the end).
The continuity of the subject treated of in the preceding chapter appears to be somewhat abruptly interrupted to make way for the insertion of three discourses on subjects which apparently have little connection with what precedes and what follows. Their unlooked for and unexpected appearance has led Hitzig to regard them as interpolations, but it has been conclusively pointed out by Delitzsch that there is sufficient internal evidence, in the grammatical construction, figures, word formations, delineations, and threatenings, to establish the position that they proceeded from the same hand that composed the rest of the book and to guarantee their genuineness. But another and not less interesting question arises as to whether any connection subsists between these discourses and the subject which they apparently interrupt. Such a connection is altogether denied by Delitzsch, Zockler, and other German commentators, who look upon them as independent discourses, and maintain that, if there is any connection, it can be only external and accidental. On the other hand, Bishops Patrick and Wordsworth discover an ethical connection which, though not clear at first sight, is not on that account less real or true. The subject treated of in the preceding chapter is the happiness of the married life, and this is imperilled by incautious undertaking of suretyship, and suretyship, it is maintained, induces sloth, while sloth leads to maliciousness After treating of suretyship, sloth, and malice in succession, the teacher recurs to the former subject of his discourse, viz. impurity of life, against which he gives impressive warnings. That such is the true view them appears little doubt. One vice is intimately connected with another, and the verdict of experience is that a life of idleness is one of the most prolific sources of a life of impurity. Hence we find Ovid saying—
"Quaeritur, AEgisthus, qua re sit factus adulter?
In promptu causa est—desidiosus erat."
"Do you ask why AEgisthus has become an adulterer?
The reason is close at hand—he was full of idleness."
Within the sphere of these discourses them. selves the internal connection is distinctly observable, Proverbs 6:16-19 being a refrain of Proverbs 6:12-15, and the phrase, "to stir up strife," closing each enumeration (see Proverbs 6:14 and Proverbs 6:19).
9. Ninth admonitory discourse. Warning against suretyship.
The contents of this section are not to be taken so much as an absolute unqualified prohibition of suretyship as counsel directed against the inconsiderate and rash undertaking of such an obligation. There were some occasions on which becoming surety for another was demanded by the laws of charity and prudence, and when it was not inconsistent with the humane precepts of the Mosaic Law as enunciated in Le Proverbs 19:19. In other passages of our book the writer of the Proverbs lays down maxims which would clearly countenance the practice (Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:10), and in the apocryphal writings the practice is encouraged, if not enjoined (Ec Proverbs 29:14; Proverbs 8:13). Notwithstanding this limitation, however, it is observable that suretyship is almost invariably spoken of in terms of condemnation, and the evil consequences which it entailed on the surety may be the reason why it is so frequently alluded to. The teacher refers to the subject in the following passages: here; Proverbs 11:15 : Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 22:26; Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 27:13. My son. On this address, see Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1, Proverbs 3:17. If thou be surety (Hebrew, im-aravta); literally, if thou hast become surety; LXX; ἐάν ἐγγύσῃ; Vulgate, si spoponderis. What the teacher counsels in the present instance is that, if by inadvertence a person has become surety, he should by the most strenuous endeavours prevail on his friend to free him from the bond. The Hebrew verb arav is properly "to mix," and then signifies "to become surety" in the sense of interchanging with another and so taking his place. The frequent mention of suretyship in the Proverbs is alluded to above. The first recorded instances are those where Judah offers to become surety for Benjamin, first to Israel (Genesis 43:9), and secondly to Joseph (Genesis 44:33). It is singular that it is only once alluded to in the Book of Job, where Job says, "Lay down now, put me in surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?" (Job 17:3); and once only, and that doubtfully, in the whole of the Mosaic writings, in the phrase tesummat yad, i.e. giving or striking the hand in the case of perjury (Le Job 6:2). The psalmist refers to it in the words, "Be surety for thy servant for good" (Psalms 119:122). It is spoken of twice in Isaiah (Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 36:8), once in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:27) and in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:3), and the cognate noun, arrabon, "the pledge," security for payment, is met with in Genesis 38:17 and 1 Samuel 17:18. These scattered notices in the Old Testament show that the practice was always in existence, while the more frequent notices in the Proverbs refer to a condition of society where extended commercial transactions had apparently made it a thing of daily occurrence, and a source of constant danger. In the New Testament one instance of suretyship is found, when St. Paul offers to become surety to Philemon for Onesimus (Philemon 1:19). But in the language of the New Testament, the purely commercial meaning of the word is transmuted into a spiritual one. The gift of the Spirit is regarded as the arrabon, ὀρραβὼν, "the pledge," the earnest of the Christian believer's acceptance with God (2Co 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). For thy friend; Hebrew, l'reeka. The Hebrew reeh, more usually rea, is "the companion or friend," and in this ease obviously the debtor for whom one has become surety. The word reappears in Philemon 1:3. The לְ (le) prefixed to reeh is the dativus commodi. So Delitzsch and others. If not in the original, but rightly inserted. Thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger (Hebrew, taka'ta lazzar kapeyka); properly, thou hast stricken thy hand for a stranger. The analogous use of le (לְ) in lazzar determines this rendering. As in the corresponding l'reeyka, the לְ (le) indicates the person for whose benefit the suretyship is undertaken, i.e. the debtor, and not the person with whom the symbolical act is performed, i.e. the creditor. Compare the following passages, though the construction with לְ is wanting: "He that is surety for a stranger" (Proverbs 11:15); "Take his garment that is surety for a stranger" (Proverbs 20:16 and Proverbs 27:13). "The stranger," zar, is not an alien, or one belonging to another nationality, but simply one extraneous to one's self, and so equivalent to akher, "another." The meaning, therefore, seems to be, "If thou hast entered into a bond for one with whom thou art but slightly acquainted." Others (Wordsworth, Plumptre), however, take zar as representing the foreign money lender. The phrase, "to strike the hand," taka kaph, or simply "to strike," taka, describes the symbolical act which accompanied the contract. Taka is properly "to drive," like the Latin defigere, and hence "to strike," and indicates the sharp sound with which the hands were brought into contact. The act no doubt was accomplished before witnesses, and the hand which was stricken was that of the creditor, who thereby received assurance that the responsibility of the debtor was undertaken by the surety. The "striking of the hand" as indicating the completion of a contract is illustrated by the author of the 'Kamoos' (quoted by Lee, on Job 17:3), who says, "He struck or clapped to him a sale … he struck his hand in a sale, or on his hand … he struck his ow hand upon the hand of him, and this is among the necessary (transactions) of sale." So among Western nations the giving of the band has been always regarded as a pledge of bona fides. Thus Menelaus demands of Helena, Ἐπὶ τοῖσδε νῦν δεξιὰς ἐμῆς θίγε, "Touch my right hand now on these conditions," i.e. in attestation that you accept them. In purely verbal agreements it is the custom in the present day for the parties to clasp the hand. A further example may be found in the plighting of troth in the Marriage Service.
Thou art snared with the words of thy month, etc.; i.e. the inevitable consequence of an inconsiderate undertaking of suretyship is that you become entangled and involved by your own premises, and hampered by self-imposed obligations. The Authorized Version rightly regards this as the conclusion. So the Vulgate. Others, however, carry on the hypothesis, and insert im, "if:" "If thou art snared," etc.; but without warrant (Zockler, Wordsworth, Plumptre). The LXX. throws the thought into the form of a proverb, as "a strong net to a man are his own words." A distinction is to be drawn between the verbs rendered "entangled" and "taken;" the former, yakosh, signifying to be taken unwarily, off one's guard; the latter, lakad, referring, as before observed (cf. Proverbs 5:22), to the being stricken with the net. They are found in the same collocation in Isaiah 8:15, "Many among them shall be snared and taken." The repetition of the phrase, "with the words of thy mouth," is not unintentional or purely rhetorical. It is made, as Delitzsch observes, to bring with greater force to the mind that the entanglements in which the surety is involved are the result of his own indiscretion.
In this verse advice is tendered as to what is to be done under the circumstances of this entanglement. The surety is to take immediate steps to be set free. The urgency of the advice is to be explained by the serious consequences which would follow in the event of the debtor not satisfying the creditor in due time. The surety became liable to the penalties inflicted by the Hebrew law of debt. His property could be distrained. His bed and his garment could be taken from him (Proverbs 22:27 and Proverbs 20:16), and he was liable as well as his family to be reduced to the condition of servitude. So we find the son of Sirach saying, "Suretyship hath undone many of good estate, and shaken them as a wave of the sea: mighty men hath it driven from their houses, so that they wandered among strange nations" (Ec 29:18; cf. 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:3-5; and Matthew 18:25). Compare the dictum of Thales, the Greek philosopher, Ἐγγύα πάρα δ ἄτα, "Give surety, and ruin is near;" and that of Chilo (Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' 6.32), "Sponsioni non deest jactura"—"Loss is not wanting to a surety." The same idea is conveyed in the modern German proverb, "Burgen soll man wurgen"—"Worry a surety" Do this now; or, therefore. The particle epho is intensive, and emphasizes the command, and in this sense is of frequent occurrence (Job 17:15; Genesis 27:32; Genesis 43:11; 2 Kings 10:10, etc.). It appears to be equivalent to the Latin quod dico. So the Vulgate, "Do therefore what I say;" similarly the LXX. renders, "Do, my son, what I bid thee (ἃ ἐγὼ σοι ἐντέλλομαι)." It carries with it the sense of instant and prompt action. And deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; i.e. set thyself free when thou findest thou art actually at the mercy of thy friend for whom thou hast become surety. The ki (כִּי) is not hypothetical, but actual; it is not "if" you are, but "when" or because you actually are in his power. The Vulgate and LXX. render כִּי respectively by quia and γὰρ. Go, humble thyself; i.e. present thyself as a suppliant, prostrate thyself, offer thyself to be trodden upon (Michaelis), or humble thyself like to the threshold which is trampled and trode upon (Rashi). or humble thyself under the soles of his feet (Aben Ezra). The expression implies the spirit of entire submission, in which the surety is to approach his friend in order to be released from his responsibility. The Hebrew verb hith'rappes has, however, been rendered differently. Radically raphas signifies "to tread or trample with the feet," and this has been taken to express haste, or the bestirring of one's self. So the Vulgate reads festina, "hasten;" and the LXX. ἴσθι μὴ ἐκλυόμενος, i.e. "be not remiss." But the hithp, clearly determines in favour of the reflexive rendering; comp. Psalms 68:30, "Till every one submit himself with pieces of silver"—the only other passage where raphas occurs. And make sure thy friend (Hebrew, r'hav reeyka); rather, importune thy friend, be urgent with him, press upon him to fulfil his engagement. The verb rahav is properly "to be fierce," "to rage," and hence with the accusative, as here, "to assail with impetuosity." In Isaiah 3:5 it is used with בְּ (be), and signifies to act fiercely against any one. The meaning of the passage is that if abject submission or persuasion does not avail, then sterner measures are to be resorted to to gain the desired end.
This verse carries on the thought one step further. The appeal to the friend is not to be confined to one spasmodic effort and then relinquished. He is to be followed up pertinaciously and continually, with unwearied diligence, until prevailed upon to fulfil his engagements. Of this unwearied energy in the pursuit of an object in which cue is deeply interested, compare David's resolution, "I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob" (Psalms 132:4, Psalms 132:5).
The struggles of the roe and the bird to escape from the snare are employed figuratively to describe the efforts which the surety is to make to tear and free himself from his friend. From the hand of the hunter (Hebrew, miyyad); literally, from the hand, as shown by the italics. The variation in all the ancient versions, with the exception of the Vulgate and Venetian, which read "from the snare," suggests that the original text was mippath instead of miyyad. The Hebrew yad, "hand," may, however, be used by metonymy for a toil or gin; but this is improbable, as no example of this kind can be found. With regard to the addition, "of the hunter," though this does not occur in the original, the parallelism would seem to clearly require it, and Bottcher maintains, but upon insufficient evidence, and against the reading of all manuscripts, which omit it, that the word tsayyad, equivalent to "of the hunter," formed part of the original text, but has fallen out. The plain reading, "from the hand," may, however, be used absolutely, as in 1 Kings 20:42, "Because thou hast let go out of thy hand (miyyad)," in which case the hand will not be that of the hunter, but that of the person for whom the one is surety. Roe. There is a paronomasia in ts'vi, equivalent to "roe," and tsiphor, equivalent to "bird," of the original, which is lost in the Authorized Version. The ts'vi is the "roe" or "gazelle," so named from the beauty of its form (see also So 1 Kings 2:7-9, 1Ki 2:17; 1 Kings 3:5; 1Ki 8:14; 1 Kings 5:3; Isaiah 13:14). Tsippor is a generic word, and represents any small bird. It is derived from the twittering or chirping noise which the bird makes, the root being tsaphar, "to chirp, or twitter." As to its identification with the sparrow, Passer montanus, or the blue thrush, Petrocossyphus cyanens.
10. Tenth admonitory discourse. Warning against sloth. The ethical connection of this discourse with the preceding has already been pointed out. Sloth militates against prosperity; it is the prolific parent of want, and, even more surely than suretyship, leads to misfortune and ruin, The certainty with which ruin steals upon the sluggard may be the reason why the teacher closes the discourse in the way he does. In the case of suretyship such an issue is uncertain; there is the possibility of escape, the surety may prevail upon his friend to release him from his obligation, and so he may escape ruin; but with sloth no such contingency is possible, its invariable end is disaster. So far as the grammatical structure of the two discourses is concerned, they appear to be quite independent of each other, the only points of coincidence observable being the repetition of one or two words, which is purely accidental (cf. "go" in Proverbs 6:3 and Proverbs 6:6, and "sleep" and "slumber" in Proverbs 6:4 and Proverbs 6:10).
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. The ant (Hebrew, n'malah) is here brought forward as supplying an example of wisdom to the sluggard. The habits of this insect, its industry and providence, have in all ages made it the symbol of these two qualities, and not only the sacred, but also profane writers have praised its foresight, and held it up for imitation. The ant is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament, and on both occasions in our book (see present passage and Proverbs 30:25). The derivation of n'malah is either from the root nam, with reference first to the silence with which it moves, and secondly to its active yet unperceived motion (Delitzsch), or from namal, i.q. malal, "to cut off," from its cutting off or consuming seeds (ab incidendis seminibus) (Buxtorf, Gesenius). The Aramaic name, shum'sh'manah, however, points to its activity and rapid running hither and thither (Fleischer). Sluggard; Hebrew, atsel, a verbal adjective tbund only in the Proverbs. The primary idea of the root atsal is that of languor and laxity. The cognate abstract nouns ats'lah and ats'luth, equivalent to "slothfulness," occur in Proverbs 19:15; Proverbs 31:27. Consider her ways; attentively regard them, and from them derive a lesson of wisdom. Her ways are the manner in which the ant displays her industry and foresight.
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler. This statement is substantially correct, for though the most recent observations made by modern naturalists have discovered various classes of ants occupying the same ant hill, yet there appears to be a total want of that gradation and subordination in ant life which is noticeable among bees. The three terms used here, katsa, shoter, moshel, all refer to government, and correspond respectively with the modern, Arabic terms, kadi, wall, and emir (Zockler). The first refers to the judicial office, and should rather be rendered "judge," the root katsah being "to decide" (see Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 3:6, Isaiah 3:7; Micah 3:9). The word, however, is used of a military commander in Joshua 10:24; Judges 2:6-11, and in this sense it is understood by the Vulgate, which has dux. Shoter, rendered "overseer," is literally "a scribe," and appears as the general designation for any official In Exodus 5:6, Exodus 5:19 the shoter is the person employed by the Egyptian taskmasters to urge on the Israelites in their forced labour; in Numbers 11:16 the shoter is one of the seventy elders; and in 1 Chronicles 23:4 he is a municipal magistrate. The meaning assigned to the word in the Authorized Version seems to be the correct one. The ant has no overseer; there is none to regulate or see that the work is done. Each ant apparently works independently of the rest, though guided by a common instinct to add to the common store. In moshel we have the highest title of dignity and power, the word signifying a lord, prince, or ruler, from mashal, "to rule."
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. It is this characteristic, combined with what has just been said, which gives point to the lesson the sluggard is to learn. The teacher, as it were, argues: If the ant, so insignificant a creature in the order of the animal kingdom, is so provident, how much more should you be—you, a man endued with superior intelligence, and with so many more resources at hand, and with greater advantages! If the ant, with none to urge, direct, or control her work, is so industrious, surely she provides an example at which you, the sluggard, should blush, since there is every external incentive to rouse you to action—your duty to the community, the urgent advice of your friends, and your dignity as a man. If she provides for the future, much more should you do so, and threw off your sloth. Objection has been taken to what is here stated of the provident habits of the ant in storing food, on the ground that it is carnivorous and passes the winter in a state of torpidity. That the ant does lay up stores for future use has, however, been the opinion of all ages. Thus Hesiod ('Days,' 14) speaks of the ant as harvesting the grain, calling it ἴδρις, "the provident." Virgil says—
"Veluti ingentem formicae farris acervum
Quum populant hiemis memores, tectoque repenunt."
"So the ants, when they plunder a tall heap of corn, mindful of the winter, store it in their cave." The language of Horace ('Sat.,' 1.50, 32) might be a comment on our passage—
"Parvula (nam exemplo est) magni formica laboris sicut
Ore trahit quodcunque potest, atque addit acervo,
Quem struit, haud ignara ac non incauta futuri,
Quae, simul universum contristat Aquarius annum
Non usquam prorepit, et illis utitur ante Quaesitis sapiens."
"For thus the little ant (to human lore
No mean example) forms her frugal store,
Gathered, with mighty toils, on every side,
Nor ignorant, nor careless to provide
For future want; yet when the stars appear
That darkly sadden the declining year,
No more she comes abroad, but wisely lives
On the fair store industrious summer gives."
The same provident character is noted in AEsop's fable, 'The Ant and the Grasshopper;' see also Aristotle ('Hist. Nat.,' 9.6). All objections on this subject appear to be based on insufficient data, and have been conclusively answered by recent observation. Apart from the remark of Buffon, that "the ants of tropical climates lay up provisions, and as they probably live the whole year, they submit themselves to regulations entirely unknown among the ants of Europe." The late Professor Darwin states of the agricultural ant of Texas, which in many features resembles the ant of Palestine, that it not only stores its food, but prepares the soil for the crops, keeps the ground free from weeds, and finally reaps the harvest. Canon Tristram also observes, "The language of the wise man is not only in accordance with the universal belief of his own time, but with the accurately ascertained facts of natural history. Contrary to its habits in colder climates, the ant is not there dormant through the winter; and among the tamerisks of the Dead Sea it may be seen, in January, actively engaged in collecting the aphides and saccharine exudations, in long flies passing and repassing up and down the trunk. Two of the most common species of the Holy Land (Alta barbara, the black ant, and Alta structor, the brown ant) are strictly seed feeders, and in summer lay up large stores of grain for winter use. These species are spread along the whole of the Mediterranean coasts, but are unknown in more northern climates. Hence writers who were ignorant of ants beyond those of their own countries have been presumptuous enough to deny the accuracy of Solomon's statement". The Mishna, section 'Zeraim,' also contains a curious piece of legislation which bears testimony to the storing properties of the ant.
contain a call to the sluggard to rouse himself from his lethargy, and the warning of the evil consequences if he remains heedless of the reproof. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? It is the same as if it were said, "What infatuation is this which makes you lie and sleep as if you had nothing else to do?" The double question stigmatizes the sluggard's utter indolence, and suggests the picture of his prolonging his stay in bed long after every one else is abroad and about his business. How long (Hebrew, ad-matha; Vulgate, usquequo); literally, till when? When; Hebrew, matha; Vulgate, quando. The came words are used in the same order in introducing a question in Nehemiah 2:6, "For how long will the journey be? and when wilt thou return?" Wilt thou … sleep. The Hebrew tish'kar is literally "wilt thou lie," but the verb easily passes to the secondary meaning of "to sleep." The delineation of the sluggard is again drawn in Proverbs 24:30-34 in almost identical language, but with some additions.
Yet a Little sleep, etc. Is this the answer of the sluggard which the teacher takes up and repeats ironically, and in a tone of contempt? or is it the teacher's own language describing how the sluggard slides on insensibly to ruin? The Vulgate favours the latter view, "Thou shalt sleep a little, thou shalt slumber a little, thou shalt fold thy hands to sleep, and then," etc. Habits, as Aristotle in his 'Ethics' has shown, are the resultant of repeated acts, and habits entail consequences. So here the inspired teacher would have it learnt, from the example of the sluggard, that the self-indulgence which he craves leads on to a confirmed indolence, which in the end leaves him powerless. "Yet a little" is the phrase on the lips of every one who makes but a feeble resistance, and yields supinely to his darling vice.
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. The inevitable consequences of sloth—poverty and want, two terms conveying the idea of utter destitution—are described under a twofold aspect: first, as certain; second, as irresistible. Poverty will advance upon the sluggard with the unerring precision and swiftness with which a traveller tends towards the end of his journey, or, as Michaelis puts it, "quasi viator qui impigre pergit ac proprius venit donec propositum itineris scopum contingat" (Michaelis, 'Notre Uberiores'). Muffet, in loc; keeping to the figure, however, explains differently, "Poverty shall overtake thee, as a swift traveller does one who walks slowly." The Authorized Version, "as one that travelleth," correctly represents the original kim'hallek. There is no ground whatever, from the use of the verb, for rendering the piel participle m'hallek as "a robber." The verb halak invariably means "to go, or walk," and the piel or intensive form of the verb means "to walk vigorously, or quickly." The participle can only mean this in the two other passages where it occurs—Psalms 104:3 and Ecclesiastes 4:14. The substantive helek in 2 Samuel 12:4 also signifies "a traveller." So the Vulgate here, quasi viator. The other view, it is stated, is required by the parallel expression in the second hemistich, "as an armed man," and receives some support from the LXX. reading, ὥσπερ κακὸς ὁδοιπόρος, "as an evil traveller," which may mean either a traveller bringing evil news, or one who wanders about with an evil intention and purpose, in the sense of the Latin grassator, "a highwayman." In this case the meaning would be that poverty shall come upon the sluggard as he is indulging in his sloth, and leave him destitute as if stripped by a robber. But the destitution of the sluggard wilt not only be certain and swift, it will be also irresistible. His want shall come upon him as an armed man (k'ish magen); literally, as a man of a shield; Vulgate, quasi vir armatus; i.e. like one fully equipped, and who attacks his foe with such onset and force that against him resistance is useless. As the unarmed, unprepared man succumbs to such an opponent, so shall the sluggard fall before want. The expressions," thy poverty" and "thy want," represent the destitution of the sluggard as flowing directly from his own habit of self-indulgence. It is his in a special manner) and he, not others, is alone responsible for it. Compare, beside the parallel passage Proverbs 24:33, the similar teaching in Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 20:4. The Vulgate, LXX; and Arabic Versions at the close of this verse add, "But if thou art diligent, the harvest shall come as a fountain, and want shall flee far from thee;" the LXX. making a further addition, "as a bad runner (ὥσπερ κακὸς δρομεὺς)." It is observable, in comparing this section with the preceding, that the teacher pursues the subject of the sluggard to its close, while he leaves the end of the surety undetermined. The explanation may be in the difference in character of the two. The surety may escape the consequences of his act, but there is no such relief for the sluggard. His slothfulness becomes a habit, which increases the more it is indulged in, and leads to consequences which are as irremediable as they are inevitable.
11. Eleventh admonitory discourse. Warning against mischievousness as a thing hateful to God. The connection of this with the preceding discourse is not at first sight very clear, but it may be found in the fact, attested only too unhappily by experience, that sloth leads those who indulge in it to such vices as are next enumerated. The sluggard may develop into a treacherous and deceitful man, and even if such should not happen, the characteristics of the two are nearly allied, and their end is much the same. St. Paul, in his First Epistle to Timothy, observes this same combination of character, and remarks that idlers are "tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (see 1 Timothy 6:13). The intention of the discourse is obviously to dissuade all, and especially the young, from the vices, and to preserve them from the ruin, of those men of whom "the naughty person and wicked man" is the type.
A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. The teacher begins by stating in general terms the nature and character of the man whom he now holds up as a warning to others, dud then proceeds to point out the various features in his conduct and behaviour by which he may be known. In concise terms he is described as "a naughty person, a wicked man." This is pre-eminently his character, and the first feature in it is that his life is one of wilful and injurious misreprescntation of the truth. A naughty person, a wicked man. In apposition and mutually explanatory. The grammatical arrangement of the sentences which follow, each of which is introduced by a participle, and is thus coordinate to the ethers, as well as the parallel terms, "person" (adam) and "man" (ish), determine this apposition. So Bertheau and Delitzsch. Others (as Zockler, Noyes, Kamph), however, connect the second expression with the series of characteristics which follow, and render, "A worthless person is a deceiver, who," etc; but wrongly. A naughty person (Hebrew, adam b'liyyaal); literally, a man of Belial; Vulgate, homo apostata; LXX; ἀνὴρ ἄφρων. The word "Belial" is derived from b'li, "without," and yaal, "profit" (i.e. "without profit"), or from b'li and ol, "yoke" (i.e. "without yoke"), and strictly signifies either a worthless or a lawless person. The latter derivation is, however, rejected by Gesenius and others. Its abstract signification is worthlessness, uselessness; its concrete or adjectival, worthless. The word "naughty" (Anglo-Saxon, naht, ne aht, "not anything," equivalent to "nothing"), in the sense of good-for-nothing, ne'er-do-well, adopted in the Authorized Version, exactly reproduces its strict etymological meaning. The word, however, always carries with it the idea of moral turpitude. In the present instance its meaning is determined by the appositional phrase, "a man of iniquity," or "a wicked man," and such iniquity as takes the form of mischief making, deceit, and sowing discord among brethren. The "man of Belial" is not therefore simply, as its etymological derivation would imply, a worthless individual, one who is of no use either to himself or to the community at large, but a positively wicked, iniquitous, and despicable character. The meaning of the word varies in other passages. Thus in Deuteronomy 13:13, where it first occurs, it is used to designate those who have fallen sway into idolatry, and induce others to follow their example. In this sense it corresponds with the Vulgate, apostata, as signifying a defection from the worship of the true God. Again, in 1 Samuel 1:16 it is applied to the profanation of sacred places. When Hannah is accused by Eli of drunkenness in God's house at Shiloh, she replies, "Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial." In the historical books (e.g. Judges, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles), where it is of frequent occurrence, it has the general meaning of "wickedness," under whatever form it appears. So in the Psalms (Psalms 18:4; Psalms 41:8; Psalms 101:3) and Nahum (Nahum 1:11, Nahum 1:15). In the Book of Job (Job 34:18, once only) it is used adjectively and as a term of reproach, "Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked [b'liyyaal; i.e. 'worthless']?" Individuals possessing the qualities of worthlessness, profanity, or wickedness are designated in Holy Scripture either as "sons," "children," "daughters," or "men of Belial." The word only occurs in two other passages in the Proverbs—Proverbs 16:27 and Proverbs 19:28. In the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:15) the word "Belial" (Greek, βελίαρ or βελίαλ) appears as an appellative of Satan, ὁ πονηρὸς, "the evil one," as the representative of all that is bad, and as antichrist. A wicked man (Hebrew, ish aven); literally, a man of vanity or iniquity; Vulgate, vir inutilis; LXX; ἀνὴρ παράνομος. The radical idea of aven (from un, "nothing") is that of emptiness or vanity, and has much, therefore, in common with b'liyaal. Its secondary meaning, and that which it usually bears in Scripture, is iniquity. "A man of iniquity" is one who is altogether deficient in moral consciousness, and who goes about to work wickedness and do hurt and injury to others (cf. Proverbs 19:18 and Job 22:15). Walketh with a froward mouth. His first characteristic, as already observed. His whole life and conduct are marked by craftiness, deceit, perversion, and misrepresentation, and an utter want of truth. "Walking" is here, as elsewhere in Scripture, used of some particular course of conduct. So we find the LXX. paraphrase, πορεύεται ὁδοὺς οὐκ ἀγαθάς. "he enters or walks not in good ways." With a froward mouth (Hebrew, ik'shuth peh); literally, with perversity of mouth; Vulgate, ore perverse. Symmachus has στρεβλύμασι στόματος, "with perversity of mouth." The mouth, or speech, is the vehicle by which this person gives outward expression to the evil thoughts which are inwardly filling his heart. The phrase occurs before in Proverbs 4:24. The meaning of the passage is well illustrated in Psalms 10:7, "His mouth is full of misery, deceit, and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity."
He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers. He employs his other members for the same nefarious purpose. In the language of St. Paul, he yields his members to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity (Romans 6:19). "To wink with the eye (karats ayin)," as in Proverbs 10:10 and Psalms 35:19, or "with the eyes (karats b'eynayim)," is properly to compress or nip them together, and so to wink, and give the signal to others not to interfere (Gesenius and Delitzsch); cf. the LXX; ἐννεύει ὀφθαλμῷ; and the Vulgate, annuit oculis. Aquila and Theodoret, however, read, κνίζει, "he vexes or annoys." The observation of the teacher in Proverbs 10:10 is, "He that winketh with his eyes causeth sorrow." The same verb karuts is also used of the compression or closing of the lips in Proverbs 16:30. He speaketh with his feet; i.e. he conveys signs by them to his companion; cf. the LXX; σημαίνει δὲ ποδὶ, and the Vulgate, terit pede, which conveys much the same meaning. He teacheth with his fingers; or, as more fully expressed in the LXX; διδάσκει δὲ ἐννεύμασι δακτύλων, "he teacheth by the signs of his fingers." Symmachus has δακτυλοδεικτῶν, which, however, in its strictly classical use is pointing at with the finger. "Teaching" is only the secondary meaning of the Hebrew participle moreh, which is here used. The verb yarah, to which it belongs, means properly to extend or stretch out the hand for the purpose of pointing out the way (compare the Hebrew shalakh yod, and the Latin monstrare), and hence came to mean "to teach." The crafty and deceitful character which is here presented to as is strikingly reproduced in Ecclesiasticus: "He that winketh with the eyes worketh evil: and he that knoweth him will depart from him. When thou art present, he will speak sweetly, and will admire thy words: but at the last he will writhe his mouth, and slander thy sayings. I have hated many things, but nothing like him; for the Lord will hate him" (Ec 27:22-24). The heathen poet Naevius says of the impudent woman—
"Allium tenet, alii adnutat, alibi manus
Est occupata: est alii percellit pedem."
Compare also Ovid's words ('Amor.,' 1.4, 16)—
"Clam mihi tange pedem:
Me specta, mutusque meos, vultumque loquacem …
Verba superciliis sine voce loquentia dicam;
Verba leges digitis."
So Tibullus, 1.12—
"Illa viro coram nutus conferre loquaces
Blandaque compositis abdere verba notis."
The lesson which we may learn from this verse is not to abuse the members of our bodies, by employing them for the purposes of deceit and hypocrisy, and so to promote evil, but to put them to their natural and legitimate use.
From these external features the teacher passes to the heart the seat of all this mischief and deceit. In this respect we observe a striking correspondence with the method adopted by our Saviour in his leaching, who referred everything to the heart, as the true seat of all that was good or bad in man. Frowardness is in his heart (Hebrew, tah'pukoth b'libbo); i.e. his heart is full of perverse imaginations, it is there he nourishes his jealousy, his hatred, his malice, his ill will. It is there, too, he deviseth mischief continually. "Devising mischief" carries us one step further back in the history of evil. It is this feature, this deliberate premeditation to plot mischief and to devise means to carry it into execution, which makes the character of the man simply diabolical. He makes his heart as it were the workshop wherein he fabricates and prepares his villainy. The Hebrew kharash (to which the participle khoresh belongs) is equivalent to the Vulgate machinari, and the LXX. τεκαίνομαι, "to fabricate, devise, plot." (See Proverbs 3:29 and Proverbs 3:18; and cf. Psalms 36:4, "He deviseth mischief upon his bed.") The LXX. combines the two statements in one proposition: "A perverse heart deviseth evil at all times." Similarly the Vulgate, which, however, joins "continually" (Hebrew, b'koleth; Vulgate, omni tempore) to the second hemistich, thus: "And at all times he sows discord (et omni tempore jurgia seminat)." He soweth discord (Hebrew, mid'-yanim (Keri) y'shalleakh); literally, he sends forth (i.e. excites) strife; or, as the margin, he casteth forth strife. The Keri reading mid'yanim, for the Khetib m'danim, is probably, as Hitzig suggests, derived from Genesis 37:36. The phrase occurs again as shallakh m'danim in Genesis 37:19, and as shillakh madon Proverbs 16:28 (cf. Proverbs 10:12). This is the culminating point in the character of the wicked man. He takes delight in breaking up friendship and in destroying concord among brethren (see Proverbs 16:19), and thus destroys one of the most essential elements for promoting individual happiness and the welfare of the community at large. This idea of the community is introduced into the LXX; which reads, "Such an one brings disturbance to the city (ὁ τοσοῦτος ταραχὰς συνίστησι πόλει)." The motive cause may be either malice or self-interest.
Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. Great sins, as Muffet, in loc; observes, have great punishments; neither only great, but sudden. Therefore; Hebrew, al-ken. A Nemesis or retribution awaits this man of malice and deceit. His calamity or destruction is represented as the direct result of, as flowing forth from, what he has done. His calamity; Hebrew, eydo. On eyd, see Proverbs 1:26. Shall come suddenly; i.e. sooner than he anticipates; when he thinks his diabolical plans are succeeding, then suddenly his victims will discover his fraud and malice, and will rise and inflict the punishment which is his due. Suddenly; petha, a variation of pithom just used. Shall he be broken; Hebrew, yish-shaver; Vulgate, conteretur. The verb shavar, "to break," "to break to pieces," is used of ships which are wrecked (Isaiah 14:29; Ezekiel 27:34; Jonah 1:4); of an army which is defeated and dispersed (Daniel 11:22; 2 Chronicles 14:12); of the destruction of a kingdom, city, or people (Isaiah 8:15; Jeremiah 48:4); and of the complete prostration of the spirit of man by affliction (Psalms 34:19); and as such, in the passage before us, conveys the idea of the complete ruin of this man. It is a destruction that shall break him up. Without remedy (Hebrew, v)eyn mar)pe; literally, and there is no remedy. There shall be, as Fleischer, as it were, no means of recovery for his shattered members. His destruction shall be irremediable, or as the LXX; a συντριβή ἀνίαψτος, a contritio insanibilis; or as the Vulgate, nec habebit ultra medicinam. The idea seems to be taken from the shattered fragments of a potter's vessel, which it is impossible to reunite. So in the case of the man whose life has been one of fraud, deceit, and malice, there is for him no hope of any recovery. The language may seem exaggerated, but the picture is painted with this high colouring to exhibit a strong deterrent to such a line of conduct, and further, it may be remarked that, in the present day, only the most confiding would again put trust in a man who has wilfully and maliciously deceived them (cf. Isaiah 30:14). The second hemistich of this verse occurs again verbatim in Proverbs 29:1.
The whole structure and arrangement of the thoughts which occur in Proverbs 6:16-19 clearly show that this is not an independent section, but one closely allied to that which has just preceded. The object is to show that those evil qualities of deceit and malice which are disastrous to man are equally odious in the sight of Jehovah, and consequently within the scope of the Divine displeasure. These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him. The use of the numerical proverb, though common to the gnomic literature of Persia and Arabia, as Umbreit shows, is by our author confined to this single instance. Other examples occur in our book in the words of Agur the son of Jakeh (see Proverbs 30:7-9, Proverbs 30:24-28), and the midda, the name given by later Jewish writers to this form of proverb, is observable in the apocryphal Book of Ecclesiasticus (see Proverbs 23:16; Proverbs 20:7 and Proverbs 26:5-28). When, as in the present instance, two numbers are given, the larger number corresponds with the things enumerated. So in Job 5:19. In Amos 1:1-15 and Amos 2:1-16, however, there is an exception to this rule, where the numbers appear to be used indefinitely. As to the origin of the numerical proverb, the most probable explanation is that given by Hitzig and adopted by Zockler, namely, that it is due to the exigencies of parallelism. The author first adopts one number optionally, and then a second is employed as a parallel to it. Here, however, the number determined on in the writer's mind is the larger number seven, and the smaller number six is used as a rhetorical parallel. An examination of the following verses will show that the seven exactly measures the things which are described as odious to the Lord. The Authorized Version, so far as the numbers are concerned, exactly represents the original, which, by the use of the cardinal number "seven" (sheva), and not the ordinal "seventh," which would be sh'vii, shows that the things enumerated are equally an abomination in God's sight. The view therefore, that the seventh vice is odious to God in an especial degree above the others, is untenable, though it has found defenders in Lowenstein, Bertheau, and von Gerlach, and is supported by the Vulgate, Sex sunt quae odit Dominus, et septimum detestatur anima ejus. All the seven things are execrable, all are equally objects of the Divine abhorrence. Besides, we cannot imagine that the vice of sowing discord among brethren, of verse 19, is more odious to God than the crime of shedding innocent blood of verse 17. Unto him (Hebrew, naph'sho); literally, of his soul.
The enumeration begins with pride. A proud look (Hebrew, eynayim ramoth); literally, haughty or lofty eyes, as in the margin; Vulgate, oculos sublimes; LXX; ὀφθάλμὸς ὑβριστοῦ. It is not merely the look which is meant, but the temper of mind which the look expresses (Wardlaw). The lofty look is the indication of the swelling pride which fills the heart, the mentis elatae tumor, the supreme disdain, grande supercilium, for everything and everybody. Pride is put first, because it is at the bottom of all disobedience and rebellion against God's laws. It is the very opposite of humility, which the apostle, in Ephesians 4:2, mentions as the basis, as it were, of all the virtues. All pride is intended, and the face of the Lord is against this pride. He "resisteth the proud;" he "knoweth them afar off;" he "hath respect unto the lowly;" he "will bring down high looks" (Psalms 18:27); he judgeth those that are high (Job 21:22). It is against this spirit that Job prays Jehovah "to behold every one that is proud, and abase him," and "to look upon every one that is proud, and bring him low" (Job 40:11, Job 40:12). The next thing in the enumeration is a lying tongue. Lying is hateful to God, because he is the God of truth. In a concise form the expression, "a lying tongue," represents what has been already said in verses 12 and 13 of "the wicked man" who "walks with a froward mouth," and whose conduct is made up of deceit. Lying is the wilful perversion of truth, not only by speech, but by any means whatever whereby a false impression is conveyed to the mind. The liar "sticks not at any lies, flatteries, or calumnies" (Patrick). Lying is elsewhere denounced as the subject which excites the Divine displeasure (see Psalms 5:6; Psalms 120:3, Psalms 120:4; Hosea 4:1-3; Revelation 21:8, Revelation 21:27); and in the early Christian Church, in the ease of Ananias and Sapphira, it was punished with death. On the subject of lying, see St. Augustine, 'Enchiridion,' 100: 18; wherein he says, "Mihi autem videtur peccatum quidem esse omne mendacium." Every lie is a sin. The third thing is hands that shed innocent blood, i.e. a murderous and cruel disposition, which, rather than have its plans frustrated, will imbue the hands with innocent blood, i.e. the blood of those who have done it no injury. The Divine command is, "Thou shall do no murder," and those who break it will find, even if they escape man, that the Lord is "the avenger of blood," and that he "maketh inquisition" for it (cf. Job 1:1-22 and Job 2:1-13, and Isaiah 59:7, which bear a close resemblance to this passage). That the shedding of innocent blood cues for vengeance, and pulls down God's heavy judgments on the murderer, appears in the ease of Cain and Abel (Muffet).
The fourth thing is an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations. "Wicked imaginations" are literally "thoughts of iniquity;" Hebrew, makh'sh'voth aven; Vulgate, cogitationes pessimas; LXX; λογισμοὺς κακοὺς. The same expression in Isaiah 59:7 is rendered "thoughts of iniquity." (On deviseth, Hebrew khoresh, see Isaiah 59:14 and Isa 3:1-26 :29.) The thought is a repetition of Isaiah 59:14. There are evil thoughts in all men's hearts; but the devising, fabricating of them, and thus making the heart into a devil's workshop, is the mark of utter depravity and wickedness, and is abhorrent to God. The devices of the heart, though planned in secret, are clear to him "to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are bid." The peculiar position which the heart occupies in the enumeration is to be accounted for on the ground that it is the fountain, not only of those vices which have been already mentioned, but of those which follow. The fifth thing is feet that be swift in running to mischief. Again we are reminded of Isaiah 59:7, "Their feet run to evil." "Mischief" (Hebrew, ra) is a re-echo of Isaiah 59:14 and Proverbs 1:16. "To run to mischief" is to carry out with alacrity and without delay what has already been devised in the heart. It implies more than falling or sliding into sin, which is common to all. It denotes, Cornelius a Lapide remarks, "inexplebilem sceleris aviditatem, et destinatum studium."
The sixth thing is perjury. A false witness that speaketh lies; literally, he that breathes out, or utters, lies as a false witness. So the Vulgate, proferentem mendacia testem fallacem. The Hebrew puakh is "to breathe," "to blow," and in the hiph. form, which is used here (yaphiakh, hiph. future), it is "to blow out" or" utter," either in a bad sense, as in the present instance, and in Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 19:5, Proverbs 19:9 (cf. Psalms 10:5; Psalms 12:5); or in a good sense, "to utter the truth," as in Proverbs 12:17. Lies; Hebrew k'zavim, plural of kazav, "falsehood," "lying" (cf. Proverbs 21:25). A false witness (Hebrew, ed-k'zavim), as in margin, "a witness of lies." The expression, "as a false witness," as it appears in the original, is explanatory, and indicates the particular aspect under which the speaking of lies is regarded. Lying in its more general sense has been already spoken of in Proverbs 12:17. The vice which is here noted as odious to God is expressly forbidden in the moral code, "Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (Exodus 20:16). But this, though the chief, is only one view of the case. Perjury may be employed, not only in ruining the innocent, but also in screen-tog the guilty. "Much hurt," says Muffet, in loc; "doth the deceitful and lying witness, for he corrupteth the judge, oppresseth the innocent, suppresseth the truth, and in the courts of justice sinneth against his own soul and the Lord himself most grievously." "He that speaketh lies as a false witness," again, may be the vile instrument in the hands of unscrupulous and inexorable enemies, as those employed against our Lord and Stephen. Perjury, too, destroys the security of communities. The shipwreck of society which it occasions may be seen in the frightful misery which ensued when the system of delatores was not only countenanced, but encouraged under the Roman empire. Truly speaking, he that lies as a false witness must be hateful to God. And he that soweth discord among brethren; the seventh and last thing in the enumeration, but not, as Delitzsch holds, the ne plus ultra of all that is hated of God. It closes, as in Proverbs 12:14, the series, but with the addition "among brethren;" thus emphatically stigmatizing the conduct of that man as diabolical who destroys the harmony and unity of those who ought to live together in brotherly affection, and who disturbs the peace of communities.
12. Twelfth admonitory discourse. In this the teacher returns again to the subject which he has already treated in the eighth discourse. The extreme tendency of men, and especially young men, to sins of impurity is no doubt, as Delitzsch remarks, the reason why this subject is again resumed. The subject is gradually worked up to the preceding admonitions in Proverbs 6:20-23, pointing out that the way of life, the way of safety, is to be secured by obedience to the precepts of parents, whose commandment and law illumine the perilous road of life, and whose reproofs are salutary to the soul. The arguments against the sin of adultery are cogent in their dissuasiveness, and none stronger of a purely temporal nature could be devised. It may be objected that the sin is not put forward in the higher light, as an offence before God. and that the appeal is made simply on the lines of self-interest; but who will deny that the scope of the teaching is distinctly moral, or that mankind is not influenced and dissuaded from sin by such a category of evils as includes personal beggary, dishonour, and death?
The first part of this verse is couched in almost the same terms as that of Proverbs 1:8, except that mitz'rath, "precept," preceptum, is here used instead of musar, eruditio, or "disciplinary instruction," while the latter part of the two verses are identical.
This verse recalls also Proverbs 3:3, and reminds us of the use of the phylacteries, or tefellim, common among the Jews of our Lord's time, and the practice of binding which upon various parts of the person may have had its origin in this and such like passages. The "tying about" the neck may suggest the use of amulets, an Oriental custom, to ward off evil, but it is more likely that it refers to the wearing of ornaments. Them; i.e. the commandment and law of father and mother respectively, expressed in the Hebrew by the suffix -em, in the verb kosh'rem, equivalent to liga ea, and again in ondem, equivalent to vinci ea. (For the personal use of this figure, see So Proverbs 8:6.) Tie them; Hebrew, ondem. The verb anad, "to tie," only occurs twice as a verb—here and in Job 31:36. Lee prefers "to bind;" Delitzsch, however, states that it is equivalent to the Latin circumplicare, "to wind about." The meaning of this and similar passages (cf. Proverbs 7:3; Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:13) is that the commandment, precept, law, or whatever is intended, should be always present to the mind. The heart suggests that they are to be linked to the affections, and the neck that they will be an ornament decking the moral character.
The going, sleeping, and awaking occur in the same order in the Pentateuch, from which the ideas of this and the preceding verse are evidently derived (see Deuteronomy 6:7 and Deuteronomy 11:19). Though only specifying three conditions, they refer to the whole conduct of life, and hence the verse promises direction, guardianship, and converse of wisdom, which will undoubtedly attend life where the precepts of parents are lovingly treasured and obediently observed. The Authorized Version conveys the impression that it is "the keeping" of the parents' precepts, etc; which is to bear such results; but it is better to understand "it" as signifying the whole teaching or doctrine of wisdom, as Delitzsch. Wisdom becomes personified in the representation, and identified with her teaching. It shall lead thee. The Hebrew verb nakhah, "to lead," in the sense of "to direct," like the Latin dirigere (Delitzsch), and as it is used in Exodus and Numbers, passim. In the Psalms (Psalms 5:9; Psalms 27:11; Psalms 31:4, etc.) it is employed of God as governing men. Hence, in the affairs of life, Wisdom will so guide and control us that we shall act uprightly. There is the further notion imported into the word of preservation from evil (cf. Proverbs 3:23, "Thou shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble"). When thou sleepest; or, when thou liest down, as in Proverbs 3:25, where the same verb occurs. It shall keep thee; i.e. watch over, keep safe, or preserve; as in the Vulgate, custodire, and the LXX. φυλαττεῖν. We have had the same verb, shamar, before in Proverbs 2:11. Wisdom will be as it were a guardian angel in our hours of repose. When thou awakest; Hebrew, hakitsotha, the hiph. perfect of kutz. This word only occurs here. The hiph. form, hekitz, is intransitive, "to be aroused" (cf. the LXX; ἐγειρομένῳ). It shall talk with thee; rather, she. Bertheau renders, "She will make thee thoughtful;" and Dathe, "Let them be thy meditation;" but the accusative suffix designates the person who is the object of the action of the verb, as in Psalms 5:5; Psalms 42:4; Zechariah 7:5 (Zockler) and as Delitzseh remarks, the personification requires something more than a mere meditation with one's self on the precepts of Wisdom. Wisdom herself shall hold converse with thee (cf. the LXX; συλλαλῇ σοι), she shall suggest thoughts how thou art to behave thyself. The meaning of the verb, "to meditate," "to think deeply," however, need not be lost sight of.
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light. The teacher takes up the words "commandment" (Hebrew, mitzrah) and "law" (Hebrew, torah) from Proverbs 6:20, which he describes respectively as "a lamp" and "light" The "commandment" is any special or particular commandment which harmonizes with God's will, and commands what is to be done and forbids what is to be left undone. The "law" is the whole law of God in its entirety; not here the Law of Moses technically, but the whole system of generalized instruction; They stand, therefore, in the same relation to each other as "a lamp" and "light," the one being particular, and the other general. "Light" (Hebrew, or) is light in general, as the light of the day and the sun, while "a lamp" (Hebrew, ner, from nur, "to shine) is a particular light like that of a candle, which is enkindled at some other source. The "commandment" and the "law" alike enlighten the conscience and enable one to walk in his way of life. On this passage Le Clerc remarks, "Ut in tenebris lucerna, aut fax ostendit nobis, qua eundam sit: in ignorantiae humanae caligine, quae nos per hanc totam vitam cingit, revelatio divina nos docet, quid sit faciendum, quid vitandum." So the psalmist says in Psalms 19:8, "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;" and again in Psalms 119:105, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path;" i.e. they direct and show the true way of faith and life (Gejerus). The "commandment" and the "law" may stand for the whole revelation of God without reference to any particular precept (as Scott), but they have here a specific bearing on a particular form of human conduct, as appears from the following verses. And reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Reproofs of instruction; Hebrew, tok'khoth musar, disciplinary reproofs, i.e. reproofs whose object is the discipline of the soul and the moral elevation of the character. The LXX. reads, καὶ ἔλεγχος καὶ παιδεία; thus connecting it with education in its highest sense. Such reproofs are a way of life (Hebrew, derek khayyim), i.e. they lead to life; they conduce to the prolongation of life. This view of the subject, so prominent in the mind of the teacher in other passages (cf. Proverbs 3:2 and Proverbs 3:19), must not be lost sight of, though the words are susceptible of another interpretation, as indicating that the severest reproofs, inasmuch as they correct errors and require obedience, conduce to the greatest happiness (Patrick). Or again, it may mean that disciplinary reproofs are necessary to life. The soul to arrive at perfection must undergo them as part of the conditions of its existence, and, consequently, they are to be submitted to with the consciousness that, however irksome they may be, they are imposed for its eventual benefit (cf. Hebrews 12:5). But this interpretation is unlikely from what follows.
To keep thee from the evil woman. The specific object to which the discourse was tending. The "commandment" and the "law" illuminate the path of true life generally, but in a special degree they, if attended to, will guard the young against sins of impurity, fornication, and adultery. The evil woman (Hebrew, esheth ra); strictly, a woman of evil, or vileness, or of a wicked disposition, addicted to evil in an extraordinary degree; ra being here a substantive standing in a genitive relation to esheth, as in Proverbs 2:12, "The way of evil (derek ra)." Cf. also tah'pukoth ra, perverstates mali (Proverbs 2:14), and makh'sh)'voth ra, cogitationes mali (Proverbs 15:26), and an'shey ra, viri mali (Proverbs 28:5). The Vulgate, however, gives an adjectival force to ra rendering, it muliere mala. The LXX. ἀπὸ γυναικὸς, i.e. "from the married woman," arises from reading rea, "a companion," for ra, "evil." From the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman; i.e. from her enticements; Hebrew, mekhel'kath lashon noh'riyyah; literally, "from the smoothness of a strange tongue," as in the margin. Zockler, however, proposes an emendation of the Masoretic text, and substitutes the construct case, l'shon, for the absolute, lashon, rendering as in the Authorized Version, on the ground that the emphasis lies, not on the "tongue," which would be the case if we render "of a strange tongue," but on "the strange woman," who is the subject of the discourse, as in Proverbs 2:16 and Proverbs 5:20. But nok'riyyah is feminine of the adjective nok'ri, ann in agreement with lashon, which, though common, is more frequently feminine (Gesenius), and hence the two words may stand in agreement. The marginal reading is to be preferred (Wordsworth). Again, me-khel'kath, the construct ease of khel'kah, literally, "smoothness," and metaphorically flattery, with the prefix me, forms one member of the phrase, while the compound expression, lashon nok'riyyah, forms the second. Ewald and Bertheau render, "from the smooth-tongued, the strange woman," thus connecting mekhel'kath lashon, and regarding nok)riyyah as a separate and distinct idea. They agree with Symmachus and Theodotion, ἀπὸ λειογλώσσου ξένης, i.e. "from the smooth-tongued or flattering stranger." So the Vulgate, a blanda lingua extraneae, i.e. from the smooth tongue of the strange woman. The LXX. again favours the marginal reading, ἀπὸ διαβολῆς γλώσσης ἀλλοτρίας, "from the slander of a strange tongue." So the Chaldee Paraphrase. The Syriac reads, "from the accusation of a woman of a strange tongue," i.e. who uses a foreign language. If, however, the Authorized Version be retained, the Hebrew nok'riyyah will, as in other passages, mean "an adulteress" (Gesenius); Proverbs 5:20; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 23:27. Under any circumstances, we have here attributed to the tongue what, in fact, belongs to the woman. It is against the enticements and blandishments of a woman of depraved moral character that the "commandment" and "law" form a safeguard to youth.
Lust not after her beauty in thine heart. The admonition of this verse embraces the two sides of the subject—the external allurement and the internal predisposition to vice. Lust not after (Hebrew, al-takh)mod); strictly, desire not, since the verb khamad is properly" to desire, or covet." The same verb is used in Exodus 20:17, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife," and Exodus 34:24, "Neither shall any man desire thy land" (cf. Micah 2:2 and Proverbs 12:12). In Psalms 68:19; Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 53:2, it has the sense of taking delight in anything. It may be questioned whether it ever has the strong meaning given in the Vulgate (non concupiscat) and adopted in the Authorized Version, "to lust after" (Holden). Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus render μὴ ἐπιθυμήσῃς. The use of khamad here reveals the warning of the Decalogue. In thine heart; Hebrew, bil'va-veka. corresponding to the ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ of Matthew 5:28. The admonition is a warning to repress the very first inclinations to unchaste desires. They may be unobserved and undetected by ethers, but they are known to ourselves, and the first duty of repressing them calls for an act of determination and will on our part. Our Lord teaches (Matthew 5:28, cited above), "That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." The LXX. reading is Μή σε νικήσῃ κάλλους ἐπιθυμία, "Let not the desire of beauty conquer thee." Neither let her take thee with her eyelids; i.e. do not let her captivate thee with her amorous glances. Take. The Hebrew verb, lakakh, is "to captivate" with blandishments, "to allure, beguile" (cf. Proverbs 11:30); LXX; μήδε ἀγρευθῃς. With her eyelids (Hebrew, b'aph'appeyah); or perhaps more literally, with her eyelashes (Zockler). The eyelids; Hebrew, aph'appayim, dual of aph'aph, so called from their rapid, volatile motion, are here compared with nets, as by Philostratus ('Epistles:' Γυναικί), who speaks of "the nets of the eyes (τὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων δίκτυα)." The eyelids are the instruments by which the amorous woman beguiles or catches her victims. She allures him by her glances. So St. Jerome says, "The eye of an harlot is the snare of her lover." The wanton glance is expressed in the Vulgate by nutibus illius; cf. "The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eyelids" (Ecclesiasticus 26:9). Milton ('Paradise Lost,' 11.620) speaks of the daughters of men "rolling the eye," amongst other things, in order to captivate the sons of God. Piscator and Mercerus understand the eyelids as standing metonymically for the beauty of the eye; and Bayne, for the general adornment of the head in order to attract attention. Allusion may possibly be made to the custom of Eastern women painting the eyelids to give brilliancy and expression; cf. 2 Kings 9:30 (Wordsworth). A striking parallel to the verse before us occurs in Propertius, lib. 1. 'Eleg.' 1; "Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis."
For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread. From this verse onwards to the end of the chapter the discourse consists of a series of arguments, each calculated to deter youth from the sins of fornication and adultery, by exhibiting the evil consequences of such indulgence. The first is the poverty and extreme beggary to which a man is brought. For by means of; Hebrew, ki v'ad. Lee gives the preposition vaad the force of "after," i.e. after associating with. The radical idea of the preposition is that of nearness, by, near, and easily passes to that of "because" (Gesenius) or "by means of," as in the Authorized Version. It is here used for per, "through," as in Joshua 2:15; 2 Samuel 20:23, and so indicates the transit through the way of fornication to extreme beggary (Gejerus). A whorish woman; Hebrew, ishshah zonah; Vulgate, scortum; LXX; πόρνη; "a harlot," here corresponding to "the adulteress" (esheth ish), since the root zonah, "to commit fornication," is attributed both to married and unmarried women (Genesis 38:24; Leo. Genesis 19:29; Hosea 3:3). The word zonah is sometimes written alone, as in Genesis 38:15 and Deuteronomy 23:19. The fuller expression, as here, occurs in Le Deuteronomy 21:7; Joshua 2:1; Judges 11:1. To a piece of bread; Hebrew, adkikkar lakhem. It will be noticed that there is an ellipsis in the Hebrew, which, however, may be easily supplied, as in the Authorized Version. Delitzsch supplies "one cometh down to;" so Zockler. "A piece of bread' is properly "a circle of bread, a small round piece of bread, such as is still baked in Italy (pagnotta) and in the East (Arabic kurs), here an expression for the smallest piece" (Fleischer). The term occurs in Exodus 29:23; 1 Samuel 2:36, in the latter of which passages it expresses the extreme destitution to which the members of the house of Eli were to be reduced. As illustrating the term, see also Exodus 38:21 and Ezekiel 13:19. The LXX. and Vulgate singularly render, "For the price of a harlot is scarcely that of a bit of bread," which may mean, as Castalio, that she is of so little value; but the context is opposed to this rendering, where the Point brought out is not the vile character of the harlot as the ruin she inflicts or is the cause of. Besides, the Hebrew ad does not mean ever "scarcely," or "hardly," which the Vulgate vix gives to it. And the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. The adulteress is isheth ish, literally, "the woman of a man," or "a man's wife," as in the margin—as, therefore, strictly an adulteress here (cf. Le Ezekiel 20:10). Will hunt; Hebrew, thatsud; LXX; ἀγρεύει; Vulgate, capit. The Hebrew verb tsud, "to lie in wait for," "to hunt," also signifies "to take, or capture," like the Vulgate capere, The verb in its metaphorical use also occurs in Lamentations 3:52; Micah 7:2; Psalms 140:12, and refers to those beguilements resorted to by the adulteress to seduce youth. In Ezekiel 13:18 it carries with it the idea of death, and if understood in this sense here it may have reference to the death penalty inflicted on adulterer and adulteress by the Mosaic Law (Le Ezekiel 20:10), and introduces what is said more fully in verses 32, 34, 35. The precious life; Hebrew, nephesh y'karah The epithet y'karah is appropriately added to nephesh, as indicating the high value of the life. All is implied in the nephesh, "the life," moral dignity of character, the soul of man. It is the ever-existing part of the man, and therefore is precious—nothing can exceed it in value. Our Lord says (Matthew 16:26), "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" and the psalmist (Psalms 49:8), "For the redemption of their life is precious." But it is for this life, or soul, that the adulteress hunts, and which she destroys. Lives of fornication and adultery, therefore, carry with them the severest penalties, the loss of temporal possessions, for the enjoyment of a transient passion, and far beyond this the loss of life both temporal and eternal. We cannot imagine a more deterrent warning.
In this and the two following verses (28 and 29) the discourse proceeds from statement to illustration, and by examples of cause and effect the teacher shows "the moral necessity of the evil consequences of the sin of adultery" (Delitzsch). The meaning of the verses is plain enough, viz. that as it is in vain to suppose that a person's garment will not be burnt or his feet not be scorched if fire is brought near them, so it is equally inconceivable that a person indulging in adultery can escape its consequences or the retribution that follows. The two questions in Proverbs 6:27 and Proverbs 6:28 imply a strong negative, and so prepare for the conclusion in Proverbs 6:30. Take fire. The Hebrew verb khathah signifies "to take burning or live coals from the hearth" (Placater); and hence is used here in a pregnant sense "to take from the hearth and place in" (cf. Proverbs 25:22, "For thou wilt take coals ['and heap them:' Hebrew, gekhalim khotheh] on his head"). The fuller expression is met with in Isaiah 30:14, "So that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth (lakh)toth esh miyyakud).'" The Vulgate renders by abscondere," to hide: Numquid potest homo absconders ignem; and the LXX. by ἀποδεῖν, equivalent to the Latin alligare "to tie or bind fast." Wordsworth explains "to take and heap up, as in a firepan or censer." In his bosom; Hebrew, b'kheyko; LXX; ἐν κόλπῳ; Vulgate, in sinu suo. The word kheyk is properly "an undulation" (Delitzsch). not the lap, but as in the Authorized Version here, "the bosom," and "the bosom of a garment" as in Isa 16:1-14 :33; 17:23; Isaiah 21:14. The answer to the question of this and the next verse is of course a decided negative, but we may note that the teacher compares adultery to a burning fire in its consequences.
Can one go upon hot coals, etc.? The repeated question is introduced by gin, "if," here equivalent to the Latin an, used in double questions, as in Genesis 24:21; Exodus 17:7; Judges 9:2, etc. Go; i.e. walk upon hot coals (Hebrew, al-haggekalim); literally, upon the hot coals. The Hebrew gakheleth is coals thoroughly ignited, as in Le Judges 16:12 and Proverbs 25:22; different from pekham of Proverbs 26:21, which is "a black coal," or, as Gesenius explains, charcoal unkindled. Be burned; Hebrew, tikkaveynah; i.e. be burned or scorched so as to leave a mark by burning, as in Isaiah 43:2; this being the force of the verb kavah. The flames of lust will certainly be visited with punishment, and with the stings of conscience. Job, speaking on this very subject, says a deviation from the paths of virtue "is a fire that consumeth to destruction." And to him who gives way to adultery it may be said, in the words of Horace, though with a different application from that in which they were used by that poet, "incedis per ignes suppositos cineri doloso." "You are walking over fire that lies hidden under deceitful ashes" (Gejerus).
So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. It is as great a folly to suppose that an adulterer will escape punishment as to imagine that no injury will follow where fire has been applied. Delitzsch illustrates this verse by a passage from Pythagoras's maxim, Τὸ εἰς πῦρ καὶ εἰς γυναῖκα ἐμπεσεῖν ἴσον ὑπάρχει Goeth in; Hebrew, habba el; i.e. has intercourse with, as in Genesis 6:4; Genesis 19:31; Genesis 38:9; Psalms 51:2. The same in force as "toucheth." Shall not be innocent; Hebrew, lo-yinnakeh; i.e. poena vacuus,"exempt from punishment," or shall be unpunished (Delitzsch, Zockler, Gesenius); cf. Proverbs 11:21, "The wicked shall not be unpunished (lo yinnakeh)" ashore. The verb nakah signifies rimarily "to be pure;" Bothe Vulgate tenders non erit mundus," he will not be pure;" but the LXX. observes the secondary meaning of the verb, οὐκ ἀθωωθήσεται, non erit innoxius, "he shall not be let go unpunished," the Alexandrine verb ἀθωόω. Certain and the very heaviest punishment shall come upon him (see also Proverbs 17:5; Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12). With this explanation agree Gejerus and Vatablus.
The teacher continues his argument with another illustration, still keeping in view his object, which is to show that the punishment of the adulterer is a surely impending one and severe in its character. The argument in Proverbs 6:30-33 is one a fortiori. If men do not overlook but severely punish a crime which has been committed under extenuating circumstances, much less will they do so where the crime is of a much graver character and has nothing to excuse it. Theft and adultery are brought into comparison. Theft under all circumstances is a lesser crime than adultery, but here it is minimized to the lowest degree. The ease of a man is taken who steals to satisfy his hunger; the extent of the theft cannot be large, but yet he is punished, and called upon to make the amplest restitution. Much more, does the teacher infer, will be the punishment, and equally certain, where adultery is in question, and the crime is of the most heinous character affecting the most precious interests, and indulged in from the lowest of motives. Men do not despise a thief, etc.; i.e. they do not condemn him under the circumstances, non grandis est culpa (Vulgate), "the fault is not a great one;" but they do despise an adulterer—him they hold in contempt as one "who lacketh understanding" and destroyeth his own soul (Proverbs 6:32). The verb buz has, however, been otherwise rendered as "to overlook." Zockler and Holden explain, "men do not overlook," though the former gives the literal sense as "men do not despise." Gesenius renders "despise," but explains, "i.e. they do not let him go unpunished." Vatablus, the Versions, Ariae, Montani, and Munsteri, Hitzig, Delitzsch, and Gesenius, Stuart, Muenscher, and Wordsworth, all agree m regarding the proper meaning of the verb to be "to despise" or "to treat scornfully." The verb buz, moreover, occurs in this sense in Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 11:12; Proverbs 13:13; Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 23:9; and So Proverbs 8:1, Proverbs 8:7. Michaelis's explanation is as follows: "although a theft is deservedly regarded as infamous in the commonwealth, nevertheless, if it be compared with adultery, it is less wicked." The rendering of the LXX; οὐ θαυμαστὸν ἐάν ἁλῷ τις κλέπτων, i.e. "it is not a wonder if any thief be taken," it is difficult to reconcile with the text in the original, though it may be explained as expressing the certainty of arrest which follows theft, and thus gives colour to the secondary meaning attached to the verb, i.e. that of overlooking. The Syriac and Arabic Versions follow the LXX. while the Chaldee Paraphrase renders, "It is not a matter of surprise if a thief steals," etc. His soul; Hebrew, naph'sko. Nephesh is used here for desire, craving, or appetite, as in Ecclesiastes 6:2,Ecclesiastes 6:7; Ezekiel 7:19. "To satisfy his soul" is "to sustain his life." Anima, Vulgate; ψυχή, LXX.
But if he be taken, he shill restore sevenfold. Men do not despise the thief, but yet they apprehend him and insist on fullest restitution. Be found; i.e. seized (Delitzsch), or legally convicted (Gejerus). He shall restore; i.e. he must restore (Zockler). Delitzsch, however, understands the future, y'shalem, as potential, "he may restore." Sevenfold; Hebrew, siv'athayim; LXX; ἐπταπλάσια; Vulgate, septulum. On this word Geier remarks, "Haec vox nullibi in sacris ponitur pio numero definito;" i.e. "It is nowhere put in Scripture for a definite number." It is therefore to be understood indefinitely of complete restitution, or, as it is expressed in the second and parallel clauses, "all the substance of his house." The word is used in this sense in Genesis 4:24; Le Genesis 26:28; Job 5:19 (Lapide). Theft under the Mosaic Law was punishable by a fivefold, fourfold, and twofold restitution (Exodus 22:1-4, Exodus 22:9), and, in the event of this not forthcoming, the delinquent was to be sold into slavery (Le 25:89). In 2 Samuel 12:6 a fourfold restitution is mentioned, and in the New Testament Zacchaeus promises to restore fourfold if he could be convicted of fraud (Luke 19:8). In the attempts to reconcile the "sevenfold" of our passage with the requirements of the Mosaic Law, Aben Ezra says that the combined penalties for two cases of theft are contemplated, and others that in the time of the writer the penalties had been increased. But proof of this is wanting. Grotius's explanation is more curious than correct, viz. that if the theft be repeated seven times, and he be "taken" seven times, the thief should only be punished by being forced to make restitution with some addition. Both the Greek and Roman law demanded a twofold restitution. Selden maintains that theft would have been subjected to the usual punishment. We may therefore come to the conclusion that "sevenfold" is used in the sense indicated above. As to any objection which may be raised on the seem of inconsistency in talking of a man malting restitution, and giving all his substance when he steals to satisfy his hunger, it may be remarked that he need not necessarily be without substance of some sort or other, and he could acquire subsequently sufficient to satisfy the demand. On the question whether a person is justified by extreme want in stealing, see Grotius, 'De Jure Belli et Pacis,' 2, 100, 2, § 6; Puffendorf, 'De Jure Not. et Gent,' 2, 100, 6, § 5; Blackstone, 'Commentary,' 4.2 § 4.
But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding. The adversative "but" is wanting in the original, but is clearly demanded by the contrast which is instituted. The man who steals from hunger has a motive for so doing, but the adulterer has no such excuse for his crime, which is an unwarrantable invasion of his neighbour's rights. Because there are honest ways for satisfying his desires, he therefore "lacketh understanding." Committeth adultery with a woman; Hebrew, noeph ishshah; LXX; ὁ μοιχὸς; Vulgate, qui adulter est; i.e. an adulterer. The Hebrew naaph, "to commit adultery," is here followed by an accusative, as in Le Proverbs 20:10 and Jeremiah 29:23. Lacketh understanding; Hebrew, khasar-lev; deficit corde. The verb khaser is "to be devoid of anything," "to lack." The expression, which occurs again in Jeremiah 7:7 aud Jeremiah 9:4, refers to the brutish and stupid condition to which lust has reduced him. Lust has displaced right reason. He is expers judicii (Syriac), devoid of judgment, without intelligence, senseless and stupid. In modern phraseology, he has taken leave of his senses. Both the LXX. and Vulgate have combined the two branches of this verse, the former rendering, "But the adulterer, on account of want of intelligence, compasses the loss of his life," and the latter, "But the adulterer, on account of want of intelligence, loses his life." He that doeth it destroyeth his own soul; or literally, whoso will destroy his life he will do this, i.e. adultery. So Ariae Montani, Munsterus, Chaldee Targum. The man who commits adultery is a self-murderer. The phrase, mashkith naph'sho, corrumpens animam suam, may be resolved into the concrete "a self-destroyer," as Delitzsch. The following verses seem to indicate that it is the temporal life which is referred to in nephesh, but the meaning of the term may be extended to embrace not only physical loss of life, but also moral and spiritual loss. By the Levitical Law adultery was punished by death: "The man that committeth adultery with another man's wife … the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death" (Le Jeremiah 20:10; cf. Deuteronomy 22:22; John 8:4, John 8:5; see also 1 Thessalonians 4:6).
A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. Two other things more immediate await the adulterer—personal chastisement and loss of reputation. It seems clear that "a wound" (Hebrew, negav, "a stroke" or "blow"), used here in the singular, collectively refers to the corporal punishment, which the outraged husband will inflict upon the adulterer (Delitzsch, Zockler. Lapide). (For the word, see Deuteronomy 17:8; Deuteronomy 21:5.) It may also have reference to the punishment inflicted by the Law. In the LXX. the idea is expressed by ὁδύνας, i.e. "pains," and so gives colour to Lapide's explanation of "afflictions of every kind" The Vulgate gives a moral turn to the meaning, and coordinates the word with "dishonour:" Turpitudinem et ignominiam congregat sibi, "Dishonour is the ignominious treatment he will receive on all hands." The second part of the verse states that a brand of disgrace will be attached to his name which will be perpetual, not confined to this life only, but extending beyond it, so that men will never recall it but with this stigma (Patrick, Mercerus). On shall be … wiped away (Hebrew, timmakeh, the niph. future of makhah, "to wipe off, or away," and in hiph. "to be blotted out," equivalent to the Latin delere), see Deuteronomy 25:6; Ezekiel 6:6; Judges 21:17. The LXX. renders ἐξαλειφθήσεται, and adds, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, "forever." The statements of the verse are illustrated by Horace, 'Satires,' lib. 1.2, 37, who describes the dangers and mishaps which befall the adulterer and fornicator.
"Hic se praecipitem tecto dedit; ille flagellis
Ad mortem caesus: fugiens hic decidit acrem
Praedonum in turbam: dedit hic pro corpore nnmmos."
For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. The first hemistich is adduced as a reason for what has preceded, while the concluding hemistich and the following and last verses are a deduction strengthening what has been stated before, and also showing that the punishment will be inevitable. The general consensus of commentators and texts is to connect the two hemistiches of this verse. Thus the LXX; Μεστὸς γὰρ ζήλου θυμὸς ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς οὐ φεισεται ἐν ἡμέρα κρίσεως, "For the wrath of her husband filled with jealousy shall not spare in the day of judgment;" the Vulgate, Quia zelus et furor viri non parcet in die vindictae, "For the jealousy and rage of a man shall not spare in the day of vengeance;" the Syriac, Nam quia furor mariti plenus est zelotypia non parcet in die retributionis, "For because rage of a husband is full of jealousy he shall not spare in the day of retribution." So the Arabic, and the Tigarina Versio, and among the commentators Durandus. Dathe, Doderlein, Holden. But the Hebrew simply makes the statement, ki-kimah khamath-gaver, quia zelus excandescentia viri, i.e; as in the Authorized Version, "for jealousy is the rage of a man," ki, equivalent to the Greek γὰρ, "for" and kinah is the subject of the sentence. The Hebrew kinah is "jealousy" as in Proverbs 27:4, "Who is able to stand before envy?" or, as margin, "jealousy." The ordinary copulative verb "is" is best understood as connecting the subject and the predicate; "the rage of a man," Hebrew kamath-gaver, as above, i.e. "the glow of a man's anger" (Delitzsch), or "a man's fierce anger" (Zockler). Jealousy awakens and inflames the wrath and anger of a man or husband to its highest pitch. It evokes the strongest feelings for revenge. Man; Hebrew, gaver, equivalent to ish, "a man," in opposition to "a wife"—"a husband," as here. The word is chiefly found in poetry. Its derivation, from gavar, "to be strong," serves to bring out the idea also of the intensity or force of the jealousy—it burns or rages with all the might of the man. The latter part of the verse in the Hebrew is simply, "and he will not spare (v'lo-yakh'mol) in the day of vengeance." The Authorized Version "therefore" serves to bring out the deduction, though it does net occur in the original. He will not spare; i.e. the injured husband will not show any clemency or mercy to the adulterer, the man who has wronged him so deeply. In the day of vengeance; Hebrew, b'yom nakam. The expression may refer to the time when the adulterer is brought before the judges, but more probably to every occasion on which the husband can exercise his vengeance. So Gejerus. For the expression, of. Isaiah 34:8, "The day of the Lord's vengeance;" Job 20:28, "The day of his wrath;" and Proverbs 11:4, "The day of wrath." Jealousy is implacable (see So Proverbs 8:6, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave").
He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts. No recompense or atonement, nor any gifts however great, will buy him off. These are supposed to be offered by the adulterer to the enraged husband, who, however, will never rest till he effects the utter ruin of his injurer. The literal rendering of the first hemistich is, "He will not accept the face of any ransom." The phrase nasa phanim, is equivalent to the Greek πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν, and signifies "to give a favourable reception to the outward expression of any one." The figure is taken from lifting up the face of a suppliant, the radical meaning of the verb nasa being "to take up," "to lift up." The ransom; Hebrew, kopher (the word usually applied to designate the price of redemption, mulct, or line demanded for expiation of a crime; see Exodus 21:30; Exodus 30:12; Numbers 35:31, Numbers 35:32); here the bribe offered by the adulterer to be let off will be altogether rejected, however alluring, the word p'ney, "face," carrying with it the idea of something recommendatory. For the expression, nasa phanim, cf. Genesis 19:21; Genesis 22:21; Job 13:10; Job 13:8; and Malachi 1:8. The LXX. rendering is, Οὐκ ἀνταλλάξεται οὐδενὸς λύτρου τὴν ἔχθραν, "He will not commute for any redemption his enmity." Neither will he rest content; literally, and he will not be willing; Hebrew, v)lo-yoveh; LXX; οὐδὲ μὴ διαληθῇ, "nor may it, i.e. his enmity, be dissolved or weakened." (On the verb avah, "to consent to," or "to be willing," see Proverbs 1:10.) Many gifts, each increasing in value, may be offered, but he will not be willing to forego his right of revenge. Though thou givest many gifts. It is noticeable that the address, which has been adapted to the third person, here becomes personal, and so takes up the form originally employed in verses 20-25. A hypothetical case has been imagined in verses 26-35, but still with the thought underlying it that it applies to the person addressed. "Though thou givest many gifts," or more literally, "though thou multipliest the gift," brings the matter homo to the young man. Gifts; Hebrew, shokad, "the gift," is the word usually employed to designate the bribe offered to corrupt a judge (see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 10:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:25; 1 Samuel 8:3). Here it refers to the money offered to free from punishment. The Vulgate gives the idea that these gifts or bribes are offered by a third party on behalf of the adulterer: Nec acquiescet cujusquam precibus, nec suscipiet pro redemptione dona plurima. On these two last verses Lange remarks, "Just as little as the adulterer, taken in his adultery, is left unpunished by the injured husband, so little, yea, even less, wilt the spiritual adulterer remain unpunished of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:17)."
Our Christian charity may naturally be shocked at the selfishness apparently inculcated by the frequent warnings against giving security for others that are scattered up and down the Book of Proverbs. They have done more than anything else to lead people to regard the standard of morality of the Proverbs as low and worldly. Let us consider the subject from various points of view.
I. THE STANDARD OF MORALITY OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS IS LOWER THAN THAT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Let this fact be clearly recognized. Revelation is progressive. Doctrine is only revealed by degrees. The same applies to ethics. Such a method is most suited to the moral education of the race. A less-advanced people can only live up to a less-elevated principle. If the standard be raised too high, it ceases to be effective, and becomes like a counsel of perfection, which ordinary people disregard. On the other hand, Christians have no excuse for taking refuge in the lower principles of an obsolete dispensation.
II. AN EXCLUSIVE ATTENTION TO ONE DUTY WILL ALWAYS MILITATE AGAINST OTHER DUTIES. Duties cross and qualify one another. Each taken by itself and pressed to its extreme wilt lead to conflict with others. Now, here prudence only is commended. To enforce it the more powerfully, other duties are for the time left out of sight. When they are taken up they will qualify, it considerably.
III. IT IS FOOLISH TO UNDERTAKE AN OBLIGATION WHICH WE ARE UNWILLING TO CARRY OUT. It is so easy to make chivalrous promises. But immense harm is done by overhaste in professions of generosity. Let a man count the cost enough to see whether he is morally able to bear the strain before making a very liberal offer.
IV. MUCH EVIL WAS DONE BY THE MONEY LENDING SYSTEM OF THE JEWS. The laws of debt were most stringent, and "the goods of the sureties might be distrained, or they even sold as slaves, just as in the case of insolvent debtors." Such an outrageously cruel state of things was justly deprecated.
V. OTHER MORE PRESSING CLAIMS FORBID US TO CONTRACT SOME OF THE MOST EXACTING OBLIGATIONS. The good-natured Jew who beggared his children and lost his liberty by becoming surety to a spendthrift, robbed those who had most right to enjoy his property, and hindered himself from doing more good in the future. The duty of a man to his family is often pleaded as an excuse for some act of mean selfishness. Nevertheless, the duty is real, and must not be neglected. A man has no right to risk his children's welfare in order to oblige a friend. People who are too hasty in putting their names to bills should remember thin
VI. THE SURETY IS ONLY ADVISED TO ESCAPE BY JUST MEANS. He is not told to break his promise, to hide, to leave the country. He is urged to seek a release by requesting his friend to grant it him. Such a course is humiliating. But it is not dishonest.
Scripture sends us to nature. Even the smallest works of nature are full of Divine lessons to him who has eyes to read them. Sometimes we are bidden to consider the heavens, but now we are invited to consider the ant. The telescope has its lessons; so also has the microscope. But when a man refuses to hear the voice of God, will he hear the voice of an insect prophet? Possibly. It takes an eagle's eye to gaze at the sun; but any eye can look on the earth. If a man's vision is too weak to look at the burning bush, the fiery pillar, the mystic Shechinah, let him turn his eyes to the glowworm at his feet, and perhaps even that humble torch bearer may rave him from stumbling.
I. GO TO THE ANT, AND LEARN NOT TO DESPISE LITTLE THINGS. Of late the doings of the ant have been very carefully looked into, and very wonderful facts have come to light. Among ants there are engineers, constructing elaborate tunnels and carrying on complicated building operations; stock-keepers, guarding and feeding the aphis, like a cow, for the juice they extract from it; agriculturists, carefully clearing ground of all weeds, in order to let only certain grasses grow within the prepared area, and storing up corn underground, which by a marvellous instinct they first kilt so as to prevent it from germinating; slave holders, who attack tribes of black ants, carry off the young and keep these to wait on them and feed them, becoming meanwhile so helpless as to be absolutely unable to feed themselves, and dying of starvation when deprived of the help of their slaves; and some so far imitating our habits as to keep pet insects—insects which they feed and attend to but which apparently render them no service, As we look at the diminutive ant, we may well wonder
"That one little head could carry all he knew."
We must not mistake bigness for greatness. Tartary is bigger than Greece. Athens was a little city in comparison with Babylon. Despise not one of the little ones. And we too with our short lives and dwarf powers, may we not do something worth living for?
II. GO TO THE ANT, AND LEARN NATURE'S LESSON OF WORK. It is with no small labour that the agricultural ant of Syria clears its field, keeps it well weeded, gathers in the corn, and stores this in subterranean granaries. Nature is a great factory. All life involves work. Even the silent forest apparently sleeping in the hush of noon is busy, and if only we had ears to hear, we might detect the elaboration of the sap and the growth of the leaf, showing that every tree is hard at work on its appointed task.
1. Work according to ability. The ant cannot build a cathedral. But he can make an ant hill. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
2. Work in face of danger. One careless footstep may demolish a whole city of ant life, and crush hundreds of its inhabitants. Yet the little creatures toil on without heeding a danger which they cannot avert.
3. Work perseveringly. Any one who has watched an ant struggling with a heavy load may well be rebuked by the patient insect. If the ant hill is destroyed, the ants soon set to work and commence mining and building, and reducing the chaos to order again.
4. Work harmoniously. It is the union of great numbers that enables the ants, though a very small folk, to effect very considerable results. The Church can do what passes the power of individuals, but only when the individuals are severally doing their share of labour.
III. GO TO THE ANT, AND LEARN THE DUTY OF PROVIDING FOR THE FUTURE. The ant works from instinct, and we must admire the wisdom of the great Maker, who has taught it unconscious habits of providence. But we are endowed with powers of looking before and after, and therefore are left to our own will to be deliberately provident. It is strange that many people have no prudence in temporal things. In prosperous times they are recklessly self-indulgent. In harder times they are in destitution. These people abuse Christian charity; and unwise Christian charity is guilty of indirectly encouraging their improvidence. Thus they lose independence, self reliance, and the wholesome discipline of present restraints for the sake of future needs. But if earthly prudence is practised, shall we stop there? Are we consistent in our providence? We have provided for the natural winter: have we provided for other, more terrible, winters? We may have a philosophy of life which suits the happy sunshine, but how are we provided against the storms and frosts of the winter of sorrow? There is a wintry blast that ultimately kills the hardiest flower. Have we made provision for the winter of death? Happy they who in bright summer, and happier they who in youth's springtime, have found a Saviour who will be their Bread of life and their Shelter in the chilis of grief, in the dread winter of death!
I. THE SOWER. He may be of various characters.
1. A malignant person. Such a one delights in the mischief he makes. He flings the firebrand with fiendish glee because he loves to witness the conflagration. He is a true child of Satan, one to break the peace of Eden, one to set Cain to murder his brother.
2. A person greedy of power. It is easier to make trouble than to mend it. Nothing is more simple than to scatter seeds of quarrels. A single pebble flung into the middle of a mountain tam will shatter the fair mirror of crag and sky, and spread disturbing wavelets to every shore. There is a sense of power, of producing a great effect, in mischief making.
3. A selfish person. If we always claim our does and exact our pound of flesh, we must be perpetually embroiled in quarrels. Disregard to the rights of others, which is only too common with the selfish, will lead one individual to plunge a whole society into confusion.
4. A heedless person. It is so easy to sow discord that we may do the mischievous thing before we are aware of our folly. It needs care and watchfulness to avoid this disastrous conduct.
II. THE SEED.
1. A misrepresentation. Thomas Carlyle pointed out how often rational quarrels and wars spring from "misunderstandings." If we knew each other better we should be more friendly. Our acquaintances tend to become our friends. But a misrepresentation is the parent of a misunderstanding, and as such the seed of discord.
2. A hot word. If we approached a troublesome question calmly and patiently we might see a way of avoiding all quarrelling over it. But when the anger is roused everything appears in its worst light; there is no inclination to smooth ever a difficulty; on the contrary, opposition is magnified.
3. An unkind word, This may be spoken deliberately. The more cool the speaker, the more cutting his speech.
III. THE SOIL. The discord is sown "among brethren."
1. A possible soil. One would say that here no quarrels can grow. But, alas! they who should love most can hate with bitterest hatred, or, if no deep dislike be engendered, they may still quarrel most fiercely. The first quarrel was between brethren—Cain and Abel. Esau and Jacob, the two Hebrews whom Moses rebuked in Egypt, the nations of Israel and Judah, were all brethren in discord.
2. A fruitful soil. Surely it would be thought discord among brethren cannot last and spread. But experience proves the contrary. Family feuds are deep, bitter, enduring. Church quarrels are most rancorous. Civil war is sanguinary.
IV. THE HARVEST. This discord is no slight thing like the breeze that disturbs the lake for one moment and speedily leaves it to resume its normal placidity.
1. It is painful. Pride may conceal the wound, but the sore is not slight. No misery is greater than that of fancily quarrels.
2. It is injurious. It raises evil passions, hinders harmonious action, wastes resources in internecine strife. All men are of one blood, therefore all war is discord, among brethren; and who shall measure its frightful harvest of woe?
3. It is unchristian. The gospel proclaims and enforces brotherhood. It helps us to realize the dream of the psalmist, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalms 133:1). Christ blessed the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).
Seven hateful things
It is certainly best for us to think most of "whatsoever things are lovely, of good report," etc. but the couleur de rose view of human nature that comes of a fastidious objection to look at the darker shades of character is not only false, but also dangerous, since it tempts us to ignore our own failings and to neglect the duty of rebuking sin and of labouring to better the world. The physician must study pathology. The patient must allow his disease to be examined. We must therefore sometimes set ourselves to the unwelcome task of considering hateful things. Let us look at the general features of the seven abominations.
I. THEY ARE DEFINED IN DETAIL. We are not only told that sin is odious. Particular sins are specified. A general confession of sin may be made without any admission of guilt in regard to one's own special faults. The proud man will confess himself a miserable sinner while he refuses to see the evil of his pride. Therefore we must consider our sins in the concrete. Only thus can we feel true compunction and make practical repentance. Six hateful things are mentioned; then a seventh is added as a sort of after thought, and to suit the requirements of the poetic form of the enigma. It is thus made apparent that the seven is not a definite number intended to exclude all others. Seven is a round number, and the list might easily be lengthened. In fact, we have just seven specimen abominations. Therefore let no man flatter himself because his peculiar failing may happen to be omitted. All transgression of the Law is sin, and is hateful in the sight of God. When particular evils are denounced, remember that they are but specimens of a large and varied and wholly abominable host of sins.
II. THEY ARE DESCRIBED IN REFERENCE TO PARTICULAR ORGANS. A look, a tongue, hands, a heart, feet. All sin is the abuse of some power or faculty. The organ is innocent in itself, but it is prostituted to a base purpose. Every part of our nature is susceptible of this degradation. The more powers we have, the greater is our capacity of evil doing as well as of well doing.
III. THEY ARE APPARENTLY VERY UNEQUAL IN GUILT. The promiscuous collection of bareful things is surprising. It looks as though they were flung together with little consideration. Possibly this is designed, that we may not so much compare respective degrees of sin but hate and eschew all evil, the least sin being hateful to God. Pride, lying, murder, are in close juxtaposition. It is not asserted that the three are equally guilty. But no measure is given for discriminating between them. The casuistry of such measurement is demoralizing. Moreover, the difference is often not so great as we think. The crime that sends a shock of horror through the country and leads us to regard the doer of it as an inhuman monster, may come from no blacker sink of iniquity than that which sends forth a sin wearing a much less tragic hue.
IV. THEY ARE AS A WHOLE CHARACTERIZED BY FEATURES THAT ARE SPECIALLY REPROBATED IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS. The first and the last of the hateful things are the exact opposites of the first and the last of the graces named in the seven Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Pride, lying, cruelty, are the opposites of the Christian duties of humility, truthfulness, and charity. The sin of the heart and imagination is condemned as well as that of the hands.
V. THEY ARE ALL CONDEMNED ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR HATEFULNESS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. Morality is not created by the flat of the Divine will. It is eternal, necessary, immutable. God is holy because he lives according to it. But God's relation to morals adds a new sanction. Wickedness then becomes sin. The hatefulness of sin in God's sight should be to us its greatest condemnation, not only because God will punish it, but because it separates us from the love of God.
I. SOUND PARENTAL TRAINING IS THE SUREST FOUNDATION FOR A GOOD AFTERLIFE. Both parents are here named. Neither has a right to delegate to the other his or her share of the great responsibility. In early days this rests chiefly with the mother, and throughout life her moral influence is likely to be the more persuasive. Here is woman's great work. Man fills the world with the noise of his busy doings. But woman has a no less great and useful task in moulding the characters of the toilers of the future. Yet the father has his duty in parental training; and there are often special circumstances in which his knowledge of the world or his firmness of control is essential. Let parents feel that nothing can take the place of home training. The Sunday school cannot do the work of the mother's counsel. No pressure of public duty should let a man excuse himself for neglecting the religious training of his children. He deludes himself if he thinks he can do it by proxy, be the substitute ever so efficient a teacher. Nothing can take the place of the anxious watchfulness of parental love.
II. SOUND PARENTAL TRAINING IS OF LITTLE USE UNLESS IT IS RIGHTLY RECEIVED BY THE CHILDREN. The child has his duty in regard to it as well as the parent. His will is free. The best seed may be wasted on bad soil. It is his duty to treasure up wholesome home lessons as the most valuable portion divided to him. How mad is the desire of some to escape from the control of the home to the fascinating liberty of the world, of the perils and deceits of which they are so ignorant? Why should the young man be so anxious to take a journey into a far country out of the sight of those who have his interest most at heart? Perhaps there have been unwise restraints in the home. But escape from them is no excuse for rushing to the utmost bounds of licence.
III. SOUND PARENTAL TRAINING, WELL RECEIVED AND FOLLOWED, IS A GREAT BOON FOR THE WHOLE OF LIFE.
1. It is a source of quiet restfulness. It keeps one while sleeping. After the feverish tumult of the day, to retire to rest with hallowed memories lovingly recalled, what a help it is to peace of heart!
2. It is a guide in duty and in danger. "When thou goest, it shall lead thee … When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." These old memories rise up to cheer in dismal tasks or to warn from deceitful temptations. And if they have become doubly sacred because the voice that spake the words of counsel is hushed in death, shall they not also be more reverently cherished? Who knows but what those patient, gentle eyes that followed the child in his nursery griefs and joys may be looking down from the heights of heaven to watch him still as he bends to the hard toil of life?
The object of religious teaching
I. IT IS TO SERVE AS A LIGHT. How much so called religious teaching "darkens counsel with words without knowledge"! We do not give right Christian instruction when we urge upon the belief of people unintelligible dogmas in phrases which are to them meaningless. Like the book Hamlet was reading, very much that is crammed into children is "words, words, words." You cannot teach that which is not understood. The first thing is to open the eyes of the scholar, to throw light on regions of the unknown. Revelation is illumination. Christianity is not a rule of dark superstition, but a religion of light.
II. THIS LIGHT GIVES A NEW INTERPRETATION TO ALL THINGS. The light does not create the objects it shines upon, it only makes manifest what was previously hidden, but not the less solidly existent. So religious revelation does not create. The doctrines of Christianity, if they are true at all, represent eternal facts. The New Testament brings these facts to light. Thus Christ has taught us to call God "Father," but he was our Father before the great Teacher came into the world. Earthly facts have new meanings as new lights fall upon them. The light of eternity transforms the whole appearance of life. Under its rays "all things become new." The pleasures, the sorrows, the duties, the gold, the food, the houses, the land, are there still, but they take on quite other hues, and range themselves in strangely altered ranks of interest. When the sun rises, the horrible monsters that loomed on us through the night resolve themselves into homely barns and familiar trees, while the distant mountain range that had been invisible before displays its silent solitudes in all their awful splendour.
III. THE MISSION OF THIS LIGHT IS TO GUIDE OUR CONDUCT, "Reproofs of instruction are the way of life." This teaching is not given merely to satisfy our curiosity, nor simply to develop our mental powers. When theology is pursued with the thirst for knowledge only, it eludes our grasp. When it is degraded to the functions of mental gymnastics, it is wrecked and ruined. The end of revelation is practical and momentous. Scripture is to serve as a "lamp to our feet." Religious teaching should not aim at merely exciting intellectual interest, nor at solving abstract problems, nor at inculcating authoritative dogmas, but at guiding men into the way of peace and life. Therefore:
1. Do not be disappointed if it adds as many mysteries as it explains; so long as it sheds light on our path we can afford to find that it makes the darkness in some other regions the more visible.
2. Do not be content with hearing, understanding, assenting to religious instruction. It fails wholly of its object if it does not lead us to Obey it, to walk in its light.
Fire in the bosom
I. SIN IS FIRE. Fire has an activity that mocks life; it is full of noise and movement. It hisses like a demon serpent; it sends forth its tongues of flame like living creatures. Yet it is lifeless and the deadliest enemy to all life. Though some animals are drowned in water, others are fitted to find it their natural element; but all living creatures perish in fire. The phoenix is an impossibility. So sin mocks life and beauty and healthy energy. But it is only a death power.
1. It is destructive. Fire exists by consuming its victims. So sin does not simply use, it destroys the faculties it works through.
2. It tends to spread. Fire leaps from object to object, rushing over a wide prairie, enveloping a whole city. "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5). So sin spreads through the soul, and from one man to another.
3. It converts into fire everything that it lays hold of. So sin turns all that comes under its power into its own nature.
4. It rages furiously. Nothing is so like madness as a great fire. It is infinitely more horrible than the wildest tempest of wind and water. Sin is a fury of passion.
5. It leaves smouldering embers and dismal heaps of ashes. When the fire of passion is burnt out, the soul is left charred, empty, dismal, as but dust and ashes.
II. THE SINNER CARRIES FIRE IN HIS BOSOM.
1. It is in himself. You cannot kindle the fires of your sin outside your own soul at a safe distance. You cannot even sin with your hands while your heart is untouched. When sin is indulged, it takes up its abode in a man's bosom. It enters his affections, it lies close to his heart, it coils about his very life.
2. Moreover, he who takes this fire in his bosom cannot readily get rid of it. It penetrates deeper and deeper and spreads further and further, till it fills the whole man. It is not possible to sin for a moment and leave the scene of guilt scatheless. He who enters the furnace of sin lets the fire of sin enter his own bosom, and when he goes forth carries it with him—himself a furnace of sins!
III. THE SINNER WITH FIRE IN HIS BOSOM WILL FIND IT BURN HIM. Men talk of the fires of retribution as though they were kindled in some remote region by some unknown executioner, and so they are often as little moved by the thought of them as they are affected by the heat of the stars. But the fire in a man's bosom will bring its own retribution. The wicked man has a hell within him. He is becoming like Milton's Satan when he felt the impossibility of escaping from hell because of his own fearful state, and exclaimed, "Myself am Hell!" This is natural. It would require a miracle to prevent the fire in the bosom from burning. But these terrible thoughts are not intended to induce despair. Rather they should so awaken us to the horror of sin as to lead us to shun it as we would run from a house on fire, and make us so realize our danger as to seek safety in that fountain opened for all uncleanness which can quench the fires of sin and stay all their fatal consequences.
Proverbs 6:30, Proverbs 6:31
Motive and responsibility
I. GUILT IS TO BE MEASURED BY MOTIVE. The starving pickpocket is not so wicked as the well-to-do house breaker. Even in the low depths of crime moral distinctions need to be observed, lest we do grievous injustice to our most unhappy fellow men. The principle that guilt is commensurate with motive rests on the Christian conception of it as an inward fact. This makes it always difficult to form a correct judgment of other people. The rough external standard of the law must be applied by the administrators of civil justice, because no other standard is within their power. But it still remains true that the judge who pronounces sentence may be a much worse man than the prisoner whom he sends to the hulks.
II. PRIMARY NECESSARIES ARE PRIOR TO CONVENTIONAL LAWS. It is an instinct of the most elementary character that prompts the hungry man to take food. Of course, it is still possible for moral laws to interfere with the pursuit of the object of that instinct, and we must always recognize that moral laws are higher than natural instincts. But in our complicated modern civilization we are not dealing with the direct and simple impact of those lofty and inflexible laws. We are brought into contact with very curious social arrangements, and the laws of right and justice are only allowed to work themselves out by means of an extraordinary social machinery. Under such circumstances there may be room for a protest of instinct against convention, though there can never be an excuse for the enjoyment of any personal desire when that is contradicted by absolute morality. The hero of Victor Hugo's story, 'Les Miserables,' is not regarded as a vulgar thief when he steals the loaf from the baker's shop to feed his starving family. He appears as a revolutionist protesting against what he feels to be an unjust distribution of property. A healthy Christian conscience must condemn his action; but in such a case every human heart will give great weight to "extenuating circumstances."
III. RESPONSIBILITY CANNOT BE MEASURED BY MOTIVE. Here a new element is introduced—one which cannot be lightly set aside. A man must reap the consequences of his deeds, no matter what motives prompted them. If he acts foolishly from the best of motives, he must suffer for his folly; if he offends against social law, no plea of primary necessity will exonerate him from the penalty. In a world of law and order we must look to the results of our conduct as well as to its inward urging principle. Moreover, if we injure any one without the least malice, but only through what we regard as sheer necessity, the fact of the injury does not vanish, and we are under an obligation to take the first opportunity to make ample amends. Further, it is the duty of society to see that external right is done, even though those who resist it may be acting with the best of excuses. The thief must be punished, though his starving condition rouses our pity. But surely these painful points of casuistry should never arise. It is the duty of Christians to work for a better social order, wherein no injustice can give the semblance of an excuse to crime.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The perils of suretyship
Here we have -
I. A FEATURE OF ANCIENT LIFE. The warnings against incurring this responsibility are very frequent in this book (Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 22:26). For the bail was treated like the insolvent debtor (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25). He was subject to distraint or to be sold into slavery. Ben-Sira (29, 18, seq.) says, "Suretyship hath destroyed many that were doing well, and swallowed them up as a wave of the sea. It hath turned mighty men out of their homes, and they wandered among foreign peoples." The surety struck his band into that of the debtor, as a sign that he would answer for him. This would be accompanied by a verbal declaration, and hence the man had bound and confined himself—"snared himself by the words of his mouth." The rigidity of ancient custom in this particular told with terrible severity against thoughtless incurrers of responsibility, no matter how kind the motive. Hence—
II. THE URGENT NEED OF PRUDENCE. Proverbs 6:3 : "Since thou hast come into the hand [power] of thy neighbour, stamp with thy foot, and storm thy neighbour;" i.e. be urgent and insistent with the careless debtor for whom thou hast pledged thyself, press upon him the fulfilment of his responsibilities before it be too late. Exercise a sleepless vigilance (Proverbs 6:4, "Tear thyself free like a gazelle from its haunt, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler").
III. MODERN REFLECTIONS AND LESSORS.
1. Let us be thankful that the severity of the ancient laws and customs concerning debt and suretyship has been mitigated. The history of the changes of law is one of the best evidences of Christianity, and proof that prior conceptions of God advance side by side with gentler conceptions of social relations and duties.
2. Prudence is a constant necessity, and its cultivation a virtue, though not the highest. We must learn to adjust the claims of prudence and of neighbourly love.
3. Independence is not only a "glorious privilege," but the firm foundation for the best life enjoyment and life work. These are golden words from Ben-Sira, valid for all time: "Take heed to thyself, lest thou fail. The elements of life are water, bread, and a coat to one's back, and a dwelling to hide unseemliness. Better the poor man's life in his hut than faring luxuriously in others' houses … It is an ill life from house to house, and not to be able to open your mouth where you are sojourning." To do our own work or God's work well, we should aim at detachment, disembarrassment, freedom of spirit.—J.
The sluggard admonished
I. THE PICTURE OF INSECT INDUSTRY. The ant was viewed as the very picture of laboriousness in ancient as in modern times. It is interesting that the German word for "industrious" (emsig) seems derivable from amessi, "emmet, ant." The like may probably be traceable in some English dialects,
1. The industry of the ant has all the appearance of a virtue. For it seems unforced; there is no judge, superintendent, or onlooker, or taskmaster, to superintend its work. Contrast with the representations on various monuments of the taskmasters with whips superintending gangs of labourers.
2. It is provident industry. It lays up against the rainy day. The closer study of ant life by modern observers opens a world of marvel, and suggests other lines of thought. It is sufficient for didactic purposes to note the general principle; the external appearances of nature reveal moral analogies.
II. THE CONTRAST OF HUMAN SLOTH. (Proverbs 6:9-11.)
1. The lazy man seems as if he would sleep forever (Proverbs 6:9).
2. He knows not when he has reposed enough (Proverbs 6:10). An ironical imitation of his langour, his lazy attitude. The arms ever crossed, instead of being opened and ready for toil. "When I begin to turn about," said the Duke of Wellington, "I turn out."
3. The result of sloth (Proverbs 6:11). Poverty surprises him like a robber, and want like an armed man. A striking picture of the seeming suddenness with which men may sink into destitution. But it is only seeming; it has been long really preparing.
III. MORAL ANALOGY AND APPLICATION. Sloth in all its forms is ruinous to body and soul. Mental inertness and vacuity is a common form, The mind must be aroused, interested, filled. Here is one of the great sources of drunkenness, because of depression. If you have no occupation, invent one. Goad your temper by hopes and fears, if it will not wake up without them. In religion "be not slothful." Work at the practical or theoretical side of it, whichever suits your capacity best. Work out your own salvation. Take it all for granted, and you will presently find that all has slipped away, and naught remains but an impoverished intellect, a stagnant will.—J.
A picture of spite
I. THE SPITEFUL MAN DEFINED GENERALLY. (Proverbs 6:12.) He is "naughty," the old English word being expressive; otherwise "a thing of naught," a "slight man" (Shakespeare); in German heilloss, "unsound," "unworthy," and so worthless. Gather up the sense and force of these adjectives, and we get the idea comprehensively of badness, the sensuous counterpart of which is rottenness, corruption.
II. HIS CHARACTERISTICS. (Proverbs 6:13, Proverbs 6:14)
1. In mien and gesture and language. His mouth is twisted to a false expression, and utters false things. There is an obliquity and uncertainty in his glance (comp. Proverbs 10:10). He is full of shy tricks and hints—the thrust of the foot, nudges and signs with his fingers. "The shrug, the 'hum!' the 'ha!' those petty brands that calumny doth use" (Shakespeare).
2. In spirit perverse. It is a nature awry, inwardly deformed. Busily inventive, scheming mischief, breeding quarrels (comp. on Proverbs 3:29). It is a mind naturally active and curious, which, disabled from good, swings inevitably to the other extreme.
III. HIS DESTINY. An overthrow, sudden, utter, irremediable.
1. This is described constantly as the common doom of all kinds of wickedness.
2. The Bible makes sharp distinctions, and opposes characters in an absolute manner. Fine distinctions would run into the infinite. But we must make them in every particular case.
3. The doom ever stands in the relation of correspondence to the guilt.—J.
A catalogue of abominations
I. WHAT IS AN ABOMINATION? The word (as a verb) is of Roman or pagan origin, and denoted the feeling of abhorrence for what was ill-omened. In the moral sphere all evil conduct is like a bad omen, exciting dread and aversion, because boding calamity. In the direct language of the Bible, referring all things immediately to God, abominations are defined as "things that Jehovah hates, and that are an aversion to his soul" (Proverbs 6:16).
II. AS ENUMERATION OF THESE DIVINE AVERSIONS. The particular number is explained by the parallelism of Oriental poetry generally. It has no direct religious significance.
1. Proud eyes. Literally, lofty eyes. The grande supercilium, or haughty brow, of the Romans. The sensuous expression contains and implies in every case the inner mood. This Divine aversion for pride is deeply marked in the Bible and in ancient thought generally. Pride is an excess—the excess of a virtue of due self-valuation. Therefore it is a disturbing element in the moral world, or God's order. It tends to disjoint the social system.
2. A lying tongue. The liar is thus a solvent of society. It must break up were lying to become universal, and must decay so far as the vice of individuals becomes the custom of the multitude.
3. Hands of violence and injustice. The tyrant is a usurper of God's authority. He "plays such tricks … as angels weep at." The judicial murderer sets at naught the justice both of heaven and earth, the rights of God and of men.
4. The malicious, scheming heart. (See on verse 14.) That quick "forge and working shop of thought" (Shakespeare) that we call the imagination may become a very devil's smithy, a manufactory of the newest implements of mischief, from the patterns of hell.
5. Feet that speed to mischief. All couriers of ill news, eager retailers of slander, all who cannot bear to be forestalled in the hurtful word, who are ambitious of the first deadly blow.
6. The "breather of lies." (Verse 19.) The false witness, the lying informer; all who trade in falsehood, and breathe it as their atmosphere.
7. The mischief maker. The instigator of quarrels between brethren (see on verse 14).
All who partake of the leavened bread of malice, rather than of the pure, unfermented, and incorruptible bread of sincerity and truth.
1. Our aversions should be God's aversions.
2. The reasoning antipathy is the counterpart of improper sympathy.
3. Our love and our hate are liable to aberration if not governed by reason and religion.
4. Instinctive antipathy means only that we have found in another something that is opposed to our personal sense of well being; conscientious antipathy, that we have found that which is opposed to the order of God's world.—J.
Exhortation to chastity
I. PREFACE. (Proverbs 6:20; see on Proverbs 5:1, Proverbs 5:2; Proverbs 1:8).
II. EXHORTATION TO MINDFULNESS OF EARLY LESSONS. (Proverbs 6:21; see on Proverbs 2:3.) It is in oblivious moments that we sin. We may forget much that we have learned, having outgrown its need. We can never outgrow the simple, early lessons of piety. The chain that links our days each to each in moral progress is the memory of those lessons.
III. VITAL VIRTUE IN THOSE REMEMBERED LESSONS. They have a true vis vitalis. They guide in action, protect in passive hours (see on Proverbs 3:23, Proverbs 3:24). In wakeful hours of the night they seem to talk to the heart, as it "holds communion with the past." "Spirits from high hover o'er us, and comfort sure they bring." The truth becomes as a guardian angel. There is a junction of light and life in religion (Proverbs 6:23). What is seen in the intelligence as true translates itself into health in the habits.
IV. THEY ARE SPECIALLY PRESERVATIVE AGAINST THE WICKED WOMAN AND HER WILES. (Proverbs 6:24; see on Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:20.) Nothing is said directly of the reflex effect of vice upon the mind. It is always the danger externally considered that is pointed out. But this is due to the objective presentative form of the biblical thought and speech. We must learn to render the objective into the subjective form, to note how every outward drama has its reflex in the spirit itself; and thus we draw a double benefit from Bible lore. The pictures must be taken first in their proper meaning, then be converted into figures of the inner life.—J.
Warning against adultery
No candid student can ignore the fact that the view of this sin, and the motives deterrent from it, are of far lower order than those of pure Christianity. They do not rise above those of Horace, or any general morality of men of the world. In the sense that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that the soul is in communion with God, we reach that loftier point of view whence the odium of the sin is clearly discernible, and the motives against it are the highest that can be known.
I. SIN SPRINGS FROM THE ROOT OF DESIRE. (Proverbs 6:25.) This is the general law (James 1:14, James 1:15). Hence the last command of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:17; Matthew 5:28). The objects of desire may be good in themselves, but not lawful for our possession, as e.g. anything that belongs to our neighbour. Or the object may only seem to be good in itself, and its possession may be both unlawful and pernicious. This is the case with the adulteress. Her beauty is a deceitful show. It is a symbol with no moral worth behind it. The beauty, the "twinkling eye," are only sensuous charms. We must not speak of desire abstractly as if it were wrong, but of the indiscriminating desire, which confounds the lawful with the unlawful, the real with the unreal.
II. ADULTEROUS DESIRE BOTH UNLAWFUL AND PERNICIOUS,
1. The extravagance and avarice of the adulteress. (Proverbs 6:26.) This is a commonplace of observation. Excess in one passion affects the whole moral equilibrium, and she who will lavish away her honour will be reckless of other waste.
2. She is a spendthrift of her lover's life. The Hebrew designates the soul or life as dear, or costly. After making havoc of his possessions, she preys upon his life, more precious than all.
3. The deadly certainty of those results of such liaisons. (Proverbs 6:27-29.) By two impassioned questions the teacher conveys the most emphatic denial of what they suggest.
4. The further certainty of penal consequences on detection. Conveyed by means of an analogy (Proverbs 6:30, Proverbs 6:31). The act of the thief who steals to quiet his starving stomach is not overlooked. If apprehended, he is made to restore sevenfold. The Mosaic Law says four or fivefold (Exodus 21:36; Exodus 22:1, sqq.; cf. Luke 19:8). The "sevenfold" merely expresses a round sum generally; the thief might have to buy off his exemption from legal prosecution with all he had. Much less, then, can the graver crime of adultery escape punishment, if detected. And hence the senselessness and suicidal conduct of the lover (Proverbs 6:32).
5. Other risks of detection. Castigation and ignominy at the hands of the outraged husband (Proverbs 6:33).
Exposure to all the fury of excited jealousy, which is unsparing, fiercely vindictive, insatiable, unappeasable (Proverbs 6:34, Proverbs 6:35).
1. The lower motive—fear of consequences—is the most powerful deterrent from crime.
2. But the higher motives, derived from the sense of what crime is in itself and in relation to the doer, are needed when the other is not acting.
3. It is not being found out that makes the evil evil,—that is an accident; the essence of the clime is in the wrong done to the soul.—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Answering for others; danger and deliverance
There are times when we are invited and are bound to answer for other people—it may be with our word, or it may be with our bond. We have all been indebted to the kindnesses of our friends in this direction, and that which we have received from our fellows we should be ready to give to them in return. But it is a matter in which it is very easy to go much too far; in which carelessness is wrong and even criminal; in which, therefore wise counsel is well worth heeding.
I. THAT GOOD MEN ARE EXPOSED TO SERIOUS DANGER IN THE WAY OF SURETYSHIP. (Proverbs 6:1-3.) Good men, as such. For it is they who are most likely to be in a position to grant the help which is desired, and who are most likely to be induced to do so. The danger is threefold.
1. The appeal is to kindness of heart. It is the young at starting, or it is the unfortunate, or it is those on whom the helpless are dependent, who supplicate our interposition; and it is difficult for the tender hearted to turn a deaf ear to their entreaty.
2. The peril is easily incurred. It was but the taking of the hand in the presence of two or three witnesses; it is but the signing of a name at the foot of a bond, and the thing is done.
3. The result is remote and uncertain. No evil may ever happen; if it should, it will fall some day in the distance.
II. THAT GODLY PRINCIPLE REQUIRES US TO PUT A STRONG CHECK ON INCLINATION.
1. However much our sympathetic feelings may be stirred, however great the pleasure of compliance, and however deep the pain of refusal, we must forbear, when we have not wherewith to meet the demand that may be made on us. To comply, under such conditions, is simple dishonesty; it is criminal; it is an essentially false action.
2. We should imperil the comfort of our own family. Our first duty is to the wife whom we have solemnly covenanted before God to cherish and care for, and to the children whom the Father has entrusted to our charge.
3. We should be encouraging a culpable spirit of unsound speculation.
4. We should be disregarding the general good. No minister can commend to a Christian community a brother whom he believes to be unfit for the post without sinning against Christ and his Church most seriously. No man can recommend an incompetent or unworthy neighbour or friend to a position of trust and influence without doing a wrong which, if it be not condemned in the Decalogue, will be heavily scored in the Divine account.
III. THAT IF WE FIND WE HAVE ERRED, WE MUST DO EVERY POSSIBLE THING TO GAIN DELIVERANCE. (Proverbs 6:3-7.) There should be:
1. The utmost promptitude (Proverbs 6:4). When the blow may not fall for some time to come, there is special temptation to procrastinate until it is too late. Seek safety at once; let not the sun go down before the first step is taken.
2. Energy in action (Proverbs 6:5). We should seek to extricate ourselves and those who are dear to us with the vigour with which the roe escapes from the hunter, the bird from the fowler.
3. If necessary, with self-humiliation (Proverbs 6:3). We hate to "humble ourselves," but we ought to be ready to do this rather than allow trouble and ruin to hang over our home.
IV. THAT IF THIS URGENCY BE DUE TO TEMPORAL DANGERS, HOW MUCH MORE IMPERATIVE IS OUR DUTY TO GAIN DELIVERANCE FROM SPIRITUAL PERILS! We may well give "no sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our eyelids," until the peril is passed of being called by the Divine Creditor to meet a debt when we "have nothing to pay."—C.
Sloth and diligence
In this land and in this age, in England in the nineteenth century, there is little room for the sluggard; there is comparatively little temptation to sluggishness; the force of a rushing stream carries all along with it at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, it is true—
I. THAT SOME MEN FIND THEMSELVES UNDER SPECIAL TEMPTATION TO SLOTH. This may be a matter of
(1) bodily infirmity, the misfortune of an exceptional physical constitution;
(2) mental disposition, inherited from others, and to a large extent deserving of pity rather than censure;
(3) moral character, the impress of a bad habit—a spiritual result which has to be blamed as much as to be deplored.
II. THAT IT IS TO BE REGARDED AS UNWORTHY OF CHRISTIAN MANHOOD.
1. It is rebuked by the humbler creation (Proverbs 6:6-8). That which the ant does instinctively, and without any intelligent guide or instructor, we ought to do, who are endowed with reason, and who have so many human teachers and friends to direct, admonish, and. prompt us; who have, moreover, the admonitions of a Divine Teacher and Friend to enlighten and quicken us.
2. It is contemptible in the sight of man, our brother. There is something more than a tone of strong remonstrance, there is a perceptible admixture of contempt in the address, "Thou sluggard" (Proverbs 6:6), and also in the raillery of the ninth and tenth verses, "How long wilt thou sleep!… Yet a little sleep," etc. The industrious man cannot look at the slothfulness of the sluggard, at the supineness of the careless, at the dilatoriness of the half-hearted, without irrepressible feelings of aversion and contempt; he is compelled to scorn them in his heart.
III. THAT IT MUST BE OVERCOME IN OUR OWN TEMPORAL INTERESTS. (Proverbs 6:11.) Sloth soon ends in ruin. Bankruptcy waits on negligence. Temporal ruin comes:
1. Unexpectedly. "Poverty comes as one that travelleth." It has started a long time, it has traversed many a road, crossed many a valley, surmounted many a hill; but, though travelling long, it is only in sight during the last ten minutes of its journey. So ruin begins its course as soon as a man neglects his duties; it travels far and long, its form is hidden behind the hills, it is only just toward the last that its countenance is seen and recognized; then, before he expected it, Poverty stares him in the face, and grasps his hand with cruel clutch.
2. Irresistibly. "Want as an armed man." At last no measures can be taken. Friends are alienated, relatives are wearied, all good habits are gone, the courage which might have risen to the occasion is broken by continued sluggishness of spirit; the man is disarmed of every weapon, and is at the mercy of well armed Want. Indolence not only brings about ruinous circumstances, but it robs us of the spirit by which adversity might be met and mastered; it places us helpless at the feet of the strong.
"Let us, then, be up and doing;" for while sloth is rebuked on every side, and leads down to inevitable ruin, on the other hand, diligence
(1) is in accordance with the will of God concerning us (Romans 12:11; 1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14);
(2) commands a genuine prosperity (see Proverbs 22:29);
(3) braces the character and imparts spiritual strength;
(4) places us in a position to show kindness to the unfortunate (Ephesians 4:28);
(5) in the sphere of religion ensures ultimate and complete salvation (2 Peter 1:5, 2 Peter 1:10, 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Corinthians 5:9).—C.
The character and doom of the abandoned
Perhaps there is no word which more aptly designates the man who is here described than the word "abandoned." The "man of Belial" ("the naughty man") is he who is abandoned, who has abandoned himself, to the promptings of his own evil nature, to the fascinations and tyrannies of sin. Here we see the features of his character and his doom.
I. THAT IN SPEECH HE IS UTTERLY UNPRINCIPLED. "He walks with a froward mouth." He continually and remorselessly uses the language of falsehood, of profanity, of lewdness, of slander. From his mouth there constantly issues that which God hates to hear, and which is offensive and shameful in the estimation of the good and pure.
II. THAT IN PRACTICE HE HABITUALLY RESORTS TO LOW CUNNING. (Proverbs 6:13.) He has ways of communicating with others only known to the initiated. He cannot afford to be frank and outspoken; he must have recourse to subtlety, to low tricks, to devices which will cover his thoughts from the eye of the upright. This is
(1) degrading to himself, and
(2) disgusting to others.
III. THAT IN HIS HEART HE IS POSITIVELY MALIGN. (Proverbs 6:14.) He takes a demoniacal pleasure in doing evil. It is not only that he will consent to sacrifice the claims or injure the character of others if he cannot enrich himself without so doing; it is that he finds a horrible and malignant satisfaction in compassing their ruin; he "devises mischief continually; he sows discord." To the pure it is incomprehensible that men can positively delight in impurity; to the kind it seems impossible that men can enjoy cruelty, etc. But it is the last result of a sinful course that the "froward heart" scatters mischief on every hand for the sake of the evil thing itself; to him vice and misery are themselves his reward.
IV. THAT GOD WILL BRING DOWN ON HIS HEAD IRREMEDIABLE DISASTER. (Proverbs 6:15.) The man thinks he can defy his Maker, but he is deceiving himself. God is not mocked; he that sows to the flesh shall reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). He has broken away from all Divine restraints; he has thrown off him the arresting hand of a merciful Redeemer, he has silenced the voice of a pleading spirit; but God is not altogether such as we are (Psalms 50:21). He will rebuke, and he will set our sins before our souls again. The hour will come, quite unexpectedly, when judgment will overtake him. It may be
(1) public indignation, and the stern rebuke of human society; or
(2) ruin in his temporal affairs,—his schemes break down and involve him in their fall, or some one of his victims turns against him; or
(3) sudden sickness and pain lay him prostrate on a bed from which he may never rise, and on which his iniquities may confront him; or
(4) death and eternity present themselves, and demand that he shall look them full in the face (see Proverbs 29:1).—C.
Proverbs 6:16, Proverbs 6:17
The condemnation of pride
The simple, strong language of the text tells us that pride is a thing which God hates. We should therefore make some inquiries concerning it, and know all we can learn about it; for who would like to have in his heart and life that which is positively odious to the Father of his spirit?
I. ITS SEAT IS IN THE SOUL. The wise man speaks of the "proud look" or the "haughty eyes," but he specifies this as it is a most common manifestation of the evil which lies within. Its seat is in the soul, in the lurking thought, in the secret sentiment, in the nursed and nourished convictions, in the false idea. It is in the habit of the heart; it is embedded in the character.
II. IT IS MANIFOLD IN ITS MANIFESTATION. It is most often shown, as intimated, in the proud look, but it may make itself felt in
(1) the disdainful tone;
(2) the contemptuous silence or non-observance;
(3) the cutting sentence;
(4) the exclusive action.
III. IT SPRINGS FROM MANY SOURCES. It may arise from:
1. A consciousness of physical superiority—elegance of figure, beauty of face, muscular strength, etc.
2. Consciousness of mental acquisitions—intellectual force, knowledge, eloquence, etc.
3. Social prominence—rank, office, distinction.
4. Recollection of great services rendered.
IV. IT IS HATEFUL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. This thing "doth the Lord hate." He hates it, for doubtless he sees in it a heinousness and enormity we do not perceive. But he may hate it because:
1. It is an essentially false thing. We give ourselves credit for that which is not due. "What have we that we have not received'?" The pedestal on which we stand is a false imagining.
2. It is an utterly unbecoming thing. Who are we, the sinful children of men, the body of whom is deserving of condemnation, that we should look down superciliously on others? In any human soul pride is unbecoming, unlovely.
3. It is a cruel thing. It wounds, and it wounds the most sensitive spirits worst. We place, by itself, as demanding particular reference, one evil in pride for which God condemns it, viz.—
V. IT SHUTS US OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF HIS GRACE. How can we possibly go in humility and faith to the redeeming Lord, our Saviour, while pride occupies the throne? The man in whom the proud spirit dwells stands afar from the salvation of God. "The Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."—C.
Proverbs 6:16, Proverbs 6:17
The Divine dislike of deceitfulness
(See Proverbs 12:22.) God hates "a lying tongue;" "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord." We must consider—
I. WHAT IS THE DECEITFULNESS WHICH GOD DETESTS. It is evident that the "lying tongue" and the "lying lips" are mentioned as the principal instrument of the soul in the sin which is rebuked. It is the sin itself which is the object of the Divine displeasure. That sin is deceitfulness; conveying false impressions to the mind of our neighbour, the wilful blinding of his eyes by untrue words or by false actions. This may be done by:
1. Downright falsehood—the most shameless and shocking of all ways.
2. Covert insinuation or innuendo—the most cowardly and despicable of all ways.
3. Prevarication, the utterance of a half-truth which is also half a lie—the most mischievous, because the most plausible and last detected, of all ways.
4. Acted untruth—one of the most common forms of falsehood, and perhaps as hurtful to the sinner as any, because it avoids apparent guilt, while it really is as culpable as most, if not as any, of these manifestations of deceit.
II. WHY IT IS SO ODIOUS TO THE RIGHTEOUS FATHER. What makes it "hateful," "abominable in his sight"?
1. It is inherently heinous. The soul has to make a very decided departure from rectitude to commit this sin. We may say of it, "Oh, 'tis foul! 'tis unnatural!" It is a "strange" thing in the view of the Holy One and the True. It is something which comes into direct and sharp collision with his Divine principles; which, in its own nature, is a painful, oppressive spectacle to his pure spirit. He loves and lives and desires truth—"truth in the inward parts;" and with the same intensity with which be loves truth, he must hate, with immeasurable abomination, every shape and form of falsehood.
2. It is ruinous to the soul that practises it. Nothing so surely leads down to spiritual destruction as this sin. It breaks down the walls and breaks up the very foundation of all character. For those who habitually decline from the truth, in word or deed, are constantly teaching themselves to consider that there is nothing sacred in truth at all; they are sliding down the incline at the foot of which is the sceptic's question, "What is truth?" A man who is false in language or in action is poisoning his soul by degrees; he is a spiritual suicide.
3. It is mischievous to society. "Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another." Human society depends on truthfulness in its members for its prosperity, comfort, and almost for its very life. What if we constantly doubted one another's word? The men of truth and trustworthiness are the salt of society. The men of lying tongue are its pest and its peril. Our neighbours have a right to claim of us that we shall put away lying lips and shall "speak the truth in love." God, who cares for the well being of this human world, hates to see his children weakening, wounding, endangering that world of man by falsehood and deceit.
III. WHAT GOD WILL DO WITH THOSE WHO ARE GUILTY. He will surely punish them. He does so
(1) by making them bear their penalty in the shape of spiritual demoralization;
(2) by bringing down upon them first the distrust and then the reprobation of their fellows;
(3) by excluding them firmly and finally from his own fellowship. He that does not "speak the truth in his heart" may not abide in his tabernacle here (Psalms 15:1); he that deserves to be denominated a liar will be banished from his presence hereafter (Revelation 22:15).—C.
The brand of God
God placed a brand on the first murderer's brow, and he carried the curse with him to his grave. He does not mark us thus now with such signs of guilt; nevertheless, he has made it clear as the day that there are some men who are the objects of his very high displeasure. We know from the text that among these are—
I. MEN OF A PROUD HEART. (See above.)
II. MEN OF A FALSE SPIRIT. (See above.)
III MEN THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS' DEATH. (Proverbs 6:17.) Those whose "hands shed innocent blood" are strongly condemned of him. These include, not only
(1) men guilty of murder and manslaughter in the literal sense, but also
(2) those who are responsible for the death of the innocent through culpable carelessness (e.g. an indifferent and negligent judge or reckless captain), and also
(3) those who, by their heartlessness in family or social life, crush the spirit and shorten the life.
IV. MEN THAT PLOT MISCHIEF. "A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations" (Proverbs 6:18). These are they who use their inventive faculties, not for the good of their race, nor for the maintenance of their families, but for the base and shameful purpose of bringing some of their fellows into distress, if not into ruin; they contrive their overthrow only to enjoy their discomfiture.
V. CRUEL EXECUTIONERS or WRATH. "Those whose feet are swift in running to mischief" (Proverbs 6:18); these are they who take a savage delight in being the instruments of punishment—the gaoler, the soldier, the executioner, who gloat over their work of severity or blood.
VI. FALSE WITNESSES. (Proverbs 6:19.) One of the most solemn and responsible positions a man can occupy is the witness box; he stands there, invoking the dread Name of the Eternal himself to cause justice to be done. If then he perjures himself, and "speaketh lies" when actually under oath, he defies his Maker, perverts justice, wrongs the innocent or releases the guilty, is disloyal to his country, outrages his own conscience. Well may he be among those whom God especially condemns.
VII. MEN THAT DISTURB HARMONY. "He that soweth discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:19). "Blessed are the peacemakers," said the Master. "Cursed are the mischiefmakers," says the text. If we do not actively promote peace and good will, surely we need not be the abettors of strife. There are two degrees of guilt here: there is the mischief making which is due to culpable thoughtlessness, repeating words which should have been allowed to fall to the ground, unintentional but decided misrepresentation, etc.; and there is the darker wrong, to which a heavier penalty is due, deliberate and wanton disturbance of previous harmony. This is
(1) bad in the social circle,
(2) worse in the home,
(3) worst in the Church of Christ.
Let it be remembered that:
1. God hates these things; they are utterly abhorrent to him. He cannot regard them without Divine repugnance.
2. God is "much displeased" with those who do them; his holy and awful wrath must extend to those who "do such things."
3. God will surely punish those who impenitently persist in them (Romans 2:2-9).—C.
Sin and safety
These verses may teach us—
I. THAT MAN LIES OPEN TO STRONG AND SAD TEMPTATIONS. The reference of the text is to the sin of sensuality; the wise man is warning against the wiles of "the evil woman," "the strange woman" (Proverbs 6:24). This sin of sensuality may consist in irregularities, or in things decidedly forbidden, or in gross and shameful violations of law and decency; it may be secret and hidden from every eye, or it may be unblushing and may flaunt itself before high heaven. The words of the text may, in part, apply to other sins; e.g. to intemperance, and also to gambling. To all of these the strong passions of youth often urge the soul; it finds itself drawn or driven by a powerful impulse which it is difficult to overcome. But the truth must be faced—
II. THAT VICE LEADS DOWN BY A SURE AND SHORT ROAD TO THE WORST INFLICTIONS. It leads to:
1. Self-reproach. The sinner "shall not be innocent" (Proverbs 6:29), and will carry the miserable consciousness of guilt with him into every place.
2. Corruption of character—such a one "lacketh heart" (marginal reading), "destroyeth his own soul" (Proverbs 6:32); losing all self-respect, his character is as a substance that is smitten, cracked through, ready to fall to pieces, worthless; "a wound" (Proverbs 6:33), a deep wound, it has gotten.
3. Shame. Men do not despise a thief who steals to allay the gnawing pangs of hunger; they may compel him to restore sevenfold, but they pity him as much as they despise him (Proverbs 6:30, Proverbs 6:31). But the adulterer, or the confirmed drunkard, or the man who is impoverishing his family to gratify his lust for gambling, him men do despise in their hearts; they dishonour him in their soul, they cry "shame" upon him (Proverbs 6:33).
4. Impoverishment. Loss of money, of occupation, beggary, the humiliation of borrowing, pledging, etc. (Proverbs 6:26).
5. Penalty from those who have been wronged (Proverbs 6:34, Proverbs 6:35). Those who outrage the honour of their feller's may expect the bitterest revenge. To steal the love of a wife from her husband, or of a husband from his wife, is to make one enemy whose wrath nothing will appease. It is an evil thing, even if it be not a dangerous thing, to go through life bearing the malice, exposed to the intense and inextinguishable hatred of a human soul.
III. THAT THERE IS ONE PATH OF SAFETY. It is that which is suggested in Proverbs 6:27, Proverbs 6:28, "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" etc. The way to escape the evil is not to touch it, to steer clear of it altogether, to keep well out of harm's way—to avoid the house and company of the flippant woman, to leave the sparkling cup untasted, to refuse to stake a farthing in any kind, of lottery whatever. This is the only secure ground to take. Once begin to talk with the seductive woman, or to taste the pleasure of exhilaration from intoxicants, or to enjoy the sweets of appropriating money gained by nothing but a guess, and who shall say what the end. will be? Do not touch the fire, and you will not be burnt.
IV. THAT THE YOUNG SHOULD BEAR THE GUIDING LAMP OF TRUTH ABOUT THEM ALONG THE WHOLE PATH OF LIFE. (Proverbs 6:20-23.) In order to sustain the resolution to keep away from the destroying fires, consult the Word of God.
1. Have it in continual remembrance (Proverbs 6:21).
2. Illustrate it in every way open (Proverbs 6:20).
3. Find it a steady light, accompanying the steps everywhere (Proverbs 6:22, Proverbs 6:23).—C.
God's Word-guide, guardian, companion
Man is insufficient of himself; he needs help from on high. Often in the course of his life he has goings forth, and then he wants direction; often he finds himself helpless, and then he needs a guardian to preserve him; often he is alone, and then he craves a friend who will commune with him. All this he has in the Word of the living God. It is—
I. IN ACTION, OUR GUIDE. "When thou goest, it shall lead thee." We go "front home," "into business," "to sea," "abroad," etc. In all these goings forth we want that which will lead us in the fight and the wise way—the way of truth, purity, righteousness, happiness. The Word of the heavenly Father will supply this.
II. IN DANGER, OUR DEFENCE. "When thou sleepest, it shall keep thee." Not. only when we are "asleep" on our couch are we in danger from those who might wish to injure us, but when we are unconscious of the spiritual dangers by which we are surrounded; when in a state of "innocence," of being uninitiated into the secrets of sin; when we are not alive to duty and opportunity as we should be;—then the Word of God will be a fence, a security. Following it, coming to it to learn God's will, we shall know which way to take, what courses to avoid, how to revive and to be reanimated with holy energy and zeal.
III. IN LONELINESS, OUR COMPANION. "When we awake," when we find ourselves with our faculties all in force, and no one to hold fellowship with us, then the Word of God will "talk with us." It will speak to us of God our Father, of the supreme value of our spiritual nature, of the path of life, of the kingdom of Christ and the salvation in him, of the heavenly home. "Lamp of our feet, whereby we trace," etc. (Proverbs 6:23).—C.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany