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The Proverbs of Solomon:
CONTAINING SUNDRY WISE OBSERVATIONS, MAXIMS, AND PRECEPTS, chapters Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16.
Here begin the PROVERBS proper, the “nucleus of the book.” What has preceded is the introductory discourse or lecture. There is no difficulty in regarding the first nine chapters as one composition. If actually read, it would not be too long for one occasion, and the various parts are about as well connected as in the most of our modern lectures. Indeed, the unities are well preserved. It is possible that the first six verses of chapter first, which contain the title and preface, may have been prefixed subsequently to the composition of that admirable introductory discourse, and of the whole work. The remainder of the book is of a different character and form, especially from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. We have no longer a train of continued thought running on from verse to verse, but nearly every verse is independent of that which precedes and of that which succeeds. They might in general be inverted and transposed at pleasure, without any material injury to the sense, or diminution of the effect of the whole. They were divinely intended to form the Hebrew character to prudence and integrity by the principles of universal morality, and so are suitable for all times and peoples.
It, is not probable that all these Proverbs were original with Solomon. Many of them were, doubtless, the results of his own observation and experience; but others, perhaps long in use, were gathered from other sources; being, however, such as his judgment approved, he gave them a place in his collection.
It is the opinion of some critics that Solomon did not write, but spoke the proverbs, and that they were taken down in writing by others, at different times; that from the various collections thus made by different scribes of the three thousand proverbs which he spake, (compare 1 Kings 4:32,) those contained in this book are what were deemed worthy of preservation for after ages. They seem to have been arranged, by Solomon or others, chiefly according to their form, in two separate volumes, rolls, or memoranda, one of which extends from chapter x to chapter xv, inclusive, and which consists almost exclusively of antithetic parallelisms; the other, from chapter 16 to Proverbs 22:16, which consists chiefly of synthetic parallelisms. Every verse, in both parts, makes a complete sentence. There is rarely even a similarity of subject in two successive verses. Even the two parts of the same verse seldom so run into each other as to form a compound sentence, in which one number is dependent on the other. There are a few exceptions to this in the 20th chapter. This is altogether different from the method of the first nine chapters, and is not so rigidly observed in what follows Proverbs 22:16.
1. A wise son… glad father Gladdens his father.
A foolish son כסיל , ( kesil.) The radical idea is that of dullness, stiffness, grossness, rudeness; when applied to the mind, as here, it is the opposite of that refinement, culture, and intelligence, or the capability of them, which חכם , ( hhakham,) wise, implies. It has been suggested that the idea lies half concealed in the verse, that a father, in general, is better qualified to appreciate the mental qualities of a good and wise son, and the mother is more affected by the grossness and rudeness of an evil and foolish one.
This is not wholly improbable, yet too much stress is not to be laid on these niceties, which seem to overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:0; Proverbs 25:23-24. For the expression heaviness, compare Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:22.
1. A good name Hebrew, a name which includes the idea of good, honourable; as when we say a man has made himself a name, a reputation, which, when properly viewed, is more desirable than all riches. The approbation and goodwill of a good man is preferable to silver and gold. To a young man settling out in life a good name, worthily obtained, is better than a fortune. Compare Ecclesiastes 7:1; 2 Samuel 8:13; also Proverbs 23:18-22.
2. Rich and poor meet together Perhaps, in the sense of adaptation to each other. By the ordinance of God, they each have their place, sphere, duties, and use in the world. The rich have obligations and duties with respect to the poor, and the poor in respect to the rich. Moreover, they are mutually dependent upon each other. The rich need the poor and the poor need the rich. They are complements of each other. Capital needs labour, and labour needs capital.
The Lord is the maker of them all Both are equally his workmanship. Their several conditions, so far as they are providential, are his ordinance, and are equally important in his sight. The rich, therefore are not to despise the poor, nor the poor to envy the rich. They are both on probation for the formation of virtuous character. One finds his discipline in riches; the other in the want of them. He who attains to the highest virtue will in the end be the richest. Compare Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 29:13; Job 31:13; Job 31:15.
3. Prudent Here meaning, a sagacious, or farseeing man.
Hideth himself Namely, from the coming evil; he timely provides against it.
The simple Those who do not properly read the signs of the times.
Pass on Rush on, or over, in their usual course, using no foresight to avoid the threatened calamity.
Are punished Suffer the natural consequences of their ignorance and lack of providence. Both members are expressed in the Hebrew in the past tense saw evil hid passed on were punished. Comp. Proverbs 27:12; Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 15:18.
4. By humility On account of; or, as the reward of, “humility.”
The fear of the Lord There is no conjunction between these two phrases, and some think that the latter stands in apposition to the former, and is explanatory of it religious humility, or humble piety those lowly views of one’s self which reverence for Jehovah inspires. The usual promises of the old dispensation are extended to this humble piety. Under the new we have “better promises,” or the old ones exalted to a nobler meaning. Compare Matthew 5:3; Matthew 18:4; Matthew 20:20; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Psalms 51:17; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 29:23; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2; Job 22:29; 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6.
5. Thorns and snares, etc. There is no conjunction here again. “Thorns” denote the various difficulties, dangers, and sufferings to which the froward, or utterly perverse, are continually exposed, as “snares,” or nets, do the entanglements into which they run.
Keep his soul That suitably regards his soul or life.
Shall be far from them Will keep himself far away from such associations.
6. Train up a child, etc. A very literal rendering of these familiar words would perhaps be: Make it narrow for the boy on the mouth of his way. It contains the idea of the old Hebrews in respect to education, (see note on Proverbs 1:3,) restraint, control, repression. Let there be restraint to the boy, or youth, as to his evil tendencies. “Hedge him in,” as Miller reads; restrain from the wrong way and constrain to the good. The “mouth of the way” would naturally be understood of the beginning of it. But the phrase has a conventional sense, meaning, according to, or according to the measure of. Hence the passage would read: Train a youth according to his way. The question now arises whether דרכו , ( darko,) his way, means the way he should go, or something else. We do not find any clear example of this meaning of the word; nevertheless, we are loth to surrender the old, familiar sense. Gesenius, and after him Stuart and others, interpret it of the bent of the mind, genius, inclination, or disposition for some particular occupation or calling. Stuart observes, “As darko can mean only the way of the child, the moral couched under the phrase. ‘he should go,’ finds in reality no proper place, although the sentiment itself is excellent and agreeable to the tenor of Scripture. An interpreter’s business is rather to inquire what is said than to conjecture, however ingeniously and piously, what ought to be said.” This is very true, but those who interpret the words in this way are also obliged to conjecture as to the meaning of darko, for it is not perfectly evident that it means the bent, inclination, or temperament of the child. It is possible, after all, that “his way” simply means the way in which he is to go; the mode, manner, or sphere of life to which he is destined by parents or by circumstances. If he inherit a throne, educate him for it; if he is destined to this or that profession or occupation, give him the training that he needs for it. And a step further: as every wise and pious parent desires and wills his child to lead a virtuous and pious life, let such parent carefully educate him accordingly. For according to his education will be his future life.
“ ‘ Tis education forms the common mind:
Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.” POPE.
When he is old This expression does not signify old age; but simply mature age, or, as we say, when he becomes of age. The maxim is based on the well known force of habit. The statement is that of a general truth, and, of course, admits of exceptions. On the old interpretation we have met with no better note on this proverb than that of Dr. A. Clarke. The Geneva Bible reads the first clause thus: “Teache a childe the trade of his way.” The marginal note is: “Bring him vp vertuously, and he shal so continue.” The Douay, following the Vulgate, has this: “It is a proverb: a young man according to his way, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The Septuagint omits the verse entirely.
7. The rich ruleth over the poor This proverb, also, states a general fact in forcible language. Riches give influence, power, dominion over those who are without wealth; and the man who borrows, or otherwise goes in debt, loses, in some sense, his liberty by the obligation which he is under to his creditor.
Servant עבד , ( ‘ hebhedh,) is the word commonly used for bondman, (slave,) though not confined to that sense.
8. Shall reap vanity Evil, trouble, calamity. “As a man soweth, so shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7. And the rod of his anger Haughtiness, insolence, shall fail or be ended. Conant reads: “Shall be ready,” finished and ready for use upon him understanding it of the rod prepared for him Comp. 2 Peter 2:3.
9. A bountiful eye שׂוב עין , ( tobh- ‘ hayin,) a good eye, that is, a kindly, compassionate eye, one that has pity for those in distress.
Shall be blessed Both of God and man. For the opposite, compare Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 28:22; Deuteronomy 15:9. The Septuagint and Vulgate add: “He that gives liberally secures victory: but he takes away the soul ( ψυχην ) of them that possess (receive) them.”
10. Cast out the scorner לצ , ( lets,) scorner, or scoffer. It means a very bad man, (see note on Proverbs 21:11;) a man who laughs at legal and virtuous restraint, treats virtue and religion with derision, and is in no wise disposed to submit to law, order, or good government. Cast such a one out of society, and a large proportion of evil will go with him. If we could go a step further, and banish intemperance, we would have a civil and social millennium. Compare Proverbs 24:9.
11. Loveth pureness of heart He that loves purity and sincerity.
For the grace of his lips The sincerity and truthfulness of his speech and life, the king (is) his friend. The verse is obscure. It probably means: He that loves sincerity above all things, and is able to deliver his mind in acceptable language, is a fit companion for a king. On the expression “ grace of his lips,” comp. Ecclesiastes 10:12. Zockler renders: “He that loveth with a pure heart, whose lips are gracious, the king shall be his friend.” The Septuagint thus: “The Lord loves holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him: a king rules with his lips.” Compare Proverbs 16:13.
12. Preserve knowledge Stand guard over it. It would seem from the next clause that knowledge is here used for the concrete the knowing, the intelligent. Providence especially guards those who join piety with intelligence, or defends their sayings and teachings the knowledge which they communicate.
Transgressor The treacherous. Comp. Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 21:12.
13. There is a lion without The plain meaning of this is, that an indolent man will make all manner of excuses for not doing his duty; will raise difficulties out of his own fancy when there are none, and render himself ridiculous by his absurd apprehensions.
14. Mouth of strange women is a deep pit What their mouth utters is as dangerous and destructive to the unwary youth as a deep pit into which he is liable to fall. The difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of escaping from a deep pit, suggests also what is taught elsewhere in the book the hopelessness of those who form licentious habits. The fall of a man into the snare of a harlot is conceived of as a curse from Jehovah. He is given over to destruction. Compare Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 6:24; Proverbs 7:5, et seq.; Proverbs 23:27.
15. Foolishness Probably meaning perverseness, rather than folly. Ignorance, weakness, inclination to evil, corruption of heart, are maladies which accompany all men from their birth. Pious education, instruction, correction, (with the divine blessing,) cure them, or, at least, diminish very much their ill effects. (Calmet.)
Is bound Perhaps inheres; or, metaphorically, “is bound there,” as with cords fixed there. Miller suggests this idea that folly is bound in the heart of a child: and, therefore, more easily controlled than in older persons. This, however, seems contrary to the sense of the word else-where, which implies strength rather than weakness. But if any conjunction is needed, yet will express the relation of the two clauses better than but. Compare on this Genesis 30:42. For the general subject compare Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 23:13; Proverbs 29:15; Proverbs 29:17.
16. He that oppresseth… he that giveth to the rich The verse is variously understood. It might be rendered: He that defraudeth the weak to make increase for himself, is he that giveth to the rich (but only) for poverty. The sense seems to be, that he who robs the poor to enrich himself, does but give himself the riches which will reduce him to poverty. Compare Proverbs 11:24. The Vulgate, followed by Luther and others, has this: He that squeezes the poor to increase his own estate, gives to the rich only to impoverish it. That is, he shall be squeezed by some mightier person than himself.
Here begins what may be regarded as the second division of the second part of this book. This division ends with chapter twenty-four. From verse seventeen to twenty-one inclusive is an exhortation to give careful attention to the words of the wise. Then follow sundry admonitions and prohibitions. They are (like the introductory part of the book ending with chapter ninth) in the form of direct address to the pupil. There is in this section less attention to the laws of parallelism, and the sentences are longer and more complicated.
THE WORDS OF THE WISE.
17. Bow down thine ear Listen with reverence and attention.
My knowledge That which I communicate my instruction: with special reference to that about to be imparted.
18. For it is (better, it will be) a pleasant thing, etc. The latter clause should probably have the conditional particle carried forward if they shall be altogether established upon thy lips. The idea is, that they should be committed to memory, and become so familiar that the lips can readily utter them. “If they are ready, all of them, on thy lips.” Conant.
Within thee Literally, in thy bowels.
19, 20. Made known… excellent things The latter verse should probably read: Have I not written to thee heretofore concerning counsel and knowledge? The reference is supposed to be to the previous efforts for the pupil’s edification, especially to the first part of the book, where the mode of address is, like the present, exceedingly direct.
21. The words of truth The meaning is commonly supposed to be, that the pupil has been taught to discriminate between that which is true and good on the one hand, and false and evil on the other. So that he shall be capable of giving sound advice to those who consult him, and to manage the most difficult affairs to the satisfaction of those who employ him; as when a person is employed as an ambassador for a prince, or intrusted with any important agency for others.
Them that send unto thee The marginal reading, “to those that send thee,” is preferred by some interpreters. Compare Proverbs 10:26; on the last clause, 1 Peter 3:15.
22, 23. Neither oppress… in the gate The “gate” was the place of public resort, where courts were held, and causes tried and decided. The rich are forbidden to take, in judicial proceedings, such advantage of the poor or weak as their position and wealth may give them: and judges are warned against favouring the strong at the expense of the weak. Jehovah looks with especial displeasure on such unjust dealings. He is the advocate and patron of the poor and oppressed, and by his providence will avenge them, even to the life of their spoilers.
Spoil the soul The life; that is, he will demand the life of those who take advantage of the helpless poor. This is a fearful declaration to those who defraud the poor and lowly of their just rights. Some translate the last clause: He will despoil those who rob them of life. Others, despoil of life those who despoil them. Compare Proverbs 23:11; Matthew 18:32, et seq; Zechariah 7:10.
24. Make no friendship (have no companionship) with an angry man One of violent temper a passionate man.
25. Lest thou learn his ways We are apt to become assimilated to those with whom we keep company.
26, 27. If thou hast nothing The subject of suretyship has been treated before. (See Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15.) The case here presented seems to be that of a man becoming security for another who has little or nothing for himself. Such a man practices a fraud upon the creditor party.
Take… bed Among the Hebrews, notwithstanding the old law seemed to be otherwise, (Exodus 22:27,) even the bed, which was often only a coverlet, or a piece of coarse cloth, and not indispensable, could be taken for debt. But it is probable that this rigour was seldom practised. In this case the creditor, being imposed upon, is represented as possibly taking even the bed. Why should a man be so careless of his own and his family’s welfare as thus to expose himself? The question implies that it is sinful folly. Compare Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 6:1-4; Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18.
28. Remove not the ancient landmark The marks, frequently stones, by which lands were divided, whether private estates or the territories of tribes, were held very sacred, not merely among the Hebrews, but among other ancient nations. To change them, secretly or by force, was a high offence and injustice, and brought on litigations and wars. Estates passed down from generation to generation, and hence these “marks” are described as “the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.” (See Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17.) It is probable that a tropical sense may be intended here. Some think it is the principal one. The sense of the passage then would be, applying the general principle: Change not the ancient and approved usages of the fathers, whether political, social, or religious; be not restless innovators. Duly qualified, this is an excellent maxim. Doubtless improvements are frequently effected by changes; but to innovate is not to necessarily improve. See note on Job 24:2. Comp. Hosea 5:10; Proverbs 23:10-11.
29. Diligent Quick, active, prompt, skilled in business. Such a man will attract the attention of those above him rulers, princes, kings; and he will be called into the public service he will not remain in the service of mean (common or obscure) men. The form of the verb is forcible: He shall take his stand, or present himself, before kings. It has been said, “Of all the qualities which kings look to and regard in the choice of their servants, that of energy and dispatch in business is the most acceptable. There is no other virtue which does not present some shadow of offence to the minds of kings. Expedition in the execution of their commands is the only one which contains nothing that is not acceptable.”
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25