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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 3

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


This chapter is a continuation of the moral teachings of the preceding ones. It is rich in precepts, counsels, and admonitions on various topics, all of grave importance. For the sake of a deeper impression the royal sage, like every good teacher, uses more or less repetition, with variation of expression and abundance of illustration.

1. My son The kindness and earnestness of manner is to be noted.

Forget not my law Let it be a law to thee, and let thy heart carefully guard my precepts. Such is the spirit of the original, as if uttered in a tone of earnest paternal entreaty.

Verse 2

2. Length of days Piety and morality tend to longevity and prosperity. Some suppose that the verb is used impersonally shall be added. But Miller renders, “For length of days and years of life and prosperity shall make thee greater.”

Verse 3

3. Let not mercy and truth The kindness, love, and faithfulness, to which I have exhorted.

Forsake thee Depart from thee. Cherish them, cultivate them, make them a part of thy character, maintain and exhibit them always. This is forcibly expressed in the metaphorical language of the latter part of the verse. Zockler renders, love and truth, and remarks: “these ideas, which are often associated in our book for example, Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 16:6; Proverbs 20:28 are, when predicated of man, the designation of those attributes in which the normal perfection of his moral conduct towards his neighbour expresses itself.” To “bind” God’s law about the neck is not only to obey it, but to rejoice in it as an ornament of the highest value. Comp. 1 Peter 3:3-4. Write them… heart The meaning is, impress them on thy mind and affections.

Verse 4

4. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding שׂכל , ( sekhel,) regard, reputation, before God and man. That is, both God and man will approve, and you shall prosper. The word sekhel is capable of different meanings. The above is probably the sense here. As in 2 Chronicles 30:22, it denotes the judgment awarded to any one, the favourable opinion had concerning him. Comp. Luke 2:52.

Verse 5

5. Here follow precepts bearing more directly on man’s duty to God, and especially as to the regulation of the mind and thoughts in respect to him.

Lean not unto thine own understanding That is, as if it were sufficient to direct thee. “In this trust in a will supreme, righteous, loving, was the secret of all true greatness. It anticipates the teaching that man is justified by faith.” Speaker’s Commentary.

Verse 6

6. Acknowledge Or, recognise. This is intimately connected with the preceding verse, and supplies a strong motive to obey the counsel there given. Illustrative of the 5th and 6th verses; 2 Chronicles 14:9-15; 2 Kings 19:14, etc.; Ezra 8:21-23; Genesis 24:12-27; Nehemiah 2:4; 1 Samuel 17:46. Direct Level, or make smooth.

Verse 7

7. This is in substance a repetition of the fifth verse, with members transposed, thus giving the sentiment emphasis. Compare Romans 12:16, last clause.

Verse 8

8. Health to thy navel Rather, restoration to thy sinew, (sing. coll.,) and moistening (refreshment) to thy bones. The word שׁר , ( shor,) rendered navel in E.V., literally means a cord, and is sometimes, as in Ezekiel 16:4, applied to the umbilical cord; but in other places it seems to be used for sinews, muscles, or tendons of the body, or of a particular part of it, as Job 40:16, where the rendering probably should be, “the muscles of the belly.” In this place the word stands in parallelism with bones, and probably means the firmer muscular or tendinous parts, in contradistinction to the bony or more solid parts. Taken together, the terms mean the body. The muscles, sinews, or tendons, are the “cordage” of the body, by which the bones are both held in their places and moved. In order to sound health and longevity these need continual renovation, to repair and compensate the waste always taking place. This restoration is made by the proper distribution of the vital fluids to every part, perfectly irrigating the whole body, even the bones. This seems to be the imagery of the text, and the sentiment is, that piety and high mental cultivation, which are always in this book supposed to go hand in hand, tend to the preservation of health and the prolonging of life a fact which observation and experience have abundantly demonstrated. The average period of human life is greatly extended by the march of Christian civilization and enlightenment. That restraint ( musar, discipline, see note, Proverbs 1:2) which true religion, whether Mosaic or Christian, throws upon the passions and appetites that moderation and temperance which it enjoins in the use of earthly good that knowledge of physical laws which it promotes that serenity of mind which it inspires as also that sacredness with which it invests life all tend to the prolongation and happiness of earthly existence.

Verse 9

9. Honour Miller well says, Honour, in a connexion like this, grew to include the idea of giving. We see it in the Greek τιμα . 1 Timothy 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:17; Acts 5:2; Proverbs 19:19. Substance points to capital, increase, to revenue, income. In verse six the teacher had said, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct [smooth] thy paths.” This thought is resumed and illustrated in an important particular. To show our gratitude to God for blessings bestowed is a leading duty. The laws of the old economy directed, that of all the firstfruits an offering should be presented. (See Exodus 23:14; Exodus 23:16; Exodus 23:19; also Exodus 22:29-30; Leviticus 2:12; Leviticus 2:16; Leviticus 19:23-24; Deuteronomy 18:4-5.) This was a thank offering for the blessings of life, and a contribution to the support of religion. These offerings of our substance are dictates of sanctified reason. The ordinances and ministries of religion being appointed by God for the benefit of men, it is the will of God that they should be supported by men, to whom, here and elsewhere, he gives the promise that in proportion to the liberality of their contributions as compared with their means, will he return them liberal dispensations of his providence and grace. Under the old dispensation the return, in kind, of temporal blessings was prominent, the spiritual being included; under the new, the spiritual blessings returned occupy the foreground, but the temporal, also, are included. He that makes temporal sacrifices for the cause of religion shall receive manifold more in this life, and in the world to come everlasting life. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30. This is the general rule.

The subject and principles of systematic beneficence deserve more attention than they have hitherto received from modern Christians. Comparatively few give systematically a percentage of their income or gains. This was a principle of the old law, and the proportion was in some particulars definitely determined. Under the new economy the principle is as plainly obligatory as under the old, but each Christian is left to determine for himself what portion he shall devote to the Lord, under the stimulating promise, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6.

Verse 10

10. Barns Storehouses or granaries.

Presses Either presses or vats, thy wine vats shall overflow with new wine. Comp. Deuteronomy 28:1-8. For winepress or vat, compare Isaiah 5:2; Judges 6:11; Matthew 21:33.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. Despise not the chastening Suppose it be the Lord’s will, as it may, that any affliction befall thee, contemn not the discipline, as if it were a mere natural occurrence or accident.

Neither be weary Better, nor feel horror (our word weary is too weak) when thou art rebuked by him, for it is an evidence of his tenderest regard: a father, by chastening the son in whom he delights, does him a favour, is gracious to him, in the act. See Hebrews 12:5; Hebrews 12:10, where the passage is quoted with some variation, following the Septuagint. Comp. Job 5:17; Revelation 3:19.

Verses 13-14

13, 14. Here, from his digressions into the sundry particulars above, the instructor returns to the general theme, the excellency of true wisdom. Supremely happy is the man that findeth out, acquireth, this divine blessing understanding.

Getteth Hebrew, draws out.

Fine gold חרוצ , ( hharuts,) is a word which has exercised the ingenuity of the learned. Nothing very decisive has yet been arrived at as to its specific application. It is supposed to have been a technical word pertaining to the new commerce with Ophir possibly native gold, or a nugget of fine gold. It is also thought by some that our word carat, used in determining the proportionate fineness of gold, is a modification of this same word.

Merchandise Profits, as of the merchant. Miller refers Proverbs 3:13-14 emphatically to the man who has been chastened, (Proverbs 3:11-12,) and translates: O, the blessedness of the man! He has found wisdom, etc.

Verse 15

15. Rubies Original word uncertain; pearls, red corals, or some kind of precious stones. Some think the magnet or loadstone intended.

Things thou canst desire Or, desirable things, delights; that is, jewels, so much sought after in the East for the adornment of both sexes.

Verse 16

16. Right hand… left hand Wisdom is here represented as dispensing her blessings with both hands, that is, abundantly. Some of the older commentators, and also some of the later, think that the blessings of the right hand have the precedence in value. “It was but just,” says Patrick, “to place length of days in her right hand; that is, to give it the precedence, because it was the chief promise of the law, and, indeed, the most desirable of earthly blessings, without which nothing can be enjoyed: after this follow wealth and reputation, things that men mightily covet, which he places in her left hand, as inferior blessings, but which come also from her gift.” Others think this a fanciful elaboration of the simple idea. “It is highly probable that Solomon alludes here to the promise of God to him. 1 Kings 3:11-14; 2 Chronicles 1:11-12.” Muenscher.

Verse 17

17. Her ways Those she points out and recommends for her followers to walk in.

Peace שׁלום , ( shalom,) a very comprehensive word, expressive of health, quietude, prosperity, and good in general.

Verse 18

18. Tree of life Well paraphrased by Patrick: “In short, wisdom leads into a paradise, and supplies the place of the tree of life, (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22,) from which our first parents were banished: that is, gives not only a present but an immortal satisfaction to all those who strongly apprehend and retain her precepts; and, therefore, I again pronounce him happy above all other men, and above all expression, who constantly and firmly adheres to them.”

Retaineth her Hardly strong enough. Better, holdeth her fast. Comp. Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2.

This, and Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4, are the only allusions in the Old Testament to the spiritual significance of the tree of life; indeed, the only references of any sort exclusive of those in Genesis.

Verses 19-20

19, 20. The Lord by wisdom These verses seem to be added for the purpose of commending, in the strongest manner, the pursuit of wisdom. It is an attribute of God himself. By attaining and appreciating true wisdom, a man comes into communion with Jehovah, and participates with him in the enjoyment of the same excellency; for it is in or by wisdom that he performs all his works, some samples of which are given a part for all. The terms here rendered wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, refer, with some discrimination, to the same thing. They are so often interchanged that we may conclude variety of diction to be chiefly the object, and not the expression of ideas substantially different.

Founded the earth… established the heavens There is nothing in these terms inconsistent with our modern discoveries in cosmogony and astronomy.

The language is popular, phenomenal, and poetic, and, like all similar terms in the book, neither affirms nor denies any particular philosophical theory. The wise man spoke according to the popular, or, perhaps, rather, the poetical apprehension of things. The allusion, in Proverbs 3:20, to the depths being broken up, is of doubtful meaning. Some expositors understand it of the ordinary operations of nature in conducting fountains of water from the bowels of the earth; others, to the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep at the flood, (Genesis 7:11;) others, again, to the original separating of the waters above and below the expanse, “firmament,” in Genesis 1:6, in consequence of which the clouds drop down, or, as it might be rendered, the atmosphere distils, the dew upon the earth.

Clouds… dew As there is nothing that to an understanding mind conveys a more impressive sense of the wisdom and beneficence of the Deity than the atmospheric arrangements of the globe, the latter meaning is a very beautiful and striking one: and as the preceding verse refers to the creation of the heavens and the earth, there would seem to be no inconsistency in so interpreting Proverbs 3:20, especially the latter clause, unless it might be thought that the ideas are too recondite and abstruse to be attributed to the ancient philosopher. We moderns, however, are gradually learning that the ancients knew more than we once gave them credit for. Comp. Genesis 1:7; Genesis 7:11; Job 38:0.

Verse 21

21. The direct address is resumed. The pupil is exhorted by various most desirable considerations to follow after and adhere to wisdom.

Let not them Either the various precepts before given, or that sound wisdom and discretion which are real and essential. Zockler renders last clause, “Thoughtfulness and circumspection.” Miller, “Stable and well considered.”

Verse 22

22. Life unto thy soul The verse may be rendered: Thus shall there be life (pl., intensive, great life) to “thy soul, and grace to thy neck.” They are both vital and ornamental.

Verse 23

23. Then shalt thou walk… safely “Then the journey of thy life shall be safe and smooth.” Stuart.

Verse 24

24. Sleep… sweet The preceding verse describes the safety and prosperity of more active life; this one, the security and pleasantness of repose. The truly wise man the virtuously wise knows that the Lord is his guardian, that he that keepeth him shall neither slumber nor sleep. Comp. Psalms 127:1-2; Jeremiah 31:26.

Verse 25

25. Be not afraid The imperative form here is put for a strong indicative. Thou shalt not, or needest not, be afraid of any sudden fear, or object of terror. Desolation of… wicked may mean either the desolation which the wicked produce, or that which befalls them. The latter, or passive sense, is here preferred by most: be not afraid of being involved in the overthrow of the wicked.

Verse 26

26. Thy confidence Literally, in thy confidence.

From being taken That is, in the snare, or from capture. This wisdom will inspire strong confidence that Jehovah will preserve thee from hidden dangers.

Verses 27-28


27, 28. Withhold not good… to whom it is due Literally, to the owners of it. Here we have a change of style. The following five verses contain negative counsels touching duties to our neighbour, as if he had said: In order to enjoy the blessings above named, especially strong confidence in the Lord as thy protector, avoid doing evil to others; of which he gives samples of things “most commonly practised.” Good may mean here an act of justice or of kindness; the payment of a debt, or the bestowment of a favour. The 28th verse is exegetical of the 27th, and explains it more fully. It is one of the bad habits of some men always to postpone the payment of a debt as long as possible, even when they have the full ability to pay. Indeed, some men never pay until they are repeatedly solicited, or forced by law; and if they do a favour at all, they do it slowly and grudgingly. The contrary disposition is what the wise man indirectly commends. “He that gives cheerfully gives double.” The Geneva Bible reads the 27th verse thus: “Withholde not the good from the owners of it, thogh there be power in thine hand to do it.”

Verse 29

29. Devise not evil Design no violation of good faith or of kindness towards thy friend or neighbour who dwells unsuspectingly beside thee. The word also means, Be not silent. It may signify that we are to give our neighbour the advantage of our knowledge; not to keep silent to his injury when we know of evil threatening him, or of some good he might enjoy by the help of our intelligence. Comp. Philippians 2:4. Securely With full trust. Compare Judges 18:7; Judges 18:27.

Verse 30

30. Strive not Avoid all unnecessary litigations with men. It is often better to suffer wrong than to go to law. 1 Corinthians 6:7. What is here forbidden is unnecessary and causeless prosecutions; vexing those who have done no harm, or nothing of much moment.

Verse 31

31. Envy thou not the oppressor Literally, the man of violence or wrong; who uses violent or wrong means to enrich himself: do not desire his unjust gains.

Choose none of his ways Modes of making money. Zockler, “Imitate not.” Miller, “Do not become excited about.”

Verse 32

32. For the froward The perverse; those departing from the principles of justice.

But his secret Secret or confidential intercourse or communion, as that of friend with friend. The wicked he loathes, the upright he loves. See Job 19:19; Psalms 55:14; Psalms 25:14, where the same word occurs, rendered in the first inward, intimate, or confidential friends, in the latter, counsel or intercourse. The word suggests that communion and interchange of thought which takes place only between intimate and confidential friends. The parallelism here is between נלוז , naloz, the curved or bent. rendered froward, and ישׁרים , yesharim, those that are straight, upright, or righteous.

Verse 33

DECISIONS OF GOD, Proverbs 3:33-35.

33. Curse of… Lord, etc. A continuation of the preceding thought, though couched in stronger terms, and carrying it out to its consequences. As Jehovah abominates the unjust, so will his “curse” rest on the wicked and his house; as he loves the righteous with the love of an intimate friend, he will bless him and his habitation, though it be but an humble resting place, as the word may imply. Zechariah 5:3-4.

Verses 34-35

34, 35. Surely he scorneth the scorners Stuart connects these two verses together, and renders thus: “When he mocketh the scorners and giveth grace to the humble, the wise shall inherit glory, but as to fools, shame shall sweep them away.” Conant translates Proverbs 3:34, “Though he mock at those who mock, yet he gives favour to the lowly.” Miller, “If scoffers are in question, he himself will scoff, but if the humble, he will bestow favour.” Comp. Proverbs 1:26; Psalms 18:26: Jas 4:6 ; 1 Peter 5:5. Promotion of fools Variously rendered, “Shall receive shame;” “shall take up;” “bear shame;” “shame shall elevate or ennoble fools,” (sarcastic;) “shame is the nobility conferred upon fools;” “the elevation of fools shall turn to their confusion.” Conant translates, “But fools he [God] exalts to shame.” If it did not seem like presumption we might add one more attempt:

Wise men shall inherit honour,

But promoting fools is a disgrace.

The intimation seems to be, that the disgrace, ignominy, or shame is in the promotion of them. The Geneva Bible renders, “The wise shall inherit glorie, but fooles dishonour, thogh they be exalted.” Not bad. The sentiment of the verse is, To the wise properly belong exalted positions, but it is a disgrace to promote fools to office. Such disgrace the people of this Republic, as well as of other nations, sometimes suffer.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-3.html. 1874-1909.
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