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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 4

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


Repetition is an essential element in teaching. The wise preceptor repeats again and again the lessons of wisdom, varying them, however, in form, to keep up the interest. In order to this, he states here what kind of instructions he received from his parents, of which he shows his appreciation by remembering and repeating them.

1. Instruction Admonition. Proverbs 1:2.

Understanding Discernment; learn to discriminate between wisdom and folly, good and evil.

Verse 2

2. Good doctrine Better, a good taking; that is, what a pupil takes from a teacher a good lesson.

My law Or, direction; what I point out to you.

Verse 3

3. Tender רךְ , rakh, means delicate, soft, gentle. (Compare 1 Chronicles 29:1.) It is, probably to be referred to the gentle and tender care of the mother.

Only beloved Literally, the only one in the sight of my mother; that is, my father recognised me with warm affection as his son, and when in my mother’s presence she could see no one else, alluding to that partiality with which a fond mother’s eye rests upon, and her heart follows, a beloved child. The word יחיד ( only) is applied here, as in Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:12 to Isaac, “beloved, like an only son.” It is translated by the Septuagint, agapomenos, and by the Vulgate, unigenitus. Its use in this sense is interesting, as illustrating the words applied to our Lord as the “only begotten,” John 1:14; John 1:18; and the “beloved,” Ephesians 1:6.

Verse 4

4. He taught Directed.

Retain Rather, lay hold of, or hold fast.

Keep Guard or watch; implying careful effort. Comp. 1 Chronicles 28:9-10; 1 Chronicles 29:19.

Verse 5


5. Get wisdom Or, buy wisdom. The repetition of the verb makes it more vehement. It is thought to be the imitation of a merchant offering his wares.

Decline Turn away from.

Verse 6

6. Keep thee As a watchman; stand guard over thee.

Verse 7

7. Wisdom is the principal thing Some render, The beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. This is allowable, but our version is supported by good authorities. “Wisdom is the beginning.” Geneva Bible. Wisdom is worth more than all that can be paid for it. Miller gives this verse thus: “As the height of wisdom, get wisdom; and by means of all thy getting, get discernment.” The repetition of the words get and getting give great emphasis. Comp. Matthew 13:45.

Verse 8

8. Bring thee to honour Or, “load thee with honour.”

When (or because) thou dost embrace her Honour will follow as a consequence. Embracing is expressive of affectionate attachment, love. Nothing is more honourable than a highly cultivated mind. Knowledge not only imparts power, but obtains for its possessor respect and admiration, especially when his intellectual acquirements are accompanied, as is supposed in this case, with high moral endowments.

Verse 9

9. A crown of glory Among the Orientals the headdress was the most ornamental part, and the most esteemed. It was the ornament, par excellence. So this true wisdom, founded on piety, is the noblest ornament of man. Comp. Proverbs 1:9.

Verse 10

10. Shall be many Better, shall increase to thee the years of life. Miller says, “They [the instructions of wisdom] shall grow greater to thee through years of life.”

Verse 12

12. Straitened Restrained, confined, embarrassed.

When Rather, if.

Thou runnest In the greatest activity these teachings shall keep thee from stumbling.

Verse 13

13. Let her not go Rather, do not let go, relax not thy grasp. The pronoun her is not in this sentence, though it is in the next. Herein is trouble; for musar, instruction or discipline, is masculine. Umbreit solves it by saying that Solomon forgot, and thought he had written hhokmah, wisdom, which is feminine. The true solution, probably, is, that the chief subject, hhokmah, was in the mind of the writer, though other terms, some of which were masculine, were occasionally, perhaps for variety’s sake, interchanged with it. Some notice the parallel between this, ( she is thy life,) and the incarnate Wisdom or Logos, (John 1:4,) of which it is said, “In Him was life.”

Verse 14

14. Enter not… wicked Here begins a dissuasive from evil association, that fruitful source of mischief to all classes, especially to the young, who are the more imitative, and their habits not yet fixed.

Evil men Primarily such as were noted in chap. 1 men of violence and blood.

Verse 15

15. Pass not by it Do not go over upon it. These various phrases say in the strongest terms, Have nothing whatever to do with it; get to the utmost remove from it.

Pass away That is, pass on by some other route.

Verse 16

16. They sleep not A strong mode of saying they are restless to do evil. They love it more than they do their necessary sleep.

Mischief Hardly strong enough; wickedness. Comp. Malachi 2:8.

Verse 17

17. Eat… bread of wickedness The same sentiment in another form. They have as strong an appetite for wickedness and violence as for food and intoxicating drink. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase is: “They live by robbery and spoil, having no other meat and drink but what is the fruit of rapine and violence, and not of their honest labours.”

Verse 18

18. The path of the just… shining light It becomes brighter and brighter, till it ends in the established day. “It is like the light of dawn, that groweth in brightness to the perfect, or noon day.” Zockler.

Verse 19

19. As darkness Thick or dense darkness, the opposite of the shining of the righteous. See Proverbs 4:18; also John 11:9-10; John 12:35.

Verse 21

21. In the midst of thine heart In the very centre of thy affections or mind.

Verse 22

22. They are life The pure words of the instructor are healthful and life-giving; a healing medicine for all the woes which flesh is heir to. Compare Proverbs 3:8, and Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:16; Proverbs 4:13.

Verse 23

23. Keep Guard.

Thy heart with all diligence Literally, above all keeping or guarding. More than any thing else guard thy heart, for out of it are the issues (goings forth, or currents) of life. As the living stream issues from the physical heart in its normal, healthy condition, to vitalize and nourish every part of the body, so from the pure healthy heart ( tropically) go forth good feelings, purposes, thoughts, words, and actions, all of which, as they spring from the inner life of the soul, tend to conserve and increase that life more and more, and to secure as a final result eternal life. The fountains and wells of the East were watched over with special care. A stone was rolled to the mouth of the well, so that “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed,” became the type of all that is most guarded. So it is here. “The heart is such a fountain; out of it flow the issues of life. Shall we let those streams be tainted at the fountainhead?” Bible Commentary. Compare Matthew 15:19.

Verse 24

24. A froward mouth… perverse lips Swerving from truth and purity, all lying, prevarication, deceitful and wrong discourse of every kind.

Verse 25

25. Eyelids look straight Rather, be straight or level. A caution against all insincerity of word or conduct. Comp. Proverbs 6:13; Proverbs 10:10; Matthew 6:22-23.

Verse 26

26. Ponder The word means, first, to make level; secondly, to weigh; and then, metaphorically, to consider, deliberate. Some render, Make smooth or straight the path, etc. The sense is, Consider well thy undertakings; examine thoroughly beforehand, whether they are right and proper; so shalt thou have confidence in the rectitude of thy conduct and in the providential ordering of the result. Compare Psalms 119:133; Hebrews 12:13.

Verse 27

27. Turn not… right hand nor to the left Let nothing turn thee aside from the path of virtue, honesty, and fair dealing; of morality and religion. Temptations will be many and various, but whenever the seemingly plausible, pleasurable, or profitable evil is presented to thy thought, instantly reject it and turn away from it. Some versions, as the Septuagint, add here the following: “For God knows the ways on the right hand, but those on the left are crooked. And he will make thy ways straight, and will guide thy steps in peace.” This is an ancient addition, and is correct in sentiment, but not authentic. The frequent use in this book of such terms as way, path, step, walk, etc., deserves a passing notice. Indeed, they are not peculiar to this book, but belong to human thought and expression in general. Such terms are so natural to express action of every kind, whether physical or moral, that we scarcely recognise them as tropical. They are applied not only to outward actions, but to internal operations, thoughts, purposes, feelings, states and character. The idea of succession involved in all mental operations, exercises, and even states, readily suggests a progress, of which walking is, perhaps, the most fitting emblem. Then, by association, come such things as are related to walking, as the way, the feet, the steps, etc. A man’s “way,” in Scripture, is his conduct and character; his action and life; his thoughts, purposes, and plans; and all these considered from a moral or religious point of view. “Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. The last clause may be considered exegetical of the preceding ones.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-4.html. 1874-1909.
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