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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 1

 

 

Verse 1

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

Proverbs 1:1-3.-The Inscription; and the Preface, stating the design of the book-to give instruction in wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-6). Key-note of the whole: the fear of the Lord is the first step (Proverbs 1:7). Fatherly exhortation to the young to hear the instruction of godly parents, elders, and pastors (Proverbs 1:8-9). Not to be enticed by sinners, whose ways in pursuit of gain are deadly (Proverbs 1:10-19). Wisdom's appeal (Proverbs 1:20-23). Fatal result of rejecting it, and blessedness of those who hearken to it (Proverbs 1:24-33).

The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. A similar heading appears at the beginning of the three divisions of the book: here, Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1. He spake 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32); and subsequently "set in order" the present selection (Proverbs 1:1-33; Proverbs 2:1-22; Proverbs 3:1-35; Proverbs 4:1-27; Proverbs 5:1-23; Proverbs 6:1-35; Proverbs 7:1-27; Proverbs 8:1-36; Proverbs 9:1-18; Proverbs 10:1-32; Proverbs 11:1-31; Proverbs 12:1-28; Proverbs 13:1-25; Proverbs 14:1-35; Proverbs 15:1-33; Proverbs 16:1-33; Proverbs 17:1-28; Proverbs 18:1-24; Proverbs 19:1-29; Proverbs 20:1-30; Proverbs 21:1-31; Proverbs 22:1-29; Proverbs 23:1-35; Proverbs 24:1-34; Ecclesiastes 12:9). Hezekiah directed his pious "men" to supplement the collection with an arranged series of proverbs of Solomon not included in the collection made by the royal author himself (Proverbs 25:1; cf. Sirach 47:14; Sirach 47:17, concerning Solomon, "How wise wast thou in thy youth, and as a flood filled with understanding. The countries marveled at thee for thy songs, and proverbs, and parables, and interpretations"). On the Hebrew for "proverbs," mishlee-literally, similitudes, figurative and sententious writings-cf. Introduction. The words "Solomon the son of David, king of Israel," are so many arguments why all should attend to what follows. Kings' commonplace words are eagerly caught at; how much more ought all give heed to the words of the wisest of men (1 Kings 4:29-34) - a king, the son of a king; not only so, but also an inspired prophet, and the son of a prophet-one whose wisdom the queen from distant Sheba came to hear (1 Kings 10:1-29), and reigning over the elect nation of God!


Verse 2

To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

To know wisdom - depending on Proverbs 1:1. The proverbs of Solomon are designed that all may by them know wisdom.

And instruction , [ uwmuwcaar (Hebrew #4148)] - from a Hebrew root, yaacar (Hebrew #3256), to chastise or correct by discipline and admonition (like paideuein, paideia (Greek #3809) "discipline in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:15; cf. Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15). "Wisdom" is the general term for the knowledge that "maketh wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15). In a more special sense, "wisdom" is knowledge of divine truth in both the head and the heart [ chaak


Verse 3

To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity - "wisdom" [ haskeel (Hebrew #7919)]; a different Hebrew word from that for "wisdom" in Proverbs 1:2. It means intelligence or prudence, circumspect consideration. "Justice" ( tsedeq (Hebrew #6664)) or righteousness is the principle, and includes our duties both to God and man. "Judgment" ( mishpaaT (Hebrew #4941)) is the act of putting into exercise justice toward men. "Equity" ( meeyshaariym (Hebrew #4339)) - literally, rightnesses, uprightnesses, or sincerity in both justice and judgment (Proverbs 2:9).


Verse 4

To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. "Subtilty," shrewdness, not in the sense of worldly cunning, but that knowledge which will put one on his guard against the subtle snares of the world; as Jesus told His disciples, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). The "simple" are the inexperienced, those "who want understanding" (Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 9:4; Proverbs 14:15). The antithesis to "subtilty" requires this sense, rather than the good sense, as guilelessly simple and teachable (Psalms 19:7; Psalms 116:6). Though it is true that the guileless and childlike are the fittest for receiving divine truth (Matthew 11:25). "To give" here beautifully answers "to receive" (Proverbs 1:3). Plato's school bore the inscription over the doors, 'Let no one not acquainted with geometry enter here.' Solomon's invitation, on the contrary, is, 'Let the simple and untutored enter here.' While, in Proverbs 1:2-3, all are welcome "to receive the instruction of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:2), "the young man" especially is invited, as most needing it. The philosophers excluded the young as unfit for their recondite teachings. But the wisest of men stoops to the humblest-a type of the infinitely Wise Teacher, who embraced little children in His arms (Matthew 18:3-4; Matthew 19:14-15). "Discretion" - literally, device, invention (as it is translated Proverbs 8:12), meditation, thoughtful prudence, whereby to avoid what is wrong and choose what is right. "Knowledge" distinguishes between truth and falsehood. "Discretion" [ m


Verse 5

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

A wise (man) will hear, and will increase learning - (Proverbs 9:9.) "Learning" - literally, that which is received (Hebrew, leqach (Hebrew #3948)). True wisdom is never stationary, but always progressive; because it secures the ground behind it as a basis for further advances. The Sciolist is "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). 'He who is not adding, is wasting; he who is not increasing knowledge, is losing from it,' (Rabbi Hillel, ch. 1, 'Aboth.') These proverbs are designed for not merely the "simple" (Proverbs 1:4), but the "wise" also, if only they be willing to hear, or rather to obey; because this part of philosophy consists in acting, in which he is most learned who most obeys (Bayne); cf. John 8:47. The wiser one is, the swifter will he be to hear, the slower to speak (James 1:19).

And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels - "wise counsels" [ tach


Verse 6

To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

To understand a proverb, and the interpretation - connected in construction with Proverbs 1:1, as are the other infinitives, Proverbs 1:2, "To know;" Proverbs 1:3 "To receive;" Proverbs 1:4, "To give subtilty," etc. "The interpretation" (Hebrew, M


Verse 7

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the Lord (is) the beginning of knowledge - the grand summary of the whole book (cf. Psalms 111:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"). Solomon begins his lessons on true wisdom by laying down the first principle and basis of it, which is "the fear of the Lord." This means reverent trust, love, and obedience toward Him. Such reverent fear presupposes the knowledge of how infinite in power, majesty, and goodness God is. He who thus fears God will fear to sin, lest he should displease God (cf. Job 28:28, which was before Solomon's eye in this verse).

(But) fools despise wisdom and instruction. "Fools" are those who "know not God," and who are "wise to do evil, but to do good have no knowledge" (Jeremiah 4:22). The sum and subject of the first nine chapters is primarily the fear of the Lord the true knowledge; and secondarily, wisdom and instruction - i:e., disciplining the life in consonance with the fear of the Lord, from which these two spring.


Verse 8

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Even bad parents generally instruct their sons to do right. But good parents, including under the term pious preceptors, are chiefly meant (1 Samuel 10:12). After the First Table of the Law, which teaches "the fear of the Lord," Solomon subjoins obedience to parents' counsels, the precept which stands foremost in the Second Table. Piety to one's parents comes next after piety toward God. The best way of instruction for any one is that he should receive the instruction of his parents from childhood. The parents should pray as did Manoah, "How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?" (Judges 13:12.) It is right that children should hear their parents' counsel, as well because of the parents' love, as also from a regard to the parents' greater knowledge by reason of years. But "children are to obey their parents" only "in the Lord" - i:e., only in so far as the word of the earthly father does not run counter to that of our heavenly Father. The "mother" especially has a powerful influence in moulding the character of the child in tender years, whether for good or for evil. Hence, the mother's names are given in the Old Testament histories of the kings: cf. (Lois and Eunice) 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:14-15 : (Lemuel's mother) Proverbs 31:1.


Verse 9

For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. For they (shall be) an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck - "an ornament" ( liw


Verse 10

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. So Joseph (Genesis 39:7, etc.; Psalms 1:1).


Verse 11

If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood - (Proverbs 1:16; Jeremiah 5:26.)

Let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause - i:e., though we have not bean provoked or wronged, yet let us assail and kill. Not that they would actually say so, because this would rather be a dissuasive than an inducement; but Solomon, by the Spirit, makes them the mouthpiece of expressing their conduct in its true light. He speaks the language which their own conscience would use respecting their conduct, if they would heed it. Maurer, after Cornelius a Lapide, takes it, 'him that is in rain innocent;' i:e., that will not be saved by his piety and innocence from our attack. The sense of the same Hebrew, and the ironical contrast in Proverbs 1:17 [ chinaam (Hebrew #2600)], favour this. See note there.


Verse 12

Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:

Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit - so as to leave no clew to our being discovered, and no trace to turn suspicion upon us. They unwittingly use language awfully significant of their own retributive doom, like that of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30; Psalms 55:15). "Swallow" expresses their insatiable greediness, like that of the grave (Proverbs 30:15-16).


Verse 13

We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:

We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil. Not only shall we find large spoil, but we shall get it in full possession, so as to fill our houses with it.


Verse 14

Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:

Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse. You shall have your share in the equal division of the booty by lot. We all shall have one common purse and portion. The Hebrews had an alliterating proverb, Bekis, Bekos, Bekahas - i:e., in one's purse, in one's cups, in one's anger the man's true character betrays itself.


Verse 15

My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:

My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path. "Refrain thy foot" expresses the natural propensity of the old man, even in the godly, to that which is evil (Psalms 119:101). Alike in private and in public avoid having any community with their bad principles and practices (Psalms 1:1 ; Proverbs 22:25; Isaiah 8:11).


Verse 16

For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Isaiah 59:7 is drawn from this. Compare Proverbs 1:18 for For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Isaiah 59:7 is drawn from this. Compare Proverbs 1:18 for their retribution in kind.


Verse 17

Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

(Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird) - Hebrew, 'any master of a wing,' (cf. margin.) In vain those sinners lay snares for as many godly men as they can; not one of these is taken: but the sinners themselves are caught in their own snare (cf. Proverbs 1:11 with Proverbs 1:18). The "in vain" of Solomon here answers, in caustic irony, to the 'in vain' (the English version, "without cause"), Proverbs 1:11, of the sinners' plotting. They say, the godly are 'innocent in vain,' but it is themselves who 'spread their net in vain.'


Verse 18

And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

And they lay wait for their (own) blood; they lurk privily for their (own) lives. While they fancy that they are, with the certainty of success, 'laying wait for the blood' of "the innocent" (Proverbs 1:11), it proves really to be their own blood that they, with all their lying in wait, cause to be shed (Psalms 7:15-16). Compare the same retribution, "blood" for "blood," Revelation 16:6.


Verse 19

So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

So (are) the ways of every one that is greedy of gain - literally, 'of every one greedy of greed;' of everyone snatching at rapine. On "so are the ways" - i:e., such is the portion at last-cf. Job 8:13.


Verse 20

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

Wisdom crieth without - literally, wisdoms; i:e., consummate wisdom. Maurer makes the Hebrew not plural, but a form in the singular, as the English version. The plural form for a singular is a similar usage to that whereby God is called "the praises of Israel" - i:e., Israel's perfect object of praise; and Ecclesiastes has "vanities" for utter vanity. Wisdom is again personified and introduced as appealing to all (Proverbs 8:1 , etc.): wisdom is what Christ is made unto us by God (1 Corinthians 1:30); "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom" (Colossians 2:3). What was in the views of godly men, in Solomon's days, an abstraction, became concrete when Christ was manifested on earth. Still, "the wisdom of God" (Luke 11:49), as "the Word," dwelt with God from eternity (John 1:1-3), and Solomon, by the Spirit, sets this forth (Proverbs 8:22-31). The manifold character of this divine wisdom (Isaiah 11:2-3), and the multiplicity of the messengers of this wisdom of God in all ages of the Church, accord with the plural form. After laying the foundation in "the fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 1:7), and then showing who are to be hearkened to, namely, godly parents (Proverbs 1:8-9), then who are to be shunned (Proverbs 1:10-19), Solomon now proceeds to give the universal invitation of wisdom personified. The warning against ungodly associates fitly precedes wisdom's invitation to piety (Psalms 34:15; Psalms 37:27); just as Abraham was called out of the idolatrous associations of Uz of the Chaldees before he was taken into full covenant and communion with God, (Genesis 12:1-20.)


Verse 21

She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates - "the chief place of concourse;" literally, 'in the head of the noisy places,' 'the tumultuous places' (Isaiah 51:20). "In the openings of the gates," where the people flocked together for judicial proceedings.

In the city - though the gates be not 'open.' How unwearied is wisdom in her solicitude for our salvation, crying aloud everywhere!


Verse 22

How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? Wisdom wishes, by a startling address, to arouse the sinfully simple ones out of their sleep of worldliness and apathy as to serious things. The physician must use strong stimulants to make the patient realize the greatness of his danger. How long is it until you cease to play the part of simpletons? You have been surely long enough slumbering; it is now high time to awake (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14).

And the scorners delight in their scorning. The "scorners" who turn serious admonitions into contemptuous And the scorners delight in their scorning. The "scorners" who turn serious admonitions into contemptuous jesting, is a further and more irreclaimable stage of impiety than that of "the simple ones." They form the third stage in the climax in Psalms 1:1; cf. Proverbs 29:8; Isaiah 28:14-15. There is a change from the second to the third persons, from directly addressing to speaking of them, whereby Wisdom puts them to a greater distance from her, counting them unworthy of direct address.

And fools hate knowledge? "Fools" [ k


Verse 23

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

Turn you at my reproof - to the God from whom ye have turned away.

Behold, I will pour out , [like a gushing, bubbling stream, abundant, continuous, and clear ( 'abiy`aah (Hebrew #5042))]

My Spirit unto you - I will turn the floods of the Spirit toward you, giving you the power, if ye will avail yourselves of it, to be converted, and leaving you without excuse if ye will not. Here the Gospel outpouring of the Spirit is alluded to (John 7:38-39; John 4:14; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 44:3). However, as the parallel "my words" implies, it is the Spirit-inspired message and offer of grace abundant that is meant, rather than the inward working of the Spirit on the hearer's heart.

I will make known my words unto you - "I will make known" by "my Spirit" my "words" of divine "wisdom and knowledge" (1 Corinthians 12:8; Matthew 11:27).


Verse 24

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded. After God has called to grace in vain, He now denounces wrath (Isaiah 65:12; Isaiah 66:4). God calls externally by His ministers, by His written Word, and by His judgments, and inwardly by His awakening appeals, and by the stings of conscience. Compare Luke 13:8-9, the barren fig-tree; showing how God spares no means, gentle or severe, of moving sinners to repentance: and it is only when all have proved unavailing, through the sinner's own perversity, that He at last 'cuts him down.' Stretching out the hands is the gesture of entreaty (Isaiah 65:2; Romans 10:21).


Verse 25

But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof. So "the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves." (Luke 7:30). Whether I gave counsel as to doing good, or reproof as to shunning evil (Proverbs 4:15), ye rejected my appeals (Proverbs 1:25; Proverbs 15:32).


Verse 26

I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

I also will laugh at your calamity. Retribution in kind (Psalms 2:4). God will at last laugh in derision at those who now laugh to scorn His loving appeals. Compare the rejoicing of the saints over Babylon when she falls (Revelation 18:20).

I will mock when your fear cometh - even as ye 'delighted in scorning' (Proverbs 1:22; Deuteronomy 32:20-25).


Verse 27

When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

When your fear cometh as desolation. Both the feeling of fear, and good cause for fear (Proverbs 10:24).


Verse 28

Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer - (Job 27:9.) God saith, it is true, "Whosoever shall call on Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer - (Job 27:9.) God saith, it is true, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall he delivered" (Joel 2:32). But here the call of the wicked is rejected, because the day of grace meant by Joel shall have been past. Their cry is for deliverance from pain, not from sin (Jeremiah 11:11; Ezekiel 8:18; Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13, "As he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts;" John 7:34).

They shall seek me early - i:e., diligently and unceasingly, beginning from day-break.


Verse 29

For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:

For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord. Those who do not choose the fear of the Lord are condemned no less than those who hate it. Not to choose is virtually to dislike, and ends in positive hatred (Matthew 12:30). Men are free in choosing destruction, so that the blame rests wholly on themselves (Acts 13:46, "Ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life"). It is the Spirit who moves any to "choose the good part" (Luke 10:42). Many, when "the fear of the Lord" is set before them, apply the preacher's warning to others, not to themselves


Verse 30

They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof - (Proverbs 1:25.) "Despised," rejected with reviling and cursing.


Verse 31

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. Compare Deuteronomy 32:32, "Their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter." The sinner's sin is its own punishment. Compare Isaiah 3:9-11, "Woe unto their soul, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves ... the righteous ... shall eat the fruit of their doings," etc. (Jeremiah 6:19; Micah 7:13). Hell is not an arbitrary punishment, like human penalties, which have no necessary connection with the crimes, but a natural development of sin by a law of necessary consequence, as the fruit of a tree is the natural development of the seed and the bud (cf. also Isaiah 59:4; Galatians 6:8). On "filled with their own devices" - i:e., filled even to loathing, which is the final result of the pleasures of sin-cf. Psalms 78:29, "They did eat, and were well filled; for He gave them their own desire; ... but while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them." Men's own desires fulfilled are made their sorest plague (Psalms 106:15).


Verse 32

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them. The turning away from the monitions of Wisdom ("Turn ye," Proverbs 1:23) on the part of the simple. Prosperity in the parallel clause corresponds to "turning away" (from divine wisdom), as cause answers to effect. Compare Zechariah 7:11, "They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear;" Numbers 14:43. "Ye are turned away from the Lord."

And the prosperity of fools shall destroy them - (Psalms 106:15.) When Jeshurun waxed fat, he kicked (Deuteronomy 32:15). Thus the objection is met that sinners often outwardly prosper now. Yes, replies Wisdom; but that prosperity proves their very curse, and accelerates the Judgments of God. It is harder to bear prosperity than adversity, because we endure the latter, but are apt to be corrupted and blinded to our ruin by the former. It is they who are "settled on their lees, that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil" (Zephaniah 1:12).


Verse 33

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

But whose hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil - temporarily, mentally, spiritually, and eternally (Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 33:15-16; Jeremiah 23:6; Deuteronomy 33:12; Deuteronomy 33:28).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-1.html. 1871-8.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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