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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 4

 

 

Verse 1

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

Proverbs 4:1-27.-The young are urged by Solomon, as he was urged by his father, to get wisdom as the principal thing, and as that which will give glory to its possessors (Proverbs 4:1-9). The youth is warned so to keep Wisdom, who is his preserver from stumbling, as not to go in the way of evil men, whose aim is mischief and violence, and whose way is darkness, as contrasted with the paths of the just, which is as the shining light, ever growing in brightness (Proverbs 4:10-19). The youth is admonished to earnestly attend to the words of wisdom, as being life to those that find them; and for this end to keep the heart, out of which are the issues of life, and to put away from the lips all frowardness, and to look with the eyes straight onward, so as not to turn to the right or left from the heavenward path (Proverbs 4:20-27).

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father - a spiritual father-namely, me, Solomon. "The instruction" - literally, discipline; disciplinary instruction. (Hebrew, muwcar (Hebrew #4148).) So drowsy are we all that was need our attention to be continually aroused. But it must be done lovingly, so that we may feel our instructor to be at the same time "a father" and friend.


Verse 2

For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. It is "good," as having God for its author, truths of everlasting moment to us for its subject-matter, and our salvation for its ends. Solomon speaks as representative of God, whose law is that which Solomon here commands.


Verse 3

For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.

For I was my father's son, tender and only (beloved) in the sight of my mother. My father taught me as his true son, even as I teach you. I obeyed him, and it has been well with me; do you the same (Mercer). "Tender and only beloved" exactly answers to David's words concerning him (1 Chronicles 29:1, "Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender"). In proportion as I was pre-eminently dear to my parents, my father, from my tender years, "taught me" (Proverbs 4:4). It is the truest mark of love on the part of the parent to teach the child in the ways of heavenly wisdom; and to leave a child untaught is virtually to act as if you hated him. "Only beloved" cannot mean that Solomon was David's only son by Bathsheba, for other sons by her are named in 1 Chronicles 3:5. So Isaac is called Abraham's only son (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:12; Genesis 22:16), though at the time he had Ishmael. "Only son" is used to express one peculiarly beloved. So our word 'unique' for a thing pre-eminent in kind [and so the Greek, agapeetos (Greek #27)]. The Masoretes mention another reading, 'among the sons ( libneey (Hebrew #1121)) of my mother,' for "in the sight of ( lipneey (Hebrew #6440)) my mother." All this he says to show that it was with good reason he called his teaching "good doctrines."


Verse 4

He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

He taught me also, said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live - and as the blessed result those shalt have life in its highest sense, both for time and eternity (Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 7:2).


Verse 5

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

Get wisdom, get understanding. "Get" - Hebrew, acquire or buy, like a merchant, sparing neither toil nor cost to make thyself possessor of the one pearl of great price.


Verse 6

Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. If thou forsake her not, she will not forsake, but will preserve thee. If thou wilt lovingly keep her, she will keep thee. So Jerome (in Bridges) wrote to a friend, 'Beg of the Lord now for me, who am grey-headed, that I may have wisdom for my companion, of which it is written, Love her, and she shall keep thee' (John 8:30-31; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14; contrast Matthew 13:20-21).


Verse 7

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Wisdom is the principal thing; (therefore) get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. The world's maxim, on the contrary, is,-Money is the principal thing; therefore get money: and with all thy getting get more. ('Quaerenda pecunia primum est, Virtus post Nummos,' Juvenal.) Contrast the wise man's admonition (Proverbs 16:16). The will and heart must be inclined by the Holy Spirit to it; otherwise precepts are vain (Proverbs 17:16). 'You begin to be wise when you begin to love and seek wisdom: as Seneca says, It is a great part of goodness to wish to be good'-provided you do not content yourself with idle wishes (Cornelius a Lapide). "With all thy getting get understanding" - i:e., amidst all thy acquisitions acquire this, without which the others will be useless, and even hurtful (Menochius).


Verse 8

Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.

Exalt her, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. Not only "get," "keep," and "love" her; but also "exalt her." We are apt to think less of those things which we have, however precious, after the novelty has worn off. Beware of this fasting as to religion. Religion richly repays in kind all that we can do to "embrace her." She exalts them who exalt her (Psalms 30:1); and gives them fresh reason for exalting her (Psalms 37:34; 1 Samuel 2:30, "Them that honour me I will honour").


Verse 9

She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee - (Proverbs 1:9.) She will give thee "an ornament of grace" in the Church militant on earth: "a crown of glory" in the Church triumphant in heaven (Psalms 84:11).


Verse 10

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many - reverting to Proverbs 3:2.


Verse 11

I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.

I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths - I have taught thee already in part, I will now teach thee more fully; yea, I am teaching thee most faithfully (Gejer). "Right paths" are the only wise paths.


Verse 12

When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.

When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened - by insurmountable obstacles in thy way - i:e., in thy course through life; in all thy ordinary undertakings (Psalms 18:36).

And when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. As "goest" refers to the ordinary course, so "runnest" to extraordinary undertakings, wherein the believer has to put forth more than common energy (Psalms 18:29; Isaiah 40:31).


Verse 13

Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.

Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life - (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 3:22). Do not be like children, who are much pleased with a new thing that they have just seen, and then afterward cease to value it. Having received the heavenly doctrine with joy, do not let it go, through impatience or weariness, or through carelessness (Matthew 13:19-22). (Gejer.) Satan does his best to loosen our hold, but we must use force, and strain every nerve to 'hold that fast which we have, that no man take our crown' (Matthew 11:12; Philippians 3:12-13; Revelation 3:11). "She is thy life" of nature, of grace, and of glory. Eternal death, or the prospect of it, cannot be called life. Obedience to God's law is life; every departure from it is a step toward death.


Verse 14

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. "Enter not" forbids the first step toward union with the wicked in their ways. "Go not" forbids further advance in the same evil alliance, if we have been overcome temporarily by the deceitfulness of sin. The Hebrew for "go not" [ t


Verse 15

Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.

Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. He accumulates words to imply the greatness of the Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. He accumulates words to imply the greatness of the danger, as well as our natural tendency toward the path of evil. Do not delay a moment, or dally with temptation, but flee the least occasions of sin with the promptness with which Joseph fled from Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:10).


Verse 16

For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.

For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause (some) to fall. So the Hebrew margin (Qeri') reads, which Proverbs 4:17 supports [ yakshiyluw (Hebrew #3782)]. But the Hebrew text (Kethibh) reads, 'unless they have fallen' - i:e., done wicked deeds [yakshowluw]: the more difficult reading, and, so far, the lees likely to be a later correction. But the Chaldaic and other old versions, as well as the sense, favour the English version reading (Psalms 36:4). It is the sinner's sport, food (Proverbs 4:17), and sleep to sin. The children of darkness make sin their element. The children of light should learn similarly to give themselves no sleep until they have done or devised good (Psalms 132:4; Proverbs 6:4).


Verse 17

For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.

For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence - (Job 15:16; Job 34:7.) Not merely wickedness is their bread, and violence their wine (cf. Psalms 42:3; Psalms 53:4, "Who eat up my people as they eat bread;" cf. John 4:34, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me;" Job 23:12); but also they get their livelihood, their bread and wine, by wickedness and violence. No wonder, then, that they cannot sleep except that they have done mischief (Proverbs 4:16; cf. Proverbs 1:12-13; Amos 2:8, "They drink the wine of the condemned").


Verse 18

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. "As the shining light" - literally, as the light of splendour - i:e., as the light of the (morning) sun. This is another dissuasive against consorting with the wicked (Proverbs 4:14), the blessed contrast which the path of the just forms to that of the wicked. Instead of darkness (Proverbs 4:19) and deeds of darkness, which the wicked love, the just both have light themselves and shed light on all around, because they have within them the light of God's Word and God's Spirit (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 5:8). "That shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (2 Samuel 23:4) - literally, going on and shining - i:e., shining more and more. "Unto the perfect day," or the established day - i:e., until the sun is at the meridian height, and seems to stand still there. The just shine with the light of heavenly knowledge, joy, felicity, and purity (Proverbs 13:9; Job 22:28; Isaiah 58:10). Their light of purity and blessedness is not a fitful gleam (Ecclesiastes 7:6), but a steadily increasing light. They go on from strength to strength and glory to glory (Psalms 84:7; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 58:8), until in absolute perfection they shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).


Verse 19

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble - (Deuteronomy 28:28-29.) They know not on what peril they may stumble and fall finally. They are in perpetual danger, and know it not, because they are in darkness (John 11:9; John 12:35; cf. Proverbs 4:12 as to the godly, "Thou sheet not stumble"). The converse of Proverbs 4:18 holds good of them, The path of the unjust is one becoming darker and darker, until it ends in the blackness of darkness forever. They seem (to themselves) clear-sighted and wise; yet they are in the gross darkness of ignorance, error, and sin; and they are in continual danger of being dashed down to outer and everlasting darkness.


Verse 20

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings - a fresh call to serious attention, because of our tendency to spiritual torpor (cf. Proverbs 4:1).


Verse 21

Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.

Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. As the "ear" was mentioned in Proverbs 4:20, so the "eyes" and "heart" in this verse, as three avenues for the entrance of knowledge into the man. The eyes ought to be engaged in frequent reading of God's Word, as boys often look to their copy, and artists to their model. There may be allusion to Exodus 13:16, "It shall be for frontlets between thine eyes." "In the midst of thine heart," not merely at the door of it; like a treasure hidden in the innermost chamber of a house (Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 3:21; Deuteronomy 6:6).


Verse 22

For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.

For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh - literally, 'to all his flesh' - i:e., to the whole man of each one of "those that find them" (Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 16:24).


Verse 23

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Keep thy heart with all [ mikaal (H3605)] diligence. The Hebrew for "with" is so translated, as in the English version, by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Syriac. It is translated by Bayne, Gejer, Piscator, and Maurer in a common sense of the Hebrew (cf. margin), 'More than all things else requiring to be kept diligently,' such as one's treasures, house, or body, we ought to keep the heart, that it be not tainted with error, or sink into vice; because it is prone to evil, and beset with adversaries on all sides. Mercer, and seemingly the Chaldaic, take it, 'from all that is to be guarded against.' But the Hebrew min occasionally means by or with (cf. Job 19:26, note-literally, 'from my flesh,' as the starting point of vision, "I shall see God"). So here, starting from (i:e., with) all diligence.

For out of it are the issues of life. The heart is the seat and fountain-head of all life. As the heart is the center of motion to the circulation of the blood, which is the (animal) life (Leviticus 17:11; Leviticus 17:14), so spiritually, as the seat of the desires and affections, it is designed to be the center and fountain of the heavenly life; but by the fall it has become the corrupt fountain "out of which proceed evil thoughts" and all that is bad in word and deed (Matthew 15:19; cf. Matthew 12:34-35 with this verse).


Verse 24

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee - Hebrew, frowardness (cf. Proverbs 2:15) of mouth and perversity of lips.' 'Frowardness'-literally, distortion; all speech that departs from the law of purity, truth, and love: filthy, false, unkind, boastful, and flattering words: idle and unprofitable talk (Psalms 101:4-5). As the heart, so the mouth, is to be "kept with all diligence;" for there is the closest sympathy between the heart and mouth. It is not enough for the outward life to be pure, but the speech must be so also, because it is the index of the mind. Next to the heart, the tongue is the most ungovernable member (James 3:2-13).


Verse 25

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Be straightforward in thy aims and thy walk in life, making the home above, and its statutes thy aim; just as the runner in a race looks straight to the goal, and turns not to the right hand or to the left (Proverbs 4:27); or, as an archer, look straight at the mark (cf. "Let us run with patience the race ... set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," Hebrews 12:1-2). 'Do not do anything rashly, but with premeditation. Cautiously look to the way whereby thou art walking, that it be the right way, and rightly trodden by thee' (Gejer).


Verse 26

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. The object of the tempter is to prevent your doing so (Proverbs 5:6). As the Lord ponders (i:e., weighs well) all thy goings, and shall test them in the great day (1 Corinthians 3:13-14), thou shouldst do so thyself (Proverbs 5:21; cf. Galatians 2:14, "Walk uprightly" [orthopodein]; Ephesians 5:15, "Walk circumspectly" [literally, accurately - akriboos (Greek #199)]. How perverse, then, those worldlings are who sneer at religious stricture as strait-laced Puritanism! "And let all thy ways be established" - (Psalms 119:5.) Or a promise, 'And all thy ways shall be established,' as the reward of pondering well thy path (Proverbs 16:12; 1 Chronicles 22:13; cf. 2 Chronicles 24:20).


Verse 27

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left - (Proverbs 4:25.) The image is from the king's highway (Numbers 20:17; Deuteronomy 2:27). God's holy law is our heavenly King's highway. We must not in the lost turn aside from it into the by-ways of superstitious will-worship on the one hand, and unbelieving self-subfficiency on the other (Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 17:20). The least declension from the truth of God, doctrinal or practical, is sinful and dangerous (Matthew 5:19; James 2:10). Cartwright (in Bridges) says, 'It is as if the royal way was hemmed in by the sea, and a fall over either side were danger of drowning. Some are too greedy, others too ascetic. Some are too held, others too diffident Some neglect the One Mediator, others seek more mediators than one. Some flee the cross, others make one. Some tamper with Popery, others, from dread of it, hazard the loss of valuable truth.'

 


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

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