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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 3

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 3:1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

Ver. 1. My son, forget not.] We should be able to say to wisdom, as Coenis did to her Lady Antonia, Frustra, domina, iussisti: haec enim atque caetera omnia quae mihi imperas, ira semper in memoria habeo ut ex ea deleri non possint. (a) You need not, madam, bid me do your business, for I so remember your commands, as I need never be minded of them.

Iussa sequi tam velle mihi, quam posse, necesse est,

I am ready, to my power, to do your pleasure.

But let thine heart keep.] As the ark kept the two tables; as the pot kept the hidden manna.


Verse 2

Proverbs 3:2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

Ver. 2. For length of days.] A sweet mercy, and generally desired. [Psalms 34:12] Short life is reckoned as a curse, [Psalms 89:47] yet in some cases it is a blessing. [1 Kings 14:13 Isaiah 57:1] Wκυμοροι οι θεοφιλεις - God taketh away his from the evil to come, (a) as, when there is a fire in a house or town, men carry out their jewels; but then God makes them up in his cabinet. "They do enter into peace"; their souls go to heaven; "they rest in their beds"; [Isaiah 57:2] their bodies rest sweetly and safely in the grave till the resurrection of the just. And is not this far better than the longest life here? Length of days may prove a curse, when it brings shame, sorrow, &c., as it did to Cain, Ham, &c.

And peace shall they add to thee.] Without which to live is nothing else but to lie dying. Rebecca, for want of this, was weary of her life; so was Elijah when he sat under the juniper tree. "All the days of the afflicted are evil." [Proverbs 15:15] Sυνοικουσι, ου συμβιουσι; they dwell together; they do not live together, said Themistocles of married folk that agree not. Non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit, said Seneca of one. And again, Non multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est; He was tossed much up and down, but sailed not far, as being driven about by contrary winds.

Shall they add to thee.] Multiplicem pacem significat, saith one. "Peace, peace," as in Isaiah 26:3; that is, a multiplied peace; with God, with one’s self, with others; or a renewed continued peace, today, tomorrow, and every day; or a perfect, sheer, pure peace.


Verse 3

Proverbs 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

Ver. 3. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee,] That is, True mercy; not that which is natural or moral only, but that which is right, both quoad fontem, and quoad finem. They that do otherwise, as heathens and hypocrites, lay up their treasure in the eyes and ears of men, which is a chest that hath neither lock nor key to keep it.

Bind them.] That is, My commandments. He seems to allude to Deuteronomy 6:8. {See Trapp on "Deuteronomy 6:8"}


Verse 4

Proverbs 3:4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

Ver. 4. So shalt thou find favour.] As did Joseph, Moses, David. He was a man after God’s own heart, and whatsoever he did pleased the people. It is God that gives credit; he fashioneth men’s opinions, and inclineth their hearts, as Ezra oft acknowledges with much thankfulness. [Ezra 7:27-28]


Verse 5

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Ver. 5. Trust in the Lord.] To trust in God is to be unbottomed of thyself, and of every creature, and so to lean upon God, that if he fail thee thou sinkest. Confidence is the least, and yet the best we can render to the Lord, for hereby we acknowledge his sovereignty, and set the crown upon his head, as it were. See 9:15.

And lean not to thine own understanding.] Which, because men do, hence it is, many times, that the fairest blossoms of their endeavours wither, and the unprobablest things do come to pass. God loves to confute men in their confidences, as he did the Philistines in their champion Goliath. We must not, therefore, trust - no, not trust itself - but God, on whom it relies, who is therefore called our trust. They trust not God at all that do it not alone. He that stands with one foot on a rock, and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish as certainly as he that stands with both feet on a quicksand. "Lord, lead me to a rock that is higher than I," saith David. Whither, when he was once got, then he sat and sang, "The Lord is my rock and my salvation." [Psalms 27:1] Surely, as one said of general councils, they seldom were successful, because men came with confidence, leaning to their own understanding, and seeking for victory rather than verity. So it holds as true in other like cases.


Verse 6

Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Ver. 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him.] Ask counsel at his mouth, aim at his glory, be evermore in the sense of his presence, and light of his countenance. It is reported of a worthy divine of Scotland, (a) that he did even eat and drink and sleep eternal life. This is to walk with God; this is to live by faith; this is to see him that is invisible (Moses’s optic); this is to go the upper way, even that "way of life that is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [Proverbs 15:24] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 15:24"}

And he shall direct thy paths.] As he carefully chose out the Israelites’ way in the wilderness; not the shortest, but yet the safest for them. So will God do for all that make him their guide. The Athenians had a conceit that their goddess Minerva turned all their evil counsels into good unto them. The Romans thought that their Vibilia (another heathenish deity) set them again in their right way, when at any time they were out. All this, and more than this, is undoubtedly done by the true God for all that commit their ways unto him, and depend upon him for direction and success. "Lo, this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." [Psalms 48:14]


Verse 7

Proverbs 3:7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Ver. 7. Be not wise in thine own eyes.] Bis desipit qui sibi sapit. He is two fools that is wise in his own eyes. This δοκησισοφια mars all. Socrates’s Hoc scio quod nihil scio, got him the name of the wisest among men. Consilii satis in me mihi (a) is the proud man’s posy. "He that would be wise, must be a fool, that he may be wise." [1 Corinthians 3:18] Intus existens prohibet alienum. A conceit of wisdom bars out wisdom.

Fear the Lord.] This makes a modest opinion of a man’s self. Joseph, a man famous for the fear of God, when Pharaoh expected from him an interpretation of his dream, as having heard much of his skill, "It is not in me," said he; "God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace." [Genesis 41:16] Lo he extenuates his own gifts, and ascribes all to God. Wherefore suddenly after, as Joseph had said to Pharaoh, "Without me shall God make answer to Pharaoh," so Pharaoh is heard say to Joseph, "Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." [Genesis 41:44] So that here was exemplified that holy proverb, "By humility and the fear of the Lord, are riches, and honour, and life." [Proverbs 22:4] The original runs thus, By humility the fear of the Lord are riches, &c. There is no and in the Hebrew. Humility and the fear of the Lord are so near akin (this being the mother of that), as if the one were predicated of the other, as if they were one and the same grace.

And depart from evil.] Another effect of this "clean" fear of God, as David calleth it. [Psalms 19:9] Cave, spectat Cato, was a watchword among the Romans. A reverend and religious man had these words following written before him in his study, Noli peccare: Nam Deus videt, Angeli astant, Diabolus accusabit, Conscientia testabitur, Infernus cruciabit. Take heed of sin, for God seeth thee, angels stand by thee, the devil will accuse thee, thy conscience will testify against thee, and hell will torture thee. But besides all this, "there is mercy with God that he may be feared"; [Psalms 130:4] and "the children of Israel shall fear the Lord and his goodness." [Hosea 3:5]


Verse 8

Proverbs 3:8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

Ver. 8. It shall be health to thy navel.] That is, Thou shalt be in good plight both for the outward and inward man: Thy bones full of marrow, thy breasts full of milk, thy spirit also lively and lifted up in the ways of the Lord. And as it is with children in the womb (for to these is the allusion here), that by the navel nourishment is ministered unto them, yea, even to the strengthening of the inward parts: so the godly in the Church are fed and bred by the faith and fear of God. And as without marrow in the bones, no part of man, no, not that which is of greatest value and force, is able to do any thing: (a) so the strength that they have from God, is as the marrow which strengtheneth the bones, and maketh them apt to do good things. And as a man that hath his bones filled with marrow, and hath abundance of good blood and fresh spirits in his body, can endure to go with less clothes than another, because he is well lined within: so it is with a heart that hath a great deal of grace and peace; he will go through difficulties and troubles, though outward comforts fail him. It is recorded of Mr Saunders, martyr, (b) that himself should tell the party that lay in the same bed with him in prison, that even in the time of his examination before Stephen Gardiner, he was wonderfully comforted, not only in spirit, but also in body, he received a certain taste of that holy communion of saints, while a most pleasant refreshing did issue from every part and member of the body to the seat and place of the heart, and from thence did ebb and flow to and fro unto all the parts again.


Verse 9

Proverbs 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

Ver. 9. Honour the Lord with thy substance.] Freely expending it in pious and charitable uses. [Exodus 25:19 Deuteronomy 26:2] {See Trapp on "Exodus 25:19"} {See Trapp on "Deuteronomy 26:2"} See also my "Commonplace of Alms."


Verse 10

Proverbs 3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Ver. 10. So shall thy barns be filled.] The Jews at this day, though not in their own country, nor have a Levitical priesthood, yet those who will be reputed religious among them do distribute the tenth of their increase unto the poor, being persuaded that God doth bless their increase the more; for their usual proverb is, Decima, ut dives fias. (a) Pay thy tithes, that thou mayest be rich. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:7"}


Verse 11

Proverbs 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD neither be weary of his correction:

Ver. 11. Despise not the chastening of the Lord.] Slight it not, but "sit alone," [Lamentations 3:28] and "consider." [Ecclesiastes 7:14] Some think it a goodly thing to bear out a cross by head and shoulders, and wear it out as they may, never improving it. As a dog that getting out of the water into which he is cast shakes his ears; or as a man, that coming out of a shower of rain, dries again, and all is as before. Perdidistis fructum afflictionis, saith Augustine of such scape thrifts. (a) Thus the proud Greeks (having lost two castles in Chersonesus, taken from them by the Turks) commonly said, that there was but a hog sty lost, alluding to the name of that country. Whereas that was the first footing that the Turks got in Europe, and afterwards possessed themselves of the imperial city of Constantinople. Shortly after, 1358 AD, Callipolis also being lost, the mad Greeks, to extenuate the matter, when they had any talk thereof, in jesting ways commonly said, that the Turks had but taken from them a bottle of wine. (b) So Galienus, the Roman Emperor, hearing that Egypt was revolted, said, Quid? sine lino Ægyptio esse non possumus? What? cannot we be without the hemp of Egypt? So when Calais was taken from us by the French, the court parasites, to ease Queen Mary’s mind (which yet they could not), said, that it was only a refuge for renagade heretics; and that no true Roman Catholic ought to deplore, but rather rejoice at the damage. (c)

At Regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura

Vulnus alit venis. - Virgil.

Monsieur de Cordes used to say that he would be content with all his heart to lie in hell seven years, on the condition that Calais were taken from the English. {d} And a considerate English captain being asked by a proud Frenchman, When will ye fetch Calais again? gravely replied, Quando peccata vestra erunt nostris graviora, When your sins shall weigh down ours. God is to be seen in everything we suffer, since light afflictions, not improved, are but as a drop of wrath forerunning the great storms, a crack forerunniug the ruin of the whole.

Neither be weary of his correction.] This is the other extreme, despair and despondency of spirit. (e) See my "Love Tokens," p. 44, &c.


Verse 12

Proverbs 3:12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son [in whom] he delighteth.

Ver. 12. For whom the Lord loveth.] The saints’ afflictions proceed oft from love displeased, offended. And yet we have some now that tell us that God is never displeased with his people, though they fall into adultery, or the like sin, no, not with a fatherly displeasure; that God never chastiseth his people for any sin, no, not with a fatherly chastisement. But he (though a father) doth alter the set of his looks towards his child, who is wanton upon his love, and lets down the diligence of his just observance and duty.

In whom he delighteth.] Quem unice diligit, Whom he cockers above the rest of his children. That son in whom he is well pleased, saith Mercerus; quem approbat, whom he makes his whiteboy. So Theophylact, Qui excipitur a numero flagellatorum, excipitur a numero filiorum. He that escapes affliction, may well suspect his adoption. See my "Love tokens," p. 54,55.


Verse 13

Proverbs 3:13 Happy [is] the man [that] findeth wisdom, and the man [that] getteth understanding.

Ver. 13. Happy is the man.] Though afflicted, if with it instructed, si vexatio det intellectum. Bought wit is ever best prized. "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and thereby teachest him out of thy law." [Psalms 94:12] Schola crucis, schola lucis. God’s house of correction is his school of instruction. See my "Love Tokens," p. 145,146, &c.

And the man that getteth understanding.] Heb., That draweth out understanding, viz., de thesauro suo, "out of the good treasure of his heart," [Matthew 13:52] as that good scribe instructed to the kingdom of heaven. The Chaldee hath it, iabiang, scaturire facit, that hath so profited in spiritual understanding, that he can readily bring it forth to the benefit of others.


Verse 14

Proverbs 3:14 For the merchandise of it [is] better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

Ver. 14. For the merchandise of.] That is, The profit that is gotten by making use of it. Kερδανοντες ου κοπιωμεν, saith a father. Seldom is any man weary of making money. Sing a song of utile, and men will lend their ears to it. The Jassians in Strabo, delighted with the music of an excellent harper, ran all away, as soon as the market bell rang, save a deaf old man, and he too, as soon as he heard of it. Now "godliness is profitable to all things," as having the promises of both lives; and the promises are "exceeding great and precious" things, [2 Peter 1:4] even "the unsearchable riches of Christ," [Ephesians 3:8] who brings "gold tried in the fire," and that which is better. [Revelation 3:18] For one grain of grace is far beyond all the gold of Ophir, and one hour’s enjoyment of God to be much preferred before all the king of Spain’s annual tribute. What is gold and silver, but the guts and garbage of the earth? And what is all the pomp and glory of the world, but dung and dogs’ meat? [Philippians 3:7-8] I esteem them no better (surely) that I may win Christ, said St Paul, that great trader both by land and sea. [2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:25-26] Let me be put to any pain, to any loss, tantundem ut Iesum nanciscar, so I may get my Jesus, said Ignatius. This gold we cannot buy too dear, whatever we pay for it. The wise merchant sells all to purchase it. [Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46] Every true son of Jacob will be content to part with his broth for the birthright, to purchase spiritual favours with earthly. "The Lord that made heaven and earth, bless thee out of Sion"; [Psalms 134:3] which is to say, the blessings that come out of Sion are choice, peculiar, precious, even above any that come out of heaven and earth. When God is shaking all nations, [Haggai 2:7] the saints shall come with their desirable things (so some read the words). Colligent omnes thesauros suos, saith Calvin, They shall gather up all their treasures.


Verse 15

Proverbs 3:15 She [is] more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

Ver. 15. She is more precious than rubies.] Or, Pearls, which of old were most highly esteemed, (a) as Pliny testifieth; nostra etate multis aliis gemmis post ponunter. Today, there are many other gems of greater price, as rubies, carbuncles, &c. Cardan (b) tells us that every precious stone hath an egregious virtue in it; every spiritual grace hath, we are sure, and is of more value than large domains, stately buildings, and ten thousand rivers of oil. If the mountains were pearl, the huge rocks rubies, and the whole globe a shining chrysolite, yet all this were not to be named in the same day with wisdom.


Verse 16

Proverbs 3:16 Length of days [is] in her right hand; [and] in her left hand riches and honour.

Ver. 16. Length of days is in her right hand.] This is the same in effect with Proverbs 3:2. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 3:2"} Oυ μονον ταυτα αλλα και περι ταυτων, said Socrates. The same again may be profitably said over; Solomon wanted neither matter, nor words, and yet he repeats and inculcates (for his readers’ greater benefit) the same matter in the self same words almost. Nunquam satis dicitur quod nunquam satis discitur. (a) As to the text, health and long life is that which every man covets. Now, Non domus et fundus, non aeris acervus et auri aegroto domini deducant corpore febres. (b) "Riches avail not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death." [Proverbs 10:2] The honourable garter cannot cure the gout, nor the chair of state ease the colic, nor a crown remove the headache. Nugas, the Scythian, despising the rich presents and ornaments that were sent unto him by Michael Paleologus, Emperor of Constantinople, asked whether those things could drive away calamities, diseases, or death? (c) No; this they cannot do; as Henry Beaufort (that rich and wretched Cardinal) found by woeful experience in the reign of Henry the Sixth. For perceiving death at hand, he asked, Wherefore should I die, being so rich? If the whole realm would save my life, I am able either by policy to get it, or by riches to buy it. Fie! quoth he, will not death be hired? will money do nothing? (d) No; money in this case bears no mastery. Death (as the jealous man) will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content though thou offer many gifts. [Proverbs 6:35]

And in her left hand riches and honour.] Bonus Deus Constantinum Magnum tantis terrenis implevit muneribus, quanta optare nullus auderet. (e) The good Lord heaped so much outward happiness upon his faithful servant, Constantine the Great, as no man ever durst to have wished more, saith Augustine. If God give his people a crown, he will not deny them a crust. If they have bona throni, the good things of a throne, they shall be sure of bona scabelli, the good things of the footstool.


Verse 17

Proverbs 3:17 Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, and all her paths [are] peace.

Ver. 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness.] Such as were those of Adam before his fall, strewed with roses, paved with peace. Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, as beams and influences issue from the sun. Which is so true, that very heathens, upon the discharge of a good conscience, have found comfort and peace answerable. This, saith one, is praemium ante praemium, a fore reward of well doing. "In doing thereof (not only for doing thereof) there is great reward." [Psalms 19:11]


Verse 18

Proverbs 3:18 She [is] a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy [is every one] that retaineth her.

Ver. 18. She is a tree of life.] A tree that giveth life and quickeneth: or, as one interprets it, a most assured sign of eternal life; whatsoever it is, he alludeth, no doubt, to the tree mentioned in Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22. {See Trapp "Genesis 2:9"} {See Trapp "Genesis 3:22"}

And happy is every one that retaineth her.] Though despised by the world as a poor sneak, a contemptible capative. We usually call a poor man a poor soul; a poor soul may be a rich Christian; as Roger, surnamed Paupere censu, was son to Roger Bishop of Salisbury, who made him Chancellor of England. (a)


Verse 19

Proverbs 3:19 The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

Ver. 19. The Lord by wisdom.] By his essential Wisdom, by his Eternal Word; [Proverbs 8:30] the Lord Christ, who is "the beginning of the creation of God." [Revelation 3:14] {See Trapp on "John 1:3"} "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," [Genesis 1:1] that is, in his Son, as some interpret it. [Hebrews 1:2 Colossians 1:16] This interpretation is grounded upon the Jerusalem Targum, who translates that, [Genesis 1:1] bechochmatha, in sapientia. So doth Augustine and others; and for confirmation they bring John 8:25; but that is a mistake, as Beza shows in his Annotations there.

He established the heavens.] Heb., He aptly and trimly framed them in that comeliness that we now see. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." [Psalms 19:1] Upon the third heaven he hath bestowed a great deal of curious skill and cunning workmanship. {τεχνιτης, Hebrews 11:10} But of that no natural knowledge can be had, nor any help by human arts, geometry, optics, &c.; for it neither is aspectable nor moveable. The visible heavens are (for the many varieties therein, and the wonderful motion of the several spheres) fitly called Kοσμος. (a) The original word here used, ratione coniugationis plus aliquid significat quam paravit, vel stabilivit. "Conen," Mirum in modum disposuit; he hath cunningly contrived. And hence haply our ancient English word koning, and by contraction king, coming of the verb con, which signifies (as Becanus noteth) possum, scio, audeo - I can, I know, I dare do it.


Verse 20

Proverbs 3:20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

Ver. 20. The depths are broken up,] viz., Those great channels and hollow places made in the earth, to hold the waters, [Genesis 1:9] that they may not overflow the earth; and this the very philosophers are forced to confess to be a work of divine wisdom. Others by "depths" here understand fountains and floods breaking out, and as it were flowing from the nethermost parts of the earth, even as though the earth did cleave itself in sunder, to give them passage.

And the clouds drop down the dew.] Clouds, the bottles of rain and dew, are vessels as thin as the liquor that is contained in them; there they hang, move, though weighty with their burden. How they are upheld, and why they fall here and now, we know not, and wonder.


Verse 21

Proverbs 3:21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

Ver. 21. Let not them depart.] Ne effluant haec ab oculis tuis, saith the Vulgate. Ne haec a tuis oculis deflectant in obliquum huc et illuc; so Mercer. Let the eyes look right on, σκοπουντων, [Proverbs 4:25] look wistfully and intently on these great works of God, and his wisdom therein set forth and conspicuous, as on a theatre. Eye these things, as the steersman doth the compass, as the archer doth the mark he shoots at, [2 Corinthians 4:18] or as the passenger doth his way, which he finds hard to hit, and dangerous to miss. Yea, let them be the delight of thine eyes, with the sight whereof thou canst not be sated or surfeited.


Verse 22

Proverbs 3:22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

Ver. 22. So shall they be life unto thy soul.] For "by these men live, and this is the spirit of my life," saith Hezekiah; [Isaiah 38:16] even what God hath spoken and done. [Proverbs 3:15] A godly man differs from a wicked, as much as a living man from a dead carcass. The wicked are stark dead, and stone cold. The saints also want heat sometimes, but they are soon made hot again; because there is life of soul in them, as charcoal is quickly kindled, because it hath been in the fire.

And grace to thy neck.] Or, To thy throat; that is, to thy words uttered through the throat. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 1:9"}


Verse 23

Proverbs 3:23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

Ver. 23. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely.] Fiducialiter, saith the Vulgate - confidently and securely. Every malvoy shall be a salvoy to thee: thou shalt ever go under a double guard, the "peace of God" within thee, [Philippians 4:7] and the "power of God" without thee. [1 Peter 1:5] "Thou shalt be in league also with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee." [Job 5:23]


Verse 24

Proverbs 3:24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

Ver. 24. Thou shalt not be afraid.] See this exemplified in David; [Psalms 3:5-6] Peter; [Acts 12:6] and Mr Rogers, our late protomartyr, who when he was warned suddenly to prepare for the fire, he then being sound asleep in the prison, scarce with much shaking could be awaked. (a)

Thy sleep shall be sweet.] As knowing that God - thy keeper [Psalms 121:4-5] - doth wake and watch for thee. [Psalms 121:1] Wicked men’s sleep is often troublesome, through the workings of their evil consciences; as our Richard III, after the murder of his own two innocent nephews, had fearful dreams, insomuch that he did often leap out of his bed in the dark, and catching his sword, which always lay naked stuck by his side, he would go distractedly about the chamber, everywhere seeking to find out the cause of his own occasioned disquiet. (b) So Charles IX of France, after the bloody massacre of Paris, was so inwardly terrified, that he was every night laid to sleep, and wakened again with a set of musicians. (c)


Verse 25

Proverbs 3:25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

Ver. 25. Be not afraid.] Or, Thou shalt not be afraid. Nec si fractus illabatur orbis. Sudden evils do commonly disspirit people, and expectorate their abilities; they be at their wits’ end. But let a David "walk through the vale of the shadow of death," that is, the darkest side of death - death in its most horrid and hideous representations, he will not fear, no though he should go back again the same way; "for thou art with me," saith he. [Psalms 23:4] He had God by the hand, and so long he feared no colours.


Verse 26

Proverbs 3:26 For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

Ver. 26. For the Lord shall be thy confidence.] The Hebrew word here used signifies both unconstant folly, [Ecclesiastes 7:28] and constant hope. [Psalms 77:7] And Rabbi Solomon saith, that he had found in the Jerusalem Targum this text, thus censured and expounded, The Lord shall be with thee in thy folly; that is, he shall turn to thy good, even thine inconsiderate and rash enterprizes, if thou addict thyself to the study of wisdom.

And shall keep thy foot from being taken.] In the snare which thou wast near unto, by choosing rather to be held temerarious than timorous.


Verse 27

Proverbs 3:27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do [it].

Ver. 27. Withhold not good from them to whom it is due.] Either by the law of equity, or of charity. For there is a debt of love [Romans 13:8] that we must ever be owing and ever pay. And as we say of thanks, gratiae habendae et agendae, thanks must be given, and held as still due; so must this debt of love. Quicquid clerici habent, pauperum est, saith Jerome. It is true, in a sense, of others, as well as of ministers. The poor (God’s poor) are the owners of that we have; we are but stewards and dispensers of God’s bounty to his necessitous servants. Now if our receipts be found great, and our layings out small, God will cast such bills back in our faces, and turn us out of our stewardship. They are fools that fear to lose their wealth by giving, but fear not to lose themselves by keeping it.

When it is in the power of thy hand.] When thou hast opportunity and ability; for we must not stretch beyond the staple; that were to mar all; neither, when "a price is put into our hands," [Proverbs 17:16] may we play the fools and neglect it. But wheresoever God sets us up an altar, we must be ready with our sacrifice of alms, "for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." [Hebrews 13:16] See my "Common Place of Alms."


Verse 28

Proverbs 3:28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

Ver. 28. Tomorrow.] Bis dat qui cito dat. While ye have time, do good to all; your beneficence must be prompt and present; who can tell what a day may bring forth? "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." [Psalms 68:32] Currere faciet manus suas ad Dominum, to note their speediness in giving, saith one. (a) Tyrus also, when converted once, makes haste to feed and clothe God’s poor saints with the money and merchandise she was wont to heap up and hoard. [Isaiah 23:18]


Verse 29

Proverbs 3:29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

Ver. 29. Devise not evil against thy neighbour.] Heb. Plow not evil - i.e., plot not. One of the Rabbis renders it, suspect not; shun "evil surmises." [1 Timothy 6:4] Most unkindnesses among friends grow upon mistakes, misprisions; charity is candid, and takes everything in the best sense, and by the right handle. [1 Corinthians 13:1-13]


Verse 30

Proverbs 3:30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.

Ver. 30. Strive not with a man without cause.] If men’s hurts were not bigger than their suits, there would not be half so many. It is a fault to go lightly to law, but especially with such as have done thee no harm. Zuinglius renders this text thus: Ne temere litem cum quoquam suscipias, quominus superior factus, malum tibi retribuat; others, sim mendax, nisi rependat tibi malum. How Cardinal Wolsey, when he became Lord Chancellor, paid home Sir James Paulet, for setting him by the heels, when as yet he was but a poor schoolmaster, is well known. (a) How much better Archbishop Cranmer, of whom the proverb passed, "Do my Lord of Canterbury a shrewd turn, and you shall have him your friend for ever after." And Robert Holgat, Archbishop of York, of whom it is recorded (b) that in the year 1541 he obtained a benefice in a place where one Sir Francis Askew of Lincolnshire dwelt, by whom he was much troubled and molested in law. Upon occasion of these suits, he was fain to repair to London, where being, he found means to become the king’s chaplain, and by him was made Archbishop of York, and President of the King’s Council for the North. The knight before mentioned happened to have a suit before the council there, and doubted much of hard measure from the Archbishop, whose adversary he had been. But he, remembering the rule of the gospel, to do good for evil, yielded him all favour that with justice he might, saying afterwards merrily to his friends, he was much beholden to Sir Francis Askew, for that had not he been, he must have lived a hedge priest (c) the days of his life. (d)


Verse 31

Proverbs 3:31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

Ver. 31. Envy not the oppressor.] That grows rich by unjust quarrels and vexatious lawsuits. It is not for nothing surely that our Saviour, [Luke 12:15] after "who made me a judge?" adds, "Take heed and beware of covetousness." Implying that most men go to law with a covetous or a vindictive mind; whereas if they will needs wage law, they should do it as Charles the French King made war with our Henry VII, "more desiring peace, than profit or victory." It should be with men in this case as it was with Augustine and Jerome in their disputations: it was no matter who gained the day, they would both win by understanding their errors.


Verse 32

Proverbs 3:32 For the froward [is] abomination to the LORD: but his secret [is] with the righteous.

Ver. 32. For the froward is abomination.] The vitilitigator, the wrangler, the common barreter, though he may prosper in the world, yet God cannot abide him; his money will perish with him. He will one day say to his cursed heaps of evil gotten goods, as Charles the Fifth, emperor, in his old age did of his victories, trophies, riches, honours; he cursed them all, saying, Abite hinc, abite longe; Avaunt, be packing, hence, away. (a)

But his secret.] They shall be of his cabinet council, that choose rather to lie in the dust than to rise by evil arts, by wicked principles; such were Joseph, Macaiah, Daniel, &c.


Verse 33

Proverbs 3:33 The curse of the LORD [is] in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.

Ver. 33. In the house of the wicked.] His wife, children, family, possessions, all are accursed; his fine clothes have the plague in them: or his house, which is his castle, the flying roll of curses - that is, ten yards long and five yards broad - shall remain in the midst of it, and consume it. [Zechariah 5:4]

But he blesseth the habitation of the just.] "Kabvenaki," casam exponit et tuguriolum egregio sensu, saith Mercer. The poor little cottage or tenement of the righteous, there is a blessing in it, there is contented godliness, which is greatest gain; the blessing of God which maketh rich. Eνθα και οι θεοι, Here are the gods - could the philosopher say of his poor habitation, meaning his heathenish household gods - whatever else is wanting to me. How much more may a saint say so of his God, who will "awake for him, and make the habitation of his righteousness prosperous!" [Job 8:6]


Verse 34

Proverbs 3:34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.

Ver. 34. Surely he scorneth the scorners.] Those proud haughty scorners [Proverbs 21:24 1 Peter 5:5] who jeer at this doctrine, and at those who believe it. Surely God scorneth these scorners, for he loves to retaliate; he that sitteth in heaven laughs a good (a) at them; [Psalms 2:4] he makes them also, in his just judgment, a derision to others, (b) and punisheth them with the common hatred of all: contempt being a thing that man’s nature is most impatient of, and in carnal reason, tallying of injuries is but justice.

But he giveth grace to the lowly.] Though oppressed by scorners, yet shall they be no losers, for "God will give grace, and he will give glory" - grace and glory! what things be these? - "and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." [Psalms 84:11] Humility is both a grace and a vessel to receive grace. And as he that goeth into a pond or river to take up water puts the mouth of his vessel downward, and so takes it up; in like sort, he that looks for any good from God must put his mouth in the dust, and cry out, Lord, I am not worthy, &c. Non sum dignus, at sum indigens, "I am poor and needy, make haste unto me, O God." [Psalms 70:5]


Verse 35

Proverbs 3:35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Ver. 35. The wise shall inherit glory.] Not have it only, but inherit it - Hoc est, proprio, perfecto et perpetuo iure possidebunt, as Pellican; they shall have it as their proper, perfect, and perpetual right.

But shame shall be the promotion of fools.] A fair promotion they come to, but good enough for them, unless they were better. If they attain to high places and preferments, these prove but as high gibbets to bring them to more disgrace in this world, and torment in the next. Some there be that read the text thus: "But shame taketh away the foolish"; that is, it carrieth both them and their hope away in a pinch of time, or twinkling of the eye, as it were.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-3.html. 1865-1868.

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Sunday, June 16th, 2019
Trinity Sunday
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