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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Proverbs 22

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 22:1. A good name — A good reputation among wise and good men; is rather to be chosen than great riches — That is, we should be more careful to pursue that course of life, and do those things, by which we may obtain and retain a good name, than that way and those things by which we may raise and increase a great estate. For great riches bring great cares with them, and expose men to danger, but add no real value to a man. A fool and a knave may have great riches, but a good name, which supposes a man to be wise and honest, redounds to the glory of God, and gives a man a greater opportunity of doing good. By great riches we may relieve men’s bodily wants; but, by a good name, we may recommend religion to them; and loving favour — Hebrew חן שׂוב, good grace, or favour; that is, an interest in the esteem and affections of all about us, or hearty love and kindness from them; rather than silver and gold — Is a blessing much more to be prized than the possession of abundance of gold and silver.


Verse 2

Proverbs 22:2. The rich and the poor meet together — “The world doth not consist all of rich, nor all of poor; but they are mixed together, and have need one of another; and will agree well, and not clash one against another, if they both consider that there is one Lord, who is the Creator of both; and hath, by his providence, ordered their inequality for their mutual good.”


Verse 3

Proverbs 22:3. A prudent man foreseeth the evil, &c. — “He whose long experience and observation of things hath made him cautious and circumspect, foresees a calamity before it come, and withdraws himself from the danger into a place of safety; but an incautious and credulous person never foresees any danger, but goes on securely in his accustomed track, till it overtake him.” Thus Bishop Patrick. But in foreseeing temporal calamities, and discerning the methods by which we may escape them, as Mr. Scott justly observes, we can seldom proceed beyond probability, in either respect; but, in the concerns of the soul, faith foresees the evil coming upon sinners in the eternal state, and discerns Jesus Christ, as the refuge from this impending storm, and the penitent and believing soul flees to him, hides himself in him, and is safe, as Noah in the ark. But the careless and unbelieving go on, without concern, till they lift up their eyes in hell, being in torments.


Verse 4

Proverbs 22:4. By humility — Hebrew, עקב ענוה, because of humility; or, as some render the expression, the reward of humility, that reward which God has graciously promised, and will confer on humility, which is a grace of great price in his eyes, Isaiah 57:15; James 4:6; and the fear of the Lord — By which he distinguishes true and Christian humility from counterfeit and merely moral humility: for the former arises from a deep sense of God’s greatness, purity, and perfection, compared with our meanness, impurity, and manifold imperfections, whereas this latter is quite of another nature, and proceeds from other sources; are riches, and honour, and life — The comforts of this life, and the happiness of the next, both which are promised to godliness: see on Proverbs 15:33.


Verse 5

Proverbs 22:5. Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward — The wicked, by their evil practices, expose themselves to many dangers, and occasions both of sin and mischief: he that keeps his soul — That takes heed to himself, and to his actions, and to the saving of his soul; shall be far from them — Will avoid the society of such froward persons; or rather, by that circumspection shall preserve himself from those thorns and snares to which the froward are exposed.


Verse 6

Proverbs 22:6. Train up — Hebrew, חנךְ, initiate, or instruct; a child in the way he should go — Or, according to his way, that is, in that course or manner of life which thou wouldest have him to choose and follow. Or, as some render the clause, in the beginning of his way, that is, in his tender years, as soon as he is capable of receiving instruction, the Hebrew על פי דרכו, signifying, literally, in the mouth of his way, and the mouth being often put for the beginning or entrance of a place or thing. And when he is old, he will not depart from it — Namely, not easily and ordinarily. The impressions made in his childish years will remain, unless some extraordinary cause occur to erase them. “Instruct a child,” says Bishop Patrick, “as soon as ever he is capable, and season his mind with the principles of virtue before he receive other impressions, and it is most likely they will grow up with him; so that when he is older he will not forsake them, but retain them as long as he lives.”


Verse 8

Proverbs 22:8. He that soweth iniquity — Or, unrighteousness; he, whose common practice it is to wrong or oppress others; shall reap vanity — Or trouble, or misery, as the word אוןcommonly signifies, and as many here render it. The mischief which he hath done to others shall be returned to himself by God’s righteous sentence; and the rod of his anger shall fail — That power which he used with fury and cruelty shall be taken from him.


Verse 9

Proverbs 22:9. He that hath a bountiful eye — Hebrew, a good eye. He who looks upon the wants and miseries of others with compassion and kindness: as an evil eye is put for one that beholds others with envy and unmercifulness; shall be blessed — Both by God and men.


Verse 10

Proverbs 22:10. Cast out the scorner — Avoid all society and conversation with him who neither fears God nor reverences man, but scorns all admonitions, and minds only the pleasing of himself, and the gratifying of his own lusts, which is the chief cause of most contentions; and strife and reproach shall cease — The strife and reproach wherewith he is wont to load those that either oppose or admonish him.


Verse 11

Proverbs 22:11. He that loveth pureness of heart — Who is plain-hearted or sincere, and abhors dissimulation; whose heart is so free from guile that he places his pleasure in the integrity of his mind, and the purity of his conscience; for the grace of his lips — For those gracious speeches which naturally and commonly flow from a pure heart, or whose discourse is gracious and sincere; the king shall be his friend — The greatest men will, or should, desire, and highly prize the acquaintance and advice of such persons, rather than of dissemblers and flatterers, with whom they are too generally surrounded.


Verse 12

Proverbs 22:12. The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge — God, by the watchful eye of his providence, maintains and defends men of knowledge, or wise and good men, such as the last verse spoke of, whose hearts are pure, and speeches gracious. Not only shall the king be their friend, as he said there, but God also, which he adds here. And he overthroweth the words of the transgressor — Their false and flattering speeches, whereby they designed and expected to gain the favour and friendship of great men, which are opposed to the sincere and gracious speeches of good men, implied in the first clause of this verse, and expressed in the foregoing verse.


Verse 13

Proverbs 22:13. The slothful man saith — Alleges as his excuse to them who upbraid him with idleness, or persuade him to diligence; There is a lion without — There are extreme dangers and invincible difficulties in my way; I shall be slain — By that lion, or some other way; in the streets — This is added to show the ridiculousness of his excuse; for lions abide in the woods, or fields, not in the streets of towns or cities.


Verse 14

Proverbs 22:14. The mouth of strange women — Their fair and flattering speeches, wherewith they entice men into sin, as is observed Proverbs 7:21, into which it is easy to fall, but out of which it is hard, if not impossible, to be rescued. For it is a rare thing for any person, who has once entered into a course of lewdness: to recover himself from it, Proverbs 2:19. He that is abhorred of the Lord — Namely, in a high and singular manner; who by his former impieties, and contempt of God and his grace, hath provoked God to leave him to his own heart’s lusts, and to punish one sin with another; shall fall therein — And, without a miracle of grace, shall perish everlastingly.


Verse 15

Proverbs 22:15. Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child — Is fixed and settled there, as being born with him, and rooted in his very nature; but the rod, &c., shall drive it far from him — The smart of punishment will make him weary of his sin, and watchful against it. “Ignorance, weakness, inclination to evil, corruption of heart,” says Calmet, “are maladies which accompany all men from their birth; education, instruction, correction,” to which we must add divine grace, earnestly asked of God, and received, “cure them, or diminish, very much, their ill effects.”


Verse 16

Proverbs 22:16. He that oppresseth the poor — That extorts what is not due to him from his poor tenants and neighbours, invades their rights, and takes advantage of their ignorance, or want of experience, or necessity, to increase his riches; and he that giveth to the rich — That vainly and prodigally casts away his estate on those who do not need it, or gives it to them with an evil design, as that they may assist him in oppressing the poor, or, at least, not hinder him in it; shall surely come to want — Of the necessaries of life. God will punish him with poverty for his double and heinous sin. This exposition is given on the ground of our translation. But the vulgar Latin, which Luther and some others follow, evidently gives a more exact and literal interpretation of the Hebrew text, thus: He that oppresseth the poor that he may increase his riches, gives to the rich only for poverty, or, to empoverish himself. According to this; says Bishop Patrick, the paraphrase should be, “Such is the just providence of Almighty God, that he who, to enlarge his own estate or power, oppresses the poor by violence or deceit, shall meet with the like extortion from others more powerful than himself; and thereby be reduced to as poor a condition as those whom he oppressed.”


Verse 17-18

Proverbs 22:17-18. Bow down thine ear, &c. — From the beginning of the tenth chapter to this place, the instructions of wisdom are delivered in short sentences, and proverbs properly so called; which have seldom any connection one with another, or such as is not easily discerned: but here another form of speech begins and continues unto chap. 25.; and therefore it may not unfitly be called, The Second Part of the Book of Proverbs. In this part we have various exhortations and precepts, which are all delivered in the imperative mood, and comprehended each in two, three, or more verses connected together. In which alteration, it is probable, Solomon consulted the weakness of his reader, who, if he were weary of the preceding sententious way of instruction, might be relieved, refreshed, and awakened unto new attention by varying the form of writing. — Bishop Patrick. Hear the words of the wise — Of wise and holy men of God. And apply thy heart unto my knowledge — The knowledge of God, and of thy several duties which I am here delivering to thee. Thirst after it, and give thyself up to the diligent study of it. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them — Namely, the words of the wise; within thee — Hebrew, in thy belly, that is, in thy heart; if thou receive them in love, and retain them in thy memory, so as to have them ready for use upon all occasions. They shall be fitted in thy lips — Fitly expressed; or, shall be disposed, or ordered, as יכנוsignifies. The sense seems to be, When thou hast got them into thy heart, thou wilt be able and ready to discourse pertinently and profitably of them.


Verses 19-21

Proverbs 22:19-21. That thy trust may be in the Lord — That, knowing God, and his word and promises, thou mayest cheerfully and confidently trust in him, which is the only way to thy safety and happiness. I have made known to thee this day — More fully than ever before; in this day of light and knowledge; in this thy day, the day of thy merciful visitation; excellent things — שׁלישׁים, princely things, or leading things, “words fit for a prince to speak,” says Bishop Patrick, “and the best men of the world to hear, and therefore truly excellent.” Many of the ancient versions, however, read three-fold things, in which they are followed by Schultens and Grotius: the Jews distinguishing philosophy into three branches, morality, physics, and divinity; and Solomon having written in all those branches, as appears from 1 Kings 4., although most of his writings are lost. But, as the Hebrew word above quoted always signifies great captains, generals, nobles, or the best sort of musical instruments, “I look upon this,” namely, that first given, says the bishop, “the most proper interpretation of it.” In counsels and knowledge — Counsels to direct thy practice, and knowledge to inform thy mind. That I may make thee know the certainty, &c. — That I may teach thee, not false, or vain, or uncertain things, like the teachers of the heathen nations; but the true and infallible oracles of God; that thou mightest answer the words of truth — That, being instructed by me, thou mayest be able to give true, solid, and satisfactory answers; to them that send unto thee — Namely, for thy advice in great and difficult matters. Or, to those that send thee, that is, that employ thee in any business of moment, whereof they expect an account from thee.


Verse 22-23

Proverbs 22:22-23. Rob not the poor, &c. — Thus, after the preceding solemn preface, among the principal rules of life which he was about to lay down, he first commends this, not to be injurious to poor people; especially by oppressing them in a form of justice: as if he had said, Never abuse thy power to the spoiling of him who is in a mean condition; because he is poor — And unable to resist thee, or to revenge himself upon thee. Do not take advantage of his poverty. Or, this clause may be considered as an argument against robbing him; as if he had said, Because he is a fitter object for thy pity and charity, than for thy injustice and cruelty; it is base and inhuman to crush such a person. Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate — In the place of judgment, or under pretence of justice; and much less in other ways, where there is no colour of justice. For the Lord will plead their cause — Which he hath in a peculiar manner undertaken to do; and will spoil the soul of those that spoiled them — Will take away not only their goods, but their lives too. So fully will he recompense their wickedness to them.


Verse 24-25

Proverbs 22:24-25. Make no friendship with an angry man — “As there is nothing more necessary than a friend, so a principal point of wisdom consists in the choice of him; concerning which, observe this rule among others, not to enter into any familiarity with a man prone to anger;” and with a furious man thou shalt not go — Shalt not associate, or be intimate; lest thou learn his ways — Lest thou be infected by his example, or provoked by his wrath to return the like to him; and get a snare to thy soul — Some mischief, which is often the effect of unbridled rage; or an occasion of, or temptation to sin, being led either to imitate him, or to neglect performing that great and important duty of a friend, the giving faithful and seasonable admonition and reproof, which thou mayest be induced to omit because of his furious temper.


Verse 26-27

Proverbs 22:26-27. Be not of them that are sureties for debts — Namely, rashly or unnecessarily. Why should he take away thy bed, &c. — Why wilt thou put thyself into the hands of such a man, who will exact the debt from thee without compassion? For though God did not allow the practice of taking and keeping a poor person’s bed, or necessary clothing, (see Exodus 22:26-27,) yet covetous creditors would frequently do it.


Verse 28

Proverbs 22:28. Remove not the ancient landmark — Whereby the lands of several possessors were distinguished and divided. Do not enrich thyself with the injury of other men: do not invade the rights of others.


Verse 29

Proverbs 22:29. Seest thou a man diligent in his business — Hebrew, מהיר, expeditious, as the word properly signifies; one of quick despatch, vigorous and speedy in executing what hath been well and wisely contrived. He shall not stand before mean men — He is fit to be employed in the affairs of the greatest princes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 22:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-22.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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