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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Proverbs 3

 

 

Verses 1-35

EXPOSITION

Proverbs 3:1-18

4. Fourth admonitory discourse. The third chapter introduces us to a group of admonitions, and the first of these (Proverbs 3:1-18) forms the fourth admonitory discourse of the teacher. To all intents and purposes this is a continuation of the discourse in the preceding chapter, for inasmuch as that described the benefits, spiritual and moral, which follow from the pursuit of Wisdom, in promoting godliness and providing safety from evil companions, so this in like manner depicts the gain flowing from Wisdom, the happiness of the man who finds Wisdom, and the favour which he meets with both with God and man. The discourse embraces exhortations to obedience (Proverbs 3:1-4), to reliance on God (Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6) against self-sufficiency and self-dependence (Proverbs 3:7, Proverbs 3:8), to self-sacrificing devotion to God (Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10), to patient submission to God's afflictive dispensations (Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12), and concludes with pointing out the happy gain of Wisdom, her incomparable value, and wherein that value consists (Proverbs 3:13-18). It is noticeable that in each case the exhortation is accompanied with a corresponding promise of reward (Proverbs 3:2, Proverbs 3:4, Proverbs 3:6, Proverbs 3:8, Proverbs 3:10), and these promises are brought forward with the view to encourage the observance of the duties recommended or enjoined. Jehovah is the central point to which all the exhortations converge. Obedience, trust, self-sacrificing devotion, submission, are successively brought forward by the teacher as due to God, and the persons in whom they are exhibited are truly happy in finding Wisdom. The transition in thought from the former to the latter part of the discourse is easy and natural. Obedience and trust are represented as bringing favour, guidance, and health—in a word, prosperity. But God is not only to be honoured in times of prosperity, but also in adversity his loving hand is to be recognized; and in this submission to his will is true wisdom.

Proverbs 3:1

My son (b'ni) serves to externally connect this discourse with the preceding. Forget not my law. This admonition bears a strong resemblance to that in Proverbs 1:8, though the terms employed are somewhat different, torah and mits'oth here occupying the place respectively of musar and torah in that passage. My law (torathi), is literally, my teaching, or doctrine, from the root yarah, "to teach." The torah is the whole body of salutary doctrine, and designates "Law" from the standpoint of teaching. Forgetting here is not So much oblivion arising from defective memory, as a wilful disregard and neglect of the admonitions of the teacher. Thine heart (libekha); Vulgate, cor; LXX; καρδία and so the sum total of the affections. Keep; yitstsor, from notsar, "to keep, or observe that which is commanded." The word is of frequent occurrence in the Proverbs, and appears about twenty-five times. My commandments (mits'othay); Vulgate, praecepta mea; LXX; τὰ ῥήματα μου; i.e. my precepts. The Hebrew verb from which it is derived means "to command, or prescribe." The law and commandments here alluded to are those which immediately follow, from verse 3 onwards. The three main ideas combined in this verse are remembrance, affection, and obedience. Remembering the law or teaching will depend, to a large extent, on the interest felt in that law; and the admonition to "forget not" is an admonition to give "earnest heed," so that the law or teaching may be firmly fixed in the mind. In using the words, "let thy heart keep," the teacher goes to the root of the matter. There may be an historical remembrance of, or an intellectual assent to, the commandments, but these are insufficient, for the keeping of the commandments must be based on the recognition of the fact that the affections of the heart are to be employed in the service of God, the keeping of the commandments is to be a labour of love. Again, the expression, "keep my commandments," implies, of course, external conformity to their requirements: we are "to observe to do them" (Deuteronomy 8:1); but it implies, further, spiritual obedience, i.e. an obedience with which love is combined (Deuteronomy 30:20), and which arises from the inward principles of the heart being in harmony with the spirit of the commandments (see Wardlaw).

Proverbs 3:2

Length of days (orek yamim); Vulgate, longitudo dierum. The expression is literally "extension of days," and signifies the prolongation of life, its duration to the appointed limit—a meaning which is brought out in the LXX. μῆκος βίου, "length of days," the Greek word βίος being used, not of existence, but of the time and course of life. It occurs again in Proverbs 3:16, and also in Job 12:12 and Psalms 21:4. "Length of days" is represented as a blessing in the Old Testament, depending, however, as in the present instance, on the fulfilment of certain conditions. Thus in the fifth commandment it is appended to the honouring of parents (Exodus 20:12), and it was promised to Solomon, at Gibeon, on the condition that he walked in the way, statutes, and commandments of God (1 Kings 3:14). The promise of prolongation of life is not to be pressed historically as applying to every individual case, but is to be taken as indicating the tendency of keeping the Divine precepts, which, as a rule, ensure preservation of health, and hence "length of days." Long life (vush'noth khayyim); literally, years of life; Targum Jonathan, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, anni vitae; LXX; ἔτη ζωῆς. The Authorized Version scarcely serves to bring out the sense of the original, as there is practically no difference in meaning between "length of days" and "long life? The idea conveyed in the expression, "years of life," is that of material prosperity. The thought of an extended life is carried on from the preceding expression, but it is amplified and described. The years of life will be many, but they will be years of life in its truest sense, as one of true happiness and enjoyment, free from distracting cares, sickness, and other drawbacks. The Hebrew plural, khayyim, "lives," is equivalent to the Greek expression, βίος βιωτός, "a life worth while living" (cf. Plat; 'Apol.,' 38, A). To the Israelitish mind, the happiness of life consisted in "dwelling in the land" (Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:30, etc.), and "abiding in the house of the Lord" (Psalms 15:1; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:3) (Zockler). The conjecture that the plural, khayyim, signifies the present and the future life, is unfounded. The scope of the promise before us is confined to the present stage of existence, and it is negatived also by the similar use of the plural in Proverbs 16:5, "In the light of the king's countenance is life (khayyim)," where khayyim cannot possibly refer to the future life. Khayyim stands for life in its fulness. "Godliness" has indeed, as St. Paul wrote to Timothy, "promise of the life that now is, aud of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Peace (shalom). The verb shalam, from which the substantive shalom is derived, signifies "to be whole, sound, safe," and hence "peace" means internal and external contentment, and tran-quillity of mind arising from the sense of safety. In Proverbs 16:17 the ways of Wisdom are designated peace. While, on the one hand, peace is represented by the psalmist as the possession of those who love God's Law (Psalms 119:165), on the other, it is denied the wicked (Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21). Shall they add to thee; i.e. shall the precepts and commands bring (Zockler) or heap upon (Muffet) thee.

Proverbs 3:3

Mercy and truth (khesed vermeth); properly, love and truth; Vulgate, misericordia et veritas; LXX; ἐλεημοσύναι καὶ πίστεις. With this verse begin the commandments which are alluded to in Proverbs 3:1. The Hebrew khesed has to be understood in its widest sense, though the Vulgate and the LXX. confine it to one aspect of its meaning, viz. that which refers to the relation of man to man, to the pity evoked by the sight of another's misfortunes, and to ahnsgiving. The radical meaning of the word is "ardent desire," from the root khasad, "to eagerly or ardently desire." Delitzsch describes it as "well affectedness." Predicated of God, it indicates God's love and grace towards man; predicated of man, it signifies man's love toward s God, i.e. piety, or man's love towards his neighbour, i.e. humanity. Where this mercy or love is exhibited in man it finds expression in

(1) mutual outward help;

The word carries with it the ideas of kindlim as, benignity (Targum, benignitas), and grace (Syriac, gratia). Truth (emeth); properly, firmness, or stability, and so fidelity in which one performs one's promise. Truth is that absolute integrity of character, beth in word and deed, which secures the unhesitating confidence of all (Wardlaw). Umbreit and Elster designate it as inward truthfulness, the pectus rectum, the very essence of a true man. As khesed excludes all selfishness and hate, so emeth excludes all hypocrisy and dissimulation. These two virtues are frequently combined in the Proverbs (e.g. Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 16:16; Proverbs 20:28) and Psalms (e.g. Psalms 25:10; Psalms 40:11; Psalms 57:4-11; Psalms 108:5; Psalms 138:2), and, when predicated of man, indicate the highest normal standard of moral perfection (Zockler). The two ideas are again brought together in the New Testament phrase, ἀληθεύειν ἐν ἀγάπη, "to speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). There seems little ground for the remark of Salasius, that "mercy" refers to our neighbours, and "truth" to God. Each virtue, in fact, has a twofold reference—one to God, the other to man. The promise in verse 4, that the exercise of these virtues procures favour with God and man, implies this twofold aspect. Bind them about thy neck; either

Proverbs 3:4

So shalt thou find (vum'lsa); literally, and find. A peculiar use of the imperative, the imperative kal (m'tsa) with vav consecutive ( וִ) being equivalent to the future, "thou shalt find," as in the Authorized Version. This construction, where two imperatives are joined, the former containing an exhortation or admonition, the second a promise made on the condition implied in the first, and the second imperative being used as a future, occurs again in Proverbs 4:4; Proverbs 7:2, "Keep my commandments, and live;" Proverbs 9:6, "Forsake the foolish, and live;" Proverbs 20:13, "Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread". Delitzsch calls this "an admonitory imperative;" Bottcher, "the desponsive imperative." Compare the Greek construction in Menander, οἶδ ὅτι ποίησον, for ποιήσεις, "Know that this you will do." Find (matza); here simply "to attain," "obtain," not necessarily implying previous search, as in Proverbs 17:20. Favour (khen). The same word is frequently translated "grace," and means the same thing; Vulgate, gratia; LXX; χαρίς. For the expression, "to find favour" (matsa khen), see Genesis 6:8; Exodus 33:12; Jeremiah 31:2; comp. Luke 1:30, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ." For thou hast found favour [or, 'grace'] with God." spoken by Gabriel to the Virgin. Good understanding (sekel tov); i.e. good sagacity, or prudence. So Delitzsch, Bertheau, Kamph. A true sagacity, prudence, or penetrating judgment will be adjudicated by God and man to him who possesses the internal excellence of love and truth. The Hebrew sekel is derived from sakal, "to act wisely or prudently," and has this intellectual meaning in Proverbs 13:15; Psalms 111:10 (see also 1 Samuel 25:3 and 2 Chronicles 30:22). The Targum Jonathan reads, intellectus et benignitas, thus throwing the adjective into a substantival form; the Syriac, intellectus simply. Ewald, Hitzig, Zockler, and others, on the other hand, understand sekel as referring to the judgment formed of any one, the favourable opinion or view which is entertained of hint by others, and hence take it as reputation, or estimation. The man who has love and truth will be held in high esteem by God and man. Our objection to this rendering is that it does not seem to advance the meaning of the passage beyond that of "favour." Another, mentioned by Delitzsch, is that sekel is never used in any other sense than that of intellectus in the Mishle. The marginal reading, "good success," i.e. prosperity, seems inadmissible here, as the hiph. has'kil, "to cause to prosper," as in Proverbs 17:8; Joshua 1:7; Deuteronomy 29:9, does not apply in this instance any more than in Psalms 111:10, margin. In the sight of God and man (b'eyney elohim v'adam); literally, in the eyes of Elohim and man; i.e. according to the judgment of God and man (Zockler); Vulgate, coram Deo et hominibus. A simpler form of this phrase is found in 1 Samuel 2:26, where Samuel is said to have found favour with the Lord, and also with men. So in Luke 2:52 Jesus found favour "with God and man ( παρὰ θεῷ καὶ ἀνθρώποις)" (comp. Genesis 10:9; Acts 2:47, Romans 14:18). The two conditions of favor and sagacity, or prudence, are not to be assigned respectively to God and man (as Ewald and Hitzig), or that finding favour has reference more to God, and being deemed prudent refers more to man. The statement is universal. Both these conditions will be adjudged to the man who has mercy and truth by God in heaven and man on earth at the same time (see Delitszch). The LXX; "after favour," instead of the text, reads, "and provide good things in the sight of the Lord and men," quoted by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 8:21).

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord (b'takh el yehovah); literally, trust in Jehovah. Entire reliance upon Jehovah, implied in the words, "with all thine heart," is here appropriately placed at the head of a series of admonitions which especially have God and man's relations with him in view, inasmuch as such confidence or trust, with its corresponding idea of the renunciation of reliance on self, is, as Zockler truly remarks, a "fundamental principle of all religion." It is the first lesson to be learnt by all, and no less necessary for the Jew than for the Christian. Without this reliance on or confidence in God, it is impossible to carry out any of the precepts of religion. Batakh is, properly, "to cling to," and so passes to the meaning of "to confide in," "to set one's hope and confidence upon." The preposition el with Jehovah indicates the direction which the confidence is to take (cf. Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:5). Lean (tishshaen); Vulgate, innitaris; followed by el, like b'takh, with which it is very similar in meaning. Shaan, not used in kal, in hiph. signifies "to lean upon, rest upon," just as man rests upon a spear for support. Its metaphorical use, to repose confidence in, is derived from the practice of kings who were accustomed to appear in public leaning on their friends and ministers; cf. 2 Kings 5:18; 2 Kings 7:2, 2 Kings 7:17 (Gesenius). The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding (binab), i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence (Wardlaw); cf. Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom," etc. The teacher points out not only where we are to rely, but also where we are not to rely.

Proverbs 3:6

In all thy ways. This expression covers the whole area of life's action—all its acts and undertakings, its spiritual and secular sides, no less than its public and private, It guards against our acknowledging God in great crises and solemn acts of worship only (Plumptre). Acknowledge (daehu); Vulgate, cogita; LXX; γνέριζε. The Hebrew verb yada signifies "to know, recognize." To acknowledge God is, therefore, to recognize, in all our dealings and undertakings, God's overruling providence, which "shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will." It is not a mere theoretical acknowledgment, but one that engages the whole energies of the soul (Delitzsch), and sees in God power, wisdom, providence, goodness, and justice. This meaning is conveyed by the Vulgate cogitare, which is "to consider" in all parts, "to reflect upon." David's advice to his son Solomon is, "Know thou (ola) the God of thy father." We may well acknowledge Jehovah; for he "knoweth the way of the righteous" (Psalms 1:6). Acknowledging God also implies that we first ascertain whether what we are about to take in hand is in accordance with his precepts, and then look for his direction and illumination (Wardlaw). And he shall direct thy paths (v'hu y'yashsher or'khotheyka); i.e. he himself shall make them straight, or level, removing all obstacles out of the way; or they shall, under God's direction, prosper and come to a successful issue; they shall be virtuous, inasmuch as deviation into vice will be guarded against, and happy, because they are prosperous. The pronoun v'hu is emphatic, "he himself;" Vulgate, et ipse. Yashar, piel. is "to make a way straight," as in Proverbs 9:15; Proverbs 15:21; Proverbs 11:5. Cf. the LXX. ὀρθοτομεῖν, "to cut straight" (see on Proverbs 11:5). God here binds himself by a covenant (Lapide). This power is properly attributed to God, for "it is not in man to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

Proverbs 3:7

Be not wise in thine own eyes. This admonition carries on the thought from the preceding verses (5, 6), approaching it from a different direction. It is a protest against self-sufficiency, self-conceit, and self-reliance. It says, in effect, "Trust in the Lord, do not trust in yourself." Wisdom, as Michaelis remarks, is to trust in God; to trust in yourself and in your own wisdom is unwisdom. God denounces this spirit: "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:21), because such a spirit leads to the prohibited self-dependence, and is inconsistent with "the tear of the Lord." The precept of the text is reiterated by St. Paul, especially in Romans 12:16, "Be not wise in your own conceits" (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:8; Galatians 6:3). It commends humility. The diligent search for Wisdom is commanded. The great hindrance to all true wisdom is the thought that we have already attained it (Plumptre). In thine own eyes; i.e. in thine own estimation; arbitrio tuo. Fear the Lord, and depart from evil. The connection of this with the first part of the verse becomes clear upon reflection. "The fear of the Lord" is true wisdom (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7). Fear the Lord, therefore, because it is the best corrective of one's own wisdom, which engenders arrogance, pride, presumption of mind, which, moreover, is deceptive and apt to lead to sin. The fear of the Lord has this other advantage—that it leads to the departure from evil (Proverbs 16:6) It is the mark of the wise man that he fears the Lord, and departs from evil (Proverbs 14:16). These precepts form the two elements of practical piety (Delitzsch), an eminent example of which as Job (Job 1:1).

Proverbs 3:8

It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. A metaphorical expression, denoting the complete spiritual health which shall follow from fearing the Lord and departing from evil. Health, (riph'uth); properly, healing; LXX; ιἅσις; Vulgate, sanitas; so Syriac and Arabic. The Targum Jonathan has medicina, "medicine," as the margin. The root rapha is properly "to sew together," and the secondary meaning, "to heal," is taken from the healing of a wound by sewing it up. Delitzsch, however, thinks riph'uth is not to be taken as a restoration from sickness, but as a raising up from enfeebled health, or a confirming of the strength which already exists. There shall be a continuance of health. Gesenius translates "refreshment." To thy navel (l'shor'rekha); Vulgate, umbilico tuo; so Targum Jonathan. Shor is "the navel," here used synecdochically for the whole body, just as "head" is put for the whole man ( 5:30), "mouth" for the whole person speaking (Proverbs 8:13), and "slow bellies" for depraved gluttons (Titus 1:12) (Gejerus, Umbreit). The idea is expressed in the LXX; Syriac, and Arabic by "to thy body" ( τῷ σώματι σου; corpori tuo). The navel is here regarded as the centre of vital strength. For the word, see So Proverbs 7:2; Ezekiel 16:4. This is the only place in the Proverbs where this word is found. Gesenius, however, takes shor, or l'shor'rekha, as standing col. lectively for the nerves, in which, he says, is the seat of strength, and translates accordingly, "Health (i.e. refreshment) shall it be to thy nerves." Marrow (shik'kuy); literally, watering or moistening, as in the margin; Vulgate, irrigatio. Moistening is imparted to the bones by the marrow, and thus they are strengthened: "His bones are moistened with marrow" (Job 21:24). Where there is an absence of marrow the drying up of the bones ensues, and hence their strength is impaired, and a general debility of the system sets in—they "wax old" (Psalms 32:3). The effect of a broken spirit is thus described: "A broken spirit drieth up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). The physiological fact here brought forward is borne witness to by Cicero, 'In Tusc.:' "In visceribus atque medullis omne bonum condidisse naturam" (cf. Plato). The meaning of the passage is that, as health to the navel and marrow to the bones stand as representatives of physical strength, so the fear of the Lord, etc; is the spiritual strength of God's children.

Proverbs 3:9

Honour the Lord with thy substance, etc. An exhortation to self-sacrificing devotion by the appropriation and use of wealth to the service of Jehovah. With thy substance (mehonehka); Vulgate, de tua substantia; LXX; ἀπὸ σῶν δικαίων πόνων. Hon, properly "lightness," is "opulence," "wealth," as in Proverbs 1:13. The min in composition with hon is not partitive, as Delitzsch and Berthean take it, but signifies "with" or "by means of," as in Psalms 38:7; Isaiah 58:12; Ezekiel 28:18; Obadiah 1:9. The insertion of δικαίος by the LXX. limits the wealth to that which is justly acquired, and so guards against the erroneous idea that God is honoured by the appropriation to his use of unlawful wealth or gain (Plumptre). The Israelites "honoured Jehovah with their substance" when they contributed towards the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and later when they assisted in the preparations for the building of the temple, and in the payment of tithes. The injunction may undoubtedly refer to tithes, and is in accordance with the requirement of the Mosaic Law on that and other points as to oblations, free will offerings, etc.; but it has a wider bearing and contemplates the use of wealth for all pious and charitable purposes (see Proverbs 14:31). The word maaser, "tithe," does not occur in the Proverbs. With the firstfruits (mereshith); Vulgate, de primitiis. So Targum Jonathan, Syriac, and Arabic. The law of the firstfruits is found in Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:20; Le Exodus 23:10; Numbers 18:12 : Deuteronomy 18:4; Deuteronomy 26:1-3. The firstfruits were presented by every Israelite to the priests, in token of gratitude and humble thankfulness to Jehovah, and consisted of the produce of the land in its natural state, or prepared for human food (Maclear, 'Old Test. Hist.,' bk. 4, c. 3, a). The "firstfruits" also carried with it the idea of the best. The custom of offering the firstfruits of the field and other revenues as a religious obligation was observed by ancient pagan nations. Some of the ancient commentators find in this verse an argument for the support of the ministry. It is well known that the priests "lived of the sacrifice," and were "partakers of the altar," and as their support by these means tended to the maintenance of Divine worship, so those who supported them were in the highest degree "honoring God." The injunctions also show that the honouring of God does not consist simply of lip service, of humility and confidence in him, but also of external worship, and in corporeal things. They are not peculiar to Israel, but are binding on all. They oppose all selfish use of God's temporal gifts, and lead to the thought that, in obeying them, we are only giving back to God what are his own. "The silver and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:1-23 :28).

"We give thee but thine own,

Whate'er the gift may be;

All that we have is thine shine,

A trust, O Lord, from thee."

(Day's 'Psalter.')

Proverbs 3:10

So shall thy barns be filled with plenty. The promise held out to encourage the devotion of one's wealth to Jehovah's service, while supplying a motive which at first sight appears selfish and questionable, is in reality a trial of faith. Few persons find it easy to realize that giving away will increase their store (Wardlaw). The teacher is warranted in bringing forward this promise by the language of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:1-8, whine, among other things, he promises that Jehovah will command a blessing upon the "storehouses" and industry of those who honour God. The principle is otherwise expressed in Proverbs 11:25, "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be also watered himself;" and it is exemplified in Haggai 1:3-11; Haggai 2:15, Haggai 2:19; Malachi 3:10-12, and in the New Testament in Philippians 4:14-19; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. Thy barns; asameykha, the only form in which asam, "a storehouse," "barn," or "granary," occurs. The Hebrew asam is the same as the Latin horreum (Vulgate) and the Greek ταμιεῖον (LXX.). With plenty (sava); Vulgate, saturitas; i.e. fulness, abundance, plenty. The root sava is "to become satisfied," and that richly satisfied. This expression and the following, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine, depict the greatest abundance. Thy presses (y'kaveykhu). The word here translated "presses" is, strictly speaking," vats" or "reservoirs," into which the must from the wine press flowed. The wine press consisted of two parts, the gath (equivalent to the Latin torcularium, torculum, or torcular; Greek, ληνός, Matthew 21:33), into which the grapes were collected from the surrounding vineyard, and there trodden underfoot by several persons (Nehemiah 13:15 : Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15), whose movements were regulated by singing or shouting (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 48:33), as among the Greeks and Egyptians; and the yekev, used here, which was a trough of corresponding size, dug into the ground, or cut out of a rack, at a lower level, to receive the must. The yekev corresponded with the Greek ὑπολήνιον, mentioned in Mark 12:1-44 :l, and the Latin lacus (Ovid, 'Fasti,' 5.888; Pliny, 'Epist.,' 9.20; 'Colum. de Rust.,' 12.18): Cajeterus, indeed, reads, lacus torcularii. The word yekev is, however, used for the wine press itself in Job 24:11 and 2 Kings 6:27. Shall burst out (yiph'rotsu); literally, they shall extend themselves; i.e. shall overflow. Parats, "to break," is here used metaphorically in the sense of "to be redundant," "to overflow" (cf. 2 Samuel 5:20). It is employed intransitively of a people spreading themselves abroad, or increasing, in Genesis 28:14; Exodus 1:12. New wine (tirosh); Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac, vino; LXX; οἴνῳ; properly, as in the Authorized Version, "new wine;" Latin, mustum (see Deuteronomy 33:28; Isaiah 36:17; Isaiah 55:1).

Proverbs 3:11

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord. The teacher, in Proverbs 3:11 and Proverbs 3:12, passes to another phase of life. The thought of prosperity suggests the opposite one of adversity. Abundant prosperity shall flow from honouring Jehovah, but he sometimes and not unfrequently sends affliction, and, indeed, without this life would be incomplete. The object of the exhortation is, as Delitzsch states, to show that, as in prosperity God should not be forgotten, so one should not suffer himself to be estranged by days of adversity. Submission is counselled on the ground that, when Jehovah afflicts, he does so in the spirit of love, and for good. The "chastening" and "correction," though presenting God in an attitude of anger, are in reality not the punishment of an irate God. The verse before us is evidently copied from Job 5:17, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth, therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty;" and the whole passage is cited again in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:5, Hebrews 12:6). It has been said that Job 5:11 expresses the problem of the Book of Job, and verse 12 its solution (Delitzsch). Despise not (altimas); Vulgate, ne abjicias; LXX; μὴ ὀλιγώρει. The verb mass is first "to reject," and then "to despise and contemn." The Targum Jonathan puts the thought in a stronger form, ne execreris, "do not curse." They despise the chastening of Jehovah who, when they see his hand in it, do not humbly and submissively bow, but resist and become refractory, or, as it is expressed in Proverbs 19:3, when their "heart fretteth against the Lord." Job, notwithstanding his bitter complaints, was on the whole, and in his better moments, an example of the proper state of mind under correction (see Job 1:21; Job 2:10). Jonah, in treating contemptuously the procedure of God, is an exemplification of the contrary spirit, which is condemned implicitly in the text (Wardlaw). Chastening (musar); i.e. correction not by reproof only, as in Proverbs 6:23 and Proverbs 8:30; but by punishment also. as in Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15. The meaning here is expressed by the LXX. παιδεία, which is "instruction by punishment," discipline, or schooling (cf. Vulgate, disciplina). Neither be weary (al-takots); i.e. do not loathe, abhor, feel disgust nor vexation towards. The expression, "do not loathe," is a climax to the other, "despise not." It represents a more deeply seated aversion to Jehovah's plans. Gesenius takes the primary meaning of kuts to be that of vomiting. The word before us certainly denotes loathing or nausea, and is used in this sense by the Israelites in their complaints against God and against Moses in Numbers 21:5 (cf. Genesis 27:46). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in quoting the passage, adopts the LXX. reading, μὴ ὀκλύου, "nor faint;" Vulgate, ne deficias, i.e. "do not give way to despondency." Correction. This word, like musar above, has a twofold meaning of either punishment or chastening, as in Psalms 73:14; or reproof, as in Proverbs 1:23; Proverbs 25:1-28 :30; Proverbs 5:12; Proverbs 27:5; Proverbs 29:15, where it also occurs. It is here used in the former sense. To loathe the correction of Jehovah is to allow it to completely estrange us from him. We faint under it when, by dwelling on or brooding over, or bemoaning the trial, the spirit sinks to faintness. To faint at correction ignores the belief in the truth that "all things work together for good to them that love God."

Proverbs 3:12

In this verse the motive for submissiveness to Jehovah's corrections is brought forward. They are corrections, but they are the corrections of love. One of the most touching relationships of life, and that with which we are most familiar, viz. that of father and son, is employed to reconcile us to Jehovah's afflictive dispensations. A comparison is drawn. God corrects those whom he loves after the same manner as a father corrects ("correcteth" has to be understood from the first hemistich) the son whom he loves. The idea of the passage is evidently taken from Deuteronomy 8:5, "Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." The idea of the paternal relationship of God to mankind is found elsewhere (Jeremiah 31:9; Malachi 2:10), and especially finds expression in the Lord's prayer. When the truth of this passage is learned, we shall be drawn to, rather than repelled from, God by his corrections. The gracious end of earthly trials is expressed in Hebrews 12:6, Hebrews 12:2; cf. Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:17 (Wardlaw). "These gracious words (Hebrews 12:1-29.) are written in Holy Scripture for our comfort and instruction; that we should patiently and with thanksgiving bear our heavenly Father's correction, whensoever by any manner of adversity it shall please his gracious goodness to visit us" (see Visitation Office). Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (vuk'av eth-ben yir'tseh); literally, even as a father the son be delighteth in. Various renderings have been given to this passage.

Proverbs 3:13-18

The teacher here enters upon the last part of this discourse. In doing so, he reverts to his main subject, which is Wisdom, or the fear of the Lord (see Proverbs 3:7 and Proverbs 1:7), and pronounces a panegyric upon her, comparing her, as in Job 28:1-28; with treasures whose value she exceeds, and showing wherein that value consists, viz. in the gifts which she confers on man.

Proverbs 3:13

Happy is the man (ash'rey adam); literally, blessings of the man. The plural of "excellence" used here, as in Job 5:17, to raise the sense. The man who has found Wisdom is supremely blessed. Beds connects this blessedness immediately with God's chastisements in the preceding verse. So Delitzsch. That findeth (matsa); properly, hath found. "The perfect expresses permanent possession, just as the imperfect, yaphik, denotes a continually renewed and repeated attaining" (Zockler). The Vulgate also uses the perfect, invenit, "hath found;" LXX; ὃς εὖρε, "who found"—the aorist. The man that getteth understanding (adam yaphik t'vunah); literally, the man that draweth out understanding, as in the margin. Yaphik is the hiph. future or imperfect of puk, the primary meaning of which is educere, "to draw out," "to bring forth." This verb is used in two widely different senses. In the first place, it is equivalent to "bring forth" or "draw out" in the sense of imparting, as in Isaiah 58:10, "If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry," i.e. impart benefits to them; and Psalms 145:13, "That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store," i.e. yielding, giving out, presenting for our benefit. Its second sense is that of attaining, drawing out from another for one's own use. In this sense it occurs in Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 18:22, where it is rendered "obtain." The latter sense is the one that suits the present passage, and best agrees with the corresponding matsa. The man is blessed who draws forth, i.e. obtains, understanding from God for himself. The Vulgate renders, qui affluit prudentia, "who overflows with understanding," or, has understanding in abundance; LXX; ὃς εἷδε, equivalent to "who saw."

Proverbs 3:14

The merchandise (sakh'rah); Vulgate, acquisitio; LXX; ἐμπορεύεσθαι. The gain arising from trading in wisdom is better than that which arises from trading in silver. Sakh'rah is the gain or profit arising from merchandise, i.e. from trading. It denotes the act itself of gaining. The root sakrah, like the Greek ἐμπορευέσθαι, signifies "to go about for the sake of traffic," i.e. to trade. There may be an allusion here, as in Proverbs 2:4, to the new commerce (Plumptre). The gain thereof (t'vuathah); i.e. the gain existing in, and going along with, Wisdom herself; gain, therefore, in a different sense from that indicated in sakh'rah. Gesenius takes it as "gain resulting from Wisdom," as in Proverbs 8:19 and Isaiah 23:3. The word is used of the produce of the earth, the idea apparently embodied in the Vulgate fructus. In this case there may be a reference to Isaiah 23:18, where Wisdom is said to be a "tree of life." The LXX. omits the latter clause of this verse. The sense is, "The possession of Wisdom herself is better than fine gold." Fine gold (karuts); Vulgate, aurum purum; Syriac, aurum purissimum. Kharuts is the poetic word for gold, so called, either

Proverbs 3:15

Rubies (Khetib, p)niyim; Keri, p)ninim). No unanimous opinion has been arrived at as to the real signification of the word here translated "rubies." The majority of the rabbins (among them Rashi), and Bochart, Hartman, Bohlen, Lee on Job 38:18, and Zockler, render it "pearls." Its meaning seems to lie between this and "corals," the rendering adopted by Michaelis, Gesenius, and Delitzsch (following Fleischer), who says that the Hebrew p)ninim corresponds with the Arabia word whose root idea is "shooting forth," and means "a branch." The peculiar branching form in which corm is found favours this opinion, which is strengthened by the passage in Lamentations 4:7, where we get additional information as to color, "They [the Nazarites] were more ruddy in body than rubies," a description of which would apply to "coral," but is scarcely applicable to "pearls." The various versions suggest the further idea that p)ninim was a descriptive word used to denote precious stones in general. The LXX. renders, "She is more precious than precious stones ( λίθων πολυτελῶν)." So the Targum Jonathan, Syriac, and Arabic. The Vulgate renders. "She is more precious than all riches (cunctis opibus)." The word p)ninim only occurs here (Keri) and in Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 20:15; Proverbs 31:10; and in Job and Lamentations as above. This passage, as well as Proverbs 8:11, which is an almost literal repetition of it, are imitations of Job 28:18. The identification of p)ninim with "pearls" may have suggested our Lord's parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:46). All the things thou canst desire (kal-khaphatseyka); literally, all thy desires. Here everything in which you have pleasure, or all your precious things; LXX; πᾶν τίμον; Vulgate, omnia, quae desiderantur. The comparison, which has risen from the less to the more valuable, culminates in this comprehensive expression. There is nothing, neither silver, gold, precious stones, nor anything precious, which is an equivalent (shavah) to Wisdom in value. How it shows, when everything is put before us to choose from, that, like Solomon at Gibeon, we should prefer wisdom (1 Kings 3:11-13)! In the second half of this verse the LXX. substitutes, "No evil thing competes with her; she is well known to all that approach her."

Proverbs 3:16

The remaining three verses (16-18) state in what respects Wisdom is incomparable in value. Length of days; orek yamim, as in Proverbs 3:2. Wisdom is here represented as holding in her right hand that which is previously promised to obedience. Length of days is the blessing of blessings, the condition of all prosperity and enjoyment, and hence is placed in the right hand, the chief place, for among the Hebrews and other Oriental nations, as also among the Greeks the right hand was regarded as the position of highest honour (Psalms 110:1-7.l; 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Macc 10:63; Matthew 22:24); cf. Psalms 16:11. in which the psalmist says of Jehovah, "In thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore." The two hands, the right and the left, signify the abundance of Wisdom's gifts. Riches and honour stand here for prosperity in general. The same expression occurs in Proverbs 8:8, where riches are explained as "durable riches." A spiritual interpretation can, of course, be given to this passage—length of days being understood of eternal life; riches, of heavenly riches; and honour, not "the honour that cometh of men," but honour conferred by God (1 Samuel 5:1-12 :44; John 12:26); see Wardlaw, in loc. The thought of the verse is, of course, that Wisdom not only holds these blessings in her hands, but also confers them on those who seek her. The LXX. adds, "Out of her month proceedeth righteousness; justice and mercy she beareth upon her tongue;" possibly suggested by Proverbs 8:3. The words of the teacher remind us of the saying of Menander, ὁ διαφέρων λογισμῷ πάντ ἔχει, "He who excels in prudence possesses all things."

Proverbs 3:17

Ways of pleasantness (dar'key noam); Vulgate, viae pulchrae; LXX; ὁδοὶ καλαὶ. Wisdom's ways are those in which substantial delight may be found. They are beautiful and lovely to look upon, and afford happiness. All her paths are peace (v)kal-n)thivo-theyah shalom); literally, as in the Authorized Version. "Peace," shalom, is not genitive as "pleasantness." The character of peace is stamped upon her paths, so that in speaking of Wisdom's paths we speak of peace. She brings tranquillity and serenity and blessedness. Her paths are free from strife and alarm, and they lead to peace. (On the distinction between "ways" and "paths"—the more open and the more private walks—see Proverbs 2:15.)

Proverbs 3:18

A tree of life (ets-khayyim); Vulgate, lignum vitae; LXX; ξύλον ζωῆς. This expression obviously refers to "the tree of life" (ets-hakayyim), which was placed in the midst of the garden of Eden, and conferred immortality on those who ate of its fruit (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22). So Wisdom becomes equally life giving to those who lay hold on her, who taste of her fruit. She communicates life in its manifold fulness and richness (so the plural "lives" indicates) to those who seize her firmly. What is predicated of Wisdom here is predicated in other passages (Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4) of the fruit of the righteous, the fulfilment of desire, and a wholesome tongue. Each of these, the teacher says, is "a tree of life." Elster denies that there is any reference to "the tree of life," and classes the expression among those other figurative expressions—a "fountain of life," in Proverbs 13:4 and Proverbs 14:27, and a "well of life." in Proverbs 10:11; but if it be once admitted that there is such a reference, and it be remembered also that Wisdom is the same as "the fear of the Lord," the point insisted on in the Proverbs and in Job, it seems difficult to deny that the teacher has in view the blessed immortality of which the tree of life in Paradise as the symbol. In this higher sense the term is used in the Revelation (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14). Wisdom restores to her worshippers the life which was lost in Adam (Cartwright). It is remarkable that the imagery here employed is confined to these two hooks. After the historical record in Genesis, no other sacred writers refer to the tree of life. Old ecclesiastical writers saw in the expression a reference to Christ's redeeming work. "The tree of life is the cross of Christ," lignum vitae crux Christi (quoted by Delitzsch). The symbol, Plumptre remarks, entered largely into the religious imagery of Assyria, Egypt, and Persia. To them that lay hold upon (lammakhazikim, hiph. participle); Vulgate, his, qui apprehenderint; LXX; τοῖς ἀντεχομένοις. The Hebrew verb חָזַק (khazak), "to tie fast," is in hiph. with בְּ (be)," to take hold of," "to seize any one." Happy is every one that retaineth her. In the original, the participle, "they retaining her" (tom'keyah), is plural, and the predicate, "happy" or "blessed" (m'ushshar), is singular. The latter is used distributively, and the construction is common (cf. Proverbs 15:22). The Authorized Version aptly renders the original. The necessity for "retaining" as well as "laying hold" of Wisdom is pointed out. The verb תָּמַךְ (tamak) is "to hold fast something taken." Such will be blessed who hold Wisdom tenaciously and perseveringly.

Proverbs 3:19-26

5. Fifth hortatory discourse. Wisdom, the creative power of God, exhibited as the protection of those who fear God. The teacher in this discourse presents Wisdom under a new aspect. Wisdom is the Divine power of God, by which he created the world, and by which he sustains the work of his hands and regulates the operations of nature. This eminence of Wisdom, in her intimate association with Jehovah, is made the basis of a renewed exhortation to keep Wisdom steadily in view. The elevated thought that Wisdom has her source in Jehovah might seem in itself an adequate and sufficient reason for the exhortation. But another motive is adduced intimately bound up with this view of Wisdom. Jehovah becomes the ground of confidence and the protection in all conditions of life of those who keep Wisdom.

Proverbs 3:19

The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth. The emphatic position of the word Jehovah, "the Lord," at the beginning of the sentence (cf. Psalms 27:1-14; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 99:1-9), as well as the nature of the discourse, indicates a new paragraph. The description of the creative Wisdom of Jehovah may have been suggested to the mind of the teacher by the mention of the tree of life, in Proverbs 3:18 (Zockler); but the connection between this and the preceding passage has to be sought for in something deeper. The scope of the teacher is to exhibit, and so to recommend, Wisdom in every respect, and after showing her excellence in man, he now brings her forward as the medium of creation, and hence in her relation to God. By wisdom (b'kokhmah); Vulgate, sapientia; LXX; σοφίᾳ. It is evident that Wisdom is here something more than an attribute of Jehovah. "By Wisdom" means "by, or through, the instrumentality of Wisdom." While the corresponding and parallel expressions, "understanding," "knowledge," militate against the idea of an hypostatizing of Wisdom, i.e. assigning to Wisdom a concrete and objective personality, yet the language is sufficiently strong, when we connect this passage with Proverbs 1:1-33 and Proverbs 8:1-36, to warrant our regarding Wisdom as something apart from yet intimately connected with Jehovah, as an active agency employed by him, and hence this description may. be looked upon as an anticipation of that which is more fully developed in Proverbs 8:1-36; where the characteristics which are wanting here are there worked out at length. The rabbins evidently connected the passage before us, as well as Proverbs 1:1-33 and Proverbs 8:1-36, with Genesis 1:1, by rendering bereshith, "in the beginning." by bekokhmah, "by Wisdom." Our Lord identifies himself with the Divine Sophia, or Wisdom (Luke 11:49). And the language of St. John, "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3), which assigns to the Logos, or Word of God, i.e. Christ, the act of creation (cf. John 1:10, and especially the language of St. Paul, in Colossians 1:16), argues in favour of the view of some commentators who understand Wisdom to refer to the Second Person of the Trinity. The Logos was understood by Alexandrian Judaism to express the manifestation of the unseen God, the Absolute Being, in the creation and government of the world; and the Christian teachers, when they adopted this term, assigned to it a concrete meaning as indicating the Incarnate Word (see Bishop Lightfoot, in Colossians 1:15). For the passage, see Psalms 33:6; Psalms 104:24; Psalms 136:5; and especially Jeremiah 10:12, "He hath established the world by his wisdom," etc.; Jeremiah 51:55; Ec 24:2, seq. Hath founded (yasod); Vulgate, fundavit; LXX; ἐθεμελίωσε. The same verb is used in Job 38:4; Psalms 24:2; Psalms 78:69, of the creation of the earth by God. While the primary meaning of yasad is "to give fixity to," "to lay fast," that of konen, rendered "he hath established," is "to set up," "to erect," and so "to found," from kun, or referring to the Arabic and Ethiopic cognate root, "to exist," "to give existence to." The marginal reading, "prepared," corresponds with the LXX. ἐτοίμασε. The Vulgate is stabilivit, "he hath established."

Proverbs 3:20

By his knowledge the depths are broken up. This is usually taken to refer to that primary act in creation, the separation of the waters from the earth, when "the waters were gathered together unto their own place," as recorded in Genesis 1:9. So Munster, Zockler, Wardlaw. But it seems better to understand it (as Mercerus, Lapide, Delitzsch, and Authorized Version) of the fertilization of the earth by rivers, streams, etc; which burst forth from the interior of the earth. In this sense the correspondence is preserved with the second hemistich. where the atmospheric influence is referred to as conducing to the same end. The teacher passes from the creation to the wonderful means which Jehovah employs through Wisdom to sustain his work. The depths (t'homoth); Vulgate, abyssi; LXX; ἄβυσσοι, are here "the internal water stores of the earth" (Delitzsch), and not the depths of the ocean, as in Proverbs 8:24, Proverbs 8:27, Proverbs 8:28, and in Genesis 1:2. Are broken up (niv'kau); properly, were broken up, niph. perfect of baka,

The perfect describes a past act, but one that is still continuing in effect. Cf. Vulgate eruperunt, "they burst forth;" LXX; ἐῤῥάγησαν, aorist 2 passive of ῥήγνυμι, "to burst forth," Targum, rupti sunt; and Syriac, ruptae sunt. The idea of division or separation is present, but it is not the predominant idea. There seems to be no allusion here either to the Deluge (Beds), nor to the cleaving of the waters of the Red Sea (Gejerus), though both of these historical events were undoubtedly well known to the teacher. And the clouds drop down the dew. The clouds (sh'khakim) are properly the ether, the higher and colder regions of the atmosphere, and then "the clouds," as in Psalms 77:15, which are formed by the condensation of vapours drawn by solar influence from the surface of the earth—seas, rivers, etc. The singular shakhak signifies "dust," and. secondly "a cloud," evidently from the minute particles of moisture of which a cloud is composed. Drop down (yir'aphu, kal future of raaph, used as a present or imperfect); LXX; ἐῤῥύησαν, "let flow." The clouds discharge their contents in showers, or distil at evening in refreshing dew. Modern science agrees with the meteorological fact here alluded to, of the reciprocal action of the heavens and the earth. The moisture drawn from the earth returns again "to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud, to give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater" (Isaiah 55:10). Dew; tal, here used not only of dew, but of rain in gentle and fructifying showers. The Arabic word signifies "light rain;" LXX; δρόσους, "dew." Moses, in describing the blessing of Israel, says, "His heavens shall drop down dew" in the same sense (De 38:28; cf. Job 36:28). The fertilization of the earth is ordered by the Divine Wisdom.

Proverbs 3:21

My son, let not them depart from thine eyes. After the description of the power of Wisdom exhibited in creating and sustaining the earth, the exhortation to keep Wisdom steadily before the eyes, and the promises of Divine protection, appropriately follow. Since Wisdom is so powerful, then, the teacher argues, she is worthy of being retained and guarded, and able to protect. Let them not depart (al-yaluzu); i.e. "let them not escape or slip aside from your mind (cf. Vulgate, ne effluant haec ab oculis ruts). They are to be as frontiers between your eyes, as a ring upon your finger. Yaluzu, from luz, "to bend aside," defiectere, a via declinare, which see in Proverbs 2:15, ought probably to be written yellezu, on the analogy of the corresponding passage in Proverbs 4:21. The LXX. renders absolutely μὴ παραῤῥύης, "do not thou pass by," from παραῤῥύω, "to flow by," "to pass by, recede" (cf. Hebrews 2:1, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to these things, lest at any time we should let them slip ( μὴ ποτε παραῤῥυῶμεν)," quoted probably from the LXX. of this passage). The Targum Jonathan reads ne vilescat, "let it," i.e. wisdom, "not become worthless." Them, included in the verb yaluzu of which it is subject in the original, is to be referred either to "sound wisdom and discretion" of verse 21b—so Gejerus, Cartwright, Geier, Umbreit, Hitzig, Zockter, Plumptre (a similar trajection occurs in Deuteronomy 32:5, and is used, as here, to give vividness to the description): or to "wisdom, understanding, knowledge," of the preceding verses—so Delitzsch and Holden. The first view in every way seems preferable, and it is no objection to it that "sound wisdom" (tushiyyah) and "discretion" (m)yimmah) are feminine, while the verb "depart" (yaluzu) is masculine. The Syriac reads, "Let it not become worthless (ne vile fit) in thine eyes to keep my doctrine and my counsels." Keep sound wisdom and discretion. Keep; n'zor, kal imperative of natsar, "to watch, guard." For "sound wisdom" (tushiyyah), see Proverbs 2:7. Here used for "wisdom" (kokhmah), as "discretion" (m'zimmah) for "understanding" (t'vunah), to contrast the absolute wisdom and insight of God with the corresponding attributes in man (see Zockler, in loc.). They belong to God, but are conferred on those who seek after Wisdom, and are then to be guarded as priceless treasures. The Vulgate reads, custodi legem et consilium; and the LXX; τήρησον δὲ ἐμὴν βουλὴν καὶ ἔννοιαν, "guard my counsel and thought."

Proverbs 3:22

So shall they he life to thy soul, and grace to thy neck. So shall they be (n'yikva); and they shall be. The "soul" and "neck" stand for the whole man in his twofold nature, internal and external. Life is in its highest and widest sense given to the soul (see Proverbs 2:16, Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 8:35), and favour is conferred on the man, i.e. he becomes acceptable to his neighbours, if he has wisdom. The latter expression is very similar to Proverbs 1:9, where the same promise is expressed, "grace" (hon) being equivalent to "ornament of grace" (liv'yath hon). Others understand "grace to thy neck" (hon l'garg' grotheyka), as gratia guttturis, in the sense of "grace of the lips," as in Psalms 45:3 and Proverbs 22:11, that is, as the grace of speaking, power of eloquent and effective utterance (Gejerus, Bayne, Lapide). It is better to take it as referring to the adornment of the personal character, and so by metonymy of the favour and kindness which it procures.

Proverbs 3:23

Then shall thou walk in thy way safely. The first of the promises of protection, which follow from Proverbs 3:23-26. He who keeps "sound wisdom and discretion" shall enjoy the greatest sense of security in all situations of life. Safely (lavetakh); either in confidence, as Vulgate fiducialiter, i.e. confidently, because of the sense of security (cf. LXX; πεποιθὼς ἐν εἰρήνῃ, and Proverbs 3:26); or in security: the adverb lavetakh is equivalent to betakh in Proverbs 1:30 and Proverbs 10:9. The allusion is obvious. As he who is accompanied by an escort proceeds on his way in safety, so you protected by God will pass your life in security; or, as Trapp, "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)." And thy foot shall not stumble; literally, and thou shall not strike thy foot. Stumble in the original is thiggoph, 2 singular kal future of nagaph, "to smite, … strike against with the foot." So in Psalms 91:12. The Authorized Version, however, correctly gives the sense. The LXX; like the Authorized Version, makes "foot" the subject, ὁ δὲ ποῦς σου σὺ μὴ προσκόψῃ, "(That) thy foot may not stumble." For a similar assurance, see Proverbs 4:12. The meaning is: You will not stumble, because you will be walking in the way of wisdom, which is free from stumbling blocks (Lapide). You will not fall into sin.

Proverbs 3:24

When thou liest down thou shalt not be afraid. This is beautifully illustrated by what David says in Psalms 4:8, "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." No fear is to be apprehended where Jehovah is Protector (see Psalms 3:5, Psalms 3:6; Psalms 46:1-3; Psalms 91:1-5; Psalms 121:5-8). When, (im) is rendered "if" by the Vulgate, LXX; Targum Jonathan. Thou liest down; tish'kav, "thou shalt lie down," kal future, like shakavta, kal perfect, in the corresponding hemistich, is from shakav, "to lie down," specially to lay one's self down to sleep, as in Genesis 19:4; Psalms 3:6. Vulgate, si dormieris; cf. Proverbs 6:22, "when thou sleepest" בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ, b'shok'b'ka'. The LXX. rendering, "if thou sittest" ( κάθη), arises from reading תֵּשֵׁב (teshev) for תִּשְׁכַב (tish'kav) Yea, thou shalt lie down; b'shok'b'ta, as before, with] prefixed, equivalent to the future, as in the Authorized Version; LXX; καθεύδῃς. Shall be sweet; arvah, from arav, "to be sweet," or "pleasant," perhaps "well mixed," as arev, equivalent to "to mix." Thy sleep shall be full of pleasing impressions, not restless, as in Deuteronomy 28:66 and Job 7:4, but sweet, because of the sense of safety, and from confidence in God, as well as from a good conscience (cf. Job 11:18, "Thou shalt take thy rest in safety," from which the idea is probably taken).

Proverbs 3:25

Be not afraid; al-tirah, is literally "fear thou not," the future with al preceding being used for the imperative in a dehortative sense, as in Genesis 46:3; Job 3:4, Job 3:6, Job 3:7; Vulgate, ne paveas. Others, however, render, as the LXX; οὐ φοβηθήσῃ, "Thou shalt not be afraid," in the sense of a promise. The verb yare, from which tirah, is here followed by min, as in Psalms 3:7; Psalms 27:1, and properly means "to be afraid from or before" some person or thing. Sudden; pithom, an adverb used adjectively (cf. like use of adverb khinnam in Proverbs 26:2). Fear (pakhad); as in Proverbs 1:16, the object which excites terror or fear, as any great disaster. The desolation of the wicked (shoath r'shaim) may be taken either

"Si fractus illabatur orbis,

Impavidum ferient ruinae."

(Horace, 'Od.,' 3.3, 7, 8.)

"Let Jove's dread arm with thunders rend the spheres,

Beneath the crush of worlds undaunted he appears."

(Francis's Trans.)

Proverbs 3:26

Thy confidence (v'kis'leka); literally, as thy confidence. Kesel, primarily "loin" or "flank," as in Le Proverbs 3:14; Proverbs 10:15; Job 15:27, is apparently used here in its secondary meaning of "confidence," "hope," as in Job 8:14; Job 31:24; Psalms 78:7. The בְ (v') prefixed is what is usually termed the בְ essentiae, or בְ pleonasticum (equivalent to the Latin tanquam, "as"), and serves to emphasize the connection between the predicate "thy confidence" and the subject "Jehovah". Jehovah shall be in the highest sense your ground and object of confidence. Delitzsch describes kesel as confidence in the presence of evil: Jehovah in the presence of the "sudden fear," and of "the desolation of the wicked," the evils and calamities which overwhelm the wicked, shall be thy confidence. The sense of his all-encircling protection will render you undismayed. The meaning given to kesel as "foolhardiness" (Psalms 49:14) and "folly" (Ecclesiastes 7:25). and the connection of kesel with k)silim in Proverbs 1:22, comes from the root idea kasal, "to be fleshly, or fat," the signification of which branches out on the one side into strength and boldness, and on the other into languor and inertness, and so folly or confidence in self (Schultens, i.e.). The Talmudic rendering of the Rabbi Salomon approximates to this meaning, "and the things in which you seemed to be foolish (desipere videbaris) he will be at once present with you." Others, as Ziegler, Muentinghe, gave kesel its primary meaning, and translate, "Jehovah shall be as thy loins," the loins being regarded as the emblem of strength. Jehovah shall be your strength. But kesel does not appear to have this local application here. Wherever it is used in this sense, as in Job and Leviticus cited above, there is something in the context to point it out as a part of the body. Compare, however, the Vulgate. in latere suo, "in thy side or flank." The LXX. renders, ἐπὶ πασῶν ὁδῶν σου, "over all thy ways." From being taken (millaked); Vulgate, ne capiaris, "lest thou be taken." The meaning is, Jehovah will be your protection against all the snares and traps which the impious lay for you. Leked, "a being taken," is from lakad, "to take or catch animals" in a net or in snares. It only occurs here in the Proverbs. Its unusual appearance, together with other reasons, not tenable, however, has led Hitzig to reject verses 22-26 as an interpolation.

The LXX. reads, πτόησιν, pavorem. πτόησις, in Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch, is used subjectively, and means "any vehement emotion." The word only occurs once in the New Testament in 1 Peter 3:6, μὴ φοβούμενη μηδεμίαν πτόησιν, where it is evidently quoted from the passage before us, in an objective sense, and designates some external cause of terror (cf. Authorized Version, "and be not afraid with any amazement;" see also Book of Common Prayer: 'Solemnization of Matrimony,' ad fin).

Proverbs 3:27-35

6. Sixth admonitory discourse. In this discourse the teacher still carries on his object, which is to demonstrate the conditions upon which true wisdom and happiness are to be attained. The discourse differs from the preceding in consisting of detached proverbs, and may be divided into two main sections—the first (Proverbs 3:27-30) enjoining benevolence, that love to one's neighbour which is the fulfilling of the Law; the second warning against emulating the oppressor and associating with him, because of the fate of the wicked (Proverbs 3:31-35). It is observable that all the maxims have a negative form, and thus present a striking contrast to the form adopted by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-48.), and to the admonitions at the close of St. Paul's Epistles. In one instance in particular (Proverbs 3:30), the teaching does not reach the high moral standard of the gospel (see Delitzsch and Lange).

Proverbs 3:27

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due. This precept indicates the general principle of beneficence, and not merely, as the words at first sight seem to imply, restitution (as Cajet.). We are to do good to those who are in need or deserving of it, whenever we have the means and opportunity. From them to whom it is due (nib'alayv); literally, from its owner, from baal, dominus, "lord" or owner of a thing. Cf. Proverbs 16:22, "Prudence is a fountain of life to its owner (b'alayv);" Proverbs 1:19; Proverbs 17:8; and also Ecclesiastes 8:8; Ecclesiastes 7:12;—in all of which passages proprietorship in the thing or quality mentioned is expressed. The owners of good are those to whom good is due or belongs either by law or by morality, whether by desert or need. The latter qualification is the one emphasized in the LXX, ΄ὴ ἀπόσχῃ ἐ͂ν ποιεῖν ἐνδεῆ, "Abstain not from doing good to the needy." So the Arabic pauperi. The Targum and Syriac put the precept in more general terms, "Cease not to do good," without indicating in particular anyone who is to be the recipient of the good. But the Jewish interpreters generally (e.g. Ben Ezra) understand it of the poor, egentibus. The Vulgate puts an entirely different interpretation on the passage: Noli prohibere benefacere eum qui potest; si vales, et ipse benefac, "Do not prohibit him who can from doing good; if you are able, do good also yourself." It thus implies that we are to put no impediment in the way of any one who is willing to do good to others, and enjoins the duty on ourselves also. Good (tov); i.e. "good" under any form, any good deed or act of beneficence. The principle brought forward in this passage is that what we possess and is seemingly our own is in reality to be regarded as belonging to others. We are only stewards of our wealth. In the power of thine hand (lel yad'yka); literally, in the power of thine hands. For the dual, yad'yka, the Keri substitutes the singular, yad'ka, to harmonize it with the similar expression, lel yadi, "in the power of thy hand," which occurs in Genesis 31:27; Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5; Micah 2:1. But there is no grammatical need for the emendation. Both the LXX. and Targum employ the singular, "thy hand." Power (el); here "strength" in the abstract. Usually it means "the strong," and is so used as an appellation of Jehovah. though, as Gesenius says, those little understand the phrase who would render el here "by God." The לְ prefixed to el indicates the condition. The meaning of the phrase is, "While it is practicable, and you have the opportunity and means of doing good, do it." Do not defer, but do good promptly. The passage receives a remarkable illustration in the language of St. Paul, "While we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men" (Galatians 6:10).

Proverbs 3:28

The precept of this and that of the preceding verse are very closely related. The former precept enjoined the general principle of benevolence when we have the means; this carries on the idea, and is directed against the postponement of giving when we are in a position to give. In effect it says, "Do not defer till tomorrow what you can do today." This "putting off" may arise from avarice, from indolence, or from insolence and contempt. These underlying faults, which are incompatible with neighbourly good wilt, are condenmed by implication. Unto thy neighbour; l'reayka, "to thy friends," the word being evidently used distributively. Reeh is "a companion" or "friend" (cf. Vulgate, amico tuo; Syriac, sodali tuo), and generally any other person, equivalent to the Greek ὁ πλησίον, "neighbour." The Authorized Version correctly renders "come again," as shav is not merely "to return," but to return again to something (so Delitzsch); cf. Vulgate, revertere; and as the words, "tomorrow I will give thee," show. The LXX. adds, "For thou knowest not what the morrow may bring forth," probably from Proverbs 17:1. If viewed in respect of the specific claims which servants have for work done, the precept is a re-echo of Le Proverbs 29:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15. In illustration of the general scope of the passage, Grotius quotes, "A slow-footed favour is a favour without favour." Seneca says in the same spirit, "Ingratum est beneficium quod diu inter manus dantis haesit," "The benefit is thankless which sticks long between the hands of the giver" (Seneca, 'Benef.,' Deuteronomy 1:2); cf. also Bis dat qui cito dat.

Proverbs 3:29

Devise not evil against thy neighbour. This precept is directed against abuse of confidence. Devise not evil (al takharosh raah). The meaning of this expression lies between "fabricating evil" and "ploughing evil." The radical meaning of kharash, from which takharosh, is "to cut into," "to inscribe" letters on a tablet, cognate with the Greek χαράσσειν, "to cut into." But it is used in the sense of "to plough" in Job 4:18, "They that plough iniquity (khar'shey aven)," and Psalms 129:3, "The ploughers ploughed (khar'shim khar'shim) upon my back" (cf. Hosea 10:13). This also appears from the context to be the meaning in Proverbs 6:14. With these we may compare such expressions as "to plough a lie" ( μὴ ἀροτρία ψεύδος, rendered in the Authorized Version, "Devise not a lie"); see Proverbs 7:12, and "to sow iniquity," Proverbs 22:8—a cognate figure. "To plough evil" is to devise evil, to prepare for it, just in the same way as a ploughman prepares the land for sowing. In this sense the verb is understood by the older commentators and by Ewald and Delitzsch. On the other hand, the verb may be used in its other signification, "to fabricate," and hence "to contrive." The noun kharash is an artificer of iron, etc. (Exodus 35:35; Deuteronomy 27:15). "To fabricate evil" is, of course, as the Authorized Version "to devise evil." The LXX; μὴ τεκτῄνη, from τεκτείνομαι, "to build," inclines to this sense. The Vulgate, ne moliaris, does not clear up the point, though moliri, usually "to contrive," is used by Virgil, 'Georg.,' 1.494, "moliri terrain," of working or tilling the ground. The verb also occurs in Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 12:20; Proverbs 14:22. Seeing he dwelleth securely by thee; i.e. as the Vulgate, cure ille in te habet fiduciam, "when he has confidence in thee;" so the LXX.; or, as the Targum and Syriac, "when he dwells with thee in peace." To dwell (yashar) is in Psalms 1:1 "to sit with any one," i.e. to associate familiarly with him (cf. Psalms 26:4, Psalms 26:5); but it also has the meaning , "to dwell," and the participle yoshev, here used; in Genesis 19:23 : 6:21, means "an inhabitant, a dweller." Securely (lavetah); i.e. with full trust (see on 6:23). Devising evil against a friend is at any time reprehensible, but to do so when he confides in and is altogether unsuspicious of you, is an act of the greatest treachery, and an outrage on all law. human and Divine. It implies dissimulation. It is the very sin by which "the devil beguiled Eve through his subtlety" (Wardlaw).

Proverbs 3:30

The meaning of the precept in this verse is clear. We are nat to strive or quarrel with a man unless he has first given us offence. So Le Clerc, "Nisi injuria prior lacessiverit." The admonition is directed against those who, from spite, jealousy, or other reasons, "stir up strife all the day long" with those who are quiet and peaceable. Strive. The Keri here reads tariv for the Khetib taruv, but without any change of meaning. The verb ruv, from which taruv, is "to strive or contend with the hand and with blows," as in Deuteronomy 33:7; or with words, as in Psalms 103:9 (cf. the Vulgate, ne contendas; and the LXX, μὴ φιλεχθήσης, "Do not exercise enmity," from the unusual φιλεχθρέω. Ruv is here followed by עִם (im), as in Job 9:3; Job 40:2; and Genesis 26:30 Its forensic sense, "to contend with in law," does not strictly apply here, though the precept may be taken as discouraging litigation (Lapide). Without cause (khinnam); LXX; ματήν, equivalent to δωρεάν, in John 15:25; Vulgate, frustra; further explained in the concluding clause (see on Proverbs 1:17). If he have done thee no harm. The phrase, gumal raah, is to bring evil upon any one (Schultens). The verb gamal signifies "to do, to give, to show to any one." Holdea renders, "Surely he will return thee evil," in the sense that unprovoked attack ensures retaliation.]gut this is to ignore the negative force of im-lo, "if not." The verb sometimes means "requiting," but not in the passage before us, nor in Proverbs 11:17; Proverbs 31:12. The Vulgate renders as the Authorized Version, Cum ipse tibi nihil mali fecerit. It is to be remarked that this precept falls below the moral standard of the New Testament teaching (see Matthew 5:39-41; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Corinthians 6:6-8), and of the example of our Lord, of whom it was predicted that "When he was reviled, be reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (see Isaiah 53:1-12).

Proverbs 3:31

Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. The thought of strife in the preceding verse leads to that of oppression, and the precept is directed against fellowship with those who outrage the general law of benevolence and justice, Envy not; i.e. as Stuart, "Do not anxiously covet the booty which men of violence acquire." Success and wealth may follow from severity and extortion, but the man who acquires prosperity by these means is not to be envied even by the victim of his oppression (for the verb, see Proverbs 23:17; Proverbs 24:1, Proverbs 24:19). The oppressor (ish khamas); literally, a man of violence. The expression occurs in Proverbs 14:29; Psalms 18:41, and in its plural form, ish khamamim, "man of violences," in 2 Samuel 22:49; Psalms 140:1, Psalms 140:4. The man of violence is one who "grinds the faces of the poor," and whose conduct is rapacious, violent, and unjust. And choose none of his ways; literally, and choose not all his ways, i.e. with a view to acquire the same wealth, greatness, and power. The LXX. renders this verse, "Do not acquire the hatred of evil men, neither be jealous of their ways," evidently from having taken tiv'khar, "choose," in the second hemistich, for tith'khan, "be jealous."

Proverbs 3:32

This verse gives the reason for the previous warning. The oppressor is here included under the more general term, "the froward." The froward; naloz, hiph. participle from luz, "to bend aside," and hence a perverted or wicked man, one who turns aside from the way of uprightness, a transgressor of the Law (cf. LXX; παράνομος); and so the opposite of "the righteous," y'sharim, "the upright," those who pursue the path of justness, or the straightforward. Abomination (toevah); i.e. an abhorrence, something which, being impure and unclean (cf. LXX; ἀκάθαρτος), is especially abhorrent to Jehovah. In some passages it is connected with idolatry, as in 1 Kings 14:24 and 2 Kings 23:13, but is never used in this sense in the Proverbs, where it occurs about twenty times (see Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 21:27; Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 11:20, etc.). The passage shows that prosperity and worldly success are not always a true measure of Divine favour. His secret (sodo); Vulgate, sermocinatio. Here sod probably means "familiar intercourse," as in Job 29:4 and Psalms 25:14; and hence the special favour with which Jehovah regards the upright, by revealing to them what he conceals item others, or his friendship (compare what our Lord says in John 15:14, John 15:15). Dathe translates "probis vero est familiaris." Gesenius says sod properly means "a couch," or triclinium on which people recline; but Delitzsch derives it from the root sod, "to be firm," "compressed," and states that it therefore means properly "a being together, or sitting together." The LXX. eontinues the "froward man" ( παράνομος) as the subject, and renders, "Every transgressor is impure before God, and does not sit together with ( οὐ συνεδριάζει) the just."

Proverbs 3:33

The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked. From Proverbs 3:33 to the end of the discourse the contrast is continued between the condition of the wicked and the just, the scornful and the lowly, the wise and the fools. In the verse before us a further reason is given why the prosperity of the wicked is not enviable. The curse of Jehovah dwells in and rests upon his house. The curse; m'erah, from arav, "to curse." This word only occurs five times in the Old Testament once in Deuteronomy, twice in Proverbs (here and in Proverbs 28:27), and twice in Malachi. The nature of the curse may be learned from Deuteronomy 28:20, where it is the infliction of temporal misfortunes ending with the "cutting off" of the wicked (see Psalms 37:22). It is a hovering evil, the source of constant misfortune. LXX; κατάρα. Cf. "the cursing" (alah) against thieves and swearers in Zechariah 5:4. But he blesseth the habitation the just. The contrast to the former, as in Deuteronomy 28:2-6. He blesseth; i.e. both temporarily and spiritually. Blessing does not exclude affliction, but "trials" are not "curses" (Wardlaw). Both the LXX. and the Vulgate render, "But the habitations of the just shall be blessed," the LXX. having read the pual future (y'vorak), "they shall be blessed," for the piel future (y'varik), "he shall bless," of the text. The habitation; naveh, from navah, "to sit down," "to dwell." A poetic and nomad (Fleischer) word usually understood of a small dwelling is tugurium, the shepherd's hut or cottage, "the sheepcote" of 2 Samuel 7:8. The LXX. ἕπαυλις, and tho Vulgate hubitaculam, favour the suggestion of Gejerus, that a contrast is here made between the large house or palace (bayith) of the wicked and the small dwelling of the just. In Proverbs 21:20 and Proverbs 24:15 the word is rendered "dwelling."

Proverbs 3:34

Surely he scorneth the scorners; literally, if with regard to the scorners he scorneth (im lalletsim hu yalits); i.e. he repays scorn with scorn; or, as Rabbi Salomon, "He renders to them so that they fall in their own derision (reddit ipsis ut in sua derisione corruant)." He renders their schemes abortive. He resists them. The scorners (letsim) are those who treat with scoffing regard the precepts and truths of God; the arrogant, proud, insolent, here placed in contrast with "the lowly." Vulgate, derisores; LXX; ὐπερήφανοι, "the overbearing." The לְ for (l'ha), prefixed to letsim, signifies "with regard to," as in Job 32:4 (cf. Psalms 16:3, "With regard to the saints (lik'ddshim), in them only I delight"). But he giveth grace unto the lowly; or, on the other hand, the לְה prefixed to laanayim, "to the lowly," having that antithetical force here as in Job 8:20. The lowly (anayyim); Vulgate, mansueti; LXX; ταπωῖνοι; properly, "the afflicted," with added notion of submission and lowly demeanour, and hence the meek, gentle—the gentle towards man, and the abased and lowly before God. St. James (James 4:6) quotes the LXX. of this passage, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." With the exception of substituting κύριος for θεός (cf. 1 Peter 5:5), our Lord's parable of the Pharisee and publican illustrates the teaching of this verse (Luke 18:9-14).

Proverbs 3:35

The wise shall inherit glory. Proverbs 11:2 indicates that "the wise" here are to be identified with "the lowly" of the preceding verse. Inherit; succeed to it as a matter of course by hereditary right as sons. Heirship implies sonship. Glory (kavod); or, honour; not merely earthly distinction and splendour, the glory of man, but the "glory of God." But shame shall be the promotion of fools; or, as margin, shame exalteth the fools. The rendering of the original, vuk'silim merim kalon, depends upon the meaning to be given to merim, the hiph. participle of rum, hiph. "to lift up, exalt;" and whether the plural, k'silim, in a distributive sense, as in Proverbs 11:18, or kalon, is the subject. Various interpretations have been given of the passage.

HOMILETICS

Proverbs 3:1-4

Making the heart a treasury of good principles

I. THE TREASURE. Innumerable impressions are constantly being made upon our minds, and as constantly transferring themselves into memories. Frivolous thoughts, false notions, corrupt images, once harboured, take up their abode in the soul, and ultimately modify its Character to the likeness of themselves. It is most important for us to guard our memories from such things, and to fill them with more worthy stores. Consider, therefore, the best subjects for contemplation and memory.

1. The Law of God. Divine truth is the highest truth, the noblest theme of meditation, the supreme guide to conduct. Truth concerning our actions, the revealed will of God, is for us the most valuable Divine truth. Other forms of truth may please and help us, but this is essentially needful as a lamp to our feet. We can afford to lose sight of the stars if the harbour light shines clear on the waters over which we have to sail. This practical Divine truth—not our dreams and fancies, but utterances of God's will—we are called to remember. Hence the importance of studying the Bible, which contains it. It is well for children to store their minds with passages of Scripture. These will afford strength in temptation, guidance in perplexity, comfort in sorrow.

2. Mercy and truth. "The letter killeth:" It is superstition that merely treasures up the words of Holy Writ, and repeats them parrot-like, as though a spell were to be wrought by the very utterance of them. The truth contained within these ancient words is what we need to recollect. And it is not the exact verbal bearing of the Law, but the wide-reaching principles underlying it, that Christians are called upon to treasure; not rules of sacrifice, but principles of mercy; not merely the prohibition, "Thou shalt not steal," but the higher precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

3. Christ. Christ is the Truth; he is the incarnation of mercy, our great exemplar, the visible manifestation of God's will, the perfect Ideal of our life. If we are weary of reading dry legal rescripts, and fail in contemplating bare abstract truths, we have a better way of treasuring good principles, by cherishing the vision of Christ.

II. THE TREASURY. This is the heart. It is not enough that the Law has been once for all revealed, that we come under it and under the institutions of the Church, that we treasure the Bible in our library, that we hear it read in hasty moments. Much superstition prevails on these points. People seem to think that there is a virtue in the mere act of reading a chapter from the Bible, and some seem to go through the task as a sort of penance, imagining that they thus score some points to their credit in heaven. The Bible is valuable to us only in so far as it influences us. To influence us it must be known and remembered. The Law graven on stone, locked in the ark, and hidden behind the thick curtains of the sanctuary, could do the people of Israel little good. It needed to be written on the fleshy tables of the heart. This involves:

1. An intelligent understanding of Divine truth, so that it comes to us, not as a mere string of words, but as clear ideas.

2. A good memory of it.

3. A love of it, so that it is treasured thoughtfully, and becomes part of our very being, moulding our character, colouring our thoughts and affections, and directing our conduct. It is not difficult to see that such a treasury of such treasure will secure favour with God and ultimately also favour with men.

Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6

Divine guidance

I. THE NEED OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. Several considerations force this upon us; e.g.:

1. The complexity of life. The longer we live, the more do we feel the profound mystery that touches us on every side. Innumerable avenues open out to us. Innumerable claims are made upon us. Conflicting duties perplex us. We feel as autumn leaves before the driving winds. We are helpless to choose and follow the right.

2. Our ignorance of the future. Like Columbus, we set our sails to cross unknown seas. We know not what a day will bring forth, yet we must boldly face the next day, and plan for many a day in advance. Our whole life must be arranged with respect to the future. We live in the future. Yet the future is hidden from us. How needful, then, to be guided on to that unknown land by One who sees the end from the beginning!

3. The claims of duty. We need a guide if we have only our own interests to consider. Much more is this the case when we are called to serve God. We are not free to choose our own path, even if we have light to do so. The servant must learn the will of his master before he can know what he is to do. Our prayer should be not so much that God should guide us safely, as that he should show us his way.

II. THE CONDITION OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. This is trust. The lower animals are guided by God through unconscious instincts. But having endowed us with a higher nature, God has given to us the dangerous privilege of a larger liberty, and the serious responsibility of voluntarily choosing or rejecting his guidance. But then he vouchsafes this great help on the simplest of all conditions. We have not to deserve it, to attain to it by any skill or labour, but simply to trust with the most childlike faith. Consider what this involves.

1. Self-surrender. "Lean not to thine own understanding." We sometimes pray for God's guidance insincerely. We want him to guide us into our own way. But his guidance is useless when we should go the same way without it. It is only when human wisdom diverges from Divine wisdom that we are called expressly to follow the latter; we do so unconsciously under easier circumstances. This does not mean, however, that we are to stultify our intellect; we must rather seek God's Spirit to enlighten it—not lean to our understanding, but to God for the strengthening of that understanding.

2. Whole-hearted faith. "Trust in God with all thine heart." It is useless to have certain faint opinions about the wisdom of God. Every thought, affection, and desire must be given over to his direction; at least, we must honestly aim at doing this. The more completely we trust the more surely will God guide us,

3. Active faith. God guides, but we must follow his directions. The traveller is not carried up the mountain by his guide; he follows of his own will. It is vain for us to pray for a Divine leading unless we consent to follow the directions indicated to us.

III. THE METHOD OF DIVINE GUIDANCE.

1. Through our own conscience. Conscience is our natural guide. It is not, therefore, the less Divine; for God is the Author of our nature. Conscience, clear and healthy, is the voice of God in the soul. But conscience is liable to corruption with the rest of our nature. Hence the need of prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit to purify, enlighten, and strengthen it.

2. Through inspired teaching. God guides one man through his message to another. Prophets and apostles are messengers of Divine guidance. We need such direction outside our own consciences, especially in our present imperfect condition, or we may mistake the echoes of old prejudices and the promptings of self-interest for voices of God. God's word in the Bible is "a lamp to our feet."

3. Through the disposition of events. God guides us in his overruling providence, now closing dangerous ways, now opening up new paths.

Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10

Consecrated property

I. WE CAN HONOUR GOD WITH OUR PROPERTY. It is not to be supposed that because religion is a wholly spiritual power it has no bearing on material things. Our religion is a mockery unless it affects the way in which we spend our money, as well as all other concerns of life. Property can be consecrated to God by being spent in conscious obedience to his will and by being used for the promotion of his glory, as in the maintenance of worship, the extension of missions, the relief of the poor, the sick, the widow and orphan.

II. GOD HAS CLAIMS UPON OUR PROPERTY.

1. It originally came from him. He created the materials and powers of nature. He gave to us our faculties. We sow the seed, but God gives the increase.

2. It is only lent to us for a season. Till recently it was not ours; soon we must leave it. While we have it, it is a talent to be used in our great Master's service, and for which we shall have to give an account. Rich men will be called to a Divine audit, where all their wealth will be reckoned and their method of spending it apprised. But so also will the poor; for we are all answerable for the use we make of our possessions, whether they be much or little. The one talent must be accounted for as well as the five talents.

III. OUR WHOLE PROPERTY SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO GOD. It was all given to us by God. We shall have to give account of the use we make of all of it—of the substance or capital and of the increase or yearly income. We cannot compound for the abuse of the larger part of our goods by sacrificing to God a small proportion of them. If we give a tithe of our possessions to God, we do not thereby receive a dispensation to give the rest to Mammon. Is the mendicant friar, then, the typical Christian? No. An enlightened Christianity will teach us how to consecrate our possessions to God, while retaining the control of them. We are to be stewards, not beggars.

IV. THE BEST OF OUR PROPERTY SHOULD BE MORE DIRECTLY OFFERED TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. While all we have should be held sacred to God, some should be spent on objects that plainly involve self-sacrifice, and that manifestly concern the kingdom of heaven. We must not make the lofty thought of the consecration of all our property an excuse for low selfishness in spending the whole on ourselves. God expects the best. He should have the firstfruits; his claims should be recognized before all others. People often give to religious objects what they think they can spare after satisfying all other calls. They should give to these first, and see afterwards what is spared for more selfish things.

V. IT IS WELL TO DISPOSE OF OUR PROPERTY ON A CERTAIN METHOD. People who give to religious and philanthropic objects on a system of setting apart a certain portion of their income for such purposes, find that they can thus give most readily and justly. It is for each to settle in his own conscience and before God according to what proportion he should give. One may find a tithe too much, considering his duty to his family etc. Another may find it far too little, considering his ease and affluence and the needs of the world.

VI. THIS CONSECRATION OF PROPERTY TO GOD BRINGS A BLESSING ON THE OWNER. If it is not always rewarded with temporal riches, it is repaid in better treasures—pleasures of sympathy and benevolence and the smile of God.

Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12

Chastening

I. GOD CHASTENS HIS CHILDREN WITH SUFFERING. All suffering is not chastening. Some trouble is the pruning of branches that already bear fruit, in order that they may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2). But when it meets us in our sins and failings, it is to be regarded as a Divine method of correction. It is not then the vengeance of a God simply concerned with his own outraged anger; before this we should tremble with alarm. It is not the chance product of the unconscious working of brute forces; such a materialistic explanation of suffering might well induce blank despair. The teaching of revelation is that suffering comes with a purpose, and that the purpose is our own good; it is a rod to chasten us for our faults, that we may be led to forsake them, and a pruning knife to fit us for larger fruitfulness.

II. THE MOTIVE WITH WHICH GOD CHASTENS HIS CHILDREN IS FATHERLY LOVE.

1. God must be angry with us for our sin. His anger, however, is not the fruit of malignant hatred, but the expression of grieved love. For love can be angry, nay, sometimes must be, if it is pure and strong. The weak kindliness which is a stranger to indignation at wrong doing is based on no deep affection.

2. If God chastens in love, it is for our own good. Weak love seeks the present pleasure of its objects; strong love aims at the highest welfare, even though this involve misunderstandings and temporary estrangement.

3. God's paternal relation with us is the ground of his chastening in love. We do not reel called upon to correct in strange children the faults for which we chastise our own family. The very love we bear to our children rouses indignation at conduct which we should scarcely heed in others. True love is not blind to the faults of those who are loved, it is rather rendered keen sighted by sorrowful interest. Hence we may take the chastening as a proof of the love and Fatherhood of God. If we were not children, God would not thus put us to pain. Instead of regarding trouble as a proof that God has deserted us, we should see in it a sign that God is owning us and concerning himself with our welfare. The worst curse a man can receive is to be deserted by God and left unchecked in pursuit of folly and sin (Hebrews 12:8).

III. TO RIGHTLY RECEIVE DIVINE CHASTENING WE MUST NEITHER DESPISE IT NOR GROW WEARY OF IT. The good it will do to us depends on the reception we give it. Like other graces, the grace of correction may be received in vain, may be abused to our own hurt. We must not be satisfied, therefore, with the mere fact that we are being chastened. Two evils must be avoided.

1. Despising chastening. Cynical indifference and stoical hardness will render the chastening inefficacious. We must open our hearts to receive it. It blesses the broken heart. The very sorrow it induces is of the essence of its healing grace.

2. Growing weary of chastening. This is the opposite failing. We may despair, complain, show impatience, and rebel. Then the chastening loses its utility. The right reception is evidently to feel its grievousness, but to submit humbly and to seek to learn its bitter but wholesome lessons. The two all-essential thoughts, that suffering is for our own good, and that it is sent in love and is a proof of God's fatherly care for our welfare, should help us neither to be indifferent to it nor to rebel against it, but thus humbly to accept it.

Proverbs 3:13-20

More precious than rubies.

We must bear in mind that the wisdom here commended to us is not mere knowledge, science, philosophy. It has two important characteristics. First, it is religious; it is based on the fear of God. Second, it is practical; it assumes the direction of human conduct. It is the knowledge of Divine truth, and the application of it to life. Why is this to be accounted most precious?

I. WISDOM IS VALUABLE ON ACCOUNT OF ITS OWN INHERENT QUALITIES. (Proverbs 3:13-15.) Paper money is worthless unless it can be exchanged for something else; but gold coins have a value of their own. If they are not used in the purchase of other things, the precious metal is valuable, and can be fashioned into objects of use and beauty. Wisdom is like solid specie. If she brings nothing else, she is a treasure in herself. While men are asking what advantages will religion give them, they should see that she is "the pearl of great price," for which all other good things may be sold, and yet the profit remain heavily on the side of him who purchases her. This is an inward treasure, a possession of the soul. It has many advantages over material treasures.

1. It is exalted and elevating. Its character is pure, and it raises those who possess it. There are earthly treasures that defile by contact with them, and others that materialize—make a man hard, worldly, ignoble.

2. It is satisfying. A man cannot live on gold, but on bread alone. There are desires of the soul that money and food do not quiet. Books, pictures, music, all works of art, all triumphs of civilization, leave a void unfilled. It is the mission of the thoughts of God in the soul to fill this void.

3. It is never wearying. Many things that never satisfy soon satiate. We are not full, yet we turn away with disgust, having had enough of them. The sea is beautiful, but the sailor grows tired of the endless monotony of waves. Divine wisdom never tires us. It is infinite, endlessly varied, eternally fresh, It is true that we may become wearied of religious occupations, religious books, etc. But then we have the imperfections of the human embodiment of wisdom to annoy us.

4. It is secure. No thief can steal it. No moth nor rust can consume it. The thief may take a man's jewels, but never his inner treasure. He may be stripped of property, home. choicest possessions, and left to bare beggary; yet if he have precious thoughts of God in his heart, no thief can touch them. They are a safe, an eternal possession.

II. WISDOM IS VALUABLE BECAUSE IT MINISTERS TO OUR EARTHLY WELFARE. (Proverbs 3:16-18.) The temporal advantages of religion are here described with that prominence and positiveness which are characteristic of the Old Testament, and of the Book of Proverbs in particular. We have learnt to see more limitations upon these things, and, at the same time, we have had revealed to us much larger spiritual and eternal beatitudes than those of the Jewish faith. But we may make the mistake of ignoring the truth contained in the old view. There are earthly advantages in religion. It has promises for this life as well as for that to come.

1. Length of days. Many good people die young; many bad men grow hoary in sin. It' it were not so, we should lose the discipline that comes by our having to walk by faith. But on the whole, wisdom tends to length of days by preserving the constitution sound and healthy. A wise way of living falls in with the laws of health. Reckless folly saps the energies of life, induces disease, decrepitude, premature old age and death.

2. Ways of pleasantness and peace. The road is pleasant as well as the end. Religion may bring a cross, but she also brings grace for bearing it. All her rewards are not reserved for the future. There is a peace of God that passeth all understanding, which the world can neither give nor take away, and which will make the wilderness of tim saddest life blossom like the rose.

3. A tree of life. Length of days is a poor blessing unless the life preserved is worth living. What boon would it be to an exile in Siberia, a convict on Dartmoor, a paralytic in an infirmary? Long existence without a source of worthy life is the curse of the Wandering Jew, not the blessing of eternal life. Wisdom—i.e. Divine truth, religion—supplies fruits for holy sustenance and leaves for the healing of the nations. To know God is eternal life (John 17:8).

III. WISDOM IS VALUABLE BECAUSE IT IS A LINK OF CONNECTION BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. (Verses 19, 20.) Our heart is restless till it finds rest in God. All our highest life, all our deepest peace, all our truest thought, all our noblest effort, all our purest joy, depend on our union in and with God. But wisdom is an essential Divine attribute. By it God first created the earth and the heavens (verse 13). By it he now controls all things ever. 20). The wisdom of God is reflected in nature. All our knowledge is just the reflection of this wisdom; it is thinking into the thoughts of God; thus it is a communion with him. Spiritual knowledge brings us nearest to God, who is Spirit. Christ as the incarnate "Word," by whom all things were made, and the Wisdom of God, is our Mediator, and unites us to God.

Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 3:28

Dilatoriness in the payment of just debts

I. THIS DILATORINESS IN MORALLY CULPABLE, AND MOST INJURIOUS TO SOCIETY. Through thoughtlessness in some cases, through deliberate meanness in others, many people postpone the payment of their just debts as long as possible, though they have the money by them, and are perhaps turning it to account for their own advantage. Such needless delay of justice should be regarded as a moral offence. A sad laxity prevails in this matter. It is said that preachers direct their admonitions respecting the business habits of the day too much to one side of the case. The tradesman is accused of greed, dishonesty, deceit, while little is said of the conduct of the customer. But here is an instance where the failing, nay, the sin, lies with the buyer. Most of us little know how much the trading classes suffer from delay and difficulty in calling in the money that is owing to them; how often they pinch themselves and stiffer in silence for fear of losing a customer by giving offence in too much pressing for payment, knowing that the common selfishness of others will readily lead them to court the patronage of the offended client. This delay is grossly unjust to more conscientious people who pay promptly, and yet are made to suffer from the high prices necessitated by the bad debts and postponed payments of others. It is also a direct temptation to those shifty practices which all of us deprecate when we meet with them in trade, Feeling that he cannot recoup himself readily in the regular way, the tradesman is tempted to try some less straightforward method for making his business, thus heavily handicapped, to some extent profitable. A new moral tone is requisite in this matter. People should see that to delay to execute justice is to commit injustice. Time is as valuable as coins. He who robs a man of time is a thief, and should wear the brand of a thief.

II. THE REMEDY FOR THIS DILATORINESS MUST BE FOUND IN A FULLER RECOGNITION OF THE CLAIMS OF HUMAN BROTHERHOOD. It is not enough to prove the abstract justice of prompt payment. The selfishness which withholds it will find some casuistic excuse for further delay. This selfishness, which is at the root of the evil, must be overcome. The spirit of Cain is dishonest as well as murderous. We are too ready to treat those with whom we have merely business dealings according to art entirely different code from that which controls our conduct with our friends. Commercial rules are so much more lax than social laws. The mere business relation is too often robbed of all human consideration, treated from a purely selfish standpoint, almost on a principle of enmity, as though it belonged to a state of war. Does a mart cease to be our brother because we buy and sell with him? When he was a stranger, we felt some tie of common humanity with him. After we have entered into relations of mutual convenience, is the tie broken, and does he become as a heathen and a publican? We must remember that it is our "neighbour" who claims just payment; and are we not required to love our neighbor as ourselves? The golden rule of Christ, that we must do to others as we would that they should do to us, must be applied to business, or we have no right to profess ourselves to be Christians.

HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON

Proverbs 3:1-10

Precepts and promises of wisdom

I. THE CONNECTION OF PRECEPT AND PROMISE.

1. Precept needs confirmation. We cannot but ask—Why should we pursue this or that line of conduct in preference to another? Why should men be God-fearing, honest, chaste? We are rational creatures, not "dumb driven cattle," to be forced along a given road. We must have reasons; and it is to reason in us that the Divine reason ever makes appeal.

2. The confirmation is found in experience. This is the source of our knowledge; to it the true teacher must constantly refer for the verification of his principles, the corroboration of his precepts. The tone assumed by the teacher is indeed that of authority, but real authority always rests upon experience. Experience, in short, is the discovery and ascertainment of law in life. Precepts are its formulation.

3. The experience of the past enables the prediction of the future. Just; as we know the science of the astronomer, e.g; to be sound, because we find that he can predict with accuracy coming events, appearances of the heavenly bodies, eclipses, etc; so do we recognize the soundness of moral teaching by its power to forecast the future fates of men. Precepts are the deductions from the actual; promises the forecasts of that which, because it has been constant in the past, may be expected in the future. In science, in morality, in religion, we build on the permanence of law; in ocher words, on the constancy of the eternal God.

II. PARTICULAR EXAMPLES OF THIS CONNECTION'.

1. Obedience ensures earthly happiness. (Proverbs 3:1, Proverbs 3:2.) The connection is first stated generally. "Extension of days," or long life, is the one aspect of this happiness; inward peace of heart, denied to the godless, the other (Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:2). Prolongation of days, life in the good land, dwelling in the house of the Lord, are the peculiar Old Testament blessings (Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 22:7; Deuteronomy 30:16; Psalms 15:1; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4).

2. Love and good faith ensure favour with God, good will with men. "Mercy," or "love;" the word denotes the recognition of kinship, fellowship in men, and the duty of kindness therein implied. "Truth," in the sense in which we speak of a true man; sincerity and rectitude, the striving to make the seeming and the being correspond to one another; the absence of hypocrisy. St. Paul gives the ideas, "dealing truly in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Let these virtues be bound about the neck, like precious objects, for the sake of security; let these commands be engraven in the only indelible way—upon the heart. Let the mind be fixed and formed, and the result will be favour in the sight of God, and a "good opinion" in the minds of men. The two relations form a correlation. There is no true standing with God which does not reflect itself in the good opinion of good men; no worthy opinion of a man which does not furnish an index to God's view of him. Both were united in the case of the youthful Jesus.

3. Trust in God ensures practical direction. (Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6.)

4. Simple piety secures health. (Proverbs 3:7, Proverbs 3:8.)

(a) Physical. It tends to promote right physical habits. It certainly reacts against the worst disorders, viz. the nervous.

(b) Spiritual. It is in the mind what the sound nervous organization is in the body. The mind thus centrally right digests, enjoys, assimilates, the rich food which nature, books, and men afford.

5. Consecration of property ensures wealth. (Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10.)

Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12

Patience in affliction

Well does this lesson contrast with the preceding picture of prosperity and opulence.

I. THE RELIGIOUS VIEW OF SUFFERING.

1. It is not a dark doom, a cruel fate, a Blind necessity of things. Such were the ideas of the heathen.

2. Its cause may be known. This is ever a great solace—to be persuaded that our troubles lie in the reason of things, that nothing is chance or caprice.

3. That cause is in the Divine mind and will. The power of God is manifested in our suffering; we are but as the clay on the potter's wheel. Still more the love of God is manifested in our suffering. There is always some mitigation accompanying it. "It might have been worse" may be said of every pain. It serves as the foil to set off some greater good. "The ring may be lost, but the finger remains," as the Spanish proverb says.

4. The object or final cause of suffering. Purification from inward evil; correction of faults. The mind grows of itself; the schoolmaster can do little more than point out and correct faults. So with life's education from the religious point of view. And the most fertile minds need most; the discipline of suffering. The pruning knife is not applied to the puny plant; languid minds are the least touched by affliction. In these adjustments, love is still revealed.

5. Suffering must be viewed under the analogy of the parental and filial relation. Let these words once become clear, Father, son, in their application to God's relation to us, and ours to him, and the theory of suffering is mastered (comp. Deuteronomy 8:5; Psalms 118:18; Lamentations 3:31-33).

II. THE RELIGIOUS TEMPER UNDER SUFFERING.

1. Humility. No indignant questioning, scornful recalcitration, proud efforts of stoical fortitude. These will but defeat or delay the end. The medicine benefits not if the patient sets his mind against it as unneeded.

2. Patient endurance. Perseverance in a passive, receptive, attitude is far more difficult than perseverance in activity. We haste to snatch at good. But God is never in haste. His processes are slow. And to receive their benefit we must learn the wisdom of the word "wait." While we are thus waiting, things are not at a standstill; God is working, producing a spiritual shape out of the passive material.

"Maker, remake, complete,

I trust what thou shalt do!"

(R. Browning's noble poem, 'Rabbi Ben Ezra.')

J.

Proverbs 3:13-18

Wisdom the best investment

I. WISDOM COMPARABLE WITH THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS. Silver, gold, precious stones, everything eagerly coveted and warmly prized by the senses and the fancy, may illustrate the worth of the pious intelligence. Every object in the world of sense has its analogy in the world of spirit. The worth of the ruby is due to the aesthetic light in the mind of the observer. But wisdom is the light in the mind itself.

II. WISDOM INCOMPARABLE WITH ALL PRECIOUS THINGS. For by analogy only can we put wisdom and precious minerals side by side, on the principle that mind is reflected in matter. But on the opposite principle, that mind is diverse from matter, rests the incomparableness of wisdom. Mere matter can breed nothing; spiritual force only is generative. When we talk of "money breeding money," we use a figure of speech. It is the mind which is the active power.

III. WISDOM MAY BE VIEWED AS THE BEST LIFE INVESTMENT. All the objects which stimulate human activity to their pursuit are derivable from this capital. Life in health and ample and various enjoyment, riches and honour, pleasure and inward peace; blessings that neither money nor jewels can purchase, are the fruit, direct or indirect, of the cultivation of the spiritual field of enterprise, the whole-hearted venture on this Divine speculation, so to say. For religion's a speculation; faith is a speculation in the sense that everything cannot be made certain; some elements in the calculation must ever remain undefined. (For further, see the early part of the chapter; and on Proverbs 3:17, South's 'Sermons,' vol. 1, Proverbs 3:1) The summary expression, "a tree of life," seems to symbolize all that is beautiful, all that is desirable, all that gives joy and intensity to living (comp. Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4).—J.

Proverbs 3:19, Proverbs 3:20

Wisdom the principle of the creation

Perhaps the mention of the tree of life has reminded the writer of the early account of the creation in Genesis 1:1-31, it. He thus traces the visible world and its order to its spiritual root in the mind of God. He gives a brief sketch of the construction of the cosmos, according to the ancient mode of thought. Both heaven and earth are fixed and made fast; and the water masses divided into those above and those below the "firmament;" the consequence of which is the gushing forth of the clouds in rain. The modern scientific knowledge of the world may be used to impart a rich context to these simple conceptions of the early imagination.

I. THE WORLD IS AN ORDER. The Greeks expressed this idea in the beautiful word "cosmos." It includes symmetry, beauty, variety, harmony, adaptation of means to ends. To recognize these in the visible world is an intellectual delight, and a motive to the purest reverence.

II. THIS ORDER IS REDUCIBLE TO A UNITY. Formerly we looked Upon the world as a collection of independent forces. Science showed us the correlation, interdependence, interaction of these forces. Now she has risen to the grand conception of the unity of all force; and thus arrives at the same goal with religious thought.

III. THAT UNITY OF FORCE IS GOD. It is often forgotten that the generalizations of science are but logical distinctions—cause, law, force, etc. What are these without Being, Personality, as their ground? Empty names. Religion fills these forms with life, and where the scientific man speaks of law, she bows before the living God.

IV. SCIENCE AND RELIGION ARE AT ONE. When we talk of their opposition, we are using a figure of speech. What they represent, these names, is two different directions of the spiritual activity of man. What needs to be cured is narrowness and partialism on the side of both scientific and religious men. For there is no real cleft in the nature of our knowledge. All genuine knowledge is essentially a knowledge of God, of the Infinite revealed in and through the finite.—J.

Proverbs 3:21-26

Confidence and the sense of security in the ways of God

In rich variation the religious habit of mind is presented. What has been spoken of as worthy to be hung about the neck as precious is now referred to as to be kept continually before the eyes of the mind. The designation of wisdom or its attributes is also varied, viz. "thoughtfulness and circumspection" (Proverbs 3:21). In the next, former modes of statement recur (comp. Proverbs 3:3, sqq.).

I. RELIGION STRENGTHENS AND STEADIES THE PERCEPTION. (Proverbs 3:23.) Perfect unconsciousness of danger, as in the child, the somnambulist, etc; is often seen to be a condition of security in walking in dangerous places. And so may the mind be unconscious of danger through the full enfolding in God. But better is the safe step which is given by the perfect knowledge both of danger and the resources against it. This is found in religion. We know what is against us, still more who is for us, and so pass on with head erect and footstep firm.

II. RELIGION CONTROLS THE IMAGINATION. (Proverbs 3:24, Proverbs 3:25.) The insdefinable in space and time continually besets the fancy, and, especially in certain temperaments, fills it with images of gloom and terror. The timid heart forebodes some sudden "tempest of the wicked," some onrush of malice and violence out of the dark. What a chapter of "imaginary terrors" could be filled from the experience of many such a one! But faith re, titles the imagination, preoccupying it with the thought of the almighty Defender (compare the beautiful Psalms 91:1-16.).—J.

Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 3:28

Promptitude in good actions

I. NEGATIVE UNKINDNESS. (Proverbs 3:27.)

1. It consists in withholding good which it is in our power to impart.

2. It is analogous to the refusal repay a just debt. Kindness is the "due" of our fellow men. This does not imply the giving to every beggar or borrower. No act is required which, under the show of kindness, involves no real benefit to another or actually involves an injustice to ourself or another. We must carry these precepts to the light of the heart and of the discriminating intelligence. Speaking generally, sullenness, unsociability, extreme taciturnity, self-absorption, are forms of the sin.

II. PROCRASTINATION CONDEMNED. (Proverbs 3:28.) Remember:

1. That to give promptly is to give twice; that the deferred gift loses its bloom; that unnecessary delay is a fraud on the time and temper of others; that of everything we intend to do we had best make the beginning at once, which, the Roman poet says, is "half the deed."

2. To defer a duty till tomorrow may be to defer it forever. A lost opportunity of doing good is a sad sting in the memory. These negative warnings infer the positive lesson of promptitude.

Proverbs 3:29-31

Odious passions

Let them he held up in the clear exposure of Wisdom, that their very mention may suggest their hideousness.

I. MALICE AND ITS DEVICES. (Proverbs 3:29.) Literally, "Forge not ill against thy neighbour."

1. Malice, like love, is all-inventive. But as the devices of the latter are the very instruments of progress and good, so those of the former are pernicious—burglar's tools, cunning instruments of torture.

2. Directed against unsuspecting objects, malice is truly Satanic, an inspiration from hell. We have to beware of indulgence in curiosity about our neighbours; it is seldom free from some taint of malice in thought, which may pass over at any moment into action. Something in our neighbour's life may rebuke us and rouse the latent passion. How near are the angel and the devil to one another in the heart!

II. UNPROVOKED CONTENTIOUSNESS. (Proverbs 3:30.) In other words, quarrelsomeness. The vicious habit and disposition to "pick quarrels," to invent occasions for faultfinding, for the exercise of pugnacity, and so on. The man of whom it is said that if left alone in the world he would fight with his own shadow. Let him contend with his own vices, of which this temper is a symptom, and expend his pugnacity upon the evils of society. There are men before whose presence all the sleeping germs of wrath start up into chaotic life. Could they but see themselves as others see them!

III. ENVY OF THE WICKED GREAT. (Proverbs 3:31.) As emulation of the virtuous great is a noble passion, this, the reverse side of it, is correspondingly base. Imitation, again, is a powerful passion, the source of "fashion." The pure spirit knows nothing of fashion as such; and immoral fashion, born of mere imitation, it must avoid and. denounce.

1. Every passion has its obverse and its reverse, its good and its evil side; malice may be turned to benevolence; idle quarrelsomeness to noble pugnacity; immoral envy to pure emulation.

2. Religion intensifies, purifies, directs, the passions to noble ends.—J.

Proverbs 3:32-35

The discernment of Jehovah

This is a leading thought of the Old Testament. In ordinary life, in civilized times, the character of individuals is concealed from us by the intermixtures of society and the complexity of its interests. Even in village life it is difficult to classify people; but God distinguishes in—

I. HIS VIEW OF INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER.

1. He abominates the perverse, the crooked, twisted, deceitful character. All in the spirit must be compared with that ideal geometrical rectitude of form, so to speak, which is the truth of his Being.

2. With the upright he "maintains good friendship" (Proverbs 3:32), or "is in secret alliance" (Job 29:4; Psalms 25:14). To enjoy the friendship of discerning minds, what greater privilege can there be? To live on such terms with God is the privilege of the true soul.

II. HIS PROVIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. "His curse dwells in the house of the wicked." A fatality of evil clings to him and his. But Jehovah blesses the tent of the righteous. He scoffs at the scoffer, but gives to the lowly grace (comp. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The wise under this administration inherit glory, while ignominy carries away the fools.

1. These are, in the mode of their presentation, generalized or abstract truths, and as such must be understood. The study of apparent exceptions, even the admission of them, is foreign to this phase of Oriental thought. It was the presence of exceptions, insoluble to ancient thought, which excited the doubt and grief of Job and some of the psalmists.

2. While the truth must be stated, from the exigencies of language, in this sharp polar antithesis, actual human character is found, with all its merits and shades, in the intermediate region.

3. The subtle intermixtures of good and evil in human character, recognized by modern thought, defy complete analysis. We must suspend our judgment in particular cases, leaving all to him who brings to light the hidden things of darkness; conscious that there must be great "reversals of human judgment" upon the character of man (see Mozley's sermon on this subject).—J.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Proverbs 3:1-4

Cherishing the truth

We have here—

I. THE ESSENTIAL THING IMPLIED. It is implied that the Law of God has been heard and understood; also that it has been received as Divine, and taken as the true guide of life. The teacher or preacher has sometimes to assume this; but too often it is an assumption unjustified by the facts. When it is justified, there come—

II. TWO SPECIALLY VALUABLE VIRTUES INSISTED UPON. Mercy and truth (Proverbs 3:3) are to be exemplified.

1. Mercy, which includes

2. Truth, which includes

III. A MATTER OF GREAT MOMENT ENFORCED. This is the cherishing of the truth by the spirit which has received it in the love of it. "My son, forget not my law; … let thine heart keep," etc. (Proverbs 3:1); Bind them about thy neck; write them upon the tablet of thine heart" (Proverbs 3:3). If these precepts are to he duly carried out, and there is thus to be a continuance in well doing, and even a growth therein, then must there be:

1. The dwelling upon them by the mind; that must be a mental habit carefully cultivated.

2. The placing ourselves where they will be urged on our attention and commended to our affection (the sanctuary, the Lord's table, the society of the holy, etc.).

3. The wise study of them as illustrated in the lives of the worthiest of our race.

4. The use of any and every means by which they will be seen by us to be the beautiful and blessed things they are. The children of Wisdom will not only receive gladly the truth of God, but they will cherish it carefully; they will water with diligent hand the plant which has been sown and which has sprung up in the soul. "Let not the workman lose what he has wrought." If we continue in the word of Christ, then are we his disciples indeed (see John 8:31; John 15:9; Acts 13:43).

IV. A LARGE BLESSING PROMISED. (Proverbs 3:2, Proverbs 3:4.) Under the Law, temporal blessings were more abundantly held in view; then the wise were promised long life, comfort, and human estimation, as well as the favour of God. Under the gospel, temporal prosperity takes the second place, spiritual and heavenly well being the first. But we may urge that conformity to the will of God as revealed in his Word:

1. Tends to bodily health and strength; if that does not secure it, assuredly disobedience will not.

2. Tends to secure a life of tranquillity. "Peace," as well as "length of days," it is likely to add; equanimity of mind and the comfort which is the consequence of right and kind behaviour.

3. Tends to win the esteem and the affection of our neighbours. "Favour in the sight of man."

4. Ensures the love and the blessing of Almighty God.—C.

Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6, Proverbs 3:7 (first part)

Self-distrust and trust in God

If we would realize God's thought concerning us, we shall—

I. CHERISH A DEEP DISTRUST OF OURSELVES. We are not to "lean unto our own understanding," or to "be wise in our own eyes" (Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:7).

1. We shall certainly have a sense of our own insufficiency if we weigh our own human weakness; if we consider how little we know of

2. So also if we consider the disastrous results that have followed presumption in this matter. How often have we seen men, confident of their own capacity, staking everything on their own judgment, and miserably disappointed with the issue! Men of this spirit, who carry self-reliance (which is a virtue) to an exaggerated and false assurance of their own sagacity, not only dig a deep grave for their own happiness, but usually involve others also in their ruin. Neither in

II. LOOK DEVOUTLY UPWARD. We are to maintain:

1. A whole-hearted trust in God (Proverbs 3:5). A profound assurance that

2. A continual acknowledgment (Proverbs 3:6). We are to acknowledge God

This trust and acknowledgment are inclusive and not exclusive of our own individual endeavour. We are to think well, to consult wisely, to act diligently, and then to trust wholly. Whoso does the last without the first is guiltily and daringly presumptuous; whoso does the first without the last is guiltily irreverent and unbelieving.

III. RECKON CONFIDENTLY ON DIVINE DIRECTION. "He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6). As a very little child, left alone in the streets of a great city, can but wander aimlessly about, and will surely fail of reaching home, so we, lost in the maze of this seething, struggling, incomprehensible world—world of circumstance and world of thought—can but make vain guesses as to our true course, and are certain to wander far from the home of God. What the shrewdest and cleverest of men most urgently and sorely need is the guiding hand of a heavenly Father, who, through all the labyrinths of life, past all the by paths of error and evil, will conduct us to truth, righteousness, wisdom, heaven. If we trust him wholly, and acknowledge him freely and fully, we may confidently expect that he will

Proverbs 3:7

(second part), 8.—A three-linked chain. We have—

I. PIETY. "Fear the Lord." It is the faculty which distinguishes the meanest man from the noblest brute, which raises our race immeasurably above the next below it. Man can fear God. He can

II. MORALITY. "Depart from evil." The outcome of piety is morality.

1. The morality which rests not on the basis of piety (the fear of the Lord) is on an insecure foundation. Change of circumstance, of friends, of fashions, may blow it down.

2. The morality which depends on the "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" of the Supreme is safe against all the winds that blow. For the dark hour of powerful temptation there is no such barrier against sin and ruin as the conviction, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" For the bright hour of obligation there is no such animating incitement as "that Christ may be magnified in me." The third link in this heaven-forged chain is—

III. HEALTH. "It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones." Sickness of body may be the portion of the best of men or women. Some are born to suffer until they die and pass to the blessed country where the inhabitant will never say, "I am sick." But the constant tendency of piety and its invariable accompaniment morality is to give

Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10

The Divine responsiveness

There are two ways in which God blesses us—unconditionally and conditionally. We receive very much from him in virtue of his originating and spontaneous goodness. We may, if we will, receive much from him also as the result of his faithful response to our appeal. The text suggests to us the truth, which has manifold illustrations, that if we take toward him the attitude which he desires us to assume, he will visit us with appropriate and corresponding blessings.

I. IF WE LOVE HIM, HE WILL LOVE US. True, indeed, it is that "we love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19), his own Divine beneficence is the source of all human affection; but it is also true that "if a man love me (Christ), he will keep my words, and my Father will love him" (John 14:23). Our love of God, of Jesus Christ, will meet with a large response in the outpouring of Divine affection toward us. God will love us with the fulness of parental, rejoicing love.

II. IF WE TRUST HIM, HE WILL TRUST US. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus become his sons (John 1:12), are the objects of his Divine trust. God does not prescribe, to his reconciled children the hours, places, forms, methods, and means of service. He leaves these to the promptings of the filial spirit, to the decision of the understanding which has been consecrated to him. He makes known to us his will, that he should be served and his creatures blessed and saved; then be trusts us to put out our energies in all wise ways to fulfil his purpose. His treatment of us is in response to our attitude towards him.

III. IF WE HONOUR HIM, HE WILL HONOUR US. (1 Samuel 2:30.)

IV. IF WE GIVE OF OUR SUBSTANCE TO HIM, HE WILL ENRICH US. This is the illustration which our text supplies (see Deuteronomy 26:1-19.). The children of Israel were encouraged to bring of their firstfruits and to present them unto the Lord, and to expect that, if they gave thus to God, he would give, in like way, to them, enlarging and enriching them (Malachi 3:10-12). And not only were they taught thus to look on gifts of piety, but also of charity; these should be repaid by the observing and responsive Lord (Proverbs 19:17). It may be asked how far we may go in anticipating like rewards at the hand of God now. And the answer is:

1. We are not to expect that God will enrich us in substance irrespective of other conditions (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This would be a premium on idleness and imprudence. It will always be "the hand of the diligent that will make rich."

2. But labour and frugality being understood, the man who "seeks first the kingdom of God," who "acknowledges him in all his ways" (Proverbs 3:6), and who liberally gives to his cause (specially remembering his "little ones"—his poor), may look for large blessings at his hand. At least sufficiency now (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19), and glorious abundance soon and forever (John 14:13, John 14:14; John 16:9).—C.

Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12

Wrong views of affliction, and the right one

Sorrow is a very large ingredient in the cup of human life. It begins so early and lasts so long; it lies so near the surface and it strikes so deep into our nature; it is so certain that we shall meet with it before long, and so likely that we may renew our acquaintance with it very soon, that they must be unwise indeed who do not prepare for its coming, and they must be losers indeed who do not know how to treat it when it knocks at their door. There are—

I. MANY MISTAKES WE MAY MAKE ABOUT IT.

1. We may treat it thoughtlessly; we may "despise the chastening of the Lord" (Proverbs 3:11). We may allow ourselves to have "the sorrow of the world," of which Paul speaks (2 Corinthians 7:10); i.e. we may decline to consider what it means; content ourselves with the sullen thought that we have something that we must endure as best we can, not attempting to discover whence it comes or what it means.

2. We may conclude that it is only accidental. This is another way of "despising the chastening of the Lord." We may take that view which is intellectually the most easy and spiritually the most barren, and refer our trouble to the "course of events;" we may recognize no guiding hand, we may decide, with off-handed readiness, that we are the unhappy victims of unkind circumstances, and go on our way "grinding our teeth" with impatient spirit.

3. We may he crushed under the weight of it. We may (to use the words in Hebrews 12:5) "faint when we are rebuked." We may suffer a spiritual collapse, may meet affliction with an unreadily spirit of prostration, and, instead of bending bravely beneath the yoke and bearing it, break down utterly and miserably.

4. We may repine under long continuance of it. We may "be weary" of God's correction. Sometimes, when affliction is long continued, men feel that either God has nothing to do with them at all, or that he is not regarding their prayer, or that he is punishing them above that which they are able to bear, and they repine; they are weary in their spirit, querulous in their tone, perhaps positively complaining in their speech. But there is—

II. THE ONE RIGHT WAY IN WHICH TO TAKE IT. And that is to accept it as the correction of fatherly kindness. "For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth," etc. (Proverbs 3:12).

1. We may be God's unreconciled children, and he is seeking to win us to himself.

2. Or we may have returned to him, but reed fatherly correction. He may be rebuking us for some departure from his will. He may be desirous of removing the spirit of pride or of selfishness, or of worldliness, and of leading us along paths of humility, self-surrender, spirituality. Certainly he is seeking our truest welfare, our highest good, our lasting joy. Let each afflicted heart ask—What is the lesson the Father wishes me to learn?—C.

Proverbs 3:13-26

Wisdom's inestimable worth

Here are found many strong recommendations of heavenly wisdom, and we might adopt the thirteenth verse as a refrain to each one of them: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding."

I. POSSESSORS OF IT, WE ARE SHAREHOLDERS WITH GOD HIMSELF. (Proverbs 3:19, Proverbs 3:20.) Only by wisdom could the Divine Founder of all visible things make them what they are. His wonder workings in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, in sun and star, in grain and grass, in coal and iron, in rain and dew,—all are the product of Divine wisdom.

II. POSSESSORS OF IT, WE HAVE A WELL BEING THAT ENDURES. "Length of days is in her right hand" (Proverbs 3:16). "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her" (Proverbs 3:18). They who fear God are more likely than others to "be satisfied with long life" (Psalms 91:16). For the secret of strength is with those who are obedient to law; but though they should die before old age, yet

III. IT IS THE SOURCE OF GENUINE ESTEEM. "In her left hand … honour" (Proverbs 3:16). It may, indeed, be that the children of wisdom are disregarded or even despised. But that is the painful exception to the rule. The rule is, everywhere and in every age, that those who consult God's will in the guidance of their life are honoured of their brethren, enjoy the esteem of the worthiest of their neighbours, live and die in the fragrance of general regard.

IV. IT IS THE ONE SECURITY AGAINST SIN. (Proverbs 3:23.) How many are "the stumblers," those who trip and fall as they ascend or descend the hill of life! And how serious, sometimes, are these falls! Character, reputation, joy, the light of other hearts, the happiness of the home,—all gone through the one false step! We have urgent need of some security. In what shall this be found? Not in hedgings and fencings which will take away every possible danger, but in the wisdom of the wise, which will teach us where to go and how to tread the path of life, in the "wisdom which is from above."

V. IT GUARANTEES THE GUARDIANSHIP OF GOD, AND THUS ENSURES CONFIDENCE AND PEACE. (Proverbs 3:24-26.) There are those whose life is full of slavish fear; by day they dread the evils which assail the wicked, by night the perils of the darkness. But he who keeps God's Word enjoys the guardianship of his Almighty arm. "The Lord is his confidence;" his days are spent in quietness and calmness, and "his sleep is sweet" (Psalms 112:7).

VI. IT IS THE PERENNIAL SPRING OF PEACE AND JOY. (Proverbs 3:17, Proverbs 3:18.) Other sources of gratification are to be found, but some of them do not carry the sanction of conscience, some of them are out of the reach of the lowly, others are only open to the learned or the favoured; most, if not all of them, are short-lived, and become of less worth as they are more frequently employed. The wisdom which comes from God and which leads to him, which makes the human spirit the friend and follower of the Son of God, brings a "peace which passes all understanding," the "peace of God," and "joys which through all time abide."

VII. IT IS THE REALIZATION OF HUMAN LIFE. Wisdom is a "tree of life" (Proverbs 3:18); wisdom and discretion "shall be life unto our soul" (Proverbs 3:22). Any existence which is not illumined, ennobled, sanctified, beautified (Proverbs 3:22, "grace to thy neck"), by these, is something less than life in the sight of God. Only with these and by these do we attain to a state of being which the Wise One who sees things as they are recognizes as the life of man.

Wherefore:

1. Count it worth while to secure this heavenly wisdom at all costs whatsoever (Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15). Its value cannot be estimated in gold; the price of wisdom is above rubies (Job 28:18). Nothing is to be compared with it. Part, if necessary, with the largest fortune to obtain it (Mark 10:21; Proverbs 23:23).

2. Take care to cherish and retain it (Proverbs 3:24). Let the must precious pearl fall, hut hold this with a hand that will not unclasp.—C.

Proverbs 3:27-32

Four valuable virtues

There are some graces which, though not of the first importance, are yet far from being unimportant. Many men so fashion their lives that while, upon the whole, they are rightly reckoned among the wise and good, they are much less happy, less honoured, and less useful than they might become if they heeded a few small things. If we had regard to some of the minor moralities which we are apt to neglect, there would be less friction and more beauty in our lives than is now seen of God and felt of man.

I. PUNCTUALITY IS THE PAYMENT OF THAT WHICH IS DUE. (Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 3:28.) These dues may be

This may be denied, even when it could be easily rendered, through an "avaricious reluctance" to part with money or a culpable disregard of other men's necessities and claims. Such default is not worthy of a godly, a Christian man.

II. CONSCIENTIOUSNESS TOWARDS OUR FRIENDS. (Proverbs 3:29.) Too many men are inclined to abuse the confidence their kindred or friends' put in them, or the generosity they are prepared to show them. Such men draw unscrupulously on the trust or the bounty of others. It is a serious departure from perfect rectitude, and should be disallowed to themselves by all who fear God and would follow Christ. Those who "dwell securely by us," who have confided in us, are those whom every principle of honest self-respect demands that we should treat with scrupulous integrity.

III. PEACEABLENESS OF SPIRIT. (Proverbs 3:30.) The lives of many are embittered by the quarrelsomeness of their neighbours. Offence, never intended, is taken, bitter words are spoken, a hostile attitude is assumed, all friendly relations are broken off, malicious insinuations are thrown out; in fact, "there is war between the house" of this man and that man, when there is positively nothing on which to found a complaint. A very small allowance of charity would cure this evil spirit, if only taken in time. Charity would hide a multitude of sins in the sense of preventing them altogether, if men would but attribute kind motives to their neighbours, or inquire sufficiently before they condemn, or even wait a while before they strike, to see if there is no other and better way of arranging a dispute. If it be possible—and it very often is possible, when men imagine it is not—we should "live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18).

IV. FREEDOM FROM FRETTING ENVY. Many good men are, upon the whole, what God would have them to be, and they have from him all that they can reasonably ask at his hand; their well being is such as to constitute the condition of thankfulness and joy. Yet the cup of their life is made bitter and unpalatable because they are envious of the successful oppressor (Proverbs 3:31); they "fret themselves because of evil doers," and are envious against the workers of iniquity (Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:8; Psalms 73:3). They think, perhaps, that if bad men are as prosperous as they seem to be, they (the good) ought to be far more successful than they find themselves to be. Surely this is both sinful and foolish.

1. It is discontentment with God's arrangement, and a querulous challenging of his administration of human affairs.

2. It is forgetfulness of the fact that God's severest anger rests on the oppressor, and that he is therefore the last man to be envied; he is "abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 3:32). Would we change places with him?

3. It overlooks the fact that the righteous man is enjoying the friendship of God—surely an advantage that immeasurably outweighs the wealth or honour which the oppressor has stolen. "The secret of the Lord" is with him. He is God's trusted servant, Christ's intimate friend (see Psalms 25:14; John 15:14, John 15:15; John 14:23).—C.

Proverbs 3:33-35

The height of well-being and the depth of ill-being

The issues of righteousness and unrighteousness are here very broadly stated. These verses indicate to us the long and large results of wisdom on the one hand and of folly on the other.

I. THOSE WHOM GOD FAVOURS AND THAT WHICH HE APPORTIONS THEM. There are three epithets by which they are here characterized; they are called "the just," "the lowly," and "the wise." In those whom God loves and means to bless there are found

1. He will give them "grace"—his own royal favour and that which draws down upon them the genial and gracious regard of men.

2. He will bless them in their home life. He "blesseth the habitation of the just." He will give them purity, love, honour, affection, peace, joy in their most intimate relations; so that their homes shall be blessed. He will be known as the "God of the families of Israel."

3. And He will give them exaltation in the end. "The wise shall inherit glory." "Unto the upright there will arise light in the darkness." Present gloom shall give place to glory, either now on this side the grave, or hereafter in "that world of light."

II. THOSE WITH WHOM GOD IS DISPLEASED AND HIS AWFUL MALEDICTIONS ON THEM. These are also thrice characterized here; they are "the wicked," "the scorners," "fools." These are they who

1. His wrath is on themselves. He "scorneth the scorners." "He that sitteth in the heavens laughs" at them, he "has them in derision" (Psalms 2:4). His feeling toward them and his power over them are such that they have reason to apprehend overthrow and ruin at any hour (see Psalms 73:19, Psalms 73:20).

2. His curse is on their house (Proverbs 3:33). They may expect that in their domestic relations they will have, as in fact they do have, saddest occasions of sorrow and remorse.

3. His hand is against their hope. They may be anticipating great things for themselves in the future, their castles are high and strong in the air, their hope is great; but "lo! sudden destruction," the wind of heaven blows, and all is brought into desolation. God touches their fine structure with his finger, and it is in ruins. "Shame is the promotion of fouls."—C.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 3:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/proverbs-3.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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