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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 1

 

 

Verse 1

TITLE, OBJECT, AND MOTTO, Proverbs 1:1-7.

1. The Proverbs — The first sentence is the title or superscription of the book, though not, as in modern usage, set apart as such, but run in to the body of the text. The same usage is found elsewhere, as in many of the Psalms; for example, Psalms 15 (in the Hebrew.) Also in the New Testament, Matthew 1:1, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ;” also, Mark 1:1. Compare Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1.

A proverb is a sententious maxim, or a short, comprehensive, and weighty saying, expressed frequently, but not always, in metaphorical language; or the terms are employed in an unusual and peculiar sense, and are, therefore, more or less obscure, requiring some effort of the mind to apprehend them. This seeming disadvantage is compensated by the stronger impression following such mental effort; and, consequently, by an easier and more perfect retention in the memory. The Hebrew word משׁלים, meshalim, from משׁל, mashal — 1, to rule; 2, to liken, to make like, or be like — involves the idea of an authoritative, influential, or important saying, implying or expressing a comparison, simile, or metaphor of some kind. Hence it is used, in a very general and comprehensive way, for a similitude or parable, Ezra 17:2; 24:3: Judges 9:7, etc.; 2 Samuel 12:1, etc.; 2 Kings 14:9; for a sententious saying or apothegm, such as consists in the ingenious comparison of two things, sentiments, etc., as in many of the proverbs of this book; for a proverb proper, or a byword, as in 1 Samuel 10:12; Ezekiel 12:22-23; for a verse, song, or poem, the members of which, by the laws of parallelism, consist of two hemistichs similar in form and sense, or the one in antithesis with the other. It is specially used of prophecy, Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18; of a didactic discourse, Job 27:1; Job 29:1; Psalms 49:5; Psalms 78:2; sometimes of a satirical poem or song of derision, as in Deuteronomy 28:37. Our word proverb, in its more specific sense, (taken as an abbreviation of proverbia, for words, that is, many in one, or a word for many,) is a suitable name for this book, a great portion of which consists of short, comprehensive utterances, giving character to the work. But in the more generic sense of the Hebrew word we have the book completely covered. One word, meshalim, stands for the whole.


Verse 2

2. As in the first verse we have the title of the book, so in this and the following verses, to the sixth, we have its design or object stated and explained. The purpose is disciplinary, educational; first, with respect to the young man, and then to him that is already wise, instructed.

To know wisdom and instruction — That is, that the reader may know or acquire wisdom. The verb ידע, yadha’h, comprehends the active knowing, both as inchoative and as completed; that is, to come to know, to gain a knowledge of, and also to know, to have a knowledge of. It is used in the first sense here — that the reader or pupil may attain to, or acquire, wisdom.

To perceive the words of understanding — Or, more literally, to discern the words of discernment. The noun at the end of the clause is from the same root as the infinitive at the beginning. The primary idea is, that of separating; then of distinguishing, or making distinctions. It implies attention and the power of accurate discrimination, or observing the difference between one thing and another — their different qualities, properties, and relations; the power of analysis and classification; hence, of precision and clearness of thought, of seeing “through and through” things. The object of the book, therefore, is, that the student, thoroughly informed and disciplined, may be capable of penetrating abstruse and difficult subjects; of understanding and relishing the teachings of the most profound instructors. When beginning his course he finds it impossible to understand fully his teachers and his text books. He is unable to grasp the subject, either in the aggregate or the details. Terms are new, strange, and confusing. The attempt to seize unwonted thought distracts him. But that discipline and cultivation, which the wise Teacher proposes, gradually clears his vision, and strengthens and enlarges his intellect, until the objects of his pursuit stand out vividly before his mind in all their relations and intricacies. He has mastered his subject, and gained his end.


Verse 3

3. To receive (acquire) the instruction (discipline) of wisdom — Rather, prudence, thoughtfulness.

Justice צדק, tsedhek, rightness, rectitude; and judgment, משׁפשׂ, mishpat, a word of comprehensive meaning, including all distinction, regulation, ordering, right, custom. It seems to have special reference to administrative justice, or doing right in official capacity, never trespassing upon the rights of others, but preserving and defending them. Hence it is frequently joined with tsedhek — “justice and judgment.” Perhaps the two terms, when definitely used, may correspond to morality in social and civil relations.

Equity משׁרים, mesharim, (plural,) equities or rectitudes, straightforwardness, from ישׁר, yashar, to be straight, even, smooth, right. The plural here may indicate that it is used in its most comprehensive sense. The whole may be paraphrased thus: The design of my instructions is to enable you to acquire an intelligent discipline, or habit of prudence in your personal conduct, of morality in your social and civil relations, and of rectitude in all things.


Verse 4

4. Having thus stated the object in general terms, the teacher proceeds to a more specific setting forth of what it is, or of what he anticipates in respect to certain classes. First, as to the young and untaught, those who are as yet untrained to thought and study; and secondly, as to those of greater maturity and reflection. To the פתאים, pethaim, simple (open) ones, novices, unskilled and inexperienced, he hopes to be able to give ערמה, ‘hormah, subtilty, expertness, shrewdness, to train them to mental activity and acumen; to the young man, נער, na’har, youth, standing in parallelism with pethaim, and meaning persons of the same class, he will impart knowledge and discretion. Several of the terms in this verse are sometimes used in a good, and sometimes in a bad sense. They are supposed to be used in a good sense here. Perhaps pethaim may be employed here in a middle sense, unthinking, unsophisticated, undisciplined. Such novices, or freshmen, he proposes to teach how to reflect properly, to drill and train them to the art of right thinking and right acting.


Verse 5

5. As to the other class, of more advanced and comparatively educated pupils, being already trained to thought and study, he has confidence that they will, from habit and education, hear, attend to his instructions, and so add to their acquirements; and thus, being already of more mature understanding, (nabhon, see Proverbs 1:2, discriminating,) they נבון shall attain unto, get, gain, or establish their counsels, or well-concerted designs. The term rendered wise counsels (steersmanship, or capability to guide) is somewhat obscure, and has given the critics trouble. The general sense of the verse seems to be an expression of confidence that this class of persons will, by means of his instructions, increase in their acquisitions, and so succeed in their ardent and deliberate pursuit of useful knowledge as to obtain the power to steer their course safely through life.


Verse 6

6. To understand a proverb Mashal, (see note on Proverbs 1:1;) perhaps taken here for all the various kinds of composition under that name, such as poems, allegories, enigmas, apothegms, and metaphorical discourse in general — all studied and elegant compositions.

The interpretation — A doubtful rendering of מליצה, melitsah, which is probably used by metonymy for that which needs interpretation, an enigma or obscure maxim; or, as in the marginal reading, an eloquent speech. It stands in parallelism with חידתם, hhidhotham, their dark sayings, or sharp, keen utterances; riddles, enigmas; Judges 14:12; Ezekiel 17:2. Many of the passages in this book are enigmas or riddles, intentionally obscure and difficult for the purpose of exercising thought and ingenuity; or the words are susceptible of more than one meaning; one, perhaps, more obvious, and the other occult, and only to be found by research. This is an educational book, and contains its exercises of skill. The only other place where melitsah is found is in Habakkuk 2:6, there rendered taunting proverb. The general meaning of this verse is, that he shall attain to excellence in comprehending the force and beauty of the higher forms of discourse and composition, such as are used by poets and sages. This he cannot do without possessing a high cultivation himself, and hence it is another way of saying that he shall rise to an eminent degree of intellectual accomplishment. Here, then, is the object which the regal sage proposes to himself and his pupils in the composition of this work. (See Excursus I.)


Verse 7

7. As the preceding five verses may be regarded as stating the object of the book, so this may be considered as the motto, proposition, or text, which the author places at its head as containing the sum and substance of the whole, and which he designs to prove and illustrate.

The fear of the Lord יהוה— JEHOVAH — is the name commonly applied to the Divine Being in this book; seldom אלהים, ELOHIM — God. The Septuagint adds to the first clause of this verse, as if exegetically, “And there is good understanding to all that practise it; and piety toward God is the beginning of discernment.”

The fear of Jehovah is a comprehensive expression, embodying, according to the conception of the Hebrew mind, the whole of piety or religion. (Job 28:28; Psalms 9:10; Psalms 111:10.) It implies a knowledge of the true God, of his existence, attributes, and works, and also of his relations to us as far as these several things were revealed in that day. As the idea of the great and everlasting God, our Maker and our Judge, strikes the mind with awe and reverence, from which proceed respect for his revealed will, and humiliation of mind, (Job 42:5-6,) so this term, the fear of the Lord, or reverence for Jehovah, comprehends both experimental and practical godliness, worship, and obedience. This fear of the Lord, then, resting on an intelligent apprehension of the divine majesty and his relations to us as revealed in his word, is the beginning, or the chief part, of knowledge — of the intellectual attainments of a truly wise man. There is no study so high, so noble, so grand, so wholesome, so beneficent, as this. All others, which a man really wise pursues, are subordinate to this, and comprehended in it. The man who has a just conception of God and his relations to him can think of nothing that is not somehow related to this great theme, either as being in accordance with God’s will or contrary to that will — as being forbidden or allowed. Hence all right learning and true science tends to honour God, as it tends to cultivate man. Moreover, the glorious idea of God in the mind is a quickening, elevating, and impelling element, that gives life, dignity, and force to mental action. It is only where this knowledge of God exists that man can rise to his true dignity as a rational, moral, and religious being. There is no motive to mental effort and high intellectual cultivation so powerful as that which true religion affords.

Many a youth “living after the flesh,” caring only for the things of the flesh, having no relish for other than sensual pleasures, neglects and rejects opportunities of mental improvement; but let him come under the dominion of religious feeling and principle — let him attain to the fear of God, or, as Christianity has taught us to say, the love of God — and his soul is immediately athirst for all useful knowledge. He feels that the improvement of his mind is one of his noblest privileges and highest duties; for only thus can he glorify and serve aright the Author of his being and salvation. These remarks elucidate the latter part of the verse.

Fools אוילים, (evilim,) the gross, sensual, stupid.

Despise — Trample under foot.

Wisdom and instruction מוסר, (musar,) restraint, discipline. (See under Proverbs 1:2.) Compare on latter clause 1 Kings 12:13; 1 Samuel 2:12-25; Acts 17:18.


Verse 8

FATHERLY COUNSELS TO AVOID THE WAYS OF EVIL MEN, Proverbs 1:8-19.

8. Having thus stated in a beautiful and comprehensive aphorism the relation of true piety or religious principle to worthy intellectual attainments, illustrated by its opposite, and thus commenced his discourse or lecture by the recognition of God and his claims upon us, Solomon now proceeds to address his pupil in the second person singular, as if he were standing before him.

My son — He personates a father, and addresses every reader as a son in affection. The formula occurs frequently in the first nine chapters, and is supposed by some to indicate the beginning of a new section. But this is not certain. Among the Hebrews, teachers were rightly regarded as in the place or stead of a father, and hence were called אבות, (abhoth,) fathers, and their pupils בנים, (banim,) sons, or children. Parents are the natural instructors of their children. Where they cannot instruct them themselves, they employ teachers as substitutes. Hence the maxim that the teacher is in loco parentis, in the place of the parent.

Hear — Attend to and observe.

The instruction Musar, discipline, restraint, training, of thy father.

And forsake not — Cast not off nor reject.

Law of thy mother — Law in the sense of precepts, teachings, directions. This strong term, תורה, (torah,) law, may be here used to strengthen maternal authority; and the term mother may be suggested as the natural expansion of the idea, by the law of poetic parallelism. It has been justly observed that heathen moralists and legislators have magnified the authority of the father, giving him sometimes absolute power, but have made little of the mother. The divine morality teaches us to honour both father and mother. Nor is it without reason that the royal instructor begins just here his practical ethics, for this is the beginning-point and foundation of private and public virtue. Reverence for parents is, in the Scriptures, put next to reverence for God. The first commandment of the second table is, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” etc. Exodus 20:12.


Verse 9

9. They shall be an ornament of grace — As a graceful garland around thy head, and as chains, or necklaces, around thy neck. That is, this reverence for and obedience to thy parents shall be thy highest and most honourable ornament, better than any gay attire, of which the young are usually so fond. Compare Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 6:21; Proverbs 4:9; Genesis 41:42; Daniel 5:29; Song of Solomon 4:9. Chains worn about the neck were an ornament common to both men and women. Thus Pharaoh is said to have put a chain of gold about Joseph’s neck, (Genesis 41:42,) and Belshazzar did the same to Daniel. Daniel 5:29. They are mentioned as part of the Midianitish spoil, Numbers 31:50. In some cases they were badges of honour or of office.


Verse 10

10. If sinners entice — The teacher now proceeds to admonish his pupil against being seduced by bad men into evil courses. He must not consent or yield to them. Comp. Proverbs 24:1-2; Genesis 3:16; Numbers 22; 1 Kings 13:14-19; 1 Kings 13:24.


Verse 11

11. If they say — The teacher here enlarges upon the subject of evil associations. He seems to have in his mind a marauding party, a band of plunderers and freebooters, who hesitate not to commit murder if needful to obtain booty. We are probably not to understand him as intending to quote the exact language of such cutthroats to a novice, but rather to present vividly to the mind of his pupil what is the real character of their operations, under whatever specious pretext they may be covered, such as patriotism, lawful war, opposition to unjust authority, punishment of public enemies, etc. Palestine has been from time immemorial infested with robbers and raiders — Bedawin Arabs and others imitating their mode of life. His pupil must avoid the seductions which this nefarious kind of guerrilla warfare presented in consequence of the great wealth often suddenly acquired in it.

Without cause — Without reason or justifiable cause, such as is supposed to exist when life is taken or property seized in regular warfare, or by legitimate authority — “Him who in vain is innocent.” — Miller. Compare Judges 11:3; 1 Samuel 22:2.


Verse 12

12. Swallow… as the grave כשׁאול, (kishol,) “like hell,” hades, orcus, the underworld, a favourite expression of bloodthirsty men in all ages. (See Excursus on Sheol, p. 72.) The strong passions excited by even regular warfare in a good cause afford a temptation to, and, we are sorry to say, often an excuse for, shocking profanity. This is a prominent vice of military men; but it should be left to those who fight in a bad cause and for bad ends. The men here represented are as voracious as the grave. The idea of the verse is that of sudden and complete destruction. Some suppose there is an allusion to the case of Korah and his associates, (Numbers 16:31-33,) where the earth opened and swallowed them up, “and they went down alive into the pit.”


Verse 13

13. Precious substance — Splendid wealth.


Verse 14

14. Cast in — Better, in the indicative, thou shalt cast in. An invitation to join this community of thieves and murderers, with promise of equal dividend.

Let us all have one purse — Better, we will all have, etc.


Verse 15

15. Refrain — Have nothing to do with them; hold back thy foot from walking in their pathways.


Verse 16

16. Their feet run to evil — They are hurrying on to the shedding of blood. Some understand this of their own blood, according to Proverbs 1:18; but they see it not, and hence the next verse. Compare Romans 10:15.


Verse 17-18

17, 18. Surely in vain the net is spread — Meaning, I have warned you against their devices. I have uncovered the snares to your sight, and you surely will not be more foolish than the thoughtless bird. Some, however, interpret thus: These plunderers rush on to certain ruin, as the bird descends into the net, though spread in its very sight. These critics deny that birds shun a net spread in their sight. To which it might be replied, some do, and others do not. Some birds, like some men, are more sagacious than others. This is one of the vexed passages.

Lay wait… own blood — For, be assured, whatever these men pretend, or expect, or promise, they are, in effect, lying in wait for their own blood, and lurking for the destruction of their own lives. Or, it may mean the blood and lives of those whom they seduce into their company: the first sense is generally preferred.


Verse 19

19. So are the ways — Such is the natural course and end of every one that is greedy of gain — Literally, a plunderer of plunder, (comp. Proverbs 15:29,) or rapacious plunderers of property, that do not hesitate to take the life of the owner of it. So the passage is commonly understood; but others, with some plausibility, render, It (that is, the unjust gain) takes away the life of its master or possessor. 1 Timothy 6:9-10.


Verse 20-21

THE EXHORTATION, INVITATION, AND WARNINGS OF WISDOM, Proverbs 1:20-33.

20, 21. Having thus admonished his pupil of the dangers of yielding to the seducing invitations of rapacious and violent men, and shown him the wickedness, folly, and fearful results of such a course of life, he now exhorts him, on the other hand, to listen to the voice of WISDOM, which he personifies and represents as crying earnestly and persistently in his ears, pressing upon him her counsels, and urging her admonitions.

Wisdom crieth without חכמות, (hhokmoth,) a plural, but with a verb singular, a poetic form, perhaps, but one by which the Hebrews sometimes expressed the greatness or excellence of a thing, or gave intensity to the subject: (so with the name Elohim, (God,) which is commonly thus used; as much as to say:) The voices of Wisdom are heard all abroad, but especially in the crowded marts of men, in the streets, in the public squares, or in the openings, or spaces about the gates, which were great places of concourse and of business; the courts were also held there.

In the city — In every part of it.

She uttereth her words — Among all classes of men. You need not ask, Where shall I find Wisdom? Open your eyes and see her, your ears and hear her. She is preaching aloud all the time, from every text. the wisdom of the wise, the folly of fools, the righteousness of the righteous, and the wickedness of the wicked; from the character and conduct of all sorts of men, and from the consequence of their actions. Hear, see, and profit by all you meet with amid the busy, bustling throngs. Be taught even by the follies of mankind, for wise men learn more from fools than fools learn from the wise.


Verse 22

22. There is a gradation here, as in Psalms 1:1. Simple ones — See Proverbs 1:2. Scorners — Or, scoffers at that which is good.

Fools כסילים, (kesilim,) a different word from that in Proverbs 1:7, but etymologically of nearly the same signification; dull, carnal, stupid, hardened ones. The change of person here (from the second to the third) is common in the Hebrew. The interrogatory how long? carries its force to each of the clauses.


Verse 23

23. Turn — Or, Would ye turn? a wish expressed interrogatively. You are going the wrong way, turn — the New Testament idea — be converted, turned about.

Reproof — Admonition, argument, or correction.

Pour out — Would cause my spirit to well up to you or within you, that is, the spirit or disposition of wisdom. “I will communicate my whole mind to you, and explain things in the clearest manner.” — Orton. The Speaker’s Com. thinks this anticipates Joel 2:28, and our Lord’s promise, John 14:26; John 15:26. The teacher seems to represent Wisdom as here pausing and waiting for the effect of her appeal. But, on the supposition that no response is given, no effect produced, then come the terrible denunciations of the following verses.


Verse 24

24. Stretched out my hand — To invite you, welcome you, receive you.


Verse 25

25. Set at naught — Or, let go, did not value it.

Would none of my reproof — That is, did not desire it, would not receive it.


Verse 26

26. I…

laugh — Ye have laughed at my expostulations and mocked at my words; now, when your calamity comes, I also will laugh at you and deride your fears.


Verse 27

27. When… fear cometh — Wisdom dwells upon this for the sake of impression, adding terrible qualifications.

Desolation — Or, a desolating tempest.

A whirlwind — A tornado, which rapidly whirls along with irresistible violence, spreading destruction in its path. Compare Job 1:16; Job 1:19; Zephaniah 1:15. Tornadoes were very frequent in the East during the winter and cold seasons. They often proved fatal to travellers and others exposed to their fury. Morier, describing the whirlwinds of Persia, says they swept along in a manner truly terrific. They carried away in their vortex, sand, branches of trees, and the stubble of the fields, and usually appeared to make a communication between the earth and the clouds. Our own country occasionally furnishes examples of terrific tornadoes.


Verse 28

28. Shall seek me early — Rather, earnestly, urgently. The word primarily means to rise early; but as rising early was an eminent mark of earnestness and diligence in the pursuit of an object, so the sense readily passed over to this.


Verse 29

29. For that — Because connecting with the preceding; or, as others think, more closely with what follows. Observe, again, how knowledge, all useful knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, are intimately associated. See on Proverbs 1:7. Note the change of person here. Wisdom turns away from them, and speaks of them, not to them.


Verse 30

30. Would — Used here, as in Proverbs 1:25, as a principal verb, the preterite of will. They willed, determined, not to have my counsel.


Verse 31

31. Therefore — For this reason they shall suffer the natural and penal consequences of their crimes. There is nothing arbitrary in their doom. As they have sown so shall they reap. They shall eat the fruit of their own doings.

It is possible that there is in the fearful language of this and the preceding verses a special reference to that class of persons described in Proverbs 1:11-19. It is natural that Solomon, as a sovereign, should think of such flagrant violators of law and right, having, probably, had frequently to deal with them, and being compelled in justice to treat them with great severity, notwithstanding their prayers for his clemency. They had proceeded in their evil courses until arrested by the hand of justice, and then, out of mercy to the innocent, no mercy could be shown to them. But the principle here developed is of higher and wider application. He who refuses to hearken to the voice of wisdom in cultivating and improving his mind till the time is past for such improvement, calls afterwards in vain for such knowledge.

The attainment mocks his efforts. There is a time, place, and opportunity for all things that ought to be done. But he that mis-improves or abuses them loses the advantage forever. So, in an eminent sense, of the knowledge of God and the attainment of his grace; if neglected in this, the day of salvation — the appropriate period for seeking it — the time will come when we shall have to say, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” “Many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.” We should not, however, apply too rigidly, and without qualification, the strong words and imagery with which the poet-sage invests personified Wisdom, to the great and good sovereign Judge, who, notwithstanding the infinite compassion of his nature, is compelled by the obligations of his justice to treat finally impenitent sinners with great severity. Even a human judge may be very severe in his sentence, yet very kind in his heart. But he must not let his compassion as a man slacken his hand of justice as a judge.


Verse 32

32. For the turning away — From wisdom; their departure from right and virtue, their defection, (cf. Proverbs 1:23,) shall be their ruin, and even their very prosperity or success. (“security, carelessness.” — Speaker’s Com.,) shall work their destruction. The worst thing that can happen to a wicked man is to succeed in his devices. It is all in mercy when God early defeats him. It is probable that שׁלות, (shalvath,) rendered prosperity, means careless security. The word occurs, variously rendered, in Jeremiah 22:21, (prosperity,) 2 Chronicles 29:11, (negligent,) Ezekiel xxiii, 42, (being at ease.) The Geneva Bible renders: “For ease slayeth the foolish, and the prosperitie of fooles destroyeth them.” The Septuagint renders the thirty-second verse thus: “Because they wronged the simple, they shall be slain; and an inquisition shall ruin the ungodly.”


Verse 33

33. So Wisdom invites, admonishes, threatens. But she will not close her discourse with an unpleasant word. She kindly returns to the rewards of the wise and good.

Whose — Even of these beguiled and misled ones, shall now, from this time forth, hearken unto me, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well, shall hereafter dwell securely indeed, and be delivered from the dread of impending evil. This applies in its lower sense to this life and temporal things; in its higher, to the spiritual life and eternal retributions. The principle is the same for both. The spirit of the Hhokmah (Wisdom) is truly evangelical, a type of the gospel dispensation. She calls, she urges, she entreats, she follows the wayward and wicked to their places of resort. She promises, she threatens, she is instant in season and out of season, wooing, beseeching, persuading. Comp. Matthew 11:19; Luke 11:49.

EXCURSUS No. I.

Wisdom, in the Holy Scriptures, is a very comprehensive term; and, as it is of such frequent occurrence in this book, we may at the beginning, once for all, treat it somewhat at large.

חכמה, (Hhokhmah,) wisdom, is put for intelligence, sagacity, common sense in a high degree; judiciousness or discrimination, and sound and acute judgment in human affairs; great intellectual attainments; skill, ingenuity, and expertness in various arts; also superior knowledge in divine things, or in matters of religion. It is likewise used for craftiness, cunning, artfulness, and hence applied to magicians or enchanters. The fundamental idea is, superior mental endowments or attainments; hence, it may be used either in a good or a bad sense, as these endowments are applied to a good or a bad end. But it is mostly used in a good sense, and therefore stands for high intelligence, right reason, sound judgment, and all intellectual excellences. In the minds of the devout Hebrew writers these qualities were never disjoined from a knowledge of God and reverence for his character and law. Hence, as they rightly regarded this species of knowledge as by far the most important, so they considered the “fear of God,” — piety or religion — to be the first and most important part of wisdom. No man was really wise in their estimation who did not know and reverence God. Even he who was comparatively unlearned in other matters, but who possessed this essential attainment, was divinely wise; while the most learned sinner was a fool. It was thus that wisdom came to be regarded as almost synonymous with piety. The wisdom of which the royal sage treats in this book, so far as it belongs to man, includes and presupposes the knowledge of God, of our relations to him, and of the obligations growing out of those relations. Hence it so far corresponds to, and is identical with, godliness or piety; which also, as it exists in the emotions or is carried out in the life, rests upon this theoretical basis of the knowledge of God. In its adjective form, חכם, (hhakham,) it is often joined with נבון, (nabhon,) discriminating, discerning, discreet, attentive, intelligent. It is also opposed to נבל, (nabhal,) stupid, foolish, wicked, abandoned, impious. — The idea implied in the root of the latter word is that of wilting, fading, and falling away, and is transferred to folly and wickedness as a falling away from wisdom, virtue, and God; hence, becoming worthless, vile, and contemptible. This is the Piel, or intensive signification of the verb. Hhakham is also opposed to אויל, (evil,) gross, stupid, sottish, foolish.

This word implies the stupidity or insensibility which is induced by sensuality and vicious habits.

The wide circle of virtues and mental endowments which the Hebrews comprised under the words hhakham and hhokhmah is best learned from the history and character of those whose wisdom became proverbial: for instance, Solomon, the author of this book, (see Introduction,) Daniel, (see Ezekiel 28:3, and book of Daniel,) and the Egyptians. (Acts 7:22.) The wisdom of Solomon was manifested in his acute judgment, (1 Kings 3:16;) in his ability to solve difficult questions and to explain abstruse subjects; in his knowledge of very many objects of nature, (1 Kings 4:33, etc.;) in the multitude of verses, sentences, or aphorisms which he composed, (1 Kings 4:32;) in the skill and taste which he displayed in his works of architecture; in the magnitude and success of his public and private enterprises; in the administrative ability with which he managed and enlarged his empire, and made it prosperous and respected; and in the excellence of his moral and religious teachings. (1 Kings 4:29-34.) The Egyptians were famous for their science, literature, and arts. In Acts 7:22 it is said that Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Comp. Job 28:12, etc. The wisdom of Daniel was exhibited in his prudent statesmanship, and also in his faculty of prophesying, and interpreting dreams. Daniel 5:11-12. With hhokhmah is also associated מוסר, (musar,) instruction, the radical idea of which is restraint, discipline, correction. Comp. Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:1; 2 Timothy 3:16. The human mind, left to itself — that is, to the impulses of appetite and passion, unrestrained, undisciplined, untamed, and self-willed — runs wild in folly and wickedness. It needs checks, restraints, and corrections; and thus only attains to a chastened and cultivated intellectuality. The difference between a savage and a civilized and enlightened Christian, is largely due to the restraints and corrections which civilization, Christian principles, and Christian education, have thrown around the latter, but which are wanting to the former. The word musar is, therefore, equivalent to mental, moral, and religious cultivation. It embraces the idea of the great Teacher of the Christian dispensation, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Matthew 11:29.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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