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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 9

 

 

Verse 1

1. Wisdom חכמות, hhokmoth, literally, wisdoms, the plural of excellency, according to the Hebrew manner, (comp. Proverbs 1:20,) but the verbs and pronouns connected with it are in the singular, as usual, showing that, though the form is plural, the sense is singular.

Hath builded her house — Compare Proverbs 14:1. Palace, rather than temple, in which she resides like a queen in royal state, carrying out the idea suggested in Proverbs 8:34.

Seven pillars — Seven is probably used here, as often, as the mystical or complete number. The sentiment is that of the stability and beauty of the building.

Many, both among the ancients and moderns, fond of running out the allegory in every particular, have found in this “house” and its “seven pillars” a subject for the exercise of their ingenuity. But some, not satisfied with such general idea, have conjectured that the seven pillars were seven schools of the prophets then in existence: while others, again, considering Wisdom as identical with the Logos of the New Testament, have supposed that the building typified the Church, which is called God’s house, (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:3-4,) in which the prophets, apostles, and ministers are pillars, (Galatians 2:9,) and in which a feast of fat things is provided for all that will partake of it. Isaiah 25:6; and the parable, Matthew 22:14; Luke 14:16-24. This much may be said concerning this application, that the principles involved are the same in both cases; and if these expositions are only used in an illustrative way, no great harm is done. But, inasmuch as they are altogether conjectural, they have no logical force when used dogmatically in support of any particular doctrine.

Miller, who spiritualizes every thing, gives us on Proverbs 9:2-3 a fair specimen of this allegorizing: “‘She has killed her’ killing; namely, Christ. ‘She has mingled her wine;’ namely, his atoning blood. She has, in every respect, a banquet, just as the strange woman offers her banquet. ‘She has spread her table;’ Christ and his cross not being efficient unless administered to men, she has established Churches and ordinances as the mere dishes and seats of the expected banquet. ‘She has sent forth her maidens;’ namely, sermons and providential strokes; the whole heraldry of the doctrine of salvation.”


Verses 1-12

WISDOM MAKETH A FEAST AND INVITETH GUESTS, Proverbs 9:1-12, The discourse on wisdom is continued, (Proverbs 9:1-12.)

This heavenly wisdom is never separated in thought for a moment from virtue and piety. Though not exactly identical with virtue and piety, inasmuch as it is more comprehensive, these qualities are included in it, and make a principal part of it. (Proverbs 9:10.) It was contrary to the royal preceptor’s idea that any man could be wise who neglected his obligations to God and man. (See note on Proverbs 1:7.) The personification of wisdom is still carried on, though she is not always made to speak in her own person, as at Proverbs 9:5-6. Folly, the opposite of wisdom, is also personified, as a dissolute woman. (Proverbs 9:13-18.)


Verse 2

2. Killed her beasts Slaughtered her slaughterings, that is, animals to be slaughtered. “Killed her victailes.” — Geneva Bible. The terms used indicate slaughtering for food rather than for sacrifice.

Mingled her wine — Wine was an essential part of every entertainment. Sometimes it was mixed with water, sometimes with milk, and was sometimes flavoured with spices, (spiced wine, mixed wine,) or other ingredients. The object of the first kind of mingling or mixing was to reduce its strength; of the second, to make it more palatable, or to increase its strength and exhilarating power. The light wines of that vine-bearing country were, we suppose, generally used diluted, (about as we use tea and coffee,) as the usual beverage for their meals, especially at their feasts. (Comp. Proverbs 23:30; Isaiah 5:22.) But Fausset says: “Not mixed with water, which is the emblem of degeneracy.” Isaiah 1:22. The sentiment expressed by the woman is, that she has thoroughly prepared a rich feast.


Verse 3

3. Sent forth her maidens נערתיה, her young women. Wisdom being personified as a woman, a queen, it is fitting that her attendants should also be women.

She crieth — That is, by her maidens. Hasselquist says, that at Alexandria (Egypt) he saw, on one occasion, ten or twelve women going about the city inviting people to a banquet by a peculiar cry or noise. The office of announcing and celebrating glad tidings among the Hebrews, says Bishop Lowth, belonged peculiarly to the women. On occasion of any great victory or other joyful event, the women went forth with music song, and dance, to celebrate the occurrence. So did Miriam and “all the women,” after the passage of the Red Sea. Exodus 15:20-21. So Jephthah’s daughter. Judges 11:34. So, after David’s victory over Goliath, it is said “that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music; and the women answered one another as they played, [in alternate chorus:] —

“Saul has slain his thousands,

And David his ten thousands.”

In Psalms 68:11, the word rendered “those publishing it,” המבשׂרות, (hambhasseroth,) is a feminine plural participle, and might be translated, female heralds of good news. The same word in the singular is also used.

Isaiah 40:9, is rendered by Lowth, “O daughter, that bringest glad tidings.” All these passages recognise the fact that to women belonged, by custom, the proclamation of joyful news. To women, also, was it first given to proclaim the gospel of the resurrection. Luke 24:1, seq.; John 20:17-18.


Verse 4

4. Simple — Uninstructed, a novice. (See on Proverbs 1:4.)

Wanteth understanding — Hebrew, lacketh heart, intelligence, sense. (See note on Proverbs 7:7.) Compare Proverbs 9:16.


Verse 5

5. Come — The sense is continued from the preceding verse. The sentiment, stripped of metaphor, is: Wise instructions, received with relish, will afford comfort, satisfaction, and pleasure of the highest and noblest kind. Comp. Isaiah 55:1, seq. “Not for the first time in John 6, or in the last supper, were bread and wine made the symbols of fellowship with eternal life and truth.” — Speaker’s Com.

The wine I have mingled — There is considerable diversity of opinion among commentators as to whether this mingling of wine was to make it stronger or weaker. In general, the Europeans — English, Scotch, and Germans — favour the idea of strengthening: and the Americans, of the later class especially, incline to the opinion of dilution: though Muenscher (American) says, The temperate nations of antiquity were not in the habit of drinking wine drugged, or even undiluted, except at feasts of drunkenness and debauchery, in which they sometimes indulged, when the wine was mixed with potent ingredients to increase its strength. Whether the greater or less progress of temperance principles has any thing to do with the exegesis in these two classes, we know not. The Hebrews were essentially a temperate people, and can hardly be supposed to have imposed less restraint on their appetites than did the Greeks and Romans. So also Dr. A. Clarke. Instead of “the wine I have mingled,” the Geneva has, “wine I have drawn.”

The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic add to this chapter the following: “But hasten away; delay not in the place; neither fix thine eye upon her: for thus thou shalt go through strange waters: and do thou return from strange waters, and drink not at a strange fountain, that thou mayest live long, and years of life be added to thee.” Very good advice, but not in the original Hebrew.


Verse 6

6. The foolish — Same word as in Proverbs 9:4, rendered “simple,” but here in the plural abstract, follies.

And go אשׁרו, (ishrou,) go straight forward.


Verse 7

7. Reproveth — Correcteth.

A scorner — This seemingly abrupt transition is like that in Proverbs 1:24, where see note. It probably implies a dramatic pause, in which certain things, readily imagined, are supposed to have taken place; namely, the acceptance of the invitation by some, the rejection of it, with contempt and scorn, by others. Hence the severe reflections that follow on the one hand, in this verse and the next, and the commendations and consoling ones on the other, in Proverbs 9:9, et seq. The words are evidently intended as the language of Wisdom, as appears from the 11th and 12th verses, and not of the writer in his own per-son.

Shame — Or, contempt; that is, from the scoffer.

A blot — Patrick, in his old-fashioned way, expresses the idea: “Whoever rebukes (warns) one of these impious wretches hath commonly all the dirt thrown upon him that their malice can rake together.” It is not probable that the “scorner” and the “wicked” here mean classes of persons very variant in their character, or of different degrees of baseness; nor that “shame” and “blot” are of different degrees of intensity. It is what is called the parallelism synonymous, wherein the idea of the first member is usually only slightly varied or modified in the second, for esthetic ends.


Verse 8

8. Reprove not a scorner — This is not to be understood as an imperative prohibition, to be observed in all cases; but as a strong way of stating the effects of reproof upon a scoffer: if thou reprove, etc. So the next clause, also.

Rebuke — If thou admonish or advise a wise man, he will love thee, will appreciate thy fidelity, even though at first it may wound him.

Compare Psalms 141:5. Zockler’s interpretation of the drift of thought here is, that it is an invitation to abandon intercourse with such persons, for you will gain nothing but contempt and insult by their association. Comp. Matthew 7:6.


Verse 9

9. Give — The word instruction being supplied. A noun, which is the complement of a verb, is often omitted, when it may be readily supplied from the context.

Instruction — Perhaps admonition, or admonitory counsel, would be suggested by the connexion. The sentiment of the verse may be thus expressed: A man disposed to learn will grow wiser even by admonition; and instruction given to a good man will make him better. It is too often the reverse with scoffers and the wicked. “Every thing blesses the wise man.” — Miller.


Verse 10

10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom — See on Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:5. As in the beginning of this introductory discourse (or lecture, as we would call it in modern phrase,) the author commenced with this maxim, expressed in somewhat different form, as his motto or text, so now, in drawing to a conclusion, he returns to it, and repeats it with some modification and addition. In Proverbs 1:7 the form is יראת יהוה ראשׁית דעת, yirath Yehovah reshith da’hath, the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge. Here the form is, תחלת חכמה יראת יהוה, tehhillath hhokmah yirath Yehovah, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah. The proposition being a convertible one, the subject and predicate exchange places. Possibly nothing more was intended than variety of expression. In our way it may be stated thus: To fear the Lord is the first and most important thing in order to obtain knowledge. Proverbs 1:7. The first and most important thing in order to be wise is to fear the Lord. Proverbs 9:10.

In the next member we find a synonymous parallelism.

And the knowledge of the Holy is understanding — Literally, the Holy Ones; but this is undoubtedly a plural of excellency or intensity — the Most Holy One. The sentiment of the verse is: Even a beginning cannot be made in true wisdom without piety. Scorners and wicked persons, therefore, cannot attain unto it. Some commentators, and the Geneva Bible, render קדשׁים, (kedhoshim,) holy things. But the other sense, given above, is better, and more generally approved.


Verse 11

11. Days… be multiplied — Sentiment: The natural tendency of knowledge is to prolong life and make it happy. Comp. Proverbs 3:2 and note, and Proverbs 4:10.


Verse 12

12. For thyself, etc. — There is often a feeling in the mind of children and pupils that their parents and teachers make requirements of them for selfish ends; that they and their teachers are two parties, with antagonistic interests. This is a very mischievous error. The more children and pupils can be made to feel that their own good is sought for, in all the means of instruction and discipline, the better: that if they obey and improve, they themselves will be the chief gainers; and if they are refractory and negligent they will be the great losers. This is, probably, the sentiment of the verse. Comp. Job 22:2; Job 35:6-8. On last clause, comp. Numbers 9:13; Jeremiah 7:19; Galatians 6:5; Proverbs 8:36. The Septuagint adds to this verse the following, not found in the Hebrew: “He that stays himself upon falsehood attempts to rule the winds, and the same will pursue birds in their flight; for he has forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and he has caused the axles of his own husbandry to go astray; but he goes through a dry desert, and a land appointed to drought, and he gathers barrenness with his hands.”


Verses 13-18

CONTRASTIVE PICTURE OF WISDOM’S OPPONENT — THE SEDUCTIVE HARLOT, Proverbs 9:13-18.

The foolish woman of this passage is vividly drawn in contrast with the hhokmah, Wisdom, and may be taken as the type or incarnation of carnal pleasure, or the immoderate and unlawful indulgence of the appetites and passions. As in the preceding verses Wisdom was represented as a pure and queenly woman, enthroned in a palace, inviting all uninstructed ones to enjoy with her a pure, intellectual, and spiritual feast, the result of which would give vigour, long life, and happiness; so the opposite, this “foolish woman,” who knoweth nothing at all that is useful or virtuous — this woman, אשׁת כסילות, (esheth kesilouth.) woman of follies — the representative of ignorant sensuality, is also placed upon her seat, כסא, (kisse,) a throne. She sits in state at the door of her house, (Jeremiah 3:2; Genesis 38:14,) and that house in the most public place; in the very places where the maidens of Wisdom invite men to the feast of knowledge. Proverbs 9:3. She sits there with her lascivious arts and speech to divert men from intellectual and moral culture, and to overwhelm them in sensual pleasures. Comp. Proverbs 7:11, seq.


Verse 15

15. To call passengers — This is her object, to draw even those aside into her haunts of folly and impurity who are going straight forward to the school of wisdom and virtue. She is, in this respect, a fair representative of the modern “saloon keeper.”


Verse 16

16. Turn in hither — “The feast of reason” and virtue to which wisdom invites is, as becomes its pure and elevated character, a public entertainment — open to the day — without blinds, or screens, or frosted windows; that of sinful pleasure, true to its character also, is in secret and darkness. Men are often most eager after enjoyments which are prohibited. The appetite for these pleasures is sharpened by the imposed restraints. “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, [the prohibition,] works all manner of concupiscence.” Romans 7:7, et seq.


Verse 17

17. Stolen waters — This verse, expressive of the above idea, was, probably, a proverb which the woman of vice turns to her own purposes.

Bread eaten in secret — Literally, bread of secrecies. Both allude to unlawful pleasures.


Verse 18

18. He — The “simple” of the preceding verse.

The dead רפאים, rephaim, the ghosts, spectres, shades.

Her guests — Her invited ones. The sentiment may be: He who accepts her invitation may be considered as already among the ghosts of the infernal world — “as good as dead.” She invites him, though he knows it not, to his utter ruin.

In the depths of hell בעמקי שׁאול, (be’himke sheol,) the depths of the under world — the infernal regions. This is a striking picture: a dark den of impurity, haunted by horrible spectres, the shades of the guests invited by the congenial pollutions of the place from the infernal pit. Into such horrors art thou plunging, O young man, whosoever thou art, that givest the rein to thy appetites and passions! Comp. Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 2:18.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-9.html. 1874-1909.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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