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Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 1

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-33


Proverbs 1:1-6


The superscription of the Proverbs, which extends from verse 1 to verse 6, furnishes us with an epitome in short and concise language of the general scope and bearing of the book, and points out its specific utility, both to the inexperienced and to those already wise. Thus

(1) in Proverbs 1:1 it gives the name of the author to whom the proverbs are attributed;

(2) in Proverbs 1:2-3 it declares the aim, object, or design of the collection, which is to lead to the acquirement of wisdom generally; and

(3) in Proverbs 1:4-6 it proceeds to indicate the special utility the collection will be to two main classes—to the simple and immature, on the one hand, in opening and enlarging their understanding, and so providing them with prudent rules of conduct by which they may regulate the course of life; and, on the other, to the wise and intelligent, in further increasing their knowledge or learning, and thus rendering them competent to comprehend, and also to explain to others less favourably situated than themselves, other proverbs, or enigmas, or sayings, of a like recondite nature to those now to be brought before them.

The title of the book embodied in the text is, 'The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, King of Israel,' but the shorter designation by which it was and is known among the Jews is Mishle (מִשְׁלֵי), taken from the word with which the book begins. Analogously, in the Authorized Version it is styled 'The Proverbs,' and the heading in the LXX. is Παοιμίαι Σολομῶντος. The outside title in the Vulgate is more elaborately given as, 'Liber Proverbiorum, quem Hebraei Misle appellant' ('The Book of the Proverbs, which the Hebrews call Misle'). In the Talmud it is called the 'Book of Wisdom'; and Origen (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 6.25) designates it Μισλώθ, the Greek form of the Hebrew Meshaloth (מְשָׁלוֹת). Among the ancient Greek Fathers, e.g. Clement, Hegesippus, Irenaeus, the book was known by a variety of titles, all more or less descriptive of its contents as a repository of wisdom.

Proverbs 1:1

The proverbs of Solomon. The word which is here translated "proverbs" is the original mishle (מִשְׁלֵי), the construct case of mashal (מָשָׁל), which, again, is derived from the verb mashal (מָשַׁל), signifying

(1) "to make like," "to assimilate," and

(2) "to have dominion" (Gesenius).

The radical signification of mashal is "comparison" or "similitude," and in this sense it is applied generally to the utterances of the wise. In Numbers 23:7, Numbers 23:8 it is used of the prophetic predictions of Balaam; certain didactic psalms, e.g. Psalms 49:5 and Psalms 78:2, are so designated, and in Job (Job 27:1 and Job 29:1) it describes the sententious discourses of wise men. While all these come under the generic term of meshalim, though few or no comparisons are found in them, we find the term mashal sometimes used of what are proverbs in the sense of popular sayings. Compare "Therefore it became a proverb (מָשָׁל), Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:12); and see also other instances in Ezekiel 16:4 and Ezekiel 18:2. In this sense it is also found in the collection before us. The predominant idea of the term, however, is that of comparison or similitude, and as such it is better represented by the Greek παραβολή (from παραβάλλω, "to set or place side by side"), literally, a placing beside, or comparison, than by παροιμία, "a byword," or "a trite wayside saying," though in the Greek of the synoptic Gospels παροιμία is equivalent to παραβολή. The English word "proverb" insufficiently renders the wider scope of meaning conveyed in the Hebrew mashal, and is not quite accurately rendered here, since of proverbs in our ordinary signification of that word there are comparatively few in this collection. The Hebrew word here means "maxims," "aphorisms," "wise counsels." Of Solomon. Most modern commentators (Delitzsch, Zockler, Fuerst, Stuart, Plumptre, etc.), while attributing, in a greater or less degree, the authorship of the book to Solomon, regard the insertion of his name in the title as indicating rather that he is the dominant spirit among those wise men of his age, some of whose sayings are here incorporated with his own. King of Israel, as forming the second hemistich of the verse, goes with "Solomon," and not "David." This is indicated in the Authorized Version by the position of the comma. The Arabic Version omits allusion to David, and reads, "Proverbia, nempe documenta Salomonis sapientis, qui regnavit super filios Israel." The proverbial or parabolic form of teaching was a recognized mode of instruction among the Hebrews, and in the Christian Church is recommended by St. Clement of Alexandria ('Strom.,' lib. 11, init.).

Proverbs 1:2

To know wisdom and instruction. In this verse we have a statement of the first general aim or object of the Proverbs. "To know" (לָדַעַת, ladaath) is somewhat indefinite in the Authorized Version, and might be more accurately rendered. "from which men may know" (De Wette, Noyes); cf. unde scias (Munsterus). The לwhich is here prefixed to the infinitive, as in verses 2, 8, and 6, gives the clause a final character, and thus points out the object which the teaching of the Proverbs has in view. The teaching is viewed from the standpoint of the learner, and hence what is indicated here is not the imparting of knowledge, but the reception or aprrspriation thereof on the part of the laemer. Schultens states that the radical meaning of דָּעַת (daath) is the reception of knowledge into one's self. Wisdom. It will be necessary to go rather fully into this word here on its first appearance in the text. The Hebrew is חָכְמָה (khokhmah). Wisdom is mentioned first, because it is the end to which all knowledge and instruction tend. The fundamental conception of the word is variously represented as either

(1) the "power of judging," derived from רףּ, "to be wise," from the Arabic, "to judge" (Oesenlus); or

(2) "the fixing of a thing for cognition," derived from the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew חָכַם, as before, which signifies "to fasten" (Zockler), or "compactness," from the same root as before, "to be firm, or closed." It is also variously defined

(1) as "insight into that upright dealing which pleases God—a knowledge of the right way which is to be followed before God, and of the wrong one which is to be shunned" (Zockler);

(2) as "piety towards God," as in Job 28:28 (Gesenius);

(3) as "the knowledge of things in their being and in the reality of their existence" (Delitzsch), The word is translated in the LXX. by σοφία, and in the Vulgate by sapientia. The Hebrew khokhmah and the Greek σοφία so far agree as philosophical terms in that the end of each is the same, viz. the striving after objective wisdom, the moral fitness of things; but the character of the former differs from that of the latter in being distinctly religious. The beginning and the end of the khokhmah, wisdom, is God (cf. Job 28:7). Wisdom, then, is not the merely scientific knowledge, or moral philosophy, but knowledge κατ ἐξοχήν, i.e. religious knowledge or piety towards God; i.e. an appreciation of what God requires of us and what we conversely owe to God. "Sapientia est de divinis" (Lyra). Wisdom will, of course, carry with it the notions of knowledge and insight. Instruction. As the preceding word represents wisdom in its intellectual conception, and has rather a theoretical character, so "instruction," Hebrew, מְוּסָר (musar), represents it on its practical side, and as such is its practical complement. The Hebrew musar signifies properly "chastisement," from the root yasar (יָסַר), "to correct," or "chastise," and hence education, moral training; and hence in the LXX. it is rendered by παιδεῖα, which means both the process of education and its result as learning. The Vulgate has disciplina. In relation to wisdom, it is antecedent to it; i.e. to know wisdom truly we must first become acquainted with instruction, and hence it is a preparatory step to the knowledge of wisdom, though here it is stated rather objectively. The words, "wisdom and instruction," are found in exactly the same collocation in Proverbs 4:13 and Proverbs 23:23. In its strictly disciplinary sense, "instruction" occurs in Proverbs 3:11, with which comp. Hebrews 12:5. Holden takes this word as "moral discipline" in the highest sense. To perceive the words of understanding; literally, to discern the words of discernment; i.e. "to comprehend the utterances which proceed from intelligence, and give expression to it" (Delitzsch). Understanding; Hebrew, vinah (בִינָה), connected with the hiph. (לְהָבִין lehavin), properly "to distinguish," hence "to discern," of the same clause, signifies the capability of discerning the true from the false, good front bad, etc. With this agrees Cornelius a Lapide, who says, "Unde prudenter discernas inter bonum et malum, licitum et illicitum, utile et noxium, verum et falsum," and from which you are enabled to know what to do in any circumstances, and what not to do. The LXX. renders the word by φρόμησις, the Vulgate by prudentia. Φρόνησις, in Plato and Aristotle, is the virtue concerned in the government of men, manage-merit of affairs, and the like, and means practical wisdom, prudence, or moral wisdom. Van Ess, Allioli, Holden, translate "prudence."

Proverbs 1:3

To receive the instruction of wisdom. This verse carries on the statement of the design of the Proverbs. To receive; Hebrew, לְקַחַת (lakakhath), not the same word as "to know" (לָדַּעַת), in verse 2, though regarded as synonymous with it by Delitzsch. Its meaning is well represented by the LXX. δέξασθαι, and the Authorized Version "to receive." The Hebrew, לָקַחַת, is infinitive, and means properly "to take, or lay hold of," hence "to receive," Greek, δέχομαι, No doubt it conveys the idea of intellectual reception (cf. Proverbs 2:1). The instruction of wisdom; Hebrew, מוּסַר הַשְׂכֵּל (musar hasekel); i.e. the discipline or moral training which leads on to reason, intelligence, or wisdom (as Hitzig, Fuerst, Zockler); or discipline full of insight, discernment, or thoughtfulness (as Umbreit, Ewald, Delitzsch). The phrase does not mean the wisdom which instruction imparts. The word musar occurs here in a slightly different sense from its use in verse 2; there it is objective, here its meaning as a medium for the attainment of wisdom is more distinctly brought out. Wisdom (haskel) is properly "thoughtfulness" (so Umbreit. Ewald, Delitzsch, Plumptre). It is strictly the infinitive absolute of שָׂכַל (sakal), "to entwine or involve," and as a substantive it stands for the thinking through of a subject, so "thoughtfulness." The LXX. renders this sentence, δέξασθαί τε στροφὰς, which St. Jerome understands as "versutias sermonum et solutiones aenigmatum" ("the cunning or craftiness of words and the explication of enigmas"). Justice, and judgment, and equity. These words seem to be the unfolding of the meaning contained in the expression, "the instruction of wisdom." Holden regards the last four words as objective genitives dependent on "instruction," but wrongly. Cornelius a Laplde states that "justice and judgment and equity" indicate the same thing in different aspects. "Justice stands for the thing itself—that which is just; judgment in respect of right reason, which says it is just; and equity in respect of its being agreeable to the Law of God." Justice; Hebrew, צֶדֶק (tsedek), from the root צָדַק (tsadak), "to be right, or straight;" in a moral sense it means "rectitude," "right," as in Isaiah 15:2 (Gesenius). The underlying idea is that of straightness. Heidenheim, quoted by Delitzsch, maintains that in tsedek the conception of the justum prevails; but the latter enlarges its meaning, and holds that it also has the idea of a mode of thought and action regulated, not by the letter of the Law, but by love, as in Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 42:6. Plumptre thinks "righteousness" would be a better translation of the word, on the ground that the Hebrew includes the ideas of truth and beneficence. Compare with this the LXX. δικαιοσύνη. Zockler also renders "righteousness," i.e. "that which is in accord with the will and ordinances of God as Supreme Judge." In the Authorized Version, in Proverbs 2:9, where we have the same collocation of words, tsedek is translated "righteousness;" cf. Proverbs 12:17, "He who utters truth shows forth righteousness (tsedek)." Judgment; Hebrew, מְשְׁפָּט (mishepat), from the root שָׁפַּט (shapat), "to adjust, judge," corresponds with the Hebrew in meaning; it is the delivery of a correct judgment on human actions. Compare the LXX. κρίμα κατευθύνειν. Equity; i.e. rectitude in thought and action (Delitzsch), or integrity (Zockler). This quality expresses upright demeanour or honoumble action on one's own part individually, while "judgment" has regard both to our own and the actions of others. The Hebrew, mesharim (מֵשָׁרִים), used only in the plural, is from the root יָשַׁר (yashar), "to be straight or even," and is equal to "uprightness." The plural form is reproduced in the marginal reading "equities;" comp. Psalms 17:2, "Let thine eyes beheld the things that are equal (mesharim)." The Vulgate reads aequitas and the Syriac rectitudo. The two ideas in judgment and equity appear to be expressed in the LXX. by the phrase. κρίμα κατευθύνειν.

Proverbs 1:4

To give subtilty to the simple. In this verse and the following we are introduced to the classes of persons to whom the proverbs will be beneficial The לwith the infinitive, לָתֵת (latheth) shows that in construction this proposition is so ordinate with those in Proverbs 1:2 and Proverbs 1:3, and not dependent as represented by ἵνα δῷ (LXX.)and ut detur (Vulgate). Subtilty; Hebrew, עַרְמָה (aremah), from the root עָרַם, (aram), "to be crafty or wily," properly means "nakedness" or "smoothness;" hence in a metaphorical sense it expresses "the capacity for escaping from the wiles of others" (Umbreit). We have this idea expressed as follows in Proverbs 22:3, "The prudent man (עָרוּם, arum) foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself." In the Arabic Version it is rendered by calliditas, "shrewdness," in a good sense. The Hebrew aremah, like the Latin calliditas, also means "craftiness," as appears in the use of the cognate adjective arum in Genesis 3:1, where we read, "The serpent was more subtle," etc. For "subtilty" the LXX. has πσνουργία, a Greek word which appears to be employed altogether in a bad sense, as "trickery," "villainy," "knavery;" but that scarcely appears to be the meaning of the Hebrew here, since the aim of the Proverbs is ethical and beneficial in the highest degree. The Vulgate astutia, the quality of the astutus, beside the bad sense of craftiness, also boars the good sense of shrewdness, sagacity, and so better represents the Hebrew. "Subtilty may turn to evil, but it also takes its place among the highest moral gifts" (Plumptre). The simple; Hebrew, פְתָאִים (phethaim), plural of פְתִּי (peti) from the root פָתַח (pathakh), "to be open," properly means the open-hearted, i.e. those who are susceptible to external impressions (Zockler), and so easily misled. The word occurs in Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 14:18; and Proverbs 27:12. The LXX. properly renders the word ἄκακοι, "unknowing of evil." The same idea is indirectly expressed in the Vulgate parvuli, "the very young;" and the term is paraphrased in the Arabic Version, iis in quibus non est malitia ("those who are without malice"). The Hebrew here means "simple" in the sense of inexperienced. To the young man knowledge and discretion. The Hebrew naar (נַעַר) is here used representatively for "youth" (cf. LXX; παῖς νέος; Vulgate, adolescens) in general, which stands in need of the qualities here mentioned. It advances in idea beyond "the simple." Knowledge; Hebrew, דַּעַת (daath), i.e. experimental knowledge (Delitzsch); insight (Gesenius); knowledge of good and evil (Plumptre). The LXX. has αἴσθησις, which clasically means perception by the senses and also by the mind. Discretion; Hebrew, מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), properly "thoughtfulness," and hence "circumspection" or "caution" (Zockler), or "discernment," that which sets a man on his guard and prevents him being duped by others (Plumptre). Εννοια was probably adopted by the LXX. in its primary sense as representing the act of thinking; intellectus (Vulgate), equivalent to "a discerning".

Proverbs 1:5

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning. The change of construction in the original is reproduced in the Authorized Version, but has been rendered variously. Thus Umbreit and Elster, regarding the verb יִשְׁמַע (yishema) as conditional, translate, "if the wise man hear;" on the other hand, Delitzsch and Zockler take it as voluntative," let the wise man hear," ete. The principle here enunciated is again stated in Proverbs 9:9, "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser," and finds expression under the gospel economy in the words of our Lord, "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance". Learning; Hebrew, לֶקַח (lekakh), in the sense of being transmitted or received (Gesenius, Delitzsch, Dunn). A man of understanding (LXX; ὁ νοήμων; Vulgate, intelligens) is a person of intelligence who lays himself open to be instructed. Wise counsels; Hebrew, תַּחְבֻּלוֹת (takhebuloth). This word is derived from חֹבֶל (khevel), a ship rope, a denominative of חֹבֵל (khovel), and only occurs in the plural. It signifies those maxims of prudence by which a man may direct his course aright through life (cf. regimen, Arabic). The imagery is taken from the management of a vessel, and is reproduced in the LXX. κυβέρνησις, and the Vulgate gubernatio. "Navigationi vitam comparat" (Mariana). The word is almost exclusively confined to the Proverbs, and occurs in Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:5; Proverbs 20:18; and Proverbs 24:6, usually in a good sense, though it has the meaning of "stratagem" in Proverbs 12:5. In the only other passage where it is found it is used of God's power in turning about the clouds; of. Job 37:12, "And it [i.e. the bright cloud] is turned round about by his counsels (בְּתַחְבּוּל תָוּ, bethakhebulothau)." It is the practical correlative of "learning," in the first part of the verse.

Proverbs 1:6

To understand a proverb. This verse carries on the idea which is stated in Proverbs 1:5. The end of the wise and intelligent man's increase in learning and prudence is that he may be thus enabled to understand other proverbs. Schultens, followed by Holden, takes the verb לְהָבִין (lehavin) as a gerund, intelligendo sententias. This rendering does not represent the end, but points to the proverbs, etc; as means by which the wise generally attain to learning and prudence. And the interpretation; Hebrew, מְלִיצָה (melitsah). It is difficult to determine the exact meaning of this word. By Gesenius it is rendered "enigma, riddle;" by Bertheau and Hitzig, "discourse requiring interpretation:" by Delitzsch, "symbol; by Havernick and Keil, "brilliant and pleasing discourse;" and by Fuerst, "figurative and involved discourse." By comparing it with the corresponding words, "dark sayings," it may be regarded as designating that which is obscure and involved in meaning; compare σκοτεινὸς λόγος (LXX.). It only occurs here and in Habakkuk 2:6, where it is rendered "taunting proverb." The marginal reading is "an eloquent speech," equivalent to facundia, "eloquence." Vatablus says that the Hebrews understood it as "mensuram et pondus verbi." The words of the wise; i.e. the utterances of the khakhamim (חֲכָמִים). This expression occurs again in Proverbs 22:17, and also in Ecc 9:1-18 :19 and Ecclesiastes 12:11. In the latter they are described as "goads and as nails fastened by the ministers of assemblies" (i.e. "authors of compilations," as Mendelssohn), because they cannot fail to make an impression on everybody good or bad. The expression, as used in Proverbs 22:17, implies that other than Solomonic proverbs are included in this collection. And their dark sayings; Hebrew, וְחִידֹתָם (vekhidotham). The Hebrew khidah (חִידָה), as melitsah (מְלִיצָה), its parallel in the preceding hemistich, designates obscure, involved utterances. It plainly has the sense of "enigma" (Fleischer, apud Delitzsch). Compare αἰνίγματα (LXX.), and aenigmata (Vulgate), which latter is followed by the Chaldea Paraphrase and Syriac (see also Psalms 78:2, "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter dark sayings of old"). Gesenius derives it from the root חוּד (khud), "to tie knots," and hence arrives at its meaning as an involved or twisted sententious expression, an enigma.

Verse 7-9:18


The first main section of the book begins here and ends at Proverbs 9:18. It consists of a series of fifteen admonitory discourses addressed to youth by the Teacher and Wisdom personified, with the view to exhibit the excellence of wisdom, and generally to illustrate the motto, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," or wisdom. It urges strong encouragements to virtue, and equally strong dissuasives from vice, and shows that the attainment of wisdom in its true sense is the aim of all moral effort.

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This proposition is by some commentators regarded as the motto, symbol, or device of the book (Delitzsch, Umbreit, Zockler, Plumptre). Others, following the Masoretic arrangement of the Hebrew text, consider it as forming part of the superscription (Ewald, Bertheau, Elster, Keil). As a general proposition expressing the essence of the philosophy of the Israelites, and from its relation to the rest of the contents of this book, it seems rightly to occupy a special and individual position. The proposition occurs again in the Proverbs in Proverbs 9:10, and it is met with in similar or slightly modified forms in other books which belong to the same group of sacred writings, that is, those which treat of religious philosophy—the Khokhmah; e.g. Job 28:28; Psalms 111:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Ecclesiastes 1:16, 25. With this maxim we may compare "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom" (Proverbs 15:33). The fear of the Lord (יִרְאַת יְהָוֹה, yireath yehovah); literally, the fear of Jehovah. The expression describes that reverential attitude or holy fear which man, when his heart is set aright, observes towards God. The original word, יִרְאַת (yireath) for "fear," is properly the infinitive of יָרֵא, (yare), "to fear or reverence," and as a substantive means "reverence or holy fear" (Gesenius). Servile or abject fear (as Jerome, Beda, Estius) is not to be understood, but filial fear (as Gejerus, Mercerus, Cornelius a Lapide, Cartwright), by which we fear to offend God—that fear of Jehovah which is elsewhere described as "to hate evil" (Proverbs 8:13), and in which a predominating element is love. Wardlaw remarks that the "fear of the Lord" is in invariable union with love and in invariable proportion to it. We truly fear God just in proportion as we truly love him. The fear of the Lord also carries with it the whole worship of God. It is observable that the word Jehovah (יְהוָֹה) is used in the Hebrew, and not Elohim (אְלֶהִים), a peculiarity which is invariably marked in the Authorized Version by small capitals. The beginning; Hebrew, רֵאשִׁית (reshith). This word has been understood in three different senses:

(1) As initium, the beginning; i.e. the initial step or starting point at which every one who wishes to follow true wisdom must begin (Gejerus, Zockler, Plumptre).

(2) As caput; i.e. the most excellent or principal part, the noblest or best wisdom. This sense is adopted in the marginal reading (comp. also Proverbs 4:7) (Holden, Trapp).

(3) As the principium (Vulgate); i.e. the origin, or basis, as in Micah 1:12, "She is the origin, or basis (reshith) of the sin of the daughter of Zion." Delitzsch regards the original, reshith, as embracing the two ideas of commencement and origin, in the same way as the Greek ἀρχὴ. Wisdom has its origin in God, and whoever fears him receives it if he prays in faith (cf. James 1:5, sqq.) (Vatablus, Mercerus, Delitzsch). That the first sense, viz. that of beginning, is to be understood here appears from the parallel passage in Proverbs 10:10, where the corresponding word is תְּחִלָּת. (tekillath), "beginning," from the root חָלַל (khalal), "to begin;" cf. also the LXX. ἀρχὴ, in this sense, and the initium of the Syriac and Arabic Versions. All previous knowledge to "the fear of the Lord" is comparative folly. He who would advance in knowledge must first be imbued with a reverence or holy fear of God. But fools despise wisdom and instruction; or, according to the inverted order of the words in the original, wisdom and instruction fools despise, the association of ideas in the three words, "knowledge," "wisdom," and "instruction," thus being more continuously sustained. This arrangement links on the two latter words with "the fear of the Lord," and so helps towards the elucidation of the sense in which "fools" is to be understood Fools; אֱוִילִים (evilim), plural of אֱוִיּל (evil), from the root אָוַל (aval), "to be perverse," here properly designates the incorrigible, as in Proverbs 27:22, and those who are unwilling to know God (Jeremiah 4:22), and hence refuse and despise wisdom and salutary discipline, those "who set at nought all his counsel, and will none of his reproof." The word is opposed to the "prudent" (Proverbs 12:16) and to the "wise" (Proverbs 10:14). Delitzsch understands it as "thick, hard, stupid," from the root aval, coalescere, incrassari. Schultens uses παχεῖς, equivalent to erassi pro stupidis, to represent the original. Dunn takes it in the same sense as "gross or dull of understanding." Fuerst, adopted by Wordsworth, regards it in the sense of having no moral stamina, from the root meaning "to be slack, weak, lax, or lazy." But none of these explanations seems, in my opinion, to coincide sufficiently with the evil and depraved activity expressed in the verb "despise," which follows, and which describes the conduct of this class. The LXX. renders the word or action by ἀσεβεῖς, equivalent to impii, "godless," "profane," and the Vulgate by stulti. Despise; בָּזוּ (bazu) is perfect, but is properly translated by the present, because the perfect here represents a condition long continued and still existing; cf. the Latin odi, memini, etc. The LXX. uses the future ἐξουθενήσουσιν, i.e. they will set at nought; the Vulgate, the present (despiciunt). The radical meaning is most probably contemptuous trampling under the feet (Geseuius). Wisdom and instruction (see Proverbs 27:2). The latter clause of this verse is antithetical to the former, but the antithesis is obscurely expressed. In the Authorized Version it is marked by the adversative conjunction "but," which, however, is not in the original. The LXX. has a striking interpolation in this verse between the first and second clauses, which is partly taken from Psalms 111:10 (Σύνεσις δέ ἀγαθὴ πᾶσι τοῖς ποιοῦσιν αὐτήν εὐσέβεια δὲ εἰς Θεὸν ἀρχὴ αἰσθήσεως, "And a good understanding have all they that do it: and reverence towards God is the beginning of knowledge"). Compare the Arabic Version, which has the same interpolation: Et intellectus bonus onmibus facientibus eam. Sana religio in Deum est initium prudentiae.

Proverbs 1:8-19

1. First admonitory discourse. Warning against enticements to robbery and bloodshed.

Proverbs 1:8

My son, hear the instruction of thy father. The transition in this verse from what may be regarded as filial obedience towards God to filial obedience towards parents is suggestive of the moral Law. The same admonition, in a slightly altered form, occurs again in Proverbs 6:1-35; "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother" (cf. also Proverbs 4:1). My son; בְּנִבי (beni) from בֵּן (ben), "a son." The form of address here adopted was that in common use by teachers towards their pupils, and marks that superintending, loving, and fatherly care and interest which the former felt in and towards the latter. It occurs frequently in the introductory section (Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1-35 :l, 21; Proverbs 4:10, Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 7:1), and reappears again towards the close (Proverbs 23:15, Proverbs 23:19, Proverbs 23:26; Proverbs 24:13, Proverbs 24:21; Proverbs 27:11) in the teacher's address. The mother of Lemuel uses it (Proverbs 31:2) in the strictly parental sense. In other passages of the Old Testament the teacher, on the other hand, is represented as a "father" (Judges 17:10 Isaiah 10:12; 2 Kings 2:21). We find the same relation assumed in the New Testament, both by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 1:10; Galatians 4:19) and by St. John (1 John 2:1; 1 John 5:2); but under the economy of the gospel it has a deeper significance than here, as pointing to the "new birth," which, being a later revelation, lies outside the scope of the moral teaching of the Old Testament dispensation. The instruction (מוּסַר, musar); as carrying with it the sense of disciplinary education (cf. LXX; παιδεία; Vulgate, disciplina; see also verse 2), and of the correction with which it may be enforced (cf. Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13, Proverbs 23:14), the writer attributes appropriately to the father, while the milder torah, "law," he uses of the mother (Delitzsch). Father. The nature of the exhortation conveyed in this verse requires that we should understand the terms "father" and "mother" in their natural sense as designating the parents of the persons addressed, though a symbolical meaning has Been attached to them by the rabbis (see Rabbi Salomon, in loc.), "father" being understood as representing God, and "mother," the people. But the terms are more than merely figurative expressions (Stuart). Those who look upon the Proverbs as the address of Solomon to his son Rehoboam naturally take "father" as standing for the former. Naamah, in this case must be the mother (1 Kings 14:31). It is almost unnecessary to state that pious parents are presupposed, and that only that instruction and law can be meant which is not inconsistent with the higher and more perfect Law of God (Gejerus, Wardlaw). And forsake not the law of thy mother. Forsake. The radical meaning of הִּשָׁ (tittosh) is that of "spreading," then of "scattering" (Aiken), and so the word comes to mean "forsake, reject, or neglect." The LXX. reads ἀπώσῃ, from ἀποθέω, abjicere, "to push away, reject." Cf. abjicias (Arabic). The Vulgate has dimittas, i.e. "abandon," and the Syriac, obliviscaris, i.e. "forget." The law; תּוֹרַת (torath), construct case of תּוֹרַה (torah), from the root יָרָה (yarah), "to teach," hence here equivalent to "a law" in the sense of that which teaches—a precept. With one exception (Proverbs 8:10), it is the term which always expresses the instruction given by Wisdom (Delitzsch). The law (torah) of the mother is that preceptive teaching which she imparts orally to her son, but torah is also used in a technical sense as lex, νόμος δέσμος, that which is laid down and established, a decretum or institutum, and designates some distinct provision or ordinance, as the law of sacrifice (Le Proverbs 6:7). In Joshua 1:8 we find it employed to signify the whole body of the Mosaic Law (sepher hatorah). Mother. Not inserted here as a natural expansion of the idea of the figure required by the laws of poetic parallelism (as Zockler), since this weakens the force of the passage. Mothers are mentioned because of their sedulousness in imparting instruction (Bayne).

Proverbs 1:9

For they (shall be) an ornament of grace unto thy head. The sentiment here expressed is put forward as an inducement to youth to observe obedience towards the instruction of the father and the law of the mother, and the meaning is that, just as in popular opinion ornaments and jewels are supposed to set off the personal form, so obedience towards parents in the ways of virtue embellishes the moral character (Bayne, Cartwright, Holden). An ornament of grace; Hebrew, לִוְיַת הֵן (liveyath khen); literally, a wreath or garland of grace. We meet with the same expression in Proverbs 4:9, "She [i.e. wisdom] shall give to thine head an ornament of grace." The Hebrew לִוְיה (liveyah) is derived from the root לָוָה (lavah), "to wind a roll" (Delitzsch) or "to be joined closely with" (Gesenius), and hence signifies an ornament that is twisted, and so a wreath or garland. Gejerus and Schultens translate the phrase by corolla gratiosa, i.e. "a crown full of grace," and so meaning conferring or producing grace, just as the expression, "the chastisement of our peace" (Isaiah 53:5), means the chastisement bringing or procuring our peace. So again a "precious stone," in Proverbs 17:8, margin, "a stone of grace," is one conferring gracefulness. The marginal reading, "an adding" (additamentum, Vatablus), conveys, though obscurely, the same idea; and this sense is again reproduced in the Vulgate, ut addatur gratia capiti suo. The LXX. reads, στέφανος χαρίτων. And chains about thy neck. Chains; properly, necklaces; עֲנָקִים (anakim), plural of עֲנָק (anak), "a cellar or necklace;" the κλοιός χρύσεος, or "golden collar," of the LXX; and torques (i.e. twisted neckchain) of the Vulgate. There is a very apposite parallel to this verse in Proverbs 6:20, Proverbs 6:21 (cf. Proverbs 3:3; see also Judges 8:26). The gold chain round the neck was a mark of distinction, and was conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh when investing him with authority and dignity (Genesis 41:42), and on Daniel by Belshazzar in the same way (Daniel 5:29; see So Daniel 4:9). The mere adornment of the person with gold and pearls, without the further adornment of the moral character with Christian graces, is deprecated both by St. Paul and St. Peter (see 1Ti 2:9, 1 Timothy 2:10, and 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Peter 3:4). Neck, גַּרְגְּרֹת (garegeroth) only occurs in the plural (Gesenius). (See Proverbs 3:3, Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 6:21.)

Proverbs 1:10

My son, if sinners entice thee. (As to the form of address, see Proverbs 1:8.) It is here used because the writer is passing to a warning against bad company, and hence the term is emphatic, and intended to call especial attention to what is said. It is repeated again in Proverbs 1:15, at a further stage in this address, with the same view. Sinners; חַטָּאִים (khattaim), the plural of חַטָּא (khatta), from the root חָטָּא (khata), properly "to miss the mark, to err;" cf. Greek, ἀμαρτάνω, "to sin" (Gesenius), here equivalent to "habitual, abandoned sinners," and those especially who make robbery and bloodshed a profession. Not simply peccantes, i.e. sinners as a generic designation of the human race, for "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), but peccatores (Chaldee, Syriac, Pagin; Tigur; Versions and Vulgate). "sinners," i.e. those who sin habitually, knowingly, wilfully, and maliciously (Gejerus), or those who give themselves up to iniquity, and persuade others to follow their example (Cartwright). In the New Testament they are styled ἀμαρτωλοὶ. They are those of whom David speaks in strikingly parallel language in Psalms 26:9, "Gather not my soul with sinners (khattaim), nor my life with bloody men" (cf. Psalms 1:1). The LXX. has ἄνδρες ἀσεβεῖς (i.e. ungodly, unholy men). Entice thee; 'יְפַתּוּךָ (yephattukha); the piel form, פִתָּה (pitah), of the kal פָתָּה (patah), "to open," and hence to make accessible to persuasion, akin to the Greek πειθεῖν, "to persuade." The noun פְּתִי (pethi), is "one easily enticed or persuaded" (Gesenius). The LXX. reads μὴ πλανήσωσιν, "let them not lead thee astray." The idea is expressed in the Vulgate by lactaverint; i.e. "if sinners allure or deceive thee with fair words." The Syriac, Montan; Jun. et Tremell; Versions read pellexerint, from pellicio, "to entice." Consent thou not. (אַל־תֹּבֵא, al-tove )א. The Masoretic text here has been emended by Kennicott and De Rossi, who, on the joint authority of fifty-eight manuscripts, maintain that תֹּבֵא (tove should be written תּאֹבֵא (tosves). Others read תָּבאֹ (tavos), i.e. "thou shalt not go," which, though good sense, is incorrect. אַל־ (al) is the adverb of negation, i.q. μὴ, ne. The Hebrew תֹּבֵא (toves) is derived from אָבָה (avah). "to agree to, to be willing" (Gesenius, Delitzsch), the preformative אbeing omitted, and is accurately rendered by the LXX; μὴ βουληθῇς, and the Vulgate, ne acquiescas. The warning is especially brief and striking. The only answer to all enticements of evil is a decided negative (Plumptre). Compare St. Paul's advice to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:11, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them").

Proverbs 1:11

If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood. The teacher here puts into the mouth of the sinners, for the sake of vivid representation, the first inducement with which they seek to allure youth from the paths of rectitude, viz. privacy and concealment (Cartwright, Wardlaw). Both the verbs אָרַב (arav) and צָפַן, (tzaphan) mean "to lay in wait" (Zockler). The radical meaning of arav, from which נֶאֶרְבָה (neerevah), "let us lay in wait" (Authorized Version) is taken, is "to knot, to weave, to intertwine." Verbs of this class are often applied to snares and craftiness (cf. the Greek δόλον ὑδαίνειν, and the Latin insidias nectere, "to weave plots, or lay snares"). Generally, arav is equivalent to "to watch in ambush" (Gesenius); cf. the Vulgate, insidiemur sanguini; i.e. "let us lay wait for blood." The LXX. paraphrases the expression, κοινώνησον αἵματος, i.e. "let us share in blood." On the other hand, צָפַן (tzaphan), from which נִצְפְנָה (nitzepenah), translated in the Authorized Version, "let us lurk privily," is "to hide or conceal," and intrans. "to hide one's self," or ellipt; "to hide nets, snares" (Gesenius, Holden). This sense agrees with the Vulgate abscondamus tendiculas; i.e. "let us conceal snares." Delitzsch, however, holds that no word is to be understood with this verb, and traces the radical meaning to that of restraining one's self, watching, lurking. in the sense of speculari, "to watch for," insidiari, "to lay wait for." The two verbs combine what may be termed the apparatus, the arrangement of the plot and their lurking in ambush, by which they will await their victims. For blood (לְדָם, ledam). The context (see Proverbs 1:12 and Proverbs 1:16), bearing as it does upon bloodshed accompanying robbery, requires that the Hebrew לְדָם (ledam) should be understood here, as Fleischer remarks, either elliptically, for "the blood of men," as the Jewish interpreters explain, or synedochically, for the person, with especial reference to his blood being shed, as in Psalms 94:21. Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapide. and Gesenius support the latter view (cf. Micah 7:2, "They all lie in wait for blood," i.e. for bloodshed, or murder. דָם (dam) may be also taken for life in the sense that "the blood is the life" (Deuteronomy 12:23). Let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause. The relation of the phrase. "without cause" (חִנָּם, khinnam), in this sentence is a matter of lnueh dispute. It may be taken either with

(1) the verb (as in the Authorized Version, Wordsworth, Luther, Van Ess, Noyes, Zockler, Delitzsch, Hatzig, LXX; Syriac, Rashi, Ralbac), and then "lurk privily without cause" is equivalent to

(a) without having any reason for revenge and enmity (Zockler), i.e. though they have not provoked us, nor done us any injury, yet let us hurt them, in the sense of absque causa (Munsterus, Paganini Version, Piscatoris Version, Mercerus), ἀδικῶς (LXX.), inique (Arabic);

(b) with impunity, since none will avenge them in the sense of Job 9:12 (this is the view of Lowestein, but it is rejected by Delitzsch); or

(2) it may be taken with the adjective "innocent," in which case it means him that is innocent in vain; i.e. the man whose innocence will in vain protect (Zockler, Holden), who gets nothing by it (Plumptre), or, innocent in vain, since God does not vindicate hint (Cornelius a Lapide). On the analogy of 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 25:31; Psalms 35:19; Psalms 69:4; Lamentations 3:52, it seems preferable to adopt the first connection, and to take the adverb with the verb. In the whole of the passage there is an evident allusion to an evil prevalent in the age of Solomon, viz. the presence of bands of robbers, or banditti, who disturbed the security and internal peace of the country. In the New Testament the same state of things continued, and is alluded to by our Lord in the parable of the man who fell among thieves.

Proverbs 1:12

Let us swallow them up alive as the grave. A continuation of Proverbs 1:11, expanding the idea of bloodshed ending in murder, and showing the determination of the sinners to proceed to the most violent means to effect their covetous ends. The enticement here put before youth is the courage and boldness of their exploits (Wardlaw). The order of the words in the original is, "Let us swallow them up, as the grave, living," which sufficiently indicates the meaning of the passage. Alive; חַיִּים (khayyim), i.e. "the living," refers to the pronomiual suffix in נִבְלָעֵם (nivelaem), as in the Authorized Version and Zockler (cf. Psalms 55:15; Psalms 124:3). Umbreit and Hitzig are grammatically incorrect in connecting כִּשְׁאוֹל (kisheol) "as the grave," with "the living," and translating "like the pit (swallows) that which lives." The כִּ (ki) with a substantive, as here in kisheol, is a preposition, said not a conjunction (see Gesenius, 'Lexicon'). It denotes a kind of resemblance, but does not introduce a coordinate sentence. The allusion is undoubtedly in the teacher's mind to the fate of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30-33), and as in that case "the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up" in the flush of life, so here the robbers say that they will as suddenly and effectively destroy their victims, בָּלַע (dala); from which niv'laem, in a figurative sense, means "to destroy utterly" (Geseuius). The change from the singular, "the innocent" (לְנָקִי, lenaki), to the plural in "let us swallow them up," is noticeable. Like the pit (כִּשְׁאוֹל, kisheol); literally, like Sheol, or Hades, the great subterranean cavity or world of the dead. The all-devouring and insatiable character of sheol is described in Proverbs 27:20, where the Authorized Version translates "Hell (sheol) and destruction are never full," and again in Proverbs 30:15, where it (sheol, Authorized Version, "the grave") is classed with the four things that are never satisfied. Vulgate, infernus; LXX; ᾅδης. And whole, as those that go down into the pit. The parallelism of ideas requires that the word "whole" (תְּמִימִים, temimim) should be understood of those physically whole (see Mercerus, Delitzsch), and not in a moral sense, as the upright (Luther, Grief, Holden, Plumptre). The word is used in an ethical signification in Proverbs 2:21. Gesenius gives it the meaning of "safe, secure." Those that go down into the pit (יוֹרדֵי בוֹר, yorde vor); i.e. the dead. The phrase also occurs in Psalms 28:1; Psalms 30:4; Psalms 88:4; Psalms 143:7; Isaiah 38:18). The pit (בוֹר, vor); or, the sepulchre, the receptacle of the dead, is here synonymous with sheol. The LXX. substitutes for the latter part of the verse, Καὶ ἄρωμεν αὐτοῦ τὴν μνήμην ἐκ γῆς, "And let us remove his memory from the earth." The robbers, by drawing a comparison between themselves and Hades and the grave, which consign to silence all who are put therein, imply their own security against detection. They will so utterly destroy their victims that none will be left to tell the tale (see Musset, in loc.). This, we know, is a fancied, and at the best only a temporary, security.

Proverbs 1:13

We shall find all precious substance. This verse carries on the proposal of the sinners one step further, and puts forward a third enticement, viz. that of' the profit of crime, or the prospect of immediate riches, before youth to join in crime. A short cut to wealth, and to the acquirement of that which costs others long years of steady application and carefulness, is a strong inducement (Wardlaw). We shall find; נִמְצָא (nimetza), from מָצָא (matza), properly "to reach to," and "to find," in the sense of "to come upon;" cf. Latin invenio. Substance (הוֹן, hon); i.e. substance in the sense of riches. The radical meaning of הוּן (hun), from which it is derived, is the same as in the Arabic word, "to be light, easy, to be in easy circumstances, and so to be rich" (Gesenius). In its abstract sense, hon, "substance," means ease, comfort, and concretely riches which bring about that result (see also Fleischer, as quoted by Delitzsch); cf. the LXX. κτῆσις, i.e. collectively, possessions, property. The Piscatoris Version, for "precious substance," reads divitias, "riches." Precious; יָקָר (yakar), properly " heavy," is found with הוֹן (hon), "substance," in Proverbs 12:27 and Proverbs 24:4. The collocation of the ideas of lightness and heavineess in these two words is striking, but we need not necessarily suppose that any oxymoron is intended, as Schnltens. Such combinations occur in other languages, and reside more in the radical meanings of the words than in the mind or intention of the writer or speaker. We shall fill our houses with spoil; i.e. they promise not only finding, but full possession (Gejerus, Muffet). Spoil; שָׁלָל (shalal), from שָׁלַל (shalal), same as the Arabic verb "to draw," and hence "to strip off' (Gesenius); and equivalent to the Greek σκῦλα (LXX.), the arms stripped off a slain enemy, spoils, and the Latin spolia (Vulgate). Shalal is used generally, as here, for "prey," "booty" (Genesis 49:27; Exodus 15:9). Our gains, say the robbers, will not only be valuable, but numerous and plentiful.

Proverbs 1:14

Cast in thy lot among us. The fourth and last enticement put forward, viz. honourable union and frank and open hearted generosity. It has distinct reference to the preceding verse, and shows how the prospect of immediate wealth is to be realized (see Delitzsch, Wardlaw). Cast in thy lot cannot mean, as Mercerus, "cast in your inheritance with us, so that we all may use it in common," though גּוֹרָל (goral) does mean "inheritance" in the sense of that which comes to any one by lot (Judges 1:3) (Gesenius), since that would be no inducement to youth to join the robbers. Goral properly is "a little stone or pebble," κλῆρος, especially such as were used in casting lots, and so equivalent to a "lot" here—that with which the distribution was made, as in Le Proverbs 16:8; Nehemiah 10:34; and the custom of freebooters dividing the spoil by lot is here alluded to (Holden); comp. Psalms 22:18 in illustration of the practice of casting lots, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." The sense is, "you shall equally with the others cast lots for your share of the spoil" (Zockler, Delitzsch). Let us all have one parse. Purse; כִּיס (kis), the βαλάντιον of the LXX; the marsupium of the Vulgate, is the receptacle in which money is placed for security. In Proverbs 15:11 it is used for the bag in which traders kept their weights, "the weights of the bag;" and in Proverbs 23:31 it is translated "cup," the wine cup. It here signifies the common stock, the aggregate of the gains of the robbers contributed to a common fund. The booty captured by each or any is to be thrown into one common stock, to form one purse, to be divided by lot among all the members of the band. On this community of goods among robbers, compare the Hebrew proverb, In localis, in poculis, in ira. Community of goods among the wicked carries with it community in crime, just as the community of goods among the early Christians implied community in good works and in the religious sentiments of the Christian body or Church. The Rabbi Salomon Isacides offers another explanation: "Si voles, nobiscum spolia partieris, si etiam magis placebit, sociali communique marsupio nobiscum vives"—"If thou wilt, thou shalt share with us the booty; ay, if it like thee more, thou ,halt live with us on a confederate and common purse" (see Cornelius à Lapide).

Proverbs 1:15

My son, walk not thou in the way with them. The admonitory strain of Proverbs 1:10 is again resumed, and in Proverbs 1:16-19 the teacher states the reasons which should dissuade youth from listening to the temptations of sinners. My son. The recurrence of these words for the third time in this address marks the affectionate interest, the loving solicitude, in which the admonition is addressed. Walk not thou. Immediate and entire abandonment is counselled. The warning is practically a repetition of Proverbs 1:10, and is given again in Proverbs 4:14, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men." Way; דֶרֶךְ (derek) means, figuratively, the way of living and acting (Gesenius). "Mores et consuetudines" (Bayne); cf. Proverbs 12:15, "the fool's way;" Proverbs 22:25; and Psalms 1:1. The meaning is "associate not with them, have no dealings whatever with them." Refrain thy foot from their path; i.e. keep back thy foot, or make not one step in compliance, resist the very first solicitations to evil. Compare the legal maxim, Initiis obsta. Refrain; מְגַע (mana) is from מָנַע (mana), "to keep back, restrain;' LXX; ἔκκινον (cf. Psalms 119:101, "I have refrained my feet from every evil way;" Jeremiah 14:10, "Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet"). Restraining the foot carries with it indirectly the natural inclination or propensity of the heart, even of the good, towards evil (Cartwright). Foot (רֶגֶל, regel) is, of course, used metaphorically, and means less the member of the body than the idea suggested by it; hence the use of the singular (Gejerus, Delitzsch). Bayne remarks that the Hebrews understood this passage as meaning "neither in public nor private life have any dealings with sinners." Path (נָתִיב, nathiv) is a beaten path, a pathway, a byway; from the unused root נָתַב (nathav), "to tread, trample;" and hence, while "way" may mean the great public high road, "path" may stand for the bypath, less frequented or public. The same distinction probably occurs in Psalms 25:4, "Show me thy ways, O Lord; and teach me thy paths."

Proverbs 1:16

For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. This is the first dissuasive urged to enforce the warning against evil companionship, as showing the extremes to which entering upon the ways of the wicked lead ultimately. At once the youth who listens will be hurried along impetuously to the two crimes of robbery and murder, which God has expressly forbidden in the eighth and sixth commandments respectively of the moral code. Evil (רַע, ra) is "wickedness," τὸ κακόν, generally, but hero more specifically highway robbery, latrocinism (Cornelius a Lapide), as appears from Proverbs 1:11-13, where also murder, the laying in wait for blood, is proposed. The Rabbis Salomon and Salazar understand the evil to refer to the evil or destruction which sinners bring upon themselves, and the shedding of blood to the fact that they lay themselves open to have their own blond shed by judicial process (see also Holden). The former explanation seems preferable to this, as putting a higher law than that of self-preservation before youth. The fear of judges who can condemn to death is notbing comparatively to the fear of him "who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." This verse is wanting in the Vatican LXX; and Arabic, and hence Hitzig has concluded that it is an interpolation made from Isaiah 59:7, but upon insufficient evidence, as it is found in the Alexandrian LXX; Chaldea Paraphrase, Vulgate, and Syriac Versions, all which follow the Hebrew text. The latter part of the verse is quoted by St. Paul in Romans 3:15.

Proverbs 1:17

Surely in vain the net is spread in the face of any bird. The teacher here advances a second reason in support of his warning in Proverbs 1:15, under the form of a proverb in its strict sense. It is based on the ill-advised audacity of sinners in flying in the face of God's judgments. In vain (חִנָּם, khinnam), see Proverbs 1:11, may be taken in two senses.

(1) I.e. to no purpose, gratis, frustra (Vulgate, Chaldee Paraphrase, Arabic). The meaning of the proverb here used then is, "to no purpose is the net spread before birds," i.e. though they see the net spread before them, they nevertheless fly into it (romp. Proverbs 7:23, "As a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life"). So sinners, when they are plotting for others, plunge into their own destruction with their eyes open. Therefore do not associate with them, do not imitate their crass folly, be warned by their example, or you will share their fate. This view is supported by the LXX. reading, Οὐ γὰρ ἀδίκως ἐκτείνεται δίκτυα πτερωτοῖς, "For not unreasonably is the net spread before birds;" i.e. they fall into the snare (see Luther, Patrick, Umbreit, Ewatd, Hitzig, Zockler, Plumptre).

(2) Others, as Delitzsch, Ziegler, Beda, Doderlein, Bertheau, Wardlaw, take khinnam in a different sense, as indicating the escape of the birds—the birds see the snare and fly away, and so in vain the net is spread in their sight. This explanation is in agreement with Ovid's statement, "Quae nimis apparent retia vitat avis." The moral motive put before youth in this ease is the aggravation of his guilt if he listens to the enticements of sinners. The teacher seems to say, "Imitate the birds, flee from temptation; if you listen to sinners, you will sin with your eyes open." Is spread; מְזֹרָה (m'zorah), expansum, not conspersum est, i.e. besprinkled or strewn with corn as a bait, as Rashi. M'zorah is the participle passive of pual, זֹרָה (zorah), "to be strewn," from kal זָרָה (zarah). "to scatter, or disperse" (Gesenius), and means expansum, because when a net is scattered or dispersed it is spread out (see Delitzsch). Of any bird (כָּל־בַּעַל כָּנָף, khal-baal khanaph); literally, of every possessor of a wing, or, as margin, of everthing that hath a wing, i.e. of every bird. Compare the same expression in Ecclesiastes 10:20, בַּעַל חַכְּנָפַיִם (baal hach' naphayim); i.e. "that which hath wings" (Authorized Version).

Proverbs 1:18

And they lay wait for their own blood, etc. The third reason or argument why the teacher's warning should be followed, drawn from the destruction which overtakes the sinners themselves. "Lay wait," and "lurk privily," as in Proverbs 1:11, from which this verse is evidently borrowed. They propose, as they say, to lay wait for the blood of others; but it is, says the teacher, for their own blood. לְדָמָם (l'dhammam), contra sanguinem suum; they lurk privily. as they say, for the innocent, but in reality it is for their own lives; לְנַפְשֹׁתָם (l'naph'shotham); contra animus suas (Vulgate); or, as the LXX. puts it, Αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἱ φόνον μετέχοντες θησαυρίζουσιν ἑαυτοῖς κατὰ, "For they who take part in murder treasure up evils for themselves;" that is, they am bringing a heavier and surer destruction upon themselves than they can ever inflict upon others (Wardlaw). The LXX. adds, at the close of the verse, Ἡ δὲ καταστροφὴ ἀνδρῶν παρανόμων κακή, "And the overthrowing or destruction of transgressors is wrest, or evil." The Arabic Version has a similar addition.

Proverbs 1:19

So am the ways of every one that is greedy of gain. The epiphonema or moral of the preceding address. So are the ways, or such is the lot (as Delitzsch), or such are the paths (as Zockler), i.e. so deceitful, so ruinous, are the ways. כֵּן (chen,) is here used as a qualitative adverb. Ways; אָרְחוֹת (ar'khoth), the plural of אֹרַח (orakh), a poet. word, equivalent in the first instance to "way," i.q. דֶרֶךְ (derekh), and metaphorically applied to any one's ways, his manner of life and its result, and hence lot, as in Job 8:12, and hence the expression coven the three preceding verses. That is greedy of gain (בֹצֵעַ בָּצַע, botsea batsa); literally, concupiscentis concupiscentium lucri; i.e. eagerly longing after gain; he who greedily desires riches (avari, Vulgate). Gain; batsa in pause, from בֶּצַע (betsa), which takes its meaning from the verb בָּצַע (batsa), "to out in pieces, to break," and hence means properly that which is cut or broken off and taken by any one for himself, and so unjust gain—anything whatever fraudulently acquired, as in Proverbs 28:16, where it is translated "covetousness" (Authorized Version); cf. Isaiah 33:15; Proverbs 15:27. The idea of greed and covetousness enters largely into the word. Which taketh away the life of the owners thereof. The pronoun "which" does not occur in the original. The nominative to "taketh away" (יִקָּת, yikkath) is "gain;" the "unjust gain." (betsa) takes away the life of its owners, i.e. of those who are under its power. Owners thereof (בְּעָלָיוֹ, b'alayo) does not necessarily imply that they are in actual possession of the unjust gain, but rather refers to the influence which the lust for gain exercises over them. The expression in this second hemistich does not mean that the rapacious take the life of their comrades who possess the gain, as Rabbi Salomon; nor as the Vulgate, "the ways of the avaricious man take away the lives of those who possess them." For the phrase, "taketh away the life," as importing a violent taking away, cf. Psalms 31:13; 1 Kings 19:10. The sentiment of the verse is well expressed in 1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Proverbs 1:20-33

2. Second admonitory discourse. Address of Wisdom personified, exhibing the folly of those who wilfully reject, and the security of those who hearken to, her counsels. The sacred writer, in this section, as also in Proverbs 8:1-36; uses the rhetorical figure of prosopopceia, or impersonation. Wisdom is represented as speaking and as addressing the simple, scorners, and fools. The address itself is one of the noblest specimens of sacred eloquence, expressing in rapid succession the strongest phases of feeling—pathetic solicitude with abundant promise, indignant scorn at the rejection of her appeal, the judicial severity of offended majesty upon offenders, and lastly the judicial complacency which delights in mercy towards the obedient. The imagery in part is taken from the forces of nature in their irresistible and overwhelming violence and destructive potency.

Proverbs 1:20

Wisdom crieth without. Wisdom. The Hebrew word (khochmoth) here used to designate Wisdom seems to be an abstract derivation from the ordinary khochmah. The form is peculiar to the Proverbs and Psalms, in the former occurring four times (Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 9:1; Proverbs 14:1; Proverbs 24:7), and in the latter twice only (viz. Psalms 49:4; Psalms 78:15). As in Proverbs 9:1 and Proverbs 24:7, it is a pluralis excellentiae of the feminine gender, a variety of the pluralis extensivus, as Bottcher prefers to denominate it. The feminine form may he determined by the general law which associates purity and serenity with womanhood (Plumptre). The idea of plurality, however, is not that of extension, but of comprehension, i.e. it is not so much all kinds of wisdom which is presented to us, as all the varieties under which wisdom par excellence may be regarded and is comprehended. The plural form of the word denotes the highest character or excellence in which wisdom can be conceived; or, as the marginal reading expresses it, wisdoms, i.e. excellent wisdom. Other instances of the pluralis excellentiae are met with in Holy Writ, e.g. Elohim, God, i.e. "God of Gods," either from the polytheistic view, or from the monotheistic view as expressive of God's might in manifestation, passim; k'doshim, "the Holy (God)," Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 30:3; adonim, for adon "lord". In the conception of Wisdom here presented to us in the text we have the germ of an idea which, on the principles of expansion, developed subsequently in the consciousness of the Christian Church into a definite identification of Wisdom with the Second Person of the blessed Trinity. There is a striking parallel to this passage in Luke 11:49, where Christ speaks of himself as ἡ Σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ, "the Wisdom of God," that shall send prophets and apostles into the world, and thereby identifies himself with Wisdom (cf. this with Luke 11:20, Luke 11:21; Luke 7:1-50.). Again, a striking similarity is observable between the teaching of Divine Wisdom and that of the Incarnate Word, as much in their promises as in their threats and warnings. But it is difficult to determine with accuracy to what extent the Messianic import of the personification was present to the consciousness of the sacred writers, and whether Wisdom as here presented to us is simply a poetic and abstract personification or a distinct by-postatizing of the Word. Dorner, with reference to Luke 8:22, etc; says that though Wisdom is introduced speaking as a personality distinct from God, still the passage does not lead clearly to an hypostatizing of the Khochmah. Dollinger ('Heidenthum und Judenthum,' bk. 10. pt. 3. sec. 2 a, and Proverbs 8:22, etc.) maintains that Wisdom is "the personified idea of the mind of God in creation," rather than the presence of "a distinct hypostasis." Lucke (see references in Liddon, 'Bampton Lects.') holds that in Proverbs Wisdom is merely a personification It is clear that whatever is predicated of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:1-36. must be also predicated of her in the passage before us, in reference either to the hypostatic or opposite view. On the other hand, a large number of expositors, dating from the earliest periods of the Christian Church down to the present time, see in Wisdom a distinct hypostasis, or person—the Lord Jesus Christ. A fuller investigation of this subject will be seen in our remarks on Proverbs 8:1-36. For the present we observe that Wisdom is essentially Divine. Her authority, her utterances, whether of promise, threat, scorn, or vengeance, are the authority, the utterances, of God. Crieth; rather, crieth loudly, or aloud. The Hebrew verb ranan (רָנַן) is "to vibrate the voice," and conveys the idea of the clear loud ringing tones with which proclamations were made; cf. the Vulgate praedicare, and the Arabic clamitate, "to cry with a loud voice." Fleischer remarks that the Arabic rannan, which is allied to the Hebrew verb, is used of a speaker who has a clear piercing voice. In such a way does Wisdom cry without when making her address. She elevates her voice that all may hear. The verb in the original is tazonnah, the feminine singular of ranan, and predicate to "Wisdom," according to the rule that verbs in the singular are construed with plural nouns having a singular signification, especially the pluralis excellentiae. Without. בַּהוּץ (bakhuts) is here used adverbially, as in Genesis 9:22, and signifies "in the open places," i.e. abroad, without, as opposed to the space within the walls. The writer here begins his enumeration of the five places wherein Wisdom preaches, viz.

(1) without,

(2) in the streets,

(3) in chief places of concourse,

(4) in the opening of the gates,

(5) in the city, all of which are public, and thus indicate the publicity of her announcements (with those comp. Proverbs 8:1; Proverbs 9:3).

She uttereth her voice; or, causeth her voice to be beard; represented in the Vulgate by dat vocem suam. and in the LXX. by παῤῥησίαν ἄγει (equivalent to "she observes free-spokenness"). The instrumentality which Wisdom uses in her public preaching are the prophets and teachers (Ecclesiasticus 24:33; Zockler, Vatablus, Mercerus). In the streets; literally, in the wide spares; the Hebrew, רחֹבוֹת (r'khovoth), being, as in Genesis 26:22, "wide spaces," and corresponding to the πλατεία of the LXX.; plateae, Vulgate. The same places are indicated in Luke 14:21, where, in the parable of the marriage supper, the servants are bidden to go out into the streets (πλατείαι) and lanes of the city. The word is connected with the adjective rakhav (רָחַב), "broad," "wide;" and in 2 Chronicles 32:6 is used to designate the ample space at the gates of Oriental cities (Gesenius), though here it seems to refer rather to "squares," large open spaces, not uncommon in Oriental cities—I saw one such at Aden—or it may refer to the broad crowded thoroughfares. The Syriac reading, in compitis, gives a different sense, as compitum, equivalent to "crossroads."

Proverbs 1:21

She crieth in the chief place of concourse. The chief place is literally the head (ראֹשׁ, rosh); here used figuratively for the place where streets or roads branch off in different directions, as in Ezekiel 16:25, "the beginning of streets," or "the head of the way;" comp. Genesis 2:10, where it is used of the point at which the four streams branched off; and the corresponding expression in Proverbs 8:2, "She staudeth in the top (rosh) of high places." Of concourse; הֹמִיּוֹת (homiyyoth) is the plural of the adjective, הומִי (homi): literally, "those who are making a noise," or "the tumultuous;" here, as in Isaiah 22:2 and 1 Kings 1:41, used substantively for "boisterous, noisy places" (compare the Vulgate, in capite turbaram). The variation in the LXX; "on high walls," or "on the tops of the walls" (ἐπ ̓ ἄκρων δὲ τειχέων, super summos muros), which is adopted also in the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic Versions, arises from reading חוֹמוֹת (khomoth), "walls," for the Masoretic homiyyoth. In the openings of the gates. The opening (פֶתַח pethakh) is the opening of the gate, or the entrance by the gate (שַׁעַר, shaar), i.e. of the city, the introitus portae of the Chaldee and Syriac Versions. The openings of the gates would be thronged, as courts of justice were held at the gates (Deuteronomy 16:18; 2 Samuel 15:2); business was carried on there, as the selling and redemption of land (Genesis 23:10-16; Ruth 4:1); markets were also held there (2 Kings 7:1-18); and the same localities were used for the councils of the state and conferences (Genesis 34:20; 2Sa 3:27; 2 Chronicles 18:9; Jeremiah 17:19; comp. Pro 31:1-31 :33, "Her husband is known in the gates"). In place of the expression, "in the openings of the gates," the LXX. reads, Ἐπὶ δὲ πύλαις δυναστῶν παρεδρεύει, "And at the gates of the mighty she sits"—an interpolation which only partially represents the sense of the original, and which is adopted in the Arabic. In the next clause, for "in the city" is substituted ἐπὶ δὲ πύλαις πόλεως, "at the gates of the city." The Vulgate combines the separate clauses of the original in one—in foribus portarum urbis, "in the entrances and openings of the gates of the city." In the city (בָעִיר, bair); i.e. in the city itself (so Aben Ezra, ap. Gejerus), as opposed to the entrance by the gates, and so used antithetically (as Umbreit, Bertheau, Hitzig). The publicity of the teaching of Wisdom, observable in the places she selects for that purpose, also marked the public ministry of our Lord and his disciples, and finds an illustration in his command, "What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops" (Matthew 10:27); i.e. give it all the publicity possible. The spirit of Wisdom, like that of Christianity, is aggressive.

Proverbs 1:22

How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? etc. From this verse to the end of the chapter the sacred writer puts before us the words of Wisdom herself. The discourse begins in the same way as in Psalms 4:2 (Zockler), and the classification of the persons addressed—the simple, the scorners, and the sinners—closely resembles that of Psalms 1:1. In the order there is a progression from the least to the most culpable. The simple (פְתָיִם, p'thayim), as in Psalms 1:4, those who are indifferent through thoughtlessness and inconsiderateness, and are thereby open to evil. The scorners (לֵצֵים, letsim); or, mockers, the same as the (לָצוֹן, latson) "scornful men" of Proverbs 29:8, derived from the root לּוּץ (luts), "to deride, mock," probably by imitating the voice in derision. The mockers are those who hold all things in derision, both human and Divine, who contemn God's admonitions, and treat with ridicule both threatenings and promises alike. Fools; כְסִילִים (ch'silim), a different word from the evilim of Proverbs 29:7, but signifying much the same, i.e. the obdurate, the hardened, stolidi, those who walk after the sight of their eyes and the imagination of their hearts—a class not ignorant of knowledge, but hating it because of the restraint it puts them under. The word occurs in Proverbs 17:10, in the sense of the incorrigible; in Proverbs 26:3, Proverbs 26:4 as a term of the greatest contempt. The enallage, or interchange of tenses in the original—the verbs "love" and "hate" being future, and "delight" being perfect—is not reproducible in English. The perfect is used interchangeably with the future where the action or state is represented as first coming to pass or in progress, and, as Zockler remarks, may be inchoative, and so be rendered "become fond of," instead of "be fond of." But it appears to represent not so much a state or action first coming to pass as in progress. Bottcher translates it by concupiverint, i.e. "How long shall ye have delighted in scorning?" The futures express "love" and "hate" as habitual sentiments (Delitzsch). It is to be noted that the language of Wisdom, in Proverbs 26:22 and Proverbs 26:23, is expressive of the most tender and earnest solicitude.

Proverbs 1:23

Turn you at my reproof. A call is here made to repentance. The meaning seems to be "return to my reproof," i.e. place yourselves under my reproof (as Gejerus, Delitzsch), the לְ Being represented by ad, as in the Vulgate: convertimini ad correptionem meam. It is susceptible, however, of a different reading, i.e. "in consequence of, or because of (propter), my reproof," the prefix לְ being found in Numbers 16:34, "They fled at the cry," i.e. because of the cry. Reproof (תוֹכַחַת, thochakhath); i.e. rebuke, or correction, by words. The LXX. ἔλεγχος conveys the argumentative conviction which will be present in the reproof. The word occurs again in Numbers 16:23, Numbers 16:25, and Numbers 16:30 of this chapter, and also in Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 5:12; Proverbs 6:23; Proverbs 27:5; Proverbs 29:15. Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you. The promise consequent upon, and the encouragement to, repentance. The promise is conditioned—if those addressed will heed the reproof of Wisdom, then she will pour forth her Spirit upon them, and cause them to know her words The verb hibbia (הִבִּיעַ), "to stream forth, or gush out," is here used figuratively. The outflow of the Spirit of Wisdom will be like the abundant and continuous gushing forth of water from the spring or fountain. The verb unites in it the figures of abundant fulness and refreshing invigoration (Umbreit, Elster); comp. Proverbs 15:2, Proverbs 15:28; Psalms 59:7; Psalms 119:171; Ecclesiastes 10:1. We have here striking anticipation of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28). The Spirit is that of Wisdom "and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and godly strength, the Spirit of knowledge and true godliness" (see Confirmation Office). The explanation of Beda, that it signifies her anger, is clearly inadmissible. I will make known my words unto you; i.e. as the LXX; "I will teach you my word" (διδάξω), or as the Vulgate "show" (ostendam), "expound, or make clear." My words (d'vari); i.e. precepts, or doctrine, or secrets. An intimate relation subsists between the "Spirit" of Wisdom and her "words," with which it is parallel. The former is the illuminating, invigorating principle which infuses life and power into the "words" of Wisdom, which she has already given, and which are already in our possession. Wisdom stands in the same relation to her words as the Divine Logos does to his utterances, into which he infuses himself. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63. See Delitzsch, Wardlaw, in loc.).

Proverbs 1:24

Because I have called, and ye refused. A pause may be imagined, and seems to be implied, between this and the preceding verses (22 and 23), when the address passes into a new phase—from that of invitation and promise to that of judgment and stern denunciation (Proverbs 1:24-27). In the subsection the antecedent clauses are Proverbs 1:24, Proverbs 1:25, introduced by the conjunction "because" (יַעַן, yaan; quia, Vulgate), which expresses the reason or cause for the conclusion in Proverbs 1:26 and Proverbs 1:27, introduced by "I also," to which the "because" answers. A similar grammatical construction and judgment is to be found in Isaiah: "I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I Spake, they did not hear" (Isaiah 66:4; see also Jeremiah 7:13). Refused; i.e. refused to hearken, as signified in the LXX. ὑπακούσατε. I have stretched out my hand. A forensic gesture to arrest attention. The expression is equivalent to "I have spread out my hands" (Isaiah 65:2); cf. "Then Paul stretched forth the hand (ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα)" (Acts 26:1). Regarded (מַקְשִׁיב, mak'shiv). The original idea of the verb קַשַׁב (kashav), used here, is that of erecting or pricking up the ear, like the Latin arrigere, sc. aures, in Plaut; 'Rud.,' 5, 2, 6; and cf. "arrectisque auribus adstant" (Virgil, 'AEneid,' 1:153).

Proverbs 1:25

Ye have set at nought; rather, rejected (Umbreit, Ewald, et alii). The Authorized Version rendering here is equivocal, inasmuch as it is capable of meaning "despised," whereas פְרַע (para) signifies "to let loose," "to let go" (cf. the German fahren lassen), and hence "to overlook, or reject." Its force is fairly represented in the LXX; Ἀκύρους ἐποιεῖτε ἐμὰς βουλὰς, "Ye rendered my counsel of no effect." Counsel (עֵצָה, etsah); i.e. advice, in the sense of recommendations for doing good, as opposed to reproofs for the avoidance of evil (see Proverbs 1:23 and Proverbs 1:30). Would none. The same verb, אַבַה (avah), occurs in Proverbs 1:10 and Proverbs 1:30, hence used with the negative לא (lo) in the sense of ἀπειθεῖν (LXX.), "to refuse compliance with," as in AEschylus, 'Agam.,' 1049.

Proverbs 1:26

I also will laugh at your calamity; or, more accurately, in the time of your calamity; as in the Vulgate, in interitu vestro ridebo. The preposition prefixed to the substantive b'eyd'chem (בְּאֵידְכֵם) refers to the time, or state, or condition. In the time of their calamity wisdom will exult or rejoice. The LXX; Τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ ἀπλείᾳ ἐπιγελάσομαι, however, favours the rendering of the Authorized Version. Calamity (אֵיד, eyd) is heavy overwhelming misfortune, that which oppresses and crushes its victims. The terrific nature of the punishment of the wicked is marked by a succession of terms all of terrible import—calamity, fear, desolation, destruction, distress, and anguish (Proverbs 1:26, Proverbs 1:27). When these come upon them, then Wisdom will laugh and have them in derision. The verbs "laugh" (שָׂחַק, sakhak) and "mock" (לָעַג laag) are the same as in Psalms 2:4, where they are rendered "to mock" and "have in derision." When your fear cometh; i.e. has actually arrived. Fear (פַחַד, pakhad); here used metonymically for that which causes the fear or terror (id, quod timebatis, Vulgate). There is a similar use of φόβος in 1 Peter 3:14.

Proverbs 1:27

When your fear cometh as desolation. The imagery in this verse is borrowed from nature—from the tempest and whirlwind, which, in their impetuous fury, involve all in irretrievable ruin. The two leading ideas here in the writer's mind are calamity and fear. These—their fear, that which causes their fear; and their destruction, i.e. calamity—both representing Wisdom's, and so God's, judgment, will come on sinners as a wasting tempest and sweeping hurricane. The terror and devastation caused by these latter as they pass over the face of nature are employed to depict the alarm and ruin of sinners. Desolation; שַׁאֲוָה (shaavah) is a wasting, crashing tempest (cf. Proverbs 3:25; Zephaniah 1:15), derived from שָׁאַה (shaah). "to make a crash," as of a house falling. The Vulgate reads, repentura calamitas; the LXX; ἄφνω θόρυβος; both bringing out the idea of suddenness, and the latter that of the uproar of the tempest. The Khetib, or traditional text of the manuscripts (כְשַׁאֲוָה), is equivalent to the Keri, or emended reading (כְשׁוֹאָה), and both appear to have the same root meaning. Destruction (אֵיד, eyd); the same as "calamity ' in the preceding verse. Whirlwind; סוּפָה (suphah), from the root סוּף (suph), "to snatch, or carry away," means a whirlwind carrying everything before it—the καταγίς of the LXX; or hurricane, as in Arist; 'Mund.,' 4, 16. Distress and anguish (צָרָה וְצוּקָה, tsarah v'tzukah). A corresponding alliteration occurs in Isaiah 30:6 and Zephaniah 1:15. The root signification of the former is that of compression, reproduced in the LXX. θλίψις, and the Vulgate tribulatio; that of the latter is narrowness. LXX; πολιορκία, "a beleaguering;" Vulgate, angustga. The LXX. adds, at the close of this verse, ἢ ὅταν ἔρχηται ὑμῖν ὅλεθρος as explanatory.

Proverbs 1:28

The phase which the address now enters upon continues to the thirty-first verse. The change in this verse from the second to the third person is striking. It implies that Wisdom thinks fools no longer worthy of being addressed personally—"Quasi stultos indignos censunt ulteriori alloquio" (Gejerus and Michaelis). The declaration is the embodiment of the laughter and scorn of Proverbs 1:26. The three verbs, "they shall call," "they shall seek," "they shall find," occur in uncommon and emphatic forms in the original. They are some out of the few instances where the future terminations are inserted fully before the pronominal suffix. I will not answer. The distress and anguish consequent upon their calamity and fear lead them to pray, but there will be no answer nor heed given to their cry. They are not heard, because they do not cry rightly nor in the time of grace (Lapide). See the striking parallel to the tenor of this passage in Luke 13:24-28. They shall seek me early; i.e. diligently. The verb שָׁחַר (shakhar) is the denominative from the substantive שַׁחַר (shakar), "the dawn, morning," and signifies to go out and seek something in the obscurity of the morning twilight (Delitzsch, Zockler), and hence indicates diligence and earnestness in the search. Gesenius gives the same derivation, but connects it with the dawn in the sense of the light breaking forth, and thus, as it were, seeking (see also Proverbs 2:1-27; Proverbs 7:15; Proverbs 8:17; Hosea 5:15).

Proverbs 1:29, Proverbs 1:30

Belong to Proverbs 1:28, and are not the antecedent clauses to Proverbs 1:31, as Zochler remarks. They recapitulate the charges already made against the sinners in Proverbs 1:22 and Proverbs 1:25, and now set them forth as the ground or reason why Wisdom, on her part, turns a deaf ear to their entreatries. Wisdom will disregard the n because they have previously disregatded her. The connection is denoted in the LXX. by γὰρ, for the Hebrew takbath ki, equivalent to "because," and in the Authorized Version by the punctuation. Did not choose the fear of the Lord. The verb "to choose" (בָּחַר, bakhar) combines in itself the meanings of eligere and diligere (Fleischer), and therefore signifies here not only choice of, but also the fuller sense of love for, the fear of the Lord. They despised; i.e. rejected the reproof with scorn or derision, sneered or turned up their noses at it (μυκτηρίζειν, LXX.), disparaged it (detrahere, Vulgate), or, more strongly, as Gejerus says, execrated it. Their rejection of reproof is stigmatized in stronger terms than in Proverbs 1:25.

Proverbs 1:31

Therefore they shall eat, etc. A further enlargement of the declaration of Wisdom, showing that their calamity is the result of their own ways. The futures are resumed in the original from Proverbs 1:28. The word "therefore" does not occur, but it is met with in the LXX; τοιγαροῦν; in the Vulgate, igitur; and in the Syriac, ideo. The truth here expressed is accordant with the tenor of the teaching of the Scripture (comp. Proverbs 14:14; Proverbs 22:8; Job 4:8; Isaiah 3:10; Galatians 6:7, Galatians 6:8), and with our daily experience of God's moral government of the world (see Butler, 'Analogy,' part 1, ch. 2, ad fin.). This sentiment of retributive punishment also found expression in Terence, "Tute hoc intristi, tibi omne est edendum" ('Phorm.,' 2. 1. 4). When we are punished, the blameworthiness lies not with God, but with us sinners (Wardlaw). They shall be failed; rather, satiated, or surfeited; saturabuntur (Vulgate). The verb שָׁבַע (shava) means not only "to fill," but "to be satiated or cloyed" (cf. Proverbs 14:14; Proverbs 25:16; Psalms 88:3; Psalms 123:4). Michaelis remarks on this word, "Ad nauseam implebuntur et comedent, ita ut consiliorum suorum vehementer tandem, sed nimis sero, ipsos poeniteat" (Michaelis, 'Notre Uberiores in Prov.'), "They shall be filled and eat ad nauseam, so that at length, but too late, they shall vehemently repent them of their own counsels." Counsels (מוֹעֵצוֹת, moetsoth); i.e. ungodly counsels, or evil devices. The word only occurs in the plural.

Proverbs 1:32

Wisdom now brings her address to a close by contrasting the destruction and ruin of the foolish, and the security of those who listen to her voice. The turning away; מְשׁוּבָה (m'shuvah), from שׁוּב(shuv), "to turn about, or to return" (which is used metaphorically of conversion), here means defection, turning away; and hence apostasy (aversio Vulgate, Chaldee Paraphrase, Syriac; perversitio, Cast. Version); the "backsliding" of Jeremiah 8:5; Hosea 11:7. Abea Ezra understands it to signify "ease," as in the marginal reading; but there seems no warrant for taking the word in that sense. The LXX. renders the passage quite differently, Ἀνθ ὧν γὰρ ἠδίκουν νηπίους φονευθησονταί "For because they wronged the young, they shall be slain;" so also the Arabic. The turning away is from the warnings and invitations of Wisdom, and implies rebelliousness against God. The prosperity. The word in the original (שַׁלְוָה, shal'vah) is here used in a bad sense, and means "carelessness, indolence," that carnal security which is induced by prosperity and worldly success, as in Jeremiah 22:21, "I spoke to thee in thy prosperity (security), but thou saidst, I will not hear" (cf. Ezekiel 16:49, where it is translated "idleness." So Dathe translates, "Incuria ignavorum eos perdit." The Chaldee Paraphrase and Syriac Versions read "error." It occurs in a good sense as "tranquillity," "security," in Proverbs 17:1 and Psalms 122:7. The derivation of the word is from שָׁלָה (shalah). "to be tranquil, to be safe, secure." Marines remarks that it is more difficult to bear prosperity than adversity, because we endure adversity, we are corrupted by prosperity, and prosperity or ease makes fools mad. The false security of the prosperous is illustrated by our Lord in his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). The LXX. differs again from the Hebrew in the second clause of this verse, καὶ ἐξετασμός ἀσεβεῖς ὀλεῖ; i.e. the carefully considered judgment of God concerning them shall destroy them. The LXX, is followed by the Arabia. Them; i.e. the fools themselves, and not other sinners, as Ben Ezra says, though the apparent security of fools, the impunity with which they seem to go on in their wickedness, and the success of their plans, may lead others to destruction.

Proverbs 1:33

Hearkeneth unto me. Wisdom, in closing her address, draws a beautiful picture of the real security and peace of the righteous, as contrasted with the false security of the wicked. As on the one side rejection of her counsels, her warnings, and invitations, carries with it punishment and irretrievable ruin; so, on the other, the hearkening to her words, and loving obedience, are rewarded by her with the choicest blessings. Shall dwell safely; that is, with confidence, without danger (absque terrore, Vulgate). The phrase, שָכַן בֶּטַד (shachan betakh), is used in Deuteronomy 33:12-18 of the safety with which the covenant people should dwell in the land that God had given them; but it is capable of a further extension of meaning beyond mere temporal security, viz. to the spiritual peace of the righteous. The psalmist also employs it to describe the confidence with which he awaits the resurrection, when he says, "My flesh also shall rest in hope [or, 'dwell confidently']" (Psalms 16:9). So here Wisdom promises that he who hearkens to her shall dwell calmly and undisturbed amidst the distractions of the world. The promise agrees with the description of Wisdom elsewhere that "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." And shall be quiet; (שַׁאֲנַן, shaanan, perfect pilel). Wisdom regards her assurance as already accomplished, and hence the perfect in the original is used for the future. The hearers and doers of her will shall live in tranquillity; nay, they are already doing so. It is a thing not only in prospect, but in possession. From fear of evil; i.e. either without any fear of evil, fear being removed (timore sublato, Vulgate), or, as the Authorized Version expresses it, connecting the phrase more intimately with the verb—"quiet from fear of evil." It is not only evil, רֲעַה (raah), in its substantial form, as calamity, they are to be free from, but even the fear of it. The tranquillity will be supreme.


Proverbs 1:6


It is not surprising to see that proverbs, which are found more or less in the traditional lore of almost all nations, and flourish most abundantly in the East, also enter into the circle of the inspired literature of the Jews. The general characteristics of this portion of the sacred Scriptures are well worthy of our study.

I. THE PROVERBS ARE ALL CONCISE UTTERANCES. In the present age, when time is more precious than ever, it is to be wished that public teachers would correct their prolixity by following the example of these sayings, which certainly contain "the soul of wit."

1. The conciseness of the proverbs renders them striking. It is not enough to state a truth; we must make it tell. Men's ears are dull to spiritual ideas. In order to penetrate, words must have point, incisiveness, force.

2. The conciseness also greatly assists memory. Proverbs can be handed from one to another like coins. A truth that is worth uttering is worth remembering.

II. MANY OF THE PROVERBS ARE ILLUSTRATIVE SAYINGS. They are "figures." The proverb runs into the parable; indeed, a parable is but an expanded proverb. Either by way of arbitrary illustration, or by reason of real correspondence between the material and the spiritual nature, a proverb will often afford lessons of spiritual truth which are more fresh and interesting than bare abstract statements. The popular mind naturally turns to the concrete. What strikes the senses is felt to be most forcible. How well our Lord knew this fact of human nature, and how graciously he condescended to accommodate himself to it, is seen in his own rich picture gallery of parabolic teaching. He who can discern "sermons in stones" and "books in the running brooks" will have his eyes opened to see "good in everything."

III. SOME OF THE PROVERBS ARE SUGGESTIVE rather than direct teachings. They are "dark sayings"—possibly because the truth is so profound that it can only be approached by those who grope after it in difficult research. But more simple truth may be wrapped in enigmatic phrases for the express purpose of testing the genuineness of the desire to possess it, exciting interest, exercising the powers of thought in the learner, and becoming itself a more intelligible and more valuable thing when it is once found (see Matthew 13:10-17). Let no man think that the best treasures of thought are scattered prodigally on the surface of life for swine to trample underfoot. They lie deep, and must often be sought with toil and anguish of soul. Yet to the honest seeker after light, if only he follow the Light of the world, it will surely dawn, though for a season

"The intellectual power, through words and things,
Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way."


1. Next to theology, the highest knowledge is that of human life and duty. The triumphs of physical discovery seem to have thrown us into the opposite extreme from that to which Socrates tended. Surely whatever other studies we may pursue, "the proper study of mankind is man." No other topic is more profoundly interesting, none requires so much light, none is so replete with practical issues.

2. The wisdom of the proverbs is practical. It deals with conduct—which, as Mr. Matthew Arnold says, "is three-fourths of life." What we know is of service to us chiefly as it affects what we do.

3. This wisdom concerns itself with the moral and religious guides to practice. We find here no Machiavellian maxims of dishonest expediency, no mere worldly advice in the school of Lord Chesterfield, no Jesuistic cesuistry. Righteousness among men and the fear of God are the leading principles set forth. The least exalted precepts are pure and honest. The highest reach the level of Christian ethics. Though much of the Book of Proverbs falls short of the lofty requirements of the New Testament, many passages in it read like anticipations of the Sermon on the Mount. Thus are we taught that the highest wisdom is one with the purest morality and the noblest religion.

V. THE PROVERBS ORIGINATED IN WISDOM, AND NEED WISDOM FOR THEIR INTERPRETATION. They are words of the wise. Inspiration does not dispense with intelligence; it quickens it. Wisdom is itself a gift of the Spirit of God (James 1:5). The most simple truth is often the product of the most difficult thinking which has triumphed in thus making plain what was previously obscure. Let us see, however, that the clear utterance is a word of the wise; for there is a tendency to accept a saying because of its neat and apt form, without regard to its truth or falseness. Wisdom is therefore needed in understanding proverbs and in "discerning spirits." It is not enough that the grammarian explains the words. Higher wisdom is necessary to see where the isolated truth fits into other truths, by what it is qualified, and how it is to be applied; for it is one of the disadvantages of the proverb that its very terseness gives to it an unnatural isolation, and excludes the addition of counterbalancing truths.

Proverbs 1:7

The relation of religion to knowledge

"The fear of the Lord" being the most common Old Testament name for religion, we must take it here in its large and general sense, and understand that religion in all its relations is set forth as the true basis of knowledge; though it may welt be that awe and reverence for the majesty and mystery of God have a special prominence in regard to the pursuit of truth.

I. RELIGION IS AN IMPORTANT REQUISITE FOR THE ACQUISITION OF ALL KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE. Religion—not theology—claims this position. The progress of science was arrested for a thousand years by the claims of theology to dominate all regions of inquiry. Theology, or human speculations about Divine things, is the most difficult, and therefore in many respects the most uncertain, of all the sciences. When the schoolmen made the dogmatic assumptions of patristic theology, combined with elaborate deductions from Aristotelian philosophy, the touchstone of all truth, they set up an impenetrable barrier before the investigation of nature. Even when theological dicta are absolutely true, it is irrelevant to bring these to bear upon physical science. Unquestionably Bacon did a great service to the cause of truth in banishing final causes from the science of nature. But the relation of religion to science is of a totally different nature. That relation consists in the influence that religious experience, religious character, religious feelings and motives, must necessarily have upon scientific research. Religion influences all life; intellectual life is no exception.

1. Religion should excite the thirst for truth. It is a mistake to suppose that religion inclines to indolence and ignorance. It inspires all the noblest, endeavours. It is on the side of light and truth. Rightly understood, it will impose the pursuit of science as a duty. Without religion this pursuit is too likely to be followed only from mere inclination, or possibly for ends of self-interest.

2. Religion tends to induce the most wholesome scientific temper. There is great resemblance between the Christian graces and the special dispositions requisite for the successful discovery of truth. The Sermon on the Mount contains the best possible precepts for the character of the model man of science. Loyalty to truth, unselfishness in sacrificing prejudices and crotchets, justice to the work of rivals, diligence in uninteresting but needful inquiries, patience in waiting for solid results, conscientiousness in refraining from mere sensationalism, humility in confessing the smallness of the area really conquered, calmness and generosity under criticism, are among the most essential requisites for the pursuit of science, and they are among the best fruits of religion.

3. Religion tends to open the eyes to truth. It raises us from the gross animalism which is intellectual death. Elevating the whole man, it enlarges the intellect.

II. RELIGION IS THE NECESSARY FOUNDATION OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE. This fact agrees with the great modern doctrine of inductive philosophy. Experience is the basis of knowledge. To know God we must have personal relations with him. Spiritual truths in regard to human life depend on the same Source. We must do the commandment in order to know the doctrine. Indeed, there is a constant interaction between knowledge and experience—every enlargement of experience increasing our knowledge, and every increment of knowledge throwing light on our way fur future experience; till, in consequence of these two processes, we rise, as one has said, by a sort of "spiritual spiral," to the coexistent perfection of knowledge and of character. Our independence upon an external and superhuman revelation for our knowledge of Divine things is no exception to this principle, as two considerations will show.

1. Revelation was first vouchsafed through religious men. The fear of God was the beginning of knowledge in the prophets; the love of Christ is its basis in the apostles. Nebuchadnezzar could not have written the prophicies of Isaiah, nor could Judas have written St. John's Gospel.

2. Revelation can only be understood by religious men. A bad man may be a good verbal commentator, but the essential truth, the spirit which quickens as distinguished from the "letter that killeth," can only be discerned by those who are in sympathy with it, because "spiritual things are spiritually discerned."

Proverbs 1:10



1. From sinners.

(1) It comes from without. The evil of our own hearts inclines us to sin; but were we perfectly innocent we could not escape temptation. The serpent was a denizen of Eden. Christ the Sinless One was tempted. The sights and sounds of the wicked world penetrate to the most carefully guarded soul.

(2) The temptation is famished by those who have themselves succumbed to sin. It is sinners who tempt. Sin is contagious. The worst sin is that of those who, like Jeroboam, "make Israel to sin." The bad man has terrible power for harm. Example, social influence, friendship, favour his designs.

2. By enticements. Sin is made to be attractive; and it is most important for all of us to know that there are pleasures in sin, in order that we may not be surprised at the discovery of them. The fruit is palatable, though, like apples of Sodom, it soon turns to ashes. If it were not so, who would run the risk of tasting it? If stolen waters were not sweet, who would choose to wear the brand of a thief on his conscience? Herein is the great power of temptation. By slow degrees and soft inducements the evil is wrought. The subtle serpent succeeds where the roaring lion fails. Delilah conquers the man whom no Philistine warrior could overthrow.

"Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light."

II. HOW THE TEMPTATION IS TO BE MET. "Consent thou not." Let no man deem himself the helpless victim of temptation. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able," etc. (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have wills. We can say "Yes ' and" No." We are not responsible for meeting with temptation, since even Christ felt the cruel force of this trial, but we are responsible for the way we behave under it..

"'Tis one thing to be tempted,
Another thing to fall."

Now, the resistance to temptation must be immediate and thorough. The tempter entices by gentle degrees, but the tempted must resist at once and with decision. He must not begin with the "retort courteous," but with "the lie direct." There is something brusque about the advice, "consent thou not," very different in tone from the polite enticing manner of the tempter. Yet this is necessary, for all that is wanted by the tempter is compliance—no active exercise of will, but a passive yielding. The resistance, however, must be active. The greatest danger is in dallying with temptation.

"Lie in the lap of sin, and not mean harm?
It is hypocrisy against the devil:
They that mean virtuously, and yet do so,
The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt Heaven."

The difficulty is to give a decided negative. With some people the hardest word to say is "No." Remember:

1. There is a Divine grace to which we can appeal for aid in temptation, and a Saviour who can succour (Hebrews 2:18).

2. We can best keep out sin, not by bare expulsion of the spirit of evil, leaving the soul empty, swept, and garnished, and therefore ready for the advent of worse sins, but by filling our thoughts and affections with pure and worthy objects, by overcoming evil with good.

Proverbs 1:20-23

The gospel call

This cry of Wisdom is a sort of evangel of the Old Testament religion. It is an anticipation of the gracious invitation subsequently put forth by the Christian truth. That, too, is a cry of Wisdom; for is not Christ the "Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24), and "made unto us Wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:30)? We of the latter times, therefore, may hear in the preaching of Solomon the call of the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE CALL. It is a cry, a loud utterance, arresting attention, arousing the thoughtless. Elsewhere we read that wisdom must be sought for like hid treasures (Proverbs 2:4), and her most precious gifts are always reserved for diligent inquirers. But before she is found, she calls. Though the choicest blessings of Christ may be pearls to be had only after long search, his call to us is antecedent to our desire to obtain them. God does not wait for us to return to him before he shows a willingness to welcome us. He calls at once in his revelation of truth. It is the duty of Christians to take up and repeat this call, to be heralds of a public truth, not jealous guardians of an esoteric doctrine.


1. Without. Before the truth can be enjoyed in the heart it must be heard from without. It is not reserved for the initiated. It is declared in the open.

2. In the streets. The gospel meets men in their busy lives. The streets and lanes must be scoured to furnish guests for the King's feast, The call is too gracious to contain itself in the conventicle of the elect. Free as the air, it aims to reach all. The faithful preacher of the gospel must seek men in their haunts, not wait till they come to his snug retreat.

3. In the chief place of concourse. The gospel courts inquiry, it declares itself in the full light of day, it challenges comparison with all earthly voices. Let us not think that it can only live in conventual seclusion. It boldly claims a place in the busiest life of the world. If it cannot hold its own there, it is worthless. If Christians had more faith in it, they would be less afraid to bring this truth into all possible relations with science, politics, business, recreation. But alas! our ears are dull, and often when the voice of Wisdom is lifted up clear and kindly, it is drowned in the coarse din of worldly commotion.

III. THE PERSONS CALLED. Simple ones, scorners, fools. Divine wisdom is healing wisdom. It is not so much a reward to the wise as instruction for the foolish. Earthly wisdom comes most readily to those who are most advanced. The gospel of Christ seeks the ignorant, the wayward, the fallen.

IV. THE WAY TO RECEIVE THE CALL. "Turn you," It is not enough to hear, we must answer; and to answer is to obey, for the call is an invitation; and to obey is to turn and repent, for the gospel of the holy Christ must be a reproof to sinners. This gospel can be of no avail to us until we come to ourselves, turn our backs on our old life, and arise and go to our Father.

V. THE BLESSING PROMISED—the outpouring of the Divine Spirit. All Divine wisdom is an inspiration. Christ the Wisdom of God can only be received as we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. Thus we receive light, love, purity, peace, strength, and eternal life.

Proverbs 1:24-30

Left to their doom

Broad and encouraging as are the promises of Divine grace, if we forget the darker facts of life we shall be deluded into a false security; for nothing could be more unreasonable than to suppose that the mercy of God takes no account of moral considerations. Legally our sovereign is vested with an unfettered right of pardoning every criminal, but principles of justice and public order put great restraints upon the exercise of such a right. Bald representations of prayer as a means for securing immediate deliverance from trouble, and especially as a sure door of escape from the consequences of sin, are as false as they are shallow. It is most important that we should know under what circumstances God will reject the prayer of his troubled children and leave them to their doom.

I. AN OBSTINATE REJECTION OF GOD'S INVITATIONS AND COUNSELS. No word is here said of the great mass of the heathen world, who have never heard the full declaration of God's will. Clearly it is implied that such men do not come under the same condemnation as that of the persons immediately referred to. For the special accusation is based on the rejection of the overtures of grace, which must have been known to have been refused. The guilt of this rejection may be measured in two directions.

1. By the character of the Divine voice.

(1) It was an invitation, not a mere declaration of truth. "I have called."

(2) It was a persuading. "I have stretched out my hand."

(3) It was a warning. "Counsel" and "reproof" are referred to. The sin was plainly demonstrated, the danger clearly revealed. To reject such a Divine message is no slight error.

2. By the character of the rejection itself.

(1) It was an obstinate refusal. There was no indecision. But, practically, not to decide to obey the voice of God is to decide to rebel against him.

(2) It was an insulting indifference. "No man regarded." They refused, and went on their own ways, to their farms and merchandise and pleasure, without further thought.

II. A CRY FOR DELIVERANCE FROM TROUBLE WITHOUT REPENTANCE OF SIN. The simple ingratitude of sin would be no barrier to the full exercise of God's pardon in Christ if it were hated and repented of, for "he is able to save to the uttermost," etc. But without repentance the smallest sin cannot be forgiven. And repentance is not the mere feeling of distress at the consequence of sin—every sane and sentient being would have that feeling; nor is it a mere regret that the wrong thing was done now its horrible fruits are ripening. It must be a hearty abhorrence of the wickedness itself, and a genuine desire to do nothing of the kind in the future. The dying sinner who is appalled at his future prospects, and shrieks for deliverance from the powers of hell, will not be heard, but will be left to his fate, and most reasonably so, if he has experienced no moral change, and feels no compunctions of conscience, but would do all his vile deeds over again if only he could ensure himself against the just penalties of them.

III. AN ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE FROM THE INEVITABLE. The earthly consequences of sin are many of them fixed immutably by laws of nature. Prayer will not heal the shattered constitution of the drunkard, nor restore the squandered fortune of the spendthrift, nor recover the lost reputation of the thief. No doubt many spiritual consequences of sin are also inevitable, and, though God may pardon the sinner, he will take vengeance on his devices. But when there is true penitence and trust in the mercy of God, the incidence of the calamity is shifted, though the calamity itself is not altered, so that it comes as wholesome chastisement, and is then not laughed at by the Divine wisdom, but graciously overruled for the discipline of the penitent.

Proverbs 1:31

Punishment the natural fruit of sin

The punishment of sin is not an arbitrary penalty, but a natural consequence. It follows by laws of nature. It needs no executioner. The sin works out its own doom. This thought may be regarded from two points of view. From the standpoint of nature it is a proof that Divine justice does not abrogate, but works through natural laws. From the spiritual side it is an evidence that God has planted his moral laws in the very constitution of the world.

I. SIN BEARS FRUIT. Nothing really perishes. Deeds live on in their consequences. Evil is not simply negative; there is a terribly active and even vital power in it. Its vitality may be of a diseased, destructive order, like that of the cancer that grows and spreads to the death of the body in which it is imbedded; but it is none the less vigorous and enduring.

II. THE FRUIT OF SIN HAS A NATURAL AFFINITY TO THE STOCK FROM WHICH IT SPRINGS. The consequences of a sin have an inherent resemblance to the sin. As the Beatitudes are specially related to the graces they crown, so the curses of evil have close relations to particular forms of evil. Each sin bears its own fruit. Hatred provokes hatred; selfishness leads to isolation; falsehood engenders distrust.

III. THE FRUIT OF SIN IS BEYOND OUR CONTROL. We are free to sow the seed or to refrain; we are not free to arrest the growth of the tree. A deed once done is not only irretrievable, but it passes out of our power while it lives on to work out perpetual consequences. It may become a Frankenstein, horribly tyrannizing over its creator.

IV. THE FRUIT OF SIN MUST BE EATEN BY THE SINNER. It will come back to him when it is ripe. There may be a long interval between the sowing of the seed and the gathering of the fruit, but the sower will have to devour the harvest. Herein is the peculiar horror of the doom of sin. Though a man would fain forget the past, it returns in the dreadful resemblance it bears to its consequences, now fully developed and revealed in true colours. Nauseous and poisonous, it must not only be witnessed, but eaten. He will have to receive it in his own life, in most close and intimate union with himself.


1. Let us beware of the thoughtless sowing which must lead to so fearful a harvest.

2. Let us lay hold of the hope of redemption in Christ through which our sins may be buried in the depths of the sea.

Proverbs 1:32

Fatal prosperity

It is certainly not incumbent on the Christian preacher to maintain that prosperity is in itself an evil. This would involve a strange paradox, since it must be confessed that we all desire prosperity by natural instinct, and seek it in some form, and when we have met with it are exhorted to be thankful for it; all of which things would need to be deprecated if prosperity were essentially evil. So far is it from being thus represented in the Bible, that the Old Testament regards it as the reward of righteousness, and the New Testament as less important indeed and more full of danger, yet still as something to be enjoyed gratefully (see 1 Timothy 4:4). But experience and revelation both warn us that it brings peculiar perils and temptations, and that there are some people to whom it is nothing less than fatal.

I. CONSIDER WHO ARE THE PERSONS TO WHOM PROSPERITY IS MOST FATAL. It does not affect all alike. One man can stand calmly on a steep height where another reels with giddiness. The success which is fatal to one may develop magnanimous qualities in another. It is not all prosperity, but the prosperity of fools, that is destructive. The character of the men rather than the inherent evil of the thing determines its effects. Note some of the characters most injured by prosperity.

1. The weak, who are moulded by circumstances instead of mastering them. If a man is not strong enough to direct his course, but suffers himself to drift with the currents of external events, prosperity will lead him away into extravagance and folly. He only is safe under it who is independent of it.

2. The short-sighted—men whose views of life are exceptionally limited. These people will be likely to expect too much from prosperity, to forget that riches take to themselves wings and fly away.

3. The empty minded. If people have other resources than external possessions they are the more free to make good use of those possessions. But if they have nothing else, if they have no "inner city of the mind," if their life is all on the outside, prosperity will become a god and the idolatry of it a fatal delusion.

4. The vicious. A bad man will find in prosperity only enlarged means for evil doing, and so will increase his wickedness and bring the greater doom upon his own head. To the intemperate, the profligate, the lovers of corrupt pleasures, prosperity is nothing less than a curse.


1. It hides folly. La Bruyere says, "As riches and favour forsake a man, we discover him to be a fool, but nobody could find it out in his prosperity;" and Hare remarks that "nothing hides a blemish so completely as a cloth of gold." But if folly is hidden, it is unchecked, and grows worse and ripens fatally.

2. It encourages indolence. Prosperity may afford ample means for generous occupation, but weak and foolish people are more likely to be satisfied with idleness and self-indulgence when they find that all their wants are supplied without any effort on their own part. Then the disuse of faculties leads to the loss of them. Hence, as the pressure of adversity quickens our powers, the relaxation of prosperity tends to a sort of atrophy of them.

3. It affords opportunity for the exercise of bad qualities. Many men have tendencies to particular kinds of sin that are checked for want of opportunity. Prosperity will give this with fatal results.

4. It induces satisfaction with itself. Thus it quenches the thirst for deeper satisfaction. Lot, prosperous in Sodom, ceases to be a "pilgrim and stranger," and forgets to seek a "better country" till he is roused by the shock that puts an end w his worldly successes.


Proverbs 1:1-6

Design and character of proverbial wisdom

We may regard the opening words as a general index of the contents, as a designation of the object, and a statement of the value and profit of the teaching, of the book.


1. And first, this in general includes the information of the understanding and of the memory by wisdom. This Hebrew word (chokmah) denotes, strictly, all that is fixed for human knowledge. We may render it "insight." In other places in the Bible, the judge (1 Kings 3:28), the artist (Exodus 28:3), or the man of skill and renown in general, are thus said to be men of insight, craft, or cunning, in the original and good sense of those words. Applied to religion and conduct, it means insight into the principles of right conduct, the knowledge of how to walk before God, choosier the right and avoiding the wrong path—the knowledge of the way to peace and blessedness.

2. The training of the will. The word rendered "instruction" denotes moral education or training. Here, then, is the practical side of the matter. Not only sound intelligence is aimed at, but pure feeling, right affections, the will guided by the polar star of duty. All this is general.

3. But next, particulars, falling within this great scope, are pointed out, viz. "the attainment of justice and right and fair dealing." The first is all that pertains to God, the supreme Judge—his eternal order and will. The second refers to established custom and usage among men—to law, in the human sense. The third, an expressive word, signifying literally what is straight, points to straightforward, honourable, and noble conduct.

4. But the book has a special object in view, and a special class: "To hold out prudence to simple ones, and knowledge and reflectiveness to boys." Each of these words has its peculiar force. The Hebrew expression for the first class is literally the "open ones," i.e. those who in ignorance and inexperience are open to every impression, good or bad; simple-minded ones (not fools, which is another idea), who are readily governed by the opinions and examples of stronger minds. They need that prudence, or caution, which the hints of proverbial sense may supply, to enable them to glide out of danger and avoid snares (for the word rendered "subtilty" denotes smoothness, like that of the slippery snake). Boys, or youths also, stand in peculiar need of "thoughtfulness"—a habit of reflecting with attention and forethought upon life and different modes of conduct. The Book of Proverbs, all must see, is specially adapted for these classes. But not for them alone.

5. The book is a book for all. The wise man may listen and gain instruction; for men "grow old, learning something fresh each day." And the intelligent man may obtain guidance. For although by middle life the general principles and maxims of wisdom may have been stored up, still the applications of them, the exceptions to them, form a vast field forever growing acquisition. Knowledge is practically infinite; we can think of no bounds to it. New perplexities continually arise, new cases of conscience present themselves, old temptations revive in fresh combinations; and the records of others' experience continually flash new light from angles of observation distinct from our own.


1. It is a collection of proverbs. Condensed wisdom. Landmarks in the field of experience. Beacons of warning from dangerous shores. Objects of interest in life's travel. Finger posts The "wit of many, the wisdom of one." A portable property of the intellect. A currency honoured in every land. "Jewels five words long, that on the outstretch'd forefinger of all time sparkle forever." They may be compared to darts, to stings, to goads. They arouse the memory, awake the conscience; they fix the floating impressions of truth in forms not easily forgotten. These Bible proverbs are in poetical form; and of them it may well be said, with George Herbert, "A verse finds him who a sermon flies."

2. The mode of speech is often figurative. The word rendered "dark saying" means a profound saying, enigma, "thing hidden" (Matthew 13:35; Psalms 78:2), "obscure allegory". An example of this parabolic way of speaking is found in Agur's discourse (Proverbs 30:1-33.). The power of it, like the power of pictures and of all sensuous symbols and poetical images, lies in the fact that the form "half reveals and half conceals the soul within," and thus excites the curiosity, fixes the attention, stimulates exertion of thought in the listener. The best preachers leave much for the hearers to fill up for themselves. Suggestive teaching is the richest; it makes the pupil teach himself, Such is the method of our Lord in his parables; but not the only method; to be combined, as with him and here, with the direct mode of statement. The application is: "Take heed how ye hear." "To him that hath it shall be given." All wisdom is of God; the teacher and the disciple are both listeners at the living oracle of eternal truth. Knowledge is essential to religion, and growth belongs to both (Luke 17:5; Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 1:11; Colossians 2:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Peter 3:18).—J.

Proverbs 1:7

Religion the true beginning

This is the motto of the book. It is often found (Proverbs 9:10; Sirach 1:16, 25, 26; Psalms 111:10). The Arabs have adopted it at the head of their proverbial collections.

I. THE OLD TESTAMENT DESIGNATION OF RELIGION. It is the fear of Jehovah. That is reverence for him who is One, who is eternal, incomparable with any of the gods of the heathen, the Deliverer of Israel in the past and ever, the All-holy, just and merciful One. Such reverence includes practical obedience, trust, gratitude, and love. With this expression we may compare walking before Jehovah and the service of Jehovah, as designations of the practical aspect of religion, as the former indicates the emotional and intellectual.

II. SUCH RELIGION IS THE TRUE GERM OF SOUND KNOWLEDGE. Men have divorced by a logical abstraction science, and often sense, from religion. But ideally, psychologically, historically, they are in perfect unity. Religion is "the oldest and holiest tradition of our race" (Herder). From it as the beginning the arts and sciences sprang. It is ever so. True science has a religious basis.

1. In both the Infinite is implied and is sought through the finite.

2. Both run up into mystery—science into the unknowable ground or substance behind all phenomena, religion before the inscrutable and unutterable God.

3. The true mood is alike in both, that of profound humility, sincerity, self-abnegation, impassioned love of the truth, the mood of Bacon, of Newton, etc.

III. THE REJECTION OF RELIGION FOLLY. The Hebrew word for "fool" is strong; it is crass, stupid, insensible. "A stock, a stone, a worse than senseless thing." Folly is always the reversal of some true attitude of the mind and temper. It is the taking a false measure of self in some relation. It is the conceit of a position purely imaginary—amusing in a child, pathetic in a lunatic, pitiful in a rational man. True wisdom lies in the sense that we have little, in the feeling of constant need of light and direction; extreme folly, in the notion that the man "knows all about it." Most pitiable are learned fools. Without religion, i.e. the constant habit of reference to the universal, all knowledge remains partial and shrunk, is tainted with egotism, would reverse the laws of intelligence, and make the universal give way to the particular, instead of lifting the particular to the life of the universal. Beware of the contemptuous tone in books, newspapers, and speakers. Reserve scorn for manifest evil. The way to be looked down upon is to form the habit of looking down on others. To despise any humblest commonplace of sense and wisdom is to brand one's self in the sight of Heaven, and of the wise, a fool.—J.

Proverbs 1:8, Proverbs 1:9

Filial piety

The teacher speaks under the assumed form of a father, like St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 1:10), to give the more affectionate zest to his appeal. And the word "mother" is brought in by poetical parallelism, enhancing the parental image, We may include the parent and the teacher in one conception. The duty owed to both is analogous. And the teacher may be at the same time the parent.

I. DUTY TO PARENTS AND EARLY TEACHERS COMES NEXT TO DUTY TO GOD. It occupies that place in the Decalogue. Pythagoras and Plato, and the wise of antiquity, generally taught that parents came next to the gods, and were to be honoured even as the gods. The family is the keystone of society. Parents are the earliest representatives to children of the principle of authority, of "other will," and, in this sense, of God.


1. He has the fresh mind to deal with, the opportunity of the first word, the early and deepest impression.

2. He is the most sincere of teachers, or has the least temptation to be insincere. His one object is the child's good.

3. He is the most loving.

4. The father and the mother should combine in this work—the father to train the young mind to principle, the mother to inspire pure sentiment. The masculine influence deals with the general, with law and relation in life, with the logic or mathematics of conduct; the feminine, with the particular, with the details of behaviour, with the concrete expression of right thought and feeling. Neither can be dispensed with.

III. REVERENCE FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS IMPARTS GRACE AND BEAUTY TO THE BEARING. The adoption of their example and instruction is compared, in Oriental illustration, to the wearing of a "pleasant chaplet" on the head (and the necklace of pearls), as at feasts and entertainments—a wreath of roses or other flowers. The former was a general custom of antiquity, both for men and women. We have no exact parallel to it, and must recur to the thought of good or graceful dress in general. What significance, as we all know, is there in dress to make or mar the personal appearance! But the spiritual, not the material "habit" is the best dress, and will set off the most ungainly form. It is natural to wish to appear graceful, and one of the first manifestations of the artistic instinct in humanity is in this attention to dress. Let the instinct, then, have a moral or religious turn, and true beauty be found above all in the moral idea, in the attire of the soul, "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price." The complimentary deferences to one another in polite society, the slight submissions in word and deed, the trifling self-abnegations which give a transient perfume and refinement to social hours,—all these do but mimic or represent something of more permanent value, the principle of obedience, the will governed by law, the character formed by the true, which is also the good and the beautiful.—J.

Proverbs 1:10-19

Warnings against the evils of the time

An unsettled time, one of violence and insecurity of life, appears to be indicated, such as has only its occasional parallel in our society. Yet the perverted impulses which lead to open crime are those which induce every species of dishonesty and more subtle attacks upon the life or property of others. We may thus draw from a particular description some general lessons. But it seems to give more point and force to the passage if we view it as attaching to notorious and frequent forms of crime.

I. THE TEMPTER. He is always existing in every state of society, and not hard to find. There are human beings who have come to adopt evil as a trade, and, not content with practising it themselves, must have help and sympathy in their work, and turn recruiting sergeants for the devil. The beautiful laws of our being assert themselves amidst all the perversion of depraved choice. Crime, like sorrow, is lonely, and craves partnership. Remorse would soothe itself by fixing the like sting in the bosoms of others. And the criminal, constantly on his defence against society, learns to acquire an allurement of manner which is not the least of his dangerous qualities. The warning to youth against "enticing sinners" of both sexes can never be obsolete. Beware of persons of "peculiarly fascinating manners." What is it that fascinates? Generally it will be found to be some species of flattery, overt or concealed, attacking the weak point of the tempted ones. The warning may be so far generalized into "Beware of the flatterer." Flattery is at the bottom of most temptation.


1. Its aspect of horror. They are to be understood as drawn by the teacher's hand. He is putting the real meaning of the tempter's suggestions into vivid descriptions. The tempter himself will take care not to expose the bloody and hideous aspect of his trade.

"Vice is a monster of so hideous mien,
That to be hated needs but to be seen."

On such a principle the teacher acts. The veil is torn aside from the life of crime, and its repulsive inhumanity disclosed. It is a "lurking for blood," after the image of the hunter with nets and nooses, watching for his prey. And this too for "the vainly innocent," i.e. whose innocence will avail him nothing with us (comp. Psalms 35:19; Psalms 69:5; Lamentations 3:52), or, in the other interpretation, for the innocent who has given us no cause for hatred or revenge. "Will swallow them up living like the pit [or, 'abyss']." An expression for sudden death as opposed to that by lingering sickness—the earth as it were yawning from its abysses to devour the fated lives (comp. Psalms 124:3; Proverbs 30:16). The expression whole, whether it denotes sound in body or in character (honest men), adds to the force of the description.

2. But there is an attractive aspect in crime. "Thou shall cast thy lot into our midst," i.e. shall share and share alike with us, as we say, or take an equal chance for the best of the booty, the lot in such cases being the custom of robbers and of soldiers (Psalms 22:19; Nehemiah 10:35). There is freedom, communism, good fellowship, in the life of the banditti; no distinction of rank or class, poor or rich. In certain times the picture of such a life has proved of overwhelming fascination for young adventurous spirits. In solemn reiterated warning the teacher raises his voice against the treading of their path and way. This simple biblical figure may remind us that every mode of active life, every profession or occupation, is like a path; it leads somewhither. Unless we could cease from activity, we must all be advancing to some moral issue. What will it be?

3. A summary description of the criminal. He runs toward wickedness, hastes to shed blood. The eagerness, the swiftness, and perseverance of the criminal often arouse intellectual admiration, and shame the slothfulness of those who follow noble callings. But the devotion of ability and energy of a high order to such ends is, indeed, one of the most striking proofs we can have of the corruption of man's nature. This is crime revealed in its hatefulness, on the one hand, by its cruel and inhuman conduct and effects; on the other, in its dark source, the utter perversion of the criminal's mind itself.

III. THE RECOIL OF EVIL ON THE DOERS. Here again are powerful pictures. Like thoughtless birds, which rush with open eyes into the net, so do these miscreants, in preparing destruction for others, themselves run headlong upon their fate (comp. Job 18:8). While they are lurking for others' blood and laying snares for others' lives, their own are forfeited. This self-defeat of wickedness is a central thought in biblical wisdom (comp. Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 16:27; Ecclesiastes 10:8; Psalms 7:16; Romans 2:5; Gal 6:8; 1 Timothy 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:10; James 5:3-5). Thus wisdom and folly form an antithesis in their nature, their powers, and their result.

1. Wisdom is at one with religion and morality; folly casts off God and right.

2. Wisdom pursues good ends by good means; folly pursues evil by evil means.

3. The result of wisdom is life and blessedness, health and peace; that of folly is self-undermining, self-overthrow, or "slow suicide."

III. THE ROOT OF CRIME. It is like that of all sin, in desire, in misdirected desire, the greed of "unlawful gain," to give the fuller force of the expression. Note:

1. The prevalence of this passion. By far the largest proportion of men's worst actions are probably to be traced to it. Read the reports of the courts of law, listen to the gossip of the hour for illustrations.

2. Its intoxicating, illusory power. The victim of it deceives himself, as in other passions: it is thrift, it is due regard to what is of substantial value to one's interests, etc. And how difficult to distinguish that desire for more, which is the spring of action in commerce as in honourable ambition, the pursuit of knowledge, etc.! The question must be carried to the conscience and to God.

3. Its unsocial character. More than any passion, it separates man from his kind, and assimilates him to the beast of prey.

4. Its suicidal effect. If it does not destroy the man's body, it certainly corrodes and eats away his soul. It dehumanizes him. There is no object more shadowy in one aspect, more unreal, in another more monstrous, than the miser, as depicted by Balzac and other great writers. Covetousness is self-slaughter.—J.

Proverbs 1:20-33

Warning cry of Wisdom

In dramatic style, Wisdom is presentiated, personified, endued with visible and audible attributes. As contempt for religion has been animadverted upon, so now contempt for Wisdom calls for rebuke. The motto (Proverbs 1:7) is still in the preacher's mind.

I. THE CRY OF WISDOM IS PUBLIC AND CLEAR. In the street, "where merchants most do congregate," and in all places of general resort, the cry is heard. Hers is no esoteric doctrine; it is popularly exoteric, it is for all. She has no concealments. She is not ashamed of her message. She seeks the weal of each and of all. Like her Divine embodiment, she is the Friend of the simple and the meek, yea, of the fools and the sinners (Matthew 10:27; Luke 14:21). It is a voice to be heard above the mingled sounds of these thronged centres. The state of the markets and of the weather, passing events, the gossip of the hour, news of success and of failure, all have a moral meaning, run up into moral calculations, may be reduced to expressions of moral law.


1. It is commanding and superior. She appeals to different classes of the frivolous, the free-thinking, the scoffers of the time. The times of Solomon, as pointed out by Delitzsch, were times of widespread worldliness and religious indifference. The lezim, or "scorners," must have been a numerous class. They scoffed at sacred things, laid claim to superior sense (Proverbs 14:6), were contentious and full of debate (Proverbs 22:10). They avoided the chakanim, or "wise men," and hence received the name of scoffers or mockers. They were like our modern free-thinkers, and have left their clear traces on the biblical page. The "wise men" were a kind of practical philosophers, not a professional class, but belonging to different callings. Religion and worship have never been exempt from criticism, have in every age been exposed to that "ridicule which is the test of truth." In these conflicts the tone of truth is ever commanding, conscious of authority, calm; that of the scoffer irritable and wanting in weight. Wisdom is commanding, because she holds the conscience. She bandies no arguments with the scoffer, who will only find in them fuel for his contentious spirit; she aims directly at the conscience, accuses and judges the perverted heart. "Turn at my denunciation" from your evil ways] "I will cause my Spirit to stream forth upon you."

2. Her tone is hortatory and promising. The Spirit of wisdom is compared to a mighty, forth-bubbling, never-exhausted fountain. So Christ cried in the last great day of the feast in Jerusalem, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."

(1) There is a rich fulness in having wisdom, in contrast to which are the dry negations which are all the scoffer has to offer.

(2) It is a refreshing and a strengthening supply. It is not pedantry, the wisdom of words, nor abstract science of logic and metaphysics, but vital truth, the knowledge of facts and laws of the inner and outer world, which we need foreveryday consumption, for the life of the mind.

(3) Its impartation is conditioned by the will of the recipient. There must be the turning and the seeking, that there may be the finding and the enjoying of it; the opening of the mouth before it can be filled.

3. Her tone is threatening and prophetic of retribution. The day of grace is now conceived as past, the hour gone that will not return. She has called, has stretched out the hand, in token of pleading for attention, has lavished both counsel and rebuke; but has been responded to by sullen refusal, averted looks, scornful depreciation, obstinate resistance. This relation of forbearance and good will has been strained to the last degree; in the law of things it must be succeeded by a reaction. The places will be reversed. The scoffer will be the scoffed; the mocker will afford material for mirth. And here the pictures accumulate their dread impression on the imagination; the tempest and the tempest whirlwind answer in nature to the calamity and the horror, the anguish and constraint, of the faithless soul. All moral teaching carries in it a twofold prophetic element; a prophecy of penal retribution and a prophecy of blessed recompense. Retribution is the logical consequence of certain acts; and it involves a correspondence. The relation which has been wrongly denied comes in the end to be affirmed; and that which was affirmed, to be in the end denied. The manner of the sin foretells the manner of the penalty. Those who turned from pleading Wisdom, plead in the end with her in vain; seeking her now with zeal ("early"), their search is vain, The attitude which the soul refused to assume in its pride, it is forced into by its distress. The wheel comes full circle; the sinner is smitten in the very place of his sin; and outraged conscience is avenged.

4. Above all, the tone of Wisdom is reasonable. These are no arbitrary, cruel, capricious dealings with the sinner. They rest upon the law of things (Proverbs 1:29-31). "Because they hated reasonable doctrine, and coveted not the fear of Jehovah, fared not on the way of my counsel, and despised all my rebuke; therefore they shall eat of the fruit of their way, and be satiated with their counsels!" It is the law of causality applied to moral things. "The curse causeless shall not come!" The most obvious example of the law of cause and effect in nature—the connection of seed and crop, sowing and reaping—best illustrates the process in the human spirit. We cannot deceive God, cannot evade law; whatsoever we sow, we must reap, and that according to quantity, to kind or quality. Again, the figure of a surfeit is forcible as applied to this experience of the consequences of guilt. We find it also in Isaiah 3:10; Psalms 88:4; Psalms 123:4. It brings out the principle that all spurious pleasures, i.e. those which are rooted only in egotism, cloy, and so turn the man against himself. Self-loathling, self-contempt, is the deep revelation of an inner judgment. If any one asks with the anger of the atheistic poet, "Who made self-contempt?" let him turn to this passage for an answer.

5. Wisdom is declarative of moral laws. The turning away, the resistance and recalcitrancy of the simple, murders them (Jeremiah 8:5; Hosea 11:5), and the security (idle, easy, fleshly carelessness, Jeremiah 22:21) destroys them.

"More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests sailing overhead."

(See South's powerful sermon, with his usual splendid illustrations, on "Prosperity ever dangerous to Virtue," vol. 2, ser. 6.)

6. She is prophetic of good to the obedient. In bright contrast to the spurious peace of the dulled conscience is the true peace of the wise and God-fearing, "He who listens to me shall dwell securely, and have rest. without terror of calamity." It is like that of ordered nature—"central peace abiding at the heart of endless agitation." In this profound union with God, the parables of life are but superficial and transient as the waves of ocean, while the depths are calm as eternity. The method of personified Wisdom is that of Christ, with which it may be compared at every point.

(1) Sin is clearly exposed, in its effects and its cause.

(2) Judgment is clearly announced.

(3) Promises of eternal good are no less emphatically given.

(4) Refuge from evil, and the way of salvation both temporal and eternal, are pointed out.—J.


Proverbs 1:1-6

The ideal teacher

Solomon had all possible advantages to qualify him for the work of a teacher of men. He had

(1) special endowments from the hand of his Creator (1 Kings 3:1-28.);

(2) a heritage of rich experience from the life of his father, beside parental counsels from his lips;

(3) the best instruction which the kingdom could afford, and surely there must have been much wisdom to learn from so wise and faithful a teacher as the Prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-31.). Who, then, should be so well able as he was to give us the ideal of a true teacher? We are reminded by these verses that he is the man who—

I. IS AFFECTED BY THE PRESENCE OF IGNORANCE AND ERROR. He notices the "simple" man and the "young man" (Proverbs 1:4); he has regard to the fact that there are those about him who need to be led into the paths of "justice and judgment and equity"(Proverbs 1:3). His eye rests on these; his mind perceives how urgently they need the "instruction" and "understanding" which will save them from the perils to which they are exposed; his heart goes out to them; his sympathies embrace them; he desires "to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion." He is, therefore, the man who—


1. He seeks to impart a knowledge of facts; to give "instruction" (Proverbs 1:2); to make known to the simple-minded and inexperienced the truth that "all is not gold that glitters," that men are often very different from that which they seem to be, that under a fair exterior there may lurk uttermost corruption, that the sweetest morsels may be the introduction to bitterest consequences, etc.

2. He seeks also to convey a knowledge of principles; to give "understanding;" to make plain to the mind distinctions between that which is true and that which is false, that which is honourable and that which is shameful, that which elevates and that which lowers, that which is permissible and that which is desirable. He is, further, the man who—

III. IMPARTS WISDOM. He will not be content until he has instilled into the mind and introduced to the heart discretion (Proverbs 1:4) and wisdom itself (Proverbs 1:2). Wisdom is the pursuit of the highest end by the surest means. No teacher of men who recognizes his true position will ever be contented until he has led his disciples to walk in the path of wisdom—to be seeking after the noblest ends for which God gave us our being, and to be seeking them by those ways which are sure to lead thereto.

1. Our highest wisdom is to seek "the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).

2. Our one "Way" is the Son of God himself (John 14:6). The true teacher thus becomes the man who—

IV. CONDUCTS TO MORAL EXCELLENCE. For he who is the child of wisdom will also receive the instruction of "justice and judgment and equity." He will be a man who will have continual regard to the claims of his fellow men; who will shrink from encroaching on their rights; who will endeavour to give to them the consideration, the care, the kindness, which they may rightly look for as children of the same Father, as disciples of the same Saviour, as citizens of the same kingdom, as travellers to the same home. The ideal teacher will also be a man who—

V. FOSTERS INTELLECTUAL GROWTH. (Proverbs 1:5, Proverbs 1:6.) We ourselves are not truly and satisfactorily progressing except our mental capacities are being developed, and thus truth and wisdom are being seen with clearer eye and held with tighter grasp. The wise man is therefore bent on training, exercising, bracing the intellectual faculties of his disciple, so that he "will increase learning," will "attain to wise counsels," will think out and see through the proverbs and problems, the puzzles and perplexities, which come up for investigation. We know something in order that we may know much. We are wise that we may become wiser. We climb the first slope of the hill of heavenly truth that we may ascend the one which is beyond; we master the "deep things of God" that we may look into those which are deeper and darker still. Ours is ever to be the spirit of holy inquiry; not of querulous impatience, but of patient, untiring effort to understand all those truths which are within our reach, waiting for the fuller revelation of the days which are to come.—C.

Proverbs 1:7

The foundation truth

These words invite our attention to—

I. THAT WHICH CONSTITUTES THE FEAR OF GOD. "The fear of the Lord" was the chief note of Hebrew piety. It expressed itself in that form (see Genesis 42:18; Exodus 18:21; Le Exodus 19:14; Nehemiah 5:15; Psalms 66:16; Ecclesiastes 12:13, etc.). What did it signify? Evidently something more and other than mere dread. The piety of the Jews was an immeasurably higher thing than the abject terror with which the heathen shrank from the capricious and malignant power of the deities they worshipped. It included:

1. Reverence for his Divine nature.

2. Sense of the Divine presence: "The Lord before whom I stand."

3. Regard for the Divine will, shown in the two ways of

(1) obedience to his commands, and

(2) submission to his appointments.

II. THE FACT THAT THE FEAR OF GOD CONSTITUTES THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH WE BUILD. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." The sense of God, the belief that he is, that he reigns, that he is the Source and Fountain of all life and blessing—this is the foundation on which all wisdom, all success, all excellency, rests. How truly fundamental is this fear of God is seen when we consider:

1. That it is implanted, as one of the earliest thoughts, in the human mind. The very little child can entertain it; it enters his opening mind with the first conceptions which are cherished there. As soon as we begin to think we begin to fear God. That sentiment, which never once affected the life of the most intelligent of the brute creation in any land or age, strikes deep root and bears fairest fruit in the spiritual nature of the "little child." "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," even in time.

2. That the acceptance of God is the basis on which all truth must rest. There are mysteries in theism which may baffle and sometimes perplex us. But in atheism we are utterly at sea. Not to start from the acceptance of an originating, designing, fashioning, con; trolling, out-working Intelligence is to be "all abroad" in the region of human investigation and inquiry. Accepting that, the universe is indeed mysterious, but it is not an all-shrouding mist in which we ourselves and everything around us are hopelessly lost. The fear of the Lord, the reverent acceptance of the truth that God is, and that he reigns, lies at the foundation, is the beginning, of knowledge—of the truth which makes the world comprehensible to the understanding, and life valuable to the soul.

3. That the fear of God is the ground of all heavenly wisdom. We cannot know our own Divine Father, our own spiritual nature with all its high and ennobling capacities, the excellency of moral and spiritual worth, the supreme blessedness of self-surrender, if we do not know God, if we have not the mind of Christ revealed to us and accepted by us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning, and is the very substance of that knowledge which constitutes the "life eternal" (John 17:3).

III. THE FOLLY OF SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENCE. "Fools despise wisdom and instruction." The foolish man does not care even to begin to know; he despises the very elements of instruction; he will not take the first step in the path of wisdom. He wanders off at his own will, and he goes in the direction of the thick darkness. He is turning from him who is the Light of life, and is travelling to that dreary region where it is always night, away from God, from wisdom, from holiness, from love.—C.

Proverbs 1:8, Proverbs 1:9

The duty and the beauty of filial piety

The wise teacher here commends to us the excellency of the filial spirit. And it is worthy of notice that he exhorts the young to be obedient to their mother as well as mindful of the counsels of their father. We think of—

I. THE DUTY OF FILIAL PIETY, based upon and arising from:

1. The relation itself. It is enough that our parents are our parents, and that we are their offspring. On that simple ground it behoves us to listen and to obey.

2. The fact that they have expended on us far more than any other beings. Who shall measure the thought, the anxiety, the solicitude, the prayers, the labours, the sacrifices, which they have cheerfully devoted to us?

3. The fact that it is the will of God that we should render such filial honour (Exodus 20:12; Le Exodus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2).

II. THE BEAUTY OF FILIAL PIETY. "They shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck" (Proverbs 1:9). Youth, especially young manhood, is apt to think that there is something unbecoming, ungraceful if not disgraceful, in rendering filial obedience; it is apt to imagine that there is something admirable in breaking away, in even early years, from parental guidance, and establishing an independence of judgment and action. In truth, there is nothing more offensive, nothing morally uglier, than such premature assertiveness. On the other hand, nothing is more comely, nothing more attractive, nothing more intrinsically beautiful, than filial devotedness. It has all the best elements of spiritual excellency:

(1) humility, a lowly view of ourselves;

(2) responsiveness to strong and tender love;

(3) the recognition of real worth, of the claims of age and wisdom;

(4) cheerful acceptance of the ordination of nature, and acquiescence in the will of God.

Those who illustrate the duty of filial piety live in the admiration of the wise, and walk in the sunshine of the smile of the Supreme.—C.

Proverbs 1:10-19

The peril and the wisdom of youth: a sermon to the young

Hew many human lives are nothing better than failures! How many souls are there that "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience"! Over how many of the children of men do the wise and the holy mourn, as those who might have done well and wrought good, but who have turned aside to folly, guilt, and ruin! As a rule, these have gone astray in their younger days. Temptation assailed them when they were comparatively unarmed, attacked them when least prepared to resist, and they were overcome. Our text suggests—

I. THE PECULIAR PERIL OF YOUTH. Youth is endangered by three things.

1. The invitations of the unholy. "Sinners entice it." Companionship is dear to the young. and is very powerful over it. Its heart is open, trustful, responsive. It rejoices with a keen delight in the confidences of friendship. And when one whose advances have been received, and who has been welcomed as a congenial companion, says, "Come," it is hard for friendship to refuse; this more especially when the solicitation comes from him who has a strong will or an amiable and fascinating disposition. The heart of youth is very powerfully drawn, sometimes to good, but too often to evil, by the charm of early friendship.

2. The subtlety of sin (Proverbs 1:17). Sin makes a very fair promise, but its word is false, its coin is counterfeit.

(1) It professes disinterestedness (Proverbs 1:14), but it is utterly selfish at heart.

(2) It affects to be able to hide all traces and elude all evil consequences of its acts (Proverbs 1:12), but it cannot: the blood which it sheds will cry to Heaven for retribution.

(3) It offers gain and satisfaction (Proverbs 1:13, Proverbs 1:19), but it constantly fails to secure its immediate object, and it never brings real and lasting joy to the soul. The fowler does not spread the net in sight of the bird, or he would fail. Sin keeps its snares well out of view; it proceeds with cruel cunning; it shows the present pleasure, and hides the coming shame, and so it secures its victims.

3. The appeal to powerful instincts. The love of daring exploits has led many a young man to consent when sinners have said, "Come, let us attack the victim, that we may seize the prey" (Proverbs 1:11, Proverbs 1:12). Guilty violence shapes itself as manly daring. And the instinct of acquisition, the desire to obtain and to possess (Proverbs 1:13, Proverbs 1:19), often leads astray. Greediness of gain begins in a desire to be rich, an ambition to have abundance.

II. THE EARNEST SOLICITUDE OF THE WISE. There is an air of earnestness, a tone of deep solemnity, about these words of the wise man. "My son, if sinners entice thee," etc. (Proverbs 1:10); "My son, walk not thou in the way," etc. (Proverbs 1:15). Here is the urgency of a tender solicitude; here are the pleadings of profound affection. And why? Because the wise man (the father, minister, teacher) knows;

1. That sin means ruin to others (Proverbs 1:16). The path of evil is marked with blood: it is the track which is trodden by death itself; it is red with the blood of souls.

2. That sin is the supreme mistake. It is really laying wait for itself, to compass its own miserable end (Proverbs 1:18); it is robbing itself of all the excellency of life in order to secure its gains (Proverbs 1:19). Men too often "lose their life for the sake of the means of living." They expend on the means all those resources of their manhood which should be devoted to life itself. Sin is suicidal; the young who are yielding themselves to a life of ungodliness and guilt may well be the object of the most fervent anxiety, of the most tender, tearful pity of the wise.

III. THE WAY OF VICTORY. And there is no other way than that of decisive refusal at once. As soon as the alluring voice says, "Come," let the resolute reply be heard, "I will not." Let the lips of holy resentment open at once to say, "Depart from me, ye evil doers; I will keep the commandments of my God" (Psalms 119:115). To hesitate is to risk everything. Speak a strong, unwavering refusal on the spot.—C.

Proverbs 1:20-23

The voice of Wisdom

Wisdom is here personified; it is the language of poetic inspiration. Later on, "in the dispensation of the fulness of times," Wisdom was manifested in human form, and spake in the hearing of men. But its voice has never been silent altogether, from the beginning until now. We are reminded of it—

I. THAT THERE ARE MANY CHANNELS THROUGH WHICH WISDOM UTTERS ITS VOICE. The plural form of the word ("wisdoms") suggests the manifoldness of the utterance. God teaches us his truth, makes known his mind to us, through

(1) the objects and laws of the physical world around us;

(2) the constitution of our own frame;

(3) the teachings of our own spiritual nature, the judgments of our conscience and the conclusions of our reason;

(4) his providential orderings;

(5) the admonitions of his Spirit;

(6) the words of Jesus Christ: he is the "Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24).

II. THAT THE VOICE OF WISDOM IS AUDIBLE TO ALL WHO WILL LISTEN. "Wisdom crieth without; she utters her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse," etc. (Proverbs 1:20, Proverbs 1:21). Wisdom, Divine truth, does not merely whisper its doctrine in secret places where there are few to hear; she does not reserve her teaching to the closed classroom to which only some favoured ones find admittance; she speaks "in the open," where the "ways meet," in "the chief places of concourse." "Upon whom doth not God's light arise?" (Job 25:3). The friendly voices speak in the ear of childhood; they address the mind of youth; they have a message for manhood; they find their way to the sanctuary of age. Wisdom waits upon the pure and holy, walks by the side of spiritual indifference to win its ear, and confronts sin in its most secret haunts, Nothing—or nothing but the most hardened iniquity which calls evil good and good evil—shut its doors so fast that the monitory voice cannot enter the chambers of the soul.

III. THAT WISDOM SPEAKS WITH A HOLY AND LOVING ENERGY. Wisdom "crieth," "utters her voice in the streets." There is an energy and an urgency in her tones and in her language (Proverbs 1:29, Proverbs 1:23). The utterance of Wisdom is none other than the voice of God. It is our Father who pleads with us; it is our Saviour who calls to us; it is our Divine Friend who implores us. It is no hard voice as of a court doomster that assaults us; it is the pleading, plaintive, pathetic voice of One who loves us with fatherly affection, and yearns over us with more than motherly solicitude, that arrests us in our course and touches the tender and sacred feelings of our heart.

IV. THAT WISDOM SPARES NOT TO TELL US EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE. She does not mince her words; she does not cut away the knots of the cord with which we are to be stirred to newness of life. She calls men simpletons, scorners, fools, and upbraids them for their stupidity and their folly (Proverbs 1:22). When we listen to the voices which are from above we must expect plain speaking. We must not start back with offence if we find ourselves condemned in strong terms. "Thou art the man!" follows the narrative which transfixes the cruel and heartless robber of his neighbour's all "Ye fools and blind!" said the Wisdom of God, as he rebuked the hypocrisy of his day, We are not to be repelled from, but attracted to, the man who, speaking for the only wise God, puts sacred truth into the strongest and even the sternest language.

V. THAT WISDOM SEEKS TO IMPART ITS OWN SPIRIT TO ITS DISCIPLES. "Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you" (Proverbs 1:23). Its aim is spiritual and beneficent. God wounds only that he may heal. He sends "poverty of spirit" that he may thereby make rich forevermore. He humbles that he may exalt. His one desire is to make us like himself; to put his own Spirit within us, that we may be "the children of our Father who is in heaven."—C.

Proverbs 1:24-33

The Divine ultimatum

There is something which is fearful and appalling in these verses. We are ready to tremble as we read them. We are ready to exclaim, "How far may human perversity, and Divine retribution gel" With hushed voice, with subdued spirit, as those before whose eyes the lightnings of heaven are flashing, we consider the significance of the words. But first we see—

I. THAT GOD MAKES MANY APPEALS TO THE HUMAN SOUL. He calls, and we refuse; he stretches out his hands, and no man regards (Proverbs 1:24). He multiplies his counsel and his reproof (Proverbs 1:25 and Proverbs 1:30). Thus his statement is sustained by his dealings with us; he gives us the repeated and manifold admonitions of our own conscience, of the house, of the sanctuary, of friendship, of his Word, of his Spirit, etc.

II. THAT HUMAN PERVERSITY GOES AS FAR AS THE DIVINE PATIENCE. Man "refuses," "regards not" (turns away his eyes, closes his ears), "sets at nought," "will not have," "hates," does not choose (deliberately rejects), all the counsel of God. Perhaps the course of human perversity may be thus traced: first temporizing, with the idea of submitting; then postponing, without any such intention; then disregarding, hearing without heeding; then positively disliking and getting away from; then actually hating, cherishing a feeling of rebellious aversion, ending in mockery and scorn. So far may human perversity go. God's wonderful patience in seeking to win is extended far, but not further than human opposition and resistance. To every "Come" from Heaven there is an answer, "I will not," in the human spirit.

III. THAT GOD FINALLY ABANDONS SIN TO ITS DOOM. We must, of course, understand the language of Proverbs 1:26, Proverbs 1:27 as highly figurative. No proverb is to be pressed to its fullest possible meaning. The author always assumes that it will be applied with intelligence and discrimination. This is the language of hyperbole. No one could for a moment believe that the eternal Father of our spirits would, literally and actually, laugh and mock at our calamity and alarm. The significance of the passage is that, after a certain point of perverse refusal has been past, God no longer pleads and strives with his wayward children. He interposes no further between a man and the consequences of his folly. He "leaves him alone" (Hosea 4:17). He "gives him up" (Acts 7:42; Romans 1:26). He permits sin to do its own sad work in the soul, and to produce its own natural results in the life; he removes his restraining hand, and suffers them "to eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices" (Proverbs 1:31). This is the end of impenitence. We see it only too often illustrated before our eyes. Men act as if they might defy their Maker, as if they might draw indefinitely on the patience of their Divine Saviour, as if they might reckon on the unlimited striving of the Holy Spirit. They are wrong; they make a fatal mistake; they commit the one unpardonable sin! They try to go beyond the Divine ultimatum. God's marvellous patience reaches far, but it has its bounds. When these are passed his voice is still, his hand is taken down, his interposing influence is withdrawn. Sin must bear its penalty. But this awful passage closes with a word of hope. Let us turn to a brighter aspect, and see—

IV. THAT SO LONG AS MAN HONESTLY DESIRES GOD'S SERVICE, HE MAY FIND PEACE AND REST. (Proverbs 1:33.) If at any time it is in our heart to obey the voice of the All-wise, to lend an attentive ear to the Divine counsel, we may reckon on his grace and favour. Happy the heart that heeds the voice of Wisdom! Others may be rocked and tossed on the heaving billows of care and anxiety, of alarm and dread; but he, "dwelling in the secret place of the Most High," hiding in the Rock of his salvation, shall "dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil." God will hide him in his pavilion; he will "rest in the Lord."—C.

Proverbs 1:32

The prosperity of fools.

"The prosperity of fools shall destroy them." Few men fear prosperity; but if they had enough wisdom to know their own weakness, they would see that there was nothing which they had so much reason to dread. We approach the truth of the text by seeing—

I. THAT IT IS IN OUR HUMAN NATURE TO ASPIRE TO PROSPERITY AND TO STRIVE AFTER IT. The Author of our nature has made us hunger fur success as the food of the soul.


(1) will do them no harm, and

(2) will multiply their influence for good.


1. It results in ruin to other people—often their temporal, still more often their spiritual, ruin.

2. It ends in their own destruction. It leads down to death; for:

(1) It fosters pride, and "pride comes before a fall."

(2) It ministers to passion, and passion conducts to the grave in every sense.

(3) It induces worldliness, and the man who loses himself in the cares, engagements, and excitements of the world is "dead while he lives."

The conclusion of the matter is this:

1. Let those to whom God has denied prosperity cheerfully accept their lowliness. In their humble position they are comparatively safe. They live where many arrows of destruction do not fly.

2. Let those who have attained prosperity ever recognize that the post of honour and of power is the place of danger, and that they need peculiar grace from God that they may not fall,

3. Let those who are being injured by their prosperity beware lest they go down fast to utter and irretrievable ruin.—C.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/proverbs-1.html. 1897.
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