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A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. It will be observed that "good" in the Authorized Version is in italics, showing that the epithet is not expressed in the Hebrew, which is simply שֵׁם (shem), "name." But this word carried with it the notion of good repute, as in Ecclesiastes 7:1; for being well known implied honour and reputation, while being nameless (Job 30:8) signified not only obscurity, but ignominy and discredit. Hence the versions have ὄνομα καλόν, nomen bonum, and Ecclesiasticus 41:12, "Have regard to thy name (περὶ ὀνόματος), for that shall continue with thee above a thousand great treasures of gold. A good life," the moralist continues, "hath but few days; but a good name endureth forever" (contrast Proverbs 10:7). And loving favour rather than silver and gold; or, more accurately, and before gold and silver grace is good; i.e. grace is far better than gold. Grace (chen) is the manner and demeanour which win love, as well as the favour and affection gained thereby; taken as parallel to "name," in the former hemistich, it means here "favour," the regard conceived by others for a worthy object. Publ. Syr; "Bona opinio hominum tutier pecunia est." The French have a proverb, "Bonne renommee vaut mieux que ceinture doree." The latter hemistich gives the reason for the assertion in the former—a good name is so valuable because it wins affection and friendship, which are far preferable to material riches,
The rich and poor meet together (Proverbs 29:13): the Lord is the Maker of them all (Job 34:19). God has ordained that there shall be rich and poor in the world, and that they should meet in the intercourse of life. These social inequalities are ordered for wise purposes; the one helps the other. The labour of the poor makes the wealth of the rich; the wealth of the rich enables him to employ and aid the poor. Their common humanity, their fatherhood in God, should make them regard one another as brethren, without distinction of rank or position: the rich should not despise the poor (Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Job 31:15), the poor should not envy the rich (Proverbs 3:31), but all should live in love and harmony as one great family of God.
A prudent man foresesth the evil, and hideth himself. The whole verse is repeated in Proverbs 27:12. St. Jerome has callidus, and the LXX. has πανοῦργος, as the translation of עָרוּם (arum); but it must be taken in a good sense, as cautions, farseeing, prudent (see note on Proverbs 1:4) Such a man looks around, takes warning from little circumstances which might escape the observation of careless persons, and provides for his safety in good time. Thus the Christians at the siege of Jerusalem, believing Christ's warnings, retired to Pella, and wine saved. A Spanish proverb runs, "That which the fool does in the end, the wise man does at the beginning." The simple pass on, and are punished. The subject of the former hemistich is in the singular number, for a really prudent man is a comparatively rare bring; the second clause is plural, teaching us, as Hitzig observes, that many simple ones are found for one prudent. These silly persons, blundering blindly on their way, without circumspection or forethought, meet with immediate punishment, incur dangers, suffer less. A Cornish proverb runs, "He who will not be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock." Septuagint, "An intelligent man (πανοῦργος) seeing a wicked man punished is himself forcibly instructed; but fools pass by, and are punished" (comp. Proverbs 21:11).
By humility and the fear of the Lord, etc. This does not seem to be the best rendering of the original. The word rendered "by" (עֵקֶב ekeb), "in reward of," is also taken as the subject of the sentence: "The reward of humility ['and,' or, 'which is'] the fear of God, is riches," etc. There is no copulative in the clause, and a similar asyndeton occurs in Proverbs 22:5; so there is no reason why we should not regard the clause in this way. Thus Revised Version, Nowack, and others. But Delitzsch makes the first hemistich a concluded sentence, which the second member carries on thus: "The reward of humility is the fear of the Lord; it [the reward of humility] is at the same time riches," etc. Vulgate, Finis modestiae timor Domini, divitiae et gloria et vita; Septuagint, "The generation (γενεὰ) of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and wealth," etc. It is preferable to translate as above, taking the two expressed virtues as appositional, thus: "The reward of humility, the fear of the Lord." Humility brings with it true religion, which is expressed by "the fear of the Lord." The feeling of dependence, the lowly opinion of self, the surrender of the will, the conviction of sin, all effects which are connected with humility, may well be represented by this term, "the fear of God," which, in another aspect, is itself the source of every virtue and every blessing; it is riches, and honour, and life. These are God's gifts, the guerdon of faithful service (see notes on Proverbs 3:16 and Proverbs 21:21; and comp. Proverbs 8:18). The Easterns have a pretty maxim, "The bending of the humble is the graceful droop of the branches laden with fruit." And again, "Fruitful trees bend down; the wise stoop; a dry stick and a fool can be broken, not bent" (Lane).
Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward. The words are in the Hebrew without the conjunction (see note, Proverbs 22:4), though the versions generally add it. Thus the Septuagint, τρίβολοι καὶ παγίδες; Vulgate, arma et gladiii but the Venetian, ἄκανθαι παγίδες. It is a question whether the thorns are what the perverse prepare for others, or what they themselves suffer. In Proverbs 15:19 the hedge of thorns represented the difficulties in the sluggard's path; but here, viewed in connection with the following hemistich, the thorns and snares refer to the hindrances proceeding from the froward, which injuriously affect others; "thorns" being a figure of the pains and troubles, "snares" of the unexpected dangers and impediments which evil men cause as they go on their crooked way. The word for "thorns" is צנִּים, which occurs in Job 5:5. The plant is supposed to be the Rhamnus paliurus, but it has not been accurately identified. He that doth keep his soul shall be far from them (comp. Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:17). The man who has regard to his life and morals will go far, will keep wholly aloof, from those perils and traps into which the perverse try to entice them.
Train up a child in the way he should go. The verb translated "train" (chanak) means, first, "to put something into the mouth," "to give to be tasted," as nurses give to infants food which they have masticated in order to prepare it for their nurslings; thence it comes to signify "to give elementary instruction," "to imbue," "to train." The Hebrew literally is, Initiate a child in accordance with his way. The Authorized Version, with which Ewald agrees, takes the maxim to mean that the child should be trained from the first in the right path—the path of obedience and religion. This is a very true and valuable rule, but it is not what the author intends. "His way" must mean one of two things—either his future calling and station, or his character and natural inclination and capacity. Delitzsch and Plumptre take the latter interpretation; Nowack and Bertheau the former, on the ground that derek is not used in the other sense suggested. But, as far as use is concerned, both explanations stand on much the same ground; and it seems more in conformity with the moralist's age and nation to see in the maxim an injunction to consider the child's nature, faculties, and temperament, in the education which is given to him. If, from his early years, a child is thus trained, when he is old, he will not depart from it. This way, this education in accordance with his idiosyncrasy, will bear fruit all his life long; it will become a second nature, and will never be obliterated. The Vulgate commences the verse with Proverbium est, taking the first word substantively, as if the author here cited a trite saying; but the rendering is a mistake. There are similar maxims, common at all times and in all countries. Virg; 'Georg.,' 2.272—
"Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est."
Horace, 'Epist.,' 1.2, 67—
"Nunc adbibe puro
Pectore verba, puer."
For, as he proceeds—
"Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
Thus we have two mediaeval jingles—
"Cui puer assuescit, major dimittere nescit."
"Quod nova testa capit, inveterata sapit."
Then there is the German saw, "Jung gewohnt, alt gethan." "What youth learns, age does not forget," says the Danish proverb. In another and a sad sense the French exclaim, "St jeunesse savait! si vieillesse pouvait!" All the early manuscripts of the Septuagint omit this verse; m some of the later it has been supplied from Theodotion.
The rich ruleth over the poor. "The rich man (singular) will rule over the poor" (plural); for there are many poor for one rich (see on Proverbs 22:3). This is the way of the world (Proverbs 18:23). Aben Ezra explains the gnome as showing the advantage of wealth and the inconvenience of poverty; the former bringing power and pre-eminence, the latter trouble and servitude; and hence the moralist implies that every one should strive and labour to obtain a competency, and thus avoid the evils of impecuniosity. The borrower is servant to the lender. (For the relation between borrower and louder, or debtor and creditor, see on Proverbs 20:16; and comp. Matthew 18:25, Matthew 18:34.) Delitzsch cites the German saying, "Borghart (borrower) is Lehnhart's (leader's) servant." We have the proverb, "He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing." The Septuagint departs from the other versions and our Hebrew text, translating, "The rich will role over the poor, and household servants will lend to their own masters"—a reading on which some of the Fathers have commented.
He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity; shall gain nothing substantial, shall have nothing to show for his pains. But aven also means "calamity," "trouble," as Proverbs 12:21; so the gnome expresses the truth that they who do evil shall meet with punishment in their very sins—the exact contrast to the promise to the righteous (Proverbs 11:18). "To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." Thus we have in Job 4:8, "They that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same;" and the apostle asserts (Galatians 6:7, etc), "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Eastern proverbs run, "As the sin, so the atonement:" "Those who sow thorns can only reap prickles" (comp. Proverbs 12:14). And the rod of his anger shall fail. The writer is thinking especially of cruelty and injustice practised on a neighbour, as Delitzsch has pointed out, and he means that the rod which he has raised, the violence intended against the innocent victim, shall vanish away or fall harmlessly. Ewald and others think that the rod is the Divine anger, and translate the verb (kalah) "is prepared," a sense which here it will not well bear, though the LXX. has lent some countenance to it by rendering, "And shall fully accomplish the plague (πληγὴν,? 'punishment') of his deeds." The rendering, "shall fail." "shall be consumed, or annihilated," is confirmed by Genesis 21:15; Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 16:4, etc. The Septuagint adds a distich here, of which the first member is a variant of Isaiah 16:9. and the second another rendering of the latter hemistich of the present verse: "A cheerful man and a giver God blesseth (ἄνδρα ἱλαρὸν καὶ δότην εὐλογεῖ ὁ Θεός): but he shall bring to an end (συντελεσεῖ) the vanity of his works." The first hemistich is remarkable for being quoted by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 9:7), with a slight variation, Ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεός. So Ecclesiasticus 32:9 (35), "In all thy gifts show a cheerful countenance (ἱλάρωσον τὸ πρόσθπόν σου)."
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed. The "good of eye" is the kindly looking, the benevolent man, in contrast to him of the evil eye, the envious, the unfriendly and niggardly man (Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 28:22). St. Jerome renders, Qui pronus est ad misericordiam. Such a one is blessed by God in this world and the next, in time and in eternity, according to the sentiment of Proverbs 11:25. Thus in the temporal sense:23). "Him that is liberal in food lips shall bless, and the testimony of his liberality will be believed." Septuagint, "He that hath pity upon the poor shall himself be continually sustained (διατραφήσεται)." The reason is added, For he giveth of his brans to the poor. The blessing is the consequence of his charity and liberality. 2 Corinthians 9:6, "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (ἐπ αὐλογίαις)." The Vulgate and Septuagint add a distich not in the Hebrew, Victoriam et honorem acquiret qui dat munera; animam autem aufert accipientium; Νίκην καὶ τιμὴν περι ποιεῖται ὁ δῶρα δοὺς τὴν μέντοι ψυχὴν ἀφαι ρεῖται τῶν κεκτημένωνω, "Victory and honour he obtaineth who giveth gifts; but he takes away the life of the possessors." The first hemistich appears to be a variant of Proverbs 19:6, the second to be derived from Proverbs 1:19. The second portion of the Latin addition may mean that the liberal man wins and carries away with him the souls of the recipients of his bounty. But this, though Ewald would fain have it so, cannot be the signification of the corresponding Greek, which seems to mean that the man who is so liberal in distributing gifts obtains the power to do so by oppressing and wronging others.
Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; Septuagint, ἔκβαλε ἐκ συνεδρίου λοιμόν, "Cast out of the company a pestilent fellow" Chase away the scorner (Proverbs 1:22), the man who has no respect for things human or Divine, and the disputes and ill feeling which he caused will be ended; for "where no wood is, the fire goeth out" (Proverbs 26:20). Yea, strife and reproach shall cease. The reproach and ignominy (קָלוֹן, kalon) are those which the presence and words of the scorner bring with them; to have such a one in the company is a disgrace to all good men. Thus Ishmael and his mother were driven from Abraham's dwelling (Genesis 21:9, etc.), and the apostle quotes (Galatians 4:30), "Cast out (ἔκβαλε) the bondwoman and her son." Septuagint, "For when he sits in the company he dishonours all." The next verse gives a happy contrast.
He that loveth pureness of heart; he who strives to be pure m heart (Matthew 5:8), free from guile, lust, cupidity, vice of every kind. The next clause carries on the description of the perfect character, and is best translated. And hath grace of lips, the king is his friend. He who is not only virtuous and upright, but has the gift of graciousness of speech, winning manner in conversation, such a man wilt attach the king to him by the closest bonds of friendship. We have had something very similar at Proverbs 16:13. Some of the versions consider that by the king God is meant. Thus the Septuagint, "The Lord loveth holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him." The rest of the clause is connected by the LXX. with the following verse, "A king guides his flock (ποιμαίνει) with his lips; but the eyes of the Lord," etc.
The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge. The expression, "preserve knowledge," is found at Proverbs 5:2 (where see note) in the sense of "keep," "retain," and, taken by itself, it might here signify that the Lord alone possesses knowledge, and alone imparts it to his servants (1 Samuel 2:3); but as in the following clause a person, the transgressor, is spoken of, it is natural to expect a similar expression in the former. The Revised Version is correct in rendering the abstract "knowledge" by the concrete "him that hath knowledge;" so that the clause says that God watches over and protects the man who knows him and walks in his ways, and uses his means and abilities for the good of others (see Proverbs 11:9). But he (the Lord) overthroweth the words of the transgressor. The transgressor here is the false, treacherous, perfidious man; and the gnome asserts that God frustrates by turning in another direction the outspoken intentions of this man, which he had planned against the righteous (comp. Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 21:12). Septuagint, "But the eves of the Lord preserve knowledge, but the transgressor despiseth words," i e. commands, or words of wisdom and warning.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without (Proverbs 26:13). The absurd nature of the sluggard's excuse is hardly understood by the casual reader. The supposed lion is without, in the open country, and yet he professes to be in danger in the midst of the town. I shall be slain in the streets. Others consider that the sluggard makes two excuses for his inactivity. If work calls him abroad, he may meet the lion which report says is prowling in the neighbourhood; if he has to go into the streets, he may be attacked and murdered by ruffians for motives of plunder or revenge. "Sluggards are prophets," says the Hebrew proverb. Septuagint, "The sluggard maketh excuses, and saith, A lion is in the ways, there are murderers in the streets." Lions, though now extinct in Palestine, seem to have lingered till the time of the Crusades, and such of them as became man eaters, the old or feeble, were a real danger in the vicinity of villages (comp. Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44).
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit. The hemistich reappears in a slightly altered form at Proverbs 23:27. (For "strange woman" as equivalent to "a harlot" or "adulteress," see note on Proverbs 2:16.) By her "mouth" is meant her wanton, seductive words, which entice a man to destruction of body and soul. It may be that theology rather than morals is signified here—rather false doctrines than evil practice. In this ease the mention of the strange or foreign woman is very appropriate, seeing that perversions of belief and worship were always introduced into Israel from external sources. He that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein. He who has incurred the width of God by previous unfaithfulness and sin is left to himself to fall a prey to the allurements of the wicked woman (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:26). Septuagint, "The mouth of a transgressor (παρανόμου) is a deep ditch; and he that is hated of the Lord shall fall therein." Then are added three lines not in the Hebrew, which, however, seem to be reminiscences of other passages: "There are evil ways before a man, and be loveth not to turn away from them; but it is needful to turn away item a perverse and evil way."
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. Foolishness (ivveleth) here implies the love of mischief, the waywardness and self-will, belonging to children, bound up in their very nature. Septuagint, "Folly is attached (ἐξῆπται) to the heart of the young," in which version Cornelius a Lapide sees an allusion to the ornament hung by fond parents round the neck of a child whom they were inclined to spoil rather than to train in self-denying ways. To such a child folly adheres as closely as the bulla with which he is decorated. But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Judicious education overcomes this natural tendency, by punishing it when exhibited, and imparting wisdom and piety (see on Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 19:18; and comp. Proverbs 23:13; Proverbs 29:15; Ecclesiasticus 30:1, etc). The LXX. pursue their notion of the the indulgent parents letting the child have his own way, for they render the last clause, "But the rod and discipline are far from him."
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches (so the Vulgate), and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want. There are various renderings and explanations of this verse. The Authorized Version says that he who oppresseth the poor to enrich himself, and he who wastes his means by giving to those who do not need it, will come to poverty. But the antithesis of this distich is thus lost. The Hebrew literally rendered brings out the contrast, Whosoever oppresseth the poor, it is for his gain; whosoever giveth to the rich, it is for his loss. Delitzsch explains the sentence thus: "He who enriches himself by extortion from the poor, at any rate gains what he desires; but he who gives to the rich impoverishes himself in vain, has no thanks, reaps only disappointment." One cannot but feel that the maxim thus interpreted is poor and unsatisfactory. The interpretation in the 'Speaker's Commentary' is more plausible: The oppressor of the poor will himself suffer in a similar mode, and will have to surrender his ill-gotten gains to some equally unscrupulous rich man. But the terse antithesis of the original is wholly obscured by this view of the distich. It is far better, with Hitzig, Ewald, and others, to take the gain in the first hemistich as that of the poor man, equivalent to "doth but bring him gain;" though the sentence is not necessarily to be explained as suggesting that the injustice which the poor man suffers at the hand of his wealthy neighbour is a stimulus to him to exert himself in order to better his position, and thus indirectly tends to his enrichment. The maxim is really conceived in the religious style of so many of these apparently worldly pronouncements, and states a truth in the moral government of God intimated elsewhere, e.g. Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 28:8; and that truth is that the riches extorted from the poor man will in the end redound to his benefit, that by God's providential control the oppression and injustice from which he has suffered shall work to his good. In the second hemistich the loss is that of the rich man. By adding to the wealth of the rich the donor increases his indolence, encourages his luxury, vice, and extravagance, and thus leads to his ruin—"bringeth only to want. Septuagint, "He that calumniates (συκοφαντῶν) the poor increaseth his own substance, but giveth to the rich at a loss (ἐπ ἐλάσσονι)" i.e. so as to lessen his substance.
Part IV. FIRST APPENDIX TO THE FIRST GREAT COLLECTION, containing "words of the wise."
The introduction to this first appendix, containing an exhortation to attend to the words of the wise, an outline of the instruction herein imparted, with a reference to teaching already given.
Incline thine ear (comp. Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 5:1). The words of the wise; verba sapientium, Vulgate. "Wise" is in the plural number, showing that this is not a portion of the collection called, 'The Proverbs of Solomon' (Proverbs 10:1), but a distinct work. (For the term, see note on Proverbs 1:6.) My knowledge. The knowledge which I impart by bringing to notice these sayings of wise men. Septuagint, "Incline (παράβαλλε) thine ear to the words of wise men, and hear my word, and apply thine heart, that thou mayest know that they are good."
This verse gives the reason for the previous exhortation. It is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; in thy mind and memory (comp. Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 20:27). Thus Psalms 147:1, "It is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely." They shall withal be fitted in thy lips. This rendering hardly suits the hortatory nature of the introduction. It is better to take the clause in the optative, as Delitzsch, Ewald, Nowack, and ethers: "Let them abide altogether upon thy lips;" i.e. be not ashamed to profess them openly, let them regulate thy words, teach thee wisdom and discretion. Septuagint, "And if thou admit them to thy heart, they shall likewise gladden thee on thy lips."
That thy trust may be in the Lord. The Greek and Latin versions make this clause depend on the preceding verse. It is better to consider it as dependent on the second hemistich, the fact of instruction being placed after the statement of its object. All the instruction herein afforded is meant to teach that entire confidence in the Lord which, as soon as his will is known and understood, leads a man to do it at any cost or pains, leaving the result in God's hands. I have made them known to thee this day, even to thee. The repetition of the personal pronoun brings home the teaching to the disciple, and shows that it is addressed, not merely to the mass of men, but to each individual among them, who thus becomes responsible for the use which he makes of it (comp. Proverbs 23:15). The expression, "this day," further emphasizes the exhortation. The learner is not to remember vaguely that some time or other he received this instruction, but that on this particular day the warning was given. So in Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:13 we read, "As the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts ….Exhort one another daily, so long as it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Septuagint, "That thy hope may be in the Lord, and he may make thy way known unto thee." Cheyne ('Job and Solomon') quotes Biekell's correction of this verse, "That thy confidence may be in Jehovah, to make known unto thee thy ways;" but the alteration seems arbitrary and unnecessary.
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge? There is a difficulty about the word tendered "excellent things." The Khetib has שׁלשׁום, "the day before yesterday, formerly;" but the word occurs nowhere alone, and, as Nowack says, can hardly have been the original reading. However, Ewald, Bertheau, and others, adopting it, suppose that the author refers to some earlier work. Cheyne cites Bickell's rendering, "Now, years before now, have I written unto thee long before with counsels and knowledge," and considers the words to mean either that the compiler took a long time over his work, or that this was not the first occasion of his writing. One does not see why stress should be here laid on former instruction, unless, perhaps, as Plumptre suggests, in contrast to "this day" of the previous verse. The LXX. renders the word τρισσῶς thus, "And do thou record them for thyself triply for counsel and knowledge upon the table of thine heart." St. Jerome has, Ecce descripsi eam tibi tripliciter, in cogitationibus et scientiis. Other versions have also given a numerical explanation to the term. In it is seen an allusion to the three supposed works of Solomon—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles—which is absurd; others refer it to the threefold division of the Testament—Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa; others, to three classes of youths for whom the admonitious were intended; others, again, think it equivalent to "oftentimes," or "in many forms." But the reading is as doubtful as the explanations of it are unsatisfactory. The genuine word is doubtless preserved in the Keri, which gives שָׁלִשִׁים (shalishim), properly a military term, applied to chariot fighters and men of rank in the army. The LXX. translates the word by τριστὰτης e.g. Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4), which is equivalent to "chieftain." Hence the Hebrew term, understood in the neuter gender, is transferred to the chief among proverbs—"choice proverbs," as Delitzsch calls them. The Venetian, by a happy turn, gives τρισμέγιστα. Thus we come back to the rendering of the Authorized Version as meet correct and intelligible.
That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth. The object intended is to teach the disciple the fixed rule (firmitatem, Vulgate) by which truthful words are guided (see Luke 1:4). Septuagint, "I therefore teach thee a true word and knowledge good to learn." That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee. This implies that the pupil will be enabled to teach others who apply to him for instruction; "will be ready." as St. Peter says, "always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). But the last expression is better translated, "them that send thee;" illis qui miserunt te, Vulgate (see Proverbs 25:13); and we must conceive of these as being parents or tutors who send a youth to a school or wise man to be educated. The moralist expresses his desire that the disciple will carry home such wholesome, truthful doctrines as will prove that the pains expended upon him have not been useless. Septuagint, "That thou mayest answer words of truth to those who put questions to thee (τοῖς προβαλλομένοις σοι)" The Syriac adds, "That I may make known unto thee counsel and wisdom." Bickell's version (quoted by Cheyne) is, "That thou mayest know the rightness of these words, that thou mayest answer in true words to them that ask thee."
Here commence the "words of the wise."
This and the following verse form a terrastich, which connects itself in thought with Proverbs 22:16. Rob not the poor, because he is poor. The word for "poor" is here dal, which means "feeble," "powerless" (see on Proverbs 19:4), and the writer enjoins the disciple not to be induced by his weakness to injure and despoil a poor man. Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate. The gate is the place of judgment, the court of justice (comp. Job 31:21). The warning points to the particular form of wrong inflicted on the lowly by unjust judges, who could give sentences from which, however iniquitous, there was practically no appeal.
For, though they are powerless to defend themselves, and have no earthly patrons, the Lord will plead their cause (Proverbs 23:11). Jehovah will be their Advocate and Protector. And spoil the soul of those that spoiled them; rather, despoil of life those that despoil them. So the Revised Version. God, exercising his moral government on human concerns, will bring ruin and death on the unjust judge or the rich oppressor of the poor. Jerome has, Configet eos qui confixerunt animam ejus. The verb used is קבע (kabah), which is found only here and Malachi 3:8, where it means "to defraud" or "despoil." In the Chaldee and Syriac it may signify "to fix," "to pierce." Septuagint, "The Lord will judge his cause, and thou shalt deliver thy soul unharmed (ἄσυλον):" i.e. if you refrain from injustice and oppression, you will be saved Item evil and dwell securely.
Proverbs 22:24, Proverbs 22:25
Another tetrastich. Make no friendship with an angry (irascible) man. Have no close intercourse with a man given to fits of passion. And with a furious man thou shalt not go. Avoid the society of such a one. The reason follows: Lest thou learn his ways; his manner of life and conduct. as Proverbs 1:15 (where see note). Anger breeds anger; impotence, impatience. St. Basil ('De Ira'), quoted by Corn. a Lapide, enjoins, "Take not your adversary as your teacher, and be not a mirror to reflect the angry man, showing his figure in thyself." And get a snare to thy soul; bring destruction on thyself. Anger unsubdued not only mars the kindliness of social life, but leads to all sorts of dangerous complications which may bring ruin and death in their train (comp. Proverbs 15:18).
Proverbs 22:26, Proverbs 22:27
A warning against suretyship, often repeated. Be not thou one of them that strike hands; i.e. that become guarantees for others (see on Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16; and comp. Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15). Sureties for debts. The writer explains what kind of guarantee he means. Why should he (the creditor) take away thy bed from under thee? Why should you act so weakly as to give a creditor power to seize your very bed as a pledge? The Law endeavoured to mitigate this penalty (Exodus 22:26, Exodus 22:27; Deuteronomy 24:12, Deuteronomy 24:13). But doubtless its merciful provisions were evaded by the moneylenders (see Nehemiah 5:11; Ezekiel 18:12, "hath not restored the pledge").
The first line is repeated at Proverbs 23:10. (On the sanctity of landmarks, see note on Proverbs 15:25.) Some of the stones, exhibiting a bilingual inscription, which marked the boundaries of the Levitical city of Gezer, were discovered by Gauneau in 1874. The Septuagint calls the landmarks ὅρια αἰώνια.
A tristich follows. Seest thou a man diligent in his business! Mere diligence would not commend a man to high notice unless accompanied by dexterity and skill; and though מָהִיר (mahir) means "quick," it also has the notion of "skilful," and is better here taken in that sense. He shall stand before kings. This phrase means to serve or minister to another (Genesis 41:46; 1Sa 16:21, 1 Samuel 16:22; 1 Kings 10:8; Job 1:6). A man thus export is fitted for any, even the highest situation, may well be employed in affairs of state, and enjoy the confidence of kings. He shall not stand before mean men. "Mean" (חְשֻׁכִּים) are the men of no importance, ignobiles, obscure. An intellectual, clever, adroit man would never he satisfied with serving such masters; his ambition is higher; he knows that he is capable of better things. Septuagint, "It must needs be that an observant (ὁρατικὸν) man, dud one who is keen in his business, should attend on kings, and not attend on slothful men."
A good name and loving favour
Both of these blessings—which, indeed, are closely allied—are here preferred to great riches. It is better to be poor with either than rich with neither. Let us examine the excellence of each of them.
I. THE EXCELLENCE OF A GOOD NAME. Why is this rather to be chosen than riches?
1. Because it is a higher order of good. Wealth is a material thing. The best of it is empty and vain by the side of what is intellectual, moral, or spiritual. It is possible to have great riches and yet to be miserable and degraded, if the higher reaches of life are impoverished.
2. Because it is personal. A man's good name is nearer to him than all his property. The most personal property is distant and alien compared with the name he carries; the reputation that attaches to him is his closest garment—it is wrapped round his very self. If a person wears sackcloth next his skin, he can have little comfort in being clothed outside this with purple and fine linen.
3. Because it is social. The good name is known among a man's fellows. It is this that gives him his true status. Now, we cannot afford to neglect social considerations. It is a terrible thing to live under the stigma of the rebuke of mankind. He is either more or less than a man who can look with indifference on the good or the ill opinion of his brethren. Mere fame may be of little value. A good name is far more desirable than a great name. It is not necessary that people should have a high opinion of us. But it is important that our name should be free from disgrace, should be honoured for purity and integrity of character.
4. Because it is a sign of other excellences. It may be given by mistake to a worthless deceiver, or it may be withdrawn from a worthy person through some cruel misapprehension. We cannot always take a man's reputation as a true measure of his character. But when it is justly earned, the good name is the sacrament of a good character, and therefore an outward and visible sign of what is most excellent, for it is better to be good than to own riches.
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF LOVING FAVOUR. Why is this better than silver and gold?
1. Because it is human. Silver and gold are but dead metals. They may be bright, beautiful, and precious; but they can have no sympathy with their possessors. Riches are heartless things, that take themselves wings and fly away without a qualm of compunction. But human interests and affections touch our hearts and rouse our sympathies in return. It is better to be poor among friends than to be rich but loveless and friendless.
2. Because it brings direct blessings. Riches are at best indirect sources of good. But love is a good itself, and it breathes a benediction on all to whom it is extended. Reputation is good, but affection is better. The best love cannot be enjoyed if the good name has been lost by wrong doing. But there may be no fame, no great name in the world, and yet much love. It is better to be loved by one than admired by a thousand.
3. Because it is the type of higher blessings. The loving favour of man is an earthly emblem of the grace of God. This is better than silver and gold, first, as a human source of peace and power, and then as a promise of eternal life and wealth in the heavenly inheritance, after death has robbed a man of all his silver and gold.
I. THE SAD CONDITION OF SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS.
1. These distinctions are very marked. There is an enormous separation between the condition of the rich and that of the poor. The one class is overwhelmed with luxury, the other pinched with penury. There seems to be a tendency to an aggravation of this separation. As wealth grows, poverty does not perceptibly recede. Three millions are on the borders of starvation among the riches of England.
2. These distinctions are not determined by desert. No doubt honest industry tends to prosperity, while idleness and dissipation lead to poverty. But there are bad rich men and good poor men.
3. These distinctions are grossly unjust. It is impossible to maintain that there is equity in the present distribution of property throughout the community, though it may be urged that most attempts at remedying the injustice that have been proposed hitherto would be worse than the disease.
4. These distinctions generate greater evils. They destroy the sense of human brotherhood, fostering a spirit of pride on the part of the rich, and rousing passions of hatred among those who feel themselves to be robbed of their share of the world's wealth. One man is not to be thought of as necessarily superior to his neighbour simply because he is in possession of more property; nor, on the other hand, should the owner of wealth be regarded as a wholesale brigand.
II. THE MEANS OF RECONCILING SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS. "The rich and poor meet together."
1. It is desirable that there should be more intercourse between the various classes of society. Very much of the antagonism of the classes arises from ignorance. The simple, honest, poor man, seeking his rights in the rough style natural to his circumstances, is regarded as a red-handed revolutionist by the fastidious upper-class person, who, in turn, is treated by his indigent neighbour as a monster of cruelty and selfishness, a very ogre. The first step towards a better understanding is more freedom of intercourse. It is the same with the quarrel between capital and labour. Mutual conferences might bring about a common understanding.
2. In the Church of God rich and poor meet on common ground. Here pride of class is utterly inexcusable. Happily, the old distinction between the curtained, carpeted, and cushioned squire's pew, and the bare benches of the villagers, is being swept away. But the spirit that this distinction suggested is not so easily exorcised. Christian brotherhood should bring all together in a common family spirit. It was so in early ages, when the slave might be a privileged communicant, while the master was a humble catechumen on the threshold of the Church.
3. Death levels all class distinctions. Rich and poor meet together in the grave. After death new distinctions emerge. Dives cannot scorn Lazarus in Hades.
III. THE MOTIVE FOR OVERCOMING SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS. This is to be discovered in a consideration of the common relation of men to their Maker. Nothing short of religion will heal the fearful wounds of society. Forcible methods will not succeed; e.g. in the French Revolution. A universal redistribution of property would soon be followed by the old distinctions. Socialism would destroy virtues of independence and energy. But faith in God will work inwardly towards a reconciliation.
1. All classes are equally low before God. The highest earthly mountains vanish in astronomy.
2. Our common relation to God is the ground of our mutual relations with one another. All men have one Father; therefore all men must be brethren. The recognition of the Fatherhood of God will lead to the admission of family duties and claims among men. Christ, who teaches the Fatherhood of God, inspires the "enthusiasm of humanity."
Two graces, and their reward
I. TWO GRACES.
1. The social grace. "Humility." This is becoming in all men, but it is especially seemly where its attainment is most difficult; e.g. among the high in station, the wealthy, the famous, the gifted, the popular. It is as difficult for the demagogue to be humble as for the lord—perhaps more difficult, for the former is more conscious of his own powers, and more recently lifted above his fellows. Humility is difficult to acquire, because it is so essentially different from mere weakness and self-effacement. It is seen best in the strongest and most pronounced natures. There is no virtue in failing back from one's highest aims in order to escape notice. The grace of humility is discovered in an earnest effort to press forward energetically, without a thought of self or a care for the admiration of the world.
2. The religious grace. "The fear of the Lord" Pride excludes true religion. In the childlike spirit of humble dependence we are open to the influence of Heaven. Thus the one grace is linked to the other, Now, the whole of the Old Testament conception of religion is summed up in "the fear of the Lord"—not because there was no room in it for any emotion but terror, but because the root of the ancient faith was reverence. This is the root of all religion. It maybe so richly mingled with love as we come to discern the Fatherhood of God, that its more dread features are utterly lost. Yet love without reverence would not be a religious emotion, or, at all events, not one suited for God as he is revealed to us in the Bible. The Greeks seemed to dispense with the fear of God in their light, gay religion; but they also dispensed with conscience. A feeling of sin and a perception of the holiness of God must lay a deep foundation of awe beneath the most happy and trustful religious experience.
II. A THREEFOLD REWARD.
1. Riches. This is the lowest aspect of the reward. It is in the spirit of the Proverbs, which calls especial attention to the secular consequences of good and ill. We know that the humble and good are often poor and oppressed. But there is a tendency for quiet self-renunciation to be recognized and rewarded. The meek are to be blessed with the inheritance of the earth (Matthew 5:5). When full justice is done, the best men will receive the best things in this world as well as the life of that to come. At present we wait for the accomplishment of this social rectification.
2. Honour. The humble who do not seek honour shall have it, while the proud are cast down in shame. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Men delight to honour self-forgetful merit. But the highest honour comes from God, who discerns the heart, puts down the proud, and exalts them of low degree.
3. Life. Whether this is given in the Hebrew manner—in old age or not, Christ has taught us to see his true eternal life as the greatest blessing for his people. The humility in which a man loses his life is the very means of finding the true life; the reverence of religion leads us from the shallow frivolity of earth to the deep life of God.
The training of a child
I. THE NEED OF THE TRAINING. This arises from various causes.
1. An undeveloped condition. Each child begins a new life. If all that were desirable could be found wrapped up in his soul, this would need to be developed by education.
2. Ignorance. The child does not come into the world with a ready made stock of knowledge. He must learn truth and be made to see the right path, which is at first unknown to him.
3. Weakness. The child needs not only to be taught, but to be trained. He must be helped to do what is at first too much for his strength. His better nature must be drawn out, nourished, and confirmed.
4. Evil. A child's mind is not a tabula rasa. We need not go back to Adam for evidences of hereditary evil. The child inherits the vices of his ancestors. Thus "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Before he is guilty of conscious sin the tendency to wickedness begins to work within him.
II. THE AGE OF THE TRAINING. This is to be in childhood, for various reasons.
1. Its susceptibility.
(1) Susceptibility to training. The young mind is plastic; habit is not yet confirmed. It is easier to form a character than to reform it.
(2) Susceptibility to religion. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Young children are peculiarly open to religious impressions.
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sets it in his joy."
Faith is natural to children. They cannot become theologians, but they may be citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Thoughts of God and Christ, and the call to the better life, can be well received by them.
2. Its dangers. Children are open to temptation. If not trained in goodness, they will be trained in evil. Some have thought that children should not be biassed in their religious ideas, but left in freedom to choose for themselves. We do not do this in secular matters, trusting them to choose their own methods of spelling and to manufacture their own multiplication table. If we believe our religion to be true and good and profitable, it is only a cruel pedantry that will keep it from children for fear of prejudicing their minds.
3. Its duties. Early years should be given to Christ. He seeks the opening bud, not the withered leaf.
III. THE LAW OF THE TRAINING.
1. In action. There is a practical end in education. We are not merely to teach doctrine, but chiefly to train conduct.
2. According to right. This is not a question of taste. There is a way in which a child ought to go. It is his duty to tread it, and ours to lead him in it.
3. According to future requirements. While the main principles of education must be the same for all children, the special application of them will vary in different cases. We have to apply them to the specific career expected for each child. The prince should be trained for the throne, the soldier for the field, etc.
4. According to personal qualities. Each child's nature needs separate consideration and distinctive treatment. The training that would ruin one child might save another. We have not to drill all children into one uniform fashion of behaviour; we have rather to call out the individual gifts and capacities, and guard against the individual faults and weaknesses. Thus the training of a child will be the directing of his own specific nature.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE TRAINING. "When he is old, he will not depart from it." Age stiffens. It is well that it should grow firm in the right. Here is the reward of teaching the young. The work is slow and discouraging, and at first we see few results; perhaps we imagine that all our efforts are wasted upon thoughtless minds. But if the work is hard to begin, there is this compensation in it—when it has fairly laid hold of a child, it is not likely to be ever effaced. The teachings of the Sunday school are remembered after many a long year.
Proverbs 22:20, Proverbs 22:21
I. THE TRUTH SEEKER DESIRES CERTAINTY. With him "the certainty of the words of truth" is the great object sought after.
1. Certainty must be distinguished from positiveness. Doubt is often violent in assertion, as though to silence the opposition that cannot be answered. We may be very positive without being at all certain.
2. Certainty must be distinguished from certitude. Certitude is the feeling of certainty. Now, we may feel no doubt on a subject, and yet we may be in error. Real certainty is a well grounded assurance.
3. Certainty is desired because truth is precious. If a person is indifferent to truth, he may be satisfied with doubt, or acquiescent in error. This is the contemptuous condition of the cheerful Sadducee. His scepticism is no pain to him, because he does not feel the loss of truth. Not valuing truth, it is a light matter to him that he misses it. Such a condition of mind is an insult to truth itself. A man who recognizes the royal glory of truth will be in the greatest distress if he thinks it has eluded his grasp. To him the feeling of doubt will be an agony.
4. Certainty is sought because it is not always present. It may be very difficult to find. We grope in ignorance, error, and confusion of mind. Then the great want is some solid assurance of truth. Without this the world is dark, our voyage may end in shipwreck, and we cannot know God, ourselves, or our destiny.
II. THE TRUTH SEEKER MAY SECURE CERTAINTY. The Bible denies agnosticism. It offers revelation.
1. Truth is revealed. The written Word contains the record of revelation. God has spoken to us through his prophets, but chiefly in his Son (Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2). Everything that lifts the Bible above common books and impresses its message upon our hearts as from God, urges us to believe in the truth of what it teaches, for God is the Source of all truth. If the Bible does not teach truth, the Bible must be an earthly book, uninspired by God.
2. Truth must be practised and studied. "Excellent things in counsels and knowledge" are written in the Bible. but to find their truth we must do the commandment, follow the counsel, enter thoughtfully into the knowledge.
3. Truth should be taught. "That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee."
(1) Inquirers need counsel and guidance.
(2) Truth is no private possession, but a public trust.
(3) They who teach others especially need to know the truth themselves.
I. ANCIENT LANDMARKS OF PROPERTY. The stone that divided one man's vineyard from his neighbour's was regarded as a sacred thing, on no account to be touched. This arrangement helped to perpetuate family holdings. It prevented the accumulation of large estates by the wealthy, and the alienation of the land from the poor. It guarded the weak from the oppression of the strong. It was a protection against deceit, error, and confusion. Ahab transgressed the Law in seeking to acquire Naboth's vineyard. It would be well if we could appreciate the spirit of the old Hebrew sanctity of the landmark. It would be well, too, if there were more people who had a personal interest in the soil of the country. The "sacred rights of property" cannot confer on the owner any power to oppress the tiller of the soil; but, on the other hand, they should protect the owner from the violence of social revolution.
II. ANCIENT LANDMARKS OF HISTORY. The fieldstones of Palestine were historic. Their very presence served as a record of the lives and doings of a past ancestry. As such they gathered a certain sanctity of association. It is no small thing that we in England belong to a historic nation. The forward movement that is so characteristic of our day should not blind us to the lessons of the past. Noble lives and great events are landmarks on the vast field of history. They help us to map out the past, and they also assist us to gain wisdom for the present. We cannot dispense with the landmarks of Scripture history. Christianity, without the facts of the life of Christ, would be boneless and shapeless. It is strong as a historical religion. Directly it is treated merely as an idea, a sentiment, or a "spirit," it will languish by the loss of the old landmarks of concrete facts in the Birch, Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
III. ANCIENT LANDMARKS OF DOCTRINE. We live in an age when many of these have been uprooted and flung on one side. No doubt some of them had been converted into obstructions standing up in the middle of the road of truth. We need to ascertain whether we are really dealing with the truly ancient landmarks, and are not deceived by fraudulent inventions of later ages. The primary landmarks of Christianity are in the teachings of Christ and his apostles. We may have to clear away a great deal of the rubbish of the ages in order to get back to these original truths of Christianity. It is not right to accuse those who are loyal to Christ with removing the ancient landmarks, when they are only taking away these later accretions. But we cannot dispense with the truly ancient landmarks. If we forsake the New Testament, we forsake Christianity.
IV. ANCIENT LANDMARKS OF MORALS. Many practices of antiquity may be abandoned. Some may be superseded by better ways, others left behind as unsuited to the circumstances of the new times. But behind and beneath all these changing fashions there are the solid rocks of truth and righteousness. What, ever else may be shaken, we cannot afford to shift these landmarks. We may improve upon old customs; but we cannot cast away the ten commandments.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The theme of the earlier part of the chapter may be said to be the good name: the blessings in the possession of it, and the conditions for the acquirement of it—partly negatively, partly positively, described.
The general conditions of a good name
I. WHAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ITS FOUNDATION.
1. Riches. (Proverbs 22:1.) Riches have their worth; reputation has its worth; but the latter is of an order altogether different from the former. The former gives a physical, the latter a moral, power. It is right that we should have regard to the opinion of good men. "An evil name shall inherit disgrace and reproach," says Sirach 6:1. And we have, as Christians, clearly to think of the effect a good or evil name must have upon "them that are without" (1 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31, sqq.; Philippians 4:8).
2. Again, poverty with a good name is infinitely preferable to riches associated with an evil character (verse 2). It is according to general laws of providence that one is rich, the other poor. The great point is to recognize that we cannot all possess the lower good, but that the higher good is offered to all, made the duty of all to seek. Let the poor man not exaggerate the worth of riches, nor murmur against God, but humble himself under his hand, and trust the promises of his Word (Matthew 5:3). And let the rich man not put his confidence in riches (1 Timothy 6:17), but lay up an inward store against the time to come. It is religion alone which solves the contradiction between riches and poverty by reducing both under the true standard of value.
II. THE POSITIVE CONDITIONS OF THE GOOD NAME.
1. Prudence. (Verse 3.) To foresee evil at a distance—to have a cultivated spiritual sense, analogous to the keen scent of the lower animals, that may enable us to detect the danger not apprehensible by the duller sense—is necessary to our safety. And what is necessary to safety is necessary ultimately with a view to the good name. To go too near the fire may lead to the scorching of the reputation, if not to the loss of the life. To conceal ourselves beneath the wings of the Almighty and to abide in communion with God (Psalms 91:1) is the best refuge from all danger.
2. Humility. (Verse 4.) He that would attain to the glory must first "know how to be abased." Clearly to recognize our position and part in life always implies humility. For it is always less and lower than that which imagination dreams. Another important lesson from this verse is that reputation and the good attached to it come through seeking something else and something better. To do our own work is really to do something that has never been attempted before. For each of us is an original, and success in that which is peculiar to us brings more honour than success in a matter of greater difficulty in which we are but imitators of others.
3. The fear of God. (Verse 4.) Religion gives reality to character. And reputation must at last rest on the presence of a reality; and those who have it not are perpetually being found out.
4. Rectitude of conduct. (Verse 5.) What pains, anxieties, what dangers, rebuffs, and disappointments, and what loss of all that makes life sweet and good, do not the dishonest in every degree incur! The path of rectitude and truth seems rugged, but roses spring up around it, so soon as we begin fairly to tread it; the way of the transgressors seems inviting, but is indeed "hard."—J.
Means to the preservation of the good name
I. EARLY TRAINING. (Proverbs 22:6.) The young twig must be early bent. Experience teaches us that nothing in the world is so mighty for good or evil as custom; and therefore, says Lord Bacon, "since custom is the principal magistrate of man's life, let man by all means endeavour to obtain good customs. Custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years; this we call education, which is in effect but an early custom. The tongue is more pliant to all expressions and sounds, the joints more supple to all feats of activity and motions, in youth than afterwards. Those minds are rare which do not show to their latest days the ply and impress they have received as children."
II. INDEPENDENCE. (Proverbs 22:7.) How strongly was the worth of this felt in those ancient times! Poverty and responsibility to others are to be avoided. Many are forced into distress of conscience and to the loss of a good name by being tempted, for the wake of the rich man's gold or the great man's smile, to vote contrary to their convictions. Others will sell their liberty to gratify their luxury. It is an honest ambition to enjoy a competence that shall enable one to afford to be honest, and have the luxury of the freest expression of opinion. Hence frugality becomes so clear a moral duty.
III. INTEGRITY. (Proverbs 22:8.) Ill-gotten gains cannot prosper. "The evil which issues from thy mouth falls into thy bosom," says the Spanish proverb. The rod wherewith the violent and unjust man struck others is broken to pieces.
IV. NEIGHBOURLY LOVE (Proverbs 22:9.) "Charity gives itself rich, covetousness hoards itself poor," says the German proverb. "Give alms, that thy children may not ask them," says a Danish proverb. "Drawn wells are never dry." So give today, that thou mayest have to give tomorrow; and to one, that thou mayest have to give to another. Let us remember, with the Italian proverb, that "our last robe is made without pockets." Above all, if our case is that "silver and gold we have none, let us freely substitute the kindly looks and the healing words, which are worth much and cost little."
V. A PEACEFUL TEMPER. (Proverbs 22:10.) Let the scoffing, envious, contentious temper be cast out of our breast first. As for others, let us strike, if possible, at the cause and root of strife. Let there be solid argument for the doubter, and practical relief for actual grievances. Let us learn from the old fable, and follow the part of Epimetheus, who, when evils flew abroad from the box of Pandora, shut the lid and kept hope at the bottom of the vessel.
VI. A FAITHFUL AND CONSTANT HEART. (Proverbs 22:11.) The greatest treasure to an earthly monarch, and dear above all to the King of kings. "He who serves God serves a good Master." Grace and truth are upon the lips of God's Anointed forevermore. And to clench these proverbs, let us recollect that nothing but truth in the inward parts can abide before the eye of Jehovah. "A lie has no legs." It carries along with itself the germs of its own dissolution. It is sure to destroy itself at last. Its priests may prop it up, after it has once fallen in the presence of the truth; but it will fall again, like Dagon, more shamefully and irretrievably than before. Truth is the daughter of God (Trench).—J.
Hindrances to the attainment of a good name
I. SLOTH. (Proverbs 22:13.) It is full of ridiculous excuses here satirized. While a noble energy refuses to own the word "impossible," it is ever on the lips of the indolent. As in the Arabic fable of the ostrich, or "camel bird," they said to it, "Carry!" It answered, "I cannot, for I am a bird." They said, "Fly!" It answered, "I cannot, for I am a camel." Always, "I cannot!" He who in false regard to his own soul refuses to go out into the world and do God's work, will end by corrupting and losing his soul itself (John 12:25).
II. PROFLIGACY. (Proverbs 22:14.) Lust digs its own grave. Health goes, reputation follows, and presently the life, self-consumed by the deadly fire, sinks into ruin and ashes. If men saw how plainly the curse of God is written on vice, it would surely become as odious to them as to him.
III. UNGOVERNED FOLLY. (Proverbs 22:15.) Nothing mere pitiable than an old fool, whose folly seems to stand in clear relief against the background of years. Hence, again, the urgent need of firm discipline for the young. And what occasion for thankfulness to him who, in his wise chastisements, will not "let us alone," but prunes and tills the soul by affliction, and plucks up our follies by the root!
IV. OPPRESSIVENESS. (Proverbs 22:16.) To become rich at the expense of other's loss is no real gain. The attempt cuts at the root of sound trade and true sociality. Hastily gotten will hardly be honestly gotten. The Spaniards say, "He who will be rich in a year, at the half-year they hang him." Mammon, which more than anything else men are tempted to think God does not concern himself about, is given and taken away by him according to his righteousness—given sometimes to his enemies and for their greater punishment, that under its fatal influence they may grow worse and worse (Trench).—J.
The words of the wise to be taken to heart
I. THEY YIELD DIVINE PLEASURE (Proverbs 22:18.) And all the pleasure of the world is not to be weighed against it. Let those who have "tasted of the good Word of God" bear their witness. The human soul is made for truth, and delights in it. There is pleasure in grasping a mathematical demonstration or a scientific law; and the successful inquirer may shout his "Eureka!" with joy over every fresh discovery. But above all, "how charming is Divine philosophy!"—that which traces the clear path of virtue, warns against vice, shows the eternal reward of the former and the doom of the latter, Received with the appetite of faith, Divine truth is food most sweet.
II. THEY LEAD US ON TO CONFIDENCE IN GOD. (Proverbs 22:19.) And this is our true foundation. He is Jehovah, the Eternal One. He is the Constant One. His Name is the expression of mercy, of truth, and of justice. To love and to trust him is to be in living intercourse with all that is true and beautiful and good.
III. THEY ARE RICH IN MANIFOLD INSTRUCTION. (Proverbs 22:20.) They are "princely words," i.e. of the highest and noblest dignity. Prone to sink into the commonplace, the mean, the impure, they lift us to high views of our calling, our duty, and oar destiny.
IV. THEY PRODUCE, JUSTICE OF THOUGHT AND SOUNDNESS OF SPEECH. (Proverbs 22:21.) Thought and speech together form the garment of the soul. It is only the living sap of God's truth within us which can impart greenness and beauty, blossom and fruit, to the life. As water rises to the level from which it descended, so does all truth received into the soul go back in some form to the imparter, in thanks and in blessing.—J.
Right in social relations
I. RELATIONS TO THE POOR. (Proverbs 22:22, Proverbs 22:23.)
1. Robbery and oppression are a breach of the positive external law (Exodus 20:15), much more of the inward and eternal law written in the heart, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
2. The perversion of law and magisterial authority to this end is an aggravation of the offence. It makes the refuge of the poor the market for bribery.
3. Above all, such oppression shows contempt for the authority of God. Among his titles to the throne of the world are these—that he is Protector of the helpless, Father of the fatherless, Judge of widows. The judgment on Ahab and the Captivity in Babylon (1 Kings 21:18-24; Isaiah 33:1) may be referred to as examples of retributive judgment on the spoilers of the poor.
II. AGAINST ASSOCIATION WITH PASSIONATE AND PRECIPITATE MEN. (Proverbs 22:24, Proverbs 22:28.) It is a contagious temper. How soon is the habit of hot and violent language caught up from another! It is a dangerous temper. "Never anger made good guard for itself." It becomes more hurtful than the injury which provoked it. It is often an affected temper, compounded of pride and folly, and an intention to do commonly more mischief than it can bring to pass.
III. AGAINST THE RASH INCURRING OF LIABILITIES. (Proverbs 22:26, Proverbs 22:27; see on Proverbs 6:1-4; Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16.)
IV. AGAINST THE REMOVAL OF THE OLD LANDMARKS. (Proverbs 22:28. See the express commands of the Law, Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; Job 24:2; Hosea 5:10.) A strict respect for the righits of others is the foundation of all social order. And connected with this is the duty of respect for the feelings for what is ancient and time honoured. There should be no violent change in old customs of life and thought. Necessity may compel them; caprice should never dictate them. A spirit ever restless and bent on innovation is a nuisance in society. The existence of a custom is a proof of its meaning and relative worth; until it is discerned that the significance is now a false one, it should not be swept away.
V. ON THE PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESS. (Proverbs 22:29.)
1. A man must know his business in the world. This is determined partly by his talents, partly by providential circumstances. "Know thy work "is as important a precept as "Know thyself."
2. He must be diligent in his business, doing "with his might" what his band finds to do, laboring "with both hands earnestly" in every good cause.
3. The result will be advancement and honour. We have shining examples in Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel. Ability and capacity are no less acquired than natural; use alone fully brings to light the talent, and to it Providence opens the suitable sphere of activity. Men may seem to be failures in this world who are not really so. He alone can judge of the fidelity of the heart who is to utter at the end of the sentence, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" "Many that are first will be last, and the last first."—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Riches or reputation
Both of these things are good in their way and in their measure. They may be held together, for many wealthy men have enjoyed s good name and much "loving favour." But it is not given to all men to command both of these. A large proportion of rich men have lost their reputation for equity' and humanity by the way in which they have gained their wealth. And they must necessarily be many who are compelled to take and keep their place among the poor. But if only one of these two desirable things is open to us, we may be very well satisfied that this is not the wealth, hut the worthiness, not the full treasury, but the good name and the kind regard. For—
I. WEALTH IS VERY LIMITED IN ITS CAPACITIES. It is true that it commands considerable material advantages, and that it puts it in the power of its possessor to enlarge his own mind, to extend his social circle, and to multiply his usefulness. This, however, it only does as an instrument. It does not ensure any of these things. Men may possess it, and they may, as very many of them do, altogether neglect to avail themselves of the opportunity. It does not even dispose men to do these wise things; it is as likely as not to allure them in other and even contrary directions. The power of mere wealth, apart from the character of its owner, is very much slighter than it seems. It only really secures bodily comforts and the means of advancement.
1. It does not center even happiness, for mere jollity or transient excitement is not happiness.
2. It does not supply knowledge, much less capacity, and still less wisdom.
3. It does not provide the friendship which is worthy of the name, for no man who respects himself will be the friend of the rich simply because he is rich. We do not love a man because he has a large account at his bank.
4. It does not include the possession of any estimable moral qualities, nor, therefore, the favour of God. moreover—
II. WEALTH HAS ITS SERIOUS DRAWBACKS.
1. It involves heavy burdens, great anxieties lest it should be lost.
2. It entails the most serious responsibility, lest its misuse or its non use should bring down the weighty condemnation of God (Matthew 25:26).
3. It tempts to a dishonourable and degrading self indulgence; also to a cynical and guilty contempt of the poor and lowly.
III. A GOOD REPUTATION INCLUDES OR IMPLIES THE BEST THINGS. Of course, men may acquire a fair name and even loving favour by very superficial qualities; but if they do, it is usually but short-lived. It breaks down under the weight of hard fact and accumulated experience. The good name which Solomon is thinking or, and which is the only thing of the kind worth pursuing, is that which is built upon or which springs from a sound character. It therefore implies the possession of uprightness, of purity, of truthfulness, of kindness, of reverence; and it therefore implies the possession of piety and the favour of God.
IV. A GOOD REPUTATION IS A SOURCE OF TRUE AND PURE SATISFACTION.
1. It satisfies our self-respect; for we tightly wish to enjoy the intelligent esteem of our neighbours. We are rightly troubled when we lose it; we are justified in our satisfaction that we possess it. It is a pure and lasting gratification.
2. It satisfies our affections. To have the "loving favour" of men is to have much true gladness of heart.
V. A GOOD REPUTATION IS A SOURCE OF MUCH POWER. While the bad rich man is steadily declining in his command, his humbler neighbour, who is esteemed for his wisdom and his worth, is gaining an influence for good with every passing year.—C.
Rich and poor.
The great problem of excessive wealth and pitiable poverty confronts us still, and seems likely to task our united wisdom for many years, if not for several generations. We may regard—
I. THE BROAD AND NAKED FACT VISIBLE TO EVERY EYE. The fact that, while this world is stored with wealth beneath the ground, and is capable of bringing forth upon its surface ample supplies for all the need of the race, there is found amongst us vast mass of miserable indigence. Children are born into the world in homes where parents do not know how to feed and clothe them, where an early death would seem to be the happiest fate; and other children are born into and brought up in homes where parents have a great deal more than they need to provide for their necessities, and where life offers every opportunity for enjoyment with no necessity for labour.
II. HOW FAR THIS DISTINCTION IS OF GOD.
1. Such deep and wide distinctions as now exist must be contrary to his purpose. We cannot possibly suppose that it is in accordance with his mind that thousands of his children should be starving, unclad or ill clad, homeless, exposed to the saddest sufferings and the darkest evils, while other thousands of his children have more than they need or know how to make good use of.
2. These distinctions are the ultimate result of the laws which he ordained. Poverty has its origin in sin; it is one of the penalties of wrong doing. All the evil we see and sigh over, of every kind, we must trace to sin and to the consequences which sin entails. It is a Divine law that sin and suffering go together.
3. Some inequalities amongst us are directly due to his Divine ordering. He creates us with very different faculties. Some are fitted and enabled to do great things, which raise them in position and in circumstance above their brethren; others are not thus qualified Much, though very far indeed from everything, depends upon our natural endowments.
III. THE UNDESIRABLE SEPARATION WHICH EXISTS BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR. We do not know our neighbours as we should. We pass one another with cold indifference. Too often men turn away from their inferiors (in circumstance) with a contemptuous disregard which signifies that the poor man is beneath their notice; too often men fail to appeal to their fellows because they think themselves unworthy to address them. Between man and man, between brother and brother, there is a gulf of isolation which must be painful and pitiful in the sight of the common Father, the Maker of them both.
IV. THE OCCASIONS WHEN THEY MEET.
1. Those on which they must feel the distinction between them—in business and in society.
2. Those on which they should not do so—when they meet in public worship or for Christian work, then all differences of a material and social kind should be forgotten and ignored.
(1) What are these in presence of that which separates both rich and poor from the Infinite and Almighty One?
(2) What are these in comparison with the question of moral and spiritual Worth? In the sight of God, the poor but holy man is far more acceptable than the rich but unholy man. With him all questions of income or of title are utterly insignificant, positively invisible in presence of the questions of moral rectitude and spiritual worth.
3. One on which they will not do so (Revelation 20:12).
1. Do your best to bridge the gulf, or, still better, to fill up the chasm which separates one class from another.
2. Take care to have that distinction which will survive the shocks of time and change.—C.
Thoughtfulness and thoughtlessness
All men might be divided into the thoughtful and the thoughtless. They belong either to those who look before them and prepare for the struggle or the danger that is coming, and avoid it; or else to those who go blindly on and stumble over the first impediment in their way. The "prudent man" of the text is not only the cautious man; he is the man of sagacity and foresight, who takes large and extended views of things. There are many illustrations of the thought, of which we may select.
I. THE EVIL OF PECUNIARY ENTANGLEMENT. The prudent man forbears to enter into that alliance, or into those relationships, or on to that course of action which will demand more resources than he can supply. But the simple "pass on"—become involved, and pay the penalty of prolonged anxiety, of great distraction, of painful humiliation, of grave dishonour, of financial ruin.
II. THE STRAIN OF UNWISE COMPANIONSHIP. A prudent man will consider well what company he can wisely keep, whose society will be beneficial and whose injurious to him, whether or not he can bear the pressure that will be put upon him to indulge in this or that direction, and he will shun the social circle that would be perilous to his integrity. But the simple take no heed, accept the first invitation that comes to them, become associated with those whose influence is deteriorating, succumb to their solicitation, and pay the penalty of serious spiritual declension.
III. THE FORCE OF SOME PARTICULAR TEMPTATION. The wise perceive the danger of the intoxicating cup, of the saloon, of the racecourse, of the gambling table, and they keep steadfastly away. The simple pass on—self-confident, presumptuous, doomed, and they are punished indeed.
IV. THE PASSAGE OF YOUTH. The prudent recognize the fact that, unless youth yields its own particular fruit of knowledge, of acquisition, of capacity for work in one field or other, the prizes of life must be foregone; and, recognizing this, they do not waste the golden hours of study in idleness or dissipation. But the simple take no heed, trust to the chapter of accidents, wait upon fortune, fling away their precious chances, and are "punished" by having to take the lower path all the rest of their days.
V. THE RISK OF LOSING HEALTH. The prudent man sees that, if he urges his powers beyond the mark which kind and wise nature draws for him, he will gain a present advantage at the cost of future good, and he holds himself in check. The simple pass on—overwork, overstudy, strain their faculties, and break down long before their time.
VI. THE LOSS OF LIFE. The wise man will count on this; he will reckon that any day he may be called to pass from his business and his family and his pleasure to the great account and the long future; and he lives accordingly, ready for life or for death, prepared to encounter the hour when he will look his last on time and confront eternity. The simple leave this stern fact out of their account; they pass on their way without making preparation either for those whom they must leave behind or for themselves when they enter the world where material treasures are of no account whatever; they pass on, and they "are punished," for they, too, reach the hour of departure, but they awake to the sad fact that that has been left undone for which a long life is not too long a preparation.—C.
The path of the perverse
By "the froward" we understand the spiritually perverse—those that will go on their own way, deaf to the commandments and the entreaties of their heavenly Father.
I. THE PATH OF THE PERVERSE, This is:
1. One of guilt. These froward souls who choose their own way, declining that to which God calls them, are most seriously guilty. Whether their disobedience be due to careless inattention or whether to deliberate recusancy, it is disloyal, ungrateful, presumptuous, offensive in a high degree. It is no wonder that it proves to be:
2. One of suffering. No wonder that "thorns" are in that way, thorns that pierce and pain—grievous troubles, poverty, sickness, loneliness, fear, remorse, forsakenness of God. Departure from God leads down to tangled places, causes men to be lost in thorny wildernesses where suffering abounds. It is also:
3. One of danger. It is a place of "snares." Without the "lamp unto the feet and the light unto the path," how should the traveller in "this dark world of sin" do otherwise than fall? Outside the service of Christ, and apart from his guidance, when the heart is uncontrolled from above, there is the greatest danger of the spirit giving way to one evil after another, of yielding to that multitude of strong temptations which attend the traveller's steps.
II. THE WAY OF THE WISE. There is no necessity for man finding the path of his life a path full of thorns and snares. It is true that no prudence or wisdom will prove an absolute guard therefrom; but if a man will "keep his soul" as he may keep it, he will be preserved in his integrity, he will even "be far" from the worst evils which overtake the froward and perverse. To "keep our soul" is to:
1. Understand its inestimable worth; to understand that it far transcends in value any property we may hold, or any position we may reach, or any prizes or pleasures we may snatch.
2. Realize that God claims it as his own; that to the Father of spirits, to the Saviour of souls, our hearts and lives belong; that to him they should he willingly and heartily surrendered, that they may be placed in his strong and holy keeping.
3. Guard it by the help of Divine wisdom; apply those precious truths which are in the pages of God's Word to its necessity; study the life and form the friendship of that One who himself is the Wisdom of God, walking with whom along the path of life we shall be safe from the wiles of the wicked one.—C.
Very many parental hearts have leaned their weight of hope on these cheering words—many to be sustained and gladdened, some to be disappointed. We look at—
I. THE BROAD SPHERE OF PARENTAL TRAINING. What is the way in which a child should be trained to go? It is one that comprehends much. It includes:
1. Manners. These are not of the first importance, but they have their value. And if politeness, demeanour, bearing, be not engraven in the young, it will not be perfectly attained afterwards.
2. Mind. The habit of observing, of thinking, of reasoning, of sound reading, of calm consideration and discussion.
3. Morals. The all-important habits of truthfulness, of temperance, of industry, of self-command, of courage, of pure and stainless honesty, of unselfish considerateness, of generous forgiveness.
4. Religion. The habit of reverence in the use of the Divine Name, of public worship, of private prayer, of readiness to learn all that in any way God is willing to teach us.
II. THE STRENGTH OF THE PARENTAL HOPE. Let the child be trained in these right ways, "and when he is old," etc.
1. The assurance of habit. When we have firmly planted a good habit in the mind and in the life, we have done a very great and a very good thing—we have gone far toward the goal we seek. For habit, early formed, is not easily broken. We sometimes allude to habit as if it were an enemy. But, in truth, it is our best friend. It is a gracious bond that binds us to wisdom and virtue. Without it we should have no security against temptation; with it we have every reason to hope that youth will pass into prime, and prime into old age, clothed with all the wisdom and adorned with all the grace that it received in its early years. What makes the assurance the more strong is that habit becomes more powerful with each effort and each action. Every day the good habits we have formed and are exercising become more deeply rooted in the soil of the soul.
2. The assurance of the common experience of mankind.
III. THE NECESSARY LIMIT. Not the very best training of the very wisest parents in the world can positively secure goodness and wisdom in their children. For when they have done everything in their power, there must remain that element of individuality which will choose its own course and form its own character. Our children may choose to reject the truth we teach them, and to slight the example we set them, and to despise the counsel we give them. In the will of every child there is a power which cannot be forced, which can only be won. Therefore:
1. Let all parents seek, beside training their children in good habits, to win their hearts to that Divine Wisdom in whose friendship and service alone will they be safe. Where sagacity may fail, affection will triumph. Command and persuasion are the two weapons which parental wisdom will do its best to wield.
2. Let all children understand that for their character and their destiny they must themselves be responsible. All the very worthiest and wisest influences of home will lead to no good result it' they oppose to them a rebellious spirit, if they do not receive them in the spirit of docility. There is but one gate of entrance into life, and that is the personal, individual acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of the spirit. The parent may lead his child up to it, but that child must pass through it of his own accord.—C.
Few things are oftener on human lips than excuses. Men are continually excusing themselves from doing what they know in their hearts they ought to do. There is no sphere from which they are excluded, and there is hardly any evil to which they do not lead.
I. THE SPHERES IS WHICH THEY ARE FOUND. The child excuses himself from the obedience which he should be rendering to his parents; the scholar, from the application he should be giving to his studies; the apprentice, from the attention he should be devoting to his business; the agriculturist, from the labour he should be putting forth in the fields; the captain, from setting sail on the troubled waters; the unsuccessful tradesman or merchant, from investigating his books and seeing how he really stands; the failing manufacturer, from closing his mill; the statesman from bringing forward his perilous measure; the minister, from seeking his delicate and difficult interview; the soul not yet reconciled to God, from a searching inquiry into its own spiritual condition and present obligation.
II. THEIR MORAL CHARACTER.
1. There is a decided ingredient of falsehood about them. Those who fashion them know in their hearts that there is something, if not much, that is imaginary about them. The lion is not without; the slothful man wilt not be slain in the streets. The evil which is anticipated in all cases of excuse is exaggerated, if it is not invented. We do not, at such times, tell ourselves the whole, truth; we "deceive our own selves."
2. There is something of meanness or unmanliness about them; we "let 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would.'" We allow a craven feeling of apprehension to enter in, to take possession, to prevail over our better self.
3. There is an element of disobedience and unfaithfulness. We shrink from doing the thing which is our duty to do; we relegate to the rear that which we should keep in the front; we prefer that which is agreeable to that which is obligatory; we obey the lower voice; we leave unfulfilled the will of God.
III. THE FATE OF THOSE WHO INDULGE THEM.
1. To have a very pitiable retrospect; to have to look back, self-condemned, on work left undone, on a life not well lived.
2. To lose all that might have been gained by energy and decision, and which has been lost by sloth and weakness. And who shall say what this amounts to in the years of a long life?
3. To miss the "Well done" of the Master, if not, indeed, to receive his final and sorrowful condemnation.—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 13:24.)—C.
Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 22:22
(See homily on Proverbs 22:28.)—C.
Proverbs 22:24, Proverbs 22:25
(See homily on Proverbs 16:32.)—C.
Proverbs 22:26, Proverbs 22:27
(See homily on Proverbs 6:1-5.)—C.
The ancient landmark
The text clearly refers to the ancient division of property by which the land was carefully marked out, and each family had its own proper share. The man who removed these boundaries in his own material interest was simply appropriating what did not belong to him. Perhaps "the removal of the ancient landmark" became a proverbial phrase to signify any serious departure from rectitude. It will be worth while to consider—
I. WHAT IS NOT FORBIDDEN IN' THIS PRECEPT.
1. A change in social customs. It is found by experience that we are all the better for leaving certain usages behind us. We outgrow them, and they become hindrances rather than aids to us.
2. The remodelling of old institutions. The time comes when the old order changes, giving place to new, by common consent and to the general advantage. With new methods, new organizations, there may come new life and renewed power.
3. The change of religious vocabulary. There is nothing wrong in putting the old doctrine in new forms; indeed, it becomes more living and more telling when uttered in the language of the time. Ancient phraseology is to be respected, but it is not sacred; it may and must give place to new.
4. The modification of Christian doctrine; not, indeed, a change of "the faith once delivered to the saints"—a departure from "the truth as it is in Jesus," but such a varying account and statement of it as comes with increased light from the study of nature or of man, and with further reverent research of the Word of God. But what is—
II. THE WRONG WHICH IS HERE FORBIDDEN. It is all criminal selfishness, more especially such as that referred to—the appropriation of land by immoral means, or the securing of any kind of property by tampering with a deed or other document. It may include the act of obtaining any advantage in any direction whatever by means that are dishonourable and unworthy. In all such cases we need the ear to hear a Divine, "Thou shalt not." To act thus is a sin and a mistake. It is:
1. To disobey the voice of the Lord, who emphatically denounces it. Especially does God rebuke and threaten the wronging of the poor and feeble because they are such; to do this is to add meanness and cowardice to selfishness and crime (see Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 22:22).
2. To injure ourselves far more seriously and irremediably than we hurt our neighbour. It is to lose the favour of God, the approval of our own conscience, and the esteem of the fast.—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 27:23.)—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany