The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;Proverbs 1:1. The proverbs of Solomon — “Solomon is the first of the sacred writers whose name appears at the head of his works. The name alone of so wise and so great a prince is a sufficient recommendation to engage men to hear and to read. For we naturally love to see and to listen to persons of illustrious name and extraordinary capacity, particularly when those qualities are joined with sovereign power. The style of this work, the brevity of his sentences, and the parabolical turn, close, short, sententious, are also reasons for studying it: long discourses fatigue; all men have not leisure to attend to, or penetration to comprehend them. But precepts delivered in parables are always pleasing to hear.” See Calmet and Dodd. The reader will observe proverbs are ancient, wise, and short sayings, in common use, whereof some are plain and easy, others intricate and obscure. This way of treating serious subjects was very common and familiar with the Jews. Jesus Christ delivered most of his instructions to the people in a way somewhat similar to this, namely, in parables. This method of instruction serves well to teach wisdom, truth, and justice, and to caution men against error, vice, and dissipation.
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;Proverbs 1:2-4. To know wisdom — Written to help men to know, thoroughly and practically, both human wisdom, to conduct their affairs properly in this life, and especially divine wisdom, showing them their duty to God and man, and making them wise unto salvation; and instruction — The instructions delivered, either by God or men, in order to the attainment of wisdom. To perceive the words of understanding — Those words which are the effects of a good understanding, or which give a man that true understanding whereby he can discern between truth and error, between good and evil, in order that he may choose the former and refuse the latter. To receive the instruction of wisdom — Willingly to receive the wise and salutary counsels of others, which is a good step to wisdom, and a part of it. This is opposed to the instruction of fools and of folly, of which he speaks Proverbs 16:22, and Proverbs 19:27. For folly hath its school, where multitudes of scholars attend, who are very apt to learn its lessons. Justice, judgment, and equity — That is, to receive the instruction which teaches men just judgment, or equity, namely, their whole duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. To give subtlety — Or, rather, prudence, as this word, ערמה, is used Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 8:12; although it is frequently taken in an evil sense for craft and subtlety; to the simple — To such as want wisdom, and are easily deceived by others, and therefore most need this blessing; to the young man — Who wants both experience and self-government; knowledge and discretion — That they may gain so much knowledge as will enable them to conduct themselves and their affairs with knowledge and discretion.
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:Proverbs 1:5-6. A wise man will hear — Is not self-conceited, as fools are, but willing to learn from others, and, therefore, will attend to the following instructions; and will increase learning — Thereby he will gain this great benefit, he will increase in knowledge and wisdom. This he adds, to show that this book is useful and necessary, not only to the ignorant, but also to the most wise and knowing persons; and shall attain unto wise counsels — Not to deep speculations, but practical knowledge and wisdom, the art of governing himself, or others, well and prudently. To understand a proverb, &c. — That is, the interpretation of a proverb, or the meaning and use of the wise sayings of God or men: to know this practically, and for his direction and benefit; for practice is the great design of this book. The words of the wise, and their dark sayings — Such as are hard to be understood by inconsiderate and carnal men; but may be found out by diligent and humble inquiry, and prayer for divine teaching.
To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.Proverbs 1:7. The fear of the Lord — That is, reverence for and obedience to God; is the beginning of knowledge — The foundation and source of it; without which all other knowledge is vain and useless. Mark well this sentence, reader: all wisdom, which is not founded in religion, in the true and genuine fear of God, is empty and unprofitable, and will be found such in the time of affliction, in the hour of death, and at the day of judgment. But fools — Wicked men, or men devoid of true religion, called fools throughout this whole book, despise wisdom and instruction — Are so far from attaining it, that they despise it, and all the means of getting it.
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:Proverbs 1:8-9. My son, &c. — He speaks to his scholars with paternal authority and affection, to render them more attentive and obedient. Teachers among the Hebrews were commonly called fathers, and their scholars their sons. Hear the instruction of thy father — His good and wholesome counsels; and forsake not the law of thy mother — Those pious instructions which thy mother instilled into thee in thy tender years. This he adds, because children, when grown up, are very prone to slight their mothers’ advice, because of the infirmity of their sex, and because they have not that dependance upon, and expectation from their mothers, which they have from their fathers. They shall be an ornament, &c. — This will make thee amiable and honourable in the sight of God and of men, whereas the forsaking of those good counsels will make thee contemptible.
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.Proverbs 1:10-14. My son, if sinners — Sinners of any description; entice thee — To sin, to commit any known iniquity, or to omit any known duty; consent thou not — Yield not in any degree to their advice, persuasions, or solicitations, for why shouldest thou destroy thyself to gratify them? If they say, Come with us — We are numerous, and strong, and sociable. Let us lay wait for blood — That is, to shed blood. He does not intend to express their words, for such words would rather affright than inveigle one that was yet a novice in wickedness, but he signifies what was the true nature, and would be the consequence of the action, in which they wished the person they addressed to join them, and what lay at the bottom of their specious pretences. Let us lurk privily for the innocent — For harmless travellers, suppose, and others that, suspecting no danger, are not prepared for opposition; without cause — Though they have not provoked us, nor deserved this usage from us. This Solomon adds, to discover their malignity and baseness, and so to deter the young man from associating with them. Let us swallow them up as the grave — Which speedily covers and consumes dead bodies. We shall do our work quickly, easily, and without fear of discovery. We shall find all precious substance — As our danger is little, so our profit will be great. Cast in thy lot among us — Or, rather, Thou shalt cast thy lot among us, that is, Thou shalt have a share with us, and that equally, and by lot, although thou art but a novice, and we are veterans. Let us all have — Or, we will all have; one purse — One purse shall receive all our profits, and furnish us with all expenses. So we shall live with great facility, and true friendship.
If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:
Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:
We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:
Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:Proverbs 1:15-16. Walk not thou in the way with them — Avoid their courses, their conversation, and company. Refrain thy foot from their path — If thou shouldst have any thought, inclination, or temptation to hearken to their counsels, or to follow their examples, suppress it, and restrain thyself, as it were, by force and violence, as the word מנע, implies. For their feet run to evil — Without considering what they are doing, and shutting their eyes against the consequences, they make haste, not only to do evil to others, but also to bring evil upon themselves; to make haste to shed blood — Innocent blood, which is an inhuman practice, and a practice always followed by dreadful punishment, if not from man, yet certainly from God.
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.
Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.Proverbs 1:17. Surely in vain the net is spread, &c. — Even the silly birds will not suffer themselves to be taken if the net be spread in their sight; therefore, be at least as wise as they, and shun that which, by repeated experience, is always known to end in ruin. Thus understood, the sentence connects with the preceding verse, and contains an argument to enforce the caution given to the young man, to shun the misery and ruin in which his hearkening to the counsel of sinners would involve him. But the sentence is considered by many commentators as connected with the following verse, and is interpreted thus: The fowler who spreads his net in the sight of the bird, loses his labour; but these sinners are more foolish than the silly birds, for, though they are not ignorant of the mischief which these evil courses will bring upon themselves, yet they will not take warning. Thus Schultens paraphrases the words: “There is no bird so stupid as to fly into a net spread immediately before its eyes; but these abandoned sinners spread with their own hands, immediately before their own eyes, those nets by which they willingly involve themselves in certain death and ruin: for they who lay snares for the blood of the innocent, lay snares for themselves; and they who desire to swallow up the virtuous alive as the grave, they themselves will be swallowed up in that grave, and be plunged in destruction.”
And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.Proverbs 1:18-19. And they lay wait, &c. — Assure thyself, such men are working their own ruin, and, as it were, lying in wait for themselves, when they lie in wait to take away the lives of others; for, in the end, they shall not escape the hand of justice, but be overtaken and suffer, either by a special vengeance of God, or by human punishment, what they have deserved. Let the young and unexperienced, who are entering into the paths of the world, treasure up this in their memories; let them write it on the table of their hearts; and, whenever they are solicited by any of their companions to do what their own conscience tells them is evil, let them not hesitate to bid such persons adieu that moment, for they spread snares for their destruction. So are the ways — The actions and courses; of every one that is greedy of gain — That seeks gain by unrighteous and wicked practices; which taketh away, &c. — Which greediness, or, rather, which gain, taketh away the life of the owners thereof — Brings sudden and certain destruction upon those who had made themselves masters and possessors of it.
So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:Proverbs 1:20. Wisdom crieth, &c. — Having shown the counsels and invitations of folly and of wicked men, he now declares the voice of wisdom. The Hebrew word חכמות, rendered wisdom here, is in the plural number, and is literally wisdoms. It was probably intended to include various kinds, or, rather, all the kinds of Wisdom 1 st, The works of creation, (see on Psalm 19:1-6,) the light and law of nature, the dispensations of divine providence, the human understanding, are wisdom, Job 38:36. By these God speaks to the children of men, and reasons with them; the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, and wherever men go they may hear a voice behind them saying, This is the way; and the voice of conscience is the voice of God, and not always a small, still voice; but sometimes it cries aloud. 2d, Human laws, and the institutions of civil governments, when they do not contradict, but accord with, the divine law, and especially when they enjoin and encourage obedience to it, and punish the disobedient, are the voice of wisdom crying without; even in the opening of the gates, and in the places of concourse, where courts were kept, where the judges sat, and where the wisdom of the nation called the wicked to repent and reform. In a still higher degree, 3d, Divine revelation is wisdom. All its doctrines, its precepts, its promises, its threatenings, are the dictates of infinite wisdom; and where this is published and made known to any people in their own language, and more especially when it is declared, explained, and enforced by God’s ministers, whether in churches, chapels, private houses, or in the open air, there wisdom cries without, and utters her voice in the streets. 4th, Above all, Christ is wisdom, even the wisdom and word of God incarnate, for in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and he was, and is, the centre and source of all divine revelation; the person in whom all its doctrines, precepts, and promises are yea and amen. And he, in the days of his flesh, continually cried without, and uttered his voice in the streets. Of him, therefore, Solomon’s words may with great propriety be interpreted, whether he directly intended to prophesy of him and his personal ministry or not, especially considering that the original words are expressed in the future time, thus: Wisdom shall cry without: she shall utter her voice in the streets — Or, in open and broad ways or places, as רחבות, signifies. Wisdom, understood in any or all these senses, is said to cry, or speak with a loud voice, to intimate both God’s earnestness in inviting sinners to repentance, and their inexcusableness if they do not hear such loud cries: and she is said to cry without, or abroad, in opposition to the seducing discourses and efforts of sinners, who lay snares for persons in secret, who conceal themselves and their intentions, and address men in corners and privily, being afraid of and shunning the light, that they may the better deceive and seduce men to error and wickedness. On the contrary, wisdom lifteth up her voice in the streets; for she does not invite to murders, to violence, to injustice, to crimes, commonly fatal to those who commit them; but to God, and to the highest good. She discovers the ways which lead to extreme misery, in order that men may avoid them; she recalls men from their errors and sins, and threatens them with ruin if they despise her. Again, by saying that wisdom lifts up her voice in public places, Solomon prevents the poor excuse made by those who ask, Where shall we find this wisdom? He answers, She is everywhere: all that surrounds you preaches to you this wisdom. You need only open your eyes and ears, and you see and hear her. Do you behold evil, scandal, disorder? Avoid doing it. Do you hear good discourses; do you see good examples? Hear, imitate, and profit by them; “the wise learn much more from fools,” says a heathen, “than fools learn from the wise.” See Schultens and Calmet.
She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,Proverbs 1:21. She crieth in the chief place of concourse — Where there is most probability of success. The LXX. render it, επ’ ακρων τειχεων κηρυσσεται, she preacheth upon the tops of the walls, or houses, a translation which Houbigant approves. Schultens, not improperly, renders the Hebrew, בראשׁ המיות, at the head, or beginning, of the most frequented streets. In the opening of the gates — Where magistrates sit in judgment, and people are assembled. So she crieth, both to the wise and to the unwise, as Paul preached, Romans 1:14. In the city she uttereth her words — Not only in the gate, but in every part of the city. Or, in the cities, the singular number being put for the plural.
How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?Proverbs 1:22-23. How long, ye simple ones — Ye ignorant, careless, and credulous persons, who are so easily deceived by sin and sinners, and cheated and deluded by the world, and the god of it, and do not understand or consider your own interest; will ye love simplicity? — Being unwilling to part with it, or to be made wise. And the scorners — That scoff at all religion, and despise the word and faithful ministers of God; delight in their scorning — Take pleasure, and glory in deriding and reviling the truths and precepts of the gospel, and the people and ways of God. And fools — That is, the wicked, for the Scriptures, with the utmost propriety, denominate all such, fools; hate knowledge — Which surely none but fools would hate. They hate it, because it lays open and reproves their errors, sins, and corrupt ways, which they cannot bear to have detected and rebuked. Hence they hate the knowledge of the divine laws, and also all those who are acquainted with them, and set a value upon them. Turn you at my reproof — Upon this admonition here given you, turn from your evil ways unto me. Behold — If you do so; I will pour out my spirit unto you — The gifts and graces of my Spirit, which God, whose wisdom here speaks, has promised to those that turn to him, and sincerely and earnestly ask them, Luke 11:13; John 4:14; and John 7:39. I will make known my words unto you — By my Spirit I will enable you truly and savingly to understand my word, which is hid from others, 2 Corinthians 4:3. The Hebrew, תשׁבו לתוכחתי, may be rendered, ye shall turn at my instruction, or correction; behold, אביעה לכם רוחי, ebulliam vobis Spiritum meum, I will cause my Spirit to ebulliate, or spring up within you, or, “I will make my Spirit flow upon you as a fountain, which produces its water.” The special and saving grace of God shall never be denied to any that honestly seek it and submit to it.
Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;Proverbs 1:24-28. Because I have called, &c. — By my ministers, my judgments, the motions of my Spirit, and your own consciences; and ye refused — To obey my call; I have stretched out my hand — Offering mercy and grace to you, and earnestly inviting you to accept of them; and no man regarded — Few or none complied with my will, and accepted my offers. But ye have set at naught all my counsel — Have despised or made void my design of doing you good, and have disregarded my commands, counsels, and exhortations; I also will laugh at your calamity — As you have scoffed at me and my ways, so I will not pity and relieve you, when sickness, pain, and death assault you, as they soon will do; I will mock when your fear cometh — The misery which you do or should fear. When your fear cometh as desolation — As the sword, or some desolating judgment, which quickly overruns a whole country; and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind — Which instantly spreads itself from place to place with great and irresistible violence, sweeping all before it, and making terrible destruction; when distress, outwardly, and anguish, inwardly, cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me — When it is too late, and would gladly be beholden to me for that mercy, which they now reject and make light of; but I will not answer — Because when I called they would not answer me: all the answer then will be, Depart from me, I know you not. This has been the case of some, even in this life, as of Saul, whom God answered not by Urim, or by prophets; but ordinarily, while there is life there is room for prayer, and hope of being answered; and therefore this must chiefly refer to the inexorable justice of the last judgment. Then those that slighted God will seek him early, that is, earnestly, and without delay, but in vain; they shall not find him, because they did not seek him when he might be found, Isaiah 55:6. The rich man, in torment, begged in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue; and much more would he have been denied if he had begged to be released out of the infernal prison.
But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:Proverbs 1:29-32. For that they hated knowledge — Hated the light of divine truth, because it discovered to them the evil of their ways, John 3:20; or, hated the practical knowledge of God, and of their duty to him, and did not choose — That is, heartily approve of and love, the fear of the Lord — But chose to walk in the way of their own heart, and in the sight of their own eyes. They would none of my counsel — Refused to be guided by my counsels and precepts. Therefore shall they eat, &c. — Their wages shall be according to their work, and they shall reap as they sowed, Galatians 6:7-8. They shall receive punishment answerable to their sins; and be filled with their own devices — Shall be surfeited, as Dr. Waterland renders the word, with the fruits and effects of their wicked devices. The sin, which was sweet in their mouths, shall be bitterness in their bellies, and that destruction which they plotted against others shall fall upon themselves. For the turning away — From God, and his counsels and ways; (opposed to hearkening unto God, Proverbs 1:33;) of the simple — Of the weak and foolish, who are easily deceived and persuaded, shall slay them — The evil example of such shall mislead them, and prove their ruin. But the Hebrew משׁובת פתים, rather means, the quiet, repose, or ease, (as it is rendered in the margin,) that is, the apparent happiness of the simple; of the men who have neglected my instruction, and have been so void of reason as to deliver themselves up to follow the example and advice of the wicked; shall slay them — Shall be fatal to them; a sense which accords with, and is further explained by, the next clause. And the prosperity of fools shall destroy them — It shall be the occasion of their ruin, by making them presumptuous and secure, worldly and proud, and forgetful of God and of their own eternal happiness, whereby they will provoke God’s wrath, and bring upon themselves swift and certain destruction. Thus he answers the common objection against the fear of God, taken from the present impunity and prosperity of ungodly men.
They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.Proverbs 1:33. But whoso hearkeneth unto me — Unto the counsels and instructions of wisdom, and will be ruled thereby, shall dwell safely — Hebrew, בשׂח, in security, or confidence and peace, resting himself upon the consciousness of his own integrity, and upon the promises and favour of God; and shall be quiet from the fear of evil — From sinful and tormenting cares and fears.