Proverbs 23
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
1. what] Rather, who. Be continually on your guard; let not the luxury that surrounds you betray you into forgetting in whose presence you are, for the favour of a ruler, an Eastern despot, is a dangerous thing.

And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
2. put a knife] i.e. Restrain forcibly thy appetite as with a knife held to thy throat. Others render, thou wilt put (R.V. marg.) and understand it to mean, that death may be the penalty of indulgence.

Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
3. Maurer quotes in illustration of these verses (1–3):

“Keep thee from the man that hath power to kill,

And thou shalt have no suspicion of the fear of death:

And if thou come unto him, commit no fault,

Lest he take away thy life:

Know surely that thou goest about in the midst of snares,

And walkest upon the battlements of a city.” Sir 9:13.

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
4. Labour not] Rather, Weary not thyself, R.V., as the same Heb. word is rendered “till his hand was weary,” 2 Samuel 23:10; “be weary,” Isaiah 40:30-31. Comp. John 6:27; 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

cease from thine own wisdom] from the wisdom, namely, of becoming rich. Prudentiae tuae pone modum, set a limit to thy prudence in acquiring wealth. Vulg.

We may, however, render cease of thine own wisdom, “by reason of thine own understanding,” R.V. marg. Let thine own sense teach thee better. τῇ δὲ σῇ ἐννοίᾳ ἀπόσχου, LXX.

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
5. Wilt thou set thine eyes] More literally and forcibly: Wilt thou cause thine eyes to fly (or, shall thine eyes fly) upon it (with eager glance, as a bird swoops upon its prey, Isaiah 11:14)? it is gone! It eludes even the swiftness of thy glance, and itself spreads its wings and flies away.

For riches (supplied from Proverbs 23:4) certainly make themselves wings, Like an eagle that flieth toward heaven.

Comp. for the sentiment πλούτου ἀδηλότης, 1 Timothy 6:17.

Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
6. evil] i.e. grudging. See Proverbs 22:9 note, and comp. Deuteronomy 15:9; Matthew 20:15.

dainty meats] Better, dainties.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
7. thinketh in his heart] Rather, reckoneth within himself, R.V. Not by his liberal words, “eat and drink,” but by the mercenary reckoning of his heart, which is calculating meantime and grudging the cost, is he to be estimated.

The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
8. The feast will be in every way a failure: the food that should nourish will nauseate thee, and thy attempts at pleasant conversation will be wasted.

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
10. See Proverbs 22:28.

enter not into] to do him wrong as the parallelism implies.

For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
11. their Redeemer] viz. God, who is “a Father of the fatherless,” Psalm 68:5. The Heb. word is Goel, and there is probably an allusion to the Goel among men, the nearest blood relation, whose duty it was not only to avenge the blood of his kinsman if he had been unjustly slain (Numbers 35:19), but generally to befriend him and espouse his cause (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:9; Ruth 3:12-13; Ruth 4:1; Ruth 4:4).

He] the word is emphatic; q.d. with Him and not with them thou wilt have to reckon.

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
13. if thou beatest him] Or, though, R.V. marg., meaning thou needest not to be afraid that corporal punishment will result in death. It is better, however, to understand death here as the consequence of the sin, into which, if allowed to go uncorrected, he will fall. See Proverbs 19:18 note. This view is borne out by the next verse here.

Proverbs 23:15-35. The style of composition changes from separate proverbs or wise maxims to a continuous address, not unlike chaps. 1–9 in character.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
17. Let not thine heart envy] Comp. Psalm 37:1.

be thou] Or, let it (thy heart) be. Some scholars repeat envy from the former clause: but let it envy with a nobler emulation (the Heb. word is frequently used in a good sense) the fear of the Lord.

For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
18. an end] See Proverbs 24:14; Proverbs 24:20; in both which places A.V. renders the same Heb. word, reward, as it does here in the margin, and as R.V. does in all three places in the text. It is perhaps better to retain in all these places the significant literal rendering, a future, a hereafter: “or, sequel, or, future, Heb. latter end,” R.V. marg. here. “You will scarcely fail,” writes Maurer, “to recognise here a sure hope of immortality; seeing that many unrighteous men prosper and righteous men are miserable, even to the end of their earthly lives.” Psalms 73. is a sermon on this text. The LXX. however, render ἔκγονα here, and the same Heb. word ἐγκαταλείμματα, Psalms 37. (36. in LXX.) 38.

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
20. riotous] Rather, gluttonous, as the same word is rendered in Proverbs 23:21 and Deuteronomy 21:20, A.V.

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
21. drowsiness] occasioned by excess of meat and drink. Comp. Luke 21:34.

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
23. buy … sell it not] Procure it at any cost: part with it on no consideration. Comp. Matthew 13:44-45.

also] Rather, even, or, yea. The things mentioned are not additions to, but elements of “the truth.” Comp. Malachi 4:4, R.V.

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
25. shall … shall] Rather, Let thy father … and let her &c. It is an exhortation to the son to verify by his own conduct the statement of the preceding verse. “Quod cum ita sit, da operam ut parentibus lætitiam crees,” Maurer; εὐφραινέσθω, χαιρέτω, LXX.; gaudeat, exsultet, Vulg.

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
26. observe] This is the corrected Heb. text to be read. The written text is, delight in, R.V. text.

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
27. Comp. Proverbs 22:14.

She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
28. as for a prey] Better, with A.V. marg., R.V. text, as a robber.

transgressors] Better, treacherous. Those whom she seduces become in their turn seducers and untrustworthy in similar relations.

The Evils of Drunkenness, Proverbs 23:29-35.

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
29. woe … sorrow] Lit. oh!… alas!

babbling] Rather, contentions, as the same Heb. word is rendered in Proverbs 18:19; the quarrelsomeness of the man in drink, leading to pugnacity, and so to “wounds without a cause.”

redness] Comp. Genesis 49:12, where however the word is used of the effect of wine on the eyes in a good sense. The LXX. have here τίνος πελιδνοὶ (bloodshot) οἱ ὀφθαλμοί; suffusio oculorum, Vulg. Some however render the word darkness here (R.V. marg.), and dark or dark-flashing (in contrast to the white teeth) in Genesis.

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
30. seek] There is a touch of irony (non caret sale, Maur.) in the use of a word in such a connection, which is used elsewhere of the diligent search for wisdom (Job 28:27), or other noble objects (Psalm 139:1).

mixt] i.e. with spices, Proverbs 9:2; Isaiah 5:22.

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
31. moveth itself aright] So R.V. marg.; but R.V. text, goeth down smoothly, as the same expression is rendered in Song of Solomon, Song of Solomon 7:9 [Hebrews 10], A.V. and R.V.

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
33. strange women] This rendering, which is retained in R.V. marg. (comp. ἀλλοτρίαν, LXX.; extraneas, Vulg.), is in keeping with the usage of the word in this Book, and with the undoubted connection between excess of wine and lust; but strange things, R.V. text, preserves the parallelism better: the eye of the drunkard is haunted by strange visions; his mouth utters perverse words.

Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
34. in the midst of the sea] as if it were a safe resting-place. A strong figure to denote the utter recklessness of danger which excess of drink induces.

upon the top of a mast] It only weakens the figure to supply here in the cradle, or the like; just as it does in the former clause to introduce on the deck of a ship. “The rig of an ancient ship was more simple and clumsy than that employed in modern times. Its great feature was one large mast, with one large square sail fastened to a yard of great length,” Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. Ship. The drunkard is as foolhardy as one who should lie down to sleep there.

It is difficult to understand how Dean Stanley finds here “a notice rare in any ancient writings, unique in the Hebrew Scriptures, of the well-known signs of sea-sickness” (Jewish Church, ii. 186).

They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
35. sick] Rather, hurt, R.V. or pained; ἐπόνεσα, LXX.; dolui, Vulg. Both the physical and moral insensibility of the drunkard to the consequences of his vice are perhaps pointed at.

awake] i.e. shake off completely the stupor from which he is beginning to rouse himself. His first thought on regaining consciousness is to repeat his fault.

it] the wine which though it has not been mentioned since Proverbs 23:31, is uppermost in his thoughts. The whole description is strikingly vivid.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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