Proverbs 23
Clarke's Commentary
Sobriety in eating and drinking, especially at the tables of the great. Have no fellowship with the covetous. Remove not the ancient landmark. Children should receive due correction. Avoid the company of wine-bibbers. Obedience to parents. Avoid lewd connections. The effect of an unfeeling conscience.

When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler - When invited to the table of thy betters, eat moderately. Do not appear as if half starved at home. Eat not of delicacies to which thou art not accustomed; they are deceitful meat; they please, but they do not profit. They are pleasant to the sight, the taste, and the smell; but they are injurious to health. These are prudential cautions; and should be carefully observed by all who would avoid the conduct of a clown, and desire to pass for a well-bred man.

And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Put a knife to thy throat - Repress thy appetite, and do not be incontinent of speech. Eat, drink, and converse, under a check.

Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Labour not to be rich - Let not this be thy object. Labour to provide things honest in the sight of God and all men; and if thou get wealth, do not forget the poor, else God's curse will be a canker even in thy gold.

Cease from thine own wisdom - בינתך binathecha, thy own understanding or prudence. The world says, "Get rich if thou canst, and how thou canst." Rem, si possis, recte; si non, quocunque modo rem; "Get a fortune honestly if thou canst; but if not, get one at all events." This is the devil's counsel, and well it is followed; but Solomon says, and God says, "Cease from thine own counsel." Thou hast an immortal soul, and shalt shortly appear before God. Lay up treasure for heaven, and be rich towards God.

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
Of him that hath an evil eye - Never eat with a covetous or stingy man; if he entertains you at his own expense, he grudges every morsel you put in your mouth. This is well marked by the wise man in the next verse: "Eat and drink, saith he: but his heart is not with thee."

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
The morsel which thou hast eaten - On reflection thou wilt even blame thyself for having accepted his invitation.

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:
Remove not the old landmark - See Proverbs 22:28 (note).

Enter not into the fields of the fatherless - Take nothing that belongs to an orphan. The heaviest curse of God will fall upon them that do so.

For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
For their redeemer is mighty - גאלם goalam, their kinsman. The word means the person who has a right, being next in blood, to redeem a field or estate, alienated from the family, to avenge the blood of a murdered relative, by slaying the murderer; and to take to wife a brother's widow, who had died childless, in order to preserve the family. The strength here mentioned refers to the justness of his claim, the extent of his influence, and the powerful abettors of such a cause. But in reference to the orphans here mentioned, they having no kinsman, God takes up, vindicates, and avenges their cause.

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.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod - A proper correction of children was a favourite point of discipline with Solomon. We have already seen how forcibly he speaks on this subject. See the notes on the places referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:5 (note).

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.
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
Surely there is an end - יש אחרית yesh acharith, there is another life; "and thy expectation" of the enjoyment of a blessed immortality "shall not be cut off." The Old MS. Bible reads thus: For thou schalt hab hop in the last: and thin abiiding schal not ben taken awei. "For the ende is not yet come; and thy patient abydinge shal not be in vayne." - Coverdale.

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Be not among winebibbers - There is much of this chapter spent in giving directions concerning eating, drinking, and entertainments in general.

1. he pupil is directed relative to the manner in which he is to conduct himself in his visits to the tables of the rich and great.

2. Relative to the covetous and his intercourse with them. And

3. To public entertainnlents, where there were generally riot and debauch.

The reasons, says Calmet, which induced the wise man to give these directions were,

1. The useless expense.

2. The loss of time.

3. The danger from bad company. And

4. The danger of contracting irregular habits, and of being induced to lead a voluptuous and effeminate life.

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Despise not thy mother when she is old - A very necessary caution, as very old women are generally helpless, useless, and burdensome: yet these circumstances do not at all lessen the child's duty. And this duty is strengthened by the Divine command here given.

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Buy the truth - Acquire the knowledge of God at all events; and in order to do this, too much pains, industry, and labor cannot be expended.

And sell it not - When once acquired, let no consideration deprive thee of it. Cleave to and guard it, even at the risk of thy life. Coverdale translates: "Labour for to get the treuth; sell not awaye wissdome."

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.
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
My son, give me thine heart - This is the speech of God to every human soul; give thy affections to God, so as to love him with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And let thine eyes observe my ways - Be obedient to me in all things. My son, thou believest that I Am, and that I Am the Fountain of all good. Give me thy heart; it is I alone who can make thee happy. Observe my ways - follow me; do what is right in my sight. This exhortation contains three words: Believe, Love, Obey! This is the sum of God's counsels to every child of man.

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
For a whore is a deep ditch - See on Proverbs 22:14 (note).

She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
Increaseth the transgressors among men - More iniquity springs from this one source of evil, than from any other cause in the whole system of sin. Women and strong drink cause many millions to transgress.

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
Who hath wo? - I believe Solomon refers here to the natural effects of drunkenness. And perhaps אוי oi, which we translate wo, and אבוי aboi, which we translate sorrow, are mere natural sounds or vociferations that take place among drunken men, either from illness, or the nauseating effects of too much liquor. As to contentions among such, babblings on a variety of subjects, which they neither understand nor are fit to discuss; wounds, got by falling out about nothing; and red eyes, bloodshotten with excess of drink, or black and blue eyes with fighting; - these are such common and general effects of these compotations, as naturally to follow from them. So that they who tarry long at wine, and use mixed wine to make it more inebriating, (see Proverbs 9:2), are the very persons who are most distinguished by the circumstances enumerated above. I need scarcely add, that by wine and mixed wine all inebriating liquors are to be understood.

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
Look not thou upon the wine - Let neither the color, the odour, the sparkling, etc., of the wine, when poured out, induce thee to drink of it. However good and pure it may be, it will to thee be a snare, because thou art addicted to it, and hast no self-command.

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.
Thine eyes shall behold strange women - Evil concupiscence is inseparable from drunkenness. Mr. Herbert shows these effects well: -

He that is drunken may his mother kill,Big with his sister: he hath lost the reins;

Is outlawed by himself. All kinds of illDid, with his liquor, slide into his veins.

The drunkard forfeits man; and doth divestAll worldly right, save what he hath by beast.

Herbert's Poems - The Church Porch.

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.
Lieth down in the midst of the sea - He is utterly regardless of life; which is expressed very forcibly by one in a state of intoxication ascending the shrouds, clasping the mast-head, and there falling asleep; whence, in a few moments, he must either fall down upon the deck and be dashed to pieces, or fall into the sea and be drowned. Reader, if thou be a man given to this appetite, put a knife to thy throat.

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.
They have stricken me - Though beat and abused, full of pain, and exhibiting a frightful figure; yet so drunk was he, as to be insensible who had struck him: still, after all this abuse and disgrace, he purposes to embrace the next opportunity of repeating his excesses! Sin makes a man contemptible in life, miserable in death, and wretched to all eternity. Is it not strange, then, that men should Love it?

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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