Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.III.
(d) Fourth Discourse:—Exhortation to Various Virtues (Pro iii 1-18).
(2) Long life.—That is, a life worth living, fit to be called “life”; whereas” length of days” only implies extension of life, the reward promised for obedience to parents.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:(3) Mercy.—Or rather, love, shown by God to man (Exodus 34:7), by man to God (Jeremiah 2:2), and to his fellow man (Genesis 21:23); “truth,” or rather, faithfulness, especially in keeping promises, is similarly used both of God (Psalm 30:10) and man (Isaiah 59:14). The two are often joined, as in this place. They are the two special attributes by which God is known in His dealings with men (Exodus 34:6-7), and as such must be imitated by man (Matthew 5:48).
Bind them about thy neck . . .—These directions resemble the figurative orders with regard to the keeping of the Law in Exodus 13:9 and Deuteronomy 6:8, the literal interpretation of which led to the use of prayer-fillets and phylacteries among the Jews. Certain texts of Scripture were copied out, enclosed in a leather case, and tied at the time of prayer on the left arm and forehead.
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.(4) Favour and good understanding.—Particularly noted as distinguishing the childhood of our Lord (Luke 2:52).
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.(7) Fear the Lord, and depart from evil.—The same result is reached by Job also (Proverbs 28:28) in his inquiry after wisdom.
It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.(8) Navel.—As being the centre, and so the most important part of the body. (Comp. the epithet applied to Delphi, “navel of the earth.”)
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.(10) Presses.—Or vats, into which the newly pressed juice flowed: the “winefat” of Mark 12:1. (Comp. the promise to follow upon payment of tithes, Malachi 3:8-12.)
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:(11) Despise not the chastening of the Lord . . .—Comp. Job 5:17. A wonderful advance beyond the teaching of the Pentateuch: e.g., Deuteronomy 28, in which the Jews had to be treated as children, and punishment or reward follow as the immediate consequence of bad or good behaviour. Under such a discipline misfortune could only be regarded as a punishment, a sign of God’s displeasure; but now a further manifestation of His dealings with man is made. When He sends trouble upon His children, He is no longer to be regarded as an offended father punishing their faults, but as one who in love is correcting them. Even the New Testament quotes these words with approval, and without adding anything to their teaching (Hebrews 12:5-13). There it is shown how all God’s children must, without exception, submit to this discipline.
She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.(15) Rubies.—The meaning of the Hebrew penînîm is doubtful. Lamentations 4:7 shows the colour to have been red; “coral” is a probable rendering; that of “pearls” is unlikely. For the thought, comp. Job 28:15-19.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.(17) Peace.—The highest reward of the New Testament for the life of thankful dependence upon God (Philippians 4:6-7).
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.(18) A tree of life.—Evidently an allusion to Genesis 2, 3. No mention is made of it except in Proverbs (Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4) and Revelation (Proverbs 2:7; Proverbs 22:2).
The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.(e) Fifth Discourse:—Wisdom as Creator and Protector (Proverbs 3:19-26).
(19) The Lord by wisdom . . .—A passage anticipatory of the doctrine of John 1:3. (Comp. Psalm 104:24; Psalm 136:5.) A further advance towards the personality of the Creator is made in Proverbs 8:27, sqq.
By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.(20) Are broken up.—Or, burst forth: the word used in Genesis 7:11 of the breaking forth of the waters from the interior of the earth at the flood. (Comp. Job 38:8.)
Drop down the dew.—Of great importance in countries where for months together there is no rain
Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.(25) Desolation of the wicked.—That is, the storm which overwhelms them.
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.(f) Sixth Discourse:—Exhortation to Charity, Peace, Contentment (Proverbs 3:27-35).
(27) Them to whom it is due—i.e., the poor and needy. An exhortation to us to make to ourselves “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” (uncertain riches, Luke 16:9), remembering that we are not absolute owners, but “stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1Peter 4:10), so that when we “fail,” i.e., die, “they,” the friends we have made by our liberality, may welcome us to heaven.
For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.(32) His secret is with the righteous—i.e., He holds confidential intercourse with them. (Comp. Psalm 25:14, and the reward of love and obedience to Christ, that both Father and Son will “come” unto the believer, and “make their abode with him,” through the indwelling Spirit, John 14:23.)
The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.(33) He blesseth the habitation of the just.—The word rendered “habitation” often signifies “pasture,” “sheepfold,” and this is a relic of the time when the Israelites led a nomad life and had no fixed habitations; so the cry, “To your tents, O Israel!” (1Kings 12:16) was still in use long after the settlement in Canaan. By some there is thought to be a distinction intended between the well-built “house” of the wicked and the slightly constructed cottage of the humble just man, no better than a shepherd’s hut.
Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.(34) Surely he scorneth the scorners.—Rather, If, or, Although he scorns the scorners, yet to the lowly he giveth grace. Another form of the teaching of Proverbs 1:24-33. If man rejects God’s offers of mercy, they will in time be withdrawn from him. And so, as man deals with God, will God at last deal with him. (Comp. Leviticus 26:23-24; Psalm 18:25-26; Psalm 81:11-12; Romans 1:24-26.) The verse is quoted in James 4:6 and 1Peter 5:5.
The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.(35) Shame shall be the promotion ‘of fools.—That is, dull, stupid people, who despise God’s threatenings (Proverbs 1:32), are distinguished from others by what is a disgrace to them (Philippians 3:19), and so are noticeable only as examples to be shunned by others. (See Note on Proverbs 14:29.)