Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?VIII.
(n). Fourteenth Discourse:—The Praise of Wisdom (Proverbs 8)
(1) Doth not wisdom cry?—See above on Proverbs 1:20. In contrast with the secret allurements of Vice under the cover of night, is here represented the open invitation of Wisdom. (Comp. John 18:20 : “I spake openly to the world . . . and in secret have I said nothing.”)
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.(2) She standeth in the top of high places.—i.e., in the higher parts of the city, where her voice will best be heard.
By the way . . .—She goes everywhere where she may find the greatest concourse of people, “God not being willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). So the apostles made large centres of population such as Antioch, Ephesus, or Corinth, the headquarters of their missionary enterprise.
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.(4) O men—i.e., “great ones;” “sons of man” are those of inferior rank; comp. the Hebrew of Isaiah 2:9, where the same words are translated “great man,” and “mean man.” Comp. the generality of the invitation of Psalm 49:2.
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.(5) O ye simple.—See above on Proverbs 1:4 for an explanation of “simple,” as also of “wisdom” (‘ormah) there translated “subtilty.”
Ye fools.—(khesîlîm), see above on Proverbs 1:22.
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.(6) The opening of my lips shall be right things.—That is, I will open my mouth to speak them.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.(8) Froward.—That is, twisted, or crooked.
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.(9) They are all plain . . .—Because “the secret of the Lord is (only) with them that fear Him “(Psalm 25:14), and God reveals such things unto them by His Spirit (1Corinthians 2:10), while the “natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him” (ibid., Proverbs 8:14).
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.(11) Rubies.—See above on Proverbs 3:15.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.(12) Dwell with prudence.—(‘ormah), literally, inhabit it, have settled down and taken up my abode with it, am at home there.
Witty inventions.—Literally, well thought out plans (mezimmôth) translated “discretion” (Proverbs 1:4).
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.(13) The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.—Because there can never be any truce between the kingdoms of light and darkness (Matthew 6:24), so if we are the friend of one, we must be the enemy of the other.
Pride and arrogancy . . . do I hate.—See above on Proverbs 6:17.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.(14) Sound wisdom.—See above on Proverbs 2:7.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.(15) Princes.—Literally, men of weight, or, importance.
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.(16) All the judges of the earth.—By the aid of heavenly wisdom only can they give right and just judgments, and so fulfil the high office delegated to them by God Himself, from the possession of which they are themselves termed “gods” (Exodus 22:28; Psalm 82:1). For the same reason kings, as ruling by His authority, have the same title accorded to them (Psalm 45:6).
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.(17) I love them that love me.—Comp. John 14:21 : he that loveth me. . . . I will love him.
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.(18) Riches and honour are with me.—“If this passage is taken in a material sense, Psalm 112:3 and the promises in the Pentateuch of wealth as the reward of obedience might be compared with it. But doubtless the “true riches” (Luke 16:11) are here alluded to, the consciousness of possessing God’s honour and favour, called in Ephesians 3:8 the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.(19) My fruit. . . . my revenue.—i.e., the gain and profit which come from possessing me.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:(20) I lead in the way of righteousness.—Comp. Psalm 37:23; also a prayer for such guidance, Psalm 119:33; Psalm 143:8; and a promise of it Isaiah 30:21
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.(21) That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance.—The work which each one by my help shall do will be stored up for him in heaven (Matthew 6:20), it will be as “gold tried in the fire” (Revelation 3:18), which will abide the trial of “the day” (1Corinthians 3:13).
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.(22) The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way.—The Hebrew word translated” possessed” in this passage (qānah) seems originally to have signified to” set up” or “establish,” and is applied (1) to the “forming” of the heavens (Genesis 14:19) and the “begetting” of a son, (Deuteronomy 32:6); next it signifies (2) to “acquire” (Genesis 4:1), (3) to “purchase” (Genesis 25:10), and (4) to “own,” as in Isaiah 1:3. From the fact that “set up” and “brought forth” are used just after as synonyms to it, it is most likely that (1) is the proper meaning of the word here, and that the sense of the passage is that Wisdom was “formed” or “begotten” before the Creation, comp. Psalm 104:24. This agrees with the rendering of the most important Greek translation, the Septuagint (έκτισε). When in Christian times it was observed how well the description of Wisdom in Job and Proverbs harmonised with that of God the Son in the New Testament, such passages as this were universally applied to Him, and the present one was rightly interpreted as describing His eternal generation from the Father. Such was the view, for instance, of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. But when the Arian controversy arose, this phrase was seized upon by the opponents of our Lord’s Divinity, and claimed as teaching that He was, though the highest of created beings, still only a creature. The Catholics then changed their ground, some standing up for the rendering of Aquila, ἐκτήσατο (“acquired” or “possessed”), others applying the term έκτισε to Christ’s Incarnation (comp. “first-begotten among many brethren,” Romans 8:29), or to His being appointed to be the first principle or efficient cause of His creatures, the “beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). For references to the Fathers see Bishop Wordsworth’s note, and, for a like variation in the rendering of “first-begotten of every creature,” comp. Bishop Lightfoot’s note on Colossians 1:15.
In the beginning of his way.—That is, His way of acting, His activity in the Creation. But the preposition “in” does not occur in this passage, and from a comparison of Job 40:19, where behemoth (the hippopotamus) is termed the “beginning of the ways of God,” i.e., chief of His works, it is probable that this verse should be translated, “He brought me forth as the beginning of His way, as the earliest of His works from of old,” i.e., before the depths, and mountains, and hills, &c
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.(23) I was set up.—An unusual word; also applied to our Lord in Psalm 2:6 when “set” as King on Zion.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.(24) I was brought forth.—i.e., born. The same word is used in Psalm 51:5 (7), and Job 15:7.
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.(26) The earth.—i.e., the cultivated and enclosed part of it.
The fields.—The open country.
The highest part of the dust of the world. Literally, “the head of the dusts of the fertile earth” i.e. the heaps of the clods of arable land, or better perhaps, “the sum of the atoms of dust.” Some refer to Genesis 2:7, and interpret the words of man, as formed out of the dust.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:(27) When he set a compass upon the face of the depth—i.e., when He stretched the vault of heaven over it: the same expression is used in Job 22:14. It is also interpreted of the circle of the horizon.
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:(28) When he established the clouds above.—Literally, made firm; comp. Genesis 1:6.
When he strengthened the fountains of the deep.—More probably, when they flowed forth with strength.
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:(29) When he gave to the sea his decree . . .—Compare the same thoughts in Job 38:4; Job 38:10-11.
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;(30) As one brought up with him—i.e., his foster child; as Mordecai “brought up” Esther (Esther 2:7). But the word may also bear the sense of “artificer.” It probably occurs in this meaning in Jeremiah 52:15 (though translated “multitude,” in accordance with 2Kings 25:11), and in a slightly different form, Song of Solomon 7:1. This meaning is much more suitable, and harmonises with Psalm 104:24; Psalm 136:5, and Hebrews 1:2.
I was daily his delight.—The pronoun “his” does not occur in the Hebrew, which is, literally, I was delights, i.e., all joy, delight, as Psalm 109:4 : “I am prayer,” i.e., give myself wholly to it. The words express the joy with which Wisdom carried out the work of God.
Rejoicing always before him.—The same expression is used in 2Samuel 6:21 by David (there translated “play”), to describe his “leaping and dancing before the Lord.”
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.(31) Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth.—Rather, the fertile part. (Comp. Genesis 1:31, where the satisfaction of God with His creation is described; and Psalm 104:31.)
My delights were with the sons of men.—Or rather, in them. (Comp. Genesis 3:8, where it would seem that the “Lord God” had been in the habit of assuming human form, and admitting man to His presence.) Such appearances as this, and that to Abraham in Genesis 18, and to Joshua in Joshua 5, were supposed by the Fathers to have been anticipations of the Incarnation of God the Son, who is here described under the name of Wisdom.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.(32) Now therefore hearken—i.e., now that ye know how great my power is, and what love I have to you, in that I rejoice in you, and call you my sons. (Comp. 1John 3:1.)
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.(34) Watching daily at my gates.—A figure taken from an ardent scholar waiting till the doors of the school are opened, and he can begin his studies. Or it represents a courtier expecting the appearance of his sovereign, or a lover that of his mistress. (Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 8:2.)
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.(35) Whoso findeth me findeth life.—Comp. 1John 5:12; John 8:51; and above, Proverbs 3:18, where Wisdom is described as a “tree of life.”
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.(36) He that sinneth against me.—Rather, He that misses me does not find me. So in Greek, sin (ἁμαρτία) is a “missing” of the true object of life.