Proverbs 23
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. PERILS OF COURTLY LIFE. (Vers. 1-3.) The Arab proverb says, "He who sups with the sultan burns his lips," and, "With kings one sits at the table for honour's sake, not for that of appetite." Horace says that kings are said to press dainties and wine upon those whom they desire to scrutinize and test, as to whether they be worthy of friendship. The caution is therefore one dictated by prudence. And in general it may be thus understood: Beware of going to places and frequenting society where watchfulness and prudence are likely to be overborne; and take care that the body, by being pampered, becomes not the master of the soul.

II. PERILS AND VANITY OF RICHES. (Vers. 4, 5.) This precept does not forbid industry and diligent toil for worldly gain; but only excessive carefulness in regard to it, over-valuation of its worth, and the burning lust of avarice, which implies want of confidence in God and of the sense of our true position in the world. The antidote is the exhortation of the Saviour to lay up treasures in heaven - to make certain of the incorruptible riches (Matthew 6:19, 20). "It is a wise course to be jealous of our gain, and more to fear than to desire abundance. It is no easy thing to carry a full cup with an even hand" (Leighton).

III. CORRUPTION FROM EVIL ASSOCIATIONS. (Vers. 6-8.) The man of the evil eye is the jealous or envious temper; his heart is dyed in its dark relent. There is no genuine hospitality here; it is like that of the Pharisees who invited our Lord. This bitter sauce of envious hatred will presently be found giving a disgusting flavour to his delicacies. Discontent will poison the best food and wine. "Mens minds will either feed on their own good or others' evil, and whoso wanteth the one will prey upon the other." Envy takes no holidays. The devil is represented as the envious man who sows tares among the wheat at night. Always it works subtly, in the dark, and to the prejudice of good things, such as is the wheat (Bacon). Instead of seeking the pleasures which bring disgust, let us secure a humble fare with Christian content (Philippians 4:11). - J.

It is probable that Solomon had in view those who did not often sit down to a "good dinner," and who, when they were invited to a feast by some one who was able to spread his table with delicacies, found themselves subjected to a strong temptation to unusual indulgence. Dr. Kitto tells us that, in the East, men would (and now will) eat an almost incredible amount of food when a rare opportunity offered itself. From the moral and the religious standpoint this matter of appetite demands our attention to -

I. A SPECIAL SPHERE OF OBEDIENCE AND SELF-CONTROL. Appetite is undoubtedly of God; and for few things, on the lower level, have we more occasion to thank our Creator than for the fact that he has made our food to be palatable, and caused us so to crave it that the partaking of it is a pleasure. Otherwise, the act of eating in order to keep ourselves alive and strong would be a daily weariness and penalty to us. But as it is, the necessary act of eating is a constant source of pleasure. But with the pleasure there enters inevitably a temptation. Appetite in man, strengthened as it is by man's imaginative faculty, and fostered as it is by the inventiveness which provides all kinds of inviting dainties, becomes one of those things which allure to excess, and thus to sin. To maintain the golden mean between asceticism on the one hand and epicurism or gluttony on the other hand is not found to be an easy task. Medical science inclines now to the view that a very large proportion of people take more to eat than is really for their good - especially in later life. Frequently, perhaps generally, this is rather a mistake than an offence. But the wise man will carefully consider how far he should go, and where he should draw the line. In doing this he will more especially consider two things.

1. How he should act at the table, so as not in any way to weaken his intelligence by what he eats or drinks.

2. How he should act so as to keep himself in health and strength for all useful activity in the days to come. By resolving to act with a firm self-command, with the higher and indeed the highest end in view, he may, in eating and drinking, do what he does "to the glory of God" (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).

II. THOSE TO WHOM THIS FORMS A SPECIALLY STRONG TEMPTATION. "If thou be a man given to appetite." Some men are so constituted that to have the greatest delicacies in the world before them would be no temptation to them; others have an appetency which they have the greatest difficulty in controlling, - this may arise either from heredity, or from their individual bodily organization, or (as is oftenest the case) from the habit of indulgence. There are also -

III. OCCASIONS WHEN THIS TEMPTATION IS SPECIALLY SEVERE. Such as that indicated in the text (see also 1 Corinthians 10:27). There are times when it would be churlish, and even unchristian, to refuse an invitation; but the presence of food or of stimulants upon the table may be a serious inducement to transgression. Then "put a knife to thy throat;" determinately stop at the point of strict moderation; resolutely and fearlessly refuse that of which you know well that you have no right to partake; distinctly and definitely decline the dish or the cup which you cannot take with a good conscience. For consider -

IV. THE FOLLY AND THE SIN OF INDULGENCE. "They are deceitful meat." Excess may bring some momentary enjoyment, but:

1. It is quickly followed by pain, disorder, feebleness, incapacity; even if not of a serious order, yet humiliating enough to a man who respects himself.

2. The habit of it leads with no uncertain step to physical and also to mental and moral degeneracy.

3. The pleasure afforded, like all the grosser gratifications, declines with indulgence.

4. All excess is sin. It is a misuse and profanation of that body which is given us as the organ of our own spirit, and should be regarded and treated as "the temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 6:19). - C.

Wealth is not, indeed, absolutely worthless; it has a distinct value of its own; but relatively to man's deeper necessities, and to his other, spiritual resources, it is to be held in slight esteem.

I. THE UNSUBSTANTIAL AS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE REAL. "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?" Money regarded as that which purchases food, clothing. shelter, books, etc., has a certain value not easily overstated. But mere wealth, as wealth, has but a fictitious and unreal virtue. A man may have it and have it not at the same time. A rich man may be, to all intents and purposes, a very poor one. He may own land the scenery upon which he is wholly unable to appreciate; soil which he has not the spirit or the wisdom to cultivate; houses which he neither inhabits nor causes to be inhabited; gardens whose paths no feet are treading, and whose beauty no eyes are admiring; books which he has not the taste or even the power to read, etc. In fact, his wealth is only a possibility and not a reality to him. Practically, he "sets his eyes upon that which is not." And it is quite a common thing for men to be wealthy far beyond their capacity of enjoyment; their riches do not serve them any real purpose; they remain unused, and are as if they were not at all (see Matthew 25:29; Luke 8:18). On the other hand, knowledge, wisdom, pure and holy love, a generous interest in the welfare of others, joy in God and in the friendship of the good, - these are real blessings. A man who has these must be and is enriched thereby.

II. THE TRANSIENT AS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE ABIDING. "Riches certainly make themselves wings," etc.

1. They are insecure. It is impossible to mention any "investment" that is absolutely secure. Even "real property" has been found to become depreciated and even positively worthless in the market. And of the more orginary sources of wealth, it is proverbial that they have all a limited, and many of them but a slight, security. A revolution in government, in trade, even in fashion or in taste, and the ample means are reduced to nothing, the millionaire is brought down to bankruptcy. A poor foundation, indeed, on which to build the structure of human happiness and well being is the possession of riches.

2. They must soon be laid down.

III. THE HUMAN AS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE DIVINE. To "labour to be rich" is of man. To work for wealth, and even to live for it is to be borne along on the current of human energy, is to breathe the atmosphere which human society is throwing round him. It is "our own wisdom." But it is not the wisdom of God. That says to us, "Labour not for the meat which perisheth;" "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth;" "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." The wisdom which is from above speaks to us of "forsaking all to follow Christ;" of parting with everything for one inestimable pearl; of agonizing to enter in at the strait gate. It tells us that the service of God, the friendship of Jesus Christ, the life of holy usefulness, the life testimony to a Divine Redeemer, the rest of soul which comes with spiritual rectitude, the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and which fadeth not away, - that all this is not only more precious than gold, it is absolutely priceless; it is the one thing for which it is worth our while to labour with all our strength, to sacrifice all that we have. - C.

The text treats of a hospitality which does not deserve the name, and of our duty when we are invited to accept a glint that is grudged. It thus opens the whole subject of giving and receiving. There are three graces here.

I. THE GRACE OF GIVING. This is one which is readily recognized as heaven born.

1. God commends it to us. He says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38); "Give to him that asketh thee" (Matthew 5:42); "He that giveth let him do it with liberality" (Revised Version); "given to hospitality" (Romans 12:8, 13).

2. It is the best reward of labour (Ephesians 4:28).

3. It is the most God-like of all graces. For God lives to give; he is ever giving forth to all his creation; he is feeding the multitudes and millions of his creatures beneath every sky.

4. It is the source of the purest and most elevating joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

II. THE GRACE OF RECEIVING. If it is right and good for some men to give cf their abundance, then the correlative act of receiving must also be right and good. There is, indeed, a virtue, a grace, in receiving cheerfully and cordially as well as gratefully, which may be almost, if not quite, as acceptable to God as that of generosity itself. There is truth in Miss Proctor's lines -

"I hold him great who for love's sake
Can give with generous, earnest will;
Yet he who takes for love's sweet sake,
I think I hold more generous still."


1. We may rightly refuse a gift, whether it he in the way of hospitality or not, which we are sure the giver cannot honestly afford; we do not wish to be enriched or entertained at the expense of his creditors.

2. We may properly decline a gift if we feel that it is offered us under a misconception; when we are imagined to be, or to believe, or to be working toward, that which is contrary to our spirit, our creed, our aim

3. We do well to decline the hospitality which does not come from the heart. The host is "as he thinketh in his heart." His fair or "sweet words" are no real part of himself; they only come from his lips; and if he is grudging us what he gives us, we may well wish ourselves far away from his table. No man who has any self-respect whatever will wish to take a crust from the man who counts what he gives his friends. Such food as that, however dainty, would choke us as we ate it. Nor is it begrudged hospitality alone that we should have the independence to refuse, but all else that is in the shape of gift; all money, all position, all friendship. Better to go entirely without than to have abundance at the cost of our own self-respect. Better to toil hard and wait long than to accept such offers as those. Better to turn to him "who giveth liberally and upbraideth not," and ask of him. - C.

I. THE FOOL. (Ver. 9.) There is "a time to keep silence." Truth may be desecrated in certain company by speech and honoured by silence. Pearls are not to be cast before swine. The silence of Christ was equally eloquent with his words. How much does the sentence convey, "He answered hint never a word"! Beyond a certain point explanations are worse than useless; the caviller only takes them as food for his folly and encouragement to his perversity.

II. THE OPPRESSOR. (Ver. 10.) The property of the widow and the fatherless is in the protection of the Almighty. He is the Eternal Vindicator of down-trodden right. In the bright evangelical picture of conduct it is the very opposite of violence and oppression to the weak that is held up for our emulation: "To visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction." And the negative side is, in one word, "to keep one's self unspotted from the world." - J.

I. THE TEMPER OF DOCILITY. (Ver. 12.) It is submission of the affections to a higher law. It is the resignation of the will to a higher leading. It is the opening of the understanding to Divine counsels. It is the realization, on the one hand, of dependence and need; on the other, of the light, the wisdom, and the goodness which ever meet that need.

II. THE NECESSITY OF DISCIPLINE FOR THE YOUNG. (Vers. 13, 14; see on Proverbs 3:27; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15.) Luther says, in his blunt way, "Beat your son, and the hangman will not beat him. There must be a beating once for all; if the father does it not, Master Hans will; there is no help for it. None ever escaped it; for it is God's judgment." Another sternly says, "Many parents deserve hell on their children's account, because they neglect to train them in piety."

III. JOY IN DUTIFUL CHILDREN. (Vers. 15, 16.) It is next to the joy in the personal sense of God's grace. None but a parent knows the heart of a parent - the "travailing in birth" over their souls, the joy of discovering symptoms of the new life. "May all my sons be Benaiahs, the Lord's building; then will they all be Abners, the father's light: all my daughters Bithiahs, the Lord's daughters; and then they will be all Abigails, their father's joy" (Swinnock). What must be the joy in heaven and in the bosom of God over his returning and dutiful children!

IV. ENVY OF THE WICKED REBUKED. (Vers. 17, 18.) When Socrates was asked what was most troublesome to good men, he replied, "The prosperity of the wicked." Here, then, is a great temptation. It needs an antidote in reason. There is no reason for this envy. They are not truly happy. We look at them from the outside; the dark discontent of the heart is concealed from us. To live in the communion of God, on the other hand, is a secret, a certain, a profound and all-compensating joy. The enjoyment of the wicked, such as it is, must have its end; while the child of God ends only to begin anew - sinks below the horizon to rise in the power of an endless life. We have thus three resources against sin: the avoidance of evil example; reverence before God; and constant recollection of the blessings of piety and virtue. - J.

Nothing is more foolish than to endeavour to found a proof of the righteousness of God's rule upon a single case of human experience. Yet is that often done. A good man seizes upon a piece of good fortune in a godly man's life, and exaggerates its importance; a bad man pounces upon a piece of bad fortune and draws unwarrantable conclusions therefrom. But are there not indications, if not proofs, to be had for the seeking, that all things are under the direction of a just and righteous Ruler? Yes; if we look far and wide enough. For as we look, we see that all men, good and bad, are rewarded according to their works.

I. All the laws which regulate the recompense of labour exist FOR THE UPRIGHTEOUS AS WELL AS FOR THE RIGHTEOUS. Take, e.g.:

1. The covetous man. Consider all that he foregoes in order to reap his harvest - all the physical, social, domestic, literary, philanthropic, religious advantages and delights that he sacrifices; consider all the immense and ceaseless pains and toils he goes through, and the risks he runs, to achieve his object. And he gets his prize; he has earned it. He will find it weighted with more burdens and freighted with fewer and smaller blessings than he thought, end it will not last him long. Do not envy him or begrudge him what he receives; he has paid a very heavy price for it. and is surely welcome to it.

2. The hypocrite. He is a very painstaking, hardworking man; he spares himself no trouble, no sacrifice; he makes long prayers, for which he has no heart; he abstains from food he would fain be eating; he parts with money which he longs to keep; he goes through the most wearisome experiences in order that he may win a little passing honour. He has his reward; he is very welcome to it. He has earned it; we will not envy him; there is nothing more for him to receive (Matthew 6:5).

3. The man of pleasure. He also pays a very high price for his momentary gratifications - the degradation of his powers, the disregard of his friends, the loss of his self-respect, the decline of his health, etc.; and all this for mere enjoyment which becomes less keen and vivid every clay. We will not envy him. Unholy pleasure is the costliest thing in the whole world.

II. All the laws which regulate the recompense of labour exist FOR THE RIGHTEOUS MAN AS WELL AS FOR THE UNRIGHTEOUS.

1. By returning unto God in penitential self-surrender we seek reconciliation, peace, joy, the full re-establishment of our filial relations with God; and we had what we seek. "Surely there is a reward" (Revised Version) for us, and "our expectation is not cut off."

2. By "walking in the fear of the Lord all the day long," consulting his will and endeavouring to follow him, we seek his Divine favour and a growing measure of likeness to our Lord. And we find what we seek.

3. By kind Christian helpfulness, by sympathy and succour freely and gladly given to those in need, we seek the blessedness of him that gives (Acts 20:35), the gratitude of true and loving hearts, the present smile and final benediction of the Son of man (Matthew 25:34-40). And we find and shall find it. Surely there is a reward for us; our hope shall not be cut off. No; let us "envy not the sinner;" let us make him welcome to all he has; let us try to elevate and enlarge his hope and his reward by changing the spirit of his mind. As for ourselves, let it be in our hearts to say, "God is faithful who hath called us to the fellowship of his Son;" let us anticipate the anthem of the angels, and sing already, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, O thou King of saints!" - C.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

I. PERILS OF DISSIPATION. (Vers. 20, 21.) Gluttony and wine bibbing. As the stomach is the centre of health, so it is also of disease. A wise man (Dr. Johnson) said that if one did not care for one's stomach, one was not likely to care for anything. It is equally true that he who cares only or chiefly for the flesh will make a wreck of everything else. Gluttony has been pointed to as "the source of all our infirmities, the fountain of all our diseases. As a lamp is choked by superabundance of oil, a fire extinguished by excess of fuel, so is the natural heat of the body destroyed by intemperate diet." By slow degrees, and more and more, the habits of self-indulgence undermine the strength of body, still more certainly the vigour of mind, until poverty comes like an armed man.


1. Early instruction to be constantly recalled. (Ver. 22.) Along with the affectionate association of the parents who gave it. That "men shall be disobedient to their own parents" (2 Timothy 3:2) is one of the marks of the great apostasy in Scripture. But "comely and pleasant to see, and worthy of honour from the beholder," is a child understanding the eye of his parent (Bishop Hall).

2. The truth of life to be held in supreme value. (Ver. 23.) Wisdom, discipline, insight, - these are various names of the one thing, different aspects of the pearl of great price. There are required in the truth seeker - attention, willingness for toil, judgment, the constant preference of reason to prejudice, teachableness, humility, self-control. Translated into Christian terms, this pearl of great price is "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." Bunyan beautifully describes the pilgrims answering the sneering reproach, "What will you buy?" They lifted their eyes above: "We will buy the truth!" And no sacrifice is too costly with this end in view, as the example of holy men and martyrs teaches - Moses, Paul, the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:24-26). To sell one's birthright for a mess of pottage (as Esau, Judas, and Demas) is indeed to "gain a loss."

3. Consideration of the joy we give to others by well doing. (Vers. 24, 25.) That heart must be unnatural or utterly depraved which feels not the force of this motive - to repay a father's anxious love, and the yearning tenderness of her that bare him. A selfishness may supply the motive even here, since parental gladness is the child's own joy as he walks in the ways of pleasantness and peace. - J.

We have often to insist upon -

I. THE FREEDOM OF THE TRUTH. In one sense, truth is essentially free. If firm and strong as the granite rock, it is also fluent as the water, elastic as the air. It belongs to no man, and cannot be patented or monopolized; it is the inheritance of mankind. We are all of us bound to communicate it freely, to "pass it on like bread at sacrament." This is emphatically the case with the truth of the gospel. "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat... without money and without price;" "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. But the lesson of the text is -

II. THE PRICE OF TRUTH. Truth has sometimes to be paid for; it has its own price, and we must be willing to buy it.

1. That truth for which we involuntarily pay some price. We go forth into the world with crude, immature notions, which we find, by painful experience, have to be corrected and perhaps changed.. Sometimes this necessary lesson is very costly to us. In this way we have to buy the truth as to:

(1) The checkered character of our human life. We have to learn, painfully enough, that it does not answer to our early dreams, but is sadly dashed with disappointment, with failure, with loss, with trouble; that it is many coloured, with a large admixture of the dull or even the dark.

(2) The imperfections of the good. That there is a large amount of profession without any reality at all; that some really good men allow themselves to be overtaken in serious fault; that all good men have some defects which tarnish the perfect brightness of their character; that human excellency is not so much an attainment as an earnest and admirable endeavour.

(3) The strength and weakness of our own character. We have to find, at the cost of much humiliation, where our strength ends and our weakness begins. Such truths as these we buy without bargain; we do not agree to the price that we pay. There is not the freedom of contract we usually have in any purchase we make. But we may part willingly, and even cheerfully, as we are called upon to do, with that which we lose, thankfully accepting the truth we acquire; and so doing we practically and wisely buy the truth."

2. The truth for which we voluntarily pay the price.

(1) A completer knowledge of God's Word. Our knowledge of the book of God is very varied; it may be very slight or it may be very deep and full. How deep or how full depends on whether or not we will pay the price of this excellent wisdom; the price is that of patient, reverent study.

(2) The surpassing blessedness of true consecration; the peace and the joy to be had in Christ and in his holy and happy service. We do not know as much as we might, and as we should, of this; but we do not pay the price of knowledge. That price is whole-hearted surrender of ourselves to our Saviour and to his service. So long as we "keep back part of the price" we cannot know this experience; but if we will "yield ourselves unto God" unreservedly, we shall know the truth in its fulness. We may make a special point of

(3) the beauty and excellency of Christian work; and the price of knowing this is the act of hearty and faithful labour, sustained by much earnest prayer for the inspiration and the blessing of God. We complete the thought of the text by considering -

III. THE ABSOLUTE PRICELESSNESS OF THE TRUTH. "Sell it not." Heavenly wisdom, once gained, is not to be parted with for any consideration whatever. Nothing on earth represents its value. To lose it is to sign away our inheritance. It is to be held at all costs whatever. - C.

I. IT IS DANGEROUS AND PERNICIOUS. (Vers. 27, 28.) It may be compared to a deep pit or to a narrow and deep well, out of which, if one falls therein, there is no easy escape. Or to a fell robber lying in wait for the unwary and the weak.

II. THE TRUE RESOURCE OF SAFETY. This is in the heart given up to God (ver. 26). If that heart be already polluted, he can wash it and make it clean. But he who yields his heart to the prince of this world becomes the enemy of God and of his eternal wisdom. - J.

I. THE IMMEDIATE EXTERNAL EFFECTS. (Vers. 29, 30.) Trouble, quarrels, violence, deformity. "No translation or paraphrase can do justice to the concise, abrupt, and energetic manner of the original." "Oh that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should with joy, revel, pleasure, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!"

II. THE ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCES. (Ver. 32.) It "bites like a serpent, and spits poison like a basilisk." This is the course of all sin; like Dead Sea fruits that tempt the taste, and turn to ashes on the lips. It is the "dangerous edge of things," against which men have to be on their guard. The line between use and abuse is so easily passed over. Corruptio optimi pessima.

III. THE EFFECT ESPECIALLY ON THE INTELLIGENCE. (Vers. 33-35.) The mind falls into bewilderment, and sees double or awry. The victim of intoxication is indeed "at sea," and like one sleeping on the very verge of danger and sudden death. In a spiritual sense he is drunk who does not perceive the great danger of his soul, but becomes more secure and stubborn under every chastisement (Jeremiah 5:8). It is the dreadful insensibility - depicted by yet. 35 which imitates the thought and speech of the drunkard - which is among the worst consequences of the vice. "The sight of a drunkard is a better sermon against that vice than the best that was ever preached upon the subject." "He who hath this sin, hath not himself; whosoever doth commit it, cloth not commit sin, but he himself is wholly sin" (Augustine). - J.

Proverbs 23:29-35 (with vers. 20, 21). -
A most striking picture is given as here of the manifold evils of this great curse. In a few strokes Solomon brings before us most, if not all, of its painful and pitiable consequences. Their name is legion, for they are indeed many.

I. THE CONTEMPT OF THE SOBER. (Ver. 20.) The very word "drunkard," or "wine bibber," is indicative of the deep disregard in which the victim of this vice is held by sober men.

II. POVERTY. (Ver. 21.) It is striking and surprising how soon men of large means are brought down to straitness of circumstance, and even poverty itself. It is what they spend on this craving, and what they lose by its ill effects upon them, that drag them down.

III. PHYSICAL DETERIORATION. (Ver. 29.) Dissipation soon tells on a man's personal appearance; he shows by his garments, and still more by his countenance, that he is mastered by that which he puts into his mouth. Vice means ugliness.

IV. CONTENTIOUSNESS. (Ver. 29.) We need all our powers in good balance to control ourselves so that we are not provoked to the hasty word and to the lasting quarrel. But the man who is excited by wine is in the worst possible condition for ruling his spirit and commanding his tongue. He is likely enough to speak the sentence which is followed by the blow, or, what is worse, the long continued feud.

V. IMPURITY. (Ver. 33.) The excitement of the intoxicating cup has had much to do with the saddest departures from the path of purity and honour; with the entrance upon the road of utter ruin.

VI. INFATUATION. (Vers. 34, 35.) The drunkard is seen by his friends to be sinking and falling; in his circumstances, his reputation, his health, his character, he is palpably perishing. Those who really love and pity him warn him with earnest remonstrance, with affectionate entreaty, but it is of no avail. He acts with as much infatuation as would a man who made a bed of the waves or the top of a mast. After he has been stricken and has suffered, he goes back to his cups, and is stricken and suffers again.

VII. THE AGONY OF REMORSE. "At the last it biteth like a serpent," etc. The sting of remorse which a man suffers when he awakes to a full sense of his folly is something pitiful to witness, and must be far more terrible to endure. The man suffers a penalty which is worse than bodily torture; it is the just punishment in his own soul for his folly and his sin. In one sense it is self-administered, for it is the stern rebuke of conscience; in another sense it is the solemn and strong condemnation of the Supreme.

VIII. BITTER BONDAGE. Worse, if possible, than the sting of remorse is the sense of helpless bondage in which he finds that he is held. "At the last" is a tyranny which the evil habit, the strong craving, exercises over the man's spirit. He knows and feels his humiliation and loss; he essays to escape; he strives, he writhes to become freed; but he tries in vain; he is "holden with the cords of his sins" (Proverbs 5:22); he is a poor, miserable captive, the slave of vice. Such are the consequences of departure from sobriety. It is the first step which is the most foolish and the most avoidable. When a certain stage is reached, restoration, though not impossible or impracticable, is very difficult. Let all men, as they love their soul, keep well within that boundary line that divides sobriety from intemperance. Moderation is good; abstinence is better, for it is safer, and it is kinder to others. "Look not" on the tempting cup; turn the eyes to purer and nobler pleasure. - C.

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