Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
3. Exhibition of the blessed consequences of obedience and of striving after wisdom
1 My son, if thou receivest my words
and keepest my commandments by thee,
2 so that thou inclinest thine ear to wisdom,
and turnest thine heart to understanding;
3 yea, if thou callest after knowledge,
to understanding liftest up thy voice;
4 if thou seekest her as silver,
and searchest for her as for hidden treasure;
5 then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah,
and find knowledge of God;—
6 for Jehovah giveth wisdom,
from his mouth (cometh) knowledge and understanding:
7 and so he layeth up for the righteous sound wisdom,
a shield (is he) for them that walk uprightly,
8 to protect the paths of justice,
and guard the way of his saints;—
9 then shalt thou understand righteousness and justice
and uprightness,—every good way.
10 If wisdom entereth into thine heart,
and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul,
11 then will discretion watch over thee,
understanding will keep thee,
12 to deliver thee from an evil way,
from the man that uttereth frowardness,
13 (from those) who forsake straight paths,
to walk in ways of darkness;
14 who rejoice to do evil,
who delight in deceitful wickedness;
15 whose paths are crooked,
and they froward in their ways;—
16 to deliver thee from the strange woman,
from the stranger who maketh her words smooth,
17 who hath forsaken the companion of her youth
and forgotten the covenant of her God.
18 For her house sinketh down to death
and to the dead (lead) her paths;
19 her visitors all return not again,
and lay not hold upon paths of life.
20 (This is) that thou mayest walk in a good way
and keep the paths of the righteous!
21 For the upright shall inhabit the land,
and the just shall remain in it:
22 but the wicked are cut off from the land,
and the faithless are driven out of it.
GRAMMATICAL AND CRITICAL
[Proverbs 2:1 sq. DE WETTE and NOYES conceive of the first two verses as not conditional, but as containing the expression of a direct and independent wish: Oh that thou wouldest receive, etc. The LXX, Vulg., LUTHER, etc., make the first verse conditional, but find the apodosis in Proverbs 2:2. MUENSCHER finds in Proverbs 2:2 an independent condition, and not a mere sequence to the preceding; so HOLDEN, with a slightly different combination of the parts of Proverbs 2:2: If by inclining thine ear…thou wilt incline thine heart, etc. M., H., STUART and others find the apodosis of the series of conditional clauses in Proverbs 2:5, agreeing in this with the E. V. These diverse views do not essentially modify the general import of the passage. ZÖCKLER it will be observed finds the apodosis in Proverbs 2:5 and 9, Proverbs 2:6–8 being parenthetical.—A.].
Proverbs 2:7. For the construction with the Stat, constr. compare Isa. 33:15. [Compare GREEN. § § 254, 9, b and 274, 2.]
Proverbs 2:8. The infinitive לִנְצֹר is followed by the imperf. יִשְׁמֹר as above in Proverbs 2:2. [For explanations of the nature and use of this infinitive construction see EWALD, 237, c. The literal rendering would be “for the guarding, protection, keeping.” Whose keeping the paths, etc.? HOLDEN understands it of the righteous: “who walk uprightly by keeping the paths, etc.” Most commentators understand it of God, who is “a shield for the protection, i.e., to protect, etc.” ZÖCKLER in translation conforms the following Kal pret. to this infin., while most others reverse the process.—A.]
Proverbs 2:10. [The כִּי with which the verse commences is differently understood, as conditional or temporal, or as causal. Thus E. V., N., M.,“when wisdom, etc.;” S., K., VAN ESS, “for wisdom, etc.;” De W., Z., “if wisdom, etc.” Between the first and last there is no essential difference, and this view of the author is probably entitled to the preference.—A.].
The feminine דַעַת, “knowledge” (which is used here, as in 1:7, as synonymous with חָכְמָה “wisdom”) has connected with it the masculine verbal form יִנְעָם, because this expression “it is lovely” is treated as impersonal, or neuter, and דַּעַת is connected with it as an accusative of object [acc. synecd., “there is pleasure to thy soul in respect to knowledge”]. Comp. the similar connection of דַּעַת with the masculine verbal form נָקַל in Proverbs 14:6;—also Gen. 49:15, 2 Sam. 11:25.
“Proverbs 2:11. [For the verbal form תִּנְצְרֶכָּה, with נ unassimilated, “for the sake of emphasis or euphony,” see BÖTT., § 1100, 3.—A.].
Proverbs 2:12. רַע is a substantive subordinate to the stat. constr. דֶּרֶךְ as in 8:13, or as in תַּהְפֻּכוֹת רַע Proverbs 2:14, in אַנְשֵׁי־רַע, Proverbs 28:5, etc.
Proverbs 2:18. בַּיִת ,שָׁחָה־בֵּיתָהּ which, is everywhere else masculine is here exceptionally treated as feminine; for שָׁחָה is certainly to be regarded as 3d sing. fem. from שׁוּחַ, and not with UMBREIT and ELSTER as a 3d sing, masc., for only שׁוּחַ and not שָׁחָה (to stoop, to bow) has the signification here required, viz., that of sinking (Lat. sidere). The LXX read שַׁתָּה from שׁתָתַ, and therefore translate: έ̓θετο γὰρ παρὰ τῷ θανάτῳ τὸν οἶκον αὑτῆς [she set her house near to death] in which construction however שָׁתַת sidere, is incorrectly taken as transitive. [Both BÖTTCHER and FUERST recognize the possibility of deriving this form as a 3d sing. fem., either from שׁוּחַ or from שָׁחַח, which have a similar intrans. meaning. To שָׁתַת neither RÖDIGER (GESEN. Thes.) nor ROBINSON’S Gesenius, nor FUERST gives any other than a transitive meaning.—A.]. Perhaps BÖTTCHER (De Inferis, §§ 201, 292; Neue Aehrenl., p. 1) has hit upon the true explanation, when he in like manner makes the wanton woman the subject, but treats בֵּיתָהּ not as object but as supplementary to the verb, and therefore translates “for she sinks to death, with her house, and to the dead with her paths. [RÖD. (Thesaur. p. 1377, a) expresses his agreement with B., but states his view differently: “de ipsa muliere cogitavit scriptor initio hemistichii prioris, tum vero in fine ad complendam sententiam loco mulieris subjectum fecit בֵּיתָהּ." FUERST also pronounces it unnecessary to think of any other subject than בֵּיתָהּ.—A.]. Compare however HITZIG’S comment on this passage, who remarks in defence of the common reading that בַּיִת is here exceptionally treated as feminine, because not so much the house itself is intended as “the conduct and transactions in it” (comp. 7:27; Isa. 5:14).
Proverbs 2:22. “With יִקּרֵתוּ, the expression which is employed also in Ps. 37:9, to convey the idea of destruction, there corresponds in the 2d clause יִסְּחוּ, which as derived from נסח (Deut. 28:63; Ps. 52:5; Prov. 15:25) would require to be taken as Imperf. Kal and accordingly to be translated actively: “they drive them out,” i.e., they are driven out (so e.g., UMBREIT, ELSTER, and so essentially BERTHEAU also). But inasmuch as the parallelism requires a passive verb as predicate for בּוֹגְדּים (i.e., the faithless, those who have proved recreant to the theocratic covenant with Jehovah, comp. 11:3, 6; 13:2; 22:12) which is employed unmistakably as synonymous with רְשָעִיִם,—and inasmuch as no verb םָחַח exists as a basis for the assumed Niphal form יִסַּחוּ, we must probably read with HITZIG, יֻסְּחוּ, as an Imperf. Hophal from נָסַח and compare יֻקַח as an Imperf. Hophal of לָקֵח (used with the Pual of the same verb).
1. Proverbs 2:1–9. This first smaller division of the chapter forms a connected proposition, whose hypothetical protasis includes Proverbs 2:1–4, while within the double apodosis (Proverbs 2:5 and 9) the confirmatory parenthesis, Proverbs 2:6–8 is introduced. The assertion of EWALD and BERTHEAU [with whom KAMPHAUSEN and STUART agree] that the entire chap. forms only one grand proposition, rests on the false assumption that the “if” כִּי in Proverbs 2:10 is to be regarded as a causal particle, and should be translated by “for,”—to which idea the relation of Proverbs 2:10 both to Proverbs 2:9 and to Proverbs 2:11 is opposed. Comp. UMBREIT and HITZIG on this passage. [On the other hand, the LXX, Vulg., LUTHER, etc., complete the first proposition, protasis and apodosis, within the first two verses; the Vulgate e.g. renders “si susceperis … inclina cor tuum, etc.,” and LUTHER “willst du, meine Rede annehmen … So lass dein Ohr u. s. w.” The E. V. ends the proposition with Proverbs 2:5 as the apodosis.—A.].—If thou receivest my words. To the idea of “receiving” that of “keeping” stands related as the more emphatic, just as “commandments” (מִצוֹת) is a stronger expression than “words” (אֲמָרִים). In the three following verses also we find this same increased emphasis or intensifying of the expression in the second clause as compared with the first,—especially in Proverbs 2:4, the substance of which as a whole presents itself before us as a superlative, or final culmination of the gradation which exists in the whole series of antecedent clauses, in so far as this verse sets forth the most diligent and intent seeking after wisdom.
Proverbs 2:3. Yea, if thou callest after knowledge, i.e., if thou not only inclinest thine ear to her when she calls thee, but also on thine own part callest after her, summonest her to teach thee, goest to meet her with eager questioning. This relation of climax to the preceding is indicated by the כִּי אִם, imo, yea, rather; comp. Hos. 9:12; Is.28:28; Job 39:14 [comp. EWALD, §343, b]. The Targum translates the passage “If thou callest understanding thy mother,” and must therefore have read כִּי אֵם. But the Masoretic pointing is to be preferred for lexical reasons (instead of אֵם, according to the analogy of Job 16:14 we should have expected אִמּי, “my mother”), and because of the parallelism between Proverbs 2:1 and 3. Still “knowledge” (בּינָה), as well as “understanding,” which is named as its counterpart in the parallel clause, appears evidently as personified.—-Proverbs 2:4. If thou seekest her, etc.—- “The figure of diligent seeking is taken from the tireless exertion employed in mining, which has before been described in the Book of Job, chap. 28., with most artistic vivacity in its widest extent. The מַטֵמֹנִים are surely the treasures of metal concealed in the earth (comp. Jerem. 41:8; Jos. 7:21.),” UMBREIT. [For illustrations of the peculiar significance of this comparison to the mind of Orientals, see THOMSON’S Land and Book, I., 197.—A.].
Proverbs 2:5. Then wilt thou understand the fear of Jehovah.— “Understand” is here equivalent to taking something to one’s self as a spiritual possession, like the “finding” in the second clause, or like δέχεσθαι [“receiveth”] in 1 Cor. 2:14. The “fear of Jehovah” (comp. 1:7) is here clearly presented as the highest good and most valuable possession of man (comp. Is. 33:6), evidently because of its imperishable nature (Ps. 19:9), and its power to deliver in trouble (Prov. 14:26; Ps. 115:11; Ecclesiast. 1:11 sq.; 2:7 sq.).—And find knowledge of God.—Knowledge of God is here put not merely as a parallel idea to the “fear of Jehovah” (as in Proverbs 9:10; Is. 11:2), but it expresses a fruit and result of the fear of Jehovah, as the substance of the following causal proposition in Proverbs 2:6–8 indicates. Comp. the dogmatical and ethical comments. [Is the substitution of Elohim for Jehovah (in clause 6) a mere rhetorical or poetical variation? WORDSWORTH calls attention to the fact that this is one of five instances in the Book of Proverbs in which God is designated as Elohim, the appellation Jehovah occurring nearly ninety times. The almost singular exception seems then to be intentional, and the meaning will be, the knowledge of “Elohim—as distinguished from the knowledge of man which is of little worth.” In explaining the all but universal use of Jehovah as the name of God in our book, while in Eccles. it never occurs, WORDSWORTH says, “when Solomon wrote the Book of Proverbs he was in a state of favor and grace with Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel; he was obedient to the law of Jehovah; and the special design of the Book of Proverbs is to enforce obedience to that law,” etc. (see Introd. to Eccles., p. 78)—A.].
Proverbs 2:6–8. The Divine origin of wisdom must make it the main object of human search and effort, and all the more since its possession ensures to the pious at the same time protection and safety. —And so he layeth up for the righteous sound wisdom.—So we must translate in accordance with the K’thibh וְצָפֵן which is confirmed by the LXX and Pesch. as the oldest reading. The K°ri יִצְפּן, without the copulative, would connect the proposition of Proverbs 2:7 with Proverbs 2:6 as essentially synonymous with it, to which construction the meaning is however opposed. [The majority of commentators prefer the K’ri, making this verse a continuation and not a consequence of the preceding. KAMPHAUSEN agrees with our author in what seems to us the more forcible construction, which has the advantage also of resting on the written text; comp. BÖTTCHER, § 929, b.—A.]. צָפַן to protect, to preserve, after the manner of a treasure or jewel, over which one watches that it may not be stolen; comp. above, Proverbs 2:1, and also 7:1; 10:14.—In regard to תּוּשׁיָּה [rendered “sound wisdom” by the E. V. here and in 3:21; 8:14; 18:1] properly prosperity and wisdom united, see Introd., § 2, note 3. The word is probably related to יֵשׁ, and denotes first the essential or actual (so e.g., Job 5:12), and then furthermore help, deliverance (Job 6:13), or wisdom, reflection, as the foundation of all safety; so here and 3:21; 8:14; 18:1; Job 11:6 sq.; Is. 28: 29. Comp. UMBREIT and HIRZEL on Job 5:12. HITZIG (on 3:21) derives the word from the root שָׁוָה, which he says is transposed into וָשָׁה (? ?), and therefore defends as the primary signification of the expression “an even, smooth path,” or subjectively “evenness,” i.e., of thought, and so “considerateness;” he compares with this מִישׁוֹר which signifies “plain” as well as “righteousness.”—A shield for them that walk blamelessly.—The substantive מָגֵן (shield) is most correctly regarded as an appositive to the subject, “Jehovah:” for also in Ps. 33:20; 84:11; 89:18, Jehovah is in like manner called a shield to His saints. In opposition to the accusative interpretation of מָגֵן [which is adopted by STUART among others], as object of the verb צָפַן (he secureth, or ensureth) we adduce, on the one hand, the meaning of this verb, and on the other the fact that we should expect rather מָגֵן הִיא (as an appositive to תּוּשִיָּה). The old translations, as the LXX and Vulgate, furthermore read the word as a participle (מְמַגֵּן or מֵגֵן); they translate it by a verb (LXX: ὑπερασπιεῖ τὴν πορείαν αὐτῶν).—הֹלְכֵי תֹם, literally the “walkers of innocence,” are the same as “those that walk uprightly,” Prov. 10:9 (the הוֹלְכִים בַּתֹּם) or Ps. 84:11 (the הוֹלְכִים בְּתָמִים).—To protect the paths of justice, etc.—The 8th verse gives more specifically the way in which God manifests Himself to the pious as a shield, and the ensurer of their safety. “Paths of justice” are here, by the substitution of the abstract for the concrete expression, paths of the just, and therefore essentially synonymous with the “way of the pious” in the second clause. Comp. Proverbs 17:23.
Proverbs 2:9 carries out the import of the parallel Proverbs 2:5 as the particle אָז repeated from the preceding verse shows.—Every good path.—This expression (כָּל־מַעְגַּל־טוב) includes the three conceptions given above, justice, righteousness and integrity, and thus sums up the whole enumeration. Therefore, it is attached without a copula; comp. Ps. 8. Proverbs 2:9 b.
2. Proverbs 2:10–19 form a period which in structure is quite like Proverbs 2:1–9; only that the hypothetical protasis is here considerably shorter than in the preceding period, where the conditions of attaining wisdom are more fully given, and with an emphatic climax of the thought. This is connected with the fact that in the former period the Divine origin of wisdom, here, on the contrary, its practical utility for the moral life and conduct of man forms the chief object of delineation. There wisdom is presented predominantly as the foundation and condition of religious and moral rectitude in general,—here specially as a power for the consecration of feeling and conduct, or as a means of preservation against destructive lusts and passions.—If wisdom entereth into thine heart.—This “coming into the heart” must be the beginning of all attaining to wisdom; then, however, she who has, as it were, been received as a guest into the heart must become really lovely and dear to the soul. There is, therefore, a climax of the thought, as above in Proverbs 2:1–4. The heart is here, as always, named as the centre and organic basis of the entire life of the soul, as the seat of desire, and the starting point for all personal self-determination. The soul, on the contrary, appears as the aggregate and sum total of all the impulses and efforts of the inner man. The former designates the living centre, the latter the totality of the personal life of man. Comp. BECK, Bibl. Seelenlehre, p. 65; DELITZSCH, Bibl. Psychol., pp. 248 sq.; VON RUDLOFF, Lehre vom Menschen, pp. 59 sq. What the last mentioned author, pp. 64 sq., remarks in criticism upon DELITZSCH’S too intellectual conception of the idea of the heart as the “birthplace of the thoughts,”—that every where in the Scriptures it appears to belong more to the life of desire and feeling, than to the intellectual activity of the soul,—this view finds foundation and support especially in the passage now before us, as well as in most of the passages which mention heart and soul together (e.g., Prov. 24:12; Ps. 13:2; Jerem. 4:19; Deut. 6:5; Matth. 22:37; Acts 4:32). Comp. also HITZIG on this passage.—And knowledge is pleasant to thy soul.—[For a peculiarity of grammatical structure in the original, see critical notes.]
Proverbs 2:11. Then will reflection watch over thee.—שָׁמַר עַל as in 6:22. שָׁמַר (construed, however, with a mere accusative of the object) and נָצַּר have already been found connected in Proverbs 2:8 above, and occur again in Proverbs 4:6. מְזִמָּה here reflection, considerateness (LXX: βουλὴ καλή), properly “wisdom, so far forth as its direction is outward, and it presents itself in relation to the uncertain, testing it, and to danger, averting it” (HITZIG).
Proverbs 2:12. To deliver thee from an evil way— properly “from the way of evil.” —From the man that uttereth perverseness.—תַּהְפֻּכוֹת perverseness, a strong abstract form [found almost exclusively in Proverbs—FUERST] which expresses the exact opposite of מֵישָׁרִים (“uprightness,” Proverbs 1:3; 2:9),—it is therefore deceitfulness, subtlety, maliciousness. Comp. the expressions, “mouth of perverseness,” Proverbs 8:13; 10:32; “tongue of perverseness,” 10:31; “man of perverseness,” 16:28; also passages like 6:14; 16:30; 23:33.
Proverbs 2:13–15. Closer description of the wayward or perversely speaking man, in which, because of the generic comprehensiveness of the conception אִישׁ, the plural takes the place of the singular.—Who forsake straight paths.—The participle הָעזְֹבִים expresses, strictly interpreted, a preterite idea, “those who have forsaken;” for according to Proverbs 2:15 the evil doers who are described are already to be found in crooked ways.—In dark ways.—Comp. Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11; 1 Thess. 5:5; also Job 24:15; Is. 29:15.—Deceitful wickedness—literally “perverseness of evil” (comp. remarks on Proverbs 2:12) a mode of combining two nouns which serves to strengthen the main idea.—Whose paths are crooked—literally, “who in respect to their ways are crooked;” for the prefixed אָרְחתֵיהֶם is to be construed as an accusative of relation belonging to the following עִקְּשִׁים; comp. 19:1; 28:6. In the second clause in the place of this adverbial accusative, there is substituted the more circumstantial but clearer construction with בְּ “perverse in their ways.”
Proverbs 2:16–19. The representation passes into a warning against being betrayed by vile women, just as in 5:3; 6:24; 7:5 sq.—From the strange woman, from the wanton woman.—As “strange woman” (אִשָּׁה זָרָה) or a “wanton woman” (נָכְרִיָה, properly “unknown,” and so equivalent to “strange or foreign woman”) the betrayer into unchastity is here designated, so far forth as she is the wife of another (comp. 6:26), who, however, has forsaken her husband (Proverbs 2:17), and therein has transgressed also God’s commandment, has broken the covenant with her God (Proverbs 2:17, 1. c.).—The person in question is accordingly at all events conceived of as an Israelitess; and this is opposed to the opinion of those who, under the designation “the strange, or the foreign woman” (especially in connection with the last expression which appears as the designation of the adulteress in Proverbs 5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 23:27), think first of those not belonging to the house of Israel, because the public prostitutes in Israel were formerly, for the most part, of foreign birth (so especially J. F. FRISCH: Commentatio de muliere peregrina apud Ebræos minus honeste habita, Leips., 1744, and among recent commentators, e.g., UMBREIT). This view is in conflict with the context of the passage before us quite as decidedly as is the idea of the LXX, which interprets the foreign and wanton woman as the personification of temptation in contrast with wisdom (1:20 sq.), but to carry out this view is obliged to introduce all manner of arbitrary relations,—e.g., referring that of the “companion of youth” in Proverbs 2:17 to the instruction in Divine truth (διδασκαλία νεότητος), which was a guide in youth. It is decisive against this allegorical conception of the strange woman, which has been a favorite with some Christian expositors also, such as MELANCHTHON, JOACH. LANGE, CHR. B. MICHAELIS, that the wicked and perverse men in Proverbs 2:12–15 cannot possibly be interpreted figuratively, but certainly only as individual concrete representatives of moral evil. [This word נָכְרִיָה is “especially applied to those ‘strange women’ whom Solomon himself loved in his old age, and who turned away his heart from the Lord his God, and beguiled him to favor and encourage the worship of their false gods (see 1 Kings 11:1–8; comp. Neh. 13:26, 27). Here is a solemn lesson. Solomon warns his son against that very sin of which he himself was afterwards guilty. Thus by God’s goodness Solomon’s words in this Divinely inspired book were an antidote to the poison of his own vicious example.” WORDSWORTH].—Who maketh her words smooth— i.e., who knows how to speak flattering and tempting words; comp. 7:21; Ps. 5:9; Rom. 3:13.
Proverbs 2:17. The companion of her youth.—The same expression occurs also in Jerem. 3:4; comp. Ps. 55:13, where אַלוּף in like manner means companion, confidant. The forsaking of this “companion of youth,” i.e., the first lawful husband, is, at the same time, a “forgetting of the covenant of her God,” i.e., a forgetting, a wilful disregard of that which she has solemnly vowed to God. Marriage appears here not merely as a covenant entered into in the presence of God, but in a certain sense one formed with God. Quite similar is the representation in Mal. 2:14, where the adulterous Israelite is censured for the faithless abandonment of his אִשָּׁה נְעוּרִים (wife of youth)
because God was witness with her at the formation of the marriage covenant. That the marriages of the Israelites “were not consummated without sacred rites connected with the public religion, although the Pentateuch makes no mention of them,” is accordingly a very natural assumption,—one which, e.g., EWALD, BERTHEAU, HITZIG, REINKE, V. GERLACH, etc., have made on the ground of the two passages here under consideration, especially the passage in Malachi. Yet compare besides A. KÖHLER on the latter passage (Nachexil. Prophh., IV. 102 sq.), who finds there a witness of Jehovah, not at the consummation, but at the violation of marriage.
Proverbs 2:18, 19. For her house sinks down to death, etc.—A reason for the strong expression in Proverbs 2:16, “to deliver thee from the strange woman.”—And to the dead her paths.—The רְפָאִים (i.e., properly the weak, languid, powerless [GESEN., Thes.: quieti, silentes,—FUERST, “the dark, the shadowy”]; comp. the εἴδωλα καμόντων of HOMER, and the umbræ of VIRGIL) are the dwellers in the kingdom of the dead (comp. 9.; 21:16; Ps. 138:10; Is. 14:9: 26:14,18, 19), and stand here, like the Latin inferi, for the world of the dead, or Sheol itself.—Her visitors all return not again,—because from Sheol there is no return to the land of the living; see Job 7:9, 10,—and comp. Prov. 5:5, 6.—Paths of life, as in Ps. 16:11; Prov. 5:6.
3. Proverbs 2:20–22. “While the לְמַעַן [in order that] is strictly dependent on Proverbs 2:11, and co-ordinate with the לְ of the two final clauses in Proverbs 2:12 sq. and 16 sq., still we are to recognize in the announcement of a purpose which it introduces, a conclusion of the entire admonitory discourse which this chapter contains,—an epilogue, as it were (“all this I say to thee in order that,” etc.), which again may be resolved into a positive and a negative proposition (Proverbs 2:20, 21 and Proverbs 2:22). UMBREIT’S translation of לְמַעַן by “therefore” is ungrammatical, nor can it be justified by reference to passages like Ps. 30:12; 51:4; Hos. 8:4.—The upright shall inhabit the land.—In the description of the highest earthly prosperity as a “dwelling in the land” (i.e., in the native land, not upon the earth in general, which would give a meaning altogether vague and indefinite), we find expressed the love of an Israelite for his fatherland, in its peculiar strength and its sacred religious intensity. “The Israelite was, beyond the power of natural feeling, which makes home dear to every one, more closely bound to the ancestral soil by the whole form of the theocracy; torn from it he was in the inmost roots of life itself strained and broken. Especially from some Psalms belonging to the period of the exile this patriotic feeling is breathed out in the fullest glow and intensity. The same form of expression has also passed over into the New Testament, comp. Matth. 5:5, and also, with regard to the idea as a whole, Ps. 37:9, 11, 29; Prov. 10:30” (ELSTER).—But the wicked shall be rooted out from the land.—See critical notes above.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
He only who seeks after wisdom, i.e., who turns his practical efforts wholly toward it, and walks in its ways, finds true wisdom. For wisdom in the objective sense, is a gift of God, an effluence from Him, the only wise (Rom. 16:27). It can therefore come into possession of him alone who seeks appropriately to make his own the true subjective wisdom, which is aspiration after God and divine things; who in thought and experience seeks to enter into communion with God; who devotes himself entirely to God, subjects himself fully to His discipline and guidance, in order that God in turn may be able to give Himself wholly to him, and to open to him the blessed fulness of His nature.—This main thought of our chapter, which comes out with especial clearness in Proverbs 2:5, 6, is essentially only another side, and somewhat profounder conception, of the motto which, in 1:7, is prefixed to the entire collection, viz., that the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom,—or again, of the significant utterance in Proverbs 28:5: “They that seek God understand all things.” Within the limits of the New Testament we may compare above all else, what the Lord, in John 7:17, presents as the condition of a full comprehension of Himself and of the divine truth revealed in Him: “If any man will do His will he shall know whether this doctrine be of God;” likewise: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find,” etc. (Matt. 7:7); and also: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). Comp. further the passage from the Book of Wisdom (Proverbs 6:12, 13), which MELANCHTHON, with perfect propriety, cites in this connection: “Wisdom is willingly found of them that seek her, yea, she cometh to meet and maketh herself known to those that desire her;” and also David’s language: “In thy light do we see light” (Ps. 36:9), the well-known favorite motto of AUGUSTINE, which in like manner, as it was employed by the profound metaphysician MALEBRANCHE, ought to be used by all Christian philosophers as their daily watchword and symbol.
In the second section of this admonition (Proverbs 2:10–19) this true wisdom, to be conferred by God, to be found only with God, is more completely exhibited, on the side of its salutary influence upon the moral life of humanity, especially as a preserver against sin and vice and their ruinous consequences. After this in conclusion the epilogue (Proverbs 2:20–22) contrasts the blessed results of wise and righteous conduct and the punishment of ungodliness in strongly antithetic terms, which remind us of the close of the first Psalm and of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:24–27; comp. Ps.1: 6). Comp. the exegetical comments on these two sections.
Homily on the entire chapter: The main stages in the order of grace, contemplated from the point of view of the wisdom of the Old Testament: 1) The call (Proverbs 2:1–4); 2) Enlightenment (Proverbs 2:5, 6); 3) Conversion (Proverbs 2:7–10); 4) Preservation or sanctification (Proverbs 2:11–20); 5) Perfection (Proverbs 2:21, 22).—STARKE:—The order of proceeding for the attainment of true wisdom and its appropriate use: 1) the order for the attainment of wisdom consists in this,—that we a) ask for it, (1–3), b) search for it with care and diligence (4). 2) The wisdom thus attained is the only true wisdom, as appears a) from its own characteristics (5), b) from the person of its giver (6), c) from the conduct of the men who possess it (7, 8). 3) This only true wisdom is profitable, a) for the attainment of righteousness in faith and life (9–11, b) for deliverance from evil (12–19), c) for the steadfast maintenance of an upright life (20–22).—Simpler and better STÖCKER:—Studiosi sapientiæ 1) officium (1–8); 2) præmium (9–22). [The student of wisdom 1) in his duty, 2) in his reward].—Calwer Handb.: The way to wisdom consists 1) in listening to its call (1, 2); 2) in searching for it prayerfully (3–6); 3) in deference to that portion of wisdom which one has already attained, by earnestness in a holy walk (7–9); 4) in the experience of the power of wisdom, which lies in this, that it preserves from ways of evil, especially of impurity (10–22).
Proverbs 2:1–9. MELANCHTHON:—“He admonishes how we may make progress (in wisdom): for he combines two causes: 1) God’s aid; 2) our own zeal.” (No. 2 ought here necessarily to have been put first—an improvement which was made by STÖCKER in his reproduction of this analysis OF MELANCHTHON).—STÖCKER:—The rounds upon which one must, with divine help, climb up to the attainment of wisdom are seven: 1) eager hearing; 2) firm retention; 3) attentive meditation; 4) unquestioned progress; 5) due humiliation; 6) devoted invoking of God’s, help; 7) tireless self-examination.—[CHALMERS (on Proverbs 2:1–9):—The righteousness of our conduct contributes to the enlightenment of our creed. The wholesome reaction of the moral on the intellectual is clearly intimated here, inasmuch as it is to the righteous that God imparteth wisdom].—STARKE (on Proverbs 2:1–4):—As the children of the world turn their eyes upon silver and treasures, run and race after them, make themselves much disquiet to attain them, though after all they are but shadows and vanity; so ought the children of God to use much more diligence to attain heavenly wisdom, which endures forever, and makes the man who possesses it really prosperous.—[Proverbs 2:1–6. BRIDGES:—Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under a heavenly pupilage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather give life and energy to it.—ARNOT (Proverbs 2:2):—The ear inclined to divine wisdom will draw the heart: the heart drawn will incline the ear. Behold one of the circles in which God, for His own glory, makes His unnumbered worlds go round.—(Proverbs 2:4). Fervent prayer must be tested by persevering pains.—TRAPP (Proverbs 2:2):—Surely as waters meet and rest in low valleys, so do God’s graces in lowly hearts.—(Proverbs 2:3). A dull suitor begs a denial].—STARKE (On Proverbs 2:5–9) :—Righteousness of faith and righteousness of life are closely connected. As soon as the first exists (Proverbs 2:5–8) the other must also show itself in an earnest and pure walk before God and man, Luke 1:74, 75; Phil. 1:11.—LANGE (on Proverbs 2:6):—One may indeed by natural knowledge very readily learn that God is a very benevolent being; but how He becomes to a sinner the God of love, this can be learned only from the mouth of God in the Holy Scriptures.—[TRAPP (Proverbs 2:9):—“Thou shalt understand righteousness,” not as cognoscitiva, standing in speculation, but as directiva vitæ, a rule of life.]
Proverbs 2:10–22.—[Proverbs 2:11. BRIDGES:—Before wisdom was the object of our search. Now, having found it, it is our pleasure. Until it is so it can have no practical influence.—ARNOT:—It is pleasure that can compete with pleasure; it is “joy and peace in believing” that can overcome the pleasure of sin.]—STÖCKER (on Proverbs 2:10–12):—Wisdom helps such as love her in all good, and preserves them against all evil; she directs them to the good and turns them from the evil way.—(On Proverbs 2:12–19):—Wisdom delivers from the three snares of the devil, viz., 1) from a godless life; 2) from false doctrine; 3) from impurity and licentiousness.—STARKE (on Proverbs 2:12 sq.):—Daily experience teaches us that we are by nature in a condition from which we need deliverance. But how few are there of those who are willing to be delivered, Matt. 23:37!—(On Proverbs 2:20–22):—Not merely some steps in the right way, but continuing to the end brings blessedness, Matt. 24:13!—Granted that for a time it goes ill with the godly in this world. God’s word must nevertheless be made good, if not here, surely in eternity, Ps. 126:5.—[BRIDGES:—The spell of lust palsies the grasp by which its victim might have taken hold of the paths of life for his deliverance.]—HASIUS (on Proverbs 2:21, 22):—People who mean rightly neither with God nor men are with their posterity rooted out of the world. He who observes will even now see plain proofs of this, Ps. 73:19; 34:16.—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 2:21:)—The meaning of the promise, so common in the law, of “the pious dwelling in the land” depends especially on the fact that Canaan was type and pledge of the eternal inheritance of the saints in light.
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;