Matthew Poole's Commentary
Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.According to this interpretation the sense is,
Through desire (of it, to wit of wisdom, which is easily understood out of the end of the verse; such ellipses being frequent in Scripture)
a man, having separated himself, ( being sequestered from the company, and noise, and business of the world, betaking himself to retirement and solitude, as men do that apply themselves to any serious study.)
intermeddleth with all wisdom, i.e. useth all diligence, that he may search and find out all solid knowledge and true wisdom. And this earnest desire and endeavour to get true wisdom within a man’s self is fitly opposed to the fool’s contempt of wisdom, or to his desire of it, not for use and benefit, but only for vain ostentation, which is expressed in the next verse, although coherence is little regarded by interpreters in the several verses and proverbs of this book. But this verse is otherwise rendered in the margin of our English Bible, and by divers others, He that separateth himself, (either,
1. From his friend; or rather,
2. From other men; who affects singularity, is wedded to his own opinion, and through self-conceit despiseth the opinions and conversation of others,) seeketh according to his desire, (seeketh to gratify his own inclinations and affections, and chooseth those opinions which most comply with them,) and intermeddleth (for this word is used in a bad sense, Proverbs 17:14 20:3, and it is not found elsewhere, save in this place) in every business, as proud and singular persons are commonly pragmatical, delighting to find faults in others, that they may get some reputation to themselves by it. Heb. in every thing that is; thrusting themselves into the actions and affairs of other men. Or, as this last clause is and may be rendered, and contendeth (Heb. mingleth himself; for words of that signification are commonly used for contending or fighting, as Deu 2:5,9,19 Isa 36:8 Daniel 11:10) with or against (for the Hebrew prefix beth oft signifies against) all reason or wisdom; whatsoever any man speaketh against his opinion and desire, though it be never so reasonable and evident, he rejecteth it, and obstinately maintains his own opinion.
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.In understanding; in getting sound and saving knowledge, either by his own study, or by the instructions of wise and good men.
But that his heart may discover itself. Heb. but (his delight is) in the discovery of his own heart, i.e. in uttering that folly and wickedness which is in his heart; being more forward to speak than to hear, which is one badge of a fool.
When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.When the wicked cometh into any place or company,
then cometh also contempt; either,
1. Passively; he is justly contemned and reproached by those who converse with him. Or rather,
2. Actively; he despiseth and scorneth all instruction and reproof, neither fearing God nor reverencing man; for he seems here to note his sin rather than his punishment.
And with ignominy reproach; and he doth not only contemn others in his heart, but showeth his contempt of them by ignominious and reproachful expressions and carriages.
The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.A man’s, i.e. a wise man’s, as the next clause explains this; who is worthy of the name and hath the understanding of a man in him. This Hebrew word ofttimes notes an eminent or excellent person, and therefore is opposed to Adam, which designs any ordinary man.
As deep waters; full of deep wisdom.
The well-spring of wisdom as a flowing brook; that wisdom which is in his heart is continually pouring forth wise and good counsels.
It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.It is not good, i.e. it is a most wicked and hateful thing. See Poole "Proverbs 17:15,26.
To accept the person; to favour his unrighteous cause.
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.A fool’s lips enter into contention; a fool by his rash and wicked speeches provoketh others to quarrel with him, and, as it follows, to strike him.
His mouth calleth for strokes; procureth strokes to himself.
A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.No text from Poole on this verse.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.The words of a tale-bearer, who privily slandereth his neighbour,
are as wounds; deeply wound the reputation, and afterwards the heart, of the slandered person. Compare Proverbs 12:18. Or, as others render the word, are
as smooth or flattering, i.e. they really are so; the particle as being oft used to express the truth of the thing, as hath been noted before. See also John 1:14. They are softer than oil, as is said, Psalm 55:21. For slanderers use to cover and usher in their calumnies with pretences or kindness and compassion to them whom they traduce.
They go down into the innermost parts of the belly; they wound mortally, piercing to the heart, which is oft meant by the belly; as Job 15:35 32:19, &c.
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.They are alike; though they take several paths, yet both come to one end, even to extreme want and poverty.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.The name of the Lord, i.e. the Lord, as he hath revealed himself in his works, and especially in his word by his promises, and the declarations of his infinite perfections, and of his good will to his people.
Is a strong tower; is sufficient for our protection in case of the greatest dangers.
The righteous; which limitation he adds to beat down the vain confidences of those men, who though they live in a gross neglect and contempt of God, will expect salvation from him.
The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.He trusts to his wealth, as that which will either enable him to resist his enemy, or at least purchase his favour.
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.Before destruction the heart of man is haughty; pride is a cause and presage of ruin, as is noted, Proverbs 16:18. Is; or, goeth. This clause we had Proverbs 15:33.
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.Before he heareth it; before he hath fully heard and considered what another is speaking about it.
It is folly and shame; it is a shameful folly, though he seek the reputation of a wise man by it, as if he could readily and thoroughly understand all that another cart say before he hath uttered it.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?The spirit, i.e. the soul, to wit, which is unwounded, as appears by the opposite branch of the verse; which is vigorous and cheerful, supported by the sense of God’s love, and the conscience of its own integrity, and the prospect of its present peace and future happiness.
Will sustain his infirmity; will easily support him under any bodily or outward troubles, as God’s people have oft found by experience.
Wounded; dejected with the sense of its own guilt and misery.
Who can bear? it is most grievous and intolerable without Divine assistance.
The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge, by employing his thoughts and studies upon it.
The ear of the wise getteth knowledge, by a greedy and diligent attention to those from whom he may learn it.
A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.Maketh room for him; procures him free access to great men. Heb. enlargeth him, as this very phrase is rendered, Psalm 4:1, and elsewhere; freeth him from straits and oppressions.
Bringeth him before great men; gets him favour and free conversation with them.
He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.He that is first in his own cause, he that first pleadeth his cause,
seemeth just, both to himself and to the judge or court, by his fair pretences.
His neighbour cometh, to contend with him in judgment and to plead his cause,
and searcheth him; examineth the truth and weight of his allegations, and disproveth them, and detecteth his weakness. Or, discovers him; for seeking or searching are oft put for finding, as Proverbs 17:9,19, and elsewhere.
The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.Causeth contentions to cease, by determining the matters in difference.
Parteth; maketh a partition, giveth to every one what is right or meet, by the disposition of Divine Providence.
Between the mighty; so it doth also between mean persons, but he mentions the mighty because they are most prone to contention, and most fierce and intractable in it, and most capable of doing great mischief to themselves and others by it, and therefore they most need this remedy.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.Offended, to wit, by his brother’s unkindness or injury.
Is harder to be won; or, is stronger, which is sufficiently understood by the mention of a strong city, to which he is compared; such ellipses being frequent in the Hebrew, as hath been noted before.
Than a strong city; which is hardly to be conquered.
Like the bars of a castle; which are very strong, and not to be broken, and make the castle strong, and hardly to be won. The truth of this assertion is confirmed by the testimony of Aristotle and other learned authors, who affirm the same fixing; and the reason of it is evident, because the nearness of the relation greatly heightens the provocation, and love abused frequently turns to extreme hatred.
A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.Wise and edifying discourses tend to the comfort and satisfaction of the speaker, as well as to the good of the hearers.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.Are in the power of the tongue; are brought upon men by the good or bad use of their tongues.
That love it; either,
1. The tongue; that love and use much talking, which is oft censured as a sin, and a cause of mischief. See Proverbs 10:19 Jam 1:19. Or,
2. The use of their tongue in either of those ways, which are plainly supposed in the former clause of the verse: they who do not only speak well, which a wicked man may sometimes do; or speak ill, which a good man may possibly do; but do love, and therefore accustom themselves, to speak well or ill.
Shall eat the fruit thereof; shall receive either good or evil, according to the quality of their speeches.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.A wife; either,
1. Simply a wife; for a wife, though she be not the best of her kind, is to be esteemed a blessing, being useful both for society of life, Genesis 2:18, and for the mitigation of a man’s cares and troubles, and for the prevention of sins. Or,
2. Good wife; one that deserves the name and performs the duty of that relation; a wise and worthy wife, as this word may seem to imply, being deduced from the Hebrew word isch, which sometimes notes a man of eminency. And this limitation and explication of the word may be gathered both from the following commendations, which would hardly be given to a bad wife, and from the usage of Scripture, in which this ellipsis is frequent, as a path or way is put for a good path or way, Psalm 119:1 Proverbs 15:10, an answer for a good answer, Proverbs 15:23, a king for a good king, Proverbs 16:10 29:4\, a name for a good name, Proverbs 22:1 Ecclesiastes 7:1, &c.
A good thing; a singular blessing.
Obtaineth favour of the Lord; obtaineth her not by his own wit, or art, or diligence, but by God’s good providence towards him, which ordereth that and all other events as it pleaseth him.
The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.Useth entreaties; humbly begs the favour of rich men, as his necessities and occasions require it.
Answereth roughly; speaketh proudly and scornfully, either to the poor, or to others that converse with him, being puffed up with a conceit of his riches, and of his self-sufficiency.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.A man that hath friends, Heb. a man of friends; either,
1. Who desires the friendship of others. Or,
2. Who professeth friendship to others.
That sticketh closer to him that desires and needs his help; who is more hearty in the performance of all friendly offices.