Proverbs 23
Matthew Poole's Commentary
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, when thou art invited to a feast with a great man,

consider diligently what is before thee; either

1. What person or persons. Or rather,

2. What things; what plenty and variety of meats and drinks, by which thou mayst easily be tempted to excess, and by that means induced to use such speeches or carriages as may be unfit for thee, or many ways hurtful to thee.

And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Put a knife to thy throat; restrain and moderate thine appetite, as if a knife or some other thing stuck in thy throat, and hindered thee from swallowing what thou didst desire; or as if a man stood with a knife at thy throat ready to kill thee, if thou didst transgress; or though it be as irksome to thee to do so as if thou hadst a knife put to thy throat. So this is to be understood metaphorically, as that phrase of

cutting off the right hand, & c., Matthew 5:29,30. Or, For thou dost (or, lest thou shouldst, as the Syriac interpreter renders it; or, otherwise thou wilt or shouldst) put a knife to thy throat. So the sense is, When thou goest to their feasts, thou dost expose thyself to great and manifest hazards, to thy own intemperance, and to all its dangerous consequences, and to the ill effects of other men’s intemperance.

Given to appetite; prone to excess in eating and drinking.

Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Either because they do not yield thee that satisfaction which thou didst expect from them, but rather load thee with ill humours, and the seeds of divers diseases; or because they are not provided for thee with sincerity and good will, but with some evil design upon thee, either to discover and betray thee, or to enslave thee. See Poole "Proverbs 23:6,7".

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Labour not, Heb. Do not weary thyself with immoderate cares and labours, as many covetous men do.

From thine own wisdom; from that carnal wisdom which is natural to man in his corrupt estate, which persuades men to believe that it is their interest to use all possible means to get riches, and that the happiness of their lives consists in the abundance of their possessions, directly contrary to the assertion of our blessed Lord, Luke 12:15.

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that, i.e. look upon it with earnestness and greedy desire, employing the eyes of thy mind and body about it.

Which is not; which hath no solid and settled being; which is ours to have, but not to hold; which is always upon the wing, and ofttimes gone in the twinkling of an eye, so that the owner is frequently at a loss, and cannot tell whether he hath his estate, or whether he hath lost it.

They fly away as an eagle, swiftly, strongly, and irrevocably. We quickly lose the sight and possession of them. Their flying away from us is elegantly opposed to our eyes being set, or, as it is in the Hebrew, flying upon them, in the beginning of the verse.

Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
Of him that hath an evil eye; of the envious or covetous man, who secretly grudgeth thee the meat which he sets before thee, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 28:22 Matthew 20:15; as, on the contrary, a liberal man is said to have a good eye, Proverbs 22:9.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
As he thinketh in his heart, so is he: you are not to judge of him by his words, for so he professeth kindness, as it follows; but by the constant temper of his mind, which he hath fully discovered to all that know him by the course of his life.

His heart is not with thee; he hath no sincere kindness to thee, but inwardly grudgeth thee that which he outwardly offers to thee.

The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
When thou perceivest his churlish disposition and carriage, his meat will be loathsome to thee, and thou wilt wish either that thou hadst never eaten it, or that thou couldst vomit it up again.

Thy sweet words; thy pleasant discourse, wherewith thou didst adorn his table, and design both to delight and profit him, is lost, and of no effect to him, and thou wilt be ready to repent of it.

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
Speak not in the ears of a fool; cast not away good counsels upon obstinate and incorrigible sinners. We have the same advice given Matthew 7:6.

He will despise the wisdom of thy words; he will scornfully reject thy wise and good admonitions.

Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
Either to take away their goods; or rather, to possess their lands, as this phrase is used, 2 Samuel 5:6.

For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
Their redeemer, Heb. their near kinsman, to whom it belongs to avenge their wrongs, and to recover and maintain their rights, of which see Leviticus 25:25 Numbers 35:12. Thus God is pleased to call himself, to show how much he concerns himself for the relief of oppressed and helpless persons.

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Apply thine heart unto instruction; content not thyself with outward hearing or reading of it, but affectionately receive it into thine heart, and lay it up there as choice treasure.

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
It is a likely mean to prevent their corruption, and the destruction which commonly follows it, as the next verse explains this.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
No text from Poole on this verse.

My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
In the good success of my counsels, and in thy piety and happiness, which is as truly desirable and pleasant to me as my own.

Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
I shall rejoice not only in show and profession, but inwardly, and with all my soul.

Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
Let not thine heart envy sinners; let not the consideration of their present impunity and prosperity stir thee up, either to envy them, or to approve and imitate their evil courses.

Be thou in the fear of the Lord; reverence the presence of the Divine Majesty, and dread his power and justice, and those judgments which he hath prepared for sinners, and thou wilt see no cause to envy, but rather to pity them.

All the day long; not only when thou art in trouble, but in all times and conditions.

For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
An end; an expected and happy end for such as fear God, which was required, Proverbs 23:17. Or,

a reward, as this Hebrew word is rendered, Proverbs 24:20.

Thine expectation shall not be cut off; thou shalt certainly enjoy that good which thou expectest, as the wicked shall lose that happiness which they enjoy.

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Be wise; rest not in hearing, but see that thou growest wiser and better by it.

Guide thine heart; order the whole course of thine affections and actions.

In the way; in God’s way, oft called the way, as hath been observed before.

Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Avoid their conversation and company, lest thou be either infected or injured by them.

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Drowsiness; immoderate sleep and idleness, which is a ready a way to poverty as gluttony or drunkenness is.

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
That begat thee; and therefore desires and seeks thy good in all his counsels.

When she is old; when the infirmity of age is added to that of her sex, which is apt to breed contempt.

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Buy the truth; purchase it upon any terms, spare no pains nor cost to get it. The truth; the true and saving knowledge of God’s mind and will concerning your salvation, and the way that leads to it.

Sell it not; do not forget it nor forsake it for any worldly advantages, as ungodly men frequently do.

Understanding; whereby you may love and practise the truth known and received.

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
Thy father and thy mother shall be glad; he repeateth this again, as a powerful argument to prevail with all children that are not void of natural affection, to labour to be wise and good, that so they may glad the hearts of their parents, to whom they have such high and indelible obligations.

She that bare thee with so great pain and hazard, and brought thee up with such tender care, whom thou canst not better requite.

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Give me thine heart; receive my counsels with thy whole heart. Solomon speaking in God’s name and cause, requires the heart to be given to him.

Let thine eyes observe, let thy mind seriously and practically consider, my ways; either,

1. The ways in which I have walked, my evil practices; take warning by my sad example. Or,

2. The ways which I prescribe to you; as the apostles called the gospel which they preached their gospel, 1 Thessalonians 1:5 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
A deep ditch; in which a man is in evident danger of perdition, and out of which it is exceeding difficult to escape.

She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
Lieth in wait as for a prey; watching all opportunities of insnaring young men to their destruction.

Increaseth the transgressors among men; she is the cause of innumerable sins against God, and against the marriage-bed, against the soul and body too, and by her wicked example and arts involveth many persons in the guilt of her sins.

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
From the sin of lust he proceeds to that of drunkenness, which doth frequently accompany it.

Babbling the sin of much and impertinent talking; or, tumultuous noise or clamour, which is usual among drunkards. See Proverbs 20:1.

Without cause; upon every slight occasion, which men inflamed with wine are very apt to take.

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Either mixed with water, or with other ingredients, to make it strong and delicious. Heb. mixture; mixed drinks of several sorts suited to their palates.

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
Look not thou upon the wine earnestly, so as to inflame thine appetite towards it; in which sense men are forbidden to look upon a woman, Job 31:1 Matthew 5:28.

When it is red; which was the colour of the best wines in that country, which therefore are called blood, Genesis 49:11 Deu 32:14; and such were used by them in the passover.

When it moveth itself aright; when it sparkleth and frisketh, and seems to smile upon a man.

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
It hurts the body in many respects, impairs the rigour of the mind, wastes the estate and reputation, wounds the conscience, and, without repentance, will destroy the soul.

Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Behold, with evil intent, or lustfully, which is the effect of drinking much wine, as is noted in Scripture, Genesis 19:31,35 Ho 4:18, and other authors.

Thine heart shall utter perverse things; thine heart, which, when thou hadst the use of thy wit, concealed, will then discover its wickedness by filthy and perverse speeches.

Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
That lieth down to sleep, of which that word is frequently used,

in the midst of the sea; in a ship in the midst of the sea. This phrase notes the temper and condition of the drunkard, the giddiness of his brain, the unquietness of his mind, and especially his extreme danger joined with great security.

The top of a mast; the worst part of the ship, both for its perpetual tossings, and for the hazard of him that sleeps on it.

They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
They have stricken me; I cannot deny that I exposed myself by my drunkenness to manifold abuses and injuries.

I was not sick; I was not then sensible of it, neither do I now find any great hurt by it; it was but the effect of a present frolic, at which I have no cause to be much troubled.

When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again; at present I find some inconvenience, and my condition requires sleep to settle myself, and when I am composed and refreshed, I purpose to return to my former course. But that which Solomon here expresseth, seems rather to be the language of their hearts or lives than of their tongues. Compare Proverbs 1:11.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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