Proverbs 17:16
Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?
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(16) Wherefore is there a price . . .—He will still remain a fool, though he has paid high for instruction, if he has no capacity for taking it in.

Proverbs 17:16. Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool, &c. — The Hebrew is literally, Wherefore is this? A price in the hand of a fool to procure wisdom, and not a heart? The question implies, that the price is unworthily placed, and that it is to no purpose, or benefit of the possessor. All the ancient translators interpret the word מחיר, here rendered price, of possessions, or riches, of which the same word is used Isaiah 55:1, and elsewhere. It comprehends all opportunities and abilities of getting wisdom; seeing he hath no heart to it — Neither discretion to discern the worth of it, nor any sincere desire to get it. Observe, reader, this price, these abilities and opportunities to gain wisdom, are put into all our hands; we have rational souls, the means of grace, the aids of the Holy Spirit, liberty of access to God by prayer, time and opportunity, perhaps also we have good parents, relations, friends, ministers, books to assist us. A sufficient price, therefore, is put into our hands, wherewith to procure wisdom, a talent, or talents rather, of inestimable value; and surely we shall be inexcusable, and cannot escape condemnation and wrath, if we die without it.17:8. Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts! 9. The way to preserve peace is to make the best of every thing; not to notice what has been said or done against ourselves. 10. A gentle reproof will enter, not only into the head, but into the heart of a wise man. 11. Satan, and the messengers of Satan, shall be let loose upon an evil man. 12. Let us watch over our own passions, and avoid the company of furious men. 13. To render evil for good is devilish. He that does so, brings a curse upon his family. 14. What danger there is in the beginning of strife! Resist its earliest display; and leave it off, if it were possible, before you begin. 15. It is an offence to God to acquit the guilty, or to condemn those who are not guilty. 16. Man's neglect of God's favour and his own interest is very absurd. 17. No change of outward circumstances should abate our affection for our friends or relatives. But no friend, except Christ, deserves unlimited confidence. In Him this text did receive, and still receives its most glorious fulfilment. 18. Let not any wrong their families. Yet Christ's becoming Surety for men, was a glorious display of Divine wisdom; for he was able to discharge the bond.More literally: Why is there a price in the hand of a fool? Is it to get wisdom when he has no heart for it? No money will avail without the understanding heart. 16. Though wealth cannot buy wisdom for those who do not love it, yet wisdom procures wealth (Pr 3:16; 14:24). Wherefore? the question implies that it is unworthily placed, and that it is to no purpose or benefit of the possessor.

A price; possessions or riches, as all the ancient translators render it, of which this word is used, Isaiah 55:1, and elsewhere, under which all opportunities and abilities of getting it are comprehended.

To get wisdom; for the obtaining whereof rich men have many and great advantages above others.

No heart to it; neither common discretion to discern the worth of wisdom, and his advantage to get it; nor any sincere desire to get it; for the heart is commonly used in Scripture both for the understanding, and for the will and affections. Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom,.... Natural wisdom and knowledge. By this "price" may be meant money, riches, worldly substance, of which a foolish man is possessed; by means of which he might purchase useful books for the improvement of his mind, and procure himself instructors that might be very useful to him; but instead of seeking after that which he most wants, and making use of his substance to furnish him with it, he spends it on his back and belly, in fine clothes and luxurious living; in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness, at balls and plays, in taverns and brothel houses: or spiritual wisdom and knowledge; the means of which are reading the word, hearing the Gospel, frequent opportunities of attendance on a Gospel ministry, in season and out of season, and conversation with Gospel ministers and other Christians; but, instead of making use of these, he neglects, slights, and despises them. And it is asked, with some degree of indignation and admiration, why or to what purpose a fool is favoured with such means;

seeing he hath no heart to it? to wisdom; he does not desire it, nor to make use of the price or means, in order to obtain it; all is lost upon him; and it is hard to account for it why he should have this price, when he makes such an ill use of it.

Why is there a {g} price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

{g} What good does it do the wicked to be rich, seeing he does not set his mind to wisdom?

16. heart] i.e. understanding, R.V.; see Proverbs 15:32, note. We might almost render, capacity. Wisdom cannot be bought for a price: it can only be assimilated by a wise, or wisdom-loving heart. Its words are φωνᾶντα συνετοῖσι; its teachers teach, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες, “interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men” (as some translate 1 Corinthians 2:13). So was Incarnate Wisdom wont to cry, “Who hath ears to hear let him hear” (Matthew 13:9 ff.; comp. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22).Verse 16. - Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom? A fool thinks that there is a royal road to wisdom, and that it, like other things, is to be purchased with reentry. Vulgate, Quid prodest stulto habere divitias, cum sapientiam emere non possit? The rabbis in later time were not allowed to take fees for teaching; but it was customary to make offerings to seers and wise men, when their services were engaged or their advice was asked (see the case of Saul and Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:7, 8). The last clause gives the reason why it is useless for a fool to try to learn wisdom even at a large expenditure on teachers. Seeing he hath no heart to it; i.e. no capability for receiving it; his mental digestion cannot assimilate it. The heart, as we have already noticed, is regarded as the seat of the understanding. Thus the LXX., "Why doth a fool have wealth? for a man without heart cannot acquire wisdom." In the Gospel Christ calls his disciples "fools and slow of heart to believe what the prophets had written, and himself opened their mind (τὸν νοῦν), that they might understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:25, 45). The Septuagint and Vulgate here introduce a distich derived from portions of vers. 19, 20, "He who raises his house high seeketh destruction; and he who perversely declineth from learning (ὁ δὲ σκολιάζων τοῦ μαθεῖν) shall fall into evils." 10 One reproof maketh more impression on a wise man

     Than if one reckoned a hundred to the fool

One of the few proverbs which begin with a future, vid., Proverbs 12:26. It expresses what influence there is in one reproof with a wise man (מבין, Proverbs 8:9); גּערה is the reproof expressed by the post-bibl. נזיפה .lbib, as the lowest grade of disciplinary punishment, admonitio, connected with warning. The verbal form תהת is the reading of the lxx and Syr. (συντρίβει ἀπειλὴ καρδίαν φρονίμου) for they read תחת גערה לב מבין, derived from חתת, and thus תּחת (from Hiph. החת); thus Luther: reproof alarms more the intelligent, but חחת with ב of the obj. is not Hebr.; on the contrary, the reading of the lxx is in accordance with the usage of the language, and, besides, is suitable. It is, however, first to be seen whether the traditional text stands in need of this correction. As fut. Niph. תּחת, apart from the ult. accent. to be expected, gives no meaning. Also if one derives it from חתה, to snatch away, to take away, it gives no appropriate thought; besides, חתה is construed with the object. accus., and the fut. Apoc., in itself strange here, must be pointed either תּהת or תּחתּ (after יחדּ) (Bttcher, Lehrb. ii. p. 413). Thus יחת, as at Job 21:13; Jeremiah 21:13, will be fut. Kal of נחת equals ינחת, Psalm 38:3 (Theodotion, Targ., Kimchi). With this derivation, also, תּחת is to be expected; the reference in the Handwrterbuch to Gesen. Lehrgebude, 51, 1, Anm. 1, where, in an extremely inadequate way, the retrogression of the tone (נסוג אחור) is spoken of, is altogether inappropriate to this place; and Bttcher's explanation of the ult. tone from an intended expressiveness is ungrammatical; but why should not תּחת, from נחת, with its first syllable originating from contraction, and thus having the tone be Milel as well as Milra, especially here, where it stands at the head of the sentence? With ב connected with it, נחת means: to descend into anything, to penetrate; Hitzig appropriately compares altius in pectus descendit of Sallust, Jug. 11. Jerome rightly, according to the sense: plus proficit, and the Venet. ἀνεῖ (read ὀνεῖ) ἀπειλὴ τῷ συνίοντι. In 10b מכּה (cf. Deuteronomy 25:3; 2 Corinthians 11:24) is to be supplied to מאה, not פאמים (an hundred times, which may be denoted correctly by מאה as well as מאת, Ecclesiastes 8:12). With the wise (says a Talmudic proverb) a sign does as much as with the fool a stick does. Zehner, in his Adagia sacra (1601), cites Curtius (vii. 4): Nobilis equus umbra quoque virgae regitur, ignavus ne calcari quidem concitari potest.

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