Proverbs 27:23
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Be thou diligent to know the state of thy herds. . . .—In the last five verses of this chapter the peace and security of the pastoral life are described as being far superior to the uncertainty attending other sources of wealth and the regal power. For the spiritual sense of this passage comp. 1Peter 5:2-4

Proverbs 27:23-24. Be diligent to know the state of thy flock — That thou mayest preserve and improve what thou hast, and take care that thy expenses do not exceed thy income. Flocks and herds are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches. And look well, &c. — Hebrew, שׁית לבךְ, set thy heart, &c. Trust not to thy servants, as many do, but make use of thine own eyes and reason for the conduct of thy affairs, lest thou come to ruin, as many have done by this very means. For riches — Hebrew, חסן, treasure, is not for ever — The sense is, what thou now possessest will not last always, but will soon be spent, if thou do not take care to preserve and improve it. And doth the crown endure, &c. — That is, a condition of the greatest honour and plenty. As if he had said, If a man had the wealth of a kingdom, without provident care and due diligence, it would soon be brought to nothing.

27:15,16. The contentions of a neighbour may be like a sharp shower, troublesome for a time; the contentions of a wife are like constant rain. 17. We are cautioned to take heed whom we converse with. And directed to have in view, in conversation, to make one another wiser and better. 18. Though a calling be laborious and despised, yet those who keep to it, will find there is something to be got by it. God is a Master who has engaged to honour those who serve him faithfully. 19. One corrupt heart is like another; so are sanctified hearts: the former bear the same image of the earthly, the latter the same image of the heavenly. Let us carefully watch our own hearts, comparing them with the word of God. 20. Two things are here said to be never satisfied, death and sin. The appetites of the carnal mind for profit or pleasure are always desiring more. Those whose eyes are ever toward the Lord, are satisfied in him, and shall for ever be so. 21. Silver and gold are tried by putting them into the furnace and fining-pot; so is a man tried by praising him. 22. Some are so bad, that even severe methods do not answer the end; what remains but that they should be rejected? The new-creating power of God's grace alone is able to make a change. 23-27. We ought to have some business to do in this world, and not to live in idleness, and not to meddle with what we do not understand. We must be diligent and take pains. Let us do what we can, still the world cannot be secured to us, therefore we must choose a more lasting portion; but by the blessing of God upon our honest labours, we may expect to enjoy as much of earthly blessings as is good for us.The verses sing the praises of the earlier patriarchal life, with its flocks and herds, and tillage of the ground, as compared with the commerce of a later time, with money as its chief or only wealth.

Proverbs 27:23

The state - literally, face. The verse is an illustration of John 10:3, John 10:14.

23, 24. flocks—constituted the staple of wealth. It is only by care and diligence that the most solid possessions can be perpetuated (Pr 23:5). To know the state of thy flocks; that thou mayst preserve and improve what thou hast, and take care that thine expenses may not exceed thine incomes.

Flocks and herds are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches.

Look well, Heb. set thine heart. Trust not wholly to thy servants, as many do, that they may give up themselves wholly to case and pleasure; but make rise of thine own eyes and reason for the conduct of thine affairs, lest thou come to ruin, as many have done by this very means.

Be thou diligent to know the state of flocks,.... In what condition they are; what health they enjoy; how fat and fruitful they be; what pasturage they have; and that they want nothing fitting for them that can be had and is necessary; and also the number of them. The calling of the shepherd is here particularly mentioned, because valiant, honourable, innocent, and useful; but the same diligence is to be used in all other callings and business men are employed in, that they may provide for themselves and their families. It is in the original text, "the face of thy flocks" (r); perhaps the allusion is to the exact and distinct knowledge some very diligent careful shepherds might have, so as to know each sheep in their flocks distinctly; see John 10:3; The Septuagint version renders it, the souls of thy flock, as if it was an instruction to spiritual pastors or shepherds, who have the care of the souls of men: and certain it is, that if it is the duty of shepherds in common to be diligent in looking after their sheep, and doing everything the duty of their office requires; then it must become the indispensable duty of pastors of churches to take heed to the flock of God committed to them, and to look into their state and condition, and provide for them, and feed them with knowledge and understanding, Acts 20:28;

and look well to thy herds; or, "put thy heart" (s) to them: show a cordial regard for them, and take a hearty care of them, that they have everything needful for them; and which is for the owner's good as well as theirs.

(r) "faciem pecoris tui", Tigurine version, Mercerus, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens; "vultum", V. L. Pagninus; "facies", Montanus. (s) "pone cor tuum", Pagninus, Montanus; "adverte cor", Cocceius; "adverte animum tuum", Michaelis; "apponere cor tuum", Schultens.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verses 23-27. - A mashal ode in praise of a pastoral and agricultural life. The moralist evidently desires to recall his countrymen from the luxury of cities and the temptations of money making to the simple ways of the patriarchs and the pleasures of country pursuits - which are the best foundation of enduring prosperity. Verse 23. - Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. "State;" פָנִים (panim); vultum, Vulgate; the face, look, appearance. The LXX. has ψυχάς, which may perhaps mean "the number" - a necessary precaution when the sheep wandered on the downs and mountains, and had to be collected in the evening and folded. These precepts are naturally applied to all rulers, and especially to Christian pastors who have the oversight of the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:2-4). Ecclus. 7:22, "Hast thou cattle? have an eye to them; and if they he for thy profit, keep them with thee." Proverbs 27:23An exhortation to rural industry, and particularly to the careful tending of cattle for breeding, forms the conclusion of the foregoing series of proverbs, in which we cannot always discern an intentional grouping. It is one of the Mashal-odes spoken of vol. i. p. 12. It consists of 11 equals 4 + 7 lines.

23 Give heed to the look of thy small cattle,

     Be considerate about the herds.

24 For prosperity continues not for ever;

     And does the diadem continue from generation to generation?

25 (But) the hay is gone, and the after-growth appears,

     And the grass of the mountains is gathered:

26 Lambs serve to clothe thee,

     And goats are the price of a field.

27 And there is plenty of goats' milk for thy nourishment,

     And for the nourishment of thy house,

     And subsistence for thy maidens.

The beginning directs to the fut., as is not common in these proverbs, vid., Proverbs 26:26. With ידע, to take knowledge, which is strengthened by the inf. intensivus, is interchanged שׁית לב, which means at Proverbs 24:32 to consider well, but here, to be careful regarding anything. צאן is the small or little cattle, thus sheep and goats. Whether לעדרים (here and at Isaiah 17:2) contains the article is questionable (Gesen. 35. 2 A), and, since the herds are called העדרים, is not probable; thus: direct thy attention to the herds, that is, to this, that thou hast herds. פּני is the external side in general; here, the appearance which the sheep present; thus their condition as seen externally. In Proverbs 27:24 I formerly regarded נזר as a synonym of גּז, to be understood of the produce of wool, or, with Hitzig, of the shearing of the meadow, and thus the produce of the meadow. But this interpretation of the word is untenable, and Proverbs 27:25 provides for Proverbs 27:24, thus understood, no natural continuation of thought. That חסן signifies a store, fulness of possessions, property, and abundance, has already been shown under Proverbs 15:6; but נזר is always the mark of royal, and generally of princely dignity, and here denotes, per meton. signi pro re signata, that dignity itself. With the negative expression in 24a the interrogative in 24b is interchanged as at Job 40:9, with the implied negative answer; ואם, of an oath ("and truly not," as at Isaiah 62:8), presents the same thought, but with a passionate colouring here unnecessary. Rightly Fleischer: "ready money, moveable property, and on the other hand the highest positions of honour, are far more easily torn away from a man, and secure to him far less of quiet prosperity, than husbandry, viewed particularly with respect to the rearing of cattle." In other words: the possession of treasures and of a lofty place of power and of honour has not in itself the security of everlasting duration; but rural economy, and particularly the rearing of cattle, gives security for food and clothing. The Chethı̂b לדור דור is found, e.g., at Exodus 3:15; the Kerı̂ לדּור ודור substitutes the more usual form. If Proverbs 27:25 was an independent whole (Hitzig: grass vanishes and fresh green appears, etc.), then the meaning here and onward would be that in the sphere of husbandry it is otherwise than is said in Proverbs 27:24 : there that which is consumed renews itself, and there is an enlarging circulation. But this contrast to Proverbs 27:24 must be expressed and formed unambiguously. The connection is rather this, that Proverbs 27:23 commends the rearing of cattle, Proverbs 27:24 confirms it, and 25ff. discuss what real advantages, not dependent on the accidents of public and social life, it brings.

I rejoice to agree with Fleischer in the opinion that the perfects of Proverbs 27:25 form a complex hypothetical antecedent to Proverbs 27:26 : Quum evanuerit gramen (sc. vetus) et apparuerint herbae recentes et collecta fuerint pabula montium, agni vestitui tuo (inservient) et pretium agri (sc. a te emendi) erunt hirci, i.e., then wilt thou nourish thy herds of sheep and goats with the grass on thy fields, and with the dried gathered hay; and these will yield for thee, partly immediately and partly by the money derived therefrom (viz., from the valuable goats not needed for the flocks), all that is needful for thy life. He also remarks, under גּלה, that it means to make a place void, empty (viz., to quit the place, vacuer la forteresse); hence to leave one's fatherland or home, to wander abroad; thus, rhetorically and poetically of things and possessions: to disappear. חציר (from חצר, to be green) is hay, and דּשׁא the after-growing second crop (after-grass); thus a meadow capable of being mowed a second time is though of. עשּׂבות הרים (with Dag. dirimens, as e.g., ענּבי Deuteronomy 32:32) are the herbage of the mountains. The time when one proceeds to sheep-shearing, Proverbs 27:25 cannot intend to designate; it sets before us an interesting rural harvest scene, where, after a plentiful ingathering of hay, one sees the meadows again overspread with new grass (Ewald); but with us the shearing of sheep takes place in the month of May, when the warm season of the year is just at hand. The poet means in general to say, that when the hay is mown and now the herbage is grown up, and also the fodder from the mountains (Psalm 106:20) has been gathered home, when thus the barns are filled with plenty, the husbandman is guaranteed against the future on all sides by his stock of cattle. חלב (from חלב, Arab. halyb, with halab) is the usual metaplastic connecting form of חלב, milk. דּי (from דּי, like חי from חי), generally connected with the genitive of the person or thing, for which anything is sufficient (e.g., Proverbs 25:16, דּיּך, to which Fleischer compares Arab. hasbuha, tassuha kifayuha), has here the genitive of the thing of which, or in which, one has enough. The complex subject-conception is limited by Rebia, and the governing דּי has the subordinated disjunctive Legarmeh. עזּים is a word of two genders (epicoenum), Gesen. 107, 1d. In וחיּים the influence of the ל still continues; one does not need to supply it meanwhile, since all that maintains and nourishes life can be called חיים (vita equals victus), e.g., Proverbs 3:22. The lxx translates בּיתך by σῶν θεραπόντων, and omits (as also the Syr., but not the Syro-Hexap.) the last line as now superfluous; but that the maids attending to the cattle - by whom we particularly think of milkers - are especially mentioned, intentionally presents the figure of a well-ordered household, full of varied life and activity (Job 40:29).

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