A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Verse 1. - A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. It will be observed that "good" in the Authorized Version is in italics, showing that the epithet is not expressed in the Hebrew, which is simply שֵׁם (shem), "name." But this word carried with it the notion of good repute, as in Ecclesiastes 7:1; for being well known implied honour and reputation, while being nameless (Job 30:8) signified not only obscurity, but ignominy and discredit. Hence the versions have ὄνομα καλόν, nomen bonum, and Ecclus. 41:12, "Have regard to thy name (περὶ ὀνόματος), for that shall continue with thee above a thousand great treasures of gold. A good life," the moralist continues, "hath but few days; but a good name endureth forever" (contrast Proverbs 10:7). And loving favour rather than silver and gold; or, more accurately, and before gold and silver grace is good; i.e. grace is far better than gold. Grace (chen) is the manner and demeanour which win love, as well as the favour and affection gained thereby; taken as parallel to "name," in the former hemistich, it means here "favour," the regard conceived by others for a worthy object. Publ. Syr., "Bona opinio hominum tutier pecunia est." The French have a proverb, "Bonne renommee vaut mieux que ceinture doree." The latter hemistich gives the reason for the assertion in the former - a good name is so valuable because it wins affection and friendship, which are far preferable to material riches,
The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
Verse 2. - The rich and poor meet together (Proverbs 29:13): the Lord is the Maker of them all (Job 34:19). God has ordained that there shall be rich and poor in the world, and that they should meet in the intercourse of life. These social inequalities are ordered for wise purposes; the one helps the other. The labour of the poor makes the wealth of the rich; the wealth of the rich enables him to employ and aid the poor. Their common humanity, their fatherhood in God, should make them regard one another as brethren, without distinction of rank or position: the rich should not despise the poor (Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Job 31:15), the poor should not envy the rich (Proverbs 3:31), but all should live in love and harmony as one great family of God.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Verse 3. - A prudent man foresesth the evil, and hideth himself. The whole verse is repeated in Proverbs 27:12. St. Jerome has callidus, and the LXX. has πανοῦργος, as the translation of עָרוּם (arum); but it must be taken in a good sense, as cautions, farseeing, prudent (see note on Proverbs 1:4) Such a man looks around, takes warning from little circumstances which might escape the observation of careless persons, and provides for his safety in good time. Thus the Christians at the siege of Jerusalem, believing Christ's warnings, retired to Pella, and wine saved. A Spanish proverb runs, "That which the fool does in the end, the wise man does at the beginning." The simple pass on, and are punished. The subject of the former hemistich is in the singular number, for a really prudent man is a comparatively rare bring; the second clause is plural, teaching us, as Hitzig observes, that many simple ones are found for one prudent. These silly persons, blundering blindly on their way, without circumspection or forethought, meet with immediate punishment, incur dangers, suffer less. A Cornish proverb runs, "He who will not be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock." Septuagint, "An intelligent man (πανοῦργος) seeing a wicked man punished is himself forcibly instructed; but fools pass by, and are punished" (comp. Proverbs 21:11).
By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.
Verse 4. - By humility and the fear of the Lord, etc. This does not seem to be the best rendering of the original. The word rendered "by" (עֵקֶב ekeb), "in reward of," is also taken as the subject of the sentence: "The reward of humility ['and,' or, 'which is'] the fear of God, is riches," etc. There is no copulative in the clause, and a similar asyndeton occurs in ver. 5; so there is no reason why we should not regard the clause in this way. Thus Revised Version, Nowack, and others. But Delitzsch makes the first hemistich a concluded sentence, which the second member carries on thus: "The reward of humility is the fear of the Lord; it [the reward of humility] is at the same time riches," etc. Vulgate, Finis modestiae timor Domini, divitiae et gloria et vita; Septuagint, "The generation (γενεὰ) of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and wealth," etc. It is preferable to translate as above, taking the two expressed virtues as appositional, thus: "The reward of humility, the fear of the Lord." Humility brings with it true religion, which is expressed by "the fear of the Lord." The feeling of dependence, the lowly opinion of self, the surrender of the will, the conviction of sin, all effects which are connected with humility, may well be represented by this term, "the fear of God," which, in another aspect, is itself the source of every virtue and every blessing; it is riches, and honour, and life. These are God's gifts, the guerdon of faithful service (see notes on Proverbs 3:16 and Proverbs 21:21; and comp. Proverbs 8:18). The Easterns have a pretty maxim, "The bending of the humble is the graceful droop of the branches laden with fruit." And again, "Fruitful trees bend down; the wise stoop; a dry stick and a fool can be broken, not bent" (Lane).
Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.
Verse 5 - Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward. The words are in the Hebrew without the conjunction (see note, ver. 4), though the versions generally add it. Thus the Septuagint, τρίβολοι καὶ παγίδες; Vulgate, arma et gladiii but the Venetian, ἄκανθαι παγίδες. It is a question whether the thorns are what the perverse prepare for others, or what they themselves suffer. In Proverbs 15:19 the hedge of thorns represented the difficulties in the sluggard's path; but here, viewed in connection with the following hemistich, the thorns and snares refer to the hindrances proceeding from the froward, which injuriously affect others; "thorns" being a figure of the pains and troubles, "snares" of the unexpected dangers and impediments which evil men cause as they go on their crooked way. The word for "thorns" is צנִּים, which occurs in Job 5:5. The plant is supposed to be the Rhamnus paliurus, but it has not been accurately identified. He that doth keep his soul shall be far from them (comp. Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:17). The man who has regard to his life and morals will go far, will keep wholly aloof, from those perils and traps into which the perverse try to entice them.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Verse 6. - Train up a child in the way he should go. The verb translated "train" (chanak) means, first, "to put something into the mouth," "to give to be tasted," as nurses give to infants food which they have masticated in order to prepare it for their nurslings; thence it comes to signify "to give elementary instruction," "to imbue," "to train." The Hebrew literally is, Initiate a child in accordance with his way. The Authorized Version, with which Ewald agrees, takes the maxim to mean that the child should be trained from the first in the right path - the path of obedience and religion. This is a very true and valuable rule, but it is not what the author intends. "His way" must mean one of two things - either his future calling and station, or his character and natural inclination and capacity. Delitzsch and Plumptre take the latter interpretation; Nowack and Bertheau the former, on the ground that derek is not used in the other sense suggested. But, as far as use is concerned, both explanations stand on much the same ground; and it seems more in conformity with the moralist's age and nation to see in the maxim an injunction to consider the child's nature, faculties, and temperament, in the education which is given to him. If, from his early years, a child is thus trained, when he is old, he will not depart from it. This way, this education in accordance with his idiosyncrasy, will bear fruit all his life long; it will become a second nature, and will never be obliterated. The Vulgate commences the verse with Proverbium est, taking the first word substantively, as if the author here cited a trite saying; but the rendering is a mistake. There are similar maxims, common at all times and in all countries. Virg., 'Georg.,' 2:272 -
"Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est." Horace, 'Epist.,' 1:2, 67 -
"Nunc adbibe puro
Pectore verba, puer." For, as he proceeds -
"Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
Testa diu." Thus we have two mediaeval jingles -
"Cui puer assuescit, major dimittere nescit."
"Quod nova testa capit, inveterata sapit." Then there is the German saw, "Jung gewohnt, alt gethan." "What youth learns, age does not forget," says the Danish proverb. In another and a sad sense the French exclaim, "St jeunesse savait! si vieillesse pouvait!" All the early manuscripts of the Septuagint omit this verse; m some of the later it has been supplied from Theodotion.
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
Verse 7. - The rich ruleth over the poor. "The rich man (singular) will rule over the poor" (plural); for there are many poor for one rich (see on ver. 3). This is the way of the world (Proverbs 18:23). Aben Ezra explains the gnome as showing the advantage of wealth and the inconvenience of poverty; the former bringing power and pre-eminence, the latter trouble and servitude; and hence the moralist implies that every one should strive and labour to obtain a competency, and thus avoid the evils of impecuniosity. The borrower is servant to the lender. (For the relation between borrower and louder, or debtor and creditor, see on Proverbs 20:16; and comp. Matthew 18:25, 34.) Delitzsch cites the German saying, "Borghart (borrower) is Lehnhart's (leader's) servant." We have the proverb, "He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing." The Septuagint departs from the other versions and our Hebrew text, translating, "The rich will role over the poor, and household servants will lend to their own masters" - a reading on which some of the Fathers have commented.
He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.
Verse 8. - He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity; shall gain nothing substantial, shall have nothing to show for his pains. But aven also means "calamity," "trouble," as Proverbs 12:21; so the gnome expresses the truth that they who do evil shall meet with punishment in their very sins - the exact contrast to the promise to the righteous (Proverbs 11:18). "To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." Thus we have in Job 4:8, "They that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same;" and the apostle asserts (Galatians 6:7, etc), "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Eastern proverbs run, "As the sin, so the atonement:" "Those who sow thorns can only reap prickles" (comp. Proverbs 12:14). And the rod of his anger shall fail. The writer is thinking especially of cruelty and injustice practised on a neighbour, as Delitzsch has pointed out, and he means that the rod which he has raised, the violence intended against the innocent victim, shall vanish away or fall harmlessly. Ewald and others think that the rod is the Divine anger, and translate the verb (kalah) "is prepared," a sense which here it will not well bear, though the LXX. has lent some countenance to it by rendering, "And shall fully accomplish the plague (πληγὴν,? 'punishment') of his deeds." The rendering, "shall fail." "shall be consumed, or annihilated," is confirmed by Genesis 21:15; Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 16:4, etc. The Septuagint adds a distich here, of which the first member is a variant of ver. 9a. and the second another rendering of the latter hemistich of the present verse: "A cheerful man and a giver God blesseth (ἄνδρα ἱλαρὸν καὶ δότην εὐλογεῖ ὁ Θεός): but he shall bring to an end (συντελεσεῖ) the vanity of his works." The first hemistich is remarkable for being quoted by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 9:7), with a slight variation, Ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεός. So Ecclus. 32 (35):9, "In all thy gifts show a cheerful countenance (ἱλάρωσον τὸ πρόσθπόν σου)."
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
Verse 9. - He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed. The "good of eye" is the kindly looking, the benevolent man, in contrast to him of the evil eye, the envious, the unfriendly and niggardly man (Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 28:22). St. Jerome renders, Qui pronus est ad misericordiam. Such a one is blessed by God in this world and the next, in time and in eternity, according to the sentiment of Proverbs 11:25. Thus in the temporal sense (Ecclus. 34 (31):23). "Him that is liberal in food lips shall bless, and the testimony of his liberality will be believed." Septuagint, "He that hath pity upon the poor shall himself be continually sustained (διατραφήσεται)." The reason is added, For he giveth of his brans to the poor. The blessing is the consequence of his charity and liberality. 2 Corinthians 9:6, "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (ἐπ αὐλογίαις)." The Vulgate and Septuagint add a distich not in the Hebrew, Victoriam et honorem acquiret qui dat munera; animam autem aufert accipientium; Νίκην καὶ τιμὴν περι ποιεῖται ὁ δῶρα δοὺς τὴν μέντοι ψυχὴν ἀφαι ρεῖται τῶν κεκτημένωνω, "Victory and honour he obtaineth who giveth gifts; but he takes away the life of the possessors." The first hemistich appears to be a variant of Proverbs 19:6b, the second to be derived from Proverbs 1:19b. The second portion of the Latin addition may mean that the liberal man wins and carries away with him the souls of the recipients of his bounty. But this, though Ewald would fain have it so, cannot be the signification of the corresponding Greek, which seems to mean that the man who is so liberal in distributing gifts obtains the power to do so by oppressing and wronging others.
Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.
Verse 10 - Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; Septuagint, ἔκβαλε ἐκ συνεδρίου λοιμόν, "Cast out of the company a pestilent fellow" Chase away the scorner (Proverbs 1:22), the man who has no respect for things human or Divine, and the disputes and ill feeling which he caused will be ended; for "where no wood is, the fire goeth out" (Proverbs 26:20). Yea, strife and reproach shall cease. The reproach and ignominy (קָלון, kalon) are those which the presence and words of the scorner bring with them; to have such a one in the company is a disgrace to all good men. Thus Ishmael and his mother were driven from Abraham's dwelling (Genesis 21:9, etc.), and the apostle quotes (Galatians 4:30), "Cast out (ἔκβαλε) the bondwoman and her son." Septuagint, "For when he sits in the company he dishonours all." The next verse gives a happy contrast.
He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.
Verse 11. - He that loveth pureness of heart; he who strives to be pure m heart (Matthew 5:8), free from guile, lust, cupidity, vice of every kind. The next clause carries on the description of the perfect character, and is best translated. And hath grace of lips, the king is his friend. He who is not only virtuous and upright, but has the gift of graciousness of speech, winning manner in conversation, such a man wilt attach the king to him by the closest bonds of friendship. We have had something very similar at ch. 16:13. Some of the versions consider that by the king God is meant. Thus the Septuagint, "The Lord loveth holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him." The rest of the clause is connected by the LXX. with the following verse, "A king guides his flock (ποιμαίνει) with his lips; but the eyes of the Lord," etc.
The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.
Verse 12. - The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge. The expression, "preserve knowledge," is found at Proverbs 5:2 (where see note) in the sense of "keep," "retain," and, taken by itself, it might here signify that the Lord alone possesses knowledge, and alone imparts it to his servants (1 Samuel 2:3); but as in the following clause a person, the transgressor, is spoken of, it is natural to expect a similar expression in the former. The Revised Version is correct in rendering the abstract "knowledge" by the concrete "him that hath knowledge;" so that the clause says that God watches over and protects the man who knows him and walks in his ways, and uses his means and abilities for the good of others (see Proverbs 11:9). But he (the Lord) overthroweth the words of the transgressor. The transgressor here is the false, treacherous, perfidious man; and the gnome asserts that God frustrates by turning in another direction the outspoken intentions of this man, which he had planned against the righteous (comp. Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 21:12). Septuagint, "But the eves of the Lord preserve knowledge, but the transgressor despiseth words," i e. commands, or words of wisdom and warning.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
Verse 13. - The slothful man saith, There is a lion without (Proverbs 26:13). The absurd nature of the sluggard's excuse is hardly understood by the casual reader. The supposed lion is without, in the open country, and yet he professes to be in danger in the midst of the town. I shall be slain in the streets. Others consider that the sluggard makes two excuses for his inactivity. If work calls him abroad, he may meet the lion which report says is prowling in the neighbourhood; if he has to go into the streets, he may be attacked and murdered by ruffians for motives of plunder or revenge. "Sluggards are prophets," says the Hebrew proverb. Septuagint, "The sluggard maketh excuses, and saith, A lion is in the ways, there are murderers in the streets." Lions, though now extinct in Palestine, seem to have lingered till the time of the Crusades, and such of them as became man eaters, the old or feeble, were a real danger in the vicinity of villages (comp. Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44).
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.
Verse 14. - The mouth of strange women is a deep pit. The hemistich reappears in a slightly altered form at Proverbs 23:27. (For "strange woman" as equivalent to "a harlot" or "adulteress," see note on Proverbs 2:16.) By her "mouth" is meant her wanton, seductive words, which entice a man to destruction of body and soul. It may be that theology rather than morals is signified here - rather false doctrines than evil practice. In this case the mention of the strange or foreign woman is very appropriate, seeing that perversions of belief and worship were always introduced into Israel from external sources. He that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein. He who has incurred the width of God by previous unfaithfulness and sin is left to himself to fall a prey to the allurements of the wicked woman (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:26). Septuagint, "The mouth of a transgressor (παρανόμου) is a deep ditch; and he that is hated of the Lord shall fall therein." Then are added three lines not in the Hebrew, which, however, seem to be reminiscences of other passages: "There are evil ways before a man, and be loveth not to turn away from them; but it is needful to turn away item a perverse and evil way."
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Verse 15. - Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. Foolishness (ivveleth) here implies the love of mischief, the waywardness and self-will, belonging to children, bound up in their very nature. Septuagint, "Folly is attached (ἐξῆπται) to the heart of the young," in which version Cornelius a Lapide sees an allusion to the ornament hung by fond parents round the neck of a child whom they were inclined to spoil rather than to train in self-denying ways. To such a child folly adheres as closely as the bulla with which he is decorated. But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Judicious education overcomes this natural tendency, by punishing it when exhibited, and imparting wisdom and piety (see on Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 19:18; and comp. Proverbs 23:13; Proverbs 29:15; Ecclus. 30:1, etc). The LXX. pursue their notion of the the indulgent parents letting the child have his own way, for they render the last clause, "But the rod and discipline are far from him."
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
Verse 16. - He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches (so the Vulgate), and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want. There are various renderings and explanations of this verse. The Authorized Version says that he who oppresseth the poor to enrich himself, and he who wastes his means by giving to those who do not need it, will come to poverty. But the antithesis of this distich is thus lost. The Hebrew literally rendered brings out the contrast, Whosoever oppresseth the poor, it is for his gain; whosoever giveth to the rich, it is for his loss. Delitzsch explains the sentence thus: "He who enriches himself by extortion from the poor, at any rate gains what he desires; but he who gives to the rich impoverishes himself in vain, has no thanks, reaps only disappointment." One cannot but feel that the maxim thus interpreted is poor and unsatisfactory. The interpretation in the 'Speaker's Commentary' is more plausible: The oppressor of the poor will himself suffer in a similar mode, and will have to surrender his ill-gotten gains to some equally unscrupulous rich man. But the terse antithesis of the original is wholly obscured by this view of the distich. It is far better, with Hitzig, Ewald, and others, to take the gain in the first hemistich as that of the poor man, equivalent to "doth but bring him gain;" though the sentence is not necessarily to be explained as suggesting that the injustice which the poor man suffers at the hand of his wealthy neighbour is a stimulus to him to exert himself in order to better his position, and thus indirectly tends to his enrichment. The maxim is really conceived in the religious style of so many of these apparently worldly pronouncements, and states a truth in the moral government of God intimated elsewhere, e.g. Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 28:8; and that truth is that the riches extorted from the poor man will in the end redound to his benefit, that by God's providential control the oppression and injustice from which he has suffered shall work to his good. In the second hemistich the loss is that of the rich man. By adding to the wealth of the rich the donor increases his indolence, encourages his luxury, vice, and extravagance, and thus leads to his ruin - "bringeth only to want. Septuagint, "He that calumniates (συκοφαντῶν) the poor increaseth his own substance, but giveth to the rich at a loss (ἐπ ἐλάσσονι)" i.e. so as to lessen his substance.
Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
Verse 17-ch. 24:22. - Part IV. FIRST APPENDIX TO THE FIRST GREAT COLLECTION, containing "words of the wise." Verses 17-21. - The introduction to this first appendix, containing an exhortation to attend to the words of the wise, an outline of the instruction herein imparted, with a reference to teaching already given. Verse 17. - Incline thine ear (comp. Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 5:1). The words of the wise; verba sapientium, Vulgate. "Wise" is in the plural number, showing that this is not a portion of the collection called, 'The Proverbs of Solomon' (Proverbs 10:1), but a distinct work. (For the term, see note on Proverbs 1:6.) My knowledge. The knowledge which I impart by bringing to notice these sayings of wise men. Septuagint, "Incline (παράβαλλε) thine ear to the words of wise men, and hear my word, and apply thine heart, that thou mayest know that they are good."
For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
Verse 18. - This verse gives the reason for the previous exhortation. It is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; in thy mind and memory (comp. Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 20:27). Thus Psalm 147:1, "It is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely." They shall withal be fitted in thy lips. This rendering hardly suits the hortatory nature of the introduction. It is better to take the clause in the optative, as Delitzsch, Ewald, Nowack, and ethers: "Let them abide altogether upon thy lips;" i.e. be not ashamed to profess them openly, let them regulate thy words, teach thee wisdom and discretion. Septuagint, "And if thou admit them to thy heart, they shall likewise gladden thee on thy lips."
That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
Verse 19. - That thy trust may be in the Lord. The Greek and Latin versions make this clause depend on the preceding verse. It is better to consider it as dependent on the second hemistich, the fact of instruction being placed after the statement of its object. All the instruction herein afforded is meant to teach that entire confidence in the Lord which, as soon as his will is known and understood, leads a man to do it at any cost or pains, leaving the result in God's hands. I have made them known to thee this day, even to thee. The repetition of the personal pronoun brings home the teaching to the disciple, and shows that it is addressed, not merely to the mass of men, but to each individual among them, who thus becomes responsible for the use which he makes of it (comp. Proverbs 23:15). The expression, "this day," further emphasizes the exhortation. The learner is not to remember vaguely that some time or other he received this instruction, but that on this particular day the warning was given. So in Hebrews 3:7, 13 we read, "As the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.... Exhort one another daily, so long as it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Septuagint, "That thy hope may be in the Lord, and he may make thy way known unto thee." Cheyne ('Job and Solomon') quotes Biekell's correction of this verse, "That thy confidence may be in Jehovah, to make known unto thee thy ways;" but the alteration seems arbitrary and unnecessary.
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
Verse 20. - Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge? There is a difficulty about the word tendered "excellent things." The Khetib has שׁלשׁום, "the day before yesterday, formerly;" but the word occurs nowhere alone, and, as Nowack says, can hardly have been the original reading. However, Ewald, Bertheau, and others, adopting it, suppose that the author refers to some earlier work. Cheyne cites Bickell's rendering, "Now, years before now, have I written unto thee long before with counsels and knowledge," and considers the words to mean either that the compiler took a long time over his work, or that this was not the first occasion of his writing. One does not see why stress should be here laid on former instruction, unless, perhaps, as Plumptre suggests, in contrast to "this day" of the previous verse. The LXX. renders the word τρισσῶς thus, "And do thou record them for thyself triply for counsel and knowledge upon the table of thine heart." St. Jerome has, Ecce descripsi eam tibi tripliciter, in cogitationibus et scientiis. Other versions have also given a numerical explanation to the term. In it is seen an allusion to the three supposed works of Solomon - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles - which is absurd; others refer it to the threefold division of the Testament - Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa; others, to three classes of youths for whom the admonitious were intended; others, again, think it equivalent to "oftentimes," or "in many forms." But the reading is as doubtful as the explanations of it are unsatisfactory. The genuine word is doubtless preserved in the Keri, which gives שָׁלִשִׁים (shalishim), properly a military term, applied to chariot fighters and men of rank in the army. The LXX. translates the word by τριστὰτης e.g. Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4), which is equivalent to "chieftain." Hence the Hebrew term, understood in the neuter gender, is transferred to the chief among proverbs - "choice proverbs," as Delitzsch calls them. The Venetian, by a happy turn, gives τρισμέγιστα. Thus we come back to the rendering of the Authorized Version as meet correct and intelligible.
That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?
Verse 21. - That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth. The object intended is to teach the disciple the fixed rule (firmitatem, Vulgate) by which truthful words are guided (see Luke 1:4). Septuagint, "I therefore teach thee a true word and knowledge good to learn." That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee. This implies that the pupil will be enabled to teach others who apply to him for instruction; "will be ready." as St. Peter says, "always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). But the last expression is better translated, "them that send thee;" illis qui miserunt te, Vulgate (see Proverbs 25:13); and we must conceive of these as being parents or tutors who send a youth to a school or wise man to be educated. The moralist expresses his desire that the disciple will carry home such wholesome, truthful doctrines as will prove that the pains expended upon him have not been useless. Septuagint, "That thou mayest answer words of truth to those who put questions to thee (τοῖς προβαλλομένοις σοι)" The Syriac adds, "That I may make known unto thee counsel and wisdom." Bickell's version (quoted by Cheyne) is, "That thou mayest know the rightness of these words, that thou mayest answer in true words to them that ask thee."
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
Verse 22-ch. 24:22. - Here commence the "words of the wise." Verse 22. - This and the following verse form a terrastich, which connects itself in thought with ver. 16. Rob not the poor, because he is poor. The word for "poor" is here dal, which means "feeble," "powerless" (see on Proverbs 19:4), and the writer enjoins the disciple not to be induced by his weakness to injure and despoil a poor man. Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate. The gate is the place of judgment, the court of justice (comp. Job 31:21). The warning points to the particular form of wrong inflicted on the lowly by unjust judges, who could give sentences from which, however iniquitous, there was practically no appeal.
For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Verse 23. - For, though they are powerless to defend themselves, and have no earthly patrons, the Lord will plead their cause (Proverbs 23:11). Jehovah will be their Advocate and Protector. And spoil the soul of those that spoiled them; rather, despoil of life those that despoil them. So the Revised Version. God, exercising his moral government on human concerns, will bring ruin and death on the unjust judge or the rich oppressor of the poor. Jerome has, Configet eos qui confixerunt animam ejus. The verb used is קבע (kabah), which is found only here and Malachi 3:8, where it means "to defraud" or "despoil." In the Chaldee and Syriac it may signify "to fix," "to pierce." Septuagint, "The Lord will judge his cause, and thou shalt deliver thy soul unharmed (ἄσυλον):" i.e. if you refrain from injustice and oppression, you will be saved Item evil and dwell securely.
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
Verses 24, 25. - Another tetrastich. Make no friendship with an angry (irascible) man. Have no close intercourse with a man given to fits of passion. And with a furious man thou shalt not go. Avoid the society of such a one. The reason follows: Lest thou learn his ways; his manner of life and conduct. as Proverbs 1:15 (where see note). Anger breeds anger; impotence, impatience. St. Basil ('De Ira'), quoted by Corn. a Lapide, enjoins, "Take not your adversary as your teacher, and be not a mirror to reflect the angry man, showing his figure in thyself." And get a snare to thy soul; bring destruction on thyself. Anger unsubdued not only mars the kindliness of social life, but leads to all sorts of dangerous complications which may bring ruin and death in their train (comp. Proverbs 15:18). Vers 26, 27. - A warning against suretyship, often repeated. Be not thou one of them that strike hands; i.e. that become guarantees for others (see on Proverbs 17:18; 20:16; and comp. Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15). Sureties for debts. The writer explains what kind of guarantee he means. Why should he (the creditor) take away thy bed from under thee? Why should you ("from respect of person." Septuagint) act so weakly as to give a creditor power to seize your very bed as a pledge? The Law endeavoured to mitigate this penalty (Exodus 22:26, 27; Deuteronomy 24:12, 13). But doubtless its merciful provisions were evaded by the moneylenders (see Nehemiah 5:11; Ezekiel 18:12, "hath not restored the pledge").
Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.
Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Verse 28. - The first line is repeated at Proverbs 23:10. (On the sanctity of landmarks, see note on Proverbs 15:25.) Some of the stones, exhibiting a bilingual inscription, which marked the boundaries of the Levitical city of Gezer, were discovered by Gauneau in 1874 ('Quart. Statement Pal. Explor. Fund,' 1874). The Septuagint calls the landmarks ὅρια αἰώνια.
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
Verse 29 - A tristich follows. Seest thou a man diligent in his business! Mere diligence would not commend a man to high notice unless accompanied by dexterity and skill; and though מָהִיר (mahir) means "quick," it also has the notion of "skilful," and is better here taken in that sense. He shall stand before kings. This phrase means to serve or minister to another (Genesis 41:46; 1 Samuel 16:21, 22; 1 Kings 10:8; Job 1:6). A man thus export is fitted for any, even the highest situation, may well be employed in affairs of state, and enjoy the confidence of kings. He shall not stand before mean men. "Mean" (חְשֻׁכִּים) are the men of no importance, ignobiles, obscure. An intellectual, clever, adroit man would never he satisfied with serving such masters; his ambition is higher; he knows that he is capable of better things. Septuagint, "It must needs be that an observant (ὁρατικὸν) man, and one who is keen in his business, should attend on kings, and not attend on slothful men."