When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
Verses 1-3. - A hexastich closely connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter, as if the warning was addressed to the man of skill whom his talents had made the guest of kings. Verse 1. - When thou sittest to eat with a ruler. This, of course, would be a great honour to a man of lowly birth, or to one of the middle class, to whom the manners of courts and palaces were practically unknown. Consider diligently what is before thee. So the Vulgate, Qua apposita sunt ante faciem tuam; and the Septuagint, Τὰ παρατιθέμενά σοι. Take heed lest the unusual dainties on the table tempt thee to excess, which may lead not only to unseemly behaviour, but also to unruly speech, revealing of secrets, etc. But the latter words may also be tendered, "him that is," or, "who is before thee." And this gives a very appropriate sense. The guest is enjoined to fix his attention, not on the delicate food, but on the host, who is his superior, and able to exalt and to destroy him (compare the cautious maxims in Ecclus. 13:2, 6, 7, 11, etc.).
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Verse 2. - And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. "Stab thy gluttony," Wordsworth. Restrain thyself by the strongest measures, convince thyself that thou art in the utmost peril, if thou art a glutton or wine bibber (Ecclus. 34 :12). The LXX. gives a different turn to the injunction, "And apply (ἐπίβαλλε) thy hand, knowing that it behoves thee to prepare such things." This is like the warning of Siracides, in the chapter quoted above, where the disciple is admonished not to attend the banquets of rich men, lest he should be tempted to vie with them, and thus ruin himself by attempting to return their civilities in the same lavish manner. The earlier commentators have used the above verses as a lesson concerning the due and reverent partaking of the Holy Communion, thus: "When you approach the table of Christ, consider diligently what is represented by the elements before you, and have discernment and faith, lest you eat and drink unworthily; and after communicating walk warily, mortify all evil desires, live as in the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Giver of the feast."
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Verse 3. - Be not desirous of his dainties. (For "dainties," see on ver. 6.) Be not too greedy of the bounties of the royal table, so as to forget discretion, and be led to say and do things which are inexpedient or unseemly. For they are deceitful meat. Oftentimes such entertainment is not offered for friendship's sake, but for some sinister purpose - to make a man expose himself, to get at a man's real character or secrets. Far from being a sign of favour and good will, the seeming honour is deceptive and dangerous. We all know Horace's lines, 'Ars Poet.,' 434, etc. -
"Reges dicuntur multi, urgere culullis
Et torquere mero, quem perspexisse laborant,
Au sit amicitia dignus." Hitzig quotes the Eastern proverb, "He who eats of the sultan's soup burns his lips, even though it he after a length of time." We have too the Indian saying, "An epicure digs his grave with his teeth," which is true in more senses than one. "Keep thee far from the man that hath power to kill," says Siracides (Ecclus. 9:13); "so shalt thou not be troubled with fear of death: and if thou come unto him, commit no fault, lest he presently take away thy life; remember that thou goest in the midst of snares, and that thou walkest upon the battlements of the city." Then for the reasons which induce a ruler to ply a guest with wine, we have, "In vino veritas, quod est in corde sobrii, est in ore ebrii." Theognis writes -
Ἐν πυρὶ μὲν χρυσόν τε καὶ ἄργυρον ἴδριες ἄνδρες
Γιγνώσκους ἀνδρὸς δ οϊνος ἔδειξε νόον
Καὶ μάλα περ πινυτοῦ τὸν ὐπέρ μέτρον ἤρατο πίνων
Ωστε καταισχῦναι καὶ πρὶν ἐόντα σοφόν. The Septuagint combines the ending of ver. 2, "But if thou art more insatiable, desire not his victuals, for these appertain to (ἔχεται) a false life."
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Verses 4, 5. - These form a pentastich. Verse 4. - Labour not - weary not thyself - to be rich. John 6:27, "Labour not for the meat that perisheth," where the warning is against that absorbing eagerness for wealth which leads to evil doing and neglect of all higher interests. Cease from thine own wisdom. The wisdom (binah, Proverbs 3:5) is that which is necessary for making and keeping wealth. Vulgate, Prudentiae tuae pone modum. This is not the highest form of wisdom (chochmah), but rather the faculty of distinguishing one thing from another, mere discernment, which may exist without any religious or keen moral sense (see note on Proverbs 16:16, where possibly the contrast is expressed). Talmud, "He who augments his riches augments his cares." Erasmus, 'Adag,,' quotes or writes -
"Jupiter ementitur opes mortalibus ipse,
Sic visum ut fuerit, cuicunque, bonove, malove? Septuagint, "If thou art poor, measure not thyself (μὴ παρεκτείνου) with a rich man, but in thy wisdom refrain thyself."
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Verse 5. - Wilt thou sat thine eyes upon that which is not? more literally, wilt thou let thine eyes fly upon it, and it is gone? Why cast longing looks towards this wealth, and so prepare for yourself loss and disappointment? The pursuit is vain, and the result is never secure; what you gained by long toil and prudent care may be lost in an hour. Do you wish to incur this danger? Wordsworth quotes Persius, 'Sat.,' 3:61 -
"An passim sequeris corvos testaque lutoque?" For riches certainly make themselves wings. The subject, unexpressed, is riches, and the Hebrew phrase implies absolute certainty: Making they will make for themselves. They fly away as an eagle toward heaven; or, like on eagle that flieth toward heaven, where not even sight can follow. Publ. Syr., 255, "Longinquum est omne quod cupiditas flagitat." The Telugu compares worldly prosperity to writing upon water. Says the Greek moralist -
Βέβαιον οὐδέν ἐν βίῳ δοκεῖ πέλειν
"There's naught in life that one can deem secure." Septuagint, "If thou fix thine eye upon him (the rich patron), he will nowhere be seen, for wings like an eagle's are ready prepared for him, and he will return to the house of his master (τοῦ προεστηκότος), and leave you to shift for yourself."
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
Verses 6-8. - Another maxim, here a heptastich, concerning temperance. Verse 6. - Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye; the envious and jealous man, in contrast to the "good of eye" (Proverbs 22:9). Vulgate, Ne comedas cum heroine invido. Septuagint, ἀνδρὶ βασκάνῳ, the man who has the evil eye that fascinates, which, however, is a later idea; here the notion is rather of a grudging, sordid temper, that cannot bear the sight of others' happiness or prosperity (comp. Deuteronomy 15:9; Matthew 20:15). Ecclus. 16:8, Πονηρὸς ὁ βασκαίνων ὀφθαλμῳ, "The envious man hath an evil eye; he turneth away his face, and he is one who despiseth men." Dainty meats; as in ver. 3. The word (matammoth) occurs also throughout Genesis 27, where it is rendered, "savoury meat." Talmud, "To ask a favour from a miser is as if you asked wisdom from a woman, modesty from a harlot, fish on the dry land."
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
Verse 7. - For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. The verb here used is שָׁעַר (shaar), "to estimate, ....to calculate," and the clause is best rendered, For as one that calculates with himself, so is he. The meaning is that this niggardly host watches every morsel which his guest eats, and grudges what he appears to offer so liberally. In the Authorized Version the word "heart" occurs twice in this verse, but the Hebrew words are different. The first is nephesh, "breath," equivalent to "mind;" the second is leb, "heart." The Vulgate paraphrases the clause, Quoniam in similitudinem arioli et conjectoris, aestimat quod ignorat, "For like a soothsayer or diviner he conjectures that of which he is ignorant." Eat and drink, saith he to thee. He professes to make you welcome, and with seeming cordiality invites you to partake of the food upon his table. But his heart is not with thee. He is not glad to see you enjoy yourself, and his pressing invitation is empty verbiage with no heart in it. The Septuagint, pointing differently, translates, "For as if one should swallow a hair, so he eats and drinks." The Greek translators take the gnome to apply to one who invites an envious man to his table, and finds him eating his food as if it disgusted him. They go on, "Bring him not in to thee, nor eat thy morsel with him; for (ver. 8) he will vomit it up, and outrage thy fair words." In agreement with the gnome above, we find in the Talmud, "My son, eat not the bread of the covetous, nor sit thou at his table. The bread of the covetous is only pain and anguish; the bread of the generous man is a source of health and joy."
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
Verse 8. - The morsel which thou hast eaten shall thou vomit up. Food thus grudgingly bestowed will only create disgust, and do thee no good; thou wilt feel annoyed to have eaten it, and wilt long to get rid of it. And lose thy sweet words. You will have expended in vain your civil speeches and thanks for the entertainment provided for you; you really owe no gratitude for fare so grudgingly bestowed. Some think that by the "sweet words" are meant the conversation at table with which you have endeavoured to amuse your host - the witty sayings, enigmas, and apothegms, which entered so largely into the programme of a good talker. All such efforts are thrown away on the jealous, morose host. But the former explanation is more agreeable to the context.
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
Verse 9. - Here is another case in which "sweet words" are lost. Speak not in the ears of a fool. This does not mean, as it would in our English phrase - whisper not to a fool; but do not take the trouble to try to make him understand, impart nothing to him. The "fool" here (kesil) is the dull, stolid, stupid man. who cannot be moved from his own narrow groove (see on Proverbs 1:22). It is a mere casting of pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) to speak to such a man of high aims, righteous motives, self-sacrifice (comp. Proverbs 9:8). He will despise the wisdom of thy words. He cannot enter into the meaning of words of wisdom; he has no appetite for them, he cannot assimilate them; and in his self-satisfied dulness he feels for them nothing but contempt (Ecclus. 22:7, etc., "Whoso teacheth a fool is as one that glueth a potsherd together, and as he that waketh one from a sound sleep. He that telleth a tale to a fool speaketh to one in a slumber: whey he hath told his tale, he will say, What is the matter?")
Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
Verses 10, 11. - An enlargement of Proverbs 22:28 combined with Proverbs 22:22, 28. Verse 10. - Enter not into the fields of the fatherless. Do not think to appropriate the fields of orphans, as if there were no our to defend their rights (comp. Proverbs 15:25).
For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
Verse 11. - For their Redeemer is mighty. The redeemer (goel) is the near kinsman, who had to avenge bloodshed, carry on the blood feud, or vindicate the cause of a relation otherwise unsupported (see Numbers 25:12, 19, 21; Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:2, 9, 12). God himself will be the orphans' Goel. This term is often applied to God; e.g. Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Jeremiah 50:34. He shall plead their cause with thee. He will, as it were, conduct their cause, try thee, convict thee of injustice, and pronounce thy condemnation (Proverbs 22:23).
Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Verse 12 commences a new series of proverbs of wisdom. This general admonition is addressed to all, tutor and disciple, educator and educated. Apply thine heart unto instruction. (For musar, "instruction," see note on Proverbs 1:2.)
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Verse 13. - An injunction to the tutor or parent (comp. Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 29:17). For if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. This has been understood in various senses; e.g. "Though than scourge him, that correction will not kill him;....If thou chastise him, thou wilt save him from the doom of the rebellious son" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); or, "He shall not die eternally," which rather anticipates the conclusion in the next verse. The expression merely means - Do not be weak, thinking that you will injure your child by judicious correction, and in this fear withholding your hand; but punish him firmly when necessary, and, far from harming him, you will be doing him the greatest good.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Verse 14. - Shalt deliver his soul from hell (sheol); de inferno, Vulgate; ἐκ θανάτου, Septuagint. Premature death was regarded as a punishment of sin, as long life was the reward of righteousness. Proper discipline preserves a youth not only from many material dangers incident to unbridled passions, but saves him from spiritual death, the decay and destruction of grace here, and the retribution that awaits the sinner in another world (comp. Ecclus, 30:1-12).
My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Verse 15. - The moralist now addresses the disciple, and so to the end of the chapter. If thine heart be wise; become wise by profiting by discipline, and having its natural folly (Proverbs 22:15) eradicated. My heart shall rejoice, even mine. The pronoun is repeated for the sake of emphasis (as in Proverbs 22:19), the speaker thus declaring his supreme interest in the moral progress of his pupil.
Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
Verse 16. - My reins shall rejoice. The "reins" (kelayoth), kidneys, are regarded as the seat of feeling and sensation (Job 19:27). or of the inner nature generally (Psalm 16:7; Revelation 2:22). I shall rejoice in my very soul when thy lips speak right things; i.e. when thy heart is so replete with wisdom, thy mind so well instructed as to utter naught but what is true and sensible (Proverbs 8:6). The composition of these two verses is noteworthy, 15a being parallel to 16b, and. 15b to 16a. Septuagint, "And thy lips shall linger in words (ἐνδιατρίψει λόγοις) with my lips, if they be right," which seems to mean, "If thy lips utter what is right, they will gather wisdom from my words and impart it to others."
Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
Verse 17. - Let not thine heart envy sinners, when thou seest them apparently happy and prosperous (comp. Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 24:1, 19; Psalm 37:1; Psalm 73:3). The Authorized Version, in agreement with the Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and other versions, takes the second clause of this verse as an independent one: but it seems evidently to be constructionally connected with the preceding, and to be governed by the same verb, so that there is no occasion to insert "be thou." But be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. Jerome, corrected, would read, Non aemuletur cor tuum peccatores, sed timorem Domini tota die, As Delitzsch and Hitzig, followed by Nowack, have pointed out, the Hebrew verb, קָנָא (kana), is here used in two senses. In the first clause it signifies to be envious of a person: in the second, to be zealous for a thing, both senses combining in the thought of being moved with eager desire. Ζηλοτυπέω is used in this double sense, and aemulor in Latin. So the gnome comes to this - Show your heart's desire, not by envy of the sinner's fortune, but by zeal for true religion, that fear of the Lord which leads to strict obedience and earnest desire to please him.
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
Verse 18. - For surely there is an end. PGBR> Some take the hemistich conditionally, rendering אִם "when," or "if the end comes;" but cue sees no object in the thought being expressed conditionally; and it is best. with the Authorized Version, Nowack, and others, to take כִּי אִם equivalent to "assuredly," as in Judges 15:7; 2 Samuel 15:21. "End" (acharith) is the glorious future that awaits the pious (Proverbs 24:14; Jeremiah 29:11). The prosperity of simmers is not to be envied, for it is transitory and deceptive; but for the righteous, however depressed at times there is a happy end in prospect. And thine expectation (hope) shall not be cut off. The hope of comfort here and reward hereafter shall be abundantly realized. The writer has a firm belief in the moral government of God, and in a future life which shall rectify all anomalies (comp. Proverbs 14:32; Wisd. 5:15, etc.; Ecclus. 1:13). Septuagint, "For if thou keep them, thou shalt haw posterity, and thy hope shall not be removed" (Psalm 37:9; Job 42:12).
Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Verses 19-21. - An exhortation to temperance, as one of the results of the fear of God, prefaced by an exhortation to wisdom. Verse 19. - Hear thou. The pronoun gives force and personality to the injunction (Job 33:33). Guide thine heart in the way. (For אשׁר, "to guide straight," see on Proverbs 4:14) "The way" is the right way, in distinction to the many wrong paths of life - the way of understanding, as it is called (Proverbs 9:6). Septuagint, "Direct aright the thoughts of thy heart," for right thoughts lead to right actions.
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Verse 20. - Wine bibbers; persons who meet together for the express purpose of drinking intoxicating liquors. Among riotous eaters of flesh. The Hebrew is "of flesh for themselves," whence some take the meaning to be "of their own flesh," i.e. who by their gluttony and luxury ruin their own bodies. But the parallelism with the wine drinker shows plainly that the flesh which they eat is meant, and the idea is that they eat for the gratification of their own appetites, caring nothing for anything else. The combination of glutton and wine bibber was used as a reproach against our blessed Lord (Matthew 11:19). The versions of Jerome and the LXX. point to the contributed entertainments, where each guest brought some article to the meal, like our picnics. Thus Vulgate, "Be not among parties of drinkers, nor at the banquets of those who contribute flesh to eat;" Septuagint. "Be not a wine bibber, and strain not after contributed feasts (συμβολαῖς) and purchases of meats."
For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Verse 21. - Intemperance leads to prodigality, carelessness, and ruin. And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. The luxury and excess spoken of above lead to drowsiness and inability to work, and poverty follows as the natural result (comp. Proverbs 19:15; Proverbs 24:33, etc.). The Vulgate still harps on the same string as in the previous verse, "Those who waste time in drinking, and who give picnics (dantes symbola), shall be ruined, and semnolence small clothe with rags." The LXX. introduces a new idea which the Hebrew does not warrant, "For every drunkard and whoremonger shall be poor, and every sluggard shall clothe himself with tatters and rags."
Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Verses 22-25. - An octastich, containing an earnest exhortation to the disciple. Verse 22. - That begat thee. This is a claim on the attention and obedience of the son. When she is old. When old age with its consequent infirmities comes upon thy mother, despise her not, but rather thank God for giving her long life, and profit by her love and long experience (comp. Ecclus. 3:1, etc., where the exhortation to honour parents is very full and touching).
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Verse 23. - Buy the truth, and sell it not (comp. Proverbs 4:5, 7; Proverbs 16:16). Consider truth as a thing of the highest value, and spare no pains, cost, or sacrifice to obtain it, and, when gotten, keep it safe; do not barter it for earthly profit or the pleasures of sense; do not be reasoned out of it, or laughed out of it; "sell it not," do not part with it for any consideration. The second clause gives the sphere in which truth moves, or the three properties which appertain to it. These are: wisdom (chochmah), practical knowledge; instruction (musar), moral culture and discipline; and understanding (binah), the faculty of discernment (see notes on Proverbs 1:2). This verse is omitted in the chief manuscripts of the Septuagint.
The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
Verse 24. - The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice. The father of a righteous son who has won truth and profited by the possession has good cause to be glad (Proverbs 10:1). Septuagint erroneously, "A righteous father brings up children well." The second clause repeats the first in different words, with the further idea that the wise son affords his father practical proof of the excellence of his moral training. The contrast is seen in Proverbs 17:21.
Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
Verse 25. - Shall be glad; or, let them be glad; gaudeat, Vulgate; εὐφραινέσθω, Septuagint. She that bare thee. As in ver. 24 the father's joy was expressly mentioned, so here prominence is given to that of the mother. In the former case it is "he that begetteth;" here, "she that beareth."
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Verses 26-28. - A hexastich, in which Wisdom herself is the speaker, and warns against unchastity. Verse 26. - Give me thine heart. Do not waste thy powers and affections on evil objects, but set thy soul with all its best faculties on me, Wisdom, who alone can satisfy its desires and aspirations. There is an eloquent passage in a tract that has gone by St. Bernard's name, though not written by him ('Epist. de Reg. Vitae Spirit.,' 2:1604, Mab.), which is worth quoting: "Cor nostrum nihil dignius perficere potest, quam ut ei se restituat a quo factum est: et hoc a nobis Dominus expetit dicens, 'Fili, da mihi cor tuum.' Tunc siquidem cor hominum Deo datur, quando omnia cogitatio terminatur in eum, gyrat et circumflectitur super eum, et nihil vult possidere praeter eum. Sicque colligato sibi animo, eum diligit, ut sine ipso amarus sit omnis amor. Nec aliud dixerim cor Domino dare, quam ipsum captivare in omni obsequium ejus, et ita voluntati ejus ex toto supponere, ut nihil aliud velit, quam quod noverit eum velle." Let thine eyes observe my ways; keep closely to the paths of virtue which I teach thee, especially the path of purity, as the next verse shows. Vulgate, Vias meas custodiant; Septuagint, Ἐμὰς ὁδοὺς πήρειτωσαν. This is the reading of the Keri, תִּלֺצרְנָה; the Khetib, which Delitzsch and others prefer, reads תִּרְצֶנָה, "delight in" my ways.
For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
Verse 27. - The need of the emphatic injunction in ver. 26 is exemplified by the dangers of impurity. A deep ditch; as Proverbs 22:14. A strange woman is a narrow pit. (For "strange woman," equivalent to "harlot," see on Proverbs 2:16.) A narrow pit is one with a narrow month, from which, if one falls into it, it is difficult to extricate one's self. The verse indicates the seductive nature of the vice of unchastity: how easy it is to be led into it! how difficult to rise from it! Thus St. Chrysostom ('Hom. 11, in 1 Corinthians'), "When by unclean desire the soul is made captive, even as a cloud and mist darken the eyes of the body, so that desire intercepts the foresight of the mind, and suffers no one to see any distance before him, either precipice, or hell, or fear; but thenceforth, having that deceit as a tyrant over him, he comes to be easily vanquished by sin; and there is raised up before his eyes as it were a partition wall, and no windows in it, which suffers not the ray of righteousness to shine in upon the mind, the absurd conceits of lust enclosing it as with a rampart on all sides. And then, and from that time forward, the unchaste woman is everywhere meeting him - before his eyes, before his mind, before his thoughts, in station and presence. And as the blind, although they stand at high noon beneath the very central point of the heaven, receive not the light, their eyes being fast closed up; just so these also, though ten thousand doctrines of salvation sound in their ears from all quarters, having their soul preoccupied with this passion, stop their ears against all discourses of that kind. And they know it well who have made the trial. But God forbid that you should know it from actual experience!" The LXX. has changed the allusion: "For a strange house is a pierced wine jar (πίθος τετρημένος), and a strange well is narrow," where the idea seems to be that the private well, which is dug for the convenience of one family only, is not to be relied upon, and will yield not enough to supply others' wants. Hence would arise a warning against coveting a neighbour's wife. There is a Greek proverb about drawing wine into pierced jars (Xen., 'OEcon.,' 7:40).
She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
Verse 28. - She also lieth in wait as for a prey. "Yea, she [Proverbs 22:19] lieth in wait," as is graphically described in ch. 7. (comp. Jeremiah 3:2). Chetheph is better taken, not as "prey," but in a concrete sense as the person who snatches it, the robber. Vulgate, Insidiatur in via quasi latro (comp. Psalm 10:9). And increaseth the transgressors among men. The Greek and Latin versions have taken רוסִיפ as meaning "kills," "destroys." But the verb yasaph always means "to add," here "to multiply." The special transgression indicated is treachery or faithlessness. The harlot leads her victim to be faithless to his God, his wife, his parents, his tutor, his master. Septuagint, "For he shall perish suddenly, and every transgressor shall be destroyed."
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
Verses 29-35. - Here follows a mashal ode or song on the subject of drunkenness, which is closely connected with the sin mentioned in the previous lines. Verse 29. - Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? Hebrew, lemi oi, lemi aboi, where oi and aboi are interjections of pain or grief. So Venetian, τίνι αι} τίνι φεῦ; Revised Version margin, Who hath Oh? who hath Alas? The Vulgate has stumbled at the second expression, which is an ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, and resolving it into two words, translates, Cujus patri vae? Contentions; the brawling and strife to which drunkenness leads (Proverbs 20:1). Babbling; שִׂיחַ (siach) is rather "meditation," "sorrowful thought" showing itself in complaining, regret for lost fortune, ruined health, alienated friends. Others render "misery,....penury." St. Jerome's foveae is derived from a different reading. The LXX. has κρίσεις, "lawsuits," ἀηδίαι καὶ λέσχαι, "disgust and gossipings." Wounds without cause; wounds which might have been avoided, the result of quarrels in which a sober man would never have engaged, Redness of eyes. The Hebrew word chakIi-luth is commonly taken to mean the flashing of eyes occasioned by vinous excitement. The Authorized Version refers it to the bloodshot appearance of a drunkard's eyes, as in Genesis 49:12, according to the same version. but Delitzsch, Nowack, and many modern commentators consider that the word indicates "dimness of sight," that change in the power of vision when the stimulant reaches the brain. Septuagint, "Whose eyes are livid (πελιδνοί)?" The effects of intemperance are described in a well known passage of Lucretius, 'De Rer. Nat.,' 3:475, etc. -
"Denique, cor hominum quota vini vis penetravit
Acris, et in venas discessit diditus ardor,
Consequitur gravitas membrorum, praespediuntur
Crura vacillanti, tardescit lingua, madet mens,
Nant oculei; clamor, singultus, jurgia gliscunt." We may refer to the article in Jeremy Taylor's 'Holy Living' on "Evil Consequents to Drunkenness," and to Ecclus. 34 (31):25, etc.
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Verse 30. - The answer to the above searching questions is here given. They that tarry long at the wine (Isaiah 5:11), who sit till late hours drinking. They that go to seek mixed wine; i.e. go to the wine house, place of revelry, where they may taste and give their opinion upon "mixed wine," mimsak, wine mingled with certain spices or aromatic substances, or else simply with water, as it was too luscious to be drunk undiluted (see on Proverbs 9:2). Septuagint, "those who hunt out where carousals are taking place."
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
Verse 31. - Look not thou upon the wine when it is red. Be not attracted by its beautiful appearance. The wine of Palestine was chiefly "red," though what we call white wine was not unknown. The Vulgate flavescit points to the latter. When it giveth his colour in the cup. For "color" the Hebrew has "eye," which refers to the sparkling and gleaming which show themselves in wine poured into the cup. It is as though the cup had an eye which glanced at the drinker with a fascination which he did not resist. When it moveth itself aright. Having warned against the attraction of sight, the moralist now passes to the seduction of taste. Hebrew, when it goeth by the right read. This may refer to its transference from the jar or skin to the drinking cup; but it mere probably alludes to the drinker's throat, and is best translated, "when it glideth down smoothly." Vulgate, ingreditur blande. The wine pleases the palate, and passes over it without roughness or harshness (comp. Song of Solomon 7:9). The LXX. has enlarged on the original thus: "Be ye not drunk with wine, but converse with just men, and converse in public places (ἐν περιπάτοις). For if thou set thine eyes on goblets and cups, afterwards thou shalt walk more bare than a pestle (γύμνοτερος ὐπέρου)." This last expression, pistillo nudior, is a proverb. Regarding the danger of looking on seductive objects, the Arab, in his sententious language, says, "The contemplation of vice is vice."
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Verse 32. - At the last it biteth like a serpent. Wine is like the subtle poison of a serpent, which affects the whole body, and produces the most fatal consequences (comp. Ecclus. 21:2). Nachash is the generic name for any of the larger tribe of snakes (Genesis 3:1, etc.); the poisonous nature of its bite was, of course, well known (Numbers 21:9). Stingeth like an adder. The Hebrew word is tsiphoni, which is usually rendered "cockatrice" in the Authorized Version, but the particular species intended has not been accurately identified. There was some confusion in men's minds as to the organ which inflicted the poisonous wound. Thus a psalmist says, "They have sharpened their tongue like a serpent" (Psalm 140:3). But the verb "sting" is to be taken in the sense of puncturing, making a wound. Vulgate, Sicut regulus venena diffundet, "It will diffuse its poison like a basilisk:" Septuagint, "But at the last he stretches himself like one stricken by a serpent, and the venom is diffused through him as by a horned snake (κεράστου)."
Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Verse 33. - The excitement occasioned by wine is now described. Thine eyes shall behold strange women. Ewald, Delitzsch, and others take זָדות to mean "strange things," as affording a better parallel to the "perverse things" of the next clause. In this case the writer intends to denote the fantastic, often dreadful, images produced on the brain by the feverish condition of the inebriated. But the often denounced connection between drunkenness and incontinence, the constant reference to "strange women" in this book, and the general consensus of the versions, lead one to uphold the rendering of the Authorized Version. It seems, too, somewhat meagre to note these illusions as one of the terrible effects of intemperance, omitting all mention of the unbridling of lust, when the eyes look out for and rove after unchaste women. Thine heart shall utter perverse things (comp Proverbs 15:28; Matthew 15:19). The drunkard's notions are distorted, and his words partake of the same character; he confuses right and wrong; he says things which he would never speak if he were in full possession of his senses. Septuagint, "When thine eyes shall see a strange woman, then thy mouth shall speak perverse things."
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.
Verse 34. - As he that lieth down in the midst of the sea. The dazed and unconscious condition of a drunkard is described by one familiar with sea life, as in Psalm 104:25, etc.; Psalms 107:23, etc. The Hebrew has "in the heart of the sea" (Jonah 2:4), i.e. the depth. Many understand the idea to be that the drunkard is compared to a man asleep in a frail boat, or to one slumbering on board a ship sunk in the trough of the sea. But the "lying" here does not imply sleep, but rather immersion. The inebriated person is assimilated to one who is drowned or drowning, who is cut off from all his former pursuits and interests in life, and has become unconscious of surrounding circumstances. This much more exactly represents the case than any notion of sloping amid danger. Septuagint, "Thou shalt lie as in the heart of the sea." Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast; the extreme point of the sailyard, where no one could lie without the greatest peril of falling off. The drunkard is exposed to dangers of all kinds from being unable to take care of himself, and yet is all the time unconscious of his critical situation. Corn. a Lapide, followed by Plumptre, considers that the cradle, or look out, on the top of the mast is meant, where, if the watchman slept, he would be certain to endanger his life. Vulgate, "like a pilot fallen asleep, who has dropped the tiller," and is therefore on the way to shipwreck. Septuagint, "as a pilot in a great storm."
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.
Verse 35. - The drunkard is represented as speaking to himself. The LXX. inserts, "and thou shelf say" as the Authorized Version does: They have stricken me, shall thou say, and I was not sick; or, I was not hurt. The drunken man has been beaten (perhaps there is a reference to the "contentions," ver. 29), but the blows did not pain him; his condition has rendered him insensible to pain. He has some vague idea the he has suffered certain rough treatment at the hands of his companions, but it has made no impression on him. They have beaten me, and I felt it not; did not even know it. Far from recognizing his degradation and profiting by the merzed chastisement which he has incurred, he is represented as looking forward with pleasure to a renewal of his debauch, when his drunken sleep shall be over. When shall I awake? I will seek it (wine) yet again. Some take מָתַי (mathai) as the relative conjunctive: "When I awake I will seek it again;" but it is always used interrogatively, and the expression thus becomes more animated, as Delitzsch observes. It is as though the drunkard has to yield to the effects of his excess and sleep off his intoxication, but he is. as it were, all the time longing to be able to rouse himself and recommence his orgies. We have had words put into the mouth of the sluggard (Proverbs 6:10). The whole verse is rendered by the LXX thus: "Thou shalt say, They smote me, and I was not pained, and they mocked me, and I knew it not. When will it be morning, that I may go and seek those with whom I may consort?" The author of the 'Tractutus de Conscientia' appended to St. Bernard's works, applies this paragraph to the cuss of an evil conscience indurated by wicked habits and insensible to correction.