To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
This term suggests the very point of Solomon's advice. The young man who comes from a quiet home, where he has been under wise guidance, is really simple, unsophisticated, unused to the ways of the world, unfit to meet its temptations, and needing much good counsel and warning from those who are experienced in the world's ways. "Simple" here is not "silly," but guileless, unsuspecting, easily drawn aside, over-trustful. It is familiarly said that "experience is a dear school, but fools will learn in no other." Solomon urges on the young man that if he would be willing to learn, he might be saved from many bitter and even degrading experiences. There is an evil sense attaching to the word "subtilty," from its association with the serpent that tempted Eve; but the better meaning of the word comes to view through Solomon's connecting it with other good and suggestive terms. He thinks that the young man, at the very outset of life, needs "wisdom," which we may take in the general sense of "culture"; an "instruction," that is, "discipline," "training," and "understanding," or the power of weighing, distinguishing, discriminating: and "wisdom," in the further sense of "thoughtfulness," the habit of looking things well round before we decide on our action. Impulsiveness is a constant weakness in young people. They act before they think. And "Justice," or the first principles of righteousness, by which all proposed conduct should be appraised, and "judgment," or the self-estimating which is virtually the same as a cultured and active "conscience," and "equity," or the various adjustment of "principles" to the different relationships of men, and the various circumstances in which they may be placed; and "discretion," or that kind of reticence which keeps the young man from being duped by false advisers.
1. Expect subtilty in those who would tempt you astray. Here the word takes its bad form, as crafty, designing, making good appearance in order to deceive; keeping back part of the truth: and so leaving a designedly false impression. See temptation of Eve. There is a good "suspiciousness," which is a safeguard.
2. Show subtilty in not readily yielding to the tempters. Here the word is used in a good sense. Be on your guard. Do not give your love to the first person who seeks it. Beware of the plausible man, and the flatterers. Be forewarned and so you will be forearmed. Keep your own counsel. See underneath, and do not be caught by mere outside glitter.
(Robert Tuck, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.