I saw among the simple, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking judgment,
I. THE PROLOGUE. (Vers. 1-5.) On ver. 1, see Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 6:20. On ver. 2, see on Proverbs 4:4. Here an expression not before used occurs. "Keep my doctrine as thine eye apple;" literally, "the little man in thine eye." It is an Oriental figure for what is a treasured possession (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8). On ver. 3, see on Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 6:21. "Bind them on thy fingers," like costly rings. Let Wisdom be addressed and regarded as "sister," Prudence as "intimate friend" (ver. 4). On ver. 5, see on Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 6:24. On the prologue as a whole, remark
(1) it is intense in feeling,
(2) concentrated in purpose, and hence
(3) exhaustive in images of that which is precious and desirable before all else. It is an overture which gives the theme of the drama with the deepest impressiveness.
II. THE FIRST ACT. (Vers. 6-9.) The teacher looked through a grated loophole, or eshnab, and saw among the silly fools, the simple ones, who passed by or stood chatting, one simpleton in particular, who attracted his notice. He watched him turn a corner (hesitating, and looking around a moment, according to Ewald's explanation), and pass down a street. The Hebrew word finely shows the deliberacy, the measured step, with which he goes; he has made up his mind to rush into sin. It was late in the evening - "dark, dark, dark," says the writer, with tragic and suggestive iteration - dark in every sense. The night is prophetic.
III. THE SECOND ACT. (Vers. 10-20.) A woman - "the attire of a harlot" (as if she were nothing but a piece of dress), with a heart full of wiles, meets him. She was excitable, noisy, uncontrollable, gadding - now in the streets, now in the markets, now at every corner (vers. 11, 12). Her characteristics have not changed from ancient times. And so with effrontery she seizes and kisses the fool, and solicits him with brazen impudence. Thank offerings had "weighed upon" her in consequence of a vow; but this day the sacrificial animal has been slain, and the meat which, according to the Law, must be consumed within two days, has been prepared for a feast. And she invites him to the entertainment, fires his fancy with luxurious descriptions of the variegated tapestries and the neat perfumes of her couch, and the promise of illicit pleasures. She alludes with cool shamelessness to her absent husband, who will not return till the day of the full moon (ver. 20). "This verse glides smoothly, as if we could hear the sweet fluting of the temptress's voice." But it is as the song of birds in a wood before an awful storm.
IV. THE THIRD ACT. (Vers. 21-23.) Her seductive speech, the "fulness of her doctrine," as the writer ironically says, and the smoothness of her lips, overcome the yielding imagination of her victim. Ver. 22 implies that he had hesitated; but "all at once," passion getting the better of reflection, he follows her like a brute under the dominion of a foreign will driven to the slaughter house. He is passive in the power of the temptress, as the fool who has got into the stocks. "Till a dart cleave his liver - the supposed seat of passion. Hastening like a bird into the net, he knows not that his life is at stake.
V. THE EPILOGUE. (Vers. 24-27.) On ver. 24, see on Proverbs 5:7. Let not thy heart turn aside to her ways, and go not astray on her paths." Properly, "reel not" (shagah), as in Proverbs 5:20. Beware of that intoxication of the senses and fancy which leads to such an end. For she is a feller of men, a cruel murderess (ver. 26). Her house is as the vestibule of hell, the facilis descensus Averni - the passage to the chambers of death (see on Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 5:5).
1. Folly and vice are characteristically the same in every age. Hence these scenes have lost none of their dramatic power or moral suggestion.
2. Only virtue is capable of infinite diversity and charm. The pleasures of mere passion, violent at first, pass into monotony, thence into disgust.
3. The character of the utter harlot has never been made other than repulsive (even in French fiction, as Zola's 'Nana') in poetry. What exists in practical form is mere dregs and refuse.
4. The society of pure and refined women is the best antidote to vicious tastes. For to form a correct taste in any matter is to form, at the same time, a distaste for coarse and spurious quality. Perhaps reflections of this order may be more useful to young men than much declamation. - J.
A young man void of understanding.
I. THE SPECIAL PERIL OF GREAT CITIES. Human nature remains the same in every age. The descriptions of the temptations that assailed the youth of Jerusalem and Tyre answers precisely to what we see in our own day. Therefore the counsels and warnings of the ancient sage are as valuable and fitting as ever. The vastness and multitudinousness of our modern cities provide a secrecy which is congenial to vice. In all great towns solicitations to vice abound as they do not elsewhere. Every passion has a tempter lying in wait for it. Whatever be your temperament or constitution, a snare will be skilfully laid to entrap you. Vice clothes itself here in its most pleasing attire, and not seldom appears even under the garb of virtue.
II. THE EVIL OF LATE HOURS. The devil, like the beast of prey, stalks forth when the sun goes down. Night is the time for unlawful amusements and mad convivialities and lascivious revelry. Now Jezebel spreads her net, and Delilah shears the locks of Samson. Young men, take it kindly when I bid you beware of late hours. Your health forbids it; your principles forbid it; your moral sense forbids it; your safety forbids it. Purity loves the light. Late hours have proved many young man's ruin.
III. THE DANGER OF FOOLISH COMPANY. "Simple" in the Book of Proverbs means silly, frivolous, idle, abandoned. You could almost predict with certainty the future of one who selected such society. The ruin of most young men is due to bad company. It is commonly the finest natures that are first pounced upon. The good-hearted, amiable fellow, with open countenance and warm heart and generous disposition, is at once seized by the vermin of the pit, and poisoned with every kind of pollution. Take care with whom you associate. There are men who will fawn upon you, and flatter you, and call you good company, and patronise you wonderfully, and take you anywhere you wish to go; and — allow you to pay all expenses. As a rule, a companion of loose character is the most mean and selfish of creatures. "Void of understanding." Understanding is more than wisdom, more than knowledge; it is both and something besides. It is a mind well-balanced by the grace of God; it is the highest form of common-sense, sanctified by a genuine piety. No man's understanding can be called thoroughly sound until it has been brought under the power of the truth as it is in Jesus. Your only security against the perils of the city, of the dark night, and of evil company, your only safety amid the lusts that attack the flesh, and the scepticisms that assail the mind, is a living faith in God, a spiritual union with Christ.
(J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)
I. THE EVIDENCES OF THIS STATE. How can we know with certainty the young who are void of understanding?
1. Those who throw off the restraints and counsels of their parents and friends. When counsel and supervision are most needed they are rejected, and who so fit to guide and counsel as the parent?
2. Those who become the companion of the foolish and wicked. No other influence will be so disastrous on our highest interests as that of evil companionship. It will insidiously undermine every good principle.
3. Those who disregard the opinions of the wise and good around them.
4. Those who neglect the institutions of religion. The atmosphere of religious ordinances is that of health and life to every virtue and grace of the soul. By neglecting Divine ordinances and services, the heart and mind run fallow.
5. Those who yield themselves up to sensual gratifications. The text refers to the ensnaring woman. "For at the window of my house I looked through my casement," etc. How fearful the result! Money, reputation, health, mind, morals, life, and the soul, all sacrificed!
II. ITS EVIL RESULTS.
1. The morally evil condition of the youths themselves. Here are powers perverted — talents prostituted — sin and misery increased.
2. The pernicious influence they exert on others. Every such youth has his young friends and relations, all of whom may be corrupted by his conduct.
3. The eternal misery to which they are hastening.
III. THE ONLY REMEDY.
1. Immediate and genuine repentance. Prompt consideration.
2. There must be the yielding of the heart to Christ. Christ alone can open the blind eyes, expel the foul spirit, renew the heart.
3. By the regulation of the life by the Word of God.
4. Union to, and fellowship with, God's people.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
I. THE MAN OF PLEASURE BETRAYS AN UTTER WANT OF ACQUAINTANCE WITH HIS OWN BEING. It is among the foremost arguments in support of this kind of life that it is only in conformity with that nature which God has given us. But your nature, as long as it is without the renovation of the Eternal Spirit, cannot possibly be made your guide. In reality full of diseases, the man imagines himself in perfect health. Bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is happy and at liberty. In following his carnal desires a man is surely "void of understanding."
II. THE MAN OF PLEASURE SHOWS HIS IGNORANCE AND FOLLY IN HIS WANT OF ACQUAINTANCE WITH HIS DUTIES IN THIS WORLD. The sins of impurity are doubly sinful, inasmuch as they incapacitate the follower of them from those exertions to which he is bound in whatever state of life it hath pleased God to call him. The libertine imagines that his duties are easily reconcilable with his pursuits of pleasure; and in few cases does he show himself more void of understanding. It is their direct tendency to enervate the spirit; to absorb the native vigour of the mind; to extinguish generous ambition, that incitement to worthy deeds; and to drown all in dissipation, indolence, and trifling. The pagans made the temple of honour lie through the temple of virtue.
III. THE LIBERTINE SHOWS HIS WANT OF UNDERSTANDING IN HIS IGNORANCE OR DEFIANCE OF OMNIPOTENCE. Of all the instances of want of wisdom, a disregard of the injunctions of Almighty God is surely the most absurd, as well as the most wicked. And it never can be confined to yourself, but involves often the misery, and always the guilt, of others. The man bent on pleasure seldom considers whom he offends, whom he injures, whose confidence he abuses, whose innocence he betrays, what friendship he violates, or what enmities he creates. Your first vice might arise from the seduction of bad companions, but a continuance of it becomes your own sin.
IV. THE LIBERTINE ACTS IN OPPOSITION TO HIS OWN CONVICTION. There is always an inward monitor whispering against him. Rouse, then. Break from the infatuating circle. No longer miscall the things of this world.
(G. Matthew, M. A.)
Homilist.Understanding or reason is the glory of human nature. It is the "candle of the Lord," to light us on our destiny. Where this is not, you have a traveller on a devious path without light, a vessel on a treacherous sea without rudder or compass. Who is the young man void of understanding?
1. One who pays more attention to his outward appearance than to his inner character. He sacrifices the jewel for the casket.
2. One who seeks happiness without rather than within. But the well of true joy must be found in the heart, or nowhere.
3. One who identifies greatness with circumstances rather than with character. But true greatness is in the soul, and nowhere else.
4. One who is guided more by the dictates of his own nature than by the counsels of experience. He acts from the suggestions of his own immature judgment. He is his own master, and will be taught by no one.
5. One who lives in show and ignores realities. He who lives in these pursuits and pleasures which are in vogue for the hour, and neglects the great realities of the soul and eternity, is "void of understanding."
1. When he suffers his mind to remain unacquainted with the great principles of religion.
2. When he follows the dictates of his own corrupt heart. How shall we account for all that wickedness which abounds in the world if there is no bad principle from which it breeds? Take corruption out of the heart, and this world would become a paradise. Simple souls, instead of checking the evil principle within them, rather give it the greatest indulgence.
3. When he throws himself in the way of temptation. Snares abound. There is hardly a step in our way in which we do not run some hazard of stumbling. Have we not often complied when we ought to have resisted? Sin is sometimes so artfully disguised that it loses its deformity, and we are insensibly drawn into the commission of it. Is it not, then, wise and prudent to keep at a distance and not to tamper with temptation? The old serpent is too cunning and subtle for us, and if we throw ourselves in his way we must fall.
4. When he has not resolution to withstand the allurements with which he may be surrounded. We can hardly hope to escape allurement altogether. All depends on our yielding to or resisting first enticements. And what avails the most enlightened understanding if we have not firmness to follow its dictates?
5. When he does not hearken to the admonitions of those who are older and more experienced than himself. Vanity and self-conceit are too natural to young minds, and numbers have been led away by them. Positive and headstrong, they refuse to be admonished, and scorn to be controlled. Hence they run headlong into vice, and involve themselves in misery.
6. When he flatters himself with seeing long life and many years. This is very natural to youth. But there is nothing more vain and uncertain. Can there be a greater defect of understanding than to flatter one's self with what we may never enjoy?
(D. Johnston, D. D.)1. One who makes light of parental restraints and counsels. No young man is walking in safe paths who is engaged in pursuits or pleasures which a wise father or a tender mother would be mortified and grieved to see him mixed up with.
2. One who neglects the cultivation of his mind. If knowledge is power, ignorance is weakness. The mind must be carefully trained in order that the soul may fulfil her destiny upon earth, and be prepared for a more glorious existence hereafter. 3 One who is content to live an idle and aimless life. To spend the golden hours of existence in irresolution and idleness, with no definite purpose, betrays, as much as anything could do, the lack of good sense.
4. One who chooses his bosom companions from the ranks of the thoughtless and the profane. We are naturally social beings, and seek for pleasure in the company of others.
5. One who yields to the enticements of folly and wickedness. As soon as he reaches the point when he is indifferent to the opinion of the wise and the good, his case may well be set down as desperate. The young are always surrounded by temptations, and every evil thought which is allowed a resting-place in the mind vitiates and corrodes the fibres of the soul, and every sinful deed unnerves the arm and paralyses the essential power of manhood.
6. One who makes light of religion. Religion never encouraged anybody to be indolent and improvident; never led him into the haunts of vice; never wasted his substance in riotous living; never dragged a single victim to the prison or the gallows. All its offices in the world have been elevating and beneficent. Unbelief is not a misfortune, but it is the sin, the damning sin, of the world. Men first do wrong and then believe wrong in order to escape from its consequences. True religion will make you abhor sin, and draw you to Christ, the Redeemer; it will strengthen you for duty, and nerve you for endurance. It will give songs in the night, and through the grave and gate of death it will brighten your pathway to eternal glory.
(John N. Norton.)
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