Proverbs 4:23 MEANING

Proverbs 4:23
(23) Keep thy heart with all diligence.--Rather, above all things that are to be guarded.

For out of it are the issues of life.--That is, from it comes life (and also death). From it proceed "all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works," signs of the life with God within the soul; or, "evil thoughts, murders," &c. (Matthew 15:19), "the end of which things is death" (Romans 6:21).

Verse 23 - Keep thy heart with all diligence; properly, above all things that have to be guarded, keep or guard thy heart. So Mercerus, Gescnius, Delitzsch, Zockler. This seems to be the right meaning of the phrase, mikkol-mish'mar, rendered in the Authorized Version "with all diligence," mish'mar, from shamar, "to guard," being the object of guarding; that which is to be guarded. It is as if the teacher said, "Guard riches, property, health, body, everything, in short, in which you have a legitimate interest, or which is advantageous; but before and above everything else, keep a guard on your heart." The rabbins Jarehi, Ben Ezra, Rashi, however, give a different rendering, "From everything which is to be avoided (ab omni re cavenda) guard thy heart;" but the objection to this is that it ignores the radical meaning of the verb shamar, from which mish'mar is derived, as stated above, which is not that of avoiding, but of guarding. A third rendering is," Keep thy heart with all keeping;" so the Vulgate, omni custodia serva cor tuum; and the LXX., πασὴ φυλακῇ τήρει σὴν καρδίαν; on which the Authorized Version seems to be based. Another rendering, similar to the first, except that it gives mish'mar the active signification of guarding instead of the passive one of being kept or guarded, is, "Keep thy heart more than any other keeping (prae omni custodia)." Origen, 'Hex.;' Field. Again, Aquila and Theodotion render, "Keep thy heart by reason of every commandment (ἀπὸ παντὸς φυλάγματος)," thus bringing into prominence the occasion and the obligation of keeping the heart, which is that we are so commanded. Heart (lev); here the affections and the moral consciousness. For out of it are the issues of life. The conjunction "for" introduces the reason. The fact here stated is that the moral conduct of life, its actions and proceedings, are determined by the condition of the heart. If the heart is pure, the life will be pure; if the heart is corrupt, the life will be corrupt. The heart is here compared with a fountain. The same idea which is affixed to it in its physical sense is also assigned to it in its ethical or moral sense. Physically, it is the central organ of the body; morally, it is the seat of the affections and the centre of the moral consciousness. From this moral centre flow forth "the issues of life;" i.e. the currents of the moral life take their rise in and flow forth from it, just as from the heart, physically considered, the blood is propelled and flows forth into the arterial system, by which it is conveyed to the remotest extremities of the body. And as the bodily health depends on the healthy action of the heart, so the moral health depends on and is influenced by the state in which this spring of all action is preserved. Issues; tots'aoth, from yatsar, "to go forth," are the place from which anything goes forth, and hence a fountain. For "the issues of life," the LXX. reads, ἔξοδοι ζωῆς, the Vulgate., exitus vitae. With this passage compare our Lord's teaching (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45).

4:14-27 The way of evil men may seem pleasant, and the nearest way to compass some end; but it is an evil way, and will end ill; if thou love thy God and thy soul, avoid it. It is not said, Keep at a due distance, but at a great distance; never think you can get far enough from it. The way of the righteous is light; Christ is their Way, and he is the Light. The saints will not be perfect till they reach heaven, but there they shall shine as the sun in his strength. The way of sin is as darkness. The way of the wicked is dark, therefore dangerous; they fall into sin, but know not how to avoid it. They fall into trouble, but never seek to know wherefore God contends with them, nor what will be in the end of it. This is the way we are bid to shun. Attentive hearing the word of God, is a good sign of a work of grace begun in the heart, and a good means of carrying it on. There is in the word of God a proper remedy for all diseases of the soul. Keep thy heart with all diligence. We must set a strict guard upon our souls; keep our hearts from doing hurt, and getting hurt. A good reason is given; because out of it are the issues of life. Above all, we should seek from the Lord Jesus that living water, the sanctifying Spirit, issuing forth unto everlasting life. Thus we shall be enabled to put away a froward mouth and perverse lips; our eyes will be turned from beholding vanity, looking straight forward, and walking by the rule of God's word, treading in the steps of our Lord and Master. Lord, forgive the past, and enable us to follow thee more closely for the time to come.Keep thy heart with all diligence,.... The mind from vanity, the understanding from error, the will from perverseness, the conscience clear of guilt, the affections from being inordinate and set on evil objects, the thoughts from being employed on bad subjects; and the whole from falling into the hands of the enemy, or being the possession of Satan: great diligence had need be used in keeping it, since it is naturally so deceitful and treacherous; a strict eye is to be kept upon it; all the avenues to it to be watched, that nothing hurtful enters, or evil comes out; it is to be kept by all manner of means that can be thought of, by prayer, hearing, reading, meditation; and, above all, by applying to Christ for his grace and Spirit to sanctify, preserve, and keep it. Or, "above all keeping, keep thine heart" (b); though other things are to be kept, and care taken of them, as kingdoms and cities, and towns and families, and treasures and riches; yet the heart above all:

for out of it are the issues of life; of natural life: it is the seat of it, from whence all actions of life are derived; it is, as philosophers say, the first that lives, and the last that dies; and it is the seat of spiritual life the principle of it is formed in it; from whence all spiritual and vital actions flow, and which lead unto and issue in eternal life: as is a man's heart, such is his state now, and will be hereafter; if the heart is quickened and sanctified by the grace of God, the man will live a life of faith and holiness here, and enjoy everlasting life hereafter: and if the heart is right, so will the actions of men be; they are regulated and denominated by it; they will then spring from right principles, and be directed to right ends, and performed with right views; great care therefore should be taken of the heart, since so much depends upon it, and it is so well known to God the searcher of it.

(b) "prae omni custodia", Vatablus, Baynus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Michaelis, Schultens; so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech.

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