Proverbs 4 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Proverbs 4
Pulpit Commentary
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
Verses 1-27. - 7. Seventh admonitory discourse. We here enter upon the second group of admonitory discourses, as is indicated by the opening address, "my children," and which occurs again in Proverbs 5:7 and Proverbs 7:24. This group extends to the end of ch. 7. Its prevailing tone is that of warning rather than of positive exhortations, which have been the rule hitherto. The general aim of the discourse before us, as of those preceding, is to exalt Wisdom, to exhibit her as a subject worthy of all earnest endeavour and sacrifice, but it is noticeable that the teacher introduces a fresh feature into his teaching or mode of instruction, in order to procure attention to, and acceptance of, his precepts on the part of his hearers. He has already spoken in his own name and with his own authority; he has brought forward Wisdom personified as making her appeal; he now adduces the authority of his own father's advice to himself. But as the mode of emphasizing his admonitions varies, so Wisdom is many-sided, and the aspect under which she is now presented seems to be especially that of discipline and obedience. The keynote of the discourse seems to be struck in the word "instruction," i.e. discipline, in the original, musar, thus recalling the admonition in Proverbs 1:8, "My son, hear the instruction of thy father." Bohlius, in his 'Ethica Sacra,' disp. 6. p. 65, sqq., assigns "discipline" (musar) to this chapter; and Melancthon describes the admonitions of the chapter before us as "adhortationes ad studium obedientiae." Discipline rising into obedience seems to be the predominant thought to which all others are made subordinate. The discourse is an enlargement or amplification of this aspect of Wisdom. In structure the discourse consists mainly of the father's advice (vers. 4-19), preceded and followed by the teacher's own admonitions in vers. 1-3 and 20-27. The chief topics touched upon are

(1) the supreme importance of Wisdom as being "the principal thing" to be obtained before everything else (vers. 7-9);

(2) the two ways that lie open to the choice of youth, distinguished respectively as the way of light and the way of darkness (vers. 14-19); and

(3) the guarding of the heart with all diligence, as being the seat of conscience and the fountain of life in its moral sense (vers. 23-27). The first part of the discourse is characterized by exhortations accompanied by promises; the latter part takes the form of warning, and warning of an alarming nature. The harmony which exists between the allusions in the discourse and the facts recorded in the historical books of Samuel and Chronicles serves to indicate that we have before us, in substance at least, the advice which David gave to Solomon, and that the discourse is Solomonic. Compare especially ver. 3 with 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 1 Chron 22:9, and ver. 18 with the last words of David in 2 Samuel 23:4. Verse 1. - Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father. This exhortation is identical with that in Proverbs 1:8, except that the address, "ye children," indicating a new departure, is now used instead of "my son," which has been hitherto employed (see Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1, 21), and "of thy father" is altered to "of a father." The verb is the same, occurring here, of course, in the plural number. The appeal is evidently intended to rouse attention. Attention is especially necessary to secure a knowledge of Divine truth. Ye children (bhanim). This address occurs again twice in the second group of admonitory discourses - in Proverbs 5:7 and Proverbs 7:24, and also in the appeal of Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:32, and, with these exceptions, nowhere else in the Proverbs. It is used by David, and it is possible that when the teacher penned these words he had in mind Psalm 34:11, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord." The similarity in the address serves to connect the teacher of wisdom with David, and thus to identify him with Solomon, while it also leads to the conclusion that the advice which follows in vers. 4-19 is in substance that which David had given his son. On "instruction," see ch. 1:8. Of a father (av). It is difficult, owing to the want of the pronominal suffix, to determine accurately whether the teacher is referring to himself or to his own father in the expression. The following verse

(2) would indicate that he is speaking of himself in his capacity as a teacher or instructor of youth. But it is quite possible that he may be referring to his own father, whose advice he had received, and which he is now about to lay before others in vers. 4-19. Though attention to paternal advice in general, i.e. instruction given by any father to his children, is not intended here, still the passage may be regarded as embodying the principle that attention to parental advice is incumbent on children, and a disregard of it is the mark of ingratitude and depravity. Rabbi Levi understands the phrase as referring to our heavenly Father. Attend (hakshivu, hiph. imperative of kashav). On the force of this verb as signifying "earnest, absorbed attention," see Proverbs 1:24. To know understanding (ladaath bina); i.e. in order that you may know or gain understanding. "The infinitive marks the design or object of the attention (cf. the Vulgate, ut sciatis). `The expression corresponds with ladaath khokmah in Proverbs 1:2, and just as this signifies "to appropriate to yourself wisdom," so the one before us has the same force, and signifies the gaining or appropriation of understanding, i.e. the faculty of discernment or discrimination. Hitzig renders, "to know with the understanding;" i.e. to know intelligently, but this does not seem to be the meaning of the phrase.
For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
Verse 2. - For I give you good doctrine. This, while stating the reason for the exhortation in the previous verse, signifies that what the teacher has given and is giving, he has received from his father. I give; nathati, literally, "I gave," is the kal perfect of nathan, "to give," but the perfect is here used for the present, as denoting not only a past action, but one that is still continuing (Gesenius, 'Hebrews Gram.,' § 126. 3). Good doctrine (lekakh tov). The doctrine or instruction is "good," not only intrinsically, but as to the source from which it was derived, and in its effects. Lekakh is, according to its root lakakh, "something which is received or taken." From the standpoint of the teacher it is that instruction which he had received of his father. With respect to his hearers it is the instruction which is communicated to them, and which they receive (see on Proverbs 1:5). The LXX. renders, δῶρον ἀγαθὸν; similarly the Vulgate, donum bonum, "a good gift." Forsake ye not; al-taazovu, from azav, "to leave, forsake" (compare the corresponding phrase, al-tiltosh, from natash, "to leave, forsake," in Proverbs 1:8). Law (torah); as in Proverbs 1:8.
For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.
Verse 3. - For I was my father's son. This is more than the mere statement of a physical fact. It indicates that the teacher was in the highest degree an object of endearment to his father, just as he states in the second hemistich that he held a unique position in the affection of his mother. `The statement agrees with the historical record. Solomon would be more than ordinarily dear to his father, as being a child of promise, as "the beloved of the Lord," and as the son whom the Divine will had pointed as the successor to his throne, and the one on whom was to devolve the building of the temple (see 2 Samuel 7:12, 13; 2 Samuel 12:24; 1 Chronicles 22:9). Bertheau explains, "I also once stood in the relation to my (actual) father in which you stand to me your paternal instructor," thus giving prominence rather to the consecution of the passage, and preparing the way for the reception of the father's advice which is to follow. But this rather loses sight of what appears an important element in the instruction, that not only was it "good," but that it was dictated by affection. The writer is fortifying and strengthening his instruction by the authority of his father, showing that what he was laying before others he had had placed before him; and as his father's advice was the outcome of affection, so he addresses his hearers in the same spirit. Dathe and others connect "tender" rak) with "son" (ben), and render, "I was a son dear to my father." So the LXX., which, however, understands "tender" in the sense of "tractable," "obedient:" "For I was an obedient son to my father" - a meaning which the word rak can only bear as indicating the susceptibility of the young to receive impressions. In general, rak means "tender," "soft," and has reference to the weakness and helplessness of the young; comp. Genesis 33:13, "My lord knoweth that the children are tender (rakkim)." Combined with yakhid, which follows, it signifies, in the passage before us, that the teacher was an object of tender care or love. The Vulgate tenellus, the diminutive of tener, as signifying "somewhat tender or delicate," reproduces the idea of the Hebrew rak. In the word the teacher recalls his early lifo and the instruction in wisdom which he received in it. Only beloved; literally, only (yakhid), as "beloved" does not occur in the original. The Vulgate renders, unigenitus; Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, μονογενής, i.e. "only begotten:" but this was not literally the fact, as Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, had other sons (2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5). Both the Hebrew yakhid, "only," and the Vulgate unigenitus, "only begotten," consequently signify what is expressed by the LXX. ἀγαπώμενος, i.e. "beloved." Solomon was so beloved of his mother as if he were an only child. So yakhid is used of Isaac in Genesis 22:2, 12 in the same way, since at the time that Isaac was so designated, Ishmael, the other son of Abraham, was still living. The word yakhid occurs in Psalm 22:20, where it is rendered "darling," and may possibly refer to Solomon. Jennings, in Psalm 22:20, understands it, however, of the life besides which the psalmist has no other - unicam meam, as the Vulgate, i.e. "his only life" (cf. Psalm 35:17; and for the word yakhid, see Jeremiah 5:26; Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10). In the sight of my mother (liph'ne immi); literally, ad facies matris meae, or, before my mother; Vulgate, coram matre mea, i.e. in her estimation (cf. Genesis 17:18). The mention of the mother is probably introduced here for the sake of poetic parallelism; cf. Proverbs 1:8 (Zockler).
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
Verse 4. - From this verse to ver. 19 inclusive, the teacher quotes the instruction which he had received of his father. His object in doing so is to show that his own teaching was in harmony with it, and therefore worthy of attention. His precepts, admonitions, and warnings are not his only, but those of his father. Other examples of David's instructions to Solomon are found in 1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chronicles 22:12, 13; 1 Chronicles 28:9. And he taught; i.e. his father, for vayyoreni is masculine. The LXX. renders, "They said and taught me (οι{ ἔλεγον καὶ ἐδιδασκόν με)," as if the precepts which follow were the combined teaching of David and Bathsheba. This variation is due to the mention of both parents in the preceding verse. Retain; yith'mok, kal future, used imperatively, of thamak, "to take hold of," and metaphorically, as here, "to hold fast" (see Proverbs 3:18). The LXX. Renders ἐρειδέτω, imperative of ἐρείδω, "to fix firm." Symmachus has κατεχέτω, "give heed to." And live; i.e. and thou shalt live, as the kal imperative, kh'yeh, from khayah, "to live," has here the force of the future (cf. Vulgate, et vives). The meaning is, "And thou shalt enjoy a long and happy life." Temporal life alone seems to be indicated, as in ver. 10 (cf. Proverbs 3:2). The Syriac addition, "And my law as the apple of thine eye," is probably borrowed from Proverbs 7:2, where we meet with the mine admonition.
Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Verse 5. - After the general exhortation given above, the father's instruction becomes more specific, and deals with the acquirement of wisdom. This subject seems to be continued in ver. 13, where the second and concluding branch of the instruction begins, which consists mainly of warning, as the first part does with exhortation. We are thus furnished with an example how to teach. In our teaching it is not sufficient simply to point out what is to be done, but we must show what is to be avoided. Get wisdom, get understanding. The father urges the acquirement of wisdom in the same way and with the same importunity as the trader or merchant presses his goods upon buyers. Wisdom and understanding are put forward as objects of merchandise; for the verb kanah, from which the imperative k'neh, signifies not only "to acquire for one's self," or "to possess," but especially "to buy." The verb occurs again in the same sense in ver. 7, "Get [k'neh, i.e. buy] wisdom;" and in Proverbs 23:23, "Buy (k'neh) the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (cf. also Proverbs 15:22: 16:16; 19:9, where we also meet with the same verb). The reiteration of the word "get," as Umbreit remarks, is "an imitation of the exclamation of a merchant who is offering his wares." The importunity of the father measures the value he sets upon wisdom as an inestimable treasure, a pearl of great price (see Proverbs 3:14). Forget it not, etc.; rather, forget not, neither turn from the words of my mouth, - so Zockler, Delitzsch, Hodg., and others; Vulgate, ne obliviscaris, neque declines a verbis oris mei. There is no need to supply "it" after the verb al-tish'-kakh, "forget not," as Holden states, and as appears in the Authorized Version, since shakakh is found with min (מִן), "of" or "from," in Psalm 12:4 (5), "I forgot to eat (shakakh'ti meakol)," and the same construction may obtain here. The two verbs, "forget" and "decline from," are not so very wide in meaning, since the former, shakakh, is to "leave" something from forgetfulness, and the latter, natah, rendered here "decline from," is "to turn away" from something. The words of my mouth represent as it were the means by which wisdom may be purchased.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Verse 7. - Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. The older versions, such as the Alexandrian LXX. (the verse is omitted by the Vatican LXX.), Targum, and Syriac, agree in rendering this verse, "The beginning of wisdom is get wisdom," which is equivalent to saying that the beginning of wisdom consists in the acquisition of wisdom, or, as Umbreit explains, "in the resolution to get wisdom." That this rendering, which is adopted by Luther, Delitzsch, and Umbreit, may be correct appears from Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, where we have the same construction, only in inverted order. Seneca's aphorism is conceived in much the same spirit: "Magna pars boni est velle fieri bonum" - "A large part of good is the wish to become good;" i.e. that the beginning of being good depends to a large extent upon the wish to become so. The objections to this rendering are:

(1) That it is difficult to see how the beginning of wisdom can be the acquisition of it.

(2) That elsewhere, as in Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, the beginning of wisdom is represented as the fear of the Lord.

(3) That it does not fall in well with the context or with the aim of the father's teaching, which is to hold up wisdom as pre-eminently a blessing, as the most excellent and highest thing attainable. On the other hand, Hitzig, De Dieu, Doderlein, Zockler, render as in the Authorized Version, "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom;" i.e. wisdom is the highest good, and therefore ought to be obtained. The word reshith is found with this signification in ch. 24:20; 1 Samuel 2:29; Job 40:19; Jeremiah 49:35; Amos 6:1-6. And with all thy getting get understanding. This does not mean, as the Authorized Version seems to imply, that while you are acquiring other things, you are to acquire wisdom, but that wisdom is to be purchased with all you have acquired or gotten. "Getting" (kin'yon) is the purchase money. No price is too high to be paid for her, no sacrifice too great; cf. the parables of the hidden treasure and goodly pearl (Matthew 13:44: Luke 10:42), in both of which the man sold "all that he had" to obtain the prize. There is a play upon the words in the original (kin'yan'ki k'neh), which is preserved in our translation.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
Verse 8 - Exalt her, and she shall promote thee. The father here proceeds to point out some of the benefits which follow from the pursuit of Wisdom. Exalt her (sal's'leah); Vulgate, arripe illam; LXX., περιχαράκωσον αὐτὴν; Targum, dilige eam; Syriac, blandire illi; Arabic, circumsepi eam. The Hebrew, sal's'leah, is the pilpel imperative of salal, "to lift up, exalt." It is equivalent to the kal form. The pilpel form only occurs here, but the kal participle is met with in Proverbs 15:19, where it has the meaning of "to raise up as a causeway" (see marginal reading in loc.). Gesenius renders, "exalt her," sc. with praises. The meaning of the verb, as Delitzsch says, is to be determined, by the corresponding "she shall promote thee" (th'rom'mek), and this verb romem is

(1) to raise or make high;

(2) to exalt by bestowing honours upon one of low estate, i.e. raising them in general estimation; it is so used in 1 Samuel 2:7 by Hannah, in her song of thankfulness, "He (Jehovah) bringeth low and lifteth up (m'romem);"

(3) to extol by praises, as in Psalm 30:2. The radical meaning of salal seems to be "to heap up," as a road is prepared by embankments, and by the filling up of inequalities (cf. Isaiah 62:10). In this sense the passage before us is explained by Levi ben Gersom, "Prepare the way of Wisdom, and walk assiduously in it." But the context, wherein the idea of buying is evidently used. favours Bottcher's interpretation, "Hold it or her high in price, bid high for her as a purchaser who makes offer upon offer, to secure what he wants." So Pi, in pretio habe. The LXX. rendering, "Circumvallate her, enclose her with a wall or hedge," which is reproduced in the Arabic, circumsepi eam, "hedge her around," seems out of place with the context. The Talmudists understand the verb as signifying "to examine closely," "to scrutinize, meditate, or reflect" upon Wisdom constantly, just as the Roman, poet says, "Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna" - "We exalt Wisdom when we follow her precepts," i.e. when we esteem her - the idea which is presented to us in the Targum and Syriac cited above. The sentiment of the verse agrees with what Jehovah says in the message of the man of God to Eli, in 1 Samuel 2:30, "Them that honour me I will honour." She shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. The LXX. reverses the order of ideas, "Honour her in order that she may embrace thee." Embrace her; i.e. in a loving and affectionate manner, as a husband does his wife, or a son his mother. (For the verb khavak, see Proverbs 5:20: Song of Solomon 2:6; Song of Solomon 8:3.) There are only three other instances where this verb occurs in the pilel form, khibbek. Esteem and honour, the confidence of others, elevation to offices of trust and consequence, are some of the rewards with which Wisdom repays those who esteem and love her. Others follow in the next verse.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Verse 9. - An ornament of grace (liv'yath khen). (On this, see Proverbs 1:9.) A crown of glory shall she deliver to thee; or, as margin, she shall compass thee with a crown of glory. Deliver. The verb miggen, piel, since the kal, magan, is not used. is, however, properly, "to give, or deliver," as in Genesis 14:20; Hosea 11:8. That this is the meaning is clear from the corresponding "she shall give" (titten, but cf. nathan, "to give"). It is commonly found with an accusative and dative, but here takes two accusatives. Both the LXX. and the Vulgate render, "With a crown of glory or delights shall she protect (ὑπερασπίση, proteget) thee:" as if it were connected with magen, "a shield," but a crown is not usually associated with protection or defence. "A crown of glory," in the New Testament, is always associated with the everlasting honours of heaven, as in Hebrews 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 4:4; Revelation 2:20. The meaning is here, "Wisdom shall confer on thee true dignity."
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.
Verse 10. - Many commentators, e.g. Jerome, Bede, Ewald, Bertheau, and Hitzig, suppose that the father's instruction closes in the preceding verse, but it seems more appropriate to consider the father as here passing to another branch of his instruction, which is to point out the way of wisdom, and so to prepare for his warnings which follow from ver. 14 to ver. 19. Receive; kakh, from lakah, "to receive" (on the force of this verb, see ch. 1:3). He who shows a delighter willingness in admitting the words of Wisdom - for such a character the father claims for his teaching, as we see from, the next verse - shall receive a blessing. It is a sign of grace when any even show themselves open to listen to instruction; but it is a greater sign when this instruction is received with readiness and pleasure (Muffet). The years of thy life (sh'noth khayyim); literally, years of thy lives. The plural "lives" expresses the idea of life in the abstract. There is no absolute statement of a future life here, though by the Christian this idea may be indulged in on the ground of a fuller revelation. The promise is one that not only implies the prolongation of life, but also a life of prosperity and enjoyment. Shall be many; literally, shall be multiplied.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
Verse 11. - The perfects, I have taught and I have led, in the original seem to have here the absolute signification of the past. The father recalls the instruction which he has given in times past. So Delitzsch. But Gejerus gives them the combined force of the past and future, "I have taught and I will more fully teach," and so with the other verb. The Vulgate renders, monstrabo, "I will show," and ducam, "I will lead." In the way of wisdom (b'derek khok'mah) may mean "in the way that leads to, or by which you come to Wisdom; I have taught you the manner in which Wisdom may be attained;" or "the way in which Wisdom walks" (Zockler). The ways of Wisdom are described in Proverbs 3:17 as "ways of pleasantness." The next clause seems to indicate that the latter explanation is to be preferred. The (b) indicates the subject in which instruction has been given. In right paths (b'ma'g'le yosher); literally, in the paths of rectitude; i.e. of straightness, paths of which the characteristic is uprightness. (On "paths," as signifying a carriageway, see Proverbs 2:9.) Instruction and direction have formed the two elements in the father's teaching. These present us with a model of education. "To teach duty without truth is to teach practice without motive; to teach truth without duty is to teach motive without the practice to which it should lead" (Wardlaw).
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
Verse 12. - In this verse the father depicts the benefits and advantages which shall follow from "receiving his words" (ver. 10), i.e. from attending to his counsels and imbibing the principles of wisdom. The whole course of life shall be freed from obstacles or impediments, from anxiety, perplexity, or difficulty, or from vacillation. When thou goest may refer to the daily walk, to the common and ordinary events or circumstances incidental to life, just as the corresponding when thou runnest may refer to cases of emergency when promptness and decisive action are called for. In both cases Wisdom, by inspiring unity of principle, gives freedom of movement; in ordinary cases it removes embarrassment and perplexity arising from conflicting interests drawing now in one direction, now in another, and in extraordinary cases it supplies a rule of conduct which prevents our falling into mistakes and errors. Or the verse may refer to the prosperity which shall attend all the undertakings of those who are in Wisdom's ways, whether they advance slowly or rush forward with the impetuosity of youth, whether they act with deliberation or with haste. Shall not be straitened (lo-yetsar); i.e. shall not be narrowed or confined; Vulgate, non arctabuntur; LXX., οὑ συγκλεισθήσεται, The future yetsar only occurs four times in the Scriptures - here, and Job 18:7; Job 20:22; Isaiah 49:19. It is usually derived from the root yatsar, which, however, is not found, cognate with tsur, "to straiten," "to be narrow." Yetsar, however, always occurs in the passive sense, though an active signification is given it by the Rabbi Nathan ben Jechiel, quoted by Delitzsch, in loc., who renders, "Thou shall not need to bind together, or hedge up thy way." The roots yatsar and tsur partake more or less of the idea of binding up, oppressing, putting into narrow and confined circumstances and limits. By the expression that "the steps are straitened" we may understand, therefore, that there is a want of freedom for their movements, and consequently that they are impeded or cramped. The Arabic expression. "to contract the feet," signifies the diminishing of good fortune. Compare the similar expression in Job 18:7, "The steps of his strength shall be straitened." The psalmist presents the idea of the verse under a different form, "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, so that my feet did not slip" (Psalm 17:36). Thou shalt not stumble; lo-thik-kashel, hiph. future. The niph. nikshal, equivalent to the kal kadshal, signifies properly "to totter," "to sink down," used of one about to fall. The primary idea, however, usually disregarded, of kashal, is "to totter in the ankles," equivalent to the Latin talipedare. It occurs again in Proverbs 4:16, and is a different verb from "stumble" in Proverbs 3:23 (which see).
Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
Verse 13. - The short but urgent admonitions in this verse may be explained by the knowledge which the father has of the temptations to which youth is exposed and the liability of youth to fall into them, as well as by the fact that Instruction, or Wisdom, is the bestower of life. This latter conviction is the reason why he urges "taking fast hold" of Wisdom. The tenacious grasp with which the shipwrecked sinking sailor lays hold on any spar or plank floating near will illustrate the kind of grasp with which Wisdom is to be held. It is no less a virtue to keep and hold fast a good thing than to get it at the first beginning (Muffet). Instruction (musar), usually of a disciplinary nature (see Proverbs 1:3), here more particularly the instruction of the father, but in a wider sense wisdom generally, with which it is synonymous, as appears from the feminine, "let her not go, keep her," musar being masculine; or the feminines may refer back to "Wisdom" in ver. 11. So Mercerus and Buxtorf. For she is thy life (ki hi khayyeka); i.e. she brings life to thee. Wisdom is represented as the bestower of long life, in Proverbs 3:2, 16, 18. Just in proportion as Wisdom is retained and guarded, so is life secured, and so far as the hold upon her is lost, so are the hopes of life diminished. Life depends upon the observance of her precepts.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Verse 14. - From admonition the father passes to warning. The connection with the preceding section is obvious. There are two ways diametrically opposite - the way of wisdom and the way of evil; the one the way of life, the other fraught with death, because a way of darkness and violence. As the father has dealt with the former, so now he deals with the latter. With these warnings we may also comp. Proverbs 1:10-15 and Proverbs 2:10-15, where much the same warning is given, and the way of the wicked is described in almost the same terms. The warning of the father takes a threefold form:

(1) enter not;

(2) go not;

(3) avoid.

In effect he says this is the only course to be adopted in order to keep a firm hold of Wisdom which he has counselled in the preceding verse (13). Enter not; al-tavo, from bo. "to come in," "to enter," i.e. do not even enter. The Vulgate renders, "Delight not in," evidently from reading tove, which occurs in Proverbs 1:10. But our reading is to be preferred, as avah, "to acquiesce in," from which tov'e, is not used with בִּ, here denoting place, but with לִ. Go not (al-t'ashsher); i.e. do not walk in. The two verbs "to enter" (bo) and "to go" (ishsher) stand in the relation of entering and going on - ingressus and progressus. So Gejerus and Delitzsch. The piel ishsher, here used, is properly "to go straight on," like the kal ashar, of which it is an intensive (cf. Proverbs 9:6). It is the bold, presumptuous walk, the stepping straight out of the evil, which is here indicated, and against this the father warns his son. The sense is, "If you have entered the way of the wicked, do not continue or persevere in it." The other meanings of the verb ashar, viz. "to guide straight" (Proverbs 23:19), "to esteem happy and prosperous" (Proverbs 31:28), are not in place here, as they destroy the parallelism of thought, and on the same ground the LXX. and Syriac renderings, "envy not" and μηδὲ ζηλώσῆς, are to be rejected. The wicked (ishaim), i.e. the godless (cf, Psalm 1:1), is parallel with "evil men" (raim), i.e. the habitually wicked.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
Verse 15. - Avoid it; p'raehu, the kal imperative of para, properly, "to let go," hence "to reject, or abhor." (On the verb, see Proverbs 1:25, where it is rendered, "set at naught.") The same verb also occurs in Proverbs 8:33; Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 15:32. It; i.e. the way. The suffix of the verb in the original is feminine, "avoid her;" derek, "the way," being common. Turn from it (s'teh mealayv). The original is a pregnant expression equivalent to "turn aside from it, so that you do not come to stand upon it." The word mealayv, equivalent to the Latin desuper ea, has much the same force as the French de dessus and the Italian di sopra (Delitzsch). The verb satah is, as in the Authorized Version, "to turn, or go aside." Pass away; avor, kal imperative of avar, "to pass over," equivalent to Latin transire, here means "to pass on, or along," "to go beyond," like the German Ger weiter gehn. The counsel of the father is not only "turn aside from," but "put the greatest possible distance between you and it." The injunction, so absolutely stated, to have nothing to do with sin, is required, if not indeed prompted, by the knowledge of the fact that youth, confident in its own power of resistance, frequently indulges in the fatal mistake of imagining that it can dally with sin with impunity. The only course compatible with safety is to entirely avoid it.
For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.
Verse 16. - This verse exhibits the extreme depravity and debasement into which "the wicked" (r'shaim) and "the evil" (raim) of ver. 14 have fallen. Their sins are not sins of frailty, but arise from premeditation and from their insatiable desire to commit wickedness. Sin has become to them a kind of second nature, and, unless they indulge in it, sleep is banished from their eyes. They sleep not; lo-yish'nu, future of yashan, "to fall asleep;" the future here being used for the present, as is frequently the case in the Proverbs, and denoting a permanent condition or habit. Unless they cause some to fall; i.e. "unless they have betrayed others into sin," taking the verb in an ethical sense (Zockler), or, which is preferable, owing to ver. 16a, unless they have done them some injury (Mercerus); Vulgate, nisi supplantaverint. For the Khetib yik'shulu, kal, which would mean "unless they have stumbled or fallen," the Keri substitutes the hiph. yak'shihi "unless they have caused some to fall." The hiph. is found without any object, as here, in 2 Chronicles 25:8). (On the verb khasal, from which it is derived, see ch. 4:12.) With the statement of the verse we may compare David's complaint of the persistent persecution of his enemies (Psalm 59:15), "If they be not satisfied, then will they stay all night" (margin). A similar construction to the one before us occurs in Virgil: "Et si non aliqua nocuisses, mortuus esses" - "And had you not, by some means or other done him an injury, you would have died" ('Eclog.,' 3:15); cf. also Juvenal: "Ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam somnum rixa facit" - "Therefore, not otherwise, would he have slept; contention to some produces sleep." Hitzig rejects vers. 16 and 17 against all manuscript authority.
For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
Verse 17. - For (ki, equivalent to the Greek γὰρ) is here explanatory. It serves not so much to introduce another independent statement, as one which accounts for the statement made in the preceding verse, that the wicked sleep not unless they have done mischief, i.e. it states the reason why they are so conditioned. There is no comparison expressed in the original, as the rendering adopted by Schultens and others implies, "For wickedness do they eat as bread, and violence do they drink as wine," which is evidently based on Job 15:16, "Which drinketh up iniquity like water," and Job 34:7, "Who drinketh up scorning like water." The literal rendering is, for they eat the bread of wickedness, and the wine of violence do they drink. The bread of wickedness (lekhem resha) is not bread which consists in wickedness, but bread which is obtained by wickedness, just as the wine of violence (yiyin khamasim) is not the wine which produces violence, but the wine that is procured by violent dee,is. Their support, what they eat and drink, is obtained by wickedness and injustice. They live by wrong. For such expressions as "the bread of wickedness" and "the wine of violence," cf. Deuteronomy 16:3, "the bread of affliction;" Psalm 127:2, "the bread of sorrows;" and Amos 2:8, "the wine of the condemned." There is a charade of tense in the verbs, the first being perfect, "they have eaten," and the second future, "they shall drink," which Delitzsch explains as representing the twofold act - first eating the bread, and then washing it down with wine.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
Verse 18. - A contrast is drawn in this and the following verse between the path of the just and the way of the wicked. The former is, by an extremely beautiful image, likened to the light at dawn, which goes on increasing in brightness and intensity as the day advances, until at length it reaches its meridian splendour and glory. An exactly similar figure is found in David's last words (2 Samuel 23:4). The path of the just; i.e. their moral course. As the shining light (k'or nogah); i.e. as the light of dawn. The word nogah, from nagah, "to shine," is a noun, and properly signifies "brightness," "shining." "splendour." It is used also to designate the dawn, the light of the sun when it first mounts the horizon, and sheds its beams over the landscape, as in Isaiah 9:3, "Kings (shall come) to the brightness (nogah) of thy rising;" and Isaiah 62:1, "Until the righteousness thereof go forth as the brightness (nogah)" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:4, where the same word also occurs). Michaelis and Schultens refer nogah to "the path," and render, "The path of the just is splendid as the light." So Dathe and others; and in this sense it was understood by the LXX., "The path of the just shall shine as the light shines." The Vulgate renders, quasi lux splendens. That shineth more and more (holek vaor); literally, going and shining - a common Hebrew idiom denoting progression or increase. The construction of the participle holek, from halak, "to go," with the participle of another verb, is found in 1 Samuel 17:41, "The Philistine came nearer and nearer (holek v'karev);" 1 Samuel 2:26. "The child Samuel grew on more and more (holek v'hadel)" (cf. 2 Chronicles 17:12; Jonah 1:11). Unto the perfect day (ad-n'kon hayyom); Vulgate, usque ad perfectam diem. The Hebrew, n'kon hayyom, corresponds to the Greek, ἡ σταθερὰ, equivalent to "the high noon," when the sun seems to stand still in the heavens. The figure, as Fleiseher remarks, is probably derived from the balance, the tongue of the balance of day, which before or after is inclined either to the right or the left, being at midday perfectly upright, and as it were firm. So kun, the unused kal, from which n'kon, the niph. participle, is derived, is "to stand upright," and in hiph. "to be set," "to stand firm," "to be established," and hence the expression might be rendered, "until the steady, or established day," which, however, refers to the midday, or noon, and not to that point when day succeeds dawn, as Rosenmuller and Schultens on Hosea 6:3 maintain. The comparison is not extended beyond the midday, because the wish of the father was to indicate the full knowledge which the just attain in God, and which can knew of no decline. A similar figure of gradual development is found in our Lord's parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:28), and is visible in Psalm 84:7, "They grow from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." The verse illustrates the gradual growth and increase of the righteous in knowledge, holiness, and joy, all of which are inseparably connected in the career of such.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
Verse 19. - The way of the wicked is as darkness. In contrast with the path of the just is the way of the wicked, which is described as darkness itself: i.e. so deeply enveloped in gloom that the wicked are not able even to see the obstacles and impediments against which they stumble, and which are the cause of their ruin. It is a way dark throughout - a via tenebrosa (Vulgate) - terminating at length in "the blackness of darkness." As light is emblematical of knowledge, holiness, and joy, so darkness represents ignorance, unholiness, and misery (see Isaiah 8:22). Darkness (aphelah); strictly, thick darkness, midnight gloom, the entire absence of light. It is the word used of the plague of "thick darkness" that settled over all the land of Egypt, even a darkness that "might be felt," when the Egyptians "saw not one another, nor any arose from his place for three days" (Exodus 10:21-23). It occurs again in ch. 7:9, "in the black and dark night." In this darkness the wicked cannot help but stumble. Compare our Lord's teaching, "But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him" (John 11:10; cf. 12:36). The expression, they know not at what they stumble, carries with it the idea that they are so ignorant that they neither know wickedness as wickedness, nor do they apprehend the destruction which it involves. "Sins, however great and detestable they may be, are looked upon as trivial, or as not sins at all, when men get accustomed to them" (St. Augustine, 'Enchiridion,' cap. 80). On "stumble" (kashal), see ver. 12; and on the destruction of the wicked implied in the stumbling, see Proverbs 1:27, seq., 2:18-22; 3:35.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Verse 20. - The teacher here resumes his admonitions after thus citing the example of his father's teaching, and showing how it resembled the tenor of his own precepts, which, upon such a consideration, were most worthy of attention.
Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
Verse 21. - Let them not depart from thine eyes; i.e. keep them constantly in view as the guide of the whole conduct. These words are a repetition of Proverbs 3:21, just as the latter part of the verse reproduces the thought of Proverbs 2:1. Depart. The hiph. yallizu is here used instead of the kal yaluzu of Proverbs 3:21, but has the same force. In the midst of thine heart; i.e. in its inmost recesses; there the words and sayings are to be guarded as a man guards a treasure stowed away in the inmost chambers of a house. The expression implies cherishing them with an internal affection. The terms of the verse may be illustrated by Deuteronomy 6:6, 8, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontiers between thine eyes."
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Verse 22. - They are life; i.e. they bring life (khayyim; the plural, as usual). Unto those that find them; i.e. to those who by effort get possession of and procure them; the verb matsa, to find, embodying the idea of activity. Health; mar'pe, derived from the root rapha, "to heal" (like riph'uth of Proverbs 3:8, which see), and hence rather "the means of health" than "health," "healing," or, as margin, "medicine," "that which restores to health;" LXX., ἴασις; Vulgate, sanitas. The moral condition is regarded as enfeebled by sickness, from which it may be restored to health and soundness by the words of wisdom. The effect of these, however, is not only to restore to health, but to maintain in health. Their tendency is to promote "a sound mind in a sound body." To their flesh; literally, to his flesh; the singular, b'saro, being used instead of the plural, which we should have expected, because what is said applies to each one of those who receive the precepts of wisdom. The all implies the completeness of the restoration; it is not confined to one part, but pervades the whole body.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
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).
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Verse 24. - The following admonitions of this chapter bear reference to the outward conduct of life. They continue the subject of ver. 23 by showing how the guarding of the heart is to be done. There is the most; intimate connection between the heart as the fountain of the moral life and of the conduct of life, which, though determined by the condition of the heart, in its turn reacts upon the heart as the moral centre, and keeps it pure. Thus the subject is treated from its two sides. On vers. 24 and 25 Hitzig remarks that they "warn against an arbitrary perverting of the moral judgment into which evil passions so easily betray, and admonish not to give misdirection to thought within the department of morality." A froward mouth, and perverse lips; literally, perverseness of mouth and waywardness of lips (ikk'shuth peh vulzuth s'phathayim). "Perversity of mouth" is fraudulent, deceitful speech; that which twists, distorts, perverts, or misrepresents what is true, and hence falsehood (Proverbs 4:24; Proverbs 6:12; Proverbs 19:1). The σκολιὸν στόμα of the LXX., i.e. the "tortuous mouth," in a metaphorical sense. The phrase is very similar in meaning with the parallel "waywardness of lips," which means speech which turns aside from what is true and right, the noun lazuth being derived from lazah, or luz, "to bend aside." The tongue is the unruly member (James 3:2). Speech is the index of the mind (Lapide). Vigilance over the heart is vigilance over the mouth, inasmuch as "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). The admonition may have a twofold application, and may mean either do not indulge in this kind of speech yourself, exercise an unremitting jealousy over every propensity to it; or have no dealings with those who are guilty of it, as in Psalm 101:5.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Verse 25 - Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids lock straight before thee. "To look right on" and "to look straight before one" is to fix the eyes steadily and unswervingly upon an object before them, not to allow the gaze to deflect either to the right hand or to the left. As a noun, the word nokakh, rendered "right on," signifies what is straight in front of one; adverbially, it has the same meaning as that given in the Authorized Version. The corresponding "before" (neged) is substantively the side of any object which is opposite one, and as a preposition is equivalent to "before," "in the presence of," like the Latin coram. The versions (LXX., Syriac, Targum) take nokakh in the sense of "right things:" "Let thine eyes look at right things;" contemplate them, aim at justice and equity. This meaning is given to the cognate adjective nakoakh in Proverbs 8:9; Proverbs 24:26; Isaiah 26:10; Isaiah 30:10; Isaiah 59:14; but in the Proverbs the word nokakh only occurs twice (here and ver. 21), either as an adverb, "right on," "straightforwardly," or as a preposition, "before." Look straight. Gesenius takes this verb yashar in hiph., "to make straight," as used elliptically: "Let thine eyelids direct a way before thee;" but the meaning is the same as "Let them look straight before thee." The Syriac, Gejerus, and Holden render, "Let thine eyelids direct thy way before thee;" i.e. do nothing rashly, but everything with premeditation; examine thy conduct, and see that it is right. The verb yashar has this meaning, "to direct," in Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 11:5, but it is here used intransitively (Mercerus). Eyelids (aph'appim); so called from their fluttering, rapid motion, here used by way of poetic parallelism with "eyes." What the command inculcates is simplicity of aim or principle, singleness of motive. The moral gaze is to be steadily fixed, because if it wanders indolently, lasciviously, aimlessly, it imperils the purity of the soul. This verse may be understood, as Zockler, as containing a command levelled against dishonest practices. The man who intends to cheat his neighbour looks this way and that how he may deceive him. Such an interpretation may be maintained on the ground that the former verse is directed against falsehood in speech; this against falsehood in action. But the former view is preferable. If you wish to keep the heart, you must be guided by simplicity of aim; look not aside either to the one hand or to the other, lest you may be led astray by the seductions and temptations which imperil the onward and upward progress of the soul. The passage reminds us of the "single eye" (ἄπλους), "simple," i.e. intent on heaven and God, of Matthew 6:22.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Verse 26. - Ponder the path of thy feet; properly, make straight or level the path of thy feet. The command carries on the idea of the previous verse. Simplicity of aim in the moral life is to be accompanied by attention to the moral conduct. The sense is, remove every obstacle which may impede or render insecure the way of moral life, and thus avoid every false step. The meaning "to ponder," i.e. "to weigh," seems to be given to the verb palles, piel of the unused palas here used only in Psalm 58:3 and possibly in Proverbs 5:21. Its ordinary signification is "to make level, or even," as in Isaiah 26:7; Isaiah 40:12; and Proverbs 5:6. The LXX. keeps this in view in rendering, "Make straight paths for thy feet" (cf. Hebrews 12:13). The Authorized Version would mean, "Weigh your conduct as in a balance; before acting, consider the consequences and nature of the act." The second clause, and let all thy ways be established, is in effect only a repetition of the preceding thought, since it signifies, "See that thy conduct is correct; let all thy ways be definite and fixed." The marginal reading. "And all thy ways shall be ordered aright." gives the literal rendering to the tense; yikkonu being the future hiph. of kun, "to be established," "to stand firm." This would express the result of giving heed to one's conduct.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
Verse 27. - This verse, with which the teacher closes this discourse, is very closely connected with ver. 26, which it more fully explains. The command is the parallel of ver. 25. As in ver. 25, the gaze is to be concentrated. So here the feet are not to deflect nor turn aside to byways. Nothing is to be permitted to draw one off from the right way, neither adversity, nor prosperity, nor anything which can possess the power of temptation (Bayne and Wardlaw). Remove thy foot from evil. A fuller expression than "depart from evil," of Proverbs 3:7. Both the LXX. and the Vulgate add, "For the Lord knows the ways which are on thy right hand; but they are perverse which are on thy left. He shall make thy paths straight, and shall advance thy ways in peace."

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