Proverbs 9 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Proverbs 9
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:

(o). Fifteenth Discourse: the Invitations of Wisdom and Folly (Proverbs 9).

(1) Wisdom hath builded her house—i.e., in preparation for the feast to which she is about to invite her guests. It is not an unusual custom in the Old Testament to describe intimate communion with God, and the refreshment which the soul of man thereby receives, under the figure of a festival. Thus in Exodus 24:11, when the elders of Israel were admitted to the vision of the Almighty, they “did eat and drink.” The same idea occurs frequently in the prophets also (as Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 65:13; Zephaniah 1:7-8); and is brought out in the New Testament with great fulness in the parables of the great supper (Luke 14) and the marriage of the king’s son (Matthew 22). Christ, the supreme Wisdom, has “builded His house” by taking man’s flesh at His Incarnation, and thus rearing for Himself a “temple of the Holy Ghost” (John 2:19); and also by building for Himself a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5), “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). (For references to the Fathers, see Bishop Wordsworth.) In the previous chapter Christ’s work as Creator was described; now He is set forth as Regenerator of mankind.

She hath hewn out her seven pillars.—Suggestive of the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2 Revelation 1:4), typified by the seven-branched candlestick of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:37).

She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.
(2) She hath killed her beasts.—Comp. Matthew 22:4.

She hath mingled her winei.e., probably, flavoured it with spices, to improve the flavour. (Comp. Proverbs 23:30.) But the wine used at the Passover (Matthew 26:29, &c.) was mingled with water to decrease its strength.

She hath also furnished her table.—“Christ hath furnished His own Table, exhibiting His precious and spotless Body and Blood, which are daily celebrated at that mystic and divine board, being sacrificed in commemoration of that ever-to-be-remembered original table of that mystic and divine supper.”—S. Hippolytus (ed. Lagarde, p. 199), quoted by Wordsworth.

She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,
(3) She hath sent forth her maidens.—Wisdom being here described under the figure of a woman, is properly represented as attended by her maidens, whom she sends forth to summon the guests. But the King (Matthew 22) despatches His servants for the same work, viz., His prophets and wise men and scribes (Matthew 23:34), whom from age to age He sends forth as His messengers.

She crieth upon the highest places of the city—so that all may hear. (Comp. our Lord’s command to proclaim His message “upon the housetops,” Matthew 10:27).

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,
(4) Whoso is simple . . . as for him that wanteth understanding.—So God does not call many “wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Corinthians 1:26); but chooses the “foolish,” “weak,” and “base,” whom man might overlook; not being willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), especially His “little ones” (Matthew 18:14). who are liable to fall through their inexperience and want of judgment.

Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
(5) Come, eat of my bread . . .—Comp. the invitations of Isaiah 55:1 and John 6:35.

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
(6) Forsake the foolish.—Rather, the simple; be no longer counted among the weak, who can be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), but “stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.
(7) He that reproveth a scorner . . .—Wisdom does not address the scoffer, nor the godless: this would be “giving that which is holy unto the dogs, and casting pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). (Comp. our Lord’s own plan of teaching by parables, that His hearers might not understand (Luke 8:10).

Getteth to himself shame.—Or, insult.

Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
(9) Give instruction to a wise man.—Comp. Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:29.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
(10) The fear of the Lord . . .—Comp. Isaiah 11:2, where the “spirit of knowledge” and of the “fear of the Lord” is counted as the gift of God. (For the general sense of the passage, see above, on Proverbs 1:7.)

Knowledge of the holy—i.e., “the Holy One,” as in Proverbs 30:3.

For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.
(11) For by me thy days shall be multiplied . . .—The connection of this verse with the preceding one is as follows:—It is true wisdom to fear and know God, for thus length of years and life that is worth living are to be gained. (Comp. Proverbs 3:2.)

If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.
(12) Thou shalt be wise for thyself—i.e., to thine own benefit. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:8.)

Thou alone shalt bear it—i.e., its penalty. (Comp. Galatians 6:5.)

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.
(13) A foolish woman.—Rather, the Foolish woman; Folly personified, in opposition to Wisdom described above.

Clamorous.—Not of dignified mien, as her rival.

Simple.—Heb., simplicity, i.e., she is simplicity itself.

And knoweth nothing.—And so leaves room for all evil to enter in and dwell with her (Matthew 12:45); thus she perishes, like Israel, for “lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,
(14) She sitteth at the door of her house.—She does not care, like Wisdom, to send forth her maidens “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10); she contents herself with sitting at ease, just outside her own door, and calling to the passers-by.

To call passengers who go right on their ways:
Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,
(16) Whoso is simple . . .—She imitates Wisdom closely in her address: Satan, too, transforms himself into an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Folly attracts those undecided characters who are in the right track, but have not the constancy to persevere in it; who, “in time of temptation, fall away.”

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
(17) Stolen waters are sweet.—See above, on Proverbs 5:15.

Bread eaten in secret.—The same figure is used in Proverbs 30:20.

But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
(18) The dead are there.—Comp. on Proverbs 2:18.

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