The subject of this book may be thus stated by an enlargement on the opening verses. 1. The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. 2. Which treat of the knowledge of wisdom, of piety towards God, of instruction and moral discipline, of the understanding wise and prudent counsels. 3. Which treat of the attainment of instruction in wisdom, which wisdom is to be shown in the conduct of life, and consists in righteousness with regard to our fellow-creatures. 4. Which treat of the giving to the simple sagacity to discover what is right, by supplying them with just principles, and correct views of virtue and vice; and to the young man knowledge, so that he need not err through ignorance; and discretion, so that by pondering well these precepts, he may not err through obstinacy. Take the proverbs of other nations, and we shall find great numbers founded upon selfishness, cunning, pride, injustice, national contempt, and animosities. The principles of the Proverbs of Solomon are piety, charity, justice, benevolence, and true prudence. Their universal purity proves that they are the word of God.
The use of the Proverbs. (1-6) Exhortations to fear God and obey parents. (7-9) To avoid the enticings of sinners. (10-19) The address of Wisdom to sinners. (20-33)
Verses 1-6 The lessons here given are plain, and likely to benefit those who feel their own ignorance, and their need to be taught. If young people take heed to their ways, according to Solomon's Proverbs, they will gain knowledge and discretion. Solomon speaks of the most important points of truth, and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks by his word and by his Spirit. Christ is the Word and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.
Verses 7-9 Fools are persons who have no true wisdom, who follow their own devices, without regard to reason, or reverence for God. Children are reasonable creatures, and when we tell them what they must do, we must tell them why. But they are corrupt and wilful, therefore with the instruction there is need of a law. Let Divine truths and commands be to us most honourable; let us value them, and then they shall be so to us.
Verses 10-19 Wicked people are zealous in seducing others into the paths of the destroyer: sinners love company in sin. But they have so much the more to answer for. How cautious young people should be! "Consent thou not." Do not say as they say, nor do as they do, or would have thee to do; have no fellowship with them. Who could think that it should be a pleasure to one man to destroy another! See their idea of worldly wealth; but it is neither substance, nor precious. It is the ruinous mistake of thousands, that they overvalue the wealth of this world. Men promise themselves in vain that sin will turn to their advantage. The way of sin is down-hill; men cannot stop themselves. Would young people shun temporal and eternal ruin, let them refuse to take one step in these destructive paths. Men's greediness of gain hurries them upon practices which will not suffer them or others to live out half their days. What is a man profited, though he gain the world, if he lose his life? much less if he lose his soul?
Verses 20-33 Solomon, having showed how dangerous it is to hearken to the temptations of Satan, here declares how dangerous it is not to hearken to the calls of God. Christ himself is Wisdom, is Wisdoms. Three sorts of persons are here called by Him: 1. Simple ones. Sinners are fond of their simple notions of good and evil, their simple prejudices against the ways of God, and flatter themselves in their wickedness. 2. Scorners. Proud, jovial people, that make a jest of every thing. Scoffers at religion, that run down every thing sacred and serious. 3. Fools. Those are the worst of fools that hate to be taught, and have a rooted dislike to serious godliness. The precept is plain; Turn you at my reproof. We do not make a right use of reproofs, if we do not turn from evil to that which is good. The promises are very encouraging. Men cannot turn by any power of their own; but God answers, Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you. Special grace is needful to sincere conversion. But that grace shall never be denied to any who seek it. The love of Christ, and the promises mingled with his reproofs, surely should have the attention of every one. It may well be asked, how long men mean to proceed in such a perilous path, when the uncertainty of life and the consequences of dying without Christ are considered? Now sinners live at ease, and set sorrow at defiance; but their calamity will come. Now God is ready to hear their prayers; but then they shall cry in vain. Are we yet despisers of wisdom? Let us hearken diligently, and obey the Lord Jesus, that we may enjoy peace of conscience and confidence in God; be free from evil, in life, in death, and for ever.
Proverbs 1:1-33 . After the title the writer defines the design and nature of the instructions of the book. He paternally invites attention to those instructions and warns his readers against the enticements of the wicked. In a beautiful personification, wisdom is then introduced in a most solemn and impressive manner, publicly inviting men to receive its teachings, warning those who reject, and encouraging those who accept, the proffered instructions.
2. To know . . . instruction--literally, "for knowing," that is, such is the design of these writings.
wisdom--or the use of the best means for the best ends, is generally employed in this book for true piety.
instruction--discipline, by which men are trained.
to perceive--literally, "for perceiving," the design (as above)
understanding--that is, words which enable one to discern good and evil.
3. To receive . . . of wisdom--For receiving that discipline which discretion imparts. The Hebrew for "wisdom" differs from that of Proverbs 1:2 , and denotes rather discreet counsel. Compare the opposite traits of the fool ( Proverbs 16:22 ).
justice . . . equity--all the attributes of one upright in all his relations to God and man.
4. simple--one easily led to good or evil; so the parallel.
young man--one inexperienced.
subtilty--or prudence ( Proverbs 3:21 , 5:21 ).
discretion--literally, "device," both qualities, either good or bad, according to their use. Here good, as they imply wariness by which to escape evil and find good.
5, 6. Such writings the wise, who pursue right ends by right means, will value.
learning--not the act, but matter of it.
wise counsels--or the art and principles of governing.
6. To understand--so as to . . . such will be the result.
words of the wise--(Compare Proverbs 1:2 ).
dark sayings--(Compare Psalms 49:4 , John 16:25 ; and
7. The fear of the Lord--the principle of true piety (compare Proverbs 2:5 , Proverbs 14:26 Proverbs 14:27 , Job 28:28 , Psalms 34:11 , 111:10 , Acts 9:31 ).
beginning--first part, foundation.
fools--the stupid and indifferent to God's character and government; hence the wicked.
8. My son--This paternal form denotes a tender regard for the reader. Filial sentiments rank next to piety towards God, and ensure most distinguished rewards (compare Proverbs 6:20 , Ephesians 6:2 Ephesians 6:3 ).
9. On the figures of Proverbs 1:9 , compare Genesis 41:42 , Solomon 1:10 , 4:9 .
10-19. A solemn warning against temptation.
entice--literally, "open the way."
consent . . . not--Sin is in consenting or yielding to temptation, not in being tempted.
11-14. Murder and robbery are given as specific illustrations.
lay wait . . . lurk privily--express an effort and hope for successful concealment.
swallow . . . grave--utterly destroy the victim and traces of the crime ( Numbers 16:33 , Psalms 55:15 ). Abundant rewards of villainy are promised as the fruits of this easy and safe course.
15, 16. The society of the wicked (way or path) is dangerous. Avoid the beginnings of sin ( Proverbs 4:14 , Psalms 1:1 , 119:101 ).
17-19. Men warned ought to escape danger as birds instinctively avoid visibly spread nets. But stupid sinners rush to their own ruin ( Psalms 9:16 ), and, greedy of gain, succeed in the very schemes which destroy them ( 1 Timothy 6:10 ), not only failing to catch others, but procuring their own destruction.
20-33. Some interpreters regard this address as the language of the Son of God under the name of Wisdom (compare Luke 11:49 ). Others think that wisdom, as the divine attribute specially employed in acts of counsel and admonition, is here personified, and represents God. In either case the address is a most solemn and divine admonition, whose matter and spirit are eminently evangelical and impressive
Wisdom--literally, "Wisdoms," the plural used either because of the unusual sense, or as indicative of the great excellency of wisdom (compare Proverbs 9:1 ).
streets--or most public places, not secretly.
21. The publicity further indicated by terms designating places of most common resort.
22. simple ones--(Compare Proverbs 1:4 ).
scorners--( Psalms 1:1 )--who despise, as well as reject, truth.
fools--Though a different word is used from that of Proverbs 1:7 , yet it is of the same meaning.
23. reproof--implying conviction deserving it (compare John 16:8 , Margin).
pour out--abundantly impart.
my spirit--whether of wisdom personified, or of Christ, a divine agent.
24. stretched . . . hand--Earnestness, especially in beseeching, is denoted by the figure (compare Job 11:13 , Psalms 68:31 , 88:9 ).
25. set at naught--rejected as of no value.
would none of--literally, "were not willing or inclined to it."
26, 27. In their extreme distress He will not only refuse help, but aggravate it by derision.
27. fear--the object of it.
desolation--literally, "a tumultuous noise," denoting their utter confusion.
destruction--or calamity ( Proverbs 1:26 ) compared to a whirlwind, as to fatal rapidity.
distress--( Psalms 4:1 , 44:11 ).
anguish--a state of inextricable oppression, the deepest despair.
28. Now no prayers or most diligent seeking will avail ( Proverbs 8:17 ).
29, 30. The sinner's infatuated rejection brings his ruin.
31. fruit . . . way--result of conduct ( Isaiah 3:10 , Ezekiel 11:21 , Romans 6:21 , Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:8 ).
be filled--even to repletion ( Psalms 123:4 ).
32. turning away--that is, from the call of Proverbs 1:23 .
simple--as in Proverbs 1:22 .
prosperity--quiet, implying indifference.
33. dwell safely--literally, "in confidence" ( Deuteronomy 12:10 ).
be quiet--or at ease, in real prosperity.
from fear--without fear.