Proverbs 23 Study Notes


23:1-3 A ruler could have ulterior motives to test or obligate his guest (cp. vv. 6-8). A big appetite, or lack of discipline, might annoy the ruler, which could be fatal (16:14). The admonition to put a knife to your throat is hyperbole (Mt 18:9); it calls for total abstinence if restraint is not possible. Choice food is the same as the “delicious meal” that caused trouble among Jacob, Isaac, and Esau (Gn 27:4).

23:4-5 Diligence along with godliness and wisdom brings riches (8:18; 10:4; 22:4), but only if God blesses (10:22). It is futile to try to get rich easily, illegally, or quickly (13:11; 20:21; 28:20,22).

23:6-8 It is futile to try to please an unwilling host. Stingy person is literally “evil eye” (28:22; Dt 15:9; 28:54,56; cp. Pr 22:9). On choice food, see note at vv. 1-3. Eventually the inner character of a person will show. A host in ancient times was obligated to offer food and drink to any person who visited, but it could be done insincerely. The guest of an insincere host gains nothing: the food is lost and compliments go to waste.

23:9 On the obstinacy of a fool, see note at 1:22; on insight, see note at 12:8.

23:10-11 Joshua established the boundaries of the tribes when Israel entered Canaan (22:28; Dt 19:14; Jos 14-19). Private property was marked off by pillars or cairns and was intended to be kept within a family forever (Lv 25:23-28; Nm 36:7; 1Kg 21:3). Moving a marker amounted to stealing land. God defends the oppressed (Dt 10:18; Pr 22:22-23). On Redeemer, see Lv 25:23-28,47-55; Nm 35:19 (“avenger of blood”); Ru 3:9-4:14; Ps 103:4; Is 59:20; Hs 13:14.

23:12 On discipline, see note at 1:2.

23:13-14 Corporal punishment, properly applied, will actually save a youth from death. He will as a rule escape physical death by avoiding dangerous situations and escape spiritual death (symbolized by Sheol) by learning to fear God (19:18). But corporal punishment must be administered out of love, not dominance (Hs 11:4; Col 3:21; Heb 12:9).

23:15-16 Innermost being is literally “kidneys” (18:8). It was seen as the seat of the strongest emotions (Ps 73:21).

23:17-18 A future is literally “what comes after” (see note at 5:11; cp. 14:12; 24:14,20). Those who treasure the Lord rather than sinners have hope for eternity (3:31-32; 24:19-20; Mt 6:19-21).

23:19-21 To listen is a prerequisite; to be wise and have a disciplined mind follow. To associate with the drunkard and the glutton is to run the risk of becoming like them and sharing their fate (24:21; Jos 23:7; Ps 1:1; 26:4) or of implying approval (1Co 5:11). Grogginess is lack of vigilance (Ps 121:3-4; Is 5:27; 56:10).

23:22-25 To say something both positively and negatively—buyand do not sell—is a Hebrew method of emphasis (Gn 40:23). On despise, see note at 1:7; on “buy,” see note at 4:5-8.

23:26-28 Heart and eyes are the key to sexual temptation; both should be given to the instructor in godly wisdom rather than the prostitute (5:1-23; 6:20-7:27; 9:13-18; 22:14; 1Co 6:15-18). Pit and ambush describe the prostitute’s predatory nature (7:21-23; 30:20).

23:29-35 Woe and sorrow are exclamations of hopelessness and despair (Is 6:5). The Hebrew behind red eyes is unclear; it may mean “bloodshot” or “bleary” (cp. Gn 49:12). Wine could be mixed with spices (9:2; Sg 8:2; cp. mixed beer in Is 5:22). To go looking is to “investigate” wine by “sampling.” We are called to flee tempting things (1Co 6:18; 10:14; 1Tm 6:11; 2Tm 2:22), not gaze at them. Gleams is literally “gives its eye,” that is, to show luster. In the end (see note at 5:11), like the forbidden woman, wine destroys people (23:26-28). Absurd is literally “perverse” (2:12; 8:13; 10:31-32). These are the ramblings of an alcoholic who is physically and mentally out of touch.