Cambridge Bible Perowne
The Title. Chap. Pro_1:1
1. proverbs] Properly resemblances. Here used of (1) short, pithy sentences, either couched in the form of a similitude, or comparison, or gathering up under their common principle or issue classes of events or actions, which resemble one another in the identity of that principle or issue; such proverbs forming the bulk of the Book from the 10th chapter to the end: (2) longer and more elaborate didactic addresses, such as are contained in the first nine chapters of the Book, and occasionally interspersed in its later portions. See Introd. ch. ii. p. 18.
of Solomon] This does not mean that Solomon was the author of the whole Book, for parts of it are distinctly ascribed to other authors (Pro_24:23, Pro_30:1, Pro_31:1), but that in the main it proceeds from him, and that he is the acknowledged father of this kind of Hebrew literature. See Introd. ch. iii. p. 25.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
2. To know] The construction in this and the following clauses is elliptical: The proverbs … to know, to discern, to receive, to give; i.e. the proverbs of which the purpose is that men may know, discern, and receive (as it is expressed in Pro_1:5), and that they (the proverbs) may give, &c.
wisdom] In this one word the whole subject of the Book is gathered up. But in these opening verses the scope and functions of this Wisdom, which the Book is designed to teach, are set forth by a variety of words employed to expand and describe it. It is instruction, or, rather, discipline (Pro_1:2), not only instructive but corrective. It is discriminating, intelligent, penetrating, it discerns the words of understanding (ib. R.V.). It is practical, for it educates or disciplines in wise dealing (Pro_1:3; Pro_1:1 st clause, R.V.). It is upright and just, and has regard to the severer virtues, for it trains in righteousness and judgement and equity (ib. R.V.). It sharpens the intellect, for it imparts subtilty, or prudence (R.V. marg. Pro_1:4). It adds learning (lit. acquirement) and the art of steering one’s course aright (wise counsels) by its growth and fuller application (Pro_1:5). It gives play to the imagination and scope to the intellectual powers in proverb and figure, in riddles and dark sayings (Pro_1:6, R.V.).
instruction] So both A.V. and R.V. But the word carries with it the sense of correction, or discipline. LXX. παιδεία (on which word in its Scriptural sense see Trench, N. T. Synonyms), Vulg. disciplina. The Heb. word is the same as is rendered chastening, A.V. and R.V. text in Pro_3:11, and παιδεία in the quotation of that passage in Heb_12:5. As Trench points out there can be no true instruction of man as he now is, without correction and discipline.
understanding] Lit. discernment, the Heb. root being the same as discern at the beginning of the verse. The root-meaning is to go between, divide, distinguish. Comp. “that ye may prove the things that differ” (R.V. marg.), Php_1:10. Penetration is an integral part of wisdom.
To know wisdom and instruction. In this verse we have a statement of the first general aim or object of the Proverbs. “To know” (לָדַעַת, ladaath) is somewhat indefinite in the Authorized Version, and might be more accurately rendered. “from which men may know” (De Wette, Noyes); cf. unde scias (Munsterus). The לwhich is here prefixed to the infinitive, as in verses 2, 8, and 6, gives the clause a final character, and thus points out the object which the teaching of the Proverbs has in view. The teaching is viewed from the standpoint of the learner, and hence what is indicated here is not the imparting of knowledge, but the reception or aprrspriation thereof on the part of the laemer. Schultens states that the radical meaning of דָּעַת (daath) is the reception of knowledge into one’s self. Wisdom. It will be necessary to go rather fully into this word here on its first appearance in the text. The Hebrew is חָכְמָה (khokhmah). Wisdom is mentioned first, because it is the end to which all knowledge and instruction tend. The fundamental conception of the word is variously represented as either
(1) the “power of judging,” derived from רףּ, “to be wise,” from the Arabic, “to judge” (Oesenlus); or
(2) “the fixing of a thing for cognition,” derived from the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew חָכַם, as before, which signifies “to fasten” (Zockler), or “compactness,” from the same root as before, “to be firm, or closed.” It is also variously defined
(1) as “insight into that upright dealing which pleases God—a knowledge of the right way which is to be followed before God, and of the wrong one which is to be shunned” (Zockler);
(2) as “piety towards God,” as in Job_28:28 (Gesenius);
(3) as “the knowledge of things in their being and in the reality of their existence” (Delitzsch), The word is translated in the LXX. by σοφία, and in the Vulgate by sapientia. The Hebrew khokhmah and the Greek σοφία so far agree as philosophical terms in that the end of each is the same, viz. the striving after objective wisdom, the moral fitness of things; but the character of the former differs from that of the latter in being distinctly religious. The beginning and the end of the khokhmah, wisdom, is God (cf. Job_28:7). Wisdom, then, is not the merely scientific knowledge, or moral philosophy, but knowledge κατ ἐξοχήν, i.e. religious knowledge or piety towards God; i.e. an appreciation of what God requires of us and what we conversely owe to God. “Sapientia est de divinis” (Lyra). Wisdom will, of course, carry with it the notions of knowledge and insight. Instruction. As the preceding word represents wisdom in its intellectual conception, and has rather a theoretical character, so “instruction,” Hebrew, מְוּסָר (musar), represents it on its practical side, and as such is its practical complement. The Hebrew musar signifies properly “chastisement,” from the root yasar (יָסַר), “to correct,” or “chastise,” and hence education, moral training; and hence in the LXX. it is rendered by παιδεῖα, which means both the process of education and its result as learning. The Vulgate has disciplina. In relation to wisdom, it is antecedent to it; i.e. to know wisdom truly we must first become acquainted with instruction, and hence it is a preparatory step to the knowledge of wisdom, though here it is stated rather objectively. The words, “wisdom and instruction,” are found in exactly the same collocation in Pro_4:13 and Pro_23:23. In its strictly disciplinary sense, “instruction” occurs in Pro_3:11, with which comp. Heb_12:5. Holden takes this word as “moral discipline” in the highest sense. To perceive the words of understanding; literally, to discern the words of discernment; i.e. “to comprehend the utterances which proceed from intelligence, and give expression to it” (Delitzsch). Understanding; Hebrew, vinah (בִינָה), connected with the hiph. (לְהָבִין lehavin), properly “to distinguish,” hence “to discern,” of the same clause, signifies the capability of discerning the true from the false, good front bad, etc. With this agrees Cornelius a Lapide, who says, “Unde prudenter discernas inter bonum et malum, licitum et illicitum, utile et noxium, verum et falsum,” and from which you are enabled to know what to do in any circumstances, and what not to do. The LXX. renders the word by φρόμησις, the Vulgate by prudentia. Φρόνησις, in Plato and Aristotle, is the virtue concerned in the government of men, manage-merit of affairs, and the like, and means practical wisdom, prudence, or moral wisdom. Van Ess, Allioli, Holden, translate “prudence.”
To receive the instruction of wisdom. This verse carries on the statement of the design of the Proverbs. To receive; Hebrew, לְקַחַת (lakakhath), not the same word as “to know” (לָדַּעַת), in verse 2, though regarded as synonymous with it by Delitzsch. Its meaning is well represented by the LXX. δέξασθαι, and the Authorized Version “to receive.” The Hebrew, לָקַחַת, is infinitive, and means properly “to take, or lay hold of,” hence “to receive,” Greek, δέχομαι, No doubt it conveys the idea of intellectual reception (cf. Pro_2:1). The instruction of wisdom; Hebrew, מוּסַרהַשְׂכֵּל (musar hasekel); i.e. the discipline or moral training which leads on to reason, intelligence, or wisdom (as Hitzig, Fuerst, Zockler); or discipline full of insight, discernment, or thoughtfulness (as Umbreit, Ewald, Delitzsch). The phrase does not mean the wisdom which instruction imparts. The word musar occurs here in a slightly different sense from its use in verse 2; there it is objective, here its meaning as a medium for the attainment of wisdom is more distinctly brought out. Wisdom (haskel) is properly “thoughtfulness” (so Umbreit. Ewald, Delitzsch, Plumptre). It is strictly the infinitive absolute of שָׂכַל (sakal), “to entwine or involve,” and as a substantive it stands for the thinking through of a subject, so “thoughtfulness.” The LXX. renders this sentence, δέξασθαί τε στροφὰς, which St. Jerome understands as “versutias sermonum et solutiones aenigmatum” (“the cunning or craftiness of words and the explication of enigmas”). Justice, and judgment, and equity. These words seem to be the unfolding of the meaning contained in the expression, “the instruction of wisdom.” Holden regards the last four words as objective genitives dependent on “instruction,” but wrongly. Cornelius a Laplde states that “justice and judgment and equity” indicate the same thing in different aspects. “Justice stands for the thing itself—that which is just; judgment in respect of right reason, which says it is just; and equity in respect of its being agreeable to the Law of God.” Justice; Hebrew, צֶדֶק (tsedek), from the root צָדַק (tsadak), “to be right, or straight;” in a moral sense it means “rectitude,” “right,” as in Isa_15:2 (Gesenius). The underlying idea is that of straightness. Heidenheim, quoted by Delitzsch, maintains that in tsedek the conception of the justum prevails; but the latter enlarges its meaning, and holds that it also has the idea of a mode of thought and action regulated, not by the letter of the Law, but by love, as in Isa_41:2; Isa_42:6. Plumptre thinks “righteousness” would be a better translation of the word, on the ground that the Hebrew includes the ideas of truth and beneficence. Compare with this the LXX. δικαιοσύνη. Zockler also renders “righteousness,” i.e. “that which is in accord with the will and ordinances of God as Supreme Judge.” In the Authorized Version, in Pro_2:9, where we have the same collocation of words, tsedek is translated “righteousness;” cf. Pro_12:17, “He who utters truth shows forth righteousness (tsedek).” Judgment; Hebrew, מְשְׁפָּט (mishepat), from the root שָׁפַּט (shapat), “to adjust, judge,” corresponds with the Hebrew in meaning; it is the delivery of a correct judgment on human actions. Compare the LXX. κρίμα κατευθύνειν. Equity; i.e. rectitude in thought and action (Delitzsch), or integrity (Zockler). This quality expresses upright demeanour or honoumble action on one’s own part individually, while “judgment” has regard both to our own and the actions of others. The Hebrew, mesharim (מֵשָׁרִים), used only in the plural, is from the root יָשַׁר (yashar), “to be straight or even,” and is equal to “uprightness.” The plural form is reproduced in the marginal reading “equities;” comp. Psa_17:2, “Let thine eyes beheld the things that are equal (mesharim).” The Vulgate reads aequitas and the Syriac rectitudo. The two ideas in judgment and equity appear to be expressed in the LXX. by the phrase. κρίμα κατευθύνειν.
To give subtilty to the simple. In this verse and the following we are introduced to the classes of persons to whom the proverbs will be beneficial The לwith the infinitive, לָתֵת (latheth) shows that in construction this proposition is so ordinate with those in Pro_1:2 and Pro_1:3, and not dependent as represented by ἵνα δῷ (LXX.)and ut detur (Vulgate). Subtilty; Hebrew, עַרְמָה (aremah), from the root עָרַם, (aram), “to be crafty or wily,” properly means “nakedness” or “smoothness;” hence in a metaphorical sense it expresses “the capacity for escaping from the wiles of others” (Umbreit). We have this idea expressed as follows in Pro_22:3, “The prudent man (עָרוּם, arum) foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.” In the Arabic Version it is rendered by calliditas, “shrewdness,” in a good sense. The Hebrew aremah, like the Latin calliditas, also means “craftiness,” as appears in the use of the cognate adjective arum in Gen_3:1, where we read, “The serpent was more subtle,” etc. For “subtilty” the LXX. has πσνουργία, a Greek word which appears to be employed altogether in a bad sense, as “trickery,” “villainy,” “knavery;” but that scarcely appears to be the meaning of the Hebrew here, since the aim of the Proverbs is ethical and beneficial in the highest degree. The Vulgate astutia, the quality of the astutus, beside the bad sense of craftiness, also boars the good sense of shrewdness, sagacity, and so better represents the Hebrew. “Subtilty may turn to evil, but it also takes its place among the highest moral gifts” (Plumptre). The simple; Hebrew, פְתָאִים (phethaim), plural of פְתִּי (peti) from the root פָתַח (pathakh), “to be open,” properly means the open-hearted, i.e. those who are susceptible to external impressions (Zockler), and so easily misled. The word occurs in Pro_7:7; Pro_8:5; Pro_9:6; Pro_14:18; and Pro_27:12. The LXX. properly renders the word ἄκακοι, “unknowing of evil.” The same idea is indirectly expressed in the Vulgate parvuli, “the very young;” and the term is paraphrased in the Arabic Version, iis in quibus non est malitia (“those who are without malice”). The Hebrew here means “simple” in the sense of inexperienced. To the young man knowledge and discretion. The Hebrew naar (נַעַר) is here used representatively for “youth” (cf. LXX; παῖς νέος; Vulgate, adolescens) in general, which stands in need of the qualities here mentioned. It advances in idea beyond “the simple.” Knowledge; Hebrew, דַּעַת (daath), i.e. experimental knowledge (Delitzsch); insight (Gesenius); knowledge of good and evil (Plumptre). The LXX. has αἴσθησις, which clasically means perception by the senses and also by the mind. Discretion; Hebrew, מְזִמָּה (mezimmah), properly “thoughtfulness,” and hence “circumspection” or “caution” (Zockler), or “discernment,” that which sets a man on his guard and prevents him being duped by others (Plumptre). Εννοια was probably adopted by the LXX. in its primary sense as representing the act of thinking; intellectus (Vulgate), equivalent to “a discerning”.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning. The change of construction in the original is reproduced in the Authorized Version, but has been rendered variously. Thus Umbreit and Elster, regarding the verb יִשְׁמַע (yishema) as conditional, translate, “if the wise man hear;” on the other hand, Delitzsch and Zockler take it as voluntative,” let the wise man hear,” ete. The principle here enunciated is again stated in Pro_9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser,” and finds expression under the gospel economy in the words of our Lord, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance”. Learning; Hebrew, לֶקַח (lekakh), in the sense of being transmitted or received (Gesenius, Delitzsch, Dunn). A man of understanding (LXX; ὁ νοήμων; Vulgate, intelligens) is a person of intelligence who lays himself open to be instructed. Wise counsels; Hebrew, תַּחְבֻּלוֹת (takhebuloth). This word is derived from חֹבֶל (khevel), a ship rope, a denominative of חֹבֵל (khovel), and only occurs in the plural. It signifies those maxims of prudence by which a man may direct his course aright through life (cf. regimen, Arabic). The imagery is taken from the management of a vessel, and is reproduced in the LXX. κυβέρνησις, and the Vulgate gubernatio. “Navigationi vitam comparat” (Mariana). The word is almost exclusively confined to the Proverbs, and occurs in Pro_11:14; Pro_12:5; Pro_20:18; and Pro_24:6, usually in a good sense, though it has the meaning of “stratagem” in Pro_12:5. In the only other passage where it is found it is used of God’s power in turning about the clouds; of. Job_37:12, “And it [i.e. the bright cloud] is turned round about by his counsels (בְּתַחְבּוּלתָוּ, bethakhebulothau).” It is the practical correlative of “learning,” in the first part of the verse.
To understand a proverb. This verse carries on the idea which is stated in Pro_1:5. The end of the wise and intelligent man’s increase in learning and prudence is that he may be thus enabled to understand other proverbs. Schultens, followed by Holden, takes the verb לְהָבִין (lehavin) as a gerund, intelligendo sententias. This rendering does not represent the end, but points to the proverbs, etc; as means by which the wise generally attain to learning and prudence. And the interpretation; Hebrew, מְלִיצָה (melitsah). It is difficult to determine the exact meaning of this word. By Gesenius it is rendered “enigma, riddle;” by Bertheau and Hitzig, “discourse requiring interpretation:” by Delitzsch, “symbol; by Havernick and Keil, “brilliant and pleasing discourse;” and by Fuerst, “figurative and involved discourse.” By comparing it with the corresponding words, “dark sayings,” it may be regarded as designating that which is obscure and involved in meaning; compare σκοτεινὸς λόγος (LXX.). It only occurs here and in Hab_2:6, where it is rendered “taunting proverb.” The marginal reading is “an eloquent speech,” equivalent to facundia, “eloquence.” Vatablus says that the Hebrews understood it as “mensuram et pondus verbi.” The words of the wise; i.e. the utterances of the khakhamim (חֲכָמִים). This expression occurs again in Pro_22:17, and also in Ecc_9:1-18 :19 and Ecc_12:11. In the latter they are described as “goads and as nails fastened by the ministers of assemblies” (i.e. “authors of compilations,” as Mendelssohn), because they cannot fail to make an impression on everybody good or bad. The expression, as used in Pro_22:17, implies that other than Solomonic proverbs are included in this collection. And their dark sayings; Hebrew, וְחִידֹתָם (vekhidotham). The Hebrew khidah (חִידָה), as melitsah (מְלִיצָה), its parallel in the preceding hemistich, designates obscure, involved utterances. It plainly has the sense of “enigma” (Fleischer, apud Delitzsch). Compare αἰνίγματα (LXX.), and aenigmata (Vulgate), which latter is followed by the Chaldea Paraphrase and Syriac (see also Psa_78:2, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter dark sayings of old”). Gesenius derives it from the root חוּד (khud), “to tie knots,” and hence arrives at its meaning as an involved or twisted sententious expression, an enigma.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This proposition is by some commentators regarded as the motto, symbol, or device of the book (Delitzsch, Umbreit, Zockler, Plumptre). Others, following the Masoretic arrangement of the Hebrew text, consider it as forming part of the superscription (Ewald, Bertheau, Elster, Keil). As a general proposition expressing the essence of the philosophy of the Israelites, and from its relation to the rest of the contents of this book, it seems rightly to occupy a special and individual position. The proposition occurs again in the Proverbs in Pro_9:10, and it is met with in similar or slightly modified forms in other books which belong to the same group of sacred writings, that is, those which treat of religious philosophy—the Khokhmah; e.g. Job_28:28; Psa_111:10; Ecc_12:13; Ecc_1:16, 25. With this maxim we may compare “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom” (Pro_15:33). The fear of the Lord (יִרְאַתיְהָוֹה, yireath yehovah); literally, the fear of Jehovah. The expression describes that reverential attitude or holy fear which man, when his heart is set aright, observes towards God. The original word, יִרְאַת (yireath) for “fear,” is properly the infinitive of יָרֵא, (yare), “to fear or reverence,” and as a substantive means “reverence or holy fear” (Gesenius). Servile or abject fear (as Jerome, Beda, Estius) is not to be understood, but filial fear (as Gejerus, Mercerus, Cornelius a Lapide, Cartwright), by which we fear to offend God—that fear of Jehovah which is elsewhere described as “to hate evil” (Pro_8:13), and in which a predominating element is love. Wardlaw remarks that the “fear of the Lord” is in invariable union with love and in invariable proportion to it. We truly fear God just in proportion as we truly love him. The fear of the Lord also carries with it the whole worship of God. It is observable that the word Jehovah (יְהוָֹה) is used in the Hebrew, and not Elohim (אְלֶהִים), a peculiarity which is invariably marked in the Authorized Version by small capitals. The beginning; Hebrew, רֵאשִׁית (reshith). This word has been understood in three different senses:
(1) As initium, the beginning; i.e. the initial step or starting point at which every one who wishes to follow true wisdom must begin (Gejerus, Zockler, Plumptre).
(2) As caput; i.e. the most excellent or principal part, the noblest or best wisdom. This sense is adopted in the marginal reading (comp. also Pro_4:7) (Holden, Trapp).
(3) As the principium (Vulgate); i.e. the origin, or basis, as in Mic_1:12, “She is the origin, or basis (reshith) of the sin of the daughter of Zion.” Delitzsch regards the original, reshith, as embracing the two ideas of commencement and origin, in the same way as the Greek ἀρχὴ. Wisdom has its origin in God, and whoever fears him receives it if he prays in faith (cf. Jas_1:5, sqq.) (Vatablus, Mercerus, Delitzsch). That the first sense, viz. that of beginning, is to be understood here appears from the parallel passage in Pro_10:10, where the corresponding word is תְּחִלָּת. (tekillath), “beginning,” from the root חָלַל (khalal), “to begin;” cf. also the LXX. ἀρχὴ, in this sense, and the initium of the Syriac and Arabic Versions. All previous knowledge to “the fear of the Lord” is comparative folly. He who would advance in knowledge must first be imbued with a reverence or holy fear of God. But fools despise wisdom and instruction; or, according to the inverted order of the words in the original, wisdom and instruction fools despise, the association of ideas in the three words, “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “instruction,” thus being more continuously sustained. This arrangement links on the two latter words with “the fear of the Lord,” and so helps towards the elucidation of the sense in which “fools” is to be understood Fools; אֱוִילִים (evilim), plural of אֱוִיּל (evil), from the root אָוַל (aval), “to be perverse,” here properly designates the incorrigible, as in Pro_27:22, and those who are unwilling to know God (Jer_4:22), and hence refuse and despise wisdom and salutary discipline, those “who set at nought all his counsel, and will none of his reproof.” The word is opposed to the “prudent” (Pro_12:16) and to the “wise” (Pro_10:14). Delitzsch understands it as “thick, hard, stupid,” from the root aval, coalescere, incrassari. Schultens uses παχεῖς, equivalent to erassi pro stupidis, to represent the original. Dunn takes it in the same sense as “gross or dull of understanding.” Fuerst, adopted by Wordsworth, regards it in the sense of having no moral stamina, from the root meaning “to be slack, weak, lax, or lazy.” But none of these explanations seems, in my opinion, to coincide sufficiently with the evil and depraved activity expressed in the verb “despise,” which follows, and which describes the conduct of this class. The LXX. renders the word or action by ἀσεβεῖς, equivalent to impii, “godless,” “profane,” and the Vulgate by stulti. Despise; בָּזוּ (bazu) is perfect, but is properly translated by the present, because the perfect here represents a condition long continued and still existing; cf. the Latin odi, memini, etc. The LXX. uses the future ἐξουθενήσουσιν, i.e. they will set at nought; the Vulgate, the present (despiciunt). The radical meaning is most probably contemptuous trampling under the feet (Geseuius). Wisdom and instruction (see Pro_27:2). The latter clause of this verse is antithetical to the former, but the antithesis is obscurely expressed. In the Authorized Version it is marked by the adversative conjunction “but,” which, however, is not in the original. The LXX. has a striking interpolation in this verse between the first and second clauses, which is partly taken from Psa_111:10 (Σύνεσις δέ ἀγαθὴ πᾶσι τοῖς ποιοῦσιν αὐτήν εὐσέβεια δὲ εἰς Θεὸν ἀρχὴ αἰσθήσεως, “And a good understanding have all they that do it: and reverence towards God is the beginning of knowledge”). Compare the Arabic Version, which has the same interpolation: Et intellectus bonus onmibus facientibus eam. Sana religio in Deum est initium prudentiae.
My son, hear the instruction of thy father. The transition in this verse from what may be regarded as filial obedience towards God to filial obedience towards parents is suggestive of the moral Law. The same admonition, in a slightly altered form, occurs again in Pro_6:1-35; “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (cf. also Pro_4:1). My son; בְּנִבי (beni) from בֵּן (ben), “a son.” The form of address here adopted was that in common use by teachers towards their pupils, and marks that superintending, loving, and fatherly care and interest which the former felt in and towards the latter. It occurs frequently in the introductory section (Pro_2:1; Pro_3:1-35 :l, 21; Pro_4:10, Pro_4:20; Pro_5:1; Pro_6:1; Pro_7:1), and reappears again towards the close (Pro_23:15, Pro_23:19, Pro_23:26; Pro_24:13, Pro_24:21; Pro_27:11) in the teacher’s address. The mother of Lemuel uses it (Pro_31:2) in the strictly parental sense. In other passages of the Old Testament the teacher, on the other hand, is represented as a “father” (Jdg_17:10 Isa_10:12; 2Ki_2:21). We find the same relation assumed in the New Testament, both by St. Paul (1Co_4:15; Phm_1:10; Gal_4:19) and by St. John (1Jn_2:1; 1Jn_5:2); but under the economy of the gospel it has a deeper significance than here, as pointing to the “new birth,” which, being a later revelation, lies outside the scope of the moral teaching of the Old Testament dispensation. The instruction (מוּסַר, musar); as carrying with it the sense of disciplinary education (cf. LXX; παιδεία; Vulgate, disciplina; see also verse 2), and of the correction with which it may be enforced (cf. Pro_13:24; Pro_22:15; Pro_23:13, Pro_23:14), the writer attributes appropriately to the father, while the milder torah, “law,” he uses of the mother (Delitzsch). Father. The nature of the exhortation conveyed in this verse requires that we should understand the terms “father” and “mother” in their natural sense as designating the parents of the persons addressed, though a symbolical meaning has Been attached to them by the rabbis (see Rabbi Salomon, in loc.), “father” being understood as representing God, and “mother,” the people. But the terms are more than merely figurative expressions (Stuart). Those who look upon the Proverbs as the address of Solomon to his son Rehoboam naturally take “father” as standing for the former. Naamah, in this case must be the mother (1Ki_14:31). It is almost unnecessary to state that pious parents are presupposed, and that only that instruction and law can be meant which is not inconsistent with the higher and more perfect Law of God (Gejerus, Wardlaw). And forsake not the law of thy mother. Forsake. The radical meaning of הִּשָׁ (tittosh) is that of “spreading,” then of “scattering” (Aiken), and so the word comes to mean “forsake, reject, or neglect.” The LXX. reads ἀπώσῃ, from ἀποθέω, abjicere, “to push away, reject.” Cf. abjicias (Arabic). The Vulgate has dimittas, i.e. “abandon,” and the Syriac, obliviscaris, i.e. “forget.” The law; תּוֹרַת (torath), construct case of תּוֹרַה (torah), from the root יָרָה (yarah), “to teach,” hence here equivalent to “a law” in the sense of that which teaches—a precept. With one exception (Pro_8:10), it is the term which always expresses the instruction given by Wisdom (Delitzsch). The law (torah) of the mother is that preceptive teaching which she imparts orally to her son, but torah is also used in a technical sense as lex, νόμος δέσμος, that which is laid down and established, a decretum or institutum, and designates some distinct provision or ordinance, as the law of sacrifice (Le Pro_6:7). In Jos_1:8 we find it employed to signify the whole body of the Mosaic Law (sepher hatorah). Mother. Not inserted here as a natural expansion of the idea of the figure required by the laws of poetic parallelism (as Zockler), since this weakens the force of the passage. Mothers are mentioned because of their sedulousness in imparting instruction (Bayne).
For they (shall be) an ornament of grace unto thy head. The sentiment here expressed is put forward as an inducement to youth to observe obedience towards the instruction of the father and the law of the mother, and the meaning is that, just as in popular opinion ornaments and jewels are supposed to set off the personal form, so obedience towards parents in the ways of virtue embellishes the moral character (Bayne, Cartwright, Holden). An ornament of grace; Hebrew, לִוְיַתהֵן (liveyath khen); literally, a wreath or garland of grace. We meet with the same expression in Pro_4:9, “She [i.e. wisdom] shall give to thine head an ornament of grace.” The Hebrew לִוְיה (liveyah) is derived from the root לָוָה (lavah), “to wind a roll” (Delitzsch) or “to be joined closely with” (Gesenius), and hence signifies an ornament that is twisted, and so a wreath or garland. Gejerus and Schultens translate the phrase by corolla gratiosa, i.e. “a crown full of grace,” and so meaning conferring or producing grace, just as the expression, “the chastisement of our peace” (Isa_53:5), means the chastisement bringing or procuring our peace. So again a “precious stone,” in Pro_17:8, margin, “a stone of grace,” is one conferring gracefulness. The marginal reading, “an adding” (additamentum, Vatablus), conveys, though obscurely, the same idea; and this sense is again reproduced in the Vulgate, ut addatur gratia capiti suo. The LXX. reads, στέφανος χαρίτων. And chains about thy neck. Chains; properly, necklaces; עֲנָקִים (anakim), plural of עֲנָק (anak), “a cellar or necklace;” the κλοιός χρύσεος, or “golden collar,” of the LXX; and torques (i.e. twisted neckchain) of the Vulgate. There is a very apposite parallel to this verse in Pro_6:20, Pro_6:21 (cf. Pro_3:3; see also Jdg_8:26). The gold chain round the neck was a mark of distinction, and was conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh when investing him with authority and dignity (Gen_41:42), and on Daniel by Belshazzar in the same way (Dan_5:29; see So Dan_4:9). The mere adornment of the person with gold and pearls, without the further adornment of the moral character with Christian graces, is deprecated both by St. Paul and St. Peter (see 1Ti_2:9, 1Ti_2:10, and 1Pe_3:3, 1Pe_3:4). Neck, גַּרְגְּרֹת (garegeroth) only occurs in the plural (Gesenius). (See Pro_3:3, Pro_3:22; Pro_6:21.)
Cambridge Bible Perowne
10. sinners] The warning points to a state of society of which indications are to be found not only in the unsettled times “when the Judges ruled” and before the monarchy was firmly established, when “vain” and “discontented” men banded together to lead the life of the outlaw and the freebooter (Jdg_11:3; 1Sa_22:2); but also in the better ordered periods of Jewish history when Psalmist and prophet inveigh against those who lurk privily in secret to murder the innocent (Psa_10:8-10), and those whose feet are swift to shed blood (Isa_59:7). When our Lord was upon earth such robbing with violence and bloodshed was so familiar an incident in Palestine that He was able to make it the groundwork of a parable (Luk_10:30). And it is so still. “Strange country! and it has always been so. There are a hundred allusions to just such things in the history, the psalms and the prophets of Israel. A whole class of imagery is based upon them. Psa_10:8-10; ‘He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages’ &c. And a thousand rascals, the living originals of this picture, are this day crouching and lying in wait all over the country to catch poor helpless travellers.” (Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 314.)
Two hundred years ago, when young men even of birth and education were to be found in the ranks of the highwaymen who overran the country (see, for example, Macaulay, Hist. of Eng. Vol. i. ch. iii.), the warning was no less apposite in England. In our own day, even in the special form which it here assumes, the warning, in view of the gangs of desperate men, poachers and burglars, to be found still both in towns and in the country, has not come to be superfluous, while in its wider aspect, “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not,” it is of universal application.
My son, if sinners entice thee. (As to the form of address, see Pro_1:8.) It is here used because the writer is passing to a warning against bad company, and hence the term is emphatic, and intended to call especial attention to what is said. It is repeated again in Pro_1:15, at a further stage in this address, with the same view. Sinners; חַטָּאִים (khattaim), the plural of חַטָּא (khatta), from the root חָטָּא (khata), properly “to miss the mark, to err;” cf. Greek, ἀμαρτα ́ νω, “to sin” (Gesenius), here equivalent to “habitual, abandoned sinners,” and those especially who make robbery and bloodshed a profession. Not simply peccantes, i.e. sinners as a generic designation of the human race, for “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom_3:23), but peccatores (Chaldee, Syriac, Pagin; Tigur; Versions and Vulgate). “sinners,” i.e. those who sin habitually, knowingly, wilfully, and maliciously (Gejerus), or those who give themselves up to iniquity, and persuade others to follow their example (Cartwright). In the New Testament they are styled ἀμαρτωλοὶ. They are those of whom David speaks in strikingly parallel language in Psa_26:9, “Gather not my soul with sinners (khattaim), nor my life with bloody men” (cf. Psa_1:1). The LXX. has ἄνδρες ἀσεβει ͂ς (i.e. ungodly, unholy men). Entice thee; ‘יְפַתּוּךָ (yephattukha); the piel form, פִתָּה (pitah), of the kal פָתָּה (patah), “to open,” and hence to make accessible to persuasion, akin to the Greek πειθεῖν, “to persuade.” The noun פְּתִי (pethi), is “one easily enticed or persuaded” (Gesenius). The LXX. reads μὴ πλανήσωσιν, “let them not lead thee astray.” The idea is expressed in the Vulgate by lactaverint; i.e. “if sinners allure or deceive thee with fair words.” The Syriac, Montan; Jun. et Tremell; Versions read pellexerint, from pellicio, “to entice.” Consent thou not. (אַל־תֹּבֵא, al-tove )א. The Masoretic text here has been emended by Kennicott and De Rossi, who, on the joint authority of fifty-eight manuscripts, maintain that תֹּבֵא (tove )א should be written תּאֹבֵא (tosves). Others read תָּבאֹ (tavos), i.e. “thou shalt not go,” which, though good sense, is incorrect. אַל־ (al) is the adverb of negation, i.q. μὴ, ne. The Hebrew תֹּבֵא (toves) is derived from אָבָה (avah). “to agree to, to be willing” (Gesenius, Delitzsch), the preformative אbeing omitted, and is accurately rendered by the LXX; μὴ βουληθῇς, and the Vulgate, ne acquiescas. The warning is especially brief and striking. The only answer to all enticements of evil is a decided negative (Plumptre). Compare St. Paul’s advice to the Ephesians (Eph_5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”).
Cambridge Bible Perowne
11. for blood] The shameless form of the proposal shows at once the insecurity and the low moral tone of society. The language is too strong and vivid to admit of a figurative interpretation: Let us rob them violently of their bread which is their life. Compare
“The bread of the needy is the life of the poor:
He that depriveth him thereof is a man of blood.”
without cause] So A.V. and R.V., i.e. though (the reflection being that of the author, not of the speaker) he has done them no harm, given them no cause to injure him. So LXX. ἀδίκως. Others, less probably, take the adverb with the word “innocent”: for them who are innocent in vain (who serve God for nought, Job_1:9, where the Heb. word is the same as here), because, as we will soon shew, his innocency will profit him nothing. “Contra insontem frustra,” Vulg. “Pio nullum pietatis præmium habituro,” Maur.
If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood. The teacher here puts into the mouth of the sinners, for the sake of vivid representation, the first inducement with which they seek to allure youth from the paths of rectitude, viz. privacy and concealment (Cartwright, Wardlaw). Both the verbs אָרַב (arav) and צָפַן, (tzaphan) mean “to lay in wait” (Zockler). The radical meaning of arav, from which נֶאֶרְבָה (neerevah), “let us lay in wait” (Authorized Version) is taken, is “to knot, to weave, to intertwine.” Verbs of this class are often applied to snares and craftiness (cf. the Greek δόλον ὑδαι ́ νειν, and the Latin insidias nectere, “to weave plots, or lay snares”). Generally, arav is equivalent to “to watch in ambush” (Gesenius); cf. the Vulgate, insidiemur sanguini; i.e. “let us lay wait for blood.” The LXX. paraphrases the expression, κοινώνησον αἵματος, i.e. “let us share in blood.” On the other hand, צָפַן (tzaphan), from which נִצְפְנָה (nitzepenah), translated in the Authorized Version, “let us lurk privily,” is “to hide or conceal,” and intrans. “to hide one’s self,” or ellipt; “to hide nets, snares” (Gesenius, Holden). This sense agrees with the Vulgate abscondamus tendiculas; i.e. “let us conceal snares.” Delitzsch, however, holds that no word is to be understood with this verb, and traces the radical meaning to that of restraining one’s self, watching, lurking. in the sense of speculari, “to watch for,” insidiari, “to lay wait for.” The two verbs combine what may be termed the apparatus, the arrangement of the plot and their lurking in ambush, by which they will await their victims. For blood (לְדָם, ledam). The context (see Pro_1:12 and Pro_1:16), bearing as it does upon bloodshed accompanying robbery, requires that the Hebrew לְדָם (ledam) should be understood here, as Fleischer remarks, either elliptically, for “the blood of men,” as the Jewish interpreters explain, or synedochically, for the person, with especial reference to his blood being shed, as in Psa_94:21. Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapide. and Gesenius support the latter view (cf. Mic_7:2, “They all lie in wait for blood,” i.e. for bloodshed, or murder. דָם (dam) may be also taken for life in the sense that “the blood is the life” (Deu_12:23). Let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause. The relation of the phrase. “without cause” (חִנָּם, khinnam), in this sentence is a matter of lnueh dispute. It may be taken either with
(1) the verb (as in the Authorized Version, Wordsworth, Luther, Van Ess, Noyes, Zockler, Delitzsch, Hatzig, LXX; Syriac, Rashi, Ralbac), and then “lurk privily without cause” is equivalent to
(a) without having any reason for revenge and enmity (Zockler), i.e. though they have not provoked us, nor done us any injury, yet let us hurt them, in the sense of absque causa (Munsterus, Paganini Version, Piscatoris Version, Mercerus), ἀδικω ͂ς (LXX.), inique (Arabic);
(b) with impunity, since none will avenge them in the sense of Job_9:12 (this is the view of Lowestein, but it is rejected by Delitzsch); or
(2) it may be taken with the adjective “innocent,” in which case it means him that is innocent in vain; i.e. the man whose innocence will in vain protect (Zockler, Holden), who gets nothing by it (Plumptre), or, innocent in vain, since God does not vindicate hint (Cornelius a Lapide). On the analogy of 1Sa_19:5; 1Sa_25:31; Psa_35:19; Psa_69:4; Lam_3:52, it seems preferable to adopt the first connection, and to take the adverb with the verb. In the whole of the passage there is an evident allusion to an evil prevalent in the age of Solomon, viz. the presence of bands of robbers, or banditti, who disturbed the security and internal peace of the country. In the New Testament the same state of things continued, and is alluded to by our Lord in the parable of the man who fell among thieves.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
12. the grave] or, Sheol, R.V. text, ᾅδης LXX., infernus Vulg.
whole] Some (as R.V. marg. even the perfect) give the Heb. word here the moral sense, which it has elsewhere. But both the parallelism and the force are better preserved by the rendering of A.V. and R.V. text. Let us make away with them in a moment in the full vigour of life, as though Hades should open her mouth and swallow them up (comp. Num_16:30; Num_16:33): yea, let us sweep them from the earth in perfect soundness, as completely as those who go down to the grave are swallowed up by it. The LXX. give a different turn (paraphrase, not translation) to the 2nd clause, ἄρωμεν αὐτοῦ τὴν μνήμην ἐκ γῆς, let us take away the remembrance of him from the earth, as though by whole they understood, wholly, leaving not the memory of him behind.
Let us swallow them up alive as the grave. A continuation of Pro_1:11, expanding the idea of bloodshed ending in murder, and showing the determination of the sinners to proceed to the most violent means to effect their covetous ends. The enticement here put before youth is the courage and boldness of their exploits (Wardlaw). The order of the words in the original is, “Let us swallow them up, as the grave, living,” which sufficiently indicates the meaning of the passage. Alive; חַיִּים (khayyim), i.e. “the living,” refers to the pronomiual suffix in נִבְלָעֵם (nivelaem), as in the Authorized Version and Zockler (cf. Psa_55:15; Psa_124:3). Umbreit and Hitzig are grammatically incorrect in connecting כִּשְׁאוֹל (kisheol) “as the grave,” with “the living,” and translating “like the pit (swallows) that which lives.” The כִּ (ki) with a substantive, as here in kisheol, is a preposition, said not a conjunction (see Gesenius, ‘Lexicon’). It denotes a kind of resemblance, but does not introduce a coordinate sentence. The allusion is undoubtedly in the teacher’s mind to the fate of Korah and his company (Num_16:30-33), and as in that case “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up” in the flush of life, so here the robbers say that they will as suddenly and effectively destroy their victims, בָּלַע (dala); from which niv’laem, in a figurative sense, means “to destroy utterly” (Geseuius). The change from the singular, “the innocent” (לְנָקִי, lenaki), to the plural in “let us swallow them up,” is noticeable. Like the pit (כִּשְׁאוֹל, kisheol); literally, like Sheol, or Hades, the great subterranean cavity or world of the dead. The all-devouring and insatiable character of sheol is described in Pro_27:20, where the Authorized Version translates “Hell (sheol) and destruction are never full,” and again in Pro_30:15, where it (sheol, Authorized Version, “the grave”) is classed with the four things that are never satisfied. Vulgate, infernus; LXX; ᾅδης. And whole, as those that go down into the pit. The parallelism of ideas requires that the word “whole” (תְּמִימִים, temimim) should be understood of those physically whole (see Mercerus, Delitzsch), and not in a moral sense, as the upright (Luther, Grief, Holden, Plumptre). The word is used in an ethical signification in Pro_2:21. Gesenius gives it the meaning of “safe, secure.” Those that go down into the pit (יוֹרדֵיבוֹר, yorde vor); i.e. the dead. The phrase also occurs in Psa_28:1; Psa_30:4; Psa_88:4; Psa_143:7; Isa_38:18). The pit (בוֹר, vor); or, the sepulchre, the receptacle of the dead, is here synonymous with sheol. The LXX. substitutes for the latter part of the verse, Καὶ ἄρωμεν αὐτοῦ τὴν μνήμην ἐκ γῆς, “And let us remove his memory from the earth.” The robbers, by drawing a comparison between themselves and Hades and the grave, which consign to silence all who are put therein, imply their own security against detection. They will so utterly destroy their victims that none will be left to tell the tale (see Musset, in loc.). This, we know, is a fancied, and at the best only a temporary, security.
We shall find all precious substance. This verse carries on the proposal of the sinners one step further, and puts forward a third enticement, viz. that of’ the profit of crime, or the prospect of immediate riches, before youth to join in crime. A short cut to wealth, and to the acquirement of that which costs others long years of steady application and carefulness, is a strong inducement (Wardlaw). We shall find; נִמְצָא (nimetza), from מָצָא (matza), properly “to reach to,” and “to find,” in the sense of “to come upon;” cf. Latin invenio. Substance (הוֹן, hon); i.e. substance in the sense of riches. The radical meaning of הוּן (hun), from which it is derived, is the same as in the Arabic word, “to be light, easy, to be in easy circumstances, and so to be rich” (Gesenius). In its abstract sense, hon, “substance,” means ease, comfort, and concretely riches which bring about that result (see also Fleischer, as quoted by Delitzsch); cf. the LXX. κτῆσις, i.e. collectively, possessions, property. The Piscatoris Version, for “precious substance,” reads divitias, “riches.” Precious; יָקָר (yakar), properly ” heavy,” is found with הוֹן (hon), “substance,” in Pro_12:27 and Pro_24:4. The collocation of the ideas of lightness and heavineess in these two words is striking, but we need not necessarily suppose that any oxymoron is intended, as Schnltens. Such combinations occur in other languages, and reside more in the radical meanings of the words than in the mind or intention of the writer or speaker. We shall fill our houses with spoil; i.e. they promise not only finding, but full possession (Gejerus, Muffet). Spoil; שָׁלָל (shalal), from שָׁלַל (shalal), same as the Arabic verb “to draw,” and hence “to strip off’ (Gesenius); and equivalent to the Greek σκῦλα (LXX.), the arms stripped off a slain enemy, spoils, and the Latin spolia (Vulgate). Shalal is used generally, as here, for “prey,” “booty” (Gen_49:27; Exo_15:9). Our gains, say the robbers, will not only be valuable, but numerous and plentiful.
Cast in thy lot among us. The fourth and last enticement put forward, viz. honourable union and frank and open hearted generosity. It has distinct reference to the preceding verse, and shows how the prospect of immediate wealth is to be realized (see Delitzsch, Wardlaw). Cast in thy lot cannot mean, as Mercerus, “cast in your inheritance with us, so that we all may use it in common,” though גּוֹרָל (goral) does mean “inheritance” in the sense of that which comes to any one by lot (Jdg_1:3) (Gesenius), since that would be no inducement to youth to join the robbers. Goral properly is “a little stone or pebble,” κλῆρος, especially such as were used in casting lots, and so equivalent to a “lot” here—that with which the distribution was made, as in Le Pro_16:8; Neh_10:34; and the custom of freebooters dividing the spoil by lot is here alluded to (Holden); comp. Psa_22:18 in illustration of the practice of casting lots, “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” The sense is, “you shall equally with the others cast lots for your share of the spoil” (Zockler, Delitzsch). Let us all have one parse. Purse; כִּיס (kis), the βαλάντιον of the LXX; the marsupium of the Vulgate, is the receptacle in which money is placed for security. In Pro_15:11 it is used for the bag in which traders kept their weights, “the weights of the bag;” and in Pro_23:31 it is translated “cup,” the wine cup. It here signifies the common stock, the aggregate of the gains of the robbers contributed to a common fund. The booty captured by each or any is to be thrown into one common stock, to form one purse, to be divided by lot among all the members of the band. On this community of goods among robbers, compare the Hebrew proverb, In localis, in poculis, in ira. Community of goods among the wicked carries with it community in crime, just as the community of goods among the early Christians implied community in good works and in the religious sentiments of the Christian body or Church. The Rabbi Salomon Isacides offers another explanation: “Si voles, nobiscum spolia partieris, si etiam magis placebit, sociali communique marsupio nobiscum vives”—”If thou wilt, thou shalt share with us the booty; ay, if it like thee more, thou ,halt live with us on a confederate and common purse” (see Cornelius à Lapide).
My son, walk not thou in the way with them. The admonitory strain of Pro_1:10 is again resumed, and in Pro_1:16-19 the teacher states the reasons which should dissuade youth from listening to the temptations of sinners. My son. The recurrence of these words for the third time in this address marks the affectionate interest, the loving solicitude, in which the admonition is addressed. Walk not thou. Immediate and entire abandonment is counselled. The warning is practically a repetition of Pro_1:10, and is given again in Pro_4:14, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.” Way; דֶרֶךְ (derek) means, figuratively, the way of living and acting (Gesenius). “Mores et consuetudines” (Bayne); cf. Pro_12:15, “the fool’s way;” Pro_22:25; and Psa_1:1. The meaning is “associate not with them, have no dealings whatever with them.” Refrain thy foot from their path; i.e. keep back thy foot, or make not one step in compliance, resist the very first solicitations to evil. Compare the legal maxim, Initiis obsta. Refrain; מְגַע (mana) is from מָנַע (mana), “to keep back, restrain;’ LXX; ἔκκινον (cf. Psa_119:101, “I have refrained my feet from every evil way;” Jer_14:10, “Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet”). Restraining the foot carries with it indirectly the natural inclination or propensity of the heart, even of the good, towards evil (Cartwright). Foot (רֶגֶל, regel) is, of course, used metaphorically, and means less the member of the body than the idea suggested by it; hence the use of the singular (Gejerus, Delitzsch). Bayne remarks that the Hebrews understood this passage as meaning “neither in public nor private life have any dealings with sinners.” Path (נָתִיב, nathiv) is a beaten path, a pathway, a byway; from the unused root נָתַב (nathav), “to tread, trample;” and hence, while “way” may mean the great public high road, “path” may stand for the bypath, less frequented or public. The same distinction probably occurs in Psa_25:4, “Show me thy ways, O Lord; and teach me thy paths.”
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. This is the first dissuasive urged to enforce the warning against evil companionship, as showing the extremes to which entering upon the ways of the wicked lead ultimately. At once the youth who listens will be hurried along impetuously to the two crimes of robbery and murder, which God has expressly forbidden in the eighth and sixth commandments respectively of the moral code. Evil (רַע, ra) is “wickedness,” τὸ κακόν, generally, but hero more specifically highway robbery, latrocinism (Cornelius a Lapide), as appears from Pro_1:11-13, where also murder, the laying in wait for blood, is proposed. The Rabbis Salomon and Salazar understand the evil to refer to the evil or destruction which sinners bring upon themselves, and the shedding of blood to the fact that they lay themselves open to have their own blond shed by judicial process (see also Holden). The former explanation seems preferable to this, as putting a higher law than that of self-preservation before youth. The fear of judges who can condemn to death is notbing comparatively to the fear of him “who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” This verse is wanting in the Vatican LXX; and Arabic, and hence Hitzig has concluded that it is an interpolation made from Isa_59:7, but upon insufficient evidence, as it is found in the Alexandrian LXX; Chaldea Paraphrase, Vulgate, and Syriac Versions, all which follow the Hebrew text. The latter part of the verse is quoted by St. Paul in Rom_3:15.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
17. in vain] Because, whereas by the certain destruction which it portends, the net ought to deter the bird from yielding to the solicitations of appetite, the temptation of the bait prevails, and the warning of the visible net is unheeded. “So,” in their unheeding regard of manifest warning, “are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain” (). His devices against others (Pro_1:11-12) are really devices against himself Pro_1:18. “In the net which they hid is their own foot taken” (Psa_9:15).
Surely in vain the net is spread in the face of any bird. The teacher here advances a second reason in support of his warning in Pro_1:15, under the form of a proverb in its strict sense. It is based on the ill-advised audacity of sinners in flying in the face of God’s judgments. In vain (חִנָּם, khinnam), see Pro_1:11, may be taken in two senses.
(1) I.e. to no purpose, gratis, frustra (Vulgate, Chaldee Paraphrase, Arabic). The meaning of the proverb here used then is, “to no purpose is the net spread before birds,” i.e. though they see the net spread before them, they nevertheless fly into it (romp. Pro_7:23, “As a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life”). So sinners, when they are plotting for others, plunge into their own destruction with their eyes open. Therefore do not associate with them, do not imitate their crass folly, be warned by their example, or you will share their fate. This view is supported by the LXX. reading, Οὐ γὰρ ἀδίκως ἐκτει ́νεται δίκτυα πτερωτοῖς, “For not unreasonably is the net spread before birds;” i.e. they fall into the snare (see Luther, Patrick, Umbreit, Ewatd, Hitzig, Zockler, Plumptre).
(2) Others, as Delitzsch, Ziegler, Beda, Doderlein, Bertheau, Wardlaw, take khinnam in a different sense, as indicating the escape of the birds—the birds see the snare and fly away, and so in vain the net is spread in their sight. This explanation is in agreement with Ovid’s statement, “Quae nimis apparent retia vitat avis.” The moral motive put before youth in this ease is the aggravation of his guilt if he listens to the enticements of sinners. The teacher seems to say, “Imitate the birds, flee from temptation; if you listen to sinners, you will sin with your eyes open.” Is spread; מְזֹרָה (m’zorah), expansum, not conspersum est, i.e. besprinkled or strewn with corn as a bait, as Rashi. M’zorah is the participle passive of pual, זֹרָה (zorah), “to be strewn,” from kal זָרָה (zarah). “to scatter, or disperse” (Gesenius), and means expansum, because when a net is scattered or dispersed it is spread out (see Delitzsch). Of any bird (כָּל־בַּעַלכָּנָף, khal-baal khanaph); literally, of every possessor of a wing, or, as margin, of everthing that hath a wing, i.e. of every bird. Compare the same expression in Ecc_10:20, בַּעַלחַכְּנָפַיִם (baal hach’ naphayim); i.e. “that which hath wings” (Authorized Version).
And they lay wait for their own blood, etc. The third reason or argument why the teacher’s warning should be followed, drawn from the destruction which overtakes the sinners themselves. “Lay wait,” and “lurk privily,” as in Pro_1:11, from which this verse is evidently borrowed. They propose, as they say, to lay wait for the blood of others; but it is, says the teacher, for their own blood. לְדָמָם (l’dhammam), contra sanguinem suum; they lurk privily. as they say, for the innocent, but in reality it is for their own lives; לְנַפְשֹׁתָם (l’naph’shotham); contra animus suas (Vulgate); or, as the LXX. puts it, Αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἱ φόνον μετέχοντες θησαυρίζουσιν ἑαυτο ῖ ς κατὰ, “For they who take part in murder treasure up evils for themselves;” that is, they am bringing a heavier and surer destruction upon themselves than they can ever inflict upon others (Wardlaw). The LXX. adds, at the close of the verse, Ἡ δε ̀ καταστροφὴ ἀνδρῶν παρανόμων κακή, “And the overthrowing or destruction of transgressors is wrest, or evil.” The Arabic Version has a similar addition.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
19. which taketh away] Rather, It (greed of gain) taketh away the life of them that have it. It is the destruction of those who are possessed by it. The same Heb. phrase, owner or lord of, is rendered him that hath it, in Pro_16:22, Comp. Pro_22:24, an angry man, A.V.; him that is given to anger, R.V. lit. a lord, or owner, of anger, and Pro_23:2, a man given to appetite, lit. an owner of appetite.
So am the ways of every one that is greedy of gain. The epiphonema or moral of the preceding address. So are the ways, or such is the lot (as Delitzsch), or such are the paths (as Zockler), i.e. so deceitful, so ruinous, are the ways. כֵּן (chen,) is here used as a qualitative adverb. Ways; אָרְחוֹת (ar’khoth), the plural of אֹרַח (orakh), a poet. word, equivalent in the first instance to “way,” i.q. דֶרֶךְ (derekh), and metaphorically applied to any one’s ways, his manner of life and its result, and hence lot, as in Job_8:12, and hence the expression coven the three preceding verses. That is greedy of gain (בֹצֵעַבָּצַע, botsea batsa); literally, concupiscentis concupiscentium lucri; i.e. eagerly longing after gain; he who greedily desires riches (avari, Vulgate). Gain; batsa in pause, from בֶּצַע (betsa), which takes its meaning from the verb בָּצַע (batsa), “to out in pieces, to break,” and hence means properly that which is cut or broken off and taken by any one for himself, and so unjust gain—anything whatever fraudulently acquired, as in Pro_28:16, where it is translated “covetousness” (Authorized Version); cf. Isa_33:15; Pro_15:27. The idea of greed and covetousness enters largely into the word. Which taketh away the life of the owners thereof. The pronoun “which” does not occur in the original. The nominative to “taketh away” (יִקָּת, yikkath) is “gain;” the “unjust gain.” (betsa) takes away the life of its owners, i.e. of those who are under its power. Owners thereof (בְּעָלָיוֹ, b’alayo) does not necessarily imply that they are in actual possession of the unjust gain, but rather refers to the influence which the lust for gain exercises over them. The expression in this second hemistich does not mean that the rapacious take the life of their comrades who possess the gain, as Rabbi Salomon; nor as the Vulgate, “the ways of the avaricious man take away the lives of those who possess them.” For the phrase, “taketh away the life,” as importing a violent taking away, cf. Psa_31:13; 1Ki_19:10. The sentiment of the verse is well expressed in 1Ti_6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”