Wine is a mocker; or, scorner, the word (luts) being taken up from the last chapter. The liquor is, as it were, personified, as doing what men do under its influence. Thus inebriated persons scoff at what is holy, reject reproof, ridicule all that is serious. Septuagint, Ἀκόλαστον οἶνος, “Wine is an undisciplined thing;” Vulgate, Luxuriosa res, vinum. Strong drink is raging; a brawler, Revised Version. Shekar, σίκερα (Luk_1:15), is most frequently employed of any intoxicating drink not made from grapes, e.g. palm wine, mead, etc. The inordinate use of this renders men noisy and boisterous, no longer masters of themselves or restrained by the laws of morality or decency. Septuagint, Υβιστικὸν μέθη, “Drunkenness is insolent.”
“More are drowned in the wine cup than in the ocean,” say the Germans (comp. Pro_23:29, etc.; Eph_5:18).
Pro_23:19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Ver. 19. Hear thou, my son, and be wise.] Hearing is one of the learned senses, as Aristotle calls it. Wisdom entereth into the soul by this door, as folly did at first, when the woman listened to the old serpent’s illusions. This sense is first up in the morning; and this preface the wise man purposely premiseth to his following discourse; as well knowing how hardly young men are drawn off from drinking matches and good fellow meetings,
And guide thine heart in the way.] That is to say, Let knowledge and affection be as twins, and run parallel; let them mutually transfuse life and vigour, the one into the other. Practise God’s will as fast as thou understandest it. The Tigurine translation reads it, Ut beatura sit in via cor tuum: That thine heart may be blessed in the way.
Wine bibbers; persons who meet together for the express purpose of drinking intoxicating liquors. Among riotous eaters of flesh. The Hebrew is “of flesh for themselves,” whence some take the meaning to be “of their own flesh,” i.e. who by their gluttony and luxury ruin their own bodies. But tile parallelism with the wine drinker shows plainly that the flesh which they eat is meant, and the idea is that they eat for the gratification of their own appetites, caring nothing for anything else. The combination of glutton and wine bibber was used as a reproach against our blessed Lord (Mat_11:19). The versions of Jerome and the LXX. point to the contributed entertainments, where each guest brought some article to the meal, like our picnics. Thus Vulgate, “Be not among parties of drinkers, nor at the banquets of those who contribute flesh to eat;” Septuagint. “Be not a wine bibber, and strain not after contributed feasts (συμβολαῖς) and purchases of meats.”
Be not among winebibbers – There is much of this chapter spent in giving directions concerning eating, drinking, and entertainments in general.
1. The pupil is directed relative to the manner in which he is to conduct himself in his visits to the tables of the rich and great.
2. Relative to the covetous and his intercourse with them. And
3. To public entertainnlents, where there were generally riot and debauch.
The reasons, says Calmet, which induced the wise man to give these directions were,
1. The useless expense.
2. The loss of time.
3. The danger from bad company. And
4. The danger of contracting irregular habits, and of being induced to lead a voluptuous and effeminate life.
Intemperance leads to prodigality, carelessness, and ruin. And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. The luxury and excess spoken of above lead to drowsiness and inability to work, and poverty follows as the natural result (comp. Pro_19:15; Pro_24:33, etc.). The Vulgate still harps on the same string as in the previous verse, “Those who waste time in drinking, and who give picnics (dantes symbola), shall be ruined, and semnolence small clothe with rags.” The LXX. introduces a new idea which the Hebrew does not warrant, “For every drunkard and whoremonger shall be poor, and every sluggard shall clothe himself with tatters and rags.”
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? Hebrew, lemi oi, lemi aboi, where oi and aboi are interjections of pain or grief. So Venetian, τίνι αἲ τίνι φεῦ; Revised Version margin, Who hath Oh? who hath Alas? The Vulgate has stumbled at the second expression, which is an ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, and resolving it into two words, translates, Cujus patri vae? Contentions; the brawling and strife to which drunkenness leads (Pro_20:1). Babbling; שִׂיחַ (siach) is rather “meditation,” “sorrowful thought” showing itself in complaining, regret for lost fortune, ruined health, alienated friends. Others render “misery, … penury.” St. Jerome’s foveae is derived from a different reading. The LXX. has κρίσεις, “lawsuits,” ἀηδι ́αι καὶ λέσχαι, “disgust and gossipings.” Wounds without cause; wounds which might have been avoided, the result of quarrels in which a sober man would never have engaged, Redness of eyes. The Hebrew word chakliluth is commonly taken to mean the flashing of eyes occasioned by vinous excitement. The Authorized Version refers it to the bloodshot appearance of a drunkard’s eyes, as in Gen_49:12, according to the same version. but Delitzsch, Nowack, and many modern commentators consider that the word indicates “dimness of sight,” that change in the power of vision when the stimulant reaches the brain. Septuagint, “Whose eyes are livid (πελιδνοί)?”
The answer to the above searching questions is here given. They that tarry long at the wine (Isa_5:11), who sit till late hours drinking. They that go to seek mixed wine; i.e. go to the wine house, place of revelry, where they may taste and give their opinion upon “mixed wine,” mimsak, wine mingled with certain spices or aromatic substances, or else simply with water, as it was too luscious to be drunk undiluted (see on Pro_9:2). Septuagint, “those who hunt out where carousals are taking place.”
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red. Be not attracted by its beautiful appearance. The wine of Palestine was chiefly “red,” though what we call white wine was not unknown. The Vulgate flavescit points to the latter. When it giveth his colour in the cup. For “color” the Hebrew has “eye,” which refers to the sparkling and gleaming which show themselves in wine poured into the cup. It is as though the cup had an eye which glanced at the drinker with a fascination which he did not resist. When it moveth itself aright. Having warned against the attraction of sight, the moralist now passes to the seduction of taste. Hebrew, when it goeth by the right read. This may refer to its transference from the jar or skin to the drinking cup; but it mere probably alludes to the drinker’s throat, and is best translated, “when it glideth down smoothly.” Vulgate, ingreditur blande. The wine pleases the palate, and passes over it without roughness or harshness (comp. So Pro_7:9). The LXX. has enlarged on the original thus: “Be ye not drunk with wine, but converse with just men, and converse in public places (ἐν περιπάτοις). For if thou set thine eyes on goblets and cups, afterwards thou shalt walk more bare than a pestle (γύμνοτερος ὐπέρου).” This last expression, pistillo nudior, is a proverb. Regarding the danger of looking on seductive objects, the Arab, in his sententious language, says, “The contemplation of vice is vice.”
31.When it is red — Reddens itself, or becomes ruddy — “ruby wine.” The juice of certain kinds of grapes is red when it ferments and becomes intoxicating.
When it giveth his colour — Literally, his eye.
In the cup — Sparkles or bubbles when poured out or shaken; “carries a bead.” which is regarded to be an indication of the strength and quality of the liquor. Some wines are celebrated for their brilliant appearance — as those of Lebanon, which were said to be of a rich golden colour. Red wines are most esteemed in the East.
When it moveth itself aright — Some think this refers to the effect of fermentation. Others read: “When it goeth down smoothly” or “pleasantly” — with a bland or smooth sensation on the palate. Conant thinks this not sustained. But the Speaker’s Commentary says, that the word here, and in Son_8:9, “describes the pellucid stream flowing pleasantly from the wine skin or jug into the goblet or throat.”
At the last it biteth like a serpent. Wine is like the subtle poison of a serpent, which affects the whole body, and produces the most fatal consequences (comp. Ecclesiasticus 21:2). Nachash is the generic name for any of the larger tribe of snakes (Gen_3:1, etc.); the poisonous nature of its bite was, of course, well known (Num_21:9). Stingeth like an adder. The Hebrew word is tsiphoni, which is usually rendered “cockatrice” in the Authorized Version, hut the particular species intended has not been accurately identified. There was some confusion in men’s minds as to the organ which inflicted the poisonous wound. Thus a psalmist says, “They have sharpened their tongue like a serpent” (Psa_140:3). But the verb “sting” is to be taken in the sense of puncturing, making a wound. Vulgate, Sicut regulus venena diffundet, “It will diffuse its poison like a basilisk:” Septuagint, “But at the last he stretches himself like one stricken by a serpent, and the venom is diffused through him as by a horned snake (κεράστου).”
The excitement occasioned by wine is now described. Thine eyes shall behold strange women. Ewald, Delitzsch, and others take זָדוֹת to mean “strange things,” as affording a better parallel to the “perverse things” of the next clause. In this case the writer intends to denote the fantastic, often dreadful, images produced on the brain by the feverish condition of the inebriated. But the often denounced connection between drunkenness and incontinence, the constant reference to “strange women” in this book, and the general consensus of the versions, lead one to uphold the rendering of the Authorized Version. It seems, too, somewhat meagre to note these illusions as one of the terrible effects of intemperance, omitting all mention of the unbridling of lust, when the eyes look out for and rove after unchaste women. Thine heart shall utter perverse things (comp Pro_15:28; Mat_15:19). The drunkard’s notions are distorted, and his words partake of the same character; he confuses right and wrong; he says things which he would never speak if he were in full possession of his senses. Septuagint, “When thine eyes shall see a strange woman, then thy mouth shall speak perverse things.”
As he that lieth down in the midst of the sea. The dazed and unconscious condition of a drunkard is described by one familiar with sea life, as in Psa_104:25, etc.; Psa_107:23, etc. The Hebrew has “in the heart of the sea” (Jon_2:4), i.e. the depth. Many understand the idea to be that the drunkard is compared to a man asleep in a frail boat, or to one slumbering on board a ship sunk in the trough of the sea. But the “lying” here does not imply sleep, but rather immersion. The inebriated person is assimilated to one who is drowned or drowning, who is cut off from all his former pursuits and interests in life, and has become unconscious of surrounding circumstances. This much more exactly represents the case than any notion of sloping amid danger. Septuagint, “Thou shalt lie as in the heart of the sea.” Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast; the extreme point of the sailyard, where no one could lie without the greatest peril of falling off. The drunkard is exposed to dangers of all kinds from being unable to take care of himself, and yet is all the time unconscious of his critical situation. Corn. a Lapide, followed by Plumptre, considers that the cradle, or look out, on the top of the mast is meant, where, if the watchman slept, he would be certain to endanger his life. Vulgate, “like a pilot fallen asleep, who has dropped the tiller,” and is therefore on the way to shipwreck. Septuagint, “as a pilot in a great storm.”
The drunkard is represented as speaking to himself. The LXX. inserts, “and thou shelf say” as the Authorized Version does: They have stricken me, shall thou say, and I was not sick; or, I was not hurt. The drunken man has been beaten (perhaps there is a reference to the “contentions,” Pro_23:29), but the blows did not pain him; his condition has rendered him insensible to pain. He has some vague idea the he has suffered certain rough treatment at the hands of his companions, but it has made no impression on him. They have beaten me, and I felt it not; did not even know it. Far from recognizing his degradation and profiting by the merzed chastisement which he has incurred, he is represented as looking forward with pleasure to a renewal of his debauch, when his drunken sleep shall be over. When shall I awake? I will seek it (wine) yet again. Some take מָתַי (mathai) as the relative conjunctive: “When I awake I will seek it again;” but it is always used interrogatively, and the expression thus becomes more animated, as Delitzsch observes. It is as though the drunkard has to yield to the effects of his excess and sleep off his intoxication, but he is. as it were, all the time longing to be able to rouse himself and recommence his orgies. We have had words put into the mouth of the sluggard (Pro_6:10). The whole verse is rendered by the LXX thus: “Thou shalt say, They smote me, and I was not pained, and they mocked me, and I knew it not. When will it be morning, that I may go and seek those with whom I may consort?” The author of the ‘Tractutus de Conscientia’ appended to St. Bernard’s works, applies this paragraph to the cuss of an evil conscience indurated by wicked habits and insensible to correction.
It is not for kings; or, as others read, far be it from kings. The injunction is repeated to indicate its vast importance. Nor for princes strong drink; literally, nor for princes (the word), Where is strong drink? (see on Pro_20:1; and comp. Job_15:23). The evils of intemperance, flagrant enough in the case of a private person, are greatly enhanced in the ease of a king, whose misdeeds may affect a whole community, as the next verse intimates. St. Jerome reads differently, translating, “Because there is no secret where drunkenness reigns.” This is in accordance with the proverb, “When wine goes in the secret comes out;” and, “Where drink enters, wisdom departs;” and again, “Quod latet in mente sobrii, hoc natat in ore ebrii.” Septuagint, “The powerful are irascible, but let them not drink wine.” “Drunkenness,” says Jeremy Taylor (‘Holy Living,’ ch. 3, § 2), “opens all the sanctuaries of nature, and discovers the nakedness of the soul, all its weaknesses and follies; it multiplies sins and discovers them; it makes a man incapable of being a private friend or a public counsellor. It taketh a man’s soul into slavery and imprisonment more than any vice whatsoever, because it disarms a man of all his reason and his wisdom, whereby he might be cured, and, therefore, commonly it grows upon him with age; a drunkard being still more a fool and less a man.”
This gives a reason for the warning. Lest they drink, and forget the Law. That which has been decreed, and is right and lawful, the appointed ordinance, particularly as regards the administration of justice. Septuagint, “Lest drinking, they forget wisdom.” And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted; literally, of all the sons of affliction; i.e. the whole class of poorer people. Intemperance leads to selfish disregard of others’ claims, an inability to examine questions impartially, and consequent perversion of justice. Isaiah (Isa_5:23) speaks of intoxication as inducing men to “justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.”
Pro_31:5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Ver. 5. Lest they drink and forget the law.] Drunkenness causeth forgetfulness (hence the ancients feigned Bacchus to be the son of forgetfulness), and stands in full opposition to reason and religion: when the wine is in, the wit is out. Seneca saith, that for a man to think to be drunk, and yet to retain his right reason, is to think to drink rank poison, and yet not to die by it.
And pervert the judgment, &c.] Pronounce an unrighteous sentence: which when Philip king of Macedon once did, the poor woman whose cause it was, presently appealed from Philip now drunk, to Philip when he should be sober again. The Carthagenians made a law that no magistrate of theirs should drink wine. The Persians permitted their kings to be drunk one day in a year only. Solon made a law at Athens that drunkenness in a prince should be punished with death. See Ecc_10:16-17.
There are cases where strong drink may be properly administered. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish (Job_29:13; Job_31:19). As a restorative, a cordial, or a medicine, wine may he advantageously used; it has a place in the providential economy of God. “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities,” was St. Paul’s advice to Timothy (1Ti_5:23). It is supposed to have been in consideration of the injunction in the text that the ladies of Jerusalem provided for criminals on their way to the place of execution a drink of medicated wine, which might deaden the pain of suffering. This was the draught rejected by Christ, who willed to taste the full bitterness of death. The Septuagint has, “to those that are in sorrow;” so the Vulgate, maerentibus, but this makes the two clauses tautological. Wine unto those that be of heavy hearts (Job_3:20). “Wine,” says the psalmist, “maketh glad the heart of man” (Psa_104:15). Says Homer, ‘Iliad,’ 6.261—
“Great is the strength
Which generous wine imparts to wearied men.”
“Wine,” says St. Chrysostom (‘Hom. in Ephes.,’ 19), “has been given us for cheerfulness, not for drunkenness. Wouldest thou know where wine is good? Hear what the Scripture saith, ‘Give wine to them, etc. And justly, because it can mitigate asperity and gloominess, and drive away clouds from the brow” (comp. Ecclesiasticus 34:25 , etc.).