How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 16:16-18. How much better is it — It is inexpressibly and inconceivably better to get wisdom than gold — Because it brings a man more certain, and complete, and lasting comfort and advantage. The way of the upright — Their common road, in which they constantly desire, purpose, and endeavour to walk; is to depart from evil — The evil of sin, whereby they escape the evil of punishment. He that keepeth his way — That takes heed to walk in that high way; preserveth his soul — From that mischief and ruin which befall those that walk in the crooked paths of wickedness. Pride goeth before destruction — Is commonly a forerunner and cause of men’s ruin, because it highly provokes both God and men.How much better! it is inexpressibly and unconceivably better, as this phrase implies, Psalm 31:19 36:7 92:5, &c.
Is it to get wisdom than gold, because it brings a man more certain, and complete, and lasting comfort and advantage. Proverbs 3:13;
and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver? the same thing is designed as before, expressed in different words; a spiritual understanding of Christ and the Gospel, and an experience of the grace of God; though some, as Gersom, think that wisdom is something better than understanding, as gold, to which it is preferred, is better than silver. The Septuagint render it,
"nests of wisdom, and nests of understanding;''
and the Arabic version,How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. rather to be chosen] Better, is rather &c. It is the acquisition of wisdom or understanding that is commended in both clauses of the verse, which are exactly parallel.Verse 16. - To get wisdom than gold (comp, Proverbs 3:14; Proverbs 8:10, 11, 19); and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver; Revised Version better, yea, to get understanding is rather to be chosen than [to get] silver. If the clauses are not simply parallel, and the comparative value of silver and gold is So be considered, we may, with Wordsworth, see here an intimation of the superiority of wisdom (chochmah) over intelligence (binah), the former being the guide of life and including the practice of religion, the latter denoting discernment, the faculty of distinguishing between one thing and another (see note on Proverbs 28:4, and the quotation from 'Pirke Aboth' on Proverbs 15:33). The LXX., for kenoh reading kinnot, have given a version of which the Fathers have largely availed themselves: "The nests of wisdom are preferable to gold, and the nests of knowledge are preferable above silver." Some of the old commentators take these "nests" to be the problems and apothegms which enshrine wisdom; others consider them to mean the children or scholars who are taught by the wise man.
In the judgment his mouth should not err.
The first line is a noun clause: קסם, as subject, thus needs a distinctive accent, and that is here, after the rule of the sequence of accents, and manuscript authority (vid., Torath Emeth, p. 49), not Mehuppach legarme, as in our printed copies, but Dechi (קסם). Jerome's translation: Divinatio in labiis regis, in judicio non errabit os ejus, and yet more Luther's: "his mouth fails not in judgment," makes it appear as if the proverb meant that the king, in his official duties, was infallible; and Hitzig (Zckler agreeing), indeed, finds here expressed the infallibility of the theocratic king, and that as an actual testimony to be believed, not only is a mere political fiction, like the phrase, "the king can do no wrong." But while this political fiction is not strange even to the Israelitish law, according to which the king could not be brought before the judgment, that testimony is only a pure imagination. For as little as the N.T. teaches that the Pope, as the legitimate vicarius of Christ, is infallible, cum ex cathedra docet, so little does the O.T. that the theocratic king, who indeed was the legitimate vicarius Dei, was infallible in judicio ferendo. Yet Ewald maintains that the proverb teaches that the word of the king, when on the seat of justice, is an infallible oracle; but it dates from the first bright period of the strong uncorrupted kingdom in Israel. One may not forget, says Dchsel also, with von Gerlach, that these proverbs belong to the time of Solomon, before it had given to the throne sons of David who did evil before the Lord. Then it would fare ill for the truth of the proverb - the course of history would falsify it. But in fact this was never maintained in Israel. Of the idolizing flattering language in which, at the present day, rulers in the East are addressed, not a trace is found in the O.T. The kings were restrained by objective law and the recognised rights of the people. David showed, not merely to those who were about him, but also to the people at large, so many human weaknesses, that he certainly appeared by no means infallible; and Solomon distinguished himself, it is true, by rare kingly wisdom, but when he surrounded himself with the glory of an oriental potentate, and when Rehoboam began to assume the tone of a despot, there arose an unhallowed breach between the theocratic kingdom and the greatest portion of the people. The proverb, as Hitzig translates and expounds it: "a divine utterance rests on the lips of the king; in giving judgment his mouth deceives not," is both historically and dogmatically impossible. The choice of the word קסם (from קסם, R. קש קם, to make fast, to take an oath, to confirm by an oath, incantare, vid., at Isaiah 3:2), which does not mean prediction (Luther), but speaking the truth, shows that 10a expresses, not what falls from the lips of the king in itself, but according to the judgment of the people: the people are wont to regard the utterances of the king as oracular, as they shouted in the circus at Caesarea of King Agrippa, designating his words as θεοῦ φωνὴ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώπων (Acts 12:22). Hence 10b supplies an earnest warning to the king, viz., that his mouth should not offend against righteousness, nor withhold it. לא ימעל is meant as warning (Umbreit, Bertheau), like לא תבא, Proverbs 22:24, and ב in מעל is here, as always, that of the object; at least this is more probable than that מעל stands without object, which is possible, and that ב designates the situation.
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