Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
Verse 1. - This is a difficult verse, and has obtained various interpretations. The Authorized Version gives, Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom; i.e. a man who has an earnest desire for self-improvement will hold himself aloof from worldly entanglements, and, occupying himself wholly in this pursuit, will become conversant with all wisdom. This gives good sense, and offers a contrast to the fool in ver. 2, who "hath no delight in understanding." But the Hebrew does not rightly bear this interpretation. Its conciseness occasions ambiguity. Literally, For his desire a man who separates himself seeks; in (or against) all wisdom he mingles himself. There is a doubt whether the life of isolation is praised or censured in this verse. Aben Ezra and others of Pharisaic tendencies adopt the former alternative, and explain pretty much as the Authorized Version, thus: "He who out of love of wisdom divorces himself from home, country, or secular pursuits, such a man will mix with the wise and prudent, and be conversant with such." But the maxim seems rather to blame this separation, though here, again, there is a variety of interpretation. Delitzsch, Ewald, and others translate, "He that dwelleth apart seeketh pleasure, against all sound wisdom he showeth his teeth" (comp. Proverbs 17:14). Nowack, after Bertheau, renders, "He who separates himself goes after his own desire; with all that is useful he falls into a rage." Thus the maxim is directed against the conceited, self-willed man, who sets himself against public opinion, delights in differing from received customs, takes no counsel from others, thinks nothing of public interests, but in his mean isolation attends only to his own private ends and fancies (comp. Hebrews 10:25). The Septuagint and Vulgate (followed by Hitzig) read in the first clause, for taavah, "desire," taanah, "occasion;" thus: "He who wishes to separate from a friend seeks occasions; but at all time he will be worthy of censure." The word translated "wisdom" (tushiyah) also means "substance," "existence;" hence the rendering, "at all time," omni existentia, equivalent to omni tempore.
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
Verse 2. - A fool hath no delight in understanding. This may mean that he takes no pleasure in the wisdom of others, is self-opinionated; or, it may be, does not care for understanding in itself, apart from the use which he can make of it. Vulgate, "The fool receives not the words of wisdom;" Septuagint, "A man of no sense has no need of wisdom." To try to teach a fool is to cast pearls before swine, and to give that which is holy unto dogs. But that his heart may discover itself; i.e. his only delight is in revealing his heart, displaying his un-wisdom and his foolish thoughts, as in Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2. He thinks that thus he is showing himself superior to others, and benefiting the world at large. The LXX. gives the reason, "For rather by folly he is led."
When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.
Verse 3. - When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt. The contempt here spoken of is not that with which the sinner is regarded, but that which he himself learns to feel for all that is pure and good and lovely (Psalm 31:18). As the LXX. interprets, "When the wicked cometh into the depth of evil, he despiseth," he turns a despiser. So the Vulgate. Going forward in evil, adding sin to sin, he end by casting all shame aside, deriding the Law Divine and human, and saying in his heart, "There is no God." St. Gregory, "As he who is plunged into a well is confined to the bottom of it; so would the mind fall in, and remain, as it were, at the bottom, if, after having once fallen, it were to confine itself within any measure of sin. But when it cannot be contented with the sin into which it has fallen, while it is daily plunging into worse offences, it finds, as it were, no bottom to the well into which it has fallen, on which to rest. For there would be a bottom to the well, if there were any bounds to his sin. Whence it is well said, 'When a sinner hath come into the lowest depth of sins, he contemneth.' For he puts by returning, because he has no hope that he can be forgiven. But when he sins still more through despair, he withdraws, as it were, the bottom from the well, so as to find therein no resting place" ('Moral.,' 26:69, Oxford transl.). Even the heathen could see this terrible consequence. Thus Juvenal is quoted ('Sat.,' 13:240, etc.) -
Peccandi finem posuit sibi? quando receipt
Ejectum semel attrita de fronte ruborem?
Quisnam hominum est, quem tu contentum videris uno
Flagitio?" And with ignominy cometh reproach. Here again it is not the reproach suffered by the sinner that is meant (as in Proverbs 11:2), but the abuse which he heaps on others who strive to impede him in his evil courses. All that he says or does brings disgrace, and he is always ready to revue any who are better than himself. Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate make the wicked man the victim instead of the actor, thus: "but upon him there cometh disgrace and reproach." The Hebrew does not well admit this interpretation.
The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.
Verse 4. - The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters. "Man" (ish) here means the ideal man in all his wisdom and integrity, just as in Proverbs 18:22 the ideal wife is intended under the general term "wife." Such a man's words are as deep waters which cannot be fathomed or exhausted. The metaphor is common (see Proverbs 20:5; Ecclesiastes 7:24; Ecclus. 21:13). For "mouth," the Septuagint reads "heart:" "Deep water is a word in a man's heart." The second hemistich explains the first: The well spring of wisdom as a flowing (gushing) brook. A man's words are now called a well spring of wisdom, gushing forth from its source, the wise and understanding heart, pure, fresh, and inexhaustible. Septuagint, "And it leapeth forth (ἀναπηδύει) a river and a fountain of life." Or we may, with Delitzsch, take the whole as one idea, and consider that a man's words are deep waters, a bubbling brook, and a fountain of wisdom.
It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
Verse 5. - It is not good to accept the person of the wicked. To "accept the person" is to show partiality, to be guided in judgment, not by the facts of a case, or the abstract principles of right or wrong, but by extraneous considerations, as a man's appearance, manners, fortune, family. (For the expression, comp. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; and in our book, Proverbs 24:23; Proverbs 28:21.) The Septuagint phrase is θαυμάσαι πρόσωπον, which St. Jude adopts (ver. 16). Other writers in the New Testament use λαμβάνειν πρόσωτον in the same sense; e.g. Luke 20:21; Galatians 2:6). To overthrow (turn aside) the righteous in judgment is not good (comp. Isaiah 10:2). The construction is the same as in Proverbs 17:26. The LXX. adds in the second clause, οὐδὲ ὄσιον, which makes the sentence clear; not seeing this, the Vulgate renders, ut declines a veritate judicii. The offence censured is the perversion of justice in giving sentence against a righteous man whose cause the judge has reason to know is just.
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
Verse 6. - A fool's lips enter into contention; literally, come with quarrel (comp. Psalm 66:13); i.e. they lead him into strife and quarrels; miscent se rixis, Vulgate; "lead him into evils," Septuagint. The foolish man meddles with disputes in which he is not concerned, and by his silly interference not only exposes himself to reprisals, but also exacerbates the original difficulty. His mouth calleth for strokes. His words provoke severe punishment, "stripes for his back," as it is said in Proverbs 19:29. Septuagint, "His mouth which is audacious calls for death."
A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
Verse 7. - The results of the fool's disposition and actions are further noted. A fool's mouth is his destruction (comp. Proverbs 10:15; Proverbs 13:9; Ecclesiastes 10:12). A mediaeval adage pronounces, "Ex lingua stulta veniunt incommoda multa." His lips are the snare of his soul; bring his life into danger (see on Proverbs 12:13; comp. Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 17:28). So St. Luke (Luke 21:35) speaks of the last day, coming upon men like "a snare (παγίς)," the word used by the Septuagint in this passage.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Verse 8. - The words of a tale bearer are as wounds. Nergan, "tale bearer," is better rendered "whisperer" (see on Proverbs 16:28). The Authorized Version reminds one of the mediaeval jingle -
Est pejor felle draconis." The verse recurs in Proverbs 26:22; but the word rendered "wounds" (mitlahamim) is to be differently explained. It is probably the hithp. participle of laham," to swallow," and seems to mean "dainty morsels," such as one eagerly swallows. Thus Gesenius, Schultens, Delitzsch, Nowack, and others. So the clause means, "A whisperer's words are received with avidity; calumny, slander, and evil stories find eager listeners." The same metaphor is found in Proverbs 19:28; Job 34:7. There may, at the same time, be involved the idea that these dainty morsels are of poisonous character. Vulgate, Verba bilinguis, quasi simplicia, "The words of a man of double tongue seem to be simple," which contains another truth. They go down into the innermost parts of the belly (Proverbs 20:27, 30). The hearers take in the slanders and treasure them up in memory, to be used as occasion shall offer. The LXX. omits this verse, and in its place introduces a paragraph founded partly on the next verse and partly on Proverbs 19:15. The Vulgate also inserts the interpolation, "Fear overthrows the sluggish; and the souls of the effeminate (ἀνδρογύνων) shall hunger."
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
Verse 9. - He also that is slothful (slack) in his work. A man that does his work in some sort, but not heartily and diligently, as one who knows that labour is not only a duty and necessity, but a means of sanctification, a training for a higher life. Is brother to him that is a great waster; a destroyer. "Brother" is used as "companion" in Proverbs 28:24 (comp. Job 30:29), for one of like attributes and tendencies; as we say, "next door to;" and the destroyer is, as Nowack says, not merely one who wastes his property by reckless expenditure, but one who delights in such destruction, finds a morbid pleasure in haves and ruin. So the maxim asserts that remissness in duty is as mischievous as actual destructiveness. "An idle brain," say the Italians, "is the devil's workshop." The word rendered "great" is baal (Proverbs 1:19), "owner," patrono (Montanus), domino (Vatablus); and, taking this sense, according to Wordsworth and others, the sentence implies that the servant who is slothful is brother to a master who is a prodigal. But the interpretation given above is best founded. The LXX., reading מתרפא instead of, מתרפה, renders, "He who healeth not (ὁ μὴ ἰώμενος) himself in his works is brother to him who destroyeth himself." Maxims concerning laziness are found in other places; e.g. Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 12:11, 24; Proverbs 23:21.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
Verse 10. - The Name of the Lord is a strong tower. The Name of the Lord signifies all that God is in himself - his attributes, his love, mercy, power, knowledge; which allow man to regard him as a sure Refuge. "Thou hast been a Shelter for me," says the psalmist (Psalm 61:3), "and a strong Tower from the enemy." The words bring before us a picture of a capitol, or central fortress, in which, at times of danger, the surrounding population could take refuge. Into this Name we Christians are baptized; and trusting in it, and doing the duties to which our profession calls, with faith and prayer, we are safe in the storms of life and the attacks of spiritual enemies. The righteous runneth into it (the tower), and is safe; literally, is set on high; exaltabitur, Vulgate; he reaches a position where he in set above the trouble or the danger that besets him. Thus St. Peter, speaking of Christ, exclaims (Acts 4:12), "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." "Prayer," says Tertullian ('De Orat.,' 29), "is the wall of faith, our arms and weapons against man who is always watching us. Therefore let us never go unarmed, night or day. Under the arms of prayer let us guard the standard of our Leader; let us wait for the angel's trumpet, praying." Septuagint, "From the greatness of his might is the Name of the Lord; and running unto it the righteous are exalted."
The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.
Verse 11. - In contrast with the Divine tower of safety in the preceding verse is here brought forward the earthly refuge of the worldly man. The rich man's wealth is his strong city. The clause is repeated from Proverbs 10:15, but with quite a different conclusion. And as an high wall in his own conceit. The rich man imagines his wealth to be, as it were, an unassailable defence, to preserve him safe amid all the storms of life. בְּמַשְׂכִּתו (bemaskitho), rendered "in his own conceit," is, as Venetian has, ἐν φαντασίᾳ αὐτοῦ, "in his imagination," maskith being "an image or picture," as in Leviticus 26:1; Ezekiel 8:12; but see on Proverbs 25:11. Aben Ezra brings out the opposition between the secure and stable trust of the righteous in the Lord's protection, and the confidence of the rich worldling in his possessions, which is only imaginary and delusive. Vulgate, Et quasi murus validus circumdans eum, "Like a strong wall surrounding him;" Septuagint, "And its glory (δόξα) greatly overshadows him;" i.e. the pomp and splendour of his wealth are his protection, or merely paint him like a picture, having no real substance. The commentators explain the word ἐπισκιάζει in both senses.
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
Verse 12. - (Comp. Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 15:33; where the maxims are found in almost the same words.)
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
Verse 13. - He that answereth a matter, etc. Thus Ecclus. 11:8, "Answer not before thou hast heard the, cause; neither interrupt men in the midst of their talk." A reminiscence of the passage occurs in the Talmud ('Aboth.' 5. 10), "I weighed all things in the balance, and found nothing lighter than meal; lighter than meal is the betrothed man who dwells in the house of his intended father-in-law; lighter than he is a guest who introduces a friend; and lighter than he is the man who answers before he has heard the other's speech" (Dukes, p. 72, § 21). So Menander -
Ὁ προκαταγιγνώσκων δὲ πρὶν ἀκοῦσαι σαφῶς
Αὐτὸς πονηρός ἐστι πιστεύσας κακῶς. Seneca, 'Medea,' 199 -
"Qui statuit aliquid, parte inaudita altera,
AEquum licet statuerit, haud aequus erit."
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Verse 14. - The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity. That high property or faculty of man called "spirit" enables the body to bear up against trouble and sickness (comp. Proverbs 17:22). The influence of the mind over the body, in a general sense, is here expressed. But taking "spirit" in the highest sense, in the trichotomy of human nature, we see an intimation that the grace of God, the supernatural infusion of his presence, is that which strengthens the man and makes him able to endure with patience. But a wounded (broken) spirit who can bear? The body can, as it were, fall back upon the support of the spirit, when it is distressed and weakened; but when the spirit itself is broken, grieved, wearied, debilitated, it has no resource, no higher faculty to which it can appeal, and it must succumb beneath the pressure. Here is a lesson, too, concerning the treatment of others. We should be more careful not to wound a brother's spirit than we are to refrain from doing a bodily injury; the latter may be healed by medical applications; the former is more severe in its effects, and is often irremediable. In the first clause, רוַּח "spirit," is masculine, in the second it is feminine, intimating by the change of gender that in the former case it is a manly property, virile moral quality, in the latter it has become weakened and depressed through affliction. Septuagint, "A prudent servant soothes a man's wrath; but a man of faint heart (ὀλιγόψυχον) who will endure?" The LXX. take "spirit" in the sense of anger, and "infirmity" as standing for a servant, though whore they find "prudent" is difficult to say. Vulgate, Spiritum vero ad irascendum facilem, quis poterit sustinere? The Latin interpreter takes one form of weakness of spirit, viz. irascibility, as his interpretation of נכאה, "wounded." St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 5:78) has yet another version, "Who can dwell with a man whose spirit is ready to wrath?" adding, "For he that does not regulate his feelings by the reason that is proper to man, must needs live alone like a beast."
The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
Verse 15. - The first clause is similar to Proverbs 15:14; the second gives a kind of explanation of the former - the understanding of the wise man is always expanding and increasing its stores, because his ear is open to instruction, and his ability grows by wholesome exercise (comp. Proverbs 1:5). Daath, "knowledge," which is used in both clauses, the LXX. translates by two words, αἴσθησιν and ἔννοιαν.
A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Verse 16. - A man's gift maketh room for him (comp. Proverbs 19:6). Mattam, "gift," has been taken in different senses. Some consider it to mean a bribe offered for underhand or fraudulent purposes; but the context does not lead to this conclusion, and the parallel passage mentioned above makes against it. Hitzig sees in it a spiritual gift, equivalent to χάρισμα; but such a meaning is not elsewhere attached to the word. The term here signifies the present which duty or friendship offers to one whom one wishes to please. This paves a man's way to a great person's presence. Bringeth him before great men. The Oriental custom of offering suitable gifts to one in authority, when a favour or an audience is desired, is here alluded to (comp. 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 10:25). So the Magi brought gifts so the newborn King at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:11). In a spiritual sense, the right use of riches opens the way to eternal life, evincing a man's practical love of God and man; as Christ says (Luke 16:9), "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles" (Revised Version).
He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
Verse 17. - He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; Revised Version, he that pleadeth his cause first seemeth just. A man who tells his own story, and is the first to open his case before the judge or a third party, seems tot the moment to have justice on his side. But his neighbour cometh and searcheth him out (Proverbs 28:11). The "neighbour" is the opposing party - ὁ ἀντίδικος Septuagint, which recalls Matthew 5:25 - he sifts and scrutinizes the statements already given, shows them to be erroneous, or weakens the evidence which appeared to support them. Thus the maxims, "One story is good till the other is told," and "Audi alteram partem," receive confirmation. Vulgate, Justus prior est accusator sui. So Septuagint, "The righteous is his own accuser in opening the suit (ἐν πρωτολογίᾳ)." He cuts the ground from under the adversary's feet by at once owning his fault. St. Gregory more than once, in his 'Moralia,' adduces this rendering. Thus on Job 7:11, "To put the mouth to labour is to employ it in the confession of sin done, but the righteous man doth not refrain his mouth, in that, forestalling the wrath of the searching Judge, he falls wroth upon himself in words of self-confession. Hence it is written, 'The just man is first the accuser of himself'" (so lib. 22:33).
The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
Verse 18 - The lot causeth contentions to cease (comp. Proverbs 16:33). If this verse is taken in connection with the preceding, it refers to the decision in doubtful cases, where the evidence is conflicting and ordinary investigation fails to elicit the truth satisfactorily. The lot, being considered to show the judgment of God, settled the question. And parteth between the mighty. If it were not for the decision by lot, persons of eminence and power would settle their differences by violent means. This peaceful solution obviates all such contentions. The Septuagint, in place of "lot" (κλῆρος), reads now σιγηρός, "silent;" but it is evidently originally a clerical error, perpetuated by copyists. The error is noted by a second hand in the margin of the Sinaitic Manuscript.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
Verse 19. - A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. Something must be supplied on which the comparative notion min, "than," depends. So we may understand "resists more," or something similar. A brother or a once close friend, when injured or deceived, becomes a potent and irreconcilable enemy. The idea of the preceding verses is carried on, and the primary thought is still concerning lawsuits and matters brought before a judge. This is shown in the second clause by the use of the word "contentions" (midyanim). And their contentions are like the bars of a castle. They close the door against reconciliation, shut the heart against all feeling of tenderness. True it is, Ξαλεποὶ πόλεμοι ἀδελφῶν (Eurip., 'Fragm.'). And again, 'Iph. Aul.,' 376 -
Δεινὸν κασιγήτοισι γίγνεσθαι λόγους
Μάχας θ ὅταν ποτ ἐμπέσωσιν εἰς ἔριν. Aristotle also writes thus ('De Republ.,' 7:7): "If men receive no return from those to whom they have shown kindness, they deem themselves, not only defrauded of due gratitude, but actually injured. Whence it is said, 'Bitter are the quarrels of friends;' and, 'Those who love beyond measure also hate beyond measure.'" An English maxim gloomily decides, "Friendship once injured is forever lost." Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:4), "Ut adamas, si frangi contingat malleis, in minutissimas dissidit crustas, adeo ut vix oculis cerni queant: ita arctissima necessitudo, si quando contingat dirimi, in summam vertitur simultatem, et ex arctissimis foederibus, si semel rumpantur, maxima nascuntur dissidia." Ecclus. 6:9, "There is a friend, who being turned to enmity will also discover thy disgraceful strife," i.e. will disclose the quarrel which according to his representation will redound to thy discredit. The Vulgate and Septuagint have followed a different reading from that of the present Hebrew text: "Brother aided by brother is like a strong and high city, and he is powerful as a well founded palace," Septuagint. The last clause is rendered in the Vulgate. Et judicia quasi vectes urbium; where judicia means "lawsuits," legal disputes; these bar out friendship. The first member of the sentence in the Greek and Latin recalls Ecclesiastes 4:9, etc., "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour," etc. St. Chrysostom, commenting on Ephesians 4:3 ('Hom.,' 9.), writes, "A glorious bond is this; with this bond let us bind ourselves together alike to one another and to God. This is a bond that bruises not, nor cramps the hands it binds, but it leaves them free, and gives them ample play and greater energy than those which are at liberty. The strong, if he be bound to the weak, will support him, and not suffer him to perish; and if again he be tied to the indolent, he will rather rouse and animate. 'Brother helped by brother,' it is said, 'is as a strong city.' This chain no distance of place can interrupt, neither heaven, nor earth, nor death, nor anything else, but it is more powerful and stronger than all things."
A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Verse 20. - With the first clause, comp, Proverbs 12:14, and with the second, Proverbs 13:2. A man's belly; i.e. himself, his mind and body, equivalent to shall he be filled, or satisfied, in the second clause. A man must accept the consequences of his words, good or evil. The next verse explains this.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Verse 21. - Death and life are in the power of the tongue; literally, in the hand of the tongue. The tongue, according as it is used, deals forth life or death; for speech is the picture of the mind (comp. Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 26:28). The vast importance of our words may be learned from James 3; and our blessed Lord says expressly (Matthew 12:36, etc.), "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Hence the gnome -
Γλῶσσα τύχη γλῶσσα δαίμων
intimating that the tongue is the real controller of man's destiny; and another -
Λόγῳ διοικεῖται βροτῶν βίος μόνῳ
By words alone is life of mortals swayed." And they that love it (the tongue) shall eat the fruit thereof. They who use it much must abide the consequences of their words, whether by kind and pure and edifying conversation they contribute health and life to themselves and others, or whether by foul, calumnious, corrupting language they involve themselves and others in mortal sin. For "they that love it," the Septuagint has, οἱ κρατοῦντες αὐτῆς, "they who get the mastery over it."
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
Verse 22. - Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing. A good wife is meant (as the Septuagint has it, γυναῖκα ἀγαθήν; mulierem bonam, Vulgate), a virtuous, prudent helpmate, as in Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 19:14; and 31. The epithet is omitted, because the moralist is thinking of the ideal wife, the one whoso union is blessed, who alone deserves the holy name of wife. Thus in ver. 4 we had the ideal man spoken cf. Septuagint, εϋρε χάριτας," findeth graces," viz. peace, union, plenty, ruder (see a different view, Ecclesiastes 7:26-28). And obtaineth favour of the Lord (Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 12:2); or, hath obtained (Proverbs 3:13), as shown by the consort whom God has given him. Ratson, "good will," "favour," is rendered by the Septuagint ἱλαρότητα, and by the Vulgate, jucunditatem, "cheerfulness," "joyousness" (see on Proverbs 19:12). Ecclus. 26:1, etc., "Blessed is the man that hath a good wife, for the number of his days shall be double. A virtuous (ἀνδρεία) woman rejoiceth her husband, and he shall fulfil the years of his life in peace. A good wife is a good portion which shall be given in the portion of them that fear the Lord." "A good wife," says the Talmud. "is a good gift; she shall be given to a man that feareth God." And again, "God did not make woman from man's head, that she should not rule over him; nor from his feet, that she should not be his slave; but from his side, that she should be near his heart" (Dukes, p. 69). A Greek gnome runs -
Γυνή δικαζα τοῦ βίου σωτηρία The Septuagint and Vulgate here introduce a paragraph which is not in the Hebrew, and only partly in the Syriac. It seems to be a further explanation of the statement in the text, founded on the practice prevalent at the time when the Septuagint Version was composed, which appears to have made divorce a recognized necessity in the case of adultery: "He who casteth away a good a wife casteth away good things; but he who retaineth an adulteress is a fool and impious." The advice of Siracides concerning a wicked wife is austere: "If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh" (Ecclus. 25:26). Nothing is here said about the marriage of divorced persons; but the absolute indissolubility of the marriage bond was never held among the Jews, a certain laxity being allowed because of the hardness of their heart (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:8, etc.). The original intently of the marriage contract was re-established by Christ.
The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
Verse 23. - This and the following verse, and the first two verses of the next chapter, are not found in the chief manuscripts of the Septuagint, though in later codices they have been supplied from the version of Theodotion. The Codex Venetus Marcianus (23, Holmes and Parsons) is the only uncial that contains them. The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly. The irony of the passage is more strongly expressed by Siracides: "The rich man hath done wrong, and yet he threateneth withal: the poor is wronged, and he must intreat also" (Ecclus. 13:3). The rich man not only does wrong, but accompanies the injury with passionate language and abuse, as if he were the sufferer; while the poor man has humbly to ask pardon, as if he were in the wrong. Thus the Roman satirist writes -
"Libertas pauperis haec est:
Pulsatus rogat et pugnis concisus adorat,
Ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti."
(Juv., 'Sat.,' 3:299.) Aben Ezra explains the verse as denoting that a poor man making a submissive request from a rich man is answered cruelly and roughly. The hardening effect of wealth is seen in our Lord's parables of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16), and the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18).
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Verse 24. - A man that hath friends must show himself friendly. The Authorized Version is certainly not correct. The Hebrew is literally, a man of friends will come to destruction. The word הִתְרועֵעַ (hithroea) is the hithp, infinitive of רעע, "to break or destroy" (comp. Isaiah 24:19); and the maxim means that the man of many friends, who lays himself out to make friends of bad and good alike, does so to his own ruin. They will feed upon him, and exhaust his resources, but will not stand by him in the day of calamity, nay, rather will give a helping hand to his downfall. It is not the number of so called friends that is really useful and precious. But there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 27:10).
Νόμιζ ἀδελφοὺς τοὺς ἀληθινοὺς φίλους.
"Thy true friends hold as very brethren." The Vulgate has, Vir amabilis ad societatem magis amicus erit quam frater, "A man amiable in intercourse will be more of a friend than even a brother."