|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-6 The lessons here given are plain, and likely to benefit those who feel their own ignorance, and their need to be taught. If young people take heed to their ways, according to Solomon's Proverbs, they will gain knowledge and discretion. Solomon speaks of the most important points of truth, and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks by his word and by his Spirit. Christ is the Word and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.
Verse 1. - The proverbs of Solomon. The word which is here translated "proverbs" is the original mishle (מִשְׁלֵי), the construct case of mashal (מָשָׁל), which, again, is derived from the verb mashal (מָשַׁל), signifying
(1) "to make like," "to assimilate," and
(2) "to have dominion" (Gesenius).
The radical signification of mashal is "comparison" or "similitude," and in this sense it is applied generally to the utterances of the wise. In Numbers 23:7, 8 it is used of the prophetic predictions of Balaam; certain didactic psalms, e.g. Psalm 49:5 and Psalm 78:2, are so designated, and in Job (Job 27:1 and Job 29:1) it describes the sententious discourses of wise men. While all these come under the generic term of m'shalim, though few or no comparisons are found in them, we find the term mashal sometimes used of what are proverbs in the sense of popular sayings. Compare "Therefore it became a proverb (מָשָׁל), Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:12); and see also other instances in Ezekiel 16:4 and Ezekiel 18:2. In this sense it is also found in the collection before us. The predominant idea of the term, however, is that of comparison or similitude, and as such it is better represented by the Greek παραβολή (from παραβάλλω, "to set or place side by side"), literally, a placing beside, or comparison, than by παροιμία, "a byword," or "a trite wayside saying," though in the Greek of the synoptic Gospels παροιμία is equivalent to παραβολή. The English word "proverb" insufficiently renders the wider scope of meaning conveyed in the Hebrew mashal, and is not quite accurately rendered here, since of proverbs in our ordinary signification of that word there are comparatively few in this collection. The Hebrew word here means "maxims," "aphorisms," "wise counsels." Of Solomon. Most modern commentators (Delitzsch, Zockler, Fuerst, Stuart, Plumptre, etc.), while attributing, in a greater or less degree, the authorship of the book to Solomon, regard the insertion of his name in the title as indicating rather that he is the dominant spirit among those wise men of his age, some of whose sayings are here incorporated with his own. King of Israel, as forming the second hemistich of the verse, goes with "Solomon," and not "David." This is indicated in the Authorized Version by the position of the comma. The Arabic Version omits allusion to David, and reads, "Proverbia, nempe documenta Salomonis sapientis, qui regnavit super filios Israel." The proverbial or parabolic form of teaching was a recognized mode of instruction among the Hebrews, and in the Christian Church is recommended by St. Clement of Alexandria ('Strom.,' lib. 11, init.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The proverbs of Solomon,.... Who is said to make three thousand proverbs, 1 Kings 4:32; but whether any of them are contained in this book cannot be said: however, it is certain that they are not all in it, since, if you except the first "nine" chapters, which are the introduction to the Proverbs, there are but six hundred and fifty-nine verses in it; and if they are taken in, they make but nine hundred and fifteen, which are not a third part of the proverbs said to be made by him: however, here are as many and such as God thought fit should be preserved for instruction in all future ages. It was usual with the ancients in all countries, when any truth was found, and established by experience, to wrap it up in a few apt words, with or without a figure; that it might be the better understood and more easily retained, and which were always venerable and greatly attended to: and of this kind are these proverbs; only with this difference, that these are of divine inspiration, and the others not. The word used for them comes from one which signifies "similitude" and "dominion" (g); because many of them are similes or comparisons, and are delivered out in figurative expressions, in metaphors and allegories, and the like; and have all of them a commanding power, authority, and influence upon the mind, obliging to an attention to them. The name of Solomon is put to them, the more to recommend them; who had a wise and understanding heart, as large as the sand of the sea, and was wiser than all men, 1 Kings 4:29; and was an eminent type of Christ, who spake in proverbs also, John 16:25. He is further described by his pedigree and office,
the son of David, king of Israel; a wise son of a wise father, and king over a wise and understanding people. These titles are added for the further commendation of the book; and it may be observed that they are such as belong to the Messiah, Solomon's antitype, one that is greater than he, Matthew 1:1.
(g) A rad. "dominatus est----lvmn comparatus, similis, consimilis factus est", Buxtorf. "Mirum est quod radix significans antoritatem cum imperio, significat etiam parabolas vel sermones figuratos----verba quae vocantur, habent autoritatem, nobis ideam immittunt, dicentis ut nos supereminentis, saltem sapientia, ingenio, doctrina; nos persuadent et pondere suo, quasi imperio noe ducunt". Gusset. Ebr. Comment. p. 845.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
THE BOOK OF PROVERBS. Commentary by A. R. Faussett
I. The Nature and Use of Proverbs.—A proverb is a pithy sentence, concisely expressing some well-established truth susceptible of various illustrations and applications. The word is of Latin derivation, literally meaning for a word, speech, or discourse; that is, one expression for many. The Hebrew word for "proverb" (mashal) means a "comparison." Many suppose it was used, because the form or matter of the proverb, or both, involved the idea of comparison. Most of the proverbs are in couplets or triplets, or some modifications of them, the members of which correspond in structure and length, as if arranged to be compared one with another. They illustrate the varieties of parallelism, a distinguishing feature of Hebrew poetry. Compare Introduction to Poetical Books. Many also clearly involve the idea of comparison in the sentiments expressed (compare Pr 12:1-10; 25:10-15; 26:1-9). Sometimes, however, the designed omission of one member of the comparison, exercising the reader's sagacity or study for its supply, presents the proverb as a "riddle" or "dark saying" (compare Pr 30:15-33; 1:6; Ps 49:4). The sententious form of expression, which thus became a marked feature of the proverbial style, was also adopted for continuous discourse, even when not always preserving traces of comparison, either in form or matter (compare Pr 1:1-9:18). In Eze 17:1; 24:3, we find the same word properly translated "parable," to designate an illustrative discourse. Then the Greek translators have used a word, parabola ("parable"), which the gospel writers (except John) employ for our Lord's discourses of the same character, and which also seems to involve the idea of comparison, though that may not be its primary meaning. It might seem, therefore, that the proverbial and parabolic styles of writing were originally and essentially the same. The proverb is a "concentrated parable, and the parable an extension of the proverb by a full illustration." The proverb is thus the moral or theme of a parable, which sometimes precedes it, as in Mt 19:30 (compare Pr 20:1); or succeeds it, as in Mt 22:1-16; Lu 15:1-10. The style being poetical, and adapted to the expression of a high order of poetical sentiment, such as prophecy, we find the same term used to designate such compositions (compare Nu 23:7; Mic 2:4; Hab 2:6).
Though the Hebrews used the same term for proverb and parable, the Greek employs two, though the sacred writers have not always appeared to recognize a distinction. The term for proverb is, paroimia, which the Greek translators employ for the title of this book, evidently with special reference to the later definition of a proverb, as a trite, sententious form of speech, which appears to be the best meaning of the term. John uses the same term to designate our Saviour's instructions, in view of their characteristic obscurity (compare Pr 16:25-29, Greek), and even for his illustrative discourses (Pr 10:6), whose sense was not at once obvious to all his hearers. This form of instruction was well adapted to aid the learner. The parallel structure of sentences, the repetition, contrast, or comparison of thought, were all calculated to facilitate the efforts of memory; and precepts of practical wisdom which, extended into logical discourses, might have failed to make abiding impressions by reason of their length or complicated character, were thus compressed into pithy, and, for the most part, very plain statements. Such a mode of instruction has distinguished the written or traditional literature of all nations, and was, and still is, peculiarly current in the East.
In this book, however, we are supplied with a proverbial wisdom commended by the seal of divine inspiration. God has condescended to become our teacher on the practical affairs belonging to all the relations of life. He has adapted His instruction to the plain and unlettered, and presented, in this striking and impressive method, the great principles of duty to Him and to our fellow men. To the prime motive of all right conduct, the fear of God, are added all lawful and subordinate incentives, such as honor, interest, love, fear, and natural affection. Besides the terror excited by an apprehension of God's justly provoked judgments, we are warned against evil-doing by the exhibition of the inevitable temporal results of impiety, injustice, profligacy, idleness, laziness, indolence, drunkenness, and debauchery. To the rewards of true piety which follow in eternity, are promised the peace, security, love, and approbation of the good, and the comforts of a clear conscience, which render this life truly happy.
II. Inspiration and Authorship.—With no important exception, Jewish and Christian writers have received this book as the inspired production of Solomon. It is the first book of the Bible prefaced by the name of the author. The New Testament abounds with citations from the Proverbs. Its intrinsic excellence commends it to us as the production of a higher authority than the apocryphal writings, such as Wisdom or Ecclesiasticus. Solomon lived five hundred years before the "seven wise men" of Greece, and seven hundred before the age of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It is thus very evident, whatever theory of his sources of knowledge be adopted, that he did not draw upon any heathen repositories with which we are acquainted. It is far more probable, that by the various migrations, captivities, and dispersions of the Jews, heathen philosophers drew from this inspired fountain many of those streams which continue to refresh mankind amid the otherwise barren and parched deserts of profane literature.
As, however, the Psalms are ascribed to David, because he was the leading author, so the ascription of this book to Solomon is entirely consistent with the titles of the thirtieth and thirty-first chapters, which assign those chapters to Agur and Lemuel respectively. Of these persons we know nothing. This is not the place for discussing the various speculations respecting them. By a slight change of reading some propose to translate Pr 30:1: "The words of Agur, the son of her who was obeyed Massa," that is, "the queen of Massa"; and Pr 31:1: "The words of Lemuel, king of Massa"; but to this the earliest versions are contradictory, and nothing other than the strongest exegetical necessity ought to be allowed to justify a departure from a well-established reading and version when nothing useful to our knowledge is gained. It is better to confess ignorance than indulge in useless conjectures.
It is probable that out of the "three thousand proverbs" (1Ki 4:32) which Solomon spoke, he selected and edited Pr 1:1-24:34 during his life. Pr 25:1-29:27 were also of his production, and copied out in the days of Hezekiah, by his "men," perhaps the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. Such a work was evidently in the spirit of this pious monarch, who set his heart so fully on a reformation of God's worship. Learned men have endeavored to establish the theory that Solomon himself was only a collector; or that the other parts of the book, as these chapters, were also selections by later hands; but the reasons adduced to maintain these views have never appeared so satisfactory as to change the usual opinions on the subject, which have the sanction of the most ancient and reliable authorities.
III. Divisions of the Book.—Such a work is, of course, not susceptible of any logical analysis. There are, however, some well-defined marks of division, so that very generally the book is divided into five or six parts.
1. The first contains nine chapters, in which are discussed and enforced by illustration, admonition, and encouragement the principles and blessings of wisdom, and the pernicious schemes and practices of sinful persons. These chapters are introductory. With few specimens of the proper proverb, they are distinguished by its conciseness and terseness. The sentences follow very strictly the form of parallelism, and generally of the synonymous species, only forty of the synthetic and four (Pr 3:32-35) of the antithetic appearing. The style is ornate, the figures bolder and fuller, and the illustrations more striking and extended.
2. The antithetic and synthetic parallelism to the exclusion of the synonymous distinguish Pr 10:1-22:16, and the verses are entirely unconnected, each containing a complete sense in itself.
3. Pr 22:16-24:34 present a series of admonitions as if addressed to a pupil, and generally each topic occupies two or more verses.
4. Pr 25:1-29:27 are entitled to be regarded as a distinct portion, for the reason given above as to its origin. The style is very much mixed; of the peculiarities, compare parts two and three.
5. Pr 30:1-33 is peculiar not only for its authorship, but as a specimen of the kind of proverb which has been described as "dark sayings" or "riddles."
6. To a few pregnant but concise admonitions, suitable for a king, is added a most inimitable portraiture of female character. In both parts five and six the distinctive peculiarity of the original proverbial style gives place to the modifications already mentioned as marking a later composition, though both retain the concise and nervous method of stating truth, equally valuable for its deep impression and permanent retention by the memory.
Pr 1:1-33. After the title the writer defines the design and nature of the instructions of the book. He paternally invites attention to those instructions and warns his readers against the enticements of the wicked. In a beautiful personification, wisdom is then introduced in a most solemn and impressive manner, publicly inviting men to receive its teachings, warning those who reject, and encouraging those who accept, the proffered instructions.
1-4. (See Introduction, Part I).
Proverbs 1:1 Parallel Commentaries
Proverbs 1:1 NIV
Proverbs 1:1 NLT
Proverbs 1:1 ESV
Proverbs 1:1 NASB
Proverbs 1:1 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible