|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:7-9 Fools are persons who have no true wisdom, who follow their own devices, without regard to reason, or reverence for God. Children are reasonable creatures, and when we tell them what they must do, we must tell them why. But they are corrupt and wilful, therefore with the instruction there is need of a law. Let Divine truths and commands be to us most honourable; let us value them, and then they shall be so to us.
Verse 7-ch. 9:18. - Part II. INTRODUCTORY SECTION. The first main section of the book begins here and ends at Proverbs 9:18. It consists of a series of fifteen admonitory discourses addressed to youth by the Teacher and Wisdom personified, with the view to exhibit the excellence of wisdom, and generally to illustrate the motto, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," or wisdom. It urges strong encouragements to virtue, and equally strong dissuasives from vice, and shows that the attainment of wisdom in its true sense is the aim of all moral effort. Verse 7. - 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 Proverbs 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; Psalm 111:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Ecclus. 1:16, 25. With this maxim we may compare "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom" (Proverbs 15:33). The fear of the Lord (יִרְאַת יְהוָה, yir'ath y'hovah); 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 (yir'ath) 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" (Proverbs 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 (יְהוָה) 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 Proverbs 4:7) (Holden, Trapp).
(3) As the principium (Vulgate); i.e. the origin, or basis, as in Micah 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. James 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 Proverbs 10:10, where the corresponding word is תְּחִלָּת. (t'killath), "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; ךאוִילִים (evilim), plural of ךאוִיּל (evil), from the root אָוַל (aval), "to be perverse," here properly designates the incorrigible, as in Proverbs 27:22, and those who are unwilling to know God (Jeremiah 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" (Proverbs 12:16) and to the "wise" (Proverbs 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 (Gesenius, § 126); 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 ver. 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 Psalm 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,.... Here properly the book begins, and this is the first of the proverbs, and an excellent one; it is such an one as is not to be found in all the writings of the Heathens. By "the fear of the Lord" is not meant a servile fear, a fear of punishment, of hell, wrath, and damnation, which is the effect of the first work of the law upon the conscience; but a filial fear, and supposes knowledge of God as a father, of his love and grace in Christ, particularly of his forgiving love, from whence it arises, Psalm 130:4; it is a holy, humble, fiducial fear of God; a reverential affection for him, and devotion to him; it includes the whole of religious worship, both internal and external; all that is contained in the first table of the law, and the manner of performing it, and principle of acting: this is the first of all sciences to be learned, and it is the principal one; it is the basis and foundation of all the rest, on which they depend; and it is the head, the fountain, the root an source, from whence they spring; and unless a man knows God, knows God in Christ, and worships him in his fear, in spirit and in truth, according to his revealed will, he knows nothing as he ought to know; and all his knowledge will be of no avail and profit to him; this is the first and chief thing in spiritual and evangelical knowledge, and without which all natural knowledge will signify nothing; see Job 28:28;
but fools despise wisdom and instruction; the same with "knowledge" before; they do not desire the knowledge of God, and of his ways and worship, but despise it, make no account of it, but treat it with contempt; especially the knowledge of God in Christ, in which lies the highest wisdom, for this is "life eternal", John 17:3; they despise Christ "the Wisdom of God", and the Gospel, and the truths of it, which are "the hidden wisdom" of God; and all "instruction" into it, and the means of it; they despise the Scriptures, which are able to make a man "wise unto salvation"; and the ministry of the word, and the ministers of it: such sort of "discipline" (n) was this, as the word signifies, they dislike and abhor; and especially "correction" or "chastisement" (o), which is also the sense of it; suffering reproach and affliction for the sake of wisdom, a profession of Christ and his Gospel; and they are fools with a witness that despise all this; such fools are atheists, deists, and all profane and wicked men. The Septuagint render it, "the ungodly"; and such sort of men are all along meant by "fools" in this book.
(n) "disciplinam", Tigurine version, Piscator, Cocceius, Schultens, (o) "Castigationem, correctionem", Vatablus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. The fear of the Lord—the principle of true piety (compare Pr 2:5; 14:26, 27; Job 28:28; Ps 34:11; 111:10; Ac 9:31).
beginning—first part, foundation.
fools—the stupid and indifferent to God's character and government; hence the wicked.
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