|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:23. A bargain made by fraud will prove a losing bargain in the end. 24. How can we form plans, and conduct business, independently of the Lord? 25. The evasions men often use with their own consciences show how false and deceitful man is. 26. Justice should crush the wicked, and separate them from the virtuous. 27. The rational soul and conscience are as a lamp within us, which should be used in examining our dispositions and motives with the revealed will of God. 28. Mercy and truth are the glories of God's throne. 29. Both young and old have their advantages; and let neither despise or envy the other.
Verse 27. - The spirit of men is the candle (lamp) of the Lord. Neshamah, "spirit," or "breath," is the principle of life breathed into man by God himself (Genesis 2:7), distinguishing man from brutes - the conscious human soul. We may consider it as equivalent to what we Christians call conscience, with its twofold character of receiving light and illumination from God, and sitting as judge and arbiter of actions. It is named "the Lord's lamp," because this moral sense is a direct gift of God, and enables a man to see his real condition. Our Lord (Matthew 6:23) speaks of the light that is in man, and gives a solemn warning against the danger of letting it be darkened by neglect and sin; and St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:11) argues, "Who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man, which is in him?" As Elihu says (Job 32:8), "There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding." And Aristotle speaks of practical wisdom (φρόνησις) combined with virtue as "the eye of the soul (ὄμμα τῆς ψυχῆς)." Searching all the inward parts of the belly; i.e. the very depths of the soul, probing thoughts, desires, affections, will, and approving or reproving, according as they are in conformity with or opposition to God's Law. We must remember that Eastern houses, before the introduction of glass, had very scanty openings to admit light, and lamps were necessary if for any purpose the interior had to be thoroughly illuminated. Hence the metaphor used above would strike an Oriental more forcibly than it strikes us. Septuagint, "The breath (πνοὴ, as Proverbs 11:13) of man is a light of the Lord, who searches the chambers of the belly." St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 12:64), "We ought to bear in mind that in holy Writ by the title of the 'belly,' or the 'womb,' the mind is used to be understood. For the light of grace, which comes from above, affords a 'breathway' to man unto life, which same light is said to 'search all the inward parts of the belly,' in that it penetrates all the secrets of the heart, that the things which were hidden in the soul touching itself it may bring back before the eyes thereof" (Oxford transl.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,.... The rational soul of man is a light set up in him; this is what is commonly called the light of nature; it was a bright and burning light at first, but through sin is become a very feeble one; by which men have only a glimmering view of divine things, of God and his worship, and of what he would have done, or not done; by this light men do but grope after him, if happily they may find him and know his will; it is but like a candle light at best, in comparison of divine revelation, or the Gospel of the grace of God, which has shone out like the sun in its meridian glory; and especially in comparison of the sun of righteousness, Christ Jesus, and the light of the divine Spirit; yet this is a light set up by the Lord, a candle of his; it comes from the Father of lights, he is the author and maintainer of it; it is a spirit and understanding which is by the inspiration of the Almighty; see Genesis 2:7;
searching all the inward parts of the belly; or heart; the thoughts, intents, and purposes of it; which are the things of a man that only the spirit of man knows; by this candle, or light, he can look into his own heart, the inmost recesses of it, and reflect upon his thoughts and schemes, and judge in some measure whether right or wrong; there is a conscience in man, which, unless seared, passes sentence on what is in man, or done by him, and either excuses or accuses; see 1 Corinthians 2:10, Romans 2:14.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
27. The spirit … Lord—Men's minds are God's gifts, and thus able to search one another (compare Pr 20:5; Pr 18:8, 17; 1Co 2:11).
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