|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:13-20 No precious jewels or earthly treasures are worthy to be compared with true wisdom, whether the concerns of time or eternity be considered. We must make wisdom our business; we must venture all in it, and be willing to part with all for it. This Wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ and his salvation, sought and obtained by faith and prayer. Were it not for unbelief, remaining sinfulness, and carelessness, we should find all our ways pleasantness, and our paths peace, for his are so; but we too often step aside from them, to our own hurt and grief. Christ is that Wisdom, by whom the worlds were made, and still are in being; happy are those to whom he is made of God wisdom. He has wherewithal to make good all his promises.
Verse 18. - A tree of life (ets-khayyim); Vulgate, lignum vitae; LXX., ξύλον ζωῆς. This expression obviously refers to "the tree of life" (ets-hakayyim), which was placed in the midst of the garden of Eden, and conferred immortality on those who ate of its fruit (Genisis 2:9; 3:22). So Wisdom becomes equally life giving to those who lay hold on her, who taste of her fruit. She communicates life in its manifold fulness and richness (so the plural "lives" indicates) to those who seize her firmly. What is predicated of Wisdom here is predicated in other passages (Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4) of the fruit of the righteous, the fulfilment of desire, and a wholesome tongue. Each of these, the teacher says, is "a tree of life." Elster denies that there is any reference to "the tree of life," and classes the expression among those other figurative expressions - a "fountain of life," in Proverbs 13:4 and Proverbs 14:27, and a "well of life." in Proverbs 10:11; but if it be once admitted that there is such a reference, and it be remembered also that Wisdom is the same as "the fear of the Lord," the point insisted on in the Proverbs and in Job, it seems difficult to deny that the teacher has in view the blessed immortality of which the tree of life in Paradise as the symbol. In this higher sense the term is used in the Revelation (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2, 14). Wisdom restores to her worshippers the life which was lost in Adam (Cartwright). It is remarkable that the imagery here employed is confined to these two hooks. After the historical record in Genesis, no other sacred writers refer to the tree of life. Old ecclesiastical writers saw in the expression a reference to Christ's redeeming work. "The tree of life is the cross of Christ," lignum vitae crux Christi (quoted by Delitzsch). The symbol, Plumptre remarks, entered largely into the religious imagery of Assyria, Egypt, and Persia. To them that lay hold upon (lam-makhazikim, hiph. participle); Vulgate, his, qui apprehenderint; LXX., τοῖς ἀντεχομένοις. The Hebrew verb חָזַק (khazak), "to tie fast," is in hiph. with בְּ (b)," to take hold of," "to seize any one." Happy is every one that retaineth her. In the original, the participle, "they retaining her" (tom'keyah), is plural, and the predicate, "happy" or "blessed" (m'ushshar), is singular. The latter is used distributively, and the construction is common (cf. Proverbs 15:22). The Authorized Version aptly renders the original. The necessity for "retaining" as well as "laying hold" of Wisdom is pointed out. The verb תָּמַך (tamak) is "to hold fast something taken." Such will be blessed who hold Wisdom tenaciously and perseveringly.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
She is a tree of life,.... Or "lives" (b); so Christ is called, Revelation 2:7; in allusion to the tree of life in the garden of Eden, Genesis 2:9; he being the author of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal; which souls may come at, and pluck and eat of the fruit which is upon him in great plenty and variety, even all the blessings of grace and glory;
to them that lay hold upon her; which is expressive of an act of faith on Christ, Hebrews 6:18; faith lays hold on the person of Christ as a Saviour, and will have him and no other; it comes to the blood of Christ, and deals with it for pardon and purification; it lays hold on his skirt, who is a Jew, on the robe of his righteousness, and puts it on; it lays hold on his strength, and goes forth in it, in the exercise of grace and discharge of duty; it lays hold on his covenant, the blessings and promises of it, and takes them to itself: and this act supposes danger without him, safety in him, a view of suitable provisions for food and clothing with him; some strength of grace, and some degree of resolution; also condescension on Christ's part to suffer himself to be handled by them; and likewise that he first took hold on them and brought them out of a state of nature to himself: great encouragement there is for sensible sinners to lay hold on Christ; he is set before them in the Gospel to be laid hold on; he never discourages any from so doing, nor casts out any that come to him; he is able to bear the stress of their salvation they lay upon him; multitudes of lost sinners have been saved by him: and he is a tree of life, as the text says, to such persons; they have spiritual life, and the support and comfort of it, from him now, and may expect everlasting life from him hereafter;
and happy is everyone that retaineth her; or "holds her fast" (c); see Sol 3:4; as such may be said to do who constantly apply to him for fresh communications of grace; who walk on in him as they have received him, and hold fast the profession of their faith in him. The phrase is expressive of great affection to him, and strong faith in him; faith keeps its hold of Christ through great darkness and many difficulties; oftentimes the soul walks in darkness, and yet stays itself on Christ, and, Abraham-like, believes in hope against hope. Faith is sometimes very low, and yet lets not go its hold; it fails not, through the prevalent intercession of Christ; it cannot so let go its hold as that there is a parting; a partial departing there may be, but not a total one: however, it is sometimes very difficult for faith to keep fast hold of the Redeemer; it is for the honour and comfort of believers so to do; and it is their mercy that interest in Christ, and salvation by him, do not depend on acts of faith; for, though "we believe not, yet he abides faithful", 2 Timothy 2:13; nevertheless happy are they that retain him, or are steadfast in their faith on him; they have much communion with him now, and shall live with him for evermore hereafter.
(b) "lignum vitarum", Montanus. (c) "significatur hoc verbo, firmitas et constantia in tonendo", Michaelis; so Mercerus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Wisdom allegorized as
a tree of life—(Ge 2:9; 3:22) whose fruit preserves life, gives all that makes living a blessing.
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