Proverbs 4
Barnes' Notes
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
The words "ye children" indicate as usual a new section returning, after the break of Proverbs 3:27-35, to the old strain of fatherly counsel.

For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
Doctrine - Knowledge orally given and received.

For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.
Probably the words of Solomon himself, who looks back from his glorious throne and his matured wisdom to the training which was the starting point. The part taken by Bathsheba in 1 Kings 1, no less than the friendship between her and Nathan, indicates that a mother's training might well have laid the foundation of the king's future wisdom. Among the Israelites and Egyptians alone, of the nations of the old world, was the son's reverence for the mother placed side by side with that which he owed to his father.

Only beloved, - literally "only," but the word is used apparently (as in Genesis 22:2, Genesis 22:12) in its derived sense, "beloved like an only son." The Vulgate gives "unigenitus." Compare the words applied to our Lord, as the "only begotten" John 1:14, the "beloved" Ephesians 1:6.

He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
The counsel which has come to him, in substance, from his father. Compare it with 2 Samuel 23:2 etc.; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Psalm 15:1-5; Psalm 24:1-10; Psalm 37.

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Or, "The beginning of wisdom is - get wisdom." To seek is to find, to desire is to obtain.

Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
The ever-recurring parable of the journey of life. In the way of wisdom the path is clear and open, obstacles disappear; in the quickest activity ("when thou runnest") there is no risk of falling.

Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
She is thy life - Another parallel between personified Wisdom in this book and the Incarnate Wisdom in John 1:4.

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.
A fearful stage of debasement. Sin is the condition without which there can be no repose.

For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
i. e., Bread and wine gained by unjust deeds. Compare Amos 2:8. A less probable interpretation is, "They eat wickedness as bread, and drink violence as wine." Compare Job 15:16; Job 34:7.

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
Shining ... shineth - The two Hebrew words are different; the first having the sense of bright or clear. The beauty of a cloudless sunshine growing on, shining as it goes, to the full and perfect day, is chosen as the fittest figure of the ever increasing brightness of the good man's life. Compare the marginal reference.

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
Compare our Lord's teaching John 11:10; John 12:35.

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
The teacher speaks again in his own person.

Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Health - See the Proverbs 3:8 note.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Better, as in the margin, i. e., with more vigilance than men use over anything else. The words that follow carry on the same similitude. The fountains and wells of the East were watched over with special care. The heart is such a fountain, out of it flow the "issues" of life. Shall men let those streams be tainted at the fountain-head?

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Speech turned from its true purpose, the wandering eye that leads on to evil, action hasty and inconsiderate, are the natural results where we do not "above all keeping keep our heart" Proverbs 4:23.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
The ever-recurring image of the straight road on which no one ever loses his way represents here as elsewhere the onward course through life of the man who seeks and finds wisdom.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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