Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.Proverbs 4:1-3. Hear, &c., the instruction of a father — Of me, who have paternal authority over you, and great affection for you. For I give you, good doctrine — Not vain or foolish, much less false or pernicious counsels, but such as are true and profitable. Forsake ye not my law — God’s law or commands delivered to you by my mouth. For I was my father’s son — In a special sense, his best beloved son, and designed to be his successor on the throne; tender and only beloved, &c. — Young and tender in years, and capable of any impressions, and tenderly educated. Houbigant renders the verse, For I was the principal son of my father, the only beloved of my mother. These circumstances are mentioned to show the necessity and great benefit of wholesome instruction, which his royal parents would not neglect, no, not in his tender years; and thereby to prepare and excite his hearers or readers, by his example, to receive instruction.
For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.Proverbs 4:4-9. He taught me also, and said unto me — The following verses, at least as far as the tenth, are represented as containing the words of David, Solomon’s father, that the name of so great a king, and so holy a prophet, might add the more authority and efficacy to his counsels. Keep my commandments and live — That is, thou shalt live. It is a promise in the form of a command, as Proverbs 3:25. Get wisdom, &c., neither decline, &c. — From the belief and practice of my words. Love her, and she shall keep thee — He intimates that it is not enough to do what is good, which may sometimes proceed from worldly or sinful motives, but that we must have a sincere and fervent love to it. Wisdom is the principal thing — The most excellent of all possessions. With all thy getting get understanding — Even with the price of all, though it cost thee the loss of all that thou hast; or, in, or among all. While thou labourest for other things, see, especially, that thou do not neglect this. Exalt her — Let her have thy highest esteem and affection. She shall bring thee to honour — Both with God and men, which Solomon knew by experience. She shall give to thy head, &c. — An acceptable or beautiful ornament, such as they used to put upon their heads; shall put upon thy head a crown of glory that shall never wither. So far he seems to be repeating the words which David spake to him.
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.
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.Proverbs 4:10-13. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings — Diligently attend to and imbibe my instructions, as the earth drinks in the rain that drops upon it. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom — Either, 1st, The way which procureth wisdom; or, 2d, Which wisdom directs thee to walk in. Thy steps shall not be straitened — Thou shalt manage thine affairs with great facility, safety, and success. It is a metaphor taken from those who walk in a strait and uneven path, where they are apt to stumble and fall. Thou shalt not stumble — No miscarry. Take fast hold of instruction — As being resolved to keep thy hold, and never to let it go. Keep her, for she is thy life — The conductor, preserver, and comforter of thy life.
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.
Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.Proverbs 4:14-19. Enter not into the path of the wicked — Avoid their practices and company; and go not in the way of evil men — Do not proceed further therein. If thou hast unadvisedly entered into it, do not persist in it, but get thee speedily out of it. Avoid it, pass not by it — Keep at a great distance from it. Turn from it, &c. — Shun all occasions of sin. For they sleep not — They cannot compose themselves to sleep with quietness and satisfaction to their own minds; unless they cause some to fall — Into their snares, either into sin or mischief. For they eat the bread of wickedness — Wickedness is as necessary and as pleasant to them as their bread; or, they live wholly upon what they get by wicked courses. Which gives the reason why they could not sleep without prey. And drink the wine of violence — That is, gotten by violence: see on the former clause. But the path of the just is as the shining light — The common course of their lives, or actions, is pure and spotless, clear and certain, safe and comfortable as light is; and their presence enlightens, instructs, edifies, and rejoices others. They carry light into every place by their example, and by their instructions. That shineth more and more unto the perfect day — Righteous men daily grow more and more in knowledge, and grace, and consolation, until all be perfected and swallowed up in glory. But the way of the wicked is as darkness — Full of gross ignorance and error, of uncertainty and confusion, of iniquity, of danger, and of misery: all which come under the name of darkness in the Scriptures, and suit well with the context. They know not at what they stumble — Hebrew, במה יכשׁלו, at what they shall, or are about to, stumble. Though they are always in danger, yet they are always secure, and do not discern their danger, nor the cause, or manner, or time of their ruin, till they be surprised with it. Or, as some interpret the clause, “They commit sin without scruple; they deliver themselves up to it without remorse; they fall without grief, and continue in it without repentance.”
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.
For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
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.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Proverbs 4:23. Keep thy heart with all diligence — The Hebrew is, Above all keeping, keep thy heart, that is, thy mind and thoughts, thy will and affections, which are the more immediate cause of men’s actions. Out of it are the issues of life — The life or death of the soul proceeds from the heart: an upright, enlightened, renewed, devout, and watchful heart gives birth to those holy dispositions, words, and actions, which manifest spiritual life, and lead to eternal life: on the contrary, a heart insincere, unenlightened, unrenewed, and corrupt, without knowledge, without grace, produces those tempers, words, and works, which imply spiritual death, and lead to eternal death. From the heart proceeds all evil, Matthew 15:11-19. Guard it therefore most carefully, with every kind of diligence, and above all other cares.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.Proverbs 4:24-26. Put away a froward mouth — All sorts of sinful words, which proceed from, and discover an evil heart. Let thine eyes look right on — Let thine intention be pure: direct all thine actions to a right end, namely, the glory of God in thy eternal salvation, and keep thy mind fixed upon that way which leads to it, and neither look or turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ponder the path of thy feet — Consider thy actions before thou doest them, and see that they agree with the rule. And let all thy ways be established — Or, directed, as יכונוmay be better rendered here. Or, thy ways shall be established. They shall be uniformly and constantly good, in spite of all temptations to the contrary. So this is a promise to confirm the foregoing precept. If thou dost ponder them thou mayest expect God’s blessing and good success in them. Shun all extremes, and neither add to God’s commands nor take from them.
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.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
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