Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Third Address. Chap. 2. Proverbs 2:1-22
The diligent pursuit of Wisdom is inculcated (Proverbs 2:1-4), as of that which in its essence is the knowledge and fear of God (Proverbs 2:5-9), and in its fruits preservation from the evil man (Proverbs 2:10-15) and from the evil woman (Proverbs 2:16-19), and guidance into the way of life (Proverbs 2:20-22).
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;1. hide] or, lay up, R.V.; as a treasure stored carefully.
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;2. thine heart] For the wide meaning of this word in Holy Scripture see Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, Section xii:—“According to thorough investigation and evidence of Scripture in all its parts, the heart is the internal centre of the natural condition of man, in which the threefold life of man blends together.” “It is the centre of the bodily life,” “of the spiritual psychical life” (including “will and desire,” “thought and conception”), and of “the moral life.”
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;3. knowledge] Rather, discernment, R.V. See Proverbs 1:2, note.
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;4. as silver … hid treasures] It has been supposed that there is reference here to the eagerness and effort connected with the discovery and working of a silver mine, and to the search for treasure hidden in the earth. See, for example, Dean Plumptre’s interesting note on this verse in the Speaker’s Commentary. It may well be doubted, however, whether by silver be not rather meant, money, or wealth, generally. LXX. ἀργύριον, Vulg. pecuniam. Comp. φιλαργυρία, 1 Timothy 6:10; ἀφιλάργυρος, Hebrews 13:5. (See Smith’s Bible Dict., Art. Silver: “its chief use was as a medium of exchange, and throughout the O.T. we find ceseph, silver, used for money, like the Fr. argent.”) We are told that silver, as a metal, was “nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon,” 1 Kings 10:21. So again it is doubtful whether any great stress is to be laid upon “hid treasures” (Matthew 13:44). The word here is lit. “hidden things,” and so, treasures, because we hide them for safety (Genesis 43:23, A.V. and R.V. Comp. Isaiah 45:3). The LXX. render ἐὰν … ὡς θησαυροὺς ἐξερευνήσῃς, Vulg. si … sicut thesauros effoderis. It is rather the value set upon Wisdom, than the difficulty of search for her that is here in view. She is a gift, after all (Proverbs 2:6), though a gift to those only who seek her diligently (Luke 11:5-13).
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.6. For] Maurer rightly insists that this and two following verses are not a parenthesis, but an integral part of the main argument; q.d. I said that by diligent search after wisdom thou shouldest attain to the fear of Jehovah and the knowledge of God; and I said so because that knowledge involves the true conception of God, as the Fountain of all wisdom, and the right attitude towards Him of reverent expectation, which like the prophet’s “golden pipes” (Zechariah 4:2) brings your earnest desire to receive into contact with His readiness to give. Comp. James 1:5.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.7. layeth up] Lit. hideth, as a treasure too precious to be left exposed, therefore it must be searched for (Proverbs 2:4). But he layeth it up for, not from, the upright; therefore the search shall be successful (Proverbs 2:5).
He is a buckler] So R.V. except, instead of buckler, more accurately, shield, the smaller weapon.
The rendering, And a shield, R.V. marg.; or better, which (sc. wisdom) is a shield, is admissible, and is supported by such passages as Ecclesiastes 7:12; Ephesians 6:16, where wisdom and faith are compared to a shield. But the frequent comparison of God Himself to a shield or buckler in the O.T. (e.g. Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 59:11; Psalm 84:11, in all which places the Heb. word for shield is the same as here) is in favour of regarding Jehovah (Proverbs 2:6) as the subject of this, as of the former, clause of the verse.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.8. He keepeth] Lit. to keep, which may mean, for them (those that walk in integrity) to keep, that they may keep, R.V. marg. But it is better to retain God as the subject still, and at the same time to preserve the parallelism with the 2nd clause of the verse. The two verses (7, 8) will then read, with R.V. text,
He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright,
He is a shield to them that walk in integrity;
That he may guard the paths of judgement,
And preserve the way of His saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;10. When wisdom entereth … knowledge is pleasant] Rather: For wisdom shall enter … knowledge shall be pleasant, R.V. The address flows on continuously and describes how wisdom as a shield preserves from the evil man (Proverbs 2:12-15), and from the evil woman (Proverbs 2:16-19).
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:11. preserve] Rather: watch over, R.V.; φυλάξει, LXX.; custodiet, Vulg.
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;12. the evil man] Or, evil, R.V. text (marg. as A.V.); ἀπὸ ὁδοῦ κακῆς, LXX.; a via mala, Vulg.
Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;14. of the wicked] Or, of evil, R.V. text, as in Proverbs 2:12.
Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:15. whose ways, &c.] Rather, with R.V.:
Who are crooked in their ways,
And perverse in their paths.
To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;16. strange woman … stranger] i.e. not belonging to thee; a stranger, in right, to any such relationship. Neither of the words, as here used, has any reference to nationality, as though the danger in question arose chiefly from foreign women. They are married women of the true religion (Proverbs 2:17), and wives of fellow-citizens (Proverbs 7:19-20) who are here in view. It is a different Heb. word that is used commonly (e.g. Genesis 15:13; Exodus 20:10) for a “stranger” in the sense of a foreigner, one sojourning in a land not his own. The “strange woman” here is so called in the sense which the same Heb. word bears in such passages as Exodus 29:33; Exodus 30:33 (one who is outside the family of Aaron); Deuteronomy 25:5 (one who is outside the family circle). This word for stranger, though it often means a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15; comp. Exodus 2:22; Exodus 21:8), is here a proper synonym with the word in the parallel clause, one who is not a man’s own wife; just as in Ecclesiastes 6:2 it means one who is not a man’s own child.
flattereth] Heb. maketh smooth her words, R.V. marg. An example is given in Proverbs 7:13-21.
Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.17. the guide of her youth] or, friend, R.V. or, associate, i.e. her husband to whom she was married in her youth. See Jeremiah 3:4, where the same phrase occurs in the same sense. Comp. “wife of thy youth,” Proverbs 5:18; Malachi 2:14.
covenant of her God] The marriage contract, which is of Divine origin and sanction (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). Comp. “the wife of thy covenant,” Malachi 2:14, and note there in this Series. To the tender memories of “the kindness of youth and the love of espousals” (Jeremiah 2:2) is added the binding force of “the vow and covenant betwixt them made.”
For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.18. her house &c.] It is a steep descent, ending in death. The rendering of R.V. marg., she sinketh down unto death which is her house, is less forcible and impairs the parallelism.
the dead] Lit. the Rephaim. The Rephaim were among the Aborigines of Canaan (Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20) and were people of giant stature (Deuteronomy 2:11; Deuteronomy 2:20-21, R.V.). They may have come to be identified in the popular mind in the dim retrospect of the past, with the shadowy spectres that loomed large in Sheol (Isaiah 14:9, R.V. marg.). See Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. Rephaim.
None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.19. take they hold of] Rather, reach, or (R.V.) attain unto.
That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.20. that thou mayest &c.] The construction is still dependent on Proverbs 2:10-11. The punctuation should be throughout as in R.V., with no full stops as in A.V.
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.21, 22. land … earth] The Heb. word is the same, and should have the same rendering, either land or earth, in both verses. To a Jew this would of course mean “the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12; comp. Psalms 37 passim); but in a Book, the colouring of which is not Jewish, but which addresses itself to all mankind, it is open to us to render, earth, with R.V. marg. See Proverbs 11:31.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.22. transgressors] Rather, treacherous, or perfidious, with special reference perhaps to Proverbs 2:16-19.