Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.Seventh Address. Chap. Proverbs 4:1-9Resuming, after the parenthesis (Proverbs 3:27-35) the style and tone of fatherly address of the preceding sections, the Teacher commends Wisdom to his scholars as his children, by the example of his own early education. Mr Horton happily remarks, “This chapter begins with a charming little piece of autobiography,” and quotes Wordsworth’s words,
“Wisdom doth live with children round her knees.”
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.3. my father’s son] The order of the words in the original: a son was I to my father, suggests the meaning, I was a true son, a son not only by birth, but by filial reverence and obedience, “filius, i.e. cum vi; veri nominis filius.” Maur. Others explain, with Bertheau, “I also stood in the relation to my actual father, in which you stand to me, your paternal instructor.”
tender] Comp. 1 Chronicles 29:1, where David uses this word of Solomon.
only beloved] Lit. only. The R.V., while giving in the margin “Heb. an only one,” retains the rendering of A.V. in the text, and prints the word “beloved” (not as A.V., in italics, but) in Roman characters, as being “plainly implied in the Hebrew, and necessary in English” (Revisers’ Preface). The point is interesting as bearing upon the authorship of this part of the Book. Solomon was not an “only” son, though it might reasonably be urged that he was so in the same sense as was Isaac, of whom this same word is used (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:16. Comp. μονογενῆ, Hebrews 11:17), and who was not strictly an only son either, but one who stood alone in the choice of God and in the Messianic line, and therefore in the estimation of his father. Comp. “Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen,” 1 Chronicles 29:1, where (see preceding note), the word “tender” is also applied as here to Solomon. But Solomon was from his birth specially beloved (2 Samuel 12:24-25), and the word is used elsewhere in this derived sense, “alone” not only in fact, but in the value set upon it (Psalm 22:20; Psalm 35:17, “my darling”; where see notes in this Series). ἀγαπώμενος, LXX.
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.4. he taught me also] Rather, and he taught me, R.V.
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.7. Wisdom is &c.] So also R.V. text. Others, with R.V. marg., The beginning of wisdom is, Get wisdom, Comp. Proverbs 2:1-5.
with all thy getting] Rather, with all thou hast gotten, R.V., at the price or cost of all thy possessions. Comp. Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46.
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.Eighth Address. Chap. Proverbs 4:10-1911. right paths] Rather, paths of uprightness, R.V., as at once being a more exact rendering and preserving better the parallelism.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.12. goest … runnest] The figure of Proverbs 4:11 is continued.
straitened] “His firm, wide steps of prosperity and security, when he walked in a wide place (Psalm 4:1), become narrowed and hampered.” Widening of the steps is a usual Oriental figure for the bold and free movements of one in prosperity, as straitening of them is for the constrained and timid action of one in adversity. Comp. Proverbs 4:12; Psalm 18:36; and note on Job 18:7, in this Series.
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.14. The earnest warning of this and the following verses recalls the similar warnings of Proverbs 1:19 ff.; Proverbs 2:12 ff.; Proverbs 3:31 ff.
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.16. their sleep is taken away] Comp.:
“Ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam
Somnum rixa facit.” Juv. Sat. III. 281, 2.
For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.17. This verse may be taken either (1) literally, they procure their bread and wine, get their living, by wickedness and violence, or (2) figuratively, wickedness and violence are to them as meat and drink. Comp. Job 15:16; Job 34:7; John 4:34.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.18. the shining light] Some would render, the light of dawn, with R.V. marg., but this is rather implied in the figure than expressed in the words.
the perfect day] Lit. the standing firm of the day. ἕως κατορθώσῃ ἡ ἡμέρα, LXX. As the sun climbs the heavens, shining brighter and brighter, from the first faint glimmer of dawn till he reaches his meridian height and appears to stand there firm and motionless; so is the path of the righteous. His sun standeth still at last in the heavens, and hasteth not to go down for the whole everlasting day.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.19. as darkness] Comp., for the contrast with the preceding verse, Proverbs 13:9.
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.Ninth Address. Chap. 4. Proverbs 4:20-27
22. their flesh] Lit. his flesh, i.e. the flesh of every one of them. This individualising the teaching, by a sudden change from the plural to the singular number occurs again, Proverbs 3:18.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.23. with all diligence] Lit. above all keepings, that is bestowed on aught beside. πάσῃ φυλακῇ, LXX. Omni custodia, Vulg. Others, with R.V. marg., above all that thou guardest; “præ omnibus rebus custodiendis,” Maurer.
“It is very strange that Judaism should ever have sunk into a formal religion of outward observance, when its own wisdom was so explicit on this point … ‘Keep them in the midst of thy heart … Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ The Greek version, which was very generally used in our Lord’s time, had a beautiful variation of this last clause. [It is really of Proverbs 4:21, where by a slight change in the Heb. punctuation they read ‘fountains’ for ‘eyes’]: ‘In order that thy fountains may not fail thee, guard them in the heart’ [ὅπως μὴ ἐκλίπωσί σε αἱ πηγαί σου, φύλασσε αὐτὰς ἐν καρδίᾳ, Proverbs 4:21, LXX.]. It was after all but a new emphasis on the old teaching of the Book of Proverbs, when Jesus taught the necessity of heart purity, and when He shewed that out of the heart came forth evil thoughts and all the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:19).” Horton.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
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.26. ponder] So R.V. marg., weigh carefully; but R.V. text has make level, &c., with which agrees LXX. ὀρθὰς τροχιὰς ποίει σοῖς ποσίν: “make straight paths for thy feet.” So Hebrews 12:13. See Proverbs 5:21.
established] Or, ordered aright, R.V. marg.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.27. At the end of this verse the LXX. add:
“For the ways on the right God knoweth,
But the ways on the left are crooked.
And He will make straight thy paths,
And thy goings will He conduct in peace.”