Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;II.
(c) Third Discourse:—An Exhortation to follow after Wisdom (Proverbs 2).
(1) Hide—i.e., store up. (Comp. Proverbs 2:4.)
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;(4) If thou seekest her as silver.—That the process of mining was understood long before the time of Solomon, is proved by the remains of copper mines discovered in the peninsula of Sinai, and the gold mines in the Bisháree desert of Egypt. Rock inscriptions have been found near the former, dating from a great age, in the opinion of Lepsius from 4000 B.C. (See the article “Mines,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; comp. also the description in Job 28:1-11.) Silver was brought to Solomon from Arabia (2Chronicles 9:14) and Tarshish (2Chronicles 9:21), probably Tartessus, in Spain.
Searchest for her as for hid treasures.—From the great insecurity of life and property in Eastern countries, the hiding of treasures in the earth has always been of frequent occurrence. It would often, no doubt, happen that the owner would die without disclosing the place of concealment to any one else, and the treasure thus be lost. Hunting after such hoards has in consequence been always of the keenest interest to Orientals, and as such furnishes the groundwork for one of our Lord’s parables (Matthew 13:44).
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.(5) Find the knowledge of God.—It is the highest of all gifts, even eternal life itself, to know God, the Giver of all good things. It was to bestow this knowledge upon man that Christ came into the world (John 17:3). He promises (Proverbs 14:21) the manifestation of Himself as the reward of obedience and love. And yet our highest knowledge of God in this life must be so imperfect, in comparison with the knowledge of Him hereafter, when we shall see Him “face to face” (1Corinthians 13:12), that St. Paul. (Galatians 4:9) describes our relation to Him now as better expressed by “being known of Him:” i.e., recognised, acknowledged by Him as His children, rather than by “knowing” Him.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.(6) For the Lord giveth wisdom.—As St. James (Proverbs 1:5) expresses it, He gives it to every man “liberally, and upbraideth not:” i.e., blames him not for asking it.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.(7) Sound wisdom.—Literally, furtherance, advancement (Comp. “Whosoever hath, unto him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance,” Matthew 13:12.)
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.(8) He keepeth the paths of judgment—i.e., protects those who walk in them.
His saints.—Or rather, His ardent worshippers (chasîdîm), a term used in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 33:8) of the tribe of Levi, for their zeal in God’s service (Exodus 32), and of very frequent occurrence in the Psalter. The word “saint” rather implies dedication to God, as Israel was a “holy nation (Exodus 19:6) to God, and Christians (Philippians 1:1) are now in the same position. The term chāsîd, at the time of the Maccabees, was assumed by such “as were voluntarily devoted to the law” (1 Maccabees 2:42), in opposition to those who favoured the Greek religion and culture.
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;(10) When wisdom . . .—Rather to be taken as an explanation of the preceding, For wisdom will enter, &c
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;(12) Froward things.—(Heb., tahpûkhôth), i.e., misrepresentations, distortions of the truth.
Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;(14) Delight in the frowardness of the wicked.—This positive taking pleasure in evil is mentioned by St. Paul (Romans 1:32) as the last stage of degradation.
To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;(16) To deliver thee from the strange woman.—Another work of wisdom, to save from profligacy. Of the two epithets here used, “strange” (zārah) and “stranger” (nokhrîyyah), the first implies that she belonged to another family, the second to another nation. It would seem as if the evil example of Solomon (1Kings 11:1), in marrying foreign women, had become common in Israel, and that they, by their vicious lives, had become a deadly source of corruption. Brought up in the lax views of morality which prevailed among heathen nations at this time, they would not consider themselves bound by the high standard of purity which was enjoined upon Hebrew women by the Law.
(16-19) Besides the literal sense of this passage, as given above, commentators have very generally found in it a spiritual meaning, a warning against idolatry and apostasy. The union of Israel to God is so frequently spoken of in the prophets under the figure of a marriage, and their rejection of Him for idols as adultery, that the passage may well bear this further sense, especially as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:4) has borrowed this very phrase, “guide of her youth,” for a passage in which he is reproving the Jews for their faithlessness. The figure is also very common in the New Testament, as descriptive of the union of Christ and the Church.
Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.(17) The guide of her youth.—Or rather, friend with whom she has lived in intimacy: that is, the husband of her youth; in other words, her first love. Jeremiah uses the same phrase (Proverbs 3:4). (Comp. “wife of thy youth,” Proverbs 5:18; Malachi 2:14.)
Forgetteth the covenant of her God—i.e., the marriage covenant, made in the presence of God. (Comp. “wife of thy covenant,” Mal. l.c.)
For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.(18) For her house inclineth . . .—Rather, she sinks down with her house: house and all, like Dathan and Abiram.
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.(21) The upright shall dwell in the land—i.e., of Canaan, according to the old promise made to Abraham, renewed in the fifth commandment, and constantly repeated in the prophets.