Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:The preceding discourse pronounces those happy who, having taken their stand at the portal of Wisdom, wait for her appearance and her invitation. There is thus a house of Wisdom as there is a house of God, Psalm 84:11; and if now the discourse is of a house of Wisdom, and of an invitation to a banquet therein (like that in the parable, Matthew 22, of the invitation to the marriage feast of the king's son), it is not given without preparation:
1 Wisdom hath builded for herself an house,
Hewn out her seven pillars;
2 Hath slaughtered her beasts, mingled her wine;
Hath also spread her table;
3 Hath sent out her maidens; she waiteth
On the highest points of the city.
Regarding חכמות, vid., at Proverbs 1:20. It is a plur. excellentiae, which is a variety of the plur. extensivus. Because it is the expression of a plural unity, it stands connected (as for the most part also אלהים, Deus) with the sing. of the predicate. The perfects enumerate all that Wisdom has done to prepare for her invitation. If we had a parable before us, the perf. would have run into the historical ותּשׁלח; but it is, as the תקרא shows, an allegorical picture of the arrangement and carrying out of a present reality. Instead of בּנתה לּהּ בּית there is בּנתה בּיתהּ, for the house is already in its origin represented as hers, and 1b is to be translated: she has hewn out her seven pillars (Hitzig); more correctly: her pillars, viz., seven (after the scheme דבּתם רעה, Genesis 37:2); but the construction is closer. שׁבעה is, altogether like Exodus 25:37, the accusative of the second object, or of the predicate after the species of verba, with the idea: to make something, turn into something, which take to themselves a double accusative, Gesen. 139, 2: excidit columnas suas ita ut septem essent. Since the figure is allegorical, we may not dispense with the interpretation of the number seven by the remark, "No emphasis lies in the number" (Bertheau). First, we must contemplate architecturally the house with seven pillars: "They are," as Hitzig rightly remarks, "the pillars of the מסדּרון (porch) [vid. Bachmann under Judges 3:23, and Wetstein under Psalm 144:12, where חטב is used of the cutting out and hewing of wood, as חצב of the cutting out and hewing of stone] in the inner court, which bore up the gallery of the first (and second) floors: four of these in the corners and three in the middle of three sides; through the midst of these the way led into the court of the house-floor the area." But we cannot agree with Hitzig in maintaining that, with the seven pillars of chap. 8 and 9, the author looks back to the first seven chapters (Arab. âbwab, gates) of this book; we think otherwise of the component members of this Introduction to the Book of Proverbs; and to call the sections of a book "gates, שׁערים," is a late Arabico-Jewish custom, of which there is found no trace whatever in the O.T. To regard them also, with Heidenheim (cf. Dante's Prose Writings, translated by Streckfuss, p. 77), as representing the seven liberal arts (שׁבע חכמות) is impracticable; for this division of the artes liberales into seven, consisting of the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Dialectics) and Quadrivium (Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy), is not to be looked for within the old Israelitish territory, and besides, these were the sciences of this world which were so divided; but wisdom, to which the discourse here refers, is wholly a religious-moral subject. The Midrash thinks of the seven heavens (שׁבעה רקיעים), or the seven climates or parts of the earth (שׁבעה ארצות), as represented by them; but both references require artificial combinations, and have, as also the reference to the seven church-eras (Vitringa and Chr. Ben. Michaelis), this against them, that they are rendered probable neither from these introductory proverbial discourses, nor generally from the O.T. writings. The patristic and middle-age reference to the seven sacraments of the church passes sentence against itself; but the old interpretation is on the right path, when it suggests that the seven pillars are the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. The seven-foldness of the manifestation of the Spirit, already brought near by the seven lamps of the sacred candelabra (the מנורה), is established by Isaiah 11:2 (vid., l.c.); and that Wisdom is the possessor and dispenser of the Spirit she herself testifies, Proverbs 1:23. Her Spirit is the "Spirit of wisdom;" but at the same time, since, born of God, she is mediatrix between God and the world, also the "Spirit of Jahve," He is the "spirit of understanding," the "spirit of counsel," and the "spirit of might" (Isaiah 11:2); for she says, Proverbs 8:14, "Counsel is mine, and reflection; I am understanding, I have strength." He is also the "spirit of knowledge," and the "spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2); for fear and the knowledge of Jahve are, according to Proverbs 9:14, the beginning of wisdom, and essentially wisdom itself.
She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.If thus the house of Wisdom is the place of her fellowship with those who honour her, the system of arrangements made by her, so as to disclose and communicate to her disciples the fulness of her strength and her gifts, then it is appropriate to understand by the seven pillars the seven virtues of her nature communicating themselves (apocalyptically expressed, the ἑπτὰ πνεύματα), which bear up and adorn the dwelling which she establishes among men. Flesh and wine are figures of the nourishment for the mind and the heart which is found with wisdom, and, without asking what the flesh and the wine specially mean, are figures of the manifold enjoyment which makes at once strong and happy. The segolate n. verbale טבח, which Proverbs 7:22 denoted the slaughtering or the being slaughtered, signifies here, in the concrete sense, the slaughtered ox; Michaelis rightly remarks that טבח, in contradistinction to זבח, is the usual word for mactatio extrasacrificialis. Regarding מסך יין, vid., under Isaiah 5:22; it is not meant of the mingling of wine with sweet scents and spices, but with water (warm or cold), and signifies simply to make the wine palatable (as κεραννύναι, temperare); the lxx ἐκέρασεν εἰς κρατῆρα, κρατήρ is the name of the vessel in which the mixing takes place; they drank not ἄκρατον, but κεκερασμένον ἄκρατον, Revelation 14:10. The frequently occurring phrase ערך שׁלחן signifies to prepare the table (from שׁלּח, properly the unrolled and outspread leather cover), viz., by the placing out of the dishes (vid., regarding ערך, under Genesis 22:9).
She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,The verb קרא, when a feast is spoken of, means to invite; קראים, Proverbs 9:18 (cf. 1 Samuel 9:13, etc.), are the guests. נערותיה the lxx translates τοὺς ἑαυτῆς δούλους, but certainly here the disciples are meant who already are in the service of Wisdom; but that those who are invited to Wisdom are thought of as feminine, arises from the tasteful execution of the picture. The invitation goes forth to be known to all far and wide, so that in her servants Wisdom takes her stand in the high places of the city. Instead of בּראשׁ, Proverbs 8:2; Proverbs 1:21, there is used here the expression על־גּפּי. We must distinguish the Semitic גּף ( equals ganf), wings, from גנף equals כנף, to cover, and גּף ( equals gaff or ganf), the bark, which is derived either from גּפף or גּנף, Arab. jnf, convexus, incurvus et extrinsecus gibber fuit, hence originally any surface bent outwards or become crooked (cf. the roots cap, caf, קב כף גף גב, etc.), here the summit of a height (Fl.); thus not super alis (after the analogy of πτερύγιον, after Suidas equals ἀκρωτήριον), but super dorsis (as in Lat. we say δορσυμ μοντις, and also viae).
Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,Now follows the street-sermon of Wisdom inviting to her banquet:
4 Who is simple? let him come hither!"
Whoso wanteth understanding, to him she saith:
5 "Come, eat of my bread,
And drink of the wine which I have mingled!
6 Cease, ye simple, and live,
And walk straight on in the way of understanding."
The question מי פּתי (thus with Munach, not with Makkeph, it is to be written here and at Proverbs 9:16; vid., Baer's Torath Emeth, p. 40), quis est imperitus, is, as Psalm 25:12, only a more animated expression for quisquis est. The retiring into the background of the נערות (servants), and the immediate appearance of Wisdom herself, together with the interruption, as was to be expected, of her connected discourses by the אמרה לּו, are signs that the pure execution of the allegorical representation is her at an end. Hitzig seeks, by the rejection of Proverbs 9:4, Proverbs 9:5, Proverbs 9:7-10, to bring in a logical sequence; but these interpolations which he cuts out are yet far more inconceivable than the proverbial discourses in the mouth of Wisdom, abandoning the figure of a banquet, which besides are wholly in the spirit of the author of this book. That Folly invites to her, Proverbs 9:16, in the same words as are used by Wisdom, Proverbs 9:4, is not strange; both address themselves to the simple (vid., on פּתי at Proverbs 1:4) and those devoid of understanding (as the youth, Proverbs 7:7), and seek to bring to their side those who are accessible to evil as to good, and do not dully distinguish between them, which the emulating devertat huc of both imports. The fourth verse points partly backwards, and partly forwards; 4a has its introduction in the תקרא of Proverbs 9:3; on the contrary, 4b is itself the introduction of what follows. The setting forth of the nom. absolutus חסר־לב is conditioned by the form of 4a; the מי (cf. 4a) is continued (in 4b) without its needing to be supplied: excors ( equals si quis est excors) dicit ei (not dixit, because syntactically subordinating itself to the תקרא). It is a nominal clause, whose virtual predicate (the devoid of understanding is thus and thus addressed by her) as in Proverbs 9:16.
Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.The plur. of the address shows that the simple (inexperienced) and the devoid of understanding are regarded as essentially one and the same class of men. The בּ after לחם and שׁתה proceeds neither from the idea of eating into (hewing into) anything, nor from the eating with anything, i.e., inasmuch as one makes use of it, nor of pampering oneself with anything (as ראה ב); Michaelis at last makes a right decision (cf. Leviticus 22:11; Judges 13:16; Job 21:25, and particularly לחם בּ, Psalm 141:4): communicationem et participationem in re fruenda denotat; the lxx φάγετε τῶν ἐμῶν ἄρτων. The attributive מסכתּי stands with backward reference briefly for מסכתּיו. That Wisdom, Proverbs 9:2, offers flesh and wine, but here presents bread and wine, is no contradiction, which would lead us, with Hitzig, critically to reject Proverbs 9:4 and Proverbs 9:5 as spurious; לחם is the most common, all-comprehensive name for nourishment. Bertheau suitably compares Jahve's invitation, Isaiah 55:1, and that of Jesus, John 6:35.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.That פתאים is a plur. with abstract signification (according to which the four Greek and the two Aramaean translations render it; the Graec. Venet., however, renders τοὺς νηπίους) is improbable; the author forms the abstr. Proverbs 9:13 otherwise, and the expression here would be doubtful. For פתאים is here to be rendered as the object-accus.: leave the simple, i.e., forsake this class of men (Ahron b. Joseph; Umbreit, Zckler); or also, which we prefer (since it is always a singular thought that the "simple" should leave the "simple"), as the vocative, and so that עזבוּ means not absolutely "leave off" (Hitzig), but so that the object to be thought of is to be taken from פתאים: give up, leave off, viz., the simple (Immanuel and others; on the contrary, Rashi, Meri, and others, as Ewald, Bertheau, decide in favour of פתאים as n. abstr.). Regarding וחיוּ, for et vivetis, vid., Proverbs 4:4. The lxx, paraphrasing: ἵνα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα βασιλεύσητε. אשׁר is related to אשׁוּר (אשׁוּר) is דּרך to דּרך; the Piel, not in its intrans. (vid., Proverbs 4:14) but in its trans. sense (Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 3:12, etc.), shows that the idea of going straight out and forwards connects itself therewith. The peculiarity of the פתי is just the absence of character.
He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.In what now follows the discourse of Wisdom is continued; wherefore she directs her invitation to the simple, i.e., those who have not yet decided, and are perhaps susceptible of that which is better:
7 "He who correcteth a scorner draweth upon himself insult;
And he who communicateth instruction to a scorner, it is a dishonour to him.
8 Instruct not a scorner, lest he hate thee;
Give instruction to the wise, so he will love thee.
9 Give to the wise, and he becomes yet wiser;
Give knowledge to the upright, and he gains in knowledge."
Zckler thinks that herewith the reason for the summons to the "simple" to forsake the fellowship of men of their own sort, is assigned (he explains 6a as Ahron b. Joseph: הפרדו מן הפתאים); but his remark, that, under the term "simple," mockers and wicked persons are comprehended as belonging to the same category, confounds two sharply distinguished classes of men. לץ is the freethinker who mocks at religion and virtue (vid., Proverbs 1:22), and רשׁע the godless who shuns restraint by God and gives himself up to the unbridled impulse to evil. The course of thought in Proverbs 9:7 and onwards shows why Wisdom, turning from the wise, who already are hers, directs herself only to the simple, and those who are devoid of understanding: she must pass over the לץ and רשׁע dna , because she can there hope for no receptivity for her invitation; she would, contrary to Matthew 7:6, "give that which is holy to the dogs, and cast her pearls before swine." יסר, παιδεύειν (with the prevailing idea of the bitter lesson of reproof and punishment), and הוכיח, ἐλέγχειν, are interchangeable conceptions, Psalm 94:10; the ל is here exponent of the object (to bring an accusation against any one), as Proverbs 9:8, Proverbs 15:12 (otherwise as Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:4, where it is the dat. commodi: to bring unrighteousness to light, in favour of the injured). יסר לץ is pointed with Mahpach of the penultima, and thus with the tone thrown back. The Pasek, placed in some editions between the two words, is masoretically inaccurate. He who reads the moral to the mocker brings disgrace to himself; the incorrigible replies to the goodwill with insult. Similar to the לקח לו here, is מרים tollit equals reportat, Proverbs 3:25; Proverbs 4:27. In 7b מוּמו is by no means the object governed by וּמוכיח: and he who shows to the godless his fault (Meri, Arama, Lwenstein: מומו equals על־מומו, and thus also the Graec. Venet. μῶμον ἑαυτῷ, scil. λαμβάνει); plainly מומו is parallel with קלון. But מומו does not also subordinate itself to לקח as to the object. parallel קלון: maculam sibimet scil. acquirit; for, to be so understood, the author ought at least to have written לו מוּם. Much rather מומו is here, as at Deuteronomy 32:5, appos., thus pred. (Hitzig), without needing anything to be supplied: his blot it is, viz., this proceeding, which is equivalent to מוּמא הוּא ליהּ (Targ.), opprobrio ipsi est. Zckler not incorrectly compares Psalm 115:7 and Ecclesiastes 5:16, but the expression (macula ejus equals ipsi) lies here less remote from our form of expression. In other words: Whoever correcteth the mockers has only to expect hatred (אל־תוכח with the tone thrown back, according to rule; cf. on the contrary, Judges 18:25), but on the other hand, love from the wise.
Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.The ו in ויאהבך is that of consequence (apodosis imperativi): so he will love thee (as also Ewald now translates), not: that he may love thee (Syr., Targ.), for the author speaks here only of the consequence, not of something else, as an object kept in view. The exhortation influences the mocker less than nothing, so much the more it bears fruit with the wise. Thus the proverb is confirmed habenti dabitur, Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:29.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.If anything is to be supplied to תּן, it is לקח (Proverbs 4:2); but תן, tradere, παραδιδόναι, is of itself correlat. of לקח, accipere (post-bibl. קבּל), παραλαμβάνειν, e.g., Galatians 1:9. הודיע ל equals to communicate knowledge, דעת, follows the analogy of הוכיח ל, to impart instruction, תוכחת. Regarding the jussive form ויוסף in the apod. imper., vid., Gesen. 128, 2. Observe in this verse the interchange of חכם and צדיק! Wisdom is not merely an intellectual power, it is a moral quality; in this is founded her receptivity of instruction, her embracing of every opportunity for self-improvement. She is humble; for, without self-will and self-sufficiency, she makes God's will her highest and absolutely binding rule (Proverbs 3:7).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.These words naturally follow:
10 "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jahve,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
This is the highest principle of the Chokma, which stands (Proverbs 1:7) as a motto at the beginning of the Book of Proverbs. The lxx translate ראשׁית there (Proverbs 1:7), and תּחלּת here, by ἀρχή. Gusset distinguishes the two synonyms as pars optima and primus actus; but the former denotes the fear of God as that which stands in the uppermost place, to which all that Wisdom accomplishes subordinates itself; the latter as that which begins wisdom, that which it proposes to itself in its course. With יהוה is interchanged, Proverbs 2:5, אלהים, as here קדושׁים, as the internally multiplicative plur. (Dietrich, Abhandlungen, pp. 12, 45), as Proverbs 30:3, Joshua 24:9; Hosea 12:1, of God, the "Holy, holy, holy" (Isaiah 6:3), i.e., Him who is absolutely Holy. Michaelis inaccurately, following the ancients, who understood not this non-numerical plur.: cognitio quae sanctos facit et sanctis propria est. The דּעת, parallel with יראת, is meant of lively practical operative knowledge, which subordinates itself to this All-holy God as the normative but unapproachable pattern.
For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.The singular reason for this proverb of Wisdom is now given:
"For by me will thy days become many,
And the years of thy life will be increased."
Incorrectly Hitzig: "and years of life will increase to thee;" הוסיף is always and everywhere (e.g., also Job 38:11) transitive. In the similar passage, Proverbs 3:2, יוסיפו had as its subject the doctrine of Wisdom; here חכמה and בינה it is not practicable to interpret as subj., since 11a Wisdom is the subject discoursing - the expression follows the scheme, dicunt eos equals dicuntur, as e.g., Job 7:3; Gesen. 137 - a concealing of the operative cause, which lies near, where, as Proverbs 2:22, the discourse is of severe judgment, thus: they (viz., the heavenly Powers) will grant to thee years of life (חיּים in a pregnant sense, as Proverbs 3:2) in rich measure, so that constantly one span comes after another. But in what connection of consequence does this stand with the contents of the proverb, Proverbs 9:10? The ancients say that the clause with כי refers back to Proverbs 9:5. The Proverbs 9:7-10 (according also to Fl.) are, as it were, parenthetic. Hitzig rejects these verses as an interpolation, but the connection of Proverbs 9:11 with 5f. retains also something that is unsuitable: "steps forward on the way of knowledge, for by me shall thy days become many;" and if, as Hitzig supposes, Proverbs 9:12 is undoubtedly genuine, whose connection with Proverbs 9:11 is in no way obvious, then also will the difficulty of the connection of Proverbs 9:7-10 with the preceding and the succeeding be no decisive mark of the want of genuineness of this course of thought. We have seen how the progress of Proverbs 9:6 to 7 is mediated: the invitation of Wisdom goes forth to the receptive, with the exclusion of the irrecoverable. And Proverbs 9:11 is related to Proverbs 9:10, as the proof of the cause from the effect. It is the fear of God with which Wisdom begins, the knowledge of God in which above all it consists, for by it is fulfilled the promise of life which is given to the fear of God, Proverbs 10:27; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 19:23, cf. Deuteronomy 4:40, and to humility, which is bound up with it. Proverbs 10:17.
If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.This wisdom, resting on the fear of God, is itself a blessing to the wise:
"If thou art wise, thou art wise for thyself;
And if thou mockest, thou alone shalt bear it."
The lxx, with the Syr., mangle the thought of 12a, for they translate: if thou art wise for thyself, so also thou wilt be wise for thy neighbour. The dat. commodi לך means that it is for the personal advantage of the wise to be wise. The contrast expressed by Job 22:2.: not profitable to God, but to thyself (Hitzig), is scarcely intended, although, so far as the accentuation is antithetic, it is the nearest. The perf. ולצתּ is the hypothetical; Gesen. 126, 1. To bear anything, viz., anything sinful (חטא or עון), is equivalent to, to atone for it, Job 34:2, cf. Numbers 9:13; Ezekiel 23:35. Also 12b is a contrast scarcely aimed at. Wisdom is its own profit to man; libertinism is its own disgrace. Man decides, whenever he prefers to be wise, or to be a mocker of religion and of virtue, regarding his own weal and woe. With this nota bene the discourse of Wisdom closes.
A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.The poet now brings before us another figure, for he personifies Folly working in opposition to Wisdom, and gives her a feminine name, as the contrast to Wisdom required, and thereby to indicate that the seduction, as the 13th proverbial discourse (chap. 7) has shown, appears especially in the form of degraded womanhood:
13 The woman Folly [Frau Thorheit] conducts herself boisterously,
Wantonness, and not knowing anything at all;
14 And hath seated herself at the door of her house,
On a seat high up in the city,
15 To call to those who walk in the way,
Who go straight on their path.
The connection of אשת כּסילוּת is genitival, and the genitive is not, as in אשׁת רע, Proverbs 6:24, specifying, but appositional, as in בת־ציון (vid., under Isaiah 1:8). הומיּה [boisterous] is pred., as Proverbs 7:11 : her object is sensual, and therefore her appearance excites passionately, overcoming the resistance of the mind by boisterousness. In 13b it is further said who and how she is. פּתיּוּת she is called as wantonness personified. This abstract פּתיּוּת, derived from פּתי, must be vocalized as אכזריּוּת; Hitzig thinks it is written with a on account of the following u sound, but this formation always ends in ijjûth, not ajjûth. But as from חזה as well חזּיון equals חזיון as חזון is formed, so from פּתה as well פּתוּת like חזוּת or פּתוּת like לזוּת, רעוּת, as פּתיוּת (instead of which פּתיּוּת is preferred) can be formed; Kimchi rightly (Michlol 181a) presents the word under the form פּעלוּת. With וּבל (Proverbs 14:7) poetic, and stronger than לאו, the designation of the subject is continued; the words וּבל־ידעה מּה (thus with Mercha and without Makkeph following, ידעה is to be written, after Codd. and old editions) have the value of an adjective: and not knowing anything at all (מה equals τὶ, as Numbers 23:3; Job 13:13, and here in the negative clause, as in prose מאוּמה), i.e., devoid of all knowledge. The Targ. translates explanatorily: not recognising טבתּא, the good; and the lxx substitutes: she knows not shame, which, according to Hitzig, supposes the word כּלמּה, approved of by him; but כלמה means always pudefactio, not pudor. To know no כלמה would be equivalent to, to let no shaming from without influence one; for shamelessness the poet would have made use of the expression ובל־ידעה בּשׁת. In וישׁבה the declaration regarding the subject beginning with הומיה is continued: Folly also has a house in which works of folly are carried one, and has set herself down by the door (לפּתח as לפי, Proverbs 8:3) of this house; she sits there על־כּסּא. Most interpreters here think on a throne (lxx ἐπὶ δίφρου, used especially of the sella curulis); and Zckler, as Umbreit, Hitzig, and others, connecting genitiv. therewith מרמי קרת, changes in 14b the scene, for he removes the "high throne of the city" from the door of the house to some place elsewhere. But the sitting is in contrast to the standing and going on the part of Wisdom on the streets preaching (Evagrius well renders: in molli ignavaque sella); and if כסא and house-door are named along with each other, the former is a seat before the latter, and the accentuation rightly separates by Mugrash כסא from מרמי קרת. "According to the accents and the meaning, מרמי קרת is the acc. loci: on the high places of the city, as Proverbs 8:2." (Fl.). They are the high points of the city, to which, as Wisdom, Proverbs 9:3, Proverbs 8:2, so also Folly, her rival (wherefore Ecclesiastes 10:6 does not appertain to this place), invites followers to herself. She sits before her door to call לעברי דרך (with Munach, as in Cod. 1294 and old editions, without the Makkeph), those who go along the way (genitive connection with the supposition of the accusative construction, transire viam, as Proverbs 2:7), to call (invite) המישּׁרים (to be pointed with מ raphatum and Gaja going before, according to Ben-Asher's rule; vid., Methegsetz. 20), those who make straight their path, i.e., who go straight on, directly before them (cf. Isaiah 57:2). The participial construction (the schemes amans Dei and amans Deum), as well as that of the verb קרא (first with the dat. and then with the accus.), interchange.
For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,
To call passengers who go right on their ways:
Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,The woman, who in her own person serves as a sign to her house, addresses those who pass by in their innocence (לתמּם, 2 Samuel 15:11):
16 "Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither!"
And if any one is devoid of understanding, she saith to him:
17 "Stolen waters taste sweet,
And the bread of secrecy is pleasant."
פּתי (folly, simplicity) has a side accessible to good and its contrary: Wisdom is connected with the one side, and Folly with the other. And as the חסר־לב offers a vacuum to Wisdom which may perhaps be filled with the right contents, so is this vacuum welcome to Folly, because it meets there no resistance. In this sense, Proverbs 9:16 is like Proverbs 9:4 (excepting the addition of a connecting and of a concluding ו: et si quis excors, tum dicit ei); the word is the same in both, but the meaning, according to the two speakers, is different. That to which they both invite is the pleasure of her fellowship, under the symbol of eating and drinking; in the one case it is intellectual and spiritual enjoyment, in the other sensual. That Wisdom offers (Proverbs 9:5) bread and wine, and Folly water and bread, has its reason in this, that the particular pleasure to which the latter invites is of a sensual kind; for to drink water out of his own or out of another fountain is (Proverbs 3:15-20) the symbol of intercourse in married life, or of intercourse between the unmarried, particularly of adulterous intercourse. מים גּנוּבים (correct texts have it thus, without the Makkeph) is sexual intercourse which is stolen from him who has a right thereto, thus carnal intercourse with אושׁת אישׁ; and לחם סתרים fleshly lust, which, because it is contrary to the law, must seek (cf. furtum, secret love intrigue) concealment (סתרים, extensive plur., as מעמקּים; Bttcher, 694). Just such pleasure, after which one wipes his mouth as if he had done nothing (Proverbs 30:20), is for men who are without wisdom sweet (מתק, Job 20:12) and pleasant; the prohibition of it gives to such pleasure attraction, and the secrecy adds seasoning; and just such enjoyments the כסילות, personified carnality, offers. But woe to him who, befooled, enters her house!
Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.He goes within:
18 And he knows not that the dead are there;
In the depths of Hades, her guests.
How near to one another the house of the adulteress and Hades are, so that a man passes through the one into the other, is already stated in Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 7:27. Here, in the concluding words of the introduction to the Book of Proverbs, addressed to youth, and for the most part containing warning against sinful pleasure, these two further declarations are advanced: the company assembled in the house of lewdness consists of רפאים, i.e., (cf. p. 83) the old, worn-out, who are only in appearance living, who have gone down to the seeming life of the shadowy existence of the kingdom of the dead; her (כסילות) invited ones (cf. Proverbs 7:26, her slaughtered ones) are in the depths of Hades (not in the valleys, as Umbreit, Lwenstein, and Ewald translate, but in the depths, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, ἐπὶ τοῖς βαθέσι; for עמקי is not only plur. to עמק, but also per metaplasmum to עמק, Proverbs 25:3, as אמרי to אמר), thus in שׁאול תּחתּית (Deuteronomy 32:22); they have forsaken the fellowship of the life and of the love of God, and have sunk into the deepest destruction. The house of infamy into which Folly allures does not only lead to hell, it is hell itself; and they who permit themselves to be thus befooled are like wandering corpses, and already on this side of death are in the realm of wrath and of the curse.