Matthew Poole's Commentary
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;The use of the proverbs, Pro 1:1-6. An exhortation to fear God, and believe his word, Pro 1:7. The glory of those children that obey the instruction of their parents, Pro 1:8,9. A caution against yielding to enticing sinners, Pro 1:10. The contrivance, Pro 1:11,12, arguments, and invitation of these sinners, Pro 1:13,14. Reasons against complying with them, Pro 1:15-19. Wisdom's call to repentance, Pro 1:20-22. Her promise, Pro 1:23. Her complaints and threatenings, Pro 1:24-30. The fruit of sin, Pro 1:31,32. Peace to the penitent, Pro 1:33.
Proverbs are ancient, and wise, and short sayings in common use; whereof some are plain and easy, others are intricate and obscure.
Of Solomon; proceeding from Solomon, and most of them digested by him into this book. See the preface.
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;To know; written to help men to know thoroughly and practically.
Wisdom; both human wisdom, to conduct our affairs in this life, which divers of the following proverbs do; and especially Divine wisdom, which Solomon chiefly designed; or to make men wise to know their duty, and to save their souls.
Instruction; the counsels and instructions delivered, either by God or by men, in order to the attainment of wisdom.
Words of understanding; either,
1. Which are the effects of a good understanding; or,
2. Which teach a man true understanding, whereby to discern between truth and error, between good and evil, to choose the former, and to refuse the latter.
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;To receive the instruction; willingly to receive the counsels of others, which is a good step to wisdom, and a part of it.
Of wisdom; such as is wise, and tends to make men wise and prudent. This is opposed to the instruction of fools and folly, of which Proverbs 16:22 19:27. For folly or wickedness hath its school, and multitudes of scholars, that are very apt to learn its lessons.
Justice, and judgment, and equity; which teach men just judgment or equity, to wit, their whole duty, both to God and to others, and to themselves. These three words seem to signify the same thing, and are heaped together to note either the necessity of the precept, or the exactness and diligence which is required in the practice of it.
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.Subtilty; or rather,
prudence, as this word is used, Proverbs 3:21 5:2 8:5,12, which elsewhere is taken in an evil sense for craft or subtilty.
The simple; such as want wisdom, and are easily deceived by others, and therefore most need this blessing.
The young man, which wants both experience and self-government.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:Will hear; is not self-conceited, as fools are, but willing to learn from others; and therefore will attend to the following instructions.
Will increase learning; and thereby will gain this great benefit, to grow in knowledge and wisdom. This he adds to show that this book is useful and necessary, not only to the simple, but also to the moist wise and knowing persons.
Unto wise counsels; not to deep speculations, but practical consideration; to the art of governing himself or others well and prudently.
To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.The interpretation, i.e. the interpretation of a proverb, by a figure called hendiaduo, or the meaning and use of the wise sayings of God, or of men; to know this practically, and for his direction and benefit; for practice is the great design of this book. Dark savings; such as are hard to be understood by inconsiderate and ungodly men, but to be found out by diligent and humble inquiry.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.The fear of the Lord; reverence and obedience to God, or his worship and service, as this word is commonly used.
The beginning; either the foundation, or the top, and perfection, or chief point, without which all other knowledge is vain and useless.
Fools; wicked men, called fools through this whole book; such as do not fear God.
Despise wisdom and instruction; are so far from attaining true wisdom, that they despise it, and all the means of getting it; which fully proves what he now said, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:My son; he speaks to his scholars with paternal authority and affection, to make them more attentive and obedient. Teachers among the Hebrews and others were commonly called
fathers, and their scholars their sons. The instruction of thy father; his good and wholesome counsels, but not such as are contrary to God’s law, Proverbs 19:27. The law of thy mother; those pious instructions which thy mother instilled into thee in thy tender years. See Proverbs 31:1 2 Timothy 1:5 3:14,15. This he adds, because children, when grown up, are very prone to slight their mother’s advice, because of the infirmity of their sex, and because they have not that dependence upon and expectation from their mothers which they have from their fathers.
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.This will make thee amiable and honourable in the sight of God and of men; whereas the forsaking of those good counsels will make thee contemptible.
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.Sinners; eminently so called, as Genesis 13:13 Psalm 1:1 26:9; such as sell themselves to work all manner of wickedness; particularly thieves, and robbers, and murderers, as appears from the next verses, as also oppressors and cheaters, by comparing this with Proverbs 1:19.
If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:Come with us; we are numerous, and strong, and sociable.
Let us lay wait for blood; to shed blood. He expresseth not their words, which would rather affright than inveigle a young novice; but the true nature and consequence of the action, and what lies at the bottom of their specious pretences.
Lurk privily; so we shall neither be prevented before, nor discovered and punished afterward.
The innocent; harmless travellers, who are more careless and secure, and unprovided for opposition, than such villains as themselves.
Without cause; though they have not provoked us, nor deserved this usage from us. This Solomon adds to discover their malignity and baseness, and so deter the young man from association with them.
Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:As the grave; which speedily covers and consumes dead bodies. See Psalm 55:15 124:3. We shall do our work quickly, easily, and without fear of discovery.
Into the pit; into some deep pit, into which a traveller falls unawares, and is utterly lost, and never discovered.
We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:As our danger is little, so our profit will be great.
Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:Cast in thy lot among us, i.e. put in thy money into our stock. Or rather,
thou shalt cast thy lot amongst us, i.e. thou shalt have a share with us, and that equally and by lot, although thou art but a novice, and we veterans. This agrees best with their design, which was to allure him by the promise of advantage.
Let us all have one purse; or,
we will have, & c. One purse shall receive all our profits, and furnish us with all expenses. So we shall live with great facility and true friendship.
My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:Walk not thou in the way with them; avoid their courses and their conversation, and company.
Refrain thy foot from their path; when thou hast any thought, or inclination, or temptation to follow their counsels or examples, suppress it, and restrain thyself as it were by force and violence, as the word implies.
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.Their feet run; they make haste, as it follows, without considering what they are doing.
To evil; to do evil to others, as was expressed Proverbs 1:11,12, which also will bring evil upon themselves.
To shed blood; to shed innocent blood; which is an inhuman and dangerous practice.
Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.The design of these words is to set forth the folly of these men by the similitude of a bird, which yet is very variously applied and understood by divers interpreters. But I shall not confound the reader with the rehearsal of them. This clause, in vain, upon the understanding whereof the whole depends, may be understood, either,
1. In respect of the fowler. So the sense is, The fowler who spreads his net in the sight of the bird loseth his labour, because the bird, perceiving the danger, will not be tempted to come to the bait, but flees away from it. But, or yet, these (as the first words of the next verse may well be, and by the Chaldee translator are, rendered) are more foolish than the silly birds; and though they are not ignorant of the danger and mischief which these evil courses will bring upon themselves, which I have here represented, yet they will not take warning, but madly rush upon their own ruin. Or,
2. In respect of the bird. So the sense is, The silly bird, although it see the spreading of the net, yet is not at all instructed and cautioned by it, but through the greediness of the bait rusheth upon it, and is taken by it. And these men are not one jot wiser, but albeit they know and find that by these practices they expose themselves to the justice of the magistrate, and to the vengeance of God, the sad effects whereof they daily see in the destruction of their brethren in iniquity, yet they will boldly and madly run themselves into the same miseries. Both ways the sense comes to the same,
And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.And, or but, or yet, or so; for all these ways this particle is used; which is more fully expressed in the next verse.
They lay wait for their own blood; the destruction which they design to others falls upon themselves. Their blood answers to their feet, Proverbs 1:16, and belongs to the same persons.
So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.So, as is expressed both in the foregoing and following words,
are the ways; the actions and courses, which are so in the tendency and event of them.
That is greedy of pain; that seeks gain by unrighteous and wicked practices. Which; either which greediness; or rather, which gain, by comparing the last words.
Taketh away the lives of the owners thereof; brings sudden and violent death upon those who had made themselves masters and possessors of such gain.
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:Having expressed the counsels and invitations of folly and of wicked men, he now declareth the voice of wisdom. By the name of wisdom or wisdoms he seems to understand the wisdom or counsel of God revealed to the sons of men by his word. Which he calls wisdoms here, as also Proverbs 9:1, either to note the excellency of this wisdom beyond all other, as the greatest and chief of beasts is called behemoth or beasts, Job 40:15; or because it consisteth of a multitude of wise precepts; or because it hath been delivered to mankind at sundry times, and in divers manners, and by many persons, prophets and apostles, and especially by the Son of God, who is called the wisdom of God, Luke 11:49. And this wisdom is said to cry with a loud voice, to intimate both God’s earnestness in inviting sinners to repentance, and their inexcusableness if they do not hear such loud cries. Without, or abroad, or in the streets or open places, as many others render it, and as it is in the next clause. Not in corners and privily, as seducers persuade men to error or wickedness, being afraid of the light, but openly and publicly before all the world.
She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,The chief place of concourse; where there is probability of most success.
The opening of the gates; where magistrates sit in judgment, and people are assembled. So it crieth both to the wise and to the unwise, as Paul preached, Romans 1:14.
In the city; not only in the gate, but in every part of the city. Or, in the cities, the singular number being put for the plural.
How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?Ye simple ones; ye ignorant, and easy, and credulous persons, who are so soon cheated by the world and the devil, and do not understand your own interest.
Love simplicity; being unwilling to part with it, or to be made wiser. Scorners; that scoff at all religion, and contemn the word and faithful ministers of God.
Fools; wilful and wicked fools, as Proverbs 17:10 26:4.
Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.Turn ye from your evil courses unto me.
At my reproof; upon this admonition here given to you. I will pour out; if you will do so, I will freely and abundantly impart unto you.
My spirit; either my mind, as spirit is taken, Psalm 77:6 Proverbs 29:11; or the gifts and graces of my Spirit, which he hath promised to such persons, Luke 11:13 John 4:14 7:39.
I will make known my words unto you; by my Spirit I will cause you truly and savingly to understand my word, which is hid from others, 2 Corinthians 4:3
Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;I have called, by my ministers, and by my judgments upon you or others, and by the motions of my Spirit and your own consciences. Stretched out my hand; offering grace and mercy to you, and earnestly inviting you to accept of it. Lest through your deafness or distance from me you should not hear, I have beckoned to you with my hand, which this phrase signifies, Isaiah 13:2 65:2.
No man regarded; few or none complied with it.
But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:Set at nought, or despised, or made void; resisted its power and authority.
My counsel: either,
1. My design of doing sinners good, which you have made of none effect to yourselves. Or,
2. My commands and counsels, which suits better with the next clause.
I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;As you have scoffed at me and my ways,
I also will laugh at your calamity, i.e. destroy you without pity, and take pleasure therein. Compare Revelation 18:20.
Your fear; the misery which you do or should fear. The act for the object, as Isaiah 8:12, and elsewhere.
When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.As desolation; as some desolating sword or judgment, which quickly overruns a whole country.
As a whirlwind; which instantly spreadeth itself from place to place with great and irresistible violence, and doing much mischief.
Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:Early; or, in the morning, as the word properly signifies, and is here rendered by others, as soon as their calamity comes; or rather, with great diligence and fervency, as this phrase commonly signifies.
They shall not find me, because they do not seek me by choice and with sincerity, but only by constraint, and that they may be freed from their miseries.
For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:Hated knowledge, to wit, the practical knowledge of God, and of their duty to him, as it is explained in the following clause.
Did not choose; not heartily approve of it and love it, but only made some show of it.
They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.They would none of my counsel; they refused to be guided by my counsels or precepts.
Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.They shall eat of the fruit of their own way; they shall receive punishments answerable to their sins.
With their own devices; with the fruits or effects of their wicked devices. What was sweet in their mouths shall be bitter in their bellies, and that destruction which they have plotted against others shall fall upon themselves.
For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.Turning away, to wit, from God, and from his counsels and reproofs; so this is opposed to hearkening unto God, Proverbs 1:33. Or, as it is rendered in the margin, and by divers others, the ease or rest, the peace or tranquillity, as it seems to be explained in the next clause.
Shall destroy them; it commonly proves the occasion of their ruin, by making them presumptuous, and secure, and worldly, and proud, and forgetful of God and of their own eternal happiness, whereby they provoke God’s wrath, and bring upon themselves swift and certain destruction. Thus he meets with the common objection against the fear of God, taken from the present impunity and prosperity of ungodly men.
But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.Safely; or securely, or confidently; resting himself upon the conscience of his own integrity, and upon the promises and favour of God.
From fear of evil; from sinful and tormenting cares and fears. And as a wicked man’s mind is oft full of anxiety in the midst of all his outward prosperity and glory, so the mind of a good man is filled with peace and joy, even when his outward man is exposed to many troubles.