Matthew Poole's Commentary
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.Solomon showeth the excellency of his doctrine, Proverbs 4:1-4. His counsel to get wisdom, Proverbs 4:5,6, and understanding, Proverbs 4:7. The honour which cometh thereby, Proverbs 4:8,9. The good effects of it, Proverbs 4:10-12. He dehorts from the paths of the wicked, by the evil consequences thereof, Proverbs 4:13-19; and exhorteth to keep several precepts for the better government of himself, Proverbs 4:20; concerning his eyes, Proverbs 4:21,22, his heart, Proverbs 4:23, his mouth, Proverbs 4:24, and his feet, Proverbs 4:25-27.
Of a father; of me your teacher, who have paternal authority over you, and affection to you.
For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.Good doctrine; not vain, or foolish, or false, or pernicious counsels, but such as are true and profitable.
My law; God’s law or commands, delivered to you by my mouth. See Poole "Proverbs 3:1".
For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.My father’s son, in a special manner; his best beloved son, and designed to be his successor in the throne.
Tender; young and tender in years, and capable of any impressions, and tenderly educated.
Only beloved, Heb. only, or the only son; or rather, because Bathsheba seems to have had other sons, 1 Chronicles 3:5, as an only son, as dearly beloved as an only son; in which sense this title is given to Isaac, Genesis 22:2,12,16, though he had another son, and to others. And all these circumstances are mentioned to show the necessity and great benefit of wholesome instruction, which his royal parents would not neglect, no, not in his tender years, and thereby to prepare and excite them by his example to receive instruction.
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.Said unto me: the following verses, at least as far as the 10th verse, are propounded as the words of David, that the name of so great a king and holy a prophet might add the more authority and efficacy to his counsels.
And live, i.e. thou shalt live. It is a promise in the form of a command, as Proverbs 3:25.
Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.From the belief and practice of my word.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.Love her; he intimates that it is not enough to do what is good, which may sometimes proceed from worldly or sinful motives, but that we must have a sincere and fervent more and more unto the perfect day; just men do daily love to it.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.The principal thing; the most excellent of all possessions.
With all; even with the price of all, though it cost thee the loss of all which thou hast. Or, or among all. Whilst you labour for other things, do not neglect this.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.Exalt her; let her have thine highest esteem and affection.
To honour, both with God and men; which Solomon knew by experience.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.An ornament of grace, i.e. an acceptable or beautiful ornament, such as they used to put upon their heads.
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.No text from Poole on this verse.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.In the way of wisdom; either
1. Which procureth wisdom. Or,
2. Which wisdom directeth thee to walk in.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.Thy steps shall not be straitened; thou shalt manage thine affairs with great facility, and safety, and success. It is a metaphor from those who walk in a strait and uneven path, where they are apt to stumble and fall.
Not stumble; not miscarry.
Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.The conductor, and preserver, and comfort of thy life.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.Enter not into the path of the wicked; avoid their courses and company.
Go not; do not proceed further. If thou hast unadvisedly entered into it, do not persist in it, but get thee speedily out of it.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.Avoid it, pass not by it; keep at a great distance from it. Compare Job 22:23 Proverbs 5:8.
Turn from it; shun all occasions of sin.
For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.They sleep not; they cannot compose themselves to sleep with quietness and satisfaction to their own minds. To fall into their own snares, either into sin or into mischief.
For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.They eat the bread of wickedness: the sense is either,
1. Wickedness is as necessary and as pleasant to them as their bread; which suits well with the former verse. Or,
2. They live wholly upon what they get by wicked courses; which gives the reason of what he last said, why they could not sleep without prey.
The wine of violence, i.e. gotten by violence. See on the former clause.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.The path of the just is as the shining light; the common course of their lives or actions is pure and spotless, clear and certain, safe and comfortable, as light is.
That shineth more and more unto the perfect day; just men do daily more and more grow in knowledge, and grace, and consolation, until all be perfected and swallowed up in glory.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.As darkness; full of gross ignorance and error, of uncertainty and confusion, of wickedness, of danger and misery; all which come under the name of darkness in Scripture use, and suit well with the context.
Stumble, Heb. shall stumble. Though they are always in danger, yet they are always secure, and do not discern their danger, nor the cause, or manner, or time of their ruin, till they be surprised with it.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.No text from Poole on this verse.
Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.Heartily love them, and stedfastly retain them,
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.No text from Poole on this verse.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Thy heart; thy mind and thoughts, and especially the will and affections, which are the more immediate and effectual cause of all men’s actions.
Out of it are the issues of life; from thence proceed all the actions, as of the natural, so of the spiritual life, which lead to eternal life and happiness; as, on the contrary, all evil actions tending to death spring from thence, which is here implied.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.All sorts of sinful words, which proceed from and discover an evil heart.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.Direct all thine actions by a good intention, to a right end, and keep thy mind fixed upon that way which leads to it, and neither look nor turn aside to the right hand nor to the left, as it follows, Proverbs 4:27.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.Ponder the path of thy feet; consider thine actions before thou doest them, and see that they agree with the rule.
Let all thy ways be established; let thine actions be uniformly and constantly good in spite of all temptations to the contrary. Or, let thy ways be directed or disposed aright, as this Hebrew word signifies. Or, thy ways shall be established. So this is a promise to confirm the foregoing precept. If thou dost ponder them, thou mayst expect God’s blessing and good success in them.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.Fly all extremes, and neither add to God’s commands, nor take from them.