Proverbs 1:17
Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.
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(17) Surely in vain . . .—The second reason: their folly in so doing, for God will bring punishment upon them; in the “same net which they hid privily will their foot be taken “(Psalm 9:15). Even birds are wiser than they. It is useless to spread a net in the sight of any bird.

Proverbs 1:17. Surely in vain the net is spread, &c. — Even the silly birds will not suffer themselves to be taken if the net be spread in their sight; therefore, be at least as wise as they, and shun that which, by repeated experience, is always known to end in ruin. Thus understood, the sentence connects with the preceding verse, and contains an argument to enforce the caution given to the young man, to shun the misery and ruin in which his hearkening to the counsel of sinners would involve him. But the sentence is considered by many commentators as connected with the following verse, and is interpreted thus: The fowler who spreads his net in the sight of the bird, loses his labour; but these sinners are more foolish than the silly birds, for, though they are not ignorant of the mischief which these evil courses will bring upon themselves, yet they will not take warning. Thus Schultens paraphrases the words: “There is no bird so stupid as to fly into a net spread immediately before its eyes; but these abandoned sinners spread with their own hands, immediately before their own eyes, those nets by which they willingly involve themselves in certain death and ruin: for they who lay snares for the blood of the innocent, lay snares for themselves; and they who desire to swallow up the virtuous alive as the grave, they themselves will be swallowed up in that grave, and be plunged in destruction.”

1:10-19 Wicked people are zealous in seducing others into the paths of the destroyer: sinners love company in sin. But they have so much the more to answer for. How cautious young people should be! Consent thou not. Do not say as they say, nor do as they do, or would have thee to do; have no fellowship with them. Who could think that it should be a pleasure to one man to destroy another! See their idea of worldly wealth; but it is neither substance, nor precious. It is the ruinous mistake of thousands, that they overvalue the wealth of this world. Men promise themselves in vain that sin will turn to their advantage. The way of sin is down-hill; men cannot stop themselves. Would young people shun temporal and eternal ruin, let them refuse to take one step in these destructive paths. Men's greediness of gain hurries them upon practices which will not suffer them or others to live out half their days. What is a man profited, though he gain the world, if he lose his life? much less if he lose his soul?Strictly speaking, this is the first proverb (i. e., similitude) in the book; a proverb which has received a variety of interpretations. The true meaning seems to be as follows: "For in vain, to no purpose, is the net spread out openly. Clear as the warning is, it is in vain. The birds still fly in. The great net of God's judgments is spread out, open to the eyes of all, and yet the doers of evil, willfully blind, still rush into it." Others take the words as pointing to the failure of the plans of the evil-doers against the innocent (the "bird"): others, again, interpret the proverb of the young man who thinks that he at least shall not fall into the snares laid for him, and so goes blindly into them. 17-19. Men warned ought to escape danger as birds instinctively avoid visibly spread nets. But stupid sinners rush to their own ruin (Ps 9:16), and, greedy of gain, succeed in the very schemes which destroy them (1Ti 6:10), not only failing to catch others, but procuring their own destruction. 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,

Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. Or "without cause" (y), as the word is rendered in Proverbs 1:11; and so the words are an illustration of the preceding; showing that the blood of innocent persons is shed without cause, no injury being done by them to those that do it, but is shed without any provocation at all; just as the net is spread for the innocent bird, which has done no harm to the fowler that seeks to take it; so Gersom: or else the sense is, that though the net is spread by the fowler even in the sight of the bird, yet it is in vain to the bird, though not to the fowler; it is so intent upon the corn that is spread about, that it takes no notice of the net, and so is caught in it; and thus it is with those men that are bent upon their sinful practices, upon theft and murder, though their ruin and destruction are before their eyes; and they daily see their companions in iniquity come to an untimely end; they know that they are liable to suffer death by the hand of the civil magistrate, and to be followed by the justice and vengeance of God, and suffer eternal punishment; yet take no warning hereby, but rush on to their own ruin, as follows.

(y) "sine causa", Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus.

Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.
17. in vain] Because, whereas by the certain destruction which it portends, the net ought to deter the bird from yielding to the solicitations of appetite, the temptation of the bait prevails, and the warning of the visible net is unheeded. “So,” in their unheeding regard of manifest warning, “are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain” (). His devices against others (Proverbs 1:11-12) are really devices against himself Proverbs 1:18. “In the net which they hid is their own foot taken” (Psalm 9:15).

Verse 17. - Surely in vain the net is spread in the face of any bird. The teacher here advances a second reason in support of his warning in ver. 15, under the form of a proverb in its strict sense. It is based on the ill-advised audacity of sinners in flying in the face of God's judgments. In vain (חִנָּם khinnam), see ver. 11, may be taken in two senses.

(1) I.e. to no purpose, gratis, frustra (Vulgate, Chaldee Paraphrase, Arabic). The meaning of the proverb here used then is, "to no purpose is the net spread before birds," i.e. though they see the net spread before them, they nevertheless fly into it (romp. Proverbs 7:23, "As a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life"). So sinners, when they are plotting for others, plunge into their own destruction with their eyes open. Therefore do not associate with them, do not imitate their crass folly, be warned by their example, or you will share their fate. This view is supported by the LXX. reading, Οὐ γὰρ ἀδίκως ἐκτείνεται δίκτυα πτερωτοῖς, "For not unreasonably is the net spread before birds;" i.e. they fall into the snare (see Luther, Patrick, Umbreit, Ewatd, Hitzig, Zockler, Plumptre).

(2) Others, as Delitzsch, Ziegler, Beda, Doderlein, Bertheau, Wardlaw, take khinnam in a different sense, as indicating the escape of the birds - the birds see the snare and fly away, and so in vain the net is spread in their sight. This explanation is in agreement with Ovid's statement, "Quae nimis apparent retia vitat avis." The moral motive put before youth in this case is the aggravation of his guilt if he listens to the enticements of sinners. The teacher seems to say, "Imitate the birds, flee from temptation; if you listen to sinners, you will sin with your eyes open." Is spread; מְזֹרָה (m zorah), expansum, not conspersum est, i.e. besprinkled or strewn with corn as a bait, as Rashi. M'zorah is the participle passive of pual, זֹרָה (zorah), "to be strewn," from kal זָרָה (zarah). "to scatter, or disperse" (Gesenius), and means expansum, because when a net is scattered or dispersed it is spread out (see Delitzsch). Of any bird (כָּל־בַּעַל כָּנָפ khal-baal khanaph); literally, of every possessor of a wing, or, as margin, of everthing that hath a wing, i.e. of every bird. Compare the same expression in Ecclesiastes 10:20, בַּעַל חַכְּנָפַיִם (baal hach naphayim); i.e. "that which hath wings" (Authorized Version). Proverbs 1:17The second argument in support of the warning.

For in vain is the net spread out

In the eyes of all (the winged) birds.

The interpretation conspersum est rete, namely, with corn as a bait, which was put into circulation by Rashi, is inadmissible; for as little as הזּה (Hiph. of נזה) can mean to strew, can זרה mean to spread. The object is always that which is scattered (gestreut), not that which is spread (bestreut). Thus, expansum est rete, but not from מזר, extendere, from which מזורה

(Note: The MS Masora remarks לית וחסר, and hence מזרה is written defectively in the Erfurt, 1, 2, 3, Frankf. 1294, in the edition of Norzi and elsewhere.)

in this form cannot be derived (it would in that case be מזוּרה), but from זרה, pass. of זרה, to scatter, spread out. The alluring net, when it is shaken out and spread, is, as it were, scattered, ventilatur. But if this is done incautiously before the eyes of the birds to be caught, they forthwith fly away. The principle stress lies on the בּעיני (before the eyes) as the reason of the חנּם (in vain), according to the saying of Ovid, Quae nimis apparent retia, vitat avis. The applicatio similitudinis lying near, according to J. H. Michaelis, is missed even by himself and by most others. If the poet wished to say that they carried on their work of blood with such open boldness, that he must be more than a simpleton who would allow himself to be caught by them, that would be an unsuitable ground of warning; for would there not be equally great need for warning against fellowship with them, if they had begun their enticement with more cunning, and reckoned on greater success? Hitzig, Ewald, Zckler, and others, therefore interpret חנם, not in the sense of in vain, inasmuch as they do not let themselves be caught; but: in vain, for they see not the net, but only the scattered corn. But according to the preceding, הרשׁת (the net) leads us to think only either of the net of the malicious designs, or the net of the alluring deceptions. Thus, as Ziegler has noticed, the warned ought to make application of the similitude to himself: Go not with them, for their intention is bad; go not with them, for if the bird flees away from the net which is spread out before it, thou wilt not surely be so blind as suffer thyself to be ensnared by their gross enticements. בּעל כּנף: the furnished with the wing (wings in Ecclesiastes 10:20); בּעל forms the idea of property (lord).

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