Proverbs 1:4
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
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(4) Subtilty (‘Ormah).—Used in a bad sense (Exodus 21:14) for “guile.” For the meaning here, comp. Matthew 10:16 : “Be ye wise as serpents;” comp. also the reproof of Luke 16:8, that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light;” and St. Paul’s advice to “redeem the time “(Ephesians 5:16), i.e., seize opportunities for good.

Simple.—Literally, those who are open to good impressions and influences, but who also can be easily led astray. (Comp. Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 14:15.)

Young man.—The Hebrew term is used of any age from birth to about the twentieth year.

Discretion.—Or rather, thoughtfulness; a word also used in a bad sense in Proverbs 12:2, and there translated “wicked devices.”

1:1-6 The lessons here given are plain, and likely to benefit those who feel their own ignorance, and their need to be taught. If young people take heed to their ways, according to Solomon's Proverbs, they will gain knowledge and discretion. Solomon speaks of the most important points of truth, and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks by his word and by his Spirit. Christ is the Word and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.This verse points out the two classes for which the book will be useful:

(1) the "simple," literally the "open," the open-hearted, the minds ready to receive impressions for good or evil Proverbs 1:22; and

(2) the "young," who need both knowledge and discipline.

To these the teacher offers the "subtilty," which may turn to evil Exodus 21:14 and become as the wisdom of the serpent Genesis 3:1, but which also takes its place, as that wisdom does, among the highest moral gifts Matthew 10:16; the "knowledge" of good and evil; and the "discretion," or discernment, which sets a man on his guard, and keeps him from being duped by false advisers. The Septuagint renderings, πανουργία panourgia for "subtilty," αἴσθησις aisthēsis for "knowledge," ἔννοια ennoia for "discretion," are interesting as showing the endeavor to find exact parallels for the Hebrew in the terminology of Greek ethics.

4. simple—one easily led to good or evil; so the parallel.

young man—one inexperienced.

subtilty—or prudence (Pr 3:21; 5:21).

discretion—literally, "device," both qualities, either good or bad, according to their use. Here good, as they imply wariness by which to escape evil and find good.

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.

To give subtlety to the simple,.... Men of mean abilities, weak capacities, shallow understandings, incautious, credulous, and easily imposed upon: these, by attending to what is herein contained, may arrive to a serpentine subtlety; though they are simple and harmless as doves, may become as wise as serpents; may attain to an exquisite knowledge of divine things and know even more than the wise and sage philosophers among the Gentiles, or any of the Rabbins and masters of Israel; or any of the princes of this world, whose wisdom comes to nought; and become very cautious and circumspect how they are drawn aside by the old serpent the devil, or by such who lie in wait to deceive; and perform their duty both to God and man;

to the young man knowledge and discretion; or "thought" (i); who wants both: this book will teach him the knowledge of things moral, civil, and religious: to think and act aright; how to behave and conduct himself wisely and discreetly before men; and be a means of forming his mind betimes for piety and religion; and of furnishing him with rules for his deportment in future life, in all the periods of it; and in whatsoever state and condition he may come into. A "young man may cleanse his way", Psalm 119:9, reform his manners, behave with purity and uprightness, by taking "heed" to the things herein contained.

(i) "cogitationem", Pagninus, Mercerus; "bonam cogitationem", Michaelis.

To give subtilty to the {e} simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

(e) To such as have no discretion to rule themselves.

4. subtilty to the simple] Both words are here used in a good sense, or perhaps we might say, in their proper or neutral sense. The Hebrew word for simple is literally open (Heb.), sc. to influence, whether good or bad. The primary meaning of the English word simple, whether it be without fold (Trench) or one-fold (Skeat) is entirely different; but the idea conveyed by it adequately represents the meaning of the Hebrew. For, as Trench points out, to be without fold (or to be one-fold) is to be “just what we may imagine Nathanael to have been, and what our Lord attributes as the highest honour to him, the ‘Israelite without guile.’ ” But then since, as he truly adds, “in a world like ours such a man will make himself a prey, will prove no match for the fraud and falsehood he will everywhere encounter,” he needs the safeguard of subtilty, or prudence (R.V. marg.) to preserve him (see Proverbs 1:22, below). Such subtilty may be the craft of the serpent (Genesis 3:1, where the Heb. word is the same); but it may be the wisdom of the serpent without its guile (see Matthew 10:16, and comp. Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 19:25).

The simple, though specially to be found among the young of the parallel clause of the verse, embrace others also.

Verse 4. - To give subtilty to the simple. In this verse and the following we are introduced to the classes of persons to whom the proverbs will be beneficial The ל with the infinitive, לָתֵת (latheth) shows that in construction this proposition is so ordinate with those in vers. 2 and 3, and not dependent as represented by ἵνα δῷ (LXX.)and iut detur (Vulgate). Subtilty; Hebrew, עַרְמָה (ar'mah), from the root עָרַם, (aram), "to be crafty or wily," properly means "nakedness" or "smoothness;" hence in a metaphorical sense it expresses "the capacity for escaping from the wiles of others" (Umbreit). We have this idea expressed as follows in Proverbs 22:3, "The prudent man (עָרוּם, arum) foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself." In the Arabic Version it is rendered by calliditas, "shrewdness," in a good sense. The Hebrew ar'mah, like the Latin calliditas, also means "craftiness," as appears in the use of the cognate adjective arum in Genesis 3:1, where we read, "The serpent was more subtle," etc. For "subtilty" the LXX. has πσνουργία, a Greek word which appears to be employed altogether in a bad sense, as "trickery," "villainy," "knavery;" but that scarcely appears to be the meaning of the Hebrew here, since the aim of the Proverbs is ethical and beneficial in the highest degree. The Vulgate astutia, the quality of the astutus, beside the bad sense of craftiness, also boars the good sense of shrewdness, sagacity, and so better represents the Hebrew. "Subtilty may turn to evil, but it also takes its place among the highest moral gifts" (Plumptre). The simple; Hebrew, פְתָאִים (ph'thaim), plural of פְתִּי (p'ti) from the root פָתַח (pathakh), "to be open," properly means the open-hearted, i.e. those who are susceptible to external impressions (Zockler), and so easily misled. The word occurs in Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 14:18; and Proverbs 27:12. The LXX. properly renders the word ἄκακοι, "unknowing of evil." The same idea is indirectly expressed in the Vulgate parvuli, "the very young;" and the term is paraphrased in the Arabic Version, iis in quibus non est malitia ("those who are without malice"). The Hebrew here means "simple" in the sense of inexperienced. To the young man knowledge and discretion. The Hebrew naar (נַעַר) is here used representatively for "youth" (cf. LXX., παῖς νέος; Vulgate, adolescens) in general, which stands in need of the qualities here mentioned. It advances in idea beyond "the simple." Knowledge; Hebrew, דַּעַת (daath), i.e. experimental knowledge (Delitzsch); insight (Gesenius); knowledge of good and evil (Plumptre). The LXX. has αἴσθησις, which clasically means perception by the senses and also by the mind. Discretion; Hebrew, מְזִמָּה (m'zimmah), properly "thoughtfulness," and hence "circumspection" or "caution" (Zockler), or "discernment," that which sets a man on his guard and prevents him being duped by others (Plumptre). Αννοια was probably adopted by the LXX. in its primary sense as representing the act of thinking; intellectus (Vulgate), equivalent to "a discerning" (see the marginal "advisement"). Proverbs 1:4This verse presents another aspect of the object to be served by this book: it seeks to impart prudence to the simple. The form פּתאים

(Note: Like עפאים, Psalm 104:12, וכצבאים, 1 Chronicles 12:8, cf. Michlol, 196a. In Proverbs 1:22, Proverbs 1:32, the mute א is wanting.)

(in which, as in גּוים, the י plur. remains unwritten) is, in this mongrel form in which it is written (cf. Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 14:18; Proverbs 27:12), made up of פּתים (Proverbs 1:22, Proverbs 1:32, once written plene, פּתיים, Proverbs 22:3) and פּתאים (Proverbs 7:7). These two forms with י and the transition of י into א are interchanged in the plur. of such nouns as פּתי, segolate form, "from פּתה (cogn. פּתח), to be open, properly the open-hearted, i.e., one whose heart stands open to every influence from another, the harmless, good-natured - a vox media among the Hebrews commonly (though not always, cf. e.g., Psalm 116:6) in malam partem: the foolish, silly, one who allows himself to be easily persuaded or led astray, like similar words in other languages - Lat. simplex, Gr. εὐήθης, Fr. nav; Arab. fatyn, always, however, in a good sense: a high and noble-minded man, not made as yet mistrustful and depressed by sad experiences, therefore juvenis ingenuus, vir animi generosi" (Fl.). The פּתאים, not of firm and constant mind, have need of ערמה; therefore the saying Proverbs 14:15, cf. Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 19:25. The noun ערמה (a fem. segolate form like חכמה) means here calliditas in a good sense, while the corresponding Arab. 'aram (to be distinguished from the verb 'aram, ערם, to peel, to make bare, nudare) is used only in a bad sense, of malevolent, deceptive conduct. In the parallel member the word נער is used, generally (collectively) understood, of the immaturity which must first obtain intellectual and moral clearness and firmness; such an one is in need of peritia et sollertia, as Fleischer well renders it; for דּעת is experimental knowledge, and מזמּה (from זמם, according to its primary signification, to press together, comprimere; then, referred to mental concentration: to think) signifies in the sing., sensu bono, the capability of comprehending the right purposes, of seizing the right measures, of projecting the right plans.

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