Proverbs 1:4
To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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"). The Synagogue reckons up thirteen divine attributes according to ex. Psa 34:6. (שׁלשׁ עשׂרה מדּות), to which, according to an observation of Kimchi, correspond the thirteen הלּל of this Psalm. It is, however, more probable that in the mind of the poet the tenfold halaluw encompassed by Hallelujah's is significative; for ten is the number of rounding off, completeness, exclusiveness, and of the extreme of exhaustibleness. The local definitions in Psalm 150:1 are related attributively to God, and designate that which is heavenly, belonging to the other world, as an object of praise. קדשוּ (the possible local meaning of which is proved by the קדשׁ and קדשׁ קדשׁים of the Tabernacle and of the Temple) is in this passage the heavenly היכל; and רקיע עזּו is the firmament spread out by God's omnipotence and testifying of God's omnipotence (Psalm 68:35), not according to its front side, which is turned towards the earth, but according to the reverse or inner side, which is turned towards the celestial world, and which marks it off from the earthly world. The third and fourth hălalu give as the object of the praise that which is at the same time the ground of the praise: the tokens of His גּבוּרה, i.e., of His all-subduing strength, and the plenitude of His greatness (גּדלו equals גּדלו), i.e., His absolute, infinite greatness. The fifth and sixth hălalu bring into the concert in praise of God the ram's horn, שׁופר, the name of which came to be improperly used as the name also of the metallic חצצרה (vid., on Psalm 81:4), and the two kinds of stringed instruments (vid., Psalm 33:2), viz., the nabla (i.e., the harp and lyre) and the kinnor (the cithern), the ψαλτήριον and the κιθάρα (κινύρα). The seventh hălalu invites to the festive dance, of which the chief instrumental accompaniment is the תּף (Arabic duff, Spanish adufe, derived from the Moorish) or tambourine. The eighth hălalu brings on the stringed instruments in their widest compass, מנּים (cf. Psalm 45:9) from מן, Syriac menı̂n, and the shepherd's pipe, עגב (with the Gimel raphe equals עוּגב); and the ninth and tenth, the two kinds of castanets (צלצלי, construct form of צלצלים, singular צלצל), viz., the smaller clear-sounding, and the larger deeper-toned, more noisy kinds (cf. κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον, 1 Corinthians 13:1), as צלצלי שׁמע (pausal form of שׁמע equals שׁמע, like סתר in Deuteronomy 27:15, and frequently, from סתר equals סתר) and צלצלי תרוּעה are, with Schlultens, Pfeifer, Burk, Kster, and others, to be distinguished.
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