Proverbs 18:1
Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
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(1) Through desire a man, having separated himself . . .—This should probably be rendered, The separatist seeketh after his own desire, against all improvement he shows his teeth. The man of small mind is here described, who will only follow his own narrow aims, who holds himself aloof from men of wider views than his own, and will not join with them in the furtherance of philanthropic or religious plans, but rather opposes them with all his power, as he can see nothing but mischief in them. (For his temper of mind, comp. John 7:47-49.)

Intermeddleth.—See above on Proverbs 17:14.

Wisdom.—See above on Proverbs 2:7.

Proverbs 18:1-2. Through desire, a man having separated himself, &c. — According to this translation, the sense of this controverted proverb is, Through desire of wisdom, a man, having separated himself from the company, and noise, and business of the world, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom — Uses all diligence that he may search and find out all solid knowledge and true wisdom. But this verse is otherwise rendered in the margin of our Bible, and in divers other versions, and is thus interpreted; He that separateth himself, either, 1st, From his friend, or, rather, 2d, From other men; who affects singularity, is wedded to his own opinion, and through self-conceit, despiseth the opinions and conversation of others, seeketh according to his desire, that is, seeketh to gratify his own inclinations and affections, and chooseth those opinions which most agree with them, and intermeddleth, Hebrew, יתגלע, (a word used in a bad sense, Proverbs 17:14, and found nowhere else except in this place,) in every business, or in every thing that is, as the words בכל תושׁיהיmay be properly rendered; namely, thrusting himself into the actions and affairs of other men. The latter interpretation is preferred by Bishop Patrick, whose paraphrase is, “He that affects singularity, inquires into all manner of things, according as his vain-glorious humour leads him; which makes him also bend himself, with all the wit he hath, to overthrow the solid reasonings of wiser men.” In consistency with this view of the verse, the bishop thus interprets the next: “For a fool will never take pleasure in true understanding, but the design of his studies is to make a vain ostentation of wisdom unto others; this is his chiefest pleasure, to hear himself discourse: that is, discover the folly that is in his heart.”

18:1 If we would get knowledge and grace, we must try all methods of improving ourselves. 2. Those make nothing to purpose, of learning or religion, whose only design is to have something to make a show with. 3. As soon as sin entered, shame followed.The text and the marginal readings indicate the two chief constructions of this somewhat difficult verse. Other renderings are

(1) He who separateth himself from others seeks his own desire, and rushes forward against all wise counsel: a warning against self-will and the self-assertion which exults in differing from the received customs and opinions of mankind.

(2) he who separates himself (from the foolish, unlearned multitude) seeks his own desire (that which is worthy to be desired), and mingleth himself with all wisdom. So the Jewish commentators generally.

Between (1) blaming and (2) commending the life of isolation, the decision must be that (1) is most in harmony with the temper of the Book of Proverbs; but it is not strange that Pharisaism, in its very name, separating and self-exalting, should have adopted (2).


Pr 18:1-24.

1. Through desire … seeketh—that is, seeks selfish gratification.

intermeddleth … wisdom—or, "rushes on" (Pr 17:14) against all wisdom, or what is valuable (Pr 2:7). According to this interpretation the sense is,

Through desire (of it, to wit of wisdom, which is easily understood out of the end of the verse; such ellipses being frequent in Scripture)

a man, having separated himself, ( being sequestered from the company, and noise, and business of the world, betaking himself to retirement and solitude, as men do that apply themselves to any serious study.)

seeketh and

intermeddleth with all wisdom, i.e. useth all diligence, that he may search and find out all solid knowledge and true wisdom. And this earnest desire and endeavour to get true wisdom within a man’s self is fitly opposed to the fool’s contempt of wisdom, or to his desire of it, not for use and benefit, but only for vain ostentation, which is expressed in the next verse, although coherence is little regarded by interpreters in the several verses and proverbs of this book. But this verse is otherwise rendered in the margin of our English Bible, and by divers others, He that separateth himself, (either,

1. From his friend; or rather,

2. From other men; who affects singularity, is wedded to his own opinion, and through self-conceit despiseth the opinions and conversation of others,) seeketh according to his desire, (seeketh to gratify his own inclinations and affections, and chooseth those opinions which most comply with them,) and intermeddleth (for this word is used in a bad sense, Proverbs 17:14 20:3, and it is not found elsewhere, save in this place) in every business, as proud and singular persons are commonly pragmatical, delighting to find faults in others, that they may get some reputation to themselves by it. Heb. in every thing that is; thrusting themselves into the actions and affairs of other men. Or, as this last clause is and may be rendered, and contendeth (Heb. mingleth himself; for words of that signification are commonly used for contending or fighting, as Deu 2:5,9,19 Isa 36:8 Daniel 11:10) with or against (for the Hebrew prefix beth oft signifies against) all reason or wisdom; whatsoever any man speaketh against his opinion and desire, though it be never so reasonable and evident, he rejecteth it, and obstinately maintains his own opinion.

Through desire a man having separated himself, seeketh,.... Or, "a separated man seeketh desire" (g); his own desire, will, and pleasure. This is either to be understood in a good sense, of one that has a real and hearty desire after sound wisdom and knowledge, and seeks in the use of all proper means to attain it; and in order to which he separates himself from the world and the business of it, and retires to his study, and gives up himself to reading, meditation, and prayer; or goes abroad in search of it, as Aben Ezra: or of a vain man that affects singularity; and who, through a desire of gratifying that lust, separates himself, not only from God, as Jarchi interprets it, pursuing his evil imagination and the lust of his heart; and from his friends, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions; but from all men, like the Jews, who "please not God, and are contrary to all men"; so such a man sets himself to despise and contradict the sentiments and opinions of others, and to set up his own in opposition to them. This is true of the Pharisees among the Jews, who had their name from separating themselves from all others, having an high opinion of their own Wisdom and sanctify; and also of the Gnostics among the Christians, who boasted of their knowledge, and separated themselves from the Christian assemblies; and were sensual, not having the Spirit, being vainly puffed up with their fleshly mind;

and intermeddleth with all wisdom; the man who is desirous of being truly wise and knowing grasps at all wisdom, every branch of useful knowledge; would gladly learn something of every art and science worthy of regard; and he makes use of all means of improving himself therein; and covets the company and conversation of men of wisdom and knowledge, that he may attain to more; he intermingles himself with men of wisdom, as Aben Ezra interprets it, and walks and converses with them. Or if this is to be understood of a vain glorious person, the sense is, "he intermeddles" or "mingles himself with all business" (h), as it may be rendered; he thrusts himself into affairs that do not concern him, and will pass his judgment on things he has nothing to do with; or he monopolizes all knowledge to himself, and will not allow any other to have any share with him. Jarchi interprets this clause thus,

"among wise men his reproach shall be made manifest;''

and observes, that their Rabbins explain it of Lot separating from Abraham, following the desires of his heart: but R. Saadiah Gaon better interprets it of an apostate from religion; that objects to everything solid and substantial, in a wrangling and contentious manner; and "shows his teeth" (i) at it, as Schultens, from the use of the Arabic word, renders it.

(g) So the Targum. (h) "immiscet se omni negotio", Munster; "omnibus quae sunt immiscet se", Junius & Tremellius. (i) "Et in omne solidum dentes destringei", Schultens.

Through desire a man, having {a} separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.

(a) He who loves wisdom will separate himself from all impediments, and give himself wholly to seek it.

1. Through desire] According to the rendering of A.V. this would mean: A man who is possessed by an intense desire of wisdom separates himself from all other avocations and pursuits and from the society of his fellow men, isolates himself, as we say, that he may “intermeddle with” it, give himself wholly to (but see Proverbs 17:14 note) the pursuit of it. We must, however, render with R.V.:

He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire:

He rageth against (or, quarrelleth with, marg.) all sound wisdom.

The proverb then is a condemnation of the selfish isolation of the self-seeker or the misanthrope. Mr Horton, who has an interesting chapter on this verse, writes:

“Shakespeare might have had this proverb before him in that grim delineation of Richard the Third, who boasts that he has neither pity, love, nor fear. He was, he had been told, born with teeth in his mouth,

‘And so I was,’ he exclaims, ‘which plainly signified

That I should snarl, and bite, and play the dog.’

And then he explains this terrible character in these significant lines:—

‘I have no brother, I am like no brother:

And this word Love, which greybeards call divine,

Be resident in men like one another,

And not in me; I am myself alone.’

III. K. Henry VI. Act v. Sc. 6.”

wisdom] Or, sound wisdom, R.V., as the same Heb. word is rendered in A.V. in Proverbs 2:7.

Verse 1. - This is a difficult verse, and has obtained various interpretations. The Authorized Version gives, Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom; i.e. a man who has an earnest desire for self-improvement will hold himself aloof from worldly entanglements, and, occupying himself wholly in this pursuit, will become conversant with all wisdom. This gives good sense, and offers a contrast to the fool in ver. 2, who "hath no delight in understanding." But the Hebrew does not rightly bear this interpretation. Its conciseness occasions ambiguity. Literally, For his desire a man who separates himself seeks; in (or against) all wisdom he mingles himself. There is a doubt whether the life of isolation is praised or censured in this verse. Aben Ezra and others of Pharisaic tendencies adopt the former alternative, and explain pretty much as the Authorized Version, thus: "He who out of love of wisdom divorces himself from home, country, or secular pursuits, such a man will mix with the wise and prudent, and be conversant with such." But the maxim seems rather to blame this separation, though here, again, there is a variety of interpretation. Delitzsch, Ewald, and others translate, "He that dwelleth apart seeketh pleasure, against all sound wisdom he showeth his teeth" (comp. Proverbs 17:14). Nowack, after Bertheau, renders, "He who separates himself goes after his own desire; with all that is useful he falls into a rage." Thus the maxim is directed against the conceited, self-willed man, who sets himself against public opinion, delights in differing from received customs, takes no counsel from others, thinks nothing of public interests, but in his mean isolation attends only to his own private ends and fancies (comp. Hebrews 10:25). The Septuagint and Vulgate (followed by Hitzig) read in the first clause, for taavah, "desire," taanah, "occasion;" thus: "He who wishes to separate from a friend seeks occasions; but at all time he will be worthy of censure." The word translated "wisdom" (tushiyah) also means "substance," "existence;" hence the rendering, "at all time," omni existentia, equivalent to omni tempore. Proverbs 18:1This series of proverbs now turns from the fool to the separatist:

The separatist seeketh after his own pleasure;

Against all that is beneficial he showeth his teeth.

The reflexive נפרד has here the same meaning as the Rabbinical פּרשׁ מן־הצּבּוּר, to separate oneself from the congregation, Aboth ii. 5; נפרד denotes a man who separates himself, for he follows his own counsel, Arab. mnfrd (mtfrrd) brâyh, or jḥys almḥḥl (seorsum ab aliis secedens). Instead of לתּאוה, Hitzig, after Jerome, adopts the emendation לתאנה, "after an occasion" (a pretext), and by נפרד thinks of one pushed aside, who, thrown into opposition, seeks to avenge himself. But his translation of 1b, "against all that is fortunate he gnasheth his teeth," shows how much the proverb is opposed to this interpretation. נפרד denotes one who willingly (Judges 4:11), and, indeed, obstinately withdraws himself. The construction of יבקּשׁ with ל (also Job 10:6) is explained by this, that the poet, giving prominence to the object, would set it forward: a pleasure (תאוה, as Arab. hawan, unstable and causeless direction of the mind to something, pleasure, freak, caprice), and nothing else, he goes after who has separated himself (Fl.); the effort of the separatist goes out after a pleasure, i.e., the enjoyment and realization of such; instead of seeking to conform himself to the law and ordinance of the community, he seeks to carry out a separate view, and to accomplish some darling plan: libidinem sectatur sui cerebri homo. With this 1b accords. תּוּשׁיּה (vid., at Proverbs 2:7) is concretely that which furthers and profits. Regarding התגּלּע, vid., at Proverbs 17:14. Thus putting his subjectivity in the room of the common weal, he shows his teeth, places himself in fanatical opposition against all that is useful and profitable in the principles and aims, the praxis of the community from which he separates himself. The figure is true to nature: the polemic of the schismatic and the sectary against the existing state of things, is for the most part measureless and hostile.

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