Proverbs 22:20
Have not I written to you excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
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22:17-21. To these words, to this knowledge, the ear must be bowed down, and the heart applied by faith and love. To live a life of delight in God and dependence on him, is the foundation of all practical religion. The way to know the certainty of the word of truth, is to make conscience of our duty. 22,23. He that robs and oppresses the poor, does so at his peril. And if men will not appear for them, God will. 24,25. Our corrupt hearts have so much tinder in them, that it is dangerous to have to do with those that throw about the sparks of their passion.Excellent things - A meaning of the word derived from "the third," i. e., "the chief of three warriors in a chariot" (compare Exodus 14:7 note). Another reading of the Hebrew text gives "Have I not written to thee long ago?" and this would form a natural antithesis to "this day" of Proverbs 22:19. The rendering of the Septuagint is: "write them for thyself three times;" that of the Vulgate, "I have written it (i. e., my counsel) In threefold form;" the "three times" or "threefold form" being referred either to the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, or to the division of the Old Testament into the Law, the prophets, and the Hagiographa. 20. excellent things—or probably of former times.

counsels and knowledge—both advice and instruction.

Excellent things; or, princely things, as they are called, Proverbs 8:6, the great things of God’s law, as Hosea 8:12.

In counsels and knowledge; consisting of counsels to direct thy practice, and knowledge to inform and enrich thy mind. Or by that known figure hendiadis, in counsels of knowledge, i.e. in good counsels, which proceed from sound knowledge, and make a man knowing and wise, which are opposed to the counsels of the wicked, Proverbs 12:5, which are without knowledge. Have not I written to thee excellent things,.... In the Scriptures. Some render it, "three things" (c); and think that Solomon refers to the three divisions of the Scriptures among the Jews, the law, the prophets, and holy writings; so Jarchi; but some of those writings then were not: or to the three books wrote by him; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Others render it, "in a threefold way" (d), as the Targum and several versions; that is, in various ways, in different forms and styles, in order the better to inform and instruct. But it is best, with Kimchi, Gersom, and Ben Melech, to render it, "excellent things", as we do; such are the truths of the Gospel; they are more excellent than those that are only known by the light of nature, or by the law of Moses: such as suspect the love and grace of God; the person and offices of Christ; peace, pardon, righteousness, atonement, life and salvation, by him. And these are said to lie

in counsels and knowledge; in disclosing the counsels of God, according to which they are; in giving the best of counsels to men; to perishing sinners, to look to Christ for salvation; to naked ones, to buy of him white raiment, or the robe of his righteousness; to guilty and filthy ones, to apply to his blood for pardon and cleansing; to hungry and thirsty ones, to come unto him for food, the bread of life, and water of life; and to weary ones, to him for rest; and all to do their duty both to God and men: and they also respect knowledge; the knowledge of divine and heavenly things; the knowledge of God in Christ, and of his perfections, as displayed in his salvation; the knowledge of Christ, what he is in himself, what he has done for his people, and is unto them; and especially the knowledge of salvation by him; all which the Gospel is a means of.

(c) "terna", Montanus, Vatablus, so Jarchi. (d) Sept. "tripticiter", V. L. and Arabic version; "tribus vicibus", Baynus, Targum and Syriac version; "triplici filo et nexa", Schultens; "triplicata", Cocceius.

Have not I written to thee {n} excellent things in counsels and knowledge,

(n) That is, various times.

20. excellent things] The word has been thought to denote the chief of the three persons who formed the complement of an ancient war-chariot, and so to mean principal or excellent. In Proverbs 8:6 “excellent things” are literally princely things or words. The LXX. and Vulg., however, render the word literally, “thrice,” or “in threefold form,” τρισσῶς, tripliciter, possibly with the idea of reiteration to impress the lesson. Comp. Acts 10:16.

Another reading is heretofore, or long ago. If this be adopted, the reference may be either to the earlier sections of this Book, or to the fact that what is now promulgated had been committed to writing long ago, and was therefore no hasty utterance.

This passage has borne a prominent part in the history of Biblical exegesis. By it, understood (with the LXX. and Vulg. quoted above) of “threefold” teaching, or teaching “in triple form,” Origen supported his doctrine of the threefold meaning of Holy Scripture. “By Solomon in the Proverbs,” he writes, “we find some such rule as this enjoined respecting the divine doctrines of Scripture: ‘And do thou portray them in a threefold manner, in counsel and knowledge, to answer words of truth to them who propose them to thee.’ ” And so, he adds, comparing the threefold sense of Scripture to the tripartite division of man into body, soul and spirit, the simple will be edified, “by the flesh,” or obvious sense of Scripture, and the more advanced by its “soul,” while the perfect (1 Corinthians 2:6-7) may attain to the spiritual law itself, De Princip. Bk. iv. ch. 1.Verse 20. - Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge? There is a difficulty about the word tendered "excellent things." The Khetib has שׁלשׁום, "the day before yesterday, formerly;" but the word occurs nowhere alone, and, as Nowack says, can hardly have been the original reading. However, Ewald, Bertheau, and others, adopting it, suppose that the author refers to some earlier work. Cheyne cites Bickell's rendering, "Now, years before now, have I written unto thee long before with counsels and knowledge," and considers the words to mean either that the compiler took a long time over his work, or that this was not the first occasion of his writing. One does not see why stress should be here laid on former instruction, unless, perhaps, as Plumptre suggests, in contrast to "this day" of the previous verse. The LXX. renders the word τρισσῶς thus, "And do thou record them for thyself triply for counsel and knowledge upon the table of thine heart." St. Jerome has, Ecce descripsi eam tibi tripliciter, in cogitationibus et scientiis. Other versions have also given a numerical explanation to the term. In it is seen an allusion to the three supposed works of Solomon - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles - which is absurd; others refer it to the threefold division of the Testament - Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa; others, to three classes of youths for whom the admonitious were intended; others, again, think it equivalent to "oftentimes," or "in many forms." But the reading is as doubtful as the explanations of it are unsatisfactory. The genuine word is doubtless preserved in the Keri, which gives שָׁלִשִׁים (shalishim), properly a military term, applied to chariot fighters and men of rank in the army. The LXX. translates the word by τριστὰτης e.g. Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4), which is equivalent to "chieftain." Hence the Hebrew term, understood in the neuter gender, is transferred to the chief among proverbs - "choice proverbs," as Delitzsch calls them. The Venetian, by a happy turn, gives τρισμέγιστα. Thus we come back to the rendering of the Authorized Version as meet correct and intelligible. 14 A deep pit is the mouth of a strange woman;

     He that is cursed of God falleth therein.

The first line appears in a different form as a synonymous distich, Proverbs 23:27. The lxx translate στόμα παρανόμου without certainly indicating which word they here read, whether רע (Proverbs 4:14), or רשׁע (Proverbs 29:12), or נלוז (Proverbs 3:32). Proverbs 23:27 is adduced in support of זרות (vid., Proverbs 2:16); זנות (harlots) are meant, and it is not necessary thus to read with Ewald. The mouth of this strange woman or depraved Israelitess is a deep ditch (שׁוּחה עמקּה, otherwise עמקה, as Proverbs 23:27, where also occurs עמוּקה

(Note: The text to Immanuel's Comment. (Naples 1487) has in both instances עמוּקה.)

namely, a snare-pit into which he is enticed by her wanton words; the man who stands in fellowship with God is armed against this syren voice; but the 'זעוּם ה, i.e., he who is an object of the divine זעם (Venet. κεχολωμένος τῷ ὀντωτῇ), indignation, punishing evil with evil, falls into the pit, yielding to the seduction and the ruin. Schultens explains 'זעום ה by, is in quem despumat indignabundus; but the meaning despumat is not substantiated; זעם, cf. Arab. zaghm, is probably a word which by its sound denoted anger as a hollow roaring, and like pealing thunder. The lxx has, after Proverbs 22:14, three tedious moralizing lines.

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