Proverbs 23:23
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
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(23) Buy the truth, and sell it not.—The “truth” is here described under the three heads of wisdom, self-discipline, and understanding. (See above, on Proverbs 1:2.) All these are to be obtained from God (James 1:5), who gives to every man “liberally,” “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). (Comp. Revelation 3:18, and the “treasure” and “pearl of great price” of Matthew 13:44-46.)

23:19-28 The gracious Saviour who purchased pardon and peace for his people, with all the affection of a tender parent, counsels us to hear and be wise, and is ready to guide our hearts in his way. Here we have an earnest call to young people, to attend to the advice of their godly parents. If the heart be guided, the steps will be guided. Buy the truth, and sell it not; be willing to part with any thing for it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honours, riches, or any thing in this world. The heart is what the great God requires. We must not think to divide the heart between God and the world; he will have all or none. Look to the rule of God's word, the conduct of his providence, and the good examples of his people. Particular cautions are given against sins most destructive to wisdom and grace in the soul. It is really a shame to make a god of the belly. Drunkenness stupifies men, and then all goes to ruin. Licentiousness takes away the heart that should be given to God. Take heed of any approaches toward this sin, it is very hard to retreat from it. It bewitches men to their ruin.The three forms of evil that destroy reputation and tempt to waste are brought together.

Drowsiness - Specially the drunken sleep, heavy and confused.

23. Buy—literally, "get" (Pr 4:5).

truth—generally and specially as opposed to errors of all kinds.

Buy the truth; purchase it upon any terms, spare no pains nor cost to get it. The truth; the true and saving knowledge of God’s mind and will concerning your salvation, and the way that leads to it.

Sell it not; do not forget it nor forsake it for any worldly advantages, as ungodly men frequently do.

Understanding; whereby you may love and practise the truth known and received. Buy the truth, and sell it not,.... Evangelical truth, the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation, which comes from the God of truth; has Christ, who is the truth, for the stem and substance of it; men are directed and led into it by the Spirit of truth; the whole matter of it is truth; truth, in opposition to the law, that was typical and shadowy; to the errors of false teachers, to everything that is fictitious, or another Gospel; and to that which is a lie, for no lie is of the truth: there are several particular doctrines of the Gospel which are so called; those which respect the knowledge of one God, and three Persons in the Godhead; the deity and sonship of Christ, his incarnation and Messiahship, salvation alone by him, a sinner's justification by his righteousness, and the resurrection of the dead; the whole of which is truth, and is an answer to Pilate's question, John 18:38; and this men should "buy", not books only, as Aben Ezra interprets it, such as explain and confirm truth, though these should be bought; and especially the Bible, the Scriptures of truth; yet this does not reach the sense of the text: nor is it merely to be understood of persons supporting the Gospel ministry with their purses, by which means truth is preserved, propagated, and continued: no price is set upon it, as being above all; it should be bought or had at any rate, let the expense be what it will: "buying" it supposes a person to have some knowledge of it, of the excellency, usefulness, and importance of it; and shows that he sets a value upon it, and has a high esteem for it: it is to be understood of his using all means and taking great pains to acquire it; such as reading the word, meditating upon it, attending on the public ministry, and fervent and frequent prayer for it, and a greater degree of knowledge of it; yea, it signifies a person's parting with everything for it that is required; as with his former errors he has been brought up in, or has imbibed; with his good name and reputation, being willing to be accounted a fool or a madman, and an enthusiast, or anything for the sake of it; and even with life itself, when called for; and such a man will strive and contend for it, stand fast in it, and hold it fast, and not let it go, which is meant by "selling" it; truth is not to be sold upon any account, or for any thing whatever; it is not to be slighted and neglected; it should not be parted with neither for the riches, and honours, and pleasures of this life, nor for the sake of a good name among men, nor for the sake of peace, nor for the avoiding of persecution; it should he abode by, and not departed from, though the greater number is against it, and they the riots, the wise, and learned; and though it may be traduced as novel, irrational, and licentious, and be attended with affliction;

also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding; that is, buy these also, and sell them no; "wisdom" is to be prized above everything; it is the principal thing, and should be got; all means should he used to obtain it; it may be bought without money; it should be asked of God, who gives it liberally, and, being had, should be held fast: the "instruction" the Scriptures give, the instruction of the Gospel, the instruction of Wisdom, should be valued above gold and silver, and diligently sought after; should be laid fast hold on and not parted with: "understanding" of divine and spiritual things is to be gotten; happy is the man that gets it; and above all gettings this should be got, and all means made rise of to improve and increase it. The Targum, Syriac, and Vulgate Latin versions, connect these with the word sell only, thus, "buy the truth, and sell not wisdom, and instruction, and understanding"; but as buying and selling both refer to truth, so likewise to these also. The whole verse is wanting in the Septuagint and Arabic versions.

Buy {k} the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

(k) Spare no cost for truths sake, neither depart from it for any gain.

23. buy … sell it not] Procure it at any cost: part with it on no consideration. Comp. Matthew 13:44-45.

also] Rather, even, or, yea. The things mentioned are not additions to, but elements of “the truth.” Comp. Malachi 4:4, R.V.Verse 23. - Buy the truth, and sell it not (comp. Proverbs 4:5, 7; Proverbs 16:16). Consider truth as a thing of the highest value, and spare no pains, cost, or sacrifice to obtain it, and, when gotten, keep it safe; do not barter it for earthly profit or the pleasures of sense; do not be reasoned out of it, or laughed out of it; "sell it not," do not part with it for any consideration. The second clause gives the sphere in which truth moves, or the three properties which appertain to it. These are: wisdom (chochmah), practical knowledge; instruction (musar), moral culture and discipline; and understanding (binah), the faculty of discernment (see notes on Proverbs 1:2). This verse is omitted in the chief manuscripts of the Septuagint. The poet now shows how one attains unto wisdom - the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God:

17 Let not thine heart strive after sinners,

     But after the fear of Jahve all the day.

18 Truly there is a future,

     And thy hope shall not come to naught.

The lxx, Jerome, the Venet., and Luther, and the Arab. interpreters, render 17b as an independent clause: "but be daily in the fear of the Lord." That is not a substantival clause (cf. Proverbs 22:7), nor can it be an interjectional clause, but it may be an elliptical clause (Fleischer: from the prohibitive אל־תקנא is to be taken for the second parallel member the v. subst. lying at the foundation of all verbs); but why had the author omitted היה dettim? Besides, one uses the expressions, to act (עשׂה), and to walk (הלך) in the fear of God, but not the expression to be (היה) in the fear of God. Thus בּיראת, like בחטּאים, is dependent on אל־תּקנּא; and Jerome, who translates: Non aemuletur cor tuum peccatores, sed in timore Domini esto tota die, ought to have continued: sed timorem Domini tota die; for, as one may say in Latin: aemulari virtutes, as well as aemulari aliquem, so also in Heb. קנּא ב, of the envying of those persons whose fortune excites to dissatisfaction, because one has not the same, and might yet have it, Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 24:1, Proverbs 24:19, as well as of emulation for a thing in which one might not stand behind others: envy not sinners, envy much rather the fear of God, i.e., let thyself be moved with eager desire after it when its appearance is presented to thee. There is no O.T. parallel for this, but the Syr. tan and the Greek ζηλοτυποῦν are used in this double sense. Thus Hitzig rightly, and, among the moderns, Malbim; with Aben Ezra, it is necessary to take ביראת for באישׁ יראת, this proverb itself declares the fear of God to be of all things the most worthy of being coveted.

In Proverbs 23:18, Umbreit, Elster, Zckler, and others interpret the כּי as assigning a reason, and the אם as conditioning: for when the end (the hour of the righteous judgment) has come; Bertheau better, because more suitable to the ישׁ and the אחרית: when an end (an end adjusting the contradictions of the present time) comes, as no doubt it will come, then thy hope will not be destroyed; but, on the other hand, the succession of words in the conclusion (vid., at Proverbs 3:34) opposes this; also one does not see why the author does not say directly כי ישׁ אחרית, but expresses himself thus conditionally.

(Note: The form כּי אם־ does not contradict the connection of the two particles. This use of the Makkeph is general, except in these three instances: Genesis 15:4; Numbers 35:33; Nehemiah 2:2.)

If אם is meant hypothetically, then, with the lxx ἐὰν γὰρ τηρήσῃς αὐτὰ ἔκγονα, we should supply after it תּשׁמרנּה, that had fallen out. Ewald's: much rather there is yet a future (Dchsel: much rather be happy there is...), is also impossible; for the preceding clause is positive, not negative. The particles כּי אם, connected thus, mean: for if (e.g., Lamentations 3:32); or also relatively: that if (e.g., Jeremiah 26:15). After a negative clause they have the meaning of "unless," which is acquired by means of an ellipsis; e.g., Isaiah 55:10, it turns not back thither, unless it has watered the earth (it returns back not before then, not unless this is done). This "unless" is, however, used like the Lat. nisi, also without the conditioning clause following, e.g., Genesis 28:17, hic locus non est nisi domus Dei. And hence the expression כי אם, after the negation going before, acquires the meaning of "but," e.g., 17b: let not thy heart be covetous after sinners, for thou canst always be zealous for the fear of God, i.e., much rather for this, but for this. This pleonasm of אם sometimes occurs where כי is not used confirmatively, but affirmatively: the "certainly if" forms the transition, e.g., 1 Kings 20:6 (vid., Keil's Comm. l.c.), whose "if" is not seldom omitted, so that כי אם has only the meaning of an affirmative "certainly," not "truly no," which it may also have, 1 Samuel 25:34, but "truly yes." Thus כי אם is used Judges 15:7; 2 Samuel 15:21 (where אם is omitted by the Kerı̂); 2 Kings 5:20; Jeremiah 51:14; and thus it is also meant here, 18a, notwithstanding that כי אם, in its more usual signification, "besides only, but, nisi," precedes, as at 1 Samuel 21:6, cf. 5. The objection by Hitzig, that with this explanation: "certainly there is a future," Proverbs 23:18 and Proverbs 23:17 are at variance, falls to the ground, if one reflects on the Heb. idiom, in which the affirmative signification of כי is interpenetrated by the confirmative. אחרית used thus pregnantly, as here (Proverbs 24:14), is the glorious final issue; the word in itself designates the end into which human life issues (cf. Psalm 37:37.); here, the end crowning the preceding course. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11) in this sense connects אחרית ותקוה [end and expectation]. And what is here denied of the תּקיה, the hope (not as certain Jewish interpreters dream, the thread of life) of him who zealously strives after the fear of God, is affirmed, at Psalm 37:38, of the godless: the latter have no continuance, but the former have such as is the fulfilling of his hope.

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