Proverbs 23:32
At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
23:29-35 Solomon warns against drunkenness. Those that would be kept from sin, must keep from all the beginnings of it, and fear coming within reach of its allurements. Foresee the punishment, what it will at last end in, if repentance prevent not. It makes men quarrel. Drunkards wilfully make woe and sorrow for themselves. It makes men impure and insolent. The tongue grows unruly; the heart utters things contrary to reason, religion, and common civility. It stupifies and besots men. They are in danger of death, of damnation; as much exposed as if they slept upon the top of a mast, yet feel secure. They fear no peril when the terrors of the Lord are before them; they feel no pain when the judgments of God are actually upon them. So lost is a drunkard to virtue and honour, so wretchedly is his conscience seared, that he is not ashamed to say, I will seek it again. With good reason we were bid to stop before the beginning. Who that has common sense would contract a habit, or sell himself to a sin, which tends to such guilt and misery, and exposes a man every day to the danger of dying insensible, and awaking in hell? Wisdom seems in these chapters to take up the discourse as at the beginning of the book. They must be considered as the words of Christ to the sinner.Adder - Said to be the Cerastes, or horned snake.32. The acute miseries resulting from drunkenness contrasted with the temptations. It hurts the body in many respects, impairs the rigour of the mind, wastes the estate and reputation, wounds the conscience, and, without repentance, will destroy the soul. At the last it biteth like a serpent,.... Though it goes down sweetly, yet it leaves a sting behind it, intemperately drank; a nausea in the stomach, a stink in the breath, pains and giddiness in the head, weakness in the eyes, trembling in the members of the body, palsy, gout, and other distempers, very painful and grievous to be bore; and, what is worse, if the conscience is awakened, sharp and cutting reflections there; and, without true repentance, torments intolerable in the world to come;

and stingeth like an adder; or "spreads" (u), or separates and scatters; that is, its poison. So the Vulgate Latin version, "diffuseth poisons as a basilisk", or "cockatrice"; the Targum and Syriac version,

"as a serpent which flies;''

it signifies the same as before.

(u) "jecur diffindet", Schultens.

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 32. - At the last it biteth like a serpent. Wine is like the subtle poison of a serpent, which affects the whole body, and produces the most fatal consequences (comp. Ecclus. 21:2). Nachash is the generic name for any of the larger tribe of snakes (Genesis 3:1, etc.); the poisonous nature of its bite was, of course, well known (Numbers 21:9). Stingeth like an adder. The Hebrew word is tsiphoni, which is usually rendered "cockatrice" in the Authorized Version, but the particular species intended has not been accurately identified. There was some confusion in men's minds as to the organ which inflicted the poisonous wound. Thus a psalmist says, "They have sharpened their tongue like a serpent" (Psalm 140:3). But the verb "sting" is to be taken in the sense of puncturing, making a wound. Vulgate, Sicut regulus venena diffundet, "It will diffuse its poison like a basilisk:" Septuagint, "But at the last he stretches himself like one stricken by a serpent, and the venom is diffused through him as by a horned snake (κεράστου)." This hexastich warns against unchastity. What, in chap. 1-9, extended discourses and representations exhibited to the youth is here repeated in miniature pictures. It is the teacher of wisdom, but by him Wisdom herself, who speaks:

26 Give me, my son, thine heart;

     And let thine eyes delight in my ways.

27 For the harlot is a deep ditch,

     And the strange woman a narrow pit.

28 Yea, she lieth in wait like a robber,

     And multiplieth the faithless among men

We have retained Luther's beautiful rendering of Proverbs 23:26,

(Note: The right punctuation of 26a is תּנה־בני לבּך, as it is found in the editions: Ven. 1615; Basel 1619; and in those of Norzi and Michaelis.)

in which this proverb, as a warning word of heavenly wisdom and of divine love, has become dear to us. It follows, as Symmachus and the Venet., the Chethı̂b תּרצנה (for תרצינה, like Exodus 2:16; Job 5:12), the stylistic appropriateness of which proceeds from Proverbs 16:7, as on the other hand the Kerı̂ תּצּרנה (cf. 1 Samuel 14:27) is supported by Proverbs 22:12, cf. Proverbs 5:2. But the correction is unnecessary, and the Chethı̂b sounds more affectionate, hence it is with right defended by Hitzig. The ways of wisdom are ways of correction, and particularly of chastity, thus placed over against "the ways of the harlot," Proverbs 7:24. Accordingly the exhortation, Proverbs 23:26, verifies itself; warning, by Proverbs 23:27, cf. Proverbs 22:14, where עמקּה was written, here as at Job 12:22, with the long vowel עמוּקה (עמקה). בּאר צרה interchanges with שׁוּחה עמוקה, and means, not the fountain of sorrow (Lwenstein), but the narrow pit. בּאר is fem. gen., Proverbs 26:21., and צר means narrow, like troit (old French, estreit), from strictus. The figure has, after Proverbs 22:14, the mouth of the harlot in view. Whoever is enticed by her syren voice falls into a deep ditch, into a pit with a narrow mouth, into which one can more easily enter than escape from. Proverbs 23:28 says that it is the artifice of the harlot which draws a man into such depth of wickedness and guilt. With אף, which, as at Judges 5:29, belongs not to היא but to the whole sentence, the picture of terror is completed. The verb חתף (whence Arab. ḥataf, death, natural death) means to snatch away. If we take חתף as abstr.: a snatching away, then it would here stand elliptically for חתף (בּעל) אישׁ, which in itself is improbable (vid., Proverbs 7:22, עכס) and also unnecessary, since, as מלך, עבד, הלך, etc. show, such abstracta can pass immediately into concreta, so that חתף thus means the person who snatches away, i.e., the street robber, latro (cf. חטף .fc(, Arab. khaṭaf, Psalm 10:9, rightly explained by Kimchi as cogn.). In 28b, תוסיף cannot mean abripit (as lxx, Theodotion, and Jerome suppose), for which the word תּספּה (תּאסף) would have been used.

(Note: The Targ. translates 28b (here free from the influence of the Peshito) in the Syro-Palestinian idiom by וצאד אבניּא שׁברי, i.e., she seizes thoughtless sons.)

But this verbal idea does not harmonize with the connection; תוסיף means, as always, addit (auget), and that here in the sense of multiplicat. The same thing may be said of בּוגדים as is said (Proverbs 11:15) of תּוקעים. Hitzig's objection, "הוסיף, to multiply, with the accusative of the person, is not at all used," is set aside by Proverbs 19:4. But we may translate: the faithless, or: the breach of faith she increases. Yet it always remains a question whether בּאדם is dependent on בוגדים, as Ecclesiastes 8:9, cf. 2 Samuel 23:3, on the verb of ruling (Hitzig), or whether, as frequently בּאדם, e.g., Psalm 78:60, it means inter homines (thus most interpreters). Uncleanness leads to faithlessness of manifold kinds: it makes not only the husband unfaithful to his wife, but also the son to his parents, the scholar to his teacher and pastor, the servant (cf. the case of Potiphar's wife) to his master. The adulteress, inasmuch as she entices now one and now another into her net, increases the number of those who are faithless towards men. But are they not, above all, faithless towards God? We are of opinion that not בוגדים, but תוסיף, has its complement in באדם, and needs it: the adulteress increases the faithless among men, she makes faithlessness of manifold kinds common in human society. According to this, also, it is accentuated; ובוגדים is placed as object by Mugrasch, and באדם is connected by Mercha with תוסיף.

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