Proverbs 23:34
Yes, you shall be as he that lies down in the middle of the sea, or as he that lies on the top of a mast.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) As he that lieth down in the midst of the sea.—And so would inevitably be drowned if he trusted to its smooth, glassy appearance.

As he that lieth upon the top of a mast.—Whom every roll of the ship might hurl into the waves. The absolute insensibility of the drunkard to danger is here described. Or it may mean that everything round the drunkard and the ground on which he lies, seem to rock like the waves of the sea, or the masthead of a ship.

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.The passage is interesting, as showing the increased familiarity of Israelites with the experiences of sea life (compare Psalm 104:25-26; Psalm 107:23-30).

In the midst of the sea - i. e., When the ship is in the trough of the sea and the man is on the deck. The second clause varies the form of danger, the man is in the "cradle" at the top of the mast, and sleeps there, regardless of the danger.

33, 34. The moral effects: it inflames passion (Ge 19:31, 35), lays open the heart, produces insensibility to the greatest dangers, and debars from reformation, under the severest sufferings. That lieth down to sleep, of which that word is frequently used,

in the midst of the sea; in a ship in the midst of the sea. This phrase notes the temper and condition of the drunkard, the giddiness of his brain, the unquietness of his mind, and especially his extreme danger joined with great security.

The top of a mast; the worst part of the ship, both for its perpetual tossings, and for the hazard of him that sleeps on it. Yea, thou shall be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea,.... Not in the open sea, and the waves of it, there fluctuating and tossed about; nor in an island encompassed by sea; but in a ship at sea, a drunken man reels and tumbles about, just as a ship does at sea; hence the motions and agitations of it, and of the men in it, are compared to the reeling and staggering of a drunken man, Psalm 107:26;

or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast: where the motion is the greatest. Or all this may be expressive of the dangers which a drunkard is exposed unto, and of his stupidity and insensibility; for though he is in as great danger as one in the circumstances described, in a storm at sea, yet is not sensible of it; which agrees with what follows.

And thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the {p} sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

(p) In such great danger will you be.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
34. in the midst of the sea] as if it were a safe resting-place. A strong figure to denote the utter recklessness of danger which excess of drink induces.

upon the top of a mast] It only weakens the figure to supply here in the cradle, or the like; just as it does in the former clause to introduce on the deck of a ship. “The rig of an ancient ship was more simple and clumsy than that employed in modern times. Its great feature was one large mast, with one large square sail fastened to a yard of great length,” Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. Ship. The drunkard is as foolhardy as one who should lie down to sleep there.

It is difficult to understand how Dean Stanley finds here “a notice rare in any ancient writings, unique in the Hebrew Scriptures, of the well-known signs of sea-sickness” (Jewish Church, ii. 186).Verse 34. - As he that lieth down in the midst of the sea. The dazed and unconscious condition of a drunkard is described by one familiar with sea life, as in Psalm 104:25, etc.; Psalms 107:23, etc. The Hebrew has "in the heart of the sea" (Jonah 2:4), i.e. the depth. Many understand the idea to be that the drunkard is compared to a man asleep in a frail boat, or to one slumbering on board a ship sunk in the trough of the sea. But the "lying" here does not imply sleep, but rather immersion. The inebriated person is assimilated to one who is drowned or drowning, who is cut off from all his former pursuits and interests in life, and has become unconscious of surrounding circumstances. This much more exactly represents the case than any notion of sloping amid danger. Septuagint, "Thou shalt lie as in the heart of the sea." Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast; the extreme point of the sailyard, where no one could lie without the greatest peril of falling off. The drunkard is exposed to dangers of all kinds from being unable to take care of himself, and yet is all the time unconscious of his critical situation. Corn. a Lapide, followed by Plumptre, considers that the cradle, or look out, on the top of the mast is meant, where, if the watchman slept, he would be certain to endanger his life. Vulgate, "like a pilot fallen asleep, who has dropped the tiller," and is therefore on the way to shipwreck. Septuagint, "as a pilot in a great storm." 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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