Proverbs 23:4
Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom.
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(4) Cease from thine own wisdom.—Cleverness shewn in piling up wealth.

Proverbs 23:4-5. Labour not — Hebrew, אל תיגע, Do not weary thyself, namely, with immoderate cares and labours, as many covetous men do; to be rich — To raise an estate, and make thy property abundantly more than it is. Solomon does not forbid all labour, nor a provident care, which he commends in other places; but only represents how vain and foolish it is to be over solicitous, and to carry our cares and labours to such excess as to injure, if not our health of body, yet our peace and serenity of mind, and to endanger or even preclude our everlasting salvation. Cease from thine own wisdom — From that carnal wisdom which is natural to man in his corrupt estate, and which persuades men to believe that it is their interest to use all possible means to get riches, and that the happiness of their lives consists in the abundance of their possessions, directly contrary to the assertion of our blessed Lord, Luke 12:15. Wilt thou set thine eyes — Wilt thou look with earnestness and eager desire; Hebrew, Wilt thou cause thine eyes to fly; upon that which is not — Which has no solid and settled existence; which is thine to have, but not to hold; which is always upon the wing, and ofttimes gone in the twinkling of an eye. For riches certainly make themselves wings — The wings on which they fly away are of their own making: like the wings of a fowl, they grow out of themselves. They have in themselves the principles of their own corruption, their own moth and rust. They are wasting in their own nature, and like a handful of sand, which, when griped, slips through the fingers. “The covetous man,” says Henry, “sits hatching and brooding over his wealth till it be fledged, as the chickens under the hen, and then it is gone. Or, as if a man should be enamoured with a flight of wild fowl that light in his field, and call them his own, because they are upon his ground; whereas, if he happen to come near them, they take wing immediately, and are gone to another man’s field.” They fly away as an eagle — Swiftly, strongly, and irrecoverably. We quickly lose the sight and the possession of them. Their flying away from us is elegantly opposed to our eyes being set, or flying upon them, in the beginning of the verse.23:1-3 God's restraints of the appetite only say, Do thyself no harm. 4,5. Be not of those that will be rich. The things of this world are not happiness and a portion for a soul; those that hold them ever so fast, cannot hold them always, cannot hold them long. 6-8. Do not make thyself burdensome to any, especially those not sincere. When we are called by God to his feast, and to let our souls delight themselves, Isa 25:6; 55:2, we may safely partake of the Bread of life. 9. It is our duty to take all fit occasions to speak of Divine things; but if what a wise man says will not be heard, let him hold his peace. 10,11. The fatherless are taken under God's special protection. He is their Redeemer, who will take their part; and he is mighty, almighty.Cease from thine own wisdom - i. e., "Cease from the use of what is in itself most excellent, if it only serves to seek after wealth, and so ministers to evil." There is no special contrast between "thine own wisdom" and that given from above, though it is of course implied that in ceasing from his own prudence the man is on the way to attain a higher wisdom. 4, 5. (Compare 1Ti 6:9, 10).

thine own wisdom—which regards riches intrinsically as a blessing.

Labour not, Heb. Do not weary thyself with immoderate cares and labours, as many covetous men do.

From thine own wisdom; from that carnal wisdom which is natural to man in his corrupt estate, which persuades men to believe that it is their interest to use all possible means to get riches, and that the happiness of their lives consists in the abundance of their possessions, directly contrary to the assertion of our blessed Lord, Luke 12:15. Labour not to be rich,.... In an immoderate over anxious way and manner, to a weariness, as the word (u) signifies, and even as to gape for breath men ought to labour, that they may have wherewith to support themselves and families, and give to others and: if they can, lay up for their children; but then persons should not toil and weary themselves to heap up riches when they know not who shall gather them and much less make use of indirect and illicit methods to obtain them; resolving to be rich at any rate: rather men should labour for durable riches, lay up treasure in heaven, seek those things which are above, and labour to be accepted of God both here and hereafter; which only is in Christ. The Targum is,

"do not draw nigh to a rich man;''

and so the Syriac version; to which agree the Septuagint and Arabic versions;

cease from thine own wisdom; worldly wisdom in getting; riches, as if this was the highest point of wisdom; do not be always laying schemes, forming projects, inventing new things in order to get money; or do not depend upon thine own wisdom and understanding and expect to be rich by means thereof; for bread is not always to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, Ecclesiastes 9:11. The Targum is,

"but by thine understanding depart from him;''

the rich man; and to the same purpose the Syriac and Arabic versions.

(u) "ne fatiges", Mercerus, Junius & Tremellius; "ne hiascas", Schultens.

Labour not to be rich: cease from thy own {d} wisdom.

(d) Bestow not the gifts that God has given you, to get worldly riches.

4. Labour not] Rather, Weary not thyself, R.V., as the same Heb. word is rendered “till his hand was weary,” 2 Samuel 23:10; “be weary,” Isaiah 40:30-31. Comp. John 6:27; 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

cease from thine own wisdom] from the wisdom, namely, of becoming rich. Prudentiae tuae pone modum, set a limit to thy prudence in acquiring wealth. Vulg.

We may, however, render cease of thine own wisdom, “by reason of thine own understanding,” R.V. marg. Let thine own sense teach thee better. τῇ δὲ σῇ ἐννοίᾳ ἀπόσχου, LXX.Verses 4, 5. - These form a pentastich. Verse 4. - Labour not - weary not thyself - to be rich. John 6:27, "Labour not for the meat that perisheth," where the warning is against that absorbing eagerness for wealth which leads to evil doing and neglect of all higher interests. Cease from thine own wisdom. The wisdom (binah, Proverbs 3:5) is that which is necessary for making and keeping wealth. Vulgate, Prudentiae tuae pone modum. This is not the highest form of wisdom (chochmah), but rather the faculty of distinguishing one thing from another, mere discernment, which may exist without any religious or keen moral sense (see note on Proverbs 16:16, where possibly the contrast is expressed). Talmud, "He who augments his riches augments his cares." Erasmus, 'Adag,,' quotes or writes -

"Jupiter ementitur opes mortalibus ipse,
Sic visum ut fuerit, cuicunque, bonove, malove?
Septuagint, "If thou art poor, measure not thyself (μὴ παρεκτείνου) with a rich man, but in thy wisdom refrain thyself." A third distich follows:

26 Be not among those who strike hands,

     Among those who become surety for loans.

27 If thou hast nothing to pay,

     Why shall he take away thy bed from under thee?

To strike hands is equivalent to, to be responsible to any one for another, to stake one's goods and honour for him, Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18 - in a word, ערב, seq. acc., to pledge oneself for him (Genesis 43:9), or for the loan received by him, משּׁאה, Deuteronomy 24:10 (from השּׁה, with ב, of the person and accus. of the thing: to lend something to one on interest). The proverb warns against being one of such sureties (write בּערבים with Cod. 1294, and old impressions such as the Venice, 1521), against acting as they do; for why wouldest thou come to this, that when thou cast not pay (שׁלּם, to render a full equivalent reckoning, and, generally, to pay, Proverbs 6:31),

(Note: After Ben-Asher, the pointing is אם־אין־לך; while, on the contrary, Ben-Naphtali prefers אם־אין לך; vid., my Genesis (1869), pp. 74 (under Genesis 1:3) and 81. So, without any bearing on the sense, Ben-Asher points למּה with Tarcha, Ben-Naphtali with Mercha.)

he (the creditor) take away thy bed from under thee? - for, as Proverbs 20:16 says, thus improvident suretyships are wont to be punished.

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