Proverbs 27:23
Be you diligent to know the state of your flocks, and look well to your herds.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Be thou diligent to know the state of thy herds. . . .—In the last five verses of this chapter the peace and security of the pastoral life are described as being far superior to the uncertainty attending other sources of wealth and the regal power. For the spiritual sense of this passage comp. 1Peter 5:2-4

Proverbs 27:23-24. Be diligent to know the state of thy flock — That thou mayest preserve and improve what thou hast, and take care that thy expenses do not exceed thy income. Flocks and herds are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches. And look well, &c. — Hebrew, שׁית לבךְ, set thy heart, &c. Trust not to thy servants, as many do, but make use of thine own eyes and reason for the conduct of thy affairs, lest thou come to ruin, as many have done by this very means. For riches — Hebrew, חסן, treasure, is not for ever — The sense is, what thou now possessest will not last always, but will soon be spent, if thou do not take care to preserve and improve it. And doth the crown endure, &c. — That is, a condition of the greatest honour and plenty. As if he had said, If a man had the wealth of a kingdom, without provident care and due diligence, it would soon be brought to nothing.27:15,16. The contentions of a neighbour may be like a sharp shower, troublesome for a time; the contentions of a wife are like constant rain. 17. We are cautioned to take heed whom we converse with. And directed to have in view, in conversation, to make one another wiser and better. 18. Though a calling be laborious and despised, yet those who keep to it, will find there is something to be got by it. God is a Master who has engaged to honour those who serve him faithfully. 19. One corrupt heart is like another; so are sanctified hearts: the former bear the same image of the earthly, the latter the same image of the heavenly. Let us carefully watch our own hearts, comparing them with the word of God. 20. Two things are here said to be never satisfied, death and sin. The appetites of the carnal mind for profit or pleasure are always desiring more. Those whose eyes are ever toward the Lord, are satisfied in him, and shall for ever be so. 21. Silver and gold are tried by putting them into the furnace and fining-pot; so is a man tried by praising him. 22. Some are so bad, that even severe methods do not answer the end; what remains but that they should be rejected? The new-creating power of God's grace alone is able to make a change. 23-27. We ought to have some business to do in this world, and not to live in idleness, and not to meddle with what we do not understand. We must be diligent and take pains. Let us do what we can, still the world cannot be secured to us, therefore we must choose a more lasting portion; but by the blessing of God upon our honest labours, we may expect to enjoy as much of earthly blessings as is good for us.The verses sing the praises of the earlier patriarchal life, with its flocks and herds, and tillage of the ground, as compared with the commerce of a later time, with money as its chief or only wealth.

Proverbs 27:23

The state - literally, face. The verse is an illustration of John 10:3, John 10:14.

23, 24. flocks—constituted the staple of wealth. It is only by care and diligence that the most solid possessions can be perpetuated (Pr 23:5). To know the state of thy flocks; that thou mayst preserve and improve what thou hast, and take care that thine expenses may not exceed thine incomes.

Flocks and herds are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches.

Look well, Heb. set thine heart. Trust not wholly to thy servants, as many do, that they may give up themselves wholly to case and pleasure; but make rise of thine own eyes and reason for the conduct of thine affairs, lest thou come to ruin, as many have done by this very means. Be thou diligent to know the state of flocks,.... In what condition they are; what health they enjoy; how fat and fruitful they be; what pasturage they have; and that they want nothing fitting for them that can be had and is necessary; and also the number of them. The calling of the shepherd is here particularly mentioned, because valiant, honourable, innocent, and useful; but the same diligence is to be used in all other callings and business men are employed in, that they may provide for themselves and their families. It is in the original text, "the face of thy flocks" (r); perhaps the allusion is to the exact and distinct knowledge some very diligent careful shepherds might have, so as to know each sheep in their flocks distinctly; see John 10:3; The Septuagint version renders it, the souls of thy flock, as if it was an instruction to spiritual pastors or shepherds, who have the care of the souls of men: and certain it is, that if it is the duty of shepherds in common to be diligent in looking after their sheep, and doing everything the duty of their office requires; then it must become the indispensable duty of pastors of churches to take heed to the flock of God committed to them, and to look into their state and condition, and provide for them, and feed them with knowledge and understanding, Acts 20:28;

and look well to thy herds; or, "put thy heart" (s) to them: show a cordial regard for them, and take a hearty care of them, that they have everything needful for them; and which is for the owner's good as well as theirs.

(r) "faciem pecoris tui", Tigurine version, Mercerus, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens; "vultum", V. L. Pagninus; "facies", Montanus. (s) "pone cor tuum", Pagninus, Montanus; "adverte cor", Cocceius; "adverte animum tuum", Michaelis; "apponere cor tuum", Schultens.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verses 23-27. - A mashal ode in praise of a pastoral and agricultural life. The moralist evidently desires to recall his countrymen from the luxury of cities and the temptations of money making to the simple ways of the patriarchs and the pleasures of country pursuits - which are the best foundation of enduring prosperity. Verse 23. - Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. "State;" פָנִים (panim); vultum, Vulgate; the face, look, appearance. The LXX. has ψυχάς, which may perhaps mean "the number" - a necessary precaution when the sheep wandered on the downs and mountains, and had to be collected in the evening and folded. These precepts are naturally applied to all rulers, and especially to Christian pastors who have the oversight of the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:2-4). Ecclus. 7:22, "Hast thou cattle? have an eye to them; and if they he for thy profit, keep them with thee." This proverb expresses the influence arising from the intercourse of man with man:

Iron is sharpened by iron,

And a man may sharpen the appearance of another.

When the Masora reads יחד, Ewald remarks, it interprets the word as denoting "at the same time," and the further meaning of the proverb must then accord therewith. Accordingly he translates: "iron together with iron! and one together with the face of another!" But then the prep. ב or עם is wanting after the second יחד - for יחד is, in spite of Ewald, 217h, never a prep. - and the "face," 17b, would be a perplexing superfluity. Hitzig already replies, but without doing homage to the traditional text-punctuation, that such a violence to the use of language, and such a darkening of the thought, is not at all to be accepted. He suggests four ways of interpreting יחד: (1) the adverb יחד, united, properly (taken accusat.) union; (2) יחד, Psalm 86:11, imper. of the Piel יחד, unite; (3) יחדּ, Job 3:6, jussive of the Kal חדה, gaudeat; and (4) as Kimchi, in Michlol 126a, jussive of the Kal חדה ( equals חדד) acuere, after the form תחז, Micah 4:11. ויּחץ, Genesis 32:8, etc. in p. יחד, after the form אחז, Job 23:9. ויּחל, 2 Kings 1:2 ( equals ויּחלא, 2 Chronicles 16:12). If we take יחד with בּרזל, then it is priori to be supposed that in יחד the idea of sharpening lies; in the Arab. iron is simply called hadyda equals חדוּד, that which is sharpened, sharp; and a current Arab. proverb says: alḥadyd balḥadyd yuflah equals ferrum ferro diffinditur (vid., Freytag under the word falah). But is the traditional text-punctuation thus understood to be rightly maintained? It may be easily changed in conformity with the meaning, but not so that with Bttcher we read יחד and יחד, the fut. Kal of חדד: "iron sharpeneth itself on iron, and a man sharpeneth himself over against his neighbour" - for פני after a verb to be understood actively, has to be regarded as the object - but since יחד is changed into יחד (fut. Hiph. of חדד), and יחד into יחד or יחד (fut. Hiph. of חדד, after the form אחל, incipiam, Deuteronomy 2:25, or אחל, profanabo, Ezekiel 39:7; Numbers 30:3). The passive rendering of the idea 17a and the active of 17b thus more distinctly appear, and the unsuitable jussive forms are set aside: ferrum ferro exacuitur, et homo exacuit faciem amici sui (Jerome, Targ., the Venet.). But that is not necessary. As ויּעל may be the fut. of the Hiph. (he brought up) as well as of the Kal (he went up), so יחד may be regarded as fut. Kal, and יחד as fut. Hiph. Fleischer prefers to render יחד also as Hiph.: aciem exhibet, like יעשׁיר, divitias acquirit, and the like; but the jussive is not favourable to this supposition of an intransitive (inwardly transitive) Hiph. It may indeed be said that the two jussives appear to be used, according to poetic licence, with the force of indicatives (cf. under Proverbs 12:26), but the repetition opposes it. Thus we explain: iron is sharpened [gewetzt, Luther uses this appropriate word] by iron (ב of the means, not of the object, which was rather to be expected in 17b after Proverbs 20:30), and a man whets פני, the appearance, the deportment, the nature, and manner of the conduct of his neighbour. The proverb requires that the intercourse of man with man operate in the way of sharpening the manner and forming the habits and character; that one help another to culture and polish of manner, rub off his ruggedness, round his corners, as one has to make use of iron when he sharpens iron and seeks to make it bright. The jussive form is the oratorical form of the expression of that which is done, but also of that which is to be done.

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