Proverbs 4:1
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
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(g) Seventh Discourse:—Recollections of his Father’s Instructions (Proverbs 4:1 to Proverbs 5:6).

(1) A father.—That is, of me, your teacher.

Proverbs 4:1-3. Hear, &c., the instruction of a father — Of me, who have paternal authority over you, and great affection for you. For I give you, good doctrine — Not vain or foolish, much less false or pernicious counsels, but such as are true and profitable. Forsake ye not my law — God’s law or commands delivered to you by my mouth. For I was my father’s son — In a special sense, his best beloved son, and designed to be his successor on the throne; tender and only beloved, &c. — Young and tender in years, and capable of any impressions, and tenderly educated. Houbigant renders the verse, For I was the principal son of my father, the only beloved of my mother. These circumstances are mentioned to show the necessity and great benefit of wholesome instruction, which his royal parents would not neglect, no, not in his tender years; and thereby to prepare and excite his hearers or readers, by his example, to receive instruction.

4:1-13 We must look upon our teachers as our fathers: though instruction carry in it reproof and correction, bid it welcome. Solomon's parents loved him, therefore taught him. Wise and godly men, in every age of the world, and rank in society, agree that true wisdom consists in obedience, and is united to happiness. Get wisdom, take pains for it. Get the rule over thy corruptions; take more pains to get this than the wealth of this world. An interest in Christ's salvation is necessary. This wisdom is the one thing needful. A soul without true wisdom and grace is a dead soul. How poor, contemptible, and wretched are those, who, with all their wealth and power, die without getting understanding, without Christ, without hope, and without God! Let us give heed to the sayings of Him who has the words of eternal life. Thus our path will be plain before us: by taking, and keeping fast hold of instruction, we shall avoid being straitened or stumbling.The words "ye children" indicate as usual a new section returning, after the break of Proverbs 3:27-35, to the old strain of fatherly counsel. CHAPTER 4

Pr 4:1-27. To an earnest call for attention to his teachings, the writer adds a commendation of wisdom, preceded and enforced by the counsels of his father and teacher. To this he adds a caution (against the devices of the wicked), and a series of exhortations to docility, integrity, and uprightness.

1, 2. (Compare Pr 1:8).

to know—in order to know.

doctrine—the matter of learning (Pr 1:5), such as he had received (La 3:1).Solomon showeth the excellency of his doctrine, Proverbs 4:1-4. His counsel to get wisdom, Proverbs 4:5,6, and understanding, Proverbs 4:7. The honour which cometh thereby, Proverbs 4:8,9. The good effects of it, Proverbs 4:10-12. He dehorts from the paths of the wicked, by the evil consequences thereof, Proverbs 4:13-19; and exhorteth to keep several precepts for the better government of himself, Proverbs 4:20; concerning his eyes, Proverbs 4:21,22, his heart, Proverbs 4:23, his mouth, Proverbs 4:24, and his feet, Proverbs 4:25-27.

Of a father; of me your teacher, who have paternal authority over you, and affection to you.

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father,.... Either of God their father, as Gersom interprets it; or rather of Solomon their father: and so he recommends his instruction from the relation he stood in to them; for, since he was their father, he would give them no bad instruction; and, since they were his children, they ought to receive it: by whom are meant, not his children in a natural sense, or the children of his body; but his disciples, such who applied to him for knowledge, and whom he undertook to learn;

and attend to know understanding; what would serve to enlighten, enlarge, improve, and inform their understandings; what would lead them into the knowledge and understanding of things divine and spiritual, and which would be worth knowing; and of having their understandings stored and enriched with.

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a {a} father, and attend to know understanding.

(a) He speaks this as a preacher and minister which is as a father to the people, Pr 2:8.

Seventh Address. Chap. Proverbs 4:1-9Resuming, after the parenthesis (Proverbs 3:27-35) the style and tone of fatherly address of the preceding sections, the Teacher commends Wisdom to his scholars as his children, by the example of his own early education. Mr Horton happily remarks, “This chapter begins with a charming little piece of autobiography,” and quotes Wordsworth’s words,

“Wisdom doth live with children round her knees.”

Verses 1-27. - 7. Seventh admonitory discourse. We here enter upon the second group of admonitory discourses, as is indicated by the opening address, "my children," and which occurs again in Proverbs 5:7 and Proverbs 7:24. This group extends to the end of ch. 7. Its prevailing tone is that of warning rather than of positive exhortations, which have been the rule hitherto. The general aim of the discourse before us, as of those preceding, is to exalt Wisdom, to exhibit her as a subject worthy of all earnest endeavour and sacrifice, but it is noticeable that the teacher introduces a fresh feature into his teaching or mode of instruction, in order to procure attention to, and acceptance of, his precepts on the part of his hearers. He has already spoken in his own name and with his own authority; he has brought forward Wisdom personified as making her appeal; he now adduces the authority of his own father's advice to himself. But as the mode of emphasizing his admonitions varies, so Wisdom is many-sided, and the aspect under which she is now presented seems to be especially that of discipline and obedience. The keynote of the discourse seems to be struck in the word "instruction," i.e. discipline, in the original, musar, thus recalling the admonition in Proverbs 1:8, "My son, hear the instruction of thy father." Bohlius, in his 'Ethica Sacra,' disp. 6. p. 65, sqq., assigns "discipline" (musar) to this chapter; and Melancthon describes the admonitions of the chapter before us as "adhortationes ad studium obedientiae." Discipline rising into obedience seems to be the predominant thought to which all others are made subordinate. The discourse is an enlargement or amplification of this aspect of Wisdom. In structure the discourse consists mainly of the father's advice (vers. 4-19), preceded and followed by the teacher's own admonitions in vers. 1-3 and 20-27. The chief topics touched upon are

(1) the supreme importance of Wisdom as being "the principal thing" to be obtained before everything else (vers. 7-9);

(2) the two ways that lie open to the choice of youth, distinguished respectively as the way of light and the way of darkness (vers. 14-19); and

(3) the guarding of the heart with all diligence, as being the seat of conscience and the fountain of life in its moral sense (vers. 23-27). The first part of the discourse is characterized by exhortations accompanied by promises; the latter part takes the form of warning, and warning of an alarming nature. The harmony which exists between the allusions in the discourse and the facts recorded in the historical books of Samuel and Chronicles serves to indicate that we have before us, in substance at least, the advice which David gave to Solomon, and that the discourse is Solomonic. Compare especially ver. 3 with 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 1 Chron 22:9, and ver. 18 with the last words of David in 2 Samuel 23:4. Verse 1. - Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father. This exhortation is identical with that in Proverbs 1:8, except that the address, "ye children," indicating a new departure, is now used instead of "my son," which has been hitherto employed (see Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1, 21), and "of thy father" is altered to "of a father." The verb is the same, occurring here, of course, in the plural number. The appeal is evidently intended to rouse attention. Attention is especially necessary to secure a knowledge of Divine truth. Ye children (bhanim). This address occurs again twice in the second group of admonitory discourses - in Proverbs 5:7 and Proverbs 7:24, and also in the appeal of Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:32, and, with these exceptions, nowhere else in the Proverbs. It is used by David, and it is possible that when the teacher penned these words he had in mind Psalm 34:11, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord." The similarity in the address serves to connect the teacher of wisdom with David, and thus to identify him with Solomon, while it also leads to the conclusion that the advice which follows in vers. 4-19 is in substance that which David had given his son. On "instruction," see ch. 1:8. Of a father (av). It is difficult, owing to the want of the pronominal suffix, to determine accurately whether the teacher is referring to himself or to his own father in the expression. The following verse

(2) would indicate that he is speaking of himself in his capacity as a teacher or instructor of youth. But it is quite possible that he may be referring to his own father, whose advice he had received, and which he is now about to lay before others in vers. 4-19. Though attention to paternal advice in general, i.e. instruction given by any father to his children, is not intended here, still the passage may be regarded as embodying the principle that attention to parental advice is incumbent on children, and a disregard of it is the mark of ingratitude and depravity. Rabbi Levi understands the phrase as referring to our heavenly Father. Attend (hakshivu, hiph. imperative of kashav). On the force of this verb as signifying "earnest, absorbed attention," see Proverbs 1:24. To know understanding (ladaath bina); i.e. in order that you may know or gain understanding. "The infinitive marks the design or object of the attention (cf. the Vulgate, ut sciatis). `The expression corresponds with ladaath khokmah in Proverbs 1:2, and just as this signifies "to appropriate to yourself wisdom," so the one before us has the same force, and signifies the gaining or appropriation of understanding, i.e. the faculty of discernment or discrimination. Hitzig renders, "to know with the understanding;" i.e. to know intelligently, but this does not seem to be the meaning of the phrase. Proverbs 4:1He now confirms and explains the command to duty which he has placed at the beginning of the whole (Proverbs 1:8). This he does by his own example, for he relates from the history of his own youth, to the circle of disciples by whom he sees himself surrounded, what good doctrine his parents had taught him regarding the way of life:

1 Hear, ye sons, the instruction of a father,

   And attend that ye may gain understanding;

2 For I give to you good doctrine,

   Forsake not my direction!

3 For I was a son to my father,

   A tender and only (son) in the sight of my mother.

4 And he instructed me, and said to me:

   "Let thine heart hold fast my words:

   Observe my commandments and live!"

That בּנים in the address comes here into the place of בּני, hitherto used, externally denotes that בני in the progress of these discourses finds another application: the poet himself is so addressed by his father. Intentionally he does not say אביכם (cf. Proverbs 1:8): he does not mean the father of each individual among those addressed, but himself, who is a father in his relation to them as his disciples; and as he manifests towards them fatherly love, so also he can lay claim to paternal authority over them. לדעת is rightly vocalized, not לדעת. The words do not give the object of attention, but the design, the aim. The combination of ideas in דּעת בּינה (cf. Proverbs 1:2), which appears to us singular, loses its strangeness when we remember that דעת means, according to its etymon, deposition or reception into the conscience and life. Regarding לקח, apprehension, reception, lesson equals doctrine, vid., Proverbs 1:5. נתתּי is the perf., which denotes as fixed and finished what is just now being done, Gesenius, 126, 4. עזב is here synonym of נטשׁ, Proverbs 1:8, and the contrary of שׁמר, Proverbs 28:4. The relative factum in the perfect, designating the circumstances under which the event happened, regularly precedes the chief factum ויּרני; see under Genesis 1:2. Superficially understood, the expression 3a would be a platitude; the author means that the natural legal relation was also confirming itself as a moral one. It was a relation of many-sided love, according to 3a: he was esteemed of his mother - לפני, used of the reflex in the judgment, Genesis 10:9, and of loving care, Genesis 17:18, means this - as a tender child, and therefore tenderly to be protected (רך as Genesis 33:13), and as an only child, whether he were so in reality, or was only loved as if he were so. יחיד (Aq., Sym., Theod., μονογενής) may with reference to number also mean unice dilectus (lxx ἀγαπώμενος); cf. Genesis 22:2, יחידך (where the lxx translate τὸν ἀγαπητόν, without therefore having ידידך before them). לפני is maintained by all the versions; לבני is not a variant.

(Note: In some editions לבני is noted as Kerı̂ to לפני, but erroneously and contrary to the express evidence of the Masora, which affirms that there are two passages in which we ought to read not לפני, but לבני, viz., Psalm 80:3 and Proverbs 4:3.)

The instruction of the father begins with the jussive, which is pointed יתמך־

(Note: The writing of -יתמך with the grave Metheg (Gaja) and Kametz-Chatuph (ǒ) is that of Ben Asher; on the other hand, יתמך־ with Cholem (ō) and the permanent Metheg is that of Ben Naphtali; vid., Michlol 21a [under the verbal form 25], 30.)


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