|<< Proverbs 23 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
What is before thee - Beware lest dainties tempt thee to excess. Or, "consider diligently who is before thee," the character and temper of the ruler who invites thee.
2And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
i. e., "Restrain thy appetite, eat as if the knife were at thy throat." Others render the words "thou wilt put a knife to thy throat" etc., i. e., "indulgence at such a time may endanger thy very life."
3Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Dainties ... deceitful meat - Such as "savory meat," venison Genesis 27:4, offered not from genuine hospitality, but with some by-ends.
4Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
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.
5Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Set thine eyes - literally, as in the margin, i. e., "gaze eagerly upon;" and then we get an emphatic parallelism with the words that follow, "they fly away as an eagle toward heaven;" "certainly make themselves wings."
6Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
A different danger from that of Proverbs 23:1. The hazard here is the hospitality of the purse-proud rich, avaricious or grudging even in his banquets.
Evil eye - Not with the later associations of a mysterious power for mischief, but simply, as in the margin ref. and in Matthew 20:15.
7For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
Thinketh - The Hebrew verb is found here only, and probably means, "as he is all along in his heart, so is he (at last) in act."
8The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
9Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
The "fool" here is one willfully and persistently deaf to it, almost identical with the scorner.
10Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
11For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
The reason is given for the precept Proverbs 23:10.
Their redeemer - See Job 19:25 note. It was the duty of the גאל gā'al, the next of kin, to take on himself, in case of murder, the office of avenger of blood Numbers 35:19. By a slight extension the word was applied to one who took on himself a like office in cases short of this. Here, therefore, the thought is that, destitute as the fatherless may seem, there is One who claims them as His next of kin, and will avenge them. Yahweh Himself is in this sense their גאל gā'al, their Redeemer.
12Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
13Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
i. e., "You will not kill your son by scourging him, you may kill him by with holding the scourge."
14Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Hell - Sheol, the world of the dead.
15My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Another continuous exhortation rather than a collection of maxims.
16Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
The teacher rejoices when the disciple's heart Proverbs 23:15 receives wisdom, and yet more when his lips can utter it.
Reins - See Job 19:27 note.
17Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
Envy sinners - Compare in Psalm 37:1; Psalm 73:3; the feeling which looks half-longingly at the prosperity of evil doers. Some connect the verb "envy" with the second clause, "envy not sinners, but envy, emulate, the fear of the Lord."
18For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
Or, For if there is an end (hereafter), thine expectations shall not be cut off. There is an implied confidence in immortality.
19Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
20Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Riotous eaters of flesh - The word is the same as "glutton" in Proverbs 23:21 and Deuteronomy 21:20.
21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
The three forms of evil that destroy reputation and tempt to waste are brought together.
Drowsiness - Specially the drunken sleep, heavy and confused.
22Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
23Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
24The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
25Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
26My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Observe - Another reading gives, "let thine eyes delight in my ways."
27For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
28She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
As for a prey - Better as in the margin.
The transgressors - Better, the treacherous," those that attack men treacherously.
29Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
Woe ... sorrow - The words in the original are interjections, probably expressing distress. The sharp touch of the satirist reproduces the actual inarticulate utterances of drunkenness.
30They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Mixed wine - Wine flavored with aromatic spices, that increase its stimulating properties Isaiah 5:22. There is a touch of sarcasm in "go to seek." The word, elsewhere used of diligent search after knowledge Proverbs 25:2; Job 11:7; Psalm 139:1, is used here of the investigations of connoisseurs in wine meeting to test its qualities.
31Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
His color - literally, "its eye," the clear brightness, or the beaded bubbles on which the wine drinker looks with complacency.
It moveth itself aright - The Hebrew word describes the pellucid stream flowing pleasantly from the wineskin or jug into the goblet or the throat (compare Sol 7:9), rather than a sparkling wine.
32At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Adder - Said to be the Cerastes, or horned snake.
33Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
34Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
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.
35They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
The picture ends with the words of the drunkard on waking from his sleep. Unconscious of the excesses of the night, his first thought is to return to his old habit.
When shall I awake ... - Better, when I shall awake I will seek it yet again.