Proverbs 1

Verse 9. To execute upon them the judgment written] In De 7:1,

&c., God promises his people complete victory over all their

enemies, and over the heathen. God repeatedly promises such

victories to his faithful people; and this is, properly speaking,

the judgment written, i.e., foretold.

This honour have all his saints.] They shall all be supported,

defended, and saved by the Lord. Israel had this honour, and such

victories over their enemies, while they continued faithful to

their God. When they relapsed into iniquity, their enemies

prevailed against them; they were defeated, their city taken,

their temple burnt to the ground, more than a million of

themselves slaughtered, and the rest led into captivity; and,

scattered through the, world, they continue without king, or

temple, or true worship, to the present day.

"But do not these last verses contain a promise that all the

nations of the earth shall be brought under the dominion of the

Church of Christ; that all heathen and ungodly kings shall be

put down, and pious men put in their places?" I do not think so. I

believe God never intended that his Church should have the civil

government of the world. His Church, like its Founder and Head,

will never be a ruler and divider among men. The men who under

pretense of superior sanctity, affect this, are not of God; the

truth of God is not in them; they are puffed up with pride, and

fall into the condemnation of the devil. Wo unto the inhabitants

of the earth, when the Church takes the civil government of the

world into its hand! Were it possible that God should trust

religious people with civil government, anarchy would soon

ensue; for every professed believer in Christ would consider

himself on a par with any other and every other believer, the

right to rule and the necessity to obey would be immediately

lost, and every man would do what was right in his own eyes; for,

where the grace of God makes all equal, who can presume to say, I

have Divine authority to govern my fellow? The Church of Rome has

claimed this right; and the pope, in consequence, became a secular

prince; but the nations of the world have seen the vanity and

iniquity of the claim, and refused allegiance. Those whom it did

govern, with force and with cruelty did it rule them; and the

odious yoke is now universally cast off. Certain enthusiasts and

hypocrites, not of that Church, have also attempted to set up a

fifth monarchy, a civil government by the SAINTS! and diabolic

saints they were. To such pretenders God gives neither countenance

nor support. The secular and spiritual government God will ever

keep distinct; and the Church shall have no power but that of

doing good; and this only in proportion to its holiness,

heavenly-mindedness, and piety to God. That the verses above may

be understood in a spiritual sense, as applicable to the influence

of the word of God preached, may be seen in the following



In this Psalm the saints of God are excited to give due thanks.

I. For the grace and favour received from God, Ps 149:1-5.

II. For the glory and privileges they shall receive,

Ps 148:5-9.

I. "Let Israel rejoice," &c. The saints. Which he amplifies:

1. The saints: "For praise is not comely in the mouth of


2. The quality of the song: "A new song." By renewed men.

3. From the place in which it must be done. The public


4. From the manner. With alacrity.

5. From the object. God, their Creator and King: "Let Israel

rejoice," &c.

And this part he concludes with a strong reason:

1. "For the Lord taketh pleasure," &c. He loves those who most

resemble him in holiness and purity.

2. "He will beautify the meek," &c. The people who trust him he

will save.

II. And now he describes their future glory.

1. "Let the saints," &c. None others will he beautify.

2. "Let them rejoice," &c. The mansions prepared for them in

heaven. There they rest from labour, but not from praise.

Their work is twofold: Present and future.

1. Present: "The high praises," &c. The highest that can be

thought of.

2. For the future: "Let a two-edged sword," &c. When Christ

shall come to judgment, the saints at the last shall be judges.

Then the exercise of this judiciary power shall be,

1. "To execute vengeance," &c. To judge them to punishment.

2. "To bind their kings with chains," &c. The phrase is

metaphorical. "Bind him hand and foot," &c.; Mt 22:13. Christ's

iron sceptre shall bruise the head of his enemies.

3. "To execute upon them the judgment written," &c. Against


He concludes with an acclamation. This glory of sitting with

Christ and judging the world, is the glory of all saints.




-Year from the Creation, 3004.

-Year before the birth of Christ, 996.

-Year before the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 1000.

-Year since the Deluge, according to Archbishop Usher and the

English Bible, 1348.

-Year from the destruction of Troy, 185.

-Year before the first Olympiad, 224.

-Year before the building of Rome, 247.


The design of the proverbs, 1-6.

An exhortation to fear God, and believe his word, because of

the benefit to be derived from it, 7-9;

to avoid the company of wicked men, who involve themselves in

wretchedness and ruin, 10-19.

Wisdom, personified, cries in the streets, and complains of the

contempt with which she is treated, 20-23.

The dreadful punishment that awaits all those who refuse her

counsels, 24-33.


Verse 1. The proverbs of Solomon] For the meaning of the word

proverb, see the introduction; and the dissertation upon

parabolical writing at the end of the notes on Mt 13:58.

Solomon is the first of the sacred writers whose name stands at the head of his works.

Verse 2. To know wisdom] That is, this is the design of

parabolical writing in general; and the particular aim of the

present work.

This and the two following verses contain the interpretation of

the term parable, and the author's design in the whole book. The

first verse is the title, and the next three verses are an

explanation of the nature and design of this very important tract.

Wisdom] chochmah may mean here, and in every other part

of this book, not only that Divine science by which we are enabled

to discover the best end, and pursue it by the most proper means;

but also the whole of that heavenly teaching that shows us both

ourselves and God, directs us into all truth, and forms the whole

of true religion.

And instruction] musar, the teaching that discovers

all its parts, to understand, to comprehend the words or doctrines

which should be comprehended, in order that we may become wise to


Verse 3. To receive the instruction] haskel, the

deliberately weighing of the points contained in the teaching, so

as to find out their importance.

Equity] mesharim, rectitude. The pupil is to receive

wisdom and instruction, the words of wisdom and understanding,

justice and judgment, so perfectly as to excel in all. Wisdom

itself, personified, is his teacher; and when God's wisdom

teaches, there is no delay in learning.

Verse 4. To give subtilty to the simple] The word simple, from

simplex, compounded of sine, without, and plica, a fold,

properly signifies plain and honest, one that has no by-ends in

view, who is what he appears to be; and is opposed to complex,

from complico, to fold together, to make one rope or cord

out of many strands; but because honesty and plaindealing are so

rare in the world, and none but the truly religious man will

practice them, farther than the fear of the law obliges him, hence

simple has sunk into a state of progressive deterioration. At

first, it signified, as above, without fold, unmixed,

uncompounded: this was its radical meaning. Then, as applied to

men, it signified innocent, harmless, without disguise; but, as

such persons were rather an unfashionable sort of people, it sunk

in its meaning to homely, homespun, mean, ordinary. And, as

worldly men, who were seeking their portion in this life, and had

little to do with religion, supposed that wisdom, wit, and

understanding, were given to men that they might make the best

of them in reference to the things of this life, the word sunk

still lower in its meaning, and signified silly, foolish; and

there, to the dishonour of our language and morals, it stands! I

have taken those acceptations which I have marked in Italics out

of the first dictionary that came to hand-Martin's; but if I had

gone to Johnson, I might have added to SILLY, not wise, not

cunning. Simplicity, that meant at first, as MARTIN defines it,

openness, plaindealing, downright honesty, is now degraded to

weakness, silliness, foolishness. And these terms will continue

thus degraded, till downright honesty and plaindealing get again

into vogue. There are two Hebrew words generally supposed to come

from the same root, which in our common version are rendered the

simple, pethaim, and or pethayim;

the former comes from patha, to be rash, hasty; the latter,

from pathah, to draw aside, seduce, entice. It is the first of

these words which is used here, and may be applied to youth; the

inconsiderate, the unwary, who, for want of knowledge and

experience, act precipitately. Hence the Vulgate renders it

parvulis, little ones, young children, or little children, as my

old MS.; or very babes, as Coverdale. The Septuagint renders it

ακακοις, those that are without evil; and the versions in

general understand it of those who are young, giddy, and


To the young man] naar is frequently used to signify such

as are in the state of adolescence, grown up boys, very well

translated in my old MS. yunge fulwaxen; what we would now call

the grown up lads. These, as being giddy and inexperienced, stand

in especial need of lessons of wisdom and discretion. The Hebrew

for discretion, mezimmah, is taken both in a good and

bad sense, as zam, its root, signifies to devise or

imagine; for the device may be either mischief, or the

contrivance of some good purpose.

Verse 5. A wise man will hear] I shall not only give such

instructions as may be suitable to the youthful and inexperienced,

but also to those who have much knowledge and understanding. So

said St. Paul: We speak wisdom among them that are perfect. This

and the following verse are connected in the old MS. and in

Coverdale: "By hearyinge the wyse man shall come by more

wysdome; and by experience he shall be more apte to understonde a

parable and the interpretation thereof; the wordes of the wyse and

the darke speaches of the same."

Verse 6. Dark sayings.] chidoth, enigmas or riddles, in

which the Asiatics abounded. I believe parables, such as those

delivered by our Lord, nearly express the meaning of the original.

Verse 7. The fear of the Lord] In the preceding verses Solomon

shows the advantage of acting according to the dictates of wisdom;

in the following verses he shows the danger of acting contrary to

them. The fear of the Lord signifies that religious reverence

which every intelligent being owes to his Creator; and is often

used to express the whole of religion, as we have frequently had

occasion to remark in different places. But what is religion? The

love of God, and the love of man; the former producing all

obedience to the Divine will; the latter, every act of

benevolence to one's fellows. The love of God shed abroad in the

heart by the Holy Spirit produces the deepest religious reverence,

genuine piety, and cheerful obedience. To love one's neighbour as

himself is the second great commandment; and as love worketh no

ill to one's neighbour, therefore it is said to be the fulfilling

of the law. Without love, there is no obedience; without

reverence, there is neither caution, consistent conduct, nor

perseverance in righteousness.

This fear or religious reverence is said to be the beginning of

knowledge; reshith, the principle, the first moving

influence, begotten in a tender conscience by the Spirit of God.

No man can ever become truly wise, who does not begin with God,

the fountain of knowledge; and he whose mind is influenced by the

fear and love of God will learn more in a month than others will

in a year.

Fools despise] evilim, evil men. Men of bad hearts, bad

heads, and bad ways.

Verse 8. My son, hear] Father was the title of preceptor, and

son, that of disciple or scholar, among the Jews. But here the

reference appears to be to the children of a family; the father

and the mother have the principal charge, in the first instance,

of their children's instruction. It is supposed that these parents

have, themselves, the fear of the Lord, and that they are capable

of giving the best counsel to their children, and that they set

before them a strict example of all godly living. In vain do

parents give good advice if their own conduct be not consistent.

The father occasionally gives instruction; but he is not always in

the family, many of those occupations which are necessary for the

family support being carried on abroad. The mother-she is

constantly within doors, and to her the regulation of the family

belongs; therefore she has and gives laws. The wise man says in

effect to every child, "Be obedient to thy mother within, and

carefully attend to the instructions of thy father, that thou

mayest the better see the reasons of obedience; and learn from him

how thou art to get thy bread honestly in the world."

Verse 9. An ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains] That

is, filial respect and obedience will be as ornamental to thee as

crowns, diadems, and golden chains and pearls are to others.

Political dignity has been distinguished in many nations by a

chain of gold about the neck. Solomon seems here to intimate, if

we follow the metaphor, that the surest way of coming to

distinguished eminence, in civil matters, is to act according to

the principles of true wisdom, proceeding from the fear of God.

Verse 10. If sinners entice thee, consent thou not.] al

tobe, WILL-not. They can do thee no harm unless thy will join in

with them. God's eternal purpose with respect to man is that his

will shall be free; or, rather, that the will, which is

essentially FREE, shall never be forced nor be forceable by any

power. Not even the devil himself can lead a man into sin till he

consents. Were it not so, how could God judge the world?

Verse 11. If they say, Come with us] From all accounts, this is

precisely the way in which the workers of iniquity form their

partisans, and constitute their marauding societies to the present


Let us lay wait for blood] Let us rob and murder.

Let us lurk privily] Let us lie in ambush for our prey.

Verse 12. Let us swallow them up alive] Give them as hasty a

death as if the earth were suddenly to swallow them up. This seems

to refer to the destruction of a whole village. Let us destroy

man, woman, and child; and then we may seize on and carry away the

whole of their property, and the booty will be great.

Verse 14. Cast in thy lot] Be a frater conjuratus, a sworn

brother, and thou shalt have an equal share of all the spoil.

Common sense must teach us that the words here used are such as

must be spoken when a gang of cutthroats, pickpockets, &c., are

associated together.

Verse 16. For their feet run to evil] The whole of this verse is

wanting in the Septuagint, and in the Arabic.

Verse 17. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any

bird.] This is a proverb of which the wise man here makes a

particular use; and the meaning does not seem as difficult as some

imagine. The wicked are represented as lurking privily for the

innocent. It is in this way alone that they can hope to destroy

them and take their substance; for if their designs were known,

proper precautions would be taken against them; for it would be

vain to spread the net in the sight of those birds which men

wish to ensnare. Attend therefore to my counsels, and they shall

never be able to ensnare thee.

Verse 18. They lay wait for their own blood] I believe it is the

innocent who are spoken of here, for whose blood and lives these

lay wait and lurk privily; certainly not their own, by any mode

of construction.

Verse 19. Which taketh away the life] A covetous man is in

effect, and in the sight of God, a murderer; he wishes to get all

the gain that can accrue to any or all who are in the same

business that he follows-no matter to him how many families starve

in consequence. This is the very case with him who sets up shop

after shop in different parts of the same town or neighbourhood,

in which he carries on the same business, and endeavours to

undersell others in the same trade, that he may get all into his

own hand.

Verse 20. Wisdom crieth] Here wisdom is again personified, as it

is frequently, throughout this book; where nothing is meant but

the teachings given to man, either by Divine revelation or the

voice of the Holy Spirit in the heart. And this voice of wisdom is

opposed to the seducing language of the wicked mentioned above.

This voice is everywhere heard, in public, in private, in the

streets, and in the house. Common sense, universal experience, and

the law of justice written on the heart, as well as the law of

God, testify against rapine and wrong of every kind.

Verse 22. Ye simple ones] pethayim, ye who have been

seduced and deceived. See on Pr 1:4.

Verse 23. Turn you at my reproof] lethochachti, at my

convincing mode of arguing; attend to my demonstrations. This is

properly the meaning of the original word.

I will pour out my spirit unto you] "I wil expresse my mynde

unto you;" COVERDALE. Loo I shall bryngen to you my Spirit; Old

MS. Bible. If you will hear, ye shall have ample instruction.

Verse 24. Because I have called] These and the following words

appear to be spoken of the persons who are described, Pr 1:11-19,

who have refused to return from their evil ways till arrested by

the hand of justice; and here the wise man points out their

deplorable state.

They are now about to suffer according to the demands of the

law, for their depredations. They now wish they had been guided by

wisdom, and had chosen the fear of the Lord; but it is too late:

die they must, for their crimes are proved against them, and

justice knows nothing of mercy.

This, or something like this, must be the wise man's meaning;

nor can any thing spoken here be considered as applying or

applicable to the eternal state of the persons in question, much

less to the case of any man convinced of sin, who is crying to God

for mercy. Such persons as the above, condemned to die, may call

upon justice for pardon, and they may do this early, earnestly;

but they will call in vain. But no poor penitent sinner on this

side of eternity can call upon God early, or seek him through

Christ Jesus earnestly for the pardon of his sins, without being

heard. Life is the time of probation, and while it lasts the

vilest of the vile is within the reach of mercy. It is only in

eternity that the state is irreversibly fixed, and where that

which was guilty must be guilty still. But let none harden his

heart because of this longsuffering of God, for if he die in his

sin, where God is he shall never come. And when once shut up in

the unquenchable fire, he will not pray for mercy, as he shall

clearly see and feel that the hope of his redemption is entirely

cut off.

Verse 27. Your destruction cometh as a whirlwind]

kesuphah, as the all-prostrating blast. Sense and sound are

here well expressed. Suphah here is the gust of wind.

Verse 29. They hated knowledge] This argues the deepest degree

of intellectual and moral depravity.

Verse 32. For the turning away of the simple] This difficult

place seems to refer to such a case as we term turning king's

evidence; where an accomplice saves his own life by impeaching the

rest of his gang. This is called his turning or repentance,

meshubah; and he was the most likely to turn, because he was of

the pethayim, seduced or deceived persons. And this

evidence was given against them when they were in their

prosperity, shalvah, their security, enjoying the fruits of

their depredations; and being thus in a state of fancied security,

they were the more easily taken and brought to justice.

Verse 33. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely] The

man who hears the voice of wisdom in preference to the enticements

of the wicked. He shall dwell in safety, yishcan

betach, he shall inhabit safety itself; he shall be completely

safe and secure; and shall be quiet from the fear of evil, having

a full consciousness of his own innocence and God's protection.

Coverdale translates, "And have ynough without eney feare of

evell." What the just man has he got honestly; and he has the

blessing of God upon it. It is the reverse with the thief, the

knave, the cheat, and the extortioner: Male parta pejus

dilabuntur; "Ill gotten, worse spent."

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