Proverbs 22


A good reputation. The rich and the poor. The idle. Good habits

formed in infancy. Injustice and its effects. The providence of

God. The lewd woman. The necessity of timely correction.

Exhortation to wisdom. Rob not the poor. Be not the companion

of the froward. Avoid suretyship. Be honest. The industrious

shall be favoured.


Verse 1. A good name] shem, a name, put for reputation,

credit, fame. Used nearly in the same way that we use it: "He has

got a name;" "his name stands high;" for "He is a man of credit

and reputation." toba, καλον, [Arabic] hamood, and

bonum, are added by the Chaldee, Septuagint, Arabic, and

Vulgate, all signifying good or excellent.

Is rather to be chosen than great riches] Because character will

support a man in many circumstances; and there are many rich men

that have no name: but the word of the man of character will go

farther than all their riches.

Verse 2. The rich and poor meet together] ashir the

opulent, whether in money, land, or property; rash, the man

that is destitute of these, and lives by his labour, whether a

handicraftsman, or one that tills the ground. In the order of God,

the rich and the poor live together, and are mutually helpful to

each other. Without the poor, the rich could not be supplied with

the articles which they consume; for the poor include all the

labouring classes of society: and without the rich, the poor could

get no vent for the produce of their laborer, nor, in many

cases, labour itself. The poor have more time to labour than the

mere necessaries of life require; their extra time is employed in

providing a multitude of things which are called the superfluities

of life, and which the rich especially consume. All the poor man's

time is thus employed; and he is paid for his extra labour by the

rich. The rich should not despise the poor, without whom he can

neither have his comforts, nor maintain his state. The poor

should not envy the rich, without whom he could neither get

employment, nor the necessaries of life.

The Lord is the Maker of them all.] Both the states are in the

order of God's providence, and both are equally important in his

sight. Merely considered as men, God loves the simple artificer or

labourer as much as he does the king; though the office of the

latter, because of its entering into the plan of his government of

the world, is of infinitely greatly consequence than the trade of

the poor artificer. Neither should despise the other; neither

should envy the other. Both are useful; both important; both

absolutely necessary to each other's welfare and support; and both

are accountable to God for the manner in which they acquit

themselves in those duties of life which God has respectively

assigned them. The abject poor-those who are destitute of health

and the means of life-God in effect lays at the rich man's door,

that by his superfluities they may be supported. How wise is that

ordinance which has made the rich and the poor! Pity it were not

better understood!

Verse 3. A prudent man foreseeth the evil] God in mercy has

denied man the knowledge of futurity; but in its place he has

given him hope and prudence. By hope he is continually expecting

and anticipating good; by prudence he derives and employs means

to secure it. His experience shows him that there are many natural

evils in a current state, the course of which he can neither stem

nor divert: prudence shows him beforehand the means he may use to

step out of their way, and hide himself. The simple-the

inexperienced, headstrong, giddy, and foolish-rush on in the

career of hope, without prudence to regulate, chastise, and

guide it; thus they commit many faults, make many miscarriages,

and suffer often in consequence; and the commission of crimes

leads to punishment.

Verse 5. Thorns and snares] Various difficulties, trials, and


Verse 6. Train up a child in the way he should go] The Hebrew of

this clause is curious: chanoch lannaar al pi

darco, "Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his

path." When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able

to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a

series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step

he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of

the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to

escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which

all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation,

till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to

practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each

indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated habit. Beg

incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and

discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest

of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall

ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed.

chanac, which we translate train up or initiate,

signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating

any thing, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate,

therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse,

teach, and discipline him as God's child, whom he has intrusted to

your care. These things observed, and illustrated by your own

conduct, the child (you have God's word for it) will never depart

from the path of life. Coverdale translates the passage thus: "Yf

thou teachest a childe what waye he shoulde go, he shall not leave

it when he is olde." Coverdale's Bible, for generally giving the

true sense of a passage, and in elegant language for the time,

has no equal in any of the translations which have followed since.

HORACE'S maxim is nearly like that of Solomon:-

Fingit equum tenera docilem cervice magister

Ire viam, quam monstrat eques; venaticus, ex quo

Tempore cervinam pellem latravit in aula,

Militat in sylvis catulus. Nunc adbibe puro

Pectore verba, puer; nunc te melioribus offer.

Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem

Testa diu. HOR. EP. lib. i., ep. 2, ver. 64.

"The docile colt is form'd with gentle skill

To move obedient to his rider's will.

In the loud hall the hound is taught to bay

The buckskin trail'd, then challenges his prey

Through the wild woods. Thus, in your hour of youth

From pure instruction quaff the words of truth:

The odours of the wine that first shall stain

The virgin vessel, it shall long retain."


Verse 7. The rich ruleth over the poor] So it is in the order of

God, and may be a blessing to both.

Verse 8. He that soweth iniquity] The crop must be according to

the seed. If a man sow thistle seed, is it likely he shall reap

wheat? If he sow to the flesh, shall he not of the flesh reap


Verse 9. A bountiful eye] One that disposes him to help all that

he sees to be in want; the bountiful eye means the bountiful

heart; for the heart looks through the eye. The merciful heart,

even when the hand has little or nothing to give, shall be blessed

of the Lord.

Verse 11. He that loveth pureness of heart] Who aims to be what

God would have him to be-the King of kings shall be his Friend.

There is no class of men that value uprightness more than kings;

as none stand so much in need of it in their servants.

Verse 12. The eyes of the Lord-(the Divine providence) preserve

knowledge] This providence has been wonderfully manifested in

preserving the sacred oracles, and in preserving many ancient

authors, which have been of great use to the civil interests of


Verse 13. The slothful man saith, There is a lion without] But

why does he say so? Because he is a slothful man. Remove his

slothfulness, and these imaginary difficulties and dangers will be

no more. He will not go abroad to work in the fields, because he

thinks there is a lion in the way; he will not go out into the

town for employment, as he fears to be assassinated in the

streets! From both these circumstances he seeks total cessation

from activity.

Verse 14. The mouth of strange women is a deep pit] In

Pr 23:27, he says, A

whore is a DEEP DITCH:, and a strange woman is a NARROW PIT. The

allusions in these three places are too plain to be misunderstood.

Virgil's hell has been adduced in illustration:-

----------------Sate sanguine Divum,

Tros Anchisiade, facilis decensus Averni;

Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis:

Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,

HOC OPUS, hic LABOR est. Pauci quos aequus amavit

Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethera virtus,

Dis geniti potuere.

VIRG. AEn. lib. vi., ver. 125.

"O glorious prince of brave Anchises' line!

Great godlike hero! sprung from seed divine,

Smooth lies the road to Pluto's gloomy shade;

And hell's black gates for ever stand display'd:

But 'tis a long unconquerable pain,

To climb to these ethereal realms again.

The choice-selected few, whom favouring Jove,

Or their own virtue, rais'd to heaven above,

From these dark realms emerged again to day;

The mighty sons of gods, and only they.


Verse 16. He that oppresseth the poor] He who, in order to obtain

the favour of the rich and great, either robs or cheats the

poor, to make those men presents; or gives in presents to them,

for the sake of honour and reputation, what he should have given

to the poor, shall surely come to want.

Verse 17. Bow down thine ear] From this to the end of Pr 22:21

are contained, not proverbs, but directions how to profit by

that which wisdom has already delivered; the nature of the

instruction, and the end for which it was given.

I shall give a paraphrase of this very important passage:-

I. Solomon addresses his pupils on the use of his past

teachings. See on Pr 22:6.

1. The wise man speaks; and all his words, not merely his

sentiments, are to be carefully heard.

2. He speaks knowledge-gives doctrines true in themselves, and

confirmed by observation and experience.

3. These are to be heard with humility and deep attention:

"Bow down thine ear."

4. They must not only be heard, but meditated and pondered:

"Apply thine heart to my knowledge."

Verse 18. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within


II. The pleasure and profit which may be derived from an

attentive hearing.

1. They should be laid up in the heart-stored, treasured up

within thee.

2. This will yield high satisfaction and happiness to the soul:

"For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee."

3. The man who thus attends to the teachings of wisdom shall

gain an experimental knowledge of them, so as to be able to speak

of them suitably, pertinently and persuasively. "They shall withal

be fitted in thy lips."

Verse 19. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known,


III. The END for which the wise man gives these instructions:-

1. "That thy trust may be in the Lord." That thou mayest

acknowledge HIM as the Fountain of all good; and refer every thing

to him.

2. That this end may be accomplished, the instructions are

specific and particular: "I have made known to thee, even to


3. And this has not only been done in times past, "I have made

known:" but even in the present, "I have made known this day!"

IV. An appeal is made to the person himself relative to the

matter and importance of the teaching.

1. "Have I not written to thee excellent things;"

shalishim, literally threefold, thrice, in three different ways;

which some think refers to his three books:-1. Canticles. 2.

Koheleth, or Ecclesiastes. And 3. Proverbs.

Others, understanding it of the voice of Divine wisdom, suppose

the three grand divisions of the sacred oracles are intended;

viz., 1. The Law; 2. The Prophets; and 3. The Hagiographa. And

others interpret it of the three grand intellectual sciences:-1.

Morality, or Ethics. 2. Natural Philosophy, or Physics. 3.

Theology, or the science of Divine things as reported in the

Scriptures. But Solomon's books of Natural Philosophy are lost.

And lastly, some of the rabbins and some Christians find in

these shalishim the three senses of Scripture: 1. Literal; 2.

Figurative; and 3. Allegorical.

After all, as we know the term thrice was used as the term

seven, a certain number for an uncertain, (see Am 1:11;

2Co 12:8,) it

may mean no more here than, I have written to thee often. But

perhaps it is safer to apply it to the Scriptures, and the

excellent doctrines they contain: for shalishim signifies

also excellent, princely things; things which become a king to

speak. Indeed, it would not be difficult to prove that there is

not one important art or science which is not alluded to in the

Holy Scriptures, and used to illustrate and inculcate heavenly


2. These excellent, princely, or threefold teachings, consist of

two grand parts: 1. COUNSELS, moetsoth, from yaats,

to give advice, counsel, or information. These (1) show thee what

thou shouldst know; and (2) advise thee what thou shouldst do. 2.

KNOWLEDGE, daath, from yada, to perceive, or

feel by means of the senses and internal perception; viz., what

should be felt, experienced, known to be true by mental

perception, and by their influence on the heart and affections.

V. All this is done to give the pupil the fullest satisfaction,

and most plenary evidence concerning the truths of God.

Verse 21. That I might make thee know the certainty of the words

of truth]

1. These are words or doctrines of truth: 1. They are true in

themselves. 2. Come from the God of truth. 3. Are truly fulfilled

to all that believe.

2. These words of truth are certain, koshet, they are not of

dubious or difficult interpretation; they point directly to the

great end for which God gave them; they promise, and they are

fulfilled. He who pleads them by faith, receives their

accomplishment in the spirit and power of Divine love. The

Scriptures, as far as they concern the salvation of the soul, are

to be experimentally understood; and, by this experimental

knowledge, every believer has the witness in himself, and knows

the certainty of the words of truth.

VI. What we know ourselves to be true, and of infinite

importance to the welfare of men in general, we should carefully

proclaim and witness, that they also may believe.

That thou mightest answer the words of truth] 1. When the

doctrine of salvation is preached, there will be many inquirers.

What is this doctrine? Have any persons received these

blessings-the remission of sins, witness of the Holy Spirit,

purification of the heart, &c., &c.? Who are they? What are the

collateral arguments that prove these things, and show us that you

have not misapprehended the meaning of these Scriptures? 2.

Inquiries of this kind should meet with the speediest and most

distinct answers; and the doctrines of truth should be supported

and illustrated with the words of truth. "That thou mightest

answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee."

Verse 22. Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate] In judgment

let the poor have a fair hearing; and let him not be borne down

because he is poor. The reader has often seen that courts of

justice were held at the gates of cities in the East.

Verse 23. For the Lord will plead their cause] Wo therefore to

them that oppress them, for they will have God, not the poor, to

deal with.

Verse 24. Make no friendship with an angry man] Spirit has a

wonderful and unaccountable influence upon spirit. From those with

whom we associate we acquire habits, and learn their ways, imbibe

their spirit, show their tempers and walk in their steps. We

cannot be too choice of our company, for we may soon learn ways

that will be a snare to our soul.

Verse 26. That strike hands] See on the parallel texts in the


Verse 27. If thou hast nothing to pay] Should any man give

security for more than he is worth? If he does, is it not a fraud

on the very face of the transaction?

Why should he take away thy bed from under thee?] The creditor

will not pursue the debtor whom he knows to be worth nothing; but

he will sue the bail or bondsman. And why shouldst thou put

thyself in such circumstances as to expose thyself to the loss

even of thy bed?

Verse 28. Remove not the ancient landmark] Do not take the

advantage, in ploughing or breaking up a field contiguous to that

of thy neighbour, to set the dividing stones farther into his

field that thou mayest enlarge thy own. Take not what is not thy

own in any case. Let all ancient divisions, and the usages

connected with them, be held sacred. Bring in no new dogmas, nor

rites, nor ceremonies, into religion, or the worship of God,

that are not clearly laid down in the sacred writings. "Stand in

the way; and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good

way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls;"

Jer 6:16. But if any

Church have lost sight of the genuine doctrines of the Gospel,

calling them back to these is not removing the ancient landmarks,

as some have falsely asserted. God gave a law against removing the

ancient landmarks, by which the inheritances of tribes and

families were distinguished. See De 19:14, from which these words

of Solomon appear to be taken.

Even among the heathens the landmark was sacred; so sacred that

they made a deity of it. Terminus signifies the stone or post

that served as a landmark. And Terminus was reputed a god, and

had offerings made to him. Hence OVID:-

Tu quoque sacrorum, Termine, finis eras.

FAST. lib. i., ver. 50.

Nox ubi transierit, solito celebratur honore,

Separat indicio qui Deus arva suo.

Termine, sive lapis, sive es defossus in agro

Stipes, ab antiquis sic quoque Numen habes.

Te duo diversa domini pro parte coronant;

Binaque serta tibi, binaque liba ferunt.----

Conveniunt, celebrantque dapes vicinia simplex;

Et cantant laudes, Termine sancte, tuas.

Tu populos, urbesque, et regna ingentia finis:

Omnis erit, sine te, litigiosus ager.

FAST. lib. ii., ver. 639.

Here we find the owners of both fields bringing each his garland

and libation to the honour of this god. They sung its praises, put

on its top a chaplet of flowers, poured out the libation before

it; and the inhabitants of the country held a festival in its

honour. It was, in short, celebrated as the preserver of the

bounds and territorial rights of tribes, cities, and whole

kingdoms; and without its testimony and evidence, every field

would have been a subject of litigation.

Verse 29. He shalt not stand before mean men.] chashukkim,

dark or obscure persons; men of no repute. Na he schal ben before

un-noble men.-Old MS. Bible. "Not amonge the symple


The general meaning of the proverb is, "Every diligent, active

man, shall be at once independent and respectable."

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