Proverbs 3


An exhortation to obedience, 1-4;

trust in God's providence, 5, 6;

to humility, 7, 8;

to charity, 9, 10;

to submission to God's chastening, 11, 12.

The profitableness of wisdom in all the concerns of life,


No act of duty should be deferred beyond the time in which it

should be done, 27, 28.

Brotherly love and forbearance should he exercised, 29, 30.

We should not envy the wicked, 31, 32.

The curse of God is in the house of the wicked; but the humble

and wise shall prosper, 33-35.


Verse 1. My son] The preceptor continues to deliver his lessons.

Forget not my law] Remember what thou hast heard, and practise

what thou dost remember; and let all obedience be from the heart:

"Let thy heart keep my commandments."

Verse 2. For length of days] THREE eminent blessings are

promised here: 1. orech yamim, long days; 2.

shenoth chaiyim, years of lives; 3. shalom, prosperity;

i.e. health, long life, and abundance.

Verse 3. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee] Let these be thy

constant companions through life.

Bind them about thy neck] Keep them constantly in view. Write

them upon the table of thine heart-let them be thy moving

principles; feel them as well as see them.

Verse 4. So shalt thou find favour] Thou shalt be acceptable to

God, and thou shalt enjoy a sense of his approbation.

And good understanding] Men shall weigh thy character and

conduct; and by this appreciate thy motives, and give thee credit

for sincerity and uprightness. Though religion is frequently

persecuted, and religious people suffer at first where they are

not fully known; yet a truly religious and benevolent character

will in general be prized wherever it is well known. The envy of

men is a proof of the excellence of that which they envy.

Verse 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart] This is a most

important precept: 1. God is the Fountain of all good. 2. He has

made his intelligent creatures dependent upon himself. 3. He

requires them to be conscious of that dependence. 4. He has

promised to communicate what they need. 5. He commands them to

believe his promise, and look for its fulfilment. 6. And to do

this without doubt, fear, or distrust; "with their whole heart."

Lean not unto thine own understanding] al tishshaen,

do not prop thyself. It is on GOD, not on thyself, that thou art

commanded to depend. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.

Verse 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him.] Begin, continue, and

end every work, purpose, and device, with God. Earnestly pray for

his direction at the commencement; look for his continual support

in the progress; and so begin and continue that all may terminate

in his glory: and then it will certainly be to thy good; for we

never honour God, without serving ourselves. This passage is well

rendered in my old MS. Bible: Have trost in the Lord of all thin

herte and ne lene thou to thi prudence: in all thi weys think hym,

and he shal right rulen thi goynges; ne be thou wiis anentis

thiself. Self-sufficiency and self-dependence have been the ruin

of mankind ever since the fall of Adam. The grand sin of the human

race is their continual endeavour to live independently of God,

i.e., to be without God in the world. True religion consists in

considering God the fountain of all good, and expecting all good

from him.

Verse 8. It shall be health to thy navel] We need not puzzle

ourselves to find out what we may suppose to be a more delicate

meaning for the original word shor than navel; for I am

satisfied a more proper cannot be found. It is well known that it

is by the umbilical cord that the fetus receives its nourishment

all the time it is in the womb of the mother. It receives nothing

by the mouth, nor by any other means: by this alone all

nourishment is received, and the circulation of the blood kept up.

When, therefore, the wise man says, that "trusting in the Lord

with the whole heart, and acknowledging him in all a man's ways,

&c., shall be health to the navel, and marrow to the bones;" he in

effect says, that this is as essential to the life of God in the

soul of man, and to the continual growth in grace, as the

umbilical cord is to the life and growth of the fetus in the

womb. Without the latter, no human being could ever exist or be

born; without the former, no true religion can ever be found.

Trust or faith in God is as necessary to derive grace from him

to nourish the soul, and cause it to grow up unto eternal life, as

the navel string or umbilical cord is to the human being in the

first stage of its existence. I need not push this illustration

farther: the good sense of the reader will supply what he knows. I

might add much on the subject.

And marrow to thy bones.] This metaphor is not less proper than

the preceding. All the larger bones of the body have either a

large cavity, or they are spongious, and full of little cells: in

both the one and the other the oleaginous substance, called

marrow, is contained in proper vesicles, like the fat. In the

larger bones, the fine oil, by the gentle heat of the body, is

exhaled through the pores of its small vesicles, and enters some

narrow passages which lead to certain fine canals excavated in the

substance of the bone, that the marrow may supply the fibres of

the bones, and render them less liable to break. Blood-vessels

also penetrate the bones to supply this marrow and this blood;

and consequently the marrow is supplied in the infant by means of

the umbilical cord. From the marrow diffused, as mentioned above,

through the bones, they derive their solidity and strength. A

simple experiment will cast considerable light on the use of the

marrow to the bones:-Calcine a bone, so as to destroy all the

marrow from the cells, you will find it exceedingly brittle.

Immerse the same bone in oil so that the cells may be all

replenished, which will be done in a few minutes; and the bone

reacquires a considerable measure of its solidity and strength;

and would acquire the whole, if the marrow could be extracted

without otherwise injuring the texture of the bone. After the

calcination, the bone may be reduced to powder by the hand; after

the impregnation with the oil, it becomes hard, compact, and

strong. What the marrow is to the support and strength of the

bones, and the bones to the support and strength of the

body; that, faith in God, is to the support, strength, energy,

and salvation of the soul. Behold, then, the force and elegance of

the wise man's metaphor. Some have rendered the last clause, a

lotion for the bones. What is this? How are the bones washed? What

a pitiful destruction of a most beautiful metaphor!

Verse 9. Honour the Lord with thy substance] The MINCHAH or

gratitude-offering to God, commanded under the law, is of endless

obligation. It would be well to give a portion of the produce of

every article by which we get our support to God, or to the poor,

the representatives of Christ. This might be done either in kind,

or by the worth in money. Whatever God sends us in the way of

secular prosperity, there is a portion of it always for the poor,

and for God's cause. When that portion is thus disposed of, the

rest is sanctified; when it is withheld, God's curse is upon the

whole. Give to the poor, and God will give to thee.

Verse 11. Despise not the chastening of the Lord] The word

musar signifies correction, discipline, and instruction.

Teaching is essentially necessary to show the man the way in

which he is to go; discipline is necessary to render that teaching

effectual; and, often, correction is requisite in order to bring

the mind into submission, without which it cannot acquire

knowledge. Do not therefore reject this procedure of God; humble

thyself under his mighty hand, and open thy eyes to thy own

interest; and then thou wilt learn specially and effectually. It

is of no use to rebel; if thou do, thou kickest against the

pricks, and every act of rebellion against him is a wound to

thine own soul. God will either end thee or mend thee; wilt thou

then kick on?

Verse 12. Whom the Lord loveth] To encourage thee to bear

correction, know that it is a proof of God's love to thee; and

thereby he shows that he treats thee as a father does his son,

even that one to whom he bears the fondest affection.

The last clause the Septuagint translate μαστιγοιδεπανταυιον

ονπαραδεχεται, "and chasteneth every son whom he receiveth;" and

the apostle, Heb 12:6, quotes this

literatim. Both clauses certainly amount to the same sense.

Every son whom he receiveth, and the son in whom he delighteth,

have very little difference of meaning.

Verse 13. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom] This refers to

the advice given in Pr 2:4; where see the note. See Clarke on Pr 2:4.

Verse 14. For the merchandise] sachar, the traffic,

the trade that is carried on by going through countries and

provinces with such articles as they could carry on the backs of

camels, &c.; from sachar, to go about, traverse.

Chaffarynge; Old MS. Bible.

And the gain thereof] tebuathah, its produce; what

is gained by the articles after all expenses are paid. The slaves,

as we have already seen, got their liberty if they were so lucky

as to find a diamond of so many carats' weight; he who finds

wisdom-the knowledge and salvation of God-gets a greater prize;

for he obtains the liberty of the Gospel, is adopted into the

family of God, and made an heir according to the hope of an

eternal life.

Verse 15. She is more precious than rubies]

mippeninim. The word principally means pearls, but may be

taken for precious stones in general. The root is panah, he

looked, beheld; and as it gives the idea of the eye always being

turned towards the observer, Mr. Parkhurst thinks that it means

the loadstone; See Clarke on Job 28:18, where this subject

is considered at large. If the oriental ruby, or any other precious

stone, be intended here, the word may refer to their being cut and

polished, so that they present different faces, and reflect the

light to you in whatever direction you may look at them.

All the things thou canst desire] Superior to every thing that

can be an object of desire here below. But who believes this?

Verse 16. Length of days is in her right hand] A wicked man

shortens his days by excesses; a righteous man prolongs his by


In her left hand riches and honour.] That is, her hands are full

of the choicest benefits. There is nothing to be understood here

by the right hand in preference to the left.

Verse 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness] These blessings of

true religion require little comment. They are well expressed by

the poet in the following elegant verses:-

"Wisdom Divine! Who tells the price

Of Wisdom's costly merchandise?

Wisdom to silver we prefer,

And gold is dross compared to her.

Her hands are fill'd with length of days,

True riches, and immortal praise;-

Riches of Christ, on all bestow'd,

And honour that descends from God.

To purest joys she all invites,

Chaste, holy, spiritual delights;

Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

And all her flowery paths are peace.

Happy the man that finds the grace,

The blessing of God's chosen race;

The wisdom coming from above,

The faith that sweetly works by love!"


Verse 18. She is a tree of life] ets chaiyim, "the

tree of lives," alluding most manifestly to the tree so called

which God in the beginning planted in the garden of Paradise, by

eating the fruit of which all the wastes of nature might have been

continually repaired, so as to prevent death for ever. This is an

opinion which appears probable enough. The blessings which

wisdom-true religion-gives to men, preserve them in life, comfort

them through life, cause them to triumph in death, and ensure them

a glorious immortality.

Verse 19. The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth] Here wisdom

is taken in its proper acceptation, for that infinite knowledge

and skill which God has manifested in the creation and composition

of the earth, and in the structure and economy of the heavens. He

has established the order as well as the essence of all things; so

that though they vary in their positions, &c., yet they never

change either their places, or their properties. Composition

and analysis are not essential changes; the original particles,

their forms and properties, remain the same.

Verse 20. By his knowledge the depths are broken up] He

determined in his wisdom how to break up the fountains of the

great deep, so as to bring a flood of waters upon the earth; and

by his knowledge those fissures in the earth through which springs

of water arise have been appointed and determined; and it is by

his skill and influence that vapours are exhaled, suspended in the

atmosphere, and afterwards precipitated on the earth in rain,

dews, &c. Thus the wisest of men attributes those effects which

we suppose to spring from natural causes to the Supreme Being


Verse 21. Let not them depart from thine eyes] Never forget that

God, who is the author of nature, directs and governs it in all

things; for it is no self-determining agent.

Keep sound wisdom and discretion] tushiyah

umezimmah. We have met with both these words before. Tushiyah is

the essence or substance of a thing; mezimmah is the resolution

or purpose formed in reference to something good or excellent. To

acknowledge God as the author of all good, is the tushiyah, the

essence, of a godly man's creed; to resolve to act according to

the directions of his wisdom, is the mezimmah, the religious

purpose, that will bring good to ourselves and glory to God. These

bring life to the soul, and are ornamental to the man who acts in

this way, Pr 3:22.

Verse 24. When thou liest down] In these verses (Pr 3:23-26)

the wise man describes the confidence, security, and safety, which

proceed from a consciousness of innocence. Most people are afraid

of sleep, lest they should never awake, because they feel they are

not prepared to appear before God. They are neither innocent nor

pardoned. True believers know that God is their keeper night and

day; they have strong confidence in him that he will be their

director and not suffer them to take any false step in life,

Pr 3:23. They go to rest in perfect confidence that God will

watch over them; hence their sleep, being undisturbed with

foreboding and evil dreams, is sweet and refreshing, Pr 3:24.

They are not apprehensive of any sudden destruction, because they

know that all things are under the control of God; and they are

satisfied that if sudden destruction should fall upon their wicked

neighbour, yet God knows well how to preserve them, Pr 3:25. And

all this naturally flows from the Lord being their confidence,

Pr 3:26.

Verse 27. Withhold not good from them to whom it is due]

mibbealaiv, from the lords of it. But who are they? The poor.

And what art thou, O rich man? Why, thou art a steward, to whom

God has given substance that thou mayest divide with the poor.

They are the right owners of every farthing thou hast to spare

from thy own support, and that of thy family; and God has given

the surplus for their sakes. Dost thou, by hoarding up this

treasure, deprive the right owners of their property? If this were

a civil case, the law would take thee by the throat, and lay thee

up in prison; but it is a case in which GOD alone judges. And what

will he do to thee? Hear! "He shall have judgment without mercy,

who hath showed no mercy;" Jas 2:13.

Read, feel, tremble, and act justly.

Verse 28. Say not unto thy neighbour] Do not refuse a kindness

when it is in thy power to perform it. If thou have the means by

thee, and thy neighbour's necessities be pressing, do not put him

off till the morrow. Death may take either him or thee before that


Verse 30. Strive not with a man] Do not be of a litigious,

quarrelsome spirit. Be not under the influence of too nice a sense

of honour. If thou must appeal to judicial authority to bring him

that wrongs thee to reason, avoid all enmity, and do nothing in a

spirit of revenge. But, if he have done thee no harm, why contend

with him? May not others in the same way contend with and injure


Verse 31. Envy thou not the oppressor] O how bewitching is

power! Every man desires it; and yet all hate tyrants. But

query, if all had power, would not the major part be tyrants?

Verse 32. But his secret] sodo, his secret assembly;

godly people meet there, and God dwells there.

Verse 33. The curse of the Lord] No godly people meet in such a

house; nor is God ever an inmate there.

But he blesseth the habitation of the just.] He considers it as

his own temple. There he is worshipped in spirit and in truth; and

hence God makes it his dwelling-place.

Verse 34. Surely he scorneth the scorners; but he giveth grace

unto the lowly.] The Septuagint has κυριοςυπερηφανοις

αντιτασσεταιταπεινοιςδεδιδωσιχαριν. The Lord resisteth the

proud; but giveth grace to the humble. These words are quoted by

St. Peter, 1Pe 5:5, and by St.

James, Jas 4:6, just as they stand in the

Septuagint, with the change of οθεος, God, for κυριος, the


Verse 35. The wise] The person who follows the dictates of

wisdom, as mentioned above, shall inherit glory; because, being

one of the heavenly family, a child of God, he has thereby heaven

for his inheritance; but fools, such as those mentioned Pr 1:7

and Pr 2:12, 22, shall have

ignominy for their exaltation. Many such fools as Solomon speaks

of are exalted to the gibbet and gallows. The way to prevent this

and the like evils, is to attend to the voice of wisdom.

Copyright information for Clarke