Proverbs 8

CHAPTER VIII

The fame and excellence of wisdom, and its manner of teaching,

1-4;

the matter of its exhortations, 5-12;

its influence among men, 13-21;

its antiquity, 22-31;

the blessedness of attending to its counsels, 32-35;

the misery of those who do not, 36.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII.

Verse 1. Doth not wisdom cry?] Here wisdom is again personified;

but the prosopopoeia is carried on to a greater length than

before, and with much more variety. It is represented in this

chapter in a twofold point of view: 1. Wisdom, the power of

judging rightly, implying the knowledge of Divine and human

things. 2. As an attribute of God, particularly displayed in the

various and astonishing works of creation. Nor has it any other

meaning in this whole chapter, whatever some of the fathers may

have dreamed, who find allegorical meanings every where. The wise

man seems as if suddenly awakened from the distressful

contemplation which he had before him,-of the ruin of young

persons in both worlds by means of debauchery,-by the voice of

wisdom, who has lifted up her voice in the most public places,

where was the greatest concourse of the people, to warn the yet

unsnared, that they might avoid the way of seduction and sin; and

cause those who love her to inherit substance, and to have their

treasuries filled with durable riches.

Verse 2. In the places of the paths.] beith

nethiboth nitstsabah, "The constituted house of the paths." Does

not this mean the house of public worship? the tabernacle or

temple, which stands a centre to the surrounding villages, the

paths from all the parts leading to and terminating at it? In such

a place, where the holy word of God is read or preached, there in

a particular manner does wisdom cry, and understanding lift up her

voice. There are the warnings, the precepts, and the promises of

eternal truth; there the bread of God is broken to his children,

and thither they that will may come and take the water of life

freely.

Verse 3. She crieth at the gates] This might be well applied to

the preaching of Jesus Christ and his apostles, and their faithful

successors in the Christian ministry. He went to the temple, and

proclaimed the righteousness of the Most High: he did the same in

the synagogues, on the mountains, by the sea-side, in the

villages, in the streets of the cities, and in private houses.

His disciples followed his track: in the same way, and in the same

spirit, they proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ. God's

wisdom in the hearts of his true ministers directs them to go

and to seek sinners. There are, it is true, temples, synagogues,

churches, chapels, &c.; but hundreds of thousands never frequent

them, and therefore do not hear the voice of truth: wisdom,

therefore, must go to them, if she wishes them to receive her

instructions. Hence the zealous ministers of Christ go still to

the highways and hedges, to the mountains and plains, to the

ships and the cottages, to persuade sinners to turn from the error

of their ways, and accept that redemption which was procured by

the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ.

Verse 4. Unto you, O men] ishim, men of wealth and

power, will I call; and not to you alone, for my voice is

al beney Adam, "to all the descendants of Adam;" to

the whole human race. As Jesus Christ tasted death for every man,

so the Gospel proclaims salvation to all: to YOU-to every

individual, my voice is addressed. Thou hast sinned; and thou

must perish, if not saved by grace.

Verse 5. O ye simple] pethaim, ye that are deceived,

and with flattering words and fair speeches deluded and drawn

away.

Ye fools] kesilim, ye stupid, stiffnecked, senseless

people. That preaching is never likely to do much good, that is

not pointed; specifying and describing vices, and charging them

home on the consciences of transgressors. Where this is not done,

the congregation is unconcerned; no man supposes he has any thing

to do in the business, especially if the preacher takes care to

tell them, "These were the crimes of Jews, Romans, Greeks, of the

people at Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Laodicea, and of

heathens in general; but I hope better things of you, who have

been born in a Christian land, and baptized in the Christian

faith." Thus he arms their consciences in double brass against the

good effects of his own teaching.

Verse 6. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things]

negidim, things which are pre-eminent, and manifestly superior

to all others. The teaching is not trifling, though addressed to

triflers.

The opening of my lips shall be right things.]

meysharim, things which are calculated to correct your false

notions, and set straight your crooked ways. Hence she declares,

Verse 7. My mouth shall speak truth] TRUTH, without falsity, or

any mixture of error, shall be the whole matter of my discourse.

Verse 8. All the words-are in righteousness] betsedek,

in justice and equity, testifying what man owes to his God, to his

neighbour, and to himself; giving to each his due. This is the

true import of tsadak.

There is nothing froward] niphtal, tortuous, involved, or

difficult.

Or perverse] ikkesh, distorted, leading to obstinacy. On

the contrary,

Verse 9. They are all plain] nechochim, straight

forward, over against every man, level to every capacity. This is

true of all that concerns the salvation of the soul.

To them that find knowledge.] When a man gets the knowledge of

himself, then he sees all the threatenings of God to be right.

When he obtains the knowledge of GOD in Christ, then he finds that

all the promises of God are right-yea and amen.

Verse 10. Receive my instruction, and not silver] A Hebrew

idiom; receive my instruction in preference to silver.

Verse 11. Wisdom is better than rubies] See on Pr 3:15.

Verse 12. I wisdom dwell with prudence] Prudence is defined,

wisdom applied to practice; so wherever true wisdom is, it will

lead to action, and its activity will be always in reference to

the accomplishment of the best ends by the use of the most

appropriate means. Hence comes what is here called knowledge of

witty inventions, daath mezimmoth emtsa, "I have

found out knowledge and contrivance." The farther wisdom proceeds

in man, the more practical knowledge it gains; and finding out the

nature and properties of things, and the general course of

providence, it can contrive by new combinations to produce new

results.

Verse 13. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil] As it is

impossible to hate evil without loving good; and as hatred to evil

will lead a man to abandon the evil way; and love to goodness will

lead him to do what is right in the sight of God, under the

influence of that Spirit which has given the hatred to evil, and

inspired the love of goodness: hence this implies the sum and

substance of true religion, which is here termed the fear of the

Lord.

Verse 14. Counsel is mine] Direction how to act in all

circumstances and on all occasions must come from wisdom: the

foolish man can give no counsel, cannot show another how he is

to act in the various changes and chances of life. The wise man

alone can give this counsel; and he can give it only as

continually receiving instruction from God: for this Divine wisdom

can say, TUSHIYAH, substance, reality, essence, all belong

to me: I am the Fountain whence all are derived. Man may be wise,

and good, and prudent, and ingenious; but these he derives from

me, and they are dependently in him. But in me all these are

independently and essentially inherent.

And sound wisdom] See above. This is a totally false

translation: tushiyah means essence, substance, reality; the

source and substance of good. How ridiculous the support derived

by certain authors from this translation in behalf of their

system! See the writers on and quoters of Prov viii.

I have strength.] Speaking still of wisdom, as communicating

rays of its light to man, it enables him to bring every thing to

his aid; to construct machines by which one man can do the work of

hundreds. From it comes all mathematical learning, all mechanical

knowledge; from it originally came the inclined plane, the wedge,

the screw, the pulley, in all its multiplications; and the

lever, in all its combinations and varieties, came from this

wisdom. And as all these can produce prodigies of power, far

surpassing all kinds of animal energy, and all the effects of the

utmost efforts of muscular force; hence the maxim of Lord Bacon,

"Knowledge is power," built on the maxim of the tushiyah itself;

li geburah, MINE IS STRENGTH.

Verse 15. By me kings reign] Every wise and prudent king is such

through the influence of Divine wisdom. And just laws and their

righteous administration come from this source. In this and the

following verse five degrees of civil power and authority are

mentioned. 1. melachim, KINGS. 2. rozenim,

CONSULS. 3. sarim, PRINCES, CHIEFS of the people. 4.

nedibim, NOBLES. And 5. shophetim, JUDGES or CIVIL

MAGISTRATES. All orders of government are from God. Instead of

shophetey arets,"judges of the earth,"

shophetey tsedek, "righteous judges," or "judges of

righteousness," is the reading of one hundred and sixty-two of

Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., both in the text and in the

margin, and of several ancient editions. And this is the reading

of the Vulgate, the Chaldee, and the Syriac, and should

undoubtedly supersede the other.

Verse 17. I love them that love me] Wisdom shows itself; teaches

man the knowledge of himself; shows him also the will of God

concerning him; manifests the snares and dangers of life, the

allurements and unsatisfactory nature of all sensual and sinful

pleasures, the blessedness of true religion, and the solid

happiness which an upright soul derives from the peace and

approbation of its Maker. If, then, the heart embraces this

wisdom, follows this Divine teaching, and gives itself to God, his

love will be shed abroad in it by the influence of the Holy

Spirit. Thus we love God because he hath first loved us and the

more we love him, the more we shall feel of his love, which will

enable us to love him yet more and more; and thus we may go on

increasing to eternity. Blessed be God!

And those that seek me early shall find me.] Not merely betimes

in the morning, though he who does so shall find it greatly to his

advantage; (see on Ps 4:1-8;) but early

in life-in youth, and as near as possible to the first dawn of

reason. To the young this gracious promise is particularly made:

if they seek, they shall find. Others, who are old, may seek and

find; but never to such advantage as they would have done, had

they sought early. Youth is the time of advantage in every

respect: it is the time of learning, the time of discipline; the

time of improvement, the time of acquiring useful, solid, and

gracious habits. As the first-fruits always belong to God, it is

God's time; the time in which he is peculiarly gracious; and in

which, to sincere youthful seekers, he pours out his benefits with

great profusion. "They that seek me early shall find me."

Hear, ye young, and ye little ones! God offers himself now to

you, with all his treasures of grace and glory. Thank him for

his ineffable mercy, and embrace it without delay.

Verse 18. Riches and honour are with me] Often the wise,

prudent, and discreet man arrives literally to riches and honour;

but this is not always the case. But there are other riches of

which he never fails; and these seem to be what Solomon has

particularly in view, durable riches and righteousness; the

treasure deposited by God in earthen vessels.

Verse 20. I lead in the way of righteousness] Nothing but the

teaching that comes from God by his word and Spirit can do this.

Verse 22. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way]

Wisdom is not acquired by the Divine Being; man, and even angels,

learn it by slow and progressive degrees; but in God it is as

eternally inherent as any other essential attribute of his nature.

The Targum makes this wisdom a creature, by thus translating the

passage: Elaha barani bereish biriteiah,

"God created me in the beginning of his creatures." The Syriac is

the same. This is as absurd and heretical as some modern glosses

on the same passage.

Verse 23. I was set up from everlasting] nissachti, "I

was diffused or poured out," from nasach, "to diffuse, pour

abroad, as a spirit or disposition," Isa 29:10. See

Parkhurst. Or from sach, "to cover, overspread, smear over,

as with oil;" to be anointed king. Hence some have translated it,

principatum habui, I had the principality, or was a ruler,

governor, and director, from eternity. All the schemes, plans, and

circumstances, relative to creation, government, providence, and

to all being, material, animal, and intellectual, were conceived

in the Divine mind, by the Divine wisdom, from eternity, or ever

the earth was. There was no fortuitous creation, no jumbling

concourse of original atoms, that entered into the composition of

created beings; all was the effect of the plans before

conceived, laid down, and at last acted upon by God's eternal

wisdom.

Verse 24. When there were no depths] tehomoth,

before the original chaotic mass was formed. See Ge 1:2.

I was brought forth] cholalti, "I was produced as by

labouring throes." Mr. Parkhurst thinks that the heathen poets

derived their idea of Minerva's (wisdom's) being born of Jupiter's

brain, from some such high poetic personification as that in the

text.

Verse 26. The highest part of the dust of the world]

rosh aphroth tebel, "the first particle of matter."

The prima materia, the primitive atom. All these verses

(Pr 8:3-29) are a periphrasis for

I existed before creation; consequently before time was. I dwelt

in God as a principle which might be communicated in its

influences to intellectual beings when formed.

Verse 27. When he prepared the heavens, I was there] For there

is no part of the creation of God in which wisdom, skill,

contrivance, are more manifest, than in the construction of the

visible heavens.

When he set a compass upon the face of the depth] Does not this

refer to the establishment of the law of gravitation? by which all

the particles of matter, tending to a common centre, would produce

in all bodies the orbicular form, which we see them have; so that

even the waters are not only retained within their boundaries, but

are subjected to the circular form, in their great aggregate of

seas, as other parts of matter are. This is called here making a

compass, bechukko chug, sweeping a circle; and even this

on the face of the deep, to bring the chaotic mass into form,

regularity, and order.

Verse 28. The clouds above] shechakim, "the ethereal

regions," taking in the whole of the atmosphere, with all its

meteors, clouds, vapours, &c.

Verse 29. When he gave to the sea his decree] When he assigned

its limits, adjusted its saltness, and proportioned the extent of

the surface to the quantity of vapours to be raised from it, for

the irrigation of the terrene surface.

The foundations of the earth] Those irreversible laws by which

all its motions are governed; its annual and diurnal rotation, and

particularly its centrifugal and centripetal forces; by the former

of which it has its annual motion round the sun like all other

planets; and by the latter all its particles are prevented from

flying off, notwithstanding the great velocity of its motion

round its own axis, which causes one thousand and forty-two miles

of its equator to pass under any given point in the heavens in the

course of a single hour! These are, properly speaking, the

foundations of the earth; the principles on which it is

constructed, and the laws by which it is governed.

Verse 30. Then I was with him, as one brought up] amon,

a nursling, a darling child. Wisdom continues its parable, says

Calmet; and represents itself as a new-born child which is ever

near its parent, and takes pleasure to see him act, and to sport

in his presence. This is poetical and highly figurative; and they

who think they find the deity of Jesus Christ in these metaphors

should be very cautious how they apply such terms as these; so

that while they are endeavouring to defend the truth, they may do

nothing against the truth, in which most of them unhappily fail.

Rejoicing always before him] All the images in this verse are

borrowed from the state and circumstances of a darling,

affectionate, playful child; as any one will be convinced who

examines the Hebrew text.

Verse 31. Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth] There

God displays especially his wisdom in ordering and directing human

beings, and in providing for their wants. The wisdom of God is in

an especial manner manifested in his providence.

My delights were with the sons of men.] This Divine wisdom, as

it delighted in the creation of man, so it continues to delight in

his instruction. Hence it is represented as offering its lessons

of instruction continually, and using every means and opportunity

to call men from folly and vice to sound knowledge, holiness, and

happiness. It is to man that God especially gives wisdom; and he

has it in the form of reason beyond all other creatures; therefore

it is said, "My delights are with the sons of men;" to them I open

my choicest treasures. They alone are capable of sapience,

intelligence, and discursive reason.

Verse 32. Now therefore] Since I delight so much in conveying

instruction; since I have the happiness of the children of Adam so

much at heart, hearken unto me; and this is for your own interest,

for blessed are they who keep my ways.

Verse 34. Watching daily at my gates] Wisdom is represented as

having a school for the instruction of men; and seems to point out

some of the most forward of her scholars coming, through their

intense desire to learn, even before the gates were opened, and

waiting there for admission, that they might hear every word that

was uttered, and not lose one accent of the heavenly teaching.

Blessed are such.

Verse 35. Whoso findeth me] The wisdom that comes from God,

teaching to avoid evil and cleave to that which is good; findeth

life-gets that knowledge which qualifies him to answer the

purposes for which he was made; for he is quickened with Christ,

and made a partaker of the Divine life. Christ dwells in his heart

by faith; he lives a new life, for Christ liveth in him; the law

of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes him free from the law

of sin and death. And shall obtain favour of the Lord. The more

he walks after the Divine counsel, the more he obtains of the

Divine image; and the more he resembles his Maker, the more he

partakes of the Divine favour.

Verse 36. Wrongeth his own soul] It is not Satan, it is not sin,

properly speaking, that hurts him; it is himself. If he received

the teaching of God, sin would have no dominion over him; if he

resisted the devil, the devil would flee from him.

Love death.] They do it in effect, if not in fact; for as they

love sin, that leads to death, so they may be justly said to love

death, the wages of sin. He that works in this case, works for

wages; and he must love the wages, seeing he labours so hard in

the work.

I HAVE gone through this fine chapter, and given the best

exposition of it in my power. I have also, as well as others,

weighed every word, and closely examined their radical import,

their connection among themselves, and the connection of the

subject of the chapter with what has gone before, and with what

follows after; and I cannot come, conscientiously, to any other

interpretation than that which I have given. I am thoroughly

satisfied that it speaks not one word either about the Divine or

human nature of Christ, much less of any eternal filiation of

his Divinity. And I am fully persuaded, had there not been a

preconceived creed, no soul of man, by fair criticism, would have

ever found out that fond opinion of the eternal sonship of the

Divine nature, which so many commentators persuade us they find

here. That it has been thus applied in early ages, as well as in

modern times, I am sufficiently aware; and that many other

portions of the Divine records have been appealed to, in order to

support a particular opinion, and many that were false in

themselves, must be known to those who are acquainted with the

fathers. But many quote them who know nothing of them. As to the

fathers in general, they were not all agreed on this subject, some

supposing Christ, others the Holy Spirit, was meant in this

chapter. But of these we may safely state, that there is not a

truth in the most orthodox creed, that cannot be proved by their

authority, nor a heresy that has disgraced the Romish Church, that

may not challenge them as its abettors. In points of doctrine,

their authority is, with me, nothing. The WORD of GOD alone

contains my creed. On a number of points I can go to the Greek and

Latin fathers of the Church, to know what they believed, and what

the people of their respective communions believed; but after all

this I must return to God's word, to know what he would have ME to

believe. No part of a Protestant creed stands on the decision of

fathers and councils. By appealing to the Bible alone, as the

only rule for the faith and practice of Christians, they

confounded and defeated their papistical adversaries, who could

not prove their doctrines but by fathers and councils. Hence their

peculiar doctrines stand in their ultimate proof upon THESE; and

those of Protestantism on the BIBLE. Some late writers upon this

subject, whose names I spare, have presumed much on what they have

said on this subject; but before any man, who seeks for sober

truth, will receive any of their conclusions, he will naturally

look whether their premises be sound, or whether from sound

principles they have drawn legitimate conclusions. They say this

chapter is a sufficient foundation to build their doctrine on. I

say it is no foundation at all; that it never has been proved, and

never can be proved, that it speaks at all of the doctrine in

question. It has nothing to do with it. On this conviction of

mine, their proofs drawn from this chapter must go with me for

nothing. I have been even shocked with reading over some things

that have been lately written on the subject. I have said in my

heart, They have taken away my ETERNAL LORD, and I know not where

they have laid him. I cannot believe their doctrine; I never did;

I hope I never shall. I believe in the holy Trinity; in three

persons in the Godhead, of which none is before or after another.

I believe JEHOVAH, JESUS, the HOLY GHOST to be one infinite,

eternal GODHEAD, subsisting ineffably in three persons. I believe

Jesus the Christ to be, as to his Divine nature, as unoriginated

and eternal as JEHOVAH himself; and with the Holy Ghost to be one

infinite Godhead, neither person being created, begotten, nor

proceeding, more than another: as to its essence, but one

TRINITY, in an infinite, eternal and inseparable UNITY. And this

TRIUNE GOD is the object of my faith, my adoration, and my

confidence. But I believe not in an eternal sonship or generation

of the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. Here I have long stood, here

I now stand, and here I trust to stand in the hour of death, in

the day of judgment, and to all eternity. Taking the Scriptures in

general, I find a plurality in the Divine nature; taking the grand

part mentioned, Mt 3:16, 17, I find that

plurality restrained to a trinity, in the most unequivocal and

evident manner: Jesus, who was baptized in Jordan; the HOLY GHOST,

who descended upon him who was baptized; and the FATHER,

manifested by the VOICE from heaven that said, "This is my beloved

Son, in whom I am well pleased." And how that person called JESUS

the CHRIST, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,

could be called the Son of God, I have shown in

my note, See Clarke on Lu 1:35.

Some writers, in their defense of the doctrine above, which I

venture to say I do not believe, have made reflections, in real or

pretended pity, on the belief of their Trinitarian brethren, which

have very little to do with candour: viz., "How the supporters of

this hypothesis can avoid either the error of Tritheism on the one

hand, or Sabellianism on the other, is difficult to conceive."

Now, the supporters of the doctrine of the underived and

unbegotten eternity of Christ's Divine nature might as well say of

them: How the supporters of the eternal sonship of Christ can

avoid the error of Arianism on the one hand, and Arianism on the

other, it is difficult to conceive. But I would not say so; for

though I know Arians who hold that doctrine, and express their

belief nearly in the same words; yet I know many most

conscientious Trinitarians who hold the doctrine of the eternal

sonship, and yet believe in the proper deity, or eternal godhead,

of Jesus Christ. After all, as a very wise and excellent man

lately said: "While we have every reason to be satisfied of the

soundness of each other's faith, we must allow each to explain his

own sentiments in his own words: here, in the words used in

explanation, a little latitude may be safely allowed." To this

correct sentiment I only add:-

Scimus; et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim.-HORACE.

"I grant it; and the license give and take."

I have passed the waters of strife, and do not wish to recross

them: the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. I

will have nothing to do with ill-tempered, abusive men; I wish

them more light and better manners.

And while I am on this subject, let me add one thing, which I am

sure will not please all the generation of his people; and it is

this: that Jesus Christ, having taken upon him human nature, which

was afterwards crucified, and expired upon the cross, did by those

acts make a full, perfect, and sufficient offering, sacrifice, and

atonement for the sin of the whole world. That he died, paid down

the redemption price, for every soul of man, that was ever born

into the world, and shall ever be born into it. That all who lay

hold on the hope set before them shall be saved; (and all may thus

lay hold;) and none shall perish but those who would not come to

Christ that they might have life. And that men perish, not because

they were not redeemed, but because they would not accept of the

redemption.

To conclude on this subject, it will be necessary to refer the

reader to the remarkable opposition that subsists between this and

the preceding chapter. There, the prostitute is represented as

going out into the streets to seek her prey; and the alluring

words of carnal wisdom to excite the animal appetite to sinful

gratification, which she uses: here, heavenly wisdom is

represented as going out into the streets, to the high places,

the gates of the city, to counteract her designs, and lead back

the simple to God and truth.

These personifications were frequent among the Jews. In the Book

of Ecclesiasticus we find a similar personification, and expressed

in almost similar terms; and surely none will suppose that the

writer of that Apocryphal book had either the Christian doctrine

of the Trinity, or the sonship of Christ in view.

I will give a few passages:-

"WISDOM shall glory in the midst of her people; in the

congregation of the Most High shall she open her mouth, and

triumph before his power. I came out of the mouth of the Most

High, and covered the earth as a cloud. I dwelt in the high

places; I alone compassed the circuit of the heaven, and walked in

the bottom of the deep, in the waves of the sea, and in all the

earth. He created me from the beginning, before the world; and I

shall never fail. I am the mother of fair love, and fear, and

knowledge, and holy hope. I therefore, being eternal, am given to

all my children which are named of him. Come unto me, and fill

yourselves with my fruits. I also came out as a brook from a

river, and a conduit into a garden," &c., &c., Eccl 24:1, &c. This

kind of personification of wisdom we have had in the preceding

chapters; and in the following chapter we shall find the figure

still kept up.

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