Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:XXIII.
(1) Consider diligently what is before thee,—Rather, Who is before thee; that thy host is not an equal, but one who, if offended, might do thee deadly harm.
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.(2) And put a knife to thy throat.—Use the strongest methods to keep thine appetite in check, if thou art likely to give way to it, and then, overcome by meat and drink, to say or do anything to offend thy host.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.(3) Deceitful meat.—Not offered out of friendship and love to thee; for an unguarded word spoken in the insecurity of the festive hour might bring ruin to thee.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.(4) Cease from thine own wisdom.—Cleverness shewn in piling up wealth.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.(5) They fly away.—Rather, As an eagle that flieth toward heaven, far beyond thy reach.
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:(6) Him that hath an evil eye.—A sordid, grudging temper.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.(7) For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.—He is not really friendly and hospitable, as his words would imply, but he grudges every morsel thou takest, calculating its cost.
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.(8) Shalt thou vomit up.—Shalt be disgusted at having partaken of hospitality which was not freely offered to thee.
And lose thy sweet words.—All thy civil speeches and thanks for the cold welcome thou hast had.
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.(9) Speak not in the ears of a fool.—Do not waste thy time in explaining matters to him.
A fool.—A dull, stupid person. (Comp. Proverbs 1:22.)
Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:(10) Remove not the old landmark.—See above, on Proverbs 22:28.
For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.(11) Their redeemer is mighty.—They may have no near kinsman (Leviticus 25:25) to redeem their land, yet they have a mighty Deliverer (Exodus 6:6), who will redress their wrongs.
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.(13) He shall not die—i.e., a moderate correction, such as that advised in Proverbs 19:18 (see note), will not injure him—quite the reverse.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.(14) And shalt deliver his soul from hell—i.e., Hades, the abode of the dead (Isaiah 14:9), death being the punishment of sin, and long life the reward of well-doing (Proverbs 3:2).
Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.(16) My reins shall rejoice.—These being represented in Hebrew poetry as the seat of the deepest affections, answering to “heart” in Proverbs 23:15. (Comp. Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 12:2; Revelation 2:23.)
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.(18) An end, which shall be peace (Psalm 37:37), corresponding to the “manifestation of the sons of God “(Romans 8:19), when we shall be “like” God (1John 3:2).
Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.(19) Hear thou, my son, whatever others may do. (Comp. above, on Proverbs 22:19.)
Guide thine heart in the way.—That is, of God. (Comp. Isaiah 40:3, and note on Acts 9:2.)
For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.(21) Drowsiness, that follows after such debauches.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.(23) Buy the truth, and sell it not.—The “truth” is here described under the three heads of wisdom, self-discipline, and understanding. (See above, on Proverbs 1:2.) All these are to be obtained from God (James 1:5), who gives to every man “liberally,” “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). (Comp. Revelation 3:18, and the “treasure” and “pearl of great price” of Matthew 13:44-46.)
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.(26) My son, give me thine heart.—For that is the one gift alone worthy of acceptance which man can offer to God, and the only one which God will accept; an offering which man endeavours to keep for himself, substituting for it alms, unreal prayers, outward observances of religion, and obedience in matters of little moment. (Comp. Matthew 22:37.)
For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.(27) Strange woman (nokhriyyah).—See above, on Proverbs 2:16.
She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.(28) Increaseth the transgressors (faithless) among men.—This vice being the fruitful source of faithlessness both towards man and God.
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?(29) Wounds without cause?—Which might have been avoided, and which serve no good end.
Redness of eyes?—Rather, dimness.
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.(30) They that go to seek mixed wine.—Or, To test; to see whether it is to their taste. The wines of the ancients were not generally drunk pure, but diluted with water or flavoured with spices. (See above on Proverbs 9:2.)
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.(31) When it giveth its colour.—Or sparkles.
When it moveth itself aright.—Or, when it glides easily down the throat.
Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.(33) Thine eyes shall behold strange women.—i.e., look out for them, impurity being the constant attendant of drunkenness. Or, the word may be translated “strange things,” referring to the strange fancies of a drunkard, the horrible and fantastic visions present to his disordered brain.
Perverse things.—His notions of right and wrong being completely distorted.
Yea, 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.(34) As he that lieth down in the midst of the sea.—And so would inevitably be drowned if he trusted to its smooth, glassy appearance.
As he that lieth upon the top of a mast.—Whom every roll of the ship might hurl into the waves. The absolute insensibility of the drunkard to danger is here described. Or it may mean that everything round the drunkard and the ground on which he lies, seem to rock like the waves of the sea, or the masthead of a ship.
They 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.(35) They have stricken me, and I was not sick.—The drunken man feels no blows or ill usage.
When shall I awake?—He longs to rouse himself from his slumber that he may return to his debauch.