Proverbs 22
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
η) Admonition to secure and keep a good name

PROVERBS 22:1–16

1          A (good) name is to be chosen rather than great riches;

better than silver and gold is good will.

2     The rich and the poor meet together;

Jehovah is the maker of them all.

8     The prudent seeth the evil and hideth himself,

but the simple pass on and must suffer.

4     The end of humility (and) of the fear of God

is riches, honor and life.

5     Thorns, snares are in the way of the wayward;

he that guardeth his soul let him keep far from them.

6     Train up a child in the way he should go;

even when he is old he doth not depart from it.

7     The rich ruleth over the poor,

and the borrower becometh servant to the lender.

8     He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity,

and the staff of his haughtiness shall vanish away.

9     He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed,

for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

10     Chase away the scorner and contention goeth out,

and strife and reproach cease.

11     He that loveth with a pure heart,

whose lips are gracious, the King is his friend.

12     The eyes of Jehovah preserve knowledge,

but the words of the false doth He overthrow.

13     The slothful saith: (There is) a lion without,

I shall be slain in the streets.

14     A deep pit is the mouth of the strange woman;

he that is accursed by Jehovah falleth into it.

15     Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child;

the rod of correction driveth it far from him.

16     One oppresseth the poor only to make him rich;

one giveth to the rich (and it tendeth) only to want.


Proverbs 22:1. [The Niphal part. נִבְחָר here as in 16:16 is to be rendered like the Latin pass. periphr.—ndus est, “is to be chosen, ought to be chosen;” comp. BÖTT, § 997, 2, c.—A.].

Proverbs 22:2. [See Exeg. notes for the reason why כֻּלָּם is preferred to שְׁנֵיהֶם. The lit. rendering is “their totality, the whole of them.” For minute explanations of the use of כֹּל and the ordinary form of its suffixes see e.g, BÖTT. § 876, c, § 883, d.—A.].

Proverbs 22:3. [See Exeg. notes for reasons why the K’thibh is to be preferred to the K’ri. The vocalization is of course that of the K’ri נִסְתָּר and not that of an Imperf. Kal. The time implied in the verb רָאָה is of course a “relative perfect;” he hath first seen, and then will hide himself.—A.].

Proverbs 22:5. עִקֵּשׁ is in the Vulg. correctly regarded as a genitive with דֶרֶךְ; so most of the modern interpreters regard it.

Proverbs 22:7, 8. [The full forms יִמְשׁוֹל and יִקְצוֹר (K’thibh) are preserved by the emphasis thrown on the ultimate syllables. According to BÖTT. §1005, 5, c, while these forms are the prevalent forms in the dialects of Ephraim and Simeon they are found in the period of Judah only under the influence of special emphasis or a following pause.—A.].

Proverbs 22:11. [In the reading of the K’ri the Hholem is exceptionally shortened to Kamets-Hhatuph before Makkeph. The K’thibh has the stat. constr. in its ordinary form. See GREEN, § 215, 1, c.—A.].

Proverbs 22:12, 13. [The perf. נָצְרוּ in Proverbs 22:12 is classed by BÖTT. with the “empirical” perfects; this is a fact of experience, it has been found true; the אָמַר of Proverbs 22:13 is classed with the “effective” perfects: he has virtually said, it is in effect as though he had said, etc.—A.]

Proverbs 22:15. [The pass. part. קְשׁוּרָה illustrates the principle that in Hebrew, whatever be the time to which this participle relates it describes a state and not a process,—something that is, and not something that is coming to be; Germ. “ist verknupft” not “wird v.” See BÖTT. 1997, 2, e.—A.].

[It can hardly be accidental that in this group of proverbs so many of the important words begin with ע; thus עשֶׁר (Proverbs 22:1), עָשִׁיר and עשֵֹׁה (Proverbs 22:2), עָרוּם (Proverbs 22:3), עֵקֶב and עֲנָוָה (ver.4) עִקֵּשׁ (ver.5), etc.—A.].


1. On account of the brevity of this section beginning with Proverbs 22:1, but plainly ending with Proverbs 22:16, as well as on account of the supposed construction of the section with some reference to the number five (which is said to have had a modifying influence also on chap. 21), HITZIG conjectures that its latter and larger half has been lost, and thinks that the portion which has disappeared may be recognized in the section 28:17–29:27. All this rests on the basis of assumptions as subjective and arbitrary as the general principles of this critic which relate to the supposed numerical structure of the oldest and main division of the whole collection of proverbs. See remarks below, on Proverbs 25:1, and also on 28:1 (Doctrinal and Ethical).

2. Proverbs 22:1–5. On a good name as dependent not on riches and treasures, but on prudence, humility and right sensibilities.—A (good) name is more precious than great riches. The absolute term “name” here denotes, like ὄνομα in the parallel passage, Ecclesiast. 41:12, a good name (ὄνομα καλὸν, LXX); so likewise in Eccles. 7:1; Job. 30:8.—Better than silver and gold is goodwill. The “good” (טוֹב) does not belong as an adjective [attributive] to the noun “favor” (as the Rabbins render, and UMBREIT also: “Schöne Gunst” [E. V., M., S., DE W., etc.]), but is a predicate (comp. 8:19), parallel with “more precious, or choice,” but put at the end of its clause for the sake of a more emphatic stress upon the objects compared with it, gold and silver. [So E. V. in the margin, WORDSW. (?), H., N., K., etc.].

Proverbs 22:2. The rich and the poor meet together; i.e., they are found side by side (comp. 29:13; Isa. 36:14), as classes both of which are alike created by Jehovah, and therefore have each its own peculiar object and calling to fulfil in God’s creation. Comp. 14:31; 17:5; Job 31:15.—Since both “rich” and “poor” are collective ideas, it is said that God has created “all of them” (כֻּלָם, and not “both of them, or the two,” שְׁנֵיהֶם, as in 20:12). [The verb “strike against, or encounter each other,” of course does not here imply such an antagonism as too often exists in disordered human society, but simply the ordinary encounter or intermixture of social life. The word of God no where endorses the jealousies and collisions that result from sin.—A.]

Proverbs 22:3. The prudent seeth the evil and hideth himself.—The K’thibh. (וַיִּסָּתֵר, an Imperf. Niph.) is to be preferred to the K’ri (וְנִסְתָּר), because the hiding one’s self is a consequence of seeing the coming calamity, and this consequence is expressed by the Imperf. with וֹ consec; comp. 1 Sam. 19:5. The K’ri originates from 27:12, where the verse, with this exception, literally recurs.

But the simple pass on and must suffer (“are punished,” E. V. and most of the English commentators). In the last verb we have a perfect preceded by a simple copula, because the heedless pressing on of the simple into calamity, and their “expiating” it, or suffering injury, are conceived of as cotemporaneous; compare 2 Sam. 7:3; Ezek. 25:12, etc.—The plural “the simple ones” over against the one “prudent man” of clause a, seems to be chosen not without an intentional reference to the disproportion that actually exists numerically in life between the two classes of men.

Proverbs 22:4. The end of humility (and) of the fear of God is riches and honor and life.—The copula is wanting before “the fear of God,” because this “fear” is in its idea so closely connected with “humility” that it can be appended as in a sense an appositive to it. Thus BERTHEAU and ELSTER correctly render, following GEIER, ROSENMUELLER, SCHELLING, etc. More commonly (and as early as the LXX and Vulg.) the “fear of Jehovah” is regarded as the first effect or consequence of humility, like riches, honor and life; this, however, gives no specifically appropriate idea. This is also true of HITZIG’S emendation (רְאוּת for יִרְאַת), the “beholding Jehovah;” for “riches, honor and life” could hardly be the elements into which the “beholding Jehovah” should be resolved; this idea is rather in the Old Testament also (e.g., Ps. 11:7; 17:15) always one that belongs not to the present, but only to the future life.—-With b compare moreover 3:16; 8:18.—[Our author’s idea is also that of DE W. AND K., the E. V., H., N., S., M., WORDSW, etc. The grammatical objection urged by HITZIG, UMBREIT and RUEETSCHI is the harshness of the asyndeton; they agree in making the latter part of clause a the predicate, a more natural construction unquestionably, if the resulting meaning is admissible. UMBREIT interprets the humility of which “the fear of God” is the reward, as humility in human relations—a rendering hardly consistent with the Hebrew usus loquendi. RUEETSCHI takes the words in their ordinary sense, and the structure which is most obvious, and explains: “The genuine religious wisdom which is equivalent to ‘the fear of Jehovah’ (more precisely, of which the fear of the Lord is the beginning), is the highest reward of humility; it is to him who attains it all (riches, honor, life), all that man desires and strives for beside, his greatest riches, his highest honor, his true life.” In this view clause b is an analysis of the predicate of a.—A.]

Proverbs 22:5. Thorns, snares are in the way of the false.—Here again we have an asyndeton, consisting in the associating of the two ideas which are in their import essentially equivalent, of “thorns” (comp. Job 5:5) and “snares, nets” (Proverbs 7:23; Ps. 69:22; Job 18:9, etc.). HITZIG proposes instead of the latter expression to read ספחים: “Thorns are poured out, are spread on the way of the false (?).” [Those who agree with Z. in the general structure of clause b, in his selection of the subject and predicate, very generally, at least our English expositors, make the verb affirmative rather than hortative. RUEETSCHI (as above, p. 155), on the ground of the very general idiom of the book of Proverbs, and in regard to this phrase in particular, שֹׁמֵר נַפְשׁוֹ, considers the clause as inverted: “he who keepeth far from the thorns and snares that strew the way of the false, destroying him, notwithstanding all his cunning, saveth his life.”—A.]—With b compare 16:17.

3. Proverbs 22:6–12. Of good discipline, frugality, uprightness, love and fidelity as further important means to the preservation of a good name.—Train up a child (early) in the way he should go—The verb which, according to Arabic analogies, is equivalent to imbuit, initiavit (comp. SCHULTENS on this passage), denotes here the first instruction that is given to a boy, his early education and the formation of his habits. Compare the expression of HORACE (Ep. I., 2, 69): Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem Testa diu; and also the modern proverbs Jung gewohnt, alt gethan [Young accustomed is done old]: or “Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr” [“What little Johnnie does not learn, John learns never.” So our English proverb—“Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.”] עַל־פִי דַרְכּוֹ can have no other meaning than “according to the standard of his way” (Gen. 43:7; Lev. 27:8, etc.), i.e., according to the way that is determined for him, according to the calling and the manner of life for which he is intended. With this interpretation, which is as simple as it is pertinent, HITZIG’S emendation may be dismissed as superfluous: עַל־פִּי רֻכּוֹ, “according to his tenderness, since he is still tender.” [Notwithstanding the “simplicity” of the interpretation “in accordance with his way, or his going,” three different meanings have been found in it. It may be, a) “his way” in the sense of his own natural and characteristic style and manner,—and then his training will have reference to that to which he is naturally fitted; or b), the way in life which he is intended by parents or guardians to pursue; or c) the way in which he ought to go. The last is moral and relates to the general Divine intention concerning man’s earthly course; the second is human and economical; the first is individual and to some extent even physical. Yet although the third presents the highest standard and has been generally adopted and used where little account is made of the original, it has the least support from the Hebrew idiom. So DE W., B., K., S., H. (?), and others.—A.]

Proverbs 22:7. The rich ruleth over poor men.—Observe here again the significant interchange between singular and plural like that above in Proverbs 22:3, corresponding with the actual conditions of human society. The same relation of dependence comes in play however in like manner between borrowers and lenders; indebtedness always destroys freedom, even though no sale into slavery of him who was unable to pay should ever take place.

Proverbs 22:8. He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity.—Comp. Job 4:8, and the converse sentiment, Prov. 11:18.—And the staff of his haughtiness vanisheth away;—i.e., the staff with which in the ebullitions of his anger (Isa. 14:6) he smote others comes to nought, as though dried up and rotten. Compare for the verb “to come to nought, to come to an end,” Gen. 21:15; 1 Kings 17:16; Isa. 10:25. According to the last mentioned passage, UMBREIT, EWALD [DE W.] and ELSTER explain: “and the staff of his punishment is already prepared.” But the verb כלה in that instance acquires the meaning “to be ready, to be already prepared,” solely through the context,—-and the noun (עֶבְרָה) means not “punishment,” but always simply anger, passionate excitement. And to employ “staff of his anger” to describe “the rod of the Divine anger aroused against him” would surely be an unusually condensed and harsh expression.—HITZIG reads וְשֹׁבֵט עֲבֹדָתוֹ “and he that renounces (?) his service perishes,” a meaning clearly quite insipid and little appropriate as the result of a very artificial and violent emendation, for which the text of the LXX neither in Proverbs 22:8 b, nor in the spurious verse which this version exhibits appended to our verse, offers any adequate support whatsoever.—[FUERST distinguished two radical meanings in the verb אוּן, from one of which the derived noun has the meaning “nothingness, vanity,” here adopted by E. V., and B.; the other gives the meaning “calamity,” and in this sense the word is here understood more forcibly and appropriately, by DE W., K., H., N., M., S.RUEETSCHI vigorously supports our author’s interpretation of clause b.—A.]

Proverbs 22:9. He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed.—He who is “good in the eye” is the exact opposite of the man “evil in the eye” (Proverbs 23:6); it is he therefore who looks around not wickedly but in kindness and friendliness. Such a one will besides always be charitable in disposition and action, and therefore as he dispenses blessing he will also receive blessing. The conjunction (כִי) as the beginning of the second clause should doubtless be regarded rather as a causal, than, with HITZIG, as a conditional particle; it is therefore not “if he gives” (that he does this is in fact already implied in his being described as having “a bountiful eye”), but “since,” or “for he gives,” etc.

Proverbs 22:10. Chase away the scorner and contention goeth out.—That scoffing is a chief source of contention and strife was already expressed in Proverbs 21:24. Contention “goeth out,” viz., with the scoffer, when he leaves the assembly in which he has given forth his scoffing utterances (the LXX rightly supply ἐκ συνεδρίου).—And strife and reproach cease,—for the evil example of the scoffer had excited the whole assembly to mutual abuse and recrimination (קָלוֹץ has here this active meaning).

Proverbs 22:11. He that loveth with a pure heart, whose lips are gracious, the king is his friend.—Thus, without doubt correctly, UMBREIT, ELSTER, HITZIG; for the passages 13:4, 24; 14:13 present no sufficient analogy for EWALD’S interpretation of the last clause, “he is the king’s friend;” and BERTHEAU’S conception of the phrase “grace of lips” as a second accusative object of the verb “loveth” (“he that loveth purity of heart, and grace on his lips, the king is his friend”) has against it the decided inappropriateness of the expression “to love the grace of his lips” as conveying the idea of “cultivating a wise eloquence.” Furthermore we have to compare chiefly 16:13; for it is really wise and good counsellors who are there as here designated the favorites of the king.—[Few verses in the Book of Proverbs whose reading is unquestioned have received more interpretations. In clause a “purity of heart” is made the object by almost every interpreter, instead of an adverbial adjunct as Z. makes it. The “grace of lips” in clause b, in addition to BERTHEAU’S construction (see above), is made a part of the subject—“to whom, or whose is grace of lips,” e.g., by DE W., EWALD, K.; it is made the first part of the predicate “to him, or his is grace of lips,” e.g., by the E. V. in the margin, by H., N., S., M., W.; while the text of the E. V. makes it adverbial.—A.]

Proverbs 22:12. The eyes of Jehovah preserve knowledge.i.e., secure protection to him who possesses and evinces true discernment and knowledge (an example, therefore, of the abstr. pro concreto). With clause b, furthermore, the meaning seems to correspond better which HITZIG obtains, when he, perhaps in this instance emending wisely, writes רָעֹת instead of דַּעַת: Jehovah’s eyes observe wickedness.—For the verb in clause b comp. 13:6; 21:12. The “words” of the false here denote his proposals or plans, the faithlessness which he devises by himself and discusses with others. [HOLDEN thinks it necessary to render the “affairs of the transgressor.” The necessity is obviated by the above explanation.]

4. Proverbs 22:13–16. Of slothfulness, wantonness, folly and avarice, as further chief hinderances to the attainment of a good name.—The slothful saith: (There is) a lion without, etc.;—i.e., he has recourse to the most senseless and ludicrous excuses, if in any way he may not be obliged to go out to labor; he therefore says, e.g., a lion has stolen into the city, and may possibly destroy him in the midst of the tumult and crowd of the streets. Comp. 15:19. [See critical notes for an explanation of the tense of the main verb.]

Proverbs 22:14. A deep pit is the mouth of the strange woman,i.e., her seductive language; comp. 2:16; 5:3; 6:24; 7:5 sq.; and also 23:27, where the harlot herself is described as a deep ditch.—He that is accursed of Jehovah.—The “cursed of Jehovah” the exact opposite of the man “blessed (בָּרוּךְ) of Jehovah,” therefore one visited by the curse of an angered God.

Proverbs 22:15. Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child,—i.e., it belongs to the disposition of all children, who are altogether and without exception νήπιοι,—infallibly so (comp. 1 Kings 3:7), and must therefore necessarily be removed from them by the diligent employment of the “rod of correction” (comp. 13:24; 19:18; 23:13, 14). Comp. our proverb “Jugend hat kein Tugend” [Youth hath no virtue].—[KAMPH., from the absence of an adversative particle before clause b, judges it better to take the first clause as conditional: “If foolishness be bound,” etc. Here is then the remedy for the supposed exigency. But this is surely needless, and vastly weakens the import of clause a, with its impressive declaration of an urgent and universal need.—A.]

Proverbs 22:16. One oppresseth the poor only to make him rich;i.e., the oppression which one, perchance some rich landlord or tyrannical ruler, practises on a poor man, rouses his moral energy, and thus by means of his tireless industry and his productive labor in his vocation, brings it to pass, that he works himself out of needy circumstances into actual prosperity. On the other hand, according to clause b, all presents which one makes to an indolent rich man, prodigal, and therefore abandoned by the blessing of God, contribute nothing to stay the waste of his possessions that has once commenced. What one gives to him is drawn into the vortex of his prodigality and profligacy, and therefore is subservient, in spite of the contrary intention of the giver, only “to want,” or to the diminution of his possessions (comp. 11:24).—Thus most of the recent expositors correctly explain, especially EWALD, UMBREIT, ELSTER, HITZIG [DE W., K.], while BERTHEAU’S conception of the passage: “He that oppresseth the poor to take for himself, giveth to a rich man [viz., himself) only to want,” approximates to the old incorrect rendering of the Vulgate, LUTHER, etc. See in reply HITZIG on this passage. [H., N., M., S. follow the E. V. in giving this reflexive meaning to the pronoun of clause a, while WORDSW. guardedly expresses a preference for the other view; God’s providence overrules the rich man’s rapacity, and turns obsequious liberality toward the rich against him whom it would benefit. For according to this view it is not the giver, as the E. V. suggests, but the receiver, that shall come to want. RUEETSCHI comes vigorously to the defence of the older explanation. The subject is then single: the rich man seeks to advance himself by oppression of the poor; he gives wrongfully to one that has, and God thwarts him. We prefer this elder exposition.—A.]


The doctrine of the great worth of a good name forms undoubtedly the main theme of the section before us; for all that follows the introductory proposition of Proverbs 22:1, which is expressly shaped with reference to this theme, may be easily and without any violence regarded as a statement of the most important means or conditions to the attainment and maintenance of a good name. These conditions are given in part negatively, as not consisting in riches (Proverbs 22:2, comp. Proverbs 22:16), nor in falseness of heart (Proverbs 22:5), nor in scoffing and love of abuse (Proverbs 22:10), nor in unrighteous dealing (Proverbs 22:8, comp. Proverbs 22:12), nor in sloth and licentiousness (Proverbs 22:13, 14). They are also given in part positively, as consisting in a genuine prudence (Proverbs 22:3), in humility and the fear of God (Proverbs 22:4), in a wise frugality and industry (Proverbs 22:7 and 16), in charity toward the poor (Proverbs 22:9), in purity of heart together with that grace of speech which rests upon it (Proverbs 22:11),—in a word, in all the excellent qualities as well as the inward and outward advantages to which a strict and wise training of children is able to aid the man who is naturally foolish and ignorant (Proverbs 22:6 and 15).

Homily on the entire section: On the great worth of a good name, and on the means to its attainment and preservation. Comp. STÖCKER: Of a good name: 1) How it is to be gained (Proverbs 22:1–4); 2) what chief hinderances threaten the possession of it (Proverbs 22:5–16).—In similar style, WOHLFARTH, Calmer Handb., etc.

Proverbs 22:1. MELANCHTHON: With reason dost thou say: I need a good conscience for God’s sake, but a good name for my neighbor’s sake. A good name is really a good thing well-pleasing to God, and must be esteemed and sought by us, because God would have the difference between good and evil brought to the day by the testimony of public opinion, so that accordingly those Who do right may be promoted and preserved, the unjust, on the contrary, censured, punished and destroyed. From such public witness we are to become aware of the existence of a moral law, and should reflect, that a holy God and supreme avenger of all evil lives. We must therefore strive after a good name for two reasons: 1) because God would have us regard the judgments of upright men (Ecclesiast. 6:1 sq.); 2) because He would also have us serve as a good example to others (1 Cor. 10:31 sq.; Phil. 4:8).—STARKE: If a good name is better than riches, then it is our duty, in case of need, to defend our innocence (Am. 7:11; John 8:49), but no less to rescue the good name of others also (1 Sam. 20:31 sq.).—[ARNOT: The atmosphere of a good name surrounding it imparts to real worth additional body and breadth.—MUFFET: a good name maketh a man’s speeches and actions the more acceptable; it spreadeth his virtues unto his glory, and the stirring up of others; it remaineth after death; it doth good to the children of him who is well spoken of; and finally is i means of advancement.]

Proverbs 22:2–5. MELANCHTHON (on Proverbs 22:2.): Know that there is a Divine providence, and that no by chance but by God’s ordinance some are rich others poor. Therefore it is of moment that both walk before God according to their state and calling, that the poor therefore do not murmur against God, but humble himself under His hand and take comfort in the promises of His word (Matth. 5:3),—that the rich, however, be not presumptuous, and do not set his trust on uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17), etc.—Tübingen. Bible (on the same verse):—If the rich were always humble and the poor patient, and both alike penitent, pious, loving and peaceable, the rich and poor might live happy and content together.—[R. HALL:—The rich and the poor meet together 1) in the participation of a common nature; 2) in the process of the same social economy; 3) in the house of God; 4) in the circumstances of their entrance into this world and in the circumstances of their exit out of it: 5) in the great crises of the future.—SAURIN:—That diversity of condition which God hath been pleased to establish among men is perfectly consistent with equality; the splendid condition of the rich includes nothing that favors their ideas of self-preference; there is nothing in the low condition of the poor which deprives them of their real dignity or debases their intelligence formed in the image of God, etc.—See BISHOP BUTLER’S Sermon before the Lord Mayor.—R. HOOKER (on Proverbs 22:3):—It is nature which teacheth a wise man in fear to hide himself, but grace and faith teach him where.—MUFFET:—Although God can save us only by His power, yet He will not without our own care and endeavor, nor without those means which He hath ordained to that intent and purpose].—HASIUS (on Proverbs 22:3):—The best hiding from danger and calamity is under the wings of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1 sq.).—J. LANGE (on Proverbs 22:4):—He who would be exalted to glory, must first suffer himself to be well humbled.—(On Proverbs 22:6):—The ungodly finds in the path to hell nothing but thorns and snares, and yet he presses on in it! A sign of the greatness and fearfulness of the ruin of man’s sin.

Proverbs 22:6–13. [SOUTH (on Proverbs 22:6):—A sermon on the education of youth].—STARKE (on Proverbs 22:6):—The spirits of children are like plastic wax; according as good or evil is impressed upon them will their chief inclination be a good or evil one.—On Proverbs 22:8):—Upon unrighteousness and ungodliness there surely follows a terrible end. But who believes it? (Ps. 73:18, 19).—CRAMER (on Proverbs 22:10):—One sin ever develops itself from another. From mockery comes wrath, from wrath comes strife, from strife one comes to blows, and from blows comes reproach.—(On Proverbs 22:11):—A true heart and a pleasing speech are rarely found together, especially at the courts of this world’s great ones, where there is only quite too much hypocrisy and unfaithfulness to be found, hiding behind smooth words.

Proverbs 22:13–16. J. LANGE (on Proverbs 22:13):—He that loveth his own soul and therefore on account of comfort and tenderness will not go forth to carry on the Lord’s work, will lose and eternally destroy his soul, John 7:25.—(On Proverbs 22:15):—God’s children must in their life have to experience sharp strokes of affliction in many forms, for, still as heretofore spiritually children, folly in many forms remains in their hearts, and the sin that yet dwells in them makes itself perceptible by frequent outbreaks.—GEIER (on Proverbs 22:15):—With mere loving words and flattering speech can no child be happily trained; strict and wise correction must be added.—(On Proverbs 22:16):—Beware of all unrighteous means of becoming rich through others’ injury. Better to have little with a good conscience than great treasure with injustice!—Calwer Handb. (on Proverbs 22:16):—He that enriches himself on the poor, one richer than he will in turn impoverish him.—[EDWARDS (on Proverbs 22:15):—The rod of correction is proper to drive away no other foolishness than that which is of a moral nature. But how comes wickedness to be so firmly bound, and strongly fixed, in the hearts of children, if it be not there naturally ?]

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

Proverbs 22:17–24:34

First Supplement:—Various precepts concerning righteousness and practical wisdom

PROVERBS 22:17–24:22

a) Introductory admonition to take to heart the words of the wise man

PROVERBS 22:17–21

17          Incline thine ear and hear words of the wise,

and apply thine heart to my knowledge!

18     For it is pleasant if thou keep them within thee;

let them abide together upon thy lips!

19     That thy trust may be in Jehovah,

I have taught thee this day, even thee!

20     Have not I written to thee excellent words,

with counsels and knowledge,

21     to make known to thee the certainty of the words of truth,

that thou mightest return words of truth to them that send thee?

b) Admonition to justice toward others, especially the poor

PROVERBS 22:22–29

22          Rob not the poor because he is poor,

and oppress not the wretched in the gate;

23     for Jehovah will conduct their cause,

and spoil the soul of those that spoil them.

24     Have no intercourse with an angry man,

and with a furious man thou shalt not go,

25     lest thou learn his ways

and prepare a snare for thy soul.

26     Be not among them that strike hands,

who become sureties for debts;

27     if thou hast nothing to pay

why shall he take thy bed from under thee?

28     Remove not the ancient landmark

which thy fathers have set.

29     Seest thou a man that is diligent in his business—

before kings shall he stand;

he shall not stand before mean men.


Proverbs 22:17. [Observe the interchange of the imperative הַט with the 2d pers. sing. of the Imperf. תָּשִׁית.—A.]

Proverbs 22:18. [In יַחְדָּו we have illustrated, as in many other instances, the final disregard of the originally strict application of the suffixes to their own person and number: let them abide in its entireness, etc.—A.]

Proverbs 22:20. [BÖTT. § 707, 2, explains the masc. adj. שָׁלִשִׁים of the K’ri as an example of masculines used in describing the pre-eminent and striking,—but on account of the הַיּוֹם of Proverbs 22:19 gives the preference to the K’thibh שִׁלְשׁוֹם. So STUART and MUENSCH.—A.]

Proverbs 22:21. [לְשֹׁלְחֶיךָ, one of the plural participles, not uncommon in our book, to be taken distributively, as applicable to each of all possible cases. BÖTT. § 702, ε.—A.]

Proverbs 22:22, 24, 26, 28. [Further examples of the Jussive with the negative adverb אַל, instead of a direct prohibition with the Imperative; comp. Latin, ne facias; Greek, μὴ γράφῃς (KUEHNER, § 250, 5, HADLEY, § 723, a); as though in prohibitions a sense of fitness or obligation were appealed to rather than an authority asserted.—A.]—(Proverbs 22:24). אֵת בּוֹא here, in accordance with the later usus loquendi, is equivalent to אֵת הָלַךְ; comp. Ps. 26:4.

Proverbs 22:25. [The more compact form תֶּאְלַף for תֶּאֱלַף under the influence of the preceding פֶּך; BÖTT. § 1059, d.—A.]

Proverbs 22:27. [An example of what is called the concrete impersonal in Hebrew is found in יִקַּח; why should he, any one do this? BÖTT. § 935, c.—A.]

Proverbs 22:29. [יִתְיַצֵּב; BÖTTCHER’S Fiens licitum or debitum, rendered by the German darf: it is his privilege or prerogative.—A.]


1. That a new division of the collection begins with Proverbs 22:17, coming from another hand than compiled the preceding main division, appears not merely from the expression “words of wise men,” which reminds us of 1:6, but also from the characteristic style of the proverbs which are found from this point onward to the end of chap. 24. These no longer consist of verses of two clauses constructed according to the antithetic parallelism, but for the most part of longer sentences, which as a general rule comprise two verses, sometimes, however, three (e.g. 23:1–3, 6–8), or even five (thus 23:31–35; 24:30–34). By the side of the isolated proverbs containing an antithesis of two members, such as are here and there interspersed (e.g. 22:28; 23:9, 12, 19, 22; 24:8 sq., 23 sq.), there are found in addition several verses constructed of three clauses (22:29; 23:5, 7, 31, 35; 24:12, 31). There is prevalent everywhere the minutely hortatory or in turn admonitory style, rather than that which is descriptive and announces facts. The אַל which serves to introduce the utterance of warnings is found not less than seventeen times within the two and a half chapters before us, while in the twelve chapters of the preceding main division it occurred but twice (Proverbs 20:13 and 22). Many linguistic peculiarities in the section appear, moreover, to indicate a later period; whether it be the earliest period after the exile, as HITZIG proposes, may indeed be the more doubtful and uncertain, since many peculiarities of the section, especially the expression, “words of the wise” (in 22:17), like the prevailing admonitory tone of the discourse, seem to favor the assumption of DELITZSCH, that its author is identical with that of the introductory main division, chap. 1–9. Comp. Introduction, § 12, p. 29.

2. Proverbs 22:17–21. The introductory admonition to give heed to the words of the wise.

Proverbs 22:18. For it is pleasant if thou keep them within thee. “Them,” viz., “the words of the wise,” for only to these can the suffix relate, and not to “my knowledge;” so that accordingly this proposition in Proverbs 22:18 a, beginning with “for,” serves to justify only the first half and not the whole of Proverbs 22:17. With 18 b: let them abide together upon thy lips, the admonitory discourse proceeds, and in the first instance attaches itself to the substance of 17 b (comp. 5:2). Against the common construction, which regards the verb יִֹכּנוּ as a continuation of the conditional clause, “if thou keep,” etc., [so e.g. DE W., N., S., M., MUFFET, etc.], we adduce the absence of a second conditional particle, or at least a copula before the Imperf., which in its present position at the beginning of a clause clearly appears to be a Jussive. Comp. HITZIG on this passage.

Proverbs 22:19. That thy trust may be in Jehovah I have taught thee this day, even thee! The perfect represents the work of teaching as already begun and now in progress, like the “I have given,” Proverbs 4:2.—אַף אַתָּה, etiam te, inquam, Germ. ja dich! yea, thee! even thee! The expression brings out strongly the idea that the present teaching is designed for the student of wisdom who is here addressed, for him and for no one else (MERCER, GEIER, J. H. MICHAELIS, EWALD, DE W., BERTHEAU, etc.). There is no occasion for UMBREIT’S interrogative conception of the words: “but thou?”: i.e. dost thou also attend to my teaching? and the same is true of HITZIG’S attempted emendation, according to which we should read אַף אֹתָהּ, “this also, the very same.”—The first member, moreover, gives not so much the substance as the object of the teaching, and that as consisting in the development of a firm trust in God, or in the increase and establishment of faith (comp. Luke 17:5).

Proverbs 22:20. Have I not written (Z., “behold, I write) to thee excellent words? (The K’ri שָׁלִישִׁים from שָׁלִישׁ), which is equivalent to נָגִיד, “a great man, a nobleman” (comp. KEIL on 2 Sam. 23:8), describes the words as of the highest, noblest worth, of pre-eminent value, as verba eximia s. principalia (comp. the similar term in 8:6). So, and doubtless correctly, ZIEGLER, EWALD, ELSTER, etc. Comp. the early rendering, τρισμέγιστα, of the Vers. Veneta. [K. renders “expressive, or significant,” bedeutsam]. Others interpret the K’ri differently, e.g. HITZIG: bequests, Vermächtnisse (in accordance with the Rabbinic שָׁלִישׁ, depositarius); the Vulg. and some of the older expositors, “three-fold, i.e. several times, in various ways” (so LUTHER): or even “in three forms,” so that the reference will be to the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, as the three chief constituents of the divine word, or again, to the three books of Solomon, etc. The K’thibh is explained ordinarily, by supplying an omitted תְּמוֹל, in the sense of “before, formerly;” thus UMBREIT, e.g.; “have I not formerly written to thee?” (In a similar way BERTHEAU). But the ellipsis of a “yesterday” before this שִׂלְשׁוֹם would be without any linguistic analogy; and in a section which introduces subsequent admonitions a reminder of teachings formerly given seems little appropriate. For this reason the K’ri in the sense above given is unquestionably to be preferred. [S. and M. prefer the adverbial rendering; the majority of the English commentators with the E. V. the substantive.—A.]—With counsels and knowledge, so far forth, viz., as these are contained in the “princely words.”

Proverbs 22:21. To make known to thee the certainty of the words of truth. “Correctness, verity,” as e.g. in the Targ. on Jer. 22:13, 15; Sam. Gen. 15:6 (where it is made equivalent to צֶדֶק, “righteousness”). Comp. the Chaldee קוּשְׁטָא in the Targ. on our passage.—That thou mightest be able to return words of truth to them that send thee. “Words, truth,” a sort of apposition, describing the discourse to be conveyed as consisting of words which are “as it were themselves the truth” (UMBREIT, ELSTER). The expression is like the “words consolations, i.e. consoling words,” in Zech. 1:13.—The “senders” (comp. 10:26) are here naturally the parents, who have sent their son to the teacher of wisdom, that he may bring back thence to them real culture of spirit and heart; or again, that “he may know how to bring home to them in all things true and not false or erroneous report” (HITZIG).—[HOLDEN unnecessarily makes the suffix of the participle represent an indirect object; “them that send unto thee.” For the construction “words truth” see GREEN, § 253, 2.—A.]

3. Proverbs 22:22–29. Admonition to justice toward others, especially the poor and distressed.—Rob not the poor because he is poor. דָּל is the depressed, the straitened, he who is deprived of help for judicial contests and other cases of want, and who therefore needs the protection of the more powerful and the more prosperous.—And oppress not the poor in the gate, i.e. in the place where courts are held; comp. Job 5:4; 31:21; Ps. 127:5.—[Comp. THOMSON‘S Land and Book, 1:31; and other works illustrative of Oriental usages, passim.—A.]

Proverbs 22:23. For Jehovah will conduct their cause. The emphatic announcement of the reason for the warning in the preceding ver.; comp. 23:11. With respect to the just punishment threatened in clause b, comp. Matt. 18:32 sq.—[God is not merely a formidable because an all-just and almighty advocate, appearing before the unjust tribunal, in behalf of the wronged; He is not merely a judge sitting in a higher court of appeal; He is the executor of the universal laws of justice to which the judges as well as the arraigned of earth are alike amenable. When Jehovah “cheats or spoils” it is in vindication and not in violation of eternal justice and right. FUERST makes the “life” an adverbial modification, and not the object, so that it expresses the extent of his work, “even to the life.”—A.]

Proverbs 22:24, 25. Warning against intercourse with men of violent temper, like 26:21; 29:22; comp. James 1:20.—And with a furious man thou shalt not go, lit., “go not along with him.”—And prepare a snare for thy soul; viz., the passion that would become a snare, a fatal net for thee (comp. 20:25).—With the warning against suretyship in Proverbs 22:26, 27, comp. 6:1–4; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16.

Proverbs 22:28. Warning against the violent removal of boundaries; comp. the prohibitions of the Law; Deut. 19:14; 27:17; and also Job 24:2; Hos. 5:10; and below, Prov. 23:10, 11.

Proverbs 22:29. Seest thou a man diligent in business. The verb, a Perf. Kal, is conditional; “if thou seest;” comp. 6:22. מָהִיר, apt, active, expert (LUTHER, endelich).—Before kings shall he stand (Z. “may he set himself”), viz. to serve them, to receive their commands, comp. 1 Sam. 16:21, 22.—He shall not stand before mean men. Lit., “men in the dark,” homines obscuri, ignobiles (Vulg.). The antithesis to the “kings” is naturally an idea of a somewhat general and comprehensive kind, describing those who belong to the low multitude, the plebeians. To generalize the idea of “king” in like manner, as if it here expressed something like “noble, rich,” is therefore unnecessary (in opposition to HITZIG on this passage). [LORD BACON says: Of all the qualities which kings especially look to and require in the choice of their servants, that of despatch and energy in the transactions of business is the most acceptable, etc., etc. There is no other virtue which does not present some shadow of offence to the minds of kings. Expedition in the execution of their commands is the only one which contains nothing that is not acceptable (De Augmentis Scientiarum, Lib. VIII.)].


There are only two main ideas with the presentation of which this section is concerned; these, however, are thoughts of no slight weight and significance. That true wisdom, which is indeed one with firm confidence in God, is to be secured and maintained above all things else, the introductory admonition (Proverbs 22:17–21) brings out with earnest emphasis. And that such wisdom as this should manifest itself in a demeanor toward one’s fellow-men just and kind in all directions,—to impress this is the single aim and end of the hortatory and admonitory addresses that follow in Proverbs 22:22–29.—For not merely the warnings against the unrighteous plundering of one’s neighbors (Proverbs 22:22, 23), against passion and a ruinous familiarity with the passionate, and against a wicked removal of boundaries, have this end in view,—but also the cautions against suretyship, which are apparently brought forward merely as prudential suggestions (Proverbs 22:20, 27), and against the wasting of executive talents and skill in the service of insignificant masters (Proverbs 22:29), fall under the same generalization, so far forth as both kinds of unwise conduct point to an intentional hiding of the talent received from the Lord, and to an inclination to the low and the common, which is as wilful as it is unprofitable and contemptible. He who through inconsiderate suretyship for unworthy men deprives himself of the means of a free and vigorous efficiency in life, puts his light under a bushel quite as really, and with no less guilt than he who fritters away his strength in a narrow and obscure sphere of labor, rather than by earnest striving for an influential station seeks to make the results of his activity the common property of many. Comp. Matth. 5:14–16; 25:24; John 3:20, 21; 7:4.

These two main truths,—the praise of wisdom as the source of all real confidence in God, and the subsequent admonition to righteousness in many particulars, meet in the idea of Faith, or obedient consecration to the invisible holy God, as the sum of all true wisdom (Proverbs 22:19). Put in form as the leading thought in a homiletic discussion, this fundamental idea would be expressed in some such way as this: On faith in God as the ground of all righteousness and the end of all “wisdom;—or, Faith (confidence in God) as the basis and end of all wisdom.—STÖCKER (regarding the whole as a direct continuation of Proverbs 22:1–16): Admonition to seek after a good name.—STARKE: Admonition to obedience to the true wisdom (17–21), to right treatment of the poor (22, 23), to the avoidance of intercourse with bad men (24–27), and to a scrupulous regard for boundaries (28, 29).

Proverbs 22:17–21. ZELTNER: All the world’s pleasure is to be accounted nothing in comparison with the true, sweet pleasure which comes from the word of God. This they know who have tasted the sweetness of this word (Heb. 6:5).—J. LANGE: Where the good will to obey is wanting, there all teaching and preaching are vain. This is the reason why so many hundred sermons are heard by the majority without profit.—He who is heartily and willingly obedient to Christ finds in this no burden; in Christ’s obedience consists rather the highest joy.—R. FLOREY (on Proverbs 22:17–19; see Hirtenstimmen an die Gemeinde im Hause des Herrn, II., Leips., 1849): In the training of your children let your hope be directed to the Lord; for 1) the word of the Lord gives the right direction; 2) His service gives the right strength; 3) His grace gives the right power besides.—TH. HERGANG (Reformationspredigt) on Proverbs 22:17–19; (see Sonntagsfeier, 1861, p. 357): What a blessed duty is it to hold in honor the memory of such men as have deserved well in the true culture of their own and succeeding times! [A. FULLER (Proverbs 22:17, 18): If we study the Scriptures as Christians, the more familiar we are with them, the more we shall feel their importance; but if otherwise, our familiarity with the word will be like that of soldiers and doctors with death—it will wear away all sense of its importance from our minds.—TRAPP (Proverbs 22:19): Only a Divine word can beget a Divine faith.]

Proverbs 22:22–29. STARKE (on Proverbs 22:22, 23): If the Lord efficiently sympathizes with those who are in outward poverty, still more does He do this for the spiritually poor, who are of broken heart and tremble at His word (Is. 66:2).—[ARNOT (on Proverbs 22:22, 23): There is a causal connection and not merely a coincidence between the spread of God’s word and the security of men’s rights in a land. As worship rises to heaven, justice radiates on earth. If faith go foremost, charity will follow.—LAWSON (Proverbs 22:22): For magistrates to be guilty of the crime of oppression, is a perversion of an institution of God into an engine of abominable wickedness.—(On Proverbs 22:23): The unjust spoiler has the mercy of God against him as well as His justice.—TRAPP (on Proverbs 22:23): A poor man’s livelihood is his life. God, therefore, who loves to pay oppressors home in their own coin, will have life for life.—LORD BACON (on Proverbs 22:24): It is of the first importance for the peace and security of life to have no dealings with passionate men, or such as easily engage in disputes and quarrels; for they will perpetually involve us in strife and faction, so that we shall be compelled either to break off our friendship, or disregard our own safety.—BRIDGES (on Proverbs 22:26, 27): In “devising liberal things” we must combine scrupulous regard to justice and truth. Else our charity will prove the scandal, instead of the glory, of our profession.]—MELANCHTHON (on Proverbs 22:28): The injunction (that boundaries are not to be removed) may by a simple allegory be expanded to this prohibition; that laws in general that are venerable from their age are not to be altered, except in case of the most pressing and obvious need.—VON GERLACH (On Proverbs 22:29): Peculiar facility and ability God will bring into an appropriate sphere of action.—[TRAPP: A diligent man shall not long sit in a low place. Or if he do all the days of his life, yet if his diligence proceed out of conscience, “he shall stand before the King” of kings when he dies.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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