Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
Verses 1-36. - 14. Fourteenth admonitory discourse concerning Wisdom - her excellence, her origin, her gifts. She is contrasted with the strange woman of ch. 7, and the exceeding greatness of the blessings which she offers exhibits in the most marked manner the nothingness of the deceiver's gifts. One is reminded of the celebrated episode of the choice of Hercules, delineated by Xenophon, 'Memorab.,' 2:1. 21, etc. The chapter divides itself into four sections.
(1) Introductory (vers. 1-3); Wisdom calls on all to listen, and gives reasons for trusting to her (vers. 4-11).
(2) She displays her excellence (vers. 12-21).
(3) She discourses of her origin and action (vers. 22-31).
(4) She again inculcates the duty of hearkening to her instructions (vers. 32-36). Verse 1. - Doth not Wisdom cry? (see on Proverbs 1:20, and Introduction). The interrogative form, which expects an affirmative answer, is a mode of asserting a truth universally allowed. Wisdom is personified, though we are not so plainly confronted by an individual, as in the preceding case of the harlot. But it must be remembered that, whatever may have been the author's exact meaning, however worldly a view the original enunciation may have afforded, we, reading these chapters by the light cast upon them by later revelation, see m the description of Wisdom no mere ideal of practical prudence and good sense, no mere poetic personification of an abstract quality, but an adumbration of him who is the Wisdom of God, the coeternal Son of the Father. The open, bold, and public utterances of Wisdom are in happy contrast to the secret and stealthy enticements of Vice. So Christ, the true Wisdom, says, "I have spoken openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogues, and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and in secret spake I nothing" (John 18:20). The Septuagint changes the subject of this verse, and makes the pupil addressed: "Thou shalt proclaim (κηρύξεις) wisdom, that understanding (φρόνησις) may obey thee;" which seems to mean that, if you wish to acquire wisdom, so that it may serve you practically, you must act as a herald or preacher, and make your desire generally known. St. Gregory has some remarks about wilful ignorance of what is right. "It is one thing," he says, "to be ignorant; another to have refused to learn. For not to know is only ignorance; to refuse to learn is pride. And they are the less able to plead ignorance in excuse, the more that knowledge is set before them, even against their will. We might, perhaps, be able to pass along the way of this present life in ignorance of this Wisdom, if she herself had not steed in the corners of the way" ('Moral.,' 25:29).
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
Verse 2. - She standeth in the top of high places, by the way. She takes her stand, not in thievish corners of the streets, like the harlot, but in the most open and elevated parts of the city, where she may be best seen and heard by all who pass by (see Proverbs 1:21, and note there). In the places of the paths; i.e. where many paths converge, and where people meet from different quarters.
She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
Verse 3. - The expressions in the text indicate the position which she takes and its capabilities. At the hand of the gates (1 Samuel 19:3). She posts herself at the side of the city gates, under the archway pierced in the wall, where she is sure of an audience. At the mouth of the city, inside the gate, where people pass on their way to the country. At the coming in at the doors, by which persons enter the town. Thus she catches all comers, those who are entering, as well as those who are leaving the city. Here standing, as in the Agora or Forum, she crieth; she calls aloud, saying what follows (vers. 4-36). It is a fine picture of the comprehensiveness of the gospel, which is meant for high and low, prince and peasant; which is proclaimed everywhere, in the courts of kings, in the lanes of the country, in the hovels of the city; which sets forth the infinite love of God, who is not willing that any should perish, but would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:9). Septuagint, "By the gates of the mighty she sits, in the entrances she sings aloud (ὑμνεῖται)."
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
Verses 4-11. - She summons various classes of persons to attend to her, showing how trustworthy she is, and how precious her instruction. Verse 4. - Unto you, O men, I call. "Men," ishim (אִישִׁים); equivalent to ἄνδρες, viri, men in the highest sense, who have some wisdom and experience, but need further enlightenment (Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 141:4). The sons of man; בְּנֵי אָדָם, "children of Adam;" equivalent to ἄνθρωποι, homines, the general kind of men, who are taken up with material interests. St. Gregory notes ('Moral ,' 27:6) that persons (heroines) of perfect life are in Scripture sometimes called "men" (viri). And again, "Scripture is wont to call those persons 'men' who follow the ways of the Lord with firm and steady steps. Whence Wisdom says in the Proverbs, 'Unto you, O men, I call.' As if she were saying openly, 'I do not speak to women, but to men; because they who are of an unstable mind cannot at all understand my words'" ('Moral.,' 28:12, Oxford transl.).
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Verse 5. - O ye simple, understand wisdom. "The simple," those not yet perverted, but easily influenced for good or evil. See on Proverbs 1:4, where also is explained the word ormah, used here for "wisdom;" equivalent to calliditas in a good sense, or πανουργία, as sometimes employed in the Septuagint; so here: νοήσατε ἄκακοι πανουργίαν, "subtlety." Ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. For "fools" (khesilim), the intellectually heavy and dull, see on Proverbs 1:22. The heart is considered the seat of the mind or understanding (comp. Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 17:16, etc.). Septuagint, "Ye that are untaught, take in heart (ἔνθεσθε καρδίαν)." The call thus addressed to various classes of parsons is like the section in 1 John 2, "I write unto you. little children," etc.
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
Verse 6. - I will speak of excellent things; de rebus magnis, Vulgate; σεμνὰ γὰρ ἐρῶ, Septuagint. The Hebrew nagid is elsewhere used of persons; e.g. a prince, leader (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Chronicles 26:24); so it may here be best translated "princely," "noble" - an epithet which the subject matter of Wisdom's discourse fully confirms (comp. Proverbs 22:20, though the word there is different). Hitzig and others, following the Syriac, prefer the meaning, "plain, evident truths" (comp. ver. 9); but the former interpretation is most suitable. The opening of my lips shall be right things. That which I announce when I open my mouth is just and right (Proverbs 23:16). Septuagint.
For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
Verse 7. - Another coordinate reason for attention. My mouth; chek, "palate" (Proverbs 5:3, where see note); the organ of speech. Shall speak truth; emeth (see on Proverbs 3:3). The verb הָגָה (hagah) properly means "to speak with one's self," "to meditate;" and so the versions translate here, meditabitur, μελετήσει; but this idea is not appropriate to the word joined with it, "the palate," and it must be taken to signify to utter, as in Psalm 35:28; Psalm 37:30, etc. Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. Resha, "wickedness," is the contrary of moral truth and right. Septuagint, "False lips are abominable in my sight."
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
Verse 8. - In righteousness; i.e. joined with righteousness equivalent to "righteous." In Proverbs 3:16 the Septuagint has an addition which may perhaps be an echo of this passage: "Out of her mouth proceedeth righteousness, and she beareth upon her tongue law and mercy." But more probably it is derived partly from Isaiah 45:23, and partly from Proverbs 31:26. There is nothing froward or perverse in them. In the utterance of Wisdom there is nothing crooked, no distortion of the truth; all is straightforward and direct.
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
Verse 9. - They are all plain to him that understandeth. The man who listens to and imbibes the teaching of Wisdom finds these words intelligible, and "to the point." Opening his heart to receive Divine instruction, he is rewarded by having his understanding enlightened; for while "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:14), yet "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him" (Psalm 25:14), and "mysteries are revealed unto the meek" (Ecclus. 3:19, Complutensian אָ). Right to them that find knowledge (ver. 10). They form an even path without stumbling blocks for those who have learned to discern right from wrong, and are seeking to direct their lives in accordance with high motives. Septuagint, "They are all present (ἐνώπια) to those that understand, and right (ὀρθὰ) to those that find knowledge."
Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
Verse 10. - Receive my instruction, and not silver; i.e. acquire wisdom rather than silver, if ever the choice is yours. And knowledge rather than choice gold (comp. ver. 19; Proverbs 3:140. (For "knowledge," daath, see on Proverbs 2:10.) The comparison is implied rather than expressed in the first clause, while it is made clear in the second. Thus Hosea 6:6, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice," the second matter mentioned being, not necessarily of no importance, but always in such cases of inferior importance to the other. We may quote Horace's complaint of the worldliness of his countrymen, a marked contrast to the inspired counsel of Proverbs ('Epist.,' 1:1, 52) -
"Villus argentum est auro, virtutibus aurum.
O cives, cives! quaerenda pecunia primum est,
Virtus post nummos."
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
Verse 11. - (See Proverbs 3:14, 15, and notes.)
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
Verse 12-21. - Wisdom tells of her own excellence. Verse 12. - I wisdom dwell with prudence; rather, as in the Revised Version, I have made subtilty (ver. 5) my dwelling. Wisdom inhabits prudence, animates and possesses that cleverness and tact which is needed for the practical purposes of life. So the Lord is said to "inhabit eternity" (Isaiah 57:15). Septuagint, "I wisdom dwelt (κατεσκήνωσα) in counsel and knowledge," which recalls, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν) among us" (John 1:14). In 1 Timothy 6:16 we find the expression, "Who alone hath (μόνος ἔχων) immortality," exchanged with the phrase, "Who dwelleth (οἰκῶν) in the unapproachable light." And find out knowledge of witty inventions. This rendering refers to the production and solution of dark sayings which Wisdom effects. But the expression is better rendered, "knowledge of deeds of discretion" (ch. 1:4), or "of right counsels," and it signifies that Wisdom presides over all well considered designs, that they are not beyond her sphere, and that she has and uses the knowledge of them. Septuagint, "I (ἐγὼ) called upon understanding," i.e. it is I who inspire all good and righteous thought.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Verse 13. - The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Wisdom here enunciates the proposition which is the foundation of all her teaching, only here, as it were, on the reverse side, net as the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10), but as the hatred of evil; she then proceeds to particularize the evil which the Lord hates. Taking the clause in this sense, we have no need to alter the persons and forms of the verbs to "I fear the Lord, I hate evil," as Dathe and others suggest; still less to suppress the whole paragraph as a late insertion. These violent measures are arbitrary and quite unnecessary, the present text allowing a natural and sufficient exposition. There can be no fellowship between light and darkness; he who serves the Lord must renounce the works of the devil. Pride and arrogancy, which are opposed to the sovereign virtue of humility, are the first sins which Wisdom names. These are among the things which the Lord is said to hate (Proverbs 6:17, etc.). "Initium omnis peccati est superbia" (Ecclus. 10:15, Vet. Lat.). The evil way; i.e. sins of conduct, "way" being, as commonly, equivalent to "manner of life." The froward mouth; literally, mouth of perverseness, sins of speech (see on Proverbs 2:12; and comp. 10:31); Vulgate, os bilingue.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
Verse 14. - Having said what she hates, Wisdom now says what she is, and what she can bestow on her followers. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom. There is some doubt about the meaning of the word translated "sound wisdom" (tushiyyah). The Vulgate has aequitas; the Septuagint, ἀσφάλεια, "safety." The word occurs elsewhere in this book and in Job, but only in two other places of Scripture, viz. Isaiah 28:29 and Micah 6:9. It means properly "elevation" or "furtherance," or, as others say, "substance;" and then that which is essentially good end useful, which may be wisdom, aid, or security (see on Proverbs 2:7). Wisdom affirms that she possesses counsel and all that can help forward righteousness; see Job 12:13, 16, passages very similar to the present (comp. Wisd. 8:9, etc.). I am understanding. Wisdom does not merely possess these attributes; they are her very nature, as it is said, "God is love" St. Jerome's mea est prudentia, and the LXX.'s ἐμὴ φρόνησις, lose this trait. I have strength. Wisdom directs the energies and powers of her pupils, which without her control would be spent wrongly or uselessly (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:19). Wisdom, understanding, and might are named among the seven gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2; and we may see in the passage generally an adumbration of him who is called "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6).
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
Verse 15. - By me kings reign. By possession of wisdom kings are enabled to discharge their functions duly and righteously. So Solomon prayed for wisdom to enable him to rule his subjects properly (1 Kings 3:9; Wisd. 9:4). Princes (rozenim, Proverbs 31:4); either those who are weighty, inflexible, or these who weigh causes; the latter explanation seems most suitable. Vulgate, legum conditores; Septuagint, οἱ δυνάσται, These are said to decree justice; literally, to engrave just decrees on tablets; γράφουσι δικαιοσύνην, Septuagint. Early expositors take these words as spoken by Christ, to whom they are very plainly applicable (comp. Isaiah 32:1).
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
Verse 16. - Princes; here sarim, "leaders." All the judges of the earth. These words stand without a conjunction, in apposition to what has preceded, by what is called asyndeton summativum (Proverbs 1:21), and gather in one view kings, princes, and leaders. Thus the Book of Wisdom, which speaks of the duties of rulers, commences by addressing of κρίνοντες τὴν γῆν, "ye that are judges of the earth." In the East judgment of causes was an integral part of a monarch's duties. The reading of the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint, which gives κρατοῦσι γῆς. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Chaldee road, צדק, "justice," in place of ארצ, "earth;" but this seems to have been an alteration of the original text derived from some idea of the assertion there made being too comprehensive or universal. Nowack compares Psalm 2:10 and Psalms 148:11, "Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth." The Fathers have taken these verses as spoken by God, and as asserting his supremacy and the providential ordering of human government, according to St. Paul's saying, "There is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1; see St. Augustine, 'De Civit. Dei,' 5:19).
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Verse 17. - I love them that love me. So Christ says (John 14:21), "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him" Love attracts love. "Magues amoris est amor." They who love virtue and wisdom are regarded with favour by God. whoso inspiration they have obeyed, obtaining grace for grace. So Ben Sira says, "Them that love her the Lord doth love "(Ecclus. 4:14); so Wisd. 7:28, "God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Wisdom." The Septuagint changes the verbs in this clause, though they are parts of the same word in the Hebrew: Ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐμὲ φιλοῦντας ἀγαπῶ. This reminds one of the passage in the last chapter of St. John (John 21:15-17). where a similar interchange is made. Those that seek me early shall find me (see the contrast in Proverbs 1:28). "Early" may mean from tender years; but more probably it is equivalent to "earnestly," "strenuously," as people deeply interested in any pursuit rise betimes to set about the necessary work (comp. Isaiah 26:9; Hosea 5:15). The Septuagint, "They who seek (ζητοῦντες) me shall find." So the Lord says (Matthew 7:7), "Seek (ζητεῖτε), and ye shall find;" Ecclus. 4:12, "He that loveth her loveth life; and they that seek to her early (οἱ ὀρθρίζοντες πρὸς αὐτὴν) shall be filled with joy" (comp. Luke 21:38).
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
Verse 18. - Riches and honour are with me (see Proverbs 3:16). Wisdom has these things in her possession to bestow on whom she will, as God gave them to Solomon in reward of his petition for wisdom (1 Kings 3:13). Durable riches and righteousness. Things often regarded as incompatible. Durable, עָתֵק (athek), occurs only here (but see Isaiah 23:18), and means "old," "venerable," "long accumulated;" hence firm and lasting. Righteousness is the last reward that Wisdom bestows, without which, indeed, all material blessings would be nothing worth. Wealth obtained in a right way, and rightly used, is durable and stable. This was especially true under a temporal dispensation. We Christians, however, look not for reward in uncertain riches, but in God's favour here and happiness in another world. The Septuagint, "Possession of many things, and righteousness." What is denoted by "righteousness" is further explained in the following verses, 19-21.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
Verse 19. - My fruit is better than gold. We have had Wisdom called "a tree of life" (Proverbs 3:18), and the gain from possessing her compared to gold and silver (Proverbs 3:14). Fine gold (paz); Septuagint and Vulgate, "precious stone." The word signifies "purified gold" - gold from which all mixture or alloy has been separated. My revenue; Vulgate, genimina mea; Septuagint, γεννήματα; Hebrew, tebuah, "produce," "profits."
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
Verse 20. - I lead in the way (better, I walk in the way) of righteousness. I act always according to the rules of justice. In the midst of the paths of judgment. I swerve not to one side or the other (Proverbs 4:27). So the psalmist prays, "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end;" "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk" (Psalm 119:33; Psalm 143:8). And the promise is given to the faithful in Isaiah 30:21, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." Virtue, as Aristotle has taught us, is the mean between two extremes.
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
Verse 21. - That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; יֵשׁ (yesh), ὕπαρξις, "real, valuable possessions." Those who love Wisdom will walk in her path, follow her leading, and therefore, doing God's will, will be blessed with success. Such will lay up treasure in heaven, will provide bags which wax not old, will be preparing for "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (Matthew 6:20; Luke 12:33; 1 Peter 1:4). The LXX. here inserts a paragraph as a kind of introduction to the important section which follows: "If I declare unto you the things which daily befall, I will remember to recount the things of eternity;" i.e. thus far I have spoken of the advantages derived from Wisdom in daily circumstances; now I proceed to narrate her origin and her doings from all eternity. But the addition appears awkward, and is probably not now in its original position.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
Verses 22-31. - Wisdom speaks of her origin, her active operations, the part which she bore in the creation of the universe, her relation to God (see on Proverbs 1:20 and Proverbs 3:19, and Introduction). It is impossible to decide what was the exact view of the writer with regard to the wisdom of which he speaks so eloquently; but there can be no doubt that he was guided in his diction so as to give expression to the idea of him whom St. John calls the Word of God. The language used is not applicable to an impersonal quality, an abstract faculty of God. It describes the nature and office of a Person; and who that Person is we learn from the later Scriptures, which speak of Christ as the "Wisdom of God" (Luke 11:49) and "the Power of God and the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). If we confine our inquiry to the question - What was in the mind of the author when he indited this wonderful section concerning Wisdom? we shall fail to apprehend its true significance, and shall be disowning the influence of the Holy Spirit, which inspires all Scripture, which prompted the holy men who spake to utter words of which they knew not the full spiritual significance, and which could only be understood by subsequent revelation. There is, then, nothing forced or incongruous in seeing in this episode a portraiture of the Second Person of the blessed Trinity, the essential Wisdom of God personified, the Logos of later books, and of the gospel. This interpretation obtained universally in the Church in the earliest times, and has commended itself to the most learned and reverent of modern commentators. That much which was contained in their own utterances was unknown to the prophets of old, that they did not fully perceive the mysteries which they darkly enunciated, we learn from St. Peter, who tells us that they who prophesied of the grace of Christ sought and searched diligently what the Spirit of God that was in them did point unto, and were shown that not unto themselves, but unto us, they ministered those things, secrets which angels themselves desire to look into (1 Peter 1:10, etc.). Wisdom as a human endowment, animating all intellectual and even physical powers; Wisdom as communicating to man moral excellence and piety; Wisdom as not only an attribute of God, but itself as the eternal thought of God; - under these aspects it is regarded in our book; but under and through all it is more or less personified. Khochmah is contrasted in the next chapter, not with an abstraction, but with an actual woman of impure life - a real, not an imaginary, antagonist. The personality of the latter intimates that of the former (see Liddon, 'Bampt. Lects.,' 2.). Verse 22. - The Lord possessed me. Great controversy has arisen about the word rendered "possessed." The verb used is קָנָה (kanah), which means properly "to erect, set upright," also "to found, form" (Genesis 14:19, 22), then "to acquire" (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 4:5, 7, etc.) or "to possess" (Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 19:8). The Vulgate, Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, Venetian, give "possessed;" Septuagint, ἔκτισε, "made," and so Syriac. The Arians took the word in the sense of "created" (which, though supported by the LXX., it seems never to have had), and deduced therefrom the Son's inferiority to the Father - that he was made, not begotten from all eternity. Ben Sira more than once employs the verb κτίζω in speaking of Wisdom's origin; e.g. Ecclus. 1:4, 9 Ecclus. 24:8. Opposing the heresy of the Arians, the Fathers generally adopted the rendering ἐκτήσατο, possedit, "possessed;" and even those who received the translation ἔκτισε, explained it not of creating, but of appointing, thus: The Father set Wisdom over all created things, or made Wisdom to be the efficient cause of his creatures (Revelation 3:14). May we not say that the writer was guided to use a word which would express relation in a twofold sense? Wisdom is regarded either as the mind of God expressed in operation, or the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; and the verb thus signifies that God possesses in himself this essential Wisdom, and intimates likewise that Wisdom by eternal generation is a Divine Personality. St. John (John 1:1), before saying that the Word was God, affirms that "the Word was with God (ὁ Λόγος η΅ν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν)." So we may assert that Solomon has arrived at the truth that Wisdom was πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, if he has left it for later revelation to declare that ἡ Σοφία or ὁ Λόγος Θεὸς η΅ν. Whichever sense we assign to the verb on which the difficulty is supposed to hang, whether we take it as "possessed," "formed," or "acquired," we may safely assume that the idea conveyed to Christian minds is this - that Wisdom, existing eternally in the Godhead, was said to be "formed" or "brought forth" when it operated in creation, and when it assumed human nature. In the beginning of his way. So the Vulgate, in initio viarum suarum. But the preposition "in" does not occur in the original; and the words may be bettor translated, "as the beginning of his way" (Septuagint, ἔκτισέ με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ); i.e. as the earliest revelation of his working. Wisdom, eternal and uncreated, first puts forth its energy in creation, then becomes incarnate, and is now called, "the Firstborn of all creation (πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως)" (Colossians 1:15). Thus in Psalm 2:7, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Hebrews 1:5); and, "When he bringeth in the Firstborn into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). In the present clause, the ways of God are his works, as in Job 26:14 and Job 40:19, where behemoth is called "chief among the ways of God" (comp. Psalm 145:17, where "ways" stands as a parallel to "works"). Before his works of old. These words are better regarded (with Delitzsch) as a second parallel object, קֶדֶם (kedem), translated "before," being not a preposition, but denoting previous existence. Hence we translate, "The foremost of his works of old;" i.e. the earliest revelation of his energy. There is a curious passage in the 'Book of Enoch,' ch. 42, which speaks of the personality and pre-existence of Wisdom, of her desire to dwell among men, frustrated by man's wickedness: "Wisdom found no place where she could dwell; therefore was her dwelling in heaven. Wisdom came forth in order to dwell among the sons of men, and found no habitation; then she returned to her place, and took her seat among the angels." We may add Wisd. 8:3, "In that she dwelleth with God (συμβίωσιν Θεοῦ ἔχουσα), she magnifieth her nobility."
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
Verse 23. - I was set up from everlasting. The verb used here is remarkable. It is נָסַך(nasak), in niph.; and it is found in Psalm 2:6, "I have set my King upon my holy hill." Both here and there it has been translated "anointed," which would make a noteworthy reference to Christ. But there seems no proof that the word has this meaning. It signifies properly "to pour forth" (as of molten metal), then "to put down," "to appoint or establish." The versions recognize this. Thus the Septuagint, "he established (ἐθεμελίωσε) me;" Vulgate, ordinata sum; Aquila, κατεστάθην; Symmachus, προεχείρισμαι; Venetian, κέχυμαι (comp. Ecclus. 1:9). So what is here said is that Wisdom was from everlasting exalted as ruler and disposer of all things. To express eternal relation, three synonymous terms are used. From everlasting; πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος, Septuagint, as Delitzsch notes, points back to infinite distance. From the beginning; i.e. before the world was begun to be made; as St. John says (John 1:1), "In the beginning was the Word;" and Christ prays, "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). Or ever the earth was. This looks to the most remote time after the actual creation, while the earth was being formed and adapted.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Verse 24. - The preexistence of Wisdom is still more expressly set forth. When there were no depths (vers. 27, 28). The waste of waters which covered the face of the earth is meant - that great deep on which primeval darkness brooded (Genesis 1:2). Before even this, man's earliest conception of the beginning of the world, uncreated Wisdom was. Septuagint, "before he made the abysses" (see on Proverbs 3:20). I was brought forth; Vulgate, et ego jam concepta eram; Septuagint, at the end of ver. 25, γεννᾷ με, "he begetteth me." The verb here is חוּל (chul), which is used of the travailing of women, and is rightly translated, "brought forth by generation." It indicates in this place the energizing of Wisdom, her conception in the Divine mind, and her putting tbrth in operation. When there were no fountains abounding with water; i.e. springs in the interior of the earth (Genesis 7:11; comp. Job 22, 26, 38.). Septuagint,"Before the springs of the waters came forward (προελθεῖν)."
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
Verse 26. - Before the mountains were settled (Job 38:6). It is questioned where the mountains were supposed to be fixed, and some have thought that they are represented as fixed in the depths of the earth. But, as we learn from Genesis 1:9, they are regarded as rising from the waters, their foundations are laid in the great deep. So the psalmist, speaking of the waters, says, "They went up by the mountains, they went down by the valleys, unto the place which thou hast founded for them" (Psalm 104:8; comp. Psalm 24:2). What is here affirmed of Wisdom is said of Jehovah in Psalm 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God." Verse 26. - The earth, nor the fields. The distinction intended is land as cultivated and occupied by buildings, etc., and waste uncultivated land outside towns. Septuagint, "The Lord made countries and uninhabited places (ἀοικήτους);" Vulgate, Adhuc terram non fecerat, et flumina. Hebrew, chutsoth; things without, abroad, hence open country. The Vulgate rendering, and that of Aquila and Symmaehus, ἐξόδους, are plainly erroneous, as waters have already been mentioned (ver. 24). The highest part of the dust of the world; literally, the head of the dusts of the world. Some have interpreted this expression of "man," the chief of those creatures which are made of the dust of the ground (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). But the idea comes in awkwardly here; it is not natural to introduce man amid the inanimate works of nature, or to use such an enigmatical designation for him. St. Jerome has, cardines orbis terrarum, "the world's hinges;" Septuagint, "the inhabited summits of the earth beneath the heavens; according to St. Hilary ('De Trinit.,' 12), "cacumina quae habitantur sub coelo." Others take the term to signify the capes or promontories ot the world, the peaks and elevations; others, the clods of dry, amble land, in contrast to the untilled waste of waters; others, the chief elements, the matter of which the earth is composed. This last interpretation would lead us back to a period which has already been passed. Amid the many possible explanations, it is perhaps best (with Delitzsch, Nowack, etc.) to take rosh, "head" as equivalent to "sum," "mass," as in Psalm 139:17. "How great is the sum (rosh) of them!" Then the expression comprehensively means all the mass of earth's dust.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
Verse 27. - After asserting the pre-existence of Wisdom, the writer tells her part in the work of creation. When he prepared the heavens, I was there. When God made the firmament, and divided the waters above it and below (Genesis 1:7), Wisdom cooperated. When he set a compass upon the face of the depth. חוּג (chug), "circle," or "circuit" (as Job 22:14), means the vault of heaven, conceived of as resting on the ocean which surrounds the earth, in partial accordance with the notion in Homer, who speaks of the streams of ocean flowing back into itself (ἀψόῥῤοος), 'Iliad,' 18:399; 'Odyssey,' 10:508, etc. That the reference is not to the marking out a limit for the waters is plain from the consideration that this interpretation would make the verse identical with ver. 29. Thus in Isaiah 40:22 we have, "It is he that sitteth above the circle (chug) of the earth;" i.e. the vault of heaven that encircles the earth. Septuagint, "When he marked out (ἀφώριζε) his throne upon the winds." The translators have referred tchom, "depth," to the waters above.
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
Verse 28. - When he established the clouds above. The reference is to the waters above the firmament (Genesis 1:7), which are suspended in the ether; and the idea is that God thus made this medium capable of sustaining them. Vulgate, Quando aethera firmabat sursum; Septuagint, "When he made strong the clouds above" (comp. Job 26:8). When he strengthened the fountains of the deep; rather, as in the Revised Version, when the fountains of the deep became strong; i.e. when the great deep (Genesis 7:11) burst forth with power (comp. Job 38:16). The Septuagint anticipates the following details by here rendering, "When he made secure the fountains of the earth beneath the heaven."
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Verse 29. - When he gave to the sea his decree (chok, as Job 28:26; Jeremiah 5:22); or, its bounds. The meaning is much the same in either case, being what is expressed in Job 38:8, etc,, "Who shut up the sea with doors...and prescribed for it my decree, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shall thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?" The LXX. omits this hemistich. When he appointed the foundations of the earth. Job 38:4, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?... Who determined the measures thereof? or who stretched the line upon it? Wherein were the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof?"
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Verse 30. - Then I was by him. Wisd. 9:9, "Wisdom was with thee; which knoweth thy works, and was present when thou madest the world." So John 1:2, "The Word was with God." As one brought up with him; Vulgate, cuncta componens; Septuagint, Ημην παρ αὐτῷ ἁρμόζουσα, "I was with him arranging things in harmony." The Hebrew word is אָמון (amon), "an artificer," "workman" (Jeremiah 52:15). Thus in Wisd. 7:22 Wisdom is called ἡ πάντων τεχνῖτις, "the worker of all things." The Authorized Version takes the word in a passive state, as equivalent to alumnus, "foster child." and this interpretation is etymologically admissible, and may possibly, as Schultens suggests, be glanced at in St. John's expression (John 1:18), "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." But as the point here is the creative energy of Wisdom, it is best to take the term as denoting "artificer." It will then accord with the expression δημιουργὸς, applied by the Fathers to the Word of God, by whom all things were made (Ephesians 3:9, Textus Receptus, and Hebrews 1:2). And I was daily his delight; literally, I was delights day by day, which may mean either as in Authorized Version, or "I had delight continually," i.e. it may signify
(1) either that God took pleasure in the wisdom which displayed his workmanship, saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:4, etc.), looked with delight on the beloved Son in whom he was well pleased (Matthew 3:17, etc.); or
(2) it may mean that Wisdom herself rejoiced in her power and her work, rejoiced in giving effect to the Creator's idea, and so "founding the earth" (Proverbs 3:19). Vulgate, delectabar per singulos dies. The Septuagint adopts the former of these views, "I was that wherein he took delight." But the second interpretation seems most suitable, as the paragraph is stating rather what Wisdom is in herself than what she was in the eyes of Jehovah. What follows is a parallel. Rejoicing always before him; Vulgate, ludens coram eo omni tempore, as though the work of creation was a sport and pastime of a happy holiday. The expression is meant to denote the ease with which the operations were performed, and the pleasure which their execution yielded. David uses the same word, speaking of his dancing before the ark, when he says. "Therefore will I play before the Lord" (2 Samuel 6:21; comp. Proverbs 10:23).
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Verse 31. - Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth. Wisdom declares wherein she chiefly delighted, viz. in the world as the habitation of rational creatures. "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31); comp. Psalm 104:31, and see the eloquent account of Wisdom in the book so named (7:22-8:1). My delights were with the sons of men. Man, made in the image of God. is the principal object of creative Wisdom's pleasure; and her joy is fulfilled only in the Incarnation. When the Word became flesh, then was the end and design of creation exhibited, and the infinite love of God towards man made, as it were, visible and palpable. Septuagint, "Because he rejoiced when he completed the world (τὴν οἰκουμένην), and rejoiced in the children of men."
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
Verses 32-36. - Wisdom renews the exhortation before given (Proverbs 5:7; Proverbs 7:20, but now on higher, and not merely moral or social grounds. She deduces, from her Divine origin and her care for man, the lesson that she is to be sought and prized and obeyed above all things. Verse 32. - Now therefore - having regard. to what I have revealed of myself - hearken unto me, O ye children; Septuagint, "Hear me, my son." Blessed are they that keep my ways. The expression is interjectional: "Blessings on the man! salvation to the man!" as in Proverbs 3:13. For the ways of Wisdom, see. ch. 3:17.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Verse 33. - Be wise. This will be the effect of attending to the injunction, Hear instruction (see on Proverbs 3:4). The Vatican text of the Septuagint omits this verse; it is added in the Alexandrian and Sin.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
Verse 34. - Watching daily at my gates. The idea suggested has been variously taken; e.g. as that of eager students waiting at the school door for their teacher's appearance; clients besieging a great man's portals; Levites guarding the doors of the temple; a lover at his mistress's gate. This last notion is supported by Wisd. 8:2, "I loved her, and sought her out from my youth; I desired to make her my spouse, and I was a lover of her beauty." Waiting at the posts of my doors; keeping close to the entrance, so as to be quite sure of not missing her whom he longs to see.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
Verse 35. - For whoso findeth me findeth life. Here is the reason why the man is blessed who attends to the instruction of Wisdom. A similar promise is made at Proverbs 3:16, 18, 22. The truth here enunciated is also spoken or the Word of God, the everlasting Son of the Father. John 1:4, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men;" John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life;" John 17:3, "This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" (comp. John 8:51; 1 John 5:12; Ecclus. 4:12). Shall obtain favour of the Lord; Vulgate, hauriet salutem, which happily renders the Hebrew verb (Proverbs 12:2). The grace of God bringeth salvation (Titus 2:11). Septuagint, "For my outgoings (ἔξοδοι) are the outgoings of life, and the will is prepared by the Lord (καὶ ἐτοιμάζεται θέλησις παρὰ Κυρίου)." This latter clause was used by the Fathers, especially in the Pelagian controversy, to prove the necessity of prevenient grace (see St. Augustine, 'Enchiridion,' 2:32; 'De Gratia,' 6:16, 17).
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Verse 36. - He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul. So Septuagint and Vulgate. And the truth stated is obvious - he who refuses to obey Wisdom, and transgresses her wholesome rules, will smart for it. Every sin involves punishment, injures the spiritual life, and demands satisfaction. But Delitzsch and others take חֹטְאִי, "my sinning one," "my sinner," in the older sense of "missing," as Job 5:24, the derived meaning of "sinning" springing naturally from the idea of deviating from the right way or failing to hit the mark. So here the translation will be "he who misseth me," which is a good contrast to "whoso findeth me," of ver. 35. He who takes a path which does not lead to wisdom is guilty of moral suicide. All that hate me love death (Proverbs 7:27). "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). They who will not hearken to Wisdom, and who scorn her counsels, do virtually love death, because they love the things and the practices which lead to death, temporal and spiritual Job 12:10, "They that sin are enemies to their own life" (comp. Wisd. 1:12).
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