This is a difficult verse, and has obtained various interpretations. The Authorized Version gives, Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom; i.e. a man who has an earnest desire for self-improvement will hold himself aloof from worldly entanglements, and, occupying himself wholly in this pursuit, will become conversant with all wisdom. This gives good sense, and offers a contrast to the fool in Proverbs 18:2 , who "hath no delight in understanding." But the Hebrew does not rightly bear this interpretation. Its conciseness occasions ambiguity. Literally, For his desire a man who separates himself seeks ; in (or against ) all wisdom he mingles himself. There is a doubt whether the life of isolation is praised or censured in this verse. Aben Ezra and others of Pharisaic tendencies adopt the former alternative, and explain pretty much as the Authorized Version, thus: "He who out of love of wisdom divorces himself from home, country, or secular pursuits, such a man will mix with the wise and prudent, and be conversant with such." But the maxim seems rather to blame this separation, though here, again, there is a variety of interpretation. Delitzsch, Ewald, and others translate, "He that dwelleth apart seeketh pleasure, against all sound wisdom he showeth his teeth" (comp. Proverbs 17:14 ). Nowack, after Bertheau, renders, "He who separates himself goes after his own desire; with all that is useful he falls into a rage." Thus the maxim is directed against the conceited, self-willed man, who sets himself against public opinion, delights in differing from received customs, takes no counsel from others, thinks nothing of public interests, but in his mean isolation attends only to his own private ends and fancies (comp. Hebrews 10:25 ). The Septuagint and Vulgate (followed by Hitzig) read in the first clause, for taavah, "desire , " taanah, "occasion;" thus: "He who wishes to separate from a friend seeks occasions; but at all time he will be worthy of censure." The word translated "wisdom" ( tushiyah ) also means "substance," "existence;" hence the rendering, "at all time," omni existentia, equivalent to omni tempore.
There is an inner connection between them all.
I. MISANTHROPY . ( Proverbs 18:1 .) If this verse be more correctly rendered, this is the meaning yielded. From a diseased feeling the man turns aside to sullen solitude, and thus rejects wisdom. This affords a fine meaning. It is one thing to feel the need of occasional solitude, another to indulge the passion for singularity.
II. OBTRUSIVENESS . ( Proverbs 18:2 .) Contrast Proverbs 18:4 . The talkative fool is the very opposite of the misanthrope in his habits; yet the two have this in common—they both unfit themselves for society. We may go out of solitude to indulge our spleen, or into society to indulge our vanity. Talking for talking's sake, and all idle conversation, are here marked, if as minor vices, still vices.
III. BASENESS . ( Proverbs 18:3 .) The word rendered "contempt" points rather to deeds of shame. And the meaning then will be that the evil of the heart must necessarily discover itself in the baseness of the life. As the impure state of the blood is revealed in eruptions and blotches on the skin, so is it with moral evil.
IV. CONSPIRACY AND PLOTTING . ( Proverbs 18:5 .) The figure employed, literally, to lift up a person ' s face, signifies to take his part. All party spirit is wrong, because it implies that truth has not the first place in our affections. But party spirit on behalf of the wicked is an utter abomination, for it implies a positive contempt for, or unbelief in, right and truth.
V. QUARRELSOMENESS . ( Proverbs 18:6 , Proverbs 18:7 .) "The apostle, when giving the anatomy of man's depravity, dwells chiefly on the little member with all its accompaniments—the throat, the tongue, the lips, the mouth. It is 'a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body.'" It leads to violence. The deadly blow is prepared for and produced by the irritating taunting word. But there is a recoil upon the quarrelsome man. The tongue to which he has given so evil licence finally ensnares him and takes him prisoner. And the stones he has cast at others fall back upon himself. Thus does Divine judgment reveal itself in the common course of life.
VI. SLANDEROUSNESS . ( Proverbs 18:8 .) The word "tale bearer" is represented more expressively in the Hebrew. It is the man that "blows in the ear." And the picture comes up before the mind of the calumnious word, whispered or jestingly uttered, which goes deep into the most sensitive places of feeling, and wounds, perhaps even unto death.
VII. IDLENESS . ( Proverbs 18:9 .) Here we strike upon the root of all these hideous vices. It is the neglect of the man's proper work which suffers these vile weeds to grow. What emphasis there needs to be laid on the great precept, "Do thine own work"! The idler is brother to the corrupter, or vicious man, and his kinship is certain sooner or later to betray itself. The parable of the talents may be compared here. Then, again, how close are the ideas of wickedness and sloth ! — J.