The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 8:1-36 (Proverbs 8:1-36)

14. Fourteenth admonitory discourse concerning Wisdom—her excellence, her origin, her gifts. She is contrasted with the strange woman of Proverbs 7:1-27 ; 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.

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Proverbs 8:12-21 (Proverbs 8:12-21)

Wisdom tells of her own excellence.

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Proverbs 8:21 (Proverbs 8:21)

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.

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Proverbs 8:10-21 (Proverbs 8:10-21)

Wisdom's pleadings

She has nothing novel to say concerning her nature, value, and blessings. Preaching must in the main be repetition; the iteration of the old, not with dry and sterile monotony, but with that freshness which comparison with everyday facts and illustrations gives. New combinations of facts are ever arising in which to frame the old precepts and set them forth. Besides, love gives novelty to old truth, as the old song is enjoyed from the lips of the latest sweet singer.

I. SHE APPEALS TO COMPARISON . ( Proverbs 8:10 , Proverbs 8:11 .) By comparison we increase and strengthen our perceptions. In the knowledge of man, books, art, life, comparison is everything. We are to compare Wisdom with material objects of sense, such as gold and silver, that we may see her to be incomparable; and so each for ourselves repeat the choice of Solomon (comp. on Proverbs 3:14 , Proverbs 3:15 ).

II. SHE APPEALS TO ASSOCIATION . ( Proverbs 8:12 .) Wisdom dwells with prudence. In modern language, the general implies the particular. Wisdom is intelligence in general; prudence, the appreciation of it in particular cases. In the poetical mode of representation we should say that Piety and Prudence are sisters, and go hand-in-hand, daughters of the voice of God, as Wordsworth said of duty. So, too, Wisdom has insight into enigmas, dark sayings, and generally deep things of God (see on Proverbs 1:4 ).

III. SHE UNFOLDS TEE CONTENTS OF HER MIND . ( Proverbs 8:18 , Proverbs 8:14 .) One of her many aliases is the fear of Jehovah. And this is religion, which includes all wholesome aversions, viz. wickedness in general, and in particular assumption , arrogance, evil habits, perverted speech. In other words, her sympathies are all with lowliness, purity, love , and truth. Insight or sharp and deep perception is another of her attributes, and force (comp. on Proverbs 2:7 ).

V. SHE CLAIMS SUPREME AUTHORITY . ( Proverbs 8:15 , Proverbs 8:16 .) Kings, rulers, princes, potentates, judges,—all received those places and fulfil those functions through her and her alone. Authority in polities rests on consent or on force, or both. And these are traceable ultimately to reason, and reason is the "inspiration of the Almighty." Exceptions form no part of this representation. In modern language, we say that government, as a principle or institute, rests on an ultimate Divine basis. The text says tic less than this, nor does it say mort.

V. SHE IS IN RECIPROCAL RELATION TO HER SUBJECTS . ( Proverbs 8:17 .) Her love is conditioned by love; the winning of her by the wooing. The notion that we can be passive , whether in knowledge or goodness, is an entire illusion. Such an illusion once prevailed as the doctrine of "innate ideas" now exploded in philosophy. All that becomes the portion of head or heart implies, necessitates a previous spiritual activity in us. We are ignorant because we will not learn, unhappy because we will not love.

VI. SHE COMMANDS WEALTH AND HONOUR AND THE AVENUES TO THEM . ( Proverbs 8:18-21 .) Riches, honour, self-increasing goods, and righteous" (comp. on Proverbs 3:16 ). The righteous here is elucidated by the next two verses; she shows the right way to all earthly good. She is a tree of life, and yields incomparable fruit both for value and abundance ( Proverbs 8:19 ). She guarantees possessions to her votaries. The connection between righteous and worldly wealth is insisted on. Not that it is always obvious. Nor again are we to expect notice of exceptions in teaching that is from first to last absolute in form. The stringency of the connection is what we have to recognize; the knowledge of its complete application to all cases opens the relations of eternity and demands the omniscience of God.—J.

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Proverbs 8:1-21 (Proverbs 8:1-21)

The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 1

In these verses we have portrayed to us the surpassing excellency of the wisdom of God.

I. IT IS AUDIBLE TO EVERY ONE . "Doth not Wisdom cry," etc.? ( Proverbs 8:1 ; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23 ).

II. IT IS URGENT AND IMPORTUNATE . ( Proverbs 8:2-4 ; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23 .)

III. IT MAKES ITS APPEAL TO UNIVERSAL MAN . ( Proverbs 8:4 , Proverbs 8:5 .) "Unto you, O men, I call," etc. There is nothing exclusive or partial in its address. Its sympathies are wide as the human soul. It draws no lines of latitude or longitude in any kingdom, beyond which it does not pass. It appeals to man— Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, learned and ignorant, wise and foolish (simple), moral and immoral (fools).

IV. IT IS IN FULL HARMONY WITH ALL THAT IS BEST WITHIN US . Some voices that address us make their appeal to that which is lower or even lowest in our nature. Divine wisdom appeals to that which is highest and best.

1 . To our sense of what is right and good ( Proverbs 8:6 , Proverbs 8:7 ).

2 . To our love of that which is true ( Proverbs 8:7 ).

V. IT IS AN APPRECIABLE THING . ( Proverbs 8:9 .) Through it takes high ground, not rooting itself in anything base, but making its appeal to that which is purest and noblest in our nature, it is still appreciable by all who can estimate anything at its true worth. To "him that understandeth," to the man who is capable of any discernment, the words of heavenly wisdom will be plain—they will "receive them gladly;" while to those who have reached any height in attainment, the teaching of wisdom will be recognized as the excellent thing it is. The students of law will find in it the illustration of all true order; the disciples of ethics will perceive in it all that is morally sound and satisfying to the conscience; those who admire "the beautiful" will recognize that which is exquisite, admirable, sublime. The teaching of Divine wisdom is "right to them that find knowledge."

VI. IT IS INTIMATELY ASSOCIATED WITH INTELLIGENT OBSERVATION . It consequently results in useful contrivances ( Proverbs 8:12 ). So far from heavenly wisdom being confined, in its principles and its results, to the realm of the abstract and unseen, it is most closely allied with, and is constantly found in the company of, simple, homely discretion, the careful, intelligent observation of all surrounding objects and passing incidents. It issues, therefore, in "witty inventions."

VII. IT ISSUES IN , AND IS ILLUSTRATED BY , MORAL AND SPIRITUAL WORTH . ( Proverbs 8:13 .) "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and the fear of the Lord is so intimately and essentially bound up with the hatred of evil, that they may be practically identified; we may say that "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil"—evil in all its forms, "pride, arrogancy," etc.—C.

Proverbs 8:1-21 (continued)

The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 2

We have also these features of the wisdom of God—

I. IT ENDOWS WITH THE WEALTH WHICH IS THE PRODUCT OF VIRTUE . ( Proverbs 8:20 , Proverbs 8:21 .) It leads in that "way of righteousness" and those "paths of judgment" which result in "inheriting substance," and being "filled with treasures." It places in the hand of its followers all that measure of earthly good which they can regard with holy satisfaction and enjoy with a good conscience.

II. IT IS A SOURCE OF STRENGTH AND INFLUENCE IN HUMAN SOCIETY . ( Proverbs 8:14-16 ,) It is attended with that breadth of understanding, that knowledge of affairs, that insight into "men and things," which gives sagacity to statesmen and stability to thrones.

III. IT RECIPROCATES AN ATTACHMENT . ( Proverbs 8:17 .) The more we know, the more attractive does knowledge become to our admiring spirit. The further we advance into its domain, the firmer becomes our footing and the brighter becomes the light. Moreover, the highest peaks attainable by man are only reached by those who begin to climb in the days of their youth ( vide homily infra ) .

IV. IT IS OF INCOMPARABLE VALUE TO THE HUMAN SOUL . ( Proverbs 8:10 , Proverbs 8:11 , Proverbs 8:18 , Proverbs 8:19 .) If the choice should lie between wealth and wisdom, it is better far to choose the latter; for:

1 . While wealth will not buy wisdom, wisdom will lead to wealth, later if not sooner, of one kind if not of another.

2 . Wisdom itself is wealth; it is the possession of the mind, it is the inheritance of the soul, it is "durable riches and righteousness."

The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 3 (see below).—C.

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Proverbs 8:1-21 (Proverbs 8:1-21)

Christ the Wisdom of God: No. 1

Though it is not to be supposed that Jesus Christ was in the mind of the writer of this passage, yet as he does personify wisdom, and as wisdom was incarnated in that Son of man who was the Son of God, we should expect to find that the words of the wise man in the text would apply, in large measure, to the Lord Jesus Christ. They do so, and suggest to us—

I. THE MANNER OF HIS TEACHING . ( Proverbs 8:1-3 ) He "spake openly to the world, … taught in the synagogue, and in the temple," etc..

II. HIS APPEAL TO ALL CLASSES AND CONDITIONS OF MEN . ( Proverbs 8:4 , Proverbs 8:5 .) He came unto the world at large, to "draw all men unto him." None were, none are, so poor. or so rich, so ignorant or so learned, so simple or so subtle, so degraded or so refined, so spiritually destitute or so privileged, as to be out of range of his heavenly voice. All need his message; all are welcome to his kingdom.

III. HIS MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH . ( Proverbs 8:6-8 .) He came "to bear witness unto the truth" ( John 18:37 ). He came to be the living Truth himself ( John 14:6 ), so that the more we know of him and grow up into him, the more of Divine truth do we receive into our souls.

IV. THE APPRECIABLENESS OF HIS MESSAGE . ( Proverbs 8:9 .) When he spake with his own lips, men received his words, wondering at his wisdom and his grace (see Luke 2:47 ; Luke 4:22 , Luke 4:32 ; Matthew 7:28 , Matthew 7:29 ). "Never man spake like this Man," said the officers to the chief priests ( John 7:46 ). "The common people heard him gladly" ( Mark 12:37 ). And now that he speaks to mankind from heaven, his message of truth and love is comprehensible to all who care to know his mind. To those who earnestly seek, the way becomes plain; to those who have "spiritual discernment," the deeper things of God are intelligible; to those who "know him," his dealings are seen to be right and true.

V. HIS RESPONSIVENESS . ( Proverbs 8:17 .) (See succeeding homily.)

VI. HIS INCOMPARABLE WORTH . ( Proverbs 8:10 , Proverbs 8:11 .) Jewels, compared with him, are empty toys; gold, compared with him, is sordid dust. So great is his worth to the hungering heart, to the suffering spirit, to living, dying man, that all forms of earthly good are not to be named or counted in comparison.

VII. HIS SERVICE ISSUES IN THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE RECOMPENSE . ( Proverbs 8:18-21 .) The fruit of the service of Christ is honour, joy (including peace), righteousness ( Proverbs 8:20 ), the "inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" ( Proverbs 8:21 ; 1 Peter 1:4 ).—C.

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