New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 2:1 My son, if you will receive my words and store up my commandments within you-
Solomon seems to allude to David hiding God's word in his heart (Ps. 119:11) by asking his son to hide his word in his heart (s.w. Prov. 2:1; 7:1). Again Solomon is putting his own words in the place of God's words. Whilst his wisdom was inspired by God, I detect something wrong here. He is effectively playing God, and not directing people to God's word but rather to his own words, true and inspired as they might be. This came to full term in Solomon's attitude that personal loyalty to himself was loyalty to God- even when Solomon was far from God in his ways. And the same trap is fallen into by those who hold parts of 'God's truth'; they can come to thereby play God and demand personal loyalty to themselves rather than to God. 

Pro 2:2 so as to turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding-
Solomon uses the same phrase "incline your ear" in appealing for his son to incline his ear to Solomon's words (Prov. 4:20). Solomon came to see himself as the embodiment of wisdom, and came to assume that whatever he said or thought must be right because he possessed wisdom. This comes to a peak in Prov. 5:1- "attend [s.w. "incline" in 2:2] unto my wisdom, bow your ear to my understanding". Solomon made the classic mistake of assuming that his will and word were effectively equivalent to the word of God. In Prov. 6:21 he speaks of the need to bind the law about your heart and neck; but in Song 8:6 he asks his Gentile lover to “set me as a seal upon thine heart” and arm. And often in Proverbs he uses the language of the blessings for keeping God’s law and turns them into the blessings for keeping his law; e.g.  “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (Prov. 7:1,2). And we all do the same in essence, whenever we assume that our consciences are effectively the will of God; when we ‘play God’ by allowing our words and will to count as if they are His word.

As noted on Ps. 119:36; 141:4, David believed that God could act deep within the psychology or heart of man, to incline us toward righteousness and away from evil. This is how the Holy Spirit works today. Solomon believed the same (s.w. 1 Kings 8:58), but only in theory; for his Gentile wives inclined or turned away his heart from God (s.w. 1 Kings 11:3,9). God will not turn our hearts anywhere we ourselves don't want to go. Solomon often appeals for us to incline our hearts to wisdom (s.w. Prov. 2:2; 4:20; 5:1; 22:17), but he himself was inclined to apostasy (s.w. 1 Kings 11:3,9). All his emphasis is upon the need to incline ourselves, whereas his father David trusted in the work of the Spirit to incline his heart to good and away from evil (Ps. 141:4; 119:36 etc.).   

If we "attend" to God's word (Prov. 2:2; 4:1; 7:24), then He will "attend" to our word, of prayer (Ps. 55:2 and often in the Psalms). There is thereby a mutuality between God and man. Our attitude to His word becomes reflected in His attitude to our words in prayer; for God and man are in dialogue.

Pro 2:3 yes, if you cry out for wisdom, and lift up your voice for understanding-
These are the very words used of how wisdom and understanding cry out and lift up their voice (Prov. 8:1). The idea is that God's wisdom and understanding is crying out to those who are crying out for it. There is thus a mutuality between God and man. And the old Yiddish proverb comes true: "And going out to find Him / I met Him coming towards me". God is in search of man, and true man is in search for God. And when they meet, there is that electric spark, parties in Heaven celebrating the reconnection.

Pro 2:4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures-
Man's search for God is indeed to be more important than his plans to acquire wealth. But again we sense a subtext of self justification in Solomon; for his choice of wisdom rather than wealth was commended by God, and wealth was added to him because of it. The search for hidden treasure is an image picked up by the Lord and applied to our search for the Kingdom of God (Mt. 13:44), which requires the sacrifice of all our wealth in response to finding it. That sacrifice of wealth can therefore be interpreted as meaning our resignation of the search for it.

Pro 2:5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God-
If we seek and cry out for wisdom and knowledge / relationship with God (:2-4), then we will find it. God is not playing hard to get, facing off against man over an open Bible. He earnestly seeks relationship with us. And it is that process of seeking and crying out for Him which of itself leads us to "understand" Him.

Pro 2:6 For Yahweh gives wisdom. Out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding-
But knowledge in the sense of relationship with God is not the same thing as the words of God, as we have them in the Bible, which come from His mouth. The gift of relationship is more subtle than that. But as so often, Solomon appears to assume that mere possession of God's truth, in the form of inspired words, means that we have knowledge / relationship with God.

Pro 2:7 He lays up sound wisdom for the upright-
The implication could be that there is personal "wisdom" laid up for every upright man, which he must find for himself.

He is a shield to those who walk in integrity-
The allusion may be to how Yahweh was a "shield" to Abraham (Gen. 15:1). But Solomon misses the point, that Abraham like David his father was not always a man of integrity. We think of Abraham's weakness in not leaving Ur nor Lot when he should have done, and his poor behaviour towards Sarai and Hagar. Again Solomon is too simplistically dividing God's people into abject sinners on one hand, and stellar examples of integrity on the other.

Pro 2:8 that He may guard the paths of justice, and preserve the way of His saints-
"Preserves the way" is s.w. Gen. 3:24; 28:20; Ex. 23:20; Ps. 91:11. These verses suggest God keeps us in the way by Angelic involvement. The cherubim would keep [s.w. preserve] the way to the tree of life- this is a promise of Divine care to lead His people to that tree, rather than a judgment against man. But we on our side must also keep the way of the Lord (Gen. 18:19; Jud. 2:22; Dt. 8:2,6; 11:22; 30:16 etc.). The way God 'preserved [Israel] in the way' through the wilderness to the promised land (Josh. 24:17) looks forward to how we are potentially kept in the way through the wilderness after baptism towards the Kingdom. David could say that he had preserved the way (2 Sam. 22:22) and he asks Solomon to keep / preserve the way (1 Kings 2:3,4); but here Solomon puts the emphasis on the promise that God will keep us in the way, rather than upon our need to preserve the way. Likewise he overlooked the conditional aspect of the promises about David's Son being Messiah. God directly told Solomon at least twice that he must make effort to keep the way (1 Kings 3:14; 11:38), but he misquotes this in 1 Kings 8:25 to the effect that God would keep His people in the way, by inclining their hearts to do so (1 Kings 8:58). David had spoken of God's ability to direct hearts into keeping His way (Ps. 119:5), but this was not the blank cheque assurance which Solomon seems to have take it as; David speaks of the effort he had to make to keep himself in the way (Ps. 39:1). Worse still, Solomon told his children to keep / preserve his way (Prov. 8:32), again confusing himself with God.

Pro 2:9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path-
Again it seems Solomon is dividing people into those who resist wisdom on one hand, and those on the other who understand everything perfectly, and are totally obedient to it. But this is simply not the case. There seems little humility in his worldview; for who understands God's righteousness and justice completely. David his father confessed so often that the knowledge of these things was far above him.

Pro 2:10 For wisdom will enter into your heart, knowledge will be pleasant to your soul-
Solomon often emphasized the importance of keeping the heart (Prov. 2:10-16; 3:5,6; 4:23-5:5; 6:23-26); he had foreseen that the essential sin of God’s people was “the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:46), and he imagined how for this sin God’s people would later pray towards the temple. And yet his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:13), for all this awareness that the heart must be kept. It was as if the more he knew the truth of something, the more he wanted to do the very opposite. And this is exactly true of our natures. It’s why we ourselves can discern the same perversity in our lives. Perhaps with Solomon he reasoned that in his case, foreign wives wouldn’t turn away his heart. Just as our flesh thinks ‘Yes, but it can’t happen to me’. Perhaps too he reasoned that if the temple somehow could bring forgiveness for the plague of the heart, his heart was incorruptible because of the temple.    

Pro 2:11 Discretion will watch over you. Understanding will keep you-
Again Solomon veers towards believing that intellectual understanding is all that is required, along with avoiding the worst of sinners (:12). This lack of appreciation of personal spirituality, spiritual mindedness, is what led Solomon himself to fall away completely, and to exhibit remarkable hypocrisy. Solomon was commanded to personally keep or watch over [s.w.] the commandments (1 Kings 3:14 and often); but he seemed to think that possession of intellectual understanding would keep / watch over him and of itself keep him in the way (Prov. 2:11). This is the temptation for all who pride themselves on possession of academic knowledge of Divine truth.

Pro 2:12 to deliver you from the way of evil, from the men who speak perverse things-
Solomon understands the way of evil as association with perverse men. His focus is upon the external, rather than the internal. And this is the dangerous tendency of all who believe in guilt by association, contamination by communion, call it what you will. Those false ideas tend against personal spiritual mindedness.

Pro 2:13 who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness-
As in Prov. 15:10, Solomon sees the wicked as those who once knew the right path and have left it. He contrasts the path of uprightness and that of darkness (Prov. 2:13). But life is not so clear cut. The same phrase is used of how Job felt he was walking the path of darkness (Job 19:8). David, Solomon's father, likewise partially strayed from the path. This inability to recognize that spiritual life is not so black and white led to Solomon assuming he was totally on the way of righteousness. He was unable therefore to appreciate that he himself failed at some points at some times. And this is true for those who have a similarly black and white view of people and spirituality. They never know the wonder of arising from our knees knowing we are forgiven, full of grace and renewed devotion to by all means serve the Lord again with all we have.  

Pro 2:14 who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the perverseness of evil-
The only other occurrence of the phrase "rejoice to do evil" is in David's reflections upon the coalition of haters who joined Absalom in trying to overthrow him (Ps. 35:26). Solomon speaks the truth, but he does so with an eye on justifying himself against his brother Absalom and those who had followed him. Always Solomon is harnessing 'truth' to an agenda of self-justification; and we must be warned by this.

Pro 2:15 who are crooked in their ways, and wayward in their paths-
See on :14. Solomon rightly emphasizes that the "wayward" are wayward in their hearts (Prov. 11:20; 17:20), leading to wayward ways in practice (Prov. 2:15); but he repeats his father's mistake, in saying he will have nothing to do with those who are wayward in their hearts (s.w. Ps. 101:4). The mistake was in assuming that he could judge human hearts. It continues the far over simplified view of people which Solomon has; the righteous have pure hearts, always obedient; and wicked have bad hearts. But the Bible warns that all of us have hearts which are fountains of evil thoughts (Mk. 7:15,21-23 etc.).  

Pro 2:16 to deliver you from the Gentile woman, even from the foreigner who flatters with her words-
Solomon married "strange women" i.e. Gentiles (1 Kings 11:1) and was led astray by them. Yet at the very time he was marrying them, he wrote in his wisdom that the words of wisdom would preserve / keep / defend a Jewish man from being damaged by them (Prov. 2:16; 6:24; 7:5). The connection would seem to suggest that Solomon reasoned that because he had wisdom, because he had 'the truth', he could therefore enjoy these "strange women" without them corrupting his heart; because he had wisdom. Thus he thought that mere possession of Divine truth was some kind of insurance policy against moral sin being counted to him. And so many have gone down this road; so many who knew more true theology than many have at the same time made an awful mess of their personal lives, just as Solomon did. This is why the higher one goes in the echelons of Christian organizations, the greater the learning and knowledge a person has, the more powerful is the tendency towards gross hypocrisy in moral terms. The point is, of course, that all the knowledge of God which we quite rightly seek after must be personally applied. The very possession of it and teaching of it to others can of itself make a man or woman demotivated to personally apply it. He foretold that the people would sign when a wicked man ruled them (Prov. 29:2 RV)- and they did "sigh" because of the heavy burdens he placed upon them (1 Kings 12:4). He imposed the "yoke" of tribute upon the people (2 Chron. 10:4), whereas he himself had warned that a king that imposes tribute on his people "overthrows" a country (Prov. 29:4 RV mg.). He saw it all as true- and yet it was far from him personally.

Pro 2:17 who forsakes the friend of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God-
Solomon was aware, at least theoretically, of the foolish path  he was going down with the Gentile women he was involved with at the time he was given the wisdom which is codified in the book of Proverbs. God had inspired him with the wisdom of Prov. 2:16,17, which warned that wisdom would save a man from the Gentile woman who made a covenant with the God of Israel in her youth (in order to marry an Israelite, by implication), but soon forgot it. This was exactly the case of Solomon; yet he just couldn't see the personal relevance of his own wisdom to himself.

Pro 2:18 for her house leads down to death, her paths to the dead-
Yet Solomon built houses for his pagan, Gentile wives. He did this at the beginning of his reign, at the very time he was writing up his book of Proverbs as a result of the wisdom given him at that time. And he followed their paths to spiritual death, in the end.

Pro 2:19 None who go to her return again, neither do they attain to the paths of life-
Solomon reasoned that he would walk the path to life, whilst his wives walked the path to death (:18). He emphasizes these two paths throughout Proverbs. But his simplistic assumption was that he was on the path to life simply because he possessed academic, abstract truth and "wisdom". He was Divinely inspired with his wisdom, but surely he is also drawing on observation- that those who went to the house of the Gentile woman never spiritually returned. He had seen it happen in the paths of so many of God's people; but assumed that he was different, that it wouldn't happen to him.  

Pro 2:20 that you may walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous-
Solomon's prophetic sonship of David was conditional upon him preserving or observing Yahweh's ways (1 Kings 2:4; 1 Chron. 22:13; 2 Chron. 7:17); but he didn't preserve of observe them (1 Kings 11:10,11); despite David praying that Solomon would be given a heart to observe them (1 Chron. 29:19). We can pray for God to work upon the hearts of others, but He will not force people against their own deepest will and heart position. Solomon stresses overmuch how God would keep or preserve the righteous (Prov. 2:8; 3:26), without recognizing the conditional aspect of this. Why did Solomon go wrong? His Proverbs are true enough, but he stresses that obedience to his wisdom and teaching would preserve his hearers (Prov. 4:4; 6:22; 7:1; 8:32; 15:5), preservation was through following the example of the wise (Prov. 2:20); rather than stressing obedience to God's ways, and replacing David his father's simple love of God with a love of academic wisdom: "Yahweh preserves all those who love Him" (Ps. 145:20).

The idea of walking in the way, with feet on the path, is commonly used for walking in the way of God's commandments (Dt. 8:6; 10:12 etc.). David spoke of feet in the pathway of obedience to God's word (Ps. 119:1,3; 128:1 and very often). But Solomon interprets this as not walking in the way with criminals (Prov. 1:5; 16:29). That is somewhat easier than personally walking with God in His way. Again, what Solomon says is not untrue; but he is turning personal, internal spirituality and obedience into a matter of simply avoiding external company with gross sinners. And he suggests that walking in the right way is a matter of externally associating with the path of the righteous (Prov. 2:20).  

Pro 2:21 For the upright will dwell in the land; the perfect will eternally remain in it-
Again, Solomon over simplifies things. The old covenant clearly taught that all Israel would be exiled from their land if they broke the covenant. Solomon's dedication of the temple seemed to assume that only the wicked would be exiled from the land, and the temple would stand eternally; to express repentance in exile, they just needed to pray towards it (1 Kings 8:48). But all Israel were sent into exile, and his temple was razed to the ground. But Solomon's belief that "The upright will dwell in the land; the perfect will eternally remain in it" meant that he totally refused to accept the extent of judgment predicted in the curses of Dt. 28. All Israel would be exiled from their land. He liked to assume that his Kingdom would eternally endure; because of his lack of faith in the nature of the future Kingdom, and his mistaken imagination that he was the eternal Messianic king. He refused to recognize that his father David in Ps. 72 had wrongly imagined that he would be that eternal king, and disregarded the conditionality of the promises made to him. 

Pro 2:22 But the wicked will be cut off from the land, the deceitful will be rooted out of it
 "Transgressors" or "traitors" is the term used by David of Saul and his supporters (Ps. 25:3; 59:5; 119:158). Solomon uses this term, teaching that "transgressors" must be rooted out of the earth / eretz promised to Abraham (Prov. 2:22), and that the "transgressors" are to face judgment (Prov. 11:3,6; 13:2; 21:18; 22:12; 23:28; 25:19). All Solomon says is true, but he clearly has in view the house and supporters of Saul, who were a group he felt he needed to repress in order to keep his own kingdom and power intact.