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PROVERBS I.-I X.
THE Hebrew name of this Book is Meshalim- Parables,
Sententious Sayings. The Book consists chiefly of the Proverbs of Solomon. Chapters xxv.-xxix. contain a collection made by learned men in the reign of Hezekiah ;
xxx. is ascribed to Agur; xxxi. was taught King Lemuel by his mother.
Surely in vain is the net, spread in the sight of any bird” (i. 17). If the bird see the net it will become alarmed and hasten away. Be wise, says Solomon to the young man, as the bird. The character of the wicked and the tendencies of all evil are pointed out. Flee from them. “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (ver. 10). Much use is made throughout the Bible of the wiles of the fowler to illustrate the guileful character of those who hate God: Job xviii. 8; Ps. ix. 15, xxxv. 7; Prov. xxix. 5; Eccles. ix. 12; Mic. vii. 2; Ps. xci. 3, cxix. 10, cxl. 5; 1 Tim. iii. 7, &c. (Plate XL., fig. 10.)
One reason for the earnest exhortations to the young man to attend unto wisdom, bow the ear to understanding, and regard wisdom is, that he may be enabled to avoid the "strange woman.” Her power of sensuous fascination is described in verse 3:—“The lips of a strange woman drop as an honey-comb, and her mouth is smoother than oil.” The contrast to the false joy of her first wiles is brought out in verse 4:—“Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death.” They that are led away by her shall be like her in the end.
“Honey-comb” has been noticed under Psalın xix. 10—which see. "Wormwood," Heb., laănāh, Greek, apsinthos. The name occurs ten times in the Scriptures. In Amos vi. 12, our translators have rendered it "hemlock." See under Hos. x. 4.
The wormwood plant itself (Artemisia) is not mentioned. In each passage the juice of the plant only, or the drug prepared from it, is referred to. The plant is one of the natural order Compositoe, or compound flower-bearers. With the well-known crysanthemum, aster, dahlia, &c., it is ranked in a sub-order named Corymbifera. One species is very common, the southernwood (A. abrotanum) of the cottage garden. Common wormwood (A. absinthium) is abundant in Britain, and used to be more in request than it is now.
Its seeds were preserved till spring, when they were decocted and given to the young. Thus the advice of the old poet:
“While wormwood hath seede get a handful or twaine,
Distillations of this species are used, chiefly on the Continent, as condiments, or because of their tonic powers, under the names Eau d'Absinthe, Crême d'Aosinthe, &c.
None of our British species are found in Palestine. The species most frequently to be met with there are Judæan wormwood (A. Judáica), Roman wormwood (4. Romana), and southernwood (A. Abrotana), which grows very luxuriantly in the Holy Land.
When Moses warns the people against idolatry, he compares the natural tendency of the people to depart from God, to a root of bitterness. The Lord, he says, will not spare such. Take heed then, and beware, “lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (Deut. xxix. 18). When the Jews of an after age fell hopelessly into the worship of Baalim, the prophet was sent to them with the threatening—“Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink” (Jer. ix. 15). And when the prophets fell into the same sin, when they “prophesied in Baal, and caused God's people Israel to sin,' Jeremiah was sent with the word "Behold, I will feed them with wormwood” (xxiji. 15). When “the arrows of Jehovah's quiver
Wormwood (Artemisia Judaica).
entered into the reins” of his sorrow-stricken servant, he cried out in the agony
of a broken heart—"He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood” (Lam. iii. 15, 19). Amos addresses those who were departing from God as men“who turn judgment to wormwood,” who make truth and equity to be hated as is the juice from the root of bitterness. In Rev. viii. 11, the Apsinthos is associated with the other symbols, which point to the direful plagues with which the enemies of Christ are visited at the time indicated by the sounding of the third trumpet:—“And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” These passages show that, while the plant may have been in the view of the writers, their expressions, for the most part, point only to something peculiarly bitter. In such cases the term “wormwood ” is exceedingly general, and is not to be confined to the plant properly so called.
The hazard of being surety, either for friend or stranger, is pointed out in chapter vi. 1, 2. It may have been hastily and unadvisedly done. If so, take the earnest advice of one wise in the ways of men“Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend” (ver. 3). Get him to free you from obligations which you cannot meet. . It was wrong to incur them; you will be in the way of honesty, justice, and prudence, if you lawfully withdraw from them. The position is one of danger—“Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler."
“Roe,” Heb. tzevi, female; roebuck, male. The roe is the Capreolus dorcas of zoologists; see under Deut. xii. 15, 22.
The roe is mentioned in Deut. xiv. 5, as one of the clean beasts which might be eaten. It has ever been noted for its swiftness of foot -"Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe” (2 Sam. ii. 18). Its favourite haunts are incidentally noticed in the list of those who gathered to David at Ziklag—“And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David, into the hold to the wilderness, men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains” (1 Chron. xii. 8). Solomon loved to refer to it. Thus he takes it as the figure of cheerfulness and nuptial joy—“Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe” (ver. 18, 19). In the Song he mentions it as an emblem of Christ —“My beloved is like a roe or a young hart. Be thou like a roe or a young hart” (ii. 9, 17). The instruments of consolation provided for man in the church are named—“Two breasts like two young roes that are twins” (iv. 5, vii. 3).
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (ver. 6-8). It does not admit of any doubt that none of the ants in this country store up food in the way described here. This fact has led many to the somewhat hasty conclusion, that no ants do so. One Indian species at least (Pheidole providens) is known to store. But it is enough to appeal to Solomon's use of a wide-spread popular impression, in order to teach a lesson to the sluggard. He may, however, have been acquainted with a species, in whose hills he had seen food laid up for the winter. An old writer makes a good use of the popular belief when expounding this chapter. He says quaintly :-"Man that was once the captain of God's schoole, is now (for his truantlinesse) turned down into the lowest forme, as it were, to learn his A B C again, yea to be taught by these meanest creatures. So Christ sends us to schoole to the birds of the air, and lilies of the field, to learn dependence upon divine providence (Matt. vi.); and to the stork, crane, and swallow, to be taught to take the seasons of grace, and not to let slip the opportunities that God putteth into our hands (Jer. viii. 7). This poore despicable creature, the ant, is here set in the chaire to read us a lecture of sedulity and good husbandry. What a deale of graine gets she together in summer! What pains doth she take for it, labouring not by daylight only, but by moonshine also! What huge heaps hath she! What care to bring forth her store, and lay it a-drying on a sunshine day, lest with moisture it should putrifie! &c. Not only Aristotle, Ælian, and Pliny, but also Basil, Ambrose, and Hierom, bave observed and written much of the nature and industry of this poore creature, telling us withall that in the ant, bee, stork, &c., God hath set before us as in a picture the lively resemblance of many excellent virtues, which we ought to pursue and practice. These, saith one, are the veri laicorum libri, the true laymen's books, the images that may teach me the right knowledge of God, and of his will, of themselves and their duties.”—(Trapp.)
"Ant,” Heb. němālāh, is referred to only here and in xxx. 25, where their alleged storing habits are again noticed. The ants best known in Britain are the wood ant (Formica rufa), the dark brown ant (F. fusca), the garden ant (F. nigra), and the yellow ant (F. flava). Any popular
account of their habits opens up very many points suggestive of lessons, for which we may all go very profitably to the ant, to consider her ways in order to be wise, as among other things we note
"The intelligence that makes
Chapter vii.-The bed was decked by the harlot“ with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.” The word here rendered “fine linen” (ver. 16) is ētūm. Several other words are of frequent use in scripture, as pishtah, the flax-plant-see under Exod. ix. 31; pishteh, the boll, or stalk of the common flax, Josh. ii. 6; butz, cotton, 1 Chron. iv. 21; shesh, linen, Gen. xli. 42; bad, linen, 1 Chron. iv. 21; and sādīn, linen sheets or shirts, Judg. xiv. 12. The term used by Solomon points to curtains of finest linen—muslin-likecuriously adorned, into which gold and silver threads were woven. Such hangings are known to have been in use in Egypt, in the houses of the rich and luxurious, at a very remote period. Syria drew its supply of this article from Egypt.