10 August, 2016

Proverbs 9:1-6—“Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, Come, eat of my bread”



Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:1-6 KJV).



(I)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema


[This] passage of Scripture [has been appealed to] to find support for [the] contention that God wills that all men shall be saved and that the Gospel is a well-meant offer of salvation on God's part to all men.

What should [restrain one from appealing to this passage is], first of all, the character and the content of the book of Proverbs. For that character is thoroughly spiritual-ethical. Proverbs deals throughout with spiritual-ethical values. It speaks of wisdom and prudence, of knowledge and understanding, of righteousness and purity, of truth and justice, of beneficence and mercy, of humility and valor, of diligence and skill, of correction and moderation. And it presents all of these as arising out of the deep principle of the fear of the Lord. It is not simply an external life according to the law that Proverbs has in view; no humanistic worldly wisdom is proclaimed in this book; but the book assumes throughout the absolute position that there is no knowledge and understanding, no wisdom and prudence, no righteousness and purity, etc., apart from the fear of the Lord.

This explains the fact, too, that the book of Proverbs is so stringently antithetical. Over against wisdom, etc., stand foolishness, lewdness, stupidity, filthiness, lying, unrighteousness, unfaithfulness, gluttony, injustice and oppression, cruelty which even in its mercy is still cruel; and all these are rooted in the principle of ungodliness; they are present where the fear of the Lord is missing. [At once] this spiritual-ethical character of the book [prevents a person] from seeking comfort from this passage of Scripture. For all that has to do with spiritual-ethical values runs along a very strict line, does not allow for delusion, cannot be twisted, and also cannot be generalized. You simply cannot hawk the wares of wisdom and of righteousness on the path of folly and wickedness. You cannot sweetly offer to everyone the blessedness which can only be known and tasted in the way of the fear of the Lord.

In the sphere of the spiritual-ethical everything is inexorable. You can proclaim woe to the ungodly if he does not forsake the way of wickedness. You can promise blessing and salvation to all who forsake the way of wickedness and who turn to the Lord. But you cannot distort things. And the deep cause of this lies again in this, that God is GOD. It always comes down to this. [The advocate of common grace and the general, well-meant offer] has a wrong conception of God. He has a God Who loves also the wicked as such. Who is filled with pity toward him. Who in mercy seeks his good even in the way of wickedness. And that God is no God. If [the student of the word] would understand that this can never be, that God cannot love the sinner qua talis even for the smallest conceivable moment, then he would as a matter of course arrive at that God Who in sovereign love has so known and willed His people from before the foundation of the world that He sees in them no transgression. Then he would always and again arrive at election. Then he would always have to acknowledge that God loves the people whom He sees in Christ from eternity. And that is the God of the Scriptures!

In the second place, also the context following upon Proverbs 9:1-6 should [restrain men] from appealing to this passage for a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation. . . .  For in the verses which follow it becomes as clear as can be that Wisdom simply does not approach all and does not intend to cast her pearls before the swine, neither intends that her ‘maidens’ shall do this. Let us read these verses in their context:

Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the highest places of the city. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him. Come, eat of my bread. And drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Thus far runs the passage, verses 1-6. . . But Wisdom continues and says:

He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

If [one takes] the trouble to pay attention to these latter words and to read the preceding verses in their context, then [we] have to come to the following explanation. Wisdom does not turn here to the scorners and to the wicked. The scorner and the wicked are the same. A wicked man is basically always a scorner, or mocker. He mocks wisdom and despises correction. Therefore he who rebukes and corrects the wicked gets to himself shame. To him, therefore, Wisdom does not turn. It would be casting pearls before the swine. He turns to the wise and he instructs the righteous. Also the righteous, or just, and the wise man are the same. The righteous is the wise, and he alone. For wisdom in the book of Proverbs is not an intellectual but a thoroughly spiritual and ethical concept. Through instruction a wise man will become still wiser and the righteous man will increase in doctrine. . . . If Wisdom so emphatically refuses to instruct the scorner and the wicked man and to cast her pearls before the swine, then it will also be clear that she does not do this in verse 4: "Whoso is simple . . . let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled."

It is foolish to suppose that in verse 4 Wisdom goes flatly contrary to her own admonition of verse 8. There is then but one conclusion possible: the simple […] and those wanting understanding of verse 4 are not the scorners and wicked of verses 7 and 8, but the wise and just of verse 9. And do not say now that this is impossible, because a wise man cannot be lacking in understanding and a righteous man cannot be [simple]. [Simple, here,] refers to those who are not yet far advanced in the knowledge of wisdom. Who therefore are in the midst of the world easily exposed to the lusts of temptation. This is the meaning of the original word. . . . This is also the meaning of the same word in Psalm 19:8, [“making wise the simple”.] . . . But thus there is nothing inconsistent about speaking of [‘a simple righteous man’]. Such a one is simply a righteous man who is still inexperienced in the way of righteousness in the midst of a world which is in darkness. Merely instruct him, and he will increase in understanding. And it is no different with the connection between a man who “wanteth understanding” and a “wise man.” In the original you find for the word which is rendered in our English (or Dutch) Bible by “wanteth understanding” . . . a combination of two words which mean literally ‘lacking in heart.’ And since the heart is the seat of knowledge, therefore the term means ‘someone lacking in knowledge.’ And if now you keep in mind that in the book of Proverbs “the wise” is an ethical concept, denotes someone who has the fear of the Lord in his heart and therefore wants to walk in the way of true wisdom and righteousness, then there is nothing inconsistent in connecting “one who wanteth understanding” and “a wise man.” You simply have the idea, then, that there is a wise man who is lacking in knowledge and who must be instructed by Wisdom. . . . Wisdom therefore is here calling and inviting the wise and the just who are lacking in knowledge and experience, and who therefore will allow themselves to be instructed by Her. . . .

Finally, there is in the first six verses of Proverbs 9 no general offer of salvation whatsoever, even though you should read verses 4-6 in such a way that they include all men. Then you still have nothing other than a calling, with a promise for those who heed the calling. "Let him turn in hither! Come! Forsake the foolish!" That is the calling. And the promise is: "Eat, drink, and live!” The furnished table of Wisdom is after all only for those who forsake the foolish, who walk in the way of understanding, who come in response to the calling of Wisdom. And the wicked and scorners surely do not do this. He who rebukes the wicked only getteth a blot, and he who reproves the scorner is hated by him. The wise and the just man hears and comes upon the calling of Wisdom. The furnished table is for him. There is simply no escaping this. You cannot make these things general.



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(II)

More to come! (DV)

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