Proverbs 23

Nothing that concerns His creatures is too small for the Creator to notice. Therefore, in the opening verses of this chapter we have a section devoted to the proper behavior of a man who dines with one of higher station than himself.

Proverbs 23:1-3

These verses remind the one invited to dine at a ruler's table of the importance of self-restraint. It is unwise to presume on the lasting favor of one in authority and to accept privileges accorded by him, as though they are deserved. A faithful person displays an attitude of quiet deference at such times. A blasé manner soon evokes disgust, indignation and ill-will. Daniel and the Hebrew children demonstrated a commendable spirit when honored with the king's delicacies. Although they did not eat the king's food, they displayed a respectful attitude in refusing it (Daniel 1).

Proverbs 23:4-5

The Scriptures warns us many times against making the accumulation of wealth the object of our hearts. The man who trusts his own wisdom and ignores this divine instruction will find, too late, that he has set his eyes on that which is fleeting and evanescent; for earthly treasure is often scattered far more easily than it is collected. Riches seem possessed with wings. Like eagles, they fly away, leaving the one who set his mind on them disappointed and heart-sick.

God has faithfully warned of the folly of the mad chase after wealth, yet few people are impressed by these warnings. Worldly men will strain every nerve and exhaust every scheme to possess money which they can never enjoy; and it is clear, that many of the children of God are contaminated by the same covetous spirit. We are slow to learn, therefore the need of the Lord's discipline which many of us experience all our days. See Paul's word as to the dangers of wealth (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-18).

Proverbs 23:6-8

In these verses we are warned against accepting the hospitality of an insincere person. He may speak pleasantly and profess to delight in your company; but it is safer to avoid him and refuse his advances. His delicacies will prove dissatisfying and your pleasant agreeable words will be wasted: for in one way or another he will see that his favors are returned. He never thinks of doing good and giving unselfishly. He will seek to use for his own advantage, those who obligate themselves to him by accepting his pretended kindnesses. However pleasing his smile, it is hiding a deceptive heart. He is covetous and self-seeking, and his ways are shaped accordingly. See the old prophet of Bethel (1 Kings 13).

Proverbs 23:9

To seek to instruct him whose heart is set on folly and waywardness is wasting one's breath or like casting pearls before swine. When there is no desire for wisdom, but knowledge and understanding have been deliberately trampled under foot, it is useless to waste words. See Proverbs 26:4. Jotham's rebuke of the followers of Abimelech is a case in point (Judges 9:7-21).

Proverbs 23:10-11

See note on Proverbs 22:28. He who raids the field of the widow or the orphan because of their apparent helplessness, in order to increase his own possessions, will learn to his sorrow that they have a kinsman-redeemer, in Jehovah Himself. He will support their cause and show His power on their behalf. Let those who are wronged commit their affairs to Him, knowing that He will not fail any who trust His love and count on His intervention. It is refreshing and uplifting to see how David referred all his concerns to God when he was misjudged and oppressed. See Psalm 35.

Proverbs 23:12

This is another reminder of what we read in Proverbs 2:1-9. Only when the heart is applied to instruction and the ear determined to hear right and profitable words, will there be progress in divine things. A careless learning by rote will never profit. It is when the whole being is occupied with the truth, that wisdom resides in the soul of him who seeks her. An aged Christian was said to have meditated the Bible through three times in his life. This is very different from merely reading the Scriptures. It implies patient, careful study of each portion perused, resulting in true spiritual growth. Listen to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:16).

Proverbs 23:13-14

See note on Proverbs 19:18. Discipline, administered promptly, not in harshness, or undue severity, will profit the child. Though he may suffer at the time, correction will prevent the ruin and misery that are bound to follow a life of self-seeking and rebellion. In verse 14 of the Revised Standard version the word used is Sheol. It is not exactly hell, but the world of spirits. It is used to describe the final end of such a vicious, undisciplined life. Chastisement will correct evil tendencies. All parents should have the same concern regarding the training of their children that Manoah manifested (Judges 13:8-12).

Proverbs 23:15-16

In these words of a father addressing his son, we may hear the desire of our heavenly Father that His children walk in the truth. It is our precious and holy privilege to bring joy to His heart by loving wisdom and speaking right things. See 3 John 3-4.

Proverbs 23:17-18

It is not wise to envy those who seem to prosper in wickedness, for their day of retribution is coming. Righteousness may suffer in the present age, but it will be proven at last that those who daily lived in the fear of the Lord chose the better path. It seems certain that in verse 18the doctrine of future retribution is strongly indicated. Newberry suggests "Verily there is a hereafter" as an adequate rendering of the original. The thought appears to be that there is a time coming when present conditions will be reversed, and righteousness will triumph. Then he who has walked in integrity and the fear of God will be rewarded for all his sufferings here. See the last two beatitudes in our Lord's sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:10-12).

Proverbs 23:19-21

Intemperance in eating and drinking demonstrates a heart uncontrolled by wisdom. The Christian is bidden to be temperate in all things, that by sobriety and careful behavior he may commend the gospel of God. He is to bring his body into subjection, not being ruled by its carnal appetites. He who does not heed words like these must bear his just punishment. This was the sin of the stubborn and rebellious son of Deuteronomy 21:20. See verses 29-35 of this chapter of Proverbs.

Proverbs 23:22

Exuberant, self-confident, and resourceful young people are likely to forget the reverence due to their aging parents. Let the young give them that filial consideration which they will desire for themselves when years have destroyed early vigor and mentality. Esther's obedience to her aged cousin Mordecai is a lovely example of what is taught in this verse (Esther 2:20).

Proverbs 23:23

See note on Proverbs 4:7-9. This is an important word for our indifferent and liberal age. We may well cry with the prophet, "Truth is fallen in the street" (Isaiah 59:14). But he who desires the approval of God above the praise of men will value truth and be ready to purchase it at the cost of friends, reputation, possessions, even life itself. Nor will he part with it whatever the suffering that may result from contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Rationalists may sneer and the superstitious persecute, but he who possesses the truth will gain wisdom, instruction, and understanding that is mysterious to men who are only wise in a worldly sense. Who exemplified the truth of this verse more than the one-time rabbi of Tarsus? See Philippians 3:7-11.

Proverbs 23:24-25

See the second clause of Proverbs 10:1. When children display righteousness and wisdom the hearts of their parents are filled with a joy beyond telling. It delights and encourages parents to see the children for whose salvation they have toiled and prayed, walking in uprightness and prudence through a world filled with pitfalls. How little the young reflect on the effect their behavior has on their fathers and mothers. Many people say that they dearly love those who have lavished such constant affection on them all their lives, yet by their actions they wound their parents' spirits and break their hearts. Consider verses 15-16 of this chapter. See Jacob and Joseph (Genesis 46-48).

Proverbs 23:26

In this verse, as in verse 15, the Christian hears the voice of his heavenly Father. The words are not addressed to the wicked. They have no heart for God, nor can their eyes find in His ways anything in which to delight. But God speaks to His sons, saying, "Give me thy heart." It is His right, and surely the child of His grace will rejoice in being able to give God what He craves. He does not yearn for mere service as in Martha's case, but heart-occupation with Himself as illustrated by Mary (Luke 10:38-42). When one has experienced the preciousness of redemption by the blood of Christ he will gladly say,

Take my poor heart, and let it be

Forever closed to all but Thee.

Take my love, my Lord; I pour

At Thy feet its treasure-store.

He is worthy of the best we have to give. To Him we rightly yield the citadel of our deepest affections. Only when He possesses our hearts will we be delighted in His ways. See the living sacrifice of Romans 12:1-2.

Proverbs 23:27-28

Compare these verses with Proverbs 7. If the young man would be preserved from impurity, God must have his heart. None are safe who allow their affections to be fixed on this world. Everywhere there are to be found those who would lure away the Christian from the paths of truth and virtue. In the Lord alone is there strength and deliverance. The unholy woman against whom we have been so frequently warned is like a deep ditch, hidden until one has stumbled into it. He who pleases God will escape from her. How terribly Samson suffered at the hands of such a woman! (Judges 16).

Proverbs 23:29

The six questions asked in this verse are answered in the verses that follow. Woe, sorrow, contentions, babbling (or perhaps, complaints), needless wounds, and inflamed eyes are characteristic of the one who is described in the following verses.

The abrupt questions focus our attention on the terrible and vivid description of the drunkard that is presented as the answer.

Proverbs 23:30-35

Indulgence in the pleasures of wine to the point of inebriation is a cause of much human sorrow. Drunkenness is one of the greatest curses of the ages, yet it is a sin that is seductive and attractive to those who are socially inclined. Throwing to one side all restraint, they are allured by the sparkle of the bubbling liquor. But the results cannot be described. What seemed so delightful and innocent becomes like a venomous reptile whose bite sets the veins on fire. Immorality is linked with drunkenness, as effect with cause. All self-respect goes when the brain is controlled by the deadly poison. Lust and license possess the drunkard.

The inebriate is like a man endeavoring to lie down in the heart of the waves of the sea or like one who tries to sleep on the mast head. When he becomes sober he feels bruised and wounded, but makes no determination to flee the cause that has, in a great measure, destroyed his will. The unnatural craving which possesses him leads him to seek again the means of his destruction. See Nabal (1 Samuel 25:36-38).

It becomes the child of God to flee these destructive tendencies, and by sobriety and self-control, to be an example to those who are weaker. "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is [ensnared], or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth" (Romans 14:21-22). To play fast and loose with what has ruined so many people is certainly not to walk charitably. "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1). Careless indulgence in that which is to others like the poison of the adder is most inconsistent and thoughtless.

—H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary