Proverbs 23:1 ¶ When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
Proverbs 23:2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Proverbs 23:3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
After reading through several translations, I get the idea that Solomon is warning his sons to be suspect and controlled in his appetites when invited to dinner by an important, influential person and he offers you the finest things. It could be a ploy to deceive you and draw you into his web of evil doing.
Guzik quoting Garrett: “The rich do not give away their favors for free. They want something in return, and it is generally much more than what they have invested. One can lose one’s own soul in the exchange.”
I liked the way Guzik worded his thoughts: “The ruler’s table may be your ruin. You may be so seduced by the atmosphere of power and luxury that you surrender what should not be surrendered, you promise what should not be promised, and in effect you worship and serve what should not be worshipped and served.”
Proverbs 23:4 ¶ Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Proverbs 23:5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
My paraphrase of Solomon’s counsel: Don’t let the desire to be rich rule your life. Riches are temporary at best. They can disappear in a moment.
It is one thing to work hard to provide for one’s family and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor. It is another thing, however, to be ruled by the desire for more and more. Such desire results in establishing wrong priorities and neglecting the things that are most important in life, such as investing in your relationship with the LORD and with loved ones. These investments result in spiritual rewards that are eternal, the riches of this life will be left behind.
Proverbs 23:6 ¶ Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
Proverbs 23:8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
Proverbs 23:9 ¶ Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
After looking at the Hebrew, I think the person with an “evil eye” is one who has the reputation of being a wicked person. The warning is to avoid accepting an invitation for fellowship with such a person. He surely has ulterior motives for the invitation. A person’s character is a reflection of what is in his heart. A man of evil repute reflects an evil heart.
Verse 8 is a bit harder for me. I think he is saying that though you may enjoy the meal, you will end up regretting the fellowship when his motives become known.
Verse 9 basically says that such a person is not really interested in hearing what you think—especially if you speak the wisdom of God’s word. I think Matthew Henry made an apt connection of this verse with Matthew 7:6—“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Proverbs 23:10 ¶ Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
Proverbs 23:11 For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
These verses are basically reinforcement for verse 28 from the previous chapter. As stated previously, this was a law that God established through Moses before the people entered the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 19:14 “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.”
Deuteronomy 27:17 “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark.”
Here, however, Solomon makes specific reference to taking advantage of orphans. Anyone who chooses to do so will face the wrath of Almighty God, their defender.
Psalm 68:5 “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”
Malachi 3:5 “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Proverbs 23:12 ¶ Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Proverbs 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Solomon urges his sons to apply themselves to learning from those who are instructing them (in the truth of God’s word is implied throughout this book). The wording acknowledges that instruction and knowledge that lead to wisdom must be willingly received to be of any benefit.
The next two verses counsel that corporal punishment used for corrective, instructional purposes is effective. Spanking that is used correctly will not harm a child; it will serve as an effective deterrent against behavior that will result in his eternal damnation. The wording of these verses does not condone excessive force used against a child to his physical harm.
Proverbs 23:15 My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Proverbs 23:16 Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
In these verses Solomon expresses the heart of a father whose sons prove themselves wise by how they conduct themselves and are known for speaking the truth (in accordance with God’s word is still implied). It will be cause for rejoicing with all his being!
Proverbs 23:17 ¶ Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
Proverbs 23:18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
These verses state such an important truth. We should not envy the riches and success of sinners. Though we may not understand why God allows such people to prosper while there are those that fear the LORD and are faithful to Him that suffer, we can rest assured that the scales will eventually be lopsided in favor of the person of faith. The wealth and prosperity of sinners ends with this lifetime; his future is one of suffering and misery. The future of the believer will abound in blessing in the presence of the LORD for eternity. I am reminded of the following verse.
Romans 8:18 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Proverbs 23:19 ¶ Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Proverbs 23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Proverbs 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Solomon urges his sons to exercise to wisdom and choose to live according to what is right (again, according to the teaching of God’s word is implied). He warns again against close companionship with the wrong kinds of people—drunks and gluttons. Associating with these types of people will lead one to poverty because they are too wiped out to work and will influence you to be like them.
I liked Henry’s comment: “It is the heart that must be taken care of and directed aright; the motions and affections of the soul must be towards right objects and under a steady guidance. If the heart be guided in the way, the steps will be guided and the conversation well ordered.”
Proverbs 23:22 Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Verse 22 goes hand-in-hand with the fifth commandment.
Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother….”
Young people often think that their parents are old-fashioned and just don’t understand how things are different today. The truth is that godly parents have wisdom from the scripture that is eternal and is applicable for every day and age.
Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Proverbs 23:24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
Proverbs 23:25 Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
The Hebrew for “buy” means to own or possess. Solomon is telling his sons to hold on to the truth and don’t let it go for any reason. Wisdom, instruction and understanding are invaluable to one in life.
Parents whose children are righteous will have reason for great joy. The pain that their mom suffered in giving them birth is nothing compared to the joy that such a child brings her.
Guzik: “We should have the mentality that we are willing to gain truth and wisdom and gain it at a cost instead of wanting to forsake it for profit.”
Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Proverbs 23:27 For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
Proverbs 23:28 She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
I must admit that this counsel coming from Solomon is a bit disconcerting. He is telling his sons to follow his example. This is a man that had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Still, it doesn’t negate the wisdom given in verses 27-28.
Consorting with a prostitute only leads to trouble. She is not interested in your well being; she is only interested in how she can profit from you. She is always on the lookout for another fool to entrap and lure into sin.
Henry: “It is a sin from which few recover themselves when once they are entangled in it. It is like a deep ditch and a narrow pit, which it is almost impossible to get out of and therefore it is wisdom to keep far enough from the brink of it.”
Great observation from Guzik: “Samson broke the bonds of his enemies, but he could not break the bonds of his own lusts. He choked the lion, but he could not choke his own wanton love” (Ambrose, cited in Bridges).
Proverbs 23:29 ¶ Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
Proverbs 23:30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Proverbs 23:31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
Proverbs 23:32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Proverbs 23:33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Proverbs 23:34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
Proverbs 23:35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
This chapter closes with a warning about the danger of strong drink. Solomon begins by posing some questions to make his students think. When he gives the answer in verse 30, it will show that all the questions have the same answer. An alcoholic is a person of woe (regret), sorrow, and contentions (quarrels and strife). He is always babbling or complaining about something, and often suffers injury due to his drinking. Bloodshot eyes are a clue to his condition.
Drinking wine in and of itself is not a sin. Drinking too much wine leads to lack of self-control that leads into other sins. The NLT paints a pretty clear picture of the truth in verses 31-35: “Don’t let the sparkle and smooth taste of wine deceive you. For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, ‘They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can have another drink?’”
EBC Abridged: “While alcoholism is a medical problem, it is also a moral problem because it involves choices and brings danger to other people.”
Chuck Smith re verse 31: “Some believe that this is talking of the fermentation process. And after the fermentation has taken place, then you should avoid it. In other words, they did have non-fermented types of wines. And once the wine moves of itself in the cup, the fermentation process, then leave it alone.”