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5

Moreover, wealth is treacherous;

the arrogant do not endure.

They open their throats wide as Sheol;

like Death they never have enough.

They gather all nations for themselves,

and collect all peoples as their own.

 


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The Prophet has taught us that a tranquil state of mind cannot be otherwise had than by recumbing on the grace of God alone; and that they who elate themselves, and fly in the air, and feed on the wind, procure for themselves many sorrows and inquietudes. But he now comes to the king of Babylon, and also to his kingdom; for in my judgement he speaks not only of the king, but includes also that tyrannical empire with its people, and represents them as a great company of robbers. He then says in short, that though the Babylonians, like drunken men, hurried here and there without any control, yet God’s vengeance, by which they were to be brought to nothing, was nigh at hand. What ever therefore the Prophet subjoins to the end of the chapter tends to confirm his doctrine, which we have already explained—that the just shall live by faith. We cannot indeed be fully convinced of this except we hold firmly this principle—that God cares for us, and that the whole world is governed by his providence; so that it cannot be but that he will at length check the wicked, and punish their sins, and deliver the innocent who call upon him. Unless this be our conviction, there can be no benefit derived from our faith; we might indeed be a hundred times deceived; for experience teaches us that the hopes of men, as long as they are fixed on the earth, are vain and delusive, as they are only mere imaginations. Except then God governs the world there is no salvation to the faithful; for God in that case would delude them with vain promises, and they would flatter themselves with an empty prospect, or hope for that which is not. Hence the Prophet shows how it is that the just shall live by faith; and that is because the Lord will defend all who call upon him, and that inasmuch as he is the just Judge of all the world, he will finally execute judgement on all the wicked, though for a time they act wantonly, and think that they shall escape punishment, because God does not execute upon them immediate vengeance. We now perceive the design of the Prophet.

As to the words, these two particles, אף כי, aph ki, when joined together, amplify the meaning; and some render them—"how much more;” others take them as a simple affirmative, and render them “truly.” I approve of a middle course, and render them “yea, truly;” (Etiam certe;) and they are so taken as I think, in Genesis 3:1, Satan thus asked the woman—yea, truly! Est-ce pour vrai? for the question is that of one doubting, and yet it refers to what is certain,—“How comes it that God should interdict the eating of the fruit? yea, is it so truly? can it be so? So it is in this place, yea, truly, says the Prophet. That it is an amplification may be gathered from the context. He had said before that they who elevate themselves, or seem to themselves to be well fortified, are fearful in their minds, and driven backwards and forwards. He now advances another step—that when men are borne along by unrestrained wantonness, and promise themselves all things, as though there was no God, they surpass even the drunken, being hurried on by blind cupidity. When therefore men thus abandon themselves, can they escape the judgement of God? Far less bearable is such a madness than that simple arrogance of which he had spoken in the last verse. Thus then are the two verses connected together,—“Yea, truly, he who in his pride is like a drunken man, and restrains not himself, and who is even like to wild beasts or to the grave, devouring whatever meets them—he surely will not at length be endured by God.” Vengeance, then, is nigh to all the proud, who are cruelly furious, passing all bounds and without any fear.

But interpreters differ as to the import of the words which follow. Some render בוגד, bugad, to deceive, and it means so in some places; and they render the clause thus—“Wine deceives a proud man, and he will not dwell.” This is indeed true, but the meaning is strained; I therefore prefer to follow the commonly received interpretation—that the proud man transgresses as it were through wine. At the same time I do not agree with others as to the expression “transgressing as through wine.” Some give this version—“Man addicted to wine or to drunkenness transgresses;” and then they add—“a proud man will not inhabit;” but they pervert the sentence, and mangle the words of the Prophet; for his words are—By wine transgressing the proud man: he does not say that a man addicted to wine transgresses; but he compares the proud to drunken men, who, forgetting all reason and shame, abandon themselves unto all that is disgraceful; for the drunken distinguishes nothing, and becomes like a brute animal, so that he shuns nothing that is base and unbecoming. This is the reason why the Prophet compares proud men to the drunken, who transgress through wine, that is, who observe no moderation, but indulge themselves in excesses. We now then understand the real meaning of the Prophet, which many have not perceived. 3131     Though the general meaning of the beginning of this verse is what most critics agree in, yet the construction is difficult. The only difference as to the meaning is, whether the proud man is said to be given to wine, or is compared to such an one, or to wine itself. Newcome takes the first, and gives this version—
   Moreover, as a mighty man transgresseth through wine,
He is proud, and remaineth not at rest.

   Henderson, agreeing with Grotius and Mede, takes the latter sense, and renders the line as follows:—

   Moreoever wine is treacherous;
The haughty man stayeth not at home.

   This is rather a paraphrase than a version; but this is the meaning of which the words are most capable. The two first participles need not be connected according to what Calvin proposes. Then the distich may be thus rendered—

   And truly, as wine is treacherous,
So is the proud man, and he will not rest.

   Then follows a delineation of his character—

   Because he enlarges as the grave his desire,
And he is like death and cannot be satisfied;
For he gathers to himself all the nations,
And collects to himself all the people.

   As to wine being treacherous, see Proverbs 30:1. Wine is pleasant to the taste and inviting in its color, but degrading, when taken immoderately, in its effects; so a proud and arrogant man is at first glittering and plausible, and splendid in his appearance, but afterwards cruel and oppressive. This seems to be the most obvious similitude, as contained in the passage.

   Parkhurst renders the two first lines as follows—

   Yea, as when wine deceiveth a man,
So he is proud, and is not at rest.

   He interprets “proud,” as meaning “intoxicated with power and dominion,” and refers to Daniel 4:30.—Ed.

As to the word inhabiting I take it in a metaphorical sense, as signifying to rest or to continue in the same place. The drunken are borne along by a certain excitement; so they do not restrain themselves, for they have no power over their feet or their hands: but as wine excites them, so they ramble here and there like insane persons. As then such an unruly temper lays hold on and bewilders drunken men, so the Prophet very aptly says that the proud man never rests.

And the reason follows, (provided the meaning be approved,) because he enlarges as the grave his soul he is like to death. This is then the insatiableness which he had mentioned—that the proud cannot be satisfied, and therefore include heaven and earth and sea within the compass of their desires. Since then they thus run here and there, it is no wonder that the Prophet says that they do not rest. He enlarges then as the grave his soul; and then he adds—he heaps together, or congregates, or collects to himself all nations, and accumulates to himself all people; that is, the proud man keeps within no moderate limits; for though he were able to make one heap of all nations, he would yet think that not enough, like Alexander, who wept because he had not then enjoyed the empire of the whole world; and had he enjoyed it his tears would not have been dried; for he had heard that, according to the opinion of Democritus, there were many worlds. What did he mean? even this “Were I to obtain the empire of the world, I should still be poor; for if there are more worlds I should still wish to devour them all.” These proud men surpass every kind of drunkenness.

We now apprehend the meaning of the words; and though they contain a general truth, yet the Prophet no doubt applies them to the king of Babylon and to all the Chaldeans; for as it has been said, he includes the whole nation. He shows then here, that the Chaldeans were much worse and less excusable than those who with great fierceness elated themselves, for their rage carried them farther, as they wished to swallow up the whole world. But in order to express this more fully, he says that they were like drunken men; and he no doubt indirectly derides here the counsels of princes, who think themselves to be very wise, when either by deceit they oppress their neighbors, or by artful means seize for themselves on the lands of others, or by some contrivance, or even by force of arms, take possession of them. As princes take wonderful delight in their iniquities, so the Prophet says that they are like drunken men who transgress by wine, that is, who are completely overcome by excessive drinking; and at the same time he shows the cause of this drunkenness by mentioning the words גבר יהיר, “proud man.” As then they are proud, so all their crafts are like the freaks of drunkenness, that is, furious, as when a man is deprived of reason by wine. Having thus spoken of the Babylonians he immediately adds—




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