on Proverbs 1 :4
To give subtilty to the simple - The word simple, from simplex, compounded of sine, without, and plica, a fold, properly signifies plain and honest, one that has no by-ends in view, who is what he appears to be; and is opposed to complex, from complico, to fold together, to make one rope or cord out of many strands; but because honesty and plaindealing are so rare in the world, and none but the truly religious man will practice them, farther than the fear of the law obliges him, hence simple has sunk into a state of progressive deterioration. At first, it signified, as above, without fold, unmixed, uncompounded: this was its radical meaning. Then, as applied to men, it signified innocent, harmless, without disguise; but, as such persons were rather an unfashionable sort of people, it sunk in its meaning to homely, homespun, mean, ordinary. And, as worldly men, who were seeking their portion in this life, and had little to do with religion, supposed that wisdom, wit, and understanding, were given to men that they might make the best of them in reference to the things of this life, the word sunk still lower in its meaning, and signified silly, foolish; and there, to the dishonor of our language and morals, it stands! I have taken those acceptations which I have marked in Italics out of the first dictionary that came to hand - Martin's; but if I had gone to Johnson, I might have added to Silly, not wise, not cunning. Simplicity, that meant at first, as Martin defines it, openness, plaindealing, downright honesty, is now degraded to weakness, silliness, foolishness. And these terms will continue thus degraded, till downright honesty and plaindealing get again into vogue. There are two Hebrew words generally supposed to come from the same root, which in our common version are rendered the simple, פתאים pethaim, and פתים or פתיים pethayim; the former comes from פתא patha, to be rash, hasty; the latter, from פתה pathah, to draw aside, seduce, entice. It is the first of these words which is used here, and may be applied to youth; the inconsiderate, the unwary, who, for want of knowledge and experience, act precipitately. Hence the Vulgate renders it parvulis, little ones, young children, or little children, as my old MS.; or very babes, as Coverdale. The Septuagint renders it ακακοις, those that are without evil; and the versions in general understand it of those who are young, giddy, and inexperienced.
To the young man - נער naar is frequently used to signify such as are in the state of adolescence, grown up boys, very well translated in my old MS. yunge fulwaxen; what we would now call the grown up lads. These, as being giddy and inexperienced, stand in especial need of lessons of wisdom and discretion. The Hebrew for discretion, מזמה mezimmah, is taken both in a good and bad sense, as זם zam, its root, signifies to devise or imagine; for the device may be either mischief, or the contrivance of some good purpose.
on Proverbs 1 :4
This verse points out the two classes for which the book will be useful:
(1) the "simple," literally the "open," the open-hearted, the minds ready to receive impressions for good or evil Proverbs 1:22; and
(2) the "young," who need both knowledge and discipline.
To these the teacher offers the "subtilty," which may turn to evil Exodus 21:14 and become as the wisdom of the serpent Genesis 3:1, but which also takes its place, as that wisdom does, among the highest moral gifts Matthew 10:16; the "knowledge" of good and evil; and the "discretion," or discernment, which sets a man on his guard, and keeps him from being duped by false advisers. The Septuagint renderings, πανουργία panourgia for "subtilty," αἴσθησις aisthēsis for "knowledge," ἔννοια ennoia for "discretion," are interesting as showing the endeavor to find exact parallels for the Hebrew in the terminology of Greek ethics.
on Proverbs 1 :4
1:4 Simple - Such as want wisdom. Young man - Who wants both experience and self - government.