Commentary on Proverbs 2:12-19 by William Arnot – Part 1

Commentary on Proverbs 2:12-19 by William Arnot – Part 1


“To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths; To deliver you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words, Who forsakes the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, And her paths to the dead; None who go to her return, Nor do they regain the paths of life…“

Proverbs 2:12-19


“THE wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest.” Here an arm of that sea is spread out before us, and we are led to an eminence (a piece of rising ground) where we may behold its raging. We must one by one go down into these great waters. We see many of our comrades sinking beneath the surge. It is good to count the number, and measure the height of these ranks of raging waves, that we may be induced to hold faster by the anchor of the soul, which is sure and steadfast.

The dangers are delineated (described) here in exact order, continuous succession, and increasing power. They come as the waves come when the tide is flowing; they gradually gain in strength until they reach their height; then, when Satan has done his worst, he retires sullenly, leaving all who have not been overwhelmed, high, and safe, and triumphing.

1. “The way of the evil.” Whether they be persons or principles, whether they be men or devils, the word does not expressly say. The announcement, in the first place, is couched in terms the most general; the particulars are enumerated in the verses following. The way of the evil is the way which Satan trod, and by which all his servants follow. It is the way whereon all the wicked travel to their doom.

2. But more specifically, the first item of the evil is “the man who speaks perverse things.” “The tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”. This little fire kindles a flame which spreads and licks up all that is lovely and of good report in a wide circle of companionship. The man who speaks perverse things is one of the foremost dangers to which the young are exposed at their first start in life. In a workshop, or warehouse, or circle of private friendship, there is one who has a foul tongue. It is difficult to conceive how quickly and how deeply it contaminates all around. There may be much specific variety in the forms of perversion. In one case the pollution assumes the shape of profane swearing. In another it is the frequent injection of obscenities amidst the conversation of the day, feathered with wit to make them fly. In a third it is infidel (godless) insinuation. In a fourth it is one huge mass of silliness, a shapeless conglomerate of idle words, injuring not so much by the infliction of positive evil, as by occupying a man’s heart and his day with vanity, to the exclusion of all that is substantial either for this world or the next.

It is hardly possible that one who is much in contact with these perverse words should come off unscathed (unharmed). Even when a person does not sympathize with the evil, and imitate it, his conscience gets a wound. Only one has ever appeared on earth who was entirely safe under the fiery darts of the wicked. “The prince of this world comes, and has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). If there were perfect purity within, these onsets from without (outside) would leave no stain. But upon our impure hearts, even when the temptation in the main is resisted, and the tempter put to flight, the marks are left behind. Some of the filth sticks, and will not [come] off, to the dying day. For us even in our best estate it is not good, in that experimental way, to know evil. The foul tongue of the perverse is one grand cause of dread to godly parents in sending their youths to a business, and even in sending their children to school.

How good are pure words! Set a watch upon your mouth. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Bad as it is to hear perverse words, it is inconceivably worse to speak them. It is more cursed to give temptation than to receive it.

3. “Who leave the paths of righteousness/uprightness.” When the imagination is polluted, and the tongue let loose, the feet cannot keep on the path of righteousness. Thinking, and hearing, and speaking evil, will soon be followed by doing it. The world is startled from time to time by the report of some daring crime. But if the history of the criminal were known, however much grief there might be, there would be no surprise at the culmination of his wickedness. When you see a mighty tree in the forest, you assume that it did not leap into maturity in a day, although you saw not its gradual growth. You may as confidently count that full-sized crime did not attain its stature in a day. In all of us are the seeds of it, and in many the seedlings are growing apace. The ways follow the thoughts and words, as trees spring from seeds. He who would be kept from the path of the destroyer, must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, and soon after murders and adulteries follow. In the matter of watching for one’s soul, as in all other matters, the true wisdom is to take care of the beginnings.

[1] Please note that the commentary presents Arnot’s commentary on verses 12-19 before verses 10-11. This is not an error.

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