How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
whoever guards his way preserves his life.
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Perhaps 16 should be taken in relation to what was said at the end of yesterday's Note: to be wise, and to be 'in' with the King is real riches and wealth (cf 3,10, 11, 19). In 17 the AV rendering is better than RSV and should be followed. The meaning is that a holy determination to have nothing to do with what is wrong is the best safeguard for the soul. We generally fall in time of temptation when we are not determined enough not to! Once again, in 18, the warning against pride. The Greeks used to speak of 'hubris', the arrogance of the human spirit which always kindled the divine anger, and brought nemesis hurtling down unmistakeably upon those guilty of it. It is interesting to realise that there is a great deal in Greek thought that is in line with Old Testament insights into human sin, its tragedy and failure lay in the fact that though it could analyse, it could give no answer to the problem of man. Compare the 'better' in 19 with that in 8. The implication is that the seeming benefit goes to the proud and the unrighteous. But the true benefit, however unlikely it seems, lies in humility and poverty with righteousness. We are not far here from Jesus' words, 'What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul'. Bridges ends his comment on these last two verses with the words: 'May my Lord's example keep me low.' 'When majesty' - said pious Bernard - 'humbled himself, shall the worm swell with pride?'.