Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The text and the marginal readings indicate the two chief constructions of this somewhat difficult verse. Other renderings are
(1) He who separateth himself from others seeks his own desire, and rushes forward against all wise counsel: a warning against self-will and the self-assertion which exults in differing from the received customs and opinions of mankind.
(2) he who separates himself (from the foolish, unlearned multitude) seeks his own desire (that which is worthy to be desired), and mingleth himself with all wisdom. So the Jewish commentators generally.
Between (1) blaming and (2) commending the life of isolation, the decision must be that (1) is most in harmony with the temper of the Book of Proverbs; but it is not strange that Pharisaism, in its very name, separating and self-exalting, should have adopted (2).
Another form of egotism. In "understanding," i. e., self-knowledge, the "fool" finds no pleasure; but self-assertion, talking about himself and his own opinions, is his highest joy.
With ignominy - Better, "together with baseness comes reproach." The outer shame follows close upon the inner.
The parallelism of the two clauses is probably one of contrast. If so, the proverb is a comparison between all teaching from without and that of the light within. "The words of a man's mouth" are dark as the "deep waters" of a pool, or tank ("deep waters" being associated in the Old Testament with the thought of darkness and mystery; compare Pro 20:5; Psa 69:2; Ecc 7:24); but "the wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook," bright and clear. The verse presents a contrast like that of Jer 2:13.
The first verse speaks of the immediate, the others of the remote, results of the "fool's" temper. First, "contention," then "strokes" or blows, then "destruction," and last, "wounds."
Wounds - The word so rendered occurs here and in Pro 26:22 only. Others render it "dainties," and take the verse to describe the avidity with which people swallow in tales of scandal. They find their way to the innermost recesses of man's nature.
Safe - literally, as in the margin i. e., is exalted. Compare Psa 18:2, Psa 18:33.
What the name of the Lord is to the righteous Pro 18:10, that wealth is to the rich. He flees to it for refuge as to a strong city; but it is so only "in his own conceit" or imagination.
High - In the Hebrew the same word as "safe" Pro 18:10, and manifestly used in reference to it.
Before - In the sense of priority of time.
Infirmity - Bodily pain or trouble. "Spirit" in the Hebrew text is masculine in the first clause, feminine in the second, as though used in the latter as having lost its strength.
With the wise and prudent there is no loss of time. "Heart" and "ear" - the mind working within, or gathering from without materials for its thought - are, through this channel or that, ever gaining knowledge.
The "gift" (or, bribe), by a bold personification, appears as the powerful "friend at court," who introduces another, and makes him welcome in high places.
A protest against another fault in judging. Haste is hardly less evil than corruption. "Audi alteram partern "should be the rule of every judge.
His neighbor - The other party to the suit "searcheth," i. e., scrutinizes and detects him.
Compare Pro 16:33 note. A tacit appeal to the Divine Judge gave a fairer prospect of a just decision than corruption Pro 18:16 or hasty onesidedness Pro 18:17.
The meaning of the first clause is obtained in the King James Version by the insertion of the words in italics, and it seems on the whole to be the best. The Septuagint and Vulgate give an entirely different rendering, based, apparently, upon a different text.
The general sense is plain. A man must for good or evil take the consequence of his words, as well as his deeds. Compare the marginal reference.
The sense seems to require, "Whoso findeth a good wife," as in some Chaldee manuscripts; but the proverb writer may be looking at marriage in its ideal aspect, and sees in every such union the hands of God joining together man and woman for their mutual good. The Septuagint adds "He who casts out a good wife, casts away that which is good: but he that keepeth an adulteress is foolish and ungodly."
Note the paradox. The poor man, of whom one might expect roughness, supplicates; the rich, well nurtured, from whom one might look for courtesy, answers harshly and brusquely.
Better, "A man of many companions is so to his own destruction, but there is a friend (the true, loving friend) etc." It is not the multitude of so called friends that helps us. They may only embarrass and perplex. What we prize is the one whose love is stronger and purer even than all ties of kindred.