We need to start our consideration of this verse with a look at just what it is that Solomon is urging/advising us to do here. There is, obviously a two step instruction here. To buy in Hebrew (qěne̅) means to get or acquire as a valuable or desirable thing. It can also speak, in some contexts, of creating a thing that is needed, even necessary. It can even mean to “redeem” a thing that is desired and has real value. The matter is found in the thing itself and not in the wanting of it. Rather, we can see that the wanting of it occurs because of the inherent value or worth of the thing. Just by way of mention, the verb “to buy” is in the Imperative voice and is a command, or more properly here, an urging of the part of one who has authority. Thus, we can conclude that Solomon, as the great man of God, speaking for the Spirit of God, is urging us to hear and obey what God has laid on his heart to say.
He is urging us to buy “the truth”, which can mean anything along the line of that which speaks of what is consistently agreeable to what God has commanded and/or revealed. It can speak in a number of senses; truth, trustworthiness, firmness, constancy, and even adequate duration. Most often in the OT, it is used to point to that which is true, which is known to accurate or is indeed or surely true. As we noted, it often speaks of moral or revealed truth from God, or that which is consistent with known truth.
The point here is the Solomon is giving a strong urging for his listeners to “buy into” known revealed truth. He is not necessarily talking about abstract truth, or truths like what is thrown up in the air will fall to the ground. That is known to be true, but is not along the line of what is being spoken of here.
Conversely, Solomon speaks of “selling” (Hebrew Timko̅r) actually, “not selling” that which has been acquired. The urging includes the acquiring of the thing in view, here... truth. It is important to understand that Solomon is not saying that anyone can “make” truth or that any action on our part affects whether it is true or not. He is talking about the acquiring of that truth by his hearers.
So the point here is that we are to pursue truth (and the other two items mentioned) with zeal and great effort. It is interesting that it is assumed that once that “truth” is acquired, and then, once we have acquired this truth, we must grasp and hold onto it as with an unwillingness to let it go.
Wisdom, understanding and instruction are three terms used many times before in Proverbs and they mean essentially the same thing here as in their other locations. Once again the point here is not so much what we invest our efforts and resource in “buying” as it is on being sure that we do not cast it way carelessly, as if selling it for some personal gain. Of course, we ought to note that none of these four can actually be purchased in the real sense, and thus cannot be truly sold in the real, human sense either. For all 4 of them, once they are acquired, they are ours and aere not really things that can be discarded.
Interpretation – One writer noted that, omitting the word “also,” which is not in the original, we have here three properties of truth enumerated: “wisdom, instruction, and understanding.”
By “wisdom” is meant solid knowledge of God’s Word as opposed to superficial. By “instruction,” or “discipline,” moral culture. By “understanding,” the faculty of discerning good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
In these truth is to be apprehended, not without pains and sacrifice. And having been so won, no consideration should induce a man to part with her again.
Illustrations - Moses, obtaining the truth as then revealed in Jehovah, and St. Paul as revealed in God’s dear Son, both, at the cost of all this world could offer them, never parted with it, but, like the three favored Apostles, forsook all to follow it; like the Hebrew Christians, took joyfully, for Christ’s sake, the spoiling of their goods (Heb. 10:34), or what was an equivalent; like all the martyrs, “loved not their lives” (Rev. 12:11) in comparison with the truth. Unlike these, Herod, having truth presented to him, would not have it at the price of his sensuality, nor Pilate at the price of his popularity, nor the young ruler at the price of his wealth. Esau bartered! it for present gratifications; Judas for the price of a field; Demas for some worldly gain.
A few days after the birth of Isaac Watts, his father, a clothier, began a jail sentence in Southampton because he believed he had the right to worship in the fellowship led by the Reverend Nathaniel Robinson rather than in the established Church of England. The elder Mr. Watts’s stand for truth did not disgrace or divide his family. Quite the opposite! Every day Mrs. Watts took tiny Isaac to the prison, and, seated on a horse block outside, fed him in sight of his incarcerated father. When Isaac was nine months old, his father began another six month’s imprisonment for the same cause—religious freedom! Was it not love of truth, love of freedom, love of family, love of Christ, that impelled Watts to demonstrate such demanding integrity? Was young Isaac absorbing homilies of truth to be expressed later in his magnificent hymns?
There is an old legend which maintains that when Jesus was a baby growing up in Nazareth, the neighbors used to say when they were discouraged or depressed, “Let us go and see Mary’s child.” After looking upon the precious One, sunshine and peace returned and the distraught souls returned to their tasks with high heart. This is the effect that Truth can have on us as the people of God and the knowers of He and the reality of His Redemption.
The late Martin Niemöller was one of Hitler’s prized prisoners. The famous German minister vigorously resisted tyranny. He was imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years at a camp where 238,756 persons were put to death. Yet he carried on a daring ministry at Dachau. Pastor Niemöller was more than a former prisoner of war. He was a living testimony to truth. To talk with Niemöller was to visit a man who looked death in the face day after day and knew the power of the resurrected Christ. His remarkable life reassures us of the triumph of truth.
Application - “I am the Truth,” says Jesus, and promises the Holy Spirit to “lead into all truth.” A sound knowledge of Jesus, His character, His work, His doctrine, is what I should aim at, and hope for, as within reach. And whatever measure of it I attain to, let me hold fast. Thus, have I become convinced of the twofold nature of the Christ—that He is God-man? Let no sneers, or arguments, or appeals to my reason induce me to let go that precious portion of the truth. Am I persuaded that love was an essential element of the character which He set before me as an example? Let nothing hinder me from perpetually striving and praying after Christian charity. Do I really believe in an atonement made upon the cross, and in the continual commemoration of that atoning sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist?’ Let me hold fast that precious truth, and never give it up, however unpopular it may be. This I shall be more likely to do, if I have not received my religion merely from tradition, but verified each article of it myself, at the cost of labour, self-sacrifice, it may be persecution. How dear to me will Church principles thus bought be! How little likely to be parted with! How strengthened and confirmed by every act in consonance with them!
And may He who taught me so much teach me more!