Verse 30. "I went by the field of the slothful " - This is a most instructive parable; is exemplified every day in a variety of forms; and is powerfully descriptive of the state of many a blackslider and trifler in religion. Calmet has an excellent note on this passage. I shall give the substance of it.
Solomon often recommends diligence and economy to his disciples. In those primitive times when agriculture was honourable, no man was respected who neglected to cultivate his grounds, who sunk into poverty, contracted debt, or engaged in ruinous securities. With great propriety, a principal part of wisdom was considered by them as consisting in the knowledge of properly conducting one's domestic affairs, and duly cultivating the inheritances derived from their ancestors. Moses had made a law to prevent the rich from utterly depressing the poor, by obliging them to return their farms to them on the Sabbatic year, and to remit all debts at the year of jubilee.
In the civil state of the Hebrews, we never see those enormous and suddenly raised fortunes, which never subsist but in the ruin of numberless families. One of the principal solicitudes of this legislator was to produce, as far as possible in a monarchical state, an equality of property and condition. The ancient Romans held agriculture in the same estimation, and highly respected those who had applied themselves to it with success. When they spoke in praise of a man, they considered themselves as giving no mean commendation when they called him a good husbandman, an excellent labourer. From such men they formed their most valiant generals and intrepid soldiers. CATO De Re Rustica, cap. 1. The property which is acquired by these means is most innocent, most solid, and exposes its possessor less to envy than property acquired in any other way. See CICERO De Officiis, lib. 1. In Britain the merchant is all in all; and yet the waves of the sea are not more uncertain, nor more tumultuous, than the property acquired in this way, or than the agitated life of the speculative merchant.
But let us look more particularly into this very instructive parable: - I. The owner is described. 1. He was lx[ ya ish atsel, the loitering, sluggish, slothful man. 2. He was bl rsj µda adam chasar leb, a man that wanted heart; destitute of courage, alacrity, and decision of mind.
II. His circumstances. This man had, 1st, hd sadeh, a sowed field, arable ground. This was the character of his estate. It was meadow and corn land.
2. He had µrk kerem, a vineyard, what we would call perhaps garden and orchard, where he might employ his skill to great advantage in raising various kinds of fruits and culinary herbs for the support of his family.
III. The state of this heritage:
1. "It was grown over with thorns." It had been long neglected, so that even brambles were permitted to grow in the fields:
2. "Nettles had covered the face thereof." It was not weeded, and all kinds of rubbish had been suffered to multiply:
3. "The stone wall was broken down." This belonged to the vineyard: it was neither pruned nor digged; and the fence, for want of timely repairs, had all fallen into ruins, ver. 31.
IV. The effect all this had on the attentive observer. 1. I saw it, ykna hzja echezeh anochi, I fixed my attention on it. I found it was no mere report. It is a fact. I myself was an eyewitness of it. 2. I considered it well, ybl tya ashith libbi, I put my heart on it. All my feelings were interested. 3. I looked upon it, yty[r raithi, I took an intellectual view of it. And 4. Thus I received instruction, rswm ytjql lakachti musar, I received a very important lesson from it: but the owner paid no attention to it. He alone was uninstructed; for he "slumbered, slept, and kept his hands in his bosom." ver. 33. "Hugged himself in his sloth and carelessness." V. The consequences of this conduct. 1. Poverty described as coming like a traveler, making sure steps every hour coming nearer and nearer to the door. 2. Want, rsjm machsor, total destitution; want of all the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of life; and this is described as coming like an armed man gm yak keish magen, as a man with a shield, who comes to destroy this unprofitable servant: or it may refer to a man coming with what we call an execution into the house, armed with the law, to take even his bed from the slumberer.
From this literal solution any minister of God may make a profitable discourse.