Proverbs 18:1

The Recluse



1. The sources I have checked indicate that this passage is translated variously—because the underlying Hebrew is a bit ambiguous and hard to translate.

2. Thus, it has been given various interpretations. It is one of those difficult passages.

3. It can be taken in either a positive or negative sense.

a. Positively it is interpreted as describing a man who seeks wisdom with great desire and diligence.

b. Negatively, it warns against a self-centered kind of person who continually defies conventional wisdom.

4. These are two completely different meanings… only one can be correct.

5. I am going to go along with the majority opinion here—the negative sense.

a. My reason is not because the majority is always right, but because it makes the most sense.

b. The positive side is forced to either ignore completely or twist the meaning of the term “intermeddleth” in order to arrive at their conclusion.

Through desire

1. Desire:

a. Delight; bounty; craving greed.

b. It indicates something that is attractive and delightful to the eyes, desirable.

c. It means the desire, the longings, or the cravings of the human heart…

d. It is the term used in Gen. 3:6 – when Eve saw the forbidden tree—a tree desired to make one wise.

e. It is used in Ps. 10:3 – For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.

f. Like the word for lust = the context must determine whether it is a good or an evil desire.

g. But the basic meaning of this term is the inner cravings of the heart.

h. The inner cravings of a fallen heart are usually evil.

2. Note the word SEEKETH in this passage.

a. This verb is to be connected with the idea of DESIRE.

b. The man Solomon describes seeks his own desire.

c. Darby translated it, “he seeks his pleasure”

d. It is translated various as:
• Seeks his own desire…
• Pursues selfish desires…
• Pursues selfish ends…

e. It would be understood like this: Through his own desires and inner cravings a man seeks…

f. In other words, he is seeking his own pleasure or cravings.

A man separates himself…

1. This expression tells us something else about this person.

2. This term means just as it appears: to separate…

3. It is used of persons parting, going separate ways (Gen. 13:9; Ruth 1:17).

4. It has the sense of being separate from, not a part of, not mixing with (Esth. 3:8).

a. Here it is used of the Jews who were separated… and scattered among all nations.

b. Yet they were diverse from all people. They did not mingle or mix with others.

c. They kept to themselves. They did not assimilate.

5. This seems to be the meaning in Proverbs.

a. Solomon is speaking about a man who CRAVES to be separate from all others… who does not mingle in society…

b. The Bible versions translated this term variously as:
• “recluse”
• Another as a “loner,”
• A couple as “one who isolates himself.”
• A couple also translated this term as “an unfriendly man.”
c. Solomon speaks of a man who has isolated himself from society… one who does not interact with other people… a loner… a recluse… one who stays to himself and avoids social contact.

6. He not only behaves in this antisocial manner, but his heart CRAVES it.

a. He has no interest in other people…

b. He loves the hermit type life…

c. He enjoys being a loner…

d. He doesn’t want to hear what others have to say or what others are doing.

7. However, his thinking and his behavior are not right.

a. Gen. 2:18 – God made man as a SOCIAL creature—one who needs fellowship and social contact with others.

b. It is not good for a man to be alone.

c. Of course there are some who choose to remain single. That too is a gift from God.

d. But even those who are single are not to live their lives ALONE.

e. There must be social contact… interaction with other people… contact… communication… relationships…

f. Henry David Thoreau may have thought it idyllic to live alone in a cabin on Walden Pond, but God made man to have fellowship with others—not to become a recluse.

8. When a person separates himself from interaction with others, he can become quite set in his ways…

He intermeddles with all wisdom

1. Intermeddle Defined:

a. To burst forth, to be obstinate.

b. To be inclined to be hostile and opposing toward another; to be in open, active, resistance.

c. It expresses quarreling and being obstinate by insisting on having one’s own way.

2. This expression is translated variously too:

a. Darby: he is vehement against all sound wisdom.

b. NKJV: He rages against all wise judgment.

c. He rebels against all sound judgment.

d. He rejects all sound judgment.

e. He quarrels against all sound wisdom

f. He defies all sound judgment.

g. Snarling at every sound principle of conduct.

h. Showing contempt for all who have sound judgment.

i. You get the idea…

3. Solomon reveals that this is the problem with the recluse. (among other things)

a. You can’t tell him anything! He’s set in his own ways.

b. He obstinately opposes counsel, advice, guidance, help, or warnings from others.

c. His thinking at times defies logic… he opposes words of wisdom… he snubs his nose at conventional wisdom…

d. His self centered desires, which turned him into a hermit, make him a virtual enemy of wisdom.

e. This is the kind of person we might consider “weird”, eccentric, an oddball.

f. As Americans we value the independent spirit. But Solomon is not speaking about that. He is talking about a man who is independent from society in a BAD sense…

g. He describes a man who lives by himself and begins to develop bizarre and unusual thought patterns.

4. Prov. 15:22 – a multitude of counselors is GOOD… and at times necessary.

a. The recluse avoids contact with such counselors…

b. Thus, he fails to gain the benefit he COULD receive from them… and from the wisdom they offer.
c. His plans never go right… because he opposes all offers of help and advice.

d. He has his own way of thinking… and won’t listen.

5. Example: Little Teddy Kaczynski—

a. He grew up in a loving home outside Chicago.

b. He was a brilliant young boy—and after high school he went on to graduate from Harvard.

c. From there he went to the University of Michigan and got a PhD in mathematics.

d. He became a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

e. BUT—he was aloof… and did not mingle with others.

f. Despite pleas from the department staff, Kaczynski resigned without explanation in 1969.

g. He moved away to live completely alone in a remote shack in Montana…

h. He began writing letters to universities warning them of the danger of technology…

i. He became obsessed with this thought… and living alone in this shack for decades, he rejected all conventional wisdom.

j. He wouldn’t listen to his family… or anyone.

k. Living alone and isolated from contact with all others, his thoughts became more and more bizarre.

l. To get the world’s attention to his bizarre beliefs, he began making bombs and sending them in the mail to universities and to airlines. This went on from the late 1970-1990’s.

m. He became known as the Unabomber.

n. Theodore Kaczynski is an example of the kind of social misfit Solomon describes—an extreme example…

o. He separated himself from all others, began seeking his own twisted desires, and opposed all counsel or wisdom offered from his loving family.

6. The Proverb states that the fault lies with the individual who SEPARATED himself from others… REJECTED wisdom and SOUGHT after his own desire…

a. This is the way of the fool…

b. There are several proverbs that speak of the folly of rejecting counsel.

c. But this one takes it a step further in stating the DANGER of isolating yourself from others… and from interaction with them.

d. A social misfit begins to THINK in unhealthy patterns of thought… and ultimately stands opposed to common sense and good judgment!

e. And, he has no one to blame but himself.

f. The social misfit CHOSE to seek after his own strange desires… to isolate himself from others… and he learns to oppose wisdom…

g. It started off seeking his own selfish, even twisted desires… and it leads down to a very dangerous slope…

7. That’s an extreme example… but we should take warning in our own lives.

a. Prov. 27:17 – iron sharpeneth iron.
• We NEED social interaction with others…
• And as believers we NEED spiritual fellowship.
• Without it we become dull… foolish… and develop some strange concepts of life…

b. Heb. 10:24-25 – don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together. We NEED fellowship.
• Believers who forsake fellowship can develop some bizarre views of Christianity!

Back to Top

Back to Proverbs Ch. 18 Index

Back to Main Proverbs Index