Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;One of the points I try to make when I introduce Proverbs is that studying this book both requires and produces wisdom. Solomon's mode of writing can give a first impression of stating the obvious. This impression has led shallow readers to accuse the book of banality — a more descriptive of them than of it.
he breaks out against all sound judgment (Proverbs 18:1)
Some proverbs are like many-faceted diamonds. Though one unit, they are so designed as to apply validly on many levels. This verse is such a proverb.
[UPDATE — Grr, I looked and looked for this reference before publication, but couldn't find it. Here's where that image came from: “Thus the proverb, like a polished gem, may be turned now in one direction and now in another; it is to be regarded as a many-sided fact” (Delitzsch on Proverbs 20:12, 6:299.)]
The proverb is asyndetic, meaning no conjunction (such as "and" or "but") binds line B to line A. The form of this proverb has line B completing the thought of line A, as opposed to common instances where the two lines are synonymous (Proverbs 17:28), antithetical (10:4), or form a comparison (25:14).
But what was the matrix of the proverb? What sparked this thought in the wise man's mind?
Did Solomon observe some young would-be noble, hanging about the edge of his court, too full of himself to mix with his "inferiors"?
Or did he see people who came to worship, but shuffled in and shuffled out, never making contact with anyone else, caring about anyone else, making themselves vulnerable to anyone else?
Or was it a whole family that isolated itself from the whole of society, aloof loners, too lofty to lower themselves to the level of the common rabble? (Or too terrified to risk exposure?)
Or was it an individual of obsessive interests, too bizarre and solipsistic to survive exposure to the light of society?
Or was it a highly meticulous soul, who shaved each hair and split each atom with such microscopic precision that he eventually defined himself into a solitary corner, where even "us four, no more" would have been a crowd?
Or was it a sect that formed odd and idiomatic views, formed a single mind and single community, withdrawn from any of the refining give and take of community (Proverbs 27:17)?
Did it apply even within an individual family, to the family member with the guarded heart, always among others, yet always alone?
Regardless of the context, Solomon cautions that isolationism is not the way of wisdom; it is at violent odds with God's intelligent guidance.
Now, on the one pole, there are limits to this counsel. It is possible to be spread so socially thin, and so unwisely so, that socializing leads to disaster (Proverbs 18:24).
People who need people are not necessarily the luckiest people in the world. But people who shun people may be among the most foolish. So says the older covenant, and so says the newer (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Think about that this Lord's day, and beyond.