Old John Gill writes well about this phrase.
Proverbs 15:11 Gill
Hell and destruction are before the Lord,…. Or “the grave” (a), which is the pit of destruction; where bodies being put, putrefy, and are destroyed by worms: this is known by the Lord, even the grave of everyone from the beginning; the graves of Adam, Abel, Abraham; he knows where their dust lies, and will raise it up again at the last day. Hades, or the invisible state of the departed, as the Septuagint has it, is manifest before him; he knows where departed spirits are; what their condition and employment be; and so the place and state of the damned, known by the name of “hell”; and may be called “destruction”, where soul and body are destroyed by the Lord with an everlasting destruction; and is the destruction which the broad way of sin leads unto. Now though we know not where this place is, who are there, and what the torments endured in it; yet all is before the Lord, and known to him: “tophet” is ordained of old; everlasting fire is prepared by the Lord for devils and wicked men; see Job 26:6;
To which he adds later:
The way of life is above to the wise,…. Of “the way of life”; See Gill on Pro 10:17; this is said to be “above”, or it tends “to what is above”; it leads to heaven and happiness above; the life itself it is the way of or to is above, it is hid with Christ in God; eternal life, glory, and happiness, is above; it is a house eternal in the heavens, an inheritance reserved there, and will be there enjoyed by the saints: the way to it is above; Christ is the way, and he is in heaven, at the Father’s right hand, through whom only men can come at this life; wherefore those who are in the way of it have their thoughts, their hearts, their affections and conversations, above, Mat 6:21. Faith, which deals with Christ the way, and by which men walk in him, is signified by soaring aloft, mounting up with wings as eagles, by entering within the vail, and dwelling on high, and by looking upwards, and at things unseen, and being the evidence of them. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “the way of life is above the learned man”, or wise man; the man that has no other than natural learning and wisdom, this way of life and salvation by Christ lies out of his knowledge; it is what the most sagacious and penetrating man could never discover; it is hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed to babes; or this is only known to such who are truly wise unto salvation; it is plain to them, and they highly esteem it, and choose to walk in it; it is an “ascent to him that understands”, as the Syriac version renders it; it is a going up hill, it is an ascending upwards and heavenwards; such a man is continually looking upwards unto Christ, the author and finisher of his faith; pressing towards him, the mark for the prize; keeping his eye, not on things on earth, things temporal, which are seen here below, but on things above, things unseen, which are eternal in the heavens;
that he may depart from hell beneath; not from the grave, as “sheol” sometimes signifies: for wise men die as well as fools, and come to the grave, which is the house appointed for all living; even those who are in the way of life that is above do not escape death and the grave: but such are secured from everlasting ruin and destruction, from being destroyed soul and body in hell; they steer quite a different course and road from that; every step they take upwards carries them so far off from hell; which is the contrary way; the broad road of sin is the lower way, or what leads to hell and destruction beneath; the narrow way of faith in Christ is the upper way, and that leads to eternal life above.