Proverbs 10 – Contrasting Lives, Contrasting Destinies
The proverbs of Solomon:
A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
a. The proverbs of Solomon: Proverbs 10 begins a new section of the book. In some sense the first nine chapters have been an introduction. In a sense, the collection of Solomon’s proverbs begins here as a series of two-phrase single verse wisdom sayings. This arrangement continues through Proverbs 22:16. From the start of Proverbs 10:1 through at least Proverbs 22:16, this commentary will treat each proverb individually.
i. We sense some kind of arrangement in these proverbs; they may be sometimes grouped in sets of two, three, or four proverbs linked by a theme. For example, Proverbs 10:4 and 10:5 may have been arranged next to each other because both deal with the theme of hard work.
ii. Yet understanding the manner and nature of the arrangement is difficult if not impossible, and different commentators often see different arrangements. In this look at Proverbs any such connections between individual proverbs are left to the reader to make, and each verse will be treated as its own proverb.
iii. “No exposition is possible save to take each proverb and consider it in its separate value. In the majority of instances this is unnecessary, because they are self-evident expositions of one abiding truth.” (Morgan)
b. A wise son: Solomon himself was the ultimate wise son, receiving and valuing wisdom above all other things (1 Kings 3). When King David saw this heart in his son, it no doubt made him a glad father.
c. A foolish son: Many of the proverbs work on the principle of contrast. This proverb contrasts the foolish son with the wise son. Ironically, we could say that Solomon ultimately turned out to be a foolish son (1 Kings 11), though it was long after the death of his mother.
d. Is the grief of his mother: Our wisdom or folly affects more than ourselves. Wisdom benefits more than the individual, and folly grieves more than the individual.
i. The grief of his mother: “The occasion of her great sorrow, which is decently ascribed to the mothers rather than to the fathers, because their passions are most vehement, and make deepest impression in them.” (Poole)
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death.
a. Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: We are reminded of the parable Jesus told of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). That rich fool gathered great wealth but was not rich toward God (Luke 16:21).
b. Righteousness delivers from death: Being right with God brings a benefit that money can’t buy.
The LORD will not allow the righteous soul to famish,
But He casts away the desire of the wicked.
a. Will not allow the righteous soul to famish: This is one of the blessings that money can’t buy that we might think of from the previous verse. Significantly, the principle is directed to the soul. The soul can flourish even when the body is afflicted.
b. He casts away the desire of the wicked: Ultimately, to be wicked and in opposition to God is to have desire frustrated. To be righteous and to inherit eternal life is to have desire fulfilled.
He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
a. A slack hand: This describes the lazy man or woman, who does not put forth their hand energetically to do their work. We should do all that we can heartily, as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
b. The hand of the diligent makes rich: Hard work is normally rewarded, and prosperity often coms to those who work for it.
i. “Industry was the law of paradise (Genesis 2:15), and although it now bears the stamp of the Fall (Genesis 3:19), it is still a blessing and under God’s providence brings wealth.” (Bridges)
He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.
a. He who gathers in summer: The ant was previously presented as an example of hard work in the summer (Proverbs 6:6-8). The idea here is of a wise son who shows his wisdom by working hard.
i. Gathers in summer: “A well chosen season is the greatest advantage of any action, which, as it is seldom found in haste, so it is too often lost in delay. The men of Issachar were in great account with David, because ‘they had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,’ and when to do it; [1 Chronicles 12:32].” (Trapp)
ii. “Joseph seized his opportunity to prepare and preserve his life for an otherwise barren future (Genesis 41:46–57; cf. John 9:4).” (Waltke)
b. He who sleeps in harvest: To sleep when there is work to be done is laziness and folly, and causes shame to self and to others.
i. “All the work of the field should be done in the season suitable to it. If summer and harvest be neglected, in vain does a man expect the fruits of autumn.” (Clarke)
ii. “It is as much the will of God that the young should gather knowledge as that the farmer should gather his harvest.” (Bridges)
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
a. Blessings are on the head of the righteous: This was especially true in the context of the old or Mosaic covenant, where God promised to bless obedience and curse disobedience (Deuteronomy 27-28).
b. Violence covers the mouth of the wicked: Instead of blessing, violence will come to the wicked.
i. “But it is simpler to take it as the man’s evil, written, as we say, all over his face.” (Kidner)
The memory of the righteous is blessed,
But the name of the wicked will rot.
a. The memory of the righteous is blessed: The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 are good examples of righteous men and women whose memory is blessed.
b. The name of the wicked will rot: If the wicked are remembered at all, it will be as a stinking, rotten thing. Our present path of righteous or wicked will end either in blessedness or rottenness, each answering to the path. Every man and woman can choose if they will be remembered to praise or remembered to shame.
i. “The very name of the wicked is as offensive as putrid carrion.” (Clarke)
The wise in heart will receive commands,
But a prating fool will fall.
a. The wise in heart will receive commands: Wisdom gives the humility to be instructed and to receive commands from God and those in rightful authority.
i. Will receive commands: “i.e., Submit to God’s holy word without replies and cavils. This is check to the brave gallants of our age, which exercise their ripe heads and fresh wits in wrestling with the truth of God, and take it for a glory to give it a foil.” (Trapp)
b. A prating fool will fall: Here, the fool is the opposite of the wise in heart. In their disobedience they will fall.
i. A prating fool: “In the Hebrew he is called a fool of lips, either because he discovers the folly of his heart by his lips, and thereby exposeth himself to the mischief here following; or because he is without heart, as is said of Ephraim, Hosea 7:11, or his heart is little worth, as is said here, Proverbs 10:20; or because he speaks rashly, without any consideration.” (Poole)
He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known.
a. He who walks with integrity walks securely: The man or woman who lives with nothing to hide, with no double life, can walk with integrity. There is no anxiety from the fear of having sin and compromise discovered.
i. There is a story – sometimes attributed to the British author Conan Doyle – about a man who sent a letter to others with only these words: All is discovered; flee at once. He said a businessman who received the letter fled at once and was never seen again. He who walks with integrity lives free from the fear of such discovery.
b. He who perverts his ways will become known: The man or woman who walks a crooked life will have it revealed. Jesus said, there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known (Matthew 10:26).
He who winks with the eye causes trouble,
But a prating fool will fall.
a. He who winks with the eye causes trouble: The idea of winks here is of one who does not take wickedness and folly seriously.
i. Winks with the eye: “That secretly and cunningly designs mischiefs against others, as this phrase is used, Psalms 35:19 Proverbs 6:13.” (Poole)
b. The prating fool will fall: The fool will continue along their path until they fall.
The mouth of the righteous is a well of life,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
a. The mouth of the righteous is a well of life: A righteous man or woman speaks life-giving words, most often to others and sometimes to one’s self.
i. “The dependence of life on water is experienced existentially all over the earth, especially in the ancient Near East, where it is in short supply. Flowing well water is particularly precious (cf. Jeremiah 2:13), and people gather around it. The open, benevolent speech of the righteous is just as necessary for a community, offering everyone abundant life—temporal, intellectual, moral, and spiritual.” (Waltke)
b. Violence covers the mouth of the wicked: The wicked man or woman brings harm and hurt with their words. They take away life.
Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.
a. Hatred stirs up strife: The constant stirring up of strife and controversy is evidence of hatred.
i. Stirs up strife: “Upon every slight occasion, by filling men with suspicions and surmises, whereby they imagine faults where there are none, and aggravate every small offence.” (Poole)
b. Love covers all sins: Peter quoted this in 1 Peter 4:8. We could say this is true in two senses, in that love covers the sins of others, and that love covers the sins of the one who loves. Hatred brings trouble, but love brings healing.
i. There certainly is a place for the confrontation and exposure of sin. “This stress on reconciliation is balanced by other passages warning us against hushing up our own sins (Proverbs 28:13) or shirking the giving of a rebuke (e.g. Proverbs 27:5, 6).” (Kidner)
ii. “In this collection ‘conceal’ is not used in the bad sense of maliciously hiding something (unlike Proverbs 10:6, 11) but in a good sense of forgiving or not finding fault (Proverbs 11:13; 12:16, 23; 17:9; 28:13; note especially Proverbs 10:12).” (Garrett)
iii. Covers all sins: “On the contrary, love conciliates; removes aggravations; puts the best construction on every thing; and pours water, not oil, upon the flame.” (Clarke)
iv. “Love covers, overlooks, speedily forgives, and forgets. Full of candor and inventiveness, it puts the best construction on doubtful matters and does not expose the faults of a brother. Oh, let us put on the Lord Jesus in his spirit of forbearing, sacrificial love, and let us forgive as we have been forgiven by Christ.” (Bridges)
Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding,
But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.
a. Wisdom is found: When a person has wisdom, it will be found on their lips. The words they speak reveal the wisdom they possess, as Jesus said: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
b. A rod is for the back: The ones who lack wisdom must be corrected by pain, represented by a rod used to strike those who misbehave.
i. “A rod (sebet) denotes a part of a tree from which a staff or weapon could be made.” (Waltke)
ii. “He that can learn, and will not learn, should be made to learn. The rod is a most powerful instrument of knowledge. Judiciously applied, there is a lesson of profound wisdom in every twig.” (Clarke)
Wise people store up knowledge,
But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
a. Wise people store up knowledge: Wisdom takes knowledge and makes it accessible for the future. This can be done in many ways – memorization, note taking, and the use of modern digital technology.
b. The mouth of the foolish is near destruction: The foolish man is a contrast to the wise man, and his rejection of knowledge puts him near destruction.
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
a. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: This principle observes that wealth gives a measure of protection and provision in this world to the rich man.
i. “Half of the ten occurrences of wealth (hon; see Proverbs 3:9) in Solomon’s proverb instruct the youth to prize it (Proverbs 12:27; 13:7; 19:14; 29:3; cf. 19:4), and the other half not to trust it.” (Waltke)
b. The destruction of the poor: In this world, poverty puts the poor man at a great disadvantage, sometimes leading to their destruction.
i. “This is a plain recognition of the power of wealth, and the paralysis of poverty. It is a wholesome corrective to much nonsense talked today about the blessings of poverty. Wealth may become a curse, but poverty is inherently a destruction.” (Morgan)
ii. “You may be called to forgo wealth; you must certainly rate it below honesty. But don’t affect to despise it; don’t embrace poverty out of laziness or romanticism.” (Kidner)
The labor of the righteous leads to life,
The wages of the wicked to sin.
a. The labor of the righteous leads to life: For the righteous man or woman, labor is life-giving and leads to life. They understand that our calling to co-labor with God (1 Corinthians 3:9) is a life-giving gift.
b. The wages of the wicked to sin: Wickedness has a “reward,” and it is sin and the judgment due to it (Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death).
He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray.
a. He who keeps instruction: Wisdom and instruction must not only be gained, but also kept. That keeping will bring one in the way of life.
b. He who refuses correction: To refuse correction is the opposite of keeping instruction. It is to reject instruction and will lead on to go astray.
Whoever hides hatred has lying lips,
And whoever spreads slander is a fool.
a. Whoever hides hatred: It’s common for those who are motived by hatred to hide their motivation and therefore lie. In our modern day, very few people will ever admit to the sin of hatred.
i. Whoever hides hatred: “This is a common case. How many, when full of resentment, and deadly hatred, meditating revenge and cruelty, and sometimes even murder, have pretended that they thought nothing of the injury they had sustained; had passed by the insult, &c.! Thus lying lips covered the malevolence of a wicked heart.” (Clarke)
b. Whoever spreads slander is a fool: This explains one way that someone filled with hatred lies. They do it by spreading slander, false and unsupported accusations against others. That person is a fool, because God knows all and will judge righteously.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
a. In the multitude of words sin is not lacking: For many people, the more they talk the more they will sin. There is much more potential sin in talking than in listening.
b. He who restrains his lips is wise: Many of us could bless others and keep ourselves from sin simply by speaking less and restraining our lips.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
a. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver: The words that the righteous one speaks are full of goodness and benefit, like choice silver. For many people, the greatest riches they treasure in their heart are the kind and encouraging things others have said to them.
b. The heart of the wicked is worth little: There are great hearts and small hearts, and a wicked heart is certainly small. Thankfully God still loves the heart of the wicked and wants to transform that heart into something greater.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of wisdom.
a. The lips of the righteous feed many: Solomon likely meant this in a symbolic sense, the idea being that they are “fed” by the good and beneficial words spoken by the righteous man or woman.
b. Fools die for lack of wisdom: The fool’s rejection of wisdom will not go unpunished, and ultimately leads to death.
The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
a. The blessing of the LORD makes one rich: There are many who have been blessed with riches and are wise enough to receive those riches as God’s blessing. They understand that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).
i. Bridges compared this principle with that of Proverbs 10:4: “The one notes the primary source of wealth; the other points to the instrumental source of wealth. Neither can be effective without the other. The sluggard looks for prosperity without diligence; the atheist looks for prosperity only from being diligent.”
b. He adds no sorrow with it: This is greater blessing upon smaller blessing. To receive riches from God is to be blessed; to have riches without the sorrow that often come with them is an even greater blessing. There are many rich people who are miserable and have great sorrow along with their riches.
i. Adds no sorrow with it: “Those three vultures shall be driven away that constantly feed on the wealthy worldling’s heart – care in getting, fear in keeping, grief in losing the things of this life. God giveth to his, wealth without woe, store without sore, gold without guilt.” (Trapp)
ii. “Lot’s covetous choice was fraught with bitterness (Genesis 13:10–11; 14:12; 19:15; 2 Peter 2:8). Ahab wore a crown but lay on his sickbed discontent (1 Kings 21:4). The rich man’s rejection of Christ was the source of present and everlasting sorrow (Luke 18:23–25).” (Bridges)
To do evil is like sport to a fool,
But a man of understanding has wisdom.
a. To do evil is like sport: The fool regards evil as entertainment, as sport. Not only is it meant for enjoyment, but there is also a competitive aspect to evil among fools, with each trying to outdo the other.
i. “Evil conduct to the fool is ‘like sport’ (kishoq; NIV, ‘pleasure’), literally, like a laugh; like child’s play, it is so easy.” (Ross)
b. A man of understanding has wisdom: The man or woman of wisdom sees evil for what it is and avoids it.
i. “A man of understanding finds sport in wisdom. That is, he gets out of wisdom the same satisfaction that a fool gets out of wickedness.” (Morgan)
ii. “As strong people delight in performing feats of strength and musicians find joy in their virtuosity, the competent person finds delight in constructive work.” (Waltke)
The fear of the wicked will come upon him,
And the desire of the righteous will be granted.
a. The fear of the wicked will come upon him: The wicked man or woman knows that all is not right, and that their day of accountability will come. They therefore live in fear and these fears will one day come upon them.
b. The desire of the righteous will be granted: The righteous man or woman also has a sense of what is to come, but it is rightly filled with optimism and hope. Their godly desire will be granted (Psalm 37:4).
When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more,
But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
a. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more: As with the previous proverb, this word emphasizes the unstable and dangerous place the wicked stand in. Trouble (the whirlwind) comes to all people, but the wicked have no foundation to stand when it comes.
i. “As tornadoes that sweep every thing away before them; so shall the wrath of God sweep away the wicked; it shall leave him neither branch nor root.” (Clarke)
b. The righteous has an everlasting foundation: Like the illustration used of the wise man who built upon the rock (Matthew 7:24-27), the righteous man has a firm, everlasting foundation and can withstand the whirlwind.
As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
So is the lazy man to those who send him.
a. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes: The idea is of constant and extreme irritation, and to disappointed expectation.
i. “The drinker expected sweet wine but instead received sour vinegar. As smoke to the eyes infers the same points of comparison. A person preparing food expected a constructive fire to prepare the meal but received smoke and tears instead.” (Waltke)
b. So is the lazy man to those who send him: The one who sends a lazy man to do the work will be irritated by their laziness and lack of concern for hard work. The sense is that the lazy man irritates his managers more than himself.
i. “This little proverb portrays the aggravation in sending a lazy servant on a mission—it could be a confusing, unpleasant ordeal.” (Ross)
ii. “The sluggard can disappoint and provoke his earthly master. So we must ensure that we are not sluggards to our heavenly Master…The slothful minister is accountable to the one who sends him. When he hears the Master’s call to go into his vineyard, he disobeys at his peril (Matthew 20:7; 25:30).” (Bridges)
The fear of the LORD prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
a. The fear of the LORD prolongs days: The one who fears and honors God will enjoy the blessing of a longer life. Sinful habits, guilt, and ungodly anxiety all take years from one’s life.
b. The years of the wicked will be shortened: This is one of the many prices that the wicked man or woman must pay.
The hope of the righteous will be gladness,
But the expectation of the wicked will perish.
a. The hope of the righteous will be gladness: God has a glorious future hope for His righteous. They have gladness in their destiny, if not now then in eternity.
b. The expectation of the wicked will perish: The wicked man or woman faces a future where all desires and expectations for good will be disappointed.
i. The expectation of the wicked: “A wicked man is always imposing on himself by the hope of God’s mercy and final happiness; and he continues hoping, till he dies without receiving that mercy which alone would entitle him to that glory.” (Clarke)
ii. “As Esau came from hunting, with his head full of hopes, but went away with his heart full of blanks, and his face full of blushing.” (Trapp)
The way of the LORD is strength for the upright,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.
a. The way of the LORD is strength: God’s path is blessing and good for those who are set upon it. When we are weak, we can ask God for His strength (Isaiah 40:31) as we walk on the way of the LORD.
b. Destruction will come: Those who work iniquity will find they have built nothing. Only destruction will come from all their effort.
The righteous will never be removed,
But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.
a. The righteous will never be removed: God’s righteous men and women have a wonderful future to look forward to, secure and immoveable.
b. The wicked will not inhabit the earth: Jesus promised that the meek would inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), but certainly not the wicked.
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
But the perverse tongue will be cut out.
a. The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom: God’s righteous men and women are known for the wisdom they speak. A person’s heart is often revealed by their words.
b. The perverse tongue will be cut out: Those who speak in a crooked or twisted way can only expect to be left without a word. They misused their ability to speak; God will make sure they are no longer able to use it.
i. “This probably alludes to the punishment of cutting out the tongue for blasphemy, treasonable speeches, profane swearing, or such like…Were the tongue of every shrew or scold to be extracted, we should soon have much less noise in the world.” (Clarke)
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.
a. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: God’s righteous men and women have a sense of discernment in what they say.
b. The mouth of the wicked what is perverse: As righteous men and women are skilled in saying what is acceptable, so the wicked have a talent to speak what is crooked or perverse.
i. “The wicked man knows as well what is perverse, and that he speaketh forth. As the love of God is not in his heart, so the law of kindness is not on his lips.” (Clarke)
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