Proverbs 20 – Wisdom, Weights, and Wickedness
Wine is a mocker,
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
a. Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler: This is true in at least two senses. First, alcohol mocks and fights with those who abuse it in any sense. Second, alcohol leads one to be a mocker and a brawler. Many men and women have had their lives dominated by the mockery and brawling of alcohol.
i. “It mocks the drunkard, and makes a fool of him, promising him pleasure, but paying him with the stinging of an adder, and biting of a cockatrice, Proverbs 23:32.” (Trapp)
ii. A mocker: “It deceives by its fragrance, intoxicates by its strength, and renders the intoxicated ridiculous.” (Clarke)
iii. Trapp defined strong drink: “All kinds of drink that will alienate the understanding of a man and make him drunk, as ale, beer, cider, perry, metheglin.”
b. Whoever is led astray by it is not wise: Wisdom is displayed by the ability to not be led astray by alcohol. For many this means not drinking alcohol at all (especially pastors and church leaders). For others this will mean the decided, evident moderation in their use of alcohol.
i. Led astray: “So mighty is the spell that the overcome slave consents to be mocked again and again.” (Bridges)
ii. Is not wise: “For when the wine is in the wit is out. They have a practice of drinking the Outs, as they call it – all the wit out of the head, all the money out of the purse.” (Trapp)
iii. “Moreover, given the ease with which one may make a habit of this, it is wise to avoid alcohol entirely. In the OT the use of alcohol was not prohibited; in fact, it was regularly used at festivals and celebrations. But intoxication was considered out of bounds for a member of the covenant community (see Proverbs 23:20–21, 29–35; 31:4–7).” (Ross)
iv. “These two aspects of wine, its use and its abuse, its benefits and its curse, its acceptance in God’s sight and its abhorrence, are interwoven into the fabric of the OT so that it may gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15) or cause his mind to error (Proverbs 28:7), it can be associated with merriment (Ecclesiastes 10:19) or with anger (Isaiah 5:11), it an be used to uncover the shame of Noah (Genesis 9:21) or in the hands of Melchizedek to honor Abraham (Genesis 14:18).” (Fitzsimmonds, cited in Waltke)
The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion;
Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life.
a. The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion: Using an image from a previous proverb (Proverbs 19:12), this proverb reminds us that those in power and leadership have potential for a great and fearful exercise of wrath.
b. Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life: Since in many ways the king held the power of life and death over his subjects, to provoke the king to anger was to endanger one’s own life. Knowing this principle should make us more reverent to the King of Kings, and happy that our King of Kings is rich in mercy and slow to anger (Psalm 103:8, 145:8).
It is honorable for a man to stop striving,
Since any fool can start a quarrel.
a. It is honorable for a man to stop striving: Many men feel that honor drives them to dispute and fight with others. This proverb reminds us that often times it is even more honorable for a man to stop striving.
i. “To stint it rather than to stir it; to be first in promoting peace and seeking reconciliation, as Abraham did in the controversy with Lot.” (Trapp)
b. Since any fool can start a quarrel: In many circumstances it takes a man of honor to stop the fight, but any foolcan start the quarrel and continue it.
i. “The wise are more concerned to bring peace than a desire to be right, but the fool cannot restrain himself and at the first opportunity explodes and shows his teeth.” (Waltke)
The lazy man will not plow because of winter;
He will beg during harvest and have nothing.
a. The lazy man will not plow because of winter: The lazy man always finds some excuse not to do his work. It is always too early or too late in the season to begin. It is always winter, and the ground is too hard for plowing. Any excuse will work when the heart is set on not working.
i. “Winter designates the Palestinian raining season from mid-October to April…Since no sowing could have been done without plowing, the farmer waited for the first autumn rains to soften the ground. The sluggard, however, lacks the industry to plow from winter on, the only time that matters.” (Waltke)
ii. “The right time for planting was the rainy season (see Genesis 8:22). It was cold, wet, and unpleasant. Perhaps such discomfort was his excuse.” (Ross)
iii. “Suppose it were not cold; do’ you know what he would say? ‘Oh, it is so hot! I cannot plough; the perspiration runs down my cheeks. You wouldn’t have me ploughing this hot weather, would you?’ Supposing it were neither hot nor cold, why, then he would say, I believe, that it rained; and if it didn’t rain, he would say the ground was too dry, for a bad excuse, he holds, is better than none; and therefore he will keep on making excuses to the end of the chapter; anything will he do rather than go and do the work he does not like, — that is, ploughing.” (Spurgeon)
b. He will beg during harvest and have nothing: The lazy man will work, after a fashion – he will do the work of begging. Having no reward from the work of his hands, he will even have to beg during harvest. Often his begging will go unrewarded (have nothing).
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding will draw it out.
a. Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water: Wisdom may lie deep within a man or woman, and not be immediately apparent. It may be a hidden reservoir, ready in the season of need.
i. “The metaphor is of a well whose waters are far beneath the surface of the ground so that one must use a bucket with a long rope to draw water to the surface. Thus a person’s real motives are ‘deep’ in that they are difficult to extract; one must be wary of the pretenses of others.” (Garrett)
b. A man of understanding will draw it out: Wisdom not only knows how to get and have wisdom, it also knows how to use it. The wise man – the man of understanding – knows how to draw wisdom out for practical and ready use.
i. Will draw it out: “By prudent questions and discourses, and a diligent observation of his words and actions.” (Poole)
ii. “Those who are wise can discern the motives of the heart.” (Ross)
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness,
But who can find a faithful man?
a. Most men will proclaim each his own goodness: It is true that most everyone feels they are good in their own eyes. Many are happy to proclaim it, wanting others to know all their supposed goodness.
b. Who can find a faithful man? True faithfulness in a man is different than self-advertised goodness. A faithful man doesn’t want or need to proclaim his owngoodness. The quiet satisfaction of faithfulness to God and man is enough.
i. “The paucity of pious persons makes them precious.” (Trapp)
ii. “Look at yourself in the mirror of God’s Word. Does your neighbor or your friend find that you are a faithful friend? Do you often speak what you know will be accepted rather than what is true? Never underrate the importance of moral integrity.” (Bridges)
The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.
a. The righteous man walks in his integrity: For a righteousman or woman, their upright living and integrity will be actually lived out. They will walk in their integrity.
b. His children are blessed after him: The greatest gift a parent can give to a child is for that parent to be a righteous, upright person who walks in his integrity. That one will create a home and atmosphere that will be a blessing to the child.
i. “It answers the temptation to ‘get on’ at all costs ‘for the children’s sake’.” (Kidner)
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
Scatters all evil with his eyes.
a. A king who sits on the throne of judgment: In the ancient world kings did not only govern, they were also the highest court and judge in their kingdom. A faithful king would carry out this responsibility and sit on his throne of judgment.
i. “That makes it his great care and business to execute judgment and justice among his people, especially if he does this in his own person, as was usual in ancient times, and sees things with his own eyes.” (Poole)
ii. “Righteousness at the top was necessary to undergird the whole judicial system.” (Waltke)
b. Scatters all evil with his eyes: The presence alone of a king in judgment over his realm is enough to scatter all evil. When a people know that evil will be punished by godly and just leadership, it makes evil to scatter.
i. “Certainly the principle stands that a just government roots out the evils of society.” (Ross)
ii. “The practised eye of a true ruler sifts the chaff from the wheat; still surer is the Spirit of the Lord: Isaiah 11:3; 1 Corinthians 2:15.” (Kidner)
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sin”?
a. Who can say: It is part of human nature to overestimate and boast over one’s self. Many can say what this proverb says; but none with real humility and integrity.
i. “No man living upon earth can say this truly and sincerely. Compare 1 Kings 8:46 Job 14:4 15:14 Ecclesiastes 7:20 1 John 1:8. I am pure from my sin; I am perfectly free from all guilt and filth of sin in my heart and life.” (Poole)
ii. “This is the eternal challenge which has but one answer. When a man recognizes this he begins to inquire for a Saviour.” (Morgan)
b. I have made my heart clean, I am pure from sin: If meant in any ultimate sense, this is the boast or the claim of a fool. Sometimes there are claims to a cleanheart or purity from sin by godly men in the Bible, but those are only true in a relative sense, such as the comparison between one’s self and one’s enemies.
i. “Only vain people can boast that they have pure hearts. But the boast, far from showing their goodness, demonstrates their blindness. Man is so depraved that he cannot understand his own depravity.” (Bridges)
ii. “No man. But thousands can testify that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed them from all unrighteousness. And he is pure from his sin, who is justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus.” (Clarke)
Diverse weights and diverse measures,
They are both alike, an abomination to the LORD.
a. Diverse weights and diverse measures: God wants business and trading to be done fairly and justly. To have diverse weights and measures means that you will cheat both the buyer and the seller. God wants our weights and measures to be proper and consistent.
b. They are both alike, an abomination to the LORD: God feels so strongly about deceptive business practices that He used the strong word abomination to describe them. God Himself has fair weights and measures; He expects humanity made in His image to have them also.
i. “Traders used the scanty weighs and measures for selling and the large ones for buying. Significantly, all the proverbs that denounce false scales and measures explicitly link the Lord’s name in the abomination formula with them (Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23; cf. also 15:25; 16:11).” (Waltke)
Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right.
a. Even a child is known by his deeds: Especially in the realm of religion and faith, it is easy for us to think of ourselves only by what we believe, instead of also by what we do. We are more than what we do, but even a child is known by his deeds. We shouldn’t deny that others see and understand us by the measure of our deeds.
i. “We may easily learn from the child what the man will be. In general, they give indications of those trades and callings for which they are adapted by nature. And, on the whole, we cannot go by a surer guide in preparing our children for future life, than by observing their early propensities. The future engineer is seen in the little handicraftsman of two years old.” (Clarke)
b. Whether what he does is pure and right: The outside world, our own community, and God in heaven look at our deeds to see if they are pure and right.
i. “Certainly no child who says, ‘I am well behaved’ will find his or her words taken at face value. People will evaluate the child by how he or she behaves. The implication is that appearances and words can be deceiving; behavior is a better criterion of judgment.” (Garrett)
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The LORD has made them both.
a. The hearing ear and the seeing eye: God has given men and women remarkable capacity to see and understand the world around them. Our ability to hear and see should be for us gateways to wisdom.
i. “Listening and observing are important qualities of a good disciple and the sage regularly calls upon him to use them to read and hear his teaching.” (Waltke)
b. The LORD has made them both: Since our hearing and our sight are gifts from God, we should determine to use them for His honor and glory. It also reminds us that we can hear and see because we are made in God’s image; the LORD has a hearing ear and a seeing eye.
i. “Since God made the eyes and ears, he is the infallible judge. No one can deceive him with appearances.” (Garrett)
Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.
a. Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty: To love sleep and the laziness connected to it is to bring one’s self to poverty.
i. “Immoderate sleep, or sloth, or idleness. Take sleep because necessity requires it, not from any love to it.” (Poole)
ii. “The number of hours one sleeps per day is not the point here. Love of sleep refers to laziness, but one can be lazy although sleeping very little.” (Garrett)
b. Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread: It takes some initiative and energy to open your eyes, to get out of bed and get to work. But the reward is worth it; you will avoid poverty and you will be satisfied with bread. In God’s economic system, hard work is rewarded.
“It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer;
But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.
a. It is good for nothing: This is what the buyer cries out. In the game and competition of bargaining, the buyer always wants to speak less of what he wants to buy, hoping to get a better price from the seller.
i. “This may simply reflect normal procedure in a world where haggling for prices was common, but it may also be a warning to the inexperienced on how things are done.” (Ross)
b. When he has gone his way, then he boasts: The bargaining words of the buyer are empty. They are only a strategy for negotiation. This proverb reminds us that what people say isn’t always what they believe, and people will speak falsehood for their own advantage.
i. “How apt are men to decry the goods they wish to purchase, in order that they may get them at a cheaper rate; and, when they have made their bargain and carried it off, boast to others at how much less than its value they have obtained it! Are such honest men? Is such knavery actionable?” (Clarke)
There is gold and a multitude of rubies,
But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
a. There is gold and multitude of rubies: Solomon presents the picture of a large pile of gold and precious stones. We think of this pile and are impressed at its value.
b. But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel: Now Solomon presented another treasure, the precious jewel of wise words (lips of knowledge). We immediately see the value of the pile of gold and rubies, but we need to better appreciate the value of wise words.
Take the garment of one who is surety for a stranger,
And hold it as a pledge when it is for a seductress.
a. Take the garment of one who is surety for a stranger: Exodus 22:26-27 says an Israelite could take someone’s outer garment as a deposit or a guarantee for a loan as long as they returned it each evening, so it could be used as a night covering or blanket. Solomon’s advice here is that if you loan to someone who has already foolishly agreed to be surety for a stranger, make sure you get the deposit or guarantee. If they were foolish enough to be surety for a stranger, they should be regarded as a credit risk.
i. “Take his garment means: ‘Don’t lend to him without security (Exodus 22:26); he is a bad risk!’” (Kidner)
ii. “People should be held to their obligations. Two synonymous lines teach that a person who foolishly becomes responsible for another person’s debts should be made to keep his word. Taking the garment was the way of holding someone responsible to pay debts.” (Ross)
b. Hold it as a pledge when it is for a seductress: Most translations favor stranger or foreigner instead of seductress. The idea seems to focus on someone outside the covenant community. One should demand more security for a loan to someone outside one’s knowledge and reference.
i. “The parallelism suggests ‘strangers’ is the correct reading, although theories have been presented with regard to the idea of the wayward woman (NIV).” (Ross)
ii. “Rather, the proverb emphasizes the stupidity of risking one’s life to an unknown creditor by becoming security for stranger.” (Waltke)
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.
a. Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man: Sin and transgression have their attraction. There is something in the nature of rebellion that can make bread gained by deceit even sweeter. It satisfied our desire to rebel, our desire for adventure, and our love of forbidden thrills. We might imagine that the forbidden fruit of Eden was delicious.
i. “Such a bitter-sweet was Adam’s apple, Esau’s mess, the Israelites’ quails, Jonathan’s honey, the Amalekites’ cakes after the sack of Ziklag, [1 Samuel 30:16] Adonijah’s dainties, [1 Kings 1:9] which ended in horror; ever after the meal is ended, comes the reckoning.” (Trapp)
b. Afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel: The sweetness of forbidden bread (or fruit) is short lived. There is nothing sweet or pleasant about a mouth filled with gravel. If we really desire pleasure in a lasting, ultimate sense, then obedience is the pathway to it (Psalm 16:11).
i. Filled with gravel: “It shall be bitter and pernicious at last, like gritty bread, which offends the teeth and stomach. It will certainly bring upon him the horrors of a guilty conscience, and the wrath and judgments of the Almighty God.” (Poole)
Plans are established by counsel;
By wise counsel wage war.
a. Plans are established by counsel: There is help and wisdom in realizing our own limitations and seeking counsel. This often leads to our plans being established in the sense of coming to fulfillment.
b. By wise counsel wage war: This shows that wise counsel is even more important when great matters are involved, such as life and death matters such as war. By spiritual analogy, we can also say that we can only wage the spiritual warfare we must fight as believers with the wise counsel of God’s word and other believers (Ephesians 6:10-18).
i. By wise counsel: “This is necessary in every common undertaking, and much more in a thing of such high importance as war is.” (Poole)
ii. By wise counsel wage war: “Perhaps there is not a precept in this whole book so little regarded as this. Most of the wars that are undertaken are wars of injustice, ambition, aggrandizement, and caprice, which can have had no previous good counsel.” (Clarke)
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets;
Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.
a. He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets: The man or woman who is a talebearer or gossip loves to reveal things that should more properly be concealed. There are certainly some things that should be revealed (Ephesians 5:11), but many things should be concealed out of love (1 Peter 4:8). Wisdom will know which is appropriate in each situation.
b. Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips: The person who flatters with his lips will often speak against you as quickly as they speak for you. It is better to stay clear of such people (do not associate).
i. “The idea of ‘opens his lips’ is that such a one is always ready to talk; and if he is willing to talk to you about others, he will be willing to talk to others about you.” (Ross)
Whoever curses his father or his mother,
His lamp will be put out in deep darkness.
a. Whoever curses his father or his mother: The Bible commands us to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). To curse one’s parents is to do the opposite of this command.
b. His lamp will be put out in deep darkness: God promised to bless those who keep the command to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). There is a corresponding principle that those who disobey and curse their father or mother will face the judgment of God.
An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning
Will not be blessed at the end.
a. An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning: When we get too much too soon, it is often isn’t helpful for us. So, a large inheritance that comes hastily and towards the beginning of our life is a dangerous blessing.
i. “Gotten by speculation; by lucky hits; not in the fair progressive way of traffic, in which money has its natural increase. All such inheritances are short-lived; God’s blessing is not in them, because they are not the produce of industry; and they lead to idleness, pride, fraud, and knavery.” (Clarke)
ii. “The implication is that what is ‘quickly gained’ is either unlawful or unrighteous. The verb describes a hurried or hastened activity; perhaps a wayward son seizes the inheritance quickly (cf. Luke 15:12) or even drives out his parents (cf. Provervs 19:26).” (Ross)
b. Will not be blessed at the end: This is often how it ends when someone gains too much, too soon, apart from their own work and initiative. When large amounts are freely received, it can work against blessing at the end.
i. “Easy money does not foster financial responsibility. The easily gained money is here not necessarily dishonestly gained, but even so, those who have amassed wealth slowly know better how to keep it.” (Garrett)
ii. “But this, as well as many other proverbs, are to be understood of the common course, although it admit of some exceptions. For sometimes merchants or others get great estates speedily by one happy voyage, or by some other prosperous event.” (Poole)
Do not say, “I will recompense evil”;
Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.
a. I will recompense evil: This is what the wise man or woman should not say. Wisdom and obedience to God teach us that vengeance belongs to the LORD (Romans 12:19).
i. “Vengeance belongs to God. Nobody else is fit to wield this. God is omniscient; our knowledge is at most partial. God’s judgment is perfect, while we are blinded by our prejudices and evil desires.” (Bridges)
b. Wait for the LORD, and He will save you: Wisdom teaches us to rely on God and trust in Him to recompense evil. This does not mean that wisdom is indifferent to evil and will never oppose it; it means that wisdom recognizes that there are many times – more than we think – when we should let go of any kind of recompense towards evil and wait for the LORD to save us.
Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD,
And dishonest scales are not good.
a. Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD: God is righteous in all His measurements. When He measures something in the physical or moral realm, His measurement is always true. God tells us to imitate Him in this aspect, and to understand that He regard dishonest, diverse weights as an abomination.
i. “According to Proverbs 16:11 the Lord created the weighing apparatus, every deceitful practice touches him. Moreover, it also touches him since he is intimately involved with his son. Life in the market place and religion are inseparable.” (Waltke)
b. Dishonest scales are not good: God cares that we do business honestly. The world often tells us that it doesn’t matter how we make our money, but God warns us that dishonest scales are not good.
A man’s steps are of the LORD;
How then can a man understand his own way?
a. A man’s steps are of the LORD: Men and women rightly make their plans, but God guides steps according to His own will and wisdom. He certainly doesn’t leave it all up to the choices and plans of men and women.
b. How then can a man understand his own way? This proverb teaches us humility in regard to our life choices and path. We should not think or act as if it were all in our control or all according to our planned steps.
It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy,
And afterward to reconsider his vows.
a. It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy: This has in mind the practice of dedicating things to God for His use alone. When it comes to promises of dedication to God, we should avoid the snare of emotional, rash promises.
i. “To pronounce a thing sacred is to dedicate it. Here, then, is an impulsive man, pledging more than he seriously intends.” (Kidner)
ii. Solomon also dealt with this matter in Ecclesiastes 5:4-7. These passages show us that a commonly overlooked and unappreciated sin among God’s people is the sin of broken vows – promising things to God and failing to live up to the vow. Those who honor God:
· Will not be quick to make vows to God.
· Will be serious about fulfilling vows made.
· Will regard broken vows as sins to confess and to be repented of.
b. And afterward to reconsider his vows: When a promise to God is made foolishly, it forces us to reconsider our vows – something wisdom would have protected us from to begin with.
i. “Leviticus 27 explains that Israelites could buy themselves out of rash vows—it was expensive.” (Ross)
A wise king sifts out the wicked,
And brings the threshing wheel over them.
a. A wise king sifts out the wicked: An earthly ruler understands how important it is to administer justice, and part of that is to carefully examine (sifts out) the wicked. If it is wise for an earthly ruler to do this, we can expect that God also does it, and does it perfectly.
b. And brings the threshing wheel over them: A wise earthly ruler not only knows how to carefully examine the wicked, but then also to bring whatever punishment is appropriate, to use what is wise and necessary to separate the evil from the good (as a threshing wheel separates the chaff from the wheat grain).
i. And brings: “He brings back (lit., ‘causes to return,’ see Proverbs 1:23) represents the wheel of the cart going over the heads of grain many times to thresh it thoroughly.” (Waltke)
The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD,
Searching all the inner depths of his heart.
a. The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD: There are mysteries and truths of the inner man (the spirit of a man) that only the lamp of the LORD can expose. In this respect we can think of God’s word as a lamp and a light (Psalm 119:105).
i. Spirit: “The nesamah is that inner spiritual part of human life that was inbreathed at the Creation (Genesis 2:7) and that constitutes humans as spiritual beings with moral, intellectual, and spiritual capacities.” (Ross)
ii. “Within the mystery of the spirit-nature of every man there is light. It is the instrument of God. It illuminates life. It is that by which man is constantly kept face to face with truth. Let us make no mistake about it: the most evil men know that their works are evil.” (Morgan)
b. Searching all the inner depths of his heart: Thelamp of the LORD – God’s word – can search the depths of a man’s heart like nothing else. This is because God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
i. “Conscience has aptly been called ‘God in man.’ God brings the searching light of his lamp into the darkness.” (Bridges)
ii. “God has given to every man a mind, which he so enlightens by his own Spirit, that the man knows how to distinguish good from evil; and conscience, which springs from this, searches the inmost recesses of the soul.” (Clarke)
Mercy and truth preserve the king,
And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.
a. Mercy and truth preserve the king: Any earthly king may be preserved by God’s mercy and truth shown to the king, and by the mercy and truth the king shows to others.
i. “The principle of the proverb, which is the complement of verse 26, applies with equal force to lesser forms of authority.” (Kidner)
i. “In the Davidic covenant (cf. 2 Samuel 7:11–16) God promised not to take his covenant love (hesed) from the king (cf. v. 15) but to make his house stable.” (Ross)
b. By lovingkindness he upholds his throne: This is hesed, the great covenant love God shows to His people and they should show to others. Men often assume that thrones are upheld by armies and raw power, but God has a better way to establish and uphold a king and his kingdom.
i. “When our queen, that stuck fast to her principles, was not more loved of her friends than feared of foes, being protected by God beyond expectation. Our King John thought to strengthen himself by gathering money, the sinews of war; but meanwhile he lost his people’s affections, those joints of peace, and came, after endless turmoils, to an unhappy end.” (Trapp)
ii. “The proverb finds its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ (see Psalm 72:1, 2, 4; Isaiah 16:4b–5).” (Waltke)
The glory of young men is their strength,
And the splendor of old men is their gray head.
a. The glory of young men is their strength: God has so designed human development that young men excel in physical strength, and this is a glory to them. It is wise and suitable for young men to take on tasks that fit this glory.
b. The splendor of old men is their gray head: What the old men lack in physical strength, they should make up for in wisdom that is appropriate for those who have a gray head.
i. “A proverb to lift the reader above the unfruitful attitudes of envy, impatience and contempt which the old and the young may adopt towards each other. Each age has its appointed excellence, to be respected and enjoyed in its time.” (Kidner)
ii. “Let youth and old age both beware of defacing their glory. Each takes the precedence in some things and gives way in others. Let them not, therefore, envy or despise each other’s prerogatives. The world, the state, and the church needs them both, the strength of youth for energy and the maturity of the old for wisdom.” (Bridges)
Blows that hurt cleanse away evil,
As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.
a. Blows that hurt cleanse away evil: Pain is a burden, but it can bring a benefit. If we allow the unpleasant fire of pain to refine and cleanse away evil, then our sorrow and pain was not wasted. Something was gained.
i. “In context this is not parental discipline but beatings administered by the king’s officers as punishment for crime. Yahweh can peer directly into a person’s innermost being (v. 27), but the king can touch the criminal’s soul by harsh retribution.” (Garrett)
ii. “Some must be beaten black and blue ere they will be better; neither is wit anything worth with them till they have paid well for it.” (Trapp)
b. As do stripes the inner depth of the heart: Solomon probably used stripes here in a symbolic sense for the chastening that comes in life. If we receive such discipline with wisdom, it will purify us in the inner depth of the heart.
i. “Physical punishment may prove spiritually valuable.” (Ross)
ii. As do stripes: “The paradox of Isaiah 53:5 stands out sharply against this background: that with his stripes we are healed.” (Kidner)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission