Proverbs 24 – Wisdom, Love, and Respect
A. The remaining of the 30 words of the wise.
1. (1-2) Don’t envy or associate with evil men.
Do not be envious of evil men,
Nor desire to be with them;
For their heart devises violence,
And their lips talk of troublemaking.
a. Do not be envious of evil men: This is a common and sometimes difficult temptation for the righteous man or woman. There are times when evil men seem to prosper and we may become envious of them, and then desire to be with them.
i. Bridges on those envious of evil men: “This evil spirit, if it does not bring the scandal of open sin, curses our blessings, withers our virtues, destroys our peace, clouds our confidence, and stains our Christian profession.”
b. For their heart devises violence: The kind of evil this proverb has in mind is the kind associated with violence and troublemaking. The seemingly quick and easy money and status gained through violence and troublemaking is a temptation to be resisted.
i. “The antidote to envy is the long view: the glory (Proverbs 23:18) or darkness (Proverbs 24:20) to come.” (Kidner)
2. (3-4) Wisdom for the home.
Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
a. Through wisdom a house is built: We think of the actual material building of a house, and how wisdom, proper engineering and construction are necessary. The same is true of the moral and spiritual values of a home. Those moral and spiritual values must be built through wisdom and established through understanding.
i. The house of the wicked is not built on wisdom. “It is only the snow-palace built in the winter, and melting away under the power of the summer’s sun” (Geier, cited in Bridges).
b. By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches: The blessing of building a home with God’s wisdom, God’s understanding, and God’s knowledge will bring precious and pleasant riches in the spiritual sense and often in the material sense. God’s blessing is on the home that seeks and honors His wisdom.
i. “The precious jewels that fill the house are a harmonious, loving family and a sense of security and stability.” (Garrett)
3. (5-6) The strength of wisdom.
A wise man is strong,
Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength;
For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.
a. A wise man is strong: Solomon understood the strength of wisdom, and how a man of knowledge increases strength. Folly makes a person weak and vulnerable.
i. A wise man is strong: “Is courageous and resolute, and able by wisdom to do greater things than others can accomplish by their own strength.” (Poole)
b. By wise counsel you will wage your own war: The strength of wisdom isn’t solitary; it understands and relies upon the wisdom of others. It knows how to use the wise counsel of others and the safety of a multitude of counselors.
4. (7-9) The sin of folly.
Wisdom is too lofty for a fool;
He does not open his mouth in the gate.
He who plots to do evil
Will be called a schemer.
The devising of foolishness is sin,
And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
a. Wisdom is too lofty for a fool: The fool looks at wisdom and thinks it is above him or her in the sense of being too lofty. They think it is overly smart and superior and tend to glory in the lowness of their folly.
i. Too lofty for a fool: “In his opinion; he judgeth it too hard for him, he despairs of attaining it, he pretends the impossibility of it, because he will not put himself to the charge or trouble of getting it.” (Poole)
ii. “The simple and diligent prove that the treasure is not really out of reach; but it is too high for a fool. His groveling mind can never rise to so lofty a matter. He has no understanding of it, no heart to desire it, no energy to hold it.” (Bridges)
b. He does not open his mouth in the gate: Often, the fool will be denied influence and a platform of leadership. At the place where the elders gather and decision are made (the gate), the fool will not open his mouth.
i. Does not open his mouth in the gate: “1. He can say nothing for himself when he is accused before the magistrate, for which he gives frequent occasion. Or, 2. He knows not how to speak acceptably and profitably in the public assembly among wise men.” (Poole)
ii. “Noting the incompetence of fools to speak in the gate where public policy is formulated. This saying inferentially commends becoming competently wise by warning against being an incompetent fool.” (Waltke)
c. He who plots to do evil will be called a schemer: The evil man who plots his evil will be recognized for the schemer he is – even though, the devising of foolishness is sin, and that evil person will be regarded as an abomination to men.
i. Called a schemer: “Heb. a master of mischief. The sense is, Though he cover his wicked devices with fair pretences, and would be better esteemed, yet he shall be noted and branded with that infamy which is due to him.” (Poole)
ii. “Here the description ‘schemer’ portrays him as a cold, calculating, active person: ‘the fool is capable of intense mental activity but it adds up to sin’ (McKane, p. 399). This type of person flouts all morality, and sooner or later the public will have had enough of him.” (Ross)
iii. The scoffer is an abomination: “The basest can mock, as the abjects did David, [Psalms 35:15] and Tobiah the servant did Nehemiah. [Nehemiah 2:19] Scorners are the most base spirits. The Septuagint call them pests, [Psalms 1:1] incorrigible, [Proverbs 21:1] proud persons, [Proverbs 3:34] naught, [Proverbs 9:12] &c.” (Trapp)
5. (10) The measure of strength.
If you faint in the day of adversity,
Your strength is small.
a. If you faint in the day of adversity: The day of adversity comes to everyone. The godliest and the most evil will experience their own adversity, and that is a test to see whether or not they will faint.
i. “In times of trial we should endeavour to be doubly courageous; when a man loses his courage, his strength avails him nothing.” (Clarke)
b. Your strength is small: The day of adversity did not make your strength small; it revealed your strength to be small. There is a sense in which we should welcome the day of adversity as a revelation of our strength or weakness.
i. Bridges had an encouraging word for the Christian who feels that their strength is small: “Commit yourself daily to him, for his supply of grace is sufficient for you. So go forward, weak and strong at the same time—weak in order to be strong, strong in your weakness.”
6. (11-12) Help those on their way to destruction.
Deliver those who are drawn toward death,
And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”
Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?
He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?
And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
a. Deliver those who are drawn toward death: The idea is of those who are on their way towards destruction, those stumbling to the slaughter. If we have the opportunity, we should deliver them, to hold back their progress to slaughter.
i. Those who are drawn toward death: “These could be literal prisoners who have been (presumably wrongfully) condemned to die. The reader is to take extraordinary measures to secure their release (a dramatic modern example would be the extermination of the Jews in Europe during the Second World War). Alternatively, these are people stumbling toward death because of their moral and spiritual blindness.” (Garrett)
ii. The story of Esther is one wonderful example of someone who did deliver those who are drawn towards death. Esther’s courage saved her people, even when it would have been easy for her to ignore her duty.
b. Surely we did not know this: We shouldn’t be indifferent towards those headed toward death. Since they often reject God’s wisdom and are hostile, it is easy to give up on them or ignore them. Yet God, He who weighs the hearts, does know and consider this.
i. “We cannot ignore the evil around us, and say we are not responsible for it. We cannot shut our eyes and avert our faces from wrongdoing, and tyranny, and oppression.” (Meyer)
c. Will He not render to each man according to his deeds: God will make the fool to answer for his folly, but he will also cause the indifferent one to answer for their lack of care. God will render to each man according to his deeds.
i. Render to each man according to his deeds: “God will certainly deal with thee as thou hast dealt with him, either rewarding thy performance of this duty, or punishing thy neglect of it.” (Poole)
ii. “The omniscient and omnipotent Sovereign will act justly, unlike the passive coward. If the son turns a blind eye to helping victims and does nothing to help them, the Protector of Life will turn a blind eye to him in his crisis. Count on it!” (Waltke)
7. (13-14) The sweetness of wisdom.
My son, eat honey because it is good,
And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste;
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul;
If you have found it, there is a prospect,
And your hope will not be cut off.
a. My son, eat honey because it is good: Eating honey is rewarded by the sweetness of the taste. It is easy to understand the reward of the honeycomb.
i. “The proverb draws on the image of honey; its health-giving properties make a good analogy to wisdom.” (Ross)
ii. “Right behavior is not recommended solely on the grounds of austere morality but also because it is the best route to sheer pleasure and the fulfillment of dreams.” (Garrett)
b. So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul: The gaining of wisdom rewards the life the way the sweetness of taste is the reward of honey. We should learn to discern and appreciate the sweetness of wisdom. Once we appreciate the reward of wisdom, our hope will not be cut off.
i. If you have found it: “Whereby he implies that there is indeed some difficulty and trouble in the pursuit of wisdom, but that it is abundantly compensated with the sweetness and advantage of it when a man arrives at it.” (Poole)
8. (15-16) The resilience of the righteous.
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not plunder his resting place;
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again,
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.
a. Do not plunder his resting place: This proverb presents its wisdom in the form of a command to the wicked man, telling him to not rob or plunder the home of the righteous man.
b. For a righteous man may fall seven times, and rise again: The reason why the wicked man should not rob the righteous is that in the end, the righteousman will not be defeated. Even when he may fall – even seven times! – he shall rise again.
i. Many commentators insist that the fall that a righteous man may experience here is trouble, not sin. There is no adequate reason why it cannot include both ideas.
ii. “Though God permit the hand of violence sometimes to spoil his tent, temptations to assail his mind, and afflictions to press down his body, he constantly emerges; and every time he passes through the furnace, he comes out brighter and more refined.” (Clarke)
c. And rise again: This should not only give warning to the wicked, but also assurance to the righteous. The righteous can be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). They can use that confidence to strengthen their resolve to never give up, even though they may fall seven times.
i. “The real power to stand up against life, to profit by its buffetings, to make capital out of its disadvantages, to collect tribute from its tribulations, is that of the righteousness of conduct which results from walking in the ways of wisdom, by yielding to the inspiration and authority of the fear of Jehovah.” (Morgan)
d. But the wicked shall fall by calamity: The wicked have a different destiny than the righteous. God will protect and preserve His righteous ones, but the wicked shall fall and stay fallen.
i. “Conversely, the wicked will not survive—without God they have no power to rise from misfortune. The point then is that ultimately the righteous will triumph and those who oppose them will stumble over their evil.” (Ross)
9. (17-18) Don’t rejoice in the tragic destiny of the wicked.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.
a. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls: Knowing this, we should not rejoice when one falls. It should not make our heart be glad. David did not rejoice when Saul died in battle (2 Samuel 1:11-12).
i. “Caesar wept when Pompey’s head was presented to him, and said, Victoriam volui, non vindictam [something like, I wanted victory, not revenge].” (Trapp)
b. Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him: If God sees our rejoicing over the fall of the wicked, He may turn away His wrath from the wicked man just to rebuke our proud, unloving heart against the wicked man.
i. “So if we want God to continue his anger on the wicked, we better not gloat.” (Ross)
10. (19-20) Don’t let the wicked make you worry.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the wicked;
For there will be no prospect for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
a. Do not fret because of evildoers: Proverbs 24:1 told us to not be envious of evil men; here we are told to also not worry (fret) because of them, as well as to not to be envious of the wicked.
i. “The translation ‘Do not fret’ is too mild. ‘Do not get yourself infuriated over evildoers’ is more accurate. Those who love the truth are naturally enraged by the effrontery of those who promote or practice godless behavior.” (Garrett)
b. The lamp of the wicked will be put out: This speaks of death waiting for the evil man both in this life and the next. Any good or pleasure they experience in this life is the best they will ever have or experience. The wicked man has no prospect for the future.
i. The lamp of the wicked will be put out: “Keeping the extinction of their lamp in view will extinguish burning envy.” (Waltke)
ii. “Sometimes people are bold enough to snuff out their own candle. ‘I give,’ said the godless Hobbes, ‘my body to the dust, and my soul to the Great Perhaps. I am going to take a leap in the dark.’ Alas, was it not a leap into darkness forever?” (Bridges)
iii. “Some have thought that this text intimates the annihilation of sinners; but it refers not to being, but to the state or condition of that being. The wicked shall be; but they shall not be HAPPY.” (Clarke)
11. (21-22) Respect for God and king.
My son, fear the LORD and the king;
Do not associate with those given to change;
For their calamity will rise suddenly,
And who knows the ruin those two can bring?
a. Fear the LORD and the king: Wisdom tells us to fear the LORD, but it is also wisdom to fear…the king. Earthly rulers deserve our respect and honor (Romans 13:1-7).
i. “He puts God before the king, because God is to be served in the first place, and our obedience is to be giver, to kings only in subordination to God, and not in those things which are contrary to the will and command of God, as is manifest both from plain Scripture, as Acts 5:29, and from the judgment and practice of wise and sober heathens.” (Poole)
b. Do not associate with those given to change: Those who want to overthrow or change the present system must take great care. The revolutionary often finds that theircalamity will rise suddenly, and they can bring great ruin in their revolution.
i. “People should fear both God and the government, for both punish rebels.” (Ross)
ii. Those given to change: “Such were Korah and his complices; Absalom; Sheba; the ten tribes that cried, Alleys iugum, Ease our yoke; and before them, those in Samuel’s time that cried, ‘Nay, but we will have a king.’” (Trapp)
B. Further sayings of the wise.
1. (23-25) The importance of true justice.
These things also belong to the wise:
It is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse;
Nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them.
a. These things also belong to the wise: The series of 30 words of the wise ended at Proverbs 24:22. Here, until the end of Proverbs 24, is a set of additional sayings of the wise.
b. It is not good to show partiality in judgment: Whether it is in the formal court of law on in daily interactions, we should never make judgment simply on the basis of partiality. Those like us can be wrong, and those different from us can be right.
i. To show partiality in judgment: “Heb., To know faces; to regard not so much the matter as the man; to hear persons speak, and not causes; to judge not according to truth and equity, but according to opinion and appearance – to fear or favour.” (Trapp)
c. You are righteous: This is what should not be said to the wicked. In a wise, moral society the people will curse someone with such confused moral judgment, and the nations will abhor him.
i. It is a mark of the folly of our present age that many monstrous examples of evil or wickedness today are told, “You are righteous.” This proverb describes the working of a culture wiser than our present culture.
d. Those who rebuke the wicked will have delight: Evil should be addressed and rebuked. We should not romanticize or excuse the wicked.
2. (26) The beauty of a right response.
He who gives a right answer kisses the lips.
a. He who gives a right answer: The proper response to a question or a difficult problem is always welcome to the wise. We think of the many occasions when Jesus Christ was presented with difficult questions yet always gave a right answer.
i. “Note the paradox, that a proper forthrightness, costly though it may seem, wins gratitude, and has its special charm.” (Kidner)
b. Kisses the lips: The right answer comes from the lips, just like a friendly and welcoming kiss.
i. “Shall treat him with affection and respect.” (Clarke)
ii. “The symbol of specifically kissing on the lips is mentioned only here in the Bible. Herodotus (History 1.134) shows that among the Persians this was a sign of true friendship. The metaphor signifies that friendship is characterized by truth.” (Ross)
3. (27) Order your work wisely.
Prepare your outside work,
Make it fit for yourself in the field;
And afterward build your house.
a. Prepare your outside work: The idea is that before a house is built, proper preparations must be made. The field and the ground must be readied. Wisdom tells us that work should be done with proper planning and in the proper order.
i. Outside work: “This would include plowing the land, planting gardens and orchards, so that it produces its fruit.” (Waltke)
ii. “Do nothing without a plan. In winter prepare seed, implements, tackle, gears, &c., for seed-time and harvest.” (Clarke)
b. Afterward build your house: Some want to skip right away to the building without preparing the field. This foolishness will not be blessed. Do the preparation work first, and then afterward build your house.
i. “It emphasizes the practical rule of producing before consuming, a rule the slothful do not accept.” (Garrett)
ii. “Preparations for Solomon’s magnificent temple were made before his house was built. The spiritual house is similarly made of materials that have been prepared and fitted and so grow into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21–22).” (Bridges)
iii. “As, in a rural economy, well-worked fields justify and nourish the farmhouse, so a well-ordered life (in things material and immaterial) should be established before marriage.” (Kidner)
4. (28-29) The importance of speaking the truth about others.
Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
For would you deceive with your lips?
Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work.”
a. Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause: We should only speak against someone if there is good and righteous cause to do so. We often speak ill of others to entertain others, and ourselves – this is sin.
i. “Profit is the bait to the thief, lust to the adulterer, revenge to the murderer. But it is difficult to say what advantage the witness gains from testifying against his neighbor. The allurement of this sin is the same as Satan himself feels—that is, the love of sin for its own sake.” (Bridges)
b. Would you deceive with your lips? When we speak against others without cause, we usually exaggerate or color the truth, making it a deception.
c. I will do to him just as he has done to me: This is what wisdom and grace tell us not to say. We should not return evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Just because someone has spoken evil or lies against us does not mean that we should speak evil and lies against them.
i. “According to the Bible, an injured party must love his neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and commit the injustice to the sublime God and his elect magistrate to adjudicate.” (Waltke)
ii. “Nothing is more natural than revenge of wrongs, and the world approves it as right temper, true touch, as to put up wrongs is held cowardice and unmanliness. But we have not so learned Christ.” (Trapp)
5. (30-34) The tragedy of the lazy man.
I went by the field of the lazy man,
And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;
And there it was, all overgrown with thorns;
Its surface was covered with nettles;
Its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest;
So shall your poverty come like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
a. There it was, all overgrown with thorns: This is what the wise man saw when he looked at the field or the vineyard of the lazy man. The lazy man did not plant the thorns or nettles, and he did not deliberately break down the stone wall. Yet his laziness made these things happen just as much as if he had deliberately done them.
i. “Isaiah 28:24–29 describes how careful, industrious field-work looks.” (Waltke)
b. When I saw it, I considered it well: The wise man learned from the tragedy of the lazy man. He didn’t have to suffer the same things the lazy man did to learn the lesson. This is one of the marks of wisdom.
i. “The anecdote invites the reader to recall similar observations of homes in disrepair and to draw the same conclusions even while participating in the poet’s disgust over the shameful condition of the lackadaisical man’s home.” (Garrett)
c. A little sleep, a little slumber: This is how the lazy man rationalizes his neglect of duty. “A little sleep causes no harm; surely we all need a little slumber.” The problem isn’t the sleep of the lazy man; it is his neglect of duty.
i. “Rest assured of that; the best will become the worse if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to produce evil. If you want to know the way of salvation I must take some pains to tell you; but if you want to know the way to be lost, my reply is easy; for it is only a matter of negligence.” (Spurgeon)
d. So shall your poverty come like a prowler: This is the destiny of the lazy man or woman. Because of their sinful neglect, poverty will come upon them as suddenly, as strongly, and as unwelcomed as an armed man. In this case the lazy man thinks himself innocent because he did not deliberately, actively sow the thorns or break the wall, but his neglect of duty did them – and he is without excuse.
i. “But let us look at the spiritual sluggard. If a neglected field is a melancholy sight, what is a neglected soul! Such a soul, when it is left to its own barrenness, instead of being sown with the seeds of grace becomes overgrown with thorns and nettles.” (Bridges)
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