Proverbs 31 – The Wisdom of King Lemuel
A. Wisdom from King Lemuel.
1. (1) The wisdom of King Lemuel – and his mother.
The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
a. The words of King Lemuel: As with Agur in Proverbs 30, we don’t know anything about King Lemuel. He is not in any recorded list of the kings of Judah or Israel, so he was probably a pagan king who put his trust in Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, and through the fear of the LORD learned wisdom.
i. The name Lemuel means, belonging to God. There was no king of Israel (or Judah) with this name, so either he was a foreign king, or it is a pen name for the author. Several older commentators and Jewish legends often say Lemuel, the one belonging to God, was Solomon himself and his mother was Bathsheba.
ii. “Jewish legend identifies Lemuel as Solomon and the advice as from Bathsheba from a time when Solomon indulged in magic with his Egyptian wife and delayed the morning sacrifices…. But there is no evidence for this.” (Ross)
iii. “There have been many conjectures as to who King Lemuel was, but nothing certainly can be said.” (Morgan)
iv. “There is no evidence whatever that Muel or Lemuel means Solomon; the chapter seems, to be much later than his time, and the several Chaldaisms which occur in the very opening of it are no mean proof of this. If Agur was not the author of it, it may be considered as another supplement to the book of Proverbs. Most certainly Solomon did not write it.” (Clarke)
v. “With a minor punctuation change, however, one may translate Proverbs 31:1a as, ‘The sayings of Lemuel, king of Massa,’ instead of ‘The sayings of King Lemuel—an oracle.’ McKane notes that Massa may have been a north Arabian tribe (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30) and that several Aramaisms appear in the text.” (Garrett)
b. The utterance: Like Solomon (Proverbs 2:6) and Agur (Proverbs 30:1), Lemuel understood that his words were an utterance, a prophecy or revelation, from God.
c. Which his mother taught him: Perhaps like Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) Lemuel had a Jewish mother who taught him the fear of the LORD and God’s wisdom.
2. (2-3) Warning a son of the danger of sexual immorality.
What, my son?
And what, son of my womb?
And what, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.
a. My son…. son of my womb…. son of my vows: King Lemuel’s mother spoke to him with great tenderness, describing her connection with him in three ways. He was her son; but then also the son of her womb, having given birth to him, and finally, he was the son of her vows; her promises and commitments.
i. “There is an ocean of love in a parent’s heart, a fathomless depth of desire after the child’s welfare, in the mother especially.” (Trapp)
ii. Son of my vows: “A child born after vows made for offsprings is called the child of a person’s vows.” (Clarke)
iii. “She traces his close connection to her backward from the present, to his gestation in her womb and to her vows before pregnancy. The latter epithet probably refers to a vow she made that, that if God gave her a son she would dedicate him to live according to God’s wisdom (cf. 1 Samuel 1:11).” (Waltke)
b. Do not give your strength to women: The sense is that an excessive sexual interest in women wastes a man’s strength. This speaks of an unhealthy obsession with romance or sex, which have a proper place in life, but should not be made into a reason for living. The practice of sexual immorality and sex obsession gives away a man’s strength, in the sense of his spiritual strength, his self-respect, his self-control, his example and standing in the community.
i. Of course, it could also be rightly said that in sexual immorality and sex obsession a woman gives away her strength as well, but King Lemuel’s mother spoke this to her son, not directly to her daughter. Both men and women need to remain faithful to God in regard to sex and romance, or they will give away their strength.
ii. “The point of the verse is that while it would be easy for a king to spend his time and energy enjoying women, that would be unwise.” (Ross)
c. Nor your ways to that which destroys kings: Connected with the previous line, it seems that Lemuel’s mother warned him, and us all, against sexual and romantic obsession, something so powerful it destroys kings – even the greatest kings. King Solomon himself was destroyed as he gave his strength to women (1 Kings 11:1-10). Solomon’s father, King David, suffered tragically when he gave his strength to women (2 Samuel 11-12).
i. “Obsession with such women corrupts the king’s sovereign power…. David’s lust for Bathsheba made him callous toward justice and cost Uriah his life, and Solomon’s many sexual partners made him callous toward pure and undefiled religion and incapable of real love. In other words, obsession with women has the effect as obsession with liquor.” (Waltke)
3. (4-7) Warning a son of the danger of alcohol.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.
a. It is not for kings to drink wine: Kings and those who lead should avoid alcohol (intoxicating drink). This idea is repeated three times for emphasis. Though the Bible does see a potential blessing in wine (Psalm 104:15, Proverbs 3:10), it is a dangerous blessing that must be carefully regarded and for many (such as kings and leaders), voluntarily set aside.
i. “The Carthagenians made a law that no magistrate of theirs should drink wine. The Persians permitted their kings to be drunk one day in a year only. Solon made a law at Athens that drunkenness in a prince should be punished with death. See Ecclesiastes 10:16-17.” (Trapp)
b. Lest they drink and forget the law: The responsibilities of a king are so great that it is essential that he not be impaired in his judgment or abilities in any way. This principle is true not only for kings, but for leaders of many types, including and especially those who consider themselves leaders among God’s people today.
i. Pervert the justice of all the afflicted: “Which may easily be done by a drunken judge, because drunkenness deprives a man of the use of reason; by which alone men can distinguish between right and wrong.” (Poole)
c. Give strong drink to him who is perishing: King Lemuel’s mother thought of two more appropriate drinkers rather than the king. First, she thought of the condemned criminal who needs to be numbed by strong drink on his way to execution. Second, she thought of those who are bitter of heart, who could drink and forget his poverty and remember his misery no more. It isn’t that there are no consequences for drinking in these two cases, but that the consequences have little impact in comparison to the king or leader.
i. “We have already seen, that inebriating drinks were mercifully given to condemned criminals, to render them less sensible of the torture they endured in dying. This is what was offered to our Lord; but he refused it.” (Clarke)
ii. “The queen-mother does not recommend a free beer program for the poor or justify its use as an opiate for the masses; her point is simply that the king must avoid drunkenness in order to reign properly.” (Garrett)
d. And remember his misery no more: King Lemuel’s mother understood that strong drink, wine, and other intoxicants take away from a person’s performance and excellence. For this and other reasons, many people – especially those in leadership – should avoid alcohol altogether.
i. “If any man should be wicked enough to draw from it the inference that he would be able to forget his misery and poverty by drinking, he would soon find himself woefully mistaken; for if he had one misery before, he would have ten miseries afterwards; and if he was previously poor, he would be in still greater poverty afterwards. Those who fly to the bottle for consolation might as soon fly to hell to find a heaven; and, instead of helping them to forget their poverty, drunkenness would only sink them still more deeply in the mire.” (Spurgeon)
4. (8-9) Defending the defenseless.
Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
a. Open your mouth for the speechless: The idea is that there are those who can’t speak for themselves, to defend themselves in a court of law or in less formal circumstances. The wise and godly man or woman will speak for the speechless, and take up the cause of the defenseless (those appointed to die).
i. As a unit, Proverbs 31:1-9 raises an important question. Being a leader means some level of position and power. Will you use it indulge yourself (here the indulgence is women and wine, Proverbs 31:3-7), or will you use your position and power to protect and benefit those you lead (as in Proverbs 31:8-9)?
b. Open your mouth, judge righteously: This was especially important for a king like Lemuel, but applies to everyone. If we have the opportunity to right a wrong or see that a wrong is punished, we should speak up (open your mouth) and judge righteously. We should plead the cause of the poor and needy who have trouble properly defending themselves.
i. “It is noteworthy that this is her sole political concern; she does not say anything about building up the treasury, creating monuments to his reign, or establishing a dominant military power. For her the king’s throne is truly founded on righteousness.” (Garrett)
B. Searching for the woman of character and virtue.
The 22 verses (Proverbs 31:10-31) each begin with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This acrostic construction was used in several psalms (such as Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145 and Lamentations 4). The purpose was to make the passage memorable (easier to memorize), and to express poetic skill. This is, “An Alphabet of Wifely Excellence” (Kidner)
“This and the following verses are acrostic, each beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet: Proverbs 31:10, aleph; Proverbs 31:11, beth; Proverbs 31:12, gimel; and so on to the end of the chapter, the last verse of which has the letter tau.” (Clarke)
“The arrangement made memorization easier and perhaps also served to organize the thoughts. We may say, then, that the poem is an organized arrangement of the virtues of the wise wife—the ABC’s of wisdom.” (Ross)
The author of the commentary wishes to thank his wife Inga-Lill for her valuable collaboration on this portion of the commentary.
1. (10) Searching for and finding a virtuous woman and wife.
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
a. Who can find a virtuous wife? In this last section of Proverbs 31, Lemuel’s mother spoke to him about the qualities of a virtuous wife. The following verses speak of her character and activity, giving Lemuel an idea of the woman to search for and to prize. This passage is traditionally understood as being addressed to women but is more accurately spoken by a woman to a man so he could know the character and potential character of a good wife before marriage, and value and praise his wife for her virtuous character once married. It is primarily a search-list for a man, and only secondarily a check-list for a woman.
· This passage describes the kind of wife the Christian man should pray for and seek after.
· This passage gives a guide, a goal for the Christian woman, showing the kind of character she can have as she fears and follows the Lord.
· This passage reminds the Christian man that he must walk in the fear and wisdom of God so that he will be worthy of and compatible with such a virtuous woman.
b. A virtuous wife: She is called a virtuous wife, not because only married women can have these qualities, but because this is marriage guidance from a mother to a son. The virtuous woman can be single or married, but each will have particular ways the virtue is expressed, either in their singleness or as family.
i. Waltke calls this woman the valiant wife, and notes that eseth hayil [virtuous wife] is translated as the excellent wife of Proverbs 12:4. The term is also applied to men and translated mighty men of valor in 2 Kings 24:14, competent men in Genesis 47:6, able men in Exodus 18:21.
ii. “She is a virtuous woman – a woman of power and strength. Esheth chayil, a strong or virtuous wife, full of mental energy.” (Clarke)
iii. “The vocabulary and the expressions in general have the ring of an ode to a champion.” (Ross) What this woman has did not simply fall to her; it is her victory through wisdom, her hard-won reward. The battle or military allusions are many, including:
· Virtuous wife is the same expression translated mighty man of valor in Judges (as in Judges 6:12).
· The word strength in Proverbs 31:17 is used in other places for great and heroic victories (as in Exodus 15:2 and 1 Samuel 2:10).
· The word gain in Proverbs 31:11 is actually the word for plunder (as in Isaiah 8:1 and 8:3).
· The expression excel them all in Proverbs 31:29 “is an expression that signifies victory.” (Ross)
iv. The qualities of this virtuous wife as described in Proverbs 31:11-31 are often mentioned in previous proverbs. As a whole, the proverbs have much to say about wisdom, a diligent work ethic, wise business practices, honorable speech, compassion for the poor, and integrity. Here those same qualities are explained in connection to a virtuous wife. Coming at the end of the collection of proverbs, one might say that this is a strong woman – and her greatest strength is her wisdom, rooted in the fear of the LORD.
c. Her worth is far above rubies: Precious gems like rubies are both valued and rare. In a sense, the complete profile of the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is an ideal goal, much as the listing of the character of the godly man for leadership in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. It would be rare to find a woman who excels in every aspect of the list, so it should not be used to compare or condemn, either one’s self or another woman. Rather, this character should reflect the values and aspirations of the woman who walks in the fear of the LORD and godly wisdom.
i. Rubies: “The precise meaning of the word translated ‘rubies’ is unknown; other suggested translations are ‘pearls’ and ‘corals.’ The reference is to some kind of precious stone.” (Garrett)
d. Her worth is far above rubies: The woman described in the rest of the chapter is rare and valuable, but her value (worth) is greater than what she does, as explained in the following verses. Her value or worth should not be reduced to the performance of these qualities; she will be virtuous before she acts in a virtuous manner.
i. Her worth is far above rubies: Wisdom itself is also described as being more valuable than rubies (as in Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11). This is one reason why some think this description of the virtuous wife in Proverbs is more a poetic description of wisdom as woman (as in Proverbs 1:20-33 and 7:4-5). “Since it is essentially about wisdom, its lessons are for both men and women to develop. The passage teaches that the fear of the Lord will inspire people to be faithful stewards of the time and talents that God has given; that wisdom is productive and beneficial for others, requiring great industry in life’s endeavors; that wisdom is best taught and lived in the home.” (Ross)
2. (11-12) Her relationship with her husband.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
a. The heart of her husband safely trusts her: The virtuous wife not only has the trust of her husband, but it is safely given to her. Her character is trustworthy, filled with integrity. She will speak, act, and live with wisdom – and therefore God’s blessing will be on their home (he will have no lack of gain). A foolish woman, who can’t be trusted, takes some measure of blessing away from the home, and this is often seen financially or materially.
i. “But in the whole delineation there is hardly any trait more beautiful than this—absolute trustworthiness…he seeks her confidence and advice. He has no fear of her betraying his secrets. He can safely trust her.” (Meyer)
ii. “He is confident of her love, care, and fidelity. He dare trust her with his soulsecrets, etc.; he doubteth not of her chastity, secrecy, or care to keep his family.” (Trapp)
iii. “Outside of this text and Judges 20:36, Scripture condemns trust in anyone or anything apart from…the Lord…. This present exception elevates the valiant wife, who herself fears the Lord, to the highest level of spiritual and physical competence.” (Waltke)
iv. “The greatest gift of God is a pious amiable spouse who fears God and loves his house, and with whom one can live in perfect confidence.” (Martin Luther’s description of his wife, cited in Bridges)
b. He will have no lack of gain: Some think a wife is a burden or hindrance to gain and a better life. This is not so in God’s plan and with the presence and influence of a virtuous wife. She brings gain to her husband on many levels, and in great measure (no lack).
i. Gain“usually means ‘plunder’; the point may be that the gain will be as rich and bountiful as the spoils of war.” (Ross)
c. She does him good and not evil: Several previous proverbs explained the bad effect of a bad wife. The opposite is also true; a virtuous wife does her husband good and not evil, and she continues being a blessing all the days of her life. The sense is that her goodness and faithful character becomes deeper and greater through the passing years.
i. All the days of her life: “Her good is not capricious; it is constant and permanent, while she and her husband live.” (Clarke)
ii. “Her commitment to her husband’s well being is true, not false; constant, not temperamental; reliable, not fickle.” (Waltke)
3. (13-16) Her work and ingenuity.
She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
a. She seeks wool and flax: Using wonderful poetic images, King Lemuel’s mother described not the résumé of a godly woman, but life-like examples of the busy, hard-working, and creative character of the virtuous wife. A woman who felt burdened to complete each of these tasks in a day, week, or even month would be exhausted and probably discouraged. Yet the character poetically described can be evident in a wise and godly woman’s life in its own way.
i. The flurry of activity described in these verses doesn’t mean that she does all these things in a day or even a week, but it does point to how much work and how many different kinds of work are involved in wisely and properly managing a home. Women today can take comfort and confidence in God’s recognition here of just how big their job is.
b. She seeks wool and flax: The virtuous woman knows how to seek and find things that are necessary resources for her family and home.
c. Willingly works with her hands: The virtuous wife is not proud or haughty and does not think that working with her hands is beneath her. She works in simple and practical ways for her family and home.
i. “In an age long before the industrial revolution, women had to work at spinning wool and making clothes in every spare moment; fidelity in this labor was a mark of feminine virtue.” (Garrett)
ii. Yet, what sets this virtuous wife apart is that she willingly works. “And all her labour is a cheerful service; her will, her heart, is in it.” (Clarke)
d. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar: The virtuous wife provides food for her family and home after the pattern of a merchant ship, which operates with regularity and effort. If required, she even rises while it is yet night to either get or prepare food for her household.
i. “The simile with the merchant ships suggests that she brings a continual supply of abundance.” (Ross)
e. And a portion for her maidservants: It wasn’t uncommon for many families in Biblical times to have servants or hired workers. The virtuous wife wisely manages and cares for such maidservants, showing her compassion and care even beyond her immediate family.
i. “This implies first that she cares even for the serving girls and second that she is diligent about overseeing them.” (Garrett)
f. She considers a field and buys it: The virtuous wife is forward thinking, combining her creativity with hard work. She thoughtfully (considers) invests and uses the profits to better her family and their future, in this case by planting a vineyard.
i. Isaiah 5:2 describes all that was involved in planting a vineyard in ancient Israel and making it productive. It was a lot of work.
ii. “She does not restrict herself to the bare necessaries of life; she is able to procure some of its comforts. She plants a vineyard, that she may have wine for a beverage, for medicine, and for sacrifice. This also is procured of her own labour.” (Clarke)
4. (17-20) Her strength and compassion.
She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
a. She girds herself with strength: The virtuous wife is noted for her strength, and it is strength in action (her arms). She uses her strength for productive purpose.
i. The idea of “girding” one’s self – setting a strengthening belt around the midsection – “means to get ready for some ‘kind of heroic or difficult action,’ such as hard running (1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29), escape from Egypt (Exodus 12:11), or physical labor (Proverbs 31:17).” (Waltke)
ii. “She takes care of her own health and strength, not only by means of useful labour, but by healthy exercise. She avoids what might enervate her body, or soften her mind-she is ever active, and girt ready for every necessary exercise. Her loins are firm, and her arms strong.” (Clarke)
b. She perceives that her merchandise is good: She is wise and experienced enough to get good materials and merchandise for her home. Her wisdom teaches her to buy oil for her lamp, of such quality that it burns through the night and does not go out.
i. “She takes care to manufacture the best articles of the kind, and to lay on a reasonable price that she may secure a ready sale. Her goods are in high repute, and she knows she can sell as much as she can make. And she finds that while she pleases her customers, she increases her own profits.” (Clarke)
c. She stretches out her hands to the distaff: The virtuous wife knows how to use the tools and technology available to manage the home well. The distaff is a stick or spindle onto which wool or flax is wound for spinning, and she uses both hands to do the work well.
i. “The ‘distaff’ is the straight rod, and the ‘spindle’ is the round or circular part.” (Ross)
ii. “The spindle and distaff are the most ancient of all the instruments used for spinning, or making thread. The spinning-wheel superseded them in these countries; but still they were in considerable use till spinning machinery superseded both them and the spinning-wheels in general.” (Clarke)
iii. “Sarah (Genesis 18:6-8), Rebekah (Genesis 24:18-20) and Rachel (Genesis 29:9, 10) show that women of high social rank and wealth were not above manual, even menial, labor.” (Waltke)
d. She extends her hand to the poor: The virtuous wife is much more than a skillful manager or homemaker; she is also a woman of great compassion. She cares for and helps both the poor and the needy, doing more than throwing money to them, but she actually draws near to them and extends her hand and reaches out to those in need.
i. Her hard work was not only for her own needs and the needs of her family; she also worked to help the poor and the needy. “This was the hand that was diligently at work in the previous verse with an acquired skill; it is not the hand of a lazy, wealthy woman. She uses her industry in charitable ways.” (Ross)
5. (21-23) God’s blessing on the virtuous wife.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
a. She is not afraid of snow for her household: The virtuous wife has the wisdom, diligence, and preparation to ready her household for all kinds of challenges and adversity. Her fear of the LORD, and the wisdom that flows from it, invites God’s blessing, even being able to clothe all her household in prestigious scarlet.
i. “She hath provided enough, not only for their necessity and defence against cold and other inconveniences, which is here supposed, but also for their delight and ornament.” (Poole)
b. Her household is clothed in scarlet: Some wonder why scarlet clothing would be connected to the fact that she is not afraid of snow for her household. It has been suggested that the scarlet color of the clothing makes her children easy to find in heavy snow, but given the relatively light snowfall in that part of the world, this is unlikely. It is possible that this does not describe a color, but doubly thick garments.
i. “The word has a plural ending, which is abnormal for ‘scarlet’; so that both form and sense arouse suspicion. The consonants allow the reading double…i.e. double thickness, which is supported by Vulgate and Septuagint.” (Kidner)
ii. “But shanim, from shanah, to iterate, to double, signifies not only scarlet, so called from being twice or doubly dyed, but also double garments, not only the ordinary coat but the surtout or great-coat also, or a cloak to cover all. But most probably double garments, or twofold to what they were accustomed to wear, are here intended.” (Clarke)
c. She makes a tapestry for herself: With God’s blessing on her wisdom and diligence, the virtuous wife makes good things for herself and enjoys personal marks of God’s material blessing on her family (her clothing is fine linen and purple).
i. Purple: “To produce this red dye was costly because it comes from a seashell off the Phoenician coast and so connotes wealth and luxury.” (Waltke)
ii. “Clothe yourselves with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, with the purple of modesty, etc. See 1 Peter 3:3-4.” (Trapp)
d. Her husband is known in the gates: The virtuous wife sees such a blessing on her family and household that her husband is also esteemed and honored among the elders of the land. All this is the blessing of God that often comes to the wife who walks in virtue, wisdom, and the fear of the LORD.
i. “She is a loving wife, and feels for the respectability and honour of her husband…. He is respected not only on account of the neatness and cleanliness of his person and dress, but because he is the husband of a woman who is justly held in universal esteem. And her complete management of household affairs gives him full leisure to devote himself to the civil interests of the community.” (Clarke)
6. (24-25) The clothing she sells and the clothing she has.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
a. She makes linen garments and sells them: The wisdom and diligence of the virtuous wife leads her to not only provide the necessities for her family, but she makes enough and of such great quality that she sells those necessities to the sellers (the merchants). She cares deeply for her family, but her mind and vision go beyond them to the outside world where she does good for herself and her family.
i. “The poet did not think it strange or unworthy for a woman to engage in honest trade. In fact, weaving of fine linens was a common trade for women in Palestine from antiquity.” (Ross)
b. Strength and honor are her clothing: The fact that she is willing to distribute and sell linen garments she makes, and has, shows that her first priority isn’t in what is in her closet or what she wears. She cares even more about the display of her character than the outward display of her clothing. When it comes to character, she is one of the best dressed, clothed with strength and honor, so that she shall rejoice not only in the present day, but also in time to come.
i. Strength and honor: “The praise of the woman can hardly be higher: it attributes to her the advantages of both youth and old age (i.e., ‘power and splendor,’ Proverbs 20:29).” (Waltke)
7. (26-27) Her inner life.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
a. She opens her mouth with wisdom: The description of her inner life continues from the previous verse. The virtuous wife has what is often described and valued in the Book of Proverbs – wise speech and words that show the law of kindness. Both her deliberate speech (she opens her mouth) and her spontaneous words (on her tongue) are marked by wisdom and kindness.
i. “She is neither sullenly silent, nor full of vain and impertinent talk, as many women are, but speaks directly and piously, as occasion offereth itself.” (Poole)
ii. “Tatianus tells us that in the primitive Church every age and sex among the Christians were Christian philosophers; yea, that the very virgins and maids, as they sat at their work in wool, were wont to speak of God’s word.” (Trapp)
iii. In her tongue is the law of kindness: “This is the most distinguishing excellence of this woman. There are very few of those who are called managing women who are not lords over their husbands, tyrants over their servants, and insolent among their neighbours. But this woman, with all her eminence and excellence, was of a meek and quiet spirit. Blessed woman!” (Clarke)
iv. “Specifically loving teaching (torat hesed) is on her tongue (al lesonah, see Proverbs 21:23) probably signifies that her teaching is informed by her own loving kindness.” (Waltke)
b. She watches over the ways of her household: As a faithful guardian, the virtuous wife is observant of her family and their ways. The choice to watch so carefully means that she does not choose to eat the bread of idleness.
i. “She hath an oar in every boat, an eye in every business; she spies and pries into her children’s and servants’ carriages, and exacts of them strict conversation and growth in godliness: she overlooks the whole family no otherwise than if she were in a watch tower.” (Trapp)
ii. “Here the text explicitly states that she avoids laziness; eating the ‘bread of idleness’ is idiomatic for indulging in laziness.” (Garrett)
8. (28-29) Her family’s public praise.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
a. Her children rise up and call her blessed: A woman of such character and wisdom rightfully receives the blessings and praises of her family. Both her children and her husband not only see, but also speak of the blessedness of the woman who brings such blessing to their household. This is not only a description of the virtuous wife, but also an exhortation to children and a husband to bless and praise the mother and wife of godly character.
i. “Her children are well bred [polite]; they rise up and pay due respect.” (Clarke)
b. Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all: These are the words of the husband as he praises his wife, with words that encourage, reward, and nourish her. In a completely literal sense, this could only be true of one woman in any given community at any given time. Yet, we perfectly understand the sense of this. Every home can have a wife and mother that does excel them all; every husband can legitimately feel “I’ve got the best wife” and children feel, “We have the best mom.”
i. In his remarks on this verse, Adam Clarke thought of a woman who perhaps truly did excel them all – Susanna Wesley. “But high as the character of this Jewish matron stands in the preceding description, I can say that I have met at least her equal, in a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Annesly, the wife of Samuel Wesley, rector of Epworth in Lincolnshire, and mother of the late extraordinary brothers, John and Charles Wesley. I am constrained to add this testimony, after having traced her from her birth to her death, through all the relations that a woman can bear upon earth. Her Christianity gave to her virtues and excellences a heightening, which the Jewish matron could not possess. Besides, she was a woman of great learning and information, and of a depth of mind, and reach of thought, seldom to be found among the daughters of Eve, and not often among the sons of Adam.”
9. (30-31) The praise and the reward of the wise woman.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
a. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing: King Lemuel’s mother noted the passing nature of outer beauty and the deceitful nature of manipulative charm. In contrast, a woman who fears the LORD has beauty that does not pass and charm that does not deceive.
i. Charm is deceitful: “Because it gives a false representation of the person, being ofttimes a cover to a most deformed soul, and to many evil and hateful qualities.” (Poole)
ii. “Physical appearance is not necessarily dismissed—it simply does not endure as do those qualities that the fear of the Lord produces…one who pursues beauty may very well be disappointed by the character of the ‘beautiful’ person.” (Ross)
iii. “Charm and beauty are not bad; they simply are inadequate reasons to marry a girl. The young man should first seek a woman who fears the Lord. And whoever finds such a woman should make sure that her gifts and accomplishments do not go unappreciated.” (Garrett)
b. A woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised: Proverbs begins with a strong connection between wisdom and the fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:7). Here the collection ends describing the virtuous wife as filled with the wisdom, beauty, and charm that marks a woman who fears the LORD.
i. The fact that she truly fears the LORD shows that she had a real relationship with Him. She was not only a Martha, busy with service; she was also Mary, walking in fear and reverence toward the LORD.
ii. She – the woman who fears the LORD – has the character of the virtuous wife. The way the character is expressed will differ according to time and culture, but the character itself is universal. God honors the virtuous wife, the woman of wisdom and diligence, and makes her one of the greatest blessings given to humanity.
iii. “By definition, the fear of the Lord means in part living according to the wisdom revealed in this book. This woman’s itemized, self-sacrificing activities for others exemplify the fear of the Lord.” (Waltke)
iv. “Coming at the end of the poem, and of the book, this pinpoints the organizing factor in this brilliant woman’s universe. It is her fear of Yahweh that enables her to see that real greatness will come to her, not through self-centered aggressiveness, and not through merely external beauty, but through godly devotion and the wholehearted commitment to God’s creational intention for her.” (Philips)
c. Give her the fruit of her hands: This virtuous woman will be rewarded by the God she fears and rewarded by what she has accomplished for her family and herself, as they publicly speak of her godliness and wisdom (let her own works praise her in the gates). For the woman (and man) of wisdom, this reward is not their primary motivation, but the fitting result of their life lived in fear of the LORD.
i. The fruit of her hands: “She is no less than Woman Wisdom made real. The riches Woman Wisdom offers (Proverbs 8:18) are brought home by the hard work of the good wife (Proverbs 31:11).” (Garrett)
ii. “It is but just and fit that she should enjoy those benefits and praises which her excellent labours deserve…. If men be silent, the lasting effects of her prudence and diligence will loudly trumpet forth her praises.” (Poole)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Proverbs 30 – The Wisdom of Agur
A. Agur the man.
1. (1) The words of Agur.
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, his utterance. This man declared to Ithiel—to Ithiel and Ucal:
a. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh: Proverbs 30 is a collection of wisdom from a man known only to this chapter of the Bible. When the men of Hezekiah gathered additional material for Proverbs (Proverbs 25:1), they added these words of Agur. We have no other mention of Agur the son of Jakeh.
i. Solomon wasn’t the only man of wisdom in his day or afterward. Other men of wisdom beside Solomon are described in 1 Kings 4:30-31.
ii. Some think that Agur is another name for Solomon (Ross says the Jewish Midrash asserts this) but this is unlikely. “From this introduction, from the names here used, and from the style of the book, it appears evident that Solomon was not the author of this chapter; and that it was designed to be distinguished from his work by this very preface, which specifically distinguishes it from the preceding work…I believe Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal, to be the names of persons who did exist, but of whom we know nothing but what is here mentioned. Agur seems to have been a public teacher, and Ithiel and Ucal to have been his scholars.” (Clarke)
iii. “Nothing definite is known about the writers, and it is vain to speculate where God is silent. It is much better to give our full attention to the teaching than to indulge in unprofitable speculation about the writers.” (Bridges)
b. His utterance: This has the sense of a prophetic word, inspired by God. Like Solomon earlier in the book (Proverbs 2:6), Agur understood that his words here came from God.
i. The wisdom of Agur in Proverbs 30 is filled with observations on life and the natural world. Agur is one “inviting us to look again at our world with the eye of a man of faith who is an artist and an observer of character. Cf. the words of the Psalmist: ‘I muse on the work of thy hands’ (Psalm 143:5).” (Kidner)
c. This man declared to Ithiel: These proverbs are wisdom sayings that Agur spoke to two other men, Ithiel and Ucal. Again, we have no other mention of these men in the rest of the Bible.
i. Some interpreters (such as Trapp) have thought that the names Ithiel and Ucal were symbolic, hidden references to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. This is unlikely. “Ithiel, which signifies God with me, and answers to Immanuel, which is God with us; and Ucal, which signifies power or prevalency. But if he had meant this of Christ, why should he design him such obscure and ambiguous names, as if he would not be understood?” (Poole)
2. (2-3) Agur’s humble introduction.
Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And do not have the understanding of a man.
I neither learned wisdom
Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.
a. Surely I am more stupid than any man: Many previous proverbs teach that humility is an essential aspect of wisdom. Here, with poetic exaggeration, Agur declared his own limitations when it comes to understanding and wisdom. David said, I was like a beast before you (Psalm 73:22). Job spoke of man, who is a worm (Job 25:6).
i. I neither learned wisdom: “I have not been taught in the schools of wisdom, as the sons of prophets were, but must own myself to be an unlearned man, as the prophet Amos was, Amos 7:14-15.” (Poole)
ii. “Philosophy had failed him, and revelation was his sole confidence.” (Spurgeon)
b. Nor have knowledge of the Holy One: Agur was also careful not to boast of his spiritual knowledge. He brings his lesson to us with great humility, not from a position of superiority.
i. “Earthbound mortals cannot find transcendent wisdom apart from the transcendent Lord. Real wisdom must find its starting point in God’s revelation; in his light, we see light.” (Waltke)
B. Agur’s wisdom
1. (4) Man’s humble place before God.
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?
a. Who has ascended into heaven: In a section that sounds much like Job 38-39, Agur called men and women to understand their limitations in understanding God and His creation. The wise and humble answer to each of these questions is, God, and not man.
i. “Where is there a man that can do this? And none but he who made and governs all the creatures can know and teach these things.” (Poole)
b. What is His name, and what is His Son’s name: After challenging his readers regarding the natural world, Agur finished with a challenge regarding man’s limitations in spiritual knowledge. One can only know what is His name (God’s nature, character) and His Son’s name by God’s own revelation. In all these things, we humbly depend on God’s revelation for our knowledge.
c. His Son’s name: Agur knew there was something special about the Son of God. We don’t know to what extent he prophetically anticipated the Messiah, God the Son, Jesus Christ – but Agur knew that God had a Son, and the Son had a name.
i. “The Christian interpreter, however, cannot but think of the Son of God here and recall that he came down from above to reveal the truth to his people (John 3:31-33). Also, since ‘God’ is the only possible answer to the questions here, it is striking that the text speaks of his ‘son.’” (Garrett)
2. (5-6) The purity, strength, and integrity of God’s word.
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
a. Every word of God is pure: Agur valued and explained the purity of God’s word. It is all good and all helpful, being completely pure. Because it is pure it can and should be trusted.
i. Every word of God is pure: “A metaphor taken from the purifying of metals. Every thing that God has pronounced, every inspiration which the prophets have received, is pure, without mixture of error, without dross. Whatever trials it may be exposed to, it is always like gold: it bears the fire, and comes out with the same lustre, the same purity, and the same weight.” (Clarke)
ii. “Nothing is learned solidly by abstract speculation. Go to the Book. Here all is light and purity. While the secret things belong to the Lord our God, yet the things that are revealed are our holy directory.” (Bridges)
b. He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him: In the context of writing about God’s word, Agur explained that God is a shield. The sense is that God gives His pure word to protect His people if they will use the wisdom and encouragement of His word to put their trust in Him. Additionally, a shield is something we trust, and if we wisely trust God and His revelation of Himself in His word, He will protect us.
i. It isn’t enough to know every word of God is pure if you don’t take the next step and trust Him as your shield. “Notice (Proverbs 30:5b) that the aim of revelation is to promote trust, not bare knowledge, and trust that goes behind the words to the Speaker.” (Kidner)
c. Do not add to His words: God’s word needs no addition or improvement from us. We don’t need to take away from His words or add to His words (as in Revelation 22:18-19). If we do, we are targets of God’s rebuke and will be exposed as liars. If we say something different than God’s word, then He is right and we are wrong. He tells the truth and we will be found a liar.
i. “The temptation is to improve on the text if not by actually adding new material then by interpreting it in ways that make more of a passage’s teaching than is really there. It is what Paul called ‘going beyond what is written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6).” (Garrett)
ii. “Such add to God’s word as wrest it and rack it; making it speak that which it never thought; causing it to go two miles where it would go but one; gnawing and tawing it to their own purposes, as the shoemaker taws upper leather with his teeth.” (Trapp)
iii. “Such a practice is apt to make one a popular Bible teacher since people think that the teacher has profound insight into the text and can find hidden truths. Sooner or later, however, such superinterpreters will be shown to be wrong.” (Garrett)
iv. “How amply has this been fulfilled in the case of the Romish Church! It has added all the gross stuff in the Apocrypha, besides innumerable legends and traditions, to the word of God! They have been tried by the refiner’s fire. And this Church has been reproved, and found to be a liar, in attempting to filiate on the most holy God spurious writings discreditable to his nature.” (Clarke)
3. (7-9) A prayer for integrity.
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
a. Two things I request of You: These verses contain a wise and humble prayer from Agur. He earnestly asked God for two things, and he wanted to receive them on this side of eternity (Deprive me not before I die).
i. “The author recognizes his weaknesses, both in his tendency to forget God when life is too easy and to turn in desperation away from God when life is too hard.” (Garrett)
b. Remove falsehood and lies far from me: Agur first asked for personal integrity. He wanted to be a man marked by truth, and not by falsehood and lies. Knowing God is a God of truth (Proverbs 30:5-6), he didn’t want such deception anywhere near him.
i. “The ‘falsehood and lies’ of Proverbs 30:8 are the deceptiveness of both wealth and poverty. The former convinces one that God is not necessary; and the latter, that either he is of no help or that his laws are impossible to keep.” (Garrett)
c. Give me neither poverty nor riches: Agur’s second request was to have neither great poverty nor great riches. He wanted to be satisfied with God’s provision in his life (feed me with the food allotted to me).
i. Feed me with the food allotted to me: “But there is other food which is needful. The daily bread of love, of hope, of holy thought, and fellowship. There is other hunger than that of the body. But this also will be provided, according as each day requires.” (Meyer)
d. Profane the name of my God: Agur wanted neither poverty nor riches out of concern that either extreme might lead him to profane the name of God. He did not want to arrogantly deny God because he felt he was so rich he didn’t need God. He did not want to be so poor that he would use poverty as an excuse to sin (lest I be poor and steal). Either path would profane the name of God.
i. If a wise man like Agur was tempted to allow riches to profane the name of my God, we must also be on guard. “Even an Agur full fed may grow wanton, and be dipping his fingers in the devil’s sauce; yea, so far may he forget himself, as to deny the Lord.” (Trapp)
ii. And profane the name of my God: We instinctively want to honor and even protect the name of our God, even if our god is an idol. This statement of Agur showed that “In sum, the glory of God, not his personal need, motivates Agur’s requests.” (Waltke)
4. (10) Speaking ill of others.
Do not malign a servant to his master,
Lest he curse you, and you be found guilty.
a. Do not malign a servant to his master: This proverb has to do with harsh, unfair criticism (malign) spoken to another about a third party not present. It shouldn’t be done, and doing it without the knowledge of the one spoken against makes it even worse. If it is wrong to do this in regard to a servant, it is even worse to do it against someone else.
i. “Do not bring a false accusation against a servant, lest thou be found guilty of the falsehood, and he curse thee for having traduced his character, and in his turn traduce thine. In general, do not meddle with other people’s servants.” (Clarke)
ii. “Behind this injunction is a demand that one respect the person of the menial worker. His work relationship with his master is between the two of them; one should no more interfere here than one would interfere in a matter involving a superior or an equal.” (Garrett)
b. Lest he curse you: The one spoken against may rightfully speak a curse against the one who secretly maligns others. The curse may in fact come to pass if the one who maligns is found guilty of the offense.
i. “If the servant is innocent, his curse will count (cf. Proverbs 26:2), for there is a Judge.” (Kidner)
5. (11-15a) Foolish, sinful generations.
There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men.
The leech has two daughters—
Give and Give!
a. There is a generation that curses its father: The generation that disobeys God’s command to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2) puts its folly on full display. That generation sows seeds of conflict that will grow into a bitter harvest of personal and community strife.
i. “Many are the forms in which this proud abomination shows itself: resistance to a parent’s authority, contempt of his reproof, shamelessly defiling his name, needlessly exposing his sin, coveting his substance, denying his obligation.” (Bridges)
b. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes: The generation that is blind to their own stain of sin will never be washed from its filthiness. When we ignore or cover our sin, it never gets resolved.
i. “Anyone who thinks he is pure apart from God’s divine cleansing conceals an unsuspected depth of depravity (Proverbs 3:7; 12:15). Jesus condemned the self-righteous Pharisees of murder and of belonging to this generation.” (Waltke)
ii. “There is a generation, a group of people, who may observe all outer ritual but pay no attention to inner cleansing (see Isa 1:16; Matt 23:27). Such hypocrisy is harmful in every walk of life.” (Ross)
c. There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes: The generation that walks in pride and arrogance will experience God’s resistance, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).
i. “Who are proud and insolent, advancing themselves, and despising all others in comparison of themselves, and showing the pride of their hearts in their countenances and carriages.” (Poole)
d. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords: The generation filled with greed devours everything as if their teeth were swords and their fangs like knives. They devour the poor from off the earth and, like the leech, can never be satisfied (give and give).
i. Devour the poor: “These cruel oppressors are marked by pitiful cowardice. They vent their wantonness only where there is little or no power of resistance as they devour the poor.” (Garrett)
ii. The leech has two daughters: “Personifies the blood-sucking horseleech, which had two sucking organs at each end (one to suck blood, the other to attach itself to its host), as a mother of two (see Proverbs 30:7) daughters. This leech could be found in all stale waters of Palestine and attached itself above all in nostrils and palate of drinking horses.” (Waltke)
iii. “Implicitly, just as the parasitical, loathsome leech must be quickly eliminated from doing more damage, so also the wise must either exercise precaution to avoid the greedy or take quick and decisive action to get rid of them and so preserve his life and health.” (Waltke)
6. (15b-16) Never satisfied.
There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”:
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”
a. Three things that are never satisfied, four never say “Enough!”: The thought of the generation that greedily devours everything made Agur consider that there were four things that could never be satisfied.
i. As was with the pattern back at Proverbs 6:16, the formula three and then four implies that the list is specific but not exhaustive.
b. The grave, the barren womb: The dead never seem to stop dying and the grave of humanity never seems to be filled. The barren womb feels the ache of its emptiness and what is often felt like an unfulfilled purpose.
i. “Barren women are most desirous of children, which yet are certain cares, but uncertain comforts. How impatient was Rachel! how importunate was Hannah!” (Trapp)
c. The earth that is not satisfied with water—and the fire: The earth seems to continually drink and absorb the water poured out upon it, and fire will burn as long as there is fuel to burn. These all are examples of things that never seem to say, “Enough!”
7. (17) The mocking eye.
The eye that mocks his father,
And scorns obedience to his mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.
a. The eye that mocks his father: This eye belongs to the fool, the one who mocks and disobeys father and mother. This upsets the social order and sets the generations in conflict.
i. “His eye reveals his inner cast of mind.” (Waltke)
b. The ravens of the valley will pick it out: Agur used a vivid poetic description to tell of the ruin waiting for the child who mocks and scorns their parents. The poetic image is doubled, sending multiple ravens and young eagles to do the terrible but fitting work. This fool was blind in his mocking and disobedience; this poetic image tells of a fit penalty for someone so morally and spiritually blind.
i. “The ravens of the valleys or brooks are said to be most ravenous; and the young eagles or vultures smell out carcases, and the first thing they do to them is to pick out their eyes.” (Trapp)
ii. The young eagles: “The mother eagle shall scoop out such an eye, and carry it to the nest to feed her young. Many of the disobedient to parents have come to an untimely end, and, in the field of battle, where many a profligate has fallen, and upon gibbets, have actually become the prey of ravenous birds.” (Clarke)
8. (18-19) Four amazing things.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea,
And the way of a man with a virgin.
a. Three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four: Agur gave no advice in the proverb, but reminded us all that there are things that are too wonderful for our complete understanding, things we should simply be amazed at and a bit humbled in the presence of. Agur gave his list of four amazing things.
i. It isn’t entirely clear what these four things have in common. There are many suggestions, and they can collectively be true.
· All four things are visible for a while, then hidden.
· All four things progress without leaving a trace.
· All four things have a mysterious means of progress or motivation.
· All four things move in the domain of something else.
ii. “The way of all four wonders move in and cleave to their appropriate and difficult environments according to an invisible course in an easy, intriguing, gracious, undulating manner, without leaving a trace and without being taught, and yet reaching their goals.” (Waltke)
iii. “It would be better sought in that of the easy mastery, by the appropriate agent, of elements as difficult to negotiate as air, rock, sea—and young woman.” (Kidner)
b. The way of an eagle in the air: The flight of a majestic eagle amazes us with its power, height, and grace.
c. The way of a serpent on a rock: The serpent suns itself on the rock, yet is ready to flee at the slightest disturbance – and can slither itself over hard and sharp rock without injury!
d. The way of a ship in the midst of the sea: A ship is so small in the midst of the sea, yet it virtually conquers the sea by using it as a road for travel and trade.
e. The way of a man with a virgin: The power of young love and its desire seems that it would overwhelm both a man and a virgin, but they marry and make a productive life together.
i. “This mystery might begin with the manner of obtaining the love of the woman but focuses on the most intimate part of human relationships. So the most intimate moments of love are at the heart of what the sage considers to be wonderful.” (Ross)
ii. “Using delicate imagery for love…his small poem sings implicit praise to God for the glories of creation, especially for sexual love.” (Van Leeuwen, cited in Waltke)
iii. “His awe of human ‘eros’ with a virgin stands in contrast to the adulteress’s who sees nothing wrong with demeaning her sexuality with another sexual partner to nothing more than eating a meal (Proverbs 30:20).” (Waltke)
9. (20) The wickedness of the adulterous woman.
This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wickedness.”
a. This is the way of the adulterous woman: Like Solomon, Agur presented his wisdom in proverbs to his son or a young man. Surely this proverb also applies to the adulterous man, but because of his audience he has first in view the way of the adulterous woman.
i. “The fifth, and unnatural, marvel (Proverbs 30:20) is that of a person utterly at ease and in her element in sin; an act of adultery is as unremarkable to her as a meal.” (Kidner)
b. She eats and wipes her mouth: Since this woman is characterized by her adultery, her eating here is a tasteful reference to her sin of adultery. She satisfies her hunger for adultery, then (according to this poetic picture) casually wipes her mouth and considers herself blameless (I have done no wickedness). This adulterous woman represents many who sin against God, their marriage, their family, their community, their partner in adultery, and their own bodies yet consider it no wickedness at all.
i. She eats: Once before in Proverbs, eating was used as a symbol of sexual activity (Proverbs 9:17).
ii. “The adulteress lacks any conscience against smashing the very foundations of an ordered society, because, for her, gratifying her sexual appetite is no different from gratifying her gastronomical appetite.” (Waltke)
iii. “Wiping her mouth after eating means that the adulteress treats sexual liaisons the same way she does eating: she just finishes up and goes home without a care and certainly without a sense of guilt.” (Garrett)
10. (21-23) Four unbearable things.
For three things the earth is perturbed,
Yes, for four it cannot bear up:
For a servant when he reigns,
A fool when he is filled with food,
A hateful woman when she is married,
And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.
a. For three things the earth is perturbed: Using the three-and-four phrasing once again (previously in Proverbs 30:15 and 18), Agur spoke of four things that trouble the earth: things that are fundamentally not right. Agur gave his list of four unbearable things.
b. A servant when he reigns: Agur did not mean a man with a servant’s heart like Jesus would later perfectly display. He meant a man with a servile, debased mind, who thought and lived as a slave instead of a free man. It is unbearable when such a man reigns.
i. “A servant who gains authority over others has neither the training nor disposition to rule well.” (Garrett)
ii. “The proverb does not have in view a slave like Joseph who rose to power through wisdom (Genesis 41:41).” (Waltke)
c. A fool when he is filled with food: When a fool is satisfied, it only rewards his folly and gives him the energy and the resources to be even more foolish. This, Agur tells us, is unbearable.
i. “Can we wonder that he causes trouble and is a curse, since he gives full rein to his appetite and becomes even more devoid of understanding than before?” (Bridges)
d. A hateful woman when she is married: This is unbearable because the hateful woman should never be able to find a husband, and there seems to be a fundamental injustice when she does. It is also unbearable for her husband and her family, to live with a hateful woman.
i. A hateful woman: “Points to an odious, quarrelsome, unlovable woman whom society rejects, the opposite of a prudent wife.” (Waltke)
ii. “The implication may be that she is naturally unpleasant…or that she is merely old-maidish, and her success has gone to her head.” (Kidner)
e. A maidservant who succeeds her mistress: This case is similar to the previously described servant when he reigns. When the social order is upset and unworthy ones dominate the culture, it becomes unbearable.
i. “The tension from the threat of Hagar in Genesis 16:5 and 21:10 shows how unbearable this could be.” (Ross)
11. (24-28) Four small yet wise creatures.
There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.
a. There are four things which are little on the earth: Agur looked to the world of animals and noted four small animals (little on the earth), yet they are exceedingly wise. No human trained them in their wisdom; they are truly taught of God – and so we may also be.
b. They are exceeding wise: Size doesn’t determine wisdom. There are big fools and those who are small and not just wise, but exceedingly so. Agur listed these four examples which each teach a principle of wisdom.
i. “But they are wise uniquely uses ‘wise’ for animals to denote their skill to cope and their masterful cunning to survive in spite of their severe limitations that expose them to threats that endanger their very existence.” (Waltke)
c. The ants are a people not strong: Ants are small and don’t have much strength compared to a person or a large animal. Their wisdom is shown in that they prepare their food in the summer. They work in the time when work can be done, and aren’t lazy or procrastinators. Hard work can overcome individual weakness.
i. “A quickening sermon do these little insects preach to us as they prepare for the coming winter. What must be the thoughtlessness of men who make no provision for the coming eternity!” (Bridges)
d. The rock badgers are a feeble folk: The conies or rock badgers (also known as marmots) don’t have the speed or strength to stand against a large predator, especially one with sharp teeth. But they wisely make their homes in the crags and make the strength of the rock their own strength. Find refuge among the strong.
i. “It shall be our wisdom to work ourselves into the rock Christ Jesus, where we shall be safe from hellish hunters.” (Trapp)
e. The locusts have no king: The locusts don’t seem to have any kind of appointed leadership or structure. Yet they have the wisdom to advance in ranks, overwhelming anything that is in their way. If the locusts fought against themselves, they would get nowhere. They fight against the vegetation that they consume. Teamwork can win the day.
i. “They are well known for their amazing ability to form gigantic swarms that can wreak devastation of a scale almost beyond imagination. Highly reliable eyewitness accounts of modern locust plagues border on the incredible.” (Waltke)
f. The spider skillfully grasps with its hands: The spider isn’t loved, but it wisely uses its skill and unique abilities to go anywhere it wants to, even in king’s palaces. Using your gifts and unique skills can take you anywhere.
i. Waltke (along with Ross and Kidner) suggests that spider may actually be gecko here, a “wall-lizard.”
ii. “If we take it for the spider, she doth her work painfully and curiously, spins a finer thread than any woman can do, builds a finer house than any man can do, in manner and form like to the tent of an emperor. This base creature may teach us this wisdom, saith one, not to be bunglers or slubberers in our works, but to be exact in our trades, and labour so to excel therein, that our doings may be commendable and admirable.” (Trapp)
12. (29-31) Four examples of majesty.
There are three things which are majestic in pace,
Yes, four which are stately in walk:
A lion, which is mighty among beasts
And does not turn away from any;
A male goat also,
And a king whose troops are with him.
a. There are three things which are majestic in pace: For the fourth time in his brief collection of proverbs, Agur used the three-and-four structure to explain four wonderful things, four examples of majesty.
b. A lion, which is mighty among beasts: The first example is given a brief explanation. A lion has respect from all other animals, moves swiftly, and never retreats (does not turn away from any). Courage displays majesty.
c. A greyhound, a male goat also, and a king whose troops are with him: The last three examples are given without explanation. Yet when we consider the speed and grace of a greyhound, we see majesty. When we think of the stubborn persistence of the male goat, we see majesty. When we think of the power and determination of a king whose troops are with him, we see majesty. Each of these moves with majestic pace: swiftly, stubbornly, or powerfully.
i. Waltke (along with Kidner) has strutting rooster instead of greyhound.
ii. “It is most likely that this was the greyhound, which in the East are remarkably fine, and very fleet. Scarcely any thing can be conceived to go with greater fleetness, in full chase, than a greyhound with its prey in view: it seems to swim over the earth.” (Clarke)
iii. Male goat: “How he walks, and what state he assumes, in the presence of his part of the flock, every one knows, who has at all noticed this animal.” (Clarke)
13. (32-33) The foolishness of self-exaltation.
If you have been foolish in exalting yourself,
Or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth.
For as the churning of milk produces butter,
And wringing the nose produces blood,
So the forcing of wrath produces strife.
a. If you have been foolish in exalting yourself: Agur personally expressed his own humility in the beginning of this chapter (Proverbs 30:1-4). Here he advises his readers to not be foolish in exalting yourself. Instead, follow what James wisely told us to do: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10). If you start to exalt yourself, put your hand on your mouth.
i. “A humble heart will repress the sparks of this unholy fire.” (Bridges)
b. If you have devised evil: If you use the power and resources of your mind to devise evil, then stop. It is better to put your hand on your mouth and not say another word.
c. The forcing of wrath produces strife: This is the result of self-exaltation and the plotting of evil. As surely as the churning of milk produces butter and as surely as wringing the nose produces blood, so the expressions of wrath will make for conflict and strife. The wise man or woman knows a better way.
i. “Churning…wringing…forcing all translate one recurring word, pressing…or squeezing.” (Kidner)
ii. “Those who make trouble get into trouble…. Hidden in the second simile, however, is the warning that those who make trouble are liable to get punched in the nose!” (Garrett)
iii. “So the intent of this concluding advice is to strive for peace and harmony through humility and righteousness.” (Ross)
iv. “Too much stirring in an offensive matter bringeth forth brawling, lawing, warring, fighting.” (Trapp)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proverbs 29 – Rulers, Servants, and the Fear of Man
He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
a. He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck: As in many places in the Bible, the hard neck is used as a figure of speech to speak of the stubborn attitude that resists and disobeys God. This proverb speaks about the man who is often rebuked but doesn’t listen to the rebuke; instead he hardens his neck.
i. “The opposite of the stiff neck would be a bending neck, i.e., submission.” (Ross)
b. Will suddenly be destroyed: This stubborn, rebellious man continues in his disobedience for a long time, until he is suddenly…destroyed – and there will be no hope for him (that without remedy). This describes the kind of person who thinks little of God’s merciful patience and assumes judgment will never come for his continual rejection of wisdom and stubborn heart against God.
i. “When the door of opportunity to repent finally shuts, probably at death, the incorrigible fool is beyond all hope of a cure.” (Waltke)
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.
a. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: It is to the benefit of the community or nation when the righteous are in authority. This shows that when the righteous govern, it should be for the benefit of the entire community, not only their own interests.
b. When a wicked man rules, the people groan: The community or the nation suffers when the wicked rule. Lawlessness increases and freedoms diminish. The rule of the wicked is bad for both the righteous and the wicked in the community or nation.
i. The people groan: “Both for the oppressions and mischiefs which they feel, and for the dreadful judgments of God which they justly fear.” (Poole)
ii. “The sentiment of this proverb often recurs. On the surface it hardly appears to be true. To observe long issues is to be convinced of the absolute accuracy of the sentiment.” (Morgan)
Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice,
But a companion of harlots wastes his wealth.
a. Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice: Children of any age bring happiness to their parents when they love and live wisdom. It gives the parents a justified pride in their children and gives peace about their children’s future.
b. A companion of harlots wastes his wealth: This is one example of a foolish life, someone who chooses harlots and others of low character as their companions. This fool wastes his wealth on the harlots and other similar interests, showing they are the opposite of the one who loves wisdom.
i. Comparing the first line of this proverb to the second line, Ross observed: “it would break a father’s heart to see his son become a pauper through vice.”
ii. Adam Clarke asked a simple question in regard to Proverbs 29:3: “Has there ever been a single case to the contrary?”
The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.
a. The king establishes the land by justice: A nation can only expect strength and progress when it is ruled with justice. When a community or nation sees evildoers punished and restrained, fairness in the legal system, and agreements honored, there will be justice and a foundation for growth and blessing.
b. He who receives bribes overthrows it: There are many ways that justice can be abused, but this is one of the worst ways. Bribes destroy the foundations of fairness and equality before the law. It means that the rich and devious prosper.
i. “The best laws are of little use when they are badly administered. Partiality and injustice make them null and void. And yet it requires great integrity and moral courage to withstand the temptations of worldly policy and self-interest.” (Bridges)
ii. “This was notoriously the case in this kingdom, before the passing of the Magna Charta, or great charter of liberties…. I have met with cases in our ancient records where, in order to get his right, a man was obliged almost to ruin himself in presents to the king, queen, and their favourites, to get the case decided in his favour.” (Clarke)
iii. The Puritan commentator John Trapp wrote of Proverbs 29:4: “This one piece of Solomon’s politics hath much more good advice in it than all Lypsius’s Beehive, or Machiavel’s Spider web.”
A man who flatters his neighbor
Spreads a net for his feet.
a. A man who flatters his neighbor: In this sense, to flatter is to excessively praise or give attention to a neighbor with the hope of gaining influence or status.
i. A man who flatters his neighbor: “A smooth boots, as the word signifies, a butter-spoken man…or a divided man, for a flatterer’s tongue is divided from his heart.” (Trapp)
b. Spreads a net for his feet: Such flattery is a trap. It is a trap that the wise man knows how to avoid, and that catches the fool.
i. “Beware of a flatterer; he does not flatter merely to please you, but to deceive you and profit himself.” (Clarke)
ii. “Oh, it is a cruel thing to flatter. The soul is often more exhausted and injured by disentangling itself from these nets than by the hottest contest with principalities and powers.” (Bridges)
By transgression an evil man is snared,
But the righteous sings and rejoices.
a. By transgression an evil man is snared: A man may be evil in his character, yet it is his actual acts of transgression that ruin him. Most evil men think they are celebrating life and freedom through their transgression, but it will be a trap and a snare to them.
i. “The wicked man’s jollity is but the hypocrisy of mirth; it may wet the mouth, but not warm the heart – smooth the brow, but not fill the breast. We may be sure, that as Jezebel had a cold heart under a painted complexion, so many a man’s heart aches and quakes within him when his face counterfeits a smile.” (Trapp)
b. The righteous sings and rejoices: If transgression belongs to the evil man, then singing and rejoicing belong to the righteous. The singing and rejoicing are an expression of what is inside them, just as much as the transgression is an expression of what is inside the evil man.
i. “Knox supplies the implicit comparison: ‘innocence goes singing and rejoicing on its way.’” (Kidner)
The righteous considers the cause of the poor,
But the wicked does not understand such knowledge.
a. The righteous considers the cause of the poor: One mark of the righteous man or woman is that they care for the poor. It is more than the response of feelings of pity; he considers the cause of the poor. It is thoughtful compassion in action.
b. The wicked does not understand such knowledge: Those who are wicked, rebellious against God and His wisdom, can’t even understand such compassion. Since it doesn’t directly serve their self-interest, they can’t understand it.
i. “His ignorance and lack of understanding is not an intellectual defect but the expression of an evil perversion.” (Waltke)
Scoffers set a city aflame,
But wise men turn away wrath.
a. Scoffers set a city aflame: In the family of fools, the scoffers are some of the worst offenders. They are so settled in their combative, cynical rejection of God and His wisdom that they may bring the judgment of God and fury of man against their own city.
i. “Mocking is catching [contagious], as the pestilence, and no less pernicious to the whole country.” (Trapp)
ii. “Such scoffers make dangerous situations worse, whereas the wise calm things down and ensure peace in the community. See the account of the rebellion of Sheba the son of Bicri and how the wise woman averted disaster (2 Samuel 20).” (Ross)
b. Wise men turn away wrath: The opposite of the scoffer is the wise man. Collectively, wise men have the understanding, character, and righteousness that may turn away God’s wrath.
i. G. Campbell Morgan said that Proverbs 29:8 was “A fine motto for engraving on the walls of the Foreign Office of any nation.”
If a wise man contends with a foolish man,
Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.
a. If a wise man contends with a foolish man: Solomon considered some kind of argument or dispute between the wise and the foolish, likely set in a court of law. Since the two have different foundations and principles for living, it isn’t a surprise that they would contend with each other.
i. “The setting of Proverbs 29:9 is the court, in which the recklessness of the fool is given full vent.” (Garrett)
b. Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace: When two such different people contend, normally there will be no peace. The fool will respond with either anger or mocking, but neither will lead to peace. This should teach the wise man to be cautious about contending with the foolish man.
i. There is no peace: “No end or fruit of the debate, the fool will not be satisfied nor convinced.” (Poole)
The bloodthirsty hate the blameless,
But the upright seek his well-being.
a. The bloodthirsty hate the blameless: There is a fundamental opposition between the bloodthirsty and the blameless. Those given to violence and brutality (the bloodthirsty) simply hate the blameless, both because the life and message of the blameless convicts the bloodthirsty and because the bloodthirsty hate all the blameless stand for.
i. John Trapp thought of some examples of the bloodthirsty in history: “Charles IX of France, author of the Parisian Massacre, looking upon the dead carcase of the admiral, that stank by being long kept unburied, uttered this most stinking speech: Quam suaviter olet cadaver inimiei! – How sweet is the smell of an enemy’s carcase! And the queen mother of Scotland, beholding the dead bodies of her Protestant subjects, whom she had slain in battle, said that she never saw a finer piece of tapestry in all her life.”
b. The upright seek his well-being: The upright men or women seek and care for the well-being of the blameless. This is a great contrast to the bloodthirsty.
A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.
a. A fool vents all his feelings: It is the nature of a fool to think that everyone is interested in all his feelings and that he has some obligation to inflict all his feelings on others. This is a foolish offense to self-respect, self-restraint, and courtesy towards others.
b. A wise man holds them back: The wise man knows that there is a time and place to vent one’s feelings, but one should never imitate the fool in exposing all his feelings.
i. Holds them back: “The verb (used in Psalm 89:9 of the stilling of a storm) speaks of anger overcome, not merely checked.” (Kidner)
ii. “Or, In an inner room, in the bottom and bosom of his mind, till he see a fit season; as knowing well that all truths are not fit for all times, but discretion must be used.” (Trapp)
If a ruler pays attention to lies,
All his servants become wicked.
a. If a ruler pays attention to lies: Anyone in authority will have many who want to use his or her power and position for their own advancement. Some of those may use lies to influence, frighten, manipulate, or simply deceive that ruler. The wise ruler pays no attention to lies.
i. “A king, a president, or any chief executive officer must set a high standard and rigorously maintain it or face the consequences of corruption running rampant in his administration.” (Garrett)
b. All his servants become wicked: When the servants see that the ruler can be influenced by lies, it encourages them to lie. Deception is rewarded and telling the truth is discouraged. The atmosphere around that ruler and his servants becomes poisonous and incompetent.
i. Become wicked: “Partly because he chooseth only such for his service; and partly because they are either corrupted by his example, or engaged by their place and interest to please him, and comply with his base lusts.” (Poole)
ii. “Courtiers adjust themselves to the prince—when they see that deception and court flattery win the day, they learn how the game is played.” (Ross)
The poor man and the oppressor have this in common:
The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
a. The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: It is difficult to think of two greater contrasts than the poor man and the oppressor. Despite their great differences, they have something in common.
b. The LORD gives light to the eyes of both: God gives some kind of light, some kind of revelation in creation and conscience, to every person (Romans 1:19-21). One may obey or reject God’s message in that light, but God gives light to the eyes of both.
i. “That is to say, all intelligence is a divine gift, whether it be used in righteousness or in wickedness. Sin is always the prostitution of a God-given power to base purposes.” (Morgan)
The king who judges the poor with truth,
His throne will be established forever.
a. The king who judges the poor with truth: Part of the responsibility of a king or any leader is to make judgments, and sometimes those regarding the poor and disadvantaged. That king or leader must be careful to not show partiality against (or for) the poor, but to make judgment according to truth.
b. His throne will be established forever: That king who refuses to show partiality and judges the poor according to truth can expect to have a long reign. Their reign will be blessed by God and received by the people.
i. “The poor are no less created in the image of God than the rich, and they have God as their avenger should the rich fail in their duty. For this reason the security of a king’s reign depends on equitably dispensing justice.” (Garrett)
ii. John Trapp thought of how this pointed to the throne of Jesus Messiah, established forever: “Lo, such a prince shall sit firm upon his throne; his kingdom shall be bound to him with chains of adamant, as Dionysius dreamt that his was; he shall have the hearts of his subjects, which is the best life-guard, and God for his protection; for he is professedly the poor man’s patron, [Psalms 9:18-19] and makes heavy complaints of those that wrong them. [Isaiah 3:13-15; Isaiah 10:1-3; Amos 5:11-12; Amos 8:4-6; Zephaniah 3:12].”
The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
a. The rod and rebuke give wisdom: We learn through correction. Jesus Himself learned through suffering (Hebrews 5:8) so we should not despise God’s use of either the rod or the rebuke. No one is above learning through discipline.
i. “Discipline is the order of God’s government. Parents are his dispensers of it to their children. Let correction be first tried, and if it succeeds, let the rod be spared. If not, let the rod do its work.” (Bridges)
b. A child left to himself brings shame to his mother: The principle of the first line of this proverb is especially true regarding children. Children who are never trained with loving correction often bring shame to their parents.
i. “His mother, and father too; but he names only the mother, either because her indulgence oft spoils the child, or because children commonly stand in least awe of their mothers, and abuse the weakness of their sex, and tenderness of their natures.” (Poole)
When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increases;
But the righteous will see their fall.
a. When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increases: There is something of a multiplication effect in the advance of wickedness. In some way, when the number of wicked people is doubled, then it seems transgression increases four or five times over.
b. The righteous will see their fall: This is welcome assurance when it seems that transgression increases. The righteous must not despair; God is still in control. Though the wicked are multiplied, God will not allow them to triumph in the end and they will fall.
i. “The faithful Christian minister, conscious of his inability to stem the ever-flowing torrent of iniquity, would sink in despair but for the assured confidence that he is on the conquering side, that his cause, being the cause of his Lord, must eventually prevail.” (Bridges)
Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
a. Correct your son, and he will give you rest: Many proverbs speak of the importance of correcting and training our children. If we leave them to themselves, to their peers, or to the culture around them and fail to correct them, they will be an ongoing source of trouble and strife, giving us no rest.
b. Yes, he will give delight to your soul: Every parent wants this delight of soul. There is a sense in which God appeals to our own self-interest. If you won’t correct your son because it is good for him, then do it because it is good for you!
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.
a. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint: The revelation in mind here is not the spontaneous word from a purported prophet. It is God’s great revelation, His revealed word through the Hebrew prophets and later the apostles and prophets who gave us the New Testament. When God’s word is unavailable or rejected, the people cast off restraint. They no longer have a standard greater than their own feelings or current opinions.
i. Other translations (such as the King James Version) express this in these words: where there is no vision, the people perish. This has often been taken to say, “Where there is no visionary leadership, people and enterprises fail.” That is often a true principle, but not what Solomon wrote here. There is little doubt that the Hebrew word hazon means “God’s revelation,” and not “visionary leadership.” “In sum, hazon refers here to the sage’s inspired revelation of wisdom.” (Waltke)
ii. “The word hazon refers to divine communication to prophets (as in 1 Samuel 3:1) and not to individual goals that are formed.” (Ross)
iii. Revelation: “…is to be taken in its exact sense of the revelation a prophet receives.” (Kidner)
iv. “Where Divine revelation, and the faithful preaching of the sacred testimonies, are neither reverenced nor attended, the ruin of that land is at no great distance.” (Clarke)
v. “No greater calamity, therefore, can there be than the removal of the revelation…. Where revelation is withdrawn from a church, the people perish in ignorance and delusion.” (Bridges)
b. The people cast off restraint: This principle was lived out in Israel’s history. Judges 17:6, 21:25, and 1 Samuel 3:1 all describe such times when God’s word was abandoned, and the people lived with no restraint.
i. Cast off restraint: “Or, is made naked; stripped of their best ornaments, God’s favour and protection, as this word is taken, Exodus 32:25.” (Poole)
c. Happy is he who keeps the law: In contrast, there is happiness and contentment for the one who keeps the law. In this sense, the Bible is something like a guide given to us by our owner and creator, telling us how to live a wise and blessed life. It is within restraint, but not in an oppressive sense. Only a fool thinks that all restraint is oppressive.
i. He who keeps the law: “Although the want of God’s word be sufficient for men’s destruction, yet the having, and hearing, or reading of it is not sufficient for their salvation, except they also keep or obey it.” (Poole)
A servant will not be corrected by mere words;
For though he understands, he will not respond.
a. A servant will not be corrected by mere words: The idea is not of someone who has an honorable, servant-like heart. The idea is of someone of menial service who has a slave-like mentality that can’t be lifted above his or her present misery. That person is unlikely to be corrected by mere words. Tough life experience and discipline will be more likely to teach them.
i. “In this democratic age the idea that one should have this kind of authority over someone is perhaps offensive, but in any age workers can become undisciplined and unreliable if some kind of authority and discipline procedure is not established.” (Garrett)
ii. “The verse is probably a general observation on the times; doubtless there were slaves who did better (e.g., Joseph in Egypt; Daniel in Babylon).” (Ross)
b. Though he understands, he will not respond: This shows that the problem with such a one is not mental or intellectual. He understands well enough; the problem is that he will not respond. It will take more than words to get him or her to respond and learn wisdom.
i. Will not respond: “Either by words, expressing his readiness; or by deeds, speedily and cheerfully performing thy commands; but will neglect his duty, pretending that he did not hear or understand thee.” (Poole)
Do you see a man hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
a. Do you see a man hasty in his words? Proverbs often teaches us that a mark of a fool is that they don’t have control over what they say. They are hasty in their words.
b. There is more hope for a fool than for him: To Solomon, the man hasty in his words was a special kind of a fool, a super-fool. Lacking wisdom, his impulsive speech sets him beyond the hope of even the normal fool.
He who pampers his servant from childhood
Will have him as a son in the end.
a. He who pampers his servant from childhood: The idea is of a man who is overly soft and generous towards his servant. He worries too much about making life easy and pleasant for his servant.
i. “A master that would be, as he ought, both loved and feared by his servants, must see to two things: – (1.) The well-choosing; and (2.) The well using of them.” (Trapp)
b. Will have him as a son in the end: This isn’t always in a good sense. The one who pampers his servant will make the servant so attached to him that he will end up with another obligation and another person who expects an inheritance.
i. “This is a simple statement of a fact. Whether it be one of blessing or of evil depends on the Christian’s servant. An evil servant treated well assumes the position of a son in arrogance. A good servant treated well assumes the position of a son in devotion.” (Morgan)
ii. “Such persons are generally forgetful of their obligations, assume the rights and privileges of children, and are seldom good for any thing.” (Clarke)
iii. There is some dispute about the word here translated a son. Ross had an alternative idea: “The proverb says that if someone pampers his servant from youth, in the end (of this procedure) he will have ‘grief’ (manon).”
An angry man stirs up strife,
And a furious man abounds in transgression.
a. An angry man stirs up strife: It is in the nature of the angry man to spread his strife to others. With peace lacking in his own soul, it’s easy to put his inner strife upon others.
i. “‘Anger’ describes his outward visage of snorting nostrils, and ‘wrath’ [furious], his inner heat of boiling emotions of resentment.” (Waltke)
b. A furious man abounds in transgression: When the angry or furious man spreads his strife, it makes transgression abound. Sin abounds and the atmosphere is marked by a lack of self-control.
i. “His furious spirit is always carrying him into extremes, and each of these is a transgression.” (Clarke)
A man’s pride will bring him low,
But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
a. A man’s pride will bring him low: Because God resists the proud (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5), pride will naturally bring a man low. Like Satan, the one who hoped to rise higher through his pride will fall (Isaiah 14:13-15).
i. Waltke points out that the Hebrew word translated “‘Pride’ derives from a root meaning ‘to be high’ and so constitutes a precise antithetical parallel of ‘lowly.’”
b. The humble in spirit will retain honor: Just as much as God resists the proud, He also gives grace to the humble (again, James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5). God’s gracious blessing to the humble in spirit means they will gain and retain honor.
i. “Thus honour, like a shadow, flees from them that pursue it, and follows them who flee from it.” (Poole)
Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life;
He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.
a. Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life: To partner with a thief is to reject wisdom and embrace folly. The one who steals from others will steal from you, and perhaps with violence threatening your own life.
i. “The law makes no distinction between the thief and the accomplice. Consenting to sin, receiving the stolen goods, involves us in the guilt and punishment.” (Bridges)
ii. “Paradoxically, the partner joined the thief to satisfy the greed of his swollen appetites, but instead he loses that very life with its drives and appetites.” (Waltke)
b. He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing: The partner to the thief is the kind of man who will repeatedly vow to tell the truth, but reveals nothing about his partner’s criminal activity. He places loyalty to his friend above his loyalty to God.
i. “The call to testify is actually a curse pronounced on anyone who will not testify. This proverb, using the same word for oath or curse, describes someone who has befriended a thief, becomes aware of his wrongdoing, but remains silent when he hears a call to come forward and give evidence. He has brought a curse down on his own head.” (Garrett)
The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.
Many seek the ruler’s favor,
But justice for man comes from the LORD.
a. The fear of man brings a snare: Many people of good heart but not enough courage live in bondage to the fear of man. They worry far too much about what people think, instead of first being concerned about what God and wisdom say, and what integrity would lead them to do. This is a snare that traps many people.
i. “The ‘fear of man’ describes any situation in which one is anxious about not offending another person. For example, someone might be afraid to oppose the unethical actions of a superior out of fear of losing a job. This verse tells the reader to do what is right and trust the outcome to Yahweh.” (Garrett)
ii. “And therefore they do not ask, ‘What should I do?’ but ‘What will my friends think of me?’ They cannot brave the finger of scorn…. Oh, for deliverance from this principle of bondage.” (Bridges)
iii. The fear of man: Saul, Aaron, and Peter are examples of men who were stained by the fear of man. “How often has this led weak men, though sincere in their general character, to deny their God, and abjure his people!” (Clarke)
iv. “It was the fear of man that caused Pilate’s name to become infamous in the history of the world and of the Church of God, and it will be infamous to all eternity. The fear of man led him to slay the Savior; take care that it does not lead you to do something of the same kind.” (Spurgeon)
v. “Why, I have known some who were afraid even to give away a tract; they were as much alarmed as though they had to put their hand into a tiger’s mouth.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “There is one sin which I believe I have never committed; I think that I have never been afraid of any of you, and I hope, by the grace of God, that I never shall be. If I dare not speak the truth upon all points, and dare not rebuke sin, what is the good of me to you? Yet I have heard sermons which seemed to me to have been made to the order of the congregation. But honest hearers want honest preaching; and if they find that the preachers message comes home to them, they thank God that it is so.” (Spurgeon)
b. But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe: The contrast to the fear of man is he who trusts in the LORD. That person will be in the safest place imaginable – safe in the care of a loving, powerful God.
i. “Release from such bondage comes when people put their faith in the Lord alone. See Proverbs 10:27; 12:2; and the example of the apostles in Acts 5:29.” (Ross)
ii. “It is not, ‘He that trusteth in himself;’ not, ‘He that trusteth in a priest;’ not, ‘He that performs good works, and trusts in them,’ but, ‘whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.’ The man who is trusting in the blood and righteousness of Jesus may not always be happy, but he is safe; he may not always be singing, but he is safe; he may not always have the joy of full assurance, but he is safe. He may sometimes be distressed, but, he is always safe; he may sometimes question his interest in Christ, but he is always safe.” (Spurgeon)
c. Many seek the ruler’s favor: This is presented as a simple fact. There are many who long for the benefit that a ruler may give them. This relates to the fear of man mentioned in the previous verse; those who depend on the ruler’s favor for their security and prosperity must fear and seek the ruler’s favor.
d. But justice for man comes from the LORD: When we depend upon man for our justice, our security, or our prosperity, we will be disappointed. Such justice and its benefits come from the LORD, not primarily through even the mightiest ruler. If the ruler does give out justice, he does it as God’s agent.
i. “Proverbs 29:26 does not forbid seeking relief from injustice through the legal system, but it does state that one should place more faith in Yahweh than in human institutions.” (Garrett)
An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,
And he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.
a. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous: An unjust man does not please those among God’s righteous. They share God’s regard of the wicked, seeing them as an abomination for their sins against God and man.
i. “Who yet hates, non virum sed vitium, not the person of a wicked man, but his sin – as the physician hates the disease, but loves the patient, and strives to recover him – he abhors that which is evil, perfectly hates it.” (Trapp)
b. He who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked: It works both ways. The upright man or woman is seen as an abomination to the wicked. Their righteous life is an unwelcome rebuke to the wicked.
i. “A statement of the necessary and abiding antipathy between righteousness and unrighteousness.” (Morgan)
ii. “Here is the oldest, the most rooted, the most universal quarrel in the world. It was the first fruit of the Fall (Genesis 3:15). It has continued ever since and will last to the end of the world.” (Bridges)
iii. “This proverb…serves as an apt summation of the whole Hezekiah text. Righteousness and immorality are mutually exclusive. One must follow one path or the other (Jeremiah 6:16).” (Garrett)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Proverbs 28 – The Blessings and the Courage of Wisdom
The wicked flee when no one pursues,
But the righteous are bold as a lion.
a. The wicked flee when no one pursues: This speaks of a confusion and fear that properly belong to the wicked, not to the godly and wise. This is both because they are under God’s displeasure and because they lack the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit.
i. “The proverb implies that the wicked, prompted by a guilty conscience or a fear of judgment, become fearful and suspicious of everyone.” (Ross)
ii. “God sends a faintness into the hearts of the wicked, and the sound of a shaken leaf frightens them. In arithmetic, of nothing comes nothing, yet they fear where no fear is.” (Trapp)
b. The righteous are bold as a lion: God’s righteous ones stand even when one comes against them, and with God’s strength they are bold as a lion.
i. The righteous: “The straightforward man, like the lion, has no need to look over his shoulder. What is at his heels is not his past (Numbers 32:23) but his rearguard: God’s goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6).” (Kidner)
ii. “Adam knew no fear until he became a guilty creature. But if guilt brings fear, the removal of guilt gives confidence.” (Bridges)
iii. “Both psychologies are grounded in objective reality. God guarantees the safety of the righteous and dooms the wicked to punishment and disaster.” (Waltke)
Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes;
But by a man of understanding and knowledge
Right will be prolonged.
a. Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes: To have many princes – rulers, officials – is not seen as a blessing. This speaks of how a large, complex, and multi-layered government can be a curse to a people, sent because of the transgression of a land.
i. “As a result of the land’s total break with the Lord they need a large bureaucracy to keep an eye on one another and/or none survives…. An Arabic curse says, ‘May God make your sheiks many.’” (Waltke)
b. By a man of understanding and knowledge right will be prolonged: Instead of many…princes, God blesses a land with a man of understanding and knowledge. Great and godly leaders can be a wonderful blessing to a nation.
A poor man who oppresses the poor
Is like a driving rain which leaves no food.
a. A poor man who oppresses the poor: One might think that a poor man would have great sympathy for others who are poor, but this is not always the case. There are the poor who oppress the poor.
i. “Our Lord illustrates this proverb most beautifully, by the parable of the two debtors, Matthew 18:23, etc.… Here the poor oppressed the poor; and what was the consequence? The oppressing poor was delivered to the tormentors; and the forgiven debt charged to his amount, because he showed no mercy. The comparatively poor are often shockingly uncharitable and unfeeling towards the real poor.” (Clarke)
b. Like a driving rain which leaves no food: This destructive rain leaves the people hungry and without hope. So is the effect of a poor man who oppresses the poor.
i. “Put an unprincipled spendthrift in power, and he will be like a destructive flood.” (Bridges)
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But such as keep the law contend with them.
a. Those who forsake the law praise the wicked: When the fundamental principles of justice are forsaken, it doesn’t benefit the righteous. It gives benefit and praise to the wicked.
i. Those who forsake the law: “Without revelation, all is soon relative; and with moral relativity, nothing quite merits attack. So, e.g., the tyrant is accepted because he gets things done; and the pervert, because his condition is interesting.” (Kidner)
ii. Praise the wicked: “Praising the wicked may mean calling them good, i.e., no longer able to discern good from evil” (Ross). “As Machiavel doth Caesar Borgia, that bipedum nequissimum, proposing him for a pattern to all Christian princes” (Trapp).
iii. “It is fearful to sin; more fearful to delight in sin; yet more to defend it.” (Bishop Hall, cited in Bridges)
b. Such as keep the law contend with them: Those who do honor and promote the rule of law will resist and oppose the wicked. They understand the principle the Apostle Paul would later explain in Romans 13:1-7, that one reason God gives law and government to men is to restrain the wicked, to contend with them.
i. This proverb presents only two paths: forsake the law or keep the law. “The line dividing humanity is not racial, political or even religious, but spiritual. That line runs through every human heart.” (Waltke)
ii. John Trapp used the phrase contend with them to remember the combative nature of Martin Luther: “It was the speech of blessed Luther, who though he was very earnest to have the communion administered in both kinds, contrary to the doctrine and custom of Rome, yet if the Pope, saith he, as pope, commanded me to receive it in both kinds, I would but receive it in one kind; since to obey what he commands as pope, is a receiving of the mark of the beast.”
Evil men do not understand justice,
But those who seek the LORD understand all.
a. Evil men do not understand justice: There are those who are fundamentally evil or wicked, and simply do not understand justice. They do not understand the principles of justice and how they apply to themselves.
i. Do not understand justice: “Because their minds are naturally blind, and are further blinded by their own prejudices and passions, and by the god of this world, who rules in and over them.” (Poole)
ii. “There are always those who believe justice is that which benefits them—otherwise it is not justice.” (Ross)
b. But those who seek the LORD understand all: The godly understand justice and much more. They seek the LORD, fear the LORD, and have His wisdom.
i. “Many things, dark to human reason, are simplified by humility.” (Bridges)
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
a. Better is the poor who walks in his integrity: There are worse things than poverty, and to be a wicked man or woman who does not live in integrity is worse. This is an encouragement to the poor who often are despised.
i. “The verse only contrasts a poor man with integrity and a perverse rich man (see Proverbs 19:1)—there are rich people with integrity, and there are poor people who are perverse.” (Ross)
b. Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich: A rich man or woman who is twisted in their life before God or man is worse off than the godly poor person. We are defined more by our character than by our bank account or financial worth.
i. Perverse in his ways: “Hebrew, in two ways; halting between two ways, pretending to virtue, but practising vice; or covering his wicked designs with good pretences; or sometimes erring on one hand, and sometimes on the other, as wicked men commonly do.” (Poole)
ii. “The double dealing rich person first defrauds the poor and the humble and then covers his wrongdoing over by making himself appear righteous.” (Waltke)
iii. “Many will wish that they had lived and died in obscure poverty rather than having been entrusted with riches, which only made them boldly sin with a high hand against God and their own souls.” (Bridges)
Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son,
But a companion of gluttons shames his father.
a. Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son: Obedience is a proof of wisdom. Those who claim to be discerning or wise yet live in fundamental disobedience show their folly.
b. A companion of gluttons shames his father: One does not have to be given over to ruinous appetites themselves to be a shame to their family; simply being a companion of such can embarrass the family.
i. “By identifying himself with those who squander all that is precious,—life, food and instruction—the foolish puts to public shame (see Proverbs 25:8) his father.” (Waltke)
One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion
Gathers it for him who will pity the poor.
a. One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion: There are some who become rich through economic violence. They charge high and unfair interest (usury) or they use their power to cheat and steal (extortion).
i. “In the Bible nesek [usury] occurs ten times and refers to the charge for borrowed money, which practice in Biblical times came to about 30% of the amount borrowed.” (Waltke)
ii. Usury: “…the Mosaic law shows that the legitimacy of it depends on its context: what was quite proper in terms of economics (Deuteronomy 23:20) was pronounced improper in terms of family care (Deuteronomy 23:19).” (Kidner)
iii. Adam Clarke pronounced a sharp curse against those who took advantage of their brothers’ need with usury and extortion: “O that the names of all those unfeeling, hard-hearted, consummate villains in the nation, who thus take advantage of their neighbour’s necessities to enrich themselves, were published at every market cross; and then the delinquents all sent to their brother savages in New Zealand. It would be a happy riddance to the country.”
b. Gathers it for him who will pity the poor: God will not allow these oppressive criminals to have the last word. In the resolution of God’s judgment, the wealth of the wicked is simply gathered for those who have love and pity for the poor.
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law,
Even his prayer is an abomination.
a. One who turns away his ear from hearing the law: God wants us to always have an open and attentive ear towards His word (the law). To have no hunger for God’s word or to give it no attention is a sign of spiritual sickness in the child of God.
i. “Many suppose, if they do not know their duty, they shall not be accountable for their transgressions; and therefore avoid every thing that is calculated to enlighten them…. But this pretense will avail them nothing; as he that might have known his master’s will, but would not, shall be treated as he shall be who did know it, and disobeyed it.” (Clarke)
b. Even his prayer is an abomination: God is not bound to hear or honor the one who neglects His word. Before we would speak to God in prayer we must humbly and attentively listen to His word, or our prayers may be an arrogant abomination.
i. “The prayer certainly will not be a proper prayer; someone who refuses to obey God will not pray according to God’s will—he will pray for some physical thing, perhaps even making demands on God.” (Ross)
Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way,
He himself will fall into his own pit;
But the blameless will inherit good.
a. Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way: There are those who take pleasure in causing the godly to go astray. It makes them feel better and perhaps superior to those who are upright.
i. Causes the upright to go astray: “This attracted some of Christ’s strongest words: see Matthew 5:19; 18:6; 23:15.” (Kidner)
b. He himself will fall into his own pit: God has a way of protecting His upright, even if they seem to, or actually do, go astray for a time. God knows how to put the wicked in their place (his own pit) and He knows how to make sure that the blameless will inherit good. God does not leave the final word to the wicked man with his evil plans.
i. “He who strives to pervert one really converted to God, in order that he may pour contempt on religion, shall fall into that hell to which he has endeavoured to lead the other.” (Clarke)
ii. “The line shows that the wicked will be caught in their own devices; but it also shows that the righteous are corruptible—they can be led into morally bad conduct.” (Ross)
The rich man is wise in his own eyes,
But the poor who has understanding searches him out.
a. The rich man is wise in his own eyes: It is not unusual for a rich man to be proud, and to think himself wise. Other proverbs explain that wisdom often leads to wealth, but not every rich man has gained his wealth through wisdom.
i. “Although riches do not always bring wisdom, the rich man often pretends to have it and ascribes his success to his own sagacity, though he may be manifestly simple and foolish.” (Bridges)
b. The poor man who has understanding searches him out: The poor man with wisdom stands above the rich man with a fool’s pride. That wise poor man may examine the rich man (searches him out), not the other way around.
i. The poor who has understanding: There are some lessons only poverty can teach, and one should never forget those lessons, even if they become wealthy.
ii. “Yet the universe does not possess a more dignified character than the poor man who has discernment. Did not the incarnate Lord honor this station supremely by taking it on himself? To walk in his footsteps, in his spirit, is wisdom, honor, and happiness infinitely beyond what this poor world of vanity can afford.” (Bridges)
iii. Searches him out: “Knoweth him better than he knoweth himself; and, looking through all his pomp and vain show, he sees him to be what indeed he is, a foolish and miserable man, notwithstanding all his riches, and discovers the folly of his words and actions.” (Poole)
When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory;
But when the wicked arise, men hide themselves.
a. When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory: When those who live with wisdom and righteousness rejoice because of the condition of their community, it is good for everyone. There is great glory.
b. When the wicked arise, men hide themselves: Even wicked men don’t want to be ruled by other wicked men. A culture may live off the inheritance of a previous righteous generation, but when the wicked arise those benefits and the freedoms righteousness brings will slowly diminish.
i. “Thus the man Moses fled and hid himself from Pharaoh, David from Saul, Elijah from Ahab, Obadiah’s clients from Jezebel, Jeremiah from Jehoiakim, Joseph and the child Jesus from Herod.” (Trapp)
ii. Men hide themselves: “The state of that nation is so shameful and dangerous, that wise and good men, who only are worthy of the name of men, withdraw themselves, or run into corners and obscure places; partly out of grief and shame to behold the wickedness which is publicly and impudently committed; and partly to avoid the rage and injuries of wicked oppressors.” (Poole)
iii. The righteous rejoice…the wicked arise: “The first was the case in this country, in the days of Edward VI; the second in the days of his successor, Mary I. Popery, cruelty, and knavery, under her, nearly destroyed the Church and the State in these islands.” (Clarke)
He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
a. He who covers his sins will not prosper: Since Adam and Eve, human instinct leads us to cover our sins. Our conscience makes us ashamed of our sin and we don’t want others to see it. We even think we can hide it from God. Yet, this natural instinct to cover sin doesn’t benefit us. It prevents us from being real about our condition before God.
i. In a sermon on this proverb, Charles Spurgeon described some of the many ways men attempt to cover their sin – all of them in vain.
· Excuses and justifications.
· Schemes to evade responsibility.
· Ceremonies or sacraments.
ii. He who covers his sins: “Out of his sinful pride he pretends before God and people that he has no need to confess; instead, he seeks to deceive.” (Waltke)
iii. “Sin and shifting came into the world together. Sin and Satan are alike in this, they cannot abide to appear in their own colour.” (Trapp)
iv. “God and man each conceal sin—God in free unbounded grace, man in shame and hypocrisy.” (Bridges)
b. But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy: The path to receiving God’s mercy is to confess and repent (forsake) our sin. This is the way to prosper spiritually and in life in general and receive God’s mercy.
i. “Confession is to take God’s side against sin. It is the lifting out of one thing after another from heart and life, and holding them for a moment before God, with the acknowledgment that it is our fault, our grievous fault.” (Meyer)
ii. The Biblical practice of confessing sin can free us from the heavy burdens (spiritual and physical, as in James 5:16) of unresolved sin, and it can remove hindrances to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a tragedy when the confession of sin is neglected or ignored among believers, and a cause of much spiritual weakness and hypocrisy.
iii. “Confess the debt, and God will cross the book; he will draw the red lines of Christ’s blood over the black lines of our sins, and cancel the handwriting that was against us.” (Trapp)
iv. In his commentary on James, Moffatt described how this was practiced in the early church: “Now, in the primitive church this was openly done as a rule, before the congregation. The earliest manual of the church practice prescribes: ‘you must confess your sins in church, and not betake yourself to prayer with a bad conscience’ (Didache iv.).” (Moffatt)
v. According to Moffatt, the English Prayer Book instructs that the minister is to give this invitation before the communion service: “Let him come to me or to some other discreet and learned minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution.” There can be great value to opening one’s grief.
vi. The great conviction of sin and the subsequent confession of sin are common during times of spiritual awakening. Charles Finney urged and described the confession of sin. In the North China revivals under Jonathan Goforth, confession was almost invariably the prelude to blessing; one writer describing the significant Korean revivals associated with Goforth wrote: “We may have our theories of the desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine, but I know that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it.” (from Calling to Remembrance by William Newton Blair)
vii. Public confession of sin has the potential for great good or bad. Some guiding principles can help.
· Confession should be made to the one sinned against. “Most Christians display a preference for confession in secret before God, even concerning matters which involve other people. To confess to God seems to them to be the easiest way out. If offenders were really conscious of the presence of God, even secret confession of private sin would have a good effect. Alas, most offenders merely commune with themselves instead of making contact with God, who refuses their prayers under certain conditions. In the words of our Lord, it is clear that sin involving another person should be confessed to that person.” (J. Edwin Orr)
· Confession should often be public. James 5:16 illustrates this principle. A.T. Robertson, the great Greek scholar, says that in James 5:16 the odd tense of the Greek verb “confess” in this verse implies group confession rather than private confession. It is confession “ones to others” not “one to one other.”
· Public confession must be discrete. Often the confession needs to be no more than what is necessary to enlist prayer. It can be enough to say publicly, “Pray for me, I need victory over my besetting sin.” It would be wrong to go into more detail, but saying this much is important. It keeps us from being “let’s pretend Christians” who act as if everything is fine when it isn’t. “Almost all sexual transgressions are either secret or private and should be so confessed. A burden too great to bear may be shared with a pastor or doctor or a friend of the same sex. Scripture discourages even the naming of immorality among believers, and declares that it is a shame even to speak of things done in secret by the immoral.” (Orr)
· Distinguish between secret sins and those which directly affect others. Orr gives a good principle: “If you sin secretly, confess secretly, admitting publicly that you need the victory but keeping details to yourself. If you sin openly confess openly to remove stumbling blocks from those whom you have hindered. If you have sinned spiritually (prayerlessness, lovelessness, and unbelief as well as their offspring, criticism, etc.) then confess to the church that you have been a hindrance.” (J. Edwin Orr)
· Confession is often made to people, but before God. At the same time, we notice that James 5:16 says “confess your trespasses to one another.” One of the interesting things about confession of sin as noted in the writings of J. Edwin Orr is that the confessions are almost always addressed to people, not to God. It isn’t that you confess your sin to God and others merely hear. You confess your sin before others and ask them to pray for you to get it right before God.
· Confession should be appropriately specific. When open confession of sin is appropriate – more than the public stating of spiritual need but confessing open sin or sin against the church – it must be specific. “If I made any mistakes, I’m sorry” is no confession of sin at all. You sinned specifically, so confess specifically. “It costs nothing for a church member to admit in a prayer meeting: ‘I am not what I ought to be.’ It costs no more to say: ‘I ought to be a better Christian.’ It costs something to say: ‘I have been a trouble-maker in this church.’ It costs something to say: ‘I have had bitterness of heart towards certain leaders, to whom I shall definitely apologise.’” (Orr, Full Surrender)
· Confession should be thorough. “Some confessions are not thorough. They are too general. They are not made to the persons concerned. They neglect completely the necessary restitution. Or they make no provision for a different course of conduct in which the sin is forsaken. They are endeavours for psychological relief.” (Orr)
· Confession must have honesty and integrity. If we confess with no real intention of battling the sin, our confession isn’t thorough and it mocks God. The story is told of an Irishman who confessed to his priest that he had stolen two bags of potatoes. The priest had heard the gossip around town and said to the man, “Mike, I heard it was only one bag of potatoes stolen from the market.” The Irishman replied, “That’s true Father, but it was so easy that I plan on taking another tomorrow night.” By all means, avoid phony confession – confession without true brokenness or sorrow. If it isn’t deeply real, it isn’t any good.
· One need not fear that public confession of sin will inevitably get out of hand. Orr tells of a time when a woman was overwrought by deep sorrow for sin and became hysterical. He saw the danger immediately and told her, “Quiet, sister. Turn your eyes on Jesus.” She did and the danger of extreme emotion was avoided.
· Those who hear a confession of sin also have a great responsibility. Those who hear the confession should have the proper response: loving, intercessory prayer, and not human wisdom, gossiping, or “sharing” the need with others.
viii. Real, deep, genuine confession of sin has been a feature of every genuine awakening or revival in the past 250 years. But it isn’t anything new, as demonstrated by the revival in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19:17-20. It says, many who believed came confessing and telling their deeds. This was Christians getting right with God, and open confession was part of it.
ix. “Confession is the soul’s vomit, and those that use it shall not only have ease of conscience, but God’s best comforts and cordials to restore them again.” (Trapp)
Happy is the man who is always reverent,
But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
a. Happy is the man who is always reverent: Sadly, reverence and happiness are not commonly associated together. The reverent man is often thought to be sour and unpleasant. Nevertheless, to the degree that one can be always reverent, he can be genuinely happy.
i. Always reverent: “In all times, companies, and conditions; not only in the time of great trouble, when even hypocrites will in some sort be afraid of sinning, but in times of outward peace and prosperity.” (Poole)
b. He who hardens his heart will fall into calamity: Here, reverence and hardness of heart are set as opposites. A man who hardens his heart will not be a truly reverent man, but he will fall into calamity either in this life or the life to come.
i. Hardens his heart: “When one hardens his heart his psyche can no longer feel, respond, and opt for a new direction. The hardened heart is fixed in unbelief and unbending defiance to God (Exodus 7:3; Psalm 95:8); insensible to admonition or reproof it cannot be moved to a new sphere of behavior.” (Waltke)
ii. “When that fear [reverent] is absent, courage is mere hardening of the heart, recklessness, foolhardiness. The man who shuts his eyes to God, gathers himself up, and desperately plunges forward, is no hero; he is a fool, and without exception sooner or later lands himself in circumstances which break him; and brings those about him into suffering and catastrophe.” (Morgan)
Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.
a. Like a roaring lion and a charging bear: With these vivid images, Solomon described the effect of a wicked ruler over poor people. The wicked ruler treats those of low standing (poor people) with unpredictable, uncontrollable ferocity. He is dangerous toward them.
i. “Look how the lion frightens the poor beasts with his roaring, so that they have no power to stir, and then preys upon them with his teeth; and as the bear searches them out and tears them limb from limb: so deal tyrants with their poor subjects.” (Trapp)
ii. “Because tyrants are like this, animal imagery (beast imagery?) is used in Daniel 7:1-8 for the series of ruthless world rulers. The poor crumple under such tyrants because they cannot meet their demands.” (Ross)
b. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor: The foolish ruler (the one who lacks understanding) will oppress his people. His reign will be unhappy and insecure because of the foolish way he leads his people.
i. “The tyranny or oppression of a prince, though by some accounted wisdom, is in truth a manifest act and sign of great folly, because it alienateth from him the hearts of his people, in which his honour, and safety, and riches consist.” (Poole)
ii. “No sentiment of pity softens his heart. No principle of justice regulates his conduct. Complaint only provokes further exactions. Resistance kindles his unfeeling heart into savage fury. Helpless and miserable indeed are the people whom divine anger has placed under his misrule.” (Paxton, cited in Bridges)
c. He who hates covetousness will prolong his days: If a man is wise enough to hate covetousness, he will likely be wise in other responsibilities as a ruler. It is likely that his days as a ruler will be prolonged.
A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit;
Let no one help him.
a. A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit: We can suppose this may happen because the man burdened with bloodshed has a guilty, anxious mind that clouds and confuses his thinking, and he ends up in a pit. Or, it may happen because God’s curse is on the man burdened with bloodshed.
i. “The proverb states that the offender himself (like the smitten Azariah, 2 Chronicles 26:20) hastens to his punishment, once his conscience is awake.” (Kidner)
ii. Flee into a pit: “Shall speedily be destroyed, being pursued by Divine vengeance, and the horrors of a guilty conscience, and the avengers of blood.” (Poole)
b. Let no one help him: As the man guilty of bloodshed falls into the consequences of his own actions, let no one help him. Often it is best to let people suffer the consequences of their sins.
i. Let no one help him: “He who either slays the innocent, or procures his destruction, may flee to hide himself: but let none give him protection. The law demands his life, because he is a murderer; and let none deprive justice of its claim.” (Clarke)
ii. “Protests against all capital punishment is misnamed philanthropy. Shall man pretend to be more merciful than God? Pity is misplaced here. The murderer, therefore, of his brother is his own murderer. Let God’s law take its course.” (Bridges)
iii. Charles Bridges was careful to add: “Yet we must not cast out his soul. Visiting the condemned cell is a special exercise of mercy. While we bow to the stern justice of the great Lawgiver, joyous indeed it is to bring to the sinner under the sentence of the law the free forgiveness of the Gospel; not as annulling his sin, but showing the over-abounding of grace beyond the abounding of sin.”
Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved,
But he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.
a. Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved: This proverb probably does not have eternal salvation in mind; instead, the idea is being saved or rescued from the calamities and troubles of life. Especially under the old covenant, God’s blessing and protection was upon those who walk blamelessly.
b. He who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall: The one who is twisted and crooked in his dealings can’t expect God’s blessing and protection. That crooked, twisted person should expect to suddenly fall one day.
He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!
a. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread: The reward of work is a harvest. The one who tills his land will enjoy the harvest that comes, and therefore have plenty of bread.
i. “If we are not to be lazy in business but fervent in spirit, in this world and in all its concerns, how much more we need to be like this in the momentous concerns of eternity!” (Bridges)
b. But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough: The one who ignores his work to have a good time (following frivolity) will not enjoy the fruit of the harvest the way the hard-working man will. Instead of plenty of bread, the lazy, frivolous man will have plenty of poverty. The Prodigal Son was a fulfillment of this (Luke 15:13-17).
i. “There is a meaningful repetition here: the diligent person will have ‘plenty [yisba] of bread,’ but the lazy person will have ‘plenty [yisba] of poverty’.” (Ross)
A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
a. A faithful man will abound with blessings: This is true as a general principle; faithfulness and obedience to God’s law brings blessings. It was especially true under the old covenant, where God promised blessings on the obedient and curses on the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27-28).
i. The faithful man will abound: “The man who makes fidelity the master principle will be rewarded. He who makes accumulation of wealth the master passion will be punished.” (Morgan)
b. He who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished: The one who hastens to be rich is almost always willing to cheat or compromise to gain wealth. God promises that this one will be punished, either in this life or the next.
i. He who hastens to be rich: “While not condemning possessions in themselves, Proverbs always rejects greed. It contrasts financial prudence, diligence, and generosity with the desire for quick and easy money.” (Garrett)
ii. “Even if no criminal means are resorted to, yet the immoderate desire, the perseverance in every track of Mammon, the laboring night and day for the grand object, and the delight and confidence in the acquisition all prove the idolatrous heart and will not go unpunished.” (Bridges)
To show partiality is not good,
Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.
a. To show partiality is not good: In the court of law and in our daily dealings with people, we should not show partiality. We should be those who do not favor or condemn others based on their race, class, nationality, or influence.
b. Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress: Because justice and the opinion of others can be easily bought, we should determine that we will not be bribed for partiality and we should be aware that others may be easily bought.
i. For a piece of bread: “For a trifle he will transgress, and sell his soul dog cheap for a groat, or less money.” (Trapp)
ii. “The price can go still lower, to as little as the fancied approval of a stronger personality; and the preacher (Ezekiel 13:19) is as vulnerable as the judge.” (Kidner)
A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
a. A man with an evil eye hastens after riches: The stingy, ungenerous man will run after riches with the same energy that he will use to selfishly hold on to what he has.
b. And does not consider that poverty will come upon him: Because God’s blessing does not rest on the stingy, ungenerous man, poverty will come upon him – and he will not consider or expect it.
i. “The Lord will see to it that only conscientious and compassionate people finally hold wealth in his kingdom.” (Waltke)
He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.
a. He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward: It may be necessary to rebuke a man, but it is to invite his displeasure. Still, it should be done in confidence that when done well, the one who rebukes will find more favor afterward.
b. Than he who flatters with the tongue: The one who rebukes may not be as welcomed as he who flatters, but the sacrificial service of he who rebukes will bring him into more favor than the one who always praises.
Whoever robs his father or his mother,
And says, “It is no transgression,”
The same is companion to a destroyer.
a. Whoever robs his father or his mother: There are some who have little conscience about stealing from their parents. Out of some sense of entitlement, they rob them and then say, “It is no transgression.”
i. Robs his father or mother: “As that idolatrous Micah did his mother of her gold; [Judges 17:2] as Rachel did her father of his gods; as Absalom did David of his crown.” (Trapp)
ii. “He who robs his parents is worse than a common robber; to the act of dishonesty and rapine he adds ingratitude, cruelty, and disobedience.” (Clarke)
iii. “He may rationalize, ‘eventually it all comes to me anyway’…or ‘they can no longer manage their finances,’ or ‘as a family we own everything in common,’ etc.” (Waltke)
b. The same is companion to a destroyer: Despite whatever sense of entitlement the thief may have, they are right next to a destroyer, someone who spreads and even loves destruction.
i. “The language is strong. The word for ‘robs’ could be rendered ‘plunders.’ ‘Him who destroys’ is someone who causes havoc in society.” (Garrett)
He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered.
a. He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife: A proud man or woman is constantly causing strife because they want the attention and preeminence. That doesn’t agree with most people, so there is strife.
i. Stirs up strife: “Because he makes it his great business to advance and please himself, and hateth and opposeth all that stand in his way, and despiseth other men, and is very jealous of his honour, and impatient of the least slighting, or affront, or injury, and indulgeth his own passions.” (Poole)
ii. “The greedy person’s insatiable appetite brings him into conflict with others, for he transgresses social boundaries. Not content with his portion, he becomes disruptive and destructive, and whose person and property he violates fight back.” (Waltke)
b. He who trusts in the LORD shall be prospered: To trust in the LORD is presented as a contrast to the proud heart. That one should expect to be prospered, as they humbly trust God and forsake pride.
i. “By contrast, those who trust in Yahweh can wait for their appetites to be satisfied, cause no discord, and in fact will be satisfied.” (Garrett)
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
a. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool: There is a strong urge – promoted to us by the world, the flesh, and the devil – to trust our own heart and to “follow our heart” instead of humbly receiving our values, morals, and wisdom from God’s word. This trusting in our own heart leads one to be a fool. For answers, values, and guidance we should not look within, but look to the Lord.
i. He who trusts in his own heart: “To trust an impostor who has deceived us a hundred times or a traitor who has proved himself false to our most important interests is surely to deserve the name of fool. This name, therefore, the Scriptures, using great plainness of speech, give to the person who trusts in himself.” (Bridges)
ii. A fool: “For his heart, which is deceitful and desperately wicked, will infallibly deceive him.” (Clarke)
b. Whoever walks wisely will be delivered: In contrast to trusting our own heart, we should instead give attention to walking wisely. Instead of operating on the basis of how we feel, we should direct ourselves to wise living in what we do.
i. Walks wisely: “Distrusting his own judgment, and seeking the advice of others, and especially of God, as all truly wise men do, he shall be delivered from those dangers and mischiefs which fools bring upon themselves; whereby he showeth himself to be a wise man.” (Poole)
ii. “The teaching here recalls the wise and foolish builders of Matt 7:24-27.” (Garrett)
He who gives to the poor will not lack,
But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.
a. He who gives to the poor will not lack: God promises to bless the generous heart, and one way that generosity should be expressed is to give to the poor.
i. Will not lack: “Not getting but giving is the way to wealth. God will bless the bountiful man’s stock and store, his barn and his basket; [Deuteronomy 15:10] his righteousness and his riches together shall endure for ever. [Psalms 112:3].” (Trapp)
b. He who hides his eyes will have many curses: God will not bless the one who ignores the troubles of the poor and needy.
i. He who hides his eyes: “Describes an attitude which is very common, though popularly supposed not to be wrong. To hide the eyes means to refuse to see poverty. It is the sin of those who say they are too sensitive to visit the slums.” (Morgan)
ii. Many curses: “Men shall curse him, and call him a Pamphagus, a churl, a hog in a trough, a fellow of no fashion, etc. God shall also curse him, and set off all hearts from him.” (Trapp)
When the wicked arise, men hide themselves;
But when they perish, the righteous increase.
a. When the wicked arise, men hide themselves: When wicked men come to places of prominence and rule, it is bad for the community. Freedom and blessing to the community are much less present and in response, men hide themselves.
b. When they perish, the righteous increase: When the wicked and their influence pass, the righteous increase, along with their influence. This is a blessing for a community or a nation.
i. The righteous increase: “They who were righteous do now again appear in public, and being advanced to that power which the wicked rulers have lost, they use their authority to encourage and promote righteousness, and to punish unrighteousness, whereby the number of wicked men is diminished, and the righteous are multiplied.” (Poole)
ii. “When the righteous increase in number and power, the people come out of their hiding…. This was the case during the reign of Hezekiah, whose men collected these proverbs (Proverbs 25:1; 2 Chronicles 29-30, esp. 2 Chronicles 30:13-27; cf. Esther 8:17; Acts 12:23, 24).” (Waltke)
iii. “In the early ages of the Christian church, after the death of the persecuting Herod, the Word of God grew and multiplied.” (Bridges)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proverbs 27 – Planning for the Future, Receiving Honor
Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
a. Do not boast about tomorrow: It is human nature to be overly confident in what future days hold. It is easy to boast about tomorrow, especially with our modern arrogance of continual progress.
b. For you do not know what a day may bring forth: We don’t know what tomorrow may hold, so we should have a humble attitude towards the future, as James 4:13-16 also speaks of.
i. “The verse is not ruling out wise planning for the future, only one’s overconfident sense of ability to control the future—and no one can presume on God’s future.” (Ross)
ii. “Little doth any man know what is in the womb of tomorrow, till God hath signified his will by the event. David in his prosperity said, that he should ‘never be moved’; but he soon after found a sore alteration: God confuted his confidence. [Psalms 30:6-7].” (Trapp)
iii. Spurgeon considered what a blessing it was that we do not know what a day may bring forth. “To know the good might lead us to presumption, to know the evil might tempt us to despair. Happy for us is it that our eyes cannot penetrate the thick veil which God hangs between us and to- morrow, that we cannot see beyond the spot where we now are, and that, in a certain sense, we are utterly ignorant as to the details of the future. We may, indeed, be thankful for our ignorance.”
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
a. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth: We should stay away from self-promotion in its many forms. Modern technology gives us many more methods and opportunities to praise ourselves, but we should avoid such self-praise.
b. A stranger, and not your own lips: Honor means much more when it comes from an outside source, even a stranger than being the product of self-praise and self-promotion.
i. “A German proverb says: ‘Eigen-Lob stinkt, Freundes Lob hinkt, Fremdes Lob klingt’—’self-praise stinks, friend’s praise limps, stranger’s praise rings.’” (Waltke)
A stone is heavy and sand is weighty,
But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them.
a. A stone is heavy and sand is weighty: Solomon appealed to self-evident truths. It is in the nature of a stone to be heavy and in the nature of sand to be weighty.
b. But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them: When a fool – someone who rejects God’s wisdom – expresses their anger and wrath, it is a weighty, dangerous thing. The wrath of any person may have great consequence; how much more a fool?
Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before jealousy?
a. Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent: In all its manifestations, anger is a dangerous and difficult to control expression – like a torrent.
i. “The metaphor depicts anger as a spiritual force that is destructive, irrational and violent.” (Waltke)
b. Who is able to stand before jealousy? Solomon pointed out that there is a power and destructive capability in jealousy that can even go beyond wrath and anger. It can make a bigger torrent of evil. It was envy that motivated the religious leaders to arrange the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:18).
i. Jealousy: “Is a raging emotion that defies reason at times and takes the form of destructive violence, like a consuming fire.” (Ross)
ii. Kidner notes that jealousy in the Scriptures is usually used in a positive sense; it is jealousy for – God’s proper jealousy for our love. Yet passages like this also acknowledge that there is a dark side of jealousy, jealousy of and not for.
iii. Poole explained why jealousy is worse than wrath and anger: “Envy is worse than both of them, partly, because it is more unjust and unreasonable, as not caused by any provocation, as wrath and anger are, but only proceeding from a malignity of mind, whereby a man is grieved for another man’s happiness…and partly, because it is more secret and undiscernible, and therefore the mischievous effects of it are hardly avoidable; whereas wrath and anger discover themselves, and so forewarn and forearm a man against the danger.”
Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.
a. Open rebuke is better: Many are hesitant to rebuke others, especially others in God’s family. But there is a time and place where rebuke is not only good it is better than the alternative.
i. “Rebuke—kindly, considerately, and prayerfully administered—cements friendship rather than weakens it.” (Bridges)
ii. “We do not really like rebuke. We are inherently inclined to resent it. The fact that we really deserve it, or need it, does not make it pleasant…moreover, our dislike of rebuke leads us to think that those who love us serve us well when they are silent in the presence of our shortcomings.” (Morgan)
iii. “Yet it is a rough medicine, and none can desire it. But the genuine open-hearted friend may be intended, who tells you your faults freely but conceals them from all others.” (Clarke)
b. Than love carefully concealed: Love does little good when it is concealed. The honest love of an open rebuke can be much better than the carefully concealed love.
i. “Love that is hidden is not perfect love in either sense. The highest love must and does express itself. It does so in praise of the loved one…. Love that hides itself, professes not to see, perhaps does not see, and so remains silent, is love on a very low level.” (Morgan)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
a. Faithful are the wounds of a friend: A mark of a true friend is that they will be willing to wound us with loving correction. The correction may not feel good – as genuine wounds – but it will be an expression of the love and faithfulness of a friend.
i. “The ‘wounds’ are a metaphor for the painful and plain words that must be spoken in a true friendship in order to heal the beloved and/or to restore a broken relationship.” (Waltke)
b. The kisses of an enemy are deceitful: This cautions us that not all kisses are the greetings of friends. They may come from an enemy and be deceitful.
i. “Such as were the kisses of Joab, Judas, Absalom, and Ahithophel are not to be fancied, but deprecated and detested.” (Trapp)
ii. “Who would not choose this faithful wound, however painful at the moment of infliction, rather than the multiple kisses of an enemy? The kiss of the apostate was a bitter ingredient in the Savior’s cup of suffering.” (Bridges)
A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
a. A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb: When our life is satisfied – either materially or physically – then we find it easy to hate and reject things that would otherwise be greatly desired, such as the honeycomb.
i. “Most agree that the proverb is capable of wider application than eating; it could apply to possessions, experiences, education, etc.” (Ross)
ii. Spiritually, this can be understood in a negative sense: “May not satiety be as great a curse as famine? Is it not fearfully written on many a professing Christian, he who is full loathes honey?” (Bridges)
ii. Spiritually, this can be understood in a positive sense: “The best way of combating worldliness is by satisfying the heart with something better. The full soul loatheth even the honeycomb. When the prodigal gets the fatted calf, he has no further hankering after the husks which the swine eat…. Fill your heart with God and His sacred truth, and the things of the world will lose their charm.” (Meyer)
b. To a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet: When a life is truly hungry, they will eat almost everything and consider it sweet. This is true in the physical world, seen in those deprived of food for long periods. It is also seen in the spiritual world, when those who are awakened as truly hungry souls are ravenous for spiritual food.
i. Charles Spurgeon used this proverb as a basis to speak of the sweetness of Jesus and His work for us: “Sweet is liberty to the captive, and when the Son makes you free, you are free indeed; sweet is pardon to the condemned, and proclaims full forgiveness and salvation; sweet is health to the sick, and Jesus is the great physician of souls; sweet is light to those who are in darkness and to eyes that are dim, and Jesus is both sun to our darkness and eyes to our blindness.”
Like a bird that wanders from its nest
Is a man who wanders from his place.
a. Like a bird that wanders from its nest: With just a few words, Solomon painted a heart-touching picture of a bird away from its place of safety and security – the nest where it belongs.
i. This proverb made Charles Spurgeon think about those who seem to wander from church to church. “Too many in our London churches are a sort of flying camp, always flying from one place to another – a set of gipsy-Christians, who have no settled abode, and no local habitation.”
b. Is a man who wanders from his place: We have a place appointed by God, and we can be as out of place as a bird without a nest if we wander from it. We need to take care that we perceive our place not as the one that culture or community may assign to us, but truly the place God has assigned us.
i. “Those who wander lack the security of their home and can no longer contribute to their community life.” (Ross)
ii. “An honest man’s heart is the place where his calling is: such a one, when he is abroad, is like a fish in the air, whereinto if it leap for recreation or necessity, yet it soon returns to its own element.” (Trapp)
Ointment and perfume delight the heart,
And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
a. Ointment and perfume delight the heart: Solomon stated a self-evident truth. It is in the nature of an ointment or perfume to delight the heart through its pleasant smell.
b. The sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel: Strong, hearty counsel from a friend is sweet and can bring delight – just as it is natural for ointment and perfume to delight the heart. This proverb should make us ask, Is there someone in my life who can give hearty counsel? Can I give hearty counsel to someone else?
i. “The gladdening oil and incense is a simile for the agreeable and delightful counsel of a friend that originates in his very being. Both the outward fragrances and the wholesome counsel produce a sense of wellbeing.” (Waltke)
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,
Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;
Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.
a. Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend: We should hold the bonds of friendship as dear and obligating, even beyond generations. Friends should not be forsaken.
i. “A well and long tried friend is invaluable. Him that has been a friend to thy family never forget, and never neglect.” (Clarke)
ii. “Solomon exemplified his own rule by cultivating friendly links with Hiram, the friend of his father (1 Kings 5:1-10). The unprincipled contempt of this rule cost Solomon’s foolish son his kingdom (1 Kings 12:6-19).” (Bridges)
iii. “Now, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus is ‘thine own friend, and thy father’s friend,’ the injunction of the text comes to thee with peculiar force: ‘Forsake him not.’ Canst thou forsake him?” (Spurgeon)
b. Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity: We should not assume that our birth brother is the best one to help in the day of calamity, especially if the brother is far away. Better is a lesser resource that is nearby than a better resource that is far away.
i. “The ‘brother’ in Proverbs 27:10 is a close relative, one to whom people naturally turn in difficult times. Normally the close family identity of the Israelites would dictate that one go to a relative for help, and this verse is surprising for appearing to go against custom here.” (Garrett)
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad,
That I may answer him who reproaches me.
a. My son, be wise, and make my heart glad: Solomon gave a simple encouragement to his son to be wise and therefore bring gladness to his father.
b. That I may answer him who reproaches me: A foolish son is a cause of insult and reproach to the parents. In some way, the son who rejects wisdom makes the parents look bad.
i. “In other words, his son will either publicly disgrace the father or enable him to stand proudly before even his enemies.” (Garrett)
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;
The simple pass on and are punished.
a. A prudent man foresees evil: Wisdom will lead a man or woman to anticipate danger and to take action, such as to hide from the coming evil.
i. “This was delivered Proverbs 22:3, and is here repeated to enforce the foregoing exhortation, by representing the great advantage of wisdom.” (Poole)
b. The simple pass on and are punished: Those who are naïve and untrained in wisdom are blind to the potential danger around them. They will eventually bear the bad consequence of their blindness and be punished.
i. “The verse is a motivation for the naive to be trained; for life would be far less painful for them if they knew how to avoid life’s dangers.” (Ross)
ii. Pass on: “The simple rush blindfolded into hell. The ox has to be driven to destruction, but the sinner plunges into it in spite of every effort to restrain him.” (Bridges)
Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger,
And hold it in pledge when he is surety for a seductress.
a. Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger: If someone is a bad credit risk (foolish enough to be surety for a stranger), then we should hold a deposit as security against anything they owe to us (take the garment).
b. When he is surety for a seductress: The man is as immoral and foolish to be surety for a seductress, then we should especially regard them as a credit risk.
i. “Probably by her enticements and flatteries, she seduced some male to become indebted to her (see Proverbs 5 and Proverbs 7). The proverb instructs the disciple to have nothing to do with these fools.” (Waltke)
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning,
It will be counted a curse to him.
a. He who blesses his friend with a loud voice: The sense here is of an over-the-top greeting and blessing, meant to flatter and manipulate. It is loud and it starts early in the morning. Something is amiss in such excessive praise.
i. Blesses his friend with a loud voice: “That extols a man above measure, – as the false prophets did Ahab, and the people Herod, – that praiseth him to his face; which, when a court parasite did to Sigismund the emperor, he gave him a sound box on the ear.” (Trapp)
ii. “His unnatural voice and timing betrays him as a hypocrite and no good will come of it.” (Waltke)
iii. “Remember the Italian proverb elsewhere quoted: ‘He who praises you more than he was wont to do, has either deceived you, or is about to do it.’ Extravagant public professions are little to be regarded.” (Clarke)
b. It will be counted a curse to him: Normally a friendly greeting is a blessing. Yet if that blessing is flattery or meant to manipulate it can be counted a curse.
i. “There is nothing more calculated to arouse suspicion than profuse protestations of friendship.” (Morgan)
ii. “When a man exceeds all bounds of truth and decency, affecting pompous words and hyperbolical expressions, we cannot but suspect some sinister motive. Real friendship needs no such assurance.” (Bridges)
A continual dripping on a very rainy day
And a contentious woman are alike;
Whoever restrains her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.
a. A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike: The scene is in a house with a bad roof, where a rainy day means continual dripping. That dripping shows there is a problem, it brings damage, and it greatly annoys. That is the same effect as a contentious woman in the house.
i. “The man takes shelter under the roof of his home expecting to find protection from the storm. Instead, he finds his leaky roof provides him no shelter from the torrential downpour. Likewise, he married with the expectation of finding good, but the wife from whom he expected protection from the rudeness of the world, harshly attacks him at home.” (Waltke)
b. Whoever restrains her restrains the wind: To correct or reform a contentious woman can be a fool’s errand. She can be as difficult to restrain as the wind or as hard to get a hold of as oil in the hand. Instead of trying to change a contentious woman, a wise and godly husband loves her as Jesus Christ loves His church (Ephesians 5:25-31) and leaves the changing up to God.
i. “The husband would be dealing with a woman who was as unpredictable and uncontrollable as a gust of wind or a hand grasping oil.” (Ross)
ii. John Trapp saw in this a warning to men in how they chose their future spouse: “Let this be marked by those that venture upon shrews, if rich, fair, well descended, in hope to tame them and make them better.”
As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
a. As iron sharpens iron: A piece of iron can sharpen another piece of iron, but it happens through striking, friction, and with sparks. We think of the iron of a blacksmith’s hammer working on a sword to make it sharp.
b. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend: A man can be used to sharpen (improve and develop) his friend, but it may happen through a bit of friction and sparks. We shouldn’t be afraid of such and expect that true sharpening can happen without the occasional use of friction.
i. “The analogy infers that the friend persists and does not shy away from critical, constructive criticism.” (Waltke)
ii. “Gladly let us take up the bond of brotherhood. If a brother seems to walk alone, sharpen his iron by godly communication. Walk together in mutual concern for each other’s infirmities, trials, and temptations.” (Bridges)
iii. Countenance: “…almost equals ‘personality’ here. Like ‘soul’, it can stand for the man himself.” (Kidner)
Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit;
So he who waits on his master will be honored.
a. Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit: The worker is worthy of his reward. If a man keeps a fig tree, it is appropriate for him to eat its fruit. It is cruel and unfair to keep the fruit of a man’s labor from him.
i. “He mentions the fig tree, because they abounded in Canaan, and were more valued and regarded than other trees.” (Poole)
ii. “The fig tree needed closer attention than other plants; so the point would include the diligent tending of it.” (Ross)
b. So he who waits on his master will be honored: The appropriate fruit from properly serving one’s master is to be honored. It isn’t right to keep honor from the one who has faithfully waited on his master. God promised to reward those who wait upon Him. Do your work diligently and leave promotion and reward up to God.
i. In a sermon on this proverb Charles Spurgeon mentioned many ways that our Master may choose to honor His servants:
· We are honored in our Master’s honor.
· We are honored with our Master’s approval.
· We are honored by being given more to do.
· We are honored in the eyes of our fellow servants.
· We are honored by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As in water face reflects face,
So a man’s heart reveals the man.
a. As in water face reflects face: Smooth and clear water can give a wonderful reflection of a man or woman’s face.
i. “The Hebrew is very cryptic: literally, ‘As the water the face to the face, so the man’s heart to the man.’” (Kidner)
b. So a man’s heart reveals the man: The feelings and thoughts that come from our heart reveal us as the reflection in smooth water reveals the face. Who we are will eventually be evident to others as our words and actions reveal our heart.
Hell and Destruction are never full;
So the eyes of man are never satisfied.
a. Hell and Destruction are never full: The grave and the world beyond will receive humanity and never become full. They are used here as figures of something that can never be satisfied.
i. “The grave devours all the bodies which are put into it, and is always ready to receive and devour more and more without end.” (Poole)
b. So the eyes of man are never satisfied: Our longing to look upon things we desire will never be satisfied; it must be controlled and brought under God’s dominion. A man will never see enough alluring images of women or enough beautiful machines. The answer is having the need channeled and satisfied in God and what He provides.
i. The eyes of man: “That is, their lusts, their carnal concupiscence. To seek to satisfy it is an endless piece of business.” (Trapp)
ii. “The lust of the eye led Eve and Adam to transgress social boundaries in the first place. It is the bane of humanity, and this truism should drive the son to examine his own lusts.” (Waltke)
iii. “As the grave can never be filled up with bodies, nor perdition with souls; so the restless desire, the lust of power, riches, and splendour, is never satisfied. Out of this ever unsatisfied desire spring all the changing fashions, the varied amusements, and the endless modes of getting money, prevalent in every age, and in every country.” (Clarke)
The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And a man is valued by what others say of him.
a. The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold: There is an appropriate place for silver and gold to be refined. It doesn’t happen just anywhere, but in the refining pot.
b. A man is valued by what others say of him: We often know a man’s value more by what others say of him than by what he thinks of himself. A man’s self-estimation can be unreliable.
i. “There are three interpretations of this proverb. First, that you may know what a man is by the way he bears praise. Second, that you may know what a man is by the things he praises. Third, that a man who treats praise as the fining pot treats silver and gold purges it of unworthy substance.” (Morgan)
ii. “Public praise formed a test for Saul and David (1 Samuel 18:7), David coming out the better for it.” (Ross)
iii. “He who is praised is not only much approved, but much proved. The courting of the praise of our fellow creatures has to do with the world within. Praise is a sharper trial of the strength of principle than is reproach.” (Bridges)
Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain,
Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.
a. Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle: Solomon used a striking and vivid image. Like crushed grain in a mortar and with a pestle, he pictured a fool being ground up.
b. Yet his foolishness will not depart from him: Despite the rough treatment mentioned in the previous line, foolishness does not depart from the fool. One of the sad marks of the fool is that he will not learn.
i. “Prisons were made into penitentiaries through the mistaken notion that confinement would bring repentance and effect a cure. Instead, many prisoners become hardened criminals. Divine grace that regenerates the fool is his only hope of being converted into a useful person.” (Waltke)
Be diligent to know the state of your flocks,
And attend to your herds;
For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
The lambs will provide your clothing,
And the goats the price of a field;
You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food,
For the food of your household,
And the nourishment of your maidservants.
a. Be diligent to know the state of your flocks: Solomon wrote this with images from the world of agriculture (flocks…herds…. hay…grass…lambs…goats), but the principle applies in many other areas of life. We should work hard (be diligent) to know the state of whatever God has given us management over. If you don’t know the condition of something, you can’t effectively manage or lead it.
i. Flocks and herds “are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches.” (Poole)
ii. “This country scene is not designed to make farmers of everybody, but to show the proper interplay of man’s labour and God’s nurture, which a sophisticated society neglects at its peril.” (Kidner)
iii. Attend to your herds: “Hebrew, Set thy heart to them – that is, be very inquisitive and solicitous of their welfare. Leave not all to servants, though never so faithful; but supervise and oversee business, as Boaz did.” (Trapp)
b. For riches are not forever: We should give ourselves to diligent leadership and management because the future is uncertain. If we take good care of what God has given us now, it may provide for us in the future (the lambs will provide your clothing and so forth). If we don’t take care of what we have, it won’t be able to provide for us in an uncertain future.
i. “People should preserve what income they have because it does not long endure…the poem shows the proper interplay between human labor and divine provision.” (Ross)
ii. Goats the price of a field: “Wherewith thou mayest pay thy rent, and besides hire tillage, or it may be purchase land, and have money in thy purse to do thy needs with.” (Trapp)
iii. Enough goats’ milk: “The milk is qualified by goat’s, because goat’s milk was by far the animal nutrient of choice in the ancient Near East. It is richer in protein and easier to digest than cow’s milk.” (Waltke)
iv. “Proverbs 27:27 need not be taken to imply that goat’s milk will be the staple of everyone’s diet; after Proverbs 27:26b the intent is rather that one can sell surplus milk or barter it for other kinds of food…you will have more than enough to meet all of your family’s needs.” (Garrett)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Proverbs 26 – The Nature of the Fool and the Lazy Man
A. Fools and sluggards.
1. (1) Honor doesn’t fit the fool.
As snow in summer and rain in harvest,
So honor is not fitting for a fool.
a. As snow in the summer and rain in the harvest: These things are out of place and in an economy based on grain grown in the field, they are disasters of bad timing.
i. “A snow-fall in summer would signal the times are out of joint and would be catastrophic (cf. 1 Samuel 12:17). Snow or rain ruins the grain harvest by damaging and causing it to rot.” (Waltke)
b. Honor is not fitting for a fool: Honor for the fool is also out of place – and can lead to disaster.
i. “The ‘fool’ is the stupid person who is worthless and vain (just the kind of person popular culture seems to honor).” (Ross)
ii. “The present age, through the tricks of publicity, is especially prone to idolize ‘vain and light persons’, for whom the treatment of Proverbs 26:3 might be better medicine.” (Kidner)
iii. “Because he neither deserves it, nor knows how to use it, but his folly is both increased and publicly manifested by it.” (Poole)
2. (2) The destiny of a curse without cause.
Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow,
So a curse without cause shall not alight.
a. Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow: Solomon described birds that fly without taking rest on a branch or a surface.
b. So a curse without cause shall not alight: In the same way that a bird will fly without landing, so a curse that someone makes without proper cause before God will not alight. If someone pronounces a curse it does not have magical properties; there must be cause before God for it to have any power.
i. “Therefore, if the heart knows that a curse is unjust it may rest in the certainty that it cannot harm.” (Morgan)
ii. “Since the Creator and Lord of history is the source of blessing and cursing through a fellow human being, the proverb infers that the undeserved/unfitting curse is ineffective because the Sovereign does not back it up.” (Waltke)
iii. “What was David the worse for Shimei’s rash railings? Or Jeremiah for all the people’s cursings of him? [Jeremiah 15:10].” (Trapp)
iv. “Balaam is the reluctant witness against all superstition: ‘How can I curse whom God has not cursed?’ (Numbers 23:8).” (Kidner)
3. (3-6) Dealing with fools.
A whip for the horse,
A bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the fool’s back.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
He who sends a message by the hand of a fool
Cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
a. Whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey: There is an instrument appropriate for these animals. There is also an instrument that fits the fool: a rod for the fool’s back. What they will not learn from the words of wisdom they must learn through the infliction of pain.
i. “Like brute animals, force is the only language they understand.” (Garrett)
ii. “This proverb, with its fellows, is written for us in two capacities: as people dealing with fools, and as potential fools ourselves.” (Kidner)
b. Do not answer a fool according to his folly: When a fool pours forth his foolishness, it is often right to not answer them. Sometimes contending with a fool can make one just like the fool.
i. Do not answer a fool: “When he is incorrigible, or when he is inflamed with passion or wine, etc., or when it is not necessary, nor likely to do him good.” (Poole)
ii. “One should not descend to his level of thought. To get into an argument with a fool like that would only make one look like a fool as well.” (Ross)
iii. “Hezekiah would not answer Rabshakeh, nor Jeremiah Hananiah; [Jeremiah 28:11] nor our Saviour his adversaries. [Matthew 26:62 John 19:9] He reviled not his revilers, he threatened not his open opposites. [1 Peter 2:23].” (Trapp)
c. Answer a fool according to his folly: Other times the right thing is to answer a fool. Sometimes a wise answer to a fool will expose his folly and prevent him from becoming wise in his own eyes.
i. Answer a fool: “When he is capable of receiving good by it, or when it is necessary for the glory of God, or for the discharge of a man’s duty, or for the good of others.” (Poole)
ii. “Answer that is in agreement with the Lord’s wisdom puts the fool’s topsy-turvy world right side up and so is fitting.” (Waltke)
iii. Those who think Proverbs 26:4 contradicts Proverbs 26:5 are unfamiliar with the nature of practical wisdom in life. “They are put together to show that human problems are often complicated and cannot always be solved by appealing to a single rule.” (Ross)
iv. “Oh, for wisdom to govern the tongue, to discover the right time to speak and the right time to stay silent. How instructive is the pattern of our great Master! His silence and his answers were equally worthy of himself. The former always conveyed a dignified rebuke. The latter responded to the confusion of his contentious enemies.” (Bridges)
d. He who sends a message by the hand of a fool: One should never expect a good result from sending a message by the hand of a fool. It is like harming one’s self. Curiously, God chose the foolish things of this world to be His messengers (1 Corinthians 1:27), but He wants them to be something better than fools in His work.
4. (7-12) The nature of the fool.
Like the legs of the lame that hang limp
Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Like one who binds a stone in a sling
Is he who gives honor to a fool.
Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard
Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
The great God who formed everything
Gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.
As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
a. Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools: In a series of “like the” statements, Solomon colorfully explained the nature of the fool.
· The fool’s possession of wisdom (such as a proverb in the mouth) is useless, like the legs of the lame.
· The fool’s receiving of honor is stupid, like the one who binds a stone in a sling so that it can’t be cast out.
· The fool’s attempt to proclaim wisdom brings pain, like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard.
i. These are absurd illustrations, but “no less absurd is he that giveth to a fool that honour and praise which he is not capable either of receiving, or retaining, or using aright, but it is quite wasted upon him, and doth him more hurt than good.” (Poole)
ii. Like the one who binds a stone in a sling: “A sling was made of a leather or textile strip that had been broadened in the middle and into which the stone was placed, but never bound” (Waltke). “The stone tied in the sling may swing back around and hit the slinger” (Garrett).
iii. Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard: “He handleth it hard, as if it were another kind of wood, and it runs into his hand. So do profane persons pervert and pollute the Holy Scriptures, to their own and other men’s destruction.” (Trapp)
b. Gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages: God’s guidance and governing over all things extends to the fool and the transgressor. He will make sure they get what is due, as both their hire and their wages.
i. “As he made all so he maintains all, even the evil and the unthankful…or he allows them a livelihood, gives them their portion in this life, fills their bellies with his good treasure, but by it sends leanness into their souls, or if he fattens them, it is to fit them for destruction, as fated ware is fitted for the meat market.” (Trapp)
c. As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly: A fool will not change their ways apart from a dramatic transformation. Just as it is in the dog’s nature to return to his own vomit, it is the fool’s nature to repeat his folly. 2 Peter 2:22 used this verse to illustrate the repulsive nature of a sinner returning to their sin.
i. “An intentionally repulsive simile. It juxtaposes a fool with the contemptible dog; his destructive folly with the dog’s vomit; and the fool’s incorrigibility with the dog’s repulsive nature to return to its vomit, to sniff at it, to lick it, and finally to eat it.” (Waltke)
ii. “We naturally turn away from this sight. Would that we had the same disgust at the sin that it so graphically portrays.” (Bridges)
d. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? Despite the severe treatment of the fool, Solomon thought of a man in even worse danger – the proud man, the one wise in his own eyes. This is a special type of folly, one that will never learn the ways of wisdom.
i. “The greatest fool is the fool who does not know he is a fool.” (Morgan)
ii. “The peril is a very subtle one. We are prone to be wise in our own conceits, without knowing that we are so. A simple test may be employed. When we fail to seek divine guidance in any undertaking it is because we do not feel our need of it; In other words, we are wise in our own conceit. There is no safer condition of soul, than that self-distrust, that knowledge of ignorance, which drives us persistently to seek for the wisdom which comes from above.” (Morgan)
5. (13-16) The nature of the lazy man.
The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road!
A fierce lion is in the streets!”
As a door turns on its hinges,
So does the lazy man on his bed.
The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl;
It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.
The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can answer sensibly.
a. There is a lion in the road: The lazy man will create any excuse to avoid work. A lion in the road was a virtual impossibility in Biblical times. The lazy man shows creative talent (imagining not only a lion, but a fierce lion) and a form of work, but it is dedicated to the effort of avoiding work.
b. As a door turns on its hinges: The only way a door can turn is on its hinges. The only turning the lazy man does is on his bed.
i. On his bed: “But comes not off, unless lifted or knocked off. So neither comes the sluggard out of his feathered nest, where he lies soaking and stretching, unless hard hunger or other necessity rouse and raise him.” (Trapp)
ii. On its hinges: “The humor in this verse is based on the analogy with a door—it moves but goes nowhere. Likewise, the sluggard is hinged to his bed.” (Ross)
c. It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth: The lack of energy and initiative in the lazy man is so profound that he can’t or won’t properly care for his personal needs.
i. “The sluggard so dislikes any form of work that the very thought of exerting himself exhausts him.” (Waltke)
ii. “Admiration for the wit of this portraiture has to be tempered with disquiet, on reflection that the sluggard will be the last to see his own features here (see Proverbs 26:16), for he has no idea that he is lazy: he is not a shirker but a ‘realist’ (Proverbs 26:13); not self-indulgent but ‘below his best in the morning’ (Proverbs 26:14); his inertia is ‘an objection to being hustled’ (Proverbs 26:15); his mental indolence a fine ‘sticking to his guns’ (Proverbs 26:16).” (Kidner)
d. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes: The lazy man may lack energy and initiative, but he doesn’t lack a high opinion of himself. He considers himself smarter than seven men who can answer sensibly. The lazy man has great confidence in his own abilities but never seems to accomplish much.
i. Seven men: “Seven here only means perfection, abundance, or multitude. He is wiser in his own eyes than a multitude of the wisest men.” (Clarke)
B. The wise person avoids sins of speech.
1. (17) The wisdom of not interfering in the disputes of others.
He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.
a. He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own: Some find it irresistible to get involved in the disputes of other people. The quarrel doesn’t really belong to them, but he makes it his own. Jesus knew when to not get involved in another’s dispute (Luke 12:14).
i. Meddles: “The Hebrew verb literally means ‘become excited’…the Hebrew could fit the line—someone who gets angry over the fight of another.” (Ross)
b. Is like one who takes a dog by the ears: It is a foolish and dangerous thing to take a dog by the ears. Once one does, it’s hard to let go without getting bit, and the dog never appreciates it.
i. “Exposeth himself to great and needless hazards, as a man that causelessly provoketh a mastiff dog against himself.” (Poole)
ii. “Not even Samson grabbed the foxes by their ears (Judges 15:4).” (Waltke)
iii. “There is a world of difference between suffering as a Christian and suffering as a busybody. Even with Christian intentions, many of us are too fond of meddling in other peoples’ affairs.” (Bridges)
iv. “This proverb stands true ninety-nine times out of a hundred, where people meddle with domestic broils, or differences between men and their wives.” (Clarke)
2. (18-19) The danger of the practical joker.
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,
Is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, “I was only joking!”
a. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death: Solomon painted the picture of a fierce warrior with many weapons, spreading destruction everywhere.
b. Is the man who deceives his neighbor: The man who plays tricks on others, deceiving them, and covering it by saying, “I was only joking!” is a danger to others – and a very unwelcome companion.
i. “He bears no malice. He indulges only the pure love of mischief. He carries on a scheme of imposition as harmless play. His companions compliment him on his adroitness and join in the laugh of triumph over the victim of his cruel jest.” (Bridges)
3. (20-22) The dangerous words of the talebearer.
Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.
As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.
a. Where there is no talebearer, strife ceases: Just as wood fuels a fire, so the talebearer or gossip fuels strife. The fire won’t continue to burn without the wood, and the strife won’t continue when the talebearer stops their work. James described the power of words to set a destructive fire (James 3:6).
i. “As long as there is an ear to receive, and a tongue to pass on, some piece of malicious slander will continue to circulate. But directly it reaches a hearer who will not whisper it forward, in that direction at least its progress is arrested.” (Meyer)
ii. “The tale-receiver and the tale-bearer are the agents of discord. If none received the slander in the first instance, it could not be propagated. Hence our proverb, ‘The receiver is as bad as the thief.’ And our laws treat them equally; for the receiver of stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, is hanged, as well as he who stole them.” (Clarke)
b. So is a contentious man to kindle strife: Strife doesn’t create itself. It has a maker, and it is the gossip, the talebearer, the contentious man.
i. “In the absence of such a person, old hurts can be set aside, and discord can die a natural death. Even so, we often find a juicy tidbit of defamation irresistible.” (Garrett)
c. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles: This proverb, repeated from Proverbs 18:8, explains that the gossip and evil reports brought by the talebearer are almost impossible to resist. Those who should know better find it difficult to tell the talebearer to stop talking.
i. “The words of a gossip [talebearer] in an unguarded moment may inflict irreparable injury. This evil may be welcomed in certain circles that thrive on scandal. But that does not alter the real character of a gossip, who is detested by both God and man.” (Bridges)
d. They go down into the inmost body: When we receive the words of a talebearer, they normally have an effect on us. The words go down into us and often change the way we think and feel about people, even if what the talebearer says isn’t true or isn’t confirmed. God gave a strong word regarding the confirmation of testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19).
i. Once we start eating these tasty trifles, it is hard to stop. “When such tasty bits are taken into the innermost being, they stimulate the desire for more.” (Ross)
ii. “This was delivered before, Proverbs 18:8, and is here repeated, as being a point of great concernment to the peace and welfare of all societies, and fit to be oft and earnestly pressed upon the consciences of men, because of their great and general proneness to this sin.” (Poole)
4. (23) Fair words covering a foul heart.
Fervent lips with a wicked heart
Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.
a. Fervent lips with a wicked heart: There are people who are able to speak with power and persuasion, but they have a wicked heart. The ill effect of their wicked heart is made much more effective because of their fervent words.
i. “As Luther renders this text; – a bad mouth, and a worse heart. Wicked men are said to speak with a heart and a heart, [Psalms 12:2, marg.} as speaking one thing and thinking another, drawing a fair glove on a foul hand.” (Trapp)
b. Like earthenware covered with silver dross: This is an example of something that looks superficially good with a silver veneer, but it is worthless earthenware on the inside. So, the man mentioned in the first line may attract people superficially, but inside he is worthless.
i. “Because of its silvery gloss, this slag was used as a glaze for ceramics.” (Waltke)
ii. “Lips which make great professions of friendship are like a vessel plated over with base metal to make it resemble silver; but it is only a vile pot, and even the outside is not pure.” (Clarke)
5. (24-26) The secret hater.
He who hates, disguises it with his lips,
And lays up deceit within himself;
When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart;
Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
a. He who hates, disguises it with his lips: It is common for those who hate others – God or men – to disguise it with their words. They don’t want to give up their hate, but they don’t want to be known as a hater.
i. “Charming words might merely cover evil thoughts.” (Ross)
b. He lays up deceit within himself: The secret hater deceives others, but he also deceives himself. He imagines himself to be a better man than he really is.
c. When he speaks kindly, do not believe him: This secret hater should not be trusted. Even if he speaks kindly, his words do not reflect the true thoughts of his heart – his hatred is covered by deceit.
i. Seven abominations in his heart: “Seven abominations is an abstraction for the full panoply of his wicked thoughts and deeds that utterly offend the moral sensibilities of the righteous.” (Waltke)
d. His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly: Whether this assembly is in the world or the world to come, the wickedness and evil heart of the secret hater will be revealed.
i. “He shall be detected and detested of all, sooner or later. God will wash off his varnish with rivers of brimstone.” (Trapp)
ii. The assembly: “refers to a legal assembly convoked to try the enemy’s evil deeds and to mete out punishment. In Proverbs justice is meted out in an indefinite future that outlasts death.” (Waltke)
6. (27-28) The self-appointed judgment on the lying tongue.
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.
A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it,
And a flattering mouth works ruin.
a. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it: In His judgments, God often appoints that people reap what they sow; that He will treat them the same way they have treated others. They will fall into the pit they dug for others; the stone they rolled against someone else will roll back on them.
i. “For samples consider Haman (Esther 7:10) and Daniel’s enemies (Daniel 6:24-28).” (Ross)
ii. “Cardinal Benno relates a memorable story of Pope Hildebrand, or Gregory VII, that he hired a base fellow to lay a great stone upon a beam in the church where Henry IV, the emperor, used to pray, and so to lay it that it might fall as from the top of the church upon the emperor’s head, and kill him. But while this wretch was attempting to do it, the stone, with its weight, drew him down, and falling upon him, dashed him in pieces upon the pavement.” (Trapp)
b. A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it: The liar does his destruction without sympathy for others. He does not feel sorry for the ones he crushes; he actively hates them.
i. “Lying is an act of hatred. In one way or another, lies destroy those whom they deceive. Therefore the liar despises not only the truth but his victims as well.” (Garrett)
ii. Those who are crushed: “Classifying himself among the oppressed Paul said: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’ (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).” (Waltke)
c. A flattering mouth works ruin: Flattery is another way the lying tongue brings ruin. Their flattering mouth builds pride and manipulates others for deceptive goals.
i. “The heart of the matter is exposed in Proverbs 26:28, with the fact that deceit, whether it hurts or soothes, is practical hatred, since truth is vital, and pride fatal, to right decisions.” (Kidner)
ii. “False love proves to be true hatred.” (Trapp)
iii. “Pray for wisdom to discover the snare, for gracious principles to raise us up above vain praises, for self-denial, for the capacity to be content and even thankful without such flatteries. This will be our security.” (Bridges)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proverbs 25 – Hezekiah’s Collection of Solomon’s Proverbs
A. Wisdom before kings and judges.
1. (1) Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs.
These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied:
a. These are the proverbs of Solomon: This collection of proverbs is from Proverbs 25:1 through Proverbs 29:27, making up five chapters of the book of Proverbs. These also were written by Solomon yet collected under the supervision of Hezekiah king of Judah – some 270 years after Solomon’s death.
i. 1 Kings 4:32 tells us that Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs. Even with Hezekiah’s addition, not all of them are contained in the Book of Proverbs.
b. Which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied: King Hezekiah of Judah reigned over a time of national spiritual revival. He added these chapters to the previous collection of proverbs, having found these yet-to-be-published proverbs of Solomon.
i. The men of Hezekiah: “Certain persons appointed by Hezekiah for that work, whether prophets, as Isaiah, Hosea, or Micah, who lived in his days, or some others, it is neither evident nor material.” (Poole)
2. (2-5) The wisdom of kings.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,
So the heart of kings is unsearchable.
Take away the dross from silver,
And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.
Take away the wicked from before the king,
And his throne will be established in righteousness.
a. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter: There are many mysteries in the universe, both material and spiritual mysteries. There are many things God has concealed, and this is one expression of His glory. It is one of God’s ways to say, “You are amazed by what you see; yet what you don’t see, what I have concealed, is even greater.”
i. “Those unsearchable secrets of his – such as are the union of the three persons into one nature, and of two natures into one person, his wonderful decrees, and the no less wonderful execution thereof, etc. – these make exceeding much to the glory of his infinite wisdom and surpassing greatness.” (Trapp)
ii. “I know not, however, that there are not matters in the Book of God that will not be fully opened till mortality is swallowed up of life. For here we see through a glass darkly; but there, face to face: here we know in part; but there we shall know as we also are known.” (Clarke)
b. The glory of kings is to search out a matter: It is the glory of great men (kings) to search out what God has concealed. This speaks to our pursuit of God’s mysteries in the spiritual world, but perhaps even more so to God’s mysteries in the material world. When men and women seek out scientific knowledge, trying to understand the mystery and brilliance of what God has concealed in His creation, they express an aspect of the glory of humanity, even the glory of kings. Therefore, we say to the scientist, search on, and do so with all your strength.
i. In all their searching, the scientist should still keep this humble remembrance: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. “What I see amazes me, but God has concealed even greater treasures of knowledge and wisdom in His creation (Romans 1:19-20). I must not arrogantly think that I can figure it all out.” As G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “That is the principle of all the triumphs of scientific investigations; and it is the deepest secret of all advance in spiritual strength.”
ii. “It is suggestive that those scribes put this Proverb first…had not all this resulted from the fact that they had been under the rule of a king whose supreme glory had been that of searching out the secrets of wisdom in the fear of Jehovah?” (Morgan)
iii. “Proverbs 25:2 appears to be an intentional tribute to Solomon and Hezekiah as scholar-kings. This proverb comes from a time when academic inquiry and governmental power were closely linked; in the modern world they are more separated.” (Garrett)
c. So the heart of kings is unsearchable: While it is part of the glory of kings to search out a matter, one thing every man has trouble searching is his own heart, and we have trouble searching the hearts of others. Such knowledge can be so far above us, like the heavens above the earth. Yet, God knows the heart (Romans 8:27, 1 Corinthians 2:10).
i. As the heavens for height and the earth for depth: “As the sky extends to apparently limitless heights above the surface of the earth, with reference to depth emphasizes the apparently limitless extent of the earth far below humankind’s feet.” (Waltke)
ii. The heart of kings is unsearchable: “The king’s decisions are beyond the knowledge of the people…many things cannot be made known, being ‘unsearchable’ because, perhaps, of his superior wisdom, his caprice, or the necessity of maintaining confidentiality.” (Ross)
d. Take away the wicked man from before the king: Like dross should be removed from silver, so wicked counselors and associates should be removed from the presence of kings and rulers. Then will their leadership (throne) be established in righteousness.
i. “You cannot have a pure silver vessel till you have purified the silver; and no nation can have a king a public blessing till the wicked-all bad counsellors, wicked and interested ministers, and sycophants-are banished from the court and cabinet.” (Clarke)
3. (6-7) Conduct before kings.
Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of the great;
For it is better that he say to you,
“Come up here,”
Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
a. Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king: We should always avoid self-exaltation. Even as we should humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord (James 4:10), we should also humble ourselves before others.
i. “Loving to be preeminent is the bane of godliness in the church. Let each of us set about the work of throwing down our high tower of conceit.” (Bridges)
b. Come up here: When a man or a woman properly humbles themselves before God and kings, they may be invited to a higher place. This is much better than arrogantly setting ourselves high and then being put lower in the presence of the prince. Jesus gave much the same lesson in Luke 14:8-11, concluding with the thought: For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).
i. In the presence of the prince: “Now, if before an earthly prince men should carry themselves thus modestly and humbly, how much more before the King of heaven! And if among guests at a feast, how much more among the saints and angels in the holy assemblies!” (Trapp)
4. (8-10) Wisdom in avoiding court.
Do not go hastily to court;
For what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor has put you to shame?
Debate your case with your neighbor,
And do not disclose the secret to another;
Lest he who hears it expose your shame,
And your reputation be ruined.
a. Do not go hastily to court: Sometimes the court of law is necessary, but we should never go hastily to court. If it is possible to resolve a dispute any other way, we should do it that other way. This was Paul’s later teaching to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
i. “After squandering your money away upon lawyers, both they and the judge will at last leave it to be settled by twelve of your fellow citizens! O the folly of going to law! O the blindness of men, and the rapacity of unprincipled lawyers!” (Clarke)
ii. “Jesus gave a similar teaching in Luke 12:57-59.” (Garrett)
b. When your neighbor has put you to shame: This is another strong reason why one should avoid court – you might lose and be put to shame. Many people who go to court have an unrealistic confidence that they will win.
c. Debate your case with your neighbor: Solomon’s wise advice is to settle it out of court. If you can debate your case outside the court, do it there. The debate may expose a secret that would be to your shame in open court and from that your reputation be ruined.
i. “To run to the law or to the neighbours is usually to run away from the duty of personal relationship—see Christ’s clinching comment in Matthew 18:15b.” (Kidner)
ii. “One should not smear another’s name to clear his own or a defendant’s.” (Waltke)
iii. Adam Clarke could not help but add this: “On this subject I cannot but give the following extract from Sir John Hawkins’s Life of Dr. Johnson, which he quotes from Mr. Selwin, of London: ‘A man who deliberates about going to law should have, 1. A good cause; 2. A good purse; 3. A good skilful attorney; 4. Good evidence; 5. Good able counsel; 6. A good upright judge; 7. A good intelligent jury; and with all these on his side, if he have not, 8. Good luck, it is odds but he miscarries in his suit.’”
The remaining of Proverbs 25 contains one or two verse proverbs that will be considered individually.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
a. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold: There is something special and powerful about a word fitly spoken. The right word at the right time has power to heal and strengthen, to guide and rescue. It is like an apple made of gold set on a beautiful silver platter.
i. A word fitly spoken: “Hebrew, Spoken upon his wheels – that is, rightly ordered and circumstantiated, spoken with a grace, and in due place. It is an excellent skill to be able to time a word, [Isaiah 50:4] to set it upon the wheels, as here. How ‘good’ are such words!” (Trapp)
b. Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear: The word fitly spoken may also be a rebuke. When the one who is a wise rebuker meets an obedient ear, it is like beautiful jewelry (an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold).
Like the cold of snow in time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
For he refreshes the soul of his masters.
a. Like the cold of snow in time of harvest: This speaks of a cold drink, cooled by the cold of snow, given to a hardworking man in time of harvest. The refreshing, invigorating nature of that cold drink illustrates the blessing of a faithful messenger to those who send him. The faithful messenger is beloved by the one who sends the message. God wants His people to be faithful messengers of His gospel and work.
i. In the Apocrypha there is a description of a man who died from heat stroke during time of harvest (Judith 8:2-3).
ii. “Probably the reference is to drink cooled with snow. During the hot summers, laborers brought snow and ice from the high mountains and stored them in snow houses or snow caves; they were transported, for example, insulated by jute.” (Waltke)
iii. “Proverbs 25:13 does not mean that it snows at harvest time—that would be an unmitigated disaster. It refers to bringing down snow from the mountains during the heat of harvest and the refreshment that gives to workers.” (Garrett)
b. He refreshes the soul of his masters: The sender of the message is refreshed and comforted knowing that the message is being faithfully delivered. So, God is pleased with His faithful messengers today.
i. “The apostle Paul often acknowledged this refreshment to his anxious spirit when he was burdened with all the care of the churches (1 Corinthians 16:17-18; Philippians 2:25-30; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-7).” (Bridges)
Whoever falsely boasts of giving
Is like clouds and wind without rain.
a. Whoever falsely boasts of giving: There are some who give nothing but want to be known as people who give; others give small gifts and want to be known as those who give great gifts (such as Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11). They want the reputation of generosity without actually being generous.
i. “The lesson, of course, is not to make false promises.” (Ross)
b. Is like clouds and wind without rain: When the clouds and wind of a storm come, we expect life-giving rain. When the clouds and wind are without rain, it is a disappointment – just like he who falsely boasts of giving.
i. The short New Testament letter of Jude used this figure to describe dangerous, unproductive people (Jude 1:12).
By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded,
And a gentle tongue breaks a bone.
a. By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded: Our self-control and patience can persuade great men to our cause, even a ruler. William Wilberforce persuaded the leaders of the British Empire to outlaw slavery through long forbearance and dedication to his righteous cause.
b. A gentle tongue breaks a bone: The patient, gentle words of a wise man or woman can have a great impact over a long period of time. Such words can have bone-breaking power.
i. “The gentle tongue breaking a bone might seem to be a paradox. But it is a fine illustration of the power of gentleness above hardness and irritation.” (Bridges)
Have you found honey?
Eat only as much as you need,
Lest you be filled with it and vomit.
a. Eat only as much as you need: If someone has found honey – something good and wonderful to find – the honey should be enjoyed, but one should eat only as much as you need.
b. Lest you be filled with it and vomit: If something good (honey) is eaten beyond what one needs, if we fill ourselves with it, then it may cause an unpleasant reaction (vomit) and we lose the good thing we thought we gained. Overindulgence in good things is harmful and counterproductive.
i. “Since Eden, man has wanted the last ounce out of life, as though beyond God’s ‘enough’ lay ecstasy, not nausea.” (Kidner)
ii. “By honey he understands, not only all delicious meats, but all present and worldly delights, which we are here taught to use with moderation. Honey excessively taken disposeth a man to vomiting.” (Poole)
Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house,
Lest he become weary of you and hate you.
a. Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house: It is expected that neighbors would visit neighbors, but such hospitality should not be abused.
i. “Blessed be God, there is no need of this caution and reserve in our approach to him. Once acquainted with the way of access, there is no wall of separation. Our earthly friend may be pressed too far; kindness may be worn out by frequent use. But never can we come to our heavenly Friend unseasonably.” (Bridges)
b. Lest he become weary of you and hate you: The wise man or woman will be sensitive to the sense that a neighbor may become weary of their presence. Since good neighborly relationships make life much better, this is an important principle of wisdom.
i. “Friendship ripens through discreet sensitivity not to intrude on privacy and to allow space to be a person in his own right, not through self-enjoyment, impetuosity, or imposition. Without that discretion, instead of enriching life, friendship takes away from it.” (Waltke)
ii. “At first thou mayest be Oreach, as the Hebrew proverb hath it, i.e., welcome as a traveller that stays for a day. At length thou wilt be Toveach, a charge, a burden. And lastly, by long tarrying, thou shalt be Boreach, an outcast, hunted out of the house that thou hast so immodestly haunted.” (Trapp)
A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
Is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble
Is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint.
a. A man who bears false witness against his neighbor: Many proverbs speak against the man who bears false witness. This liar, whether in the court of law or common conversation, does great damage. He is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow. It is not a small sin to bear false witness against a neighbor.
i. The man who bears false witness “Is as cruel and pernicious to him as any instrument of death. The design of the proverb is to show the wickedness of slander, and that a false witness is in some respect as bad as a murderer.” (Poole)
ii. “For in-close battle he used the war club (or mace), for less close but still hand to hand fighting the sword (or dagger or scimitar, see Proverbs 5:4) and for long distance fighting the bow and arrow.” (Waltke)
iii. “Lo, here the mischief of an evil tongue, thin, broad, and long, like a sword to let out the life blood of the poor innocent – nay, to destroy his soul too, as seducers do that bear false witness.” (Trapp)
iv. “The tongue wounds four people at one stroke. The person harms himself, the object of his attack, anyone who listens to his words, and the name of God. Flee from this deadly disease.” (Bridges)
b. Like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint: These two proverbs are connected because the man who bears false witness is often also the unfaithful man in time of trouble. In one aspect he brings pain, in the other aspect he is a pain. The unfaithful man is useless and like a persistent, debilitating pain.
Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather,
And like vinegar on soda,
Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
a. Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather: Some people and their actions are especially troublesome. They bring discomfort (like leaving one without a garment in cold weather) and constant agitation (like vinegar on soda).
i. Like vinegar on soda: “To pour acid on this alkali is ‘first of all to make it effervesce, and, secondly, to destroy its specific qualities’.” (Martin, cited in Kidner)
b. Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart: The one who treats the heavy heart without sensitivity brings discomfort and the irritation of agitation. If songs are sung to a heavy heart, they should be sung in a minor key.
i. “The proverb indicates the impropriety of making merry in the presence of sorrow. It is wrong in method and serves to increase distress rather than to soothe it.” (Morgan)
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.
a. If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat: The Bible commands us to have giving-love and care even to our enemy. Human nature would tell us to hate our enemy, but the Bible tells us to love our enemies and to do it practically (Matthew 5:44-47).
i. “The implication that one should refrain from extracting vengeance is obvious. Paul quoted this proverb in his discussion of ‘love’ in Romans 12:9-21.” (Garrett)
b. For so you will heap coals of fire on his head: Commentators debate if this is a good thing or a harsh thing; if this is something good in the eyes of your enemy or not. Most likely it refers to a burning conviction that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start his or her own – an appreciated act of kindness. Either way, we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend, and the LORD will reward you.
i. “Not to consume, but to melt him into kindness; a metaphor taken from smelting metallic ores.” (Clarke)
ii. “Most commentators agree with Augustine and Jerome that the ‘coals of fire’ refers to ‘burning pangs of shame’ which a man will feel when good is returned for evil, his shame producing remorse and contrition.” (Waltke)
iii. “By heaping courtesies upon him, thou shalt win him over to thyself…. In doing some good to our enemies, we do most to ourselves.” (Trapp)
iv. “Do you think that others have wronged you? Pity them pray for them; seek them out; show them their fault, humbly and meekly; wash their feet; take the mote out of their eye; seek to restore them in a spirit of meekness, remembering that you may be tempted; heap coals of loving-kindness on their heads; bring them if possible into such a broken and tender frame of mind, that they may seek forgiveness at your hand and God’s. If you cannot act thus with all the emotion you would feel, do it because it is right, and the emotion will inevitably follow.” (Meyer)
The north wind brings forth rain,
And a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.
a. The north wind brings forth rain: Solomon mentioned this as an example of cause and effect. The north wind blows, and it brings forth rain.
b. A backbiting tongue an angry countenance: Those who speak ill of others with a backbiting tongue will provoke an angry countenance in others. This is a matter of cause and effect, just like the north wind bringing forth rain.
It is better to dwell in a corner of a housetop,
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
a. Better to dwell in the corner of a housetop: The corner of a housetop is not a great place to live. It is small, confined, and exposed to the elements because it is on the roof. Yet in some circumstances, the corner of a housetop is a better place to live.
i. “Hostile speech from the wife is as unexpected and unwelcome as the rain from the north wind and as from a sly tongue. Moreover, there may be a figurative connection between the north wind and exposure on the corner of the roof.” (Waltke)
b. Than in a house shared with a contentious woman: To have the whole house but live in constant conflict with a contentious woman is misery. The same principle would be true of the contentious man. One would be better off in a humbler living situation and have peace in the home. For emphasis, this proverb is repeated from Proverbs 21:9.
i. “Christian woman, do not think these proverbs are unworthy of your attention. Be sure you do not fit the description of this dreadful picture. And surely the repeated exhibition strongly inculcates the cultivation of the opposite graces, the absence of which clouds the female character in painful deformity.” (Bridges)
As cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a far country.
a. As cold water to a weary soul: When a person is weary, a gift of cold water is greatly refreshing. Soul in this proverb is used in the same sense as most other proverbs, as a reference to the whole person and life, not only the inner spiritual aspect of a person.
i. “Water could be cooled in porous containers made out of clay, for they were able to keep its content at a temperature at least five degrees below that of the storage place.” (Meinhold, cited in Waltke)
b. So is good news from a far country: When we receive good news, especially from a far country, it brings great and life-giving refreshment. This applies to good news of many types, not the least is the gospel, that good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ to rescue all who put their trust in Him.
i. The fact that someone travels from a far country to deliver good and important news makes the news all the more important. Many are willing to listen to the good news of Jesus Christ from someone who comes from a distance, just because the trouble they went to in bringing the message adds to its importance.
ii. “In the Biblical world news traveled agonizingly slow and was delivered with great difficulty, so that extending the distance to a far off land heightens the refreshment.” (Waltke)
A righteous man who falters before the wicked
Is like a murky spring and a polluted well.
a. A righteous man who falters before the wicked: Sometimes it is true that a righteous man stumbles and falters. This is always sad, but even more so when it happens before the wicked, in the view of those who reject God and His wisdom.
i. “What a blemish was it for Abraham to fall under the reproof of Abimelech! for Samson to be taken by the Philistines in a whorehouse! for Josiah to be minded of his duty by Pharaoh Necho! for Peter to be drawn by a silly wench to deny his master!” (Trapp)
ii. “The gross wickedness of the ungodly passes in silence. But Satan makes the neighborhood ring with the failings of those who profess to be Christians.” (Bridges)
b. Is like a murky spring and polluted well: Instead of the clarity and life-giving property of clean, clear water, a compromised life is like a dirty pool. It gives no life, no clarity, no refreshment, and no help.
i. “His despicable compromise disappoints, deprives and imperils the many who have learned to rely on him for their spiritual life.” (Waltke)
ii. “For a thirsty traveler expecting relief, the effect of coming upon a polluted well is disbelief and disappointment, and it serves as an apt metaphor for the profound disillusionment one feels when the righteous yield to evil.” (Garrett)
It is not good to eat much honey;
So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.
a. It is not good to each much honey: Honey is an example of one of God’s great gifts. In the world of Solomon’s day sweets were rare and nothing was sweeter than honey. Yet, overindulgence in even a good gift like honey is not good. Self-control must be practiced even with good things.
b. So to seek one’s own glory is not glory: Glory can be a good thing, and it is part of God’s promise to the believer (Romans 8:18). Yet to seek one’s own glory is not good; it is not glory at all. We should seek God’s glory and not worry about our own glory.
i. “Much honey produces nausea. So eventually does self-glorification.” (Morgan)
Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.
a. Whoever has no rule over his own spirit: There are many who have so little self-control that it can be said that they have no rule over their own spirit. The world, the flesh, or the devil rule over such people, and not the spirit of self-control that is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
b. Is like a city broken down, without walls: A city broken down, a city without walls has no defense and is vulnerable to every attack. It has no security, stability, and can protect nothing really valuable. This shows some of the terrible cost of having no rule over one’s own spirit.
i. “Certainly the noblest conquests are gained or lost over ourselves. The first outbreak of anger resulted in murder. A king’s lack of watchfulness about lust resulted in adultery.” (Bridges)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
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 decisions 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: “Hebrew, 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’…. 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 21:11] proud persons, [Proverbs 3:34] naught, [Proverbs 9:12].” (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 their calamity 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 or 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: “Hebrew, 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, etc., 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 unwelcome 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)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proverbs 23 – Words of the Wise
A. Wisdom in the “do not” warnings.
1. (1-3) Do not be deceived at the ruler’s table.
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you;
And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food.
a. When you sit down to eat with a ruler: The idea is of a generous invitation to eat with powerful people at a table loaded with delicious, well-prepared food. This was something like what Daniel and his companions later faced in Daniel 1.
i. “The rich do not give away their favors for free. They want something in return, and it is generally much more than what they have invested. One can lose one’s own soul in the exchange.” (Garrett)
b. Consider carefully what is before you: Don’t be overwhelmed and seduced by the atmosphere of power and luxury. If you are vulnerable to these temptations, then beware (put a knife to your throat).
i. “The expression ‘put a knife to your throat’ (Proverbs 23:2) means ‘to curb your appetite’ or ‘to control yourself’ (like ‘bite your tongue’).” (Ross)
ii. “It is a shame for a saint to be a slave to his palate. Isaac loved venison too, too well.” (Trapp)
iii. Given to appetite: “Though referring here narrowly to food, can be interpreted broadly with reference to all appetites. Total prohibition is necessary for a person who cannot control his appetites; the disciple can give no place to lust (cf. Matthew 5:29-30).” (Waltke)
c. They are deceptive food: The ruler’s table may be your ruin. You may be so seduced by the atmosphere of power and luxury that you surrender what should not be surrendered, you promise what should not be promised, and in effect you worship and serve what should not be worshipped and served.
i. “So the warning is not to indulge in his impressive feast—the ruler wants something from you or is observing you.” (Ross)
ii. “Let every young man desirous of walking in the ways of wisdom, keep his eye illuminated by the fear of Jehovah, all who put before him their material dainties, lest they rob him of his spiritual excellencies.” (Morgan)
2. (4-5) Do not make an idol of wealth.
Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
a. Do not overwork to be rich: Many times, the Book of Proverbs rebukes and even mocks the lazy man. Yet this does not mean that work and the wealth that comes from work should be made an idol. One may begin to worship work; that one should cease and do so because of your understanding. You know better.
b. Riches certainly make themselves wings: Though working hard is a mark of wisdom, we don’t live for the riches that may come from that work. Those riches are too vulnerable and temporary to be a worthy focus of our life.
i. Like an eagle toward heaven: “The addition adds to the metaphor of the swift and powerful eagle that he outstrips all attempts to capture him. Riches will certainly disappear, and once gone, they are gone forever.” (Waltke)
3. (6-8) Do not eat at the table of a stingy man.
Do not eat the bread of a miser,
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.
a. Do not eat the bread of a miser: The ruler’s table was a dangerous place (Proverbs 23:1-3), but so is the table of the miser, the one with an evil or ungenerous eye.
i. The miser: “The envious or covetous man, who secretly grudgeth thee the meat which he sets before thee, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 28:22; Matthew 20:15; as, on the contrary, a liberal man is said to have a good eye, Proverbs 22:9.” (Poole)
b. “Eat and drink!” he says to you: The stingy man says this to his guests, but his heart is not with you. He doesn’t want you to really enjoy yourself at his table, because he wants to keep more food for himself. You will offend him if you are foolish enough to take him at his word.
i. “That is, of a miserly muckworm, that wisheth thee choked for so doing, even then when he maketh greatest show of hospitality and humanity.” (Trapp)
ii. “But there are no such dangers linked to the invitations of the Gospel. The table is ready, and the invitations have been sent out. The only qualification is our own hunger to accept the invitation and eat the heavenly food. Then we discover that our appetite increases with every mouthful we consume.” (Bridges)
c. The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up: The table of the miser will be such an unpleasant experience that the food you enjoyed will come back to bother you. The pleasant words spoken at his table will seem wasted.
i. “These proverbs contradict the common notion that Proverbs regards the rich as righteous and thus favored by God. To the contrary, wealthy people often are viewed with a marked suspicion, and their company is not always valued.” (Garrett)
4. (9) Do not waste your words on the fool.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
For he will despise the wisdom of your words.
a. Do not speak in the hearing of a fool: This assumes that the one doing the speaking is not himself a fool and is a wise man.
i. In the hearing: “…rather, in the ears (King James Version); it is direct address, not something overheard.” (Kidner)
b. He will despise the wisdom of your words: The fool will not receive or appreciate your wisdom. It will be as Jesus later described – like throwing pearls before pigs (Matthew 7:6).
5. (10-11) Do not steal from others.
Do not remove the ancient landmark,
Nor enter the fields of the fatherless;
For their Redeemer is mighty;
He will plead their cause against you.
a. Do not remove the ancient landmark: Literally, the ancient landmark was normally a stone marker for a property line. Moving the landmark was a way to make your field bigger and to steal from your neighbor. Symbolically, the ancient landmark was a tradition or custom from ancestors.
b. Nor enter the fields of the fatherless: The field of the orphan needed special care and protection. It was evil to enter the fields of the fatherless to take some of the harvest from those who had trouble protecting it.
c. Their Redeemer is mighty: The orphan and all who are vulnerable have a special protector, a Redeemer. He has vowed to plead their cause against all who would come to take what they have.
i. Redeemer is the meaningful Hebrew word goel. “The Redeemer/Avenger (goel) was usually a powerful relative who would champion the rights of the defenseless; but if there was no human goel God would take up their cause (see Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6; Job 19:25; Isaiah 41-63).” (Ross)
6. (12) Do not neglect wisdom.
Apply your heart to instruction,
And your ears to words of knowledge.
a. Apply your heart to instruction: Wisdom can be given out, but it must be received to be of any lasting good. The reception of wisdom isn’t passive; it is active, received with a heart that truly applies wisdom and instruction.
i. “The verse is in the imperative and suggests that education is vital to one’s whole life.” (Garrett)
b. And your ears to words of knowledge: We mostly receive wisdom by what we hear, especially in the guidance we receive from the wise. Our ears must be tuned to receive and apply God’s wisdom. When the heart and the ears work together to receive wisdom, much is gained.
i. “When the heart is graciously opened and enlightened, the ears instantly become attentive.” (Bridges)
7. (13-14) Do not fail to correct your children.
Do not withhold correction from a child,
For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
You shall beat him with a rod,
And deliver his soul from hell.
a. Do not withhold correction from a child: The concept here is not that correction is imposed on a child, but that it properly belongs to a child and to not bring needed correction is to withhold it.
b. You shall beat him with a rod: The figure of the rod in Proverbs is sometimes used literally and sometimes figuratively. There is place for both literal, physical correction of a child (such as spanking), and correction through the rod of an alternative punishment or word.
i. “However, the cleansing rod must be applied with the warmth, affection and respect for the youth. Warmth and affection, not steely discipline, characterize the father’s lectures (cf. Proverbs 4:1-9). Parents who brutalize their children cannot hide behind the rod-doctrine of Proverbs.” (Waltke)
ii. “This text does not justify brutalizing children. Parents who find it only too easy to apply the rod, and especially those who lose their tempers when doing so, should consider Ephesians 6:4.” (Garrett)
iii. “An intemperate use of this scriptural ordinance brings discredit on its efficacy and sows the seed of much bitter fruit. Children become hardened under an iron rod. Sternness and severity close up their hearts. It is very dangerous to make our children afraid of us.” (Bridges)
c. And deliver his soul from hell: The word translated hell here is actually sheol, which first has the idea of the grave. Sometimes it is used in the sense of physical death, and other times in the sense of eternal death. Either or both may be in view here.
8. (15-16) The joy of a father imparting wisdom.
My son, if your heart is wise,
My heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself;
Yes, my inmost being will rejoice
When your lips speak right things.
a. If your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice: The general context of the Book of Proverbs is of a father teaching wisdom to his children. Here Solomon reflected on the great happiness he would have if his children actually received and lived in this wisdom.
b. When your lips speak right things: Wisdom (or the lack of wisdom) is often seen in the words we speak. When the father hears his child’s lips speak right things, he has reason to believe that the lessons of wisdom have been learned.
i. Inmost being: “Of all human organs, the Old Testament associates the kidneys in particular with a variety of emotions. The range of usage is very wide; the kidneys are looked upon as the seat of emotions from joy to deepest agony.” (Kellermann, cited in Waltke)
9. (17-18) Do not envy sinners.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
But be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day;
For surely there is a hereafter,
And your hope will not be cut off.
a. Do not let your heart envy sinners: This is an easy trap to fall into. On this side of eternity and the ultimate judgments of God it may seem that sin is unpunished and righteousness is unrewarded.
i. “Our hearts, instead of envying sinners, should be full of compassion for them, for they have nothing to look forward to but death.” (Bridges)
b. Be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day: Instead of being jealous of the wicked, determine to have an eternal perspective rooted in the fear of the LORD, an active recognition of the greatness and righteousness of God.
i. In a sermon on this verse, Charles Spurgeon gave a wonderful definition of the fear of the LORD: “The fear of the Lord is a brief description for true religion. It is an inward condition, betokening hearty submission to our heavenly Father. It consists very much in a holy reverence of God, and a sacred awe of him. This is accompanied by a child-like trust in him, which leads to loving obedience, tender submission, and lowly adoration.”
ii. All the day: “Men must wake with God, walk with him, and lie down with him, be in continual communion with him and conformity unto him. This is to be in heaven beforehand.” (Trapp)
c. For surely there is a hereafter: If this life was all there would be, then we would have much more reason to envy sinners. Yet, as the conclusion of the Book of Ecclesiastes demonstrates, surely there is a hereafter, and therefore wisdom means that we should live in the fear of the LORD.
B. A father warns his child about wine and women.
1. (19-21) The danger of drinking companions.
Hear, my son, and be wise;
And guide your heart in the way.
Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
a. Hear, my son, and be wise: This repeats the basic context of Proverbs, that it is the wise instruction and guidance of a father to his children.
i. Hear: “I have read that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I there was a law made that everybody should go to his parish church; but many sincere Romanists loathed to go and hear Protestant doctrine. Through fear of persecution, they attended the parish church; but they took care to fill their ears with wool, so that they should not hear what their priests condemned. It is wretched work preaching to a congregation whose ears are stopped with prejudices.” (Spurgeon)
b. Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat: The wise counsel to a son or daughter is that they should not mix with those who overindulge in alcohol or food. The drunk and the glutton have a bad future (poverty and rags), and the wise man or woman will not share it with them.
i. “The ‘drunkard’ and the ‘glutton’ represent the epitome of the lack of discipline.” (Ross)
ii. Will come to poverty: “Nay, to eternal misery in hell; [1 Corinthians 6:10] but few men fear that; beggary they hold worse than any hell…. But poverty to such is but a prelude to a worse matter.” (Trapp)
iii. Drowsiness:“The self-indulgent are reduced to destitution (Proverbs 23:21a) due to the drowsiness that accompanies addiction to wine and over-eating (Proverbs 23:21b). Their full stomachs empty their minds.” (Waltke)
2. (22) An exhortation to listen to parents.
Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
a. Listen to your father who begot you: Wisdom can never be learned until the attention is won. There must be a deliberate effort to listen.
b. Do not despise your mother when she is old: This affirms the principle of honor your father and mother in Exodus 20:12 (and later in Ephesians 6:2). When parents become old, they should receive special attention and care.
3. (23) The attitude to have towards wisdom.
Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.
a. Buy the truth, and do not sell it: We should have the mentality that we are willing to gain truth and wisdom and gain it at a cost instead of wanting to forsake it for profit.
i. Buy the truth:“Purchase it upon any terms, spare no pains nor cost to get it.” (Poole) “Buy the truth; that is, be willing at all risks to hold to the truth. Buy it as the martyrs did when they gave their bodies to be burned for it. Buy it as many have done when they have gone to prison for it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Do not sell it: “Sell it not; sell it not; it cost Christ too dear. Sell it not; you made a good bargain when you bought it. Sell it not. Sell it not; it has not disappointed you; it has satisfied you, and made you blessed Sell it not; you want it. Sell it not, you will want it. The hour of death is coming on, and the day of judgment is close upon its heels. Sell it not; you cannot buy its like again; you can never find a better.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The Savior says that we should buy from him (Revelation 3:18). This settles the matter. If we do not really want the goods, we will not pay much attention to the proverb. For we only buy what we eagerly desire.” (Bridges)
b. Also wisdom and instruction and understanding: Proverbs often uses these terms to mean the same thing. Truth, instruction, and understanding in this context are all ways of describing wisdom.
4. (24-25) Wise children bring joy to their parents.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.
Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who bore you rejoice.
a. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice: It is a great blessing for parents to have righteous and wise children. That parent will delight in him.
b. Let your father and your mother be glad: One reason for a son or daughter to pursue and gain wisdom is that it will make one’s parents glad. It will be an appropriate blessing and reward those who gave the son or daughter life and an upbringing.
5. (26-28) The danger of the immoral woman.
My son, give me your heart,
And let your eyes observe my ways.
For a harlot is a deep pit,
And a seductress is a narrow well.
She also lies in wait as for a victim,
And increases the unfaithful among men.
a. Give me your heart: Solomon understood that wisdom must be received with the heart. It can’t only be a matter of facts or principles learned in the mind or even memorized. Wisdom must be received into a willing, given, heart.
b. Let your eyes observe my ways: At least at the time of writing this, Solomon could point to his own life as an example of wisdom when it came to the dangers of an immoral woman. He knew teaching is most effective when it comes from a life that knows and lives wisdom.
i. Observe my ways: “The Hebrew here hath it, Let thine eyes run through my ways. Get a full prospect of them, and diligently peruse them. Fix and feed thine eyes upon the best objects, and restrain them from gazing upon forbidden beauties, lest they prove to be windows of wickedness, and loopholes of lust.” (Trapp)
c. A harlot is a deep pit: The pit in mind is the trap dug and concealed to capture a large animal. As an animal might fall into such a deep pit, so the danger of the harlot is real and concealed.
i. “This smooth talking beauty (see Proverbs 5:1-6; Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 7:10-21) engages in sexual intercourse for lust and/or money with no intention and/or capability of a binding and enduring relationship. Having trapped her victim, he cannot escape the pit because it is deep.” (Waltke)
ii. “Samson broke the bonds of his enemies, but he could not break the bonds of his own lusts. He choked the lion, but he could not choke his own wanton love” (Ambrose, cited in Bridges).
d. A seductress is a narrow well: A well is a source of satisfying water, and the sexual relationship of a husband and wife is described as good water from a well (Proverbs 5:15). Here the idea is of a well that doesn’t satisfy. The seductress offers great satisfaction but ultimately doesn’t deliver, lacking the true intimacy and trust that build a satisfying sexual experience.
i. Narrow well: “Connotes that this sexual partner frustrates him. The fornicator came hoping to quench his sexual appetite, but…he finds her incapable of the intimacy necessary to satisfy that thirst.” (Waltke)
e. Increases the unfaithful among men: This is not to lay all the blame upon the harlot or immoral woman, but her trap captures many. If there were fewer harlots and immoral women there would be fewer unfaithful among men.
i. “Unchastity may be romanticized, but the hard facts are faithfully given here: captivity (Proverbs 23:27: no unaided escape), ruthlessness (Proverbs 23:28a), social disruption (Proverbs 23:28b).” (Kidner)
ii. “She is the cause of innumerable sins against God, and against the marriage-bed, against the soul and body too, and by her wicked example and arts involveth many persons in the guilt of her sins.” (Poole)
6. (29-35) The misery of abusing alcohol.
Who has woe?
Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions?
Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who linger long at the wine,
Those who go in search of mixed wine.
Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it swirls around smoothly;
At the last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things,
And your heart will utter perverse things.
Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:
“They have struck me, but I was not hurt;
They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”
a. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Solomon reminded us of many of the ill effects of alcohol and intoxicating drugs. They bring woe and sorrow. They bring contentions and complaints. They bring wounds and redness of eyes. Unrestrained, immoderate use of alcohol and abuse of drugs will bring these sorrows to one’s life, and countless tragedies prove it.
i. “This poem is a small masterpiece; it is surely the most effective combination lampoon and lament over the sorry state of the drunkard.” (Garrett)
b. Those who linger long at the wine: The picture is of those who abuse alcohol or other intoxicants, and who are always looking for a stronger drink (go in search of mixed wine).
i. “‘Lingering over’ alcohol describes those who derive comfort and security in knowing that a glass of wine is at hand, ready to deaden the senses.” (Garrett)
c. It sparkles in the cup: Wine can be pleasing on many levels – in how it looks, smells, tastes, and makes one feel. These pleasing aspects of intoxicants never justify their unrestrained or immoderate use.
i. When it swirls around smoothly: “When it sparkleth and frisketh, and seems to smile upon a man.” (Poole)
d. At the last it bites like a serpent: Eventually, the abuse of alcohol or drugs will bite and sting. As Solomon described, the eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.
i. Like several commentators, Waltke saw a deliberate purpose in setting the warning against the seductive woman (Proverbs 23:26-28) next to this warning against intoxication. “Both the vixen and wine are hidden and deadly traps. The preceding saying unmasks the unchaste wife as a triumphant huntress and this one uncovers wine as a poisonous snake.”
e. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea: The person who abuses alcohol or drugs will drown in their sin and misery. They will be like a person on a sinking ship who denies their danger. Living in denial, unable or unwilling to see their danger (they have struck me, but I was not hurt), their only thought is when they “may seek another drink.”
i. “In a ship in the midst of the sea. This phrase notes the temper and condition of the drunkard, the giddiness of his brain, the unquietness of his mind, and especially his extreme danger joined with great security.” (Poole)
ii. One who lies at the top of the mast: “Escalates his giddiness and danger by comparing him to one sleeping in the crow’s nest on top of the rigging where the ship’s rocking is greatest.” (Waltke)
iii. “The passage describes more than a night’s drinking and a morning’s hangover. It describes the increasingly degenerative effects, physical and mental, of the habitual drinker and the alcoholic” (Aitken, cited in Waltke)
iv. “Wine (and in modern society, illicit drugs) brings physical pain and debilitation, exhausts one’s resources, takes away mental acuity, and yet leaves one craving for more of the same.” (Garrett)
v. Yet there is hope in Jesus for the drunkard and drug addict. “Is anything too hard for the Lord? May his name be praised for a full deliverance from the enslavement to sin—to all sins and to every individual sin—and even from the chains of this giant sin. The drunkard becomes sober, the unclean holy, the glutton temperate. The love of Christ overpowers the love of sin.” (Bridges)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Proverbs 22 – Rich and Poor, Raising Children
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold.
a. A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches: Wealth comes in many forms. The wealth of respect and recognized excellence in character – a good name – is valuable beyond great riches.
i. A good name: “This good name proceeding from a good conscience, this honour from virtue, [Isaiah 43:4] this perfume of faith and obedience, this splendour and sparkle of the ‘white stone,’ which only shines upon heavenly hearts – is far more desirable than great riches.” (Trapp)
ii. “While it is true that reputation and the affection of others are more desirable than great riches, we must not forget that they may be in themselves vanity and a snare…. The only honor that is safe is that which comes from God.” (Bridges)
b. Loving favor rather than silver and gold: The man or woman who appreciates the value of a good name, of favor with God and man, recognizes that it is worth more than silver and gold.
i. “Riches are enjoyed but till death at utmost; but a good name outlives the man, and is left behind him for a blessing.” (Trapp)
ii. Loving favor: “Our Lord carries this teaching a step further in Luke 10:20, to show that at a still higher level, not the power we wield, but the love in which we are held, is our proper joy.” (Kidner)
The rich and the poor have this in common,
The LORD is the maker of them all.
a. The rich and the poor have this in common: The differences between rich and poor appear to be large in the present world. Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:20-31) highlights these differences. Yet rich and poor do have some things in common.
b. The LORD is maker of them all: Those who are rich and those who are poor share the same Creator. Yahweh has made them all. Both rich and poor tend to see each other through stereotypes and should remember this towards each other.
i. “People often forget this and make value judgments; they would do well to treat all people with respect, for God can as easily reduce the rich as raise the poor.” (Ross)
ii. “All are born into the world. All come into the world naked, helpless, unconscious beings. All stand before God. All are dependent on God for their birth. All are subject to the same sorrows, illnesses, and temptations. At the gate of the invisible world the distinction of riches and poverty is dropped.” (Bridges)
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.
a. A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself: Wisdom does not always engage in a fight; it knows there are times when the best response to evil is to hide and let the danger go past.
i. “Prevision is the best means of prevention.” (Trapp)
b. The simple pass on and are punished: The foolish and simple man doesn’t have the ability to perceive danger and respond correctly. They must endure more evil because of this, and it is something of a punishment.
By humility and the fear of the LORD
Are riches and honor and life.
a. By humility and fear of the LORD: These two qualities are connected. Humility is a proper view of self; fear of the LORD is a proper view of God. The person who has these two qualities is well on their way on the path to wisdom.
b. Are riches and honor and life: Blessing will come to the wise man or woman who has humility and the fear of the LORD. They can certainly expect spiritual riches and honor and life, and often those same things materially in this world.
i. “The most humble is the most triumphant Christian. He may be depressed, but he is highly exalted. He has the wealth of grace and of glory. Nobody can deprive him of these.” (Bridges)
Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards his soul will be far from them.
a. Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse: Proverbs 13:15 told us that the way of the unfaithful is hard. Thorns and snares symbolically describe the hard way of the perverse.
i. “The metaphor refers to temptations such as easy sex and easy money that tempt youth. The morally degenerate tread a dangerous road infested with them.” (Waltke) If you want fewer temptations, change the road you’re on.
ii. “This is due to the love of God, shown in the constitution of the world. It would have been malignity indeed to have placed us in the world without the warning signal of pain to show us where we are wrong, and to sting us when we go astray.” (Meyer)
b. He who guards his soul will be far from them: The wise man or woman, keeping watch over their life (guards his soul) will stay far from the way of the perverse and the thorns and snares associated with that way.
i. “Those who have the discipline of wisdom avoid life’s dangers.” (Ross)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
a. Train up a child in the way he should go: A child needs training. The job of the parent is not to simply let him grow up in any particular way, but to train him, and that in the way he should go. The way he should go has at least two senses that complement each other.
· The sense of the Hebrew the way he should go speaks of the child’s individual way and inclination. It speaks of discerning a child’s strengths and weaknesses and parenting in a way that takes those into account.
· The Book of Proverbs often presents the concept of the way – being the path of wisdom and life in contrast to the way of folly and destruction (such as mentioned in Proverbs 22:5). Surely, this also is the way to train a child in.
i. The way he should go: “Here it would mean dedicate the child according to the physical and mental abilities of the developing youth” (Waltke). “The training prescribed is literally ‘according to his (the child’s) way’, implying, it seems, respect for his individuality and vocation, though not for his selfwill” (Kidner).
ii. “What is the way in which a child should go? A more literal rendering of the Hebrew at once answers this question. Such translation would be: ‘Train up a child according to his way.’In every child there are special and peculiar powers. The true business of training a child therefore, is that of discovering what those powers are, and developing them…. Herein is revealed the need for individual work. No two children are alike.” (Morgan)
iii. Train up: “Chanac, which we translate train up or initiate, signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating any thing, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has intrusted to your care.” (Clarke)
b. When he is old he will not depart from it: This is a wonderful principle that the Holy Spirit may quicken to a promise for parents troubled over their adult children. When a child is trained in the proper way, though they may depart for a season (and a long season), in principle they will return and not depart from it.
i. Solomon’s own life displayed that this is a principle and not an absolute promise. “Other proverbs recognize that the youth’s freedom to choose sin (cf. Ezekiel 18:20) and apostatize by taking up with villains (Proverbs 2:11-15) and whores (Proverbs 5:11-14).” (Waltke)
ii. “The book is addressed to youths, not parents. Were the parents ultimately responsible for his moral choice, there would be no point in addressing the book to youth (see Proverbs 1:4). Moreover, Solomon himself stopped listening to instruction and strayed from knowledge (Proverbs 19:27).” (Waltke)
The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.
a. The rich rules over the poor: Proverbs 22:2 told us that there was one important respect in which rich and poor were the same; this proverb reminds us of a way they are very different. Rich people have more authority and voice in the community than the poor do.
i. “The point…is that one must regard indebtedness only as a last resort (wary of those who offer to lend money) and endeavor to get out of debt as rapidly as possible. Debt is debilitating and demoralizing.” (Garrett)
ii. “Too often the rich rule over the poor in a harsh way. Indeed, without submitting to God’s rule over us, we can hardly be trusted with power over our fellowmen.” (Bridges)
b. And the borrower is servant to the lender: Those who borrow money are in a lower place than those who lend money. The obvious application of this proverb is that the wise man or woman will do all he or she can to walk in the path of godly prosperity; to be a lender and not a borrower.
i. “The verse may be referring to the apparently common practice of Israelites selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts (see Exodus 21:2-7). It is not appreciably different from the modern debtor who is working to pay off bills.” (Ross)
He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow,
And the rod of his anger will fail.
a. He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow: A person’s sins (iniquity) are like seeds that are sown. In time they will bring a harvest and the sinner will reap sorrow.
i. “The crop must be according to the seed. If a man sow thistle seed, is it likely he shall reap wheat? If he sow to the flesh, shall he not of the flesh reap destruction?” (Clarke)
b. The rod of his anger will fail: This mixing of metaphors (from the harvest to the shepherd’s rod) probably has the idea that in the season when the sinner reaps his harvest from the seeds of iniquity, he will have no defense against it.
He who has a generous eye will be blessed,
For he gives of his bread to the poor.
a. He who has a generous eye will be blessed: According to this principle God will bless the one who is generous to others. When people are generous to God and His work, God will not allow them to be more generous than He is.
i. “Paradoxically the greedy loses his property and his power, and the liberal participates in a cycle of endless enrichment.” (Waltke)
b. For he gives of his bread to the poor: One important way to express our generosity is to give to the poor and needy. His generosity is simply sharing, for he gives of his bread.
i. Of his bread: “He spares it out of his own belly to give to the hungry, as some have here gathered from the words ‘his bread,’ that which was appointed for his own eating – he voluntarily fasteth from a meal now and then that he may bestow it upon the needy, and he shall not lose his reward.” (Trapp)
ii. “This person has a benevolent disposition, keen social conscience, and concern for the poor. The irony is that because he is not the prisoner of his selfish desires, he achieves the highest degree of self-fulfillment.” (Ross)
Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave;
Yes, strife and reproach will cease.
a. Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave: The scoffer who spreads cynical discord causes contention. When that scoffer is cast out, then contention also leaves.
b. Strife and reproach will cease: The atmosphere of strife and shameful insults (reproach) stops when the divisive scoffer is gone. This reminds us that an atmosphere of contention, strife, and reproach is caused by people.
He who loves purity of heart
And has grace on his lips,
The king will be his friend.
a. He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips: Inner purity often shows itself through grace-filled words. These two are marks of godly, wise men and women.
b. The king will be his friend: This true godliness and wisdom – both on the inside and in spoken words – will make friends in high places. It will certainly contribute to ongoing fellowship with God, for such a person walks in the light as God is in the light (1 John 1:6-7).
i. The king will be his friend: “The greatest men will, or should, desire and highly prize the acquaintance and advice of such persons, rather than of dissemblers and flatterers, wherewith they are most commonly pestered.” (Poole)
The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the faithless.
a. The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge: God sees, takes note of, and guards those with wisdom and knowledge. In this sense, it can be said that His eyes…preserve knowledge.
b. He overthrows the words of the faithless: For the faithless fool, they can expect that God would turn over their words. He will not stand with or support their faithless words.
i. “God causes their distortions of the truth to be shown for what they are.” (Garrett)
The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be slain in the streets!”
a. There is a lion outside: This is the cry of the lazy man. In his imagination, the outside world and the work required to function in it are so frightening that it is best avoided. His excuse is crazy and absurd, but such is the refuge of the lazy man.
i. The lazy man says: Spurgeon spoke on Proverbs 22:13 and 26:13: “In both texts the slothful man is represented as having something to say, and I think that there are no people that have so much to say as those that have little to do. Where nothing is done much is talked about.”
ii. “The sluggard is represented as finding fantastic and preposterous excuses to demonstrate that no idea is too odd or fantastic to him to keep him off welfare. His life and the community is not in danger from his phantom lion in the streets but from his lazy life-style.” (Waltke)
iii. “Laziness is a great lion-maker. He who does little dreams much. His imagination could create not only a lion but a whole menagerie of wild beasts; and if some mighty hunter could hunt down all the lions that his imagination has let loose, he would soon distribute herds more of the terrible animals, with wolves and bears and tigers to match.” (Spurgeon)
iv. John Trapp pointed out that this imaginary lion is not Satan nor is it the Messiah, Jesus. “Here is no talk of Satan, ‘that roaring lion,’ that lies couchant in the sluggard’s bed with him, and prompts him to these senseless excuses. Nor yet of the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah,’ who will one day send out summons for sleepers, and tearing the very caul of their hearts in sunder, send them packing to their place in hell.”
b. I shall be slain in the streets: The lazy man exaggerates the dangers and troubles outside his door, especially those connected with work.
i. In the streets: “Which is added to show the ridiculousness of his excuse; for lions abide in the woods or fields, not in the streets of towns or cities.” (Poole)
ii. “But why does he say so? Because he is a slothful man. Remove his slothfulness, and these imaginary difficulties and dangers will be no more.” (Clarke)
iii. The lazy man or woman should look to the Lord for victory over their sin. “Your lion is in the way. Shout, then, for a friend to come and help you; and within call there stands One who is a wonderful lion-killer. There is the Son of David.” (Spurgeon)
The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit;
He who is abhorred by the LORD will fall there.
a. The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit: The immoral woman often sets her seductive trap by the words she speaks. Therefore, her mouth is a trap leading to death. Solomon knew something of this danger because he saw his father David fall into the deep pit of immorality.
i. A deep pit: “Into which it is easy to fall, but hard, if not impossible, to get out of it. It is a rare thing for any person, once entered into the course of whoredom, sincerely to repent of it, and turn from it.” (Poole)
ii. “Unlike the sluggard’s fantasy of a man-eating lion roaming the city streets, these harlots are very real deadly predators in the streets.” (Waltke)
b. He who is abhorred by the LORD will fall there: God’s wise ones are discerning enough to stay clear of this deep pit. But the fool – he who is abhorred by the LORD – is likely to fall there.
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
a. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child: Children are not born as morally neutral beings. There is a moral problem (described here as foolishness) that is bound up in the heart of a child, evidenced by the fact that our children will naturally sin without being taught how to do it. This is our nature inherited from our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve.
i. “The father must not underestimate the difficulty of his task, for he does battle with an innate recalcitrance and perversity. He must both tear down and build up; to eradicate and implant.” (Waltke)
ii. “Note that what is being spoken about is foolishness, not childishness. ‘A child is to be punished,’ as Mr. Scott wisely observed, ‘not for being a child, but for being a wicked child.’” (Bridges)
b. The rod of correction will drive it far from him: Physical discipline is one important way that a child can be morally trained. When wisely and properly applied, physical correction can help drive away a child’s inborn foolishness.
i. Kidner titled Proverbs 22:15 as knocking the nonsense out.
ii. “Discipline will remove a child’s bent to folly…. The child is morally immature; the training must suppress folly and develop potential.” (Ross)
iii. The Bible gives some examples of men who did not follow the wisdom of this proverb. “Eli brought up his sons to bring down his house. David’s sons were undone by their father’s fondness. A fair hand, we say, makes a foul wound.” (Trapp)
He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches,
And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty.
a. He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches: There are always those who prey upon their unfortunate fellow man and will oppress the poor to increase his riches.
b. He who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty: The one who gives to the rich is like the one who oppresses the poor – he has no compassion for those in need. To such, the principle applies: he will surely come to poverty. God’s blessing will not be on the life and wealth of such a man lacking in compassion.
i. He who gives to the rich: “The juxtaposition of one who takes money from the poor, who needs it, with the one who gives to the rich, who does not need it, points up the folly. For example, ‘It happens when executives are paid exorbitant sums…and overwork their remaining employees.’” (Waltke)
ii. “Perhaps the verse is simply observing that it is easy to oppress the poor for gain, but it is a waste of money to try to buy a patron.” (Ross)
A. Words of the wise.
Proverbs 22:17 begins a new section of the collection. We move from the long section (Proverbs 10:1 through 22:16) containing almost entirely two-phrase wisdom sayings with very little arrangement according to theme or context. Starting here, the structure of the wisdom sayings is often longer and they are more arranged according to some theme.
Most commentators believe this section begins here at Proverbs 22:17 and ends at Proverbs 24:22. Proverbs 22:20 uses the phrase, “I have written to you thirty [excellent] things,” and it is likely that Solomon patterned this section after the Egyptian wisdom writing Amenemope, finding 30 wisdom sayings in the section. Waltke makes the point that Solomon used some of the structure of Amenemope to arrange this section, but not the content of the ancient Egyptian writing.
1. (17-21) The value of the words of the wise.
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your heart to my knowledge;
For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you;
Let them all be fixed upon your lips,
So that your trust may be in the LORD;
I have instructed you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may answer words of truth
To those who send to you?
a. Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise: Another invitation to receive words of wisdom. Unless one’s heart and mind are ready to receive wisdom, it does little good to present it. There should be a conscious readying of mind and heart to receive.
i. “The ear is the exterior organ that receives the information and the heart is the interior organ that directs the whole body (Proverbs 4:20-27).” (Waltke)
b. It is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you: The value of gaining and keeping wisdom is pleasant. Sometimes we feel the way of wisdom is a difficult path to walk, but it is much more pleasant than the way of the fool.
i. Keep them within you: “Hebrew, in thy belly. i.e. in thine heart, which implies receiving them in love, and retaining them in mind and memory.” (Poole)
ii. Excellent things: “The reference to ‘thirty’ [excellent] is significant, for Amenemope also had thirty sayings.” (Ross)
c. So that your trust may be in the LORD: True wisdom makes us more dependent on God, not less. We grow in our trust in the LORD, realizing that the pursuit of wisdom begins and continues with a proper view of God.
i. I have instructed you today: “Even the most brilliant, moral sayings are powerless without personal application. Today refers to each day of the son’s life, because he is to have all of them always ready on his tongue.” (Waltke)
d. That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth: The pursuit of wisdom makes us more confident in the truth, not less. Certainly, wisdom discovers that some things are more complicated and doubtful, but in general it sees God and His truth with more clarity and certainty.
2. (22-23) Treat the poor fairly
Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate;
For the LORD will plead their cause,
And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.
a. Do not rob the poor because he is poor: The poor among us deserve more protection and compassion. Even if one is poor because of their moral failings or foolish behavior, they still should not be taken advantage of and robbed.
i. “If those that relieve not the poor shall be damned, surely they that rob them shall be double damned.” (Trapp)
ii. At the gate: “Lacking financial resources to protect their legal rights they are a tempting target for the sharp practices and blatant injustices of their rich and powerful neighbors.” (Waltke)
b. For the LORD will plead their cause: Even if the rich rob the poor, they still have a defender. God Himself will plead their cause and will plunder the soul of those who plunder the poor. Understanding God’s concern for and protection of the poor, wisdom leads us to treat them honorably.
i. The poor can’t defend themselves with great resources and influence. The rich man’s treatment of the poor says a lot about the rich man’s character. It shows how he treats those whom culture and the community may say are “beneath” him. This reveals one’s heart in many ways.
ii. “Concern for the poor is common in both biblical and pagan wisdom literature. The distinctive Israelite perspective, however, is that Yahweh is viewed as protector of the oppressed.” (Garrett)
iii. “Woe therefore to them that oppress them, for they will have God, not the poor, to deal with.” (Clarke)
3. (24-25) Warning of the angry man.
Make no friendship with an angry man,
And with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
And set a snare for your soul.
a. Make no friendship with an angry man: A person who often can’t control their anger displays bad character and can be a dangerous companion. Wisdom chooses friends carefully and should make no friendship with an angry man.
i. “Anger is a short madness; it is a leprosy breaking out of a burning, [Leviticus 13:25] and renders a man unfit for civil society.” (Trapp)
b. Lest you learn his ways: This is one of the important reasons why it is foolish to make a friendship with an angry man. His habits will influence yours, and as you become more of an angry person you will set a snare for your soul. We are influenced by the habits of our friends, so choose friends carefully.
i. “From those with whom we associate we acquire habits, and learn their ways, imbibe their spirit, show their tempers and walk in their steps. We cannot be too choice of our company, for we may soon learn ways that will be a snare to our soul.” (Clarke)
ii. “Being friends of a hot-tempered man is like living in a house that is on fire. How quickly does a young person, living with a proud man, become like him and turn into an overbearing person.” (Bridges)
4. (26-27) Stay away from the debts of others.
Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge,
One of those who is surety for debts;
If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take away your bed from under you?
a. Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge: As mentioned in other proverbs, it is a dangerous thing to become responsible for the debts of other people. Personal debt is to be avoided (Proverbs 22:7), so how much more becoming surety for debts of another person.
b. Why should he take away your bed from under you? Under the laws and customs regarding the failure to pay debts in the world of the Bible, property could be easily seized and even people made forced servants for the repayment of debts. Don’t take on the debts of other people.
i. “The risk is that if someone lacks the means to pay, his creditors may take his bed, i.e., his last possession (cf. our expressions ‘the shirt off his back’ or ‘the kitchen sink’).” (Ross)
5. (28) Respect ancient ways and wisdom.
Do not remove the ancient landmark
Which your fathers have set.
a. Do not remove the ancient landmark: From the days when Joshua divided the promised land for the people of Israel, there were landmarks showing the boundaries of property. It was a great crime and scandal to remove these landmarks.
i. Landmark: “Private land boundaries were marked out by stone pillars or cairns erected between property to mark legal ownership.” (Waltke)
ii. “Do not take the advantage, in ploughing or breaking up a field contiguous to that of thy neighbour, to set the dividing stones farther into his field that thou mayest enlarge thy own. Take not what is not thy own in any case. Let all ancient divisions, and the usages connected with them, be held sacred.” (Clarke)
iii. “The boundaries were sacred because God owned the land and had given it to the fathers as their inheritance; to extend one’s land at another’s expense was a major violation of covenant and oath.” (Ross)
iv. Do not remove: “Unless ye covet a curse [Deuteronomy 27:17]…. know that property is God’s ordinance; [Acts 5:4 Psalms 17:14].” (Trapp)
b. Which your fathers have set: We also understand this proverb in a spiritual sense. A landmark – a custom, a tradition, or a value – should not be removed lightly. We should never assume that our fathers set such landmarks for no reason or bad reason. We should not defend tradition for the sake of tradition, but neither should we destroy tradition just for the sake of destroying it.
i. “Unfortunately, the crime was easy to accomplish and difficult to prove. Probably the boundary stone was moved annually only about an inconspicuous half-inch, which in time could add up to a sizeable land grab.” (Waltke)
6. (29) The reward of excellent work.
Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men.
a. Do you see a man who excels in his work? Wisdom pushes us toward excellence. God has given every man and woman work to do, and they should do that work with excellence as unto God and not only to men (Colossians 3:23).
i. A man who excels: “One who is improving his talents all the time and is making the most of his opportunities. He is like Henry Martyn, who was known in his college ‘as the man who had not lost an hour.’” (Bridges)
ii. “Anyone who puts his workmanship before his prospects towers above the thrusters and climbers of the adjacent paragraphs.” (Kidner)
b. He will stand before kings: The excellence of a man or woman’s work can give them great standing in the world. More importantly, it gives them standing before the King of Kings, who promises to reward the one who works diligently unto Him (Colossians 3:23-24).
i. “How dear was Daniel to Darius, because, though sick, yet he despatched the king’s business! What favourites to our Henry VIII were Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer, for like reason! A diligent man shall not sit long in a low place.” (Trapp)
ii. “Jesus taught that the one who is trustworthy in the small matters of this world will be entrusted with ten cities in his coming kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; cf. John 12:26).” (Waltke)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
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