"Pro 10 begins the actual Proverbs themselves [Pro
10:1--22:16], with the introduction in verse 1, 'The Proverbs of Solomon'. Each
verse is a separate thought in two parts -- either a contrast or an
amplification... When we read the Proverbs [specifically beginning at Pro 10:1],
we should pause and take them one by one. It is not a reading that can be read
as a narrative. It is worse than useless to just skim through them, because we
are just going through a form of meaningless, self-satisfying motions, deceiving
ourselves. We should seek prayerfully to understand each one, and get its
lesson, before passing on to the next. And even more importantly, we should
examine ourselves in the light of each -- force ourselves to answer
specifically: Do we, or do we not, live according to this command of God? And if
not, what do we expect at life's end? We must approach them with an open mind,
desiring to learn something new, seeking the wisdom that is from above --
casting out our natural 'wisdom', the clever, foolish way of the world, and
replacing it with the Spirit's real, life-giving wisdom" (GVG).
Beginning with Pro 10 there is a notable change in the form of
the material. No longer do we find the forceful admonitions to seek wisdom, the
lengthy poems, or the developed pictures and personifications. Instead we find
what more closely corresponds to the title "Proverbs" -- a collection of
independent, miscellaneous sayings, dealing mostly with the consequences of
right or wrong actions on various topics. Each saying falls into one of a number
of parallel patterns. Whybray lists and gives examples of the most common of
these: (1) antithetical parallelism pointing to a contrast between the wise and
the foolish ("A wise son brings joy to his father / but a foolish son grief to
his mother": cf Pro 10:1); (2) synonymous parallelism giving the statement
greater comprehensiveness and authority ("Pride goes before destruction / a
haughty spirit before a fall": cf Pro 16:18); (3) the continuous sentence
preserving the two-fold shape of the saying but simply running the thought on to
the second line ("He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress / and for his
children it will be a refuge": cf Pro 14:26); (4) comparisons in which
comparative value judgments are offered instead of black and white decisions
("If the righteous receive their due on earth / how much more the ungodly and
the sinner!": cf Pro 11:31); and (5) the statement and explanation ("A king's
wrath is like the roar of a lion / he who angers him forfeits his life": cf Pro
"The main body of the Book of Proverbs [is] not a building,
but a heap. The stones seldom have any mortar between them, and connection or
progress is for the most part sought in vain. But one great antithesis runs
through the whole -- the contrast of wisdom or righteousness with folly or
wickedness. The compiler or author is never weary of setting out that opposition
in all possible lights. It is, in his view, the one difference worth noting
between men, and it determines their whole character and fortunes. The book
traverses with keen observation all the realm of life, and everywhere finds
confirmation of its great principle that goodness is wisdom and sin folly. There
is something extremely impressive in this continual reiteration of that
contrast. As we read, we feel as if, after all, there were nothing in the world
but it and its results. That profound sense of the existence and far-reaching
scope of the division of men into two classes is not the least of the benefits
which a thoughtful study of Proverbs brings to us. In this lesson it is useless
to attempt to classify the verses. Slight traces of grouping appear here and
there; but, on the whole, we have a set of miscellaneous aphorisms turning on
the great contrast, and setting in various lights the characters and fates of
the righteous and the wicked" (Maclaren).
"Solomon answered Wisdom's call, and this is what he found:
(a) The just will be crowned with the everlasting blessings of God, and in death
shall leave behind them blessed memories; and (b) The ways of the foolish will
not prosper eternally, and will earn contempt. So the wise man sets out in
order: (1) Two kinds of sons: vv 1,2. (2) Be diligent: vv 3-5. (3) Benefits of
righteousness: vv 6,7. (4) Contrasted use of the tongue: vv 8-21. (5) Contrasted
destiny of the faithful and the foolish: vv 22-32" (GEM).
This section contains a total of 375 proverbs. Since this
represents only a few -- actually 1/8 -- of the 3,000 proverbs Solomon wrote
(1Ki 4:32), it may be that these were specially selected (by Hezekiah?: Pro
25:1) with some purpose in mind. One possibility: the name "Solomon" yields a
gematria, or numerical value, of 375 (Tes 55:41)! This is computed as follows:
"Shin" (Sh) = 300; "Lamed" (L) = 30; "Mem" (M) = 40; and "He" = 5.
"Is there any logic to the arrangement of these seemingly
unrelated proverbs? In some places there is a general association of ideas, and
in some places there is a recurring key word (eg, 'king' in Pro 16:12-15, and
'Yahweh' in Pro 16:1-7). However, many of these couplets have no logical
connection with what immediately precedes or follows in the context. This
anthology style is typical of other ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature. 'The
absence of a systematic arrangement is due to the traditional character of the
contents. There is no need of a closely knit argument; striking images, incisive
wording are all that is required to give a fresh appeal to the truth of familiar
"Why did the Holy Spirit not arrange these proverbs topically
so we could study all of them that deal with one subject together? Probably...
because the method chosen is 'a course of education in the life of wisdom'
(Kidner)" (Const). "As we read Proverbs chapter by chapter, the Spirit of God
has the freedom to teach us about many subjects, and we never know from day to
day which topic we'll need the most. Just as the Bible itself isn't arranged
like a systematic theology, neither is Proverbs. What Solomon wrote is more like
a kaleidoscope than a stained-glass window: We never know what the next pattern
will be" (Wiersbe).
We observe that the "true" proverbs of Solomon (that is, the
one-line or two-line statements of Pro 10:1--22:16) number 375, and that this is
quite close to one per day for a whole year. This may be aligned with this
further observation: there is just not much purpose in reading a whole chapter
of these "proverbs" (in contrast, perhaps, to the more nearly "narrative"
sections of Pro 1-9, for example) -- because there is simply too much to absorb,
with no real "development" of thought to hold it together. Much better to take
one proverb at a time (or one proverb per day), and turn it over and over in
So with this thought I propose that we start at Pro 10:1, and
take one proverb (and one proverb only) per day, and consider it more or less
thoroughly. And I would suggest too: if you want to follow along, then don't
"save up" for a week, and try to read seven at a time. Just read one a day, or
leave it and go on to the latest one... and perhaps that will provide the best
In my mind's eye, I see Psalms as a young man with his harp on
the hillside, singing -- beautifully -- of the glories of God and His creation
and His eternal purpose. Most inspiring and uplifting. And surely it
On the other hand, and by this analogy, Proverbs comes off a
distinctly second-best. It is mundane. It is repetitive. It is bothersome. It
deals with the fabric of daily life. It can even be -- dare we say it? --
"dull"! Besides which, we already know all this stuff! We've heard it a hundred
times. If Psalms is a handsome young man with a harp, Proverbs is a nagging
parent: and the reader wants to pull the pillow over his head, and drown out the
incessant words: 'Did you remember to do such-and-such? And don't forget
so-and-so!' On and on.
But it is the function of the Bible not just to tell us what
we didn't know, and to inspire us to greater heights, but also to TELL US WHAT
WE DO KNOW, and to knock on our doors, and if necessary batter them down, until
we have to pay attention to what we might easily forget, or fail to give proper
With this the great lawgiver Moses would surely agree as well;
at the end of a long and exciting life he devotes himself -- not to telling the
children of Israel "new things" -- but to reminding them, again and again, of
the simple truths they should already know:
"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do
not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as
long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Remember..." (Deu 4:9,10).
"Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God
that he made with you" (v 23).
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the
LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you
walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up... be careful that
you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of
slavery" (Deu 6:4-7,12).
"Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing
to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied... when our silver and gold increase
and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will
forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of
slavery" (Deu 8:11-14).
"Remember this and never forget..." (Deu 9:7).
With this agree the wise words of the 19th-century English
commentator, Charles Bridges: "We cannot but fear that this portion of the
sacred volume is not generally estimated at its just value. Doubtless its
pervading character is not, either explicit statement of doctrinal truth, or
lively exercises of Christian experience. Hence the superficial reader passes
over to some (in his view) richer portion of the Scriptural field. Now we
readily admit, that all parts of the Bible are not of equal importance. But to
value one part to the disparagement of another, is a slight to the divine
testimony that will be visited with a stern rebuke. Such a reader will only be
possessed of mutilated fragments of truth, severed from their vital influence.
He will never rise beyond a sickly sentimentalism. Seeking for novelty and
excitement, rather than for the food of solid instruction; like Pharaoh's kine
(Gen 42:20,21; cp the picture of 2Ti 3:7), he devours much, but digests nothing.
Never will he have light enough for the firm settlement of his faith; neither
can he receive the true moulding of the mind of the Spirit, or the impress of
the divine image."
So... read Proverbs. Not just when the "Bible Companion" calls
for it, and not just to "get it done". But read it to be reminded. And remember.
Through its ordinary, dull, "homely" maxims and clichés... a loving
Father is exhorting His children: 'The world is an exciting, alluring place --
filled with the promise of wonderful adventures. But remember that some of those
places, and some of those people, and some of those adventures, can be
dangerous. Don't forget who you are! Don't forget where you come from! And...
don't forget... ME! My words, simple as they are, will tell you how to live. And
they will tell you how to LIVE!'
A WISE SON BRINGS JOY TO HIS FATHER, BUT A FOOLISH SON
GRIEF TO HIS MOTHER: Cp Pro 17:21,25; 19:26; 23:22,24.25; 27:11; 28:7,24;
29:3; 30:11. The first proverb in this extended collection (Pro 10:1--22:16) is
well-chosen, for it echoes the underlying theme of Pro 1--9: the instruction by
a wise father of his son. Such instruction will continue in this upcoming
section, but it will be augmented by other forms of instruction as
In some ways, this verse is the "rest of the story" beginning
in Pro 9:12: "If you are a mocker, you ALONE will suffer." In other words, the
sinner alone will bear the guilt of his sin -- a plain Bible principle (cf Eze
18:20; Deu 24:16; 2Ki 14:6; 2Ch 25:4; Jer 31:29,30). But the sorrow of that sin,
and that loss, will also touch -- and burden -- all those who love
A WISE SON: This occurs also in Pro 13:1;
A FOOLISH SON [BRINGS] GRIEF TO HIS MOTHER: Or
"heaviness" (AV): sw Pro 14:13; 17:21. The word means, in this connection,
sadness, sorrow, depression or dejection of mind, a wounded spirit, and a broken
heart. Rebekah was so grieved at Esau marrying aliens (Gen 26:34,35; 27:46). (It
must not be thought that a foolish son does NOT bring grief to his father,
simply because it is not stated here. Pro 17:25 says: "A foolish son brings
grief to his father" as well.)
"The son who brings joy to his father is severally described
as 'a wise son' (AV, RSV, NIV), 'a sensible son' (Moffatt); 'a level-headed son'
(Living Bible). What a combination of ideas! 'Wisdom, good sense, and good
judgment' are qualities of priceless value, and are acquired by willing response
to good upbringing. Parents, who themselves are godly, like to see their
children respond to discipline. The fruits of such are soon revealed; they show
themselves in early years. The Bible gives examples well known to most of its
readers. What comfort Moses must have given to his parents. From his youth he
grew up to love and revere his God, and ultimately rose to such fame as is
testified in the Bible narrative. Consider also Samuel. He gave joy to his
parents from his earliest years, an influence that later extended throughout
Israel. But the supreme example is the Lord Jesus, whose birth was the miracle
of God's creative power (Luk 1:35). He was subject to Joseph and Mary, and gave
pleasure to God and man alike (Luk 2:51,52). The pleasure that in his manhood he
gave to his Father, is attested in the words of that awe-inspiring Voice that
was heard on the occasion of his baptism: 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am
well pleased' (Mat 3:17)" (C Woodgate, Log vol 51).
FATHER... MOTHER: The two halves of this antithetic
proverb must not be isolated so as to conclude mistakenly that a mother has no
joy in a wise son or that the "macho" father shows no grief over a foolish son.
Instead, the parallelism of "father"/"mother" means "parents" who share emotions
of joy or grief.
"It is impossible to estimate the tremendous influence which
children have on the happiness of their parents. The unfortunate thing about it
is that the children are the last to realize it. It may be that a misplaced
modesty inclines them to imagine that their course in life cannot be of much
consequence to any one. In many cases, unhappily, gross selfishness engenders
sheer indifference to the feelings of those who have most claim upon them, so
that they never give a thought to the pain they are inflicting. But behind these
special points there is the universal fact that no one can understand the depth
and overpowering intensity of a parent's love until he becomes a parent himself.
Then, in the yearning anxiety he experiences for his own children, a man may
have a revelation of the love which he had received all the days of his life
without ever dreaming of its wonderful power. But surely, up to their capacity
for understanding it, children should realize the great trust that is given to
them. They are entrusted with the happiness of their parents. After receiving
from them life, food, shelter, innumerable good things and a watchful, tender
love throughout, they have it in their power to make bright the evening of their
father's and mother's life, or to cloud it with a deep, dark gloom of hopeless
Jesus was the perfect Son to Mary, Joseph, and God. The Bible
plainly tells us he obeyed his earthly parents (Luk 2:51). A woman who saw him
knew Mary was a very blessed mother (Luk 11:27). His happy mother followed him
during his life and watched him die (Joh 19:25-27). And his Heavenly Father
declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mat 3:17). Let us
follow his example.
The world's insufficiency, and religion's sufficiency, to make
us happy (Pro 10:2,3; 11:4) and the preference to be therefore given to the
gains of virtue above those of this world: Pro 15:16,17; 16:8,16; 17:1; 19:1;
ILL-GOTTEN TREASURES ARE OF NO VALUE, BUT RIGHTEOUSNESS
DELIVERS FROM DEATH: Cp Pro 11:4n. This proverb would seem to be the basis
for Jesus' parable about the man who built larger barns to store his great
treasures, but found that none of his possessions could deliver him from death:
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from
you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will
be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luk
ILL-GOTTEN TREASURES ARE OF NO VALUE: There is nothing
inherently evil about "treasure". It is worthy to be sought (Pro 2:4). And so
the wise man has treasures, while the fool has none (Pro 15:6; 21:20). But
treasures appropriated unethically are worthless, and will bring about the
downfall of those who pursue them (Pro 21:6). Ahab and Jezebel murdered Naboth
to steal his vineyard. They appeared to be gaining in real property by the
wicked conspiracy; but a chance arrow killed Ahab, and dogs licked his blood and
ate Jezebel (1Ki 21:1-16; 22:37,38; 2Ki 9:30-37). Judas could not long enjoy his
thirty ill-gotten pieces of silver (Acts 1:18,19). Achan's family cursed the day
he stole Jericho's riches (Jos 7:19-26). Gehazi could not trade his stolen goods
for the cure of his leprosy (2Ki 5:20-27). Ananias and Sapphira could not take
any of their money or lands with them into the grave (Acts 5:1-11). And James
warns the rich men of his day: "Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen
who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury
and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter" (Jam
Moreover, since the phrase is literally "treasures of
wickedness", it may mean more than just "treasures ACQUIRED by wickedness" -- it
may mean also "treasures ENJOYED in wickedness", that is, money spent upon
forbidden pursuits and pleasures. And beyond that, it may also mean all wealth
in the acquisition and expenditure of which God has no influence. This is
suggested by the principle enunciated in Rom 14:23 ("Everything that does not
come from faith is sin").
And so the psalmist scoffs at those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches, for "No man can redeem the life of another or
give to God a ransom for him", and all the rich man can leave behind, if he
forgets God, is an impressive grave (Psa 49:6-20).
BUT RIGHTEOUSNESS DELIVERS FROM DEATH: "Righteousness"
-- which here seems to mean "right actions", honesty and obedience -- without
treasures is far better than treasures without "righteousness": "Better a little
with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil" (Pro 15:16).
Parental instruction teaches that wisdom, or righteousness,
delivers a child from a wicked lifestyle (Pro 2:12), such as adultery (Pro
2:16), thus sparing him or her the resulting disaster and death (Pro 2:19,22).
And so Paul wrote to his "son" Timothy: "Command those who are rich in this
present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so
uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything
for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be
generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for
themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold
of the life that is truly life" (1Ti 6:17-19).
THE LORD DOES NOT LET THE RIGHTEOUS GO HUNGRY: Cp Pro
13:25, as well as Pro 10:29; 12:2; 19:23. Also esp see Psa 37:25: "I was young
and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children
begging bread." And Psa 55:22: "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain
you; he will never let the righteous fall." Examples: Jacob was the poorest man
in Canaan -- running for his life with only a staff; but when he returned 20
years later, he crossed Jordan with a great multitude, of wives, children, and
goods (Gen 32:10)! Joseph was the poorest man in Egypt -- a foreign slave
convicted of rape; but 22 years later he sent a token gift of his wealth that
revived his dear father (Gen 45:27)! Ruth was a widow and Esther an orphan, both
in strange lands; they had had nothing, but one became the rich mother of a
kingly line, and the other queen of the world. David was the forgotten eighth
son, left in the fields to care for the sheep; but in a few years he could not
account for the wealth he had gathered for God's temple (1Ch 22:14).
Yet it may be, as Bridges says, that "[God] may for the
exercise of faith SUFFER us to hunger (1Co 4:11; 2Co 11:27, with Deu 8:3; Mat
4:2-4); yet not to famish (Psa 37:3; Isa 33:16; Mat 6:32)."
But even then, we shall not "go hungry" spiritually. And so
Gill gives this proverb a spiritual application: "Moreover, the souls of such
shall not be famished for want of spiritual food; shall not have a famine of the
word and ordinances; their souls shall be fed, as with marrow and fatness, with
the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock."
In the KJV, this first phrase is translated: "The LORD will
not suffer the soul ('nephesh') of the righteous to famish." The term "nephesh"
means "person" (quite often translated as "soul" in the KJV), but it has a broad
range of meanings; here it denotes "appetite" (BDB; see, eg, Psa 63:5; 107:9;
Pro 27:7; Isa 56:11; 58:10; Jer 50:19; Eze 7:19).
BUT HE THWARTS THE CRAVING OF THE WICKED: "The wicked
are condemned to live... with their unfulfilled, and so sterile, desires, which
cannot be transformed into practical attainment" (McKane). Examples: Pharaoh
ruled the most advanced and prosperous nation on earth; but when he did not give
the LORD proper reverence, God bankrupted his nation (Exo 10:7; 12:36; 15:14)!
The greatest monarch in the history of the world was King Nebuchadnezzar; but
God made him to eat grass like the cattle (Dan 4:31-33). Lot chose the best
lands for his flocks and herds, but he also chose life in a worldly environment;
God reduced him to poverty -- living in a cave with his daughters. Ahab's unjust
craving of Naboth's vineyard caused him to be thwarted, and cast aside by God
(1Ki 21:4). Devout Jews, regathered to Jerusalem, did not put God's service
first; God put holes in their purses and brought all their efforts to nothing
(Hag 1:1-11; Mal 3:11). Thus, "The LORD sends poverty AND wealth; he humbles AND
he exalts" (1Sa 2:7).
THWARTS: The verb "hadaf" means "to thrust away; to
push; to drive", either to depose or reject (BDB).
CRAVING: "Substance" (KJV) should be "craving" (RSV,
NIV) or "desire" (RV). This verse contrasts the "appetite" ("nephesh") of the
righteous with the "craving" of the wicked. This word "havvah", "craving", means
"desire" often in a bad sense, as the desire of the wicked, which cannot be
wholesome or beneficial (Pro 11:6; Psa 52:2).
LAZY HANDS MAKE A MAN POOR, BUT DILIGENT HANDS BRING
WEALTH: Cp Pro 19:15; 12:24,27; 21:5. Indeed, the Proverbs have a very great
deal to say about sloth and diligence: Pro 10:26; 12:11; 13:4,23; 15:19; 16:26;
18:9; 19:24; 20:4,13; 21:25,26; 22:13,29; 24:30-34; 26:13-16; 27:18,23,27;
LAZY HANDS MAKE A MAN POOR: Literally, "a palm ['kaph':
the hollow part of the hand] of slackness ['remiyyah']", or as in AV "a slack
hand". The hand is emphasized because it is the instrument of physical labor; it
has long been the practice, in English, to refer to a worker as a "hand". The
"slack hand" is a hand that relaxes and lets go of the work, or will not hold it
tightly, so as to accomplish anything. The "slack hand" is contrasted with the
"diligent hand" in the last part of this verse.
Some scholars suggest this phrase should be rendered "the hand
of deceit" (cp the AV margin); this would picture a slack worker laboring
diligently (what a contradiction!) to hide his slackness, and to appear at all
times to be busy -- he is not only a sluggard, but a hypocrite as well!
This phrase also serves as a sort of corrective, or balance,
to the first part of v 3: it may be true, generally, that "the LORD does not let
the righteous go hungry" -- but then the "righteous" will scarcely be lazing
their lives away, relying on the providence of God! The pairing of these two
thoughts comes about as close as the Bible can to that familiar maxim: "The Lord
helps those who help themselves" -- in which there is a good deal of
BUT DILIGENT HANDS BRING WEALTH: "The hand ['yad': the
open hand] of diligence ['kharutsim']". The Hebrew word is from a root meaning
"to cut with a sharp instrument" (cf Isa 41:15; Amo 1:3). Diligence in acquiring
"ill-gotten treasures" (v 2) is plainly a sin, but it is NOT the diligence that
is being condemned! A diligent worker, whether in legitimate enterprise for
himself or his employer, or in the work of the ecclesia, or in teaching or
helping others, is to be commended -- not condemned! "Whatever your hand finds
to do, do it with all your might" (Ecc 9:10). The Moabitess Ruth, though
originally poor, labored diligently in gleaning, and came to the attention of
the rich and righteous Boaz (Rth 2:3,7,17). Christ tells elaborate parables
about workmen working diligently and well, or slackly and poorly, with the
opportunities and "investment capital" of their master (Mat 25:14-30; Luk
19:11-27); in these parables, diligence is equated with faith, and slackness
with a lack of faith. And Paul goes so far as to tell the Thessalonians, "For
even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work,
neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you
disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we
command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and
eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing" (2Th 3:10-13;
cp also Rom 12:11; 1Th 4:11,12; 1Co 15:10; Eph 6:6; Col 3:23).
"This rule applies alike to the business of life and the
concerns of the soul. The law holds good in common things. The earth brings
forth thorns instead of grapes unless it be cultivated by the labour of man. A
world bringing forth food spontaneously might have suited a sinless race, but it
would be unsuitable for mankind as they now are. The fallen cannot be left idle
with safety to themselves. The necessity of labour has become a blessing to man.
The maxim has passed into a proverb, 'If you do not wait on your business, your
business will not wait on you.' That diligence in necessary to progress in
holiness is witnessed by all the Word of God and all the experience of His
people. It would be a libel on the Divine economy to imagine that the tender
plant of grace would thrive in a sluggard's garden. The work is difficult, the
times are bad. He who would gain in godliness must put his soul into the
business. But he who puts his soul into the business will grow rich. When all
[accounts] are closed he who is rich in faith is the richest man" (Arnot, BI).
"In a spiritual sense... such who are slothful in attendance
on the means of grace, the word and ordinances, are slack and negligent in duty,
bring a spiritual poverty upon them; and like the Laodicean church, who, through
her lukewarmness and carnal security, became poor and wretched, blind and naked
[Rev 3:17]... On the other hand, such who are diligent in the use of means are
frequent at the throne of grace, forsake not the assembly of the saints [Heb
10:25], constantly wait at Wisdom's gates [Pro 8:34]; these grow rich in grace
and in all good works" (Gill).
The grace of God, which saves by and through faith, should not
be taken as a license for laziness. Thus it is that Paul, writing to the
Ephesians, says first, "By grace you have been saved, through faith... not by
works" (Eph 2:8,9) -- but adds quickly, "We are God's workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS" (v 10)! And elsewhere he writes, "Continue to
work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phi 2:12).
"The Apostle Paul taught, both by precept and practice, that
slothfulness was unbecoming to the servants of Christ. In 1Ti 5:8 he wrote: 'If
any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath
denied the faith and is worse than an infidel!' That means: go to work and earn
some money! In regard to his personal example, Paul obtained work at tentmaking
(Act 18:1-3); and in 1Th 2:9 he wrote: 'For ye remember, brethren, our labour
and travail; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable
unto any of you'. Paul's example gave power to his preaching, and will do so
also to those who imitate his example.
"But let us particularly apply Solomon's words to working out
our salvation. This is something in which diligence and sustained effort are
absolutely essential. The Apostle Peter, shortly before his death, wrote: 'And
beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith...' And he appended a list
of seven spiritual qualities, obtainable quite free, but only to the
industrious. The careless, the unbelieving, and the indifferent inevitably will
come to spiritual poverty, and will be excluded from the Kingdom (2Pe 1:5-11).
Meanwhile, it matters not what age in which we live; there is no such things as
retirement for the heirs of salvation! Moses 'died in harness' at 120. But his
great spiritual riches were assured!" (C Woodgate, Log vol 51).
"The Lord's visits of favour were never given to loiterers.
Moses and the shepherds of Bethlehem were keeping their flocks (Exo 3:1,2; Luk
2:8,9). Gideon was at the threshing-floor (Jdg 6:11)... The Lord gives his
blessing, as he gives the fruits of the earth, not to those that wish (Pro 13:4;
20:4), but to those that 'labour' (Joh 6:27); not to sentimental indolence, but
to Christian energy and perseverance" (Bridges).
HE WHO GATHERS CROPS IN SUMMER IS A WISE SON, BUT HE WHO
SLEEPS DURING HARVEST IS A DISGRACEFUL SON: Once again -- as in v 4 --
sloth, which leads to ruin, is contrasted with diligence.
HE WHO GATHERS CROPS IN SUMMER IS A WISE SON: The wise
son seizes the opportunities, having a keen insight into the importance of the
season. He truly knows how to "make hay while the sun shines"! Or, as
Shakespeare puts it: "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the
flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in
shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take
the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."
WISE: "Maskil" = wise, prudent, and thus
BUT HE WHO SLEEPS DURING HARVEST IS A DISGRACEFUL SON:
This of course is the lesson of the ant (Pro 6:6-8), now expressed negatively
(cp Pro 6:9-11).
IS A DISGRACEFUL SON: Literally, "brings disgrace" --
either to himself or to his father, or both.
"We may afford to be slack in the winter. Through the long
frosts when the ground is like iron, during heavy rains when to poach on the
fields is only injurious to the crops, much work is necessarily suspended. But
harvest claims all time and all energy. Every man must be at work, fresh hands
taken on, and longer hours spent in the field. How preposterous to be sleeping
then! There are harvest times in life -- times when we are called to awake to
more than ordinary energy. Youth, though in many respects a seed time, also has
some of the characteristics of harvest. It is the summer time when work is
pleasant, and when there is little to hinder it. If a man will not work in these
bright days, how can he expect to be able to labour when the cramps and agues of
wintry old age seize upon him? It is also the time of a great ingathering, when
knowledge must be accumulated for future use. If this harvest season is passed
in idleness, it will be impossible to fill the granary of the mind with stores
of knowledge in after years" (Pulpit).
Joseph became a wise "son" to Pharaoh, and gathered in summer
and harvest for the coming need of Egypt -- and of the whole world -- and in so
doing earned the title "Savior of the world" (Gen 41:46-56). But... Elisha gave
Joash, the king of Israel, an opportunity to fix the number of victories Israel
would have over the Arameans; but the indifferent king only struck the ground
three times (2Ki 13:14-19). Elisha grieved that he had not taken greater
advantage of this divinely granted opportunity to destroy Aram, or Syria!
And so for us, the exhortation is: make use of present
opportunities, for they might not come your way again: "As God's fellow workers
we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, 'In the time of my
favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you' [Isa 49:8]. I tell
you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2Co 6:1,2).
Zaccheus forsook his dignity and climbed a tree so as to see Jesus, and won the
reward: "When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus,
come down immediately. I must stay at your house today' " (Luk 19:5). Can we
bear the thought that the time might come when we lament: "The harvest is past,
the summer has ended, and we are not saved" (Jer 8:20; cp Pro
On the other hand... "Some have gotten into the clutches of
poverty through lazy hands (Pro 10:4; 12:24), ignoring correction and discipline
(Pro 11:18; 13:18), stinginess and withholding aid to those in need (Pro 11:24;
22:16; 28:22), sleeping too much (Pro 10:5; 20:13; 24:33), wickedness (Pro
11:25), gluttony and drunkenness (Pro 23:20,21), and concealing sin (Pro 28:13).
But to be fair, there are others who are poor who have not deserved what has
happened to them. It is only because of the providential will of God that these
people are poor (Pro 20:12; 22:2; 29:13). The poor are not to be judged (Pro
24:23; 28:21), exploited (Pro 22:22,23; 28:3) or mocked (Pro 17:5). Instead,
those who are not poor are to speak up in behalf of the poor (Pro 31:8,9) and
defend their rights. Scripture gives no aid to the view that poverty is in all
its forms a result of the judgment of God and an evidence that the persons so
afflicted are outside the will of God. Such a universal categorization is a
caricature of the Biblical position" (Walter Kaiser, TJ 9:2:167). To contend
that such must be the case would be to make the same mistake as did Job's three
BLESSINGS CROWN THE HEAD OF THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT VIOLENCE
OVERWHELMS THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED: We encounter here a very familiar
contrast of Proverbs: the happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the
wicked: Pro 10:6,9,16,24-25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13-14,21,26,28;
13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7;
21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.
BLESSINGS CROWN THE HEAD OF THE RIGHTEOUS: The word
"blessings" has the sense of gifts, enrichments, that is, the rewards or the
results of being righteous (cf Gen 49:26). The blessings come either from the
people the righteous deal with, or from God. And even while affliction and
trials may come the way of the righteous (Joh 16:33; Act 14:22; 2Ti 3:12) -- for
they cannot be avoided even by a life of righteousness -- blessings also will
come upon his head: some temporal (Deu 28:1-6; 1Ti 4:8), but other spiritual and
eternal (Isa 32:17; Mat 5:3-12).
BUT VIOLENCE OVERWHELMS THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED:
"Overwhelms" (Heb "kacah") can mean "covers" or "conceals" (as in the AV, and
the NIV margin). It is possible also, that the order of this phrase has been
confused; hence, the NET (as well as the RSV) translates: "the speech (mouth) of
the wicked conceals violence." It seems more plausible that one's speech might
conceal violence, than that violence might conceal one's speech! With this view,
this phrase now matches well with vv 11,18; Pro 19:28; and more generally, with
Psa 62:4 also. [But arguing against this "revision" is the fact that it would
take this proverb out of the more familiar realm of a curse as the antithesis of
a blessing. Nonetheless, there would still be a contrast between the righteous
and the wicked. Now the point would be: 'Behind the speech of the wicked is
aggressive "violence" ("hamas"); so he cannot be trusted' (McKane).]
However, IF the phrase should be read as "violence covers the
mouth of the wicked", there ARE some possibilities: (1) The covered mouth calls
to mind the leper: "The [leper] must wear torn clothes, uncover his head, cover
the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' " (Lev 13:45). (2)
Covering the mouth, or the lower part of the face, was also a sign of mourning
(Eze 24:17). (3) Haman's covered face (Est 7:8) was a sign of pronounced
judgment and impending death. (4) And, "Benhadad the violent king of Syria (1Ki
20) died by suffocation when Hazael 'took a thick cloth and spread it on his
face' (2Ki 8:15)" (Crawford).
THE MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS WILL BE A BLESSING, BUT THE
NAME OF THE WICKED WILL ROT: Just as v 6 describes the fates in this life of
the righteous and the wicked, so v 7 describes the fates of their respective
names or reputations after they die. Even after one dies, a good "name" or
"reputation" will preserve his memory better than the finest perfume (an
allusion, most probably, to the burial spices with which a body is treated) (Ecc
7:1). But the memory of the other will "rot" -- just like the corpse he leaves
behind. "The lasting, fragrant perfume of a holy life is contrasted with the
noisomeness and quick decay of an evil name (cp Psa 72:17). As a commentator
asks, 'Who ever thinks of calling a child Judas or Nero?' " (Pulpit). Cp
generally Pro 12:8,9, and Pro 11:26; 22:1.
THE MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS WILL BE A BLESSING: "[This]
is part of the duty of the survivors: 'Let the memory of the just be blessed',
so the Jews read it, and observe it as a precept, not naming an eminently just
man that is dead without adding, 'Let his memory be blessed.' We must delight in
making an honourable mention of good men that are gone, bless God for them, and
for His gifts and graces that appeared in them, and especially be followers of
them in that which is good" (Henry). Examples: Elisha (2Ki 13:21), Jehoiada (2Ch
24:15,16), and Dorcas (Act 9:36).
MEMORY: Heb "zeker" = remembrance, memento,
BUT THE MEMORY OF THE WICKED WILL ROT: Just as the
righteous are honored with the epitaph, "Let his memory be blessed", so the Jews
on other occasions greet the names of great villains with loud curses: "Cursed
be Haman!" -- for example, which forms a significant part of the tradition of
the celebration of Purim. Others whose memory will be reviled: Absalom (2Sa
18:17), Jehoiakim (Jer 22:18), Jezebel (2Ki 9:37), and Jeroboam the son of Nebat
MEMORY: Heb "shem" = name, but by implication
reputation or fame (in this case, infamy). "Zeker" (memory) and "shem" (name)
are often paired as synonyms (Exo 3:15; Job 18:17; Psa 135:13; Isa
ROT: "Raqab": to decay, or corrupt. "To become thin, to
dissolve in fine parts, like a worm-eaten decayed tree (Isa 40:20)"
"Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, a woman
is remembered for anointing our Lord with precious ointment (Mar 14:3-9). 'The
memory of the just is blessed.' And wherever the gospel is preached, Judas is
remembered for betraying our Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Mar 14:10,11).
'The name of the wicked shall rot' " (LGBT).
THE WISE IN HEART ACCEPT COMMANDS, BUT A CHATTERING FOOL
COMES TO RUIN: The first example, in the Proverbs proper, of the wisdom of
obedience, and the folly of disobedience: cp Pro 10:17; 12:1,15; 13:1,13,18;
15:5,10,12,31,32; 19:16; 28:4,7,9.
THE WISE IN HEART ACCEPT COMMANDS: Blessed is the one
who hungers, for he will be filled (Mat 5:6). The first step of wisdom is to
realize that one needs help, and to take reasonable steps to secure that help.
Noble men are thankful for someone to teach them wisdom and truth. The young
Samuel replied to the heavenly voice, "Speak, for your servant is listening"
(1Sa 3:10). The people of Israel in Nehemiah's day were eager and thankful to
hear the Word of God taught to them (Neh 8:1-18). The devout Cornelius told
Peter, "Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the
Lord has commanded you to tell us" (Acts 10:33). Luke described the Bereans as
noble because of their receptive hearing of Paul (Acts 17:11). And Peter
counsels new believers: "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that
by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1Pe 2:2).
"Oh, give me Samuel's ear, O Lord,
An open ear, alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy word:
Like him to answer at Thy call,
and to obey Thee first of all."
BUT A CHATTERING FOOL COMES TO RUIN: Literally "a fool
of lips" -- one who sins by his mouth, or his words. He will be "thrust down";
he will stumble and fall (sw Hos 4:14). "Those that are full of tongue seldom
look well to their feet, and therefore stumble and fall" (Henry). Presumably
such a person will come to ruin because he is too busy talking to listen to
others' commands! Or rules, guidelines, suggestions, warnings, or practical
advice that may come his way! God promises harsh treatment for Israel, "for when
I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened" (Isa 66:4). On the
other hand, the wise man will know that God is in heaven and he is on earth, and
so will make sure his words are few (Ecc 5:2) -- all the better to listen to the
words from heaven. An example of such a fool: Nabal, the prototypical "rich
fool", who was "such a wicked man that no one can talk to him" (1Sa
How will you recognize a "chattering fool"? It is not
difficult. He, or she, is as irritating as a continuous dripping of water -- as
insistent as an alarm clock! Be on the alert for constant chatter. Listen for
quick opinions on every subject. When you hear it, you have found the
"chattering fool"! Some have an answer for everything; some talk louder than
everyone else; some do not believe in silence, ever; some cannot wait until the
other person stops speaking before jumping in themselves! Such are chattering
fools, and it is the wisdom of wise men to avoid them as much as possible.
How do you recognize a chattering fool? He, or she, is one who
very often starts a sentence with "But..." Listen for it. No matter what you
say, if the listener counters it by saying, "But..." -- you will have found the
chattering fool. He must always have a rejoinder; he must always get in his two
cents' worth -- and it's not even worth that!
If there is no proper reflection on what you have said, but
rather an immediate response of his or her own, without real acknowledgement of
what you have said, then you have found a chattering fool! Don't waste any time
with one. And... especially... make sure YOU are not one! "Be quick to listen,
slow to speak" (Jam 1:19).
THE MAN OF INTEGRITY WALKS SECURELY, BUT HE WHO TAKES
CROOKED PATHS WILL BE FOUND OUT: Cp the two paths of Pro 4:11-14, and the
companion proverb in Pro 28:18. The man of integrity is open and without fear in
the world, for he has nothing to conceal; his life is -- as the saying goes --
"an open book", inviting the world's inspection, and he is unafraid if his whole
life is brought to the light. (And even if a tough inspection of his life may
show up a flaw here or there, he is pleased -- even eager -- to hear about it;
for it gives him the opportunity to improve himself, which he desires more than
any other: cp Psa 139:23,24.) It is in this sense, and for these reasons, that
the righteous may be "bold as a lion" (Pro 28:1). "He who walks righteously and
speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from
accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes
against contemplating evil -- this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress" (Isa 33:15,16; cp Isa 32:17).
On the other hand, the "crooked" man must tell a second lie,
and a third, to cover up the first "lie" of his secret deeds -- he is always
looking over his shoulder, wondering when he will be unmasked as a hypocrite, or
when his past sins may catch up with him: "Men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will
not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (Joh 3:19,20).
Mark Twain said, "Always tell the truth; then you won't have
to remember what you said." But it takes a special kind of "walk", or life, and
a special attitude, before such a course of action may be easily
THE MAN OF INTEGRITY WALKS SECURELY: "Integrity"
("tam") refers to that which is upright, or blameless -- even "perfect"
(consistent, not sinless) in Bible terms.
"The term 'upright,' as applied to character, seems eminently
direct and simple; yet in its origin it is as thoroughly figurative a word as
any can be. It is a physical law declared applicable to a moral subject. When a
man's position is physically upright, he can stand easily or bear much. He is
not soon wearied; he is not easily broken down. But if his limbs are uneven, or
his posture bent, he is readily crushed by the weight of another; he is soon
exhausted even by his own. There is a similar law in the moral department. There
is an attitude of soul which corresponds to the erect position of the body, and
is called uprightness. The least deviation from the line of righteousness will
take your strength away, and leave you at the mercy of the meanest foe. There is
evidence enough around us that righteousness presides over the government of the
world. Although men are not righteous, yet righteousness is in the long run the
sweetest way to success even among men. As an upright pillar can bear a greater
weight than a leaning one, so moral rectitude is strong and [deviation
therefrom] weak. A true witness will bear an amount of cross-questioning which
is sufficient to weigh twenty false witnesses down. Truth stands longer and
bears more among men than falsehood. This law, operating in the world, is a
glory to God in the highest. It visibly identifies the moral Governor of mankind
with the Maker of the world" (Arnot, BI). BUT HE WHO TAKES CROOKED PATHS WILL BE FOUND OUT:
Hebrew "he who perverts ['maqqesh'] his ways." Such a man doesn't just walk in
crooked ways, following others; rather, he MAKES his own ways crooked -- seeking
out new ways of going astray from God's commands. The KJV's "shall be known" is
correct, linguistically, but it doesn't have the force of the RSV and NIV: such
a man "will be FOUND OUT!"
"Crooked ways are perilous. Even if they succeed, they yield
little satisfaction; and there is always the danger of discovery and confusion.
Ways of uprightness are ways of safety, even in the ordinary dealing of men, but
the principal blessedness (next to the perfect satisfaction that comes of the
answer of a good conscience) lies in the prospect that lies in store. In the
present time, uprightness often fails to bring advantage, as in the days of
Israel, when 'he that departed from evil made himself a prey' (Isa 59:15). The
chief excellence of uprightness will be apparent in the days of recompense when
the Lord at his coming will 'bring to light the hidden things of darkness and
make manifest the counsel of the heart' [1Co 4:5]. Uprightness in that day will
receive His recognition and open reward. On that day, it will be seen clearly by
all that the path of righteousness is the path of safety and honor and life.
Therefore, walk bravely in it, however dark and difficult it may sometimes
prove. There is light in the end" (RR).
Spurgeon contrasts the two "ways" of Pro 10:9, especially with
regard to the rather mundane field of business, or commerce: the walk of "the
man of integrity", he says, "may be slow, but it is sure. He that hasteth to be
rich shall not be innocent nor sure; but steady perseverance in integrity, if it
do not bring riches, will certainly bring peace. In doing that which is just and
right we are like one walking upon a rock, for we have confidence that every
step we take is upon solid and safe ground. On the other hand, the utmost
success through questionable transactions must always be hollow and treacherous,
and the man who has gained it must always be afraid that a day of reckoning will
come, and then his gains will condemn him. Let us stick to truth and
righteousness. By God's grace let us imitate our Lord and Master, in whose mouth
no deceit was ever found. Let us not be afraid of being poor, nor of being
treated with contempt. Never, on any account whatever, let us do that which our
conscience cannot justify. If we lose inward peace, we lose more than a fortune
can buy. If we keep in the Lord's own way, and never sin against our conscience,
our way is sure against all comers. Who is he that can harm us if we be
followers of that which is good? We may be thought fools by fools if we are firm
in our integrity; but in the place where judgment is infallible we shall be
HE WHO WINKS MALICIOUSLY CAUSES GRIEF, AND A CHATTERING
FOOL COMES TO RUIN: This verse seems to be a comparison rather than a
contrast (although there is a second possibility which preserves the prevailing
style in this section, of a contrast between the first phrase of a verse and the
second -- see below). Tricky, shifty, clever gestures may cause grief to others,
but foolish talk may especially cause grief to the talker. Both ought to be
HE WHO WINKS MALICIOUSLY CAUSES GRIEF: The term
"qarats" describes a person who habitually "winks" his eye maliciously as a
secretive sign to those conspiring evil (Pro 6:13n).
AND A CHATTERING FOOL COMES TO RUIN: The last half of
this verse is identical with the last half of v 8. Some scholars suppose that
the latter has been mistakenly copied from the earlier. Instead, the LXX has for
v 10b: "But he that reproves boldly is a peacemaker" (cp Pro 12:20). This
alternative is adopted by the NEB and the RSV, but not by most other versions.
If it is adopted, then there is a powerful antithesis, or contrast, in this
verse: between (a) secret, underhanded, and deceitful actions, and (b) open,
straightforward and stern words.
Possibly this LXX rendering is alluded to by Jesus in Mat 5:9:
"Blessed are the peacemakers."
THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE, BUT
VIOLENCE OVERWHELMS THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED: Proverbs of praise of wise and
good discourse, and of the hurt and shame of an ungoverned tongue: Pro
10:11,13,14,20,21,31,32; 11:30; 14:3; 15:2,4,7,23,28; 16:20,23,24; 17:7;
18:4,7,20,21; 20:15; 21:23; 23:9; 24:26; 25:11.
Cp also Pro 13:14; 14:27; 16:22; 18:4. A man who receives,
professes, and obeys the truth, is like a well of water, around which grows an
oasis or garden of influence; while a man who retains the form of religion, but
denies its power, is like a waterless well -- promising life but delivering
death. (Cp Jud 1:12: "clouds without rain" and "trees without fruit".) Then
again, "Some wells are not empty, and yet are as useless as if they were. They
are filled with bitter water. Some professing Christians with knowledge and
correct principles, nevertheless are of an angry, biting, censorious, malicious,
proud, selfish spirit. Let Christians imitate the gentleness as well as the
faithfulness of Christ" (BI). James seems to pick up the implied contrast of
this proverb when he writes: "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My
brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from
the same spring?" (Jam 3:10,11).
THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE: The
"mouth" refers to the teachings which come forth from it, and these teachings
are likened to a life-giving fountain. The idea of this metaphor, "the fountain
of life", may come from Psa 36:9 (cp also Jer 2:13; 17:13). Psa 36 is a lovely
psalm, which couples the figure of a fountain with a "river of delights" (v 8)
-- the Hebrew is "river of Eden"! -- and other imagery reminiscent of the Garden
of Eden. The fountain springing up into a mighty river is also to be found in
the Kingdom prophecies of Eze 47:1-12 and Rev 22:1,2 -- where the "tree of
life", or rather the "orchard of life" is also prominent: another Garden of Eden
allusion. It is easy, therefore, to imagine the "tree of life" (Pro 3:18; 11:30;
13:12; 15:4) growing alongside the "fountain of life" here.
Jesus employs this same figure as well: in Joh 7:37 he
pictures himself, first, as a fountain, giving the water of life to the thirsty
soul; then, the one who has quenched his thirst (cp Mat 5:6) becomes in turn a
fountain, dispensing the water of life to others. And in Joh 4:14 he expresses
the same truth even more concisely, when speaking to the Samaritan woman:
"Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give
him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
BUT VIOLENCE OVERWHELMS THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED: See
the notes on v 6b. Probably it is better to reverse the two phrases here, as in
the NIV margin: "The mouth of the wicked CONCEALS violence" -- that is, it tries
to hide its real intentions under the guise of better motives. "On the one hand
[v 11a] you have those whose every utterance is pure, helpful, refreshing and
sustaining -- and on the other you have protests of innocence and piety [but the
words are only a cover for] hatred and variance" (Bowen). In such a way Joab
kissed and then killed (2Sa 20:9,10), and Judas kissed as he betrayed (Mat
26:49; Mar 14:45; Luk 22:47,48).
"The mouth has a widely different intent and character in man
from the beast, where it expresses [nothing but] animal need... Man’s
mouth has a nobler purpose and unique, as the means of expressing his inner
nature in relationship, not with the realm of nature which he is set to rule,
but, in subjection, with God whom he represents, or, alas! misrepresents. Here
the mouth of a righteous man... is said to be a fountain of life; for this is
the divine mind as to such a one in the desert world. He is not merely seen of
God providentially as Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness [Gen 16:13:
"You are the God who sees me"]... He [also] endures as seeing Him who is
invisible [Heb 11:27]. He becomes thereby an active source of blessing to
others... [and so] the righteous man’s mouth by grace is a fountain of
life. He is a witness of God in Christ; and as he believes, therefore so he
speaks. With the wicked it is wholly otherwise. His mouth not only utters the
violence of self-will and ungodliness, but does yet worse in covering the
violence he feels, which if disclosed might lead to wholesome caution or
restraint and solemn warning" (Kelly).
HATRED STIRS UP DISSENSION, BUT LOVE COVERS OVER ALL
WRONGS: The wicked are motivated by hatred, which brings dissension; the
righteous are motivated by love, which leads to harmony. Proverbs of love and
hatred, of peaceableness and contention: Pro 10:12; 15:17; 17:1,9,14,19;
18:6,17-19; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17,21; 29:9.
This proverb has its roots in the Law of Moses: "Do not hate
your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share
in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people,
but love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:17,18). This law is cited by Jesus
in Mat 22:39: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
HATRED STIRS UP DISSENSION: "Hatred stirs up quarrels
on mere suspicions and trifles, and by unfavourable constructions put on
everything, even acts of kindness" (Bowen). Cp Pro 6:14,19n. Hatred, growing out
of anger and pride, loves to dig up evil, spread evil reports, and create strife
and trouble (Pro 15:18; 16:27,28; 26:21; 28:25; 29:22; Jam 4:1).
LOVE COVERS OVER ALL WRONGS: Cp Pro 17:9. "Covers" is
the opposite of "stirring up" or broadcasting (the sins of others). The meaning
of "covering" here is "pardoning," overlooking what may be a personal insult or
harm -- totally different from the "covering" (or concealing) described in v 11.
This covering of sins is the special province of God Himself (Psa 32:1; 85:2;
Rom 4:7), but insofar as they are able it should be the business of men and
women also to "cover" the sins of others against them in the same way -- by
forgiving, to the fullest extent of which they are capable (cp Luk 17:3,4; Mat
18:21-35): "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have
against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col 3:13).
"Love takes the largest view of life -- it does not vex itself
with temporary details, with transient aberrations; it looks down into the very
core and substance of the soul, and, knowing that the heart is true in its
supreme desires, it covers many flaws and specks, yea, even faults and sins, in
the hope that concealment may destroy their influence and their very existence.
There is a covering up which is a vain concealment, a merely deceitful trick; no
such covering up is meant here: this is rather the covering up with which God
covers the iniquities of the pardoned man, the sins of him who has confessed all
his guilt, and desired an exercise of the Divine mercy" (Neil, BI).
Joseph showed such love toward his brothers, who had
considered killing him, who had in fact sold him into slavery and written him
off as dead. Nevertheless, he put the very best perspective on their horrible
sins and wept over all of them. At a time when they needed his help, he was
eager to help them, and to save their lives -- his many gifts and favors attest
to this. His love was not diminished by the passage of time (Gen 45:1-15;
This verse is cited in 1Pe 4:8: "Love covers over a multitude
of sins." This does not mean that our love covers or atones for our sins --
certainly not directly and absolutely. Instead, the major idea is that love
suffers in silence and bears all things (1Co 13:5-7). Believers forgive faults
in others because they know the forgiving grace of God in their own lives. Thus
Christ says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary" (Mat 5:25).
James suggests another, and related, way in which sins are
covered: by turning a sinner from the error of his ways -- encouraging him to
repent and put himself right with God (Jam 5:20). One way we can all do this is
by presenting the fullness of the gospel to those who are in darkness. Another
way we can do the same thing is by showing, in our own personal relationships, a
desire to forgive, and a willingness to forgive; such attitudes and actions will
point others toward the God whom we serve -- the Father who is absolutely
willing and able to forgive all sins!
WISDOM IS FOUND ON THE LIPS OF THE DISCERNING, BUT A ROD IS
FOR THE BACK OF HIM WHO LACKS JUDGMENT: As in v 11, the praise of wise and
good discourse, and the hurt and shame of an ungoverned tongue (see refs there).
See Lesson, Prov, parents and children.
WISDOM IS FOUND ON THE LIPS OF THE DISCERNING:
"Discerning" is the Hebrew "biyn" (sw Pro 1:5,6, etc). The term describes
someone who is critically perceptive and thus has understanding. "The mouth of
the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just" (Psa
BUT A ROD IS FOR THE BACK OF HIM WHO LACKS JUDGMENT:
Solomon's own son, Rehoboam, is a preeminent example of this parable: his
complete lack of discernment and wisdom, in dealing with his subjects, led to
rebellion and ultimately to the dissolution of his kingdom (1Ki 12:13-24). For
him, God's "rod" was severe indeed.
A ROD: The word "shebet" ("rod") originally referred to
a staff or a weapon made from a tree. Leaders who effectively used these weapons
came to be known by the same term "shebet" (as in Num 24:17-19) -- as did the
people following them. Hence the most prevalent meaning ascribed to "shebet" in
the OT is that of tribe, specifically one of the tribes of Israel. But the word
also has great theological significance, as a term of authority, when it depicts
the rod of discipline or the scepter of Messiah (cp Gen 49:10). Though it occurs
again in Gen 49:16,28 with the meaning "tribes", in Gen 49:10 it must mean
"scepter", ie, a commander's or ruler's staff -- pointing to royal authority.
And in Num 24:17 it describes a conquering scepter, or ruler, who arises out of
Israel to save his people (cp the usage in Jdg 5:14). Similarly, in 2Sa 7:14, it
refers to a king -- ie, the Messiah -- who will arise out of the line of David.
And so the same word came to refer to a rod of disciplining
authority (Exo 21:20) and to a rod or staff used for separating sheep for the
Lord's tithe (Lev 27:32). This points to the most common understanding of
"shebet" in the poetic literature of the OT: a rod of discipline employed by one
in authority, as in the case of a father for remedial punishment (Pro 13:24;
22:15; 23:13,14; 29:15). This is perhaps the idea of Psa 2:9 as well, where the
Messiah wields a "shebet" of iron over opposing nations, suggesting both
authority and discipline (cp also Psa 23:4; 45:6).
Finally, the rod of God's discipline is employed by Immanuel
in Isa 11:4. This aspect of God's authority is repeated elsewhere in the
prophets (Isa 10:5; Lam 3:1; Eze 20:37). Sometimes the "shebet" symbolizes the
rule of other kingdoms over Israel (Assyria in Isa 14:5; Syria in Amo 1:5;
Philistia in Amo 1:8; and Egypt in Zec 10:11) -- but always under Divine
direction and constraint.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I
will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which
have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not
come to you" (Psa 32:8,9). Physical force or restraint is the best means of
controlling a brute beast, and is -- sadly -- the only language an absolute fool
THE BACK: The "back" is the place where the "rod" or
punishment is applied (cp Pro 19:29; 26:23) and is used in the description of
Yahweh's suffering servant who, without any rebellion, offers his "back" to
those who think they are punishing a criminal or wicked man (Isa 50:6). This
demonstrates his willingness to suffer voluntarily and obediently.
JUDGMENT: Heb "leb" -- the "heart", because it was
thought to be the seat of intellect, as well as passions and affections.
Meanings of mind, sense, understanding, and intelligence are commonly attached
to "leb" (cf Isa 65:17; Pro 6:32; 7:7; 9:4,16; 10:21; 11:12; 12:11; Job
WISE MEN STORE UP KNOWLEDGE, BUT THE MOUTH OF A FOOL
INVITES RUIN: Cp Pro 13:3: "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he
who speaks rashly will come to ruin."
WISE MEN STORE UP KNOWLEDGE: Heb "tsaphan" signifies to
lay up, as treasure or precious things (sw Pro 2:1,7; 7:1): cp, generally Pro
12:23; 14:33; Psa 107:43; Ecc 12:9,10. It does not mean that wisdom must be
hidden away, or kept from others -- indeed, the wise will utter words that prove
to be a fountain of life to those who listen (Pro 10:11). In fact, as Jesus
says, a good teacher will, for the benefit of others, graciously "bring out of
his storeroom -- or treasury -- new treasures as well as old" (Mat 13:52). It
was said of one of the early church fathers that "by daily reading and
meditating in the sacred volume, Nepotian had made his soul a library of Christ"
But there is a sense in which acquired wisdom should be
"stored up", even while it is shared with others. How is this so? By keeping in
mind the life experiences (whether it proved for good or ill), continuing to
think about them, pondering its lessons for us, and thus -- above all --
learning from those experiences! Arnot comments on this: "Many get knowledge,
and let it go as fast as they get it. They put their winnings into a bag with
holes [Hag 1:6]. The part of wisdom is to treasure up experience, and hold it
ready for use in the time and place of need. Everything may be turned to
account. Even losses may be converted into gains. Let nothing trickle out and
flow away useless. None of the wisdom comes for nothing, either to old or young.
Our Father in heaven gives us the best kind; and the best kind is that which is
bought. The saddest thing is when people are always paying, and never
possessing. The cleverest people are in many cases the least successful. A man
of moderate gifts, but steadfast acquisitiveness, lays up more than a man of the
brightest genius, whether the treasure sought be earthly substance or heavenly
BUT THE MOUTH OF A FOOL INVITES RUIN: "Is near
destruction" (AV), or "brings ruin near" (RSV). The foolish "rashly and
unguardedly utters things which bring swift and sudden destruction on himself
and others; or terror and consternation, as the word also signifies. The Vulgate
version is, 'but the mouth of the foolish is near to confusion'; he boasts of
his knowledge, betrays his ignorance, and so brings himself to shame and
Jam 3:13-18 may be considered practically a commentary on this
proverb: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good
life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor
bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny
the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly,
unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you
find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is
first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and
good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest
of righteousness." And since these verses in James follow an extended section on
the tongue (Jam 3:1-12), describing the good and evil to be revealed in its wise
and foolish use, the connection is all the stronger.
"In this materialistic age in which foolish mean store up
almost everything BUT knowledge, let us follow the advice of the wisest man that
ever lived: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth... But lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven' (Mat 6:19,20)" (Crawford).
Wise men study and store up knowledge before they talk. Fools
talk without study; and their stores of knowledge, their minds, are empty! Here
is the plain difference between a wise man and a fool -- one knows what he talks
about, and the other talks out of ignorance.
We have seen and heard both men. The wise man is reserved
before speaking, and he is careful while speaking. He is cautious in his claims,
deliberate in his declarations, and sober in his speech. The fool loves to talk.
One on one, he can hardly stop, even to breathe. In a group, he dominates the
conversation, as words come tumbling out of his mouth -- each one running upon
the heels of the last.
A wise man, by being prudent and reluctant about speaking, is
safe (Pro 15:2; 16:23; 20:5). A wise man, when asked a question, will carefully
weigh his answer; he will keep himself under control and find the most
appropriate manner to present what he knows (Pro 15:28; 24:26; 25:11; 29:11). At
the same time, he is committed to learning all that he can, and only when he is
sure of his ground does he offer his knowledge and wisdom to others (Pro 1:5;
Fools, loving the sound of their words, get in deep trouble.
They carelessly commit themselves in financial transactions (Pro 6:1-5); they
get into disputes before knowing the facts (Pro 25:8); they whisper foolishly
about others (Pro 25:9,10); and they expose what they think imprudently or
prematurely (Pro 29:11). They talk too much while knowing too little. Their many
words tell the world they are fools, and they are soon destroyed because of
their lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6).
Wise men lay up knowledge; fools lay out words. Wise men
study; fools talk. Wise men are concerned about truth; fools are just anxious to
be heard. Wise men are quick to listen and slow to speak (Jam 1:19); fools are
slow to hear and quick to speak.
It is our duty to be wise men and women with our mouths. We
must learn to speak less and listen more (Pro 17:27,28); to emphasize study over
speech (Pro 22:17-21); to grasp a situation before answering (Pro 18:13; Joh
7:24); and to make sure that each word properly fits the occasion (Pro 15:23).
The great Judge is coming to judge men for their words (Mat
12:37). We will each give an account for every evil or reckless or hurtful word
we speak -- those spoken without study or cause (Mat 12:36). God's wrath will be
visited upon those who engage in foolish talking and hurtful jesting -- so
prevalent in our age (Eph 5:3-7). What should we do about this? We should pray,
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your
sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psa 19:14).
THE WEALTH OF THE RICH IS THEIR FORTIFIED CITY, BUT POVERTY
IS THE RUIN OF THE POOR: Proverbs of the rich and the poor: Pro 10:15,22;
11:28; 13:7,8; 14:20,24; 18:11,23; 19:1,4,7,22; 22:2,7; 28:6,11; 29:13.
THE WEALTH OF THE RICH IS THEIR FORTIFIED CITY: "Kiryat
oz" = a strong city. Wealth is a help in many ways, securing from dangers,
giving time and opportunity for acquiring wisdom, making one independent and
free in action -- and so it is reasonably compared to a fortress or a shelter
(Ecc 7:12). Money is not evil, nor is it the source of all evil... BUT the LOVE
of money, the trust in money above any and all others, IS the source of much
evil (1Ti 6:10; cp Mat 6:24).
BUT POVERTY IS THE RUIN OF THE POOR: Poverty leads to
the ruin of the poor. The term "ruin" includes the shambles in which the person
lives -- a tottering dwelling threatening at any moment to crumble down upon the
head of the poor. Poverty provides no security but only the fear of ruin,
because there are no resources to fall back on, no "safety net" (this is more
true in some times and places than in others, and was generally quite true in
Bible times). And so the very poor may be crushed under the weight of
circumstances, for lack of material means. This can lead to hopelessness and
Harsh facts to face about poverty: (a) the poor are shunned by
their neighbors (Pro 14:20), (b) and even by their relatives (Pro 19:7); (c) the
poor are often denied mercy (Pro 18:23); (d) the poor are ruled over by the rich
(Pro 22:7); and (e) the poor are in danger of becoming servants, ie, losing
their freedom because of their poverty (Pro 22:7).
"[It is hard to] imagine that these two classes of individuals
suffer from the same problem, but they do. The problem is the value they place
on wealth. In the first instance we have one so content that he feels no threat
at all; and in the other, one so discontented he feels threatened by everything.
The one feels safe and the other at risk. The truth is, neither should view
wealth in this way -- because having it will not keep one safe, and doing
without will not destroy one. By placing these two thoughts beside one another,
the foolishness of both positions is exposed. They do not realise that [in some
ways] their positions are reversed. The rich man's wealth makes him a target --
while the poor is destroyed by his very thoughts, not his lack of funds"
"The point seems so simple: Riches are a source of strength;
poverty is ruinous. There is no intention of communicating here a moral lesson.
This is simply a reflection upon reality; that is the way things are. But these
sayings have a way of prompting new perspectives. Pro 18:11 points out the
possibility that the rich can overrate their 'strong city', especially when it
is stated in the context (Pro 18:10) that the name of the LORD is a 'strong
tower'. As is the case with so many proverbs, one must learn to balance them
against each other" (WBC).
And so, even IF there were no intention of teaching a moral or
spiritual lesson, ONE IS THERE! This is the beauty of the Scriptures. It is
true: wealth has enormous advantages, in this world, while poverty puts one at a
serious disadvantage. BUT... there may be a problem with either situation too:
(1) The wealthy may be lulled into a false sense of security,
for the greatest amount of wealth is no insurance against many spiritual
temptations and problems, and certainly no incentive to faith, and absolutely no
protection against the greatest enemy, Death! And so Paul teaches, "Command
those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their
hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly
provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1Ti 6:17). To the rich is
commended also the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 5:3).
(2) On the other hand, while poverty may, in theory, leave the
poor free to become "rich in faith" (Jam 2:15) -- and this could be a real
advantage -- it may also leave them so totally caught up in the pursuit of their
daily bread, and the minimum necessities of life, that there is little or no
time for spiritual pursuits, and that the poor man may resort to breaking the
law in order to secure what he needs in this life. And so the wise Agur gives us
a prayer for just this situation: "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not
refuse me before I die... Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only
my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is
the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God"
(Pro 30:7-9). And James summarizes: "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in
that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower
of the grass he shall pass away" (Jam 1:9,10).
"A strong city was a place of safety, especially in the days
of Solomon (2Ch 11:5). Rich men trust their money the same way citizens trusted
high and thick walls of a city. But the LORD should be our only defence (Psa
7:10; 62:2,6), refuge (Psa 9:9; 94:22), fortress (Psa 71:3; 91:2), and high
tower (Psa 18:2; 144:2) against trouble and fear. Trust in Him!
"Do not trust money. If riches increase, don't think about
them (Psa 62:10). Remember Job and how the Lord took everything away in one day.
Riches grow wings and fly away (Pro 23:4,5), and thieves break through and steal
(Mat 6:19). Job cursed himself, if he had ever let money become his hope or
confidence (Job 31:24,25). Do not trust money... Remember Lot, Balaam, Achan,
and Gehazi as Bible examples of those who brought much trouble upon themselves
by seeking to be rich. Don't even think about being rich!... True success is
living a godly life and being content with what you have (1Ti 6:6). This is
learned behavior, and there is nothing in your sinful nature that wants to be
content (Phi 4:11). But choose contentment today, for it will bring you
happiness and success!" (LGBT).
THE WAGES OF THE RIGHTEOUS BRING THEM LIFE, BUT THE INCOME
OF THE WICKED BRINGS THEM PUNISHMENT: Rewards are determined by moral
choices -- righteousness bringing life, wickedness punishment: "For the wages of
sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord"
THE WAGES OF THE RIGHTEOUS BRING THEM LIFE: The word
"pe'ullah" can mean the work done, or the wages earned from that work. In
Hebrew, a single term may often stand for an action as well as the result of
that action -- this is sometimes referred to as the metonymy of cause and
effect. And even though one cannot, strictly speaking, EARN eternal life --
nevertheless, deeds done in righteousness will TEND TOWARD eternal life -- or
keep one in the way that LEADS TO eternal life (cp Rom 8:13; 1Co 15:10; Phi
BUT THE INCOME OF THE WICKED BRINGS THEM PUNISHMENT:
"Income" is the word "teubuwah", which signifies "harvest" or "fruit" -- drawing
an implied comparison between the agricultural yield of a farmer's labors and
the consequences of the actions of the wicked. They will "reap" (in judgment)
what they "sow" (in sin) (Gal 6:7,8). "Punishment" is literally "sin"
("chattah") -- but here could mean the result of sin, which is death: "Sin, when
it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (Jam 1:15; cp Pro 11:19; 21:4; Tit 1:15;
Mat 12:33; 15:19).
How encouraging it is, even in a fallen world, that the honest
labor of man -- the sweat of his brow, as it were (Gen 3:19) -- tends toward
LIFE... while the "harvest" of the wicked will be SIN, punishment, and death!
There IS a God who watches, marks His ledger, and finally intervenes to balance
all accounts, to reward and punish.
HE WHO HEEDS DISCIPLINE SHOWS THE WAY TO LIFE, BUT WHOEVER
IGNORES CORRECTION LEADS OTHERS ASTRAY: The wisdom of obedience, and the
folly of disobedience: Pro 10:8; 12:1,15; 13:1,13,18; 15:5,10,12,31,32; 19:16;
HE WHO HEEDS DISCIPLINE: The noun "muwcar" has a basic
two-fold range of meanings: "discipline" and "instruction".
SHOWS THE WAY TO LIFE: He is IN the path of life
himself (cp -- and ct -- Pro 5:6), and he SHOWS the path of life, as a guide to
BUT WHOEVER IGNORES CORRECTION LEADS OTHERS ASTRAY: The
contrast with the one who holds fast to discipline is the one who forsakes or
abandons reproof or correction. Such a person will wander from the true course
of life, and possibly cause others to err also.
The key to wisdom and honor is humility -- the ability to
reject one's thoughts in order to listen and obey others (Pro 12:1; 15:5,33;
17:10; 18:12). The rest of the Bible emphasizes it as well. Hearing and doing
brings blessing and safety (Mat 7:24-27; Jam 1:21-25). Wise men love to be
taught, and they become successful (Pro 9:8,9). Fools hate to be corrected or
reproved, and they will be destroyed (Pro 9:7; 12:15; 14:16).
"Why do some men succeed, and others fail, in perpetual
blundering and error? The particular cases may be complex; but as to the general
rule there can be no question. In the one case there is admission of faults and
attention to the correction of them. In the other, blindness to faults,
inattention to warnings, obstinate persistence in error. Be not above taking a
hint, especially from a foe... The habit of calm revision of one's progress and
failures in the hour of prayer seems needful both to preserve from over
self-confidence and from over-reliance on the advice of others" (Johnson,
HE WHO CONCEALS HIS HATRED HAS LYING LIPS, AND WHOEVER
SPREADS SLANDER IS A FOOL: The first phrase is in effect lying by saying
nothing, while the second is openly lying (even though slander may be spread
ever so subtly).
HE WHO CONCEALS HIS HATRED HAS LYING LIPS: The one who
shows friendliness while concealing hatred is a liar: "Do not drag me away with
the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but
harbor malice in their hearts" (Psa 28:3). "A malicious man disguises himself
with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is
charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice
may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the
assembly" (Pro 26:24-26). Such verses practically describe the conduct of
politics in our modern world, where anything and everything (spoken or unspoken)
is quite probably a lie -- and the sad fact is, everyone else seems to know it
too. And the very term "polite society" suggests the same: those who, by social
convention, are pleasant to one's face, but who wield two-edged daggers behind
A warning: the LXX, altering the MT, reads: "Righteous (or
'just') lips conceal hatred", but this is almost certainly a simple mistake --
"righteous" (Greek "dikaia") should be "unrighteous" ("adikaia").
"Scripture history from the first chapter of fallen man
abundantly illustrates this proverb. Cain talking with his brother (Gen 4:8);
Saul plotting against David (1Sa 18:21,22,29); Joab's treachery to Abner and
Amasa (2Sa 3:27; 20:9,10)... all hid hatred with lying lips. Such was also the
smooth tongue of the Herodians (Luk 20:20,21), and more than all -- the deadly
kiss of Judas (Luk 22:47,48, with Psa 55:12-14; 41:9)" (Bridges).
AND WHOEVER SPREADS SLANDER IS A FOOL: "Spreads" is
"yatsa" = "to cause to go out", ie, to spread or broadcast. The word "dibbah"
means "whispering; defamation; evil report" (BDB) or "rumor". The sw occurs in
Num 13:32; 14:36; Eze 36:3; Jer 20:10; Psa 31:13; Pro 25:10; Gen 37:2.
The slanderer may pretend that what he does is for the sake of
the Truth. This indeed is the cloak of innumerable slanders. Zeal for some
opinion, or some party or faction within the full body of believers, may lead
men of divisive spirits into such practices. As they see it, the end justifies
the means, and if a man has a wrong "doctrine" (or even, shall we say, an
"unhealthy emphasis" or a "lax attitude"), then the sooner he is exposed as an
"evil man" also, the better. But truth -- or THE Truth -- does not need, and it
should scorn, the help and encouragement of slander. To prostitute the
conscience, or sacrifice our honesty, for any cause, in any interest whatever,
can never be warranted or wise. The apostle Paul rightly -- and absolutely --
condemns the attitude that says, "Let us do evil that good may result" (Rom
"Is this 'root of bitterness' thoroughly mortified in the
Christian's heart? Is there no insincerity in our intercourse with those, to
whom we feel, if not hatred, at least strong repugnance? In the language of
polite courtesy, there is much that is hollow, if not false. Do we really mean
what we say? or rather is not the profession of regard often absolutely contrary
to our real feelings? Do we never bring them under ridicule, set them out in an
unfavourable light, assert things upon mere suspicion, or attempt to raise our
own name upon the ruin of their reputation?" (Bridges).
Cp also Pro 16:27: "A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is
like a scorching fire." And Pro 25:23: "As a north wind brings rain, so a sly
tongue brings angry looks."
In the NT, we have Col 3:8,9: "But now you must rid yourselves
of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language
from your lips. Do not lie to each other." And 1Pe 2:1: "Rid yourselves of all
malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind."
WHEN WORDS ARE MANY, SIN IS NOT ABSENT, BUT HE WHO HOLDS
HIS TONGUE IS WISE: Other proverbs of talkativeness and silence: Pro 11:12;
12:23; 13:3; 17:27,28; 29:11,20. Good words may be the more striking, and more
readily remembered, if they stand more or less alone. And bad words had better
not have been said in the first place! Either way, let your words be few(er),
and they may be more effective and less harmful (Ecc 5:2)!
WHEN WORDS ARE MANY, SIN IS NOT ABSENT: Simply put: it
is impossible to avoid sinning in an abundance of words -- sooner or later one
is bound to say something wrong. This point is developed to a considerable
extent in Jam 3:1-12.
What sorts of sins arise from much speaking? (1) There are the
polite lies of social occasions. (2) There is the very common tendency to
exaggeration for the sake of dramatic effect. (3) There is "friendly" gossip --
the amusing criticism of one's friends and neighbors. Indeed, no ill will may be
intended, but real injustice is done when a man's actions are discussed and his
motives dissected, behind his back, and on insufficient evidence. (4) When no
impure words are spoken, conversation may still be defiled by innuendo. The
obscene word is disgusting in its coarseness, but the clever double entendre --
which takes its place -- may still create harmful images and thoughts. (5) There
is the sin of pride, egotism, and boasting -- which can only come through the
use of more words than are necessary. "Let another praise you, and not your own
mouth; someone else, and not your own lips" (Pro 27:2).
Another way in which too many words can lead to sin is in
private confidences. Some people may transgress when they set about to "share"
too many thoughts, too intimately, with another person. This can of course lead
to improper intimacies, on both mental and physical levels, and thence to
outright sin. We should only share the secrets of our lives with people to the
degree that they have committed themselves to us.
BUT HE WHO HOLDS HIS TONGUE IS WISE: "A fool gives full
vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" (Pro 29:11). "Do
you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him"
(Pro 29:20). "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of
understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue" (Pro 17:27,28).
"Have you not wasted many painful hours reviewing words you
spoke? Have you often said, 'I wish I'd never said that!' or 'Why did I say
that?' Such misery could be reduced, if you would simply refrain your lips from
idle or foolish speech. If we would hold our tongue, we would not have to worry
about words that escaped" (LGBT).
"The person that refrains from much talking is wise. Weighing
the words you want to say takes a good deal of mental effort. It is this that
people wish to avoid -- so, instead of getting their minds into gear, they let
their mouths 'free-wheel' over hill and dale, touching every subject to a depth
of two inches. It isn't good enough and we ought to be more in control. Be more
deliberate and purposeful in the things you say and ensure they build up and not
tear down" (Bowen).
THE TONGUE OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS CHOICE SILVER, BUT THE HEART
OF THE WICKED IS OF LITTLE VALUE: What the righteous SAY is infinitely more
valuable than what the wicked THINK. The contrast is between the tongue (ie,
what is said) and the mind ("heart", ie, what is determined). Righteous speech,
like silver, is valuable and treasured.
THE TONGUE OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS CHOICE SILVER: "Choice"
(Heb "bachar") means "tried" or "refined" or "selected", and thus the best or
purest. For the same general figure, see Pro 8:10,19 and 1Pe 1:7. The tongue of
the righteous is precious, because it may nourish many (v 21) by speaking apt,
fitting, and timely words (Pro 15:23; 25:11), out of the good treasured up in
the heart (Mat 12:35). And the righteous will insure that there is good to be
dispensed therefrom, because he will pray, like David did, "May the words of my
mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock
and my Redeemer" (Psa 19:14).
BUT THE HEART OF THE WICKED IS OF LITTLE VALUE: The
"heart" in this case signifies the thoughts -- the Hebrew "leb" referring to the
thoughts, will, or emotions (much as "heart" still does in English); in short,
"the basic orientation of the whole person (cf Pro 4:23)" (WBC). Thus "what the
wicked think" (NET). "Little value" is "me'at", meaning simply "less" or "few".
Bluntly, the heart of the wicked is... EMPTY... a deep pit! a vast and echoing
cavern! -- it is cold and dark, and nothing of value is to be found there.
"It is a dangerous opinion that however a man may deviate in
his general practice from the habits of morality and religion, yet still he may
be possessed of a good heart at bottom... The heart of such an one as pursues
wicked courses 'is of little worth,' and it is a false and sinful principle to
maintain the contrary. If such a heart can be called good, then must virtue and
vice have changed their names and qualities; then must religion consist in a
total disregard for all serious impression and an absolute forgetfulness of
Almighty God; then did our blessed Saviour deliver the admirable precepts of
Christianity, to be corrected, revised, altered, and overturned by the maxims of
worldly honour... The heart, in a natural sense, is the seat of life and action.
The heart signifies, in a moral sense, the vital principle of all good and evil,
of all that purifies or defiles a man, of all that procures him blame or praise,
and that renders him justly liable to reward or punishment, either in this life
or another. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he' [Pro 23:7], so are his
actions. Is, then, every one who doeth any evil corrupt at heart? No; every one
doeth evil at times. But if any one should think he might do much evil without
corrupting his heart, he is grievously mistaken, and will soon find himself so
[corrupted]" (Moore, BI).
THE LIPS OF THE RIGHTEOUS NOURISH MANY, BUT FOOLS DIE FOR
LACK OF JUDGMENT: "The righteous will get nourishment enough to feed others;
the fool not enough even for himself" (Kidner).
THE LIPS OF THE RIGHTEOUS NOURISH MANY: The verb
"ra'ah" means: to shepherd, or to feed (ie as a shepherd). The righteous person
is as a shepherd to a flock: he leads them in safe pastures (eg, Jer 10:21; Psa
23:2), and he "feeds" (eg, v 32; Pro 5:2; Joh 21:15-17; Act 20:28) them with
instruction and advice (cp Ecc 12:11; Jer 3:15) that helps them hold firm to
their faith, and survive the trials and turmoils of daily life. In this, every
"shepherd" is emulating the "Good Shepherd", Jesus Christ (Joh 10), who not only
leads but feeds the multitude (Joh 6:48,50,54), and has more left over at the
end than there was at the beginning.
It is the law of God to love others by correcting them when
they need it (Lev 19:17). It is the duty of saints to warn the unruly (1Th 5:14)
and save brethren from error (Jam 5:19,20). Righteous men will be trees of life
and save the lives of many (Pro 11:30; 27:9). Righteous men are not selfish:
they are eager to use their wisdom to serve others. Righteous men are not
hateful: they rejoice only when men are walking in the truth (1Co 13:6). It
grieves them to see men fall into sin foolishly.
BUT FOOLS DIE FOR LACK OF JUDGMENT: "Judgment" is, as
we might expect by now, "leb", or "heart". "Particular activities characterizing
one 'lacking of heart' include adultery (Pro 7:7), despising one's neighbors
(Pro 11:12), committing oneself as surety for another's economic debts (Pro
17:18), and being lazy or engaging in frivolous activities when there is work to
be done (Pro 12:11; 24:30). The one who lacks heart is associated with
simpletons (Pro 7:7; 9:4,16) and stands in contrast to the person of
understanding (Pro 11:12; 15:21), the discerning (Pro 10:13), the righteous (Pro
10:21), and the hard worker (Pro 12:11)" (NIDOTTE).
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6).
"[The wicked man] will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great
folly" (Pro 5:23). Far from feeding others, they cannot even feed themselves,
but fall into great ruin. Fools despise the lips that would feed them, and "die
of famine in the midst of the rich pastures of the gospel" (Bridges).
THE BLESSING OF THE LORD BRINGS WEALTH, AND HE ADDS NO
TROUBLE TO IT: Does this mean that there will be no trouble in life for
those who are blessed by God? Of course not! It means that -- while there will
inevitably be troubles in life for EVERYONE -- the special spiritual blessings
that come from God will never add more troubles to those which must come.
THE BLESSING OF THE LORD BRINGS WEALTH: Psa 127:1-3 too
stresses how the LORD gives to His beloved prosperity and safety as well as
peace of mind: "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain
you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat -- for he grants sleep
to those he loves. Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from
him." Cp Ecc 5:18,19: "When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and
enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-- this is
a gift of God."
Wisely, though, and by way of balance, WBC adds: "[This verse]
affirms emphatically the activity of the LORD in the achievement of prosperity;
the LORD is responsible, not human effort... This has the characteristic
exaggeration of many proverbs; it does not mean that one gives up all personal
activity. That would be contrary to the diligence inculcated in Pro 10:4.
Rather, it indicates the need to recognize human limitations, and to consider
the major role played by the LORD. Proverbs have to be balanced off each other."
The verse does not indicate that labor is useless, but only labor without God's
blessing. Properly understood, and balanced, there is a lot of truth in the old
saying, "God helps those who help themselves."
AND HE ADDS NO TROUBLE TO IT: "Sorrow" (AV, RSV). "The
noun 'etsev' has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) 'toil; labor' which
produces pain and sorrow, and (2) 'pain; sorrow' which is the result of toil and
labor (BDB 780). This is the word used of the curse of 'toil' in man's labor
(Gen 3:17) and the 'pain' in the woman's child-bearing (Gen 3:16). God's
blessing is pure and untarnished -- it does not bring physical pain or emotional
sorrow" (NETn). "Riches enjoyed through the blessing of God are not attended
with that sorrow in getting, keeping, and losing them, as the riches of wicked
men unlawfully gotten are (see 1Ti 6:9,10). For as the good man comes by them
easily, without any anxious care and sinful solicitude, he seeking the kingdom
of God and his righteousness, all these things are added to him, over and above,
without much thought about them, or expectation of them (Mat 6:33). So it is
with great delight, pleasure, and cheerfulness, he enjoys them, and readily
communicates them to others; while the wicked man is full of anxiety, distress,
and sorrow (Ecc 5:12,13; 6:2). This is eminently true of spiritual riches; there
is no sorrow attending them; the fruit and effect of them are peace, joy, and
Rich men who had great troubles added to their wealth: Lot,
whose covetous choice of the best pastures led to terrible bitterness (Gen
13:10,11; 14:12; 19:15; 2Pe 2:8). Ahab, with a crown on his head but discontent
in his heart (1Ki 21:4). Gehazi, laden with riches but plagued with leprosy (2Ki
5:27). Haman's power and glory, eaten away by jealousy for Mordecai (Est
"Material blessings, however real and desirable they may be,
always bring an accompaniment of sorrow. It is a blessing to live as a human
being, but 'man is born to trouble'. It is a blessing to have good parents, but
the better they are the sadder it is to lose them, and go they must. It is a
blessing to have health and strength, some say the greatest of personal
blessings, but the strong man who has never ailed feels most keenly the loss of
strength when his time comes. It is sad for a man to be cut off in his prime
while still he had seemed capable of doing good work, but it is still sadder for
him to live on until all powers have failed. Yet in merely human life it is one
end or the other for all of us. It is a great blessing for a man to find a
'help' 'meet for him'. The Proverbs express this thought more than once. 'Whoso
findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.' Yet from
this blessing arises the most poignant sorrow that a human being can experience,
for the years pass by like the turning of the pages of a book, and the time of
inevitable parting is only a few leaves further on.
"It is a great blessing to have children, yet all parents
experience the addition of sorrow, for even if the children all live, even if
they are strong, virtuous and fortunate, they have nevertheless entered an evil
world, the way cannot be all smooth for them and parents must share their
troubles and anxieties as long as life may last. So even at the best there is an
addition of sorrow and too often we do not experience the best. Disease and
death or folly and misfortune so often add to the sorrows of parents.
"If we wanted to imagine a human being who should be free from
all such pain, we should have to think of one without blessings, without friends
or companions; one leading an animal life and finding it hard work to live at
all. He would have no real sorrow because he had no real joys, and death would
not be an enemy, because life had never been a friend.
"Sometimes we have seen the close of an unusually serene and
happy life. It seems that nearly all possible blessings have attended. Husband
and wife have spent an ideal married life and have grown old together without
any serious failing of their mental powers or any of that hardening angularity
which so often mars the last chapter. They have grown mellow with the advance of
years, and when nearly all of their generation have passed away, they have lived
feebly on, commanding the love and respect of all who knew them. Then one day
the messenger of death has arrived, hastening as if to make up for delay. One of
the lives is taken by disease and the other flickers out through the shock of
parting. 'They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death were not
divided', as we heard quoted over the grave of such a pair. A sympathetic
observer remarks on the sadness of the end. The one spared by disease could not
survive the shock of separation after so many years of close companionship, and
so quickly followed to darkness and silence. It is rightly described as sad, and
yet it is the best that human life has to offer. It is far more sad to be torn
in two while there is still sufficient strength to survive the shock and so live
on. Saddest of all perhaps for life to become so painful that death is a
"It is so with all ordinary blessings of life, but not with
the special blessing offered by God to all who will hear His call. Spiritual
riches which can be ours even now, bring no conclusions of disgust or sadness,
nor any fear of being robbed. They will not save us from the sorrows of human
life, but they will help us to bear the pain. They do not arrest the process of
decay in the dark streets of a Gentile city, but they give us hope of a better
city to come" (PrPr 191-194).
A FOOL FINDS PLEASURE IN EVIL CONDUCT: "It is as sport
to a fool to do mischief" (AV). More bluntly, "Like sport to a fool is the
commission of a crime" (KD). Of course, in this context, "sport" is not "sports"
-- rather, it is, more literally, "laughter" or "pleasure" or "fun", or
practical jokes: but with a decidedly malicious bent.
How can one tell the difference between mean and good-natured
joking? The first question to ask is: does the one who is "in sport" actually
care for the object of his sport, or is he only pretending to be his friend so
as to make him the object of derision or "put-downs"? The next question is: how
does the object of the joke feel about it? Yet another question: is any real sin
involved in carrying out the joke? If the answer to any of these questions
leaves the joker in any doubt as to what kind of "sport" he is indulging in,
then the best course is to cease altogether.
"There is an innocent sport. The sport meant here is that
which does injury to the reputation, the property, the peace, the comforts of
others. Sport that turns the serious into ridicule, that makes merry in deeds of
nefarious wickedness. It is the fool that makes a mock at sin; to the wise man
sin is too grave a matter to laugh at" (BI).
"The young person who holds himself out to be full of virtue
and goodwill under the guise of fun and good humour creates mischief and, when
rebuked, calls it sport. What should we say of such an one? Is his uninhibited
love of a good time, is his animated and witty recall of someone's misfortune to
be dismissed as harmless fun? He is a fool just as surely as the man of
understanding hath wisdom... He is a fool and until he grows up do not give him
responsibility or trust, or you will suffer and so will others"
FINDS PLEASURE: "It is as sport" (AV). The noun
"sechowq" ("laughter", or "sport" -- from which the name "Isaac" is derived) is
used elsewhere to refer to what is exhilarating and pleasurable (BDB). "It is
like child's play" (Plaut 132). "The point is the moral bankruptcy of the fool,
who takes his wrongdoing as lightly as a joke" (WBC) -- or even carries out his
wrongdoing under the guise of a "good joke", or "just having a bit of fun"! This
is precisely the point of Pro 26:18,19: "Like a madman shooting firebrands or
deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, 'I was only joking!'
['in sport': AV; 'sachaq' -- the same root word as here]."
An extreme example of this kind of "sport" is 2Sa 2:14-16,
where two groups of young warriors begin to fight as a "sport" ("to play" in
KJV; Heb "sachaq", sw Pro 10:23), a "joke", or a diversion -- and end up killing
one another! News reports and personal experience tell us of "games" that ended
badly, even tragically, when the "good fun" got out of hand!
IN EVIL CONDUCT: "Carrying out a wicked scheme" (NET).
"The noun 'zimmah' ('plan') is often used pejoratively of a scheme to do
wickedness. It is used elsewhere for planning lewdness, murder, incest,
adultery, idolatry, and licentiousness. Any planned gross impropriety gives the
fool pleasure. The verb 'asah' ('to do') here means 'to carry out (a plan)' (BDB
BUT A MAN OF UNDERSTANDING DELIGHTS IN WISDOM: The KJV
says, simply, "A man of understanding HATH wisdom" -- which seems to make no
point. The point is made by seeing the second phrase as antithetical to the
first: "But wise conduct is pleasure to a man of understanding" (RSV). The fool
DELIGHTS in evil, and just so, the wise DELIGHTS in wisdom. The hardened
cynicism of the first phrase is contrasted with the attitude of the intelligent
person, for whom wisdom is the joy and delight. What is true joy for the wise?
According to Pro 21:15, it is "when justice is done".
" 'Fools make a mock at sin,' the wise man teaches (Pro 14:9;
15:21). They delight in sin; they use it as entertainment for television and
movies. The most mischievous boys in school are the most popular; the bold and
flagrant sinner is considered brave and strong; the wildest actors are stars.
They rap brutishly about their favorite themes, whoremongering and violence...
The segment of society most susceptible to this disease is young men. They still
have the full folly of youth bound in their hearts, but they have the abilities
and liberties to be out and about in mischief. Solomon feared their draw and
influence on his son (Pro 1:10-19; 2:10-22; 13:20). Paul warned, 'Young men
likewise exhort to be sober minded' (Tit 2:6).
"Compulsory education, a joke if there ever was one, crams all
these young fools into classrooms, where frumpy old women try to teach them
ridiculous subjects with no bearing on life. What is the certain result for
young men, who should be working a man's day, at a man's job, under a man's
rule? Folly, frustration, mischief, rebellion, and sin! They egg each other on
in sinful pranks, until society reeks of their noxious insanity!
"What happens when these fools get home? They are fed a diet
of profane entertainment that is nothing but mischief at the expense of God and
others... The sitcoms, consuming the nation's evening family time, [show great]
disregard for God, morality, sobriety, and others.
"Young fornicators take advantage of girls, without regard for
them, their fathers, or their future husbands. They laugh about their exploits.
Young gluttons have eating contests, and roar hilariously when one throws his
food back out. They put sugar in the gas of the principal's car, and celebrate
when he has his engine replaced. But God is not mocked!
"Fools think only of the moment; they miss both tomorrow's
consequences and God's judgment at death. The magistrate puts them in prison;
their public records now include a felony; a bigger fool molests them in a
prison shower; they contract a deadly pestilence; and death will bring a
reckoning... What a sport!
"What kind of a person thinks and acts this way? A fool. There
is no fear of God before their eyes (Psa 36:1-4; 53:1; Rom 3:18). They rejoice
to do evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked (Pro 2:13). They are the
bane of every nation, the calamity and grief of every father, the heaviness and
shame of every mother (Pro 10:1; 17:25; 19:13; 29:15).
"How are they corrected? Easily! 'Judgments are prepared for
scorners, and stripes for the back of fools' (Pro 19:29). 'A whip for the horse,
a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back' (Pro 26:3). It is only
because severe punishment is not executed speedily in this country that we have
such a plethora of amoral anarchists (Pro 19:25; 21:11; Ecc 8:11).
"Solomon, when using death as a means of promoting sobriety,
told young men, 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer
thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the
sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring
thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil
from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity' (Ecc 11:9,10).
"Parent, you must soberly teach your children about life,
death, morality, sin, and the right treatment of others. [Hurtful] jokes should
not be allowed (Pro 26:18,19; Eph 5:3-5), but especially jesting about sin and
wickedness, and certainly not at the expense of others. The tender regard for
all things, even baby birds in a nest, should be cultivated, but especially
doing good to all men (Deu 22:6,7; Gal 6:10; 1Ti 4:10)" (LGBT).
WHAT THE WICKED DREADS WILL OVERTAKE HIM; WHAT THE
RIGHTEOUS DESIRE WILL BE GRANTED: The anticipation of the righteous, and the
forebodings of the wicked, will both one day be realized. Both are "prophecies"
which, in effect, tend to fulfill themselves. There is at times in every guilty
conscience a fearful anticipation of judgment (Heb 10:27). There is, on the
other hand, in every godly soul a heart for a higher spiritual good: "Delight
yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psa 37:4).
"Consider the blameless, observe the upright; THERE IS A FUTURE for the man of
peace" (Psa 37:37). Pro 10:25 goes on to amplify v 24.
WHAT THE WICKED DREADS WILL OVERTAKE HIM: "The fear of
the wicked" (KJV) is ambiguous: it can mean -- wrongly -- "the fear of what
wicked men might do to harm oneself", OR -- correctly -- "what the wicked
dreads" (thus the RSV and NIV). This phrase is closely related to Pro 11:27b:
"Evil comes to him who searches for it." See also Pro 1:26; Job 3:25 (though Job
certainly ought not to be characterized as wicked!); and Isa 66:4.
"Ahab's [schemes] could not shelter him from his foreboded
judgment (1Ki 22:28-37). The rebellious Jews rushed into the ruin from which
they fled (Jer 42; 43). Belshazzar's trembling was realized in his speedy
destruction (Dan 5:6,30). Thus are 'the wicked' tossed, 'like a troubled sea'
(Isa 57:20,21)... Do not their consciences turn pale at the question 'Where
shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?' (1Pe 4:18). And will it not be the
constrained confession at the great day -- 'According to thy FEAR, so is thy
wrath?' (Psa 90:11; Mal 4:1)" (Bridges).
WHAT THE RIGHTEOUS DESIRE WILL BE GRANTED: "For the
LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing
does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless" (Psa 84:11). "And I -- in
righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with
seeing your likeness" (Psa 17:15).
And what are the specific desires of the righteous that WILL
be granted? Peace and sleep and safety (Psa 4:8). Gladness (Psa 4:7). Food (Psa
37:25; 81:10). An inheritance in the Land (Psa 37:3). Help (Psa 37:24).
Satisfaction (Psa 37:16). Strength (Psa 37:39). Joy (Joh 16:24). "Every good and
perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows" (Jam 1:17). "This is the confidence
we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he
hears us" (1Jo 5:14).
Examples of the righteous whose desires have been granted:
Hannah in the gift of a special son (1Sa 1); Esther in the deliverance of her
people Israel (Est 4:16; 8:15); and Simeon in seeing the LORD's Anointed (Luk
WHEN THE STORM HAS SWEPT BY, THE WICKED ARE GONE, BUT THE
RIGHTEOUS STAND FIRM FOREVER: This verse plainly explains and amplifies the
preceding one: "What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous
desire will be granted" (v 24). It plainly is the source of Christ's little
parable that concludes his "Sermon on the Mount": "Therefore everyone who hears
these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his
house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and
beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on
the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into
practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down,
the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell
with a great crash" (Mat 7:24-27). It is a marvel what rich expression is packed
into so few words -- even though Christ's parable is short and to the point, it
only develops what is here already, in Pro 10:25: a great storm and whirlwind --
or hurricane -- that sweeps before it all that is flimsy and poorly-constructed
(like chaff before the wind: Psa 1:4; 35:5; Isa 5:24; 17:13; 29:5; 33:11; Dan
2:35; Mat 3:12; Luk 3:17; etc), BUT the righteous build their hopes and their
lives on an everlasting foundation, the Rock that cannot be moved!
Cp this verse with Pro 12:7 ("Wicked men are overthrown and
are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm"); Pro 21:12 ("The
Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked and brings the wicked to
ruin"); and Pro 14:11 ("The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent
of the upright will flourish").
WHEN THE STORM HAS SWEPT BY, THE WICKED ARE GONE:
"Storm" is "whirlwind" in the AV. "The word for 'storm wind' comes from the root
'suf' ('to come to an end; to cease'). The noun may then describe the kind of
storm that makes an end of things, a whirlwind. It is used in prophetic passages
that describe swift judgment and destruction" (NETn). "A little while, and the
wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found... but
he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be
found" (Psa 37:10,36). Such a "whirlwind" brought the destruction of the cities
of the plain in Lot's day (Luk 17:28,29; Gen 19:16-25), and of Sennacherib's
mighty host (2Ki 19:35). And such a "whirlwind", infinitely more terrible, will
be the coming of the Lord in judgment (Luk 17:30; 1Th 5:2,3).
Moreover, as Gill puts it, the wicked are not just swept away
by the whirlwind -- they ARE the whirlwind! "The wicked themselves are like a
whirlwind, noisy, boisterous, and blustering; such is the man of sin, who speaks
like a dragon, breathing out slaughter and threatening against the saints [2Th
2]; and so are his followers, fierce and heady, and like a whirlwind, pernicious
and destructive, bearing down, carrying away, and destroying all before it; so
the locusts of the bottomless pit, under their king Abaddon, or Apollyon, the
destroyer [Rev 9:1-3,11]; and all tyrannical persecutors, who are as the boar
out of the forest, and the wild beast of the field [Psa 80:13]: and these 'pass
away' like a whirlwind, swiftly, suddenly, and at once; now they are seen in
great power and authority, and anon they are not any more."
"Proverbs provides several insights into the fate of the
wicked. Their reputation will be like rotten wood (Pro 10:7). God will reject
all their desires (Pro 10:3), and all their hopes will come to nothing (Pro
10:28; 11:8,10). Their worst fears will be realized (Pro 10:24). The wicked
person will know nothing but calamity (Pro 12:21, depicted as a relentless
hunter in Pro 11:19), as well as contempt and reproach (Pro 18:3). He will flee
even when there are no pursuers (Pro 28:1) and eventually will be driven off to
death (Pro 14:32). Without a future dwelling place awaiting him (Pro 10:30), he
is overthrown by God (Pro 21:12) and is swept away like chaff (Pro 10:25)"
(NIDOTTE). The Psalms repeatedly say that the wicked will go down to death,
their memory will perish and they will be as though they had never been. The
righteous on the other hand will be rescued by God from death and then will
enjoy him forever (Psa 9; 21:4–10; 36:9–12; 49:8–20;
52:5–9; 59; 73; 92). Proverbs likewise warns that the wicked will pass
away, be overthrown, be cut off, be no more, their lamp put out (Pro 2:21,22;
10:25; 12:7; 24:15–20).
BUT THE RIGHTEOUS STAND FIRM FOREVER: More literally,
"the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (AV). The metaphor compares the
righteous to an everlasting foundation: they are secure when the catastrophes of
life -- or the great divine judgments -- come along. They are fixed in a
covenant relationship with the Almighty God, and need not fear passing
misfortunes. And even should they perish in some terrible calamity, it will only
-- for them -- be the prelude to divine and eternal blessing. "Just so, even
while it is still the evil day, the desire of the righteous shall be granted;
for he asks of God what is according to His will, judging himself where, seeking
more or otherwise, he yielded to vain thoughts. Why should he doubt care and
mercy in any trial from Him whose grace justified the ungodly?" (Kelly).
But the wicked have no such security, or, in the abrupt and
frightening words of Psa 1:4: "Not so the wicked!"
"The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood
upright again when the storm had passed over" (Aesop).
More expressly, Christ IS the "everlasting foundation"! "For
no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus
Christ" (1Co 3:11). He is also pictured, more particularly, as the chief
cornerstone of the "foundation", the teachings of the apostles and prophets (Eph
AS VINEGAR TO THE TEETH AND SMOKE TO THE EYES, SO IS A
SLUGGARD TO THOSE WHO SEND HIM: Two similes are used to portray the
aggravation in sending a lazy person to do a job. Vinegar on the teeth is an
unpleasant smell and a sour, acidic, and irritating taste; it sets the teeth on
edge. Smoke causes the eyes to smart and water, and obscures vision. The lazy
person will not do the job at all, or he will do it in a poor and untimely
manner; either way he will be an aggravation and a distraction to those who
commissioned him. Much better to give a job to someone who is busy than someone
who seemingly has nothing to do! Cp, generally, Pro 10:4,5.
A SLUGGARD: The term "atsel" (from the root "atsal",
signifying "to lean, or recline") occurs 14 times, ALL in Proverbs: cf esp Pro
6:6-9; 19:24; 22:13; 26:13-16. Also cp Pro 12:27; 13:17; 26:6 (where other words
occur). Paul speaks disparagingly of the Cretans, whom he calls "slow bellies"
(AV) or "lazy gluttons" (NIV) (Tit 1:12) -- perhaps the closest NT equivalent to
the "sluggards" of Proverbs. Lukewarm, Laodicean professors of the Truth (Rev
3:15,16) -- and those who idle about in the marketplace (Mat 20:6,7; cp Acts
17:5) -- may fall into the same category.
Sluggards do not think ahead (Pro 6:6); love to sleep (Pro
6:9-11); want more without the effort to get it (Pro 13:4); are discouraged by
slight hindrances (Pro 20:4); and always have reasons to excuse their lack of
effort (Pro 26:16). Employers cringe to see employees standing around, walking
slowly, talking instead of working, pacing themselves through a job, avoiding
the next task, and taking yet one more break. So the sluggard irritates and
hurts his employer, or anyone else counting on him.
SO IS A SLUGGARD TO THOSE WHO SEND HIM: This proverb is
akin to the parable of Christ: the unprofitable servant, to whom resources have
been committed, so that he might put them to use, but who instead hides his in
the ground (Mat 25:24,25), or wraps it up in a napkin to "keep it safe" (Luk
19:20-26), arouses the strongest reaction from his master: "Throw that worthless
servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of
teeth" (Mat 25:30). " 'Sluggishness' may not have the dark character of
'wickedness' or of 'folly' in the moral sense; but it is a twofold wrong of no
small dimensions. It is unworthy in itself, and dishonors the failing man by its
purposeless ease... How sad when lack of heed and diligence in a Christian
exposes his Master's name to be ill spoken of!" (Kelly).
Vv 27-30: There is a progression in these four proverbs. All
four (which seem to follow on from v 25) are made up of parallel expressions --
in which the second is the antithesis of the first:
* Verse... / The righteous: / The wicked:
* 27. Length of life / Years cut short.
* 28. Prospect of joy / Hopes come to nothing.
* 29. Have a refuge / Have a ruin.
* 30. Never to be uprooted / Shall not remain in the
THE FEAR OF THE LORD ADDS LENGTH TO LIFE, BUT THE YEARS OF
THE WICKED ARE CUT SHORT: The fear of the LORD, which is the beginning of
wisdom (Pro 1:7), contributes to a long and prosperous life. And those who turn
their back on God will be punished swiftly. This saying is generally true. But
in numerous instances, it is not true in this life, and this may perplex the
righteous -- as the whole of the Book of Job is witness. When the opposite of
this proverb seems to be true, then it is for one or more of several reasons:
(a) the righteous are, mercifully, taken away from evil to come in this life
(Isa 57:1,2); (b) the suffering and death of righteous ones is, by God's grace,
useful as a witness to others (cf Psa 44:22); and (c) the wicked may be allowed
to live longer so that they have more opportunity to repent (2Pe 3:9). But, most
especially, (d) the saying is eternally true even if temporarily false: God may
move slowly, but it is with a purpose and it is certain -- and eternal reward
awaits the righteous, even as eternal punishment awaits the wicked. This is what
we might call "Proverbs time": every such statement is true, even if we must
wait -- beyond death and the grave, all the way to the resurrection and the
judgment -- to see it become true!
THE FEAR OF THE LORD ADDS LENGTH TO LIFE: "Come, my
children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you
loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and
your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue
it" (Psa 34:11-14). There is no doubt about it. The fear of the Lord leads to
virtuous habits, and these prevent that wasting of life and health which is the
natural result of much sin and vice. Also, the peace of mind which springs out
of faith in Christ also greatly helps those who are ill. Worry itself -- with
stress and anxiety -- these things may kill, but confidence in God is like
healing medicine. Those who are righteous, those who believe in God and His Son,
have therefore all the prerequisites for long life; if it is really for our
good, in the Divine wisdom, and if Christ remain away, then we shall live to an
old age, with a life that is full and rewarding. We should not be overcome with
sudden expectation of death the moment we have an ache or pain, but let us
rather expect that we may have to work on through a considerable length of days.
And what if we should soon be called away, sooner than we might wish, in death?
Certainly there would be nothing to deplore in such a summons, but everything to
rejoice in. Living or dying we belong to the Lord. If we live, Jesus will be
with us; if we die, then in our next conscious moment we shall be with him. The
truest lengthening of life is to LIVE while we live, rejoicing in our blessing,
and using every hour for the highest and best purposes.
THE FEAR OF THE LORD: The "fear of the Lord" occurs for
the first time in this collection (which started at Pro 10:1), but will appear
frequently hereafter: Pro 14:26,27; 15:16,33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4.
LENGTH TO LIFE: A prolonging of life is one of the
blessings associated with wisdom (cf Pro 3:2,16; 9:11; 19:23). It is to be
understood, generally, both qualitatively and quantitatively: a full, rich life
as well as a long life. It may certainly be understood, in "Proverbs time", of
an eternal life.
BUT THE YEARS OF THE WICKED ARE CUT SHORT: "The years
of the wicked shall be shortened; through diseases, which their sins bring upon
them, which cut them off before they have lived out half their days; or by means
of which, their sins, they come into the hand of the civil magistrate, and die
before their time; or are taken off in their full strength by the immediate
judgment of God, as were Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:1-10]; and so they die in
the midst of their days; and before the time, which, according to the course of
nature, and the common period of life, in all human probability they might have
arrived unto (Psa 55:23; Ecc 7:17)" (Gill). Cp Psa 36:1; Rom 3:10-18.
Of course, this is not ALWAYS and INVARIABLY true, in this
world, for the reasons stated above, as well as others (cp Psa 73). The wicked
may survive long (a) for some specific purpose of the Almighty; (b) as a
specific trial to the righteous; or again (c) the wicked may be allowed to live
longer so that they have more opportunity to repent (2Pe 3:9). But then, once
again, in "Proverbs time", when measured by the calendar of eternity, they will
ALWAYS be "cut short".
THE PROSPECT OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS JOY, BUT THE HOPES OF THE
WICKED COME TO NOTHING: Verse 28 picks up on v 24, and provides a very
positive and fulfilling note to expectation; it is a hope that gives direction
and meaning to life. Expectation and hope are used again in Pro 11:7, which
expands on v 28b, the hopelessness of the wicked. On the contrary, the hope of
the just will never be cut off (Pro 23:18; 24:14).
This is a contrast of expectations: the righteous will
experience the joyful fulfillment of their hopes, but what the wicked hope for
will be dashed. The proverb is a general maxim based on God's justice. It does
not describe the ordinary state of affairs in the world around us, day to day --
many hopes of wicked people DO come to pass, in the short term. But it perfectly
describes the workings of the Divine Hand in the light of eternity. Or, as has
been said before, it will prove to be absolutely true -- both positively and
negatively -- in "Proverbs time".
The happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked:
Pro 10:6,9,16,24,25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13,14,21,26,28;
13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7;
21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.
THE PROSPECT OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS JOY: Or "gladness", as
AV. And so the righteous "rejoice in hope", and are "patient in affliction" (Rom
The AV has "SHALL BE gladness", whereas the NIV has "IS joy":
present tense and future tense should be equally valid here: "The hope of the
righteous... is now attended with joy; he has a pleasure in the exercise of the
grace of hope as to future things; he rejoices in hope of the glory of God, and
is enabled to hold fast the rejoicing of his hope firm unto the end (Rom 5:2;
Heb 3:6); and the issue of his hope will be an abundant entrance into the joy of
his Lord; a being brought into his presence, in which is fulness of joy; he is
not ashamed of his hope now, and he will not be disappointed hereafter" (Gill).
Thus Paul writes to Timothy: "Godliness has value for all things, holding
promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1Ti 4:8).
THE HOPES OF THE WICKED COME TO NOTHING: That which the
wicked eagerly hope for shall come to nothing (Pro 11:7; Job 8:13; Psa 112:10).
And this will also be true of the "wicked" who fancy
themselves "righteous": their hopes will reach as far as the gate of eternity in
God's Kingdom, when they expect to hear words of welcome, but instead hear words
of the fiercest rebuke: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter
the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in
heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in
your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I
will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " (Mat
7:21)." "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for
us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you' " (Mat 25:11,12).
If unrepentant sinners should view their most brilliant
accomplishments in the light of eternity, they would find them to be as lasting
and as valuable as bursting bubbles. Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even
when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more
worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery.
Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he
had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing,
and he left this earth completely unmourned. Julius Caesar, "staining his
garments in the blood of one million of his foes", conquered 800 cities, only to
be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon,
the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in
banishment. Adolph Hitler committed suicide in a squalid bunker, in the midst of
the ruins of his "Thousand-year Reich", which lasted exactly 12 years. No wonder
Solomon warned of the poor prospects for anyone who strives to succeed without
relying on God.
"The expectation of the man who has his portion in this life
is continually deteriorating; for every hour brings him nearer to the loss of
all his treasures. But 'the good hope through grace' is always approaching its
realities, and therefore grows with the lapse of time more valuable and more
lively. As it is spiritual in its quality... it does not depend on outward
things, and is not affected with the decays of nature. Like the Glastonbury
thorn, it blossoms in the depth of winter. The hope of the one is a treasure
[invested] at interest which is continually augmenting; that of the other
resembles stock, the capital of which has been continually invaded, until the
last pound is ready to be consumed" (Salter, BI).
THE WAY OF THE LORD IS A REFUGE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT IT
IS THE RUIN OF THOSE WHO DO EVIL: "The 'way of the LORD' is an idiom for
God's providential administration of life; it is what the LORD does" (NETn). The
God who created the world is not watching, indifferently, from a great distance;
instead, He is actively involved in all of life. Thus divine justice will
protect the righteous AND bring disaster upon the evildoers; it is equally
concerned with both. In the same way, Paul speaks of the gospel of salvation as
not only the "aroma of Christ" and "the fragrance of life", BUT ALSO -- rather
jarringly -- as "the smell of death" (2Co 2:16)! And likewise, Christ himself --
the bearer of salvation -- may be a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"
to those who refuse him (Isa 8:14; 1Pe 2:8). His message can save, but it can
also remove all excuse for sin (Joh 15:22), for "better... not to have known the
way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the
sacred command that was passed on to them" (2Pe 2:21).
It is an axiom of the LORD's religion that He rewards those
who diligently seek and obey Him (Pro 11:18; Heb 6:10; 11:6; Gen 15:1; Psa
18:20; 58:10,11; Mat 5:10-12; 6:33; Rev 21:3-5). And it is equally an axiom that
He punishes those who reject Him and His word and His Son (Pro 13:13; 2Ch 36:16;
Psa 73:15-20; Mat 21:40-46; 1Co 11:30; Heb 10:26-31; 12:28,29; Rev 21:8).
THE WAY OF THE LORD IS A REFUGE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS:
"Strength" (KJV) is too vague. The word "refuge" (Heb "maoz") refers to a
mountain stronghold, a fortress, or a defensed city. In the prophets certain
cities were identified as such "defensed cities": eg, the city Sin in Egypt (Eze
30:15), Tyre or Tarshish (Isa 23:14), and Jerusalem (Eze 24:25). It is often
used more abstractly, of God's "defense" of His people (cf 2Sa 22:2; Isa 27:5).
And thus the theme of God as the fortress of His people dominates the expression
in the Psalms and the prophets (eg, Psa 27:1; 28:8; 31:2,4; 37:39; 43:2; Isa
17:10; 25:4; Jer 16:19; Nah 1:7; Joe 3:16).
BUT IT IS THE RUIN OF THOSE WHO DO EVIL: The KJV reads:
"But destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity." However, in the NIV
translation, "it" refers to its antecedent, "the way of the LORD" -- thus
emphasizing what the KJV does not: that the "way of the LORD" (in this case,
WHAT HE DOES in the world, not what is done toward Him) will not only protect
the righteous but will also destroy the wicked! (Likewise, the AV, RSV, and NET
all so translate this phrase: to imply that the LORD's "way" is actively to
destroy the wicked!)
RUIN: The Hebrew "mechitta" occurs 11 times, and like
its root "chat", expresses both terror (Isa 54:14; Jer 17:17; 48:39) and
destruction (Psa 89:40). Seven such occurrences are found in the book of
Proverbs, denoting the idea of “ruin” that results from: the mouth
of the fool (Pro 10:14; 13:3; 18:7), poverty or scarcity (Pro 10:15; 14:28), and
the way of evil (Pro 10:29; 21:15).
THE RIGHTEOUS WILL NEVER BE UPROOTED, BUT THE WICKED WILL
NOT REMAIN IN THE LAND: Cp Mat 5:5: "Blessed are the meek, for they will
inherit the earth." This proverb concerns the enjoyment of covenant blessings --
dwelling in the land of Israel. It is promised to the righteous for an eternal
inheritance: this is a dominant theme of Psa 37 (see esp vv 9,27,34,37 there; cp
Pro 10:25; 11:31; Psa 15:5; 21:7), and so the wicked cannot expect to settle
there -- they will be removed from the Land. The two halves of the proverb
answer directly to Pro 2:21 and Pro 2:22, respectively.
THE RIGHTEOUS WILL NEVER BE UPROOTED: The KJV, rather
vaguely, has "removed" (as does the ASV and the RSV). And the NIV has, rather
strangely, "uprooted". The word "mowt" signifies "to totter, shake, waver,
stagger, or slip". Those who set the LORD continually before them (Psa 16:8),
who are faithful (Psa 17:5), who trust in Yahweh's steadfast love (Psa 21:7),
and who depend on Him as their only rock, salvation, and stronghold (Psa
62:2,6), will absolutely never be shaken (cp Rom 8:35-39). Such a person will be
remembered forever (Psa 112:6), and like Mount Zion, will be unshakable and
abide forever (Psa 125:1). Cp also Pro 12:3 (sw); Pro 12:21.
This verse expresses a fundamental principle of Bible
teaching. The righteous will reign with Christ on the earth: Gen 13:15; Num
14:21; Pro 11:31; Isa 11:9; Dan 2:44; Zec 14:16; Mat 5:5; Luk 13:28; Rom 4:13;
Rev 2:26,27; etc.
BUT THE WICKED WILL NOT REMAIN IN THE LAND: See Pro
10:25n. Cp Psa 37:20,22,28,37,38. See also Isa 22:17; 65:20; Mat 15:13; Lev
26:33; Deu 4:27; 28:63.
A second expression of first principles in this verse: the
punishment of the wicked is death, not endless torment: Psa 37:20; 104:35;
145:20; Pro 10:30; 11:31; 13:13; Job 20:7,8; 21:30; Eze 18:4; Mat 21:41; Luk
19:27; Rom 1:32; 6:23; 2Th 1:9; 2Pe 2:12; Heb 6:8.
THE LAND: Not "the earth", as the KJV, but the Hebrew
"eretz": "the land" -- and particularly the Land of Israel, the land of promise
to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 13:15-17; Gal 3:27-29; etc).
THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS BRINGS FORTH WISDOM, BUT A
PERVERSE TONGUE WILL BE CUT OUT: Righteous speech can be beneficial to
others and pleasing to God; if it is perverse, it is a complete waste of words
-- no one wants to listen to it.
THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS BRINGS FORTH WISDOM: "The
verb 'nuv' means 'to bear fruit.' It is used figuratively of the righteous; they
produce wisdom and righteousness. The term 'chokhma' ('wisdom') represents the
'fruit' that the righteous bear: 'they bear the fruit of wisdom' (BDB 626)"
(NETn). (Moffatt has the lovely phrase "puts forth buds of wisdom".) The figure
of the righteous as a fruit tree is also employed in Psa 92:12-14: "The
righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of
Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of
our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and
green..." (cp also Psa 52:8; Isa 55:13; 65:22; and Mat 12:33). And the figure of
righteous words as the fruit of a tree is employed in Pro 12:14; 13:2; 18:20;
and Heb 13:15 (citing Hos 14:2, along with Isa 57:19): "the fruit of our lips
giving thanks to his name".
A PERVERSE TONGUE: Hebrew "the tongue of perversions".
"Tahpukhot", or "perversions" ("froward" in the KJV), refers to that which turns
upside down, overthrows, or perverts what is right. As pertaining to speech,
perversity may refer to direct lying, or to clever distortion of perceptions and
of the truth -- such as malicious gossip (Pro 2:12; 8:13; 10:32; 16:28,30). As
alcohol distorts physical perception, so "a perverse tongue" distorts spiritual
and moral perceptions (Pro 23:33).
WILL BE CUT OUT: This must be hyperbolic; there is no
instance in the Bible, either in law or fact, of a tongue being cut out
(assuming that Psa 12:3 is likewise hyperbolic: "May the LORD cut off all
flattering lips and every boastful tongue"). Jesus resorts to the same sort of
exaggeration, for dramatic effect, when he says, "If your eye causes you to sin,
gouge it out... if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off" (Mat 5:29,30;
18:9; Mar 9:47). For that matter, Jesus also speaks of fruitless or useless
trees being cut down (Mat 3:10; Luk 13:7).
THE LIPS OF THE RIGHTEOUS KNOW WHAT IS FITTING:
Following on from v 31, Solomon says that the lips of the righteous seek out,
and are acquainted with what is "ratsown" -- ie, pleasing, acceptable, or
delightful... to man AND to God.
word is used often of sacrifices and offerings which are acceptable or pleasing
to Yahweh: Exo 28:38; Lev 19:5; 22:20,21,29; 23:11.) The LXX, by a slightly
different reading, has: "The lips of just men DROP, or DISTILL, grace"; that
thought is generally what is expressed by Paul in Col 4:6: "Let your
conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know
how to answer everyone."
BUT THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED ONLY WHAT IS PERVERSE: The
sw as v 31. "Perversity" is opposed not only to what is "wise" (v 31), but also
to what is "pleasant" (v 32)! If one is at a loss as to what sorts of words are
"perverse", let him read and study Paul's exhortation in Eph 5:3-7: "But among
you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of
impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor
should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of
place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure
or greedy person -- such a man is an idolater -- has any inheritance in the
kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for
because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore
do not be partners with them."
If we serious think upon HIS standards, we will soon be
surprised at how much of what goes on around us, and how much we might read and
see, and how much of what passes for "entertainment" in this ungodly world,
falls under the category of "perverse"!