WHOEVER LOVES DISCIPLINE LOVES KNOWLEDGE, BUT HE WHO HATES
CORRECTION IS STUPID: With this cp Pro 15:32: "He who ignores discipline
despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding." Other
proverbs about the wisdom of obedience, and the folly of disobedience: Pro
10:8,17; 12:1,15; 13:1,13,18; 15:5,10,12,31; 19:16; 28:4,7,9. "All Scripture is
God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in
righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good
work" (2Ti 3:16,17).
"The first mark of difference [between a wise man and a fool]
is the opposite feeling about discipline. If a man is wise, he will love
'knowledge'; and if he loves knowledge, he will love the means to it, and
therefore will not kick against correction. That is another view of trials from
the one which inculcates devout submission to a Father. It regards only the
benefits to ourselves. If we want to be taught anything, we shall not flinch
from the rod. There must be pains undergone in order to win knowledge of any
sort, and the man who rebels against these shows that he had rather be
comfortable and ignorant than wise. A pupil who will not stand having his
exercises corrected will not learn his faults. On the other hand, hating reproof
is 'brutish' in the most literal sense; for it is the characteristic of animals
that they do not understand the purpose of pain, and never advance because they
do not. Men can grow because they can submit to discipline; beasts cannot
improve because, except partially and in a few cases, they cannot accept
correction" (Maclaren). LOVES... HATES: "The [commonly-expressed] love/hate
relationship [lacks] the emotional impact these words carry with us; it is a
question of firm choice, of either/or: cf Pro 1:22; 9:8" (WBC).
WHOEVER LOVES DISCIPLINE LOVES KNOWLEDGE: "Instruction,
as the contrast teaches, chiefly implies discipline -- that most needful course
for acquiring spiritual knowledge. The submission of the will is the only road
to Christian attainment. The irritable pride that hates reproof, as if it were
an affront to be told of our faults, argues not only want of grace but also want
of understanding" (Bridges). And so Lady Wisdom says, "I love those who love
me... Blessed are those who keep my ways" (Pro 8:15,32).
DISCIPLINE:Hebrew "muwcar" (sw Pro
1:2,3,7,8; 3:11; 4:1; etc). "The noun 'muwcar' has a three-fold range of
meanings: (1) physical or parental: 'discipline; chastisement', (2) verbal:
'warning; exhortation' and (3) moral: 'training; instruction' (BDB; HAL)... it
refers to moral training or instruction that the Book of Proverbs offers to its
readers. This instruction consists of wisdom acquired by observing the
consequences of foolish actions in others and developing the ability to control
the natural inclination to folly. This sometimes comes through experiencing
chastisement from God. Sensing something of this nuance, the LXX translated this
term with the Greek word for 'child-training' " (NETn). Cp "temperance" of 2Pe
BUT HE WHO HATES CORRECTION IS STUPID: "Solomon tells
us there are several sorts of men who will be never the wiser nor better for
what he says: (1) Such as are stupid, and have no palate to relish anything but
sensual, earthly pleasures. (2) The [perverse] man, who is under the dominion of
his lusts and passions. (3) The proud man. For he is wiser in his own conceit
than seven men that can render a reason. This conceit is commonly the child of
prosperity. (4) The negligent and slothful man. He will not be at the pains to
cultivate his mind with the instructions of wisdom. (5) Men of a vain and frothy
spirit, who love to turn serious things into ridicule; jesters and scorners. The
qualifications our divine philosopher calls for are diligence and attention"
(Reading, BI). Cp Pro 5:12,13; 9:7,8; Isa 1:3.
CORRECTION:Hebrew "towkechah" (sw Pro
1:23,25,30; 3:11; 5:12; 6:23; etc).
From a root "yachah", which
signifies "to reason together, to show the right way". "Notably in texts that
are concerned with instruction; it is often parallel to 'yasar', discipline (Psa
6:1; 38:1; 94:10; Pro 9:7; Jer 2:19). This is especially the case where the
subject has both the insight and the authority to address one for faulty
behavior. A key role of the wise instructor is to reprove a student in order to
develop that one's character. A discerning student, realizing that reproof is
essential for learning, loves the teacher who reproves judiciously (Pro 9:8;
28:23; cf Pro 25:12). Indeed, those who offer wise, judicious reproof to one who
is receptive are highly regarded (Pro 28:23); their value to the community is
comparable to that of gold jewelry (Pro 25:12). That is why one psalmist prays
that he may be reproved, set right, by a righteous person (Psa 141:5).
Conversely, the self-centered, ie, fools, not only do not like to receive
reproof (Pro 15:12), but they hate and may even harm the one who offers reproof
(Pro 9:8). Yahweh, like a father, reproves those he loves (Pro 3:12)...
Frequently this [noun] means 'reproof, rebuke, correction'; often it is parallel
to 'muwcar', discipline (Pro 3:11; 5:12; 10:17; 12:1; etc)... That reproof is
one way of administering discipline is attested by the phrase 'towkechah
muwcar', reproofs of discipline (Pro 6:23)... Reproof is an integral tool for
educating (Pro 29:15). One who keeps reproof is prudent (Pro 15:5; cf Pro
15:32), for heeding reproof leads to life (Pro 6:23; 15:31). The student is,
thus, exhorted not to be weary of reproof (Pro 3:11). Any one who hates or
rejects reproof travels the path leading to ruin (Pro 5:12–14; 10:17;
15:10) and is considered stupid" (NIDOTTE).
STUPID: The word "ba'ar" ("brutish", as AV, or
"stupid", as NIV) normally describes dumb animals that lack intellectual sense.
Here, it describes the moral fool who is not willing to learn from correction
(Psa 49:10; 73:22; Pro 30:2). (Cp Psa 49:10 -- "senseless", or "ba'ar" -- with
Psa 49:12,20: "A man... without understanding is like the BEASTS that perish.")
One distinction between the human and the brute is this ability to accept and
learn from God's discipline: "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 32:9). This is the notable reason why the Gentile nations in the
great prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are characterized by God as "beasts"
(Dan 7; Rev 13; 17; etc).
The sheer folly of those who "hate correction" is illustrated
by William Gladstone: "One thing I have against the clergy, both of the country
and in the town; I think they are not severe enough on their congregations. They
do not sufficiently lay upon the souls and consciences of their hearers their
moral obligations, and probe their hearts and bring up their whole lives and
action to the bar of conscience. The class of sermons which I think are most
needed are of the class which offended Lord Melbourne long ago. Lord Melbourne
was seen one day coming from a church in the country in a mighty fume. Finding a
friend, he exclaimed, 'It's too bad! I have always been a supporter of the
Church, and I have always upheld the clergy. But it is really too bad to have to
listen to a sermon like that we have had this morning. Why, the preacher
actually insisted upon applying religion to a man's private life!' But this is
the kind of preaching which I like best, the kind of preaching which men need
most; but it is also the kind which they get the least" (BI).
A GOOD MAN OBTAINS FAVOR FROM THE LORD, BUT THE LORD
CONDEMNS A CRAFTY MAN: 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.
A GOOD MAN OBTAINS FAVOR FROM THE LORD: It is true that
no man, on his own, or by his own devices alone, can be truly "good" (Mat 19:17;
Mar 10:18; Luk 18:19; Rom 7:18,21). However, the man who is declared "good" or
"righteous" by the grace of God, ought to demonstrate his reborn and renewed
condition by seeking to do good works, so far as he is able: "For it is by grace
you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God... [but nevertheless] we are God's workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS" (Eph 2:8,10). Thus "goodness" is an aspect of the "fruit
of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22), and "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified
the sinful nature ['flesh': AV] with its passions and desires" (v 24).
And what deeds make a redeemed man, or woman, "good"? Taking
the second phrase of this verse as our clue, we might surmise that the "good"
man is one who is NOT "crafty", that is, one who is open and honest, and
"conducts his affairs with justice" (Psa 112:5).
FAVOR: "Favor" is the by-now-familiar "ratsown" (Pro
8:35; 10:32; 11:1,20,27; etc) -- which signifies that which is "pleasing" or
"acceptable" to God, especially sacrifices.
BUT THE LORD CONDEMNS A CRAFTY MAN: "Ish mezimmot". "A
man of wicked devices" (AV), or "evil devices" (RSV), or "wicked schemes" (NET).
(The term "mezimmot" is used of "plans" in a good sense in Pro 1-9 but in a bad
sense in Pro 10-24; cp also Psa 37:7.) "Ish mezimmot" is also found in Pro 14:17
("a crafty man is hated") and Pro 24:8 ("he who plots evil will be known as a
schemer"). Cp Pro 6:18, where one of the seven things which the LORD counts as
abomination is "a heart that devises wicked schemes [nsw]". Also, Isa 32:7: "The
scoundrel's methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes [sw] to destroy the
poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just."
"The manifestations of God's favour and its opposite are not
[always] to be thrown forward to a future life. Continuously the sunshine of
divine love falls on the one man, and already the other is condemned. It needs
some strength of faith to look through the shows of prosperity often attending
plain wickedness, and believe that it is always a blunder to do wrong. But a
moderate experience of life will supply many instances of prosperous villainy in
trade and politics which melted away like mist. The shore is strewn with wrecks,
dashed to pieces because righteousness did not steer... How many seemingly solid
structures built on wrong every man has seen in his lifetime crumble like the
cloud masses which the wind piles in the sky and then dissipates! The root of
the righteous is in God, and therefore he is firm. The contrast is like that of
Psa 1 -- between the tree with strong roots and waving greenery, and the chaff,
rootless, and therefore whirled out of the threshing-floor"
A MAN CANNOT BE ESTABLISHED THROUGH WICKEDNESS, BUT THE
RIGHTEOUS CANNOT BE UPROOTED: The same truth has been said several times
before, and will be repeated -- in slightly different terms -- quite a number of
times yet; but there is a certain charm (and power!) in the continual repetition
of the same fundamental truths. Wisdom whispers in the ear of the attentive, and
it hurts not at all to be reminded of what we think we already "know", again and
again... and again. Cp Pro 10:25,30: "When the storm has swept by, the wicked
are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever... The righteous will never be
uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land." Pro 12:12: "The wicked
desire the plunder of evil men, but the root of the righteous flourishes." Psa
125:1: "Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken
but endures forever." And finally, Isa 54:17: "No weapon forged against you will
And the NT takes up the echoing words: "If God is for us, who
can be against us?" (Rom 8:31). "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may
strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ
may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and
established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how
wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the
fullness of God" (Eph 3:16-19; cp also Col 2:7).
A MAN CANNOT BE ESTABLISHED THROUGH WICKEDNESS:
"Wickedness does not secure stable prosperity: it does not 'establish.' There is
no faculty for building in it. There are 'tents of wickedness'; but these are
frail and flimsy compared to 'the house of the LORD' (Psa 84). When at its best
and brightest, the product of evil is but a bubble that will burst with a touch
of righteous judgment. The equilibrium is unstable. There is no foundation of
truth to support the poor structure; it is not built according to the laws of
righteousness; it is not guarded against the shock of adverse circumstances. The
bad prosperous man has many enemies. All the course of the universe is in the
long run directed against him. He has not God on his side, and at any moment the
suspended hand of justice may fall upon his unsheltered head... Wickedness
secures no prosperity to a man himself: 'A man shall not be established by
wickedness.' His business may be so established; his plans and devices may be
made firm. But these things are not the man himself, and all the while they are
prospering he may be tottering to ruin, like a consumptive millionaire or a
paralytic winner of a lottery prize. Then the whole pursuit has ended in
failure; for what is the use of the huntsman's success in shooting the game if
he cannot bring home and enjoy what he has acquired?" (Pulpit).
"[Wickedness] may set [a man] in high places, but they are
slippery places (Psa 73:18). That prosperity which is raised by sin is built on
the sand, and it will soon appear to be so" (Henry).
"How soon was the successful treason of Abimelech (Jdg
9:54-57), and the Israelitish kings (1Ki 16:9,10; 2Ki 15:10-14; 2Ch 21:4,13-15)
brought to an end!... The evil device of Caiaphas also, to establish his nation
by wickedness, was the means of its overthrow (Joh 11:49,50; with Mat 21:43,44).
Such is the infatuation of sin!" (Bridges).
With this cp the words of "Babylon": "In her heart she boasts,
'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' Therefore in one day
her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed
by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her" (Rev 18:7,8).
BUT THE RIGHTEOUS CANNOT BE UPROOTED: "The root of the
righteous shall not be moved" (AV). The word "root" ("shoresh") stresses the
security of the righteous; they are firmly planted, their roots go down deep,
and they cannot be uprooted. The righteous are often compared to a tree (eg, Pro
11:30; Psa 1:3; 92:13; Jer 17:8); indeed, the righteous are like the tree of
life (Rev 22:1,2), which will abide in the Paradise of God forever.
Vv 4-12: Proverbs concerning the management of a house and
A WIFE OF NOBLE CHARACTER IS HER HUSBAND'S CROWN, BUT A
DISGRACEFUL WIFE IS LIKE DECAY IN HIS BONES: Proverbs of good and bad women,
or wives: Pro 11:16,22; 12:4; 14:1; 18:22; 19:13,14; 21:9,19; 25:24;
A WIFE OF NOBLE CHARACTER IS HER HUSBAND'S CROWN:
Hebrew "a woman of virtue" ("ishah khayil"): the subject of Pro 31:10-31 (where
the identical Heb phrase occurs). She is a "virtuous woman" -- a capable woman
of noble character. "Ishah" means "woman", of course; that she is, here, a
"wife" is solely based on the mention of her husband in the same phrase.
"Frequently in Proverbs, esp Pro 1–9, the 'ishah' or
woman, whom the son is told by his father to avoid, is described as literally a
'loose, or strange woman' (NIV 'adulteress') (Pro 2:16; 7:5), or just 'zara' --
'stranger, or foreigner' (Pro 5:3,20) by itself. Close to this is the phrase
'ishah ra', 'immoral woman' (Pro 6:24). Also most references to 'ishah' in the
rest of Proverbs are pejorative -- the beautiful but indiscreet woman (Pro
11:22); a disgraceful wife (Pro 12:4); a quarrelsome wife (Pro 19:13; 25:24;
27:15), ie, women as the embodiment of evil and the prime channel of destruction
for men. These consistent references to that type of an 'ishah' present a stark
contrast to the last unit of Proverbs, ie, Pro 31:10–31, an acrostic poem,
almost hymn-like, celebrating the virtues of 'a wife of noble character', NIV, a
phrase used elsewhere only of Ruth [Rth 3:11], but more literally 'a wife/woman
of strength'. As such, Pro 31:10–31 is one of the rare instances in the OT
that features praise of a person rather than God" (NIDOTTE).
NOBLE: The word translated "noble" or "virtuous" -- Heb
"chayil" -- is a very common word which literally means "strong" -- but not
necessarily just strong physically. It may mean, in certain contexts, strong
financially, ie wealthy -- or strong morally, ie virtuous. As applied to a
woman, and judging from the context in Proverbs (both negative and positive
passages), it seems to suggest a whole host of qualities -- such as: capability,
efficiency, industry, resourcefulness, graciousness, dignity, and godly
influence. In short, the "resume" of such a "strong" woman is given in Pro
31:10-31; the comments there best expound this verse.
HER HUSBAND'S CROWN: That is, bringing glory and honor
to him. A crown honors a person. Kings are given crowns for the honor of their
office, and athletes are crowned to honor sporting achievements. A great wife
honors her husband by the pleasure and esteem she brings him, and she also
crowns his authority by her own submission and that which she requires of her
children. A crown is a grand piece of jewelry, and a virtuous woman is such to
her husband! A strong, noble, virtuous wife is a reminder to others of the
qualities -- not just of her character -- but also of HIS character, that he was
able to win such a wonderful woman. As a "crown", she adorns and beautifies his
life, making it, so to speak, a joyous festival, a continual celebration. So
Paul calls his converts "a crown of glory, or rejoicing" (1Th 2:19). The
allusion is to the crown worn by the bridegroom at his marriage (cf Song 3:11;
"Faithful (Pro 31:11,12), chaste (Tit 2:5; 1Pe 3:2),
reverentially obedient (Eph 5:22,23; 1Pe 3:1,4-6), immovable in affection (Tit
2:4), delighting to see her husband honoured, respected, and loved; covering, as
far as may be, his failings; prudent in the management of her family (Pro 14:1),
conscientious in the discharge of her domestic duties (Pro 31:27,28); kind and
considerate to all around her (Pro 31:20,26); and as the root of all -- 'fearing
the LORD' (Pro 31:30) -- such is the virtuous woman; 'the weaker vessel' indeed,
but a woman of strength, with all her graces in godly energy. She is not the
ring on her husband's finger, or the chain of gold around his neck. That were
far too low. She is his 'crown'; his brightest ornament; drawing the eyes of all
upon him, as eminently honoured and blessed (Pro 31:23)" (Bridges).
BUT A DISGRACEFUL WIFE IS LIKE DECAY IN HIS BONES: By
contrast with the noble and virtuous wife, the shameful (immodest, lazy,
wasteful, and weak) acts of such a woman will eat away her husband's strength
and influence and destroy his happiness. A man may be crippled by his spouse --
the would-be "help-mate" who is not suitable to him. He may be unable to realize
his sincere goal of usefulness to others by reason of his association with her.
It is a great tragedy. (The LXX reads: "As a worm in a tree, so an evil woman
destroyeth a man.")
"Decay", or "rottenness" (AV), is the quite rare Hebrew word
"raqab" -- which also is found in Pro 14:30 ("envy rots the bones") and Hab 3:16
(where it is seemingly connected with fear and trembling), as well as Job 13:28
and Hos 5:12 (where it seems to describe, on a more physical level, the natural
decay of mortal flesh).
Job's wife is an example of such rottenness: just when he
needed her support, she says, "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9). What a sorry help
was that! And again, the whole sad, pathetic episode of Samson and Delilah (with
her immodesty, her cooing promises, her lies, her insinuations, her tempting
ways) is a terrible illustration of the very worst type of woman, and how fast
and far one may fall, who has anything to do with such a one. "Rottenness in the
"Young man, think about rotting bones. It is what you will
suffer, if you marry hastily or foolishly. 'Charm is deceptive, and beauty is
fleeting' (Pro 31:30). Being single is heavenly compared to marriage to the
average woman in our society (Pro 19:13; 21:9,19; 27:15,16). Virtuous women are
rare, very rare. You will need to trust the Lord, hunt far and wide, be
critical, and trust wise men to help [you in your search]" (LGBT).
THE PLANS OF THE RIGHTEOUS ARE JUST, BUT THE ADVICE OF THE
WICKED IS DECEITFUL: "Righteous people are fair and honest. This verse shows
that the thoughts (ie, intentions) of good people are directed toward what is
right, to simple justice. The adverse describes the wicked, whose advice is
deceitful and can lead only to evil" (EBC).
"The verse has been rendered, 'The policy of the just is
honesty; the wisdom of the wicked is cunning.' This rendering marks more
strikingly the intended distinction. The righteous man, in all his thoughts,
keeps by what is right. He deals in rectitude, as opposed to deceit; and from
his actions you may know his thoughts. The wicked man thinks one way and acts
another" (Wardlaw, BI).
"Moffatt puts it well: 'The aims of a good man are honourable;
the plans of a bad man are underhand.' If this is a truism, it is one that is
overlooked whenever leaders are elected on the strength of their promises rather
than their principles" (Kidner).
THE PLANS OF THE RIGHTEOUS ARE JUST: "Plans" is
"machashabah" -- the plural derived from "chasab", a root meaning to count or
calculate, and sometimes to "weave together". These "plans" are just, or right,
because they take Almighty God into account. "Many are the plans in a man's
heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails" (Pro 19:21); if those Divine
purposes are considered by man, even in his own mundane affairs, then -- no
matter what course he chooses -- it will surely work out for good (Rom 8:28),
because he recognizes the principle: "In his heart a man plans his course, but
the LORD determines his steps" (Pro 16:9).
BUT THE ADVICE OF THE WICKED IS DECEITFUL: "Advice" is
"tachbulah": the "guidance" of Pro 1:5, NIV. The sw occurs in Pro 11:14; 20:18;
24:6 -- always translated "guidance". Related to the Heb words for "sailor" and
"rope, or cord", it has to do with the arts of seamanship; the ability to steer
a course through life. But in this instance, it is an evil course! If anything,
this word -- with its added layers of meaning, of prudence and calculation --
suggests greater "wisdom" than the simpler "plans" of the first phrase. No
matter how carefully considered, or how prudently worked out in one's mind, the
"advice" of the wicked will not, ultimately, succeed -- and this for precisely
the opposite reason that the plans of the righteous DO succeed: because the
wicked do NOT take God into account! "In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God" (Psa 10:4). "All day long I have
held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing
their own imaginations" (Isa 65:2).
DECEITFUL: This can mean one of two different things
(or perhaps even both): (1) deceitful to the wicked person himself, and/or (2)
deceitful to others (this meaning is suggested especially by presumed
parallelism of the next verse, v 6).
"Such were the counsels of Joseph's brethren to deceive their
father (Gen 37:18-20); of Jeroboam, under a feigned consideration of the people
(1Ki 12:26-28); of Daniel's enemies, under pretense of honouring the king (Dan
3:4-8); of Sanballat, under the guise of friendship (Neh 6:2); of Haman, under
the cover of patriotism (Est 3:8-10); of Herod, under the profession of
worshipping the infant Saviour (Mat 2:7,8). Indeed from such 'a corrupt
fountain' as man's heart, what else can be expected but 'bitter waters'? (Jer
17:9; Mat 15:19)" (Bridges). Then there was the benighted plan of the Jewish
assassins, seeking to kill Paul the apostle (Acts 23:15), and -- in modern times
-- Hitler's scheme to annihilate all the Jews.
THE WORDS OF THE WICKED LIE IN WAIT FOR BLOOD, BUT THE
SPEECH OF THE UPRIGHT RESCUES THEM: Proverbs of mischievousness and
usefulness: Pro 10:10,23; 11:9-11,23,27; 12:5,6,12,18,20; 13:2; 14:22; 16:29,30;
17:11; 21:10; 24:8; 26:23,27.
THE WORDS OF THE WICKED LIE IN WAIT FOR BLOOD: That is,
the purpose of their conversation is to set a trap for others (cp Pro 1:11,18).
Jezebel set such a trap for Naboth (1Ki 21:13), as did Ahithophel for David --
unsuccessfully (2Sa 17:1-4); but the preeminent example is of course the trap
set for Christ (Luk 22:19-21). Then there was also the trap set for the apostle
Paul (Acts 23:14,15).
LIE IN WAIT: Heb "arab" is used of animals lurking for
their prey (Psa 10:9; Lam 3:10,11), but this also serves as a metaphor for the
way a human enemy preys on his hapless victim. A large number of references
occur in the stories of ambush (Jos 8:4; Jdg 9:25,32,43; 16:2; 21:20). Often
there is a criminal aspect to ambush (Deu 19:11; Ezr 8:31; Mic 7:2), which can
be described as lurking for blood (Pro 1:11; 12:6). Saul charges that there has
been a conspiracy against him to betray him to David, who will ambush him (1Sa
22:8,13). Wisdom also uses the sw to describe the wayward woman who waits to
seduce the foolish young man (Pro 7:12; 23:28).
BUT THE SPEECH OF THE UPRIGHT RESCUES THEM: That is,
the righteous can make a skillful defense, as in a judicial setting, against
false accusations that are intended to destroy them. The righteous, who have
gained wisdom, can escape the traps set by the words of the wicked.
RESCUES: Heb "natsal" is sw Pro 10:2; 11:4,6. It
signifies "to be snatched away", ie, from trouble, disaster, or death.
Previously in Proverbs, the sw has occurred several times: wisdom will "deliver"
from the ways of wicked men (Pro 2:12) and from the adulteress (Pro 2:16);
prompt action will "deliver" the young man from an imprudent promise (Pro
6:3,5); and -- as in this verse -- righteousness will "deliver" from death (Pro
WICKED MEN ARE OVERTHROWN AND ARE NO MORE, BUT THE HOUSE OF
THE RIGHTEOUS STANDS FIRM: Cp, generally, Pro 10:25,30: "When the storm has
swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever... The
righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land."
And Pro 14:11,32: "The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of
the upright will flourish... When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
but even in death the righteous have a refuge." Cp also Pro 14:1;
WICKED MEN ARE OVERTHROWN AND ARE NO MORE: "Overthrown"
is the Heb "haphak" -- "to turn about or turn over". The word frequently
describes God's overturning the wicked in judgment. Elihu observed that God
characteristically overthrows the mighty because of their wickedness (Job
34:25). Examples of this principle include the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah
(Gen 19:25,29), the threatened destruction of Nineveh (Jon 3:4), the punishment
of God's rebellious people Israel (2Ki 21:13), and the Last Days judgment of the
nations, when God will overturn the royal thrones and armies of the earth's
kingdoms (Hag 2:21,22). This verse may particularly allude to the overthrow of
Sodom and the other wicked cities of the plain, in the days of Abraham and Lot
(Gen 19:21,25,29) -- which stood in later days as the paradigm of God's
judgmental intervention in the world (Deu 29:23; Amo 4:11; Jer 20:16; Lam 4:6).
Some commentators, changing the word order of the first
phrase, see here the idea of suddenness, "While they [the wicked] turn
themselves round..." -- that is, in the briefest of moments -- "they are no
more" (Pro 10:25; Job 20:5). Thus the LXX has: "Wheresoever the wicked turn, he
BUT THE HOUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS STANDS FIRM: The "house"
stands for its contents -- thus, the family, and everything that is precious to
that family. The righteous, and all their house, will stand firm in the days of
trouble and judgment, which sweep away the ungodly: "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 [cp Mat 16:18: 'on this rock I will build my church'].
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). And Paul writes of "God's household, which is the
church of the living God", and which stands firm as "the pillar [cp Rev 3:12]
and foundation of the truth" (1Ti 3:15).
"Verse 7 recurs to the thought of verse 3 ['the righteous
cannot be uprooted'], but with a difference. Not only the righteous himself, but
his house, shall be established. The solidarity of the family and the entail of
goodness are strongly insisted on in the Old Testament, though limitations are
fully recognised. If a good man's son continues his father's character, he will
prolong his father's blessings; and in normal conditions, a parent's wisdom
passes on to his children" (Maclaren).
A MAN IS PRAISED ACCORDING TO HIS WISDOM, BUT MEN WITH
WARPED MINDS ARE DESPISED: Proverbs of honor and dishonor: Pro 10:7; 12:8,9;
18:3; 26:1; 27:21. And of vain glory: Pro 25:14,27; 27:2.
Personal wisdom wins the attention and approval of neighbors;
cf Pro 13:15: "Good understanding wins favor." "Man is tested by the praise he
receives" (Pro 27:21). In contrast, there will be only contempt for whoever
lacks the wisdom to cope with life.
A MAN IS PRAISED ACCORDING TO HIS WISDOM: "A man shall
be commended according to his wisdom. Not according to his birth and pedigree;
not according to his riches and wealth; not according to the places of honour
and trust he may be in; but according to his wisdom, which he discovers in his
words and actions, in his life and conversation: not according to the wisdom
that is earthly, sensual, and devilish; not according to the wisdom of the
world, which comes to nought, either natural or civil; especially that which
lies in sophistry and subtlety, in wicked craft and cunning, whereby men trick,
overreach, and defraud one another; but according to that which is spiritual and
evangelical; which lies in the knowledge of Christ, and of God in Christ, and of
those things which belong to salvation; the beginning of which is the fear of
the Lord, and which comes from above, and is pure and peaceable. A man possessed
of this is commended by all wise and good men, and by the Lord himself; as the
wise man is by Christ (Mat 7:24,25), who builds his house on a rock" (Gill).
"A man shall be commended ['halal'] according to his wisdom"
(AV). "There are persons in this world -- and the pity is that there are not
more of them -- who care less for praise than for appreciation. They have an
ideal after which they are striving, but of which they consciously fall short,
as every one who has a lofty ideal is sure to do. When that ideal is recognised
by another, and they are praised or commended for something -- let that
something be important or not -- in its direction, they are grateful, not for
the praise, but for appreciation. An element of sympathy enters into that
recognition, and they feel that they have something in common with the observer
who admires what they admire, and praises what they think is most worthy of
Joseph was commended by Pharaoh for his wisdom (Gen 41:39), as
was Daniel by the wise men of Babylon (Dan 1:19,20) and by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan
2:46). David was commended by one of Saul's servants (1Sa 16:18), and later by
many others (1Sa 18:30). Jesus grew in favor with God and men; this resulted
from his growth in wisdom (Luk 2:52); for this, he was commended even by his
enemies: "No one ever spoke the way this man does" (Joh 7:46). In Christ's
parable, the "faithful and wise servant" was commended by his master (Luk
12:42-44); in another parable, even the "dishonest manager" was commended by his
master -- for his shrewdness (Luk 16:8). Godly men will make known this
difference in other men, for they are ordered to identify both (Psa 37:37; Rom
16:17; Phi 3:17).
ACCORDING TO: Literally, "Heb 'to the mouth of'. This
idiom means 'according to' (BDB 804). The point is that praise is proportionate
to wisdom" (NETn).
WISDOM: Heb "sekel" -- literally, "intelligence", as in
1Sa 25:3, where it describes Abigail. In its first occurrence in Proverbs (Pro
1:3) -- translated "prudence" (NIV) -- it is coupled with that which is "right
and just and fair".
BUT MEN WITH WARPED MINDS ARE DESPISED: And so Samuel
said to Saul, "You acted foolishly" (1Sa 13:13). One of his servants likewise
despised Nabal: "He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him" (1Sa
25:17). Since fools "despise" wisdom and discipline, they themselves will be
"despised" (Pro 1:7; 23:9). God will hold fools up to shame (Pro 3:35), and
"everlasting contempt" (Dan 12:2). He will cause the Levites to be "despised and
humiliated before all the people, because [they] have not followed [His] ways
but have shown partiality in matters of the law" (Mal 2:8,9).
WARPED MINDS: Literally, "crooked [Heb 'avah'] of
heart", but with the "heart" (Heb "leb") referring to the mind. Such men do not
perceive things as they are, and so they make all the wrong choices. In short,
their thinking is all wrong.
BETTER TO BE A NOBODY AND YET HAVE A SERVANT THAN PRETEND
TO BE SOMEBODY AND HAVE NO FOOD: "One should be satisfied with comfort at
the expense of pretension. The point seems to be that some people live beyond
their means in a vain show... whereas, if they lived modestly, they could have
some of the conveniences of life, eg, a servant" (EBC). But see the note below
("and yet have a servant") for another possible meaning. Either way this verse,
like Pro 15:16,17, commends a modest lifestyle: "Better a little with the fear
of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where
there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." As well, also, Pro 13:7: "One
man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has
great wealth." And again, Pro 17:1: "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife."
The natural modesty of the young man David is a fine example
of this: "Do you think it is a small matter to become the king's son-in-law? I'm
only a poor man and little known." And then the old man Barzillai -- when
offered an elevated position by king David -- provides another wonderful example
of modesty and godly contentment with one's status (2Sa 19:31-39).
True success is working hard, enjoying simple domestic
pleasures, and living a contented and godly life (Ecc 9:8-10; 1Th 4:11,12; 1Ti
6:6-10). Modest possessions with love, peace, and righteousness are better than
even wealth with trouble (Pro 17:1).
A NOBODY: "A person of humble standing" (NET). The
Hebrew is "qalah" -- "to be lightly esteemed; to be dishonored; to be degraded"
(BDB). The AV translates "despised". Cp generally 1Sa 2:30; 2Sa 6:16; Mal 1:6;
AND YET HAVE A SERVANT: "The reading 'and yet have a
servant' is the reading of the LXX, Vulgate, Syriac... 'We'ebed lo' is
ambiguous, the preposition 'lo' being either possessive ('have a servant') or an
indirect object ('be a servant to himself')" (EBCn). This alternative reading
would suggest that true prudence would be to dispense with a servant (and any
ostentation) altogether, and serve oneself, thus insuring that there will be
money enough for food and other necessities. The RSV, favored by Kidner,
supports this idea: "Better is a man of humble standing WHO WORKS FOR HIMSELF
than one who plays the great man but lacks bread."
PRETEND TO BE SOMEBODY: "Heb 'who feigns importance'.
The term 'matakkabed', from 'kabed' ('to be weighty; to be honored; to be
important')... describes a person putting on an act (BDB 457). This individual
lives beyond his financial means in a vain show to impress other people" (NETn).
But it is, after all, in vain: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luk 14:11).
The man, perhaps of "noble" birth, who having lost his wealth,
nevertheless strives to "put on airs", seems to have been a particular
phenomenon of the English class society (though surely not limited to that
nation altogether). Thus (a) Matthew Henry scoffs at those who, in his quaint
old expression, "pinch their bellies to put it on their backs, that they may
appear very gay, because fine feathers make fine birds." (b) Adam Clarke says,
"There are some who, through pride of birth, etc, would rather starve, than put
their hands to menial labour. Though they may be lords, how much to be preferred
is the simple peasant, who supports himself and family by the drudgery of life!"
(c) Likewise, Charles Bridges: "Nothing is so despicable as to be proud, where
there is nothing to be proud of. Sometimes from 'a shabby gentility' -- the
foolish vanity of keeping up appearances -- a man debars himself from the common
comforts of life -- honouring himself, and lacking bread. Such slaves are men to
the opinions of the world!" (d) And William Guthrie writes, "Amid the changes of
this world, I have seen a man who, having known better days, had been nursed by
luxury, and reared in the lap of fulness, outlive his good fortune, and sink
down into the baseness and meanness of the deepest poverty -- in such a case it
seems to be with men as with plants. Naturalists find it much less easy to teach
a mountain flower to accommodate itself to a low locality than to persuade one
which by birth belongs to the valleys to live and thrive at a lofty elevation;
so there seems nothing more difficult to men than to descend gracefully... And
thus I have seen such an one as I have described, when he had lost his wealth,
retain his vanity, continuing proud in spirit when he had become poor in
A RIGHTEOUS MAN CARES FOR THE NEEDS OF HIS ANIMAL, BUT THE
KINDEST ACTS OF THE WICKED ARE CRUEL: "Compassion for animals is an
indication of one's character. The righteous are kind to all God's creation (see
Deu 25:4) because they have received His bounty. Toy suggests the analogy that
if one is kind to the lower animals, he will surely be kind to humans (p 248).
Greenstone adds that even when the wicked are moved to compassion, they often
manifest it in a cruel way (p 129)" (EBC).
And the righteous are kind to all God's creatures (Deu 25:4)
because, in doing so, they come closest to imitating the God who cares not for
oxen only, but for all mankind too (1Co 9:9,10), who "causes his sun to rise on
the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mat
5:45). The God who spreads His caring wings over all His creation, who feeds the
cattle and the young ravens when they call (Psa 147:9), who owns every beast in
the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills (Psa 50:10), and who knows every
bird that falls to the ground (Mat 10:29; cp Mat 6:26). And the God who, in the
midst of impending judgment upon 120,000 Ninevites, takes time to remember, and
care for, all their cattle as well (Jon 4:11).
A RIGHTEOUS MAN CARES FOR THE NEEDS OF HIS ANIMAL:
"Needs" is the Heb "nephesh" -- often translated "soul" or "life" (as in AV).
But "nephesh" can also mean "appetite" or "desire", and in that sense seems to
be used here: essentially, a righteous man feed his animals when they are
Pro 27:23-27 develops the idea of this verse: "Be sure you know the condition of
your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure
forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed
and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs
will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You
will have plenty of goats' milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your
BUT THE KINDEST ACTS OF THE WICKED ARE CRUEL: "But even
the most compassionate acts of the wicked are cruel" (NET). Literally, the
phrase is simply, "But the mercies of the wicked are cruel", but the NET
paraphrase is good and reasonable. The line can be interpreted in two ways: (1)
when the wicked exhibit a kind act, they do it in a cruel way, or (2) even the
kindest of their acts is cruel by all assessments, eg, stuffing animals with
food to fatten them for market -- their "kindness" is driven by ulterior
"A man who is cruel in the treatment of his animal cannot be a
good husband, a kind parent, a humane neighbour, or a gentle and tender friend.
Men cannot change their dispositions like their dress; whatever disposition they
encourage, it will become habitual and natural. Cruelty to animals makes men
sullen, rude, ferocious, wrathful, apt to strike, impatient of contradiction,
and prone to every evil work" (Forbes, BI).
"This verse might be rendered, 'A righteous man knows the
feelings of beasts.' He gives them credit for feelings; he does not look upon
them as merely so much animated matter, but as standing in some relation to
himself, and the more complete his ownership the more considerate ought to be
his treatment even of the beasts he owns. Even when the wicked man supposes
himself to be merciful there is cruelty in his tenderness. A wicked man cannot
be gentle. Men should remember this, and distrust all the gentleness which is
supposed to attach to men who are without conscience. The tenderness of such men
is an investment, is a political trick, is a bait to catch the unwary, is an
element of speculation. Rowland Hill used to say, in his quaint way, that he
would not value any man's religion whose cat and dog were not the better for his
piety. This is the beauty of the Christian religion: it flows throughout the
whole life, it ramifies in every department of the existence and carries with it
softness, purity, sympathy, kindness. The young lions roar, and get their meat
from God. The universe must be looked upon as a great household belonging to the
Almighty, regulated by His power and His wisdom, and intended to exemplify the
beneficence of His providence" (Parker, BI).
The plain fact is... the animal can almost never do anything
to hurt the owner, and will -- one way or another -- probably be as devoted to
the master whether it is hurt or not. (The devotion, or even "love", of some
horses, or dogs, for their masters has become legend -- the stuff of great
novels.) So to care for one's animals -- whether it's a farmer with work and
farm animals, or the pet owner -- is to demonstrate, to some degree, that we are
conscious of a God in heaven, who takes notice of what we do to others.
There can always be a measure of self-interest in our "doing
good" to others: perhaps we invite others to dinner, knowing full well that they
will invite us in turn. Perhaps we give to charities, knowing that others will
think better of us for doing so. Perhaps we are courteous and "kind", knowing
that little acts like this will "oil" the wheels of commerce and business... and
help us materially. Perhaps we "feel the pain" of others, in some kind of
pseudo-sympathy, merely to "get on" in the world. Perhaps we act friendly merely
to "pick the pockets" of the beguiled buyer.
Somewhere in this list of "small kindnesses" there is really
"cruelty"... because we may have stopped caring for others, and are only caring
for ourselves, advancing our interests, making more money, whatever... It is
then that "the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel", as the proverb says.
So if you want to know if a man is really kind -- deep-down,
honestly "kind", and not just "self-interested" -- you might want to see how he
treats dumb animals, or even how he treats people who can't do anything to
hurt... or help... him.
Examples of the positive teaching of this verse: Abraham's
servant who fed his camels before he attended to his own needs (Gen 24:32), and
Jacob in his care for his flocks and herds (Gen 33:13,14). A negative example:
Balaam, who cruelly beat his donkey (Num 22:28-32).
Proverbs of slothfulness and diligence: Pro 10:4,26;
12:11,24,27; 13:4,23; 15:19; 16:26; 18:9; 19:15,24; 20:4,13; 21:5,25,26;
22:13,29; 24:30-34; 26:13-16; 27:18,23,27; 28:19.
HE WHO WORKS HIS LAND WILL HAVE ABUNDANT FOOD, BUT HE WHO
CHASES FANTASIES LACKS JUDGMENT: In the Biblical period agriculture was the
most common occupation for the people, bringing a sure return to the diligent
(Pro 10:5; 20:4; 27:18,23-27). So "tilling the ground" describes a substantial
occupation, but also represents working in general. "Make it your ambition to
lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just
as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so
that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1Th 4:11,12). Diligent work, not
get-rich-quick schemes, is the key to securing income.
The LXX and Vulgate here introduce a paragraph not found in
our Hebrew text: "He who takes pleasure in carouses of wine will leave disgrace
in his strongholds" (cp Isa 28:7,8; Hab 2:16).
HE WHO WORKS HIS LAND WILL HAVE ABUNDANT FOOD: Heb
"saba" = "will have his fill of" or "will be satisfied with". "It is men's
wisdom to mind their business and follow an honest calling, for that is the way,
by the blessing of God, to get a livelihood: He that tills his land, of which he
is either the owner or the occupant, that keeps to his word and is willing to
take pains, if he do not [build] an estate by it (what need is there of that?),
yet he shall be satisfied with bread, shall have food convenient for himself and
his family, enough to bear his charges comfortably through the world. Even the
sentence of wrath has this mercy in it, 'Thou shalt eat bread', though it be 'in
the sweat of thy face' [Gen 3:17-19; cp Psa 128:2]. Cain was denied this (Gen
4:12). Be busy, and that is the true way to be easy. Keep thy shop and thy shop
will keep thee. Thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands" (Henry).
BUT HE WHO CHASES FANTASIES LACKS JUDGMENT: "Fantasies"
is, in Hebrew, "reqim" -- "empty things" or "vain things". The fact that the
participle used is "chase after" shows how ephemeral and elusive these things
The noun occurs 14 times in the OT; it is used to describe
either the emptiness of physical objects (Gen 37:24; Eze 24:11; 2Ki 4:3) or
their worthlessness (Gen 41:27). Moses tells the Israelites that his words of
instruction from the LORD are not just empty or idle words (Deu 32:47). Pro
12:11 and Pro 28:19 warn against those who show lack of judgment in pursuing
fantasies or delusions. But in addition to these usages it is also employed to
refer to empty persons. In Jdg 9:4 Abimelech hires empty and undisciplined men
(NIV "reckless adventurers") to help him in his attempt to become king. In Jdg
11:3 "adventurers" join themselves to Jephthah after he flees from his brothers.
In 2Ch 13:7 "reqim" occurs in parallel with "sons of Belial", to describe the
"worthless scoundrels" (NIV) who gathered around Jeroboam. Michal rebukes David
for dancing and exposing himself like "one of the vulgar fellows" ("reqim") (2Sa
6:20). "Vain persons; as Abimelech (Jdg 9:4), Absalom (2Sa 15:1), and others...
promise their followers plenty without toil" (FBN).
Thus the translators use "vain persons" (as AV), or "worthless
pursuits" (RSV), or "fantasies" (NET). Here the term "reqim" refers to worthless
pursuits -- or worthless fellows who espouse them -- specifically intended to
make money. (One class of such worthless fellows -- a gang of thieves -- is
described in some detail in Pro 1:10-19.)
JUDGMENT: Literally, "leb", or "heart". Unlike the
English metaphor that stresses a lack of compassion in connection with the heart
(cf "Have a heart!" or "He has no heart!"), the heart among Hebrew speakers was
identified as the integrating center of a human's life, where the choices of
mind, emotions, and will were processed. To lack such a central point of
integration would mean an inability to discriminate between reasonable and
unreasonable courses of action. Thus, it is the fool who has no heart (NIV
"sense": Ecc 10:3). "A human may lack food and clothing but still remain morally
intact; to lack a heart, however, is to destabilize one's moral gyroscope"
(NIDOTTE). The Bible speaks at least a dozen times of the one who is literally
"lacking of heart". Thus, the one who has no heart (NIV "judgment") fails to
maintain his personal property so that it goes to waste and is no longer useful
(Pro 24:30). Without a heart, one is unable to fathom that this lack of a
central focus cripples all enterprises that are undertaken, breeding further
deficiencies that rob a person of even the little that might remain (Pro 24:34;
6:11). The close association of this person with poverty is suggested by two
nearly identical proverbs whose only difference is that the phrase "lacking of
heart" in one is replaced by "will have his fill of poverty" in the other (Pro
12:11; 28:19). Furthermore, the one lacking heart receives blows that a wiser
person avoids (Pro 10:13). The one who lacks a heart does not merely prefer but
absurdly delights in folly (Pro 15:21).
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
Cp also Pro 28:19. "This thought applies not only to the
tilling of the land but to all humble callings which will give bread. From such
humble security men are lured in every year that passes, and many of them follow
vain persons to poverty and sorrow. Closely following this passage -- in the
next verse [Pro 28:20] -- we have the warning against making haste to be rich.
"The exhortation is needed now as much as ever. Often those
who are most bitter in their criticisms of the rich are those who have tried
hastily and unsuccessfully to follow in their wake. The Government has had to
warn people against 'share pushers'. All such swindlers use a golden bait, and
it is surprising how many people who ought to know better have succumbed to
their blandishments. There are still plenty of fraudulent enterprises even on
the right side of the law, and men ready to take the money of those who 'make
haste to be rich' " (PrPr).
THE WICKED DESIRE THE PLUNDER OF EVIL MEN, BUT THE ROOT OF
THE RIGHTEOUS FLOURISHES: The proverb is difficult to interpret, as the many
variant readings for it show. WBC observes: "Commentators end up explaining a
text they have restored with the help of the versions and some ingenuity." The
verse SEEMS to be saying that there are good rewards for the righteous, but the
wicked are dangerous and (perhaps) get caught in their own devices.
THE WICKED DESIRE THE PLUNDER OF EVIL MEN: There are
differing translations, and thus interpretations, of this phrase; and they all
turn on the word translated "plunder" in the NIV (and "net" in the KJV):
"matsuwd": BDB connects the term to "mitsod", which means (1) "snare;
hunting-net" (thus the KJV, and the ASV); or, by metonymy, (2) what is caught in
the snare, ie, the "prey", or "plunder" (thus the NIV, JPS, and Rotherham). So
this may be the observation, that the wicked want to gain from the work of other
evil people (eg, skimming money off the top of a gambling operation; or pimping
for prostitutes). There are Bible examples of wicked men using the "nets"
devised by other wicked people to achieve their ignoble ends: Amnon greedily
desired the net of Jonadab to molest his virgin sister Tamar (2Sa 13:1-5).
Rehoboam listened to young, foolish friends, who suggested the net of
intimidation (1Ki 12:1-14). Ahab happily used the net devised by his wife
Jezebel to acquire Naboth's vineyard (1Ki 21:7). Demetrius the silversmith used
the net of financial gain from false religion to inspire his previous
competitors (Acts 19:23-28). And various factions of the Jews desired the nets
their peers used against the Lord Jesus Christ (Mat 12:14; 22:34).
(3) Another interpretation, based on this reading, is that the
wicked get caught in their own net, that is, reap the consequences of their own
sins (cp Pro 1:18,19; 29:5,6; Psa 7:15,16; 9:15; 35:8; 1Ti 6:10).
(4) And then, in an altogether different vein, HAL connects
"matsuwd" to "metsudah": "a mountain stronghold, or fortress" (cp the Hebrew
"Masada"). This leads to the NET translation ("The wicked person desires a
stronghold") and the RSV translation ("The strong tower of the wicked comes to
ruin"). The wicked may think that there is safety in numbers, and that they are
protected by their association with other wicked men in their enterprises; but
such "safety" is a total delusion, and will be seen as such in days to
BUT THE ROOT OF THE RIGHTEOUS FLOURISHES: The MT reads
"yitten", from "natan", "to give". So, as the AV has it, "the root of the
righteous yieldeth fruit." By emending the text from "natan" ("to give") to
"etan": "constant, or continual"), the LXX reads "endures" in place of "gives"
(or "yields", ie fruit). This is the basis for the NET's "endures" and the RSV's
"stands firm". The word for "root" ("shoresh") is often used as a metaphor for
that which endures (cf Pro 12:3; Isa 27:6; 37:31; Jer 17:7,8); so internal
evidence supports the alternate tradition.
It would appear that the NIV "splits the difference", planting
itself squarely in the middle: for "flourishes" could mean "endures" AS WELL AS
AN EVIL MAN IS TRAPPED BY HIS SINFUL TALK, BUT A RIGHTEOUS
MAN ESCAPES TROUBLE: The whole proverb suggests a court setting, in which
the evil man is caught in his contradictory lies, but the righteous man --
telling only the truth -- escapes trouble. As Mark Twain famously said, "Always
tell the truth; then you won't have to remember what you said!"
"The [court] has set many snares, in the constitution of
things, for the detection and punishment of evil-doers. The liar's own tongue
betrays him. In some of its movements, ere he is aware, it touches the spring
which brings down the avenging stroke. It is instructive to read with this view
the detailed account of a criminal trial. In the faltering and fall of a false
witness you should see and reverence the righteousness of God. When a man is not
true, the great labour of his life must be to make himself appear true; but if a
man be true, he need not concern himself about appearances. He may go forward,
and tread boldly; his footing is sure" (Horton, BI).
AN EVIL MAN IS TRAPPED BY HIS SINFUL TALK: "Moqesh",
from the root "yaqash", means to lay a bait or snare. In this case, it appears
the evil man has inadvertently laid a trap for himself, by his lies. "The object
of cunning cross examination in a court of law is to expose the lie. The wicked
will trap himself in his intricate web of deceit" (Bowen). Perhaps he has
attempted to involve the innocent in trouble or prosecution, only to have his
lies discovered, and to find himself suffering punishment as a result. Thus "a
fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul" (Pro 18:7).
"Many a man has paid dearly in this world for the transgression of his lips, and
has felt the lash on his back for want of a bridle upon his tongue"
Examples of those who sought by lies to bring trouble on
others, only to bring trouble on themselves instead: the men who had falsely
accused Daniel (Dan 6:24), and -- preeminently -- the people of Israel and
Jerusalem, who brought the blood of Jesus Christ upon themselves and their
children (Mat 27:25).
BUT A RIGHTEOUS MAN ESCAPES TROUBLE: Cp Pro 11:8: "The
righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead." Not
that the righteous man will never have trouble; he surely will -- in fact, it is
inevitable in this life (Acts 14:22; Rom 8:28,35-39). But he has the assurance
that his God will deliver him OUT OF all his troubles! Psa 34:19: "A righteous
man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all." And 2Pe
2:9: "The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the
unrighteous for the day of judgment."
FROM THE FRUIT OF HIS LIPS A MAN IS FILLED WITH GOOD THINGS
AS SURELY AS THE WORK OF HIS HANDS REWARDS HIM: Proper speech, as much as
diligent work, will produce good things. If one's conversation is wise,
intelligent, and honoring to God, it will surely result in blessing. Cp Pro
13:2: "From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things." And also Pro 18:20:
"From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from
his lips he is satisfied."
Truly, we reap what we sow, by words as well as actions; we
are -- and we become -- what we say! "But I tell you that men will have to give
account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by
your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Mat
THE FRUIT OF HIS LIPS: "A common Biblical usage of
'fruit' refers to the speech (Hos 10:13), thought (Isa 10:12; Jer 6:19), and
action (Isa 3:10; Jer 17:10; Mic 7:13) of a human being. These may turn out to
be beneficial or injurious. The figure is especially prevalent in the Wisdom
literature. For example, Psa 1:3 likens one who trusts in God to a robust tree
that always brings forth fruit (cf Jer 17:8). The industrious homemaker set up a
vineyard with what she had earned -- lit, 'the fruit of her hands' (Pro 31:16).
Personified Wisdom commended her fruit as more precious than the finest gold;
success is assured to whoever accepts her instruction (Pro 8:12-21). People are
said to taste the results, good or bad, of their words (Pro 12:14; 13:2; 18:20).
The relation between seed and plant is analogous to that between deed and
consequence" (NIDOTTE). The same analogy is to be found in Pro 15:4: "The tongue
that brings healing is a tree of life" -- that is, it produces fruit that leads
to eternal life.
The tongue has enormous power! Good speech brings blessing to
others (Pro 24:26). But the reward expressed in this proverb is for the speaker
(cp Pro 13:2; 15:23; 18:20). Kings will seek out and reward men who speaks
wisely and carefully: how could Pharaoh resist elevating Joseph (Gen 41:39-45),
or Jonathan resist loving David (1Sa 18:1-4), or Nebuchadnezzar resist promoting
Daniel (Dan 2:46-49)? "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious
will have the king for his friend" (Pro 22:11). And if this is so with human
kings, how much more will the King of kings do for those who speak graciously
about Him (Mal 3:16-18)? "They WILL BE MINE," He proclaims.
Speech that brings reward is gracious (Col 4:6), wise and kind
(Pro 31:26), helpful for those in trouble (Pro 31:8,9), honest (Pro 12:22), and
always thankful (1Th 5:18). It does not include corrupt words (Eph 4:29),
speaking evil of authorities (Jud 1:8), foolish talking or coarse jesting (Eph
5:3-5), or backbiting (Pro 25:23). It blesses enemies (Mat 5:44), warns friends
(Lev 19:17) and the idle, encourages the timid, comforts the weak (1Th 5:14),
and honors parents (Deu 27:16).
"Good words will bring forth fruit, which will satisfy the
speaker, because, whatever effects his words may have on others, they will leave
strengthened goodness and love of it in himself. 'If the house be worthy, your
peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall return to you again' [Luk 10:6]. That
reaction of words on oneself is but one case of the universal law of
consequences coming back on us. We are the architects of our own destinies.
Every deed has an immortal life, and returns, either like a raven or a dove, to
the man who sent it out on its flight. It comes back either [cawing] with blood
on its beak, or cooing with an olive branch in its mouth. All life is at once
sowing and reaping. A harvest comes in which retribution will be even more
entire and accurate" (Maclaren).
THE WAY OF A FOOL SEEMS RIGHT TO HIM, BUT A WISE MAN
LISTENS TO ADVICE: "People demonstrate their maturity by how well they
respond to sound advice. Reasonable people (ie, 'wise') will recognize and
accept good advice, even if they themselves often give advice to others.
'Advice' ('esah') is an application of wisdom and knowledge to a specific
situation, either by astute observation or well-thought-out opinion. The fool,
on the other hand, is set in his own way and will not listen to advice. 'The way
of a fool' ('derek ewil') describes the headlong course of actions that are not
abandoned even when good advice is offered" (EBC).
THE WAY OF A FOOL SEEMS RIGHT TO HIM: The "ewil" (fool)
is the antithesis of the "chokmah" (wise man) (Pro 10:8,14; 11:29; 12:15; 14:3;
17:28; 29:9). The "ewil" always speaks the wrong things or at the wrong time and
gets himself into trouble (Pro 14:3; 17:28). In contrast to the wise, the fool
is shortsighted, poor in management, and not receptive to advice (Pro 11:29;
12:15). Also see Pro 3:7: "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and
shun evil." Pro 14:12: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end
it leads to death." Pro 16:2: "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but
motives are weighed by the LORD." And Pro 21:2: "All a man's ways seem right to
him, but the LORD weighs the heart."
BUT A WISE MAN LISTENS TO ADVICE: Some translations
reverse the two points, ie, being wise and listening to advice: "He that
hearkeneth unto counsel is wise" (AV), and "The one who listens to advice is
wise" (NET). However, practically speaking, either order amounts to the same
thing. Several other sayings in Proverbs reflect on the wisdom of heeding
advice, rebuke, correction, and instruction (Pro 13:1; 15:31,32; 19:27; 25:12).
Cp also Ecc 4:13: "Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who
no longer knows how to take warning."
Wise men who listened to good advice: Moses listening to
Jethro's advice (Exo 18:14-24), and David listening to Abigail (1Sa
A FOOL SHOWS HIS ANNOYANCE AT ONCE, BUT A PRUDENT MAN
OVERLOOKS AN INSULT: "Those who are mature are able to handle criticism
without responding instinctively and irrationally. McKane says that the fool's
reaction is 'like an injured animal and so his opponent knows that he has been
wounded' (p 442). The wise man does not give the enemy that satisfaction. It is
not so much that the wise man represses anger or feelings but that he is more
shrewd in dealing with it" (EBC). Showing anger will only play into the hands of
one's opponent, and give him (or her) the advantage. To take the practical
course, if nothing else: it is unwise to "play down" to an adversary, or to
"play the other man's game" -- for he probably has much more experience on his
"home ground", so to speak.
Solomon assumes that people will become angry in their daily
experience; his clear admonition is against a quick response (eg, Pro 17:27;
19:11; cf Psa 37:8). There are rewards for restraining one's anger: self-control
brings health (Pro 12:18), can end contention (Pro 15:18), is synonymous with
greatness (Pro 16:32) and wisdom (Pro 29:11). On the other hand, the hot-headed
individual is a fool (Ecc 7:9), stirs up strife (Pro 15:18), and is laid wide
open to failure and destruction in his life (Pro 25:28).
Other proverbs about self-control: Pro 11:12,13; 12:23; 13:3;
14:17,29; 15:1; 17:28; 19:19; 22:24,25; 25:15; 26:21; 29:20,22. "My dear
brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be... slow to become angry" (Jam
A FOOL SHOWS HIS ANNOYANCE AT ONCE: "At once" is,
literally, "on the same day". He just cannot hold his feelings inside!
King Saul was a man who seemingly could not control his anger,
and it cost him dearly (1Sa 18:10,11; 19:9-11; 20:30-34). And the wicked Jezebel
was such a woman (1Ki 19:1,2)! And Nebuchadnezzar decided, quite unreasonably,
to kill all the wise men simply because they could not tell his dream and its
meaning (Dan 2:12,13). But even quite righteous men have fallen precipitously,
when giving vent to their anger: ie, Moses (Num 20:10,11), David (1Sa 25:21,22),
and Asa (2Ch 16:10).
"Do we feel our temper at any time ready to rise? Cry
instantly to him who quiets the storm (Mat 8:26; Psa 65:7). Keep before our eyes
his blessed example, 'who being reviled, reviled not again' (1Pe 2:23)"
(Bridges). Examples of self-restraint when insulted: Gideon (Jdg 8:2,3) and
Hezekiah (Isa 36:21).
BUT A PRUDENT MAN OVERLOOKS AN INSULT: "Overlooks", or
"covereth" (AV), is the Hebrew "casah". The RSV has "ignores an insult". "The
verb 'casah' means 'covers' in the sense of ignores or bides his time. The point
is not that he does not respond at all, but that he is shrewd enough to handle
the criticism or insult in the best way -- not instinctively and irrationally"
But the AV's "a prudent man covereth shame" offers a second,
and also plausible, meaning: the prudent man covers HIS OWN SHAME, by not
reacting angrily -- for it would be "shameful" for him to retaliate in kind. And
more even than ignoring the "insult" of his neighbor, his prudence may also
"cover" the sin of that neighbor, by not adding to the flame, but by giving him
time to think better of his initial insult, and so amend his ways. Thus,
self-restraint may benefit both insulter and insulted, in several possible
"When [a wise man] finds his passions beginning to ferment, he
does not give them full scope, but considers whether he does well to be angry,
and how far it is lawful and safe for him to give way to this turbulent passion.
He does not cover his wrath, that it may have time to work, and draw the powers
of reason into its service, that it may break forth with more effect on another
occasion -- but covers it, that he may have time to suppress and destroy it, by
considering its folly and wickedness, by meditating on the example and grace of
Christ, and by fervent supplications for the support and assistance of the
spirit of meekness. By such means as these the prudent man preserves his own
honour, and covers the shame of his neighbour, who is [more] likely to be gained
by gentleness and meekness" (Lawson, BI).
"A prudent man... knows that it is best to let passions cool
before he tries to set the matter right (cp Pro 20:22; 24:29). Christ's
injunction goes far beyond this maxim of worldly prudence: 'I say unto you that
ye resist not evil'; 'Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also
the other' (Mat 5:39; Luk 6:29); and it is certain that these maxims might be
carried into practice much more than they are, even in the present state of
society... A Hebrew proverb... asserts that a man's character is accurately
discerned 'by purse, by cup, and by anger', that is, by his conduct in money
transactions, under the influence of wine, and in the excitement of anger"
INSULT: The KJV has "shame"; the word is "qalown", a
"disgrace" -- from "qalah", that which is light, despised, or contemptible. In
Proverbs "qalown" frequently occurs to denote the injury or loss of honor and
respect of the wicked or fools (Pro 3:35; 11:2; 22:10). But the wise, on the
other hand, can overlook an injury to their honor and not react
A TRUTHFUL WITNESS GIVES HONEST TESTIMONY: "Witness" is
Heb "yafeach". The
traditional view was that it meant "to puff, or blow", and by implication "to
utter"; but this word has been recently discovered in the Ugaritic, and
confirmed as a totally different word, which obviously means "witness"
(NIDOTTE). "Yafeach" is used in a formal sense, of a witness, as in court,
several times in Proverbs (Pro 6:19; 12:17; 14:5,25; 19:5,9). As for "truthful",
the NETn reads: "The word rendered 'faithfully' or 'reliably ('emunah') is used
frequently for giving testimony in court, and so here the subject matter is the
BUT A FALSE WITNESS TELLS LIES: The matter of "false
witness" figured into the very foundations of Israel in the OT: the eighth
commandment (Exo 20:16; Deu 5:20). Israel's judicial system was built on the
premise of a need for multiple witnesses (as in Deu 17:6; 19:15). Conversely,
the prohibitions in the OT against false witness are innumerable (eg, Exo 23:1;
Pro 6:19; 12:17; etc) and carry a threat of punishment (Deu 19:16).
"Witness" -- this second time -- is the quite common Hebrew
word "ed". "Ed" often refers to a legal witness to the truth of a matter. Such a
witness can testify as an eyewitness to actions, statements, and legal
transactions (see Rth 4:9–11; Isa 8:2; Jer 32:10,12,25). The Mosaic Law
carefully regulated legal testimony. A man could not be condemned by the
testimony of only one witness (Num 35:30; Deu 17:6; 19:15). In a case involving
a capital offense, the witnesses who bring the incriminating evidence must be
the primary executioners (Deu 17:7). Individuals were not to withhold testimony
(Lev 5:1) or bear false witness against an innocent man (Exo 20:16 // Deut 5:20;
Exo 23:1). False witnesses received the same penalty as the falsely accused
individual would have suffered if condemned as guilty (Deu 19:16–21). The
Proverbs also denounce false legal testimony (Pro 12:17; 14:5,25; 19:5,9,28;
21:28; 24:28; 25:18) and list "a false witness" as one of the seven special
objects of Yahweh's hatred (Pro 6:19).
LIES: Hebrew "mirmah", fraud or deceit (the AV has
"deceit"). The word describes false scales (Pro 11:1; Amo 8:5), which God abhors
(Mic 6:11), and treacherous and crafty dealings with others (Gen 34:13; 2Ki
9:23). Treacherous lips are especially depicted by the word (Psa 17:1; 52:4),
including swearing falsely (Psa 24:4). Fools, false witness, and deceit are
inseparably linked (Pro 12:17; 14:8). Israel as a people had become like bird
cages full of deceit (Jer 5:27). The womb of the evil produces deceit (Job
15:35; Pro 12:20). The destroyer of God's people is a master of deceit and
treachery (cf Gen 3:13; Dan 8:25). The servant of Yahweh is notable, for no
deceit was found in his mouth (Isa 53:9). Anyone who desires a successful life
must refrain from speaking lies (Job 31:5,6; Psa 17:1; 34:13).
"A false witness does not always deal with open lying; but
with deceit -- truth misrepresented, concealed, and thus turned into falsehood.
Thus was Doeg a false witness against the priests. He states the fact, but by
suppression of circumstances gives a false impression (1Sa 21:1-7; 22:9,10). The
false witness condemned our Lord by a similar perverse misconstruction of his
words (Mat 26:60,61; Joh 2:19-21)" (Bridges). Let us so speak that it may be
said of us as Jesus said of Nathanael: "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there
is nothing false" (Joh 1:47).
RECKLESS WORDS PIERCE LIKE A SWORD, BUT THE TONGUE OF THE
WISE BRINGS HEALING: This verse follows on from v 16: a fool shows his
annoyance at once, responding with hasty and angry words; these words pierce
like a sword (v 18). But a prudent man overlooks an insult (v 16), and if and
when he does speak, it is not to retaliate and hurt, but to heal and soothe and
pacify (v 18). Cp Pro 17:27: "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and
a man of understanding is even-tempered."
RECKLESS WORDS PIERCE LIKE A SWORD: "Reckless words" is
one word in Hebrew, "bata", which signifies "to babble", or "blurt out"; the KJV
misses this whole sense by translating, with far too much restraint, "speaketh".
"Bata" is used of hasty or thoughtless speech (eg, Psa 106:33) -- as, for
example, with rash, unadvised vows (Lev 5:4; Num 30:6-8). This is compared to
the piercing of a sword or spear: the root "daqar" describes such a thrust (1Sa
31:4 // 1Ch 10:4; Jdg 9:54; Num 25:8; Jer 37:10; Zec 12:10; 13:3). David was
often beset and afflicted by men whose words were like sharp swords (Psa 52:2;
57:4; 59:7; 64:3), as was the apostle Paul (2Co 10:10; 11:5,6:
This verse condemns words that are intended to hurt, as well
as words uttered with no intent at all! This is a very drastic comparison: the
fact that even thoughtless words may (more or less innocently) act like a
"sword" can only illustrate the great power, for ill, in the tongue (cp, in
detail, Jam 3:1-12). "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Pro 18:21).
So words can be sharp swords -- not only all abusive and violent words (ie, Mat
5:21,22) -- but also all words that are simply tactless, or lacking in sympathy
for others' weaknesses, defects, handicaps, and situations. "Many would speak
daggers without compunction who would be afraid to use them" (Bridges).
¶ "Anger unrestrained so often makes itself ridiculous
that a capable man determines to keep cool. Yet feeling may clearly reveal
itself even then. It is possible to maintain an icy coldness with far more
bitterness than ever lived in the warm expressions of wrath. Indeed, when we
read the passage, 'There is that speaketh like the piercing of a sword', we do
not think of an obviously angry man expressing his indignation with a warm
energy that will soon exhaust itself. We think rather of an icy bitterness, hard
and cruel as steel, a concentrated and frozen anger expressed in speech which
has not the excuse of being hasty but which wounds like the piercing of a sword.
Such speech is the expression of an evil feeling which has been polished instead
of being suppressed. There are people who in this matter of words repeat the
vulgar error often revealed in human relationships. Anything may pass as long as
it is well dressed" (PrPr).
BUT THE TONGUE OF THE WISE BRINGS HEALING: Healing
words are the opposite of the cutting, irresponsible words of the first phrase.
What the wise say is faithful and true, gentle and kind, uplifting and
encouraging; thus they heal the "wounded" rather than cut and slash the victim.
A tongue that brings healing by its soothing words, or any other message of
healing, is often the subject of Proverbs: "A wicked messenger falls into
trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing" (Pro 13:17). "Pleasant words
are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Pro 16:24).
Indeed, "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life" (Pro 15:4; cp Rev
22:2). "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" (Pro 10:11). "The lips
of the righteous nourish many" (Pro 10:21) and "spread knowledge" (Pro 15:7).
And so the father gently admonishes the son: "My son, pay attention to what I
say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them
within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a
man's whole body" (Pro 4:20-22).
"Some men pride themselves on the pungency of their speech.
They delight in sharp answers, keen retorts, quick repartees, and boast
themselves when they cut their opponents in two. There are others who are gifted
in the expression of complaint, reproach, and criticism against the whole
providence of life. They can say sharp and bitter things about God and man, and
they can be satisfied because of the edge of their own epigram, no matter
against whom or against what that edge is directed. The tongue of the wise man
is slower, but healthier; the wise man weighs his words: he is anxious to be
associated only with judgments that can be confirmed by experience and
illustrated by wisdom. The wise man speaks healthily -- that is to say, he
speaks out of the abundance of his own health, and he speaks in a way that will
double and strengthen the health of others. To come near him is to ascend a
mountain and breathe the freshest air of heaven, or to go down by the seashore
and receive messages across the great deeps, full of vigour, and truth, and
strengthening influence. Wise men keep society healthy. But for their presence
it would stagnate, and go from one degree of corruption to another until it
became wholly pestilential. There are two speakers in the text, to the end of
time there will probably be two speakers in the world -- the critical speaker
and the judicial speaker; the man all sharpness and the man all thankfulness.
The business of Christian discipline is to tame the tongue, to chasten it, to
teach it the speech of wisdom, and to instruct it as to the right time of
utterance and the right time of silence" (Parker, BI).
"Most men have discovered the truth of this by bitter
experience. It is the propensity of the natural mind to take pleasure in
inflicting pain -- in boyhood, killing cats and plucking the wings of flies; in
manhood, saying cutting things. The reverse of health comes from the influence
of such. They distress and check and blight and kill. There are degrees in the
ugly phenomenon. The world is full of it, and it is mostly in the superlative
form. If one thing distinguishes the true sons of God more than another from the
evil generation in which they live, it is in the contrast they present to it in
this matter. What Solomon says of the model wife is true of them all: 'The law
of kindness is in her mouth' [Pro 31:26]. There is nothing but comfort and
encouragement and life in the tongues of the wise. It is a thing to aim at:
'speech always with grace, seasoned with salt' [Col 4:6]. Words in this form are
as a healing medicine, while the words of the wicked are swords. What a blessed
day for the world when it is under the guidance of men whose tongue is health"
TRUTHFUL LIPS ENDURE FOREVER, BUT A LYING TONGUE LASTS ONLY
A MOMENT: "Words of truth are consistent, and stand all tests, while lies
are soon discovered and exposed" (JFB). One excellent example is of Caleb and
Joshua: they were the only ones left of all the adult males who left Egypt to
enter the land (Num 14). Their report stood the test.
The LORD is a God of truth (Deu 32:4); He hates lies and liars
(Pro 6:16-19). All liars shall have their part in the lake of fire (Rev
21:8,27). The Lord Jesus is the Faithful and True Witness, because he loved
truth and always spoke the truth (Rev 3:14; 19:11).
Other proverbs of lying, fraud, and dissimulation, and of
truth and sincerity: Pro 10:18; 12:17,19,22; 13:5; 17:4; 20:14,17;
TRUTHFUL LIPS ENDURE FOREVER: Or, logically, the person
who tells the truth will endure forever.
BUT A LYING TONGUE LASTS ONLY A MOMENT: And, again, the
person who lies will last only for a "moment". "You love every harmful word, O
you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He
will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land
of the living" (Psa 52:4,5). "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who
pours out lies will not go free" (Pro 19:5)... even though his punishment might
wait until God's final judgment!
Then again, Charles Bridges points out that God's own people
-- who generally tell the truth only -- may lapse into lies, but such conduct
often leads quickly to shame and confusion, and soon thereafter to repentance:
examples being Abraham (Gen 20:1-16), Isaac (Gen 26:7-10), and most especially
Peter (Mat 26:69-75).
A MOMENT: "Rega" is, literally, the blinking of an eye
-- the slightest, and quickest, movement: suggesting the briefest moment of
time, insofar as God sees it.
"This is true, now and hereafter -- in little things and
large. A man found to be a liar is avoided by righteous and wicked alike. His
'establishment' [AV] is impossible. He is found at last in the vagrants' ward or
between sandwich boards on the street. A man whose word can be trusted makes his
way, and secures, in some shape or form a place in the little 'ever' of the
present life. But how much more glorious is the hereafter application. 'The
truth' of God is a fact in the earth, whether men appreciate it or not. The lip
dedicated to it will be found on earth in the endless aeon that succeeds the
human era; when the tongues that are so much and so variously exercised in the
endless mendacities of an age of falsehood (religious, doctrinal, social,
commercial, practical, constructive, and actual) will have subsided into the
long dead silence from which they will never wake" (RR).
THERE IS DECEIT IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO PLOT EVIL, BUT
JOY FOR THOSE WHO PROMOTE PEACE: "The contrast here is between plotting evil
and promoting peace with a view to the consequences. The effect of plotting evil
can only be sorrow and trouble, because 'evil' (ra') has the idea of pain in it.
'Peace' (shalom), on the other hand, refers to social wholeness and well being
(see Psa 34:14; 37:37)" (EBC).
THERE IS DECEIT IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO PLOT EVIL:
"Deceit" is "mirmah" (sw v 17; see notes there). While context is often of
little value in these proverbs, there is some direction for this proverb:
Solomon exalted truth and condemned lying in the context (vv 17-19,21,22).
Therefore, the "deceit" in our text is not self-deception of those that imagine
evil, but the deceit that evil men plan and use against others. Men with evil
ambitions or envy against their neighbors will use lies to take advantage of
them. So here "deceit" does not mean so much the deception of oneself (though
that may at last be a secondary effect), but rather the trickery and fraud they
perpetrate upon others. "A fertile imagination combined with a deceitful heart
will result in plausible inventions which the innocent will have difficulty
Pro 26:24-26 provides more detail: "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 [ultimately] be exposed
in the assembly."
This plotting of evil would be in direct contrast to the
second phrase, concerning the peace (prosperity, security, spiritual ease) that
the righteous plan and promote for and toward others.
PLOT: Hebrew "charash": "to scratch, engrave, or
plough" (Strong). [What a powerful image: the wicked are "farmers": they "plow"
evil (here), and then they "sow" discord (Pro 6:19) -- like the man who secretly
sows tares in the field of good grain (Mat 13:25,38, etc). And then they wait
hopefully for a "harvest" of strife, trouble, and distress -- which they
suppose, in their warped little minds, will bring them reward and satisfaction
and pleasure! But when the true "harvest" comes, it will bring for them only
disappointment and utter ruin!] Thus "charash" means to fabricate (of any
material); figuratively to devise (in a bad sense); hence the idea of secrecy.
The sw is generally used in a bad sense in Proverbs (Pro 3:29; 6:14,18; 14:22),
of those who develop and then carry out elaborate schemes of evil, so as to harm
JOY FOR THOSE WHO PROMOTE PEACE: "Hebrew 'those who are
counselors of peace'. The term 'shalom' ('peace') is an objective genitive, so
the genitive-construct 'counselors of peace"' means those who advise, advocate
or promote peace" (NETn).
"Joy is an unexpected alternative to deceit; the two halves of
the proverb make the point that what we pursue for others, and the way we pursue
it, leaves its mark on our cast of mind. 'Peace' includes the idea of general
welfare -- and to be planning this for other people is to enjoy its by-products
ourselves" (Kidner). Both Jonathan (1Sa 19:4-7) and Abigail (1Sa 25:23-32)
rejoiced in the success of their good counsels for peace.
"Joy" and "peace" occur side-by-side in the list of Gal
5:22,23 (the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit), and again in the Beatitudes,
where the seventh blessing is for the peacemakers (Mat 5:9), and the eighth is
for those who are persecuted because of righteousness: "REJOICE and be glad!"
(Mat 5:10-12). Other instances of the conjoining of "joy" and "peace": (a) Isa
55:12: when Israel repents and turns back to God, they will "go out in joy and
be led forth in peace" (Isa 55:12); (b) at the same time, Jerusalem will bring
God joy, and they will be in awe at the abundant peace He provides them; (c)
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of
righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17); and (d) "May the
God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him" (Rom
PROMOTE: While this ("yaats") is a different Hebrew
word from that for "plot", it has much the same idea: those who "promote" peace
do so in the same way as those who "plot" evil: carefully and deliberately
working out a plan in their minds, and then putting it into action. "Yaats" is
generally translated "advise" in Proverbs (Pro 11:14; 13:10; 15:22; 24:6), and
the word is used in a good sense. The "peace" that is promoted never comes
haphazardly; it must be outlined and organized, and then implemented! Thus, as
Jesus says, "Blessed are those who MAKE peace!" (Mat 5:9).
NO HARM BEFALLS THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT THE WICKED HAVE THEIR
FILL OF TROUBLE: Obviously this proverb is not universally or always true --
either side of it, or for either class of people: (1) in this life, the
righteous do often experience harm or trouble or trial, and (2) in this life,
the wicked often seem to enjoy great peace and prosperity, with no attendant
difficulties. But it is absolutely true in eternity! In "Proverbs time" it WILL
be true, definitely, and irrevocably. And in the meantime, it may be truer than
it first appears...
NO HARM BEFALLS THE RIGHTEOUS: "Harm" is "aven" --
which can mean "evil" generally, or "harm, trouble, calamity", as the result or
effect of someone else's wickedness. Being associated with the righteous here,
the second meaning seems the correct one: thus "no harm befalls the righteous"
(NIV), "no evil happens" to them (AV), or they "encounter no harm" (NET). But it
is just possible that the meaning might be: "the righteous are not caught up in
As to the first -- and more likely meaning -- it is true of
course that the righteous will experience trouble in this life (see, for
example, Acts 14:22 and Heb 12:1-13), but in the bigger picture the meaning
might well be: "no ULTIMATE harm will come to the righteous." What may appear
harmful in the short term is designed, under God's loving hand, to work out for
the ultimate good of His children. Thus Joseph, addressing his brothers,
comments on his own life of trouble and trial: "You intended to harm me, but God
intended it for good..." (Gen 50:20), and obviously God's intention will be
achieved. And Paul generalizes the same observation, to all believers in all
times, when he writes: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose... If God is
for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:28,31). And then he particularizes the
sorts of "trouble" that may come on the righteous -- ie, hardship, persecution,
famine, nakedness, danger, the sword, etc -- but adds that none of these can
separate the elect from the love of Christ, or from the love of God that is in
Christ (Rom 8:35-39). What might APPEAR, in a short-sighted view of things, to
be "trouble" is in fact not truly "trouble" at all, but a light and momentary
"affliction" that will in no time transform itself into an "eternal glory" (2Co
4:17). Such a "trouble" is only an instrument in the hands of a loving Father,
the means by which, with patient and infinite care, He brings His children
closer to Him, weans them away from a perishing world, molds and shapes them in
His image, and ultimately saves them in eternity. How can such "trouble" truly
be evil? When seen in the right light, how can it be anything but the richest
blessing, and the greatest good?
BUT THE WICKED HAVE THEIR FILL OF TROUBLE: Which might
be (and quite often is) directly the result of their own sins, but may also be
their general lot, as it is for all men, wicked and righteous, in this world of
trouble. But for the wicked there is this terrible curse: that their "trouble"
-- when it surely comes, and it will -- will be mitigated not at all by any
assurance that a loving Father will work with such "trouble" so as to produce
ultimate good. For they have no loving Father, they are not the "elect", and
they know not the love of Christ. For the wicked, "trouble" is the first
premonition of a long slide into the grave, for which there is no hope, and from
which there is no escape.
So, considering the ambiguity of the first phrase, this second
phrase might correspond to that -- with the same ambiguity; thus "The wicked are
full of evil ['ra']" could mean: (1) the wicked DO much evil, or (2) the wicked
will HAVE much trouble -- all without any ultimate remedy!
Kidner comments, with a keen perception: "The rigid
application of this law was the mainstay of Job's comforters" -- and of course
not universally true or applicable -- "but taken rightly..." -- and here he
cites Rom 8 (see above) -- "it is a stimulating truth." Moreover, he adds, again
perceptively: "it is a... truth... cheaply held in prosperity, but precious in
adversity." Indeed. If God is for us, and if He works in ALL things for the
ultimate good of His beloved children, THEN (and only then) is it true that "no
(ultimate) harm befalls the righteous"! And it is precisely THEN, in the midst
of adversity, that such a truth is most precious!
THE LORD DETESTS LYING LIPS, BUT HE DELIGHTS IN MEN WHO ARE
TRUTHFUL: This verse is connected with v 19, for which it gives the reason.
Wiersbe writes, "When words can't be trusted, then society starts to fall apart.
Contracts are useless, promises are vain, the judicial system becomes a farce,
and all personal relationships are suspect."
THE LORD DETESTS LYING LIPS: "Lying lips are
abomination ['towebah'] to the LORD" (AV). Sins of deception are in the book of
Proverbs frequently called an "abomination", eg, the false balance (Pro 11:1),
lying lips (Pro 12:22; cp Pro 6:16,17), the unjust judge (Pro 17:15), differing
weights and dishonest scales (Pro 20:23), the sacrifice of the wicked (Pro
21:27), and the prayer of the lawless or disobedient (Pro 28:9).
"Lying lips are an abomination to Him, even as an idol that is
set up to rival and ruin His glory" (Kelly). The degree to which God
"abominates" lying is surely indicated in Rev 21:8, where those whose place is
the lake of fire, or the second death, include -- not just the vile, the
murderers, the sexually immoral, and the idolaters, but also... "all liars" (cp
Rev 22:15 also)!
BUT HE DELIGHTS IN: The Hebrew is "ratsown": the LORD
"accepts", as a pleasing sacrifice (sw Pro 8:35; 10:32; 11:1,20,27; 12:2). This
word is used often of sacrifices and offerings which are acceptable or pleasing
to the LORD: Exo 28:38; Lev 19:5; 22:20,21,29; 23:11.
MEN WHO ARE TRUTHFUL: Or "they that deal truthfully"
(AV). Heb "doers of truthfulness" -- that is, "those who practice truth" or
"those who act in good faith". (The LXX has "deals faithfully".) Their words and
works are reliable: they do not tell the truth under coercion, or out of fear.
Nor do they tell only so much of the truth as is convenient; rather, telling the
truth -- the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- is WHAT THEY DO! Proverbs
like this are what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Whoever LIVES BY THE TRUTH
comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has
been done through God" (Joh 3:21; cp Joh 4:23,24). It is not enough to embrace,
profess, or preach the truth -- we must practice it, every day in our lives: "If
we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not
live by the truth" (1Jo 1:6).
A PRUDENT MAN KEEPS HIS KNOWLEDGE TO HIMSELF, BUT THE HEART
OF FOOLS BLURTS OUT FOLLY: This is v 16 all over again, expressed in
slightly different terms. McKane notes that the more one speaks the less likely
he is able to speak effectively (p 422, cited EBC).
A PRUDENT MAN KEEPS HIS KNOWLEDGE TO HIMSELF: Contrary
to a "fool", the prudent person in Proverbs is crowned with knowledge (Pro
14:18). This person is shrewd and humble (Pro 12:23; 13:16), understands the
direction of life (Pro 14:8,15), and foresees and deals wisely with dangers (Pro
22:3; 27:12). "Keeps" is the Heb "koseh": "covers, or hides"; the AV has
"concealeth". This does not mean that he never shares his knowledge; in fact,
generally speaking, knowledge is meant to be shared. But the prudent man does
not always say all that he knows; he discerns when it is and is not appropriate
to speak. He understands that there is both a time to be silent, and a time to
speak (Ecc 3:7). In his speech, as in other matters, he is a person marked by
his self-control (Pro 10:14; 11:12,13; 12:16,23; 13:3; 14:29; 17:27,28; 25:28;
29:11,20). Ofttimes during his ministry, the Lord Jesus refrained from
proclaiming his message or even speaking: it would be a good exercise to find
such instances and seek to understand why he did NOT speak in each
The LXX, reading the passage differently, renders, "A prudent
man is the seat -- or throne -- of intelligence." But there seems to be no
overriding evidence or reason for this rendering, as the accepted one of the MT
makes perfect sense in its two antithetical parts.
"He that is wise does not affect to proclaim his wisdom, and
it is his honour that he does not. He communicates his knowledge when it may
turn to the edification of others, but he conceals it when the showing of it
would only tend to his own commendation. Knowing men, if they be prudent men,
will carefully avoid every thing that savours of ostentation, and not take all
occasions to show their learning and reading, but only to use it for good
purposes, and then let their own works praise them" (Henry).
"Few things betray the lack of common sense more than the
habit of displaying any bit of knowledge one may have. But it meets just as
habitually with a sharp and disagreeable corrective; for those who know more
fully are apt to expose its shallowness and vanity. Ostentation characterizes
such as have a smattering which often lets out how little is really known. The
fault is more serious in a Christian, whose standard is, and ought to be, Christ
the Truth" (Kelly).
" 'If a fool hold his peace he may pass for a wise man.' I
have known men of some learning, so intent on immediately informing a company
how well cultivated their minds were, that they have passed either for
insignificant pedants or stupid asses" (Clarke).
"Knowledge is a talent to be wisely, not promiscuously,
Or, most simply of all, "It is not the man who knows the most
who has the most to say."
RA Griffin, in BI, lists times when it is appropriate to
conceal one's knowledge: (1) when it is inopportune (Joh 16:12); (2) when it is
above the capacity of his hearers (1Co 2:2); (3) when it is likely to be
misapplied (Mar 15:5); (4) when it is sure to be rejected (Mat 7:6); (5) when it
is likely to injure rather than help others (Lev 19:16); and (6) when to speak
would be only a self-display (Pro 27:2). And to this may be added (see following
note): (7) When one cannot give an adequate response to a situation.
In the consideration of serious matters (as perhaps in
ecclesial business meetings), it may well be that there is a right course of
action, and a person may know what is right and sincerely desire that the right
thing be done. But it is not prudent to press for the right course, even if it
is surely right, without the right preparation -- Bible knowledge, general
experience, and rehearsed ability to speak. The reason it is not prudent is that
the unprepared individual may make a less-than-convincing case even for a good
cause, and sensing the inadequacy of the case may then resort to what can only
be called "folly": ie, belligerence, anger, threatening behavior, or personal
attacks. Such will only weaken the cause further, even if it is a good cause --
and so all the advantage of the good cause will be lost by a poor
implementation. Therefore it is prudent to practice carefully how to answer or
present one's case, to wait for the best time, and to find the best way to
convince others, and to avoid at all costs the temptation to speak if unable to
develop a positive and helpful message.
BUT THE HEART OF FOOLS BLURTS OUT FOLLY: Cp Pro 13:16;
15:2. "Fools" is the Heb "kesilim": signifies "fat", and figuratively "stupid or
silly". And "folly" is the Heb "iwwelet". "The noun 'iwwelet' ('foolishness;
folly') is the antithesis of perception and understanding. It is related to the
noun 'ewil' ('fool'), one who is morally bad because he despises wisdom and
discipline, mocks at guilt, is licentious and quarrelsome, and is almost
impossible to rebuke" (NETn).
The two words, "kesil" and "ewil", are used practically
interchangeably: both mean "fool" and are characterized by a lack of wisdom, a
despising of wisdom, a lack of self-control or restraint, and a tendency to
speak too much. But some scholars suggest that "ewil" is "darker" than "kesil".
Lady Wisdom makes her appeal to the "simple" as well as the "fool" ("kesil"), as
though there is still the possibility of improvement, but not to the "ewil" (Pro
The fool blurts out folly when he attempts to deal with
matters about which he is not well informed; a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing. In speaking about any and every topic, he reveals how little he knows.
And he reveals something even more damaging to himself: he reveals that he,
HIMSELF, is a fool! And thus his last end is worse than his beginning, for he is
exposed in his wretchedness for all to see.
DILIGENT HANDS WILL RULE, BUT LAZINESS ENDS IN SLAVE
LABOR: For other proverbs extolling the virtue of industry, see Pro 6:6-11;
10:4; 12:27; 13:4; 19:15; 21:5.
DILIGENT HANDS WILL RULE: "The term 'kharats'
('diligent') means (1) literally 'to cut; to sharpen', (2) figuratively 'to
decide' and 'to be diligent'. It is used figuratively in Proverbs for diligence.
The semantic development of the figure may be understood thus: 'cut, sharpen'
leads to 'act decisively', which leads to 'be diligent.' By their diligent work
they succeed to management. The diligent rise to the top, while the lazy sink to
the bottom" (NETn).
The OT praises the virtue of diligence in labor as a precious
possession (Pro 12:27) which will bring its reward in material possessions (Pro
10:4; 12:24; 21:5). Joseph's diligence brought him to the position of second to
Pharaoh in Egypt (Gen 41:37-40).
The NT encourages the same virtue (cf Rom 12:11; 2Pe 3:14),
but with a different motive: service to the ultimate employer, the Lord Jesus
Christ (Eph 6:6; Col 3:23). A Christian should work heartily, as though he is
working for the Lord. The faithful steward is made ruler over his lord's
household (Mat 24:45-47), and the active and diligent trader bears rule over
many cities (Mat 25:21).
BUT LAZINESS ENDS IN SLAVE LABOR: "Laziness" is
"remiyah": signifying deceit or treachery. This person tries to deceive his
master about his work, which he has neglected. And as a laborer, he is
"untrustworthy" -- his employer cannot trust him to get his job done (see sw Pro
10:4; 12:24, 27; 19:15; Jer 48:10). Literally, "he will be for slave labor" --
his negligent attitude about work could force him to lose his possessions, and
sell himself into servitude to someone else (cf Lev 25:39,40), or perhaps be
drafted into a "tribute" (AV), or "forced labor" (RSV) levee (cf Jos 9:21,23;
1Ki 5:14; 9:21). In the NT, the lazy (and hence unprofitable) servant is cast
out and condemned (Mat 25:26-30).
AN ANXIOUS HEART WEIGHS A MAN DOWN, BUT A KIND WORD CHEERS
HIM UP: Just as there are times when it is appropriate not to speak (see esp
v 23), so there are times when it is good and right to speak (Ecc 3:7) -- and
one such time is when a kind word of encouragement will bring healing (v 18), or
lift another's spirit. Cp Pro 15:23,30: "A man finds joy in giving an apt reply
-- and how good is a timely word!... A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones." Pro 25:11: "A word aptly spoken is
like apples of gold in settings of silver." And Pro 25:13: "Like the coolness of
snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he
refreshes the spirit of his masters."
AN ANXIOUS HEART WEIGHS A MAN DOWN: Cp Pro 15:13:
"Heartache crushes the spirit." And Pro 17:22: "A crushed spirit dries up the
bones." Worry, anxiety, and fear can lead to depression, and these mental
concerns can have a detrimental physical effect on the person as well. The
believer is warned against excessive anxiety, and commanded not to worry himself
or herself unduly for the future: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Mat
6:34). "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1Pe
AN ANXIOUS HEART: The word "de'agah" combines anxiety
and fear -- anxious fear (eg, 1Sa 9:5; Eze 4:16); the corresponding verb occurs
in Psa 38:18; Jer 17:8. While the KJV and RV have "heaviness", an ambiguous and
(in this sense) archaic term, the RSV's "anxiety" and the NIV's "an anxious
heart" is much better.
BUT A KIND WORD CHEERS HIM UP: "An encouraging word"
(NET). The Hebrew word "good" ("tob") refers to what is beneficial for life,
promotes life, creates life or protects life. The "good word" here would include
encouragement, kindness, and insight -- the anxious or troubled person needs to
regain the proper perspective on life and renew his confidence. By speaking such
words, as we are able, we are helping our brother to bear his burdens, and so
fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). "We who are strong ought to bear with
the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please
his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please
himself" (Rom 15:1-3). "And we urge you, brothers... encourage the timid, help
the weak, be patient with everyone" (1Th 5:14). As the old commentator Scott
puts it, so succinctly: "This maxim therefore points out an easy and cheerful
way of being useful."
CHEERS HIM UP: "The similarly sounding terms 'yaskenah'
('weighs it down') and 'yesamekenah' ('makes it glad') create a wordplay
(paronomasia) that dramatically emphasizes the polar opposite emotional states:
depression versus joy" (NETn).
"A whole book of the Bible describes Job's three
self-righteous friends, who did not have a single good word to gladden his
heavily weighed-down heart. Instead of good words to comfort and strengthen him,
they joined together in accusing him of great hypocrisy and secret sins. No
wonder he called them miserable comforters... But others often follow their lead
and blame evil circumstances on God's judgment, when it may be an affectionate
"Heaviness in the heart renders the hand powerless, and
hinders the eye from seeing the opportunities which God takes care to present. A
good word gladdens the heart in the midst of manifold trials; and what an
unfailing supply does Scripture afford! If it be so with the Old Testament,
characterized as it is by the law, how much is it with the New Testament where
the gospel gives the tone! The very word ['gospel'] means glad tidings... Its
blessedness is not only that it comes forth from the infinite love of God,
giving His only begotten Son and in him life eternal, but that the Son of man
meets all that could hinder or disable, in the cross... It is therefore directly
and expressly for those who have neither goodness nor strength, but are sinners
and enemies, breaking their hard hearts with grace, to fill them with his light
and love. As he said who told it out with matchless simplicity and fullness,
'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest'
[Mat 11:28-30). 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out' [Joh 6:37]"
"All of us at some time will suffer depression. It is a state
of mind bought on by adversity. In this condition all are susceptible to any
further strain no matter how slight. It is important to recognise ones who
suffers in this way and find something cheerful to say to counterbalance their
unhappy state. It may not take very much to cheer them, but those who
[undertake] this work do a great service. There are those of course who walk
around with a dark cloud hanging over them in a state of constant agitation, and
there are those whose positive attitude to life suggests that the sun never
ceases to shine. Most of us fit somewhere between the two -- sometimes needing
to be cheered, and other times offering a good word. Let us be sensitive to the
need to support others, because we will enjoy the benefits ourselves when evil
times come" (Bowen).
A wonderful illustration of this verse is found in the story
of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:28-34). For, when the great
earthquake opened the doors of the prison, he was a man crushed in spirit, and
fearful for his own life, but the comforting words of Paul and Silas -- which
included the gospel itself -- gave him a renewal of hope, and a vastly greater
hope at that: for with joy he was baptized, along with all his family.
A RIGHTEOUS MAN IS CAUTIOUS IN FRIENDSHIP, BUT THE WAY OF
THE WICKED LEADS THEM ASTRAY: The first phrase is very difficult, as it
stands in the MT. Many solutions have been offered, however, based on variants
of either "ya ter" ("is cautious": NIV) and "rea" ("friendship": NIV;
"neighbor": NIV mg), or both. Of the first phrase, WBC says, "The text remains
problematic... Not much can be said in explanation of a text that is so
uncertain as this."
A RIGHTEOUS MAN IS CAUTIOUS IN FRIENDSHIP: The KJV,
following Luther more or less, translates: "The righteous is more excellent [or
'more abundant': KJV mg] than his neighbor"; but this rendering is now generally
rejected (Kidner calls it "possible but unlikely"): it seems to have little to
do with the MT, and (as Delitzsch in KD points out) "the two parts of the
proverb [are] by such a rendering wholly isolated from one another."
There is a great variety of ways this phrase has been
translated and interpreted. The verb "ya ter" ("is cautious" in NIV) can be
taken to mean "spy out," "examine," or "direct", which seems plausible because
it makes a fine contrast to the "leading astray" (from "na'ah") of the "way of
the wicked" in the second phrase. This idea is generally supported by EBC, WBC,
and Kidner. Kidner says, "The literal translation is not meaningless: 'makes
investigation of his close friend'... That is to say, he does not rush into a
friendship, and does not surrender his moral judgment to anyone. The need of
such reconnaissance is made plain by the second line."
On the other hand, Emerton takes "ytr" from "ntr", "to set
free"; and translates: "the righteous is delivered from harm"; but this must
assume a variant reading of "rea" ("associate" or "friend") as well (JA Emerton,
"A Note in Proverbs 12:26", ZAW 76 : 191-93 -- cited in EBC).
In addition to the KJV ("The righteous is more excellent than
his neighbor"), the following alternative translations have been suggested: "A
righteous man is a guide to his neighbor" (NIV mg; cp ASV, Rotherham, JFB, and
Darby also). Or "the righteous is guided BY his friend" (JPS). Or "a righteous
man turns away from evil" (RSV). Or "the righteous looketh after his pastures"
(KD) -- an emendation of the text not followed by anyone else. The LXX may be
translated, "A just arbitrator shall be his own friend" (which seems impossible
to reconcile with any of the textual possibilities).
A RIGHTEOUS MAN IS CAUTIOUS IN FRIENDSHIP: We return to
the NIV rendering, which -- all things considered -- seems as likely as any
other. Following this rendering, then, the line may be paraphrased: a righteous
man does not rush into any friendship or alliance, nor does he surrender his
moral judgment to anyone else. And the reason is supplied by the second line:
because he knows how easily the wicked may, by subtle influences, lead him into
their own self-destructive ways.
BUT THE WAY OF THE WICKED LEADS THEM ASTRAY: The
antecedent of "them" is "the wicked" in this phrase, not the righteous man and
his neighbor, or any other combination, in the first phrase.
The NIDOTTE provides a summary of the usages of "ta'ah" ("to
lead astray"): "Leaders, such as kings, prophets, and priests... cause others to
err spiritually (Isa 9:15; cf Mat 15:14). Shepherds, ie, Israel's civil leaders,
including kings, are charged with leading people astray (Jer 50:6). Manasseh,
Judah's most evil king, seduced Israel by erecting altars to Baal, placing the
Asherah pole in the temple, and as a result Judah 'did more evil than the
nations the LORD had destroyed' (2Ki 21:9; cf 2Ch 33:9). The false prophets are
charged with misleading people through false visions and hopes (Mic 3:5; cf the
lengthy speech against false prophets in Jer 23:9–40, esp the work of
false prophets under the auspices of Baal, v 13). Ezekiel envisions a day when
God will hold false leaders in check and Israel will no more go astray (Eze
14:11). Outside of Israel the Egyptian officials carry guilt because they have
put Egypt on the wrong path, leading her astray (Isa 19:13,14). An apostate
leads others astray from the path of life (Pro 10:17). The way of the wicked
leads them astray (Pro 12:26)."
Men seduced by their own wicked ways: the chief of such,
Balaam (Num 31:8); Saul, seduced into evil by his irrational hatred of David
(1Sa 24:17); and Joash, seduced by the sins of his predecessors (2Ki
THE LAZY MAN DOES NOT ROAST HIS GAME, BUT THE DILIGENT MAN
PRIZES HIS POSSESSIONS: Cp, generally, Pro 19:24: "The sluggard buries his
hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!"
THE LAZY MAN DOES NOT ROAST HIS GAME: The NIV mg says,
"The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain." "The verb 'yaharok' is
rare; in Aramaic it means 'to roast' (ie, 'to scorch or singe by burning')"
(EBC, confirmed by HAL). The hunter who does not cook his meat, but must beg
food from another suggests an allusion to the Esau/Jacob story in Gen 25.
On the other hand, several versions (including the LXX) seem
to have emended the MT: instead of "yaharok", they read "yadrikh" (from "darak",
"to gain"); thus the line reads: "A lazy person cannot catch his prey" (making
him a non-starter rather than a non-finisher). Probably the MT, as exemplified
in the AV and NIV, is the correct reading.
BUT THE DILIGENT MAN PRIZES HIS POSSESSIONS: And
therefore he does not waste or fritter away -- or neglect to prepare for the
table -- what his labor has gained. The perfect example of this is Ruth, who
gleaned all day in the hot sun, and then carried her "harvest" home to prepare
it for the evening meal (Rth 2:17); her faithful diligence earned her a great
reward: her name is enshrined forever in the Messianic line. The book of
Proverbs several times insists on the usefulness of good work (Pro 11:1-6;
12:24; 14:23; 18:9; 20:13; 22:29), especially agricultural work, the most often
attested profession (Pro 12:11; 24:27,30–34; 27:18,23-27; 28:19).
Alternatively, this line might be translated: "But a rare
treasure is one who is diligent."
"We can hardly suppose that any hungry man would think it too
much trouble to roast the meat taken in a strenuous chase... These sayings are
lively caricatures of human weaknesses. There are men who would regard
themselves as models of diligence and yet who are apt to tire of their labours
just when the most energy is needed. They are like the man who will not trouble
to roast that which he took in hunting. Sometimes they seem full of energy, and
then when a good work is nearly completed lose interest in it and after a period
of inactivity go in chase of something else. They are good hunters but poor
cooks. Can we see any trace of this weakness in ourselves?" (PrPr).
"Hunters take pains to prepare for deer season. They sight
rifles, scout land, secure a tree stand, carefully select clothing and
equipment, rise while it is still cold and dark, carry their stand deep into the
woods, fix it in a tree, and wait for the deer. Having shot one, they rejoice
with friends, field-dress it, and drag it to their truck, where they proudly
drive through town to the praise of their friends. The slothful man is 'working'
well so far.
"But when he gets home, his energy disappears! The carcass
fills him with dread -- there is so much work to do! So he gives it to his
neighbor with great generosity, throws it in the dumpster, leaves it to his
dogs, or lets it rot in the garage! Then he orders pizza to relax after his hard
day with a well-deserved meal and nap! He doesn't even clean his guns! What a
waste! He squanders the Lord's blessing on the little effort he did make.
"But the diligent man is different. He enjoys the hunt, but he
knows it is for a purpose. He dresses, butchers, and processes every bit of meat
for future use; he neatly labels and packages it for convenient use by his wife.
And he carefully cleans his gun to preserve its value. He is thankful for the
gift of the deer, and he labors to take full advantage of the Lord's blessing.
He takes of the day's venison and shares it with his family for supper.
"What a difference these two men! The slothful man cannot
finish a project to realize the profit of labor, but the diligent man sees the
precious value in finishing every job and properly caring for every asset and
all income. Sloth is foolish, wasteful, and destructive! Diligence is wise,
resourceful, and productive!
"Every man, every woman, every child, every day, faces this
issue on the job, at home, at school, with numerous aspects of life. Needed
projects are started, but they are seldom completed. Interruptions, difficulty,
slothfulness, and procrastination keep them from being finished. They leave
rotting carcasses in the garage, which soon stink up the home!
Have you started any projects that you should finish this day
to be productive and value the blessings of God in your life? Or will you
squander His goodness by leaving a task unfinished, the cost of labor partly
paid, but the full profit still waiting for the diligent man? There is joy in a
job well done... when it is finished! Test this wisdom! If you continue with
partial efforts, the Lord will withdraw the blessing of giving a deer!"
IN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS THERE IS LIFE; ALONG THAT PATH
IS IMMORTALITY: Cp Pro 3:2; 8:35; 10:2,16; 11:19; 19:23.
IN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS THERE IS LIFE: "The way of
religion is here recommended to us, as a straight, plain, easy way; it is the
way of righteousness. God's commands (the rule we are to walk by) are all holy,
just, and good. Religion has right reason and equity on its side; it is a
path-way, a way which God has cast up for us (Isa 35:8); it is a highway, the
king's highway, the King of kings' highway, a way which is tracked before us by
all the saints, the good old way, full of the footsteps of the flock" (Henry).
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through me" (Joh 14:6).
ALONG THAT PATH: There are two separate words for
"path" and "way" joined together here -- "derek" and "netiva". The unusual
sentence construction here has led to quite a number of suggested translations:
BDB has "and the journey of her path-way is no-death." And Kidner (citing WJ
Martin) suggests: "But [there is] a way [which is] a pathway to ['el]
IS IMMORTALITY: Literally, "there is no death"
["al-mawet"] (as AV). Some mss and versions (eg, the RSV) take this second
phrase to read: "there is a path that leads to death" (as Kidner in the note
above); such a reading would preserve the general antithetical nature of most
proverbs in this group. However, "the reading of the AV, Berkeley, Delitzsch,
Greenstone, and others refers the verse to immortality. But the note in Berkeley
that there are 'few assertions of immortality in the Old Testament' is
unfortunate. Many positive references to resurrection and the future life exist
in the Psalms and Prophets, though most are debated by 'liberal' scholars. Cf
Job 19:25-27; Psa 16:10; 17:15; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Eze 37:10; Dan 12:2; and
On "the way" and "the path", DP Bricker comments: "In a
society that traveled primarily on foot the metaphor of the path or way
functioned as an illustration of everyday living. The importance of making good
choices on a journey through a wilderness was obvious. The wrong choice could
lead at best to delays until the proper path could be relocated and at worst to
becoming hopelessly lost and victimized by predators or bandits, and possibly
death. In this light 'to stumble' ('kasal') is one of the most serious
consequences of walking on the wrong path. In sparsely settled, lightly traveled
regions a fall leading to an injury such as a severe sprain or a broken bone
could virtually be a death sentence. (Note other occurrences of 'kasal' in Pro
4:12,16,19; 16:18; 24:16,17; [and] 'napal', 'to fall', in Pro 11:5,14,28; 13:17;
17:20; 22:14; 28:14; etc.) Other proverbs that use the metaphor of a path to
communicate the value of right conduct are... Pro 16:25,29; 15:24; 22:6" (JETS