These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.Proverbs 25:1. These — Which are contained in this and the following chapters; are also the proverbs of Solomon — Lessons on piety and virtue, sententiously delivered by Solomon, and collected out of his works by some of the servants of that good king, Hezekiah; who, setting himself with all his heart to reform the people of Judah, among other things which he did for that purpose, and wherein God blessed his endeavours, (2 Chronicles 31:21,) caused these proverbs to be transcribed out of the ancient records, for their fuller instruction.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.Proverbs 25:2. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing — It is agreeable to the nature of God, and highly conducing to his honour, as being a testimony of his infinite wisdom and knowledge, of his absolute power and sovereignty, and of his other incomprehensible perfections, to keep his counsels, and the reasons of his actions, in his own breast; which he does not need to impart to any other being for his advice and assistance; since he is self-sufficient, both for the contrivance and execution of whatsoever pleases him, and accountable to none for any of his matters; but the honour of kings, &c. — But kings must not affect to be like God in this respect: because they are but creatures, and therefore ignorant and insufficient, and accountable to a higher authority; to search out a matter — In the conduct of their great affairs they must not lean to their own understandings, nor be wedded to their own wills, but must communicate their counsels to others, that so they may search and find out the true and right way, and be ready to give a satisfactory account of the justice and reasonableness of all their administrations, as occasion shall require.
The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.Proverbs 25:3. The heaven for height, &c. — As no man upon earth can exactly discover the height of heaven, or the depth of earth, or discern what is contained in them; so, the heart of kings is unsearchable — Though wise kings will search out other men and things, yet their inward thoughts and purposes are hardly to be discovered, not only because every man’s heart lies out of the sight of others, but because it is the practice of kings industriously to conceal their intentions.
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.Proverbs 25:4-5. Take away the dross from the silver, &c. — When the dross is separated from the silver, and not before, it becomes so pliable, that the finer may cast or work it into what form he pleases; thus, take away the wicked from before the king — Remove from his court and counsels those who, by their wicked advices and practices, provoke God’s displeasure against him, blast his reputation, and alienate the hearts of his subjects from him, and his throne shall be established in righteousness — By such impartial execution of justice, his kingdom will be settled in peace, and his government become as durable as it will be beneficial.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:Proverbs 25:6-7. Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king — Hebrew, אל תתהדר, do not magnify, or glorify thyself, before the king; namely, by vaunting or vain-glorious speech, or behaviour; but, which is implied, conduct thyself in an humble and modest manner, which is most pleasing to kings, princes, and other superiors, and most becoming and safe for thee; and stand not in the place of great men — Do not affect frequent and familiar society with greater persons than thyself; much less intrude thyself into places where none but the great officers or nobles ought to come. For better is it — It is more for thy credit and comfort; that it be said unto thee — By some public officer, or by the king himself, Come up hither — To a higher place, to which, of thyself, thou didst not dare to presume to go; than that thou shouldest be put lower — Shouldest have a check given thee for thy forwardness; in the presence of the prince, &c. — Into whose presence thou hadst so boldly intruded thyself, and who, as before he observed thy impudence, so now he sees and suffers this public disgrace to be cast upon thee.
For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.Proverbs 25:8-10. Go not forth hastily to strive — To contend with thy neighbour judicially or otherwise; especially take some time to consider both whether thy cause be good, and whether it be important, as also how to manage it, before thou bring an action at law against him; reflect on the certainty of the expense and the uncertainty of the success, and how much care and vexation it will occasion; lest thou know not what to do, &c. — Lest, in the conclusion, thou wish the matter had not been begun, when he puts thee to open shame, by showing thou hast sued him wrongfully, or for a trifle. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour — If thou hast any quarrel with him, first try to compose it by private discourse with him. And discover not a secret — Any secret; to another — Let no heat of contention provoke thee to divulge any of his secret counsels committed to thy trust, or to reproach him with any of his secret faults, as is usual in law- suits and other contentions. Or the words may be rendered, Discover not the secret; namely, the secret difference between thee and him; let it be ended secretly between you, and not be imparted to any other. Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame — Reproach thee for thy gross violation of the laws of prudence, justice, charity, and friendship therein; and thy infamy turn not away — And that disgrace, which thou didst design against another, fall and be fastened upon thyself.
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.Proverbs 25:11. A word fitly spoken — As to the matter, and season, and other circumstances of it; is like apples of gold in pictures of silver — Which, it seems, were usual in those times, and were grateful to the eye for the beauty and variety both of the colours and figures, the golden apples appearing through the net-work of silver, or being engraven, or portrayed, upon tablets of silver. Some translate the clause, Golden apples in vessels of silver, and think that, by golden apples, citrons or oranges are meant, or some fruit of the like kind and colour, which, put into silver vessels, appear the more beautiful by the contrast of the whiteness of the silver with their golden colour. Bishop Lowth observes, that Solomon in this sentence gives us not only an apt description of the proverb or parable, but also an example of the thing described. He means, in these words, that weighty and hidden meanings are as much commended by a concise and well-turned speech, as apples, exquisite for their colour, appear more lovely and pleasing when they shine through the net-work of a silver basket exquisitely chased: see his twenty-fourth lecture.
As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.Proverbs 25:12. As an ear-ring of gold, &c. — That is, highly acceptable, and a great ornament, and not an offence and dishonour, as fools think it; is a wise reprover — One who reproves an offender faithfully, and yet prudently, in the fittest manner and season; upon an obedient ear — To the man that hearkens to the reproof, and is instructed and reformed by it.
As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.Proverbs 25:13. As the cold of snow, &c. — Solomon does not here intend a fall of snow in the time of harvest, which must have been incommoding instead of being pleasurable and refreshing, as the proverb supposes what he speaks of to be; but liquors cooled with snow or ice, which they usually were in summer or harvest in the East, and which rendered them extremely grateful; so is a faithful messenger — One that faithfully and diligently executes his commission, to the satisfaction of the persons that sent him; for he refreshes the soul of his masters — With a true account and speedy despatch of those important affairs which were committed to him.
Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.Proverbs 25:14. Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift — Falsely pretends that he hath given, or will give, a valuable gift; or who raises high expectations by promising much, and then deceives them by performing little or nothing; is like clouds and wind without rain — Is like empty clouds carried about with wind, and not affording that rain which by their appearance they promise.
By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.Proverbs 25:15. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded — That is, by patient submission and expectation he is pacified, whereas his rage is increased by opposition. And a soft tongue breaketh the bone — A mild and humble answer softens a heart which is as hard as a bone or stone. He alludes to those oils which sink through the flesh to the very bone: see Psalm 109:18.
Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.Proverbs 25:16. Hast thou found honey? — Which, in those parts, was often found in woods or fields. By honey, he understands not only all delicious meats, but all present and worldly delights, which we are here taught to use with moderation: for as honey, moderately taken, strengthens the body and prolongs life, but, if taken to excess, disturbs the stomach, and turns the pleasure into pain; so it is with earthly satisfactions and pursuits. Moderately used they are refreshing and useful; immoderately, they produce disgust, or are accompanied with guilt and followed by trouble.
Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.Proverbs 25:17. Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house — Visit him not too frequently nor unseasonably: do not, upon every light occasion, interrupt his weightier affairs, nor intrude upon him, and take up his time uninvited and unexpected. Lest he be weary of thee — Lest, having too much of thy company, it grow not only troublesome, but loathsome to him, and his love turn into hatred of thee.
A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.Proverbs 25:18. A man that beareth false witness, &c., is a maul — Or, club, by which a man’s fame and character are beaten down to the ground. And a sword, and a sharp arrow — By his tongue he is as cruel and pernicious to his neighbour as any instrument of death: he destroys him, not only when he is near, as with a sword, but when he is afar off, as with a sharp arrow shot at him.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.Proverbs 25:19. Confidence in an unfaithful man, &c. — “As a broken tooth, or leg out of joint, not only fails a man when he comes to use them, but likewise puts him into pain; so doth a faithless person serve them that depend upon him, when they have the greatest need of his help; and such also is the confidence that a faithless person himself places in riches, or craft, or great friends, &c, which some time or other will disappoint him to his great grief, when he expects the most from them.” — Bishop Patrick.
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.Proverbs 25:20. As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather — When it is most necessary; and as vinegar upon nitre — Producing an effervescence through the contrariety of their qualities; so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart — Such unseasonable mirth does not relieve, but increase a man’s grief, and makes his heart far more heavy and sorrowful than it was before.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:Proverbs 25:21-22. If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread, &c. — By bread and water he intends all things necessary for his subsistence; for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head — If he have the least spark of goodness in him, such conduct in thee toward him will work a change in his mind, and make him throw off all his enmities; thou shalt melt him into repentance, and inflame him with love and kindness to thee for so unexpected and undeserved a favour; or, as Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the words, Romans 12:20-21, (where they are quoted by St. Paul verbatim from the translation of the LXX.,) “Thou wilt touch him so sensibly, that he will no more be able to stand against such conduct than to bear on his head burning coals; but will rather submit to seek thy friendship, and endeavour, by future kindnesses, to overbalance the injury.” Or, if it have not this effect, but he still hardens his heart against thee, he shall have so much the sorer punishment; these coals shall consume him. And the Lord shall reward thee — Thy charity to him shall be fully recompensed to thee, if not by him yet, by God, which will be far better. In other words, as is the plain meaning of the passage, “Be kind to your enemy, for that is the surest way to gain his love and God’s blessing.” That St. Paul understood it in this sense is manifest from the words which he immediately subjoins, after quoting it, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good, in which he evidently explains what is meant by heaping coals of fire on an enemy’s head, namely, by acts of kindness, to soften his heart and dispose him to friendship; which is the natural effect of a generous unexpected goodness. The phrase seems to be taken from melting metals in a crucible; for when gold or silver is melted in that manner they not only put fire under and round all the sides, but also heap coals of fire upon the head of the crucible, and so melt the metal. In allusion to this, we are to heap acts of kindness and beneficence upon the head of an enemy, and so melt down his obstinacy, bring him to a better temper, and overcome his evil by our good: which is noble, glorious, reasonable, and truly Christian: see Schultens on this place. It is justly observed by Mr. Scott here; that as St. Paul’s quoting this passage is a strong testimony to the divine authority of the book from which it is taken, so it clearly evinces that the rule of duty in this case is the same in both testaments, however ancient scribes and Pharisees, and many modern writers, have overlooked it. “The law of love, perhaps, is not expounded more spiritually, in any single precept, either of Christ or his apostles, than in this exhortation. Seize the moment of distress to show kindness to him that hates thee.”
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.
The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.Proverbs 25:23. The north wind, &c. — “As the sharpness of the north wind scatters clouds, and drives away rain, so a severe countenance, full of indignation against him that traduces his neighbour, not only gives a check, but puts a stop to his slanderous tongue; which would not tell such lies if they were not greedily received.” So Bishop Patrick, who justly observes, however, that the verse will admit of a quite contrary sense; as, indeed, the reader may see by the margin, where he finds a translation of the words very different from that in the text, but more agreeable to the Hebrew original, and countenanced by most of the ancient interpreters. Thus the Chaldee renders the first clause, The north wind, משׂנא, concipit, conceives, or produces, rain: and the Seventy, ανεμος βορεας εξεγειρει νεφη, the north wind raises clouds. Undoubtedly the north wind brings clouds and rain in some climates, and if, as some assert, it generally does so in Judea, as according to Aristotle it does in those parts of Africa which border on the Mediterranean sea, this interpretation ought certainly to be preferred. Either of them, however, shows the odious disposition and character of backbiters; and that they ought to be discountenanced and frowned upon by all that love their fellow-creatures, and wish peace to be promoted among men.
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.Proverbs 25:25. As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country — “Good and certain news, especially from a far country, (from whence it is hard to have any true intelligence,) is as grateful to him that longed to hear of his friends there, as cool water is to a thirsty traveller; especially when he meets with it in remote and uninhabited places, where he did not expect it.” — Bishop Patrick.
A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.Proverbs 25:26. A righteous man falling down before the wicked, &c. — When a righteous man is either allured or terrified into any sinful practice by wicked men, or into any base and servile compliance with their habits and customs, he, who by his excellent example and counsels was like a fountain, or well of life, (as the mouth of the righteous is termed, Proverbs 10:11,) sending forth refreshing streams for the benefit of many, is now corrupted and rendered useless. Or, the meaning may be, When righteous men are oppressed by the wicked, the state of that commonwealth is as deplorable as if the public fountains, from which all the people fetched their water, were corrupted, and it is a sign that the fountains of justice are poisoned.
It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.Proverbs 25:27. It is not good to eat much honey — Namely, for the health of the body; so for men to search their own glory — Industriously to seek for honour and applause from men; is not glory — Is not only sinful, but shameful also, and a sign of a vain and mean spirit.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.Proverbs 25:28. He that hath no rule over his own spirit — Over his passions, and especially his anger, which is signified by this word, Proverbs 16:32; Ecclesiastes 10:4; is like a city that is broken down and without walls — Exposes himself to manifold dangers and mischiefs.