Proverbs 27
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
1. a day] This is taken to mean the (coming) day, the morrow, both by LXX. (ἡ ἐπιοῦσα), and Vulg. (superventura dies), as well as by some modern commentators (comp. St James 4:13-14); but the absence of the article shews that the rendering of A.V., which is followed by R.V., is right.

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.
3. Comp. Sir 22:15.

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
4. envy] Rather, jealousy. Comp. Proverbs 6:34.

Open rebuke is better than secret love.
5. secret] Better, with R.V., that is hidden; i.e. that does not manifest itself in rebuke, when it is needed.

Maurer quotes aptly from Seneca, Ep. 25, and Plautus Trinum. Acts 1. Sc. ii., 57; and also from Cicero, Lœl. 25:—“Ut igitur et monere et moneri proprium est veræ amicitiæ, et alteram libere facere, non aspere, alterum patienter accipere, non repugnanter; sic habendum est, nullam in amicitiis pestem esse majorem, quam adulationem, blanditiam, assentationem.”

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
6. deceitful] This rendering follows the fraudulenta of the Vulgate; whereas earnest (A.V. marg.) may be due to the ἑκούσια of the LXX. The alternative rendering of A.V. marg., frequent, or, as it is happily given in R.V., profuse, is to be preferred. He overdoes his part.

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
7. loatheth] Lit. treads under foot; calcabit, Vulg. The second clause of the verse has been compared with Horace’s

“Jejunus stomachus raro vulgaria temnit.”

Sat. ii. 2. 38.

As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
8. “The true bird-life is the life of the woods, of the toilsomely-woven nest, of the mate and the brood and the fledglings.… True human life is the life of our fellows, of the diligent laborious housebuilding, of the home, of the young, of the rising nestlings which are to form the next link in the long chain of the generations.” Horton.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
9. by] Lit. from i.e. proceeding from, or (as R.V.), that cometh of.

Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
10. The aim of this proverb is not of course to depreciate natural affection, but to warn against pressing unduly the claims of kinship and blood relationship, on which, with the sanction of the Law of Moses, such store was set in the East. Do not think it necessary, says the writer, to seek out in thy time of trouble a kinsman, who may be far from thee in place and sympathy, when thou hast one near at hand, who though he be no kinsman is the tried friend of thyself and of thy father before thee. See Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 18:24, and notes.

“Compare the following passage from Hesiod, Works and Days. 27:341:

Τὸν δὲ μάλιστα καλεῖν, ὄς τις σέθεν ἐγγύθι ναἰει

Εἰ γάρ τοι καὶ χρῆμʼ ἐγχώριον ἄλλο γένηται,

Γείτονες ἄζωστοι ἔκιον, ζώσαντο δὲ πηοί.

‘Chiefly bid to thy feast the friend that dwelleth hard by thee; For should there chance to come a matter that toucheth the village, Neighbours will come in haste, while kinsmen leisurely gird them.’ ”

Dean Plumptre in Speaker’s Comm.

My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
12. See Proverbs 22:3 and notes.

Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
13. See Proverbs 20:16 and notes.

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
14. Ostentatious professions of regard, like the profuse kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6), justly incur the suspicion of sinister design.

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.
15. See Proverbs 19:13.

Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.
16. Whosoever hideth &c.] The verse is better rendered:

He that would restrain her restraineth the wind,

And his right hand meets with oil.

“She is as subtle as wind, as slippery as oil,” Rel. Tr. Soc. Comm.

The A.V. takes the second clause of the verse to mean, You might as well try to conceal ointment in your right hand, which would certainly betray its presence, either by its odour, or by trickling through your fingers. But the proverb is at once more forcible and more harmonious, when it speaks of restraining the wind and grasping the oil.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
17. sharpeneth] This has been understood to mean exasperates. Comp. Mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me, Job 16:9 (where, however, the Hebrew word is different). But, as it is a friend that is spoken of here, it is better to take the proverb in a good sense. See for illustrations, 1 Kings 10:1; 1 Kings 10:3; Acts 28:15.

The effect, however, is mutual, not like that of the whetstone to which Horace compares the critic,


Reddere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi.

De Art. Poet. 304, 5.

Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.
18. See Genesis 39:4; Genesis 39:22; and for the highest reference of the proverb, St Matthew 25:21; St John 12:26.

As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
19. in water] This rendering of A.V., which is retained in R.V. text, gives a good and pregnant meaning: As truly as the face seen in the water resembles the face of which it is the reflection, so truly does the heart of one man correspond to that of another in all the essential features of our common nature.

There is, however, another rendering, supported by many competent authorities and adopted in R.V. marg., viz.:

As water sheweth face to face,

So the heart sheweth man to man.

The meaning then will be that the heart, like the water, is the medium by which we behold the image of our fellow man, the mirror in which we see his character. He is to us what our heart makes him. We judge of others by ourselves. A sordid nature or ruffled temper, like turbid or unsettled water, will give a broken and distorted image: it cannot conceive the idea of true generosity or genuine worth. On the other hand a pure heart will give to its possessor a true perception not only of man but of God Himself (St Matthew 5:8).

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
20. Hell and destruction] See Proverbs 15:11, note.

full] Rather, satisfied, the Heb. word being the same as at the end of the verse. Comp. Ecclesiastes 1:8; Ecclesiastes 4:8.

As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
21. to his praise] The meaning is brought out more clearly in R.V. text:

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold,

And a man is tried by his praise:

i.e. by the manner in which he bears the praise bestowed upon him.

Two alternatives are given in R.V. marg.: that which he praiseth, or, that whereof he boasteth: i.e. you may test a man’s character by observing what it is that he praises in others, or that he is proud of in himself.

Another plausible rendering has found considerable favour: What the fining pot and the furnace are to the precious metals, that should a man be to the mouth which praises him; lit. to the mouth of his praise. He should purge away from what it utters, before he accepts it, the dross of flattery and exaggeration.

The first clause of this verse is identical with that of Proverbs 17:3.

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
22. wheat] Rather, bruised corn. In the only other place in which it occurs (2 Samuel 17:19) the word is rendered ground corn, A.V., and bruised corn, R.V. See note there in this Series.

Proverbs 27:23-27. The praises of agriculture, or of pastoral life.

It well repays the diligence bestowed upon it (Proverbs 27:23), and is more reliable in its nature than other kinds of wealth, and even than a kingly crown (Proverbs 27:24). No sooner is one crop carried than another begins to grow, and the harvest of the earth is sure (Proverbs 27:25). The flocks, ever increasing, supply clothing, and equal in value the land which supports them (Proverbs 27:26), while their produce will maintain in plenty their owner and his household (Proverbs 27:27).

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
25. hay] “Heb. grass,” R.V. marg.

appeareth] Rather, is carried.

of the mountains] Com p. Psalm 147:8.

The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.
And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
27. for the maintenance of] Rather, maintenance for, R.V.

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