Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.X.
(1) The proverbs of Solomon.—The new title and different style of composition mark a new collection of proverbs. (See above, in the Introduction.) Each verse is distinct and complete in itself; but the collector appears to have endeavoured to throw together such as touched on the same subject. For instance, Proverbs 10:4-5, show why one man fails and another succeeds; Proverbs 10:6-7, how blessings and curses follow different persons. But the connection is sometimes so slight as to be difficult to catch.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.(2) Treasures of wickedness—i.e., gained by wrong-doing.
Righteousness delivereth from death.—The Hebrew word translated “righteousness” has a much wider meaning than its English equivalent, which generally bears the sense only of deciding fairly, being especially applied to judges. But a “righteous” man in Hebrew is one who “renders to all their due,” whether to God, as Noah, who was “just and perfect” before Him (Genesis 6:9; Genesis 7:1; comp. Ecclesiastes 7:20), or to man. To his fellow-men his “justice” will show itself in liberality (Psalm 37:21), mercy (Proverbs 12:10), carefulness of speech (Proverbs 15:28), truthfulness (Proverbs 13:5), and wisdom (Proverbs 9:9). He is considerate to animals also (Proverbs 12:10). So in the sermon on the Mount our Lord (Matthew 6:1) says, “Take heed that ye do not your ‘righteousness’ [so the best MSS. read] before men;” and then specifies it under the heads of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In this passage it forms a contrast to riches gained by wrong, and therefore would seem particularly to signify “almsgiving,” as its Greek equivalent does in 2Corinthians 9:10. It is often: rendered so by the LXX., and it is the most usual sense of the word in late Hebrew. It is so interpreted also in Tobit 4:10; Tobit 12:9, where this passage is quoted. (Comp. Ecclesiasticus 3:30; Ecclesiasticus 29:12, and our Lord’s advice, Luke 16:9.) It “delivers from death,” as being a sign of the divine life within, which is “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.(3) The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.—Comp. David’s experience (Psalm 37:25), and the great promise of our Lord to those who “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). (Comp. also below, Proverbs 13:25.)
He casteth away the substance of the wicked.—Rather, He repels (the word is used in 2Kings 4:27, of Gehazi “thrusting away” the Shunammite) the eager, passionate desire of the wicked. However much they long for it, they get it not, “because they ask amiss” (James 4:3).
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.(6) Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.—Curses and deeds of violence have proceeded from his mouth, but God frustrates them, they “return unto him void” (Isaiah 55:11), and, as it were, stop his mouth, reducing him to silence.
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.(8) A prating fool (‘evîl). (See above, on Proverbs 1:7.)
He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.(9) Walketh surely.—He has no cause to fear lest anything to his discredit should come out, but can trust quietly in the Lord (Psalm 112:7); while he that goeth by crooked paths will be found out (Matthew 10:26), and the fear of this gives him perpetual uneasiness. Or the meaning may be that he will be “instructed,” i.e., punished by misfortune, as Jeremiah 31:19.
He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.(10) Causeth sorrow to the person who is the butt of his ridicule, or against whom his malice is directed.
The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.(11) Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.—If these words are to be taken as in Proverbs 10:6, then the first line must mean that the righteous man speaks to his own profit. But perhaps it will be better here to interpret the second line in the sense of “the mouth of the godless hideth violence,” i.e., it conceals under deceitful words the mischief intended for others. With God is the “well of life” (Psalm 36:9; Revelation 22:17); and in like manner the “mouth of the righteous” brings comfort and refreshment to the weary and heavy laden.
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.(12) Hatred stirreth up strifes . . .—Hatred rakes up again old feuds which have slumbered, but love covers up and refuses to look at any wrong done to it. A similar expression occurs in 1Peter 4:8 and James 5:20, though probably in a somewhat different sense. (See the note on the former passage.)
Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.(14) The mouth of the foolish is near destruction—i.e., is a near, ever-threatening calamity; one never knows what awkward or dangerous thing he will not say next: whereas wise men store up knowledge, and bring it forth as it is wanted (Matthew 13:52).
The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.(15) The rich man’s wealth is his strong city—i.e., an actual protection to him against his enemies, for by it he can get aid; or (as Proverbs 18:11) it gives him the consciousness of power, courage: whereas poverty drags a man down, and prevents his advance in life, or makes him timid, and unable to defend himself.
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.(16) The labour of the righteous tendeth to life.—For the gains of his honest toil have the blessing of God upon them, and so bring him satisfaction of mind and the power of performing his duties in life; whereas all that the wicked man acquires only helps him to sin yet more, by enabling him to indulge his evil passions.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.(17) Erreth.—Literally, committeth error. This is probably the true sense, and harmonises better with being “in the way of life,” which occurs just before, than the marginal rendering, “causeth to err.” The word occurs in a similar sense in Jeremiah 42:20 (there translated, “ye have dissembled”).
He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.(18) He that hideth hatred . . .—This would be more correctly translated, “He that hideth hatred is a mouth of falsehood: he that spreadeth slander is a fool” (khesîl: Proverbs 1:22). (For the construction, “he . . . is a mouth of falsehood,” comp. note on Proverbs 8:30; and for the sentiment, David’s complaint, Psalm 41:6).
Is a fool.—For he does mischief to his neighbour, and only gets ill-will for himself.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.(19) In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, for they are sure to fail in truthfulness, or charity, or opportuneness, and will come under the condemnation of Matthew 12:36, as being the outcome of a careless heart.
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.(21) The lips of the righteous feed many—i.e., sustain them by words of counsel, encouragement, and comfort, giving to each one his “meat in due season “(Matthew 24:45).
Fools.—Headstrong, obstinate persons (Proverbs 1:7).
For want of wisdom.—Or it may be translated, “Through one who is destitute of wisdom.” As one righteous man will guide many aright, so one unwise man will lead many fools to ruin.
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.(22) And he addeth no sorrow with it—whereas riches without God’s blessing bring only trouble with them. Or the passage may mean, “And labour adds nothing thereto.” (Comp. Psalm 127:2. where God is said to give to His beloved while they sleep all that others toil early and late for in vain.)
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.(23) But a man of understanding hath wisdom.—Rather, But wisdom (is sport) to a man of understanding, i.e., one rejoices in mischief, the other (comp. Proverbs 8:30) in wise thoughts and deeds.
The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.(24) The fear of the wicked—i.e., that of which he is afraid. (Comp. Isaiah 66:4; Hebrews 10:27.)
The desire of the righteous shall be granted.—For they submit their will to the will of God, and pray for what He sees best for them, which accordingly He grants; moreover, the Holy Spirit also aids them, making intercession for them “according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).
As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.(25) As the whirlwind passeth.—Better, when the whirlwind, &c. (Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 5:14-15; Job 21:18; Matthew 7:24, ff.) Death is ruin to the wicked, and gain to the righteous (2Timothy 1:12).
The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.(27) The fear of the Lord prolongeth days.—The special Old Testament blessing for obedience (comp. Proverbs 9:11), often fulfilled now, too, in the case of those who live on to old age, in the quiet fulfilment of duty; while others are shortening their lives by excessive anxieties, or the pursuit of pleasure.
The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.(29) The way of the Lord—i.e., in which He has directed men to walk. (Comp. Psalm 25:12; Matthew 22:16; Acts 9:2.) It is a strong protection to the righteous, for no harm can happen to them while they follow it (1Peter 3:13); but it is destruction (not, there is destruction) to the workers of iniquity, because the fact of their having rejected the teaching of God will be their condemnation. (Comp. 2Corinthians 2:15-16.)
The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.(30) The righteous shall never be removed.—See above on Proverbs 2:21, and Psalm 37:29.
But the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.—Rather, The godless abide not in the land. They often have to become vagabonds, like Cain, for their crimes. This, too, was the great punishment threatened by Moses and all the prophets, which at last fell upon the Jews, and is still in force.
The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.(31) Bringeth forth wisdom.—As the fields their “increase” (Deuteronomy 32:13); hence words are termed the “fruit of the lips” (Isaiah 57:19).
The froward tongue.—See above on Proverbs 2:12.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.(32) What is acceptable.—To God and man. (Comp. the gracious words which proceeded out of Christ’s lips, Luke 4:22.)
Speaketh frowardness.—Rather, is mere falsehood, misrepresentation. (See above on Proverbs 8:30.)