Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.XIV
(1) Every wise woman buildeth her house.—This should be rendered, “The wisdom (literally, wisdoms; see above on Proverbs 1:20; chokhmôth should probably be read here, as there, not chokhmôth) of women buildeth (for each) her house, but (their) folly plucketh it down,” &c.
Buildeth her house.—Each person and each good work throughout the household grows, as it were, under her fostering hand. (Comp. Ephesians 2:21.)
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.(2) He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord.—Rather, He who fears the Lord walketh in his uprightness. (Comp. John 14:21.) And likewise, “he that despiseth Him is perverse in his ways.” The fear of God and its absence are clearly seen in the outward conduct.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.(3) In the mouth of the foolish (self-willed) is a rod of pride.—He has to smart for his ill-judged sayings; or, he punishes others with them. But this does not agree so well with what follows.
But the lips of the wise shall preserve them (the wise) from the difficulties into which the foolish come by their rash talk.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.(4) Where no oxen are, the crib is clean . . .—A proverb which may be taken in various ways. Some have seen in it an exhortation to kindness towards animals in consideration of their great usefulness. Others, that labour has its disagreeable aspect, but also brings its reward, whether material prosperity (“much increase”) or a more enduring reward. (Comp. Galatians 6:9.)
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.(6) A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.—Because “God resisteth the proud” (1Peter 5:5), and none can give wisdom but He who alone has it (1Corinthians 2:11); but He teaches him that “feareth the Lord” (Psalm 25:11).
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.(7) Go from the presence of a foolish man—(khesîl)—i.e. a dull, stupid one, when the time comes that you see you can do him no good; for “evil communications corrupt good manners.” Thus Samuel “came no more to see Saul,” when he saw that remonstrances were unavailing with him, though he continued to “mourn” for him, remembering from what high estate he had fallen.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.(8) The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.—To look to it carefully that it is such as God would have it; but “the folly of fools (stupid persons, as Proverbs 14:7], is deceit;” it shows itself in trying to cheat others, though they are sure to be detected at last.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.(9) Fools make a mock at sin.—Rather, perhaps, sin mocks fools (they miss the gratification they expected from it); or, the sin-offering mocks them. God does not accept it, and so they have the trouble and cost of offering it for nothing; “but among the upright there is favour.” God is well pleased with them.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.(10) The heart knoweth his own bitterness . . .—None Can perfectly sympathise with the sorrows or joys of others, except the ideal Son of Man, who came to “bear our griefs and carry our sorrows” (comp. Hebrews 4:15), yet could join in the marriage feast at Cana.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.(11) The house of the wicked shall be overthrown.—Observe the contrast between the “house” and “tabernacle” (tent); the slighter one shall stand, while the more strongly built one shall perish. (Comp. Proverbs 3:33.)
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.(12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, and yet he will be punished if he follows it, for his perverted conscience may arise from his desertion of God, and his refusal of the light He offered. (Comp. Romans 1:28, sqq.)
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.(13) Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.—By this God would teach us that nothing can satisfy the soul of man but Himself, and so would urge us to seek Him, who is the only true object of our desires. (Comp. Psalm 36:8.)
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.(14) The backslider in heart—i.e., who turns away from God. (Psalm 44:19.)
Shall be filled with his own ways.—(Comp. Proverbs 1:31, and Matthew 6:2, &c: “They have their reward.”) They get to the full what they look for, though it is but swine’s husks, instead of food fit for God’s children.
A good man.—See above on Proverbs 13:22.
Shall be satisfied from himself.—His own work. (Comp. Isaiah 3:10.)
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.(15) The simple.—See above on Proverbs 1:22.
Believeth every word.—And so, having no fixed principles by which to go, often takes a wrong step; while the prudent man considers well (Proverbs 14:8) whither each step will lead, and therefore does not go astray.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.(16) A wise man feareth.—(Comp. Proverbs 3:7.)
The fool rageth.—Gives way to passionate excitement, and “is confident” in his own wisdom; he has no “quietness and confidence” (Isaiah 30:15) in God.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.(17) Dealeth foolishly.—Does silly things, and makes himself an object of ridicule, but not of hatred; whereas the “man of (wicked) devices” is hated for his cold-blooded malice.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.(18) The simple inherit folly.—As weeds spring up in unoccupied soil, so “simple” (Proverbs 1:22) persons, whose minds are unoccupied with good, often become self-willed; while the knowledge which the “prudent” gain by looking well to their steps (Proverbs 14:15) adorns them as a crown.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.(19) The evil bow before the good.—(Comp. 1Samuel 2:36.) That this final retribution is certain is implied by the tense employed, though it may be long delayed till the “awakening” (Psalm 73:20) of God and man to judgment. (Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 5:1, sqq.)
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.(20) The poor is hated even of his own neighbour.—This sad experience of life is repeated in Proverbs 19:7. The following verse serves as a corrective of this selfish tendency of mankind.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.(22) Do they not err that devise evil?—Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 5:6-7.
Mercy and truth.—God will be merciful, and also fulfil His promises of protection and reward to them (Wisdom Of Solomon 3:9).
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.(24) The crown of the wise is their riches.—They adorn and set off the wisdom of the wise, and bring it more prominently into notice; but the “foolishness of fools” remains folly. The rich fool only displays his folly all the more from being set in a conspicuous position.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.(26) His children.—Either, the children of the man who fears the Lord, as the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 17:7-8) and David (Jeremiah 33:20-21) descended to their children; or the pronoun may refer to God’s children, i.e., those who look up to Him as a father, an expression which occurs in the Old Testament (e g., Psalm 73:15), but is brought forward more prominently in the New Testament.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.(27) Fountain of life.—Comp. Proverbs 13:14 and John 4:14.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.(28) In the multitude of people is the king’s honour.—Not in ambitious wars. In these words speaks the “man of rest” (1Chronicles 22:9). (Comp. the description of Solomon’s kingdom in the days of his prosperity; 1Kings 4:20.)
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.(29) He that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly—i.e., brings it into view, or shows himself highly foolish. Or it may signify, “he takes up and carries away folly as his portion,” as Proverbs 3:35 may be translated, “fools receive shame for their portion.”
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.(30) A sound heart—i.e., one in healthy condition, of which the passions and emotions are under control.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.(31) Reproacheth his Maker.—For having placed him in such a lowly condition. The equality of all men, as being all of them the work of God, is taught by Genesis 1:27; Job 31:15; Proverbs 22:2. The duty of aiding the poor is in Matthew 25:40 based on the still higher ground of the union of Christ with His people, which makes Him regard good done to them as done to Himself.
But he that honoureth him . . .—This would be better rendered, but he that hath mercy on the poor honoureth Him.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.(32) The wicked is driven away in his wickedness.—Or, is overthrown in his misfortune, i.e., when it comes upon him (comp. Psalm 34:21), for he has none to aid or comfort him.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.(33) But that which is in the midst of fools is made known.—“Wisdom” is the subject of this as of the former half of the verse. “Wisdom rests in the heart of him that hath understanding;” he does not care to drag it out and exhibit it, but the fool cannot keep to himself anything which he thinks he knows.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.(34) Righteousness.—See above, on Proverbs 10:2.