Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.XV.
(2) Useth knowledge aright.—Brings it forth at the proper time and place.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.(3) Beholding the evil and the good.—Waiting till the iniquity of the one is full (Genesis 15:16), watching to aid the other (Psalm 34:15; Psalm 34:17).
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.(4) A wholesome tongue.—One which heals and soothes by its gentleness and judicious words. (Comp. Proverbs 12:18.)
Perverseness.—Distortion of the truth. (Comp. Proverbs 11:3.)
A breach in the spirit—i.e., deeply wounds another’s spirit.
A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.(5) A fool (’evîl).—See above, on Proverbs 1:7.
In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.(6) In the house of the righteous is much treasure.—For God’s blessing (Proverbs 3:33) is upon it; while the wicked, from his recklessness in the pursuit of gain, brings trouble (Proverbs 15:27) upon himself and his family.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.(7) But the heart of the foolish doeth not so.—Or, disperseth that which is not right.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.(8) The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.—And their prayers also (Isaiah 1:11). The worthlessness of sacrifice without obedience (comp. 1Samuel 15:22) may be here especially mentioned, because men are apt to think that what involves cost and trouble must be pleasing to God, even when not accompanied with what alone He cares for, a loving heart.
The prayer of the upright is his delight.—Even when offered by itself, without sacrifice.
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.(10) Correction is grievous.—Rather, There is a grievous correction for him that forsaketh the (right) way; first of all, punishment for the sake of “correction” (Leviticus 26:14, sqq.), and then, lastly, in the case of obstinate hatred of “reproof,” death (Ibid. Proverbs 15:33).
Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?(11) Hell and destruction.—“Hell” is here the general name for the unseen world (Hades) beyond the grave, so called, according to one derivation, from its always “asking” for more victims, and never being satisfied. (Comp. Proverbs 27:20.) “Destruction” (Abaddon) is the lowest hell, corresponding to the “abyss” of Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:11; the abode of evil spirits and the lost. (For the thought, comp. Job 26:6, and Psalm 139:8.)
A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.(12) A scorner.—See above on Proverbs 1:22.
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.(13) By sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.—See above on Proverbs 12:25.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.(15) All the days of the afflicted are evil.—Another caution against over-anxiety. The “afflicted” here evidently means, not one who has to bear great misfortunes, but one who makes the worst of everything, to whom the “clouds return after the rain” (Ecclesiastes 12:2); while one who is “of a merry heart” does just the contrary.
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.(16) Trouble.—The “disquiet” (Psalm 39:6) which attends the pursuit and care of riches, in contrast to the “peace which they have who love God’s law. (Psalm 119:165.)
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.(19) As a hedge of thorns.—Every difficulty in his path serves as an excuse for inaction (comp. Proverbs 22:13); while the upright man, who does his duty as in the sight of God, goes “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7), along the path of life smoothed for him (Isaiah 26:7), performing the “just works” appointed for him to do.
Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.(21) Folly.—Shown in wasted opportunities, and the commission of evil (Proverbs 10:23), while the “man of understanding” directs his way in accordance with the will of God.
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!(23) A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.—So much mischief is done by the tongue, and its slips are so many, that when a man makes a suitable reply, he may well rejoice and look upon it as the gift of God (Proverbs 16:1).
The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.(24) The way of life is above to the wise.—These words sound like a faint echo of such passages as Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-2, though the writer’s meaning may only have been that the wise man who fears the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) is rewarded with long life on earth (Proverbs 3:16), and escapes death and hell (Proverbs 2:18-19). Comp. Isaiah 38:18-19.
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.(25) The proud—who trust in their own strength; while He will “establish the border,” or landmark, of the helpless widow, who has none to cry to but Him. The frequently threatened punishment against one who removes his neighbour’s landmark, shews the offence to have been a common form of oppression. (Comp. Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; Proverbs 22:28; Job 24:2; Hosea 5:10.)
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.(26) The thoughts of the wicked.—Rather, thoughts of evil, wicked designs.
But the words of the pure are pleasant words.—Rather, pleasant words (i.e., kindly meant, soothing words; comp. Proverbs 16:24) are pure in God’s sight; accepted by Him as coming from a well-meaning heart.
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.(27) He that is greedy of gain.—Ill-gotten gain, especially bribes, as is seen in the next line.
Troubleth his own house.—The word used of Achan (Joshua 7:25).
Gifts.—Bribes taken by a judge. (Ecclesiastes 7:7.)
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.(28) The heart of the righteous studieth to answer—i.e., aright, knowing how much good and evil is caused by words. (Comp. James 3:5, sqq.)
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.(29) He heareth the prayer of the righteous.—For they desire above all things to do His will, and so their petitions to this effect are heard by Him.
The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.(30) The light of the eyes . . .—It does the heart good to see one whose eyes are sparkling with happiness.
A good report.—Good news, affecting either oneself or others.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.(31) The ear that heareth the reproof of life—i.e., one which does not refuse reproof, or instruction, which leads to life. (Comp. Proverbs 6:23.) The “ear” is put for the person, as in Job 29:11.
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.(33) The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom.—Or, a discipline which leads to wisdom. (Comp. Proverbs 1:7.)
Before honour is humility.—Humility leads to it. (Comp. Luke 1:52.)