Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.XVIII.
(1) Through desire a man, having separated himself . . .—This should probably be rendered, The separatist seeketh after his own desire, against all improvement he shows his teeth. The man of small mind is here described, who will only follow his own narrow aims, who holds himself aloof from men of wider views than his own, and will not join with them in the furtherance of philanthropic or religious plans, but rather opposes them with all his power, as he can see nothing but mischief in them. (For his temper of mind, comp. John 7:47-49.)
Intermeddleth.—See above on Proverbs 17:14.
Wisdom.—See above on Proverbs 2:7.
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.(2) But that his heart may discover itself—i.e., unless his cleverness can be displayed thereby; he does not prize understanding for itself, apart from his own interests.
When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.(3) When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt.—Comp. the whole burden of Psalms 106, that sorrow and shame follow sin.
The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.(4) The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters . . .—i.e., the words of a “man,” properly so called, are as deep waters which cannot be easily fathomed; they are a copious stream, which flows from a never failing source; they are a fountain of wisdom which is never exhausted.
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.(6) His mouth calleth for strokes, which he provokes by his insolence and quarrelsomeness.
A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.(7) A fool’s mouth is his destruction.—See above on Proverbs 12:13.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.(8) The words of a talebearer are as wounds.—Or, more probably, “as dainty morsels” that are eagerly swallowed, and “go down into the innermost parts of the belly,” i.e., are treasured up in the deepest recesses of the heart, to be remembered and brought out again when an opportunity for employing them occurs.
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.(9) He also that is slothful in his work.—Whatsoever it may be that is committed to his care, is “brother to him that is a great waster,” or “destroyer “; neglect of duty causes almost as much mischief in life as active wickedness.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.(10) The name of the Lord is a strong tower.—The “name of the Lord” signifies the titles by which He has made Himself known, descriptive of His attributes, as “merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth,” &c. (Exodus 34:5; Exodus 34:7); the righteous takes refuge in these, and finds himself in safety, lifted above the trouble which seemed ready to overwhelm him. The rich man’s “strong city” and “high wall” are such only in “his own conceit,” and fail him in the time of need. (Comp. Proverbs 23:5.)
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.(13) He that answereth a matter before he heareth it . . .—Comp. Ecclesiasticus 11:8.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?(14) The spirit of a man.—That is, one properly so called, who draws his strength from God, will “sustain his infirmity,” help him to bear up against trouble; “but a wounded spirit” (not one crushed with the sense of sin, for that God will lift up, Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 51:17), which retires into itself and nurses its griefs, “who can bear” the wear of it?
A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.(16) A man’s gift.—Judicious liberality “maketh room for him,” helps him to make his way through life. (Comp. Luke 16:9, and the advice there given so to use temporal riches as to gain those of heaven.)
He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.(17) He that is first in his own cause seemeth just.—A man who tells his own story can make a good case for himself out of it, “but his neighbour” (i.e., his adversary in the suit) “cometh and searcheth him,” sifts his statements, and shows them to be untenable.
The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.(18) The lot causeth contentions to cease, as being the judgment of God (Proverbs 16:33).
And parteth between the mighty, who would otherwise settle their differences by blows.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.(19) A brother offended.—Or rather, wronged.
Their contentions.—Of such as have once been friends, “are like the bars of a castle,” or palace, forming an almost impassable barrier to reconciliation. The bitterness of quarrels between friends is proverbial.
A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.(20) A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth.—See above on Proverbs 12:14.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.(21) Death and life are in the power of the tongue.—See above on Proverbs 4:23, where much the same power is attributed to the heart as is here given to the tongue as being its exponent. (Comp. also Proverbs 12:13.)
They that love it—i.e., to use it.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.(22) Whoso findeth a wife . . .—One who deserves the name of wife, as the one described in Proverbs 31:10, sqq.
The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.(23) The rich answereth roughly.—A warning against the hardening effect of riches. (Comp. Mark 10:23.)
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.(24) A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.—Rather, a man of many friends will suffer loss, for he will impoverish himself by constant hospitality, and in trouble they will desert him (Psalm 41:9); but “there is a friend,” one in a thousand, “that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Comp. Proverbs 17:17.)