Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.XIX.
Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.(2) Also, that the soul be without knowledge is not good.—Ignorance is bad, as well as folly.
He that hasteth with his feet sinneth.—Haste without knowledge misses the mark aimed at. (See above on Proverbs 8:36.)
The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.(3) The foolishness of man perverteth his way.—A man’s own self-will (Proverbs 1:7) overturns his way. stops his progress, whether in temporal or spiritual matters, and then, instead of blaming himself, “his heart fretteth against the Lord.” (Comp. Isaiah 8:21; Revelation 16:10-11.)
Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.(4) The poor is separated from his neighbour.—Or, but the feeble, his friend separates himself (from him). It was just in order to counteract these selfish instincts of mankind that the merciful provisions of such passages as Deuteronomy 15:7. sqq., and Luke 14:13, were laid upon God’s people.
All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him.(7) He pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to Him.—The first half of a verse has apparently dropped out here. The sense may be, that the poor man hunts after words—i.e., seeks to get promises of help from his friends, and these end in nothing—mere talk.
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.(8) He that getteth wisdom.—Literally, heart. For that “wisdom,” or “knowledge,” that begins with the “fear of the Lord” (see above on Proverbs 1:7), and ends with loving Him, is not a matter of intellect only, but of the heart also—i.e., the will and affections.
Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.(10) Delight is not seemly for a fool.—He is ruined by prosperity and luxury: much more is a slave unfit to rule over princes. The writer has in his mind the case of an emancipated slave being raised to high place by court favour, and then insolently trampling on those who were once far above him. (Comp. Proverbs 30:22; Ecclesiastes 10:6-7.)
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.(11) It is his glory to pass over a transgression.—In this he imitates a Greater. Comp. Micah 7:18; Romans 3:25; Matthew 5:45.)
A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.(13) A continual dropping.—As of the rain leaking through the flat roof of an eastern house on a wet day. (Comp. 27:15.)
Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.(15) Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep.—Or rather, makes it fall upon a man, as upon Adam (Genesis 2:21).
He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.(16) He that despiseth his ways—i.e., takes no heed to them, whether they please God or not.
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.(17) Lendeth unto the Lord.—Who “for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich” (2Corinthians 8:9), and Who regards all done to one of his poor brethren as done unto Himself (Matthew 25:40).
Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.(18) And let not thy soul spare for his crying.—Or, but set not thy soul on his destruction. Do not go so far as to kill him in thy zeal for his good, or despair of his amendment. (Comp. Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21.) It may also signify “do not let him perish for want of chastisement,” as Proverbs 23:13 is also explained.
A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.(19) For if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.—As St. Paul says (Galatians 6:5), “Every man shall bear his own burden.” We cannot shield wrong-headed people from the consequences of their want of self-control, however much we may pity them for the suffering they have brought on themselves.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.(20) That thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.—That “though thy beginning might be small, yet that thy latter end should greatly increase” (Job 8:7)
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.(21) There are many devices (or, thoughts) in a man’s heart.—“He disquieteth himself in vain” (Psalm 39:6), endeavouring to carry out his various plans in life, while the one unchangeable “counsel of the Lord,” that shall stand—i.e., abide in all its fulness. (Comp, Isaiah 46:10-11; Psalm 33:11; Job 23:13.)
The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.(22) The desire of a man is his kindness—i.e., what makes a man desired or beloved is his kindness. Or, the kindness of a man consists in—is shewn by—his good-will, even though he cannot carry it out.
And a poor man (who would do a kindness if he could) is better than a liar.—Than a rich man who could help another, but professes to be unable to do so.
The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.(23) The fear of the Lord tendeth to life.—To life in this world, the reward of uprightness promised to the Israelites of old (Isaiah 37:29); and to life in the next (Mark 10:30).
He shall not be visited with evil.—(Comp. Leviticus 26:6.) A higher blessing is promised in the New Testament; not immunity from trouble, for trouble may be needed for advance in holiness (Romans 8:28), but protection in it (1Peter 3:13; Romans 8:35, sqq.).
A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.(24) A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom.—Better, in the dish that stood in the middle of the table at an Oriental dinner, into which the guests dipped their hands to take out the food for themselves (Matthew 26:23).
Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.(25) Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware.—For “scorner” and “simple” see note on Proverbs 1:22. Reproof is of no avail to turn the “scorner” from his evil way (Proverbs 9:7; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12), punishment will also do him no good; but it may make the “simple,” whose character is not yet formed for good or evil, reflect and amend. So God at first punishes sinners for their good (Amos 4:6, ff.), afterwards, when they are obdurate, as a warning to others (Amos 4:12; Deuteronomy 29:21, ff.)
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.(27) Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err . . .—Or the passage may mean, Cease to hear instruction if you are only going to err afterwards—Make up your mind what you are intending to do hereafter, and act now accordingly; better not know the truth than learn it only to desert it. (Comp. 2Peter 2:21.)
An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.(28) An ungodly (worthless) witness scorneth judgment.—Despises the orders of the Law to avoid perjury (Exodus 20:16; Leviticus 5:1). (Comp. 1Kings 8:31).
The mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.—As a dainty morsel. (Comp. Proverbs 18:8.)
Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.(29) Judgments are prepared for scorners.—(Comp. Proverbs 19:25.)
Fools.—See above on Proverbs 1:22.