Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:XXIV
(3) Through wisdom is an house builded.—See above on Proverbs 14:1.
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.(4) All precious and pleasant riches.—Not only earthly wealth, but the “true riches” (Luke 16:11), the knowledge and love of God. (Comp. note on Proverbs 23:23.)
A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.(5) A man of knowledge increaseth strength.—For the spiritual sense, comp. 2Peter 3:18.
For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellers there is safety.(6) Wise counsel.—See above on Proverbs 1:5. In the great spiritual fight also (Ephesians 6:12) we need wise counsel, to see the end to be aimed at, and the means of attaining it.
Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.(7) Wisdom is too high for a fool.—For “wisdom” (literally, wisdoms), comp. note on Proverbs 1:20. He has been too self-willed to learn; so while others express their opinions when the business or justice of his city is being transacted (see above on Proverbs 22:22) he has to remain sheepishly silent.
The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men.(9) The thought of foolishness is sin.—Rather, Sin is the contrivance (plotting) of self-will. Sin is the “transgression of the law” of God (1John 3:4), when we desert the plain rule of duty, and plot how we can indulge our own self-will.
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.(10) If thou faint in the day of adversity.—And prove unable to help thyself or others; an exhortation to courage (comp. Hebrews 12:12). A “more excellent way” is shown in the following verse.
If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;(11) If thou forbear . . .—Rather, Deliver those that are taken to death, and those that are tottering to the slaughter, stop them!
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?(12) If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not.—Man being too much inclined to answer after the manner of Cain (Genesis 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when he might give aid to those who need it.
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.(14) So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul.—Rather, Know (or understand) that wisdom is such (equally sweet and good) for thy soul.
A reward.—Literally, a future. (Comp. Proverbs 23:18.)
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.(16) For a just man falleth seven times and riseth up again.—That is, falls into trouble (not sin, as is often supposed). Therefore thy malice will be of no avail, for God’s protection is about him. (Comp. Job 5:19; Psalm 34:19; Psalm 37:24.)
Seven times—i.e., frequently. (Comp. Matthew 18:21.)
Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.(18) And he turn away his wrath from him.—Upon thee as having sinned more deeply than thine enemy in thus rejoicing at his misfortunes. (Comp. Proverbs 17:5.)
Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;(19) Fret not thyself because of evil men—i.e., at the sight of their prosperity, the same difficulty which occurred to the Psalmist (Psalm 37:1). (Comp. also Psalm 73:3 and Jeremiah 12:1.)
For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.(20) For there shall be no reward.—Literally, future, as in Proverbs 24:15.
The candle of the wicked shall be put out·—See above on Proverbs 13:9.
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:(21) Them that are given to change.—Perhaps rather, those who think differently.
For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?(22) The ruin of them both—i.e., the rebels against God and the king.
These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.6.SECOND APPENDIX TO “THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON,” CONTAINING PROVERBS OF VARIOUS LENGTHS, RESEMBLING Proverbs 1:7—9:18, AND THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES (Proverbs 24:23-34).
Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.(26) Every man shall kiss his lips . . . Rather, He kisseth the lips that giveth right answers. His words are as pleasant as if he had kissed the inquirer’s lips.
Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.(27) Prepare thy work without . . .—Method in work is here advised; first till the ground, and then build the house which will be maintained by the produce of the field. In the spiritual life, too, we should seek to “perceive and know what things we ought to do,” if we are not to waste time and energy upon unsuitable and unattainable objects.
Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.(28) Without cause—i.e., do not mention thy neighbour’s faults unless for some good reason, not for malice or love of gossip.
Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.(29) Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me.—A wonderful anticipation this of New Testament teaching, very different from the spirit of Leviticus 24:19-20. Comp. Proverbs 20:22, and James 2:13, “For he shall have judgment without mercy that shewed no mercy.”
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;(30) I went by the field of the slothful . . .—The parable of the vineyard let out to husbandmen for them to render the fruits in due season (Matthew 21:33), and of the thorns which choked the word (ibid., Proverbs 13:7), suggest a spiritual meaning for this passage. It warns us not to allow the weeds of evil habits to spring up in the garden of the soul through sloth, nor to suffer God’s protecting care (the wall) to be withdrawn from us because we have not sought it constantly in prayer.
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.(34) As one that travelleth.—See above on Proverbs 6:11.