Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
b) Comparison between the good results of piety and the disadvantages and penalties of ungodliness
α) With reference to just and unjust, benevolent and malevolent conduct towards one’s neighbor
1 A false balance is an abomination to Jehovah,
but a true weight is his delight.
2 Pride cometh, then cometh shame,
with the humble is wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guideth hem,
the perverseness of the ungodly shall destroy them.
4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath,
righteousness delivereth from death.
5 The righteousness of the upright maketh smooth his way,
by his wickedness doth the wicked fall.
6 The integrity of the upright delivereth them,
by their transgressions shall the wicked be taken.
7 With the death of the wicked (his) hope cometh to nought,
the unjust expectation hath perished.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
the wicked cometh in his stead.
9 The hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor,
by the knowledge of the righteous shall they (he) be delivered.
10 In the prosperity of the upright the city rejoiceth,
at the destruction of the wicked (there is) shouting.
11 By the blessing of the upright is the city exalted,
by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.
12 He that speaketh contemptuously of his neighbor lacketh wisdom,
a man of understanding is silent.
13 He who goeth about as a slanderer revealeth secrets,
he who is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
14 Where there is no direction the people fall,
in a multitude of counsellors is safety.
15 He shall fare ill that is security for a stranger,
whoso hateth suretyship liveth in quiet.
16 A pleasing woman retaineth honor,
strong men retain riches.
17 A benevolent man doeth good to himself,
the cruel troubleth his own flesh.
18 The wicked gaineth a deceptive result,
he that soweth righteousness a sure reward.
19 He that holdeth fast integrity (cometh) to life,
he that pursueth evil to his death.
20 An abomination to Jehovah are the perverse in heart,
they that walk uprightly His delight.
21 Assuredly (hand to hand) the wicked goeth not unpunished,
the seed of the righteous is delivered.
22 A jewel of gold in a swine’s snout,
(and) a fair woman that hath lost discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous is good only,
the expectation of the wicked is (God’s) wrath.
24 There is that scattereth and it increaseth still,
(there is) that stinteth only to poverty.
25 A liberal soul shall be well fed,
he that watereth others is also watered.
26 Whoso withholdeth corn the people curse him,
blessings (come) upon the head of him that selleth it.
27 He that striveth after good seeketh favor,
he that searcheth for evil, it shall find him.
28 He that trusteth in his riches shall fall,
as a green leaf shall the righteous flourish.
29 He that troubleth his own house shall inherit wind,
the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
the wise man winneth souls.
31 Lo, the righteous shall be recompensed on earth,
much, more the ungodly and the sinner.
GRAMMATICAL AND CRITICAL
Proverbs 11:2.—בָּא is given by BÖTTCHER, § 950, 1, as an example of the Perfectum relatitvum, the precise time being a matter of indifference. The Imperf. that follows is then a contingent tense describing a normal consequence, § 980 B.]
Proverbs 11:3. וְשַׁדָּם, to be read יְשַׁדָּם with the K’ri. [BÖTTCHER, in explaining forms like this, of which he adduces a considerable number, § 929, β, refers to but rejects the old explanation which makes the ו an older form of the 3d personal prefix (from the pronoun הוּא), and regards it as representing in the view of the K,thibh the conjunction וְ, an error which is here corrected in the K’ri.]
Proverbs 11:15.—רַע in רַע יֵרוֹעַ is probably not Infin. abs. Kal. (which should be רוֹעַ), but a substantive, here used adverbially and attached to the reflexive Future Niphal יֵרוֹעַ to strengthen the idea. [Fuerst, while giving רַע as an intransitive Infin. abs., also suggests that it may be a noun, giving it however the place and power of a masc. and not a neuter, and making it the subject, “der Schlechandelnde,”=he that manages ill.]
Proverbs 11:25.—יוֹרֶא is either to be taken as the Imperf. Hophal of ירה=ירא, or by change of pointing to be read יִוָּרֶא and this is then to be regarded as another form of יֵרָוֵה (HITZIG; comp. ZIEGLER and ELSTER).
1. Proverbs 11:1–11. Eleven proverbs on the value of a just demeanor towards one’s neighbor, and on the curse of unrighteousness.—With Proverbs 11:1 comp. 20:10, 23, and also MEIDANI’S collection of Arabic proverbs, III., 538, where the first member at least appears, and that too expressly as a proverb of Solomon.—A true weight, lit., “a full stone;” comp. Deut. 25:13, where אֶבֶן in like manner signifies the weight of a balance.
Proverbs 11:2. Pride cometh, then cometh shame;—lit., “there hath come pride, and there will come shame,” i.e., on the proud; comp. 16:18; 18:12.—But with the humble is wisdom.—That wisdom, namely, which confers honor (3:16; 8:18). “The humble,” derived from צנה, which in Chaldee signifies “to conceal,” denote strictly those who hide themselves, or renounce self (ταπεινοί, ταπεινόφρονες).
Proverbs 11:3. The (faithlessness of the false) perverseness of the ungodly destroyeth them.—“Destroyeth,”—from the root שד which means “violently to fall upon and kill,” and not merely to “desolate” (comp. Jer. 5:6). סֶלֶף should in accordance with the Arabic be explained either by “falseness, perverseness” (as ordinarily), or with HITZIG “trespass, transgression.”
Proverbs 11:4. In the day of wrath, viz., the Divine wrath and judgment; comp. Zeph. 1:18; Ezek. 7:19; Job 21:30. With reference to the general thought comp. Proverbs 10:2.
Proverbs 11:5 and 6 are exactly parallel not only each to the other, but also to Proverbs 11:3. Comp. also 3:6; 10:8.—And by their lusts are the wicked taken.—Literally, “and by the lusts (‘cravings’ as in 10:13) of the wicked (false) are they (the wicked) taken;” the construction is the same therefore as in Gen. 9:6; Ps. 32:6; comp. also Proverbs 11:3.
Proverbs 11:7.—A further development of the idea in the second clause of 10: 28.—The unjust expectation.—Lit., “the expectation of depravities, of wickedness” (אוֹנִים plur. of אָוֶן). Most interpreters regard the noun here as an abstract for a concrete: “the expectation of the ungodly, the wicked” [so DE W., E. V., H., N., M., W.]. EWALD interprets it in accordance with Hos. 9:4 by “sorrows” (continuance of sorrow); others in accordance with Is. 40:26, render it by “might.” In support of our interpretation see HITZIG on this passage. [FUERST suggests that the form may be participial from the verb אוּן with the signification “the troubled, the sorrowing,” and BÖTTCHER, § 811, 3, deriving it as a participial form from אָנָה, reaches the same meaning; this is also STUART’S view, while KAMPH. agrees with our author—A.] The antithesis in idea between the first and second clauses which is lacking in this verse, the LXX attempts to supply by reading in the first clause “when the righteous man dieth, hope doth not perish” (τελευτήσαντος ἀνδρὸς δικαίου οὐκ ό̓λλυται ἐλπὶς); they thus put the hope of the righteous reaching beyond death in contrast with the hopeless end of the life of the ungodly. This thought the original text certainly does not express; but immortality and a future retribution are yet presumptively suggested in the passage, as MUNTINGHE, UMBREIT, LUTZ (Bibl. Dogmatik, p. 100, etc.) and others have correctly assumed. Comp. the “Doctrinal” notes.
Proverbs 11:8. The righteous is delivered from trouble, etc.—This proposition presented so conclusively “cannot be the result of experimental observation, but only the fresh, vigorous expression of faith in God’s justice, such as believes where it does not see” (ELSTER).
Proverbs 11:9. The flatterer (hypocrite) with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor.—For the verbal explanation of הָנֵף which, according to the old Rabbinical tradition, and according to the Vulgate, denotes a hypocrite (Vulg., simulator), comp. HITZIG on this passage. He moreover needlessly alters this first clause in harmony with the LXX (in the mouth of the hypocrite is a snare for his neighbor), and gives to the second member also a totally different form; “and in the misfortune of the righteous do they rejoice.”—By the knowledge of the righteous are they delivered;—they, i.e., his neighbors; the sing, “his neighbor,” which is altogether general, admits of being thus continued by a verb in the plural. The meaning of the verse as a whole is “By the protective power of that knowledge which serves righteousness, they are delivered who were endangered by the artifices of that shrewdness which is the instrument of wickedness” (ELSTER).
Proverbs 11:10. In the prosperity of the upright.— בְּטוּב, an infinitive construction; literally, “when it goes well to the righteous,” as in the second clause בַּאֲבֹד, “in the perishing,” when they perish. Comp. 29:2.—HITZIG strikes out this verse mainly to secure again within Proverbs 11:4–11 a group of seven proverbs, as before in 10:29–11:3, but without being able to allege any ground whatever of suspicion that is really valid.
Proverbs 11:11 gives the reason why the population of a city rejoices at the prosperity of the righteous and exults at the downfall of the wicked.—By the blessing of the righteous is the city exalted,—i.e., by the beneficent and salutary words and acts (not by the benevolent wishes only) of the righteous (literally, “the straight, true, straightforward”) is the city raised to a flourishing condition and growth, exaltabitur civitas (Vulg.). Not so well ELSTER: “is the city made secure”—as if the idea here related to the throwing up walls of defence.
2. Proverbs 11:12–15. Four proverbs against talkativeness, a slanderous disposition, foolish counsel and thoughtless suretyship.—He that speaketh contemptuously of his neighbor.—This is the rendering here required to correspond with the antithesis in the second clause; comp. 14:21; 13:13. [The E. V. and HOLDEN invert this relation of subject and predicate, while DE W., K., N., S., and M. agree with our author in following the order of the original—A.]
Proverbs 11:13. He that goeth about as a slanderer betrayeth secrets.—With this expression, “to go tattling, to go for slander,” comp. Lev. 19: 16; Jer. 9:3. With the expression גַלָּה סוֹד, revelavit arcanum, “to reveal a secret,” comp. 20:19; 5:9; Am. 3:7. That not this “babbler of secrets” is subject of the clause (HITZIG), but “he that goeth slandering,” the parallel second clause makes evident, where with the “slanderer” is contrasted the faithful and reliable, and with the babbler the man who “concealeth the matter, i.e., the secret committed to him.” Comp. Ecclesiasticus 27:16.
Proverbs 11:14. Where there is no direction.—For this term comp. 1:5.—In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.—This thought recurring again in 15:22; 24:6, is naturally founded on the assumption that the counsellors are good and intelligent persons, and by no means conflicts with the conditional truth of the modern proverb, “Too many cooks spoil the broth;” or this, “He who asks long errs long,” etc.
Proverbs 11:15. He shall fare ill that is surety for a stranger.—“Ill, ill does it go with him,—ill, very ill will he fare,—ill at ease will he be,” etc. Instead of “who is surety,” etc., the original has literally “if one is surety,” etc.—With the second clause comp. remarks above on Proverbs 6:1 sq. Instead of תּוֹקְעִים (partic.) we ought probably to read here תְּקָעִים (subst.) (HITZIG), or to take the plural participle in the sense of the abstract “striking hands” (instead of “those striking hands).” Thus, e.g., UMBREIT. Not so well the majority of commentators (EWALD, BERTHEAU, ELSTER, among others), who read “he that hateth sureties,” i.e., who will not belong to their number, who avoids fellowship with such as lightly strike hands as sureties, who therefore does not follow their example.
3. Proverbs 11:16–23. Eight proverbs of miscellaneous import, mostly treating of the blessing that attends righteousness and the deserved judgment of impiety.—A gracious woman retaineth honor and strong men retain riches.—So reads the Hebrew text, according to which there is a comparison made here; as mighty men (lit., “tyrants, terrible men,” comp. βιασταί, Matth. 11:12) retain their wealth and will not allow it to be torn from them, with the same energy and decision does a “gracious woman ” (comp. 5:19) watch over her honor as an inalienable possession. Comp. the similar sentiment, Proverbs 29:23 (where we have the same, “holdeth fast honor”); and as to the force of comparative sentences formed thus simply with the copulative conjunction וְ, comp. 25:25; 26:9; Job 5:7; 12:11; 14:18, 19, etc.—The LXX, whom ZIEGLER, EWALD, HITZIG follow, read חֲרוּצִים (i.e., diligent men, comp. 10:4), and besides insert two clauses between the first and second of this verse, so that the whole proverb has this expanded form:
“A gracious woman obtaineth honor;
but a throne of disgrace is she that hateth virtue.
The idle will be destitute of means,
but the diligent will obtain wealth.”
For the authenticity of this fuller form may be urged especially the vigorous expression “throne of disgrace” (θρόνος ἀτμιας), which is hardly the product of later invention, but rather agrees antithetically with the expression which is several times found, “a seat or throne of honor” כִּסֵּא כָבוֹד), 1 Sam. 2:8; Is. 22:23; Jer. 17:12. [While RUEETSCHI (as cited above, p. 138) seems to admit the antiquity of the form reproduced in the version of the LXX, he thus defends and amplifies the sense of the shorter form found in the Masoretic text, “A woman is powerful by her grace as the mighty are by their strength. In grace there lies as great force as in the imposing nature of the mighty; nay, the power of the strength of the latter gains only more property, while the woman gains honor and esteem, which are of more worth.”]
Proverbs 11:17. The benevolent man doeth good to himself.—Lit., “the man of love,” who by the goodness which he manifests towards others, benefits his own soul. The second clause in its contrast with this: “And his own flesh doth the cruel trouble,” does not aim to characterize any thing like the unnatural self-torture of gloomy ascetics, but to express the simple thought that on account of the penalty with which God requites cruel and hard-hearted conduct, such conduct is properly a raging against one’s self. Thus the LXX had correctly expressed the idea, and among modern interpreters HITZIG, ELSTER, etc., while the great body (UMBREIT, EWALD, BERTHEAU; among them), comparing Ecclesiast. 14:5, find the meaning of the verse to be directed against niggardliness, or ascetic self-torture: He who deals harshly and unkindly with himself will treat others also no better.”
Proverbs 11:18. The wicked gaineth delusive gains,—i.e. such as result in no good to himself, such as escape from under his hands. Comp. 10:2, and with reference to פְעֻלָּה, gain, acquisition, 10:16.—But he that soweth righteousness, a sure reward.—The “sure reward” (שֶׂכֶר אֶמֶת, perhaps in its sound in intentional accord with שֶׁקֶר in the first member) is also governed by the verb “gaineth” or “worketh out” (עֹשֵׂה); comp. Jer. 17:11, etc. For this figure of “sowing righteousness,” i.e. the several right acts, which like a spiritual seed-corn are to yield as their harvest the rewards of God’s grace, comp. James 3:18; 1 Cor. 9:11; 2 Cor. 9:6; also Job 4:8; Gal. 6:8, etc.—Whoso holdeth fast integrity (cometh) to life.—בֶּן before צדקה (righteousness) if genuine, (the LXX and Syriac versions read instead בֶּן, “son”), can be only an adjective or participle derived from the verb כּוּן “to be firm,” having the meaning “firm” (comp. Gen. 42:11,19); it therefore denotes “the steadfast in righteousness,” i.e. as the antithetic phrase in the 2d member shows, “he who holds fast to righteousness, who firmly abides in it.” Thus ZIEGLER, EWALD, UMBREIT, ELSTER, etc. Others, like COCCEIUS, SCHULTENS, MICHAELIS, DÖDERLEIN, take the word as a substantive—steadfastness (?); still others regard it as a particle in the ordinary meaning “thus” (by which construction however the verse would lose its independent character, and become a mere appendage to the preceding proverb); and finally, HITZIG conjecturally substitutes בַּנֵּם and translates “As a standard is righteousness to life.”
Proverbs 11:20, 21. Two new maxims concerning the contrasted lot of the righteous and the wicked, serving to confirm Proverbs 11:18 and 19. With Proverbs 11:20 comp. 2:21; 17:20.—Assuredly, literally, “hand to hand,” a formula of strong asseveration, derived from the custom of becoming surety by clasping hands (Proverbs 11:15), and therefore substantially equivalent to “I pledge it, I guarantee it.” Comp. the German formula which challenges to an honest self-scrutiny, “die Hand auf’s Herz!” (the hand on the heart!); and for the sentiment of the 1st clause compare 16:5. [FUERST and K. regard the formula as one of asseveration; GESEN., DE W. and NOYES interpret, by the analogy of some similar expressions in cognate languages, as referring to time, “through all generations;” H., M., S. and W. retain the rendering of the E. V., “though hand join in hand.” The exceeding brevity of the Hebrew formula stimulates inquiry and conjecture without clearly establishing either interpretation.—A.]—But the seed of the righteous escapeth, literally, “delivers itself” (נִמְלָט a Niphal participle with reflexive meaning), that is, in the day of the divine wrath, comp. Proverbs 11:4, 23. The “seed of the righteous” is not the posterity of the righteous (soboles justorum, SCHALLER, ROSENMUELLER, BERTHEAU) but is equivalent to the multitude, the generation of the righteous. Comp. Isa. 65:23, “the seed of the blessed of Jehovah.”
Proverbs 11:22. A gold ring in a swine s snout; a fair woman that hath lost discretion.—This last phrase (סָרַת טַעַם) literally denotes “one who has turned aside in respect to taste,” i.e. one who lacks all moral sensibility, all higher appreciation of beauty and sense of propriety, in a word, a chaste and pure heart,—an unchaste woman. Only with this conception does the figure of the swine agree, and not with that given by ROSENMUELLER, BERTHEAU, EWALD, ELSTER, “without judgment,” i.e. stupid, weak. Compare furthermore the Arabic proverb hero cited by HITZIG (from SCHEID’S Selecta quædam ex sententiis, etc., 47): “Mulier sine verecundia est ut cibus sine sale, [a woman without modesty is like food without salt]. For the “gold ring” (ring for the nose, נֶזֶם, not circlet for the hair, LUTHER) comp. Gen. 24:47; Isa. 3:21, and also in general-what is cited by UMBREIT, in connection with this passage, on the habits of the Eastern women in respect to this kind of ornament.
Proverbs 11:23. The desire of the righteous is good only,—i.e. nothing but prosperity and blessing, because God rewards and prospers them in everything. Comp. 10:28, and with the 2d clause where “wrath” denotes again God’s wrath, comp. Proverbs 11:4 above.
4. Proverbs 11:24–26. Three proverbs against avarice, hard-heartedness and usury.—Many a one scattereth and it increaseth still.—Comp. Ps. 112:9 (2 Cor. 9:9), where the same verb is used of the generous distribution of benefactions, of scattering (σκορπίζειν) in the good sense (different from that of Luke 15:13). For it is to this only true form of prodigality, this “sowing of righteousness” that the expression applies, as the two following verses plainly show.—And many save only to poverty, literally, “and a with-holder of wealth only to want;” (thus BERTHEAU correctly renders, following SCHULTENS, etc.). With the participial clause (וְחֹשֵׂךְ מִיּשֶׁר) the affirmative of the preceding clause (יֵשׁ, there is, there appears) still continues in force. HITZIG’S attempted emendation is needless, according to which we ought to read וְהֹשְׂכִים יֵשׁ in correspondence with the language of the LXX, εἰσὶ δὲ καὶ οἱ συνάγοντες. Others, like SCHELLING, UMBREIT, EWALD, ELSTER (comp. also Luther), translate “who withholdeth more than is right;” but thus to give a comparative force to מִן after חָשַׂךְ has no sufficient grammatical support, and instead of מִיּשֶׁר we should, according to 17:26, rather expect עַל ישֶׁר. The signification “wealth,” opulentia for ישֶׁר is abundantly confirmed by the corresponding Arabic word.
Proverbs 11:25. A liberal soul is well fed, lit., “a soul of blessing is made fat,” comp. 13:4; 28:25; Ps. 22:29; Isa. 10:16; 17:4, etc.—And he that watereth others is likewise watered, lit., “he that sprinkleth others is also sprinkled” (comp. Vulgate, “inebriat .... inebriabitur”). The meaning of the expression is unquestionably this, that God will recompense with a corresponding refreshing the man who refreshes and restores others. Comp. Jer. 31:14, and with reference to the general sentiment Eccles. 11:1; Ecclesiast. 11:11, etc.
Proverbs 11:26. Whoso withholdeth corn, him the people curse.—The withholding of grain is a peculiarly injurious form of the “withholding of property” mentioned in Proverbs 11:24. לְאוֹם people, multitude, as in 24:24. With the 2d clause comp. 10:6.
5. Proverbs 11:27–31. Fire additional proverbs relating to the contrast between the righteous and: the wicked and their several conditions.—Seeketh favor, that is, God’s favor, gratiam Dei; comp. Ps. 5:12; Isa. 49:8. With the sentiment of Proverbs 11:27 compare in general 10:24; Am. 5:4 sq.
Proverbs 11:28. He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.—Comp. 10:2; Ps. 49:6; Ecclesiast. 5:8.—But as a green leaf shall the righteous flourish. Comp. Ps. 92:12; Isa. 66:14. “As a leaf,” i.e. like a fresh, green leaf on a tree, in contrast with the withered, falling leaf, to which the fool should rather be compared who trusts in his riches. JAEGER and HITZIG (following the LXX) read וּמַעֲלֶה “and he who raiseth up,” that is, raiseth up the righteous man, proves himself their helper in time of need. On account of the appropriate antithesis to the 1st clause this reading is perhaps preferable.
Proverbs 11:29. He that troubleth his own house, lit., “saddeneth” (as in Proverbs 11:17), i.e. the avaricious man, who is striving after unjust gains, straitens his own household, deprives them of their merited earnings, oppresses and distresses them, etc.; comp. Proverbs 15:27; 1 Kings 18:17 (where Elijah is described by Ahab as the man that “troubleth” Israel, i.e. allows them to suffer, brings them into calamity).—Shall inherit wind, i.e. with all his avaricious, hardhearted acting and striving will still gain nothing. Comp. Isa. 26:18; Hos. 8:7.—The fool becometh servant to the wise in heart, that is, this same foolish niggard and miser by his very course is so far reduced that he must as a slave serve some man of understanding (a master not avaricious but truly just and compassionate). Comp. Proverbs 11:24.
Proverbs 11:30. The fruit of the righteous, i.e. that which the righteous man says and does, the result of his moral integrity, and not in an altogether specific sense, his reward, as HITZIG maintains (in accordance with Jer. 32:19).—Is a tree of life (comp. note on 3:18), a growth from which there springs forth life for many, a fountain of blessing and of life for many. UMBREIT, ELSTER and others unnecessarily repeat “fruit” (פְּרִי) before the “tree of life” (עֵץ חַיִּים); “is a fruit of the tree of life.”—And the wise man winneth souls, by the irresistible power of his spirit he gains many souls for the service of God and for the cause of truth. [The E. V. which has the support of H., S., and M., here again inverts the order of subject and predicate, conforming to the order of the original. The parallelism seems to favor our author’s rendering which is also that of De W. and N. Both conceptions are full of meaning and practical value.—A.] HITZIG here again alters in accordance with the LXX, substituting חָמָם for חָכָם; “but violence taketh life” (? !). ZIEGLER, DÖDERLEIN, DATHE, EWALD transpose the clauses of Proverbs 11:29 and 30 into this order: 29, 1st; 30, 1st; 29, 2d; 30, 2d. For arguments against this violent transposition of clauses see UMBREIT, BERTHEAU and HITZIG on this passage.
Proverbs 11:31. Behold the righteous shall be recompensed on earth. That the “shall be recompensed” denotes specifically requital by punishment, and therefore the retribution of the sins of the righteous, cannot be positively maintained on account of the comprehensiveness of the idea of recompense (שִׁלֵם). Yet a comparison with the 2d clause unquestionably makes this specific meaning very natural; the whole then appears as an argumentatio a mojori ad minus, and LUTHER’S rendering, “Thus the righteous must suffer on earth,” substantially hits the true meaning. On the other hand the Alexandrian version introduces a foreign idea when it renders, “If the righteous be scarcely saved” (Εἰ ὁ μὲν δίκαιος μόλις σώζεται,—see also the New Testament’s citation, 1 Pet. 4:18); for the verb שׁלם never signifies “to be delivered.”
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
That it is chiefly that righteousness which is to be manifested in intercourse with one’s neighbor that is commended in the proverbs of our chapter, and against the opposite of which they all warn, needs no detailed proof. For the first eleven verses relate solely to this antithesis, and in the second and larger section of the chapter also there are added to the proverbs which refer to the duties of justice for the most part only commendations of merciful, and censures of cruel, hard-hearted conduct (Proverbs 11:17, 18, 24–26, 29, 30). Those proverbs which have reference to the lack of intelligent counsellors (14), to inconsiderate suretyship (15), and to feminine grace and purity (16, 22), take their place among the precepts which enjoin righteousness in the widest sense (in so far as wisdom in rulers is an absolutely indispensable condition of prosperity in civil, and a wise economy and womanly honor in domestic society). The separation of these interspersed proverbs, it is true, renders it impossible to demonstrate within the section before us (Proverbs 11:12–31), any grouping as undertaken according to a definite principle of classification.
To that which is comparatively new in the dogmatical or ethical line, as presented in our chapter, there belongs above all else the suggestion of a hope of immortality in Proverbs 11:7. With the death of the ungodly all is over for him; from the future life he has nothing more to hope; he has had his good here below in advance; his reward has been paid him long beforehand; there awaits him henceforth nothing more than a cheerless, hopeless condition of unending pain, “a fearful awaiting of judgment and fiery indignation that shall consume the rebellious” (Heb. 10:27; comp. Luke 16:25; Matt. 6:2, 16; 7:23; 15:12, etc.). This is the series of thoughts which is inevitably suggested by the proposition “with the death of the wicked hope perishes;” the bright reverse of this here quite as distinctly as in the similar representations of the Psalms, especially in the 49th Psalm, which is so preeminently important for the doctrine of the Old Testament concerning immortality and future retribution, depicts the certainty that the righteous will attain to an eternally blessed life,—a certainty whose foundation is in God (comp. Ps. 49:14, 15, and in connection with this HOFMANN, Schriftbew., II. 2, p. 467). ELSTER denies that the sentiment of the verse points indirectly to a life after death, because “according to the doctrine of Proverbs the hope of the righteous is already fulfilled in the earthly life” (comp. also BRUCH, Weisheitslehre, etc., p. 117). But the doctrine of retribution set forth in our book is (see below, remarks on 14:32) as far from being an exclusively earthly one, limited to the present life, as that of the Psalms or the Book of Job (comp. DELITZSCH on Job 19:26 sq.; and also KÖNIG, Die Unsterblichkeitslehre des Buches Hiob, 1855). And as respects our chapter in particular, the two-fold allusion to the divine wrath (Proverbs 11:4, 23), and the assurance which is expressed altogether without qualification, that “the wicked will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 11:21; comp. notes above on this passage), point with sufficient clearness to this conclusion, that to the religious consciousness of the author of our Proverbs a retribution beyond the grave was an established fact. The closing verse of the chapter, “Behold, the righteous is recompensed on earth; how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” is by no means opposed to this view. For the main stress here falls not upon the “on earth,” but upon “the righteous” (comp. the exegetical explanation of the passage); and it is not the certainty of a visitation of sin occurring within the earthly life, but the certainty of such a visitation in general upon the wrong committed on the earth (by the righteous as well as the wicked), that forms the proper substance and object of the expression.
Besides these, characteristic utterances of our chapter that, are of special dogmatical and ethical significance are, the announcements concerning the blessing which goes forth from wise and upright citizens upon their fellow-citizens (Proverbs 11:10, 11, 14, comp. especially the exegetical comments on the last passage); concerning the serious injury which the hard-hearted and cruel does above all to himself, especially when he leaves his own house and his nearest connections to suffer from his avarice (Proverbs 11:17, 29, comp. 1 Tim. 5:8); concerning the blessing of beneficence, and the injurious and perverse nature of avarice in general and of avaricious usury in particular (Proverbs 11:24–26); and finally concerning the life-giving and soul-refreshing power which the conduct of a just and truly wise man has, like a magnet endowed with peculiar attractive power and working at a distance (Proverbs 11:30, comp. Matt. 12:30, the “gathering with the Lord”)
HOMILETIC AND PRACTICAL
Homily on the entire chapter. Not justice only, which gives and leaves to every one his own, but love, which from spontaneous impulse resigns its own to others, and even for God’s sake and in reliance on Him scatters it without concern,—this is the conduct of the truly wise. For “love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).—Comp. STÖCKER: Justice, as Solomon here commends it, relates 1) to private life (Proverbs 11:1–9); 2) to civil life (Proverbs 11:10–15); 3) to domestic life (Proverbs 11:16–31); it is therefore justitia privata, publica, œconomica.—STARKE:—The advantage which the pious have from their piety, and the injury which the wicked experience from their wickedness: 1) from righteousness and unrighteousness in business in general; 2) from good and evil conduct with respect to the honorable fame of one’s neighbor (Proverbs 11:12, 13); 3) from good and evil government (Proverbs 11:14, 15); 4) from seeking or contemning true wisdom (Proverbs 11:16–23); 5) from beneficence or uncharitableness (Proverbs 11:24–31).
Proverbs 11:1–11. MELANCHTHON (on Proverbs 11:1): Weight and balance are judicial institutions of the Lord, and every weight is His work. But marriage compacts also, political confederacies, civil compacts, judgments, penalties, etc., are ordinances of Divine wisdom and justice, and are effectively superintended by God.—(on Proverbs 11:2): Usually in prosperity men become remiss both in the fear of God, and also in prayer. If in this way God’s fear is at length wholly stifled, men in their carnal security allow themselves all manner of encroachments on the rights of their neighbor. Experience has, however, taught even the heathen that certain penalties do by Divine ordinance infallibly overtake such pride and arrogance when these pass beyond the bounds of one’s calling, and they have therefore designated this law of the Divine administration of the world according to which pride is the sure precursor of a speedy fall by the expression ἀδράστεια, “inevitability.” Comp. 1 Pet. 5:5 sq. [ARNOT: God claims to be in merchandize, and to have His word circling through all its secret channels.—BRIDGES: Commerce is a providential appointment for our social intercourse and mutual helpfulness. It is grounded with men upon human faith, as with God upon Divine faith.—JERMYN: Such a perfect stone is a perfect jewel, and a precious stone in the sight of God.
Proverbs 11:2. TRAPP: The humble man, were it not that the fragrant smell of his many virtues betrays him to the world, would choose to live and die in his self-contenting secrecy.]—J. LANGE (on Proverbs 11:1–3): Pride and malignity are, so to speak, the first nurses of injustice in business, Ecclesiast. 10:15, 16.—[Proverbs 11:6. TRAPP: Godliness hath many troubles, and as many helps against trouble.
Proverbs 11:8. BRIDGES: The same providence often marks Divine faithfulness and retributive justice.]—GEIER (on Proverbs 11:7, 8): The righteous man is in the end surely free from his cross; if it does not come about as he wishes, then assuredly it does as is most useful for him; if not before his temporal death then in and by means of this.—(On Proverbs 11:10, 11). The growth and prosperity of a civil community is to be ascribed not so much to its political regulations as rather to the prayers of its pious citizens, who therefore deserve above others to be protected, honored and promoted.—J. LANGE (on Proverbs 11:10, 11). Pious and devout rulers of a city or a land are a great blessing, for which we should diligently pray, lest God should peradventure chastise us with tyrannical, selfish, ungodly masters.
Proverbs 11:12–15. GEIER (on Proverbs 11:12, 13): Taciturnity is never too highly praised, nor is it ever thoroughly acquired. Disgraceful and injurious as loquacity is, equally admirable is true reserve in speech.—(On Proverbs 11:14): The welfare of a land does indeed by all means depend on wise and faithful counsellors; yet to God, the supreme source of all prosperity, must the highest honor ever be rendered,—RUEDEL (on Proverbs 11:14—in ROHR’S Predigermagazin): Means by which we all may work beneficially from our domestic upon the public life (by the fidelity of our action, by purity of morals, love of peace, and a genuine religious sensibility).—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 11:14): In the affairs of a city, a state, a society, we should look far more after the spiritual than after the external means and appliances.—WOHLFARTH (on Proverbs 11:9–15): The blessing which the pious confers even here, and the curse that goes forth from the sinner.
Proverbs 11:16–23. ZELTNER (on Proverbs 11:16): Zealous as tyrants are to acquire and keep their wealth, so diligent should the pious man be in attaining and preserving his true honor, which is the fear of God and virtue.—[ARNOT (on Proverbs 11:17): In every act that mercy prompts there are two parties, who obtain a benefit. Both get good, but the giver gets the larger share.—J. EDWARDS (on Proverbs 11:19): Solomon cannot mean temporal death, for he speaks of it as a punishment of the wicked, wherein the righteous shall certainly be distinguished from them.]—GEIER (on Proverbs 11:17): The gifts which have been received from God one may enjoy with a good conscience, only it must be done with a thankful heart in the fear of God, and in connection with it the poor may not be forgotten.—(On Proverbs 11:18): The hope of the ungodly is deceptive. For the object of their labor they do not attain, because death suddenly overtakes them (Luke 12:19). Their accumulated wealth does not reach the heir of the third generation, they leave behind them an evil name, and the worm of conscience continually preys upon them.—(On Proverbs 11:22): External physical beauty without inner beauty of soul is like a whitewashed sepulchre, that within is full of dead men’s bones, Matth. 23:27.—[FLAVEL (on Proverbs 11:20): God takes great pleasure in uprightness, and will own and honor integrity amidst all the dangers which befall it.]—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 11:22): Personal beauty is like the mere ornaments of an animal, attached to it only externally, and often standing in sharp contrast with itself; it is that within which makes the man a man.—Berleburg Bible (on Proverbs 11:23): The righteous desire nothing but what is good, and are by God really made partakers of these things which they desire. The ungodly, on the contrary, instead of what they hoped for, are made partakers of God’s wrath.
Proverbs 11:24–26. CRAMER: Almsgiving does not impoverish, as many men from lack of love suppose.—HASIUS: Though God may not requite our beneficence in every instance by increasing the abundance of our possessions, yet He does in this that it contributes to our true welfare.—VON GERLACH: God as invisible regulator of human fortunes stands behind visible causes; He bestows His blessing upon the insignificant and increases it, His curse upon the abundant, and it wastes away. Thus every where it is the deeper causes that determine advance in wealth or impoverishment. The blessing which we diffuse among others turns to our account; he who waters the dry land of others thereby brings advantage to his own.—[T. ADAMS (on Proverbs 11:24): The communication of this riches doth not impoverish the proprietary. The more he spends of his stock, the more he hath. But he that will hoard the treasure of his charity shall grow poor, empty and bankrupt.—ARNOT (on Proverbs 11:25): To be a vessel conveying refreshment from the fountain-head of grace to a fainting soul in the wilderness is the surest way of keeping your own spirit fresh, and your experience ever new.—TRAPP: Bounty is the most compendious way to plenty, neither is getting but. giving the best thrift.—CHALMERS: God in return not only enriches and ministers food to such as have willingly parted with their carnal things, but increases the fruits of their righteousness.]
Proverbs 11:27–31. STARKE (on Proverbs 11:27): The opportunity to do good one should not let slip from his hands, Gal. 6:10. If thou art always deferring from one time to another, it is easy that nothing should come of it.—(On Proverbs 11:28): If thou wilt be and continue truly prosperous, then seek eagerly the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not the perishable riches and pleasures of this world.—(On Proverbs 11:30): To win gold and possessions is far from being so great wisdom as to win souls and deliver them from the way of destruction.—[TRAPP (on Proverbs 11:28): Riches were never true to any that trusted to them.—LORD BACON (on Proverbs 11:29): In domestical separations and breaches men do promise to themselves quieting of their mind and contentment; but still they are deceived of their expectation, and it turneth to wind.—J. EDWARDS (on Proverbs 11:31): The persecutions of God’s people, as they are from the disposing hand of God, are chastisements for sin.—BP. JOS. HALL (on Proverbs 11:31): Behold even the most just and holy man upon earth shall be sure of his measure of affliction here in the world; how much more shall the unconscionable and ungodly man be sure to smart for his wickedness, either here or hereafter.]—MELANCHTHON (on Proverbs 11:31): If even the righteous in this life suffer correction and affliction, which nevertheless tend to improvement, how much more surely will they who defiantly and fiercely persist in their sinful course be punished, if not in this life, then in the life to come (Luke 23:31; 1 Pet. 4:18).—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 11:30): From the righteous there go forth life and blessing, as from a tree of life, wherefore he also gains ascendency over the souls of many, just as the tree of life was the centre of Paradise, and from it went forth the prosperity of the whole.
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.