The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
Verse 1-ch. 22:16. - Part III. FIRST GREAT COLLECTION (375) OF SOLOMONIC PROVERBS. Verse 1-ch. 12:28. - First section. The sections are noted by their commencing usually with the words, "a wise son." Verse 1. - The proverbs of Solomon. This is the title of the new part of the book; it is omitted in the Septuagint. There is some kind of loose connection in the grouping of these proverbs, but it is difficult to follow. "Ordo frustra quaeritur ubi nullus fuit observatus," says Mart. Geier. Wordsworth considers the present chapter to contain exemplifications of the principles and results of the two ways of life displayed in the preceding nine chapters. The antithetical character of the sentences is most marked and well sustained. As the book is specially designed for the edification of youth, it begins with an appropriate saying. A wise son maketh a glad father. As wisdom comprises all moral excellence, and folly is vice and perversity, the opposite characters attributed to the son are obvious. The mother is introduced for the sake of parallelism; though some commentators suggest that as the father would be naturally elated by his son's virtues, which would conduce to honour and high estate, so the mother would be grieved at vices which her training had not subdued, and her indulgence had fostered. If this seems somewhat far-fetched, we may consider that the father in the maxim includes the mother, and the mother the father, the two being separated for the purpose of contrast (see on Proverbs 26:3). The word for heaviness occurs in Proverbs 14:13 and Proverbs 17:21.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
Verse 2. - Treasures of wickedness; treasures acquired by wrong doing (Micah 6:10). Profit nothing "in the day of calamity" (Ecclus. 5:8; comp. Proverbs 11:4). The LXX. renders, "Treasures will not profit the wicked;" so Aquila. "For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Righteousness (Proverbs 14:34); not simply justice and moral goodness, but more especially liberality, benevolence. So in Matthew 6:1 the Revised Version (in accordance with the best manuscripts) reads, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them," Christ proceeding to specify three outward acts as coming under this term, viz. almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In some analogous passages the LXX. renders the word by ἐλεημοσύντ, e.g. Psalm 111:9; Daniel 4:27; Tobit 12:9 (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:10). Delivereth from death, shows that a man's heart is right towards God. and calls down special grace. Such a man lays up in store for himself a good foundation, that he may attain eternal life (1 Timothy 6:19; see on Proverbs 16:6).
The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.
Verse 3. - The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish (comp. Proverbs 19:23). The soul is the life (comp. Proverbs 13:25). So the psalmist says (Psalm 37:25), "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." Christ speaks of the providence that watches over the lower creatures, and draws thence a lesson of trust in his care of man. concluding, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:26, 33). But he casteth away the substance of the wicked; Septuagint, "He will overthrew the life of the wicked;" Vulgate, "He overturns the plots of sinners." The word rendered "substance" (havvah) is better understood as "desire." God frustrates the eager longing (for food or other good things) of the wicked; they are never satisfied, and get no real enjoyment out of what they crave (comp. Proverbs 13:25).
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Verse 4. - That dealeth with a stack hand; that is lazy and indolent (comp. Proverbs 6:10, 11; see on Proverbs 19:15). The Septuagint, with a different pointing, reads, "Poverty humbleth a man." The hand of the diligent (Proverbs 12:24) maketh rich. The words for "hand" are different in the two clauses as Wordsworth remarks. The first word is caph, the open, ineffective, hand or palm; the second term is yad, the hand tense and braced for vigorous work. The LXX. introduces a clause here which seems to interfere with the connection: Υίος πεπαιοευμένος σοφὸς ἔσται τῷ δὲ ἄφρονι διακόνῳ, χρήσεται, "A well instructed son will be wise. and he will use a fool as his minister;" i.e. he is aide to make even the foolish subserve his ends. The sentence is quoted by St. Augustine, 'De Civil Dei,' 16:2. The Vulgate inserts another paragraph, which is also found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint at Proverbs 9:12: Qui nititur mendaciis, hic pascit ventos; idem autem ipse sequitur aves volantes, "He who relieth on lies feedeth on the winds, and pursueth flying birds."
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Verse 5. - He that gathereth the harvest into the barn at the right season. The idea of husbandry is continued from the preceding verse. Son is here equivalent to "man," the maxim being addressed to the young. That sleepeth; literally, that snoreth; Vulgate, qui stertit (Judges 4:21). A son that causeth shame. The phrase is found in Proverbs 17:2; Proverbs 19:26; Proverbs 29:15. The Septuagint has, "The son of understanding is saved from the heat; but the sinful son is blasted by the wind in harvest."
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Verse 6. - Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. So Ver. 11. This is usually explained to mean either that the consciousness of his own iniquity silences the sinner when he would speak against the righteous, or his violence and injustice, returning on his own head, are like a bandage over his mouth (Leviticus 13:45; Micah 3:7), reducing him to shame and silence. Others, again, consider the signification to be - in default of the good, honest words which should proceed from a man's mouth, the sinner pours forth injustice and wickedness. But it is best (as in Ver. 14) to take "mouth" as the subject: "The mouth of the wicked concealeth violence," that he may wait for the opportunity of practising it. The contrast is between the manifest blessedness of the righteous and the secret sinister proceedings of the evil. The Vulgate and Septuagint give, "the blessing of the Lord." For "violence" the Septuagint has πένθος ἄωρον, "untimely grief;" the Hebrew word chamas bearing also the sense of "misery."
The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
Verse 7. - The memory. The lasting, fragrant perfume of a holy life is contrasted with the noisomeness and quick decay of an evil name (comp. Psalm 72:17). As a commentator asks, "Who ever thinks of calling a child Judas or Nero?"
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
Verse 8. - Will receive commandments. The wise in heart is not proud or conceited: he accepts the Divine Law with all its directions (observe the plural "commandments"), and is not above learning from others; at the same time, he makes no display of his wisdom. The fool of lips (ver. 10); one who is always exposing his folly. The literal antithesis is better shown by rendering "the solid in heart," and "the loose in lips." So Wordsworth. The Vulgate translates, "The fool is chastised by his lips;" i.e. the folly which he has uttered falls back upon him, and causes him to suffer punishment. The LXX. renders the last clause, "He who is given to prating (ἄστεγος χείλεσι), walking tortuously, shall be tripped up."
He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.
Verse 9. - He that walketh uprightly (Proverbs 2:7); Vulgate and Septuagint, "in simplicity," having nothing to conceal or to fear. So Christ enjoins his followers to be guileless as children, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16; Mark 10:15). Surely; equivalent to "securely;" ἀμερίμνως, Aquila, having no fear of inopportune exposure, because he has no secret sin. He that perverteth his ways; deals in crooked practices. Shall be known (Proverbs 12:16). He shall be exposed and punished, and put to open shame. Having this apprehension always present, he cannot walk with confidence as the innocent does. Hence the antithesis in the text.
He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.
Verse 10. - He that winketh with the eye (Proverbs 6:13). This is a sign of craft, malice, and complicity with other wicked comrades. Ecclus. 27:22, "He that winketh with the eyes worketh evil." Causeth sorrow (Proverbs 15:13). He causes trouble and vexation by his cunning and secrecy. A prating fool (as Ver. 8). The two clauses are intended to teach that the garrulous fool is even more certain to bring ruin on himself and others than the crafty plotter. The Septuagint and Syriac have changed the latter clause into a sentence supposed to be more forcibly antithetical, "He who reproveth with boldness maketh peace." But there are sentences not strictly antithetical in this chapter, e.g. vers. 18, 22 (comp. Proverbs 11:10).
The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Verse 11. - A well of life (Proverbs 13:14: 18:4). The good man utters words of wisdom, comfort, and edification. God himself is said to have "the well of life" (Psalm 36:9), and to be "the Fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13): and the holy man, drawing from this supply, sheds life and health around. The second clause should be takes as in Ver. 6, but the mouth of the wicked concealeth violence, the contrast being between the open usefulness of the good man's words and the harmful reticence of the malicious sinner. The Septuagint has, "A fountain of life is in the hand of the righteous; but destruction shall cover the mouth of the wicked." This is explained to mean that a good man's words and actions tend to spiritual health; a bad man's words bring down sorrow and punishment.
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Verse 12. - Hatred stirreth up strife (Proverbs 6:14). Love covereth all sins (Proverbs 17:9). The reference is primarily to the blood feud, the existence of which led to the establishment of the cities of refuge. Hatred keeps alive the old feeling of revenge, and seeks opportunities of satisfying it; but love puts aside, forgets and forgives all offences against itself. This sentiment comes very near the great Christian principle, "Love covereth a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8; comp. 1 Corinthians 13:4; James 5:20). The Talmud pronounces, "To love a thing makes the eye blind, the ear deaf;" and the Arab says, "Love is the companion of blindness." Septuagint, "Love (φιλία) covereth all those who love not strife."
In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
Verse 13. - Wisdom is found (comp. Psalm 37:30). The man of understanding is discreet in speech, and does not cause trouble by rash or foolish words. A rod (Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3). A fool brings upon himself punishment by his insensate talk. Void of understanding; Hebrew, "wanting in heart;" Vulgate, qui indiget corde. The LXX. combines the two members into one proposition, "He who putteth forth wisdom with his lips is a rod to chastise the man without heart." In the Hebrew conception the "heart" is the seat, not only of the passions and affections, but also of the intellectual faculties.
Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
Verse 14. - Lay up knowledge; like a treasure, for use on proper occasions (Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 14:33; comp. Matthew 7:6; Matthew 13:52). Is near destruction. "Near" may be an adjective, equivalent to "imminent," "ever-threatening." The versions are proximum est and ἐγγίζει. The foolish are always uttering carelessly what may bring trouble on themselves and others.
The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.
Verse 15. - His strong city (Proverbs 18:11). Wealth is a help in many ways, securing from dangers, giving time and opportunity for acquiring wisdom, making one independent and free in action (Ecclesiastes 7:12; Ecclus. 40:25, etc.). The destruction of the poor is their poverty. The poor are crushed, exposed to all kinds of evil, moral and material, by their want of means. The word for poor is here dal, which implies weakness and inability to help one's self; the other word commonly used for "poor" is rash, which signifies rather "impecuniosity," opposed to "wealthy." So in the present passage the LXX. renders ἀσθενῶν, "the feeble." The poor were but lightly regarded till Christ pronounced the benediction, "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). The view of Theoguis ('Paraen.,' 177) will speak the experience of many -
Καὶ γὰρ ἀνὴρ πενίῃ δεδμημένος οὔτέ τι εἰπεῖν Οὔθ ἕρξαι δύναται γλῶσσα δὲ οἱ δέδεται
"A man, by crushing poverty subdued,
Can freely nothing either say or do -
His very tongue is tied."
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.
Verse 16. - Tendeth to life (Proverbs 11:19). Honest labour brings its own reward in the blessing of God and a long and peaceful life. The fruit of the wicked. All the profit that the wicked make they use in the service of sin, which tends only to death (Romans 6:21). The due reward of honourable industry is contrasted with the gains obtained by any means, discreditable or not.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.
Verse 17. - He is in the way of life (Proverbs 5:6). It is a way of life when a man keepeth instruction, taketh to heart what is taught by daily providences and the wisdom of experience. Such teachableness leads to happiness here and hereafter. Erreth (Jeremiah 42:20); not "causeth to err," as in the margin, which weakens the antithesis. Septuagint, "Instruction (παιδεία) guardeth the ways of life, but he who is unaffected by instruction goeth astray" (comp. Hebrews 12:7, etc.).
He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.
Verse 18. - This verse ought to be translated, He that hideth hatred is [a man] of lying lips, and he that uttereth slander is a fool. He who cherishes hatred in the heart must be a liar and a hypocrite, speaking and acting in a way contrary to his real sentiments; if he divulges his slander, he is a stupid fool, injuring his neighbour, and procuring ill will for himself. The LXX. reads, "Just (δίκαια) lips conceal hatred;" but probably δίκαια is an error for ἄδικα or δόλια, though Ewald defends it, and would alter the Hebrew to suit it.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Verse 19. - There wanteth not sin; LXX., "Thou wilt not avoid sin." Loquacity leads to exaggeration and untruthfulness, slander and uncharitableness (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; and Christ's and James's solemn warnings, Matthew 12:36; James 1:26; James 3:2, etc.). "Speak little," says Pinart ('Meditations,' ch. 6.), "because for one sin which we may commit by keeping silence where it would be well to speak, we commit a hundred by speaking upon all occasions" (see on Proverbs 17:27), Another rendering of the passage gives "By multitude of words sin does not vanish away;" i.e. you cannot mend a fault by much talking. But this weakens the contrast, and the Authorized Version is correct. Is wise. St. James calls the reticent "a perfect man" (comp. Proverbs 13:3). "This sentence of Scripture," says St. Augustine, in his 'Retractations,' "I greatly fear, because my numerous treatises, I know well, contain many things, if not false, at any rate idle and unnecessary."
The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
Verse 20. - Choice (Proverbs 8:10, 19); tested, purified by fire; πεπυρωμένος, Septuagint. Is little worth; mere dross, in contradistinction to choice silver. So the tongue is contrasted with the heart, out of whose abundance it speaketh (Ecclus. 21:26, "The heart of fools is in their mouth; but the mouth of the wise is in their heart"). Septuagint, "The heart of the godless shall fail (ἐκλείψει)."
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
Verse 21. - Feed many. The righteous by wise counsel teach, support, and guide others (Ecclesiastes 12:11; Jeremiah 3:15). So the clergy are the shepherds of their flocks (John 21:15; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). The LXX. has a different reading, "know high things." Fools die for want of wisdom. Far from "feeding" others, they bring ruin on themselves (Proverbs 5:23). Others translate, "die through one who wanteth understanding;" but if the Hebrew will bear this rendering, it is obvious that fools need no guide to their fall; their fate is a natural result. In this case the meaning must be that the foolish man involves others in destruction. But it is best to translate as the Authorized Version.
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
Verse 22. - The blessing of the Lord. The Septuagint adds, "upon the head of the righteous," as in Ver. 6. Not chance and luck, not even industry and labour, but God giveth the increase (Ecclesiastes 5:18, 19). He addeth no sorrow with it; i.e. with the Blessing. In acquiring and in using wealth thus blessed, the good man is contented and happy, while unsanctified fiches bring only trouble and vexation. But this seems rather feeble, and it is better to render, "And a man's own labor addeth nothing thereto." A man's own work must not be regarded as an equal cause of prosperity with the favour of God. This sentiment is in accordance with Psalm 127:1, 2, "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it so he giveth unto his beloved in sleep" - what others vainly labour for God giveth to the righteous without toil. The rendering of the clause, "Trouble is of no avail without it," is scarcely warranted by the wording of the text.
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.
Verse 23. - As sport. The wicked make their pastime and amusement in doing evil. A man of understanding hath wisdom. As thus put, the sentence is jejune. The Revised Version expresses the meaning better: "And so is wisdom to a man of understanding;" i.e. the wise man finds his refreshment in living a wise and prudent life, which is as easy and as pleasant to him as mischief is to the vicious. The wisdom intended is practical religion, the fear of God directing and showing itself in daily action. Septuagint, "A fool doeth mischief in sport (ἐν γέλωτι), but wisdom produceth prudence for a man."
The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
Verse 24. - This verse is connected in thought with the preceding. The wicked, though he lightly carries on his evil practices, is troubled with the thought of the retribution which awaits him, and that which he fears shall come upon him (Proverbs 1:26; Job 3:25; Isaiah 66:4); Septuagint, "The wicked is involved in destruction." The desire of the righteous. The righteous will desire only that which is in agreement with God's will, and this God grants, if not in this world, certainly in the life to come. The LXX. has, "The desire of the just is acceptable."
As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
Verse 25. - As the whirlwind passeth. According to this rendering (which has the support of the Vulgate) the idea is the speed with which, under God's vengeance, the sinner is consumed, as Isaiah 17:13; Job 21:18. But it is better to translate, as the LXX., "when the whirlwind is passing," i.e. when the storm of judgment falls, as Christ represents the tempest beating on the ill-founded house and destroying it, while that which was built on the rock remains uninjured (comp. Proverbs 12:3; Matthew 7:25, etc.; comp. Wisd. 5:14, etc). Everlasting foundation (Ver. 30; Psalm 91; Psalm 125:1); like the Cyclopean stones on which Solomon's temple was built. It is natural to see here an adumbration of that Just One, the Messiah, the chief Cornerstone. The LXX. gives, "But the righteous turning aside is saved forever."
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.
Verse 26. - Vinegar (Ruth 2:14; Psalm 69:21). As sour wine sets the teeth on edge. Septuagint, "as the unripe grape is harmful to the teeth" (Ezekiel 18:2). Smoke. In a country where chimneys were unknown, and the fuel was wood or some substance more unsavoury, the eyes must have often been painfully affected by the household fire. Thus lacrimosus, "tear-producing," is a classical epithet of smoke (see Ovid, 'Metam.,' 10:6; Her., 'Sat.,' 1:5, 80). To these two annoyances is compared the messenger who loiters on his errand. The last clause is rendered by the LXX., "So is iniquity to those who practise it" - it brings only pain and vexation.
The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
Verse 27. - The fear of the Lord prolongeth days. The premise of long life as the reward of a religious conversation is often found in our book, where temporal retribution is set forth (see Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 14:27). Shall be shortened, as Psalm 55:23; Ecclesiastes 7:17.
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
Verse 28. - The hope of the righteous shall be gladness. The patient expectation of the righteous is joyful, because it has good hope of being, and is, fulfilled. So the apostle (Romans 12:12) speaks, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation." Septuagint, "Gladness delayeth for the just." The expectation of the wicked; that which the wicked eagerly hope for shall come to naught (Proverbs 11:7; Job 8:13; Psalm 112:10).
The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
Verse 29. - The way of the Lord; i.e. the way in which he has commanded, men to walk - the way of his commandments (Psalm 25:12; Psalm 119:27), that which the Pharisees confessed that Christ taught (Matthew 22:16). The Septuagint renders, "the fear of the Lord," which practically gives the meaning. Or "the Lord's way" may be his moral government of the world. Strength; better a fortress (Ver. 15). Doing his simple duty, a good man is safe; for, as St. Peter says, "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" (1 Peter 3:13). But destruction shall be; better, but it (the way of Jehovah) is destruction. The two effects of the Law of God are contrasted, according as it is obeyed or neglected. While it is protection to the righteous, it is condemnation and ruin to sinners (see on Proverbs 21:15) So Christ at one time calls himself "the Way" (John 14:6); at another says, "For judgment I am come into this world" (John 9:39); and Simeon declares of him (Luke 2:34), "This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:15, etc.).
The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.
Verse 30. - The righteous shall never be removed (Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 12:3, 21; Psalm 10:6; Psalm 37:29). This is in agreement with the temporal promise made to the patriarchs and often renewed, as in the fifth commandment. St. Paul says (1 Timothy 4:8), "Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." The wicked shall not inhabit (or, abide not in) the land. The punishment of exile was threatened upon the Jews for their disobedience, and they are still suffering this retribution (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; Isaiah 22:17). Christ gives the other aspect of God's moral government when he says (Matthew 5:5), "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.
Verse 31. - Bringeth forth; as a tree produces fruit, and the fields yield their increase. The metaphor is common. Thus Isaiah (Isaiah 57:19) speaks of "the fruit of the lips" (comp. Hebrews 13:15 and Psalm 37:30, which latter passage occurs in the same connection as the present). The Septuagint renders, "distilleth wisdom." So Song of Solomon 5:13, "His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh." The froward tongue (Proverbs 2:12, 14: 8:13, which speaks only what is perverse and evil). Shall be cut out; like a corrupt tree that cumbers the ground (Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:7). The abuse of God's great gift of speech shall be severely punished. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36, 37).
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
Verse 32. - Know. A good man's lips are conversant with what is acceptable to God and man. Such a person considers what will please God and edify his neighbour, and speaks in conformity therewith. The LXX. has," The lips of the righteous distil graces;" ἀποστάζει χάριτας, but probably the right verb is ἐπίσταται, which is found in some manuscripts. Speaketh frowardnsss; rather, knoweth, or is perverseness (comp. Ephesians 4:29); Septuagint, ἀποστρέφεται, or, according to the Sinaitic correcter and some other scribes, καταστρέφεται, "is turned aside," or "is overthrown." Delitszch translates, "is mere falsehood."