As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
Verses 1-12. - Certain proverbs concerning the fool (kesil), with the exception, perhaps, of ver. 2 (see on Proverbs 1:22). Verse 1. - As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest. Snow in summer would be quite unnatural and unheard of (see on Proverbs 25:13). Rain falls in the usual course of things only at stated times; whence arose the phrase of "the early and of latter rains" (see on Proverbs 16:15). From spring to October or November was the dry season, and a storm at harvest time was regarded, not merely as destructive or inconvenient, but as portentous and even supernatural (see 1 Samuel 12:17, etc.). The two cases are types of all that is incongruous and unsuitable. The LXX., apparently regarding their experience in Egypt rather than the actual text, translate, "As dew in harvest, and as rain in summer." So honour is not seemly for a fool (ver. 8; Proverbs 19:10). It is quite out of place to show respect to a stupid and ungodly man, or to raise him to a post of dignity; such conduct will only confirm him in his folly, give others a wrong impression concerning him, and afford him increased power of mischief. The Greeks had a proverb about giving honour to unsuitable objects: they called it washing an ass's head with nitre.
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
Verse 2. - As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying. "Bird" (tsippor) is the sparrow, which is found throughout Palestine; "swallow" (deror), the free flier. The Authorized Version hardly gives the sense. The line should be rendered, as the sparrow in (in respect of) its wandering, as the swallow in its flying. The point of comparison is the vagueness and aimlessness of the birds' flight, or the uselessness of trying to catch them in their course. So the curse causeless shall not come. It shall, as it were, spend its force in the air, and fall not on the head on which it was invoked. A causeless curse is that which is uttered against one who has done nothing to deserve such denunciation. Septuagint, "As birds and sparrows fly, so a causeless (ματαία) curse shall come upon no one" (comp. 1 Samuel 17:43; Nehemiah 13:2.) Bailey, 'Festus' -
"Blessings star forth forever; but a curse
Is like a cloud - it passes." Closely connected with the superstition that dreads a curse is that which is alarmed by omens. Against this irrational fear we find some Eastern proverbs directed; e.g., "The jackal howls: will my old buffalo die?" "The dog barks - still the caravan passes: will the barking of the dog reach the skies?" (Lane). Instead of ללֺא, "not," the Keri reads לו, "to him." This makes the proverb say that the unprovoked curse shall return upon him who uttered it. But this reading is not to be accepted, as it does not suit the terms of comparison, though it seems to have been used by St. Jerome, who translates, Sic maledictum frustra prolatum in quempiam superveniet. This retributive justice is often alluded to elsewhere; e.g., ver. 27 (where see note). So we find in various languages proverbs to the same effect. Thus in English, "Harm watch, harm catch;" Spanish, "Who sows thorns, let him not walk barefoot;" Turkish, "Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost;" Yoruba, "Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them" (Trench).
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Verse 3. - A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass. We should be inclined to invert the words, and say a bridle for the horse, and a whip for the ass; but it must be remembered that in early times the horse was not ridden, but only driven. The animals used in riding were the ass and mule, and sometimes the camel. The Eastern ass is really a fine animal, larger, more spirited, and more active than the poor creature which we are wont to see. Or the whip and bridle may be intended to apply to both animals, though divided between the two for rhythmical or antithetical reasons (see on Proverbs 10:1). A rod for the fool's back. Sharp correction is beth useful and necessary for the fool (so Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29). Similar treatment Siracides advises to be employed in the case of an idle servant (Ecclus. 30:24-28). Septuagint, "As a whip for a horse and a goad for an ass, so is a rod for a lawless nation."
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Verse 4. - Answer not a fool according to his folly. Do not lower yourself to the fool's level by answering his silly questions or arguing with him as if he were a sensible man. Lest thou also be like unto him; lest you be led to utter folly yourself or to side with him in his opinions and practices. Our blessed Saviour never responded to foolish and captious questions in the way that the questioner hoped and desired, he put them by or gave an unexpected turn to them which silenced the adversary. Instances may be seen in Matthew 21:23, etc.; Matthew 22:21, 22; Luke 13:23, etc.; John 21:21, etc.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
Verse 5. - Answer a fool according to his folly. This maxim at first sight seems absolutely antagonistic to the purport of the preceding verse; but it is not so really. The words, "according to his folly," in this verse mean, as his folly deserves, in so plain a way as is expose it, and shame him, and bring him to a better mind. Lest he be wise in his own conceit; thinking, it may be, that he has said something worth hearing, or put you to silence by his superior intelligence.
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
Verse 6. - He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool. This clause comes in the Hebrew after the next. Cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage. To entrust an important commission to a fool is to deprive one's self of the means of having it properly executed, and to bring upon one's self shame and injury. A man who is so silly as to employ such an unfit messenger, as it were, cuts off the feet which should bear him on his errand, and, instead of enjoying the satisfaction of seeing the business well performed, he will be mortified and damaged by the blunder and stupidity of his emissary. Septuagint, "He maketh for himself reproach from his own ways (ὁδῶν,? ποδῶν) who sendeth a word by a foulish messenger." The Vulgate reads the first participle in a passive sense, claudus pedibus; but this is uneccessary. We have similar phrases to "drinketh damage" elsewhere; e.g., Job 15:16 "drinketh in iniquity;" 34:7, "drinketh up scorn;" and with a different word, Proverbs 19:28, "devoureth iniquity."
The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Verse 7. - The legs of a lame man are not equal. The first word of this verse, דַּלְיוּ, has occasioned some difficulty. It is considered as an imperative from דלה, "draw off," "take away." Thus the Septuagint, ἀφελοῦ; Venetian, ἐπάρατε. But the verb seems never to have this meaning; nor, if it had, would the sense be very satisfactory, for. as Delitzsch points out, lame legs are better than none, and there is a great difference between the perfectly crippled or paralytic who has to be carried, and the lame man (פִסֵּחַ) who can limp or get along on crutches., And when we explain the proverb in this sense (as Plumptre), "Take away the legs of the lame man and the parable from the mouth of fools," for both alike ere useless to their possessors, and their loss would not be felt - we must recognize that the conclusion is not true. No one would think of amputating s man's legs simply because he was lame, and such a one's legs cannot be considered absolutely useless. Others regard the word as third plural kal, "the legs hang loose;" though the form is not sufficiently accounted for. All explanations of the word as a verbal form have such difficulties, that some take it as a noun, meaning "dancing," which is Luther's interpretation, "as dancing to a cripple, so it becometh a fool to talk of wisdom." But the word could never sightly anything but "limping," and could not express the elegant motion of dancing. The Authorized Version considers the Hebrew to mean, "are lifted up," i.e. are unequal, one being longer or stronger than the other; but this loses the force of the comparison. There seems to be no better interpretation than that mentioned above," The legs of the lame hang loose," i.e. are unserviceable, however sound in appearance. St. Jerome has expressed this, though in a strange fashion, "As it is vain for a lame man to have seemly legs." So is a parable in the mouth of a fool. "Parable" (mashal), sententious saying, the enunciation of which, as well as the recital of stories, was always a great feature in Eastern companies, and afforded a test of a man's ability. A fool fails in the exhibition; he misses the point of the wise saying which he produces; it falls lame from his mouth, affords no instruction to others, and makes no way with its hearers. Siracides gives another reason for the incongruity, "A parable shall be rejected when it cometh out of a fool's mouth; for he will not speak it in its season" (Ecclus. 20:20). Septuagint, "Take away the motion of legs, and transgression (παρανομίαν,? παροιμίαν, Lag.) from the mouth of fools."
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
Verse 8. - As he that bindeth a stone in a sling. So Septuagint, Ὅς ἀποδεσμέυει λίθον ἐν σφενδόνῃ. This gives a very good sense the point being either that the stone, after being firmly fitted in its place, quickly passes away from the sling, or, if more stress is laid on the word "bindeth," that the stone is so firmly fixed that it cannot be slung, and therefore never reaches the mark. The alternative rendering adopted by the Revised Version is this, "As a bag of gems in a heap of stones;" where the incongruity would consist either in exposing jewels on a cairn, or sepulchral monument, whence they could easily be filched, or in attracting undesirable attention. But there are grammatical and etymological reasons against this interpretation; and the Authorized Version is to be considered correct. The Vulgate is curious: Sieur qui mittit lapidem in acervum Mercurii. This rendering points to the custom, with which Jerome must have been familiar, of erecting statues of Mercury on the highways, which were thus placed under his protection. Round these statues were ranged heaps of stones, to which every wayfarer contributed by throwing a pebble as he passed. The absence of the critical faculty which discerned no absurdity in this anachronism is sufficiently remarkable. The Latin saying seems intended to denote useless labour, as we speak of "carrying coals to Newcastle." So is he that giveth honour to a fool. You pay respect to a fool, or place him in an honourable position, but your labour is wasted; he cannot act up to his dignity, he cannot maintain the honour; it passes away like the stone from the sling, or, if it remains, it is useless to him.
As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Verse 9. - As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard. There is here no idea of the drunkard's hand being pierced with a thorn while he is insensible to the pain, but rather of his being armed with it, and ripe for mischief. So it is best to render, "A thornbush cometh into the hand of a drunkard;" he somehow gets possession of it, and in his stupid excitement is liable to become dangerous. Some understand עלה of the growth of the thorn; thus the Septuagint, "Thorns grow in the hand of a drunkard;" Vulgate, "As if a thorn grew in the hand of a drunkard." But one does not see the bearing of such an expression; and the translation given above is more appropriate. So is a parable, etc. (as ver. 7). In that passage the wise saying in a fool's mouth was compared with something useless, here it is compared with something injurious. He employs it purposely to wound others; or by the ignorant use of some sharp-edged word he does much mischief. In this hemistich the LXX. has read משל with a different vocalization, and renders, "servitude (δουλεία) in the hand of fools." This seems to mean that it comes natural to fools to be manacled and restrained by force.
The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
Verse 10. - Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and re-wardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth thorn that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. To show the diversity that obtained in early times we quote the Greek and Latin versions. Septuagint, "All the flesh of fools is much distressed (πολλὰ χειμάζεται), for their distraction (ἔκστασις) is brought to nought;" Vulgate, "Judgment decides causes, and he who imposes silence on a fool appeases wrath." From the various interpretations of which this proverb is capable, it may be surmised that it was originally one of those hard sayings which were intended to exercise the ingenuity of auditors. It has certainly had that effect in modern times. We may at once eliminate the rendering of the Authorized Version, though the sense is good and scriptural, denoting that the great Creator recompenses the good and punishes sinners. So the medieval jingle -
"Ante Dei vultum nihil unquam restat inultum." God is not in the Hebrew, and rab, "great," is never used absolutely as equivalent to "God." Nor is the word used elsewhere to mean "head workman;" so the Revised Version margin, "a master worker formeth all things," is suspicious. Some translate, "A great man woundeth [equivalent to 'punisheth'] all; he renders their due to fools and to transgressors." One does not see why this should be attributed to the great man; it certainly is not generally true. Rosenmuller, "The mighty man causes terror; so does he who hires the fool and the transgressor;" but it is not clear why the hiring of a fool should occasion terror. The rendering in the Revised Version, or something very similar, has found favour with many modern commentators, though quite unknown to the mere ancient versions. According to this interpretation, the proverb says that a careless, random way of doing business, taking into one's service fools, or entrusting matters of importance to any chance loiterer, is as dangerous as shooting arrows about recklessly without caring whither they flew or whom they wounded. To this view Nowack objects that it is unparalleled to present an archer as a picture of what is unusual and profitless; that it does not explain why "hireth" is twice repeated; that the connection between shooter and the hire of fool and loiterer is net obvious; and that עברים does not mean "vagabonds" or "passers by." None of these objections are of much importance; and this interpretation still holds its ground. There is also much to be said for the rendering of the Revised Version margin, which is virtually that of Gesenius, Fleischer, Wordsworth, Nutt, and others: A skilful man, a master workman, produces, makes, everything by his own care and superintendence; but he that hires a fool to do his work hires, as it were, any casual vagabond who may know nothing of the business. One objection to this interpretation is that the verb חולל, does not elsewhere have the meaning here attributed to it. Considering all the above interpretations unsatisfactory, Hitzig, after Umbreit, followed herein by Delitzsch and Nowack, translates, "Much bringeth forth all," which means that he who possesses much can do anything, or, as St. Matthew 13:12, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given" (comp. Proverbs 1:5). But the second hemistich comes in rather lamely, "But he who hires a fool is as one who hires a vagabond." Hence Delitzsch reads וּשְׂכַד for the first וְשכֵר, and renders, "But the hire and the hirer of the fool pass away," i.e. what the fool gets as wages is soon squandered, and the person who took him into his service is ruined by his incapacity. In this case the connection of the two clauses would be this: A rich man, in the nature of things, grows richer; but there are exceptions to this rule; for he who employs stupid and incapable people to do his business suffers for it in property, reputation, and probably in person also; and the incompetent person derives no benefit from the connection. It is impossible to give a decided preference to any of these expositions; and the passage must be left as a crux. It is most probable that the Hebrew text is defective. This would account for the great variations in the versions.
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
Verse 11. - As the dog returneth to his vomit (see 2 Peter 2:22, which, however, is not quoted from the Septuagint), so a fool returneth to his folly; or, repeateth his folly. The fool never frees himself from the trammels of his foolishness; his deeds and words always bear the same character to the end. The same truth holds good of the sinner, especially the drunkard and the sensualist. If they feel temporary compunction, and reject their sin by partial repentance, they do not really shake it off wholly; it has become a second nature to them, and they soon relapse into it. Septuagint, "As when a dog goes to his own vomit and becomes hateful, so is a fool who returns in his wickedness to his own sin." The LXX. adds a distich which is found in Ecclus. 4:21, "There is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that is glory and grace."
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
Verse 12. - Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? (Proverbs 3:7). Nothing so shuts the door against improvement as self-conceit. "Woe unto them," says Isaiah (Isaiah 5:21), "that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight." Such persons, professing themselves wise, become fools (Romans 1:22; Romans 12:16; Revelation 3:17, 18). Touching conceit, Qui sibi sapit, summe desipit. The Oriental speaks of the fox finding his shadow very large, and of the wolf when alone thinking himself a lion. There is more hope of a fool than of him (Proverbs 29:20). A fool who is conscious of unwisdom may be set right; but one who fancies himself perfect, and needing no improvement, is beyond cure; his case is hopeless. So the sinner who feels and acknowledges his iniquity may be converted; but the self-righteous Pharisee, who considers himself to have no need of repentance, will never be reformed (see Matthew Luke 15:7; Luke 18:14). St. Chrysostom (Hom. in Phil.,' 7), "Haughtiness is a great evil; it is better to be a fool than haughty; for in the one case the folly is only a perversion of intellect, but in the other ease it is still worse; for it is folly joined with madness. The fool is an evil to himself; but the haughty man is a plague to others too. One cannot be haughty-minded without being a fool... The soul which is puffed up has a worse disease than dropsy, while that which is under restraint is treed from all evil" (Oxford transl.).
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
Verses 13-16. - Proverbs concerning the sluggard. Verse 13. - This is virtually the same as Proverbs 22:13. The words for "lion" are different in two parts of the verse, shakhal being the lion of advanced age, ari the full-grown animal; the latter may possibly be assumed to be the more dangerous of the two, and so a climax would be denoted. There is a proverb current in Bechuana, which says, "The month of seed time is the season of headaches."
As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
Verse 14. - As the door turneth upon its hinges. The door moves on its hinges and makes no progress beyond its own confined sphere of motion; so the slothful man turns himself on his bed from side to side, but never leaves it to do his. work. Other analogies have been found in this proverb. Thus: The door opens to let the diligent go forth to his daily business, while the sluggard is rolling upon his bed; the door creaks when it is moved, so the lazy man groans when he is aroused; the door now is opened, now is shut, so the sluggard at one time intends to rise, and then falls back in his bed, and returns to his sleep (comp. Proverbs 6:9, 10; Proverbs 24:33).
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
Verse 15. - Very nearly identical with Proverbs 19:24. It forms a climax to the two preceding verses. Wordsworth takes "the dish" as a type of sensual pleasure, which the slothful loves, while he has no liking for active work.
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
Verse 16. - The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit. The sluggard is here one who is too idle to think a matter out, and considers his own cursory view as sure to be right. He is one who deems study to be an unnecessary weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and flatters himself that he is quite able without it to give a satisfactory account of any question presented to him. Than seven men that can render a reason. "Seven" is the number of completeness (comp. Proverbs 6:31; Proverbs 9:1; Proverbs 24:16). The idle fool sets more value by his own judgment than by the sense of any number of wise men. Revised Version margin, "that can answer discreetly," is perhaps nearer the Hebrew, which implies the being able to return a wise and proper answer to anything asked of them. The LXX. reading a little differently, renders, "Wiser seems a sluggard to himself than one who in satiety (ἐν πλησμονῇ) brings back a message." This is explained to mean that a sluggard thinks himself wise in not helping a neighbour with an errand or a message, though he would have probably been repaid with a good dinner for his kindness.
He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
Verses 17-28. - A series of proverbs connected more or less with peacefulness and its opposite. Verse 17. - He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him. "Meddleth with strife" should be "vexes, excites himself, with a quarrel." Is like one that taketh a dog by the ears, and thus needlessly provokes him to bark and bite. Regarding the position of the two participles in this verse, without any connecting link, Delitzsch takes "passing by" as attributed to the dog, thus: "He seizes by the ears a dog passing by, who is excited by a strife that concerns him not." The stray dog corresponds to the quarrel with which one has nothing to do. The present accentuation does not support this view; otherwise it is suitable and probable. Septuagint, "As he who lays hold of a dog's tail, so is he who sets himself forth as champion in another's cause." Ecclus. 11:9, "Strive not in a matter that concerns thee not." Says a Greek gnome -
Πολυπραγμονεῖν τὰλλότρια μὴ βοῦλου κακά Our English proverb says, "He that intermeddles with all things may go shoe the goslings." The Telugu compares such interference to a monkey holding a snake in his paw; it is hard to hold, dangerous to let go (Lane).
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
Verses 18, 19 - A tetrastich, but without parallelisms. As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death. The word rendered "madman" is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and has been variously explained; but the Authorized Version is probably correct. "Firebrands" are darts with some blazing material attached to them. "Death "forms a climax with the other dangers mentioned, which the madman deals forth recklessly and indiscriminately. So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport? When a man has injured his neighbour by lies or malice, the plea that he was only in joke is not allowed; the injury is not less real because he excuses it by alleging it was done not seriously, but playfully; no more than the fatal effects of the use of murderous weapons are lessened by their being employed by the hands of a maniac. Practical joking is often a most serious matter. A mediaeval adage says wisely -
"Cum jocus est verus, jocus est malus atque severus," Septuagint, "Even as those who are under medical treatment (ἱώμενοι) throw words at men, and he who first meets the word will be overthrown; so are all they that lay wait for their own friends, and when they are seen, say, I did it in jest." As insane persons who abuse and ill treat their physicians are excused by reason of their infirmity, so those who injure friends in secret try to excuse themselves when found out by alleging that they were only joking.
So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
Verse 20. - Some proverbs follow concerning the slanderer. Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out. Where the wood fails, and that was the only fuel then used, the fire must go out. So where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth; comes to silence (Proverbs 22:10). (For nirgan," whisper," see on Proverbs 16:28.) Septuagint, "With much wood fire groweth, but where there is not one discordant (δίθυμος), strife is at rest."
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Verse 21. - As coals are to burning coals. As black, cold charcoal feeds glowing charcoal, as wood feeds a lighted fire, so a quarrelsome man (Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 27:15) supports and nourishes strife. The verse is the counterpart of the preceding. Septuagint, "A hearth for coal and logs for fire, and a reviling man for tumult of strife."
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Verse 22. - (See Proverbs 18:8, where the gnome occurs.) Septuagint, "The words of knaves (κερκώπων) are soft, but they strike to the secret chambers of the bowels."
Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Verse 23. - The next proverbs are concerned with hypocrisy. The Hebrew denotes the comparison simply by position (see on Proverbs 25:11), thus: An earthen vessel (or, potsherd) overlaid with silver dross - growing lips and a wicked heart. So called "silver dross" is litharge, an oxide of lead used to this day to put a glaze on pottery (comp. Ecclus. 38:30). The comparatively worthless article is thus made to assume a fine appearance. Thus lips that seem to burn with affection, and give the kiss of glowing, love, may mask a heart filled with envy and hatred Judas kisses and words of friendship hide the bad feelings that lurk within. Septuagint, "Silver given with guile is to be considered as a potsherd; smooth (λεῖα) lips hide a grievous heart" (comp. Matthew 23:27).
He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
Verse 24. - He that hateth dissembleth with his lips. This and the next verse form a tetrastich. St. Jerome, Labiis suis intelligitur inimicus. But the verb here used, נכר, bears the meaning "to make one's self unknown," as well as "to make one's self known," and hence "to make one's self unrecognizable" by dress or change of countenance (1 Kings 14:5). This is much more appropriate in the present connection than the other explanation. The man cloaks his hatred with honeyed words. And layeth up deceit within him; meditating all the time treachery in his heart (Jeremiah 9:8). Septuagint, "An enemy weeping promises all things with his lips, but in his heart he contriveth deceits." The tears in this case are hypocritical signs of sorrow, intended to deceive the dupe.
When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
Verse 25. - When he speaketh fair, believe him not. When he lowers his voice to a winning, agreeable tone, put no trust in him. Septuagint, "If thine enemy entreat thee with a loud voice, be not persuaded." For there are seven abominations in his heart. His heart is filled with a host of evil thoughts (see on ver. 16), as if seven devils had entered in and dwelt there (Matthew 12:45; Mark 16:9). Ecclus. 12:10, etc. "Never trust thine enemy; for like as iron rusteth, so is his wickedness. Though he humble himself, and go crouching, yet take good heed and beware of him." Plato's verdict concerning hypocrisy is often quoted, Ἐσχάτη ἀδικία δοκεῖν δίκαιον εϊναι μὴ ὄντα "It is the very worst form of injustice to appear to be just without being so in reality" ('De Rep.,' 2, p. 361, A). With this Cicero agrees ('De Offic.,' 1:13), "Totius injustitiae nulla capitalior est quam eorum, qui tum cum maxime fallunt id agunt ut viri boni esse videantur."
Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
Verse 26. - Whose hatred is covered by deceit; or, hatred may be concealed by deceit, as was said above (ver. 24). (But) his wickedness shall be showed before the whole congregation. The hater's real wickedness, at some time or other, in spite of all his efforts to hide it, will be openly displayed. He will show it before some third party and thus it will be divulged. At any rate, this will be the case at the judgment day, when he who hateth his brother shall be shown to be not only a murderer, but a hater of God also (1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:20). Septuagint, "He that hideth enmity prepareth deceit, but he revealeth his own sins, being well known in assemblies."
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
Verse 27. - Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein. This thought is found often elsewhere; e.g., Psalm 7:16; Psalm 9:16; Ecclesiastes 10:8; Ecclus. 27:25, 26. The pit is such a one as was made to catch wild animals; the maker is supposed to approach incautiously one of these traps, and to tall into it. And he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. This does not refer to throwing stones into the air, which fall upon the head of the thrower, but to rolling stones up a height in order to hurl them down upon the enemy (comp. Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21). Of such retributive justice we have numerous examples;e.g., Haman hung on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:9, etc.). So the old story tells how Perillus, the inventor of the brazen bull in which prisoners were to be burned alive, was himself made to prove the efficacy of his own invention by the tyrant Phalaris; as Ovid says
"Et Phalaris tauro violenti membra Perilli
Torruit; infelix imbuit auctor opus."
(Art. Amat.,' 1:653.) So we have, "Damnosus aliis, damnosus est sibi;" Ἡ δὲ βουλὴ τῷ βουλεύσαντι κακίστη. St. Chrysostom speaks of the blindness of malice: "Let us not plot against others, lest we injure ourselves. When we supplant the reputation of others, let us consider that we injure ourselves, it is against ourselves that we plot. For perchance with men we do him harm, if we have power, but ourselves in the sight of God, by provoking him against us. Let us not, then, injure ourselves. For as we injure ourselves when we injure our neighbours, so by benefiting them we benefit ourselves" ('Hom. 14, in Phil.,' Oxford transl.).
A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.
Verse 28. - A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; or, those whom it crusheth (Proverbs 25:15). There is a consensus of the Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, and Targum to translate דכיו "truth," thinking apparently of the Aramaean דַכְיָא "that which is pure." But the hemistich would thus state the baldest truism, and modern commentators unite in assigning to the word some such sense as that given above in the Authorized Version. A liar shows his want of charity by slandering his neighbour; and that men dislike those whom they have injured is a common experience. "It is a characteristic of human nature," says Tacitus ('Agric.,' 42), "to hate those whom one has injured." Seneca, 'De Ira,' 2:83, "Hoe habent pessimum animi magna fortuna insolentes, quos laeserunt, et oderunt." A flattering mouth worketh ruin; brings destruction on those who succumb to its seductive words. Vulgate, Os lubricum operatur ruinas; Septuagint, "A mouth uncovered (ἄστεγον) causeth tumults." (For "the smooth mouth," comp. ch. 5:3; Psalm 12:3; Psalm 55:21; Isaiah 30:10.) The word for "tumults" is ἀκαταστασίας, which does not occur elsewhere in the Septuagint, but is common in the New Testament; e.g., Luke 21:9; 1 Corinthians 14:33.