The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Proverbs 14

Pro 14:1

Vv 1-3, in the words of Delitzsch, "form a beautiful trifolium [a three-part picture]: wise management, God-fearing conduct, and wise silence, with their threefold contraries."

THE WISE WOMAN BUILDS HER HOUSE, BUT WITH HER OWN HANDS THE FOOLISH ONE TEARS HERS DOWN: The picture of the contrasting women, one named "Wisdom" and the other "Folly" in Pro 9, is resumed here. This brief statement in the first clause anticipates the detailed description of the wise (and virtuous) woman in Pro 31:10-31, whereas the brief statement in the second clause looks back to the detail of Pro 7:10-23. Cp also Pro 12:4: "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." And the disgrace cannot be hidden, because "restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand" (Pro 27:15,16).

Houses were built up by Hannah (1Sa 1:27,28), Lois and Eunice (2Ti 1:5; 3:15), and Bathsheba -- all of whom invested of themselves in their children and grandchildren to the glory of God. Houses were torn down by Michal (2Sa 6:16-23), Jezebel (1Ki 16:31; 21:24,25), Athaliah (2Ki 11:1), and other selfish, lazy, sensual, and wicked women. The only widows to be supported by the ecclesia were those who build up houses -- by good deeds, teaching, hospitality, and charity as well as raising and educating children (1Ti 5:3-10).

THE WISE WOMAN BUILDS HER HOUSE: Most literally, of course, a woman "builds up" her house (or household or family) by producing children -- and this aspect is not slighted in the OT (eg the levirate marriage of Deu 25:9, Hagar with Sarah in Gen 16:3, Rachel and Leah -- along with Ruth -- in Rth 4:11). But more than producing heirs physically, nurturing and teaching and cultivating character in them -- spiritually -- is certainly intended here. This is especially the province of (although of course not restricted to) women: "Women are physically and morally constructed with a view to the stationary life and settled pursuits of home. Its comfort, the strength of the race, the well being of society, are rooted, more than in any other human means, in the character, the principle, the love and truth of the wife and mother" (Johnson, Pulpit). A wise woman teaches and enforces the virtues of Christian character. She instills in her children an ambition for holiness, a love of truth, a desire to serve others, and gracious conduct. She warns against and restrains sibling rivalry, foolish talking and jesting, sarcasm, backbiting, disrespect of authority, and ungodly attitudes.

And to build up "houses" spiritually requires the realization that God Himself must be involved: "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psa 127:1). A "house" that is build the right way, that is, upon the true Rock which is God and His Son, will withstand the most severe poundings of nature and its storms (Mat 7:24,25). The building of a house is also the subject of Pro 24:4: "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."

On a linguistic note, it is worth remembering that -- in Hebrew -- the words for "build" ("banah") and "stone" ("eben") and "son" ("ben") are related, as are the words for "house" ("beth") and "daughter" ("bath"). As stones build up a house materially, so sons and daughters build up a "house" spiritually. (These word associations, even in Hebrew, shed light on John the Baptist's words in Mat 3:9: "I tell you that out of these STONES God can raise up -- or BUILD -- children -- SONS and DAUGHTERS -- for Abraham.")

THE WISE WOMAN: More literally, "the wise among women" -- pointing to a whole class of women.

BUT WITH HER OWN HANDS THE FOOLISH ONE TEARS HERS DOWN: The destruction of a fool and her (or his) house is graphically demonstrated in the parable of Jesus: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash" (Mat 7:26,27).

The first phrase in this line produces a powerfully emphatic idea: "with her own hands" suggests the wonder of the thing -- as though such a sturdy structure could be literally torn apart by the feeble hands of a woman! But on a spiritual plane, this is exactly what happens. A continual dripping -- as of a leaky roof (Pro 27:15; cf Pro 19:13) -- may seem innocent at the beginning, but if left unchecked it can do untold damage. In like fashion, the continual words of a negative, critical, and spiteful woman can destroy the whole fabric of a family, by undermining the esteem and self-worth of its members, and swamping them in a sea of inadequacy and frustration and bitterness and anger. It is true that men, husbands and fathers, can do the same thing, but this verse (as with others) points out the obvious: that in matters of the family itself, a woman's influence can be far greater than that of the man, for ill as well as for good.

"In truth, the oneness of the house is more dependent on the mother than on the father. A wise mother can, if her husband be dead or neglectful of his duty, always keep the house together; but if the house-wife has neither understanding nor good-will for her calling, then the best will of the house-father cannot hinder the dissolution of the house, [and his] prudence and patience [can] only conceal and mitigate the process of dissolution... the ruin of the house" (KD).

What are the curses of the foolish woman? Laziness. Selfishness. Hurtful and negative criticism. Wasted time due to misguided priorities. Distraction due to an unfocused mind. Pleasure in an entertainment-oriented generation. Merely going through the motions in housekeeping duties. Failure to teach children spiritually.

The wise woman is described: she "(1) must know how to manage with prudence and care the concerns of a family. It is woman's work to 'guide the house.' How many, on marrying, find they need to learn the first principles of domestic economy. If a man can be more happy in any other house than his own, he is a lost man. (2) A wise woman will improve her taste and her manners. This in no way involves her becoming proud. (3) A wise woman will aim to improve her mind. The mind is enlarged by receiving ideas, and by using them as materials of thought and reasoning. (4) A wise woman will endeavour to enlighten and improve her conscience. This is the faculty of the soul by which we weigh the morality of an action. To improve the conscience we must give it light, and let it guide us. Well enlightened, it guides to happiness and [the Kingdom]. (5) A wise woman will be particularly careful to cultivate the heart. The instinctive affections are capable of improvement by other means than grace. But the female character is essentially defective in the absence of piety. Religion has a peculiar sweetness when it mingles with the modest softness of the female character.

"A wise woman buildeth her house. To build her house is to promote the best good of her husband and her offspring: (1) How will such a woman affect their estate? Her wisdom will save more than her hands could earn. (2) She will render her family respectable. (3) She will render her family happy. She will so manage as not to irritate their passions. Her example will breathe through the house a mild and soft atmosphere. There is no resisting the combined influence of so many virtues. What she cannot do by her precepts and examples, she effects by her prayers. Her influence surely extends beyond her own family... (4) Females should make the Scriptures their daily study. From the mother, rather than the father, the members of the family will take their character" (Clark, BI).

"Perhaps this has a meaning even on the most material plane. Some women take steps to improve their houses as time goes on, while others let everything go to ruin. We have even heard of people breaking up some of the woodwork of their houses and burning it through foolish indolence or still more foolish anger. On a slightly less material plane we have noticed the extraordinary difference between the woman who builds a home of confidence, unselfishness and love and the one who pulls a home to pieces by suspicion, jealousy and a generally negative attitude. On a higher plane still, the saying is true of the corporate woman formed through the ages. Those who desire to be constituent members of the bride to be, must be wise. They must build the house and not pull it down" (PrPr 134).

Pro 14:2

HE WHOSE WALK IS UPRIGHT FEARS THE LORD, BUT HE WHOSE WAYS ARE DEVIOUS DESPISES HIM: This verse expresses the contrast between those who fear the LORD and those who despise Him. The expressed distinction may not be seen, at least not conclusively, in the words that each class express -- but rather in the conduct each produces: whether uprightness or perversion (see Pro 2:15; 3:32; 10:19).

Charles Bridges expresses this briefly and well when he writes: "There can be no stream without the fountain." The fountain is of course the "fear of the LORD", and it sends forth the stream of an upright way of life. Such a good "fountain" MUST send forth a stream; it cannot be dammed up or stifled. On the other hand, a perverse and devious and crooked way of life must have been sent forth from a different "fountain" entirely. James seems to have grasped this concept very well, for he writes: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?" (Jam 3:9-11).

HE WHOSE WALK IS UPRIGHT FEARS THE LORD: Other proverbs about the fear of the LORD: Pro 1:7,29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:2,16,26,27; 15:16,33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17,18; 31:30. The command to fear the LORD also occurs in Pro 3:7; 24:21. Fearing the LORD is associated with wisdom six times (Job 28:28; Pro 1:7,29; 2:5; 8:13; 15:33).

HE WHOSE WALK IS UPRIGHT: Compare Pro 2:7; 14:9; 15:8; 16:17; 21:8; 28:6. It is worth remembering that -- elementary as it may sound -- walking is not taking A step: it is taking MANY steps. Jesus said, "If you CONTINUE in my word, then are you my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). If we do not continue, then it is plain that we do not fear the LORD. We are to be in the fear of the LORD all the day long (Pro 23:17, AV). An upright, or righteous, walk is a journey -- not a single step, and not a meandering or wandering about in circles. It is a fixed and determined and firm resolution that finds and proves itself in a continuing walk toward a single goal. And so the psalmist prays, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa 139:23,24).

BUT HE WHOSE WAYS ARE DEVIOUS DESPISES HIM: Most reasonably, "him" here would seem to refer to the LORD Himself. And so it is taken by most commentators. But it is just possible that "him" may refer to the one "whose walk is upright" in the first clause: that is to say, the upright is despised by the devious. But then, of course, it amounts to the same thing in the end, because the one who rejects Christ's disciple rejects Christ, and the one who rejects Christ rejects the God who sent him (Luk 10:16).

HE WHOSE WAYS ARE DEVIOUS: Or "he who walks in crooked paths": according to the proverb, he did not have to blaze a new trail of deviousness; he merely had to follow the path that many others had trodden before him. To see this is to remind ourselves that "Others are doing it" is no justification or excuse for bad conduct. In fact, every act of disobedience against God constitutes contempt of Him and His revelation (Num 15:31; 2Sa 12:9; 2Ch 36:16).

DEVIOUS: The Hebrew "luwz" is a fairly uncommon word. In Pro 3:32 as well as here, it is found in a verb form signifying "to walk -- or wander -- out of the way", in contrast to walking in straight or upright paths. It suggests crooked dealings (Pro 2:15; Isa 30:12). The verses tell us that a person who walks in such a way is abominable to God and faces ruin and destruction.

Talk is cheap, and a once-a-week religion is vain. We may know how men feel inwardly toward their Maker by observing how they deal outwardly with each other. While a man will walk uprightly out of respect for his God, the devious man -- on the other hand -- has no real fear of Him. Thus by his continuing actions he shows his utter contempt for God. We must not be confused in the matter. It is usually quite easy to distinguish the two by their actions. Yet many times the devious or crooked one will protest that he DOES fear Yahweh, and in the name of tolerance others may make the mistake of treating him as though he is one of the upright. However, Jesus Christ himself warns us, "Watch out... By their fruit you will recognize them" (Mat 7:15,16,20; cf Mat 12:33-35).

This observation leads us to ask a very practical question: in this day and time, when many openly despise God and religion, why would anyone bother to profess what he does not really believe? It would seem so unnecessary. But if we think of it for a moment, we shall have some easy answers. Why do men profess religion falsely? For several reasons: (a) Christians are friendly, and it is good to have friends. Sometimes friends may be cultivated for business reasons. A man may be "religious" in order to sell something. (b) The best women, and the most faithful, are Christians. A man may pretend to be religious in order to win such a woman -- to "buy" something with pretense! And thereafter he may even use the threat of religion to keep her! (c) Christians are often generous. A man may pretend to be a Christian so as to get something for free, to take without ever intending to repay.

Pro 14:3

A FOOL'S TALK BRINGS A ROD TO HIS BACK, BUT THE LIPS OF THE WISE PROTECT THEM: What people say has a great bearing on how they are received. Curses, like chickens, after they are released, come home to roost! The wise men are acutely aware of the power of words for good or hurt (cf, eg, Pro 11:11,13; 17:19,20; 18:6,7,21; 21:24; 22:8; 28:25; Ecc 10:12).

A FOOL'S TALK BRINGS A ROD TO HIS BACK: The AV has: "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride." "Rod" is the very rare "choter" (twig, switch, or stick), not the quite common "shebet"; the only other occurrence of "choter" in the OT is in Isa 11:1 (where it is translated "shoot" in NIV, "rod" in AV). One possible interpretation of this phrase is: " 'In the mouth of a fool is a shoot of pride.' That is to say, the mouth shoots forth arrogant words" (WBC). And so the LXX has: "From the mouth of fools cometh a staff of insolence." In a like manner, the tongue is sometimes compared to a sword, inflicting pain and punishment on those whom the speaker addresses (Psa 57:4; 64:3; Jer 18:18; Rev 1:16; 11:5). But this perspective does not seem to provide a reasonable contrast with the following phrase (as we might have expected). Other possibilities for this first phrase are considered in the notes that follow.

A FOOL'S TALK BRINGS...: Literally, as the AV, "in the mouth of a fool is..." -- which might merely be a figurative way of saying: "a fool's mouth brings upon him..." Thus the NIV quite reasonably captures this possible sense.

...A ROD TO HIS BACK: "A rod to his back" is, literally, "a rod of pride" (as the AV has it). But, again, the NIV is not unreasonable: (1) first of all, it provides a telling contrast with the second half of the verse; (2) secondly, it could as easily be translated "a rod FOR pride" -- ie, a punishment for his pride; and, finally (3) some commentators have emended the text from "ga'avah" ("pride") to "gevoh" ("back") -- thus reading "a rod upon his back", and emphasizing further the impending punishment for the talking fool (cf, generally, Pro 10:13).

BUT THE LIPS OF THE WISE PROTECT THEM: The lips of the wise shall preserve them, that is, the wise: "He who guards his lips guards his life" (Pro 13:3). These do not abuse speech to insult and injure others; and their words tend to pacify others, and promote calm and good will (cp Pro 12:6,18). And with those same mouths they confess that "Jesus is Lord", and so are themselves justified (Rom 10:9,10); for in this they overcome all evil by the word of their testimony (Rev 12:11).

"The word of God is plain here. Corrupt speech is to be replaced with gracious and edifying speech (Eph 4:29). Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice are to be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness (Eph 4:31,32). Your speech is to always be gracious, allowing room for only a little salty seasoning (Col 4:6).

"The Lord Jesus Christ spoke with the purest grace ever (Psa 45:2; Luk 4:22). Even officers sent by the Jews to apprehend Him could not believe His excellent speech (John 7:45.46). The wisdom from heaven is distinctly different from [demonic "wisdom"], and both kinds are evidenced in the heart, attitude and speech of men (Jam 3:14-18)" (LGBT).

Pro 14:4

WHERE THERE ARE NO OXEN, THE MANGER IS EMPTY, BUT FROM THE STRENGTH OF AN OX COMES AN ABUNDANT HARVEST: To be productive one must use the appropriate means (cf, generally, Pro 12:11; 13:23). For the farmer, oxen are indispensable; so the wise farmer will see to it that his oxen are numerous and in good condition. In practical terms, the farmer has to balance the grain his ox consumes against the grain the animal helps to produce. And so the Law of Moses teaches: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain" (Deu 25:4; cf 1Co 9:9), or "that treadeth out the grain" (as the AV in 1Co 9:9; 1Ti 5:18).

In the passages just cited, the apostle Paul is teaching that those who labor to preach the gospel might, with profit, be helped financially while doing so. This is a lesson we do well to remember; our Christadelphian community has a long, and generally successful, history of having no "paid ministers", but rather of encouraging all qualified brothers to speak and teach. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that, in some circumstances, appointing particularly qualified individuals to do special work, and providing the means to help them do that work, has Bible support.

WHERE THERE ARE NO OXEN, THE MANGER IS EMPTY: The agricultural value of the ox explains in part the worship of the golden calves (Geog 89; 1Ki 12:28,29).

Where the NIV has "empty", the AV has "clean". "An empty stable stays clean -- but there is no income from an empty stable" (The Living Bible). Or, as Kidner puts it, "Orderliness can reach the point of sterility. This proverb is not a plea for slovenliness, physical or moral, but for the readiness to accept upheaval, and a mess to clear up, as the price of growth. It has many applications to personal, institutional and spiritual life, and could well be inscribed in the minute-books of religious bodies, to foster a farmer's outlook, rather than a curator's."

It is possible for us, in our lives, to be such perfectionists, such fastidious people, that we concentrate on all the wrong things: a perfectly clean house rather than a home that is open and welcoming to brothers and sisters and friends. A new, well-appointed and clean car rather than one slightly older and shabbier because it is often used to transport children to healthful and enriching activities, older folks to social activities and doctors' appointments, and everyone to ecclesial functions. A life may be very well-organized and neat, but ultimately without point and purpose, and thus truly without hope.

"There is no good to be got without its accompanying drawbacks; let the drawbacks and the good be weighed carefully together, and if the good outbalance the drawbacks, then let the good be chosen and the drawbacks faced with resolution, intelligence, and cheerfulness. Sentiment is right in its place, fastidiousness is proper in its season; but sentiment is worse than idle, fastidiousness is worse than false, when we permit them to stand between us and a substantial good, the good that Providence intends us to get or the good that Providence commands us to do" (Gray, BI).

"It is a very great thing to prefer the greater to the smaller, the more serious to the less serious, in the regulation of our life. It makes all the difference between success and failure, between wisdom and folly. [It is] a serious mistake to prefer nicety or daintiness [instead of] fruitfulness or usefulness. This grave mistake is made by the farmer who would rather have a clean crib than a quantity of valuable manure; by the housewife who cares more for the elegance of the furniture than the comfort of the family; by the [preacher] who spends more strength on the wording than on the doctrine of his discourse... [But] wisdom... is found in subordinating the trivial to the important; in being willing to submit to the temporarily disagreeable if we can attain to the permanently good; in being content to endure the sight and the smell of the unclean crib if there is a prospect of a fruitful field" (Clarkson, Pulpit).

BUT FROM THE STRENGTH OF AN OX COMES AN ABUNDANT HARVEST: The role of animals in agricultural work was all important, and it made the difference between meager and abundant harvests. Since strong oxen are indispensable for a good harvest, they ought to be kept strong and well-fed. The farmer has to balance their grain consumption with the work that they only can do. (Alternatively, "harvest" or "produce" could refer not just to the crops that result from the plowing of the oxen, but also to the young born of the oxen: cp Deu 14:22,23.)

Pro 14:5

A TRUTHFUL WITNESS DOES NOT DECEIVE, BUT A FALSE WITNESS POURS OUT LIES: This verse addresses the problem of legal testimony: a faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness does lie -- naturally. It is not so much that each witness makes a conscious decision, time after time, either to tell the truth or to lie. But rather, each out of his own heart speaks -- as a matter of course -- what is already there: whether a true heart speaking truth, or a wicked heart speaking lies. The spring sends forth the kind of water that exists there, the water that defines the spring itself; the good tree and the bad tree alike produce only the fruit that characterizes each of them. Cp, generally, Pro 12:17; 14:25; 21:28.

This proverb seems like the simplest cliche until one realizes that the wisest counselors in the land, those of the legal profession, rely absolutely on the common sense expressed in this proverb to sort out right from wrong in the most complex situations. Find a man or woman who will unhesitatingly tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, who cannot be shaken in his or her testimony, and they know they will have found a wonderful thing. And they know also, and legal precedent reminds them, that if only they can establish that an opposing witness has lied once, then it follows that his whole testimony is discredited. As a matter of course, the defense and prosecution in a legal case spend much time analyzing and integrating the testimony of each other's witnesses just to find one fault in their statements. If they can establish that a witness has lied -- even in the smallest matter -- or even merely exaggerated, or simply cannot remember facts that he should remember, or has been shown to be unreliable or untrustworthy in any other area of his life, then they know that that witness will be impeached, or rejected, and the contrary case correspondingly strengthened. "What a flaw is in steel, what a foreign substance is in any texture, that a falsehood is to the character, a source of weakness, a point where under strain it may break" (Smyth, BI).

The word twice translated "witness" here is the Hebrew "ed". It often refers to a legal witness to the truth of a matter. Such a witness can testify as an eyewitness to actions, statements, and legal transactions (see Rth 4:9–11; Isa 8:2; Jer 32:10,12,25). The Law of Moses carefully regulated legal testimony. A man could not be condemned by the testimony of only one witness (Num 35:30; Deu 17:6; 19:15). In a case involving a capital offense, the witnesses who bring the incriminating evidence must be the primary executioners (Deu 17:7). Individuals were not to withhold testimony (Lev 5:1) or bear false witness against an innocent man (Exo 20:16 // Deu 5:20; Exo 23:1). False witnesses received the same penalty as the falsely accused individual would have suffered if condemned as guilty (Deu 19:16–21).

A TRUTHFUL WITNESS DOES NOT DECEIVE: The rather obscure OT prophet Micaiah was an eminent example of a truthful witness; when pressed and threatened, he replied: "As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me" (1Ki 22:12-14). "A faithful witness is moved neither by entreaties nor bribes, neither by promises nor threats, to swerve from truth... He is therefore [God's] delight (Joh 1:47)... and the ornament of godliness (Phi 4:8)" (Bridges). Jesus is preeminently the "Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Rev 3:14; cp Rev 1:5; 19:11). Men falsely accused him during his trial (Mar 14:56-60), and they hated him for his absolute and total honesty (Isa 53:9). But no one could ever convict him of a sin, for he never lied but always told the truth (Joh 8:46).

BUT A FALSE WITNESS POURS OUT LIES: "A false witness who pours out lies" is one of the seven things that the LORD Himself finds detestable (Pro 6:19). Such a false witness will not escape punishment (Pro 19:5,9). Cp also Pro 24:28; 25:18. Examples of false witnesses in judicial settings: those whom Jezebel hired, whose testimony procured the death of Naboth (1Ki 21:13), and those hired by the chief priests who sought to bring false charges against the Lord himself (Mat 26:59-61; Mar 14:57-60). Perhaps most detestable today are those practitioners of religion who bear witness to lies for their own selfish gain -- the "Balaamites" (2Pe 2:12-20; Jud 1:10-13; Rev 2:14).

POURS OUT: This is the Heb "yafeach". The traditional view was that it meant "to puff, or blow", and by implication "to utter"; but this word has been recently discovered in the Ugaritic, and confirmed as a totally different word, which obviously means "witness" (NIDOTTE). "Yafeach" is used in a formal sense, of a witness, as in court, several times in Proverbs (Pro 6:19; 12:17; 14:5,25; 19:5,9) and also in Psa 27:12 (BibSac 154:616:497).

Pro 14:6

THE MOCKER SEEKS WISDOM AND FINDS NONE, BUT KNOWLEDGE COMES EASILY TO THE DISCERNING: "The frivolous man, to whom truth is not a matter of conscience, and who recognises no authority, not even the Supreme, never reaches to truth notwithstanding all his searching, it remains veiled to him and far remote; but to the man of understanding, who knows that the fear of God and not estrangement from God leads to truth, knowledge is an easy matter -- he enters on the right way to this end, he brings the right receptivity, brings to bear on it the clear eye, and there is fulfilled to him the saying, 'To him that hath it is given' [Mat 13:12; 25:29; Mar 4:25; Luk 8:18; 19:26]" (KD).

THE MOCKER SEEKS WISDOM AND FINDS NONE: The "mocker", or "scorner" (AV), is the Hebrew "luwts" -- properly, "one who makes a mouth". The "mocker", or "luwts", is marked by attitudes and actions that bespeak corruption or bribery (Pro 19:28), rebellion or discord (Pro 14:9), and gluttony and excess and drunkenness (Pro 20:1). He lacks humility (cf Pro 11:2); pride and haughtiness delude him to delight in derision and, like the fool, to despise knowledge (Pro 1:22): "The proud and arrogant man -- 'Mocker' is his name; he behaves with overweening pride" (Pro 21:24). Such pride bars the way to wisdom (as here) and insulates such a person from the positive impact of discipline (Pro 9:7), rebuke (Pro 9:8; 15:12), and instruction (Pro 13:1). Because he keeps company with the wicked and the fool (Pro 1:20–33; 15:7–14), the mocker is detestable (Pro 24:9) and must be avoided (Psa 1:1), lest his influence sabotage the walk of the wise. The mocker is a disruptive element to be driven from the midst of the righteous (Pro 22:10). The simple gain insight from the mocker only when they witness his fall and punishment (Pro 19:25; 21:11), and this is indeed his promised destiny: "Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools" (Pro 19:29; cf Pro 9:12; Isa 29:20). "The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the house of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble" (Pro 3:33,34).

As this verse (Pro 14:6) implies, such a mocker lacks any serious interest in religion or spiritual knowledge. He may actually wish to have just enough knowledge so as to APPEAR to be wise, because he is proud, or intellectually arrogant (cf 2Pe 3:3,4; 1Co 3:18; Mat 11:25-27; Jam 4:6). But for real wisdom he cares not at all. And so he may "seek" -- or THINK that he is seeking, or PRETEND to seek -- but he will not find (Joh 7:34)!

Examples of this phrase are the Pharisees (Joh 9:29, cf Joh 7:52); the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:18); Herod (Luke 23:8); and the Jews looking for the Messiah, and yet rejecting Christ (Acts 13:41,45).

"Four things unfit a man for impartial inquiries after Divine truth -- a very proud, or a very suspicious temper, false wit, or sensuality. The two last generally belong to him; but the two first are essential to him, and inseparable from him. There is no quality that sticks more closely to a scorner than pride, and nothing more evidently obstructs right reasoning. Suspicion makes him doubt everything he hears and distrust every man he converses with. An extremity of suspicion in an inquirer after truth is like a raging jealousy in a husband or a friend; it leads a man to turn all his thoughts towards the ill-natured side, and to put the worst construction upon everything. False wit is a way of exposing things sacred and serious, by passing a bold jest upon them and ridiculing arguments instead of confronting them. The sensual man is, of all men living, the most improper for inquiries after truth and the least at leisure for it. He is never sedate and cool, disinterested and impartial" (Atterbury, BI).

BUT KNOWLEDGE COMES EASILY TO THE DISCERNING: The "discerning" man is the Hebrew "nabon" (from "biyn"): one who knows how to separate or distinguish between one thing and another (cp Pro 8:9; 17:24); he receives God's message with great eagerness and examines it every day to see if it is true (Acts 17:11; cp Neh 8:1-12; Joh 7:17). He is not proud in his own folly, but meek and humble (Psa 25:9). He truly understands the value of knowledge, and is willing to learn and to seek out -- even if the proper meaning is "hidden" (Mat 11:25-27; 13:11,15,16). "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings" (Pro 25:2). It seems little effort to him (ie, it is "qalal": easy, small, light, or trifling) to acquire such knowledge. Knowledge of spiritual things is his life's blood, his food and drink, the very air he breathes; it is more precious to him than silver or gold (Pro 2:2-4; 4:5-7; 23:23; Job 28:12-23). Consequently he never misses an opportunity to acquire wisdom, and to add to his store. Others may look at such a discerning man, and remark, "How can you ever remember such things?" Or "How do you remember all those verses?" But to him they are second nature; doesn't everyone know his or her birthdate, or the names of one's parents, or one's children? So why wouldn't everyone know the fundamentals of Bible truth, and much more besides, if in fact "[God's] word is truth" (Joh 17:17)?

An example of this phrase is the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-39): he searched out matters humbly, desperately wanted to learn, asked questions and listened to the answers, and was not afraid to act on his convictions.

Pro 14:7

STAY AWAY FROM A FOOLISH MAN, FOR YOU WILL NOT FIND KNOWLEDGE ON HIS LIPS: "There is nothing ambiguous or halting in this advice. We must be just, kind and polite to all people, but we must be careful how we make friends. Especially must we beware of strangers who use flattering words, the flattering woman being the most dangerous of all. It is good to seek the companionship of the wise and avoid the friendship of the foolish. The plea of trying to help people is sometimes used as an excuse for seeking an undesirable companionship which is attractive. We cannot help men by going to perdition with them, but we may help them by taking a firm stand and setting a good example. The words of Scripture admit of an attempt to help even when dealing with fools. 'Go from the presence of a foolish man when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge' [KJV]. This implies an effort to help but counsels us to withdraw if there is no response" (PrPr).

STAY AWAY FROM A FOOLISH MAN: There is some doubt about the rendering of this passage. The RV -- as the ASV -- has, "Go INTO the presence of a foolish man." If read this way, then the whole verse undoubtedly means, "IF you go into the presence of a foolish man, THEN you will not find knowledge..." However, the AV -- as well as the NIV and RSV -- considers the sentence to be an injunction to turn away from a foolish man as soon as you perceive that you can do him no good, for he will only do you harm if you remain in his company!

With this agree quite well the words of Jesus: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces" (Mat 7:6). Also, the words of Paul: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character' " (1Co 15:33; cp also 1Co 5:11; 2Co 6:17; Eph 5:11; Jam 4:4). As Charles Bridges -- in his "common sense" fashion -- paraphrases, "Do not overrate your strength, nor be blind to the personal risks that may be incurred in imprudent efforts to do good... The path of sin is much more easily avoided than [given up]. We can far more readily keep out of the course of the stream, than stem the torrent." And Matthew Arnot advises, "It is the intention of their Maker that some creatures should seek safety, not in fighting, but in fleeing. In the moral conflict of human life it is of great importance to judge rightly when we should fight and when we should flee. The weak might escape if they knew their own weakness, and kept out of harm's way. That courage is not a virtue which carries the feeble into the lion's jaws. To go in among the foolish for the rescue of the sinking may be necessary, but it is dangerous work, and demands robust workmen. Your first duty is your own safety" (BI).

A FOOLISH MAN: "Foolish" is "kesil", the most common of the words meaning "fool" (It occurs 49 times in Proverbs alone). It is the opposite of "chokham" ("wise"). The word for "man" here is "ish", the more honorable man, the "gentleman" as it were, in contrast to "adam". The employment of "ish" here reminds us that even men of higher rank in society, as the world the sees it, may be "fools". Perhaps they especially! With this compare the ideas generally expressed in Psa 49:12,16,20: riches, honor, and standing in this world make a man no less a "beast"!

FOR YOU WILL NOT FIND KNOWLEDGE ON HIS LIPS: The MT reads, in effect, "you did not know the lips of knowledge." Some commentators emend the text to say: "for his lips do not utter knowledge." If so, this would correspond closely to Pro 15:7: "The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools." But either way, the sense would be practically the same, and thus an emendation would seem unnecessary; the MT makes sense as it is. "Lips of knowledge" means, of course, "wise counsel". "Knowledge" ("da'at") is repeated from v 6: it comes easily to the discerning, but cannot be found at all with the foolish. Or put another way, v 6 tells us how to find "knowledge", while v 7 tells us (a somewhat lesser virtue, but worthwhile nonetheless) how to avoid "folly".

Cp Pro 9:6: "Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding." Pro 13:20: "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." And Pro 17:12: "Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly" (also cp Pro 28:7; 29:3). As well, contrast this with Pro 20:15: "Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel."

Pro 14:8

THE WISDOM OF THE PRUDENT IS TO GIVE THOUGHT TO THEIR WAYS: "Thought" is "habiyn": to understand. Cp v 15: "A prudent [sw] man gives thought to his steps." If necessary, he seeks shelter or refuge in time of danger (Pro 22:3; 27:12). "While the OT says that the first woman failed under the 'craftiness' of the tempter, it also recounts to us women who overcame enormous life challenges because of their shrewdness. The lives of Naomi and Esther are colorful examples of prudent persons who played a vital role in God's history of salvation. Though successes in life ultimately come from God, the OT also emphasizes a responsible attitude to the life of faith. Cleverness for the sake of achieving one's own malicious goal is condemned, but exercising it diligently and responsibly in dependence on God brings divine blessings. It is in light of this that Jesus' words, 'shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves' (Mat 10:16), take on meaning" (NIDOTTE). Paul's additional comment is based on the words of Jesus: "Be very careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise but as wise... Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is" (Eph 5:15,17; cf Col 1:9,10). Prudence is extolled also in Pro 1:4; 2:9; 8:5,12; 12:16; 13:16; 15:5,14,21; 17:24.

"Christian prudence consists in a right understanding of our way; for we are travellers, whose concern it is, not to spy wonders, but to get forward towards their journey's end. It is to understand our own way, not to be critics and busybodies in other men's matters, but to look well to ourselves and ponder the path of our feet, to understand the directions of our way, that we may observe them, the dangers of our way, that we may avoid them, the difficulties of our way, that we may break through them, and the advantages of our way, that we may improve them -- to understand the rules we are to walk by and the ends we are to walk towards, and walk accordingly" (Henry).

Prudence is "giving thought to one's ways", which can mean also knowing one's abilities as well as one's limitations. Aleck Crawford writes: " 'As the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk' (1Co 7:17, NASB). If Moses prayed on the mount and Joshua fought in the valley (Exo 17:10,11), it was not because the one was deficient in courage, or the other in prayer, but because each had his appointed work, and understood his own way. 'So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is' (Eph 5:17). In other words, build with the tools that you have come to understand that you possess. Don't try to be an international speaker if you are meant to be the finance brother, or the gardener."

But the fact that prudence alone is not a perfect approach to life is also demonstrated by Pro 14:12: "There is a way that SEEMS right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." If prudence is uninformed, and ungoverned, by faith, then it will lead, at last, to death and not life. Prudence alone can, in fact, be a kind of self-deception -- as the second half of this verse suggests.

BUT THE FOLLY OF FOOLS IS DECEPTION: The word "mirmah" means "deception", and in this case may suggest "self-deception" (McKane), but some scholars question the latter point. The parallelism of this verse would favor that (ie, the wise help themselves, and the foolish hurt themselves), but there is little support elsewhere for this reading of "mirmah", as it usually means deceiving others (Toy). In general, however, it may be observed that those who most successfully deceive others are the ones who have deceived themselves first -- in other words, the ones who believe their own propaganda! "Evil men and imposters" can easily be guilty both of "deceiving and being deceived" (2Ti 3:13).

" 'Mirmah' is found 40 times and describes false scales (Pro 11:1; Amo 8:5), which God abhors (Mic 6:11), and treacherous and crafty dealings with others (Gen 34:13; 2Ki 9:23). Treacherous lips are especially depicted by the word (Psa 17:1; 52:4), including swearing falsely (Psa 24:4). Fools, false witness, and deceit are inseparably linked (Pro 12:17; 14:8). Israel as a people had become like bird cages full of deceit (Jer 5:27). The womb of the evil produces deceit (Job 15:35)... The destroyer of God's people is a master of deceit/treachery (cf Gen 3:13; Dan 8:25) [cp 2Th 2:10; Rev 13:14]. The servant of Yahweh is notable, for no deceit was found in his mouth (Isa 53:9). Anyone who desires a successful life must refrain from speaking lies (Job 31:5,6; Psa 17:1; 34:13)" (NIDOTTE).

This last phrase of v 8, then, along with v 12, may deal with self-deceit, a problem of no small magnitude. The wisdom of the prudent is to delve deeply into his own heart and mind for motive and reason, to be as objective with himself as he is searching and sceptical of others. We all know how easy it is to deceive others, especially if they have no prior evidence of such action. What we don't realize is that it is equally easy to deceive ourselves: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). The "old man", or "old self" is "corrupted by its deceitful desires" (Eph 4:22). "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed" (Jam 1:14). "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Encourage one another daily... so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb 3:12,13).

How do we examine ourselves for this fault? We should be aware of our prejudices; they exist in us all but may affect each of us differently. It may be the emotional tie of a mother to a child that challenges her impartiality when the child is accused of misbehavior. It may be an overwhelming need to win an argument even at the expense of truth or reason. It may be the tendency to see "signs" from God only when they point us in the direction we have already decided to go. It may be the gnawing need to feel important by impressing others. It may be any one, or more, of a thousand other reasons. We should seek to know and recognize our own personal prejudices, and examine them ruthlessly for the possible self-deceit to which they may lead.

The two parts of this verse may be illustrated by various pairs in the Bible: (a) Joseph understood the evil of adultery, and so he rejected Potiphar's wife, and even prudently fled out of her presence (Gen 39); Samson, on the other hand, was sure he could handle Delilah, but his self-deceit cost him dearly (Jdg 16). (b) Abraham understood commanding his family to obey God (Gen 18:19); Eli thought he could be lenient, and surely deceived himself that things would turn out well, even as they sank deeper and deeper into the worst depravities (1Sa 1; 2). (c) Barnabas sold his property and brought the proceeds to the apostles (Acts 4:36,37); Ananias and Sapphira did the same but "prudently" kept back part for themselves, thinking that their deceit would go undiscovered (Acts 5)!

Pro 14:9

FOOLS MOCK AT MAKING AMENDS FOR SIN, BUT GOODWILL IS FOUND AMONG THE UPRIGHT: This verse is about offending others: the fool seems to care not at all whether his actions cause problems for others, nor does he have any interest in putting his wrongs right, or in making reparations (which is the best meaning of the Hebrew "asham" -- "guilt", or "sin-offering": see esp Lev 5:1-7,15-19; Lev 6:1-7; Num 5:7,8), or in seeking forgiveness. But the "upright", or "righteous" (Heb "yashar"), wants not only to have a right relationship with God, but also to seek the "goodwill" of his fellowmen.

This verse seems to explain the contrasting attitudes and conduct of Cain and Abel, in Gen 4. There, Cain mocks, or scoffs, at the "bloodshed" offering -- the sort of offering that his brother Abel freely makes to God. Cain compounds his mockery with his hatred of his righteous brother Abel, and murders him. He is driven away from the presence of the Almighty. But Abel finds favor with Yahweh, both in life and in his death. (While pondering this connection, note how Pro 14:12 as well is a comment on Cain and his "sacrifice": "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.")

FOOLS MOCK AT MAKING AMENDS FOR SIN: Or, fools -- even when they make their sin-offerings ("asham") -- turn them into a mockery because they are accompanied by no real repentance. Suggestions of this are found in Pro 15:8 ("The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked"); Pro 21:27 ("The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable"); Psa 40:6 ("Burnt offerings and sin offerings you [God] did not require"); Isa 1:14 (where their "festivals" and "appointed feasts" are "a burden to [God]", and He is "weary of bearing them"); and Amo 5:22 ("Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings [ie, peace offerings], I will have no regard for them").

MAKING AMENDS FOR SIN: Since the same word, in one of the wonderful economies of the Hebrew language, can signify both "sin" and "offering for sin", it is inevitable that there will be minor confusions as to meaning in individual verses. Thus the KJV translates Pro 14:9a: "Fools make a mock at SIN", and Rotherham has: "The foolish scoff at guilt" (cp, generally, Pro 19:28). And quite honestly, one is tempted to take this simplest rendering at its face value, for it certainly expresses truth: how sad it is to see, in our modern world, the callous and even the humorous and silly and joking disregard for all sin and all guilt. Not only do worldly ones commit the grossest indecencies and sins, but they also find pleasure in doing so, and vicariously enjoy others who go even further into such depravities (cp Pro 10:23: "A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct"). Also cf Rom 1:32 ("Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them"); 2Th 2:12 ("All will be condemned who have... delighted in wickedness"); and 2Pe 2:13 ("Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you"). Examples of such attitudes are Abner (2Sa 2:14-17); Haman (Est 3:13-15) and some of the Jews in Hezekiah's day (Isa 22:13).

However, as mentioned in the earlier comments, the NIV has: "Fools mock at making amends for sin", and the NET has: "Fools mock at reparation." These renderings are the ideas that are followed here.

Besides all these, there are even other alternatives offered by translators: the ASV -- reversing the words -- has: "A trespass-offering mocketh fools", and the RSV -- by a questionable addition -- has: "GOD scorns the wicked."

BUT GOODWILL IS FOUND AMONG THE UPRIGHT: "Goodwill" is "ratsown" (translated "favour" in the AV). The word "ratsown" means "favor; acceptance; pleasing." It usually means what is pleasing or acceptable to God. (This word is used often of sacrifices and offerings which are acceptable or pleasing to Yahweh: Exo 28:38; Lev 19:5; 22:20,21,29; 23:11.) In this passage it either means that the upright try to make amends to any persons they have offended, or that the upright find favor -- especially with God Himself -- for doing so. Pro 15:8 points to this second meaning (and is reasonably parallel, both its phrases, to Pro 14:9); it reads: "The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him." Also see Pro 8:35; 12:2.

Biblical "fools": The rich fool (Luke 12:20). The unbelieving fool (Psa 53:1). The self-righteous fool (Pro 28:26). The scornful fool (Pro 14:9). The righteous "fool" (1Co 4:10).

Pro 14:10

Vv 10,13,14: Derek Kidner refers to these three verses, closely clustered together, as "glimpses of human loneliness" -- for each reminds us that, for good or ill, each of us is an individual who in large part lives a solitary life -- whose joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, are his or hers alone, even as they may be somewhat like the feelings and experiences of our fellowmen. With a touch of whimsy and sadness, mingled with humor, he entitles these verses "Table for one".

EACH HEART KNOWS ITS OWN BITTERNESS, AND NO ONE ELSE CAN SHARE ITS JOY: There are joys and sorrows that cannot be shared, no matter how much sympathy and understanding may be present. There is many a dark spot, many a grief, of which one's best friend knows nothing; the skeleton is locked in the closet, and no one has the key but ourselves. This verse does not deny that one can identify to some extent with another's sorrows and joys; it does not even command us not to try. And elsewhere, in fact, Paul exhorts: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Rom 12:15). But this proverb also implies that such sensitivity has its limits. People in their deepest emotional feelings of "bitterness" ("marah") or "joy" ("simhah") alone can truly understand those feelings. This proverb also warns against any unnatural or forced attempts to express sympathy -- which, even if quite well-meaning, can appear artificial and hypocritical.

"Just as real sympathy helps, unreal sympathy hurts. Now, sympathy may be unreal without being hypocritical, and even when it is well meant and heartfelt; if we do not understand a person's feelings, we cannot sympathize with him. We may feel kindly towards him, and may desire to show compassion. But it will be all in vain, we shall not touch the fringe of the trouble, or, if we do penetrate further, we shall jar and wound the sensitive soul by blundering incompetence. It will be like a surgeon trying to dress a wound in the dark. Thus [in Shakespeare's "Macbeth"] Macduff, when robbed of all his children at one cruel stroke, is only vexed by the kindly but impotent condolence of Malcom, and cries, 'He has no children!' " (Pulpit).

"Each man's heart is to himself a solitude, into which he can retire and be alone, indulging his own thoughts without an associate and without a witness. There is a world within, which must lie undiscovered by the acutest observer... It would not be possible to communicate to another all that is within us. It is one of the delights and benefits of friendship that it helps men, in a measure, to open their minds to one another. But this can only be done in part. Every one has his reserve. This is especially true respecting the sorrows and joys of religion. No Christian can find a spirit so perfectly kindred to his own as to be able to comprehend all the sources of his grief or of his gladness. In many a sorrow, and in many a joy, he must be solitary... God hath so ordered it that no man can fully reveal to another the secrets of his soul. This truth is of the utmost importance when set beside the other truth, that God 'knoweth us altogether' [Psa 139:4]" (Bellett, BI).

God Himself does absolutely know each human heart (Pro 15:11; Psa 44:21). Elster, cited by Delitzsch, observes: "By this thought, that the innermost feelings of a man are never fully imparted to another man... yea, cannot at all be fully understood by another, the worth and the significance of each separate human personality is made conspicuous... At the same time the proverb has the significance, that it shows the impossibility of a perfect fellowship among men, because one never wholly understands another. Thereby it is indicated that no human fellowship can give true salvation, but only the fellowship with God, whose love and wisdom are capable of shining through the most secret sanctuary of human personality."

In observing this fact -- the omniscience of Almighty God -- we enter into the realm of the deepest and most personal knowledge and satisfaction that the Bible and the gospel can provide. And this journey of discovery does not so much take us further outside ourselves, into the world around and beyond us, as it takes us further within, deeper into the inner sanctuary of our own hearts: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa 139:23,24). There we discover that there IS One who knows everything there is to know about each of us. One who is -- astoundingly -- "distressed" and "afflicted" in OUR "distresses" and "afflictions" (Isa 63:9). One who is prepared to love us nevertheless, despite our sins. And this knowledge, this love, this kindness of a Father for a little child, is communicated to, and shared with, His Son.

That Son has in turn shared our nature, with all its weaknesses (Heb 2:18; 4:14,15; Isa 53:3; 1Pe 2:24), so as to become the true and only mediator between God and men (1Ti 2:5; Heb 7:25; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). In our despair, no less than our joy, in our weaknesses and sins, no less than our supposed "strengths" and "achievements", we have one who shares in our feelings most perfectly, one who listens and one who cares and one who loves and one who helps. "Who is he that [would] condemn? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Rom 8:34): the one who, being the Judge, is in the position to condemn is, in fact, the one who laid down his life for us, the Good Shepherd for the sheep (John 10:11,15). He is our advocate, our intercessor, our mediator, and our friend! Thus, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life... neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:35,37-39). It is only when we know we are weak -- when we have needs that no mortal can satisfy -- that we may turn wholeheartedly to the one real source of strength (2Co 12:9,10). In the full sweep of Scripture, this proverb of weakness and sorrow and bitterness (Pro 14:10) opens, like the temple gate called Beautiful (cp Acts 3:10), into the inner sanctuary of healing and peace and joy and eternal fellowship.

EACH HEART KNOWS ITS OWN BITTERNESS: Literally, "the heart ['leb'] knows the bitterness ['marar'] of his own soul ['nephesh']."

"Marar" means to be bitter, emotionally distraught, or miserable (Pro 14:10; 17:25; Job 9:18; Gen 26:35). It seems to be derived from the bitter or brackish taste of water; afterward, it was used metaphorically of bitter or hostile relationships between people. It also applies to the sour taste of wormwood (Pro 5:4; Lam 3:15) or the bitter herbs (Exo 12:8; Num 9:11) eaten at the Passover. The bitter herbs reminded the Israelites of the bitter experience of slavery in Egypt, from which God delivered them (Exo 1:14). God tested the faith of the children of Israel at the waters of Marah, which had a bitter, brackish taste, the opposite of sweet (Exo 15:23,25; cf Pro 27:7; Isa 5:20, where bitter is contrasted to sweet). In the day of God's judgment even strong drink -- otherwise pleasant to the taste -- will be bitter (Isa 24:9).

The figurative sense of bitterness is associated with: (a) the misery of the ruthless forced labor that the Egyptians required of Israel (Exo 1:14); (b) angry words of complaint caused by suffering, and God's seemingly unjust treatment of someone who was righteous (Job 7:11; 23:2); (c) the emotional agony and uncontrollable crying caused by childlessness (1Sa 1:10); (d) other miserable or distressing circumstances of life that seemingly cannot be changed (Gen 26:35; Job 9:18); or (e) the death of a favorite or only child (Gen 37:34; 1Sa 30:6; 2Ki 4:27; Zec 12:10). The cause of bitterness and anguish may be an evil human king (Exo 1:14; Est 4:1), or sometimes the bitter person may believe that God is responsible for the sufferer's agony (1Sa 1:10,11; Rth 1:20; Job 23:1–7). Frequently God in His sovereign wisdom may close the womb and prevent a family from having children, or in His righteous judgment bring bitter punishment on those who are evil (Jer 4:18). Bitterness is an inner emotional feeling of deep sorrow or an outwardly directed anger that cries out to the power that seems to be causing the problem. Severe mourning, complaining, and wailing were ways of expressing a person's emotional unhappiness.

Examples of those who knew such bitterness are Hannah in her barrenness (1Sa 1:10-13), the Shunammite woman in 2Ki 4:27, and Job in Job 13:4; 16:2.

AND NO ONE ELSE CAN SHARE ITS JOY: "No STRANGER ('zuwr') can share ('arav')": (1) "Zuwr" "may have a neutral sense of simply another or belonging to another (Pro 6:1; 11:15; 14:10; 20:16, etc), but there may be negative overtones (Job 19:15). The strange woman of Pro 1–9 (Pro 2:16; 5:3,20, etc) is a danger, not because of foreign ethnic association but because of her immoral ways. In general 'zuwr' has a threatening nuance, and relations with any such strange person or activity are to be avoided as incompatible with Yahweh" (NIDOTTE). (2) The verb "arav" means "to take in pledge; to give in pledge; to exchange". Here it means "to share (in)".

Michal could understand David's bravery, but not his joy. She knew him as a man of war, but not as a man of God (1Sa 18:20; 2Sa 6:16). His exuberant dancing before the LORD only caused her to scoff at him, and she paid dearly for her inability to understand or enter into his joy.

"Remember, also, that men in their highest and deepest conditions are remarkably secretive. The extreme heights and depths lie in darkness. A man may openly show himself in his ordinary life, and 'wear his heart upon his sleeve for [crows] to peck at'; but when he reaches a special grief, the deep waters are still. The keenest griefs cut a narrow but deep channel, and as they wear into the inmost soul they flow without noise. The grief that babbles is a shallow brook. Silent sorrow is profound. Great misery is dumb with silence: it opens not its mouth. It is precisely the same in the higher ranges of joy. When once we soar into the heavenlies we are alone. As I rode along in the South of France, the driver, turning to me, exclaimed, 'See, there are eagles!' 'No,' I said, 'not eagles, for eagles fly alone.' Seven or eight large birds together might be hawks, or falcons... but not true eagles. A royal eagle soars alone into the blue: his mate may bear him company, but he has no crew of comrades around him. The child of God, the true eagle of the skies, when he rises into the diviner ranges of his spiritual life, is, and must be, alone. Like their Lord, all saints will have a winepress, which they must tread alone [Isa 63:3]; even as they will have a [Mount Nebo] to which they will climb unattended [Deu 34]. I marvel not that men hide those lives which God has hidden in Christ [Col 3:3], and that their fellows see not the part of them which lives upon the invisible" (CHS).

But it is, of course, just those "invisible" things that should, and must, sustain the believer in Christ. And it is the best and most powerful exhortation that we can offer to one another, in the words of the apostle Paul: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:16-18). Seeing that which is "invisible" in THIS world, and being nourished spiritually by that vision, is the only means by which the true believer can leap for joy in the midst of trials and afflictions (Isa 35:6; Luk 6:23), can sing hymns of praise at midnight in the Philippian dungeon (Acts 16:25), and can turn the valley of tears into a place of refreshing springs (Psa 84:6). "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1Pe 1:8).

Pro 14:11

THE HOUSE OF THE WICKED WILL BE DESTROYED, BUT THE TENT OF THE UPRIGHT WILL FLOURISH: Cp Pro 12:7 and notes and references there. In the NT, Jesus' parable of the two houses, one built on the shifting sands and the other on a rock, echoes this and the similar proverbs (Mat 7:24-27). Also cp Pro 3:33 and Isa 58:11,12.

Generally, this verse describes the happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked: Pro 10:6,9,16,24,25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13,14,21,26,28; 13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7; 21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.

THE HOUSE OF THE WICKED WILL BE DESTROYED: Sin is the ruin of great houses, great families, and great nations. Egypt, at one time the greatest of nations, has been reduced to a backwater -- the chief reminder of its awesome power being the great "houses" of death erected to store the mummified remains of its pharaohs (see Psa 49).

BUT THE TENT OF THE UPRIGHT WILL FLOURISH: "Oddly, the tent is said to 'bloom', an unusual metaphor that suggests that house/tent is to be taken for the occupants" (WBC). Cp the imagery of Psa 128:3 -- the wife as a fruitful vine and the sons like olive shoots around the table -- and Psa 92:12-14: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green."

In contrast to the "house" of the wicked, the "tent" of the upright suggests a simpler, more nomadic existence -- that enjoyed by the fathers of Israel, and others who might be characterized as sojourners and pilgrims in this world (Heb 11:13-16,27; 1Pe 1:1; Jam 1:1).

Pro 14:12

THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN, BUT IN THE END IT LEADS TO DEATH: "Way" (Heb "derek") means literally a road or a path, but is metaphorical for a course of life. "Right" is "yashar", upright, or -- in this context, ie of a road -- straight, level, and uncluttered. There are philosophies, and beliefs, and ways of life that lead to ruin. One should be warned that any false or evil course of action may seem, in the short term, successful and safe; it may even be entered upon with the sincerest desires to do right, and with the best of intentions; but none of that is enough. Such a road can nevertheless take any number of "wrong turns" to destruction (the expression is in the plural -- there may be ONE "road", singular, that SEEMS right, but turning off as side-roads from that ONE "road" there are MANY "roads that lead to death"). The proverb recalls the ways of the adulterous woman in Pro 1-9. The image is that of a traveler on a straight road; it seems safe, but it is fatal, because the destination is "Death" (cp Pro 2:18; 5:5; 7:27; 12:15; 16:2; 21:2; 28:26; also cp Rom 6:21).

Quite likely Jesus had this very proverb in mind when he said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it" (Mat 7:13); plainly, many follow that broad, level, and straight road simply because it appears so inviting -- not stopping to consider the hidden dangers that lurk ahead. It is only the reasonable and expected contrast to this negative that then yields his next statement: "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Mat 7:14; cp Luk 13:24). (Psa 1:6 also mentions two roads, one leading to life, and watched over by Yahweh, and one leading to "perishing" and death.)

This verse is exactly repeated at Pro 16:25.

THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN: "But 'things are not what they seem.' A flame seems good to a moth; thin ice, safe to a heedless child; the mined road, sound to the hoodwinked general; the sparkling water, refreshing to one who knows not that the well from which it is drawn has been poisoned. The bad social custom appears to be innocent to the slave of fashion. The way of sin 'seemeth right' to the [dull] conscience... This pleasant, inviting path is a tributary to a high road. Innocent as it looks in itself, it leads into other ways, and those the ways of death. It is like a winding lane between green hedgerows and flower-strewn banks, that brings the traveller out at length into a very different road from that he supposed he was nearing. There are questionable courses that do not seem to be evil in themselves, but they lead to evil. There are amusements that seem to be innocent enough, yet they are paths towards more dangerous things, and in the end they bring the unwary to the very gates of [the grave]. Now, the chief question to ask about any road is -- [Where] does it lead? If it will bring us to a treacherous bog, a homeless waste, a dark and dangerous forest, or a perilous precipice, it matters little that its early course is harmless. [Where] does the way tend? If it is the path of sin, it must lead to death (Rom 6:23)" (Johnson, Pulpit).

One man remarked to his friend, "I don't care what your creed is. I am an agnostic. It makes no difference what a man believes if he is sincere." To which his friend responded: "Oh, yes, it does. Let us see. A family was poisoned recently by eating toadstools which they sincerely believed to be mushrooms. Three of them died. Did it make no difference? A man endorsed a note for a friend whom he sincerely believed to be an honest man. He was a scoundrel, and left him to pay the debt. Did it make no difference? A traveller took the wrong train, and went to Scotland instead of to Brighton. Did it make no difference? If a man is sincere he will take pains to know the truth. For where facts are concerned all the thinking in the world will not change them. A toadstool remains a toadstool, whatever we may think about it" (BI).

Some things may SEEM right, but be wrong -- deadly wrong! "Consider David's sons. Amnon thought it right to rape his sister: he died for it (2Sa 13:1-39). Absalom thought it right to steal his father's kingdom: he died for it (2Sa 15:1-6; 18:1-18). Adonijah thought it right to use Solomon's mother to beg for Abishag: he died for it (1Ki 2:12-25)" (LGBT). And of course, Cain offered the sacrifice that SEEMED right to him, but God did not look upon it with favor (Gen 4), presumably because it was a bloodless offering (cf Heb 9:22) -- the irony is that this led to "death" also, but in the first instance it was the death of the righteous Abel!

BUT IN THE END IT LEADS TO DEATH: The AV is truer to the Hebrew text: "the end thereof are the WAYS of death." This reminds us that there may be -- ultimately -- a practically infinite number of paths that lead to the grave. Paths of false religions are manifold and immensely varied; they promise many pleasant but deceptive things, sometimes under the guise of tolerance and openness and "love". Some paths are more easily seen to be evil, and dangerous -- drugs, drunkenness, promiscuity, crime. Others may even seem "respectable" to all but the most discerning of humans: lives of laudable public service; lives of serious work and industry; lives of artistic development; iives of scientific investigation; and even lives of sacrificial service to others less fortunate. But without God, and a real knowledge of His truth, and a faithful obedience to it, even such "commendable" lives are but other "roads" leading to the grave. By contrast, there is one and only one "road that leads to life" (Mat 7:14): "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

After "death", the LXX adds "and Hades [the grave]" -- as if to emphasize that this is no symbolic death under consideration here, but the real thing!

"Reject the flesh as a way of life. It isn't. It is a way of death. Reject it over the whole spectrum of your thinking and activity. It is cheating, deceptive and misleading. It has nothing to offer by way of satisfaction and happiness, in spite of all its false promises and glittering attraction. It's the world's biggest fake and fraud" (GVG).

Pro 14:13

EVEN IN LAUGHTER THE HEART MAY ACHE, AND JOY MAY END IN GRIEF: In this present world, no joy is permanent, and no joy is completely free of grief. We live, as Robert Roberts put it, in a "mixed and preparatory state". So long as sin and death reign (Rom 5:21; 6:21,23a), even the "new creation" of believers is subject to vanity, emptiness, and futility (Rom 8:20). Much of what passes for joy, now, is superficial. As Matthew Henry puts it, much mirth "is but from the teeth outward." There is underlying pain that will remain after the "joy" is gone.

There is something in this verse of Ecclesiastes' "Preacher": "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief" (Ecc 1:18). "Laughter is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?... All his days [a man's] work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless" (Ecc 2:11,23).

Is this a message of despair? Not at all. It is, again in the words of Paul in Romans, a necessary reminder: our whole world, and we ourselves, have been subjected to this vanity and frustration. But we have been so subjected "IN HOPE"... in hope -- a sure and certain hope -- that we WILL at last be "liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God... [which is] our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:21,23; cp Rom 6:22,23b).

In fact, sorrow is to be commended for the lessons it teaches (Ecc 7:1-5). It is just because of who and what we are, and the world we live in now, that -- even in the best of circumstances, and with the best of intentions, and the best of hopes -- we may live on a "roller-coaster", susceptible to alternating waves of joyfulness and underlying pain and grief. Our task should be: (1) to cherish the joy, when it comes, and to build upon it, and to share it with others, and (2) to develop the means, and the attitude, to weather the storms of sadness and worry and doubt that at times assail us. It is for these times that our loving Father has given us Scripture to study, past blessings to remember, His unfailing promises upon which to meditate, and prayer as the means of approaching His glorious throne. True, in this world, laughter may often end in an aching heart, and joy may often end in grief. But in the world to come, as surely as the sun rises each morning, heartache and grief WILL end in joy! "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (John 16:20-23). "You [O, LORD] have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psa 16:11).

EVEN IN LAUGHTER THE HEART MAY ACHE: "Many of our earthly joys die in the very act of being enjoyed. Those which depend on the gratification of some appetite expire in fruition, and at each recurrence are less and less complete. The influence of habit works in two ways to rob all such joys of their power to minister to us -- it increases the appetite and decreases the power of the object to satisfy. Some are followed by swift revulsion and remorse; all soon become stale; some are followed by quick remorse; some are necessarily left behind as we go on in life. To the old man the pleasures of youth are but like children's toys long since outgrown and left behind. All are at the mercy of externals. Those which we have not left [earlier] we have to leave [at the end]. The saddest lives are those of pleasure-seekers, and the saddest deaths are those of the men who sought for joy where it was not to be found, and sought for their gratification in a world which leaves them, and which they have to leave" (Maclaren).

Examples: (1) Belshazzar and the feasting lords and ladies of Babylon, mirthful with wine and banqueting one moment, and then stricken with fear and trembling the next -- when they see the handwriting on the wall, and know their kingdom, and their very days, are strictly numbered (Dan 5). (2) Nabal (1Sa 25:36,37), and his NT counterpart, the rich fool who lays out elaborate plans to build bigger barns in which to store his great wealth, only to die that very night (Luk 12:13-21). (3) Haman, finding no satisfaction in his banqueting because his heart was filled with hatred (Est 5:9-13). (4) The "prodigal son", who squandered his wealth in riotous living -- only to realize, finally, how empty it all was (Luk 15:13-24). (5) And then there is the fierce and solemn warning of God's prophet Amos to those who are complacent in Zion: "You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end" (Amo 6:1-7).

AND JOY MAY END IN GRIEF: "Grief" is the Hebrew "tuwgah" -- depression or grief. The word appears three times in the book of Proverbs. In each case (Pro 10:1; 14:13; 17:21), "tuwgah", grief or sorrow, is paralleled with joy ("simchah"). A foolish son brings grief to his mother (Pro 10:1), and the parent who produces a fool gives birth also to grief (Pro 17:21). By contrast, a wise ("chokham") son is a source of joy (Pro 10:1), and he who is the father of a fool has no joy (Pro 17:21).

Joy in this world has in itself no element of endurance, and when it is past, the real grief that it masked comes into prominence. In this mortal life also joy and sorrow are strangely intermingled; sorrow flows closely on the steps of joy: "The sweetest waters at length find their way to the sea, and are embittered there." Another proverb reminds us: "There is no rose without a thorn." And Shelley wrote: "Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught."

But the Christian's remedy is found in Mat 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (cp Luk 6:21,25). And so, ultimately, the somber tone of this proverb is reversed -- and grief will end in joy! The true believer, then, lives in hope, for he knows the time is coming when all his fortunes will be permanently and perfectly reversed. And in measure as he believes this, he is, in Paul's words, "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2Co 4:8,9). Even more, as his inner spirit yearns for and begins to dwell in that "promised land" that he will "later receive", that "city with foundations" to which he looks forward (Heb 11:8-10), then -- in his pilgrim's world, he is "dying, and yet living on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing... having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2Co 6:9,10).

The KJV of this second phrase reads: "and the end of THAT mirth is heaviness". Derek Kidner comments that the gratuitous insertion of "that" limits the meaning unduly. He is correct: surely the phrase is meant to refer to "ALL mirth" -- ie, all mirth in this life.

Side note: some commentators attempt to make v 13 here no more than a follow-up to v 12, as if to say, 'The end of the way that seems right to a man is filled with sorrow and grief.' And IF the two verses were directly linked, then that interpretation would be quite reasonable. But, as the exposition above demonstrates, there is significant meaning in v 13 as it stand alone, and no need to "explain away" its force by attaching it as an addendum to the preceding verse.

Pro 14:14

THE FAITHLESS WILL BE FULLY REPAID FOR THEIR WAYS, AND THE GOOD MAN REWARDED FOR HIS: The NIV here is much more accurate than the KJV. The KJV reads: "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself" -- which sounds (whether or not so intended by the translators) very much as though (2) the punishments of bad men and the rewards of good men are all to be found, more or less incidentally, in this life (eg, 'Vice is its own punishment, and virtue its own reward!'), and (2) God the great Judge has little or nothing to do with it. But surely the furthest we might go in this direction is to realize that, in limited ways, the "faithless" man reaps what he sows even now, and likewise, in limited ways, the "good man" receives some satisfaction from his life of faith even now. But in the bigger picture -- which must be part of this verse also -- the faithless will be fully repaid for his ways only at the great judgment, and likewise the good man will be fully rewarded only at that same judgment.

This is one of many proverbs under the heading "The happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked": Pro 10:6,9,16,24,25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13,14,21,26,28; 13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7; 21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.

THE FAITHLESS WILL BE FULLY REPAID FOR THEIR WAYS: "Faithless" is, literally, "the man whose heart ('leb') is turned away, or backslidden ('suwg')" -- ie, from the way of righteousness. It might also be translated: "the man with a perverted heart"! "Suwg" occurs only this once in Proverbs, but it occurs a number of times in Psalms, where it describes the man who "turns away" from God (Psa 44:18; 53:3; 78:57; 80:18), as well as the wicked which are "turned away" by God (Psa 35:4; 40:14; 70:2; 129:5).

It really ought to be said, that to "turn away" or "backslide" may mean to leave the Truth, and the way of life all at once, or suddenly. But much more likely, it can mean to drift, gradually but inexorably, away from those things that were once held dear. This sort of "backsliding" is perhaps the most dangerous, the most insidious, because it happens by such small degrees that it is not perceived for what it is. "Backsliders are "those who, in any measure or degree, even for a very little time, decline from the point which they have reached. Note the word 'backslider.' He is not a back-runner, nor a back-leaper, but a back-slider; he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else. Nobody ever slides up. The Christian life is a climbing. If you would know how to back-slide, the answer is, 'Leave off going forward and you will slide backward.' Note that this is a backslider in heart. All backsliding begins within, begins with the heart's growing lukewarm" (CHS).

The Bible is full of warnings against this gradual backsliding: "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Heb 2:1). "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb 3:12,13). "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:23-25). "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:15,16). "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live... Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you" (Deu 4:9,23). "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you -- they are your life" (Deu 32:46,47). "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word" (Psa 119:9).

It is one of the great benefits of a book like Proverbs, that the constant reading of its time-worn, perhaps "dull", but definitely true precepts and admonitions keeps us focused on the simple daily tasks of: (1) considering our ways, (2) watching how we live every day, (3) nurturing good habits, and (4) always being aware of an all-wise, all-powerful God who is observing our actions. A daily application of Proverbs, or some other like portion of Scripture, is the antidote to "drifting away" from God's holy Truth (cp Pro 3:21; 4:1-4,20-22; 7:1,2; and many other passages).

The verb "saba" (literally, "to be filled, or satisfied") here means "to be repaid", that is, to partake in his own evil ways; in other words, his "turning away" will come back to haunt him (quite possibly in this life but especially in "the world to come"). "Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes" (Pro 1:31).

AND THE GOOD MAN REWARDED FOR HIS: The words "shall be satisfied" (KJV), or "rewarded" (NIV) are borrowed from the first phrase, and added by the translators to complete the elliptical thought in the Hebrew. Literally the second half of this verse is simply, "and the good man from himself". Cp Pro 12:14: "From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him" (cf Pro 13:2). And Isa 3:10: "Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds." (This last verse follows on from Isa 3:9, which says of the wicked: "They have brought disaster upon themselves"; thus Isa 3:9,10 successively parallels the two parts of Pro 14:14.)

So, in the first instance, the man who drinks of Christ's living water will never thirst, precisely because "the water [Christ] gives him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Joh 4:14). He will be satisfied, in this life, with the water of life which quenches his spiritual thirst, even now. This ongoing source of refreshing, which he can carry with himself because he has the Word of God in his heart and mind, will help to direct his thoughts and actions, and keep him centered on the way that leads to life. It will also, in measure, make him self-sufficient and not dependent upon external conditions for his happiness and joy -- for his joy is in the LORD (Neh 8:10; Psa 86:4; 92:4; 126:2,3; and many other passages).

Alexander Maclaren comments upon this kind of "satisfaction from oneself" (though he is careful to point out, and rightly, that this is not the same as "self-satisfaction"): "No man is satisfied with himself until he has subjugated himself. What makes men restless and discontented is their tossing, anarchical desires. To live by impulse, or passion, or by anything but love to God, is to make ourselves our own tormentors. It is always true that he 'who loveth his life shall lose it' [cp Mat 10:39; 16:25,26; Mat 8:35,36; Luk 9:24; 17:33] and loses it by the very act of loving it. Most men's lives are like the troubled sea, 'which cannot rest,' and whose tossing surges, alas! 'cast up mire and dirt' [Isa 57:20], for their restless lives bring to the surface much that was meant to lie undisturbed in the depths. But he who has subdued himself is like some still lake which 'heareth not the loud winds when they call,' and mirrors the silent heavens on its calm surface [cp the sea of glass in Rev 4:6; 15:2]. But further, goodness brings satisfaction, because, as the Psalmist says, 'in keeping Thy commandments there is great reward' [Psa 19:11]. There is a glow accompanying even partial obedience which diffuses itself with grateful warmth through the whole being of a man. And such goodness tends to the preservation of health of soul as natural, simple living to the health of the body. And that general sense of well-being brings with it a satisfaction compared with which all the feverish bliss of the voluptuary is poor indeed."

But then of course, the "water of life" -- as well as the "sea of glass" -- becomes a symbol also of the true and perfect eternal life, bestowed by Christ at the Judgment Seat (cp Rev 7:16,17; 21:6). Thus there is a "reward" in this life, but it is particularly and especially in the contemplation of the great and lasting "reward" yet to come.

Pro 14:15

A SIMPLE MAN BELIEVES ANYTHING, BUT A PRUDENT MAN GIVES THOUGHT TO HIS STEPS: Wisdom prevents gullibility. The simple man believes every word he hears, quite possibly because he hears what he wants to hear. The prudent person, however, analyzes carefully each course of action.

A SIMPLE MAN BELIEVES ANYTHING: "Simple" is "pethi", one who is untrained intellectually and morally. The NET renders this "naive". A "pethi" is one who lacks prudence ("hormah") (Pro 1:4; 8:5; 19:25), wisdom ("chokmah") (Pro 21:11; cf Psa 19:7), and discernment ("benim") (Pro 9:6; cf Pro 19:25; Psa 119:130), and thus is open to all influences (Pro 1:22). He is, in the words of Paul, one who is an "infant", "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Eph 4:14).

The variation of "emeth" ("believes") used in this verse is said to mean specifically believing in a report, as distinguished from believing in a person; other examples of this use are 1Ki 10:7 (= 2Ch 9:6), Isa 53:1, and Jer 40:14.

"Parent, teach your children to be skeptics. It can be enjoyable. Show them the false advertisement you get about the free family cruise to Tahiti. Show them the fine print requiring you to get to Mexico City for departure and the contract to rent expensive condos on four continents over the next four years. Teach them to look for the fine print, and teach them to look around in a full circle, which is [the literal meaning of the KJV's] 'circumspection' (Eph 5:15).

"Teach your children one of life's greatest lessons -- there is no free lunch. Teach them another -- no stranger loves them. For the salesman and infomercial have one goal, to take money from their pocket for themselves. Teach them the Bible is the only book to believe absolutely. Teach them the Lord is the only Person they can totally trust.

"Watch [the Pentecostal faith-healer on television]. Tell them he has never healed anyone, takes in over $100 million per year, and refuses to open his organization to audits or interviews. Read 'The Emperor's New Clothes' to them, and explain how often they will need to say, 'But the emperor doesn't have any clothes on!' in our twisted world of peer-pressured perversity.

"We live in the perilous times of the last days (2Ti 3:1). Information is the rage. Schools and degrees, books and other media, multiply ridiculously. We are gorged on information, but there is no truth! Paul warned, 'Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth' (2Ti 3:7). And it will not get better, for he said, 'Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived' (2Ti 3:13)" (LGBT).

BUT A PRUDENT MAN GIVES THOUGHT TO HIS STEPS: "Prudent" is "arum" -- a shrewd man (cf also Mat 10:16) able to make critical distinctions, and thus to discriminate between good and evil, and wise and foolish. He is able to foresee difficulties and temptations and problems in the path ahead (cf, generally, Pro 22:3; 27:12).

"Steps" ("goings" in the KJV) is from the Hebrew "ashur", which, along with "magal" ("path") and "derek" ("road"), is metaphorical for a person's way of life; here, undoubtedly, it refers especially to a moral or religious life, walking after God. Cp this with Pro 13:16: "Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly." And Pro 14:8: "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways ('derek')."

" 'Why are you treading so carefully?' said a donkey to a heavily laden horse. 'You'll never get home at that rate.' 'Do you want to know?' was the answer; 'it is because I remember there's a stone on the road somewhere about here. I stumbled over it this morning on my way to work, and I don't mean to have another fall this evening' " (Presser, BI).

In the churches around us, it is common, even fashionable, to praise a sort of "faith" which is distinctly unscriptural -- a pseudo-"faith" which is synonymous with credulity or gullibility. It has been said, only partly with tongue in cheek, that "faith" is the ability to believe the impossible on the basis of absolutely no evidence. And such "faith" (which we hardly need say, is NO faith at all) is encouraged by the worst sorts of charlatans, the smooth, well-groomed, well-dressed "salesmen" masquerading as "ministers" of the gospel. Such "wolves" know how to coax, wheedle, stroke, and coerce their "flocks" into following their teachings blindly, and at the same time they congratulate them on their "faith", which is oh so wonderfully "Spirit-led" or "Spirit-filled". Such verses as Pro 14:15 put the lie to this standard, and mark out such dupes as the "simple" who "believe anything"; at the same time, these verses counsel prudence, logical analysis, shrewdness, and intelligence as the handmaidens and helpers of "faith", not the enemies. "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (Mat 7:15). "Test everything. Hold fast to the good" (1Th 5:21). "Test and approve what God's will is" (Rom 12:2). "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit [ie teacher], but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1Jo 4:1). Luke commended the Jews at Berea because "they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). And Christ commended the believers at Ephesus with these words: "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false" (Rev 2:2).

Apropos of this, Robert Roberts writes: "There is a certain kind of simplicity that is good -- simplicity concerning that which is evil (Rom 14:19). But to be simple in the sense of the proverb [Pro 14:15], is evil. To be simple in this sense is to be undiscerning. What we hear requires discernment as to whether we receive it or not; and this discernment comes of experience and reflection. Most of the talk that goes on among men is mere babble. Even things untrue, or most inaccurate, easily get into circulation and credit, with the common run of people, and if you trust to the echoes of common talk you will certainly be led astray -- grievously so, sometimes -- especially so as affecting matters of divine principle. Exercise discernment: make sure of the foundations, before committing yourself. Be not of the simple, who believeth every word." Then, as though to cover the other extreme, RR also adds, "On the other hand, do not belong to that other, but more pretentious class of simpletons who believe nothing, unless their own precious eyes have seen. Nothing requires less capacity than unbelief: it is the highest exercise of the finest faculties of the human organisation, that enables the mind judicially to extract conviction from evidence that may lie scattered far and wide."

Pro 14:16


A WISE MAN FEARS THE LORD AND SHUNS EVIL: Since the Name of God is not used here (cp the AV), the verse probably does not mean, necessarily, that the wise man ("chokmah") fears Yahweh, but that he fears the consequences of his actions -- thus he is cautious: he "turns away" ("suwr") from evil. Of course, this comes close to saying the same thing, whether or not the Name of God occurs in this verse: the one who fears God will fear the consequences of rash or reckless actions.

To those traveling the road of wickedness, the admonitions are to leave that way and take the path of righteousness (Pro 3:7). Warnings are issued to keep one's distance from evil and wickedness (Num 16:26; Pro 3:7; Isa 52:11) and to remove ("suwr") strange gods (Gen 35:2; Josh 24:14; 1Sa 7:3), false worship (Amo 5:21,23), lying (Psa 119:29), perversity (Pro 4:24), or evil generally (Isa 1:16). To depart from the way of evil is understanding (Job 28:28; cf Job 1:8; Pro 14:16), but fools detest doing that (Pro 13:19). By the fear of the LORD one avoids ("suwr") evil (Pro 16:6). "A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it" (Pro 22:3; 27:12).

When Nathan rebuked David, he repented (2Sa 12:13). When Jonah warned Nineveh, they repented (Jon 3:5). Even Ahab repented, when warned by Elijah (1Ki 21:27-29). All these men received mercy for fearing and departing from evil. So a wise man examines himself by God's help to make sure there is no evil in his heart (Psa 139:23,24). But when Moses warned Pharaoh, he hardened his heart (Exo 8:32); and when he warned Korah and company, they defied him (Num 16:1-19). When Hanani warned Asa, he angrily put him in prison (2Ch 16:7-14). And though our Lord warned his generation repeatedly, they crucified him in rage. All these men were judged severely.

"So powerful a passion as fear was not given us for nothing, nor should we be ashamed of a timidity which leads us to give a wide berth to danger, to keep out of the lion's path. Over-confidence springs from the want of a true estimate of our proper strength and weakness, and the security it begets is false" (Johnson, Pulpit).

BUT A FOOL IS HOTHEADED AND RECKLESS: "Fool" is the Hebrew "keciyl": the word occurs 70 times in the OT, and 49 times in Proverbs alone. It means to be insolent in religion, and stupid in practical affairs. In contrast to the wise man, the fool is reckless, self-assured, and overconfident. The fool is arrogantly confident, when he of all types of people should be cautious. He illustrates the old saying: "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

He is "hotheaded" -- he "throws off restraint" (AV; NET): the Hebrew is "abar", "to pass over", ie to go beyond the bounds of propriety or good judgment, and thus to act insolently or recklessly (BDB 720). The sw occurs in Pro 20:2, where it describes the one who "angers" the king -- presumably by overstepping the bounds of behavior in the king's presence; and in Pro 26:17, where it describes a man who "meddles" in a quarrel not his own.

The second word of description here is "batach" -- to be assured or confident; in some instances it may mean to have reasonable grounds for assurance or confidence, but in this instance it plainly means to be self-assured and overconfident (as the NET puts it). Such an attitude may lead to "recklessness", as the NIV suggests -- but that is not the principal meaning of the word.

"The proud and arrogant man -- 'Mocker' is his name; he behaves with overweening pride" (Pro 21:24). "He who trusts in himself is a fool ['keciyl'], but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe" (Pro 28:26).

Cain was a fool; he impetuously envied Abel, because God rejected his offering (Gen 4:4-8). Rehoboam recklessly rejected the counsels of the wise men in favor of the foolish counsel of his friends (1Ki 12:13-15). Uzziah was a fool; he angrily entered the temple, though the priests warned him against it (2Ch 26:16-21). Herodias raged against John for reproving her adulterous marriage to Herod (Mark 6:17-28). They all arrogantly opposed God and His servants in rage.

"A wise man will recognise restraint and respond with fear of the consequences. He will check himself and depart from evil, but the fool will be hostile at all constraints. He will boldly proclaim that his conduct should be allowed and will deny that he is in any jeopardy at all. He will find precedent in scripture and protest loudly to any who would warn him. This fool is not of the 'out there in the world' kind. He claims to be a son of God. The more outrageous his conduct the louder he protests; some may be tempted to overlook the fault. But they do him no favour because his is in the way of the fool. It is his fault and if he will not change he will suffer for it in the end. He has only himself to blame" (Bowen).

Pro 14:17

A QUICK-TEMPERED MAN DOES FOOLISH THINGS, AND A CRAFTY MAN IS HATED: The quick-tempered person acts foolishly and loses people's respect; perhaps he is even pitied. On the other hand, the malicious plotter is truly hated. There is danger on both sides, in hastiness and in deferring anger, but the latter is the worst offence.

A QUICK-TEMPERED MAN DOES FOOLISH THINGS: "Quick-tempered" is the Hebrew "qetzar appayim" -- which means, literally, "short in his nostrils"; that is, (a) "because, when a man is angry, his nose is contracted, and drawn up towards his eyes" (Clarke), or (b) he lets only a short time elapse between taking offence and giving vent to his indignation. Thus, "Better... a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city" (Pro 16:32; cf also Pro 14:29; 15:18; Ecc 7:9; 1Co 13:5; Jam 1:19,20; 2Ti 2:24). See Lesson, Prov and temper.

"Before applying this proverb, remember that not all anger is sin. God is angry at the wicked every day (Psa 7:11), and He was angry at Moses (Exo 4:14). Moses was justifiably angry at Israel worshipping the golden calf (Exo 32:19). And Jesus was angry at the cruelty of religious Jews (Mar 3:5). Properly directed anger for a righteous cause is good and holy. Any other anger must be kept free from sin and ended quickly (Eph 4:26).

"Some men have quick tempers (they are intemperate, a sin). They are infants in men's bodies. They never grew up or learned self-discipline. They are weak and cannot rule their spirits. They usually had a parent with the same fault. When provoked, often over nothing, they lose control of thoughts, emotions, words, or actions in seconds. The resulting outburst shames them as fools, costing them friends (Pro 12:16; 22:24; 25:8; 29:22)" (LGBT).

A CRAFTY MAN IS HATED: "A crafty man" is "a man of devices, or schemes (ie, 'mezimmoth')". The AV, ASV, and Rotherham have: "A man of wicked devices is hated." This word usually denotes EVIL plans or schemes. Anyone given to making plans for evil is condemned by God (Pro 12:2). In the law any one who commits perjury incurs the very penalty that would have been pronounced against the one plotted against if convicted (Deu 19:16–19). Those who trust God, however, should not be deeply irritated when evildoers carry out their wicked schemes with initial success (Psa 37:7). In Pro 24:8 a person who calculatingly devises evil schemes is called "an intriguer" ("mezimmoth ba'al" -- literally, "master of schemes"). The wicked may even go so far as to devise evil plans against God (Psa 139:20; cf Psa 10:4); nevertheless, they will not succeed (Psa 21:11). As would be expected, those who execute evil schemes are not welcomed by God in the temple, neither will their vows and offering sacrifices remove their guilt, especially when offered with an evil intent (Jer 11:15; cf Pro 21:27).

"Hated" is the Hebrew "yissane", which also occurs in v 20: "The poor are shunned ['sane'] by their neighbors."

Some men have black hearts that despise others and secretly harbor malice for long periods of time. They cover their hatred with vain smiles, false words, and lying kindnesses (Pro 26:24-26). Theirs is no small sin, for it is like premeditated murder compared to involuntary manslaughter. "The scoundrel's methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes ['mezimmoth'] to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just" (Isa 32:7). God and men hate this kind of malicious anger, which these truly wicked men cultivate and harbor for a long time, while laying plans for revenge (Pro 6:16-19). As we look at the whole verse, we realize that weakness is one thing; but out-and-out willfulness is another! Rash anger is hurtful, and pitiable, but cold and calculating malice is surely an abomination! Moses died short of Canaan because of presumption and foolish anger (Num 20:10-12), but Haman and his ten sons were hanged for their malicious long-term strategy for Jewish genocide (Est 3:5-15; 7:9; 9:13-14)!

An alternative reading of this second phrase has been suggested: the LXX substitutes "endures" ("yissa", from the Hebrew "nasa") in place of "is hated" ("yissane", from the Hebrew "sane"). This change seems to have arisen on the assumption that a greater contrast between the two phrases was needed (although, as we know, not all proverbs are perfectly antithetical). Then, if "mezimmoth" is taken in a good sense (again, which is possible, but not the most likely), then the phrase might be rendered: "But a wise man [ie, a prudent man, who thinks out and plans ahead] endures" (CH Toy, ICC). Cp the RSV: "But a man of discretion is patient." In other words, the quick-tempered person acts foolishly and loses people's respect, but the wise man does not. (IF this view of the verse is adopted, then the whole verse finds a counterpart in Pro 14:29.)

So which of the two is better? Perhaps, with the NIV, AV, and the others, the first is better, for two reasons: (1) it requires no emendation of the Hebrew text, and (2) "mezzimoth" does most often suggest "wicked" schemes.

Pro 14:18

THE SIMPLE INHERIT FOLLY, BUT THE PRUDENT ARE CROWNED WITH KNOWLEDGE: The kind of honor one receives in life is based on the amount of wisdom used. Proverbs of prudence and foolishness: Pro 13:16; 14:8,18,33; 15:14,21; 16:21,22; 17:24; 18:2,15; 24:3-7; 26:6-11; 28:5. Cp, generally, Pro 3:35: "The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame." Also cp Pro 4:7-9: "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor."

THE SIMPLE INHERIT FOLLY: Nothing but "folly" is the inheritance of the "simple" ("pethiy"). The folly may well be his because it first belonged to his parents, and he has inherited their character traits and genetic dispositions, which point him in the same direction. Indeed, we all inherit from our first parents Adam and Eve a weak and sin-susceptible nature, and decaying, dying bodies. It is not, however, inevitable that a lasting folly be the lot in life of any man, even a "simple" one; a greater effort to acquire knowledge might elevate anyone out of the category of "fool". The challenge is a difficult one in any case, and perhaps more difficult for some than others, but not necessarily insurmountable for anyone. However, left to seek his own level, like water running inevitably downhill, the simple one can inherit nothing but simplicity, the fool nothing but folly (cp Job 11:12; Psa 51:5; Jer 16:19).

INHERIT: "Inherit" (NIV, AV, RV) is "nachal" -- the sw could mean, in the more active sense, "acquire" (as RSV) or "receive" as well. Alternatively, Driver -- borrowing from the idea and the wording of Pro 25:12, where "ornament" ("chaliy" occurs in a similar context -- proposes "are adorned with" (from "chalah"). But WBC counters with the statement: "This improves the parallelism [ie, "are adorned with" alongside of "are crowned with"], but it is on shaky semantic ground, and has no support from the ancient versions." All in all, there is no great reason why "inherit" or "acquire" need not stand in the text.

BUT THE PRUDENT ARE CROWNED WITH KNOWLEDGE: Following on from the thought of the first phrase, the prudent will be "crowned" with knowledge, but -- again -- this is not inevitable. It may be that their "crown" is, to some extent, a family inheritance. But if, in this case, the potential heir does not conduct himself so as to acquire, and to value, and to put to practical use, knowledge -- if, in short, he thinks of it as a birthright, and gives no attention to it -- then he will lose his crown (Rev 3:11). And so, in some measure, the "crown" of eternal life will be an inheritance, or a gift; but it also will be an achievement -- the righteous will "crown himself" (cf 1Co 9:25; 2Ti 2:5; Jam 1:12) with knowledge... and wisdom, and faith, and life!

CROWNED: "Crowned" is "kathar", but this is somewhat diffficult; instead of "are crowned" or "crown themselves", other -- more literal -- meanings might be "encompass" (ie, possess) or "embrace" (cp sw Psa 22:12; 142:7). Nevertheless, the comments above still stand.

There is nothing fatalistic about this verse. Can a simple man become a prudent man? Of course! He does it, in part, by reading Proverbs; for the purpose of this book is, among other things, to give "prudence" to the "simple" (Pro 1:4). And he does it by reading the other parts of God's Law as well, for "the [whole] law of the LORD is perfect... trustworthy, making wise the simple" (Psa 19:7). "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psa 119:130). Wisdom is offered throughout Proverbs and the rest of the Bible, but most men do not want it (Pro 8:5; 9:4). They would rather listen to the seductive temptations of their own inner serpents, and the offers of "stolen water" and "food eaten in secret" (Pro 9:13-18). And so they follow in the ways of lying adulteresses, heedless friends, foolish preachers, unscrupulous salesmen, and the like (Pro 7:6-27).

"Is not wisdom freely offered to thee in asking for it (Jam 1:5)? Dost not thou therefore continue simple only by thy wilful neglect? If knowledge is at hand, to be satisfied with ignorance is to throw away a talent of inestimable price. 'I confess', says Dr Smith, 'God has no need of any man's learning; but certainly then he has much less need of his ignorance' " (Bridges).

Pro 14:19

EVIL MEN WILL BOW DOWN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE GOOD, AND THE WICKED AT THE GATES OF THE RIGHTEOUS: Ultimately the wicked will acknowledge and serve the righteous. The figure used here is of a conquered people kneeling before their victors awaiting their commands. While this proverb focuses to some extent on triumphs in this life, one cannot help but think of the ultimate fulfillment of the thought in Phi 2:9-11: "Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

EVIL MEN WILL BOW DOWN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE GOOD: To bow down ("shakhakh") is to acknowledge the superiority of another. Generally, Johnson comments: "The picture is presented of the envoy of a conquered people who kneels at the palace gate of the conqueror and waits on his commands (cp on the thought, Pro 13:9,22; Psa 37:25). There is a might in goodness; may we not say the only true might is that of goodness, for it has omnipotence at its back? It is victorious, irresistible, in the end. It is content to be acknowledged in the end by all, the evil as well as the good." He then adds -- rather insightfully -- that, in the meantime, "hypocrisy is the homage paid by vice to goodness" (Pulpit), even, we might add, if such homage is paid reluctantly, unconsciously, or grudgingly.

AND THE WICKED [will bow down] AT THE GATES OF THE RIGHTEOUS: The phrase "will bow down" does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in some translations for clarity and smoothness. To bow at the gates of another may suggest a supplicant asking for favors or blessings (cp Lazarus at the gate of the rich man, in Luk 16:20,21, and, more generally, the dogs begging crumbs from the children's table, in Mat 15:27 and Mar 7:28). "The gates of the righteous" may refer to the entrances to the tabernacle or temple -- called also "gates of righteousness" and "the gate of the LORD" in Psa 118:19,20. To bow down at such gates means to seek humbly the privilege of coming into the presence of the LORD and praising Him and beseeching His favor. Such gates may also picture an entrance into the Kingdom of God, or (which is much the same thing) the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth and mankind: thus in days to come Jerusalem will see "the gates of righteousness" opened so that a King of Righteousness, a King of Glory, may come into his city and his temple (Psa 110:4; 24:7,10). And finally, "the gates" may be opened to admit the righteous NATION into God's kingdom and God's house (Isa 26:2).

So, given such cross-references, why is it the "evil" and the "wicked" especially who bow down? Several possibilities suggest themselves:

(1) All men fit, first of all, into the category of "evil" and "wicked", and their supplication at the gates of the Heavenly Father are for the forgiveness of their sins; indeed, such supplication is the very means by which the "wicked" become the "righteous" (cf Pro 8:34). An illustration of this would be Joseph's brothers bowing down before him (Gen 42:6; 43:28), and another would be the Philippian jailer falling down trembling before Paul and Silas (Acts 16:29). (The Philippian magistrates also "bow down" before Paul and Silas, but not to beseech spiritual blessing so much as to escape secular punishment from their own superiors: Acts 16:39.)

(2) Further, the Kingdom Age will see many who previously belonged in such categories coming forward to acknowledge, for the first time, that their fathers inherited lies (Jer 16:19), and that there is but one God and one LORD over them all (cf Phi 2:9-11 again). This point may also be illustrated by the prophecy of Rev 3:9, where Christ promises the believers at Philadelphia: "I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars -- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you" (also cp Dan 7:27; Isa 49:23; 60:14; Mic 7:10,16,17; etc). Isa 60:11,12 associates this kind of worshipful acknowledgment in the Kingdom of God with the GATES of Zion!

(3) A third possibility: the unrepentant wicked will at last bow down before the righteous God, His righteous Son, and the righteous saints -- even as the Canaanite kings cringed before Joshua's captains (Jos 10:24; cp Deu 33:29; Psa 2:11,12; 49:14; 110:5; 149:8,9; Mal 4:3; etc). And so, one way or another, all the wicked will finally bow down before the LORD -- either willingly in thankfulness and praise for blessings sought and received, or unwillingly in final judgment and destruction.

Pro 14:20

THE POOR ARE SHUNNED EVEN BY THEIR NEIGHBORS, BUT THE RICH HAVE MANY FRIENDS: To a large extent in this life, possessions determine popularity. Other proverbs of the rich and poor: Pro 10:22; 11:28; 13:7,8; 14:24; 18:11,23; 19:1,4,7,22; 22:2,7; 28:6,11; 29:13.

THE POOR ARE SHUNNED EVEN BY THEIR NEIGHBORS: "Shunned" is "yissane" (sw "hated", v 17). Not only are the poor shunned by others, but sometimes they are actively oppressed by the well-to-do: "If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things" (Ecc 5:8). When their fields produce crops, injustice sweeps it away (Pro 13:23). They are often unsupported by family, friends, and neighbors (Pro 19:4,7). They receive little mercy from the rich (Pro 18:23; cp Job 6:27; Pro 3:29), who rule over them and, even when they lend them money, are careful to extract the last ounce of exorbitant interest from them (Pro 22:7; cp Pro 21:10).

This sad but true picture of human nature is not given approvingly, but only as a fact. It should go without saying that it is terribly wrong, as the very next verse demonstrates: "He who despises his neighbor sins."

There are wonderful counterexamples to this sad observation: Ruth stayed with Naomi even in Naomi's poverty (Rth 1:14,21,22); Jonathan remained David's friend even when David was stripped of all his royal honors (1Sa 19:1-7; 23:16); and the "good Samaritan" cared for the victim of thieves even in his extremity (Luk 10:33-35). And of course, "How endearing is the love of Jesus! He was emphatically the poor man's friend (Psa 72:12,14). He sought his many friends among the wretched and forlorn (Mat 4:18-22), and still does his powerful compassion plead for those hated ones among their fellow-sinners (Psa 109:31)" (Bridges).

BUT THE RICH HAVE MANY FRIENDS: "Friends" is the Hebrew "ahab" (literally, to love). In this verse, "love" and "hate" need to be seen in the proper context -- ie, without emotional nuance: the poor are "hated", which here means: rejected, avoided, shunned; and the rich are "loved", which here means: sought after, favored, embraced.

This is one of the few instances where "ahab" has a distinctly negative connotation, expressing as it does a shallow and insincere and selfish "affection".

The Talmud says, "At the door of the tavern there are many brethren and friends, at the poor man's gate not one." We have our own standard expression for such friends, who remain friendly only so long as they have some hope of benefiting from the relationship; they are the "fair-weather" variety. In like manner, Job compared his "friends" to the wadis, the intermittent streams in the desert, "the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels" (Job 6:15-17). Other examples of the "rich" who have many false friends: Haman, to whom all the royal officials paid homage (Est 3:2; 5:10,11), and (by implication at least) the "prodigal son" (Luk 15:13-16).

Pro 14:21

HE WHO DESPISES HIS NEIGHBOR SINS, BUT BLESSED IS HE WHO IS KIND TO THE NEEDY: One cannot sin against a neighbor and hope to enjoy God's blessings; for this is a grievous transgression of the Law itself: "Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD" (Lev 19:18). The line contrasts the sin of despising ("buwz") a neighbor with showing favor ("mehonen": KJV "hath mercy"; NIV and NET "is kind") to the needy. In this proverb the neighbor is assumed to be poor or at least in need. Despising ("buwzah") him means treating him with contempt, dismissing him as worthless. To ignore a neighbor in this cold-hearted fashion is just as much a sin as showing favor to the poor is an act of righteousness.

See how this verse completes and explains v 20: While the poor are shunned by the uncaring and greedy (v 20a) -- which is a sin (v 21a) -- blessed is the one who shows kindness to them (v 21b). While the rich have many who pretend to be their "friends" (v 20b), the righteous are blessed because they are TRUE friends to the needy (v 21b).

Comparing v 21 with v 20, Derek KIdner writes: "In v 20 [unkindness] is drily reported -- this is how things are... [But] here, to go deeper, [unkindness] is shown to be a rejection of the will and the blessing of God."

See, furthermore, how this verse is amplified by v 31 also: "he who despises his neighbor sins" (v 21a) is parallel to "he who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker" (v 31a); "blessed is he who is kind to the needy" (v 21b) is parallel to ""whoever is kind [sw v 31] to the needy honors God" (v 31b).

HE WHO DESPISES HIS NEIGHBOR SINS: Cp Pro 11:12: "A man who lacks judgment derides ['despises': sw Pro 14:21] his neighbor." The old Puritan writer Sanderson (cited by Bridges) says, sarcastically, "Because we think we over-top [our neighbor], therefore we think we may overlook him" and thus neglect to show kindness to him.

Consideration of one's neighbor includes refraining from mocking him (Pro 17:5), and from false testimony or slander against him (Exo 20:16; Deu 5:20; Psa 101:5; Job 17:5; Pro 3:28; 11:9; 24:28; 26:19; Jer 9:8). "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Mat 7:3-5). "Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca' [an Aramaic term of contempt], is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna" (Mat 5:22). Jesus himself speaks vividly and memorably of such an attitude of contempt for others, in his parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luk 18:9-14): "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about [or TO!] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector' " (v 11). And James chastises those who insult the poor, who hypocritically offer their "good wishes" to the poor and needy but do nothing about their physical needs (Jam 2:5,6,14-16; cf 1Jo 3:17).

BUT BLESSED IS HE WHO IS KIND TO THE NEEDY: "To be kind" is from the Hebrew "chen" -- "grace" [the root of such names as Hannah and John], which is sometimes translated "mercy". We often take mercy to mean specifically the forgiveness of sins, but the Hebrew word means so much more. Especially in interpersonal relationships, the word is also used for the reality of an ongoing relationship of courtesy, kindness, thoughtfulness, and even love -- such as Joseph showed to Potiphar, and vice versa (Gen 39:4), David to Jonathan (1Sa 20:3), Ruth to Boaz (Rth 2:13), and Esther to Ahasuerus (Est 2:17). Generally, these words are descriptive of beneficent actions that are freely offered or received and contribute to the wellbeing of another or to the health of an ongoing relationship. It is active kindness or generosity exhibited particularly toward those in need, eg, aiding the poor (Pro 28:8), assisting the young or old (Deu 28:50), and showing compassion for those who suffer (Job 19:21) or who are oppressed (Dan 4:27). It is assumed that these will not be isolated actions, but constitute the ongoing shape of life (Pro 14:21,31). These actions are not only pleasing to God (Pro 14:31), but are considered as done unto the LORD himself; they carry their own reward (Pro 19:17; cf Mat 25:40). While such actions may be expected (eg, respect, Lam 4:16), usually (as with mercy or liberality) they go beyond what is just or customary and may be said to be a gift from one person to another (Psa 37:21,26). Such attitudes and acts of kindness or graciousness are not peculiar to faithful Israelites (Job 19:21), but they are characteristic of the righteous (Psa 37:26; 112:4,5) rather than the wicked (Psa 37:21; Pro 21:10).

Cp Pro 11:17 ("A kind man benefits himself"); Pro 11:24,25 ("One man gives freely, yet gains even more... A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed"); Pro 12:10 ("A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal"); Pro 19:17 ("He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done"); Pro 21:13 ("If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered"); and Pro 28:27 ("He who gives to the poor will lack nothing"). Also cp Psa 41:1-3: "Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness." Psa 112:5: "Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely." And of course Mat 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

"The true believer is charitable and bountiful, knowing that he will not hereby impoverish himself, but lay up a rich store of blessing; he acts thus not from mere philanthropy, but from higher motives: he has the grace of charity which springs from and rests upon his faith in God" (Pulpit).

"Under [the Law of Moses] the enactments which tended to prevent or relieve poverty are very prominent. The privileges of gleaners, the precepts which forbade the withholding of wages, and the laws against usury, are specimens. The Year of Jubilee was remarkable social institution. That year poverty was suffered to put forth its claims in God's name, and was sure of a fair hearing. [The Law] did but foreshadow the work of Jesus, who came to establish righteousness, and to proclaim brotherhood between men and between nations. He was listened to most eagerly by the poor. He was born among them, was all through his life one of them -- understood their habits and feelings, was at home in their houses, and taught truth in a way that they could comprehend. We admit that we cannot reach an ideal state of society in the world so long as sin exists. But we are not to fold our hands -- waiting for a coming millennium -- thinking that of necessity things must be as they are. Christ our Saviour is the world's rightful king, and he means to conquer it for himself, through the righteousness and mercifulness of His people. Still, the law of love holds good, and if we follow our Lord, we shall go forth to seek and to save those that are lost. And they need saving -- from misery, from degradation, and from despair. Consideration of the moral effects of poverty will lead us to deeper pity of the poor. A poor man has not the gracious home influence that most of us enjoy. The temptation to envy must come with tremendous power to a poor man. What can be done to alter for the better a state of things which every Christian ought to think of pitifully and prayerfully?" (Rowland, BI).

Pro 14:22

DO NOT THOSE WHO PLOT EVIL GO ASTRAY? BUT THOSE WHO PLAN WHAT IS GOOD FIND LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS: The same verb occurs in both lines of this proverb. "Charash" signifies to scratch, to engrave, to plow, to fabricate -- and hence to build or devise or contrive something, as a craftsman or artisan. A person's moral standing is the result of planning. While an individual may be "evil" (Hebrew "ra") simply by default, the truly "evil" are those who PLAN their evil deeds. And it is absolutely certain, at least, that no one simply stumbles by accident into "good" (Hebrew "tob").

DO NOT THOSE WHO PLOT EVIL GO ASTRAY?: Those who plan evil, in this context, include those who have no regard for their poor neighbors. The question form suggests a possible connection with the previous verses (vv 20,21), and by the way emphasizes the truths previously stated: 'Is it not obvious that those who plot evil (ie, against the poor) will go astray?'

Cp Pro 3:29: "Do not plot [sw 'charash'] harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you." And Pro 6:12,14: "A scoundrel and villain... plots [sw 'charash'] evil with deceit in his heart." And also Isa 32:7,8: "The scoundrel's methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just. But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands."

Such evil plotters go astray from the right way -- the way of life; their views are distorted, and they no longer see their proper course. "How miserably mistaken those are that not only do evil, but devise it: do they not err? Yes, certainly they do; every one knows it. They think that by sinning with craft and contrivance, and carrying on their intrigues with more plot and artifice than others, they shall make a better hand of their sins than others do, and come off better. But they are mistaken. God's justice cannot be out-witted. Those that devise evil against their neighbours greatly err, for it will certainly turn upon themselves and end in their own ruin, a fatal error!" (Henry).

Of the many examples in the Bible of those who plan or plot evil: the tower-builders of Babel (Gen 11:9), Haman with his evil devices (Est 7:10), and those who plotted evil against the Lord Jesus (Mat 21:41-44; Psa 2:1-4).

BUT THOSE WHO PLAN WHAT IS GOOD FIND LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS: "Find" (NIV), like "shall be to" (KJV) and "meet" (RSV), suggest that "love and faithfulness" come as a reward from God to those who plan good. But the verb could mean "show" (as in RSV mg). Or, as NET puts it: "Those who plan good EXHIBIT [or demonstrate] faithful covenant love."

"Love and faithfulness", or "mercy and truth" are a common pair in Hebrew; they usually describe the LORD's intervention, but here they refer to the faithful and kind dealings of the righteous, which are demonstrated or manifested by those who seek to do "good".

The noun "khesed" ("love" in NIV, "mercy" in AV) describes those who show mercy, kindness, or "love" to God and His people. The description of the righteous by this term indicates their active participation in the covenant, for which God has promised His protection (Pro 2:8). "Emet" ("faithfulness" in NIV, "truth" in AV) is derived from the familiar "emen" or "amen", and has connotations of both truth (as in fact or reality) and honor or trustworthiness (as in faithfully doing what one has promised).

Taken together, the two words "khesed" and "emet" ("mercy and truth" in the AV) form a hendiadys (meaning "two combined into one"), the second word becoming an adjective, and thus modifying the first: "faithful [covenant] love, or lovingkindness" or "loyal [covenant] love and faithfulness." (The two words occur as a word pair in Pro 3:3; 16:6; 20:28 as well as Pro 14:22. They occur in parallelism in Psa 26:3; 57:10; 69:13; Isa 16:5; and elsewhere.) Specifically, on God's part, it is a total faithfulness to remember and fulfill His covenant promises -- as to Abraham and David. And on man's part, as in this verse, it is a relative faithfulness to remember his God and fulfill his part of the divine covenant, as best he is able, in serving and obeying Him. For it is only those who remember the covenant-love they have pledged to God, and show His kindness to others, who may expect God's kindness shown to them at the end: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mat 5:7). "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Mat 6:14,15).

Pro 14:23

ALL HARD WORK BRINGS A PROFIT, BUT MERE TALK LEADS ONLY TO POVERTY: Profits come from hard work and not idle talk. Or, in the words of the Nike ads, "Just do it!" This proverb is quite similar to Pro 21:5: "The plans of the diligent lead to profit [sw Pro 14:23] as surely as haste leads to poverty [sw Pro 14:23]." See also Pro 12:24: "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor." And Pro 13:4: "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."

Parents in Israel usually taught their children their profession. Living at home with his father, the son naturally watched and helped his father at work and learned to do his father's job (cf 1Sa 16:11; 2Ki 4:18). The book of Proverbs several times insists on the usefulness of good work (Pro 12:24,27; 14:23; 18:9; 20:13; 22:29; cp also Ecc 9:10; 11:1–6), especially agricultural work (Pro 12:11; 24:27,30–34; 27:18,23–27; 28:19). Girls learned household activities with their mother, in particular baking (2Sa 13:8), spinning, and weaving (Exo 35:25,26). Pro 31:10–31 seems to present the picture of the ideal woman as a model for the girls' education. Young girls could also work in the fields (Gen 29:6-10; Exo 2:16-20; cf Song 1:6; Pro 31:16). The father's responsibility in teaching a profession to his son was underlined by the rabbinical saying: "The man who does not teach his son to work teaches him to steal."

"Proverbs does emphasize the moral restraints that God has placed on gaining wealth. It is not to be achieved through deceit (Pro 21:6), or by using false balances (Pro 20:10), or by shifting boundary markers (Pro 22:28), or through oppression (Pro 23:10,11). Such wealth will prove to be a snare of death to those who touch it and a will-o'-the-wisp (Pro 21:6)" (WC Kaiser, TJ 9:2:164). On this last point, cf also Pro 28:19.

ALL HARD WORK BRINGS A PROFIT: "Hard work" is "etseb" -- literally, "painful toil", that which was promised to Eve in childbearing: "With pain ['etseb'] you will give birth to children" (Gen 3:16). A related word ("itstsabown") is used in the same verse, about Eve ("pains in childbearing"; cf 1Ch 4:9), and also in the next verses to describe Adam's "painful toil" upon the ground in order to produce food (Gen 3:17,19). Cp "etseb" in Psa 127:2 ("toiling for food") and "itstsabown" in Gen 5:29 ("painful toil of our hands"). "In Eden the principle was established that Adam was to tend the garden, not just sit back and let grapes drop into his mouth!" (Crawford).

"Profit" ("mawthar") is related to the word "yithron" -- which is very common in Ecclesiastes, signifying "that which is left over" or a "surplus", and is in contradistinction to "hebel" (vanity, emptiness, nothingness, a breath). In Ecclesiastes "profit" is contrasted with "hebel", or "nothingness"; here it is contrasted with "poverty", a "lack, or need". Cp also Pro 10:22: "The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble ['etseb'] to it."

"Much [profit] is got by [labour], food, raiment, riches, wealth, wisdom, honour; either with the labour of the hands or head, and nothing is to be got without labour; and he that is laborious in his calling, whether it be by manual operation, working with his hands that which is good; or by hard study, much reading, and constant meditation, is like to gain much for his own use and the good of others" (Gill).

"The doctrine of the Proverbs is, that what is good for the next world is good for this. He who wishes to go out of this world happily must first go through this world wisely. Men do, to a very great extent, earn for themselves their good or evil fortunes, and are filled with the fruit of their own devices. True religion is a thing which mixes itself up with all the cares and business of this mortal life, this workaday world. 'In all labour there is profit.' Whatsoever is worth doing, is worth doing well. It is always worthwhile to take pains. It is a shortsighted mistake to avoid taking trouble, for God has so well ordered this world that industry always repays itself. God has set thee thy work; then fulfil it. Fill it full. Throw thy whole heart and soul into it. Do it carefully, accurately, completely. All neglect, carelessness, slurring over work is a sin; a sin against God, who has called us to our work; a sin against our country and our neighbours, who ought to profit by our work; and a sin against ourselves also, for we ought to be made wiser and better men by our work. Then take pains. Whatever you do, do thoroughly. Whatever you begin, finish. Look upon your work as an honourable calling, and as a blessing to yourselves, not merely as a hard necessity, a burden which must be done. Be sure it will bring its reward with it. Work, hard work, is a blessing to the soul and character of the man who works. Idleness makes a man restless, discontented, greedy, the slave of his own lusts and passions. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle man will never know.

"If you wish to see how noble a calling work is, consider God Himself, who, although He is perfect, and does not need, as we do, the training which comes by work, yet works for ever with and through His Son Jesus Christ, who said, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work' [Joh 5:17]. Think of God as a King working for ever for the good of His subjects, a Father working for ever for the good of His children, for ever sending forth light, and life, and happiness to all created things, and ordering all things in heaven and earth by a providence so perfect that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge, and the very hairs of your head are all numbered. And then think of yourselves, called to copy God, each in his station, and to be fellow-workers with God for the good of each other and of ourselves. Called to work because you are made in God's image, and redeemed to be the children of God" (Kingsley, BI).

BUT MERE TALK LEADS ONLY TO POVERTY: Empty talk (NIV, "mere talk"; literally "words of lips") leads to "penury" (KJV) or poverty (cp Job 11:2; 15:3; Isa 36:5). "A chattering fool comes to ruin" (Pro 10:10). "Poverty" ("machcowr", "need; thing needed; poverty") comes from a verb meaning "to lack; to be lacking; to decrease; to need". A person given to idle talk rather than industrious work will have needs that go unmet. So Paul exhorts the Thessalonians: " 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2Th 3:10-12). And elsewhere he warns against those who "get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to" (1Ti 5:13).

Other, non-Biblical proverbs abound on the subjects of words and works: "Sweet words, empty hands." "To speak of honey will not make the mouth sweet." "We do not cook rice by babbling." All these are from the Orientals. The Turks add, "The language of actions is more eloquent than the language of words." And the English: "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day."

"I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work" (Thomas Edison). Walter Scott puts these words on the lips of an old Scotsman, speaking to his son from his deathbed: "Be ever stickin' in a tree, John; it'll be doin' good to the world when you and I are gane." "Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit" (RE Shay).

Pro 14:24

THE WEALTH OF THE WISE IS THEIR CROWN, BUT THE FOLLY OF FOOLS YIELDS FOLLY: Wisdom brings its own rewards, as folly brings its own punishments. Although the proverb makes sense as it reads in the Hebrew, some translators and commentators feel that each line has difficulties. Some of these will be pointed out below.

THE WEALTH OF THE WISE IS THEIR CROWN: This line reads "the crown of the wise is their riches." But this leaves unanswered the question: 'But what ARE the riches of the wise? Literal wealth, or spiritual wealth?' CH Toy suggests that literal wealth is an ornament to those who use it well ("Proverbs" 296). Buzzell, cited by Constable, agrees: "The wise are crowned, that is, blessed with wealth (cf Pro 3:16; 8:18,21; 15:6; 22:4) because of their diligence (Pro 14:23), but foolish conduct results not in blessing but in more folly (cf Pro 14:18)." Bridges cites examples of wise men who used their riches well: Job, employing his goods to benefit others (Job 29:6-17), and David, assembling the materials for God's Temple (1Ch 29:1-5; 2Ch 5:1).

On the other hand, JH Greenstone suggests that the wisdom of the wise, which IS their crown of glory, constitutes their "wealth" ("Proverbs" 155), regardless of any material prosperity.

BUT THE FOLLY OF FOOLS YIELDS FOLLY: "This line SEEMS to be saying that fools only have their folly. Consequently many... read 'weliwyat' instead of 'iwwelet' to form a better parallel with the first half, thus: 'the WEALTH of fools is their folly' (McKane 466). [The RSV -- following the LXX -- makes its own emendation, in an effort to achieve a better parallelism with the first line: 'Folly is the GARLAND of fools.'] The point would be that the fool can only expect greater exposure of his folly, rather than merely saying his folly is his folly" (EBC).

Is the meaning of the original sufficiently vague or pointless, so as to justify proposing changes in the text? As this line stands in the Hebrew, it is what some commentators call a "tautology" (ie, a redundancy, a needless repetition). "Redundant" and "repetitious" it may be, but is it really "needless"? That may be a matter of opinion. One of the strengths of Proverbs, so it seems, is its repetition: the Book tells us what we NEED to hear, even if -- sometimes -- it seems needlessly repetitious! So we ought to ask: do we all know, as we should -- do we TRULY recognize -- that a life of folly produces only folly in the end? And the answer, it seems to me, is: No! we do NOT understand perfectly such a simple truth. If we did, then the world -- along with all of us who claim to "know the Truth" -- would have long since given up every vestige of folly, and grasped wisdom with both hands, and embraced it with both arms! But this has not happened, and so the plainest cliche -- "The folly of fools yields folly" -- remains as one more witness, pointing out to us a warning, and by implication THE "way"! As Kidner says, this line "emphasizes by its very tautology the barrenness of folly, which is its own reproach and its own harvest."

In the context (of the first line), we might read this second line: "The folly of fools -- even when accompanied by riches -- is still only folly!" "Folly is oftentimes made more manifest through the ill use [fools] make of their riches; spending them in the gratification of their sinful lusts; and making no use of them for their own improvement in knowledge, or for the good of their fellow creatures" (Gill). Decorate folly as you will, dress it up in rich fabrics and set it off with gaudy ornaments -- it is still nothing but folly. And the wise and discerning see it for what it is, and more so for its being flaunted conspicuously, so as to attract witnesses. In "Gone With the Wind", a newly-rich Scarlett O'Hara -- anxious to move into the highest circles of Southern society -- offers her old slave and nursemaid Mammy a fine new dress. The wise Mammy replies, "Miz Scarlett, you and me can give ourselves airs and get ourselves all slicked up like racehorses, but we are still just mules in horse harness and everybody knows it."

Pro 14:25

A TRUTHFUL WITNESS SAVES LIVES, BUT A FALSE WITNESS IS DECEITFUL: Telling the truth in court advances the cause of justice in the outcome of a trial, but justice is perverted by false witnesses. Thus every court punishes perjury (lying under oath) most severely, because the court that cannot guarantee that its witnesses are telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is worse than useless.

A TRUTHFUL WITNESS SAVES LIVES: "Truthful witness" is "ed emeth". "Saves lives" is "matsil [to deliver, rescue] nepheshoth [the sw often translated 'souls']". Thus the KJV translates: "A true witness delivereth souls." As has been pointed out (by Kidner, for example), "special Christian overtones [ie, 'delivering SOULS!']... do not really belong" here -- since the setting of this verse is a court of law, and "witnesses" are those who testify before the court. However, such a connection should not be dismissed so quickly: the NT does speak, many times, of both (a) Christ "the Faithful and True Witness" (Rev 1:5; 3:7,14; 19:11), and (b) -- other preachers of the gospel, who are his "witnesses" also (Greek "marturion", or English "martyrs") (Mat 10:18; Mar 13:9; Luk 21:13; 2Ti 1:8; etc). Then, when it is remembered that Christian "witnesses" do testify about the good news of the Kingdom of God, while in the spiritual presence of the Righteous Judge (1Co 4:5; 2TI 4:1,8; Jam 5:9; 1Pe 4:5), before whose Judgment Seat they will ultimately stand (Rom 2:16; 14:10; Acts 10:42; 2Co 5:10), then perhaps a courtroom setting for the NT "witnesses" is not too far amiss!

BUT A FALSE WITNESS IS DECEITFUL: "A deceitful witness speaketh [Hebrew 'yafeach'] lies" (AV). "Yafeach" was once considered to mean "to puff or blow", and thus "to utter or breathe out", but recent research into the Ugaritic has shown that it is another word for a formal witness, as in court (Pro 14:5n).

"A false testimony deceives the court and brings ruin. To make this point clearer, several commentators have changed 'mirmah' ('deceit') to 'merammeh' ('destroys'), a change that is not necessary, however. The point stands that nothing good is gained by perjury. Moreover, as Kidner says, anyone who will trim the facts for you is just as likely to do it against you" (EBC). Examples of "false witnesses": (1) Jezebel, arraying false witnesses against Naboth, so as to destroy him and thus appropriate his property (1Ki 25), and (2) the Jewish authorities, arranging and bribing false witnesses against the Lord Jesus Christ -- "but their statements did not agree" (Mar 14:56; cp Mat 26:59-61).

"This [verse] shows a concern that was quite common in Proverbs, that of truth and falsehood in legal settings (eg Pro 6:19a; 12:17; 14:5; 19:5,9; 21:28; cf Exo 20:16; Deu 19:18). A proverb like this one must have arisen from a situation where the testimony given before the court resulted in the removal of a harmful or potentially harmful person or circumstance from the community." Or, for that matter, truthful testimony might save the life of a person falsely accused of a capital crime. On the other hand... "a series of events might just as easily be envisioned whereby the truthful testimony of a witness leads to the loss of life -- for example, a legally sanctioned execution" (Bricker, JETS 38:4:508) -- but, as the writer of Proverbs sees it, this would be not be an undesirable outcome.

" 'Souls are saved,' human life is preserved, the bonds of intercourse are held together, by the truthful man. Hearts are betrayed, covenants are broken, the integrity of life is shattered, by the deceiver, the hypocrite, and the slanderer" (Johnson, Pulpit).

Pro 14:26

HE WHO FEARS THE LORD HAS A SECURE FORTRESS, AND FOR HIS CHILDREN IT WILL BE A REFUGE: This proverb builds upon the theme verse of the Book: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Pro 1:7; cp Pro 9:10). Other proverbs about the fear of the LORD are Pro 14:2,26,27; 15:16,33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17,18. The command to fear the LORD occurs in Pro 3:7; 24:21. Four times the verbal form "fears the LORD" occurs (Pro 14:2,16,26; 31:30). Fearing the LORD is associated with wisdom six times (Job 28:28; Pro 1:7,29; 2:5; 8:13; 15:33). The fear of the LORD brings security (as here), life (Pro 10:27; 14:27), safety and contentment (Pro 19:23), and wisdom and honor (Pro 15:33). If one fears the LORD, he need not fear anything else (Pro 29:25).

The "fear of the LORD" is put into practice throughout the Bible: (a) Abraham sacrificed his son in the fear of the LORD; yet was fully confident "that God was able to raise him up... from the dead" (Gen 22:3-10, Heb 11:19). (b) David "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" after the Amalekites had made a raid on Ziklag and taken captive the wives and children of his men and himself (1Sa 30:6). (c) Hezekiah exhorted the people: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles" (2Ch 32:7,8). (d) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Dan 3:17,25,27; cf Isa 43:2) feared the LORD but not the fiery furnace. (e) Habakkuk feared the LORD more than any famine (Hab 3:17-19). (f) Peter feared the LORD but not Herod's soldiers (Acts 12:6). And (g) Paul feared the LORD but not the executioner (2Ti 4:6-8).

HE WHO FEARS THE LORD HAS A SECURE FORTRESS: The reverential fear of the LORD leads to security. The image is of a "secure fortress" ("mibtach oz") -- or "strong confidence" (KJV, NET) -- for the God-fearer and his children. The "fear" finds expression in obedience to the Law with all its rewards and punishments, and this ensures the safety. Cp Pro 18:10: "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."

AND FOR HIS CHILDREN IT WILL BE A REFUGE: There are two possibilities here: either (a) "His children" means the children of the LORD (cf Deu 14:1), or (b) "his children" means the children of the one who fears the LORD. Either reading would follow the first clause and suit the context. Since the "children of the LORD" is not a common OT expression, it is quite reasonable to assume -- as do most commentators -- that the second possibility is the correct one, and that the children mentioned here are the God-fearer's children and not worshipers in general. Exo 20:5,6 declares that children will reap the benefits of the righteous parents if they love the LORD too (cp also Pro 13:22; 20:7); so if fear gives the parents security ("machseh": a refuge) in the LORD, then "it" (ie, that same security) -- or possibly "He" (ie, the LORD Himself) will be a refuge for their children as well. "But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD'S love is with those who fear him, AND his righteousness with their children's children" (Psa 103:17). So God blessed the descendants of Abraham, particularly as and when they followed in the footsteps of their faithful father (Gen 17:7).

REFUGE: "Machseh" occurs 20 times in the OT; the NIV translates "refuge" in 18 of these and "shelter" in the other two (Job 24:8; Isa 25:4). All but four of the passages employing "machseh" are figurative expressions applied to Yahweh as the refuge of the righteous. Often "machseh" is used in combination with other words like "tzur" ("rock") (Psa 62:7; 94:22), "oz" ("strength") (Psa 46:1; 62:7; Pro 14:26), or "metsudah" ("fortress") (Psa 91:2). All these combinations emphasize the certainty and comprehensive nature of Yahweh's ability to protect His own people. Unlike those who are swept away by God's wrath because they have taken refuge in the lie of idolatry (Isa 28:15,17), those who fear the LORD have a secure fortress in the day of evil (Jer 17:17), and this legacy of faith provides a refuge for their children as well (Pro 14:26). The LORD is always a refuge, especially for those who by choice (Psa 73:28) and faith (Psa 71:6,7) make Him such. But this does not guarantee that the righteous will be unaffected by calamity. Rather, it provides hope that the canopy of God's glorious presence will one day shelter the people of God (Isa 4:6; Joe 3:16).
Comment on Pro 14:27

THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE, TURNING A MAN FROM THE SNARES OF DEATH: This is practically a perfect parallel with Pro 13:14, except that "the fear of the LORD" (which repeats from v 26 here) has replaced "the teaching of the wise". And so it is seen, by the transitive principle ("If a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c"), that "fear of the LORD" equals "wisdom": cp Pro 15:33: "The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom", as well as Pro 1:7; 9:10; etc. For further details, see notes at Pro 13:14.

Pro 14:28

A LARGE POPULATION IS A KING'S GLORY, BUT WITHOUT SUBJECTS A PRINCE IS RUINED: It is generally true that a ruler's power varies with the size of his empire. And it is also generally true that a politician's power is based on the number of people in his party or following, and thus how many votes he can command, and what kind of budget he can draw upon.

A LARGE POPULATION IS A KING'S GLORY: "Large population" is "rab am"; "rab" can mean "great" as well as "numerous". So it is quite possible that the "glory" ("hadarah" -- an ornament, or other adornment) of a "king" ("melek") is a prosperous, or honorable, or righteous, people -- more so than simply a large number of subjects. "It is much for the honour of a king to have a populous kingdom; it is a sign that he rules well, since strangers are hereby invited to come and settle under his protection and his own subjects live comfortably; it is a sign that he and his kingdom are under the blessing of God, the effect of which is being fruitful and multiplying. It is his strength, and makes him considerable and formidable... It is therefore the wisdom of princes, by a mild and gentle government, by encouraging trade and husbandry, and by making all easy under them, to promote the increase of their people" (Henry).

Solomon may be the pattern for this verse, as it is said of him: "The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon's subjects all his life" (1Ki 4:20,21).

Furthermore, on a spiritual plane, the true King's glory is a righteous people, the multitude before his throne (Rev 5:8-13), the 144,000 (Rev 7:4; 14:1-3), and the great multitude which no man can number (Rev 7:9) -- along with a Kingdom so extensive that it covers the whole earth (Num 14:21; Hab 2:14; Isa 9:11; Psa 72:8-11)!

BUT WITHOUT SUBJECTS A PRINCE IS RUINED: "Subjects" is "le'om" -- an archaic and poetic word (the authorities say) that is used often in Psalms and Isaiah. According to NIDOTTE, the singular form that occurs in the Proverbs (Pro 11:26; 14:28) "requires the translation 'population'." "Prince" is "razown" -- a one-time OT word, signfying "dignitary", possibly derived from the Hebrew for "weighty".

Possibly this phrase describes the "prince" who is not yet ascended to the throne, and in the interim -- whether his intentions be good or bad -- is essentially powerless. Such a position can produce a sense of frustration, impotence, and resentment toward those in power; and can lead to rebellion and ruin -- as was the case with some of David's sons.

Pro 14:29

A PATIENT MAN HAS GREAT UNDERSTANDING, BUT A QUICK-TEMPERED MAN DISPLAYS FOLLY: Proverbs of anger and meekness: Pro 12:16; 14:17,29; 15:1,18; 16:32; 17:12,26; 19:11,19; 22:24,25; 25:15,28; 26:21; 29:22. Cp 1Co 13:4,5: "Love is patient, love is kind... not easily angered." Jam 1:19: "Everyone should be... slow to become angry." And Jam 3:17,18: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is... peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit... Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

A PATIENT MAN HAS GREAT UNDERSTANDING: "Patient" is "long, or slow ('erekh'), to anger ('appayim')". This is literally "long in his nostrils", and is contrasted with the "short in his nostrils" of v 17 (see notes there). This corresponds quite well with the "patient" (NIV), or "longsuffering" (AV), of Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12; etc: "makrothumia" means, literally, "long in breath" or "long in mind".

This same phrase, "slow to anger", is included in a listing of the LORD's attributes seven times, together with His other attributes: love, faithfulness or fidelity, compassion, and graciousness; see Exo 34:6; Neh 9:17; Psa 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2. Num 14:18 simply links the LORD's slowness to anger with His love.

There is the caricature that emphasizes this point: the man who prays, "LORD, give me patience -- and do it NOW!" But it simply does not work that way. God's Spirit does not produce a miraculous result in the mind of a believer, without regard to that mind's capacity to understand and accept it; God does not pour righteousness into us as though we were an empty bucket! If God's Spirit is to work with our spirits, so as to produce a good and desirable result, it must move at the pace of the slower party -- that is, our own spirits. The "fruit of the Spirit", like any fruit, must be nurtured and grow slowly, with the seasons. In the normal circumstances of life, with the many and varied experiences that come our way, we learn by observing, we learn by doing, and we learn perhaps most of all by the mistakes we make, and the things we suffer along the way. All this takes time. Patience develops slowly, from the ground up, from the inside out. From observing -- and perhaps participating in -- that which fails, we come finally to understanding and appreciating and at last putting into practice that which succeeds. The great inventor Thomas Edison was fond of saying that, for every marvelous discovery he made, there were 100 failed experiments along the way, and that his "genius" -- if such it was -- was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. So the prayer should NOT be: "LORD, give me patience -- and do it NOW!" but rather: "LORD, give me patience, please, in Your own time. And teach me, meantime, to trust in You while I am learning Your ways and waiting for Your gifts." And so "wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Pro 13:10; cf Pro 9:8,9; 12:15; 13:1).

BUT A QUICK-TEMPERED MAN DISPLAYS FOLLY: "Quick tempered" is "qotser ruach" -- a hasty spirit (cp AV). Cp v 17: "A quick-tempered man does foolish things." Thus, "Better... a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city" (Pro 16:32; cf also Pro 14:29; 15:18; 19:11; Ecc 7:9; 1Co 13:5; Jam 1:19,20; 2Ti 2:24). See Lesson, Prov and temper. Illustrations: Rehoboam (1Ki 12); Jehoram (2Ki 5:7); Jonah (Jon 4:8,9); and Martha (Luk 10:40).

DISPLAYS: The AV has "exalteth" (cp NET). "The participle 'exalts' ('merim') means that this person brings folly to a full measure, lifts it up, brings it to the full notice of everybody" (NETn). In other words, a quick-tempered man does not CONSCIOUSLY exalt folly as desirable, but rather he makes it conspicuous to public view, so that everyone may see that a quick temper IS folly (cp Pro 3:35). We may all serve good and useful purposes, some of us -- like the quick-tempered man -- by simply being a bad example and a cautionary lesson: 'Pay attention, and don't do what this man does!'

"Here we are presented with two quite different men, that we may meditate upon them, seeing here the transformation that must take place within us. The first man is 'slow to wrath.' This is due to the fact that he is forbearing. The meaning of this is, that such a man is one who 'holds himself back' or who 'controls himself.' But WHY is it he can hold himself back, and control himself? Because he is able to do so -- capable of doing so -- is equipped to do so, by deriving great understanding inwardly in the keeping of God's Word.

"It is not an ability in which the flesh may glory. Indeed, it is the reverse of glory to the flesh, since it is faithful and loving obedience to God's Word that is the means of overcoming self and looking upon others with greater and greater understanding as the weeks and months and years go by. The second man is quick-tempered or hasty of spirit. This is due to the fact that he does not hold himself back. He is quick of temper, letting self go immediately, not holding back the works of the flesh enumerated in Gal 5, works that spring from the opposite of self-control.

"A quick-tempered man is dominated and enslaved by the fleshly mind and the works of the flesh, so that while he seeks early opportunities for conflict and conquest, he himself is defeated and dominated by sin! Jesus says (John 8:34), 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin. As also the inspired words of 2Pe 2:19 teach, 'Of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.' The first man -- forbearing -- shows or exhibits great understanding. The second man -- hasty of spirit -- puts on display, and thereby exalts, great folly. Great understanding in contrast to great folly" (Mammone, Ber 65:236).

Pro 14:30

A HEART AT PEACE GIVES LIFE TO THE BODY, BUT ENVY ROTS THE BONES: It is healthy to find contentment, for envy brings constant turmoil. Proverbs of envy, especially envying sinners: Pro 14:30; 23:17,18; 24:1,2,19,20; 27:4.

A HEART AT PEACE GIVES LIFE TO THE BODY: Literally, "the life of the flesh ['chayye besarim'] is a heart of healing ['leb marphe']." The point is that a healthy spirit is the life of the body -- it soothes.

"A 'sound heart' [AV] is a heart that gives its supreme affection to the supremely good. All other hearts are more or less rotten. Such a heart, the text informs us, is the condition of physical health; it is the very 'life of the flesh.' True, science can demonstrate this fact in many ways. Physical health requires attention to certain laws; these laws to be attended to must be understood; the understanding of these laws requires study; the proper study of them is only insured by a supreme sympathy of heart with the law-giver. Every man's experience, as well as science, attests this fact. The influence of the emotions of the heart upon the state of the body even the dullest recognises. The passions of grief, disappointment, anger, jealousy and revenge, in proportion to their strength derange the bodily system. On the other hand, pleasurable emotions give buoyancy and vigour to the body" (Thomas, BI).

God gives contentment (1Ti 6:6-10; Phi 4:11-13), and contentment is the source of physical as well as spiritual health (Pro 14:30), the opposite of greed (Pro 15:27), and ultimately the reward for the righteous (Pro 13:25).

PEACE: Here the word is not "shalom", as one might expect from the NIV translation, but "marphe" ("healing") -- it is translated "tranquil" in the RSV, and "sound", as in "healthy" or "health-giving", in the AV. It is derived from the root "rapha" -- to heal, or to mend. Frequently, the prophets used "rapha" in terms of divine restoration for the nation after a time of judgment and chastisement (Isa 6:10; Jer 30:17; Hos 5:13; 6:1). Such restoration had both a natural element as well as a spiritual one. While it is true that the prophets could describe Israel as a sin-sick people needing a spiritual healing (cf Isa 1:4-7), and while their emphasis was certainly on repentance and reconciliation, they knew that there were serious consequences to sin, including social upheaval, military defeat, economic collapse, famine, plague, the destruction of the temple, war, and even exile and captivity. And so "the hope of the prophets was nothing less than the whole man wholly healed, classically expressed in Isa 53:4,5: 'Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.' The depth of meaning in these verses can be seen by comparing the spiritualizing rendering of Isa 53:4 in the LXX ('This man bore our sins and was pained because of them')... with Matthew's literal rendering in Mat 8:17 ('He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases') in the context of healing the sick (Mat 8:16,17). Both concepts are present in the Hebrew text, as JA Motyer noted with reference to Isa 53:5: 'Isaiah uses "healing" in a total sense: the healing of the person, restoring fullness and completeness, a mark of the Messianic day (Isa 19:22; 30:26)' ("Isaiah", p 436)" (NIDOTTE).

In the Psalms, "rapha" is virtually always used with reference to literal, physical healing (cf Psa 6:3; 30:3; 41:4; 103:3; 107:20). However, because of the close connection in these psalms between sin and sickness, on the one hand, and forgiveness and healing on the other hand, these texts have often been understood as if "healed" simply meant "forgiven" -- whereas there ought to be room for both concepts in the interpretation.

In Proverbs "rapha" describes the healing of a variety of conditions. Some are obviously physical healings, contributing to the wellbeing of "body" and "bones" (Pro 3:7,8; 4:20-22); plainly, godliness is a key to healing and health. Tending toward more spiritual healing, there are these verses: Pro 12:18, where "the tongue of the wise brings healing" to the wounds inflicted by gossips; Pro 13:17, where "a trustworthy envoy brings healing", by faithfully delivering his message; Pro 16:24, where "pleasant words [bring] healing to the bones."

BUT ENVY ROTS THE BONES: On the other hand, envy brings pain and problems. The word "qin'ah" ("envy") -- like the Greek "epithumia" ("desire, or lust") -- can refer to that which is good or evil. "Qin'ah" describes passionate jealousy or zeal, depending on whether the object is out of bounds or within one's rights. Either way, it can be a violent excitement that is never satisfied, that consumes a person from the inside out. To take the negative especially for the moment, the one who is thus "consumed with envy" has no tranquility.

"Envy is wounded by our neighbor's prosperity (Gen 26:14; 1Sa 18:9). His ruin, or at least his injury, would give pleasure. Envy sickens at hearing of his praises, and repines at his very virtues. Something is always wrong in his conduct, something at least which, if it does not deserve blame, greatly detracts from his intolerable praise. This evil is indeed the deadliest fruit of selfishness. Nothing flourishes under its shade (Jam 3:16). Often is it a fretting sickness (Est 6:6,12), or a pining despondency (Psa 112:10), like the destruction of the bodily system by the rottenness of the bones. 'Truly' -- as Hall observes -- 'this vice is executioner enough to itself!'... So contrary is it to the mind of Christ (Rom 13:13) and to the spirit of his gospel (1Co 13:4)" (Bridges). Seemingly trivial sins open the floodgates to unstoppable big sins: Cain began with envy; envy became hatred, and hatred led to murder.

ENVY: The root word appears 85 times in the OT and has a wide range of meanings. The word can occur both in a positive sense (ie, to speak or work zealously for the benefit of someone else) and in a negative sense (ie, to bear a grudge against, or to resent). The various usages share the notion of an intense, energetic state of mind, urging towards action. The cause of the actions is the (possibly imagined) infringement of someone's rights or injury to the subject's honor. It is noteworthy that the human "qinah" is discussed predominantly in the Wisdom literature, whereas the divine "qinah" is an issue in the prophetic literature.

The human "qinah" can appear in various guises, eg, passion (Song 8:6), anger (Pro 14:30; 27:4), jealousy (Gen 26:14; Eze 31:9), competition (Ecc 4:4), and devotion (Num 11:29). In Pro 6:34 and Num 5 (the law of "jealousy") the word is used in connection with marriage and adultery. Also of interest are those places where "qinah" describes the envy of God's children against the prosperity and pride of the ungodly (Psa 37:1; 73:3; Pro 3:31; 23:17; 24:1,19); these seem to come close to what is described in Pro 14:30.

But at other times "qinah" is used to express a laudable religious fervor, impassionate devotion to God. Phinehas identified himself with God's cause by his strong-willed behavior against Zimri, to such an extent that he executed on His behalf God's "jealousy" (Num 25:11,13; cf 2Co 11:2). Elijah and Jehu also passionately stand up for the name and honor of their God (1Ki 19:10,14; 2Ki 10:16). The fervor for God (God's home, God's law) completely occupies the faithful and "devours" him (Psa 69:10; cf Psa 119:139).

The "zeal of the LORD" is one of the basic elements of the OT conception of God. God can be called simply "zealous" (Exo 34:14) or "the zealous [jealous] God" (this occurs at least seven times in the OT). At times "qinah" expresses God's fiery, angry reaction to Israel's infringement of His rights by worshiping false gods (Deu 6:4; cf Isa 42:8; 48:10). Any association with self-centered pettiness, fear of losing property, envy, or jealousy is absent in the context of the manifestation of the "qinah" of God. The translation "jealous" is, therefore, inadequate. God's 'jealousy" is not directed against the idols (which are, of course, nothing in themselves at all), but against the disloyal covenant partner. His "qinah" is not like that of the deceived husband against his rival, but rather like that of the lord or sovereign who does not tolerate anyone else next to him in the covenant with his subjects, and in that way he claims and maintains the exclusive relationship with his people.

Finally, the divine "qinah" can also be directed against the external threat to the covenant, and in that case it means a punishing fiery wrath against the enemy of Israel (eg, Isa 42:13; Eze 36:5,6; 38:19; Nah 1:2). In prophecies of the saving acts of God, the "qinah" of God has evident positive meaning: as a consequence of His compassion (Eze 39:25) and pity (Joe 2:18) God devoted Himself to His land and people (cf Zec 1:14). This divine devotion is earnestly sought in Isa 63:15. In Isa 9:6; 37:22; and 2Ki 19:31, God's "qinah" is the stimulating force behind the decisive turn in the history of Israel's redemption: the "small remnant" who are saved, and the coming of the Messiah are the result of God's burning love ("qinah") for Israel (adapted from NIDOTTE).

ROTS THE BONES: Here, as well as in Pro 12:4 and Hab 3:16, "raqav" describes the emotional effects of distress as "rottenness" to the bones. There is plenty of evidence that emotional problems -- such as envy here -- can lead to stress, which in turn may have a detrimental physical effect on the body as a whole. Thus the "rottenness" that begins in the mind can become a "rottenness" in the "bones" as well!

"We rarely equate our mental condition with our physical state but the link exists and this proverb confirms it. Envy will gnaw away at our insides and result in a depressed condition that is expressed physically. A sound mental attitude to life has benefits today as well as the promise to come. Is it not wise to change our way and avoid these debilitating mental conditions? Why do we burden ourselves with things that will destroy us? Because we are not wise enough to realise their effect" (Bowen).

"Sins of the soul and mind affect the body -- psychosomatic illnesses. Amnon lusted so greatly after his half-sister Tamar that it made him physically sick (2Sa 13:2). Craving what he could not have so tormented his soul that he became ill. And envy, grinding the soul of a person day and night, drains vitality from his health. If Amnon had feared God and rejected evil, it would have been health to his navel and marrow to his bones (Pro 3:7,8).

"An excellent book for the details of psychosomatic illnesses caused by sin is 'None of These Diseases' by Drs SI McMillen and DE Stern. These doctors explain in easy-to-read chapters the ravaging physical effects of a sinful lifestyle. It is confirming to faith that what our Creator inspired in the Bible is often superior to pills or treatment. How many in mental institutions and hospitals are there due to a spiritual problem -- sin?

"Consider a merry spirit. Recent studies have shown that people who laugh and enjoy life live longer than those who are morose and negative. Solomon wrote long ago, 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones' (Pro 17:22). Vitality comes from your spirit, not your diet! And you cannot be merry while envying others!

"You may hide your envy from other men -- for a while; but backbiting, emulation, hatred, murder, slander, or whispering will soon expose it. And it may consume your health directly through a stress-filled and angry, bitter heart; or it may ruin your body by direct physical judgment from God. Exchange your envy for love (Pro 15:17)!... You must examine yourself for envy, the horrible cause of problems in soul and body. Many examine their bodies for lumps, blood pressure, cholesterol readings, or other symptoms of deadly diseases, but why not examine your soul for the root cause of greater consequences? And the cause can be taken away easily by godly repentance and confessing your sins to God (Pro 28:13; Job 33:27,28; 1Jo 1:9)" (LGBT).

Under the heading "A modern killer", BS Snelling wrote: "A doctor who contributes a column to one of the more sober weekly Newspapers confirmed, from his experience, the truth of this inspired wisdom [Pro 14:30], written some 3,000 years ago. The first part of his article, headed 'Envy can be the death of you', read as follows: 'Did you know one of the most deadly of all modern killers? Envy. You won't find it in any medical textbook. But it should be there. It not only distorts the mind, but it destroys the body. Victims lose sight of what they have because they're blinded by the desire for what others have. I've seen many a life ruined by envy -- and alas, it's a disease as common in the old as in the young. Young folk are more envious of material possessions. Old folk are more envious of the friendships others have, of the chances that passed them by, of the happiness their neighbours have in their children and grandchildren. Sadly, too, young couples nowadays are not just trying to keep up with the Joneses, but to overtake them.'

"He proceeded to mention some of the illnesses which are sometimes produced by a 'slow simmering of resentment and dissatisfaction,' due to envy. These include blood pressure, a ruined digestion, coronary thrombosis and strokes. The article concluded: 'Yes, if I had a bottle or tablet or injection to cure envy, many of my patients would not only be happier, but healthier -- and some would even be alive. As one wise man said -- the secret is not in having what you like, but liking what you have.'

"Undoubtedly envy is an evil to which human nature is especially prone and the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation provide examples of its evil work, showing, further, that beyond the physical sicknesses mentioned by the doctor, it can pervert and poison the mind. The case of Korah, Dathan and Abiram comes readily to our attention, when jealousy of Moses' divinely ordained leadership led to their rebellion and death. And Moses' words to Korah and his Levitical associates are relevant: 'Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel to bring you near to Himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord... and seek ye the priesthood also?' (Num 16:9,10). They had so much to be thankful for, but were not satisfied. Envy worked in them to their destruction.

"Then in the New Testament, Paul who several times exhorted the ecclesias against being envious, confessed that he had aforetime been a slave to various passions and pleasures, passing his days in malice and envy (Tit 3:3, RSV). What a sidelight on the state of the heart of the restless, powerful, zealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus! Yet, after having been emptied of pride and envy, he strove to imitate his Master, who in the prime of his life was called upon to devote himself to his Father's business. Without ever a sign of envy, he suffered poverty, homelessness, denial of family life or successful career. His words, especially his prayers, reveal his tranquil heart. So Paul could say truly, 'I coveted no man's silver or gold, or apparel' and the reason -- 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content' (Acts 20:33, Phi 4:11). He had the priceless possession of 'a tranquil heart', which was an indispensable element in his ability to endure faithful to the end.

"It would be vain to assert that all Christadelphians are free from envy. Ideally they ought to be, but it is an ideal elusive to the natural man, especially in the modern world convulsed by almost universal struggles for 'more'; where GREED and not NEED is the predominant motive. We tend to envy those who have better houses, better homes, better cars, better clothes, better holidays, better health, better friendships, happier family life, etc., than we have. Not that we wish to deprive them of their privileges, but we are prone to want at least the same, and to agitate our minds and feel dissatisfied until we have it. But we need no 'bottle or tablet or injection to cure this envy'. We have to learn, like Paul, 'in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content'. We have to become convinced that 'whatsoever state we are in' is controlled, and indeed, contrived by God. For He has promised that 'all things' shall 'work together for (eternal) good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose' [Rom 8:28]. 'Be careful, (anxious) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus' [Phi 4:6,7]. A tranquil heart!" (OP 19:282).

Pro 14:31

HE WHO OPPRESSES THE POOR SHOWS CONTEMPT FOR THEIR MAKER, BUT WHOEVER IS KIND TO THE NEEDY HONORS GOD: How people treat the poor displays their faith in the Creator. Here is the doctrine of the Creation in its practical outworking. Cp generally Pro 11:24-26; 28:27; 29:7.

HE WHO OPPRESSES THE POOR SHOWS CONTEMPT FOR THEIR MAKER: Anyone who "oppresses" ("osheq" -- to press down upon) the "poor" ("dal" -- thin, weak) shows contempt for his Maker, for that poor person also is made in the image of God. "Contempt" is the Hebrew "charaph": "This verb has the meaning of 'to reproach; to taunt; to say sharp things against' someone. By oppressing the poor one taunts or mistreats God because that person is in the image of God -- hence the reference to the 'Creator.' To ridicule what God made is to ridicule God himself" (NETn). Cp Job 31:15; Pro 17:5; 22:2; cf Amo 5:7; Hos 5:11; Isa 1:21-24; Mic 2:2; Jer 22:17.

BUT WHOEVER IS KIND TO THE NEEDY HONORS GOD: The Hebrew text actually has, as in the AV, "honors HIM" -- which is in itself ambiguous: it might mean "honors the needy one", OR "honors GOD". But the parallel structure points strongly to the second alternative; this is made plain by the NIV. Showing favor for the needy ("ebyon") honors God because God, first of all, does the same (1Sa 2:8; Psa 113:7) and, secondly, commands men to do the same (see Mat 25:31-46; Jam 1:27; 2:5; 1Jo 3:17,18; cf Pro 14:21; 18:16; 19:17; 22:9; 29:13,14; 31:8,9; Lev 6:2-7; 25:35,36; Deu 15:1-11; Isa 58:6,7). For more detail, see the notes on Pro 14:21b.

Pro 14:32

WHEN CALAMITY COMES, THE WICKED ARE BROUGHT DOWN, BUT EVEN IN DEATH THE RIGHTEOUS HAVE A REFUGE: When bad things happen in the world, the wicked will most likely suffer, but -- even if the worst possible "bad thing" happens to the righteous (that is, death) -- they will find a shelter or protection in God. Cp this verse generally with Pro 10:30, where the fates of both wicked and righteous are delineated: "The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land."

WHEN CALAMITY COMES, THE WICKED ARE BROUGHT DOWN: "Calamity" is "ra" -- "evil". When "evil" comes upon the world, in the form of calamity or catastrophe, the wicked will be "brought down". This phrase is practically identical to Pro 24:16: "The wicked are brought down by calamity ('ra')."

It is not easy to see why the KJV has "driven away" here; the NIV's "brought down" seems much more reasonable. The Hebrew (in Pro 14:32, but not Pro 24:16) is "dachah": a word used several times of city walls being battered or pushed down by a conqueror (Psa 36:12; 62:3; 118:13), and of individuals "stumbling", ie into a serious or even life-threatening situation (Psa 56:13; 116:8).

"Proverbs provides several insights into the fate of the wicked. Their reputation will be like rotten wood (Pro 10:7). God will reject all their desires (Pro 10:3), and all their hopes will come to nothing (Pro 10:28; 11:8,10). Their worst fears will be realized (Pro 10:24). The wicked person will know nothing but calamity (Pro 12:21, depicted as a relentless hunter in Pro 11:19), as well as contempt and reproach (Pro 18:3). He will flee even when there are no pursuers (Pro 28:1) and eventually will be driven off to death (Pro 14:32). Without a future dwelling place awaiting him (Pro 10:30), he is overthrown by God (Pro 21:12) and is swept away like chaff (Pro 10:25)" (NIDOTTE). One thing that is interesting about this summary, all from Proverbs, is that there is absolutely no mention of an eternity of torment in a burning hell (or anywhere else, for that matter)!

Illustrations of the fate of the wicked: Dathan and his associates (Num 16:33); Israel (Exo 32:28); Balaam (Num 31:8,10; Rev 2:14); Hophni and Phinehas (1Sa 4:11); and Baal's prophets (1Ki 18:40).

BUT EVEN IN DEATH THE RIGHTEOUS HAVE A REFUGE: "Refuge" is "chacah": signifying a place where one might flee for protection in time of trouble. The word is used only one other time in Proverbs (Pro 30:5), but quite often, about 24 times, in Psalms, where it usually describes David's hiding in caves and elsewhere to flee his enemy Saul. There would seem to be two possibilities here: (1) "even in death" might signify, by supplying the ellipsis, "even when death is threatened, or impending" (as in Psa 23:4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me"); or (2) "death" and "the grave" may itself be considered the "refuge" of the righteous -- who "hide" themselves in its inner chambers until God's "wrath" (in the form of trouble or distress or danger) is past (cf Isa 26:20). The second of these is to be desired, as it suggests a keen hope in a resurrection.

Along these lines, Bowen writes: "To the righteous the ultimate calamity, even his death, is a part of his hope. It is not a calamity at all and in many ways a welcome release. It comes down to the moment when all men meet their Maker. This is the moment of truth for all. How will we fare? Where will we stand? An event at the beginning of the Lord's life is appropriate as it illustrates the proverb: Simeon, a just and devout man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel 'took the baby in his arms, and blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation' [Luk 2:29,30]."

With this cp also the prophet's words, wherein he sees that death is -- for some believers and in some circumstances -- a welcome visitor: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death" (Isa 57:1,2). And David's song: "And I -- in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness" (Psa 17:15; cp Psa 49:15; 73:24). Also, consider Job's words: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15; cp Job 19:25-27). And the words of the Apocalypse: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Rev 14:13).

Other righteous who will be rewarded: Jacob (Gen 49:18); Joseph (Gen 50:24, 25; Heb 11:22); David, who rested his worn body upon the Rock of salvation (2Sa 23:5; Psa 17:15); Stephen, whose hope was anchored within the veil, undisturbed by the volley of stones without (Acts 7:55-60); Paul, who triumphed in his crown, as if it were already on his head (2Ti 4:6-8; 2Co 5:1) and Peter (2Pe 1:14-16; 3:13).

IN DEATH: "The LXX reads this 'in his integrity', as if it were 'betummo' instead of 'in his death' ('bemoto')" (NETn) -- ie, switching the "m" and the "t". The RSV also follows this. This revision, however, involves an assumption about the text itself, without any real supporting evidence. There is no reason to tinker with the MT reading ("in death"), unless it be -- as EBCn points out -- that "those who do not wish to see hope in immortality at this point favor this variant reading."

But the fanciful idea, that Proverbs makes no mention of the hope of a resurrection or immortality, is simply not proven -- and is in fact disproved by such passages as Pro 10:25: "When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." Pro 10:30: "The righteous will never be uprooted." Pro 11:31: "The righteous receive their due on earth." Pro 12:28: "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality." And many more passages besides (eg, Pro 8:35; 9:11; 10:16; 11:19; etc).

On this last point, Robert Roberts writes also: "This is the most beautiful feature of the Proverbs, their constant fundamental dependence on the future dispensation of God's power in the destiny of man. Some think the Proverbs of a merely secular application, that is, that their wisdom depends upon considerations limited to the present life. That they are profitable for the life that now is, is true, as it is also true of the Gospel (1Ti 4:8), but that their chief bearing is towards that coming arrangement of things upon earth which has been the purpose of God from the beginning, will not be denied by those who have pondered the following sayings: 'The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope IN HIS DEATH' (Pro 14:32). 'When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish, and the hope of unjust men perisheth... but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward' (Pro 11:7,18). 'The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment' (Pro 12:19). 'The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and sinner' (Pro 11:31). 'The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish' (Pro 14:11). 'Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded' (Pro 13:13). 'As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation... The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth' (Pro 10:25,30). 'The upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it' (Pro 2:21,22)" (SC). (Further on this point, see CCW's "The Old Testament Doctrine of Eternal Life".)

Pro 14:33

WISDOM REPOSES IN THE HEART OF THE DISCERNING AND EVEN AMONG FOOLS SHE LETS HERSELF BE KNOWN: The AV, slightly different, reads: "Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known." On the first clause Henry remarks, "Modesty is the badge of wisdom"; and on the second, "Openness and ostentation are a mark of folly." The AV would be very similar to Pro 29:11, if the two clauses were reversed, so as to put the wise first, ie: "A wise man keeps himself under control, [but] the fool gives full vent to his anger."

WISDOM REPOSES IN THE HEART OF THE DISCERNING: Cp Pro 10:23: "A man of understanding delights in wisdom ['chokman': sw]." The word "reposes" ("nuwach" = to rest, settle down, dwell, reside) offers an additional nuance: the "discerning" does not need to parade his knowledge, or try to impress others with his wisdom. He may rest patiently, quietly secure in his discernment and the wisdom that accompanies it -- trusting in the God who confers His blessings upon him. This seems to be the point in Pro 10:14 ("Wise men STORE UP knowledge"), Pro 10:19 ("He who holds his tongue is wise"), Pro 12:23 ("A prudent man keep his knowledge TO HIMSELF"), Pro 15:28 ("The heart of the righteous WEIGHS its answers"), Pro 17:27; 20:5; and Ecc 9:17.

AND EVEN AMONG FOOLS SHE LETS HERSELF BE KNOWN: The LXX and Syriac (followed by the RSV) offer the alternative: "But in the heart of fools she is NOT known." This LXX reading is supported by other verses in Proverbs, where it is commonly stated that the "fool" ("keciyl") lacks wisdom (Pro 10:13,14, 21; etc) as well as self-control (Pro 12:16; 13:16; 14:16; 15:2,28; 20:3; 29:11; etc). Indeed, the whole thrust of the Book is against the association of wisdom with fools.

Another possibility is to see this second clause as ironic or sarcastic: the fool, anxious to appear wise, blurts out what he thinks is wisdom but in the process turns it to folly. Rabbinical wisdom offers: "The heart of fools is in their mouth; but the mouth of the wise is in their heart" (this is practically a commentary on the whole of this verse), and -- regarding this second clause especially -- "A fool's heart is ever dancing on his lips." Almost every man would like to be better thought of by his fellowmen. The fool has at hand the easiest method to accomplish this (although, being a fool, he can scarcely hope to see it): all he needs to do is keep his mouth shut!

Another alternative, consistent with the rest of Proverbs, would be -- as WBC suggests -- to read the second clause as a question: "But among fools can [wisdom] come to be known?" Such a rhetorical question obviously assumes an answer in the negative.

Pro 14:34

RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION, BUT SIN IS A DISGRACE TO ANY PEOPLE: The prosperity and the power of a nation depends on its righteousness. "The saying is a complement to v 28; not only numbers are necessary for the prosperity of a people; justice is required as well" (WBC). With this compare also Pro 16:12: "A throne is established through righteousness." In fact, a nation may be populous and wealthy (in natural resources, for example), and not be exalted at all -- but rather degraded and oppressed and unhappy -- because its leadership (a monarchy, or a dictatorship) is manifestly unrighteous and greedy and corrupt.

The words for "nation" ("goy") and "people" ("leummim") are usually applied in Scripture to Gentile nations rather than to Israel. But surely the principles apply to all, and -- if anything -- specifically to the nation of Israel itself, who are or should be God's special witnesses (Isa 43:10,12; 44:8). Thus the first two chapters of Amos survey the various nations around Israel and list their sins. But the prophet also enumerates the punishments brought upon these nations for their unrighteousness. Their disgrace is written in history. But it should be noted that both Judah and Israel find themselves in that list as well. They were supposed to be a holy nation, but Amos says: "They have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods [or 'lies'] their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem" (Amo 2:4,5).

RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION: "Exalt" is "rum" -- to be elevated or lifted up. "The most sure method that a nation can take to support and exalt itself, is to follow the laws of righteousness and the spirit of religion. It is not affirmed that in every particular case religion is more successful in procuring some temporal advantages than violation of it. We only affirm generally, that the more a society practises virtue, the more prosperity will it enjoy. By 'exaltation' is not meant that sort of elevation to which worldly heroes aspire. If we understand by 'exalting a nation,' whatever governs with gentleness, negotiates with success, attacks with courage, defends with resolution, and constitutes the happiness of a people, then a nation is only exalted by righteousness" (Saurin, BI).

BUT SIN IS A DISGRACE TO ANY PEOPLE: "Disgrace" is "khasad" -- "shame, or reproach". The AV, ASV, and RSV all use "reproach". The verb form of the same word occurs in Pro 25:10: "Do not betray another man's confidence, or he who hears it may SHAME you and you will never lose your bad reputation." This suggests a public reproach. According to Lev 20:17 it was considered a disgrace (sw) when a brother and sister have a sexual relationship, and they must therefore be removed from society. The extended litany of curses with which God threatens Israel, if they turn away from Him, underlines this proverb: Deu 28:15-68; 29:18-28; cf Psa 107:34. Other examples of nations debased by sin: Canaan (Lev 18:24-30); Egypt (Exo 12:12; Eze 29:1-15); Amalek (Exo 17:16); Babylon (Isa 14:4-23; cp Rev 17:5); Moab (Isa 16:6,7); Tyre (Eze 28:2-8); and Nineveh (Zep 2:13-15).

This word "khasad" is essentially identical to "khesed" -- a much more common word (found many times in Psalms) signifying "lovingkindness" or "mercy" (sometimes translated "steadfast, or covenant, love" or). It would seem there is no connection whatsoever between these two meanings. Some commentators, assuming that it is this second "khesed" which is intended here, have reinterpreted the clause to mean: "A sin-offering is a means of bringing God's mercy upon a nation." All in all, this strikes me as ingenious and imaginative, but more than a bit of a stretch.

"For the Christian, the message of history is that a society that rejects the revealed will of God and continues to ignore or maltreat His prophets will ultimately follow the historic path taken by Nineveh and Tyre. The issues are stated clearly in one of ancient Israel's proverbs, 'Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people' (Pro 14:34). The tragedy of Hebrew history is that the precept for security and salvation was known but not applied. As a result, what should have become a model society for the pagan world to imitate disintegrated under divine wrath. The Christian church needs to safeguard its spiritual values zealously, lest it too be set aside by an angry and disapproving God. The Christian may well feel lonely as he or she proclaims a message of divine judgment on sin in a world that disdains or ignores the message of salvation it needs so desperately. And yet God has called believers to stand in the spiritual tradition of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and others. He wants to see in believers' lives the kind of spiritual and moral witness that will convince the unholy and impure of their sin and point them to the One who can cleanse them from all iniquity. This high level of spirituality is mandatory for all of Christ's servants if they are to be effective in His service" (RK Harrison, BibSac 146:583:254,255).

"A nation's real greatness consists not in its conquests, magnificence, military or artistic skill, but in its observance of the requirements of justice and religion... Morality has not yet been sufficiently applied to politics. It is forgotten that the ten commandments relate to communities as well as to individuals, because they are based on the eternal and all-embracing principles of righteousness. Men have yet to learn that that which is wrong in the individual is wrong in the society. Nations make war on one another for reasons which would never justify individual men in fighting a duel. Yet if it is wrong for a man to steal a field, it must be wrong for a nation to steal a province; and if an individual man may not cut his neighbour's throat out of revenge without being punished as a criminal, there is nothing to justify a whole community in shooting down thousands of people for no better motive. If selfishness even is sinful in one man, selfishness cannot be virtuous in thirty millions of people. The reign of righteousness must govern public and national movements if the will of God is to be respected" (Pulpit).

"It is written in God's word, and in all the history of the race, that nations, if they live at all, live not by felicity of position, or soil, or climate, and not by abundance of material good, but by the living word of the living God. The commandments of God are the bread of life for the nations" (RD Hitchcock).

Pro 14:35

A KING DELIGHTS IN A WISE SERVANT, BUT A SHAMEFUL SERVANT INCURS HIS WRATH: A servant's competence will affect the king's attitude toward him -- either for good or ill. "Servant" is "ebed", which may be translated "slave", but it does not necessarily have the modern connotation: the word could also encompass a household servant, and a debtor or bondservant. Since the "king" is the subject here, his "servants" may well be court officials and ministers, with varying degrees of honor and standing and wealth themselves. This verse may well be the starting point for the Lord's words about faithful and wise servants, as well as wicked ones (Mat 24:45-51; Luk 12:42-47), and his parables of the talents (Mat 25:14-30) and the pounds or "minas" (Luk 19:11-27).

Other passages in Proverbs are concerned with kings' "servants" -- and have a spiritual as well as a practical application: "Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth. A king's wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man will appease it. When a king's face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring" (Pro 16:13-15). "A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing" (Pro 13:17; cp Pro 10:26). "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend" (Pro 22:11). "A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son, and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers" (Pro 17:2). Furthermore, Psa 101:4-8 sounds like a "job description" written by a king for wise and faithful "servants" or ministers: "Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD."

A KING DELIGHTS IN A WISE SERVANT: The wise servant receives his master's favor ("ratzon" -- good pleasure), which is "like dew on the grass" (Pro 19:12), for he is "maskil" (skillful and clever). The wise servant puts his master's money to work and gains a profit (Mat 25:16-18; Luk 19:13). He will receive the approval of his master -- "Well done, good and faithful servant!" -- along with greater responsibilities (Mat 25:21,23; Luk 19:16-19).

BUT A SHAMEFUL SERVANT INCURS HIS WRATH: An incompetent or worthless ("mebish": from "bosh" -- that which is "shameful") servant is one who does not discharge the king's business either well or efficiently; his mistakes and laziness expose his master to criticism and ridicule. The shameful servant is "afraid"; he hides his "talent" or "pound" (that with which he is entrusted) (Mat 25:25; Luk 19:20). He loses his position with his master, whose "rage is like the roar of a lion" (Pro 19:12), when he "sits on his throne to judge" (Pro 20:8) -- "Take his [pound, or] mina away" (Luk 19:24) -- and he himself is thrown "outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 25:30; cf Pro 25:5).

Joseph is the preeminent example of a wise servant (Gen 41:38-40) -- because of his honest and faithful discharge of all his duties, in whatever circumstances he finds himself, even prison, and because of his elevation by first his master and then the Pharaoh to higher and higher positions as a result. Kidner says, "[This verse] is a bracing reminder not to blame favouritism but one's own shortcomings, for any lack of recognition."

Likewise, Haman is the preeminent example of a shameful servant (Est 7:6-10): he uses his position to punish those whom he envies, to advance his own personal agenda, and to line his own pockets. In the end he suffers the ultimate punishment -- while his "enemy" Mordecai becomes another example of a wise servant exalted out of obscurity to the highest position.

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