25:22 you will heap burning coals on his head. The meaning of this metaphor must be determined from its context (see v. 21). The apostle Paul (Rom. 12:20) uses it, as here, as an image of overcoming evil with good. Ps. 140:10 uses the phrase as a description of punishment. The most likely meaning is penitence through a burning sense of shame. Some associate the image with an Egyptian penitential rite in which coals were carried on the head to show contrition. But the proverb comments on divine recompense: “the Lord will reward you.” See note 1:7.
Apart from Ex. 23:4, 5, Israel was rarely ordered to show kindness to enemies. This is probably because of the significance of the enemies as those who not only oppose God’s kingdom but also threaten Israel’s survival as the messianic people. Jesus developed the implications of the gospel for the treatment of personal enemies in Matt. 5:43–48.