New American Bible (Revised Edition)
VI. Second Solomonic Collection, Collected Under King Hezekiah[a]
2 [c]It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
and the glory of kings to fathom a matter.[d]
3 Like the heavens in height, and the earth in depth,
the heart of kings is unfathomable.
4 [e]Remove the dross from silver,
and it comes forth perfectly purified;
5 Remove the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne is made firm through justice.
6 [f]Claim no honor in the king’s presence,
nor occupy the place of superiors;
7 For it is better to be told, “Come up closer!”
than to be humbled before the prince.(B)
8 What your eyes have seen
do not bring forth too quickly against an opponent;
For what will you do later on
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
9 [g]Argue your own case with your neighbor,
but the secrets of others do not disclose;
10 Lest, hearing it, they reproach you,
and your ill repute never ceases.
11 Golden apples in silver settings
are words spoken at the proper time.
12 A golden earring or a necklace of fine gold—
one who gives wise reproof to a listening ear.
13 Like the coolness of snow in the heat of the harvest
are faithful messengers for those who send them,
lifting the spirits of their masters.
14 Clouds and wind but no rain—
the one who boasts of a gift not given.
15 By patience is a ruler persuaded,(C)
and a soft tongue can break a bone.
16 [h]If you find honey, eat only what you need,
lest you have your fill and vomit it up.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbors’ house,
lest they have their fill of you—and hate you.
18 A club, sword, or sharp arrow—
the one who bears false witness against a neighbor.(D)
19 A bad tooth or an unsteady foot—
a trust betrayed in time of trouble.[i]
20 Like the removal of clothes on a cold day, or vinegar on soda,
is the one who sings to a troubled heart.
21 [j]If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat,
if thirsty, give something to drink;(E)
22 For live coals you will heap on their heads,
and the Lord will vindicate you.
23 The north wind brings rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop
than in a mansion with a quarrelsome wife.[k](F)
25 Cool water to one faint from thirst
is good news from a far country.
26 A trampled fountain or a polluted spring—[l]
a just person fallen before the wicked.
27 To eat too much honey is not good;
nor to seek honor after honor.[m]
28 A city breached and left defenseless
are those who do not control their temper.
Chaps. 25–29 make up the fifth collection in the book, and the third longest. King Hezekiah reigned in Judah in 715–687 B.C. According to 2 Kgs 18–20 and 2 Chr 29–32, he initiated political and religious reforms after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. Such reforms probably included copying and editing sacred literature such as Proverbs. Prv 25:1 is an important piece of evidence about the composition of the book, suggesting this collection was added to an already-existing collection also attributed to Solomon. The older collection is probably 10:1–22:16 (or part of it). By the end of the eighth century B.C., therefore, there existed in Israel two large collections of aphorisms.
Chap. 25 has two general themes: (1) social hierarchy, rank, or position; (2) social conflict and its resolution.
- 25:1 The servants of Hezekiah: presumably scribes at the court of Hezekiah. Transmitted: lit., “to move, transfer from,” hence “to collect,” and perhaps also to arrange and compose.
- 25:2–7 The topic is the king—who he is (vv. 2–3) and how one is to behave in his presence (vv. 4–7).
- 25:2 God and king were closely related in the ancient world and in the Bible. The king had a special responsibility for divine justice. Hence, God would give him special wisdom to search it out.
- 25:4–5 Wisdom involves virtue as well as knowledge. As in Ps 101 the king cannot tolerate any wickedness in the royal service.
- 25:6–7 An admonition with a practical motive for putting the teaching into practice. Pragmatic shrewdness suggests that we not promote ourselves but let others do it for us. See Lk 14:7–11.
- 25:9–10 Another admonition on the use of law courts to settle personal disputes. Speak privately with your opponent lest others’ personal business become public and they resent you.
- 25:16–17 The two admonitions are complementary, expressing nicely the need to restrain the inclination for delightful things, whether for honey or friendship.
- 25:19 “A time of trouble” defeats all plans (cf. 10:2; 11:4). At such times human resources alone are like a tooth that falls out as one bites or a foot that goes suddenly lame.
- 25:21–22 A memorable statement of humanity and moderation; such sentiments could be occasionally found even outside the Bible, e.g., “It is better to bless someone than to do harm to one who has insulted you” (Egyptian Papyrus Insinger). Cf. Ex 23:4 and Lv 19:17–18. Human beings should not take it upon themselves to exact vengeance, leaving it rather in God’s hands. This saying has in view an enemy’s vulnerability in time of need, in this case extreme hunger and thirst; such a need should not be an occasion for revenge. The motive for restraining oneself is to allow God’s justice to take its own course, as in 20:22 and 24:17–19. Live coals: either remorse and embarrassment for the harm done, or increased punishment for refusing reconciliation. Cf. Mt 5:44. Rom 12:20 cites the Greek version and interprets it, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
- 25:24 A humorous saying about domestic unhappiness: better to live alone outdoors than indoors with an angry spouse. Prv 21:9 is identical and 21:19 is similar in thought.
- 25:26 “Spring” is a common metaphor for source. The righteous should be a source of life for others. When they fail, it is as if a spring became foul and its water undrinkable. It is not clear whether the righteous person yielded to a scoundrel out of cowardice or was simply defeated by evil. The latter seems more likely, for other proverbs say the just person will never “fall” (lit., “be moved,” 10:30; 12:3). The fall, even temporary, of a righteous person is a loss of life for others.
- 25:27 Nor…honor: the text is uncertain.