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Chapter 26[a]

Like snow in summer, like rain in harvest,
    honor for a fool is out of place.[b]
Like the sparrow in its flitting, like the swallow in its flight,
    a curse uncalled-for never lands.[c]
The whip for the horse, the bridle for the ass,
    and the rod for the back of fools.(A)
[d]Do not answer fools according to their folly,
    lest you too become like them.
Answer fools according to their folly,
    lest they become wise in their own eyes.
Those who send messages by a fool
    cut off their feet; they drink down violence.
[e]A proverb in the mouth of a fool
    hangs limp, like crippled legs.
Giving honor to a fool
    is like entangling a stone in the sling.
A thorn stuck in the hand of a drunkard
    is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 An archer wounding all who pass by
    is anyone who hires a drunken fool.
11 As dogs return to their vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.(B)
12 You see those who are wise in their own eyes?
    There is more hope for fools than for them.
13 [f]The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the street,
    a lion in the middle of the square!”(C)
14 The door turns on its hinges
    and sluggards, on their beds.
15 The sluggard buries a hand in the dish,
    too weary to lift it to the mouth.(D)
16 In their own eyes sluggards are wiser
    than seven who answer with good judgment.
17 Whoever meddles in the quarrel of another
    is one who grabs a passing dog by the ears.
18 Like a crazed archer
    scattering firebrands and deadly arrows,
19 Such are those who deceive their neighbor,
    and then say, “I was only joking.”
20 [g]Without wood the fire dies out;
    without a talebearer strife subsides.
21 Charcoal for coals, wood for fire—
    such are the quarrelsome, enkindling strife.(E)
22 The words of a talebearer are like dainty morsels:
    they sink into one’s inmost being.[h](F)
23 Like a glazed finish on earthenware
    are smooth lips and a wicked heart.[i]
24 With their lips enemies pretend,
    but inwardly they maintain deceit;
25 When they speak graciously, do not trust them,(G)
    for seven abominations[j] are in their hearts.
26 Hatred can be concealed by pretense,
    but malice will be revealed in the assembly.[k]
27 Whoever digs a pit falls into it;
    and a stone comes back upon the one who rolls it.(H)
28 The lying tongue is its owner’s enemy,
    and the flattering mouth works ruin.


  1. 26:1–28 Concrete images describe the vices of fools (vv. 1–12), of sluggards (vv. 13–16), of meddlers (vv. 17–19), of talebearers (vv. 20–22), and of flatterers (vv. 23–28).
  2. 26:1 There is no fit (“out of place”) between weather and agricultural season.
  3. 26:2 The point is the similarity of actions: a hovering bird that never lands, a groundless curse that never “lands.” It hangs in the air posing no threat to anyone.
  4. 26:4–5 There is no contradiction between these two proverbs. In their answers, the wise must protect their own interests against fools. Or perhaps the juxtaposition of the two proverbs suggests that no single proverb can resolve every problem in life.
  5. 26:7–9 Fools either abuse or are unable to use whatever knowledge they have. A thorn: a proverb is “words spoken at the proper time” (25:11). Fools have no sense of the right time; their statements are like thorns that fasten on clothing randomly.
  6. 26:13–16 Each verse mentions the sluggard, whom Proverbs regards with derision. The criticism is not against low energy but failure to act and take responsibility. Proverbs’ ideal is the active person who uses heart, lips, hands, feet to keep to the good path. The verses are examples of the sardonic humor of the book.
  7. 26:20–22 The three proverbs have a common theme—the destructive power of slanderous words. Certain words are repeated: wood and fire, talebearer.
  8. 26:22 Malicious gossip is compared to delicious food that is swallowed and lodges in the deepest recesses of one’s body. Negative comments are seldom forgotten. Prv 18:8 is a duplicate.
  9. 26:23 Heart = what is within, and lips (words) = what is expressed, are compared to an earthenware jar covered with glaze.
  10. 26:25 Seven abominations: many evil intentions.
  11. 26:26 Hate may be concealed for a time, but it will eventually issue in a deed and become known in the public assembly. There is a play on words: the consonants of the word “hatred” (ś’n) are literally concealed in the word “pretense” (mś’n).