With this section begins a different style of proverb, the two-line, often antithetical, saying commonly thought to be the normal form for the proverb. The commentary will often treat the sayings separately. However, where in a chapter several may be grouped together by common subject matter, they will be discussed as a group.
V. 1. There are no isolated lives, for we all live in a web of relationships and our actions affect those close to us.
Vv. 2-4. These verses center around wealth. The Lord has so structured the universe as to benefit the righteous. Even ill-gotten treasure is not a lasting benefit. Wealth is not showered upon the righteous; it must be earned through diligent work. The lazy will go hungry.
Vv. 6-7. These verses contrast the fate of the righteous and the wicked. In wisdom literature little is known about an afterlife. The highest hope was for a long life blessed by peace, wealth, and many descendants. When life ended, one's children and friends would bless the memory of the righteous and curse that of the wicked.
V. 8. A contrast is made between one ready to receive instruction and one who speaks without knowledge.
V. 9. Life is often seen as a pathway characterized by the inner disposition of a person. The wise, righteous, and knowledgeable walk a straight path, while the wicked have a perverted or twisted life.
Vv. 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 31, 32. These verses each deal with speaking wisdom or its opposite, evil or foolishness. The words of the wise are valuable, for their effect is to help a community and to give life. They may be few in number, but they are fitted for the occasion and are based on knowledge of things as they truly are. The fool's words may be many, but wisdom is not measured by volume. The words of the wicked bring ruin, judgment, violence, and sin. In the end wisdom will be established, and wicked words will lead to destruction.
V. 12. The end results of the actions of love and hatred are contrasted.
V. 15. Wealth insulates the rich from many of the blows that the poor suffer.
Vv. 16, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30. These verses contrast the end result or wages of the righteous and the wicked. Wisdom follows the path of life as established by the Lord and thus finds life, joy, refuge in time of trouble, stability, and one's deepest desires. The wicked will be suddenly swept away by destruction as their life lacks permanence. What they dread will come upon them, for they have no refuge.
V. 17. Wisdom and folly both affect the lives of others.
V. 23. One's values are revealed in one's pleasures.
V. 26. Trusting an important matter to someone who is lazy is the same as inflicting oneself with an irritant.
V. 1. Yahweh demands honesty in business practices.
V. 2. The egotist does not learn except in disgrace, but the humble gains wisdom.
Vv. 3, 5-8, 18, 19, 21, 23, 31. These verses contrast the rewards of the righteous and the wicked. Wisdom concentrates on this world and has little to say about a future life. Therefore, each must receive the fruit of his or her ways in this life. The wicked will be trapped by their evil desires and destroyed. When they die, all is lost. The integrity of the righteous guides them in life, rescuing them from trouble and granting what is good.
Vv. 10, 11. The life-styles of the righteous and the wicked directly affect the well-being of their communities. They can be blessed or destroyed. Thus they rejoice in the success of the righteous and in the death of the wicked.
V. 14. The security of a people lies in the wisdom of their leaders.
Vv. 16, 17, 24-27. Kindness and generosity not only help others, but they rebound to expand the quality of one's own life. The cruel and ruthless who hoard their resources earn the curses of the people and store up destruction for themselves.
V. 20. Behind the moral order of the universe stands a God who takes pleasure in those who are blameless and is displeased with those whose values are perverted. This is the basic theology of the wisdom teacher.
V. 22. Physical beauty unmatched by moral purity is as incongruous as a gold ring in a pig's snout.
V. 29. A fool destroys his own inheritance, and instead of becoming the head of his own family ends up serving one who is wiser.
V. 30. RSV follows the Greek, while the NIV attempts to make sense of the Hebrew. “Wins souls” means preserving lives.
V. 2. Behind the moral order stands a moral God guaranteeing it.
Vv. 3, 7, 12, 13, 21, 26. These verses contrast the wicked who are transitory and destined to be overthrown with the righteous who are established and unmoved. The wicked are betrayed by their pursuit of evil (v. 12) and their own words (v. 13). The first part of v. 26 is difficult but suggests that the righteous are careful in making friends and thus are not led astray.
V. 4. One's spouse may be a source of honor or disgrace.
Vv. 5, 6, 8, 20. The advice of the righteous is just, wise, and salvatory, and it promotes joy. The plans of the wicked are deceitful, violent, and evil, for they arise out of a warped or perverted mind.
Vv. 9, 10, 11, 24, 27. These verses deal with diligence in labor, mostly farm labor. The wise perform without boasting. They are industrious and reap the rewards of hard work. The lazy and those who chase dreams end up with nothing, or worse, serving others.
Vv. 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23. These verses deal with good speech, which is as rewarding as rigorous toil. Wisdom is characterized by listening to advice but being slow to give it, by overlooking an insult, and by being truthful. Yahweh delights in such persons. The fool is right in his own sight, easy to offend, reckless, and a liar who offends Yahweh.
V. 25. Encouraging words lift the one bowed down with stress.
V. 28. The path of righteousness leads to life, not death. It may be too strong to suggest that this verse speaks of immortality.
Vv. 2, 3. Words have power. The wise use them judiciously and gain by them. Misuse brings violence and ruin.
Vv. 5, 6, 9, 21, 25. The rewards of the righteous are contrasted with the afflictions of the wicked. The righteous who hate false words enjoy prosperity while being protected from harm by their own integrity. The wicked suffer disgrace, hunger, misfortune, and violence. While the lamp (life) of one increases, the light (life) of the other is extinguished.
V. 7. Appearances may be deceiving.
V. 8. While wealth enables the rich to buy freedom, the poor do not fear captivity, for no one would kidnap them for ransom.
V. 10. The closed mind of the proud begets strife, but the wise seek advice.
V. 15. The insight of wisdom and the way of treachery are contrasted in their results.
V. 16. Knowledge guides the prudent; folly betrays the fool.
V. 17. The integrity of a messenger should be considered before entrusting that one with an important matter.
V. 20. One's character is affected by one's associates.
Vv. 22, 23. These two proverbs deal with justice but in opposing views. In a just world ordered by God, the children of the righteous gain not only their inheritance but eventually even that of the wicked. When injustice rules, even the produce of the fertile fields of the poor is swept away.
V. 24. Discipline is a normal part of growing up. Without it a child would not develop into a productive citizen. The proverb does not justify abuse.
V. 1. Wisdom and folly are personified, both words being feminine. It is the nature of wisdom to build and of folly to destroy.
Vv. 2, 16, 26, 27, 31. To fear or reverence Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. Those who do reverence him conduct their lives in an ethically upright manner, shunning evil and providing for the poor. He in turn gives life and protection from deadly snares.
Vv. 3, 7. Proper speech is a continual theme. The words of the wise protect, but the fool's words return like a punishing rod. Stay away from the fool, because he has no knowledge to give you.
Vv. 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 22, 24. These seemingly diverse sayings deal with giving thought to the outcome of actions. The wise consider their ways and the end results. They exercise knowledge in their planning, choosing what is good in life. The foolish and simple reap the folly of their ways.
V. 9. The righteous work at keeping the favor or goodwill of the community, but the fool does not make amends for his guilt.
Vv. 10, 13. The heart is the seat of thinking, willing, knowing, and feeling in OT anthropology. One's heart can experience both joy and grief that no one else may know, and discern the reality of a situation.
V. 12. Only the end of a matter may reveal its true nature.
V. 19. In God's justice the wicked will eventually honor the righteous.
Vv. 20, 21. The normal course of events is for the poor to be shunned and the rich to be sought after. Yet those who are blessed by God are those who care for their neighbors, especially those who are poor.
V. 30. One's mental state affects one's physical well-being.
V. 32. While the RSV and NEB follow the Greek, substituting “integrity” or “honesty” for “death” (NIV), there is no good reason to reject the Hebrew unless one has prejudged that Proverbs cannot refer to life after death. The verse clearly indicates that in death the righteous have more to look forward to than simply the grave.
V. 34. The moral qualities of a nation either add to or detract from its stature among the peoples of the world.
V. 35. This verse is a saying on kingship that exults wisdom.
Vv. 1, 4, 18, 23. The power of speech may be used for beneficial or destructive purposes. It can incite anger or calm one down, heal or inflict damage to another's spirit. How much better it is when appropriate words are spoken at the proper time that they might benefit the hearer.
Vv. 2, 7, 28. This set of sayings is similar to the first set, but it contrasts the effects of the words of the wise or righteous with those of the fool or wicked. The one brings forth knowledge while the latter bubbles out foolishness or evil.
Vv. 3, 8, 9, 11, 25, 26, 29. Yahweh keeps constant watch over his creation, judging both the good and the evil. He opposes the wicked and the proud, rejecting their prayers and sacrifices. As a moral God, he despises their way of life and their evil designs, defending the helpless (widows) against them. He shows his love to the righteous by hearing their prayers.
Vv. 5, 10, 12, 14, 19, 21, 31, 32, 33. The person who is wise and understanding seeks knowledge and is humble enough to listen to correction. This one receives honor from Yahweh while walking the straight, or righteous, path, which leads to life. The fool spurns correction and instruction and receives the harsh disciplines with which the path of folly rewards its victims. In rejecting instruction the fool rejects life itself and treads a path that is blocked (hedged) by briers and leads to death.
V. 6. Those who order their lives according to the plan of God are the righteous who will receive the benefits of this life, including its wealth. The wicked's prosperity will be swept away by calamity.
Vv. 13, 15, 30. The word heart for the Hebrew meant more the mind and will than the emotions. These verses speak of the disposition of the mind that looks for and rejoices in the good in life and in turn promotes good health. Heartache and oppression, however, can crush one's spirit.
V. 27. The values a person has affects the quality of life even in the home. Greed brings trouble while honesty promotes life.
This chapter begins with two collections of proverbs. Vv. 1-9 deal with the sovereignty of Yahweh, and vv. 10-15 with kingship. A third collection on types of evil persons is found in vv. 27-30. It is impossible to tell when the verses were compiled or who was responsible for their arrangement. It does indicate that at some point attempts were made to order some proverbs by topic.
Vv. 1-9. The theme of the sovereignty of God holds these verses together. It is he who created all things and has determined their purposes and ends, even the destruction of the wicked. The results of one's plans are governed by Yahweh's will. This does not mean that the freedom of a person is abrogated. One is still invited to commit one's way to Yahweh, to live a life of love, faithfulness, and righteousness. He will judge both motives and deeds to reward or punish as appropriate. To humanity belongs the choice of aligning with or against Yahweh, to choose a path. But it is Yahweh's to create paths and their results.
Vv. 10-15. Parallel to the sovereignty of God is the sovereignty of the king. While the king's sovereignty is relative to that of God, he still holds the power of life and death over his subjects. His anger can mean death, and one would do well to appease it quickly. As God's representative he desires justice, righteousness, and honesty in his administration. To those who please him his favor is as rewarding as rain in the spring.
V. 17. Life is depicted as a road with dangerous turns. The upright guard their way and thus their lives.
V. 20. Instead of instruction read “the word.” The one who meditates on the word of Yahweh and trusts him is indeed blessed.
V. 22. This verse contrasts the benefits of understanding (prudence) and folly.
V. 26. Necessity drives one to work. Find the right motivation, and the job will get done.
Vv. 27-30. These verses describe the wickedness performed by four types of evil persons. Perverse speech is used to stir up strife to entice others to join in their evil schemes.
V. 31. Long life is a reward of righteousness.
V. 32. Inner strength is more beneficial than bold exploits.
V. 33. The last verse concludes the chapter by returning to the theme of the first section; the sovereignty of Yahweh ultimately rules.
V. 2. Wisdom is deed as well as knowledge. The servant will inherit, for ability is more important than position.
V. 3. There is an appropriate refining process for everything.
V. 7. Speech reveals the nature of and should be suited to the speaker. Read “eloquent” in place of “arrogant.”
V. 12. This is a humorous verse ridiculing the fool.
V. 14. It is better never to start a quarrel than to try to end one.
V. 16. This is a humorous verse about students who have resources but no ability.
V. 17. Friendship and betrayal prove themselves in adversity.
V. 24. Wisdom concentrates on the problem at hand; folly daydreams about the future.
V. 1. This is a difficult verse in the Hebrew that has the general sense of condemning antisocial behavior.
Vv. 2, 6, 7. The speech of the fool brings trouble to the speaker.
V. 3. The companions of wickedness are a social disgrace.
V. 4. This is a cryptic verse conveying the general idea that one's words reveal the depth of one's character.
V. 8. this is a comment on human nature, which likes to listen to whispered information about others.
V. 9. Not to finish a task is no different from destroying what has been completed.
Vv. 10, 11. Yahweh provides ultimate protection, but wealth also offers its level of security. There is no contradiction between the two proverbs. Both are true, the first ultimately and the second pragmatically.
V. 13. The fool has the answers before hearing the question.
V. 17. A position may appear sound until it is closely examined.
V. 18. Disputes were sometimes settled by asking Yahweh to decide the issue by influencing the casting of lots. The disputants were bound by oath to accept the outcome as the will of Yahweh.
V. 19. This is a cryptic verse that notes that hurt feelings are more difficult to overcome than the defenses of a city.
V. 22. Domestic tranquility is greatly valued. A good spouse is a gift of God.
V. 24. To make a friend means to take on an obligation. Too many companions who need assistance may bring one to ruin. A true friend stands by one even in adversity.
V. 2. Knowledge, not quick action, brings success.
V. 3. It is easier for a fool to blame God than to take responsibility for failure.
Vv. 4, 6, 7. Wealth brings friends while poverty suffers alone.
V. 22. Honesty and loyalty have higher value than wealth.
V. 27. A word of caution to the student. Wrong actions produce wrong results.
V. 1. Especially the young need the warning against the dissipation that drunkenness brings. Lack of discipline is the opposite of wisdom.
V. 4. Those who are too lazy to prepare will reap no rewards.
V. 5. The wise who study human nature will understand the depths of motivation often superficially concealed.
Vv. 7, 9. The greatest inheritance is the example of the blameless life. Yet it comes not by one's own efforts. The grace of God sustains.
V. 14. This is a humorous observation on business.
V. 21. Instruction on business: Knowledge is needed to manage money, or even an inheritance will be gone.
V. 22. Vengeance is not wise. Leave it in Yahweh's hands.
V. 25. To pronounce a thing holy or sacred is to dedicate it to God. One should not be hasty even in making religious vows.
V. 28. These qualities, not force, must ultimately secure a government.
Vv. 3, 4, 21. These verses show contrast in values. Justice and righteousness are more important than sacrifice. See commentary on 15:8. They with love (loyalty) lead to life and honor. “Lamp” symbolizes a wicked life-style.
Vv. 5, 6, 7, 8. These verses contrast wisdom and wickedness in securing wealth. Wise persons make plans and do justly. The wicked act in haste with lies and violence. What they gain is eventually lost.
Vv. 10, 12, 13, 15. These verses are observations on justice. The wicked who are evil and ruled by evil do not want justice done. But the Righteous One, God, ultimately guarantees justice, and the righteous rejoice in it.
V. 16. The wanderer finds only death.
V. 24. This is a description of the mocker, an insolent person.
V. 29. This verse is difficult in Hebrew. The wicked speak boldly, but the righteous have substance in their manner of living.
V. 1. Reputation is more valuable than wealth.
V. 5. The wise avoid the hardships of the wicked.
V. 6. One should be trained for a vocation according to his/her talents and inclinations.
V. 8. The wicked will finally destroy themselves.
V. 13. This verse contains humorous sayings on the excuses of the lazy.