Bible Commentary for Proverbs 1 thru 28
Proverbs Chapter 1
These proverbs that Solomon wrote are expressly designed to help a servant of Jehovah to: (1) gain wisdom or the skill needed to successfully live in harmony with Jehovah’s commands, (2) learn discipline so that he will walk in a morally upright manner and (3) acquire discernment or understanding to be able to distinguish the worthwhile from the worthless. These proverbs will help the naïve or experienced ones learn reasonableness and the young will gain knowledge and discernment. Those that already have experience and discernment can continue to grow by paying attention to these sayings. They will then be able to comprehend the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of Jehovah is the essence of wisdom and knowledge. Those who are arrogant and hardened in their ways reject wisdom from Jehovah because they have no fear of Him.
Sons are encouraged to pay attention to what their parents teach them as they instruct them in Jehovah’s laws. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9) These teaching would be their adornment throughout their lives. A warning is given to the young man to not allow himself to be enticed by his peers, who are determined to do whatever it takes to gain riches. These men rush to shed blood but in the end, it is their own blood that will be shed.
Wisdom is personified as a woman standing at the prominent places in the city calling out to those in need of her, the inexperienced ones, the mockers and the fools. She yet speaks to them because they did not listened to her when she tried to correct them, pleading with them to learn of her ways, offering discipline and advice to them but they rejected her. She warns them that when disaster finally overtakes them, it will be too late for them to come to her asking for her help. She will laugh at them and mock them as they had done to her. They will reap the fruit of what they have sown; their complacency and folly will destroy them. But those who listen to wisdom will be at ease and safe from harm.
Proverbs Chapter 2
Those who truly desire to gain wisdom and understanding must expend much energy and effort to attain it. They must accept the words of their teachers, store them up, turn their ears towards them and apply their hearts to it, call out and cry aloud for it, look for and search for it as for hidden treasures, then they will be rewarded for their diligence. They will discern the fear of Jehovah and will come to know Jehovah because wisdom, knowledge and understanding come from His mouth. For those who continue their diligent efforts, moral benefits accrue. The upright will be given sound judgment and blameless ones will find that wisdom brings Jehovah’s protection. They will understand righteousness and justice and they will always choose the right path to walk. Knowledge and wisdom becomes pleasant to them and something that is pleasant will be attractive and delightful and will always draw a person to it because of the great advantages that come with it.
Wisdom will protect a person from leaving the straight path and following wicked men who delight in doing wrong. It will also protect a person from becoming morally degenerate by becoming involved in sexual immorality. Wisdom encourages individuals to walk in the ways of the righteous and so be in line to be preserved because the wicked will perish.
Proverbs Chapter 3
Storing up and keeping wise teaching in one’s heart will bring not only prosperity but also long life. Loyalty and dependability should be worn like a garland around the neck and written on the heart in order to procure favor from God and men. If a person puts his complete trust in Jehovah, he will not rely on his own understanding but will allow Him to direct him so that his life will be free of constant problems. Making one’s own decisions will only lead one into becoming full of pride, but those who fear Jehovah will enjoy both physical and spiritual health. (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:11, 12, 15)
Wisdom dictates that we honor Jehovah with our valuable things. Jehovah blessed Israel bountifully and they were required to bring to Jehovah the firstfruits of their crops in order that He would continue to bless them. (Exodus 23:19a) Doing this would show that they appreciated Him for what He did for them. (Malachi 3:10) A servant of Jehovah would not rebel or become resentful because of being disciplined by Him as this is the evidence of His love for them. (Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11)
The man who embraces wisdom is to called blessed because wisdom is more profitable to have than are silver, gold or the most valuable of jewels. It brings long life, honor and riches to those who possess her. Pleasantness and peace are its by-products and it becomes a tree of life to those who take hold of it. Wisdom is the foundation of all of Jehovah’s creative works. (Proverbs 8:22, 23)
The benefits that come from embracing sound judgment and discretion and keeping them before oneself will be a life of safety, security, lack of fear of ruin overtaking him or his feet being caught in a trap designed to cause him to fall. Help should be provided to a neighbor who is in need and it should be given immediately. (Deuteronomy 24:14, 15) Plotting against one’s neighbor and making false accusation against him without just cause are to be avoided. (Leviticus 19:13-18) The violent man and his activities are to be detested. Jehovah curses those who are devious and arrogant but His blessing are for those who are humble, upright and righteous. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)
Proverbs Chapter 4
The admonition given here is that sons should hear and pay attention to the instruction given them by their fathers so that they may gain understanding. Solomon uses himself here as an example of the value of following this advice. His father followed the admonition given by Jehovah at Deuteronomy 11:18-21 and he is now passing this advice on to his sons. He stresses the importance of gaining wisdom as it is of supreme value especially when understanding comes along with it. Wisdom will bring exaltation and honor. A “garland of grace” and a “crown of splendor” are indicative of being victorious.
Solomon’s aim was to guarantee that his sons would walk in such a way that long life would be attainable for them and their pathways would be smooth and straight. Listening to his instruction would keep them from straying in the path of the wicked who live to do evil and to cause the fall of someone, as wickedness and violence are their daily sustenance. But the path of the righteous is like the dawn which grows brighter and brighter until full light. There is never darkness there but the path of the wicked is nothing but darkness and they never see what they stumble over.
Again the reminder is given to his son to pay attention to his words and to keep them in his heart. The heart is the seat of our motivation determining our activities so it should be guarded religiously. (See Matthew 15:19) One should not allow any twisted and corrupt speech to come from his mouth and he should not allow his eyes to stray from the straight path he is following so that his feet will stay on firm ground.
Proverbs Chapter 5
Sons are told that listening to the wisdom of their fathers would keep them from being seduced by the adulteress woman whose lips drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, making them easy to listen to because flattery is always appealing. But only bitterness, pain and destruction will be the end result of a liaison with her. The father warns his sons to avoid going anywhere near her house because once he succumbs to her wiles, he will end up loosing all that he has worked for and when his youth is spent he will have nothing, even his wealth will have enriched another man’s home. Then he will bemoan the fact that if he had not hated discipline and correction, he would not have been ruined, physically, financially and socially. The wise course is to be satisfied with one’s own wife and not look elsewhere for sexual satisfaction. His time is better spent in rejoicing with the wife of his youth and allowing her allures to bring him happiness.
Jehovah is fully aware of the ways of humans and He examines the seat of their motivations, the heart. A wicked man is ensnared by his actions and his sins are like a cord tied around him holding him fast. Because he lacks discipline, he is entangled by his own sins.
Proverbs Chapter 6
If a person undertakes to underwrite the indebtedness of a neighbor and later finds that this was the wrong thing to do, he should go to his neighbor and beg his neighbor to release him from his pledge. Although it may be a humiliating thing to do but if his neighbor is agreeable then he will have saved himself from a lifetime of debt.
The example of the industriousness of the ant is contrasted with the sluggard. It has no leader over it but it acts in a wise manner storing provision in the summer and gathering food in harvest time. The sluggard sleeps his days away, so poverty and scarcity will overtake him as an armed robber would.
A worthless person whose mouth speaks twisted things and who uses eye, hand and foot gestures to indicate his actions to his co-conspirators and whose heart is always devising wicked schemes will always stir up dissension among his brothers. But he will suffer disaster by being openly exposed.
Solomon described seven things that are detestable to Jehovah. They are: haughty eyes or pride; a lying tongue or deceptive speech; hands that shed innocent blood (See Deuteronomy 19:10; 21:9); a heart that devises wicked schemes or a deceitful heart (Genesis 6:5); feet that are quick to run to evil; a false witness or one who gives false testimony; and one who spreads dissension among brothers or one who causes quarreling among brothers. (See Deuteronomy 19:16-19)
A son is admonished to remember the commands and teachings of his parents, to tie them upon his heart and wear them around his neck because they will be a guide to him and will watch over him. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) These commands will act as a light directing him in the right pathway and discipline will correct him when he strays off the right path. If these commands of his parents are followed then he will not be tempted to pay attention to the smooth words of the adulteress nor allow himself to come under her influence so that he is brought to ruin. ‘Scooping fire into one’s lap’ and ‘walking on hot coals’ are metaphors that are used to show the certainty of the punishment that will follow if a young man allows himself to be seduced by another man’s wife.
A man who steals because he is hungry is not despised but he will have to make restitution for his theft when it becomes known. But there is no restitution to be paid for the person who commits adultery with another man’s wife. He faces disgrace and shame among his peers and the jealousy of the husband requires that he take revenge. He will not accept compensation and/or a bribe for this crime committed against himself.
Proverbs Chapter 7
Parental teachings when based on God’s word would provide protection and guidance for their children provided they take them to heart and view wisdom and understanding as an intimate and close relative. Solomon took note of all the naive young men who stood in the street below his window at twilight and he noticed one in particular that he believed lacked common sense. He saw him headed towards a particular house where a woman came out to meet him. Her dress was that of a prostitute and he had noted that she was never home but was always lurking about the street or the public square looking for someone to seduce.
She saw the young man coming in her direction and sensing him to be an inexperienced person, immediately grabbed him and kissed him. She then invited him to come to her home and share the ‘fellowship offering’ that she had prepared after she fulfilled her vows. With his defenses now lowered, she began to talk seductively about her bed covering and invited him to enjoy love with her all night because her husband was away on a long journey.
Using persuasive words she was able to seduce him and like a sheep going to the slaughter, he meekly followed her into a course that could cost him his life. To avoid such a course, Solomon urges his sons again to pay attention to his words so as not to stray into her path as she has a mighty throng of victims that she has brought down to the grave.
Proverbs Chapter 8
Wisdom is again personified as a woman who issues a public invitation to all to pay attention to her. Her actions and activities are the opposite of the adulteress woman. She stands in all the places where there are people, in the city gates, at the intersection where paths cross and on the high roads. She tells the inexperienced ones that they can learn discretion and reasonableness and the foolish ones that they can gain understanding. She speaks only truth as she detests wickedness and no perverse or crooked words come from her. They are reliable and trustworthy to those who have insight. Her instructions are more valuable than silver and the knowledge of her is to be chosen rather than gold and rubies.
When a person learns wisdom, he will be sensible and reasonable and will possess knowledge and discretion. Having the proper fear of Jehovah, which is the beginning of wisdom, causes a person to hate evil. Therefore having wisdom is the antithesis of pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and crooked, twisted speech. Wise counsel and sound judgment belong to those with wisdom. Rulers who possess wisdom will enact laws that are just and will rule with fairness. The fruit of wisdom far surpasses that of silver and gold. Wisdom is found in the way of righteousness and justice and the treasures that she bestows are real, genuine and beneficial.
Wisdom is a cardinal quality of Jehovah and so it has been in existence for as long as He has. When He began his creative works, it is spoken of having been a master worker at His side, always delighting in what Jehovah was creating. All of His creative works bespeak His wisdom as Jeremiah 10:12 shows. It is believed that verse 30 is a reference to the only begotten son of God, his first creative work. The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the ‘embodiment of the wisdom of God’ at 1 Corinthians 1:24. (See also Colossians 2:3)
Wisdom continues to issue her call to all to listen to her instruction so as to become wise. For those who are in constant attendance upon her there are blessings in store for them. But those who fail to find her only bring harm to themselves.
Proverbs Chapter 9
Wisdom is spoken of as having built a house upon seven pillars, which may indicate a large and spacious structure. She now prepares a banquet in which she slaughters and cooks the meat, mixes her wine and sets her table. The Bible Knowledge Commentaryof the Old Testament, page 923 and 924, says this of mixed wine: “Mixing the wine may refer to diluting it, a custom in ancient Israel. Undiluted wine was considered distasteful by the Jews, and the wine for Passover consisted of three parts water and one part wine. Or perhaps the custom of mixing spices with the wine to enhance its flavor may be in view (cf. Ps. 75:8; also note Isa. 5:22). Or possibly both are intended.” The food and drink represents the beneficial teaching of wisdom that is palatable to the invitee.
She has sent her maids out and she calls out from the highest point of the city to the simple and to those who lack judgment to come and eat the food and drink the wine that she has prepared. Those who accept her invitation are encouraged to leave their ways behind and will walk in the way of understanding. A mocker or a wicked person will not accept correction at all, but a wise person will and he will profit by it, gaining more knowledge and understanding. Because the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge about Him is understanding, then when a person treasures wisdom, Jehovah will lengthen his life because this pleases Him.
Folly, the opposite of wisdom, is also said to have a house situated on the highest point of the city and she sits in her doorway calling out to all who pass by. She invites the simple to come into her house but for an entirely different reason than wisdom does. She want the simple to join with her in fulfilling her illicit desires. Those who listen to her will find that all of her guests are in the grave.
Proverbs Chapter 10
A son, whether wise or foolish, will affect his parents. Riches gained by theft or deceit will not bring lasting satisfaction while righteousness brings results that will last forever. Jehovah will supply the needs of the righteous but will not satisfy the cravings of the wicked. Diligence brings wealth while laziness brings poverty. A wise son gathers food during the harvest but the son who sleeps through it will bring shame. Blessings adorn the righteous while violence is hidden by the mouth of the wicked. The reputation of the righteous brings blessings while the mention of the name of the wicked is repulsive. The person who does not listen to those over him will come to ruin while those with wise heart listens so as to obey.
An honest person has nothing to fear but the person who chooses dishonesty will receive retribution. Those with bad intentions will cause grief but thoughtless talking brings ruin. The mouth of the righteous brings refreshment but the words from the mouth of the wicked are designed to hide his violence. The wise person speaks with discernment and they know when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. The foolish need constant correction always speaking prematurely. The wealth of the rich is their security while the poor have no protection. Choosing to live a righteous life brings reward. Accepting discipline is beneficial to those who heed it while those rejecting it bring harms to others. Hypocrisy is bad but slander is worse. There is sin in too much talk so a wise person holds his tongue. The speech of the righteous is valuable but what the wicked intends is of little value. What the righteous say helps many but a fool cannot help himself.
The wealth given by Jehovah carries no adversity with it. The character of a person can be determined by what brings him pleasure. The wicked dreads his future, but the righteous are assured that they will have what they desire. The righteous is firmly planted so they are able to withstand whatever storm comes their way. A lazy servant is an irritant to his master. The lives of the wicked are cut short because they do not fear Jehovah. The expectations of the wicked will not be realized. The righteous speak wise words and they know what is proper and fitting to say. The wicked speak only what is perverse.
Proverbs Chapter 11
Jehovah expects his servants to be honest in their business dealings. Humility shows wisdom while pride brings disgrace. Treachery will only lead to destruction. Righteousness, not wealth, will bring deliverance from death on the day of wrath. The conduct of the upright aids them to avoid the obstacles that bring the wicked down and their expectations die with them. The wicked receive the trouble that the righteous escaped. The slander of the godless does not injure the righteous because of their knowledge. When the righteous prosper there is rejoicing and when the wicked are removed there is joy.
The speech of the wicked causes much devastation to a city, but through the righteous deeds of the upright, a city is exalted. A man who does not know when not to speak lacks understanding. A trustworthy man will not betray a confidence. Wise advisors are necessary for the stability of a nation. Kindness gains respect while ruthlessness gains only wealth. The wages of a wicked man are not real but the reward of the man who sows righteousness is sure. Jehovah detests those whose hearts are twisted but he delights in the conduct of the blameless. The wicked can be sure that they will receive punishment but the righteous will experience freedom.
A beautiful woman who has no moral scruples is comparable to pig with a gold ring in his snout. Neither knows the value of what they possess. The prospect of the wicked ends with judgment, the longings of the righteous results in good. Generosity brings blessings but a stingy man will come to poverty. A merchant who is willing to sell grain in times of need will receive blessings but the one who hoards grain probably hoping to get a higher price will receive curses. The person who pursues evil will find it, however the one who seeks good will gain God’s favor.
The righteous whether rich or poor will flourish because Jehovah will bless them. A man who disgraces his family will inherit nothing. His foolishness will bring him down to a servant’s position. The result, or fruit, of righteous living is in influencing others to adopt the way that leads to a healthy long life. The righteous, the ungodly and the sinner will all receive what is due to them while alive.
Proverbs Chapter 12
A person who hates discipline hates knowledge therefore he is a stupid person. A virtuous man, not a crafty one, will receive favor from Jehovah. Wickedness cannot give stability but the righteous are firmly planted. A good wife is an adornment for her husband; a disgraceful wife will cause him inner pain. The counsel of the wicked can only be deceitful and self-serving because they do not understand justice. The words of the wicked are designed to cause harm but the words of the righteous bring relief. In times of trouble the righteous continue standing but the wicked fall. Praise is given to a man who is able to think a matter through but a man whose thinking is distorted is hated.
A man who knows he is not important yet can afford servants is better off than one who puts himself forward as being someone important but cannot put food on his table. The righteous are aware that kindness is to be extended to the animal kingdom but the kindness of the wicked is cruelty. One is assured of having abundant food when he works diligently rather than chasing after get-rich quick schemes. The wicked prefer to use devious means to provide for their needs but the righteous flourish because their roots are deeply planted. Righteous people avoid sinful talk because they recognize its dangers. One’s actions as well as his speech, if upbuilding, will bring him a reward.
A wise men listens to counsel; a fool follows his own advise. It is wise to overlook an insult rather than react immediately to it as a fool would. As a sword causes pain so do thoughtless words but the words of the wise will bring a healing. Those who plot evil have deceitful hearts; those who promote peace will have contentment because they know that they are doing the right thing. The shrewd man speaks at the appropriate time but fool speaks foolishness indiscriminately. Diligence brings success while laziness leads to slavery. The righteous will lead those he befriends in the right way, but the wicked allow his bad ways to guide him. A lazy man is not diligent but diligence is a prized possession of the righteous.
Proverbs Chapter 13
A mocker is one who refuses any kind of counsel or discipline hence he shows that he is fool. Being discreet in one’s speech can safeguard one’s life as opposed to speaking rashly, which brings ruin. Diligent effort is required to obtain one’s desires. The righteous strive to keep his conduct blameless but every act of the wicked is shameful. Righteousness protects its adherents but wickedness defeats its followers.
Pretending to be something that a person is not misleads others and is not the way of honesty. Having wealth can be a disadvantage when it can be used against a person, a problem the poor would never experience. The way of the righteous will always be lit but the way of the wicked will be darkness. A wise person prefers to listen to advice rather than argue. Ill-gotten gains do not last but the one who is able to save small amounts over time will eventually have an abundance. One experiences disappointment if his hopes are not realized but he is refreshed when they are. Wise instructions are like a fountain that spews forth life saving waters.
A wise person makes decisions on the basis of his giving thorough attention to what he knows but a fool acts in harmony with his foolishness. A messenger who cannot be relied upon will cause adversity whereas a reliable messenger would bring good news. The result to one who listens to discipline is honor and for those who refuse it there is only shame. A person’s association will determine how they will fare. Constant trouble is in store for those who turn away from righteousness. The wealth accumulated by the sinner will be given to the righteous while the wealth of the righteous will be passed on to their descendants. A poor man will loose all that he has worked for when there is no justice. Discipline is an act of love and if it is withheld, it is an indication that the parents do not love their children. The righteous eat and are satisfied but the wicked are never filled up.
Proverbs Chapter 14
A wise woman cares for her household and does not neglect her duties but a foolish woman leaves her household unattended. The one that fears Jehovah will respond with right conduct but those who despise Him do as they please. The speech of the foolish one will cause him to suffer punishment whereas the upright ones speak correct words that will be a protection for him. A farmer who does not want the problems associated with the upkeep of oxen will have to settle for a meager harvest whereas a farmer who is willing to invest in their upkeep will benefit from their strength.
A mocker will not find wisdom because he pursues it for the wrong reason. He is not truly interested in learning about Jehovah. Knowledge is not to be found among the foolish. The shrewd person always pays attention to how he is progressing but fools deceive themselves by thinking they are doing nothing wrong. If a person is willing to right a wrong he has done to someone then he will have God’s favor. A fool never sees any wrong in what he does. Not all sorrow and joy can be shared with another person. Humans cannot determine for themselves what is good and what is bad.
Laughter may hide grief for a time but when the joy ends, the grief is still there. The inexperienced ones are gullible but the wise always pays attention to the way in which he walks. One who does not control his temper will not gain respect but a person who schemes will be hated. Eventually the righteous will be given the upper hand over the wicked. Refusing to help a neighbor who is in need is a sin against God but those who do help will receive blessings.
Those who talk about making a profit but refuse to work will end up in poverty. The diligence of the wise brings him wealth; those who practice foolishness reap only foolishness. The man who fears Jehovah will have security not only for himself but also for his children. The fear of Jehovah can keep a man from going down the path to death. A ruler who has many subjects is considered powerful but one who is without subjects has no authority. Patience requires understanding and only a fool is quick-tempered. Peace of mind promotes health; envy brings constant turmoil.
Jehovah commanded that provisions be made for the poor. So if anyone takes advantage of them, he is showing outright contempt for his creator who will defend the poor. (Deuteronomy 24:15) The wicked are thrown down during difficult times but the righteous have refuge even when they face death. Wisdom makes herself known even to fools even though they refuse to accept it.
Proverbs Chapter 15
A mild answer to an angry response will bring calm to a potentially explosive situation. Jehovah takes note of the conduct of both the wicked and the righteous. A foolish son pays no attention to the discipline of his father, a wise son accepts correction. Since the income of the wicked is obtained illegally he is always in danger of it being taken from him by another but the righteous has treasures in his house that the wicked are not aware of. The many sacrifices of the wicked are not pleasing to Jehovah because they are not obedient to Him. (1 Samuel 15:22)
The purpose of discipline is to turn back the one who strays but if he does not respond appropriately he will die. Nothing is hidden from Jehovah, not even the thoughts and motivations that are in the hearts of humans. (Jeremiah 17:9, 10) To a mocker, no one is as wise as he is. Having a cheerful disposition enables a person to gain some enjoyment out of life rather than allowing oneself to become depressed. In so many cases, having great wealth brings nothing but trouble, so it is better to have only what one needs on a daily basis along with keeping one’s spirituality alive.
The lazy person sees only obstacles in his path but the way of the upright is a wide road. To give appropriate advice at the proper time is satisfying to a man. The path that the wise travel leads in an upward direction as opposed to the downward path of the wicked which leads to death. What ever a proud person builds will be torn down but Jehovah upholds the cause of the widow so that she will not be defrauded. A man who takes a bribe is perverting justice and his family will suffer for it. Those who accept reproof will themselves become wise. Those who refuse discipline hate themselves. The fear of Jehovah precedes wisdom and humility precedes honor.
Proverbs Chapter 16
Humans are endowed with the ability to devise plans but Jehovah reserves the right to allow him to carry them out. Jehovah sees the motives behind human endeavors. Jehovah must be taken into consideration if the plans one makes are to succeed. Jehovah causes everything to work in harmony with His purposes including the wicked. Those who are proud will for a certainty be punished. By means of Jehovah’s love and faithfulness, a man’s sins can be forgiven and by means of his fear of Jehovah, a man keeps clear of evil.
When Jehovah is pleased with his servant, even his enemies will make peace with him. Kings had to render judgments for the people as representatives of Jehovah so they were not to allow any injustice to creep into their decisions. Jehovah determined the measures and weights used by the nation of Israel so they needed to always be accurate. (Ezekiel 45:10-12) When a king becomes angry, someone will die unless his anger is appeased by a wise man. When the king is pleased with his subjects, his favor is likened to the spring rain. Arrogance and pride lead to destruction. It is better to be humble and poor than to be a sharer in the wealth of the proud. Those who have wisdom know the value of kind words to promote learning.
Having understanding gives a person a constant and inexhaustible source of refreshment whereas folly brings only punishment to its possessor. If a person has a wise heart, the words from his mouth will promote instruction. Pleasant words are sweet to the ears as honey is to the palate and are uplifting for the soul. A hungry man will continue to work in order to earn his wages so that he can buy food. A man who loves to stir up dissension will use gossip to destroy close friendships. Criminals love to influence others to follow in their paths. Facial expressions such as ‘winking the eye’ and ‘pursing the lips’ indicate evil intent. These are known as non-verbal clues of a person’s intentions.
Gray hair is viewed as an adornment on those who are righteous. A patient person and one who exercises self-control are more powerful than a warrior is. When the lot is cast, the decision is from Jehovah.
Proverbs Chapter 17
If having an abundance of material possessions bring strife, then it would be preferable to have just the necessities and peace. If a son acts shamefully and a servant in the family acts with wisdom, he will be more honored than the son and will even be given an inheritance along with the other sons. Silver and gold are refined in the furnace, but Jehovah examines the heart. (1 Chronicles 28:9) Those who listen to destructive speech are themselves wicked. (Leviticus 19:16, 17) Anyone who treats the poor with contempt is also showing contempt for Jehovah. Anyone who finds pleasure in the misfortunes of the poor will receive punishment. A ruler who lies to his subjects is worse that a fool that speaks lofty words. A person who offers bribes depends on them to make his way successful.
A person who chooses not to discuss the faults of others promotes love because gossiping to others about them will cause friction between friends. A man of discernment can be corrected with a single rebuke but a fool does not respond if he is given a hundred lashes. Those who are determined to rebel will meet with severe retribution. A person engaged in foolish activity can be more dangerous than a mother bear that has lost her cubs. It is better to drop a matter rather then allow it to get out of hand and a quarrel starts. When judges allow a miscarriage of justice, it is detestable to Jehovah, the righteous Judge. A person who thinks that he can buy wisdom is a fool.
A true companion is one who is there for you at all times especially during adversity. Strife leads to sin, so those that love one also will also love the other and boastful talk lead to destruction. A happy disposition contributes to good health but depression can bring on all sorts of physical problems. A man of discernment keeps his eye focused on what is most beneficial to him, wisdom, while a fool is unable to concentrate on any one thing. Justice is not being carried out if an honest official or an innocent man is punished. A wise person is able to exercise self-control in his speech and in his composure. Since it is wisdom to control one’s speech, a fool, if he remains silent, may give the appearance of being wise and discerning.
Proverbs Chapter 18
A person who prefers his own company to that of others will only be interested in his own pursuits and will put his ideas and views above those of all others and will not act with practical wisdom. A fool has no desire to learn wisdom; his main interest is only in what he thinks. Wickedness leads to contempt which leads to shame which leads to reproach. What a man thinks is sometimes like deep waters that have to be drawn out of him as water out of a well. But wisdom is more like a fountain where refreshing waters bubble forth.
What a fool says gets him into trouble even bringing punishment upon him. To those that like it, gossip is like choice morsels of food that peek the appetite for more. There is no difference between a lazy person and a destructive person as the actions of both bring problems. The name, Jehovah, is a place of protection for the righteous. The wealthy believe that their money will keep them safe. A person who speaks before giving thorough consideration to a matter may give an answer that will show him to be foolish. Knowledge belongs to the man who searches for it with a discerning heart.
Gifts can be influential in helping a person get to know those who would ordinarily be inaccessible to him. A person presenting his case before a court will be cross-examined before a determination can be made as to whether he is right or wrong. It will be more difficult to get a person to see your side of a matter if you have offended him in a dispute as the dispute can cause a barrier to be placed between the two parties. Appropriate words spoken to another will be beneficial to the speaker as well as the listener. The tongue is a powerful member of the body and if not controlled will bring calamity. (James 3:6-8) The poor are forced to speak humbly when appealing to the rich man for mercy while the rich man will answer him using harsh tones because there may be many such demands made upon him. A man may have many companions who will leave him when he is down. Only a true friend will remain at his side during times of trouble.
Proverbs Chapter 19
A man is better off being poor and righteous, than dishonest and foolish. Having zeal without accurate knowledge is not beneficial; and as the old saying goes, haste makes waste, that is, it leads to sin. (Romans 10:2) Only a foolish man would blame God for his own folly. (Isaiah 8:21) Men use flattery to win the favor of a ruler; they use gifts to win friends. Poverty chases a man’s relatives away and his friends hide from him also. Fools and luxury are not compatible and a slave ruling over princes is a travesty. A foolish son brings ruin to his family while a contentious wife is an irritant.
Material possessions are inherited but a wife who is wise and discreet is from Jehovah. How can a person lend to Jehovah? By giving to the poor. Parents who refuse to discipline their son gives him very little hope of learning wisdom and will bear a responsibility for his death. A person who cannot control his temper cannot be helped. Loyalty is a desirable trait in a man therefore being poor is preferable to being a liar. How lazy can a person be? A sluggard is too lazy to take his hand out of the dish so that he can feed himself. Discipline, whether a word of rebuke or physical punishment, can be a teacher to both the naive or untaught as well as discerning persons. Mockers and fools refuse to learn so punishment is designed especially for them.
Proverbs Chapter 20
Over imbibing in alcoholic beverages causes one to act in an unwise manner. Do not be the cause of the king’s anger because if you are you will loose your life. It is the honorable thing to avoid strife because only a fool starts a quarrel. A sluggard that refuses to plow his field in the spring will find that at harvest time there will be nothing to gather. There are many who claim to have unfailing love but finding a faithful man is like looking for a needle in a haystack. When the king sits on his throne, he removes all those in opposition to his rule.
The actions of a child will help his parents determine whether he is developing the proper qualities needed to succeed in life. Jehovah has equipped humans with what is needed to learn from Him, seeing and hearing. There is a time to sleep and a time to be awake. If these activities are done at their appropriate times, then one will have an abundance of provisions.
When a buyer does not want to pay the asking price for an item, he will make the claim that the item is defective in order to get a reduced price, then he goes off and brags about how little he paid for the item. Gold and rubies, though rare and valuable, are not as rare as finding a person who knows what to say, when to say it and how to say it. A person who puts up security for another person’s debts, whether he is reliable or not, is responsible to keep his pledge. When a ruler plans to wage war against another, he needs to get advice from many counselors to assure success. A man who talks a lot will eventually reveal a confidence.
A person who curses his parents will not live long. (Exodus 21:17) Do not threaten vengeance against someone for a wrong done to you. Wait for Jehovah to deliver you. (Deuteronomy 32:35) If a person makes a vow to Jehovah rashly and later he questions the vow, he has laid a trap for himself because the vow must be paid. (Numbers 30:2) Jehovah has given man a conscience that acts as a lamp that searches his inmost being. Physical discipline does deter bad and can even promote a more mature outlook for the person.
Proverbs Chapter 21
Jehovah directs the heart of the king in whatever direction He desires. (Isaiah 45:1-6, Ezra 6:21) Jehovah reads the heart where true motivations emanate. (Jeremiah 17:10) The very essence of the wicked is pride, which is sin. Wealth gained by fraud does not last and is a trap. Jehovah is the One who takes note of the wicked and what their end will be. If a person refuses to help the poor when he is able to, then Jehovah will not hear him when he is in trouble. Gifts or bribes given in secret to an angry person will cause his anger to subside. Those doing evil are terrified when justice is accomplished because it will mean punishment for them, but it is a cause of rejoicing for the righteous.
Those who indulge themselves with the finer things of life will never be wealthy because they continue to spend to satisfy their cravings. The wicked have a purpose, their lives will be given in exchange for the righteous. (Isaiah 43:3, 4) Verses 9 and 19 are similar in that a contentious wife is such an irritant that the best way to get along with her is to move away from her, even if it is to the desert. A wise person will prepare for the future by storing up provisions but a foolish person consumes all that he has. A wise person uses strategy to defeat an enemy stronger than he is.
A sluggard and his cravings are never satisfied because he refuses to work so that he does not even give to himself, but the righteous are generous in helping others. The wicked pretend to be righteous by putting up a front, but the upright takes the time to think about his actions and conduct to make sure that they are in line with righteousness. There is no scheme that a human can devise that will keep Jehovah from carrying out his purposes. Humans make all kinds of preparation to win a war but it is Jehovah who gives the victory.
Proverbs Chapter 22
One’s good reputation is his most valuable asset, having the high regard of others is worth more that gold or silver. A shrewd person recognizes a pitfall and he takes steps to avoid it, but the naïve are not aware of the danger and they suffer harm. The path that the wicked take is fraught with danger but the one who is concerned about his life takes note of this and he avoids these dangers. Training a child must begin early in life when he is pliable and this discipline will mold him for the remainder of his life. Those who are poor become dependent on the wealthy for their subsistence whether they serve him as a slave or as a borrower.
To ensure a peaceful environment, those who are opposed to peace must be removed. A person whose speech is pleasing, tactful and courteous and whose heart carries no malice will be a friend to kings. Jehovah will always uphold truth and will frustrate the words of those who wish to malign it. The lazy person always has an excuse for not doing what he is suppose to do. A child is born with foolishness in his heart but the rod of correction, if applied properly, will remove this badness. Poverty will come to those who oppress the poor to gain wealth and to those who enrich the rich.
Solomon now directs his words to someone other than his sons though it is not stated just who. He admonishes him to pay attention to the wise sayings that he was giving. He was to apply his heart to these teachings so that he would be ready to speak of them to others. He will give him thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, true and reliable teachings that he can take back to the one that sent him.
The poor are not to be taken advantage of nor are the needy to be oppressed in court because they are unable to help themselves. Jehovah will be their defender and He will take up their case and bring retribution upon those who plunder them. Making friends with a man who is easily angered is not the wise thing to do because one could be enticed to imitate him and be ensnared in his trap. One should not put up security for another man’s debts. If he does not pay and you cannot pay, you will loose all that you have. A man who is skillful in his trade will not serve the common person but will be summoned to serve before a king.
Proverbs Chapter 23
When a ruler invites a person to dine with him, though there will be a lot of food, the person should determine before hand that he will not be gluttonous and attempt to eat some of all that is put before him. He should restrain himself (put a knife to his throat rather than to the food) because the ruler may have ulterior motives for inviting him. One can expend a lot of time and energy trying to get rich when the time could be better spent in more upbuilding pursuits. Riches have a tendency to take wings and fly away in a moment’s notice.
A man who invites you to dine with him but constantly reminds you of the cost of the food he puts in front of you is a stingy man and your meal will not be a pleasant one. It is a waste of your time to attempt to teach a fool for he will show no appreciation for your advice. It is against God’s law to move a boundary stone that was put in place when the land was first divided. (Deuteronomy 19:14) Nor would one take land from the fatherless because Jehovah will defend them. (Exodus 22:22-24) Solomon advised his listener to continue to apply his heart to instruction and his ears to pay attention to words of knowledge.
He stresses the importance and benefits of disciplining a child. Discipline does not kill a person but will save him from death. If the heart learns wisdom then one’s speech will reflect that. When a person is zealous in the fear of Jehovah, he will not envy wrongdoers and he will have a bright future. One who keeps his heart focused on keeping on the right path will not associate with gluttons and drunkards who lack discipline and whose path will lead them to poverty.
A son shows that he listens to his parents by continuing to learn wisdom, discipline and understanding as he matures. Truth is a most prized possession to him and he never lets go of it. A righteous son brings great joy to his parents. A son who pays close attention to his father’s advice and closely watches his example will be able to avoid the snare and trap that the adulteress woman lays. Her goal is to bring down as many men as she can.
Next Solomon gives a lengthy warning against drunkenness. The one who has woe, sorrow, strife, bruises, complaints and bloodshot eyes is one who drinks steadily and excessively. The results of heavy drinking are seeing things that are not there, confusion of mind, unsteady feet and dullness to pain. The craving for another drink is always there.
Proverbs Chapter 24
Solomon warns against envying the wicked because they constantly feed upon violence and trouble. Through wisdom and understanding, a person will be established upon a firm foundation and will accumulate many valuable qualities. When engaging in war, strength and knowledge are not as important in gaining victory as is strategic planning. The fool is in no position to give advice to others because wisdom is beyond him since he has rejected it.
If a person is unable to stand during the first sign of trouble, he is not as strong as he thought he was. When a person is in a position to warn another that he is being led astray and he does not do it because he claims that he was unaware of the seriousness of the danger, then they will have to answer to Jehovah, the one who reads the heart. He will repay him according to his deed.
As honey nourishes the body, so wisdom nourishes the soul. Wisdom’s benefit is that it is able to secure a bright future for all those finding it. Those who attempt to destroy the possessions of a righteous person is wasting his time because Jehovah does not allow them to fall and not provide the means for them to recover what they lost. Those who try to destroy them only bring calamity upon themselves. One should never rejoice when his enemy meets with calamity because Jehovah will see it and will turn His wrath away from your enemy and it will fall on you.
One should not envy the seeming success of the wicked because they do not have any real hope for the future. (Psalms 73) One should always fear Jehovah and the king and should never consider being rebellious against them. Either one is able to destroy a rebellious person or bring whatever calamity upon them that they please.
Here ends the thirty sayings Solomon promised to his listener. He now recounts additional wise sayings to him. To show partiality in judging is a sin. Even the nations who do not know God will condemn such a person. Jehovah loves justice and He will reward those who practice it. A kiss on the lips is usually given as a sincere gesture of affection for someone. An honest answer is given for the same reason, a genuine interest in this person.
When a person is preparing to start a household, the first thing that he would do is to prepare his fields for planting and while the crops are growing, he can began building his house. One should never take it upon himself to take vengeance against someone who has wronged him by giving false testimony against this person. As Solomon viewed the fields of a sluggard, he noticed that thorns and weeds covered the ground and his stone wall was falling into ruin. The lesson that he learned from this was that if one sleeps too long or simply sits with his hands folded when he should be working, poverty will overtake him as quickly and stealthily as a robber does, without warning.
Proverbs Chapter 25
The following proverbs of Solomon were compiled during the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Jehovah conceals a matter in that it is not possible for humans to understand what He is doing until He explains it to them and then they give glory to Him. Kings receive glory when they search out a matter so as to understand it and then uses the information to make his judicial decision. A king never reveals all that he knows to his subjects. He understands a lot more than they believe he does. Just as a silversmith purifies metals to remove the dross to obtain usable material, so a king must purge evil men from his presence so that his throne will be established in righteousness. (1 Kings chapter 2)
It is better to wait to be invited to sit in a prominent position before a king rather than be humiliated by having him ask you to move to a lower one in front of the other ranking men. (Luke 14:7-10) Always be certain of what you believe you have seen before bringing a case before a judge. If a neighbor proves you wrong, then you will experience shame. Never betray another man’s confidence when in an argument with a neighbor. If it is learned that you did tell, you will never be trusted again by anyone. Conciliatory words and patience can overcome very difficult situations. Giving false testimony against someone is as painful as stabbing him with a sharp instrument.
It is irritating to sing joyful songs to a person who is feeling depressed. Feeding ones enemy or giving him water when he is thirsty will melt the animosity that he may have towards you and Jehovah will be pleased. A righteous man who allows himself to be compromised by the wicked is like a source of pure water that has been polluted and will now never be a source of refreshing drinking water again. A man who fails to exercise self-control is as vulnerable as a city with its walls torn down.
Proverbs Chapter 26
Honoring a fool is as inappropriate as is snow in the summer. A curse can only be effective if Jehovah backs it. Just as it takes force to control an animal, so also a fool. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or, do answer a fool according to his folly, how can both be correct? According to The Bible Knowledge Commentaryof the Old Testament, page 962, “These two sayings belong together; they complement each other. Their point is that one should not be drawn down to a fool’s level (v. 4) but at times he must use the fool’s language to refute the fool so he does not become conceited (v. 5; cf. vv. 12, 16). Wisdom is needed to determine when to apply verse 4 and when to apply verse 5. The Jewish Talmud suggests that verse 4 pertains to foolish comments that can be ignored and that verse 5 refers to erroneous ideas that must be corrected.”
A person who meddles in a quarrel that he is not involved in brings trouble upon himself. A person who deceives another and then claims it was only in jest is irresponsible and endangers others. Gossip fans the flames of quarrels. If there is no gossip, then a quarrel will end. A person who tries to cover over what he really thinks by using deceptive speech is like a clay vessel that has been covered over with glaze. Generally what a man plans to do to bring harm to another will come back upon himself. (Esther 7:9, 10)
Proverbs Chapter 27
No matter how irritating a fool is, a person should not attempt to deal with him as that would be more wearisome than hard physical labor. Jealousy is an emotion that carries with it such violent and unreasoning emotions that facing anger or fury would be preferable. Open rebuke, which is direct and honest criticism and shows true and genuine feelings for the person, is the opposite of hidden love, which is governed by the fear of giving needed counsel. A person who is a true friend will give reproof that may hurt but these are designed to help the person stay on the right path, but a person who is always giving compliments to a person who needs correction is really his enemy.
It is good to maintain family relationships, but when disaster strikes, a neighbor who lives nearby would be more helpful to you than a family member who lives far from you. As with iron, people can help each other improve through constructive criticism, suggestions and ideas. A person who cares for a fig tree, which needs constant attention, will be rewarded with fruit from the tree, but a servant who meticulously cares for his master will be given great honor. As silver and gold are refined in the furnace, praise can be the furnace to test the metal of a man to determine if he possesses humility. Folly is an integral part of a fool and no amount of punishment will remove it from him.
Farmers rely heavily upon their flock and herds so they should make sure that everything is being done to keep them healthy. They will always be there to provide meat, milk and clothing for their families and their servants when the money is gone.
Proverbs Chapter 28
The wicked man, who has a guilty conscience, will always be suspicious of everyone. But the righteous man has no need to be afraid because he is confidence that he is doing no wrong. A nation that has a ruler who is discerning and knowledgeable will know how to maintain stability. But when rebellion becomes the order of the day, there will be many rulers none of whom will be able to bring stability. Robbing the poor by charging them exorbitant interest rates may bring riches to a person but Jehovah will see to it that the one who inherits his wealth will be someone who will help the poor.
A man who has wealth believes that he possesses wisdom and understanding but nothing could be further from the truth. A poor man who has discernment, but who the rich look down on as being stupid, will be able to see through their conceit. Although showing partiality is known to be wrong, there are some that will do so for a very small price. A stingy man will not prosper even if he gains wealth because Jehovah blesses only those who give freely. The one who trusts in himself rather than in Jehovah is a fool. Only those who walk according to His ways will be kept safe. The person who believes that there is nothing wrong with taking money from his parents because he reasons that the money will belong to him one day is no better than one who destroys. He is showing himself to be a disgraceful son and this brings dishonor and grief to his parents. Jehovah blesses those who give to the poor, those who do not will be cursed by Him.
NOTE: The bibles used in this commentary are: The American Standard Bible (1995), the New Revised Standard Version and the New International Version Study Bible.
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