Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.
Every wise woman - literally, Wise women. The fullest recognition that has as yet met us of the importance of woman, for good or evil, in all human society.
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.
A rod of pride - i. e., The pride shown in his speech is as a rod with which he strikes down others and himself.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.
i. e., Labor has its rough, unpleasant side, yet it ends in profit. So also, the life of contemplation may seem purer, "cleaner "than that of action. The outer business of the world brings its cares and disturbances, but also "much increase." There will be a sure reward of that activity in good works for him who goes, as with "the strength of the ox," to the task to which God calls him.
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.
Findeth it not - literally, there is none. The successful pursuit of wisdom presupposes at least earnestness and reverence. The scoffer shuts himself out from the capacity of recognizing truth.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
The Hebrew counterpart to the Greek "Know thyself." "The highest wisdom is for a person to understand his own way. The most extreme folly is self-deceit." The word "deceit" may, however, involve fraud practiced upon others. The folly of fools shows itself then in their ceaseless effort to deceive.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.
Fools make a mock - The verb in the Heb. is singular, the noun plural. The King James Version assumes that the number is altered to individualize the application of the maxim. Others translate it: "Sin mocks the fools who are its victims," i. e., disappoints and ruins them; or, "A sin-offering does but mock the worshippers when they are willfully wicked:" they expect to gain God's favor, and do not gain it. So taken it becomes parallel to Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:7.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
A striking expression of the ultimate solitude of each man's soul at all times, and not merely at the hour of death. Something there is in every sorrow, and in every joy, which no one else can share. Beyond that range it is well to remember that there is a Divine Sympathy, uniting perfect knowledge and perfect love.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
A way ... - The way of the fool, the way of self-indulgence and self-will.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
Sorrow of some kind either mingles itself with outward joy, or follows hard upon it.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
Shall be satisfied - These words are not in the original. Repeat the verb from the first clause, "He who falls away from God in his heart, shall be filled with his own ways; and the good man (shall be filled) with that which belongs to him."
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
Simple - In the bad sense (compare Proverbs 1:22).
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
The contrast lies between two forms of evil. Hasty anger acts foolishly, but the "man of wicked devices," vindictive and insidious, incurs all men's hatred.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
Crowned - The teacher anticipates the truth, and the paradox, of the Stoic saying, "The wise is the only king."
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.
The maxim, jarring as it is, represents the generalization of a wide experience; but the words which follow Proverbs 14:21 show that it is not to be taken by itself. In spite of all the selfish morality of mere prudence, the hearer is warned that to despise his "neighbor" (Christians must take the word in all the width given to it by the parable of the Good Samaritan) is to sin. The fullness of blessing comes on him who sees in the poor the objects of his mercy.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
Err - In the sense of wandering from the right way, the way of life.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
The contrast between a single, thorough deed, and the mere emptiness of speech.
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.
"The crown," i. e., the glory of the wise man constitutes his wealth. He alone is truly rich even as he alone (compare Proverbs 14:18 note) is truly king.
The seeming tautology of the second clause is really its point. Turn "the foolishness of fools" as you will, it comes back to "foolishness" at last.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.
In the second clause, "destroyeth life" might have been expected as the antithesis to "delivereth souls." But what worse could be said? "A deceitful witness speaketh lies." All destruction is implied in falsehood.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
His children - Probably, the children whom the Lord adopts, and who are true to their adoption.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
See the marginal reference and Proverbs 10:11 note.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.
A protest against the false ideal of national greatness to which Eastern kings, for the most part, have bowed down. Not conquest, or pomp, or gorgeous array, but a happy and numerous people form the true glory of a king. The word translated "prince" is of doubtful meaning; but the translation is supported by the Septuagint, Vulg, and most commentators.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
Exalteth folly - Lifts it up, as it were, on high, and exposes it to the gaze of all men.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
Sound heart - literally, "heart of health," that in which all emotions and appetites are in a healthy equilibrium. The contrast with this is the envy which eats, like a consuming disease, into the very bones and marrow of a man's moral life.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
Honoureth him - i. e., God, who is the Maker of poor and rich alike.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
Consult marginal reference. The hope which abides even "in death" must look beyond it.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
Omit "that which is." "Wisdom" is the subject of both clauses. She is "made nown," i. e., by the very force of contrast, in the midst of fools; or she is reserved and reticent in the one, noisy and boastful in the other. The Septuagint and some other versions get over the difficulty, by reading "Wisdom is not made known."
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
Reproach - The word so rendered has this sense in the Targum of Leviticus 20:17. Its more usual meaning is "mercy," "piety;" hence, some have attached to the word rendered "sin" the sense of "sin-offering," and so get the maxim "piety is an atonement for the people."
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.