These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.
A new section.
Copied out - In the sense of a transfer from oral tradition to writing.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
The earthly monarch might be, in some respects, the type of the heavenly, but here there is a marked contrast. The king presses further and further into all knowledge; God surrounds Himself as in "thick darkness," and there are secrets unrevealed even after the fullest revelation.
The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.
The other side of the thought of Proverbs 25:2. What the mind of God is to the searchers after knowledge, that the heart of the true and wise king is to those who try to guess its counsels.
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
The interpretation of the proverb of Proverbs 25:4. The king himself, like the Lord whom he represents, is to sit as "a refiner of silver" Malachi 3:3.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
The pushing, boastful temper is, in the long run, suicidal. It is wiser as well as nobler to take the lower place at first in humility, than to take it afterward with shame. Compare Luke 14:8-10, which is one of the few instances in which our Lord's teaching was fashioned, as to its outward form, upon that of this book.
For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
The general meaning is: It is dangerous to plunge into litigation. At all times, there is the risk of failure, and, if we fail, of being at the mercy of an irritated adversary. Without the italics, the clause may be rendered, "lest thou do something (i. e., something humiliating and vexatious) at the end thereof."
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
An anticipation of the highest standard of ethical refinement Matthew 18:15, but with a difference. Here the motive is prudential, the risk of shame, the fear of the irretrievable infamy of the betrayer of secrets. In the teaching of Christ the precept rests upon the divine authority and the perfect example.
Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Apples of gold - Probably the golden colored fruit set in baskets (i. e., chased vessels of open worked silver); so is a word spoken upon its wheels (i. e., moving quickly and quietly on its way). The proverb may have had its origin in some kingly gift to the son of David, the work of Tyrian artists, like Hiram and his fellows. Others gazed on the cunning work and admired, but the wise king saw in the costly rarity a parable of something higher. "A word well set upon the wheels of speech" excelled it. Ornamentation of this kind in the precious metals was known, even as late as in the middle ages, as oeuvre de Salomon.
As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
The theme of this proverb being the same as that of Proverbs 25:11, its occurrence suggests the thought that rings used as ornaments for ears, or nose, or forehead, and other trinkets formed part of the works of art spoken of in the foregoing note, and that the king had something at once pointed and wise to say of each of them.
As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.
A picture of the growing luxury of the Solomonic period. The "snow in harvest" is not a shower of snow or hail, which would be terrifying and harmful rather than refreshing (compare 1 Samuel 12:17-18); but, rather, the snow of Lebanon or Hermon put into wine or other drink to make it more refreshing in the scorching heat of May or June at the king's summer palace on Lebanon (1 Kings 9:19, note; Sol 7:4, note). More reviving even than the iced wine cup was the faithful messenger. Contrast Proverbs 10:26.
Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
The disappointment caused by him who promises much and performs little or nothing, is likened to the phenomena of an eastern climate; the drought of summer, the eager expectation of men who watch the rising clouds and the freshening breeze, the bitter disappointment when the breeze dies off, and the clouds pass away, and the wished for rain does not come.
By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
A soft tongue - Winning and gentle speech does what it seems at first least capable of doing; it overcomes obstacles which are as bones that the strongest jaws would fail to crush.
Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
Hast thou found honey? - Compare Judges 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:27. The precept extends to the pleasure of which honey is the symbol.
Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
Let thy foot be seldom in the house of thy friend, etc. Though thy visits were sweet as honey, he may soon learn to loathe them.
A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
Maul - A heavy sledge hammer. The word is connected with "malleus:" its diminutive "mallet" is still in use.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
Stress is to be laid on the uselessness of the "broken tooth" and the "foot out of joint," or tottering, rather than on the pain connected with them. The King James Version loses the emphasis and point of the Hebrew by inverting the original order, which is "a broken ... joint is confidence" etc.
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.
Examples of unwisdom and incongruity sharpen the point of the proverb. Pouring vinegar upon nitre or potash utterly spoils it. The effervescence caused by the mixture is perhaps taken as a type of the irritation produced by the "songs" sung out of season to a heavy heart.
The verb rendered "taketh away" may have the sense (as in Ezekiel 16:11) of "adorning oneself," and the illustration would then be, "as to put on a fine garment in time of cold is unseasonable, so is singing to a heavy heart."
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
A precept reproduced by Paul Romans 12:20; the second clause of which seems at first sight to suggest a motive incompatible with a true charity. Leviticus 16:12 suggests an explanation. The high priest on the Day of Atonement was to take his censer, to fill it with "coals of fire," and then to put the incense thereon for a sweet-smelling savor. So it is here. The first emotion in another caused by the good done to him may be one of burning shame, but the shame will do its work and the heart also will burn, and prayer and confession and thanksgiving will rise as incense to the throne of God. Thus, "we shall overcome evil with good."
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.
The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.
The marginal reading is far more accurate and gives a better sense. The northwest wind in Palestine commonly brings rain, and this was probably in the thought of the writer.
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.
Compare the Proverbs 21:9 note.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
The craving of wanderers for news from the home that they have left is as a consuming thirst, the news that quenches it as a refreshing fountain.
A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.
Falling down before - i. e., Yielding and cringing. To see this instead of stedfastness, is as grievous as for the traveler to find the spring at which he hoped to quench his thirst turbid and defiled.
It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.
So for men ... - A difficult sentence, the text of which is probably defective. The words are not in the original. Many commentators render: so to search into weighty matters is itself a weight, i. e., people soon become satiated with it as with honey. Possibly a warning against an over-curious searching into the mysteries of God's word or works.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.