Proverbs 25:22
For you shall heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD shall reward you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.—Thou shalt make him burn with shame at the thought of the wrong he has done thee. Thus, to bring a sinner to repentance is well-pleasing to the Lord, who shall reward thee for it. This is better far than to indulge resentment, which must bring sorrow to oneself, punishment from God—whose prerogative of vengeance (Romans 12:19) has been usurped—and only serve to harden the offender in his hostility.

25:19. Confidence in an unfaithful man is painful and vexatious; when we put any stress on him, he not only fails, but makes us feel for it. 20. We take a wrong course if we think to relieve those in sorrow by endeavouring to make them merry. 21,22. The precept to love even our enemies is an Old Testament commandment. Our Saviour has shown his own great example in loving us when we were enemies. 23. Slanders would not be so readily spoken, if they were not readily heard. Sin, if it receives any check, becomes cowardly. 24. It is better to be alone, than to be joined to one who is a hinderance to the comfort of life. 25. Heaven is a country afar off; how refreshing is good news from thence, in the everlasting gospel, which signifies glad tidings, and in the witness of the Spirit with our spirits that we are God's children! 26. When the righteous are led into sin, it is as hurtful as if the public fountains were poisoned. 27. We must be, through grace, dead to the pleasures of sense, and also to the praises of men. 28. The man who has no command over his anger, is easily robbed of peace. Let us give up ourselves to the Lord, and pray him to put his Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes.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." 21, 22. (Compare Mt 5:44; Ro 12:20). As metals are melted by heaping coals upon them, so is the heart softened by kindness. For, understand, in so doing, which words are expressed Romans 12:20, where this text is quoted,

thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head; either,

1. In a bad sense, thou shalt hereby aggravate his sin, and occasion a more speedy and grievous vengeance from God, which, like fire from heaven, shall fall upon his head and consume him. Not that he persuades him to do a kindness with an evil intent, with an expectation, or desire, or design of bringing God’s wrath upon him; but only he foretells what would happen, and dissuades him from taking vengeance, and provokes him to kindness instead of it, because vengeance is God’s peculiar work, which he will certainly inflict upon such persons; which argument is used to that very purpose by St. Paul, Romans 12:19. Or,

2. In a good sense, thou shalt melt him into repentance, and inflame him with love and kindness to thee for so unexpected and undeserved a favour; he shall be as heartily grieved and tormented with the thoughts of his vile and wicked carriage to thee, as a man would be that had burning coals of fire heaped upon his head. But if these coals of fire do not melt him, but still he hardens his heart against thee, they will consume him. Thus either by the one or by the other way thou shalt be secured and delivered from him. The metaphor may seem to be taken from founders, who melt the hardest metals by heaping coals of fire upon them. And the head may be here mentioned rather than any other part, because in Scripture phrase both blessings and curses are said to fall upon men’s heads, i.e. upon them, heads being frequently put for persons.

The Lord shall reward thee; thy charity to him shall be fully recompensed to thee, if not by him, yet by God, which is far better. For thou shall heap coals of fire upon his head,.... Not to increase his punishment and damnation, the more aggravated by kindness shown him; but to bring him by such means to a sense of former injuries, and to shame for them, repentance of them, and love of the person injured, and carefulness for the future of doing him any further wrong;

and the Lord shall reward thee: with good things, for all the good done to thine enemy, whether it has the desired effect on him or not; or whether he rewards thee or not; see Romans 12:20.

For thou shalt heap {p} coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

(p) You will, as if by force, overcome him, in so much that his own conscience will move him to acknowledge the benefits, and his heart will be inflamed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. heap coals of fire upon his head] i.e. take the most effectual vengeance upon him. It is best to take the expression both here, and in the Epistle to the Romans, where it is quoted, in the simplest sense of taking vengeance, expressed by a familiar figure (Psalm 120:4; Psalm 140:10), without carrying out the figure into any idea of the effect upon your enemy, whether for good or for evil, of your conduct: q.d. your natural desire is to be avenged, let this ‘feeding him’ and ‘giving him drink’ be the effective form of vengeance which you adopt. And as an incentive remember that in doing him good you will bring a blessing upon yourself: “the Lord shall reward thee.” The proverb thus belongs by anticipation to the highest sphere of moral teaching, Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20.Verse 22. - For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. This expression has been taken in various senses. It has been thought to mean that the forgiveness of the injured person brings to the cheek of the offender the burning blush of shame. But heaping coals on the head cannot naturally be taken to express such an idea. St. Chrysostom and other Fathers consider that Divine vengeance is implied, as in Psalm 11:6, "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind shall be their portion;" and Psalm 140:10, "Let burning coals fall upon them." Of course, in one view, kindness to an evil man only gives him occasion for fresh ingratitude and hatred, and therefore increases God's wrath against him. But it would be a wicked motive to act this beneficent part only to have the satisfaction of seeing your injurer humbled or punished. And the gnome implies that the sinner is benefited by the clemency shown to him, that the requital of evil by good brings the offender to a better mind, and aids his spiritual life. "Coals of fire" are a metaphor for the penetrating pain of remorse and repentance. The unmerited kindness which he receives forces upon him the consciousness of his ill doing, which is accompanied by the sharp rain of regret. St. Augustine, "Ne dubitaveris figurate dictum...ut intelligas carbones ignis esse urentes poenitentiae gemitus, quibus superbia sanatur ejus, qui dolit se inimicum fuisse hominis, a quo ejus miseriae subvenitur" ('De Doctr. Christ.,' 3:16). Lesetre quotes St. Francis de Sales, who gives again a different view, "You are not obliged to seek reconciliation with one who has offended you; it may be rather his part to seek you; yet nevertheless go and follow the Saviour's counsel, prevent him with good, render him good for evil: heap coals of fire on his head and on his heart, which may burn up all ill will and constrain him to love you" ('De l'Am. de Dieu,' 8:9). And the Lord shall reward thee. This consideration can scarcely be regarded as the chief motive for the liberality enjoined, though it would be present to the kind person's mind, and be a support and comfort to him in a course of conduct repugnant to the natural man. He would remember the glorious reward promised to godliness by the prophet (Isaiah 58:8, etc.), and how Saul had expressed his consciousness of David's magnanimity in sparing his life. "Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil... wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day" (1 Samuel 24:17, 19 and 1 Sam 26:21). Another way of showing self-control:

Hast thou found honey? eat thy enough,

Lest thou be surfeited with it, and vomit it up.

Honey is pleasant, salutary, and thus to be eaten sparingly, Proverbs 24:13, but ne quid nimis. Too much is unwholesome, 27a: αὐτοῦ καὶ μέλιτος τὸ πλέον ἐστὶ χολή, i.e., even honey enjoyed immoderately is as bitter as gall; or, as Freidank says: des honges seze erdruizet s mans ze viel geniuzet [the sweetness of honey offends when one partakes too much of it]. Eat if thou hast found any in the forest or the mountains, דּיּךּ, thy enough (lxx τὸ ἱκανόν; the Venet. τὸ ἀρκοῦν σοι), i.e., as much as appeases thine appetite, that thou mayest not become surfeited and vomit it out (והקאתו with Tsere, and א quiesc., as at 2 Samuel 14:10; vid., Michlol 116a, and Parchon under קוא). Fleischer, Ewald, Hitzig, and others, place Proverbs 25:16 and Proverbs 25:17 together, so as to form an emblematic tetrastich; but he who is surfeited is certainly, in Proverbs 25:16, he who willingly enjoys, and in 17, he to whom it is given to enjoy without his will; and is not, then, Proverbs 25:16 a sentence complete in itself in meaning? That it is not to be understood in a purely dietetic sense (although thus interpreted it is a rule not to be despised), is self-evident. As one can suffer injury from the noblest of food if he overload his stomach therewith, so in the sphere of science, instruction, edification, there is an injurious overloading of the mind; we ought to measure what we receive by our spiritual want, the right distribution of enjoyment and labour, and the degree of our ability to change it in succum et sanguinem, - else it at last awakens in us dislike, and becomes an evil to us.

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