|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:4-6 Solomon notices the sources of trouble peculiar to well-doers, and includes all who labour with diligence, and whose efforts are crowned with success. They often become great and prosperous, but this excites envy and opposition. Others, seeing the vexations of an active course, foolishly expect more satisfaction in sloth and idleness. But idleness is a sin that is its own punishment. Let us by honest industry lay hold on the handful, that we may not want necessaries, but not grasp at both hands full, which would only create vexation of spirit. Moderate pains and gains do best.
Verse 5. - The connection of this verse with the preceding is this: activity, diligence, and skill indeed bring success, but success is accompanied by sad results. Should we, then, sink into apathy, relinquish work, let things slide? Nay, none but the fool (kesil), the insensate, half-brutish man, doth this. The fool foldeth his hands together. The attitude expresses laziness and disinclination for active labor, like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 6:10. And eateth his own flesh. Ginsburg, Plumptre, and others take these words to mean "and yet eats his meat," i.e. gets that enjoyment from his sluggishness which is denied to active diligence. They refer, in proof of this interpretation, to Exodus 16:8; Exodus 21:28; Isaiah 22:13; Ezekiel 39:17, in which passages, however, the phrase is never equivalent to "eating his food." The expression is really equivalent to "destroys himself," "brings ruin upon himself." Thus we have in Psalm 27:2, "Evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh;" and in Micah 3:3, "Who eat the flesh of my people" (comp. Isaiah 49:26). The sluggard is guilty of moral suicide; he takes no trouble to provide for his necessities, and suffers extremities in consequence. Some see in this verse and the following an objection and its answer. There is no occasion for this view, and it is not in keeping with the context; but it contains an intimation of the true exposition, which makes ver. 6 a proverbial statement of the sluggard's position. The verbs in the text are participial in form, so that the Vulgate rendering, which supplies a verb, is quite admissible: Stultus complicat manna suas, et comedit carnes suas, dicens: Melior est, etc.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The fool foldeth his hands together,.... In order to get more sleep, or as unwilling to work; so the Targum adds,
"he folds his hands in summer, and will not labour;''
see Proverbs 6:10. Some persons, to escape the envy which diligence and industry bring on men, will not work at all, or do any right work, and think to sleep in a whole skin; this is great folly and madness indeed:
and eateth his own flesh; such a man is starved and famished for want of food, so that his flesh is wasted away; or he is so hungry bitten, that he is ready to eat his own flesh; or he hereby brings to ruin his family, his wife, and children, which are his own flesh, Isaiah 58:7. The Targum is,
"in winter he eats all he has, even the covering of the skin of his flesh.''
Some understand this of the envious man, who is a fool, traduces the diligent and industrious, and will not work himself; and not only whose idleness brings want and poverty on him as an armed man, but whose envy eats up his spirit, and is rottenness in his bones, Proverbs 6:11. Jarchi, out of a book of theirs called Siphri, interprets this of a wicked man in hell, when he sees the righteous in glory, and he himself judged and condemned.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. Still the
fool (the wicked oppressor) is not to be envied even in this life, who "folds his hands together" in idleness (Pr 6:10; 24:33), living on the means he wrongfully wrests from others; for such a one
eateth his own flesh—that is, is a self-tormentor, never satisfied, his spirit preying on itself (Isa 9:20; 49:26).
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