|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:1 A poor man who fears God, is more honourable and happy, than a man without wisdom and grace, however rich or advanced in rank. 2. What good can the soul do, if without knowledge? And he sins who will not take time to ponder the path of his feet.
Verse 1. - Better is the poor that walkth in his integrity. The word for "poor" is, here and in vers. 7, 22, rash, which signifies "poor" in opposition to "rich." In the present reading of the second clause, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool, there seems to be a failure in antithesis, unless we can understand the fool as a rich fool. This, the repetition of the maxim in Proverbs 28:6 ("Than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich"), would lead one to admit. The Vulgate accordingly has, Quam dives torquem labia sua, et insipiens, "Than a rich man who is of perverse lips and a fool." With this the Syriac partly agrees. So that, if we take this reading, the moralist says that the poor man who lives a guileless, innocent life, content with his lot, and using no wrong means to improve his fortunes, is happier and better than the rich man who is hypocritical in his words and deceives others, and has won his wealth by such means, thus proving himself to be a fool, a morally bad man. But if we content ourselves with the Hebrew text, we must find the antithesis in the simple, pious, poor man, contrasted with the arrogant rich man, who sneers at his poor neighbour as an inferior creature. The writer would seem to insinuate that there is a natural connection between poverty and integrity of life on the one hand, and wealth and folly on the other. He would assent to the sweeping assertion, Omnis dives ant iniquus aut iniqui heres, "Every rich man is either a rascal or a rascal's heir."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity,.... In the uprightness of his heart before God and men; who is sincere in the worship of God, and in the profession of his name, and walks in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; and is upright, harmless, and inoffensive in his conversation with men; and studies to exercise a conscience void of offence to both, and continues herein. A man may be a poor man with respect to worldly things, and yet be rich towards God; may be a truly gracious good man, honest, sincere, and upright in heart and life: and such an one is better
than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool; that is, than a rich man, as the Syriac and Vulgate Latin versions supply it, and as the antithesis requires; "that is perverse in his lips", or "whose ways are perverse", as the Syriac version; that acts the deceitful part both by words and actions towards those that are about him, not being honest and plain hearted as the poor man is; and who uses those beneath him very roughly; and concerning oppression speaks loftily, and lets his tongue run both against God in heaven and man on earth, by which he shows he is a fool: for his riches do not give him wisdom; and his words and actions declare he wants it; men may be poor, and yet wise; and a matt may be rich, and yet a fool: or is confident (d); that is, trusts in his riches, and is opposed to a poor man, so R. Saadiah Gaon. This verse and Proverbs 19:2 are not in the Septuagint and Arabic versions.
(d) "confidens divitiis", Cocceii Lexic. col. 384.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
1. (Compare Pr 28:6). "Rich" for fool here. Integrity is better than riches (Pr 15:16, 17; 16:8).
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