Proverbs 25:20
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

New Living Translation
Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone's coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.

English Standard Version
Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.

New American Standard Bible
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.

King James Bible
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.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda.

International Standard Version
Taking your coat off when it's cold or pouring vinegar on soda— that's what singing songs does to a heavy heart.

NET Bible
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
He that takes the cloak from his neighbor in the day of cold as like he that casts dirt upon wealth, and to chastise a grieved heart is like a moth to a garment and like a boring worm to a tree; so grief wounds the heart of a man.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
[Like] taking off a coat on a cold day or pouring vinegar on baking soda, so is singing songs to one who has an evil heart.

Jubilee Bible 2000
As he that takes away a garment in cold weather and as vinegar upon soap, so is he that sings songs to a heavy heart.

King James 2000 Bible
As he that takes away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon soda, so is he that sings songs to a heavy heart.

American King James Version
As he that takes away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar on nitre, so is he that singes songs to an heavy heart.

American Standard Version
As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon soda, So is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And one that looseth his garment in cold weather. As vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a very evil heart. As a moth doth by a garment, and a worm by the wood: so the sadness of a man consumeth the heart.

Darby Bible Translation
[As] he that taketh off a garment in cold weather, [and as] vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a sad heart.

English Revised Version
As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

Webster's Bible Translation
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre; so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.

World English Bible
As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Young's Literal Translation
Whoso is taking away a garment in a cold day, Is as vinegar on nitre, And a singer of songs on a sad heart.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

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.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 20. - As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather. The proverb gives three instances of what is wrong, incongruous, or unwise, the first two leading up to the third, which is the pith of the maxim. But them is some doubt about the rendering of the first clause. The Authorized Version has the authority of the Syriac, Aquila, and others, and gives an appropriate sense, the unreasonable proceeding being the laying aside of some of one's own clothes in cold weather. But the verb here used, עָדָח (adah), may also mean "to adorn," e.g., with fine garments; hence some expositors understand the incongruity to be the dressing one's self in gay apparel in winter. But, as Delitzsch remarks, there is no reason why fine clothes should not be warm; and if they are so, there is nothing unreasonable in wearing them. The rendering of our version is probably correct. St. Jerome annexes this line to the preceding verse, as if it confirmed the previous instances of misplaced confidence, Et amittit pallium in die frigoris. "Such a one loses his cloak in a day of frost." Vinegar upon nitre. Our nitre, or saltpetre, is nitrate of potash, which is not the substance intended by נֶתֶר (nether). The substance signified by this term is a natural alkali, known to the ancients as natron, and composed of carbonate of soda with some other admixture. It was used extensively for washing purposes, and in cookery and bread making. It effervesces with an acid, such as vinegar, and changes its character, becoming a salt, and being rendered useless for all the purposes to which it was applied in its alkaline condition. So he who pours vinegar on natron does a foolish thing, for he spoils a highly useful article, and produces one which is of no service to him. Septuagint, "As vinegar is inexpedient for a wound (ἕλκει), so suffering falling on the body pains the heart." Schulteus, Ewald, and others, by referring nether to an Arabic source, obtain the meaning "wound," or "sore," titus: "As vinegar on a sore." This gives a most appropriate sense, and might well be adopted if it had sufficient authority. But this is doubtful. Cornelius a Lapide translates the Septuagint rendering, Ὥσπερ ὅξος ἑλκει ἀούμφορον, "Sicut acetum trahit inutile;" and explains that vinegar draws from the soil the nitre which is prejudicial to vegetation, and thus renders ground fertile - a fact in agricultural chemistry not generally known, though Columella vouches for it. A somewhat similar fact, however, is of common experience. Land occasionally becomes what farmers term "sour," and is thus sterile; if it is then dressed with salt. its fertillity is restored. So is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. The inconsistency lies in thinking to cheer a sorrowful heart by singing merry songs. "A tale out of season," says Siracides, "is as music in mourning" (Ecclus. 22:6). The Greeks denoted cruel incongruity by the proverb, Ἐν, πενθοῦσι παίζειν; "Ludere inter maerentes." As the old hymn says -

"Strains of gladness
Suit not souls with anguish torn."
The true Christian sympathy teaches to "rejoice with them that rejoice, to weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). Plumptre, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' suggests that the effervescence caused by the mixture of acid and alkali is taken as a type of the irritation produced by the inopportune songs. But this is importing a modern view into a paragraph, such as would never have occurred to the writer. The Septuagint, followed partially by Jerome, the Syriac, and the Targum, introduces another proverb not found in the Hebrew, "As a moth in a garment, and a worm in wood, so the sorrow of a man hurts his heart."

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather,.... Either takes it off of himself, or another person, when it would be rather more proper to put another garment on, and so is exposed to the injury of cold weather;

and as vinegar upon nitre: nitre was found in Egypt, beyond Memphis, as Strabo says (p); there were two mines of nitre, which produced much, and thence it was called the Nitriotic Nome: others say, nitre has its name from Nitria, a town in Egypt (q), which gives name to the Nitrian desert, where there is a lake called Latron; from the bottom of which, that sort of nitre, called Natron, arises to the top, as is apprehended, and there, by the heat of the sun, condenses into this kind of substance (r), which will react with an acid; and so vinegar poured upon it will irritate and disturb it, cause it to react, and make a noise and a hissing. This must be understood only of this sort of nitre, of the nitre of the ancients; not of the moderns, which is no other than saltpetre; for though this will ferment with vinegar, saltpetre will not (s): nitre is dissolved by a liquid, but not any, only that which is cold, as Aristotle observes (t), as is vinegar; and therefore, with great propriety, this is joined to what goes before;

so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart; rather distresses and afflicts him the more; as he cannot sing himself, he cannot bear to hear others sing; such rather should be condoled and wept with than to have songs sung to them. Some understand the words in a sense the reverse; the word rendered taketh away, in the first clause, has the signification of adorning with a garment; hence they render it, "as he that putteth on a garment (u) for ornament in cold weather, and as vinegar to nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart"; that is, as an additional garment drives away cold, and vinegar dissolves nitre, so singing songs to a heavy hearted man drives away sorrow; as in the case of Saul, such an effect had music on him, 1 Samuel 16:21; or rather, to put on a thin garment for ornament in cold weather is as absurd and unseasonable as to put vinegar to nitre, or to a wound, as Schultens, and to sing songs to a heavy heart; all absurd.

(p) Geograph. l. 17. p. 552. (q) Isidor. Origin. l. 16. c. 2.((r) Philosoph. Transact. abridged, vol. 2. p. 530. (s) Ibid. p. 532. Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. p. 1009, 1010. (t) Meteorolog. l. 4. c. 6. (u) "ornans vestem suam", Gussetins, p. 880. "ornata veste instruens"; Schultens.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

20. Not only is the incongruity of songs (that is, joyful) and sadness meant, but an accession of sadness, by want of sympathy, is implied.

Proverbs 25:20 Additional Commentaries
Context
More Proverbs of Solomon
19Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. 20Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart. 21If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;…
Cross References
Proverbs 25:19
Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.

Proverbs 25:21
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
Treasury of Scripture

As he that takes away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar on nitre, so is he that singes songs to an heavy heart.

that taketh

Deuteronomy 24:12-17 And if the man be poor, you shall not sleep with his pledge…

Job 24:7-10 They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no …

Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the …

James 2:15,16 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food…

vinegar

Proverbs 10:26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard …

so

Psalm 137:3,4 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; …

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither …

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise …

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