Proverbs 18
Barnes' Notes
Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
The text and the marginal readings indicate the two chief constructions of this somewhat difficult verse. Other renderings are

(1) He who separateth himself from others seeks his own desire, and rushes forward against all wise counsel: a warning against self-will and the self-assertion which exults in differing from the received customs and opinions of mankind.

(2) he who separates himself (from the foolish, unlearned multitude) seeks his own desire (that which is worthy to be desired), and mingleth himself with all wisdom. So the Jewish commentators generally.

Between (1) blaming and (2) commending the life of isolation, the decision must be that (1) is most in harmony with the temper of the Book of Proverbs; but it is not strange that Pharisaism, in its very name, separating and self-exalting, should have adopted (2).

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
Another form of egotism. In "understanding," i. e., self-knowledge, the "fool" finds no pleasure; but self-assertion, talking about himself and his own opinions, is his highest joy.

When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.
With ignominy - Better, "together with baseness comes reproach." The outer shame follows close upon the inner.

The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.
The parallelism of the two clauses is probably one of contrast. If so, the proverb is a comparison between all teaching from without and that of the light within. "The words of a man's mouth" are dark as the "deep waters" of a pool, or tank ("deep waters" being associated in the Old Testament with the thought of darkness and mystery; compare Proverbs 20:5; Psalm 69:2; Ecclesiastes 7:24); but "the wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook," bright and clear. The verse presents a contrast like that of Jeremiah 2:13.

It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
The first verse speaks of the immediate, the others of the remote, results of the "fool's" temper. First, "contention," then "strokes" or blows, then "destruction," and last, "wounds."

A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Wounds - The word so rendered occurs here and in Proverbs 26:22 only. Others render it "dainties," and take the verse to describe the avidity with which people swallow in tales of scandal. They find their way to the innermost recesses of man's nature.

He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
Safe - literally, as in the margin i. e., is exalted. Compare Psalm 18:2, Psalm 18:33.

The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.
What the name of the Lord is to the righteous Proverbs 18:10, that wealth is to the rich. He flees to it for refuge as to a strong city; but it is so only "in his own conceit" or imagination.

High - In the Hebrew the same word as "safe" Proverbs 18:10, and manifestly used in reference to it.

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
Before - In the sense of priority of time.

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Infirmity - Bodily pain or trouble. "Spirit" in the Hebrew text is masculine in the first clause, feminine in the second, as though used in the latter as having lost its strength.

The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
With the wise and prudent there is no loss of time. "Heart" and "ear" - the mind working within, or gathering from without materials for its thought - are, through this channel or that, ever gaining knowledge.

A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
The "gift" (or, bribe), by a bold personification, appears as the powerful "friend at court," who introduces another, and makes him welcome in high places.

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
A protest against another fault in judging. Haste is hardly less evil than corruption. "Audi alteram partern "should be the rule of every judge.

His neighbor - The other party to the suit "searcheth," i. e., scrutinizes and detects him.

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
Compare Proverbs 16:33 note. A tacit appeal to the Divine Judge gave a fairer prospect of a just decision than corruption Proverbs 18:16 or hasty onesidedness Proverbs 18:17.

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
The meaning of the first clause is obtained in the King James Version by the insertion of the words in italics, and it seems on the whole to be the best. The Septuagint and Vulgate give an entirely different rendering, based, apparently, upon a different text.

A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
The general sense is plain. A man must for good or evil take the consequence of his words, as well as his deeds. Compare the marginal reference.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
The sense seems to require, "Whoso findeth a good wife," as in some Chaldee manuscripts; but the proverb writer may be looking at marriage in its ideal aspect, and sees in every such union the hands of God joining together man and woman for their mutual good. The Septuagint adds "He who casts out a good wife, casts away that which is good: but he that keepeth an adulteress is foolish and ungodly."

The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
Note the paradox. The poor man, of whom one might expect roughness, supplicates; the rich, well nurtured, from whom one might look for courtesy, answers harshly and brusquely.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Better, "A man of many companions is so to his own destruction, but there is a friend (the true, loving friend) etc." It is not the multitude of so called friends that helps us. They may only embarrass and perplex. What we prize is the one whose love is stronger and purer even than all ties of kindred.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

Bible Hub
Proverbs 17
Top of Page
Top of Page