Proverbs 26
Barnes' Notes
As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
In Palestine there is commonly hardly any rain from the early showers of spring to October. Hence, "rain in harvest" became sometimes (see the marginal reference) a supernatural sign, sometimes, as here, a proverb for whatever was strange and incongruous.

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
i. e., "Vague as the flight of the sparrow, aimless as the wheelings of the swallow, is the causeless curse. It will never reach its goal." The marginal reading in the Hebrew, however, gives" to him" instead of "not" or "never;" i. e., "The causeless curse, though it may pass out of our ken, like a bird's track in the air, will come on the man who utters it." Compare the English proverb, "Curses, like young chickens, always come home to roost."

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Two sides of a truth. To "answer a fool according to his folly" is in Proverbs 26:4 to bandy words with him, to descend to his level of coarse anger and vile abuse; in Proverbs 26:5 it is to say the right word at the right time, to expose his unwisdom and untruth to others and to himself, not by a teaching beyond his reach, but by words that he is just able to apprehend. The apparent contradiction between the two verses led some of the rabbis to question the canonical authority of this book. The Pythagoreans had maxims expressing a truth in precepts seemingly contradictory.

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
Cutteth off the feet - Mutilates him, spoils the work which the messenger ought to fulfill.

Drinketh damage - i. e., "has to drink full draughts of shame and loss" (compare Job 15:16).

The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Or, Take away the legs of the lame man, and the parable that is in the mouth of fools: both are alike useless to their possessors. Other meanings are:

(1) "The legs of the lame man are feeble, so is parable in the mouth of fools."

(2) "the lifting up of the legs of a lame man, i. e., his attempts at dancing, are as the parable in the mouth of fools."

As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
i. e., "To give honor to the fool is like binding a stone in a sling; you cannot throw it." In each case you misapply and so waste. Others render in the sense of the margin: To use a precious stone where a pebble would be sufficient, is not less foolish than to give honor to a fool.

As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Better: "As a thorn which is lifted up in the hand of the drunkard" etc. As such a weapon so used may do mischief to the man himself or to others, so may the sharp, keen-edged proverb when used by one who does not understand it.

The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
The word "God" is not in the original, and the adjective translated "great" is never used elsewhere absolutely in that sense. The simplest and best interpretation is: As the archer that woundeth everyone, so is he who hireth the fool, and he who hireth every passerby. Acting at random, entrusting matters of grave moment to men of bad repute, is as likely to do mischief as to shoot arrows at everyone.

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
Compare the marginal reference note. Here there is greater dramatic vividness in the two words used:

(1) A roaring one,

(2) a lion, more specifically.

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
Grieveth him - Better, wearieth him.

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
Seven - The definite number used for the indefinite (compare Proverbs 24:16).

Reason - Better, a right judgment.

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
The teacher cuts off the plea which people make when they have hurt their neighbor by lies, that they "did not mean mischief," that they were "only in fun." Such jesting is like that of the madman flinging firebrands or arrows.

So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Coals - Charcoal.

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Compare the marginal reference note.

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Burning lips - i. e., "Lips glowing with, affection, uttering warm words of love," joined with a malignant heart, are like a piece of broken earthenware from the furnace, which glitters with the silver drops at stick to it, but is itself worthless.

He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
Seven abominations - Compare Proverbs 26:16 note. Here "seven" retains, perhaps, its significance as the symbol of completeness. Evil has, as it were, gone through all its work, and holds its accursed Sabbath in the heart in which all things are "very evil."

Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
Better, "Hatred is covered by deceit, but in the midst of the congregation his wickedness will be made manifest," i. e., then, in the time of need, the feigned friendship will pass into open enmity.

Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
Rolleth a stone - The illustration refers, probably, to the use made of stones in the rough warfare of an earlier age. Compare Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21. The man is supposed to be rolling the stone up to the heights.

A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.
The lying tongue hates its victims.

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

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