A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.Proverbs 11:1. A false balance — The use of all false weights and measures in commerce; is abomination to the Lord — Highly abominable to him, both because this wickedness is practised under a colour of justice, and because it is destructive of human society, and especially of the poor, whose patron the Lord declares himself to be: see on Leviticus 19:35. “This rule may hold, not in commerce only, but also in our judgments, and in our whole conduct toward our neighbour. In every thing respecting him, employ the balance of equity, void of all selfish views, passions, and prejudices. Let justice and truth ever hold the scale; and always do to him what you would have done to yourself.”
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.Proverbs 11:2-3. When pride cometh, then cometh shame — Pride, as it is the effect of folly, so it bringeth a man to contempt and destruction, such persons being under the displeasure of God, and disliked by all men. But with the lowly is wisdom — Whereby they are kept from those foolish and wicked actions which expose men to shame. The integrity of the upright, &c. — Their sincere obedience to God’s laws; shall guide them — Shall keep them from crooked and dangerous courses, and lead them in a right and safe way. But the perverseness of transgressors — Those wicked devices by which they design and expect to secure themselves; shall destroy them — Shall be the very causes of their destruction.
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.
Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.Proverbs 11:4-6. Riches profit not in the day of wrath — In the time of God’s judgments, when he is executing vengeance upon sinners; but righteousness delivereth, &c. — See note on Proverbs 10:2. The righteousness of the perfect shall direct, &c. — Shall bring all his designs and endeavours to a happy issue, and deliver him from many snares and dangers, Proverbs 11:6.
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.
When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.Proverbs 11:7-8. When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish — All his hope and felicity, which he placed wholly in earthly things, are lost and gone with him; and the hope of unjust men, &c. — This clause, according to this translation, is a mere repetition of the former: but the word אונים, here rendered unjust men, is generally translated strengths, or powers, as indeed it properly means. Divers, therefore, interpret the clause, The hope of their strengths, that is, which they place in their riches, children, friends, and other carnal props and defences, perisheth. So this is added by way of aggravation. The righteous are delivered out of trouble — When, perhaps, he hardly expected it, or even was ready to despair of it; and the wicked cometh in his stead — Is, by God’s providence, brought into the same miseries, which the wicked either designed against, or had formerly inflicted on the righteous, but which were now lately removed from them. Thus Mordecai was saved from the gallows, Daniel from the lions’ den, and Peter from the prison, and their persecutors came in their stead. Israel was delivered out of the Red sea, and the Egyptians drowned in it.
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.
An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.Proverbs 11:9. A hypocrite with his mouth — By his corrupt communication; destroyeth his neighbour — Draws him into error or sin; but through knowledge — Namely, of God and of his word, which, making men wise, discovers and so prevents the frauds of deceivers; shall the just be delivered — From the infection of the evil and crafty counsel of hypocrites.
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.Proverbs 11:10. When it goeth well with the righteous — When righteous men are encouraged and advanced to places of trust and power; the city rejoiceth — The citizens, or subjects, of that government, rejoice, because they confidently expect justice and tranquillity, and many other benefits, by their administration of public affairs. When the wicked perish, there is shouting — A common rejoicing, partly for the just vengeance of God upon them, who had been the instruments of so much mischief; and partly for the deliverance of the people from such public grievances and burdens as had been imposed upon them.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.Proverbs 11:11. By the blessing of the upright — Namely, by their sincere prayers, and wise, wholesome counsels, wherewith they bless their country; the city is exalted — In dignity, power, and all kinds of prosperity; but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked — By their curses, oaths, blasphemies, and wicked, pernicious counsels, whereby they both provoke God, and mislead men to their own ruin.
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.Proverbs 11:12-13. He that is void of wisdom — Of knowledge, prudence, and grace; despiseth his neighbour — Which he shows by contemptuous or reproachful expressions; but a man of understanding holdeth his peace — Forbears all such expressions, and silently and patiently bears all these reproaches. It is a great weakness to speak contemptuously of any man, or to endeavour to render him ridiculous, though he may have erred, because he possibly may return to a right way of thinking and acting for the future; and it is cruel to insult over errors committed through human infirmity; therefore a prudent person says nothing to the reproach of any one. A tale- bearer — Or, He that goeth about, (see the margin,) from one place or person to another, telling tales, making it his business to scatter reports; revealeth secrets — Either his neighbour’s secret faults, or such things as were committed to his trust, with a charge of secrecy; but he that is of a faithful spirit — That hath a sincere, constant, and faithful mind, and therefore both can and will govern his tongue; concealeth the matter — Will hide those things which have been committed to his trust, or which, if known, might be injurious to others.
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.Proverbs 11:14. Where no counsel is, the people fall — “Where prudent counsellors are wanting a nation goes to wreck, as certainly as a ship doth without a pilot; but a country is safe when there are many wise men to govern affairs; that if one fail, there may enough still remain; or what one or two see not, others may be able to discern.”
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.Proverbs 11:15. He that is surety for a stranger, &c. — “He is in great danger to be undone, who stands bound to pay the debts of another man, especially of a stranger, whose ability and honesty are unknown to him; and the way to be secure from it, is not only to avoid such engagements one’s self, but to dislike to see other men enter into them.” — Bishop Patrick.
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.Proverbs 11:16. A gracious woman — Hebrew, אשׁת חן, a woman of grace; one endued with the saving grace of God, and who, by humility, meekness, modesty, prudence, and other virtues, renders herself acceptable and amiable to God and men; retaineth honour — Holdeth fast her honour, or good reputation, with no less care and resolution than strong men do riches, as it follows.
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.Proverbs 11:17. The merciful man — Who is compassionate toward persons in distress, bountiful to such as are in want, and kind to all; doth good to his own soul — That is, to himself, because his mercy and liberality shall turn to his own infinite advantage, both in this life and the next. But he that is cruel — That is, hard-hearted, and uncharitable to others; troubleth his own flesh — Either, 1st, His own children and kindred, for whose sakes he is thus covetous and uncharitable, in order that he may lay up for them; but, as these words imply, they shall have nothing but disappointment, trouble, and vexation with what they receive. Or, 2d, Himself, denominated here from his flesh, or body, as in the former clause, from his soul; perhaps to intimate, that the mischievous effects of his covetousness shall not only fall upon his soul, which he despises, but upon his flesh, or outward man, which is the only thing he fears or regards.
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.Proverbs 11:18-19. The wicked worketh a deceitful work — A work which will deceive his expectation of that good for which he works. But to him that soweth righteousness — That worketh righteousness with constancy, diligence, and hope of a recompense, resembling the labour and hope of those who sow in seed-time; shall be a sure reward — For, he that sows to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting; so he that pursueth evil — That lives in known sin, that sows to the flesh; pursueth it to his own death — Shall of the flesh reap corruption.
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.
They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.Proverbs 11:20-21. They that are of a froward heart &c. — They are odious to God, who study to compass their end by wicked means; but they whose exact observance of the rules of righteousness, in the whole course of their lives, testifies the integrity of their hearts, are highly in his favour and love. Though hand join in hand — Though the wicked be fortified against God’s judgments by a numerous issue, and kindred, and friends, and by mutual strong combinations; they shall not be unpunished — They shall not be able, either totally to prevent God’s judgments, or to hinder them from coming in their days. They shall be punished in their own persons as well as in their posterity. But the seed of the righteous — Who follow the steps of their ancestors’ righteousness, though they may fall into trouble, yet in due time shall be delivered — Namely, without any such auxiliaries, by God’s special providence. Though justice may come slowly to punish the wicked, and mercy to save the righteous, yet both will come surely.
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.Proverbs 11:22. As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout — Which would not adorn the swine, but only be disparaged itself; so is a fair woman without discretion — Who disgraceth the beauty of her body by a foolish and filthy mind. There seems to be an allusion in these words to a custom prevalent in the East, of wearing jewels upon their noses: see on Job 42:11. The meaning evidently is, “As a jewel of gold would be ill placed in the snout of a swine, which is always raking in the mire; so is beauty ill bestowed on a woman, whose mind, having lost all relish of virtue, carries her from her husband to wallow in filthy lusts and adulterous pleasures.” See Bishop Patrick.
“Of beauty vain, of virtue void,
What art thou in the sight of God?
A slave to every base desire,
A creature wallowing in the mire.
Go, gaudy pageant of a day,
Thy folly with thy face display:
Set all thy charms and graces out,
And show — the jewel in thy snout.” C. WESLEY.
The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.Proverbs 11:23. The desire of the righteous is only good — “The righteous desire nothing, but that it may be well with all men; but the wicked wish for trouble and disturbance to all others but themselves, that they may execute their malice and wrath upon those whom they hate.” — Bishop Patrick. Or, rather, the meaning is, the desires and expectations of the righteous shall end in their good and happiness, but the desires and expectations of the wicked shall be disappointed, and end in the wrath of God.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.Proverbs 11:24-25. There is that scattereth — That giveth liberally of his goods to the poor; for so the word פזר, here used, signifies, Psalm 112:9; and yet increaseth — Through God’s secret blessing on his estate; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet — Hebrew, מישׁר, than what is right, or just, that is, what, by the law of God, and the rules of general justice, he is obliged to give: of which, see on Proverbs 3:27. But it tendeth to poverty — By God’s providence secretly blasting his property, either in his own or his children’s hands: as it frequently happens to covetous persons. The liberal soul — Hebrew, the soul of blessing, the man who is a blessing to others; who prays for the sick and needy, and provides for them; that scatters blessings with gracious lips and generous hands, the word blessing being often used for a gift; shall be made fat — Shall be enriched both with temporal and spiritual blessings. And he that watereth, &c. — Possibly this is a metaphor taken from a fountain, which, when it pours forth its waters, is instantly filled again; whereas, if it be stopped, it grows empty, the water seeking another course. Some render the last clause, הוא יורא, he shall be a rain, that is, he shall receive such liberal supplies from God, that he shall be able to pour forth showers of good things upon others.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.Proverbs 11:26. He that withholdeth corn — In a time of scarcity, when others need and desire it; the people shall curse him — He shall fall into the popular hatred, and be loaded with many curses; but blessing — Namely, the blessing of God, which the people shall earnestly ask for him; shall be upon the head of him that selleth it — Upon reasonable terms. “The truth of this,” says Dr. Dodd, “is experienced in all times of scarcity. They who have the hardness of heart to withhold their corn at such seasons are accursed of God and men. The justice of God fails not to display itself upon those who are insensible to the miseries of the public, and who are not afraid to bring upon themselves the hatred and curses of the people:” see Amos 8:5-7, and Calmet.
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.Proverbs 11:27-28. He that diligently seeketh good — To do good to all men, as he hath opportunity; which is opposed to a man’s contenting himself with lazy desires, or cold and careless endeavours; procureth favour — With God and men; but he that seeketh mischief — To do any mischief or injury to others; it shall come unto him — It shall be requited, either by men’s malice and revenge, or by God’s just judgment. He that trusteth in his riches — As his protection, or portion and felicity; shall fall — As a withered leaf; but the righteous — Who make God alone, and not riches, the ground of their confidence, and source of their happiness; shall flourish as a branch — Namely, a green and fruitful branch.
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.Proverbs 11:29. He that troubleth his own house — He who brings trouble upon himself and children; either, 1st, By carelessness, sloth, improvidence, prodigality, or any wickedness, whereby he consumes his estate: or, 2d, By covetous desires, and restless endeavours to heap up riches, whereby he greatly harasses and distresses both himself and his family with excessive cares and labours; shall inherit the wind — Shall be as unable to keep and enjoy what he gets, as a man is to hold the wind in his fist, or to feed and satisfy himself with it: he shall be brought to poverty. And the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart — A person so destitute of prudence or industry, shall, through his extreme necessity, be obliged to work hard for his living, and to become a servant to such as are more diligent in pursuing, and more discreet in managing their worldly affairs.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.Proverbs 11:30. The fruit of the righteous — Which he produceth; namely, his piety and charity, his instructions, reproofs, exhortations, and prayers; his interest in heaven, and his influence on earth, are a tree of life — That is, like the fruit of that tree, precious and useful, contributing to the support and increase of the spiritual life in many, and nourishing them up to eternal life. And he that winneth souls — Hebrew, לקח נפשׂות, he that taketh, or catcheth souls, as a fowler doth birds, or a fisherman fishes; that makes it his design and business, and uses all his skill and diligence to gain souls to God, and to pluck them out of the snare of the devil; is wise — Showeth himself to be a truly wise and good man. Or, the clause may, with equal propriety, be rendered, and he that is wise (the same with the righteous in the former branch) winneth souls, brings them to repentance, faith, and holiness, to God and heaven. All that are truly wise, or righteous, endeavour to do this, and their endeavours, through the divine blessing, are more or less successful.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.Proverbs 11:31. Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed — That is, chastised, or punished for his sins; which the next clause shows to be Solomon’s meaning here; in the earth — Whereby he intimates, that all the righteous man’s sufferings are confined to this world, which is an unspeakable felicity; much more the wicked and the sinner — They shall be punished much more certainly and severely, either in this life, or in the life to come; or rather, in both. Compare this verse with 1 Peter 4:18, which is a good comment upon it.