Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.Proverbs 14:1. Every wise woman buildeth her house — By her care, industry: diligence, and prudent management, she improves, and raises her family and estate. So the phrase is used Exodus 1:21; 2 Samuel 7:11; Psalm 127:1. He speaks of the woman, not exclusively of the man, of whom this is no less true, but because the women, especially in those times, were very industrious in managing their husbands’ estates. But the foolish plucketh it down with her hands — By her negligence, idleness, ill management, or want of economy, she lays it low, and wastes all that had been gotten by the care of others.
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.Proverbs 14:2. He that walketh in his uprightness — Whose conversation is sincerely godly and righteous; feareth the Lord — Hath a due regard and reverence for the Lord, from which all true piety and virtue flow; but he that is perverse in his ways — That cares not what he does, so he may but satisfy his own lusts and passions; despiseth him — Plainly declares that he does not fear him, but lives in a profane contempt of him, and of his commands and threatenings, which is the very source of all wickedness.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.Proverbs 14:3. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride — “Fools often bring upon themselves, by their ungoverned tongues, the correction due to their crimes,” and especially to their pride and arrogance; but the lips of the wise shall preserve them — From that rod. Wise men are careful of their words, that they may not offend, much more that they may not abuse, the meanest person, and hereby they remain in safety.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.Proverbs 14:4. Where no oxen are, the crib is clean — The crib and stable may be easily kept clean where there are few or no oxen: but there is so much advantage arising from tilling the ground, that it is better to have a litter with plenty of oxen, than to have great neatness without them. Some think this is spoken of those who boast much of constant neatness about their houses, &c., which, at the same time, shows they carry on but little business. For where there is much business done, and many persons coming and going, there will necessarily be oftentimes less cleanliness and neatness. This verse, however, may be considered as containing an admonition for the man without doors, (as the first admonished the woman within,) that he should not neglect his husbandry, of which it is well known oxen were the principal instruments, being not only employed in ploughing the ground, and carrying home the crop, but also in treading out the corn.
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.Proverbs 14:6-7. A scorner — A proud, self-conceited, and profane person; seeketh wisdom and findeth it not — Because he doth not seek it aright, namely, sincerely, earnestly, and seasonably, and in a constant and diligent use of all the means which God hath appointed to that end; and with an honest intention of employing his knowledge in the service of God, and for the furtherance of true religion. But knowledge is easy unto him — That is, is plain, and easily attained by him; that understandeth — That knows, and is deeply sensible of his own want of it, and of its great worth and necessity, which will make him use all possible diligence in seeking it, and, among other means, in praying earnestly to God for it. Go from the presence of a foolish man — Avoid the company and conversation of the ungodly. When thou perceivest not the lips of knowledge — When they break forth into foolish or wicked speeches, lest thou either be infected by them, or seem to approve them.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.Proverbs 14:8. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way — It consists not in vain speculations, nor in a curious prying into other men’s matters, much less in subtle arts of deceiving others, but in a diligent study of his own duty, and of the way to true and eternal happiness; but the folly of fools is deceit — The wit of ungodly men, which, though they account it their wisdom, is really their folly, is employed only in finding out ways of overreaching and deceiving others, and themselves too.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.Proverbs 14:9. Fools make a mock at sin — Wicked men, here meant by fools, please and divert themselves with their own and other men’s sins, which is a high offence to God and all good men. Or, as others render the clause, excuse, or cover sin; they sin against God or men, and then justify or extenuate their sins, which is to double the iniquity. Possibly the Hebrew of this clause, אולים יליצ אשׁם, may be rendered, Sin deludes, or makes a mock of, fools, or sinners; that is, exposes them to shame and contempt, which is fitly opposed to favour, in the next clause. This translation suits exactly with the Hebrew words, and is adopted by two ancient and learned interpreters, Aquila and Theodotion. But among the righteous — Who are so far from making a mock at sin, or excusing it, that they do not allow themselves to commit it; there is favour — They find favour with God and men, because they make conscience of ordering their lives so that they may offend neither. Or, there is good-will, as the word רצןis properly and usually understood: they have a real love to one another, and are ready to perform to each other all offices of kindness; and therefore they neither willingly sin against others, nor rejoice in the sins of others.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.Proverbs 14:10. The heart knoweth its own bitterness — The inward griefs and joys of men’s hearts, though sometimes they may be partly manifested by outward signs, yet are not certainly and fully known to any but the persons themselves who are the subjects of them; or, as Bishop Patrick paraphrases the verse, “Nobody can know what another suffers so well as the sufferer himself; and he alone is privy to the greatness of that joy which springs from the happy conclusion of his sufferings.” The scope of the proverb may be, to keep men from murmuring under their own troubles, or envying other men’s happiness.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.Proverbs 14:12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man — There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross ignorance, or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s word; all which are culpable causes of the mistake, and therefore do not excuse the error; but the end thereof are the ways of death — The event shows that they were sinful and destructive.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.Proverbs 14:13. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful — Do not think that every one that laughs is happy, or that profuse and immoderate joy is true pleasure, for the outward signs of it are often mixed with, or end in, real sadness: nay, such is the vanity of this present life, that there is no joy without a mixture of sorrow, which often immediately follows upon it.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.Proverbs 14:14. The backslider in heart — He who departs from God, although but inwardly; shall be filled with his own ways — With the fruit of his ways, namely, the punishment of his sins; and a good man shall be satisfied from himself — From the pious temper of his own heart, which cleaves to the Lord, and from the holy and righteous course of his life, he shall receive unspeakable comfort, both in this world and in the next.
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.Proverbs 14:15. The simple — A foolish man; believeth every word — Is easily deceived with the smooth words and fair pretences of false and deceitful men; but the prudent man — The man well instructed and truly wise; looketh well to his goings — Either, 1st, To his own goings: he ordereth his conversation and dealings in the world with due circumspection, not considering so much what other men say as what he ought to do. Or, 2d, To the goings of the deceiver: that is, he judges of men’s words and professions by their conduct, which is a good rule. He is cautious, examining before he believes, and trying before he trusts, especially in matters of great moment; and considering things maturely before he does as he is advised. Bochart observes well upon this verse, that “as prudence without simplicity degenerates into craft, so simplicity without prudence is no better than downright folly. We must follow our Saviour’s counsel, and unite the serpent with the dove.”
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.Proverbs 14:16. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil — He trembles at God’s judgments when they are either inflicted or threatened; and shuns sin, which is the procuring cause of all calamities; but the fool rages — Frets against God, or is enraged against his messengers who declare the threatening; or, as the Hebrew, מתעבר, should rather be translated here, transgresseth, or goeth on in sin constantly and resolutely; which is fitly opposed to departing from evil; as his being confident, in the next clause, that is, secure and insensible of danger, till God’s judgments overtake him, is opposed to fearing. Bishop Patrick’s interpretation is, “A wise man, being admonished of his error, and of his danger, is afraid of incurring the divine displeasure; and instantly starts back from that evil way into which he was entering, or wherein he was engaged: but a fool storms at those that would stop him in his course, and proceeds boldly and securely to his own ruin.”
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.Proverbs 14:17. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly — His passion hurries him into many rash and foolish speeches and actions; and a man of wicked devices — One who, it may be, suppresses his passion, but designs and meditates revenge, watching for the fittest opportunities of executing it; is hated — Both by God and men; as being most deeply malicious, and like the devil, and most dangerous and pernicious to human society. The LXX. translate this verse, Οξυθυμος πρασσει μετα αβουλιας, ανηρ δε φρονιμος πολλα υποφερει, A hasty man acteth rashly, but a prudent man endureth many things: to which Houbigant’s translation is similar, He who is soon angry will deal inconsiderately; a considerate man will endure patiently.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.Proverbs 14:18. The simple inherit folly — Possess it as their inheritance, or portion; holding it fast, improving it, and delighting in it; but the prudent are crowned with knowledge — They place their honour and happiness in a sound, practical, and saving knowledge of God, and of their duty; and therefore earnestly pursue it, and heartily embrace it.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.Proverbs 14:19. The evil bow before the good — Giving honour to them, and supplicating their favour and help; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous — As clients and petitioners are wont to wait at the houses of the great and powerful, or beggars at the doors of such as they expect will relieve their wants. The sense is, good men will have the pre-eminence over the wicked often in this life, when God sees it expedient, but assuredly in the life to come.
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.Proverbs 14:20. The poor is hated — That is, despised and abandoned, as hateful persons and things are; of his own neighbour — Strictly so called of persons nearest to him, either by habitation or relation, and therefore most obliged to love and help him; but the rich hath many friends — As matter of fact daily shows. Every one is ready to make court to those whom the world smiles upon, though otherwise unworthy. Such, however, are not so much friends to the rich as to their riches, hoping to get some benefit by them. There is little friendship in the world but what is governed by self- interest, which is no true friendship at all; nor what a wise man will value himself upon, or put any confidence in.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.Proverbs 14:21. He that despiseth his neighbour — That doth not pity and relieve the poor, as this is explained in the next clause; sinneth — And therefore shall be punished for his inhumanity, which is opposed to his being happy, in the next branch; but he that hath mercy on the poor — That shows his compassion for them by his bounty to them; happy is he — He doth a worthy action, and shall be blessed in his deed.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.Proverbs 14:23. In all labour there is profit, &c. — Diligent labour is the ready way to riches; but idle talking, wherein too many spend most of their precious time, will bring a man to poverty. Houbigant renders the verse, All labour will produce abundance, but garrulity nothing but want.
“Solomon here,” says Lord Bacon, as quoted by Bishop Patrick, “separates the fruit of the labour of the tongue, and of the labour of the hands; as if want was the revenue of the one, and wealth the revenue of the other. For it commonly comes to pass that they who talk liberally, boast much, and promise mighty matters, are beggars, and receive no benefit by their brags, or by any thing they discourse of. Nay, rather, for the most part, such men are not industrious and diligent in their employment; but only feed and fill themselves with words as with wind.”
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.Proverbs 14:24. The crown of the wise is their riches — They are a singular advantage and ornament to them, partly as they make their wisdom more regarded, while the poor man’s wisdom is despised, Ecclesiastes 9:16; and partly as they give a man great opportunity to exercise wisdom or virtue, by laying out his riches in the service of God, to the great good of mankind; which also tends to his own glory and happiness; but the foolishness of fools, &c. — But as for rich fools, their folly is not cured, but made worse and more manifest by their riches. Their riches find them fools, and leave them fools; they are not a crown, but a reproach to them, and an occasion of greater contempt.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.Proverbs 14:25. A true witness delivereth souls — That is, persons, namely, such as, being innocent, are falsely accused; whom he delivers from the mischief designed against them, by declaring the truth, and thereby clearing them from the charges brought against them; but a deceitful witness speaketh lies — To the injury and destruction of the innocent.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.Proverbs 14:28. In the multitude of people is the king’s honour — “The honour and splendour of a king depend upon the multitude, wealth, and strength of his subjects, whom, therefore, he ought to protect and cherish: for if they be wasted by unnecessary wars, or forced into other countries by oppression and unjust exactions, it proves the ruin of his kingdom.” — Bishop Patrick.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.Proverbs 14:29. He that is slow to wrath, &c. — He who is not soon provoked to anger by reproaches or ill usage, shows himself to be a wise and great man; but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly — Exposes his folly, and makes it apparent to every body. Hebrew, מרים אולת, lifteth up folly, displays it like a banner.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.Proverbs 14:30. A sound heart — Free from envy, and such like inordinate passions, which are commonly called the diseases of the soul, even in heathen, as well as in the sacred writers. Or, as others render לב מרפא, a healing heart, mild, merciful, and kind to others, which is opposed to envy; is the life of the flesh — Procures and maintains the health and vigour of the whole body; but envy the rottenness of the bones — It wasteth the spirits, or consumeth even the strongest and most inward parts of the body.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.Proverbs 14:31. He that oppresseth the poor — That uses the poor man hardly, as the Syriac renders it: that withholdeth from him that which is his due, either by the rules of strict justice, or by the great law of charity, of which see Proverbs 3:27; reproacheth his Maker — Whose image the poor man bears, by whose counsel and providence he is made poor, and who hath declared himself to be the protector and avenger of the poor; but he that honoureth him — That honoureth God’s image, and works, and laws; hath mercy on the poor — Does not only forbear oppressing or injuring the poor man, but affords him his pity and help.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.Proverbs 14:32. The wicked is driven away — From God’s favour and presence, and from the society of the righteous, and from all his hopes of happiness, both in this life and in the next; in his wickedness — Or, for his wickedness. The Hebrew, however, ברעת, is literally, in his evil; and may be understood of the evil of punishment: in the day of his trouble, when he shall flee to God for help, he shall be driven away from him. But the righteous hath hope in his death — In his greatest dangers and distresses; yea, even in death itself he hath hope of deliverance from, or of great and everlasting advantage by what he suffers.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.Proverbs 14:33. Wisdom resteth in the heart, &c. — Is laid up and hid there, and not vainly or rashly uttered by him, but only brought forth upon necessary or fit occasions; but that which is in the midst — That is, in the heart; of fools, is made known — That folly which is there instead of wisdom, or that small degree of wisdom which they have, they will publish in all times and companies, without any consideration or discretion.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.Proverbs 14:34. Righteousness exalteth a nation — A righteous administration of the government of it, impartial equity between man and man, public countenance given to religion, the general practice and profession of virtue, the protecting and preserving of virtuous men, mercy, humanity, and kindness to strangers and enemies: these things put honour upon a nation, and exalt it in the eyes of God, and of all other nations. But sin is a reproach to any people — Brings contempt and ruin upon them, by provoking both God and men against them.
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.Proverbs 14:35. The king’s favour is toward a wise servant — He will respect and prefer those who behave themselves wisely and virtuously, whatever enemies they may have that seek to undermine them. This Solomon was determined to do. He was resolved that no man’s services should be neglected to please a party, or a favourite. But his wrath is against him that causeth shame — He will displace and banish from the court those who are selfish and false, who betray their trust, oppress the poor, sow the seeds of discord in the country, and thus cause shame both to themselves, for their foolish and improper management of the king’s affairs, and to the king, who made so foolish a choice of servants.