Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.Proverbs 24:1-2. Be not thou envious, &c. — The proneness of good men, especially while they are weak, and only in the beginnings of their course of piety and virtue, to be dejected at the prosperity of the ungodly, and so to be tempted to imitate them, is the reason that the admonition which we here meet with is so often repeated; neither desire to be with them — Desire not their company, nor to imitate their manner of life. For their heart studieth destruction — How they may oppress and destroy others, which yet, at last, fails upon their own heads.
For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:Proverbs 24:3-6. Through wisdom is a house built — There is no need that thou shouldst raise thyself and family by ruining others, as the manner of wicked men is; for thou mayest more easily and effectually do it by wisdom and the fear of God. And by knowledge — Which, in the phraseology of the Scriptures, includes the love and practice of that which we know. A wise man is strong — Is courageous and resolute, and able by wisdom to do greater things than others can accomplish by their own strength. For by wise counsel, &c. — As if he had said, This is plainly seen in war itself, wherein success is often owing more to conduct than force. So this proves what was said in Proverbs 24:5.
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.
For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellers there is safety.
Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.Proverbs 24:7. Wisdom is too high for a fool — For a wicked man, whose sins enfeeble his mind, and make it incapable of wisdom. Or, he judges it too difficult for him to understand: he despairs of attaining it, because he will not put away his sins, and be at the trouble of using the means necessary in order to that end: as, on the contrary, wisdom is said to be easy to him that understandeth, Proverbs 14:6, because he seriously gives his mind to it, and therefore easily and certainly attains it. He openeth not his mouth in the gate — He knows not how to speak acceptably in the public assembly.
He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.Proverbs 24:8-9. He that deviseth, &c., shall be called mischievous — Hebrew, בעל מזמות, a master of crafts or mischiefs. Though he cover his wicked devices with fair pretences, and wishes to be better esteemed, he shall be branded with that infamy which is due to him. The thought of foolishness is sin — The very inward thought or contrivance of evil, of which he spake Proverbs 24:8, even before it break forth into action, is a sin in God’s sight, and is hateful to God; and the scorner — He who not only deviseth and practiseth wickedness, but obstinately persists in it, and rejects all admonitions against it; is an abomination to men — Is abominable not only to God, as all sinners are, but to all sober men.
The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men.
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.Proverbs 24:10. If thou faint in the day of adversity — If thou art impatient and unable to bear sufferings; if thy resolution flag, and thou give way to despondency or dejection of mind; thy strength is small — Hebrew, is narrow, it lies in a little compass; it is strait, as thy condition is; for there is an elegant allusion in the word rendered small, or narrow, in this clause, to that rendered adversity in the former. The sense is, This is a sign that thou hast but little Christian strength or courage, for that is best known by adversity.
If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;Proverbs 24:11-12. If thou forbear to deliver — When it is in thy power to do it lawfully; them that are drawn unto death — Namely, unjustly, or by the violence of lawless men; and those that are ready to be slain — That are in present danger of death or destruction. He enforces, in these verses, the necessity of giving our assistance toward the rescue of innocent persons, when their lives are in danger, either by counselling them, or petitioning others in their behalf, or by doing any thing in our power for their deliverance. If thou sayest, We knew it not — I was ignorant, either of his innocence, or of his extreme danger, or of my power to relieve him; doth not he consider it — That this is only a frivolous excuse, and that the true reason of thy neglect was, thy want of true love to thy brother, whose life thou wast, by the law of God and of nature, obliged to preserve, and a carnal fear of some mischief, or trouble, which might befall thee in the discharge of thy duty. And he that keepeth thy soul — Who is the preserver of men, Job 7:20, who daily does, and who only can, keep thee both in and from the greatest dangers; and this favour of God may be here mentioned, partly as an encouragement to the performance of the duty here spoken of, from the consideration of God’s special care and watchfulness over those that do their duty; and partly to intimate to them, that by the neglect of this duty they would forfeit God’s protection over themselves, and expose themselves to manifold dangers and calamities. The Hebrew word נצר, however, may be rendered, he that observeth thy soul, that sees all the secret thoughts and inward motions of thy heart; which interpretation is favoured both by the preceding and following words. And shall not he render, &c. — God will certainly deal with thee as thou hast dealt with him, either rewarding thy performance of this duty, or punishing thy neglect of it.
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:Proverbs 24:13-14. My son, eat thou honey — This is not a command, but a concession, and is here expressed only to illustrate the following verse. Do not slight, much less nauseate, such precepts as these; but, as honey is most acceptable to thy palate, especially that pure part of it which drops of itself immediately from the honey-comb, so let that knowledge be to thy mind, which tends to make thee wise and virtuous. Then there shall be a reward — As nothing is more necessary for thee, nothing more delightful; so, if it be seriously studied, and thoroughly digested, it will abundantly reward thy pains, even in the present world, but more especially in the next. It is well known, says Bishop Patrick, in how high esteem honey was among the ancients, for food, for drink, for medicine, for preserving of dead bodies, and particularly for infants. Isaiah 7:15. All this is here fitly applied to wisdom, from which the mind derives the greatest satisfaction, and which therefore ought to be our daily diet, our sweetest refreshment.
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.
Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:Proverbs 24:15-16. Lay not wait, &c., against the dwelling of the righteous — Against his person, or family, or possessions. Do him no injury, either by subtle and secret devices, or, as it follows, by manifest violence. For a just man falleth — Into calamities, of which he evidently speaks both in the foregoing verse, and in the opposite and following branch of this verse; and in this sense the same word, נפל, is used in the next verse, and in many other places. It is never applied to sin; but, when set in opposition to the word riseth up, implies affliction or calamity, as Micah 7:8; Amos 8:4; Jeremiah 25:27; Psalm 34:19-20. These words are commonly, not only in sermons, but in books, applied to the falling into sin; and, that men may the more securely indulge themselves in their sins, and yet think themselves good men, they have added something to them; for the words are commonly cited thus: A just man falleth seven times a day, which last words, a day: or, in a day, are not in any translation of the Bible, much less in the original, but only in some corrupt editions of the vulgar Latin, which, against the plain scope of the context, and the meaning of the words, seems to understand this place of falling into sin. See Bishop Patrick. But the plain meaning is that which is given above, and seven times is put for frequently. The righteous fall frequently into trouble. But the wicked shall fall into mischief — Into unavoidable and irrecoverable destruction, ofttimes in this life, and infallibly in the next.
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:Proverbs 24:17-18. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth — Namely, into mischief or trouble, as in the former verse; please not thyself in his destruction. This plainly shows that the love of our enemies is a precept of the Old Testament, as well as of the New: see Exodus 23:4-5. Lest the Lord see it, &c. — “For though nobody sees it, God does; and such affections are so displeasing to him, that they may provoke him to translate the calamity from thy enemy unto thee, and thereby damp thy sinful joy with a double sorrow.”
Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;Proverbs 24:19-20. Fret not thyself because of evil men — For their present impunity, or good success. For there shall be no reward to the evil man — All his hopes and happiness shall quickly and eternally perish, and he shall have no share in those solid felicities, and blessed recompenses of another life, which thou shalt enjoy. Therefore thou hast no reason to envy him. The candle of the wicked shall be put out — All their comfort and glory shall cease.
For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:Proverbs 24:21-22. My son, fear thou the Lord and the king — Honour and obey both God and the king, and all in authority. He properly puts God before the king, because God is to be served in the first place, and our obedience is to be paid to kings only in subordination to God, and not in those things which are contrary to God’s will and command; and meddle not with them that are given to change — Hebrew, שׁונים אל תתערב
עם, literally, mix not thyself with changers, or changeable persons, that is, join not in the counsels, practices, or familiar conversation of those that love changes; that are unstable in their obedience to God, or to the king, and are prone to rebel against either of them. For their calamity shall rise suddenly — An unexpected and dreadful evil shall unavoidably and violently seize on them. And who knoweth the ruin of them both — Who can conceive how sudden and sore the destruction will be, both of them that fear not God, and of them that fear not the king! For they have two potent and terrible enemies; whom, if they will not obey out of conscience, as their duty enjoins them, yet they ought to obey, at least, for their own sakes, and for fear of those severe punishments which will certainly be inflicted on all rebels and disobedient persons.
For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?
These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.Proverbs 24:23-26. These things also, &c. — These words seem to be a new title to the proverbs which follow to the end of the chapter, and Calmet, Grotius, Grey, and some others, are of opinion the meaning is, that these proverbs were selected from the books of the wise men who lived after Solomon, to the time of Hezekiah. But it seems more probable that this short preface is only and simply intended to signify that the proverbs or counsels here following, no less than those before mentioned, are worthy of the consideration and fit for the use of those who are or would be wise; or, that they belong to the wise and virtuous conduct of life. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment — This is the first of these counsels; which expresses that it is a very evil thing for judges to determine controversies by partiality, according to the quality of the persons, and not according to the merits of the cause. He that saith unto the wicked — Namely, publicly and in judgment; Thou art righteous — That is, he that justifies wicked men in their unrighteous practices; nations shall abhor him — Partly for the grossness and odiousness of the crime; and partly for the great and general mischief which such proceedings bring on civil societies. But to them that rebuke him — That publicly and judicially rebuke and condemn the wicked; shall be delight — The peace of a good conscience; and a good blessing shall come upon them — Which the people shall wish, and by their prayers obtain from God for them. This is fitly opposed to the people’s curse in the last verse. Every man shall kiss his lips — Shall respect and love him, of which kissing the lips was a sign. That giveth a right answer — That speaks pertinently, and plainly, and truly, to the conviction and satisfaction of the hearers.
He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.
Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.
Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.Proverbs 24:27. Prepare thy work without — Use both industry and prudence in the management of thy concerns, and do every thing in the proper order. First, mind those things which are most necessary, cultivating the ground, and furnishing thyself with cattle, and the fruits of the field, which are needful for thy subsistence; and after that thou mayest procure such things as are for ornament and comfort, such as the building of a convenient house. Some, by the house here, understand a family, and consider this to be a direction respecting engaging in marriage, interpreting the verse thus: “Begin with cultivating thy land, and thou wilt be enabled to feed thy family; and after this, if thou wilt, thou mayest think of marrying.” — See Calmet.
Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.Proverbs 24:28-29. Be not witness against thy neighbour — Either in judgment or in private conversation; without cause — Rashly or falsely, without just and sufficient cause; and deceive not with thy lips — Neither thy neighbour, nor the judge, nor any other hearers, with false information. Or, this clause forbids flattering him to his face, as the former forbids slandering him behind his back. Say not — Within thyself: give not way to any such thoughts or passions; I will render, &c., according to his works — I will repay him all his calumnies and injuries.
Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;Proverbs 24:30-34. I went by the field of the slothful — For the counsel intended to be conveyed by this paragraph, see note on Proverbs 6:6-11. I looked upon it and received instruction — I learned wisdom by his folly, and by his gross idleness was provoked to greater care and diligence.
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.