Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
II. First Collection of Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16Ch. 10. Title. The Proverbs of Solomon
At this point we pass from the direct and continuous appeal of the opening chapters of the Book to the first and by far the largest Collection of proverbs proper, that is to say of short and for the most part disconnected maxims, each of them contained as a rule in a couplet or distich formed strictly on the model of Hebrew parallelism. “Golden sayings,” Maurer calls them, “not unworthy of Solomon, and fitted to form and fashion the whole life.” It is only however as regards the mould in which it is cast, not in its tone or principles, that the teaching of the Book takes here a new departure.
In this first Collection each verse contains a proverb, generally antithetic, and consists of two members only. On the apparent exception, Proverbs 19:7, see note there.
The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.1. heaviness] or sorrow, as the same somewhat uncommon word is rendered in Proverbs 17:21.
It is perhaps significant that the first proverb deals with so fundamental a relation of human society.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.2. Treasures of wickedness … righteousness] The contrast would seem to be between “wickedness” in its highest prosperity and success, when it has amassed “treasures,” when it has “found all precious substance and filled the house with spoil” (Proverbs 1:13), and “righteousness,” in itself considered, independently of the consequences which may attach to it. Comp. Proverbs 11:4.
The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.3. to famish] Comp. Psalm 37:25; and for the soul’s highest hungering, Matthew 5:6.
casteth away the substance] Rather, thrusteth away (as Gehazi would have done the Shunammite, 2 Kings 4:27) the desire, R.V.
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.4. He becometh poor] It has been thought that the change of a single vowel point would give A slack hand maketh poor, which is an exact parallel to the second clause of the verse, and is adopted by the Vulg., egestatem operata est manus remissa.
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.5. sleepeth] Sleeps heavily, goes fast to sleep. Stertit, Vulg. Comp. Jonah 1:5-6, where the Heb. word is the same.
This is an example of an exactly balanced proverb in the wording of the two clauses, especially if with R.V. marg. we render literally, a son that doeth wisely … that doeth shamefully.
The LXX., having introduced another proverb at the beginning of this verse:
“A son who receives instruction shall be wise,
And shall serve himself of the fool as his minister,”
gives as the equivalent of our present proverb,
“A prudent son shall be saved from the heat,
But a son that is a transgressor shall be carried away by the wind in harvest.”
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.6. violence covereth &c.] This, which is the rendering both of A.V. and R.V. text, is to be preferred to the rendering of R.V. marg., “the mouth of the wicked covereth violence,” i.e. in what he says there is a covert purpose of violence, which he endeavours to conceal.
So rendered it may mean either (a) the violence of the wicked man himself covers his mouth—he never opens it without pouring forth violence; and then perhaps we are to complete the parallelism by supplying from the first clause, “you may judge therefore what comes upon his head”; or (b) in more obvious parallelism, instead of the blessings which all men pour upon the head of the just, the mouth of the wicked they cover with violence, with reproaches, and it may be with blows (Acts 23:2). To this, however, it is objected that the Heb. word always connotes wrongful treatment.
The idea of covering the mouth as a sign of condemnation is farfetched, and it is not borne out by the passages cited in support of it (Esther 7:8; Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17; Micah 3:7), in all of which it is the “lip” or the “face,” and not the “mouth” which is covered.
The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.8. a prating fool] A happy rendering, lit. the foolish of lips.
shall fall] Or, shall be overthrown, or laid low. R.V. marg.
He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.9. known] i.e. found out. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:24; 1 Timothy 3:9. Some, however, render, “shall be punished,” shall be taught by bitter experience his folly, comparing Jeremiah 31:19, where the same Heb. word is rendered, “I was instructed.”
He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.10. a prating fool &c.] The repetition of this clause in a new connection is interesting. In Proverbs 10:8 the contrast is between a wise heart and an unbridled tongue, in its consequences to its possessor. Here it is between crafty reticence which injures others, and foolish loquacity which injures oneself.
“The Sept. and Syr. read, But he that rebuketh openly maketh peace,” R.V. marg.; but nothing is gained by the change.
The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.11. violence covereth &c.] See Proverbs 10:6, note. The former (a) of the meanings suggested there best suits the parallelism here.
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.12. love covereth &c.] See 1 Peter 4:8, where the use of charity for love in A.V. obscures the fact that it is probably a quotation of this proverb. The LXX., however, has here a different reading (πάντας δὲ τοὺς μὴ φιλονεικοῦντας καλύπτει φιλία), so that the Apostle must either have quoted from the Hebrew, or taken the proverb as it was then in common use. Comp. James 5:20.
In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.13. that hath understanding] or, discernment, R.V. The contrast is heightened by pursuing in the second clause the want of understanding to its consequences.
The Speaker’s Comm. quotes the Egyptian proverb, “A youth hath a back that he may attend to his teacher.”
Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.14. near destruction] Rather, is a near, or imminent (R.V. a present) destruction: “it is like a house ready to fall at any moment.” The antithesis is between wise men who treasure their wisdom to be used as occasion serves, and a fool who blurts out his folly, and may at any moment bring upon himself and others its disastrous consequences. Comp. Proverbs 12:23.
The A.V. follows LXX., ἐγγίζει συντριβῇ; and Vulg., confusioni proximum est.
The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.15. destruction] The Heb. word is the same as in Proverbs 10:14. If we take it here, too, to denote a tottering building, ready to fall upon its tenant and bury him beneath its ruins, the parallelism is complete.
We have here an instance of the candour and sobriety of the moral teaching of this Book. Wealth has its advantages and poverty its drawbacks, and the fact is honestly stated. There is nothing of the unreality which represents poverty as in itself desirable, or wealth as in itself to be avoided. Comp. Proverbs 18:11.
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.16. fruit] or, increase, R.V. It has been thought that a contrast is here drawn between the actual “labour” of the righteous which, however toilsome in itself, has its issue in life, and the “increase,” the fruit of labour, of the wicked, which is sin. Comp. Proverbs 10:2 above. But “labour” may mean “the fruit of labour”, or “increase”, which for the righteous tends to what truly may be called “life.” The same Heb. word is rendered “wages,” Leviticus 19:13, and “reward,” Psalm 109:20.
sin] which involves death, the opposite of “life” in the first clause of the parallelism.
The Speaker’s Comm. suggests that this maxim is intended to guard against a misunderstanding of Proverbs 10:15.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.17. in the way &c.] Rather (with R.V. marg.),
A way of life is he that heedeth correction:
But he that forsaketh reproof causeth to err.
The one by his example and influence is a way of life to his fellow men; in measure and degree he can say what only the Perfect Example could say fully, “I am the way.” The other on the contrary not only goes himself, but leads others, astray.
He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.18. with lying lips] Rather, is of lying lips, R.V.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.19. A Greek parallel has been cited from Stobæus:
πολυλογία πολλὰ σφάλματα ἔχει,
and a Latin from Cato:
Virtutem primam esse puta compescere linguam.
Proximus ille Deo est qui scit ratione tacere.
The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.20. tongue … heart] The force of the antithesis lies in these two words: even the tongue of the one, but the very heart of the other.
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.21. feed] In the wider sense perhaps which the word commonly has, supply the wants of, as a shepherd does.
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.22. addeth no sorrow] It is without alloy, free from the drawbacks and anxieties which attach to earthly riches. Or, with Maur. and R.V. marg., toil, or anxiety, addeth nothing thereto. Comp. Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 127:2.
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.23. hath wisdom] Rather, And so is wisdom (a sport or pastime) to a man of understanding. She imparts to him her own joy, or exultation. Comp. Proverbs 8:30, where the Heb. word is the same. See John 15:11.
The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.25. As &c.] Rather, When the whirlwind passeth the wicked is no more. The parallelism is thus best preserved. Like the house on the sand when the whirlwind passes over it, the wicked shall be swept away (Psalm 37:10): like the house on the rock unshaken by the storm, the righteous shall stand firm as “an everlasting foundation.”
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.26. them that send him] Contrast Proverbs 25:13.
The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.27. Comp. Proverbs 3:2.
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.29. shall be] These words should not be introduced. “The way of the Lord” is the subject of both clauses of the verse: it is at once a “stronghold” and a “destruction,” or “ruin” (see Proverbs 10:15, note: the Heb. word is the same) to the two opposite classes of men. So R.V.:
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright;
But it is a destruction to the workers of iniquity.
“The way of the Lord” may mean either His way of dealing with men (comp. Psalm 18:30, [Heb. 31]), or the way which He has prescribed for men to walk in (Psalm 27:11). In the latter case, it may be the destruction of those who do not keep it, because to have known and not kept it is their condemnation. Comp. John 3:19. See also Hosea 14:9.
The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.30. the earth] Comp. Matthew 5:5; or, the land (sc. of Canaan), as R.V. Comp. Proverbs 21:21-22; Exodus 20:12. The law holds good, though its sphere of action may vary.
The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.31. bringeth forth] as a tree its leaves or fruit: “buddeth with,” R.V. marg.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.32. speaketh] So R.V. text: “is,” R.V. marg. Others supply the verb “knoweth” from the first clause, as in Proverbs 10:29.