Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.1. a just weight] Lit. a full, or perfect stone, from the early use of stones as weights. So Eng. stone; Germ, stein. It is an enactment of the Mosaic Law here repeated and enforced: Deuteronomy 25:13; Deuteronomy 25:16; Leviticus 19:35-36. Comp. Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 20:23. See Introd. p. 13.
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.2. wisdom] We should rather have expected honour, as a parallel to shame in the first clause. But wisdom is the root of honour. Comp. Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 18:12.
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.3. perverseness] Some would render slipperiness; as we say, “a slippery fellow.” The noun occurs here only and in Proverbs 15:4, but the cognate verb is found several times in this Book (Proverbs 13:6, Proverbs 19:3, Proverbs 21:12). What is here meant is the trickiness and want of straightforwardness (the opposite of the “integrity” of the former clause) which mark the character and conduct of the treacherous (R.V.).
Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.4. in the day of wrath] “While the words are true in their highest sense of the great ‘Dies iræ’ of the future, they speak in the first instance, as do the like words in Zephaniah 1:15-18, of any ‘day of the Lord,’ any time of judgement, when men or nations receive the chastisement of their sins. At such times ‘riches profit not.’ ” Speaker’s Comm.
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.5. direct] Or, make plain, or straight; so that it leads to a prosperous issue. See Proverbs 3:6, note.
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.6. naughtiness] mischief, R.V., ἀπωλεία, LXX. But desires (as the same Heb. word is rendered in Proverbs 10:3, R.V.), or aims gives a good sense: “in insidiis suis capiuntur iniqui.” Vulg.
When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.7. unjust men] iniquity, R.V. Comp. Hosea 9:4, where the expression “bread of mourners” (the same Heb. word) may be “the emblem of utter impurity,” because everything connected with death involved ceremonial defilement. See note there in this Series.
Others render, with R.V. marg., strong men, or better, strength, i.e. wealth or worldly resources. The expectation of (i.e. based upon) such strength shall perish. Comp. for the sentiment Proverbs 11:4 above.
The proverb obviously implies, as a matter of popular knowledge and belief, that there is an expectation which does not perish at death; an expectation, which for the true children of Abraham, as for Abraham himself (Hebrews 11:9-10), reached beyond remembrance on earth in fame or family, “to all generations” (Psalm 49:11).
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.9. be delivered] i.e. from the destruction wrought by the “mouth of the hypocrite, (or godless man R.V.)”. His knowledge will enable him to see and avoid the snare (παγὶς, LXX.).
Some, however, would render, “through the knowledge of the righteous shall they (i.e. the neighbour of the first clause, which as a noun of multitude may have a plural verb) be delivered.” This may be intended by the LXX.: ἐν στόματι ἀσεβῶν παγὶς πολίταις, αἴσθησις δὲ δικαίων εὔοδος (sc. πολίταις).
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.11. the blessing of the upright] This may mean either the blessing enjoyed by them, their prosperity (as in Proverbs 11:10); or the blessing bestowed by them, by their prayers and presence (Genesis 18:26; Genesis 39:5).
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.12. despiseth] i.e. shews his contempt openly, makes no effort to conceal it (μυκτηρίζει, LXX.), and so contrasts with the man of “wisdom” (heart, Heb.), who, whatever he thinks, keeps his thoughts to himself.
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.13. A talebearer] Rather, He that goeth about as a talebearer. This, as indicated in A.V. marg. (He that walketh being a talebearer), is the literal and more forcible rendering. It also brings out the warning more clearly, q.d. Don’t trust such a man.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.14. counsel] See Proverbs 1:5 note. The same Heb. word is there rendered wise counsels, A.V. and sound counsels, R.V. Here R.V. renders wise guidance, with reference perhaps to the root-meaning of the word, steering a ship, κυβέρνησις, LXX. Comp. Proverbs 15:22.
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.15. smart for it] Both A.V. and R.V. add in the marg. “Heb. shall be sore broken.”
suretiship] Three entirely different Heb. words in this verse are rendered “surety,” “suretiship,” “sure.” The first denotes exchanging with another, taking his place, becoming bail for him; the second, striking hands (“Heb. those that strike hands,” A.V. and R.V. marg.), as a token of the suretiship; the third, safe, secure.
See on this verse Proverbs 6:1 note.
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.16. retaineth] i.e. acquires and keeps. Comp. Proverbs 29:23. In Genesis 48:17 we read: Joseph held up (same Heb. word), i.e. took and kept hold of, and so raised, his father’s hand.
and]=as. We have a similar virtual comparison by juxtaposition of clauses in Proverbs 26:9; Proverbs 26:11.
strong] Rather violent, R.V., the reference being to such lawless action as is described in Proverbs 1:13.
The grace of true womanhood wins and retains honour not less securely than the violence of the freebooter holds fast his spoil.
The LXX. have for this proverb:
“A gracious woman brings glory to her husband,
But a throne of dishonour is a woman who hateth righteousness;”
“They who deal slothfully with riches become poor,
But the diligent stay themselves upon their wealth.”
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.18. deceitful wages] Lit. wages of falsehood, i.e. transitory and disappointing, in contrast to a sure reward of the second clause, lit. a reward of truth, i.e. real and lasting.
shall be] he that soweth … hath R.V. But there is no need to supply anything. The word worketh [earneth R.V.), governs both clauses.
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.19. As] The Heb. word means so, but has also the sense of firm, stedfast, and is so used of character, Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:19; Genesis 42:31; Genesis 42:33-34.
He that is stedfast in righteousness is so unto life.
And he that pursueth evil doeth so unto his own death.
The rendering of R.V. marg., So (in like manner), connecting this proverb with that of the preceding verse, is less forcible and less in accordance with the style of this Book.
They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.21. Though hand join in hand] Lit. hand to hand. This obscure phrase may mean either, though men clasp one another’s hands in strong confederacy (χειρὶ χεῖρας ἐμβαλὼν, LXX.); or, preserving more closely the parallel, from generation to generation, the idea being that of the Second Commandment, Exodus 20:5.
The rendering, My hand upon it, R.V. marg. (sit dextra fidei testis), though forcible, is hardly in keeping with the style of this Book. The same phrase occurs Proverbs 16:5.
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.22. jewel] Rather, ring (R.V. marg.). The reference to the nosering, which Eastern women wore as an ornament, gives point to the proverb. See Genesis 24:47; Ezekiel 16:12, in both which places R.V. renders the same Heb. word, “a ring upon the nose.”
discretion] Lit. taste, which would seem to indicate the innate and instinctive character of womanly purity. We have a good example of it, in the form of tact or perception, in the case of Abigail, the wife of Nabal the Carmelite, to whom David says, using the same Hebrew word, “blessed be thy advice (wisdom, R.V. text, discretion, marg.), and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from bloodguiltiness,” 1 Samuel 25:33. Comp. αἴσθησις, “delicate perception, fine tact,” Php 1:9, and note there in this Series.
The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.23. wrath] Strictly, outpouring, or overflowing, sc. of (God’s) wrath. Comp. Hebrews 10:27; and rod τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς, Revelation 19:15.
Stated in full the proverb would be: That which the righteous desires is good, and therefore his desire when accomplished brings good or prosperity to himself; whereas the wicked, who desires evil, has nothing to look for but the just reward of evil, the displeasure of Almighty God.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.24. scattereth] Comp. Psalm 112:9 (where the same Heb. word is rendered dispersed); 2 Corinthians 9:6.
yet increaseth] Rather, increaseth yet more, R.V. εἰσὶν οἱ τὰ ἴδια σπείροντες πλείονα ποιοῦσιν, LXX.; Alii dividunt propria et ditiores fiunt, Vulg.
more than] This, with A.V. and R.V. text, is the best rendering here, of the Heb. particle. It may, however, mean from, and be taken with the verb (keep from = withhold), and then we have the rendering of R.V. marg. withholdeth what is justly due.
The two clauses of this verse are expanded into separate proverbs in the two verses which follow.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.25. The liberal soul] Lit. the soul of blessing (ψυχὴ εὐλογουμένη, LXX.); the soul that is ready to benefit and bless in will and deed. Comp. “a blessing” = “a gift,” 2 Kings 5:15, and ὁ σπείρων ἐπʼ εὐλογίαις, 2 Corinthians 9:6.
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.26. withholdeth] e.g. by keeping back his store in time of necessity to run up the price. See Amos 8:4-6, and comp. the legend of Bishop Hatto.
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.27. diligently seeketh … procureth … seeketh] Three different Heb. words are used. The shades of meaning are given by R.V.: diligently seeketh (with A.V.) i.e. makes good his chief aim; seeketh, i.e. whether consciously or not, is really seeking “favour with God and man”; searcheth after, i.e. is busily employed in the pursuit of mischief.
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.28. branch] Rather leaf, R.V. Comp. Genesis 3:7; Psalm 1:3.
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.29. troubleth] by churlish and niggardly ways. Comp. the story of Nabal, 1 Samuel 25.
the wind] Which shall drive away him and his possessions, Psalm 1:4; or the wind may here be used to denote that which is unsubstantial and vanishes away. Comp. Isaiah 41:29.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.30. the fruit of the righteous] We should rather perhaps have expected the proverb to run, “the righteous (himself) is a tree of life,” in his beneficent influence upon others (Revelation 22:2); but the object of the proverb in both its clauses is to lay stress upon the attractive power of goodness, and this consists rather in the outward conduct, in words and works, than in the inward character, in motives and principles; rather in the fruit than in the tree.
a tree of life] See Proverbs 3:18, note.
he that winneth souls is wise] Rather, and a wise man winneth (lit. taketh) souls. Wisdom, like righteousness, draws and allures to itself.
The proverb has its highest exemplification in the highest wisdom. “They that be wise” are indeed “they that turn many to righteousness,” Daniel 12:3.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.31. shall be recompensed] This might mean, shall receive, in each case, the return due to him; the righteous shall be rewarded (as the same Heb. word is rendered in Proverbs 13:13) and the wicked punished (comp. recompense evil, the Heb. word being again the same, Jeremiah 18:20). But then it is difficult to understand why the law of retribution should obtain “much more” in the second case than in the first. “Recompensed” has therefore been understood to mean “punished” in both cases: The righteous shall be punished for his sins (“for there is no man that sinneth not,” 1 Kings 8:46); how much more, &c. The LXX. paraphrase of this latter interpretation is adopted by St Peter: “If the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:18, R.V.