Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.1. grievous words] More exactly, a grievous word, R.V.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.2. useth knowledge aright] Or, uttereth, &c. R.V. Lit. maketh good knowledge, i.e. turns it to good account, makes the best of it. Comp. “they make goodly (lit. as here, make good) images or pillars,” Hosea 10:1.
The contrast is between the good use of knowledge which adds to its usefulness, and the reckless pouring forth of folly which increases its hurtfulness; between the pure stream flowing in useful channels, and the pestilential flood bursting forth unrestrained. Comp. Proverbs 13:16, and Proverbs 15:28 below.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.3. beholding] Rather, keeping watch upon, R.V. σκοπεύουσι, LXX. The word is commonly used of a watchman (1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34; 2 Samuel 18:24), and calls up the figure of the Almighty observing, as it were, from His lofty watch-tower in heaven all the doings of the dwellers upon earth. The same word is rendered, looketh well to, Proverbs 31:27.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.4. wholesome] See Proverbs 14:30, where the same Heb. word is rendered sound, and note there, and comp. ὑγιαίνοντες λόγοι, 1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13, and λόγος ὑγιής, Titus 2:8. R.V. marg. gives, the healing of (caused by) the tongue. So ἴασις γλώσσης, LXX.; lingua placabilis, Vulg.
a breach in] Better, a breaking of, R.V.
A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.5. is prudent] Rather, becometh prudent, by “regarding reproof.”
In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.7. doeth not so] So R.V. text, with the alternative in the marg. is not stedfast, or right. Maurer, however, renders (repeating disperse from the first clause) that which is not right; and compares the use of the same Heb. word, in the phrases, “thou hast well spoken,” “speak right,” “speak well:” Exodus 10:29; Numbers 27:7; Numbers 36:5.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.8. See Genesis 4:3-5; Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 11:6.
The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.10. Correction is grievous unto] Rather, There is grievous correction for, as R.V.
Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?11. Hell and destruction] Sheol and Abaddon with “The grave,” and “Destruction” in the marg. R.V. In their preface the Revisers explain that “with a view to obviate inevitable misunderstanding,” they “have left in the historical narratives the rendering (of A.V.) ‘the grave,’ or ‘the pit,’ with a marginal note, ‘Heb. Sheol,’ to indicate that it does not signify the place of burial; while in the poetical writings they have put most commonly ‘Sheol’ in the text, and ‘the grave’ in the margin.”
In like manner, “Abaddon, which has hitherto been known to the English reader of the Bible only from the New Testament (Revelation 9:11), has been introduced in three passages (Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20), where a proper name appeared to be required for giving vividness and point.” Comp. for the thought, Job 26:6; Psalm 139:1-16.
A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.12. one that reproveth him] Rather, to be reproved, R.V.
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.14. seeketh … feedeth on] The one delights in the active pursuit of knowledge, which ever creates in those who find it a craving for more; the other lies down like a satiated animal, and feeds and ruminates on the folly, which quenches all high desire.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.18. strife … strife] Contention … strife, R.V., to indicate that the Heb. words are different.
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.19. a hedge of thorns] which may be either of his own making (Proverbs 24:30-31), or of his own imagining (Proverbs 22:13).
made plain] “Heb. raised up as a causey” (archaic form of causeway), A.V. marg.; made a high way, R.V. Comp. Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10, where the same Heb. word occurs.
A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.20. despiseth] and so maketh her sad, in latent contrast with the first clause of the verse.
Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.21. wisdom] Lit. heart, as in Proverbs 11:12.
walketh uprightly] Lit. maketh straight his going. The parallelism consists in the contrast between the reckless “joy” with which the heartless fool revels in his “folly,” and the care and caution with which a man of understanding makes straight his way. Comp. βλέπετε ἀκριβως πῶς περιπατεῖτε, μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι, ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί, Ephesians 5:15.
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!23. by] Rather, in. The reference is rather to the satisfaction found in the ready answer itself, the “word in due season,” as he utters it, than to any fruit which comes to him “by” it.
The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.24. above] Rather, upward. Upward or downward the path of man must tend.
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.25. destroy] Rather, root up, R.V., in contrast with establish in the next clause.
widow] As typical of the humble and poor. Comp. Psalm 68:5, and for the sentiment 1 Peter 5:5.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.26. thoughts of the wicked … pleasant words] Lit. devices of evil … words of pleasantness. The contrast is between these, and then further between the former, as “abomination to Jehovah,” and the latter as “pure,” and therefore acceptable to Him. There is possibly, as Maurer suggests, a sacrificial reference (“sensu Levitico”); comp. Proverbs 15:8 above and “a pure offering,” Malachi 1:11.
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.27. gifts] The proverb, though universal in its moral, is Oriental in its form. Gifts “play a very important part in the social life of the East” (see Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Gift). Hence they form at once the bait by which “he that is greedy of gain” is lured, as Gehazi was, to the “troubling of his own house,” and the test, in the lofty disregard of them, of incorruptible honour and integrity.
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.29. Comp. John 9:31.
The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.30. The light of the eyes] This is sometimes understood to mean the beaming eyes of kindly regard with which others look upon us (comp. the phrase “the light of the countenance,” Psalm 4:6 [Hebrews 7]; Proverbs 16:15). “We all want to see that light in the eyes of our friends, which rejoices the heart,” Horton. Occurring, however, in a proverb, the phrase may well have a wider meaning: whatever gives light acts as a luminary (the Heb. word is rather light-bearer, φωστήρ, comp. Genesis 1:14-16, than light, φῶς) to the eyes, casting light and brightness upon them, extends through them its influence to the heart; just as, in the following clause, whatever charms the ear (lit. good hearing), be it “good tidings,” R.V., or the pleasant voice of a friend, or the tender accents of affection, or the sweet strains of music, refreshes and invigorates the whole bodily frame. By the gateway of the eye and of the ear alike the citadel of the heart may be reached for good.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.31. of life] i.e. which tends to life. So, the instruction of wisdom=the instruction which leads to, or bestows wisdom, Proverbs 15:33 below.
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.32. understanding] Lit. heart. Comp. void of wisdom (Lit. heart), Proverbs 15:21, above, and Proverbs 2:2, note.
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.33. of wisdom] See Proverbs 15:31, note.
before honour &c.] Comp. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14.