Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.1. The preparations &c.] Rather:
To man belong the preparations (or plans) of the heart;
But from Jehovah is the answer of the tongue.
This cannot mean that wise thoughts are human, but wise words divine, that man unaided can plan well, but only by God’s help can speak well; but rather that after man has done his utmost in planning, his wisest plans may come to nought in the comparatively easy act of giving utterance to them with a view to their accomplishment, unless Jehovah guides his tongue. And the implied moral of the proverb is, If you cannot do the less without God, do not attempt to do the greater without Him; “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6. Comp. Proverbs 16:9 of this chapter.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.2. See Proverbs 21:2, where this proverb recurs almost in the same words. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:4.
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.3. Commit … unto] Lit. Roll … upon. Comp. Psalm 22:8 [Hebrews 9], Psalm 37:5, and notes there in this Series.
thoughts] or, purposes, R.V. marg. The precept is germane to that in Proverbs 16:1. Commit to Jehovah the execution in works (as in Proverbs 16:1, the explanation in words) of thy plans and purposes, and they shall prosper.
In each of the seven opening proverbs of this chapter the name Jehovah is introduced, and in each of them His work is made prominent.
The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.4. for himself] for his own purpose, R.V. marg.; or, for its own end, R.V. text. The two meanings really run into one another, for he who makes a thing to serve its own purpose makes it to serve his own purpose in so making it. The second clause of the verse extends the application of this truth from the physical to the moral sphere of action. But it creates no real difficulty. It is not said that God makes a man wicked, for He “made man upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29. Comp. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 1:31), but that being wicked by his own choice he comes under the irrevocable law which dooms him to “the day of evil,” of calamity and punishment. By this, the Apostle teaches us, even in its final and most awful form, is revealed not the arbitrary predestination, but “the righteous judgement of God.” Romans 2:5-11.
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.5. Though hand join in hand] See Proverbs 11:21, note.
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.6. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged] This is not a statement of the method and ground of atonement, though the Heb. word here rendered purged is the usual word in the O.T. for covering, or atoning for, sin. That is taught elsewhere both in the Old (Psalm 51:7), and in the New Testament (Romans 3:20-26). But it is a lifting of man’s appropriation of atonement out of the ceremonial and ritual into the moral sphere of action. Not by sacrifices as its purchase-money, but by a new life as its seal, is the free gift of atonement realised and assured. Comp. Ezekiel 18:27-28; Micah 6:6-8; James 2:24.
When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.8. without right] Rather, with injustice, R.V., as preserving better the parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 15:16.
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.9. Comp. Proverbs 16:1 of this chapter.
A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.10. A divine sentence] Lit. divination, A.V. and R.V. marg. The word is generally used in a bad sense, “soothsaying.” See Deuteronomy 18:10, where it is positively forbidden, and 1 Samuel 15:23, where it is called a “sin.” Here, however, it has a good meaning: the true king in judgement, like the true prophet in preaching, “speaks as oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11. See 1 Kings 3:28).
A just weight and balance are the LORD'S: all the weights of the bag are his work.11. weight and balance] Rather, balance (or, steelyard) and scales. See Proverbs 11:1, note.
It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.
The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.14. messengers of death] The reckless fury of the Eastern despot (1 Samuel 22:16-18; Esther 7:7-10; Daniel 2:5) is but the abuse of the awful justice of the Archetypal King (Matthew 22:7; Luke 19:27).
will pacify it] See Psalm 2:10-12.
In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.15. the latter rain] i.e. the spring rain, which swelled and matured the corn for harvest, just as the “former” or autumn rain prepared the ground, after the drought of summer, for the sowing. Such a cloud was big with the double blessing of the fertilizing shower and the consequent harvest. Comp. the description by “The sweet Psalmist of Israel”:
“One that ruleth over men righteously,
That ruleth in the fear of God,
He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth,
A morning without clouds;
When the tender grass springeth out of the earth,
Through clear shining after rain.”—2 Samuel 23:3-4, R.V.
“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass,
As showers that water the earth.”—Psalm 72:6.
How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!16. rather to be chosen] Better, is rather &c. It is the acquisition of wisdom or understanding that is commended in both clauses of the verse, which are exactly parallel.
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.17. The LXX. gives a fuller text here:
“The paths of life depart from evil,
And ways of righteousness are length of life.
He that receiveth instruction shall prosper,
And he that taketh heed to reproofs shall be made wise.
He that taketh heed to his ways keepeth his soul,
And he that loveth his life will be sparing of words.”
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.19. the lowly] Rather, poor, R.V. Better humble and poor than proud and rich.
He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.20. He that handleth a matter wisely] This rendering is relegated to the margin in R.V., and instead of it he that giveth heed unto the word is adopted in the text, with a reference to Proverbs 13:13 (see note there), in support of it. The word will then mean the word of God. The A.V. however gives a very good sense, if we understand the second clause of the verse as intimating how a matter is to be handled wisely, cp. Proverbs 3:5-6.
The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.21. “He who is wise will gain respect; but if he should also possess a pleasant manner of imparting his wisdom, he will be a more efficient teacher,” Rel. Tr. Soc. Commentary.
Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.22. unto him that hath it]. Elsewhere the thought is of the benefit conferred upon others:
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”;
“The law (or teaching) of the wise is a fountain of life”;
(Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 13:14). Here it is of the benefit of wisdom to its possessor: the water “in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14); not the “rivers of living water” flowing from him to bless others (John 7:38).
the instruction of fools is folly] Rather, the correction of fools is their folly, R.V. The A.V. has been taken to mean that all instruction bestowed upon fools, as assimilated by them, is only folly, it leaves them fools as it found them: “the only correction of their infatuation is a further increase of it” (Horton). But the parallelism is preserved and a good sense obtained by understanding correction to mean punishment: As wisdom is its own reward, so folly is its own punishment.
The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.24. health] i.e. healthy or wholesome. There is no necessary reference to any medicinal properties in honey. Comp. Proverbs 4:22, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 13:17; and Jonathan’s experience, when he was exhausted with pursuing the enemy: “See, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey,” 1 Samuel 14:29.
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.25. See Proverbs 14:12, where the same proverb occurs.
He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.26. He that laboureth laboureth for himself] Rather, the desire, or appetite (lit. soul, see A.V. marg.) of him that laboureth, laboureth for him. The desire which craves satisfaction is the motive power, impelling to the labour by which it is satisfied.
Couched, after the true manner of a parable, in terms belonging to the lowest sphere of animal appetite (“his mouth, or bodily hunger, craveth it of him”), the proverb extends to the highest aspirations and noblest efforts of the affections, the intellect and the soul. Comp. John 6:27, and Ecclesiastes 6:7 (where the Heb. words for “labour” and “desire” or “appetite” are the same as here): “All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet his appetite is not filled.”
Proverbs 16:27-29. A group of three proverbs: “A worthless man”; “A froward man”; “A man of violence.”
An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.27. ungodly] Rather, worthless, R.V. See Proverbs 6:12, note.
diggeth up] This is the literal meaning of the word, but it is here used metaphorically of one who digs pits for his neighbour, as a hunter for his prey, Psalm 7:15 [Heb. 16], Psalm 57:6 [Hebrews 7]. We may therefore render, deviseth, with R.V.
burning] Rather, scathing, or, as R.V., scorching. His words blight and wither, like the great forest fire, by which “all faces are scorched” (Ezekiel 20:47 [Heb. 21:3], where the Heb. word is the same).
A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.28. soweth] Rather, scattereth abroad, R.V. διαπέμπεται κακὰ, LXX. Comp. Proverbs 6:14.
separateth chief friends] “Or, alienateih his friend,” R.V. marg. See Proverbs 19:7.
A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.29. enticeth] Comp. Proverbs 1:10-19, where the same Heb. word for “entice” is used.
He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.30. shutteth] Or, fixeth, or setteth firmly, στηρίζων, LXX. He closes or fixes his eyes, as though in deep thought, and tightens his lips, as if to keep back words which he could utter. Comp. Proverbs 6:12-14 for a further description of the same character.
It is better to regard this verse with R.V. as a separate proverb,
He that shutteth his eyes, it is to devise froward things:
He that compresseth his lips bringeth evil to pass,
than with A.V. as a continuation of the preceding proverb.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.31. if it be found] Rather, it shall be found, R.V. text. “Decus et ornamentum est senectus, senectus vero præmium virtutis,” Maur. Comp. Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:16.
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.32. Of the many parallels to the sentiment of this proverb that are to be found in classical literature, none is closer than the familiar saying of Ovid (Epist. ex Pont. ii. 16:75):
“Fortior est qui se, quam qui fortissima vincit
Mœnia; nec virtus altius ire potest.”
Lange and others quote Pirke Aboth, iv.2, where the question; Who is a hero?, is answered by reference to this verse.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.33. the lap] from the folds of which it was drawn or shaken out.
disposing] Lit. judgement. The decision, which when appealed to as arbiter it pronounces, is not its own but Jehovah’s.
The religion of the O.T. incorporated into itself the use of the lot as it did many other common customs (see Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:42). With the gift of Pentecost, however, the religious use of it appears to have ceased. No mention is found of it in the N.T. after Acts 1:26.