Proverbs 20
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
1. a mocker] Rather a scorner, Proverbs 1:22, note.

raging] Rather, a brawler, R.V. In each case the thing is personified in its victim. The drunkard in his cups becomes impious towards God and quarrelsome towards his neighbour.

is deceived] erreth, R.V., reeleth, R.V. marg.

The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.
2. is as] The terror inspired by a king is like that caused by the roaring of a lion in act to spring upon its prey. See 1 Peter 5:8.

soul] i.e. life, as R.V. with “Heb. soul,” in the marg. Comp. Habakkuk 2:10.

It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
3. cease] For the same sense of the English word, refrain or stand aloof from, R.V., comp. Psalm 37:8; Isaiah 1:16.

meddling] R.V.; Rather, quarrelling, R.V. See Proverbs 17:14, note.

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
4. cold] Rather, winter, A.V. marg. and R.V. See Genesis 8:22, where the Heb. word here used is rendered “winter,” and another Heb. word is used for “cold.”

beg] This rendering, which is retained in R.V. text, gives a forcible picture of the destitution to which the slothful will be reduced: though he beg as a mendicant, men’s hearts, even when enlarged by the plenty of harvest, will have no pity on him. Some, however, take it to mean, when he seeketh in harvest (when others are reaping the fruit of their labour) there shall be nothing, R.V. marg.

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
5. will draw it out] as from a well, as the Queen of Sheba did, 1 Kings 10.

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
6. goodness] i.e. bounty, A.V. marg., or kindness, R.V. Fair promises are common, but faithful performance of them is rare. Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 9:4.

The first clause of the verse is otherwise rendered: Many a man will meet one that is kind to him, R.V. marg., but, as the next clause adds, seldom one that he can trust.

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
7. walketh] Rather, that walketh, R.V.

ὄς ἀναστρέφεται ἄμωμος ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, μακαρίους τοὺς παῖδας αὐτοῦ καταλείψει, LXX.

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
8. scattereth] or winnoweth, R.V. marg., as the same Heb. word is rendered (as suggested by the parallelism) in Proverbs 20:26.

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
9. Comp. Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 2:22; Luke 18:9-14.

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
10. Divers weights] Lit. a stone and a stone, an ephah and an ephah; different weights or measures to buy and to sell with, or when there is risk of detection, and when fraud is safe. Comp. Deuteronomy 25:13-14, where the explanatory words, “a great and a small,” are added, as they are here by the LXX. (στάθμιον μέγα καὶ μικρόν); and see ch. Proverbs 11:1 (note), Proverbs 16:11.

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
11. is known] or, maketh himself known; betrays his true character, and gives presage of “his (life’s) work.” Comp. the familiar German proverb, “Was ein Dörnchen werden will spitzt sich bei Zeiten,” Lange.

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
12. The hearing ear] or, The ear heareth, and the eye seeth. Οὖς ἀκούει καὶ ὀφθαλμὸς ὁρᾷ, LXX.

The proverb is designed to be a seed of thought and to suggest many inferences, such as: How great must the Maker of such organs be (Psalm 139:14; Wis 13:5); how exactly must their Maker take account of their use (Psalm 94:9); how entirely dependent are we upon Him for their employment (Exodus 4:11) or restoration (Isaiah 35:5), whether literally or spiritually.

Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
13. Comp. Proverbs 6:9-11; Proverbs 19:15.

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
14. naught] i.e. an inferior article. Comp. 2 Kings 2:19. By decrying it he gets it cheap, and then goes his way and boasts of his cleverness. Mr Bridges, in his Commentary on Proverbs, quotes here from Augustine the well-known story of him who having given out that he would disclose to every man the secret desire of his heart, exclaimed to the crowd who came together to hear it, Vili vultis emere, et caro vendere, “You all wish to buy cheap, and sell dear” (Aug. de Trin. lib. 13. c. 3).

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
15. rubies] The R.V. retains this word, but refers to Job 28:18, where it gives in the margin, or, red coral, or, pearls. See Proverbs 3:15, note.

Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
16. Take his garment] The Law of Moses recognised and regulated distraint on clothing as security for the repayment of a loan or debt (Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13. Comp. Matthew 5:40). The proverb represents vividly the certainty that the surety will smart for his folly. Treat him at once, it says to the creditor, as though he were the actual debtor; for there is no escape for him. Hold him in pledge (R.V.), as the parallel clause of the verse puts it, for his assuredly, and not the stranger’s, is the liability he has so foolishly incurred.

a strange woman] The Heb. text is strangers; though there is another reading, a strange woman, as in Proverbs 27:13, where the proverb recurs. The addition, that is surety, R.V., is not necessary to the sense. We may render, with Maurer, Hold him in pledge for (in place of) the strangers (for whom he has made himself liable).

Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
17. Bread of deceit] or of falsehood, R.V., i.e. bread (or whatever else that word represents) gotten by dishonest and deceitful methods.

with gravel] Comp. Lamentations 3:16.

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
18. with good advice] or, by wise guidance, R.V., make war. Comp. Luke 14:31-32.

He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
19. flattereth with] Rather, openeth wide, R.V.; dilatat labia sua, Vulg.; has his mouth always open as a tattling gossip. Comp. the prohibition of the Law, Leviticus 19:16, and St Paul’s rebuke of “tattlers” and “busybodies,” 1 Timothy 5:13.

Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
20. obscure darkness] Better, the blackest darkness, R.V. Lit. the pupil (of the eye) of darkness (comp. “in the pupil of night,” Proverbs 7:9, and note): i.e. in the darkest part, as the pupil is of the eye, of darkness. There is a trace of this in the version here of the LXX., αἱ δὲ κόραι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτοῦ ὄψονται σκότος. In our present Hebrew Bibles, however, the word is corrected in the text to be read into a word which is not found elsewhere, and the meaning of which is uncertain. Vulg. in mediis tenebris.

An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
21. hastily] Comp. Proverbs 28:20; Proverbs 28:22.

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
22. Comp. Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19.

Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
23. See Proverbs 20:10, note.

Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
24. Comp. Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 10:23.

It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry.
25. who devoureth that which is holy] This rendering is retained in R.V. marg., as is also another, rashly to utter holy words. But it is better to render, rashly to say, It is holy (R.V. text), i.e. consecrated (comp. Corban, Mark 7:11). The sequence is thus preserved: and after vows (of consecration, thus rashly taken) to make enquiry (as to the wisdom or possibility of keeping them). παγὶς ἀνδρὶ ταχύ τι τῶν ἰδίων ἁγιάσαι, LXX.

A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.
26. scattereth] Rather, winnoweth. λικμήτωρ ἀσεβῶν βασιλεὺς σοφὸς, LXX.

the wheel] sc. of his threshing wain. Comp. Isaiah 28:27. He executes righteous judgement upon them, Psalm 62:4; Romans 13:4.

The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
27. spirit] Lit. breath (πνοή, LXX.). The word, in this unusual sense, may probably have been chosen to recall Genesis 2:7 : the Lord God … breathed into his nostrils the breath (the same word as here) of life. “The breath of the higher life, above that which he has in common with the lower animals, coming to him direct from God, such a life, with all its powers of insight, consciousness, reflection, is as a lamp which God has lighted, throwing its rays into the darkest recesses of the heart,” Dean Plumptre in Speaker’s Comm.

candle] Rather, lamp, A.V. marg. and R.V.

Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
30. the blueness of a wound] Lit. stripes of (such as to cause) a wound. Render, with R.V.,

Stripes that wound cleanse away evil:

And strokes reach the innermost parts of the belly.

The expression, the blueness of a wound, is taken probably from the livor vulneris of the Vulgate, and indicates a blow so severe as to leave a blue, livid wound or weal behind it.

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