Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.1. rain in harvest] “For six months in the year no rain falls [in Palestine], and the harvests are gathered in without any of the anxiety with which we are so familiar lest the work be interrupted by unseasonable storms. In this respect at least the climate has remained unchanged since the time when Boaz slept by his heap of corn; and the sending thunder and rain in wheat harvest was a miracle which filled the people with fear and wonder (1 Samuel 12:16-18); and Solomon could speak of ‘rain in harvest’ as the most forcible expression for conveying the idea of something utterly out of place and unnatural (Proverbs 26:1).”—Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. Rain.
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.2. bird] Rather, sparrow. The mention of a particular bird, the swallow, in the next clause makes it probable that a particular bird is intended here also.
come] Rather, light.
The whole proverb gains by the rendering of R.V.:
As the sparrow in her wandering, as the swallow in her flying,
So the curse that is causeless lighteth not.
The reading, “shall come to him” (who invokes it), instead of “shall not come,” which involves the change of only a single letter in the Hebrew, mars the force and beauty of the comparison. It may perhaps have been suggested by the idea that the subject of this verse—he who invokes the curse—would be “the fool,” as in the group of Proverbs , vv1-12 here.
Proverbs 26:3-12. The proverbs of this group have all of them, as has Proverbs 26:1 of the chapter, the “fool” for their subject.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.4, 5. according to] Let not your answer be according to his folly in foolishness; but let it be according to it in appositeness.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.6. the feet] Rather his own feet, R.V.
By choosing such a messenger he robs himself by his own act of the means of attaining his end, and suffers accordingly.
The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.7. are not equal] Rather, hang loose, R.V. The strongest members of the body and the weightiest aphorisms of wisdom are alike useless appendages to one who lacks the power to turn them to account.
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.8. bindeth a stone in a sling] This, which is the rendering of the LXX. (ὅς ἀποδεσμεύει λίθον ἐν σφενδόνῃ), must be taken to mean, he who “bindeth fast” (R.V. marg.) a stone so that it cannot come out, thus frustrating by his action the very purpose for which a stone is put into a sling. Such a proceeding is a fit emblem of the incongruity of “giving honour to a fool.” But the Heb. word thus rendered “sling,” that which casts away stones, occurs nowhere else, and it may have the meaning of a heap or collection of stones. And it is so understood both in A.V. marg., As he that putteth a precious stone in an heap of stones, and in R.V. text, As a bag of gems in an heap of stones. This rendering gives point to the comparison: To put honour on one who is so utterly undeserving of it as a fool, is like hiding precious stones among worthless pebbles. It necessitates however our understanding the word “stone,” used absolutely and without anything in the context (as in Exodus 28:9; Exodus 35:27) to limit its meaning, of a precious stone or gem.
Some commentators both ancient and modern have supposed that the “heap of stones” referred to is that under which the criminal who had been stoned to death lay buried. A similar idea appears in Coverdale’s rendering: “He that setteth a fool in hye dignite, that is even as yf a man dyd caste a precious stone upon the galous.”
For the “bag,” “that which” (instead of “he that”) “bindeth fast,” or holdeth securely precious stones, or other valuables, comp. Proverbs 7:20; Genesis 42:35 (“bundle”), where the Heb. word is the same as here.
As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.9. As a thorn goeth up into the hand] i.e. as a thorn or thornbush taken up by a drunkard wounds himself.
This proverb carries the thought of Proverbs 26:7 a step further. A parable, or proverb, in the mouth of fools is not only useless but injurious. They take up a sharp, pointed saying, and instead of turning it to account, only injure themselves with it, as a drunkard pierces his own hand with the thorn which he grasps.
The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.10. The number and variety of interpretations which have been given to this verse justify the remark of R.V. marg. that “The Hebrew is obscure.”
The rendering of R.V. text is: As an archer (comp. Job 16:13, where the same Heb. word is so rendered) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. But the objection to this is that instead of the fool being the main subject, as he is in all this group of proverbs, he is out of place, and the introduction of him mars the symmetry of the proverb, which should run: As an archer who wounds every one within his reach, friend and foe alike, so is a master who hires all who pass by, good workman and bad indifferently.
For this reason, if for no other, the rendering of R.V. margin is to be preferred: A master-worker formeth all things (we may supply in thought, either (1) and in order to do so makes wise choice of his instruments, or (2) he therefore is wise who employs such an one); but he that hireth the fool is as he that hireth them that pass by—every unskilled instrument that comes to his hand.
The introduction of the word God in A.V. is without authority, and the sense given by it to the proverb is less pertinent.
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.11. So a fool returneth to] Rather, So is a fool that repeateth, R.V.; iterat, Vulg. The Heb. word is not the same as in the first clause of the verse. Comp. on the proverb 2 Peter 2:22.
Proverbs 26:13-16. Another small group of four proverbs, of which the “sluggard” is the subject.
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.13. Almost identical with Proverbs 22:13, where see note.
the slothful man] Rather, the sluggard. See Proverbs 26:16, note.
As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.14. “He will not get up in the morning; he turns from side to side, just like a door which swings backward and forward upon its hinges, but of course never gets any further.” Horton, ch. xx. p. 263, where a graphic picture of the sluggard is drawn by bringing together the different notices of him in the Book of Proverbs.
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.15. his bosom] Rather, the dish, as in Proverbs 19:24, where see note. grieveth] Rather, wearieth. It is too much trouble to him.
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.16. sluggard] The A.V. after rendering the Heb. word (which is the same in all four verses), slothful, three times, here changes it to sluggard. It is better to keep one word throughout.
render a reason] Or, answer discreetly, R.V. marg.
He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.17. meddleth] Rather, vexeth himself, R.V. See Proverbs 20:2, where the same word is rendered, provoketh to anger, A.V. and R.V. text, or angereth himself against, R.V. marg. Of course in this place the “meddling” is implied as the consequence of his “vexing himself.” He is provoked to interfere.
By neglecting the Heb. accents the word rendered passeth by is transferred in R.V. margin to the dog: “a passing dog.” But the force of the proverb lies in the fact that the man who is provoked to interfere is a mere passer by; the strife in no way belongs to him.
the ears] The LXX. substitute, the tail: ὁ κρατῶν κέρκον κυνός. The meaning in either case is, he deserves to be bitten for his pains. “The Latin proverbial phrase, ‘auribus lupum tenere,’ may be noticed for its curious parallelism.” Speaker’s Comm.
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?19. in sport] Fatal mischief may come of thoughtlessness apart from malice.
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.20. talebearer] Rather, whisperer, as the word is rendered in Proverbs 16:28. The Vulg. has susurro here and in Proverbs 26:22 below, but verbosus in Proverbs 16:28, and bilinguis in Proverbs 18:8. The LXX. have here δίθυμος, a man of strife or discord, but in Proverbs 26:22, κέρκωψ, a jackanapes.
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.21. kindle] Better, inflame, R.V.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.22. wounds] Rather, dainty morsels; λόγοι μαλακοί, LXX. The proverb is repeated from Proverbs 18:8, where see note.
Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.23. burning] Better, fervent, R.V., with protestations of affection.
a potsherd covered] The rendering, an earthen vessel overlaid, R.V. makes the meaning clearer.
He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;24. and] But he layeth up &c. (R.V.) gives the sense more forcibly. Comp. 2 Samuel 3:27.
When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.26. Whose] i.e. whose-ever. Qui operit odium, Vulg. This makes the statement general, whereas it is really a continuation of the preceding verses. Render, with R.V.,
Though his hatred cover itself with guile,
His wickedness shall be openly shewed before the congregation.
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.27. Comp. Psalm 7:15-16; Sir 27:25-27.
A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.28. Comp. “Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem læseris.” Tacitus, Agric., cap. 42.