Proverbs 26
Clarke's Commentary
Honor is not seemly in a fool. The correction and treatment suitable to such. Of the slothful man. Of him who interferes with matters which do not concern him. Contentions to be avoided. Of the dissembler and the lying tongue.

As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
As snow in summer - None of these is suitable to the time; and at this unsuitable time, both are unwelcome: so a fool to be in honor is unbecoming.

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
As the bird - צפור tsippor is taken often for the sparrow; but means generally any small bird. As the sparrow flies about the house, and the swallow emigrates to strange countries; so an undeserved malediction may flutter about the neighborhood for a season: but in a short time it will disappear as the bird of passage; and never take effect on the innocent person against whom it was pronounced.

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
A whip for the horse - Correction is as suitable to a fool, as a whip is for a horse, or a bridle for an ass.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer not a fool - On this and the following verse Bishop Warburton, who has written well on many things, and very indifferently on the doctrine of grace, has written with force and perspicuity: "Had this advice been given simply, and without circumstance, to answer the fool, and not to answer him, one who had reverence for the text would satisfy himself in supposing that the different directions referred to the doing a thing in and out of season;

1. The reasons given why a fool should not be answered according to his folly, is, "lest he (the answerer) should be like unto him."

2. The reason given why the fool should be answered according to his folly, is, "lest he (the fool) should be wise in his own conceit."

1. "The cause assigned for forbidding to answer, therefore, plainly insinuates that the defender of religion should not imitate the insulter of it in his modes of disputation, which may be comprised in sophistry, buffoonery, and scurrility.

2. "The cause assigned for directing to answer, as plainly intimates that the sage should address himself to confute the fool upon his own false principles, by showing that they lead to conclusions very wide from, very opposite to, those impieties he would deduce from them. If any thing can allay the fool's vanity, and prevent his being wise in his own conceit, it must be the dishonor of having his own principles turned against himself, and shown to be destructive of his own conclusions." - Treatise on Grace. Preface.

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.
Cutteth off the feet - Sending by such a person is utterly useless. My old MS. Bible translates well: Halt in feet and drinking wickednesse that sendith wordis bi a foole messager. Nothing but lameness in himself can vindicate his sending it by such hands; and, after all, the expedient will be worse than the total omission, for he is likely to drink wickedness, i.e., the mischief occasioned by the fool's misconduct. Coverdale nearly hits the sense as usual: "He is lame of his fete, yee dronken is he in vanite, that committeth eny thinge to a foole."

The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honor to a fool - It is entirely thrown away. This, however, is a difficult proverb; and the versions give but little light on the subject. The Hebrew may be translated, "As a piece of precious stone among a heap of stones, so is he that giveth honor to a fool." Or, As he that putteth a precious stone in a heap of stones. See Parkhurst: but on this interpretation the meaning would rather be, "It is as useless to throw a jewel among a heap of stones to increase its bulk, as to give honor to a fool."

As he that sendith a stoon into a hepe of monee; so he that geveth to an unwiisman wirschip - Old MS. Bible.

"He that setteth a foole in hye dignite, that is even as yf a man dyd caste a precious stone upon the galous." - Coverdale. This translator refers to the custom of throwing a stone to the heap under which a criminal lay buried. The Vulgate gives some countenance to this translation: "He who gives honor to a fool is like one who throws a stone to Mercury's heap." Mercury was considered the deity who presided over the highways; and stones were erected in different places to guide the traveler. Hence those lines of Dr. Young: -

"Death stands like Mercuries in every way;

And kindly points us to our journey's end."

As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
The great God that formed all things - Or, A great man grieveth all, and he hireth the fool, he hireth also transgressors, where this verse is very differently translated. I shall add that of Coverdale: "A man of experience discerneth all thinges well: but whoso hyreth a foole, hyreth soch one as wyl take no hede." The רב rab may mean either the great God, or a great man: hence the two renderings, in the text and in the margin.

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
As a dog returneth to his vomit - See note on 2 Peter 2:22.

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.
The slothful man saith - See the note on Proverbs 22:13 (note).

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
Than seven men that can render a reason - Seven here only means perfection, abundance, or multitude. He is wiser in his own eyes than a multitude of the wisest men. "Than seven men that sytt and teach." - Coverdale; i.e., than seven doctors of the law, or heads of the schools of the prophets, who always sat while they taught.

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
He that passeth by - This proverb stands true ninety-nine times out of a hundred, where people meddle with domestic broils, or differences between men and their wives.

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?
Am not I in sport? - How many hearts have been made sad, and how many reputations have been slain, by this kind of sport! "I designed no harm by what I said;" "It was only in jest," etc. Sportive as such persons may think their conduct to be, it is as ruinous as that of the mad man who shoots arrows, throws firebrands, and projects in all directions instruments of death, so that some are wounded, some burnt, and some slain.

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out - The tale-receiver and the tale-bearer are the agents of discord. If none received the slander in the first instance, it could not be propagated. Hence our proverb, "The receiver is as bad as the thief." And our laws treat them equally; for the receiver of stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, is hanged, as well as he who stole them.

As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
The words of a tale-bearer - The same with Proverbs 18:8 (note), where see the note.

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Burning lips and a wicked heart - Splendid, shining, smooth lips; that is, lips which make great professions of friendship are like a vessel plated over with base metal to make it resemble silver; but it is only a vile pot, and even the outside is not pure.

He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
When he speaketh fair - For there are such hypocrites and false friends in the world.

Believe him not - Let all his professions go for nothing.

For there are seven abominations in his heart - That is, he is full of abominations.

Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
Whoso diggeth a pit - See note on Psalm 7:15. There is a Latin proverb like this: Malum consilium consultori pessimum, "A bad counsel, but worst to the giver." Harm watch; harm catch.

A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.
A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it - He that injures another hates him in proportion to the injury he has done him; and, strange to tell, in proportion to the innocence of the oppressed. The debtor cannot bear the sight of his creditor; nor the knave, of him whom he has injured.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

Bible Hub
Proverbs 25
Top of Page
Top of Page