Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.XI.
(1) A false balance is abomination to the Lord.—A similar proverb is found in Proverbs 20:23, and praise of just weights, Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10. The repetition suggests that this form of cheating had become common in the time of Solomon, when the commerce of Israel began to develop. If so, there would be good reason for these frequent warnings, for it would have been useless to raise the superstructure of a religious life, as is the intention of this book, without first laying the foundation of common honesty between man and man.
A just weight.—Literally, stone, stones having been used for weights from early times. (Comp. Leviticus 19:36.) A standard weight, “the king’s stone,” seems to have been kept by David (2Samuel 14:26).
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.(2) Then cometh shame.—For they have not the grace of God to keep them from falling. (See above on Proverbs 6:17.)
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.(3) The perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.—Fraudulent persons (literally, those who “cover” a matter up) pervert the truth, thereby ruining their own characters (inasmuch as in time they can hardly distinguish right from wrong), and losing the favour of Almighty God.
Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.(4) In the day of wrath.—Riches profit in no day of wrath when God “visits” His people to take account of their evil doings; much less will they avail in “the day” (1Corinthians 3:13).
Righteousness delivereth from death.—See above on Proverbs 10:2.
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.(5) Shall direct his way.—Or, make smooth, as Proverbs 3:6. The just man by his exact performance of all duty both towards God and man receives more and more light, and therefore continually sees more clearly how to avoid the difficulties that beset his path. The wicked darkens his conscience more and more by the commission of evil, till he stumbles as in the night (John 11:9), and at last falls, and rises not again.
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.(6) In their own naughtiness.—Rather, passionate desire, as at Proverbs 10:3. Their own strong passions are their ruin.
His expectation.—What he hoped for, worldly prosperity. (Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 5:14.)
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.(8) The righteous is delivered out of trouble. . . .—That is, misfortunes pass by the righteous and fall upon the wicked. (Comp. Proverbs 21:18.) Or, it may mean that the righteous “is taken away from the evil to come “by death (Isaiah 57:1), the wicked lives on to suffer in his place.
An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.(9) An hypocrite.—Rather, the impure, profane.
Through knowledge.—The just, by the knowledge given them by God, shall see through the fraud.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.(11) By the blessing of the upright.—Especially by their prayers, which, like Abraham (Genesis 18:23, sqq.), and the Jews of the captivity (Jeremiah 29:7; Ezra 6:10) they offer for those with whom they live.
By the mouth of the wicked—i.e., by the “cursing, deceit, and fraud” with which his mouth is filled (Psalm 10:7).
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour.—A warning against rash judgments (Matthew 7:1-2). It displays a want of intelligence, very noticeable in uneducated people, not to be able to understand other people’s difficulties; but “a man of understanding holdeth his peace,” not being rash to condemn, as well knowing that he may be mistaken in his estimate of another, and of the wisest course to be pursued.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.(14) In the multitude of counsellors there is safety—i.e., where there are plenty to guide the state.
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.(15) He that is surety for a stranger.—Rather, for another, as Proverbs 6:1.
Is sure.—Rather, is in quiet, undisturbed by the anxieties described in Proverbs 6:3-5.
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.(16) A gracious woman retaineth honour . . .—Each sex has its own power. A woman by her attractiveness wins and retains favour, a man by his strength and riches.
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.(17) The merciful man.—Rather, one who shows love. (See above on Proverbs 3:3.) Our good and evil deeds return to us in blessings or curses. (Comp. Proverbs 11:25.)
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.(18) Worketh a deceitful work—i.e., which ends in nothing, deceiving his hopes. (Comp. Proverbs 11:7.)
But to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.—Rather, he that soweth righteousness (worketh) a sure reward for himself. (For “righteousness,” see above on Proverbs 10:2.)
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.(19) As righteousness tendeth to life.—Rather, genuine righteousness tendeth to life.
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.(21) Though hand join in hand.—For this sense comp. Isaiah 28:15, sqq. The passage may also mean “hand to hand,” i.e., from one generation to another; or, what is most probable, “the hand to it,” i.e., assuredly. For the general sense of the verse, comp. Psalms 37
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.(22) As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout.—Rather, a nose-ring run through the right nostril and hanging down over the mouth; a female ornament used from the earliest times (Genesis 24:47; Isaiah 3:21; Ezekiel 16:12), and still worn in the East.
The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.(23) The desire of the righteous is only good, and therefore it, being in accordance with the will of God, is granted to them.
The expectation of the wicked is wrath.—Rather, presumption; they do not ask in the way or for the things which God wills they should (James 4:3), and therefore it is mere presumption on their part to expect the fulfilment of their desires.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.(24) There is that scattereth—i.e., with bounteous hand (comp. Psalm 112:9), “and yet increaseth” in wealth and blessings (comp. Proverbs 19:17, and the old epitaph, “What we spent, we had; what we saved, we lost; what we gave, we have.”)
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.(26) He that withholdeth corn till it has reached an exorbitant price, “the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it” at a fair price. The truth of this is not affected by the fact that the dealer’s selfishness is in the long run beneficial to the community by limiting consumption in consequence of the rise in the price of corn.
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.(27) Procureth favour.—By the very act of striving after good, he is seeking for the favour of both God and man.
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.(28) He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.—Because of their uncertainty, and because they prevent his trusting in the living God (1Timothy 6:17).
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.(29) He that troubleth his own house.—Possibly by his niggardliness and avarice, as Proverbs 15:27.
Shall inherit the wind.—Will get nothing for his pains.
The fool (‘evîl).—The self-willed, who will listen to no advice, and so comes to ruin.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.(30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.—The righteous, by the performance of his duty to his neighbours, brings, as it were, life and healing (Revelation 22:2) to them, and “the wise man winneth souls,” attracts them to himself, and induces them to follow his example.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.(31) Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.—That is, even he shall be punished for his misdeeds, as were Jacob, Moses, David; how much more shall “the wicked and the sinner.” The LXX. translates freely, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” a rendering adopted in 1Peter 4:18.