Proverbs 21
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Pr 21:1-31.

1. rivers—irrigating channels (Ps 1:3), whose course was easily turned (compare De 11:10). God disposes even kings as He pleases (Pr 16:9; Ps 33:15).

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
2. (Compare Pr 14:2; 16:2-25).
To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
3. (Compare Ps 50:7-15; Isa 1:11, 17).
An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
4. high look—(Compare Margin; Ps 131:1).

proud heart—or, "heart of breadth," one that is swollen (compare Ps 101:5).

ploughing—better "lamp," a frequent figure for prosperity (Pr 20:20); hence joy or delight.

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
5. The contrast is between steady industry and rashness (compare Pr 19:2).
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
6. The getting—or, "what is obtained" (compare Job 7:2; Jer 22:13, Hebrew).

vanity … to and fro—as fleeting as chaff or stubble in the wind (compare Pr 20:17-21; Ps 62:10). Such gettings are unsatisfactory.

them … death—act as if they did (Pr 8:36; 17:19).

The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.
7. robbery—or, "destruction," especially oppression, of which they are authors.

shall destroy—literally, "cut with a saw" (1Ki 7:9), that is, utterly ruin them. Their sins shall be visited on them in kind.

to do judgment—what is just and right.

The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.
8. of man—any one; his way is opposed to truth, and also estranged from it. The pure proves himself such by his right conduct.
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
9. corner—a turret or arbor on the roof.

brawling—or contentious.

wide house—literally, "house of fellowship," large enough for several families.

The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.
10. So strongly does he desire to do evil (Ps 10:3; Ec 8:11), that he will not even spare his friend if in his way.
When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
11. (Compare Pr 19:25). That which the simple learn by the terrors of punishment, the wise learn by teaching.
The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.
12. (Compare Ps 37:35-38; 73:17, 20).

house—family or interests.

overthroweth—either supply "God" (compare Pr 10:24), or the word is used impersonally.

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
13. The principles of retribution, often taught (compare Ps 18:26; Mt 7:1-12).
A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
14. The effect of bribery (Pr 17:23) is enhanced by secrecy, as the bribed person does not wish his motives made known.
It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
15. But the just love right and need no bribes. The wicked at last meet destruction, though for a time happy in concealing corruption.
The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
16. the way of understanding—(Compare Pr 12:26; 14:22).

remain—that is, rest as at a journey's end; death will be his unchanging home.

He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
17. Costly luxuries impoverish.
The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.
18. (Compare Pr 11:8). By suffering what they had devised for the righteous, or brought on them, the wicked became their ransom, in the usual sense of substitutes (compare Jos 7:26; Es 7:9).
It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
19. (Compare Pr 21:9).

wilderness—pasture, though uninhabitable ground (Ps 65:12).

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
20. The wise, by diligence and care, lay up and increase wealth, while fools

spend—literally, "swallow it up," greedily.

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
21. He who tries to act justly and kindly (Ps 34:14) will prosper and obtain justice and honor.
A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.
22. "Wisdom is better than strength" (Ec 7:19; 9:15).

strength … thereof—that in which they confide.

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
23. (Compare Pr 13:2, 3; Jas 3:6-10).
Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.
24. The reproachful name is deserved by those who treat others with anger and contempt.
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.
25. desire—that is, of ease and idleness brings him to starvation.
He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.
26. The sin of covetousness marks the sluggard, as the virtue of benevolence the righteous.
The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
27. God regards the heart, and hypocrisy is more odious than open inconsistency.

wicked mind—or, "design" (Pr 1:4).

A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.
28. (Compare Pr 19:5).

that heareth—or heeds instruction, and so grows wise.

speaketh constantly—or sincerely (compare Hab 1:5), and hence is believed (Pr 12:19; Jas 1:19).

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
29. hardeneth his face—is obstinate.

directeth … way—considers it, and acts advisedly.

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.
30, 31. Men's best devices and reliances are vain compared with God's, or without His aid (Pr 19:21; Ps 20:7; 33:17).
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown [1882]

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