Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
γ) Admonition to affability, fidelity in friendship, and the other virtues of social life
1 He that separateth himself seeketh his own pleasure;
against all counsel doth he rush on.
2 A fool hath no delight in understanding,
but that his heart may reveal itself.
3 When wickedness cometh then cometh contempt,
and with shameful deeds reproach.
4 Deep waters are the words of man’s mouth;
the fountain of wisdom is a flowing brook.
5 To have regard to the wicked is not good,
(nor) to oppress the righteous in judgment.
6 The lips of the fool engage in strife,
and his mouth calleth for stripes.
7 The mouth of the fool is his destruction,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
8 The words of a slanderer are words of sport,
but they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
9 He also who is slothful in his work
is brother to the destroyer.
10 A strong tower is the name of Jehovah;
the righteous runneth to it and is safe.
11 The possessions of the rich are his strong city,
and as a high wall in his own conceit.
12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
and before honor is humility.
13 He that answereth before he hath heard,
it is folly and shame to him.
14 The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity,
but a wounded spirit—who can bear?
15 An understanding heart gaineth knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
16 A man’s gift maketh room for him,
and bringeth him before the great.
17 He that is first is righteous in his controversy;
then cometh his neighbor and searcheth him out.
18 The lot causeth contentions to cease,
and decideth between the mighty.
19 A brother resisteth more than a strong city,
and (such) contentions are as the bars of a palace.
20 With the fruit of a man’s mouth shall his body be satisfied;
with the revenue of his lips shall he be filled.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue;
he that loveth it shall eat its fruit.
22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing,
and shall obtain favor of Jehovah.
23 The poor shall use entreaties,
and the rich will answer roughly.
24 A man of (many) friends will prove himself base,
but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
GRAMMATICAL AND CRITICAL
Proverbs 18:1.—It would perhaps be admissible with HITZIG (following the LXX and Vulg.) to exchange לְתַאֲוָה for the rarer לְתֹאֲנָה (Judg. 14:4), from which we should obtain the meaning “He that separateth himself seeketh after an occasion (of strife);” Vulg.: Occasiones quærit, qui vult recedere ab amico. For the use of בָּקַשׁ with בְּ see also Job 10:6. [The E. V. in the text understands the בְּ as indicating the condition, and so supplying the motive of the seeker; the reading of the margin is “according to his desire.” H., N., S., M., etc., agree with our author in connecting it with the object desired. The views of commentators, which are very diverse, may be found in considerable number in MUENSCHER, in loco.—A.]
Proverbs 18:3.—Instead of רָשָׁע we shall be obliged, with J.D. MICHAELIS, HITZIG, UMBREIT, etc., to point רֶשַׁע as the parallel קָלוֹן (i.e., “infamy, infamous conduct,” turpitudo) indicates.
Proverbs 18:6.—[A masc. verb again with the fem. noun שִׂפְתֵּי, as in Proverbs 18:2; 10:21, 32; 15:7.—A.]
Proverbs 18:10.—Without any necessity HITZIG proposes to read יָרוּם instead of יָרוּץ, and to translate “by it (the name of Jehovah) riseth up high.” [RUEETSCHI (as above, p. 147) concurs in rejecting both HITZIG’S emendation and his conception of the proposition. He justifies by examples like 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Sam. 25:26; Joshua 23:7, etc., the use of בְּ after verbs of motion,—and suggests that the concluding participle marks the quick and sure result of the preceding act.—A.]
Proverbs 18:17.—The K’ri’ וּבָא; the K’thibh is perhaps more appropriately יָבֹא.
Proverbs 18:19.—The LXX and Vulg. appear to have read נוֹשָׁע (βοηθούμενος, adjuvatur) Instead of נִפְּשָׁע; HITZIG proposes to read by emendation אֱהֹז פֶּשַׁע, “to shut out sin is better than a strong tower,” etc.
Proverbs 18:24.—לְהִתְרוֹעֵעַ, which is probably to be derived from the rootרעע ,רע, and to be regarded as the reflexive of the Intensive form (comp. the Niphal form יֵרוֹעַ, Proverbs 11:15), must have the copula הָיָה supplied to give a full verbal sense (comp. Proverbs 19:8): it therefore means “is to prove himself base, serves for this, to show himself base (i.e., here specifically an unworthy comrade, a bad friend).” The alliteration which is doubtless intentional between רֵעִים and הִתְכוֹעֵעַ led even the early translators (Syr., Chald., Vulg., and also THEODOT.) to derive the latter word from רעה, associare, and accordingly to explain it by “to make one’s self a friend, to cultivate friendly intercourse” (comp. Ps.65:4). So recently HITZIG: “There are companions for sociability,”—for he also reads יֵשׁ, (or אִשׁ, Mic. 6:10) for אִישׁ, appealing to the Syr. and Chald., who appear to have read the text in the same way. [BÖTT. supports this emendation or restoration (§ 458, 2,) and proposes without asserting the derivation of the verb from רֵעַ, as a denominative (§ 1126, 2)]. But אִישׁ is proved to be original by the Vulg., THEODORET, etc.; and between clauses a and b there appears to be a proper antithesis and not merely a climax. This strictly antithetic relation is also interfered with by the method of explanation adopted by those who, like UMBREIT, ELSTER, etc., render the verb by “ruin themselves, make themselves trouble;” (EWALD’S conception resembles this, except as it has a still more artificial double import “must be a friend to trouble”); the result follows no less from the derivation from רוּעַ, jubilare (so the Vers. Venet.: ἀνὴρ φίλων ὥστε ἀλαλάζείν, and of recent interpreters HENSLER: “He that hath friends may exult”).
[Of the English commentators HOLDEN renders “is ready to be ruined;” NOYES, “brings upon himself ruin;” STUART, “will show himself as base;” MUENSCHER, “will be ruined;” WORDSWORTH, “for his own destruction,—his fate is not to be helped by his many friends, but to be ruined by them.” Of the Germans not cited by Z., DE WETTE, “hat viel Umgang za seinem Untergang;” BERTHEAU, “ist um sich als schlechten zu erwtisen;” KAMP., “so wird einem übel mitgespielt;” FUERST, “muss sich als schlecht erweisen.”—A.]
1. Proverbs 18:1–9. Against unsociableness, love of controversy, and other ways in which an uncharitable and foolish disposition manifests itself.—He that separateth himself seeketh after his desire, i.e. he who in an unsocial and misanthropic spirit separates himself from intercourse with others, will as a general rule hold in his eye only the satisfaction of his own pleasure and his own selfish interest.—Against all counsel (wisdom) doth he rush on, i.e. against all wise and prudent counsel (comp. 3:21) he sets himself, and will hear nothing of it. In respect to the verb, comp. remarks on 17:14. HITZIG in this passage as in that holds to the signification which he there assumes, and therefore translates, “Against all that is fortunate (?) he gnashes his teeth.”
Proverbs 18:2. Compare similar censures of the loquacity of fools, and their delight in their own discourse, as they prefer above all besides to hear themselves speak, and gladly display everywhere their imagined wisdom,—in passages like 12:23; 13:16; 15:2, etc.
Proverbs 18:3. When wickedness cometh then cometh contempt. For the sentiment comp. 11:2.
Proverbs 18:4. Deep waters are the words of man’s mouth. “Deep,” i.e. hard to fathom and exhaust (20:5; Eccles. 7:24). This is true, naturally, only of the words of discreet and wise men, who, according to the parallel in clause b, are evidently alone intended here. Only they indeed can be called a “flowing brook,” i.e. a brook never drying up, one always pouring forth an abundant supply of refreshing water; compare a similar phrase in Am. 5:24. Others regard the meaning of the second clause as contrasted with the first, as they either define “deep waters” in a bad sense, of dark, obscure, enigmatical words (DÖDERLEIN, ZIEGLER), or, in spite of the parallel in 20:5, read מֵי מַעֲמַקִּים instead of מַיִם עֲמֻקִּים, and understand “waters of excavation,” and think of the contrast between cistern waters which readily fail, and a genuine spring of water, Jer. 2:13 (so HITZIG).
Proverbs 18:5. To have regard to the wicked is not good. The last phrase used as in 17:26. The first, lit., “to lift up, to show respect to the face of some one” (LXX: θαυμάσαι πρόσωπον), as in Lev. 19:15; Deut. 10:17, etc. [Z. renders still more specifically “to take part, to take sides,” etc.].—With clause b comp. 17:23; Isa. 10:2; Am. 2:7, etc.; with the sentiment as a whole, 17:15.
Proverbs 18:6 and 7 are in close connection; for the former comp. 19:29; for the latter, 13:3. To the idea, which occurs in the parallel passage also, of “destruction, or ruin,” there is here added by way of exemplification the figure of a “snare,” as employed by huntsmen; comp. 12:13; 13:14; 14:27.
Proverbs 18:8. The words of a slanderer are as words of sport. The slanderer, or backbiter, as in 16:28. The predicative epithet מִתְלַהֲמִים is here, as also in 26:22, where the whole verse is literally repeated, very variously interpreted. It is most obvious to go back to a root להם assumed to be cognate with להה, “to play, to sport” (comp. remarks on 26:10), and accordingly to find contrasted the design of the inconsiderate words of the backbiter, intended, as it were, sportively, and their deeply penetrating and sorely wounding power (see clause b). So C. B. MICHAELIS, BERTHEAU, ELSTER, etc. Others explain differently; e.g. SCHULTENS, UMBREIT (following the Arabic), as “dainty morsels” [so GESEN., DE W., N., M., W.]; EWALD, “as if whispering;” HITZIG, “like soft airs;” [FUERST, “like murmured, mysterious, oracular words;” while the rendering given in the E. V., as also by some commentators, supposes a transposition of the radical consonants (for הלם); BERTHEAU and STUART agree substantially with our author. The whole matter is conjectural, the word occurring in the Hebrew Scriptures but twice, and no sure analogy existing for our guidance.—A.]—Into the innermost parts of the body, lit, “into the chambers,” etc.; comp. 20:27, 30; 26:22.
Proverbs 18:9. He also who is slothful in his work is brother of the destroyer, lit., “of the master of destruction,”—for the participle form מַשְׁחִית is here impersonal as in Ezek. 5:16: “the master of destruction”, means “the destroyer” (28:23) and here the squanderer, who wastes his possessions, the dissipans sua opera (Vulg.), and not the highway robber or the captain of banditti as HOFMANN, Schriftbew. II., 2, 377, maintains.
2. Proverbs 18:10–16. Seven proverbs of miscellaneous import, referring especially to confidence in God, and humility as the only true wisdom.—A strong tower is Jehovah’s name; i.e. the revealed essence of God, His revelation of Himself in the history of salvation, with its blessed results, shows itself to those who confide in it, who in a childlike spirit submit themselves to its guidance, as a stronghold securely protecting them (so Ps. 61:3 (4).) [RUEETSCHI: “The name always designates Himself, as man knows Him, as he receives Him to his knowledge and faith, and bears Him in his heart. It is precisely what man knows of God that is for him a strong tower. When man stumbles or falters it is precisely because he has not run to this refuge, has, as it were, not reminded himself where his strong tower is”].—The righteous runneth to it and is safe, lit., “and is lifted up,” i.e. gains a. high and at the same time sheltered station, where the shafts of his enemies can do him no harm. Comp. another form of the same verb in 29:25.
Proverbs 18:11. With clause a comp. 10:15.—And as a high wall in his own conceit. בְּמַשְׂכִּיתוֹ (comp. Ps. 73:7) the old Vers. Venet. renders quite correctly by ἐν φαντασίᾳ αὐτοῦ, while the Vulg., the Chald., etc., read נִּמְשֻׂכָּתו, “in his enclosure,” an expression which would be superfluous with the “high wall.” [FUERST, starting from this idea of figured or carved work, furniture, etc., understands the allusion to be to a “hall of state.” Neither the simple meaning nor the complicated construction seems admissible; “and as behind a high wall is he in his hall of state.”—A.]
Proverbs 18:12. With a compare 16:18; with b, 15:33.
Proverbs 18:13. Compare Ecclesiast. 11:8.
Proverbs 18:14. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, lit., “supports his sickness.” The spirit that does this is naturally a strong, courageous spirit (comp. Num. 27:18), the opposite of a “smitten” spirit, which rather needs, according to the second clause, that one sustain it. Furthermore the רוּחַ in clause a is used as a masculine, because it here appears engaged in the performance of manly action; in clause b, on the contrary, as a feminine, because it is represented as powerless and suffering.
Proverbs 18:15. Comp. 14:33; 15:14.—The ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. The ear here, comes into consideration as an organ working in the service of the heart; for it is properly only the heart that pursues the acquisition of wisdom, and which actually acquires it,—not indeed without the co-operative service of the senses (especially hearing, as the symbol and organ of obedience, Ps. 40:7).
Proverbs 18:16. A man’s gift maketh room for him [and nowhere more than in the East; see e.g. THOMSON’S Land and Book, II., 28, 369]. מַתָּן here and in 19:6 undoubtedly equivalent to שֹׁהַד in Proverbs 17:8, and therefore used of lawful presents, and proofs of generosity, whose beneficent results are here emphasized, as also there, without any incidental censure or irony (as many of the old expositors, and also UMBREIT hold). Altogether too far-fetched is HITZIG’S idea that the “gift” is hero “spiritual endowments or abilities,” and is therefore substantially like the χάρισμα of the N. T.
3. Proverbs 18:17–21. Against love of contention and misuse of the tongue.—He that is first is righteous in his controversy; i.e. one thinks that he is altogether and only right in a disputed matter,—then suddenly comes the other and searches him out, i.e. forces him to a new; examination of the matter at issue, and so brings the truth to light, viz. that the first was after all not right. Comp. the same verb in 28:11; also Job 29:16, where however the investigator is the judge, and not one of the two contending parties.
Proverbs 18:18. Comp. 16:33.—And decideth between the mighty, i.e. it keeps from hostile collision those who in reliance on their physical strength are specially inclined to quarrel. Comp. Heb. 6:16, where a like salutary influence is claimed for the judicial oath as here for the lot.
Proverbs 18:19. A brother (estranged) resisteth more than a strong city. The participle נִפְּשָׁע, which, according to the accents, is predicate of the clause, is to be taken in the sense of “setting one’s self in opposition, resisting.” Now a brother who resisteth or defieth more than a strong city is necessarily an alienated or litigious brother. Furthermore the whole connection of the verse points to this closer limitation of the idea of “brother,” and especially the second clause, which aims to represent the difficulty of subduing the passion once set free, under the figure of the bars of a fortress, hard to thrust back or to burst.
Proverbs 18:20. Comp. 12:14; 13:2.
Proverbs 18:21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Comp. James 3:5 sq.; and also the Egyptian proverb: γλῶσσα τύχη, γλῶσσα δαίμων, (PLUTARCH, Is. p. 378).—He that loveth it shall eat of its fruit; i.e. he that suitably employs himself with it, employs much diligence in using it in discourse, whether it be with good or bad intent, as εὐλογῶν or κακολογῶν, blessing or cursing, (James 3:9; comp. 1 Cor. 12:3), will experience in himself the effects of its use or its abuse. Against the one-sided application of this “loving the tongue” to loquacity (HITZIG), is to be adduced the double nature of the expression in the first clause, as well as the analogy of the preceding verse.—The LXX (οἱ κρατοῦντες αὐτῆς) seem to have read אֹחֲזֶיהָ (those laying hold upon it) instead of אֹהֲבֶיהָ, but this reading can hardly have been the original; comp. rather 8:17, where the verb “to love” expresses essentially the same idea as here, that of a cherishing and cultivating or careful developing.
4. Proverbs 18:22–24. Of conjugal, neighborly and friendly affection.—Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing. It is naturally a good wife that is meant, a partner and head of the household such as she should be, a wife who really stands by her husband’s side as a “help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18, 20). The epithet “good,” which the LXX, Vulg, etc., express, is therefore superfluous (comp. also 19:14; 31:10), and is probably quite as little an element in the original as that which in the same version is appended to our verse: “He that putteth away a good wife putteth away happiness, and he that keepeth an adulteress is foolish and ungodly.” With clause b compare furthermore 3:13; 12:2; Ecclesiast. 26:3. [ARNOT’S view is more d defensible: The text which intimates that a prudent wife is from the Lord tells a truth, but it is one of the most obvious of truths: the text which intimates that a wife is a favor from the Lord, without expressly stipulating for her personal character, goes higher up in the history is of providence, and deeper into the wisdom of God. So substantially MUFFET, LAWSON and others].
Proverbs 18:23. The poor useth entreaties, but the rich answereth roughly, lit., “opposeth hard things” (contrasted with the supplications of clause a). Comp. the similar proverbs directed against the hardness of heart of the rich: Proverbs 14:21; 17:5.
Proverbs 18:24. A man of many friends will prove himself base. The “man of friends,” of many friends, the “friend of all the world,” will show himself a bad friend,—he with whom is contrasted in clause b the instance which is indeed rare and isolated, of a true friendly love, which endures in every extremity (17:17), and even surpasses the devotion of one who is a brother by nature. See Critical notes for an exhibition of the many meanings found in the verse, etc.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL, HOMILETIC AND PRACTICAL
That the chapter before us treats mainly of the virtues of social life, of sociability, affability, love of friends, compassion, etc., appears not merely from its initial and concluding sentences, the first of which is directed against misanthropic selfishness, the latter against thoughtless and inconstant universal friendship, or seeming friendship, but also from the various rebukes which it contains of a contentious, quarrelsome and partizan disposition, e.g. Proverbs 18:5, 6, 8, 17–21. But in addition, most of the propositions that seem to be more remote, may be brought under this general category of love to neighbors as the living basis and sum of all social virtues; so especially the testimonies against wild, foolish talking (Proverbs 18:2, 7, 13, comp. 4 and 15); that against bold impiety, proud dispositions and hardness of heart against the poor (Proverbs 18:3, 12, 23); that against slothfulness in the duties of one’s calling, foolish confidence in earthly riches, and want of true moral courage and confidence in God (Proverbs 18:9–11; comp. 14). Nay, even the commendation of a large liberality as a means of gaining for one’s self favor and influence in human society (Proverbs 18:16), and likewise the praise of an excellent mistress of a family, are quite closely connected with this main subject of the chapter, which admonishes to love toward one’s fellow-men; they only show the many-sided completeness with which this theme is here treated.
Verse 2 is a notabile. Let me restrain the vanity or the excessive appetite for sympathy which inclines me to lay myself bare before my fellow-men.—LAWSON (on Proverbs 18:13):—“Ministers of the word of God are instructed by this rule, not to be rash with their mouths to utter anything as the word of God in the pulpit, but to consider well what they are to say in the name of the Lord; and to use due deliberation and inquiry before they give their judgment in cases of conscience, lest they should make sins and duties which God never made, etc.”].
Therefore as a homily on the chapter as a whole:—Of love (true love for the sake of God and Christ) as the “bond of perfectness,” which must enfold all men, and unite them in one fellowship of the children of God.—Or again: On the difference between true and false friendship (with special reference to Proverbs 18:24.)—STÖCKER:—Against division (alienation, contention) between friends. Its main causes are: 1) Within the sphere of the Church impiety (Proverbs 18:1–4); 2) Within the sphere of civil life, pride and injustice (Proverbs 18:5–10); 3) In domestic life, want of love (Proverbs 18:19–24).—Calwer Handbuch: Testimony against the faults which chiefly harm human society.
Proverbs 18:1–9. GEIER (on Proverbs 18:1):—Love of separation (singularitatis studium) is the source of most contentions in Church and State.—(On Proverbs 18:4):—Eloquence is a noble thing, especially when its source is a heart hallowed by the Holy Ghost.—Berleburg Bible:—When the soul has once attained steadfastness in God, then words go forth from the mouth like deep waters, to instruct others and to help them; for it is a spring of water, inasmuch as the soul is in the Fountain.—STARKE (on Proverbs 18:6):—Calumniators do not merely often start contentions; they themselves seldom escape unsmitten.—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 18:9):—Slothfulness leads to the same end as extravagance.
Proverbs 18:10–16. VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 18:10):—The name of Jehovah (He that is) reveals to us His eternally immutable essence; in this there is given to mutable man living here in time the firmest ground of confidence, by which he may hold himself upright in trouble.—STARKE (on Proverbs 18:11):—Money and property can, it is true, accomplish much in outward matters; but in the hour of temptation and in the day of judgment it is all merely a broken reed.—[BRIDGES (on Proverbs 18:10, 11):—Every man is as his trust. A trust in God communicates a divine and lofty spirit. We feel that we are surrounded with God, and dwelling on high with Him. A vain trust brings a vain and proud heart—the immediate forerunner of ruin.—BATES (on Proverbs 18:10, 11):—Covetousness deposes God, and places the world, the idol of men’s heads and hearts, on His throne; it deprives Him of His regalia, His royal prerogatives, etc. The rich man will trust God no further than according to visible supplies and means].—ZELTNER (on Proverbs 18:14):—Wouldst thou have a sound body; then see to it that thou hast a joyful heart and a good courage, a heart which is assured of the grace of God and well content with His fatherly ordaining.—[T. ADAMS (on Proverbs 18:14): The pain of the body is but the body of pain; the very soul of sorrow is the sorrow of the soul.—FLAVEL:—No poniards are so mortal as the wounds of conscience.—WATER-LAND:—On the misery of a dejected mind].
Proverbs 18:17–21. [LORD BACON (on Proverbs 18:17):—In every cause the first information, if it have dwelt for a little in the judge’s mind, takes deep root, and colors and takes possession of it; insomuch that it will hardly be washed out, unless either some clear falsehood be detected, or some deceit in the statement thereof.—ARNOT:—Self-love is the twist in the heart within, and self-interest is the side to which the variation from righteousness steadily tends in fallen and distorted nature.]—STARKE (on Proverbs 18:17):—He that hath a just cause is well pleased when it is thoroughly examined; for his innocence comes out the more clearly to view.—ZELTNER (on Proverbs 18:19):—The sweeter the wine the sharper the vinegar; accordingly the greater the love implanted by nature, the more bitter the hate where this love is violated.—[TRAPP (on Proverbs 18:19):—No war breaks out sooner or lasts longer, than that among divines, or as that about the sacrament; a sacrament of love, a communion, and yet the occasion, by accident, of much dissension].—Tübingen Bible (on Proverbs 18:20, 21):—Speak and be silent at the right time and in the divine order, and thou shalt be wise and blessed.
Proverbs 18:22. LUTHER (marginal note on Proverbs 18:22): The married who is truly Christian knows that, even though sometimes things are badly matched, still his marriage relation is well pleasing to God, as His creation and ordinance; and what he therein does or endures, passes as done or suffered for God.—STÖCKER: Praise of an excellent wife [probæ conjugis commendatio): 1) how such a one may be found; 2) what blessing her husband has in her.—ZELTNER: The great mystery of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32) must ever be to married Christians the type and model of their relation.—VON GERLACH: The great blessing of a pious wife can only be found, not won or gained by one’s own merit.
Proverbs 18:23, 24. STARKE (on Proverbs 18:23): If poor men must often enough knock in vain at the doors and hearts of the rich of this world, this should be to them only an impulse, to plead and to call the more on God who surely hears them. (On Proverbs 18:24): Pour out your heart before the Lord in every extremity; He is a friend whose friendship never dies out.—VON GERLACH (on Proverbs 18:24): The number of one’s friends is not the thing,—they are often false, unfaithful, and forsake us in misfortune. Let none despair for that reason; there are friends who are more closely and intimately joined to us than even brothers.—[ARNOT: The brother and the friend are, through the goodness of God, with more or less of imperfection, often found among our fellows; but they are complete only in Him who is the fellow of the Almighty.]
Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.