Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
IV. LATER COLLECTION BY THE MEN OF HEZEKIAH
True wisdom proclaimed as the chief good to kings and their subjects
SUPERSCRIPTION: PROVERBS 25:1
1 These also are proverbs of Solomon
which men of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, collected.
1. Admonition to the fear of God and righteousness, addressed to kings and subjects
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing;
but the glory of kings to search out a matter.
3 The heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
and the heart of kings (are) unsearchable.
4 Take away the dross from silver,
and there cometh forth a vessel for the refiner;
5 take away the wicked from before the king,
and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
6 Display not thyself in the presence of the king,
and stand not in the place of the great;
7 for it is better that it be said to thee, “Come up hither,”
than that they humble thee because of the king,
whom thine eyes have seen.
8 Go not forth hastily to strive,
lest (it be said to thee): “What wilt thou do in the end,
when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame?”
9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbor,
but disclose not the secret of another;
10 lest he that heareth it upbraid thee,
and thine infamy turn not away.
11 (Like) apples of gold in framework of silver
is a word fitly spoken.
12 (As) a gold ring and an ornament of fine gold
is a wise reprover to an ear that heareth.
13 As the coolness of snow on a harvest day
is a faithful messenger to them that send him;
he refresheth the soul of his master.
14 Clouds and wind and no rain—
(so is) a man who boasteth of a false gift.
15 By forbearance is a prince persuaded,
and a gentle tongue breaketh the bone.
16 Hast thou found honey—eat to thy satisfaction,
lest thou be surfeited with it and vomit it.
17 Withhold thy foot from thy neighbor’s house,
lest he be weary of thee and hate thee.
18 A maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow
is the man that speaketh as a false witness against his neighbor.
19 (Like) a broken tooth and an unsteady foot
is confidence in an unfaithful man in the day of need.
20 (As) he that layeth aside clothing in a cold day—(as) vinegar on nitre—
is he that singeth songs with a heavy heart.
21 If thine enemy hunger, give him bread to eat,
and if he thirst, give him water to drink:
22 for (so) dost thou heap burning coals on his head;
and Jehovah will reward thee.
23 North wind produceth rain,
so doth the slanderous tongue a troubled face.
24 It is better to dwell in a corner of the house top,
than with a quarrelsome woman in a wide house.
25 As cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26 (Like) a troubled fountain and a ruined spring
is the righteous man who wavereth before the wicked.
27 To eat much honey is not good,
and to search out the difficult bringeth difficulty.
28 (As) a city broken through, without walls,
is the man who hath no mastery over his own spirit.
GRAMMATICAL AND CRITICAL
[In the section of the Book of Proverbs including chaps. 25–29 peculiar idioms are more numerous, peculiarities in radical forms and in inflections, some of them common to this section with some others in the Old Testament, others of an Aramaic type. These have usually been regarded (if explained at all) as resulting from the more miscellaneous character of this portion of the collection. BÖTT. finds hero provincialisms characteristic of Ephraim, belonging more naturally to the section of the country most in contact with Syria. The correctness of this view needs to be established by close investigation. For the enumeration of particulars see BÖTTCHER’S Ausfuhrliches Lehrbuch, §§ 29, 34, 35.—A.]
Proverbs 25:4.—The Infin. abs. הָגוֹ [old root וגה, see also GREEN, §172, 2, for the peculiar form] is in both cases, in Proverbs 25:4 and 5, to be regarded as Imperative (so all the ancient versions, and also UMBREIT, EWALD, ELSTER), and not as in the first instance a substitute for the Indic. Imperf. (HITZIG, BERTHEAU), or as standing in both cases for the gerund (so STIER: is to be, should be taken away, etc.). [In Proverbs 25:4 this virtual Imper. is followed by a consec. Imperf., in Proverbs 25:5 by a consec. Jussive: “let his throne be established,” etc. BÖTT., § 980, B, and n. 10—A.]
Proverbs 25:7.—[אֲמַר, an impersonal use of the Kal. Inf. constr., “good is the saying;” the rendering is often appropriately passive,—so here “that it be said to thee.” Here and in Proverbs 25:27 the Infin. has a masc. predicate; in Proverbs 25:24 the fem. Infin. שֶבֶת takes the same. BÖTT., §990, 1, a, and 3 β—A.]
Proverbs 25:9.—[תְּנָל, a Piel Imperf. apocopate with lengthened vowel. See GREEN, § 174, 4; NORDH., §451; BÖTT., § 1085, A., etc.—A.]
Proverbs 25:11,—[דָּבֻר, either a Kal Pass. Partic., written defectively,—or a Hoph. Partic. deprived of its initial מ, which is no uncommon loss: the form would then be דֻּבָּר; see BÖTT., § 994, 5, 6, 10.—אָפְנָיו, regarded by BÖTT. as well as by Z. and others as derived from אֹפָן, wheel, the form is dual, the plural form with the same suffix being אֹפַנָּיו; the meaning will then be “on its (pair of) wheels,” readily, aptly. See BÖTT., § 678, 3, f.; 685, 42, and n. 4. FUERST gives the preference to another meaning supported from the Arabic and the Talm., “nach seinen Arten,” according to its various uses and applications=fitly.—A.]
Proverbs 25:16.—[הֲקֵאֹתו, a Perf. Hiph. with peculiarities in the vocalization and the suffix. BÖTT., §§ 1158, 2; 1188, 33.—A.]
Proverbs 25:17.—הֹקַר, Imper. Hiph. from יָקַר (Is. 13:12; 1 Sam. 3:1).
Proverbs 25:19.—רֹעָה, Partic. fem. Kal from רצץ = רעע. [Explained by GESEN. as an Infin. fem. used substantively, but by FUERST, BÖTT., etc., as by our author,—a fem. part. passing into an adjective use.] Instead of מוּעָדֶת, wavering, unsteady, is either to be read מוֹעָדֶת (Part. Kal from מער), or the form is with R. KIMCHI, BERTHEAU, ELSTER, etc., to be regarded as a Pual part, with the omission of the performative מ (comp. Is. 54:11, etc.); comp. EWALD, Lehrb., 169 d. [FUERST supports the latter explanation; GESEN., Lex. and Lehrgeb., BÖTT., GREEN (?) and others adopt the author’s view. See esp. BÖTT., §§ 492, η; and n. 2; 1063, C and n.4.—A.]
Proverbs 25:20.—מַעֲדֶה is usually taken as a Hiph. Part. from עָדָה, “he who taketh off clothing,” etc. FUERST suggests the construing and rendering of it as a noun, with the meaning Pracht, splendor; BÖTT. strenuously maintains that it can be nothing else. Lehr., II., p. 377, n. 1, and references there given.—A.].
1. Proverbs 25:1. The Superscription—plainly belonging to the whole subsequent collection as far as the end of chap. 29, and not merely to some such portion as 25:2–27:27, as HITZIG suggests; for there is in Proverbs 28:1 no new superscription, and the assumption that in Proverbs 28:17 sq. the central main division of the entire Book of Proverbs (12–22:16) is continued, while 28:1–16 is a fragment from a later hand, lacks all real support. Comp. remarks above on Proverbs 22:1.—These also are proverbs of Solomon—whether precisely in the strictest sense, or in the broader one of an authorship that is Solomon’s only indirectly, on this point the expression gives us no definite knowledge. Proverbs of Solomon in the broader sense may very properly be included under the phrase.—Which have been collected.—In regard to the meaning of this verb see what is already said in the Introd., § 12 (pp. 26). The meaning “remove” (from the original place), “transfer, transplant, compile” is certainly lexically established, and is to be preferred without qualification to the explanations which differ from it; to “append” or “arrange” (ordine disponere), or to “preserve” (durare facere, conservare). Whether as the source from which the transfer or compilation of the following proverbs was made, we are to think simply of one book or of several books, so that the transfer would be the purely literary labor of excerpting, a transcribing, or collecting by copying (comp. the ἅς ἐξεγράψαντο of the LXX); or whether we have to consider as the source simply the oral transmission of ancient proverbs of wise men by the mouth of the people (HITZIG), must remain doubtful. It is perhaps most probable, that both the written and the oral tradition were alike sifted for the objects of the collection.—By the men of Hezekiah.—Possibly a learned commission created by this king for the purpose of this work of compilation, consisting of the most noted “wise men” of his time. Comp. Introd., § 3, and § 12, as cited above. [FUERST, in his Kanon des Alten Testaments, cites the Jewish tradition as holding a different view in several of these particulars. In regard to original authorship, the title is not interpreted as even claiming all for Solomon, though his is the chief and representative name; it is rather the aim and effect of the collection that is emphasized. Tradition, moreover, interprets the “these also” as showing that the preceding sections were likewise collected by the men of Hezekiah, the verb הֶעְתִּיקוּ in the superscription to this fourth collection meaning “continued.” “The men of Hezekiah” furthermore are represented as not simply literati and poets of the king’s court temporarily associated and engaged in a specific work, but a “college” existing for similar purposes two hundred and eighty years, seven full generations. For details and references see FUERST’S Kanon, pp. 73–80.—A.]
2. Proverbs 25:2–5. Of kings, their necessary attributes and duties.—It is the glory of God to conceal a thing—viz., so far forth as He, the “God that hideth Himself” (Is. 45:15), is incomprehensible in His being, and “unsearchable in His judgments” (Rom. 11:33), so that accordingly all His action is a working out from the unknown, the hidden, a sudden revealing of hidden marvels (the “secret things” of Deut. 29:29). [“David says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God,’ and Solomon adds, that God’s glory is seen not only in what He reveals, but what He conceals—a profound observation, which is the best answer to many Scriptural objections to Divine Revelation, as has been shown by BP. BUTLER in his Analogy.” WORDSW., in loc.].—On the contrary, it is the glory of kings to search out a matter, rightly to discern and to make clear debatable points in jurisprudence, and in general, on the ground of careful inquiry, investigation and consultation, to issue commands and to shape political ordinances. Comp. what GÖTHE once said (Sammtl. Werke, Bd. 45, p. 41): “ It is the business of the world-spirit to preserve mysteries before, yea, often after the deed; the poet’s impulse is to disclose the mystery;” and also LUTHER’S marginal comment on our passage (see, below, the Homiletical notes).—דָּבָר is moreover in both instances to be rendered by “thing, matter,” and not by “word” (Vulg., COCCEIUS, UMBREIT, etc.); for in clause b in particular this latter meaning seems wholly inapposite.
Proverbs 25:3. The heavens for height, the earth for depth, and the heart of kings (are) unsearchable.—אֵין הֵקֶר, “no searching out,” is plainly the predicate of the subjects in clause a also, so that the entire verse forms but one proposition. And this is not a possible admonition to kings (not to suffer themselves to be searched out, but to preserve their secrets faithfully), as UMBREIT, VAN ESS, DE W., etc., think, but a simple didactic proposition, to bring out the fact, that while the heart of man is in general deep and difficult to fathom (Jer. 17:9; Ps. 64:7), that of kings is peculiarly inaccessible and shut up within itself, much as may be depending on its decisions. [While, then, according to Proverbs 25:2, “it is a king’s glory to get all the light he can” (STUART), it is his glory, and often an absolute condition of his prosperity and that of his kingdom, that he be able to keep his own counsel,—that of his heart there be “no searching out.”—A.]
Proverbs 25:4, 5. Take away the dross from silver.—The “dross,” whose removal empowers the “refiner” or goldsmith to prepare a vase of noble metals, corresponds here, as in Jeremiah 6:29, to the wicked or ungodly men who are to be purged out of a political commonwealth.—Take away the wicked from before the king—i.e., before the court, or by virtue of the king’s: judicial decision. The wicked is probably not to be designated as a “servant of the king” by the phrase “before the king” (contrary to the view of EWALD and BERTHEAU [KAMPH., DÖDERLEIN, H., etc.).—With 5, b, comp. 16:12; 29:14.
3. Proverbs 25:6, 7. Warning against arrogance in intercourse with kings and their nobles.—Display not thyself in the presence of the king;—lit., “bring not thy glory to view, make not thyself glorious” (STIER).—With the phrase “great men” in clause b comp. 18:6; 2 Sam. 3:38; 2 Kings 10:6, etc.—With Proverbs 25:7 compare in general Luke 14:8–11, as well as the Arabic proverb (MEIDANI, p. 72), “Sit not in a place from which one may bid thee rise up.”—Than that they humble thee (thy humbling) before the king.—Z. renders “because of a prince,” and goes on to say: “Usually, ‘before a prince, in his presence.’ But then we should have expected rather the plural, ‘before, in the presence of princes and nobles.’ לִפְנֵי seems to require to be employed here rather in the sense of ‘because of, in relation to’ (comp. 2 Sam. 3:31); and the following ‘whom thine eyes have seen’ seems to suggest the criminality, by no means ignorant, of the dishonor put on the dignity of the prince (thus HITZIG correctly explains).” [We cannot see the fitness of this departure from universal usage in regard to לִפְנֵי, which occurs hundreds of times in the O. T. with various modifications of the meaning “before,” but has not in one conceded instance the meaning “on account of.” It has been used twice just before with its ordinary meaning, and before the end of the chapter occurs again with the same meaning. There is room for difference of opinion as to the person before whom the humiliation is to be,—whether it be the king himself, or some prince or noble of his court, but there can be none as to the preposition required to express the idea. It is probably best to regard the king, who is chiefly affronted by such arrogance, as described here, not by his specific and official title, but as the exalted one who was to see and be seen, and before whom the humiliation is most crushing.—A.]
4. Proverbs 25:8–10. Warning against contentiousness and loquacity.—Go not forth hastily to strive;—i.e., do not begin controversies with undue haste (LUTHER: rush not forth soon to quarrel).—Lest (it be said to thee) “What wilt thou do in the end,” etc.—Lit., “at the end thereof, at its (the strife’s) end,” at the time, therefore, when the evil results of the contention have shown themselves. It is so natural to supply a verb of saying with the “lest” before “What wilt thou do?” that we may without hesitation have recourse to this expedient for filling out the form of expression, which certainly is perplexingly concise and elliptical (comp. UMBREIT, ELSTER, STIER [KAMPH., H.,N., M.], etc., and even a commentator as early as JARCHI, on this passage). At all events this solution is better than that devised by EWALD and BERTHEAU [DE W., S.], who take the “what” in the sense of “what evil, what terrible thing” (“lest disgracefully treated by thine opponent and excited to wrath, thou do some fearful thing!”)
Proverbs 25:9. Debate thy cause (strive thy strife) with thy neighbor, etc.—If the contest has become really inevitable, if it has come to process of law, then press thy cause with energy, but honorably, with the avoidance of all unworthy or low means,—and especially in such a way that thou do not by any possibility with a malicious wickedness betray secrets of thine opponent that may have been earlier entrusted to thee.
Proverbs 25:10. Lest he that heareth it upbraid thee.—The “hearer” does not denote possibly the injured friend (LXX, SCHULTENS [WORDSW.], etc.)—which would be intolerably flat and tautological, but very indefinitely, any one who obtains knowledge of that dishonorable and treacherous conduct. The Piel חִסֵּד is used here only in the sense of “curse, despise;” comp. the corresponding noun “reproach” in Proverbs 14:34.—And thine evil name turn not away,—die not out again, depart not from thee. Comp. the use of שׁוּב of wrath that is allayed or quieted; Gen. 27:44, 45, and frequently.
5. Proverbs 25:11–15. Five symmetrically constructed and concise comparisons, in praise of wisdom in speech, of fidelity, liberality and gentleness.
Proverbs 25:11. Apples of gold in frame work of silver. מַשְׂכִּית which occurred in Proverbs 18:11, in the sense of “imagination, conceit,” is unquestionably to be left with its usual meaning, “sculpture” (carved or embossed work); comp. Ezek. 8:12; Lev. 26:1; Num. 33:52, Under the term we are to understand some such thing as sculptured work for the decoration of ceilings, pillared galleries, etc., which exhibits golden apples on a groundwork of silver. That in this case we must have expected the precise term for “pomegranates” (רִמּוֹנִים) is an arbitrary assertion of HITZIG’S, in support of which wo need neither emend with him, to read בְּמַשְׁכְּלוֹת (from an alleged noun אֶשְׁכּוֹל=מַשְׁכֶּלֶת, palm bough) “or branches,” nor with LUTHER give to the word in question the signification “baskets,” which has no parallel to support it. [KAMPH., H., M., etc., support this rendering of Luther’s; DE W. and N. suppose the silver work to be inlaid or embossed on the golden apples; while BERTHEAU, GESEN., S., WORDSW., etc., understand the description to be of golden fruit, represented either in solid or embroidered work on a ground-work of silver. FUERST seems to favor the application of the term to ornamented furniture or plate for the table; and this certainly has the advantage of natural probability in its favor—A.]—(Is) a word fitly spoken [“spoken in its time.”—Z.] Comp. 15:23, where however we have בְּעִתּוֹ instead of the unique expression found in our verse. That this peculiar form of speech, which appears to signify strictly “after the manner of its wheals, or on its wheels,” is in reality equivalent to justo tempore, in tempore suo, is expressed as early as SYMMACHUS and the Vulg., as well as supported by the analogy of a similar Arabic expression, in which the radical word אופן is in like manner used to describe time revolving in its circuit, moving on in the form of a ring, or after the manner of wheels. Comp. also the well known vision of Ezekiel; Ezek. 1:15 sq. [See Crit. Notes. BERTHEAU, H., favor the exposition above given; GESEN., S., M., WORDSW. favor the other and less figurative way of reaching the same idea.—A.]
Proverbs 25:12. A gold ring and an ornament of fine gold. נֶזֶם, elsewhere a ring for the nose (11:22, etc.), is here, as clause b shows, rather an ear-ring or ear-drop (comp. Gen. 35:4). חֲלִי is in general a pendant, a jewel, such as is usually worn on the neck or in the ears, (Song Sol. 7:2; Hos. 2:15); and is here naturally used in the latter sense, therefore possibly of the ornament of pearls which was hung below the ear-ring.—(So is) a wise reprover to an ear that heareth. “The reprover, or punisher,” is a concrete, lively, illustrative expression instead of “rebuke or censure.” The boldness of the expression still fails to justify HITZIG’S attempted emendation, according to which סִיחַ is to be read instead of מוֹכִיחַ, and this is to be taken in the sense of “conversation” (“rational conversation”—comp. the λόγος σοφός of the LXX). With the general sentiment comp. besides Proverbs 15:31, 32.
Proverbs 25:13. As the coolness of snow on a harvest day, i.e. probably, as a refreshing drink cooled by the snow of Lebanon amidst the heats of harvest labor. Comp. XENOPH. Memorab. 2:1, 30; PLIN. Hist. Nat., xix. 4; and especially the passages cited by HITZIG from the “Gesta Dei per Francos (Han. 1611), p. 1098: “The coldest snow is brought from Lebanon, to be mixed with wine, and make it cold as the very ice.” [See HACKETT’S Illustrations of Scripture, pp. 53–5, for illustrations of the usage, and statements in regard to the extent of the traffic.—A.] With clauses b and c comp. 10:26; 13:17; 22:21.
Proverbs 25:14. Clouds and wind and no rain—(so is) a man who boasteth of a false gift. That is, a boaster who makes much talk of his liberality, and yet withal gives nothing (who “promises mountains of gold, but does not even give lead,” (STIER), is like clouds of vapor borne aloft and driven about by the wind (נְשִׂיאִים, lit, light rising vapors, which gather in clouds), which dispense no rain. The same figure, with a similar application: Jude 12; 2 Pet. 2:17; likewise in several Arabic proverbs, e.g. Exc. ex Sent. 43 (ed. SCHEID.): “A learned man without work, is as a cloud without rain.”
Proverbs 25:14. To the recommendation of liberality in the verses preceding there is very appropriately added an admonition to gentleness and mildness, especially in the use of the tongue. Comp. 15:1.—By forbearance is a judge persuaded, lit., “talked over, misled,” i.e., changed in his disposition, influenced, comp. Luke 18:4, 5. קָצִין here certainly means “judge,” as in 6:7, and not “King, prince,” as some of the older expositors, and LUTHER also, render it, and as UMBREIT is inclined to regard it. [Why not the “prince,” acting in his judicial capacity, and in other relations also where the bearing and spirit of those about him will more or less consciously mould his action ? He is the “decider” in more ways than one.—A.] And a gentle tongue breaketh the bone, i.e., subdues even the most obstinate resistance. Comp. the Latin: “Gutta cavat lapidem,” etc., as well as the German, “Patience breaks iron.”
6. Proverbs 25:16–20. Warning against intemperance, obtrusiveness, slander, credulity and levity.—Hast thou found honey—eat to thy satisfaction (lit., “thy enough”). Comp. Samson and Jonathan as finders of honey (Judges 14:8 sq.; 1 Sam. 14:26), and also a warning against partaking of it to excess, Proverbs 25:27, and PINDAR, Nem. 7, 52: Κόρον ἔχει καὶ μέλι.
Proverbs 25:17 first introduces the real application of this warning against eating honey in excess. “Withhold thy foot from thy friend’s house. “Make rare, keep back, seldom enter with it,” etc. Comp. the σπάνιον εἵσαγε τὸν πόδα of the LXX.—Comp. besides the similar proverbs of the Arabs, which warn against obtrusiveness: “If thy comrade eats honey do not lick it all up,” or “Visit seldom, and they love thee the more,” etc. Also MARTIAL’S sentiment: Nulli te facias nimis amicum.
Proverbs 25:18. A maul and a sword and a sharp arrow. מְפִיץ an instrument for crushing, a club shod with iron, a war-club (Nah. 2:2; comp. the cognate terms in Jer. 51:20, and Ezek. 9:2). For additional comparisons of false, malicious words with swords and arrows, comp. Ps. 52:4; 57:5; 64:4; 120:4, etc. See also the previous rebukes of false testimony; Prov. 6:19; 12:17; 19:5, 9; 21:28.
Proverbs 25:19. A broken tooth and an unsteady foot (is) confidence in an unfaithful man, etc. שֵׁן רֹעָה is to be explained either by a substantive construction, “tooth of breaking” (UMBREIT, STIER following ABEN EZRA), or by a participial construction, “a breaking tooth.” The latter is to be preferred as the simpler (BERTHEAU, ELSTER, etc., [See Crit. Notes]); to change the punctuation so as to get the meaning, “a bad, worthless tooth,” HITZIG, is at any rate unnecessary, since the meaning “decayed, rotten,” is in general not question able. “Trust in (lit., of) an unfaithful man” is here a foolish, credulous reliance on one who is false. For the figure comp. furthermore, especially Is. 36:6; 1 Kings 18:21.
Proverbs 25:20. He that layeth aside clothing in a cold day. This is plainly a senseless proceeding, an entirely aimless and absurd movement. The same is true of the action suggested by the words following, “vinegar on nitre;” for the moistening of nitre (comp. Jer. 2:22), i.e., doubtless carbonate of soda, or soda, with vinegar or acid destroys its substance, while to combine the same thing with oil, etc., produces a useful soap. Thus, and doubtless correctly, ROSENM., BERTHEAU, VON GERLACH, and substantially UMBREIT also (although he thinks rather of potash or saltpetre as the substance here designated). J. D. MICHAELIS (de nitro Hebræorum), J. F. VON MEYER, STIER, etc., think specially of the fermentation and the offensive odor which the nitre produces in contact with vinegar(?). SCHULTENS, EWALD and ELSTER understand נֶתֶר in accordance with the Arabic (and also in harmony with the ἔλκει of the LXX), of a wound, which is washed with smarting vinegar instead of soothing oil; against this view, however, we have of the other ancient versions except the LXX, especially the Vulg., SYMMACHUS, the Vers. Venet., etc. HITZIG finally emends here again according to his fancy, and obtains the meaning: “He that meeteth archers, with arrow on the string, is like him who singeth songs with a sad heart”(!)—[GESEN., FUERST and the lexicographers generally refer to descriptions of Egypt and its natural productions, in describing the material and its properties. H., N., M., WORDSW., etc., take the same view, and multiply and vary the references. See THOMSON’S Land and Book, II. 302, 303. WORDSW. expresses a decided preference for the rendering of clause a, which (see Crit. Notes) is preferred by FUERST, BÖTT., etc., “display in dress” instead of comfort; “as he that tricks out a man in a gay dress in winter, he who busies himself about the fineness and brilliancy instead of the texture and warmth of the attire,” etc. This certainly secures a better correspondence of incongruities.—A.] Moreover, the “singing songs with a heavy heart” (for these last words comp. the similar phrases in Gen. 40:7; Neh. 2:1, 2; Eccles. 7:3), which is described by the two comparisons in clause a, as a senseless and perverse proceeding, is doubtless to be understood in the sense of Ps. 137:1, 4, and not to be taken as possibly a disregard of the Apostolic injunction in Rom. 12:15. For the heart is hardly that of another [E. V., DE W., H., N., S., M., WORDSW.; “to a heavy heart”], but most probably the speaker’s own heart. The procedure against which the sentiment of the verse is directed seems therefore to be frivolity, and superficial, insincere conduct, and not a rude indifference and uncharitableness toward one’s neighbor.
7. Proverbs 25:21, 22. Admonition to the love of enemies.—If thine enemy (lit., “thine hater”) hunger, give him bread to eat, etc. “Bread” and “water” are named here as the simplest and readiest refreshment. To name meat, wine, dainties and the like would have been quite too forced. In the citation in the N. T., in Rom. 12:20, both objects are for brevity omitted, and thereby the expression is made more like Matt. 25:35.—For so thou dost heap burning coals on his head. For this verb to heap, to pile up, comp. 6:27. To “heap coals on the head of any one” cannot be the figurative representation of a burning shame which one develops in his opponent (GRAMBERG, UMBREIT), for shame glows in the cheek, and not above on the head. The figure is designed to describe rather the deep pangs of repentance which one produces within his enemy by rewarding his hatred with benefits, and in the production of which the revenge to be taken on him may consist, simply and solely. This correct view is first presented by AUGUSTINE, De doctr. Christ., III. 16; and then especially by SCHULTENS, ROSENM., HITZIG, etc. These last at the same time adduce pertinent Arabic parallels, like MEIDANI, II. 721: “He who kindly treats such as envy him, scatters glowing coals in their face, etc. At all events, we must decidedly reject the interpretation of many of the Church Fathers, like CHRYSOSTOM, THEODORET, THEOPHYLACT, etc., who regarded the coals as the designation of extreme divine judgments (comp. Ps. 11:6; 140:11) which one will bring upon his enemy by refusing to avenge himself. [In this last opinion our recent commentators, perhaps without exception, agree with the author. In regard to his first discrimination, if any have been inclined to limit the figure to the superficial blush or the transient emotion of shame, there would be a general agreement with him. If he means to discriminate sharply between shame and repentance, we must pronounce his distinctions too fine, as some will be inclined to regard his comment on the proper seat of the blush. A deep, true shame, may be the first step toward, the first element in repentance.—A.]
8. Proverbs 25:23–28. Against slander, a contentious spirit, timidity, want of self-control, etc. North wind produceth rain. For the verb comp. Ps. 90:2; for a description of the rainy wind of Palestine, which strictly blows, not from the North, but from the North-west and West, as רוּחַ צָפוֹן, comp. Am. 8:12, where this “North” is contrasted with מִזְרָה “the East.” Perhaps this term is equivalent to ζόφος as a designation of a dark, gloomy region, which we are by no means to seek directly north of Palestine (UMBREIT; comp. HITZIG). In no case is JEROME right (and ABEN EZRA), when in view of the predominantly dry, cold and rough character of the north of Palestine, he renders the verb by “dissipat pluvias, it scatters the clouds, and so ends the rain.” [The author’s view is that of DE W., KAMPH., BERTHEAU, MUFFET, H., N., S., M., WORDSW., GESEN., and the recent commentators and lexicographers almost without exception. Now and then JEROME’S rendering, which is that of the E. V., is assumed to be right, and illustrated, as e.g. in THOMSON’S Land and Book I. 131.—A.]—So doth the slanderous tongue a troubled face [lit., “a secret tongue”]; i.e., artful calumny and slander (comp. Ps. 101:5) produces gloomy, troubled faces, just as surely as the North-west wind darkens the heavens with rain-clouds. The tertium compar. in the figure is therefore the same as in Matt. 16:3; Luke 12:54. Comp. besides the German proverb, “He makes a face like a three days’ rain-storm.” [Those who follow the E. V. in the rendering of the first clause, must with it invert subject and object in clause b, and change the epithet, “troubled,” dark with sadness, for “angry,” dark with passion; “so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” TRAPP, e.g., says: “The ready way to be rid of tale-bearers is to browbeat them; carry therefore in this case a severe rebuke in thy countenance, as God doth.”—A.]
Proverbs 25:24. Comp. the literally identical sentence, Proverbs 21:9.
Proverbs 25:25. (As) cold water to a thirsty soul is good news from a far country. Naturally we must here think of those far removed from their home and kindred, who have long remained without tidings from them. Comp. 15:30; Gen. 45:27; and for the figure, Jer. 18:14.
Proverbs 25:26. A troubled fountain and a ruined spring (comp. for this figure Ezek. 32:2; 34:18, 19) is the righteous man who wavereth before the wicked. The meaning of this is probably not the righteous man who without fault of his has been brought by evil doers into calamity, but he who through the fault of his timidity, his want of faithful courage and moral firmness, has been brought to waver and fall by the craft of the wicked. Compare STIER on this passage, who however understands the wavering perhaps too exclusively of being betrayed into sin, or some moral lapse. [LORD BACON (De Augmentis, etc.) gives the proverb a political application: “This proverb teaches that an unjust and scandalous judgment in any conspicuous and weighty cause is above all things to be avoided in the State,” etc.; and in his Essay (LVI.) “of Judicature, he says: “One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples; for these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain.”—A.]
Proverbs 25:27. To eat much honey is not good. Since this maxim, like the similar one in verse 16, must convey a warning against the excessive enjoyment of a thing good in itself, we should look in the 2d clause for an analogous truth belonging to the spiritual realm. That clause is therefore not to be rendered: “And contempt of their honor is honor” (thus J. D. MICHAELIS, ARNOLDI, ZIEGLER, EWALD,—all of whom take חֵקֶר in the sense of “contempt” (comp. 28:11); and HITZIG likewise, except that he [by a transfer of one consonant] reads כְּבוֹד מִבָּבוֹד, and “contempt of honor is more than honor”). But we must here reclaim for the noun כָּבוֹד its original meaning “weight, burden,” instead of כְּבוֹדָם we must read כְּבוֹדִים, “weighty things, difficulties,” and then retaining the ordinary meaning of חֵקֶר we must render: “and searching out the difficult brings difficulty,” i.e., too strenuous occupation of mind with difficult things is injurious; pondering too difficult problems brings injury (comp. the common proverb, “To know everything makes headache”). So ELSTER alone [with NOYES among our expositors, and FUERST, substantially, of the lexicographers] correctly explains,—while UMBREIT and BERTHEAU [with whom S. and M. agree] take only the last כָּבוֹד in the sense of difficulty, and therefore explain “and searching out honor (or “their honor”) brings difficulty;” in a similar way the Vulgate “qui scrutator est majestatis opprimetur a gloria” [“he who is a searcher after dignity will be crushed by glory.” The E. V. renders “to search their own glory (is not) glory;” the assumed meaning of the noun demands a negative copula, such as has just been used in clause a; so GESEN.(?) KAMPH. enumerates the above and several other renderings, and pronounces all unsatisfactory. HOLDEN and WORDSW. retain the ordinary meaning of all the nouns, supply the usual copula, and render: “To search after their glory (their true glory) is glory.” The sentiment is fine, but to attach it to clause a requires skill.]
Proverbs 25:28. (As) a city broken through without walls (comp. 2 Chron. 32:5; Nehem. 2:13), is the man who hath no mastery over his own spirit, i.e., the passionate man, who knows not how in anything to keep within bounds, who can put bit and bridle on none of his desires, and therefore is given up without resistance to all impressions from without, to all assaults upon his morality and freedom, etc. Let it be observed how nearly this proverb corresponds with the substance of the preceding.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
In the noble admonition to the love of enemies, in Proverbs 25:21, 22, which bears witness for the New Testament principle of a perfect love even more definitely and in fuller measure, than the dissuasion contained in the preceding chapter against avenging one’s self (24:29), we reach the culmination of those moral demands and precepts with which the wise compiler of the Proverbs comes in the present section before the kings and subjects of his people. Beside this, in the exceedingly rich and manifold variety of ethical material which this chapter exhibits, the admonitions that stand out significantly are especially those to humility and modesty (Proverbs 25:6, 7, 14), to a peaceable spirit (Proverbs 25:8, 24) to honor and considerate forbearance toward one’s opponent in controversy (Proverbs 25:9, 10, 23), to the wise reception of merited reproof and correction (Proverbs 25:12), to gentleness (Proverbs 25:15), to fidelity and sincerity (Proverbs 25:13, 18–20), to moderation in all things, in enjoyments of a sensual as well as of a spiritual kind (Proverbs 25:16, 17, 27), to moral firmness in resisting the seductive influences of the wicked, and in subduing the passions (Proverbs 25:26, 28). In regard to doctrine it is especially the delineation contained in Proverbs 25:2–5, of the godlike dignity and authority of the King, that is to be accounted one of the pre-eminently instructive portions of the chapter. The earthly king is, it is true, in this unlike to God, the King of kings, that he can take his decisive steps only after careful consideration, examination, and conference with wise counsellors, and only thus issue his commands, so far forth as they are to result in the welfare of his subjects,—while with God, the being who is alike near and afar off, the all-wise and Almighty, counsel and act are always coincident. But in this again there can and should be an analogy existing between earthly rulers and the heavenly King, that their throne also is established by righteousness, that they likewise must watch with unfaltering strictness, by punishing the evil and rewarding the good, over the sacred ordinance of justice and the objective moral law (Proverbs 25:4, 5). And for this very reason there belongs to their action also something mysterious and absolutely irresistible; their heart too appears unsearchable, and wholly inaccessible to common men, like the heights of heaven and the depths of the earth (Proverbs 25:3); in a word, they in the political sphere stand in every point of view as God’s representatives, as regents in God’s stead and by the grace of God, and even, according to the bold expression of the poetical language of the Old Testament, as in a certain sense even “gods and children of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6; comp. John 10:34 sq.). From this then there results, on the one hand, to themselves the duty of strict justice, and the most conscientious conformity to God’s holy will,—but on the other, for their subjects the duties of humble obedience (Proverbs 25:6, 7, 13) of earnest reverence for civil laws and ordinances, and peaceable deportment, (Proverbs 25:8–10, 18, 23, 24, etc.); in general therefore, the fear of God and righteousness, as the conditions of a true welfare of earth’s nobles and nations, to be fulfilled on both parts, by princes as well as by the people.
HOMILETIC AND PRACTICAL
Homily on the entire chapter: “Love the brethren; fear God; honor the King!” (2 Pet. 2:17); three apostolical injunctions, which Hezekiah’s wise men already preached to the Israel of their day.—Or, the fear of God, justice and love, as the three foundation pillars of a well-founded and well organized Christian commonwealth.—Comp. STÖCKER; Of true honor, such as wisdom confers: 1) in the state (Proverbs 25:2–15: gloria politicorum); 2) in the household (Proverbs 25:16–24: gloria æconomicorum); 3) in the church (Proverbs 25:25–28: gloria ecclesiasticorum).—Berleburg Bible: Divine political maxims.—WOHLFARTH: Honor and renown as wisdom’s reward.
Proverbs 25:2–5. LUTHER (marginal comment on Proverbs 25:2): In God’s government we are not to be wise, and wish to know why, but believe everything. But in the secular kingdom a ruler should know, and ask why, and trust no man in anything!—STARKE: God’s counsel concerning our blessedness is revealed to us clearly enough in His word; act accordingly, and in the presence of the mysteries of divine wisdom take thy reason captive under the obedience of faith.—[JEREMY TAYLOR: God’s commandments were proclaimed to all the world; but God’s counsels are to Himself and to His secret ones, when they are admitted within the veil.—BATES: God saveth us by the submission of faith and not by the penetration of reason. The light of faith is as much below the light of glory as it is above the light of nature.—R. Hall’s Sermon on “the glory of God in concealing.” 1) The Divine Being is accustomed to conceal much. 2) In this He acts in a manner worthy of Himself, and suited to display His glory.—LORD BACON (on Proverbs 25:3); Multitude of jealousies, and lack of some predominant desire, that should marshal and put in order all the rest, maketh any man’s heart hard to find or sound].—GEIER (on Proverbs 25:3): Every one, even the greatest and mightiest, is to know that God knows his heart most perfectly and searches it through: Ps. 139:1, 2.—CRAMER (on Proverbs 25:4, 5): As well in matters of religion as in matters of justice (in the sphere of the church and in politics) the duty belongs to the ruler of removing all abuses and offences.
Proverbs 25:6 sq. GEIER (on Proverbs 25:6): An excellent means against pride consists in looking to those who are better, more pious, more experienced, more learned than we are, rather than to estimate ourselves solely by those who are lower.—STARKE (on Proverbs 25:9, 10): If thou hast a reasonable complaint against thy neighbor, thou shouldst not mingle foreign matters with it, nor from revenge reveal secrets which weigh heavily against thy neighbor.—LANGE (on Proverbs 25:11); In religious discourses heart and mouth must agree: the orator must besides always examine what is best adapted to his congregation: 1 Pet. 4:11.—[BP. HOPKINS: As the amiableness of all duties consists in the right timing and placing of them, so especially of this holy and spiritual discourse].—HASIUS (on Proverbs 25:12): He who can hearken and gladly hearkens to rational reproofs, does his ears a far better service thereby, than if he adorned them with jewels of the finest gold, and with genuine pearls.
Proverbs 25:13 sq. LUTHER (marginal comment on Proverbs 25:13): A true servant or subject is not to be paid for with gold.—STARKE (on Proverbs 25:13): A chief characteristic of able teachers of the divine word is that they as stewards over the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1, 2) seek to be found faithful.—(On Proverbs 25:14); Satan promises mountains of gold, but gives only smoke and empty vapor. Jesus keeps His word plenteously above all requests or understanding.—(On Proverbs 25:15): He who will everywhere put his head through the wall, will hardly succeed. But how beautiful and salutary is it to be gentle and full of love!—ZELTNER (on Proverbs 25:16, 17): Of all things, even the most charming and lovely one becomes at last weary. Therefore there is nothing better or more blessed than to strive for heaven and the eternal, where satiety is without weariness (John 4:14), life without death (John 6:50; Col. 3:1, 2).
Proverbs 25:19 sq. STARKE: Beside the confidence of believers in God every other hope is deceptive and unreliable as a brittle cake of ice or as a bending reed.—(On Proverbs 25:20): Even joyful music is not able to drive away cares and troubled thoughts, but an edifying song of the cross or of consolation may do it; Ps. 119:92; Col. 3:16.—Tübingen Bible (on Proverbs 25:21, 22): True wisdom teaches us by gentleness to break down the haughtiness of enemies, and even to win them to one’s self by benefits: Matth. 5:44 sq. But how excellent is it not merely to know these rules of wisdom, but also to practise them!—[TRAPP: Thus should a Christian punish his pursuers; no vengeance but this is heroical and fit for imitation.—ARNOT: This is peculiarly “the grace of the Lord Jesus.” When He was lifted up on the cross He gave the keynote of the Christian life: “Father, forgive them.” The Gospel must come in such power as to turn the inner life upside down ere any real progress can be made in this difficult department of social duty].
Proverbs 25:23–28. GEIER (on Proverbs 25:23): Cultivate sincerity and honor, that thou mayest not speak evil things in his absence of one whom thou meetest to his face with all friendliness.—[BRIDGES: The backbiting tongue wounds four at one stroke—the backbiter himself, the object of his attack, the hearer, and the name of God].—ZELTNER (on Proverbs 25:25): When we hear from distant lands the glad news of the course of the gospel among the heathen, it must cause us hearty rejoicing, and urge us to thanksgiving to God (an application then of Proverbs 25:25 for a missionary festival sermon).—STARKE (on Proverbs 25:26): As a fountain made foul becomes in time pure and clear again, so likewise the stained innocence of a righteous man will in due time be revealed again in its purity; Ps. 37:6.—(On Proverbs 25:27): The laborious and diligent will never lack work, and the more vigorous and systematic he is in it, the more honor does it bring him.—Calwer Handb. (on Proverbs 25:27): Search not into things too hard.—STARKE (on Proverbs 25:28): A man who cannot govern himself cannot be usefully employed in conducting public affairs.—[BATES: Satan hath an easy entrance into such men, and brings along with him a train of evils].
These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.