Matthew Poole's Commentary
The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.From this chapter to the five and twentieth, are sundry observations of moral virtues, and their contrary vices, with excellent rules for the government of our conversation.
The proverbs of Solomon, properly so called; for the foregoing chapters, though they had this title in the beginning of them, yet in truth were only a preface or preparation to them, containing a general exhortation to the study and exercise of wisdom, to stir up the minds of men to the greater attention and regard to all its precepts, whereof some here follow; of which in general these things are fit to be observed, to help us in the understanding of them:
1. That these sentences are generally distinct and independent, having no coherence one with another, as many other parts of Scripture have.
2. That such sentences being very short, as their nature requires, more is understood in them than is expressed, and the causes are commonly to be gathered from the effects, and the effects from the causes, and one opposite from another, as we shall see.
3. That they are delivered by way of comparison and opposition, which for the most part is between virtue and vice, but sometimes is between two virtues, or two vices.
A wise son, i.e. prudent, and especially virtuous and godly, as this word is commonly meant in this book, and in many other scriptures.
A glad father; and a glad mother too; for both parents are to be understood in both branches, as is evident from the nature of the thing, which affects both of them, and from parallel places, as Proverbs 17:25 30:17, although one only be expressed in each branch, for the greater elegancy.
The heaviness of his mother; the occasion of her great sorrow, which is decently ascribed to the mothers rather than to the fathers, because their passions are most vehement, and make deepest impression in them.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.Treasures of wickedness: either,
1. All worldly treasures and riches, which are called the mammon of unrighteousness, Luke 16:9, of which see the reasons there; to which righteousness or holiness, which are spiritual and heavenly riches, may be fitly opposed. Or,
2. Such treasures as are got by any sort of unjust or wicked practices.
Profit nothing; they do the possessor no good, but, which is implied from the opposite member, much hurt; they do not only not deliver him from death, but oft expose him to it; either from men, who take away his life that they may enjoy his wealth; or from God, who shortens his days, and makes his death more terrible, as being attended with guilt, and with the second death.
1. True holiness of heart and life. Or,
2. Justice and equity in the getting of riches, or an estate honestly obtained, which may be fitly opposed to treasures of wickedness. Or,
3. A liberal and charitable use of riches, which is oft called righteousness, as Psalm 112:9 Daniel 4:27 2 Corinthians 9:10, &c., and is indeed but an act of justice, of which see on Proverbs 3:27, which also is conveniently opposed to an unjust getting of riches; and so this contains a great paradox, yet a certain truth, that the charitable laying out of money is more profitable to men than an unjust and covetous laying it up.
From death; ofttimes from temporal death, because men generally love, and honour, and will assist such persons in cases of danger, and God gives them the blessing of a long life; and always from eternal death, when such charity proceeds from a sincere and honest mind, and a good conscience.
The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.Will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; will preserve them from famine, according to his promises, Psalm 34:10, and elsewhere, which, as other temporal promises, is not to be understood simply and universally, but with this limitation, except this be necessary for God’s glory, which in all reason should overrule the creatures’ good, and for their own greater benefit. For, to say nothing of eternal felicities which follow every good man’s death, it is certainly in some times and eases a less evil for men to be killed with famine, than to survive to see and feel those miseries which are coming upon them, and upon the land where they live.
The substance, as this word is used, Psalm 52:7, or the wickedness, i.e. the wealth gotten by wickedness; as righteousness, Proverbs 10:2, is by divers understood of an estate got with righteousness.
Of the wicked; who by that means shall be exposed to want and famine.
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.With a slack hand; negligently and slothfully, as appears from the diligence opposed to it in the next branch, and from the use of this word in this sense, Proverbs 12:24,27 19:15 Jeremiah 48:10. Heb. with a deceitful hand; so called, partly because it seems and pretends to do something, when in truth it doth nothing; and partly because such persons usually endeavour to maintain themselves by deceit and wickedness, which they cannot or will not do by honest labour and diligence.
Maketh rich; not by itself, nor necessarily, as is manifest from experience, and is noted, Ecclesiastes 9:11, but through God’s blessing, which commonly is given to such, by comparing this verse with Proverbs 10:22, here following.
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.He that gathereth the fruits of his field in summer; in harvest, as it follows, which is a part of summer. He that watcheth for and improveth the proper seasons and opportunities of doing good to himself, and to others.
That causeth shame; both to himself for his folly, and that poverty and misery caused by it; and to his parents, to whose negligent or evil education such things are oft, and sometimes justly, imputed.
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.Blessings are upon the head of the just; all sorts of blessings are wished to them by men, and conferred upon them by God. He saith, upon their head, either to show that these blessings come from above; and that openly, in the sight of the world, so that he can confidently speak of them to God’s praise, and to his own comfort and honour; or because blessings were commonly pronounced by men with this ceremony, by laying their hands upon the head of the party blessed.
Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked; violence (either,
1. Their own violence or injustice, which may be here put for the fruit or punishment of it, as iniquity is oft put for the punishment of iniquity. Or,
2. Violence, or the violent, and injurious, and mischievous practices of others against them, deserved by their own violence committed against others, and inflicted upon them by the curse and righteous judgment of God) shall cover the mouth of the wicked, i.e. shall fall upon them. This phrase of covering their mouth is used, either,
1. With allusion to the ancient custom of covering the mouths and faces of condemned malefactors; of which see Esther 7:8 Job 9:24. Or,
2. To signify that the curse and judgment of God upon them should be so manifestly just, that their mouths should be stopped, and they not be able to speak a word against God, or for themselves. Or,
3. To intimate that God’s judgment upon them should be public and evident to all that behold them, as any covering put upon a man’s mouth or face is, as for the same reason the blessings of the just were said to be upon their heads. And the mouth may be put for the face or countenance, by a synecdoche. But this clause is otherwise rendered by divers learned interpreters, the mouth of the wicked covereth (i.e. concealeth or smothereth within itself, and doth not utter that) violence or injury, which he meditateth in his heart, and designeth to do to others, and therefore shall be accursed and miserable. But this suits not so well with the former clause, wherein the blessings of the just are not meant actively, of those blessings which they wish or give to others, but passively, of those blessings which others wish or give to them; and consequently this violence is not understood of that which they do to others, but of that which is done to them by others.
The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.Is blessed, i.e. honourable and acceptable to those who mention them. Compare Job 31:20 Psalm 62:5.
Shall rot; shall perish, and be cursed and detestable amongst men, shall stink above ground.
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.Will receive commandments; is ready to hear and obey the counsels and precepts of God, and of men, by which means he shall stand fast and live.
A prating fool; one who is slow to hear and swift to speak, who, instead of receiving good admonitions, cavils and disputes against them. In the Hebrew he is called a fool of lips, either because he discovers the folly of his heart by his lips, and thereby exposeth himself to the mischief here following; or because he is without heart, as is said of Ephraim, Hosea 7:11, or his heart is little worth, as is said here, Proverbs 10:20; or because he speaks rashly, without any consideration. Or it may be rendered, a fool by his lips, i.e. by his foolish and wicked speeches, contrary to the commands of God, by talking much and ill, when it is more comely and necessary for him to hear and receive instruction from others.
Shall fall, to wit, into mischief; or, be punished, as the word is used, Hosea 4:14; or, be beaten, as below, Proverbs 10:10.
He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.He that walketh uprightly; who is sincere, and just, and faithful in his dealings with God and with men.
Surely; or, securely, or confidently, as the word properly signifies, and is here rendered by all the ancient interpreters, and by most of the others; quietly resting upon God’s favour and gracious providence for his protection, and being supported by the testimony of a good conscience, and therefore not fearing nor caring who knows or observes his actions, which he endeavours to approve both to God and to men.
That perverteth his ways; that walks perversely, or frowardly, or in crooked and sinful paths; that dealeth hypocritically and deceitfully with God, or with men, using all possible crafts to conceal his wickedness.
Shall be known; his wickedness shall be publicly discovered, and so he shall be exposed to all that shame and punishment which his sins deserve, and which he thought by his cunning practices to avoid.
He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.That winketh with the eye; that secretly and cunningly designs mischiefs against others, as this phrase is used, Psalm 35:19 Proverbs 6:13.
Causeth sorrow to others, and afterwards to himself.
But; or, and, as it is in the Hebrew; for vice is not here opposed to virtue, as it is in many other proverbs, but one vice is compared with another.
A prating fool; who is so far from such deceits, that he runs into the other extreme, and uttereth all his mind, as is said of the fool, Proverbs 29:11, and thereby speaks many things offensive to others, and mischievous to himself.
The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.A well of life; continually sending forth waters of life, or such good and wholesome words as are very refreshing and useful, both to themselves and others, for the preserving of their natural life, and for the promoting of their spiritual and eternal life. We have the same phrase Psalm 36:9. Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked; the same words were used before, Proverbs 10:6, where see the notes; and they may be understood in the same sense here, and the opposition of this clause to the former may be conceived thus: As the mouth of a good man speaketh those things which are good and beneficial to himself and others, so the mouth of the wicked uttereth violence, or injury, or things injurious to others. which at last fall upon himself. But it is no new thing for the same words and phrases to be taken in different senses in the same chapter, and sometimes in the same verse, as Matthew 8:22, and elsewhere; and therefore these words may here be, and are by many, translated and interpreted thus, the mouth of the wicked covereth (i.e. concealeth) violence or mischief, which he plotteth against others. And so here is a double opposition between the righteous and the wicked; first in the contrary effects, the former causeth life, the latter mischief and death; and secondly in the manner of producing them, the righteous doth it by uttering his words, and the wicked doth it by concealing his mind.
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.Hatred stirreth up strifes upon every slight occasion, by filling men with suspicions and surmises, whereby they imagine faults where there are none, and aggravate every small offence.
Love covereth all sins; either doth not severely observe, or doth willingly forget and forgive, the offences or injuries of others, and so preventeth contention and mischief.
In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.Wisdom is found; his wisdom showeth itself in his prudent speeches, by which he escapeth that rod which tools meet with, and gaineth that reputation and advantage to himself which fools lose.
A rod is for the back of him, he may expect rebukes and punishments from God and men, that is void of understanding; which he showeth by his foolish words.
Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.Wise men lay up, to wit, in their minds and memories, to be brought forth thence upon fit occasions,
knowledge; whereby they may be enabled to speak both what and when it is seasonable, for their own or others’ good.
The mouth of the foolish is near destruction; fools are more forward to lay out than to lay up, and for want of knowledge speak much and foolishly, whereby they frequently bring destruction upon themselves
The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.Is his strong city; either,
1. Really, as money is called a defence, Ecclesiastes 7:12, because it ofttimes redeems a man from dangers and calamities. Or,
2. In his own conceit, as it is explained, and fully expressed, Proverbs 18:11. It makes him secure and confident.
The destruction; it is the cause of their ruin. Or, the contrition, or the terror, or consternation, as others, both ancient and modern, render it. Their poverty takes away their spirit and courage, and fills them with fear and despair.
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: either,
1. The design of his labour is only this, that he may have wherewith to live honestly, without sinful shifts. Or,
2. The fruit or effect of his labour or industry (as this word labour is most commonly understood, and this best answers to the following clause, where fruit is put instead of this labour) is the preservation and prolongation of this life, and the obtaining of eternal life, to which an honest and conscientious diligence in men’s worldly callings doth in some manner contribute. The fruit of the wicked, the fruit of all their labours and endeavours, to sin; tendeth to sin, serves only for fuel to men’s pride, and luxury, and worldliness, and by that means oft causeth temporal, and always, without repentance, eternal death.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.The way of life; which leadeth to life and blessedness. That keepeth instruction; that observeth and obeyeth the wholesome counsels of God, and of good men.
Erreth, to wit, from the way of life, or into the ways of sin, and so of death; Heb. leadeth into error, or seduceth, to wit, himself, as appears by the opposition of this to the former clause; he wittingly and willingly exposeth himself to temptation and wickedness, because he rejecteth that admonition which is a proper preservative from it.
He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.With lying lips; with flattering words and false pretences of friendship.
And he, Heb. he, i. e both of them, one no less than the other. So he condemneth two opposite vices, secret hatred and manifest slander.
Is a fool, because a sinner, and because the mischief of these things will fall upon himself.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.Men that love and commonly use much talking, do frequently run into many miscarriages, because such persons, for the most part, want wisdom to order their words aright, Ecclesiastes 5:3, and speak hastily, without care and consideration.
That refraineth his lips; that forbeareth to utter what cometh into his mind, before he hath weighed whether it be true and fit to be spoken or not.
The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.As choice silver; of great worth and use, bringing credit to himself, and much benefit to others.
The heart, and consequently the tongue, which speaketh out of the abundance of the heart, Matthew 12:34.
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.Feed many, by their wise and pious discourses, counsels, and comforts, which are so many evidences of their wisdom.
Die for want of wisdom; they have not wisdom to feed or preserve themselves, much less to feed others.
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.Riches are not got by wisdom or diligence, but only by God’s favour and blessing.
He addeth no sorrow with it, i.e. with that blessing which gives riches, but gives them content and comfort in their riches, which is a singular gift and blessing of God, of which see Ecclesiastes 2:24,26 3:13 5:18,19; whereas the riches which wicked men get are attended with God’s curse, with many discontents, with tormenting cares and fears, with horrors of conscience, and with the just dread of a sad account to God for them.
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.As sport; he doth it with ease and delight, and without any shame, or remorse, or fear.
To do mischief or, as others, to work wickedness; yea, great and premeditated wickedness, as the Hebrew word properly signifies.
Hath wisdom; whereby he is kept from committing wickedness, and especially from sporting himself with it. But this clause is by divers learned interpreters rendered thus, and or so is wisdom to a man of understanding, it is a sport or pleasure to him to practise wisdom or piety; which translation makes the opposition more evident.
The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.The fear; the evils which he feareth, or hath cause to fear, as fear is oft taken.
Shall be granted; God will not only prevent the mischiefs which they fear, but grant them the good things which they desire.
As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.As the whirlwind passeth; which is suddenly gone, though with great noise and violence.
So is the wicked no more; his power and felicity is lost in an instant.
Is an everlasting foundation; or, hath an everlasting, &c. His hope and happiness is built upon a sure and unmovable foundation.
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.As vinegar to the teeth; Which by its cold and sharpness it offends.
So is the sluggard; unserviceable and vexatious.
The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.Prolongeth days; partly because it gives them a title to the promise of long life, as well as to other promises; partly because it gladdeth the heart, which doth good like a medicine, Proverbs 17:22, and preserves a man from those wicked practices which tend to the shortening of the days.
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.Shall be gladness; though at present it be mixed with doubts, and fears, and disappointments, yet at last it shall be accomplished, and turned into enjoyment.
Shall perish; shall be utterly frustrated, and so end in sorrow.
The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.The way of the Lord; either,
1. The way or course of God’s providence in the government of the world. Or rather,
2. The way of God’s precepts, as God’s way or ways are most commonly understood in Scripture, or walking in God’s ways; for this is opposed to working iniquity in the next clause.
Is strength; gives strength, i.e. either courage and confidence, or support and protection from that destruction here following.
Destruction, or terror, or
consternation, as the word properly signifies, and many render it. The design of this verse is to show that piety is the only true policy.
The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.The righteous shall never be removed; they shall live long and happily here, when this is most expedient for them, and eternally in heaven.
The wicked shall not inhabit the earth; they shall not have so much as a long and quite abode upon earth, unless where this is a curse and mischief to them, and much less shall they have any possession in heaven.
The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.Bringeth forth, freely, and abundantly, and constantly, as the earth or a tree bring forth their proper fruit, as the word properly signifies.
Wisdom; wise counsels, by which he directeth and secureth himself and others.
Shall be cut out, because it bringeth forth not wisdom, but folly and wickedness.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.Know, to wit, practically, so as to consider and speak. Knowledge is here ascribed to the lips, as it is to the hands Psalm 78:72, because they are conducted by knowledge and wisdom.
What is acceptable to God and good men, or what is truly worthy of acceptation; for this is opposed to what is froward or wicked in the next clause.