Matthew Poole's Commentary
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.A false balance, the use of all false weights and measures in commerce,
is abomination, i.e. highly abominable, as the abstract signifies; which is opposed to the false opinion of men, who account it a fineness of wit, or, at worst, but a trivial fault.
To the Lord; partly because this wickedness is acted under a colour of justice; and partly because it is destructive to human society, and especially to the poor, whose patron the Lord owneth himself to be.
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.When pride cometh, then cometh shame; pride, as it is the effect of folly, so it bringeth a man to contempt and destruction, such persons being commonly hated both by God and by all men.
With the lowly is wisdom; whereby they are kept from those foolish and wicked actions which expose men to shame.
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.The integrity of the upright, their sincere obedience to God’s laws,
shall guide them; shall keep them from crooked and dangerous courses, and lead them in a right and safe way.
The perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them; those wicked devices by which they design and expect to secure themselves, shall be the instrument of their destruction.
Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.In the day of wrath; in the time of God’s judgments, when he is executing wrath and vengeance upon sinners.
Righteousness, or mercy, as this word is oft rendered; or charity to the poor, which is fitly opposed to riches laid up in store.
Delivereth from death; it moveth God to deliver them ofttimes from temporal calamities, and always from eternal death, where such actions are done from a right principle.
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.Shall direct his way; shall bring all his designs and endeavours to a happy issue, by comparing this clause with the next.
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.Shall deliver them from many snares and dangers.
When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.His expectation shall perish; all his hope and felicity, which he placed wholly in earthly things, is lost and gone with him.
The hope of unjust men; so it is a repetition of the same thing in other words. Or, as divers render it, the hope of their strengths, i.e. which they place in their carnal strengths, their riches, children, friends, &c. So this is added by way of aggravation.
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.Is by God’s providence brought into the same miseries, which either he designed against the righteous, or had formerly inflicted upon the righteous, and now lately removed from them.
An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.With his mouth; by his corrupt communication, whereby he endeavours to draw him to error or wickedness.
Through knowledge, to wit, of God, and of his word, which makes men wise, and discovers, and so prevents, the frauds of deceivers.
Be delivered from the infection of the hypocrite’s evil and crafty counsel.
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.When it goeth well with the righteous, when such men are encouraged and advanced into places of power and trust, the city rejoiceth; the citizens or subjects of that government rejoice, because they confidently expect justice and tranquillity, and many other benefits, by their administration of public affairs.
There is shouting; a common rejoicing, partly for the just vengeance of God upon them who have been the instruments of so much mischief; and partly for their deliverance from such public grievances and burdens of the land.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.By the blessing of the upright, where with they bless the city, to wit, by their sincere prayers, and wise and wholesome counsels.
By the mouth of the wicked; by their curses, and oaths, and blasphemies, and wicked and pernicious counsels, whereby they both provoke God, and mislead men to their own ruin.
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.Despiseth his neighbour; which contempt he showeth, either,
1. By contemptuous or reproachful expressions of him; or,
2. By not asking or not regarding his advice, but trusting wholly to his own understanding.
Holdeth his peace; either,
1. He forbeareth all such expressions against his neighbour. Or,
2. He silently and patiently bears these reproaches from his neighbour, and doth not render one reproach for another; wherein he showeth true wisdom. Or,
3. He desireth and hearkeneth to the counsels of others. Any of these ways the opposition is sufficiently evident.
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.A tale-bearer, or, he that goeth about (from one place or person to another, as the manner of such is) telling tales, making it his business to scatter reports, revealeth secrets; this tattling humour is so prevalent with him, that he cannot forbear to publish, either his neighbour’s secret faults, or such things as were committed to his trust with a charge of secrecy.
He that is of a faithful spirit, that hath a sincere, and constant, and faithful mind, which both can and will govern his tongue,
concealeth the matter, so far as he can lawfully do.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.No counsel; or, no wise counsel, as the word properly signifies, as Job 37:12 Proverbs 1:5.
In the multitude of counsellors, to wit, of wise and good counsellors, for such will employ and unite their counsels together for the public good.
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.A stranger; whose condition he doth not thoroughly understand, and therefore knows not his own danger.
Suretiship; of which See Poole "Proverbs 6:1".
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.A gracious woman, Heb. a woman of grace and favour, i.e. one who by her meekness, and modesty, and prudence, and other virtues, renders herself acceptable and amiable to God and to men.
Retaineth honour, or holdeth fast her honour or good reputation, with no less care and resolution than strong men do riches, as it here follows.
And strong men retain riches; or, as strong men, &c.; for so this conjunction is oft used in this book, of which we have seen some, and may afterwards see more instances.
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.To his own soul, i.e. to himself, because his liberality shall turn to his own infinite advantage, both in this life and in the next. Cruel; hard-hearted and uncharitable to others.
His own flesh; either,
1. His own children or kindred, who are commonly expressed by this very word, for whose sakes he is thus covetous and uncharitable, that he may hoard it up for them; but they, saith the wise man, shall have nothing but trouble and vexation, and God’s curse with it. Or,
2. Himself, denominated here from his flesh or body, as in the former branch from his soul. But he may seem to mention his flesh rather than his soul, to intimate that the mischiefs of his covetousness shall not only fall upon his soul, which he despiseth, but upon his flesh or outward man, which is the only thing that he feareth.
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.A deceitful work; a work which will deceive his expectation of that good for which he worketh.
That soweth; that worketh it with constancy, and diligence, and hope of recompence, as they do who sow in seed-time.
Righteousness; good works, acts of piety towards God, and charity to men.
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.That pursueth evil; who are not overtaken by sin, as a good man may be, Galatians 6:1, but studiously design it, and follow after the occasions of it earnestly, and greedily, and industriously.
They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.They that are of a froward heart; hypocrites, as appears from the opposition of these to the upright in the next clause; whose hearts are false to God, and contrary to their own professions.
Are abomination to the Lord; though by their cunning artifices they may deceive men, and gain their good opinion and favour, yet God sees their naughty hearts, and hateth them.
In their way; in the course of their lives and actions. By which changing of the phrase from heart in the first clause, to way here, he intimates that the sincerity and hypocrisy of men’s hearts are discovered and to be judged by their conversations.
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.Though hand join in hand; though they are fortified against God’s judgments by a numerous issue, and kindred, and friends, and by mutual strong combinations or confederacies. Shall not be unpunished; they shall be punished even in their own persons, as well as in their posterity. They shall not be able either totally to prevent God’s judgment, or to delay it from coming in their days.
The seed of the righteous, not only their persons, but their children, shall be delivered, without any such auxiliaries, by God’s special providence.
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout; which would not adorn the swine, but only be disparaged itself. It was the custom of some of the Jews to wear jewels upon their noses, and some of their neighbours wore them in their noses.
Which is without discretion; which disgraceth the beauty of her body by a foolish and filthy soul.
The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.The desire; either,
1. Properly so called. So the sense is, His desires are generally and constantly to do good to men, as wicked men’s designs are to do hurt, and to execute wrath and hatred against them. Or rather,
2. The object, or event, or effect of their desire, as appears from the next clause, where
expectation is clearly put for the object or event of it. And the sense of the proverb seems to be this, The desires and expectations of the righteous shall end in their good and happiness, but the desires and expectations of wicked men shall be sadly disappointed, and end in the wrath of God and their utter ruin.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.That scattereth; that giveth liberally of his goods to the poor; for so this Hebrew word is used, Psalm 112:9, He hath dispersed, which is explained in the following words, he hath given to the poor.
Increaseth, through God’s secret blessing upon his estate.
More than is meet, Heb. from what is right or just, i.e. what by the law of God, and the rules of general justice, he is obliged to give; of which see Proverbs 3:27.
It tendeth to poverty; by God’s providence secretly blasting his estate, either in his own or his children’s hands, as it very frequently befalls covetous wretches.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.The liberal soul, Heb. the soul of blessing; that man who is a blessing to others, who blesseth them, i.e. doeth good to them, as blessing is oft used for a gift, as Genesis 33:11 1 Samuel 25:27 2 Corinthians 9:5.
Shall be made fat; shall be greatly enriched, both with temporal and spiritual blessings.
He that watereth shall be watered also himself possibly it is a metaphor from a fountain, which when it poureth forth its waters is instantly filled again, whereas if it be stopped it groweth empty, and the water seeketh another course. Others render it, he shall be a rain, i.e. he shall receive such liberal supplies from God, that he shall be able to pour forth showers of good things upon others.
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.Withholdeth corn, in a time of scarcity, when others need and desire it.
Blessing; the blessing of God, which the people shall heartily beg for him.
That selleth it upon reasonable terms.
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.He that diligently seeketh, which is opposed to those who content themselves with lazy desires, or cold and careless endeavours, good, to do good to all men, as he hath opportunity,
procureth favour with God and men.
He that seeketh mischief, to do any mischief or injury to others,
it shall come unto him; it shall be requited either by men’s malice and revenge, or by God’s just judgment.
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.He that trusteth in his riches, as his chief portion, and felicity, and ground of safety,
shall fall, as a withered leaf, by comparing this clause with the latter.
The righteous, who maketh God alone, and not riches, his trust,
shall flourish as a branch, to wit, a green and flourishing branch.
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.He that troubleth his own house; he who bringeth trouble and misery upon himself and children, either,
1. By carelessness, slothfulness, improvidence, prodigality, or any wickedness, whereby he consumeth his estate. So this troubling of his house may be opposed to a man’s building of his house, Jeremiah 29:28. Or,
2. By covetous desires and restless endeavours to heap up riches, whereby he greatly tires and troubles both himself and all his family with excessive cares and labours, which is called coveting an evil covetousness to his house, Habakkuk 2:9.
Shall inherit the wind; shall be as unable to keep and enjoy what he gets as a man is to hold the wind in his fist, or to feed and satisfy himself with it; he shall be brought to poverty.
The fool shall be servant to the wise of heart; by which means such a troublesome fool shall through his extreme necessity be forced even to sell himself to such as are wiser.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.The fruit of the righteous, i.e. which he produceth; his discourses and his whole conversation.
Is a tree of life; is like the fruit of the tree of life; is a great preserver of his life, and a procurer of eternal life, not only to himself, but to others also.
He that winneth souls, Heb. that catcheth souls, as a fowler doth birds; that maketh it his design and business, and useth all his skill and diligence, to gain souls to God, and to pluck them out of the snare of the devil.
Is wise; showeth himself to be a truly wise and good man. But this clause is and may be rendered thus, and he that is wise (the same with the righteous in the former clause) winneth souls, or brings them to life. So this clause agrees very well with the former.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.The righteous shall be recompensed, i.e. punished for his sins, as appears from the next clause; the general word being here used of this one particular, by a synecdoche. In the earth; whereby he intimates that all his sufferings are confined to this world, which is an unspeakable felicity.
Much more, they shall be punished more certainly and more severely, either in this life or in the next,
the wicked and the sinner; those who make sin their great study, and daily and most delightful exercise. Compare this verse with 1 Peter 4:18, which is a good comment upon it.