Matthew Poole's Commentary
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.He speaks of the woman not to exclude the man, of whom this is no less true, but because the women, especially in those times, were very industrious in managing their husbands’ estates; of which see Pr 31.
Buildeth her house; maintaineth and improveth her family and estate, as this phrase is used, Exodus 1:21 2 Samuel 7:11 Psalm 127:1.
Plucketh it down with her hands; either by her idleness and not using her hands, or by her foolish and sinful courses.
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.That walketh in his uprightness; whose conversation is sincerely pious and righteous. The design of this proverb and verse is to show that God doth, and men may, judge of men’s outward professions and inward dispositions by the common course of their lives.
Despiseth him; plainly declares that he doth not fear God, but despise him, and his commands and threatenings.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.A rod of pride: their proud and insolent speeches, as they are like a rod, offensive and injurious to others, so they make a rod for their own hacks, by provoking God and man against them; which sense seems most probable, both from the opposite clause, and by comparing this place with Proverbs 10:13 26:3. For this phrase,
the rod of pride, it may be compared with other like phrases, as the foot of pride, Psalm 36:11, the scourge of the tongue, Job 5:21, and the rod of the mouth, Isaiah 11:4.
Shall preserve them, from that rod.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.The crib is clean; the barn or stable is empty of food for cattle, and much more for man, whose food is more scarce and dear. In the same sense cleanness of teeth is put for famine, Amos 4:6.
By the strength of the ox; by their labours, or by diligence in husbandry, which then was principally managed by oxen.
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.Will not lie, to wit, in common discourse and conversation, whereby he showeth his love to truth, and giveth assurance that when he is called to be a witness, he will be true and faithful.
But a false witness will utter lies; or, as the words lie in the Hebrew, and or but he that
will utter lies (that accustometh himself to lying) is or will be a false witness, when occasion requires it. Having debauched his conscience by daily lying, he is thereby prepared and disposed to false witness-bearing. Compare Proverbs 12:17.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.A scorner; a proud, self-conceited, and profane person.
Findeth it not, because he doth not seek it aright, to wit, sincerely, and earnestly, and seasonably, and in a constant and diligent use of all the means which God hath appointed to that end, and with an honest intention of employing his knowledge to the service of God, and the furtherance of his practice of religion.
Knowledge is easy unto him, is plain and easily attained by him,
that understandeth; that knoweth and is deeply sensible of his own want of knowledge, and of the great worth and necessity of knowledge, which will make him use all possible means to it, and, among other ways, pray earnestly to God for it. Or, that is honest and pious; for words of knowledge are oft understood practically, especially in this book.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.Avoid the company and conversation of ungodly men, when they break forth into foolish or wicked discourses, lest thou either be infected by them, or seem to approve of them.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way; it consists not in vain speculations, nor in a curious prying into other men’s matters, nor in cunning arts of deceiving others; but in a diligent study of his own duty, and of the way to true and eternal happiness.
The folly of fools is deceit; the wit of ungodly men, which, though they account their wisdom, is really their folly, is employed only in finding out ways of overreaching and deceiving others, and themselves too.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.Fools, wicked men, as appears from their opposition to the righteous in the next clause,
make a mock at sin; please and support themselves with their own and other men’s sins, which is a high offence and provocation to God and men. Or, as others render it, excuse or cover sin; sin against God or men, and then justify or extenuate their sins, which is to double the injury. Possibly this clause may be thus rendered, Sin deludes or makes a mock of fools, or sinners, i.e. exposeth them to shame and contempt, which is fitly opposed to favour in the next clause. And thus two ancient and learned interpreters, Aquila and Theodotion, render it. And this suits exactly with the Hebrew words, whereas in the other translation the noun and verb governed by it are of diverse numbers, which, though sometimes it be allowed, yet is not to be supposed without necessity. But this I submit to the learned and judicious.
Among the righteous, who are so far from making a mock of sin, or excusing it, that they do not allow themselves to commit it,
there is favour; they find favour both with God and men, as this very word thus generally expressed is used, Proverbs 11:27, because they make conscience of ordering their lives so that they offend neither God nor men; or if they offend either, they heartily repent of it; so far are they from excusing it, or pleasing themselves with it. Or, there is good will, as the word properly and usually is taken; they have a real love, and are ready to do all offices of kindness one to another, and therefore neither sin against others, nor rejoice in the sins of others.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.The sense of the verse is this, The inward griefs and joys of men’s hearts, though sometimes they may be guessed at by outward signs, yet are not certainly known to any but a man’s self. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:11. The scope of the parable may be to keep men from murmuring under their own troubles, or envying other men’s happiness.
A stranger, any other person without or besides a man’s self, doth not intermeddle with his joy; doth not partake of it, nor understand it.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.The house; their dwelling and family.
The tabernacle; which is a weak, and poor, and unstable thing, soon reared up, and soon taken down, and is here opposed to the large, and strong, and magnificent house of wicked men.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross and affected ignorance, or through partiality or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s will or word; all which are culpable causes of the mistake, and therefore do not excuse the error: but the event showeth that they were sinful and destructive.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.The outward signs of joy are commonly mixed with or end in real and hearty sorrow. The design of the proverb is to declare the vanity of all worldly joys and comforts, and to teach men moderation in them, and to persuade us to seek for more solid and durable joys.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.The backslider in heart; he who departeth from God and from the way of his precepts with all his heart, which implies the doing it upon deliberation, with free choice, and full purpose, and customary practice, as ungodly men commonly do, and is opposed to the slips of human frailty; for otherwise every sin is a revolt from God.
With his own ways; with the fruit of his ways or doings, the punishment of his sins.
From himself, i.e. from his ways, as appears by the opposition; from the pious temper of his own heart, which cleaveth to the Lord, when the hearts of sinners forsake him; and from the holy and righteous course of his life, from which he shall receive unspeakable comfort and satisfaction both here and hereafter to all eternity.
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.The simple, either the harmless man, or rather a foolish man, because he is opposed to the prudent, believeth every word; is easily deceived with the smooth words and fair pretences of false and deceitful men.
To his going; either,
1. To his own going, as this is generally understood; he ordereth his conversation and dealings in the world with due circumspection, not considering so much what other men say as what he ought to do. Or,
2. To the going of the deceiver, whose the word in the former clause is supposed to be. So the sense is, He judgeth of men’s words and professions by their conversation; which is a good rule,
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.Feareth; trembleth at God’s judgments, when they are either inflicted or threatened.
From evil; from sin, which is the procuring cause of all calamities.
Rageth; fretteth against God, or is enraged against his messengers who bring the threatening, or disquieteth himself in vain or, transgresseth, as this verb in its simple form and first conjugation commonly signifies; or, goeth on in sin constantly and resolutely, according to the emphasis which this conjugation commonly adds to the simple verb. And this is most fitly opposed to
departing from evil; as being
confident is opposed to fearing. Is confident; secure and insensible of his danger till God’s judgments overtake him.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.Dealeth foolishly; his passion hurries him into many rash and foolish speeches and actions.
A man of wicked devices, one who suppresseth his passion, but designeth and meditateth revenge, watching for the fittest methods and opportunities of executing it,
is hated, both by God and men, as being most deeply malicious, and like the devil, and most dangerous and pernicious to human society; whereas men that are soon angry give a man warning, and are quickly pacified, and therefore pitied and pardoned.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.Inherit folly; they possess it as their inheritance or portion, holding it fast, improving it, delighting and glorying in it. In like manner David took God’s
testimonies for his heritage, Psalm 119:111, where the word is the same; withal he may imply that folly is natural and hereditary to them.
Are crowned with knowledge; they place their honour and happiness in a sound, and practical, and saving knowledge of God, and of their own duty, and therefore earnestly pursue after it, and heartily embrace it.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.Bow before the good; giving honour to them, and supplicating their favour and help, either for supply of their wants, as being brought low for their sins, or for counsel or comfort, or for their prayers to God for them.
At the gates; as clients, and petitioners, and beggars use to wait at the doors and houses of great and potent men. The sense is, Good men shall have the pre-eminency over the wicked, ofttimes in this life, when God sees it expedient, but assuredly in the next life.
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.Is hated, i.e. despised and abandoned, as hateful persons and things are.
His own neighbour; strictly so called, who is nearest to him, either by habitation or by relation, and therefore most obliged to love and help him.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.That despiseth his neighbour; that doth not pity and relieve the poor, as this is explained in the next clause; the word neighbour being here generally taken for any man, as it is most commonly used in Scripture; which not relieving him proceeds from a contempt of his person.
Sinneth; and therefore shall be punished for his inhumanity, which is opposed to his being happy in the next clause.
That hath mercy; that showeth his compassion by his bounty and relief.
Happy is he; he doth a worthy action, and shall be blessed in his deed.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.Do they not err? they do certainly err from the right way, and mistake their mark, and shall miss of that advantage and felicity which they promise to themselves by such practices.
That devise; that do not only commit it, but make it their design, and study, and business; that are artists or masters in it, as the word signifies.
1. Mischief to men. Or,
2. Any kind of wickedness against God or men; for the expression is general; and this seems best to agree to the following clause.
Mercy and truth; either,
1. From men; men shall deal truly and kindly with them, partly because such men by their carriage obliged them to do so, and partly because God inclineth their hearts to it. Or,
2. From God, to whom these two properties are jointly ascribed in divers places of Scripture.
That devise good; that designedly and industriously apply themselves to the doing of all good offices to God and men.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.Diligent labour is the ready way to riches, but idle talking, wherein too many spend most of their precious thee, will bring a man to poverty.
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.The crown of the wise is their riches; they are a singular advantage and ornament to them, partly as they make their wisdom more regarded, when the poor man’s wisdom is despised, Ecclesiastes 9:16; and partly as they give a man great opportunity to discover and exercise his wisdom or virtue by laying out his riches to the honour and service of God, and to the great and manifold good of the world; which also highly tends to his own glory and happiness.
But the foolishness of fools is folly; but as for rich fools, for to them the general word is to be restrained from the opposite clause, their folly is not cured, but made worse and more manifest by their riches. Their riches find them fools, and leave them fools; they are not a crown, but a reproach to them, and an occasion of their greater contempt. For the phrase, we have the like in the Hebrew text, 1 Samuel 1:21. The child Samuel was a child. It is an elegant figure called antanaclasis, used in all authors.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.Delivereth souls, i.e. persons, to wit, such as are innocent, from the mischief of false accusations, by declaring the truth, which is sufficient for their vindication. Speaketh lies, to the injury and destruction of the innocent; which is easily understood out of the former clause, and from the practice of false witnesses.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.Strong confidence; a sure ground of confidence; or a strong refuge, as the next clause explains it.
His children; either,
1. God’s children. Or,
2. The children of them that fear God, who are sufficiently understood out of the former clause.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.To preserve men from deadly and destructive courses.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.Is the king’s honour, because it is an evidence of his wise and good government. Under honour he here comprehends also strength and safety, (as appears from the opposite clause,) which depend much upon a prince’s reputation. And honour may be here put for strength, as strength is put for honour or glory, Psalm 8:2 29:1 96:7.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.Is of great understanding; showeth great and true wisdom in conquering his sinful and shameful passions.
Exalteth, Heb. lifteth up, like a banner; makes it known and visible to all men.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.A sound heart; free from envy and such-like inordinate passions, which are commonly called the diseases of the soul, not only in sacred, but even in heathen writers. Or, as others render it, a healing heart; mild, and merciful, and kind to others, which is opposed to envy.
Is the life of the flesh; procureth and maintaineth the health and rigour of the whole body. But envy the rottenness of the bones; it wasteth the spirits, and consumeth even the strongest and most inward parts of the body.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.He that oppresseth the poor; that useth him hardly, as the Syriac renders it; that withholdeth from him that which is his due, either by the rules of strict justice, or by the great law of charity, of which see Proverbs 3:27, and so it is opposed to having mercy in the next clause.
Reproacheth his Maker; whose image the poor man bears, which might challenge respect, Job 31:15; by whose counsel and providence he is made poor, 1 Samuel 2:7 Proverbs 22:2, and who hath declared himself to be their protector and avenger.
He that honoureth him, his image, and works, and laws,
hath mercy on the poor; doth not only forbear oppressing or injuring of him, but affords him his pity and help.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.Driven away, to wit, in his death, as is gathered from the opposite clause; driven away from God’s favour and presence, and from the society of the just, and from all his hopes of happiness, both in this life and in the next. This expression notes that this is done suddenly, violently, and irresistibly, as the smoke or chaff are driven away by a strong wind.
In his wickedness, or, for his wickedness, Heb. in his evil, which may be understood of the evil of punishment; in the day of his calamity, when he shall flee to God for help.
Hath hope of deliverance from it, or of great and everlasting advantage by it.
In his death; in his greatest dangers and distresses, yea, even in death itself, which therefore he can receive with comfort and confidence.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.Resteth; is laid up and hid there, and not vainly nor rashly uttered by him, but only upon necessary or fit occasions.
In the midst, i.e. in the heart, which is expressed by this very word, Psalm 64:6, and elsewhere. That folly which is there instead of wisdom; or, that small degree of wisdom or knowledge which they have.
Is made known; they will publish it in all times and companies, without any consideration or discretion.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.Exalteth a nation; maketh it honourable in the eyes of God, and of all other nations, as it did the ancient Romans.
A reproach to any people; brings contempt and ruin upon them by provoking both God and men against them.
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.Both to himself, by his foolish management of the king’s affairs committed to him; and to the king, who made so foolish a choice of a servant.