Matthew Poole's Commentary
These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.PROVERBS Chapters 25
Observations about kings, Proverbs 25:1-7. A caution against contentions, Proverbs 25:8; against revealing of secrets, Proverbs 25:9. The reason of this caution, Proverbs 25:10; with divers other rules, Proverbs 25:11-28.
These, which are contained in this and the following chapters.
The men of Hezekiah; certain persons appointed by Hezekiah for that work, whether prophets, as Isaiah, Hosea, or Micah, who lived in his days, or some others, it is neither evident nor material. Most of them are political precepts, and such as in a special manner concerned Hezekiah and other princes to know, for the conduct of their house and kingdom.
Copied out; either out of other books or writings of Solomon, concerning natural or civil things, of which we read 1 Kings 4:32; or out of the historical records which were then extant concerning Solomon’s speeches and actions in the history of the kings of Judah, which is oft mentioned in Holy Scripture.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.It is the glory of God; it is agreeable to the nature and highly conducing to the honour of God, because it is a testimony of his infinite wisdom and knowledge, of his absolute power and sovereignty, and of his other incomprehensible perfections.
To conceal a thing; to keep his counsels and the reasons of his actions in his own breast, that he needs not to impart them to any other for their advice and assistance, as being self-sufficient both for the contrivance and execution of whatsoever pleaseth him, and accountable to none for any of his matters.
But the honour of kings is; but kings must not affect to be like God in this respect, because they are creatures, and therefore ignorant and insufficient, and accountable to a higher authority;
to search out a matter; in the conduct of their great affairs, not to lean to their own understandings, nor to be wedded to their own wills, but to communicate their counsels to others, that so they may search and find out the true and right way, and to be ready to give a satisfactory account of the justice and reasonableness of them, as occasion shall require.
The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.The heaven for height, and the earth for depth; as no man upon earth can exactly discover the height of heaven, or the depth of earth, or discern what is contained in them.
The heart of kings is unsearchable; though wise kings will search out other men and things, yet their inward thoughts and purposes are hardly discoverable, partly because every man’s heart lies out of the sight of others, and partly because it is the practice of kings industriously to conceal their intentions.
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.Then, and not till then, it is fit for that use.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.From before the king; from his court and councils.
Shall be established, by removing them who by their wicked counsels and practices provoked God’s displeasure against the king, and blasted his reputation, and alienated the hearts of his people from him.
Established in righteousness, by such impartial execution of justice.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:Put not forth thyself, Heb. Do not magnify or glorify thyself, by vaunting speech or carriage, but, which is implied, carry thyself humbly and modestly, which is most pleasing to kings, and most becoming and safe for them.
Stand not in the place of great men; do not affect nor use frequent and familiar society with greater persons than thyself, whereby thou mayst easily involve thyself in much guilt, and expose thyself to envy or contempt, and to many other inconveniences.
For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.For better it is, it is more for thy credit and comfort,
that it be said unto thee, by some public officer, or by the king himself. Whom thine eyes have seen; into whose presence and acquaintance thou hast so boldly intruded thyself, who as before he observed thy impudence, so now he sees and suffers this public disgrace to be cast upon thee.
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.Go not forth hastily, without necessary cause and due consideration, to strive, either judicially or otherwise.
Put thee to shame, for thy folly in undertaking what thou wast not able to accomplish, and for thy injustice in charging him wrongfully.
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; if thou hast any quarrel with him, first try to compose it by private discourse with him. Compare Matthew 5:25 18:15 Luke 12:58.
Discover not a secret; any secret. Let no heat of contention provoke thee to divulge any of his secret counsels committed to thy trust, or to reproach him with any of his secret faults, as is usual in lawsuits and other contentions. Or, the secret; any secret difference between thee and him, which therefore is fittest to be ended secretly between you, and not to be imparted to any other.
Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.Put thee to shame; reproach thee for thy gross violation of the laws of prudence, and justice, and charity, and friendship therein.
And thine infamy turn not away; and that disgrace which thou didst design against another fall and be fastened upon thyself.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.A word fitly spoken, for the matter, and season, and other circumstances of it,
is like apples of gold in pictures of silver, which it seems was usual in those times, and was grateful to the eye for the beauty and variety both of the colours and figures, the golden apples appearing through net-work of silver, or being engraven or portrayed upon tablets of silver.
As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold; highly acceptable, and a great ornament, and not an offence and dishonour, as fools esteem it;
so is a wise reprover, that reproves an offender faithfully; yet prudently, in the fittest manner and season.
Upon an obedient ear; to a man that hearkens to it, and is instructed and reformed by it.
As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.As the cold of snow; either,
1. As drink cooled with ice or snow, as was and is usual in hot countries. Or,
2. As a cool air, such as is in snowy seasons. Or,
3. As drink which is as cold as snow.
He refresheth the soul of his masters, with a true account and speedy despatch of those important affairs which were committed to him.
Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift, pretending that he hath given, or promising that he will give, a man those gifts, which he neither hath given, nor intendeth to give him,
is like clouds and wind without rain; like empty clouds carried about with wind, and not affording that rain which by their appearance they promise.
By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.By long forbearing, by patient submission and expectation,
is a prince persuaded, or pacified, whereas his rage is increased by opposition. Compare Ecclesiastes 10:4.
A soft tongue, a mild and humble answer,
breaketh the bone; softeneth a heart which is as hard as bone or stone. He alludes to those oils which sink through the flesh to the very bone. See Psalm 109:18.
Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.Honey in those parts was oft found in woods or fields, as Judges 14:8, &c.; 1 Samuel 14:25. By honey he understands, not only all delicious meats, but all present and worldly delights, which we are here taught to use with moderation. Honey excessively taken disposeth a man to vomiting.
Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house, visit him not too frequently nor unseasonably, lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee, as men are apt to loathe those meats of which they surfeit, as was now observed, Proverbs 25:16.
A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.Is as cruel and pernicious to him as any instrument of death. The design of the proverb is to show the wickedness of slander, and that a false witness is in some respect as bad as a murderer.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.It is not only deceitful, but hurtful, as a broken tooth though it make show of helping, yet is not only unhelpful to a man for chewing his meat, but also troublesome and painful; and as a foot out of joint doth not help, but hinder and pain, him that attempts to walk upon it.
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.In cold weather, when it is most seasonable and necessary.
As vinegar upon nitre, which dissolves the nitre, and makes it useless and ineffectual.
So is he, he is no less absurd and impertinent,
that singeth songs to an heavy heart; whose grief is not relieved, but increased by it, as common experience showeth, and divers learned authors have observed.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:By bread and water he understands all things necessary for his subsistence.
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.For, understand, in so doing, which words are expressed Romans 12:20, where this text is quoted,
thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head; either,
1. In a bad sense, thou shalt hereby aggravate his sin, and occasion a more speedy and grievous vengeance from God, which, like fire from heaven, shall fall upon his head and consume him. Not that he persuades him to do a kindness with an evil intent, with an expectation, or desire, or design of bringing God’s wrath upon him; but only he foretells what would happen, and dissuades him from taking vengeance, and provokes him to kindness instead of it, because vengeance is God’s peculiar work, which he will certainly inflict upon such persons; which argument is used to that very purpose by St. Paul, Romans 12:19. Or,
2. In a good sense, thou shalt melt him into repentance, and inflame him with love and kindness to thee for so unexpected and undeserved a favour; he shall be as heartily grieved and tormented with the thoughts of his vile and wicked carriage to thee, as a man would be that had burning coals of fire heaped upon his head. But if these coals of fire do not melt him, but still he hardens his heart against thee, they will consume him. Thus either by the one or by the other way thou shalt be secured and delivered from him. The metaphor may seem to be taken from founders, who melt the hardest metals by heaping coals of fire upon them. And the head may be here mentioned rather than any other part, because in Scripture phrase both blessings and curses are said to fall upon men’s heads, i.e. upon them, heads being frequently put for persons.
The Lord shall reward thee; thy charity to him shall be fully recompensed to thee, if not by him, yet by God, which is far better.
The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.An angry countenance in the hearer, who by his countenance showeth his dislike of such persons and practices.
A backbiting tongue, Heb. a secret tongue, which privily slandereth his neighbour, as it is expressed, Psalm 101:5, and as the manner of backbiters is. But this verse is otherwise rendered in the margin, and by divers others, the north wind bringeth forth (as this verb properly and most frequently signifies, and as it is rendered by all the ancient interpreters, and by many others) rain (which it doth in Judea, because the sea lies northward as well as westward from it, as also in Africa, as Aristotle observes, though it drive away rain in countries of another situation):
so doth a backbiting tongue (cause)
an angry countenance; it causeth much anger and mischief; both to the person slandered, and to the slanderer, and to other persons who may be concerned with or for either of them, as is manifest from common experience.
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.No text from Poole on this verse.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.Because it comes thither more rarely and difficultly after it hath been long expected and earnestly desired; all which circumstances make it more acceptable.
A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.Falling down; either,
1. Into sin. So the sense is, When a just man is either allured or terrified into any sinful practice before wicked men, or into any base and servile compliance with their lusts, he who by his excellent counsels was like a fountain or well of life, as his mouth is called, Proverbs 10:11, sending forth refreshing streams for the benefit of many, is now corrupted and rendered unserviceable. Or rather,
2. Into misery, of which kind of falling this word is constantly used, and never to my remembrance of falling into sin. And so the sense is this, When righteous men are oppressed and devoured by the wicked, the state of that commonwealth is as deplorable, as if the public fountains, from whence all the people fetch their water, were corrupted, and it is a sign that the fountains of justice are poisoned.
It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.Not good, to wit, for the health of the body.
For men; which words are easily understood, both out of the foregoing clause, where the honey is supposed to be eaten by men, and out of the following words, which are evidently meant of them.
To search their own glory; industriously to seek for honour and applause from men.
Is not glory; is not only sinful, but shameful also, and a sign of a vain and mean spirit. The negative particle not is here understood out of the former part of the verse, as it is Psalm 1:5 9:18.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.Over his own spirit; over his passions, and especially his anger, Which is signified by this word, Proverbs 16:2 Ecclesiastes 10:4.
Is like a city that is broken down, and without walls; exposeth himself to manifold dangers and mischiefs.