Proverbs 14:10
The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy.
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(10) The heart knoweth his own bitterness . . .—None Can perfectly sympathise with the sorrows or joys of others, except the ideal Son of Man, who came to “bear our griefs and carry our sorrows” (comp. Hebrews 4:15), yet could join in the marriage feast at Cana.

Proverbs 14:10. The heart knoweth its own bitterness — The inward griefs and joys of men’s hearts, though sometimes they may be partly manifested by outward signs, yet are not certainly and fully known to any but the persons themselves who are the subjects of them; or, as Bishop Patrick paraphrases the verse, “Nobody can know what another suffers so well as the sufferer himself; and he alone is privy to the greatness of that joy which springs from the happy conclusion of his sufferings.” The scope of the proverb may be, to keep men from murmuring under their own troubles, or envying other men’s happiness.14:1 A woman who has no fear of God, who is wilful and wasteful, and indulges her ease, will as certainly ruin her family, as if she plucked her house down. 2. Here are grace and sin in their true colours. Those that despise God's precepts and promises, despise God and all his power and mercy. 3. Pride grows from that root of bitterness which is in the heart. The root must be plucked up, or we cannot conquer this branch. The prudent words of wise men get them out of difficulties. 4. There can be no advantage without something which, though of little moment, will affright the indolent. 5. A conscientious witness will not dare to represent anything otherwise than according to his knowledge. 6. A scorner treats Divine things with contempt. He that feels his ignorance and unworthiness will search the Scriptures in a humble spirit. 7. We discover a wicked man if there is no savour of piety in his discourse. 8. We are travellers, whose concern is, not to spy out wonders, but to get to their journey's end; to understand the rules we are to walk by, also the ends we are to walk toward. The bad man cheats himself, and goes on in his mistake. 9. Foolish and profane men consider sin a mere trifle, to be made light of rather than mourned over. Fools mock at the sin-offering; but those that make light of sin, make light of Christ. 10. We do not know what stings of conscience, or consuming passions, torment the prosperous sinner. Nor does the world know the peace of mind a serious Christian enjoys, even in poverty and sickness. 11. Sin ruins many great families; whilst righteousness often raises and strengthens even mean families. 12. The ways of carelessness, of worldliness, and of sensuality, seem right to those that walk in them; but self-deceivers prove self-destroyers. See the vanity of carnal mirth. 14. Of all sinners backsliders will have the most terror when they reflect on their own ways. 15. Eager readiness to believe what others say, has ever proved mischievous. The whole world was thus ruined at first. The man who is spiritually wise, depends on the Saviour alone for acceptance. He is watchful against the enemies of his salvation, by taking heed to God's word. 16. Holy fear guards against every thing unholy. 17. An angry man is to be pitied as well as blamed; but the revengeful is more hateful.A striking expression of the ultimate solitude of each man's soul at all times, and not merely at the hour of death. Something there is in every sorrow, and in every joy, which no one else can share. Beyond that range it is well to remember that there is a Divine Sympathy, uniting perfect knowledge and perfect love. 10. Each one best knows his own sorrows or joys. 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 heart knoweth his own bitterness,.... Or "the bitterness of his soul" (l), the distress of his conscience, the anguish of his mind; the heart of man only knows the whole of it; something of it may be known to others by his looks, his words, and gestures, but not all of it; see 1 Corinthians 2:10; bitterness of soul often arises from outward troubles, pains, and diseases of body, losses, crosses, and disappointments, 1 Samuel 1:10. Sometimes it is upon spiritual accounts; but this is not the case of every heart; men may be in the gall of bitterness, and have no bitterness of soul on account of it; the sensualist and voluptuous worldling feels nothing of it, nor the hardened and hardhearted sinner; only such who are awakened and convinced by the Spirit of God; to these, as sin is a bitter thing in itself, it is so to their taste; it makes hitter work for repentance in them; it brings trembling and astonishment on them; fills them with shame and confusion of face, causes self-loathing and abhorrence, and severe reflections upon themselves; seeing sin in its own colours, they are cut to the heart and killed with it; they are pressed down with the guilt of sin, and the load of it; and, having no views of pardon, are in that distress and bitterness of soul which no tongue can express nor heart conceive but what has felt the same;

and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy; or "mingle himself with it" (m); he does not share in it or partake of it; this is more especially true of spiritual joy, which, as it is unspeakable to the man that possesses it, it passes the understanding of a natural man; he can form no true idea of it: spiritual joy is what a sensible sinner partakes of upon the Gospel, the joyful sound of salvation, reaching his ears and his heart, at the revelation of Christ in him and to him, as a Saviour; when an application of pardoning grace is made to his soul, and he has a view of the complete righteousness of Christ, and his interest in it, and can see all his sins expiated and stoned for by his sacrifice; when he is favoured with a sight of the fulness of grace in Christ, and of the spiritual and eternal salvation he has wrought out for him; and likewise when he is indulged with a visit from him, and enjoys communion with him; and when he has a glimpse of eternal glory, and a well grounded hope of right unto it, and meetness for it: now a stranger, one that is a stranger to God and godliness, to Christ and the way of salvation by him, to the Spirit and his work of grace upon the heart, to the Gospel and the doctrines of it, to his own heart and the plague of it, to the saints and communion with them; knows nothing at all of the above joy, nor can he interrupt it, nor take it away.

(l) "amaritudine animae suae", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis. (m) "non immiscet se", Michaelis, so Tigurine version; "non miscebit sese", Baynus; "non intermiscet se", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

The heart knoweth its own {g} bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy.

(g) As a man's conscience is witness to his own grief, so another cannot feel the joy and comfort which a man feels in himself.

10. The poet of the Christian Year has caught something of the beauty and pathos of this proverb as he writes:

“Each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe

Our hermit spirits dwell and range apart.”

“Nor e’en the tenderest heart, and next our own,

Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh”;

and Matthew Arnold (quoted by Horton):

“Yes! in the sea of life enisled,

With echoing straits between us thrown,

Dotting the shoreless watery waste,

We mortal millions live alone.

The islands feel the enclasping flow,

And then their endless bounds they know.”

It is worth quoting, if only as a foil to it, the prosaic apothegm, “None knows the weight of another’s burden,” Geo. Herbert, Jac. Prud.Verse 10. - The heart knoweth its own bitterness; literally, the heart (leb) knoweth the bitterness of his soul (nephesh). Neither our joys nor our sorrows can be wholly shared with another; no person stands in such intimate relation to us, or can put himself so entirely in our place, as to feel that which we feel. There is many a dark spot, many a grief, of which our best friend knows nothing; the skeleton is locked in the cupboard, and no one has the key but ourselves. But we can turn with confidence to the God-Man, Jesus, who knows our frame, who wept human tears, and bore our sorrows, and was in all points tempted like as we are, and who has taken his human experience with him into heaven. A stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy. The contrast is between the heart's sorrow and its joy; both alike in their entirety are beyond the ken of strangers. St. Gregory remarks on this passage ('Moral.,' 6:23), "The human mind 'knoweth its own soul's bitterness' when, inflamed with aspirations after the eternal land, it learns by weeping the sorrowfulness of its pilgrimage. But 'the stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy,' in that he, that is now a stranger to the grief of compunction, is not then a partaker in the joy of consolation." A homely proverb says, "No one knows where the shoe pinches so well as he that wears it;" and an Italian maxim runs, "Ad ognuno par piu grave la croce sua" - "To every one his own cross seems heaviest." Septuagint, "The heart of man is sensitive (αἰσθητική), his soul is sorrowful; but when it rejoices, it has no intermingling of insolence;" i.e. when a man's mind is sensitive it is easily depressed by grief; but when it is elated by joy, it should receive its pleasure and relief without arrogance and ribaldry. The switch and the preserving, Proverbs 14:3, may have given occasion to the collector, amid the store of proverbs before him, now to present the agricultural figure:

Without oxen the crib is empty;

But rich increase is by the strength of the plough-ox.

This is a commendation of the breeding of cattle, but standing here certainly not merely as useful knowledge, but as an admonition to the treatment in a careful, gentle manner, and with thankful recompense of the ox (Proverbs 12:10), which God has subjected to man to help him in his labour, and more generally, in so far as one seeks to gain an object, to the considerate adoption of the right means for gaining it. אלפים (from אלף, to cling to) are the cattle giving themselves willingly to the service of men (poet. equivalent to בּקרים). שׁור (תּור, Arab. thwr), Ved. sthûras, is the Aryan-Semitic name of the plough-ox. The noun אבוּס ( equals אבוּס like אטוּן, אמוּן) denotes the fodder-trough, from אבס, to feed, and thus perhaps as to its root-meaning related to φάτνη (πάτνη), and may thus also designate the receptacle for grain where the corn for the provender or feeding of the cattle is preserved - מאבוּס, Jeremiah 50:26, at least has this wider signification of the granary; but there exists no reason to depart here from the nearest signification of the word: if a husbandman is not thoughtful about the care and support of the cattle by which he is assisted in his labour, then the crib is empty - he has nothing to heap up; he needs not only fodder, but has also nothing. בּר (in pause בּר), clean (synon. נקי, cf. at Proverbs 11:26), corresponds with our baar [bare] equals bloss [nudus]. Its derivation is obscure. The בּ, 4b, is that of the mediating cause: by the strength of the plough-ox there is a fulness of grain gathered into the barn (תּבוּאות, from בּוא, to gather in, anything gathered in). רב־ is the inverted בּר. Striking if also accidental is the frequency of the א and ב in Proverbs 14:4. This is continued in Proverbs 14:5, where the collector gives two proverbs, the first of which commences with a word beginning with א, and the second with one beginning with ב:

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