In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tends only to penury.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 14:23. In all labour there is profit, &c. — Diligent labour is the ready way to riches; but idle talking, wherein too many spend most of their precious time, will bring a man to poverty. Houbigant renders the verse, All labour will produce abundance, but garrulity nothing but want.
“Solomon here,” says Lord Bacon, as quoted by Bishop Patrick, “separates the fruit of the labour of the tongue, and of the labour of the hands; as if want was the revenue of the one, and wealth the revenue of the other. For it commonly comes to pass that they who talk liberally, boast much, and promise mighty matters, are beggars, and receive no benefit by their brags, or by any thing they discourse of. Nay, rather, for the most part, such men are not industrious and diligent in their employment; but only feed and fill themselves with words as with wind.”
talk … penury—idle and vain promises and plans.
but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury; or "want" (w), of food and raiment, the common necessaries of life; a man that spends his time in idle talk, boasting of what he can do and does, and yet does nothing, is in a fair way to come to beggary: so all talk about wisdom, and knowledge, and religion, without making use of the proper means of improvement, tends to the poverty of the mind; and generally they are most empty of knowledge, natural or spiritual, that talk and brag most of it; empty casks make the greatest sound; good discourse, wholesome words, sound doctrine, thoroughly digested, tend indeed to edification, to the enriching of the mind; but vain words, the enticing words of men's wisdom; logomachies, striving about words to no profit; and all great swelling words of vanity, which are all mere lip labour; they tend to spiritual poverty and leanness of soul.In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 23. - In all labour there is profit. All honest industry has a reward, and all care and pain borne for a good object bring comfort and content (comp. Proverbs 10:22). So the Greek distich says -
Ἅπαντα τὰ καλὰ τοῦ πονοῦντος γίγνεται
"To him who labours all fair things belong." In contrast to the diligent are those who talk much and do nothing. But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (Proverbs 21:5). Those who work much get profit; those who talk much and do little come to want. So in spiritual matters Christ teaches that they who think that prayer is heard for much speaking are mistaken; and he adds, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 6:7; Matthew 7:21). Septuagint, "In every one who taketh thought (μεριμνῶντι) there is abundance; he who liveth pleasantly and without pain shall be in want." Cato, 'Dist.,' 1:10 -
"Contra verbosos noli contendere verbis:
Sermo datus cunctis, animi sapientia paucis."
"Against the wordy strive not thou in words;
Converse with all, but to the favoured few
Impart thy heart's deep wisdom." Oriental proverbs: "Sweet words, empty bands;" "To speak of honey will not make the mouth sweet;" "We do not cook rice by babbling" (Lane). Turkish, "The language of actions is more eloquent than the language of words."
One who is quick to anger worketh folly,
And a man of intrigues is hated.
Ewald finds here no right contrast. He understands אישׁ מזמּה in a good sense, and accordingly corrects the text, substituting for ישׂנא, ישׁוּא (ישׁוּא), for he translates: but the man of consideration bears (properly smooths, viz., his soul). On the other hand it is also to be remarked, that אישׁ מזמה, when it occurs, is not to be understood necessarily in a good sense, since מזמה is used just like מזמות, at one time in a good and at another in a bad sense, and that we willingly miss the "most complete sense" thus arising, since the proverb, as it stands in the Masoretic text, is good Hebrew, and needs only to be rightly understood to let nothing be missed in completeness. The contrast, as Ewald seeks here to represent it (also Hitzig, who proposes ישׁאן: the man of consideration remains quiet; Syr. ramys, circumspect), we have in Proverbs 14:29, where the μακρόθυμος stands over against the ὀξύθυμος (אף or אפּים of the breathing of anger through the nose, cf. Theocritus, i.:18: καὶ οἱ ἀεὶ δριμεῖα χολὰ ποτὶ ῥινὶ κάθηται). Here the contrast is different: to the man who is quick to anger, who suddenly gives expression to his anger and displeasure, stands opposed the man of intrigues, who contrives secret vengeance against those with whom he is angry. Such a deceitful man, who contrives evil with calculating forethought and executes it in cold blood (cf. Psalm 37:7), is hated; while on the contrary the noisy lets himself rush forward to inconsiderate, mad actions, but is not hated on that account; but if in his folly he injures or disgraces himself, or is derided, or if he even does injury to the body and the life of another, and afterwards with terror sees the evil done in its true light, then he is an object of compassion. Theodotion rightly: (ἀνὴρ δὲ) διαβουλιῶν μισηθήσεται, and Jerome: vir versutus odiosus est (not the Venet. ἀνὴρ βδελυγμῶν, for this signification has only זמּה, and that in the sing.); on the contrary, the lxx, Syr., Targum, and Symmachus incorrectly understand איש מזמות in bonam partem.
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