Proverbs 14:9
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favor.
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(9) Fools make a mock at sin.—Rather, perhaps, sin mocks fools (they miss the gratification they expected from it); or, the sin-offering mocks them. God does not accept it, and so they have the trouble and cost of offering it for nothing; “but among the upright there is favour.” God is well pleased with them.



Proverbs 14:9

The wisdom of this Book of Proverbs is not simply intellectual, but it has its roots in reverence and obedience to God, and for its accompaniment, righteousness. The wise man is the good man, and the good man is the godly man. And as is wisdom, so its opposite, folly, is not only intellectual feebleness-the bad man is a fool, and the godless is a bad man. The greatest amount of brain-power cultivated to the highest degree does not make a man wise, and about many a student and thinker God pronounces the sentence ‘Thou fool!’

That does not mean that all sin is ignorance, as we sometimes hear it said with a great show of tolerant profundity. There is some ignorance in all sin, but the essence of sin is the aversion of the will from a law and from a Person, not the defect of the understanding. So far from all sin being but ignorance, and therefore blameless, there is no sin without knowledge, and the measure of ignorance is the measure of blamelessness; unless the ignorance be itself, as it often is, criminal. Ignorance is one thing, folly is another.

One more remark by way of introduction must be made on the language of our text. The margin of the Revised Version correctly turns it completely round, and for ‘the foolish make a mock at guilt,’ would read, ‘guilt mocketh at the foolish.’ In the original the verb in our text is in the singular, and the only singular noun to go with it is ‘guilt.’ The thought then here is, that sin tempts men into its clutches, and then gibes and taunts them. It is a solemn and painful subject, but perhaps this text rightly pondered may help to save some of us from hearing the mocking laugh which echoes through the empty chambers of many an empty soul.

I. Sin mocks us by its broken promises.

The object immediately sought by any wrong act may be attained. In sins of sense, the appetite is gratified; in other sins, the desire that urged to them attains its end. But what then? The temptation lay in the imagination that, the wrong thing being done, an inward good would result, and it does not; for even if the immediate object be secured, other results, all unforeseen, force themselves on us which spoil the hoped for good. The sickle cuts down tares as well as wheat, and the reaper’s hands are filled with poisonous growths as well as with corn. There is a revulsion of feeling from the thing that before the sin was done attracted. The hideous story of the sin of David’s son, Amnon, puts in ugliest shape the universal experience of men who are tempted to sin and are victims of the revulsion that follows-He ‘hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.’ Conscience, which was overpowered and unheard amid the loud cries of desire, speaks. We find out the narrow limits of satisfaction. The satisfied appetite has no further driving power, but lies down to sleep off its debauch, and ceases to be a factor for the time. Inward discord, the schism between duty and inclination, sets up strife in the very sanctuary of the soul. We are dimly conscious of the evil done as robbing us of power to do right. We cannot pray, and would be glad to forget God. And a self thus racked, impoverished, and weakened, is what a man gains by the sin that promised him so much and hid so much from him.

Or if these consequences are in any measure silenced and stifled, a still more melancholy mockery betrays him, in the continuance of the illusion that he is happy and all is well, when all the while he is driving headlong to destruction. Many a man orders his life so that it is like a ship that sails with huzzas and bedizened with flags while a favouring breeze fills its sails, but comes back to port battered and all but waterlogged, with its canvas ‘lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind.’ It is always a mistake to try to buy happiness by doing wrong. The price is rigorously demanded, but the quid pro quo is not given, or if it seems to be so, there is something else given too, which takes all the savour out of the composite whole. The ‘Folly’ of the earlier half of this book woos men by her sweet invitations, and promises the sweetness of stolen waters and the pleasantness of bread eaten in secret, but she hides the fact, which the listener to her seducing voice has to find out for himself after he has drunk of the stolen waters and tasted the maddening pleasantness of her bread eaten in secret, that ‘her guests are in the depths of Sheol.’ The temptations that seek to win us to do wrong and dazzle us by fair visions are but ‘juggling fiends that keep the word of promise to the ear, and break it to the hope.’

II. Sin mocks fools by making them its slaves.

There is not only a revulsion of feeling from the evil thing done that was so tempting before, but there is a dreadful change in the voice of the temptress. Before her victim had done the sin, she whispered hints of how little a thing it was. ‘Don’t make such a mountain of a molehill. It is a very small matter. You can easily give it up when you like.’ But when the deed is done, then her mocking laugh rings out, ‘I have got you now and you cannot get away.’ The prey is seduced into the trap by a carefully prepared bait, and as soon as its hesitating foot steps on to the slippery floor, down falls the door and escape is impossible, We are tempted to sin by the delusion that we are shaking off restraints that fetter our manhood, and that it is spirited to do as we like, and as soon as we have sinned we discover that we were pleasing not ourselves but a taskmaster, and that while the voice said, ‘Show yourself a man, beyond these petty, old-fashioned maxims’; the meaning of it was, ‘Become my slave.’

Sin grows in accordance with an awful necessity, so that it is never in a sinner’s power to promise himself ‘It is only this one time that I will do the wrong thing. Let me have one lapse and I will abjure the evil for ever after.’ We have to reckon with the tremendous power of habit, and to bethink ourselves that a man may never commit a given sin, but that if he has committed it once, it is all but impossible that he will stop there. The incline is too slippery and the ice too smooth to risk a foot on it. Habit dominates, outward circumstances press, there springs up a need for repeating the draught, and for its being more highly spiced. Sin begets sin as fast as the green flies which infest rose-bushes. One has heard of slavers on the African coast speaking fair, and tempting them on board by wonderful promises, but once the poor creatures are in the ship, then on with the hatches and, if need be, the chains.

III. Sin mocks fools by unforeseen consequences.

These are carefully concealed or madly disregarded, while we are in the stage of merely being tempted, but when we have done the evil, they are unmasked, like a battery against a detachment that has been trapped. The previous denial that anything will come of the sin, and the subsequent proclamation that this ugly issue has come of it, are both parts of sin’s mockery, and one knows not which is the more fiendish, the laugh with which she promises impunity or that with which she tells of the certainty of retribution. We may be mocked, but ‘God is not mocked. Whatever a man soweth, that’-and not some other growth-’shall he also reap.’ We dwell in an all-related order of things, in which no act but has its appropriate consequences, and in which it is only fools who say to themselves, ‘I did not think it would matter much.’ Each act of ours is at once sowing and reaping; a sowing, inasmuch as it sets in motion a train the issues of which may not be realised by us till the act has long been forgotten; a reaping, inasmuch as what we are and do to-day is the product of what we were and did in a forgotten past. We are what we are, because we were long ago what we were. As in these composite photographs, which are produced by laying one individual likeness on another, our present selves have our past selves preserved in them. We do not need to bring in a divine Judge into human life in order to be sure that, by the play of the natural laws of cause and effect, ‘every transgression and disobedience receives its just recompense of reward.’ Given the world as it is, and the continuous identity of a man, and you have all that is needed for an Iliad of woes flowing from every life that makes terms with sin. If we gather into one dismal pile the weakening of power for good, the strengthening of impulses to evil, the inward poverty, the unrest, the gnawings of conscience or its silence, the slavery under evil often loathed even while it is being obeyed, the dreary sense of inability to mend oneself, and often the wreck of outward life which dog our sins like sleuth-hounds, surely we shall not need to imagine a future tribunal in order to be sure that sin is a murderess, or to hear her laugh as she mocks her helpless victims.

But as surely as there are in this present world experiences which must be regarded as consequences of sin, so surely do they all assume a more dreadful character and take on the office of prophets of a future. If man lives beyond the grave, there is nothing to suggest that he will there put off character as he puts off the bodily life. He will be there what he has made himself here. Only he will be so more intensely, more completely. The judgments of earth foretell and foreshadow a judgment beyond earth.

There is but one more word that I would say, and it is this. Jesus has come to set the captives of sin free from its mockery, its tyranny, its worst consequences. He breaks the power of past evil to domineer over us. He gives us a new life within, which has no heritage of evil to pervert it, no memories of evil to discourage it, no bias towards evil to lead it astray. As for the sins that we have done, He is ready to forgive, to seal to us God’s forgiveness, and to take from our own self-condemnation all its bitterness and much of its hopelessness. For the past, His blood has taken away its guilt and power. For the future it sets us free from the mockery of our sin, and assures us of a future which will not be weakened or pained by remembrances of a sinful past. Sin mocks at fools, but they who have Christ for their Redeemer, their Righteousness, and their Life can smile at her impotent rage, and mock at her and her impotent attempts to terrify them and assert her lost power with vain threats.Proverbs 14:9. Fools make a mock at sin — Wicked men, here meant by fools, please and divert themselves with their own and other men’s sins, which is a high offence to God and all good men. Or, as others render the clause, excuse, or cover sin; they sin against God or men, and then justify or extenuate their sins, which is to double the iniquity. Possibly the Hebrew of this clause, אולים יליצ אשׁם, may be rendered, Sin deludes, or makes a mock of, fools, or sinners; that is, exposes them to shame and contempt, which is fitly opposed to favour, in the next clause. This translation suits exactly with the Hebrew words, and is adopted by two ancient and learned interpreters, Aquila and Theodotion. But among the righteous — Who are so far from making a mock at sin, or excusing it, that they do not allow themselves to commit it; there is favour — They find favour with God and men, because they make conscience of ordering their lives so that they may offend neither. Or, there is good-will, as the word רצןis properly and usually understood: they have a real love to one another, and are ready to perform to each other all offices of kindness; and therefore they neither willingly sin against others, nor rejoice in the sins of others.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.Fools make a mock - The verb in the Heb. is singular, the noun plural. The King James Version assumes that the number is altered to individualize the application of the maxim. Others translate it: "Sin mocks the fools who are its victims," i. e., disappoints and ruins them; or, "A sin-offering does but mock the worshippers when they are willfully wicked:" they expect to gain God's favor, and do not gain it. So taken it becomes parallel to Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:7. 9. Fools make a mock at sin—or, "Sin deludes fools."

righteous … favour—that is, of God, instead of the punishment of sin.

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. Fools make a mock at sin,.... At sinful actions, their own or others; they make light of them, a jest of them, call evil good, and good evil; take pleasure in doing them themselves, and in those that do them; yea, sport themselves with the mischief that arises from them unto others; they make a mock at reproofs for them, and scoff at those that instruct and rebuke them; and laugh at a future state, and an awful judgment they are warned of, and in a scoffing manner say, "where is the promise of his coming?" Some, as Aben Ezra observes, render it "a sin offering"; and interpret it of the sin offerings and sacrifices under the law, as derided by wicked men; but may be better applied to the sin offering or sacrifice of Christ, who made his soul an offering for sin, to make satisfaction and atonement for the sins of his people; this is mocked at by false teachers, who deny it; and is exposed to derision and contempt by the Papists, by their bloodless sacrifice of the mass, and by their merits and works of supererogation, which they prefer to the sacrifice and satisfaction of Christ. The words may be rendered, "sin makes a mock of fools" (h); it deceives them, it promises them pleasure, or profit, or honour, but gives them neither, but all the reverse;

but among the righteous there is favour: they enjoy the favour of God and man; or "there is good will" (i), good will towards men; they are so far from making a mock at sin, and taking delight in the mischief that comes by it to others, that they are willing to do all good offices unto men, and by love to serve their friends and neighbours: or "there is acceptance" (k); they are accepted with God upon the account of the sin offering, sacrifice, and satisfaction of Christ, which fools mock and despise.

(h) , Aquila & Theodotion in Drusius; "delictum illudit fatuos", Gejerus. (i) "benevoleatia", Montanus, Baynus, Piscator, Mercerus, Gejerus. (k) "Acceptatio", Cocceius, Gussetius.

Fools make a mock at {f} sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

(f) Does not know the grievousness of it, nor God's judgments against the same.

9. sin] Rather, guilt, R.V. If this rendering be adopted, the Heb. construction (a sing. verb with a plur. noun, lit. fools, he maketh &c.) will serve to individualise (comp. Proverbs 3:18), and the contrast will be between the noisy assembly of fools, each one turning into jest and ridicule the guilt he has incurred, and the “favour” (or, good will, R.V.) of God and man that rests upon the righteous. We may, however, understand the word guilt to be the subject of the sentence, and then take it in either of two senses: (a) guilt makes a mock of fools, laughing to scorn their anguish and deprecation when it overtakes them (comp. Proverbs 1:26); or (b) a guilt-offering mocks the fool, who offers it with the vain idea that it will take the place of amendment of life, for only on the upright does God’s favour rest. Comp. Isaiah 1:11-20.Verse 9. - Fools make a mock at sin. So the Vulgate (comp. Proverbs 10:23). Fools, wicked men, commit sin lightly and cheerfully, give specious names to grievous transgressions, pass over rebuke with a joke, encourage others in crime by their easy way of viewing it. But in the original the verb is in the singular number, while the noun is plural, and the clause could be translated as in the Authorized Version only with the notion that the number of the verb is altered in order to individualize the application of the maxim ('Speaker's Commentary'). But there is no necessity for such a violent anomaly. The subject is doubtless the word rendered "sin" (asham) which means both "sin" and "sin offering." So we may render, "Sin mocks fools," i.e. deceives and disappoints them of the enjoyment which they expected. Or better, as most in harmony with the following member, "The sin offering of fools mocks them" (Proverbs 15:8). Thus Aquila and Theodotion, ἄφρονας χλευάζει πλημμέλεια, where πλημμέλεια may signify "sin offering" (Ecclus. 7:31). It is vain for such to seek to win God's favour by ceremonial observances; offerings from them are useless expenditure of cost and trouble (Proverbs 21:27). The Son of Sirach has well expressed this truth: "He that sacrificeth of a thing unlawfully gotten, his offering is mockery (μεμωκημένη), and the mockeries of unjust men are not well pleasing. The Most High is not pleased with the offerings of the godless, neither is he propitiated for sin by the multitude of sacrifices" (Ecclus. 31:18, 19). It is always the disposition of the heart that conditions the acceptableness of worship. Among the righteous there is favour - the favour and good will of God, which are bestowed upon them because their heart is right. The word ratson might equally refer to the good will of man, which the righteous gain by their kindness to sinners and ready sympathy; but in that case the antithesis would be less marked. Septuagint, "The houses of transgressors owe purification (ὀφειλήσουσι καθαρισμόν); but the houses of the just are aceeptable." This is explained to signify that sinners refuse to offer the sacrifice which they need for their legal purification; but the righteous, while they have no necessity for a sin offering, are acceptable when they present their free will vows and thanksgivings. 3 In the mouth of the fool is a switch of pride;

   But the lips of the wise preserve them.

The noun חטר (Aram. חוּטרא, Arab. khiṭr), which besides here occurs only at Isaiah 11:1, meaning properly a brandishing (from חטר equals Arab. khatr, to brandish, to move up and down or hither and thither, whence âlkhṭtâr, the brandisher, poet. the spear), concretely, the young elastic twig, the switch, i.e., the slender flexible shoot. Luther translates, "fools speak tyrannically," which is the briefer rendering of his earlier translation, "in the mouth of the fool is the sceptre of pride;" but although the Targum uses חוטרא of the king's sceptre and also of the prince's staff, yet here for this the usual Hebr. שׁבט were to be expected. In view of Isaiah 11:1, the nearest idea is, that pride which has its roots in the heart of the fool, grows up to his mouth. But yet it is not thus explained why the representation of this proceeding from within stops with חטר cf. Proverbs 11:30). The βακτηρία ὕβρεως (lxx, and similarly the other Greek versions) is either meant as the rod of correction of his own pride (as e.g., Abulwald, and, among the moderns, Bertheau and Zckler) or as chastisement for others (Syr., Targum: the staff of reviling). Hitzig is in favour of the former idea, and thinks himself warranted in translating: a rod for his back; but while גּוה is found for גּאוה, we do not (cf. under Job 41:7 : a pride are the, etc.) find גאוה for גוה, the body, or גּו, the back. But in general it is to be assumed, that if the poet had meant חטר as the means of correction, he would have written גּאותו. Rightly Fleischer: "The tongue is often compared to a staff, a sword, etc., in so far as their effects are ascribed to it; we have here the figure which in Revelation 1:16 passes over into plastic reality." Self-exaltation (R. גא, to strive to be above) to the delusion of greatness is characteristic of the fool, the אויל [godless], not the כּסיל [stupid, dull] - Hitzig altogether confounds these two conceptions. With such self-exaltation, in which the mind, morally if not pathologically diseased, says, like Nineveh and Babylon in the prophets, I am alone, and there is no one with me, there is always united the scourge of pride and of disgrace; and the meaning of 3b may now be that the lips of the wise protect those who are exposed to this injury (Ewald), or that they protect the wise themselves against such assaults (thus most interpreters). But this reference of the eos to others lies much more remote than at Proverbs 12:6; and that the protection of the wise against injury inflicted on them by words is due to their own lips is unsatisfactory, as in this case, instead of Bewahrung [custodia], we would rather expect Vertheidigung [defensio], Dmpfung [damping, extinguishing], Niederduckung [stooping down, accommodating oneself to circumstances]. But also it cannot be meant that the lips of the wise preserve them from the pride of fools, for the thought that the mouth preserves the wise from the sins of the mouth is without meaning and truth (cf. the contrary, Proverbs 13:3). Therefore Arama interprets the verb as jussive: the lips equals words of the wise mayest thou keep i.e., take to heart. And the Venet. translates: χείλη δὲ σοφῶν φυλάξεις αὐτά, which perhaps means: the lips of the wise mayest thou consider, and that not as a prayer, which is foreign to the gnome, but as an address to the hearer, which e.g., Proverbs 20:19 shows to be admissible. but although in a certain degree of similar contents, yet 3a and 3b clash. Therefore it appears to us more probable that the subject of 3b is the חכמה contained in חכמים; in Proverbs 6:22 wisdom is also the subject to תשׁמר עליך without its being named. Thus: while hurtful pride grows up to the throat of the fool, that, viz., wisdom, keeps the lips of the wise, so that no word of self-reflection, especially none that can wound a neighbour, escapes from them. The form תּשׁמוּרם is much more peculiar than ישׁפּוּטוּ, Exodus 18:26, and תעבוּרי, Ruth 2:8, for the latter are obscured forms of ישׁפּטוּ and תעברי, while on the contrary the former arises from תּשׁמרם.

(Note: Vid., regarding these forms with ǒ instead of the simple Sheva, Kimchi, Michlol 20ab. He also remarks that these three forms with û are all Milra; this is the case also in a remarkable manner with ישׁפּוּטוּ, vid., Michlol 21b; Livjath Chen ii. 9; and particularly Heidenheim, in his edition of the Pentateuch entitled Mer Enajim, under Exodus 18:26.)

If, according to the usual interpretation, we make שׂפתי the subject, then the construction follows the rule, Gesen. 146, 2. The lxx transfers it into Greek: χείλη δὲ σοφῶν φυλάσσει αὐτούς. The probable conjecture, that תשׁמורם is an error in transcription for תּשׁמרוּם equals תּשׁמרנה אתם (this is found also in Luzzatto's Gramm. 776; and Hitzig adduces as other examples of such transpositions of the ו Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 17:23; Job 26:12, and Joshua 2:4, ותצפנו for ותצפון), we do not acknowledge, because it makes the lips the subject with an exclusiveness the justification of which is doubtful to us.

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