A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 15:1. A soft answer, &c. — A mild, submissive, and yielding answer to him who severely chides, or reproves, turns away wrath — And prevents the further progress of it. The word מענה, here rendered answer, however, signifies as well what is first said, as the reply to it, and may not improperly be translated speech, or discourse. But grievous words stir up strife — But sharp, contemptuous, and insolent replies, or speeches, incense it the more, and raise a passion where there was none before, and perhaps cause it to flame forth into fury. Melancthon, in his short lectures upon this book, commends this lesson very much to his scholars, considering it as a general precept for the preservation of peace, and avoiding unnecessary contentions, which commonly arise from pride, ambition, emulation, and wrath, which excite men either to give ill words, or to return worse to those that are given them; endeavouring to overcome by sharpness and bitterness, not by lenity and moderation. Solomon, he says, meant by this caution, that we should not think it enough not to begin strife and contention; but that, if others begin it, we should not continue it by rough answers, but endeavour to make an end of it presently, by softening the matter, and should yield much for the sake of tranquillity; and he thinks it is a precept of the same nature with that of Pythagoras; Stir not up fire with a sword: see Bishop Patrick.Leviticus 20:17. Its more usual meaning is "mercy," "piety;" hence, some have attached to the word rendered "sin" the sense of "sin-offering," and so get the maxim "piety is an atonement for the people."
1. soft—tender or gentle.
turneth … wrath—from any one.
stir up—as a smouldering fire is excited. A soft, mild or gentle, answer, which may imply a foregoing charge or accusation, although the word is and may be rendered speech or discourse, turneth away wrath from the speaker.
but grievous words stir up anger; such as are rough and menacing, scornful and sneering, reproachful and reviling, proud, haughty, and overbearing; like those of Jephthah to the Ephraimites; and of the Ephraimites to the Gileadites; and of Nabal to David's servants, concerning him; and of Rehoboam, who answered the people roughly: in all which instances anger was stirred up, and either were or like to have been attended with bad consequences, Judges 12:1. Or a "word" causing, or rather expressing, "grief" (r); upbraiding others with being the cause of grief to them.A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. grievous words] More exactly, a grievous word, R.V.Verse 1. - A soft answer turneth away wrath. Two things are here to be observed: an answer should be given - the injured person should not wrap himself in sullen silence; and that answer should be gentle and conciliatory. This is tersely put in a mediaeval rhyme -
"Frangitur ira gravis
Quando est respensio suavis."
"Anger, however great,
Is checked by answer sweet." Septuagint, "A submissive (ὑποπίπτουσα) answer averteth wrath." Thus Abigail quelled the excessive anger of David by her judicious submission (1 Samuel 25:24, etc.). But grievous words stir up anger. A word that causes vexation makes anger rise the higher.
Ὁργῆς ματαίας εἰσὶν αἰτιοι λόγοι.
"Of empty anger words are oft the cause."
But covetousness is rottenness in the bones.
Heart, soul, flesh, is the O.T. trichotomy, Psalm 84:3; Psalm 16:9; the heart is the innermost region of the life, where all the rays of the bodily and the soul-life concentrate, and whence they again unfold themselves. The state of the heart, i.e., of the central, spiritual, soul-inwardness of the man, exerts therefore on all sides a constraining influence on the bodily life, in the relation to the heart the surrounding life. Regarding לב מרפּא, vid., at Proverbs 12:18. Thus is styled the quiet heart, which in its symmetrical harmony is like a calm and clear water-mirror, neither interrupted by the affections, nor broken through or secretly stirred by passion. By the close connection in which the corporeal life of man stands to the moral-religious determination of his intellectual and mediately his soul-life - this threefold life is as that of one personality, essentially one - the body has in such quiet of spirit the best means of preserving the life which furthers the well-being, and co-operates to the calming of all its disquietude; on the contrary, passion, whether it rage or move itself in stillness, is like the disease in the bones (Proverbs 12:4), which works onward till it breaks asunder the framework of the body, and with it the life of the body. The plur. בּשׂרים occurs only here; Bttcher, 695, says that it denotes the whole body; but בּשׂר also does not denote the half, בשׂרים is the surrogate of an abstr.: the body, i.e., the bodily life in the totality of its functions, and in the entire manifoldness of its relations. Ewald translates bodies, but בשׂר signifies not the body, but its material, the animated matter; rather cf. the Arab. âbshâr, "corporeal, human nature," but which (leaving out of view that this plur. belongs to a later period of the language) has the parallelism against it. Regarding קנאה (jealousy, zeal, envy, anger) Schultens is right: affectus inflammans aestuque indignationis fervidus, from קנא, Arab. ḳanâ, to be high red.
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