Proverbs 16:1
The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
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(1) The preparations of the heart in man . . .—Rather, To man belong the counsels of the heart. He may turn over in his mind what is the right thing to be said on any occasion, “but from the Lord is the answer of the tongue.” (Comp. Proverbs 15:23.)

Proverbs 16:1. The preparations of the heart in man, &c. — As we read this verse, it teacheth us a great truth, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think, or speak, any thing of ourselves, that is wise and good, but all our sufficiency is of God, who is with the heart and with the mouth, and works in us both to will and to do, Php 2:13; Psalm 10:17. But most read it otherwise, namely, thus: The preparation of the heart is in man, he may contrive this and the other; but the answer of the tongue — Not only the delivering of what he designed to speak, but the issue and success of what he designed to do; is of the Lord — That is, in short, 1st, Man may purpose; he hath a freedom of thought and of will permitted him; he may form his projects, and lay his schemes as he thinks best; but, after all, 2d, God disposeth; he easily can, and often does, cross man’s purposes, and break his measures: nor can man proceed with success in any undertaking, nor carry into execution any design, without God’s assistance and blessing. It was a curse that was prepared in Balaam’s heart, but the answer of the tongue was a blessing.16:1 The renewing grace of God alone prepares the heart for every good work. This teaches us that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think or speak any thing wise and good. 2. Ignorance, pride, and self-flattery render us partial judges respecting our own conduct. 3. Roll the burden of thy care upon God, and leave it with him, by faith and dependence on him.The proverbs in Proverbs 16:1-7 have, more than any other group, an especially religious character impressed upon them. The name of Yahweh as Giver, Guide, Ruler, or Judge, meets us in each of them.

Proverbs 16:1

Better, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the utterance of the tongue is from Yahweh. Thoughts come and go, as it were, spontaneously; but true, well ordered speech is the gift of God. Compare Proverbs 16:9.


Pr 16:1-33.

1. preparations—schemes.

in man—or literally, "to man," belonging, or pertaining to him.

the answer … Lord—The efficient ordering is from God: "Man proposes; God disposes." Men can neither think nor speak wisely and well of themselves, or without Divine assistance. Or, as many others, both ancient and modern interpreters, render the verse,

The preparations, or dispositions, or orderings of the heart are in or from a man; (i.e. a man may consider and contrive in his own thoughts what he wills or designs to speak; which is spoken by way of concession, yet not excluding man’s dependence upon God therein, which is evident both from many plain texts of Scripture, and from undeniable reason;) but the

answer or speech (as this word is oft used)

of the tongue is from the Lord. Men cannot express their own thoughts without God’s leave and help, and their tongues are oft overruled by God to speak what was besides and above their own thoughts, as he did Balaam, Numbers 23, and Caiaphas, John 11:49-51.

The preparations of the heart in man,.... The sense of these words, according to our version, depends upon the next clause, and the meaning of the whole is, that a man can neither think nor speak without God: the "orderings" or "marshallings of the heart" (a), as it may be rendered; that is, of the thoughts of the heart, which are generally irregular and confused; the ranging them in order, as an army in battle array, or as things regularly placed on a well furnished table; the fixing them on any particular subject, though about things civil and natural, so as closely to attend to them, and proceed in a regular manner in the consideration of them, are not without the concurrence of divine Providence: and whereas the thoughts of men's hearts are evil, and that continually, and nothing but evil thoughts naturally proceed from thence; the ordering and marshalling of them, and fixing them to the attention and consideration of divine and spiritual things, are not without the supernatural grace of God; for we cannot think a good thought of ourselves, nor indeed anything of ourselves in a spiritual manner, 2 Corinthians 3:5; all preparations for religious service and duty, whether it be to pray unto God, or to preach in his name, are from the Lord; it is he that works in men both "to will and to do"; that gives them the willing mind, or a suitable frame for service, as well as ability to perform it; that pours out the Spirit of grace and supplication on them, and disposes and directs their minds to proper petitions, and furnishes his ministering servants in their studies with agreeable matter for their ministrations, Psalm 10:17;

and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord; who made man's mouth, and teaches him what to say, both before God and man; what he shall say in prayer to him, or in preaching to others; for the "door of utterance" in either service is from him, as well as the preparation for it: most versions and interpreters make these clauses distinct, the one as belonging to men, the other to God; thus, "to men belong the preparations of the heart, but from the Lord is the answer" or "speech of the tongue"; the former is said by way of concession, and according to the opinion of men; and the sense may be, be it so, that man has the marshalling and ordering of his own thoughts, and that he can lay things together in his mind, and think pertinently and properly on a subject, and is capable of preparing matter for a discourse; yet it is as easy to observe, that men can better form ideas of things in their minds, the they can express their sense and meaning; and though they may be ever so well prepared to speak, yet they are not able to do it, unless the Lord gives them utterance, and assists their memories; they lose what they had prepared, or deliver it in a disorderly and confused manner, and sometimes think to say one thing, and say another; their tongues are overruled by the Lord to say what they never intended, as in the cases of Balaam and Caiaphas. The Targum is,

"from man is the counsel of the heart, and from the Lord is the speech of the tongue.''

(a) "dispositiones sive ordinationes", Montanus, Munster, Vatablus, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis; "instructiones adversae aciei in corde", Schultens.

The {a} preparations of the heart belong to man, and the answer of the tongue, are from the LORD.

(a) He derides the presumption of man, who dares to attribute anything to himself, as to prepare his heart or such like, seeing that he is not able to speak a word unless God gives it to him.

1. The preparations &c.] Rather:

To man belong the preparations (or plans) of the heart;

But from Jehovah is the answer of the tongue.

This cannot mean that wise thoughts are human, but wise words divine, that man unaided can plan well, but only by God’s help can speak well; but rather that after man has done his utmost in planning, his wisest plans may come to nought in the comparatively easy act of giving utterance to them with a view to their accomplishment, unless Jehovah guides his tongue. And the implied moral of the proverb is, If you cannot do the less without God, do not attempt to do the greater without Him; “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6. Comp. Proverbs 16:9 of this chapter.Verses 1-7. - These are specially religions maxims, and they all contain the name Jehovah. Verse 1. - The Authorized Version makes one sentence of this verse without any contrast or antithesis. This is plainly wrong, there being intended a contrast between the thought of the heart and the well ordered speech. It is better translated, The plans of the heart are man's: but the answer of the tongue is from Jehovah. Men make plans, arrange speeches, muster arguments, in the mind; but to put these into proper, persuasive words is a gift of God. "Our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 3:5). In the case of Balaam, God overruled the wishes and intentions of the prophet, and constrained him to give utterance to something very different from his original mental conceptions. But the present sentence attributes the outward expression of what the mind has conceived in every case unto the help of God (comp. vers. 9, 33; Proverbs 15:23). Christ enjoined his disciples to trust to momentary inspiration in their apologies or defences before unbelievers (Matthew 10:19). This verse is omitted in the Septuagint. Two proverbs regarding the righteous and the wicked:

28 The heart of the righteous considereth how to answer right,

     And the mouth of the godless poureth forth evil.

Instead of לענות, the lxx (Syr. and Targ.) imagines אמוּנות πίστεις; Jerome translates, but falsely, obedientiam (from ענה, to bend oneself); Meri thinks on לענה, wormwood, for the heart of the righteous revolves in itself the misery and the vanity of this present life; Hitzig corrects this verse as he does the three preceding: the heart of the righteous thinks on ענוות, a plur. of verb ענוה, which, except in this correction, does not exist. The proverb, as it stands, is, in fineness of expression and sharpness of the contrast, raised above such manglings. Instead of the righteous, the wise might be named, and instead of the godless, fools (cf. 2b); but the poet places the proverb here under the point of view of duty to neighbours. It is the characteristic of the righteous that he does not give the reins to his tongue; but as Luther has translated: the heart of the righteous considers [tichtet from dictare, frequently to speak, here carefully to think over] what is to be answered, or rather, since מה־לּענות is not used, he thinks thereupon to answer rightly, for that the word ענות is used in this pregnant sense is seen from 23a. The godless, on the contrary, are just as rash with their mouth as the righteous are of a thoughtful heart: their mouth sputters forth (effutit) evil, for they do not first lay to heart the question what may be right and just in the case that has arisen.

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