Proverbs 19:25
Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware.—For “scorner” and “simple” see note on Proverbs 1:22. Reproof is of no avail to turn the “scorner” from his evil way (Proverbs 9:7; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12), punishment will also do him no good; but it may make the “simple,” whose character is not yet formed for good or evil, reflect and amend. So God at first punishes sinners for their good (Amos 4:6, ff.), afterwards, when they are obdurate, as a warning to others (Amos 4:12; Deuteronomy 29:21, ff.)

Proverbs 19:25. Smite a scorner — An obstinate and impudent transgressor, a derider of religion and virtue, who rejects and scorns all admonition: that is, punish him; and the simple will beware — Though the punishment do him no good, yet other inconsiderate persons, who sin, it may be, through ignorance, imprudence, or infirmity, will be awakened by it to a better way of thinking and acting; who, if they saw him pass with impunity, would be apt to follow his example. And reprove one that hath understanding, &c. — A verbal reproof will be more effectual for his reformation than the severest punishments will be to that of a scorner.

19:19. The spared and spoiled child is likely to become a man of great wrath. 20. Those that would be wise in their latter end, must be taught and ruled when young. 21. What should we desire, but that all our purposes may agree with God's holy will? 22. It is far better to have a heart to do good, and want ability for it, than to have ability for it, and want a heart to it. 23. Those that live in the fear of God, shall get safety, satisfaction, and true and complete happiness. 24. Indolence, when indulged, so grows upon people, that they have no heart to do the most needful things for themselves. 25. A gentle rebuke goes farthest with a man of understanding. 26. The young man who wastes his father's substance, or makes his aged mother destitute, is hateful, and will come to disgrace.Words which embrace nearly the whole theory of punishment. If the man who offends is a "scorner," hardened beyond all hope of reformation, then punish him by way of retribution and example, and let the penalty be sharp, that even the unwary and careless may beware. If the man be "understanding," then let the punishment take the form of discipline. Admonish, reprove, educate. 25. Such is the benefit of reproof; even the simple profit, much more the wise. Smite a scorner; an obstinate and impudent transgressor, who rejects and scorns all admonitions, and therefore is to be taught with blows.

The simple; who sin through ignorance, and imprudence, and infirmity, being possibly drawn to sin by the scorner’s evil counsel or example.

He will understand knowledge; a verbal reproof will be more effectual for his reformation than the severest punishments will be to a scorner.

Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware,.... That is, give reproof to a man that scoffs at religion, and makes a jest of all that is good; for though it may be of no use to him who will despise it, yet it may be observed, and be useful to another that hears it; who, though void of understanding, yet not hardened in impiety as the other, but open to conviction, "will become cunning" (x), as it may be rendered; or learns wisdom, and becomes hereby a knowing and understanding man; he hears another reproved, and fears, and becomes a wise man; so that though reproof may be lost on one, it succeeds in another, which is an encouragement to give it;

and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge; he will grow wiser and wiser; he will improve in the knowledge of things; see Proverbs 9:8.

(x) "astutus efficetur", Pagninus, Montanus; "astutus fiet", Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius; "astutior fiet", Michaelis; "solertiam parabit", Schultens.

Smite a scorner, and the {i} simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

(i) That is, the simple and ignorant men learn when they see the wicked punished.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. beware] or, learn prudence, R.V.

There is a triple contrast in the proverb, between the persons to be dealt with and between both the manner and the result of dealing with them. The scorner, or hardened scoffer (λοιμός, LXX.; pestilens, Vulg.; Proverbs 1:22; Psalm 1:1, and notes there in this Series), must be smitten, punished with severity (μαστιγουμένου, LXX.; flagellato, Vulg.), but not with any hope of his amendment, but only “that others admonished by his example may be the more afraid to offend.” But if one that hath understanding errs, he only needs to be reproved (ἐὰν δὲ ἐλέγχῃς, LXX.; si corripueris, Vulg.) to make him know better.

Verse 25. - Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware; will learn prudence, Revised Verson (comp. Proverbs 21:11; and see note on Proverbs 1:22). The scorner is hardened to all reproof, and is beyond all hope of being reformed by punishment; in his case it is retribution for outraged virtue that is sought in the penalty which he is made to pay. Τιμωρία, not κόλασις - retributive, not corrective punishment. Seeing this, the simple, who is not yet confirmed in evil, and is still open to better influences, may be led to take warning and amend his life. So St. Paul enjoins Timothy, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:20). There is the trite adage -

"Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum."

"Happy they
Who from their neighbours' perils caution learn."
Septuagint, "When a pestilent fellow is chastised, a fool will be cleverer (πανουργότερος) So Vulgate, Pestilente flagellato stultus sapientior erit. Reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand, knowledge. The scorner does not profit by severe punishment, but the intelligent man is improved by censure, and admonition (comp. Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12). Says the adage, "Sapientem nutu, stultum fuste (corripe)," "A nod for the wise, a stick for the fool." Proverbs 19:2525 The scorner thou smitest, and the simple is prudent;

     And if one reprove the man of understanding, he gaineth knowledge

Hitzig translates in a way that is syntactically inexact: smite the scorner, so the simple becomes prudent; that would have required at least the word ויערם: fut. and fut. connected by ו is one of many modes of expression for the simultaneous, discussed by me at Habakkuk 3:10. The meaning of the proverb has a complete commentary at Proverbs 21:11, where its two parts are otherwise expressed with perfect identity of thought. In regard to the לץ, with whom denunciation and threatening bear no fruit (Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12), and perhaps even produce the contrary effect to that intended (Proverbs 9:7), there remains nothing else than to vindicate the injured truths by means of the private justice of corporal punishment. Such words, if spoken to the right man, in the right spirit, at the right time, may affect him with wholesome terrors; but even though he is not made better thereby, yet the simple, who listens to the mockeries of such not without injury, will thereby become prudent (gain הערים equals ערמה, prudence, as at Proverbs 15:5), i.e., either arrive at the knowledge that the mockery of religion is wicked, or guard himself against incurring the same repressive measures. In 25b והוכח is neither inf. (Umbreit), which after Proverbs 21:11 must be וּבהוכח, nor impr. (Targ., Ewald), which according to rule is הוכח, but the hypothetic perf. (Syr.) with the most general subject (Merc., Hitzig): if one impart instruction to the (dat. obj. as Proverbs 9:7; Proverbs 15:2) man of understanding (vid., Proverbs 16:21), then he acquires knowledge, i.e., gains an insight into the nature and value of that which one wishes to bring him to the knowledge of (הבין דּעת, as Proverbs 29:7; cf. Proverbs 8:5). That which the deterring lesson of exemplary punishment approximately effects with the wavering, is, in the case of the man of understanding, perfectly attained by an instructive word.

We have now reached the close of the third chief section of the older Book of Proverbs. All the three sections begin with בּן חכם, Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:20. The Introduction, chap. 1-9, dedicates this collection of Solomonic proverbs to youth, and the three beginnings accordingly relate to the relative duties of a son to his father and mother. We are now no longer far from the end, for Proverbs 22:17 resumes the tone of the Introduction. The third principal part would be disproportionately large if it extended from Proverbs 15:1 to Proverbs 22:15. But there does not again occur a proverb beginning with the words "son of man." We can therefore scarcely go wrong if we take Proverbs 19:26 as the commencement of a fourth principal part. The Masora divides the whole Mishle into eight sedarim, which exhibit so little knowledge of the true division, that the parashas (sections) Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 22:17 do not at all find their right place.

(Note: The 915 verses of the Mishle, according to the Masora, fall into eight sedarim, beginning as follows: Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 5:18; Proverbs 9:12; Proverbs 14:4; Proverbs 18:10; Proverbs 22:22; Proverbs 25:13; Proverbs 28:16.)

The MSS, however, contain evidences that this Hagiograph was also anciently divided into parashas, which were designated partly by spaces between the lines (sethumoth) and partly by breaks in the lines (phethucoth). In Baer's Cod. Jamanensis,

(Note: Vid., the Prefatio to the Masoretico-Critical Edition of Isaiah by Baer and myself; Leipzig, 1872.)

after Proverbs 6:19, there is the letter פ written on the margin as the mark of such a break. With Proverbs 6:20 (vid., l.c.) there indeed commences a new part of the introductory Mashal discourses. But, besides, we only seldom meet with

(Note: There are spaces within the lines after Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 1:9, Proverbs 1:33; Proverbs 2:22; Proverbs 3:18, Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 5:17, Proverbs 5:23; Proverbs 6:4, Proverbs 6:11, Proverbs 6:15, Proverbs 6:19 (here a פ), Proverbs 6:35, Proverbs 8:21, Proverbs 8:31, Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 18:9; Proverbs 22:19, Proverbs 22:27; Proverbs 23:14; Proverbs 24:22, Proverbs 24:33; Proverbs 26:21; Proverbs 28:10, Proverbs 28:16; Proverbs 29:17, Proverbs 29:27; Proverbs 30:6, Proverbs 30:9, Proverbs 30:14, Proverbs 30:17, Proverbs 30:20, Proverbs 30:24, Proverbs 30:28, Proverbs 30:33; Proverbs 31:9.)

coincidences with the division and grouping which have commended themselves to us. In the MS of the Graecus Venetus, Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 19:16, and Proverbs 19:19 have their initial letters coloured red; but why only these verses, is not manifest. A comparison of the series of proverbs distinguished by such initials with the Cod. Jaman. and Cod. II of the Leipzig City Library, makes it more than probable that it gives a traditional division of the Mishle, which may perhaps yet be discovered by a comparison of MSS.

(Note: Vid., Gebhardt's Prolegomena to his new edition of the Versio Veneta.)

But this much is clear, that a historico-literary reconstruction of the Mishle, and of its several parts, can derive no help from this comparison.

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