An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The end thereof shall not be blessed.—Comp. Proverbs 28:20 : the evil means by which he acquired the possession will, at the last, be visited upon him. Thus Jacob was punished severely for the selfishness by which he gained the birthright, and for the fraud by which he obtained the blessing belonging to his brother.Proverbs 20:21. An inheritance may be gotten hastily — An estate is sometimes soon gained, even in the very beginning of a man’s labours for it: in which case, it may be presumed that some indirect and unrighteous means have been used for the getting of it, because riches are very seldom given by God, or gotten by men, without men’s diligence. But this, as well as many other proverbs, are to be understood of the common course of things, which may admit of many exceptions. For sometimes merchants or others gain a large property speedily, suppose by a successful voyage, or by some other prosperous event. But the end thereof shall not be blessed — Namely, the end of what was not righteously obtained: it was suddenly raised, and shall be as suddenly ruined: it shall wither by God’s just judgment, and come to nothing.Zechariah 11:8), or with a curse upon it." The King James Version agrees with the versions. An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; an estate sometimes is got suddenly, in the very beginning of a man’s labours for it; in which case it may be presumed that some indirect and unrighteous courses were used for the getting of it, because riches are very seldom given by God, or gotten by men, without men’s diligence. But this, as well as many other proverbs, are to be understood of the common course, although it admit of some exceptions. For sometimes merchants or others get great estates speedily by one happy voyage, or by some other prosperous event. This translation follows the Hebrew marginal reading, but according to the textual reading it may be thus rendered and understood; An inheritance gotten in the beginning (to wit, of a man’s endeavours) is abominable, to wit, unto God, being supposed to be unjustly gotten, as was now said.
The end thereof shall not be blessed; at last it shall be cursed and wither by God’s just judgment. Zechariah 11:8. Schultens, from the use of the word in the Arabic language, which signifies to be covetous, renders it "covetously got" or "possessed" (i); and so the Arabic version is, "an inheritance greedily desired", obtained through covetousness and illicit practices; but in his late commentary on this book he renders the passage, by the help of Arabism, "an inheritance smitten with the curse of sordidness", as being sordidly got and enjoyed;
but the end thereof shall not be blessed; it will not continue, it will be taken away from them, and put into some other hands. Jarchi illustrates it by the tribes of Gad and Reuben making haste to take their part on the other side Jordan before their brethren, and were the first that were carried captive.An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. hastily] Comp. Proverbs 28:20; Proverbs 28:22.Verse 21. - An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning - or, which in the beginning, is obtained in haste - but the end thereof shall not be blessed; or, its end shall not be blessed. The Khetib gives מְבֹהֶלֶת, which (comp. Zechariah 11:8) may mean "detested," but this gives no sense; it is better, with the Keri, to replace kheth with he, and read מְבֹהֶלֶת (meboheleth), "hastened," "hastily acquired" (see Proverbs 13:11, Septuagint). The maxim, taken in connection with the preceding verse, may apply to a bad son who thinks his parents live too long, and by violence robs them of their possessions; or to one who, like the prodigal in the parable, demands prematurely his portion of the paternal goods. But it may also be taken generally as denouncing the fate of those who make haste to be rich, being unscrupulous as to the means by which they gain wealth (see on Proverbs 23:11; 28:20, 22). A Greek gnome says roundly -
Οὐδεὶς ἐπλούτησεν ταχέως δίκαιος ὤν.
"No righteous man e'er grew rich suddenly."
But a precious treasure are lips full of knowledge.
In order to find a connection between this proverb and that which precedes, we need only be reminded of the parable of the merchantman who sought goodly pearls, Matthew 13:45. The proverb rises to a climax: there is gold, and there are pearls in abundance, the one of which has always a higher value than the other; but intelligent lips are above all such jewels - they are a precious treasure, which gold and all pearls cannot equal. In a similar manner the N.T. places the one pearl above the many goodly pearls. So might דעת (chokma) be called the pearl above all pearls (Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11); but the lips as the organ of knowledge are fittingly compared with a precious vessel, a vessel of more precious substance than gold and pearls are.
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