Proverbs 21:3
To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) To do justice and judgment, &c—See above on Proverbs 10:2.

Is more acceptable than sacrifice.—See above on 15:8.

21:1 The believer, perceiving that the Lord rules every heart as he sees fit, like the husbandman who turns the water through his grounds as he pleases, seeks to have his own heart, and the hearts of others, directed in his faith, fear, and love. 2. We are partial in judging ourselves and our actions. 3. Many deceive themselves with a conceit that outward devotions will excuse unrighteousness. 4. Sin is the pride, the ambition, the glory, the joy, and the business of wicked men. 5. The really diligent employ foresight as well as labour. 6. While men seek wealth by unlawful practices, they seek death. 7. Injustice will return upon the sinner, and will destroy him here and for ever. 8. The way of mankind by nature is froward and strange.Compare the marginal reference. The words have a special significance as coming from the king who had built the temple, and had offered sacrifices that could not be numbered for multitude" 1 Kings 8:5. 3. (Compare Ps 50:7-15; Isa 1:11, 17). Justice and judgment; the conscientious performance of all our duties to men.

Than sacrifice; than the most costly outward services offered to God, joined with the neglect of our moral duties to God or men. The same thing is affirmed 1 Samuel 15:22 Hosea 6:6 Micah 6:7. To do justice and judgment,.... The moral duties of religion, what is holy, just, and good, which the law requires; what is agreeably to both tables, piety towards God, and justice to men; that which is just and right between man and man; which, especially if done from right principles and with right views,

is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice; not than any sacrifice; than the sacrifice of a broken heart, or the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, or of acts of goodness and beneficence, or of a man's whole self to the Lord; but than ceremonial sacrifices; which, though of divine institution, and typical of Christ, and when offered up in the faith of him, were acceptable to God, while in force; yet not when done without faith and in hypocrisy, and especially when done to cover and countenance immoral actions; and, even when compared with moral duties, the latter were preferable to them; see 1 Samuel 15:22.

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Comp. 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.Verse 3. - To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. The superiority of moral obedience to ceremonial worship is often inculcated (see note on Proverbs 15:8, and below, ver. 27; and comp. Micah 6:6-8 and Matthew 12:7). "Justice" and "judgment" (tsedakah and mishpat) are combined in Genesis 18:19; 2 Samuel 8:15; Job 37:23; Isaiah 56:1, etc. They imply equity and justice proceeding, not from bare regard to law, but from the principle of love. Septuagint, "To do justify and to speak the truth are more pleasing to God than the blood of sacrifices." With a proverb of a light that was extinguished, Proverbs 20:20 began the group; the proverb of God's light, which here follows, we take as the beginning of a new group.

27 A candle of Jahve is the soul of man,

     Searching through all the chambers of the heart.

If the O.T. language has a separate word to denote the self-conscious personal human spirit in contradistinction to the spirit of a beast, this word, according to the usage of the language, as Reuchlin, in an appendix to Aben Ezra, remarks, is נשׁמה; it is so called as the principle of life breathed immediately by God into the body (vid., at Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22). Indeed, that which is here said of the human spirit would not be said of the spirit of a beast: it is "the mystery of self-consciousness which is here figuratively represented" (Elster). The proverb intentionally does not use the word נפשׁ, for this is not the power of self-consciousness in man, but the medium of bodily life; it is related secondarily to nshmh (רוח), while נשׁמת חיים (רוח) is used, נפשׁ חיים is an expression unheard of. Hitzig is in error when he understands by נשׁמה here the soul in contradistinction to the spirit, and in support of this appeals to an expression in the Cosmography of Kazwni: "the soul (Arab. âl-nefs) is like the lamp which moves about in the chambers of the house;" here also en-nefs is the self-conscious spirit, for the Arab. and post-bibl. Heb. terminology influenced by philosophy reverses the biblical usage, and calls the rational soul נפשׁ, and, on the contrary, the animal soul נשׁמה, רוח (Psychologie, p. 154). חפשׂ is the particip. of חפּשׂ, Zephaniah 1:12, without distinguishing the Kal and Piel. Regarding חדרי־בטן, lxx ταμιεῖα κοιλίας, vid., at Proverbs 18:8 : בּטן denotes the inner part of the body (R. בט, to be deepened), and generally of the personality; cf. Arab. bâtn âlrwh, the interior of the spirit, and Proverbs 22:18, according to which Fleischer explains: "A candle of Jahve, i.e., a means bestowed on man by God Himself to search out the secrets deeply hid in the spirit of another." But the candle which God has kindled in man has as the nearest sphere of illumination, which goes forth from it, the condition of the man himself - the spirit comprehends all that belongs to the nature of man in the unity of self-consciousness, but yet more: it makes it the object of reflection; it penetrates, searching it through, and seeks to take it up into its knowledge, and recognises the problem proposed to it, to rule it by its power. The proverb is thus to be ethically understood: the spirit is that which penetrates that which is within, even into its many secret corners and folds, with its self-testing and self-knowing light - it is, after Matthew 6:22, the inner light, the inner eye. Man becomes known to himself according to his moral as well as his natural condition in the light of the spirit; "for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" says Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:11. With reference to this Solomonic proverb, the seven-branched candlestick is an ancient symbol of the soul, e.g., on the Jewish sepulchral monuments of the Roman vi Portuensis. Our texts present the phrase נר יהוה; but the Talm. Pesachim 7b, 8a, the Pesikta in part 8, the Midrash Othijoth de-Rabbi Akiba, under the letter נ, Alphasi (יף''ר) in Pesachim, and others, read נר אלהים; and after this phrase the Targum translates, while the Syr. and the other old versions render by the word "Lord" (Venet. ὀντωτής), and thus had יהוה before them.

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