Proverbs 24:18
Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) And he turn away his wrath from him.—Upon thee as having sinned more deeply than thine enemy in thus rejoicing at his misfortunes. (Comp. Proverbs 17:5.)

24:17,18. The pleasure we are apt to take in the troubles of an enemy is forbidden. 19,20. Envy not the wicked their prosperity; be sure there is no true happiness in it. 21,22. The godly in the land, will be quiet in the land. There may be cause to change for the better, but have nothing to do with them that are given change. 23-26. The wisdom God giveth, renders a man fit for his station. Every one who finds the benefit of the right answer, will be attached to him that gave it. 27. We must prefer necessaries before conveniences, and not go in debt.See the margin. The meaning is "Thy joy will be suicidal, the wrath of the righteous Judge will be turned upon thee, as the greater offender, and thou wilt have to bear a worse evil than that which thou exultest in." 17, 18. Yet let none rejoice over the fate of evildoers, lest God punish their wrong spirit by relieving the sufferer (compare Pr 17:5; Job 31:29). Understand, upon thee, which is implied in the Hebrew phrase, such defects being usual in that concise language, Psalm 84:11 Proverbs 19:1, and oft elsewhere. This consideration strikes at the root of that sinful and inhuman disposition, which is an expectation of safety or advantage to himself by his enemy’s downfall, which, saith he, by this very mean thou shalt lose, for thine enemy shall be raised, and thy danger greatly increased, by thy provoking both God and him against thee. Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him,.... Who sees all things, not only external actions, but the heart, and the inward motions of it; and though men may hide the pleasure they feel at the misery of an enemy from others, they cannot hide it from the Lord; nor is this said by way of doubt, but as a certain thing; and which the Lord not barely sees, but takes notice of, and to such a degree as to resent it, and show his displeasure at it by taking the following step;

and he turn away his wrath from him; remove the effects of it, raise him out of his fallen and distressed condition, and restore him to his former prosperous one; and not only so, but turn it upon thee, as Gersom supplies the words, and not amiss; so that there is a strange and sudden change of circumstances; thou that was pleasing thyself with the distress of thine enemy art fallen into the same, and he is delivered out of it; which must be a double affliction to such a man; so that by rejoicing at an enemy, he is doing his enemy good and himself hurt; see Proverbs 17:5.

Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath {f} from him.

(f) To be avenged on you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. from him] Some commentators would add, “upon thee”; “et irascatur contra te,” Münster. It is better to leave the proverb as it stands, and to supplement its teaching by such proverbs as Proverbs 24:29, Proverbs 25:21-22.Verse 18. - Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him. This malignant pleasure at others' misfortunes (which Aristotle, 'Eth. Nic.,' 2:7. 15, calls ἐπιχαιρεκακία) is a sin in the eyes of God, and calls for punishment. And he turn away his wrath from him; and, as is implied, direct it upon thee. But it seems a mean motive to adduce, if the maxim is taken baldly to mean, "Do not rejoice at your enemy's calamity, lest God relieve him from the evil:" for true charity would wish for such a result. Bode considers "his wrath" to be the enemy's ill will against thee, which God by his grace changes to love, and thou art thus covered with confusion and shame for thy former vindictiveness. But the point is not so much the removal of God's displeasure from the enemy as the punishment of the malignant man, either mentally or materially. To a malignant mind no severer blow could be given than to see a foe recover God's favor and rise from his fall. The moralist then warns the disciple against giving way to this ἐπιχαιρεκακία lest he prepare for himself bitter mortification by having to witness the restoration of the hated one, or by being himself made to suffer that evil which he had rejoiced to see his neighbour experience (comp. Proverbs 17:5, and note there). Now, again, we meet with proverbs of several lines. The first here is a hexastich:

11 Deliver them that are taken to death,

     And them that are tottering to destruction, oh stop them!

12 If thou sayest, "We knew not of it indeed," -

     It is not so: The Weigher of hearts, who sees through it,

     And He that observeth thy soul, He knoweth it,

     And requiteth man according to his work.

If אם is interpreted as a particle of adjuration, then אם־תּחשׂוך is equivalent to: I adjure thee, forbear not (cf. Nehemiah 13:25 with Isaiah 58:1), viz., that which thou hast to do, venture all on it (lxx, Syr., Jerome). But the parallelism requires us to take together מטים להרג (such as with tottering steps are led forth to destruction) as object along with אם־תחשׂוך, as well as לקחים למּות (such as from their condition are carried away to death, cf. Exodus 14:11) as object to הצּל, in which all the old interpreters have recognised the imper., but none the infin. (eripere ... ne cesses, which is contrary to Heb. idiom, both in the position of the words and in the construction). אם also is not to be interpreted as an interrogative; for, thus expressed, an retinetis ought rather to have for the converse the meaning: thou shalt indeed not do it! (cf. e.g., Isaiah 29:16). And אם cannot be conditional: si prohibere poteris (Michaelis and others), for the fut. after אם has never the sense of a potential. Thus אם is, like לוּ, understood in the sense of utinam, as it is used not merely according to later custom (Hitzig), but from ancient times (cf. e.g., Exodus 32:32 with Genesis 23:13). כּי־תאמר (reminding

(Note: Vid., my hebrischen Rmerbrief, p. 14f.)

us of the same formula of the Rabbinical writings) introduces an objection, excuse, evasion, which is met by הלא; introducing "so say I on the contrary," it is of itself a reply, vid., Deuteronomy 7:17. זה we will not have to interpret personally (lxx τοῦτον); for, since Proverbs 24:11 speaks of several of them, the neut. rendering (Syr., Targ., Venet., Luther) in itself lies nearer, and זה, hoc, after ידע, is also in conformity with the usus loq.; vid., at Psalm 56:10. But the neut. זה does not refer to the moral obligation expressed in Proverbs 24:11; to save human life when it is possible to do so, can be unknown to no one, wherefore Jerome (as if the words of the text were אין לאל ידנוּ זה): vires non suppetunt. זה refers to the fact that men are led to the tribunal; only thus is explained the change of ידעתי, which was to be expected, into ידענוּ: the objection is, that one certainly did not know, viz., that matters had come to an extremity with them, and that a short process will be made with them. To this excuse, with pretended ignorance, the reply of the omniscient God stands opposed, and suggests to him who makes the excuse to consider: It is not so: the Searcher of hearts (vid., at Proverbs 16:2), He sees through it, viz., what goes on in thy heart, and He has thy soul under His inspection (נצר, as Job 7:20 : lxx καὶ ὁ πλάσας; יצרו, which Hitzig prefers, for he thinks that נצר must be interpreted in the sense of to guard, preserve; Luther rightly); He knows, viz., how it is with thy mind, He looks through it, He knows (cf. for both, Psalm 139:1-4), and renders to man according to his conduct, which, without being deceived, He judges according to the state of the heart, out of which the conduct springs. It is to be observed that Proverbs 24:11 speaks of one condemned to death generally, and not expressly of one innocently condemned, and makes no distinction between one condemned in war and in peace. One sees from this that the Chokma generally has no pleasure in this, that men are put to death by men, not even when it is done legally as punishment for a crime. For, on the one side, it is true that the punishment of the murderer by death is a law proceeding from the nature of the divine holiness and the inviolability of the divine ordinance, and the worth of man as formed in the image of God, and that the magistrate who disowns this law as a law, disowns the divine foundation of his office; but, on the other side, it is just as true that thousands and thousands of innocent persons, or at least persons not worthy of death, have fallen a sacrifice to the abuse or the false application of this law; and that along with the principle of recompensative righteousness, there is a principle of grace which rules in the kingdom of God, and is represented in the O.T. by prophecy and the Chokma. It is, moreover, a noticeable fact, that God did not visit with the punishment of death the first murderer, the murderer of the innocent Abel, his brother, but let the principle of grace so far prevail instead of that of law, that He even protected his life against any avenger of blood. But after that the moral ruin of the human race had reached that height which brought the Deluge over the earth, there was promulgated to the post-diluvians the word of the law, Genesis 9:6, sanctioning this inviolable right of putting to death by the hand of justice. The conduct of God regulates itself thus according to the aspect of the times. In the Mosaic law the greatness of guilt was estimated not externally (cf. Numbers 35:31), but internally, a very flexible limitation in its practical bearings. And that under certain circumstances grace might have the precedence of justice, the parable having in view the pardon of Absalom (2 Samuel 14) shows. But a word from God, like Ezekiel 18:23, raises grace to a principle, and the word with which Jesus (John 8:11) dismisses the adulteress is altogether an expression of this purpose of grace passing beyond the purpose of justice. In the later Jewish commonwealth, criminal justice was subordinated to the principle of predominating compassion; practical effect was given to the consideration of the value of human life during the trial, and even after the sentence was pronounced, and during a long time no sentence of death was passed by the Sanhedrim. But Jesus, who was Himself the innocent victim of a fanatical legal murder, adjudged, it is true, the supremacy to the sword; but He preached and practised love, which publishes grace for justice. He was Himself incarnate Love, offering Himself for sinners, the Mercy which Jahve proclaims by Ezekiel 18:23. The so-called Christian state ["Citivas Dei"] is indeed in manifest opposition to this. But Augustine declares himself, on the supposition that the principle of grace must penetrate the new ear, in all its conditions, that began with Christianity, for the suspension of punishment by death, especially because the heathen magistrates had abused the instrument of death, which, according to divine right, they had control over, to the destruction of Christians; and Ambrosius went so far as to impress it as a duty on a Christian judge who had pronounced the sentence of death, to exclude himself from the Holy Supper. The magisterial control over life and death had at that time gone to the extreme height of bloody violence, and thus in a certain degree it destroyed itself. Therefore Jansen changes the proverb (Proverbs 24:11) with the words of Ambrosius into the admonition: Quando indulgentia non nocet publico, eripe intercessione, eripe gratia tu sacerdos, aut tu imperator eripe subscriptionie indulgentiae. When Samuel Romilly's Bill to abolish the punishment of death for a theft amounting to the sum of five shillings passed the English House of Commons, it was thrown out by a majority in the House of Lords. Among those who voted against the Bill were one archbishop and five bishops. Our poet here in the Proverbs is of a different mind. Even the law of Sinai appoints the punishment of death only for man-stealing. The Mosaic code is incomparably milder than even yet the Carolina. In expressions, however, like the above, a true Christian spirit rules the spirit which condemns all blood-thirstiness of justice, and calls forth to a crusade not only against the inquisition, but also against such unmerciful, cruel executions even as they prevailed in Prussia in the name of law in the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm I, the Inexorable.

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