If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 25:21-22. If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread, &c. — By bread and water he intends all things necessary for his subsistence; for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head — If he have the least spark of goodness in him, such conduct in thee toward him will work a change in his mind, and make him throw off all his enmities; thou shalt melt him into repentance, and inflame him with love and kindness to thee for so unexpected and undeserved a favour; or, as Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the words, Romans 12:20-21, (where they are quoted by St. Paul verbatim from the translation of the LXX.,) “Thou wilt touch him so sensibly, that he will no more be able to stand against such conduct than to bear on his head burning coals; but will rather submit to seek thy friendship, and endeavour, by future kindnesses, to overbalance the injury.” Or, if it have not this effect, but he still hardens his heart against thee, he shall have so much the sorer punishment; these coals shall consume him. And the Lord shall reward thee — Thy charity to him shall be fully recompensed to thee, if not by him yet, by God, which will be far better. In other words, as is the plain meaning of the passage, “Be kind to your enemy, for that is the surest way to gain his love and God’s blessing.” That St. Paul understood it in this sense is manifest from the words which he immediately subjoins, after quoting it, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good, in which he evidently explains what is meant by heaping coals of fire on an enemy’s head, namely, by acts of kindness, to soften his heart and dispose him to friendship; which is the natural effect of a generous unexpected goodness. The phrase seems to be taken from melting metals in a crucible; for when gold or silver is melted in that manner they not only put fire under and round all the sides, but also heap coals of fire upon the head of the crucible, and so melt the metal. In allusion to this, we are to heap acts of kindness and beneficence upon the head of an enemy, and so melt down his obstinacy, bring him to a better temper, and overcome his evil by our good: which is noble, glorious, reasonable, and truly Christian: see Schultens on this place. It is justly observed by Mr. Scott here; that as St. Paul’s quoting this passage is a strong testimony to the divine authority of the book from which it is taken, so it clearly evinces that the rule of duty in this case is the same in both testaments, however ancient scribes and Pharisees, and many modern writers, have overlooked it. “The law of love, perhaps, is not expounded more spiritually, in any single precept, either of Christ or his apostles, than in this exhortation. Seize the moment of distress to show kindness to him that hates thee.” Romans 12:20; the second clause of which seems at first sight to suggest a motive incompatible with a true charity. Leviticus 16:12 suggests an explanation. The high priest on the Day of Atonement was to take his censer, to fill it with "coals of fire," and then to put the incense thereon for a sweet-smelling savor. So it is here. The first emotion in another caused by the good done to him may be one of burning shame, but the shame will do its work and the heart also will burn, and prayer and confession and thanksgiving will rise as incense to the throne of God. Thus, "we shall overcome evil with good." By bread and water he understands all things necessary for his subsistence.
and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; which was what was usually and in common drank in those countries. These two, bread and water, take in all the necessaries of life; and giving them is expressive of all acts of beneficence and humanity to be performed to enemies; see 2 Kings 6:22; or "drink to him", so Pagninus and Montanus; which is still more expressive of respect and kindness.If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verses 21, 22. - This famous tetrastrich is reproduced (with the exception of the fourth line) from the Septuagint by St. Paul (Romans 12:20). Verse 21. - The traditional hatred of enemies is here strongly repudiated (see Proverbs 24:17, 18, and notes there). Thus Elisha treated the Syrians, introduced blindly into the midst of Samaria, ordering the King of Israel to set bread and water before them, and to send them away unharmed (2 Kings 6:22). "Punish your enemy by benefiting him," say the Arabs, though they are far from practising the injunction; "Sweet words break the bones;" "Bread and salt humble even a robber," say the Russians.
15 By forbearance is a judge won over,
And a gentle tongue breaketh the bone.
קצין (vid., Proverbs 6:7) does not denote any kind of distinguished person, but a judge or a person occupying a high official position. And פּתּה does not here mean, to talk over or delude; but, like Jeremiah 20:7, to persuade, to win over, to make favourable to one; for ארך אפּים (vid., Proverbs 14:29) is dispassionate calmness, not breaking out into wrath, which finally makes it manifest that he who has become the object of accusation, suspicion, or of disgrace, is one who nevertheless has right on his side; for indecent, boisterous passion injures even a just cause; while, on the contrary, a quiet, composed, thoughtful behaviour, which is not embarrassed by injustice, either experienced or threatened, in the end secures a decision in our favour. "Patience overcomes" is an old saying. The soft, gentle tongue (cf. רך, Proverbs 15:1) is the opposite of a passionate, sharp, coarse one, which only the more increases the resistance which it seeks to overcome. "Patience," says a German proverb, "breaks iron;" another says, "Patience is stronger than a diamond." So here: a gentle tongue breaketh the bone (גּרם equals עצם, as at Proverbs 17:22), it softens and breaks to pieces that which is hardest. Sudden anger makes the evil still worse; long-suffering, on the contrary, operates convincingly; cutting, immoderate language, embitters and drives away; gentle words, on the contrary, persuade, if not immediately, yet by this, that they remain as it were unchangeable.
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