Proverbs 26:16
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Seven men.—A round number. (Comp. Proverbs 26:25; Proverbs 6:31; Proverbs 24:16.)

That can render a reason—i.e., give a sensible judgment on any matter submitted to them.

26:2. He that is cursed without cause, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head. 3. Every creature must be dealt with according to its nature, but careless and profligate sinners never will be ruled by reason and persuasion. Man indeed is born like the wild ass's colt; but some, by the grace of God, are changed. 4,5. We are to fit our remarks to the man, and address them to his conscience, so as may best end the debate. 6-9. Fools are not fit to be trusted, nor to have any honour. Wise sayings, as a foolish man delivers and applies them, lose their usefulness. 10. This verse may either declare how the Lord, the Creator of all men, will deal with sinners according to their guilt, or, how the powerful among men should disgrace and punish the wicked. 11. The dog is a loathsome emblem of those sinners who return to their vices, 2Pe 2:22. 12. We see many a one who has some little sense, but is proud of it. This describes those who think their spiritual state to be good, when really it is very bad. 13. The slothful man hates every thing that requires care and labour. But it is foolish to frighten ourselves from real duties by fancied difficulties. This may be applied to a man slothful in the duties of religion. 14. Having seen the slothful man in fear of his work, here we find him in love with his ease. Bodily ease is the sad occasion of many spiritual diseases. He does not care to get forward with his business. Slothful professors turn thus. The world and the flesh are hinges on which they are hung; and though they move in a course of outward services, yet they are not the nearer to heaven. 15. The sluggard is now out of his bed, but he might have lain there, for any thing he is likely to bring to pass in his work. It is common for men who will not do their duty, to pretend they cannot. Those that are slothful in religion, will not be at the pains to feed their souls with the bread of life, nor to fetch in promised blessings by prayer. 16. He that takes pains in religion, knows he is working for a good Master, and that his labour shall not be in vain. 17. To make ourselves busy in other men's matters, is to thrust ourselves into temptation. 18,19. He that sins in jest, must repent in earnest, or his sin will be his ruin. 20-22. Contention heats the spirit, and puts families and societies into a flame. And that fire is commonly kindled and kept burning by whisperers and backbiters. 23. A wicked heart disguising itself, is like a potsherd covered with the dross of silver.Seven - The definite number used for the indefinite (compare Proverbs 24:16).

Reason - Better, a right judgment.

16. The thoughtless being ignorant of their ignorance are conceited. Is wiser in his own conceit, because by his idleness he avoids those troubles and dangers to which other men by their activity expose themselves, forgetting in the mean thee what reproach and loss, and how much greater mischiefs, both here and hereafter, are brought upon him by his slothfulness.

That can render a reason, to wit, a satisfactory reason, of all their actions, i.e. who are truly wise men. The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit,.... It is a sort of a solecism, a kind of a contradiction in terms for a sluggard to be wise, who is so slothful as to make no use of the means of getting wisdom and knowledge. And it must be a mere conceit in him that he is wise, and especially that he is wiser

than seven men that can render a reason; not alluding to the number of a king's counsellors, who return him an answer to what he inquires of them, as Aben Ezra thinks; such as were the "seven" princes of the king of Persia, Esther 1:14. Since to have such an exact number might not obtain in Solomon's time, either in Persia, or in his own court, or elsewhere: but it signifies a large number, many wise men, as Gersom observes, that render a reason to everyone that asks it of them; who, having been diligent and industrious, have got such a competency of knowledge, that they are able to give a proper reason of what they say, believe, or do: and such are they, who, by the blessing of grace in the use of means, are wise in a spiritual sense; know themselves, and Christ Jesus, and the way of salvation by him; have an understanding of the Scriptures, and of the doctrines of the Gospel; have their spiritual senses exercised, to discern between truth and error; are of established judgments, and capable of teaching others good judgment and knowledge; and of giving a reason of their faith, hope, and practice; see 1 Peter 3:15. Now such is the conceit of an ignorant sluggard, that he is wiser than ten thousand or ever so many of these; he thinks himself the wisest man, inasmuch as he enjoys ease and quiet in his stupid sottish way, while they are toiling and labouring, and taking a great deal of pains to get knowledge; and that he sleeps in a whole skin, and escapes the censure and reproaches of men, which they endure for being precise in religious duties, and constant in the performance of them; and fancies he can get to heaven in an easier way, without all this care and toil and trouble, only by saying, Lord, have mercy on me, at last.

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. sluggard] The A.V. after rendering the Heb. word (which is the same in all four verses), slothful, three times, here changes it to sluggard. It is better to keep one word throughout.

render a reason] Or, answer discreetly, R.V. marg.Verse 16. - The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit. The sluggard is here one who is too idle to think a matter out, and considers his own cursory view as sure to be right. He is one who deems study to be an unnecessary weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and flatters himself that he is quite able without it to give a satisfactory account of any question presented to him. Than seven men that can render a reason. "Seven" is the number of completeness (comp. Proverbs 6:31; Proverbs 9:1; Proverbs 24:16). The idle fool sets more value by his own judgment than by the sense of any number of wise men. Revised Version margin, "that can answer discreetly," is perhaps nearer the Hebrew, which implies the being able to return a wise and proper answer to anything asked of them. The LXX. reading a little differently, renders, "Wiser seems a sluggard to himself than one who in satiety (ἐν πλησμονῇ) brings back a message." This is explained to mean that a sluggard thinks himself wise in not helping a neighbour with an errand or a message, though he would have probably been repaid with a good dinner for his kindness. All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

Much bringeth forth from itself all;

But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.

The lxx translates πολλὰ χειμάζεται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἀφρόνων (all the flesh of fools suffers much), συντριβήσεται γὰρ ἧ ἔκστασις αὐτῶν, which is in Hebrew:

רב מחולל כל בּשׂר כסיל

ישּׁבר עברתם

An unfortunate attempt so to rectify the words that some meaning might be extracted from them. The first line of this translation has been adopted by the Syr. and Targ., omitting only the כל, in which the self-condemnation of this deciphering lies (for כל בשׂר means elsewhere, humanity, not the whole body of each individual); but they translate the second line as if the words were:

ישׁכּר עבר ים

i.e., and the drunken man sails over the sea (עברים is separated into עבר ים, as בבקרים, Amos 6:12, is to be separated into בּבּקר ים); but what does that mean? Does it mean that to a drunkard (but שׁכּור, the drunken man, and not סבא, the drunkard, is used) nothing remains but to wander over the sea? or that the drunken man lets his imagination wander away over the sea, while he neglects the obligation that lies upon him? Symmachus and Theodotion, with the Midrash (Rashi) and Saadia (Kimchi), take שׂכר in 10b equals סגר (like Isaiah 19:10, שׂכר equals embankment, cf. סכּרין, Kelim, Proverbs 23:5); the former translates by καὶ ὁ φράσσων ἄφρονα ἐμφράσσει τὰς ὀργὰς αὐτοῦ, the latter by καὶ φιμῶν ἄφρονα φιμοῖ χόλους, yielding to the imagination that עברים, like עברות, may be the plur. of עברה, anger. Jerome punctuates רב as, Proverbs 25:8, רב, and interprets, as Symmachus and Theodotion, שׂכר both times equals סגר, translating: Judicium determinat causas, et qui imponit stulto silentium iras mitigat; but רב does not mean judicium, nor מחולל determinat, nor כל causas. As Gussetius, so also Ralbag (in the first of his three explanations), Meri, Elia Wilna interpret the proverb as a declaration regarding quarrelsome persons: he causeth woe to all, and hireth fools, hireth transgressors, for his companions; but in that case we must read רב for רב; מחולל, bringing woe, would be either the Po. of חלל, to bore through, or Pilel of חיל (חוּל), to put into distress (as with pangs); but עברים, transgressors equals sinners, is contrary to the O.T. usus loq., Proverbs 22:3 (Proverbs 27:12) is falsely cited in its favour; besides, for רב there should have been at least אישׁ רב and why שׂכרו is repeated remains inexplicable. Others take מחולל־כל as the name of God, the creator of all men and things; and truly this is the nearest impression of these two words, for חולל is the usual designation for divine production, e.g., Psalm 90:2. Accordingly Kimchi explains: The Lord is the creator of all, and He gives to fools and to transgressors their maintenance; but עברים, transgressors, is Mishnic, not bibl.; and שׂכר means to hire, but not to supply with food. The proverb is thus incapable of presenting a thought like Matthew 5:45 (He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good). Others translate: "The Lord is creator of all, and takes fools, takes idlers, into His service." Thus rendered, the proverb is offensive; wherefore Rashi, Moses Kimchi, Arama, and others regard the Mashal as in the mouth of fools, and thus they take Proverbs 26:9 and Proverbs 26:10 together as a tetrastich. Certainly this second collection of proverbs contains also tetrastiches; but Proverbs 26:9 and Proverbs 26:10 cannot be regarded as together forming a tetrastich, because רב (which is valid against Kimchi also) cannot mean God the Lord: רב, Lord, is unheard of in bibl. Heb., and at least the word הרב must be used for God. The Venet. on this account does not follow Kimchi, but translates, Ἄρχων πλάττει πάντα, καὶ μισθοῦται μωρὸν καὶ μισθοῦται ὡς παραβάτης (ought to have been παραβάτας); but who could this cunning man be? Perhaps the Venet. is to be understood, after Gecatilia (in Rashi): a great (rich) man performs all manner of things; but if he hires a fool, it is as if he hired the first best who pass along the way. But that חולל is used in the general sense of to execute, to perform, is without example, and improbable. Also the explanation: a ruler brings grief, i.e., severe oppression, upon all (Abulwald, Immanuel, Aben Ezra, who, in his smaller grammar, explains רב equals רב after Isaiah 49:9; C. B. Michaelis: dolore afficit omnes), does not recommend itself; for חולל, whether it be from חלל, Isaiah 51:9 (to bore through), or from חיל, Psalm 29:9 (to bring on the pangs of birth), is too strong a word for hurting; also the clause, thus generally understood, is fortunately untrue. Translated as by Euchel: "the prominent persons destroy all; they keep fools in pay, and favour vagabonds," - it sounds as if it had been picked up in an assembly of democrats. On the other hand, the proverb, as translated by Luther:

A good master maketh a thing right;

But he who hireth a bungler, by him it is spoiled,

is worthy of the Book of Proverbs. The second line is here freely rendered, but it is also appropriate, if we abide closer by the words of the text, in this connection. Fleischer: Magister (artifex peritus) effingit omnia (i.e., bene perficit quaecunque ei committuntur); qui autem stultum conducit, conducit transeuntes (i.e., idem facit ac si homines ignotos et forte transeuntes ad opus gravius et difficilius conduceret). Thus also Gesenius, Bttcher, and others, who all, as Gecatilia above, explain עברים, τοὺς τυχόντας, the first best. But we are reluctantly constrained to object to this thought, because רב nowhere in bibl. Hebrew signifies a master; and the ו of the second ושׂכר dno cannot bear that rendering, ac si. And if we leave it out, we nevertheless encounter a difficulty in חולל, which cannot be used of human production. Many Christian interpreters (Cocceius, Schultens, Schelling, Ewald, Bertheau, Stier, Zckler) give to רב a meaning which is found in no Jewish interpreter, viz., sagittarius, from רבב (רבב), Genesis 49:23 (and perhaps Psalm 18:15), after the forms צר, שׂר, the plur. of which, רבּים, is found at Job 16:13; Jeremiah 50:29, but in a connection which removes all doubt from the meaning of the word. Here also רב may be more closely defined by מחולל; but how then does the proverb stand? "an archer who wounds everything, and he who hires a fool, and hires passers-by" (Ewald: street-runners), i.e., they are alike. But if the archer piercing everything is a comic Hercules furens, then, in order to discover the resemblance between the three, there is need of a portion of ingenuity, such as is only particularly assigned to the favoured. But it is also against the form and the usage of the word to interpret עברים simply of rogues and vagabonds. Several interpreters have supposed that רב and כל must stand in a certain interchangeable relation to each other. Thus, e.g., Ahron b. Josef: "Much makes amazement to all, but especially one who hires a fool...." But this "especially" (Before all) is an expression smuggled in. Agreeing with Umbreit and Hitzig, we translate line first; but in translating line second, we follow our own method:

Much bringeth all out of it;

i.e., where there is much, then one has it in his power, if he begins right, to undertake everything. רב has by כּל the definition of a neuter, so as to designate not only many men, Exodus 19:21, but also much ability in a pecuniary and facultative sense (cf. the subst. רב, Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 145:7); and of the much which bringeth forth all out of itself, effects all by itself, חולל with equal right might be used, as Proverbs 25:23, of the north wind. The antithesis 10b takes this form:

continued...

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