Proverbs 26:18
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
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(18) Firebrands.—Arrows to which some blazing material was attached, in order that they might set on fire whatever they touched.

Proverbs 26:18-19. As a madman — Hebrew, כמתלהלה, as one that makes, or feigns himself mad, in order that, under that pretence, he may do mischief with impunity; casteth firebrands, arrows, and death — Any instruments of death and destruction against his neighbour’s person, house, or goods; so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour — That wrongs him under a false pretence of kindness and familiarity; and saith, Am I not in sport? — And then asks his neighbour why he resents it so heinously, saying he was only in jest: and intended merely to try how he would take it.

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.The teacher cuts off the plea which people make when they have hurt their neighbor by lies, that they "did not mean mischief," that they were "only in fun." Such jesting is like that of the madman flinging firebrands or arrows. 18, 19. Such are reckless of results. As a madman, as one that feigneth himself mad, that under that pretence he may do mischief with impunity,

who casteth fire-brands, to hurt his neighbour’s person, or to consume his house or goods.

Death; any instruments of death.

As a mad man, who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death. Or the instruments of death, as Aben Ezra; or the sharp arrows of death, as the Targum and Syriac version; who casts firebrands into the houses and barns of his neighbours, to consume them; or arrows at their persons and cattle, to destroy them; or any other instruments of death, which none but a mad man, or one wickedly mad, would do. Or, "as one that makes himself mad" (e); that feigns himself mad, and, under colour of this, does mischief to his neighbour's person and property: or, "as one that hides himself" (f); that casts firebrands, arrows, and other deadly things, in a private way, so as not to be seen, and that it may not be known from whence they come: or, "as one that wearies himself" (g), so Jarchi; in doing mischief in such a way. The word in the Arabic language signifies to play and be in sport; and so it means one that does these things in sport, as it is a sport to a fool to do mischief; which sense agrees with what follows.

(e) "ut se habet qui iunsanum ne simulat", Piscator; "ut qui se insanire fingit", Cocceius. (f) "Sicut abscondit se", Pagninus, Mercerus, Gejerus. (g) "Ut sese fatigat", Tigurine version.

As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
Verses 18, 19 - A tetrastich, but without parallelisms. As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death. The word rendered "madman" is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and has been variously explained; but the Authorized Version is probably correct. "Firebrands" are darts with some blazing material attached to them. "Death "forms a climax with the other dangers mentioned, which the madman deals forth recklessly and indiscriminately. So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport? When a man has injured his neighbour by lies or malice, the plea that he was only in joke is not allowed; the injury is not less real because he excuses it by alleging it was done not seriously, but playfully; no more than the fatal effects of the use of murderous weapons are lessened by their being employed by the hands of a maniac. Practical joking is often a most serious matter. A mediaeval adage says wisely -

"Cum jocus est verus, jocus est malus atque severus," Septuagint, "Even as those who are under medical treatment (ἱώμενοι) throw words at men, and he who first meets the word will be overthrown; so are all they that lay wait for their own friends, and when they are seen, say, I did it in jest." As insane persons who abuse and ill treat their physicians are excused by reason of their infirmity, so those who injure friends in secret try to excuse themselves when found out by alleging that they were only joking. Proverbs 26:18These verses form a tetrastich:

18 As a man who casteth brands,

     And arrows, and death;

19 So is the man who deceiveth his neighbour,

     And saith: I only make sport.

The old translations of מתלהלה are very diverse. Aquila has rendered it by κακοηθιζόμενος; Symmachus: πειρώμενοι; the Syr.: the vainglorious; the Targ.: מתּחת (from נחת), a successor (spiritually); Jerome: noxius (injurious; for which Luther: secret). There is thus no traditional translation. Kimchi explains the word by השׁתגע (Venet. ἐξεστώς); Aben Ezra by השׁתטה (from שׂטה), to behave thoughtlessly, foolishly; but both erroneously, confounding with it ותּלהּ, Genesis 47:13, which is formed from להה and not from לההּ, and is related to לאה, according to which מתלהלה would designate him who exerts himself (Rashi, המתיגע), or who is worn out (Saadia: who does not know what to do, and in weariness passes his time). The root לההּ (להּ), whence the reflex form התלהלהּ, like התמהמהּ, from מההּ, מהּ) leads to another primary idea. The root להּ presents in (Arab.) âliha (vid., Fleischer in the Comm. zur Genesis, p. 57), waliha, and taliha, formed from the 8th form of this verb (aittalah), the fundamental meaning of internal and external unrest; these verbs are used of the effect of fear (shrinking back from fear), and, generally, the want of self-command; the Syr. otlahlah, to be terrified, obstupescere, confirms this primary conception, connecting itself with the R. להּ. Accordingly, he who shoots every possible death-bringing arrow, is thought of as one who is beside himself, one who is of confused mind, in which sense the passive forms of (Arab.) âlah and talah are actually used. Schultens' reference to (Arab.) lâh micare, according to which כמתלהלה must mean sicut ludicram micationem exercens (Bttcher: one who exerts himself; Malbim: one who scoffs, from התל), is to be rejected, because מתלהלה must be the direct opposite of משׂחק; and Ewald's comparison of (Arab.) wâh and akhkh, to be entangled, distorted, lâh, to be veiled, confounds together heterogeneous words. Regarding זקּים (from זנק), burning arrows, vid., under Isaiah 50:11. Death stands third, not as comprehensive (that which is deadly of every kind), but as a climax (yea, even death itself). The כּן of the principal sentence, correlate to כּ of the contiguous clause, has the Makkeph in our editions; but the laws of the metrical Makkeph require כּן אישׁ (with Munach), as it occurs e.g., in Cod. 1294. A man who gives vent to his malice against his neighbour, and then says: seest thou not that... (הלא, like Arab. âlâ), i.e., I am only jesting, I have only a joke with thee: he exhibits himself as being mad, who in blind rage scatters about him deadly arrows.

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