Proverbs 26:20
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
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Proverbs 26:20-22. Where no wood is, the fire goeth out: &c. — As the fire will soon be extinguished if you take away the fuel that feeds it; so, where there is no tale-bearer — To carry such reports from one to another as may provoke them to mutual anger, enmity, and contention; the strife ceaseth — Animosity, hatred, and quarrels will die away. As coals to burning coals, &c. — As dead coals laid on burning coals, and wood on fire, increase the heat and flame; so is a contentious man — Hebrew, אישׁ מדונים, a man of contentions, that is, who loveth and giveth himself up to contentions; or, who is hard to please, and apt to find fault with every person and thing; to kindle strife — For unkind tempers and provoking words quickly produce quarrels and enmities, which destroy all peace, unanimity, and concord, and embroil people in endless hostilities against one another. The words of a tale-bearer are as wounds — This was observed before, Proverbs 18:8, (on which see the note,) and is here repeated, as being a point of great importance to the peace and welfare of all societies, and proper to be often and earnestly pressed upon the consciences of men, because of their great and general proneness to this sin.

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. 20, 21. The talebearers foster (Pr 16:28), and the contentious excite, strife. Tale-bearer, to carry such reports from one to another as may provoke them to mutual rage and strife.

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out,.... Or "woods" (h); where there is a large quantity of wood or fuel, the fire is kept up; but where there is little, scarce any or none at all, it goes out of course;

So where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth; or is silent (i): men cease to quarrel one with another; they hold their peace and are silent, when there are none to bring tales from one to another, or any whisperer or backbiter to suggest evil things of each other; or when such are discouraged on both sides, and their tales are not listened to; or when they are detected and thrust out of doors, as they deserve, then strife subsides, and peace ensues. Contention is like a fire, the flame of which is blown up by talebearers and whisperers, who are as incendiaries, and as such are to be treated.

(h) "deficientibus lignis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "in deficientia lignorum", Michaelis; "quum expirarunt ligna", Schultens. (i) "silebit", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Gejerus; "silet", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "consilescit", Cocceius, Schultens.

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
20. talebearer] Rather, whisperer, as the word is rendered in Proverbs 16:28. The Vulg. has susurro here and in Proverbs 26:22 below, but verbosus in Proverbs 16:28, and bilinguis in Proverbs 18:8. The LXX. have here δίθυμος, a man of strife or discord, but in Proverbs 26:22, κέρκωψ, a jackanapes.

Verse 20. - Some proverbs follow concerning the slanderer. Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out. Where the wood fails, and that was the only fuel then used, the fire must go out. So where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth; comes to silence (Proverbs 22:10). (For nirgan," whisper," see on Proverbs 16:28.) Septuagint, "With much wood fire groweth, but where there is not one discordant (δίθυμος), strife is at rest." Proverbs 26:20There now follow proverbs regarding the nirgân, the slanderer (vid., regarding the formation and import of this word at Proverbs 26:28):

20 Where the wood faileth, the fire goeth out;

     And where no tale-bearer, discord cometh to silence.

Wood, as material for building or for burning, is called, with the plur. of its product, עצים. Since אפס is the absolute end of a thing, and thus expresses its no longer existing, so it was more appropriate to wood (Fleischer: consumtis lignis) than to the tale-bearer, of whom the proverb says the same thing as Proverbs 22:10 says of the mocker.

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