Proverbs 26:3
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
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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.i. e., "Vague as the flight of the sparrow, aimless as the wheelings of the swallow, is the causeless curse. It will never reach its goal." The marginal reading in the Hebrew, however, gives" to him" instead of "not" or "never;" i. e., "The causeless curse, though it may pass out of our ken, like a bird's track in the air, will come on the man who utters it." Compare the English proverb, "Curses, like young chickens, always come home to roost." 3. The rod is as much needed by fools and as well suited to them, as whips and bridles are for beasts. A bridle was very proper and usual for an ass, when they rode upon it, (as the Jews most commonly did,) though not to restrain him from running away, which is the principal use of it in horses, yet that the rider might rule and guide him, which was very necessary for that stupid creature. Although the ancient interpreters render it a goad, or spur, or something of the like nature and use.

A rod for the fool’s back; which is most proper and necessary for him. Not words, but blows, must make him better. A whip for the horse,.... One that is dull of going, or refractory and wants breaking;

a bridle for the ass; not to curb and restrain it from going too fist, asses being generally dull; but to direct its way and turn it when necessary, it being stiffnecked and obstinate; though the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it a "spear" or "goad", something to prick with, and excite it to motion; and so the Targum; or otherwise one would have thought the whip was fitter for the ass and the bridle for the horse;

and a rod for the fool's back; suggesting that the fool, or wicked man, is like the horse or the mule; though not without understanding of things natural, yet of things divine and moral; and as stupid as the ass, however wise he may conceit himself to be, being born like a wild ass's colt; and instead of honour being given him, stripes should be laid upon him; he should be reproved sharply, and corrected for his wickedness, especially the causeless curser, Proverbs 19:29.

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Verse 3. - A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass. We should be inclined to invert the words, and say a bridle for the horse, and a whip for the ass; but it must be remembered that in early times the horse was not ridden, but only driven. The animals used in riding were the ass and mule, and sometimes the camel. The Eastern ass is really a fine animal, larger, more spirited, and more active than the poor creature which we are wont to see. Or the whip and bridle may be intended to apply to both animals, though divided between the two for rhythmical or antithetical reasons (see on Proverbs 10:1). A rod for the fool's back. Sharp correction is beth useful and necessary for the fool (so Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29). Similar treatment Siracides advises to be employed in the case of an idle servant (Ecclus. 30:24-28). Septuagint, "As a whip for a horse and a goad for an ass, so is a rod for a lawless nation." 25 Fresh water to a thirsty soul;

     And good news from a far country.

Vid., regarding the form of this proverb, vol. i. p. 9; we have a similar proverb regarding the influence of good news at Proverbs 15:30. Fresh cold water is called at Jeremiah 18:14 מים קרים; vid., regarding קר, 18:27. "עיף, cogn. יעף, and עוּף, properly to become darkened, therefore figuratively like (Arab.) gushiya 'alyh, to become faint, to become feeble unto death, of the darkness which spreads itself over the eyes" (Fleischer).

This proverb, with the figure of "fresh water," is now followed by one with the figure of a "fountain":

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