A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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."
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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