A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
Verse 1-ch. 15:19. Second section in this collection. Verse 1. - A wise son heareth his father's instruction. The Authorized Version introduces the verb from the second member. The Hebrew is elliptical, "A wise son, his father's discipline," i.e. is the object or the result of his father's education; he owes his wisdom to it. Septuagint, "A clever (πανοῦργος) son is obedient to his father." But a scorner (Proverbs 1:22) heareth not rebuke; one who mocks at goodness and despises filial piety will not listen to reproof. Septuagint, "A disobedient son is in destruction." Compare the case of Eli's sons, and their fate (1 Samuel 2:25; 1 Samuel 4:17).
A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.
Verse 2. - A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth (Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 18:20). By his kindly speech and wise counsels he shall gain the good will of his neighbours and the blessing of God. Schultens observes that the word rendered "good" (tob) means what is pleasant to taste and smell, while that translated "violence" (chamas) signifies literally what is crude and unripe. The soul of the transgressors shall eat violence (Proverbs 1:31). The Authorized Version introduces the verb from the first clause unnecessarily. The meaning of this rendering is that sinners, especially the treacherous, bring on themselves retribution; the injuries which they devise against others recoil on their own heads (Proverbs 10:6). The Hebrew is, "The soul (i.e. the desire, or delight) of the perfidious (is) violence." Such men have only one thing at heart, viz. to wrong their neighbour, and to increase their own property by any, even nefarious, precedings. Septuagint, "Of the fruits of righteousness the good man shall eat; but the lives of transgressors shall perish untimely."
He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
Verse 3. - He that keepeth (guardeth) his mouth keepeth his life (Proverbs 18:21; Proverbs 21:23; comp. Psalm 39:1; James 1:26). Thus the gnome -
Ἡ γλῶσσα πολλοὺς εἰς ὄλεθρον ἤγαγεν.
"The tongue hath many to destruction led." And Ecclus. 28:25, "Weigh thy words in a balance, and make a door and bar for thy mouth. Beware thou slide not by it, lest thou fall before him that lieth in wait." But he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 10:14). The Vulgate paraphrases, "He who is inconsiderate in speech shall experience evils;" Septuagint, "will terrify himself" - will occasion to himself many terrible alarms and inflictions. Hence the psalmist prays, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my month; keep the door of my lips." So we have in the Danish, "A silent man's words are not brought into court;" and in the Spanish, "Let not the tongue say what the head shall pay for;" while the Italians tell us, "The sheep that bleats is strangled by the wolf:" and "Silence was never written down" (Kelly). (See on Proverbs 18:6; 20:19.)
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
Verse 4. - (Comp. Proverbs 10:4.) The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; literally, and nothing is there - he gains nothing (Proverbs 14:6; Proverbs 20:4). He has the wish, but not the will, and the empty wish without corresponding exertion is useless (Proverbs 21:25, etc.). Vulgate, "The indolent wishers, and wishes not;" he wishes for something, but he wishes not for the labour of getting it; he would like the result, but he hates the process by which the result is to be obtained. Septuagint, "In desires every idle man is occupied;" his mind is fixed wholly on aimless wishes, not on action. Shall be made fat (Proverbs 11:25); Septuagint, "The hands of the valiant are fully occupied (ἐν ἐπιμελείᾳ)."
A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.
Verse 5. - Lying; Vulgate, verbum mendax; Septuagint, λόγον ἄδικον; literally, a word of falsehood. But debar, "word," is used, like ῤῆμα in Hellenistic Greek, in a general sense for "thing," i.e. the subject of speech. So here it is not only verbal lying that is meant, but every kind of deceit and guile. This naturally betrays itself by the speech, according to the proverb, "Show me a liar, and I will show you a thief." A wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame. The clause is variously translated. Vulgate, confundit et confundetur, "causes shame to others and to himself." Septuagint, "is put to shame, and shall not have licence of tongue (παῥῤησίαν)." The Revised Version margin, "causeth shame and bringeth reproach." Delitzsch, "brings into bad odour (Genesis 34:30) and causes shame." Hitzig, "behaveth injuriously and shamefully." The antithesis is best brought out by the rendering that marks the effect of the wicked man's "lying;" "He brings disgrace upon others (who have trusted him or have been associated with him) and causes shame."
Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.
Verse 6. - Righteousness keepeth (guardeth) him that is upright in the way; literally, uprightness of way, abstract for concrete, as in the second member, sin for sinner. Those who are good and innocent in the walk of life are preserved from evil, moral and material. Wickedness overthroweth the sinner; literally, sin "Overthroweth," makes to slip. Vulgate, supplantet. The LXX. inverts the clause, "Sin makes the impious worthless (φαύλους)" (see Proverbs 11:3, 5, 6). The verse is omitted in many Greek manuscripts.
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
Verse 7. - There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing. "Maketh" may mean "feigns." There are some who pretend to be rich while really they are poor (as Proverbs 12:9), and there are some who make themselves, i.e. pretend to be poor (as misers) while they have much wealth. The Vulgate elucidates this meaning by rendering, quasi dives and quasi pauper; and the Hebrew verbs confirm its correctness. The proverb in both members teaches one not to trust to appearances. Septuagint, "There are who enrich themselves, having nothing; and there are who humble themselves amid much wealth." It is obvious that such a version lends itself to a Christian interpretation. The first clause reminds one of the rich fool who laid up treasure for himself, and was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21; comp. Revelation 3:17, 18). The second clause teaches that wealth expended in God's service makes a man rich in the treasury of heaven (Luke 12:21, 33). One who thus uses the means entrusted to him could be spoken of like St. Paul, "as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:10).
The ransom of a man's life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.
Verse 8. - The ransom of a man's life are his riches. A rich man can save himself from many difficulties and dangers by the sacrifice of a portion of his wealth, e.g. when his money or his life is demanded by a robber; when men in authority make extortionate demands on pain of death; or when he has incurred extreme penalty by infringement of law (Exodus 21:22, 30). Spiritually discerned, the passage recalls Christ's injunction, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles" (Luke 16:9). The poor heareth not rebuke; has not to listen to (Job 3:18) threats from the covetous or abuse from the envious. He has nothing to lose, and no one can gain anything by interfering with him. So the poor man is at peace. "A hundred men cannot rob one pauper."
"Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator."
The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.
Verse 9. - The light of the righteous rejoiceth; laetificat, Vulgate. But the verb is intransitive, and means "burn joyfully," bright and clear, as the sun rejoices as a strong man to run a race (Psalm 19:5). This light (or) is the grace and virtue which adorn the good man's life, and which beam through all his actions with a cheerful, kindly radiance (comp. Proverbs 4:18, 19). This is a true light, kindled in his heart by God, different from the lamp (ner) of the wicked, which is devised and lighted by themselves, and has no element of permanence, but soon shall be put out (Proverbs 24:20; comp. Proverbs 20:20; Job 18:5; John 1:8; John 5:35, where the distinction between "light" and "lamp" is maintained). The lamp of the wicked is the false show of wisdom or piety, which may glimmer and deceive for a time, but is ere long detected and brought to naught. There may be here an allusion to a common custom in the East. "No house, however poor," says Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land,' 1:117), "is left without a light burning in it all night; the housewife rising betimes to secure its continuance by replenishing the lamp with oil. If a lamp goes out, it is a fatal omen" (comp. 1 Kings 15:4; Jeremiah 25:10; Revelation 18:23). Septuagint, "The light of the righteous is everlasting; but the light of sinners is quenched." Then is introduced a couplet not found in the Hebrew, of which the latter part is borrowed from Psalm 37:21 or Psalms 112:5, "Crafty souls go astray in sins; righteous men show mercy and pity." The Vulgate inserts this paragraph after ver. 13.
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Verse 10. - Only by pride cometh contention. Some render "surely" (raq) for only, as in Genesis 20:11. Others rightly translate, "By pride cometh only, nothing but, contention." Vulgate, "Between the proud disputes are always rife." One who is haughty and overbearing, or who is too conceited to receive advice, is sure to quarrel with others. Septuagint, "An evil man with insult doeth evil." With the well advised is wisdom; those who are not, like the proud, above taking advice and following it, are wise (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 12:15). As the Vulgate puts it, "They who do all things with counsel are directed by wisdom." The LXX., reading differently, has, "They who know themselves are wise," which implies that the wise know their own weakness and imperfection, and hearken humbly to good counsel
Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
Verse 11. - Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; literally, wealth by a breath; i.e. wealth obtained without labour and exertion, or by illegitimate and dishonest means, is soon dissipated, is not blessed by God, and has no stability. Vulgate, "riches acquired hastily;" Septuagint, "substance gotten hastily with iniquity." This makes the antithesis more marked, the contrast being between wealth gotten hastily and that acquired by diligent labour. Cito nata, cito pereunt, "Quickly won, quickly gone" (see on Proverbs 20:21; 21:5). Says the Greek maxim -
Μὴ σπεῦδε πλουτεῖν μὴ ταχὺς πένης γένῃ
"Haste not for wealth, lest thou be quickly poor." He that gathereth by labour; literally, with the hand, handful after handful. Vulgate, paulatim, "little by little," by patient industry. Labor improbus omnia vincit. Septuagint, "He that gathereth for himself with piety shall be increased." Then is added, "A good man is merciful and lendeth," from Psalm 37:26. The Septuagint here uses the term εὐσέβεια, which is received in St. Paul's pastoral Epistles and St. Peter's, taking the place of the earlier phrase, φόβος Κυρίου,
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Verse 12. - Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Delay in the accomplishment of some much-desired good occasions sinking of the spirits, languor, and despondence. Many refer this sentence to the impatient longing for heaven which holy men feel, such as we may read in 'De Imitatione,' 3:48, 49, and in the hymns, "For thee, O dear, dear country;" and "We've no abiding city," etc. And St. Paul can exclaim (Romans 7:24), "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (comp. Romans 8:23; Philippians 1:23). Septuagint, "Better is he who taketh in hand to aid with all his heart, than he who promises and raises hopes" (comp. James 2:15, 16). When the desire cometh - when the object of the longing is obtained - it is a tree of life (Proverbs 11:30); there are then no longer languor and despondence, but strength and refreshment and vigorous action. Septuagint, "A good desire is a tree of life."
Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.
Verse 13. - Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed. "The word" is either the commandment of God (Deuteronomy 30:14), or warning and instruction. He who despises and neglects this word "brings on himself destruction." Many good authorities take the latter verb in another sense, "is pledged by it;" as Revised Version in margin, "maketh himself a debtor thereto," i.e. is still bound to fulfil his obligations to it; he cannot escape duty by ignoring or despising it, but is pledged to do it, and will suffer for its neglect. Hence Christ's injunction to agree with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him (Matthew 5:25). Vulgate, "He who disparages (detrahit) anything binds himself for the future." Septuagint, "He who despises a thing (πράγματος, τάγματυς, 'a command') shall be despised by it." Virtus se contemnentem contemnit. He that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded (Proverbs 11:31). The Vulgate rendering, "shall live in peace," and that of the Septuagint, "shall be healthful," are not so suitable. The "fearing the commandment" implies obedience to it; and reward is considered as fully pledged to obedience as punishment is to neglect. The Septuagint here adds a distich which Ewald regards as genuine, "Unto a crafty son there shall be nothing good; but to a wise servant all actions shall prosper, and his way shall be guided aright." This is also found in the Vulgate of Proverbs 14:15. The Vulgate here inserts the paragraph found in the Septuagint at ver. 9 (q.v.), Animae dolosae errant in peccatis; justi autem misericordes sunt et miserantur.
The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Verse 14. - The law (instruction) of the wise is a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11), which has and imparts life (Ecclus. 21:13; Psalm 36:9). The rules and teaching of wise men are a source of life to those who follow them, so that they depart from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:27). Obedience to good teaching saves from many dangers, material and spiritual, especially from the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). With "snares of death" we may compare Psalm 18:5 and Horace's ('Carm.,' 3:24. 8)
"Non mortis laqueis expedies caput." Septuagint, "The fool shall perish by the snare."
Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.
Verse 15. - Good understanding giveth favour (Proverbs 3:4); makes one acceptable to God and man. We are told of Christ that "he increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). As a good and wise man uses his gifts and graces properly, he wins higher favour from God, and kindles the love and respect of his fellow men. Alter this clause the Septuagint introduces that which occurs also in Proverbs 9:10, "It belongs to a good understanding (διανοίας) to know the Law." The way of transgressors is hard; rough and rugged, leading to desolation, not to waters of comfort. Ecclus. 21:10, "The way of sinners is made plain with stones, but at the end thereof is the pit of hell." Vulgate, "In the way of scorners is an abyss;" Septuagint, "The ways of scorners end in destruction."
Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.
Verse 16. - Every prudent man dealeth (worketh, acteth) with knowledge; i.e. with thought and deliberation, having previously well considered the bearings and issues of his plans. But a fool layeth open his folly; Revised Version, spreadeth out folly, as if exposing the wares of his shop (Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 15:2). One works; the other talks.
A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.
Verse 17. - A wicked messenger falleth into mischief; misfortune, calamity (Proverbs 17:20). A messenger who is false to his employer shall be detected and punished. The LXX., reading melek for malak, renders, "A rash king shall fall into evils." Such a one adopts inconsiderate measures, makes war unadvisedly, etc. A faithful ambassador (literally, an ambassador of faithfulness, Proverbs 25:13) is health. One who faithfully performs his errand is a source of comfort and satisfaction both to his employer and to those to whom he is sent. Septuagint, "But a wise messenger shall deliver him" - the king.
Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.
Verse 18. - Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction; correction, discipline. Nowack takes the two nouns as predicates: "He that refuseth discipline is poverty and shame," i.e. they are his lot. Such a one indulges his own lusts and passions, is headstrong in pursuing his own plans, and thus dissipates his fortune and acquires the contempt of all good men. Septuagint, "Discipline taketh away poverty and disgrace." He that regardeth reproof shall be honoured. To listen to rebuke and to profit thereby is a proof of humility and self-knowledge, which wins respect from others. Lesetre refers to Theodosius's submission to the sentence imposed upon him by St. Ambrose as a real honour and glory to him (comp. Proverbs 12:1; Proverbs 15:5, 32).
The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools to depart from evil.
Verse 19. - The desire accomplished (comp. ver. 12). This is usually taken to mean the desire of what is good and honest, when it is fulfilled and realized, is a source of highest joy and comfort to the wise. Septuagint, "The desires of the pious are sweet to the soul." But it is abomination to fools to depart from evil. The antithesis is not very obvious, but it may be: it is sweet to a good man to obtain his wish; but for a wicked man to leave, to abandon evil to which he clings so fondly, is a detestable alternative. Or the latter clause may mean that the wicked will not give up the evil which makes the satisfaction of their desire impossible. But it is best to take the first clause as a general statement, viz. the satisfaction of desire is pleasant to all men; then the latter member gives a special case and will signify, "For the sake of this pleasure bad men will not give up their evil wishes and plans; they will pursue what they have set their heart upon because they hate the idea of foregoing their evil designs." Septuagint, "The deeds of sinners are far from knowledge," i.e. from practical wisdom, prudence, and piety. The Vulgate introduces quite another thought, "Fools abhor those who flee from evil." Compare the passage in Wisd. 2, concerning the sinner's hatred of the good.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Verse 20. - He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; or, according to the Khetib, walk with wise men, and thou shall be wise. Ecclus. 6:36, "If thou seest a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him, and let thy foot wear the steps of his door." So the Greek maxim -
Σοφοῖς ὁμιλῶν καὐτὸς ἐκβήσῃ σοφός.
"With wise conversing thou wilt wise become."
and Eurip., 'Rhesus,' 206 -
Σοφοῦ παρ ἀνδρὸς χρὴ σοφόν τι μανθάνειν
"A man that's wise will thee true wisdom teach." A companion of fools shall be destroyed; literally, shall be broken, shall suffer moral ruin; Revised Version margin, "shall smart for it." But the antithesis is not well brought out by this rendering: and as the word may bear the sense of "doing ill" as well as of "suffering ill," the interpretation of the Vulgat. intimates the correct idea of the clause: "The friend of fools shall turn out the same;" "He who associates with fools shall do evil." Septuagint, "He who roams about with fools shall be known." "Tell me your companions, and I will tell you what you are."
"Talis quis esse putatur qualis ei est sodalitas." A Dutch proverb says, "He that lives with cripples learns to limp;" and the Spanish, "He that goes with wolves learns to howl." We have a homely English proverb, "He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas;" so the Orientals say," He that takes the raven for his guide shall light upon carrion."
Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repayed.
Verse 21. - Evil pursueth sinners. Sinners suffer not only the natural consequences of crime in external evil, injury to body, estate, reputation, etc. (Psalm 11:6), but also stings of conscience and remorse; even seeming prosperity is often a chastisement, and long impunity is only augmenting the coming retribution. As the shadow attends the substance, so guilt is attached to sin, and brings with it punishment. To the righteous good shall be repaid; or, he, Jehovah, shall repay good (comp. Proverbs 12:14); Revised Version, "The righteous shall be recompensed with good." They shall have the answer of a good conscience, happiness here and hereafter. Septuagint, "Good shall take possession of (or, overtake) the righteous."
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
Verse 22. - A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children. This would be especially notable where a system of temporal rewards and punishments was expected and generally experienced. The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. Property unjustly acquired, or wickedly used, is taken from those who have it, and ultimately finds its way into better hands. They cannot keep it, and consequently cannot leave it to their children.
"De male quaesitis non gaudet tertius haeres."
"Ill-gotten wealth no third descendant holds." This has often been the fate of property obtained by the sacrilegious seizure of what was dedicated to God's service. For the general view of the clause, comp. Proverbs 28:8; Job 27:16, 17; Ecclesiastes 2:26; and the case of Jacob (Genesis 31:9), and the Israelites (Exodus 12:35, 36), when "the righteous spoiled the ungodly" (Wisd. 10:20).
Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.
Verse 23. - Much food is in the tillage (tilled ground) of the poor (Proverbs 12:11). The word rendered "tillage" (nir) means ground worked for the first time, and therefore that on which much labour is bestowed. Hence the Vulgate rightly renders, novalibus. It occurs in Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12, where our version has "fallow ground." The poor, but righteous man, who industriously cultivates his little plot of ground, secures a good return, and is happy in eating the labour of his hands (Psalm 128:2). Intend of "the poor," the Vulgate has, "the fathers," taking ראשים in this sense; so that the meaning would be that children who properly cultivate their paternal or hereditary fields obtain good crops. But the Authorized Version rendering is doubtless preferable. There is that is destroyed for want of judgment; rather, as the Revised Version, by reason of injustice. Rich men are often brought to ruin by their disregard of right and justice (mishpat). Some (poor men) are amply supplied by honest labour; others (rich) lose all by wrong dealing. Vulgate, "For others it (food) is gathered contrary to justice;" Septuagint, quite astray, The righteous shall pass many years in wealth; but the unrighteous shall suddenly perish" - which seems to be an explanation or amplification of ver. 22.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Verse 24. - He that spareth his rod hateth his son. Correction of children is a great point with our author (see Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13, etc.; Proverbs 29:15, 17). So Ecclus. 30:1, "He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end." Dukes, "Gold must be beaten, and a boy needs blows" ('Rabbin. Blumenlese,' 71). Chasteneth him betimes; literally, early in the morning (Proverbs 1:28; Proverbs 8:17), which may mean, in the morning of life, ere evil habits have time to grow, or directly after the offence. Or the expression may signify "diligently." Vulgate, instanter; Septuagint, ἐπιμελῶς.
The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want.
Verse 25. - The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul (comp. Proverbs 10:3; Psalm 34:10). The good man has always enough to satisfy his wants, because he is temperate, and his substance has the blessing of God. "The chief thing for life," says Siracides (Ecclus. 29:21), "is water, and bread, and clothing, and a house to cover shame." The belly of the wicked shall want. The wicked are punished by penury and desires never satisfied. These different results are providentially ordered.