The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Verse 1. - The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water. We are to think of the little channels used for irrigation. As these are altogether under the gardener's control, so the heart of the king, who might seem to have no superior, is directed by God. He turneth it whithersoever he will. By hidden influences and providential arrangements God disposes the monarch to order his government so as to carry out his designs, to spread around joy and plenty. The system of irrigation signified in this passage is still to be seen in Eastern lands. "Flower beds and gardens of herbs are always made at a little lower level than the surrounding ground, and are divided into small squares, a slight edging of earth banking the whole round on each side. Water is then let in, and floods the entire surface till the soil is thoroughly saturated; after which the moisture is turned off to another bed, by simply closing the opening in the one under water, by a turn of the bare foot of the gardener, and making another in the same way with the foot, in the next bed, and thus the whole garden is in due course watered .... Only, in this case, the hand is supposed to make the gap in the clay bank of the streamlet, and divert the current" (Geikie, 'Holy Land and Bible,' 1:9). So in Virgil we find ('Ecl.,' 3:111) -
"Claudite jam rivos, pueri; sat prata biberunt."
"Now close the cuts; enough the meads have drunk."
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
Verse 2. - This is similar to Proverbs 16:2 (where see note. Comp. also Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25; Proverbs 20:24). See here a warning against self-deception and that silly self-complacency which thinks its own ways the best. Septuagint, "Every man appears to himself righteous, but the Lord directs the hearts."
To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Verse 3. - To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. The superiority of moral obedience to ceremonial worship is often inculcated (see note on Proverbs 15:8, and below, ver. 27; and comp. Micah 6:6-8 and Matthew 12:7). "Justice" and "judgment" (tsedakah and mishpat) are combined in Genesis 18:19; 2 Samuel 8:15; Job 37:23; Isaiah 56:1, etc. They imply equity and justice proceeding, not from bare regard to law, but from the principle of love. Septuagint, "To do justify and to speak the truth are more pleasing to God than the blood of sacrifices."
An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
Verse 4. - An high look and a proud heart; Vulgate, exaltatio oculorum est dilatatio cordis, "The lifting up of the eyes is a swelling of the heart." But it is best to make the whole verse one idea, as in the Authorized Version. The lifting of the eyes is a term implying pride, as shown in supercilious looks, as if other people were of inferior clay and not worthy of notice. So we have "haughty eyes" in Proverbs 6:17 (where see note); and in Proverbs 30:13 we read, "There is a generation, oh how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up." "The enlargement of the heart" is the cause of the proud look, for it signifies the evil affections and concupiscence of the will, wholly filled up with self, and controlling the actions and expression of the body. Septuagint, "A high-minded man (κεηαλόφρων) is stout-hearted in his pride." And the ploughing of the wicked is sin. The Authorized Version takes the reading נִר (nir), which means "tillage' (Proverbs 13:23), or, as Delitzsch supposes, "land ploughed for the first time" (novale). The proverb, taken thus, will mean, "high look, proud heart, even all the field which the godless cultivate, all that they do, is sin." "Pride," says the Talmud, "is worse than sin." But another pointing gives a different and very appropriate (comp. Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 24:20) meaning. נֵר (ner) signifies "a lamp." Thus the Vulgate, Lucerna impiorum peccatum, "The lamp of the wicked is sin;" and the Septuagint, Λαμπτὴρ δὲ ἀσεβῶν ἁμαρτία "Lamp" is, as often, a metaphor for prosperity and happiness (comp. 2 Samuel 22:29; 1 Kings 11:36); and it is here said that the sinner's outward prosperity and joyousness, springing from no good source, being founded in self, and not resting on virtue and godliness, are in themselves sinful and displeasing to God.
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
Verse 5. - The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness. Patient industry is rewarded by a certain increase (comp. Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 13:11; Proverbs 14:23). Says an English maxim, "Diligence is a fair for tune, and industry a good estate," The Greek gnomists have said tersely -
Απαντα τὰ καλὰ τοῦ πονοῦντος γίγνεται
Τῷ γὰρ πονοῦντι καὶ Θεὸς συλλαμβάνει
"To him who labours all good things accrue
The man who labours God himself assists." But of every one that is hasty only to want. Diligence is contrasted with hastiness. The hasting to be rich by any, even nefarious, means (Proverbs 20:21; Proverbs 28:20) will bring a man to poverty. There are numerous proverbs warning against precipitancy, which will occur to everyone: Festina lente; "More haste, less speed;" "Eile mit Weile."
Προπέτεια σολλοῖς ἐστὶν αἰτία κακῶν. (See a long dissertation on Festinatio praepropera in Erasmus's 'Adagia.') This verse is omitted in the chief manuscripts of the Septuagint.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
Verse 6. - The getting of treasures by a lying tongue - the acquisition of wealth by fraud and falsehood - is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. The latter clause is variously rendered and interpreted. The Hebrew is literally, a fleeting breath, those seeking death. The Revised Version makes the last words a separate proposition, "They that seek them seek death." But this seems unnecessary, and somewhat opposed to the gnomic style, which often combines two predicates in one construction; and there is no reason why we should not render the words, as in the Authorized Version, "of seekers of death." Such a mode of obtaining wealth is as evanescent and unstable as the very breath, and ends in death, which is practically the result of their quest. Thus Wisd. 5:14, "The hope of the ungodly is like dust that is blown away with the wind; like a thin froth that is driven away with the storm; like as the smoke which is dispersed here and there with the tempest, and passeth away. as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day." Some think that the comparison regards the mirage of the desert, which deceives travellers with the phantasms of cool waters and refreshing shade. Such an allusion is found in Isaiah 35:7. The Talmud enjoins, "Speak no word that accords not with the truth, that thy honour may not vanish as the waters of a brook." The Septuagint and Vulgate have followed a different reading (מוק שׁי־מות), and render thus: Vulgate, Vanus et excors est, et impingetur ad laqueos mortis, "He is vain and foolish, and will be taken in the snares of death;" Septuagint, "pursues vain things unto the snares of death (ἐπὶ παγίδας)" (Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27). So St. Paul says (1 Timothy 6:9), "They that desire to be rich fall into a into a temptation and a snare (παγίδα), and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition."
The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.
Verse 7. - The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; Vulgate, rapinae impiorum detrahenteos; Revised Version, "The violence of the wicked shall sweep them away," like chaff before the wind. The violence with which they treat others shall rebound on themselves, shall bring its own punishment; they shall sink in the pit that they made, and their foot shall be taken in the net which they hid (Psalm 9:15; comp. Proverbs 1:18, 19). Septuagint, "Destruction shall sojourn as guest (ἐπιξενωθήσεται) with the ungodly." The reason of this fate is given in the concluding hemistich: Because they refuse to do judgment. This is a judicial retribution on them for wilfully declining (ver. 25) to do what is right.
The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.
Verse 8. - The way of man is froward and strange; Vulgate, Perversa via viri, aliens est. Both this and the Authorized Version miss the antithesis between the guilty and the pure man, which is intended. In וזר, translated "and strange" (which seems to mean "alien from what is right"), the vav is not the copulative, but part of the word, which is an adjective signifying "laden with guilt;" so that the clause ought to be rendered, "Crooked is the way of a guilty man" (see note on Proverbs 2:15, where, however, the word is different, though the idea is analogous). An evil man's way of life is not open and straightforward, simple and uniform, but stealthy, crooked, perverse, whither his evil inclinations lead him. Septuagint, "To the crooked (σκολιοὺς) God sendeth crooked ways;" which recalls Psalm 18:26, "With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the perverse thou wilt show thyself froward." God allows the wicked to punish themselves by falling into mischief. As for the pure, his work is right; or, straight (Proverbs 20:11). The pure in heart will be right in action; he follows his conscience and God's law, and goes direct on his course without turning or hesitation. The LXX. refers the clause to God: "for pure and right are his ways."
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
Verse 9. - It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop. One is to think of the flat roof of an Eastern house, which was used as an apartment for many purposes: e,g. for sleeping and conference (1 Samuel 9:25, 26), for exercise (2 Samuel 11:2), for domestic matters (Joshua 2:6), for retirement and prayer (Psalm 102:7; Acts 10:9). This, though exposed to the inclemency of the weather, would be not an uncomfortable situation during a great part of the year. But the proverb implies a position abnormally inconvenient as an alternative preferable to a residence inside. Hence, perhaps, it is advisable to render, with Delitzsch, "Better to sit on the pinhole of a house roof." Septuagint, "It is better to dwell in a corner of a place open to the sky (ὑπαίθρου)." Than with a brawling (contentious) woman in a wide house; literally, a house of society; i.e. a house in common (comp. ver. 19 and Proverbs 25:24). A solitary corner, replete with inconveniences, is to be preferred to house shared with woman, wife or other female relation, of a quarrelsome and vexatious temper. The LXX. puts the matter forcibly, "than in cieled rooms with unrighteousness and in a common house." So the Latin proverb, "Non quam late, sed quam laete habites, refert." The Scotch have a proverb to the same effect: "A house wi' a reek and a wife wi' a reerd (scold) will sune mak' a man run to the door." "I had rather dwell," says the Son of Sirach (Ecclus. 25:16), "with a lion and a dragon, than to keep house with a wicked woman."
The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.
Verse 10. - The soul of the wicked desireth veil. A wicked man cannot rest without planning and wishing for some new evil thing. Nothing is safe from his malignant activity (comp. Proverbs 4:16; Proverbs 10:23). His neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes (Isaiah 13:18; Isaiah 26:10). He does not look with pity on friend or neighbour, if they stand in the way of the gratification of his desires; he will sacrifice any one, however closely connected, so that he may work his will. Nothing makes a man more atrociously selfish and hard-hearted than vice (see Proverbs 12:10, and the note there). The LXX. takes the sentence in a passive sense, "The soul of the ungodly shall not be pitied by any one." They who have no pity for others shall meet with no pity themselves; while, on the other hand, the Lord says, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).
When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
Verse 11. - When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise. We had the same thought at Proverbs 19:25 (where see note). The simple (parvulus, Vulgate) profit by the punishment of the incorrigibly evil But the wise need not chastisement for their improvement. When the wise is instructed (Psalm 32:6), he (the wise) receiveth knowledge. The wise man uses every opportunity, takes advantage of every circumstance and event, to increase his knowledge and experience. The Vulgate carries on the subject, "And if he (the simple) follow the wise man, he shall attain knowledge." Septuagint, "When the intemperate man is punished, the simple is made cleverer; and a wise man understanding will receive knowledge." "For it often happens," says St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 18:38). "that the mind of the weak is the more unsteadied from the hearing of the truth, as it sees the despisers of the truth flourishing; but when just vengeance takes away the unjust, it keeps others away from wickedness."
The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.
Verse 12. - The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness. The Authorized Version introduces the words "but God" in order to eke out the sense desired; the Revised Version, for the same reason, has, "how the wicked are overthrown;" and both versions signify that the good man contemplates the fortunes and seeming prosperity of the wicked, and, looking to the end of these men, sees how hollow is their success and what a fatal issue awaits them. The Vulgate refers the passage to the zeal of the righteous for the salvation of sinners - a thought quite foreign to the present subject - thus: Excogitat justus de domo impii, ut detrahat impios a malo, "The righteous man reflects concerning the house of the wicked how he may deliver them from evil." The Hebrew is literally, A righteous one looketh on the house of the wicked: he precipitates the wicked to destruction. There is no change of subject in the two clauses, and "a righteous One" (tsaddik) is God, put indeterminately to excite the greater awe (comp. Job 34:17). The Lord keeps the sinners under his eye, that he may punish them at the fit moment (comp. Proverbs 22:12; Job 12:19). The notion of God's moral government of the universe prevails most strongly in every pronouncement of the writer. The LXX. interprets "the house" as heart and conscience, and renders, "A righteous man understands the hearts of the godless, and despises the impious in their wickednesses;" he sees through their outward felicity, knows well its unreality, and despises them for the low aims and pursuits which satisfy them.
Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
Verse 13. - Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor. A twofold retribution is threatened on the unmerciful man. He also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. He himself shall tall into distress, and shall appeal to his neighbours for help in vain. "With the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). This is true also in spiritual matters and in the final judgment (see on Proverbs 14:21 and Proverbs 19:17; and comp. Matthew 18:28, etc.; Matthew 25:41, etc.; James 2:13).
A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
Verse 14. - A gift in secret pacifieth anger. We have had above various maxims about bribes and presents; e.g. Proverbs 17:8, 23; Proverbs 18:16. The word translated "pacifieth" is from the ἅπαξ λεγόμενον verb כֵפָה, "to turn away," "avert." Septuagint, ἀνατρέπει; Vulgate, extinguit; Venetian, κάμψει. A gift offered secretly to one incensed, whether personal enemy, judge, or prince, averts the consequences of the offence. The next hemistich is parallel in meaning. And a reward (present) in the bosom strong wrath. A present kept handy in the bosom of the petitioner's garment, ready to be transferred at a fitting moment, as experience proves, calms the most violent wrath. Septuagint, "He that is sparing of gifts amuses strong wrath."
It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
Verse 15. - It is joy to the just to do judgment. The righteous feel real pleasure in doing what is right; they have the answer of a good conscience, and the feeling that they are, as far as they can, making God's will their will, and this brings deep comfort and stable joy (see some contrary experiences, ver. 10 and Proverbs 10:23; Proverbs 15:21). But destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. The Authorized Version, by inserting "shall be," and making this clause a separate assertion, obscures the force of the original, which, as in Proverbs 10:29 (where see note), contrasts the effect of right-doing on the good and the evil. It is a joy to the former, "but destruction [or, 'terror'] to them that work iniquity." Et pavor operantibus iniquitatem, Vulgate. They cannot trust themselves to do rightly without fear; they cannot commit the result to God, as the righteous do; if ever they do act uprightly, it is against their inclination, and such action will, as they fear, bring them to ruin. Septuagint, "It is the joy of the righteous to do judgment; but a holy man is abominable (ἀκάθαρτος) among evil doers." So Wisd. 2:15, "He [the rightous] is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men's, his ways are of another fashion... he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness (ἀκαθαρσιῶν)."
The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
Verse 16. - The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding. (For הַשְׂכֵּל, "understanding," see note on Proverbs 1:3.) He who forsakes the way of wisdom, the path of virtue, the religious life, and thus becomes in proverbial language "a fool," he shall remain (rest, dwell) in the congregation of the dead; in coetu gigantum commorabitur. "The dead" is, in the Hebrew, rephaim, for which see note on Proverbs 2:18. The denunciation means primarily that the sinner shall soon be with the shades of the dead, shall meet with a speedy death. Wordsworth considers that the writer is saying in bitter irony that the evil man shall rest as a guest at a banquet, shall lie down and be regaled, but it will be in the company of the dead. The contrast seems to lie between the wandering and the rest, and this rest is regarded as penal; so that one must needs see here an intimation of retribution after death; and setup, Proverbs 24:14, 20. The Fathers regarded the Rephaim, "the giants," as the descendants of the rebel angels, in accordance with their interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4. Thus St. Gregory writes ('Moral.' 17:30), quoting our passage, "For whosoever forsakes the way of righteousness, to whose number does he join himself, saving to the number of the proud spirits?"
He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
Verse 17. - He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; qui diligit epulas, Vulgate; for feasts are chiefly, though not exclusively, intended. He shall become "a man of want" (machesor) as Proverbs 11:24. He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. "Wine and oil" were the usual adjuncts of banquets (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 104:15). Some unguents used for anointing honoured guests were very costly. The pound of spikenard expended by Mary of Bethany was worth more than three hundred pence - the wages of a labourer for nearly a whole year (see John 12:3; Matthew 20:2). Indulgence in such luxuries would be a token of prodigality and extravagance, which are the sure precursors of ruin; while, on the other hand, according to the trite proverb, Magnum vectigal est parsimonia. That fulness of meat and luxurious habits tend to spiritual poverty and the loss of grace, need not be insisted on. Septuagint, "A man in want (ἐνδεὴς) loveth mirth, loving wine and oil unto wealth (εἰς πλοῦτον)." Some translate the last words, "in abundance," as if the meaning was that the poor endeavours to mitigate the severity of his lot by getting all the pleasure he can from creature comforts however procured. Others think that a negative has fallen out of the Greek, which should be, "not unto wealth," i.e. he shall not be enriched thereby.
The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.
Verse 18. - The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous. The same thought occurs in Proverbs 11:8 (where see note). כֹּפֶר (kopher), "price of atonement," means of reconciliation. Delitzsch instances that the great movement which gathered the nations together for the destruction of Babylon put an end to Israel's exile; and that Cyrus, the scourge of so many heathen peoples, was the liberator of the Jews (comp. Isaiah 44:28). And the transgressor for the upright. The faithless takes the place of the upright; the stroke passes over the latter, to fall on the former, as in Egypt the destroying angel spared the houses of the Israelites, and poured his wrath on the Egyptians. Septuagint, "A transgressor is the offscouring (περικάθαρμα, perhaps equivalent to 'ransom') of a righteous man."
It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
Verse 19. - A variant of ver. 9. Here, instead of the "corner of the roof," we have a wilderness, a desert land, as the refuge to which the persecuted man must flee. Than with a contentious and an angry (fretful) woman. So the Vulgate. But it seems better, with many modern commentators, to take וָכָעַם, not as another epithet, but as equivalent to "and vexation," i.e. a quarrelsome wife, and the vexation that accompanies such an infliction. The LXX. adds a word to the text, as being at the root of the matter, "Than with a quarrelsome, talkative, and passionate woman."
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
Verse 20. - There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise. Precious treasure and store of provision and rich unguents (ver. 17) are collected in the house of the wise man, by which he may fare sumptuously, exercise hospitality, and lay up for the future (comp. Proverbs 24:4). But a foolish man spendeth it up. "A fool of a man" (Proverbs 15:20) soon swallows, runs through and exhausts, all that has been accumulated (ver. 17). Septuagint, "A desirable ἐπιθυμητὸς treasure will rest on the mouth of the wise, but foolish men will swallow it up." It is obvious to apply the maxim to spiritual things, seeing in it the truth that the really wise man stores up treasures of Divine love and the oil of God's grace, while the foolish man wastes his opportunities, squanders his powers, and drives the Holy Spirit from him.
He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
Verse 21. - He that followeth after righteousness and mercy. "Righteousness" (tsedakah), in the first hemistich, signifies the virtue which renders to all, God and man, their due, which is the characteristic of the righteous man (see on Proverbs 15:9). "Mercy" (chesed) is the conduct towards others, animated by love and sympathy (see note on Proverbs 3:3). Findeth life, righteoushess, and honor. "Righteousness" here is the gift of God to his faithful servants, grace to live a holy life. This becomes habit, and forms the righteous character (Job 29:14; Job 33:26). "Life" is a long and prosperous life in the world (Proverbs 3:16); "honour" is respect and reverence among fellow men, and glory in another world. "Whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Romans 8:80). "Life and honour" stand together in Proverbs 22:4. "The fear of the Lord," says Siracides, "is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of rejoicing... maketh a merry heart... and giveth long life "(Ecclus. 1:11, etc.). The LXX. omits the second "righteousness" by mistake: "The way of righteousness and mercy will find life and glory" (Matthew 6:33).
A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.
Verse 22. - A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty. The courage and strength of valiant men cannot defend a city against the skilful counsel of a wise strategist. And he casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof. He lays low the strength in which the defenders trusted; he not only takes the fortress, but also demolishes it. Wisdom is stronger than bodily might (Proverbs 20.18. See the apologue, Ecclesiastes 9:14, etc.). Septuagint, "A wise man cometh upon strong cities, and casteth down the stronghold (καθεῖλε τὸ ὀχύρωμα) in which the ungodly trusted." Thus St. Paul, speaking of the weapons which God gives us to fight withal in the spiritual battle, says (2 Corinthians 10:4) that they are "mighty before him to the casting down of strongholds (πρὸς καθαίρεσιν οχυρωμάτων)."
Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
Verse 23. - We have had similar maxims before (Proverbs 13:8 and Proverbs 18:21, where see notes). He keepeth his mouth, who knows when to speak and when to be silent; and he keepeth his tongue, who says only what is to the purpose. We have all heard the proverb, "Speech is silver, silence is gold." One who thus takes heed of his words, keepeth his soul from troubles. The troubles (angores, Vulgate) are such as these - remorse for the evil occasioned, distress of conscience, vexation and strife with offended neighbours, danger of liberty and life, and, above all, the anger of God, and retribution in the judgment.
Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.
Verse 24. - Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath. (For "scorner" (לצ), the esprit fort, the freethinking sceptic of Solomon's day, see notes on Proverbs 1:22 and Proverbs 14:6.) The verse is better translated, A proud, arrogant man, scoffer is his name, who worketh in superfluity of pride. עֶבְרָה (ebrah), translated "wrath," denotes also want of moderation, excess, presumption (see note on Proverbs 11:23). The proverb explains the meaning of the name, letz, given to these rationalists; their contempt of revealed religion proceeds from pride of intellect, which refuses instruction, and blinds the eyes to the truth. The warning comes home to us in these times, when the "higher criticism" too often runs into gross scepticism and infidelity. Septuagint, "A bold and self-willed and insolent man is called a pest (λοιμὸς), and he that remembers injuries is a transgressor."
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.
Verse 25. - The desire of the slothful killeth him. The craving for ease and rest, and the consequent disinclination for labour, prove fatal to the slothful man. Or, it may be, the mere wish, combined with no active exertion to secure its accomplishment, is fatal to soul, body, and fortune (comp. Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 19:24). Lesetre quotes Bossuet, "Le paresseux spirituel s'expose aussi a la mort eternelle; car les bone desirs ne suffisient pas pour le salut; il faut encore les oeuvres" (see Matthew 7:21; Romans 2:13).
He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.
Verse 26. - St. Jerome and many commentators connect this verse with the preceding, considering the two to form a tetrastich, thus: The desire of the slothful... he coveteth greedily all the day long, but the righteous giveth and spareth not. But in this division of our book there are only pure distichs; and, as Delitzsch observes, to make the contrast, one requires in the first hemistich an expression like, "and hath nothing" (Proverbs 13:4; comp. Proverbs 20:4). So it is correct to consider this distich independent, and to translate, There is that (or one) desireth greedily always, but the righteous giveth and withholdeth not. There are claims made on all sides, demands for help, importunate prayers, such as one would think no man could satisfy; but the righteous has means enough and to spare, he is generous and charitable, he is industrious, and uses his stewardship well (Luke 16:9), and so arranges his expenditure that he has to give to him that needeth (Ephesians 4:28). Septuagint, "An ungodly man devises evil devices all the day long, but the righteous pitieth and showeth compassion unsparingly."
The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
Verse 27. - The first hemistich occurs in Proverbs 15:8 (where see note). How much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind! rather, for evil, equivalent to "in order to atone for wickedness." The sacrifice of the sinner is abominable, as offered formally without repentance and faith; much more abominable, when he brings his offering to win, as it were, God's connivance in the sin which he commits and has no intention of renouncing, - brings it as a kited of bribe and recompense to compensate or his transgression. Such an outrage on God's purity and justice may well be called an abomination. Septuagint, "The sacrifices of the ungodly are abomination unto the Lord, for they. offer them wickedly (παρανόμως)." The notion of propitiating the Deity by sharing with him the proceeds of sin is expressed in proverbial language. We have the homely saw, "Steal the goose, and give the giblets in alms;" and the Spaniards say, "Huerto el puerco, y dar los pies por Dios," "Steal the pig, and give away the pettitoes for God's sake" (Kelly). (See Ecclus. 31:18, etc.)
A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.
Verse 28. - (For the first hemistich, see Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 19:5, 9.) Shall perish. His testimony is worthless, and both he and it come to nothing. The man that heareth speaketh constantly; Vulgate, vir obediens; Septuagint, Ἀνὴρ ὑπήκοος φυλασσόμενος λαλήσει, "An obedient man will speak guardedly." "The man that heareth" is one who is attentive, who listens before he speaks, and reports only what he has heard. Such a one will speak "for continuance," so that what he says is never falsified, or silenced, or refuted. Vulgate, loquetur victoriam. And so Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, εἰς νίκος. Revised Version, unchallenged. The expression thus rendered is lanetsach, which means, in Hebrew at any rate, in perpetuum, "for continuance." But St. Jerome's rendering has been much used by the Fathers, who have drawn therefrom lessons of obedience. Thus St. Augustine, 'In Psalm.,' 70, "Sola obedientia tenet palmam, sola inobedientia invenit poenam.' St. Gregory, ' Moral,' 35:28, "An obedient man in truth speaketh of victories, because, when we humbly submit ourselves to the voice of another, we overcome ourselves in our heart" (Oxford transl.). See a long dissertation on obedience in the note of Corn. a Lapide on this passage of Proverbs.
A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
Verse 29. - A wicked man hardeneth his face; is shameless (as Proverbs 7:13), and is insensible to rebuke or any soft feeling. This obduracy he shows with his countenance. Septuagint, "An ungodly man shamelessly withstands with his face." But as for the upright, he directeth his way. He gives it the right direction (2 Chronicles 27:6). This is the reading of the Khetib, יָכִין but, though generally adopted by the versions (except the Septuagint), it does not make a suitable antithesis to the rash stubbornness of the wicked. Hence modern commentators prefer the reading of the Keri, יָבִין, "he considereth, proveth," his way; he acts only after due thought, giving proper weight to all circumstance. Septuagint, "But the upright man himself understands (συνιεῖ) his ways." The contrast lies in the audacious self-confidence of the unprincipled man, and the calm circumspection and prudence of the saint.
There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.
Verse 30. - There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord; i.e. in opposition to him, which can be compared with his, or which can avail against him (comp. Job 5:13; Psalm 33:10, 11; Isaiah 29:14; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 3:19). Septuagint, "There is no wisdom, there is no courage (ἀνδρεία), there is no counsel, in respect of the ungodly;" πρὸς τὸν ἀσεβῆ, neged Jahve, being taken as "that which is against Jahve," equivalent to "impious." Wordsworth quotes Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:6. 5, etc. -
"Dis te minorem quod geris, imperus:
Hino omne principium, huc refer exitum." The following verse carries on and applies the import of this one: As men's wisdom is nothing worth, equally vain is all trust in external means and appliances.
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
Verse 31. - The horse is prepared against the clay of battle. The horse is an emblem of military power and activity. To the earlier Jews, who were unaccustomed to its use, and indeed forbidden to employ it (Deuteronomy 17:16), the horse and horse-drawn chariots were objects of extreme terror (Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:3), and though Solomon had largely imported them from Egypt (1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:26, etc.), these animals were used exclusively for war, and, at this time, their services were never applied to agricultural purposes. The proverb asserts that, though all preparations are made for the battle, and material forces are of the best and strongest description, but safety (victory) is of the Lord (see Psalm 20:7; Psalm 33:16, etc.). Septuagint, "But from the Lord is the help (ἡ βοήθεια)." The great truth here taught may be applied to spiritual matters. The only safety against spiritual enemies is the grace of God; we can cry, with St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:57), "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." "By the name 'horse,'" says St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 31:43), "is understood the preparation of right intention, as it is written, 'The horse is prepared,' etc.; because the mind prepares itself indeed against temptation, but contends not healthfully unless it be assisted from above."