Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
Verses 1-6. - These verses are grouped in pairs, each two being connected in subject. Verse 1. - Boast not thyself of tomorrow. He boasts himself (Proverbs 25:14) of tomorrow who counts upon it presumptuously, settles that he will do this or that, as if his life was in his own power, and he could make sure of time. This is blindness and arrogance. For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Our Lord gave a lesson on this matter in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12.); and an analogous warning, based on our verse, is given by St. James (James 4:13, etc.). On this topic moralists and poets are always dilating. Very familiar are the words of Horace ('Carm.,' 4:7, 17) -
"Quis scit, an adjiciant hodiernae crastina summae
Tempora di superi?" Euripides, 'Alc.,' 783 -
Οὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται
Τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται
Τὸ τῆςτύχης γὰρ ἀφανὲς οῖ προβήσεται
Κἄστ οὐ διδακτόν οὐδ ἁλίσκεται τέχνη Every day in thy life, says the Arab, "is a leaf in thy history." Seneca wrote ('Thyest.,' 621) -
"Nemo tam divos habuit faventes
Crastinum ut possit sibi pelliceri,
Res deus nostras celeri citatas
Turbine versat." There is the adage, "Nescis quid serus vesper vehat." The LXX. has, as at ch. 3:28, "Thou knowest not what the next day (ἡ ἐπιοῦσα) shall bring forth." (For the expression, ἡ ἐπιοῦσα, comp. Acts 7:26; Acts 16:11.)
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
Verse 2. - Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; Septuagint, "Let thy neighbour (ὁ πέλας) laud thee." A stranger; גָכְרִי, properly, "an unknown person from an unknown country;" but, like זר in the former hemistich, used indifferently for "another" (see on Proverbs 2:16). "If I honour myself," said our Lord (John 8:54), "my honour is nothing" And as St. Paul testifies (2 Corinthians 10:18), "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
Υπὲρ σαευτοῦ μὴ φράσῃς ἐγκώμια
said the Greek gnomist; and
Φίλων ἔπαινον μᾶλλον η} σαυτοῦ λέγε. And a trite maxim runs, "In ore proprio laus sordet;" and an English one decides, "He who praises himself is a debtor to others." Delitzsch quotes a German proverb (which loses the jingle in translation), "Eigen-lob stinkt, Freundes Lob hinkt, fremdes Lob klingt," "Self-praise stinks, friends' praise limps, strangers' praise sounds."
A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.
Verse 3. - A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; literally, heaviness of a stone, weight of the sand. The substantives are more forcible than the corresponding adjectives would be: the versions rather weaken the form of the expression by rendering, Grave est saxum, etc. The quality in the things mentioned is weight, heaviness, ponderosity; that is what we are bidden regard. A fool's wrath is heavier than them both. The ill temper and anger of a headstrong fool, which he vents on those about him, are harder to endure than any material weight is to carry. Ecclus. 22:15, "Sand and salt and a mass of iron are easier to bear than a man without understanding." The previous verse asks, "What is heavier than lead? and what is the name thereof [i.e. of the heavier thing], but a fool?" Job speaks of his grief being heavier than the sand of the sea (Job 6:3).
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
Verse 4. - Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous. Again substantives are used, as in ver. 3, "Cruelty of wrath, and overflowing of anger." Figure to yourself the fierceness and cruelty of a sudden excitement of anger, or the bursting forth of passion which, like a flood, carries all before it; these may be violent for a time, yet they will subside when they have spent themselves. But who is able to stand before envy? or rather, jealousy. The reference is not so much to the general feeling of envy as to the outraged love in the relation of husband and wife (see Proverbs 6:34, and note there). Song of Solomon 8:6, "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very vehement flame." Such jealousy does not blaze forth in some sudden outbreak, and then die away; it lives and broods and feeds itself hourly with fresh aliment, and is ready to act at any moment, hesitating at no means to gratify itself, and sacrificing without mercy its victim. Septuagint, "Pitiless is wrath, and sharp is anger; but jealousy (ζῆλος) submits to nothing."
Open rebuke is better than secret love.
Verse 5. - Open rebuke is better than secret love. Love that is hidden and never discloses itself in acts of self-denial or generosity, especially that which from fear of offending does not rebuke a friend, nor speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), when there is good reason for such openness - such disguised love is worse, more objectionable, less beneficial, than the plain speaking which bravely censures a fault, and dares to correct what is wrong by well-timed blame. To hold back blame, it has been said, is to hold back love. "I love not my friend," wrote Seneca ('Ep.,' 25), "if I do not offend him." Plautus, 'Trinum.,' 1:2, 57 -
"Sed tu ex amicis certis mi es certissimus.
Si quid scis me fecisse inscite aut improbe,
Si id non me accusas, tu ipse objurgandus." Publ. Syr., 'Sent.,' 16, "Amici vitia si feras, facis tua," which Erasmus expounds by adding, "If you take no notice of your friend's faults, they will be imputed to you." Cicero ('De Amicit.,' 24, 25) has some sensible remarks on this subject: "When a man's ears are shut against the truth, so that he cannot hear the truth from a friend, the welfare of such a one is hopeless. Shrewd is the observation of Cato, that some are better served by bitter enemies than by friends who seem to be agreeable; for the former often speak the truth, the latter never.... As therefore both to give and receive advice is the characteristic of true friendship, and that the one should act with freedom, but not harshly, and that the other should accept remonstrance patiently and without resistance, so it should be considered that there is no deadlier bane to friendship than adulation, fawning, and flattery."
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Verse 6. - Faithful are the wounds of friend. This and the next verse afford examples of the antithetic form of proverb, where the second line gives, as it were, the reverse side of the picture presented by the first. The wounds which a real friend inflicts by his just rebukes are directed by truth and discriminating affection (see Psalm 141:5). But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. So St. Jerome, Fraudulenta oscula odientis. But the verb here used (עתר) has the meaning, among others, "to be abundant or frequent;" hence it is better to take it in this sense here, as "plentiful, profuse." An enemy is lavish with his Judas kisses to hide his perfidy and hatred. Septuagint, "More to be trusted are the wounds of a friend than the spontaneous (ἑκούσια) kisses of an enemy." "Non omnis qui parcia," wrote St. Augustine ('Ep.,' 48, 'ad Vincent.'), "amicus est, neque omnis qui verberat, inimicus."
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
Verse 7. - The full soul loatheth an honeycomb. For "loathes" the Hebrew is literally "treads upon," "tramples underfoot," which is the expression of the greatest disgust and contempt; or it may mean that the well-fed man will not stoop to pick up the comb which may have dropped in his path from some tree or rock. But whichever way we take it, the same truth is told - Self-restraint increases enjoyment; over-iudulgence produces satiety, fatigue, and indolence. Horace, 'Sat.,' 2:2, 38 -
"Jejunus raro stomachus vulgaria temnit." But to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. So the prodigal in the parable would fain fill himself with the husks which the swine did eat. So we say, "Hunger is the best sauce;" the Germans, "Hunger makes raw beans sweet;" and the Portuguese. "Brackish water is sweet in a dry land."
As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
Verse 8. - As a bird that wandereth from her nest. Jerome's avis transmigrans conveys to us a notion of a migratory bird taking its annual journey. But the idea here is of a bird which leaves its own nest either wantonly or from some external reason, and thereby exposes itself to d so comfort and danger (comp. Isaiah 16:2). So is a man that wandereth from his place; i.e. his own home (comp. Ecclus. 29:21, etc., and 36:28 in Vet. Lat., "Quis credit ei qui non habet nidum, et deflectens ubicumque obscuraverit, quasi succinctus latro exsil ins de civitate in civitatem?"). The proverb indirectly inculcates love of one's home and one's native land. To be "a fugitive and a vagabond" (Genesis 4:12) was a terrible punishment, as the Jews have learned by the experience of many centuries. Language and religion placed a barrier against residence in any country but their own (see Psalm 84.); and though at the time when this book was probably written they knew little of foreign travel, yet they regarded sojourn in a strange land as an evil, and centred all their ideas of happiness and comfort in a home life surrounded by friends and countrymen. The word "wander" may have the notion of going into exile. Septuagint, "As when a bird flies down from its own nest, so is a man brought into bondage when he is banished (ἀποξενωθῇ) from his own place." Some have reasoned from this expression that the idea of exile had become familiar to the writer, and hence that this portion of the Proverbs is of very late origin (Cheyne) - surely a very uncertain foundation for such a conclusion. The love of Orientals for their native soil is a passion which no sordid and miserable surroundings can extinguish, and a man would consider even a change of home an unmixed evil, though such change was not the result of exile. Our view of the fortunes of one who is always shifting his abode is expressed in the adage, "A rolling stone gathers no moss."
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
Verse 9. - Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart. (For the use of unguents in the honourable treatment of guests, see Proverbs 7:16, etc.; Proverbs 21:17.) Similarly, perfumes prepared from spices, roses, and aromatic plants were employed; rooms were fumigated, persons were sprinkled with rose water, and incense was applied to the face and beard, as we read (Daniel 2:46) that Nebuchadnezzar ordered that to Daniel, in recognition of his wisdom, should be offered an oblation and sweet odours (see 'Dick of Bible,' and Kitto, 'Cyclop.,' voc. "Perfumes"). The heat of the climate, the insalubrious character of the houses, the profuse perspiration of the assembled guests, rendered this attention peculiarly acceptable (comp. Song of Solomon 3:6). The LXX., probably with a tacit reference to Psalm 104:15, renders, "The heart delighteth in ointments, and wines, and perfumes." So doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. This is rather clumsy; the Revised Version improves it by paraphrasing, that cometh from hearty counsel. The meaning is that as ointment, etc., gladden the heart, so do the sweet and loving words of one who speaks from the depths of his soul. The idea is primarily of a friend who gives wise counsel, speaking the truth in love, or shows his approval by discreet commendation. The LXX. has pointed differently, and translates, "But the soul is broken by calamities (καταῥῤήγνυται ὑπὸ (συμπτωμάτων);" Vulgate, "The soul is sweetened by the good counsels of a friend."
Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
Verse 10. - Another proverb, a tristich, in praise of friendship. It seems to be a combination of two maxims. Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not. A father's friend is one who is connected with a family by hereditary and ancestral bonds; φίλον πατρῷον. Septuagint. Such a one is to be cherished and regarded with the utmost affection. Neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity. The tried friend is more likely to help and sympathize with you than even your own brother, for a friend is born for adversity, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24, where see notes). The mere blood relationship, which is the result of circumstances over which one has had no control, is inferior to the affectionate connection which arises from moral considerations and is the effect of deliberate choice. We must remember, too, that the practice of polygamy, with the separate establishments of the various wives, greatly weakened the tie of brotherhood. There was little love between David's sons; and Jonathan was far dearer to David himself than any of his numerous brothers were. Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off. "Near" and "far off" may be taken as referring to feeling or to local position. In the former case the maxim says that a neighbour who is really attached to one by the bonds of affection is better than the closest relation who has no love or sympathy. In the latter view, the proverb enunciates the truth that a friend on the spot in time of calamity is more useful than a brother living at a distance (μακρὰν οἰκῶν, Septuagint); one is sure of help at once from the former, while application to the latter must occasion delay, and may not be successful. Commentators quote Hesiod, Ἔργ. καὶ Ημ., 341 -
Τὸν δὲ μάλιστα καλεῖν ὅστις σέθεν ἐγγύθεναίει
Αἰ γάρ τοι καὶ χρῆμ ἐγκώμιον ἄλλο γένηται
Γείτονες ἄζωστοι ἔκιον ζώσαντο δὲ πηοί
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.
Verse 11. - My son, be wise, and make my heart glad. The exhortation of a father to his son, or of a teacher to his pupil. Such address is not found elsewhere in this latter portion of the book, though common in previous parts. Delitzsch translates, "become wise." Σοφὸς γίνου, Septuagint. Such development of wisdom delights a father's heart, as Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 23:15, 24. That I may answer him that reproacheth me (Psalm 119:42; comp. Psalm 127:5; Ecclus. 30:2). If the pupil did not show wisdom and morality in his conduct, the teacher would incur blame for the apparent failure of his education; whereas the high tone of the disciple might be appealed to as a proof of the merit and efficacy of the tutor's discipline. On the other hand, the evil doings of Hebrews often made the Name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles; just as nowadays the inconsistent lives of Christians are the greatest impediment to the success of missionary efforts in heathen countries. St. Jerome has, Ut possis exprobanti respondere sermonem. So Septuagint, "And remove from thyself reproachful words." But the first person is in accordance with the Hebrew.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Verse 12. - A repetition of Proverbs 22:3. The sentence is asyndeton.
Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
Verse 13. - A repetition of Proverbs 20:16. The LXX., which omits this passage in its proper place, here translates, "Take away his garment, for a scorner passed by, whoever lays waste another's goods."
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
Verse 14. - He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning. What is meant is ostentatious salutation, which puts itself forward in order to stand well with a patron, and to be beforehand with other servile competitors for favour. Juvenal satirized such parasitical effusion ('Sat.' 5:19) -
"Habet Trebius, propter quod rumpere somnum
Debeat et ligulas dimittere, sollicitus, ne
Tots salutaris jam turba peregerit orbem,
Sideribus dubiis, aut illo tempore, quo se
Frigida circumagunt pigri surraca Bootae." The "loud voice" intimates the importunate nature of such public trumpeting of gratitude, as the "rising early" denotes its inopportune and tactless insistency, which cannot wait for a convenient opportunity for its due expression. It shall be counted a curse to him. The receiver of this sordid adulation, and indeed all the bystanders, would just as soon be cursed by the parasite as blessed in this offensive manner, This clamorous outpouring of gratitude is not accepted as a return by the benefactor; he sees the mean motives by which it is dictated self-interest, hope of future benefits - and he holds it as cheap as he would the curses of such a person. The nuisance of such flattery is mentioned by Euripides, 'Orest.,' 1161 -
Παύσομαί σ αἰνῶν ἐπεὶ
Βάρος τι κὰν τῷ δ ἐστὶν αἰνεῖσθαι λίαν. Duo sunt genera prosecutorum, says St. Augustine ('In Psalm.,' 69), "sciliet vituperantium et adulantium; sed plus prosequitur lingua adulatoris, quam manus prosecutoris." "Woe unto you," said Christ (Luke 6:26), "when all men shall speak well of you." "Do I seek to please men?" asked St. Paul (Galatians 1:10); "for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Vers. 15 and 16 form a tetrastich on the subject of the termagant wife.
A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.
Verse 15. - The single line of the second clause of Proverbs 19:13 is here formed into a distich. A continual dropping in a very rainy day. "A day of violent rain," סַגְרִיר (sagrir), which word occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. And a contentious woman are alike. The word rendered "are alike" (נִשְׁתָּוָה) is usually taken to be the third perf. nithp. from שׁיה; but the best established reading, according to Hitzig, Delitzsch, and Nowack, is נִשְׁתָּוָה, which is regarded as a niph. with a transposition of consonants for נְשְׁוָתָה. Septuagint, "Drops of rain drive a man out of his house on a stormy day." The ill-constructed roofs of Eastern houses were very subject to leakage, being flat and formed of porous material.
Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.
Verse 16. - Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind. Whoever tries to restrain a shrewish woman, or to conceal her faults, might as well attempt to confine the wind or to check its violence. And the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. He might as well try to hide the ointment which signifies its presence by its odour. But there is no "which" in the original, which runs literally, "his right hand calls oil," or, "oil meets his right hand." The former is supposed to mean that he is hurt in the struggle to coerce the vixen, and needs ointment to heal his wound; but the latter seems the correct rendering, and the meaning then is that, if he tries to hold or stop his wife, she escapes him like the oil which you try in vain to keep in your hand. An old adage says that there are three things which cannot be hidden, but always betray themselves, viz. a woman, the wind, and ointment. The LXX. has read the Hebrew differently, translating, "The northwind is harsh, but by name it is called lucky (ἐπιδέξιος);" i.e. because it clears the sky and introduces fine weather. The Syriac, Aquila, and Symmachus have adopted the same reading.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Verse 17. - Iron sharpeneth iron. The proverb deals with the influence which men have upon one another. So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. So the Vulgate, Homo exacuit faciem amici sui. The action of the file is probably meant (1 Samuel 13:21); and the writer names iron as the sharpener rather than the whetstone, because he wishes to denote that one man is of the same nature as another, and that this identity is that which makes mutual action possible and advantageous. Some have taken the proverb in a bad sense, as if it meant that one angry word leads to another, one man's passion excites another's rage. Thus Aben Ezra. The Septuagint perhaps supports this notion by rendering, Ἀνὴρ δὲ παροξύνει πρόσωπον ἑταίρου. But the best commentators understand the maxim to say that intercourse with other men influences the manner, appearance, deportment, and character of a man, sharpens his wits, controls his conduct, and brightens his very face. Horace uses the same figure of speech, 'Ars Poet.,' 304 -
"Fungar vice cotis, acutum
Reddere quae ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secaudi." On the subject of mutual intercourse Euripides says, 'Androm.,' 683 -
Ἡ δ ὁμυλία
Πάντων βροτοῖσι γίγνεται διδάσκαλος
Is that which teaches mortals everything."
Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.
Verse 18. - Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof. He who watches, tends, and cultivates the fig tree will in due time have the reward of his labour in eating its fruit. The abundance of the produce of this tree makes it a good figure of the reward of faithful service. Septuagint, "He that planteth a fig tree shall eat the fruits thereof" (2 Timothy 2:6). So he that waiteth on his maser shall be honoured. He who pays attention, has loving regard to his master, shall meet with honour as his reward at his master's hands, and also from all who become acquainted with his merits. The gnome may well be applied to the case of those who do true and laudable service to their heavenly Master, and she shall one day hear from his lips the gracious word, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).
As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
Verse 19. - As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man; Vulgate, Quomodo in aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium, sic corda hominum manifesta sunt prudentibus. As in clear water the face of the gazer is reflected, so man finds in his fellow man the same feelings, sentiments, passions, which he has himself. He sees in others the likeness of himself; whatever he knows himself to be, he will see others presenting the same character. Self-knowledge, too, leads to insight into others' minds; "for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). There is a solidarity in human nature which enables us to judge of others by ourselves. The difficulties in the construction and wording of the sentence do not affect the interpretation. They are, however, best met by rendering, with Delitzsch, "As it is with water, face corresponds to face, so also the heart of man to man." Septuagint, "As faces are not like faces, so neither are the thoughts of men;" which is like the saying of Persius, 'Sat.,' 5:52 -
"Mille hominum species, et rerum discolor usus;
Velle suum cuique est, nec voto vivitur uno."
Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
Verse 20. - Hell and destruction are never full. "Hell" is sheol, the under-world, Hades, the place of the departed; "destruction" is the great depth, the second death, personified (see on Proverbs 15:11, where the terms also occur). These "are never satisfied," they are insatiable, all-devouring (comp. Proverbs 30:16; Isaiah 5:14; Habakkuk 2:5). So the eyes of man are never satisfied. The verb is the same in both clauses, and ought to have been so translated. The eye is taken as the representative of concupiscence in general. What is true of "the lust of the eyes" (1 John 2:16) is true of all the senses; the craving for their gratification grows as it is fed. Therefore the senses should be carefully guarded, lest they lead to excess and transgression. "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity," said the psalmist, "and quicken me in thy way" (Psalm 119:37). The LXX. here introduces a paragraph not in the Hebrew or the Latin Versions: "He that fixes (στηρίζων) his eye [i.e. staring impudently] is an abomination to the Lord, and the uninstructed restrain not their tongue."
As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
Verse 21. - Fining pot, etc. (see on Proverbs 17:3; comp. also Proverbs 25:4). So is a man to his praise. The Hebrew is literally, The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold, and a man according, to his praise; i.e. as the processes of metallurgy test the precious metals, so a man's public reputation shows what he is really worth, as is stated in Proverbs 12:8. As the crucible brings all impurities to the surface, so public opinion drags forth all that is bad in a man, and he who stands this test is generally esteemed. Certainly praise is a stimulus to exertion, an incentive to try to make one's self worthy of the estimation in which one is held, especially if he purifies it from the dross and earthliness mixed with it, and takes to himself only what is genuine and just. But public opinion is very commonly false end is always a very unsafe criterion of moral excellence. Hence other interpretations have been proposed. Ewald renders, "and a man according to his boasting," that is, according to that which he most praises in himself and others. So virtually Hitzig, Bottcher, Zockler, and others. In this view the gnome denotes that a man's real character is best examined by the light cast upon it by his usual line of thought, what he most prides himself upon, what he admires most in other men. Plumptre, after Gesenius and Fleischer, has, "So let a man be to his praise," i.e. to the mouth which praises him; let him test this commendation, to see what it is worth, before he accepts it as his due. The explanation first given seems on the whole most suitable, when we reflect that the highest morality is not always enunciated, and that secondary motives are widely recognized as factors in action and judgment. There are not wanting men in modern days who uphold the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei. Septuagint, "The action of fire is a test for silver and gold, so a man is tested by the mouth of them that praise him." No surer test of a man's true character can be found than his behaviour under praise; many men arc spoiled by it. If a man comes forth from it without injury, not rendered vain, or blind to his defects, or disdainful of others, his disposition is good, and the commendation lavished upon him may be morally and spiritually beneficial. Vulgate, Sic probatur homo ore laudantis, "So is a man proved by the mouth of him that praises him." The following passage from St. Gregory, commenting on this, is worth quoting, "Praise of one's self tortures the just, but elates the wicked. But while it tortures, it purifies the just; and while it pleases the wicked, it proves them to be reprobate. For these revel in their own praise, because they seek not the glory of their Maker. But they who seek the glory of their Maker are tortured with their own praise, lest that which is spoken of without should not exist within them; lest, if that which is said really exists, it should be made void in the sight of God by these very honours; lest the praise of men should soften the firmness of their heart, and should lay it low in self-satisfaction; and lest that which ought to aid them to increase their exertions, should be even now the recompense of their labour. But when they see that their own praises tend to the glory of God, they even long for and welcome them. For it is written, "That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" ('Moral.,' 26:62, Oxford transl.). The LXX. adds a verse which is not found in the Hebrew, but occurs in some manuscripts of the Latin Version, "The heart of the transgressor seeketh out evils, but an upright heart seeketh knowledge."
Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
Verse 22. - Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle. "To bray" is to pound or beat small. "Wheat," רִיפות, riphoth (only in 2 Samuel 17:19), "bruised corn." Vulgate, In pila quasi ptisanas (barley groats) feriente; Aquila and Theodotion, Ἐν μέσῳ ἐμπτισσομένων "In the midst of grains of corn being pounded." The LXX., reading, differently, has, "Though thou scourge a fool, disgracing him (ἐν μεσῳ συνεδρίου) in the midst of the congregation." Of course, the process of separating the husks from the corn by the use of pestle and mortar is much more delicate and careful than threshing in the usual clumsy way; hence is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool (see on Proverbs 1:20). His foolishness will not depart from him. An obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become a second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity. There is, too, a judicial blindness, when, after repeated warnings wilfully rejected and scorned, the sinner is left to himself, given over to a reprobate mind "Whoso teacheth a fool," Siracides pronounces, "is as one that glueth a potsherd together, and as he that waketh one from a sound sleep" (Ecclus. 22:7). Again, "The inner parts of a fool are like a broken vessel, and he will hold no knowledge as long as he liveth" (Ecclus. 21:14). In Turkey, we are told, great criminals were beaten to pieces in huge mortars of iron, in which they usually pounded rice. "You cannot straighten a dog's tail, try as you may," says a Telugu maxim (Lane). There is a saying of Schiller's which is quite proverbial, "Heaven and earth fight in vain against a dunce." Horace, 'Epist.,' 1:10, 24 -
"Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 13:239 -
"Tamen ad mores natura recurrit
Damnatos, fixa et mutari nescia."
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
Verses 23-27. - A mashal ode in praise of a pastoral and agricultural life. The moralist evidently desires to recall his countrymen from the luxury of cities and the temptations of money making to the simple ways of the patriarchs and the pleasures of country pursuits - which are the best foundation of enduring prosperity. Verse 23. - Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. "State;" פָנִים (panim); vultum, Vulgate; the face, look, appearance. The LXX. has ψυχάς, which may perhaps mean "the number" - a necessary precaution when the sheep wandered on the downs and mountains, and had to be collected in the evening and folded. These precepts are naturally applied to all rulers, and especially to Christian pastors who have the oversight of the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:2-4). Ecclus. 7:22, "Hast thou cattle? have an eye to them; and if they he for thy profit, keep them with thee."
For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
Verse 24 - For riches are not forever; as Proverbs 23:5. Money and other kinds of wealth may be lost or wasted; it is therefore expedient to have the resources of agriculture, land and herds, to depend upon. Chosen (Proverbs 15:6), translated "riches," is "strength," "abundance," "treasure laid up." Delitzsch renders, "prosperity;" Septuagint, "A man has not strength and power forever;" Vulgate, Non habebis jugiter potestatem, i.e. "you will not always be able to tend your flocks; infirmity and old age will prevent you." And doth the crown endure to every generation? The crown or diadem, נֵזֶר (nezer), is the symbol of royal authority, or of the highest dignity of the priesthood (Exodus 29:6; Exodus 39:30). These positions are not secure from generation to generation; much less stable, in fact, than the possession of farms and cattle. St. Jerome, Sed corona tribuetur in generationem et generationem, where corona is the headship of the family. Septuagint, "Neither doth he transmit it (his strength) from generation to generation."
The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
Verse 25. - As ver. 23 commended the rearing of cattle, and ver. 24 supported the injunction by showing its comparative permanence, so this and the following verses discuss the material advantages of such occupation. The hay appeareth; rather, the grass passeth away, is cut and carried. This is the first stage in the agricultural operations described. And the tender grass showeth itself; the aftermath appears. And the herbs of the mountain are gathered; the fodder from off the hills is cut and stored. All these verbs are best taken hypothetically, the following verses forming the apodosis. When all these operations are complete, then crone the results in plenty and comfort. Septuagint, "Have a care of the herbage (χλωρῶν) in the plain, and thou shalt cut grass, and gather thou the mountain hay."
The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.
Verse 26. - The Iambs are for thy clothing. Thy sheep will provide thee with clothing by their skin and wool, and by the money which thou wilt obtain by the sale of them. The goats are the price of the field; the sale of thy goats and their produce will pay for thy field if thou wish to buy it (see on Proverbs 30:31). Septuagint, "That thou mayest have sheep for clothing; honour thy land that thou mayest have lambs."
And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
Verse 27. - Goats' milk. Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land and Bible,' 1:311) notes that in most parts of Palestine goats' milk in every form - sour, sweet, thick, thin, warm, or cold - makes, with eggs and bread, the main food of the people. And maintenance for thy maidens; who milk the goats, etc., and tend the cattle, and do the household work. There is no mention of the use of animal flesh as food. It was only on great occasions, as high festivals, or the presence of an honoured guest, that kids, lambs, and calves were killed and eaten. This picture of rural peace and plenty points to a time of security and prosperity, free alike from internal commotion and external danger. The famous passage in Cicero, 'De Senect.,' 15, on the pleasures and advantages of the agricultural life. will occur to all classical readers. So also Horace ('Epod.,' 2), "Beatus ille qui procul negotiis," etc. The LXX. makes short work of this verse, "My son, thou hast from me sayings mighty for thy life and for the life of thy servants."