A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.
I. JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE IN COMMON THINGS. Jehovah delights in "full weight," and abominates the tricky balance. This may be applied:
1. Literally, to commerce between man and man.
2. Figuratively, to all social relations in which we may give and receive. Work is only honest if thorough; if honest and thorough, it is religious. If principle be the basis of all our transactions, then what we do is done "unto the Lord, and not unto men." If we are indifferent to principle in the common transactions of the week, it is impossible to be really religious in anything or on any day.
II. HAUGHTINESS AND MODESTY. Extremes meet. The former topples over into shame; the latter is lifted into the heights of wisdom.
1. No feeling was more deeply stamped on the ancient mind than this. Among the Greeks hubris, among the Romans insolence, designated an offence peculiarly hateful in the eyes of Heaven. We see it reappearing in the songs and proverbs of the gospel: "He hath brought down the mighty from their seat, and exalted them of low degree;" "Every one that. humbleth himself shall be exalted; but he that exalteth himself shall be abased."
2. It is stamped upon all languages. Thus, in English, to be high, haughty, lofty, overbearing, are terms of censure; lowly, humble, terms of praise. In the German the words uebermuth, hochmuth, point to the same notion of excess and height in the temper.
3. At the same time, let us remember that the good temper may be counterfeited. Nothing is more easy than to suppose we have humbled ourselves by putting on a manner. Yet nothing is more detestable than the assumption of this particular manner. True humility springs from seeing ourselves as we are; pride, from nourishing a fanciful or ideal view of ourselves. Wisdom must begin with modesty; for a distorted or exaggerated view of self necessarily distorts our view of all that comes into relation with sell
III. RECTITUDE AND FAITHLESSNESS. (Ver. 3.) The former means guidance, for it is a clear light within the man's own breast; the latter, self destruction. As scriptural examples of the one side of the contrast, may be cited Joseph and Daniel; of the other, the latter, Saul, Absalom, Ahithophel, Ahab, and Ahaziah.
IV. RECTITUDE AND RICHES. (Ver. 4; see on Proverbs 10:2.)
1. Riches cannot purchase the grace of God, nor avert his judgments.
2. Rectitude, though not the first cause of salvation, is its necessary condition. To suppose that we can be saved from condemnation without being saved from sin is a gross superstition.
V. SELF-CONSERVATIVE AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE HABITS. (Vers. 5, 6; comp. Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 10:3.) Honesty and rectitude level the man's path before him; wickedness causes him to stumble and fall. Straightforwardness means deliverance out of dangers, perplexities, misconceptions; while the eager greed of the dishonest man creates distrust, embarrassment, inextricable difficulty.
"He that hath light within his own clear breast
May sit in the centre and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the midday sun;
Himself is his own dungeon."
VI. HOPE AND DESPONDENCY IN DEATH. (Ver. 7.) The former seems implied. If the Old Testament says expressly so little about a future life, some of its sayings may be construed as allusions to and indications of it. It is little that we can know definitely of the future life. But the least we do know is that hope is inextinguishable in the good man's soul; it is its own witness, and "reaps not shame." But despondency and despair are the direct result of wicked living. To cease to hope is to cease to wish and to cease to fear. This must be the extinction of the soul in the most dreadful way in which we can conceive it.
VII. THE EXCHANGE OF PLACES FOLLOWS MORAL LAW. (Ver. 8.) The good man comes out of distress, and the evil becomes his substitute in sorrow. So with the Israelites and Pharaoh, a great typical example; so with Mordecai and Haman; with Daniel and his accusers. Great reversals of human judgments are to be expected; many that were last shall be first, and the first last.
VIII. THE SOCIAL PEST AND THE TRUE NEIGHBOUR. (Ver. 9.) The pernicious power of slander. The best people are most injured by it, as the best fruit is that which the birds have been pecking at; or, as the Tamil proverb says, "Stones are only thrown at the fruit-laden tree." The tongue of slander "out-venoms all the worms of Nile." It spares neither sex nor age, nor helplessness. It is the "foulest whelp of sin." It promotes nothing that, is good, but destroys much. Knowledge, on the other hand - in the form of sound sense, wide experience - if readily imparted, is a boon to all. And the best of boons, for gifts and charities soon lose their benefit, while a hint of wisdom lives and germinates in the mind in which it has been deposited.
IX. OBJECTS OF SYMPATHY AND ANTIPATHY. (Ver. 10.) Gladness follows the success of the good and the downfall of the evil. The popular feeling about men's lives, as manifested at critical periods of failure or success, is a moral index, and suggests moral lessons. There is a true sense in which the voice of the people is the voice of God. Compare the scene of joy which followed Hezekiah's success in the promotion of true religion (2 Chronicles 29, 30), and the misery under Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28); also the rejoicings on the completion of Nehemiah's work (Nehemiah 8); and for jubilation at evil men's deaths, Pharaoh, Sisera, Athaliah (Exodus 15; Judges 5; 2 Kings 11:13-20).
X. SOUND POLITICS AND PERNICIOUS COUNSELS. (Ver. 11.) The blessing, i.e. the beneficial principles and administration of good and wise men exalt a city (or state). On the other hand, unprincipled counsels, even if temporarily successful, lead in the end to ruin. "It is impossible," said Demosthenes, "O men of Athens, that a man who is unjust, perverse, and false should acquire a firm and established power. His policy may answer for once, may hold out for a brief period, and flourish marvellously in expectations, if it succeed; but in course of time it is found out, and rushes into ruin of its own weight. Just as the foundation of a house or the keel of a ship should be the strongest part of the structure, so does it behove that the sources and principles of public conduct should be true and just. This is not the case at the present time with the actions of Philip." Compare the examples of Elisha (2 Kings 13:14, etc.), Hezekiah, and Isaiah (2 Chronicles 32:20-23), on the one hand; and the Babel builders (Genesis 11:4-9) and the Ammonites (Ezekiel 25:3, 4) on the other; also Jeremiah 23:10; Hosea 4:2, 3. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.