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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Proverbs 22

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 22:1

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, And loving favor rather than silver and gold."

"Riches are greatly esteemed in the world; and, wisely managed, they serve many valuable purposes; but they do not contribute as much to genuine tranquility and happiness of life as do the esteem and love of one's neighbors. Paul's qualifications for elders did not require them to be rich, but to have a good name among Christians and even among the heathen."[1]


Verse 2

"The rich and the poor meet together: Jehovah is the maker of them all."

This means that, "There are social differences among men; but all men, as creatures of God, have their rights, and their mutual obligations of respect and kindness."[2] There is a terrible equality of all men who have one Creator, are all sinful, are all mortal, and who all cross the threshold of our common grave. All men have the invitation to receive eternal life upon the conditions God has provided it; and all men have only one extremely vital choice to make. They may either receive it, or reject it.


Verse 3

"A prudent man seeth the evil, and hideth himself; But the simple pass on, and suffer for it."

"The Bible gives blind optimism its right name. It is not faith but folly. This was mentioned in Proverbs 14:15-16, and will be repeated in even stronger language in Proverbs 27:12."[3]


Verse 4

"The reward of humility and the fear of Jehovah Is riches, and honor, and life."

This verse, which stresses humility and the fear of the Lord, "Sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs."[4] As a matter of fact, it gives a brief summary of the chief obligations of human life on earth.


Verse 5

"Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He that keepeth his soul shall be far from them."

He that keepeth his soul carries the frightening implication that one may lose his soul, a fact emphasized by Jesus (Matthew 16:26). "Many toils, trials and sufferings will be met by the sinful."[5] One's soul is that immortal part of him that shall at last give an account in the presence of God.


Verse 6

"Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it."

This identifies the proper instruction and discipline of one's children as, "A religious duty."[6] It should also be imposed as a legal obligation upon that vast army of godless, reprobate men who have fathered children, deserted their mothers, and avoided providing support.


Verse 7

"The rich rule over the poor; And the borrower is servant to the lender."

This states an unhappy fact, but without any approval of it (See the first two verses). The apostolic injunction to "Owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8) is the way to avoid the servitude mentioned in the second line. Of course, this involves doing without many things while the money to acquire the things needed is being earned. The widespread practice of young married couples buying everything they want on credit is an infallible method of remaining poor for a lifetime.


Verse 8

"He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity; And the rod of his wrath shall fail."

"If you plant the seeds of injustice, disaster will spring up, and your oppression of others will end."[7] "A man who sows evil has a harvest of trouble; his labor goes for nothing."[8] Any person who is sinning is "sowing iniquity." The Septuagint (LXX) has a variant reading for the second line, "God loves a cheerful and liberal man,"[9] and Scott called this the source of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 9:7.[10]


Verse 9

"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; For he giveth his bread to the poor."

God Himself blesses the liberal giver, as anyone who ever practiced liberality already knows. See 2 Corinthians 9:6-13, where this promise is elaborated for Christians.


Verse 10

"Cast out the scoffer, and contention will go out; Yea, strife and ignominy will cease."

"Disagreement and bad blood sometimes arise, not from the facts of a situation, but from a person with a wrong attitude, who makes mischief. This proverb says that, `What an institution sometimes needs is, not reforms, but the expulsion of a member.'"[11]


Verse 11

"He that loveth pureness of heart, For the grace of his lips the king will be his friend."

The translators are in disagreement over what this says. Toy, endorsing Luther's rendition, made "the king" the subject of both clauses, declaring that this seems to offer the most probable sense: "The king loves the pure in heart, and the grace of lips is his delight."[12] "If you love purity of heart and graciousness of speech, the king will be your friend."[13]


Verse 12

"The eyes of Jehovah preserve him that hath knowledge; But he overthroweth the words of the treacherous man."

"This first clause says that God oversees and protects the man who knows God and walks in his ways, and uses his means and abilities for the good of others."[14] The second clause means that, "God frustrates the intentions of the treacherous man by turning them in another direction."[15] It is of interest that the Septuagint renders the passage thus: "The eyes of the Lord preserve discretion; but the transgressor despises wise words."[16]


Verse 13

"The sluggard saith, There is a lion in the way; I shall be slain in the streets."

"The lazy will claim that there is a lion in the way to keep from going to work. They will use any excuse, no matter how unlikely or unbelievable, to keep from carrying their share of the load."[17]

Illustration: This writer and his wife once aided an able-bodied bum by getting him a job; much to our surprise he turned it down, saying, "Reverend, you just don't understand what a kind-hearted man I am. If I took that job, I would meet somebody tomorrow who needs it worse than I do, and I would give it to him!"


Verse 14

"The mouth of strange women is a deep pit; He that is abhorred of Jehovah shall fall therein."

This subject was practically exhausted in the first seven chapters of Proverbs. Our only marvel is that Solomon, of all people, could have said something like this. "The Lord is angry with the one who consorts with an adulteress."[18]


Verse 15

"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

A number of proverbs deal with the discipline of children (Proverbs 13:24; 22:6; 29:15,21). Corporal punishment is mentioned here. Our current culture has rejected corporal punishment for disobedient and unruly children; and this should be evaluated in the light of this report from the front page of today's Houston Post, June 22,1993. The banner headline reads: UNITED STATES LOSING A GENERATION. "About one-fourth of all 10 to 17 year olds are at risk of failing to lead productive adult lives. Why? High-risk behavior - drugs ... sex ... liquor ... etc." In a word, no discipline, either at home or at school. Perhaps our "smart educators" should take another look at their policies.

Folly is very much bound up in the nature of children, more so with boys than with girls. "The rod of discipline is needed to get rid of the folly."[19]


Verse 16

"He that oppresseth the poor to increase his gain, And he that giveth to the rich shall come only to want."

This is a disputed verse, and several different renditions are possible, none of which are any better than the one in our version.


Verse 17

"Incline thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, And apply thy heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee. If they be established together upon thy lips. That thy trust may be in Jehovah, I have made them known to thee this day, even to thee."

There is a break here; and from this Proverbs 22:17 through the end of Proverbs 24, we have the words of the wise men. Some call these, "The Thirty Words" (consisting of two verses each);[20] but other words of wise men are added after the "thirty."

These three verses state the purpose of the wise men's words, namely, "That thy trust may be in Jehovah." This particular section of Proverbs is not attributed to Solomon.


Verse 20

"Have not I written unto the excellent things of counsels and knowledge, To make thee know the certainty of the words of truth, That thou mayest carry back words of truth to them that send thee?"

This concludes the introduction to the words of the wise men, the first of the "thirty words" beginning in Proverbs 22:22.


Verse 22

1.

"Rob not the poor because he is poor; Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For Jehovah will plead their cause, And will despoil of life those that despoil them."

"To be ruthlessly `on the make' is to make, above all, an Enemy."[21] That Enemy, of course, is the Lord of heaven and earth.


Verse 24

2.

"Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; And with a wrathful man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, And get a snare to thy soul." This is a stern warning against association with any man given to angry and wrathful outbursts. Christians are commanded to be `slow to anger' and "to be angry and sin not.' Anger breeds anger; impatience breeds impatience; and association with such a man is dangerous, not only in the earthly sense, but also in the eternal sense. It can lead to the loss of one's soul.

Proverbs 22:26-27

3.

"Be thou not one of them that strike hands, Or of them that are sureties for debts. If thou hast not wherewith to pay, Why should he take away thy bed from under thee?"

A number of the proverbs of Solomon in the previous section dealt with this same problem, and there is nothing new added here. It just says, "Don't do it"!

Proverbs 22:28-29

4.

"Remove not the ancient landmark, Which thy fathers have set."

Moving an ancient landmark was a device of fraudulent men, because such landmarks defined the boundaries of farms and estates. Moving a landmark was a crime easy to commit and hard to prove, therefore God gave the sternest warnings against it, not only in the books of Law and Prophecy, but in the Wisdom literature also."[22]

5.

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; He shall not stand before mean men."

"Diligence would not commend a man so highly unless it was accompanied by unusual skill, dexterity, ingenuity and creativeness."[23] In ancient times persons with such abilities were called "tektons." The word was applied to Christ himself (as a carpenter) (Mark 6:3). Such skilled workers are the benefactors of all mankind. We dedicated our Book of Acts (In the New Testament Series) to a "[@tekton]." Bezalel (Exodus 35:30-35) was just such a person.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 22:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-22.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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