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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Proverbs 27

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 27:1

"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."

This is another proverb that receives emphasis in the New Testament (James 4:13ff). See our comment there.


Verse 2

"Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; A stranger, and not thine own lips."

A brief translation is: "Never praise yourself; let other people do it"![1] It would be difficult to compress more wisdom into fewer words.


Verse 3

"A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; But a fool's vexation is heavier than them both."

The fools vexation here does not refer to his discomfiture but to that which he causes. "Stone is a burden and sand a dead weight, but to be vexed by a fool is more burdensome than either."[2]


Verse 4

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; But who is able to stand before jealousy?"

The thought here is that, of all hostility, jealousy is the worst. Proverbs 6:34 emphasizes the same truth. See our comment there.


Verse 5

"Better is open rebuke Than love that is hidden."

The love that is here made inferior to open rebuke is that, which in the presence of a situation that requires rebuke, "Manifests itself by no rebuking word, and is therefore morally useless."[3] A slight change in the text would give, "a love that conceals," "That does not tell the friend his faults."[4] Toy suggested that emendation. James Moffatt rendered it thus: "Better a frank word of reproof than a love that will not speak."[5]


Verse 6

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse."

"Wounds from a friend are honest, but an enemy's kisses are false."[6]


Verse 7

"The full soul loatheth a honeycomb; But to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet."

Cook pointed out that the teaching here is using a physical fact regarding bodily hunger as a metaphor of the higher truth that, "Indulgence of pleasure of any kind brings on satiety and weariness, but that self-restraint multiples the enjoyment."[7]


Verse 8

"As a bird that wandereth from her nest, So is a man that wandereth from his place."

This speaks of the inherent, instinctive desire for men to remain at home. In our current culture, finding a new home is not nearly as difficult as it was in ancient times; but in those earlier periods, changing one's residence was fraught with all kinds of dangers and hardships. When God pronounced his judgment against Cain for the murder of Abel, Cain complained that, "My punishment is greater than I can bear ... I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth." (Genesis 4:12f). "Like a bird that strays from its nest is the man who strays from home."[8]


Verse 9

"Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; So doth the sweetness of a man's friend that cometh of hearty counsel."

The first line here describes a physical pleasure which is presumably the illustration of a spiritual joy to be related in the second line; but the Hebrew text of the O.T. for the second line is unintelligible."[9] The rendition in our versions is as good as any, but there are others. "But the soul is torn by trouble."[10] "The soul is broken by calamities."[11] "But trouble shatters your peace of mind."[12] These several renditions of the second line here are obviously all influenced by the LXX.


Verse 10

"Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; And go not to thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity. Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far off."

Two other proverbs are concerned with the admonition we have here. They are Proverbs 17:17 and Proverbs 18:24. Also Proverbs 19:7 explains how it is that brothers may hate each other. See our comments on those proverbs. What is related here is a sad fact that brothers (or sisters) may sometimes be quite unwilling to aid each other in times of misfortune or distress. Cook revised the proverb here as follows: "Better is the neighbor who is really `near' in heart and spirit than a brother who is `near' by blood but 'far off in brotherly feeling."[13]


Verse 11

"My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, That I may answer him that reproacheth me."

The speaker is the youth's father, his teacher, or some friend. The reproach (2nd line) probably refers to some real or contemplated misdemeanor by the youth. "The speaker is concerned for the youth's career, and desires that he may so conduct himself as to furnish a triumphant answer to all assailants."[14]


Verse 12

"A prudent man seeth evil and hideth himself; But the simple pass on and suffer for it. Take his garment that is surety for a stranger; And hold him in pledge that is surety for a foreign woman."

Proverbs 27:12 is the equivalent of Proverbs 22:3, and Proverbs 27:13 is the same as Proverbs 20:16. See comments there.


Verse 14

"He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, It shall be counted a curse to him."

Some uncertainty as to the exact meaning of this gives us alternative interpretations. (1) It is a rebuke of loud-mouth adulation, to which the public will ascribe evil intent on the part of the flatterer. (2) A loud-mouth blessing will call down the wrath of God, who shall consider it a curse. (Alternate interpretations by Toy).[15] Our own view of the passage is that any inconsiderate, loud-mouthed communication from a neighbor before daylight in the morning would be viewed by the recipient as rude and inappropriate, even if the words were flattering.


Verse 15

"A continual dropping in a very rainy day And a contentious woman are alike: He that would restrain her restraineth the wind; And his right hand encountereth oil."

The last line here is not clear; but some of the translations change it: "As well try to pick up oil in one's fingers."[16] "It is like trying to grab oil with your hand."[17] "To restrain her ... is to grasp oil in one's right hand."[18] One translator did the whole 16th verse over: "The north wind is a harsh wind, but it has an auspicious name."[19] James Moffatt evidently followed the Septuagint here. It reads: "The north wind is sharp, but it is called by name propitious."[20] On Proverbs 27:16, the KJV has this: "Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself."[21] We hope we will be forgiven for the observation that, "The translators have evidently done a lot of guessing here"!


Verse 17

"Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

Based upon the truism that a friend would not sharpen the features of another's face, is the following: "As one iron implement is sharpened by another, so a man sharpens the perception of his companion."[22] However, would not the joy over the arrival of a friend actually change the appearance of a companion's face, wreathing it in smiles?


Verse 18

"Whoso keepeth the fig-tree shall eat the fruit thereof; And he that regardeth the master shall be honored."

Paul evidently had this in mind (2 Timothy 2:6). The comparison here seems to be: "Just as the fig-tree requires constant care, but also yields abundant fruit, so the ministrations of a faithful servant will not be without their due reward."[23]


Verse 19

"As in water face answereth face, So the heart of man to man."

This is a wonderful axiom indeed. Still water serves as a mirror for one looking into it, reflecting one's very likeness. The same thing is true in human relationships.

A grouchy, evil-spirited person evokes the same attitude in everyone he confronts; and the same is true of a happy and cheerful person.


Verse 20

"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied; And the eyes of man are never satisfied."

"Sheol and Abaddon ... etc." (Proverbs 27:20). Harris rendered this, "Hell and destruction are insatiable."[24] Sheol, however, is best understood as a name for "the realm of the dead." It is the equivalent of "Hades." Death itself is never satisfied. We encountered this same pair of names in Proverbs 15:11.

DeHoff applied the second line here to the lusts and appetites of the body. "Gambling is a growing vice. One drink of alcoholic beverage calls for another, and another, etc. Committing adultery, `just this one time' never works out that way."[25]


Verse 21

"The refining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; And a man is tried by his praise."

This verse is very similar to Proverbs 17:3, with this difference: there Jehovah is the tester of men, and here it is the public, or the community. Toy rendered the passage, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, and a man is to be estimated according to his reputation."[26]


Verse 22

"Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with bruised grain, Yet will not his foolishness depart from him."

"This is a picturesque and forcible way of saying that a fool's folly is his nature."[27]


Verse 23

SHORT TREATISE ON ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, And look well to thy herds:

For riches are not forever; And doth the crown endure unto all generations?

The hay is carried, and the tender grass showeth itself, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in.

The lambs are for thy clothing, And the goats are the price of the field;

And there will be goats' milk enough for thy food, the food of thy household, And maintenance for thy maidens."

The purpose of this passage is to emphasize and glorify the type of lifestyle that prevailed in early Israelite history. The wealth of Job, it will be remembered, was in the numbers of his flocks, herds and domesticated animals. In later Jewish history, vineyards, olive yards, and orchards were stressed; but in the patriarchal period, animal husbandry was the source of Israel's livelihood and of their wealth.

"The hay is carried" (Proverbs 27:25). This means it was carried to the barn.

Agriculture is still the means by which mankind is able to live. "The king is fed from the field."

Kidner called this passage "A Pastoral Symphony"; and his words supply an appropriate close for this chapter:

"This scene is not designed to make farmers of everybody, but to show the interplay between man's labor and the nurture of God, which a sophisticated society neglects at its mortal peril. It recalls the reader from the scramble for money and position (Proverbs 27:24) to the satisfaction of doing a worthwhile job well (Proverbs 27:23), and to a recognition of the rhythm (Proverbs 27:25) and sufficiency (Proverbs 27:26-27) of God's care."[28]

Illustration: The Ukraine was once the granary of the continent of Europe; but when its efficient farmers rebelled against the stupid regulations of the Communist overlords, Stalin murdered millions of them; and the Communists were never afterward able to feed themselves, which necessitated their annual purchase of 200,000,000 metric tons of wheat from the United States. This destroyed Communism.

 


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 27:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-27.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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