Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 10

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1


We are adopting a different style of commentary on these separate, disconnected maxims, most of them needing no explanation or comment whatever. The very simplicity of these axiomatic expressions, along with their common, everyday meaning, is in fact the secret of their strength and beauty.

"There seems to be no order in the arrangement of these proverbs; and so there will be no divisions noted here other than chapters and verses."[1] Some scholars, of course, have attempted to identify groups or subdivisions in this long list of proverbs; but none that we have seen is convincing. All such, "Groupings are secondary; and the main burden of exegesis must be borne by the individual sentences."[2]

Many of the comments which we have reviewed are little more than the author's attempt to repeat the message of the proverb in different phraseology; and quite frequently this is helpful. Our purpose here will be to follow, in some degree at least, that pattern of exegesis. We shall also call upon the various Old Testament translations and versions for different renditions of the various proverbs. Also, we shall, in many instances, note the various readings advocated by 19th century scholars, current authors, and the ancient versions. We shall give special attention to any New Testament light on any of these. All aboard for an exciting journey!

Proverbs 10:1

"A wise son maketh a glad father; But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother."

"The non-mention, generally in Proverbs, of daughters and women may be attributed in part to the relatively small estimation in which women of the ancient world were held."[3]

The teaching here is simply that, "A wise son makes a happy father, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother."[4] Of course, the converse is true also. A wise son makes happy parents; a foolish one grieves both his father and his mother. The same thing, of course, is true of daughters. It is the antithetical pattern of most of these proverbs that dictates the phraseolgy.

Verse 2

"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing; But righteousness delivereth from death."

"Wealth you get by dishonesty will do you no good, but honesty can save your life."[5]

Verse 3

"Jehovah will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; But he thrusteth away the desire of the wicked."

Note that it is not particularly the body of the righteous, but his soul that shall not famish. The NIV misses this significant difference. "The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked."[6]

Verse 4

"He becometh poor that worketh with a slack hand; But the hand of the diligent maketh rich."

James Moffatt's Translation of the Bible, 1929, rendered this, "A slack hand makes men poor, a busy hand makes men rich."[7]

Verse 5

"He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame."

"A smart man gathereth the crops at the right time; but if a man sleeps during the time of harvest and does not gather the crops, then he will be shamed."[8]

Verse 6

"Blessings are upon the head of the righteous; But violence covereth the mouth of the wicked."

Cook points out that an example of violence covering the mouth of the wicked is found in Esther 7:8, where it is mentioned that they covered the face of Haman.[9] It was an ancient custom to cover the faces of men condemned to death.

Verse 7

"The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot."

This contrasts the beautiful and precious memory of a godly life with the shame and rejection that linger upon the names of the wicked. As Deane asked, "Whoever thinks of naming a child Judas or Nero"?[10]

Verse 8

"The wise in heart shall receive commandments; But a prating fool shall fall."

"A sensible man will take orders; but the fool who talks back will be crushed."[11]

Verse 9

"He that walketh uprightly walketh surely; But he that perverteth his ways shall be known."

"He that walketh in innocence walketh securely; but he that goeth in secret ways is known."[12]

Verse 10

"He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow; But a prating fool shall fall."

Most of the proverbs are antithetical; but, "The relation of the two clauses here is one of resemblance."[13] The underhanded deceiver (he that winketh) and the blabber-mouth fool alike bring sorrow.

Verse 11

"The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life; But violence covereth the mouth of the wicked."

The RSV renders the second clause here, "The mouth of the wicked conceals violence."

Verse 12

"Hatred stirreth up strifes; But love covereth all transgressions."

"James 5:30,1 Peter 4:8 are connected with this verse by the word `covers.'"[14] These are not direct quotations, but both passages stress the same thought. Love indeed covers a multitude of transgressions.

Verse 13

"In the lips of him that hath discernment, wisdom is found; But a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding."

"If your mind is enlightened, wisdom will flow into your words, and so into the lives of others; but if your mind is closed, God will deal with you, but by force (Psalms 32:8-9)."[15] The `rod' is a reference to corporal punishment by brutal scourgings which were inflicted upon offenders in ancient societies.

Verse 14

"Wise men lay up knowledge; But the mouth of the foolish is a present destruction."

"Sensible men are reticent, but a fool's babbling will bring trouble down."[16]

Verse 15

"The rich man's wealth is his strong city: The destruction of the poor is their poverty."

The grand emphasis throughout Proverbs is altogether worldly, material, and economic. Riches and poverty are viewed as the opposite poles of successful and unsuccessful lives. Practical and usable in the every-day affairs of life, these proverbs surely are; but they fall far short of the ideals of Him "Who for our sakes became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Here and there in Proverbs there are fleeting glimpses of truth that points to the higher ideals of the New Testament. For example, Proverbs 18:11 has this, "The rich man's wealth is his strong city ... IN HIS OWN IMAGINATIONS"!

Verse 16

"The labor of the righteous tendeth to life; The increase of the wicked to sin."

"The reward for doing good is life, but sin leads only to more sin."[17]

Verse 17

"He is in the way of life that heedeth correction; But he that forsaketh reproof erreth."

McGee cited Absalom as a classical example of one, "Who wouldn't accept reproof";[18] but one hardly needs to go that far back in history to find myriads of other examples of the same error!

Verse 18

"He that hideth hatred is of lying lips; And he that uttereth slander is a fool."

DeHoff noted that "Comment here is hardly necessary, and yet the sin of many `good' people is that of gossip and slander."[19] It should be particularly noted here that it is not the invention of a slander, but the repetition of it, that is forbidden.

Verse 19

"In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression; But he that refraineth his lips doeth wisely."

This thunders the message that one should avoid talking too much. Various readings of the second clause here are: "He who controls his tongue acts wisely" (TOY), and "The wise man guardeth his tongue." (FRANK).[20] The New Testament elaborates this warning. "If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man" (James 3:1-13).

Verse 20

"The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver: The heart of the wicked is little worth."

Dod's paraphrase of the second clause is, "Sinful persons make a great show on the outside, but there's nothing within them that's worth anything"![21] Peter said to the lame man, "Silver and gold have I none," but his words were life, health and strength to the cripple.[22">Acts 3:6f.">[22]

Verse 21

"The lips of the righteous feed many; But the foolish die for lack of understanding."

The kind of food with which the lips of the righteous may feed others is, "The food that abideth unto eternal life" (John 6:27), namely, the blessed Truth of the holy gospels, without which, "the foolish die for lack of understanding."

Verse 22

"The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich; And he addeth no sorrow therewith."

"When sorrow comes to men who have been enriched by God, it springs from some other source than that of the riches. Great sorrow came to Solomon, but God did not add it; Solomon by his sins added it."[23]

Verse 23

"It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness; And so is wisdom to a man of understanding."

A various reading here, "It is sport for a fool to commit lewdness, but it is an abomination to a man of understanding."[24] "A rascal thinks sin is fun."[25]

Verse 24

"The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; And the desire of the righteous shall be granted."

Fritsch noted that the Hebrew text supports either the thought expressed here, or that, "The fear which evil men inspire in others is that which will come upon them."[26]

Verse 25

"When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more; But the righteous is an everlasting foundation."

The truth of this is apparently lost on our beloved America today. "It is righteousness that exalteth a nation" (Proverbs 14:34). Ten righteous people would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. The only foundation therefore for any `everlasting' society is righteous people. Humanism is the destruction of any society built upon it.

Verse 26

"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke in the eyes, So is the sluggard to them that send him."

The message here is that there is no worse messenger that can be sent than a lazy one.

Verse 27

"The fear of Jehovah prolongeth days; But the years of the wicked shall be shortened."

There is no mature person who cannot recall from what he has observed many examples of the wicked whose lives have been shortened and terminated by their wicked deeds. The drunken drivers killed in accidents, the robber shot in the act, the adulterer slain in vengeance - the list is endless.

Verse 28

"The hope of the righteous shall be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked shall perish."

Contrasting with the futile hopes of the wicked that shall come to naught, "The patient expectation of the righteous is joyful, because it has full confidence of its being fulfilled."[27]

Verse 29

"The way of Jehovah is a stronghold to the upright; But it is a destruction to the workers of iniquity."

The inherent enmity between good and evil appears here. This truth is quite comprehensive. Devotion to God and the service of holy religion in Christ, "Are for the righteous a strong protection and a safe retreat";[28] but God's ultimate purpose is that of casting evil out of his universe. There is absolutely no way that wickedness can win.

Verse 30

"The righteous shall never be removed; But the wicked shall not dwell in the land."

The truth here is eternal in its scope. History affords many examples of the oppression of the righteous and the establishment of wicked populations in every land; but in the destiny of our sin-cursed earth, God has scheduled another chapter. "We look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

Verse 31

"The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom; But the perverse tongue shall be cut off."

An interesting paraphrase here is: "Good people say wise things, but people will stop listening to a person that says things that bring trouble."[29] There is also here a glimpse of ancient brutal punishments in which the tongues of disrespectful servants were actually cut off.

Verse 32

"The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable; But the mouth of the wicked speaketh perverseness."

"In both of these last two verses, the straightforward speech of the righteous which informs and pleases is contrasted with the evil speech of the wicked."[30] "Thy speech betrayeth thee"! (Matthew 26:73) was correctly applied to the apostle Peter; but it also fits us all!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/proverbs-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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