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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 29

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1

“He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck Shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

Often, hard-headed stubbornness is the reason behind the termination of one’s employment, or for his confrontations with others, which are potentially violent or even fatal. Our proverb, however, deals with one’s spiritual growth. It is the failure to heed the reproof and gentle instruction founded upon God’s Word that can damage and even destroy the soul. Proverbs 13:18 and Proverbs 15:10 also warn against the man who hates reproof.

Verse 2

“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man beareth rule, the people sigh.”

See discussion of this and related proverbs under Proverbs 28:28.

Verse 3

“Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father; But he that keepeth company with harlots wasteth his substance.”

This proverb is only a slight variation from at least a dozen others that stress the same truth. “Licentiousness is put as the opposite of wisdom in Proverbs 2:10; Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:1-3; Proverbs 6:23-24; Proverbs 9:1; Proverbs 9:13. Additionally, the first line is found in Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 23:13; Proverbs 23:24; Proverbs 27:11; and line two is similar to Proverbs 5:9-10.”(F1)

Verse 4

“The king by justice establisheth the land; But he that exacteth gifts overthroweth it.”

A policy of excessive taxation has usually been the primary cause of every fallen government in the history of the world. “A king by justice gives stability to a land, but he whose exactions are excessive ruins it.”(F2) This rendition is applicable, not merely to excessive taxation, but to bribery by the `exaction of gifts.’ “By justice a king gives stability to the land, but one who exacts gifts ruins it.”(F3)

Verse 5

“A man that flattereth his neighbor, Spreadeth a net for his steps.”

“One who flatters another seeks to deceive and usually has an ulterior motive.”(F4) One should always be suspicious of fulsome praise.

Verse 6

“In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare; But the righteous doth sing and rejoice.”

“The snare is that the sinner is caught and held fast by his sin. It becomes a habit which he is unwilling or unable to break.”(F5) The contrast here is not very obvious. “It means (1) either that the good man has a peaceful conscience free of the snare of sin, or (2) that, although the righteous man has also sinned, he has repented; God has forgiven him, and therefore he sings.”(F6)

Verse 7

“The righteous taketh knowledge of the cause of the poor; The wicked hath not understanding to know it.”

“The righteous man is concerned for the cause of the helpless, but the wicked understand no such concern.”(F7) There is no test that separates the wicked from the righteous as effectively as this one. The Christ himself said, “Blessed are ye poor”; and to ignore the rights and necessities of the poor, in all dispensations of God’s love, is the invariable hallmark of the wicked.

Verse 8

“Scoffers set a city in a flame; But wise men turn away wrath.”

“Unscrupulous men kindle strife in a city; the sensible discourage party-spirit.”(F8) “Insolent men set the city in an uproar, but wise men assuage popular anger.”(F9) These three renditions give us three synonyms for the evil man in line one: “scoffers, unscrupulous, and insolent.”

Verse 9

“If a wise man hath a controversy with a foolish man, Whether he be angry or laugh, there will be no rest.”

“The subject of the second line is uncertain; but the proverb seems to be a warning against a wise man’s going to law with a fool.”(F10) “When an intelligent man brings a lawsuit against a fool, the fool only laughs and becomes loud and abusive.”(F11) “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.”(F12) The RSV is superior here.

Verse 10

“The bloodthirsty hate him that is perfect; And as for the upright, they seek his life.”

The inherent antagonism between good men and bad men, between righteousness and wickedness, between God and sin appears here. “And Cain who was of the evil one slew his brother; and wherefore slew he him? because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). The very goodness of righteous, God-fearing people is more than sufficient grounds for the murderous hatred of them by wicked people.

Verse 11

“A fool uttereth all his anger; But a wise man keepeth it back and stilleth it.”

The KJV has this: “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterward.”(F13) “This indicates that a wise man restrains his anger till he can give it proper vent.”(F14) “Stupid people express their anger openly, but sensible people are patient and hold it back.”(F15) We like this because it means that righteous people overcome their anger.

Verse 12

“If a ruler hearkeneth to falsehood, All his servants are wicked.”

“If a ruler listens to lies, then all his servants will be evil.”(F16) “If a ruler listens to lies, then all his servants become depraved.”(F17) As these renditions stand, they seem to say that a king’s listening to falsehoods would somehow make his servants evil. Toy commented that, “The courtiers adjust themselves to the prince.”(F18) We cannot find any support in any of the versions or commentators for our feeling that something else is meant here. “If a king, or any other man in authority, can be moved by false reports that he heeds, then false reports will be lodged against all his servants by evil men seeking to replace them.” If a king believes falsehoods, he will soon have no confidence in any of his servants!

Verse 13

“The poor man and the oppressor meet together; Jehovah lighteneth the eyes of them both.”

Cook rendered “oppressor” here as “usurer,”(F19) and the last line as, “God bestows his light equally on both.” This, of course, is the equivalent of, “God maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

Verse 14

“The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, His throne shall be established forever.”

Proverbs 16:12 and Proverbs 25:12 are similar. Throughout Proverbs, it is taught that, “The perpetual duration of a dynasty depends not upon intellectual or physical superiority, but upon moral character.”(F20)

Verse 15

“The rod and reproof give wisdom; But a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother.”

Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 23:13 also deal with discipline for children. See comments under similar proverbs. In several other disciplinary instructions, the undisciplined son is said to cause shame, grief, etc. to his father; and the wise or well-disciplined son is said to bring joy to his father. See Proverbs 17:21 and Proverbs 23:24-25. Toy noted that, “The mother might have been mentioned here (1) because she is charged with the principal duty of rearing the child, or (2) merely for rhetorical purposes.”(F21) Really, what is said of either parent, in this connection, is certainly true of both.

Verse 16

“When the wicked are increased, transgression increaseth; But the righteous shall look upon their fall.”

Other proverbs in the same vein of thought are: Proverbs 11:10-11; Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 28:28; and Proverbs 29:2, above. See comments under those references. “Here the proverb carries the theme further than the other passages by its closing assurance.”(F22)

Verse 17

“Correct thy son, and he will give thee rest; Yea, he will give delight unto thy soul.”

See my discussion of discipline under Proverbs 29:15.

Verse 18

“Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

Both the American Standard Version and the RSV butchered this beautiful verse, neither of them approaching the grandeur of the KJV. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”(F23)

Verse 19

“A servant will not be corrected by words; For though he understand, he will not give heed.”

“The servant mentioned here is a slave whose obedience is reluctant.”(F24) Such a person will deliberately refuse to be properly instructed.

Verse 20

“Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

This is the same as Proverbs 26:12, except there it is the man “who is wise in his own conceit” who is more hopeless than a fool. Here it is the man who is hasty in his words.

Verse 21

“He that delicately bringeth up a servant from a child Shall have him become a son at the last.”

“We really do not know the significance of the word rendered `a son’ (or `an heir’ in the margin), and so this verse is obscure.”(F25)

Verse 22

“An angry man stirreth up strife, And a wrathful man aboundeth in transgression.”

We have already discussed the issues presented here under Proverbs 15:18 and Proverbs 22:24.

Verse 23

“A man’s pride shall bring him low; But he that is of a lowly spirit shall obtain honor.”

We have exactly the same admonition here that is found in Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 16:18-19. See comment there. Pride, insolence, arrogance and similar evil and `superior’ attitudes toward others are vigorously condemned throughout Proverbs.

Verse 24

“Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul; He heareth the adjuration and uttereth nothing.”

“The background of this appears to be the situation described in Leviticus 5:1. A curse is pronounced upon an unknown thief, which is heard by one of the thief’s associates. However, the associate does not reveal what he knows; and so he bears the full brunt of the curse, as well as the thief. Such a man, `hates his own soul.’ The crime is bad enough, but the failure to confess is suicidal.”(F26) The mention of the word `adjuration,’ here, “Is probably a reference to an oath in court, thus adding perjury to dishonesty.”(F27)

Verse 25

“The fear of man bringeth a snare; But whoso putteth his trust in Jehovah shall be safe.”

We may paraphrase this thus: “Fear man; fall into a trap; fear God; receive eternal life.” Trusting in the Lord and fearing God are one and the same thing. Christ himself dealt with this. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).

Verse 26

“Many seek the ruler’s favor; But a man’s judgment cometh from Jehovah.”

“Many seek the favor of a ruler, but from the Lord a man gets justice.”(F28) “Many seek the presence of a ruler; but only from the Lord may one expect justice.”(F29) The weakness and corruption of all human systems of jurisprudence are suggested by this.

Verse 27

“An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, But he that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.”

Again, as in Proverbs 29:10, above, we have a statement of the eternal antagonism between good and evil. We like the way the Anchor Bible rendered it: “A depraved man is abominable to the just, as an honest man is abominable to the wicked one.”(F30)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 29". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/proverbs-29.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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