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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Proverbs 15

Verse 2

Useth knowledge aright - Rather, makes knowledge goodly. The power of well-considered speech to commend true wisdom, is contrasted with the pouring (literally as in the margin) forth of folly.

Verse 3

The teaching which began with the fear of the Lord Proverbs 1:7 would not be complete without this assertion of His omni-present knowledge.

Verse 4

A wholesome tongue - literally, as in the margin, the same word as “sound” in Proverbs 14:30 (see the note). A more literal rendering would be soundness of speech.

Tree of life - Compare Proverbs 3:18 note.

Breach in the spirit - With the sense of vexation (compare Isaiah 65:14).

Verse 7

Not so - The word translated “so” is taken by some in its etymological force as “strong,” “firm,” and the passage is rendered “the heart of the fool disperseth (supplied from the first clause) what is weak and unsteady,” i. e., “falsehood and unwisdom.” The Septuagint takes it as an adjective, “the heart of the fool is unstedfast.” The phrase as it stands in the King James Version is, however, of frequent occurrence Genesis 48:18; Exodus 10:11; Numbers 12:7.

Verse 10

Better, There is a grievous correction, i. e., nothing less than death, to him that forsaketh the way.

Verse 13

Some prefer to render the last clause, “In sorrow of heart the breath is oppressed.”

Verse 15

Afflicted - The affliction meant here is less that of outward circumstances than of a troubled and downcast spirit. Life to the cheerful is as one perpetual banquet, whether he be poor or rich. That which disturbs the feast is anxiety, the taking (anxious) thought” of Matthew 6:34.

Verse 16

This proverb has its completion in the teaching of Matthew 6:33.

Verse 17

A dinner of herbs - The meals of the poor and the abstemious. The “stalled ox,” like the “fatted calf” of Luke 15:23, would indicate a stately magnificence.

Verse 19

The slothful goes on his journey, and for him the path is thick set with thorns, briars, fences, through which he cannot force his way. For the “righteous” (better, upright), the same path is as the broad raised causeway of the king’s highway. Compare Isaiah 40:3.

Verse 20

To “despise” a mother is to cause her the deepest grief, and is therefore not unfitly contrasted with “making a glad father.”

Verse 21

i. e., The empty-hearted, rejoicing in folly, goes the wrong way; the man of understanding, rejoicing in wisdom, goes the right way.

Verse 22

Counsellors - The Hebrew word, used almost as an official title 1 Chronicles 27:32; Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 19:11, brings before us the picture of the council-chamber of Eastern countries, arranged for a solemn conference of the wise.

Verse 23

Probably, a special reference to debates in council Proverbs 15:22. They bring before us the special characteristic of the East, the delight in ready, improvised answers, solving difficulties, turning aside anger. Compare the effect on the scribe Mark 12:28.

Verse 24

Above ... beneath - The one path is all along upward, leading to the highest life. It rescues the “wise” from the other, which is all along downward, ending in the gloom of Sheol.

Verse 25

The widow - Here, as elsewhere Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms 68:5, the widow, as the most extreme type of desolation, stands as the representative of a class safer in their poverty under the protection of the Lord, than the proud in the haughtiness of their strength.

Verse 26

Some prefer the margin, and render, words of pleasantness are pure. Gracious words are to God as a pure acceptable offering, the similitude being taken from the Levitical ritual, and the word “pure” in half ceremonial sense (compare Malachi 1:11).

Verse 27

Gifts - There is a special application to the office of the judge. The Aramaic Targum paraphrases the first words of this passage as: “he who gathers the mammon of unrighteousness,” using the words with special reference to wealth obtained by unjust judgments. May we infer that Christ’s adoption of that phrase Luke 16:9 had a point of contact with this proverb, through the version then popularly used in the synagogues of Palestine?

Verse 28

Contrast the “studying” of the wise before he answers and the hasty babbling of the foolish. The teaching of our Lord Matthew 10:19 presents us with a different and higher precept, resting upon different conditions.

Verse 29

Compare John 9:31.

Verse 30

The light of the eyes - The brightness which shines in the eyes of one whose heart and face are alike full of joy. Such a look acts with a healing and quickening power. Compare Proverbs 16:15.

A good report - i. e., Good news.

Verse 31

The reproof of life - i. e., The reproof that leads to, or gives life, rather than that which comes from life and its experience.

Verse 33

The instruction of wisdom - i. e., The discipline that leads to wisdom.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.