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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 16

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The proverbs in Proverbs 16:1-7 have, more than any other group, an especially religious character impressed upon them. The name of Yahweh as Giver, Guide, Ruler, or Judge, meets us in each of them.

Proverbs 16:1

Better, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the utterance of the tongue is from Yahweh. Thoughts come and go, as it were, spontaneously; but true, well ordered speech is the gift of God. Compare Proverbs 16:9.

Verse 2

We are blind to our own faults, do not see ourselves as others see us. There is One who tries not the “ways” only, but the “spirits” Hebrews 4:12 : this is the true remedy against self-deceit.

Verse 3

Commit - literally, as in the margin, as a man transfers a burden from his own back to one stronger and better able to bear it. Compare the margin reference.

Thy thoughts - i. e., The plans or counsels out of which the works spring.

Verse 4

For himself - Better, The Lord has done everything for its own end; and this includes the appointment of an “evil day” for “the wicked” who deserve it.

Verse 5

See the marginal reference note.

Verse 6

Compare Proverbs 15:8. “By mercy and truth,” not by sacrifices and burnt-offerings, “iniquity is purged, atoned for, expiated.” The teaching is the same as that of the prophets.

Verse 7

Goodness has power to charm and win even enemies to itself.

Verse 9

Deviseth his way - i. e., Thinks it out with anxious care; yet it is the Lord and He only who directs the steps. Compare Proverbs 16:1.

Verse 10

A divine sentence - See the margin, i. e., “soothsaying” in its darker aspect as contrasted with prophecy. The true oracle is to be sought, not from soothsayers and diviners, but “at the lips of the king,” who is ideally the representative, the προφήτης prophētēs of Yahweh, in His government of mankind.

Verse 11

See Proverbs 11:1 note. People are not to think that trade lies outside the divine law. God has commanded there also all that belongs to truth and right.

Verse 14

While Proverbs 16:13 depicts the king as he ought to be, this verse reminds us of the terrible rapidity with which, in the despotic monarchies of the East, punishment, even death, follows royal displeasure.

Verse 15

The “latter rain” is that which falls in March or April just before the harvest. The “cloud” which brings it, immediately screening people from the scorching sun, and bringing plenty and blessing, is a fit type of the highest favor.

Verse 20

Good as it is to “handle a matter wisely,” it is far better to “trust in the Lord.” The former is really impossible except through the latter.

Verse 21

The words point to the conditions of all true growth in wisdom; and he who has the gift of uttering it in winning speech increases it in himself and others.

Verse 22

Wellspring of life - Compare Proverbs 10:11 note. “the instruction of fools” Not that which they give, but that which they receive. Compare Proverbs 14:24. “Folly” is its own all-sufficient punishment.

Verse 24

Honey took its place not only among the luxuries, but among the medicines of the Israelites. This two-fold use made it all the more suitable to be an emblem both of the true Wisdom which is also true obedience, and of the “pleasant words” in which that Wisdom speaks.

Verse 26

He that laboreth - literally, as in the margin, i. e., “The desire of the laborer labors for him” (or, helps him in his work), “for his mouth urges him on.” Hunger of some kind is the spring of all hearty labor. Without that the man would sit down and take his ease. So also, unless there is a hunger in the soul, craving to be fed, there can be no true labor after righteousness and wisdom (compare Matthew 5:6).

Verses 27-30

The four verses speak of the same thing, and the well-known opprobrious name, the “man of Belial,” stands at the head as stigmatizing the man who delights in causing the mischief of which they treat.

Diggeth up evil - i. e., Digs an evil pit for others to fall into. Compare Psalms 7:15.

Proverbs 16:30

The physiognomy of the man of Belial, the half-closed eyes that never look you straight in the face, the restlessness or cunning of which biting the lips is the surest indication. Compare Proverbs 6:13.

Verse 31

Omit “if.” Literally, “it (i. e., the hoary head) is found in the way of righteousness,” comes as the reward of righteousness.

Verse 33

Disposing - Better, the judgment or sentence which depends upon the lot. The lots were thrown into the gathered folds of a robe, and then drawn out. Where everything seemed the merest chance, there the faithful Israelite teacher recognized the guidance of a higher will. Compare the case of Achan Joshua 7:18, and of Jonathan 1 Samuel 14:37-42. The process here described would seem to have been employed ordinarily in trials where the judges could not decide on the facts before them (compare Proverbs 18:18).

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/proverbs-16.html. 1870.
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