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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 21

Verse 1

DOMINUS DIRIGIT COR

‘The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will.’

Proverbs 21:1

The analogy which Solomon saw between the king’s heart and a river of water is true and fertile.

I. Although a king is specified in the parable, the likeness holds good for mankind.—In respect to the secret impulses which impart direction and force to a life, every man is kingly. A certain self-contained lordliness belongs to man as such, apart altogether from the position he may happen to hold among his fellows. Although his action externally is always liable to be checked by superior power, every man is a king in the castle of his own heart. There, though under law to God, he is free from the inspection and control of his brother. Moreover, when God’s hand is put forth it turns the hearts of sovereigns and subjects with equal ease. It is not more difficult for the law of gravity to hold the ocean in its bed than to keep the corolla of a snowdrop pointing to the ground. In like manner it is as easy for God’s hand to control the life of kings as the life of common men. There is not an easy and a difficult among the tasks which the Omniscient and Omnipotent undertakes and performs.

II. In this world man is clearly king; and his heart is like a river in the secret springs of its power.—As the ultimate sources of a river are minute, manifold, hidden, such also are the germs of thought that spring in a human heart and constitute the volume of a human life. The chambers where thoughts and purposes have their birth are as deep and inscrutable as the caverns of the earth where the primal elements of rivers rise. In either case it is only when the volume bursts forth and flows along the surface that it becomes known. One step further here the analogy may be safely traced: as these springs that issue from the ground are caused by drops that fall from the sky, so the emotions that swell in a human breast and break forth in the body of a human life are in the last resort subject to influences on high that distil in secret like the dews of night. More secret and trackless than a bird in the air or a ship on the sea is the germinal emotion that quivers in the king’s heart, and thence sends out the various energies which constitute the life-course of the king.

III. The king’s heart is as the rivers of water, inasmuch as many springs rising in different, and even in opposite quarters, meet and constitute the life.—From east and west the Black and White Niles meet to form a single larger stream, which thenceforth flows in one compact volume toward the sea; thus the distinct and even contradictory emotions that spring in a man’s heart go all into the volume of his history. Benevolence and self-interest, although they flow from opposite quarters, meet and unite their forces in a single course of action. Ah! even useful lives would give little glory to the living men if all the secret motives which animate them were dissected and displayed, but greater honour on this very account redounds to the Supreme Ruler of the world, who so controls and combines these conflicting materials that they all conspire to accomplish His plan. He can make the wrath of man to praise Himself!

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Proverbs 21". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/proverbs-21.html. 1876.