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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 25

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

A. Introduction of the Later Solomonic Collection 25:1

A group of scholars who served during King Hezekiah’s reign (715-686 B.C.) added more of Solomon’s 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32) to the former collection (Proverbs 1:1 to Proverbs 22:16). These men lived about 250 years after Solomon. Solomon ruled from 971-931 B.C. This verse introduces chapters 25-29.

Verses 1-27


We return now to consider more proverbs of Solomon (cf. Proverbs 1:1 to Proverbs 22:16). Chapters 25-26 contain proverbs that are mainly comparisons. The key words in these chapters are "like . . . so." Chapter 27 is a mixture of comparative and antithetical proverbs. Chapters 28-29 contain maxims that are mainly contrasts marked by the word "but." In all these chapters there are mostly couplets but also some longer proverbs. I counted 66 proverbs in the group of analogies (Proverbs 25:1 to Proverbs 27:22) and 54 in the group of contrasts (chs. 28-29). This gives us 120 proverbs in this major section of the book if we exclude the discourse on prudence in Proverbs 27:23-27.

"The proverbs in these chapters differ in that there are more multiple line sayings and more similes; chapters 28-29 are similar to chapters 10-16, but chapters 25-27 differ in having few references to God." [Note: Ross, p. 1078.]

I shall again (in chs. 25-29, as in Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16) comment only on those verses that seem to me to need clarification.

Verse 2

The fact that God has chosen not to reveal everything human beings want to know has resulted in our holding Him in awe and glorifying Him (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29). However, a king’s subjects hold him in awe and glorify him when he diligently investigates a matter, and does not make his decisions on the basis of superficial understanding.

Verses 2-22

B. Instructive Analogies 25:2-27:22

The emphasis in this section continues to be on wisdom and folly and their accompanying virtues and vices.

Verses 2-28

1. Wise and foolish conduct 25:2-28

Verses 8-10

This proverb advises us to settle disputes out of court whenever possible. It is not wise to drag someone hastily into court to argue. We should be cautious about sharing privileged information. This may lead to embarrassment (Proverbs 25:8). We should not divulge secrets to clear ourselves in arguments or we may ruin a friendship. The plaintiff should debate his case with his neighbor out of court. Then the point of disagreement will not become public knowledge (Proverbs 25:9) and give the plaintiff a bad reputation (Proverbs 25:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

"To run to the law or to the neighbors is usually to run away from the duty of personal relationship-see Christ’s clinching comment in Matthew 18:15 b." [Note: Kidner, p. 157.]

"There is no success which is achieved at the price of your own integrity or someone else’s hurt." [Note: Plaut, p. 258.]

Verse 11

"Gold" may refer to the color of the fruit or, probably, to the precious metal. "Settings" suggests an appropriate background such as an attractive basket or frame, if the picture of an apple is in view. The point is that just the right words spoken at the right time in the right way can be as pleasing as a beautiful piece of fruit in a suitable container. [Note: Cf. Whybray, The Book . . ., p. 148.]

Verse 15

By adding a few words, the idea of this verse becomes clearer. "By forbearance [of speech] a ruler may be persuaded." That is, do not speak too long. A gentle tongue can be very powerful.

"Calm and patient speech can break down insurmountable opposition." [Note: Ross, p. 1082.]

"The bones are the most rigid body parts inside of a person, and fracturing the bones here refers to breaking down the deepest, most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess." [Note: D. A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, p. 207.]

Verse 16

Anything overindulged, even the most desirable of things, can become distasteful and repulsive.

"Since Eden, man has wanted the last ounce out of life, as though beyond God’s ’enough’ lay ecstasy, not nausea." [Note: Kidner, p. 159.]

Verses 21-22

Clearly the point of this proverb is to return good for evil (cf. Matthew 5:40-46; Romans 12:20). Such conduct will bring blessing from God and remorse to the evildoer. Still, what does "heaping burning coals on the head" of the abuser mean? Evidently this clause alludes to an ancient custom. When a person’s fire went out at home, he or she would go to a neighbor and get some live coals to rekindle the fire. Carrying the coals in a pan on the head involved some danger and discomfort for the person carrying them, but they were an evidence of the neighbor’s love. Likewise, the person who receives good in return for evil feels somewhat uncomfortable even though he receives a good gift. His discomfort arises over his guilt for having wronged his neighbor in the first place. So returning good for evil not only secures the blessing of God (Proverbs 25:22 b), it also convicts the wrongdoer of his ways (Proverbs 25:22 a) in a gentle way.

Verse 23

The angry countenance belongs to the person who is the target of the backbiting (slanderous) tongue. Sly words can infuriate people just as a northerly wind brings rain. These are inevitable results.

"An untimely, icy blast of rain from the north takes the farmer aback and ruins his crop (cf. Proverbs 26:1; Proverbs 28:3). So also the unaware victim, when he hears the slander, realizes that the benefits he was about to reap from his work are suddenly ruined." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . . 31, p. 333.]

Verse 27

Both practices in this verse are pleasant for the person who engages in them, but they can affect him adversely if he pursues them to excess.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 25". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/proverbs-25.html. 2012.
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