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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Proverbs 10

Verse 1

X.

3. A COLLECTION OF 375 SEPARATE VERSES ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, MARKED BY A NEW HEADING (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16).

(1) The proverbs of Solomon.—The new title and different style of composition mark a new collection of proverbs. (See above, in the Introduction.) Each verse is distinct and complete in itself; but the collector appears to have endeavoured to throw together such as touched on the same subject. For instance, Proverbs 10:4-5, show why one man fails and another succeeds; Proverbs 10:6-7, how blessings and curses follow different persons. But the connection is sometimes so slight as to be difficult to catch.

Verse 2

(2) Treasures of wickedness—i.e., gained by wrong-doing.

Righteousness delivereth from death.—The Hebrew word translated “righteousness” has a much wider meaning than its English equivalent, which generally bears the sense only of deciding fairly, being especially applied to judges. But a “righteous” man in Hebrew is one who “renders to all their due,” whether to God, as Noah, who was “just and perfect” before Him (Genesis 6:9; Genesis 7:1; comp. Ecclesiastes 7:20), or to man. To his fellow-men his “justice” will show itself in liberality (Psalms 37:21), mercy (Proverbs 12:10), carefulness of speech (Proverbs 15:28), truthfulness (Proverbs 13:5), and wisdom (Proverbs 9:9). He is considerate to animals also (Proverbs 12:10). So in the sermon on the Mount our Lord (Matthew 6:1) says, “Take heed that ye do not your ‘righteousness’ [so the best MSS. read] before men;” and then specifies it under the heads of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In this passage it forms a contrast to riches gained by wrong, and therefore would seem particularly to signify “almsgiving,” as its Greek equivalent does in 2 Corinthians 9:10. It is often: rendered so by the LXX., and it is the most usual sense of the word in late Hebrew. It is so interpreted also in Tob. 4:10; Tob. 12:9, where this passage is quoted. (Comp. Sir. 3:30; Sir. 29:12, and our Lord’s advice, Luke 16:9.) It “delivers from death,” as being a sign of the divine life within, which is “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Verse 3

(3) The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.—Comp. David’s experience (Psalms 37:25), and the great promise of our Lord to those who “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). (Comp. also below, Proverbs 13:25.)

He casteth away the substance of the wicked.—Rather, He repels (the word is used in 2 Kings 4:27, of Gehazi “thrusting away” the Shunammite) the eager, passionate desire of the wicked. However much they long for it, they get it not, “because they ask amiss” (James 4:3).

Verse 6

(6) Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.—Curses and deeds of violence have proceeded from his mouth, but God frustrates them, they “return unto him void” (Isaiah 55:11), and, as it were, stop his mouth, reducing him to silence.

Verse 8

(8) A prating fool (‘evîl). (See above, on Proverbs 1:7.)

Verse 9

(9) Walketh surely.—He has no cause to fear lest anything to his discredit should come out, but can trust quietly in the Lord (Psalms 112:7); while he that goeth by crooked paths will be found out (Matthew 10:26), and the fear of this gives him perpetual uneasiness. Or the meaning may be that he will be “instructed,” i.e., punished by misfortune, as Jeremiah 31:19.

Verse 10

(10) Causeth sorrow to the person who is the butt of his ridicule, or against whom his malice is directed.

Verse 11

(11) Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.—If these words are to be taken as in Proverbs 10:6, then the first line must mean that the righteous man speaks to his own profit. But perhaps it will be better here to interpret the second line in the sense of “the mouth of the godless hideth violence,” i.e., it conceals under deceitful words the mischief intended for others. With God is the “well of life” (Psalms 36:9; Revelation 22:17); and in like manner the “mouth of the righteous” brings comfort and refreshment to the weary and heavy laden.

Verse 12

(12) Hatred stirreth up strifes . . .—Hatred rakes up again old feuds which have slumbered, but love covers up and refuses to look at any wrong done to it. A similar expression occurs in 1 Peter 4:8 and James 5:20, though probably in a somewhat different sense. (See the note on the former passage.)

Verse 14

(14) The mouth of the foolish is near destructioni.e., is a near, ever-threatening calamity; one never knows what awkward or dangerous thing he will not say next: whereas wise men store up knowledge, and bring it forth as it is wanted (Matthew 13:52).

Verse 15

(15) The rich man’s wealth is his strong cityi.e., an actual protection to him against his enemies, for by it he can get aid; or (as Proverbs 18:11) it gives him the consciousness of power, courage: whereas poverty drags a man down, and prevents his advance in life, or makes him timid, and unable to defend himself.

Verse 16

(16) The labour of the righteous tendeth to life.—For the gains of his honest toil have the blessing of God upon them, and so bring him satisfaction of mind and the power of performing his duties in life; whereas all that the wicked man acquires only helps him to sin yet more, by enabling him to indulge his evil passions.

Verse 17

(17) Erreth.—Literally, committeth error. This is probably the true sense, and harmonises better with being “in the way of life,” which occurs just before, than the marginal rendering, “causeth to err.” The word occurs in a similar sense in Jeremiah 42:20 (there translated, “ye have dissembled”).

Verse 18

(18) He that hideth hatred . . .—This would be more correctly translated, “He that hideth hatred is a mouth of falsehood: he that spreadeth slander is a fool” (khesîl: Proverbs 1:22). (For the construction, “he . . . is a mouth of falsehood,” comp. note on Proverbs 8:30; and for the sentiment, David’s complaint, Psalms 41:6).

Is a fool.—For he does mischief to his neighbour, and only gets ill-will for himself.

Verse 19

(19) In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, for they are sure to fail in truthfulness, or charity, or opportuneness, and will come under the condemnation of Matthew 12:36, as being the outcome of a careless heart.

Verse 21

(21) The lips of the righteous feed many—i.e., sustain them by words of counsel, encouragement, and comfort, giving to each one his “meat in due season “(Matthew 24:45).

Fools.—Headstrong, obstinate persons (Proverbs 1:7).

For want of wisdom.—Or it may be translated, “Through one who is destitute of wisdom.” As one righteous man will guide many aright, so one unwise man will lead many fools to ruin.

Verse 22

(22) And he addeth no sorrow with it—whereas riches without God’s blessing bring only trouble with them. Or the passage may mean, “And labour adds nothing thereto.” (Comp. Psalms 127:2. where God is said to give to His beloved while they sleep all that others toil early and late for in vain.)

Verse 23

(23) But a man of understanding hath wisdom.—Rather, But wisdom (is sport) to a man of understanding, i.e., one rejoices in mischief, the other (comp. Proverbs 8:30) in wise thoughts and deeds.

Verse 24

(24) The fear of the wicked—i.e., that of which he is afraid. (Comp. Isaiah 66:4; Hebrews 10:27.)

The desire of the righteous shall be granted.—For they submit their will to the will of God, and pray for what He sees best for them, which accordingly He grants; moreover, the Holy Spirit also aids them, making intercession for them “according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

Verse 25

(25) As the whirlwind passeth.—Better, when the whirlwind, &c. (Comp. Wis. 5:14-15; Job 21:18; Matthew 7:24, ff.) Death is ruin to the wicked, and gain to the righteous (2 Timothy 1:12).

Verse 27

(27) The fear of the Lord prolongeth days.—The special Old Testament blessing for obedience (comp. Proverbs 9:11), often fulfilled now, too, in the case of those who live on to old age, in the quiet fulfilment of duty; while others are shortening their lives by excessive anxieties, or the pursuit of pleasure.

Verse 29

(29) The way of the Lord—i.e., in which He has directed men to walk. (Comp. Psalms 25:12; Matthew 22:16; Acts 9:2.) It is a strong protection to the righteous, for no harm can happen to them while they follow it (1 Peter 3:13); but it is destruction (not, there is destruction) to the workers of iniquity, because the fact of their having rejected the teaching of God will be their condemnation. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.)

Verse 30

(30) The righteous shall never be removed.—See above on Proverbs 2:21, and Psalms 37:29.

But the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.—Rather, The godless abide not in the land. They often have to become vagabonds, like Cain, for their crimes. This, too, was the great punishment threatened by Moses and all the prophets, which at last fell upon the Jews, and is still in force.

Verse 31

(31) Bringeth forth wisdom.—As the fields their “increase” (Deuteronomy 32:13); hence words are termed the “fruit of the lips” (Isaiah 57:19).

The froward tongue.—See above on Proverbs 2:12.

Shall be cut out.—Comp. Christ’s warning (Matthew 12:36). Sins of the tongue will be severely judged, because, besides doing mischief to others, they are signs of an evil mind within (Matthew 5:34).

Verse 32

(32) What is acceptable.—To God and man. (Comp. the gracious words which proceeded out of Christ’s lips, Luke 4:22.)

Speaketh frowardness.—Rather, is mere falsehood, misrepresentation. (See above on Proverbs 8:30.)

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/proverbs-10.html. 1905.