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(1) Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging—i.e., producing these effects in those who subject themselves to their power.
(2) The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion, i.e., the dread which he casts upon others when he is becoming angry is a warning of approaching. danger.
Sinneth against his own soul—i.e., against his own life.
(3) But every fool.—Self-willed person. (Comp. Proverbs 1:22.)
Will be meddling.—Or, rather, shewing his teeth: (Comp. Proverbs 17:14) thinking that his own personal dignity is at stake.
(5) Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water.—The wise thoughts of a “man,” fitly so-called (comp. Proverbs 18:4), may be hid deep in his breast, like the waters of a well, but a man of understanding knows how to draw them out as by a windlass and bucket (Exodus 2:16).
(6) Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.—Will be full of his benevolent intentions, “but a faithful man,” who carries out these promises, “who can find?”
(7) The just man.—Comp. Proverbs 10:2.
His children are blessed after him.—Comp. 1 Kings 15:4, Jeremiah 33:20-21.
(8) A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment . . .—See note on Proverbs 16:12.
(9) Who can say, I have made my heart clean?—Though we may have done our best by self-examination and confession, and repentance and trust in the atoning blood of Christ to obtain remission of sin, still the heart is so deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), sins may so easily have escaped our notice (Psalms 19:12, 1 Corinthians 4:4), that satisfaction with ourselves ought never to be allowed (Romans 11:20).
(10) Divers weights and divers measures . . .—See above on Proverbs 11:1.
(11) Even a child is known by his doings . . .—The disposition soon shews itself; all the more reason, therefore, to train it betimes.
(12) The Lord hath made even both of them.—And, therefore, they are to be used as He would have them. (Comp. our Lord’s constant warning, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”) The proverb may also remind us of the admonition in Proverbs 15:3, and Psalms 94:9, to remember God’s constant watchfulness over us.
(13) Open thine eyes.—Be up and stirring.
(14) It is naught, saith the buyer.—He cries down the goods he wants to purchase.
Then he boasteth.—How he has outdone the seller, and got the goods below their value. For other notices of cheating in trade see above on Proverbs 11:1.
(15) Rubies.—See above on Proverbs 3:15.
Lips of knowledge.—See above on Proverbs 18:4.
(16) Take his garment that is surety for a stranger.—Another warning against suretiship. (See above on Proverbs 6:1.) If a man is rash enough to become surety for another, he must suffer for his imprudence, and learn wisdom by feeling the effects of his folly.
And take a pledge of him for a strange woman.—Rather, take him as a pledge (seize upon his person who has become surety) for a strange woman, (according to the margin) or, for strangers (as the text reads).
(19) Flattereth with his lips.—Rather, is open with his lips, cannot keep them shut.
(20) His lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.—See above, on Proverbs 13:9.
(21) The end thereof shall not be blessed.—Comp. Proverbs 28:20 : the evil means by which he acquired the possession will, at the last, be visited upon him. Thus Jacob was punished severely for the selfishness by which he gained the birthright, and for the fraud by which he obtained the blessing belonging to his brother.
(22) Wait on the Lord and he shall save thee.—Do not look for vengeance on enemies (for they are to be forgiven), but for deliverance from their attacks; forget their malice, remember only God’s love for thee, and trust in Him. (Comp. 1 Peter 3:13, Romans 8:28.)
(24) Man’s goings are of the Lord.—Comp. Jeremiah 10:23 and the collect, “O God, from whom . . . all just works do proceed.”
How can a man then understand his own way?—i.e., how he should go. So much the more reason for the prayer of Psalms 25:3, “Shew me thy ways, O Lord.” (Comp. Psalms 119:33, ff, Psalms 143:8.)
(25) It is a snare to a man who devoureth that which is holy.—Rather, It is a snare for a man (i.e., gets him into trouble) rashly to say, “It is dedicated” (i.e., when he thoughtlessly dedicates anything to God), and after he has vowed to enquire (whether he can keep his word). (Comp. Sir. 5:2; Sir. 5:4-6.)
(26) A wise king scattereth the wicked.—Rather, winnows them.
And bringeth the wheel over them.—Comp. Isaiah 28:27. A sort of sledge or cart was driven over the stalks of corn spread upon the threshing-floor, by means of which the grain was separated from the husk. A wise king winnows out evil persons from among his people, thus putting an end to their corrupting influence. (Comp. Matthew 3:12.)
(27) The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.—The spirit of man, breathed into him at first by the Creator (Genesis 2:7), and afterwards quickened and illumined by the Divine Spirit, is the “candle of the Lord,” given to man as an inward light and guide.
Searching all the inward parts of the belly.—That is, of the inmost heart of man; testing all his thoughts, feelings, desires, by God’s law, approving some, condemning others, according as they agree with it or not. The word “belly” is equivalent to “heart” or “soul” in Job 15:2; Job 15:15; Job 32:19. (Comp. John 7:38.)
(28) Mercy and truth preserve the king.—See above on Proverbs 3:3. The love and faithfulness he shows to his subjects draw out the same qualities in them, and these are the safeguard of his throne. So (Psalms 130:4) the mercy shown by God inspires man with a reverent fear of Him, while harshness might have made him a slave, or driven him through despair into rebellion. (Comp. Jeremiah 33:9.)
(29) The beauty of old men is the grey head.—As suggesting the possession of experience and wisdom. It is the fault of the aged, therefore, if they do not receive the honour due to them, and this arises from their not having so spent their youth and middle age as to make their old age venerable.
(30) The blueness of a wound.—Rather, the stripes of a wound, or wounds which cut into the flesh, cleanse away evil.
So do stripes the inward parts of the belly.—Better, and blows (which reach) the inward parts of the belly, i.e., which are felt in the inmost recesses of the heart (comp. Proverbs 20:27). Kindness is thrown away upon some people: they can only be touched by punishment.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany