Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 14

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Verse 1

To Build or to Tear Down a House

The contrast in this verse, indicated by the word “but”, is between wisdom and foolishness concerning a house. Wisdom builds the house, but foolishness tears it down. “Her house” is not the building in which the wise woman lives, but it indicates her family. It concerns everything that she controls.

“The wise woman builds her house” in the fear of the LORD. She looks at her house with His eyes. She desires it to meet His intention with it, which is that it reflects heaven on earth and that in her house the peace of heaven is being enjoyed. The wise woman seeks to control her family and household in such a way, that God feels at home in it, just as He does in heaven. She makes sure that there is an atmosphere of love in it, which determines the interrelationship between the housemates.

“The foolish” woman, leads her family to ruin. She is not concerned about the well-being of her family. There is no fear of the LORD present with her. What she does is so awful, that she is called “foolish”. Without any sense of responsibility she lives for her own pleasure. She pursues pleasure, while she is wasting her time with doing the things she likes. She thinks only about herself and by doing so she tears her own house down “with her own hands”.

The importance of the woman’s role in the family is emphasized throughout the whole Scripture. For a stable family not only a wise father is necessary, but also a wise mother. It is necessary to emphasize that again and again, among other things because of the folly of feminism, which assumes this role to be stupid. The woman is supposed to make a career; she should defend herself. To the feminists the wise women are foolish women. In their view the wise woman who builds her house, is building a jail. This misinterpretation comes from the devil, who always turns matters upside down.

Verse 2

To Fear the LORD or to Despise Him

Here the contrast is between the one who fears the LORD and the one who despises Him. The life that one leads proves whether he walks with God or not. From one’s conduct, which means his whole way of life, people can determine how his relation is towards God (cf. Luke 6:43-Acts :; Matthew 7:20; Matthew 12:33). It regards a habit, a consistent behavior and not an incidental, temporary event.

“He who walks in his uprightness”, is doing that because he fears God. There is absolutely no uprightness possible without the presence of respect and honor to God. Water does not flow without a source. Grace in the heart is the source of an upright walk. Samuel is an example of the first line of the verse and Saul of the second (1 Samuel 12:3-Deuteronomy :; 1 Samuel 15:22).

“He who is devious in his ways”, which means is devious from the ways that he should go, shows that he does not fear God, but on the contrary despises Him. To deviate means to turn away from keeping the commandments of the LORD. It regards all of his ways, whatever he does, wherever he goes, whatever he considers and says. He determines it entirely by himself, without considering God in any way. Therefore also here it is not about an incidental event, but about a continuous behavior which shows to be despising God continually. It doesn’t matter whether he is aware of it or not. Whoever lives his life by himself, despises God Who has given him life to live for Him.

Verse 3

The Mouth of the Foolish and the Lips of the Wise

With “the mouth of the foolish” the words are meant, which the foolish speaks. In all his words his “pride” resounds. He thinks great about himself. In everything that he says “a rod” is hidden. The contrast with the second line of the verse clarifies that his words bounds back like a boomerang “is a rod”, for whatever the wise say or not, it is to their own safety. Therefore the rod of the words of the fool does not affect others, but himself. By what he says he brings misery on himself. The thought is that the words of a fool are the instrument by which he himself suffers (cf. Psalms 64:8).

With “the lips of the wise” the words that they speak are also meant. In their words there is no rod hidden, which would turn against them. They let themselves be guided by their wisdom in what they say or do not say. Their wisdom is that they pray: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3). This is how they know what should proceed from the door of their lips and what should not.

If we want to have ‘lips of the wise’ which are like guards, we do well by praying this prayer regularly. Only the Lord can keep us from saying words with which we later may be confronted and about which we have to be ashamed or which would even bring us into great trouble.

Verse 4

A Clean Manger or Much Revenue

If we want to be productive we should use appropriate means. Oxen are indispensable for a farmer. The wise farmer will see to it that he has a lot of oxen and that they are in good condition. The grain harvest is parallel to the work that his oxen do. A clean manger is of course convenient. If he does not buy oxen, he does not have to fill the manger with food. The stable does not get dirty either, so that he does not have to clean anything (cf. Amos 4:6). These thoughts may be attractive to the lazybones, but it is a stupid thought to those who seek results.

This verse indicates that with a small investment a great harvest can be realized. An investment in the right means or in the right tool will pay itself back doubly. Likewise the efforts made for the maintenance of those means or the tool will be found in the effect of it and ultimately in the harvest. A productive ox is therefore by far to be preferred over a clean stable.

“Much revenue” means a multiple of income from the field after it has been ploughed by the ox as a plowing animal. And what is the harvest of the efforts of the ox? Food, life. That is the reward of taking care of the oxen. To gain a good result costs time, money and effort.

This also applies to gaining spiritual food. We will not gain that without effort and spending time, and reading and purchasing Bible study books, which (sometimes) costs money. To walk by faith sometimes causes difficulties. It does not happen naturally.

The ox is a picture of someone who is engaged with spiritual work (1 Corinthians 9:9-1 Kings :). The fellow believers are to take good care of such a person. When there are no oxen in spiritual terms, it will all be desolation and infertility. In a broader application it is about using the power available, which every believer has. ‘Troublesome’ believers should not be avoided or even be removed, but they are to be taken care of. The purpose of that is that they will start to work again for the Lord by passing on the gospel or encouraging those who belong to God’s church.

Verse 5

A Faithful Witness or a False Witness

This saying is about “a trustworthy witness” and “a false witness” (Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 12:17). It deals with the age-old problem of false witnesses in the court who are delaying the determination of truth. It is not just about rendering the facts rightly or deceitfully, but about one’s character, which becomes apparent from his testimony. To be trustworthy and to lie do not belong together.

A trustworthy witness cannot be bribed and cannot be influenced by promises or threats, in order to deviate from the truth. You can take him at his word. He is clear and transparent in his testimony. This can only be said of someone who has the Divine nature. God cannot lie. It is not present in His nature and therefore neither in the new nature of the believer which he has received. There is “no lie … of the truth” (1 John 2:21).

The opposite is the false witness; he is a real child of the father of lies and shows his character (John 8:44; 1 Kings 21:13). He “utters lies”. His spiritual lungs are full of lies. What he exhales are lies. He lies with the naturalness of his breathing. You do not notice one’s breathing, it is unnoticeable. What a person breathes out, spreads unnoticed to all sides. That’s how a false witness works. But the ‘breathalyzer’ of God’s Word shows its forgery.

The Lord Jesus is called “the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5). We are called to be faithful witnesses, such as for the message of salvation. We show that both in our words and also in our deeds. Our example ought to be a testimony of Him Whom we serve (1 Timothy 4:12).

A false witness distorts the truth of the gospel (Galatians 1:7). The soldiers that guarded the grave of the Lord Jesus were bribed in order to be false witnesses by telling lies about the resurrection of the Lord (Matthew 28:11-2 Chronicles :). There were many false witnesses like that in the trial of the Lord (Mark 14:56-Hebrews :). In order to make Stephen to be convicted, false witnesses were also put forward (Acts 6:13).

Verses 6-9

Scoffers and Fools

The contrast in Proverbs 14:6 regards “a scoffer” and the “one who has understanding”. A “scoffer” is intellectually arrogant and therefore lacks all serious interest in wisdom. He actually wants to search for wisdom, but does that in a superficial way. The important thing for him is to impress others with his wisdom.

A scoffer who is searching for wisdom, will not find it because he is searching in the wrong place. That’s because he lacks the fear of God. He does not want, so to speak, to receive the kingdom of God as a child. He is hindering himself. He is someone who always learns to get wise, but never comes to the knowledge of truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Therefore the wisdom that he is searching is nowhere to be found by him.

The “one with understanding” on the contrary has a relationship with God. In that way he is related to the Source of all knowledge and he can easily attain it. He does not presume anything and takes the position of a child. With the ease or receptiveness with which a child learns, he attains knowledge. He doesn’t demand any condition in advance, but submits himself to God’s lesson program to become wise.

The eunuch was a man of understanding. He read the Word of God and was taught by Philip, which was the way for him to attain knowledge about Christ (Acts 8:26-Amos :). It was not a difficult task for him, but it went “easy” because he was that wise to admit that he needed Christ. The scoffer thinks that he can go his way without Christ (Romans 3:11).

It is impossible for one to increase his knowledge when he is in the presence of a fool (Proverbs 14:7). The first line of the verse instructs us to leave the presence of a foolish person. The second line of the verse explains the reason why. The verse instructs men to leave the fools because they do not gain knowledge from what the fools say. We should not stay in the presence of people who, despite that they speak a lot, have nothing to say. Such people do not make us wiser. Nothing comes out of nothingness.

Paul gives Timothy the order to turn away from people who hold to a form of Godliness, although they have denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5). He also appeals to come out from the midst of people who mix truth and lie (2 Corinthians 6:17). Besides that, it is a waste of time, it is also dangerous to be in a company of foolish men. We will save us many disappointments if we mind this verse.

“The wisdom of the sensible” gives him understanding how he should live (Proverbs 14:8). Due to his wisdom he organizes his life in such a way that it is good; that it is in accordance with God’s thoughts. Therefore he has to know how God thinks about everything. God’s thoughts are written in His Word. Everything is written in it that is necessary for a life in a world that is full of traps and looks like a labyrinth.

The fool looks only at the here and now. That is his folly. The materialism determines his life. That is his god of lies. He does not let himself to be guided by the principles of God’s Word, but by deception. The fool does not notice that his own folly leads him to ruin because he considers his own way to be right, while he has no idea of it. He is living in lies and deception.

To get understanding of our way is only to be gained by a relationship with the Lord Jesus and to listen to God’s Word. Christ understood His way perfectly by His relationship with the Father, by listening to Him. If we follow Him therein, we will not be people who are being tossed to and fro and up and down with the changing circumstances of life. It will also keep us from disappointments.

The fool does not take sin seriously (Proverbs 14:9). He “mocks at sin”, which implies that he denies every guilty feeling of both himself and anyone else. He rejects every instruction: ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. Anyhow, it seems nothing if you compare it to what others do. There are a lot of people who are worse than I am. By the way, who determines whether something is wrong or not?’ On the contrary, the fool considers sinning to be a nice way of entertainment. He will never apologize for it, but will always justify sin or deny sin as if it is no sin.

If we deny guilt, if we deny that we have sinned, we make God a liar (1 John 1:10). It is the picture of mocking at the substitutionary atonement of Christ, which speaks of the guilt offering. We find this in our time when many ridicule the atonement work of Christ.

Among “the upright” there is “good will” on the basis of the guilt sacrifice, which is mocked at by the fool. The upright are not innocent people, but people who have confessed their guilt and whose guilt therefore has been forgiven by God. They know the value of the sacrifice of Christ. In Him they are accepted by God in good will. In that good will the upright also accept one another and relate to one another. Everybody is of good will towards the other.

Verse 10

Bitterness and Joy, Which Are Not to Be Shared

There is “bitterness” and there is “joy” which can not to be shared with another, how much understanding and compassion the other may have. Here it is about the deepest emotion a man can have, regarding emotions of bitterness and emotions of joy. Those are emotions which are only to be understood by the person who has them (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11).

This proverb warns us about all unnatural or compelled attempts to express our empathy. We should not try to follow another person to the bottom of his emotions, for it is not possible to do that. Emotions belong to man, but the experience of it is very personal. There are limits to share the joy or sorrow of someone else.

Only to God there is no limit. He is the One “Who knows the hearts of all men” (Acts 1:24). In Christ, Who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 63:9), He is able to share it completely. No one has been able to share the bitterness of the Lord Jesus, yet He knows the heart of each person and also its bitterness.

If we sometimes absolutely do not know how to express certain feelings, do not have words to do that, and can only groan, God’s Spirit helps us and intercedes before God what we feel (Romans 8:26-Daniel :). The text “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), can only be practiced by us through the Holy Spirit Who enables us to. Heaven is heaven among others things, because in that place we all share the same joy in a perfect way.

Verses 11-13

Appearances Are Deceiving

In Proverbs 14:11 we find three contradictions: “house” – “tent”; “wicked” – “upright”; “be destroyed” – “flourish”. The wicked dwell in a house. That indicates a picture of sustainability, safety and comfort. The upright dwell in a tent. That indicates a picture of a house which can be blown over just like that, which offers limited safety and comfort. Appearances are deceiving here, for the house of the wicked will be destroyed, while the tent of the upright will flourish.

It is about what a house or a family characterizes. A house looks strong and permanent, yet it will be destroyed. A tent looks weak and temporary, yet it flourishes. It is not so much about the material, but about the inhabitant. A house radiates wealth, a tent radiates poverty. The house of the rich seems to survive many generations; the tent of the poor seems destined to the short existence of only one generation. But the reverse appears to be true. The reason is that the wicked do not consider God and His laws, while the upright do and in that way honor God. He will honor those who honor Him.

Proverbs 14:12 is repeated in Proverbs 16 (Proverbs 16:25), which underlines the importance of it. In the first line of the verse it is not said that the way which looks right is a wrong way, but the second line of the verse clarifies that. The picture which is used is that of a traveler who follows a right way. He seems to be on the right way, but he is on the wrong way, because it is literally a dead end. That way leads him to death.

It is remarkable that Solomon literally speaks about "ways" (plural) of death. It indicates that the way which looks right leads to numerous ways and that all those ways have one destination, which is death. It is therefore important to leave that way which seems to be right, before it is too late.

An example of a way which looks right to a person, but which ends up in death, is the way of the good works, such as the roman-catholic church teaches. Another example is doing works of the law on the assumption to receive salvation in that way. After all, keeping the law is related to life (Leviticus 18:5). But nobody is able to keep the law. The law turns out to be a ministry of death and of judgment (2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul also thought that he was on the right way when he persecuted the Christians, but it was a way to death (Acts 26:9; John 16:2). If Christ had not stopped him on that way, he would have ended up in eternal death. The hypocritical Pharisees and scribes in the time of the Lord Jesus were boasting in their own righteousness. They thought that they were walking on the right way, but Christ pronounced the ‘woe’ against them (Matthew 23:13; Matthew 23:15Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:23Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27Matthew 23:29).

Proverbs 14:13 says that in superficial joy there may be an underlying pain sometimes. In those cases the joy may disappear once, but the pain is still there. People may laugh in the company of others, but when they are alone at home, the pain of sorrow is gnawing. One can look happy and laugh, while his heart is suffering from pain. What we see does not always reflect the underlying reality. We do not know what is going on within a person. We are being deceived when we rely on the external.

Pain, whatever its cause may be, cannot be laughed off. When there is no solution for the pain, grief will be the end to that kind of joy. The end of joy is always sorrow for the wicked. That joy is temporal and changes in an endless sorrow. The joy of those who live in fellowship with God has no end, but is complete and eternal (1 John 1:3-Numbers :).

God is the God of hope. He can fill the believer with a joy which does not hide something, but which can go together with grief (Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 6:10). Pain and grief will not be found anymore when a new heaven and a new earth have been established (Revelation 21:4-Deuteronomy :).

Verse 14

To Be a Backslider or a Good Man

“The backslider” is someone who first went the way of faith, but has returned to his earlier condition of unbelief. That return may be caused by the fear of suffering, but also by the vulgar pleasure which had controlled him in the past. Anyway, he is tired of the things of God, which in his sight are narrow-minded. He returns to a life in sin, like the dog that turns back to his own vomit and the pig to the wallowing in the mud (2 Peter 2:22).

The ultimate saturation of those ways will be a saturation of misery. The Israelites were backsliding in heart when they got tired of the manna and longed to go back to Egypt. Backsliding in heart arises when the confidence in God is revoked, because we do not understand His ways with us. Then we go back to do our own way, of which we think they are better. The disillusionment will be great.

The “good man” clings to God and continues to trust Him, even in bad times. Such a person will be satisfied abundantly because of the choice he made for God. God gives him a deep inner satisfaction of having made the right choice. He experiences that satisfaction again and again in everything that he does. What he does is good, because he is good, a good man. He is good, not from himself, but because he has chosen a life with God.

Verse 15

Naive or Sensible Man

This verse puts “the naive” and “the sensible man” opposite to each other. A naive person is someone who is not exercised to discern things, while a sensible man has the ability to discern critically. The naive is inexperienced and believes everything that others tell him. One may say that he is his friend and wants to borrow money from him, which he will surely pay back. Without any guarantee this stupid person lends him the money. He also believes the weirdest sayings, because he does not check it with the Bible. We can think of the current news which is presented to us daily. It is stupid to swallow everything that is offered to us.

The sensible man however, considers every step he takes. He walks cautiously; he probes and walks carefully, because he is aware of walking in a mine field. He is cautious because he lives in fellowship with God. Therefore he is aware how unfaithful men can be and that he cannot let them lead his life.

It is about having fellowship or not having fellowship with God. He who does not live in fellowship with God, is open for the craziest ideas. It makes him to be an easy prey of doctrines of demons and of men (cf. Romans 16:18). A lack of confidence in God makes him to trust those who are not worthy of being trusted. Unbelieving scientists are not to be fully trusted for the results of their research because they ignore the Bible. Many who reject the Bible as a book full of fables believe the greatest follies and fables.

The sensible man has learnt by training to “discern both the good and the evil” (Hebrews 5:14). He “examines everything” and “holds fast to which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). He therefore examines who is behind the words by testing the spirits “whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). We should examine and test based on God’s Word if what is said, agrees with it (Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 14:29). Then we shall watch our steps and know on which way we should step.

Verses 16-17

The Wise and the Arrogant

“A wise man” is cautious and not reckless (Proverbs 14:16). The first line of the verse says a wise man fears because he sees the danger around him and also acknowledges his own weakness. Therefore he “turns away from evil”. The wise person is cautious because he fears about the consequences of obstinate deeds.

Opposite to the wise man is the reckless, self-assured, arrogant and careless fool. He lets himself be carried away, has no control and has plenty of fun. The fool is arrogant and trusts in himself, while he of all men should be most cautious. He trusts in his own feeling and a wisdom he pretends to have. Such a person was Sennacherib, the boasting king of Assyria (2 Kings 19:28-Haggai :). He imagined himself to be perfectly safe, inviolable for any enemy whosoever. The LORD was nothing more than a national idol to him, like all nations have their own idols. He deceived himself by that.

In Proverbs 14:17 two characteristics are mentioned which are unpleasant to others. It is about two persons. The one is quick-tempered or hot-headed; it is someone with a short fuse. The other one is crafty. The first makes himself known directly, the latter works secretly; he avoids everything that could reveal his true plans.

The Scripture warns us not to be quick-tempered, but on the contrary, to be slow to anger (Titus 1:7; James 1:19). Quick-temperedness is the opposite of self-control which everyone needs, for nobody has a ‘fuse’ of an unlimited size. The hot-headed person acts foolishly at the least difficulty he has to face by pulling his hair out and by ranting and raving. We are not to, when we face difficulties, loose our patience, but to learn to persevere in evil times.

The “man of evil devices” may be the counterpart of the quick-tempered person. He is crafty in his intentions. His victim does not see quickly that he is being wronged. When he realizes that he has become victim, it is too late which results in hating that crafty person.

Verse 18

To Inherit Folly or to Embrace Knowledge

“The naive” do not have to do anything for being foolish. That is something they are born with; they inherit it from their parents. It is a reference to the original sin, the sinful nature which everyone is born with from sinful parents, who in their turn pass it on to the children who are born of them.

But we have nothing to do with a fate. The presence of the original sin does not have to mean that one remains foolish. A person who has converted and believes in Christ and His work, gets a new nature, the new, eternal life. Then he becomes a sensible person and is crowned “with knowledge”.

He who was a fool in the past, knows God now. Through the knowledge of Him he has been granted “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The knowledge of God enables him to live as a sensible man. He knows how to see all things in life, which means to see things like God sees them.

Verse 19

The Roles Are Reversed

Finally – for now it is still not so, generally speaking – “the evil will bow down before the good”, which are those who do good. “The wicked”, who chased the righteous away at their gates, will come to “the gates of the righteous” to ask them for a favor. The picture that is used here is that of a defeated nation that bows down before its conquerors, while awaiting their commands.

The brothers of Joseph bowed down before him (Genesis 42:6; Genesis 43:26Genesis 43:28). Although this proverb refers in the first place to triumphs in this life (e.g. Acts 16:39), we can also think of the certain fulfillment of this proverb in the future (Philippians 2:10; Revelation 3:9).

Verses 20-21

The Attitude Towards Socially Deprived

It seems that Proverbs 14:20 deals with a person who has become poor. Besides the loss of money and possessions, the poor also loses his friend. That friend was one of the kind who only has friendships for the advantage it can deliver. When the advantage disappears, then also the friendship disappears. Friendship changes in hatred or disregard.

The truth of it is to be observed every day. Everywhere we see that possessions determine how popular one is. People are often ashamed of poor family members because of their poor clothing, their poorly decorated house or their low education.

But “those who love the rich are many” or, as it also can be translated, “the friends of the rich are many”. Friendship based on wealth is not real friendship. It is all about to get something from the wealth of the other person. He who is wise will not let himself be led by that motive. The rich seem to be the favorite of heaven, but that is a lie.

A friend is someone of whom you trust that he always loves you, under all circumstances. Friendship should be about the person, not about what he possesses.

Proverbs 14:21 corresponds to Proverbs 14:20. We should not despise our neighbor, even if he is poor. What despising your neighbor means, is to sin against him and against God. One cannot sin against a neighbor and enjoy God’s blessings. To despise means to treat with disregard, to throw away as something worthless. James warns us about that (James 2:1-1 Samuel :; Job 36:5). To love God and to love your neighbor are inseparably related to each other (Matthew 22:37-:).

In the second line of the verse the neighbor is presumed to be poor, or in any case to be needy. The opposite of hating your neighbor is to be gracious to him. He who does that is called “blessed”. He will be rewarded by God for that (Psalms 41:2-Leviticus :). Regarding that the Lord Jesus says as follows: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Verse 22

To Devise Evil or to Devise Good

The contrast is between “devise evil” and “devise good”. The result of the first is wandering and of the second is showing kindness or love and truth. “Those who devise evil”, are consciously devising something evil. Those who do so, are doing wrong and are on the wrong way. They are wandering without any doubt. God does not invent the evil and He neither devises it. He wants to do good to man and He wants men to do good to one another.

Those “who devise good”, those who so to speak ‘devise’ good plans, show in their actions that they are guided by “kindness and truth”. Both of these characteristics are features of the Lord Jesus and God. But they are also expressed in those who are related with Them (Isaiah 32:8).

When the Lord Jesus was on earth, the religious leaders did nothing but devising evil against Him. They were always seeking to catch Him in a word. How did they wander. The Lord says to the sadducees who had a trick question for Him: “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24).

Verses 23-24

Profit and Wealth

In order to make an advantage or profit from something we have to work hard (Proverbs 14:23). Meaningless talk, chitchat, delivers only poverty. “Labor” or hard work means that effort must be delivered. But it will profit, even more than you need. There is so much “profit”, that you can do good to others.

What we apply to daily activities, we can also apply spiritually. In order to learn to know God’s Word we will have to labor. The profit will be more than enough for our spiritual growth. We not only profit from it ourselves, but we can also serve others with it.

People should be more afraid of mere talk than of hard work. By endless meetings and continuous talking we can hardly work out something. The final result is “poverty”, because there is only a lot of talk without knowing practice. There may be some investments, but the money simply disappears into a bottomless pit and only debts remain.

We can apply some (Dutch) proverbs to the second line of the verse. The first is ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, which means that those with the least knowledge, speak out their opinion the loudest. The second one is: ‘actions speak louder than words’, which means that we cannot just talk and do nothing; we have to show deeds.

“Riches” is a “crown” for those who use wisdom properly (Proverbs 14:24). It adorns the wise who is rich, whom due to his wisdom, uses it to do good to others. In that way they are followers of God, Whom with His riches also does only good. He lavishes on those who are His, according to the riches of His grace, out of His wisdom and insight (Ephesians 1:7-Ruth :).

The second line of the verse seems to say that fools have only their foolishness. When a fool is rich, it doesn’t make him a better person. The way he spends his riches shows that his foolishness is incorrigible. Riches of the wise increases their appearance, while fools will always remain fools, even if they are rich. A swine remains a swine even if he has a nose ring.

Verse 25

A Savior of Lives or Uttering Lies

“A truthful witness” tells the truth and therefore saves the life of someone who on the ground of a false accusation would be killed. The opposite is the “treacherous”, the one who “utters lies”. He deceives judges and causes ruin. He is not an occasional deceiver, but the personification of deceit. That’s because he is a descendant of the father of lies, the devil, whose nature he reveals.

A truthful witness is someone who brings the gospel. He testifies of the truth of his own salvation. Whoever hears his testimony and follows his advice to turn to the Savior also, gets saved through him, as it were. He casts unto him the lifesaver ring in the gospel. He is not the lifesaver ring itself, but casts it unto him. The Lord Jesus is in the fullest sense of the word the faithful and truthful Witness and therefore the Savior of lives.

Verses 26-27

The Fear of the LORD Is …

In these two verses the righteous are encouraged by pointing out to them two special characteristics of the fear of the LORD. The first characteristic is that those who fear the LORD, who have the reverence for Him, go their way in “strong confidence” in Him (Proverbs 14:26). It is about ‘children of the fear of the LORD’, not about children of the LORD. The respectful fear of the LORD is a certain protection against the dangers that threaten on all sides.

The picture is of a fortress to which the righteous flee and are safe there. It is also the picture of a father who protects his children against powers that are stronger than the child, but not stronger than the father. God is a refuge and strength, a help in trouble (Psalms 46:1). In ourselves we have no power, but in Him is all the power we need. Those who are His take their refuge in Him for protection against the enemy.

The fear of the LORD not only offers protection. The second characteristic is that respectful fear for the LORD brings life (Proverbs 14:27). This life is life in its full and endless duration, for death cannot come near it. God is the Source of all life. He who by faith has a connection with Him, lives in a living relationship with Him. Beside Him there is no life. Fellowship with Him is life. In that way the temptations which lead to death, are recognized and avoided.

Both characteristics are necessary in a world that seeks to do us evil and in which we want to live to the honor of God. Here we see prevention from the two aspects of the evil: violence and temptation. The devil attacks us with violence or he wants to tempt us with his guiles. This is according to his two appearances. He comes to us “as a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) or “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Verse 28

Glory or Ruin of a Ruler

The power of a king depends on the number of subordinates of his kingdom. This statement is generally true for kingdoms. From a human point of view political power is based on the number of people that are members of the party. In the first line of the verse it is not about power or influence, but about “a king’s glory”. This assumes a king who reigns as a blessing to his subordinates. His people are numerous because every subordinate likes to belong to that king.

We see that perfectly expressed in the kingdom of peace. Then the Lord Jesus will be publicly King of Israel. He will reign as the true Solomon over His people and all nations. From Him blessing will flow to all over whom He reigns.

The title and high position of a king become worthless when he has no or just a few subordinates. Then he has no say or power or control at all. No one regards him. If he loses his people, he is ruined.

Satan, and the antichrist in his wake, is the great loser. He will have no people and no followers anymore at all in the kingdom of peace. That also applies to the antichrist who will deceive many and will be accepted by the Israelites as their king. Satan will be totally alone in his captivity, without any power to exert over anyone whatsoever. Also in eternity he will be alone, like everyone in hell will also be alone, however high his position, power and influence were on earth. At the coming of the Lord Jesus to judge, the antichrist will directly be thrown into hell, together with the beast, the dictator of Europe (Revelation 19:20).

Verse 29

To Be Slow to Anger or Quick-Tempered

“He who is slow to anger”, proves that he has “great understanding” of the circumstances of life and the future. Otherwise one cannot be slow to anger. He realizes that the things on earth are not yet the way they should be, like God wants them to be. That time will surely come, but now it is not time yet to implement changes, with force if necessary. The righteous sees and undergoes much suffering. He has much understanding in the cause of it, which is owed to man who has deviated from God and lives in rebellion against Him.

James calls us to be patient in tolerating injustice (James 5:7-1 Kings :). He uses the word patience in those few verses no less than four times. Thereby he speaks about the coming of the Lord and about perseverance which was also so typical for the prophets. He who is patient or slow to anger has much understanding in the coming of the Lord. He is looking forward to it and waits patiently and persistently for it.

The opposite is “quick-tempered”. Such a person does not think about the future. He wants to live here and now and directly have pleasure. As soon as he comes across someone who hinders him or tries to make it impossible for him therein, he explodes. He “exalts folly” to the true standard of life. Of course, as he thinks, you are allowed to explode when your happiness is being interrupted.

To be slow to anger is something from God and from those who belong to Him. Patience is a feature of the work of the Holy Spirit and a part of His fruit (Galatians 5:22). God is also slow to anger, which we see in postponing His wrath (2 Peter 3:9).

Verse 30

A Tranquil Heart or Passion

A tranquil heart is a heart in which lusts do not reign, but in which Christ reigns. Peter says to us: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). If Christ has the place of Lord in our hearts, it means that we have given Him the control over our lives in His hands. That has a tranquilizing effect on the body. He who lives with Christ, does not do things that bring the well-being of his body in danger.

That must not cause us to draw the conclusion that he who is ill has not given Christ the authority over his life. If we do that, we will look like Job’s friends who considered Job’s illness to be an evident of hidden sins. Here it is about what is generally true, without saying that it is always true.

Indeed it is always true that “passion” or envy is “rottenness to the bones”. To be envious of the neighbor’s prosperity, of the other one’s happiness, eats up the power from the bones (cf. Psalms 112:10). It is the original sin of satan and of man. It has brought man in the greatest misery, out of which he cannot possibly liberate himself. The bones, which ought to give stability to his walk, lack the power. Nothing in his life is to the honor of God.

It begins with ungratefulness or dissatisfaction, the displeasure about one’s own possessions or the own qualities. Then an unhealthy attention arises to the possession or the qualities of others, with the desire to possess those. The result is that the stability of his existence in a grateful attitude towards the Lord is totally affected. His existence is determined by what others have.

Verse 31

To Oppress or to Be Gracious

The way a person treats the poor, shows whether he considers the Creator or not. He who “oppresses the poor”, shows despise to the Maker of the poor Who has also made the oppressor. Like the oppressor the poor has been made after the picture of God (cf. Job 31:15; Proverbs 22:2). He who oppresses a poor man is saying that God should not have made him and therefore slanders God’s work.

In the world in which we live, the rich reign over the poor. Money means power, influence and status, according to the world’s view. One’s value, however, does not depend on his social status or his bank account, but on the fact that he has been made by God.

The opposite of him who oppresses the poor, is “he who is gracious to the needy”. He does not slander the Creator, but “honors Him”. To show grace, proves that one is righteous (Psalms 37:21). He does not do that only once in a while, but “all day long he is gracious and lends” (Psalms 37:26). God is being honored wherever He sees one of His features in His own. Here it is about being gracious. God is the God Who is gracious and merciful (Romans 9:16; Exodus 2:25). He has also been gracious to us, poor ones, in Christ.

Verse 32

To Be Thrust Down or to Have a Refuge

This verse shows the difference between “the wicked” and “the righteous” when they leave the world. In life the wicked may seem powerful and successful. But when the time comes for him to leave the world he is “thrust down”. He holds on to this life with his hands and feet and does not want to let it go, but is forced to. There is nothing that can hinder this moment. He has loved sin and dies in it. His own wrongdoing brings this judgment over him and follows him in the judgment. He takes it with him to the other world, the world of pain and remorse, which he can never leave.

How totally different does the righteous leave the world. He may suffer and die, but he has a refuge, even in death. We see a beautiful example of that when Stephen dies (Acts 7:59). Those who trust in the Lord and obey Him, are safe, whatever disaster may strike them.

Therefore it can be said of those who die in the great tribulation for the sake of the Name of the Lord: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on” (Revelation 14:13). They will rise, like Stephen, to reign together with the Lord Jesus in the kingdom of peace. Then they will be rewarded for the works of faith which they have done, of which God will not forget any.

Verse 33

Hidden Wisdom and Open Folly

“The one who has understanding” does not display his wisdom. He will not boast in it. “Wisdom rests in the heart” and guides his life in words and deeds. The heart is the place of choices. Without God only sins come forth. If Christ, the wisdom of God, dwells in the heart, the wise knows what he should and should not say and do. He will consider whether something is to God’s glory or not.

“Fools” actually do display their wisdom, which means what they consider to be wisdom. From their “heart” comes no wisdom, for it is not to be found there because nothing reminds them of God. In their heart lives folly, which they make known, they speak of it all around them. Fools love to be considered wise and to be treated as wise. They blabber what they think to be wisdom, but it appears to be folly.

Verse 34

Righteousness or Sin of a Nation

The prosperity and the power of the nation depend on its “righteousness”. The verb “exalt” means that the state of the people in that country is exalted. They get a high place. This promise is given by God to His people if they “would keep all His commandments”, for then He will give them a place “high above all nations which He has made, for praise, name and honor” (Deuteronomy 26:18-Psalms :).

But the principle applies to all nations. Every nation of which each member gives his compatriot and the stranger who lives with him, what he is entitled to, will receive honor. This is only to be practiced when a nation submits to God and His will. To do right to other people is only possible when above all justice is done to God, which means that He is being recognized in His sovereign rights.

The opposite of a nation that does righteousness, are the nations that give room to sin and do not exert righteousness over it by judging it. An example of it is that in an increasing number of countries, of which the Netherlands are at the fore front, homosexual relationships are not considered a sin, but is defended as an acceptable form of cohabitation. This sin contradicts God’s creation order completely and is “a disgrace” to all nations where homosexual relationships are allowed.

Of course the nations, where this sin or other immoralities are being tolerated or even being stimulated, will not see it as a disgrace. They would, on the contrary, see it as a victory over the, in their sight, ‘narrow minded’ Christian faith. Freedom of speech: to say everything you like to, and freedom of attitude, is the greatest good. They strongly distance themselves from God and His Word.

But God remains God and His Word remains true, even if the governments of the countries of the European Union in particular, are frantically trying to eliminate Him and His Word from the society, or anyway to silence Him. All those nations will see to their dismay on the day of Christ how much they have lived in rebellion against God.

Verse 35

Favor or Wrath of the King

The king knows one who serves him with devotion and skill. “A servant who acts wisely” will always seek the well-being of the king and his kingdom. The most important thing to the king, however, will not be an increase of his possessions or influence, but the inner satisfaction that one serves him faithfully. That is the “king’s favor”, it is a joy to his heart. A wise servant is a pleasure to him. Joseph and Daniel are examples of wise servants in whom the king they served, found pleasure.

The opposite of that is the unable servant, the shirker. He deals with the king’s matters as an incompetent, as one who does not care about anything. He has no awareness of responsibility towards the king and is not impressed by his majesty. He operates recklessly and in that way his king is exposed to shame and criticism.

This proverb contains a warning to serve the king faithfully and rightly and not to provoke him to anger. In a spiritual sense this also applies to us. The Lord Jesus will reward His servants, who have served Him faithfully and wisely. But His anger will strike all who have added their own interpretations to His orders (Luke 19:11-Daniel :).

In a literal sense this proverb applies to every government. Each government has been appointed by God (Romans 13:1). The government has received the power from God to reward and punish (Romans 13:3-Numbers :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.