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The Fool Who Separates Himself
“He who separates himself” (Pro 18:1) has become an enemy of every form of friendship because of his selfishness and self-interest. Everyone he should have taken into account, hinders him in satisfying “[his own] desires”. The only thing he pays attention to is what gives pleasure to himself. Therefore he doesn’t want to know of any form of wisdom, for that confronts him with a higher purpose of life.
When something is said to him about it, whether by God from His Word when that is presented to him, or by a man, when he wants to point out something to him, he “quarrels” against it. He is like the apostate Jews of whom it is written that they do not please God and are against all people (1Thes 2:15). His whole attitude shows that he belongs to those who are “worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:19).
It should be noted that there is a separation which God asks from us in His Word. That concerns a separation from sin and people who are living in sin and from those who accept sin in others and do not distance themselves from them (2Tim 2:19-21; 2Cor 6:14-17; Heb 13:13; 2Jn 1:7-11).
Pro 18:2 is connected to Pro 18:1. He who quarrels against all wisdom shows that he is “a fool”, somebody who naturally “does not delight in understanding”. What he delights in is passing his opinion and in that way “revealing his own heart”. He hates understanding, but delights in telling his own foolish understanding. By what he says he reveals what is hidden in his heart. Such a person asks questions to show how smart he is (which he in any case thinks of himself) instead of desiring to be taught. He has a preformed, incorrigible opinion and wants it to be heard.
We find this fool in the days of the Lord Jesus in the religious leaders. They cannot be happy from the understanding that Christ wants to give and even quarrel against it. They only want to air their own understanding and be admired for it.
The Wicked Man and What Comes With Him
“When a wicked man comes”, wherever that may be, “contempt”, “dishonor” and “scorn” will follow him as his sworn comrades in his wake. Contempt comes with him because the wicked man will always consider the righteous with contempt, in order to overwhelm him with dishonor and scorn. He will always find a cause for that with the righteous, whether in his circumstances or in his way of life.
This way of acting belongs to the wicked man, it is his nature. To him God has no meaning or any value at all. The warning is to be watchful for the wicked man, for in his company are contempt, dishonor and scorn which he pours out on others in his speech and behavior.
Deep Waters and a Bubbling Brook
The “man” here is a wise man. His “mouth” is compared with a place out of which water is bubbling and his “words” are compared with that water. What he says are simple words but they have a deep meaning. The words are not only profound, but they also never run out and always contain wisdom because they come from “the fountain of wisdom”. The words of a man which come from the fountain of God’s thoughts, are both profound and bubbling. It indicates the depth and the width of wisdom.
Wisdom is deep (Job 28:1-28), it is what is in God (Rom 11:33). It is a great grace that God has shared His thoughts of wisdom with us. He did that in His Word and through His Spirit. Through His Spirit we can now know the depths of God (1Cor 2:9-10). Wisdom is not an ocean, but a well from which a brook comes forth that bubbles. That fountain is the Lord Jesus.
Moses speaks about “deep waters” (Deu 8:7) as one of the blessings of the promised land. In the spiritual application we could think of the blessing of eternal life. The Lord Jesus speaks about it when He says to the Samaritan woman: “But the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14b).
No Respecter of Persons in a Court Case
In a world of which satan is god and chief, it happens that a wicked man is shown partiality and that the right of the righteous is thrust aside in judgment. Partiality can play a role when the wicked man is a rich person, or a family member, or someone who has influence because he is respected. The righteous may have pointed out the evil that someone has done, like Elijah did and John the baptist. God hates such a course of matters. He wants that justice is done rightfully (2Chr 19:7; Mal 2:9). It is reprehensible to thrust aside the righteous, meaning to take his right away from him.
It is not only a judicial error, an unjustified judgment, that is expressed in the acquittal of a wicked man who should have been convicted. It is not so much about the outcome, but about the motive. That motive is partiality (cf. 1Tim 5:21). It is a verdict on behalf of discrimination. It does not only apply to a court case, but to all cases. James applies it to the interrelationships of the members of God (Jam 2:1-9). The Lord Jesus warns us: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24).
The Words of a Fool and a Slanderer
Foolish people bring themselves into problems by what they say (Pro 18:6). What “a fool” cries out, brings “strife”. His speech is inflammatory or hurtful. Therefore his mouth calls “for blows” with what he says. What he says is not innocent. Not only wrong deeds are to punished, also wrong words. Wrong deeds are harmful to someone and they do wrong to him. Wrong words are also harmful to another and do him wrong.
Therefore he deserves to be punished. That punishment can for instance be executed by his parents, or by his employer, or by a judge. It is also possible for him to be punished by God, for with what he says, he also asks for God’s judgment over himself.
Pro 18:7 is the continuation of Pro 18:6 and goes a step further. Not only blows are attached to what he says, but what he says will result in his own “ruin” (Ecc 10:12). The words that he speaks out with his lips are “the snare of his soul”, they are against him. He gets caught up in his words, he becomes captivated in them and that will lead him to death. Everything a fool says, also what he says to defend himself, forms the cause of his ruin. Everything he says will be evidence to God to judge him according to the righteousness of his judgment.
In Pro 18:8 it is not so much about the lips and the mouth of the fool, but about those who listen to him. The fool is also the slanderer, one who spreads gossip. People enjoy listening to gossip. Gossip is “like dainty morsels”, which is food that is swallowed up with greed. When such ‘tasty’ pieces of food glide into the belly, they go down into the “innermost parts of the body”, which causes the desire for more to be stimulated.
The innermost part functions as a storeroom where things are stored that were said, in order to repeat them later. We saw earlier that the listener helps the gossiper by listening to his gossip. His words are blindly sucked in and they go down into the innermost parts, where they do their sickening work and poison soul and spirit until death follows. The gossiper speaks with words that are “smoother than butter” and “softer than oil”, but which are “drawn swords” (Psa 55:21), and therefore have a lethal effect. They kill all remainders of healthy spiritual life that might still have been present.
Slackness Has a Destroying Effect
Earlier proverbs on slackness are about spoiling one’s own activities, which leads the slacker to poverty. Here it is about someone who works for another person, but because of his slackness, doesn’t do his work with devotion. “Who is slack in his work”, is someone with slack hands. He is inactive. He is not better than one who is actively seeking to destroy one’s work. They are both related to “him who destroys”; they are so to speak from the same ‘blood group’ as the devil. In the one case the work is not finished, in the other case it is destroyed when it is finished.
This we can apply to the work for the Lord. The slack bondservant is as harmful to God’s kingdom as the squandering bondservant (Mt 25:25; Lk 16:1). If we lack to serve the Lord faithfully, we are counterproductive. What someone does not do, can be just as harmful as what someone does. The Lord Jesus says: “He who does not gather with Me scatters” (Mt 12:30).
The True Safety and the False Safety
That “the name of the LORD is a strong tower” means that God is fully able to protect those who trust in Him (Pro 18:10; cf. Psa 71:3). That’s what the righteous needs, because he lives in a world where wicked people are dominating. The righteous believes that his safety is the Name of the LORD only and therefore “runs into it”.
The metaphor refers to one of the features of God, which is His power to protect. The word ‘runs’ describes the undivided confidence in that protection. We take refuge in that Name when we are in trouble or have insecurity, and then go to Him in prayer (Isa 50:10). We do that because we know that He will receive us and offer the protection He promises to give to those who trust in Him.
“Is safe” is a military term and emphasizes the effect to those who take refuge in that Name (cf. Psa 20:1). Safe also means to be in a high fortress. The righteous is behind thick walls, through which the weapons of the enemy cannot strike him. He is also on a high wall and therefore exalted above all attacks, through which the weapons of the enemy cannot reach him. The enemy cannot go through the wall and neither can he climb it.
Rich people often assume that their property is their “strong city”, which offers them their safety (Pro 18:11; cf. Job 31:24). In that way they build their own “high wall” of safety. But their confidence in it is an illusion. This false safety is clearly against the real safety that God’s Name offers (Pro 18:10). What the rich expects from his wealth, is what the righteous expects from his God. The first metaphor, the strong city, suggests protection against all attacks from outside; the second metaphor, the high wall, expresses their thoughts about being unbeatable.
Each protection that wealth can offer is extremely limited, regarding both the power and its durability. Money can never guarantee absolute safety, in contrast to the Name of God, which can (1Tim 6:17). He who thinks that money can offer absolute safety really is a dreamer, someone who lives outside the reality of life.
The rich man of Pro 18:11 is the proud man of Pro 18:12, the man whose “heart” is haughty. His way leads to “destruction”. The way that leads to “honor”, is the way of “humility”.
The haughty finds safety in himself. He boasts in his own possibilities to protect himself. It is false security not to be in need of anyone’s help and to defend and take care of himself. But one thing is for sure and that is that he will face destruction. There is no protection for him.
The opposite is “humility”, one’s awareness of not being able to survive by his own power, but to be dependent on God. The humble takes refuge in the Name of God and will be honored by Him for that. The humility and glorification of the Lord Jesus is the clear example of this truth (Isa 52:13-15; Isa 53:1-12; Phil 2:1-10). Therein He is an example for everyone who follows Him in that way (Mt 23:12b).
Listen Before You Give an Answer
The truth of this verse is important for everything that is said to us in a conversation or discussion. We first have to hear the whole story; let the other person finish speaking and only then respond. It leads to “folly and shame” when we give an answer, while we have heard only a part of the story and make up the rest of it. We have to be “quick to hear and slow to speak” (Jam 1:19). That goes above all in our relationship to God and hearing His Word.
Bad listening means that we do not respect the person who says something. That lack of respect of a person comes forth from being engaged with our own interest. Our own thoughts are considered much higher than what the other person says. Our own opinion is the only thing that counts. It is “folly and shame” to him who speaks with another like that.
The Spirit of a Man or a Broken Spirit
He who has spirit, who is healthy in his thinking, and can focus his thoughts on God, has peace in his heart in his sickness. You may be disabled physically, but be able to bear it well when you have a “spirit” that can find rest in the way that God goes. But when someone has “a broken spirit” the burden of that way is difficult to bear. Thereby, no one can sense precisely what is in the spirit of such a person.
A depression is a heavy test. With a physical illness you can rely on the desire to live, but in a depression the desire to live sometimes has disappeared. There are a few things in human experience that are hard to deal with, such as depression. We see that in the suffering which happened to Job. In connection to the previous verse, we can say that here we first and above all have to learn to listen, before we even start to express an answer to the question: “Who can bear it?”
To Acquire and Seek Knowledge
The “knowledge” that “the mind of the prudent acquires”, is knowledge about God and His judgment over all things. “The mind” refers to the mindset, the desire. It is also the storage-room of the acquired knowledge. That is foremost. “The ear” is the means by which the knowledge comes into the mind. “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge”, which refers to effort, the seeking of knowledge with eagerness. Knowledge must be sought, it doesn’t come naturally.
“The ear of the wise” listens to teaching and in that way takes in knowledge. The mind of the prudent distinguishes what the ear should hear to acquire knowledge. It is instructive to see that the wise in Proverbs seeks knowledge continuously. He who is wise, will see himself as a pupil and also act like that. Those who know much are most aware of their ignorance. The ear seeks knowledge, the mind stores up knowledge.
Prudent is he who can distinguish good from evil. Wise is he who has learnt to fear God. The one will lead to the other. The desire to really know the difference between good and evil will lead us to God and will work a holy respect for Him.
What a Gift Can Do
The gift (mathan) about which is spoken here is not the same as a bribe (shokhad). The word that is used here, mathan, is more general than the word shokhad (Pro 17:8; 23), which has a more negative meaning. It is generally true that a gift opens a way to and gives entrance to “great men”. At the same time we should not close our eyes to the danger that is hidden in the offering of a gift, that a gift still has the effect of a bribe. Both the giver and recipient must be careful about the danger.
The proverb itself simply says that a gift can appease a person (Gen 32:20; Gen 43:11; 1Sam 25:27). The gift is not given to flatter someone, but it is used as an expression of respect toward him because of the position he has. It is about a noble person. He who approaches that person in such a way, has a better chance to come into contact with him, for whatever purpose, than someone who impertinently asks him to talk with him.
A Case, Strife and Contentions
The first line of the verse affirms the general experience that he who is as the first one allowed to explain his case in court, seems to be right (Pro 18:17). However, before we declare him “right”, his fellow man must be heard concerning his view on the dispute. This proverb reminds us of the fact that there are two parties in a dispute – about for example a business matter, a domestic matter or a religious matter – and that both parties are to be heard in a dispute.
This is another warning against prejudice (Pro 18:13). First of all, all facts should be clear. We will only find that out when we hear both sides. An adversarial process must take place. Only when both parties have been heard, there can be a right judgment (Deu 1:16). Each person should express the case from his point of view.
The first may tell his story very convincingly, but when the second person tells his side of the story, it may seem that the case is more nuanced than we thought after we heard the first speaker. That must be the attitude in all cases where there is a difference of opinion. That can be for example in a family among the children, the spouses and also the brothers and sisters of a local church.
Pro 18:18 could regard a case in which both parties of Pro 18:17 have been speaking, but the outcome gave no clarity about the question of who is right. It is a dispute between “great men”, men who take a leading position. They can defend their case strongly. Then the only thing that’s left is the lot to get some sense of a solution out of the dispute, by judging one party to be in the right.
When both parties acknowledge that it is God Who brings an end to the dispute by casting the lot (Pro 16:33) and accept the outcome, the dispute is stopped. That is better than when it turns out to be a power measurement, which always causes others to become victims. Today we have God’s Word and God’s Spirit and spiritually minded believers who can make a decision in a conflict (1Cor 6:1-8).
However, there are also cases where even the lot gets no chance to bring a solution. That is the case when a brother “has been offended” (Pro 18:19). That injustice has been done to the brother during the conflict. Then he was treated in such a hurtful way that he withdrew and distances himself from everyone and closed himself for all contact.
He “is harder to be won than a strong city”, which means that a strong city is easier to take over than being able to approach him, because of the injustice that has been done to him. The city, in which he has withdrawn himself, is a citadel. The conflicts on which the injustice is based “are like the bars of a citadel”. That means that he has barred the access to his heart.
This proverb is an observation without comment. To us it is an exhortation not to do any injustice to a brother in such a way, that he ends up with such a mindset. In case it does happen that a brother or a sister has such a mindset, then we should not allow us to just observe or make such a conclusion. Love will make every effort to win the offended brother and to make him restore his relationship with the Lord and with his fellow brothers and sisters.
The Fruit of Our Words
The good, edifying words that we speak with our “mouth” and our “lips” satisfy inwardly (“his stomach”) (Pro 18:20). They are like the seed of a good fruit which delivers a satisfying product or harvest. This proverb is a stimulus to give just as much care to the words that we speak as the fruit of the trees from which we eat. When we eat healthy fruits, we will stay healthy; when we eat unhealthy fruits, we will become ill. When our words are careful, God fearing and good, “with grace … seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6), to serve others with, we will be satisfied by it. It gives satisfaction and a good conscience.
“His stomach” is also to be applied to the conscience. If we want to satisfy our stomach, meaning if we want to keep up a good conscience, we should be careful about what we say. Beside the direct satisfaction, there is also a later product or harvest. Also when we see the “product” of our wise, prudent, God fearing words, which means the effect that they have, it gives a deep satisfaction. It may be words that we speak when we give advice, but also answers to questions that are asked of us.
Pro 18:21 makes clear once more what the effect of our words can be. What kind of words do we sow: to death or to life? That question is most important to “those who love it”, which means to those who love “the tongue”. It is about a wrong love, namely about someone who enjoys talking. He will eat the fruit of what he says. What he says will return to him. The fool sows words that deliver death and destruction; the wise sows words that result in life. False teachers sow words with a seed of death and destruction; the ambassadors of Christ proclaim life.
A Wife as a Proof of God’s Favor
He who looks for a wife who is fitting to him, will ask God for it. Only He knows which wife is fitting to which man. If he finds her by His guidance, he has “found a good thing”, which means something that delivers him profit, by which his life becomes richer. The words ‘a good thing’ describe that it is something that pleases God, which is favorable for life and gives abundant joy.
He who finds this good thing in the wife that he finds, obtains “favor from the LORD”. It will fill him with gratitude that God is so kind to him. God has said: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). He provided in that by giving this good thing.
Supplications and Rough Answers
The social circumstances wherein one finds himself and the position he has therein, have an impact on his character. Poverty leads to a humble spirit which causes “the poor man” to utter supplications for a favor. He has no other choice; he has to “utter supplications” to receive something. “The rich man” answers “roughly” to that, with harsh accusations and rejection. He has never been in such a position of poverty and has no imagination of the feelings of a poor man.
The poor man begs, the rich man snaps at him. It often goes like that. The rich man does not understand the poor at all. Wealth often leads to an insensitivity for the need of a poor man, whom the rich man wants to get rid of when he shows him the need he has (cf. 1Sam 25:17; Jam 2:6; Mt 18:23-35).
The Lord Jesus gives us the good example. He listens to the supplications of the poor man and doesn’t answer roughly, but with love and compassion.
The Difference Between Friends and a Friend
It is better to have one good, faithful friend than numerous unfaithful friends. Beside the friends, it also says something about the man who has a lot of friends. He seems to be ‘everyone’s friend’. That is not a positive characteristic, but a negative one. Someone who can be everyone’s friend often has no own opinion. He lets himself be carried away by the wind in all directions, because he wants to be friends with everyone. There is a great chance that things will turn out bad for him. When things turn out to be bad, all those friends will forsake him. Those are ‘swallow (false) friends’, they come when you’re alright and go when things go bad in your life.
Therefore, we should choose our friends carefully and invest in them. It is not the quantity that counts, but the quality. A real friend is someone who is always there for you. That means more than your own brother, sometimes. David was treated with contempt by his brothers, but faithfully by his friend Jonathan, also when he was persecuted and had difficulties. A faithful friendship is more than affection; it is a commitment through thick and thin.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13