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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 19

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Verses 1-3

The Poor and the Fool

The contrast in Proverbs 19:1 is one between “a poor … in his integrity” and “he who is perverse in speech and is a fool”. Because of the contrast with the poor, we could, concerning the fool, think of someone who is rich. The poor is not under the punishment of God because he is poor and the rich is not under the blessing of God because he is rich. Here the appearance is deceptive. Wealth in itself is not condemned. The point is, where we got it from and what do we do with it.

The contrast regards inward value and outward appearance. He who seems to have everything, is the fool, while he who seems to experience only bad times, walks in his integrity and therefore is better off than the rich fool. Personal integrity, even with poverty, is much better than foolishness.

It totally depends on the relationship with God. The poor who walks in his integrity, can go that way because he goes that way with God. Therefore he is rich in reality. He who is perverse in speech, speaks perverse things that show that he has no relationship with God. He also is a fool, which means that he doesn’t want a relationship with God either. The way that he goes without God, leads to death.

The word “also” indicates that Proverbs 19:2 is connected with Proverbs 19:1. He who is acting “without knowledge” is the fool of Proverbs 19:1. Foolish and thoughtless diligence leads to failure. That is expressed by someone who “hurries his footsteps”, who acts hastily to fulfill his desire. It characterizes a man who desires to get quick results and as much profit as he can. People who spontaneously respond to something, are going the wrong way and miss the real target (the verb ‘sin’ literally means ‘to miss the goal’). Saul was such a person (1 Samuel 13:11-2 Chronicles :). There can even be diligence for God, but still without understanding (Romans 10:1-Numbers :).

This proverb reminds us that we should know the time and direction for the action, for otherwise the diligent effort will be in vain and even a wrong activity. Actions “without knowledge” make the feet move on a path of sin. Doing something is good when it is about the good (Galatians 4:18), but the knowledge of God and His will are needed for that. Therefore our diligence should come from the fellowship with God, through which we know His will. Then we can go our way in calmness and at the same time with diligence. The result of it is that the goal will not be missed, but will be achieved and that God will be glorified.

To act without knowledge or understanding is something that characterizes young people in particular who are not concerned about God’s Word. Therefore they miss the necessary discernment to know the value of the things they surrender themselves to. Only by studying God’s Word, they – and that of course applies also to elder people – will gain that discernment. There is no excuse for being without knowledge. The whole Word of God is available to us. It is the only true, unchangeable source of knowledge and accessible for everyone who wants to learn.

A fool without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2) distorts his own way, which has caused his life to become a mess (Proverbs 19:3). And then he also blames God for it. Due to his own foolishness he has distorted his way; he gave it a different twist that caused him to walk in the wrong direction. It is the path that is away from God. He blames God for the misery that he faces on that way. He is even furious at Him, that He causes that to happen to him.

This attitude has characterized man since the fall. When Adam had twisted his way and had sinned, he blamed God. It was because of the woman that God had given to him, which caused everything to turn out wrong (Genesis 3:12). We hear and see this today repeated in various ways where people do not want to be reminded of their responsibility. There is always someone else to blame.

Man does not want to give God the control over his life. When he makes good decisions that turn out well, he praises himself. When he makes bad decisions with a bad result, God is blamed (cf. Ezekiel 18:25). He doesn’t want to search his own heart. God is not given thanks that He in His kindness gives sun and rain and fruitful times (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17). But when He makes plagues come over the world which man brings upon himself, people blaspheme the God of heaven, without repenting of their evil works (Revelation 16:9-1 Kings :; Revelation 16:21).

Verse 4

Wealth and Friends

This verse is again an observation without attaching any conclusion to it. That conclusion is left to be made by the reader. It is about the unfaithfulness of a friendship which is based on wealth. Like love, friendship does not deserve that name when it is only about any advantage that love or friendship can deliver. If we ourselves love money, the only effect that it will have on others is nothing more than love for the money that we have. People follow rich people in the hope to get something.

But when the rich man has become poor, his friends disappear. They forsake him, for there is nothing left that they can get from him. Even a separation takes place between them, for imagine a poor man who would expect something from you. You’d better take a great distance from him. But the poor who knows the Lord Jesus, may know that he will never be and cannot be separated from Him (Romans 8:38-Malachi :; cf. Psalms 40:17).

Verse 5

A False Witness and He Who Tells Lies

“A false witness” will be punished (Deuteronomy 19:16-Ecclesiastes :); that is for sure. The same goes for “him who tells lies”. A false witness tells lies in public. Telling lies looks more like telling lies in the general conversation of a private atmosphere. A false witness and he who tells lies are at the same level and receive the same judgment.

The saying is general, for sometimes perjury is not punished, because it is not discovered, or because the judges are corrupt. Therefore, we should look at this verse in the light of God. He will not allow it to go unpunished and will not allow the offender to escape.

Verses 6-7

Wealth Is Attractive, Poverty Repulsive

People seek to be friends with influential people, in order to profit from them (Proverbs 19:6). Therefore they try to find their favor (cf. Jude 1:16). “To seek the favor” literally means ‘to caress the face’ or ‘to soften the face’ (Psalms 45:12). The generous people are valued because of their wealth, not because of their qualities.

Also he who gives gifts may be assured of countless friends. The generosity does not need to have a negative meaning. He who gives gifts, attracts people. Everyone wants to belong to his friends. It shows that man is selfish, someone who only seeks his own profit. When there is something for him to gain, that can make his life easier, he is very eager to get it. That’s how it also works in business life and in politics.

That he only wants to have what can make his life more pleasant appears from his rejection of God as the great Giver. God has given His Son as a free gift of His grace. But man does not want that Gift, for that means that he has to judge himself as a selfish person. It makes an end to living for himself.

People avoid those who are poor (Proverbs 19:7). The thought of “hate”, in the sense of ‘reject’, indicates that family members and superficial friends will leave the poor man because there is nothing more that he can mean for them. We see it also with the Lord Jesus. His earthly family, the Jews, have hated Him.

When your happiness has reached the breaking point, even your family avoids you. Your friends wish that you would perish. You can cry out to them, but they won’t listen to you. When they see you, they look the other way and pretend that they do not see you; it is for them ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Verse 8

To Love His Own Soul and Find Good

“He who gets wisdom”, is someone who has made efforts for it, has worked for it. He shows in that way that he loves his own soul. It means that he wants to learn to know God’s will for his life. In that way he benefits himself. He who gets wisdom comes to the point that he doesn’t love his own soul (life) till death (Revelation 12:11). To love his soul actually does not refer to the earthly life, but to the life that He has received from God to live for Him.

It doesn’t stop there. After getting wisdom, the preservation of what one has gotten, follows. That proves understanding in what is really important. The result is that he finds “good”. The good is the good life, the life with and for Christ. The good is the knowledge of God’s will for his life, which means that it will be conformed to Christ, that He becomes visible in his life. Therein understanding and insight become effective.

Verse 9

A False Witness and He Who Tells Lies

This proverb is almost verbally the same as Proverbs 19:5. Proverbs 19:5 sounds more or less as a warning, “he will not go unpunished”, but here clearly explained is that he “will perish”. The transgression of the ninth commandment affirms his guilt and God’s judgment. To be a false witness and tell lies, are against everything that God is. He is “righteous and upright”, “the faithful and true Witness”, the “God, Who can’t lie” (Deuteronomy 32:4; Revelation 3:14; Titus 1:2).

Verse 10

What Is Not Fitting

There are enough fools who live in luxury. That directly makes the truth of this proverb clear. A fool always indulges in luxury. One needs wisdom to carry luxury, which is something that the fool lacks. He lacks wisdom to deal rightly with luxury. The luxury may consist of property, but also of a position. He uses both wrongly. He is rude and insensitive, which makes him repulsive and to be a mockery.

Worse than a fool who lives in luxury, is a servant who gains power (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:7). There have been servants who ruled because they were faithful. Think of Joseph and Daniel. This verse is about an unfaithful servant. The servant here is probably someone who hires out his own services, in order to be able to pay his debt. He has run up debts because of his foolishness. If he cannot manage his own possessions, how could he be able to properly execute a leading function over those who are able.

In today’s world there are also a lot of people with large debts who still think that they are permitted to have the function of a ruler. The same goes for the church. Someone who is not able to rule his own household, cannot have a ruling function in God’s house, the church of the living God. Such a function would be inappropriate (1 Timothy 3:5).

Verse 11

Patience and Forgiveness

He to whom injustice is done and therefore lets his emotions go uncontrollably free, gets angry and reacts violently. But when his discretion, in the sense of spiritual insight, is in control, it will “make him slow to anger”. That is only possible when he has fellowship with God. In that way he is able to obey the word: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19).

Then he is able “to overlook a transgression”. This goes further than not blaming somebody for something because he is in a forgivable mood. It is also the capability of not counting the insults and not allowing any feeling of hurt to remain, even when the words have caused a wound.

Such an attitude is not popular in the world, but is very appreciated by God. This proverb is true in the perfection of God (cf. Micah 7:18). He delays His anger and it is His glory to overlook a transgression. He can do this because of the accomplished work of His Son, towards Whom He was not slow to anger and did not overlook the transgression when He made Him to be sin.

Verse 12

The Wrath and the Favor of a King

Here we have a wonderfully imaginative contradiction. On the one hand “the roaring of a lion” raises fear to everyone who hears it, and on the other hand the “dew on the grass” that falls down inaudibly, which refreshes and can also be trampled. We see these two expressions with a king. His wrath raises great fear (Revelation 10:3), while his favor is a benefit (Psalms 72:6).

A king has the power to cause fear or to revive and refresh. He can look threatening, but also kind. This proverb advises the subordinates of the king not to do things that make him angry, for that will not benefit them. They, however, can count on his beneficial favor when they serve him faithfully.

We can apply this verse to God and Christ, like the previous verse. Christ is the Lion from the tribe of Judah. We are to fear His wrath when we resist against Him, but we can be sure of His reviving appreciation when we serve Him faithfully.

Verses 13-15

Domestic Misery and Domestic Happiness

“A foolish son” and “the contentions of a wife” are two problems that cause chaos in a family (Proverbs 19:13). “A foolish son” takes away the pleasure of his father by his lawlessness, laziness, stubbornness, pride and disobedience. The word ‘destruction’ is plural, which indicates that such a son causes his father sorrow after sorrow. He is like a chain of disasters to his father, under which his mother of course also suffers.

A quarrelling wife does the same as the son, for she also makes her home uninhabitable by her quarrels. The home which should be an oasis of rest is full of envy and quarrels. The one quarrel after the other; it is just like drops of water falling down steadily, a never-ending process. When it starts to drip through the roof, you don’t know where the leak is. As long as the leak has not been found and has not been sealed, the water will continue to do its devastating work in secret. This is sometimes how it works with the quarrels of a wife. You do not know where it comes from nor how to solve it.

It may be clear in this case, where the contentions come from and that is from the behavior of the son. When a son, or a child, behaves shamefully, it can be a divisive issue in the marriage. That happens when the wife blames her husband (in practice it happens also the other way around). Fortunately it may be the case that the worries about a child can cause husband and wife to become a closer unity. That is the case when they continually bring the child as a common care in prayer to the Lord.

Acquiring “house and wealth” is a matter of inheritance (Proverbs 19:14). An inheritance is passed on from father to son. It is a result of being a member of a certain family. That’s totally different from getting a “prudent wife”. It has nothing to do with a family relationship. When a person gets “a prudent wife” it is a special gift from God. Therefore the contrast is on the one hand wealth, which can be received from a father and on the other hand a prudent wife, which is a gift from the LORD.

“Laziness” is another cause which brings misery upon others and not only upon the idle man himself (Proverbs 19:15). This proverb is intended to scare us from laziness. Laziness means that one is totally inactive. “A deep sleep” (Genesis 2:21) is a condition of unconsciousness. Time goes by without the idle man having the slightest idea about it.

He who is lazy, is wasting the time that is needed to take care of himself and his family. The family in which the husband and father through laziness does not offer safety, because he does not take care of getting an income, is a miserable family. There is hunger, but nothing to satisfy it. An idle man is a bad steward of a precious gift from God, which is time. Laziness is the coffin of a living person.

Verse 16

To Keep One’s Soul or Die

“The commandment” which this verse is talking about, is the commandment of God, for God’s commandment is unto life. Obedience to the commandment of God is a protection of life. It also regards obedience to the commandments of a father, for he represents God on earth. The same goes for the commandments of the government. Whoever does not consider them, despises his ways and “will die”.

When one determines himself the way he wants to live, he expresses in that way that he despises what God has commanded. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with what God has said about his conduct, his way of life and the choices that he makes. He thinks that he is on the way of life, but he is on the way of death. To be careless of conduct means that he sets aside God’s commandments for his conduct. He will experience that at the end of his stubborn ways, death is waiting.

Verse 17

Who Is Gracious to a Poor Will Be Rewarded

When one “is gracious to a poor”, it is a form of lending to the LORD (cf. Matthew 25:40). Money that is given away to a poor, will not be lost. God sees it as a lending to Him; it is seen by Him as a “good deed”. He will repay the lending abundantly. One who is gracious to the poor, shows a feature of God, Who has compassion (Psalms 116:5; Isaiah 49:10; Isaiah 54:10).

The presence of the poor among God’s people is a test for the rich people (Deuteronomy 15:7-1 Kings :). Our response to their presence shows whether we have faith (James 2:14-Esther :). One who is gracious to the poor, shows “a good deed”, a deed which the Lord Jesus calls “your righteousness” (Matthew 6:1-Numbers :). The Lord adds to it that this should not happen in the sight of men, not even for the reason of getting a good feeling, but that it should happen “in secret”. Whoever gives like that, receives His promise: “And your Father Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” God blesses the generosity of one of His own with His generosity.

The promise of a reward does not necessarily mean a reward of what has been given. If it was only that, then it is to be seen as a reward of a good deed. It is about a reward which expresses appreciation. When God rewards something, it is more than paying back what has been given. He will give the one who is compassionate, a deeper impression of the riches of living with Him. No money or gold can compete with that.

Verses 18-20

Discipline and Accept Discipline

Discipline, or the teaching of obedience, is an order (Proverbs 19:18). It is at the same time a powerful warning against passivity of parents. There is a time to discipline children. That time starts as soon as it is clear that a child has the awareness of good and evil, which is at a very young age. When it is clear that a child does not listen to the commandment of the parents, it should learn to obey (Genesis 18:19). That may demand a lot of patience. It can sometimes become so bad that a parent loses his patience and even his sense. Therefore the warning not to allow the thought of killing the child or taking decisions that may lead to his death.

“Do not desire his death”, may therefore imply that a parent can discipline a child in such a way that it kills him. But another meaning is also possible, which is not to discipline him at all, so that he becomes a fool, comes into the wrong path and finds death because of its bad behavior. He who does not discipline his child, kills him, for then he continues on that path which leads to death. Not to punish him will lead him to a much heavier and eternal punishment. Indulgence leads him to destruction. False indulgence is real cruelty.

Eli did not discipline his sons. Therefore they became fools and were destroyed by their foolishness (1 Samuel 3:12-1 Chronicles :). David also did not discipline his son Adonijah, which caused him to die an early death (1 Kings 1:6; 1 Kings 2:24).

There are cases where discipline is of no use anymore (Proverbs 19:19). Then all hope for correction is gone. That is the case of a man of great anger. One who is not to be calmed down, must experience himself the consequences of his foolishness. Whoever wants to help him, will never get rid of him, for he will never learn his lesson.

A hot-tempered man will continually get in trouble. Only conversion and the Holy Spirit can make a change. Christ is the only One Who can save one from such a behavior. The Son really makes free.

Proverbs 19:20 is connected to the two previous verses. By listening to “counsel” and accepting “discipline” one becomes “wise”. Ultimately maturity will come out because of the discipline and teaching that have been given. There will be a steadfast perseverance on the path of life. The rest of your days does not mean till the end of one’s life, but the rest of the days of the learning process. Effectively it means that we need to listen to counsel and accept discipline till the end of our life to remain wise.

Verses 21-23

Counsel, Kindness and Life

It is allowed to make “many plans”, but it is good to subject ourselves to “the counsel of the LORD”, or the plan of God (Proverbs 19:21; James 4:13-Ezra :). Man should remain to consider that he is human and that God is Who He is. Man is extremely limited in what he can think of and even more limited in what he can carry out. God on the contrary, is endless in understanding and in capacity. Not what man devises, but what God decides, happens (Lamentations 3:37; Psalms 33:10-1 Kings :; Isaiah 46:10). Paul also made plans, but God directed it differently (Romans 15:22-Jonah :).

Every man desires that someone else treats him with “kindness” (Proverbs 19:22). Every man likes it to hear kind words, words that show kindness, in other words: words of goodness. Those are edifying, encouraging words, in which there is no dishonesty. They are not spoken to flatter someone.

“A liar” lacks kindness. He may pretend he is kind by promising all kinds of things and giving the impression that he is full of kindness, but that is hypocrisy and deception. Behind his words dishonest motives are hidden. It is better for you to deal with a poor, from whom you do not expect anything that he could give you, but from whom kindness radiates, than with such a liar.

Respect for the LORD brings a life of satisfaction and safety (Proverbs 19:23). He who fears the LORD, lacks nothing and fears no danger. God gives a quality of life that cannot be interrupted by evil. The Godly goes to bed without hunger and sleeps satisfied, without fear for something evil that could happen to him.

The life that is related to the fear of the LORD is not the life that man has by nature, but the life in relationship with Him. That life will be only enjoyed, when the believer is with Him. But also here on earth already it means that this life cannot be affected by anything, because it is an inward spiritual life. It is the life from God. That life knows neither lack nor fear. The Lord Jesus therefore says that we don’t need to be afraid “for those who kill the body, are unable to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

The true life that is meant here is not found in wealth or in health, neither in a good marriage or a nice family, but in Christ alone. That is what we should tell our children and live up to that. Of the evil that may strike us, we know that God will make it work together for good (Romans 8:28; Psalms 91:9-2 Samuel :).

Verse 24

Even Too Lazy to Eat

“A sluggard” is so lazy that he cannot bring back the hand with which he dipped the piece of bread in the dish with dipping sauce “back to his mouth”. The described actions have made him so tired, that he has fallen asleep again before he can chew. It is a ridiculous description of a sluggard. This presentation should serve us not to desire to be a sluggard and to prevent the ridicule which is attached to it.

In the spiritual application we see that there are people who do not make efforts to even take the most elementary step to come out of their sinful misery. Salvation is offered to them in the gospel and is within easy reach, but they do not reach out their hand to grab the lifebuoy that has been thrown to them.

Verse 25

Discipline Makes Others Shrewd

There are three kinds of people in this verse: “a scoffer”, the “naive” and “one who has understanding”. They show who they are by their reaction to reproof. The scoffer does not allow himself to be corrected by any discipline. He doesn’t consider the meaning of it, because he distances himself from it.

The naive is someone without knowledge, an ignorant, a nitwit. He is not so hardened yet like the scoffer. He may become aware that the discipline that comes over the scoffer, is a warning for him. When he becomes aware of that, he will become shrewd and realize what will become of him when he continues on the way of foolishness and becomes a scoffer (cf. Deuteronomy 19:20).

One who has understanding doesn’t need to be struck. He has enough spiritual maturity to be able to discern between good and evil. When he does something that needs correction, he can be corrected with words. Those words can be painful, but he will listen to them and “will gain knowledge” in what he had done or said that was not good and must be corrected.

Verses 26-27

A Son Who Acts Shamefully

Proverbs 19:26 seems to be about a situation that the father and mother are dependent on the son and that this son misuses the situation for his own profit. A sharp judgment is pronounced about this. It should frighten children to misbehave themselves towards their parents like that.

Here it goes further than only about disobeying parents. Disobedience is bad enough. It is a trespass of the commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12). But here it is about the abandonment of the natural love which a child should have for his parents. He rebels against the most elementary natural laws. The son who is described here doesn’t only ignore what has been commanded, but he dishonors his parents. God let the Levites say about that: ”Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother!” (Deuteronomy 27:16). This son not only disobeys his parents, but exploits them.

This happens more and more often in a social climate that becomes colder and colder. It was, as it appears from what Solomon says here, then already the case, and now it is very topical. Children verbally or physically abuse their parents in an increasing number of cases, in order to enrich themselves instead of taking care of them (cf. Matthew 15:4-Judges :). A headline in the newspaper recently mentioned: ‘Exploitation of elders by their own children is an underestimated form of elder abuse’ (Reformed Daily Newspaper, 15-06-2015).

A son can steal from his father. He can make his mother’s life so unbearable that she leaves the home. He makes himself shameful because he acts shamefully. It is a special bitterness to parents when a son acts like that. Like that Israel has behaved towards God (Isaiah 1:2-Leviticus :).

In the proverb of Proverbs 19:27 there is a certain irony to be heard. What the father says to his son is not an advice not to listen. The father only wants to say to his son that it has no sense for his son to listen to his instruction when he is not intended to act accordingly. Let his son stop to listen to instruction when he intends to deviate from “the words of knowledge”.

The discipline therefore consists of words of knowledge, which are words of the knowledge of God’s will for his life. By listening to it and obeying it, the son will walk the right way. The way that the father approaches his son here, confronts the son with his responsibility. Does he want to go another way than the way that is presented to him in the words of knowledge? Let him then stop to listen to discipline. Hopefully this approach will cause the son to listen well and not to stray.

Verses 28-29

Scoffers and Iniquity

“A rascally witness” (Proverbs 19:28) is literally ‘a witness of Belial’. He is inspired by satan. It is someone who distorts the facts consciously. That he “makes a mockery of justice” means that he distorts justice very easy. Justice is meant to keep men from sin, but a rascally witness doesn’t care about that at all; to him the concept of ‘righteousness’ is something to ridicule. He doesn’t worry about God as Judge, but provokes Him by directly despising justice.

While people despise justice, they take pleasure in injustice, which is even consumed. The wicked are like hungry wolves who shamelessly attack injustice and eat it as if it is the nicest sweet. Injustice is a real pleasure for the mouth of the wicked. They chew on deceiving words and then speak them out. They draw all of their life energy from it.

What characterizes the wicked, characterizes our fallen nature. Our fallen nature does not only make us insensitive to receive lies, but makes us to enjoy it.

God has “judgments” prepared for the stubborn “scoffers” (Proverbs 19:29). They mock at the holy things. Their mockery will be publicly judged in the judgments that God will bring over them according to His plan. Also the “blows for the back of the fools” are prepared and will unavoidably strike them.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-19.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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