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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 24

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Verses 1-2

Don’t Be Envious of Evil Men

The father warns his son that he should “not be envious of evil men” (Proverbs 24:1). He should not desire “to be with them”, for they are bad company (cf. Proverbs 1:10-Psalms :; Proverbs 3:31Proverbs 23:17). The envy here goes further than only a feeling or an expression. It is about a desire to be with evil people because of their apparent prosperity. The son is not supposed to be jealous of it, nor to want it. Jealousy is a hateful and grudging notion of the prosperity of another person.

The feeling or expression of bitterness or indignation about an (alleged) dishonest treatment, can be a result of jealousy: why does the other person have the prosperity and I do not? Anyway, it is one’s dissatisfaction about his own circumstances, a dissatisfaction which is a result of comparing with others, while God is not involved in the circumstances or is kept outside the circumstances. Envy is a characteristic of men who are narrow-minded.

The word “for” with which Proverbs 24:2 begins, indicates that the reason for the warning of Proverbs 24:1 follows. Bad people are obsessed with violence. “Their minds” devise “violence”. “Their lips” talk about what is in their mind, which is nothing else than “trouble”. They speak words that they only desire to cause trouble and disaster to others. They owe their apparent prosperity to the destruction that they have devised in their hearts and to the words of trouble which they have spoken. If the son is aware of that, he will not be so stupid to join them, will he?

Verses 3-4

Building a House and Filling the Rooms

The Proverbs 24:3-Numbers : form a whole. They deal with the construction of a house, its establishment and the things the rooms are filled with. To build a good house, building it on the right foundation and to decorate it tastefully, we need “wisdom”, “understanding” and “knowledge”. At the same time, the use of these words indicates that it is not just about building a stone house with rooms that are decorated with furniture.

The house especially makes us think of a family which lives in it. “Wisdom” is necessary to start a family (Proverbs 24:3). The happiness of a family depends more on the mutual relationships than on the stones and the brickwork. Only by the wisdom of God, there can be good relationships between the family members. In that way a house will arise which has been built correctly.

“Understanding” is important for the foundation. This means that God’s Word is the basis of the functioning of each family member. The understanding that each member of the family is different than every other member and the kind of the differences – such as gender, age, disposition – allow the members to be themselves. There is no need for anyone to pretend to be better or to exert pressure on anyone to have things done in his or her way. In that way tensions are also prevented.

The “knowledge” of the capacity which each member had been given by God, will promote them to work with those capacities (Proverbs 24:4). In that way everyone can deliver his or her valuable contribution and also be stimulated to do so. In that way “the rooms are filled with precious and pleasant riches”. Precious and pleasant riches are such as love and solidarity, safety and security, acceptance of who you are and to be there for one another. Children who grow up in an atmosphere of love and security, grow up to be loving and peaceful individuals.

We can also apply this to the local church, which we can also see as a family. Wise believers with understanding and knowledge will do their best to allow each believer to take the place which the Holy Spirit has given to him or her (1 Corinthians 12:4).

Verses 5-6

Strength and Victory by Wisdom

The building of the family that Proverbs 24:3-Numbers : is talking about, demands power and wisdom (Proverbs 24:5; Ecclesiastes 7:19; Ecclesiastes 9:15-Nehemiah :). In the natural life a wise man knows how to carry a burden which is many times heavier than one man can carry, with certain means. In the spiritual life it is not about physical power, but about the power of wisdom. That power is present in those who live with Christ, the Source of wisdom.

“A wise man” is also “a man of knowledge”. When it comes down to the use of the powers that wisdom gives, one needs the knowledge of the circumstances. “A man of knowledge” knows the will of God, which he wants to do. He knows how and when to use his power in the right way. Wisdom to make the right choice and the knowledge of the will of God go hand in hand (1 Corinthians 1:9-1 Kings :).

The word “for” with which Proverbs 24:6 begins, indicates the significance of the power of wisdom and knowledge. We should be aware that we live in a spiritual war zone and are involved in a spiritual fight. That fight is raging especially around the families of the believers. Wise counsel for this spiritual war is needed more than ever.

A wise man is not stubborn and does not figure everything out all by himself alone. He knows the meaning and value of “wise guidance” from others, from “an abundance of counselors”. Misplaced self-confidence or confidence in his own means or power are out of the question with him. God has given us to each other as members of His people. We ask Him for guidance and we also ask our brothers and sisters who live with Him for guidance, which we see in their obedience to and knowledge of God’s Word.

After we have asked for guidance, we must “wage war” for our own sakes. In the everyday life we are not surrounded by our brothers and sisters, but by a hostile world. The world wants to take away everything from us what we desire to set apart for God, such as our family and our properties. We will face all kinds of hindrances on our way, which can cause destruction in our family by taking control over our children. This can happen by, for example, teachings at schools and/or decisions from the politics that are in opposition to God’s Word. Impulsivity, naivety and decisiveness lead to defeat. A victorious life is the result of profound counsel, good consideration and wisely combatting.

Verse 7

Wisdom Is Too Exalted For a Fool

The proud, hardened fool cannot acquire any wisdom. All wisdom whatsoever, is inaccessible for him. Wisdom is far beyond his capacity. He will never be able to give any wise counsel and therefore we should not ask him for counsel ever. For that reason, he is not to be given any chance to open his mouth in the gate. The gate is the place where the town authorities discuss problems and make decisions (Proverbs 31:23; Ruth 4:1). In that place, the fool is not to be allowed at all to have his foolishness to be heard.

Verses 8-9

Planning to Do Evil and the Devising of Folly

“One who plans to do evil” (Proverbs 24:8), is doing the work of the devil, who can do nothing but plan evil. The devil can rightly be called “a schemer”. He who is not a child of God, is a child of the devil (1 John 3:10). All the children of the devil have his nature. He inspires them to plan evil; they are “inventors of evil things” (Romans 1:30). Not everyone does it in the same degree, but the principle is in the mind of all the children of the devil. Here, it is especially about the cold, calculating person who is active in planning evil.

Not only the doing of folly is evil, but even “the devising of folly is evil” (Proverbs 24:9). The folly of the scoffer is the summit of folly. This kind of person does not care about morals at all. Even people who do not want to have anything to do with God, though do maintain some kind of morality, will be disgusted by him at a certain moment. A scoffer is someone who not only rejects what he should believe, but he laughs at and ridicules and despises what he should believe. He does that also towards those who believe.

Verse 10

Test of Distress

“The day of distress” is not a literal day of twenty-four hours, but every day or period of difficulties and trials that can make life difficult. People with a feeble attitude, who get discouraged and want to forsake their life with the Lord, show little strength. There is no spiritual power and the hands are limp (Hebrews 12:12-1 Chronicles :). Precisely in a day of distress, it becomes clear whether a person has the power of wisdom (Proverbs 24:5), which makes him to be continually focused on the Source of wisdom (Isaiah 40:31).

Solomon uses a wordplay here to emphasize the link between both lines of the verse. The Hebrew word for ‘distress’ is sarah and the word for ‘limited’ (literally: narrow) is sar. It is good for one to strengthen himself in God in the days of distress (1 Samuel 30:6; Psalms 84:6). Then God’s power will be perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Verses 11-12

Save Those Who Are Going to Slaughter

God makes His people responsible to deliver people that are in danger (Proverbs 24:11). It is about people “who are being taken away” and carried away to a certain death, without having any possibility to liberate themselves from their situation. The words “death” and “slaughter” indicate the gravity of the situation. These people are innocent victims of gangs of robbers or circumstances which they could not control. They are about to be killed, slaughtered. They are “staggering”, worn out, driven in the direction of death. If there is no deliverance from an unexpected side very soon, it is over with them.

The command is clear. We should do everything possible to deliver them from death. There is an imminent ‘woe’ when we remain aloof, when we turn a blind eye and do not reach out to them. The Hebrew midwives did not throw the baby boys in the Nile river, but delivered them, which was against the command of the Pharaoh (Exodus 1:13-Esther :). Esther risked her life by delivering her people that were doomed to death (Esther 3:6-1 Chronicles :; Esther 4:13-Nehemiah :Esther 8:4-Joshua :). They have delivered and did not turn a blind eye. Even the prophet Obadiah who was serving at the court of Ahab, had delivered prophets from death by hiding them and providing them with food (1 Kings 18:4).

The spiritual application is that we should tell the people of the world that they “are being taken away to death”. Due to sin, they are delivered to death. There is no mention here of being innocent, but there is certainly a lack of any capacity for one to deliver himself. Our responsibility is to tell the people of the world that they can escape God’s judgment by confessing their sins and believing in the Lord Jesus. If we do not do that, there is also the imminent ‘woe’ for us. Paul has understood it and said: “For woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

We will be kept accountable for what was asked from us concerning all those cases of which we have known about the eternal death whereto the people were headed and that we did not show them the possibility to escape from it (Ezekiel 33:1-Micah :). We cannot say “See, we did not know this,” (Proverbs 24:12). Ignorance is not an excuse if we consciously have closed our eyes to an evil thing. It sounds like the excuse which the Germans used after the Second World War, with regard to the Holocaust, which have become winged words: ‘Wir haben es nicht gewußt’ (‘We did not know it’).

We can sometimes get away with the excuse of ignorance with people, but not with God. He is continually testing the hearts and notices without being mistaken, whether the truth is in it. He observes the soul. He sees how life is being lived and which motives are used. Heart and soul are constantly under His supervision, whereby not one single motive can escape Him. Therefore, He knows perfectly whether the claim of someone about whether he did not know it or whether it is lie.

Based on His omniscience He will “render to man according to his work” (cf. Revelation 22:12), whereby it is impossible that He is mistaken. To render someone according to his work means that man is measured by the standard of measure he has judged other people. He who has not shown mercy, will not receive mercy. He who could have saved others and did not do it, will die.

Verses 13-14

Sweetness of Wisdom

The father exhorts his son to eat honey (Proverbs 24:13) because he wants to apply the eating of honey to the knowing of wisdom (Proverbs 24:14). What honey does to the body is similar for the soul to know wisdom.

Honey is good, for it is healthy (Proverbs 24:13). Honey comb is the best of honey. It is the honey which without pressing, thus without human action, is released from the honey combs. Therefore it is the purest form. Of the land of Canaan it is mentioned several times that it is a land that is flowing with milk and honey. Honey is a special blessing from God to His earthly people.

“The knowing of wisdom” (Proverbs 24:14) has the health and sweetness of honey. It has the added mark of a pleasure which endures to eternity cf. Psalms 19:10; Psalms 119:103; Ezekiel 3:3). The father says to his son that he should look for it, for he needs to find it. He makes the promise to him that his efforts will be rewarded abundantly. He will now already enjoy the sweetness of it and he will have “hope for the future”. Future and hope are connected to wisdom. Wisdom gives hope which will not be cut off, a hope which will never disappoint.

Those who have tasted honey, need no further proof that it is sweet. They will in no way be convinced about the opposite, for they have tasted it themselves. The same goes for the spiritual application for those who have experienced the power of wisdom from God in Christ. All the atheists in the world with all their fallacies can in no way take that taste away and change its pleasure.

Honey is the product of bees that diligently work together and not of those who gather honey. There is a wealth related to the knowing of wisdom which is acquired by nourishing ourselves with what others have already gathered. We can enjoy the honey comb when we are directly engaged with the Source of wisdom, with Christ, by reading God’s Word. The honey that we take to ourselves when we are together with brothers and sisters and the honey comb that we take to ourselves when we read God’s Word, are enjoyed by us personally.

Verses 15-16

A Righteous Man Falls, but He Rises Again

The wicked, probably the son with the wicked attitude, is recommended “not to lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous” (Proverbs 24:15). The intention of lying in wait, is to see whether he gets the chance to break into the house of the righteous and to steal, for instance when the righteous leaves his house. He can even intend to do the righteous such wrong, that he wants to destroy his “resting place”. The word for ‘resting place’ is also used for the stable of the sheep, where they lie down. It describes the righteous as a sheep that is defenseless and innocent. Whoever lies in wait against that dwelling and intends to break into it and destroy it, is a wolf, a symbol of the devil.

It is meaningless and it also results in one’s own destruction if he wants to abuse somebody from God’s people, for the righteous will always survive (Proverbs 24:16). The wicked on the contrary, will get killed in the calamity they cause. Attacking a righteous man is attacking God and it will always appear to be impossible to defeat Him (cf. Matthew 16:18). A righteous man may fall several times, but he surely rises again (Psalms 37:24; Micah 7:8; Job 5:19). Conversely, the wicked will not survive. Without God they have no power to survive the calamity. Finally, the righteous will triumph and those who are against them will stumble in their calamity.

“Seven times” is a rounded number. God allows the righteous to experience as many chastisements as He finds necessary. Those chastisements serve to purification, not to his destruction. The righteous even survives a heavy fall, while the wicked only stumble, which causes them to get killed. Peter has fallen many times, but he always rose again. Judas stumbled in the calamity and remained down.

Verses 17-18

No Malicious Pleasure

Solomon forbids his son to rejoice when his enemy falls (Proverbs 24:17). He should not even let his heart be glad about it, which means not to have inner satisfaction about it when his enemy stumbles. It is not about personal enemies, about people who are making our lives difficult. It may be understandable for us that when something happens to our enemy, we therefore are liberated from a tormentor. But rejoicing is totally different from that. Here it is about rejoicing the fall of an enemy, accompanied by the thought that he gets what he deserves. Malicious pleasure plays a role in this. Such a joy is forbidden.

David did not rejoice in the fall of Saul and even appealed on others not to do that either (2 Samuel 1:20). A former bodyguard of the cruel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who succeeded escaping from his grasp and afterwards has learnt to know Christ, said that he did not rejoice in the death of the dictator. The thought that this cruel man is in hell did not give him joy but sorrow. The Lord Jesus says that we should love our enemies and pray from those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

In Proverbs 24:18 it is said why it is commended to us not to rejoice in the fall of our enemy. God has allowed it that our enemy harasses us, because He has a purpose through that. If He eliminated the enemy and we have malicious pleasure about that, we violate a creature of God. That is wrong in God’s sight. Then He can take away His wrath from our enemy, by which he may behave as our enemy again, probably in another form. We then will still not be liberated from him.

Verses 19-20

The Evil Man Has No Future

Proverbs 24:19 seems to be a quote which Solomon copies from his father David, who said the same thing (Psalms 37:1; Proverbs 23:17; Proverbs 24:1). It is foolish to fret “because of evildoers” and to be “envious of the wicked”. Proverbs 24:20 gives the reason why, which is to be derived from the word “for” with which the verse begins. The future of the wicked is to prevent the son from getting envious of their current prosperity. Their prosperity has an expiration date. He should also realize that God in His providence still allows the evildoers and wicked people to go their way. They are under His control, although it seems that they can go their way uninterruptedly.

What they are doing, can make us angry and in other cases it can make us envious. It just depends on what they do and how we view it or deal with it. If we only look at them and their behavior, we will have those feelings. But then we give the impression of having a very short-sighted view on them. We should realize that the evil has no future, but will be condemned and forever be locked up in hell, without any prospect of liberation. The lamp of the wicked, which means the light of his life, will therefore not shine forever. His life will be put out, as what happens to an oil lamp when it is blown out. His lamp will also not be turned on again (Job 18:5-Joshua :; Job 21:17).

Verses 21-22

Fear the LORD and the King

Solomon addresses his son very directly, “my son”, in order to show him that he should fear both God and the king (Proverbs 24:21). He tells him that he should fear the highest authority in the universe, which is God’s, and the authority appointed by God on earth that represents Him, which is the king (1 Peter 2:17; Romans 13:1-Judges :). He can do that by submitting himself to it and obey it.

The opposite of the fearing of God and the king is “being given to change”. What is meant here by ‘change’ is: not caring about the authority of God and His representative on earth anymore. It is about people who do not want to be obedient anymore to Him, who resist against His authority. They want to overthrow His authority and that of the king. Such people want to bring changes in the structures of authority given by God and suit their own purposes.

It is about people who move God’s Word to their own purposes and in that way put it aside. Certain structures of authority, such as that of man and woman, are declared time-bound. What God’s Word says about it is declared outdated and in that way outlawed. We see that in politics, in society, in families and also in churches. Authority has become a ‘dirty’ word.

Proverbs 24:22 gives the reason for the warning of the previous verse. We derive that from the word “for” with which the verse begins. If the son becomes involved with these rebels, the changers and innovators or illuminators that are against the authority of God and the king, he will participate in their calamity that will rise suddenly. God and the King – for with Him is meant the Lord Jesus of course – will “Both” exert authority. For the time being, it remains the question what ruin it will cause to the rebels. That makes the warning even more threatening.

The reward for those who live in peace under the authority of God in the world, is that they will escape from the disasters that will come over the rebels. Those who stand under authority and respect it, will do each other no harm. They will be kept from being envious of one another and even beat one another (cf. Matthew 24:48-Ephesians :). A positive effect of gratitude is the presence of rest and peace.

Verses 23-26

No Partiality in Judgment

Here a new section begins, but clearly one that is in close connection to the previously mentioned (Proverbs 22:17-24:22). That appears from the words “these also are sayings” (Proverbs 24:23). The sayings that now follow – in the Proverbs 24:23-Nahum : – “are of the wise”. So, they are meant for those who are already wise, but who want to become wiser. Wisdom appears precisely from the fact that one wants to grow in wisdom.

This section begins with condemning partiality in judgment (Proverbs 24:23). The point is that a judge will clearly make a distinction between righteousness and wickedness (Proverbs 18:5; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:19). He is not allowed to exchange these two and apply it to the wrong person out of partiality.

So he is not to say to a wicked person: “You are righteous” (Proverbs 24:24). If he does, then not only will God judge him, but he also makes the anger of the people to come upon him. It is not just simply about an opinion, nor just someone who is saying this. Here we have someone who is speaking justice in public and does it in the Name of God. This is the most serious offence of justice and also an extreme dishonor to the Judge of the whole earth. A judge who is partial in such a way that it leads him to make such a legal decision, will be cursed and abhorred by everyone all over the earth.

When justice is done by judging the wicked and acquitting the righteous, it is pleasing to “those who rebuke the wicked” (Proverbs 24:25). A good blessing will come upon the judges who uphold the law and upon those who rejoice in it. God finds in them the features of Himself. There is always a blessing to doing justice and defending justice.

For the maintaining of justice and for rendering the right conviction by a judge in a legal case, it is important that a witness “gives the right answer” (Proverbs 24:26). It may concern the judge who renders a right decision in a legal case. An answer with upright words delivers a valuable contribution to the peace and rest in the land, which we may apply to the local church. He who does so will not bring curses and abhorrence upon himself (Proverbs 24:24), but will receive expressions of love.

The kissing of the lips is a recognition of the valuation of sincere answers that are given. Such answers do not lead to separation, but unite in love. A kiss is also a sign of reconciliation. He who answers with sincere words, causes reconciliation.

Verse 27

Financial Independency

This verse is about making the right priorities in life. It presents to us that we should first do things that should be done first. First the one, “afterwards, then” the other. We should apply the right order in our activities. If we do not do that, our lives will become chaos and will result in a disaster.

The application can be used in the forming of a family. Before someone can start with that, he must be able to maintain his family. Therefore he should first have an income. He can get that by working for it. What he earns with work, he can use for building a house, which means forming a family and also maintaining it.

Verses 28-29

A False Witness and Revenge

Proverbs 24:28 is a warning for us about not allowing ourselves to be tempted into being a witness against a neighbor without a clear cause. We may find ourselves in circumstances where our colleagues or people from our environment ask us to give an opinion about someone’s behavior with whom we work or who lives in our neighborhood, with the intention to accuse this person. If we ourselves do not have a certain experience with the person concerned, we should not allow ourselves to be deceived and be a witness. The message is that there should be solid reasons before someone should act as a witness against a neighbor.

Nor should feelings of revenge play a role in a court case (Proverbs 24:29). Even less, no one should take the law into his own hands. When somebody has done us wrong, we could make use of one of both possibilities, but they are both wrong. We are not allowed to repay somebody with the evil that he has done to us. We should not even say it, aloud or in our heart.

In order to have this mind, it is necessary to trust God. It does not escape Him that evil is done to us. Our reaction to that does not escape Him either. He knows how we can react. If we want to repay somebody, we take God’s place as Judge (Romans 12:19). We should surrender the injustice that has been done to us, “to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23), like the Lord Jesus did. This was also the attitude that David had towards Saul. He did not want to be his own judge, but surrendered Saul to God and waited for what He was going to do with Saul. In this way he has not been disappointed.

Verses 30-34

Lesson of the Sluggard

In Proverbs 24:30-Nahum : the wise Solomon tells about a walk that he made and what he noticed during that walk. He connects a lesson for himself and for his son to it. It happened when he “passed by the field of the sluggard” (Proverbs 24:30). He did not search for that field, but just passed by it. Yes, that field used to be a vineyard, which was the impression that he had anyway, but nothing was left of it anymore. That was, because the management of it was in the hands “of a man lacking sense”. Only such a man, without any sense of responsibility, can neglect his vineyard like that. It is not about somebody without backbone here, but about somebody without brains, without sense, literally without a heart. He did not lack power, but will.

“And behold” (Proverbs 24:31), while he was passing by, he observed some things. The wise man was not daydreaming or sleepwalking, but he observed the situation around him. There was not just some weed in the field, no, “it was completely overgrown with thistles”. There was no spot of soil to be seen, for the “surface was covered with nettles”. The place where the grapes should have been growing, was covered with thistles and nettles. That does not happen overnight. The work had not been going on for a long time.

A comparable situation can happen in the life of a believer who is unfaithful to the Lord and is forgetting about Him more and more. The good fruits of the faith that rejoice the heart (of which the vineyard speaks) disappear and will be replaced by thistles and nettles that hurt and are harmful. The consequences of sin in creation have found a place in the personal life of the believer.

The wise also saw that “his stone wall has been broken down”. All protection was gone. The territory was open for everyone. If the house of the sluggard had also been there, then any burglar could have easily found his way there.

It is about a field that had formerly been a vineyard. Israel is compared to the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-Judges :). The vineyard is supposed to deliver wine. Wine is a picture of joy (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15). God would have loved to rejoice in His people, but His people did not give Him that joy. Due to laziness, the vineyard changed into a field, on which the symbols of sins (Genesis 3:18), the works of the flesh, was rampant.

We can make an application here. When we are spiritually lazy, then ‘thistles’ and ‘nettles’, meaning sinful things, will overgrow the vineyard of our lives. God can therefore not rejoice in us, for nothing in it reminds Him of the life of the Lord Jesus. And if we let the wall of separation from the world be broken down, then the world and the worldly thinking will enter into our lives and we will become victims of the destruction.

After the observation in Proverbs 24:30-Obadiah :, the wise also draws a lesson for himself from it and shares it with us (Proverbs 24:32-Nahum :). He saved in his heart what he saw. It contains an admonition, one without words. One of the best methods of teaching is that we observe something, meaning that we consider something very carefully and take it to heart. Then we shall really learn from it. If we see the bad consequences of a deed or an attitude, it should be a warning for us not to do such things or take such an attitude.

What Solomon has seen and what meant an admonition to him, will keep him from falling into laziness. It begins with a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands. It is all about a little. But all those littles look like the walker who also does not walk fast, but gradually goes his way. And all those littles together are like an armed man. All the littles of sleep and slumber and lying with folding hand together, result in the suffering of poverty and lack (Proverbs 6:10-1 Kings :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 24". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-24.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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