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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 25

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Verse 1

Transcribed Proverbs of Solomon

Here a new part of the book begins: Proverbs 25-29. It contains additional proverbs of Solomon, which had been collected by the men of king Hezekiah (715-687/686 B.C.). These men lived about 270 years after Solomon’s death. Solomon has written 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32) out of which a number have been recorded in God’s Word in the previous chapters. Now a number of proverbs comes out of the same supply. These proverbs have been transcribed by “the men of Hezekiah” and are also recorded in God’s Word.

So, they are not new proverbs. They have already been there in the time Solomon, the time when the kingdom existed in glory. Hezekiah is one of the last kings of Judah, the kingdom of the two tribes. In his days the kingdom of ten tribes were taken away by the Assyrians. Not long thereafter, the kingdom of the two tribes had been taken away as well, by Nebuchadnezzar. That means that Hezekiah had lived in an end time.

He was a God-fearing king to whom the Word of God regained authority. That is why God revived His people through him. The “proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed” are a proof of it. It shows that to us, who are also living in an end time, it is important to recognize the authority of God’s Word and to apply this ‘ancient’ Word in our lives. We do not profit from ‘new truth’. In an end time it is important that we go back to “what was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1), that we ask for “the ancient paths, where the good way is”, so that we walk in them (Jeremiah 6:16).

The truths that have been entrusted to the church are two thousand years old already, but they are just as topical as in those days. It is not about new truths, but about a renewed experience of old truths. The publication of the writings that have remained unnoticed for a long time, though appearing to be of topical contents, is a good service to the church.

Verses 2-7

Kings and Those Who Are With Them

The men of Hezekiah begin, under the guidance of God’s Spirit, with a number of proverbs about kings. Above all they start with presenting the exaltation of God above all earthly kings. Proverbs 25:2 emphasizes a contrast between God and kings. It is a beautiful nature of God to “conceal a matter”. If God does not explain His government of the universe and His intentions and actions, it is His honor, His glory, His sovereignty. He does not need to give any account of His intentions or actions.

The most powerful people on earth such as kings, form a great contrast with Him. God does not need to figure anything out. He knows everything, but it is the honor of the kings to discover, expose or figure out things (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 11:33-Nahum :). Kings have to examine things as much as they possibly can. They also have to make things open and understandable to their subordinates, especially when it is about judicious matters.

Kings are ruling as God’s representatives. They must try to manifest His will in all human matters. Therefore, they should ask God to reveal His will, so that He unfolds the mystery of His will in the particular situation. The subordinates of a king respect him and honor him when he examines a matter diligently and does not make decisions based on superficial knowledge of a matter.

We can apply this to ourselves as believers. We are also kings (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10). It is a work of royal dignity, an honor and a challenge, to search what God had hidden in the Scripture. He wants to reveal the mysteries. However, they can only be discovered and understood by spiritually minded believers, which are those who allowed themselves to be led by God’s Spirit, for the Spirit can reveal Himself to those (1 Corinthians 2:10-2 Kings :).

While a king has to search out, especially judicial matters (Proverbs 25:2) to the people, there are many things he keeps secret in his heart (Proverbs 25:3). He holds a position whereby he doesn’t have to give account for all his activities. The comparison with heaven which is high and the earth which is deep, shows the nature of the king. He has to be wise, inventive and unsearchable and should always be one step ahead of everyone, in order to keep a firm grip on the power.

Man has to acknowledge that “the heavens for height” and “the earth for depth” are unsearchable (cf. Jeremiah 31:37). What they contain goes far beyond the comprehension of all searchers. It is how “the heart of kings” is. It is unsearchable for the other. And surely the heart of the believer is unsearchable to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 2:15). Only God fully knows the heart of every man (Jeremiah 17:9-2 Samuel :).

Proverbs 25:4 is an illustration to clarify Proverbs 25:5. Proverbs 25:4 means that the smith can produce a pure silver art work, after removing the dross. This is applied in Proverbs 25:5 to the removal of a wicked from the presence of a king, by which his throne is confirmed by righteousness. A king may have great ideals for his government and his behavior may be blameless, but it does not benefit in any way when he is surrounded by unscrupulous courtiers who deceive him. When these people are removed, the government will only consist of righteous counselors and will therefore be confirmed by righteousness.

It is about removing the possibilities that could take away the firmness of the throne. As dross is being separated from silver, bad people should be removed so that the government of a king can be righteous (Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 20:8; Malachi 3:3). It is not enough for a ruler to be righteous; his co-workers ought to be upright people too, so that his government is good. King Solomon had to judge several evildoers before he could sit safely and peacefully on his throne (1 Kings 2:23-Lamentations :; 1 Kings 2:29-Nahum :1 Kings 2:41-1 Corinthians :).

It can be applied to the heart of man. Who is sitting on the throne? If sin and unrighteousness are there, they should be condemned. Then it is possible to live a life that is subjected to the authority of the Lord Jesus.

The same principle is true with regard to the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. When He returns to the earth in triumph, power and majesty, the wicked people will be eliminated and all transgressors will be extinguished from the land. This judgment will mark the great day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:3-2 Kings :; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Kings :; Revelation 19:11-Ecclesiastes :).

The Proverbs 25:6-Judges : go hand in hand. It is wiser to wait for promotion than running the risk of being degraded due to self-promotion. It is an overestimation of one’s own interest. ‘Claiming honor’ (Proverbs 25:6) means ‘behaving arrogantly’. The word “for” with which Proverbs 25:7 begins, indicates that the reason for the warning is mentioned, which was given in the previous verse.

The lesson is simple. Claiming honor for yourself in court, “in the presence of the king”, includes the risk of a public humiliation. But it will be an honor to someone if everyone in court hears about his promotion from the mouth of the king himself. The lesson is also taught in Luke 14 (Luke 14:8-1 Kings :).

It may regard one’s recommendation about himself, putting himself forward as the most suitable candidate for a position in the presence of the king, for example as one of his counsellors (cf. Matthew 20:20-Joel :). One may find of himself that he should “stand in the place of great men”. This self-overestimation can end up in a public humiliation. “A prince whom your eyes have seen”, may be the one who is entitled to the place which the person involved has taken by his own power.

Verses 8-10

Advices for Arguing Your Case

One should not be eager to be a witness, so that he will not be humiliated publicly (Proverbs 25:8). One might have seen or heard something, which could give him a reason to accuse somebody. But consider well that it is a risk to do that. When it becomes apparent that he is wrong, he will be publicly humiliated by the person who has been humiliated by him. It may even cause him to be ruined.

It is a warning to be careful to accuse somebody without enough evidence. It may occur that someone accuses another person to profit from it financially. He reveals some details on something the other person has done. But when it appears that it is not true, or when the evidences are poor, he himself will be ridiculed and have to pay all the legal costs. There have been a lot of these kinds of scandalous court cases.

The best thing that anyone could do when he is involved in a dispute with another person, is to argue this case with the other person behind closed doors (Proverbs 25:9; Matthew 18:15). This is to prevent public shame. The thought is that when someone is in dispute with his neighbor and makes public what has been entrusted to him in secret, he will be reproached and always have a bad name (Proverbs 25:10). Disputes can never be successfully resolved when the resolution is achieved at the expense of one’s integrity or pain. Therefore, never reveal any secrets, in order to keep yourself from blame in a dispute.

Verses 11-14

Precious Words and Empty Words

Proverbs 25:11 is about the great value and incomparable beauty of “a word” that “is spoken in right circumstances”. The expression which is translated with ‘in right circumstances’ is literally ‘on its wheels’, which means: a word that easily goes on like smooth rolling wheels. It comes at the right time and is precisely applicable to the right person and the circumstances in which he/she finds him/herself. It is about just “a word”, not a long speech (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:19). Such a word is like “apples of gold”, like healthy fruits which have the value of Divine glory, represented in the gold, while they are being served in the awareness of acquired reconciliation, represented in the silver.

“Apples of gold in settings of silver” are valuable words spoken in a pleasant atmosphere. Above all, that goes for the Word of God, for everything that God has spoken. The Lord Jesus spoke the words to Nicodemus which he precisely needed at that moment (John 3:1-1 Kings :). In that way the Lord also spoke to the Samaritan woman and to Zacchaeus. But He also spoke the words to the Pharisees and Sadducees that they needed. He did not speak what they preferred to hear, but what was beneficial to them. We can follow His example in this.

In addition to Proverbs 25:11, it is about “a wise reprover” in Proverbs 25:12, which is someone who speaks the right word to the right person at the right time. When such a person speaks a word “to a listening ear”, “it is like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold”. A wise reproof that is well-received remains valuable. A listening ear does not only recognize the wisdom of the reprover, but sees the great beauty as that of the ornaments for the ear and the neck.

The ornaments symbolize that a listening ear radiates the glory of God (gold). In that way God is being glorified. A listening ear does not only hear the reproof, but also obeys it. The listener bows down, the neck bows down. There is no stubbornness. If the neck bows itself, it will be decorated with an ornament “of fine gold”. The verse is the ideal combination of a wise father or teacher and a willing son or pupil. The friends of Job have not been wise reprovers. Therefore, Job did not have a listening ear to them.

In Proverbs 25:13 there is a description of the effect of valuable words for the senders of “a faithful messenger”. A faithful messenger is someone who passes on the words of his senders precisely as the words were given to him by his senders for the person to whom he was sent. Such a messenger is like “the cold of snow in the time of harvest” for the sender. Hard work is needed during the harvest. Therefore a refreshment is most welcome. A faithful messenger causes “the soul of his master” to have such a refreshment or encouragement when he has faithfully fulfilled his mission. Faithfulness is always encouraging, is always refreshing.

Christ was the faithful Messenger of God. Paul was such a faithful messenger of God (1 Corinthians 4:1-Exodus :). When we become servants or messengers of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), our faithfulness will be a refreshment for our Master (Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23).

The promises of a boaster are hollow and empty (Proverbs 25:14). The illustration here is that when we see clouds and wind, it causes us to expect rain. When the rain doesn’t come, the clouds and the wind do draw our attention, but they disappoint us in our expectation and they are therefore deceitful. That’s the comparison the wise uses of the braggart that brags about the gifts that he gives. But the promise is deceitful; he does not give anything, for he doesn’t have anything. His mouth is bigger than his hand.

The lesson is not to expect anything from men who promise something with woolly language. We also see these false promises in certain circles who boast that they can do things like provide healing from sickness, or deliverance from depression, or success in business. Jude applies it in his letter to false teachers in the church when he speaks about “clouds without water, carried along by winds” (Jude 1:11-1 Chronicles :). It is also applicable to ourselves when we promise to do something for somebody and we do not do it. We raise expectations by our promise, but it is like clouds without water.

Verse 15

The Power of Forbearance and of a Soft Tongue

By forbearance and tender words, we can overcome an insurmountable opponent (cf. Luke 18:1-Ruth :). A request submitted with perseverance and soft words to a ruler, will surely be granted. The point is, not to use physical nor verbal violence, but to operate in the power of the Spirit: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6; cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-Lamentations :).

That a soft tongue can break the bone, means that by speaking softly we can break down tough opposition. The verse is a recommendation of reconciling and convincing advocacy which finally will triumph over the most determined resistance. “A gentle word takes away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). This is an important advice for conversations between husband and wife and parents and children and for all other relationships we have.

Verses 16-17

Advice to Be Moderate

People should, also while enjoying the food that they like, know how to be moderate (Proverbs 25:16). Too much can be dangerous. Moderation, “[only] what you need”, is necessary for the pleasures that life offers. When there is moderation, one can really enjoy something of it. Jonathan found “honey” (1 Samuel 14:25-Amos :). He enjoyed it. It brightened up his countenance and it strengthened him so that he could continue his way.

For us this means: “All things are lawful” (1 Corinthians 6:12). But we should consider that something more is added to it: “But I will not be brought under the power of any.” Honey is a picture of the natural things like within marriage and family. They are given by God and therefore good. We can enjoy them. But when we ‘eat’ more then we need, which means that we give them too much room in our lives, it will move our service to God to the background and we will become spiritually sick.

Also, by visiting our neighbor or a family member, people should know how to be moderate (Proverbs 25:17). Here we should also apply: Excess is killing. Proverbs 25:16; Proverbs 25:17 are comparable in their words and ideas. Both verses recommend moderation, the one in eating honey, the other one in visiting someone. Proverbs 25:16 is about ‘too much honey’, Proverbs 25:17 is about ‘too much of yourself’.

The admonition “let your foot rarely be” means: It should be precious for your neighbor or family member that you visit him or her. Something that is rare, is also precious. The motivation for the warning is that the misuse of intimacy, will make someone to be fed up and will cause hatred. Visitors and fish smell after three days.

If we desire to have too much of something, it may cause that our relationship with God will be replaced by that particular thing, which will make something good turn into something bad. We might think that we have a gift to serve a person and therefore visit him frequently to exercise our gift. But we must realize that this person doesn’t need our presence, but the Lord’s. We should give him as much help as he needs to be driven unto the Lord.

Verses 18-20

False Witness, False Confidence, False Comfort

“A false witness” causes death in the society (Proverbs 25:18). He who bears false witness, is compared to “a club; a sword and a sharp arrow”, which are all lethal weapons. The club crushes, the sword cuts off and the sharp arrow pierces. A false witness may cause the death of innocent people by his false words (cf. Proverbs 12:18; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 120:3-Numbers :). That there is not just one, but even three of these weapons are mentioned, makes clear how serious the evil is of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20).

“A bad tooth and an unsteady foot” are both unfit to do anything (Proverbs 25:19). Chewing with a bad tooth and walking on an unsteady foot are both painful actions which in the one case keeps one from eating and in the other case from walking. The same effect has “the confidence of a faithless man in the day of trouble”. When it really becomes difficult and we are afflicted in the society or in the church, then one of the greatest disappointments is that you have trusted someone who is faithless.

When this happens to us, we can consider that God is faithful. “God is our refuge and strength; He is a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1; Psalms 91:15).

Irresponsible, insensitive attempts to cheer people up who are in sorrow, just make the sorrow worse (Proverbs 25:20). They are words that are not spoken at the right time (Proverbs 25:11). The wise man compares such a man with someone who takes away a garment from another person on a cold day. He puts him in the cold. That’s totally different from giving him extra warmth. He is totally insensitive to what the other needs. The second comparison is putting sour wine on alkaline. A not desirable chemical reaction will happen. It will start to bubble, there seems to be an activity, but it only results in an empty foam. Sour wine and alkaline are not compatible. When it continues to happen, they both become useless.

We ought to be alert and sensitive with regard to the emotional need in which people may find themselves. We should develop that sensitivity to others, otherwise we give other people a ‘cold shower’ instead of giving them a ‘warm bath’ of compassion. There is no ‘chemistry’ between someone who sings cheerful songs and someone with a sad heart (cf. Psalms 137:1-Leviticus :). Paul is telling us: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Verses 21-22

To Embarrass an Enemy

God wants us to treat a person who hates us, friendly. By treating our hater in the opposite way as he treats us, we act in accordance with Who God is (Proverbs 25:21). This is how He deals with man and how He has dealt with us before we knew Him. He wants us to give our hater the most elementary basic needs, “bread” and “water”, in case he needs it. In the history of Elisha, where we read how he treats the King of Syria, we see a wonderful illustration (2 Kings 6:18-Isaiah :).

The word “for” with which Proverbs 25:22 begins, indicates the reason why we should act in such a way as it is written in the previous verse. By doing good to someone who hates us, instead of the evil that he does to us, we heap “burning coals on his head”. Heaping burning coals on someone, is not to consume him, but to make him melt. The picture of the “burning coals” represents a remorse, which develops more easily by gentleness rather than by violence. These glowing coals cause the sharp pain of remorse through regret of the hatred which filled his heart (Proverbs 18:19; Proverbs 20:22Proverbs 24:17; 1 Samuel 24:18-Proverbs :). Paul quotes these verses in Romans 12 (Romans 12:20).

To this act God attaches the promise of a revenge in the sense of a reward. We give something away, it doesn’t cost us anything, and we do that surprisingly to our enemy. That, however, doesn’t make us poorer, but even much richer. God does not forget that we have done this and will compensate it. If we deal with our enemies as God deals with His enemies, it pleases Him. What we invest in it, He will compensate. The Lord Jesus has set the example.

Verses 23-24

A Back-Biting Tongue and a Quarreling Wife

A “backbiting tongue” is a secretive tongue, a tongue of a hidden place. It is talking behind someone’s back, slandering him and speaking evil about him. Sooner or later the person whom he talks about will find out. It will bring forth angry countenances to him and his family, like the northerly wind causes rain. In Israel it is unusual that the northerly wind causes rain; which the westerly wind does. When it does, it surely is not pleasant. This is how a backbiting tongue operates. It can speak flattering words, but instead of laughing countenances, it brings forth “angry countenances”.

The backbiting tongue from Proverbs 25:23 has changed into the sharp tongue of “a contentious woman” in Proverbs 25:24. The repetition of this verse (Proverbs 21:9) deepens its interest. Contentious means quarreling about all possible matters that are to be done and decisions that are to be made. She does not accept that the husband is the head of the family. It is a proverb which is more a sigh and contains an advice.

It doesn’t mean that the husband draws back from the house and goes to live by himself because he is fed up with the quarrelling. It is a warning for everyone who yet has to start with a marriage. One can better live in peaceful loneliness and simplicity than in a big house in the company of someone with whom he shares everything, but who always quarrels. Therefore, ‘think first, act later’ and look for a God-fearing wife.

Verses 25-26

What Does and What Does Not Quench the Thirst

Good news that comes from a far place and for which people have waited long, has the same effect as “cold water to a weary soul” (Proverbs 25:25). It refreshes and invigorates a person who longs for news from a loved one that has gone to a distant land. At the time when there were not yet the means of communication we have now, it took a lot of time before the news reached those who were left behind (cf. Genesis 45:27; 1 Thessalonians 3:5-Ruth :). The aspect of time does not play such a major role anymore. But a good message that reaches us via the modern media within a second after it has been sent, has the same effect to a loved one. A good message causes a change in life.

A good message from a distant land can also be applied to the gospel. The word ‘gospel’ literally means ‘good news’. The gospel has come to us from a distant land, which is heaven. The shepherds had experienced it like that when a messenger from heaven said to them: “I bring you good news [literally: evangelize] … For today there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-1 Kings :). In the gospel the living water is offered to everyone who is thirsty. Whoever is thirsty, is allowed to take from it without cost (Revelation 22:17).

The Lord Jesus says to the weary soul: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). He who goes through life wearily and suffers from the burden of his sins, can find rest and refreshment with Him. The gospel is the greatest thirst quencher and changer of life. It is an exhortation to pass on the good news to every heavy-laden soul.

In contrast to the cold, refreshing water is “a trampled spring”, for example by animals that walk through it (cf. Ezekiel 34:18), and “a polluted well”, for example caused by a dead animal that has fallen into it (Proverbs 25:26). They are a disaster scenario for the easterner who is travelling through the desert. When he arrives weary and thirsty at such a spring or well, he realizes with dismay that the water from the spring, which he needs so desperately, is not potable. It does not only have a bad taste, but it is often also poisonous, which causes it to be harmful to the body and even lethal.

The wise Solomon uses this illustration to describe the righteous man who in the presence of a wicked man loses his steadfastness in faith by fear or favor. This is just as discouraging as finding a trampled spring where one wants to quench his thirst. Lot was such a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7) who walked in the sight of the wicked. He dwelled in Sodom. That was a trampled spring and a polluted well out of which he had drunk a lot, that he even became such a polluted well (Genesis 19:1-Zechariah :). He was not able to be a refreshment for others. What had become a life style for Lot, also occurred to Jacob as an incident, during an encounter with his wicked brother Esau (Genesis 33:3).

Today, this is applicable to Christians who lose themselves in the world. They ought to be a well of life to others, but they live a worldly life. What they say, comes from a trampled spring and a polluted well. They are not able to refresh others. When they get in trouble, they waver, while the wicked are watching them. They are an anti-testimony. It can happen to people who go into politics, into business or choose to study. They come into contact with all kinds of wrong things or doctrines, such as the evolution theory. When they become influenced by those aspects, they become like a trampled spring and a polluted well.

Verse 27

What Determines One’s Own Glory

Eating too much of what in itself is allowed to be eaten (Proverbs 24:13), is not good. The emphasis is not on what’s good about it, but on what is not good about it. Honey represents the sweetness of the good earthly things. We are allowed to enjoy those things, while we are thanking God for them (1 Timothy 4:4-Deuteronomy :). But there is a certain danger in this. That danger is that we start to seek honor in those things. That appears from the second line of the verse which begins with “but” and in that way is a contrast to the first line of the verse.

When someone brought a grain offering, he was not allowed to prepare it with honey (Leviticus 2:11). The grain offering is a picture of the Lord Jesus in His perfect life. In His life He never allowed Himself to be led by the natural relations that He also had. His mother could not divert Him from the way that His Father wanted Him to go, while He always remained respectful to His mother. In our service to God we ought to do that too.

“Eating much honey” seems to be about seeking honor for ourselves in the natural things, such as our family, our work, our position. Our honor, however, should lie in “searching out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). It is not about our honor in relationships, but about obtaining insight in the important things that God has prepared for us, based on the work of His Son. The searching of a matter draws the attention that we have on ourselves, to God and His will with and for us. Then we shall examine His Word, about which is written that it is “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalms 19:10).

Verse 28

Lack of Self-Control

“A city that is broken into [and] without walls” is totally unprotected. Every malicious person can freely enter into it and carry out his evil plans. He can also choose his victims carefully, for nobody stops him. “A man who has no control over his spirit” is “[like] a city that is broken into [and] without walls”, which is a city without protection. He cannot control himself. As soon as something happens that he does not like, he gets carried away. He also gets carried away as soon as there is something that he wants. He is unrestrained in his ways. This makes him a very easy victim to (spiritual) enemies that seek his destruction. Without him being aware of it, his person gets possessed by powers that are stronger than himself.

In this life-threatening situation a change for the better can only happen when the Holy Spirit gets the control over one’s spirit. Therefore, he has to repent and surrender his life under the authority of Christ. Then the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in him and self-control will be a part of the fruit of the Spirit in him (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22-Isaiah :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 25". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-25.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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