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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Proverbs 26

Verse 1

Honor Is Not Fitting For a Fool


The fool that Pro 26:1-12 is talking about is not someone who is mentally disturbed, but a rebellious person who denies God and is totally not interested in becoming wise. He is blind to his foolishness and does not seek to be liberated from it. The fear of the LORD does not interest him at all.

“Honor” is not fitting for “a fool”, just like “snow in the summer and rain in harvest time” are not fitting either. They simply do not go together. A fool is not to receive recognition, not to be clothed with power, not to get any position of influence. If he would receive honor, it will not change him, for he is and remains a fool in his thinking, speaking and doing.

It is not only contrary to the laws of nature, like snow in summer is not fitting, it is also harmful to what serves as food, like rain in harvest time. One of the evil things that Solomon has seen, is that “folly is set in many exalted places” (Ecc 10:6). Honor to a fool is like a sore thumb at a wedding.

Verse 2

A Curse Without Cause Does Not Alight


The flitting of “a sparrow” and the flying of “a swallow” is unpredictable and happens without any cause. Because they cannot be caught, there is no use trying it. So it is with a curse that a fool speaks without cause. It will have no effect.

Only fools curse like that. The foolish Saul cursed, which did not alight (1Sam 14:28; 45). The foolish Goliath “cursed David by his gods” (1Sam 17:43-44) and he himself got killed. Shimei cursed David and was punished for it (2Sam 16:5-14; 1Kgs 2:8). So did the curses of Jeremiah’s enemies dissolve into nothingness (Jer 15:10b).

For the Old Testament believer, it is fitting to ask God concerning the wicked who does him wrong: “He also loved cursing, so it came to him” (Psa 109:17a). If we as New Testament believers have to do with people who curse us, we are allowed to respond in the way that the Lord Jesus presents to us: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:27-28).

Verse 3

A Fool Is Like a Mule Without Understanding


A fool is as difficult to exhort and to direct as “the horse” and “the donkey”. Neither the fool nor these animals respond to words. The animals are to be driven by “a whip” and “a bridle” (cf. Jam 3:3; 7-8; Psa 32:8-10). The fool must be called to order by the rod, because he cannot be called on his understanding. He is not to be given control, but he is to be controlled. The comparison with the mentioned animals makes clear that the fool has lost his human dignity and is treated the same way.

We can apply this spiritually to “empty talkers and deceivers” (Tit 1:10), who we may consider fools. We must be very strict towards them: they “must be silenced” (Tit 1:11). Being very strict to them is to be compared with the use of the rod.

Verses 4-5

When Should We Answer or Not Answer a Fool


After an instruction in Pro 26:3 on how a fool should be dealt with, an instruction follows in Pro 26:4-5 on how a fool must be spoken with. The two verses are very similar and seem to contradict each other at first sight. But that cannot be the case of course. What seems to be a contradiction appears to be perfection on closer inspection. It is a matter of careful reading.

In Pro 26:4 the indication is “not to answer a fool according to his folly”. The second line of the verse explains why that should not happen. Here it is about the consequence for the one who would answer. When you answer him, you become like him. If you respond to him, you also become a fool. This happens when you in your response descend to his level of thinking. Therefore you are not to do that. Do not lower yourself to the level of the fool by answering his foolish question and enter into discussion with him as if he is a wise man.

We can apply this admonition to what Paul is saying to Timothy: “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2Tim 2:23). We should not answer foolish and ignorant speculations, for otherwise we contribute to the cause of the quarrels.

In Pro 26:5 the indication is to answer “a fool as his folly [deserves]”. The second line of the verse explains why that should happen. Here it is about the consequence for the fool. Whoever rebukes a fool, discourages him to think highly of himself.

The reason why these two verses are put together, is to show that the human problems are often complicated and not always can be solved by an appeal to some rules. It depends on the situation. In one case we should not lower ourselves to the level of the fool, for then we enter the circle of fools. In the other case we are supposed to, for then the fool is put in his place.

Paul was once forced to speak as an unwise man, which is as a fool. That was to correct the Corinthians, who were wise in their own eyes (2Cor 11:16-17; 2Cor 12:11). The prophet Micha did both the one and the other towards Ahab (1Kgs 22:15; 17). If there is any mercy in our heart and also the willingness not to take away anything from God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will show us how we should respond to anyone (Col 4:6).

A preacher once answered a fool according to his folly. When he was asked a foolish question which was not answerable, he answered: ‘You can find the answer in the second chapter of the letter of Jude.’

Another remark that may be helpful to understand these two verses, are to be found in the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud contains the commentaries of the most influential rabbis and other scribes on the Tenach, which is the Old Testament. It states that Pro 26:4 presumably refers to the foolish commentaries which are to be ignored and that Pro 26:5 refers to a misinterpretation of matters that must be corrected.

Verses 6-7

To Cut Off Feet and Lamed Legs


He who uses a fool as a messenger, will make himself to get into deep problems (Pro 26:6; cf. Pro 25:13). First of all, it is like cutting off his own feet. The sending of a messenger is as it were having a different pair of feet. The feet of the messenger are the feet of the sender. Nothing good will come forth from the message with which the fool has been sent on a mission. He will not arrive at the right address or he will deliver a wrong message.

The consequences are that the sender will face the violence of the addressee. The addressee has not received the message which he was waiting for or he received it in a damaged condition, which makes him draw the wrong conclusion. That harms the existing good relations. The lesson is that it is better not to send a message than using a fool.

We can apply this to religious organizations that use unbelievers to spread the message of the gospel. Those organizations consider themselves an enterprise that must be run by skilled ‘businessmen’ who are successful in selling a message, which is the gospel in this case. The annual Dutch spectacular performance which is called ‘The Passion’, a dishonoring display of God which is about the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, is an example of it. Dutch celebrities are hired to sell the ‘product’ as best they can. But the result is that nothing is left from the gospel and that the testimony of the biblical gospel gets damaged.

Pro 26:7 complements Pro 26:6. A lame has legs, but they are useless for him, for he cannot use them. He cannot make a single step with them. In that way a fool can speak out a proverb, but he does not know what it means. The proverb remains limp as the legs of a lame man; it is in his mouth without power. That is the case with all those wicked fools – people who don’t want to know anything about the fear of the LORD – who are hired to play a role in The Passion. They talk the Bible over like parrots, but they do not know what they’re talking about.

Verses 8-9

Dangerous and Painful


“One who binds a stone in a sling” (Pro 26:8), shows that he doesn’t know anything about a sling. A stone is not to be bound in sling but must be put in it loose. When the stone is bound in a sling, you can turn it around anyway you want, but the stone will not be shot away from the sling. Actually, it can be very dangerous, for the defensive weapon does not work by improper use. David would have been killed by Goliath if he had bound the stone in his sling. Because he had put the stone loose in the sling, he killed Goliath with it.

In that way, one “who gives honor to a fool”, does not know anything about a fool. A fool cannot deal with responsibility. He does not know what he is doing. He who gives a fool a responsible position will suffer its consequences to his own disadvantage.

A drunkard is not able to think soberly (Pro 26:9). Nor can he go a steady course. He speaks nonsense and waddles in the street. In his drunkenness he just grabs a thorn bush, which causes the thorn to pierce in his hand. Because he is drunk he does not notice anything of it. The thorn is a symbol of sin; after the fall the thorns appeared (Gen 3:18). The hand is a symbol of working, of being active. In that way sin sticks to everything he does, while he does not notice it.

This picture is applicable to fools who take “a proverb in their mouth”. Like a drunkard who does not feel the thorn that is piercing into his hand, so are fools with no understanding of the proverb in their mouth. They are darkened in their understanding, but they think that they can speak wise words. A fool is able to read or speak a proverb, but mentally and spiritually he is not able to understand it. He will misuse it and apply it incorrectly.

People who do not have a living relationship with God by the faith in the Lord Jesus, can quote statements from God’s Word. But sin is attached to what they say. This goes especially for liberal theologians who read aloud texts from God’s Word and then give their own sinful explanation on it.

Verse 10

What Fools Do, Brings Sorrow


The hiring of “a fool” or “those who pass by” shows the folly of him who does it. He who hires such people are compared to an archer who shoots off arrows haphazardly, by which everyone can be hit and wounded. “A fool” is just an unfaithful employee as those who accidently “pass by” of whom you neither know what kind of people they are. Everyone who hires – which means employs – a fool or a passer-by, gives him the opportunity to cause great loss by doing so. The general meaning is that undisciplined hired fools have the same effect as the haphazardly shooting of an archer.

Verse 11

A Fool Who Repeats His Folly


“A dog” that “returns to his vomit” to eat again what he had once vomited, is quite a disgusting picture. At the same time it is a very powerful picture of “a fool who repeats his folly”. A fool will never learn. No matter how many his experiences are and how often he has already said that he will break with his folly, he goes back to his life in sinful folly again and again.

Peter quotes this verse in his second letter (2Pet 2:21-22). He uses this proverb because it truthfully portrays what happens when someone has professed the Christian faith and then returns to the world. A dog is an unclean animal that greedily and shamelessly stuffs themselves with whatever it finds or gets with no sense (cf. Isa 56:11). A dog does not know when to stop. When he has eaten too much, he vomits it. When he gets hungry again he eats his own vomit.

This illustration is applicable to people who have first forsaken the world, but then, stimulated by false teachers returns to it. They did not find inward satisfaction in the world and therefore turned their back to it. Now they turn back to it. This shows that they inwardly have not really changed. The dog remains to be a dog.

Verse 12

A Man Who Is Wise in His Own Eyes


There is a man who is worse than a fool and that is someone who is wise in his own eyes. Self-conceit is in fact a part of the folly that is described in this book. An arrogant fool is the biggest fool. Haughty arrogance and an imaginary feeling of superiority place a man outside the range of any help or correction. The prophet Isaiah says to such people: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isa 5:21). For them there is only a ‘woe’ left, a judgment without an end.

We are “not to think more highly” of ourselves than we “ought to think” (Rom 12:3; Gal 6:3). To us it is also said: “Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Rom 12:16).

Verses 13-16

The Lazy Fool


Pro 26:13-16 are about the sluggard (Pro 6:6-11; Pro 24:30-34). We see the increasing passivity. First of all, he doesn’t come out of his house (Pro 26:13). Then he doesn’t come out of his bed (Pro 26:14). Finally, he doesn’t even take off his hand out of a dish (Pro 26:15). There is no movement in him at all and he can neither be moved.

He is fooling himself that the circumstances do not allow him to work (Pro 26:13). The sluggard is lazy, and a lazy man comes up with the most absurd excuses not to work (Pro 22:13). He sees a danger wherever he goes, in the street, in the open square. And wherever he goes he sees the resistance of the devil of which the lion is a picture (1Pet 5:8), and which is hindering him to work. The real excuse is not fear, but laziness.

The sluggard is just as stuck to his bed as “a door on its hinges” (Pro 26:14). He is in no way able to come out of his bed, just as a door on its hinges. The sluggard is turning on his hinges as it were in his bed. Just as a door moves back and forth, but doesn’t come out of his place, the sluggard turns from the one to the other side. A door has another function: it opens and closes, while the sluggard remains on the bed with no function.

The sluggard is even too lazy to bring the food which he took into his hand “to his mouth” (Pro 26:15). In Proverbs 19 a similar kind of verse is written, though a little bit vaguer (Pro 19:24). Here it is said more strongly. Burying his hand in the dish has cost him so much energy that he has become weary. The wise man is making fun of the sluggard here. It is a ridiculous illustration of his situation. The intention of the exaggeration is also to make clear to the sluggard that he makes himself ridiculous.

Here we see a picture of people who are too lazy to examine God’s Word. They know something about it, they bury their hands in it and are able to quote a text – of course one which suits themselves –, but they do not eat it. Studying it is too much work.

The sluggard is filled with self-conceit (Pro 26:16). He is very pleased with his laziness and esteems his perception of life higher than that of those who make effort to obtain wisdom and, in that way, become prudent. Those are in his eyes stupid people. Work is for the stupid people, in his opinion. Of course he finds his laziness fully justified. He keeps a siesta all day long and preaches it as the highest good to himself.

He so firmly believes in his own wisdom that nobody can convince him to do otherwise. Even seven (wise) people – which is a fullness of wisdom (Ezra 7:14; Est 1:14-15) – are not able to make him aware of how anti-social his laziness is. His laziness has taken away his reasoning. He is absolutely not willing to listen and admit that he is wrong. He can in no way understand the wise response of seven wise people. Any admonition addressed to him is blocked by his self-righteousness.

Verse 17

The Meddler


The man it concerns in this verse, is not a sluggard but one who is very busy, only with the wrong things. The meddler is one who is busy with matters that are none of his business. Someone who “meddles with strife not belonging to him” uninvited, asks for trouble. It is as dangerous as “taking a dog by the ears”, for that dog will bite you. It is not your dog, but a wild dog. You yourself will be harmed, which is something you are the only one to be blamed for.

An example of this is to be found in the life of king Josiah, who meddled in a battle between the king of Egypt and his enemy. It took his life (2Chr 35:20-24). Peter still points to the big difference between endurance as a Christian and suffering due to meddlesomeness (1Pet 4:15-16).

Are we not supposed to be peace makers? Are we not called for to do that (Mt 5:9)? We certainly are. To be a peace maker is an attitude of keeping peace with all people. It does not mean that a peace maker meddles in a quarrel in which he is not involved. He will not fantasize that he should meddle without being invited to, or as in order from the Lord to do so. We are not called to meddle in any dispute. The Lord Himself neither meddled in a disagreement about an inheritance (Lk 12:14).

Verses 18-19

To Fool ‘Just for Fun’


The meddler from Pro 26:17 has become “a madman” in Pro 26:18, or ‘someone who presents himself as a crazy man’. He is throwing materials that sow death and destruction. Someone who “deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?” (Pro 26:19) is compared to such a man. This kind of person is consciously seeking to deceive a neighbor for whatever reason. When he is exposed, he tries to tone down his deceit by saying that it was a joke. People should not worry about it. If they do, they are the bad guys to be blamed, not him.

Someone who has this kind of attitude is an unguided projectile, a dangerous madman. The wise man describes the deceiver who makes his deceit look like a joke, as irresponsible and dangerous. While he is seeking to hurt people, he claims when he is caught, that he has intended it as something funny, of which he now expects people to laugh about it. At the same time, he is trying to escape his punishment. This is how many people are going through life, ‘making fun’ all the way.

Verses 20-22

Gossip and Quarrels


The comparison in Pro 26:20 is that “wood” feeds fire and that a “whisperer” feeds contention. In order to keep a fire burning, fuel is needed. When there is no fuel, the fire goes out. The fire goes out when there is no more wood and the contention quietens down where there is no whisperer. Contention is like fire. It ignites others and destroys relationships.

The whisperer is the ignitor. He operates shrewdly; with his gossip he influences others negatively. Slander or gossip is fuel for contention. The whisperer must be deactivated. That is possible by silencing him. It is also possible by not listening to him. Then the contention will quieten down and cease.

The whisperer from Pro 26:20 is “the contentious man” in Pro 26:21. He has a nose for “strife” and knows how to “kindle” it. He delivers the fuel for it and throws it on the fire when there are tensions somewhere. There is a fire already and he adds the necessary fuel to it.

He is the counter picture of a peace maker, for he causes strife. And when the strife seems to be disappearing, he starts the fire once again. He does that by speaking some nasty or insinuating words about someone which causes the quarreling parties to fight one another again ferociously. Let us take care not to cause disputes, and when a dispute has been settled, not to say things that cause the dispute to start up again.

Why do whisperers and contentious men often get the chance to do their destroying work? Because gossip is so attractive to the sinful flesh (Pro 26:22; Pro 18:8). “The words of a whisperer” are compared to dainty morsels. They are greedily and deeply enjoyed by those who hear them. If we do not reject the words of a whisperer, they will go down into the innermost parts of our body and influence our feelings negatively. It will remain there like a smoldering fire and will destroy us if we do not condemn ourselves for listening to those words and not having rebuked them.

Verses 23-28

Hypocrisy


One can camouflage the evil plans of his “wicked heart” (Pro 26:23) with “burning lips”, which means with a speech that burns of love. In a fervent speech such a person says pleasant things, but these things only conceal his bad character and his evil motives of devising evil.

The wise man compares such a hypocritical speech with “an earthen vessel” that has been “overlaid with silver dross”. The overlaying of the earthen vessel with something that looks like silver, makes the earthen vessel look wonderful, it is totally different from the clay which it is in reality. Also the silver is fake, for it is dross or in other words silver scrap (cf. Lk 11:39; Mt 23:27).

Pro 26:24 says in a different wording what has already been said in Pro 26:23. That is to prevent any misunderstanding about how deceptive a nice appearance can be as a covering for a corrupt heart. In the evil heart in Pro 26:23 “hatred” is disguised. “He who hates”, can say nice and kind things, but he “disguises with his lips”. Disguising is pretending hypocritically or masking: pretending to be otherwise than one is in reality. To hate is ‘a condition of the heart’; Pro 26:24 indicates that one who hates, carries this condition all the time.

The way that Joab approached Amasa and then killed him, illustrates this verse (2Sam 20:9-10). It is a warning for us not to allow ourselves to be deceived by what we see or hear. In an anti-God world, the Christian must not go his own way in gullibility, but with caution (Mt 10:16). Nehemiah was not gullible when his enemies tried to make him fall into the trap (Neh 6:1-4).

Pro 26:25 is directly connected to Pro 26:24. Solomon warns his son not to believe a hypocrite, even though he speaks “graciously”. Behind his gentle voice is hidden a heart in which there are “seven abominations”. It requires great shrewdness and wisdom to discern whether one can be believed or not. This verse may indicate a person who has already shown that he is unfaithful, but now uses words to hide his evil plans and put them into deeds.

‘Seven abominations’ indicates that this person is totally, thoroughly corrupt. Any kind of corruption is present in him. The hater devises abominations in his heart; he considers deeds that are horrific, terrible, and that those deeds which are now still plans, are addressed to him to whom he speaks graciously. His heart is a storage of abominations. Satan is the prototype of such a person, but there are also people who in this way look a lot like him.

To be able to discover the seven abominations behind a gracious voice, we need to be dependent on the Lord. If we hear something from someone whom we do not know or from somebody who is known to be unfaithful, we must ask the Lord to make clear whether he has true intentions. These intentions become clear anyway when that ‘friendly voice’ says things that go against the Word of God, as we can see in the conversation between satan and Eve.

Even though “hatred” remains unnoticed for a certain time because it “covers itself in guile”, there comes a moment when this evil will be irrevocably revealed (Pro 26:26). The place where it happens is “the assembly”. ‘The assembly’ is any meeting of people that have been gathered for a certain purpose. In this case we perhaps may think about a court case.

It is also applicable to the church of God, wherein God makes known that there is evil present. Ultimately all evil will be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10). For “there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Lk 12:2).

Whoever intends to cause another person into ruin will often experience that he himself will be led to ruin which he had devised for the other person (Pro 26:27; Psa 7:16-17; Psa 9:16; Psa 10:2). The digging of a pit and the rolling of a stone require hard work. It is about someone who makes a lot of efforts to cause another person into ruin. But “he who digs a pit will fall into it” (Ecc 10:8). And he who rolls a stone to hurt another person, he himself will be hurt by it when the stone suddenly comes back to him. It is the law of sowing and reaping, for “whatever a man sows he will also reap” (Gal 6:7b).

Abimelech who killed seventy men on one single stone, was killed himself by a part of a mill stone which was thrown on his head by a woman (Jdg 9:5; 18; 53). One is judged by the same standards of the unrighteousness by which he himself has judged, so that God’s righteousness is being done to him (cf. Jdg 1:6-7). Other histories that illustrate this verse are to be found in what happened to Haman who had a gallows made for Mordechai and what happened to the accusers of Daniel who had let him be thrown in the lions’ den (Est 7:10; Dan 6:24-28).

The reason why someone hurts others with his “lying tongue”, is because he hates them (Pro 26:28). He is being driven by hatred. His lying tongue is in “a flattering mouth”, which speaks flattering words. This is most visible in the way that satan approaches Eve. This is how satan still operates by his countless instruments, which are people who have him as their father. He is the father of lies that brings destruction. His nature is present in his followers and comes to expression in them. In politics we regularly see and hear some samples of it.

All of these proverbs about hypocrisy, powerfully teach us how much the God of truth hates every attempt of deceit. They warn us against any adaptation to the slightest deviation from the truth and any lack of sincerity in our speech. Deviations from the truth and lack of sincerity are absolutely incompatible with the Christian profession.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 26". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-26.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.