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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 29

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Verse 1

Who Hardens His Neck Will Suddenly Be Broken

This verse is a warning against perseverance in sin and ignoring “much reproof” for repentance. The reproofs can be given, for example, by the parents or by the government. God can also use a certain event for it, such as an accident. By all these reproofs He wants to appeal to the conscience. Here we can clearly see the patience of God. He doesn’t suddenly judge, but calls for repentance. Every reproof He lets come is a call.

But whoever “hardens [his] neck”, who keeps not listening, and who opposes reproof, or concludes that it is not that bad, “will suddenly be broken beyond remedy”. The word “hardens” is reminiscent of an ox who does not want to bend his neck under a yoke. Applied to a person, it represents a person who, despite countless attempts to get him to do what is in his own interest, refuses to do. A situation then arises in which recovery is no longer possible (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:16).

The verse also contains the serious message to the sinner that the time to repent is limited. “Behold, now is “the acceptable time”, behold, now is “the day of the salvation”” (2 Corinthians 6:2). God’s patience is great, conversion is still possible today, but it stops once and then it is eternally too late. There will be no second chance.

Verse 2

A Happy or a Sighing People

“When the righteous increase,” that is to say, when they take control of and govern the administration of the country, “the people rejoice” by the benevolent government that is exercised. Just laws are being enacted and injustices are being punished. The wicked are judged and can no longer exert their wicked influence. The government of Solomon was such a benevolent government that gave joy to the people (1 Kings 4:20).

The contrast, indicated by the word “but”, with a wicked ruler is great. Such a ruler reigns like a tyrant. He oppresses and exploits the people, especially the God-fearing part of them. Badness is rewarded and promoted. Injustice reigns because God and His will are not considered. There is no joy among the people, but a groan of misery.

The happiness or misfortune of the people depends on the ruler. That is how it is in the life of a human being. When he lives according to the will of God according to just principles, he lives a happy and thankful life. This is the privilege of the believer. When a person lives according to wicked principles, he groans under the enormous burden of his sins that presses on him. He can be freed from this to surrender himself to the Lord Jesus.

Verse 3

Rejoicing the Father or Wasting Wealth

In this verse it is about divine wisdom, but then as an object of love. It is not primarily a question of leadership in life through wisdom, but of the attitude of the heart to wisdom. That attitude is one of love. When a father sees it with his son, he is glad. He sees that his teaching not only has an effect on the practice of his life, but his love goes out to it.

In the second line of the verse follows the contrast, indicated by the word “but”. The contrast with loving wisdom here is keeping company with harlots, so not as we would expect keeping company with fools. After all, the contrast is usually between the wise and the fool. But this is about love. Keeping company with harlots is experiencing a surrogate love, a false love. However, you get nothing and lose everything; all your wealth wastes (cf. Luke 15:30).

One of the earliest lessons a child should learn is to keep away from harlots. Today, this is particularly true of pornography. The warnings against this are discussed in detail in the first part of this book, Proverbs 1-9. Here we see that we have to teach our children a love of wisdom. That will keep them from keeping company with harlots and pornography because they may lose their wealth and even their lives as a result.

Verse 4

Maintain or Demolish a Country

“The king” who maintains “justice” “gives stability to the land”. By enacting and maintaining just laws, a king assures his subjects of peace and prosperity. In this way, he also ensures the safety of their belongings. God is the King Who, through the law that Solomon exercises, makes Israel stand firm forever (2 Chronicles 9:8). Life in a land with such a king is a feast for all subjects, because everyone enjoys the privilege of it. In the kingdom of peace, the Lord Jesus will be that King.

“To take bribes” is contrary to the law. A man who does this causes dissatisfaction and poverty. Nobody is happy any more. Togetherness is disappearing. The land is being torn apart and demolished.

Verses 5-6


Flattery is like a net for catching an animal (Proverbs 29:5). Flattery is manipulation, because the aim is to use that person for one’s own purposes and not to praise him. The “neighbor” who is flattered can be enchanted by this and can come into the power of the flatterer unnoticed. In this way he got stuck in the net that spread “a man” for his “steps” and the flatterer succeeded in his intention.

The verse is about the flatterer, not about the one who is being flattered, but of course it is a clear warning not to be enchanted by flattery. Flattery is a hypocritical compliment. If we are flattered, it will wake up the dormant pride in us. The caressed vanity contributes to the belief in what the flatterer says. Flattery is literally “softening someone”. The saying “creaming someone with butter’, with the intention of eating him, is in line with this.

“An evil man” is imprisoned in his own offense (Proverbs 29:6). His transgression is a trap from which he cannot free himself. Because he is an evil man, the offence is not an incident, but a common occurrence. He can’t do anything else, it’s in him, in his angry nature, which he sticks to and by which he’s held.

In contrast with an evil man, “a righteous man” cheers and rejoices over the security and peace he enjoys. A righteous man has no fear of a trap and can cheer and rejoice. He is very happy and is in complete freedom to express his joy at what God has given him and will give him. The righteous man has his source of joy in God.

Verse 7

Taking Cognizance of the Trial of the Poor

“A righteous person” is a judge here. A just judge wants to know why a suitcase against the poor is started. The poor matters to him, because they matter to God. That is why he becomes immersed in their case. The poor must matter us. Paul gives us an example in this (Galatians 2:10).

The wicked has no understanding for the poor, nor does he want to delve into them at all, for he has no interest whatsoever in them. He does not care about the injustice done to the poor. On the contrary, he is taking part in it, because only his own advantage matters to him.

Verses 8-11

Raging Fools Against Quiet Sages

By “scorners” (Proverbs 29:8) we can think of corrupt leaders of the city (cf. Isaiah 28:14). They mock with the law and with righteousness. They do not consult and control the city at their own discretion. They do not keep promises, and they mock the service to God. This disrupts society and sets a city on fire spiritually. The fire of rebellion and division breaks out and no one extinguishes it. They are stirring up the fire, they are stirring up the quarrel. Scorners are a scourge for society.

In the second line of the verse, which begins with “but”, which indicates that there is a contrast, is written what “wise men” do. They do not fuel the fight, but ensure peace and harmony in society. Through the peace they bring, they turn away the wrath of God and men. An example can be found in the history of the rebellion of Seba who entrenched himself in a city. There is a wise woman who prevents the destruction of the city (2 Samuel 20:14-Song of Solomon :).

It is a waste of time to try to settle a dispute with a fool (Proverbs 29:9). The chance that a fool can reasonably conduct a lawsuit is excluded. You can expect two reactions from him, which really do not contribute to the resolution of the dispute. One reaction is that he is appalled; he puts up big eyes of amazement and starts to curse. The other reaction is that he is going to roar with laughter, because he finds the case brought against him so ridiculous.

A fool follows his emotions and not his mind. He doesn’t think about it, but immediately gives air to the emotion that rises in him, whatever it may be. Sometimes he rages, at other times he laughs everything away. But he does not bring the matter to rest. Therefore he lacks the intellect.

Being a man of bloodshed means a man having a deep desire to kill someone (Proverbs 29:10). The hatred of men of bloodshed is directed against ‘the blameless’. We see that in Cain, who was such a hating man of bloodshed. He killed his blameless brother (Genesis 4:5-Ruth :; 1 John 3:12-1 Chronicles :). Men of bloodshed cannot endure piety. Darkness cannot bear the light, but hates it. That is why the religious leaders murdered the Lord Jesus.

The “upright” are in contrast with the men of bloodshed, as we see from the word “but” at the beginning of the second line of the verse. They are not seeking to take the life of anyone, but they are seeking the salvation of others, even as here of the men of bloodshed. The Lord Jesus taught us to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), so that they might come to repentance.

“A fool” is a slave of his thoughts and feelings (Proverbs 29:11). He does not have any control over it, but is controlled and lives by it. His mind is an open vessel into which everything enters without any filtering and from which everything leaves without any filtering. He has no brake. When he gets excited about something, he tells it loud and clear. Unsolicited he gives his opinion about everything, while he imagines he knows its stuff. His lack of self-control leads him to cranking the greatest possible nonsense, without his being conscious of it.

“A wise man” will not allow himself to be guided by his impulses. He is keeping his mind in check, he is keeping it calm. That’s why he doesn’t blur out everything he thinks, but waits for the right moment. He has self-control not of himself, but of the Spirit. Foolishness has no life led by the Spirit, the wise man has.

Verse 12

A Bad Example Makes Bad Followers

When “a ruler” adopts the advice of liars, he makes a wrong assessment and makes wrong decisions. Lies are told to those who like to hear them. Such a ruler shows that he does not allow himself to be guided by God’s statutes and does not ask for His will.

By paying such attention to “falsehood” as if it were the truth, he encourages the people around him to be “wicked” and to deal thus with the truth. David was not such a ruler. He says: “He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me” (Psalms 101:7).

The influence of the character of a ruler on the people is great. People in a position of authority, such as rulers and parents, are, whether they like it or not, role models for those under their authority.

Verse 13

The LORD Gives Light to the Eyes

Regardless of a person’s social status or the circumstances in which he lives, every person gets his life from God. Giving light to the eyes means that God gives the light of life (Job 33:30; Psalms 13:3). Giving light to the eyes also means that God gives the possibility to perceive. This is not so much about looking with the natural eyes as it is about looking with the spiritual eyes.

Both a poor and an oppressor or the rich get light to assess his situation. God gives indiscriminately. The question is: what does everyone do with the light that has been given to him? The poor can see that he is rich in God and that he can boast about his highness before God (James 1:9). The rich oppressor can see that he should not boast of his wealth and its abuse, but should realize that he is poor before God when he abuses his wealth to oppress the poor (James 1:10; James 5:1-Joshua :).

Verse 14

Truth Establishes the Throne Forever

“A king” who “judges … with truth” will do his utmost to ensure that the “poor” are done justice. It shows his outstanding character when it turns out that he is particularly interested in the rights of the socially weak. He does justice to all, but especially to the poor. God will “establish forever” the throne of a king who reigns in this way.

The Lord Jesus is the only King to whom this applies in full. He will judge the poor with truth by letting them enter the kingdom of peace. His throne will be established forever (Daniel 2:44).

Verses 15-17

Good Upbringing and the Absence of It

Proverbs 29:15 is among the proverbs that insist on discipline in education with a clear motivation (Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 13:24Proverbs 22:8; Proverbs 22:15Proverbs 23:13-2 Chronicles :; Proverbs 26:3). Discipline makes the child become wise. Wisdom is not hereditary. Both physical discipline (“the rod”) and spiritual discipline (“reproof”) “give wisdom”, i.e. contribute to giving wisdom. When the child listens to the discipline (cf. Micah 6:9), he or she learns to make good choices in life.

Anyone who refrains his child from discipline makes him to get his own way. A child who gets is own way can do what he or she wants and get what he or she wants. It also means that it is left to the rule of its sinful nature, a renegade will, an evil world and the devil. Without guidance and correction, it will lead a life that “brings shame to his mother”.

The fact that it says that the mother is being ashamed is probably because she has spent most of her time in education. She is also much more sensitive to the suffering that the child inflicts on himself. This does not mean that the father is not ashamed, nor that he has nothing to do with education. The father may be the main cause of the child’s wrong choices, because he never acted with a rod and reproof. Adonijah was a young man left to himself, because his father David had “never crossed him at any time” (1 Kings 1:6).

Proverbs 29:16 stands between two verses dealing with upbringing. In this verse we can therefore see a description of the consequences of the lack of a good upbringing. Laxity in education is the main cause of social disasters. We see that in the world. Parental authority disappears, with the result that the “wicked increase”, so that the transgressions also “increase” (cf. Hosea 4:7).

The righteous suffer as a result of this situation. They suffer by seeing iniquity, as Lot suffered (2 Peter 2:7-Ruth :), and they suffer by what the wicked say to them and do to them. But no matter how numerous the wicked and their transgressions become, the righteous will triumph. God will ensure that the wicked fall and that the righteous look on, while rejoicing at “a God Who does justice on earth” (Psalms 58:10-1 Kings :; Psalms 37:34).

A child who has learned to obey will give his parents peace of mind (Proverbs 29:17). And not only the parents, but the whole environment. This is yet another encouragement for parents to discipline their children. It is about teaching obedience (Proverbs 19:18). That gives the parents inner peace and outward pleasure in living together.

The parent who does not teach his child obedience because the punishment hurts himself and he wants to avoid that pain, will feel the pain of negligence continuously later on. Numerous sleepless nights are the result, because the child has ended up in the gutter or in prison. It is a constant source of concern and unrest. There is no rest in the heart and there are no pleasures for the soul. We should not judge harshly those parents, but pray for them and for their children.

Verse 18

No Vision – Keeping the Law

This verse refers to two forms of divine revelation: a “vision” and “the law. A vision is a message from God that He gives a prophet to pass on to His people (Hosea 12:10). There are many examples of this in the Old Testament. The prophets Daniel, Amos and Zechariah, to name but a few, have had various visions. But in the days of Eli “visions were infrequent” (1 Samuel 3:1). That was in the time of the founders, when “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25). The people were “unrestrained” from God (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:3).

This is also the case in the once Christian Western countries in which we live. People are becoming more and more detached from God because they reject God’s Word and are also deterred from God by liberal theologians (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:19). Depravity and violence are on the increase.

When the people as a whole have been unrestrained, it comes down to personal faithfulness. That is the message of the second line of the verse. Although there is no divine revelation to the prophets, it indeed is possible to keep to the law. He who does so is ”happy”.

When everything is in decay, God’s Word remains the guideline for the faithful individual to walk. God appreciates and rewards it when His Word is followed as a guide. Such faithful believers, who have been taught by wise men and who have accepted that teaching, through their walk in life in obedience to God’s Word, call upon the faithless members of God’s people to return to obedience to God’s Word.

Verses 19-21

Relationship Between Employer and Employee

It is not enough to teach a slave obedience by words alone (Proverbs 29:19). There is no perfectly obedient slave. That was only the Lord Jesus. A slave, or worker, must learn to obey, because he is disobedient by nature. Disobedience must be punished not only by words but also by other, tangible, disciplinary means. We can think of getting no food as punishment or temporarily withholding certain privileges he enjoyed.

If there is no tangible discipline, the slave will just do his own thing. The master, or employer, can talk and command whatever he wants, he doesn’t react. He hears what is asked for and understands it, but he simply doesn’t do it because he doesn’t feel like it or because it doesn’t suit him.

It is important to teach obedience in the family (Proverbs 29:17) and in society. The authority of parents, the employer, the government and, above all, God, must be obeyed. Anyone who does not learn to obey in earthly relations will not bow to God either, with the dramatic consequence of eternal judgment.

The Christian is a slave of Christ and as such must be taught obedience. In the Word of God he hears what Christ asks of him. The Christian is not always obedient to what Christ says. Then He disciplines him out of love (cf. Revelation 3:19). In so doing He leads him to do what He hath commanded him to do.

Because Proverbs 29:20 is between two verses that are about slaves, we can perhaps connect this verse in the first place to that subject, without ruling out a broader application. A person who only speaks to his slave, but who does not receive a response (Proverbs 29:19), loses his patience and is “hasty in his words”. This applies to all interpersonal relations.

Anyone who reacts out of irritation reacts impulsively, rash. It is not an incident, it is a habit. Someone who only speaks can see his strength in this, while he is blind to the fact that it is his sin. If he is not listened to, he will speak even more words. He is certain of his case, he does not think about it, he does not consult and he cannot be corrected. The warning is that we have to be slow to speak (James 1:19; Ecclesiastes 5:2).

It’s better to be dealing with a fool than with a fast talker. There is “more hope” that something meaningful comes out of a fool than out of a fast talker. This is an indication of the hopeless case of the fast talker. That one does not have time to listen. A fool lacks wisdom, but sometimes he takes the time to listen to what is being said.

As in Proverbs 29:19, in Proverbs 29:21 the error lies with the master. Here is the master’s mistake of pampering his slave. In this way he gives him the feeling that he is not a slave, but a family member. You would expect the slave to be grateful to him for that, but the opposite is the case. By pampering his slave, he arouses certain expectations in him, that he is a son and that he will share in the inheritance.

Such unfounded expectations are the result of imbalances. The master is responsible for this. He must ensure that the master-slave (employer-employee) relationship is properly respected. The boss must tell the employee what to do. This has nothing to do with domination, but with the recognition of God-given relationships of authority.

Verses 22-23

Anger, Hot-Temper and Pride Against Humility

Wherever “an angry man” comes, strife stirs up (Proverbs 29:22). He stirs it up, He calls it up through His unfounded anger. His anger is not only temporarily, but the anger reigns over him. Whether he is in the family, at work or anywhere else, he is everywhere as “an angry man” present.

His attitude evokes resistance. His surroundings don’t tolerate that and there’s a quarrel. In his hot-temper, he does not occasionally burst out, but he commits a succession of transgressions. He snubs everyone who comes into his neighborhood and treats them unfairly. In this way he piles up his transgressions.

A man who is hot-tempered is a prey of his emotions and desires. He is a selfish man and is after self-enforcement. He doesn’t care about another person. The inevitable consequence is that he “abounds in transgressions”, both against his neighbor and against God.

An angry man (Proverbs 29:22) is also a proud man (Proverbs 29:23). Anger or wrath is a feature of God which He exercises in a perfectly just way (John 3:36; Romans 1:18). Anyone who is stubbornly angry believes that he is above others and above all forms of criticism. In doing so, he takes the place of God. God “will bring him low”. He will certainly do so in judgment, but it is already happening on earth. A proud person is regularly brought down by his surroundings.

In contrast to the angry, passionate, prideful man stands the “humble of spirit”. This is not just someone in a humble attitude, but someone who is internally humble. He is not concerned with his own honor, but with the honor of God. That is why he is honored by God (1 Samuel 2:30). Someone with a humble spirit gets honor from God. The honor is that God comes to live with him and gives him the fullness of life with him (Isaiah 57:15).

Humility is not false modesty, but acknowledging that everything we are, do or get is due to the goodness of God. The humble of spirit is in God’s presence.

Verse 24

Who Shares With a Thief Hates His Own Life

“He who is a partner with a thief” is his accomplice. Anyone who gets involved with a thief hates his own life. Hating oneself is the opposite of loving oneself. He is in a situation where his life is ruined. If the thief and he are seized, he must testify against the thief and against himself. The judge interrogates him under oath, which he indicates by pronouncing a curse (Leviticus 5:1).

But the accomplice is silent, because he is afraid of the vengeance of the thief and he is also afraid of a verdict by the judge. That is why he does not make it known, he does not testify, but remains silent. That makes him guilty of two sins: his help to the thief and his refusal to testify.

Those who are friends with criminals can easily be tempted to participate without having the main responsibility. Joining criminals and sharing in their loot means hating your life. You risk your life for a little relaxation, tension, possession. Then you act very stupid and short-sighted.

Verses 25-26

Fear of Man or Relying on the LORD

There are two contrasts in Proverbs 29:25. One is a contrast between someone who is led by “fear of man” and those who “rely on the LORD”. The other contrast marks the consequences of the first contrast. Fear of mankind brings someone into “a trap”, while trusting in God leads to “a safe fortress”.

Fear of man means aligning your life with what other people say. People’s opinions dominate and control your life. Your behavior is determined by the environment you want to remain friends with. It hinders you being yourself, speaking the truth, or doing what God wants. Fear of man acts as a trap, depriving a person of all freedom to make independent choices with the Lord. The idea of what others would think about it, is decisive for making decisions. It makes a person a prisoner of people’s opinions, because his actions are controlled or limited by people he is afraid of.

It is much better to rely on the LORD because then you will be safe, unreachably high. You are above what people think of your choice. Those who rely on God make choices that please Him. No one can change anything about it or influence it. God preserves all who rely on Him for the danger of people’s opinions.

The choice is between a life governed by what others think and Who God is and what He has promised. The first is a life of slavery, a trap. The second is a life of freedom and security. Fear leads us into a trap, trust brings us into safety and exaltation.

Fear of men led Abraham to deny his relationship with Sarah (Genesis 12:11-1 Chronicles :; Genesis 20:2) and led Peter to deny his Lord (Matthew 26:69-Prayer of Azariah :). Paul was free from fear of man because he did not want to please people, but God, and because he did not want to be a slave of people, but of Christ (Galatians 1:10). It is one of the greatest evils for preachers to conceal the truth out of fear of man. It is acting on the basis of the thought: what will men say of it, and not: what does the Lord say of it.

A form of fear of man (Proverbs 29:25) is the search for “the favor of a ruler” (Proverbs 29:26), in order to get his right. This ruler may turn out to be a ‘trap’. People cannot give justice, but God can. He gives somebody the right to which he is entitled. Relying on Him is therefore much better than fearing people or seeking their favor, no matter how great they are and whatever means they have at their disposal.

Verse 27

To Be Unjust or Upright

This verse is the last proverb of Solomon. We can say that it is a kind of summary of the whole teaching of the book. Here “righteous” and “wicked” are contrasted. But not only that. Here two totally different lifestyles and attitudes are presented and how they react to each other.

The righteous and the wicked despise each other’s lifestyle. They cannot appreciate and tolerate each other. That is because of their opposite convictions. The righteous despise “an unjust man” and the unjust man despises him “who is upright in the way”. Solomon uses the strong expression “abominable”.

Both are abominable, but there is still a difference. The righteous despises the injustice of the wicked, but not the wicked himself, while the wicked hates the person. The wicked feels condemned by the righteous, while the other way around that is not the case. The disgust of the righteous has its origin in his fellowship with God (Psalms 139:21-Song of Solomon :). The disgust of the wicked finds its origin in himself.

There are only two kinds of people in the world since the fall into sin: the seed of the serpent, who are the wicked, and the seed of the woman, who is Christ and all who believe in Him, the righteous. The world can talk about ‘tolerance’, that everything should be possible, but at its deepest, the world is wicked and full of hatred against the righteous.

Righteous and wicked live in the same world and do a number of things exactly the same. They both eat and drink to stay physically alive, they both live in houses, they both have a family and friends and they both go to work by car. But that’s where the comparison stops, because they are driven by totally different motives and judge life and what goes with it from a totally different background. One looks at everything with the eyes of God, the other looks with the eyes of the devil.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 29". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-29.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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