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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 10

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-32


Ethical maxims, precepts and admonitions with respect to the most diverse relations of human life

(Proverbs mainly in the form of antithetic distichs)

Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16

1. Exhibition of the difference between the pious and the ungodly, and their respective lots in life

Proverbs 10-15

a) Comparison between the pious and the ungodly with respect to their life and conduct, in general. Proverbs 10:0

1          Proverbs of Solomon.

A wise son maketh glad his father,
but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

2     Treasures of wickedness do not profit,

but righteousness delivereth from death.

3     Jehovah will not suffer the righteous to famish [E. V.: the soul of the righteous],

but the craving of the wicked He disappointeth.

4     He becometh poor that worketh with an idle hand,

but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

5     He that gathereth in summer is a wise son,

but he that sleepeth in harvest is a bad son.

6     Blessings are upon the head of the just,

but the mouth of the wicked hideth violence.

7     The memory of the just is blessed,

but the name of the wicked shall rot.

8     Whoso is wise in heart will receive precepts,

but he who is of foolish lips shall fall.

9     He that walketh uprightly walketh securely,

but he that perverteth his way shall be made known.

10     He that winketh with the eye causeth trouble,

and he that is of foolish lips is overthrown.

11     A fountain of life is the mouth of the righteous,

but the mouth of the wicked hideth violence.

12     Hate stirreth up strife,

but love covereth all transgressions.

13     On the lips of the man of understanding wisdom is found,

but a rod (is) for the back of the fool.

14     Wise men store up knowledge,

but the mouth of the fool is a near (speedy) destruction.

15     The rich man’s wealth is his strong city,

the destruction of the poor is their poverty.

16     The labour of the righteous (tendeth) to life,

the gain of the wicked to sin.

17     A way to life is he who heedeth correction,

he who resisteth reproof leadeth astray.

18     He that hideth hatred (hath) lying lips,

and he who spreadeth slander is a fool.

19     In much talking transgression is not wanting,

but he that governeth his lips doeth wisely.

20     Choice silver is the tongue of the righteous,

the heart of the wicked is of little worth.

21     The lips of the righteous feed many,

but fools die for want of knowledge.

22     Jehovah’s blessing,—it maketh rich,

and labour addeth nothing thereto.

23     It is as sport to a fool to do mischief,

but to the man of understanding wisdom.

24     What the wicked feareth cometh upon him,

but the desire of the righteous is granted them.

25     When a storm sweepeth by the wicked is no more,

but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.

26     As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

so is the sluggard to them that send him.

27     The fear of Jehovah multiplieth days,

but the years of the wicked are shortened.

28     The expectation of the righteous is gladness,

but the hope of the wicked shall perish.

29     Jehovah’s way is a bulwark to the righteous,

but destruction to evil doers.

30     The righteous shall never be moved,

but the wicked shall not abide in the land.

31     The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom,

but the perverse tongue shall be rooted out.

32     The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,

but the mouth of the wicked perverseness.


Proverbs 10:1.—[יְשַׂמַּח; cited by Bött (§§ 943, c, e; 950 e) as an illustration of the employment of the Imperf. to express what must be from the very nature of the case,—Fiens debitum,—“must gladden.”—A.]

Proverbs 10:2.—[יוֹעִילוּ: as above, with the meaning “cannot profit;” §950, c, β.—A.]

Proverbs 10:3.—יַרְעִיב; an example of the Fiens solitum, what is wont to be; § 950, b.]—The LXX, arbitrarily assimilating the language of the first and second clauses, read in the second חַיַּת רְשָׁעִים, for they translate “the life of the ungodly,” ζωὴν δὲ�. [הַוָּה has been quite variously rendered. The E. V. translates “substance,” the object of the desire of the wicked. Luther, following the insidias of the Vulg., renders by “Schindcrei=exactions or oppression. Holden translates “iniquity.” N., St., and M. agree with our author in retaining the simple meaning “craving, or greedy desire.” So Gesen., Fuerst, etc.—A.]

Ver.5—[מֵבישׁ is taken by Gesen., Fuerst, Stuart as intransitive, in the sense of “acting basely.” N., M., II. agree with the E. V. in deriving it from a different radical idea in the verb, and making it a causative Hiphil. The difference in the final import is not very great, yet the former conception of the word appears to have the best warrant.—A.]

Proverbs 10:8—[יִקַּח, Fiens licitum, “is disposed to receive,” etc. Bött, § 950, c.—A.]

Proverbs 10:21.—חֲסַר is here stat. constr. not of the adj. חָסֵר, as e.g. above in Proverbs 10:13, but of the noun חֶסֶר, as the old translators correctly judged. Bertheau is therefore wrong in rendering “through one void of understanding.” Fuerst takes our author’s view; so Bött. (§794), who would interpret Proverbs 10:10 in the same way, “the back of folly.”—A.]


1. General preliminary remark. The main division of the collection of proverbs that begins with chap. 10, by the scattered isolation and the mosaic-like grouping of its individual elements contrasts quite strongly with the longer and well compacted proverbial discourses of the first nine chapters. And yet one would go too far in assuming an entirely planless and unregulated accumulation of the proverbs contained in chaps. 10–22, and failing to recognize at least an attempt of the collector to secure a methodical grouping of the rich store of maxims that he has to communicate. Hitzig’s assumption, it is true, seems altogether artificial, and tenable only as the result of violent critical dealing,—viz., that chaps. 10–21 may be resolved into four sections of equal length, of about 90 verses each; 1) chaps. 10–12 (Proverbs 13:1 making a commencement parallel to Proverbs 10:1); chap. 13–15:32 (in which division Proverbs 13:23 is to be stricken out to make 91 verses, as in the preceding section); Proverbs 15:33 to Proverbs 19:3 (where by omitting Proverbs 16:25 and inserting two verses from the LXX after Proverbs 16:17 the number of 89 verses must be reached that shall correspond with the section following); and Proverbs 19:4 to Proverbs 21:31. He also assumes that within these four principal subdivisions groups of verses symmetrically constructed of six, seven and eight verses respectively, succeed one another. But although such a construction according to definite relations of numbers is not demonstrable, or at least is demonstrable only in single instances (e.g., Proverbs 15:33 to Proverbs 16:15; see remarks on this passage), still the existence of larger or smaller groups of proverbs of similar import cannot be denied; and many of these groups relating to one and the same subject are very probably attached one to another according to a definite plan or construction of ideas. And yet these in most cases stand in a loose co-ordination, and withal quite frequently appear accompanied or interspersed by single verses that are altogether isolated. In the chapter before us groups of this sort, governed by a certain unity of idea, may be found in Proverbs 10:2-25; Proverbs 10:27-30. Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 10:26; Proverbs 10:31-32 stand isolated. Hitzig’s attempt to construct from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 11:3 exactly five groups of seven proverbs each appears untenable after an unprejudiced examination of the real relations of the matter.—With reference to the contents of the six groups of verses, together with the individual verses accompanying them, and also with respect to central thoughts that may possibly be drawn from these elements, see the “Doctrinal and Ethical” notes.

2.Proverbs 10:1. A wise son maketh glad his father, etc.—This thought, which is quite general, is plainly designed to serve as an introduction to the entire collection of proverbs that succeeds; comp. Proverbs 1:8. As in that instance, and as in Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 23:24 there is found here an attempt, by means of an antithetic parallelism, at Metalepsis or the distribution of the propositions between father and mother in detail. [Ingenious expositions of the diverse effects of different kinds of conduct upon the father and the mother, like that of Lord Bacon in the “Advancement of Learning,” and more elaborately in the “De Augmentis Scientiarum,” overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism—A.] “Grief, anxiety,” derived from יָגָה (moestus esse, dolere), LXX: λύπη; comp. Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:28.

3.Proverbs 10:2-7. Six verses or three pairs of verses relating to the earthly lot of the just and the unjust, the diligent and the sluggish.—Treasures of wickedness profit not.—Because they cannot avert the sudden and unhappy death that awaits the wicked; comp. Proverbs 10:25-27. With the second clause compare Proverbs 11:4-19.

Proverbs 10:3. Jehovah will not suffer the righteous to famish.—Literally, “the spirit of the righteous;” for this is the sense which in agreement with most interpreters we must find here, and not “the desire, the craving of the righteous,” as Elster thinks, appealing for confirmation to Proverbs 6:30; Proverbs 23:2. For this strong expression is inappropriate before we come to the antithesis in the second member, and here the idea is plainly enough expressed by the word הַוָּה, “longing” (comp. אַוָּה, Deuteronomy 12:15; 1Sa 23:30). Compare Proverbs 11:6.

Proverbs 10:4. He becometh poor that worketh with an idle hand.—כַּף־רְמִיָה, not a “deceitful, crafty hand,” but an “idle, sluggish hand,” manus remissa (Vulg.); comp. Proverbs 12:24; Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 19:15; Jeremiah 48:10.—רָאשׁ, for which the LXX and Vulg. must have read רֵאשׁ the substantive (πενία, egestas), is the third Sing. Perf. Kal [or the participle] with the scriptio plena (like קָאם in Hosea 10:14), and with the signification “he is impoverished,” inops fit; comp. Psalms 34:10. With the phrase עָשָׂה יַד, to stir the hand, to work with the hand, comp. Jeremiah 48:10.—But the hand of the diligent—literally, “of the sharpened,” comp. Proverbs 12:24.

Proverbs 10:5. He that gathereth in summer is a wise man—lit., “is a son that doeth wisely,” and so in the second member, “a son that doeth badly.” These same predicates stand contrasted also in Proverbs 14:35, in that case to define more closely the term “servant,” but here as attributes of the “son,” which designation is chosen in this instance rather than “man,” probably because “the heavy labors of the field which are here spoken of devolve especially upon the younger men, and also because idleness is particularly ruinous to youth” (Elster).—For the general sentiment comp. also Proverbs 6:8-9.

Proverbs 10:6. Benedictions (come) upon the head of the just, but the mouth of the wicked hideth violence.—In this strictly literal rendering of the verse there is no sharp antithesis between the first and second clauses, for which reason many, following the LXX and Vulg., reverse the relation of subject and object in the second clause, and either translate with Döderlein, Dathe, etc., “wickedness closeth the mouth of the vicious,” or, inasmuch as the noun חָמָם cannot possibly be used in this sense of “wickedness, evil disposition,” explain with Umbreit among others, “the mouth of the profligate crime covereth.” [E. V.: “violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”] (This is substantially the explanation of Hitzig also, except that he points יִכָּסֶה instead of יְכַסֶּה, and takes the noun חָמָם contrary to usage in the sense of “pain, ruin;” “the mouth of the wicked is covered with sorrow.”) [Words. gives a doubtful support to this view.] But why in just this passage and the second hemistich of Proverbs 10:11 which corresponds literally with it, it should be particularly the mouth and not the face of the wicked that is named as the object to be covered with crime, is not readily seen; and to read “face” (פְּנֵי) instead of “mouth” (פִי) in accordance with Psalms 44:16; Jeremiah 51:51, would evidently not answer on account of the double occurrence of the expression. Therefore, with Bertheau, Elster, etc. [N., ST., and M. in a qualified way], we should hold fast the above explanation as the simplest and most obvious, and accordingly reckon our verse among the exceptions, which, moreover, are not very rare, to that antithetic mode of constructing propositions which altogether predominates in the division of the book now before us. [Rueetschi, in the Stud, und Krit., 1868, I., 135, not only agrees with our author in his construction of the verse, but endeavors more fully to justify the parallelism by the following explanation. “While the righteous, who is himself for others a fountain of life and blessing (Proverbs 10:11), nothing but love and fidelity, is himself also to expect blessing (Proverbs 10:7), the wicked has in himself only destruction; he hides it, covers it, it is true (comp. כִּסָּה, Proverbs 10:18), with his mouth, yet has it in him (Psalms 5:9); and this very fact, that he covers in himself ruin for others, turns the blessing away from him.”]

Proverbs 10:7.The name of the wicked rotteth, strictly “will not or moulder,” i.e., the memory of the wicked not only disappears quickly and surely, but also so as to excite sensations of abhorrence and disgust in other men (like ill smelling mould).

4.Proverbs 10:8-10. Three proverbs bearing upon the contrast between wise men and fools.—He who is of foolish lips is overthrown.—With the wisely disposed (in the first clause) there is significantly contrasted the foolish speaker, the froward talker, and that, too, with the designation suggested by the organ of his foolish discourse, “the fool in lips.” The verb (יִלָּבֵט), for the most part misunderstood by the older translators, can express only the meaning of being brought to a downfall, being overthrown, præcipitari, and accordingly sets forth the consequence of that refusal to receive commandments which characterizes the fool in contrast with the wise man. To secure a stronger antithesis to the verb of the first clause Hitzig reads יִלְבֹט or יְלַבֵּט, “casts them away,” i.e. the commandments. But it is precisely the correspondence with the 2d clause of Proverbs 10:10, where Hitzig must admit the passive meaning of the verb, that makes it certain that this is here also the intended meaning; for such verbal repetitions of whole or of half verses are among the fancies of the author of this division of our book; see above, remarks on Proverbs 10:6. [The wise “speaks little, but hears much: receives commands; therefore it goes well with him” (Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 10:1 st clause; Proverbs 3:1 sq.); but he “who is of foolish lips,” who by his words shows himself a fool, is ever talking and not receiving instruction, is ruined; literally, is overthrown. It is in general a peculiar charm of many proverbs that the parallelism is not perfectly close, but it remains the function of the reader to seek out the intermediate thoughts, and to make the deductions.” Rueetschi, as cited above].

Proverbs 10:9. Is made manifest, lit., “is made known,” i.e. as a sinner deserving punishment; an allusion to the judicial strictness of God, the All-seeing, [so Wordsw.], (the verb, therefore, not used as in Proverbs 12:16). Hitzig strangely renders “made wiser,” as though the Niphal were here passive of the Hiphil. [Rueetschi again (as cited above, p. 136) agrees with Zöckler, and thus develops the antithesis: “he adopts crooked ways in order, as he thinks, to be able to practice iniquity more secure and unobserved; but he is ever known and exposed, ho must himself always fear recognition, and this gives to his walk ‘insecurity’ ”].

Proverbs 10:10. He that winketh with the eye. Comp. Proverbs 6:13, where as here the “winking with the eye” immediately follows the mention of crooked and perverse action. Instead of the 2d clause, which is identical with the 2d clause of Proverbs 10:8, and which here yields no antithetic parallelism to the 1st clause, Kennicott, Dathe, Bertheau, Elster prefer the very different reading of the LXX: ὸ δὲ ἐλέγχων μετὰ παῤῥησίας εἰρηνοποιεῖ (but he that rebuketh boldly maketh peace). This however appears rather to be an attempted emendation, the result of well-meaning reflection than the restoration of an original Hebrew text. We must here again assume a momentary departure of the poet from his ordinary strictly antithetical construction of his sentences. In connection with this, however, we are not to give to the verb יִלָּבֵט conjecturally the meaning of “stumbling” or of “groping blindly” (Hitzig), but that which is found also in Proverbs 10:8, “having a fall,” “self-destruction” (Umbreit). [Here again Rueetschi comes to the defence of the poet’s antithesis, with the explanation “he that winketh, the false, causes sorrow, produces vexation to himself, and he who in his folly openly utters evil falls.” The results differ according to the nature of his wickedness; “vexation when he has done wrong secretly, overthrow, destruction, when he has done it openly” (as above cited, p. 136)].

5.Proverbs 10:11-14. Two pairs of sentences concerning the contrast between good and evil, wisdom and folly, associated by the mention which is common to the first and last proverb, of the mouth of those in whom the contrast appears (as the preceding group was characterized by the mention of the lips in Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 10:10).—A fountain of life is the mouth of the righteous, on account of the hearty, edifying, loving character of its utterances. For this figure compare Proverbs 8:14; Proverbs 18:4. For the 2d clause see remarks above on Proverbs 10:6.

Proverbs 10:12. Hate stirreth up strife, lit., “disputes,” “litigations;” comp. Proverbs 6:14.—All transgressions love covereth over, by ignoring them, by palliating words, by considerate and conciliatory demeanor; comp. Proverbs 17:9; James 5:20; 1Pe 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4.—[Trapp: Love hath a large mantle].

Proverbs 10:13. A rod for the fool’s back, i.e. merited punishment overtakes him, the man void of understanding whose lips lack wisdom (comp. Proverbs 26:3; Proverbs 19:29). The imperfect and suggestive form of the antithesis is like that in vers, 6 and 8.

Proverbs 10:14. Wise men reserve knowledge, lit., “conceal knowledge,” i.e. husband the knowledge and understanding which they possess for the right time and place, do not squander it in unseasonable talk and babbling (comp. Proverbs 10:8). [So W., N., St., and M.]. In the parallel passage Proverbs 13:23 the synonymous verb to “cover” (כָּסָה) corresponds with the one here used. Comp. also Malachi 2:7.—Is a near destruction, i.e. is ever inclined to break forth with its foolish suggestions, and thereby to bring upon itself and upon others alarm and even destruction. Comp. the sentiment of Proverbs 13:8, which although indeed somewhat differently constructed is still in general similar. [“Near” is an adjective, and the rendering should be more distinct than the ambiguous and misleading translation of the E. V. The mouth of the wicked is not simply passively near to being destroyed; it is a quickly destroying agency.—A.]

6. Proverbs 10:15-21. Seven proverbs mostly relating to earthly good, its worth, and the means of its attainment,—connected with the two preceding groups (although only loosely and externally) by the “destruction” of Proverbs 10:15, and the allusion to the lips in Proverbs 10:18-19. With the 1st clause of Proverbs 10:15 comp. Proverbs 18:11; Sir 40:26; and Ecclesiastes 7:12.—The destruction of the poor is their poverty, i.e., on account of their destitution there is every instant threatening them an utter destruction or the sundering of all their relations; they therefore come to nothing, they are continually exposed to the danger of a complete ruin in all their circumstances, while to the rich man his means secure a sure basis and a strong protection in all the vicissitudes of life. Naturally the author is here thinking of wealth well earned by practical wisdom; and this is at the same time a means in the further efforts of wisdom; and again, of a deserved poverty which while the consequence of foolish conduct, always causes one to sink deeper in folly and moral need. Comp. the ver. following. Hitzig here following Jeremiah 48:39 takes this destruction (מְחִתָּה) subjectively, as equivalent to “consternation, terror,” [Noyes], which view, however, is opposed by the use of the expression in the preceding verse and in Proverbs 10:29.

Proverbs 10:16. The labor of the righteous, his acquisitions, his earnings, comp. 2 John 1:8.—Tendeth to life, comp. Proverbs 11:19 and also Proverbs 16:8. The contrast to this, “tendeth to sin,” includes the idea not fully expressed, “and accordingly to all misfortune and ruin as the result of sin.” Hitzig, “to expiation,” i.e. to making good the losses which his sins bring upon him as just penalties (with a reference to Zechariah 14:19; Jeremiah 17:3); Schultens, Arnoldi, Umbreit, etc., “to downfall, to misfortune.” Both expositions fail to conform to the usual signification of חַטָּאת.

Proverbs 10:17. Away to life is he who heedeth correction. “A way to life,” (a well-known expression like “a way, or path of life” in Proverbs 5:6, and therefore not to be changed by a new punctuation into אֹרֵחַ לְחַיִּים, “a traveller to life,” as Ziegler and Ewald propose); so the wise observer of good instruction is here named because he also guides others to life, in contrast with the מַתְעֶה, him who misleads, the despiser of wholesome discipline and correction, who not only fails of the right way himself, but shows himself an evil guide to others also (Matthew 15:14). [The rendering of the E. V., “is in the way,” although followed by H., N., M., W., is not full and exhaustive enough. Such a man is not merely “in the way to life;” he is a guide, by a bolder figure he is a way to other men.—A.] The intransitive conception of this participle (LXX, Vulg., Luther, and also Umbreit, Ewald, etc.), may if necessary be reached by modifying the punctuation מִתָּעֶה (Hithp., Hitzig); but the “going astray” even then does not correspond remarkably with the “way to life,” so far as this expression is correctly understood. [“This sentence is an example how sometimes that which is simplest and most obvious can be persistently missed: these words so simple and true have been refined upon because the real idea was not taken. The meaning is simply this: example is efficacious;” etc. Rueetschi, as above, p. 137].

Proverbs 10:18. He that hideth hatred (hath) lying lips, strictly, “is lips of falsehood,” i.e. is a man of deceitful lips. [Here again the E. V. sacrifices much of the original. “Lying lips” is not here instrumental; it is the predicate. So H., N., S., M., W.—A.] Comp. for this immediate personification of the sinning organ, Proverbs 12:19; Proverbs 12:22, where in the first instance the “lying tongue” and then the “lying lips” appear personified. For the sentiment comp. Proverbs 26:24.. Peculiarly hard and arbitrary is Hitzig’s exposition; that instead of שֵׁקֶר (falsehood) we should read קֶשֶׁר (union), and that the expression thus resulting, “close, compressed lips” (?) is to be taken as the description of the deceitfully and maliciously compressed mouth of the man who is full of hate! Ewald is also arbitrary (although following the LXX); that instead of שֶׁקֶר we should read צֶדֶק (righteousness); “the lips of the righteous hide hatred,” i.e. cover their enmity with love (?).—He who spreadeth slander is a fool. The meaning of this 2d clause does not stand in the relation of an antithesis to the preceding, but that of a climax, adding a worse case to one not so bad. If one conceals his hatred within himself he becomes a malignant flatterer; but if he gives expression to it in slander, abuse and base detraction, then as a genuine fool he brings upon himself the greatest injury. [Rueetschi objects to this, 1) that the analogy of Proverbs 12:19; Proverbs 12:22 does not justify our taking the expression “lying lips” in the 1st clause as the predicate, and 2) that the emphatic pronoun “he” (הוּא) in the 2d clause is still less intelligible on this view of the structure of the verse; he regards this rather as one of the instances, of no very rare occurrence, in which the two clauses make but one proposition, and renders, “whoso conceals hatred with lying lips and at the same time utters slander—he is a fool,” adding the explanation “one of the most odious of vices is where one conceals hatred under fine speech, and yet slanders behind the back; such a man is in sight of God and men despised and spurned”].

Proverbs 10:19. Transgression is not wanting. In this way is the verb to be rendered, with Umbreit, Hitzig and most others: and not with Bertheau, transgression “does not vanish” (as though we had here something to do with a removal or obliteration of actual guilt); only with the former rendering does the antithesis in the 2d member correspond, where it is plain that taciturnity and discretion in speech are recommended; comp. Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 17:27-28. [Noyes’s translation, “offence,” has the fault, rare with him, of obscurity or ambiguity]. With the expression “to govern the lips” compare the Latin compescere linguam and the parallels from Arabic and Persian poets which Umbreit adduces in illustration of our passage.

Proverbs 10:20. Choice silver, as in Proverbs 8:19 (comp. 10) is here used to indicate a very great value.—Is of no worth, literally, “is as nothing, is as a trifle,”—a popular and proverbial circumlocution for the idea of utter nothingness or worthlessness.

Proverbs 10:21. Feed many, i.e. nourish and refresh many with the wholesome doctrines of godliness (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:11; Ezekiel 34:2 sq; Acts 20:28).—But fools die for want of knowledge, i.e. persistent fools (אֱוִילִים) are not only incompetent to become to others teachers of truth and guides to life; they are in themselves children of death for their lack of understanding.

7. Proverbs 10:22-25. Four proverbs relating to the conduct of the righteous and the ungodly and their respective lots. The lot of the righteous, which consists in God’s blessing which makes rich without any effort, forms the starting point of the description in Proverbs 10:22.—And labor addeth nothing beside it, i.e. as supplementary and exterior to it, that divine blessing which is all in all, which enriches the friends of God even in sleep (comp. Psalms 127:2 [and in connection with this Hupfeld’s comments: “Naturally this is not to be taken literally, as though perchance labor in itself were cast aside, and the Oriental indolence commanded; nor again is the privilege given to the pious of being released from ordinary human toils, and of folding their hands in reliance on their powerful Friend; the aim is only, after the emphatic and one-sided manner of the proverb to make prominent the other side of the case, overlooked by restless toilers, what God does in the matter, so as to warn against the delusion that man can conquer by his toil alone,” etc.]). This view is correctly taken by Jarchi, Levi Ben Gerson, Ewald, Hitzig, etc., while others (LXX, Vulg., Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster, [the E. V., H., N., ST., M.]) translate “and addeth no sorrow thereto.” But then instead of עִמָּהּ we should rather have had עַלֶיהָ (comp. Jeremiah 45:3).

Proverbs 10:23. As sport to a fool is the practice of iniquity, literally, “like a laugh is it to the fool to execute evil counsel.” This “like sport” is then to be supplied also before the 2d member; “but to the man of understanding wisdom is as an enjoyment.” [M. agrees with our author whose view is both more forcible and more accordant with the Hebrew idiom than that expressed in the E. V. and retained by N. and S.: “a man of understanding has wisdom.” More than this is meant: wisdom is his delight.—A.] The verb to practice (עֲשׂות) is probably not to be supplied here before “wisdom” (חָכְמָה); it is self-evident (in opposition to Hitzig’s view) that wisdom is considered here as something practiced and not merely possessed. With the phrase “man of understanding,” the discerning man, comp. Proverbs 11:12.

Proverbs 10:24. What the wicked feareth, lit., “the dread of the wicked,” comp. Isaiah 66:4; Job 3:25; Proverbs 11:27.—The desire of the righteous is granted them.—The verb (יִתֵּן) can be regarded either as impersonal [like the German “es gibt,” there is: comp. Proverbs 13:10 and Job 37:10], or directly changed to the passive (יֻתַּן) as the Vulg., the Targums, and among recent interpreters Ewald and Hitzig, e.g., do. To supply as the subject “Jehovah” (Aben Ezra, Umbreit, Elster, Stuart, etc.) has its parallels indeed in Proverbs 13:21-22, but is here less natural than there.

Proverbs 10:25. When a. storm sweepeth by the wricked is no more. Thus correctly Ewald, Bertheau, Hitzig, [Holden, Stuart, Muenscher]. Against the conception of the first phrase (כַּעֲבוֹר) as a comparison, “as a storm sweepeth by, so,” etc. (Umbreit, Elster, [E. V., Noyes], etc.) we may urge the conjunction וְ before אֵין, as well as the idea of an “everlasting foundation” in the 2d member. With the latter expression comp. Proverbs 10:30, and also Psalms 125:1, With the first clause comp. Job 1:19; Isaiah 28:18-19; Proverbs 1:27.

8. Proverbs 10:26. An isolated proverb relating to the uselessness and repulsiveness of the sluggish. Comp. Proverbs 22:13, and also Proverbs 6:6 sq.; Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 19:24.—As vinegar to the teeth. So the majority correctly render, while the LXX, Pesch., Arab., etc., falsely translate the noun (חֹמֶץ, comp. Numbers 6:3; Psalms 69:22) by “sour grapes” (ὄμφαξ).—To them that send him. Perhaps this phrase as referring to the idea which must be supplied, the authority, the master (אֲדוֹנִים), comp. Proverbs 25:13, might be translated by “his sender, his employer.” Comp. Hitzig on this passage.

9. Proverbs 10:27-30. Four proverbs bearing upon the prosperity of the pious and the ruin of the ungodly. With Proverbs 10:27 comp. Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 14:27.

Proverbs 10:28. The expectation of the righteous is gladness, i.e. as its object comes into possession of him who indulges it. With the 2d clause comp. Proverbs 6:7; Job 8:13; Psalms 112:10.

Proverbs 10:29. Jehovah’s way is a bulwark to the innocent. The meaning doubtless is, Jehovah’s way in the administration of the world, His providence, His righteous and gracious rule, proves itself to the pious a strong protection and defence (comp. the “strong city” of Proverbs 10:15, also Psalms 31:21; Psalms 37:39; Psalms 43:2, etc.) [Wordsw.: wherever he goes he is in a castle]. Only with this objective conception of “Jehovah’s way” does the antithesis in the 2d clause agree (comp. Proverbs 10:14-15), and not with the subjective, which makes it religion, a devout life. Many, however, (Arnoldi, Ziegler, Umbreit, Elster, [Noyes], etc.) unite תֹּם in one conception with דֶּרֶךְ and translate “A fortress is Jehovah to the innocent” (upright in his way); comp. Proverbs 8:6; Job 4:6. One must make his choice between the two interpretations, as both are grammatically admissible and yield essentially the same meaning.

Proverbs 10:30. With the first clause comp. Proverbs 12:3 : with the second, Proverbs 2:21; Psalms 37:29.

10. Proverbs 10:31-32. Two proverbs standing isolated, treating of the mouth of the righteous and that of the ungodly and their respective utterances or fruits. The mouth of the righteous putteth forth wisdom, as the sap of a fruitful tree develops beautiful flowers and fruits; comp. the “fruit of the lips,” Isaiah 57:19 and the corresponding expression καρπὸς χειλέων in Hebrews 13:16—In the 2d clause this figure is abandoned, so far as respects the expression “the perverse tongue;” but the “is destroyed” reminds distinctly enough of the hewing down and dying out of unfruitful trees; comp. Matthew 3:10; Matthew 7:19.

Proverbs 10:32. Know what is acceptable, i.e., are familiar with it, know how to say much of it. The noun רָצוֹן is here objective in its meaning, used of that which produces delight (with God and men) the lovely, the charming (comp. Luke 4:22).—Hitzig on account of the ἀποστάζει of the LXX. (they distil, they send forth) reads יַבִּעוּן instead of יֵדְעוּן, from which we do certainly gain a better parallelism of meaning with the 1st clause of the preceding verse. And yet it seems at least suspicious to go so far in this endeavor to secure a parallelism in the contents of the two verses, as actually to transpose, as Hitzig does, the order of their second clauses, and so combine them in the following order: 31, 1st—32, 2d—32, 1st—31, 2d. [Rueetschi, in his criticism upon this tampering with forms and arrangement, says: “It is all needless—nay, it destroys a beautiful, life-like thought, and substitutes for it a dry commonplace.” Proverbs 10:31 says: “The mouth of the righteous shooteth forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue is rooted out;” if the mouth of the righteous may be compared to a good tree or field, that must yield good fruit, the deceitful tongue is a bad tree, that can bear only rotten fruit, and for that very reason is cut down, rooted out, destroyed. Proverbs 10:32 adds “The lips of the righteous know,” etc. “The righteous finds always, as if instinctively, what is acceptable—is, as it were, inspired with it, so that his lips, as it were, naturally find it, while, on the other hand, the wicked knows and understands only what is distorted or perverse, and his mouth, therefore speaks only this” (as cited above, p. 138)].


The contrast between the righteous and the wicked, or between the wise and foolish, forms evidently the main theme of our chapter. This contrast, after being suggested in a general and prefatory way in Proverbs 10:1, is developed with special reference, 1) to the attainment or non-attainment on both parts of earthly possessions, especially riches and a good name (Proverbs 10:2-7); 2) to their differing dispositions as expressed by mouth and lips, the organs of speech, with diverse influence on their prosperity in life (Proverbs 10:8-14); 3) to the effect, tending on the one side to blessing, on the other to destruction, which the labor of the two classes (whether with the hands or with the lips) has upon themselves and upon others (Proverbs 10:15-24 and Proverbs 10:26); 4) the different issues of the lives of both (Proverbs 10:25; Proverbs 10:27-32). With the individual groups of proverbs, as we had occasion to combine them above in the exegetical notes, these main divisions in the treatment of the subject correspond only in part; for the formation of the groups was determined as we saw in manifold ways, and by quite external circumstances and relations.

A peculiarly rich return, in an ethical view, is yielded by those maxims which refer to the earthly revenues and possessions of the pious and the foolish (2–7, 15, 16, 22, 27 sq.). They all serve to illustrate the great truth, “On God’s blessing every thing depends,” while they no less interpret that other saying (2 Thessalonians 3:10; comp. Proverbs 10:4-5 of our chapter), “If any man will not work, neither shall he eat.” Eminently important and comparatively original (i.e., never before brought to an emphatic utterance) are also the proverbs relating to the worth of a circumspect reserve in speech (Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 10:10; Proverbs 10:13-14; Proverbs 10:18-19, comp. James 3:3-12); those relating to the ease with which the evil man brings forth his evil and the good his good—plainly because an evil heart underlies the works of the one, a loving spirit the other’s whole mode of action (Proverbs 10:23; comp. Proverbs 10:11-12; Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 10:20, and passages of the New Testament like Matthew 12:33-35; 1 John 3:7 sq.; Proverbs 5:3); and lastly those relating to the spiritual blessings for others also that spring forth from the mouth of the pious as the wholesome fruit of his wisdom (Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 10:21; Proverbs 10:31; comp. Matthew 7:16 sq.; John 15:4 sq.; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 1:11; James 3:18).


Homily on the entire chapter. The pious and the ungodly compared in respect, 1) to their earthly good; 2) to their worth in the eyes of men; 3) to their outward demeanor in intercourse with others; 4) to their disposition of heart as this appears in their mien, their words, their Acts 5:0) to their diverse fruit, that which they produce in their moral influence on others; 6) to their different fates, as awarded to them at last in the retribution of eternity.—Comp. Stöcker: True righteousness: 1) its basis (Proverbs 10:1); 2) its manifestation and maintenance in life (Proverbs 10:2-5); 3) its utility (Proverbs 10:6-7); 4) the manner of its preservation and increase (Proverbs 10:8 sq.).1

Starke:—The great difference between the pious and the ungodly: 1) in respect to temporal blessings (Proverbs 10:1-7); 2) in respect to conduct (Proverbs 10:8-26); 3) in respect to their prosperity and the issue of their deeds (Proverbs 10:27-32).—Calwer Handbuch: Of righteousness through wisdom and of unrighteousness through folly and mockery. 1) Warning against the vices which quench delight in righteousness (1–14); 2) admonition to the careful government of the tongue as that on which above all things else the life and the true fruits of righteousness depend (15–21); 3) allusion to riches, long life, the joyful attainment of one’s hopes, confidence in God, security, good counsel, etc., as impelling to righteousness, as well as to the opposite of all these as the evil result of sin (22–32).

Proverbs 10:1-7 (Text adapted to a sermon on Education). Egard: Wilt thou have joy and not sorrow in thy children, then train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).—Stöcker: Are there to be people that walk justly, i.e., honorably and sincerely before God, then must they be trained to it from childhood. The education of children is the foundation that must be laid for righteousness.

Proverbs 10:3 sq. Starke: Although all depends chiefly on God’s blessing, yet not for that reason is man discharged from labor. Labor is the ordinance in which God will reveal His blessing (Psalms 128:2).—Von Geriach: The Lord maketh rich, but by the industry which the righteous by His grace exercise.—[Bp. Butler: Riches were first bestowed upon the world as they are still continued in it, by the blessing of God upon the industry of men, in the use of their understanding and strength.]

Proverbs 10:6-7. Osiander (in Starke): A good name among men is also reasonably to be reckoned among the excellent gifts of God, Psalms 112:6; Ecclesiastes 7:1.—Geier: To the righteous not only does God grant good in this life and the future; all good men also wish them all good and intercede for it day by day, without their knowing or suspecting it, that it may descend on them from God. Many righteous men unknown, or even hated during their life, are first truly known after their death and distinguished by honors of every kind, as the Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, etc. The offensiveness of the ungodly, on the contrary, where even so much as the mention of their name is involved, is perpetual.—Funeral discourse on Proverbs 10:7. Ziegler (in Zimmermann’s Sonntagsfeier, 1858, pp. 760 sq.): The memory of the just is blessed 1) because of his winning friendship; 2) because of his unfeigned piety; 3) because of his steadfast patience; 4) because of his noble, public-spirited activity.—[Proverbs 10:7. J. Foster: The just show in the most evident and pleasing manner the gracious connexion which God has constantly maintained with a sinful world; they are verifying examples of the excellence of genuine religion; they diminish to our view the repulsiveness and horror of death; their memory is combined with the whole progress of the cause of God on earth,—with its living agency through every stage.—Trapp: Be good and do good, so shall thy name be heir to thy life.]

Proverbs 10:8-14. Geier (on Proverbs 10:8): Long as one lives he has to learn and to grow in knowledge, but above all also in the art of governing the tongue. A fool is in nothing sooner and better recognized than in his conversation.—[Proverbs 10:9. Barrow: Upright simplicity is the deepest wisdom, and perverse craft the merest shallowness; he who is most true and just to others is most faithful and friendly to himself, and whoever doth abuse his neighbor is his own greatest cheat and foe.—Bridges: “Show me an easier path” is nature’s cry. “Show me,” cries the child of God, “a sure path.” Such is the upright walk, under the shield of the Lord’s protection and providence; under the shadow of His promises, in the assurance of His present favor, and in its peaceful end.]—J. Lange (on Proverbs 10:10): In his very bearing and gestures the Christian must so carry himself that there can be read in them true love, due reverence and sincerity.—He who has too many compliments for every body is seldom sincere; trust not such a one, etc.—[Proverbs 10:11. Arnot: The Lord looks down and men look up expecting to see a fringe of living green around the lip of a Christian’s life course.]—Zeltner (on Proverbs 10:12): Love is the noblest spice in all things, the first fruit of faith, the most useful thing in all conditions, yea, a truly Divine virtue, for God Himself is love.—Take love out of the world, and thou wilt find nothing but contention. Of the utility of true love one can never preach enough. [T. Adams: “Love covereth all sins,” saith Solomon; covers them partly from the eyes of God, in praying for the offenders; partly from the eyes of the world in throwing a cloak over our brother’s nakedness; especially from its own eyes, by winking at many wrongs offered it.]—Cramer (on Proverbs 10:13-14): It is no shame to know nothing, but it is indeed to wish to know nothing. Learn in thy youth, and thou hast benefit therefrom thy life long.—Hasius (on Proverbs 10:13): He who makes his tongue a rod to scourge others with, must often in turn give his back to correction.—Von Gerlach: The fool must like the beast be corrected with the stick, since he is capable of no rational teaching.—[Bradford: He that trembleth not in hearing shall be broken to pieces in feeling.]

Proverbs 10:15-26. Geier (on Proverbs 10:15-16): Riches are a means that may be employed for good, but as, alas, generally happens, may be misused in the service of vanity and evil. Poverty is in itself a sad thing (Proverbs 30:8), and brings besides serious dangers to the soul; for an humble heart, however, that, child-like, submits to God’s correction and guidance, it may also become a security against many kinds of sins.—[Proverbs 10:15-16. Trapp: Surely this should humble us, that riches—that should be our rises to raise us up to God, or glasses to see the love of God in—our corrupt nature uses them as clouds, as clogs, etc., yea, sets them up in God’s place.—Lord Bacon: This is excellently expressed, that riches are as a stronghold in imagination, and not always in fact; for certainly great riches have sold more men than they have bought out.—Bridges: Our labor is God’s work—wrought in dependence on Him—not for life, but to life.

Proverbs 10:18. Barrow: Since our faculty of speech was given us as in the first place to praise and glorify our Maker, so in the next to benefit and help our neighbor, it is an unnatural, perverting and irrational abuse thereof to employ it to the damage, disgrace, vexation or wrong in any kind of our brother.—Arnot: Strangle the evil thoughts as they are coming to the birth, that the spirits which troubled you within may not go forth embodied to trouble also the world.—They who abide in Christ will experience a sweet necessity of doing good to men; they who really try to do good to men will be compelled to abide in Christ.]—Starke (on Proverbs 10:18). Open hatred and secret slander are both alike works of Satan against which a true Christian should be on his guard.—(On Proverbs 10:19-21): The more one gives free course to his tongue, the more does he defile his conscience, comes too near God and his neighbor. But how usefully can a consecrated tongue be employed in the instruction, consolation and counsel of one’s neighbor! Therefore let the Holy Spirit of God rule thy heart and thy tongue, Eph. 3:29. (On Proverbs 10:23): It is devilish to sin and then boast of sin. The wanton laughter of the wicked is followed at last, and often soon enough, by weeping and wailing, Luke 7:25.—(On Proverbs 10:24): With all the good cheer of sinners there is yet sometimes found in them a strange unrest. Their own conscience chastises them and causes dismay.—(On Proverbs 10:26): Indolence is injurious to every one, whether in a spiritual or a secular calling. Not by case, but by diligence and fidelity does one honorably fulfil his office; 1 Corinthians 4:2.—[Bunyan: All the hopes of the wicked shall not bring him to heaven; all the fears of the righteous shall not bring him to hell.—Arnot:—Fear and hope were common to the righteous and the wicked in time: at the border of eternity the one will be relieved from all his fear, the other will be deprived of all his hope.—(On Proverbs 10:26): The minor morals are not neglected in the Scriptures. He who is a Christian in little things is not a little Christian. He is the greatest Christian and the most useful. The baptism of these little outlying things shows that he is full of grace, for these are grace’s overflowings.]—Berleb. Bible (on Proverbs 10:19-21): As silence is in many ways needful, as Christ Himself hath taught us by His own example so on the other hand we should offend God and rob Him of His honor if we would keep silence when He will have us speak. The lips of the righteous often serve God as an instrument by which He speaketh and instructeth him that needeth.

Proverbs 10:27-32. Zeltner: There is no grosser self-deception than when one in persistent impenitence and impiety yet imagines that he is at last to live in heaven.—Geier: If thy hope of eternal blessedness is not to fail thee, it must, be based on the righteousness of Christ appropriated by faith, for this alone avails with God.—(On Proverbs 10:30): Let us love and long for that which is really eternal and unchangeable; for only then can we say “I shall not be moved,” Psalms 10:6; Psalms 30:6.—Starke (on Proverbs 10:31-32): When God’s honor and the edification and improvement of one’s neighbor is not the chief end of our speaking; it is a sign that eternal wisdom has not yet wholly sanctified our hearts, comp. Proverbs 10:13-14—Wohlfarth (on Proverbs 10:23-32): The sinner’s fear and the hope of the righteous (comp. 1 John 4:18; 1 John 3:3).


[1] Stöcker brings the contents of chaps. 10–24 in general under five titles, corresponding to the five chief virtues: Justice, Modesty, Wisdom, Temperance, Patience. To Justice he assigns the contents of chapters 10 and 11; to Moderation chaps. 12 and 13; to Wisdom chaps. 14–16; to Temperance chaps. 17–23; to Patience chap. 24 He himself admits the arbitrariness of this division, and yet thinks there is no undue violence done thereby to the proverbs in question; for there is “in these proverbs of Solomon (in chaps. 10–24) in general a certain quality such as we may have seen in a beautiful green meadow, on which all manner of beautiful, lovely, glorious flowers of many sorts and colors are to be fallen in with or found, which stand wonderfully mixed and confused, and are only afterwards to be brought and placed in a certain order by some maiden who gathers them for a wreath.” (Sermons, etc., p. 166.)

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-10.html. 1857-84.
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