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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 26

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

Verses 1-28

2. Various Warnings, viz.:

a) Against dishonorable conduct,

(especially folly, sloth and malice)

Chap. 26

1          As snow in summer and rain in harvest,

so honor befitteth not the fool.

2     As the sparrow flitting, as the swallow flying,

so the curse undeserved: it cometh not.

3     A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass,

and a rod for the fool’s back.

4     Answer not a fool according to his folly,

lest thou be like him.

5     Answer a fool according to his folly,

lest he become wise in his own eyes.

6     He cutteth off the feet, he drinketh damage,

who sendeth a message by a fool.

7     Take away the legs of the lame,

and the proverb in the mouth of a fool.

8     As a bag of jewels on a heap of stones,

so is he that giveth honor to a fool.

9     As a thorny staff that riseth up in the hand of a drunkard,

so is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

10     An archer that woundeth everything,

and he that hireth a fool, and hireth vagrants (are alike).

11     As a dog that returneth to his vomit,

so the fool (ever) repeateth his folly.

12     Seest thou a man wise in his own eyes,

there is more hope of a fool than of him.—

13     The slothful saith: There is a lion in the way,

a lion in the midst of the streets.

14     The door turneth on its hinges,

and the slothful on his bed.

15     The slothful thrusteth his hand in the dish;

he is too sluggish to bring it to his mouth again.

16     The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes,

than seven (men) who give wise judgment.

17     He layeth hold on the ears of a dog

who passing by is excited by strife that is not his.

18     As a madman who casteth fiery darts,

arrows and death,

19     so is the man that deceiveth his neighbor,

and saith: Am I not in sport?

20     Where the wood faileth the fire goeth out,

and where there is no talebearer the strife ceaseth.

21     Coal to burning coals and wood to fire;

so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

22     The words of the talebearer are as sportive (words),

but they go down to the innermost part of the breast.

23     Silver dross spread over a potsherd,—

(so are) glowing lips and a wicked heart.

24     With his lips the hater dissembleth,

and within him he layeth up deceit.

25     When he speaketh fair believe him not;

for seven abominations are in his heart.

26     Hatred is covered by deceit,

(yet) his wickedness shall be exposed in the assembly.

27     He that diggeth a pit falleth into it,

and he that rolleth a stone, upon himself shall it return.

28     The lying tongue hateth those that are wounded by it,

and a flattering mouth will cause offence.


Proverbs 26:3. [The form גֵו (comp. Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29) is ordinarily explained as derived from גָוָה the more common גָו (Lex., גַּו) as from גָוַו; Bött. (§ 498, 17) suggests that the form גֵו is used, as in numerous similar cases the forms with weaker, flatter vowels are employed, to convey in their very sound the idea of the weak, the suffering, the miserable; גֵו then, in every instance except perhaps one, is used to describe a back that is beaten or threatened.—לַחֲמוֹר, a form with the article, as is indicated not by the vocalization alone, but by the parallel לַסּוּם; Bött. I., p. 403, n. 1.—A.].

Proverbs 26:6. [מְקַצֶּה a Piel part., therefore active in its meaning, and not to be rendered by a passive, nor need it be exchanged for the Pual (pass.) part, as Ewald proposes. The emendations of מְקַצֶּה רַגְלַיִם in clause a which have been proposed by recent expositors are unnecessary; e.g., Ewald’s reading מְקֻצֶּה ר׀ “is deprived of his feet, etc.” Hitzig would read מִקְצֶה ר׀ immediately connecting the following words; “from the end of the feet he swallows injury (? !) who sends messages by a fool.”—A.].

Proverbs 26:7. דַּלְיוּ is taken most simply as Imper. Piel from דָּלָה, to “lift out, draw out” (Psalms 30:2). [So Fuerst; Green, § 141, 1; Nordh. § 452. Bött. § 1123, 4, and § 300 b, makes it from דלל. This resolution of לּ and substitution of י for the second ל Bött. regards as a probable sign and characteristic of the Ephraimite dialect which he is inclined to find in this section of the Book of Proverbs. Gesen., Thes., was at first disposed to take it from דלל, but in the supplement brought out by Rödiger appears to have changed his view, taking it as a fuller form of דָּלוּ. The rendering of Bött., etc., would be “the legs of the lame hang useless.”—A.].

Proverbs 26:14. [תִּסּוֹב, illustrates Böttcher’s Fiens solitum, “is wont to turn,” and in Proverbs 26:20 תִּכְבֶּה and יִשְׁתֹּק his Fiens debitum: “must go out, must cease.” See Lehrb. § 950, 6, and c, ε.—A.].

Proverbs 26:18. מִתְלַהְלֵהַּ from להה or perhaps from a root תלה still preserved in the Arabic.

Proverbs 26:26. [תִּכַּסֵּה; the ת of the Hithp. prefix is elsewhere not assimilated.—A.].

Proverbs 26:28. [לְשׁוֹן as here use Bött. regards as one of the traces of an Ephraimite dialect, the noun with this meaning being otherwise feminine.—דַּכָּיו Gesen. derives from דַּךְ in the active sense the form being plural with suff. and the construction acc. as object. Fuerst makes it a peculiar derivative (without suffix) from דָּכָה in the sense of “bowed down, humble, pious.” Bött. pointing דָּכְיוֹ as the K’thibh, makes it from דֳּכִי with the suffix of the singular. See Exegetical notes for the various interpretations.—A.].


1.Proverbs 26:1-3. Three proverbs against folly, symmetrical in their structure (in each case bringing two related ideas into comparison).—As snow in summer and rain in harvest. According to Jerome, Comm. in Amos 4:7, rain in harvest time is in Palestine a thing not heard of, and even impossible. Comp. 1 Samuel 12:17 sq., where a sudden thunderstorm at this season appears as a miracle from God, and also the confirmatory statements of modern observers, like Robinson, Pal. II. Pro 307: “In ordinary years no rain at all falls from the end of the spring-showers till October or November, and the sky is almost always clear,” etc.—Comp. furthermore the remarks above on Proverbs 25:13, as well as, for clause b, Proverbs 19:10; and also Proverbs 26:8 below.

Proverbs 26:2.—As the sparrow flitting, as the swallow flying: lit. “as the sparrow for fleeing or wandering, as the swallow flying,” viz. is fitted. Comp. the similar construction in Proverbs 25:3, and also the similar comparison in Proverbs 27:8. [The Inf. with לְ may be rendered by the abl. as readily as by the dative of the gerund or verbal noun; by or in respect to flying, etc.]—So the curse (that is) undeserved: it cometh not. “A curse that is in vain, that has been uttered without just ground, that is unmerited,” like that, e.g., in 2 Samuel 16:5 sq., or that in 1 Kings 2:8. For the “in vain” comp. Proverbs 24:28 and the remarks on the passage.—Instead of לֹא תָבֹא K’ri calls for לוֹ תָבֹא׃ “to him, to the fool who utters it, will it return,” it will find its fulfilment in his own case (thus the Vulg. and Jarchi). But the verbal expression agrees poorly enough with this rendering, and moreover the two comparisons in a plainly favor rather the idea expressed by the K’thibh. [Such a curse is then fugitive, transient as a bird; it does not come to stay. The E. V. suggests the idea very blindly. Trapp explains: “As these may fly where they will, and nobody cares or is the worse; so here.” He would carry the comparison farther: as birds after their aimless flight return to their nest, ” so the causeless curse returns to the authors. Cursing men are cursed men.” A.].

Proverbs 26:3. Comp. Proverbs 10:13; Pro 26:29; Sir 30:25-25.—The assertion of J. D. Michaelis that the ideas “whip” “and” “bridle” in clause a are not rightly distributed between the horse and the ass, is refuted by Nahum 3:2; Ezekiel 41:9, where express mention is made of riding whips in connection with horses, as well as by Psalms 32:9, where with horses mules are also mentioned as bridled animals. [Gesen. Thes., s. v., abundantly illustrates the nobler nature of the Eastern ass, and the higher estimate put upon it. See also Houghton’s article in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, I., 182, Am. Ed. A.]

2.Proverbs 26:4-12. Eight additional proverbs directed against the folly of fools (among them one consisting of two verses, Proverbs 26:4-5).—Answer not a fool according to his folly, i.e., speak not with him in accordance with his folly, conforming thyself to it, imitating it, and thereby becoming thyself a fool. On the other hand, Proverbs 26:5 : Answer a fool according to his folly, i.e., serve him in his senseless babbling with an appropriate, sharply decisive retort, use with the coarse block (blockhead) the heavy wedge that belongs to it. The proverb in Proverbs 26:5 does not then stand as a restriction on the meaning of Proverbs 26:4 (as Ewald holds), but yet adjusting it, and guarding against what might be misunderstood in the former language. [Says Andrew Fuller: The terms in the first instance mean “in a foolish manner,” as is manifest from the reason given. In the second instance they mean “in the manner which his folly requires.” This is also plain from the reason given. A foolish speech is not a rule for our imitation; nevertheless our answer must be so framed by it as to meet and repel it. ” This knot will be easily loosed,“ says Muffet, “if it be observed that there are two sorts of answers, the one in folly, the other unto folly.” A.]

Proverbs 26:6. He cutteth off the feet, he drinketh damage, who sendeth a message by a fool. Comp. the two figurative expressions in clause a, the first (“ he cutteth off the feet,” i.e., his own feet, amputat sibi pedes—Michaelis, Schelling, Bertheau, Elster, Stier, [Kamph. Wordsw.] etc.,) means: he deprives himself of the means of attaining the end, he puts himself into a helpless condition; [and the idea is better expressed in this way than if we adopt the explanation of H., N., S., M.; he acts as though he cut off the feet of his messenger who chooses a fool for the errand. N. errs in completing a proposition in clause a: “ he that has his feet cut off drinks damage.” A.] The second phrase “ he drinketh injury or wrong,” according to Job 21:20; Job 34:7, is equivalent to “ he suffers abuses, he experiences in the largest measure an injury self-devised.” For similar use of the term “ words ” in the sense of commands, directions, a message, comp. Exodus 4:13; 2 Samuel 15:36. For the general meaning compare like complaints of bad and foolish messengers in Proverbs 10:26; Proverbs 25:13.

Proverbs 26:7. Take away the legs from the lame. The verb דלה appears to be used here with the meaning, which it is true is not to be discovered elsewhere, of tollere, to take away. For the meaning of the comparison, according to b, seems to be this: Always take from the lame his legs, (i.e., his lame legs), for they are really useless to him, just as the “proverb,” (i.e., the maxim of wisdom, the Maschal) in the mouth of the fool is useless, something that might without loss be never there; for the fool is and continues still a fool (Proverbs 26:9; Proverbs 12:16; Proverbs 14:24, etc.). Thus Umbreit, Bertheau, Stier [Stuart, Kamph.] correctly explain, while the rest take some one and some another way to explain the peculiarly obscure and difficult דַּלְיוּ. So Luther takes the phrase altogether arbitrarily in the sense of “to dance” (“as dancing to a cripple, so does it befit a fool to speak of wisdom”); in like manner Jarchi and Levi ben Gerson (“his legs are too long for the lame,” דליו being taken as equivalent to גָכְחוּ), and also Geier, Rosenm, J. H. Michaelis, Schelling, etc., who take דליו as a substantive equivalent to דַּלְיוּת in the sense of elevatio. [The E. V. renders “the legs of the lame are not equal”]. Ewald and Elster read דָּלָֽיוּ, “the legs of the lame are too loose ” (Aben Ezra had already given a similar rendering) [Gesen., “hang down,” so De W., N., Wordsw.; “ are weak,” H. M.]. Hitzig finally gives the Inf. abs. דלוג: “leaping of the legs on the part of a lame man—so is a proverb in the mouth of a fool,” (the same meaning, therefore, substantially as in Luther’s conception.)

Proverbs 26:8. As a bag of jewels on a heap of stones, so is he that giveth honor to a fool. If the noun מַרְגֵּמָה which occurs only here expresses the idea “ heap of stones,” acervus lapidum, which is altogether probable from its derivation from רגם, to stone, to heap up stones, then the צְרֹור אֶבֶן must be a parcel not of common, but of precious stones (comp. Exodus 28:9; Exodus 35:27, where אֶבֶן alone stands for lapis pretiosior), and this all the more since the 2d clause makes this rendering peculiarly natural. So R. Levi ben Gerson, then Luther, Geier, Schultens, Gesenius, Umbreit, Stier, Elster, [E. V. in mar-gin, De W., N., W.],—of whom Luther, Geier, Schultens, Stier [Wordsw.] think particularly of a heap of stones raised by the stoning of a malefactor, a tumulus aggestus supra corpus lapida-tum, which is certainly more natural than with Jerome, (Vulg., acervus Mercurii), several of the early Rabbis, Jarchi, V. E. Löscher (in the “ Unschuldigen Nachrichten,” Vol. 13, p. 496), and Oetinger, to think of a Hermes, a heap of stones dedicated to Mercury (λόφος ἑρμαῖον, statua mercurialis). Others (Bertheau, Ewald [Fuerst, Kamph., E. V., in text, H., S., M.] etc.,)following the LXX and Chald, take מַרְגֵמָה in the sense of “ sling,” and regard צְרוֹר as an Infin.; “ as the binding a stone fast to the sling”;—but against this may be maintained the inappositeness of the figure as compared with the idea in clause b, and the fact that such a meaning cannot be proved to belong to the noun, and the circumstance that the sling is elsewhere always called קֶלַע.—Hitzig: “as a little stone on the beam of a balance,” etc.,—for he says the noun מ‍׀ means, according to the Arabic, the “beam of a balance,” and צ׀ א׀ signifies a “bit or kernel of stone,” a little stone serving to bind the balance (?).

Proverbs 26:9. A thorny staff that riseth up in the hand of a drunkard, (so is) a (wise) proverb in the mouth of a fool. If in Proverbs 26:7 a Maschal, a maxim of wisdom, taken into’ the mouth of a fool was represented as something useless, destitute of all aim and effect, it here appears rather as something working absolute harm, wounding, injuring like thorns, and in particular like an instrument of correction heedlessly carried, striking in the wrong place, and so grossly misused. Comp. Luther’s marginal note, which in the main point certainly interprets correctly: when a drunkard carries and brandishes in his hand a sweet briar, he scratches more with it than he allows the roses to be smelled; so a fool with the Scriptures or a judicial maxim oft causes more harm than profit.”—Hitzig following the LXX, reads in clause b משֶׁל instead of מָשָׁל, and furthermore takes the verb of clause a in the sense of “ to shoot up,” and therefore renders: Thorns shoot up by (under) the hand of the hireling (?) and tyranny by the mouth of fools.” But we do not need to give to the verb here even as a secondary meaning the sense of growing up (as Ewald, Umbreit, Stier propose), as the simple original meaning of rising up; raising itself gives a meaning in every way satisfactory. [The rendering of the E. V., H., W., “as a thorn goeth up into the hand,” etc., wounding unconsciously, is less forcible every way than that of the author, with whom De W., K., Bertheau, N., S., M., etc., agree. A.]

Proverbs 26:10. An archer that woundeth everything (for this meaning comp. רַב, “an archer or dartsman,” comp. Jer. 1:29; Job 16:43; for the verb in this sense, Isaiah 11:9), and he that hireth a fool, and he that hireth vagrants (“passers by,” i.e., therefore untried, unreliable persons, who soon run away again)—are alike; one of the three is as foolish as another. This interpretation, which is followed by Schelling, Ewald, Bertheau, Stier, [De W., Kamph., and virtually S. and M.], involves it is true a certain hardness, especially in the relation of the figure in a to the two ideas in b; it corresponds best, however, with the simple literal meaning of the passage. Luther, Geier, See. Sciimid, [N., Wordsw.] render: “A master formeth all aright,” magister format omnia recte; in a similar way Elster: “An able man formeth all himself” (in contrast with the fool, who seeks to hire others, and even incompetent persons of all sorts, stragglers and vagrants, etc., to transact his business). [The E. V., which is followed against his will by Holden, interprets the “master” as God: “the great God,” etc.]. Umbreit and Hitzig [with another common meaning of רב]: “Much produceth all,” as though the meaning were similar to that in the ὅστις ἔχει δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, Matthew 13:11; Matthew 25:20. Others read וִב instead of רַב e.g., the Vulg., judicium determinat causas, and of recent expositors Ziegler, etc.

Proverbs 26:11. As a dog that returneth to his vomit (comp. the New Testament citation of this passage in 2 Peter 2:22) so the fool (ever) repeateth his folly; lit., “so comes the fool for the second time again with his folly,” comp. Proverbs 17:9. Here is plainly meant not merely a constantly renewed return to foolish assertions in spite of all the rational grounds adduced against them, but a falling again into foolish courses of action after brief endeavors or beginnings at improvement (comp. Matthew 12:46; John 5:14; Hebrews 6:4-8.)

Proverbs 26:12. Seest thou a man wise in his own eyes, i.e., who holds himself as wise, and by this very blind over-estimate of himself thoroughly and forever bars for himself the way to true wisdom (comp. Proverbs 30:12), like the Pharisees mentioned in John 9:41, who gave it out that they saw, but were in truth stone-blind.—With b compare Proverbs 31:20, where this 2d clause recurs literally.

3.Proverbs 26:13-16. Pour proverbs against sloth.

Proverbs 26:13. Comp. the almost identical proverb inProverbs Proverbs 22:13.—A lion is in the way. שַׁחַל a synonym of אֲדִי designates the lion as a roaring animal, as rugiens sive rugitor; it does not contrast the male lion with the lioness (Vulg.), or again the young lion with the full grown, (Luther),

Proverbs 26:14. Comp. Proverbs 6:10; Proverbs 24:33. With this figure of the door ever turning on its hinges but never moving from its place comp. the well-known words of Schiller—“ drcht sick träg und dumm wie des Färber’s Gaul im Ring herum” [turns lazy and stupid like the dyer’s nag round in its circle.]

Proverbs 26:15. Comp. the almost identical proverb, Proverbs 21:24.

Proverbs 26:16.—The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes (comp. Proverbs 26:12) than seven men who give a wise answer. The number seven stands here not because it is the sacred number, but to express the idea of plurality in a concrete and popular way. Comp. Proverbs 26:25; also Proverbs 6:31; Proverbs 24:16; Jer 15:9; 1 Samuel 2:5; Sir 37:14.—With this use of טַעַם “ taste ” in the sense of “understanding, judgment,” comp. 1 Samuel 21:14; 23:33; Psalms 119:66; Job 12:20; also remarks above on Proverbs 11:22, where is denoted in addition a quality of the moral life. “ To give back understanding” is naturally equivalent to giving an intelligent, wise answer, as a sign of an intelligent disposition; comp. Proverbs 17:18.

4.Proverbs 26:17-19. Against delight in strife and wilful provocation.—He layeth hold on the ears of a dog (and so provokes the animal outright to harking and biting) who passing by is excited by strife that is not his, lit.,. “over a dispute not for him” (comp. Habakkuk 2:6). For the use of this verb “to provoke or excite one’s self,” comp. the remark on Proverbs 20:2. This מִתְעַבֵּר with the Part. עֹבֵר forms an alliteration or polyptoton which (with Stier) may be substantially reproduced in German: “wer vorübergehend sich übergehen (sich die Oalle überlaufen) lässt,” etc. There is no occasion for Hitzig’s assumption, that instead of מִתְעַבֵּר there stood originally in the text the מִתְעָרֵב which is expressed by the Syriac and Vulg.; “he who meddleth in strife,” etc. [The E. V. has taken this doubtless under the influence of those early versions.]

Proverbs 26:18-19. As a madman who casteth fiery darts, arrows and death. The מִתְלַהְלֵהַּ which occurs only here, signifies, according to Symmachus, the Vers. Venet., and Aben Ezra, one beside himself or insane (ἐξεστώς, πειρώμενος). For the combination of the three ideas, fiery darts, arrows and death (i.e., deadly missiles), comp. the similar grouping in Proverbs 25:18 a.—So the man that deceiveth his neighbor. רִמָּה is to “deceive, to deal craftily,” not to “afflict” (Umbreit), or “overthrow” (Van Ess).—And (then) saith: Am I not in sport? The meaning of the simple “and saith” the Vulgate paraphrases correctly when it renders: “et cum deprehensus fuerit, dicit,” etc. [“ Quipping and flouting,” says Muffet, “is counted the flower and grace of men’s speech, and especially of table talk; but the hurt that cometh by this flower is as bitter as wormwood, and the disgrace which this grace casteth upon men is fouler than any dirt of the street.”—A.]

5.Proverbs 26:20-28. Nine proverbs against malice and deceit.—Where the wood faileth the fire goeth out, etc. Comp. the Arabic proverb expressing the same idea, aimed at slander (in Scheid, Selecta, p. 18): “He who layeth no wood on the fire keeps it from burning.” For this description of. the “slanderer” comp. Proverbs 16:28.

Proverbs 26:21. The direct opposite to the contents of the preceding verse.—Coals to burning coals; lit., black coals to burning coals. For the “man of contentions” in clause b comp. Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 27:15.

With Proverbs 26:22 compare the literally identical proverb Proverbs 18:8.

Proverbs 26:23. Silver dross spread over a potsherd. “Silver of dross” is impure silver not yet properly freed from the dross, and therefore partly spurious (Vulg., argentum sordidum), and not some such thing as a glazing with the glitter of silver made of plumbago (Lithargyrus), and so imitation of silver, as many think, and as Luther seems to have expressed in his “Silber-schaum.” חֶוֶשׂ, potsherd (Isaiah 16:11), seems to be used intentionally instead of כְּלִי־חֶרֶשׂ “ an earthen vessel,” to strengthen the impression of the worthlessness of the object named.—(So are) burning lips, i.e. fiery protestations of friendship, or it may be warm kisses (which Bertheau understands to be the specific meaning), which in connection with a genuinely good heart on the part of the giver are a sign of true love, but with a “ wicked heart” are on the contrary repulsive demonstrations of hypocrisy, without any moral worth (comp. the kiss of Judas, Matthew 26:48 sq.). It is unnecessary to read with Hitzig חֲלָקִים, “ smooth lips,” instead of דֹּלְקִים, “burning” lips.

Proverbs 26:24-25. With his lips the hater dissembleth. For the verb which may not here, as in Proverbs 20:11, be translated “is recognized” (so Luther, following the Chald. and Vulg.), comp. the Hithp. of נָכַר, which elsewhere expresses the idea of “dissembling,” e.g., Genesis 13:7; 1 Kings 16:5-6.—And within he prepareth deceit. Comp. Jeremiah 9:7, and with שִׁית מִרְמָה “to set, contrive, prepare deceit,” compare the “ setting or preparing snares,” Psalms 140:6.—For seven abominations are in his heart. See remarks above, on Proverbs 26:16, and comp. the seven devils of Matthew 12:45, which represent an intensified power in present moral deformity. That there is a specific reference to the six or seven abominations mentioned in Proverbs 6:16-19, is an arbitrary conjecture of Aben Ezra.

Proverbs 26:26. Hatred is covered by deceit.מַשָּׁאוֹן from נָשָׁא, “ to deceive,” is doubtless correctly understood by the LXX, when they express the idea by δόλος (comp. also the fraudulenter of the Vulg.); here it designates specifically “ hypocrisy, the deception of friendly language used to one’s face” (Umbreit). The suffix in רָעָתוֹ refers then by an obvious construclio ad sensum to him who conceals his hatred in this hypocritical way. The second clause gives assurance then of the certain occurrence of an exposure of this flatterer “ in the assembly,” i.e. before the congregation of his people assembled for judgment, who perhaps through some judicial process that ends unfortunately for him come to the knowledge of his villanies. Hitzig partially following the LXX (ὁ κρύπτων ἔχθραν συνίστησι δόλον), renders: He who concealeth hatred, devising mischief (?), his vileness is exposed in the assembly.”

Proverbs 26:27. He that diggeth a pit falleth into it. Comp. Ecclesiastes 10:8; Sir 27:26; Psalms 9:16, and with respect to the “falling back of the stone that has been (wickedly) rolled” in clause b, comp. Psalms 7:17; Matthew 21:44.

Proverbs 26:28. The lying tongue hateth those that are wounded by it. If the reading דַּכָּיו is correct this may be the rendering, and the “crushed” (plural of דָּךְ [E. V. the oppressed], Psalms 9:10; Psalms 10:18; 27:21), i.e. the bruised (or oppressed or wounded—see Umbreit and Stier on this passage) of the lying tongue, are then those whom this tongue has bruised or wounded, the victims of its wickedness—and not those possibly whom it proposes to wound or oppress (Umbreit, De W., Van Ess), or again those who wound, i.e. punish, it (conterentessive castigantes ipsam—Luther, Geier, Gesenius). Inasmuch, however, as the proposition is by no means universally and in every case true, that the lying tongue, or that detraction hates its own victims, and since besides the second clause seems to demand another sense, it might be justifiable to read with Ewald and Hitzig אֲדֹנָיו; accordingly “ the lying tongue hates its own master,” i.e. it hurls him into calamity, brings him to ruin—a meaning which also corresponds admirably with Proverbs 26:27. [See Critical notes for the three chief explanations of the form and derivation of the word. The passive rendering has this advantage, that it makes the fourth instance correspond with the other three in which the word is used; this presumption must be- decidedly overthrown. This we do not think is done; so the E. V., H., N., S., M., W., Kamph., etc.—A.] For the noun rendered “ offence,” in clause b, comp., moreover, the cognate verb in clause a of Proverbs 16:32.


It is mainly three forms of dishonorably and morally contemptible conduct, against which the condemning language of the proverbs in this section is directed; foolishness or folly in the narrower sense (Proverbs 26:1-12;) sloth (Proverbs 26:13-16); and a wicked maliciousness (Proverbs 26:17-28), which displays itself at one time as a wilful contentiousness and disposition to annoy (17–19), and at another as an artful calumniation and hypocritical slandering (20–28). Original ethical truths, such as have not appeared in previous chapters, are expressed only to a limited extent in the proverbs which relate to these vices. The novelty is found more in the peculiarly pointed and figurative form which distinguishes in an extraordinary degree the maxims of this chapter above others. Yet there are now and then essentially new ideas; what is said in Proverbs 26:2 of the futility of curses that are groundless; in Proverbs 26:4-5 of uttering the truth staunchly to fools without becoming foolish one’s self; in Proverbs 26:7; Proverbs 26:9 of the senselessness and even harmfulness of proverbs of wisdom in the mouth of a fool; in Proverbs 26:12 of the incapability of improvement in conceited fools who deem themselves wise; and finally in Proverbs 26:27-28 of the self-destroying reflex power of malicious counsels formed against one’s neighbor.

Homily on the chapter as a whole.—Of three kinds of vices which the truly wise man must avoid: 1) folly; 2) sloth; 3) wicked artifice.—Stöcker: What kinds of people are worthy of no honor: 1) fools; 2) sluggards or idlers; 3) lovers of contention and brawling.—Starke: A (warning) lesson on folly, sloth and deceitfulness.

Proverbs 26:1-6. Würtemberg Bible (on Proverbs 26:1):—Honor is a reward of virtue and ability; wilt thou be honored, then first become virtuous and wise!—Melanchthon (on Proverbs 26:2): As a consolation against all calumnies and unjust detraction the assurance of the divine word serves us,—that false (groundless) curses, though they momentarily harm and wound, yet in the end appear in their nothingness, and are cast aside, in accordance with the saying: truth may indeed be repressed for a time, but not perish (Psalms 94:15; 2 Corinthians 4:9). [“Truth crushed to earth shall rise again; the eternal years of God are hers.”—Lawson: The curses of such men instead of being prejudicial, will be very useful to us, if we are wise enough to imitate the conduct of David, whose meekness was approved, his prayers kindled into a flame of desires, and his hopes invigorated by them].—Geier (on Proverbs 26:3): One may not flatter his own unruly flesh and blood, but must seek to keep it properly in check.—Starke (on Proverbs 26:4-5): Great wisdom is needful to meet the different classes of our adversaries in an appropriate way.—(On Proverbs 26:6): Important concerns one should commit to skilful and able servants.

Proverbs 26:7-12. Luther. (Marginal comment on Proverbs 26:7): Fools ought not to be wise and yet will be always affecting wisdom.—[Trapp: If thy tongue speak by the talent, but thine hands scarce work by the ounce, thou shalt pass for a Pharisee (Matthew 23:3). They spake like angels, lived like devils; had heaven commonly at their tongue ends, but the world continually at their finger ends].—Starke (on Proverbs 26:7; Proverbs 26:9): He who will teach others in divine wisdom, must first have mastered it himself (Sir 18:19); then he will not only teach with profit, but also have honor from it.—(On Proverbs 26:9): He who misuses God’s word does himself thereby the greatest injury.—(On Proverbs 26:8): Beware of all flattering of the ungodly; for one prepares himself thereby but a poor reward.—(On Proverbs 26:10): As is the master so is the servant. Bad masters like bad servants.—(On Proverbs 26:11): If all relapses in sickness are dangerous, so much more relapses into old sins.—(On Proverbs 26:12): Self-pleasing and self-relaxation is the prolific mother of many other follies.—Wohlfarth (on Proverbs 26:12): Let no one esteem himself perfect, but let every one strive for humility and cherish it as his most sacred possession.—[Lawson (on Proverbs 26:8): But does not God Himself often give honor to fools ? Yes. He is the judge of nations who has a right to punish men by subjecting them to the power of fools. We are to regulate our conduct not by His secret but His revealed will.—Arnot (on Proverbs 26:11): When the unrenewed heart and the pollutions of the world are, after a temporary separation, brought together again, the two in their unholy wedlock become “one flesh.” Man’s true need—God’s sufficient cure is “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.”—J. Edwards (on Proverbs 26:12): Those who are wise in their own eyes are some of the least likely to get good of any in the world.—Bridges: The natural fool has only one hinderance—his own ignorance. The conceited fool has two—ignorance and self-delusion].

Proverbs 26:13-16. Lange: That the weeds of sin are ever getting the upper hand as well in hearts as in the Church, comes from this, that men do not enough watch and pray, but only lounge, are idle and sleepy: 1 Thessalonians 5:6.—Berlebury Bible: The sluggard remains year in year out sitting on the heap of his Self-chosen convenient Christianity, reads, hears, prays, sings in the Church year after year, and makes no progress, never cornea to an inner complete knowledge of truth; just as the door always remains in one place, although it turns this way and that the whole year through, and swings on its hinges. This slothfulness is the mother of all the doctrines which encourage the old Adam, and in the matter of sanctification throw out the “cannot,” where it is a “will not” that hides behind.—Wohlfarth: The sluggard’s wisdom. Rest is to him the sole end of life; only in indolence does he feel happy, etc.

Proverbs 26:17-19. Starke (on Proverbs 26:17): To mix one’s self in strange matters from forwardnesss and with no call, has usually a bad issue.—Osiander (on Proverbs 26:18-19): In the sight of God the wantonness and wickedness of the heart are not hid; moreover He does not let them go unpunished.—Zeltner: Crafty friends are much more dangerous and injurious than open enemies.—Lange: It testifies of no small wickedness when one alleges quite innocent intentions in injuring another, and yet with all is only watching an opportunity to give him a blow.

Proverbs 26:20-28. Hasius (on Proverbs 26:20 sq.): There would not be so much dispute and strife among men if there were not so many base spirits who nourish and promote it in every way.—Starke: Slanders and contentions are to be regarded as a flame to which one should not supply wood, but rather water to quench them.—[Trapp (on Proverbs 26:23): Counterfeit friends are nought on both sides].—Von Gerlach (on Proverbs 26:20): Though a deceitful man may succeed in cheating individuals, yet this is not possible before the whole Church (Acts 5:1-11).—(On Proverbs 26:27): A hypocritical tongue if it has injured any one follows him still further with lies to defend itself, and so it causes universal confusion.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 26". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-26.html. 1857-84.
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