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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 11

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verse 1


Proverbs 11:1. Just weight, literally, “a stone of completeness, a full stone.” Stone was a very ancient material for weight; not rusting, it was not changeable.



This judgment on a false weight is a two-fold revelation.

I. It reveals the existence of a true standard. We only know what is false by knowing what is true. If a mason looks at a stone and declares that it is uneven, he declares at the same time that there is such a thing as an even stone, or that there is a possibility of making a stone perfectly level and square. He reveals his knowledge of what is even by passing judgment upon what is uneven. When a judge declares that a man has not fulfilled the requirements of the law, he thereby proclaims the existence of a law which ought to have been, and might have been obeyed. As Paul tells us, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law” (Romans 5:13). And if a weight is condemned as false, the condemnation implies that there is a certain standard of weight which ought to have been reached. God, who here tells men that He abominates a false balance, declares by His condemnation of it that there is such a thing as a true weight: that there is that which He recognises as justice between man and man. And much that men call “a full stone,” a “fair day’s wages,” is not so regarded by God. It is not dealing truly with a man to give him the smallest possible amount for the work he does—to take advantage of his poverty or ignorance to beat him down to the lowest sum for which his need will induce him to give his labour, and thereby condemn him to all the evils of insufficient means. “Behold!” says Carlyle, “supply and demand is not the one law of Nature; cash payment is not the sole nexus of man with man,—how far from it! Deep, far deeper than supply and demand are laws, obligations sacred as man’s life itself!” This is the law of the Divine kingdom: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). Less than this is a “false balance,” this is the “full stone,” which is God’s “delight.”

II. It reveals the character of God. If a man declares that certain actions are displeasing to him, the declaration reveals his character; if the actions that he hates are wicked in themselves and hurtful to men, his hatred of them proclaims his own righteousness and benevolence. That God is a hater of false weights and measures in every sense and of every kind proclaims Him to be a God of mercy and truth, a Ruler who will Himself “not pervert judgment,” who “will not lay upon man more than right,” but who will “give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Job 34:12-13; Jeremiah 32:19). And the text likewise proclaims God’s notice of what men sometimes call little things. The farthing kept back from the child, and the ounce taken from the pound, are as much marked by Him as the short wages given to the man, the unjust sentence passed upon the prisoner. Dr. Guthrie says “God sees the water in the milk, and the sand in the sugar.” There are no great and small transactions in a moral sense, one action contains the sin as much as another.


In this emphatic reproduction of the old rule of Deuteronomy 25:13-14, we may find, perhaps, a trace, as in chap. Proverbs 6:1, of the growing commerce of the Israelites, and the danger of dishonesty incidental to it. While the words have a wider range and include all unequal and unrighteous judgments, there can be no doubt that the literal meaning is the prominent one. The stress laid on the same sin in chaps. Proverbs 16:11, Proverbs 20:10, bears witness to the desire of the teacher to educate the youth of Israel to a high standard of integrity, just as the protest of Hosea against it (ch. Proverbs 12:7) shows the zeal of the prophet in rebuking what was becoming more and more a besetting sin.—Plumptre.

Hither may be referred corruptions in courts, and partialities in Church businesses. See that tremendous “charge” to do nothing by partiality or by “tilting the balance” (1 Timothy 5:21). Those that have the “balances of deceit in their hand” (Hosea 12:7) are called Canaanites, so the Hebrew hath it, that is, mere natural men (Ezekiel 16:3), that have no goodness in them, no, not common honesty; they do not as they would be done by, which very heathens condemned.—Trapp.

Surely he that weighs in a false balance is himself weighed by God in a balance of justice, and for the gain he gets he getteth to himself from the Lord His just abomination; not only His dislike or condemnation of it, but the abomination because it is a theft cloaked with the colour of justice, even the exact justice of weighing. But a just balance is such a delight unto God as that He delighteth, as it were, to be a seller in that shop, and that He maketh others to delight to come and buy at it. Surely such a “perfect stone” (see Hebrew) is a perfect jewel, and a precious stone in the sight of God. But in a spiritual sense there is no such false balance as when man weigheth heavier than God, earth heavier than heaven, the pleasures of sin heavier than the crown of glory, a momentary contentment heavier than eternal blessedness. And justly are such false balances an abomination to the Lord. But that is a just weight whereby the light vanity of worldly things is rightly perceived, the levity of earthly greatness is truly discerned, the weightiness of God’s promises is duly considered, the heaviness of God’s threatenings is carefully apprehended. Such a weight is God’s delight, doth overbalance all whatsoever the world delighteth in.—Jermin.

That which is hurtful to our brother is hateful to God, and therefore can never be helpful to us. If He judge it unrighteous we shall find it unprofitable: if it be damnable in His sight, and therefore His soul doth hate it, it will at last be in our sense, and our souls shall rue it. Here is consolation to them that do constantly and conscionably addict themselves to the practice of equity. None hath truly learned this but such as have been apprentices to heaven, whom the Lord hath informed in the mysteries of that trade.—Dod.

Weight and balance are judicial institutions of the Lord, and every weight is His work. But marriage compacts, also political confederacies, civil compacts, judgments, penalties, etc., are ordinances of Divine wisdom and justice, and are effectively superintended by God.—Melancthon.

This is repeated with varied language three times (Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 20:23). The tendency of all commentators is to treat it as descriptive of men. It seems conspicuously to be asserted of the Almighty. Sentences like chap. Proverbs 10:29 make the doctrine a very timely one, that God is in His very essence just; that He takes no liberties of an arbitrary nature; that He is the administrator, not at all of fate, for this is blind and unreasoning, but of eternal rectitude; that we need give ourselves no care of our government, for that He has no temptation to do us wrong, because “false balances” are an abomination to Jehovah.” “Delight” is rather a strong version. It only means that the Almighty has the eternal desire to be absolutely just. Omniscience, omnipotence, and this desire must make an immaculate administration. God will not, by a false balance, become an abomination to Himself.—Miller.

Commerce is a providential appointment for our social intercourse and mutual helpfulness. It is grounded with men upon human faith, as with God upon Divine faith. Balance, weights, money are its necessary materials. Impositions, double dealings, the hard bargain struck with self-complacent shrewdness (chap. Proverbs 20:14)—this is the false balance forbidden alike of the law and of the Gospel (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 4:8).—Bridges.

Verse 2


Proverbs 11:2. Literally, “there hath come pride, there will come shame.” Stuart reads, “Does pride come, then shame will come.”



I. Pride comes to the human spirit. “When pride cometh.” There are certain weeds that come at certain seasons of the year without being sent for or desired. They tarry not for the will of man, but appear in the most wellkept garden and in the most carefully tilled field. The only will that the proprietor has in the matter is whether they shall be allowed to stay. If they stay, they will assuredly spread and increase in strength. Self-sown plants are the first to spring up in the ground, and will be the last to disappear. Nothing will kill them but uprooting and consuming the entire plant by fire. So pride will spring up in the human heart. The seeds are there, and the soul is congenial to their germination and growth. According to the highest authority upon the subject, pride is its natural outgrowth. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.… pride” etc. (Mark 7:21-22). The question for every man to settle when pride comes up in the blade, is whether it shall be allowed to go on to the full ear—whether the feeling shall be allowed to remain until it is manifested in action, or whether the fire of the Holy Ghost shall be called in to consume the very root. “Pride,” says Adams, “is like the heart, the first thing that lives and the last thing that dies in us.”

II. When pride is permitted to remain, shame will follow,

1. Because it tends to ingratitude. If a man permits a wrong estimate of himself to grow up and strengthen within him, growing daily in a sense of his own importance and his own deserts, he will soon be ungrateful to men for their acts of goodwill, and to God for the position in which He has placed him in the world. Ingratitude is a high road to shame before God and before men, because it prevents men from taking advantage of present opportunities.

2. Because it keeps men ignorant. There is a shame arising from ignorance, when men have had no opportunities of acquiring knowledge. Even when it is not their own fault, men feel ashamed of their ignorance. But pride leads men to refuse instruction when it is offered to them, and thus it leads to wilful ignorance, which, being wilful, is doubly shameful.

3. Because it makes men useless. If a man has received many gifts from the Divine hand and yet lacks that spiritual-mindedness and humility which is the salt to season them and make them acceptable to the hearts and consciences of mankind, he will be to them like a fountain of beautiful and polished marble without any water, and will only vex the thirsty traveller by reflecting the rays of light from the basin which he hoped to find filled with water. He is a cloud without water, lovely to the eye, but not refreshing to the thirsty land. And men will turn from and despise gifts without graces, especially the grace ef humility.

III. Lowly men are wise men, and are in the way of becoming wiser.

1. This we know from the Divine promise. “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15.) From the nature of things, those who are alike in character will seek to dwell together. The good and the bad each go “to their own company” in this world, and must do so in every world. There is no pride in the Divine character: “He humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth” (Psalms 113:6). Because He can rightly estimate everything and every person, pride cannot dwell with Him. Therefore He dwells with those who are like Himself, and the man with whom God dwells, and who is “taught of the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13), must be ever increasing in Wisdom

2. This we know from experience. The wisest men in the world, the men who are most able to teach others, are those who have been willing first to stoop to learn: those who have been willing to own their ignorance and need, and so have been willing to sit at the feet of those who knew more than they did. Wise men are always lowly in estimating their present acquirements, whether of intellect or character, and this keeps them in the way of ever becoming wiser.


Trite as the words now are, the appearance in many languages of the same maxim points to the delight with which men have in all ages welcomed this statement of a fact of general experience, in which they saw also a proof of a Divine government. A Rabbinic paraphrase of the latter clause is worth quoting: “Lowly souls become full of wisdom as the low place becomes full of water.”—Plumptre.

Where pride is in the saddle, shame is on the crupper. He is a “proud fool” saith our English proverb. But “God gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6); that is, as some sense it, good repute and report among men. Who am I? saith Moses; and yet who fitter than he to go to Pharaoh? He refused to be called Pharaoh’s daughter’s son; he was afterwards called to be Pharaoh’s god. (Exodus 7:1.)—Trapp.

When Nebuchadnezzar was bragging of his Babel which he had built for his glory, he was banished from all habitation, not having so much as a cottage, and like a beast made to lie among the beasts of the field, with ignominy. When Haman thought to ride on horseback and to be waited on like a king, he was driven to lackey on foot, and to wait attendance like a page, and purposing to hang Mordecai on high to honour himself, he prepared a high gallows to be hanged on himself. When Herod thought himself good enough to take on him the state and honour of a god, the Lord declared him to be bad enough to be devoured of contemptible vermin.… Whereas the humble are always in the way of preferment, either to come to honour in a great place, or for honour to come to them in a mean place.—Dod.

It is the prayer of David, Let not the foot of pride come against me, or unto me: for pride and shame ride in one chariot, they come both together; he that entertaineth the one, must entertain the other. And howbeit pride set open her bravery, and shame awhile be masked, yet shame at length shall open itself, and pride shall not be seen. For how can shame choose but be joined with pride, which, says St. Ambrose, knows not how to stand, and when it is fallen, is ignorant how to rise. On the other side, although lowliness goes on foot, yet wisdom is her companion, which not only preserveth the lowly from shame, but highly advanceth them in the esteem of God and man. And indeed what greater wisdom is there than humility, which, says St. Ambrose again, by desiring nothing, obtaineth all that is despised by it.—Jermin.

The folly and wickedness of pride—

1. Of station. “Man will not long abide in honour, seeing he may be compared to the beast that perisheth” (Psalms 49:12). In the sight of God, the greatest and proudest of men are but dust and ashes.

2. Of birth. Even an ancient heathen could see its absurdity and say, “As to family and ancestors, and what we have not done ourselves, can scarcely be called ours.” We certainly had no hand in producing these distinctions.

3. Of riches. They cannot give dignity of character, superiority of intellect, vigour of body, peace of conscience, or any one of those advantages which form the chief blessings of life.

4. Of talent or learning. A disease, an accident, may overset the mind, and turn all our light into utter darkness, and even should our abilities and learning continue with us till the end of our days here below, they must then vanish and be extinguished. It was the consciousness of their uncertain and transient endurance, as well as of their imperfection, that made the wise Agur say, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man and;” which drew from Solomon the confession, “In much wisdom there is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18).

4. Of beauty. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”

5. Of spiritual pride. Of all description of guilt this appears to be the most odious to God and unbecoming to man, and as such is denounced throughout the Scriptures. Everlasting shame is made the portion of every one “that exalteth himself.”—Warner.

Gabriel is the prince he is solely from the Spirit. It is because God gave him the Spirit that he remained in grace; and it was because God took the Spirit that Satan fell into apostasy. Pride, therefore, is a mad vanity. If “false balances” are an abomination to God, He would not be apt to let “pride” flourish. And yet pride does flourish in worldly things. The “shame” here must mean that spiritual contempt which looks to the whole eternity. It is only

(1) out of contempt for him that God lets a man be proud; and it is only
(2) contempt and shame that can follow upon the proud thought. Pride itself is an evidence of God’s contempt. And being “humble” not only
(1) invites “Wisdom,” and makes her feel at home; not only
(2) flows from Wisdom because she is at home, but
(3) actually “is Wisdom.” It would not do to say, Has humility entered? There also enters Wisdom; for humility is wisdom, and could not exist unless Wisdom had entered already.—Miller.

Perhaps the reference in the words before us may especially be to the influence of pride in our intercourse with men. In this view of them they are verified in different ways. For example—the manifestation of pride,—of supercilious loftiness and self-sufficiency—strongly tempts others to spy out defects, and to bring down the haughty man from his imaginary elevation. Everyone takes a pleasure in plucking at him, and leaving the laurel-wreath which he has twined for his own brow as bare of leaves as possible; and thus to cover him with “shame.” Another way in which it tends to “shame” is, that it leads him who is the subject of it to undertake, in the plenitude of his confident self-sufficiency, to fill stations for which he is incompetent; by which means he, ere long, exposes himself to the derision or the pity of his fellows. He shortly finds himself in the position of those described in our Lord’s parable, who “choose for themselves the highest seats,” but in the end, abashed and crest-fallen, “begin with shame to take the lowest rooms.” That parable (Luke 14:7-11) is a graphic commentary on the words before us.—Wardlaw.

Pride was the principle of the fall (Genesis 3:5), and, therefore, the native principle of fallen man (Mark 7:22). When pride had stripped us of our honour, then—not till then—cometh shame (Genesis 3:7, with Genesis 2:25). This is the wise discipline of our God to scourge the one by the other.… What a splendour of wisdom shone in the lowly child “sitting at the doctors’ feet, astonishing them at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:47). And will not this Spirit be to us the path of Wisdom? For the Divine Teacher “reveals to the babes what He hides from the wise and prudent.—Bridges.

Verses 3-4


Proverbs 11:3. Guide, “lead” “as a shepherd his sheep, and therefore in the path of safety and peace” (Stuart). Perverseness, “slipperiness,” “falseness.” Destroy. An intensive word in the Hebrew, “to lay hold of them with violent force” (Stuart).



I. The upright man is in danger. To say that a man needs a guide is to say that he is exposed to some kind of danger—that the path which he has to tread is one in which it is possible to sustain loss of some kind. A man does not need a guide when he is walking in a road where he knows every step of the way, where his path lies straight before him, beset with no danger. An upright man has much to lose. He can lose much in losing one thing, he can, indeed, lose all in one thing, his all for time and eternity, viz., his moral character. If his uprightness of character sustains any loss, if any stain is permitted to fall upon that, it will only regain its erectness and purity at the cost of much pain and time. What was gained with difficulty at first will be harder to regain. It is up-hill work to redeem a lost character, and if it is not redeemed, existence is cast away and the man is said to be lost. And the very fact that a man is godly places him in danger. The thief is never found measuring the height of the wall or testing the security of the locks of the house where poverty reigns. He does not haunt such a dwelling, and reckon up the opposition he would be likely to meet with there. Such a house has no attraction for him, and is safe from all danger so far as he is concerned, because there is no silver or gold there. But the house filled with plate and jewels is the one around which he paces with stealthy steps, and whose means of defence and unguarded doors or windows he takes note of. Such a house draws him towards it as the magnet draws the needle. So the godless man has little or no attraction for the enemy of souls. The very poverty of his moral nature renders him an unattractive object to the great thief of character. But an upright man he considers a foeman worthy of his steel, and the rich graces that dwell within the heart of such a one have a magnetic power for him who was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44), and for all his emissaries and agents, whether they be devils or men.

II. The infallible guide for the godly or upright man: Integrity. What is integrity? Dr. Bushnell says: “As an integer is a whole, in distinction from a fraction, which is only a part, so a man of integrity is a man whose aim in the right is a whole aim, in distinction from one whose aim is divided, partial, or unstable. It does not mean that he has never been a sinner, or that he is not one now, but simply that the intent of his soul is to do and be wholly right with God and man. Old Simeon was such a man. It is said of him that he was just, that is, he was single in his purpose in relation to man, and that he was devout, which expresses the wholeness of his aim in relation to God. Paul was such a man. “What shall I do, Lord?”—“This one thing I do” was the key note of his life. (Acts 22:10; Philippians 3:13)

1. This guide is one whose voice is not easily mistaken. If a man sets his own interest before him as the guide of his life, he is very likely to be mistaken as to what his own interest really is even so far as regards the present life. We are so short-sighted as to be unable to foretell what may be the issue of any act of life in relation to our own personal and present well-being looked at from a material point of view. If we are more unselfish and adopt the famous principle of “the good of the greatest number,” we involve ourselves in a still greater perplexity. This problem is one which can be solved by God alone. But every man whose conscience is not wholly depraved can determine as to the right and wrong of his actions, and thus possesses a clue to guide him step by step through every intricate path of life. Darkness of soul and circumstances may at times surround him, but here is a pole-star which will shine through the gloom. “In the darkest hour through which a human soul can pass,” says Robertson, of Brighton, speaking of the doubts and perplexities to which the most sincere men are often the most liable, “whatever else is doubtful this is certain, that it is better to be generous than selfish, better to be chaste than licentious, better to be true than false, better to be brave than a coward. Blessed beyond all earthly blessedness is the man who, in the tempestuous darkness of the soul, has dared to hold fast to these venerable landmarks. Thrice blessed is he, who, when all is drear and cheerless within and without, has obstinately clung to moral good. Thrice blessed because his night shall pass into bright, clear day.” Thus “the integrity of the upright shall guide them.” This virtue is a guide as recognisable as sunlight. The eye of every man, in every nation, recognises the sun as the light which is the guide of his life; and integrity, honesty, and complete dealing between man and man is recognisable by every man whose conscience is not wholly blinded by long-continued persistence in wickedness (see Luke 12:57).

2. It shall guide a man to happiness. We have seen that happiness or self-interest cannot be the guide of life, either in relation to the one man or to the many. The happiness of one man, in this narrow and low sense of the word, may mean misery to another; but right-doing is the high road to the happiness of the individual, and the promoter of the happiness of all to whom he is related. Though happiness is not the aim of the upright man, yea, because it is not the aim of his life, he will be guided into it. The man who does right simply because it is right, and without hope of reward, will have a reward. Integrity must lead to the happiness of the upright man. The approbation of conscience is a large element of blessed happiness, and the certainty that right-doing can wrong none of his fellow-creatures, but may add much to their well-being, is another element in the reward. There is also happiness in the possession of a single aim, an undivided purpose in life. The concentration of all a man’s powers to one point increases his power to accomplish the task to which he has set himself. He is like a man steering for the harbour, with his eye upon the compass and his hand upon the wheel; he is conscious of a power to carry out his purpose, and the certainty of success is in itself a reward.

3. It must guide a man to heaven. All the upright who are in heaven have been guided there by integrity—by first of all “rendering unto God the things that are God’s”—loyal obedience to His conditions of salvation, and then, as a necessary result, rendering unto their fellow-men that which is their due.


“The perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” A Grecian legend.—An old diver was wont to boast of his skill to bring up treasures from the sea. To test his power the people threw many a golden coin and silver cup into deep water, all of which he brought to the surface with triumph. But one day a disguised fiend threw a tinsel crown into a whirlpool, and challenged the confident diver to bring it up, promising him, if he succeeded, the power to wear it, and to transmit it to his children. Down he sprung after the bauble, but the nereids of the sea, hearing the clangour of the crown when it fell upon their grottos, closed around him as he was grasping his prize and held him fast till he perished. The most daring may dare once too often; folly, though long successful, will plunge its victim into ruin at last.—Biblical Treasury.


All obliquity and trick in the intercourse of men is a libel on Providence. Every recourse to falsehood is a direct distrust of God. Truth is both the shortest and the surest road in every difficulty. How much labour is lost by adopting tortuous paths. A great part of life’s labour consists in following a crooked course, and then trying to make it appear a straight one. The crooked line is far more difficult at the first, and the defence of it afterwards doubles the labour.—Arnot.

“I will walk in mine integrity,” was David’s staff, and in doing anything there is no such guide to do it well as the integrity of the heart. Knowledge is requisite, and is a good director: counsel may be needful, and is a good conductor; but the master pilot is the sincerity of the heart. If that be wanting the others will not be following, if that be present the others will not be wanting.—Jermin.

Everyone that is truly godly hath a faithful guide and an upright counsellor in his own breast. A sound heart is the stern of the soul, and a good conscience is the pilot to govern it.—Dod.

A man, to be led, must have a way; and, to have a way, he must have an end at which he is aiming. The end of the “upright” man is righteousness itself. If the great joy of heaven is uprightness, and the price of wisdom is above rubies, of course “integrity” is the best guide in the world, because of course righteousness is the best guide to righteousness; and, poor or rich, the righteous man is always advancing in his treasure. Righteousness is also the best guide to happiness, for no good thing shall be withholden from them that walk uprightly. Sin, on the other hand, by increasing itself, is itself its own seducer.—Miller.

Sincerity is one eminent branch of the good man’s character. Nathaniel was a man without guile. We accordingly find that, though prejudiced against Jesus of Nazareth, his sincerity appeared in the means which he employed to arrive at a knowledge of the truth, and he was led by it in the right way. Christ’s enemies were men of perverse spirits. They crucified Him with a view to maintain their honour and preserve their nation; but by their perverse conduct both were destroyed.—Lawson.

Every man who comes into a state of right intent, will forthwith also be a Christian. Whoever is willing to be carried just where it will carry him, cost him what it may, in that man the spirit of all sin is broken, and his mind is in a state to lay hold of Christ and to be laid hold of by Him.… “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God is on the lookout always for an honest man—him to help, and with him, and for him, to be strong. And if there be one, God will not miss him; for His desiring, all-searching eyes are running the world through always to find him.—Bushnell.

I. The guidance of integrity is the safest under which we can be placed. Perfect immunity from danger is not to be expected in this life. But let us inquire who the persons are that, in all the different lines of life, have gone through the world with most success, and we shall find that the men of probity and honour form by far the most considerable part of the list; that men of plain understanding, acting upon fair and direct views, have much oftener prospered than men of the deepest policy, who were devoid of principle. II. It is unquestionably the most honourable. Other qualities may add splendour to character; but if this essential requisite be wanting, all its lustre fades. He who rests upon an internal principle of virtue and honour, will act with a dignity and boldness of which they are incapable who are wholly guided by interest. He is above those timid, suspicious, and cautious restraints which fetter and embarrass their conduct. III. This plan of conduct is the most comfortable. Amidst the various and perplexing events of life, it is of singular advantage to be kept free from doubt as to the part most proper to be chosen. The man of principle is a stranger to those inward troubles which beset men who consult nothing but worldly interest. His time is not lost, nor his temper fretted, by long and anxious consultations. One light always shines upon him from above. One path always opens clear and distinct upon his view. He is also delivered from all inward upbraidings, from all alarms founded on the dread of discovery and disgrace. The man of virtue has committed his way to the Lord. He co-operates with the Divine purpose. The power which sways the universe is engaged on his side. By natural consequence, he has ground to expect that any seeming disappointments which he may now incur shall be over-ruled in the end to some salutary result. IV. He has always in view the prospect of immortal rewards. That surely is the wisest direction of conduct, which is most amply recompensed at last.—Blair.

For Homiletics of Proverbs 11:4 see chapter Proverbs 10:2. The thought of the first clauses of Proverbs 11:5-6 is the same as that treated Proverbs 11:3.

Verses 5-6


Proverbs 11:5. Direct, “make smooth or even.”

Proverbs 11:6. Naughtiness, “cravings,” “desires,” “covetousness.”



The word translated “naughtiness” should be rendered “lust” or “desires.” (See Critical Notes).

I. Sin is compliance with desires that do not harmonise with moral righteousness. A traveller on a lonely and dangerous road may have two guides offered to him by the opposite promptings of his own mind. He may have a strong desire to explore a path which looks most pleasant and attractive but which he knows does not lead to his destination, and is beset with many perils although its aspect is inviting. On the other hand, his good sense tells him it is unwise to run the risk of injury by thus turning aside from the road that he knows leads to the goal which he desires to reach, although the path may be rough and toilsome. If he yields to his first desire and pursues the dangerous path until it is too late to retrace his steps, he may lose his life by a false step over a precipice and so be destroyed by his own desires. All men are under the dominion of desires, and if their desires after God and righteousness have the rule they will be guided by them into the ways of deliverance and safety, as we saw in considering Proverbs 11:3. But if they yield themselves up to the guidance of desires which run counter to the law of God and right, as they are made known both by conscience and revelation, they sink lower and lower in the scale of moral being and become slaves when they might have been free men. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (John 8:34; Romans 6:16).

II. The sinner is the forger of his own fetters. If a man labours in his field, his garden, or his vineyard, in harmony with the known laws which God has ordained to be observed, he may reasonably expect a good crop—an abundant harvest. But if he sets at nought these laws—if he yields to desires of self-indulgence—or in any other way acts contrary to the conditions which are indispensable to success—he has no one to blame but himself if he finds himself a beggar when he might have had plenty. The law of God’s moral universe is written in revelation, upon conscience, in the history of men, that “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” that “The wages of sin is death” (Galatians 6:7; Romans 6:23). If men are “taken,” are first enslaved by sin and then suffer the penalty of sinning, they have themselves digged the pit of their own destruction—have forged the chains by which they are bound.


Proverbs 11:4. How badly led those are who are not righteous, appears in this: that while righteousness does everything for a man in journeying to his end, wealth does nothing for him. “Wealth,” which seems to be the great guide of the human family, not only cannot deliver, but cannot profit in the crisis of fate. While “righteousness,” all covered with stains, lets no day go to waste; lets no mile be utterly lost; lets no fear ever be realised; still grapples a man’s hand; and still guides a man’s tread, till he steps at last into the regions of safety.—Miller.

It were no bad comparison to liken mere rich men to camels and mules; for they often pursue their devious way, over hills and mountains, laden with India purple, with gems, aromas, and generous wines upon their backs, attended, too, by a long line of servants as a safeguard on their way. Soon, however, they come to their evening halting-place, and forthwith their precious burdens are taken from their backs; and they, now wearied, and stripped of their lading and their retinue of slaves, show nothing but livid marks of stripes. So, also, those who glitter in gold and purple raiment, when the evening of life comes rushing on them, have nought to show but marks and wounds of sin impressed upon them by the evil use of riches.—St. Augustine.

Riches will not even obtain “a drop of water to cool the tormented tongue” (Luke 16:19-24). In vain will “the rich men of the earth” seek a shelter from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:15-17).—Bridges.

While the words are true in their highest sense of the great dies irœ of the future, they speak, in the first instance, as do the like words in Zephaniah 1:15-18, of any “day of the Lord,” any time of judgment, when men or nations receive the chastisement of their sins.—Plumptre.

“Wherefore should I die, being so rich?” said that wretched Cardinal, Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, in Henry VI.’s time. “Fie,” quoth he, “will not death be lured? Will money do nothing?”—Trapp.

If righteousness delivereth not from the day, yet it delivereth from the wrath of the day: if it deliver not from death, yet it delivereth from the death of the wicked.—Jermin.

Proverbs 11:5. “The righteousness of the man of integrity” is perfect only in heaven, and how it “directs” or “levels” his way appears best by the perfect facility of walking in that bright abode. It will be no trouble there to travel forward. While more work will be done in heaven than here, yet there it is done so easily that it is called a “Rest.” The paths of this world are not only difficult, but deadly. “The wicked” will not only struggle, but “fall” in them; and the roughnesses at which he stumbles are not ever in the paths themselves, but really his “own wickedness.”—Miller.

Greedy desire (see Critical Notes) will strongly tempt men to sin, and so they will be ensnared.—Stuart.

The first part of this text may be taken—I. As declaring a fact. A real Christian takes, for direction in his way, the rule of righteousness. The question that he continually puts to himself is—“What ought I to do?” This is the character of a believer in the abstract; and though none may lay claim to perfection, yet none can be justly called believers, unless their lives in the main answer to this description. II. As propounding a promise. It is nowhere promised that the righteous shall not come into trouble, but the strait road goes through them. The other statement of the text may also be regarded—I. As an assertion proved by experience. The drunkard ruins his health and shortens his life by excesses. The spendthrift brings himself to beggary. The contentious man brings himself to mischief. They often dig a pit for others and fall into it themselves. III. As a threat. It does not always happen that men are visited for their sins in this life. Still it may be said to every ungodly man, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”—B. W. Dibdin.

Proverbs 11:6. Godliness hath many troubles, and as many helps against trouble. As Moses’ hand, it turns the serpent into a rod; and as the tree that Moses cast into the waters of Marah, it sweeteneth the bitter waters of affliction. Well may it be called the divine nature, for as God doth bring light out of darkness, so doth grace.—Trapp.

There need no blocks to be laid in the way of the wicked, no enemies need to thrust him down, for his own wickedness being his way, by that he shall fall.… Wickedness is fastened, by the devil, like a cord about the wicked; by that he pulls them after him: by that he makes them fall, first into shame and misery here, and into hell when they are gone hence.—Jermin.

Verse 7


Proverbs 11:7. His and men are not in the original, and the verse is variously rendered. Stuart reads, “When the wicked die, all the hopes perish; and when they are afflicted, their expectation of recovery or alleviation will be frustrated.” Zöckler—“With the death of the wicked hope cometh to nought, and the unjust expectation has perished.” Miller—“By the death of a wicked man hope is lost, and the expectation of sorrowing ones is lost already.”



I. An inevitable event in relation to a wicked man. “When a wicked man dieth.” He must die. “It is appointed unto men,”—to the good and to the bad—“once to die.” (Hebrews 9:27).

1. This inevitable event is most undesired by the wicked man. The certainty of any coming event will make it to be dreaded in proportion as it is felt that its advent must be followed by unpleasant consequences. The man who knows that nothing can save him from becoming a bankrupt at no distant period feels the certainty of the fact to be a most unwelcome thought. The man who knows that on a certain day of reckoning he will be unable to meet his liabilities, and that the day will as surely arrive as the planets will hold on their way in the heavens, can only look forward to the future with the most gloomy apprehensions. That coming day is ever hanging over his present, and imparting a sting to every hour in which he allows his thoughts to dwell upon it. The certainty of death is a most painful subject of contemplation for a wicked man. Conscience tells him that he has no resources wherewith to meet the demands of that day—he knows that he is unfit to face that most ruthless of all creditors, and the knowledge that nothing can turn aside his footsteps is often a bitter drop in the cup of his present apparent prosperity and security.
2. The wicked man takes refuge from the thought of the certainty of the event in the uncertainty of the time when it will take place. He indulges in “hopes,” and “expectations,” concerning the present life, because of the indefiniteness of its length. Although he knows that death must come one day, he hopes that it may be many years hence. The rich fool in our Lord’s parable knew that he must die some day—he admitted that certainty. But he made the uncertainty of the time an excuse for taking present ease. He refused to take into account the possibility that the summons had gone forth: “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

3. The certainty of the death of the wicked is a most painful subject of thought to good men. They look at the present condition of the ungodly, and, knowing the indispensable and intimate connection between present character and future happiness or misery, the certainty of the death of the wicked man is often a more saddening thought to them than to the man himself. The contemplation of such an event must give pain to a soul in harmony with God and goodness.
4. Yet, looked at with regard to his relation with others, the certainty of the death of the wicked is most desirable. If one portion of the body has become so diseased that the whole body is likely to suffer from it, a severance between the diseased part and the sound body must take place, however painful the operation may be. The loss of the part is indispensable to the salvation of the rest. There have been, and there are, men who are so morally diseased that their removal from the world is to be desired for the sake of others. It must be regarded as a blessing for the world that the death of the wicked is certain. The death of one wicked man is sometimes the means of bringing peace to many to whom his existence was a curse. There are men who do the best thing for the world when they leave it—their exit from it is the greatest benefit they have ever conferred upon it.

II. The wicked man is in his worst condition when he has most need of being in his best. It is at death that his expectation and hope perish. The time when we approach a crisis in our history is a time when we need to be most furnished with all the resources that will be demanded to meet it. It was more necessary that David should be filled with faith and courage when he went forth to meet Goliath than when he was keeping his sheep in his father’s fields. When a youthful candidate for academical honour comes to the day of his examination, he needs to concentrate all his past days of study into one focus. If on that day all his mental powers are not at their very best, he is likely to be overwhelmed with disappointment instead of to be crowned with honour. It is sad indeed to be dragged down by fear and despair at the moment when we need all the inspiration of confidence and hope to bear us up. The day of death is the great crisis to which all human life is tending—it is the day when a man needs every possible support to enable him to meet the solemn fact with which he stands face to face. Hope of a blessed immortality should then bear us up. We ought to be able to say, “I know in whom I have believed;” “I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). But this is the hour when a wicked man’s hope takes wing and flies away. He is at his worst when he needs to be at his best.


Men derive almost the whole of their happiness from hope. The wicked man laughs at the righteous because he lives by hope; but the wicked man himself does the same with this difference, that whilst the hopes of the one are coeval with eternity, those of the other are bounded by time. The present situation of the wicked man never yields him the pleasure which he wishes and expects.… if his hope is deferred, his heart is sick; if it is accomplished, he is still unsatisfied; but he comforts himself with some other hope, like a child who sees a rainbow on the top of a neighbouring hill, and runs to take hold of it, but sees it as far removed from him as before. Thus the life of a wicked man is spent in vain wishes, and toils, and hopes, till death kills at once his body, his hope, and his happiness.—Lawson.

It is sad to be drawn into ruin by “desire” (see last verse); because it breeds only “hope,” and that is sure to perish. “The world passes away, and the desire of it” (1 John 2:17).—Miller.

There have been some who have questioned whether the doctrine of a future state was understood under the former dispensation. They have regarded that economy as to such an extent carnal, worldly, and temporary, as to have excluded from it all reference to that subject. I might show, from many passages, the falsity of such a sentiment. In this verse we have one of them. Nothing can be clearer than that, were there not such a future state, the expectation and hope of righteous and wicked alike must perish together, and that the very distinction so evidently made here between the one and the other proceeds upon the assumption of a state beyond the present.—Wardlaw.

He died, perhaps, in strong hopes of heaven, as those seem to have done that came rapping and bouncing at heaven’s gates, with “Lord, Lord, open to us,” but were sent away with a “Depart, I know you not” (Matthew 7:22). His most strong hope shall come to nothing. He made a bridge of his own shadow and thought to go over it, but is fallen into the brook. He thought he had taken hold of God; but it is but with him as with a child that catcheth at the shadow on the wall, which he thinks he holds fast. But he only thinks so.—Trapp.

He never had good by any hope, which hath not the fruition of his hope at death. Though a man should never obtain his desire in any earthly thing during his life, yet, if he enjoy salvation after this life, he hath failed of nothing. Though a man should miss of nothing that his heart could wish for, while breath is in his body, yet if he be damned, when the soul goeth out of his body, he hath never gained anything.—Dod.

Hope and expectation are long-lived things; though weak, and sick and blind, yet they hold out. They live with the longest liver, and seldom die in any, until they die themselves in whom they are. But the hope of the wicked doth not only die, but perish, that is, is lost in some unlooked-for, unthought-of manner.—Jermin.

Verse 8



I. This proverb must be fulfilled from the nature of the case. If a vessel is being steered straight for the rocks nothing can prevent her from being dashed upon them except a change of course. Nothing else can avert the catastrophe, unless a supernatural power removes the rock out of the way. This last cannot be; the first alternative rests with the will of the commander. If another vessel is going in an opposite direction she must as necessarily escape the doom to which the other is hastening. There is nothing of fate about their different destinies, they are the outcome of a choice of opposite courses. So with the opposite ends of the righteous and the wicked. Deliverance for the first, an inheritance of trouble for the latter, are the result of no arbitrary fate but the outcome of their pursuing opposite courses. Unless God will remove His everlasting laws out of the universe it must be so, and to expect Him to do that is to expect Him to change His nature, which would be a much more dire calamity than the trouble which comes upon the wicked from his course of wilful opposition to righteousness. For in this life it is always open to a man to turn round, to change his course, and so to escape the shipwreck of his existence upon the rocks of perdition. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). God will not remove His righteous laws out of the sinner’s way, but He holds out every inducement and encouragement to the transgressor to come into harmony with them.

II. The proverb has received abundant illustrations in the history of our race. Pharaoh designed to drive the Israelitish nation into the Red Sea and so to destroy them. God delivered them, and their oppressors “came in their stead.” Daniel’s persecutors planned to take his life, “the righteous man was delivered out of trouble,” and his wicked slanderers met with the death to which they had hoped to bring him. Instances might be multiplied in which this truth has been illustrated both in Scripture history and in more modern times.


It is a “righteous thing” with God (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7), though to men it seems an incredible paradox, and a news far more wonderful than acceptable, that there should be such a transmutation of conditions on both sides, to contraries.—Trapp.

Though the afflictions of good men seem sharp and grievous, yet they are not perpetual. Before ever God bring His into troubles, He appointeth how they shall be preserved in them, and pass through them, and get out of them. He doth as well see their arrival, as their launching forth, and the end of the boisterous storms which they must endure as well as the beginning and entrance thereof.—Dod.

In this world trouble is a common place, as the world is, both to the righteous and the wicked, and it beseems them both. The one has his proper and due place, the other has his place of honour. For, as St. Basil saith, He that saith that tribulation doth not beseem a righteous man, saith nothing else but that an adversary doth not beseem a valiant champion. Sometimes God Himself doth put the righteous into trouble, and then as the place belongeth to them, so St. Chrysostom tells us, God doth it not to bring the trouble upon us, but rather by the trouble to bring us to Himself. Sometimes the injustice or malice of men doth thrust them into it, and then, God delivering them, puts the wicked in their place. For this world is full of misplacings, the wicked being seated where the godly should be, the godly seated where the wicked should be. God Almighty is pleased sometimes to put things in order, and, showing mercy to the righteous, doth give the wicked their due place.—Jermin.

Verse 9


Proverbs 11:9. Zӧckler here reads, “The hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour, but by the knowledge of the righteous shall they (the neighbours) be delivered.”



I. We have here

1. A character most difficult to maintain. The actor cannot always be playing his part, he must have times when his own individuality asserts itself—when he appears the man he really is. The man most in love with the dramatic art finds a few hours’ practice at a time enough for him, and feels it a relief to throw off his stage character and be himself again. He cannot, if he would, be ever trying to live in an experience that does not belong to him—be ever assuming an individuality which is not his own property. It would be an intolerable burden to be always endeavouring to sustain a part. A hypocrite has set himself a hard task. He has undertaken to pretend to be living a life which he knows does not belong to him, and which he never can possess unless his whole nature is regenerated. Now to keep up the deportment and to use the language that belong to a true nature must be as difficult as for a professional actor always to be playing the part of a king. The hypocrite must sometimes feel that his life is a sort of treadmill, and must sometimes be overcome by his real self in spite of all efforts to prevent nature from asserting her rights. No hypocrite can be always in his stage dress. The character is difficult to sustain.

2. A character most injurious to mankind and most miserable for the man who owns it. The actor plays his part by assuming the character of another man, but he does this without necessarily injuring himself or any of his fellow-creatures. But it is not so with the hypocrite. If a bad man assumes the garb of a good man he tends to lessen the estimation of real goodness in the minds of men. The existence of false coin makes us suspicious of genuine gold. The hypocrite must be conscious that he is a living lie, and so a living curse to his fellow-creatures, and this consciousness can but make him miserable.

3. A character in danger of becoming irreclaimable. A man who tries to pass for a scholar when he is utterly ignorant is the most difficult person to change into a scholar. The man who desires to be always first among his fellows is the least likely to become a qualified leader of men. We have it on the best authority that whatever such a man may desire, that “whosoever will be chief shall be a servant” (Matthew 20:27). He is only fit for a low position who is ever straining every nerve after a high one. The hypocrite is ever desiring to pass for what he is not—he is ever desiring to fill a place for which he is utterly unfit. He is less likely than the most openly vicious man ever to become in reality that which he is ever seeming to be. This was the judgment of the Son of God concerning the hypocrites of His day: “Verily I say unto you that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matthew 21:31).

4. A character most hateful to God and to man. A hypocrite must be disliked by those whose character he endeavours to personify. The good must hate hypocrisy because, as we said before, it lessens the power of goodness in the world by making men suspect the really good. A hypocrite is hated by other hypocrites. If a man wants to utter false coin himself, he prefers to enjoy a monopoly of the business. The more of it there is in circulation the less likely people are to be deceived by it. A hypocrite is hateful to God. No sin is so denounced under both the old and new dispensations as the sin of hypocrisy. “Incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with it.… Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth” (Isaiah 1:13-14). The God of Israel reserves these burning words for His own people, who were drawing near to Him with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him. The most terrible denunciations of the Son of God were uttered against those who were guilty of this sin. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” is repeated again and again in one discourse (Matthew 23:0).

II. The chief instrument used by the hypocrite. “The mouth.” The power of speech is a most precious gift of God, and is intended by Him to be an instrument of blessing to the human race. It is this most precious instrument of good that the hypocrite is here represented as turning into an all-devouring weapon of destruction. He is like a man who gives potent poison for healing medicine. He may have disguised its deadly nature under an unknown and high-sounding name, but this will not lessen its deadly effects. The hypocrite is the man who above all others is skilful in making words the means of concealing thoughts—who speaks so plausibly that men believe they are drinking a healthful draught when they are imbibing a deadly poison. The tongue of the hypocrite destroys his neighbour because he makes him believe that he has his welfare at heart when he is really plotting his destruction. He makes him believe that some utterly worthless commercial speculation is sound and profitable, and so involves him in material destruction. Or he persuades him that a certain course of dishonest conduct is without moral danger, and so brings him into spiritual destruction. His neighbour’s destruction is certain in proportion to the strength of his confidence in the words of the hypocrite.

III. The means of deliverance from the hypocrite’s mouth. “Through knowledge shall the just be delivered.” The just man possesses a knowledge of God, and thus has a correct standard of character by which to judge men. If a man walks in the light of the sun he will be able to avoid pitfalls and open graves. A just man has an acquaintance with the character and the laws of God. He “walks in the light” (1 John 1:7). And this gives him an insight into character—this furnishes him with a test to “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). The more men come into contact with reality the more quick will they be to detect unreality. The more men know God the more correct will be the estimate they form of their fellow-men. The Spirit of wisdom is a Spirit of “enlightenment” on this point as on all others (Ephesians 1:18). The law of the Lord “makes wise the simple” or the unwary (Psalms 19:7). That scripture which is the “inspiration of God” “furnishes the man of God” with a means of escape from the snare of the hypocrite’s mouth (2 Timothy 3:16). The knowledge which is derived from its study is a foil for the attacks of the most subtle seducer.


Haman, under the pretence of loyalty, would have destroyed a whole nation (Esther 3:8; Esther 3:13). Ziba, under the same false cover, would have destroyed his neighbour (2 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 16:4). The lying prophet, from mere wilfulness, ruined his brother (1 Kings 13:0).

Then look at the hypocrite in the church—“a ravening wolf in sheep’s clothing,” devouring the flock (Matthew 7:15); “making merchandise with feigned words” (2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:3); an “apostle of Satan,” so diligent is he in his master’s work of destruction (2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:13). “These false Christs,” we are warned, “deceive many,” if it were possible the very elect (Matthew 24:24).… Learn the value of solid knowledge. Feeling, excitement, imagination, expose us to an unsteady profession. (Such as Ephesians 4:14) Knowledge supplies principle and steadfastness. “Add to your faith knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5).—Bridges.

Hypocrites are awful stumbling blocks. Full many has the detection of their true character hardened in sin and worldliness, and established in infidelity. Full many have they thus destroyed.—Wardlaw.

When God converts a soul, He gives it light. That light makes it invulnerable. All things afterward help it. “Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt.” Satan is one of the blessings of a Christian.—Miller.

It was an ordinary prayer of King Antigonus, “Deliver me from the hands of my friends.” When asked why he did not rather pray for preservation from his enemies, he answered, “That he guarded against his enemies, but could not guard against false friends.”—Lawson.

How to detect a hypocrite. To make a man a good man all parts of goodness must concur, but any one way of wickedness is sufficient to denominate a bad man.—Tillotson.

A hypocrite is hated of the world for seeming to be a Christian, and hated of God for not being one.—Mason.

The meaning of the verse as a whole is, “By the protective power of that knowledge that serves righteousness, they are delivered who were endangered by the artifices of that shrewdness which is the instrument of wickedness.”—Elster.

The just man is too wise to be flattered, and too knowing to be plucked away with the error of the wicked (1 Peter 3:17-18).—Trapp.

Beware of carrying deadly weapons. An untrue man is a moral murderer, his mouth the lethal weapon, and his neighbour the victim.—Arnot.

“Neither man nor angels can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
Invisible, except to God alone,
By His permissive will, thro’ heaven and earth:
And oft though Wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At Wisdom’s gate, and to simplicity
Resigns her charge, while goodness
Thinks no ill
Where no ill seems.”

Paradise Lost. Book iii.

Verses 10-11

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 11:10-11


I. The words imply that it does not always go with the righteous. “When it goeth well,” etc. A good man’s plans and efforts for the good of his fellow-citizens or fellow-countrymen are not always successful. They may need more resources to make them effectual than he has at his command. The men whom he desires to benefit may not themselves be willing to exercise the self-denial for their own welfare that he is willing to undergo for them. They would be willing to reap the harvest of joy, but they do not like to sow the seed of suffering. It often happens that a righteous man is in the midst of a generation who cannot appreciate his moral worth and his intellectual wisdom. It has been said that the intellectual struggles of one age are the intuitions of the next, and men that are now regarded as grand and noble were perhaps looked upon as of little worth in the generation in which they lived. Or a man may not live long enough to complete his plans for the public benefit—the best things are often slow in coming to maturity, and many a righteous man has been called away before he has perfected his designs of blessing for his race. Although the good and faithful servant will always have the “Well-done” of his master, his plans and purposes are often seemingly frustrated by the shortness of his life, the scantiness of his resources, or the misconception of his fellows. History abounds with illustrations of this truth.

II. That there must come a time when it will go well with the righteous. It is an ordination of God’s providence that the righteous man should pass through both experiences. The soldier needs defeat as well as victory to develope all his latent talent, to make manifest all the heroism that is within him. The mariner must pass through storms as well as fair weather if he is to learn the true art of navigation. And so the righteons man must have the experience of apparent failure and defeat to develop faith, and patience, and courage, which would otherwise remain hidden or dwarfed. But when this has been accomplished, a “set time to favour him will come.” “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalms 126:6). The worth of his character and his work will be recognised freely and generously by many, and must be acknowledged, although it may be with reluctance, even by his opponents. Joseph passed many years in servitude and imprisonment, but by and by his worth was freely acknowledged. “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? (Genesis 41:38.) Both king and people decided that it ought to go well with him, and it did go well with him now that his ability and character were known.

III. The blessing and consequent joy that comes to others when the time has come for it to “go well with the righteous.” By the blessing of the righteous the city is exalted—“the city” as a consequence “rejoiceth.” Even the bad in a kingdom have cause for joy when the righteous have the pre-eminence in a community, whatever be their condition they would be much worse off under the rule of unrighteousness. The lost in hell and those who are being lost on earth are in a better condition from having the Righteous God upon the throne of the universe. The greatest criminals in our prisons find it better to have a just and righteous gaoler than an unrighteous one. So the whole city has reason to rejoice in the pre-eminence—in the success of the righteous. Such men exalt a city—

1. By forming a basis for commercial enterprise. The rule of the unrighteous in a city will, in time, prevent commercial prosperity by destroying public confidence.

2. By promoting the just rights of all. That community is blessed where each citizen enjoys freedom to live his life and do his best for himself and others without trampling on the rights of his fellows. Tyranny on the one hand provokes rebellion on the other, and misery to both parties is the issue. The head is intended to think and plan for the rest of the body, the limbs are intended to carry out the designs of the head; if either the one or the other fails to perform its work, suffering comes to the whole frame. So in the body politic. Righteous men strive for the union of all classes for the good of all, and this unity exalts a city—gives peace at home, and is the surest defence against foes without. Righteousness is a stronger wall than any material defence. This is the safeguard of the ideal city of Isaiah’s prophecy. “I will make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise” (Isaiah 60:18).

3. By averting Divine judgments. Sodom would have been spared if there had been ten righteous within the city. Unrighteousness in a nation must bring national calamity, but a minority of good men delays the visitation. “Except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9). “For the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

IV. That as the character and services of the righteous man shall meet with public and grateful recognition, so the man who by his wicked influence has brought misery upon his fellow-creatures shall meet with public execration. Just as the righteous man often seems defeated by untoward circumstances, and all his unselfish and patriotic plans seem nipped in the bud for a time, yet success comes to him in the end, or, if not so, yet at his death his real worth is seen and acknowledged; so a wicked and selfish man may seem to carry all before him for a time, and may even succeed in blinding men to his real character, yet the time comes when his worthlessness and self-seeking meet with their terrible yet just reward. There is a tendency generally in human nature to condone a man’s sins after he is dead, but instances are not few in the history of the world when this hnmane tendency has been stifled by the exceeding curse that some men have been to the world.

ILLUSTRATIONS OF Proverbs 11:10-11

A more vivid illustration of what has been said here concerning a righteous man cannot be found than in the life and labours of William the Silent, Prince of Holland. This noble man gave his all to the liberation of the Netherlands from Spanish tyranny. For many years he bore the whole weight of a struggle which Motley designates “as unequal as men have ever undertaken.” “To exclude the Inquisition,” he continues, “to maintain the ancient liberties of his country, was the task which he appointed to himself when a youth of three and twenty. He accomplished the task, through danger, amid toils, and with sacrifices such as few men have ever been able to lay upon their country’s altar; for the disinterestedness of the man was as prominent as his fortitude. A prince of high rank and with royal revenues, he stripped himself of station, wealth, almost at times of the common necessaries of life, and became, in his country’s cause, nearly a beggar as well as an outlaw.” At times it seemed as if the cause to which he had thus devoted himself was lost, and even this disinterested man did not escape the envy and suspicion of those whom he was trying to serve. But he lived to see his work accomplished, and when he fell at last by the hand of an assassin, he was “entombed,” to quote again from his biographer, “amid the tears of a whole nation.” “The people were grateful and affectionate, for they trusted the character of their ‘Father William,’ and not all the clouds which calumny could collect ever dimmed to their eyes the radiance of that lofty mind to which they were accustomed, in their darkest calamities, to look for light. As long as he lived, he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation, and when he died, the little children cried in the streets.”—Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic.

Illustrations of the latter clause of Proverbs 11:10 abound in history. “Memorable in the prison experiences of Herod Agrippa was the arrival of news that the tyrant of Capreæ was dead. Immediately on the death of Tiberius, Marsyas, Agrippa’s faithful bondslave, hastened to his master’s dungeon, and communicated the joyful intelligence, saying, in the Hebrew language, “The lion is dead.” The centurion on guard heard the rejoicing, inquired as to the cause, ordered the royal prisoner’s chains to be struck off, and invited him to supper. But more memorable was the exultation, widely felt and cruelly expressed, at Agrippa’s own death—that loathsome death, so strange in its surroundings, of which a tale is told in the Acts of the Apostles. The inhabitants of Sebaste and Cæsarea, as we learn from Josephus, and particularly Herod’s own soldiers, indulged in the most brutal rejoicings at his death,—heaping his memory with reproaches.… In his account of the death of the Emperor Maximin, Gibbon says, “It is easier to conceive than to describe the universal joy of the Roman world on the fall of the tyrant.” The death of Richelieu is said to have been felt by France like the relief from a nightmare; from the king to the lowest rhymster, all joined in the burden of the couplets that proclaimed it—Il est parti, il a plié bagage, ce cardinal.—Jacox.

Judge Jeffreys. A disposition to triumph over the fallen has never been one of the besetting sins of Englishmen; but the hatred of which Jeffreys was the object was without a parallel in our history, and partook but too largely of the savageness of his own nature. The people, where he was concerned, were as cruel as himself, and exulted in his misery as he had been accustomed to exult in the misery of convicts listening to the sentence of death, and of families clad in mourning. The rabble congregated before his deserted mansion in Duke Street, and read on the door, with shouts of laughter, the bills which announced the sale of his property. Even delicate women, who had tears for highwaymen and housebreakers, breathed nothing but vengeance against him. The lampoons which were hawked about the town were distinguished by an atrocity rare even in those days. Hanging would be too mild a death for him: a grave under the gibbet would be too respectable a resting place: he ought to be whipt to death at the cart’s tail: he ought to be tortured like an Indian: he ought to be devoured alive.… Disease, assisted by strong drink and by misery, did its work fast. He dwindled in a few weeks from a portly and even corpulent man to a skeleton, and died in the forty-first year of his age. He had been Chief Justice of the King’s Bench at thirty-five, and Lord Chancellor at thirty-seven. In the whole history of the English bar there is no other instance of so rapid an elevation or so terrible a fall.—Macaulay.

Foulon, a French Official in the time of the great Revolution. This is that same Foulon named âme damnée (Familiar demon) du Parlement; a man grown gray in treachery, in griping, projecting, intriguing and iniquity: who once, when it was objected, to some finance-scheme of his, “What will the people do?” made answer, in the fire of discussion, “The people may eat grass:” hasty words, which fly abroad irrevocable, and will send back tidings.… We are but at the 22nd of the month, hardly above a week since the Bastile fell, when it suddenly appears that old Foulon is alive; nay, that he is here, in early morning, in the streets of Paris: the extortioner, the plotter, who would make the people eat grass, and was a liar from the beginning! It is even so. The deceptive “sumptuous funeral” (of some domestic that died); the hiding-place at Vitry towards Fontainebleau, have not availed that wretched old man. Some living domestic or dependent, for none loves old Foulon, has betrayed him to the village. Merciless boors of Vitry unearth him, pounce upon him, like hell-hounds. Westward, old Infamy! to Paris, to be judged at the Hotel-de-Ville! His old head, which seventy-four years have bleached, is bare; they have tied an emblematic bundle of grass upon his back; a garland of nettles and thistles is round his neck: in this manner, led with ropes, goaded on with curses and menaces, must he, with his old limbs, sprawl forward; the pitiablest, most unpitied of all old men. Sooty Saint-Antoine, and every street, musters its crowds as he passes; the Hall of the Hôtel-de-Ville, the Place de Grève itself, will scarcely hold his escort and him. Foulon must not only be judged righteously, but judged there where he stands without delay. Appoint seven judges, ye Municipals, or seventy and seven; name them yourselves, or we will name them, but judge him. Electoral rhetoric, eloquence of Mayor Bailly, is wasted for hours, explaining the beauty of the law’s delay. Delay, and still delay!… the morning has worn itself into noon, and he is still unjudged.… “Friends,” said a person, stepping forward, “what is the use of judging this man? Has he not been judged these thirty years?” With wild yells Sansculottism clutches him in its hundred hands: he is whirled across the Place de Grève to the Lanterne (lamp-iron), which there is at the corner of the Rue de la Vannerie, pleading bitterly for life—to the deaf winds. Only with the third rope—for two ropes broke, and the quavering voice still pleaded—can he be so much as got hanged. His body is dragged through the streets; his head goes aloft upon a pike, the mouth filled with grass: amid sounds as of Tophet, from a grass-eating people. Carlyle’s French Revolution.


Two things, as herein is showed, do move the righteous unto joy. The one is, the honouring and good success of the just. When it is well with them that do well, the well-disposed multitude cannot but be inwardly glad, and outwardly testify this inward joy by signs and tokens of mirth. The other thing that moveth the well-disposed to rejoice, and even to sing (or shout) is the destruction of the wicked. There is great cause why the people of God should rejoice at the vengeance that is executed on the ungodly; for they persecute the Church, or infect many with their evil counsel and example, or draw God’s punishments on the places wherein they live. Thus did the ancient Israelities rejoice in old time, when the enemies of God were overthrown; and thus did we of late sing and triumph when the proud Popish Spaniards were drowned and confounded.… A kingdom is overthrown by the flattery, heresy, foolish counsel, and conspiracy of mischievous and ungodly persons. Thus a tongue can even build and overthrow a city.—Muffet.

The world, in despite of the native enmity of the heart, bears its testimony to consistent godliness (ch. Proverbs 16:7; Mark 6:20) … The people of God unite in the shouting occasioned by the overthrow of the wicked; not from any selfish feeling of revenge; much less from unfeeling hardness towards their fellow-sinners. But when a hindrance to the good cause is removed (ch. Proverbs 28:28; Ecclesiastes 9:18); when the justice of God against sin (2 Samuel 18:14-28), and his faithful preservation of His Church (Exodus 15:21; Judges 5:31) are displayed, ought not every feeling to be absorbed in a supreme interest in His glory? Ought they not to shout? (Psalms 52:6-7; Psalms 58:10; Revelation 18:20). The “Alleluia” of heaven is an exulting testimony to the righteous judgments of the Lord our God, hastening forward His glorious kingdom (Revelation 19:1-2).—Bridges.

By the good of the righteous; not “in the good” or “when it goeth well.” “By the perishing of the wicked,” not when the wicked perish. A city is very far from exulting in the good of the righteous, or in the destruction of the wicked. But “by,” or “by means of,” as the unacknowledged cause there comes the exulting and shouting. That is, a city is blest by the prosperity of righteous men. “Good.” This word cannot be properly translated. It means both good and goodness. If we say “good,” the “good of the righteous” will mean their welfare. If we say “goodness” it will mean their piety. The word in the Hebrew means both. The text to be complete must confine itself to neither. The city is not only blessed by the good that characterises the righteous, but by the good that happens to them. How glorious this becomes when “the righteous” means the Church! The wilderness and the solitary place have been glad for her. It is true of all the universe. As the history of heaven and hell, the “good of the righteous,” and “the perishing of the wicked” will breed universal benefit. It was such texts as these that moved the Papists to realise the good by actually slaughtering the wicked out of the land.… Piety is in proportion to usefulness. If a Christian does not bless his city, it is a mark against him. “Bless” means to invoke good. “The mouth of the wicked” pulls down a neighbourhood by every form of teaching. The righteous builds it, and especially by prayer.—Miller.

“The mouth of the wicked.” Whether he be a seedsman of sedition or a seducer of the people, a Sheba or a Shebna, a carnal gospeller or a godless politician, whose drift is to formalise and enervate the power of the truth, till at length they leave us a heartless and sapless religion. “One of these sinners may destroy much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).—Trapp.

Good men have not only God’s hand to give them good things, but godly men’s hearts to be joyful for them. When Mordecai was advanced, the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. When the Lord showed His great mercy on Zacharias and Elizabeth in giving them a son, their kinsfolk and neighbours came and rejoiced with them.… It is well known that righteous men will make their brothers commoners with them in their prosperity; when they are advanced, others shall not be disgraced thereby: when they are enriched, others shall not be impoverished thereby: when they are made mighty, others shall not be weakened thereby; And so it is said concerning Mordecai, that when the royal apparel was on his back, and the crown of gold on his head, that unto the Jews was come light, and joy, and gladness, and honour (Esther 8:16).… Here is instruction to them that be desirous to gain the hearts of honest men.… Many men desire to be popular, but few to be righteous.… Good liking is not gotten by pomp and power, and favour is not gained by wealth and riches, and love is not commanded by authority and dignity. These may be allured with goodness, but never compelled by violence.—Dod.

Such is the nature of righteousness, that though it cannot make all to love it, yet it maketh all to love the welfare of the righteous. Origen therefore saith, that the few righteous which were in Jerusalem were not carried into captivity for their own offences, but that the captive people might rejoice in their welfare. For, saith he, had the wicked only been carried away, and the righteous remained, the wicked had never had the comfort of returning. On the other side, such is the nature of wickedness, that though many embrace it themselves, yet they are pleased to see it destroyed in others.—Jermin.

The exultant shout of relief at a man’s death might almost wake the dead man. It is hideous to think of a choral symphony of voices, jubilant at a dead march, making the welkin ring with huzzas at death’s last feat, and welcoming it to the echo. For those tumultuous pæans have a vengeful curse in every note. They mean malediction; and they say what they mean. The bad man dead and gone is such a good riddance. The multitude account it for themselves, not for him, such a happy release. The greatest of the greater prophets of the Old Testament indites the “triumphant insultation,” of his country and his countrymen against the dead and gone king of Babylon, when that oppressor ceased.… (Isaiah 14:4). When Alexander Jannæus, desirous of a reconcilement with his people, asked them what he should do to make them quite content;—“Die!” was the response. It was the only way. The death of Ethwald, in Joanna Baillie’s tragedy, points the moral to the same bitter tale. Here are the closing lines of the drama:—

“Through all the vexed land
Let every heart bound at the joyful tidings,
Thus from his frowning height the tyrant falls
Like a dark mountain, whose interior fires,
Raging in ceaseless tumult, have devoured
Its own foundations. Sunk in sudden ruin
To the tremendous gulf, in the vast void
No friendly rock rears its opposing head
To stay dreadful crash.… The joyful hinds
Point to the traveller the hollow vale
Where once it stood.”


Verses 12-13


Proverbs 11:12. Void of wisdom, literally, “of heart.” Zöckler inverts the phrase, “He that speaks contemptuously of his neighbour lacketh wisdom.”

Proverbs 11:13. “He who goeth about as a slanderer.”

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 11:12-13


I. He who lacks moral worth will be indifferent to the worth of others. He will despise the character that he does not possess. In the minds of some men who have no learning there is a disposition to undervalue the attainments of others. They do not value it because they do not possess it. In order to esteem it rightly they must come to the possession of it. Some men pretend to despise wealth and call gold sordid dust, but most, if not all people of this kind have very little of what they despise in their own possession. Some translate here “a heartless man despiseth his neighbour.” A man without moral wisdom is a man without a kind heart, and he despises his neighbour because he lacks the heart which is probably possessed by the man whom he despises. A man must have something good in himself to enable him to see what is worthy of honour in his brother. There must be light in the eye if we are to appreciate the light of the sun. A man must have something of a musical nature to be able to appreciate the musical gifts of another. A man shows that he is void of wisdom if he despises the meanest of his fellow creatures.

II. A special form in which contempt for others is often manifested. “A tale-bearer revealeth secrets.” If a man holds his neighbour in contempt, he is not careful of that neighbour’s reputation. Being himself without moral worth he has nothing to lose, and therefore esteems lightly what is most valued by his brother man. Men who by their own folly are always poor are ever anxious to bring others down to their own level, and so men without reputation are very often disposed to rob others of their good name. This they attempt to do by revealing what they ought to conceal. There are times when we ought faithfully to keep within our own bosoms what we know about another, even although what we know is in the highest degree honourable to him. In the plan which Christ had marked out for Himself there were times when He desired that even His deeds of benevolence should not be made known. To some whom He healed He charged “that they should not make it known” (Matthew 12:16). If it is good sometimes to conceal what is only honourable and praiseworthy, how much more should a man be careful not to reveal any real or seeming inconsistency in a good man—anything which may in any way lower him in the estimation of others—any painful secret which might be mis-construed to his dishonour or lessen his influence for good in the world.

III. “The contrast exhibited in the conduct of a man of moral worth.” He, “being a man of understanding,” knows the value of every human soul. He may pity his degraded fellow-man, but never despises them. He sets too high an estimate upon his neighbour to hold in contempt even those who are far beneath him in moral excellence, how much less will it be possible for him to despise those who are his equals or superiors. Around the imperfections of all he throws the robe of that charity which even “thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5), much less speaks a word that could be interpreted to his neighbour’s disadvantage. He holds the good name of others as a sacred trust. He guards it as a man of a “faithful spirit” would guard any precious possession belonging to another.


Proverbs 11:12. “A heartless man.” All such are titles of the unsaved man. The same negative state, i.e., a want of the Spirit, and hence a want of benevolence, not only keeps men from blessing their city (Proverbs 11:11), but makes them contemptuous. Others’ interests do not weigh a feather. See a fine description of this in 1 Corinthians 13:0, where men are supposed even to “behave unseemly” from this high theologic fact. They do not care for their neighbours, and, therefore, do not care to behave well. If a neighbour is disgraced, they are too contemptuous to care for its effect. They are reckless in their talk of his disgrace, while a “man of understanding” is silent.—Miller.

No human creature is to be despised, for he is our neighbour. He is our own flesh, our brother, sprung from our common father Adam. Honour all men. Men were made in the image of God; and though that image is now lost, it is still a sufficient evidence of the sinfulness of despising, as well as of murdering, our neighbour, that in the image of God man was made, and that we cannot say whether the persons whom we are tempted to despise are not in that happy number of the chosen of God for whose sakes the Son of God hath dignified our nature by assuming it, and whom He will again beautify with that glorious image which was effaced by the fall. Do you allege that your neighbour is worthy of contempt, on account of his poverty or meanness, or some remarkable weakness, by which he is rendered ridiculous? I ask you whether he is a fool. You say, No. Then confess that your contempt ought to rest upon yourself; for Solomon says you are one, and want of wisdom is far worse than the want of riches, or beauty, or polite accomplishments.—Lawson.

Not remembering that he is his neighbour, cut out of the same cloth, the shears only going between, and as capable of heaven as himself, though never so poor, mean, deformed, or otherwise despicable. The man of understanding refraineth his tongue even if he be slighted or reviled. He knows it is to no purpose to wash off dirt with dirt.—Trapp.

Proverbs 11:13. The difference is a sharply drawn one, the distinction a distinctly defined one, between fidelity and unfaithfulness, between the treacherous and the loyal. There is a Danish proverb, quoted in the Archbishop of Dublin’s book, which warns us well against relying too much on other men’s silence, since there is no rarer gift than the capacity of keeping a secret: “Tell nothing to thy friend which thy enemy may not know.” One should be careful not to entrust another unnecessarily with a secret which it may be a hard matter to keep; nor should one’s desire for aid or sympathy be indulged by dragging other people into one’s misfortunes. “There is as much responsibility in imparting your own secrets, as in keeping those of your neighbour,” says Helps.—Jacox.

This expression comes from trading. He who gads about to indulge in gossiping, will gratify his taste by scandals that he did not intend to divulge. “Secrets” or “secret counsels,” that formal divan, where purest privacy is the thing that has been expected. It is these slight lusts, as we call them, that divulge character. The man that is born again will be of a “faithful spirit,” and will scorn to gratify scandal at a neighbour’s expense.—Miller.

A note to know a talker by, is that he is a walker from place to place (see Critical Notes), hearing and spying what he can, that he may have whereof to prattle to this body and that body. This carrying of tales the Lord forbiddeth in his law, where he saith, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people” (Leviticus 19:16).—Muffet.

Here we see that a well-governed spirit will govern the tongue. An unrestrained tongue is an evidence of levity, or of some worse quality in the heart. And if the spirit be faithful, the tongue will be cautious and friendly. The communication between the spirit and the tongue is so easy, that the one will certainly discover the quality of the other, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.—Lawson.

There are various ways of acting the “tale-bearer.” There is that of open blabbing. And this, as it is the simplest, is, in truth, the least dangerous. The character becomes immediately known; and all who have secrets which they really wish kept will take care to withhold them from him. There is next that of confidential communication. The secret-holder affects to look this way and that, to ascertain that no one is within hearing; and then with many whispered doubts whether he is doing right, and whispered no doubts that he is perfectly safe with the dear friend to whom he speaks, imparts it in a breath that enters only his solitary ear, as a thing received in the profoundest secrecy, and not, on any account whatever, to go further—thus setting the example of broken confidence as the encouragement and inducement to keep it. There is that also of sly insinuation. The person who has the secret neither openly blabs it nor confidentially whispers it, but throws out hints of his having it—allusions more or less remote as to its nature—by which curiosity is awakened, inquiry stimulated, and the thing ultimately brought to light; while he who threw out the leading notices plumes himself on having escaped the imputation of a tale-bearer. Now these and whatever others there may be, are all bad; and the greater the amount of pretension and hypocrisy, so much the worse.—Wardlaw.

Reticence is commended from another point of view. The man who comes to us with tales about others will reveal our secrets also. Faithfulness is shown, not only in doing what a man has been commissioned to do, but in doing it quietly and without garrulity.—Plumptre.

He is a rare friend that can both give counsel and keep counsel.—Trapp.

The Holy Ghost, here and elsewhere, compareth busybodies and such as delight to deal in other men’s matters, to petty chapmen and pedlars, which carry wares about, selling in one place and buying in another. A slanderous tongue trafficketh altogether by exchange, it will deliver nothing to you, but upon condition to receive somewhat from you. It will never bear an empty pack, but desireth, where aught is uttered and taken out, there to take somewhat to put in, that it may have choice for other places.—Dod.

We must regard every matter as an entrusted secret, which we believe the person concerned would wish to be considered such. Nay, further still, we must consider all circumstances as secrets entrusted, which would bring scandal upon another if told, and which it is not our certain duty to discuss, and that in our own persons and to his face.—Leigh Hunt.

Verses 14-15


Proverbs 11:14. Counsel, literally, “pilotage,” “steermanship.”

Proverbs 11:15. Suretyship, literally “striking hands.” See Notes and Illustration on chap. Proverbs 6:1. Stuart translates this verse, “An evil man showeth himself as evil when he giveth pledge to a stranger,” i.e., by hastily pledging himself and then not redeeming his pledge.



I. The many (the people) are dependent upon the few for guidance. The word counsel is literally “pilotage,” “helmsmanship.” The many passengers in the vessel are dependent upon the few who guide it. The dependence of the many upon the few for guidance runs through every phase of human life. The dependence of the children upon their natural head is but prophetic of all the periods of after life, which very much consists in the dependence of the many upon the few. The child’s life at home and at school is a preparation for the rough handling of circumstance in this matter in the time of manhood. Although the man’s ability to guide his own life is far greater than that of the child, yet his need of counsel and guidance has increased with his years and responsibilities. This need of guidance springs from men’s unequal gifts. The physical, mental, and moral inequalities of men create and supply the demand for leaders—for counsellors for the many. This inequality is an ordination of the Divine Ruler of the universe—God is the Author of the inequalities. In nature we see that the strong gives shelter to the weak. The mighty oak protects the tiny plant at its roots. Counsellors are the giant trees which give shelter by giving guidance to those who are in some respects inferior to them. Men may be born free, but they are nowhere born equal in mental and physical qualities. Hence some must counsel, others must be counselled. Guidance is felt to be a necessity, and men make a virtue of the necessity. The passengers on board a vessel submit to the direction of the pilot because they feel that their safety depends upon submission, and so do the members of a nation—the citizens of a city. They know from experience that the way out of a difficulty is not found by those who follow, but by those who lead—that if they would enjoy the advantages of civil peace and safety, they must submit to guidance and direction.

II. That “no counsel” in a nation will end in there being no nation to counsel. “Where there is no counsel the people fall.” The passengers in a ship who have no one to steer the vessel will soon cease to have need of a helmsman. So the nation which has no head—no government—will cease to be a nation. Its national existence will be ruined by the anarchy that must follow.

III. Many men to give counsel are as a rule better than one. When the sea is heavy and breakers are ahead, one man at the wheel of a vessel would not be able to hold her on her course, many hands at once must be at work—the united strength of the many is indispensable. “In the multitude” there is “safety.” So it is generally in the case of the ship of the State. As a rule, there is more wisdom and ability in the union of many men than in one—there is likewise less danger of despotic rule. But there have been many exceptions to this rule. Joseph knew how to provide for the safety of Egypt when all the rest of Pharaoh’s counsellors were at their wits’ end. Before the battle of Plassy—which laid the foundation of British rule in India—Clive called a council of war to decide whether or not the battle should be fought. The majority pronounced against fighting. But it is now generally allowed that if the advice of that council had been followed the British would have never been in possession of India. Clive decided to act in opposition to the opinion of the majority, and the day was won for England. (See Macaulay’s Essay on Lord Clive.) Sometimes in the multitude of counsellors there has been national ruin. “All the council” of the Jews sought to put Jesus to death (Matthew 26:59), and so brought about the destruction of their nation. But these are exceptions to a rule.


The case supposed, appears to be that of a self-willed, self-sufficient, headstrong ruler who glories in his power; who determines to wield the rod of that power in his own way, and who plays the hasty, jealous, resolute, sensitive and vindictive tyrant; who disdains to call in counsel, or who does it only for the pleasure of showing his superiority to it by setting it at nought. I conceive the phrase, “Where no counsel is,” to be intended to convey not a little of the character of him by whom it is declined or disregarded. We have an example of such a character in Solomon’s own successor Rehoboam. And yet, at the same time, in his case we are taught the necessity of understanding all such maxims as admitting of exceptions. Rehoboam did take counsel; and his counsellors were not few. Had they been fewer, there would in that instance been more safety. Had he stopped with the “old men who had stood before Solomon his father,” all would have been well.… How much better would it have been for Ahab, had he taken for his sole counsellor Micaiah the son of Imlah than it was when he preferred the four hundred prophets of Baal! The maxim, therefore, is general. It affirms the danger of solitary self-sufficiency, and the safety of deliberate and, in proportion to the complexity and difficulty of each case, and the nature and amount of its consequences, of extensive and diversified consultation.—Wardlaw.

It is a penalty inflicted by God on a sinful state to give it princes void of counsel (Isaiah 3:4; chap. Proverbs 15:22).—Fausset.

Care seems to be taken after a proverb lauding silence, always to put in a eulogy of speech. (See chap. Proverbs 10:20-21.) Secrets are not to be hid until the whole community is one covered over wickedness. The same faithfulness that conceals a secret, intrudes counsel, and grasps control, and saves the people by that leadership that the pious alone are intended to achieve. The word counsel or “helmsmanship” is from a root meaning a cord; hence the tacking of the helm; and, now, that princely guidance, which piety in the world (though the world does not think so) does actually bestow. “Safety”—or “salvation.” The inspired sentence-maker is always managing what the music men would call a crescendo, for the second clause. The first clause speaks of the people as falling, the second as not only “not falling,” but, though fallen, as actually raised.—Miller.

Tyranny is better than anarchy. And yet “Woe also to thee, O land, whose king is a child”; that is, wilful and uncounsellable.… One special thing the primitive Christians prayed for the emperor was, that God would send him a faithful council.—Trapp.

It is not said that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, but in the largeness or muchness of a counsellor, that is, such a counsellor as is furnished with a variety of counsels, and can look many ways for direction. For such a one is instead of many, nay, often far better; because he can sooner resolve what is best, than many will or can. And therefore, though it be good to have many, and when they agree perhaps to follow them, yet it may be better to have one of many counsels, on whom to rely.—Jermin.

Probably one is more struck, on reflection and in reading, with the exceptions to the rule, than with confirmatory examples of it, that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.… A modern historian finds in the unlicensed discretion reposed by the Roman Senate in the general, the most efficient aid to the extent of Rome’s early conquests, and he points by way of contrast, to the modern republics of Italy, as denying themselves scope for larger conquests by their extreme jealousy of their commanders. Anarchy in Antwerp is the heading of one of Mr. Morley’s graphic pages, and a lively picture it offers us of the confusion that ensued when the hydra heads of the multitudinous government were laid together. In Drake’s expedition of 1595, there were too many in command; and after losing time in debate which Sir Francis, if alone, would have spent in action, they were obliged to give up the attempt on the Canaries, with some loss. The otherwise unaccountable action of De Witt in 1671 is explained at once when the anarchical constitution of the Dutch republic is remembered—its want of a central authority, and the fact that, to raise money or troops, the consent of a number of petty councils was necessary, in the multitude of whose counsellors was anything but safety. “In the multitude of counsellors there may be safety,” says Alison, “it is in general safety to the counsellors, not to the counselled.” The quality of the counsel, and the ability of the counsellors, are elements of main import in the maxim of the king.—Jacox.

For Homiletics on Proverbs 11:15, see on chap. Proverbs 5:1-4.

ILLUSTRATION OF Proverbs 11:15

The melancholy instances of ruin, in consequence of becoming surety for others, are exceedingly numerous in the East. Against this they have many proverbs and fearful examples; but nothing seems to impart wisdom. Nearly all the Government monopolies, both among native and European rulers, are let to the highest bidders, and as the whole of the money cannot be advanced till a part of the produce be sold, sureties have to be accountable for the amount. But as men generally enter into these speculations in order to better a reduced fortune, an extravagant price is often paid, and ruin is the consequence both to the principal and his surety. This practice of suretyship, however, is also common in the most trifling affairs of life. “Sign your name,” is a request preferred by every one who is desirous of obtaining additional security to a petty agreement. In every legal court or magistrate’s office may be seen, now and then, a trio entering, thus to become responsible for the engagements of the other. The cause of all this is probably the bad faith which prevails amongst the heathen.—Roberts.


The traffic of ancient times was small, in comparison with the vast system of exchange which now compasses the whole world like network; but the same vices that we lament marred it, and the same righteousness that we desiderate would have healed its ailments. Neither the law of gravitation nor the law of righteousness has changed since the times of Solomon; both are as powerful as they then were, and as pervasive.… In those primitive times, it seems, as in our own, some men desired to get faster forward in the world than their circumstances legitimately permitted. They will throw for a fortune at another’s risk.… The warning does not of course discourage considerate kindness in bearing a deserving man over temporary pressure.… The Bible permits and requires more of kindness to our brother than we have ever done him yet; but it does not allow us to do a certain substantial evil, for the sake of a distant, shadowy good.—Arnot.

The heart and mind of every one is a stranger to every one except to God alone. He therefore that is a surety for another, is surety for a stranger.—Jermin.

… be not surety, if thou be a father,

Love is a personal debt. I cannot give

My children’s right, nor ought he to take it: rather

Both friends should die, than hinder them to live.

Fathers first enter bonds to nature’s ends;

And are her sureties, ere they are a friend’s.


Verse 16


Proverbs 11:16. Last clause “as strong men retain,” or “grasp at riches.”



I. What is a gracious woman?

1. She is one who stands in right relations to God. Everything depends upon right relationship. Upon the right relationship of the earth to the great centre of the solar system depends all that makes the earth of worth to us—all its glorious fruitfulness and beauty. If there was not this adjustment of relationship between the earth and the sun, our planet would not only be an unfit abode for man, but would be a positive blot upon God’s universe. This is true also of men’s relations to each other, and is specially so in respect to our relationship to God. Nothing but a right relationship to Him can develope those moral beauties which alone make a true woman. She is accepted or “justified” by God’s most gracious favour on God’s own conditions. She lives in the eternal sunlight of His gracious influence, and is held to the most Blessed Being in the universe, by the sweet persuasiveness which flows from His blessed character. The thoughts of the Eternal God are the food of her spirit, and from this relationship to Him comes all the grace of her character. Is there any other relationship which can make such a woman? There is none, not only so, the absence of it may end in making even a woman a blot, a positive evil, in the moral universe. There can be no true graciousness where there is no union with Him whose most attractive attribute is His graciousness, who makes Himself known, as “the Lord God, merciful and gracious.” (Exodus 34:6). A gracious woman must be in right relationship with a gracious God.

2. In consequence of this, a gracious woman is right in her human relationships. Being right in the greater matter, she must be in that which is less. The earth, because she preserves her right relation to the sun, is right in her relationship to the other planets, that is, her path in the heavens is just that which is best for the whole planetary system—that which enables them also to keep their orbits, and prevents one of them from exercising a baleful influence over another. A woman whose spirit is under the influence of a gracious God will be a gracious daughter, a gracious wife, a gracious mother, a gracious friend and neighbour—that is, all her doings and sayings will be irradiated and warmed by that holiness and love which is the essence of the character of God Himself. In the summing up of the Divine law, Christ makes the right human relation depend upon a right Divine relation. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27), and He repeats this foundation principle in His last discourse with His disciples before His death, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35).

II. A woman with such a character wins honour. The strong men to whom she is compared (see critical notes) are warriors who take the spoil by strength of hand, such men as Othniel, the son of Kenaz, who took Kirjath-sepher by reason of his strength and military skill. For the strong men must gain their spoil before they can retain it. So with a gracious woman. She must win honour before she can retain it, and this she most certainly will do. She will be honoured by God because she is fulfilling His purpose in sending her into the world—because she is bringing glory to Him by showing to the world what He meant a woman to be. And as a necessity she will be honoured. Those in nearest relation to her will honour her. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praiseth her.” But she is honoured in a wider sphere by a larger circle—“her own works praise her in the gates.” (chap. Proverbs 31:28; Proverbs 31:31).

III. What she has won she will retain. Strong men, when they have won their prize, hold it fast. It is more difficult to obtain wealth than to retain it. Having done the first by reason of their strength, it is comparatively easy to do the second by the same means. So with a gracious woman. Honour is the guerdon of her gracious character, this she has won without any striving. Her character is that for which she has striven, and this it is which is the strength by which she retains her riches, viz., her honour.


Albeit the woman is the weaker vessel, yet when she is gracious, that is to say, graced, not so much with beauty, as with wisdom and virtue, she keepeth honour, that is, maintaineth her credit and preserveth her chastity. It were a hard thing to rob or spoil a strong man of his goods; but to take away the chastity of an honest matron, be she never so weak, it is impossible, who will rather die a thousand deaths than to be stained with the least speck of dishonesty.—Muffet.

A woman is powerful by her grace as the mighty are by their strength. In grace there lies as great force as in the imposing nature of the mighty; nay, the power of the strength of the latter gains only more property, while the woman gains honour and esteem, which are of more worth.—Rueetschi, from Lange’s Commentary.

Thus Deborah “retained honour” as a mother in Israel, the counsellor and stay of a sinking people. (Judges 4:4; Judges 5:7.) Esther “retained” her influence over her heathen husband for the good of her nation (Esther 9:12-13; Esther 9:25). And still the gracious woman retaineth honour long after she has mingled with the dust. Sarah, the obedient wife (1 Peter 3:5-6); Hannah, the consecrating mother (1 Samuel 1:28); Lois, Eunice, and “the elect lady” (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 John 1:1-4), in the family sphere; Phœbe and her companions in the annals of the Church (Romans 16:2-6; Philippians 4:3); the rich contributor to the temple (Mark 12:42-44); the self-denying lover of her Lord (Mark 14:3-9); Mary in contemplative retirement (Luke 10:39); Dorcas in active usefulness (Acts 9:36):—Are not these “good names” still had in honourable remembrance? (Psalms 112:6).—Bridges.

It is true of both sexes, which Solomon here affirms of women only, that gracious persons, they who are in the grace and favour of God, and are strengthened by His gracious assistance, shall from the generality of men gain an inward esteem and, for the most part, an outward respect. There are many instances in which virtue has been rather contemned and ridiculed,—and I will mention none other than the most signal of all, God Incarnate—but goodness has an inseparable splendour which can never suffer a total eclipse, and when it is most reviled and persecuted, it then shines brightest out of the cloud. So that all who are not wilfully blind, who will but make use of their eyes to see, must acknowledge the force of its rays. But why does Solomon here instance the woman rather than the man? Either this, that as vice is more odious and more detested, so on the other hand, virtue is more attractive, and looks more lovely in women than it usually does in men. Or it is, because men have more advantages of aspiring to honour in all public stations than women have, and the only way for a woman to gain honour, is an exemplary holiness. Or it is, because women are made of a temper more soft and frail, are more endangered by snares and temptations, and more inclinable to extremes of good and bad than men, and generally speaking, goodness is a tender thing, more hazardous and brittle in the former than in the latter, and consequently a firm and steady virtue is more to be valued in the weaker sex than in the stronger; so that a gracious woman is most worthy to receive and to retain honour. Or it is, because women in all ages, have given so many heroic examples of sanctity, that there is that peculiar to the sex which naturally renders them more pliable to the Divine grace than men.—Bp. Ken.

Verse 17


Proverbs 11:17. Or “He who doeth good to himself is a merciful man, but he who troubleth his own flesh is cruel.” So Stuart and Miller, Zöckler and Delitzsch read as the authorised version.



I. A blessed human character—“A merciful man.” The blessedness of any human existence depends upon the amount of mercifulness found in it. It will be blessed in itself, and a blessing to others in proportion as this Divine characteristic is found in the spirit. God, as a God of power, would be a wonderful and awe-inspiring Being, but He would not be the “the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11) if this were His only attribute. So far as men are concerned, He would only be a Person who added to the mysteries and miseries of human life. There is plenty of power in the world, but power is not the one thing needful for fallen and sorrowful humanity. A complex and mighty machine may, and does, excite our wonder and even our admiration, but it has no sympathy. God would be no more to us if He were not “The Lord God, merciful and gracious.” He could otherwise add nothing of blessedness to our existence—yea, His very existence would be a calamity for sinful men. So, no man is a real blessing to his fellow-creatures if he is not merciful. He may be a great genius, he may be a great intellectual power, he may be possessed of great influence from one source or another; but none of these things alone, or all of them put together, will add anything to the sum of human happiness if he is not merciful. He is simply a hard machine, and will never make any wilderness heart rejoice or any moral waste blossom as the rose. But mercy is a moral force, which works as subtilly and as certainly upon human hearts to bless them as do the mysterious influences of the spring-time upon the barren earth. The absence of mercifulness makes hell the barren world that it is, and fills heaven with moral light and joy. On earth, mercifulness is felt to be most needful. The scum of humanity are not insensible to its blessed influence, and there is no man, however exalted above his fellow-men, who does not sometimes stand in need of its exercise.

II. The region which is first blest by the exercise of mercy. The merciful man’s “own soul.” There are things which by the constitution of the material universe cannot be separated. Where there is flame, there is certain to be heat; where the sun’s rays come, there must be light. So mercifulness of disposition must bless a man’s own soul. The exercise of kindliness is in harmony with the law of self-love. A man is but obeying this law when he exercises mercy. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” implies that a man is to love himself. Loving his neighbour is the surest way—the only way—of truly doing good to himself. God has ordained that all exercise of loving kindness shall have a reward in the doing and for the doing. “He that watereth others shall be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25).

1. His own spirit will be filled with a sense of blessedness.
2. His character will be daily growing more and more like God.

3. He will have mercy extended to him when he stands in need of it. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” “For with what measure you mete, it shall be measured unto you again” (Matthew 5:7; Matthew 7:2). And so it is that mercy—

“Is twice bless’d;

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.”

We have now to consider the opposite character:—

III. A curse to human kind. “A cruel man.” He is an inflicter of pain upon others from a malicious disposition. Pain is the common lot of men. In the present constitution of things in this world it is a necessity, and will remain so while sin remains in human nature. Sometimes pain has to be inflicted upon human beings from the purest motives, and by the most benevolent of beings. The kindest physician in the world is obliged constantly to inflict severe physical pain. The moral teacher—the loving parent or master—must often be the means of inflicting mental pain. But in these cases the motive is not ill-will, but good-will. The pain is contrary to the disposition of the person who inflicts it. He would not give the pain if the end could be obtained without it. He intends by present pain to give future pleasure. But a cruel man inflicts pain from choice, for the purpose of making men miserable. His cruelty is the outcome of his malicious nature. Hence he is a curse to his race. To the unavoidable and necessary pain of the world he adds that which is worse than needless. He would often inflict more than he does, if he had the power. Did not experience teach the contrary, we should not believe it possible that there could be such monsters in the garb of men. They are, indeed, of “their father the devil” (John 8:44), who finds his only delight in the misery of others.

IV. That, in the end, the cruel man will inflict the most pain upon himself.

1. He will “trouble his own flesh,” or his whole being in the present. He will be tormented by his conscience which now and again will rise from its deathlike slumber and avenge the miseries of those upon whose rights he has trampled—whose lives he has taken, or worse, whose souls he has ruined. While he is still pursuing his course of cruelty he will have the sting of the serpent remorse poisoning the life-blood of his spirit—a prophecy of future retribution possibly in this world, certainly in the next.
2. He is laying up trouble for himself in the future. Men may return his cruelty with compound interest,—(see comments and illustrations on Proverbs 11:10), whether they do or not God certainly will. The Divine decree has gone forth, “He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy. (James 2:13). His experience will be that of the cruel tyrant of Bezek. “As I have done so God hath requited me,” (Judges 1:6-7), or that of Shakespere’s Richard


O coward conscience, how thou dost afflict me!
The lights burn blue.—It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What; do I fear myself? there’s none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No;—yes, I am:
Then fly,—What, from myself? Great reason, why?
Lest I revenge. What? myself on myself?
I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O no; alas, I rather hate myself,
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale.
And every tale convicts me for a villain
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all,—Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair.—There is no creature loves me:—
And, if I die, no soul will pity me:—
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself.


Buchanan, the Scotch historian, relates that John Cameron, Bishop of Glasgow, was so given to extortion and oppression, especially upon his tenants and vassals, that he would scarcely afford them bread to eat, or clothes to wear. But one Christmas eve, as he lay in his bed in his house at Lockwood, he heard a voice summoning him to appear before the tribunal of Christ, and give an account of his actions. Being terrified with this notice, and the pangs of a guilty conscience, he called up his servants, and commanded them to stay in the room with him. He himself took a book in his hand, and began to read; but the voice, being heard a second time, struck all the servants with horror. The same voice repeating the summons a third time, and with a louder and more dreadful accent, the bishop, after a most lamentable and frightful groan, was found dead in his bed.

The Last Days of Nero. Nero had landed in Italy about the end of February, and now, at the beginning of June, his cause had already become hopeless. Galba, though stedfast in his resolution, had not yet set his troops in motion; nevertheless, Nero was no longer safe in the city.… Terrified by dreams, stung by ridicule or desertion, when his last hope of succour was announced to have deceived him, the wretched tyrant started from his couch at supper, upset the tables, and dashed his choicest vessels to the ground; then, taking poison from Locusta, and placing it in a golden casket, he crossed from the palace to the Servilian gardens, and sent his trustiest freedman to secure a galley at Ostia. He conjured some tribunes and centurions, with a handful of guards, to join his flight, but all refused; and one, blunter than the rest, exclaimed, tauntingly, “Is it, then, so hard to die?” At last, at midnight, finding that even the sentinels had left their posts, he sent, or rushed himself, to assemble his attendants. Every door was closed; he knocked, but no answer came. Returning to his chamber, he found the slaves fled, the furniture pillaged, the case of poison removed. Not a guard, not a gladiator, was at hand, to pierce his throat. I have neither friend nor foe, he exclaimed. He would have thrown himself into the Tiber but his courage failed him. He must have time, he said, and repose to collect his spirits for suicide, and his freedman Phaon at last offered him his villa in the suburbs, four miles from the city. In undress and barefooted, throwing a rough cloak over his shoulders and a kerchief across his face, he glided through the doors, mounted a horse and, attended by Sporus and three others, passed the city gates with the dawn of a summer morning. The Nomentane road led him beneath the wall of the prætorians, whom he might hear uttering curses against him and pledging vows to Galbo; and the early travellers from the country asked him as they met, What news of Nero? or remarked to one another, These men are pursuing the tyrant. Thunder and lightning, and a shock of earthquake, added terror to the moment. Nero’s horse started at a dead body on the roadside, the kerchief fell from his face, and a prætorian passing by recognised and saluted him. At the fourth milestone the party quitted the highway, alighted from their horses, and scrambled on foot through a canebrake, laying their own cloaks to tread on, to the rear of the promised villa. Phaon now desired Nero to crouch in a sand-pit hard by, while he contrived to open the drain of the bath-room, and so admit him unperceived; but he vowed that he would not go alive, as he said, underground, and remained trembling beneath the wall. At last a hole was made through which he crept on all fours into a narrow chamber of the house, and there threw himself on a pallet. The coarse bread that was offered him he could not eat, but swallowed a little tepid water.… Suddenly was heard the tramp of horsemen, sent to seize the culprit alive. Then at last he placed a weapon to his breast, and the slave Epaphroditus drove it home.… Nero perished at the age of thirty years and six months.—Merivale.


There are two descriptions of mercy. There is mercy to sufferers, and mercy to offenders. Mercy to sufferers is the disposition to relieve; mercy to offenders is the disposition to forgive. The two are infinitely united in God. Under His government all sufferers are offenders. It is only as offenders that they are sufferers; and when He pardons the offence, He cancels the sentence to suffering. And in every good man the two are united. They should, indeed, be regarded as one principle, operating in different departments. Now “the merciful man” whether considered in the one light or the other,—in exercising forgiveness or in relieving distress—effectually consults his own interests. He does so, even for present enjoyment. The divine sentiment of the Saviour—“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” has its full application here. Jesus Himself, above all that ever lived on earth, experienced its truth. He “delighted in mercy.” He came from above on an errand of mercy. The “merciful man” participates in the blessedness of the Son of God.… He, moreover, procures favour with his fellow-men;—he “makes himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness;” he causes society to feel an interest in him—to regard and treat him as its friend and benefactor. This is eminently gratifying and pleasing;—to know that in the hearts of our fellow-men our names are associated with affection and blessing, and that when we “fail,” there will be some ready to receive us into “everlasting habitations,” who had been made friends by our kindness during their sojourn in the wilderness. But above all, the mercy of the merciful is associated with the favour and blessing of God.… But the cruel stirs up resentment, instead of conciliating favour; so that on every hand, in every face, he sees an enemy, from whom he dreads the fulfilment of the Saviour’s maxim,—“With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” How can he be happy? There is unhappiness in his very passions. The opposite of the character of God, they cannot but be associated with misery.—Wardlaw.

We are to preserve, as much as in us lies, these two parts of our nature, our souls and our bodies.… He that may truly be called a kind man, is kind to his own soul, in comforting his own heart, and in granting there-unto the delight which may be received by sleep, by food, and the use of all things necessary and pleasant. Wherefore the counsel which the son of Sirach giveth is good and worthy to be followed: “Love thy soul, and comfort thine heart, and put heaviness far away from thee.” (Sir. 30:21, etc.) On the contrary side the cruel person, either for niggardliness, or travail, or sorrow, pincheth, consumeth, or pineth his body. He ceaseth not to labour, nor saith, For whom do I travail and deprive my soul of good things.—Muffet.

The merciful man will ever find a merciful God. (Psalms 41:1 Matthew 5:7). The widow of Sarepta and the woman of Shunem, each for their kindness to the Lord’s prophets received a prophet’s reward. (2 Kings 4:16; 2 Kings 8:1; 2 Kings 8:6). The alms of Cornelius brought good to his own soul. (Acts 10:2; Acts 10:4). Even now “God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labour of love.” (Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 10:42). At the great day He will honour it before the assembled universe. (Matthew 25:34).… Cain found his brother’s murder an intolerable “trouble to his flesh.” (Genesis 4:13-14). The doom of Ahab and Jezebel was the curse of their own cruelty. (1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:36-37). The treasures of selfishness will eat as a canker in our own flesh. (James 5:1; James 5:3).—Bridges.

Why did not the wise man say, “he that is cruel troubleth his own soul?” He knew that a cruel man cares nothing for his soul. If you would obtain a hearing from the merciless man, say nothing about his soul. He values it less than his dog. But if you could convince him that his want of mercy will be hurtful to his flesh, he would think a little about his ways. And it is evident from Scripture, that his flesh, no less than his soul, is under a fearful curse.—Lawson.

His chief business is with and for himself: how to set all to rights within, how to keep a continual sabbath of soul, a constant composedness. He will not purchase earth with his loss of heaven. And inasmuch as the body is the soul’s servant, and should therefore be fit for the soul’s business—it ought not to be pinched or pined with penury or overmuch abstinence, as those impostors (Colossians 2:23), and our Popish merit-mongers, that starve their genius, and are cruel to their own flesh. They shall one day hear, “Who required these things at your hand?”—Trapp.

In every act that mercy prompts there are two parties who obtain a benefit,—the person in need, who is the object of compassion, and the person not in need, who pities his suffering brother. Both get good, but the giver gets the larger share.… The good Samaritan who bathed the wounds and provided for the wants of a plundered Jew, obtained a greater profit on the transaction than the sufferer who was saved by his benevolence. It is like God to constitute His world so. Even Christ himself, in the act of showing mercy, has His reward.… And a man cannot hurt his neighbour without hurting himself. The rebound is heavier than the blow … Such is the fence which the Creator has set up to keep man off his fellows. This dividing line is useful now to keep off the ravages of sin; but when perfect love has come, that divider, no longer needed, will be no longer seen. It is like one of those black jagged ridges of rock that at low water stretch across the sand from the edge of the cultivated ground to the margin of the sea, an impassable, an unapproachable barrier: when the tide rises, all is level, and it is nowhere seen. This law of God, rising as a rampart between man and man, is confined to this narrow six thousand year strip of time. In the perfect state it will act no more, for want of material to act upon.—Arnot.

It is to his own soul that a merciful man doeth good. For it hath been well said, there is nothing so much a man’s own as that which is given to the poor. That which men do, they do as to a poor soul, of as noble birth, and by nature of as great excellency as their own soul is, and so they do it, as it were, to their own. That which God doth, He doth to a sinful soul, degenerate from the birth which He gave it, and turned to be a rebel against Him. So that God is more ready to be good to His enemies, than we are to be good to ourselves.—Jermin.

Verses 18-20


Proverbs 11:18. “The wicked gaineth a deceptive result, but he that soweth righteousness a sure reward” (Zöckler).



I. The life-work of the wicked contains within itself the germs of a threefold bane, A deception, a death, and an abomination.

1. A deception. The wicked man expects from his life-work that which it cannot possibly yield. It is against the moral constitution of the universe that a life of wickedness, or an evil undertaking in that life should yield satisfaction or any degree of real comfort to the worker. If a man sowed darnel in his field and expected to get a crop of wheat, he would be “working a deceitful work,” that is, he would be a victim of self-deception. Nature cannot go out of her way to gratify his desires, to prevent his disappointment. The ungodly man lives a life of ungodliness—he “pursues evil,” (Proverbs 11:19), he perversely chooses his own course, in other words, he “is of a froward heart,” (Proverbs 11:20), and he promises himself some kind of advantage. But it cannot be, he is doomed to disappointment. However much he lies to work his work, the issue of his work will not lie. The earth will not lie concerning what kind of seed is placed in her furrows. If wheat is hidden there she will not disappoint the husbandman by returning him tares—if tares are sown she will render back of what has been entrusted to her care. She will speak the truth about the sowing by giving according to that which she has received. The sinner wants to make God a liar. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” is the Divine sentence. “Ye shall not surely die,” is the assurance of the great deceiver. But the end will ever be what it was when man first suffered himself to entertain a doubt upon the matter. The man who builds himself a house upon the side of a volcano may promise himself, or may be promised by others, safety and peace, but unless he can quench the internal fires, that promise cannot be kept. The elements of destruction are ever at work under his very feet, the day will come when the devouring flame will burst forth and consume the work and the worker together.

2. Death. There are three kinds of death which are all the fruit of sin and which are developed out of one another as the blade, the corn in the ear, and the fall corn are successive developments of one seed. There is that preseut paralysis of all the spiritual capabilities of the man which the Bible calls carnal mindedness. (Romans 8:6). Into this condition Adam came at once as soon as he worked his wicked work, and every son of his who lives a life of opposition to the Divine will is even now “dead” in this sense. The death of the body is but the outcome of this spiritual death, and although it is the portion of those who have been made spiritually alive, its character is changed from a curse into a blessing. But the consummation of both these “deaths,” is that irrecoverable paralysis of spirit, and that correspondent condition of body known as the “second death.” This is what the man “pursues” who “pursues evil.”

3. An abomination. A musical soul hates discord, a honest man hates dishonesty, the pure-minded turn with loathing from all impurity. Although God loves His creatures, He holds in abomination all that is unholy; a persistent frowardness—a constant refusal to fall in with the Divine plan of separating sin from the human soul will—it is here and elsewhere declared—result in the very creature whom He has made becoming an offence to his Divine Creator.

II. The life-work of the righteous will meet the certain reward of a Divine character and Divine delight.

1. A Divine character. He is now a partaker of spiritual life. A man’s present healthy life is in itself a reward for any self-denial he may practise in observing the laws of health. There is a joy in living which a diseased man knows nothing of. So there is a present joy in being in a state of spiritual health, in the exercise of all the graces which are the fruit of the spirit, (Galatians 5:22), to which a man who is morally diseased and dead is an entire stranger. The spiritual life which is the harvest of “sowing righteousness” or uprightness, is a present reward. But the present spiritual life and health is a prophecy and an earnest of a completed and perfected life in the city of God. Righteousness is the very life of God, and in proportion as His children attain perfection of character they attain a more perfect life. (See Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 7:1; Proverbs 7:4).

2. Divine delight. God is the Author and Fountain of all the righteousness in the universe, and He can but take pleasure in the work of His own hands. He delights in men of uprightness because He sees in them a reproduction of His own character. His “soul delighted,” (Isaiah 42:1), in the work and character of His elected servant, His only-begotten Son, because He was, pre-eminently “the Righteous.” (1 Isaiah 2:1). He delights also in His created sons in proportion as their character comes up to that perfect standard.


Proverbs 11:18.

1. Opposite characters, The radical idea of the word righteousness seems to be that of equality, as the equilibrium of a pair of scales, etc. Hence, applied to moral or religious matters, it means a correspondence between our obligations on the one hand, and our performance on the other. But as the rightful claims of God and man are embodied in the Divine law, righteousness is considered as obedience and conformity to that law (Deuteronomy 6:25). And as this rule rather declares what it enjoins to be fit and proper, than makes it so, righteousness, in relation to the arrangement and constitution of things, is order, fitness, reality, truth. The radical meaning of the word here employed to denote the wicked man appears to be that of inequality, unfairness. Hence wicked, that is, unequal, balances (Micah 6:11). Agreeably to this idea, the word, when used in a moral sense, means a want of correspondence between duty and performance—nonconformity to the law of God. As righteousness is order, etc., so that which is the essence of wickedness, is disorder, incongruity, deception, a lie, an unsound principle.

2. Opposite practices. As is the tree, so is the fruit. Righteousness renders to God and to man their due. The unrighteous man robs God (Malachi 3:8-9) of time and talents which should have been devoted to His service. His work is—Deceitful (often) in its intention. Deception is the very object proposed. Deceitful (always) in its nature. Weighed in the balances, it is found wanting.

3. Opposite results. The deceiver himself often becomes the dupe of his own delusions. By abuse the moral sense becomes blunted, etc., then follows what is describedIsaiah 44:18; Isaiah 44:18; Isaiah 44:20; 2 Timothy 3:13. Deceitful in its results—generally in this world. A tradesman who makes a point of telling profitable lies, is detected and disbelieved even when he speaks the truth, and, being deserted, comes to ruin.—Certainly in the world to come. Every man loves happiness; but sin will leave the sinner to weeping and wailing, etc. On the contrary, the righteous has a sure reward. His reward is—

1. Certain. The perfections and word of God assure this.

2. Suitable; a reward of truth, a reward in kind, an increase of correct and pious feeling (Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:8). Hence,

3. Satisfying (Psalms 17:15).

4. Abiding (Psalms 19:9).—Adapted from Sketches of Sermons.

Although the ungodly person labour much, yet he doth a work which neither shall continue, nor bring any fruit unto him. The hypocrite giveth alms oftentimes to be seen by men, but he shall never be rewarded for his liberality by the Lord. The transgressor of God’s law buildeth himself upon the show of an outward profession: such a house will fall. The vain teacher delivereth the straw and the stubble of error and vanity for true doctrine and sound divinity. This work cannot abide; the day will reveal it, and the fire will consume it.—Muffet.

None would be so rich and happy as the servants of Satan, were his promises all performed; but the misery is, that he will promise kingdoms, though he cannot, like Chaldean robbers, have a single sheep without the Divine permission; and what is worst of all, those that trust his promises are paid with fire and brimstone. The devil was a liar from the beginning, yet so infatuated are men, that they will trust him more than a God that cannot lie. The devil places pleasure and profit before them; God, by the threatenings of His word, sets an everlasting hell before them. But they will venture through it, in order to enjoy the vanities with which the great tempter allures them.—Lawson.

By necessity of his condition, every man’s life, and every moment of it, is a sowing. The machine is continually moving over the field and shaking; it cannot, even for a moment, be made to stand still, so as not to sow. It is not an open question at all whether I shall sow or not to-day; the only question to be decided is, Shall I sow good seed or bad?—Arnot.

If righteousness be our main end, God will make it our best friend; nor will He, as the world has done, reward us with ciphers instead of gold.—Bridges.

Nothing is durable that a wicked man does except his crimes.—A Clarke.

Our wage is better than ordinary, the whole crop that we sow is given us for our labour, and therefore let us not be too hasty to reap it before it be ready. Good farmers indeed pay the ploughman sooner than the corn is ripe, but cheaper than the corn is worth: Whereas God bestoweth freely upon his labourers all that they have sown, it is their own, and therefore let them tarry till harvest, and they shall find their hire will far surmount their travail.—Dod.

Let us inquire why this gracious course of consecrating a man’s self to God in the practice of godliness is called a sowing of righteousness. It is because of the likeness which is betwixt the practice of godliness, and the sowing of the seed—

(1) in some things which do go before the sowing. Two things, then, have to be looked after, viz., the preparation of the ground and the choice of seed. In the sowing of righteousness the like to these two are of great behoof. The preparation of the heart and the choice of particulars belonging to a Christian course.

(2) In some things which do accompany the sowing, viz., the time of souring and the plenty of sowing. When the season comes, the husbandman falls to his work, though, perhaps, it be not so seasonable as he could desire. So in spiritual business—the seed time for righteousness is this life: the opportunity must be taken when it comes. If I meet with many encumbrances, shall I cease sowing and tarry for a calmer season? God forbid. Through with it I must, in season, and out of season. If I look for a better time, upon a sudden, there will be no time at all. Then the seedsman casts not in one seed alone, but a handful at once, one handful after another. To sow righteousness is to be rich in good works, to do good once and again, to join with faith virtue; with virtue knowledge, etc. Some do now and then drop out a good work, some little devotion to God, some petty office of mercy to men, but it is to no purpose in the world; no plenty in sowing, no fulness in reaping.

(3) In things which follow after sowing. Great is the care that the seed put into the ground may thrive and prosper; the fields be hedged, the cattle be shut out, etc. It is ever and anon looked to, to see how it be going on. So it is in vain to have entered upon a good course if it be not continued. (Philippians 4:1; Thess. Proverbs 4:1; 2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 6:1). Thus we see that to sow righteousness is—

1. The submitting a man’s self to have his heart broken up by the power of God’s word.
2. A diligent inquiry into the best way of pleasing God.
3. A pressing forward amid many encumbrances.
4. A striving to be fruitful in good works.
5. A watching with continued diligence.—Hieron.

Proverbs 11:19. The course of rivers is to return to the sea, from whence they issue, and so righteousness, coming from the ocean of life, thither tendeth again, and evil, coming from the black sea of darkness, bendeth thither also. The difference which the passengers find is this: that in the waters of righteousness all the tempests and rough waves are in the river, but going on with it to the sea, there is nothing but calmness, security, and pleasantness, in which they bathe themselves for evermore. In the waters of wickedness the passengers find the river to be easy often, and smoothly to carry them along, but following the course of it, when they come to the sea, there are nothing but horrid storms, raging winds, and gaping gulfs of death, wherein they are for ever swallowed up.—Jermin.

Our principal pay will be in life, whereof we have part in hand by grace in our souls in this world, and the rest is behind until the pay day in the world to come. So that a sinner cannot discern the happiness of a Christian, nor conceive how God dealeth with him. For the comfort of a heart is a thing unknown to him, and the glorious life is hid with Christ in God, and shall not fully be seen before we appear with Him in glory.—Dod.

If righteousness is a seed, and is sown, and has a certain crop, then, in this way, “righteousness is unto life,” but he that pursues evil does so to his death; that is, he grows in spiritual corruption, and that eternally. He grows in spiritual corruption, not because creatures are self-subsistent, and advance by laws implanted in themselves; but because sin is the punishment of sin, and advance by laws implanted in the Almighty. Eternal justice declares that sin must be given up to an advance in sin.—Miller.

It is frequently possible for men to screen themselves from the penalty of human laws, but no man can be ungrateful or unjust without suffering for his crime; hence I conclude that these laws must have proceeded from a more excellent legislator than man.—Socrates.

Proverbs 11:20. Uprightness is a noble quality, for the Lord greatly delights in it. He boasted, if we may speak so, to the devil of Job’s invincible integrity. Christ speaks of an upright Nathaniel as a wonder in the world. How wonderful is the grace of God, that takes such kind notice of grace so imperfect as that which may be found on earth.—Lawson.

“An abomination to Jehovah,” as taught in this book, is a thing so radically full of mischief that it must be forced out of the way some day, by the very necessities of the universe.—Miller.

Not only those that pursue and practise wickedness, but they also that harbour it in their hearts, are hated of God. (Luke 16:15). A man may die of inward bleeding; a man may be damned for contemplative wickedness. The antithesis requires that he should say, such as are upright in heart. But He chooseth rather to say, in their way, not only because a good heart ever makes a good life, but to meet with such as brag of the goodness of their hearts when their lives are altogether loose and licentious. Whereas holiness in the heart, as the candle in the lantern, well appears in the body.—Trapp.

A pearl upon a dunghill is worth stooping for, and a gracious man or woman is worth looking after. Sure it is that God looks on them as His jewels, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, His delight, His dear children, and what not. It much concerns us then, to set a true value upon them, make a true estimate of them, and (as much as lieth in us) to be mindful of them, comfortable to them, and willing on all occasions to do them good.—Spencer’s Things New and Old.

Verse 21


Proverbs 11:21. The Hebrew here is simply “hand to hand, the wicked,” etc. Zöckler and Delitzsch understand it as a formula of strong asseveration derived from the custom of becoming surety by clasping hands, and hence equivalent to “assuredly,” “verily,” “I pledge it.” Stuart says “Different meanings have been assigned.

1. Hand against hand, i.e., the injurious man.

2. From one hand to another, i.e., from one generation to another.

3. Joining hands in way of assurance—“verily.” All these are little better than guesses. The phrase is evidently proverbial and is doubtless abridged. The most simple interpretation is that of Michael, “Hand joined to hand will not protect the guilty. Let the evil man struggle with all his might he will not escape.”



I. The wicked will certainly confederate against the good. They will join “hand in hand.”

1. On account of their nearness to each other. If two nations who are near neighbours feel that the advance of one in possessions, in power, in wealth, will be the correspondent retrogression of the other, there will be a confederation of each nation. Their nearness to each other will necessitate a defensive confederation—most likely an offensive one, for each will feel that its existence depends upon a union of its members. The wicked and the good in the entire universe make but two hostile camps, although they are not separated into distinct nationalities or divided by geographical boundaries in this world. Some of each side are found in every nation, in every city, in every hamlet, often in the same house, and while this is the case there will be confederation on both sides. We have here to do only with that of the wicked. Hatred of the good is often the only bond of union between wicked men, they feel that, if the good are to be held back from possessing the earth, they must unite to oppose their work. Hatred of Christ united Herod and Pilate (Luke 23:12).

2. This confederation of the wicked is against both persons and principles. The good fight only against the principles of the godless—they love their persons, the wicked hate both the persons and principles of the good.

3. The wicked will confederate because of the tremendous issues depending upon the conflict. If the principles that govern the good should triumph in the world, they instinctively feel that there will be no place left for their persons and principles.

4. Confederation implies choice, confidence in numbers, thought, and a covenant to stand by each other. Those who join hand to hand show that they choose each other’s society—choice is a revelation of character—those who join hands with the wicked reveal that they are wicked also. It implies confidence in numbers. Numbers have a wonderful influence in begetting confidence. They inspire men with hope of success. It seems impossible that so many can be defeated. The fact that the wicked are in the majority in this world is often a strong point with them. This was the hope of Pharaoh (Exodus 14:6-7) and of Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:0). The first Napoleon made it his boast that “Providence fought always on the side of great battalions.” It likewise implies thought. They do not go to their work without taking counsel together as to the best means of accomplishing their ends. This “multitude of counsellors” (Proverbs 11:14) is one of the advantages of confederation. It likewise implies covenant. There is something even in a wicked man that makes him slow to break an agreement—to violate a solemn promise. Even the wicked Herod would keep his oath to the daughter of Herodias, although the thought of the crime which he must commit to do so startled him for a moment (Matthew 14:9). All these things together make up the strength of the confederation of the wicked; but, notwithstanding,—

II. They will be defeated. “The seed of the righteous will be delivered.” The end of all their planning and plotting was the destruction of the good, but it will not be. Another confederation has been formed which has in it a stronger Person than any in the confederation of the wicked. God is in it. God has chosen the good for His confederates because they have chosen Him (Isaiah 41:8-9). Although the wicked have many on their side there are more in numbers on the other side (2 Kings 6:16). Those unseen defenders of the good cause must be taken into account. God has thoughts and plans which embrace and overrule all the plans and schemes of the wicked. He has likewise made a covenant, and He cannot “alter the thing that has gone out of His lips” (Psalms 89:34). Therefore the righteous may meet their foes with this challenge: “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand; for the Lord is with us” (Isaiah 8:9-10).

III. The members of the wicked confederation will be punished. Men think that individuals will be lost in the crowd. They think there is safety in being one of many. But it is not so. God will deal with men as individuals. He will “render to every man according to His work” (Psalms 62:12). This is the word of the Lord to those who dare “to take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed (Psalms 2:2)—“Judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuges of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it” (Isaiah 28:18). And this is His word to “the seed of the righteous,”—“Behold they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (Isaiah 54:15; Isaiah 54:17).


A very solemn method of taking an oath in the East is by joining hands, uttering at the same time a curse upon the false swearer. To this the wise man probably alludes. This form of swearing is still observed in Egypt and the vicinity; for when Mr. Bruce was at Shekh Hunner, he entreated the protection of the governor in prosecuting his journey, when the great people who were assembled came, and after joining hands, repeated a kind of prayer about two minutes long, by which they declared themselves and their children accursed, if ever they lifted up their hands against him in the tent, or the field, or the desert, or in case that he or his should fly to them for refuge, if they did not protect them at the risk of their lives. Or, sometimes, when two persons make a contract they bring the palms of their right hands into contact, and raise them to their lips and forehead. At other times they rub the forefingers of their right hands together, repeating the words “right, right,” or “together, together.”—Paxton’s Illustration.


What many wicked cannot do, in saving one wicked man from wrath, that shall one godly man do for many. For not only himself, but his seed shall be delivered.—Jermin.

The best way for any man to do his children good, is to be godly himself.—Dod.

The “seed of the righteous” is not simply the children of righteous people, because it includes the parents themselves; not simply the parents, because it includes the children; not both parents and children, because many children perish; but the seed of the righteous in the sense

(1) that righteousness runs in lines;—there is a generation of them that seek Him (Psalms 24:6)—and

(2) that the righteous, as far as they are righteous in the parental relation, will have godly children (Genesis 18:19; Titus 1:6). Righteousness itself (by its fidelities) has its offspring in Christian families. This is the favourite method of the Church’s growth.—Miller.

Let sinners beware of the danger and the inevitable result of fighting against God! “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against Him and: prospered?” What fearful odds—the creature against the Creator! the sinner against his rightful Judge! the arm of flesh against the hand of Omnipotence. Though the wicked could league all creation with them in conspiracy and rebellion, how powerless the combination! “He that sitteth in the heavens should laugh; the Lord should have them in derision. He should speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.” Companions in sin shall be companions in banishment and suffering. “Forsake the foolish, then, and live.” Choose another fellowship. Give your hand to God’s people, giving your heart to God Himself.—Wardlaw.

When we hear of the wicked, we are apt to think that men of abandoned lives can alone be meant. Hence, when we read the text we have a picture brought before us of some overbearing tyranny, or some perfidious conspiracy. Such specimens of evil are doubtless intended; still, after all, much more is included in its meaning, much which we see before our eyes. Is not the world itself evil? Is it an accident, is it an occasion, is it but an excess, or a crisis, or a complication of circumstances, which constitutes its sinfulness? or, rather, is it not one of our three great spiritual enemies at all times, and under all circumstances? (See James 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15). Let us be sure, then, that that confederacy of evil which Scripture calls the world—that conspiracy against God of which Satan is the secret instigator—is something wider, and more subtle, and more ordinary than mere cruelty, or craft, or profligacy: it is that very world in which we are. It is not a certain body or party of men—it is human society itself.—J. H. Newman.

Verse 22



I. There is an analogy between gold and beauty.

1. They are both gifts from God. Whether a man possesses gold by inheritance or as the result of labour it is a gift from God. In the first instance no praise or blame is due to him for being a rich man, he can no more help it than he can help being in existence. And it is no less a gift from God when it has been earned by toil (see Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 10:22). Beauty is also a gift from God, those who possess it deserve no honour for being beautiful, those who lack it are not to be despised on that account.

2. Both have a certain value. Gold may add much to a man himself, it increases his opportunities of spiritual and intellectual growth. It enables him to add much to the joy and comfort of others, to give them opportunities of growth also; a rich man can, if he pleases, serve his generation most effectually by a right use of wealth, and thereby increase a thousandfold his own happiness as well as that of others. Beauty is precious also. A woman who possesses physical beauty possesses an influence which she can use, if she pleases, as a lever to raise the moral tone of those who come under her influence. A beautiful woman may use her beauty so as to earn for herself a good reward, and gladden the hearts of her fellow-creatures.

3. Both may make their possessors worthy of praise or blame. Although neither praise nor blame can be attached to the possession of them, much may be to their use. He who uses gold as we have just indicated will receive the “well done,” which is the highest praise that man can receive (Matthew 25:21). But if, like a sponge, he sucks up all the blessings that his gold can give into his own life, and leaves others unsuccoured and unblest, he will deserve, and he will receive, the sentence passed upon the rich by the Apostle James (chap. Proverbs 5:1). So with the use or the abuse of beauty. For the right use of this gift of God, praise will be accorded to its possessor, for its abuse she will be called to render an account.

II. Gold and beauty, each in a wrong relation. An ornament of gold is a fitting and becoming adornment of the human person. But the same thing in a swine’s snout is utterly out of place; the conjunction of the two strikes us as entirely incongruous. But it is not more so than to find a fair face united to an unlovely soul—to a soul which lacks the purity and modesty without which a woman is the most repulsive of God’s creatures. For the word translated discretion evidently means womanliness—virtue, and when we see a beautiful face and find that it belongs to one with a foul spirit, we seem to see heaven and hell united in one person. The analogy goes further; the swine uses his snout to grovel in the mire in search of that which will satisfy his animal and swinish nature, he could put a jewel of gold to no other use. And the woman of the proverb does the same with her beauty. She debases this jewel of God’s own workmanship to the vile use of satisfying her own grovelling and lawless desires, and thus renders the resemblance most striking.


Nearly all the females of the East wear a jewel of gold in their nostrils, or in the septum of their nose; and some of them are exceedingly beautiful, and of great value. The Oriental lady looks with as much pleasure upon the jewel which adorns her nose as any of her sex in England do upon that which deck their ears.—Roberts.


We cannot, if we are ourselves right-minded,—if we have even good sense, apart from piety—admire such beauty. It hardly deserves the name. True loveliness consists not in the mere exquisite symmetry of features. It cannot exist without expression. To constitute true beauty, the countenance must be the index of the mind and heart—of what is intellectual and what is amiable.—Wardlaw.

The most direct proverb, in the sense of “mashal,” or similitude, which has yet reached us.—Plumptre.

Beauty is an earthly jewel, and is a comely ornament, where God and nature have bestowed it. But if there be no discretion to consider whence it cometh, and by whom it is preserved; if there be no understanding to perceive what the nature of it is, to what at last it cometh, and how soon it fadeth, it is then but as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout.—Jermin.

God makes no more reckoning of sinful people without understanding, than of brute beasts without reason. Though they have human nature, and carry the shape and form of men and women, with best show, yet if there be nothing but flesh and blood and sinfulness, no beauty nor bravery, make the best of them, is more acceptable to Him than is the basest of all the other creatures. It is a very homely comparison wherewith the Holy Ghost disgraceth the wicked in this book, and yet so true, that He toucheth it again in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:22).—Dod.

It is small praise, saith one, to have a good face and an evil nature. No one means, saith another, hath so enriched hell as beautiful faces. Art thou fair? saith an author; be not like an Egyptian temple, or a painted sepulchre. Art thou foul? let thy soul be like a rich pearl in a rude shell.—Trapp.

Beauty in the possession of an unthinking woman is more dangerous than a drawn sword in the hands of an idiot.
Beauty, unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume.

Verse 23


Proverbs 11:23. Wrath, i.e. God’s wrath (Zöckler).


We cannot understand the first clause of this verse to mean that all a righteous man’s desires are good.

1. History contradicts it. Solomon must have known it was not true of his own father. David was a righteous man, but some of his desires were not only not good, but inhuman and devilish. Of all the good men of whom we read, whether in inspired or uninspired history, there is hardly one of whom some act is not recorded which reveals that their desires were sometimes sinful.

2. Present experience contradicts it. If those who are now looked upon as the salt of the earth were appealed to upon this matter they would emphatically deny that their desires were at all times and altogether good. But this we may affirm. I. That the main desire of a righteous man is that he may be good, and that to all his fellow-creatures “good may be the final goal of ill.” II. That there will be a period in his history when his desires will be “only” good. In nature all things tend towards a perfection—a completion. If no untoward circumstance prevent, a tree or a flower will go on growing until it has attained to the perfectness to which it has been ordained. The Christian is destined to attain to perfectness of moral beauty. And when this completion is arrived at his desires will be only good. See 1 John 3:1-2, etc. (For full treatment of the verse see Homiletics on chap. 10: Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 11:28.)


Here we are to contrast a wish and an assurance (expectation) like that class of passages already alluded to where the last clause is intensive. The mere wish of the righteous is an intrinsic good; either first, because all actings of his heart, whether wise or unwise, will exercise him (Psalms 84:7), and will speed him to his celestial state; or secondly, because the wish of a righteous man, quoad a righteous man, will be a righteous wish, and, therefore, will be good in itself, and will be sure to be gratified. The wish of a righteous man, like the spongelets of a tree, is that which goes searching for God’s gifts, and is sure in the end to attain them. Therefore, emphasising “only” the wish of a righteous man will be made altogether to work for his good, however disappointed, and however kept low and troubled in the difficulties of the present life. But “an assurance of the wicked;” that is, a thing so grasped and reached as to be no longer a “wish,” but a certainty; wealth, when it is made his, or honour, when it is actually grasped, will not only be lost; will not only be followed by “wrath” in the sense of actually bringing it; but “is wrath” in the sense of being sent as punishment, and in the further sense that the sinner knew it all the time; and that his assurance, though it seemed to be a certainty of joy, was, lower down, a certainty of punishment; we mean by that an assurance (which he would confess if he were asked) that all his properties could end only in increasing retribution.—Miller.

“Desire is the wing of the soul, whereby it moveth, and is carried to the thing which it loveth as the eagle to the carcase, to feed itself upon it, and be satisfied with it” (Bishop Reynolds). The desire of the righteous must be good because it is God’s own work (Psalms 10:17; Romans 8:26-27). It must be only good, because it centres in Himself (Psalms 73:25; Isaiah 26:8-9).… The corrupt mixture of worldliness, selfishness, and pride is against our better will (Romans 7:15). In despite of this mighty assault—“Lord, all my desire is before thee; thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee” (Psalms 38:9; John 21:17).—Bridges.

Evil motions haunt his mind other-whiles, but there they inhabit not … As the ferryman plies the oar, and eyes the shore homeward, where he would be, yet there comes a gust of wind that carries him back again, so it is oft with a Christian. But every man is with God so good as he desires to be. They are written in the book of life that do what they can, though they cannot do as they would.—Trapp.

Proverbs 11:23 and chap. Proverbs 10:24. I. What, or who is the righteous man?

1. He is one whom God makes righteous by bestowing righteousness upon him—by counting the righteousness of His Son for his (Romans 5:19). A man must be righteous by imputation before he can be made good, for the Spirit which makes our persons good—which sanctifies our nature—is the fruit of the righteousness which is by Jesus Christ.

2. God makes a man righteous by bestowing upon him a principle of righteousness. Men must have eyes before they can see, tongues before they can speak, and legs before they go: even so a man must be made habitually good and righteous before he can work righteousness.

3. The man is practically righteous. Fruits show outwardly what the heart is principled with. Mark how the apostle words it: “Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness” (Romans 6:22). The works flow from the heart of a righteous man—of a man that before he had any good work had a twofold righteousness imparted to him—one to make him righteous before God, the other to principle him to be righteous before the world. II. What a righteous man desires. A righteous man is sometimes taken for his best part, or as he is a second creation, as in 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:10, etc. In which places the sinful flesh, the old man, the outward man—all of which are corrupt according to the deceitful lusts—are excluded, and so pared off from the man, that he is righteous. As Paul in Romans 7:15-17 severs himself in twain,—himself as he is spiritual from himself as he is carnal—so the righteous man here must be taken for the I that would do the good, the I that hates the evil. There is a spring that yieldeth water good and clear, but the channels through which this water comes to us are muddy and foul: now, of the channels the water receives a disadvantage, and so come to us savouring of what came not with them from the fountain of grace—the Holy Ghost—but from the channels through which they must pass. The desires of a righteous man, then, are comprised under,

(1) those they would have accomplished here, and
(2) those which they know cannot be enjoyed until after death. And the first are comprised under communion with God in spirit and the liberty of enjoyment of His ordinances. And the second are comprehended under the desire of that presence of the Lord which is personal, and their desire to be in that country where their Lord personally is. These last have a long neck: for they look over the brazen wall of this, quite into another world. They breed a divorce betwixt the soul and all inordinate love of the world; their strength is such, that they are ready to dissolve that sweet knot of union betwixt body and soul and to grapple with the King of Terrors. These desires do deal with death, as Jacob’s love to Rachel did with the seven long years which he was to serve for her. III. What is meant by granting the righteous man’s desires. It is to accomplish them. There is nothing that God likes of ours better than he likes our true desires. For, indeed, true desires are the smoke of our incense, the flower of our graces, the vital part of the new man. Right desires jump with God’s mind; they are the life of prayer; they are a man’s kindness to God; (chap. Proverbs 19:22) and they which will take him up from the ground, and carry him after God to do His will, be the work never so hard. Is it any marvel, then, that God has promised they shall be granted?—Bunyan.

The desire of all, as it is desire, is only of good; but as desire is accomplished, so it is the desire of the righteous only that is good, and their desire accomplished is good only. It is simply good, there is no mixture of evil added to it, yea, it is not only all good, but all the good that desire can wish.—Jermin.

Verses 24-26


Proverbs 11:25. Liberal soul, “the soul of blessing,” i.e., “the soul that blesses others.”



We have here a twofold contrast under two similitudes—

I. A man who withholds what he ought to give out. “He withholdeth more that is meet—he withholdeth corn” when he ought to sell it.

1. He is a sinner against the law of necessity which runs through all human things. The earth will only yield of her good things by first having good things cast into her bosom. The farmer who is sparing of labour and of money in the tillage of his fields will never be a rich man. The same principle is at work in the mart and on the exchange. There must of necessity be a wise scattering of wealth before there is any increase.

2. He is a sinner against the Divine ordination and commandment. When God organised the Hebrew commonwealth he ordained that the “poor should not cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:2), and that they should be helped by the rich. The same principle was proclaimed by Christ, when he said “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), God has given to you that you may give to others. This is the fast that Jehovah has chosen, “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thine house? When thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh” (Isaiah 58:7).

3. He is, as a necessity, a sinner against his fellow creatures. He sins against their need. In times of scarcity those who have abundance and will not give of their abundance are guilty, how much more those who have the material to feed the people and will not even sell it, but withhold it to raise the price. Such men are robbers and murderers. They murder by refusing the means of life.

4. He is a sinner against himself. He will not be so rich as he would have been if he had used what he had in accordance with the laws of nature and morality. A man who does not put his money out to a lawful use cannot make more by it. More than this, he is a stranger to that blessedness of which Christ spake when He said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). But this is not all, he is under a Divine and human curse. God’s ban is upon him. If a tree is constantly receiving from the fatness of the earth and the heavens and yet brings forth no fruit for the service of man, it is marked for the woodman’s axe. The message of God to such cumberers of the ground is, Go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire (James 5:1-3). “The people shall curse him.” How can they do otherwise? They feel that he has robbed them of their rights when he will not even sell what they are willing to buy.

II. The man who gives out liberally of that which he possesses. He yields first of all to the necessity of things. He scatters his wealth wisely in order to increase it. But this is his lowest motive and his smallest blessing. So far as mere trading goes this scattering to increase is a mere matter of necessity. He knows he must cast a bushel of corn into the ground if he would have it increase—that he must spend a thousand pounds before he can gain ten thousand. In this way he shows that he has faith in the ordinary law of multiplication. But he goes further than this. “He selleth corn” at a fair price, when, by withholding it, he might exact more. This is a sample of all his dealings with his fellow-men. He does not take advantage of their necessities to enrich himself (see Homiletics on Proverbs 11:1). He goes beyond this—he not only sells at a fair price, but he is a giver. He scatters in the way of giving out of his abundance, “looking for nothing again” (Luke 6:35). But he is a great gainer.

1. He will very likely get richer in material wealth by giving. This is not positively affirmed in the text “there is that scattereth and yet increaseth.” But he will certainly never be the poorer, for he makes God his creditor. “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord” (chap. Proverbs 19:17).

2. He will certainly be richer in more precious wealth. “He will be watered himself.” He will have a double blessing. Men will call down blessings on his head. Those who partake of his wealth will give him in return love, honour, and respect. God will add to his personal character that which will increase tenfold the blessedness of his existence. He will, according to the apostolic promise, “make all grace to abound toward him, that he, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” He will “increase the fruits of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11), and water his soul with His own Divine influence. “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, aud make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11).


Proverbs 11:24-25. Is not this just one of the appropriate ways of putting faith to the test on God’s part, and showing its reality on ours? Is it not precisely the defectiveness of this faith that makes us timid, cautious, parsimonious in giving? ever fearing that we may stint ourselves and feel the want of what we expend on suffering humanity and on the cause of God? Is it not thus by unbelief that we are tempted to sow sparingly? And ought it to be, that the husbandman trust more to the laws of nature than the Christian does to the covenant of his God.—Wardlaw.

The Jews in Haggai’s time had no prosperity till they made the house of the Lord their chief object (Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9-11; Haggai 2:15-19). So far is the true wealth of the withholder from being increased by withholding what is meet to be given for the glory of God and the good of man, that he is at last deprived even of that which he had (Matthew 13:12).—Fausset.

Men may scatter in improvidence and sin, and it tendeth to poverty (chap. Proverbs 21:17). But the man of God, “dispersing abroad” the seed of godliness (Psalms 112:9), consecrating his substance and influence to the Lord, “as he has opportunity, doing good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10), shall receive a plentiful increase.—Bridges.

The liberal man will ever be rich; for God’s providence is his estate, God’s wisdom and power are his defence, God’s love and favour are his reward, and God’s word is his security. Barrow.

The liberal soul is made fat in the healthful vigour of practical godliness. The minister is refreshed by his own message of salvation to his people. The Sunday-school teacher learns many valuable lessons in the work of instruction. The Christian visitor’s own soul glows in carrying the precious name of Jesus to a fellow-sinner. Every holy temper, every spiritual gift, every active grace is increased by exercise. Bridges.

Give, and thou shalt receive. John Howard, when he grew sad about his piety, put on his hat and went about among the poor. He came back a gainer. He diverted his mind from his own interests, and yet promoted them in a higher assurance. Religion being benevolence, as well as a love of holiness, doing good to others is a philosophic way of ripening it in ourselves. Proverbs 11:24 has its Poor Richard phrase as well as a higher one. Being “penny wise and pound foolish” is understood even in our shops. But the grand sense is evangelical. “Inserviendo allius consumor” may be true of poor impenitents, but a candle is no emblem for a Christian. He is a glorious sun who, by some strange alchemy, brightens by shining. Watereth refers to the ground, or to animals. “Giving plenty to drink” is the meaning of the word as applied to men.—Miller.

Wherefore doth the Lord make your cup run over, but that other men’s lips might taste the liquor? The showers that fall upon the highest mountains should glide into the lowest valleys.—Secker.

Man is God’s image, but a poor man is
Christ’s stamp to boot; both images regard.
God reckons for him, counts the favour His:
Write, so much given to God; thou shalt be heard.
Let thy alms go before, and keep heaven’s gate
Open for thee, or both may come too late.

The last clause of Proverbs 11:25 is literally he that raineth shall himself become a river. The water that falls in refreshing and fertilising irrigation is not lost, but becomes a fair stream. So the bounty of the liberal man, which rains down blessings, will flow on for ever in a beautiful river.—Wordsworth.

The well-being of all is concerned in the right working of each. One necessarily affects for good or evil all the rest in proportion to the closeness of its relations and the weight of its influence. You draw another to keep him from error: that other’s weight which you have taken on keeps you steadier in your path. You water one who is ready to wither away; and although the precious stream seems to sink into the earth, it rises to heaven and hovers over you, and falls again upon yourself in refreshing dew. It comes to this, if we be not watering we are withering.—Arnot.

Poor men are not excluded from the grace and blessing of being merciful, though they attain not to the state and ability of being wealthy. Mercy is not placed with money in the purse, but dwelleth with loving-kindness in the heart. He that can mourn with such as do mourn, he that can pray for them that be in distress, has a “soul of blessing.”—Dod.

St. Gregory applieth the words particularly unto ministers, and saith, He that by preaching doth outwardly bless, receiveth the fatness of inward increase. And to this sense the Chaldee reads it, saying, “He that teacheth shall himself also learn.” And then the former part of the verse may be taken thus, the soul that bestoweth abroad the blessings of a wise instruction shall profit much in his wisdom, according to a common saying among the Jews, “I have profited more by my scholars than by all things else.”—Jermin.

Bounty is the most compendious way to plenty; neither is getting, but giving, the best thrift. The five loaves in the Gospel, by a strange kind of arithmetic, were multiplied by a division and augmented by subtraction. So will it be in this case. St. Augustine, descanting upon Psalms 76:5, says, “Why is this?” “They found nothing in their own hands, because they feared to lay up anything in Christ’s hands.” “The poor man’s hand is Christ’s treasury,” saith another Father.—Trapp.

Proverbs 11:26. He that withholdeth corn holdeth, as it were, the gracious hand of God, yea, pulleth it back by his covetousness, when God in bounty hath stretched it forth unto a land.… Now, what is said of a countryman concerning his corn, let the citizen also mark concerning his wares, “Let not profit overcome honesty, but let honesty overcome profit.” And what is said to the citizen let the minister also observe, and bind not up by a damnable silence that good word which may profit many.—Jermin.

The point of antithesis apparently fails only to give stronger security to the blessing. The curse comes directly from the people; the blessing from above.—Bridges.

The prevailing maxim of the world, ever since the first murderer gave utterance to the tendencies of human nature, after its fall, in the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” has been, “Every man for himself.” The identity of human nature in all ages is stamped upon the book of Proverbs. What presented itself to view in Solomon’s days is no rarity still.… There can hardly be a more affecting exemplification than this of the power of an avaricious disposition in hardening the heart.—Wardlaw.

Such a man, like a corrupt, imposthumated member, would draw all the nourishment to himself, and cares not, though the other parts of the body perish. This oak, which will suffer no small trees to thrive near it, will in time fall with the breath of so many curses.—Swinnock.

Modern political economy may have taught us that even here the selfishness of the individual does, in the long run, by limiting consumption, and maintaining a reserve, promote the general good, but it is no less true that men hate the selfishness and pour blessings upon him who sells at a moderate profit. Our own laws against forestalling and regrating schemes for a maximum price of bread, as in the famine of the French Revolution, histories like that of M. Manlins, legends like that of Bishop Hatto and the rats, are tokens of the universality of the feeling.—Plumptre.

Literally, “breaketh it,” like Joseph to his brethren and the people in Egypt. In a spiritual sense this verse may be applied specially to pastors and to churches. He that withholdeth corn—he that keepeth back from others the bread of life, which is the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures—the food of the soul, he shall be accursed; but blessings are upon him that fully and freely dispenses it.—Wordsworth.

To be an object of aversion among his neighbours is a heavy infliction upon a human being. No man can despise it.… This, in the last resort, is the protection of the poor and the punishment of the oppressor. The mightiest man desires the blessing of the people, and dreads their curse. Wealth would be a weapon too powerful for the liberty of men, if he who wields it were not confined within narrow limits by the weakness of humanity, common to him with the meanest of the people.—Arnot.

Here is consolation to them that bring an upright heart to selling, though they cannot be large in giving: therein they do a service to God and perform a work of love to their neighbour.—Dod.

Verse 27


Proverbs 11:27. Procureth, rather “seeketh” Favour, i.e., God’s favour. So it is generally understood. But Delitzsch reads “He who striveth after good, seeketh that which is pleasing, i.e., that which pleaseth or doeth good to others.



I. An object worthy of search.—“Good.” There is.

1. Material, temporal good. The human race need no exhortation to stimulate them to go in quest of this good. The child begins his search after this good as soon as he is conscious of need and finds himself in possession of power to seek it. And until old age these good things are sought without any admonition from God to lead a man to seek them.

2. But there is a higher good—the good which ministers to the spiritual nature and forms a holy character—the good of which Christ speaks when He says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:23). Men need to be exhorted to seek this good, and the Bible puts before them every kind of motive to stimulate men to the search—motives drawn from the happiness of a future heaven and a future hell, and from the present heaven or hell which will result from the search or from the neglect of this true good. Men are, as a rule, too much occupied with seeking the lower and the transitory good to seek that which is spiritual and eternal—that Supreme Personal Good—God Himself. God is the Good that the soul needs because He unites in Himself all that can minister to our better nature. The soul needs truth—and God is truth. The soul needs something above itself to worship, to love, to obey. There is nothing can supply this need but the living God.

II. How this good is to be sought. “Diligently.” The diligence will be in proportion to the desire. The word here translated diligently is the same as that translated “early” in chap. Proverbs 8:16. (See Homiletics on that passage).

III. The reward of diligent seekers after real good. “Favour.”

1. Of God. He loves to see men value that upon which He sets value, viz., their own spiritual and eternal gain.
2. Of good men always. Of bad men often. For the diligent seeking of this highest good does not make a man selfish—on the contrary, the more earnest he is in the search, the more will he lay himself out to serve his fellow-men. In this the contrast is marked between the diligent search after material and spiritual good. The sentiment of the verse is the same as that in chap. Proverbs 3:4 (see Homiletics on that verse).

IV. A most unworthy object of search. “Mischief.” Understanding this of evil in general which is most mischievous in its working and in its results, we remark—

1. That it requires no great diligence to work moral mischief towards a man’s self. To abstain from seeking good is to seek and to find mischief. To “neglect salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) is enough to ruin.

2. That the man who plots to work mischief to another often sets the seekers after good an example of diligence. How much of planning—what an expenditure of thought and activity is often put forth to ruin another!
3. That the man who seeks mischief is certain to find it. It will not wait even to be found—it will “come” to meet him. But there may and will be some amount of disappointment. If he seeks his own ruin he will certainly succeed, but if he seeks to do another a mischief, he may miscarry, but the intention will be fulfilled in himself. Whether he succeeds in harming another man or not, it is a law of moral gravitation that “His mischief shall return upon his own head and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (Psalms 7:16).


There is no negative existence. Man is born for action. All of us are living with a stupendous measure of vital activity for good or for mischief. Man was never intended—least of all the Christian—to be idle. Our Divine Master “went about doing good.” He is a counterfeit who does not live after this pattern. Usefulness is everything. We must not rest in life received, nor must we wait to have it brought to us. We must seek it.—Bridges.

From the last proverbs it has appeared that going after our own selfish gain, is really going after evil. Joy is innocent in itself; and yet, gone after absorbingly, it is an evil end. “Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it” (Luke 17:33) Solomon, therefore utters a most philosophic truth when he says “He that diligently seeketh good,” etc., that is, who forgets himself, and is early (for that is the original sense) after what is intrinsically right and holy, that man is really the person who is seeking or hunting up favour; that is, if he could really gain it by hunting it up directly, and for his selfish good, he could not gain it more directly than by forgetting it, and striving for what is pure. (See Matthew 6:33). Then follows the antithesis. He that seeks mischief, etc., as one is conscious that he does when he turns his heart selfishly even after innocent joys. He goes after that which may in itself be innocent, like money, or like the support of life; in a way that to his own conscience makes it confessedly evil, shall have it “come to him” at the end of his course, infallibly as evil.—Miller.

Verse 28


Proverbs 11:28. Branch, rather, “a green leaf.”



I. The trust in riches springs,

1. From the fact that gold, and what it can do for us, is within reach of the senses. Unless the bodily senses are counterbalanced by the moral—the spiritual—sense, they have a tendency to shut us in upon the seen—to shut out the unseen. This is why men make to themselves gods that they can see and carry about with them. The rich man can look upon his gold and upon all that it has purchased for him, his mansion, his lands, his sumptuous table, his obsequious servants. All these things are daily before his eyes, and if his spiritual sight is not keen, they are very likely to become his confidence.

2. From the fact that gold can do very much for men. It can afford him opportunities of the best education. Gold can place the son of a tradesman side by side with that of the nobleman in this respect. It can surround him with all the refining influences of life. It will open to him positions of power and influence, its magic power will surround him with friends. When a man feels that he owes all these good things to gold, he is very prone to trust in it.

3. From the fact that gold is so universal in its influence in the present world. There is no place upon the globe, where there are human beings, where gold, or what gold can purchase, will not do something for a man. No monarch has such a wide dominion or so many subjects as this King Gold.

II. But he that trusts in riches will find them fail him.

1. Because he is more than the object of his trust. Man is more than gold because it was made for him and not man for gold. God made it to be his servant, but when a man makes it the object of his supreme hope and confidence, he inverts the Divine order and becomes its slave. And man needs something more than himself to be the object of his trust.

2. Because there are comforts for existence that gold cannot buy. Faith in a living God, a good conscience, hope for the future, present peace and rest of soul cannot be purchased for all the gold of the Indies. Nebuchadnezzar could make an image of gold, but all his riches could not purchase the faith and godly courage of the three Hebrew youths. The rich man in hell needed comfort that all his earthly wealth could not have purchased.

3. Because the only Being who can supply man’s deepest needs cannot be bribed. Pardon of sin cannot be “gotten for gold neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.” A holy character “cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.” (Job 28:16-17). The Holy Ghost—that “gift of God,” cannot be “purchased with money.” (Acts 8:20). A golden key will not open the gate of heaven. Therefore “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. (1 Timothy 6:17).

III. The righteous man shall not fall, but flourish as a branch, because as a branch in a tree he is in connection with life. Gold is a dead thing, but the God of the good man is a Living Person, a Being who can understand and supply all his soul’s need—a Being who is not only King of the present and the seen, but of the future and of the unseen. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19; John 15:5). He shall not only live, but flourish—“his leaf shall not wither”—“he shall bring forth fruit in his season” (Psalms 1:3). The cause of the branch being laden with fruitfulness and beauty is because of its connection with the root. Trust is the link between the creature and the Creator, which makes the one a partaker of the fulness of the other. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).


I have read of one that, upon his dying bed, called for his bags, and laid a bag of gold to his heart, and then cried out, “Take it away, it will not do, it will not do!” There are things that earthly riches cannot do. They can never satisfy Divine justice, nor pacify Divine wrath, nor quiet a guilty conscience. And till these things are done, the man is undone.—Brooks.

As sheep that go in fat pastures come sooner to the slaughter-house than those which are kept upon the bare common: so, likewise, rich men, who are pampered with the wealth of this world, sooner forsake God, and therefore are sooner forsaken of God than others.—Cawdray.

He that trusts in riches may trust in that which may not disappoint him. That is, it may remain great, and may follow him to the grave. But while his riches are piling up, he himself is withering away. It is not the rich, but they that trust in riches (Mark 10:24). The truly important thing is the man himself; and while the unregenerate falls, or decays, the righteous, even without money, prospers. He grows from within. That is he grows, and not his money.—Miller.

Be not proud of riches, but afraid of them, lest they be as silver bars to cross the way to heaven. We must answer for our riches, but our riches cannot answer for us.—Mason.

Riches were never true to any that trusted in them. The rich churl that trusted and boasted that he had “much goods laid up in store” for many years, when, like a jay, he was pruning himself in his boughs, came tumbling down with the arrow in his side.—Trapp.

Riches are of a falling nature, now they fall to a man, now they fall from him, now they fall to this man, now to that, now to another. There is no holdfast of them, and less holdfast by them. He, therefore, that trusteth in them shall fall, fall into their hands and power, who seek his hurt and mischief, because not trusting in God, he receiveth no succour from Him.—Jermin.

Good men have the Lord Jesus Christ for their root, and God the Father to dress and keep them, therefore the drought of adversity shall not hurt them, nor the dews of wholesome prosperity fail them. They shall have safety for their bodies, graces for their souls, competency for their state, and all good furtherances for their everlasting glory.—Dod.

Money, thou bane of bliss, and source of woe,

Whence com’st thou, that thou art so fresh and fine?

I know thy parentage is base and low:

Man found thee poor and dirty in a mine.

Surely thou didst so little little contribute

To this great kingdom, which thou now hast got,

That he was fain, when thou wert destitute,

To dig thee out of thy dark cave and grot.

Then forcing thee, by fire he made thee bright;

Nay, thou hast got the face of man: for we

Have with our stamp and seal transferred our right:

Thou art the man, and man but dross to thee.

Man calleth thee his wealth, who made thee rich,
And while he digs out thee, falls in the ditch.


Verse 29



“There are many ways of troubling one’s own house.” Many sparks fly from one anvil, but one is sufficient to set a house on fire. Some home-destroyers emit many sparks, but one evil habit or temper is enough to consume all the peace of home-life. A man may trouble his house by—

1. Selfishness. When a dry sponge is placed in a vessel of water, it will soak up every drop of water that it can hold, and very probably will leave the vessel empty. So the selfish head of a household will absorb all the comforts of the household—take to himself all the luxuries and enjoyments which ought to be distributed among all its members.

2. Hasty temper. A human father and husband that will complain at every trifle and blaze into a passion when nothing has been done or said worthy of notice, will be a great troubler of his house. He will not be heeded when there is real occasion for his displeasure. The perpetual rattle of a daily siege so dulls the ear of the soldier that he does not notice the roar of the cannon on the day of special battle. So the members of a household who are always being subjected to the rattle of an ungovernable tongue make no account of reproof when there is really an occasion for it.

3. A perpetual assertion of authority. There can be no joyful obedience in a family where its head is always insisting upon the fact that he is their master. Such a constant proclamation of right to rule makes that a bondage which would otherwise be a glad service.

4. Prodigality or niggardliness. He who wastes that which belongs to his children is a robber, and so is he who from avaricious motives deprives them of those home comforts with which he is able to furnish them. These are but samples of the many ways in which a man may trouble his house—ways which are not altogether unknown in some homes whose head is a professor of godliness. Such a man is a far-reaching curse. The members of such a home scatter themselves abroad in the world carrying with them none of the blessed influences that they ought to have received from their home-life, and are very likely in their turn to become the troublers of their houses. The gold receives its form and polish, its image and superscription at the mint. Home is the mint where the value of the character for its entire future is often impressed upon it. The child generally bears the image and superscription of his parent.

II. Such a troubler is a fool.

1. He can reap no possible advantage by it. To “inherit the wind” is to inherit cold cheer. A wintry wind is poor comfort for a man with little raiment on a cold night. Wind is an unsatisfying substitute for food to a hungry man. But a man in such a condition is an apt illustration of a man in the winter of life who has forfeited that love and honour which would have been the reward of a different course of conduct.

2. He shall go down in social position. The man who has ruled his household well must win the respect and confidence of those outside of it. It is an inevitable consequence that he will go up in the estimation of his associates while one of the opposite character will go down and so “be servant to the wise of heart.”


He that troubles his own house in any form of impenitence; he that takes the trouble to live without the gospel; he that chases wealth when he admits that it will breed him vengeance; he that goes through the self-denials of the world to accumulate worldly benefits which he knows are mischiefs to his soul, is absolutely “fool” enough to be the “servant” in all these trials, and that through eternal ages, of wiser and better creatures.—Miller.

He shall leave at last but the wind of his breath to deplore his folly and to beg help for his misery. St. Gregory taketh the latter part of the verse that a fool serveth the wise in heart even by ruling over him and oppressing him, for he advanceth him to a better state and condition of goodness.—Jermin.

He that would not undo himself, let him not undo his family and domestic affairs. It nearly concerneth a householder to know that his house is laden with his whole estate, that his people sail together with him in the same vessel, for his use.—Dod.

Verse 30


Proverbs 11:30. Or, “the wise man winneth” or “taketh” souls.



I. Souls can be won to God and goodness.

1. There is in every man a natural light to which to appeal. If a sick man has something in his constitution upon which the physician can fix as a basis of operation, there is hope of recovery. But where the constitution is utterly and entirely bad, the very effort of the physician is a proof of his lack of wisdom. Man is morally diseased, but he is not so depraved as to make his being won to God a hopeless attempt. There is in him a moral base of operation, he has a conscience which is more or less enlightened. Men are, acccording to the highest authority, “a law unto themselves,” “that which may be known of God is manifest in (or to) them.” (See Romans 1:19-20; Romans 2:14.) They would not be “without excuse,” as the Apostle there declares that they are, if they had no moral consciousness.

2. The very existence of the Bible proves that man is not hopelessly lost. Wise men do not waste words and efforts where they know they would be thrown away. They do not set on foot plans to help those for whom they know there is no hope. A wise physician will not harass his patient and waste his own energies when he knows there is no possibility of cure. It is kinder to let him die in peace. God is too wise and too kind to send man a revelation which he knows would be useless to him. He would not tantalise him with hopes which could not be realised.

3. The history of Christ confirms this view. He claimed to come to this earth for the special purpose of seeking and saving men. He was pre-eminently a winner of souls. There can be but one explanation of the Incarnation.

4. The moral difference in men is another proof. For every effect there is a cause. That there is an immense difference in the character of men is admitted by all; and the difference is that some have been won from sin to God.

II. Souls can only be won. There are two kinds of power in the universe—force and persuasion. The mother who desires her child to take a certain place may attain her end in two ways—she may take the child in her arms and carry it where she desires, or she may use moral suasion and induce the child to fall in with her wishes by the exercise of its own free will. The thing may be done either by strength of muscle or by the strength of love. Souls cannot be dealt with in the first way. The soul can only be won to God by the same kind of power as it was won from God, viz., by that of persuasion. If the tempter had tried force he would have failed with our first parents. He knew human nature too well to attempt the use of such means. Force is of no avail to bring about a friendship, and the winning of a soul is bringing about a friendship between man and God. Therefore the Apostle “beseeches” and “prays” men to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). To be won to God is to be won to service. Two kinds of service may be rendered to a human parent or ruler. There is a service of the body only which is prompted by fear, and there is the service of the whole man which is the fruit of love. God must have the latter or none (Isaiah 1:11, etc.,) hence the soul must be “drawn,” “constrained,” by the power of moral force. (See Hosea 13:14; John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14).

III. Souls are won by fruit. Human nature will not be influenced by words without actions. The actions which make up a holy life are here called fruit. When two men are at variance and hatred is deeply rooted, he who would be a peace-maker must be something as well as say something. Words alone will not kill enmity—there must be correspondent deeds. This constituted our Lord Jesus Christ the great Reconciler—that He brought forth the fruits of holiness and self-sacrifice, and so gave weight to His words of persuasion. So many souls have been won by him because so much fruit was brought forth by him. And all who would win souls must in their measure do likewise. In this sense they must obey His injunction and be made partakers of His promise: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

IV. The fruit that wins souls will be a “tree of life” both to the winner and to those who are won. The vine-dresser has joy in rearing his fruit, and the eater has joy in partaking of its sweetness. When he who seeks to win souls brings one to taste the sweets of godliness for himself, there is joy for both. The righteous man is a “tree of righteousness,” hence he is himself a “tree of life.” Others partake of his fruit and live unto holiness, and become fruit-bearing trees in their turn. And in this sense “he that reapeth and he who soweth rejoice together,” and the precious harvest is a “tree of life”—an undying source of soul-satisfaction to both.

IV. He who thus wins souls is a wise man. He saves men from a present and real misery. The end of all practical wisdom is to elevate the human race—to lift men out of misery and degradation—to solve the problems of every day social life. The man who wins a soul to God is a truly scientific man—he has reduced his moral science to practice in his own life, and then has brought it to bear upon the lives of others. He is a wise general who can turn the guns of the enemy against the foe. He who wins a soul can teach a man how to turn the forces that have been against him into powers and influences that shall work for him. He is a wise financier who can devise means by which a man can free himself from debt. The winner of souls can show his fellow-man how to be freed from moral debt. He is a wise physician who, by healing one man of a deadly pestilence, prevents the spread of disease. The man who turns another from the error of his ways, not only “saves a soul from death,” but hides a multitudes of sins (James 5:20) by, in some measure, lessening the increase of sin in the universe.


I. Christians are a blessing to the world.

1. There is the influence of personal character, showing what religion is, viz., a living principle in the hearts of the faithful, which must spread its radiance. It may be said of a good man, as it was said of Christ, “He could not be hid” (Mark 7:24).

2. There is the force of the great principles they advocate—Freedom, Education, etc. They raise, in this way, the standard of public opinion.

3. There are their habits of active beneficence.

II. To win souls the highest wisdom is requisite.

1. Consider the preciousness of the object—souls. Made in the image of God, and designed to reflect His glory. Of infinite value in the esteem of Him who came to redeem them.

2. How greatly they are endangered by sin, held captive by Satan, in bondage by the world, entrenched in long habits of evil. The soul, in its present depraved state, is not inclined to seek God, nor anxious to obtain deliverance.

3. The difficulty is increased by the shortness of the time and the limitation of the means at our command. The preacher has only the Sabbath; Satan and the the world have all the week wherein to exert their influence. It is more or less so with all who endeavour to win souls.—S. Thodey.

He may begin as a “leaf” or “branch” (Proverbs 11:28), but he ends as a “tree.” The tree of life made the partaker of it immortal. “The fruit of the righteous” is immortal life to many a poor sinner. The latter clause may read either: “The wise is a winner of souls,” or “The winner of souls is wise.” It doubtless should be read in both. The grand “tree of life” on earth is the man converted already. The man converted already will be a “tree of life.” Both doctrines are true, and, therefore, in so terse a passage, I see no resource but to understand the Hebrew as pregnant of both. It is of the very essence of wisdom to be benevolent, and it is the very height of benevolence to catch the souls of the impenitent. Moreover, no soul is caught but by the wise.—Miller.

What is dwelt on is the power of wisdom, as we say, to win the hearts of men. He that is wise draws men to himself, just as the fruit of the righteous is to all around him a tree of life, bearing new fruits of healing evermore. It is to be noted, also, that the phrase here rendered “winneth souls,” is the same as that which is elsewhere translated by “taketh the life” (1 Kings 19:4; Psalms 31:13). The wise man is the true conqueror.—Plumptre.

To win souls is one special fruit of the tree of life. This is a noble fruit indeed, since our soul is more worth than a world, as He hath told us who only went to the price of it (Matthew 16:26).—Trapp.

In this verse we have set forth to us the excellency of a righteous man. I. He is more useful than others. He is not a barren tree, but a fruitful bough, as Joseph was. And he doth not bring forth fruit unto himself. As the tree of life would give life to them that would eat thereof, so those that will hearken to the counsel of the righteous shall partake with him of eternal life. II. He is more skilful than others. He wins souls—

1. By Scripture demonstration. Thou canst never throw down the devil’s strongholds except by God’s own weapons.
2. By earnest supplications. As the prophet did pray life into the dead child, so thou shouldst strive in prayer for dead souls.
3. By kind obligation. Labour by kindness and courtesy to gain upon all thou dost converse with, that thou mayst get within him, that thou mayst be in a capacity to do good to his soul.

4. By faithful reprehension. ’Tis quite contrary to Christian love to let sin lie upon thy brother (Leviticus 19:17). Show your love to souls by the faithful rebuking of sin, not as a token of your displeasure, but as an ordinance of God.

5. By convincing conversation. Live before all thou dost converse with in the convincing power of a holy life.
6. By careful observation of all those advantages that God puts into your hand. Take advantage of his affliction. Make use of thy near relation or of his dependence upon thee, or of thy interest in him. It may be he is concerned in thy goodwill to him, or hath some affection for thee. Make use of it for God.—Alleine.

Verse 31


Proverbs 11:31. Miller transposes this verse and reads, “Behold the righteous on earth shall be recompensed,” etc. On earth may be placed either with “the righteous,” or with “recompensed.”



I. The righteous man will receive a present chastisement for his sins

1. Because of his near relation to God. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). Is this a strange principle of action? Is it not one which is, or ought to be, acted upon among men? If the son of a king commits a crime, is it not felt that his high position and his special privileges make him more deserving of punishment? Our Lord recognised this truth when He said, “To whom men have committed much of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Those who stand in a special relation to God are expected to show it by a holy life, and when they fall into sin greater dishonour is brought upon the name of God than by many sins of the ungodly. Hence the necessity for their chastisement.

2. Because he will not be punished in the next world. The whole tenor of Bible teaching recognises this truth, and Paul asserts it: “We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).

3. To overthrow that doctrine of devils—“Let us sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1; Romans 6:15). Many false doctrines have gone abroad in the so-called church, but surely none is so manifestly from the devil as this which proclaims that the more a child of God sins the more God is glorified! Will the man whose wound has been closed and whose bleeding has been stanched by the surgeon, tear off the bandage and reopen the wound in order to afford the physician another opportunity of displaying his skill? May he not, by such an act, be guilty of suicide? May he not so incur the anger of his doctor as to make him refuse to re-dress the wound? If any man thinks that the abounding mercy of God is a licence for sin, let him read the history of David, and ask himself if it does not prove that he is wofully mistaken. David himself most certainly was, if he presumed upon his high standing with the God whose “gentleness had made him great” (Psalms 18:35) when he sinned the great sin which was the curse of all his after life. The God whom men fancy will be thus indulgent is not the God of the Bible—the God of Sinai—the God who visited the sin even of His servant Moses. “Let us sin that grace may abound” came from the forger of the oldest lie in human history. Mount Hor, Mount Nebo, and Mount Zion, each of which was the scene of a penalty inflicted on a distinguished saint of God for a particular and specified sin, bear witness to the truth that the “righteous will be recompensed on the earth.” And of these instances that of Moses is, perhaps, the most striking. Here is the chastisement, of the greatest man in the Old Testament dispensation—the specially elected leader and lawgiver of the chosen people. And though he had been and still was—yea, because he was the most honoured of Old Testament saints, he was shut out of the land to which he had been journeying for forty years for assuming a Divine prerogative—“die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered to thy people, as Aaron thy brother died at Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people: because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:50-51). Such a sentence testifies that God is a consuming fire to sin, in the righteous as well as in the wicked.

II. If God’s friends are chastised, His enemies must be.—For they not only sin but make light of sin, either denying the fact or blaming their circumstances, their temperament, or their tempters, laying the blame anywhere except upon themselves, and this increases their guilt. If those who acknowledge and confess their sin must yet be chastised for it, how much more those who refuse to do either! The sin of the righteous is the exception of his life, but the entire life of the ungodly man is a course of opposition to the law of God. If, therefore, the isolated instances are visited, how much more such an accumulation of moral debt! The very justice of God demands that if He punish the saint He shall also punish the sinner. This is New Testament teaching as well as Old. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).


But where is the righteous person thus scourged, judged, and recompensed? On the earth, even in this life, and in the world. The earth is not that seat which the Lord hath properly appointed for judgment or vengeance, neither is this life the day of the great assize; yet rather than sin shall be unpunished, yea, even in the elect, the Lord will keep a petty sessions in this life, and make the earth a house of correction.—Muffet.

The righteous are under the discipline though not under the curse, of the rod.—Bridges.

The best must look for stripes, if they will take liberty to sin against God. True it is that the Lord taketh not advantage of infirmities, He passeth by them, He smiteth not His children for them: but when they grow too bold, He will nurture and awe them with correction. In this sense He may be said to be no respecter of persons, that as He will not endure the sinfulness of the wicked, though they be never so great, so He will not allow of the sins of the godly, though they be never so good. First, God herein respecteth His own glory, who will have His people to know that He doth look for service at their hands. And the wicked see by this that He is neither remiss towards all nor partial towards any. Second, He respecteth the good. How wanton, how froward, how stubborn would children be, into what perils would they cast themselves should they be altogether exempted from the rod. They could never feel comfort of their parents’ favour unless they sometimes found the smart of their displeasure … And the tribulation and afflictions of good men do not bring them behind the wicked, but show that the plagues and punishments of the wicked are yet behind.—Dod.

The righteous Lord shall pay His debts even to the righteous. Sin makes God a debtor.—Jermin.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/proverbs-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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