Proverbs 15:1. A soft answer, &c. — A mild, submissive, and yielding answer to him who severely chides, or reproves, turns away wrath — And prevents the further progress of it. The word מענה, here rendered answer, however, signifies as well what is first said, as the reply to it, and may not improperly be translated speech, or discourse. But grievous words stir up strife — But sharp, contemptuous, and insolent replies, or speeches, incense it the more, and raise a passion where there was none before, and perhaps cause it to flame forth into fury. Melancthon, in his short lectures upon this book, commends this lesson very much to his scholars, considering it as a general precept for the preservation of peace, and avoiding unnecessary contentions, which commonly arise from pride, ambition, emulation, and wrath, which excite men either to give ill words, or to return worse to those that are given them; endeavouring to overcome by sharpness and bitterness, not by lenity and moderation. Solomon, he says, meant by this caution, that we should not think it enough not to begin strife and contention; but that, if others begin it, we should not continue it by rough answers, but endeavour to make an end of it presently, by softening the matter, and should yield much for the sake of tranquillity; and he thinks it is a precept of the same nature with that of Pythagoras; Stir not up fire with a sword: see Bishop Patrick.
Proverbs 15:2-4. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright — Expressing what he knows prudently and gracefully; taking due care both what, and when, and to whom, and in what manner he speaks; but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness — Plentifully, continually, promiscuously, and vehemently, as a fountain doth waters, as the word יביעsignifies. A wholesome tongue — Which utters sound and useful counsels; is a tree of life — Is very useful to preserve the present life, and to promote the spiritual and eternal life, both of the speaker and the hearers; but perverseness therein — False or corrupt speeches; is a breach in the spirit — Disturbs and wounds the spirit both of the speaker and hearers.
Proverbs 15:5. A fool despiseth — Doth not regard nor obey; (which is an evidence of contempt;) his father’s instruction — Who hath both love to him and authority over him, which greatly aggravates his folly; but he that regardeth reproof — That is, is willing to receive, and duly regard the reproof of any person whatsoever, and much more of a father; is prudent — Hath already attained a great degree of wisdom, and prudently consults his own welfare and happiness.
Proverbs 15:6. In the house of the righteous is much treasure — “A truly just and merciful man is very rich, whether he have little or much, because he is well contented, and what he hath is likely to continue in his family: but there is much disquiet and trouble in the greatest revenues of the wicked; which can neither stay long with him, nor give him satisfaction while he enjoys them.” — Bishop Patrick.
Proverbs 15:7. The lips of the wise disperse knowledge — Freely communicate to others what they know, as they have opportunity; but the heart of the foolish doth not so — Either because he hath no knowledge to disperse, or because he hath not a heart to perform his duty, or to do good to others. Or, as others render the word כן, and as it is rendered Genesis 42:34, is not right; that is, the heart of the foolish is not right, or disperseth (by his lips) that which is not right, namely, foolish and corrupt discourse, which is fitly opposed to knowledge.
Proverbs 15:8-9. The sacrifice of the wicked — Or the religious services, yea, the best and most costly of them, one kind being put for all the rest; is an abomination to the Lord — Because not offered with a sincere desire to glorify him, nor from a principle of faith and love, but is made a cloak for sin, is used to silence the clamours of conscience, and commute for the neglect of obedience to God’s moral commands: see the margin. It is justly observed by Mr. Scott here, that “the most costly sacrifices of the wicked, under the Mosaic law, must have been an abomination to the Lord; because their whole way was abominable to him, and because of their corrupt motives; and the case is precisely the same with all external acts of worship, nay, with the largest oblations, and most liberal alms of the impenitent and unbelieving, under the Christian dispensation. For, by them, they either mean nothing determinate, or they intend to cover their sins, to bribe their Judge, to make compensation for past, or to purchase indulgences for future transgressions: they put their services in the stead either of Christ’s atonement, or of holy obedience; they present them with hypocritical hearts; and they grossly affront the holy God by supposing that he can be imposed on by forms or gifts, or pleased by them while they are enemies to his justice, his authority, and his grace.” But the prayer of the upright is his delight — Their cheapest and meanest services, even their very prayers, are acceptable, yea, highly pleasing to him, and prevail for great blessings from him.
Proverbs 15:10-12. Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way — God’s way, emphatically called the way here, as also Psalms 119:1, and elsewhere. He abhors reproof, because it is a reproach to him, and because it strikes at the sin which he loves. And he that hateth reproof shall die — That is, shall be destroyed, both here and for ever; which is a more grievous thing than a harsh reproof. A scorner loveth not — That is, hateth and avoideth; (more being understood than expressed;) one that reproveth him — That tells him of his faults, warns him of his danger: and advises him to reform his conduct; neither will he go unto the wise — That is, the godly: he will not seek their company and conversation, as his duty and interest oblige him to do, because he knows they will make conscience of reproving him.
Proverbs 15:13-15. A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; &c. — “When the mind of a man is inwardly satisfied, and full of joy, it does good to his body too, as appears in his cheerful countenance: but when grief seizes on the heart, it detects, enfeebles, and breaks the most courageous spirit.” All the days of the afflicted — Of those troubled in mind, as the meaning of this general expression may be very fitly restrained from the following clause; are evil — Tedious and uncomfortable; he takes no satisfaction in any person, place, or thing; but he that is of a merry heart — Hebrew, of a good heart, that is, composed, quiet, and contented, conscious of intending God’s glory in all things, and of being devoted to his service in love and obedience; hath a continual feast — Hath constant satisfaction and delight in all conditions, yea, even in affliction.
Proverbs 15:16-17. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord — Which gives a man tranquillity and comfort in what he hath; than great treasure and trouble therewith — Tumultuous lusts and passions, vexatious cares and fears, horrors of conscience, and expectations of God’s wrath and indignation. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is — True friendship and kindness between those that eat together; than a stalled ox and hatred therewith — Than the most sumptuous entertainment by him that hates us, or among those that quarrel and contend. “Stalled oxen, or oxen fatted in a stall, were looked upon as the highest entertainment in those ancient times. It is remarkable that Homer never sets any other repast than this before his heroes.”
Proverbs 15:19. The way of the slothful man — The way in which he does or ought to walk; any good work which he pretends or desires to undertake; is as a hedge of thorns — As a way hedged up with thorns, (see Hosea 2:6,) troublesome, perplexed, and full of such difficulties as he despairs, and therefore never strives to overcome; but the way of the righteous — Who is always diligent in his calling, (this being one branch of his righteousness,) and, therefore, is fitly opposed to the slothful, who is joined with the wicked, Matthew 25:26, and censured as wicked both in the Scriptures and in heathen authors, idleness being both in itself a sin, and leading the way to many other sins; is made plain — Is easy and pleasant to him, notwithstanding all its difficulties.
Proverbs 15:20-21. A wise son, &c. — See the note on chap. 10:1, where we have the same proverb. Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom —
He not only works wickedness, but takes pleasure in doing it; but a man of understanding walketh uprightly — Hebrew, יישׁר לכת, directeth, or maketh straight, his going; that is, ordereth all his actions by the rule of God’s word, and delights in so doing, as may be understood from the opposite clause.
Proverbs 15:22-23. Without counsel — When men do not seek, or will not receive advice from others in weighty affairs; purposes are disappointed — Their designs are ill managed, and succeed accordingly; but in the multitude of counsellors — That is, of wise and good counsellors, for such only deserve that name; they are established — Accomplished, and brought to a good issue. A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth — By a wise or good and seasonable answer: that is, “It is a great pleasure to a man to give wholesome counsel, and a greater to see the good success of it; but the greatest of all, both to himself and others, is to have given it so seasonably, that a business was easily effected by it, which had not been done without it.” For a word spoken in due season — Counsel or comfort given to another in a fit time and manner; how good is it! — It is highly acceptable and useful.
Proverbs 15:24. The way of life is above to the wise — The way which a wise man takes to preserve and obtain spiritual and eternal life, is to place his heart, treasure, and conversation in things above; and to manage all his affairs in this world with due respect and subserviency to the happiness of another world; that he may depart from hell beneath — Or, from the lowest hell; not from the grave, as this word is sometimes used, for no wisdom can preserve from that, but from hell, properly so called, as this word elsewhere signifies, as has been before observed.
Proverbs 15:25. The Lord will destroy the house of the proud — Of the most mighty oppressors, who suppose themselves to be immoveably fixed; or the family of haughty men, who, forgetting him, trample upon their inferiors; but he will establish the border of the widow — The estate, the border being often used for the land within the borders: he will preserve her in her right, who hath no helper, even though such insolent and powerful persons invade it. Trust not, therefore, in riches and power, but in the great Lord of the world, who possesses and disposes of all things.
Proverbs 15:26. The thoughts of the wicked — Their evil intentions and affections, their wicked designs and contrivances, nay, their very thoughts and imaginations; are an abomination to the Lord — Are abhorred, and will be punished by him; but the words of the pure — Which discover and proceed from their thoughts, Matthew 15:19; are pleasant words — Acceptable to God, the reverse of being an abomination to him.
Proverbs 15:27. He that is greedy of gain — That seeketh wealth by unjust practices, which the opposite clause shows to be the sense intended; troubleth his own house — Bringeth God’s displeasure and destruction upon himself and his family, whom he designed to enrich, honour, and establish; but he that hateth gifts — Bribes given to pervert judgment; he who refuses them, not with dissimulation, nor only from prudential considerations, but from a hearty abhorrence of all unrighteousness; shall live — Shall preserve himself and (which may be understood out of the former clause) his family from ruin.
Proverbs 15:28. The heart of the righteous studieth to answer — He answers, or speaks, considerately and conscientiously, and therefore profitably, to the edification of the hearers; but the mouth of the wicked — Not the heart, for they are without heart, in the Scripture account, and speak rashly whatever comes into their minds, without the direction of their hearts or consciences; poureth out evil things — Foolish, unprofitable, and hurtful speeches.
Proverbs 15:29. The Lord is far from the wicked — They set him at defiance, and therefore he sets himself at a distance from them; they say to the Almighty, Depart from us, and he accordingly does depart, and is far from them; he does not manifest himself to them, has no communion with them, will not hear them when they cry to him, nor help them, no, not in the time of their need; and they shall be for ever banished from his presence, and he will behold them afar off to all eternity; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous — He will draw near to those in a way of mercy, who draw near to him in a way of duty; he hears and accepts their prayers, and will grant an answer of peace; he is nigh to them, even a present help, in all that which they call upon him for.
Proverbs 15:30. The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart, &c. — “In the same manner that the sensible light rejoices a sound eye, and diffuses its pleasure through the whole soul, so a good reputation gives pleasure, and contributes to the health of the body. The wise man frequently advises his disciple to labour for a good reputation: see Proverbs 10:7; Proverbs 22:1. He often proposes to him human motives, and reasons of private interest, to incline him to virtue and his own good: weak minds have need of this sort of succours. They raise them, by little and little, to more elevated sentiments, and to the most pure and sacred motives.” — See Calmet.
Proverbs 15:31-33. The ear that heareth the reproof of life — The man that hearkens to and delights in that reproof and good counsel which lead to life; abideth among the wise — He will thereby be made wise, and be esteemed one of that number: or rather, he seeks and delights in the company and conversation of the wise, by whom he may be admonished; as, on the contrary, fools, who hate reproof, avoid and abhor the society of wise men and reprovers, Amos 5:10. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul — Which he thereby exposes to the danger of utter destruction, and so shows his folly; but he that heareth, &c., getteth understanding — Whereby he saves his soul. Hebrew, קונה לב, possesseth a heart, which the Hebrews make the seat of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the instruction, &c. — Doth instruct men in, or lead them to, true wisdom, whence it is said to be the beginning of wisdom; and before honour — Or, the ready way to honour, both from God and men; is humility — Whereby men submit to God, and yield to men, which gains them love and respect; whereas pride procures them hatred and contempt, both from God and man.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 15". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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