Proverbs 16:1. The preparations of the heart in man, &c. — As we read this verse, it teacheth us a great truth, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think, or speak, any thing of ourselves, that is wise and good, but all our sufficiency is of God, who is with the heart and with the mouth, and works in us both to will and to do, Philippians 2:13; Psalms 10:17. But most read it otherwise, namely, thus: The preparation of the heart is in man, he may contrive this and the other; but the answer of the tongue — Not only the delivering of what he designed to speak, but the issue and success of what he designed to do; is of the Lord — That is, in short, 1st, Man may purpose; he hath a freedom of thought and of will permitted him; he may form his projects, and lay his schemes as he thinks best; but, after all, 2d, God disposeth; he easily can, and often does, cross man’s purposes, and break his measures: nor can man proceed with success in any undertaking, nor carry into execution any design, without God’s assistance and blessing. It was a curse that was prepared in Balaam’s heart, but the answer of the tongue was a blessing.
Proverbs 16:2. All the ways of man are clean in his own eyes — Men can easily flatter and deceive themselves into a good opinion of themselves, and of their own actions, though they be sinful; but the Lord weigheth the spirits — He as exactly knows, as men do the things which they weigh and examine, the hearts of men, from which both their actions and the quality of them, in a great measure, proceed. Their ends and intentions, their dispositions and affections, which are hid, not only from others, but oftentimes in a great degree from themselves, are fully manifest to him. Thus he here intimates the reason why men deceive themselves, in judging of their state and actions; they do not search their own hearts.
Proverbs 16:3. Commit thy works unto the Lord — Hebrew, גל אל יהוה, literally, Roll unto the Lord, &c., namely, as a man rolls to another a burden, which is too heavy for himself, imploring his help. Refer all thy actions and concerns to God, and to his glory, as the end of them; and, in the discharge of thy duty, depend upon God’s providence and grace for assistance and success; and thy thoughts shall be established — Thy honest desires and designs shall be brought to a happy issue one way or other.
Proverbs 16:4. The Lord hath made all things — And especially all men; for himself — For his own service and glory; for the discovery and illustration of his own wisdom, power, goodness, truth, justice, and his other most glorious perfections. The Hebrew, כל פעל יהוה, is, literally, The Lord hath wrought, or doth work, all things; or, he ordereth, or disposeth of them; and so this may be understood of the works of providence, as well as of those of creation; yea, even the wicked — Wilful, impenitent sinners; for the day of evil — For the time of punishment, as this phrase is used Psalms 49:5; Jeremiah 17:18, and elsewhere: of which the Scriptures frequently speak, both to warn sinners of their danger, and to satisfy the minds of them who are disquieted with the consideration of the present impunity and prosperity of wicked men. Men make themselves wicked, and God therefore makes them miserable.
Proverbs 16:6. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged — By the covenant of grace, in which mercy and truth shine so bright, even the mercy and truth of God, which meet together, and kiss each other, in Jesus Christ the Mediator; by mercy in promising, and truth in performing, is the guilt of sin taken away from us, when we are truly penitent, and cast our sinful souls by faith on that mercy and truth. Hereby also a principle of mercy and truth is implanted in us, by which the power of sin is broken, and our corrupt inclinations are mortified and destroyed. In this way, and not by any legal sacrifices, or ceremonial observances, such as those on which the hypocritical Jews depended for the expiation of their sins, is iniquity purged, and the sinner both pardoned and renewed, Micah 6:7-8; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13. And by the fear of the Lord — By a filial reverence toward God, and by a holy fear of offending him; men depart from evil — They are kept from abusing pardoning mercy, and from returning to folly or wickedness. So he shows that forgiveness and holiness, or justification, and at least a measure of sanctification, are constant and inseparable companions.
Proverbs 16:7. When a man’s ways please the Lord — The best way to have our enemies reconciled unto us, is for us first to be reconciled unto God; for such is the love which the Lord hath to pious and virtuous persons, that when all their designs and actions are such as he approves, he often inclines even those that were their foes to become their friends, disposing their hearts to kindness toward them.
Proverbs 16:8. Better is a little, &c. — A small estate, honestly gotten and usefully employed, is much to be preferred before vast incomes, gathered by oppression, and kept without the exercise of mercy and charity. This was, in effect, said before, Proverbs 15:16, (where see the note,) and is here repeated, partly because of the great importance and usefulness of this truth, and partly because men are very hardly brought to a serious belief of it.
Proverbs 16:9. A man’s heart deviseth his way — Considers and proposes to himself what he will do; designs an end, and contrives by what means he may attain it; but the Lord directeth his steps — Ruleth and disposeth all his intentions and actions as he pleases, determining what the event shall be, and ordering his motions, perhaps, to such an issue as never came into his thoughts.
Proverbs 16:10. A divine sentence — Hebrew, קסם, divination, (a word which is sometimes taken in a good sense for prudence, as Isaiah 3:2,) that is, great sagacity, and a piercing judgment to discern dubious and difficult cases; is in the lips of the king — Of a wise king, who only is worthy of the name and office. Thus understood, the assertion was verified by fact in David, 2 Samuel 14:17; and in Solomon, 1 Kings 3:28. “God,” says Bishop Patrick, “is present, in a singular manner, with a pious king, inspiring his mind to divine sagaciously in dubious and obscure things; that his resolutions and decrees may be received like oracles; and all causes be decided by him so justly and exactly, that no man may be wronged in the judgment which he passes.” But as the verb is wanting, and there is nothing for is, in the Hebrew, the clause may be rendered, A divine sentence, or divination, should be in the lips of the king. Thus it speaks not so much of a matter of fact, as if it were thus in all kings, which is notoriously and confessedly untrue, as of the duty of kings, in whom wisdom is a necessary qualification; and thus the two proverbs, Proverbs 16:12-13, must be understood, otherwise they are repugnant to common experience. His mouth transgresseth not in judgment — That is, does not easily transgress, or go beyond the bounds of justice, or truth, or piety, in pronouncing sentence, if he be truly wise and pious: or, should not transgress, if understood of kings in general.
Proverbs 16:11. A just weight, &c., are the Lord’s — Are God’s work, as it follows; made by his direction and appointment, so that no man can corrupt or alter them, without violating God’s rights and authority, and incurring his displeasure. In other words, the administration of public justice by the magistrate is an ordinance of God; in it the scales are held, or ought to be held, by a steady and impartial hand; and we ought to submit to it for the Lord’s sake, and to see his authority in that of the magistrate, Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13. The observation of justice in commerce between man and man is likewise a divine appointment. He taught men discretion to make scales and weights, for the adjusting of right exactly between buyer and seller, that neither might be wronged. And all other useful inventions, for the preserving of right, are from him. He has also appointed, by his law, that men be just; it is, therefore, a great affront to him, and to his government, to falsify, and so to do wrong under colour and pretence of doing right, which is wickedness in the place of judgment.
Proverbs 16:12. It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness — They should not only abstain from all wicked practices, but abhor them, both in their own persons, and in all their servants and subjects. It is too plain that he speaks not of the common practice, but of the duty of kings, as in Proverbs 16:10. A good king not only does justice, but it is an abomination to him to do otherwise: he hates the thought of doing wrong, and perverting justice: he not only abhors the wickedness done by others, but abhors to do any himself, though, having power, he might easily and safely do it. For the throne is established by righteousness — He that makes conscience of using his power aright, shall find that to be the best security of his government; both as it will oblige people, and keep them true to his interests, and as it will bring down upon him and his government the blessing of God, which will be a firm basis to his throne, and a strong guard about it.
Proverbs 16:13-15. Righteous lips are the delight of kings — All wise and good kings do, and all kings should, delight in employing such counsellors, judges, and officers, under them, as are just and faithful in their counsels, sentences, and actions; because such bring great honour and advantage to them. The wrath of a king is as messengers of death — It strikes as great terror into those with whom he is offended, as if the sentence of death were pronounced against them, and officers were sent to execute it; but a wise man will pacify it — Will use all prudent and lawful means so to do. In the light of the king’s countenance is life — His reconciled and smiling countenance is most sweet and refreshing, especially to such as are under a sentence of death; and his favour as a cloud of the latter rain — As acceptable as those clouds that bring the latter rain, whereby the fruits are filled and ripened, a little before the harvest.
Proverbs 16:16-18. How much better is it — It is inexpressibly and inconceivably better to get wisdom than gold — Because it brings a man more certain, and complete, and lasting comfort and advantage. The way of the upright — Their common road, in which they constantly desire, purpose, and endeavour to walk; is to depart from evil — The evil of sin, whereby they escape the evil of punishment. He that keepeth his way — That takes heed to walk in that high way; preserveth his soul — From that mischief and ruin which befall those that walk in the crooked paths of wickedness. Pride goeth before destruction — Is commonly a forerunner and cause of men’s ruin, because it highly provokes both God and men.
Proverbs 16:20-21. He that handleth a matter wisely, &c. — “He that understands his business thoroughly, and manages it prudently and discreetly, is likely to have good success; but no one is so happy, no one is so sure of prospering in his designs, as he that confides more in God than in his own skill and industry.” The wise in heart, &c. — “He whose mind is well furnished with wisdom, cannot but obtain a great reputation, and be highly esteemed for his prudent counsels and resolutions: but if he have the powerful charms of eloquence to convey his mind delightfully unto others, it will add a greater value to his wisdom, and make it more diffusive and instructive unto the world.” — Bishop Patrick.
Proverbs 16:22-24. Understanding is a well-spring of life — A clear understanding and right judgment of things, like an inexhaustible spring, gives perpetual comfort and satisfaction to him who has it, and makes him very useful unto others; but the instruction of fools is folly — Their learning is frivolous and vain; their most grave and serious counsels are foolish; and, therefore, if they undertake to instruct others, they only make them like themselves. The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth — Directeth him what, and when, and how to speak, and keeps him from speaking rashly and foolishly; and addeth learning to his lips — Enables him to communicate his thoughts to others so judiciously and wisely, as not only to show his own learning, but to increase theirs. Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, &c. — Namely, the discourses of the wise, last mentioned, which yield both profit and delight; their wholesome counsels and refreshing comforts.
Proverbs 16:25-26. There is a way, &c. — See on Proverbs 14:12. He that laboureth, laboureth for himself — For his own use and benefit. Solomon’s design in this proverb is, to condemn idleness, and to commend diligence, in a man’s calling; for his mouth craveth it of him — Hebrew, אכŠ עליו, boweth to him, namely, as a suppliant; beggeth him to labour, that it may have something put into it, for its own comfort, and the nourishment of the whole body.
Proverbs 16:27-28. An ungodly man diggeth up evil — Invents or designs mischief to others, and prosecutes his evil designs with great and constant industry; in his lips is as a burning coal — As his thoughts, so also his words, are very vexatious and pernicious; his tongue is set on fire of hell, and sets himself and others on fire, by lies, slanders, and other provoking speeches. A froward man — Or perverse, who perverteth his words and ways; soweth strife — By speaking such things as may provoke one against another; and a whisperer — Who secretly carries tales from one to another; separateth chief friends — Makes a breach between those who were most dear to one another.
Proverbs 16:29-30. A violent man — Hebrew, a man of violence, that is, devoted to violent and injurious courses; enticeth his neighbour — Into a confederacy with him in his wicked practices; and leadeth him into the way that is not good — That is, into a way that is very sinful, as this phrase is frequently used. He shutteth his eyes — That his thoughts may be more free, and intent to contrive mischief; he meditates with the closest intention and application of mind, to devise wicked things, to contrive how he may do the greatest evil to his neighbour, may do it effectually, and yet without endangering himself; moving his lips, &c. — Speaking, or making signs to others to assist him in executing that wickedness which he hath contrived.
Proverbs 16:31. The hoary head is a crown of glory — A great honour and ornament, as it is a singular blessing of God, and a token of great experience and prudence; if it be found in the way of righteousness — If it be accompanied with true piety, otherwise an old sinner is accursed, Isaiah 65:20. “Old age,” says Bishop Patrick, “is very venerable, when a man’s past life has been truly virtuous and useful; which is the best way also to prolong one’s days, and bring one to that great honour, which is due to those who have long done much good to mankind.”
Proverbs 16:32. He that is slow to anger — That can suppress its motions, and does not revenge, but shows himself ready to forgive injuries; is better than the mighty — Because he is more like God, more wise to foresee, and to prevent mischief both to himself and others, which often arises from rash anger; of a more gallant and generous spirit, and more valiant and victorious. This is opposed to the perverse judgment of the world, who esteem such persons pusillanimous and cowardly; and he that ruleth his spirit — That hath power to govern all his own inclinations, affections, and passions by reason; than he that taketh a city — Hath a nobler empire than he that subdues cities and countries by force of arms. For the conquest of ourselves, and our own unruly passions, requires more true conduct, and a more steady, constant, and regular management, than the obtaining of a victory over the forces of an enemy. A rational conquest is more honourable to a rational creature, than a brutal one; it is a victory that doth nobody any harm; no lives or treasures are sacrificed to it, but only some base lusts. It is harder, and therefore more glorious, to quash an insurrection at home than to resist an invasion from abroad; nay, such are the gains of meekness, that by it we are more than conquerors.
Proverbs 16:33. The lot is cast into the lap — As the ancient practice was in dividing inheritances, and deciding in doubtful cases; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord — The event, though casual to men, is directed and determined by God’s counsel and providence. But it is to be well observed, that when solemn appeals are made to divine providence, by the casting of lots, for the deciding of a matter of moment, which could not otherwise be at all, or not so well, decided, God must be applied to by prayer to give a perfect lot, 1 Samuel 14:41; Acts 1:24; and his decision must afterward be acquiesced in with entire satisfaction, under a persuasion that it is wise and righteous.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Easter