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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 27

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3304. B.C. 700.

Cautions against procrastination, or carnal security; against vain-glory, anger, wrath, and envy, Proverbs 27:1-4 . A commendation of reproof, contentment, steadiness, friendship, and prudence, Proverbs 27:5-12 . Sundry cautions and rules, Proverbs 27:13-27 .

Verse 1

Proverbs 27:1. Boast not thyself of to-morrow Of any good thing which thou purposest to do, or hopest to receive to-morrow or hereafter; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth What may happen in the space of one day to hinder thy designs or expectations. The day is said to bring forth what God, by his almighty power and providence, either causes or suffers to be brought forth or done in it. “The wise man,” says Melancthon, “here teaches us modesty; and prohibits those two great vices, confidence in ourselves, or any thing we have; and rashly undertaking unnecessary things, out of a foolish hope they will succeed according to our desires. Wise and good men will only meddle within the bounds of their calling; and will also depend on God for his blessing; but they will not attempt things without just cause, presuming they can carry them as they please.”

Verse 2

Proverbs 27:2. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth Except it be really necessary, either for thy own just vindication, or for the honour of God, or for the edification of others, in which cases this hath been allowed and practised by wise and virtuous men, as particularly by St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:12.

Verse 3

Proverbs 27:3. A stone is heavy, &c., but a fool’s wrath is heavier More grievous and intolerable, as being without cause, without measure, and without end. “Fools and unskilful people,” says Melancthon, “are more apt to be angry than others, because they consider not the infirmity of mankind, and that there are many errors of others which ought to be borne withal, and cured after a gentle manner. For, as goodness is most eminent in God, who himself bears with many evils in us, and commands us to forgive and it shall be forgiven us, so wise men bend their minds to goodness and lenity; remembering the common infirmities of all men, their own as well as others. Nor can there be a more lively picture of the implacable spirit of a fool, than that which our Saviour himself hath drawn in the gospel: of a cruel servant, who, when he had been forgiven sixty tons of gold by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant a hundred pence, Matthew 18:0.”

Verse 4

Proverbs 27:4. Wrath is cruel And doth many barbarous things; and anger is outrageous Often depriving a man of the proper use of his reason, and hurrying him into many mischiefs and miseries; but who is able to stand before envy? Envy is worse than both of them, 1st, Because it is more unjust and unreasonable, as not being caused by any provocation, as wrath and anger are; but proceeding from mere malignity of mind, whereby a man is grieved for another man’s happiness, in which he ought to rejoice; 2d, Because it is more deeply rooted and implacable, whereas the other passions are commonly allayed; and, 3d, Because it is more secret and undiscernible, and therefore the mischievous effects of it are hardly avoidable, whereas wrath and anger discover themselves, and so forewarn and forearm a man against danger.

Verses 5-6

Proverbs 27:5-6. Open rebuke is better than secret love “He that takes an ingenuous liberty to tell others of their faults, and rebukes them freely, when need requires, to their face, is a better friend, a more valuable, though, perhaps, he may please less, than he who hath more of the passion of love in his heart, but makes it not known by such good effects. The parable, says Lord Bacon, reprehends the soft nature of such friends as will not use the privilege which friendship gives them, in admonishing their friends with freedom and confidence, as well of their errors as of their danger.” See Dodd. Faithful are the wounds The sharpest reproofs; of a friend They proceed from an upright, loving, and faithful heart, and really promote the good of the person reproved; but the kisses All the fair speeches and outward professions of friendship; of an enemy are deceitful Hebrew, נעתרות , are to be deprecated, are perfidious and pernicious, and therefore are such things as one may properly pray to God to be delivered from.

Verse 7

Proverbs 27:7. A full soul A man whose appetite, or desire, is fully satisfied; loatheth a honey-comb The most delicious meats; but to the hungry every bitter thing is sweet Hunger makes a man relish the most distasteful food, while full stomachs loathe the most delightful. The design of this proverb is to show the inconvenience that oftentimes attends upon plenty, and the advantage of poverty, that the rich may learn moderation, and the poor content. “Poverty,” says Bishop Patrick, “hath this advantage over plenty, that it disposes men to be thankful for the smallest blessings, though mixed with care and trouble; when the richer sort, if they be not very careful, are apt to be unsatisfied with, nay to nauseate, their most delicious enjoyments, upon which they have long surfeited.”

Verse 8

Proverbs 27:8. As a bird that wandereth from her nest That flies very much abroad from place to place, whereby she is exposed to all the arts of fowlers, and to birds of prey; so is a man that wandereth from his place That, through vanity or lightness, changes the place of his abode or his calling; the ill effects whereof have been frequently observed. The LXX. read, Like as a bird is taken when it leaves its nest, so is a man reduced to servitude when he quits his habitation.

Verse 9

Proverbs 27:9. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, &c. “As balsam and fragrant perfumes marvellously refresh and comfort the natural spirits, when they droop and are tired; so doth the very presence of a true-hearted friend, and much more his faithful counsel, rejoice a man’s soul; especially when he is at such a loss, that he knows not how to advise himself.” Bishop Patrick.

Verse 10

Proverbs 27:10. Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend Of whose friendship thou hast had long experience; forsake not But betake thyself to him, when thou art in distress, rather than to thy natural brother or kinsman, if he be not also thy friend. For better is a neighbour That is, a friend, such as is mentioned in the beginning of the verse, who hath showed himself to be a true and good neighbour; that is near Namely, in affection; than a brother far off Who is alienated in affection from thee.

Verses 12-13

Proverbs 27:12-13. Of the former of these verses, see on Proverbs 22:3, and of the latter, on Proverbs 20:16.

Verse 14

Proverbs 27:14. He that blesseth his friend That saluteth, praiseth, or applaudeth him to his face, as the manner of flatterers is; with a loud voice That both he and others may be sure to take notice of it; rising early in the morning To perform this office, to show his great forwardness and diligence, and zeal in his service; which was the custom of the Romans afterward, and possibly of some of the Jews at this time. It shall be counted a curse to him His friend will value this kind of blessing no more than a curse: because it plainly discovers a base design, and is a high reflection upon him, as if he either did not understand such gross and palpable flattery, or were so ridiculously vain-glorious as to be pleased with it.

Verses 15-16

Proverbs 27:15-16. A continual dropping, &c., and a contentious woman are alike Are equally troublesome; the first not suffering a man to go abroad with comfort; the latter not permitting him to stay at home with quietness. Whosoever hideth her That is, attempts to smother her passion, that it may not break forth to her shame, and to her husband’s discomfort and reproach; hideth the wind Undertakes that which is impossible; and the ointment of his right hand Which, being the great instrument of action, by its much stirring diffuseth the savour of it. Houbigant renders it, He who will confine her at home may confine the wind, for whatsoever he shall seal with his hand, that is, whatsoever her husband would wish to keep secret, she will bewray or divulge. The Hebrew is very obscure, but the meaning of the verse evidently is, “To attempt to keep such a woman in the house, is to attempt to restrain the wind: and as one cannot touch perfumed oil with the hand but the odour will discover itself, so is it fruitless to endeavour to conceal the bad qualities of a quarrelsome woman; in spite of all endeavours she will discover herself.”

Verse 17

Proverbs 27:17. Iron sharpeneth iron Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend Quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better man. The countenance is here put for the mind or spirit, the state and disposition of which are commonly visible in men’s countenances.

Verse 18

Proverbs 27:18. Whoso keepeth the fig-tree That is, looks after it, and preserves it from suffering by drought, by vermin, or by wild beasts, &c.; shall eat the fruit thereof Shall partake of its pleasant fruit in due time; so he that waiteth on his master That serves him faithfully, prudently, and diligently; shall be honoured Shall receive that respect and recompense which he deserves. He mentions the fig-tree, because such trees abounded in Canaan, and were valued and regarded more than other trees.

Verse 19

Proverbs 27:19. As in water face answereth to face As the image of a man’s face in the water answers to his natural face who looks into it; or, as in water one man’s face is like another’s, the difference of men’s faces being not there visible; so one man resembles another not only in the regard of the corruption of nature, which is alike in all men, but also with respect to the tempers and dispositions of their minds, wherein likewise they frequently agree. Dr. Grey thinks the verse should be rendered, “As the water showeth the face to the face, so doth the heart the man to the man.” In which sense Castalio seems to have understood it, paraphrasing it thus: “As a man may know what kind of a face he hath if he will look into the water, so he may know what kind of a man he is if he will examine his conscience.” Another interpretation, adopted by some, is, “A man may see himself, while he looks upon other men, as well as know other men, by considering himself, and that as certainly as he can see his own face in the water, or in any other mirror;” there being little or no difference between one man and another by nature, but the difference being made by the grace of God.

Verse 20

Proverbs 27:20. Hell and destruction are never full The grave devours all the bodies which are put into it, and is always ready to receive and devour more and more without end; so the eyes of man are never satisfied That is, his desires, which work and discover themselves by his eyes.

Verse 21

Proverbs 27:21. As the fining-pot for silver Is appointed and used for the trial of silver, and the detection and separation of the dross from it; so is a man to his praise Or, according to his praise: that is, he is known by his praises; either, 1st, By the quality of those who praise and applaud him; and, as they are good or bad, so is he thought to be: or, rather, 2d, By his behaviour under praises, according as he conducts himself either humbly and modestly, with thankfulness to God, and a due sense of his own infirmities, which is the case and temper of a good man; or ambitiously and vain-gloriously, taking to himself the honour which he should give to God, as ungodly men generally do in such a case. Thus Bishop Patrick: “A man is discovered what he is, by trying how he can bear praises, commendations, and great applauses; which will presently show either the virtue or the vanity of his mind.” In this sense the LXX. seem to have understood the clause, reading ανηρ δοκιμαζεται δια στοματος εγκωμιαζον των αυτον , a man is tried by the mouth of those who praise him.

Verse 22

Proverbs 27:22. Though thou shouldest bray, &c. “The folly and wickedness of some men are so incurable, that though unto reproofs, and chidings, and threatenings, you should add stripes and blows, they would not grow a whit the wiser or better for it.” Not natural, but moral and wilful fools are here intended, who, by long continuance in sin, are hardened and stupified, and so are become incorrigible under all the means of amendment.

Verses 23-24

Proverbs 27:23-24. Be diligent to know the state of thy flock That thou mayest preserve and improve what thou hast, and take care that thy expenses do not exceed thy income. Flocks and herds are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches. And look well, &c. Hebrew, שׁית לבךְ , set thy heart, &c. Trust not to thy servants, as many do, but make use of thine own eyes and reason for the conduct of thy affairs, lest thou come to ruin, as many have done by this very means. For riches Hebrew, חסן , treasure, is not for ever The sense is, what thou now possessest will not last always, but will soon be spent, if thou do not take care to preserve and improve it. And doth the crown endure, &c. That is, a condition of the greatest honour and plenty. As if he had said, If a man had the wealth of a kingdom, without provident care and due diligence, it would soon be brought to nothing.

Verses 25-27

Proverbs 27:25-27. The hay appeareth, and the tender grass In their proper seasons. These and the following things are mentioned as further arguments and encouragements to persuade to diligence: God invites thee to it by the plentiful provisions wherewith he hath enriched the earth for thy sake. And herbs of the mountains are gathered Even the most barren parts afford thee their help. The lambs are for thy clothing By their wool and skins, either actually used for thy clothing, or sold to purchase other clothing for thyself and family; and the goats are the price of thy field By the sale whereof thou mayest either pay the rent of the field thou hirest, or purchase fields or lands for thyself. Goats might better be spared and sold than sheep, which brought a more certain and constant profit to the owner. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, the food of thy household Or, if thou choosest rather to keep thy goats, their milk will serve thee for food to thyself and family. In ancient times men used a plain and simple diet, and neither knew nor used that luxury therein which after ages invented.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 27". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/proverbs-27.html. 1857.
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