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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 20

Verse 1

Proverbs 20:1. Strong drink is raging The first precept in this chapter is against drunkenness, as an enemy to wisdom even in common things, much more in those of everlasting concernment; for that commonly expels out of men's minds all reverence both to God and to others; inclining them to say or do any thing without restraint or discretion. And what unruly passions it excites when the brain is disturbed with it, is universally known. The word המה homeh, here translated raging, includes them all: it signifies that discomposed, unquiet, and restless state of mind, which expresses itself in wild and tumultuous motions. See Bishop Patrick and Schultens.

Verse 2

Proverbs 20:2. The fear of a king, &c.— Or, The terror of a king is as the roaring of a young lion: he who rageth against him, sinneth, &c. Houbigant renders it, The threatening of a king.

Verse 5

Proverbs 20:5. Counsel in the heart of man, &c.— There is hardly any thing but may be compassed by wisdom: for though the designs and intentions of another man, especially one who has a deep understanding, are as hard to be founded as waters which lie in the secret caverns of the earth; yet there are persons of such penetration, that they will find means to discover them, and draw them out. Lord Bacon observes, that there are six ways whereby the knowledge of men may be drawn out and disclosed; by their faces and countenances, by words, by deeds, by their nature, by their ends, and by the relations of others. See Adv. of Learn. book 8: chap. 2.

Verse 6

Proverbs 20:6. Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness "Most men are ready enough to claim to themselves a large share of virtue and piety; but where is the man of true and undissembled virtue and holiness, who studies rather to be than to seem good?" See Schultens.

Verse 8

Proverbs 20:8. A king, &c.— The wise man excites monarchs to hear causes in person, as the best means of preventing abuses, and acquiring a true state of their nation. Agreeably to this, we find Herodotus asserting, that kings were originally constituted for this very purpose. This also was Cicero's opinion, and was long before asserted by Hesiod. See Grotius and Calmet.

Verse 9

Proverbs 20:9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, says St. John. But here is our comfort, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us form all unrighteousness. Though I be nothing, says St. Paul, 2Co 12:11 yet I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13.

Verse 16

Proverbs 20:16. And take a pledge of him for a strange woman And pawn him to foreigners.

Verse 17

Proverbs 20:17. Bread of deceit Bread gained by fraud. Houbigant.

Verse 25

Proverbs 20:25. It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy It is a snare to a man, if he swallow down a vow, or an oath. Or, as Houbigant renders it, The man is ensnared who rashly vows a holy thing, and shall delay, retracting his vow. The verse is generally understood to be directed against sacrilege.

Verse 26

Proverbs 20:26. A wise king scattereth the wicked The plain meaning seems to be, that a good king separates the bad from the good by a due execution of his laws; which is like the winnowing the corn after the chaff is separated from it, by drawing the wheel over it. See Isa 28:27-28 and Fuller's Miscellanies, book 6: chap. 12.

Verse 27

Proverbs 20:27. The spirit of man. The soul of man is as a burning lamp, which God hath kindled in the midst of us, which enlightens us, and discovers to us all that passes; it is that breath of life which the Lord hath breathed into us. Lord Bacon refers the latter part of this verse to the inquisitive search of man's mind into all kinds of things; for though the wise man says in Ecclesiastes 3:0 that it is impossible for man to find out all the works of God; yet this doth not derogate from the capacity of man's mind; but may be referred to the impediments of knowledge (such as the shortness of life, disputations among learned men, and refusals to unite their studies and labours; unfaithful and depraved tradition of sciences: with many other inconveniences, wherewith this present state is surrounded): For, that no parcel of the world is denied to man's inquiry or invention, he declares in another place, where he saith, The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth into the inwards of all secrets. See Adv. of Learning, as above.

Verse 30

Proverbs 20:30. The blueness of a wound This is a very obscure passage. I think, says Dr. Grey, Le Clerc's interpretation the best I have met with; that a wicked man, who has received due correction for his crimes, will be cured of them, or will not so easily fall into the like again; and that though stripes chiefly affect the body, yet they have likewise an effect on (the chambers of the belly) the inward recesses of the mind; restraining the offender by the fear of punishment. That this is the meaning of the Hebrew words בטן חדרי chadrei baten, rendered The chambers of the belly, appears from that elegant comparison of the conscience, or spirit of a man, Pro 20:27 to a light within him, searching out and discovering his most secret thoughts.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/proverbs-20.html. 1801-1803.