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Proverbs 21:1. The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord— The author of the Observations informs us, that in Judea their watering canals are artificially divided into several small streams, which render the country exceedingly fruitful. To these canals, and the fertility produced by them, says he, I imagine Solomon refers in this verse, The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water, or as watering canals; he turneth it whithersoever he will. Commentators suppose, that this marks out the power of the great Lord of lords over the hearts of princes. It does so, undoubtedly; but, though they have given us the thought in general, I do not remember to have met with any who have given us the energy of it, which seems to be this: "Which way soever the heart of the king turneth, it conveys riches, just as a watering-canal doth plenty; and let it be remembered, that the Lord turns it whithersoever he will, and makes whom he pleases the favourites of princes." Northern readers have often, I dare say, wondered in themselves, that the divine energy upon the minds of men, which is apparently intended by the words, should be represented by man's turning a stream of water whither he pleases, which appears to him a work of difficulty; such difficulty, that it is not often attempted in this country. He therefore is apt to be surprized that some allusion, conveying the idea of greater ease, was not made use of. However, to an oriental imagination, the metaphor will appear strong, but in all respects just, as conveying the thought of that ease with which the power of God operates on the hearts of princes, and of the enriching effects of royal favour (which is elsewhere compared to a cloud of the latter rain); adding further prosperity to those who are in affluent circumstances, and setting beggars among princes; just like those canals which are so common in these countries, which add very much to the fertility of a rich soil, and sometimes turn a desart into a paradise. Thus the province of Faoume, or Fioum, the richest in all Egypt, owes all its fertility, according to Maillet, to a canal made by art in very ancient times, and would without it have been absolutely barren, as the want of keeping this canal with sufficient care has very much injured it.
Proverbs 21:4. And the ploughing of the wicked— Dr. Grey is for taking the two parts of the verse separately, thus, "A lofty look and a proud heart go generally together; i.e. the countenance shews the disposition of the mind, the lamp of the wicked is sin." The lamp seems to signify that which men make the rule or guide of their actions. In this sense the law of the Lord is the lamp of the righteous, but sin is the lamp of the wicked. See chap. Proverbs 6:23.Psalms 119:105; Psalms 119:105.
Proverbs 21:6. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue— He who gathers treasures by a deceitful tongue, pursues vain things. He shall be driven into the snares of death. Houbigant.
Proverbs 21:7. The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them— The ruin or desolation of the wicked shall affright them (they shall be desolated, ruined, ravaged, and terrified); because they would not follow justice.
Proverbs 21:8. The way of man is froward and strange— The true rendering is this, The way of the strange man is froward, but as for the pure his work is right. Grey.
Proverbs 21:11. When the scorner is punished— When the scorner is punished, the humble is made more wise; when the wise man prospers, the same person will acquire knowledge. Houbigant.
Proverbs 21:12. The righteous— The just [Judge] makes exact scrutiny into the house of the wicked, to bring the wicked to punishment. Dr. Grey would read, The righteous prospereth in his house, but wickedness overthroweth the wicked. We have the phrase of the first hemistich, in 1Sa 18:14 and the second is almost the same as ch. Proverbs 13:6.
Proverbs 21:16. The man that wandereth, &c.— He who deviates from the way of religion, shall remain in the congregation of the Rephaim: His lot shall be among those wicked souls hereafter; i.e. in the depths of sheol [hell], or the lowermost or most wretched parts of it; where the lewd and dissolute go, as he hath told us, chap. Proverbs 9:18. See Peters on Job, p. 363.
Proverbs 21:17. He that loveth wine and oil— Dr. Pococke, in describing his journey to Jerusalem, after his landing at Joppa, tells us, that he was conveyed to an encampment of Arabs, who entertained him as well as they could, making him cakes, and bringing him fine oil, in which they usually dip their bread. When he says usually, he means, I presume, when they are more elegantly regaled; for the eastern people often make use of bread with nothing more than salt, or some such trifling addition, such as summer savory, dried and powdered, which, mixed with salt, is eaten by many of the people of Aleppo as a seasoning to their bread, according to the account of Dr. Russell. The Septuagint translation of Job 6:6 seems to refer to the same practice, when it renders the first part of that verse, Will bread be eaten without salt? It is to the same sort of frugality also, I suppose, that Solomon refers, when he says in the present verse, He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. One would have thought the oil with their bread, which answers to our bread and butter, should not have been thought extravagant; but the account given by Dr. Russell shews that it is a piece of delicacy in the east, the expence of which they frequently avoid. See Observations, p. 128.
Proverbs 21:20. There is a treasure, &c.— Desirable treasure and oil are in the dwelling, &c. Houbigant renders the last clause, But a foolish man will dissipate these: and Schultens, But a foolish man, or a man given to luxury or extravagance, absorbs it; i.e. all that desirable treasure and opulence which his wise and careful father had abundantly laid up.
Proverbs 21:21. Findeth life, righteousness, and honour— Shall find life and glory. Houbigant.
Proverbs 21:24. Proud and haughty scorner— As to the proud and haughty, or arrogant, Scorner is his name, dealing in proud wrath. Houbigant reads, He who is proud and contemptuous, is called a scorner. He behaves himself fiercely and arrogantly.
Proverbs 21:26. He coveteth greedily— Though he in this verse may refer to the slothful in the preceding one; yet the LXX, who are followed by several other versions, read, The wicked coveteth. Schultens renders it, Concupiscence, or the covetous man, coveteth; omni die concupiscit cupiditas.
Proverbs 21:28. But the man that heareth— Dr. Grey would render this, But an obedient or good man will be careful of what he speaks. Houbigant has it, He who hearkeneth to justice shall be victorious in his cause.
Proverbs 21:31. The horse is prepared against the day of battle— Solomon mentions the horse, instead of all warlike preparations, because it was the chief, and all nations placed much of their confidence in the number and strength of their horses. Indeed horses were then used chiefly for war. See Calmet.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 21". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26