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Observations about kings, and about avoiding of quarrels, and sundry causes thereof.
Proverbs 25:1. These are also proverbs of Solomon— To what has been said in the introduction to this book, may be added with great profit to the reader, Bishop Lowth's 24th Prelection. By the men of Hezekiah, most probably are meant Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah, (See 2 Kings 18:26.) who copied out or selected these proverbs.
Proverbs 25:2. To conceal a thing— That is, according to Grotius, His purposes and nature; whereas it is the honour of a king to examine into and make himself acquainted with the state, actions, and designs of his subjects. Houbigant renders it, he who conceals a thing honours God; he who honours the king will search it out; but he does not attempt to give any explanation.
Proverbs 25:3. The heaven for height— "It is almost as impossible for the generality of minds to penetrate into the secrets of state, and understand the counsels and designs of intelligent princes, and the various ways and means whereby they consult to effect their ends, as it is to know how far it is from hence to the highest heavens; or how far to the centre of the earth upon which we tread." See Lord Bacon's Advanc. of Learn. book 8: chap. 2.
Proverbs 25:7. Whom thine eyes have seen— Houbigant closes this verse with the words, in the presence of the prince, and reads the 8th verse thus, Be not hasty in pleading thy cause, to divulge what thine eyes have seen; lest in the end thou knowest not what to do, when thy neighbour shall have confuted thee. The Vulgate renders it somewhat similar, Do not hastily produce, in a quarrel, what thine eyes have seen: lest afterwards thou be not able to recal it, when thou hast disgraced thy friend. The two next verses seem to countenance this interpretation.
Proverbs 25:11. A word fitly spoken, &c.— The author of the Observations seems to have proved, that not apples but citrons are here meant, which were of the colour of gold; See Song of Solomon 2:3. And he thinks that Solomon here refers to the manner of serving up these citrons in his court, when he says, A word fitly spoken is like this fruit served up in vessels of silver, curiously wrought: whether, as Maimonides supposed, wrought with open-work like baskets, or curiously chased, it no way concerns us to determine. But it may not be improper to observe, that this magnificence was not, we have reason to suppose, very common at that time, since the fruit which was presented to D'Arvieux by the grand Emir of the Arabs was brought in nothing better than a painted vessel of wood. To an antique apparatus of vessels for fruit, perhaps of this painted wooden kind, Solomon opposes the magnificence of his court. Observations, p. 202. Bishop Lowth observes, that Solomon in this sentence gives us not only an apt description of the proverb or parable, but also an example of the thing described: A word produced in its season, is like golden apple, in net-work of silver; whereby he means that weighty and hidden meanings are as much commended by a terse, concise, and well-turned speech, as apples, exquisite for their colour, appear more lovely and pleasing when they thine through the network of a silver basket, exquisitely chased. See his 24th Lecture.
Proverbs 25:13. As the cold of snow— It was customary in the east to cool their liquors with snow; to which Solomon here most probably refers; for we cannot conceive that he could speak of a fall of snow in the time of harvest; that must have been incommoding, instead of pleasurable and refreshing, which the proverb here supposes it to be. But, though the gratefulness of liquors cooled by snow is, I apprehend, referred to; yet I very much question whether the supposition of those commentators be just, who imagine that those liquors were drank by the reapers: all that Solomon teaches us is, that the coolness given by snow to liquids was extremely grateful in the time of harvest; i.e. in the summer: but as to the reapers themselves, vinegar, mentioned in the book of Ruth as part of the provision for them, seems to be a much more suitable thing for persons heated with such strong exercise, than liquors cooled by snow. See Observations, p. 197.
Proverbs 25:14. Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift— Or, pretends he will give a valuable gift, and disappoints the expectation, is like clouds and wind without rain. See 1 Kings 18:45.
Proverbs 25:16. Hast thou found honey?— See the 27th verse which may be rendered, "As it is not good or sweet to eat much honey; so neither to hunt for glory is glory to those who hunt after it." The meaning of the verse is this, "Moderation is good in all things, especially in those which are most pleasing to us: as honey, moderately taken, strengthens the body and prolongs life but too much of it disturbs the stomach, and turns the pleasure into pain." Horace has a sentence much to the same purpose:
Sperne voluptates; nocet empta dolore voluptas.
Spurn pleasures; dear is pleasure bought with pain.
After all, the genuine christian knows, by happy experience, that there is no true pleasure except in the enjoyment of God. There are some commentators who connect this verse with the next, which they think explanatory of it.
Proverbs 25:19-20. Confidence in an unfaithful man— Houbigant renders this verse, As a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint, is the protection of a wicked man in calamity; he will even take away the garment in cold weather; Proverbs 25:20. As he who sprinkleth nitre with vinegar, is the man who shall sing songs to a person in grief. Vinegar remarkably irritates nitre. See Sir 22:6. The LXX, Syr. Chald. Vulg. and Arab. render the 20th verse, As a moth in a garment, or a worm in wood; so is heaviness in the heart of man.
Proverbs 25:21. If thine enemy be hungry, &c.— The plain meaning of this seems to be, "Be kind to your enemy; for that is the surest way to gain his love, and God's blessing." It is true, coals of fire are seldom taken in a good sense, when used metaphorically; they commonly signify punishment or vengeance; but then they are always said or supposed to be heaped up by God himself. And surely, God's heaping up coals may well be allowed to be very different from ours; for to Him vengeance belongs, but to us it belongs not. But why may not coals of fire, so necessary to the use and comfort of life, be used in a good sense too? It is certain, however, that a coal of fire is once so used. 2 Samuel 14:7. And so they shall quench my coal of fire which is left, i.e. "shall deprive me of my little remaining comfort." And once, the metaphor, though by a different Hebrew word, is applied to love. Song of Solomon 8:6. Love is strong as death; the coals thereof are coals of fire; which hath a most vehement flame: and it appears evident enough from the verse following the text, as quoted by St. Paul, Rom 12:20 that the phrase ought to be understood in a good sense; for he subjoins, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. "Overcome evil with good," evidently explains heaping coals of fire upon an enemy's head, by acts of goodness: it is to soften his heart, and dispose him to friendship; which is the natural effect of a generous unexpected goodness. Mr. Benson conjectures, that the phrase, heaping coals of fire, &c. is taken from melting metals in a crucible; for when they melt gold or silver in that manner, they do not only put fire under and round all the sides, but also heap coals of fire upon the head of the crucible, and so melt the metal. In allusion to this, Christians are to heap coals of fire, acts of kindness and beneficence, upon the head of an enemy; and so melt down his obstinacy, bring him to temper, and overcome his evil by their good. This is noble, glorious, reasonable, and truly Christian. See Taylor on the Epistle to the Romans, and Schultens' elaborate note on the place.
Proverbs 25:23. The north wind driveth away rain, &c.— See the Observations, p. 37.
Proverbs 25:26. And a corrupt spring— See the note on 2 Chronicles 32:4. Besides the methods of stopping up wells and breaking down cisterns there mentioned, the eastern people sometimes practised another way to deprive their enemies of the use of their waters; namely, by throwing into them such filth as rendered them not drinkable. This was done in particular by the people of a place called Bosseret. Accident also has sometimes, after much the same manner, made them unfit for drinking: so, in the description of the expedition of Baldwin III. against the same town, we are told that his army underwent very great thirst at that time; for, going through the country of Trachonitis, which hath no fountains, only cisterns of rain-water, it happened that at the time he passed through it, these cisterns were rendered useless by means of the locusts which had a little before swarmed to an uncommon degree, and, dying, had occasioned such putrefaction in their waters, as to render the drinking them insupportable. It is not impossible that the corrupt spring which Solomon here alludes to, and to which he compares a righteous man slain by a wicked one, whose promised usefulness was by that means cut off, might intend a receptacle of water, made useless after this manner; though it must be allowed that the corrupting a rill of water by making it muddy, is as natural an interpretation. See Observations, p. 340.
Proverbs 25:27. It is not good to eat much honey— See on Pro 25:16 and Isaiah 7:15. Delicious as honey is to an eastern palate, it has been thought sometimes to have produced terrible effects. Thus Sanutus in the Gesta Dei per Francos, informs us, that the English who attended Edward I. into the Holy Land died in great numbers, as they marched in June to demolish a place; which he ascribes to the excessive heats, and their intemperate eating of fruits and honey. This, perhaps, may give us the thought of Solomon, contained in this verse. He had before in Pro 25:17 mentioned, that an excess in eating honey occasioned sickness and vomiting; but if it was thought sometimes to produce deadly effects, there is a greater energy in the instruction. However that be, this circumstance seems to illustrate the prophetic passage which speaks of a book sweet in the mouth as a morsel of honey, but after it was down producing pain, bitter as those gripings which the army of Coeur-de-Lion felt in the Holy Land, from eating honey to excess; for of such disorders as are the common effects of intemperance with respect to fruit in those climates, Sanutus appears to be speaking; and the bloody-flux, attended with griping pains, is well-known to be the great complaint. See the Observations, p. 160.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 25". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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