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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 27



Observations on self-love, on true love, on care to avoid offences, and on the household care.

Verse 5

Proverbs 27:5. Open rebuke is better than secret love He who takes an ingenuous liberty to tell others of their faults, and rebuke them freely when need requires to their face, is a more valuable friend, though perhaps he may please less, than he who has more of the passion of love in his heart, but makes it not known by such good effects. The parable, says my 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 Adv. of Learn. book 8: chap. 2 and Plutarch's Treatise on the method of profiting by our enemies.

Verse 7

Proverbs 27:7. The full soul loatheth an honey-comb As hunger makes men relish the most distasteful food, when full stomachs loath the most delightful; so poverty has this advantage of 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 cautious, are apt to be unsatisfied with, nay, to nauseate their most delicious enjoyments, upon which they have a long time surfeited. Bishop Patrick.

Verse 8

Proverbs 27:8. As a bird that wandereth He who quits his country, his dwelling, his house, is as a bird which quits its nest. He is exposed to a thousand dangers and difficulties. The Jews were very much attached to their country, and had no fondness for travelling. They were detained within their own country, first, by the motive of their religion, the perfect exercise whereof was confined to Palestine; secondly, by the danger of idolatry, which had then overspread the world; and lastly, by the goodness of their land, which was one of the best in the universe. It was not till after the miseries which befel their nation under Nebuchadnezzar, Salmanassar, and afterwards under the Romans, that we see them forced to disperse themselves through all parts of the world. Some apply this passage to those who quit their condition and calling, and by their inconstancy give themselves up to the snares of the devil, who takes them as the fowler takes young birds who have forsaken their nests before the time. The LXX read like as a bird is taken, when it leaves its nest; so is man reduced to servitude when he quits his habitation. See the parable of the prodigal, Luke 15:0. Calmet.

Verse 9

Proverbs 27:9. Ointment and perfume At the close of a visit in the eastern countries, it is common to sprinkle rose-water, or some other sweet-scented water, on the guests, and to perfume them with aloes wood; which is brought last, and serves as a sign that it is time for a stranger to take his leave. Great numbers of authors take notice of this part of eastern complaisance, but some are much more particular and distinct than others. Maundrell, for instance, who gives a most entertaining account of the ceremony of burning odours under the chin, does not mention any thing of the sprinkling sweet-scented waters; however, many other writers do; and Dr. Pococke has given us the figure of the vessel they make use of upon this occasion in his first volume, plate 57. R. They are both then used in the east; but if one be spoken of more than the other, it is, I think, the perfuming persons with odoriferous smoke. The Scriptures, in like manner, speak of perfumes as used anciently for evil purposes, as well as sacred, though they do not mention particulars. Perhaps the word here rendered perfume, comprehends in its meaning the waters distilled from roses, and other odoriferous flowers, whose scents in the east, at least in Egypt, if Maillet may be admitted to be a judge, are much higher and more exquisitely grateful than with us: but if those distillations should be thought not to have been known so early, the burning of fragrant things, and making a sweet smoke with them, we are sure they were acquainted with. See Exodus 30:0.

35. 38. Dan 2:46 and the Observations, p. 270. The LXX read, By ointment and wine and incense the heart is made glad, but the soul, or spirit, is broken by misfortunes.

Verse 14

Proverbs 27:14. He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice "He who spends all his time in nothing else but in extravagant praises of his benefactor, rather disparages than commends him." Or, it may be, "He that is hasty to commend his friend, does him rather a disservice than a kindness." Moderate and seasonable praises, says the great Lord Bacon, uttered upon occasion, conduce both to men's fame and prosperity. But, when immoderate, streperous, and unseasonably poured out, they profit nothing; nay rather, according to the sense of this parable, they do much prejudice. For, first, they manifestly betray themselves either to proceed from too much affection, or from studious affectation; whereby they may rather ingratiate themselves with him whom they praise by false commendations, than adorn his person by just and deserved attributes. Secondly, sparing and modest praises commonly invite such as are present to add something of their own to the commendation; contrarywise, profuse and immoderate praises invite the hearers to detract and take away something which belongs to them. Thirdly, which is the principal point—too much magnifying a man stirs up envy towards him; seeing all immoderate praises look like a reproach to others, who think they merit no less.

Verse 16

Proverbs 27:16. Whosoever hideth her, &c.— Whoso locks her up, locks up the winds, and he will take hold of oil with his hand. Wat. See Hiller Hierophut. p. 210. Houbigant renders it, He who will confine her at home may confine the wind; for whatsoever he shall seal with his hand [i.e. whatsoever her husband would wish to keep secret] she will bewray or divulge. The Hebrew is very obscure; He who hideth her, hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand shall cry out. "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 it is fruitless to endeavour to conceal the bad qualities of a quarrelsome woman; spite of all endeavours, she will discover herself." See Calmet and Schultens.

Verse 19

Proverbs 27:19. As in water, &c.— Dr. Grey says, this should be rendered, As the water showeth the face to the face, so doth the heart the man to the man. The meaning is, that a man may know what character he deserves, as well by looking into his own heart, as he can tell what sort of a face he has by looking upon the water. Houbigant renders it, As faces are like faces, so the heart of one man to another.

Verse 21

Proverbs 27:21. So is a man to his praise The LXX read, And a man is tried by the mouth of those who praise him; and so Houbigant renders it. The meaning is, "That the mind of man is as easily discovered and tried by praises and encomiums, as gold or silver is by fire." The poet says well,

Cum quis te laudat, judex tuus esse memento. Plus aliis de te, quam tu tibi credere noli.*
[* When others praise thee, remember thou art the best judge of thyself. Be on thy guard, not to believe more in praise of thyself from the commendations of others, than thy own heart testifies to be true.]

Some would connect this verse with the following: The fining-pot purifies silver, and the furnace gold, and a man is purified by affliction: Proverbs 27:22. But a fool is incorrigible: though you should put him into a mortar, and bruise him like a grain of wheat, you will not make him more wise. See Calmet.

Verses 24-27

Proverbs 27:24-27. For riches are not for ever, &c.— See Hiller. pars 2: p. 9. The author of the Observations remarks, that milk is a great part of the diet of the eastern people. Their goats furnish them with some of it, and, as Dr. Russell informs us, are chiefly kept for that purpose; that they yield it in inconsiderable quantities; and that it is sweet and well tasted. This, at Aleppo, is however chiefly from the beginning of April to September, they being they being generally supplied during the other parts of the year with cow's milk, such as it is; for being commonly kept at the gardens, and fed with the refuse, the milk generally tastes so strong of garlick or cabbage leaves, as to be very disagreeable. Might there not be the same difference in Judea in the time of Solomon? And may not his words in this place be designed to express the superior quality of goat's milk to that of any other kind in that country?

REFLECTIONS.—Diligence is necessary in every vocation, and the master's eye is essential to the prosperity of his affairs. As the wealth of the east consisted chiefly in their flocks, and the fruit of the field, there are particularly instanced, and reasons given to inforce the needful care over them.

1. Riches are perishable things; even crowns are not secure: therefore it becomes every man to take care of what God has given him, that it be not wasted by his negligence.
2. The liberal provision that Providence has made leaves the negligent inexcusable. The earth, under the divine blessing, produces food for the cattle in abundance, and herbs for the service of man.
3. The benefit accruing from our industry will amply repay our labours. We shall have a sufficiency of clothes, meat, and money for ourselves and our families; and, though plain and homely be the fare, perhaps the more wholesome. Note; (1.) If we must look thus to our flocks, that they may thrive, how much more needful is it for us to search often into the state of our souls, whether they prosper: for without this, what would it profit a man to gain the whole world, if, after all, he lost his immortal soul? (2.) If a sheep be of such value, and require such attendance, how much more the glorious flock which Christ hath purchased with his blood, and committed to our care! Negligence of this trust would be attended with aggravated ruin.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 27". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.