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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 11

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The Proverbs of Solomon:


Here begin the PROVERBS proper, the “nucleus of the book.” What has preceded is the introductory discourse or lecture. There is no difficulty in regarding the first nine chapters as one composition. If actually read, it would not be too long for one occasion, and the various parts are about as well connected as in the most of our modern lectures. Indeed, the unities are well preserved. It is possible that the first six verses of chapter first, which contain the title and preface, may have been prefixed subsequently to the composition of that admirable introductory discourse, and of the whole work. The remainder of the book is of a different character and form, especially from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. We have no longer a train of continued thought running on from verse to verse, but nearly every verse is independent of that which precedes and of that which succeeds. They might in general be inverted and transposed at pleasure, without any material injury to the sense, or diminution of the effect of the whole. They were divinely intended to form the Hebrew character to prudence and integrity by the principles of universal morality, and so are suitable for all times and peoples.

It, is not probable that all these Proverbs were original with Solomon. Many of them were, doubtless, the results of his own observation and experience; but others, perhaps long in use, were gathered from other sources; being, however, such as his judgment approved, he gave them a place in his collection.

It is the opinion of some critics that Solomon did not write, but spoke the proverbs, and that they were taken down in writing by others, at different times; that from the various collections thus made by different scribes of the three thousand proverbs which he spake, (compare 1 Kings 4:32,) those contained in this book are what were deemed worthy of preservation for after ages. They seem to have been arranged, by Solomon or others, chiefly according to their form, in two separate volumes, rolls, or memoranda, one of which extends from chapter x to chapter xv, inclusive, and which consists almost exclusively of antithetic parallelisms; the other, from chapter 16 to Proverbs 22:16, which consists chiefly of synthetic parallelisms. Every verse, in both parts, makes a complete sentence. There is rarely even a similarity of subject in two successive verses. Even the two parts of the same verse seldom so run into each other as to form a compound sentence, in which one number is dependent on the other. There are a few exceptions to this in the 20th chapter. This is altogether different from the method of the first nine chapters, and is not so rigidly observed in what follows Proverbs 22:16.

1. A wise son… glad father Gladdens his father.

A foolish son כסיל , ( kesil.) The radical idea is that of dullness, stiffness, grossness, rudeness; when applied to the mind, as here, it is the opposite of that refinement, culture, and intelligence, or the capability of them, which חכם , ( hhakham,) wise, implies. It has been suggested that the idea lies half concealed in the verse, that a father, in general, is better qualified to appreciate the mental qualities of a good and wise son, and the mother is more affected by the grossness and rudeness of an evil and foolish one.

This is not wholly improbable, yet too much stress is not to be laid on these niceties, which seem to overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:0; Proverbs 25:23-24. For the expression heaviness, compare Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:22.

Verse 1

1. A false balance Balances of deceit; that is, any arrangement by which other than the exact weight is given or taken in buying and selling.

Is abomination Is the abomination of Jehovah; so the Hebrew, but in our idiom “to” is better.

A just weight A stone of perfection; a perfect stone, full weight. Among the Hebrews, as among other ancient nations, stones were used for weights before metal came into use. Hence we have in our language the word stone as a denomination of weight. In England a stone is legally fourteen pounds. This is one of the most perfectly antithetic proverbs in the book term set opposite term throughout. Sentiment: All injustice and dishonesty in our dealings is detestable in the eyes of Jehovah, who is the patron of justice and of the poor, and demands full weight and measure between man and man, and equitable conduct in all things. The principle involved in the proverb applies to all kinds of unfair and fraudulent dealings among men. Compare Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 20:23; Deuteronomy 25:13-15; Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-11; Leviticus 19:36.

Verse 2

2. When pride cometh The Hebrew is abrupt and forcible: “Pride comes, then comes contempt.” The proud man is contemptible in the eyes of those who see him boiling over (this is the Hebrew idea) with self-conceit, arrogance, or vanity.

Lowly צנועים , ( tsenu’him.) This is a rare word, and is well expressed by our term modest. How often is this proverb illustrated in life. A vain braggart brings on himself contempt; while a modest man, who pretends to no more than he knows, commands respect. Hence the wisdom of modest behaviour. Compare Daniel 4:30; Luke 14:8; Luke 18:14; Proverbs 3:16; Proverbs 8:18; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 18:12.

Verse 3

3. Shall guide Or lead them, as a shepherd does his flock. Principles of rectitude shall conduct in the way of safety, but the perverseness of transgressors, or, as it might literally be rendered, the slipperiness of the treacherous, shall utterly destroy them, or break them to pieces. There may be an antithesis here between the integrity wholeness of the upright, and the breaking to pieces of the treacherous. Rectitude is a straight path, leading to safety; treachery, hypocrisy, a slippery path, leading to ruin. On first clause, compare Proverbs 3:6; Psalms 107:7; on latter clause, Proverbs 15:4.

Verse 4

4. Riches profit not Are of no use.

In the day of wrath That is, of divine wrath; so the word is often used. Compare Job 21:30; Ezekiel 7:19; Zephaniah 1:18; Proverbs 10:2-3. It probably refers to great calamities, such as war, pestilence, or famine.

But righteousness (often) delivereth from death This is almost the same as ch. Proverbs 10:2. The author may have had some particular case in his mind (easily conceived) which illustrated it.

Verse 5

5. Righteousness of the perfect This may be regarded as another form of the proverb in Proverbs 11:3.

Shall direct Make straight, plain, even.

Verse 6

6. Upright… transgressors This seems a repetition of the sentiment of the previous verse in a little different form.

Naughtiness Badness; might also be rendered desire (so Miller and Stuart) and wickedness. A literal reading would be, by the wickedness (or greedy desire) of the perfidious shall they be captured: that is, their own bad propensities shall lead them into the snare. Comp. Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 10:3; Genesis 9:6.

Verse 7

7. Wicked man dieth This is a difficult verse. Stuart renders, “When a wicked man dieth his hope shall perish, and the expectation of the afflicted perishes.” Conant: “When a wicked man dies expectation shall perish, yea, the hope of wickedness perishes;” so also Noyes, substantially. Stuart gives the meaning thus: “When the wicked see all their hopes of pleasure, riches, etc., perish, and when they are sick and afflicted, their expectations of recovery or alleviation will be frustrated.” So the Vulgate and Bertheau. Whether the Seventy had a different version before them, or whether, having the same difficulty as other translators, they made out of this verse, as they sometimes do, a proverb to suit themselves, we cannot say. But their version is different, and gives a good Christian sense with an antithesis not found in the Hebrew text: “When a righteous man dies, his hope does not perish, but the exultation of wicked men perishes,” that is, when they die. The versions and critics vary, and nothing entirely satisfactory has yet been reached. Zockler translates: “With the death of the wicked his hope cometh to naught, and the unjust expectation hath perished.” Compare Proverbs 10:28; Psalms 49:0.

Verse 8

8. The righteous is delivered A plain proverb, often illustrated in actual life. See Daniel 6:14, seq.; Esther 5:14; Esther 7:8-10; Psalms 7:15.

Verse 9

9. A hypocrite Literally, a profane, or godless man.

Neighbour By the mouth of an impure wretch his neighbour is (often) destroyed; but by the intelligence of the righteous he the neighbour shall be delivered; that is, from his calamities. Another construction of the latter clause is, By the knowledge of the just shall he (the neighbour) be delivered.

Verse 10

10. Goeth well When they prosper, especially when they are advanced to power and office.

Rejoiceth Exults.

The wicked perish Are cast down from high positions which they unworthily occupied and abused.

Where is shouting Because of deliverance from such pests. Good men may be justified in rejoicing at the removal, by death or otherwise, of a very bad man from the city; not out of hatred to the man, but to his character and ways, and especially out of benevolence to the community that he was plundering and corrupting.

Verse 11

11. By the blessing of the upright Meaning, probably, the blessing which they are to the city by their example, prudent advice, devotion to the public welfare, prayers, etc.

City is exalted Built up, enlarged, raised to a flourishing condition.

Mouth of the wicked What they utter, their blasphemies, evil counsels, impious maxims and teachings; also, sometimes, by traitorous communications with an enemy. One influential sinner in a city destroys much good.

Verse 12

12. Despiseth his neighbour He that contemns his neighbour (for inferiority in any respect) lacks good sense, (Hebrew, heart,) but a man of intelligence keeps silent. The proverb implies that the contempt of the man “void of wisdom” is expressed in words; whatever a prudent man may think he keeps to himself.

Verse 13

13. A talebearer הולךְ רכיל , holekh rakhil. The root of the first word means to walk, of the second, to go about as a trader, a pedler. Such persons gather up the news and carry the gossip from house to house and from place to place; hence, perhaps, the word came to signify a talebearer, a pedler of news, a newsmonger.

He that is of a faithful spirit A right thinking and right feeling man will cover up whatever word or thing comes to his knowledge that would be injurious to honest people. Compare Proverbs 20:19; Proverbs 25:9; Jeremiah 16:28; Leviticus 19:16; 1 Peter 2:1, James 3:0; also James 4:11.

Verse 14

14. Where no counsel is No pilotage, guidance, or wise management. Miller renders helmsmanhip instead of “counsel.”

The people fall Rather, a people or nation falls. It probably applies to States or entire communities.

In the multitude of counsellers Or, in the greatness of the counsellor, is safety. If the word יועצ , ( yo’hets,) which is singular, is to be understood as a collective noun, (counsellors,) it is implied that they are more or less capable; otherwise, the multiplicity of them might only confuse, weaken, and bring disaster. Too many and diverse counsellors are sometimes worse than none. One really capable man is worth a dozen such. Yo’hets, instead of being a participial noun, may be a participle proper.

Then the rendering would be, By much “counselling” thoughtful planning safety is secured. Comp. Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 24:6; Ecclesiastes 9:15; 1 Kings 12:1, seq.; Isaiah 3:4.

Verse 15

15. He… shall smart for it רע ירוע a paronomasia, and difficult of interpretation. Various renderings are given by the critics: our common version is, however, sufficiently expressive and spirited. Comp. Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 27:13.

Verse 16

16. A gracious woman אשׁת חן , ( esheth hhen,) a woman of grace, gracefulness, beauty, loveliness: (it may mean any of these, and more:) the word is very indefinite.

Retaineth Seizes, obtains, grasps, holds fast.

Strong men Formidable or violent men; or, better, energetic men. The meaning may possibly be that the desire of glory, applause, fame, is as strong in a woman of beauty as the desire of spoil and acquisition of riches is in strong-willed men. The qualities of heart and mind which render her lovely are as sure of conquest as the physical force and energy of will which are the strength of men.

Verse 17

17. The merciful The kind, benevolent, or pious.

Doeth good to his own soul To himself; the fruit of his kindness comes back to him.

Troubleth his own flesh Himself. נפשׁ , שׁאר , ( nephesh, sheer,) and similar words expressive of parts of the person, are often used in Hebrew with the force of reflexive pronouns, of which the language is destitute. Comp. Psalms 61:1; Psalms 112:4; Psalms 112:9; Isaiah 32:7-8; Isaiah 57:1; Daniel 4:27; Matthew 5:7; Matthew 6:14; Luk 6:38 ; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Philippians 4:17.

Verse 18

18. A deceitful work The wicked man makes fallacious work, and gains “a deceptive result.” Zockler. פעלת , ( pe’hullath,) means labour, or the wages of labour.

To him that soweth righteousness Is upright in all his dealings.

Shall be… reward In accordance with that well known rule, “What a man soweth that shall he also reap.” The truth taught is, that the wicked man fails to realize what he expects from his labour; the good man makes “a sure thing.” Compare Proverbs 10:16; James 3:18; Galatians 6:8; Job 4:8; Hosea 10:12.

Verse 19

19. As righteousness tendeth, etc. The sentence is elliptical, and may be paraphrased thus: Righteousness leads him that practices it to life and happiness; and he that pursueth evil, pursueth it to his own death. Moral good and moral evil produce their natural results. This is the divine law. The apostle (in Galatians 6:8) applies the principle in all its breadth: “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” This and the preceding proverb seem to be related. The apostle probably had his eye on both. The Septuagint seems to have read the first word כן as בן , and instead of “as,” or so, “righteousness,” it translates accordingly, a righteous son.

Verse 20

20. Froward Perverse, tortuous.

Upright in their way The perfect of way men of integrity.

Verse 21

21. Though hand join in hand Another disputed passage. יד ליד , ( yadh leyadh,) hand to hand, was, likely, an elliptical phrase, with a conventional sense well understood at the time, but uncertain to us. The common acceptation of it is co-partnership; that is, a confederacy of wicked men binding one another by oath, in which they joined hands; a powerful combination to effect an evil result. Another sense sometimes given to it is, hand added to hand, as the emblem of strength and exertion: that is, let the wicked exert himself to his utmost with both hands, he shall not be acquitted or innocent; but the seed of the righteous the righteous generation or race shall be delivered. Compare Proverbs 16:5, for a similar expression. The first part of this verse may receive illustration by the following, from Bruce: “The great people among them (the shepherds of Suakem) came, and, after joining hands, repeated a kind of prayer of about two minutes long, by which they declared themselves and their children accursed if they ever lifted their hands against me, in the tell or in the field, in the desert or on the river; or in case I or mine should fly to them for refuge, if they did not protect us at the risk of their lives, their families, and their fortunes, or, as they emphatically expresses it, to the death of the last male child among them.”

Verse 22

22. A jewel… swine’s snout There is an allusion here to the nose-ring worn by Eastern women. The general sense of this homely proverb is, that beauty without discretion, שׂעם , ( ta’ham,) literally, taste, propriety, moral perception, is of no more suitableness than would be a gold ring in a swine’s snout. The clause imports, Whoso departs or recedes from what is proper, fit, becoming, in a wife or a maiden.

Verse 23

23. Desire of the righteous is only good Tends to and ends in good to him.

Expectation of the wicked is wrath Tends to and ends in “wrath” to him: the divine indignation at his evil conduct being followed by the punishment of his wickedness.

Verse 24

24. Is… scattereth Distributes liberally of its substance.

Increaseth Addition is continually made to its wealth.

Is meet Is right, proper, fitting.

It tendeth to poverty Literally, but for lack; that is, this lack is the result of undue parsimony; sometimes the natural result, sometimes providential, or both. Compare Proverbs 13:7; Psalms 112:9; 2 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 6:8; Matthew 13:12.

Verse 25

25. The liberal soul Hebrews, the soul of blessing; that is, the man who imparts blessings.

Shall be made fat Richly nourished. Compare the use of “blessings” in 2 Kings 5:15, and of eulogia, blessing, rendered “bounty,” in 2 Corinthians 9:5. The similitudes (in this verse) are both essentially Eastern. Fatness, the sleek, well-filled look of health, becomes the figure of prosperity, as leanness is of misfortune. Chap. Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 28:25; Psalms 22:29; Isaiah 10:16. Kindly acts bring to the person performing them an influence as refreshing as are the dew and soft rain to a thirsty land. ( Speaker’s Com.) Comp. also Matthew 5:7; Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38; Ecclesiastes 11:1.

Verse 26

26. Withholdeth Selfishly garners it up when the grain is needed to prevent famine.

People shall curse him Shall utter sharp, piercing words concerning him. “He that hoardeth up corn in the time of scarcity, on purpose to raise the price, shall fall into the popular hatred, and be loaded with many a curse; but he who opens his granaries, and sells at a moderate rate, shall not only have the people’s goodwill, but the blessing of God.” Patrick. The first clause applies to all speculating monopolizers of the necessaries of life. Job 29:13; Amos 8:5.

Verse 27

27. Diligently seeketh good Seeketh or striveth for “good.” He shall receive favour.

Mischief Evil of any kind. Conant gives this verse this turn: “He that seeks good, favour shall seek him; but he that seeks evil, it shall come upon him.” See Esther 7:10; Psalms 7:15-16; Psalms 9:15-16; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 57:6.

Verse 28

28. Shall fall Fall off, as a withered leaf from a tree. The Hebrew is emphatic: Himself shall fall. His riches may not fall, but he will if he trusts in them. Compare Matthew 10:24. Flourish as a branch A leaf. A green and flourishing leaf was an emblem of prosperity. Compare Psalms 1:3; Psalms 49:6; Psalms 92:12; Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 17:8; Luke 12:21; 1 Timothy 6:17.

Verse 29

29. He that troubleth his own house By mismanagement, bad temper, want of industry, extravagance, avarice, or any other means.

Shall inherit the wind Which was an emblem of emptiness or nothingness.

Shall be servant Patrick refers the first part to him who makes or cherishes dissensions and factions in his house. It may mean any unwise or bad conduct, as drunkenness, for instance, whereby a man troubles and impoverishes his family. Compare Proverbs 11:24; Ecclesiastes 5:16.

Verse 30

30. The fruit… righteous His words and actions, or their results.

Is a tree of life Imparting a living principle. Compare Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Genesis 2:9; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 22:2. Comp. 3; Proverbs 18:14.

He that winneth souls Or captures them by his holy life or persuasive eloquence.

Is wise Wise by eminence. His wisdom is evinced by the results. “He is the greatest benefactor of all who communicates wisdom so charitably and seasonably that he draws souls to the love of virtue.” Patrick. “The wise man winneth souls.” Zockler (and others.) “There does not seem,” says the Speaker’s Commentary, “any ground for seeing in these words the meaning which ‘winning souls’ for God or Christ has gained in Christian language.” They signify about what we mean by winning the heart. He that is wise draws the souls, the affections, the confidence of men to himself. The wise man is the true conqueror. Still they may have a specific application to winning hearts for Christ. The phrase winneth souls, לקח נפשׁות , ( lokeahh nephashoth) is the same that is sometimes translated, “Taketh the life.” 1 Kings 19:4; Psalms 31:13. Compare Daniel 12:3; 1 Corinthians 9:19; James 5:20.

Verse 31

31. Righteous shall be recompensed; (or requited;) much more (or even so,) the wicked and the sinner Luther renders the former clause, “The righteous must suffer on the earth,” which, Zockler says, hits the meaning.

The sense then would be: Even the righteous man suffers on the earth for those sins which he occasionally commits through infirmity and temptation; how much more the wicked man for his deliberate and habitual transgressions. The argument is a fortiori, from the less to the greater. This sense is preferred by many commentators. Miller translates thus: “Behold, the man who is righteous on the earth shall be recompensed:” and makes this note: “Not recompensed on the earth, for that is not true. Above all would the second clause not be true, for Solomon takes care to tell us (Ecclesiastes 9:2) that ‘ there is one event to all.’ It is not true that the wicked are punished ‘ on earth’ ‘ much more,’ or much less, than any other class. ‘ On earth’ has such a location as to be placed with either word, and the sense directs that it marks the arena of trial and not of reward.” Conant translates the first clause substantially as Miller, but retains the “much more” of the second. Stuart: “If the righteous shall be recompensed on the earth, surely, then, the wicked and the sinner.” Compare 1 Peter 4:16. On the whole, our Authorized Version here may be permitted to stand. It agrees with the Septuagint and Peter.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-11.html. 1874-1909.
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