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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 14

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. Every wise woman Literally, as to form, the wisdoms of women; both plural, but with the verb in the singular, showing that the subject is to be taken as singular. Some render, woman’s wisdom buildeth. But the sense is well enough given in our common version.

The foolish Literally, folly, but feminine in form; feminine folly plucketh. The sentiment is, that in building up a family, the woman, the wife and mother, has possibly more to do than the man. Great men have generally been more indebted to their mothers than to their fathers; and the greatness of certain families is traced chiefly to maternal wisdom and virtues. But of the foolish woman just the reverse may be said. She needs no help to pull down her house; her negligence, ill-management, extravagance, lack of capacity for family government, or other failings or vices, do the deed. She destroys her own family. For an example of the wise woman, see Proverbs 31:10, seq.; comp. also Proverbs 24:3-4, and Ruth 4:11, seq. “A fortune in a wife is better than a fortune with a wife.”

Verse 2

2. Walketh in his uprightness Levelness, straightness.

Feareth the Lord As a general thing, there is no better evidence of true piety than rightness of conduct. The converse of the above proposition is also true: He that feareth the Lord walketh uprightly. True piety and sound morality go together. They are both essential to Christianity. False religions separate morality and the worship of the Deity. Worshippers of false gods are frequently very scandalous in their lives; nor does it strike them as incongruous.

Despiseth him By not paying him suitable respect. The wicked, perverse, or immoral man, is a despiser of God; he treats the authority and majesty of God with contempt. Comp. Psalms 10:13; Luke 10:16.

Verse 3

3. A rod (sceptre) of pride Haughtiness is put for a rod. It seems to be implied that the rod will eventually be used for their own punishment.

But the lips of the wise shall preserve them They are careful of their words, not to offend, much less to abuse, others, and hence remain in safety. Compare Proverbs 11:6; Proverbs 12:6; Proverbs 13:14.

Verse 4

4. The crib is clean אבוס , ( ebhus,) crib, stall, or barn. It means a place for stabling and feeding. Hence, where no oxen are the “crib” may well be clean of both feed and manure.

Increase Income, profit. The words here rendered “oxen” and “ox” are not the same. The first is אלפים , ( alaphim,) and the second שׁור , ( shor,) which, to preserve the unity of the original, might be rendered bullock. Shor seems to be a more generic term than alaphim, and is applied to all bovine animals, whether old or young, male or female. Alaphim is never used in the singular, except in the name of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, from which comes the Greek alpha, and from this and the second Greek letter, beta, our word alphabet, alpha, beta, the a’s, b’s, or, as we say, the abc’s. The root, אל Š , ( aleph,) among its significations has this: to be wonted, tame, gentle; thus the eleph (pl. alaphim) was the tame animal par excellence; and, as used here, may stand representatively for domestic animals in general. It is as true now as in the days of Solomon, so far as agricultural life is concerned. So “much increase” is by the strength of the ox, that is, results from the rearing, keeping, and skillful employment of domestic animals. A farm properly stocked with animals adapted to it not only brings in direct profit to the husbandman, but indirectly, in the fertilizing of the soil and its increased capabilities of production; consequently, in the increased value of the land.

Verse 5

5. A false witness will utter lies Better, he that breathes forth falsehood is a lying witness; that is, a man to whom falsehood is habitual will be apt to testify falsely when called as a witness. Hence the rule of courts of excluding the testimony of one who is not “a man of common veracity.” Compare Proverbs 12:17; Exodus 20:16; Exodus 23:1. Miller insists, contrary to the common opinion, that עד שׁקר , ( hedh sheker,) means a deceived witness.

Verse 6

6. And findeth it not Literally, and none, that is, for him. Wisdom reveals herself to true seekers; not to scoffers. There are those who treat instruction contemptously, affecting to be above the need of it. Such will never be truly wise. Those who do not think themselves too wise to be instructed readily attain to knowledge. Compare Proverbs 8:17; Psalms 25:9. The scorner, or scoffer, represents the frivolous, superficial, or irreverent sceptic, who pretends to candid inquiry, but has no real desire to know the truth, and hence only seeks for more ground of cavil. (Miller.)

Verse 7

7. Go from the presence The original of the proverb is obscure; but probably our version gives the sense.

Verse 8

8. Wisdom of the prudent The wary, cautious.

Is to understand Is the discerning of his way; that is, it is the means of doing so; points out the right way to him.

But the folly of fools is deceit Delusive, deceitful, even to themselves; folly misleads them into wrong paths. “The highest wisdom is for a man to [know,] understand, his own way. The extremest folly is self-deceit.” Speaker’s Com. Compare Proverbs 13:16; Luk 12:20 ; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 2 Timothy 3:13. Some understand by this the deceits or frauds practised upon others. Their folly is seen in their ceaseless efforts to deceive.

Verse 9

9. Fools make a mock at sin As the verb in the original is singular, not agreeing with אולים , ( evilim,) fools, as its subject, it is somewhat probable that the sentence should be transposed, making אשׁם , ( asham,) guilt, or sin offering, the subject. Stuart renders, “sin offering mocks fools;” (wicked men;) mocks their hopes, because not accepted. The word asham is frequently used for sin offering, or trespass offering. Comp. 1Sa 6:3 ; 2 Kings 12:17; Isaiah 55:10; Ezekiel 40:39, and many other places. Other critics, transposing the sentence as above, retain the word sin; thus: Sin makes a mock of fools; that is, deludes them, exposes them to shame and contempt, which is fitly opposed to the favour or good will of the next clause; there are, however, some great names for the old rendering, perhaps regarding evilim as the plural of intensity. The matter may be considered as not entirely settled, but with the preponderance in favour of the transposition. Zockler reads, “Sacrifice maketh sport,” etc.; Conant, “Guilt makes a mock;” Miller, “Sin makes a mock at fools.” Compare Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 10:23; Proverbs 26:18-19; Jude 1:18.

Verse 10

10. The heart knoweth his own bitterness Hebrew, the heart knows the bitterness of his soul; that is, the bitterness of itself, or its own bitterness. Nephesh is often used in default of a reflexive pronoun. Comp. Proverbs 12:23. When our version was made the neuter singular pronoun its had not come into use. We now say its instead of his. The sentiment of the proverb is, that every one knows his own experiences, whether of sorrow or of joy, better than it is possible for another to know them.

Intermeddle Intermix or become familiar with, understand thoroughly. Comp. 1Co 2:11 ; 1 Corinthians 5:13. The proverb teaches the perfect individuality of each soul. Something there is in every sorrow, in every joy, that no one else can share. But there is a divine sympathizer, uniting perfect knowledge with perfect love. Speaker’s Commentary.

Verse 11

11. Overthrown Smitten, destroyed. Compare Proverbs 12:7. House…

tabernacle By metonymy for family, household. Compare Job 8:15; Job 15:34; Job 18:14-15; Proverbs 3:33; Proverbs 12:7; Proverbs 21:12; Zechariah 5:4; Matthew 7:27.

Verse 12

12. This proverb partly repeats that of Proverbs 12:15, and is partly repeated in the proverb recorded Proverbs 16:25.

Seemeth right unto a man Pleases him, accords with his taste or judgment.

Ways of death Plural of intensity; sure way to death. The sentence would be better transposed: The ways of death are the end of it. Perhaps the idea is tacitly conveyed that the one evil way, continuously travelled, branches out into many ways, all leading to death, or, as the Septuagint has it, “the ends of it reach to the depth of hell,” to Hades. Compare Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 16:25; Judges 17:6, seq.; 2 Samuel 6:6.

Verse 13

13. Sorrowful That is, may be so.

And the end of that mirth The expression is the same as in the preceding verse, where it is rendered, the end thereof. There is in the original an artistic arrangement of the words difficult to imitate, but very expressive; like, and the end of that gladness, sadness. The idea appears to be, that they are so close together that it is difficult to mention them apart, or to separate in expression the antecedent and consequent, “so swift trod sorrow on the heels of joy.” Pollok. Comp. Proverbs 14:10; Ecclesiastes 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:6.

Verse 14

14. The backslider in heart Hebrew, the drawn back of heart. Geneva Bible: “The heart that declineth.” Our word backslide conveys the idea.

A good man… from himself From that which is in himself. By leaving out the words supplied in italics, in the latter member, we get a good sense, namely: He who draws back in his heart (from God) shall be filled with his own ways, and the good man with that which is in him. The backslider here is one who has departed in heart from the true God, or the true religion.

Not all backsliders are apostates in this sense. Comp. Psalms 44:18; Proverbs 1:31; Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2; Psalms 17:15.

Verse 15

15. Every word Or, every thing. He is over credulous.

Looketh well to his going Is observant of his steps, looks well where he puts his foot, and does not place it anywhere until he is sure of his footing. The figure is very descriptive of a prudent, wary, or careful man, as opposed to the over-credulous simpleton. Bochart observes here: “Prudence without simplicity degenerates into craft: and simplicity without prudence is no better than mere fatuity” imbecility of mind. “To believe every word of God is faith; to believe every word of man is credulity.” Muenscher. Comp. Proverbs 14:8.

Verse 16

16. The fool rageth, and is confident Or, is haughty and confident, and so presses on to the evil which the wise man avoids. This is the meaning generally given to מתעבר , rageth, or is haughty; but I see no reason why the word here should not follow the primitive sense of the root, to pass over, on, or through, only adding the intensity which belongs to the form in which it is found, thus: The wise man fears and turns aside from evil; but the fool is confident and rushes upon it. He sees nothing to fear. This brings out the antithesis, which is only implied in our version. Comp. Proverbs 21:24; Proverbs 22:3.

Verse 17

17. Soon angry קצר אפים , ( ketsar-appayim,) short of nostrils; the word primarily means nostrils, but tropically anger. The ancients conceived of anger as conspicuously expressed by the nostrils, the chief external organs of respiration. Thus, “short of nostrils” signified angry, or passionate, and “long of nostrils,” the opposite, slow to anger. The thought of the proverb is, that a passionate man is apt to act foolishly, but men may pity his weakness: whereas a man of deliberate evil intentions a malicious man is hated. Comp. Proverbs 15:1.

Verse 18

18. Inherit Not specifically; rather, acquire, get, gain. Folly is their acquisition.

Are crowned with knowledge Acquire a crown of knowledge; knowledge attained is their glory, ornament, and power. “They embrace knowledge.” Zockler. “Crown themselves.” Furst. Stuart says: “Gather wisdom around them; make a crown of knowledge.”

Verse 19

19. At the gates That is, bow at “the gates” as beggars, supplicating favour and relief. Evil and wicked are only different words descriptive of the same class of persons. The proverb does not imply that this is always the case in this world, but that often, in the retributions of Providence, the wicked who oppressed and persecuted the righteous are made to humble themselves before them, and even to beg their bread from them. Compare Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 13:22; Psalms 37:25, seq.; Genesis 43:26; Genesis 50:18; Esther 3:2; Esther 6:11; Revelation 3:9; Luke 16:24.

Verse 20

20. Hated That is, treated with neglect or contempt, as if hated, while the rich man commands attention. Compare Proverbs 19:4; Proverbs 19:7; Job 19:13-14; Job 30:10.

Neighbour Or, friend.

But the rich hath many friends Literally, the lovers of the rich are many.

Verse 21

21. Sinneth Misses, blunders. Although one proverb frequently seems to have no relation either to a preceding or a succeeding one, yet in this case the conclusion can hardly be resisted that this proverb was intended to be the sequel to the preceding one. The 20th verse states the fact; the 21st verse, the moral character of the fact.

Verse 22

22. Err that devise evil Perhaps in the sense of planning iniquity, dishonesty, injustice.

Mercy and truth Or, kindness and faithfulness shall be to those whose purposes and plans are good. The latter clause may be rendered, But those who devise good are kindness and truth abstract for the concrete are kind and true. It is possible that יתעו , ( yith’hu,) they wander or err, may be taken, as Gesenius suggests, in a secondary sense, the result of these wanderings, that is, being lost, perishing shall they not perish that devise evil? At all events, this is implied.

Verse 23

23. Profit Something to show for the toil.

Talk of the lips Literally, word or thing of the lips, that which is only of the lips mere talk.

Only to penury To lack or want. The idea is, that ordinary labour usually leaves something over; but mere talk leaves something lacking. Comp. Matthew 12:36.

Verse 24

24. The crown of the wise Namely, their “knowledge,” see Proverbs 14:18, is their riches; their wisdom is their wealth.

But the foolishness of fools is folly Foolishness and nothing else. Turn it as you will, it comes to that. It is neither riches, nor honour, nor any thing else desirable. So, substantially, Speaker’s Commentary, Furst, and Conant.

Verse 25

25. A deceitful witness… lies This is true, but the clause is better rendered thus: He that breathes lies (an habitual liar) is a deception, a witness who cannot be depended on. The Speaker’s Commentary accepts the Authorized Version. The antithesis, destroys life, is implied. The witness lies; what worse could be said? All destruction is implied in falsehood.

Verse 26

26. His children The pronoun may be referred either to “the Lord,” or to the man who fears the Lord. Some critics prefer the former and others the latter. There is nothing absolutely to determine whether it means the children of Jehovah or the children of the worshipper. Miller renders: “And to his children” that is, to the children of Jehovah “it becomes a place of refuge.”

Verse 27

27. To depart… from death That is, to cause to depart. It is the source of life and the cause of escape from death. Comp. Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Revelation 21:6.

Verse 28

28. Multitude of people, etc. More vividly, with Stuart, “The glory of a king is in a multitude of people; but the lack of people is the destruction of a prince.” Compare 2 Samuel 24:14-17.

Verse 29

29. Slow to wrath Is patient, forbearing, self-controlling.

Is of great understanding Shows himself to be a man of sense and prudence.

Exalteth folly Lifts it up, makes it conspicuous. “Exhibits folly.” Speaker’s Commentary. “Enhances folly.” Miller.

Verse 30

30. A sound heart is… life of the flesh Literally, a heart of healing. “A tranquil heart.” Conant. “A soothing heart.” Stuart. “A quiet heart.” Noyes. “A quiet spirit.” Zockler. The health of the heart, and the proper circulation of the blood, are the means of life and health to every part of the body. If the heart be diseased there can be no sound health nor great length of life. But the heart is here taken tropically for the moral state, moral or spiritual health, soundness of moral or religions principles, and the proper regulation of the passions and appetites. Such a state tends to life natural, spiritual, and eternal.

But envy Standing here, perhaps, as the representative of any intense evil passion.

The rottenness of the bones An eating, corroding principle, acting slowly but surely; preventing and counteracting the effects of nourishment. On “envy,” compare Job 5:2; Psalms 112:10; Acts 7:9; Romans 1:29; James 4:5. On “rottenness of bones,” compare Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 17:22.

Verse 31

31. Oppresseth… reproacheth God is the maker, patron, and friend of the poor, and whose “oppresseth” such, because of his poverty, “reproacheth,” or injuriously reflects on, God, who assigned him his lot.

That honoureth him Better, he honoureth him (God) that hath mercy on the poor, the needy. Two Hebrew words in the verse are rendered by one word, poor. This is often the case in these proverbs. It is probable, indeed, that the words in the original are nearly synonymous, and are used merely for variety of expression. It is a pity that our translators had not more closely imitated the elegance of the original, as they might oftener have done. Compare Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 19:17; Job 31:15-16; Matthew 25:40; 1 John 3:17; Deuteronomy 15:7; Luke 3:11; Proverbs 22:2.

Verse 32

32. The wicked is driven away in his wickedness Or, shall be thrust down, or, as we say, knocked down, in, by, or on account of, his baseness or badness.

But the righteous hath hope in his death Has a shelter or refuge. Gesenius renders: “The righteous in his death trusteth,” that is, in God. Stuart: “The righteous hath confidence in his death.” He remarks, “How, or why, are questions for those to answer who deny that the Hebrews had any hope of a future state. If they had not, what, then, is the source of hope or confidence in a dying hour? If there was nothing beyond the grave, in their view, on what is their hope or confidence fixed.” Comp. Job 13:15; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 37:37; 2Co 1:9 ; 2 Corinthians 5:8.

Verse 33

33. Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding Reposeth there, not obtruding itself, or being solicitous of notice.

That which is in the midst of fools (in the heart of such) is made known Is soon exhibited, both by tongue and act. Comp. Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 12:16; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 29:11.

Verse 34

34. Righteousness exalteth a nation: (both to honour and prosperity:) but sin is a reproach to any people Literally, to nations. The latter clause has been the subject of great controversy, with great names on both sides. Some adhere to and defend the translation of the Authorized Version. “The plain meaning,” says Clarke, “seems to be: A national disposition to mercy appears in the sight of God as a continual sin offering, not that it atones for sin, but as a sin offering is pleasing to the God of mercy, so is a merciful disposition in a nation.” The primary idea of the root is that of eager and earnest desire, ardour, zeal; and this, when carried out into the tropical senses, diverges in two directions, either to good desires and good dispositions toward any one. or to a zealous hatred against one, which is expressed in reproach.

Verse 35

35. Wise Discreet.

His wrath Indignation.

Causeth shame Or, acteth shamefully. A discreet minister of state obtains the favour of his prince; but one who disgraces himself and his principal or government excites great indignation. Miller renders: “The kindness of the king is a wise servant, that is, serves him wisely and well. The power of gentleness is irresistible.” For an illustration of the opposite, see 1 Kings 12:7, et seq.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-14.html. 1874-1909.
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