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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Proverbs 19

Introduction

The Proverbs of Solomon:

CONTAINING SUNDRY WISE OBSERVATIONS, MAXIMS, AND PRECEPTS, chapters Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16.

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. Perverse in his lips Crooked in speech; the opposite of straightforward, honest. Compare Proverbs 9:20; Proverbs 17:20. The fool here is generally supposed to be rich, but Zockler thinks otherwise. Compare Proverbs 28:6. The latter clause might be rendered: “For he is a fool,” or, “ As such a fool,” (Miller,) that is, the man of perverse lips, who is in the habit of uttering wicked and mischievous words that pervert men from the right.

Verse 2

2. Without knowledge… not good Both ignorance and want of consideration, which are closely allied, are the sources of error and sinful conduct.

Hasteth… sinneth The figure in this latter clause is that of a person heedlessly running without looking whither he is going, and then missing the way, or the point of destination. “He that is hasty with his feet missteps.” Conant.

Verse 3

3. Perverteth his way The primary idea is that of slipping; perhaps, makes slippery his way, and hence it is difficult to walk in because of this.

His heart fretteth Is angry with Jehovah, though without cause, the fault being his own. He complains of Providence on account of the evil which he brings on himself. Exodus 16:8; Lamentations 3:39.

Verse 4

4. Wealth Literally, ease or competence.

Maketh many friends At least such as are professedly so. The poor man is neglected by those who ought to be his friends. Compare Proverbs 14:20, and Proverbs 19:6-7.

Verse 5

5. Not be unpunished Better, as margin, not “held innocent.”

Shall not escape Namely, not escape punishment. The first clause is equivalent to, shall be guilty; the second, shall not go unpunished. Compare Proverbs 19:9; Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 14:5.

Verse 6

6. Many will entreat the favour Literally, will stroke the face; will flatter, caress, or make court to, the prince.

A friend to him that giveth gifts A liberal, generous man. Many will esteem acquaintance with him an honour. The “gifts” herein spoken of are not to be understood as bribes, and therefore, condemnatory, but such as proceed from the generous impulses of a noble spirit.

Verse 7

7. The brethren of the poor This is probably to be understood as applying particularly to such of his brethren as are in better worldly circumstances than himself.

Hate him Not literally, but in effect; they do not care for him.

His friends Literally, his companions.

Go far from him These also keep out of the way of helping him.

He pursueth them with words Or, he is a pursuer of words; that is, promises.

They are wanting to him Literally, they are not. The latter clauses are elliptical and obscure, and the exact sense is difficult to obtain. Besides, there is a various reading, which some prefer. Thus Conant: “He follows after words these he has.” The other reading, however, is generally accepted. The Douay, after the Vulgate, makes the last clause separate, thus: “He that followeth after words only shall have nothing.”

Verse 8

8. Getteth wisdom Hebrews, heart; tropical of intelligence, understanding.

Loveth his own soul Himself; does good to himself. The latter clause is explanatory of the former. “To him that watches over discernment the result shall be finding good.” Miller. Compare Proverbs 15:32; for opposite Proverbs 8:36; Proverbs 29:24.

Verse 9

9. A false witness shall not be unpunished This is the same as Proverbs 19:5, except one word, shall perish, or be lost, as in a wilderness. A vivid metaphor to represent a witness who becomes bewildered in the meshes of his falsehood under cross examination. in Proverbs 19:5 there is a meiosis in both members.

Verse 10

10. Delight That kind of enjoyment which proceeds from delicate or luxurious living.

Is not seemly Not suitable, does not sit well on a fool; a figure supposed to be taken from the fitting of a garment.

Much less Much more unsuitable is it for a servant to have rule over princes. It is an old observation, that servants, (slaves,) who are commonly ignorant, when advanced grow insolent, presumptuous, and intolerable. A person of mean extraction raised to power is frequently self-willed, cruel, and tyrannical. Among us such cases as here named are rare; but in the East it is no unusual thing for a despot to exalt a low favourite to high honour. Compare Proverbs 17:2; Proverbs 26:1; Proverbs 26:8; Proverbs 30:22; Ecclesiastes 10:7.

Verse 11

11. Deferreth his anger Literally, lengthens his nose or nostrils; his discretion makes him slow to anger. For this peculiar Orientalism see Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 16:32. It is often praiseworthy to pass over an insult, trespass, or offence.

Verse 12

12. King’s wrath The verse presents a striking picture of an Oriental despot, on whose smile or frown life or death depends. The word rendered lion means a young lion, said to be the strongest and fiercest. Comp. Proverbs 16:14; Proverbs 20:2; Proverbs 28:15. For the figure of dew, comp. Proverbs 16:15; Psalms 72:6.

Verse 13

13. Calamity… contentions “Two things,” says Patrick, “make a man exceedingly unhappy a dissolute son and a scolding wife; for the former breaks the heart of the father, and as to the other, he is no more able to live at home with her than to dwell in a rotten and ruinous house, through the roof of which the rain drops perpetually.” Smart says: “A continual dropping of water, for example, on the head, becomes, after a time, a means of the most exquisite suffering.” An Illyrian proverb says, “There is no necessity for him to go to war who has a smoking house, a dropping roof, or a contentious wife; for he has war in his own house.” Compare Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 27:15; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 19:25. See note on Proverbs 27:15.

Verse 14

14. Inheritance of fathers That is, such as may be inherited.

A prudent wife The greatest of earthly blessings is a special boon from Jehovah. Compare Proverbs 18:22.

Verse 15

15. Casteth Rather, causeth deep sleep to fall, amounting to stupor and lethargy.

A deep sleep תרדמה , ( tardemah,) the same word used in Genesis 2:2, concerning Adam.

An idle soul Or person. Comp. Proverbs 6:9-10; Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 12:2.

Verse 16

16. He that keepeth the commandment Observes or practices the law of God.

Keepeth… soul Himself. But he that despiseth, or slights, his ways shall die Shall be put to death. Instead of despises, some critics read divides or scatters, understanding it of the man’s own ways, as being divided in his adherence to the worship of Jehovah. It is not certain whether his ways means the man’s ways or the Lord’s. Comp. Proverbs 16:17; Ecclesiastes 8:5; Luke 11:28.

Verse 17

17. Hath pity… lendeth The creditor of Jehovah is he that is gracious to the poor, and he will make good to him his return; that is, profit from the transaction business language. Miller renders: “And his transaction repays him.” Jehovah charges to himself, and credits the benefactor of the poor, with what is done in the way of kindness. He keeps, too, a true account, and will repay it. All this is not expressed in so many words; some of it is, and the rest is implied. We can make God borrow of us at any time by relieving the necessities of the widows and orphans. “If you like the security,” (said Dean Swift, after reading this verse as a text for a charity sermon,) “down with the dust.” He said no more, and no more was needed.

Jeremiah 49:11; Matthew 25:40; Luke 6:30-35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Proverbs 14:31.

Verse 18

18. Chasten… while there is hope Correct for the purpose and with the expectation of improvement; of course, therefore, neither vindictively nor cruelly.

Let not thy soul spare for his crying Or, as many good critics read. “Lift not up thy soul to slay him;” let not thy desire or passion extend so far as to slay him; a very necessary caution to a passionate father, especially where, as in the East, he had the power of life and death over his children. Rueetschi, however, maintains that it is not a caution against undue severity, but against the cruel kindness that kills by witholding seasonable correction. He suggests as parallels Proverbs 3:12; Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15. More in point is Proverbs 23:13. The Speaker’s Commentary favours this view; but many respectable commentators take the other, and regard Ephesians 6:4, and Colossians 3:21, as supporting it.

Verse 19

19. Man of great wrath… punishment A man of violent passions must bear a fine, (punishment;) for if thou deliver him thou wilt haveto do it again. Conant renders: “He that is rough in anger.”

Verse 20

20. In thy latter end Thy hereafter, which may mean in the after-part of this life, or in the future life. The interpreters generally favour the sense, in thy after years. “Get instruction and counsel when young, that you may be wise when you grow old.” Stuart. Compare Proverbs 42:12, for same word.

Verse 21

21. Are many devices Schemes, plans. Compare note on Proverbs 16:1-9. Job 23:13; Psalms 33:10.

Verse 22

22. The desire of a man The good wishes; “the charm” Conant. “Pleasure.” Miller. Conant gives a good sense: The charm of a man is his kindness; that which makes him the delight of others, which causes them to delight in him. His kindness means his sincere goodwill, not the mere profession of it; for the poor man who has nothing is better than a man of false profession. The Geneva Bible renders the first clause: “That that is desired of a man is his goodness,” which means here his honesty.

Verse 23

23. Fear… tendeth to life This is in the spirit of the old dispensation an assurance of life, security, and happiness in this world to them that fear the Lord. Proverbs 10:3; Proverbs 10:29; Proverbs 14:26. Under the new order of things the principle is the same, but the working of it is modified. “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Romans 8:28. Conant renders last clause: “And, sated, shall one repose, nor be visited with evil.”

Verse 24

24. Hideth… in his bosom Better, in a dish. He does not even return it to his own mouth. A sarcastic hyperbole, like “too lazy to eat.” The allusion is to the Oriental mode of eating. Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 15:19; Proverbs 26:13; Proverbs 26:15; Matthew 26:23; John 13:26. Our version follows the Septuagint and Vulgate. The word occurs in the sense of dish, 2 Kings 21:13.

Verse 25

25. A scorner A scoffer. This usually means the most confirmed and hardened of evil doers; one beyond all hope of reformation. He is punished for the good of others, there being no hope of benefit to him.

The simple will beware Will become wary or wise; will act wisely. A reproof to an intelligent or discerning man will benefit himself he will learn knowledge. Compare Proverbs 13:1.

Verse 26

26. Wasteth his father Despoils him of his property, so as to break up his father’s house, and make a fugitive of his mother. To good parents such disgraceful conduct in a son is as great a calamity as can well befall them.

Verse 27

27. Cease… to hear the instruction that causeth to err The verse is difficult. Leaving out the italics, it would be, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction to err from the words of knowledge.” Conant renders: “So as to err.” Miller: “With the result of wandering.” Acken, in Zockler: “To depart from.” “Cease to hear instruction which leads thee to err.” Rosenmuller. It is probable that our Version has given the true sense. The Septuagint has: “A son who ceases to attend to the instruction of a father will cherish evil designs.” The Douay: “Cease not, my son, to hear instruction, and be not ignorant of the words of knowledge.”

Verse 28

28. An ungodly witness One not of God, untruthful.

Scorneth judgment Mocketh, derideth it. He hath no concern that justice be done.

Devoureth iniquity Greedily, as a dainty morsel.

Verse 29

29. Judgments are prepared for scorners This may relate to the preceding proverb, and threaten the punishment due to the crimes of those who have no regard for truth and justice. Compare Proverbs 14:3; Proverbs 26:3. The Septuagint, however, has here a good temperance proverb, which seems to connect this passage with the next chapter: namely, “Scourges are preparing for the intemperate, and punishments likewise for fools.”

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-19.html. 1874-1909.